Secret Streaming

Netflix launching in Australia has created a flurry of activity in the local video streaming market. From barely anything, we suddenly have a choice of many: Netflix, Stan1, Presto, Foxtel Play, and probably more.

The consequence of which is option paralysis - which service to use? The obvious way to decide is to make a list of what you want to watch, then go find the best match. Simple, right?

Strangely not. For reasons best known to themselves, most of the services don’t publish an episode guide. Netflix has a bare bones home page and no information about what is on. Stan is similar, though teases a few big name shows and movies. Foxtel apparently has thousands of hours of on demand content, but good luck finding out what those hours actually contain.

Presto at least provides a guide to what’s on, but unfortunately it is a mostly a woeful list of 3rd rate or ancient shows.

There are third party sites—at least for Netflix—which endeavour to provide what the first parties won’t, but it’s a very strange phenomena. Music subscription services all allow you to check out what’s available before signing up, and you’d never normally subscribe to something sight unseen2. Why the streaming secrecy when it comes to video?

  1. Stan gets a special award for terrible advertising. Overweight model, unicorns, puppy suits? Sign me up! 

  2. They all offer a free trial, which is one way to find out. But who wants to create usernames, passwords, and provide payment details, just to see what is on. 

Secure IOS to Android messaging

WhisperSystems have updated their IOS app Signal so that it now supports private and secure text messaging between IOS and Android devices using TextSecure (the Android equivalent of Signal):

We cannot hear your conversations or see your messages, and no one else can either. Everything in Signal is always end-to-end encrypted, and painstakingly engineered in order to keep your communication safe.

The EFF agrees - no ads, no cost, no catches. A great way to claw back some of the privacy ground ceded in the name of convenience.

Superbowl XLIX

Bill Simmons covers the insanity that was the last few minutes of Superbowl XLIX, a column made all the better by Simmons’ rabid New England fandom:

And then everything went numb.

For like three minutes.

Couldn’t react. Couldn’t feel anything.

People were yelling in disbelief all around me … I couldn’t move. They showed the replay. The football bounced off Kearse’s hands, Ryan’s hands and back up into the air. As Kearse fell on his back and tried to find the ball, safety Duron Harmon jumped over his head. Naturally, the football plopped back down off Kearse’s left leg and then his right leg, buying him time to tip it with his right hand, then it fell into his hands as he remained on his back. Also, he gave birth to a nine-pound baby just because everything else wasn’t unbelievable enough.

Hopefully the fan-cam sideline video linked in the article is still up on YouTube. I watched it about 15 times - the pre-snap movement, the pause, the speed after the snap, the uncontrollable joy from the NE players when they realised what happened, and the massive roar of the crowd. Who said the Superbowl was boring due to non partisan crowds?

All Hail The Internet Archive

Andy Baio celebrates The Internet Archive, and in particular the ever growing software emulation library:

The Internet Archive is a chaotic, beautiful mess. It’s not well-organized, and its tools for browsing and searching the wealth of material on there are still rudimentary, but getting better.

But this software emulation project feels, to me, like the kind of thing Google would have tried in 2003. Big, bold, technically challenging, and for the greater good.

This effort is the perfect articulation of what makes the Internet Archive great — with repercussions for the future we won’t fully appreciate for years.

Don’t miss the 2300 strong MS-DOS game library. Prince of Persia! Castle Wolfenstein!

The Hobbit ‘Tolkien edit’

That didn’t take long. ‘Tolkieneditor’ has cut Peter Jackson’s way too long Hobbit trilogy into a single four hour ‘Tolkien’ edit, that removes the fluff (Elves & Dwarves living together) and focuses on the core Bilbo storyline:

I felt that the story was spoiled by an interminable running time, unengaging plot tangents and constant narrative filibustering. What especially saddened me was how Bilbo (the supposed protagonist of the story) was rendered absent for large portions of the final two films.

Joins Harmy’s Star Wars Despecialized editions on the shelf.

It’s interesting to see the fan edit extend all the way to Steven Soderbergh with his black and white and silent Indiana Jones and 51 minute shorter 2001. Kind of like DJ remixes of classic tracks.

Star Trek: The Next Generation in 40 hours

Great guide from Max Temkin to the 40 key episodes, and why Trek is more than just “Guys in pajamas looking at viewscreens and sitting in chairs”. I watched the entire thing on VHS1 over the course of several years of man-flu induced sick leave, but this is a nice way to ease into Star Trek and enjoy some of the best sci-fi TV ever made:

Star Trek has a special place in my heart because it shows us a future where we continue to advance technology and explore without destroying ourselves or shouting over each other on Twitter all day. We should all be aware of the many difficult material concerns in our lives, and the unjust power structures that we’re implicated in. But what does life look like without them? Who’s thinking about what comes next? Captain Picard, that’s who.

(via Six Colors)

  1. Each rented from a video store, from back when there was more than one last remaining holdout. Which I still use - why watch a crappy compressed stream when you can rent a Blu-Ray for $5. Yes, I’m old. 

Secure messaging scorecard

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a very helpful secure messaging scorecard as part of their campaign for ‘secure and usable crypto’. Interesting to see just how insecure some of the bigger tools are:

Many options—including Google, Facebook, and Apple’s email products, Yahoo’s web and mobile chat, Secret, and WhatsApp—lack the end-to-end encryption that is necessary to protect against disclosure by the service provider. Several major messaging platforms, like QQ, Mxit, and the desktop version of Yahoo Messenger, have no encryption at all.