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McAdams On: The Six Degrees of Headlines

ARTING, WHEREFORE: With the Great NAB Show upon us, let’s talk about something else first.

A few recent headlines, for example. Like this one: “Scientists Create the First Universal Quantum Network, Are Scared to Restart the Router,” perhaps one of the most sociologically importantish headlines of the 21st Century. It reminds us, first of all, there are no character counts in digital media, or else it would be “No Quantum Net Nodes Yet.” It also reminds us the world is ruled by geeks, including some intellectually hot stuff at engadget, where the headline refers to James Trew’s 129-word explanation of scientists successfully if rudimentarily transmitting data atomically over fiber. The bit about fiber is particularly important because the most advanced data network we can perceive of next to telepathy would be...wired!

This should come as no surprise, because fiber-optics networks are secure, robust, fast, and not dead, despite Verizon’s abandonment of FiOS so that it could get in bed with cable companies. Verizon has elected to rule the air, but even with its “advanced” network architecture, it will never have enough spectrum to deliver HD to every iPad, much less 4K, with twice the resolution of HD. 4K is the new 3D, only better and less likely to induce vomiting. So this deceptively simple headline in TWICE, “Canon Adds 4K HDSLR,” signals the introduction of 4K videography into the consumer electronics market. The EOS HDSLR isn’t for just anyone at $15,000 a pop, but two years from now, 4K will be a handset feature.

And speaking of handsets, a few recent headlines have implications therein, I hope. One is “LiveU Introduces LU70 Mobile Uplink Unit,” here at TV Technology. LiveU makes signal-bonding uplink transmitters that clip on a belt or fit in a backpack. The signal-bonding’s the key—up to 14 cellular, WiMAX, Wi-Fi, Ethernet and/or satellite connections. LiveU’s latest model, the LU70, is also a self-contained Wi-Fi hotspot with point-to-multipoint distribution, 10 Mbps throughput, and soon—H.264 compression—enough to handle 4K. Then we have “Livestream Introduces Camera-Top Live HD Streaming Device,” also at TV Technology.This is a $500 router-sized box that attaches to a camcorder and streams the video online in real time at 2.3 Mbps in H.264 for relatively respectable HD.

Both technologies signal the clear path toward instant, egalitarian, multiplatform mobile broadcasting, and one might also observe a case for Verizon’s argument that it must needs have the TV spectrum. And were Verizon not sitting on more spectrum than it’s using, and using its activated spectrum in the most inefficient, uncompressed, point-to-point way possible, it might have a case. But Verizon isn’t innovating (though it will be following on the LiveU-Sprint deal with a similar announcement at the NAB Show). LiveU and Livestream are innovating, and hopefully, handset makers will do the same rather than just copy Apple. Maybe they’ll even give us customized devices. Make mine a retro Nokia signal-bonding brick with 4K camera, OLED display, real-time streaming, solar recharge, a Morse code text generator rather than a Leprechaun keyboard, and automatic sync to my fiber-optic network.

Which I soon would have if I lived in Kansas City, where Google is not in bed with cable companies and therefore building out a 1 Gbps fiber-optic network. Consequently, Time Warner Cable is offering 50 Mbps broadband we learn from Todd Spangler at Multichannel News in “We’re Ready for Google Fiber.” We’ll see how 50 Mbps fares against 1,000 Mbps. We’ll see if either live up the speed test. “Verizon DSL Speed at Center of Class-Action Lawsuit” suggests they ought to. Slashdot reports that a Santa Monica, Calif., woman is suing the provider for selling her 1.5 Mbps service that it later informed her could not be provided because she lived too far from the nearest node. Truly an example of how to win friends and influence people. “Hello, Google? Yes, this is Santa Monica calling...”

And we know that Google could fiber the planet because it made $10.65 billion during the first three months of 2012, and had $49.3 billion in cash and equivalents as of March 31. Me, too, but I don’t like to brag about being delusional. Google, a massive advertising network disguised as a search engine, announced a stock split this week, while “Sony,” a company that actually makes things, “Fires 10,000, Loses $6.4 Billion and Cuts Down on TVs,” Extreme Tech says. Sony’s new CEO, Kazuo Hirai, tells IEEE Spectrum that “The Time for Change is Now,” in a clear-cut example of jobs we do not envy.

Speaking of unenviable jobs, imagine running a public TV station right about now. “Court of Appeals Finds Prohibition on Political Ads on Noncommercial Stations Unconstitutional,” Clifford Harrington of Comm Law Center writes. Let the firestorm commence. The ruling will certainly be a hot topic in Las Vegas in the coming days, along with audio monitoring, transcoding, file-based workflows, 3D encoding, signal verification, spectrum auctions, retransmission consent, public-inspection files—all the usual things people chat about in Las Vegas, at least during the Big Show. And so we offer a couple of headlines here as a primer: “How To Read Body Language to Reveal the Underlying Truth in Almost Any Situation,” from LifeHacker. Test out the real-vs.-fake smile theory on the floor on Thursday after five days of cocktail receptions. And from yours truly, “NAB Show Predictions,” a hard-hitting look at what will surely happen in Las Vegas, but is not likely to stay there.

See you there!