Archives For Media


As ZNF readers are well aware, one of the biggest challenges we face with digital media (books, music, video) is in sharing it. Legally.  Over at Live Digitally, Jeremy Toeman details one possible scenario for an Amazon Kindle used book store – allowing folks to resell books back to Amazon for a store credit. And in turn, Amazon offering these ‘books’ at a lower cost than ‘new’ ones.

Despite his calculations, I’m not sold. Traditional supply, demand, production, and distribution rules don’t transfer cleanly from the analog world to a wired marketplace hawking digital goods. Other than an artificially lower resale value, what’s the difference between a ‘used’ ebook and a ‘new’ one?

A better solution to increase adoption and loyalty while staving off piracy is the integration of a gifting option. After purchasing most Season 1 episodes of Mad Men and Burn Notice digitally, I’d have liked to give these titles to my mom (~1,000 miles away). Instead, I ended up buying her the DVDs. Which I’m sure the studios love. But how about thinking bigger picture?

What if each digital download/license could be transferred (not copied) just once – what I believe to be a reasonable compromise between producers and consumers. And let’s give incentivize the retailers by limiting transfers to their own ecosystem. So in my case, Apple would get a new iTunes member in my mom and probably an Apple TV purchase – as I don’t see her watching video for any length of time at the computer. Building upon one of Jeremy’s ideas, perhaps retailers could also facilitate bartering (with a per exchange fee) between strangers. Which could also be a big win for music discovery, leading to additional digital purchases.

Over the years, I’ve had many music licensing, DRM, etc talks with ZNF contributor Dale Dietrich. He (had) envisioned a digital media “utopia” where every piece of content is registered with a unique serial number via an online licensing clearinghouse – and could be freely traded, sold, or loaned. In reality and unfortunately, I doubt any of our scenarios will come to pass. They’re too consumer friendly. And perhaps to complex. Guess we’ll continue to settle for low-def Hulu streaming with commercial interruption.

ZNF ‘Round The Web

Dave Zatz —  May 3, 2009

Leaving comments across the blogosphere…


Why Does Photo Sharing Still Suck?
Yep, I agree. Still looking for that perfect solution. And still pissed at Kodak for deleting my Galleries when I didn’t make a purchase. PS SmugSmug has a backup solution which uses Amazon’s cloud storage/server farm for an extra fee. They’ll even mail you recoveries on DVD.

Palm’s Foleo: Back From the Dead?
Agree with DTNick – Palm shot themselves in the foot. They understood the form factor, they didn’t understand the market. I played with a pair of Foleos at two different tech press events. Really liked the small size and super sprightly OS. The apps were minimal and minimalistic, but they seemed to have more powerful stuff in the pipeline. Thought it would have made a great mobile blogging tool. Then they blew it all up. I tried to get one that hadn’t been destroyed through some back channels, but never succeeded.

Why I Jumped on the Blu-ray Bandwagon
I had a Blu-ray player via a PS3. But I ended up dumping it. Not because I didn’t like the Blu-ray, but because I didn’t like the gaming experience. I’m fine with HD movie rentals (Xbox, Vudu, Amazon, cable box) and premium cable for now. Oh yeah, I also had a HD DVD player for a short time. That didn’t work out so well.

Here’s Why You Want Bandwidth Caps
Neil, it’s already a reality. Comcast has me capped at 250GB… without a meter to track household usage. 250GB isn’t unreasonable, but online backup solutions are much less useful/realistic. Also, there are NO higher tiers or overages. Break the cap, and my ISP reserves the right to dump me. Unlike a utility, which they may claim to be.

HP’s LX195 Low-End Windows Home Server is $390
@SysRq_: It’s definitely not a Time Capsule killer because HP’s MediaSmart servers don’t actually recover Macs. It’s a bit of smoke and mirror marketing… HP supports Time Machine for individual file recovery, but there’s no network whole-OS recovery. I got burned by this with the EX485.

Are There Caps on Boingo Wireless Wi-Fi Usage?
You still have any phones on T-Mobile? $10 gets you unlimited HotSpot (Starbucks, many airports, etc) PLUS unlimited WiFi domestic calling (if you have a UMA phone like Melissa’s Blackberry Curve 2). Great deal! I also have a Starbucks Gold (black) card which gets me that WiFi. Though the benefit seems the same as the regular debit card – 2hrs/day, purchases every 30 days. Although, I still need my Sprint 3G card. I have it on the friends & family plan, so it’s $50/mo instead of $60. It’s a lot, but well worth it to me. Maybe I should resell some of my wireless access.

The Vudu Status Report

Dave Zatz —  March 6, 2009


It’s been awhile since we’ve talked Vudu here on ZNF, so it’s time for a 2009 status update. The year started with a second round of layoffs, which came as no surprise given some of the funding chatter that came my way late in 2008. Not surprisingly, Vudu followed this by announcing a renewed focus on licensing the Vudu platform and permanently slashed prices on their standard box by 50% $150 is a much more compelling and competitive price point.

On the experiential end, Vudu now offers HD movie purchases in addition to rentals. In this day and age, however, I have no desire to own digital content. I’d rather rent on demand. Of interest, a pair of iPhone apps have been also released. The official app provides an efficient method to browse and rent HDX titles on the go – so they’re ready for playback when you get home. The Vudu iRemote, like the TiVo DVR iPhone remote, utilizes your network and built-in Vudu home automation hooks to provide touchscreen device navigation.


This week, version 2.2 of Vudu software was deployed to boxes, consisting of mostly minor enhancements and fixes. However, the next update is rumored to address some of Last100’s concerns by providing local network storage/archiving… and extender streaming functionality. Something many of will look forward to.


As a guy who’s been reading e-books for nearly a decade on handheld devices (Palm V , Dell Axim, PPC 6700, etc), I’m pretty psyched this AM to see Amazon follow through on promises to expand the Kindle experience beyond their own hardware. While both Stanza and eReader are installed on my iPhone, they don’t offer nearly as many titles as Amazon. More importantly, they can’t compete on price. (Amazon’s best sellers and new releases run $9.99.) However, my hopes of a directly integrated bookstore have been dashed with the initial Kindle on iPhone app release. In fact, Amazon’s own shopping app can’t even purchase Kindle books. I assume this is a temporary limitation, and is optimized for mobile Safari. Because as an infrequent and spontaneous (book) reader, I know I’ll be looking for titles in an airport just before boarding a flight.


Obviously the iPhone reading experience is much different from using Amazon’s dedicated Kindle hardware. The screen is smaller and while the backlight is great for reading in dim locations, a bright LCD can be visually fatiguing. Above, notice the macro Kindle e-ink shot taken by Tumblr lead developer Marco Arment. He’s concluded the little splotches are unintended artifacts, a result of immature tech. However, I believe this is intentional – mimicking the the composition of paper. Certainly the Kindle screen is easy on the eyes. When it’s not blinking with each page turn.

Continue Reading…


This is the first time in my 25+ years in computing that a hardware manufacturer has informed me that it wants to charge me for a firmware upgrade. I innocently checked my Drobo for firmware updates yesterday and was startled to receive the message above.

It was bad enough that my DroboShare experience was a disaster. Despite promised upgrades, Data Robotics support folks could never get it to work properly with my Vista 64 or my XP systems on my home network – others had the same problem.  They just gave up. To this day, my DroboShare sits unused on a shelf in my closet – $300+ wasted. In-depth forum posts that I wrote about this topic on the DroboSpace forum are now hidden behind user account walls – viewable only by Drobo owners. Serial numbers are now needed to access their forum. This wasn’t the case last year.

To have to pay for firmware upgrades, which primarily amount to nothing more than bug fixes over time, for Drobo hardware is ridiculous. I gather that if they ever do fix the DroboShare problems which made the product unusable from the beginning, I’ll have to pay an upgrade fee. Give me a break!

I still love my Drobo, but I’m beginning to resent Data Robotics.

Dale Dietrich is a Toronto-based technology, video game, and interactive media attorney. Read more at The Daleisphere.

Hulu Drops The Hammer

Dave Zatz —  February 18, 2009


I sort of figured this day would come… Based on my perception of the licensing/royalty complexities and content providers fear that a current web video catalog piped to the television competes with live broadcasts. Hulu has shown their true colors – spawned of big media and beholden to big media. And Boxee has become a victim of their amazing success:

two weeks ago Hulu called and told us their content partners were asking them to remove Hulu from boxee. we tried (many times) to plead the case for keeping Hulu on boxee, but on Friday of this week, in good faith, we will be removing it

We don’t yet know what this might mean for others, like PlayOn, D-Link DivX Connected, and SageTV HD Theater, that also deliver Hulu content to the boob tube. Even if these folks don’t hear directly from Hulu, they’ve got to be rethinking the development resources they dedicate to Hulu support going forward. Related, I don’t believe this move foreshadows Hulu’s own set-top box. It’s just more of the same old school, short-sighted thinking that crippled the record labels. Good luck with that.

We knew Amazon Video on Demand was headed to Roku‘s media streamer ($99) early this year. And now, via their forums, we have word that the service has entered private beta. I had hoped Amazon VOD functionality was hidden within the recent 1.5 software update, however it’s rolled into a more significant 2.0 upgrade. Which potentially means a longer wait. Although, the refresh may also contain YouTube access. Look closely at the screengrab above for some (possible) visual confirmation. I can’t say YouTube excites me all that much. But combined with Netflix and Amazon, Roku’s negotiated quite the impressive trifecta for such a tiny, inexpensive box. But what I really want to know (still) is: Will Amazon VOD be offered in HD?