Replay Users Get Reprieve

Today was to be the end of ReplayTV. Users were notified weeks ago that the electronic programming guide service (epg) would be discontinued on 31 July. “After this date, owners of ReplayTV DVR units will still be able to manually record analog TV programs, but will not have the benefit of access to the interactive program guide,” said the announcement. Replay users were outraged. Complaints to DNNA met with little comfort. Pansonic which sold Showstoppers using Replay technology said little except the usual “thanks for your inquiry and we are looking into the matter” statements. Some wrote letters to state attorney generals hoping for some intercession.

In the meantime the scramble went forth to replace DNNA service. Tech savvy folks already had a way but it required setting up PC server to make it work. For those who neither had the time, the money, or used a Mac that was not a option. So some of those folks got together to put together a service for the rest of us, a dial-up service so that Replay users could dial-up and update the epg. It was by no means easy to do. Servers had to be made ready and software configured. Then getting a provider of the tv schedules had to be set up. The initial fee would be $7.00 per month, per model (some people have more than one Replay unit in their homes). Not a bad price to continue the service.

As the deadline drew near, the Replay board at AVS Forum was busy with people posting info and asking questions. Likewise at the other forum, Planet Replay. Then out of the blue came the announcement on Friday (29 Jul):

After the announced shutdown of the ReplayTV programming guide service, we have had many positive, enthusiastic comments about the ReplayTV DVR products and services. In light of this response, ReplayTV and its parent company Digital Networks North America, Inc. have decided to continue the electronic programming guide service pursuant to the terms of your service activation agreement. We thank you very much for all of your support and enthusiasm over the many years these products have been sold.

Suddenly everything ground to a halt when that message appeared on units updated that day. Everyone was stunned. It was so sudden that the customer service people had no idea it had happened. It was confirmed and everyone stood back. Everyone was pleased but questions lingered. Why did DNNA back off? Speculation was rampant and so far little facts are known. Panasonic might have been angry since they were not notified and nothing offered to replace the service. And it is possible someone either at the state or federal level said exactly the same thing.

And that was the problem right from the start. DNNA offered nothing to replace the the discontinued service. Once the guide ran out (around 7 Aug), you were on your own. With no ability to set the clock and no epg, manual recording was going to be a chore. You would have to manually hit record and stop when done. So much for recording when your are sleeping or at work Tivo offered special deals to Replay users but many have no desire to switch. Lifetime users were even more out in the cold than monthly users. When lifetime users bought those units (at a premium), many assumed they were buying for the lifetime of the unit or service. Lawyers for DNNA argue that the actual lifetime service is one year under California law.

Many though are skeptical and even hostile to DNNA. Some have already transitioned away from DNNA using the Internet option and not likely to return. The message from DNNA also said the following:

As we have said previously, the analog programming that the ReplayTV units are capable of recording is in fact likely to be converted to digital signals in the very near future at which point the ReplayTV units will no longer be able to record such programming.

This is misleading. Since the conversion to digital, all Replay units get cable using a cable box. The cable box provides the conversion necessary for them. My television has a digital tuner but cannot unscramble the programming from my cable company. Hence the cable box (which my cable service provides for free). So this statement is not accurate except that way down the road the need for cable boxes will diminish as computers are integrated with television (meaning the computers will have dvr capacity in them).

We encourage our users to consider digital video recorders that have this digital recording capability as well as additional technological advances which are not a part of the ReplayTV units (all of which were end of lifed by 2006).

This is illuminating and the line most Replay users in the forums focused on. It tells them DNNA wants them to go elsewhere. Just go. Okay we will provide you with a service but we would prefer that you leave.  Like the hotel manager said to Ryan O’Neill’s character in the movie What’s Up Doc? about when he should check out, the manager (played by John Hillerman) said yesterday. The last line told lifetime service people that they would be paying a fee for the epg service. The good news is that Replay users have gotten a reprieve.

For how long is the next question. I speculate six months to a year at most. ReplayTV units are no longer being manufactured but there are units still being sold but by now the inventory is getting low. Since ReplayTV is no longer marketed, there is a finite number using them right now. In short, a no growth sector. So DNNA sees little reason to continue paying the costs associated with maintaining the epg for little profit. They have to pay for the digital schedule, tech and customer support, and other costs associated with the service. So for them, there is no incentive to keep it going.

The other good news is that the alternative dial-up service that was in beta testing (called Laho meaning Last Hope) can be further refined. DNNA ought to work with those at Laho so that dial-up users could migrate there in that period of time. They could also offer some deals with Tivo if people want to go there (or coupons for free dvr service from the local cable company). In other words, offer something tangible other than shutting off the service and telling everyone to push manual record. To sum up DNNA can:

(1) Work with LaHo to create a viable, working alternative dial-up for ReplayTv users;

(2) Offer deals with other dvr units (Tivo, Moxie);

(3) Offer coupons for free rental of cable company dvr’s.

Also, as a last option, consider some sort of buy back for recycling of parts. Some may want to junk their units and those parts (and the metal) have value.

The ball is in your court DNNA. If you are determined to phase out the service, do it smartly.

Russian Titanic! Humbug Says International Business Times

Rimskiy Korsakov, Bulgaria's sister ship
Rimskiy Korsakov, Bulgaria’s sister ship

A few days ago I wrote about the Bulgaria sinking on the Volga. Some are comparing thesinking to Titanic but the International Business Times disputes the comparison. For instance Titanic was a state of the art ship when it launched in 1912, but the Bulgaria (launched 1955) was far from that. It had few inspections over the last thirty years, is alleged to have been poorly maintained, and had outdated equipment.

According to reports, the Bulgaria hadn’t been seriously serviced since 1980, and one of the its engines was under-powered before the 56-year-old vessel set sail. When wind and choppy waters turned the boat sideways — a dangerous position for any boat to be in — the captain was unable to right the ship before it tipped.

But on one issue the IBT agrees it is like Titanic: both events were devastating and avoidable.

Source: International Business Times, Sunken Cruise Ship ‘The Bulgaria’ Is Not The ‘Russian Titanic’, 15 Jul 2011

Other related news:
BSANNA News, Operation To Bring Bulgaria Ship To Even Keel Coming To End, 18 Jul 2011

Wikipedia has information about Bulgaria.

Photo from http://belyaefff.livejournal.com and posted on Wikipedia.

“Titanic” On The Volga

A terrible catastrophe occurred when the Bulgaria, a cruise ship on the Volga River with 208 people aboard, tipped starboard and sank. The cause is still under investigation but at least 100 are dead and 29 remain unaccounted for. The sinking happened very quickly leaving passengers and crew little time to get off before it sank. A nearby ship, the Arabella, came to the rescue of the 79 people that survived.

The Russian media is all abuzz about the sinking and the terrible loss of life. Accusations are spreading fast about how old the ship was (built in 1955), how the owner was greedy and that Bulgaria’s commander had to pay for uniforms, keys, and meals. The owner, Svetlana Inyakina, has been arrested and faces up to ten years in jail. However the Bulgaria is not the only ship that was built in the last century. News reports indicates that nearly all of the cruise ships in Russia are between forty to fifty years old. Bulgaria was perhaps the oldest at sixty years.

Meanwhile the Russian government has some explaining to do. Apparently most river cruise ships are in private hands and the government was minimally involved. This may explain the swift arrest of the owner in order to divert attention away from government oversight. Like Titanic, it is likely to lead to sweeping changes on the Volga and for the entire Russian river cruise ships. Some of them will be needed and welcome changes. I suspect Putin will use it as an excuse to put the ship owners under direct government control. Expect to see some public trials of ship owners in the near future.

Source:
Spero News, Russia: Poor Maintenance Caused The Titanic On The Volga, 13 Jul 2011

Ice Carving Competition in 2012 at Branson Titanic Museum

From the press release:

The Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson, Missouri is the site chosen to host the 2012 National Ice Carving Competition, a preliminary for competitors to end up in the city of Sochi, Russia, the host city for the XXII Olympic Winter Games in 2014. The two-day event will beheld on Sat., Feb. 4, and Sun., Feb. 5, 2012.

I must admit I have never given ice carving a serious thought. I know that people do carve fantastic shapes in ice but never knew it had its had its own national and even international competitions (other than reading about the occasional ice carving contests). This event has a nice purse of $25,000 for the winner (minus taxes of course, never forget the outstretched hand of the revenue collector). According to the release:

The Master Division will carve three blocks of ice on Saturday and one block of ice on Sunday. The Professional Division will carve one block of ice on Saturday and two blocks of ice on Sunday. Dimensions of each block of ice are 40x20x10inches and each ice block weighs in at 300 pounds. Carvers will use a large array of tools such as chainsaws, chisels, blowtorches, hot irons, knives, drills, and much more.

These obviously are not your ordinary ice blocks but giant slabs made at an industrial ice plant and trucked in. I will not be surprised if some creative mixologist (the fancy name for bartender these days), comes up with some special drink for the event. With ice, of course! 🙂

Source:
PR Newswire, Branson, Missouri to Host 2012 National Ice Carving Competition, 12 Jul 2011

International Maritime Organization Dedicates 2012 World Maritime Day To Titanic Victims

Stop the presses! An official communique, actually a press release, announces that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has endorsed a proposal by its Secretary-General to dedicate 2012 World Maritime Day to Titanic victims. The reason, the news report says, is “that the time had come for the organisation to return to its “roots” of identifying with safety of life at sea.” Which makes one wonder how far they have strayed from their supposed mission of safety at sea. Until this press release, I never heard of IMO and I doubt many have.

So what is going on here? Is it merely a way to acknowledge a terrible loss at sea in 1912 and the lessons learned from it? IMO plans to “examine whether the lessons drawn from among the most costly accidents of the last 100 years had been learnt to the full.” The next line says it all:

“The organisation will also identify the most contributory factors in the quest for ever-enhanced safety in shipping.”

Written like a true bureaucrat! You might conclude they will put out brochures and other informational media as to the many safety innovations over the years. More lifeboats, 24 hour radio, life vests, satellite transponders. All of that true. Perhaps they just want to hop on board the Titanic bandwagon in 2012 like everybody else is doing. Except they were not around in 1912. Nor does the IMO, as far as I know, have any participation in the International Ice Patrol. Since the major maritime nations already have mechanisms in place (regulations and oversight agencies) that deal with shipping, the IMO probably does not have much to do. So it probably comes up with nifty reports on dealing with many maritime problems and perhaps useful in meditating the occasional spat between shippers and maritime authorities. I suspect though they have been working on other areas outside of their framework

In case your wondering what the 2011 IMO day was, the theme was “Piracy: Orchestrating the Response.” Well the old way still works. You track down the pirates, damage or sink their crafts, hinder their ability to operate, and execute the worst of the lot and imprison the rest.

Source:
Nigerian Observer News, IMO Dedicates World Maritime Day To Victims Of Titanic Accident, 6 Jul 2011

Titanic Cliche of the Day: NY Post-Business Sank Like The Titanic

For once this is a nautical related cliché. Recently a new ferry service began on the East River to reduce people taking subways and buses. NY Waterway, a subsidiary of BillyBey Ferry Co, receives a $9.1 million subsidy from New York City for a three year pilot project. When it started up in June, ridership soared to 10,900 a day. According to news reports, the city is estimating 400,000 riders for the first year. That makes it about 1,095 passengers a day. So the high numbers at the start looked promising.

Except that it was for free until 25 June when the $4 fare kicked in. Then ridership began to tumble and according to the New York Post was down to 2,824 paying customers before the Fourth of July. Note that is above the estimated number of 1095 but still way down from the 10.900 when the service started for free. This prompted a writer for the New York Post to write:

Business sank like the Titanic on the new East River ferry service last week once passengers had to start paying.

Of course the ferry operator is not displeased. Despite the dropping ridership they claim ridership has exceeded expectations. Now usually when a business starts up and is unable to keep people coming back resulting in fewer sales, the effect is startling causing the business to correct things fast or close up. The fact traffic dropped significantly after the free trial ended means people would rather take the bus or subway rather than pay $4.00 to cross the river. Perhaps if they did not have that $9 million cushion they might look at the numbers a whole different way.

Sources:
New York Post, $4 Fee Turns Ferry Into Ghost Ship, 4 Jul 2011

dnainfo.com, Ridership Drops After East River Ferry Starts Charging, 30 June 2011

dnainfo.com, East River Ferry Draws 12,000 Riders in First Two Days, 1 June 2011

Happy Independence Day

Each year we celebrate the 4th of July. We watch parades, listen to patriotic music, grill food in the summer sun, and take in a ballgame. We celebrate this date because in 1776 men tired of English domination decided on a radical and dangerous course of action. They decided to declare independence from the premiere powers of the day—Great Britain.

This was no small thing to do. They realized the British would respond by sending in the army to crush them. And all of them who signed that document knew their lives were on the line. They believed in something important, liberty. And so began the War for Independence. It was not easy and fraught with many twists and turns. But in the end the rebels won. Today many have forgotten exactly why they rebelled. Even the president forgets to include words in the famous Declaration of Independence. There are even some who believe the Communist Manifesto of 1848 is the founding document of our country.

So here is the document, in its entirety (except the signatures). Take the time to read it and understand why the forefathers of this country decided to rebel against the British. And why this document is so important to understanding the unique and exceptional character of the United States of America.
=====
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

AMC Blog:Top Ten Reasons We Can’t Get Enough of Titanic

What are the ten top reasons for liking Titanic? I have never really given it a thought (though Dave Letterman might). Over at AMC, Corey Abbey has given it some thought and lists the top ten reasons we cannot get enough of Titanic.

Here are just a few of them:

10. The Death of an Evil Billy Zane?
“Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a character more loathsome than his Cal, the arrogant fiancé of Rose (Kate Winslet). This guy’s a first-class jerk, a spousal abuser, and an all-around bully.”

No argument here. Zane’s character is pretty vile and knowing he ended up badly in the end is pretty good.

8. The Most Anti-Nostalgic Moment in a Nostalgic Film
” But after telling her story, Rose, it turns out, has the necklace and rather than give it up secretly throws it — nostalgia be damned! — right into the ocean, in the movie’s most triumphant scene. The act seems to free her, once and for all, to enjoy her memories of Jack (DiCaprio).”

Not sure if that is a reason but possibly a factor. Not much nostalgia though when the story is about a tragedy like Titanic.

7. “My Heart Will Go On”
” The song kept the soundtrack at No. 1 on the charts for a whopping sixteen weeks and proved inescapable for anyone who listened to radio, went on an elevator, or attended a drag show. As ubiquitous theme songs go, this track has few rivals.”

Originally, as I recall, there was not going to be song for the movie, just theme music and background vocals. Dion was called into test a possible song and voila! The rest of course is history.

5. “I’m the King of the World!”
That is one line that now has entered the common use and will be with us for a long time.

3. Young Kate Winslet & 2. Younger Leonardo DiCaprio?
It certainly made them more famous and able to demand higher fees for future movies. Not sure which has really come out better, Winslet or DiCaprio.

1. The Blockbuster, Redefined
“Yet really all Cameron was doing was returning to the days of epic romances like Gone With the Wind and Lawrence of Arabia. They ruled the box office; Titanic did, too.” No argument here. The film broke records and dvd sales went through the roof.

You can view the whole list by clicking here.

Titanic Images To View

The BBC has images of the Titanic exhibition opening in Chatham Historic Dockyard. You can view them at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-13980375.

At a recent court hearing on the salvage matter in Virginia, images from the recent exploration were viewed. They are pretty neat to look at it. You can view them at http://www.news.com.au/technology/never-before-seen-3d-images-of-titanic-surface-in-courtroom-salvage-battle/story-e6frfro0-1226085392468.

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Jay Leno, a Vintage Car, and a Titanic Heir

Jay Leno loves vintage cars. In fact he claims that buying vintage cars is cheaper than having lots of women! Back in 2005 he bought a vintage car–a 1931 Dusenberg Model J–that belonged to John Straus, the grandson of  Macy’s found Isador Straus. Both Isador and his wife Ida perished when Titanic sank in 1912. Leno thought he had gotten a good deal for $180,000. The car though was not in very good shape due to water damage and neglect. But with the help of a restorer and lots of work, the car has been restored to “better than new” according to news reports.

The car had been stored since 1931 in a leaky garage contributing to its poor condition. In 2005 the garage sought $22,000 in fees. The fees were apparently paid but the garage auctioned off the car anyway (whether this due to an oversight or something else the article does not make clear). What is clear is that Leno got the car and a lawsuit from the Straus family claiming the auction was a sham. The argument seems to have been Leno was in cahoots with the garage to get the car.

The legal action was just settled. As is the norm in such matters, exact details are always confidential. News reports indicate that while the Straus family got money, it did not come from Leno. The car itself was never very pretty said Leno. It was built to ferry wealthy people around New York City. Leno does enjoy driving the car around reliving the days of yesteryear.

Source: Daily Mail, Jay Leno Settles Vintage Car Legal Dispute Over 1931 Duesenberg, 21 June 2011

Titanic, historic ship, and general history news.