George Lucas gives OK to not care about Star Wars on Blu-Ray

With vacation season finally coming to a close, I’m able to get back to writing more. Hooray.

In my searches through the tech news I’ve missed out on, I’ve decided I’m going to skip out on Star Wars on Blu-Ray. Granted I don’t own either trilogy (sexology?) on DVD, but George Lucas has deemed converting the originals as too expensive to move to Blu-Ray. Or in other words, George Lucas is only moving the version he likes to the next incarnation.

Why is audio of one Yuba City Unified meeting a 1.06 GB file?

Do you want to listen to the latest Yuba City Unified School District meeting? I hope you have a good internet connection.

The Aug. 24 meeting audio, linked to in the left column of the page, weighs in at a whopping 1.06 gigabytes. In other words, over 1,000 megabytes.

By the way, because I know most people hate thinking about numbers, I’ve bolded each one to make it easier to understand.

Still need more perspective as to how huge that file is? According to this download calculator that file should take nearly two days on a dial-up 56K connection. On a DSL connection, that total drops to just under a day.

This megalith of a file was the audio of a 2-hour meeting that was saved in WAV format, or Waveform Audio File Format. It’s considered a lossless format, which means little to no compression of the audio is done. It’s like putting out the trash without using a compactor – it could take up a lot less space.

Without going into too much jargon and detail, I took that same file and compressed it to an MP3. That same file went from 1.06 gigabytes to 34.4 megabytes. That’s a 97 percent drop in size.

I downloaded the rest of the files, which were encoded in variations of MP3 and WAV, and re-encoded them. The 4.11 gigabytes of audio from six months of meetings turned into 661 megabytes — an 85 percent drop.

This situation irks me two ways. First off, nobody wants to download a gigabyte of audio. Our education reporter Ryan McCarthy was trying to listen to that meeting for a story and nearly gave up since the download would have swallowed half of his workday. Public records, like audio of meetings, shouldn’t be this difficult to access. This area is starved enough for quality Internet access as is without the burden of trying to download something roughly the size of a full-length movie from iTunes.

Secondly, I hate to see the district’s bill at the end of the month trying to service these downloads. While school meeting audio isn’t exactly something topping the Hot 100 charts, it’s not going to take much to rack up a huge bill. A site that’s used to serving maybe a few hundred megabits of data a day will see a 10-fold spike in bandwidth usage with a mere 10 downloads of one meeting.

I’ve already contacted the webmaster for YCUSD, but I have yet to get a response.

I beat @leolaporte in a game of War

Here’s an interesting contest I stumbled on today. Unfortunately you’re too late to enter unless you can write an incredible application in under 10 kilobytes in less than a day.

The 10K Apart contest challenges developers to write a web app in less than 10 kilobytes. The apps consist of a slew of the usual suspects — A Minsweeper, a to-do list manager, and even a Space Invaders clone.

It’s good to see a challenge that actually drives developers to look at tightening their code and doing as much with as little as possible. The fact that some of these apps were done in under 10 kb is impressive.

But the important thing is I beat Leo Laporte in a game of War he had no idea happened.

Open Range brings wireless Internet and jobs to Yuba-Sutter area

With as much as I’ve griped about the lack of Internet service providers in this area, it shouldn’t come as a shock that I leaped on the chance to find out more about another option for the Yuba-Sutter area.

As an added bonus for reading this, I’ll even point out a few job openings created by Open Range.

Last week, the Appeal-Democrat reported about federal stimulus dollars going to local governments. It turns out the feds are also helping a new ISP take root throughout the valley.

Competition in the valley

Open Range will begin operating in the Marysville/Linda/Olivehurst market on Aug. 13, according to Daniel Gillan, general manager for Open Range in Northern California. Parts of Yuba City will also be covered.

The company is offering a plan for $38.95 a month with speeds up to 3 megabits per second for downloads and 1 MBpS for uploads. For those of us stuck on DSL, that’s roughly 3,000 KbPS and 1,000 KbPS respectively. Also the first month will be free and no contract/commitment is required.

Cutting the cords

But as exciting as pricing and speeds are, the intriguing part of this service is the fact it’s wireless. No copper to upgrade, no new cables, just one all-in-one box. The service runs off of a WiMAX/4G cellular connection through the Freedom 4G router.

The Freedom 4G (not in any way connected to Appeal-Democrat parent company Freedom Communications) acts as a modem, router, phone and, yes, even an answering machine. I’ll touch more on the phone bits in a second.

While the service is currently only rolling out in the Yuba-Sutter area next week, the Freedom 4G router offers an intriguing level of portability. Theoretically, as long as you’re plugged into a power source and are within range of an active tower, you can take your Internet with you wherever you go. Granted, right now it’s limited to just the poor unlucky sap commuting from Red Bluff to Olivehurst, but it’s a start.

 

The rollout is expected to cover 78 towers throughout the state and 546 in the country over the next 5 years offering rural coverage to roughly 5 million people. This includes sites in the valley stretching most of the Appeal-Democrat and Tri-County Newspapers coverage areas. While Gillan wouldn’t give an exact date for when the service will be rolled out, he said most of them should be handled by the end of 2011.

The phone bits

As I mentioned earlier, the Freedom 4G also can replace your phone line. For $59.95 a month, Open Range will handle your phone and Internet coverage. Gillan also mentioned calls to Mexico will cost as little as 2 cents a minute.

The monthly rates for both phone and Internet are guaranteed for 24 months.

Who’s footing the bill?

The USDA Rural Development Program has invested $260 million into Open Range, while One Equity Partners – a private arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co. – has invested $100 million.

And jobs
To get a foothold in the market, Open Range is hiring 15 sales representatives for the Yuba-Sutter area. If you’re interested, call regional sales manager Mike Spence at (814) 403-6917.

Is it worth it?
Not having access to it yet, I’m going to wait to reserve judgment on whether or not Open Range is a worthwhile proposition. Having another ISP is always a good thing, especially one that can serve rural communities. AT&T offers 3MBpS DSL for $35 a month, which undercuts Open Range by a few dollars. But if you don’t have access to that plan, as many residents in the area don’t, this seems like a good alternative.

August 2010 Appeal-Democrat pages

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