The 401st Blow :: Thoughts On Media

Fixing Time Warner Cable Ubee Modem Connectivity Issues

Posted in Uncategorized by Noah Harlan on October 21, 2012

Recently we moved to a new apartment (first new place for me in 13 years!) and we moved our Time Warner Cable service. I would have loved to have been rid of them but, sadly, we need the data connection and FIOS isn’t an option (we moved to a Brownstone that hasn’t been wired yet). The guy came and hooked us up and replaced our previous modem with a combination modem/wifi router from Ubee. The thing looks totally Fisher Price and, frankly, was performing like crap. Connections were dropping. Pages were timing out. Browsers were hanging on “requesting page” or loading partially and then stalling out. I use a Time Capsule as our wifi router and that was connected to the Ubee via ethernet. I knew the Time Capsule was good (if you are having problems with your Airport base station roll it back to version 7.5.2, the 7.6 firmware is crap). So here’s how I fixed the problem:

  1. Log into the Ubee modem admin by going to http://192.168.0.1/TlModeChange.asp with user/user as username/password.
  2. Browsing through the settings I discovered that the wifi was on and forming a network that I had told them not to do (so much for security) and I shut that off.
  3. The key thing though is that you want to change the mode from “Gateway” to “Bridge”. That makes the modem *just* a modem and not a router (it sucks as a router). All I want is the data connection and Bridge gives me that.
  4. Go into Airport Utility and set your base station to “DHCP and NAT”.

Voila! You’ll have a clean fast internet connection. I’m getting about 20Mbps down and 1.95Mbps up.

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Reason #1,257 Why I Love New York: Winning Edition

Posted in Humor, Uncategorized by Noah Harlan on March 22, 2011

My partner took this photo of the homeless guy who hangs out near our office.

Winning

Understatement Of The Day

Posted in Uncategorized by Noah Harlan on February 2, 2011

Cyclone Yasi

‘Don’t panic if the roof lifts off’, residents told as Cyclone Yasi approaches.

To quote my friend James: “Fuck that – I’d panic.”

Estimates going into the hurricane were that parts of Queensland would see 175MPH wind gusts and three feet of rain.

DIWO Politics

Posted in Uncategorized by Noah Harlan on September 26, 2010

The posting has been infrequent of late largely due to our film, RETURN, going into production and some very exciting moves happening for Two Bulls. Stay tuned for more news about all of that and I’ll try to keep posts coming. The reality of making a smaller film though is that you have a lot to do and not a lot of free time to write your thoughts down.  In the meantime, here’s a story I had forgotten about (or perhaps never really knew).

There has been a lot of talk in the film community about DIWO (Do It With Others) as a new paradigm for getting films made. It’s more collaborative and powerful than DIY, but requires more mutual consent than traditional hierarchical filmmaking. It strikes me that DIWO is essentially model for democratic (small “d’) politics. People have to learn to work together, collaborate, and head towards common goals. At least, that’s how it is supposed to work – something which has clearly fallen by the wayside for some time now. These thoughts led me to a discussion about New Jersey politics and the very strange sequence of events that took place the week of January 8th, 2002.

Christine Todd Whitman was elected Governor of New Jersey in 1994 and four years later was reelected to a term that would end in January of 2002. In 2000, George W. Bush was elected President and in January of 2001, Governor Whitman resigned her position to accept the job as Administrator of the EPA.

In 2001, New Jersey didn’t have the position of Lieutenant Governor, instead the President of the Senate was the next in line for the position of Governor and would serve in both positions at once. On January 31st, 2001, Donald DiFrancesco, the then-serving President of the New Jersey Senate became Acting Governor and he would serve out the remainder of Governor Whitman’s term.

However there was a hiccup. DiFrancesco decided not to run for Senate again and thus his term as Senate President ended on January 8th, 2002 which meant that his term as Acting Governor ended that day as well despite the fact that the new Governor, James McGreevey, would not have his inauguration for another week. The next in line would be the new Senate President, however that person wouldn’t be sworn in for another 45 minutes, so John Farmer, Jr., the State Attorney General was sworn in and became the Acting Governor until the swearing in.

But there was a problem. New Jersey had elected a perfectly split Senate and this meant that there were actually Co-Presidents: John Bennett, a Republican, and Richard Codey, a Democrat, and only one person can be Acting Governor at a time. So an arrangement was made, Bennett and Codey would share the week.

So, on January 8th, John Bennett was sworn in as Acting Governor of New Jersey, a position he would hold until January 12th. In those three days, according to Wikipedia, he:

“appeared on national television as part of the “five governors in a week” news cycle. He signed legislation into law, appointed judges, granted a pardon, created a nursing advisory council, and hosted several parties at Drumthwacket. The nursing advisory council was a tribute to his wife, Peg, a nurse. Peg Bennett was active during her tenure as First Lady of New Jersey.”

Then, on January 12th, Richard Codey took the position of Acting Governor until January 15th when Governor McGreevey was sworn in, thus concluding one of the most volatile weeks in the New Jersey Governor’s office.

A footnote to this is that Richard Codey would actually become Acting Governor a second time in November of 2004 after Governor McGreevey resigned from office following allegations that he had been blackmailed by a former lover.

A second interesting footnote is that this also reminds us of the so-called “President of the United State for one day” David Rice Atchison who some claim was President of the US on March 4th, 1849 after the term of President Polk ended and before the term of Present Zachary Taylor began because Taylor refused to be sworn in on a Sunday. Atchison spent the entire term of his Presidency in bed.

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iPhones & Evo 4Gs

Posted in Content, Technology, Uncategorized by Noah Harlan on July 2, 2010

Brilliant. Brian Chirls, this goes out to you:

But to be fair, here’s the flip side of the coin (this one gets good around 1:30):

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Crowd Sourcing & Legality

Posted in Uncategorized by Noah Harlan on June 8, 2010

Ted Hope linked to a Kickstarter page for Amos Poe’s newest project, a new translation of Danté’s La Commedia.

Let me start by saying, I hope I’m wrong about this. I wish them nothing but success with the project (they seem to be doing quite well on their raise with some days still to go). I’m just not sure what they’re doing is legal.

Here’s what Ted said:

Check out Amos “the avatar of no-wave cinema” Poe’s KickStarter page’s pledge incentives for his new translation of Dante’s “La Commedia” for an example of well thought out rewards.  There are low ones that most will skip over so that they don’t think themselves cheap.  There are high ones that feel out of reach but encourage you to also reach higher.  They give a DVD (which frankly could have been a digital download) at the the second lowest level.  Even if I didn’t know, like, and respect Amos and his work, I might be inspired to give (I did).

What Ted doesn’t mention is the top few reward levels:

  • Pledge $2,000 or more: 1% of producer’s gross profit, Co-Producer credit, single card, name on poster, La Commedia DVD, a copy of Amos Poe’s former film EMPIRE II and 2 tickets for premiere.
  • Pledge $5,000 or more: 2.5% of producer’s gross profit, co-executive producer credit, co-presenation credit, name on poster, 2 tickets for premiere, Red carpet invite Venice Film Festival 2010, plus an Amos Poe’s artwork.
  • Pledge $10,000 or more: 5% of producer’s gross profit, executive producer credit, single card, R/T economy airplane ticket, 2 nights hotel at Venice Film Festival, 2 tickets for premeire and red carpet.

That seems an awful lot like a public offering and that, unfortunately, is a violation of SEC law. If you’re not careful, this can land you a heap of trouble down the road.

The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) has a very specific list of exemptions to the public offering rules. If you are selling an equity and you don’t have one of the following exemptions, then you must register with the SEC and qualify as a Public Offering (as opposed to a Private Offering – which most film prospectuses are). The exceptions are:

  • Interstate Offering Exemption: Your offering must be only within the state your company is incorporated in (Kickstarter isn’t limited this way), carry out a significant amount of its business in that state (films don’t generally qualify since they sell all over) and your offer can only be to residents of that state (again, Kickstarter doesn’t qualify since it’s open to anyone). This rule is tied to the Commerce Clause of the Constitution that says the government can only regulate interstate trade.
  • Private Offering Exemption: This is the exemption that most films use. In this case the key detail is that you must only offer investment opportunities to sophisticated investors (people who invest a lot and understand investment prospectuses). By announcing to the public that they can buy in, you are not limiting the offering to those investors.
  • Regulation A: In this case you must register your offering with the SEC ahead of time which is costly and time consuming and thus something that most filmmakers don’t do.
  • Regulation D: There are several variations of Regulation D but generally you are not allowed to advertise your offering publicly. Kickstarter would most likely be considered a violation of that restriction.

There are a couple other exemptions but those, too, don’t generally apply to films. This is a complicated area of the law and, when I teach producing, I always tell my students that when you get to the prospectus stage that you need to consult a lawyer because if you make a mistake, it can really cost you down the road.

I think that these laws likely need to be revised since there seems to be nothing wrong with what Amos is doing. Small raises for these types of projects shouldn’t fall under SEC jurisdiction but, unfortunately, they often do.

Note: Jeff Steele has done some good writing on this subject on his blog, Jeff Steele’s Film Closings, here and here.

Steve Ballmer Still Lives?

Posted in Software, Technology, Uncategorized by Noah Harlan on May 26, 2010

Today Apple’s market cap surpassed Microsoft’s to make Apple the second largest company in America. At the end of trading today, Apple’s market cap was $222.12 billion versus Microsoft’s $219.18 billion. My only question is:

Why does this man still have a job?

Why does Steve Ballmer still have a job?

Since he took over Microsoft from Bill Gates there has hardly been a single stand out executive move by Microsoft. Nothing that would seem innovative has come to market. And I say ‘come to market’ with care.

People howled that Microsoft had an iPad killer in the works with the HP Slate. The problem? HP realized that Windows Mobile 7 (or whatever hack OS Microsoft tried to develop for the device) wasn’t worth building a platform on so they bought Palm and Palm’s much more sophisticated WebOS platform. The Microsoft Courier dual-screen slate? Yep, that was killed just a couple weeks ago and Bill Gates is now saying they’re focussing on “a number of different tablet projects, with a focus on stylus-based input.”

Where is the vision?

The problem is that Steve Ballmer is exactly the wrong man for the job.

Steve Ballmer is a sales guy. Look around silicon valley and you won’t find many of the big boys being run by sales guys. Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Eric Schmidt. None are sales guys. They’re either technical visionaries or efficient operators. When Ballmer took over Microsoft he was running a company that was already ubiquitous. Why would they need a marketer – everyone already knows Windows. They needed someone with a bold vision and technical confidence to see where things should be going. When you are dominant in a market like Microsoft is, you can set the conversation. Don’t believe me? Ask Adobe…

You need a sales and marketing guy when you are Palm, after the development of WebOS and before the purchase by HP. You have a great product, but nobody knows who you are. You either let the world know about your great product, or you can just make creepy videos.

The question that is left is how long Microsoft’s board and shareholders will let the wrong man run their company down.

Why Yahoo Is Losing

Posted in Rant, Technology, Uncategorized by Noah Harlan on May 26, 2010

Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo, had a fiesty sit-down with Michael Arrington of TechCrunch yesterday at the Disrupt conference. Aside from telling him to “fuck off” she said the following:

What is Yahoo? Yahoo is a company that is very strong in content. It’s moving towards the web of one. We have 32,000 variations on our front page module. We serve a million of those a day. It’s all customized. Our click-through rate went up twice since we started customizing this. People come to check the things they like. “You can just get it together.” Yahoo is one site people always stop at.

Unfortunately, they’re lazy. I used to read Yahoo news as my default home page. I don’t anymore. Why? I hate their layout. They pay no attention, whatsoever, to user experience and, instead, are focussed on forcing “click-through” rates instead of providing a better product.  Here’s an example.

I was trying to read an AFP article on BP’s attempt to perform a “top kill” to shut off the oil leak (deluge?) in the gulf. This is what the page looked like:

The information that I really wanted to know is “what is a top kill”. Lucky for me there is a handy infographic on the left side. So let’s click on that to see it larger, shall we?  Here’s what we get:

Putting aside the garish red ad and the sponsored links and the morass of related links, trending topics, and other things Carol wants me to click on, there is one thing I wanted from this page: a legible version of the diagram from the page before. Can I have that?

No.

Here is the largest version of that infographic that Yahoo makes available:

A Useless Image From Yahoo

Can you read a word of it? I can’t.

Yahoo succeeded in a click-through and offered nothing of value. If you are advertising on that platform you gained nothing from that additional page view and I have gained nothing of value from Yahoo.

Fuck off, Carol.

And just for contrast, here’s the completely legible infographic the New York Times offered to illustrated the same thing:

A Useful Graphic

Google Changes TV

Posted in Distribution, Software, Technology, Television, Uncategorized by Noah Harlan on May 20, 2010

Google just announced a fantastic product. Google TV.

We’ll see what it looks like when it goes live, but it appears to embody so much of what TV needs to do. It seems like someone out there was annoyed by the same things I highlighted in my post on Mark Cuban. The idea is that no longer will TV be hijacked by the tyranny of your local cable operator’s interface. You can now search for content non-linearly. But there’s more: it appears, from the screen shots, that it connects with Amazon & Hulu & Netflix. Search once, find what you’re looking for on your TV schedule or online. This product, in one fell swoops, takes a swipe at services like Speed Cine, AppleTV, Boxee and more.

I, for one, applaud them.

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SNL & Betty White

Posted in Content, Television, Uncategorized by Noah Harlan on May 9, 2010

Last night’s SNL was great. I haven’t watched a full episode in ages. Betty White is amazing and her willingness to jump in and do anything made it so much fun.

But the thing I noticed which was also awesome was the cavalcade of women from SNL’s past that showed up.

Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch and Molly Shannon.

I think SNL should think about doing this more. The demand on the current cast to carry the show, week-in and week-out, all year long, is huge. You know that tons of former cast members have ideas and a freshness that the show needs – You could see on their faces how much fun it was to be back. So why not bring more cast back as revolving ‘featured’ players? You would still have a host and a standing current cast but the show would also have that quality of “who’s going to be showing this week?” and that would be great. They do this on occasion, but if I had Lorne Michael’s ear, I would tell him to do this more.

In the meantime, go watch Betty White in action.