Friday, July 27, 2007

Rupert Murdoch has ruined my life

I am sure he did not intend to ruin my life, but Rupert Murdoch has done just that. He has removed the major source of joy and happiness in my life. How did he do it? Well unfortunately he purchased Direct TV in 2003. Direct TV is my satellite television provider.

Satellite television is fantastic. The picture quality is great. Beyond that, there *WAS* a great, fabulous relationship between Tivo and Direct TV. Tivo automatically finds and digitally records your favorite tv shows, films, etc. Tivo finds and records shows by title, actor, director, genre, or keyword.

While that might not sound like much, try to imagine coming home after an extremely grueling day, to find that the Tivo has recorded a movie that you never heard of, that you never knew existed, and that, had you known about it, you would have wanted to watch.

For example, the Tivo heuristically discovers that film noir is your favorite type of film. Now, you can forget about your dreadful day and become totally and completely absorbed in watching this wonderful film noir film that the Tivo found and recorded for you. I loved this. It was the second source of joy and happiness in my life (my husband is the first). I spent many lovely and pleasurable hours watching new films, introduced to me by the Tivo, that gave me such happiness.

Rupert Murdoch took that away from me.

Shortly after taking control of Direct TV, Rupert Murdoch determined that Direct TV should retain all the profits associated with its operation. This meant that Direct TV would not license or pay royalties to Tivo. Instead Direct TV customers were required to shop at the "Company Store" and purchase new digital video recorders that were manufactured according to Direct TV specifications and controlled by Brand Murdoch.

I was forced to purchase one. It is completely awful. The user interface is so awful, it could be a textbook example of poor user interface design. The feature set is abysmal. Reliability is awful; we often have to power cycle the unit to play back movies. Of course, these new, feature-poor DVRs are little more than VCRs that record to disk instead of tape. I guess that was easy for Rupert Murdoch to understand. He has insufficient imagination to appreciate the advanced features that customers like me had so thoroughly enjoyed and utilized.

Of course, Rupert Murdoch had to have some excuse to appear to be running Direct TV in an open and fair manner. Direct TV points out that one can still use a Tivo with a Direct TV box. Let's examine that carefully.

When the satellite transmits the signal, your local satellite receiver, the Direct TV box receives the signal, decompresses the signal, and displays the signal on your television. If you are using a Tivo, the Tivo receives the decompressed satellite signal from the Direct TV box, and then recompresses the signal to store it on disk. Then when you, the viewer, want to watch the program, the Tivo has to decompress the signal to display it on your television. Thus the Tivo has to do an extra step to compress and decompress the signal. The constant decompressing and recompressing results in a reduced quality image when you view it on television.

Prior to Rupert Murdoch's unconscionable meddling, the satellite box and the Tivo functionality were integrated, this meant there was no unnecessary decompression and recompression. (previously the integrated unit recorded the satellite feed and decompressed it once for your television). Thus, prior to Rupert Murdoch, the Tivo image quality on your television was excellent.

So what does the FCC have to say about this? The FCC does not see Rupert Murdoch as a monopolist, because the FCC maintains that consumers have many choices with television. The FCC tells me that I could always obtain cable television instead of satellite, so that I have freedom of choice. Despite their absurd propaganda, cable television is inferior to satellite television in terms of image quality. Thus, in my opinion, I do not have a choice. The FCC is incorrect, and I am stuck with Rupert Murdoch's pathetic DVR.

I personally think that Rupert Murdoch has worn out his welcome, and he and his absurb trophy wife, Wendy Deng, should high tail it back to Australia and live out their lives in oblivion, something they richly deserve.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Immigration is not the Problem... it is the Solution to the Problem

My company, InterWorking Labs ( moved its corporate headquarters about three weeks ago. When we organized the move, Locatelli Movers, the best and most reliable, local moving company was not available. So we did what most small businesses do when we have a logistics/physical/operations type problem -- we contacted our general purpose contractor - handyman, Mac.

Mac said "Sure no problem." On the day of the move, Mac showed up with six guys and a truck to facilitate the move of our corporate headquarters. Mac had to leave for two hours that day due to a medical emergency and he forgot to designate one of the six muscle men to be the crew leader.

So there was a little chaos. I tried to check in from time to time, but I had a few emergencies myself. I was able to give the move my full attention during Mac's two hour absence.

I noticed that the hardest working, most cheerful, most focussed of the six men doing the move was Pedro. From his accent and appearance, Pedro is obviously from Mexico. The other five were white guys. The white guys took more breaks, had more excuses, and generally dicked around and wasted more time than Pedro.

Whether he is legal or illegal, it is clear to me that Pedro is an immigrant who is on a mission. He wants to do a job well; he wants to be recognized; he wants to get paid fair wages; he wants to achieve a lot in the United States. Pedro is the best thing that can possibly happen to a small business like mine and I also believe he is the best thing that can happen to America.

Now, I hope that Pedro is legally working in the United States. I do not know Pedro's immigration status; he is Mac's employee and not mine, and I don't know what kind of arrangement Mac has with him.

However, when Mac got back, I told Mac, in front of Pedro (and not the others), that in my opinion, Pedro was Mac's best guy by a long shot. Mac said, in front of Pedro (and not the others) that Mac knew Pedro was his best guy and he really appreciated Pedro, his work ethic and his can-do attitude. I hope that made Pedro's day and I hope that Mac gave him a bonus.

All of us need encouragement, support, and motivation. Sometimes motivation comes from competition. Immigrants are competition. They are a reminder that we have it good here and that other people in other countries are in such dire circumstances that they will risk their lives for an opportunity to get to the United States. Immigrants are grateful for an opportunity to work. These are the people that small businesses want to hire, coach, support, develop, and promote.

Native born Americans graduating in the top 25% of their college class are also highly motivated and hard working, but they want to work for major corporations. Small businesses just cannot get them. The native born Americans who are available to small businesses tend to be the young people who graduated in the bottom 25% of their college class, who have an attitude of entitlement, a poor work ethic, and high expectations. (Several years ago, we hired one of these individuals. He was fired within 60 days. We then saw his resume posted online with his stated career goal: "I want a salary of $1 million and I want to work in a laid back, casual environment.") Of course, this is a completely ridiculous statement to make to a potential employer, particularly when the individual has no track record or marketable skills. I prefer to hire someone like Pedro.

The proponents for immigration reform complain that the illegal immigrants are a burden on our social services. The illegal immigrants use social services (for example, their children attend the public schools) without paying for them through taxes, because of course, they are working illegally and not paying taxes on their income. I agree that is a problem. However, in the list of challenges confronting the United States -- the war in Iraq, the relationship with Iran and with North Korea, the problems in Israel, the global health care issues -- I would put illegal immigration at maybe #80 or #90 on the list. This means it is a problem that will never be solved.

So, assuming Pedro is illegal (and we don't really know), what do we get in return for Pedro's presence? We get competition, we get motivation, we get lazy Americans to wake up and smell the coffee. In my opinion, this is extremely important and more than compensates for having their children in the public schools. I would conservatively guess that the presence of illegal workers from Mexico in the U.S. increases Gross Domestic Product by 25 - 35%. That's huge.

I have to conclude that the Pedros of the world are not the problem; they are the solution.