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Guest Message by DevFuse

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The DIRECTV HD DVR - Year 6


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#51 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:33 PM

No, I'm not sure.

I don't recall the details but the last time I upgraded storage and moved the contents I did see evidence of Java in the file system.

I can't imagine why they would use Java for some things and not the UI. JavaFX fits. It's an obvious platform for loadable apps too.

As for hardware graphic acceleration... depends on hardware capability at a minimum. I doubt they would tune for each box; probably using the lowest common denominator method across all boxes so it will be very low-end. Note that new iOS releases cause obsolete hardware a lot faster than DTV does.

For clients, RVU sends "bitmaps" (compressed one would hope) to the client for the UI. There isn't much hardware acceleration possible with dumb data like that. I doubt RVU is any better than VNC or the like which isn't saying much (heck, X11 used to be far better than VNC).


As far as remote display of polished UI transitions (like crossfade in and out of menu or guide)... I can get Aero and GUI effects with UltraVNC and or Dameware mirror drivers. Or Microsofts new RemoteFX in Server 2008 R2 and later.
It would be nice to see things cross fade in and out like Passport guide on Cisco set tops. Or things like the banner slide down and slide off when invoked / dismissed. Or a caller ID notification slide into the screen from the lower right, then briskly slide off screen when dismissed. Or the mini guide slide up when initiated and slide down out of view when exited. It just masks loading. Like the CPU can be preparing the next screen while the video is "transitioning" to that screen. Makes it feel more responsive because it starts to enact a visual change at the press of a button. Video processing would have to be double or triple buffered. I know Java can execute such things as the Xfinity X1 platform is based on Java in the Tru2Way specification. It's running Intel CE4100 CPU, however their Pace RNG150 HD set tops are the usual Broadcom based variety which state "accelerated 3D graphics" in their spec sheets.

Quite honestly I don't get why providers don't move to the ARM platform. A good 1.5 Ghz quad core ARM has more oomph than any cable or satellite providers equipment. Plus they can dynamically disable unused cores and go into ultra low power states. I can decode H.264 HD video in the palm of my hand on my iPhone or my wife's Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Yet that is battery powered device connected to a WAN, wifi and Bluetooth all running, alongside listening for phone calls, txt, push email, etc. Just amazes me what a difference in computing power a $200 + 2 year contract cell phone has compared to again a few hundred dollar + 2 year contract DirecTV (or competitor) DVR.

- > Link to my setup thread< -

My  DirecTV HD WISHLIST:  NickJR, Nicktoons, Revolt.TV, FXM, We, Oxygen, The Hub, Fuse, GSN, Sprout, GAC, Esquire, BBC World News, Sundance, Up, Music Choice Play HD, Al Jazeera America, Military Channel, NASA

My DirecTV SD WISHLIST: MTV Hits, MTV Jams, Music Choice, Youtoo TV

 

---

HR44-500
HR24-200

 


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#52 OFFLINE   P Smith

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:52 PM

There are much more specialized components of DVR/STB "CPU" then you mentioned in ARM.
Very specific for sat providers, like decryption. And not all of them has clear description in one page booklets. Take a look to block diagrams, perhaps you'll find more unique parts.

#53 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 09:20 PM

Ok well I found a SoC from ST microelectronics based on ARM Cortex A9 (dual core). While not an A15 quad core, it has the graphics processing power to do all kinds of fancy 3D and 2D accelerated GUi's like this: http://www.wyplay.com/?page=customers

- > Link to my setup thread< -

My  DirecTV HD WISHLIST:  NickJR, Nicktoons, Revolt.TV, FXM, We, Oxygen, The Hub, Fuse, GSN, Sprout, GAC, Esquire, BBC World News, Sundance, Up, Music Choice Play HD, Al Jazeera America, Military Channel, NASA

My DirecTV SD WISHLIST: MTV Hits, MTV Jams, Music Choice, Youtoo TV

 

---

HR44-500
HR24-200

 


#54 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 09:50 PM

The ARM1176 is at the heart of the NXP CX24500 which is used in the HR24-500.

If it is configured with Mali-200, they should be able to fine tune the interface behavior to do the kind of things an iPhone 3G accomplishes (smooth scrolling, scaling, cross fading and more)

http://www.arm.com/p...tcookie=classic

Look, dual SATA. Now how about a software change where an external drive ADDS not replaces to overall storage.
http://html.alldatas.../1/CX24500.html

- > Link to my setup thread< -

My  DirecTV HD WISHLIST:  NickJR, Nicktoons, Revolt.TV, FXM, We, Oxygen, The Hub, Fuse, GSN, Sprout, GAC, Esquire, BBC World News, Sundance, Up, Music Choice Play HD, Al Jazeera America, Military Channel, NASA

My DirecTV SD WISHLIST: MTV Hits, MTV Jams, Music Choice, Youtoo TV

 

---

HR44-500
HR24-200

 


#55 OFFLINE   P Smith

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 11:57 PM

ARM inside, but the CPU is way to complicate - see BCM7420 and 7425 using in Hpper and hopper2

#56 OFFLINE   unixguru

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:25 AM

As far as remote display of polished UI transitions (like crossfade in and out of menu or guide)... I can get Aero and GUI effects with UltraVNC and or Dameware mirror drivers. Or Microsofts new RemoteFX in Server 2008 R2 and later.


Yes, but think about what hardware you are using on both the server and client. Compare raw CPU power, memory, and network to a set top box. The set top box is FAR less in all regards. Sure, the DVR could do this but there would be no free hardware from DTV. Many people already complain about the cost of DTV hardware.

It would be nice to see things cross fade in and out like Passport guide on Cisco set tops. Or things like the banner slide down and slide off when invoked / dismissed. Or a caller ID notification slide into the screen from the lower right, then briskly slide off screen when dismissed. Or the mini guide slide up when initiated and slide down out of view when exited. It just masks loading. Like the CPU can be preparing the next screen while the video is "transitioning" to that screen. Makes it feel more responsive because it starts to enact a visual change at the press of a button. Video processing would have to be double or triple buffered. I know Java can execute such things as the Xfinity X1 platform is based on Java in the Tru2Way specification. It's running Intel CE4100 CPU, however their Pace RNG150 HD set tops are the usual Broadcom based variety which state "accelerated 3D graphics" in their spec sheets.


The presence of graphics acceleration in hardware doesn't mean it's being used in software. Given the capability range (age) of DTV hardware they have two choices: 1) tweak software in each platform to use maximum hardware capability or 2) use lowest common denominator. I suspect the are doing #2 and frankly agree with it since there are many more important flaws in their product at the moment. What does Apple do when confronting this kind of issue? They simply drop support for the outdated hardware.

To make use of hardware acceleration the software has to use something like OpenGL that I will loosely call "vector based" graphics (more abstract higher level primitives). Since RVU (and VNC, etc) clearly state they are "bitmap" based there would be no way for the C31/C41 to do any kind of graphics acceleration. Even if the HR34/HR44 were doing OpenGL they would need to apply it to a virtual screen internally and then that would be converted to compressed bitmaps to send to the clients. You simply wouldn't want to do the kinds of flashy graphics you describe as that would do nothing but generate far more changes to the virtual screen which would overload the amount of bitmap data needing to be sent to the client. I'm not saying this desirable, just the way it is. The Unix world has a "vector based" technology designed to be more efficient over a network (it's called X11; it's only 2D) but it's essentially dead as there is no work going on to advance it. I'm not aware of any attempts to do something like OpenGL over a network (which is unfortunate).

Of course this could be addressed if DTV chose to split their client/server model in a different place (instead of at the top graphics plane level). That would require a lot more software on the client which in turn would increase the client hardware requirements and ... again ... the cost. While I like the best stuff as much as anyone, nothing is really free and I realize that TV is a more cost sensitive area than others.

Quite honestly I don't get why providers don't move to the ARM platform. A good 1.5 Ghz quad core ARM has more oomph than any cable or satellite providers equipment. Plus they can dynamically disable unused cores and go into ultra low power states. I can decode H.264 HD video in the palm of my hand on my iPhone or my wife's Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Yet that is battery powered device connected to a WAN, wifi and Bluetooth all running, alongside listening for phone calls, txt, push email, etc. Just amazes me what a difference in computing power a $200 + 2 year contract cell phone has compared to again a few hundred dollar + 2 year contract DirecTV (or competitor) DVR.


The portable devices have no disk drive nor the larger power supply needed to support it. No satellite receivers. They don't support recording 5 streams of video and 3+ streams of playback (3 separate users). The volume of phones is much higher so cost is lower. The HR34 is free to new customers. A 16GB iPhone 4S is still $100 at AT&T. It's an apples to oranges comparison.

#57 OFFLINE   kaminar

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 11:47 PM

Since you cannot post a tease of upcoming goodies, can I? :D

-=K=-

#58 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 09:35 AM

BCM7425 is actually not a bad processor. Its a SoC solution that does include 3D video graphics acceleration. Things like you see on the Xfinity X1 (how UI moves about - YouTube) would be possible.

I'm not so sure DirecTV uses Broadcom. That's more of a Dish Network / Cable Operator thing.

Some providers overseas use more ARM based, but yet those are mainly IPTV providers. They can run things like NDS Snowflake (YouTube link)

I just look at whats available today (Xfinity X1) and see how smooth the UI moves about in those real life YouTube videos. Then I look at the concept videos like NDS Snowflake and I am just floored on the smoothness of it as well.

I'm in no way knocking DirecTV's UI. I think the UI is functional and pleasing to look at. I just thing some graphics acceleration would speed it up. If it takes 2 seconds to bring up the guide when you push the button, those 2 seconds won't "feel" like 2 seconds if the system does a cross fade or a slide up / scrunch live tv into the corner animation in those same 2 seconds.

I know the least common denominator is cheaper and faster. But could they develop core drivers once per model, then the main code would just detect those core drivers and enable or disable features based on what hardware is available to it? Think of Windows 7 or Vista. If it detects your video card can run Aero, you get aero. If it can't, well then you don't have fancy aero transparency. Or switch gears.. if Mac OS detects a capable video card and driver, it will enable Quartz Extreme. On a mac this is always... on a "hackintosh" this may or may not be enabled.

Another thing I would love to see in the next 6 years from DirecTV DVR, is the ability to tap into the live streaming channels. Those same live streaming channels you can get on your ipad or iphone should be available to the DVR if its on your network. Why is this important? What if you have a 2 tuner DVR and both tuners are being used? Maybe stream a 3rd program from the internet? What if a storm or snow obstructs your satellite signal? Well maybe you could stream a few channels using your working internet connection? It's all on the network, so it be cool to be available.

- > Link to my setup thread< -

My  DirecTV HD WISHLIST:  NickJR, Nicktoons, Revolt.TV, FXM, We, Oxygen, The Hub, Fuse, GSN, Sprout, GAC, Esquire, BBC World News, Sundance, Up, Music Choice Play HD, Al Jazeera America, Military Channel, NASA

My DirecTV SD WISHLIST: MTV Hits, MTV Jams, Music Choice, Youtoo TV

 

---

HR44-500
HR24-200

 


#59 OFFLINE   unixguru

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:18 PM

Another thing I would love to see in the next 6 years from DirecTV DVR, is the ability to tap into the live streaming channels. Those same live streaming channels you can get on your ipad or iphone should be available to the DVR if its on your network. Why is this important? What if you have a 2 tuner DVR and both tuners are being used? Maybe stream a 3rd program from the internet? What if a storm or snow obstructs your satellite signal? Well maybe you could stream a few channels using your working internet connection? It's all on the network, so it be cool to be available.


Why would they do that? Enable a competitor where they don't make a dime? Sure it would be nice but it ain't gonna happen.

We will never see Vudu, Hulu, Netflix, etc on anything from DTV. I'm a bit surprised that Pandora is there since it competes with DTV's music (which no doubt is an afterthought service with no revenue impact). The whole DTV "apps" thing is a joke - almost no content and little of value.

It's actually odd that they support OTA. I suspect they regret having made that decision long ago with the HR20. At the time I suppose they had to. Now they have most the locals in HD. But they can't get rid of OTA because of the demand. I wonder if this will remain their policy if cord cutting increases. I'd like to see the capability to fallback to OTA if sat is interrupted - never gonna happen.

I think we are stuck with some degree of vendor lock-in (and lock-out) for a long time. Multiple devices (DVR, SmartTV, Blu-Ray player, HTPC, etc) with lots of overlap but no single complete solution.

#60 OFFLINE   RAD

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:27 PM

I'm not so sure DirecTV uses Broadcom. That's more of a Dish Network / Cable Operator thing.


IIRC DIRECTV used Broadcom in most of their STB's the HR24-500 being the most notable exception when they went with a NXP chip.

See post My Setup for configuration info.


#61 OFFLINE   hdtvfan0001

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:28 PM

I'm not so sure DirecTV uses Broadcom. That's more of a Dish Network / Cable Operator thing.

Rest assured that all but a very few DirecTV HD DVRs and HD receivers use Broadcom chipsets.

An NXP chipset is featured in the HR24-500.
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#62 OFFLINE   harsh

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 03:32 PM

Now how about a software change where an external drive ADDS not replaces to overall storage.

That's been a fantasy since before eSATA was enabled. Priority-wise it probably doesn't come anywhere near the clamour for account level registration.

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#63 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 04:06 PM

Why would they do that? Enable a competitor where they don't make a dime? Sure it would be nice but it ain't gonna happen.

We will never see Vudu, Hulu, Netflix, etc on anything from DTV.


Im not talking about adding a competitors service, like Netflix as a tv app. I'm saying if tuners are tied up or the signals shot for whatever reason and you tune to say Food Network HD... It could ask you if you want to stream it live over the Internet. It could hit up the very same servers DirecTV already has setup to live stream a selection of channels to the iPad / iPhone app.

- > Link to my setup thread< -

My  DirecTV HD WISHLIST:  NickJR, Nicktoons, Revolt.TV, FXM, We, Oxygen, The Hub, Fuse, GSN, Sprout, GAC, Esquire, BBC World News, Sundance, Up, Music Choice Play HD, Al Jazeera America, Military Channel, NASA

My DirecTV SD WISHLIST: MTV Hits, MTV Jams, Music Choice, Youtoo TV

 

---

HR44-500
HR24-200

 


#64 OFFLINE   unixguru

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 04:31 PM

Im not talking about adding a competitors service, like Netflix as a tv app. I'm saying if tuners are tied up or the signals shot for whatever reason and you tune to say Food Network HD... It could ask you if you want to stream it live over the Internet. It could hit up the very same servers DirecTV already has setup to live stream a selection of channels to the iPad / iPhone app.


I get it now.

I don't use the DTV internet services so don't really know much about it. No doubt the number of channels is limited. Probably not the same resolution/bitrate either.

Can't really see it being of much value for me. (Nice having 5 tuners in HR34 :)) Even when tuner-limited a lot of stuff is rebroadcast. When I used to have 2 tuners it didn't take much magic arranging my priority list to get the non-repeating primary network stuff first; if a sat/cable show got bumped it wasn't much effort to get it to pick up reruns. I also don't watch hardly anything live so tuner-shortage means little to me.

I can see a day coming when every show is available for streaming in full HD. Then every show being available for on-demand isn't far behind. Things will get interesting then. If my selections get automatically cached on my DVR via the internet then I don't need sat. I've talked about this in other posts; I expect this will come in the relatively near future; it may very well not be DTV providing it.

Sure will be interesting to see how DTV dances around this. I suppose a miracle could happen and they could decide internet-delivery is their future.

#65 OFFLINE   Hoosier205

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 04:41 PM

Im not talking about adding a competitors service, like Netflix as a tv app. I'm saying if tuners are tied up or the signals shot for whatever reason and you tune to say Food Network HD... It could ask you if you want to stream it live over the Internet. It could hit up the very same servers DirecTV already has setup to live stream a selection of channels to the iPad / iPhone app.


An interesting idea.
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#66 OFFLINE   TomCat

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 06:32 PM

I suspect this is due to the use of Java. I've never seen a Java application that wasn't slow - on any platform. I used to do software development on Sun (Oracle) Solaris (UNIX) enterprise platform. There are several examples in the administration and developer realms where the GUIs were rewritten in Java. They became slower, bloated, and uglier. The speed has gotten better as the typical CPU and memory size have increased substantially. But that is an enterprise environment; this kind of embedded low-powered set top environment is too underpowered to support this software technology well. On the plus side it's less susceptible to some classes of bugs.

Having committed to that path the only thing DTV can do is throw CPU and memory at the problem. Doesn't seem like a good path given that those are per-unit costs.



Clearly they have work to do with this technology. When you do a simple network layering over an already sluggish technology you get double sluggish.

Despite not being thrilled with the extra level of sluggishness (and more bugs) the model is desirable for my household. My HR34, AM21N, and external RAID storage are at my wiring hub in the basement where they get the best air circulation and nobody hears the fans. We used to have that mess in our living room cabinet. The silence is priceless.


Great post. Your inferences are likely very accurate.

I am at least happy that you like the client/server direction DTV has gone. Me? Still otherwise not that happy.
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#67 OFFLINE   TomCat

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 06:45 PM

...I can see a day coming when every show is available for streaming in full HD. Then every show being available for on-demand isn't far behind. Things will get interesting then...

I became consciously aware of that future day the moment the Netflix app came out for iPad. Instead of my reaction being "Wow! Cool!", my reaction was "Uh-oh...", because this portends the end of conventional terrestrial television and its associated engineering, which is what my career is mostly in. The fact that anyone with $200 can waltz into Best Buy and walk out with a full 1080p-capable point-and-shoot camera is a little scary as well. Technology and the internet is creating the long good-bye for a lot of industries, mine included.

I am not that worried, because the powers that be will make this transition a pretty slow one, relatively speaking. I hope to retire long before where I work becomes a parking lot or a cloud server farm. But it is still eerily like watching that brick wall come at you in slow motion as if in a car crash.
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#68 OFFLINE   unixguru

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 03:12 PM

I am at least happy that you like the client/server direction DTV has gone. Me? Still otherwise not that happy.


Happy is relative :lol: It's a tradeoff. I definitely like the absence of noise from my viewing location. If the performance/bugs were any worse I'd have to seriously reconsider moving all that stuff back.

Client/server could do this and do it well; it's not a flaw in the model. We are seeing weaknesses in the implementation. By using bitmaps RVU precludes flashy graphics. I understand why they went that way - wanting to keep the client as lightweight and cheap as possible. Things advance and SmartTVs and set top boxes are gaining capabilities rapidly. Perhaps RVU alliance is working on a new version that is vector-based. Unfortunately that requires brand new technology that doesn't even exist in the enterprise world (at least not with enough graphics pizzazz). Probably makes more sense to move the client/server split further down the stack - put user interaction, graphics, etc on the client and data activity on the server (ie the way most enterprise systems are built). Note that content stream is a different beast altogether.

I became consciously aware of that future day the moment the Netflix app came out for iPad. Instead of my reaction being "Wow! Cool!", my reaction was "Uh-oh...", because this portends the end of conventional terrestrial television and its associated engineering, which is what my career is mostly in. The fact that anyone with $200 can waltz into Best Buy and walk out with a full 1080p-capable point-and-shoot camera is a little scary as well. Technology and the internet is creating the long good-bye for a lot of industries, mine included.

I am not that worried, because the powers that be will make this transition a pretty slow one, relatively speaking. I hope to retire long before where I work becomes a parking lot or a cloud server farm. But it is still eerily like watching that brick wall come at you in slow motion as if in a car crash.


That's interesting. Some on this forum say it will never happen and are quite sure about it. I think it will happen and it will likely be slow due to the commingling of content and delivery. It's also possible that content breaking free may reach critical mass and then it's going to be a faster ride.

Maybe broadcast will jump to 4K and further delay things because of bandwidth constraints.

In any event it would be unwise for a youngling to pursue broadcast engineering expecting a lifetime career IMO.

#69 OFFLINE   cypherx

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 04:57 PM

I have to say I really enjoy the technical discussion in this thread. I think we can agree that the software could evolve and use a bit of polish around the rough edges. Just the current implantation of low cost embedded hardware plus the restrictions of RVU (let's call it version 1), leave us a low common denominator.

I am pleased in the past 6 years where the state of the DVR has evolved to. Look at how many new features and even the UI changes over 6 years. It's pretty impressive if you ask me, considering most cable providers remain pretty much unchanged in those last 6 years.

Maybe in 6 more years the processing will continue to get better, maybe there will be an RVU 2.0 spec, maybe the software will be even more efficient than today. A lot has happened in the last 6 years, who's to say a lot won't happen in 6 more? I mean we will be talking about 4K ultra HD, possibly using h.265, and maybe even more horsepower set top boxes for lower cost.

- > Link to my setup thread< -

My  DirecTV HD WISHLIST:  NickJR, Nicktoons, Revolt.TV, FXM, We, Oxygen, The Hub, Fuse, GSN, Sprout, GAC, Esquire, BBC World News, Sundance, Up, Music Choice Play HD, Al Jazeera America, Military Channel, NASA

My DirecTV SD WISHLIST: MTV Hits, MTV Jams, Music Choice, Youtoo TV

 

---

HR44-500
HR24-200

 


#70 OFFLINE   TomCat

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 03:48 PM

...In any event it would be unwise for a youngling to pursue broadcast engineering expecting a lifetime career IMO.

Somewhat of an understatement, I'm afraid. My father was a orthopedic surgeon, but at the time the profession of which house calls was once a hallmark was facing socialized medicine. And doctors, who were then sole proprieters calling their own shots, have now morphed into contractors, beholden to overlords and ginormous corporations. He foresaw this and warned me off of going into medicine. Kind of wish I had anyway.

What I really wanted to be was a recording engineer. If I had done that, I probably would have been penniless by 2003. Any kid with GarageBand can approximate the infrastructure that EMI and George Martin represented to The Beatles in the 60's, assuming they have the talent. But the technology is available to everyone, and that same technology has basically demolished the record industry. If it were as simple and took just a minute or so to download a video the same way you can get a song from iTunes, the broadcasting industry might be already in the same shape. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

So no, I do not recommend opening a book store, a hi-fi store or an electric typewriter store, becoming a VCR repairman, journalist, blacksmith, or bike messenger. The internet and the increasing pace of technological change makes it hard to adapt, and is killing conventional jobs nearly everywhere in the workforce. When asked, centenarians reveal that the secret to long life is to be able to adapt and change with the environment, but the last 100 years were much easier to adapt through than the next 100 will be.

The saving grace in my case is I did not concentrate on VTR and camera bench repair or transmitter and translator technology as did some of my broadcast compatriots who are currently being pushed out. I concentrated on networking, signal compression, file-based transfer, sat and fiber transport, server-based collaborative workflow environments, and P2Air automation. That means that my skills are in industry segments that will still be here for a very long time, and have applications outside of broadcasting.

Maybe that will give me another 10 years.
It's usually safe to talk honestly and openly with people because they typically are not really listening anyway.




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