Hulu needs to get it together.

They were a fledgling challenger to the throne of online video, in a time when YouTube was all anyone knew. Well, not really, but you know. And in those halcyon days of yesteryear (early 2008), life was bliss. You could watch hundreds of hours of TV from years past. I recall watching the entire run of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia based purely on the raucous laughter of my friend Dave when he told me about it. I caught up on an entire run of a show over the course of a couple of years in a few days over the summer. Brilliant! It’s all I ever wanted from TV: be there, when I want to watch you, and I will. Hell, I’ll even sit through ads. I didn’t care! It was the greatest thing to happen to TV since the remote control, as far as I was concerned. I was in on the early beta, and it just got better and better as the weeks went on.

But then something happened. Videos started mysteriously disappearing, replaced with cryptic blog posts and half-hearted apologies. Software that was poised to thrust Hulu into the spotlight even more, like Boxee, was quietly (at least in the beginning) crippled from showing Hulu content over and over. We all speculated why, since the commercials weren’t stripped out, so the idea that the big, archaic content provider logic was decreeing it such wasn’t holding up to scrutiny. Even though it’s often to blame for the asinine decision to only show the last few episodes of a series, as though this would prevent the cannibalization of DVD sales. (PS: I wasn’t buying the DVD anyway, and still won’t, guys, so that incisive, Custer-esque strategy kind of failed. Physical media is dead to me.)

Then the big announcement. Hulu desktop. We got all flustered and downloaded it, and you know what? It’s not that great. Every machine I run it on, Mac OS or Windows, has some issues. Sure, it gets revved up after a while and seems ok, but the experience is just not as smooth as it needs to be. But it suddenly made sense why they would want to kill the Boxee connection. They had their own ball, and Boxee wasn’t allowed to play with it anymore.

So it begs the question: with Hulu limiting/removing available content at any given time based on an ever-changing labyrinth of copyright agreement, and their desktop client not really outpacing the competition in terms of usability, and people clamoring for more, more, more – even to the point of loudly announcing that they would pay a monthly fee to get a better Hulu (myself included) – what exactly is the plan here?

Hulu, seriously. Pull it together. I want to sing your praises from the rooftops again. Please, for the love of all that’s holy in the nerd-tech-TV world, be a force for change and make things work better for all of us. Don’t squander that early lead.

I miss my life.

The one I used to have when I was an idiot kid, and my only concerns were driving my crappy car, listening to music, and girls. I miss the mystery of what hot summer nights could bring. I miss the novelty of having an impromptu party happen around you as people show up to wherever you are. I miss the challenge of figuring out ways to get drunk, and the unbridled excitement and potential that an eagerly awaited liquor delivery from an older brother or friend used to bring. I miss having adventures that involved nothing more than driving around a town that wasn’t mine, and finding fun and trouble. I miss meeting a cute girl and having that moment of unsteady realization that she might like me. I miss sleeping late and being a bum, and having a job that served only to pass the time, until I could hang out with my friends again. I miss reading incendiary books and feeling cool for doing so. I miss defining my existence by the concerts I chose to see, the movies I chose to watch (whose posters undoubtedly adorned my bedroom walls) and the band t-shirts that spoke volumes about me, or so I believed…

Most of all, I think I miss the person I used to be. Not that I’m not happy now, and not that I would give up any of what I’ve worked for, but the world changes you. And those people who prance around like Peter Pan telling you “it doesn’t have to, unless you let it” are retards. It does.

I miss the blind acceptance that cool things will happen because I’m young, and the world is rife with possibilities.

So much time passes so quickly, and none of what I’ve said is new or original, but it’s no less true. Our lives continue to accelerate around us, and we all move at a quicker pace, to what end?

Just got to thinking about some summers past tonight, and the people that filled them, and how young I was as life happened around me, and how I didn’t try to orchestrate. I just let it go. Existential, beat life. Just go.

Truly, I love my life. But I miss that person, too.

Sorry about that overly personal nonsense, but I let my mind wander. It happens sometimes.

A small, well-reasoned update.

When I launched this site earlier this year, my intention was to have a place to expound on topics that interested me. In the time since I began, I’ve added a series of social networks and other sites to my daily use. Most significantly, a Tumblr, and Posterous. Tumblr was supposed to be a place for pithy little observations and pics as funny things happen around me. Posterous snuck up on me because its use mechanics are so ingenious, and having discovered it, I was instantly smitten. As time wore on, I realized that most people’s attention spans (mine included), not to mention their time allotments for Internet leisure time, were not large enough to always accommodate the longer format. Even my hardcore blogger friends are expressing a feeling of change, since Twitter effectively killed all of our motivation to do any extended writing.

So in light of these events, I’ve decided to make MoS more of a destination than a specific tool. Squarespace is such a great platform, I felt like if all I was doing was simply writing a little here and there then I was wasting its potential. It’s extremely extensible, and in spending time with it, I’ve enjoyed fleshing it out a bit more. I’ll be posting from a variety of places now, including Flickr and Posterous, but pushing the updates here and will use the Tumblr as a “sister site” for shorter ideas or funny things that may come my way. Of course, I’m already changing my mind about things, so who’s to say it won’t change again, but for now, I think it’s of more value to the occasional interested reader or friend who wants to see what’s quite literally going on in my head. I know I personally find it tiring to follow a series of sites for every person I’m interested in following, so in an effort to stem the infoverload (which was, in fact, a motivation behind this whole project, AND a term I’m totally coining right now) I’m trying to streamline while still being able to feel like I’m being at least a little creative.

I’m constantly fighting the battle of content vs. clutter, though, so there may by more changes afoot as my design sensibilities change. Be warned.

That being said, in the interest of full disclosure, I spent the entire day inside at the beach, trying to keep my flows of ideas moving, and completely wasted some beautiful weather. Absolute summer FAIL. At least today, I have something to show for it.

Gadget dreams.

You know you’re in trouble when you start dreaming about your gadgets, and I’ve been there for a while. Last night I had a bizarre dream in which I had just arrived in a tropical locale, possibly Aruba. My iPhone screen, though under no duress, cracked in my hand. Then it cracked again. And I was to be on the island for a week or more. I found an Apple Store, in which only some of the products were available, and which basically looked like a tiki bar that happened to sell Apple products. The lady I spoke to told me that while my iPhone was under warranty, they didn’t have any in stock – that is, anywhere on the island – but they might be able to have one flown in from a nearby store. As I stared at the now ridiculously cracked screen in my hand, I told her to go ahead with this plan. It was shortly after this point that I woke up, and with groggy, sleep-filled eyes saw my actual phone on the nightstand, screen secure in its non-cracked glory. I laid back down, and returned to slumber, relieved in the fact that such an atrocity had not occurred.

Yes, I know. I have a problem.

Dropping the ball.

When the iPhone was introduced in 2007, a lot of people scratched their heads and wondered aloud why exactly Apple was partnering with AT&T. Well, Verizon passed on it, believing it to be a failure in the making (and cementing their place in the annals of ‘Bad Business Decison-Making History’ in retrospect), and that left two smaller carriers on different mobile network protocols. So it seemed AT&T was the only choice.

There were a lot of feelings of contsternation, but eventually everyone accepted it and it was laid to rest. Mostly. The phone became a huge success, a cultural phenomenon, and a business coup for Apple, and AT&T rode it all the way to the bank, putting up massive subscriber numbers every quarter. With the advent of the App Store in the summer of 2008, Apple added another layer of complexity to the equation, as independent developers were allowed to touch the vaunted platform (officially) for the first time outside of the quasi-illegal (depending on your definition of the DMCA’s nature and whether or not it was applicable in this case) jailbreak option.

One of the things that a lot of people wanted to see what a decent VoIP option. What application would be the first to offer such functionality? Skype arrived in early 2009, but was limited to Wi-Fi only for calling, although chat and other features were available on 3G. Truphone was also an entrant into this arena, but with less recognition among the general public. Google Voice stepped up, and was believed to be a strong contender, but this week Apple rejected it summarily from App Store contention, and upon further investigation, it was brought to light that AT&T was directly responsible for the action. Many are positing that although the move was contentious and viewed as poor judgment (based on the fact that Skype is available, for instance) it was to be expected, as Apple and AT&T share a relationship based on an understanding that the subsidized price of the phone will be recouped over time with a wireless plan and other options. Allowing a user to operate outside of this arrangement would cannibalize AT&T’s profits.

And finally, here’s a lovely notion that I can’t even begin to wrap my head around. Today Macworld published an article stating that “Apple has told the U.S. Copyright Office that modifying the iPhone’s operating system could crash a mobile phone network’s transmission towers or allow people to avoid paying for phone calls”. Apparently, the jailbreaking process, which Apple has opposed since day one, as it allows experienced users access to the baseband radio, poses a threat to AT&T’s network infrastructure. The article goes on to state that the filing also mentions that “jailbreaking affords an avenue for hackers to accomplish a number of undesirable things on the network”.

What’s that Penn and Teller show I’m thinking of right now? Oh, right.

There’s no way – no way – that I’m going to believe that a hacker with a jailbroken iPhone poses a greater threat to AT&T’s network security than an equally experienced hacker with a laptop and a wireless broadband card does. Yet there is no mention of this kind of security worry. Read that first statement again:

…modifying the iPhone’s operating system could crash a mobile phone network’s transmission towers or allow people to avoid paying for phone calls.

That last part is very telling, isn’t it? AT&T’s not really worried about securing network facilities, because if they were, they’d be sweating every able hacker with a wireless card in his/her laptop. But they definitely don’t want people subverting the constraints of the money machine they’ve put into place with iPhone voice and data plans, because that would severely hurt their bottom line.

Moreover, they’ve crippled other apps in the past (see Sling Player for an example) that would have used the network to stream large amounts of data. They know the network can’t keep up with the iPhone user base. It’s been proven time and again (SXSW, CES) that they dragged their heels into the upgrade process and now are panicking and dropping usability features for users to protect their coffers.

Apple even acknowledges this, albeit in a very tongue-in-cheek way, as evidenced by the comments from this year’s WWDC keynote regarding both MMS and tethering. Surely they can’t be happy with the fact that the carrier they partnered with for this game-changing device has hamstrung progress at every step of the way. AT&T is basically, at this point, riding out the severely limited 3G network’s capabilities as they prep for 4G. But we’re all left to wonder: will Apple still care by the time they get there?

I hope not, because I love my tech for what it does – not what it should be able to do, in the hands of a more capable provider. 

Thanks for nothing, Twitter.

Earlier this week, sensitive Twitter documents were exposed due to the work of some nefarious character. As a result, co-founder @ev advised in a tweet the dangers of having easy-to-crack passwords. I have long put off updating my passwords across the board, but decided, since I had some time, I would finally do it. I can’t remember the last time I made a mistake this egregious.

I changed my password one time, and Twitter locked me out of my own account. I googled how to get back in, and found that I can reset my password through an email that Twitter will generate. So I did this. Fine, I’m back in. Log out, I’m LOCKED OUT AGAIN. So I begin the process again. Back in. Make a few posts, log out, LOCKED OUT AGAIN. I checked to make sure that no other clients are accessing my account. Nothing’s on. I can’t do anything. Every time I try something, I get locked out. How long am I out for? I don’t know, as Twitter’s advice is for me to “chillax”.

Thanks, Pauly Shore. I’m glad that all I need to do in order to get back into my account is “chillax”.

So I’m still locked out of my own account, with no way to get back in short of changing my password AGAIN, and I can’t believe how piss-poor this system is. I’m so glad that I decided to make my life more difficult by trying to protect my sensitive personal information. Had I known it would be this unbearable, I would have simply jammed needles into my eyes as opposed to going through this endless process.

Tech confession.

I’m emotionally split when I see people rocking a ridiculously old cellphone. Part of me wants to laugh and jump up and down and point at them and make them feel as silly as possible for still using something that old when there are SO many other options. I mean, come on! You can walk into any carrier store and pretty much walk out with a better phone for free! I can’t even imagine the presumably god-awful battery life on that thing. How long does it hold a charge, that Nokia you got in ’99? An hour? Fifteen minutes? One call?

Conversely, I’m secretly a little jealous that their life is, at least on the surface, perfectly manageable with such a device. All they really need to do is make phone calls, and they might not even do that so much. No one’s buzzing them with emails, demanding action on their part. I sometimes wake up in a cold sweat because I had a nightmare that I was forced to give up my iPhone for something like a RAZR. And then, a tiny voice, deep, deep inside whispers, “would it really be that bad?”

It’s usually at those moments that I grab my current phone and fire up no fewer than six different apps in quick succession to prove to myself that it’s totally worth it. Because if I start doubting now, the entire architecture of my adult life and livelihood comes crashing down around me. Ah, who am I kidding? It’s pretty freaking awesome. Yeah, so suck it, hopelessly old phone users. There, now I feel better.

All I want for Christmas.

Sometimes I wish I had a tiny camera embedded in my skull, wired with a high-speed shutter to my eyes. There are just some things you notice as you’re driving your car, and you just can’t stop the music/podcast/ audiobook in time on your iPhone and turn on the camera to catch the most insane thing you may ever see that no one will believe without photographic proof. This sort of thing happens to me no less than 4-5 times a week, leading me to believe that either my standards for surreal comedy are just too low, or that as long as I live without this bionic implant, life will continue to mock me.

I keep sinking further in.

(Reposted from sethclifford.tumblr.com [Sat. Mar. 14, 2009] for continuity)

Last summer, I was at a point where I was content to use Facebook for just about all social communication and online silliness. Then I discovered Last.fm. Then there was Twitter. Then the connection between the Flickr, the Facebook, the Twitter, the Last.fm, the Hulu… and so on. Tonight I joined Blip.fm, because I listened to Leo Laporte and Sarah Lane on this week’s net@night while I was in the shower and they got all excited about it. And I was definitely not doing it. Until I signed up and started doing it.

I see myself as having two choices: I can stop now, and say enough is enough, and possibly miss the next cool thing to come along, or I can just say fuck it, and go full-bore, exploring every new tech toy that comes along, the way all the tech journos do. Of course, it’s not actually my job, so there is that inherent downside. But hey, why fight the inevitable, right?

It bothers me on some level, that I find myself so hopelessly enamored with all these new services, but then again, they’re freaking cool. And I like cool things. And I like people who think of cool things for me to do. So I figure it’s a natural evolution. I just need to find a way to manage them all seamlessly… Now THAT’S a cool thing someone needs to think of… A website solely for managing other websites. Brilliant!

When real life just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Of course, that’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek. What I mean is that so much of our time is spent on increasingly demanding information flows from social networks, RSS feeds, and just the web in general, that it becomes hard to pull yourself away from the screen sometimes. I know that personally, on any given day, I can spend up to 12-14 hours “online”. I put that in quotes because I do all my work on the computer, as well as engage in social meanderings, and whatever else grabs my attention that particular day. I’ve started making a concerted effort just to read actual, paper books, because if I get a Kindle or something similar, my eyes will positively melt out of their sockets from electron overload.

It’s definitely harder in the winter months, when the outdoors might as well have a big “Don’t Bother” sign hanging in space. I am a warm-weather person, and as such, have trouble functioning in the cold. In the summer, I’m very active – surfing, bike riding, just walks in general – but in the winter, I might as well have chains made of lazy wrapped around my ankles. So I drown myself in information. And it’s hard to staunch the bleeding once it starts.

What’s really crazy is that your reality, however departed from actual real life it is, becomes the life you live online. And when you start to extrapolate that in a massively geeky way, you realize that you’re actually living in the Matrix, and you sort of don’t really care. Sure, you can’t taste Twitter, but with the amount of time you spend there, it’s got to be leaving some kind of taste in your mouth. And blogs that post the equivalent of gadget crack for someone like me, multiple times a day, are slowly paring away layers of my brain that used to be designated for creative pursuits like art and music, let alone conversation and human interaction. I can’t help myself. I love information. It’s an undying need to satiate my constant curiosity about what’s coming next. But it hurts sometimes. It’s a sickness, albeit a controllable, self-inflicted, psychological one.

I recently went to Aruba for a few days and purposely made an effort to detach the mechanical tentacles of my everyday world. I yanked that data stream right out of the back of my skull, but only after I managed to stick together a connection between my Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh Wi-Fi and my iPhone, you know, just in case, since I didn’t have consistent data on the phone. But immediately following that, I began engaging in “life” again. Talking to people – in person(!), snorkeling, walking on the beach, you know, stuff humans do. I found that I was still good at doing these things, and that I actually enjoyed being away from circuitry for a while. I started to ponder exactly what kind of horror I had wrought upon myself by choosing a career in tech, since I can’t exactly turn my back on it. But I realized that all I really need is balance. It’s so simple, but so true. I need to say “No, thank you, Internet. I need some time to myself” occasionally. And that just has to be ok. I seriously doubt I’ll look back when I’m old and wish I posted more stupid things to TwitPic, but I’ll probably wish I spent more time with the people I loved.

Now if you’ll excuse me, while I was writing, 132 tweets, 23 Digg articles, 19 RSS posts, and a few Facebook status updates came in, and need my immediate attention.