Monthly Archives: April 2013

Continuing changes in the cable/no-cable TV landscape…

There was an interesting development in the “cord cutting” TV world last week. Aereo, a company which re-transmits broadcast TV from areas receiving rich sets of OTA signals, has passed a court test in the New York 2nd Circuit of Appeals. This has the broadcast networks in an uproar, and several are now threatening to broadcast fewer shows and make entertainment and sports available only over cable pay services. As I’ve discussed in this blog, I’ve “cut the cord” and rely on over the air (OTA) TV plus Netflix, Hulu+, streaming from network sites, and a growing number of entertainment apps in the iOS world (such as A&E, History Channel, Lifetime) that allow for shows to be “thrown” via AirPlay.

I think that while the broadcast TV networks would like to move in this direction, if they were to do so, I think it would help hasten the coming unbundling and breakup of cable TV as we know it, having a counterproductive impact by further fracturing the “packaging” of video entertainment. Already streaming providers like Netflix are producing original programming (the well received House of Cards which I need to watch!) and cable networks like HBO are experimenting with unbundled subscriptions in Europe. A few more “nudges” and we’ll see more original content produced for streaming providers. I think that at age 55, I’m somewhat unusual among my peers in ditching cable. However, the 20-somethings are a generation the cable providers don’t want to lose, but are in danger of doing so. My oldest son and his wife are looking at ditching cable for OTA. For many today, the Internet is more important than TV, and the $100+ per month that it’s easy to spend on cable can be used more creatively for discretionary entertainment. Sports is still the big draw, but the $5/mo/subscriber that ESPN charges the cable companies contributes to the escalation of monthly cable bills. Entertainment companies are struggling with how to operate in the current world order. In a recent New York Times article, the correspondent speaks of sharing HBO login credentials for use with HBO Go. I think that HBO is actually using this to understand what the demand is for unbundled internet access without actually formally committing to a product offering. Could ESPN and HBO subscriptions be not too far down the road?

What’s the bottom line? There are a lot of disturbances in the force. I think that we are headed toward a la carte unbundled subscriptions, but the cable companies are entrenched and don’t want to give up their business model. However, they are fighting a rear guard action as they retreat. The good news on the Internet front is Google’s Fiber initiative, now rolling out to Austin TX as well as Kansas City, Mo, and while Google’s business model is not likely to be a national buildout, they are doing enough to worry the cable internet providers that they could do this if the cable ISP’s are intransigent on carrying entertainments bits.

The next few years are going to be interesting!


There have been several updates to Drupal core since the first of the year. I did a round of maintenance for my sites in February, but I’d skipped Drupal 7.21 since it was not a security update. Then, on April 3, 7.22 was released. Like 7.21, it’s not a security release but I thought I ought to upgrade. I ssh’d to my hosting service, and in turn, backed up each site, switched to maintenance mode, and did the module+core+database update with drush. Ran like a champ. I’ve only been doing Drupal for a couple of years, and I didn’t use drush at first. In fact, I only started using it when the web-based updates started throwing PHP errors on one of my sites. I’m happy I installed and started using drush, ’cause it sure does make maintenance easier.

Thinking about retirement and next steps…

Planning is important as one considers retirement. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and have now, as of last week, publicly announced my intent at work. I’m stepping down from my post as an Associate vice Chancellor at UNC Greensboro effective 12/31/13. That’s several months away, but I wanted to give my boss time to think about how to parse and refactor my portfolio and plan for my replacement. I actually told him several months ago that this was in the works, but we’ve now, as of March 28th, made a statement at a department-wide town hall meeting, and I’ve started to tell my campus colleagues.

While I like my job and am still turned on by technology, I’m looking forward to spending time doing what I want to do rather than what I have to do. I’ll have over 30 years of service to the State of NC by the end of the year, and am looking forward to spending more time at the beach, more time traveling, more time standing in a river waving a flyrod, more time catching up on my reading list, more time teaching myself a few new programming languages and applications, and other deferred projects.

I’ll continue to teach one class per semester at UNC Chapel Hill as long as they are willing to retain my adjunct appointment, and I look forward to being able to devote more time and energy to teaching. I do have to sit out one semester due to state rules about re-employment but that will just give me time to recharge the batteries. I’ll also evaluate consulting opportunities (and have some feelers out), but I won’t be looking for anything that will get in the way of doing what I *want* to do.

I’ll be holding down my regular gig until probably October/November, and then will begin a knowledge dump with my eventual replacement. It’s going to be both an long and short nine months, I think…