Google Goes ‘Big With A Gig’

This article was originally written for The Hartford Informer on February 18th, 2010.
In a huge announcement this week, Google announced last Thursday the development of a gigabit internet service provider (ISP). The California company and internet search giant is going to places it has never reached. Google provided more than 65 percent of the searches in the United States in 2009 and in recent years Google has moved from its Web based origins in the form of Gmail, Google Maps and Google Docs and has begun developing an operating system. Android, the company’s phone OS, was released in late 2008. Google also plans to release a computer OS, named Chrome later this year. This latest announcement is a clean departure from online and personal computing.
The idea is to gain the support of whole communities and provide this lightening fast Internet to them. In total, Google ISP looks to reach between 50,000 and 500,000 people in its first test run.
The real importance of this announcement is not that Google is now going to compete with the likes of Comcast, AT&T, Cablevision and Verizon but that Google will be providing a service capable of being 100 times faster than any single one of those companies can provide.
In recent years current ISP’s have been trying to boost their speed. Comcast announced it will rebrand its Internet service as Xfinity this week, but really this is still the slow network they’ve been running for years. Verizon is laying fiber optic lines around New York and New Jersey bringing FiOS to their consumers. Both services only provide up to 50 Mbps, and their only main motive is profit.
Google is not different and could technically charge anything for their new fiber optic service, given that companies like Comcast charge over $50 for under 20Mbps, Google’s gigabit would provide 50 times that. But Google’s mantra is “don’t be evil,” and (whether you believe it or not) this test isn’t about making money. This test is really about the physicality of providing 1Gbps to large numbers of people. The average internet speed for the United States is just 4.8Mbps, in Japan it’s 61Mbps. The kicker is that they both cost the same, around $15 a month for the average speed.
Seattle, Ontario County NY, Washington DC and the entire state of Hawaii have already expressed interest in “going big with a gig” with Google’s new service.
Google’s idea is to see the reality of providing amazing speeds at a low cost. With real-world cost analysis and implementation of the technology we can see just how viable high speed internet is.
It remains to be seen whether this will be a game changer or a massive failure. But with initial costs that could be in the billions, this is an experiment Google must be invested in for the long term.

Vampire Weekend Releases Sophomore Album ‘Contra’

This Article was originally written for The Hartford Informer on January 28, 2010.
Vampire Weekend returned this month with a sophomore effort and follow up to the very unique and deservedly well received self-titled first album.
“Contra” picks up for the most part where their first album, “Vampire Weekend” left off. The clean and melodic music, is something that will get stuck in your head without really knowing it.
Released just shy of two years ago, the first album began with a sound which was at first hard to understand—a perky full sounding keyboard, heavy snare drum beat that left nothing to be desired, a clean guitar, almost ghostly vocal, and symphonic overtone—grew on the listener easily.
For some, this was not the case, and the music was far from appealing. The hype surrounding this relatively obscure band was huge, and even I at one point was a disbeliever—that was until I picked up their album.
I knew right off the bat with “Mansard Roof” followed by a personal favorite “Oxford Comma” that I truly liked the sound Vampire Weekend had so masterfully created.
“Contra” starts off much the same way.
“Horchatta” really emphasizes the African sound, which they so stylishly construct, beautifully mashed with orchestral accompaniment. The first single manages to perfectly capture the feeling of Vampire Weekend more completely than any of the other songs on the album, bringing more fodder to the already established factions who despise the music that Vampire Weekend produce.
Vampire Weekend has succeeded in bringing more abstract sounds into their bizarre concoction while still putting out something great. “Diplomat’s Son” located near the end of the album, samples M.I.A., putting it over a piercing keyboard and violin track. Truthfully strange yet appropriately fashioned. While “Diplomat’s Son” may be a slower song, it is immediately contrasted to a faster song like “Giving up the Gun” something that Vampire Weekend manages to do smoothly and without hesitation.
“Giving up the Gun” begins with a swift beat, which quickly turns electronic and ethereal by the end while still maintaining the distinctive melody.
The album ends with “I Think Ur Contra” an echo-ridden irregular background contrasted by a pinging melody, building with light beat, adding a violin symphony, a Spanish-sounding guitar lick and lead singers Ezra Koenig voice floating above it all before fading to the end.
The sounds that come from the album are abstract to say the least, but are so astonishingly woven to completeness no one would dare mention the fact that they shouldn’t be there to begin with.I wasn’t immediately impressed by “Contra” the way I was with their first album. It did take some time to grow on me. Had I written this review a week ago I would not have written as glowing a review as is currently spewing from the ends of my fingertips.
Whereas their first effort was straight in as a solid album, the latter falls slightly short of that achievement while still managing a good effort; delivering the clean, perky and happy music we have all come to expect from indie rockers Vampire Weekend.

Super Bowl Ads Fail To Impress: Denny’s, Dove Among Winners

This article was originally written for The Hartford Informer on February 11, 2010.
It may have been the most watched Super Bowl ever—even beating the famous M.A.S.H. numbers to become the most watched TV show ever. Unfortunately the advertisements were less than spectacular.
For those who don’t watch the Super Bowl for the football, the tradition is to watch it for the commercials. It’s an ironic twist on the status quo. This year however, the football took precedent. The story of the New Orleans Saints was compelling, and the ads were not so.
The usual cornerstone of funny, Bud Light, put on a disappointing show. While a good idea, Bud Light’s “Light House” failed to get to the laugh out loud funny. The same was true for “Voicebox” in which all the characters had their voice auto-tuned. When it comes to the Super Bowl, I want to be rolling on the floor, not lightly chuckling.
Coke, whose major competitor Pepsi submitted no Super Bowl commercials, also failed to bring the class ad it has usually been associated with. While the Simpsons ad, “Hard Times” was relevant (given “The Simpsons” 20th anniversary) it wasn’t satisfying. Coke’s second effort of the night, “Sleepwalker,”fell way short of expectations.
Expectations it seemed were unmet by almost every brand. E*Trade, whose talking babies had really shined during last year’s Super Bowl, were unimaginative. Not to mention the fact that they changed the baby and stepped up the production values. Part of the charm in last year’s commercials was their jumpy nature.
Doritos took a different tack this year for their commercials. Instead of hiring giant ad firms like the other commercials did, Doritos looked to their fans to create and choose their ads. What resulted was a mixed bag. Viewers have raved about the “House Rules” ad (featuring the child defending his mom and his Doritos). Personally I liked “Snack Attack Samurai” (which featured a ninja dressed in chips). “Underdog,” with the shock collar, meets the same conclusion, but Doritos falls short on “Casket’”in which a man presumed dead, falls out of his casket covered in Doritos.
If one theme seemed to shine through this year it was the story. While I feel like in years past Super Bowls have gone with the slapstick-punchline, this year missed the slapstick comedy all together. This is not to say it’s a bad thing. told the story of a man who knows everything but can’t pick a car in “Timothy Richman.” Unilever’s Dove told the entire life of a man from conception in song and ended up selling us a men’s soap in “Men + Care.” Finally, in perhaps the most talked about commercial of the night, and Google’s debut into Super Bowl Advertising, the ad “Search On” told the life story of a random guy.
Blame it on the recession and companies being a little more conservative both in their advertisements and their spending on the advertisements. Either way the ads this year left a mediocre taste in my mouth.
Given that, my top five favorite ads from this Super Bowl were, in no particular order, “Casual Friday,” Dove “Men + Care,” Audi “Green Car,” Denny’s “Birthday Chicken,” and Mars’ Snickers “You’re not you when your hungry.”

Chatroulette Makes Connections, Headlines

This article was originally written for The Hartford Informer, February 25th 2010.
In a craze that’s sweeping the world, connects two strangers from around the world into a video chat.
Whereas applications like iChat, AIM and Skype connect you solely to your friends, Chatroulette connects you to anyone, anywhere. With more than 20,000 consistent users online, the range of users you may run into is diverse and varied.
The basic setup has the “stranger” video on top of your video, with a text box much like an AIM message to the side. The user interface is centered on two simple buttons on the top of the screen.
Next and Stop. Next takes you to the next stranger and stop stops the conversation between you and the stranger. With this you are instantly and randomly connected to a world of bizarre people.
The sheer simplicity of the website means that anyone can use it, and anyone does.
In 20 minutes online I spoke to people in California, Austria and Turkey. All three of these conversations were fairly pleasant. Despite the fact that two of the participants were in countries where English isn’t the first language, we could manage a simple conversation over instant message.
Unfortunately these three were an exception, not the rule. Videos flashed by of strange people, someone in a basement, a couple sitting in the dark, someone in bed, someone with the flu (and tissues to prove it), three Asian teenage girls dressed as gangsters, two guys holding a sign that said “show your tits” and the cap off of this terrible experiment a guy masturbating in full view of his camera.
The creator behind this absurd, terrible, yet addicting Web site is 17-year-old Andrey Ternovskiy from Russia. Ternovskiy said in a New York Times Interview that he created the Web site for “fun.”
He continued, “I decided to create a little site for me and my friends where we could connect randomly with other people.” But this hasn’t been an easy task, given the sudden explosion in popularity for the video chat Web site. Ternovskiy had to completely optimize the code as the Web site grew bigger, utilizing seven dedicated servers transmitting seven gigabits of data a second.
In all it’s a unique and terrifying Web site. The name is fitting as you definitely gamble with what you hope to see. Notably, the stranger factor, which allows people to do more absurd things to people they don’t know than they would to people they know, reigns without question.
But beneath the costumes and masks, bizarre dances and what has developed into an Internet meme, “chatroulette,” there is a deeper level to this.
Like the AIM phenomena that seems to have passed involving the Trout and Coho usernames, Chatroulette is a way for total strangers to meet and converse in ways thought impossible before.
While what they may do in front of each other is questionable, the substantive message here is that the world is shrinking and Chatroulette has only exaggerated that movement.

Better of Ted, Dead?

What’s the point America? It seems like every time I really get into a show it gets cancelled.
Today I learned of the pretty much certain death of one of those said shows. Better of Ted will not return tonight with its counterpart Scrubs (2.0). The show about middle management and office sociology echoes that of NBC’s The Office, except without all the whiney documentary and general downhill slide that that particular show has been experiencing. Don’t get me wrong I love The Office; it was one of my favorite shows. But it doesn’t hold a flame to what Better Off Ted was. For however smart The Office was, Better of Ted was smarter.
And that was probably its downfall. America doesn’t get smart comedies (Arrested Development, cough, cough). Instead we’re stuck with the same terrible comedy, the likes of which are only twisted further by “class-acts” like NBC’s The Marriage Ref and shows that should have been left to rot, yet somehow live forever (Simpsons).
In short, there was nothing wrong with Better Off Ted, save from this one seemingly fatal flaw. Sure it had a fairly bizarre name (is it a play off of ‘better off dead’?) but there wasn’t anything else wrong with it. Most people can appreciate the fight against a seemingly evil company who puts money before people. And each of the characters was unique and funny in their own way. Portia de Rossi, as boss Veronica Palmer, always stole every scene. In the end it was all the characters together playing off each other and in the situations that gave the show its amazing life. This only got better in the second series, making it definitively the funniest show to return this season—nothing had me laughing out loud quite like Better Off Ted did for its short 11 episode, second season, run.
So thanks ‘Ted for the laughs. And honestly ABC, I thought you were better than this. I thought you were a place where smart comedies would be respected (I’m looking at you NBC and FOX). After LOST is finished there will be officially nothing to watch on your network.
If you're looking for an first-class episode of this amazing show. check out ‘Impertinence of Communicationizing’ on, although it my opinion they’re all good.