Videos on Flash Memory Cards - II

My friend Mark expanded on my idea of "HD DV being irrelevant" - like phone SIM's, video stores can sell/rent videos on flash cards (like SD) sealed in a credit-card carrier.

The issues are more commercial than technical. 8Gb USB flash memory might hit the A$50 price point this year - and A$30 next year. There is a 'base price' for flash memory - around $10-$15.

This inverts the current cost structure of expensive reader/writer and cheap media. Which is perfect for rental/leasing of media - a refundable 'media deposit' works. An added bonus for content owners is a significant "price barrier" for consumers wanting to make a copy. If a 'stack' of 100 SD cards costs $1500 (vs $100 for DVDs), very few people will throw these around 'like candy'.

Mark's comments:

Y'know, the more I think of it, the more the SD-embedded-in-a-credit-card has a lot of appeal when the availability and price point for 8Gb SDs is right. It makes it easy to print a picture, title and credits/notices etc on the 'credit card' - something big enough to be readable and a convenient display format and, as you say, nicely wallet-sized. Snap off the SD and you've agreed to the conditions etc, plus the media is now obviously 'used'.

It's a useful format for other distributions too - games, software, etc (Comes to mind that SAS media still comes on literally dozens of CDs in a cardboard box the size of a couple of shoe boxes).

My complete collection of "Buffy" would come in something the size of a can of SPAM or smaller, rather than something the size of a couple of house bricks for the DVD version, or something still the size of a regular paperback for the Blu-Ray version. For collectors of such things, the difference between having many bookshelves taken up by the complete set of Vs a small box of credit card (or smaller) sized objects is significant. The ability to legally re-burn or replace and re-burn the media when it fails is critical though.
SJ: Because of the per-copy encoding to a 'key', stealing expensive collections isn't useful, unless the key is also taken. So those 'keys' have to be something you don't leave in the Video player.

You've covered the DRM aspects and better alternatives to DRM - which also means that I can burn and sign the media I might produce and distribute myself without needing to involve the likes of Sony or Verisign - although that is possible also - which protects the little producer. Include content in Chrissy and Birthday cards - you've seen those Birthday cards with a CD of songs from your birth year - why not a sample of the movies from that year, plus newsreels etc. Good for things like audio books - whole collections. And if the content on an SD gets destroyed, as long as the media is OK, it would be possible to re-burn it. Most current DVD players now also have SD readers as standard.

Surely someone has thought of it already! Part of the attraction of DVD over storing your library on a 2TB USB disk from Dick Smith is the problem of backups. DVD is perceived, incorrectly, as permanent storage. Though I notice some external USB drives now have built-in RAID 1 or RAID 5, but Joe public doesn't see the need (how come I bought a 2TB drive and I only get 1TB?).

Yeah, I think the proposition that SD or similar will become the ubiquitous preferred standard portable, point-of-sale, recording and backup storage media for photos, movies and music, has some credence. There is something to be said for - "you pick it up in your hand; you buy it; it's yours" - over - "downloading and buying some limited 'right to use' ".


Service Desk and Politician e-mail

Over the last year I've penned 6+ e-mails to various Labor Party politicians - including one of my local representatives who've I dealt with for ~10 years.

And not one reply. Zero, Zip, Nada...

Rang the Good Person's electoral office today - and got various run-around responses. "Oh, I've been on holiday", "Oh, can they call you" and "they are booked solid for a month".

Yeah, right.

I first contacted my rep. last December saying "this can wait until after the School Holidays". January came and went, no reply... A follow-up email yielded nothing... A note to the support staff was replied to: "I've moved. XXX is responsible".

What I originally wanted to talk about was 3 emails I'd sent various members without even getting acknowledged. Which is strange, because in the media I've seen reports that Political Parties are now tracking every contact from a voter. Putting together, apparently, impressive profiles - and all completely legit under the Privacy Laws.

For a new Government this seems a pretty poor response, doubly so for one that prides itself on 'listening'.

The solution that I wanted to put forward to my Rep:

Use HelpDesk Software to manage constituent contacts.
Not just piecemeal, but an integrated system for all participating elected members.

Not all that hard.
It scales. It goes across the whole Party. It covers both 'aph.gov.au' contacts and via other email addresses. It copes with email, phone, fax, mail and personal contacts - and the worst of all "voice prompt systems".

The software is well known, there are many vendors and trained consultants and the marketplace is competitive. As consumers and office workers, most of us are used to the concepts and who these systems all work.

It creates a definite process - with self-imposed rules & priorities that are checked and enforced.

AND it ensures that little people like me don't just fall between the cracks.
Or if some 'critical person' falls down - work queues can get given to those who can best deal with them.

Imagine getting a tracking number back from your local Pollie, and being able to automatically check where it is up to - and just when you should expect an answer. Wow! Just like they worked for us and were trying to use the technology responsibly...

It would do a service for our erstwhile representatives - you know, the ones we pay to work for us:
  • They could become more efficient - by delegating work, not needing to deal with "whatever happened to" requests, and identifying common themes and selecting the most efficient way to respond.
  • They could make a very exact case for additional clerical support from the Parliament - or even have a pool of paid staff doing the grunt work.
So I'm not holding my breath while waiting for anything different to happen.

The Internet Changes Everything - but Politicans and their ways.


Who cares about HD DV?

Talking to a friend at lunch today, the topic of "Blu-Ray" vs "HD DV" formats came up...

I think "Blu-Ray" may take the market, but it won't be much of a market.
There are just too many competitors for moving around video files:
  • DVD format disks - still good for 8Gb (dual layer). Drives & media are cheap.
  • flash memory - 2008 sees A$50 for 8Gb on USB (less on SD card)
  • A$300 for 750-,1000Gb USB hard-drives. Under $1/DVD.
  • Internet download. With ADSL 2+ giving 5-10Mbps for many.
My thesis to my friend was "Video stores may well go for SD cards". Pay a refundable deposit for the flash card, and a fee (rental or ownership) for the content. Video stores can pre-burn large numbers of movies - and if you want a 'special' - they can make one for you in 20 minutes.

His response: "they could package them like SIMs - in a snap-off credit card-sized holder". Which is better than any idea I've had on packaging.
And it fulfills the most important criteria:
fits comfortably in a pocket (now a wallet)

Practical problems:
  • How to stop people copying the flash and resealing it?
  • Some sort of effective copy-protection system would be good.
  • Flagging 'ownership' or usage conditions of a movie. Not so much DRM, but 'this is property of XXX'
These problems can be nicely solved by users having their own "Key Card" with a digital identity and an encryption key.

The flash needs a 'fuse' that is broken when the card is freed. Preferably an on-chip use counter that can only be factory reset.

To issue a movie to a customer, the encoding key of the video (if present) would be combined with the users key - and the resulting unique key written on the card. Players need both the card and user key to decode and play the movie.

That same process also tags the card with the current owner.
You lose it, it can come home to you.

Because the content can be locked to a particular ID, the raw content can be stored on disk without the movie studios giving away their birth right.

I think 120mm disks are going to follow the floppy disk into the technology graveyard.
They will have certain uses - like posting something on cheap, robust media.

With the convergence of PC displays and Home Theater, the whole "Hi-Def TV" problem is morphing. Blu-Ray - can't wait to not buy one.