Saturday, November 25, 2006

Direct-To-Home TV rocks!

A few months ago, my editor suddenly asked me to change the type of gadget reviews that we had been doing, "They're too geeky and read like bloody press releases. You're cheating the user, why would he read a review if he can get everything online." Sadly, he was right. And of the first product shootouts in the updated column was a Tata-Sky vs Dish TV comparison. After a couple of months, I still have both systems, I bought Tata-Sky and the DishTV folks are dithering on taking back their system, and unlike other gadgets I can't just pack it up and return it because it does need to be manually dismantled.
If you want my honest opinion, my money spoke, I actually bought Tata-Sky, because it is the better albeit more expensive system. Why? Reason one - while I can play around with the settings on DishTV and the system also tells me signal strength and all that, the Tata-Sky user interface and remote is eons ahead in terms of sheer usability. Secondly, and I started noticing this after a while, is that the picture quality on Dish TV is inferior to that of Tata-Sky. When did I notice this? While watching soccer - to be more precise, the Champions League on Ten Sports when I started to notice obscene amounts of pixellation. The adverts promised DVD quality images, what I was getting was VCD quality images with great sound.
Then, I started to keep a sharper eye out during more mundane programming on AXN and Discovery Travel and Living and started to notice 'artefacts' like you see on a badly encoded DVD. To be fair, I noticed that even on Tata-Sky the picture quality leaves a bit to be desired, but I only noticed that on my friends brand-new 42-inch LCD TV. In addition, the program listing facility is also much better on Tata-Sky.
Somehow, I also have the funny feeling that Tata-Sky will also be the first to offer HDTV capabilities on their channel, but given what HDTV will do our news-anchors exposing their physical flaws (though not their false accents), I doubt I'll be seeing that anytime soon. And since Tata-Sky doesn't show CNN-IBN for some strange reason (not that I mind, very honestly but this means that I doubt TV18 can give Tata-Sky a 'honest' review on any of their shows) I don't really care. In fact, I don't really care for news channels anyway, they're quite boring.
At Rs 3,999, the Tata-Sky system is quite expensive, DishTV comes in far cheaper at Rs 3,190, so you basically get what you pay for, in addition the monthly charges aren't much off your cable bill if you subscribe to a 'premium' package - which if you're reading this you probably will - those will cost upwards of Rs 300 a month, but look at it this way, that is still under Rs 10 a day and really thats nothing much. Plus chances are you're already paying around Rs 300 for cable, so the only investment you're making is for the dish and the set-top box - but you get better picture (even on DishTV) and stereo sound. I mean, really!
So, and now let me use a line I used to in high school debating, in conclusion, if you can afford it, just go in for DTH. Conditional Access Systems (CAS) won't really change anything unless the stupid coaxial cable being used to bring TV to your house is changed. Put simply, this is very good and I like it and you only get the 'Active' systems on DTH. I'll tell you why I like DTH, it has made TV viewing fun again, and that in itself is reason enough to get it. And thae fact that you are finally free of the neighbourhood goon who runs your cable TV system.
A colleague and a fellow Stephanian warns me that Anil Wilson, Principal of that hallowed institution has a blog! Well, I'm linking it here. Enjoy!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Childhood fantasies...

When you are an adolescent teenager you have these wild fantasies. Like making about with the women in every issue of Playboy magazine, damn making out actually. Of course, to be more honest, it was Cindy Crawford in my case. That mole is all there was to it. The other thing I wanted to do was fly on a fighter plane, which is why I'm particularly jealous of my good friend 'JetBoy' who works in UndieTeeVee and recently flew a F/A-18F Super Hornet - damn bugger!
Anyway, the reason behind this post is that I'm finally being able to fulfill one of my myriad of fantasies next week (fingers crossed and hope I am not crushed to death by the mob at Rajiv Chowk and not run over by a bus at one of Delhi's roundabouts). What the fantasy is obviously I cannot mention, but it doesn't involve wicking candles here and there nor am I paying good ol' Hugh a courtesy call. But, it does involve a lot of testosterone and unburned petrol and smoking rubber on a airstrip. Yay! JetBoy of course, was not impressed, after all when you've held the control yoke on a Sukhoi and a Mirage, do you really care. But then again, I doubt I will exceed the 250k's I hit on the Audi A8 (on my secret stretch of road).
Talking about childhood fantasies, has anyone noticed the massive decline in that rag called Debonair? Not that it was anything major to talk of ever, but the women there look too big to even be in a Bhojpuri film. But that said, Bhojpuri films are getting quite risque, I saw one on cable the other day in which there was a song sequence reminiscent of Mandakini in THAT sequence, though the actress was not Mandakini-hawt!
Shwangy talks about how the Delhi Auto drivers are getting all weird.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What happens when drives hit media moguls!

While the Anant kidnap case was making all the headlines, HT came out with a flyer on a survey it had conducted which showed that 59 per cent of Delhi-ites were against 'sealings'. Quite against the usual pro-professionals and Delhi-improvement stand the paper has been on. Of course, while this possibly was because HT decided finally to pander its own readers but I just found it peculiar that barely a day earlier HT Media's VC's house in New Friends Colony had been sealed (not under the SC mandated residential area anti-commercialisation drive but under another Delhi HC mandated illegal construction sealing drive).
Lately ToI has been on the Delhi Traffic Police's case for bad traffic management but expect a mad rush of stories from tomorrow and even worse. BCCL's VC has actually filed a case against the Delhi Traffic Police because he was not able to leave his (completely legal, by the way) residence on SP Marg because of President Hu's visit. However, this move unlike the suffering in the above case, I fully support. And because the elder brother is one heck of a determined guy expect this to escalate to quite a level, maybe going all the way up the courts (till the SC) and I'll like to see how the Home Ministry and Foreign Ministry's react to this, because I doubt they'll get a very favourable ruling.
Why will I not be surprised if another media mogul soon starts railing against the new Delhi airport because the new runway the GMR consortia plans to build will send planes straight over his (not very legal) farmhouse in Ghittorni. Fun, ain't it! The things you can do if you own a newspaper or five and a couple of TV channels to boot!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Investigative journalism isn't all about going with hidden microphone cameras and then pretending to uphold democracy while not thinking twice about mailing CD's with mobile phone conversations recorded on them 'anonymously'. It is all about the 'impact' after all.
The Philadelphia Inquirer is doing a fantastic series on how a 'Doctor' from Agra became one of the biggest internet drug pushers in the world. OK, the references to India seem very quaint, but my god these guys were running a multi-million dollar operation. Very well-written by the way. (via Turbanhead)
And by the way, democracy isn't about killing your daughter-in-law and your daughter and then feigning to be holier than thou while not thinking twice before ripping off your elder brother who lives off his army pension (I have the last bit from a colleague). And importantly, nor is democracy about religion-based quotas, I don't care what the Sachar committee report says, if this government allows religion-based quota's, I'll vote for Narendra Modi for Prime Minister no matter how much Mr Sardesai screams and shouts.
I might have reservations about the concept of reservations after seeing the way St Stephen's College put it into practice - because over there, the concept of a 'non-creamy' layer didn't seem to exist, reservations it seemed will go to only those who were 'privileged' enough to get them, so what if their fathers had made it without a quota. I don't like imposing views on anybody, but for crying out loud, if a Muslim-quota was implemented, the only way the BJP could lose is to put that idiotic wife-beater up for PM.
And then there is this wonderful article on 'Being Paris Hilton' - the wonders of technology I tell you. I mean, this woman has used a grainy night-vision self-made porn film to catapult herself to greatness!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More news/rumours

By now everybody knows the sad tale of the Express office at Qutab getting sealed, operations have moved to the (also illegal) building at Qutab and my friends at the Express lament that they will be moving to Noida - but even that building does not have space full up with Jansatta and Loksatta people. And Times and StanChart have taken over the Express uilding at BSZ - which is a NDMC certified fire hazard. Other media offices under the spotlight are Media Transasia who are also shifting out of their building in Safdarjung and also moving to Noida. Some smaller news channels which were operating out of houses - and even TV channels have also come under the scanner - these guys do not fit the profile of 'small traders'. Anyway, everybody has decided to move to the badlands of Noida because Mulayam needs all the help he can get.
What is up with EchTee? I really thought that a new editor would help the paper back on its feet, but the place is more confused than ever before. Anyway, on the Vir front it seems even more rumours have emerged. One of the projects that Peter Mukherjea is doing in his pruned-down role at Star is looking at the possibility of another English Variety channel alongside Star World (Star World 2, Star Boring, Star Let us run another series two seasons behind the US and hope the audience hasn't discovered BitTorrent) and this might mean a reprise for Vir's boring show from the TV production company that Vir has just started. Of course, Vir's boring show is nowhere half as awful as Simi Garewal, but at least that allowed MTV to make the spoof show - which is better than the original.
Anyway, I do have one small question from the political side, why are Express and Tehelka trying to promote reservations for minorities and why are our ministers talking their mouths off? I don't understand the 'Let us help the BJP get itself back on its feet' syndrome. Even though the BJP is a house divided today, at the rate things are going, these guys will be coming back to power before you know it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Vir to quit EchTee?

Sorry, I've been so snowed in with work that I really haven't had the time to post anything here. Anyway, this little item of news has been doing the rounds for quite a while - but of late I get asked this question by the strangest people. My answer is that I have no freaking clue what Vir is doing. But why is this question doing the rounds so much?
Ever since Vir was bumped up in HT to Editorial Director there has been this constant rumour that he will leave. But then he headed EchTee's foray into Bombay, which was backed by the monies raised from the poor sods who bought HT Media stock and Kumar helping his aunt out a bit with lots of advertsing support. People who've seen EchTee Bombay would agree that it is a rather mediocre product, I won't call it bad - but business and entertainment coverage borders on the awfully unintelligent. And then there is the fact that Vir could not save Avirook from a maelstrom. We still don't know what exactly happened, but let us drop that.
Anyway, the earlier rumour was that EchTee and EyeTee would see a straight swap at the top - God took over the reins at EchTee House and Vir at F14/15. But EchTee just got a new Boss (and God is God-like as ever), for better or for worse. I still don't know what to make of the few bylined stories of CK - how is the trader in Karol Bagh worried about his shop being shut down care about the British Foreign Secy I do not know and even the lamest idiot will tell you that people have forgotten simple page layout skills - and crazy stories are being carried - the worst in the section run by my former bureau-mates - have you seen HT's Business Section - I hate to say it but Times' business section is possibly the best business section in a mainline - by a country mile or hundred.
Anyway, the latest rumour - and I must admit that this is fairly unconfirmed and comes from idle gossip at Dilli O'Dilli at the Habitat is that Vir is going Counterpoint and all to Times - where ToI will pay him not to be in HT. Since Bennett's new business model seems to be hiring journalists all over the place just to suck up the market - look at ET (where however competent journalists are rarely to be found) this would not be implausible. Pay Vir a huge amount of money (the rumours of Vir leaving 19-20 KG Marg stem from the fact that CK and RN have been brought in from abroad with gazillions of rupees every month, much more than the man and Vir doesn't get a SUV, which he wouldn't drive anyway).
Anyways, thats the rumour, now I'll go back into hiding for a few more days because I've got some amazingly insane deadlines to meet.