Set-top box bollocks

In around six months, South Africa’s commitment to the international broadcast community to move from terrestrial to digital (satellite) based TV broadcasting will fall due. Despite many years to solve and implement the technology and an endless stream of assurances of compliance, this deadline is now almost certain to be missed.


The official line is disagreement over standards, design, manufacture and digital rights – should the boxes be encoded and supply their content only to registered (and one imagines, licensed) viewers?


As many government ministers as years have gone by while these critical issues remain unresolved. And, the cynical amongst us inevitably opine that it is much more likely to be squabbling about who will get the (financial) benefits from the multi-billion Rand manufacture and supply contracts that is holding up a decision.


Meanwhile the nation’s sore tarnished international image, gets a little more grubby.


Here’s an alternative suggestion; the rate of change of technology is such that in recent years, we have seen the demise of many household processes and big names. Pre-conceived ideas and plans have disappeared as the Internet makes its presence felt in every facet of our lives. Here’s a reminder or two;


Nokia used to make the 6210 and 6310 – the best cell phones ever. That was until Apple came along. Today, Nokia is a Microsoft subsidiary. ‘nuff said.


Retail music stores have all but disappeared.


In many countries, book shops have disappeared as we buy from Amazon, the iTunes store and read on Kindles and iPads. Meanwhile, many international bookselling giants have shut their doors. In SA, we’re a bit behind this one, but it won’t be long…


In a similar vein, how long will retail pharmacies like Clicks and co. remain? As soon as someone troubles themselves to work out how to same-day deliver orders placed over the Interwebs, these chaps with their huge staffs, stock and retail spaces are doomed.


So, what has this to do with the set-top box?


If you’re as pissed-off with DStv as most subscribers seem to be, you will already have explored the world of VPN connections and streaming TV content and movies – IP television as it’s sometimes called. Making it work is a little convoluted and costs a few dollars a month, but it works and around a fifth the cost of DStv.


It would work even better if we had just a bit more bandwidth at a competitive rate.


So much so that a limited-option domestic 3G (or better) router easily could deliver everything the set top box would offer with much, much less hassle and far superior management control.


Most of the country is already covered with the cellular network, much of it 3G and some already 4G and better. And, as 3G technology is upgraded in urban areas, that kit could be moved into the rural areas and provide plenty of bandwidth for the foreseeable future.


With government sponsored (free) bandwidth in return for paying a TV licence, a simple home router could be devised to connect to the network, log in to a ID and licence-based connection to the TV resource, to allow the viewer to select feeds from SABC and/or eTV as free viewing, or alternatively DStv, and/or other selected services as paid, proprietary content, programme by programme.


Away go all the arguments about locked systems and what’s free-to-air as now if you can pay for it, it’s available. No cables, no uplinks, easy licensing and payment, simple.


Job done. All with existing technology and end-to-end protection of rights. No satellite costs, so set top boxes to enrich the decision makers and a choice of TV programming that can be delivered from anywhere and anyone with a feed and a server.


What are we waiting for?

Zuma – something else to be concerned about

Late last week, the Mail and Guardian published a piece about a plan from several provincial heads to extend Zuma’s tenure as president of the ANC, perhaps by as much as two years.


It is claimed that their plan would assist the ANC’s stability, but predictably, the M&G’s exposé differed radically from their view; the M&G says that it would be easy to think Messrs Magashule et al were wanting to protect their patron at the head of the ANC.


And, who can blame them? It seems that it is the venal Zuma who has given them almost limitless power to play fast and loose with both provincial processes and the public coffers, such that self enrichment and aggrandisement may be the result. Usually no-one even bothers even breaking a sweat as this way, wealth can be acquired with little more than the stroke of a pen, or an outstretched hand.


As if that weren’t enough, the non-accountability that comes with these appointments also means that when caught, the sanction for such criminal acts range from none, to reward by promotion – sometimes as high up the ladder as the country’s cabinet.


In return, the patronage will ratchet up several notches. It’s possible to imagine Zuma saying; “Thank you for your support Mr Provincial Head (substitute a name of your choosing here). You know, with the long-term now secure, I think we will be able to build one of those new nuclear stations in your region.”


What a bonanza that will be for the tender-riggers.


So, a move to extend the stay of our hated and feared leader until 2019, probably around the time for our next general elections, should hardly be seen as good news.


But, what is this really all about?


I’ve been suggesting for the last couple of years that sooner or later, we will see a proclamation, making Zuma president for life. Can Magashule and co’s move be a precursor to that?


“Nah. Constitutionally, that’s impossible,” I hear you say.




But, you forget that we are dealing with a man (and a large number of his ANC patronage-puppets) who have shown less and less respect for the constitution as the days have ticked by. They’ve shown no liking for, or obeisance to the rules that govern our actions to date, what’s going to change in the future?


So, when Zuma declares himself High Chief Muckety-Muck-For-Ever, he and his money-grabbing followers will once again do what they’ve done so many times already; simply take no notice. With the justice system and the police in his pocket, it’s hard to see who can or will take action to stop him.

Welcome back

Rooi Els lagoon

Rooi Els lagoon


Slider; a small hamburger, about a third the size of a normal burger. Often sold in twos, threes and more – depending on your appetite. Sliders allow the eater to taste several different types (one of each; cheese, blue cheese, egg, bacon, etc.) at one sitting. Great idea. Massively satisfying. The best of all worlds really.


Slider; functionality in a Web site template that literally slides one item of content over another – photographs for example. It’s an excellent way of displaying several images in a space where only a single image might otherwise be shown. Great idea.


Great idea? Not.


Best of all worlds? Not.


Ulcer inducing? Yup.


Overberg sunrise

Overberg sunrise


The shiny new Web template had arrived almost as quickly as my US$50-odd tinkled into the developer’s pocket. Unpacked, it looked pretty straightforward, but from the get-go, I was aware that the things I wanted to achieve weren’t just a matter of selecting an option, clicking the check box to confirm my choice and leaning back to marvel at my astonishing technological prowess.




I started this project late last year, intending to move my two sites; psukhe (the blog) and (my photography galleries) into a single environment.


Thinking that up was the easy bit. Making it work has taken almost a year. A year of frustration, irritation and such resulting apathy that it became necessary to give myself a stern talking-to in order to get anywhere near finished.


Looking towards Glenelg

Looking towards Glenelg


So, a couple of weeks ago, I called in the specialists. It’s shite to discover that you’ve run out of ability in this or that and have to call in extra hands. Still, if I wanted a Web site…


Long story short, I bought a different template – hopefully one that is significantly less arcane – and have had it’s initial pages populated for me. Now, I have a model to follow and should be able to cope.


This post is accompanied by some images I hope you haven’t seen before and will be followed by a couple of recent items that I originally posted on DearSusan and you may have missed. Having been off-air for a while, I find myself with a great deal of other topics I want to explore; those will have to wait a few days.


Anyway, I’ve finally got this far and I hope not to have lost many of the regular visitors to either site. Take a look around, try the links and load the pages. They should all work. While you do that, I’ll carry on wrangling with the technology.


Do let me know if you like it. Or don’t as the case may be.


And, while all that has been going on, I have to ‘fess up that I also took a bit of a sabbatical. Late in 2013, I wrote to Pascal Jappy, the main blogger/owner at DearSusan* to ponder whether he might be interested in me writing for the site – new face, new ideas etc.


I’d attached an article about my passion for steam trains and a few accompanying photographs and was delighted to be welcomed on board. Since then, I’ve been posting on DS, intending to re-start my own blog just as soon as I’d managed to wrangle the damned thing into submission.


Rooisand sunrise

Rooisand sunrise


That day has arrived. Please explore and if you’ve some time, have a wander around the DearSusan site too (link above).


There’s always a bit more here – I’m finishing this post listening to Pink Floyd’s two decade awaited final recording(s), called The Endless River. Essentially a collection of outtakes from the Division Bell sessions, it’s vintage Floyd and definitely pinned in that late ‘90s period. I’m not certain they shouldn’t have left it there and our memories intact. Maybe it’ll grow on me.


* Named as a response to Susan Sontag and her remarks about the proliferation of sub-optimal photography.


Looking south east

Looking south east