So, I pointed to some of the issues with Steve Paikin’s comments a few days ago. Recap: he posted to his blog that he had significant problems getting women onto his program, and used some insensitive/poorly considered language in expressing why he thought TVO was facing challenges.

TVO’s put on a show that (more or less) takes Paikin to task. It’s worth a watch, and it reveals both how Paikin views the challenges of booking as well as a set of women who take him to task. More discussions like this need to happen, and at length, in more of our popular media venues.


CSI and Malaysia 370


See, on TV and in the movies (Enemy of the State, anyone), the government always has whatever technology they need at exactly the right moment they need it to solve a problem. Even more, they have unlimited budgets to pursue every case.

So of course people think Malaysia 370 was under total observation all the time. It’s the only story that “makes sense” given what they all “know.”

The ‘CSI effect’ also causes huge problems at jury trials these days, with jurors often unable to believe that a CSI-style analysis of evidence isn’t possible or hasn’t been done. Equally pernicious, CSI-based evidence is often held in higher regard, now, that previously on the basis that it must be accurate. Because, you know, unless you’re dealing with the master-villian of the series the CSI analyses are likely to have successfully drawn conclusions.

Yay TV and technology?


Your TV as a Beachhead

The Internet of Things is moving apace and consumers are increasingly purchasing Internet-connected devices for their homes. In the case of SmartTVs it appears that manufacturers’ poor security design(s) could pose a direct threat to the network the TV is integrated with:

Since the well-known Javascript object XmlHttpRequest is available within the DAE, not only the TV is the target of possible attacks but also other networked devices in the user’s home network.

Using a timing-based approach, attackers are able to scan the user’s home network from the TV for other devices that are behind the user’s firewall and would not directly be visible from the internet. This could be used for user profiling and for finding further attack targets.

The next step for the attackers could be the reconfiguration of components in the local area network in order to facilitate further attacks via different vectors. For example the home router – which in many cases has no password protection when accessed from the LAN – could be reconfigured by the attacker to have no protection against attacks from the internet.

In order to gain personal information, attackers could access well-known services like UPnP or http in the user’s network via the connected TV. For example IP cameras or printers could be compromised using this technique.

Also using the XmlHttpRequest object, attackers can transfer all of the gained information to arbitrary Internet drop-zones, which would also expose the victim’s IP address.

As a lot of these attacks have been publicized in the context of browser hacking, there is a lot of available code on the Internet that might be used for also compromising Smart TVs.

While the researcher who’s done this work is presently posing SmartTVs as potential – rather than necessary, or actual – threats, now that the cat’s out of the bag it’s almost guaranteed that more people will be working on weaponizing your TV. Isn’t the pervasive connection of equipment to the Internet just great?


The Next Xbox Will Take Over Your TV


On the other hand:

Coupled with this TV functionality, Microsoft’s next-generation Kinect sensor will also play a role in the company’s TV focus. The Verge has learned that the next Kinect will detect multiple people simultaneously, including the ability to detect eye movement to pause content when a viewer turns their head away from a TV.

I really don’t understand this functionality. It sounds like a stupid novelty in the new Samsung Galaxy phone, and I think it’s worse here. Given how many people now “watch” TV with a second screen, is it going to pause every three seconds?

Words cannot express how pissed I would be if turning away from a TV meant that it paused what I was watching. I routinely walk away in dialogue heavy scenes to get a glass of water or whatever, and then return without having missed anything of substance. If I had to change a setting to enable this behaviour (i.e. what I’ve done my entire life) then I’d be annoyed as hell. I think this approach generally presumes that people should be actively just watching what’s on the screen and I really don’t know that many people who focus that hard on screen-based entertainment at home all that often.

Also: as cool as the Kinect is this is the kind of use case that bothers me about the technology more generally. Perpetually having an Internet-accessible series of cameras and microphones is one thing when I can control when they’re on or not: I don’t like the idea of them being ‘on’ when I’m not actively involved in a very specific operation that demands this kind of functionality. And, I mean, if Microsoft implements this there’s no way that advertisers or marketers aren’t going to want the data collected (in ‘aggregate and anonymous’, I’m sure) by the Kinect that’s watching and listening to everything you do within a 15ft radius of your TV.


Why TV is Broken

Minimal Mac has an interesting piece on the UX of television. In short, a young girl who isn’t exposed to TV suddenly is, and is confused and upset by the service provided. She doesn’t understand commercials, doesn’t understand the changes in volume, and becomes resigned to cable TV’s deficiencies.

A cautionary note to advertisers and television moguls alike: if your next-generation audience is ‘resigned’ to your service, and has alternates to your content delivery options, you need to adapt or watch your audience base slowly erode.

Go read the piece. It’s well written and eye-opening.


Network Neutrality and Smart Televisions

From GigaOm, we find that:

Korea Telecom in South Korea has taken an interesting twist on the idea [of network neutrality], and decided to block Samsung’s Smart TVs from accessing the Internet, according to this article from the Maeil Business Newspaper, a large S. Korean daily. That’s right, net neutrality isn’t just for applications anymore.

It’s absurd that so-called ‘SmartTVs’ are being blocked on the basis of data consumption: as content goes HD and it is piped over IP (and fibre optic lines!) it’s absurd that ‘data consumption’ could justify cutting these televisions from the IP network. No, what we’re seeing is an effort to stymie over-the-top growth unless the content owner/monopolist can find a way to extract unjustified rents. The Korean example is a clear example of why network neutrality regulations are so important.


Ubuntu and TV

This is smart TV software done beautifully. It (seemingly) has more functionality than Apple TV and (looks to be) better integrated with movie purchasing services than Dlink’s Boxee Box. The problem with all smart TV devices remains their stability: I’m a geek, so I don’t mind occasionally reseting my Boxee Box or media centre and I accept that periodic crashes in the middle of a show or movie are the cost of early adoption.

Most people aren’t geeks. Most people won’t settle for sometimes crashing TVs. If Ubuntu doesn’t get that element right then everything else they do won’t matter one bit to the mainstream. Though us geeks will likely love it.