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What Happened To Wednesdays Church? (Opinion Piece)

As I sit and write this, I find myself having a hard time with the “church” and it’s current apathetic views on the mid-week service. I want to give you a general view of my opinion on Wednesdays and open this up for discussion. As a piece of background, I grew up in an independent bible believing baptist church. As a child, I was in church, basically every time the doors were open. This meant for me, every Sunday AM and PM service and every Wednesday PM service and if there was anything else available, my mother would make sure to make it a priority in our lives, as I was growing up. So as a teenager and into my very early 20s, while I was still attending my church, I continued that behavior, just basically out of a combination of desire and habit. I have been on several mission trips with our church due to this, as well as many summer camps and other events.

After my early 20s, I moved away from home for about 12-13 years and just recently came back in 2017. After coming back, I retained my job out of town and traveled back and forth between the job and “home”, but rejoined my home church after the 13 years of absence. It was a bit jarring for me as, many of the people I grew up with had moved on in some shape or fashion. The church I remember had changed faces and it was a bit different for me, but it still had the same overall “vibe”, if you will. Even though there were a number of people who had moved on, there were just enough of the “originals”, that I could easily, jump back in and not really have to worry about re-introducing myself. I had over the 12-13 years, even been on a few more mission trips and even stopped in for a few visits randomly. So it wasn’t like I was completely absent for the entire time.

I joined a class of folks that were familiar to me, even though a portion of the class was brand new to me, but as my life has always been able to adapt to changes, it really didn’t bother me. I did however, this time around, feel a bit of a change in the air. This time, I was returning as an adult, and no longer a teenager or young adult, hidden away from the goings on of the church. So I began to dig a little deeper and as I found out, our numbers were slowly declining on Sunday PM and Wednesday PM services. There were a large number of our members that were Sunday AM people only. The PM service would really get anywhere between 50-75% of the Sunday AM service and Wednesdays, it would basically only be about 25% of the entire congregation.

Was I the only one that saw this? Was I the only one who cared? I even asked around and even criticized the fact that our numbers were so low to comparison of what I vaguely remember as a young adult. I remember being a part of the youth group and the church being somewhat larger than what we currently have. Had we lost numbers due to the pastor? Had we lost numbers due to apathy? Had we lost numbers due to busyness outside of the church? Had the members work lives taken precedent over what the church was offering? I am not here to define what the exact problem or issue is. I am only here to start a discussion and see if this is happening in your church or your congregation. I would like to offer up some ideas to start the conversation, so if you want to join, please feel free to read on and comment below.

Getting Rid of Services

I spoke with a few friends of mine in our class at a recent outing that we had after church this last week. I did find it funny, that some of those members were not at service, but still came to the outing (I’m not calling anyone out, but just wanted to point it out). After getting to the outing, I brought up this particular subject, on the fact that not many members are attending evening services and sticking only to the Sunday AM service. It was brought to my attention that there are other churches, though it did not seem like many, but I could be wrong (feel free to comment below) that are currently ditching their Wednesday PM services during the summer. This seemed to be under the ‘guise’ of summer activities and other family things that families might do that might cause them to miss regular services. Since this happened to a large number of their members in the congregation, the church would suspend Wednesday services throughout the summer until, what I assume would be when school started back up.

It was also brought to my attention, that some of our group, might even like to suspend church on Sunday PM services all together as in addition to the Wednesday evening services all together, in the name of at home “get togethers” or discipleship groups during the week. They would much more appreciate the church, if it was held only on Sunday mornings and they didn’t have to attend the building again until the following week. They wouldn’t want to get rid of church all together, but help “strengthen” the church by moving the small groups to each other’s homes for the other services. This in theory, would help grow the church and help smaller groups “bond” due to the community of the idea. If you are at each other’s houses, this would help each other understand each other better, on a personal level I suppose.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the underlying idea of a community, in that aspect, but I have a bigger problem with getting rid of the Sunday and Wednesday evening services. I grew up in the idea that we were at church every time the doors were open and try to attend as much as you can outside of the standard 3 services, as we were growing Christians and needed such stability and teaching. As an adult, I much appreciate it and still continue this, as much as I can. (Just as an aside, I have to admit, my current job is keeping me away from Sundays all together and I hate it, and have been applying for other jobs that I can get a M-F schedule) I find that if I were to attend church at a friend’s house or have those “get togethers”, it would be much too laid back and it may not be the focus that I need.

I compare this idea of “at-home-church” as the same that I do when I work from home. It’s a completely different vibe and how you handle yourself. If there isn’t the church preacher and maybe not even a leader, then we are all just friends “hanging out”, no different than the dinners that we sometimes have after a service. We may very well start out strong, but I feel that without the structure of church, you can’t REALLY, get into a heart of worship. I know that you can however, be in a spirit of prayer, if you are using the time to pray and learn about each other’s lives, but I feel that may miss the whole aspect of church. I understand the premise behind small groups at home, but I again, feel like overtime, this would degrade the overall attitude of church and would eventually boil down to just “hangout” time with your “church” friends or as some may call it, a support group.

What are your thoughts or ideas on removing services?

As stated above, I just feel that having a scheduled service time, that is always a Sunday AM, PM and Wednesday evening service, sets a precedent that these are your times that are ALWAYS available to you as a member of the church. At the church level, we should NEVER get rid of any of these times, as these are structured times in which you can count on the church being open and have other like minded members available at your disposal to congregate with and learn from. If the church were to get rid of these times, it lessens it’s impact in the community and it’s power to help share the gospel on a nearly consistent basis. I am told that it is partly because I am a person of tradition and I can understand that. I also feel that tradition sometimes, can get in the way of gospel being shared, because we are human and like tradition, structure and organization. We need to be able to be flexible in those times and sometimes allow the Holy Spirit to work though us or around us in the service. (We don’t have to always end when the hour is up!)

I struggle with the idea of getting rid of the other services, but would love open feedback and maybe even discussion in this particular topic. I will end this article with the verse that I base most of this ‘argument’ on, Hebrews 10:25.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

The Problem with Streaming

 

If you have ever been to my house, you will most definitely see the somewhat large collection of movies that I have on physical media, with 99% of it being Bluray and 0.5% being DVD and the other 0.5% being the newer 4k Bluray discs as I begin to start transitioning my newer purchases to be 4k only. As a huge media consumer and collector, I find it very odd that people are giving up their ability to own things, verses renting them for a limited time. That whole idea leads me into the reason for this article.

Streaming is a really bad idea if you want to own your music, tv shows or movies. This really can apply to any digital media to be honest, so if I missed something, I apologize. We are a society that is slowly going to the way of the content provider’s wishes and paying a subscription for streaming. I know that a lot of people are doing it and it can be seen in this latest article over at Mashable, astutely titled, “Music In the Air“. You can see from a lot of their research, that more and more people are going to the cloud streaming services for their music. This includes Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora, Tidal and many many others that are available to consumers.

You Don’t Own Your Collection and Can’t Play it Anywhere

Let me give you my argument and the reasons why streaming is very bad for the future of online media. First and most importantly, you don’t actually “own” the music, but you are renting it for a small fee, most likely on a monthly basis. I am using the word “own”, very loosely, in so much as that you can play the media anywhere and any place that can play it. For example, if you purchase the physical movie (which typically comes with a ‘free’ digital copy), it will usually come in one of the three major varieties: DVD, BluRay or 4k BluRay. Most likely with the BluRay and 4k versions, you will get an extra copy via the lower version. So, with 4k, you will get a BluRay and digital and with BluRay, you will typically get a DVD and digital copy. This is not exact for every movie purchase, but is very common in most retailers.

Now that you have this, as long as you have one of these compatible players, you can play this movie anywhere you have a display of some kind, the right cables and electricity. There isn’t any online license checks or validations needed to play the movie. If you are a console gamer, then you mot likely already have one of these players built in as a ‘bonus’ and sometimes, can be cheaper than buying some of the higher end BluRay players that have some of the exact same features via their gaming dashboard. If you are somewhere where the internet doesn’t reach, but have a TV or display and the appropriate player and electricity, then no fear, you can play it!

With streaming services, this is not yet universally available. When you have streaming services, you have to have some sort of internet connection. Though, this is getting harder and harder to find, there are plenty of places in the world that do not have access to ‘landline’ (Cable, DSL or the newer Fiber) internet and may only have OTA (over-the-air) via either their cellular provider, satellite or maybe even long distance WiFi beamed internet. Sometimes, that may even be sparse or limited, depending on the ISP. Audio streaming really doesn’t need a lot of bandwidth and can really be done over ‘3G’ networks and above, but when it comes to video services, you most definitely want ‘4G LTE’ or above, unless you want to live in an utter buffering hell.

Streaming is a Temporary License

Since streaming is typically on a subscription basis, you also could lose access to your playlists or media if the provider decides to no longer carry the content provider (artist or creator) or their licensing deal has expired. If you are a member of the popular Netflix community, you know there are websites and articles that will keep you up to date with with what is coming and going on Netflix.

There have been many stories throughout the years that showcase this issue over and over. There was the very public Taylor Swift issue that was eventually ended. Even more recently, with the advent of Disney+, you will begin to see Disney movies and properties leaving Netflix and other streaming services as well. This can even include the platform specific ‘exclusives’ for video services, for the most part. The ‘exclusives’ doesn’t pertain to audio streaming services as much, but can happen from time to time. It bodes well for a music artist to be on all platforms, unless they are at Taylor Swift levels and can make exclusives for certain streaming services.

Without your internet connection, the selected service cannot validate your payment and allow for certain songs to be played, unless they have some sort of ‘offline’ feature, the way YouTube and Netflix have begun to offer in most recent years. Obviously, this has become less of an issue with more WiFi and cellular connections than we used to have, but if you go camping or hiking in some regions, this may not be possible.

SIDEBAR: Streaming Exclusives Also Hurt the Industry

So this is just a small aside, but the idea of ‘Exclusives’ also hurts the overall streaming market in general. I don’t have the best way to explain it, so I recommend watching this short 5 minute video done by the Verge to explain it (and also explains a few other points of mine):

 

Quality Suffers When You Stream

One of the biggest caveats that you give up when streaming as well is quality. I myself am kind of a quality snob, so it is important to me, but for most at home consumers, they really don’t care or can tell a difference. I will admit that this section will not affect most readers, but for those of us that enjoy the highest quality we can get, having a physical form of the media is always best, or at least the highest quality digital version, like 320Kpbs for MP3 or for real audiophiles, FLAC, which is completely lossless. In the video side of things, this maybe full 1:1 copy of a disc or even a ‘compressed’ .mkv or .mp4 file, but these can take up precious amounts of storage, if you do not have the budget to purchase large amounts of storage.

When you have the physical discs (mostly referring to movies & TV shows), you are getting a higher bit-rate (basically the amount of information able to be converted into something you can see or hear) from the disc and is more consistent while viewing. If you are using a streaming service, this can fluctuate based upon your connection speed and network congestion. With cable services, this can be worse, as it is a shared network (Think Xfinity/Comcast/Turner/Spectrum) versus having a dedicated line like DSL (though really slow in comparison) or Fiber. If you have ever watched a video online, you are well aware of ‘buffering’.  This can be more annoying when on anything less than a 10MB connection with multiple users.

Pirating or ‘Personal Copies’

Now, I won’t completely forget the online ‘underworld’ of pirating. Obviously, I cannot condone or share how to go about pirating copies of your favorite media, but I do know it exists. One of the most famous stories of this, was the early release of digital copies of movies being made available before the studios wanted them available through the Sony hack of 2014. This was the large attack that released copies of ‘The Interview’ to the internet even though the North Koreans didn’t want it released at all. There were more details and information to the overall story, but was still a very publicized story of ‘piracy’ in the mainstream.

I will admit that I learned all of the ‘piracy’ skills I would ever need in the days of Napster and Limewire (and Kazaa as well) and the Gnutella days when I was in middle school and entering high school in 1999. Peer-to-peer sharing has always been an issue with all of the digital distributors, even though iTunes and Apple was really one of the first to make it so convenient, that it is just easier to purchase your digital copy online than it is to take the risk of pirating your ‘copy’. These days, the best way to ‘share’ is via BitTorrent, but this again is meant for legal large file sharing.

I do know that there are legal and really ‘easy’ ways to backup your discs (audio or video) for your own personal collection called ‘ripping. If you were ever an owner of the original iPod and used iTunes, you know how easy it was to drop a CD in your computer and just hit the ‘rip’ button with the selected quality that you wanted (64kbps on up to 320). There are even laws that protect the consumer for ‘ripping’ movies, TV shows and CDs as long as it was for their own personal collections as backups and not being shared online for all to pirate. If you have ever heard of HandBrake, then you know what I am talking about (though these days, I hear MakeMKV is way better).

This is how most of us built up our music collections in the early 2000’s, if you are an iTunes or even WinAMP of old user. As the years went on, we had to keep adapting our music libraries and even started collecting movies with the digital copies that came with DVD and BluRay purchases via either iTunes, Vudu or even UltraViolet throughout the years. I am really happen though, with all those splinters of different companies, they finally brought them all under one ‘roof’ with the latest service, MoviesAnywhere.

Summary

So overall, you can get my general disdain for streaming as the main way of consuming content. If any of your services ever ‘die’ or cease to exist, there will be no servers on the other end to validate you DRM’d content. If you are ever without internet, you can’t get your services to work. If the zombie apocalypse happens, then you no longer have a ‘library’ of movies or music to listen to! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind having those as backups or as an extra option to watch or listen to my media, but I want to be the controller of this content, instead of some 3rd party service.

This is why large services like Plex Media, Kodi or even VLC exist. This is why there are personal ‘cloud’ devices from Western Digital(WD), Synology or even Drobo that allow you to have local storage libraries full of your media. I am not against digital media, but I just think that we need to own it, so we can play it anywhere and as many times as I want to hear my guilty pleasure of Teenagers, by My Chemical Romance.

Here is a great short video as well, basically explaining all of my thoughts above, since the most recent announcement of Samsung stopping building BluRay players in the future. There are multiple videos out there like this and I am sure are linked to this video, but I think he explains it in the shortest amount of time:

Edited 5/25/19 1:44 PM EST/EDT

Another Great Video explaining it:

Edited 5/28/19 5:32 PM EST/EDT

Even MORE great videos explaining (in part) more on the topic:

-Rusty G

Open Letter to John Legere and Neville Ray of T-Mobile

Dear T-Mobile and its Representatives, via Neville Ray (current CTO) and John Legere (Current CEO),

As a newer customer (somewhere over 4 years), I would like some help in this particular matter. I am a HUGE fan of your company since the entrance of your current CEO John Legere. I am writing on the basis of a small complaint and a request, as a well as a hope for the near future merger (if approved, more on that in a minute) of Sprint and T-Mobile. I am writing on the growth pains that T-Mobile is experiencing and it is painful for those of us outside of major metropolitan cities. I currently live in Cleveland, TN and I am having an issue with your coverage and it’s current solution that you provide, among many for those of us in this predicament and I appreciate it, but it needs some re-thinking in my opinion.

I want to share that as I stated above, I am a HUGE fan (and promoter) of T-Mobile and for the first time since I left my mother’s plan, after being with At&t from the age of 18 through my early 30’s, you all provided me my first stand alone cell phone service, so I appreciate that! You can see just a few of tweets from years past here:

This is not to say, that I have not also had my complaints, as no company is perfect and we all know that. It’s part of competition and what makes the market grow and learn. Even though you charged me $150 more that At&t (and even $50 more than Samsung) was for the Galaxy Gear S3 Frontier (see tweet below)! I gladly accepted it and purchased it anyway and still wear my Gear S3 to this day.

I am coming to you now with an issue I have with the coverage in my area and the current solutions you have and the specific one that I chose. I have to point out first that I recently moved back to Cleveland, TN back in the summer of 2018 and have only been here for approximately 1 year and I am struggling to keep service here in my area of travel outside of my home. The area of Cleveland on the North side, doesn’t really have an issue, but the South side does and I hope that you can help!

I recently tweeted about this issue back in September of 2018 and ended up ordering the T-Mobile 4G LTE Personal Cell Spot that uses a small Nokia Femtocell micro tower in my house. The second version of this is what I received, since this was announced in November of 2017 and I did not set this device up until recently.

 

 

I want to explain my frustration in two areas, both your coverage vs actual coverage and the aspect of payment for this solution that you are providing for “cheap” or free in certain situations.

Coverage vs Actual Coverage

Your website is very misleading on the map’s coverage colors and how they blanket areas. I actually had sold a friend on T-Mobile and had him swap his entire business, some 13 lines over from Verizon a few years back. Unfortunately, due to your misleading maps, he got mad with me and swapped back and I believe ended up having to fight with a regional manager on getting all of it fixed.

So let’s start with my area of living in Cleveland, TN. I will show you the map that you guys provide to the public for my area:

tmobile04_tmobile

The map shows my address and even shows my verified tests that I have done. This is an average, due to the fact that I live at the top of the hill and can see for quite a few miles in most directions from our house, so this can be attributed to sea level of my house. The issue runs into the fact that when you get to the bottom of our hill, we lose signal almost immediately and I have to either travel North for a few miles before I start getting a signal and then I can start my Pandora stream (thanks for the 1 year of Premium, BTW!). You can even see in my tweet that I mentioned above, that if I travel Southward, that I lose signal for quite a few miles until I get into the Georgia area, after I cross the state line. This map makes it look like I should have Good to Fair coverage in my ENTIRE area, but this is very false.

I do understand that it takes time to grow a network, in purchasing, licensing and leasing fees to put your equipment on pre-owned towers that other companies have already put up. I even began to look deeper into the issue and see that you guys are most likely paying a leasing fee to Tillman Infrastructure for the nearest tower to me. So I wanted to look a little deeper into this and it looks like there are several customer facing websites that I can search for better understanding of the coverage issue. One of the first ones is CellMapper.net:

tmobile01_cellmappernet

So I see that there are towers North of me, but it looks like my area is just this weird area that T-Mobile does not cover for some reason. So I wanted to search other sites for more details and maybe confirmations. So I then looked into AntennaSearch.com, which is how I found out who built or owns the tower now, where you have the nearest tower to me:

tmobile01_antennasearch

You can see a confirmation that the towers available in my area are limited to the North side of town and for some reason, our little sliver is neglected by T-Mobile for some reason. Until, I got to my third site, CellReception.com and was able to understand why. Maybe, T-Mobile isn’t ignoring our area, but may be either being blocked by a competing company or may be planning to merge with this company and see if you can ‘fix’ the issue (hopefully) with a tower from Sprint. I will show you the confirmation map first, to show that there are definitely no towers “near” me from T-Mobile (I don’t know why they don’t show the others with this site) :

tmobile03_cellreption

And then, when I select Sprint as a provider, I see that there is a tower just behind my neighborhood, less than a mile:

tmobile03b_cellreption

This leads me to the fact that I hope, that this is the plan, that if (here’s hoping) the merger goes through, you can use that equipment already there or upgrade it and make my area better. I am just really frustrated with your coverage in my home area and dislike having to drive nearly 2 miles away from my house before I get a good signal and can start streaming my Pandora!

The Temporary Solution (I hope)

As I stated above, there are multiple options that your company provides, including an ASUS Wifi Router for Wifi Calling (not sure if you still provide this), a Cell Booster, that takes two smaller boxes and uses one as a repeater and one as a booster to repeat an outside signal back into the house (now looking back, I probably should have ordered this instead) and finally the LTE Personal CellSpot V2 that I currently have. Now, I do want to clarify, I have no clue how much each of these devices cost T-Mobile, but the customer is typically charged $25 for a deposit to receive these and can be refunded upon cancellation of service or return of the device. I have heard that you can get that fee waived, but in my case, they did not.

That being said, I am sure there is some cost of these devices as the initial cost of T-Mobile purchasing specially branded versions of this Nokia device (not actually Nokia, but a separate company that makes them and uses the Nokia branding). That aside, I find it odd that we as customers are not compensated for expanding your network in small cell areas of about 3,000 square feet. I have heard on some Reddit threads that it can be a few acres? (Wow if that is true!) I say that, to say, if we are “fixing” an issue with your equipment that you provide, we should be compensated a $5 or $10 discount on our monthly bills.

Here is my argument, as I have combed over many T-Mobile Support Forums and a Reddit Threads to read the complaints. Since T-Mobile does not provide any customer facing UI, GUI or CLI to be able to view or change anything with this femtocell, all T-Mobile (and I have read some At&t customers, I assume roaming) customers are allowed to use this tower, as if it were a macro tower. I understand that in both the macro and the micro towers, that it is the company equipment, but if you are using our internet connection to create it on the micro equipment, we should be compensated monthly.

We as customers are paying for our own “landline” cable, fiber or DSL internet and some of these companies still have data caps and these can be crashed through if there are neighbors or any T-Mobile customer coming through and using the micro tower. I have read some, not many, stories of since adding these femtocells into their network of them going over their data limits. This can be easily seen by jumping into Reddit or the T-Mobile Forums. So the overall thing is, that we are paying twice for internet, when it should have been provided without having to get your home solutions. In most rural areas, the cable and DSL providers do not have great speeds to provide to this CellSpot. I am a unique customer and have a 100Mbps connection behind it with no data caps, so I am a “unicorn”, I would think, but can understand other customer’s issues with this device.

I think that At&t provides a whitelist function on their Femtocells, so that only selected users can use it. Which leads me to the second issue, which is the fact that the data on this micro tower is STILL counted in our monthly counts. Why is that allowed? I understand it costs money to maintain a VPN tunnel between these devices and the T-Mobile network, but you again, are using our internet that we are being charged for. We should not be charged data counts in our monthly counts when it is STILL our own backhaul behind the microtower that is feeding the LTE signal created by the device. I believe that not only should we be be compensated a $5 or $10 monthly discount, but also given any data that we use on your microtower and not counted as “on-network” 4GLTE/4G/3G that you would provide if we were connected to a macro tower. It just seems very backwards and I think could be reworked.

I am thankful for your time and attention to this issue and hope that you will seriously consider my complaints and possible solutions. Please feel free contact me via my Twitter (@RustyG) if you would like to help!

-Rusty G

One of your biggest fans in the Southeast!

 

Apple’s Upcoming Streaming Service Theory (Pre March 25th 2019 Announcement)

AppleStream_Invite

So the invites have gone out for the March 25th, 2019, Apple event. As all of the rumors have pointed towards and now the almost cofirmed, “It’s Show Time” showing up on the invites, it can all but be confirmed that we will be seeing the new streaming service come from Apple. With the fact that Apple has stopped sharing the iPhone sales numbers last year, due to the fact that all smartphone sales have basically maxed out, and the market is basically saturated with smartphones everywhere. People are a little stressed out with the now common $1,000 entry point for some major flagship smartphone manufacturers and are now holding on to their phones for longer due to many reasons, but one being the lack of innovation in the newest phones being released. We are not seeing a lot of major changes in the year-to-year and some are waiting anywhere from 2 years or more until they upgrade now.

(I wish we could go back to contracts and subsidies, rant ahead)

I will admit to a sidebar here, as I find this funny, but with folks holding on to their phones for 2+ years now, why can’t we have the option of going back to a 2 year contract price and getting the cell phone carriers subsidizing some of the cost? I remember when T-Mobile basically set the precedent for this and killed off of the contract. This at the time sounded amazing, but basically, they didn’t “kill” the contract, they just re-labeled it and made you pay full price for your phone and they no longer subsidized the cost of the phone. I saw that as a very manipulative way of marketing, but a ton of people liked the idea of no “contract”, even though they were still in a “contract” of a different kind. Those terms aside, T-Mobile started this new way that mobile carriers do business and all the other major carriers followed suit and now, we the people have to pay FULL price for our phones now, which is vary frustrating. I personally WOULD sign a 2 year contract with my carrier of choice, to get this price back down to something more manageable if we are going to continue to this foray in to the $1,000USD+ entry point on smartphones. I was with At&t from the time I was 18 (then Cingular Wireless) until I swapped back in 2014 or 15, I believe it was. I have been with my same carrier now since that swap and have no plans to swap anytime soon, unless there are some major changes.

Now back to the regularly scheduled post.

So with the fact that people are getting phones much later and the market has been saturated, Apple has been planning for the future as people are moving to the streaming platforms in droves and the physical format may soon be dying. Even Samsung has stopped making Blu-Ray players, but this had more to do with the fact that they haven’t kept up with the trends and not updated their hardware, but that is besides the point. Apple knows that people are subscribing more to online services and want to cash in on it. They are already making it work with Apple Music and they want to expand their services into the video industry.

Netflix is the #1 video streaming service as it stands, in my opinion. Obviously, there are multiples out there, including Hulu, SlingTV, DirecTV NOW, Amazon Prime TV and many many others. I don’t want to delve into the individual services from the individual content providers like ESPN, HBO, CBS, NBC or any other direct providers, but just the overall platform providers that are “content agnostic”. I put content agnostic in quotes, because now I am going to lean towards the upcoming and rumored, but almost confirmed Apple video streaming service.

It seems that Apple will be announcing their streaming service to compete with the likes of Amazon and Netflix. I think this will be the same $10 per month entry point like most of the others out there, along with other tiers. Apple has been very good at making contracts with certain companies in the past and making services more “mainstream”. I use iTunes and the P2P sharing from back in the days of the early 00’s as my point of reference. Apple was able to make it so convenient and fast to purchase music for the first time when it launched iTunes Music store in 2003. They were able to bring most of the major labels to the table and basically take over and create the online music market.

Now fast forward to 2019 and we are about to see the announcement of Apple’s streaming service and I want to give some thoughts to what they may be working on. Beginning in January, I started getting notices from a few of my services that I subscribe to for my online digital library that I don’t normally use. Let me show you what I received:

AppleStream_Ultraviolet

This is the first email that I received from Ultraviolet and then I got another email from Sony:

AppleStream_Sony

I am just speculating here, but I am thinking that these are major movie services that are shutting down because they have been bought out by Apple. I have no hard facts or points of reference to confirm this, but I think these are good indicators that Apple may be buying up the licenses for these movie providers, and adding to their already expanding library.

You have to understand that Apple is already working pretty heavily and almost directly with Disney/Pixar/Marvel/LucasFilm and will already have the rights to those media libraries and you already see this in your current online library if you have any of these movies streaming to your AppleTV. Apple still needs to bring in some of the other major studios to round out their available movies if they want to play more than just Disney owned content. I believe that these notices I received above are the pre-cursor to seeing Apple bringing in the other names like Sony and whatever deals that Ultraviolet has with the others.

I will say that I think that MoviesAnywhere may be either their direct opponent or we may see a re-branding of it to the Apple streaming service, because they have also been slowly getting all the online digital services under one house. I say re-branding because Disney itself, shut down it’s Disney service recently as well as it moved over to the MoviesAnywhere service.

In another story that I thought I would never see, Apple also has announced partnerships with Samsung to get the iTunes media libraries on their Smart TVs starting in 2019! I think this has to do with more of the fact that Apple doesn’t have a dedicated, 1st party television set that they sell and that they need to get to the market that does not buy Smart TV dongles like the AppleTV, Amazon Fire Sticks or Google Chromecasts. If you are a TV consumer who never buys the extra STBs, but may have purchased a Samsung Smart TV, then this is another way to get you into the Apple Ecosystem.

I could be totally wrong here, but as a long time tech person, I feel like this is how it will go down on March 25th. Only a few more days away and we shall see!

UBI and the Future of Automation

 

The future of jobs is soon coming to head and the end of manual labor for the mass society of Americans as we know is coming to an end sooner than you expect.

I have had this conversation with a friend of mine and acquaintances who simply do not believe it and just want to put their heads in the sand and want to wish it all away. They think that technological advances in automation of so many different industries is “so far” away that it will never be seen in our lifetimes and they just don’t want to even face facts and numbers. It may not be the ‘Terminator’ style ending that we saw in the 80’s and 90’s from the Arnold Schwarzenegger hit movies, but robots will basically take over everything that we do.

I will point you to the screenshot above from the 2008 Disney movie, ‘Wall-E‘. As you see the movie progress, you will see that humans have evolved (or devolved, however you want to see it) to a point that robots do everything they need and there is no real need for the manual labor of people anymore. Obviously, this also shows the progression of humans getting more obese, but that is not the point of this post and I will not delve into that side of things. I want to point out, that the future portrayed in this fictional movie is really not far from us, as technology stands today.

I have shown the video of the Tesla automated semi-truck to my mother’s boyfriend, who is a truck driver and has been for multiple years. He just laughs and says “good luck”. I have shown him that his job is going to be questioned in the near future. As companies get larger and larger, they will want to automate and efficiently get rid of human workers in the process. Humans are the most expensive and least cost efficient part of any process and they can cause errors on a much higher level than robots will ever do. One of the worst economic examples of this, was bust before the millennium in 1999, when a NASA, Mars observer was burned up in the martian atmosphere, due to the translation between imperial and metric measurements. As this was obviously due to American’s stubbornness not to change to the metric system, this mistake would not have been made if a trained robot was doing the work, but I digress.

We have seen the idea of automated cars driving around and now taxiing people around cities like Las Vegas as the likes of Waymo, Lyft (aka Level5) and Uber are all working to eliminate their drivers. You can see some automated systems in cars now like lane assist and automated breaking systems that are already being sold to the public in cars from companies like Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet, just to name a few. The human driver is the worst accident causing part of the driving equation and the faster we can remove that from behind the wheel, the better off we are.

Obviously, this is not something that we can do overnight or even quickly, but will take a serious amount of time for acclimation for the society at large to accept this, but it will happen. Let me repeat that for affect here, IT WILL HAPPEN. I have already seen so many skeptics and worker’s unions fighting this, but there is no real need to fight it. Technology, no matter how big or small, has always and will continue to enrich our lives. the problem is that humans are infallible and will always find a way to make any process longer, take their time or just flat out quit. Humans are not really built for repetitive tasks and we need to understand this moving forward. There is a reason, as I write this, I begin to think of the writer’s worst nightmare, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

I am using driving cars as the example above, but it can be repeated for many, many industries across our human work force. The most menial jobs will be the jobs taken over by robots and automation, which include service jobs like fast food, hotels and even security jobs. I could take almost any industry and show you how there are, or will be automated robots take over some aspect of the job. When it comes to even more dangerous and even more skilled jobs, these are not left out either. Since most of the ‘blue-collar’ jobs will be taken first, I can see how the ‘mob mentality’ will fight this the heaviest, but do not dismay, as the ‘white-collar’ jobs are also on the way out as well.

You have to understand that automation knows no bounds and does not care at what level anything is. If a process can be eliminated or automated, robots will take of this in the future for us. This can be software robots or even hardware robots. Many robots are already out there in today’s workforce that you may not even be aware of. I currently work at a car plant that ’employs’ loads of robots to do a lot of tasks that help alleviate worker strain or even repetitive tasks that a robot that only needs light maintenance and doesn’t require a paycheck to do so. This can be seen across almost every car manufacturer today.

You may have heard of or already know about the IoT, a la the ‘Internet of Things’. This is the area of the gadgets that we have, that will be a part of this network. This can include but not limited to, things like our Amazon Echos, our Internet connected weather vanes, or just some internet connected toaster that allows us to control it via the internet in some fashion. Basically, anything that we attach an internet connection to, that previously did not have internet access, just for the simple means of having access to it remotely, is a part of, or will be the IoT. We as a society are connecting more and more things to help enrich our lives, so that we can basically control our lives from the smartphone, that the automated robot future is just an extension of the current reality that we live in today.

I could go deeper into this rabbit hole, but I just want to say this. Many of our jobs, in the next 2 decades may be all but eliminated and we need to be prepared for that. Many tech pundits of our time today are talking about the Universal Base Income (UBI) because the distribution of wealth will most likely stretch even further than it is today and the super rich will become the super super rich as they own and build the robots that will be the future we are looking at. The idea that everyone, everywhere will get the same basic income because robots and automation will most likely wipe out the middle class is not that far from the truth, if you expound upon the ideas of what I am speaking of above.

I am not here to say that your job is in direct fear of losing it to robots right now, but it is over the next few decades and I include myself. I am stating however, we need to plan now for this automated future and not try to tear it down or block it before it comes. As history has taught us, those who oppose future, always fail. We are about to embark upon the next revolution with automation, the same way we did with all the technologies of the past, being that of the printing press, the cotton gin or the airplane. The next ‘Industrial’ revolution is upon us and we must understand it now and try to begin to educate ourselves for the future instead of trying to either idly stand by or try to tear it down like uneducated cavemen of the past.

My recommendation is taking the next hour or so and reading this article from the Guardian and watching these videos below.  If the videos below interest you, I recommend heading over to ColdFusionTV on YouTube and subscribing to his videos as well. Be prepared!