UFC Fight Pass is the Worst/Best Video Streaming Service There Is

UFC-Fight-Pass

Imagine with me for a moment if you were a Netflix subscriber, except it worked like this:

…there was no history of what you’d ever watched
…you couldn’t pause watching on one device and resume on the other
…there was no ability to tag content you wanted to watch for later
…there was no binge-watching, even when it made sense* (see more below)
…it was all presented in 720p instead of 1080p (and an iffy bit-rate that sometimes makes for blocky-looking video if there’s a lot of action)
…if you left the iPad app while your video was paused, it would reset to the app home screen instead of resuming, thus losing your place
…if you resume your laptop from sleep, playback won’t resume without a page refresh (thus losing your place in the videos because there’s no history)
…there were no keyboard shortcuts to pause, play, skip back, etc.
…it was $12 more per year if you paid monthly
…sometimes when you skip back while watching on a Roku, it would turn on the closed captions
…if you were watching a TV series, the commercials weren’t cut out, instead replaced with a static image for a several minute duration, like this, repeated over and over again throughout the event:

UFC-TV-commercial-break

I’ve just described UFC Fight Pass, a video streaming service launched in early 2014. Yet for all those cons, there are some great pros:

…it has a huge back catalog of content, perfect for catching up on what you missed
…there’s exclusive content only for Fight Pass subscribers
…if it’s aired anywhere on the planet under the UFC banner, odds are it will be available (though there are some blacked-out events)
…on browser-based playback it has a great timeline view that allows you to jump to specific parts of the event (walk-in, Tale of the Tape, knockouts, etc.)
…it’s available across a wide variety of platforms (Android, iOS, Roku, desktop)
…you’re getting to watch events that usually cost $60 (though a few months later)

*Binge Watching Where It Makes Sense: On the most recent Ultimate Fighter TV series, the winner fought on live TV and was given the belt on December 12th, 2014. Yet the UFC didn’t add the final episode of the season until January 9th…why not put them all up before the live TV event? It saps interest in watching the TV show when you know who has the belt already.

I’ve been a subscriber to UFC Fight Pass for several months now, and I’m fairly happy with the service now that I know all the rough edges I describe above. The inability to pause and resume from a previously watched point is the most painful – it makes it hard to watch an event in short sittings, forcing you to hunker down and watch everything at once. I also have to keep a list in Evernote of which events I’ve watched to keep it all straight.

The other main negative is how long it takes for UFC main cards to become available – as of Jan 18th, the newest UFC available is 178, which aired on September 27th. That’s almost four months of exclusivity, which, while I get the importance of protecting the juicy pay-per-view window, four months seems like an excessive amount of time. I’d guess the vast majority of PPV orders come within 30 days of the event and they drop off rapidly after that. If the UFC wants to keep Fight Pass subscribers happy, they should offer up the fights on day 31.

I’ll keep paying for UFC Fight Pass for now, but I hope the UFC improves the experience, gets rid of the pain points above, and makes it worth the $120 they’re charging per year for it.

How To Speed Up Lightroom 5 JPEG Export by 32%

UPDATE: The good news is that Lightroom CC has addressed this issue. When I do a JPEG export now, it uses up nearly all CPU resources, so much so that my laptop gets a bit unresponsive (which is expected).

LightroomCC-Multi-Threaded-JPEG-output

It all started with one of my customary tweet rants:

adobe-jpeg-export-slow-tweet

I was pointed to a great article written a couple of years ago that involved some great testing and tips for optimizing the JPEG output from Lightroom 2.x (thanks to @MarkusTyphoon for the tip). The main discovery is that Lightroom simply does not fully take advantage of multi-core and multi-threaded CPUs for JPEG exporting. This wasn’t news to me, but the detailed level of testing was impressive, as was the solution for a work-around: use simultaneous export processes.

lightroom-export-selections

I decided to replicate the tests on my own laptop; these files are ~25 MB Nikon D750 raw files being chewed on by an aging Core i7-2667 at 2.4 Ghz on battery power. Here’s what I discovered:

  • Exporting 38 images as a single export batch took 529 seconds
  • Exporting 38 images in three simultaneous batches (14 + 14 + 10 images) took 402 seconds
  • I saw Lightroom CPU usage shoot up from the norm of bouncing between 45% and 85% to lock in around 90% to 98% and stay that high:

lightroom-cpu-usage-three-batch-export

The net result? Exporting the images using multiple processes shaved 32% off the rendering time. That’s huge!

How to do this? Select your first image, then hold the shift key and click on an image 1/3rd of the way through your set. Press CONTROL+SHIFT+E to bring up the export window and start the first JPEG export. Repeat this process three more times with the remaining images, and you should see Lightroom processing three export jobs:

lightroom-three-batch-process-exports

32% faster exports is a significant time saving, especially if you’re exporting a set with several hundred images (which pros do regularly). I’ll likely repeat these tests when I move to a 6-core system later this year (Haswell-E? Broadwell? Skylake? Too many choices!). With more physical cores, there may be an opportunity for more time savings if there are more than three export processes going on simultaneously.

Now if only Lightroom 6 would do something useful like take advantage of GPU acceleration and not feel so damn sluggish all the time…

Blockless Ad Blocker: The FAQ They Missed

Yes, I’m kind of a smart-ass sometimes, but this is really how I feel about ad-blockers. Despite how much I like Blockless (DNS trickery is so much cleaner than a full-blown VPN solution), I won’t be paying for their service. As someone who once made a living off providing content for free, and supported his family off of advertising, I know that ad blocking is theft. It’s just a theft that most people can’t wrap their brains around because there’s no real-world equivalent.

Blockless-Ad-Blocking

UPDATE: To their credit, the community manager at Blockless replied to my email: “As a professional who has sold advertising for over 5 years, currently uses advertising and manages many affiliates of Blockless I have to disagree. Either way you are entitled to your opinion and not sure if you noticed but Ad Blocker does have an off button. Let me know the email attached to your account and I will cancel and unsubscribe you from our service.” If he was on the publisher side, he’d get it.

Why am I scared to blog?

I finished reading Seth Godin’s excellent Linchpin book recently, and I’ve been reading Steven Pressfield’s War of Art. Both books talk about the Resistance. The Resistance has been beating the hell out of me when it comes to blogging here on my site. I have at least ten draft posts that I’ve started – things that I’ve want to write about for months – but I haven’t finished any of them. Here’s Pressfield on overcoming the Resistance:

Why haven’t I been writing? I used to think of myself as a writer – I wrote tech reviews, tech books, and generally spoke up about whatever I was passionate about. Writing comes fairly easily to me. When I started my job at HTC, that all went away. The job was all-consuming, and along with the adjustment of living in a new country (and a second kid), I didn’t have it in me to write from a time or energy perspective. Since leaving HTC though and moving to AT&T, I’ve achieved a better work/life balance and I have both the time and energy to write…if I really wanted to.

What’s been stopping me? There’s that saying that if you name your fears, you’ll gain some power over them. So here’s why I think I haven’t been blogging, written in the form of what the Resistance has been whispering to me:

  • You don’t have a platform of significance to speak from anymore
  • You don’t have a tech site or real community any more, so no one will read what you have to say anyway
  • You’re a has-been in the tech world, so why would anyone care what you have to say about tech?
  • You have nothing worth saying about topics beyond tech anyway, so why bother?
  • You don’t have time; there’s that TV show you wanted to watch, that book you wanted to read, those photos you wanted to edit…

To all of the above reasons, and to the Resistance, I say…shut up! I’m going to blog anyway, about whatever I want. I don’t do it for the approval of others; I do it for myself and to contribute small pieces of knowledge and understanding to the world. Head down, pushing forward, I’m going to blog.

What has the Resistance been saying to you?

I’m Not Quite Dead Yet…

At some point last year I realized I hadn’t posted a single blog entry in a long time…then the rest of 2013 passed. So here I am in 2014, with the sad realization that for the first time since 2006 a whole year went by without a single blog post here. Life has been intense, but I didn’t want to be thinking about the same excuses this time in 2015. So back to the occasional blogging!

Microsoft’s Productivity Vision of the Future

Every technology company has a vision for the future of productivity and interactive computer systems. Above is Microsoft’s. I’d like to live in that world. 🙂

Best Paintball Video Ever? Yes, I Think So…

“In this video for Porter Robinson’s Spitfire, we emulated a videogame style paintball match shot in one take with the Phantom Flex @ 1,000 fps. Dont forget to have a looksy at the chat box ;)”

Porter Robinson // SPITFIRE (aka: CAPTURE THE CAN) from Saman Keshavarz on Vimeo.

A Case of Curious Parking, Curb Your Enthusiasm Style

I don’t know if this is going to be a controversial post or not, but having watched a lot of Curb Your Enthusiasm lately, this odd scenario jumped out at me as if Larry David himself wrote it and I thought it was amusing enough to share.

I was at the Avenue Commercial shareholder’s meeting last week, and I pulled into the parking lot looking for a spot. I was baffled seeing a car parked in front of two spots, completely blocking access to both of them. It was like this person simply didn’t want the hassle of turning their wheel and it was easier to drive straight into the parking lot and stop the car in that spot. I managed to just barley fit into the third spot, and when I got out I was surpried to see a blue handicapped card hanging from the rear view mirror.

I thought to myself “That card gives you the ability to park in special spots near the door, so why pick the middle of the parking lot to stop your car and get out?” I have to wonder how this person justified blocking two parking spots? Perhaps I’m being unfair and there was a reason for this, but for the life of me I can’t think of what it could be. The ultimate irony in all this? On my way to the door I walked past a handicapped parking spot with no one parked in it.

If this really were a Curb Your Enthusiam episode, it would have gone something like this…

Larry David is in a rush and pulls into a parking lot, looking for a parking spot. The only spot available is the handicapped spot, so Larry pulls into it (and it’s a “straight shot spot” where you can pull in coming off the street without needing to turn the wheel), justifying it by saying no handicapped person needs that spot at that very moment. He tells himself he’ll be quick. After his appointment, Larry comes out of the building to find a handicapped woman in a vehicle waiting for him, angry that Larry had taken the spot. Larry gets into a verbal sparring match with this woman, and she yells that she needs the use of this “straight shot spot” because she can’t manoeuvre her full-sized van with a wheelchair ramp into any other spot  in the lot. Larry yells back that if this she can’t park in any spot but this one, she should just pull into the lot and park perpendicular to other vehicles. He insists that he would be totally OK with her doing this. Discussions with Jeff would later ensue about the “Straight Shot Spot”, and Larry would find himself shortly in a situation where, upon his suggestion, the same woman would have parked perpendicular to his vehicle in a different parking lot, blocking him in his spot and causing him problems. Or something like that. 😉

Working with a Resume Professional is Sometimes the Best Choice

As someone who spends a good part of his day writing – blog posts, reviews, editorials, email, etc. – I pride myself on my ability to put words down in a cohesive, effective manner. So you’d think that when it came time to update my resume, it would be an easy task. Not so much. I don’t know if it was the fact that I’ve never been overly comfortable writing about myself, or if it’s that the idea of putting together a resume from scratch was extremely daunting. I hadn’t updated my resume in seven years, so when I looked at it and saw how outdated it was, I wasn’t sure where to start. I toyed with in for more than two months before accepting the fact that I needed help getting it done. Yes, there was a strong case of denial at work – and while I was initially reluctant to spend money on having someone help me write my resume, I finally accepted that it was the best approach.

I did a quick Google search for “resume writing” and saw an ad by Resume Lifesaver, a.k.a. Sarah Wright, and clicked on it. I found Sarah’s costs to be reasonable, her response time consistent, and she was an absolute pleasure to deal with – especially since I was an uncooperative client, often taking weeks to respond to her at the beginning. She also took the time to have a phone call with me to learn about what I wanted my resume to communicate. There’s something I find profoundly unpleasant about working on my resume, and she was patient with me while I slowly convinced myself to finally tackle this project.

If you’re looking for someone to help you write a new resume from scratch, update an old resume, or re-work your current resume for a new job, I can recommend Sarah Wright and Resume Lifesaver without reservation.

And here’s a tip: once you get your new resume, update it a couple of times a year with significant accomplishments and career milestones. Don’t worry about it getting a bit long – you can trim out the unnecessary stuff when it comes time to share it. You’d be surprised at how easily you forget some of this stuff if you don’t write it down!