Submitted by brad on Sat, 2005-02-26 03:16.
Ok, I don't publish too many of my telecom ideas here since I am working on revolutionizing the phone call for my next business, but here's a simple one.
If you have a large carrier voice mail, such as the voice mail for a wireless company, you should notice if I call somebody and they are not simply busy, but in the act of leaving a voice mail for me. If so, you should break into their voice mail dialog and connect us.
Right now a common occurance is this. Somebody calls, you can't quite get to your phone, so it stops ringing and goes to your voice mail. But there on the phone is the caller-ID. You call them back, and you get their voice mail right away. Why? Because they are leaving you the voice mail from the failed call.
Similar thing when a call disconnects. Who has the duty of calling back. Often we both call back and we both get voice mails or busy signals. While one could develop an ethos (original caller calls back) we've never managed, so the tech could help us.
Easiest when we are both on the same carrier, but in fact this could be done in any tightly integrated carrier voice mail, though you do have to be careful about PBX lines in this case because you might be calling from or to a shared trunk.
Submitted by brad on Wed, 2005-02-23 06:23.
Ok, it's strange because I think one of the whole points of the hard disk video recorder / PVR is that you are not supposed to watch live TV any more, not supposed to channel surf -- but I keep coming up with ideas relating to it. Maybe I have a secret desire to surf again.
As many people know, with digital recording, the no-surf rule is enforced because it's harder to do. The digital delay introduces a long channel change delay, intolerable when combined with another delay (satellite/cable box).
Here's a surfing algorithm that could give instant channel change. Surf slightly delayed TV. It works particularly well if the box has multiple tuners.
Using the spare tuner, grab short snippets of every other show that's on right now, or at least everything in the surf list/favourite channels. Just a few seconds of each. As available, update these snippets, with focus on the adjacent channels. If the program changes, you need to grab a new snippet as you must always have the current program.
When the viewer wants to surf, surf not the current live TV but the saved snippets, which will be anwhere from a few seconds to a few minutes old. You will be able to move through them instantly, like the old instant-channel change from an analog TV. You will see the program guide info as well, but the visual clues that we draw upon in surfing will still work fine.
If the user dwells on a channel for longer than the usual surf interval, you will switch the tuner to that channel. You will need to do a nice graphic transition from the surf buffer to the live TV.
Now admittedly, that will sometimes frustrate. It may be the particular scene that attracts your interest -- the bad guy is holding a gun on the good guy, about to shoot, and suddenly it disolves to something a minute later. However, the alternative, which is what we currently get, is that you get black screen for 3 seconds, and then it shows you the later (live) scene. Instead of black screen you get some sample video from an earlier time in the show. The key thing is that the viewer should be aware they are surfing old snippets.
One could also keep snippets of varying lengths from different times, depending on the surfing speed desired. Though usually you would play the longest. You could also develop "smart snippets" which tried to grab the action after coming back from the first commercial break etc. (Problem is those happen on a lot of stations at once.) read more »
Submitted by brad on Mon, 2005-02-21 12:34.
In writing an essay I'm working on about why hard disk video recorders are as novel as they are, I explored a concept I think is worthy of its own blog entry. This is the concept of Telepathic User Interface or TUI.
A TUI is a user interface that you use so much that it becomes unconscious. Perhaps the classic TUI is touch typewriter keyboard. I just think letters and they simply come out. I am no longer consious of the mechanism. In many cases I think sets of letters and even words and they just come out. From the mind to the computer -- telepathic.
Other examples include the car. After you drive a car for a while it becomes an extension of yourself. Learning the clutch is hard but soon you are not thinking about it at all. And the remote control on a Tivo, I write in the essay, has aspects of a TUI -- you learn how to move around a program without thinking.
A TUI is not always a natural interface or even a good interface. It's just one you use often enough to make it subconsious. It doesn't have to be intuitive -- an intuitive interface is simply one that's easy to guess the operation of.
When it comes to computer software, this helps us understand the dichotomy between the GUI/WIMP style and the command line and keyboard style which still has many devotees.
GUI interfaces are easy to learn, and easy to guess. And of course for positional inputs they are markedly superior and often the only choice. But by and large, the story of Mice and Menus took a path away from the TUI. You have to focus your eyes on the pointer in order to use a GUI, and you have to read to use a menu. It's much more difficult to use such a system unconsiously. (Mouse gesture interfaces change that a bit.)
Fans of text editors like VI and Emacs, with complex, non-intuitive keyboard interfaces love them because they have reached TUI state, at least in part. Many of the operations have become unconsious, and thus much faster and easier as far as the user is concerned.
Command line interfaces are never completely TUI, but they take advantage of the TUI nature of touch-typing. Because touch typing maps words from brain to screen, complex commands can have a fair bit of TUI to them.
It is a rare technology that can earn a TUI. You need to be using it a great deal, and regularly. Video games also develop TUIs because of their devotion. And while it doesn't seem to matter how intuitive the interface is, since many users will never attain the TUI state with a program, that's no excuse for trying to be more intuitive and easy to handle.
On the other hand, programs that don't provide keyboard shortcuts and other muscle-memory schemes for doing things will never develop a TUI, no matter how heavily used they are. Who changes a font in the Excel spreadsheet without being conscious of all the steps they are taking?
Submitted by brad on Thu, 2005-02-17 07:24.
You'll recall an earlier post about the Silicon Valley 100 and getting stuff for free. I promised I had something to say about toilets anyway, so I will describe my experience with the Swash I was given as well as the Daelim Cleanlet which I bought a few years ago.
If you've gone to Japan, you have probably seen these fancy high-tech toilet seats, which try for a bit of bidet function in a seat. Their prime function is to have a heated water reservoir and a little wand that comes out to squirt water at what the Daelim manual calls the "personal area" and the "feminine area." They also tend to heat the seat, and make it descend slowly so it doesn't make a noise when you put it down. Both of these also have the optional feature of fan to blow heated air to dry your personal or feminine area.
I've got these two units, and I have tried various others in Japan. None of them can really compete with the water flow and cleaning ability of a real bidet, but most people don't have the space in their bathrooms for one of those. I was going to suggest the slogan "Every asshole needs one" but I don't think they are likely to use it.
These bidet-seats are about the only high-tech toilet invention to get a decent market, which is surprising because if you ask the patent office, toilet inventions are among the most common patent applications. I guess people spend a lot of time on toilets with nothing else to think about. read more »
Submitted by brad on Wed, 2005-02-16 11:35.
Earlier, I wrote some proposals for improving ebay style feedback, including not having feedback revealed until both have left it. That has some flaws, but the main reason eBay is unlikely to do this is that eBay likes feedback to be positive, they want to convince buyers it is safe to shop there.
So here’s an alternate idea to prevent revenge feedback. Revenge feedback is only vaguely in eBay’s interests, in that the fear of it keeps feedback positive, but the existence of it adds to the negatives.
To solve this, attempt to detect revenge feedback and print statistics on it. What would be detected is negative feedback left by a seller on a buyer after the buyer has left negative feedback, but not if the buyer left this feedback immediately.
In theory the buyer has just one duty — to pay promptly. Indeed, since eBay owns PayPal they could also just report about buyers whether they paid promptly with PP and that should be all you need to know. Sellers might want to tag a “troublesome buyer” who has a lot of complaints after getting the item but I think that’s in an entirely different class of feedback anyway.
So really, a seller should leave feedback once the buyer has paid, and negative feedback only if the buyer pays slowly, pays falsely or doesn’t contact the seller.
Under my system above, if the seller waits to give feedback, in particular waits until after the buyer gives feedback, she’s taking a risk that her own negative feedback will get counted in the revenge count. And a high revenge count will scare away deals, deservedly.
More simply, the system could also just count how often the feedback came in the expected order (Seller’s first, then Buyer’s) and how often the other way around. This would strongly encourage sellers to feedback first. You would see when bidding that a seller always or rarely feedbacks on payment, and again, stay away from those who don’t.
Now admittedly, with the fear of revenge feedback gone, buyers would be more honest, and reputations would drop a bit. eBay might still want to avoid this, but with luck it would not be a big change.
Updated thoughts: It may be time for a 3rd party company to begin offering more detailed reputation information. Since eBay has stopped robots it doesn’t like, this would have to be on-client software which extracts results of transactions from eBay to another database that a browser add-on (like ShortShip) can display. All the useful information could be stored — feedback order, possible revenges, feedback based on dollar volume etc. Counting no-feedback transactions is harder and probably requires a blockable spidering operation or some complex shared network. To this one could add more feedback done outside of ebay, including revenge claims and full text stories that eBay doesn’t allow in feedback comments.
Useful hint: eBay doesn’t allow URLs in feedback, but if you invent a random string you can put ‘Search for randomstring’ in the feedback comment, and make a web page with that string in it that Google and the rest will find. Then people wanting to know more than 80 characters can learn it. Of course, the other party can also make a web page with that string so searchers see both sides, which is fine. A good non-random string might be something like eBay followed by the item number, as in ‘eBay130064299000’ — in fact, if such a method became common you could search for it without even needing it in the feedback.
Submitted by brad on Tue, 2005-02-15 07:31.
I notice from this chart in advertising age (which requires an annoying complex if free registration form) that there's been a giant jump in the CPM (cost per thousand viewers) of a 30 second Superbowl ad. From 1968 to 1998 it hovered close to $10 in constant dollars -- or about a penny per impression.
Then there's a big jump (thanks in part to Fox and the dot-com boom) and now it's up to $25. But they're still paying, even though the $10 figure is more common for regular TV.
As I have noted elsewhere, part of the revolt against TV advertising is that it's a terrible deal for the viewer. They get a penny (2.5 cents in the superbowl) to show you an ad. So if you watch a full hour of ads (ie. almost 4 hours of TV) you get in return $1.20 worth of programming (wholesale price.) $1.20/hour is an illegally low wage. Even with superbowl ads it's still below minimum wage but we watch them because they are more entertaining.
This increase I think comes from several factors. First of all these ads have a cachet -- the fact that you advertised in the superbowl expands your reputation more than an ordinary ad does.
But mostly, because these ads have a reputation for being above average and less repetitive, many go out of their way to see them rather than go out of their way to avoid them. And that certainly seems to be worth the premium. It is another pointer to the prediction I made earlier this week that we might eventually see TV shows that demand better quality from their advertisers.
That pays off because if all the ads on a show are filtered for how useful or entertaining they are, it improves the odds the viewer will watch all of them. Google surprised everybody by demanding that its adwords customers do good ads that get clicked on. The idea of a publisher refusing an advertisers money was shocking (though it makes perfect sense here, because they are charging per click, and if you aren't getting clicks, they aren't getting good revenue from their space -- effectively enforcing a CPM while calling it pay per click.)
I keep waiting for adcritic to return using bittorrent.
Submitted by brad on Mon, 2005-02-14 19:16.
I've disabled the trackback feature that allows other blogs to tell this blog they have pointed to it. It's being abused by spammers. Unlike comments, which can have a little turing test on them, trackback needs to be automatic to work, so it's a lot harder to protect against spam except through complex blacklists etc.
I'll see people who link to me in my weekly referer logs. I wrote a nice script that keeps track of all referers, and figures out which ones are new, and which ones suddenly brought in a lot of traffic, and I have it generating a summary once a week. I should release it some day...
Submitted by brad on Sun, 2005-02-13 08:33.
Many people have old, low resolution digital cameras lying around from the previous generation. Here's a good use to put them to, particularly if you have a housekeeper.
When somebody needs to put something away, and they don't know where you like it to go and have to figure out where, have them pull out the old digital camera and take a picture of the item and a picture of where it was put.
Then every so often you can pull out the images into an online folder, ideally with a thumbnail browser.
Even though the camera is probably low res, like a megapixel, you probably want to set it to an even lower res to get a ton of photos on it.
As your memory fades in later life, you might even find this handy to do for yourself. You could just organize your stuff so everything is in an obvious place, or just take photos of all your things where they are. Good for insurance purposes, too. It won't work for the car keys or glasses, but it might work for some stuff.
Submitted by brad on Wed, 2005-02-09 08:13.
For the third year in a row, I held a "superbowl commercials" party. In this case, we used MythTV to record the game in HDTV for a while, then sat down to fast forward through the football and slow down to watch the commercials.
I've written a page about the Superbowl Commercials Party here, including fun stories from the party and a bit about the MythTV software that did the recording and playback on two different floors in HDTV.
Also included is a discussion of how the equipment I used will become illegal in just a few months, and what we're doing to try and stop that. It's an interesting lesson in how regulation can stop innovation and what's really happening in the future of TV.
Submitted by brad on Fri, 2005-02-04 11:30.
Here's a simple though not too exciting idea. Make bells for cat collars in different pitches. Thus you can always know which cat is coming just by sound.
Submitted by brad on Sat, 2005-01-29 14:46.
One thing I've noticed when you get a TV broadcast that has 5-channel sound, it that you get the voices on the center channel. Particularly with things like voice-overs, sportscasters etc. If you can mute the center channel, you can watch a game, for example, with no commentators.
But sometimes you do want to hear what they said, if there is something on the field you don't understand. If you have a PVR, you can rewind and turn on the center channel audio (though rarely is there a good UI to do this) but here's another idea.
If the center channel is muted, offer a button that shrinks the display and puts up the last minute or two of history of the closed captions. Of course if there are already bars on the screen use those to display this. You can read quickly (let one of the scrolling controls let you move around) and figure out what was going on, faster than you could through replaying.
Submitted by brad on Fri, 2005-01-28 10:31.
You may have run into the story of a fireman charged with burning down his own home. They charged him because his Safeway Club card records showed he had purchased the type of firestarter that was used in the arson on his house.
Sounds like a good case? Problem is somebody else confessed to the arson. He's now a free man.
People often wonder why privacy advocates get up in arms about things like the Safeway database. I mean, how can it harm you, especially if you're not doing anything suspicious?
The problem is that police are attracted to the evidence that is easy to find. But when databases become more and more comprehensive, the chance that they will contain something interesting grows.
In an old-time investigation, finding receipts for the firestarters would be a major clue, and mind convict somebody. That's because searches of what you bought weren't so easy. If you bought the very tool used in the crime, and it was prominent enough that they found it, it looked bad for you.
But the cops aren't aware they are falling into one of the traps of bad science. When you have a lot of data, you can always find something that matches what you are looking for. When you find it, your intuition tells you "this is too strange to be coincidence." But in fact math tells us that it is. That's why you must never start with the conclusion and dig around in a big pool of data looking for evidence of your conclusion. Good scientists have known not to do this for years. Cops haven't.
Submitted by brad on Tue, 2005-01-25 17:43.
I love hard disk video recorders because they surprised me by being much more than super-fancy VCRs. They changed the nature of the way people watched TV in ways I didn't expect.
Now I've been working with MythTV which is an open source PVR. I have a new program in development, and if any of the readers out there are using MythTV I wouldn't mind some folks to test it out before I announce it to the Myth community.
This program does many things, including two things that I think could change the nature of how TV is chosen.
The system, called TVWish is in general a wishlist program. It lets you build large lists of TV you're looking to see. If the shows you want come on anywhere on your TV schedule, even years later, it will record them.
For example, I have gathered a list of hundreds of top movies, trimmed to what I have not seen and put it in my wishlist. Now if one of those movies shows up, I will see it. Reminds one of netflix perhaps.
The two big changes however are not this, though it's handy.
First, you can import your wishlist from a web URL. That lets you trust somebody else to program what TV your box will record. I call this a "critic" function because you could name the URL of a TV critic who recommends shows. I anticpate one day the same critics who get advanced tapes of shows and write newspaper columns about tonight's TV might create a list so that your box records it.
But it can mean much more than this. A "critic" can be a friend who recommends shows to you. It can be people on the east coast telling west coasters what was good in the lineup. It can be thousands of fans watching shows and rating them on their remote control, causing people to record and not record shows that night or in reruns. It can be people amalgamating the opinions of viewers and professional critics to redirect how you hear about TV.
The second element reflects something I wrote about before in my essays on the future of TV. I now call it Abridging a TV Series
Here, you take a series that is in reruns or syndication. You get a list of the episodes, ranked in order of quality. You put this list into my program and set a quality level. And you only watch the best. You skip the turkeys. Life is too short to watch bad TV. Already many TV show fan sites have episode lists with ratings, either critical or based on fan votes. I've been using these lists to manually abridge series and it's amazingly producitve. A mediocre series turns into a shorter, excellent one. read more »
Submitted by brad on Mon, 2005-01-24 09:21.
In spite of all sorts of efforts, I remain amazed at how many cables still go in and out of my PC. My home theatre PC, which I recently wanted to take somewhere, had me unplugging power, ether, audio, digital audio/SPDIF, keyboard, mouse, cable in, video out and a serial cable providing PPP to the old Tivo. It could easily have had another video, USB devices like a printer and more.
How about 2 wires into the next generation PC, or failing that 3. Power (no way around that yet) and 10 gigabit optical fiber. Ok, so we're not quite ready to run our HDTV video display (which needs over 3 gigabits for 2MP) on the ethernet, though we could quite often get away with it for everything but gaming if the display device had an X server with video decoders in it. So let's accept the 3rd cable as the video cable.
We made a mistake going to dedicated protocol wires like usb and firewire. Hard to say it's a mistake since it's so much better than what we had before, but I think IP is better. Instead, we could have built small hub boxes that have the power and the ethernet (gigabit now), into which small peripherals that need power like keyboards, mice and such would be plugged. Of course printers and other devices that already have their own external power would just need the ethernet.
Or, to extend an idea I pushed last year in the blog, a universal DC power system would be developed where data was exchanged (on minimal 5v power) to tell the power supply what to provide before the full power came on. Then you would buy blocks with the data and more sophisticated and powerful switching supplies which could run the devices we currently have 20 bricks and wallwarts to power -- routers, scanners, phones, external drives etc.
Of course, where it made sense we could even drop the ether part and have wireless, though we still need the power of course except for the lowest power intermittent devices that can have batteries.
It's amazing how many wires snake out of my desk, and even more out the back of my audio/video shelf. Sure would be nice if it could be a lot fewer.
Submitted by brad on Sat, 2005-01-22 08:36.
Dan Gilmor notes that he is concerned about a new program called the “Silicon Valley 100” in which a marketing company identified 100 influentical silicon valley folks with plans to give us stuff in the hope of generating buzz. Dan worries whether people will disclose they got the stuff for free as part of this venture.
I certainly never had any thought of keeping it secret, and having my name in Newsweek certainly wouldn’t make it easy to do so. Slashdot called it an “elitist club” but in fact, all it amounted to for me was getting an E-mail from Auren Hoffman asking if I could be put on the list and if I would mind being sent free stuff with no strings attached.
I actually at first wondered if it was a particularly clever phishing attempt. My brain is trained to be wary at notes from strangers saying, “We’ll send you lots of free suff, just give us your address.” :-) Back at the dawn of the internet, my e-mail address got put in a book called “E-mail addresses of the rich and famous.” I was flattered for about 10 seconds until I saw all the bizarre spam I ended up getting because of it.
But I couldn’t see any reason not to let them send me the stuff. My opinion certainly can’t be bought so easily, and most of the people on the list are well off enough that the same applies.
So while I was planning on disclosing the background — I am naturally skeptical and assume the people I talk to should be as well — I don’t even really have Dan’s reservations about those who don’t go out of their way to disclose this. As he says, the press get most of the stuff they review for free and it’s just assumed. (To the credit of his arguments, this is not true of Consumer Reports, which is indeed very high integrity.)
Will this program get us to talk about products we would not have gone out and bought on our own, or talked about if we did buy them? Quite possibly. I just don’t see it as so sinister, or novel. So, once I figured it wasn’t a phishing scheme, I said I would give it a whorl.
And oh yeah, I’m taking the toilet seat for a second bathroom, because I already have a different brand in my master bathroom, and think in general they’re cool. No idea about the one they’re sending yet. Now whether Hoffman will get people to blog about their hemorrhoid problems is a different question.
Submitted by brad on Tue, 2005-01-11 18:55.
You see it everywhere -- signs on buildings where a light has gone out. It is often amusing where a missing letter changes the name of the company in some silly way.
They spend fortunes on these signs, but bulbs are hard to replace. So why don't they make them with a special unit that has sockets for 2 bulbs, and switches over to the backup when the first one burns out? It's not actually that much more expensive, as you are going to pay for the 2nd bulb eventually (especially incandescent) though here you pay for it earlier.
To get fancy, you want a way for it to tell somebody that a bulb went out. A small data over power chip could constantly squirt simple low-data-rate packets down the power line, "I have a bulb that went out!" Something like the x10 protocol, which can be transmitted by a chip that costs pennies.
Could use that protocol for remote turn on/off as well if you wanted. You would wait for a few bulbs to go out before sending a worker out to replace them. That worker costs more than the spare bulb anyway.
Submitted by brad on Thu, 2005-01-06 06:44.
When you go out hiking and photographing, carrying a tripod can be too much, even my lovely carbon-fiber one. Besides, you want a good hiking stick on a hike anyway, you exercise more of your body. And most hiking sticks have a small tripod screw in them to use as a camera mount.
But here's a plan to make an all-out monopod/hiking stick kit to do a lot more than you can do with just the basic stick.
First, like many sticks, you want a spike end you can stick in the ground with an rubber cap you can put on it. Some monopods have tiny tripod legs that come out of the base that can be used for a light camera on level ground, which is also useful.
However, my alternate proposal takes longer to set up but would be more stable -- guy wires. In this case some retractable strong wires that can be pulled out from near the top of the stick. On the end of the wires you would find, or could attach a means to loop the wire around something (nearby tree, railing) and ratchet to pull tight the wire. You would also have a set of fine ground spikes that could be staked in soft ground and connected to the wire loop, then ratcheted tight. Finally, you cold put weights on the wires, such as rocks, your other gear or a person's foot in a pinch.
The result could be a moderately stable platform, on which you would put your ball head, or in my case panoramic head. Of course weights or thin stakes would not resist a hard shove (though being tied around railings and trees might) but it should be able to handle a fairly heavy camera, since it is the main pole which does that job.
And of course it would all collapse into something 19" long to go in your suitcase. Though you probably couldn't have the stakes in carry-on luggage.
Submitted by brad on Tue, 2005-01-04 05:51.
When you get an ant infestation here in California, you need to make sure your kitchen is clean with nothing to attact them. But if you have pet food out, they will find it.
In theory, ants won't crawl over some materials like vaseline. But if you coat the bowl rim with vaseline, it will get in the pet's hair.
So I suggest a wide pet bowl with a deep and large groove near the base which you can squirt something like vaseline into. It must be wide enough that ants can't do the living bridge trick to cross it, and deep enough that pet hair won't get into the vaseline. That stuff should stay around for quite some time before needing a refill, though if you dishwash the bowl, you will lose it.
Submitted by brad on Sun, 2005-01-02 12:08.
Just back from the nightmare of holiday travel, which started at 5:30am on Christmas morning and a security line snaking all the way to baggage claim. Coming back 6 days later, I braved the door to door shuttles from the airport.
I generally regret the decision to use these shuttles, which seem to average about 1 hour 30 minutes for the 35 minute drive to my home from SFO. This time, they had 10 people waiting for my town (which would normally be a dream as you would not spend all that time wanding around closer towns dropping off earlier folks) but in fact after we saw others had waited an hour for any shuttle to show up, we went to the caltrain, which takes an hour for the trip but is predictable.
The curse of these shuttles is how unpredictable they are. For some they are a quick trip but often they will drive you many times around the airport waiting for passengers, and then on an unpredictable drive. The public hates unpredictability even more than slowness, and would pay for predictability, I think.
So can computers, and some common sense, fix this? Surely you could make reservations which tie your flight number into the database so the shuttle company sees your plane arrive and knows pretty accurately when you will make the curb. (You can confirm that with a cell phone speed dial if your cell number is registered.) If lots of people did this, you could know how quickly a large enough group of people who live close together would be ready to leave. read more »
Submitted by brad on Wed, 2004-12-15 06:33.
As I continue to play with HDTV, I found I had a horrendous time getting good output from my computer running the MythTV open source PVR into my TV. DVI, the uncompressed digital standard, just wouldn't work from the video card I had to the TV. The TV has Firewire/1394, which would allow me to stream mpeg-2 to it, and that would be really great, but as yet no software supports it because few TVs have such inputs.
Here's another idea, one that reverses old thinking. The earliest VCRs did their outut on an RF modulator to channel 3, the only way to get into older TVs. Now we of course recommend non-RF methods, such as composite video, S-video or best of all component video/VGA, or in the digital realm, DVI and HDMI.
But in fact with TVs being mandated to have ATSC tuners, could it make sense to go back to RF? This gives digital decoding in the TV, in theory the highest quality if the TV has a good decoder. The cables are easy and super cheap, and carry digital video and 6 channel sound -- something even DVI doesn't do. You can run them as long as you want.
Plus, you can have tons of multiple inputs, just on different channels. Put your cable box on channel 3, your PVR on channel 4, DVD player on channel 5 and so on -- no need for the plethora of inputs and mass of cables.
(Don't get me wrong, I think a single ethernet jack would be better than any of these methods, but the TVs don't have them and they do have the tuners now.)
There is one big issue, however, which is on-screen display and comptuer generated menus. The RF sends a compressed mpeg stream. On the
surface, that's great because the boxes handling the video can be slow and
cheap -- they are just slinging bits they don't understand. But once you want
to overlay text on the video, you suddenly have to decode the stream (hard enough) and then re-encode it, which is close to impossible with today's hardware. On the other hand, it should be possible to do non-transparent overlays, where you take over a region of the screen (perhaps the bottom is easiest) and replace it with your generated text.
The ideal solution to this would be to modify the protocols to allow sending a second stream to be overlayed, with an alpha channel, on the main one. This is true no matter how you send compressed video -- RF, ethernet or firewire. However, we don't get to change the protocols, the idea here is to make use of something already out there.
Generating Mpeg from computer menu displays on the other hand is something that should be within the capabilities of today's CPUs. They can do it at smaller resolution (720x480 DVD res is fine) but more to the point unless there are fancy animations, it's static and machine generated and easy to set up for quick conversion.
There's no encryption, which might cause pressure to balk at this but it has a lot of advantages worth considering as kludges go.