Coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics

Living in Canada we are very lucky with the quality of the Olympics coverage on television. CBC in the past and now CTV have done a great job of covering a lot of the events live. Our southern neighbours have not been so lucky, with NBC showing most coverage off tape and only during prime time. This means that alternatives for those Olympic fanatics has become very important.

Both CTV and NBC have introduced special websites for the Olympics, that have been streaming lots of events live. Both sites have news, photo galleries, videos and lots of background information on events and athletes. CTV’s Olympics site has a handy schedule on the right hand side showing which TV channels are showing events live. The quality of the online live video streaming has been good from the CTV website.

Kudos to VANOC for the quality of the main Vancouver 2010 Olympics website. Featuring a nice design with lots of useful features, my favourite being the schedule and results page. This page provides a quick snapshot of what events are coming up next and results from finished events. The site features live converge of results which works OK. This is not video but shows graphics of what is happening and detailed results of times (split and final). I think this idea is great, good for people at work who want to follow along but don’t want to be caught watching a live video feed. It seems to have a few glitches, but so far updates seem close to real time. It would be great to see this idea improved upon, I think adding some indication between races to indicate what is going on next would help.

On the TV side the HD quality has been great. The sound of the crowd with the surround sound really creates a live feel. The slow motion replays really give you a detailed look at the forces applied to the competitors’ bodies. The video overlay showing the difference between competitors is really cool, this idea may have come from car racing computer games, it is crazy to see how just a small difference around one ski gate can cause a huge difference in speed.

On Bell TV they have again done the single channel that shows 6 channels at one time. Great if you are trying to watch more then one event at a time. You can select which channels audio is being played by moving the selector box. Also on Bell there are now 5 Olympic HD channels that are showing the live raw feed from up to 5 venues at the same time. No commentary, no annoying commercials, just pure sports coverage. This has been great for watching events that aren’t being picked up by the main channels.

Mobile coverage of the Olympics has certainly improved. Both NBC and CTV have apps for the iPhone/iPod touch which a very good for keeping track of results and medal accounts. Also VANOC has put out an amazing app, mostly for those people at the games, schedule, results and maps. Two features it has that are well thought out is using your location it adjust event start times to your local time and the same live results that the main VANOC site supports.

If anyone else has found something worth checking out leave a description and link in the comments.

Google Analytics Dashboard

Google Analytics is an amazingly useful tool for website owners. The information and insight into your website that can be gleaned from the loads of data gathered is stunning. The problem can be how to get a quick snapshot of how a site is doing without clicking on the many sub pages. The dashboard is the ideal location for this but by default the dashboard is setup with to much repetitive information, that misses what you really are interested in. So here is my suggest list of dashboard items.

  • Site Usage Overview (default dashboard item) – this gives a quick overview of the site
  • New vs Returning – shows the number of new vs returning visitors to the site, good for quickly determining if you are developing a following
  • Map Overlay – quick visual guide of where visitors are surfing from
  • Content Overview (default dashboard item) – this shows you which pages by URL that are most popular
  • Content by Title – this gives similar information to the one above but give you the page title
  • Traffic Sources Overview (default dashboard item) – this shows you how people are getting to your site
  • Referring Sites – gives a breakdown of visitors from top referring sites
  • Keywords – list of top keywords visitors searched on to find your site
  • AdSense Overview – only available if you have linked your adsense account, give total income per day

You can add them to your dashboard by going to each corresponding page and clicking on the Add to Dashboard button. Do this for each dashboard item I listed and you will now have a quick overview of your site.

TeamViewer to the Rescue

I get a fair number of requests from friends and family to help with computer issues. Doing this over the phone can be a long exercise in frustration. If only you could just reach through the phone, grab the mouse and show the person how. Sure there are lots of choices for remote access, but none are as easy to get installed on a remote machine as TeamViewer.

Here is the process. Get the person you are trying to help to the TeamViewer site. Get them to click on the Join Session button. This will download to their machine a .exe file that runs the basic version of TeamViewer. Now have them run the program. The program will bring up a window with a session ID code listed. Now on your machine download and run the full version of TeamViewer. Enter the remote users code into your machine and you will now be able to view or control their machine. The beauty is that this works across different OSs and even through firewalls and home networks. But that is still not the best part, what is the cost for all this wonderful technology? FREE

Quick tip, if you are setting up a machine for someone, and expect a few support calls, then why not go ahead an install the TeamViewer basic. Just remember to put the shortcut to launch it somewhere you will remember. (Right on the middle of the desktop?)

Thanks to the TeamViewer makers for putting out an easy to use product, that will save volunteer (voluntold) computer support people hours of hair pulling frustration.

2009 Jamas Software Awards

What are the Jamas Software Awards? Well it’s my somewhat lame attempt at showing some appreciation to the developers of software that makes my life easier. My goal for 2009 was to give out $100 is $10 chunks. Not much but a token. The sad part is that this year I only got around to doing this twice. I will try harder in 2010. So here are the recipients for 2009.

The Bank ShowPitch Dark Theme – Tim is the designer behind the Pith Dark themes for Firefox and Thunderbird. He has done a great job of creating a dark theme that is easy to read. I work all day in front of a computer and a few hours in the evening, which makes for some tired eyes. One thing that helps me is reducing the amount of white space on the screen, I think it is the equivalent to snow blindness.

DD-WRT – This project replaces the firmware on your home router with an open source version that has new features. I discovered it late one night as I desperately tried to recover my Linksys WRT54G router that suddenly refused to connect to the internet. After trying every trick I could think of I called Linksys support line. They wanted $30 dollars to help, which is not much under the cost of a new router. The DR-WRT firmware has been running for several months now without any the same issues I was having with the default Linksys firmware. I have yet to really use the advanced features.

NRC – Dimensions

The NRC, National Research Council of Canad, has just kicked off its new online magazine, Dimensions,  to highlight the work they do.   It provides some interesting insight into the work that is going on in Canada’s R&D community. The NRC employees 4000+ people across Canada, including over its history 10 nobel prize winners.  It works closely with universities and industry to further advance science in Canada and around the world.  The NRC has and continues to carry out very important research, I hope you will take the time to learn more in their new magazine.