Chromecast + Hola = Multimedia freedom

How many times have you tried to access online media that was not available in your country? How many times have you gotten frustrated with proxy services?

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How many times have you wished there was an easy way to wirelessly display online content on your TV without paying for expensive privative boxes?

Enter Hola.org + Chromecast

Hola is a free browser extension used by 14 million people to access geographically restricted online media.

Google’s Chromecast is a $35 TV HDMI USB powered dongle that is extremely easy to set up and use. Coupled with apps (from Netflix to Hulu, Pandora to AllCast, Plex to Songza), you can play, not “stream”, all kinds of online multimedia on your TV.

Now, when I travel internationally and I want to see a Netflix movie, which I paid for with my subscription, I don’t have to take Netflix’s ridiculous geographical restriction (or TVE outside Spain, BBC outside UK, or just about anything inside China…), I just use Hola and access it, then connect to the Chromecast that I have plugged into my hotel’s TV and voilà!

UPDATE: Here are some other alternatives.

Invited to the inaugural cruise of Norwegian Getaway

My wife and I were invited to the inaugural cruise for the Norwegian Getaway. A “sister ship” to the Norwegian Breakaway, in which inaugural we cruised last year, this ship is almost exactly identical. 

We enjoyed fine dining at Le Bistro, Taste, and The Tropicana, cocktails and music at Bliss, and particularly entertainment:

  • Comedian Ralph Harris at the Headliners Comedy Club 
  • Burn the Floor the musical
  • Illusionarium, a pretty good steam-punk themed magic show with dinner
  • Buddy Valastro (Cake Boss) live cake decorating session

The return to port and docking gave us a nice view of Manhattan’s skyline, along with the scary view of the Hudson river with big chunks of ice (locals say that was unseen since 1977). Now back to ice cold New York. 

A couple of days in the French Riviera

Last week I spent a couple of days working with a colleague at the IBM Innovation Center in La Gaude, France. 

Brainstorming sessions, beautiful sunsets and sunrises from my hotel room balcony overlooking the Mediterranean at the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, a couple of nice dinners (one with my parents at the excellent Le Mesclum the other one with the team at Le Moorea, right in the port of St-Laurent-du-Var) and back to New York.

Invited to the introduction of IBM Watson at WTC NY

On Wednesday January 8th I was asked to hold a meeting regarding the potential involvement of my company (Kanteron Systems) in IBM’s Watson. It was a late night meeting, on the 54th floor of the still under construction World Trade Center. The reason why the meeting took place there is because the IBM team was finishing the set up of the next day’s Watson presentation.

What is Watson, you may ask? Watson is basically one of the biggest revolutions in computing in History. 

The next morning I was invited to the event, along with a short group of journalists, partners and VIPs. After the delicious breakfast and the required hand shaking round, Virginia (Ginny) Rometty, Chariman, President and CEO of IBM, introduced Watson: a new era of computing. Cognitive computing with natural language processing. The previous eras have been “tabulating” and “programming”. Like Dr. Banavar, VP of Cognitive Computing at IBM likes to say: “we have gone from Von Neuman machines to NeuroSynaptic systems”.

In order to understand the historical significance of the announcement, keep in mind that IBM has only created 4 new divisions in recent history: “Mainframe” in the 60’s, “PC” in the 80’s, “Global Services” in the 90’s, and now “Watson”, which is to be headquartered at 54 Astor Place, New York (a few blocks from my apartment and my office), and led by Michael Rhodin, who personally gave me the IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences Beacon Award in Las Vegas last year.

Watson explores, reasons and visualizes, understands natural language, generates and evaluates hypotheses (this process can be evaluated, which is crucial), adapts and learns. This is BIG. And the fact that IBM is dedicating 1/3 of all its researchers to Watson, proves their commitment. 

Why is this needed? Because today 2.5 BILLION GB of data is created every day, and 80% of it is unstructured.

Travel agents cannot search over 64 million online local businesses reviews, over 15 million forums and blog posts, 7 thousand travel guides, and 1,291 air carrier websites for each customer request. But Watson can, and does.

Like Dr. Baselga, Physician-in-chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told me: 20 years ago there were 4 cancer treatments, today there are over 80, and currently over 800 are being studied. And how do you keep abreast of the more than 5,000 biomedical articles published every month? If you add to that what Dr. Graham, Chief Innovation Officer at Cleveland Clinic, pointed out “medical information doubles every 5 years”, then we have a situation that is getting out of control, and leads to what Jay Katzen, President of Clinical Solutions at Elsevier quoted: preventable medical errors are the 3rd cause of death in the USA (400,000 people every year).

It saddens me that very well respected media outlets like The Wall Street Journal or Business Week do not get it. Their coverage of the announcement was extremely short sighted. But keep an eye on IBM and Watson, because it is going to change the world as we know it, and it is going to happen very quickly. 

Being invited and evaluated to be part of that revolution, having a chance to contribute to the “Hourglass” project to teach Watson to “read and understand medical images” is not only an honor for Kanteron Systems, it’s also a real thrill.