Creative Commons

2010-05-25 10:34:39

My Car Needs Internet

Can you imagine it? Your vehicle having Internet access. It's almost as if we should be expecting our car to say, "I'm sorry, Kevin, I cannot do that." The Internet in a car seems one step away from the "car of the future" where we get in, push a button, and sit back and relax while the car drives us to our destination. While we might not have the "car of the future" today, we do have the Internet in the form of OnStar.

If you know anything about me, you're aware that I have always been against any sort of remote connection to devices that hold our lives in their hands. I don't want someone able to hack a pacemaker and kill someone by stopping their heart and I don't want someone able to hack my car and kill be by disabling my brakes. The latter has already been done via hacking OnStar given physical access to a vehicle and it's only a matter of time until the proof of concept can be done wirelessly. But I digress; that rant is for the "why my car doesn't need Internet" article.

So if I'm totally against this, why do I want it so badly? The spark actually came from a friend and co-worker who uses Pandora religiously. HE always talks about how his phone plays Pandora all day at work since media streaming is blocked on the corporate network. I never thought any more of it (I don't use Pandora that often) until recently.

For quite some time, TWiT has been streaming all of their shows live. The problem, however, was that I could never watch any of it live. Streaming is blocked at work and my iPhone doesn't do Flash, which is normally the platform sites use to stream data. Recently, with the inception of HTML5, many companies are switching their streaming services from Flash to HTML5. One of those companies is TWiT. Because of this change, I can now listen to the live stream on my iPhone.

So what does all of this have to do with having the Internet in my car? I was listening to TWiT live on my phone all day today. After work I had to travel to Cresson for a board meeting. I decided that I would try to listen to the stream the whole way. I had no idea if this would work, since I would be going from good 3G coverage to spotty Edge coverage to you're-lucky-if-you-have-coverage coverage.

I unplugged the headphones from my phone, put it in my pocket, and left the building. Upon starting my car, I plugged my phone into the FM transmitter so that I could listen to the stream over the car speakers. It immediately started playing and I was off for Cresson.

I completely expected this experience to suck, since there would be multiple tower hand-offs through spotty coverage. Throughout the whole 45-minute drive the stream only buffered twice. I assume this was due to missed or prolonged tower hand-offs, but I honestly have no idea. But again, I digress.

As I was driving, it hit me. This is why vehicles need Internet. The content that I want to consume isn't on FM radio. It isn't on AM radio. It isn't even on Sirius/XM (satellite) radio. It's on the Internet. It's content that doesn't exist anywhere except on the Internet. You might say, "why don't you just download the podcasts and put them on your iPhone?" Well, let's be honest, that way sucks. It's a horrible process. First I have to have iTunes open so the podcasts get downloaded. Then I have to connect my phone using a cable (seriously?!) to my laptop and sync it so the podcasts get transferred to the phone. Then I have to plug my phone into the FM transmitter in my car and constantly fiddle with what frequency I'm using because there isn't a single frequency that's clear in all areas. *sigh* Absolutely horrible. And to top it all off, the content is old. The downloadable forms of the shows don't come out until the next day, and until it gets downloaded and synced to my phone it might be another day. Think of what happens when you miss a great episode of a TV show and have to hide from all of your friends because they'll spoil it for you. Same thing. A lot of the tech news is of-the-moment and by the time I would get to listen to the downloadable form I've already heard about it in news articles and whatever.

All I want to do is get in my car, press a button, and have the TWiT live stream start playing. Why is that so hard?


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