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Reviewing the NCTA's Technical Papers

No shortage of deep-dive in this year’s collection of technical papers, organized by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, with contributions from CableLabs and the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers.

The two I went so far as to print out to read on the plane: “Considerations When Delivering Cable TV to IP Connected Consumer Electronics,” by Comcast engineering fellow Mark Francisco; and “Evaluating Best-of-Class Web Service APIs for Today’s Multiplatform Video Management Solutions,” by thePlatform’s Alan Ramaley, CTO, and Nick Rossi, VP of engineering.

The latter caught my eye because of that term - “Web service” - which tends to pop up at every intersection of old and new; now and next. Usually the words “you just” are nearby, just to make sure you’re feeling stupid: “You just do it as a Web-service interface.” (Duh!)

If you’ve been feeling the need to take a deep soak in the language of web services, or if you’ve wondered about how application program interfaces (APIs) work, this one’s for you. Example terminology: SOAP, and why it’s a “heavy protocol” to work with; the verbs of REST. (Verbs! Writers love verbs! There’s hope!)

Francisco’s paper details the technical options associated with transforming TV into an app, from a service. If you’ve ever wondered about the similarities and differences between HTTP live streaming, DLNA, Flash streaming, MPEG-DASH, and Microsoft Smooth Streaming, read it.

Other notables: “Adapting Adaptive Streaming to Cable Access,” by Comcast’s Xiaomei Liu, because of the byline (Liu is one of Comcast’s first engineering fellows, and a lauded Big Thinker); “Will HTTP Adaptive Streaming Become the Dominant Mode of Video Delivery in Cable Networks,” by Ericsson’s Michael Adams, because it’s a perfectly phrased question for these times; and “Approaches to Integrating CDN Technologies into Classical Cable VOD Platforms,” by Time Warner Cable’s Chuck Hasek and Verivue’s Santosh Krishnan, because content-delivery networks (CDNs) are also a big part of the new vogue in cable’s engine-room discussions.

For this year’s nod for the geekiest paper title - notably, either this year’s batch is more approachable, or we’re getting geekier, because nothing popped out as shamelessly geek - we’ll go with “Evolving Optical Transport Networks to 100G Lambdas and Beyond,” by optics veteran Gaylord Hart of Infinera and HBO’s stalwart technologist Craig Cuttner.

You can buy the whole set for $50, a price that hasn’t changed in a very long time. I highly recommend the CD-ROM (no printed book this year), but only if you’re into immersion learning.

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