I've now been working at Comcast for about 6 weeks-ish, and so far, I'm having a blast. Both culturally and technically its a fairly dramatically different environment (along a different axis than the small-to-big transition that AOL was... more on that another time) - which is always fun.
Although I'm finding my skills, talents, and experience are useful (thankfully), the whole Cable/Telecom universe is completely new to me, so the learning curve is both vast and interesting.
In that vein, I though I might share some of the random but interesting technical tidbits that manifest themselves in odd ways, whether operationally or in terms of the consumer experience. Nothing I'll share is (obviously) actually a secret - its either public information and/or subject to trivial induction from public information.
For example, one of the significant features all the Cable operators (MSOs) have introduced over the last few years is Video-on-Demand (VOD). Unlike the "your-movie-starts-every-15-minutes -on-4-different-channels" model that the satellite providers started with, the new VOD systems actually dynamically allocate a unique "physical" channel from your local cable head end when you select a movie. The video asset is then played over that channel which your set top box (STB) is then tuned to automatically, as if it were any other channel in your channel line up.
So the interesting "secret" is that in order to enable fast forwarding (and rewinding) of the assets, each media file actually has additionaly "trick files": copies of the asset at +/- 2X (or whatever the speed multiplier is). When you press the ffwd or rwd button on your remote control while watching a VOD asset, it's actually dynamically switching to another asset at the right time code, and playing from there.
And that is why you (currently) only have one speed for fast forwarding or rewinding: more would have required many more multiple media assets (one at each speed) in the VOD storage systems.
Clever, but strange...