August 31, 2005

New Windows breaks video for DRM

MS, in a brilliant strategy designed ito multiply the number of people using Linux on the desktop by several orders of magnitude, will tightly integrate DRM into the next version of it's operating system.

For the first time, the Windows operating system will wall off some audio and video processes almost completely from users and outside programmers, in hopes of making them harder for hackers to reach. The company is establishing digital security checks that could even shut off a computer's connections to some monitors or televisions if antipiracy procedures that stop high-quality video copying aren't in place.

In short, the company is bending over backward--and investing considerable technological resources--to make sure Hollywood studios are happy with the next version of Windows, which is expected to ship on new PCs by late 2006. Microsoft believes it has to make nice with the entertainment industry if the PC is going to form the center of new digital home networks, which could allow such new features as streaming high-definition movies around the home.

Personally, I like Unix. A lot. I use it everywhere I can at work. At home, however, I've tended towards MS platforms for simplicity and convenience. It's not that I can't make Linux play nice with Windows, it's just easier to deal with all the people that aren't also on Linux when I have Windows. Sure, I give up a fair amount of power and utility, but it's been (on balance) easier with Windows.

Now, this changes. If MS is going to block me from using the full range of power that I desire out of my machine, then I'm not going to go with MS. It's just that simple.

Thanks to Cory for the tip, who also has a pretty sage observations:

Microsoft is cutting its throat here. There isn't a single Windows user who wants a version of Windows that lets her do less with her music and movies.

This could be the strongest play for open source yet....

Posted by Casper at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2005

How to spot a fake photo

With the rise of tech savvy amongst the general public, more and more photos are, well, questionable. Here aare some tips to pick out of the gold from the dross.

Posted by Casper at 05:51 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2005

More search options

Now you can search for ringtones.

Posted by Casper at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2005

Date reviews

Kinda like LemonDate, True Dater allows people to review the dates they've been on from online dating.

Thanks to Rexfor the tip.

Posted by Casper at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2005

More than cookies

These days, advertisers are using more than just cookies to track where you've been on the web.

Thanks to Jason for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 11:11 PM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2005

Why CDs sound different on the radio

A quite interesting read.

For 20 years, broadcast processor designers have known that achieving highest loudness consistent with maximum punch and cleanliness requires extremely clean source material. For more than 20 years, Orban has published application notes to help broadcast engineers clean up their signal paths. These notes emphasize that any clipping in the path before the processor will cause subtle degradation that the processor will often exaggerate severely. The notes promote adequate headroom and low distortion amplification to prevent clipping even when an operator drives the meters into the red.

About three years ago, we started to notice CDs arriving at radio stations that had been pre-distorted in production or mastering to increase their loudness. For the first time, we started seeing frequently reoccurring flat topping caused by brute-force clipping in the production process. Broadcast processors react to pre-distorted CDs exactly the same way as they have reacted to accidentally clipped material for more than 20 years—they exaggerate the distortion. Because of phase rotation, the source clipping never increases on-air loudness—it just adds grunge. The authors understand the reasoning behind the CD loudness wars. Just as radio stations wish to offer the loudest signal on the dial, it is evident that recording artists, producers, and even some record labels want to have a loud product that stands out against its competition in a CD changer or a music store’s listening station.

Thanks to Brad for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2005

Cell phone, part II

So, as I said before, I'm thinking about getting a new cell phone. And I did. On the 6th of March, to be precise.

It was nifty. Lots of toys and gee whiz stuff, along with actually useful things (like the ability to synchronize the phone book on the phone with Outlook). And that's where the good news ends.

The phone that I got from Cingular had a known problem with it: namely, that the volume level of the earpiece couldn't keep up. I didn't know that at the time, but it became manifestly evident as soon as I tried to use the phone in a place that wasn't a quiet store.

Naturally, I took the phone back to the store and asked for a replacement. They said they would have one for me within a week. Well, today, I took the phone back. I had gone by the store a few times, checking on the delivery, but no success. Prior to me taking the phone back, I went to both Amazon and Cingular's websites and found working copies of the phone there. I also called to another Cingular store in the area. They didn't have any of them in stock, but they did a check of the computer and found fifteen (15!!) in stock in two other stores in the area.

Why the store that I bought the phone from couldn't do either of these things in three weeks is completely beyond my ability to understand. Needless to say, I returned the phone. And, if you'd like to see a copy of the letter I'm sending to Cingluar, click the Continue Reading link.

March 30, 2005

Cingular Wireless Customer Care
Attn: English Correspondent
17000 Cantrell Rd.
Little Rock AK 72223

Dear Sir or Madam:

On March 6th, 2005, I purchased a Motorola MPX220 phone at one of your Cingular stores (Newcom Digital, 3301 Lee Highway, Arlington VA 22207). Within a very short period of time, I noticed that the volume coming from the earpiece speaker was not even close to being acceptable. I attempted to return the phone to the store at that point. The store suggested that I call the Handset Exchange program. The following day, I called the program.

The rather nice gentleman on the other end of the phone informed me that I needed to return the phone to the establishment at which I had purchaed it, as it was their responsibility to affect any exchange within thirty days. I went by the place of business on the 8th of March to request a replacement phone. The manager on duty assured me that he would be able to get a new phone no later than the following Monday.

It is now the 30th of March, over three weeks since the initial report of the problem. At no point in time has anyone from Cingular (either the service provider or the vendor) made any effort whatsoever to contact me regarding my issue. I have taken time out of worko day to visit the vendor on a number of occasions, all to no avail.

I find this level of customer support distressing, to say the least. I have need for a SmartPhone (it happens to best address my business concerns) and decided that the Motorola MPX220 would be the optimal model. In fact, the sole reason why I even talked with Cingular in the first place was a direct result of Newcom Digital having one of the MPX220's in stock.

My understanding of the situation is that Newcom claims they have been unable to get a replacement ordered in time. I do not know if this is or is not the case; I do know, however, that I was able to locate a replacement online at Amazon within fifteen minutes. Furthermore, when I called around to a few other stores in the DC area, I was able to locate 15 MPX220's within ten minutes. If Newcom was actually having problems, I would have expected them to do me the courtesy of calling to let me know, rather than requiring me to travel to their location to find out in person.

...

In short, all of these reasons are directly contributing to me leaving Cingular. I have not been all that thrilled with Sprint's service, but at least they both do as they promise and seem to be vaguely competent.

Sincerely, if not highly annoyed,

--Casper

Posted by Casper at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2005

Selling stuff on Amazon

From time to time, I sell some of my older crap on Amazon. Still, I have some hopes of selling some original material of my own some day (maybe a Canvas CD someday?). Kevin Kelly gives the eight steps you need to get onto Amazon.

Posted by Casper at 09:05 PM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2005

Blogging as hazzardous to your job

Blog one day, try to find a new job the next.

Posted by Casper at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2005

New form of spamming

Part of running a blog is dealing with spam. I use MT-Blacklist to handle most of the headaches, but now I find a new variant. Referral spam.

One of the things that I enjoyed about checking my stats was finding a new website that had not only linked to me, but also sent a few people my way. Now spammers are trying to abuse this system to clog it up with crap. Such grand sites like:

  • poker-online.chat-nett.com
  • free-online-poker.yelucie.com
  • poker.psxtreme.com
  • casino.crescentarian.net

At least it's not porn. I banned the domains from my site altogether and found that they are all coming from the same IP -- 219.150.118.16. Feel free to use this information to help out your own site, if you wish.

Posted by Casper at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2005

BitTorrent explained

Ed Felten does a great service to us all, explainnig the ins-and-outs of how BitTorrent actually works.

Now we can see the big win offered by BitTorrent: the download time is independent of the number of users (N), and of the speed of the server's connection (S). Adding more users doesn't make the download faster, but it doesn't make it slower either. (It's also worth noting that if N, the number of users, is small, BitTorrent is worse than old-fashioned systems, by a factor of two.)

With BitTorrent, the bottleneck is the end user's net connection, only half of which can be used for BitTorrent downloads. (The other half must be used for uploads.) Most users' connections, even the broadband ones, will take an awfully long time to download high-quality video content, BitTorrent or not.

Yeah, there's some math there, but it's not a big deal.

Posted by Casper at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2005

14 big mistakes made in web design

Good things to consider, if you're thinking of building a web site.

  1. Believing people care about you and your web site.
  2. A man from Mars can't figure out what your web site is about in less than 4 seconds.
  3. Mystical belief in the power of Web Standards, Usability, and tableless CSS.
  4. Using design elements that get in the way of your visitors (aka Confusing Web Design With Sex).
  5. Navigational failure.
  6. Using Mystery Meat Navigation. [with the small caveat: "There are certain sites that are allowed to use MMN: music, band, movie, art, experimental, fashion -- sites where making an impression or being cool is mandatory. It's OK because nobody really cares about these sites and their purpose isn't really about making money."]
  7. Thinking your web site is your marketing strategy.
  8. Site lacks Heroin Content.
  9. Forgetting the purpose of text.
  10. Too much material on one page.
  11. Confusing web design with a magic trick.
  12. Misusing Flash.
  13. Misunderstanding graphics.
  14. AFFrontPage.
Posted by Casper at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2005

The unbreakable sculpture in the plaza

Kryptos is the name of a sculpture posted outside of the cafeteria window at Langley VA (aka CIA headquarters). The artist embedded four encrypted messages onto Kryptos. Three of the messages have been solved; one has not. The story behind the sculpture makes for some interesting reading.

Thanks to David for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 01:19 AM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2005

Firefox gains ground!

And there was much rejoicing.

Posted by Casper at 08:39 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2005

And, we're back

Yeah, I took some time away from writing. Both November and December have been crazy busy at my day job, but things are getting better. I should have more free time to burn on this site....

And, right on time, CD Baby comes up with Host Baby, a wizard tool for bands to host a website. It's a nice tool; probably good enough for the 80/20 rule of design. A bit pricey, though ($20/month).

Thanks to Brad for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 12:07 AM | Comments (2)

December 07, 2004

Not that I'd suggest you do this.....

A step-by-step to convert Tivo recordings into something a bit more portable.

Posted by Casper at 01:45 AM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2004

Five mistakes of music websites

A list of good suggestions.

  1. Too Much Flash
  2. Crappy Or Non-Existent mp3 Metadata
  3. Too Artsy, Too Fartsy
  4. No Search
  5. One Way Communication

I think I manage to fulfill all of these obligatoins, with the possible exceptoin of the No Search one: There's a search box for this blog, but not for the rest of the site. Then again, something like 75% of the content of this site is in the blog, so I don't think it's a huge loss.

Posted by Casper at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2004

Firefox rules

I've been using Firefox for a while now, and it's easily the best browser I've seen in a long time. The bandwagon grows.

Posted by Casper at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2004

How the web gets used

It's not all porn anymore.

Internet users are doing far fewer searches for sex and pornography and more for e-commerce and business than they were seven years ago, University of Pittsburgh and Penn State researchers say in a new book.

"Twenty percent of all searching was sex-related back in 1997; now it's about 5 percent," said Amanda Spink, the University of Pittsburgh professor who co-authored Web Search: Public Searching of the Web with Penn State professor Bernard J. Jansen.

Thanks to Andrew for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2004

Neato technology

The nice part about this USB drive is that other USB drives can hook into it. Coping files may never have been easier.

Thanks to Cory for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2004

The impact of digital technology on recording music

The advent of quality, inexpensive recording hardware/software available for home use has revolutioned the face of the music industry:

Digital technology has changed everything about the process of making music: From the way artists compose and record their songs, to the way these works are distributed. Apple Computer's GarageBand, Sony's ACID and other powerful yet easy-to-use software programs let professional musicians write and record music whenever and wherever the muse strikes. On the tour bus. In the dressing room. Even on the plane.

"Recording with Pro Tools made me feel more like a 14-year-old punk rocker than I have in years,'' said [Tim] Quirk [of Too Much Joy], 39, who by day is RealNetworks' executive music editor in San Francisco. "There are no rules and no restrictions. Even if you wanted to do things before, you were physically limited in how much you could pull off.''

Now, he says, ``If you can think of something, you can pull it off.''

Speaking as one of the people with a home setup, it's a lot of fun, too.

Thanks to Gerd for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 09:47 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2004

The uncanny valley

The uncanny valley is a theory that explains why androids that are sort of humanistic (think C3-P0 from Star Wars) are acceptable to humans but creations that are almost human are not.

Posted by Casper at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2004

The Sims gets medevial

The Sims 2 is a popular game in which you can control the lives of computer characters. For the more sadistic out there, a step-by-step on how to torture the characters.

Thanks to Cory for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 08:57 PM | Comments (0)

WiFI in the target zone

Acadia, hot after trying to collect on a supposed patent on streaming media, is claiming that they have the exclusive right to wireless redirects. And just when I thought the scummiest thing on the planet would have been a lawyer for Microsoft.

Thanks to Donna for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2004

JPEG virus

A brand new wrinkle on the problem -- a virus that can be transmitted via a jpeg. You are reading this right -- it's now possible to get a virus just by viewing a JPG. Particularly in a MS program like Outlook or IE (one of the nearly infinite reasons why I use other products to do my web work). Rev Bob has some good deatils on what the virus does and how to defeat it.

Posted by Casper at 12:54 AM | Comments (1)

September 28, 2004

Windows without media player?

In perperation for a possible EU edict, Microsoft has created a version of Windows that does not include the Windows Media Player embedded in it.

Thanks to Brad for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 10:03 PM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2004

Record TV shows onto a walkman sized device

A pretty cool device.

Whether it's a brand new series or an old favorite, the RCA LYRA Audio/Video Jukebox lets TV junkies record their favorite programs directly onto a pocket-sized device - without the need to use a PC. The 20 GB RCA RD2780 is a "virtual VCR" in your pocket, featuring a 3.5" screen that easily connects to a television set via an analog composite video output and can record up to 50 hours of video content directly from an analog video source. The RD2780 also plays back digital audio files and JPEG photos.

As Todd put it

Just plug into your TV via the venerable eponymous plugs [the RCA plugs --ed] and presto! Instant portable video. No need to go to messy websites for downloading - why go to CinemaNow when you can go right to Turner Movie Classics or HBO? It has line-in and line-out. No DRM - though press release makes passing mention of respect for "analog copy protection signals from pre-recorded media." So you can't in all likelihood copy your latest DVD to the device. But so what? Think of what you can copy.

Posted by Casper at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2004

Comparing the Kryptonite problem to DMCA

Kryptonite locks can be opened with a Bic pen and hard shove (more detail on that, if you want it). George Hotelling draws a parallel between this and DRM/DMCA.

...Let's pretend that the law treated the Bic pen vulnerability the way it treats decrypting DVDs.

First, the person who discovered the flaw has his home raided by police and goes through two trials in as many years. Next, everyone linking to the video is sued, although the New York Times is spared. Finally once all the lawsuits had gone through their motions, Kryptonite congratulates itself on a job well done. Of course the don't fix the lock, but since it can silence anyone who talks about how to break the lock they don't need to.

Hmmm... does this sound like anyone to you?

Posted by Casper at 01:21 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2004

Outgrossing Sky Captain

Following up on an earlier post, Microsoft's Fable made more money on it's opening week than Sky Captain did.

Posted by Casper at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2004

This is just neat-o

See where a zip code lives in the US.

Posted by Casper at 01:42 AM | Comments (2)

September 16, 2004

September 15, 2004

Fighting comment spam

Spam is the bane of all of our existence. Run a blog with comments and you'll get even more. Some tips on how to fight spam in comments are helpful, but it's still mostly a lot of effort.

Thanks to David for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 09:26 PM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2004

Ed Felten on Wikipedia

Ed Felten wades into the Wikipedia controversy, looking up Princeton University, virtual memory, the Microsoft antitrust case, as well as himself. Wiki holds pretty well, only botching the MS court case.

The technical entries, on virtual memory and public-key cryptography, were certainly accurate, which is a real achievement. Both are backed by detailed technical information that probably would not be available at all in a conventional encyclopedia. My only criticism of these entries is that they could do more to make the concepts accessible to non-experts. But that's a quibble; these entries are certainly up to the standard of typical encyclopedia writing about technical topics.

So far, so good. But now we come to the entry on the Microsoft case, which was riddled with errors. For starters, it got the formal name of the case (U.S. v. Microsoft) wrong. It badly mischaracterized my testimony, it got the timeline of Judge Jackson's rulings wrong, and it made terminological errors such as referring to the DOJ as "the prosecution" rather than the "the plaintiff". I corrected two of these errors (the name of the case, and the description of my testimony), but fixing the whole thing was too big an effort.

Until I read the Microsoft-case page, I was ready to declare Wikipedia a clear success. Now I'm not so sure. Yes, that page will improve over time; but new pages will be added. If the present state of Wikipedia is any indication, most of them will be very good; but a few will lead high-school report writers astray.

Posted by Casper at 11:57 PM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2004

Online dating info

Thanks to OnlyConnect at MetaFilter, you can find out the dirt on the dating site you were thinking about using. Or you can find out if the guy/girl you're going to go out with is a lemon or not.

Posted by Casper at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2004

They didn't get the memo

The RIAA is all unhappy about a Canadian inventor's software that allows him to record XM transmissions and play them back later. Sounds sneakily like a VCR, huh? It's almost as if Sony v. Betamax didn't happen....

A spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America said his organization had not reviewed the software, but said that in principle it was disturbed by the idea. "We remain concerned about any devices or software that permit listeners to transform a broadcast into a music library," RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said.

Thanks to Simon for the tip. And we'll go to him for the closing quote:

Let's hope nobody ever tells them about the compact cassette - they'd have kittens.

-- Update --
Here's more from Ernest. XM radio is pulling support for PC based listening. Not because the RIAA wants them to -- oh no. Just because.

Posted by Casper at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)

The power of millions of geeks united

A few days ago, Al Fasoldt wrote an open letter to librarians in the Syracuse Post-Standard to not use Wikipedia on the grounds that it couldn't be trusted (The Wikipedia is an encyclopedia editted by the users). Challenged by some denizens of the web, Fasoldt Alex Halavais entered thirteen changes on thirteen different entries hoping to prove the unreliabilty of Wikipedia. They were all found and corrected within two hours.

Thanks to Cory for the tip.

-- Update --
Ernest Miller, always indispensible, gives a nice wrap-up of the events.

-- Update 2 --
I've been corrected by the author; it was Alex Halavais who made the changes to Wikipedia, not Al Fasoldt. My bad, and it's been corrected in the main article.

Posted by Casper at 09:54 PM | Comments (2)

August 26, 2004

Sound conversion software

An interesting piece of software. It slices, it dices, it julianes (and just WTF is that anyway?).

It also converts the following formats --

  • Amiga 8svx files
  • Apple/SGI AIFF files
  • SUN .au files
  • CD-R data (music CD format)
  • Macintosh HCOM files
  • Amiga MAUD files
  • MP3 files (with optional external library) [and I recognize that this caveat probably moves the this piece of software into the for-techies-only list]
  • Psion Record.app files
  • Turtle beach SampleVision files
  • Soundtool (DOS) files
  • Yamaha TX-16W sampler files
  • Sound Blaster .VOC files
  • Ogg Vorbis files
  • Microsoft .WAV files

to list just a few of the features. It's worth checking out, so long as you're comfortable with command line utilities.

Posted by Casper at 01:32 AM | Comments (0)

Holographic DVDs

The latest version of Discs can hold about a terabyte of data. To do the math really quickly, that's about 200 DVDs or 1400 CDs. Does this mean I have to buy all this music all over again?

Posted by Casper at 01:26 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2004

Blogging software compare/contrast

A listing of most of the prominent blogging software.

Posted by Casper at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2004

Bugmenot DOA

BugMeNot -- a great site that allowed people to get around that annoying registration that some websites use. Well, unfortunately, they're no more.

Interestingly enough, these are the top 25 sites requested on BugMeNot.

-- Update --
Some more info on what actually happened.

-- Update 2 --
BugMeNot may be gone, but it'll be back soon.

Posted by Casper at 03:45 AM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2004

SHA-1 cracked?

Pardon me while I get my geek on.

SHA-1 is a one way hash algorithm used almost everywhere to secure computer transactions. If you've ever bought something over the web using SSL, you've used this without knowing about it. Well, it may have been cracked -- or, to be more accurate, a hole may have been found in the math. If this is the case, it's a big deal -- almost every website will have to retool to not fall prey to hackers, and there will be massive compatibility problems until everything gets worked out.

I must emphasize the word maybe. This may not pan out to be a full bore hole in the function. Either way, it's something to pay attention to.

-- Update --
It seems that it is true in a sense. A MD5 variant has absolutely been proven flawed; SHA-1 is still up in the air.

Posted by Casper at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2004

An email rejection service

Paper Napkin is an email service dedicated to anonymous rejection emails.

So here's the scenario: You're out at a bar, riding transit, or even just walking down the street, and some bozo who desperately wants into your pants starts up a conversation with you. Rather than make a scene or make them upset, you're polite and at least nod at the proper times. Then, of course, they ask you for your number. Except this is 2004, so maybe they ask for your email address instead.

That's where Paper Napkin comes in. Give them anyname@papernapkin.net, tell them it's your address, and when they write you, they'll automatically get a response telling them how badly they've been rejected.

Posted by Casper at 04:57 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2004

Website checklist

Not all of these would be required, but it's worth looking at when creating a site.

Posted by Casper at 02:05 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2004

Easily the most precise want ad ever

They know exactly what they want.

Posted by Casper at 01:54 AM | Comments (1)

August 11, 2004

Cassette vs iPod

It's a close call.

Thanks to Simon for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 12:43 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2004

Fark for sale?

I love Fark. There's always something there to read, and it usually draws a chuckle from me. Yet, a possible fly is in the ointment.

After trying to figure out a deal they told me that I could just buy the editorial. The cost? Like $300 to $400 for a story.

I was shocked…. all this time I’ve been reading Fark.com it turns out that some percentage of the stories are paid for. Looking back on it I’m now sure the adult links are all paid for, as are the ifilm.com links.

It would make some sense as to why such dreck as iFilm is featured as much as it is. Just for the record (and in the interests of full disclosure), I do not get paid for anything I say here. If you buy something from Amazon off of one of my links, I get a cut, but that's it.

Posted by Casper at 12:47 AM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2004

Neato cool

The geek in me is just about frothing at the mouth of a stapleless stapler.

Posted by Casper at 02:38 PM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2004

How to actually pull IE all the way out of your system

Coming on the heels of the whole IE fandango, you can remove IE completely from your machine if you want. Well, remove enough references to it so that it won't be called anymore.

Posted by Casper at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2004

Mourning the advent of the personal music device

One critics' thoughts on the Sony Walkman.

The Walkman, with revolutionary force, made music portable and subject to personal selection. It fulfilled the nursery-rhyme, ‘he shall have music wherever he goes’ and became so ubiquitous in a short period of time, with 340 million worldwide sales, that its brandname became generic and was admitted to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Its advantages were many, mostly unforseen. ...

But these benefits were soon outweighed by its corrosive effects.

He ends his rant with a bit of over dramatizing:

So while the moguls of Sony may celebrate the jubilee of another small step for mankind with the launch of an I-pod challenging Newtork Walkman, I shall mourn an art that was ripped from its rightful place and reduced in moral worth. The day the Walkman landed was the day the music began to die.

Thanks to Andrew for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 01:22 AM | Comments (0)

Massive list of guitar links

Shahin sent me a link to Play Like A Pro. A few articles and a mountain of links for manufacturers (bass, for example) as well as a list of great guitarists.

Posted by Casper at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2004

All-around-you surround sound

Iosono is a way to do very spatially oriented sound using approximately 300 speakers. In a recent demo,

...[A] ring of over 300 speakers hangs roughly 10 feet above the ground. Using a digital pen and a touch-sensitive tablet, a sound engineer drags individual sound elements from one point to another to direct the position of sound elements. Samples of phantasmic voices whisper, hiss and appear to be darting and sliding invisibly from one spot to another throughout the room.

Iosono's developers claim the system offers "three-dimensional sound," and that it could revolutionize the entertainment experience for movie theaters, theme park attractions, gaming environments and home systems.

It sounds cool enough to me that I'd go out of my way to check it out.

Thanks to Xeni for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 07:05 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2004

A roundup of media links

Jeff Jarvis lists a mountain of blogs concerning the media. I didn't make it -- surely there was some sort of oversight.

Posted by Casper at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2004

One website for sale, slighty used

If you're interested, that is.

Posted by Casper at 05:27 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2004

More and more free time

It's not just that someone took the time to choreograph dancing in an online game, it's that the developers wrote the code to support it.

Here's Chumbawamba and Vanilla Ice with characters from Star Wars.

Thanks again to Cory for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2004

Interesting article about spyware in MS Office

A quick look-see at some of the inner workings of MS Office.

And more on MS Office causing problems. Although, in this case, I'm very surprised that genetic researchers aren't keeping a backup of their data.

Posted by Casper at 09:51 PM | Comments (2)

July 15, 2004

Inaudible failure

Audible Magic, the techology introduced by the RIAA to campus networks to foil (I just love that word. "Curses, foiled again," the villian said as he twirled his moustache) file sharing, doesn't work all that well. Edward Felten analyzes a number of reasons why it has some pretty massive technological holes in it

CopySense [Audible Magic's product name] would be defeated in practice, without even reaching the question of whether Audible Magic's underlying audio-scanning technology is sound. His encryption argument applies to any system that claims to detect infringing music transfers by listening to network traffic.

It may turn out -- and I suspect it would, if independent experts were able to study Audible Magic's technology -- that copyrighted music files could be tweaked in a way that made them undetectable to Audible Magic's algorithms, while still sounding fine to typical human listeners.

Posted by Casper at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

The next level of paranoia

When paper shredders just aren't enough.

Posted by Casper at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)

Registration required sites suffering

Sites that require registration to be read (NY Times, Salon as two quick examples) are not doing so well when it comes to web searches.

...[R]ecently, when I googled the terms "Iraq torture prison Abu Ghraib" -- certainly one of the most intensively covered news stories of the year -- the first New York Times article was the 295th search result, trailing the New Yorker, Guardian, ABC and CBS News, New York Post, MSNBC, Slate, CNN, Sydney Morning Herald, Denver Post, USA Today, Bill O'Reilly on FoxNews and a host of others news sites.

What's more, tons of other non-traditional news sources came ahead of the Times, including a number of blogs and low-budget rabble-rousers like Antiwar.com, CounterPunch, truthout and Beliefnet (a site dedicated to spirituality). So did Al-Jazeera (twice). But the Times still ranked low, even after it plastered an Abu Ghraib story on its front page for 32 straight days between May and June. And Google isn't the only one to shun the Times: I got similar results from other search engines (AltaVista, Lycos, Yahoo).

I wonder if they'll drop the registration requirements. I doubt it; they seem to perceive an economic benefit to having people register. Either they expect to make money off subscriptions (The Wall Street Journal does this successfully, Salon is failing quite miserably), or they think the gained demographic information for marketing purposes is valuable (although I would suspect that a majority of their data is spoofed and flawed -- I know that I don't give out real information).

Posted by Casper at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2004

Hollywood and techies come together

Quite a few of the heavies of technology and film are banding together to try and create video technology that cannot be pirated.

The alliance marks the culmination of years of tentative and often suspicious contact between the high-tech industry and Hollywood. It will be aimed at developing specifications to protect copyrighted content such as movies inside home networks. If the group is successful, a consumer might be able to download a high-definition movie, store it on a PC, watch it on a television and transfer it to a mobile device to watch while traveling. ... Despite the inclusion of some tech and content heavyweights, to be successful many hurdles will need to be overcome. Most importantly are the differing goals of the two main camps. Tech companies have much to gain from the digitization of the living room and want consumers to be able to perform a wide variety of tasks with digital content. Companies that produce movies and music want make sure that people are buying the content and not simply watching pirated material, a la Napster.

On the one hand, you have to give these companies credit. Unlike some people (say, the record labels), they're not ignoring the problems ostrich-like, hoping that it will go away. Rather, they're trying to work with people who have some rather competing goals (while both want people to buy as much of their product as possible, techies want to ease the use of the studio's products as much as possible, where the studio just wants people to buy as much as possible). On the other hand, money talks and consumers don't have as much as the studio does. In any case, it's bears closer attention.

-- Update --
Some good thoughts from Edward on the subject.

The new entity will fail just as badly as the old ones, and for the same reason: there is no effective anti-copying technology on which to standardize. You can get together as many company representatives as you like, and you can issue as many joint reports and declarations as you like, but you cannot change the fact that the group's goal is infeasible. This just isn't the sort of problem that can be solved by negotiation.

But perhaps the group's real goal is to limit the use of digital media technology by law-abiding consumers. That's certainly achievable. And, as Ernest Miller notes, they may also be able to erect barriers to entry in technology markets, by creating "security" requirements that lock out smaller companies.

Brad also has a word or two:

So this cross-industry working group resembles nothing less pathetic than the failed SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative) project which made the music industry look like a pack of fools several years ago.

What is the quixotic dream of the content companies? Call it smooth friction. The content owners want to establish invisible gates that quietly prevent undue levels of copying without getting the user angry. Accordingly, they are looking ahead to targeting not just P2P companies, or Internet service providers, but each private junction that holds together an in-home network. Sure, watch the start of an HD movie in your living room, and finish it in the bedroom. But there might be a technology gate between those two rooms that prevents making a copy that could leak out of the house.

The alliance of tech and content companies is an uneasy one. Silicon Valley needs to build copying devices. Tech companies recognize an unalterable truth about their marketplace: people love making copies of cultural products. Copying technology has driven the computer and Internet industries for the last seven years. Hollywood despises copying technology, and always has—despite the fact the once-reviled VCR has spawned a hugely lucrative branch of the industry.

Posted by Casper at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

New quantum crypto network

Some pretty cool technology.

A few years ago, I was working at a facility that required me to be very familiar with computer security threats. I had heard about quantum encryption, thought I should bone up on it just to be familiar with it and picked the seminal work on quantum crypto. I remember reading about the first three of four pages when my brain started hurting. Really badly. It's one of the few books that I put back on my shelf rather than read because I just couldn't follow it.

Posted by Casper at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2004

A new look at AI

Maybe the Turing Test shouldn't be the end-all, be-all yardstick anymore.

Posted by Casper at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2004

Seriously cool sunglasses

I want. I want! I WANT!

(thanks to Brad for the tip)

Posted by Casper at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2004

Free WiFi hotspots in DC area

For DC, Virginia and Maryland.

Posted by Casper at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

A look at Mozilla/Firefox/Thunderbird

Coming on the heels of the Internet Explorer discussion is an overview of the open source Mozilla, as well as the Firefox/Thunderbird approach.

Posted by Casper at 02:58 PM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2004

Some thoughts on creating a musician's website

Some good suggestions for any musician thinking of setting up their own website.

Posted by Casper at 07:19 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2004

New walkman doesn't play mp3s

Sony, with great fanfare, released their new digital music portable music player, which they are also calling "Walkman." Then they go and set it up so that it will not play mp3s. Did Sony go and hire the same guy who designed the Newton for Apple?

Posted by Casper at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2004

Top 10 worst web patents

The guys over at EFF have published a list of patents that they think we'd be better off without.

Posted by Casper at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

June 30, 2004

Virus transmitted via IM

If you use IMs, be alert for mischief.

Thanks to Robert for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2004

IE == bad

MS Internet Explorer (which just happens to be both the most popular browser in the world as well as about half of the browser that wander by The Musings) is a bad piece of software. For the record, I use either Netscape or Opera.

Thanks to Rev. Bob for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 09:47 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2004

GIF vs JPG vs PNG

A great comparison/contrast of the three primary graphic styles on the web.

Thanks to Rev. Bob for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2004

DRM on new CDs not working

As reported by Ed, the new technology to prevent CD copying is not working very well.

SunnComm execs say that this demonstrates consumer acceptance of their technology. A quick look at the consumer reviews at Amazon tells the real story: the technology causes significant problems for some law-abiding customers, and many customers dislike it. Many customers find the technology bearable only because it is so easily defeated, thereby allowing customers who, say, want to download songs from the album onto their iPods a way to do so.

Posted by Casper at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2004

Why DRM is important to everyone

Cory (from over at Boing Boing) recently gave a talk to the coders at Microsoft about DRM (Digital Rights Management) and why DRM should be abandoned pretty much at the first available opportunity. The full text of his speech (with the occasional 3lite-speak here and there) can be found here.

It's a bit on the long side, but, trust me, it is absolutely worth your time to read. Just a quick sample --

Region-coded DVDs are an example of this: there's no copyright here or in anywhere I know of that says that an author should be able to control where you enjoy her creative works, once you've paid for them. I can buy a book and throw it in my bag and take it anywhere from Toronto to Timbuktu, and read it wherever I am: I can even buy books in America and bring them to the UK, where the author may have an exclusive distribution deal with a local publisher who sells them for double the US shelf-price. When I'm done with it, I can sell it on or give it away in the UK. Copyright lawyers call this "First Sale," but it may be simpler to think of it as "Capitalism."

The keys to decrypt a DVD are controlled by an org called DVD-CCA, and they have a bunch of licensing requirements for anyone who gets a key from them. Among these is something called region-coding: if you buy a DVD in France, it'll have a flag set that says, "I am a French DVD." Bring that DVD to America and your DVD player will compare the flag to its list of permitted regions, and if they don't match, it will tell you that it's not allowed to play your disc.

Remember: there is no copyright that says that an author gets to do this. When we wrote the copyright statutes and granted authors the right to control display, performance, duplication, derivative works, and so forth, we didn't leave out "geography" by accident. That was on-purpose.

So when your French DVD won't play in America, that's not because it'd be illegal to do so: it's because the studios have invented a business-model and then invented a copyright law to prop it up. The DVD is your property and so is the DVD player, but if you break the region-coding on your disc, you're going to run afoul of anticircumvention.

That's what happened to Jon Johansen, a Norweigan teenager who wanted to watch French DVDs on his Norweigan DVD player. He and some pals wrote some code to break the CSS so that he could do so. He's a wanted man here in America; in Norway the studios put the local fuzz up to bringing him up on charges of *unlawfully trespassing upon a computer system.* When his defense asked, "Which computer has Jon trespassed upon?" the answer was: "His own."

His no-fooling, real and physical property has been expropriated by the weird, notional, metaphorical intellectual property on his DVD: DRM only works if your record player becomes the property of whomever's records you're playing.

I truly think that if most people really understood the shenanigins that both the record industry and the movie business are trying to pull, there would be a great uprising against it.

This is why I spend as much time as I do writing on this subject. Thanks to Brad for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

Ode to the Mini-Disc

Saying something is both obsolete and the best perfectly describes the deep attachment and spiky frustration that many amateur sound recorders have felt toward Sony's MiniDisc since it was introduced in 1992.

Personally, I never saw the need to even explore a format that was so clearly doomed to a Betamax ending, but many people rather like it.

Posted by Casper at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2004

A cell phone worm

Worms and viruses (should that be virii?) are not just for MS Outlook anymore.

Posted by Casper at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2004

Movie download service

Real Networks is entering the online movie distribution environment. I wonder if and/or how they will be doing DRM?

Posted by Casper at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2004

It's not just labels that don't pay up

After 20 years of courtroom drama, Sony settles with the inventor of the Walkman.

Posted by Casper at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2004

Googling music

One of the challenges that any musician (well, any musician with a website) will face is how to get Google to pay attention to you. With text based sites (like this blog you're now reading), Google does a good job of spidering the words and indexing accordingly. Google does not, however, pay attention to that minor detail known as the actual music file itself.

NPR had this very problem, and they've figured a way out to solve it.

Indexing files by looking at their audio features is still a work in progress for big search engines, including Google. So NPR eventually hit on a plan to instantly turn audio broadcasts into text files that can be recognized and picked up by search engine spiders.

"Our site is primarily full of rich audio, and we want people to find it when it's relevant," Thomas said. "The big search engines' technologies don't have the ability to get inside the audio or video. With the little bit of text we have on NPR, it's not always good enough to find our content, and reference the page."

Thanks to Kurt for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2004

Do they make these for any other instruments?

No need to learn how to play the bugle anymore...

Thanks to Mark for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2004

A little help during a concert

The Concert Companion is the heldheld PDA that audiences may, in the future, be able to rent from orchestras, or might get free with special ticket deals. It gives real-time program notes, that change with the music -- ongoing descriptions of whatever you're hearing at a given moment.

... Everybody, absolutely everybody, said that [the Concert Companion] made them listen harder. In fact, they often used expressions like "analytical listening," to describe what the device made them do, contrasting that with the more relaxed, less directed listening they'd normally do without it.

This could be an interesting idea. I know that I enjoy watching DVDs (for a flick that I've seen before and am familar with the story) and listening to the commentary track to learn what the directory/actor/writer was trying to get across or just the random trivia. It helps me get a better appreciation for the work as a whole. Perhaps similar information about a classical piece might help as well. Then again, I'm a bit of an info junkie.

Thanks to Greg for the tip.

-- Update --
The NY Times reports on this as well. Their take is that some people like it, others hate it. Which would make it just like every other electronic gadget ever made.

Posted by Casper at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2004

Online porn vs. Acacia

A group calling themselves Internet Media Protective Association is working the legal angle against Acacia Media. A little digging shows that IMPA is more or less a front for online porn vendors.

On the one hand, I wouldn't shed too many tears if the online porn folks dried up and went away (it might even lower the amount of spam that I get on a daily basis, but I doubt it). On the other hand, quite a bit of the forward motion in online technologies (secure purchasing, streaming audio/video, animation just for starters) has been pioneered by the adult industry.

And, as pointed out here, a successful push by Acacia could very easily result in a patent cost to anyone using streaming media.

Acacia claims its patents cover just about every form of digital audio and video distribution. According to Berman, these kinds of activities violate Acacia's intellectual property rights: pushing MP3s from peer-to-peer groups, streaming newscasts from Internet radio sites and delivering movies through cable networks.

Off the top of my head, that sounds like just about everyone would be affected. Even someone as small as me, who has the occasional sound clip on my own site.

Thanks to Xeni for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 05:28 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2004

Lifespan of CDs/DVDs not so good

Like many musicians that I know, some of the bands in which I play distribute their music on homemade CDs. We burn our music from a computer on to a CD-R and then either give away or sell the result to people (Whether we give it away or sell it depends on both the purpose of the disc (demo, final product) and the popularity of the band). I'm sure that a number of other bands probably do the same thing.

Well, here's some information that might change that approach.

Manufacturers cite lifespans up to 100 years, but without a standardized test, it's very hard to evaluate their claims, Byers says. The worst part is that manufacturers frequently change the materials and manufacturing methods without notifying users. ...

Part of the problem is that most people believe that it's the clear underside of the CD that is fragile, when in fact it's the side with the label. Scratches on the underside have to be fairly deep to cause skipping, while scratches on the top can easily penetrate to the aluminum layer. Even the pressure of a pen on the label side can dent the aluminum, rendering the CD unreadable.

Posted by Casper at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2004

Change any image into a wall sized mural

The Rasterbator will change any image into a larger one -- up to five meters in size. It does this by breaking the image down into smaller tiles that you can put together on a wall, on ceiling, wherever. Pretty cool, actually.

Thanks to Lindsay for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 04:05 AM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2004

Real and Apple not to be after all

The aforementioned union of Real and Apple doesn't look like it's going to come to be after all.

Thanks to Mac Diva for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 12:56 PM | Comments (0)

Most people do not practice good security

As a man-on-the-street survey found when they were in England.

...71 percent were willing to part with their password for a chocolate bar.

The survey also found the majority of workers would take confidential information with them when they change jobs, and would not keep salary details confidential if they came across the details.

Posted by Casper at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2004

Happy with their 8 tracks

There are those people who don't particularly want to leave the wonderful world of dial-up.

In fact, she is part of another big group, the tens of millions of Americans seemingly immune to the lure of more speed and satisfied with dial-up services. A majority of Americans who surf the Internet still do so by dialing in on regular telephone lines, despite the rapidly narrowing price gap between high-speed and dial-up connections.

People like Ms. Jenkins are neither Luddites nor laggards, but consumers content to pay for a service that is less than optimal, and at times even frustratingly slow, because they say greater speed is not worth the trouble of starting over with a new telecommunications provider and getting a new e-mail address, even if the added cost is small.

I don't particularly understand this myself; I've become so enamoured of broadband that it has a large factor when I make my decisions on living arrangements. But, to each their own.

Posted by Casper at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2004

Name that tune in three notes

AT&T Wireless is piloting a program that will allow users to

hold their cell phone close to a speaker for 15 seconds, and then a song's title and recording artist is sent via short text message to their phone.

While this seems like a good idea, I'll believe it when I see it.

And, in a drug dealer -like display of corporate greed, "It's free of charge for now, but in the future AT&T plans to charge 99 cents for each use, the company said."

Posted by Casper at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

Ganging up on Microsoft

Real Networks and Apple computers might be joining up.

RealNetworks made a direct appeal last week to Apple Computer, its Internet music rival, suggesting that the two companies form a common front against Microsoft in the digital music business.

And, in a related story, Apple is now selling more iPods than iMacs.

Steven P. Jobs, Apple's chief executive, [said] "We sold a lot of Macs, but we've sold more iPods in the quarter than all the Macs put together."

Off the top of my head, that kind of change in Apple's focus should have some pretty interesting implications to the industry.

Posted by Casper at 01:10 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2004

Shirky on a new software vision

Clay Shirky, a writer who I have praised before, has a new article out dealing with writing software for groups. Specifically, on creating software for social groups and online communities. As always, he's well worth the read.

Posted by Casper at 02:13 PM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2004

AOL to open it's content

AOL will be opening it's closed domain to the public for a limited set of data.

...[T]he struggling Time Warner unit plans to publish a growing portion of its news, sports, music and other content on the open Internet, making it available to any online user, AOL executives say.

The strategy, which has started to a limited degree, is a nod to continuing defections of millions of AOL's dial-up subscribers to high-speed Internet providers and discount dial-up services. Fewer pay an extra $15 for AOL content in addition to a phone or cable broadband subscription.

...AOL officials say they have not determined what content to move outside its walls. And they stressed that AOL will always save its best stuff for subscribers. For example, AOL has become the top music site by offering exclusive concerts and unreleased songs by major artists. The company, with 24.3 million members, also shows video highlights of major sports.

As one of those millions who has left AOL over time (one to many disconnects for my own tastes, not to mention the trolls and general garbage that was part and parcel of the AOL experience), I don't recall the content that was there to be particularly superior to what's freely available on the general web, but perhaps I can be shown otherwise.

Thanks to Kurt for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 05:11 PM | Comments (0)

For those who like the Sims

"One of the ways to be successful in that game is to accrue a lot of social capital," he notes. "The way you get social capital is by being good at playing a social game. The direct analogy is to junior high school."

[Peter] Ludlow [professor of linguistics and philosophy at University of Michgan] offers a broader criticism. "I think the problem is that the game itself is mind-numbingly boring," he says. "It’s an axiom of these games that the less there is to do, the more people gravitate toward cybersex." And maybe the occasional mob war.

I never did really get into the Sims all that much (it seemed a little slow to me), but some guy liked it enough that he started a newspaper dedicated to it. And then got thrown out of the game for his trouble.

Posted by Casper at 04:02 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2004

Aggression with chat

In a story that may seem to contradict the growth of honesty online, it seems that researchers have determined that online chat rooms can be quite the nasty place in which to spend time.

According to the new research, even the most laid-back people can erupt into furious rants when debating online, and it's all part of an effort to distinguish themselves from the next user. Some even take on multiple personalities in a bid to outsmart their online acquaintances, while others adopt menacing usernames.

Posted by Casper at 04:02 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2004

DVD format wars

Harkening back to the days of VHS vs. Betamax, DVD burners are going through the growth phase when there are several differing formats and they are not playing nicely together. It's one of the many reasons why I've taken the easy way out and gone with a DVD drive that can burn all the primary formats.

Posted by Casper at 02:09 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2004

Okay, this is a new one

I've heard of cybersex, but this is an, um, innovative approach.

Posted by Casper at 01:07 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2004

Not just for geeks anymore

Either that, or there are just a lot more geeks around than I had originally thought.

Video games are a $9.4 billion business in the U.S., bigger than the movie box office. ...

"People have started to realize that it's a major industry, it's not just some lonely 16-year-old playing in his room because he can't get a date," said David Comtois, executive producer of the documentary Video Game Invasion

Posted by Casper at 01:21 AM | Comments (0)

Surround Sound for mp3s

I rather like mp3 files. I have a hard drive full of them, and it makes listening to a very large array of music in a random fashion easy and enjoyable. Now, there's a new company that has a way to reproduce surround sound in the mp3 format.

Posted by Casper at 01:11 AM | Comments (0)

Phishing attacks increasing

Phishing attempts are increasing on the web.

For those who might not be familiar with this technique, the idea is to send someone an email that would appear to be from a legitimate vendor (AOL, E*Bay, etc.). This email would say something to the effect of "your credit card information has been corrupted, please click here to correct it." When the recipient would click on the link, he/she would be taken to a completely different site which would accept their credit card information and then misuse it.

Computer security is one of my bailwicks at my day job, so I thought I'd pass this along to help out anyone I can.

Posted by Casper at 12:50 AM | Comments (0)

Another look at the effects of TiVo

One person's take on how TiVo (and other technological tricks) can insulate us from life itself.

We have e-mail filters and air filters, noise-canceling machines, noise-canceling headphones, and in one catalog, a wrap-around eye-and-ear pillow that blocks out all light and noise.

Tivo allows you to ignore commercials, and caller ID, your friends. Minivans, the original suburban bubble, now come equipped with DVD screens and headphones that allow parents to effectively wall off the front seat from those squabbling siblings in the back.

With self-serve airport kiosks, A.T.M.'s, online grocery delivery services, clothing catalogs, restaurant reservations, and, of course, the ubiquitous iPod, it has become possible to filter almost every possible human interaction. V-chip your television, V-chip your mom.

Posted by Casper at 12:43 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2004

McD's hosting wi-fi

McDonald's is starting to follow in the footsteps of Starbucks and Scholtsky's. They have a program to create WiFi hot spots in their restaurants.

March 12, 2004

How to generate news on a slow day

Apparently, all you have to do is notice that some people are misusing technology in a way that offends you. And, as we all know, you have a right in this country to not be offended </sarcasm>.

Posted by Casper at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)

Email recall

Ever sent out an email and then regretted it? There's a new service that might help you get things back. The way it works is to take your email, convert it into a web page, and then send the recipients a link to the page.

Off the top of my head, I don't think this is going to work. People tend to be lazy (and with email, even more so); the usual rule of thumb is that if people have to go more than two or three klicks to get the information they want, most will choose not to go that far.

Posted by Casper at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2004

Help Desk stories

When I first got out of college, I worked the phones, fielding calls from end users. Ah, the fun that was tech support. For a taste of what it can be like, check out some stories from support reps from all over the place.

Posted by Casper at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2004

Paying for search results a bad idea

or, at least, that's what the good folk over at Ad Age seem to think.

A leading Web site announces it will introduce an advertising program but will not distinguish for its audience between the paid placements and independent content. Criticism is quick and harsh, with one columnist writing that the move "seriously undermined ... [the] credibility and integrity" of the site, "weakening the foundations of one of the most successful brands born and raised on the Internet."

This wasn't the decision last week by Yahoo! to tap a new revenue source by charging companies to guarantee that their sites are included in search results. It was a decision five years ago by Amazon.com to charge publishers for editorial reviews and placements on recommended reading lists, but not to disclose the relationship to book buyers.

I know that when I see those "Sponsored Links" come back from Yahoo, I tend to rather ignore them.

Posted by Casper at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

On demand flicks not doing well

The LA Times is reporting that Movielink, the online movie respository backed by five Hollywood studios, isn't doing so well.

"Clearly, the usage level is not what we'd hoped it would be," said a Hollywood executive close to Movielink. "But frankly, the user experience is not what we'd hoped it would be."

Perhaps because any movies that are downloaded can only be watched on the machine that downloaded it (and not on the big screen TV)? Or perhaps because the movie must be watched within 30 days and then will remove itself from the hard drive within 24 hours after the first viewing (did no one pay attention to the DivX fiasco)?

Until the majors accept that the consumers want freedom to enjoy the product at the consumer's convenience, they are going to continue to have problems like this.

Posted by Casper at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

Blogs plagiarize. Kinda.

Wired is reporting that blogs tend to distribute information without crediting the source at which the author found the material.

...[T]he team at HP Labs found that when an idea infected at least 10 blogs, 70 percent of the blogs did not provide links back to another blog that had previously mentioned the idea.

I'll admit that I'm guilty of this from time to time, but I actually do try to attribute my sources as best I can.

Posted by Casper at 12:56 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2004

This bothers me...

and I can't quite put my finger on why...

Congress is now considering a bill that will make "... it a crime for anyone to copy and redistribute a substantial portion of data collected by commercial database companies and list publishers."

As someone who works with databases in my day job, I can understand why companies might want to keep ownership of the data they expend a lot of effort to both collect and analyze. However, I can also see that total ownership can cause problems to the general public. To use an example, I liked this article to Wired magazine. Would I be violating the law with that link?

Posted by Casper at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2004

Cell phones used to monitor traffic flow

There's a company out in San Francisco that is trying to use the GPS chips found in newer cellphones as a data source for monitoring the flow of traffic. This might be a good idea, but it bothers the privacy nut in me. Although the company claims that you are not individually being tracked, I'm just a little skeptical.

Posted by Casper at 12:16 PM | Comments (0)

2% of America blogging

...[S]omewhere between 2% and 7% of adult Internet users in the United States keep their own blogs.

Of those, only about 10% update them daily, the majority doing so only once a week or less often.

So says USA Today. Since I update this here thing several times a day, I suppose that's a "yeah me." (Pay no mind to the gratuitous self important self-congratulatory pat on the back)

Posted by Casper at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2004

Map of blogs in DC

Someone has thrown up a map of blogs in the DC area by Metro station. Check it out, find out who your friends and neighbors are....

Thanks to Tyler for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2004

A possible problem for RIAA's lawsuits

As the Canadian equivalent of the RIAA is discovering, hunting file sharers isn't always an easy thing to do.

Think twice the next time you access the Internet at home on your wireless laptop.

Your next-door neighbour, even passersby outside your home, could be tagging along for the ride and leave no trace of their online adventures, such as sharing music files, something the Canadian Recording Industry Association is intent on prosecuting.

So this does bring up an issue that network security people have been struggling with for some time. How do you conclusively track down someone over a wire? Hacker tactics (spoofing, masking, the usual bag of tricks) aside, it's hard to trace back activity to someone who isn't actively trying to hide their tracks. Throw in encryption technologies (check out FreeNet for this idea taken to its conclusion), and this would seem to be something that could never be successfully achieved.

Posted by Casper at 12:57 AM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2004

RSS gaining strength

Not too long ago, I got an email from someone telling me that he liked my site (Thanks again!, by the way) and that he was going to subscribe to my RSS feed. I thanked him for the compliment and pretended that I knew what he was talking about. Here's an article in Forbes about what RSS does and why it's starting to be a big thing.

Posted by Casper at 12:21 PM | Comments (2)

February 26, 2004

iPods and personal listening

Wired has an interesting article/interview about iPods and the way that people tend to use their personal entertainment systems.

In terms of usage, Apple got it intuitively right. People use (the iPod) as an alarm clock, and when they listen to it at night, they like the fact it can turn itself off. It's how people like to use music. I don't think Apple did much research into how people would use their players, but they got most of it right.

For example, a lot of people use it to go to work, for commuting. I found that they use the same music on a regular basis. They will often play the same half-dozen tunes for three months, and each part of the journey has its own tune....

It gives them control of the journey, the timing of the journey and the space they are moving through. It's a generalization, but the main use (of the iPod) is control. People like to be in control. They are controlling their space, their time and their interaction ... and they're having a good time. That can't be understated -- it gives them a lot of pleasure.

So, for example, music allows people to use their eyes when they're listening in public. I call it nonreciprocal looking. Listening to music lets you look at someone but don't look at them when they look back. The earplugs tell them you're otherwise engaged. It's a great urban strategy for controlling interaction.

It's also very cinematic. The music allows you to construct narratives about what's going on. Or you use it to control thoughts. A lot of people don't like to be alone with their thoughts. The best way to avoid that is to listen to music.

A lot of people don't like where they're going in the day. If you can delay thinking about that until the last minute.... People don't take off their earplugs until the very last minute, until they're inside the door at work. It's a great way to control mood and equilibrium.

Something to remember both when writing music and designing technologies to support music. Give the people what they want, make it very user friendly, take them a bit away from the normal day-to-day and you'll find success (or, more accurately, success will find you).

Posted by Casper at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2004

One of the many reasons why I don't like automatic filtering

Content filters can stop your email if you happen to have a naughty word as a component of your name. Just ask Craig Cockburn.

See, Cockburn has a problem with e-mail. Or more to the point, e-mail has a problem with him. His e-mail doesn't always get where it's going. He first stumbled upon all this more than a year ago when he tried to update his Hotmail account. The online registration insisted that his profile contained characters that were unacceptable.

"After an extensive debate with Hotmail about this,'' says Cockburn, "the obvious explanation was the first four letters of my last name was one of the censored words.''

Never mind that his name is his name and it has been all his life. Never mind that it is a noble and popular name in Scotland, where he lives. Never mind that it's pronounced Co-burn.

Posted by Casper at 12:05 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2004

Netflix business model

NetFlix has found a great niche; allow people to rent DVDs at a set monthly fee; no late fees, no hassle, just movies in the mail. They have been wildly successful, and for good reason. It's a good product at a decent price. I used NetFlix myself last year when I was laid off. Unlimited movies in the mail at a low monthly rate seemed like a good way to pass the time in between job interviews.

The concept behind NetFlix has spun off into a number of similar industries (video games, porn, most anything that could be rented at Blockbuster). The interesting thing about NetFlix is that they acquired a patent on their model:

In June 2003, Netflix obtained a patent on a "method and apparatus for renting items." The patent covers "a computer-implemented approach for renting items to customers (in which) customers specify what items to rent using item selection criteria separate from deciding when to receive the specified items." In addition, it covers what it calls a "Max Out" approach, which allows a certain number of items to be rented simultaneously.

If enforced, the patent could conceivably turn all of Netflix's competitors, no matter what they rent, into paying licensees -- or run them out of business entirely.

Posted by Casper at 01:41 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2004

Video game soundtracks

The business of creating soundtracks for video games is becoming more and more lucrative for composers.

The video game music revolution is both a product of and a reason for the larger gaming boom. According to the NPD Group, the leading market-research firm tracking gaming, the industry took in $11.7 billion in domestic revenue in 2002 -- more than the $9.5 billion in annual U.S. boxoffice receipts reported by the MPAA. According to the Electronic Software Assn., more than 221 million computer and video games were sold in '02 -- enough to put two in each American household.

Many game scores also have been recognized at international awards ceremonies, including the Grammys and the BAFTA game awards. Their enjoyment and development are the focus of dozens of fully dedicated Web sites, and they are performed worldwide in recitals by the likes of the Czech Royal Philharmonic.

Having played one or two video games, I can attest that the music (as well as other production values) have clearly improved over the last few years, but I don't quite think that it's gotten to a point where I would want to pick up a soundtrack just yet.

Posted by Casper at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2004

Amazon reviews suspect

Amazon.com (in the interests of full disclosure, I am a reseller for Amazon) allows shoppers to review the items being sold. As shocking as this might seem to some people, it appears that some of the reviewers are not disinterested observers. In fact,

...friends and family members are regularly corralled to write glowing reviews and each negative one is scrutinized for the digital fingerprints of known enemies.

Keep that in mind when should you happen to see that the latest CD from Britney has a gazillion stars in the reviews....

Posted by Casper at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2004

Opera scores a win

Opera (the browser, not the music idiom) landed a pretty nice deal with Motorola. I use Opera when I want a nice, lightweight browser, so I'm glad to see they're getting some traction.

Posted by Casper at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2004

Parody site supporting bootlegging

Just to get this out of the way, bootlegging = bad. Having said that, the ham-handed approach of such groups as the RIAA has probably done more to romaniticize and encourage bootlegging than it has made headway on stopping it. The MPAA is trying their own tack, mostly trying to guilt people into not downloading movies by pointing out all the 'smaller people' who would be hurt by the activity (not Tom Cruise, but Tom Cruise's stunt double). In response, some guys have thrown together a pro-bootlegging parody site. Some of their thoughts --

Put simply, bootlegging promotes creativity and diversity in the marketplace by exposing literally millions of people to the great works of literature, art and action blockbusters.

Are you afraid bootlegging impinges on the intellectual property rights of writers, directors and actors who have worked long and hard to make movies?

Not to worry! These artists have long since gotten screwed by their distributors, producers and agents! Chances are, they won't be seeing a dime in royalties from so-called "legitimate" distribution of their films. They don't call it "Hollywood accounting" for nothing!

Posted by Casper at 09:54 AM | Comments (1)

February 09, 2004

Porn and music online

Eric has an interesting article on copyright law with regards to pornography. Taken from the NY Times, it draws a direct comparison to nodes like Kazaa sharing music to Playboy giving out a limited form of their content for free in order to attract subscribers. There's a lesson that can be learned here.

Throughout most of the development cycle of the web, pornography has really led the technological charge. They pioneered secure ways of doing monetary transasctions, banner ads, pop-ups/-unders, using cookies to track activity, animation, streaming of video and audio; you name it, it probably had it's .0 release on some porn site. It seems that the pornographers are again on the cutting edge, but in grappling with both the legal and the financial aspects of intellectual property on the web.

...Pornography merchants say that they have the advantage over free file-sharing networks, at least for now. They say the networks are not well suited to the needs of their consumers, who like images and movies that push their very specific buttons for, say, blondes or cheerleaders.

"Free is very anarchistic and hard to deal with, and you don't know what you're getting," said a pornography entrepreneur who goes by the online pseudonym T. Lassiter Jones. "Cheap is more convenient." [my emphasis]

That notion could be the great hope of the mainstream entertainment industry, where fledgling services like the iTunes store and Rhapsody that offer inexpensive, easy access to legal music are beginning to catch on.

So, yes, sex sells, but so can music.

I'm very sympathetic; in a sense, that's basically what I'm doing here. I'm trying to create interesting content for people to read, and I'm giving it all away for free. And one of the reasons why I do it is to get my name out in the public eye, to raise my visibility. If I'm successful, then hopefully I'll get one or two more people to come out to one of my shows, or maybe buy a CD on which I play.

Posted by Casper at 01:57 PM | Comments (1)

Google hacking

For anyone who might be a little concerned with privacy on the web, this article in today's Washington Post is worth a gander.

Posted by Casper at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2004

Kazaa offices raided

The Austrailian governmental equivalent to the RIAA has raided some offices in Austrailia on the hunt for Kazaa.

MIPI general manager Michael Speck told ZDNet Australia the order was specifically targeted at the operators of the Kazaa network. "This is not about individuals, this is about the big fish," said Speck".

-- Update --
Eric has an update as to the goings-on.

-- Update 2 --
Eric has yet more info...

Posted by Casper at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2004

More on Pepsi's download ad

An interesting article on Pepsi's download ad from the Super Bowl is in today's Washington Post. Lots of links to other articles, with a somewhat jaundiced cast to the eye.

...where Pepsi crossed the line was in featuring a teenager who was slapped with a lawsuit by the Recording Industry Association of America for illegally downloading copyrighted songs. In effect, Pepsi is saying music piracy will not only get you free music, but potentially money-making endorsement contracts.

Posted by Casper at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2004

Online trends in 2004

eMarketer has an interesting article about some trends to watch in 2004. The number 1 trend? Digital music.

Online retailers will have the most success in selling digital music as a break-even product or loss leader. The mass appeal and low price of music make it an excellent impulse purchase

Thanks to Kurt for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2004

Women buy more tech than men

Lame, misogynistically insulting Circuit City ads notwithstanding, it seems that women actually spend more money on technology than men do. Maybe all my brother's protests about how his wife was the one that wanted the big screen TV the size of Nebraska were actually true....

Posted by Casper at 02:21 PM | Comments (2)

January 22, 2004

Live Music

Eric has put up an interesting post about the web, the music industry and live music. I think that this could be a good trend, and one I would like to encourage.

Just speaking personally, I tend to prefer live recordings over studio recordings. It's been my experience that someone can Pro Tool their way to perfection in the studio (Jennifer Lopez/Brittney Spears anyone?). But live, there's nowhere to hide. Not only is the performance more honest, there tends to be more energy to the music itself.

Posted by Casper at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)

Interesting article about blog linking

This is an interesting article about linking in general and blogs in specific. Worth a gander. (Tip o' the hat to Glenn for the pointer)

Posted by Casper at 12:23 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2004

Online music pay sites floundering

In today's Washington Post, there was an article about the legal online music file trading sites. It seems that lots of people aren't all that happy with the legal alternatives, since one site won't have the same selection as the other site, site A will only sell the entire album, site B has Public Enemy, but only the B sides.

"It is fairly easy to buy a song, but it can be much harder to find a song worth buying. That is why unauthorized services, such as Kazaa and LimeWire, still have millions of users, despite the music industry's lawsuits designed to stop unauthorized sharing."

Throw this in with the normal business wrangling (royalities, advances against sales, etc.) and it's small wonder that this is not going anywhere and the less than legal places are flourishing.

-- Update --
And just in time to help muddy the waters, the RIAA files another smattering of lawsuits today.

Posted by Casper at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2004

Free downloads helps sales?

The Instapundit has commented before on the RIAA and their Quixote-ish campaign to sue anyone who's ever downloaded anything. Well, he's back with some contrarian thoughts on the subject. It's worth your time to take a read of the whole thing.

Posted by Casper at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

Apple focusing on music

It seems that Apple computers is starting to focus more and more on music these days. This seems to be a logical extension for Apple; the iPod is a "hip" accessory these days among certain groups of people, iTunes largely dominates the legal music download arena (and everyone who reads this is downloading music legally, right?), Apple really needs a new revenue stream, so this is probably a good strategic move for them.

The bad news is that they probably won't have this niche all to themselves for very long. Rio has a good mp3 player, Archos has some neat toys, and Sony is almost certainly looking for a way to sell not only some hardware but to leverage their existing library of music into an iTunes-like solution.

As a side note, I'd recommend the Cowon iAudio -- I bought one last year and I'm rather enjoying it. 256m holds enough music for a day at work. Throw in a voice recorder (which I use to make mp3s of things from time to time) and it's hard to beat it.

Posted by Casper at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2004

Where in the world is Carmen San Diego's IP

Just a kinda cool toy -- give an IP address, find out where it's located in the world. So far, it's found AOL, the company that I use to host this site and my work site all accurately....

(thanks, Jeff)

Posted by Casper at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2003

RIAA effect on encryption

If you haven't read any of Clay Shirky's writings, you really should make some time for it. He's a really insightful guy when it comes the impact of technology on society.

One of his latest posts is about how the RIAA is inadvertently spreading the gospel of encryption to the masses through their rather ham-handed legal strategy.

Now, as a musician, I'm all in favor of musicians getting paid royalities for their efforts, but the approach the RIAA is taking is alienating people right and left who would otherwise might be fans. CD sales have been declining for a few years? Just maybe that has a bit more to do with the economic downturn than a bunch of fifteen year old kids trading Lincoln Park mp3's. The RIAA needs to find a way to co-exist with the file trading services before they completely tick off enough people that they stop buying CDs altogether and only trade tunes.

Posted by Casper at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)