Two From This Morning’s Morning Edition

Two bits from today’s lineup (you’ll have to search)

  • Online Music Services Still Face Major Hurdles

    le’s digital music player, the iPod, was one of this holiday season’s hottest gifts, with many retailers selling out. But online music sales haven’t seen the success of the iPod and continue to be dwarfed by the amount of music traded for free unauthorized sites. NPR’s Neda Ulaby reports.

  • Online-Monitoring Programs Popular with Parents

    Tracking technologies that let parents know what their children are doing online are starting to find their way into family life. Parents say they are trying to protect their kids, but it could be at the expense of trust. NPR’s Laura Sydell reports.

Creativity and Copying

Hast Seen the New Metal Album?

“Leviathan” is a song cycle based on Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.” The band’s drummer, Brann Dailor, was reading the novel last year and came across the early passage that calls the whale “the salt-sea Mastodon”; after that, the rest of the book seemed like a metaphor for a small crew of manic, undershowered rock musicians on tour. (The whale is the audience, if you like, or maybe the elusive quantity of hard-rock apotheosis.) The directly Melville-related lyrics on “Leviathan” appear early. The line “There’s magic in the water that attracts all men” roars over a crooked riff in “I Am Ahab.” Others apply by extension: “Island” invokes the old metal themes of Norse gods and volcanic eruptions, and the lyrics of “Hearts Alive” are generally about watery violence.

But what’s fantastic about “Leviathan” is that it sums up the last three decades of hard rock – a great width of styles, bludgeoning and tricky, from Metallica to Iron Maiden to King Crimson to Black Flag to Black Sabbath – with incredible acuity, extracting a great deal of what has been most effective in them.

Game/Art/Music Mash-Up

Chomp if You Like Art

As in Toru Iwatani’s original game, the characters in Pac-Mondrian are a chomping mouth and his skittering nemeses Blinky (the red one), Pinky (the pink one), Inky (the aqua one) and Clyde (the orange one).

Unlike the original, the maze is Mondrian’s 1942-43 painting “Broadway Boogie Woogie” (in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art), rather than a blue grid on a black screen. The background sound isn’t the familiar electronic zoop-zoop-zoop but rather the piano boogies of Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis and Pete Johnson, which Mondrian loved to dance to.

And each time the mouth gobbles one of the tiny colored blocks of “Broadway Boogie Woogie,” a high-hat cymbal crashes.

Pac-Mondrian was created by a Toronto art group, Prize Budget for Boys, for a contest sponsored by the Web site, an affiliate of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in Manhattan. […]

[…] Strangely, the keepers of the Pac-Man flame are unperturbed. The First Church of Pac-Man, a Web site where fans can worship the “golden pixellated circle” that “did appear upon the darkened screen,” has often warned about false idols: “The prophesized umpteenth coming is upon us.” But the church has not yet issued any warning about Pac-Mondrian. Not even the Pac-Page, a Web site that keeps track of Pac-Man clones, has taken notice.

“Sharing” And Consumer Demand

Kodak Updates Its Brownie to Compete in a Digital Age

One innovation that did pass the test was a “share” button, which allows users to select pictures as they take them that will later be printed or e-mailed as soon as the camera is returned to the dock.

“There is an emotional moment at the time of capture,” said Gregory R. Westbrook, Kodak’s vice president and general manager of its digital and film imaging systems unit. “The button lets the consumer express that emotion.”

Mr. Porter also supervised the staff of anthropologists and cognitive psychologists who studied how to make the cameras easier to use. And Mr. Porter made the idea clear: When there are conflicts, as there inevitably are, “the usability tests will win out.”

Business Plan: Price Discrimination

$10 for a Plain CD or $32 With the Extras

While the major record companies continue to discount new releases or even slash prices to try to counter file-sharing and widespread CD-burning, some music executives are quietly trying to expand the top end of the market. The average retail price of an album slid 4 percent in the third quarter to $12.95 – a new low, according to NPD Group, a research company. Yet some labels are pushing tricked-out versions of big titles that carry their highest prices ever.

There’s a basic business logic behind the move to test the upper limit, executives say. If labels must cut prices and sacrifice profits on the mass market, they must try to cover the difference by targeting niches of hard-core fans who are willing to shoulder higher prices for their favorite acts.

“In this climate, where everyone is bemoaning the death of the CD, and we’re all talking about price pressure, there is a growing market, which record companies are hoping to develop, of people that are happy to pay more money for value,” said Steve Gottlieb [….]

[…] There have been other indications of how labels plan to tap deeper into the biggest fans of their artists. Warner Brothers has been selling its artists’ ringtones, T-shirts and other merchandise directly to consumers though its corporate Web site. TVT is designing a section of its Web site to let fans buy music downloads, merchandise and perhaps even concert tickets, all in one transaction.

Many releases also are enhanced with software that lets buyers view exclusive content online. But moves to establish more direct relationships with fans may irk some retailers. In 2000, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers sued Sony Music Entertainment for including Internet links in CD’s that connected buyers to Web sites where they could buy additional music or other content, a move they said cut traditional music stores out of the market. The trade organization later dropped the lawsuit after the Justice Department filed a brief in the case arguing that the merchants’ allegations failed to show antitrust violations.

See also Music Labels Look to DVD’s as Sales of CD’s Decline

Talk About Offensive Spin!

In case you think that “spin” is restricted to the political domain: Code sleuths [pdf]

Similar scenes are playing out at software firms and other businesses across the country, as engineers frantically search their files for something they hope not to find: open-source components. Their improper use, in the worst case scenario, could subject companies to costly litigation from parties like the SCO Group of Lindon, Utah. SCO claims to own intellectual property in the Linux open source operating system and has set off alarm bells in executive suites by suing IBM Corp. and three other Linux-using companies over the past year.

“It’s almost like you’ve got be a lawyer now to develop software,” grumbled Jothy Rosenberg, chief executive and chief technical officer of Service Integrity, who earlier this month ordered a 24-hour scanning of his company’s Sift 3.5 software during a “code freeze” before its launch. “In this day and age, anybody building a commercial piece of software has got to do this. It’s like buying insurance on your building.”

[…] The most serious conflicts, highlighted with red bars in the Black Duck protexIP software used by Service Integrity, involve code covered by the so-called General Public License. Under that license, anyone who acquires and modifies open-source code must make their modified versions freely available to the public. Depending on how many files of code are covered, and what is in them, such a requirement can sometimes be a showstopper for a proprietary software company. (Fortunately for Service Integrity, its scan identified only open-source license conflicts the Newton company was able to resolve.)

In other words, a GPL violation could now open a company up to an “SCO-like” lawsuit?!?! Given the state of the suit, this can only mean that the writer is actively looking to slam free/open source by trying to conflate the GPL with SCO, or he was too lazy to contact the lawyers who *do* work with companies that end up in violation of the GPL. After all, the point of the SCO lawsuit is whether the software at question can be/is GPLed!!

We’ll leave for another day the naivite demonstrated by thinking that this quote was news (not to mention to wonder about the qualifications of a CTO of a software firm willing to be quoted saying this) — ”’It’s almost like you’ve got be a lawyer now to develop software,” grumbled Jothy Rosenberg, chief executive and chief technical officer of Service Integrity….’

What to do you think? Feel free to let the Boston Globe, as well as the writer (whose email is at the close of the article), know.

And I agree entirely with Prof Madison that any credible software firm has to do a code audit in this era (hence the question about naivite) — particularly in the face of software patenting. I would estimate that coping with GPLed code is a simple task compared with that one.

Later: GrokLaw commentary – Plugging the Knowledge Gaps on FOSS Licenses – OSDL Conference

The bottom line is always the same: If you steal someone’s code, there will be consequences. That’s true for the GPL (if you distribute the code — you are free always to use any GPL code in-house without any consequences at all), but it’s not unique to it. If you steal Microsoft’s code, there are consequences also. You do have to respect other people’s intellectual property rights, as lawyers call them. That’s true for all licensed code, including the GPL. If, in the past, some didn’t take the GPL seriously enough, they do need to wake up and smell the coffee. But SCO has nothing to do with companies needing to pay attention to FOSS licenses, except perhaps that their stepping like fools straight into quicksand helps other companies to know where not to step. By all means, study up about FOSS licenses so you don’t do what SCO did to itself.