August 4, 2005

Spinning Sony BMG’s “Protected” CDs [3:25 pm]

A Reuters news article showing the effort to “convince” Apple to make the Sony DRM systems work with iTunes: Copy-protected CDs iPod-incompatible but sell well [pdf]

Recent CDs by Foo Fighters and Dave Matthews Band containing new anti-piracy technology are selling well despite a backlash among some fans angry that the discs are incompatible with iPods, experts said on Thursday.

[...] About one-third of the 252 customer reviews of the Foo Fighter CD this week on Amazon, which prominently displays the fact the album is a copy-protected CD, complained about the copy protection.

Record executives said they were continuing talks with Apple Computer Inc. to make these CDs compatible with iPods. In the meantime, Sony BMG also released versions of each album to Apple’s iTunes service.

That appeased some iPod users, but others are still angry because they like to physically own a disc before importing it to iPods.

[...] “It’s up to Apple to flip the switch,” said one record label executive.

[...] Meanwhile, record industry officials said the Dave Matthews and Foo Fighters CDs are selling well. “I haven’t noticed them selling off par with their past albums. In fact the Foo Fighters’ first week was the best week they’ve ever had,” said Geoff Mayfield, director of charts at Billboard.

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CA and eVoting [3:14 pm]

An LATimes op-ed with some interesting statistics: A firewall for democracy [pdf]

California’s secretary of state, has just performed an invaluable service for the voters. Only a few months into the job, he had been under intense pressure to certify the latest electronic touch-screen voting machine manufactured by Diebold Election Systems, which is supposed to help California counties meet a federally mandated January deadline for the overhaul of their election equipment. But instead of rolling over, his office conducted exhaustive tests on the Diebold TSx, discovered that it had a 10% error rate — worse than the reviled punch-card machines used in Florida in 2000 — and sent the company back to the drawing board.

[...] Extraordinarily, many election officials still claim that the touch-screen machines sold by Diebold, Sequoia and their competitors are miracle machines guaranteeing flawless elections. Maryland’s Linda Lamone, president of the National Assn. of State Election Directors, told a public hearing in Pasadena last week that e-voting skeptics were scaremongers unduly influenced by “sensationalized newspaper articles.”

[...] The federal government also needs to be held accountable for leaving the technology of voting in a regulatory vacuum, and creating an oversight body — the Election Assistance Commission — so weak and underfunded that it is only now scrambling to draft standards for technology that has, for the most part, already been developed and sold.

Congress has no control over the machine-certification process, and the Federal Election Commission, which has drawn up technical specifications in the past, is so far behind the curve that most electronic machinery now in use meets standards drawn up as far back as 1990, the Stone Age of computing.

The current secretary’s predecessor’s decertification orders are online. These more recent ones are not yet on the secretary’s site or listed in his press releases, although this one may be the basis for the op-ed.

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The Second Death of Vinyl? [1:51 pm]

The RIAA sales statistics have shown a rise in vinyl record sales over the past few years, and then a sharp decline; will this be the next “death by digital tech?” And, if so, how will the industry spin it? Enter the digital rage

Mendoza is one of a growing number of DJs who are going digital because it’s so convenient. Using a computer-based system means he doesn’t have to break his back carrying heavy crates of records or pre-select what he brings; he can carry his entire 5,000-song library in a compact, lightweight laptop. He also doesn’t have to spend as much time looking for records or as much money buying them; MP3s are quick to download, easier to categorize and less expensive per song than vinyl. When he creates his own remixes, he doesn’t have to go to the trouble of pressing them onto vinyl; he can immediately add them to his digital library.

Most important, he doesn’t have to sacrifice any of the tricks of his trade, like scratching and matching beats. And listeners can’t tell the difference.

When laptop DJing first came on the scene a few years back, there was a small handful of software programs for DJs to choose from, and none of them offered the same range of song manipulation options available with turntables or even CD DJ players. [...] There was also the question of credibility. Vinyl was for purists. Digital was seen as cheating.

But in the last year, technology has finally caught up with DJs’ expectations — and given them a way to keep it real. From techno to hip-hop, on the radio and in clubs, many of the genre’s biggest names are ditching their vinyl and CD collections and going with audio files instead.

[...] Distributing copies of licensed music is generally illegal. So is downloading music without proper payment or proper authorization. Some digital DJs are doing both. Although the Recording Industry Assn. of America doesn’t seem concerned about this issue now — it hasn’t yet sued a DJ on such grounds — the rapid rise of digital DJs may force the issue.

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I Look Forward To The Hacks [10:44 am]

It Gasps, It Yawns, It Even Listens: Furby Is Back, Kilobytes to Spare (Hasbro’s press release; the Hasbro Furby site)

Now Furby is back in a new version that has 500 kilobytes of memory, which is six times what the original had, and uses voice recognition to respond to its owner.

The latest Furby has a wider range of expressions, movement and vocabulary. It can laugh, smile, frown, gasp, yawn and express fear or boredom using its flexible beak, ears and eyebrows. Most intriguingly, the new Furby responds to vocal commands. If you ask Furby to tell you a joke, it will most likely deliver a knock-knock zinger.

This Furby has back, mouth and stomach sensors that respond to petting, feeding and tickling. A communications sensor in its belly can detect the presence of companion Furbies. The motors and chips inside, including a 14-megahertz processor, are powered by four AA batteries.

See past hack sites - Hack Furby; Furby Stimulation Page; Furby Autopsy

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Yahoo! Opens a Can of Worms [10:29 am]

Going to be interesting to see how Yahoo! copes with the Grokster intention to induce infringement rule: Yahoo Introduces Search Service for Music

Yahoo says its service, which is available at audio.search.yahoo.com, goes beyond the others. It will have one section that, like the other sites, maintains a broad index of audio files found by visiting millions of Web sites. It has a second section devoted to specialized search for music and a third devoted to podcasts, the emerging form of radiolike programs offered on a regular basis.

Yahoo’s music search service will let users find Web sites, news and photos of artists, as well as information about albums and songs. It takes information from Yahoo’s own music service to organize the results.

[...] The service will also display links to the online sites where users can pay to download a song. Most major music sites have agreed to send Yahoo lists of their songs and pay a commission on every song sold. The current version of the service has no advertising, but Mr. Horowitz said ads might be added later.

Later: A reader who’s been using the service indicates that it’s pretty hard to “find” unlicensed copies via the search - suggesting that Yahoo! “shapes” the search results to favor legal sites. (Thanks, Luis!)

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From the NYTimes “Laugh Lines” [10:11 am]

Laugh Lines: July 24-30 (see earlier Too Busy Hunting For The Real Killers… )

Fined Reception

I’d like to say hello to O.J. Simpson, who is watching us in Miami on his illegal satellite dish. Did you hear about this? A federal judge has ordered O.J. Simpson to pay $25,000 in damages for pirating satellite television signals from Direct T.V.

What’s next? Are we going to get Robert Blake for downloading music? O.J. insists he’s innocent and said he will continue to look for the real pirates.

— Jay Leno

You heard about this: O.J. Simpson has been convicted now of stealing satellite TV. And if you think about it, O.J. is living every man’s dream: free satellite TV and no wife.

— David Letterman

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Napster: The Music Subscription Model [9:56 am]

“We’ll make it up in volume:” Napster’s Net Loss Widens

Napster posted a net loss of $19.9 million, or 46 cents a share, versus a net loss of $2.6 million, or 8 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue in the period, which ended June 30, grew 167 percent, to $21 million.

Also, Japan boost after Napster losses

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OT: Lecture Quality Should, At Least, Improve [9:53 am]

Not to mention, if we’re lucky, conference talks: Pentagon’s New Goal: Put Science Into Scripts

At a cost of roughly $25,000 in Pentagon research grants, the American Film Institute is cramming this eclectic group of midcareer researchers, engineers, chemists and physicists full of pointers on how to find their way in a world that can be a lot lonelier than the loneliest laboratory: the wilderness of story arcs, plot points, pitching and the special circle of hell better known as development.

[...] Exactly how the national defense could be bolstered by setting a few more people loose in Los Angeles with screenplays to peddle may be a bit of a brainteaser. But officials at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research spell out a straightforward syllogism:

Fewer and fewer students are pursuing science and engineering. While immigrants are taking up the slack in many areas, defense laboratories and industries generally require American citizenship or permanent residency. So a crisis is looming, unless careers in science and engineering suddenly become hugely popular, said Robert J. Barker, an Air Force program manager who approved the grant. And what better way to get a lot of young people interested in science than by producing movies and television shows that depict scientists in flattering ways?

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