I'm ecstatic to see Apple launch its music service. It may be too early to say, but from looking at the apple site (can't get onto the service right now -- too busy) the service appears to comply with almost every request I laid out last year in a music article. Ideally, it'd be nice if the songs were 50 cents each, but a buck isn't bad, and I can't wait to enjoy the convenience of hearing about a new artist or album, going onto the service, and having my own copies of the songs in a few minutes for a reasonable price (even if CDs will cost as much as physical media, which they clearly should not).
Kudos apple for sticking your neck out and getting the ball rolling on changing a dying industry.
update: Crap, it uses a DRM-loaded AAC format instead of mp3 so I can't share it with my PC player. Even though winamp does read AAC files, it appears that both version 2 and 3 of winamp can't play a song bought on this service. Attempts to play a song in iTunes 4 that a friend bought required that I know his apple store login to play it as well.
Photos from this afternoon's REDUCE Spam press conference. Full text of the act available here.
I thought the bill might work before I attended this, but after hearing about all the exceptions and loopholes, it seems like it'd be pretty easy to get around this law, while many innocent mailing list owners would be treated as guilty until proven innocent. Spam isn't black and white, and the grey areas at the sides are far too large for this to have any positive effect on email. If this becomes law, I'm convinced Lessig will be an author instead of a professor.
Amusing moments: representitive Zoe Lofgren mentioning that adult mail would be labelled so that "fraternity houses could still receive the messages" and later on, she read the latest text of the bill from her Blackberry 2-way pager.
If I remember correctly, the application was actually planned out, a domain was bought by someone else, and I was going to host it. We couldn't figure out a way to automatically do the metrics though, since there wasn't a blogdex, nor a daypop or technorati to automatically give us data. There weren't any xml apis either, it was going to be done by scraping the single web index at the time (long since dead).
Every once in a while you see something truly new and different, and it shocks you out of life's stupor. The ol' TiVo caught a Conan rerun the other day that featured the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players that was jaw-droppingly good and I can't get the performance out of my head.
The act is half performance art, half comedy, and a tiny bit of indie music, but there's enough wackiness and honesty that makes it all work. A family of three, the dad plays the piano and sings, the 9 year old daughter sings and plays drums while the mom runs a slideshow projector loaded with slides bought at garage sales around the country. The songs are simple and based on the subject matter of the slides, and sound like they were written in an afternoon.
The weird part is that they sell CDs, but you kind of have to see the slides for the songs to make sense, and there isn't a smooth way to do that online. NPR did a piece that featured a song with slides that works pretty well, but seeing them live on stage is about the only way to get the full experience.
As long as I've had my Titanium powerbook, I've had problems with its pathetic wireless range. I live in a small 2-bdrm house where no point is more than 20 feet from the airport basestation, but I can't access the network in half the house. After a year and a half of this, I finally decided to look into rigging an external antenna. Before I could find info on that, I found something much simpler. I can't believe this worked. You pop the battery out and squeeze the antenna into the frame, and now I can post this from the far end of the living room couch.
Now to fix my loose tibook hinge that has turned my LCD floppy...
Tomorrow's event at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society looks like it'll be interesting.
Since so much spam seems to originate offshore, I wonder if an American law requiring labels and bounty would do any good.
I've been hit with a sore throat and weak cold after a week at E-tech. It was mostly a blur, but expect a write-up and more thoughts on the event over the next few days.
Sometimes I think the term "Social Software" sounds like the concept of Community, just wrapped in the Emperor's clothes du jour.
The past couple days at Etech have been filled with news of Amazon's developer API success and their future plans. There are a lot of things in store for the api, including custom cobranded checkouts and integration with z-shops and their marketplace sellers. This could mean that someday you could have your own site with your own site design that also included a storefront (of your own products) that was powered by amazon. People would then buy things from the storefront, and although they would be sent to amazon for checkout, the entire process could appear as if it took place on your site, within your design.
Amazon looks poised to take on sites like eBay/paypal and bigstep as they build a public merchant platform that can be used by all. In many ways it's a Wal Mart-ization of the web, as many small web shops opt for selling through a skinned amazon storefront and checkout system instead of using an off the shelf package or paypal and their own system.
I haven't heard anyone use the term "Information Superhighway" in a very long time. Remember when a giant network of interconnected computers all over the globe was such a tough idea to grasp?
I'm going to do my part and use it as often as possible.
The New York Times article "Why TiVo Owners Can't Shut Up" totally nails the cult of TiVo, which I am a 7th-level member.
Although I talk about it incessantly here on this site, I don't talk about tivo much with anyone unless they start talking about tivo first. I've probably converted a dozen people to tivo after hearing them mention it at parties, or when people come up and ask me. My sales pitch is pretty simple, and works even for people that don't like much on TV. Here's my elevator-pitch version of why you should own a tivo:
TiVo takes the hours and hours of shit found on television, and squeezes it into a diamond.
After I hook them on that, I usually go into the virtues of time-shifting: coming home and watching your favorite shows, when you have time, instead of when they are on live; being free of the tyranny of the tv timeslot once and for all.
Anyway, enough tivo evangelizing, if you don't already own one, you should really get one and change the way you deal with your televison.
The universe never fails to amaze me. Today I became an uncle for the second time, and my Brother-in-law and his wife purposely avoided finding out the sex of their child until birth. Apparently they wanted to go old school on that and be surprised.
A few weeks ago, we were talking to them and the subject of previous wagers on life events came up. I proposed a bet on the sex of their new child.
Now, my brother-in-law has degrees from MIT and law school, but he's a man's man. He loves beer, steak, and sports. I knew he'd be a fit father whether his first born was male or female, but I'm sure it'd be easier for him to have a boy. He was talking about how great it'd be to have a boy for the past 9 months, and they had the boy's name all set (they were still undecided on the girl's name).
In my 30 years, I've learned two things about life: it is never easy, and life is one big comedy.
Whenever you think you're on easy street, the universe always seems to throw you a curveball. I knew a boy would be the easy way out, and that in life's divine comedy, he was getting a girl. I put my money on girl.
Today, at 6:38PM, I won 50 bucks.
The other day I made a comment on someone's blog and I noticed I was the only one that put my online pseudonym into the name field. Everyone else posted as "Jane Doe", "Bill Simpson", etc.. Thirty real people and then there's me with my cute name. How quaint.
This is one of those moments when you notice you're becoming a dinosaur.*
I would venture to guess it happened sometime in the past year or so, due to two factors. One factor is when movable type-based weblogs began proliferating with comments enabled. It clearly says "name" next to the name field, and not "username" as most previous applications did. The second thing is the explosion of Google and most everyone's acceptance that anything they say anywhere will eventually be mapped back to their name. With Google, it doesn't matter who you say you are, if people know the real you, your psuedonym will point to your real identity.
In some sense, people have given up on anonymity online**. If everyone has a long history in Google, it's not that bad for any single person to have their life indexed. Essentially, if there are bad things to come from having your life online, we're all equally fucked. I used to read papers written by online and community experts, who used to put a lot of stock into crafting separate online identities and for one reason or another, people just don't seem to care anymore. Blogs started in the past year almost always give a full name to the author's posts, they tell you where they live and where they work. Their comments area is populated with people openly posting their first name and last names as attribution. Many of the user accounts registered in the past year at MetaFilter (when user signups were on) are in the format Firstname Lastname.
I'll probably drop the "mathowie" moniker from future movable type blog comments, as every day passes and I make a comment somewhere amid a crowd of real people, using a clever username feels more and more like an anachronism.
* Back in the olden days, my first email account was on a aging relic of a DEC, sporting VAX as the operating system. Your email username couldn't include spaces and the max length on the field was eight characters, so few accounts were based on real names. I guess I brought that mentality to MetaFilter when I built it, seeing how Slashdot relied on usernames separate from real names.
After reading about the MetaFilter CD Swap in this New York Times article a couple months back, I decided to finally take part. I put together a list of songs for the past week, and tonight I sat down to rip five copies of it, I printed up inserts and put it all together. The final bit was writing linear notes to go with the URL I put in the inserts. Here's my contribution for the Spring swap.
Tomorrow's the shipping deadline and I've already gotten two great CDs in the mail from my group's five members. If you're a member of MetaFilter and love music, give it a try.
I've only had it installed for the past 30 minutes or so, but I can say without a doubt the PNH Developer Toolbar is a must-have for mozilla users that build websites.
The other day, Anil mentioned to me a Public Enemy B-side release from 1994 that should have been a single release or at least on a major album. He sent me a copy of it, and after looking around online for info on the track, I couldn't find much. I was so amazed by this track that tonight I decided to pop open BBEdit and transcribe it myself. If you can find a copy of this track on any P2P network, check it out. Harry Allen and Chuck D had the industry totally figured out in 1994, but unfortunately no one did anything to stop it. Transcript ahead:
Harry Allen's Interactive Superhighway Phone Call To Chuck D
(added emphasis where I heard it)
"Chuck, Hi, it's Harry Allen here. I just got your message regarding the Musician articles, and I'm glad you read it, and I'm glad you get it.
There's just a couple of things. I think one, these are issues that are increasingly pertinent. It's kind of like a situation where the technology is changing; the way people use information is changing, how they get information... all the options available to you.
...And the music industry is shoring up, that is to say, the people like [can't make it out]... who has probably been the most vocal about these issues... they're making sure they are ahead of the technological and legal curve so that by the time anyone in the general public, whether it be Q-tip, yourself, Bruce Springsteen, George Michael knows what is going on, and sees how the whole process is going towards decentralization.
That is to say: you don't have monopolies on this anymore because the equipment to do it will be available to anybody, just the same way the equipment to make a hip-hop record is available to anybody and a hit can come from any direction.
I think what the music companies are trying to do is make sure that legally, and financially, and in terms of information... that they own, or are ahead of the curve so that by the time that everyone else catches on, they'll already own enough to make sure that you still have to play their game.
And so, these are things I'm really interested in... and I'm interested in seeing you know what... if part of what is interesting is keeping ahead of the situation.
Of course, a lot of technology you read about doesn't exist yet, or is in crude form, but much of it is starting to. And the whole thing is -- again -- I mean at one time CDs were expensive to make and CD players were expensive, but you know, as things go on, the costs come down. And what we're talking about ultimately is you know, a shift in the way this music is distributed.
So I'm glad you got these things and I'm glad you read it, and it's something I'm going to be talking about a lot more... trying to band artists together, and I hope that you'll study these issues... and that you'll be able to talk about them eloquently, as you do everything else, 'cause this is as important as contracts... um, (laugh) black power... among everything else.
Also... the book, I'll get that going, and I look forward to speaking with you soon. Sorry I'm taking up all your answering machine time on your voicemail and your beeper, but I don't have the number for you, because I don't know how to work your home phone.
Ok, Harry Allen... out. Give me a call when you're ready."
The other day on MetaFilter, someone created, recorded, and posted a song they wrote in response to something they read on the site. I was impressed and figured there were probably more musically-inclined people on the site than I thought, so I floated the idea of a place to hold their songs.
It's up now at music.metafilter.com, and I gotta say, there are some talented motherfuckers here.
This is amusing: Cory's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom book is available as a downloadable microsoft e-book (complete with DRM preventing printing!) direct from Amazon for $23. I wonder how many people online don't know about the free versions for every device on earth that also let you do almost anything you want with them (like print them).
While I may not have agreed with the means we took to get there, the ends were a happy sight to see. Especially when a week ago, everyone was talking about how much tougher combat was looking and how the war could go on for quite some time. I'm glad it was over (for the most part) in less than a month, I'm glad to see not too many people died, and I'm hopeful that Iraq will be a better place tomorrow.
Hopefully, giving to the red cross/red crescent for humanitarian needs is a bipartisan issue that everyone can get behind.
I'm impressed by the Michigan Tech University President and his response to the recording industry. I never thought I'd see a college president going to bat for a single rogue student running a filesharing network, but it sure looks like the proper procedures were already in place (based on suggestions of the RIAA), but the RIAA chose to ignore them to make their point.
The Webby Awards nominees were just announced, and I like a lot of what I see.
Movable Type in best practices, Get Your War On and Whitehouse.org in humor, Meetup in community, Boxes and Arrows in zines, and Jenville and Cockeyed in personal site.
I've mentioned Rob's Cockeyed.com in the past, but it's worth mentioning again. It's a great example of a personal site, the kind that used to populate the web before weblogs. It's about anything and everything, whatever Rob feels like writing/photographing. Everytime I go to the site, I start reading new stuff, clicking on old stuff, and the next thing I know 2 hours have passed. Cockeyed is what motivated me to change the focus of this site and work on features more (there should be two this week).
I'm also happy to see Jenville nominated. Jen's also got a non-webloggy personal universe going on that is well organized and beautiful. I also can't wait until she finishes and launches the Jenville Show. That last project taught me that sometimes the best ideas are the simplest.
Anyways, congrats to all the nominees. In the past, the Webbys often skewed towards the big IPOing dotcoms with no relevance to the world, and now the nomination list seems pretty well stacked with great stuff.
TiVo today finally released their home media option which allows you to play music, view photos, and program your tivo remotely, among other things.
I'd love to try these new features out, but ever since TiVo sold their satellite business to Directv, I'm now a customer of Directv, and not TiVo. Directv did not release the Home Media Option for its customers today. I emailed Directv customer service and their reply was that they will not say when (or even if) they will enable it for series 2 Directivo owners. They are waiting to see how the TiVo rollout works before committing to it.
Jason Bergeman has a cool tweak for my previous trackbacks with winamp post - he used php to determine the last trackback's age and displays a "nothing playing now" message. Rael Dornfest updated the iTunes plugin, and I moved the photos from my mobile phone (Mophos) down to the right side, since they were cluttering up this side of the page.
In the early 90's, it seemed like every CD's last track included either a wacky cover song, improvisational acoustic number, or musician shenanigans recorded in the studio, hidden after minutes of dead time. While it went out of favor a few years later, it still pops up every now and then.
Today I found myself listening to a mp3 that featured 8 minutes of dead silence before a half-finished song popped up and I realized it's probably one of the only mp3s I own that features such a thing. It makes no sense to have 5 minutes of music (total) take up 15 megabytes (mostly of silence) due to the hidden nature of the last segment. I'm curious if the advent of mp3 did anything to speed up the death of the hidden music track or if I just fell out of favor naturally.
A fascinating roundup of AP newswire photos showing animals within the current war.
It's only 5pm in New Orleans right now, but there have been enough drunken singers to make it worth keeping open in a background window for the past hour or so. It's fun to IM with friends occasionally that are also listening ("dude, check out the wifebeater singing dead or alive!"). The site would be great if they offered live chat with others watching it, and maybe a "rate this singer" hot-or-not system integrated.
It's a million times worse than American Idol, but lots of fun to watch. And remember: when you can't sing the right notes, just sing them as loud as possible.