apple, business, iphone, ipod touch, mac, music, technology

Thoughts on "Stopping Piracy"

There is no way to stop people from stealing. Humans have been stealing since well before computers came around, and they’ll never stop (at least not in our lifetimes). It’s better to let go of the idea of stopping it and figure out ways to work around it.

Theft is an unstoppable force. If you see a car speeding towards you and you want to live, you don’t think of how to stop the car, you just get the hell out of the way.

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mac, music, technology

iPod Touch, Ten Million Apple Geeks Collectively Groan

After years of a rumored touchscreen iPod Apple finally unveiled the iPod Touch. Trouble is $400 dollars only gets you a tiny 16gb hard drive. Pay $300 and you’ll get a microscopic 8gb hard drive. The nerds are not happy.

The macrumors forums say it all

only 8gb and 16gb??? come on. I need more than that!!!

16gb?? Not big enough for me….I’ll be going with the 160gb ipod classic

For the first time in my Apple life I am actually angry with an announcement….

Not even going to consider this one until it gets at least 60GB of storage.

You have to wonder what Apple was thinking. Surely there must have been some sort of focus group that would’ve told them people didn’t want something that small. If the technology isn’t there or is the hardware cost is prohibitive a person could understand the rationale, however the thing isn’t going to sell very well considering it’s not any better than an iPhone and comes without cellular service. And some silly wifi music store isn’t gonna be pushing sales, so stop beating that drum Steve.

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music

Lead Belly, That Guy Could Sing Some Great Blues

When I first started playing the guitar I became obsessed with the blues. One reason was that as an aspiring guitar player I wanted to emulate the greats blues guitar players. I also starting to get bored with the music on top-40 radio stations. I wanted something interesting and blues fit that want perfectly. Then I went to college and discovered indie radio. That was that a eye-opener, but even after finding great new music I still found myself listen to great old music.

There are lots of blues guys to really go crazy about, but one that I’ve always loved is Huddie Ledbetter, aka “Lead Belly” (or “Leadbelly” if you want to go by what record companies say). One reason I love Lead Belly is that he was one of the first blues musicians I heard. There was also Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bukka White, and Howlin’ Wolf.

The origin of Lead Belly’s name has become myth, some say it is a play on his name referring to his physical toughness, or possibly even from surviving a buckshot in the stomach. Most likely he got the name while in jail— he was in sentenced to 35 years of prison twice, once for murder and once for attempted murder. Amazingly he was pardoned both times and barely served any time at all. Both pardons were won through Lead Belly’s musical abilities. Lead Belly’s music is gritty, soulful, and intelligent. A lot of his songs weren’t original but everything that he sang so clearly belonged to him in an intense and honest way. Below is a song I’ve taken from The Internet Archive; like so many of his recordings it is rough, which is a mixed blessing because the cracks and pops offer their own nice aesthetic, but they also obscure an amazing musician (I don’t mind it).

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music, technology

The New DRM Class-System

Originally it looked like Apple and EMI would get rid of DRM altogehter, but now the facts are out. You can get DRM free tracks for $1.29 or DRM-laden tracks for $0.99. So, what does this mean? It means you have to pay $0.30 per track to purchase back some of your rights as a consumer. Removing DRM from music is a step in the right direction, but the precedent of charging more is step in the wrong direction. It is anti-consumer, but it is also creating a class system for music.

File quality. We can ignore the fact that the DRM-free mp3’s are better quality. Why? Because it’s a red-herring, meant to trip people up, there is no added cost for EMI to offer better quality files and only a margin added cost for Apple. It has nothing to do with the increased cost. It is important to remember that you aren’t paying for the file itself, you’re paying for the rights to play the music. And that is part of the problem— intellectual property, and how its owners want to manage it.

Imagine a company selling t-shirts sold two versions of the same shirt one for $20 and another for $26. The company says you could only wear the $20 to the supermarket, but if you pay $6 more you can wear it wherever you’d like. What do you think of that company? What do you think of that business model? Isn’t intellectual property awesome?

But now let’s consider who it is that buys the different versions. The rich suburban kid buying the $26 shirt is the same one that is going to be able to buy the DRM free music, while the people in a less financially position will be forced to choose DRM burdened music. If you have the money you can listen to your music, which you bought, under your terms. However, if you are not so lucky then  you are forced to listen to music, which you bought just like wealthy people, under the arbitrary terms of record and software companies. Doesn’t being rich have enough perks, do we really need to create a class of products that controls how lower and middle class people use the things they buy?

If you pay for something than any personal use should be fair game. Companies don’t want you to believe that you have that right. People need to tell them what they want doesn’t matter. Just say “no” to DRM and “up yours” to paying more for the right to say no.

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humor, music

Monkey Vs Robot

James Kochalka wrote a pretty amazing song, called Monkey Vs Robot (on an album of the same name) what followed was an equally amazing video. For some reason I just remembered it existed, so I am posting it here for you now.

There are also a few graphic novels by Kochalka that document the epic struggle between the monkeys and robots. The lyrics to the song are:

Monkey play in the jungle,
Robot work in the factory,
They will have a giant rumble,
Monkey Versus Robot!
Monkey Versus Robot!

Monkey hate technology,
Robot hate the monkey,
They will fight eternally,
Monkey Versus Robot!
Monkey Versus Robot!

Monkey mate in the jungle,
Robot replicate in factory,
They both love their mother,
Why must they hate eachother,

Why cant we all get along?
Would that be oh so wrong?
Why cant we all love eachother?
Monkey and a robot brother.

Monkey Versus Robot!
Monkey Versus Robot!
Monkey Versus Robot!
Monkey Versus Robot!

M-O-N-K-E-Y!, Monkey!
R-O-B-O-T!, Robot!
M-O-N-K-E-Y!, Monkey!
R-O-B-O-T!, Robot!
M-O-N-K-E-Y!, Monkey!
R-O-B-O-T!, Robot!
M-O-N-K-E-Y!, Monkey!
R-O-B-O-T!, Robot!

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music, technology

DRM Free Music from iTunes

It happened! EMI is releasing DRM free music on iTunes and the files will have twice the bitrate. Could this be the beginning of the end of DRM? It seems like this might signal that business is hearing the market. Apple tends to be on the edge of reading the market trends though, so even if this is the beginning it will likely be a long and painful death for DRM. Hopefully it won’t cause anymore pain for consumers than it already does.

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music, technology

Apple Being Sued for iPod

A Texas company is suing the top mp3 makers for infringing on their patent. What patent? Portable MPEG players of course. Sound absurd? It is, but that hasn’t stopped it from working in the past and it probably won’t prevent it from happening again in the future.

It wasn’t too long ago that two print-on-demand companies, Amazon.com and Lightning Source, found themselves losing a similarly ridiculous sounding lawsuit. That lawsuit was based on the infringement of a patent for printing books on demand. The patent basically just describes printing one book at a time and storing that book on a computer. Lots of people have done that prior to 1993, but Harvey Ross was the one who staked the claim and in doing so his company won $15 million dollars.

Amazon hasn’t always played the part of the hapless victim though. Back in 1999 Amazon filed an infamous lawsuit for infringing on their patent for one-click sales, Barnes and Noble got the dirty end of that one.

Patents have been screwy and contentious as far back as Eli Whitney’s cotton-gin. This new footnote in that sad history is a lawsuit that comes from Texas MP3 Technologies, they’ve gotten this patent through MPMan, which was the maker of the first commercial mp3 player. Commercial because in reality people were experimenting with making their mp3’s portable on their own before there was ever an MP3 Player on a shelf.  Which raises the point— some things are just too damn obvious to deserve a patent. None of these “concepts” here are breakthroughs, none of them are systems that no one had ever considered prior to someone filing a patent. But that doesn’t stop the US Patent office from handing them out like ice cream on a hot day.

Every now and again there is a great example of how patents, trademarks, and intellectual property in general is being misused. A lot of companies are on both the receiving and giving end of this circle of pain, and if it was just a bunch of stupid corporations beating each other up it wouldn’t be so bad.  But it isn’t just bullies beating up bullies.  Ordinary folks are hurt by intellectual property owners all the time.  Ever wonder why the laws don’t change despite it being such a liability for corporations?  Because the make more than they lose, and if that is the case then the extra money has to come from somewhere.  Guess where that is.  Look in your pocket.

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