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User Journal

Journal Journal: Fear of Music

I did it. I broke down and bought a CD from a major label. Yeah, I feel terrible having done it, Lord knows I don't want to reward the industry for it's deeds. But... I was shocked to see our local bookstore stock the Talking Heads 'Fear of Music' album. Then I started remembering the great bass lines and David Byrne's warbling rants on how animals, paper, and electric guitars are all conspiring against us. Truly this was a seminal album and had the rare privilege of being both enjoyable to listen to and unique.

But I broke my rule to do it. I purchased the first CD since Duncan Sheik's self-titled (and brilliant) recording. What a shame some of the best stuff out there is non-indie. Further, what a shame I should have to regret BUYING an album of music I love. God knows, I bought plenty in the 80's. At one time half my net worth was in CD's and cassettes!

As a musician myself, I realize the knife's edge of morality cuts deeply when I talk about file sharing or purchasing music. It's like different stages of veganism. Some believe it's ok to eat products of animals but not the meat. Some go to the extreme of not using ANY animal products including milk or cheese. For the past 10 years, you could say I've been a major label vegan.

I got into a discussion with someone here recently about copyright law, the constant extensions, and criminalization of children. By buying that one album I just helped fund another lawsuit against some poor kid who had been sharing the music he/she loves. On the whole, my guilt is not debilitating, after all I'M not the one telling the industry what to do with it's money. But I do feel a twinge of regret and remorse. To that poor kid I say I'm sorry in advance.

On the other hand, I DO NOT regret buying Ashley Holt's 'Great' and 'Gargle of the Spartanites' on CD Baby last week. If you've never heard his music or seen his art, you're missing out on something truly original.

Promote Thrdgll today!
End Ad:

Anyway, if you've read anything by me before you might have noticed that I support the mute-net project:

MUTE is a program that does anonymous file sharing. Every once in a while I throw the guy a $20 to show that my interest in his project is real and that his efforts are appreciated. My associating comment in my personal info here is that 'It's not pretty. It's not finished. But it might just be the answer...' Some of you out there might be wondering, 'What's the question?'

To me, there's more than one question:

1) When are we going to stop allowing corporations to prosecute children for sharing what they've come to love (music)? Don't we have enough criminals in this country? Last I checked we have the highest per capita prison population in the world. In other words, watch your step citizen! You are one small action away from being thrown in prison.

2) When is the industry going to find the business model that allows them to be profitable without being unreasonable (like suing the Girl Scouts for singing 'Happy Birthday' in public?)

3) When are Americans going to stop letting these in-the-pocket politicians and corporations run our justice system and make our laws for us? Demo or Repub, it's doesn't matter when you talk about the entertainment industry. The Dems tend to get support of the artists, the Repubs tend to get the support of the corps BEHIND the artists. One thing the Left and the Right can agree on is that each side appears to be in the pocket of the movie and music industry.

Until issues like these are addressed, the answer is of course, MUTE, or something like it. It's still a dream however. MUTE works about as well as Gnutella does now - that is to say, it's broken. But it's new, and it's a fresh way to deal with prying eyes whether they be the State (China, for instance), or the another branch of our gov't - the RIAA.

But imagine for a moment that MUTE worked, and worked well. Remember the 'Napster' days? I do. Through Napster I was finally able to find the music the labels stopped producing a long time ago.

To that end, I will state publicly: Mr. Woolfson, I would GLADLY pay for the 'Gambler' soundtrack but since it was only released in Germany AT THE SHOW for a short time, it simply could not be found elsewhere. Every other work of yours (mostly with the Alan Parsons Project) I have repeatedly bought on cassette or CD. Further, I would say that '(You'll be) Far Away' is the most beautiful song you've ever composed. Too bad few will ever hear it.

There is so much potential that is WASTED by the industry. So much more money to be made and yet they waste their time suing children. But I have an idea that might work. It's kind of like the 'flat tax' that's bandied about from time to time. Here's the plan:

First of all, you have to realize that music provokes an emotional response. This is why I'm so pissed off at the industry. The industry TARGETS children with their music. Kids make bad choices when emotions are involved - that's why we don't hold them accountable to most crimes to the same degree we do adults. They are simply not capable of the same level of judgement adults are. Charging some poor inner-city kid $40,000 because he was sharing some DMX, or more ironically Public Enemy (fight the powers that be?), is just ridiculous and a waste of resources.

And the industry helps promote music in public forums like MTV and ClearChannel that help to evoke and promote the WORST behaviors and attitudes. For instance, this same industry pushes the worst kinds of depravity and depictions of 'gangsta' activity right on MTV, saying in effect, "Yo, yo, yo! Check it - yeah, it's cool to be a gangsta but DON'T STEAL OUR MUSIC!" Laughable, yo. Talk about mixed messages!

So we've established that kids can't be trusted to keep their music to themselves. And don't be fooled, it is THEIR music to them. So the industry counters with ineffectual restrictions like DRM and lawsuits but it still doesn't stop the tide. Eventually, MUTE or a project like it will work easily and well and if not, kids will still pass the music secretly amongst themselves as they have for generations now. So what's the answer? Simple, FREE THE MUSIC!

Yes, that's my answer, make the music free. Free to copy, download, distribute for non-commercial purposes - like the Creative Commons license. How will this help the industry? Well... You have to understand how the industry makes it's money. If not another CD was sold from this day forward, the industry (meaning everyone from recording companies to radio) would still make money. How? LICENSING. It's how much of their money is made today - corporations paying other corporations for the right to use their music in radio, tv, film, Muzak, whatever.

It is my opinion that freeing the music would have other effects - it would make lesser known bands more accessible. It would also create new business models that could not have existed before the Internet. Example: Buy music from an artist online and get a full size poster of the band - it's a lot more satisfying than a lousy CD cover.

It would also allow more creativity since music tends to build on music. If you've listened to pop music lately you realize that you've heard much of it before. Sometimes blatently sampled like Shaggy 's 'Angel' - combining old Steve Miller and Juice Newton hits. I half wonder if this is because the industry loves to push music that has to license ITSELF a couple times over. What's next - a song that has six or seven license issues? Is this creativity or marketing?

At some point, all of this will come to a head - and I guess that's how America works. We tend to wait until a problem gets completely out of hand before we actually deal with it.

Maybe David Byrne and the 'Heads' were right on target about fearing music. But I'd like to think that it's a question of balance and fairness on both sides that will eventually be resolved without my having to feel guilty either way...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Gartner warns of Media PC slowdown - Shocking?

A recent report from Gartner warns that media PC's aren't selling. Here's the reasons they give:

1) The PC industry hasn't done enough to make them easy enough to use.
2) Media PCs are expensive
3) Suffer from spotty reliability
4) They don't relate well to other media devices
5) Have poor aesthetics

Well let's take these one at a time...

Number 1 - "It's too hard daddy!"

Bzzzzzt.. Wrong! First of all, the 'PC Industry' isn't the problem you CLUELESS IDIOTS! Why do people like Gartner continue to get paid for shit like this??!

It's a combination of factors. First and foremost you can blame Microsoft for that bad software design and Fisher Price color scheme. But I have to say that Media Edition isn't so bad and I don't think that's the issue at all here. No, I think it has more to do with getting COMPATIBLE CONTENT INSIDE THE BOX! Or simply getting shit to work together. Working through everybody's DRM bullshit is the REAL issue here and that can be laid right at the door of the music and film industry. Please Gartner, let's be honest where the real problems are, ok?

But maybe they're not lying. Maybe Gartner is totally clueless about the real problem. Hey Gartner, how about you try this for a change:

Get your staff one of these boxes and actually let them TAKE IT HOME. Let the wife and kids play with it, try to figure it out. Find out what works, what doesn't and WHY. What did you expect it to do? What isn't it doing (like cataloging all your DVD's for instance).

THEN, come back to us with a 'hard hitting' business report based on a real life experience. Imagine that. The cool thing about doing this sort of research is that you get to find out whether something's going to take off or not before the rest of the 'experts' out there do and you'll have the real reasons WHY.

Number 2 - "Kinda Pricey"

Yeah, maybe. But then, that didn't stop a lot of people from getting what they wanted before in consumer electronics (see, iPod, DVD and CD players when they were new). What MPC's haven't been able to do is DO WHAT PEOPLE WANT. I want to load my DVD's, CD's, Cable TV on demand, the whole pattycake - with no trouble. Do that, and I'll pay the price for it because it will be worth it. But they can't promise that, can they? Why the hell not?!

Number 3 - "Worked yesterday, then they updated their channel listing and now none of it works right. This thing sucks!"

Yeah. See reason Number 1... And while you're at it, give the MPAA a call and tell 'em to...

Number 4 - "Shit don't work right"

Part of this has to do with the ongoing battle between rival electronics forces. Part of it has to do with stupidity on the part of greedy people. In either case, the customer is screwed, the word gets out that the shit don't work, and sales are 'surprisingly' low.

No kidding!

Number 5 - "It just doesn't go well with my Van Gogh motif"

No doubt that 'quality' individuals everywhere cringe when they look at 99% of these monstrocities. Me? I could care less. Set the box next to the 'set. But I know the types who are a little 'sensitive' about this sort of thing. For those, there are Mac Mini's.

But they do have a point here though, and that is that if PC companies want to start selling consumer-like items, they are going to have to re-think design of these things.

So in conclusion...

Did anyone else out there NOT see this coming? It's like those tablet PC's. Raise your hand if you really thought they were going to take off. Niche markets? Definately! Wave of the future? Uh.. Wave of the hand.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Apple's new mini iMac... Convergence. 2


That's what it's all about folks - convergence. The popularity of a product of any kind requires it.

Convergence isn't all about the hardware or software - it's about timing. It's about meeting a consumer need and if you want to sell a lot, you have to be closer to the needs of the consumer. Having been a former Amiga fanboy I can tell you that having a superior machine does not guarantee that you win the market.

Consider then what is happening currently and why Steve Jobs might be laughing last:

1) 1.2 GHz G4's beat the pants off of a 4 GHz spyware-laden PCs - ANYDAY. Speed is turning out not to be everything. The processor manufacturers are in a quandry as they have finally worn out Moore's Law (the 4 GHZ fumble). Putting two processors on a chip is fine, but if little software (or operating systems) take adavantage of it... Hmmmm.. Seems like Apple's already WAY ahead on that count anyway - but I digress.

I've been reading some posts here about how SLOW this will be compared to a kick-ass PC, and I agree. It's not a machine I'd want to play Doom III on. But I have a long personal list of people I'll be recommending this to, if and when it happens simply because of the security issues in Windows, and the needs of those particular users are basic indeed (word processing, bills, Internet, etc.) Truthfully, if a machine (and software) is designed correctly, why do you even need over 1 GHz for this sort of thing? Flash? Java?

Further obfusicating the issue is the fact that when you go into a computer store neither AMD or Intel are advertising their chips based on true speed ratings anymore. AMD uses the '+' system and Intel uses... God, I don't know WHAT THE HELL they use, do you? Their numbers are mind numbingly stupid and suggest NOTHING. I mean, doesn't a 4100+ sound a lot more impressive than a Pentium 4 550?

And what about those Pentium M's that run at 1.3 GHz? Their not considered slow either - especially because the main thrust there is power savings for SMALL LAPTOPS. Turns out that raw GHz isn't everything and Intel was the last to know.

My point here is that if I don't know, and you don't know what these numbers really mean (without looking for chips specs), then Apple can truthfully slap a 3000+ sticker on there and no one's the wiser for it. Let a Circuit City customer stroll by and watch the new OS-X 10.4 (Tiger) eye candy and be sold on the spot. Surely it must be a fast machine to look that good, right?

Convergence point: Processor speeds don't matter as much as they used to for basic tasks.

2) Security is becoming a real concern. Don't think so? Why do you think so many people have switched to Firefox for browsing? And it's not just IE - that's just a symptom of a much larger problem - Windows. Make no mistake, this will pit Apple against Microsoft directly. There will be repercussions without question. No matter what language Apple marketing goes with here, they simply have to tell the truth - OS-X is a SAFER experience.

MS will attempt to correct it's problems but not until Longhorn (2006... Maybe.) They've already said that there won't be a new IE until then and I guess I can see their point. IE is in many ways an extension to the Windows operating system. To change it as fundamentally as they need to... Well, you might as well start over.

Convergence point: Security is a big selling point, and not one MS can counter effectively.

3) The success of the iPod has put Apple back in the fickle consumer's consciousness. If Apple markets this right, they can make this thing seem hip and accessible to anyone. I think a lot of people translate this to mean 'the iPod is going to sell the mini iMac'. That's not what I mean at all.

I simply mean that the ubiquitousness of the iPod's superiority suggests that Apple can do something right in people's minds. It could've been anything else but it just happened to be the iPod. The iPod is considered by most people today to be the premier, top quality music player - bar none. Apple's logo and presence are reflected in the chrome of millions of these players. The level of success of this device will surely help consumer confidence in Apple's new devices - whatever they be.

Convergence point: Apple has reestabished itself in the public arena as a major player.

4) The price of low end hardware has come down to the level needed to effectively run OS-X.

Obviously this could've been done before now - just not as well. This is where I think Steve Jobs' influence on Apple is so important. If you can't do it well - DON'T DO IT. Be patient and wait for alignment of costs to need. Look at Pixar's success as an example. EVERY movie of their's is a hit so far. They haven't lost focus on the important stuff. And I think Jobs has changed over the years. His newer practical experience is now coupled with his older demanding perfectionist nature. Pixar was making small films for YEARS before Toy Story but they never bit off more than they could chew.

I'm not a Jobs fanboy either. Personally, from what I've read about him I think he can be a real asshole and Apple had a resposibility to fire him when they did. But sometimes that's the sort of person it takes to make or break a company. Since you've been back, so far, so good Steve.

Again, convergence. This could be Job's best plan yet - get people used to using a Mac at ANY COST.

Convergence point: The hardware to do this project is within economic reach.

I could go on about a few other details. Everyone agrees that having a standard VGA Out on this beasty is a terrific way for people to upgrade home systems without throwing everything out, but... Did you notice that thinksecret says there will be a TV Out on this thing as well? With affordable HDTV's right around the corner, do you suppose that was an accident?

How about the fact that this form factor screams external connectivity in the way of printers, DVD-R's, iSight, etc. That will make the 3rd party people and the retail establishments happy. Hell, they might even sell a flat panel LCD monitor or two!

In fact, the only people that will be unhappy with this will be the raving Mac fanatics who insist this particular machine sucks because it's not a quad G5 with an Nvidia TerraPixel 10000(tm) video card. Those folks will never 'get it'. They will likewise not understand the sudden surge in Mac popularity. Up until now, it's been a pretty tight-knit community. I believe that will change with this computer - much like with the original iMac. You're going to see a LOT more nubes, a lot more basic questions. And knowing the Mac fanatics, they will do their best to belittle their inquiries. Why? It's threatening lose an 'exclusive' group. My recommendation to them is to seek therapy. For the rest of us, prepare for a WILD ride!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Where is the justice? (Suffering at the hands of SCO) 2

Long after the SCO resellers shut their doors, the customers move on to other products, and the employees begin to tell their horror stories, the former execs will have settled in to bigger and better things.

Things like the Bahamas or maybe Maui. Because, in the end, that's what this whole thing was really all about folks: The top 5% licking all the icing off the cake, and then leaving the rest for us suckers to clean up after.

There's no real justice anymore is there? Someone help me believe that there is. I want to believe and have faith in our system but right now I think its broken and in serious need of repair.

Here's an example: Remember that guy Kozlowski from Tyco and his sidekick? Seems like there's a good chance one or both of them are going to get off scot-free (how, in the name of all that's holy - I can't say). This was the guy who held the multi-million dollar party in Greece for his WIFE and invited Jimmy Buffett to sing a few songs - all on the company tab. Who the hell 'rents out' Jimmy BUFFETT!??

The scandals of the last few years haven't done anything but numb Americans to worse atrocities. NO company would ever have attempted what SCO is doing now in the past because it's simply shameful. And as in almost every single other case like this, there is no exit strategy for anyone but the execs. They know it, and have all but stated so in their latest filing with the SEC.

Seriously, what are the chances that:

1) They win this pathetic lawsuit against IBM?

2) They don't lose their asses to IBM/Red Hat/Novell/Pick your Linux Distributor after all this?

3) They manage to pick up the sales of their Unix products and/or licensing of the same?

Right. None. You know it, I know it, EVERYONE here knows it. And yet, here we are. The people responsible for causing all this grief are never going to be prosecuted - they know it - and you know what? Darl and his boys LAUGH at us. Just like the way they mocked the protesters in front of SCO with those fake signs.

Even the devil has a sense of humor.

They must think it's the most hilarious thing in the world to see people get so worked up about something that isn't wealth-related. Those silly-ass 'hippies'...

In the end, they 'win' after all (not counting karma of course). Well... The lawyers will also get a large share.

But like the remains of the 'cake' - the ex-employees, Linux supporters of every
type, customers, shareholders, and countless others will be the very real human

So again I ask, where is the justice in our 'justice' system? Let me be clear here; I believe in free enterprise and the capitalist way. However, I also think that the balance of power needs to be recalibrated between government and business. Read some history about how the honorable state of Delaware started the corporate 'gold rush' of incorporation without responsibility all way back in 1899. Before then, you needed a government charter to incorporate. The results of Delaware's loosening of the restrictions were good and bad at the same time. The bad parts are starting to show more and more now.

It is possible that the dark future corporate-based societies predicted by science fiction movies and books (Blade Runner, Alien(s), Tron, Snow Crash, etc.) may already be upon us. In such a society, what democracy there is, is irrelevant. The populace becomes polarized, decision-making stagnates, true leadership and sane guidance is thwarted due to lack of consensus. Sound familiar?

Speaking of which; how relevant are YOU feeling lately, citizen?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Rabid Reflex posters 11

I suppose this gripe will go out into the Ether and be ignored, but I feel compelled nonetheless to ask this question:

What is it about some of you posters out there that are always looking for a fight?

On several occasions I've made a simple, non-confrontational post here only to be ripped up one side and down the other by some poster over the most trivial of things.

Last week for instance it was the 3rd birthday of OpenOffice. In that post, I merely wished them a happy birthday, and that our school had been using OOo for over 3 years. Almost immediately I had a reply sneering that there should be more 'useless' posts like mine.

Actually, I thought it was on topic (Happy Birthday), and a tribute to the continuing success of OOo. What was so threatening to this anonymous poster about that?

Then today, I post about how Mozilla has been great to get around a proxy authentication problem - a problem Microsoft themselves admits exists for XP Home, and two guys immediately call me an idiot for not knowing how to set up ISA proxy properly!

I know it's easier to vent and to whine and to draw attention to yourself by 'going off' on someone else, but this is ridiculous. I shouldn't have to state it here but for the record I am an MCSE, and in fact I trained MCSEs some time ago before I came to Linden Hall. I've used MS Proxy Server in all it's incarnations (including the current ISA one), so it's not as if I don't have the experience.

And yet... For some reason I felt compelled to respond to these cretins - if not for the unjustness, then to expose them to the rest of the community as the idiots they are. Wasted breath.

't0ny' - one of the baiters, was a great of example of what raises my blood pressure. He could barely get a sentence out before lambasting me for not knowing my job or outright insulting me with epithets. Of course, no amount of arguing that point over the Internet will prove anything definitively, but I'd like to think I put him in his place.

I understand how some people can be hyper-vigilent about how they do their jobs. To some degree I'm that way myself. But I'm open to hearing what others do - if only to say, "Damn, I WON'T be doing THAT!", but at least I'm willing to consider that the other person is doing what is right for them and for their .org.

I've learned a lot about that since I've been at this school. You'd think a corporate network is a much harder thing to keep in line, but I have the experience to tell you the opposite is true. There are so many exceptions to the general rule in this environment that it makes making rules difficult. Flexibility is needed - a lot of it.

I guess not everyone can conceive of the need for that. Maybe that's another reason why I'll be staying out of faceless corporate networks.

Thanks for listening!


Journal Journal: NVIDIA = Intel Two Years Ago

Was it that long ago when it seemed that Intel just couldn't do anything right? Not only was there the RAMBUS debacle, but then there was the horrible chipset mistakes, slow performing processors, and all sorts of production problems.

They call it 'execution' folks. Intel's got it back, but NVIDIA seems to have lost all semblance of it.

Screwups? Lots. The FX series of cards is underpowered for DX9 games. This didn't seem like that big a deal until the Half Life benchmarks came out. Now it's a VERY big deal. A buddy of mine had just purchased a 5900 Pro right before ATi's 'Shader Day'. Talk about feeling '0wns0r3d'!

Then there's the NFORCE3. What's wrong with that? Well nothing much if you don't mind a loss of about 33% in AGP performance and no SATA...

NVIDIA, what the hell is wrong with you??!! You've had how much time now to get this chipset right? AMD's schedule slipped WAY back, so you should have had mucho time to fix these problems before now. How it is that VIA is able to kick your ass in the Athlon 64 benchmarks is simply shameful. Get it fixed - now.

There's been some talk on the boards that the NV40 will save NVIDIA's butt, well maybe that's true. But don't forget, ATi is still out there with the R400, and I'm sure they won't be playing softball either. It's sure to have killer performance.

The real question is: How did NVIDIA drop the ball in the first place? The answer lies closer to the way NVIDIA and ATi are structured I think. ATi has chip foundries. They can have the tech to make their own chips. True, it's not the most state of the art compared to Intel, Via, AMD, or some of the Taiwanese chip firms, but least they fully understand what they're dealing with.

Then you have NVIDIA. They build advanced chip architectures, but they must farm these out to others to build them. I imagine there can be a lot of miscommunication and trial and error going on here. In the old days when ATi really wasn't concerned about being very competitive in the 3D field, NVIDIA could take time with their partners to get the new process technologies right. Now, they can't.

When .13 micron appeared two years ago NVIDIA jumped on it, even though it really hadn't been proven yet because they felt it would give them the edge on ATi, who was using a .15 micron tech. Had they delivered the FX series on time it would have been very competitive for sure. But the process technologies weren't ready yet which caused delays, the yields were awful, there were heat problems, and there was another problem related to a decision made at a much earlier date - memory choice.

While ATi chose to stick with good 'old' DDR, NVIDIA attempted to jump the gun and go with DDR II which is faster, however has less total bandwidth (128 bits vs. 256). Higher clock speeds meant more heat, and again, more problems as well, hence the 5800 "Dustbuster".

These missteps may have cost NVIDIA a lot of money. The whole FX series will be looked upon as inferior when the new crop of DX9 games arrives. There's simply no other way to see this. When you have a card like the 9600 Pro selling for $200 and kicking total ass at HL2, and then you have a $500 5900 PRO barely able to keep that pace, something is very wrong and no Detonator driver is going to somehow ride in and save the day here folks.

I supposed the biggest problem from NVIDIA's standpoint would be all that lost time and opportunity. They've given up more ground to ATi than ever before, which of course has emboldened ATi to get even more into the game by purchasing better process technologies. What can NVIDIA do now?


1) NVIDIA goes the way of 3Dfx. Which is kind of fitting since they actually own them now. They can't maintain this kind of rep for long, they will need to rebuild their reputation and that will take a lot of hard work. It may well be that even if NVIDIA survives, they will be a very different company that we know them as now. Which leads me to this, more likely scenario.

2) NVIDIA merges or gets bought by someone with process technologies. I truly believe that in order for NVIDIA to remain competitive, they will need to have more control over the actual chip making process. ATi may kill them if another misstep like this happens. The thing is, when you own your own chip foundry, you truly have your fingers on the pulse of the operation; but when you farm things out, you only have the word of those who own the equipment.

It is entirely possible to imagine IBM or even AMD buying or merging with NVIDIA. Stop laughing back there, I'm very serious! NVIDIA's got good tech, but they have desparate need of foundries now that ATi and even upstart XGi may be in the game for real.

Either way, I don't believe NVIDIA can continue on their current path for much longer. Things will need to change and change quickly. Let's hope they stick around. The competition has been excellent for all of us!

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