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Archive for September, 2007

Amazon launches DRM-free music service

Just as the DRM-filled, iTunes competitor wannabes Virgin Digital and Sony’s Connect drown quiet deaths in the pool of online music, web giant Amazon jumps right in.

The Silicon Valley Insider weighs in on its pros and cons:

The downsides: The store doesn’t work nearly as quickly or smoothly as iTunes, almost certainly because it is browser-based. Navigation is clumsy, and getting a good sense of what’s in the store is pretty tough — it’s a hunt-and-peck operation. Amazon wants you to install its own MP3 downloader, which you’ll need if you’re buying an entire album. And its catalog isn’t as robust as iTunes’, even when comparing offerings from the same labels: EMI, for instance, sells the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed via iTunes, but Amazon only seems to have the Stone’s later-era music.

The upside: The songs Amazon does sell are usually priced at 89 cents to 99 cents a piece (though some cost more), they download reasonably quickly — and they work on iTunes. You haven’t been able to say that about any other digital music store up till now, and it’s potentially a huge deal: Amazon can now offer music as an impulse purchase to its customers — and provide the labels with their first realistic Apple alternative.

From reading the reviews out so far, media fans appear to have forgiven Amazon for the messiness of Unbox and in general are pretty pleased with the new music offering. How’s it working out for you?

Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you. I use FLOSS.

A lot of us have had the experience of having a parent who tells their friends, “My kid works with computers.” Friends nod and smile at the child’s apparent brilliance, and somebody reminisces about punch cards. Then you start working on open source projects. Mom is not so impressed. The friends are confused. You’re working for free on something you’re going to give away? “Son, I don’t understand!”

Today on his blog, Stephen Walli explains the economics of open source. It certainly doesn’t explain all of the motivations and mechanics of open source projects, but it’s a start. Send it to your mom.

Individual projects behave as markets from one perspective, and code is currency, the medium of exchange. Just like all economic exchanges, the contributor offers something they value less (a fragment of code solving a particular need) for something they value more (the functioning software package in its entirety). Nobody is working for free in an economic sense.

And if turns out that Mom really digs the idea once she understands it, you can send her to Open Source God, a recently posted list of open source projects for all your software needs. There are a million of those lists, but this is one of the best I’ve seen.

Bird Song: A Requiem for Digital Rights Management

We made this propaganda cartoon a few weeks back, and we wanted to renew our call for mash-ups. There’s more to tell in this story, and if you are so inclined, you can help us tell it.

Below you’ll find links to all of the raw audio, video, and image files you need to proceed with your mashup. Let us know if there are any other formats that might be helpful. All of the elements, as well as the video itself is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license with an open invitation to use, share and modify as you wish, as long as you share your production, don’t use it for commercial purposes and give us (and those before you) a nod of recognition for getting it started.

Here are the raw music and video files:

SpiralFrog fights piracy with free music. But…

SpiralFrog debuts with free, ad-supported music downloads

The good: SpiralFrog spent a year overcoming music licensing issues and finally launched with over 700,000 songs and 3,500 music videos, all for free.

The bad: The service requires you to live in the U.S. or Canada and to use Windows Media Player 10 or 11 under Windows XP or Vista. Why?

The ugly: DRM. If you don’t log in and look at ads at least once a month, all the music you’ve downloaded will be disabled. You can’t burn the music to a CD or put it on your iPod or Zune. SpiralFrog songs will play only on Windows Digital Rights Management players with the Windows “PlaysForSure” logo.

So the music is free, in exchange for your email address, age, gender, and your ZIP code or province/territory code, plus your monthly return to the site and limited usage options. If it keeps getting used like this, “free” is going to need another entry in the dictionary so we know what it means.

Microsoft loses EU antitrust appeal / In depth – Microsoft loses EU antitrust appeal

Microsoft faces the threat of fresh antitrust probes and escalating financial penalties after a top European Union court upheld Brussels’ landmark 2004 competition ruling that found the world’s biggest software group guilty of abusing its dominant market position.

The judgment by the European Court of First Instance handed a historic victory to the European Commission in its nine-year legal battle with Microsoft, and gives the regulator crucial backing to expand its investigation.

In the longer-term, the court’s decision to uphold the Commission’s tough line against dominant companies may also pave the way for closer scrutiny of other technology giants such as Google, Apple and IBM.

Fans use Nails to open album

The band Nine Inch Nails, led by Trent Reznor, was already known for using the Internet to market music in creative ways and encouraging fans to download songs rather than buy pirated CDs. Then the RIAA tried to get them to stop being so gosh-darn friendly. Now their fans have released a band-sanctioned free remix album. Reznor put out the multitrack files they needed, and the community responded.

Nine Inch Nails’ Open Source Remix Album Available as Free Torrent

Over the past few months, “multiple judges” at listened to over 200 submissions to the Nine Inch Nails open source remix contest and the 21 best remixes are now free to download via torrent or stream via the website.

Download the tracks for free. Trent wants you to.

Miro Needs Money

If you’re not already familiar with it, Miro (formerly known as the Democracy Video Player) is a free and open video platform licensed under the GPL. It’s stable, easy to use, and as more people find out about it, it’s gaining momentum. Miro is the best shot the good guys have at keeping the future of internet video as open as it should be.

They only need $50,000 to keep things going.

As Nicholas Reville says,

PCF (Participatory Culture Foundation), which makes Miro, is a non-profit organization. That means no one can own us and we don’t take for-profit investment. That also means that we rely on donations to fund everything we do. We’re working towards Miro 1.0 and we are making big improvements to the Miro Guide, but we’re running very low on funds right now.

We’ve set a goal of raising $50,000. Can you help? Make a Donation.


Let’s help them out.

Miro – free, open source internet tv and video player

BEA: The latest open source schizophrenic

Is it me, or is this wishy-washy disease spreading?

BEA embraces and disses open source at the same time

BEA likes open source

BEA Systems’ planned next-generation application platform, called Project Genesis, will feature an open source component and accommodate scripting languages such as Ruby and Perl, BEA officials said at the BEAWorld San Francisco conference on Tuesday.

BEA hates open source

“I think open source for open source’s sake has been useless,” Chuang said.

“Some companies have taken multimillion lines of operating system code and open-sourced it,” he said, critically. Although sometime-BEA rival Sun Microsystems did this with its Solaris OS, Chuang said his comment was not specifically targeted at Sun. Others have done this as well, he said.

…and curiouser…

Something is definitely fishy about this…keep watching.

Free Press : Free Press Questions Justice Department’s Late Hit Against Net Neutrality
Free Press Questions Justice Department’s Late Hit Against Net Neutrality

FOIA request seeks to shed light on motivations behind long-delayed DOJ filing at the FCC

WASHINGTON — Public interest advocates are seeking to uncover whether industry lobbyists or White House politics unduly influenced a recent Justice Department filing against Net Neutrality — the longstanding principle that prevents phone and cable companies from discriminating against Web sites and services.

Free Press, the national, nonpartisan media reform group that coordinates the Coalition, today submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the underlying factors that led to the Justice Department’s Sept. 6 filing at the Federal Communications Commission — which came months after the FCC’s formal comment period had closed.

“We want to know what motivated the Department of Justice to oppose Net Neutrality this late in the process,” said Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press and author of the request. “The filing lacks any evidence of serious investigation into this critical issue and fits into a pattern of politically motivated decisions coming out of the Justice Department. We want to know if the Bush administration’s lawyers reached out to any of the thousands of groups, businesses or individuals who support Net Neutrality — or if they only talked to industry lobbyists at AT&T and Verizon.”

The power of many.

Amazon is now searching for Mr Fossett – Download Squad

Amazon has joined the search efforts for Steve Fossett after his balloon small plane trip ended in a disappearance somewhere in the Nevada desert last week. This news comes after Steve’s friend British Billionaire Sir Richard Branson has reportedly contacted his friends at Google to see if they would join the search efforts of over 6 airplanes and three helicopters.

Now Amazon has enlisted its Mechanical Turk system to search for the pilot. They’re using human researchers to complete tasks that cannot be automatically analyzed, such as photo analysis, surveys and audio transcriptions. Amazon is also asking volunteers to look through satellite images and mark any areas that could demand any closer looks. 53,000 locations are currently awaiting further investigations.

More on Mechanical Turk:

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk uses human researchers to complete tasks that cannot be automated, such as photo analysis, surveys or audio transcriptions. People submitting such tasks to the system normally pay a small sum for each task.

The service is asking volunteers to scan a series of satellite images of the area and mark any objects that might warrant closer inspection. At the time of this story’s posting, there were over 53,000 locations awaiting analysis.

Volunteers are asked to load a series of recent satellite images into Google Earth and browse to a specific location by pasting longitude and latitude coordinates.

And here is an NPR version of the story.

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