Monthly Archives: August 2007

Wal-Mart does it again!

The music business is known for its reluctance to embrace digital music sales without wrapping said music in horribly restrictive DRM that all too often means that their collection of bought-and-paid-for product will not work with the next generation of players. A classic example of this was when music that was “protected” by Microsoft’s “PlaysforSure” DRM would not work with their new “Zune” music player.

Milady has had an iPod for over a year. My music collection – all legit, I hasten to add – runs to about 26GB. To date we have bought two songs from iTunes.

As you can see, I’m not exactly crazy about DRM.

Once again, Wal-Mart has gone where the music business fears to tread. Until recently they sold only DRM-protected WMA music, which only worked on Windows machines and select WMA-enabled digital music players. The good news is that they have now started offering selling MP3 music downloads on their website. These files will work on your any MP3 player, including both the iPod and the Zune.

The MP3s are 256kbit (good quality, but could be better) and at 94c per file, cost a little more than the 88c WMA downloads, and a lot more than they should be (they should be about half that at most)

After a wander around their website, I see that only a small subset of the WMA files are available as MP3 download – some artists (such as “Madness) have none at all. In addition, a small number are not available in either format – but hopefully the selection available for MP3 download will grow with time.

I still think that $1/song is at least double the price that it should be (buying all the tracks on an album is about the same price as buying the CD), but that’s mostly due to MusicBiz greed – I strongly suspect that Wal-Mart gets only a few pennies per download and they pocket the rest.

It is, however, a huge leap of faith, as the MP3s are unprotected and can be easily shared. If that happens on a large scale, this experiment will fail and the music business’ bleating for more protection from their own customers will gain credibility – so let’s do out bit to make sure that does not happen by supporting legal unprotected MP3s in the marketplace…

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Die Spammer Die!

In the past few weeks, my personal e-mail address – the one I have through my ISP – has become inundated with spam. On a typical day I will get thirty to sixty messages; only about half a dozen come from people I know.

When I fire up the computer in the morning, there are more than a dozen messages waiting for me. They are a mixture of 419, software resellers, stock scams and pharmaceutical (V@gra! C1al15!), but the worst offenders – about two-thirds – are porn spams.

This is not only annoying to me, but it is upsetting to Milady, who has an address with the same ISP, and yet she gets no spam.

Several weeks have gone by and the problem is getting worse. My ISP’s solution is to sell me software to keep out the junk. They’re missing the point. By the time it reaches my inbox it’s already too late.

I know that I have done nothing to find myself in their sights, which begs the obvious question: How did this happen?

I can only assume that a legitimate website that I had been subscribing to has either been hacked; either that or it has gone out of business and the e-mail-list was bought up by someone with less-than-altruistic intentions.

I have set up a Gmail account and will be using it from this point forward.

The company she keeps…

Many emotions fought one another as I saw this video on Youtube.

Hillary seems to believe that “Lobbyists represent real people”. That is partly true at best, disingenuous at worst.

As best I understand it, lobbyists represent corporations and trade groups. They do not represent voters. And they have money; if they did not, they would not be lobbyists.

Al Capone once said “You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone”.  Lobbyists know that they can get much further with a political opinion and a check than they can with a political opinion alone.

Politicians need money. They need money to finance their political campaigns and their lifestyles. Lobbyists know this. From where I sit, lobbying is an ugly wart on the American political landscape, and an affront to honest people everywhere. It is in effect, legalized bribery.

There are some who say that lobbying is “buying good government”. I don’t believe you. The aim of lobbying is not to solve politicians’ financial problems, it is to make them aware of what you want. The money is simply a way to get in the door.

Here’s an easy way to prove me wrong. Donate your money anonymously. If you are “buying good government” this will be an entirely satisfactory solution. If not, you are seeking recognition… and it’s a bribe.

Shame on you, Hillary, for defending these people. And before you say “everybody’s doing it”, bear in mind that Ron Paul has never taken bribes lobbyists’ money, and he has a far more consistent record than yours. He was against the war in Iraq before he was against the war in Iraq (and before is was fashionable and popular to hold that position), he was against the Patriot act, and unlike Hillary his integrity has never been called into question. I believe that he may be one of the only honest men in Washington.

I close with the following words:

The American people look at their capital and they see a city where the well-connected and the well-protected can work the system, but the interests of ordinary citizens are often left out.

As the new Congress opened its doors, lobbyists were still doing business as usual – the gifts, the trips – all the things that people are concerned about haven’t stopped.

Twice this month you missed opportunities to stop these practices. I know there were other considerations in those votes, but I want to use something that I’ve heard my Republican friends say from time to time: There doesn’t have to be a law for everything.

So tonight I ask you to just stop taking the lobbyists’ perks, just stop.

Who delivered those wise words? President William Jefferson Clinton, in his State of the Union Address, Jan. 24, 1995. And there, dear reader, I rest my case.

Now Reading: Talk to the Hand, by Lynne Truss