23.7.08

Busy Times

My "busy times" continue, and I don't expect to recover from my "blog posts scarcity" in the next following months: I'll have some vacations next month, but I intend to use those days to rest, and avoid using a computer... Of course, you can keep track of what I've been doing via FriendFeed, a tool I'm now addicted to, to the point of having replaced my regular RSS reader by it. But there are still some news I want to talk about:

There's a new ARG comming out, and I'm eager to try it, play it or at least keep track of it. I'm talking about Deleted: The Game - an ARG centered in a female vlog'er that moved to NYC and met a guy that is funding a startup that aims to protect its costumers from identity theft... Seems realy fun.

There's a new DNS flaw out there, so if you're a system administrator and have to maintain some DNS servers, you must check it out. It's grave, and you most probably are affected.

Some music-related news: a piece on a particular music retailer, that sells music for USA prisions, shows the real impact new technologies have on the music market, since this guy doesn't have any of those problems. Curious how he sells more Cassettes than CDs, and how his major problem nowadays is the fact that less stuff is released in this format.

After a discussion on a private mailing list about the fact that it is almost impossible to buy a computer without having to buy Windows, even if you don't want it (and if it is right or wrong, if it should be considered bundling or not, and if governments should put a hand on the issue or let markets work for themselves), a new story about someone buying a laptop and then forcing the vendor to return the software money appeared. This time it was an HP laptop with Windows Vista, which wasn't used by the buying since he didn't agreed with its User Agreement.

Regarding to events, I'm planning to go to Aveiro for DebianDayPT 2008, then to Coimbra for BarCamp Portugal 2008, and then to Amsterdam in September to attend to IBC 2008. I'll probably have to miss SHiFT 2008 here in Lisbon in October, but it promises to be a hell of a conference, and you should check it out.

NATO has included ODF in its list of mandatory standards to promote interoperability. NATO's standards list includes RTF, XML, but not OOXML, Microsoft's direct competitor to ODF, which is currently undergoing a controversial ISO certification process. Observers say that the Dutch Defence Ministry threw its weight behind ODF. The public sector in the Netherlands expressly supports open standards and open source.

Against experts' recommendations, against innovation, fairness, artists and consumers, EU decided that copyright should be extended to 95 years after death. This is still no final decision, and there's a lot of work to do in order to prevent this.

Finaly, the European directive I called "Big Brother directive" back in 2005, was now implemented in Portugal, making it the second European country (after Sweden) to implement it. Now, every Portuguese "comunication service" provider has three months to prepare everything to comply with the law and start spy and logging their costumers comunications. Or switch countries.

21.7.08

Welcome to Equal Dreams, the fair music market

Equal Dreams is a platform which enables direct sales of digital music from right holders to consumers as well as easy communication and co-operation between artists and audience. Sales proceeds can be automatically distributed to right holders (musicians, composers, producers, record labels) using the royalty administration system built into the service. By using Equal Share feature an artist may seek funding for a music production project. In this case artist sells limited economic rights of the pre-ordered music to the audience meaning that a customer making Equal Share pre-order earns royalty from the sales of the music. In Equal Dreams artists and their audience may also join their forces for a good cause - Equal Aid.

After their press release, and after trying the beta version myself, I decided to contact them and make a couple of questions. Here are them, along with the answers they kindly provided.

Last year you decided to create Equal Dreams, and now you're launching it. What's the background? What made you create this company, and what are your goals?

Few years ago I got interested in following the development in music business. It was really interesting to read and learn about different services, opinions and visions. I built Equal Dreams concept together with musicians Heidi Kärkkäinen (my sister) and Anders Uddeskog in the beginning of 2007 from the scattered ideas I had created in my free time. We were also fortunate to find great business partners who got excited about our idea, and have helped to bring Equal Dreams from concept to reality.

Our goal is to provide musicians the best music service in the World. We wish to offer musicians and their audience new and equal opportunities to create and enjoy music together.

EqualDreams offers three different (yet integrated) services: Equal Dreams online store, Equal Share, and Equal Aid. I find it curious, since it's the first music 2.0 service I see that tries to bundle three different things: one "fair" music store, one way of letting artists have their albums crowdfunded, and one way of helping charity organizations. What made you try to achieve this three goals in one strike? Aren't you afraid that your service might turn-down those artists looking for just one or two of the three services you provide?

There are certainly many good services that are specialized on one topic. However, I believe that there is also a need for a service that can combine fluently, simply and reliably the most important features from the artist point of view. As you pointed out, we see our services not as separate, but integrated, and mutually supportive; our underlying “key word”, fairness, encompasses all these three areas. All artists, whether they are starting out and have just written their first song, or are old timers with ten albums, are welcome to open their own store and price their music. Equal Share enables especially beginning artists to start their careers, and hopefully create closer relationship with their fans. With Equal Aid the artists can support charitable causes together with their fans.

We hope that we can provide artists with the set of tools that really makes their life easier when there are lot of changes taking place in the music business. Artists can use these tools in ways that fit their particular situation.

Equal Share (that, I must confess, is the most attractive of your three services) competes with other services in the crowdfunding music world, like SellABand or SliceThePie. Why should an artist go for Equal Share and not those other services?

Compared to the other services Equal Share provides the artists with more flexibility in defining what he or she is actually selling to the audience and for what price; first of all, there are no pre-set target goals, but the artists can define their own funding needs; after all the quality of the produced music does not necessarily correlate with the amount of money spend in the project. Nowadays this is true more than ever as the prices of digital recording equipment have come down so drastically. Artist could also use Equal Share together with a record label/producer to gather a partial funding for the production. Secondly, the co-funding, which works with a pre-order concept, can be flexibly assigned to even just one song, and the pre-order price can be set as low as 0.50 EUR. We think this is more attractive from the customer’s point of view than being prescribed to invest tens of euros. Fans can be updated about the progress of the production project using the internal messaging system in the Service.

Why do you believe that crowdfunding can work regarding to music?

I think being able to participate in production of music, especially if it is together with artists one likes, is very appealing – this represents a new way of being a fan; instead of admiring afar people are now able to play a part in making new music. Equal Share is about experience and co-operation - being closer to the artist.

What other things people might expect from you? Are your plans consolidating the business you're launching now, or keep investing on new ideas and business models?

Our vision is to offer the best possible services for artists, and we intend to work hard to meet that goal. So, customers certainly can expect new ideas to be implemented. Of course we welcome feedback from our customers in order to keep us on right track.

All your business models have the base of having people paying for music. In a scenario where we have more and more people wanting to experience music, but giving less value to recorded music, specially digital, aren't you afraid that people simply don't pay for music, and choose to spend their time downloading free stuff instead of being your costumers?

Piracy has been treated as a major threat towards music industry. However, we see this is a question of values and attitudes, and believe there is a strong tendency to pay for music instead of acquiring it without charge if this supports the artist.

People are ready to pay for good experiences and we believe that artists can offer good and new experiences to their customers by using our service. Equal Dreams will be able to offer consumers an access to music by new artists that may not be available anywhere else.

In our business model our success is dependent on the artists’ success. I think it is a healthy starting point for our service business, and it gives us a humble attitude towards our customers.

Where do you think the music industry is heading too? Some people think we're in the verge of living a process of creative destruction, some think that the music industry is doomed, while others think that things were never better than today. What are your thoughts?

I think Internet as a new technology has brought great new possibilities for music business as any other business. Eventually people will find and learn new ways to organize their work by using new technology. I don't believe in a process of creative destruction at all. An artist will always want to create art - business models or copyright laws has little to do with that fact.

Any final words for our readers, artists or music lovers?

I hope you will find our service fun and exciting. We wish to hear about you and get your feedback on how to make Equal Dreams even better.

4.7.08

Are you European? It's urgent, Europe needs you

There is a very important EU vote taking place on July 7th on some amendments to telecommunications legislation that threaten to sneak in a number of catastrophic measures:

European Internet users could be blocked from lawful activities by mandatory spyware, in the interests of their security. The right to use free software for internet access would therefore not be assured anymore. The neutrality of the Internet is also directly attacked, as is the principle that technical intermediaries have no obligation to prior surveillance of contents. Other amendments will de facto enable administrative authorities to obligate ISPs to work with content producers and rights-holders' private police, including the sending of intimidating messages, with no judicial or regulatory oversight.
These measure goes further than the French "graduated response" project, which has been subject to widespread opposition, including by the European Parliament on April 10th. That is undoubtedly why those amendments have turned up on early july, and why those drafting them use subtle rhetoric and crossed-references to make the overall text harder to understand (more than 800 amendements on 5 directives were tabled).

This is really serious: I urge you if you possibly can to write to your MEP. You can do it using the fab WriteToThem service, which makes it as easy as can be. Make sure it gets to them before July 7th (yes, it's tight – that's how sneaky they've been).

If you don't know what to write, here's a great letter you can use as a template.

Tomorrow, NeoFolk in Portugal

Fire + Ice, Orplid, Barditus and Àrnica
First a conference by Ian Read, then a concert with Fire + Ice, Orplid, Barditus and Àrnica. Tomorrow Portugal is Looking for Europe.

If you're going, feel free to talk with me there, and to tell the world you're going.

3.7.08

HOWTO install HedgeWars (Worms clone) in an EEE PC

hedgewars screen shot
HedgeWars is a "Worms" clone and a pretty cool game. They put it this way:
Hedgewars, it's a Blast! This is the funniest and most addictive game you'll ever play - hilarious fun that you can enjoy anywhere, anytime. Hedgewars is a turn based strategy game but the real buzz is from watching the devastation caused by those pesky hedgehogs with those fantastic weapons - sneaky little blighters with a bad attitude!
By popular demand, here's a (quick and simple) HOW TO of how to install this game on an EEE PC (where it runs awesomely):
  • Edit your /etc/apt/sources.list, and add this line in that file:
deb http://www.backports.org/debian etch-backports main contrib non-free
  • In a terminal (CTRL+ALT+T to open it) write:sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install hedgewars
  • Edit once again the /etc/apt/sources.list file and remove the new entry, so your system ends up as it was before
  • in the terminal write sudo apt-get update to make your changes in the sources list being in effect.
  • Now you have the game installed. To run it, in a terminal write hedgewars. To play it well, you'll have to set it up to fullscreen mode.
There you go: have a nice gaming!