28.11.08

Why I don't rent movies

Three associations of rental movies stores, one Portuguese, one Spanish and one French, joined efforts and created an "anti-piracy civil movement". While I could argue that "civil" is a bad word to describe such movement, this wouldn't catch my eye for long, but it did, since they created that movement for the purpose of getting the Telecoms Package to be approved by the EU Council without the emend 138 (that states that whatever the Package says, personal rights should not be trumped over), and they actually managed to get what they wanted. Anyway, when confronted about how bad for European citizens it would be if the amend was dropped, they failed to justify why they don't like it, and instead mumbled over and over about piracy piracy financial losses piracy piracy piracy... I tried, for three days, to get them talking about 138, and why they don't want that, but instead of getting a justification, I've heard tons of things about piracy and how bad their business was.

During the discussion, and because they felt that I must be pro-piracy (which I actually am not) because I don't agree with them, they tried to confront me by asking a curious thing: what was the last time I rented a movie?

Now, more sober from the discussion, I started to think more about that question. There are lot's of people that never really were into renting movies, but that's not my case. My reply was something like "for years", but now, thinking more about it, I can say with some certainty that the last movie I rent was more or less four years ago. Why?

Well, I lived in Lamego in my youth, and there I never was really into renting movies. The offer there was poor (and last time I checked it was even worse), so there was really no point in spending money and rent a movie when I could spend the less drinking beer, hanging out, or even acting like a potato couch and seeing silly TV shows. When I moved to Coimbra all was different. Specially in my first years there, I was quite addicted in cultural stuff: almost every day I had a concert to see, a theatre play to attend, and exposition to watch, a movie to see. I spent lots of money in one of the cinema's there, where I usually watched all the movies that were shown in that venue. Also, I used to attend to every thing that was going on the Academic Theatre (TAGV): mainly movies, plays or concerts. And I also started renting movies, specially when with friends: we would get a couple of movies, crash in someone's house, and do a "movie party". Life started getting busier and busier, but it wasn't uncommon to see me browsing in Tintarella's shelves, since that particular movies rental store had a quite nice stock of recent and good alternative movies, European cinema and science fiction, and a catchy section with weekly highlights. In my latest years in Coimbra, sometimes I was found in the middle of the night with a couple of friends on the multimedia room of one University department, watching a just-rented movie.

Then I came to the big city of Lisbon, and I never rented a movie again. Do you think it is my fault? First I lived in Carnaxide, now I really live in Lisbon. I know where a/the movies rental store in Carnaxide is: I went there exactly three times, sold there used CDs, bought there one second-hand CD, and their movies selection was... unattractive. I live in "real Lisbon" for almost three years now. And I never saw a movies rental shop.

Now, do you really think that it is my fault that I never rented a movie anymore? Is it caused by piracy? No way. I don't rent movies because I don't have the habit of doing so, I don't know any rental store and I don't feel any urge of finding one. If you take into account that I used to be a client of that kind of stores, their "industry" lost a client. They did not know how to keep me. They failed as business people. They did a bad job. They are doing a bad job. They can throw rocks to piracy, freedom, rights, or anything they like. They might even get the chance to implement any laws and regulations they dream of. They will never have a successful business until they realise and admit their flaws and mistakes. Hurting people is not a way of making them your clients. Slowly, really slowly, the music industry is starting to learn their lesson. Movies rental businesses should too.

17.11.08

50.000 tracks played on Last.fm

50.000 tracks played on Last.fm (screenshot)

As you can see on the screenshot (click to enlarge), I've been on Last.fm for more than two years, and today I've reached the 50000 played tracks. Last.fm doesn't really represent what I listen: lot of the time when I'm at work I listen to what Last.fm plays to me (which limits the choice), and when I'm at home, I'm usually listening to things that will not end scrobbled: CDs, Vinyls or Cassettes. Still, this is probably the biggest (public) data available of what kind of music I dig, and it's pretty cool that I've reached 50K: now you can give some credit to what those numbers show.

So, in a sort of way to celebrate the 50K mark, here's my own analysis of the numbers and graphics:

  • Merankorii is by far the most listened band, which should come with no surprise. Actually, for years now my "alarm clock" is an at firing up mplayer and playing a Merankorii album (nowadays the upcoming one), so I actually listen to a lot more Merankorii than what you can see on Last.fm. What can I say? I am a fan of my own work, or else I wouldn't bother doing it...
  • Tenhi is in 2nd and Empyrium in 4th, and I really love both this neofolk bands and have the complete discography of both. But if I had to choose between one of the two, Empyrium would have to be the choice, not Tenhi. I don't know if I really listen more Tenhi than Empyrium (what I know, tho, is that their CDs spin a lot in my CD player, so the numbers should also be bigger on those two), but I guess that this result is caused by the fact that Last.fm has Tenhi musics and plays them to me, while it doesn't have Empyrium tracks.
  • Antimatter at number two, Ashram at number five. These two are also bands of which I have the whole discography. They are of two completely different genres so I don't really compare the both, but the reason why Antimatter is ahead of Ashram is, probably, because they four releases, instead of the "one demo and two albums" from Ashram. I recommend both bands: check Antimatter if you like Acoustic stuff, check Ashram if you're into neoclassical.
  • DVAR is the weirdest band. Ever. DVAR is, supposedly, made by two Russian guys, from Moscow. Let me quote some of their biography on Last.fm: "The music was presented to them by a strange creature named Dvar. All music of the band is devoted to him and inspired by him. Members of the band claim not to create their own music, but rather being mediums of what they have heard. Lyrics, according to them, are performed in Enochian language." The only people I know that know who is behind DVAR are the musicians of another musical project "Caprice"...

And, well, I could keep on and write a book out of what I listen, but that would be boring, right? Maybe when I reach 100000 scrobbles I'll do this again, and compare screenshots...

If you're curious and want to check out one of this bands or my Last.fm profile, here's the link. You can also listen to what I listen.

12.11.08

"Social DRM" is Anti-Social

In February 2007, right after Steve Jobs claiming to the world that he was Anti-DRM and that the fault of him having DRM in iTunes was that of the majors (which is nothing but a bunch of crap, but I digress), Adobe's Bill McCoy wrote in his blog about his vision of DRM, acting as agreeing with Steve Jobs. His ridiculous arguments leaded to a new concept: "Social DRM". I ditched the whole absurd idea and almost forgot about it. Until now.

It seems that there are lots of people thinking that "Social DRM" is a bright idea. Actually, I've seeing the term in my readings more, so I decided not to ignore the issue anymore, and write a quick post about why "Social DRM" is a really bad idea.

First, getting this straight: I really think that "Social DRM" is less bad than "traditional DRM", mostly because it isn't DRM at all. Yet, being less bad doesn't mean it is good, to the point of making me state that, like I don't buy DRM'd stuff, I wouldn't buy nothing with "Social DRM".

What is "Social DRM"? Well, nothing more than watermarking. Basicly, McCoy is trying to think of DRM on e-books, and his "idea" is to have a "Social DRM" that is in fact a mark in every page on the ebook, make it header or footer, stating something like "this book is for the exclusive use of [insert purchaser's name here]". Why is it bad?

Well, McCoy certainly choose the name "Social DRM" because he understands the "social" need consumers need to have in their "content". A book (or an album, or a movie) is social, because if you read and like it you want to share it, to recommend it to your friends, you're going to cite it on your blog, you'll make references to it in your day-by-day... you'll use it as a social tool. So, he [tries to] argue, when watermarking the book instead of making it have DRM, you're not taking the social part of having the book out of it. It is social because it isn't anti-social. But he's wrong.

Let me make a small and quick list of social things I can do with my books:


  • I can borrow it;

  • I can leave it on my desk and next time I know Paula is reading it;

  • I can give it;

  • I can sell it;

  • I can trade it (bookcrossing-style);

  • I can leave it on the bus bench after reading it;

  • I can let it be used by everyone in the office;

  • ...



Now, how many of this social things I can do with your "social DRM"? I can't borrow it, 'cause you're not "Marcos Marado", I can't let Paula wander around with it on her laptop, she's not "Marcos Marado" either; I can't give, sell or trade it, which means that if I abandon it (or loose it!) in my flash disk on the bus, I might get in trouble, 'cause you aren't me. Does this sound social to you? To me, like "tradicional DRM", this sounds exactly like "I'm having my freedoms removed".

Thanks but no, thanks, I'm too social to buy anti-social "Social DRM" stuff.

11.11.08

Telegram

There are many many things I want to say, and not that much time. My mental list of "things to blog", each promising an huge post, makes me think that maybe -- just maybe -- most of those blog posts are never going to be written. So, for now, I'm writing you a little telegram, telling only some things, and quickly.

The first, and obvious, is to tell you I'm going to marry soon. That's right: we knew we would going to do it for a long time, but it was only while celebrating her birthday that I did the actual move of asking her. As my friendfeed followers noticed, or her blog readers, she said "Yes". I'm really happy, but there are lots of things to do now: people still don't get married over the Internet, at least in Portugal ;-) Thanks a lot to those who gave us "congratulations" messages, I know I didn't replied to most of you... bear with me.

After a quick talk on Friendfeed between me and Melo, he decided to write Rasputine. Rasputine (or Ras, as Corto Maltese called him) is a generic Moo/MUD/Talker-to-XMPP gateway. You add a buddy to your roster and then you can use it to connect to that world. That means that now, a couple of days later, you can use Jabber to connect to several services, including Selva (add selva@rasputine.simplicidade.org, Second Life (via SLTalker, add sltalker@rasputine.simplicidade.org), Portugal Virtual (add pv@rasputine.simplicidade.org) or MOOsaico (add moosaico@rasputine.simplicidade.org). This also means that I'm now feeling back the urge to make SLTalker a lot more useful (and less buggy) than it is at the moment. It is being completely rewritten, using now libsecondlife 0.5.0.

I'm returning to have a good reading rhythm. So, I've been reading Cory Doctorow's books (he's also now freshly married, congratulations!), finaly got into the mood of getting and reading Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon (you know when you know that you will read and like a book, and you're so certain of it that you just keep postponing it? I've been doing that with this book for years...), Satrapi's Embroideries, some more SciFi, some Fantasy, some Manga, some essays... Well, a lot of stuff, but still not as much as I wanted to. Regarding to Cory's books, I have a funny thing to tell: despite all his books being freely available to download on his website, with a Creative Commons license, I've been buying and reading them in the physical book format (and reading a lot of his not-in-books essays in my mobile phone). Well, with "Overclocked" I stumbled into a problem: the book had 16 pages missing!. Frustrating, huh? Well, not that much: thanks to Creative Commons, I just picked up my cellphone and in less than two minutes I was reading what was supposed to be in those 16 pages. See one more case on which Creative Commons is a good idea? ;-)

Oh, speaking of Creative Commons: to celebrate their fund-raising campaign, Creative Commons has released "A Shared Culture", a cool short video by renowned filmmaker Jesse Dylan, explaining very well why Creative Commons is important. Since it is in English, without translations, and I wanted to write about Creative Commons in one of my twice-a-week column at "Programas Livres", a Portuguese web publication, I ended up doing a free translation and adaptation, in both text and audio formats.

And... well, I told you, I have lot's of stuff to talk about, but for now, this is it. If you want to keep more updated than this, consider following my Friendfeed.