Amazon Watermarking mp3's?

Yesterday some people started a buzz around some Amazon mp3's being "watermarked". Now, please, calm down: I know that talking about watermarked songs might be good to get some readers, after the discovery of iTunes watermarks on their DRM-free songs, but not everything can be considering watermarking...

Amazon sells plain and simple mp3's, directly ripped from CD's. That means that there are no watermarks in the sound, and since there's no way in the mp3 specification of watermarking a file in another way, the only information that Amazon could possibly add to the files is the ID3 info - simply editable by almost every mp3 player out there. And yes, some Amazon mp3's (surprisingly not all) have ID3 tags telling that they were purchased in Amazon, but there's no personal info there and there's really nothing wrong in those tags. To give you a comparison term, all songs bought at amiestreet.com come, in the Comments section, "This song was downloaded from AmieStreet.com". Simmilary, all songs downloaded from last.fm have in the Comments section "Free download from www.last.fm (http://www.last.fm/)".

It gives me more nerves knowing that every last.fm downloaded track comes bad tagged (every track is tagged as being the 1st of the album, even when the last.fm website knows it is not) than knowing that Amazon's mp3's come with full tags, including a comment saying the track was purchased there.

Nothing to see here, move along.


Good news to Portugal

Good news to Portugal: next 4th of October, around 15:00, the Portuguese Parliament is going to debate and vote two iniciatives presented by PCP:
  • Aproove an iniciative called "Free Software in the Parliament";
  • Create the National Council for Information and Comunication Technologies.
If this is aprooved, then we will finally have some good news from the "Technological Plan" our government is pulling out...


Weird feelings

Two episodes that I lived in the last few days, both while having a meal.

Last week I went to lunch somewhere in Moscavide, in a zone I'm not used to go, because I needed to go nearby to buy a cushion, and so I decided to eat near there after the deal was made. After being there, I soon realized that that place was really full of usuals trying to make money there: from little gipsy girls asking for some change to Cais sellers begging to sell a magazine (or if I could at least give them a few coins, despite "thou shall not beg" being one of their rules). But what astonished me, and soon enough made me unconfortable and disgusted was when a guy entered the place with hundreds of pirate CD's and DVD's to sell. Now, liking underground bands like I do, I've already seen a really fair bunch of poorly-packed demos, but those CD's and DVD's were even worse: bad printing in a folded sheet of bad paper with a cheap CD-r or DVD-r inside of it. Two guys in the table next to mine stared at him and started dealing: each CD costed 2.5€ but they managed to get five for 10€. While choosing the CD-r's the guys at the table were happilly chatting about "how bad piracy is", but that it is "also funny" and that they "like to help those sons of bitches". Their words, not mine. In the meanwhile, the "dealer" (I don't even know how to call this guys...) was patiently waiting, with no signs of fright or hurry - at all. It was like he was selling postcards - and passing a receipt. Unbelievable...

This evening I went to dinner to a simmilar kind of restaurant here in Lisbon, and while I was having dinner, alone, I couldn't help myself but listen to the atrocities the kids in the tables near mine were telling. They all make more money per month than me. Really. They know the underground, who to talk to, and - they said - the Chinese were the biggest buyers. I just can't make my mind on if they were only talking about the CD-r DVD-r business, or also other things... I only know that they all wake up before me and get into bed after, but they also makes a big load of money... at least partially out of piracy - true piracy. When the conversation diverged to their xenophobe bullshit (according to them Chinese people should be deported) I got so sick of listening to all of that that I went off that place.

So, there's really bad piracy to be fight on. It allways had been, but kids nowadays do less drugs and more bad-quality music and movies. What can I say? I just wonder why aren't the law entities fighting them, the real thing, and instead of that I must to bear with a clip full of "downloading is stealing" bullshit when I go to a movie theater, or have to deal with restrictive technologies like DRM, that sometimes stop me from watching the movies I have the right to see.

Amazon opens DRM-free music store

What's good

  • Songs cost between 89 and 99 cents, meaning that the most expensive mp3 file there is at the same price and never more expensive than a DRM-encumbered file on iTunes. There are also albums as low as costing only $4.99.
  • The store is to be used by Windows, Macintosh and Linux users, and not only Win and Mac like the iTunes music store.

What's bad

  • So, I went to the store and it said to me that they wanted to recommend me some music. I clicked there and the result was a "Sorry, we have no recommendations for you in this category today." So, do you have it or not?
  • You can buy mp3 tracks, but to buy full albums you need to install the Amazon MP3 Downloader [2]. Worse than being forced to use a standalone application is that it is not available yet for GNU/Linux systems...
Their catalog surprised me (negatively) both by choice and price, when searching for Indie records stuff. Yet conclusions about that, and the overall success of this new music store can only be taken when the first figures start coming out.

Oh, BTW, here's the link to the store [3].

[EDIT:] Despite some people are saying, the tracks and albums are taggen in US dollars, like everything else in amazon.com, but that does not stop you from buying them. The concept of buying the same thing by $.99, £.99 or .99€ depending on where you are is just silly, and people are only used to it thanks to Apple. BTW, since the EU is aiming to sue Apple also because of that, it wouldn't really be wise for Amazon to go the same route. For those don't understanding why I'm talking about this, remember that at this moment 1 U.S. dollar = 0.710378632 Euro, meaning that in Europe the tracks are way cheaper.

[1] - http://tinyurl.com/3cz4h8
[2] - http://tinyurl.com/yo679f
[3] - http://tinyurl.com/2gdkkn

Is Google getting evil?

If you read my posts about Google [1] you'll see that I keep writing about the general feeling of distrust on Google: not only I'm feeling more and more bewildered with the possibilies they have with the data they collect, but I also see that the feeling is getting generalized. Cory Doctorow wrote a short Sci-Fi novel [2] called "Scroogled", were he envisions a dark Google in a not-so-distance future. The frightning thing about the story is that it is really possible, just a matter of them wanting or not to "do no evil". Now, today Vitor wrote [3] about a new "feature" that "frightened him a bit", and I can't but ask... Where should they stop? Are you also getting afraid of Google?

[1] - http://mindboosternoori.blogspot.com/search/label/Google
[2] - http://tinyurl.com/yudbmh
[3] - http://tinyurl.com/23mkey


relax, we understand j00

Do you like music, movies and books, but you simply don't like to pay for them? Relax, we understand j00.

I've been advocating countless times that art should be free, but one of the most reactions I get is something like "oh, but artists should get money for their work". I try, in vain, to explain that giving the art for free doesn't mean that you'll get to money for it. Graphs and numbers show rising numbers on the money made by concerts and tours, but those cases are allways refuted with something like "what about the bands that don't act live?"... I also wrote about getting money from publicity, and was quite happy to see someone going in the right direction for it: two weeks ago I wrote about ReverbNation [1] giving 50% profit share for musicians registred there, which made musical projects as my own [2] start making profit while giving songs for free. But sometimes people just don't get it... They're too used to think of the industry that chokes art as if that industry was the only way to access to art.

So, today I'm going to talk about another example, and this time it's not music. Some of you just want to have access to everything, for free. Some of you prefer to buy the art, either because you prefer the physical item, or because you care about the artist and want to feed him, or both. Relax, we understand j00. As a matter of fact, understanding you is being able to satisfy both "markets": those who like to have free stuff and those you prefer the "classic way". MegaTokyo [3] is a webmanga and a manga. Well, it started as a webmanga, in 2000, started and continued free, and started gathering a legion of fans. (Almost) every monday, wednesday and friday you get one more page of story, and in the meantime you allways have a forum where fans discuss the story and try to predict where it is heading. Being free, in fact, was the factor that made it get its legion of fans, and, with it, and opportunity came for him to release those same strips (so, same story, just in paper) as books. From then until now already five numbers are out, and you can be sure than whenever there is enough strips to release a new one - oh - it will surely be released. See - despite all of the work being online, legal, for free, and despite that fact being announced everywhere in the books, MegaTokyo is the best selling original English-language manga, and the #3 graphical novel seller in USA. So, what to say about it? Is it being free hurting the sales, or - as a matter of fact - making it sell more? One thing is for sure: there are several books that have continuation, but if the next issue takes too long to be released, less people will buy it when it does. At least these cases are minimized by MegaTokyo, where you can allways keep reading, strip by strip, as the work is being done, three times a week...

I, for one, used to be a real fan of MegaTokyo, since 2001. I used to visit the website everyday, I would stay awake until way too late just to read a new strip, I was heavy involved in the forums and community around MT. Time passed and I started to have less time to check MegaTokyo, until the time I stopped being a regular reader. No problem - of course - I'm now a proud owner of the books, having a better way to read MegaTokyo. Oh, you prefer to save your money? No problem... relax, we understand j00.

[1] - http://tinyurl.com/2fvw2c
[2] - http://www.reverbnation.com/merankorii
[3] - http://www.megatokyo.com

New Debian Planets

So, after http://planet.debian.org, http://planet.debian-administration.org and http://updo.debian.net, new planets started and now evolved into Debian-Community Planets [1]: a collection of Debian users planets, one for each language. What's really different about this planets, tho, is that they're built on top of an wiki, meaning that if you think you should be aggregated in any of these planets (or if you think you should create another, in any language unexistant yet), you just have to edit a couple of pages and - voilá - that's it. I really hope people won't abuse this: after all this seems to be as a great way to get an even better sense of community between Debian users.

[1] - http://wiki.debian-community.org/planets/


Areae is Metaplace, tomorrow

For those like me that are expectantly waiting for Areae's [1] release, tomorrow might be the day: Metaplace is going to be announced tomorrow [2], and soon we'll be able to know more about the virtual world Raph Koster is talking about for so long...

[1] - http://www.areae.net
[2] - http://www.metaplace.com


LaunchALabel, $100 Label, Open Source and A Swarm of Angels

So, I've heard about LauchALabel [1], a web community somewhat simmilar to SellABand [2] that intends to coordinate people to create a label, instead of coordinate people to fund an album. The thing is, those 50.000 people that will pay $25 to create the label (against the 5.000 $10 parts needed to launch a bands' record on SellABand) will have a little few to have with the label itself: there's no plan of ROI for those "shareholders", those people can only decide five bands to release (heck, with that money you release 25 albums via SellABand), and they don't really have a stake on the labels management. The core idea was good, but with half the money it would be really easy to do a lot more...

Virgil from IndieHQ had a Simmilar idea some time ago [3]: create a record label with 1,000 investors (and equal participants), where each investor had to put $100 in. This idea (raising the money that could release two CD's on SellABand) is quite better, specially if you take into consideration that every "shareholder" would have an equal vote to someone else, and so it would really be an "Open Label". There are several issues to be considered tho, and if you read the comments made on his idea (same link) you'll see that there are a lot of concerns on how to please everyone, how to do the voting scheme, how to rely on other's works (and how to distribute work) and so on...

...which reminded me Open Source and how things just work in the Open Source world. As a matter of fact, this didn't came to me as "this reminds me of Open Source" but in a radical point of view: "this would only work in an Open Source like model".
Let me explain, giving the example of Debian. First of all, Debian does not have a fixed number of "contributors" or "staff" - it's a hive mind, a colective management, where you don't really have to rely on anyone specificly but in the community as a whole. See, you can be an excellent hacker and give lot's of coding hours to developing Debian, and yet do not care (or not have the profile) to do management stuff, deal with conflicts, take resolutions or doing every other thing needed to make things happen. Thus, Debian has an organizatinal structure [4], elected, that simply lets people contribute as much as they want to, in the issues they prefer to.

And yet another thing: in Debian you don't need a fixed number of people, like in Virgil's idea. You can explore more this issue if you compare this idea to one other project, but this time to make a movie. A Swarm of Angels [5] is a project to make a movie release happen. A director, several "business angels" and several phases will be used to create a movie from scratch, where those "angels" will make a part of all the process: from writting and choosing the plot or the wardrobe, to choosing (or creating) its soundtrack, everything is decided by the community. You didn't need a fixed number of people to start: as a matter of fact you have a limit number of people who can participate: taking core decisions with lots of people was avoided this way. The first phase was open for 100 people (£2,500), and the second for 1000 people (£25,000). When the tasks are complete for this phase, and since more money will be needed, the next phase starts and "buying a stake" is again possible, until there are 5000 people.

But the big question here remains: what's the really good way of doing this? How to create the "Record Label 2.0"? Every one of the three concepts for music have problems (SellABand, Launch A Label and the $100 label), and while ideas can and should be taken from stuff like Open Source or examples like Swarm of Angels, there's still no idea of how to create the "killer record label", that which is fair to everyone (from the artist to the public). I wrote my ideas of how to create the perfect record label [6] in the past, even if it was just a collection of loose thoughts in a way that seemed to make sense. There's no answer yet, but it's definitively something interesting enough to make me think.

[1] - http://www.launchalabel.com/
[2] - http://www.sellaband.com
[3] - http://tinyurl.com/yvhzvs
[4] - http://www.us.debian.org/intro/organization
[5] - http://aswarmofangels.com/
[6] - http://tinyurl.com/38a28v


Jody Gnant - A new way of being an indie artist

Jody Gnant [1], the singer/songwriter of One Red Paperclip fame [2], has found a solution to a big problem in the independent music business.

Gnant's One Red Paperclip trade gave her the studio time to record her new album, PIVOT, but she still needed to bring it to market and garner the attention of music industry moguls and fans alike.

She knew she could join the millions of artists with their own website and a video clip on youtube.com, but felt she needed an edge, a big edge, to get noticed.

With the help of a new video streaming website called Ustream.tv [3] she found that edge and has definitely arrived on the music scene. Gnant is now video streaming her life to the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week -- live and in real time.

The funny moments, the greatest difficulties, the recording of the album, the editing, the mastering, the preparations for the release, looking for advertising, it's all there, live.

This "lifecasting" strategy has already resulted in a dramatic increase in the awareness of Gnant's music. Less than a week after starting her broadcast, she had the #3 video on MySpace with 186,000 views. Her music is also being showcased as part of ScreenVison's pre-show entertainment in 4,000 movie theaters in the United States. In addition, Gnant's music is finding a worldwide audience with preorders for her new album, PIVOT, coming in from all over the world.

She says:
It's an exciting combination of interactive and non-interactive media, [...] People can choose to tune in and just watch the events of my life unfold, or they can log on and have an immediate effect on my career.
When asked how long she'll continue lifecasting Gnant simply says,
This is not a dress rehearsal -- I'll continue as long as it's fun.
Gnant is also broadcasting her CD Release performance live on the Internet, today, from The Brickhouse [4] in Phoenix.

Everyone is welcome to tune in to her live Ustream broadcast - for free - at http://www.jodygnant.tv , see some of her videoclips ("Over" and "Hounds of Romance"), or the hundred-plus past clips of her lifecast on her ustream page. You can also listen to some of her new songs, or the songs she recorded in her previous album. She recorded an album 12 years ago, as a soundtrack, and she has all her "old" songs available for listen and download for free there. Jody Gnant is an independent singer/songwriter headquartered in Phoenix, AZ. What I found most interesting is the fact that this artist is, regardless of what people think of her music (she calls it Bohemian Geek Soul, I personally consider it almost pop), something instantly captures your attention: not only her sparkling personality and the way she interacts with the fans on the site, but also her trajectory and life story, and the goals and the views she has of music, and how she plans to achieve them. Also, as I previously mentioned, this is an independent artist, which means she is her own record label, and she controls her own destiny in terms of music creation, and she's doing this all with her own money, and the biggest cut in the profits don't go to any "middleman" major label but her own pocket. You got to respect that.

So, if you have idle time on your hands tonight (3am in Portugal), tune in for a live CD Release show.

[1] - http://www.jodygnant.com
[2] - http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/
[3] - http://www.ustream.tv
[4] - http://www.brickhouse.tv

Microsoft acting as a censor?

One comment from this anti-DRM petition [1] says:
Oh and guys signing this petition.. try saying http://freethebbc.info on MSN - the message send will fail! Microsoft are filtering the website on UK MSN at least, so this has loads of attention ;-) keep signing!
Can please someone confirm this behaviour?

UPDATE: OK, seems that they "censor" everything that has .info and profile.php . How pathetic this "security measure" is?

[1] - http://freethebbc.info


Python 3000

For those distracted, Python 3000 is out there [1]. I'm not really happy with all the changes [2], tho, but I guess I'll have to try it for a while and then take some conclusions... What turns me off the most is that the lack of retrocompatibility isn't small, I guess that there are more lines of code that must be changed than those that keep working...

[1] - http://python.org/download/releases/3.0/
[2] - http://docs.python.org/dev/3.0/whatsnew/3.0.html

My Take on 9/11

Several years after the tragic attack to the World Trade Centre, today news sources and blogs are recalling what happened that day and the impacts it had to their life's.

I wrote in the past [1] my thoughts on what happened that day, basicly citing Ani DiFranco. But the most important thing for me is what purposes did this served. Even today, day by day, "terrorism" serves as an excuse to limit people's rights, violate their privacy, using fear as a weapon to achieve control. Dystopias and our world never were so close. And if you think that it has already stopped, think twice: six years later we're still using WTC as an excuse to create a control state [2] or to limit access to information and knowledge [3].

So, if you really want my opinion, the terrorist act here is that being practiced everyday and in the daylight - that of using fear to control you and limit your rights. I understand the sadness that 9/11 caused - I was pretty shocked myself. But we shouldn't just cry over it, we should fight to stop that terrorist act, because it didn't end that day - 9/11 was just the excuse, the terrorism is being done every day. Think about it.

[1] - http://tinyurl.com/2d2vsz
[2] - http://tinyurl.com/yrnkxn
[3] - http://tinyurl.com/2fyn8d


ReverbNation pays to artists

The music social network ReverbNation [1] added to their network a killer feature, which unfortunately they didn't advertise (maybe they don't grasp the importance of such feature?): what they call FairShare.

The simple version: FairShare lets bands earn money just by having an artist profile at ReverbNation.com.

The simple but more extended version: If you have a band profile in ReverbNation and click on a link saying "I want to activate FairShare", from that moment you'll get 50% of the ad revenue from the ads displayed on your profile. This means that how many more people you direct into your ReverbNation profile, the more money you'll earn. Just to give you an example, Merankorii's ReverbNation profile [2] isn't something I lead people into (like I don't do it to Merankorii's presence on MySpace or PureVolume), and I've earned $.88 regarding August. Artists can only get their FairShare 60 days after signing into this program, and if their balance scores more than $20 (against the $100 from AdSense). Revenue updates are made monthly, and as soon as you're eligible to widraw your earnings you can make the transaction with one click.

Why is this so great? Well, this could be, for instance, a great alternative for those bands in net-labels (or for net-labels themselves): not only you get free hosting and a social network that can lead more people into your music, but also you can earn money from your work. But, most importantly, this finally solves the issue about how to give artists money while fans keep getting the music for free [3].

[1] - http://www.reverbnation.com
[2] - http://www.reverbnation.com/merankorii
[3] - http://tinyurl.com/2788g5


Citing References in Blog Posts

This might have a special interest for journalists and bloggers out there: Russell Coker wrote an excellent piece [http://tinyurl.com/256r6x] about the transposition of news and articles writing from the old media to the new media, particularly on how bloggers can and why they should cite their sources (also a little about how to do it in emails).

The only thing I do not agree in his article is when he recommends blog folding in big articles: I've already wrote about why I disagree with it in the past [http://tinyurl.com/yw7soz].

As the author himself, I also realized that there is a lot more stuff I can enhance in my blogging style, and I'll try to do so.

Google News - a case of bad usability

There are several things in any Google service I use that I don't like. This turn I'm going to write about Google News.

Signed on or signed off, each time I go to news.google.com via my laptop's Iceape or my desktop's Seamonkey I see what I expect: Google News. When I go to news.google.com, signed off, via my cellphone's Opera Mini I'm redirected to news.google.pt without being questioned about it. They assume, by some unknown to me reason, that since I'm Portuguese I probably want to read the Portuguese news, which I don't. That wouldn't be bad if I had an easy way to change to the International Google News... But I don't. As a matter of fact I'm fed up with this problem for a long time now and I still can't find a way to, in news.google.pt, to go to news.google.com. What really pisses me off here, tho, is that at the end of the "Google News Portugal" page I have the sentence "Versões internacionais do Google Notícias disponíveis em:" (meaning "International versions of Google News available in:" with a list of countries. The problem is that clicking in one country there does not redirect me to the countries' Google News, but instead it redirects me to what I suppose should be a translation of the actual Google News Portugal into another language. What happens in reality is that if I click in "United States" I go to a Spanish Google News!

Google News screenshot

WTF? This kind of usability problems just make Google News completely unusable to me if I'm using my second most used device to get news. Way to go.


OOXML rejected, for now

While this isn't official news, so you should not take this as truth, internal sources are saying that OOXML is rejected for ISO. Also, I'm not the only one getting the same feedback on internal sources, NoOOXML has a simillar report, and ANSOL too.


SOAP::Lite for Fedora 7

If had the need to use SOAP::Lite 0.69 in Fedora 7 with the serialization bug fixed, so I decided to create this page. Feel free to use it...

SLTalker is out now!

One thing I've decided to this weekend was that I wouldn't have "dead times", so everytime when the presentations were not that interesting, or if I thought I could listen to it and do something at the same time I was with my laptop managing some stuff or coding on SLTalker, my project that aimed to create a talker interface for Second Life. When I realized that there were so many talks to be done that there would be no time to do the Hack Hour activity I was hoping to see there, and since, unfortunately, the rooms where presentations were given were really hot, I also skipped some presentations, giving me the time to finish SLTalker's "first release", meaning that nowadays you can actually connect into SLTalker.

So, that's it - enjoy, and remember you can allways chat with me there (.tell Noori Foss hi there!), and please report any bug that you find.

Next step, besides fixing SLTalker bugs, is trying to close these bugs on Debian, which will greatly help me to enhance SLTalker.

Oh, and please go easy on the server, SLTalker uses lots of resources and the server where I'm running this is quite slow for the job... Of course you can allways offer me a better place to host SLTalker, but I would need to have root access to it and it must be a Debian box, so I don't really think that there's someone willing to provide me a better host than this one :-)


BarCamp Portugal is (almost) over

BarCamp Portugal 07BarCamp Portugal 2007 is almost over, caffeine is riding the latest talks, some are exhausted, some are leaving, and soon I'll be on my way back to Lisbon.

Next stop, I Fórum de Software Livre de Lisboa, at the 12nd and 13th of October.