Archive for April, 2003

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iTunes Music Store

April 28, 2003

I watched via satelite while Apple launched a new music downloading service earlier today.

Yep, it’s Mac only. But maybe all you non-Mac users should care anyway. The entire world seems to understand that downloading music off the internet is What People Want and that it’s The Way To Go. But nobody seems to know if money can be made doing it. How could it compete with the free peer-to-peer filesharing networks like Kazaa? Would it have to utilize severe restrictions on the purchased product to prevent piracy or to appease the RIAA? If someone figures out the right recipe for success selling music online it could start the avalanche of other music downloading services. (Oh, and even if nobody else manages to get it right, Apple’s own service will be available for Windows by the end of the year.)

My own belief is that if you offer a large inclusive library, cheaper than store-bought CD prices, high quality audio, reliable downloading, listen before you buy, easy searching and a good dose of fair use rights … people will be willing to pay. Not all of them. Maybe not even most of them. But enough to make a buck. Enough to let the honest people be honest.

And since were talking honestly, let me confess that I have used peer-to-peer filesharing networks to download music. Not often. Not regularly. But I have. It was wrong and I hereby repent. But I can offer one less-than-astonishing insight into why an otherwise honest person like myself would do such a thing: it was the only game in town. Early on, no legitimate music downloading services were available. More recently, the few services that had popped up required subscription fees and/or involved overzealous restrictions on what I could and couldn’t do with the music once I bought it. Yuck. I for one am not surprized that those other services haven’t been runaway sucesses. The term “abysmal failures” comes to mind in fact.

How does Apple’s new service stack up on my “recipe for success”? Not that bad, actually.

1. Large inclusive library: They apparenlty have all the top music labels onboard with this thing. They may only have a few hundred thousand tracks online today, but with partners like that you can be sure it’ll be one hella big library once they’re done digitizing.

2. Cheaper than store-bought CD prices: $0.99 per song or $9.90 per album seem to be the going rate. That’s not exactly free, but I think everyone knows that getting a CD at Best Buy will almost certainly cost you more. Sure there’s the fact that you have to supply your own CD-R media, but hell, at least you don’t have to pay for those crappy “filler” tracks because you can pick your songs a la carte if you want.

3. High quality audio: Apple is using Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format, which is a subset of MPEG4. It’s superior to MP3. Let’s face it, on today’s internet you can’t make a business selling uncompressed audio. You have to use some kind of crunching technology to make the file size into something that’s downloadable. The trick is to keep it sounding as good as possible while you do it. AAC is probably the best choice out there right now.

4. Reliable downloading: Nothing sucks worse than searching for a song on Kazaa only to get stuck with a slower than molassess host. At least with Apple, who runs the biggest move trailer site in the world, you know they got the bandwidth to do the job right.

5. Listen before you buy: They have it. Full quality, too, not some cheap tinny “preview.” You get 30 seconds of the track at the exact quality you’ll be buying.

6. Easy searching: Hey this is Apple, king of human/computer interfaces. Easy? You bet. Enjoyable even.

7. Good fair use rights: I think Apple does okay here, letting you burn unlimited CDs, listen on an unlimited number of iPod music players, and letting you store the files on up to 3 computers. (Note: there is seemingly nothing preventing you from exceeding this 3 computer limit if you’re willing to do a little file conversion.) That is an amazing set of rights considering the RIAA is onboard with this thing! Are these rights good enough? We’ll see how sucessfull the service is. Noxious restrictions scare away wise customers. The proof will be in the pudding.

Earlier tonight I spent a little time poking around in the new service. It’s nice! I even bought a song. I don’t think it’ll be the last. Hopefully this new service will be sucessfull and it’s recipe will catch on with others. I want to see online music sales succeed. All it needs is the right method. Maybe this is it.

Update: Here’s another take on Apple’s new service.

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Kite Flying

April 27, 2003

I and the entire family went to Minooka park late this morning. Our plan was to stop mid-way along our usual 3-mile walk and fly a kite on the sledding hill. We stopped at Walgreens to pick up a kite along the way. I even bought a spare kite and some extra string.

Mission accomplished. Check out today’s Shot Recently pics!

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Spanglemaker

April 26, 2003

Mr. Charles Gray is:

a) a doctoral student in Marquette University’s School of Education.
b) a guy who works for me as a part of Marquette’s e-learning team.
c) a pretty cool guy.
d) a member of the Milwaukee rock band, Spanglemaker.
e) all of the above.

That being the case, John, Jesse, Lorry and I went out last night to the BBC to see Spanglemaker. And they rocked. What more can I tell you? Lorry said they reminded her of Neil Finn. I can see that. Plus a pinch of John BonJovi vocals and a twist of The Cure guitar work.

Yes I did take pictures but they’re only up temporarily so look quick before they’re gone! They’re in the Shot Recently album.

Angela didn’t come with us. She wimped out and drove to Whitewater to see Everclear. She didn’t get pictures but she did get autographs!

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Stewps

April 24, 2003

It’s been a long, long, day but not a bad one. Work was pretty fast-paced today and there was some pressure due to a major system outage. It wasn’t so bad though. And someone (a vendor?) ordered a dozen pizzas for everyone so lunch was on the house. I got to work at 7-ish, left at …nearly 5? Could have been worse, definetly. And for many people in my department it was.

After work Angela and I were scheduled to go grocery shopping. (We usually go on the weekend but somehow we didn’t go last weekend.) But everyone was hungry. Daniel has been suggesting a new place he’d seen over on Silvernail Road so we decided to go there and try it out.

“Stewps,” in spite of having the most stewpid name in the restaurant industry, has some really good food. Their gig there, if you didn’t guess by the name, is stews and soups. It’s fast-food-like, and you bus your own table when you’re done. It sort of had a sub-sandwich place feel to it. Angela and I chose the Cajun Chicken with Red Beans and Rice. Daniel and Paige opted for Chicken soup (you get your choice of rice, noodles or spaetzel!) The stew and the soup were excellent. You also get a large wedge of fresh baked bread with it.

After dinner and a quick trip to the pet store for Loganchow we dropped Paige off at the library and Dan off at home. Then Angela and I finally went shopping. By the time we were done I was exhausted.

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Busy Saturday!

April 19, 2003

I have had a pretty darned good Saturday so far. It started off on the right note when I decided to walk down to the 10 A.M karate class. Dan didn’t want to go to the class but I convinced him to walk the mile down to the dojang with me. Logan came with.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Saturday morning class. I expected attendance to be very light but there were at least a dozen people there. All familiar faces from the weekday evening sessions. I got to do warmups and ended up teaching some of the lower rank students for much of the class. I really like doing that. We didn’t spar but I did get to learn brown belt form. It’s a good one. I came home and showed Dan.

Speaking of Daniel, he’d been looking pretty shaggy lately so I took him for a haircut. I think the results speak for themselves.

It was lunchtime when we got home so everyone scrounged up something or other. I myself did the healthy thing (Yay me!) with a salad comprised of baby spinach, tuna, and hardboiled egg. Then Dan and I went outside and took down all the storm windows and put up the screens.

Having done that, I came back into the house and started working on Keith’s new/used computer. After a bitter struggle between Outlook Express, Entourage, Eudora and Mail, I did finally manage to get his email migrated to the new box. Sheesh. I wish someone would make that kind of shit easier. I’ve come to the conclusion that your average email client is like some kind of digital Roach Motel for your messages (they import but they don’t export). Bastards.

Anyway, as if that wasn’t enough for one day I then tracked down a hard-to-find birthday gift for Paige. Cool part was, I bought it online but was able to drive over to the local brick-n-mortar store to pick it up. She’ll be pleased. Score one for ol’ dad 🙂

Finally, I helped Angela make dinner. My contribution consisted of grilling pork chops and veggie burgers. A good meal was had by all.

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Tim Robbins Speaks

April 17, 2003

I did not protest the war. I have said before, time after time after time after time, that I could not bring myself to be against it. Not when one of its major outcomes would be 24 million people freed from a ruthless tyrant. Even if the presidents motivations weren’t pure. Even if he lied. Even if there are no WMD found. Before, people were afraid to speak. People were “dissapeared.” Tortured. Now, perhaps they have a chance for freer lives. That is why I could not, once it had begun, protest the war or speak against it.

And I admit I have wondered aloud why anyone would give a damn about what Susan Sarandon or the Dixie Chicks had to say about international politics. I certainly don’t. Not because I don’t agree with them, but simply because they have no authority or expertise greater than anyone on the street. In fact one could argue that I know more about such things than either of them.

Nevertheless, I read the speech Actor Tim Robbins delivered to the National Press Corps in Washington and I was impressed. He has some excellent points. Truly excellent.

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TKD Tests, Keith’s Place & Minooka

April 13, 2003

Dan and I tested for our brown belts in tae kwon do Friday evening. Angela even came and snapped a few pictures of the ordeal. We passed and should be recieving our actual belts at our Monday evening class. Even more exciting is that two or three friends have mentioned an interest in doing TKD with us! I hope they decide to do it.

Angela and the kids and I went up to her brother’s place on Saturday to visit him and his kids. He lives almost 50 miles away in Mayville, Wisconsin (population 5k!). The original goal of the trip was for me to swap out the old Powermac 8500/120 I gave him a while back for a newer Powermac G3 333. Alas, I forgot to bring one of the necessary cables so I ended up bringing both computers back home to work on them here. But we at least got to visit them all. And we got to burninate some brats and burgers. I took pictures, of course, but I didn’t post any of them in my gallery. Instead I made a short movie out of a few of them. Check it out here! (Quicktime required.)

Today was fun, too. I started off a little weird, though, because I slept until 10 AM. I usually end up crabby and headachy after doing that but it wasn’t so bad today. Angela and I took Logan to Minooka park. I did shoot pictures (there’s a few up in the Shot Recently album) but I also made a short slideshow out of it that you should really check out. Click here to see it. (Quicktime required.)