Is this how time normally passes? Really slowly, in the right order?

Wednesday, April 06


Way To Go Captain Ed!

Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters, Instalanched, Slashdotted, media star and enemy of the Canadian government. He's even got an apropos Day by Day cartoon.

I'll see if I can resist saying that I knew him way back when. Oops, apparently not.

Update: What happens when you get Canadalanched:


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Sunday, April 03


How April Fools Jokes Should Be Done

Go to Janis Ian's site. Go. Now. Shoo!

Update: Never mind, gone now.

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Saturday, April 02


And Now For Something Completely Different

Daniel Henninger has an article in today's Opinion Journal (an online offshoot of the Wall Street Journal) discussing the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer v. Grokster case currently before the Supreme Court. The article is called Wonder Land.

In case you haven't heard of Grokster, it's just one of the new crop of file-sharing systems. The all work the same way, basically: You put files on your computer, and you share them with other people.

Which is fine and wonderful and exactly what the internet was designed for (all this email and web stuff was just a hack added on later). The problem is copyright, or more specifically, that people are sharing files that they don't have permission to share.

The music industry (represented most notably by the RIAA) and to a lesser extent the film and television industry (represented by the MPAA) have been doing their level best to stamp this practice out. They've been trying for years, and they have made some small progress; at the least, they have splintered the file-sharing networks into many small segments, and discouraged businesses from trying to make a profit out of aiding and abetting copyright infringement.

I'm a writer, a programmer, and a musician, so my income depends to at least some degree on the protections of copyright law. (These days I work as an in-house programmer and not for a software publisher, so it's more a matter of trade secrets than copyright, but we'll leave that point for the moment.) So as you'd expect, I'm firmly on the side of the file-sharers.


The reason being, whatever the technical and legal merits of the case, the recording industry is a corporate cancer devoted to ripping off everybody: Musicians, songwriters, the public. Well, not politicians or "music industry" execs, but all the people who actually matter in the process. They have been paranoid about file-sharing and savage in their attacks (verbal and legal) precisely because they no longer add any value. Their time is done, and they are merely forestalling the day the doors are closed for good so they can keep looting the coffers for a little while longer.

This does not apply quite so much to the film and television industry: The big studios are still necessary, they don't always screw everybody, and they have been more circumspect in their approach to file-sharing (though still fundamentally opposed to it).

Henninger says:

Further, most downloaders would likely concede that in a royalty-free world the incentives for the next Dylan diminish. Even writers gotta eat. But this means one has to buy into the validity of eeeek, "profit." I would push this even further; it requires a moral or at least philosophical commitment to the legitimacy of profit. Absent that, there's no hope.
Most downloaders (not all, I admit) accept and indeed approve of profit. What they don't approve of is being ripped off. A CD costs rather less than a dollar to produce; we know that the musician is not (with very few exceptions) getting rich of the CD sales. We now, in fact, where the music is going, and we know that the recording industry has set itself up with a tightly ruled little monopoly, an empire of greed. And we don't appreciate that.

I've got about 600 CDs here, about 500 DVDs, and as many more VHS tapes and laser discs, so I'm not exactly a freeloader. But when unit costs are going down and retail prices are going up, people object.

Henninger says:

What a weird ethic. Some who will spend hundreds of dollars for iPods and home theater systems won't pay one thin dime for a song or movie. So Steve Jobs and the Silicon Valley geeks get richer while the new-music artists sweating through three sets in dim clubs get to live on Red Bull. Where's the justice in that?
Ask Janis Ian. Even with CD prices the way they are and file-sharing stamped out for good, most new-music artists would still be sweating through three sets in dim clubs for a percentage of the bar tab. Thus it ever was. And we can accept that. What we don't accept is a recording industry that is still structured as though it were the 1950s. If there were any actual competition, most of the record companies would have gone bankrupt years ago.

But Henninger also says this:

For starters, if "the people" don't solve this problem themselves, Congress will, and you won't like the solution--unless you enjoy the tax code. Try Googling "Chapter 17 Federal Code Copyrights." Then click on any of its 13 chapters or any of Sections 101 through 1332. It can get worse.
He has no idea how much worse.

The only way to really block file sharing is to ban everything that can be used for file sharing. That includes - just for starters - every computer, every tape recorder, every VCR, every video camera, every microphone in existence today. Every last one has to be seized and destroyed; every new product sold has to be designed from the ground up so that it cannot possibly be used to share files. The requirements for enforcing this are so odious that they'd make the tax code look like Dr Seuss.

There is a way around it.

First, stop screwing around with DRM (digital rights management). Until every electronic device in the world has been destroyed under the new RIAA World Government, DRM can always be broken. All it does is annoy people because they have to go and break the DRM before they can do what they want with the music (or film) they have just bought. Like, in many cases, listen to it.

Second, stop charging those absurd prices. A buck a track? You're dreaming. Your unit cost was less than that when you were selling CDs; your cost now is zero. A buck an album. Two bucks for a feature film. Maybe five bucks for a season of a TV show.

The rental places will scream at the latter, but hey, they're dinosaurs too. They're not parasites like the recording industry, it's just that they found a niche and now it's disappearing. Nothing in the constitution* guarantees you profits in perpetuity.

Make it quick and easy and convenient to buy the things. Offer subscriptions so that people can have the latest episodes of their favourite shows delivered straight to their digital home entertainment centre. Make it so that it's just not worth the bother of going out and finding a stolen copy.

Because most people want to be honest. They're just not willing to be robbed. And stop trying to force people to buy the same thing twice.

* Yours or mine.

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Another Quick Note

Apparently the brouhaha over at Wizbang was all part of an elaborate practical joke that I walked right into the middle of.

I'll leave my previous posts up for the record. And Wizbang's link stays. Though if you do this again, guys, it's pie-in-the-face time. Frozen pies.

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Friday, April 01


A Quick Note

The Great Wizbang Evolution Debate (such as it was) is over, with Paul being hiativated for his excesses. (That's gotta hurt.) The discussion was getting a bit out of hand, and Kevin stepped in to settle things down.

And I haven't delunk* Wizbang, nor do I plan to. Hang on, I do link to them, don't I? Yes, thought so. While I agree with Pharyngula and disagree with Paul on this issue, I'm more likely on the whole to find good sense at Wizbang.

Republibertaricenterneocomoderates: The new big tent. Now with added name-calling!

* The only proper past-tense formation of delink.

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Always Division Tomorrow, Never Division Today

Sorry, my article about long division and the future of information technology will have to wait until the weekend. Busy day today; our bill run normally goes out on the 2nd of the month, but that's a Saturday this time. Plus a short week due to Easter equals busy Pixy.

That and one of my rare migraines-that-actually-hurts. Bah. Normally I get the auras but not the headache, but every now and then the full package. Not crippling the way some people get them, but spending half the morning feeling queasy and flinching at loud noises is still no fun.

Anyways, I'm off to play with Nucleus, and then maybe whack a monster or two in FF X-2 before bedtime.

Update: Installed Nucleus using Fantastico, discovered it wasn't the latest version, went and updated Fanstastico, discovered that it still wasn't the latest version, deleted it all and went to bed. Well, posted this update, and then went to bed. Will have went to bed. In a minute. Really.

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