Copyrights

Last.fm taking care of business

Founded in 2002, British company Last.fm offers three complementary services: playing customized audio broadcasts on its corporate player, keeping track and statistics about of all the songs played or rated on one’s multimedia application, and building an extensive artist and songs database.

Failing to load music on the Last.fm player for the last few days, I logged onto their portal only to find out that Last.fm now asks users to register for a 3$ monthly fee. This comes as no surprise, considering that in order to be able to podcast copyrighted audio content, the company must have had a way of monetizing it. This seems to be a logical step two years after the company being acquired by CBS.

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Crowd-sourcing

Crowdspring is a development portal where clients can post projects and review submissions of a 25,000-user community.

Benefits of crowdSPRING

  • Name your price
    Launch your project on your budget, not someone else’s.
  • Name your deadline
    See entries within hours and be done in just days.
  • Ridiculous choice
    The average project gets a whopping 77 entries.
  • Money back guarantee
    25 entries or your money back.
  • 25,000+ creatives
    Your virtual creative team in over 140 countries.
  • We’re here to help
    Seven days a week.(although we occasionally sleep).
  • Exceptional quality
    Never sacrifice quality for budget or deadline.
  • Free contract
    So you know you have full ownership of your final design.

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No wonder it is so hard to find a pan-european digital music store

I started using Apple Inc.’s iTunes back in Italy. The software has many locks-in: it doesn’t play Microsoft’s proprietary WMA or the open OGG Vorbis audio format. When instructed to consolidate the music library, iTunes does it with a logic of its own, separating the audio files and the images in completely remote registries; and the library manager also operates on its own will: it always switches back to the default music library location even though I specified my preferred one.

Pentafoil tangle

Pentafoil tangle by Carlo H. Séquin

Despite all its drawbacks, iTunes remains the only solution for a European citizen considering digital music purchase over the Internet. The songs are a child’s play to locate, samples can be played, and it only takes a couple of clicks to get the files on the local disc. Moving them from there is another problem… The biggest drawback I could see was the unability to buy music from other European countries. An abberation considering the many laws safeguarding the free movement of goods across the EEC.

Why cant Apple Inc. sell music licenses across internal European borders? I thought it should be easy. Well it turns out that for the time being it is actually impossible. Andrew Orlowski explains on The Register why the European intellectual propriety laws, or lack thereof, makes it very hard for entrepreneurs to launch a pan-european digital music store.

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world-fame throught 140 characters

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
Andy Warhol, 1968

It is highly arguable that at the time of this famous statement, Andy Warhol could have foreseen that a US government agency created in 1958 to secure technological edge over the Soviets would combine with post-1975 personal computers after to enable common mortals to experience fame from the anonymity of their basement.

Since 1989, the World Wide Web has enabled skilled users to publish content on the Internet, and the ever-decreasing technicality of the process now allows laymen to publish 140 characters-long messages. The Web 1.0 era was characterized at best by free static web hosting, while the Web 2.0 saw the successive rise of free content management software, free blogging, MySpace, Facebook and eventually Twitter. On april 16th 2009, actor Ashton Kutcher won his bet against CNN, reaching 1,000,000 followers on his Twitter account before the news channel.

Twitter is based on proprietary software, just like the social networking portal Facebook. Both networks boast a multi-million broad user base, but have yet failed 1 2 to capitalize on their popularity. Apple’s iconic iPhone received dedicated Facebook and Twitter applications and Facebook features a micro-blogging feature that can be synced with Twitter.

Users somehow consider the free service they get as something democratic, but truth be told, both networks are funded by capital venture; so at some point the investors will want to get their money’s worth.

On several occasions, Facebook did stir strong protest from regarding policy. The network is prone to phishing and is criticised namely for holding onto information even after an account has been closed and for reselling data to third parties. Similar concerns about Twitter brought some developers to create Identi.ca, an open-source Twitter clone that handles all the user information according to the Creative Commons license.

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Book review: After The Software Wars

I always purchase my books from bargain deals on Amazon.com and schedule them for reading at a monthly rate. I knew about Lulu.com self-publishing service from their first press releases, but I never found a book listing I was eager enough to order. The volume After The Software Wars caught my attention and tempted me to give both the author and publisher a try.

After The Software Wars, by Keith Curtis

After The Software Wars, Keith CurtisA French proverb says that “only imbeciles don’t change their mind”, meaning that only stubborn people aren’t open to questionning their preconceived ideas. Books about the clash between proprietary and open software always have a bias. But when a Microsoft veteran turns into a Linux enthusiast and decides to document his journey, the result is an improbable example of pertinence balanced with open-mindedness.

Without giving it much philosophical thought, Keith Curtis began his career in proprietary software after a talk with Microsoft co-founder and future award recipient Bill Gates. The programmer resigned a decade later out of boredom.

“This book is certainly not meant to be a bitter take on Microsoft’s future although I believe they are toast. I loved working there, learned an enormous amount, made a few shekels, and enjoyed the privilege of working alongside many brilliant minds. Like many things in life, it was fun while it lasted.”

Everything Curtis took for granted was turned upside down once he started exploring the free software philosophy. Writer’s note: The fact that netbooks preinstalled with Linux have appeared and sold out of Walmart shelves is a very bad omen indeed for Microsoft. Writing in a pragmatic and well-documented manner worthy of a programmer, Curtis gives a detailed account of the clash between proprietary and free software, and comments on the position taken by companies like Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft or Sun. He attempts to draw conclusions from the success of collaborative projects such as Apache, Wikipedia, WordPress and GNU/Linux, which kernel is malleable enough to operate a smartphone or any of the servers running 60% of the Internet. Curtis also illustrates how the combination of antiquated languages, inadequate programming tools, proprietary development methods and closed formats are all keeping the economy from enjoying state of the art software. The author postulates that computer science should be collaborative like any other respectable scientific discipline.

The rationale is compelling and flows smoothly through most of the pages. When dissertating about computer science, the author does a remarkable job at balancing facts, figures and quotes from partisans of both sides of the spectrum. The book rests on the programmer’s opinion based on his observations, and he takes the opportunity to makes a plea in favor of openness and collaborative development in two fields he holds dear: politics and space exploration. These latter chapters seem concise in light of the rest of the volume: pages feature a 1962 John F. Kennedy Cold War speech justifying space exploration, sparingly commented quotes and a 9 paragraph-long excerpt from controversial best-selling author Anne Coulter.

Despite two chapters that somehow feel incompatible (pun intended) with the rest of the book, After The Software Wars is an insightful and constructive criticism of computer science, carefully crafted and extensively documented like good software code. Programmer Keith Curtis deconstructs preconceived ideas while providing clues and suggestions for bettering computer science; and it remains to be seen if the author can deliver the same credibility when venturing outside of his field of expertise.

****_

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