The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Monday, July 08, 2002

Writing About Blogging

In all of the craziness last week, I forgot to mention that Rachel Singer Gordon has posted the July issue of Info Career Trends, the Lisjobs.com newsletter. I wrote article #4 - "Blogging and the Shifted Librarian" (scroll down to read it). It's a bit difficult to link to at the moment so I'll repost it when it goes in the archives, but it's basically about my experiences blogging for the last six months and regaining an online presence.

Thanks to Rachel for the opportunity (I'm working on her to start her own blog, although admittedly she's got quite a bit going on these days)!

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Cybikos On Sale, Sale, Sale!

This is interesting - Buy.com is selling the Cybiko Xtreme Wireless Handheld for $48.95. Here's their description of it:

"Customize your own Cybiko XtremeTM to hold the PHAT apps and games you choose. Using the enclosed Installation CD, it's easy to personalize your Cybiko XtremeTM to match your mood. Cybiko technology allows you to chat wirelessly with your friends in your local virtual network. In FRIEND FINDER mode, you can search and find people you're looking for - or, with your PERSONAL PROFILE, meet new friends! Also, WAP enabled to welcome your Cybiko to the World Wide Web.

  • Your Cybiko Xtreme package includes:
  • The Cybiko XtremeTM Wireless Hand Held Computer
  • 2 NiMH Rechargeable Batteries - Not Removable
  • Power Adapter and USB Cable
  • Installation CD with additional Games & Applications for Easy Access
  • Now you will be able to access the wireless world of the Internet with our very own WAP browser! Welcome your Cybiko computer to the World Wide Web!
  • Quick Start Guide"

So you can get a PDA, chat functionality, WAP browser, MP3 player, and gaming device for $50. It's only got 2MB of memory on board, but heck, that's what the old Palms came with! Plus, the reviews give it five stars, and one post notes that you can insert more memory or upgrade it online. Not a bad way to introduce your kids to PDAs or adults who don't need to synch with Outlook.

If you buy the two-pack of Cybikos, you pay only $96.95 and the three-pack is just $134.95, plus both offers qualify for free shipping. I'm tempted to try this for the kids and myself!

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Rosen: Failing Music Industry Shouldn't Be In The Market

Here's more on Representative Rick Boucher's speech at the Jupiter Media Metrix Plug In digital music conference earlier today:

Will Web Music Ever Play

"Boucher, a Democrat from Virginia who has been a U.S. House of Representatives point man on digital media and Internet commerce issues, termed the CARP decision 'inappropriate in the extreme' and called for an overhaul of the entire CARP process, which he deemed 'truly broken.' The proposed royalty rates were unfairly set by a panel lacking the expertise and reliable data needed for a reasonable decision, he said, and will have a devastating effect on fledgling Webcasters.

Boucher said he is teaming with Representative Jay Inslee, a Washington Democrat, to introduce this week legislation to defer any requirement that small Webcasters make royalty payments. Boucher offered no further details of his plan, but said he hopes it will delay any payments owed until a new fee structure is in place. More-flexible payment plans, such as sliding fees based on a Webcaster's gross revenues, will better spur the industry's development, he said." [PC World]

Here's where your blood will start to boil (emphasis is mine):

"In a later keynote, Hilary Rosen, Recording Industry Association of America chief executive officer, said she's doubtful Boucher's bill-to-be will pass. The RIAA has already expressed its approval of the CARP's initial decision and its dismay over the subsequent reduction of the proposed royalty rate for music Webcasts, saying the lower rates don't reflect music's fair market value. In response to an audience question about the consequences of steep fees on small broadcasters, Rosen suggested that broadcasters without the resources to pay the proposed fees shouldn't be in the market.

'This is not about mom-and-pop [businesses] versus big corporations. This is a business-model issue,' she said. 'This is something that should be anticipated when you build a business.' "

Hilary Rosen sure is confident in her organization's lobbying efforts. And why shouldn't she be? Their political contributions have certainly been paying off so far.

But let's take a step back for a moment and recognize that what Ms. Rosen is arguing for is capitalism. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. So if you're a small webcaster and you can't afford the fees - too bad. You can't be part of the business model if you can't make it work.

However, I doubt Ms. Rosen sees the irony in applying this sentiment to her own industry's current situation. Let's go ahead and talk business model for a minute. Let's say you introduce a new format (like say, CDs) and you promise customers won't regret changing formats (again) because prices will decrease over time and the sound is so much better. And sure enough, your production costs go down, but you raise prices anyway (including price-fixing when the retail price does finally start to drop). Then you consolidate until only a handful of companies are releasing content that it turns out people don't really want (at least, not in the kind of numbers you need in order to sustain your business model).

So people stop buying your product in bulk. On top of that, the economy tanks, you're trying to sell albums to a market you've groomed for singles, and you refuse to offer a different business model that your customers have clearly indicated they prefer (portable digital files).

Hmmmm... sounds like "a business-model issue" that "should be anticipated when you build a business," now doesn't it? Perhaps the RIAA and its members "shouldn't be on the market" then, eh? Maybe they should busy themselves anticipating a new business model, rather than alienating the customers they so desperately need in order to stay in the game.

Oh, and add another name to the list of clued-in Congressional Representatives - Jay Inslee (1st District in Washington). Show him the love!

And when you contact your local legislators, don't forget to mention how the demise of fair use will prevent public libraries from circulating digital files. Ask them if they want to vote for a future without libraries.

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Painless Downloading From Your Digital Camera

Sanyo Debuts Digital Camera with Wireless LAN Capability

"...The still photos and the moving images taken by this camera can be automatically sent to the server on the IP network via the base station for wireless LAN access service.

The demonstration camera uses a Compact Flash-type wireless LAN card, and has a hand-over function to go between base stations, and an authentication and encryption function to comply with 'Genuine,' a wireless LAN access service from Mobile Internet Services Inc. (MIS). Because of the processing capability of this camera, the wireless data transmission speed is limited to about 1Mbps at the moment.

Unlike the existing digital cameras, with which users need to transfer images to their PCs on their own, the camera with wireless LAN function enables users to send the photos directly to their personal Web site or to order photo development on the Internet directly from the camera, for example.... The company, however, has not decided when to commercialize this type of product, but plans to see the market trend and discuss the possibilities." [TwoMobile]

This is great for commercial environments, but it doesn't do the mainstream much good until WiFi is embedded in new PCs and broadband providers include router and wireless access point installations in a start-up package. It would be great for blogging at conferences, though, and eventually this technology will be part of a newspaper photographer's toolbox.

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Stretchable Keyboard for Mobile Devices

The First Truly One-size-fits-all Keyboard?

picture of the RAST keyboard at full size"RAST Associates recently announced a new keyboard for mobile devices. The Vario Keyboard has five rows of keys arranged in a standard layout. What makes this keyboard different is that it's made mostly of fabric and rubber, and it stretches to different sizes and configurations.

In it's most compact form, the Vario Keyboard is about the size of a postcard, small enough to slip unobtrusively into a pocket. The keyboard weights less than eight ounces, a bit lighter than the popular ThinkOutside Stowaway....

The keyboard is contained in an expandable, spring-loaded case. While RAST Associates plans to license it to device manufacturers, who can then fashion custom connectors or cables for it - again, like ThinkOutside's Stowaway - the keyboard will also communicate with other devices via existing wireless standards. Bluetooth and 802.11b are already supported.

RAST Accociates made no mention of pricing or availability, although they did say that the Vario Keyboard would be 'competitive with other mobile keyboard devices on the market.' " [infoSync]

Come to mama! Now imagine if it also worked with your smartphone, OQO, etc. While I like the idea of integrating the input method into the device itself, this would work with any of your devices which is more efficient in the long run (at least until we have real voice recognition).

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DVDs Turn Five Years Old

"Did you know that DVD just turned 5? Hard to believe a format which feels like it's just 'getting big' has actually been around for 5 years. To mark the occasion, many of the major studios got together to celebrate, discuss and lament over DVDs first five years at the DVD at 5 Conference held in Marina Del Rey, California. While there were no amazing revelations at the DVD at 5 conference, I did get a strong sense of how the studios look at DVD, where they're putting their focus and where they see it going. It was an interesting insight into the past, present and future of DVD." [DVD Talk]

It's difficult to believe the DVD format is only five years old. It's taken off faster than the internet, thanks to the combination of standards, low pricing, and desirable content. You'd think the entertainment industry would look at this equation and understand what they need to do with music to stop widespread piracy, but then the ebook industry isn't paying attention, either.

Geoffrey goes on to note the following about the conference:

"I sat through a panel on 'Digital Rights Management' where some of the panelists tried to justify proposed copy protection schemes. It was absurd to hear some of the panelists try to justify some of the studio views on copy protection, as they plot a future of incompatabilites and viewing limitations all in the name of protecting viewers from violating their viewing license. Can you imagine a world where you record a pay-per-view movie to watch later and the DVD would only let you watch it ONCE? Well that's the license that you get when you buy a pay-per-view and studios are under the impression that Recordable DVDs should enforce that!?! Give me a break!...

While I didn't have an opportunity to sit through the late afternoon session on DVD-Audio, I did want to note something that really impressed me. At the awards dinner John Beug from Warner Bros Records came up to accept an award and he stated something about music and DVD that I thought was profound (it was his entire speech): 'DVD IS the future of music, period'. So while DVD-Audio may not be taking off as quickly as studios may have hoped, look for music and DVD to come together in a big way in the not so distant future."

So basically the industry is going to endanger its currently booming revenue stream by pursuing restrictive digital rights management that will alienate consumers, but yet they want those same paying customers to move from CDs and MP3s to DVD audio. Tell me again why I would want to do this? I have no plans to buy DVD audio discs any time soon - do you?

Side note: DVD Talk also notes the following deal -

"HKFlix.com has a very special deal for DVD Talk Members: Get the Malata DVP-520 Region Free DVD Player for $274.95 with free UPS Ground Shipping. The Malata DVP-520 will let you play DVDs from any region and will convert PAL DVDs for NTSC TVs. Sale is open to US residents only and is limited to 'stock on hand' which means if you're interested in this deal you should jump on it!"

Suh-weet! Grab 'em before they become illegal to import into this country.

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Boucher To Fight The Good Fight

Rep. Boucher Outlines 'Fair Use' Fight

"U.S. Congressman Rick Boucher, moving to strengthen 'fair use' provisions under federal copyright law, said he is introducing a bill that would essentially restrict the record industry from selling copy-protected CDs....

During a keynote address to the seventh annual Plug.IN digital music conference sponsored by Internet research firm Jupiter Media Metrix, the Virginia Democrat urged the record industry to reconsider introducing the copy-protected CDs....

...He also wants to ease up some of the more copy-restrictive provisions of the 1998 Digital Milennium Copyright Act, whose pay-per-use provisions on copies he has criticized as a threat not only to 'fair use,' but to innovation, idea exchange, even First Amendment guarantees on free speech.

Originally introduced in August of 2001 as the Music Online Competition Act, the bill aims to make seven changes to copyright law that Boucher, who also sits on the House Commerce and Judiciary committees, said help advance the legal distribution of music online....

'The music industry needs to take off the brakes,' on copy-prohibiting tecnnologies, Boucher said. 'The vast majority of the Internet consuming public is honest' and would be willing to pay for online music, especially if 'the music industry would agree to put its entire inventory online.'

Boucher also said he is introducing legislation within a week that would update what he called outdated ratemaking rules regarding CARP, the royalty dispute body. 'We need to scrap the CARP and adopt a new standard,' Boucher said, adding that one proposal is to confer to federal district judges some of CARP's ratemaking jurisdiction." [atnewyork.com, via Slashdot]

Somebody pinch me - I must be dreaming. Common sense being interjected into this debate by a Congressman? Is the sky still blue? Go Boucher Go!

If Boucher is your rep (9th District in Virginia) and you support this legislation, be vocal about it. Let him know what a nice change it is to have someone introduce a bill that supports the public's rights, not the entertainment industry's.

If you live elsewhere, let your Representative know how you feel about fair use rights and webcasting. NOW is the time to make your voice heard. Visit SaveInternetRadio.org if you need help or advice with this.

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Greeks To Throw Paper In Harbor

Paper to Pay for Copyright

"Photocopy paper, which is used for many other things as well, involving the printing of original work, is to be subject to a new 4-percent tax in order to help pay for intellectual copyrights, according to an amendment which has been presented to Parliament. This is the outcome of a dispute between artists, photographers and publishers and companies in which information technology companies seem to have gotten away freely while paper sellers have not.

In the original draft, computers were to be hit with an extra 2-percent tax as they were seen as tools for the copying of items protected by intellectual property rights. After information technology companies protested, this levy was scrapped and it was left to the purchasers of paper to finance the system.

Companies in the paper market are now protesting that nowhere else in Europe has an intellectual property tax been slapped on paper, being kept instead to the purchase of photocopiers (which are already subject to a 4 percent tax to this end)...." [Kathimerini, via Digital-copyright Digest]

This just points out how absurd the entertainment industry's drive to tax recordable media truly is. How would these executives feel if their bottom lines went up due to higher paper costs because someone else might use it to photocopy something illegally.

If they're truly serious about clamping down on piracy, let's see them pay a Congressional representative to introduce this legislation in the U.S.

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Satellite Radio Still Too Risky

Is Satellite Radio Ready to Take Its Act on the Road?

"What can be worse than driving the same miserable, traffic-clogged, accident-scrambled commute every working day? How about listening to the same miserable, playlist-choked, advertising-strangled radio broadcast every working day?...

In the case of TV, millions of Americans have opened up their wallets to pay for premium cable and satellite service, and nobody thinks that strange.

Two digital satellite services are betting that the same equation will apply to radio.

One, District-based XM Satellite Radio, announced on Monday that it has signed up more than 136,000 subscribers since its start last fall. The second company, Sirius Satellite Radio of New York, announced its nationwide launch Monday.

I tested XM's service last November and found a lot to like. For $9.99 a month, you get access to 69 music channels and 31 news, sports and talk channels with far more diversity than FM can dream of. The downsides were the cost and a few dropped signals around the Washington area.

Sirius differs from XM in several key aspects. It costs more, $12.95 a month, but promises no ads on any of its 60 music channels. It also uses a different system of satellites and land-based repeater antennas -- so you can't get both Sirius and XM using one radio. (Sirius receivers do include FM and AM tuners, which you'll need for traffic reports and other local info.)

Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Jeep, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury, Nissan and others have announced plans to offer Sirius equipment in their vehicles. Otherwise, hardware starts at $320 for an in-dash receiver and $80 for an antenna; home and portable receivers will be available later....

...what really reminded me that I was using a satellite-based system was the maddeningly uncertain reception. The Sirius signal came through fine in most places, including such commuter routes as New York Avenue, Interstate 295 and 16th Street NW (even in the Interstate 395 tunnel downtown). But it dropped out in too many other spots for no apparent reason....

Sirius says it's still fine-tuning its service to address these problems. Until it fixes these gaps, I can't recommend the service....

Sirius could soundly beat XM on one aspect -- pricing structure. But it repeats XM's mistake of requiring one subscription per receiver. Neither company offers a family-plan discount, nor can you share service among multiple receivers by swapping out access cards, as satellite-TV providers DirecTV and Dish Network allow.

This seems a strange oversight. Why not cut a break for customers who like the service enough to want to listen to it outside of their cars?" [The Washington Post]

I didn't realize that Sirius lets you listen to their stations over the web - a nice service to be sure. I'm listening to the Sirius Kids station as I write this since this type of entertainment would be a welcome addition to road trips with the kids. So far, so good. It turns out XM Radio lets you listen to samples of their channels so you can do some comparisons and they have a kids channel, too.

I've come close to buying the portable Sony XM receiver, but I don't feel confident enough yet in either the XM or Sirius service. I might actually consider going with Sirius if a portable receiver was available now, but one doesn't exist yet. The major reason I haven't purchased the Sony receiver for XM is that it doesn't display the song information, a glaring omission in my book. I think I'd have better luck with coverage in the Chicagoland area, but price points are still too high right now for an untested service. These companies would have better luck charging $19.95 a month and including the hardware as part of the subscription.

Side bar: there are some interesting channels at both sites that you can listen to as your favorite webcasters go off the "air."

Addendum: it didn't take long (maybe 15 minutes) for both kids stations to play Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid. Hmmm....

Addendum redux: The SF Gate has a more positive review of Sirius, although I'm still hesitant to dive in because of the high price of the hardware. I've been listening to the XM Kids station all morning, and I quite like it, especially as an alternative to FM radio. Now on to try the Sirius Kids channel.

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Iranian Village More Wired Than American Inner Cities?

Iranian Village Gets Wired for the Web

"Welcome to the mountain village that lacks an elementary school, possesses just one central outhouse -- but has gone global. No other Iranian village has progressed as far as Shahkooh, 240 miles northeast of Tehran, in tapping the Internet's potential to widen its horizons.

Villagers credit a native son. Ali Akbar Jalali, who left to study in the provincial capital and went on to earn an electrical engineering degree in the United States, raised the idea during a 1999 visit. The first computer was purchased with money raised by villagers. A government grant paid for a second and several more came courtesy of a charity formed by Iranians in London.

Villagers who know something about computers volunteer as teachers in the computer center set up in Shahkooh's mosque. Classes are free. The village even has its own Farsi-language Web site, Shahkooh.com. The goal is to teach computer skills to anyone interested among its 6,000 residents -- from chador-clad girls to sunburned farmers....

Even in cities, a minority of Iranians are wired. Only 2 million out of Iran's 70 million people -- about 3 percent -- have Internet access....

Nearly half Iran's population is under age 25 and it's eager to get online.

After the 1997 election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, Internet cafes have sprouted in Iranian cities and Internet providers offer unrestricted access -- even to adult and anti-government sites....

In fact, Iran's clerics have pushed for restrictions on access. Last year, the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, a conservative-dominated body, ordered all private Internet access companies under state control. The order was never implemented but parliament, according to lawmaker Kazem Jalali, is considering legislation that would require Internet providers to block access to adult sites and others.

Hard-liners are also becoming increasingly concerned about Iranians' access to information, fearing it is stirring pro-reform sentiment.

In Shahkooh, the Web is not controversial.

It is seen as an essential tool to promote knowledge and prepare for jobs in a country choking from unemployment, which some analysts place at more than 30 percent. Since Shahkooh.com was launched, more than two dozen villagers have become entrepreneurs, moving to the provincial capital of Gorgan to sell computer spare parts and offer computer services....

...Ali Akbar, is a 60-year-old illiterate farmer who is learning to read so he can Net surf, already knows how to download a file." [CNN]

It's interesting to watch the filtering debate take shape in other countries, particularly third world ones. So Iran is going to have its own Net Generation to deal with, a filtering debate between conservatives and free speech advocates, and a growing digital divide. I guess Iran isn't so different from the U.S. after all.

I can't wait to hear American legislators, government officials, and pundits decry censorship of the internet in Iran, while pushing for filtering in libraries here at home.

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ACK!

The stars and planets are conspiring against me. We had a brown-out a few days ago, and the power interruption caused my router to reset. I foolishly took the opportunity to upgrade the firmware on it, and now I can't access Radio from the outside. Which means no news aggregator and no posting until Linksys can come up with a solution. So far, their tech support people have been no help, and there is no documentation for the new options in this upgrade.

I can't be the only person doing this - is anyone else doing port forwarding on a Linksys BEFSR11 router using the most current firmware? If so, please let me know how you got it to work! If I have to resort to resetting back to the older, less secure version, I will, but I can't believe there isn't a resolution.

How on earth do these companies expect "regular" people to do this. WiFi will never go mainstream when a simple firmware upgrade causes this kind of a problem.

Addendum: well, now remote access is magically working. You didn't hack into my router and fix the problem, did you? Go figure. My cry for documentation still stands!

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Music Industry Handed Clue, Declines

Labels to Net Radio: Die Now

"You’d think the record companies would love Internet tunes—instead they’re trying to kill them....

The apparent irony is that Webcasting seems like something that the record labels would want to nurture, not smother in the cradle. There’s no Napster problem: Web radio uses streaming technology—real-time transmissions that can’t easily be downloaded and stored. Just like real radio, it’s free exposure for artists, especially ones that have difficulty getting air time in the cookie-cutter world of FM radio. And Webcast listeners find it easy to buy what they like: musical cuts are clearly identified, and often there are direct links to allow an instant CD purchase....

So why are the record labels taking such a hard line? My guess is that it’s all about protecting their Internet-challenged business model. Their profit comes from blockbuster artists. If the industry moved to a more varied ecology, independent labels and artists would thrive—to the detriment of the labels, which would have trouble rustling up the rubes to root for the next Britney. The smoking gun comes from testimony of an RIAA-backed economist who told the government fee panel that a dramatic shakeout in Webcasting is 'inevitable and desirable because it will bring about market consolidation.'

The record industry, with the help of Congress and the Copyright Office, may indeed make a shakeout inevitable. But I doubt that Jim Atkinson and his fellow independent Webcasters find the prospect of their extinction terribly desirable. Nor do the 77 million Americans who have at one time tuned in to Web radio and perhaps found something not featured on the lobotomized playlists of broadcast radio. If enough of those outraged listeners stream their objections to legislators, maybe Internet radio can be saved." [MSNBC]

SaveInternetRadio.org - there's still some time to reach legislators and make your voice heard because the case is on appeal. There's nothing really new in this article if you've been following the issue, but it provides a good overview and it illustrates the level of illogic the music industry is willing to go to in order to maintain the status quo for as long as possible.

Remember that TV show Dinosaurs where all of the characters are named after oil companies? I think we need a new version in which the characters are named Eisner, Rosen, etc. Ha! Imagine a show like that getting on the air these days. Like that could happen....

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