The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Sunday, February 23, 2003

Unbelievable Deals

Through March 7, Buy.com has the Linksys Network Attached Storage 80GB Hard Drive and Print Server for $460 with free shipping ($835 - $375 rebate applied at checkout)!

"Insert eighty gigabytes of storage space into your network with the EtherFast Instant GigaDrive™ from Linksys. Compact and powerful, this Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device adds gigabytes of storage to your network without adding the cost, space, and maintenance hassles of a typical file server.

The Instant GigaDrive™ provides solid data transfer for multi-ple client connections. It is also equipped with a built-in Print Server for the quick and inexpensive addition of a network printer and an extra drive bay so you can add an additional drive as your network needs demand."

And did you see the new Best Buy ad? You get a free Magnavox DVD player with the purchase (and activation) of any cell phone!

All of which begs the question, why the heck aren't Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) cheaper by now?!

10:28:45 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!

Hey, it's a digital camera you can use when you get caught in the downpour from your wireless sprinkler system!

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Jim Lehrer News Hour Interviews Us at Meet Up

"I attended my first Blog Meet-Up event last night in the Washington, DC area and the Jim Lehrer News Hour was there to interview the 4 of us that managed to show up. The interview and round table discussion was very interesting and I think the segment should show much insight into blogging when it airs (Iraq is taking precedence over blogging, I don't get that ;-)). I was a little under the weather, but I think I did okay for my first TV interview!" [WebSense, via snowdeal.org > ex machina]

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"If you worship SpongeBob Squarepants as much as I do, then you know that superb voice talent is one of the things that makes this particular cartoon so wonderfully entertaining. But what you might not realize is just how much top-drawer showbiz talent the show's executive producer, Stephen Hillenburg, has assembled to bring his cast of wacky undersea characters to life: film actors like Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs), Ernest Borgnine (Mermaid Man), and John Rhys-Davies (The Evil Man Ray), along with teevee legends Tim Conway (Barnacle Boy) and Charles Nelson Reilly (The Dirty Bubble). Who knows, maybe they'll they cast Gary Oldman in the role of Plankton for the upcoming film?" [MetaFilter]

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Rhetorical Question

Will Your Next Phone Be a Camera?

"Time was, if you had a flip phone in one pocket and a compact digital camera in the other, you felt pretty good about your high-tech mojo. Now that new phones with built-in cameras or optional camera attachments have arrived, that confidence may be wavering. Part of you thinks they're overpriced gee-whiz gadgets, but the other part says, "Hmm, am I missing something? Might they actually be gimmicky and practical at the same time?"

Digital imaging is part of the mobile phone's evolution, whether we like it or not. In Japan, one in every three phones now has an embedded camera, according to global research firm Strategy Analytics. By 2007, 147 million of these suckers will be on the streets worldwide. In the United States, several manufacturers, including Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sanyo, and Sony Ericsson, already sell camera phones, and more are on the way....

The first question people ask is, how good a picture can these things take? The short answer: not very. Most camera phones have a maximum resolution of 640x480 and a mediocre fixed lens, so don't expect miracles. I've played around with the Nokia 3650, the Samsung SGH-V205, the Sanyo SCP-5300, and the Sony Ericsson P800, as well as the camera attachments for the Samsung SPH-A500 (Sprint PCS), the Sony Ericsson T68i, and the Sony Ericsson T300. All share the same traits: noisy images comparable to poor TV reception, soft focus, and subpar color reproduction. Still, if everything goes right, you can snap a passable image that a generous critic could argue borders on Webcam quality and has a gritty, of-the-moment look....

The real appeal of camera phones--and I recommend, for convenience's sake, that you get one with an embedded camera, such as Sanyo's SCP-5300, rather than a camera accessory--is the ability to take a picture and immediately e-mail it. You can also turn your pic into a background image, and on some phones, you can even assign picture IDs to phone-book entries so that a face, instead of a number, pops up on your screen when a friend or a business associate calls....

To paraphrase Andre Agassi, who once shilled for Canon that 'image is everything,' image is now in everything." [CNET Electronics]

9:16:03 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!

Now *That's* Customer Service (NOT)!

Back in the fall of October, 2001, I decided to buy a new car. I had started to zero in on which one I wanted, but I still needed to take a test-drive. I had visited the Nissan web site and requested some brochures, which included a coupon for a free "Picnic Backpack" for test driving one of their vehicles. So I filled it out, took the test drive, and sent in the coupon. Afterwards, I ended up buying the Nissan car the next month. Keep in mind that this was in November, 2001, because that will be important when you read what follows.

Tonight I caught up reading my snail mail, and I found a letter from Nissan dated February 12, 2003. Here's what it says:

"Dear Jenny Levine:

Thank you for taking a test-drive, however we are writing to inform you that your Nissan Test Drive Offer, for your choice of either a Picnic Backpack or Swiss Army Watch, cannot be processed for the following reason(s):

-- Your Test Drive Certificate was received beyond the allowable expiration date....

Thank you again for yoru interest in Nissan vehicles."

Now, I wasn't expecting a lightning-flash response from them and to be honest, I'd actually forgotten about the whole thing because it's been 15 months, but I think Nissan's response was received "beyond my allowable expiration date." They would have been better off not sending me this letter, because now they are definitely going to hear from me!

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Even though he denies it, I think Scott Bauer's Redwood City Public Library Liblog was the first publiblog (public + library + blog). It was certainly the first one I ever saw. Scott sends word that the site has moved to a new URL and an RSS feed is now available! Whoo-hoo!

8:28:29 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] |

Keep This in Mind While You Watch the Grammys....

Who Gets Hurt When You Pirate Music?

"There's a case study in the NYDaily News -- apparently a propos nothing but this Sunday's Grammy Awards -- that breaks down the cash flow of a hypothetical hit album by a hypothetical rock quartet. It illustrates all the people that get paid along the food chain, including some odd recoupable record company expenses, like a 25 percent 'packaging deduction' and a 15 percent 'free goods charge,' off the top, most of which the label keeps.

The bottom line is that a gold record (500,000 copies) selling at $16.98 will gross roughly $8.5 million, of which each member of the hypothetical quartet will pocket about $40,000. (The case study doesn't take songwriting royalties into account.)

So for every $16.98 album you rip, you're costing a performing artist about 34 cents, and the lawyers, producers and labels about $16.64." [Over the Edge]

As Will says, "Kind of makes you want to just toss $0.34, or a share of Covad, in the guitar case of a starving artist, doesn't it?"

7:23:10 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!

It's interesting to hear Simon and Garfunkel singing "The Sounds of Silence" to open the Grammys. I'm opening Kazaa to see how long it takes for the audio file to show up....

Update: I haven't found any files yet, which must mean folks aren't as on the ball as they were in 2001 when I was able to download the Moby + Jill Scott + Blue Man Group rendition of "Natural Blues" within an hour of its broadcast. That or else the files are popping up on other P2P networks first. I would have already coughed up 50 cents for the Joe Strummer "London Calling" tribute, but I don't see it available for purchase from the Grammys site.

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Record Industry Has New Front In Copyright Battle

"Another enemy has risen to face the music industry in the battle to stop illegal sharing of media files.

Dutch software company PGR BV on Friday launched The Honest Thief, a service that will sell technology and legal advice to companies that want to start file-sharing services in the Netherlands....

The Honest Thief sells peer-to-peer technology that enables users to share files directly between their PCs, rather than a central server....

The Honest Thief's parent company is owned by Pieter Plass, chief executive of a construction management company in the Dutch city of Arnhem. The nine-employee Honest Thief describes its mission on its Web site. 'Peer-to-peer file sharing should be accessible to all,' the company says. 'We should all be able to find, discover, and share information via the Internet. It is our goal to facilitate this the best we can....'

Black sees similarities between today's legal battles and the patent-protection laws that drove movie companies to California from New York in the early 1900s. The migration led to the establishment of a multi-billion-dollar industry in Hollywood.

'Because it's so hard to build technology in the U.S. and piggy-back content-oriented businesses on top of it, we may see some of the really cool technology development move outside our borders and be done in international environments,' Black said." [Techweb, thanks to Steven for the heads up!]

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Not So Rhapsodic

Rhapsody in Brew

"Is Rhapsody worth it? Will I continue to use it? Will I recommend it to others?

I'll start with the last question first: no, I won't recommend it to others. There are too many subjective variables in the equation; for some people, Rhapsody might be a good value; for others it will be a waste of time. I will tell people about Rhapsody - but I will also tell them about its many flaws, in particular its buggy software. That alone will discourage many would-be users, and rightfully so.

Is Rhapsody worth it? Another subjective question; to me, it's marginal. I don't mind the $0.49 per song charge; that's the most I would be willing to pay per song, but I don't mind it too much. The monthly fee, though, is money I shouldn't have to pay. I'm sure the argument for a monthly fee is that it's like paying for cable, or satellite radio: you can listen to it all the time, even if you're not downloading and burning CDs. But I'm not likely to use Rhapsody that way, and I resent having to pay the fee when I'm not using Rhapsody like a radio. And I'm absolutely not going to pay nearly ten bucks a month and a dollar per track to burn songs to CD.

My bottom line: Rhapsody just isn't there yet. The software is too buggy, and there are too many holes in their catalog. Of the twelve albums I wanted to find when I signed up for Rhapsody, only three were available for burning to CD. I have found other CDs to download, but for each disc I've burned, there's another that I wanted to burn but couldn't....

I will be dropping Rhapsody sometime before the fees increase at the end of March, but: fix the software, add mp3 format, fill in the holes in the catalog, drop the prices again, and I'll be back with credit card in hand and a long list of CDs to buy." [kuro5hin.org]

I've thought about trying Listen.com's service, too, but I've stayed away for all of the above reasons. It's especially depressing to still be discussing these same issues, especially since the Grammys are on tonight and the recording industry could have used the event to launch services consumers actually want.

I was thinking about this earlier today while reading Entertainment Weekly. Every few weeks, the music section of the magazine includes a section devoted to either "if you like..." or "gimme five choice cuts for your mix tape." The selections usually sound interesting, but I'd either have to chance spending $15+ for one of their recommended albums or buy a whole CD for one "choice cut." Then I'd have to spend time ripping the tunes to MP3 in order to take them with me, which costs me time. Ain't gonna happen.

Then there are sites like Art of the Mix, where I've found many a mix I'd love to hear, but I'd have to go out and find the songs myself, either legally (too expensive) or illegally (which is, well... illegal). So instead, imagine if the recording industry suddenly entered into partnerships with sites like AOTM and Kazaa. How cool would it be if you could browse through AOTM, pay for a mix, and then easily download the whole thing from Kazaa?

So many missed opportunities for profits....

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RSS Etiquette Questions

Long RSS Items

"Are long RSS items rude? More and more people are reading inside of news readers and not bothering to go to the blogs themselves. (My logs show this.) Should we put full text of the blog entry in the RSS feed, even if it's long? It will surely slow your refresh rate. Has anyone written a style guide for RSS feeds? It's a moving target, but I would be interested to hear about how readers and writers are designing their RSS feeds. Obviously, the people who are reading this in their RSS readers are going to have to get up off their butts and click on my blog to comment... ;-)" [Joi Ito's Web]

Joi Ito is asking about RSS ettiquette, just as I was last year. Luckily, Brent Ashley rode in on a horse and saved the day. I agree with the folks commenting on Joi's site - offer both!

5:47:54 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!