Thursday, December 27, 2007

Give me my music!

All of us who use the internet for more than just email are aware of the lack of any sense of rationality from the folks known "affectionately" in web forums as the "MAFIAA" - the RIAA and MPAA. Some of their latest blather has been about how the United States spends too much money policing burglary, fraud, and bank robberies to the detriment of enforcing - you guessed it - copyright. (link: ArsTechnica). These are the folks who "make up numbers" (a euphemism for pulling them from where the sun doesn't shine), showing that they lose billions of dollars a year to pirates.

Now, I am speaking as a person who has been firmly in the "moderate" camp. I've never downloaded an MP3 - even when I owned the album. I've always performed the rip myself and never shared them with anyone. When people I know come over with their laptop, I tell them they cannot run Kazaa or any other copyright violation engines. So, as you can guess, I don't think that it is cool to "stick it to the man" by downloading songs. It isn't "theft" as defined in the dictionary as much as the "industry" would like you to believe it is - however it is indeed copyright violation and it is wrong by today's rules.

Now, I'm an old fart - about to turn 41. I have a large collection of old fart music (late 70's through late 90's with one or two from the early 2000's thrown in). Some of it I really like. It starts on cassette tape and finishes up on CD. The CD's were no problem; I had three computers ripping them as fast as they could go a few years back. It's a lame way to blow two days - but hey, not too bad. The Cassette tape - that's another story. If the record companies had any sense, they would allow people with "old fart media" to turn in said media for a nice shiny new CD - for the cost of shipping and pressing. But no, they think I should just buy it again. In fact, the forays that they have made into DRM seem to indicate that they think I should buy it again every time a new format comes out and every time I want to put it on a new device that I purchase. Own a movie on DVD? Want to put it on an iPod to watch? Your choice - buy it again or break the law. Hello? Anyone else think that is ridiculous and stupid?

So, back to those cassette tapes. I have been doing an album or two (three on weekends) per day for a couple of weeks now. It takes forever. And guess what? Want to rip them on a new box? One with Vista (of which I was a beta tester and am generally a fan of and have running on all 4 of our families primary computers)? Nope - can't do that as audio is a protected source. That's right - lots of you know about the HDCP abomination where you can't play high-def content unless your video card and monitor support copy protection - but many of you didn't know that even audio is a protected stream with DRM on it - called Protected Audio Path). That damn DRM that movie and record companies are lobbying (and mostly forcing) Microsoft, Apple, and others to implement is preventing me from using my purchased audio tracks in the way that I want to. So I have to keep a Windows XP box around to run the Microsoft Plus Analog Recorder (which is quite nice; splits tape into tracks automatically and takes input from "what you hear" on the sound card and records it) to get that old fart cassette stuff into MP3 or WMA files that I can play on my iPod or Zune while working out. Of course coming from tape, it is only worth encoding at 128 kb - but it still sounds pretty good - about as good as tape ever did. Again - I have a choice here of spending hours and hours and hours doing this, or going online and doing it the illegal (but fast!) way. I don't fancy having my IP address in any logs anywhere (whether at an ISP or a torrent site or Kazaa or whatever) as a copyright violator, so for me it is the hours and hours method. But it sure is tempting to save all that time.

So - anyone care to tell me why the music and video "industries" won't just let me send them a cassette and send me back a CD for say about $5 for postage and handling? They could keep someone employed doing that and not be losing any money to those rampaging pillaging "pirates" we hear so much about. But no - they make me choose between my time (worth a lot more than the $5 for the time spent on an album) and the less legal route. All in the vain hope that I will purchase the same stuff again every time they conveniently switch media on me.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

OK, enough is enough

Hey, it's been awhile. I haven't had something steam me up enough to get off my butt and write a blog post in what seems like eons. (In internet years anyway - internet years are like dog years times 1024 or something.).

What's got me steamed this time? It's the lack of stability of the combination of a Dell Lattitude D820/Intel 3945ABG/Vista Ultimate. This plain "doesn't work". Not "it just works". No, it just doesn't work. Oh, it seems to. It sucks you in as you setup your network and connect with WPA2. But, soon enough you find that the wireless just up and locks up on you. It may be after the machine comes out of sleep for the 5th time. It may be the first boot. But, eventually you will get into that dreaded scenario where the "Network" becomes the "NetNOWork". This is typified by the "Network and sharing center won't open". Also, that little networky icon in the system tray stops showing the little tooltip with the signal strength and all. You end up having to reboot - and more times than not you have to hold down the power button because Windows hangs on the Shutting Down screen.

So, what do you do? If you're like me you blame Intel and download the 3945ABG driver of the month from the Dell site. Always hopeful, you load that new driver and cross your fingers. But, like you kind of expected, it doesn't work. You have the same problem. So finally today I went direct to the Intel site. What did I see there? A newer driver than even the Dell site had. So what the hell, right? I tried it. Hopeful as always I loaded it up. But, an hour later - same shit different day. WiFi light on the Lattitude went out. Network and Sharing Center won't open. Network is dead. Reboot - great...

Is this so hard? I've got the latest patches for Vista, the latest BIOS from Dell, the latest driver from Intel. Why do these friggin' things hate each other (and me) so damn much???

I wish these things would get back to "it just works".