Hilary Rosen's iPod

Wired Magazine is running a human interest story on Hiliary Rosen in their February issue. For the rest of this year, she’ll be doing everything she can to soften the militant image she’s acquired during her grossly-misguided leadership of the RIAA, and this article is the start of that.

In the article, she’s the only person in the music industry that knows what’s going on (she implies), a lesbian who’s fought on the frontier of gay politics (she tells Wired), and is really a valiant — albeit misunderstood — defender of the consumer (she says).

Near the end of the story we learn that she’s the hypocritical owner of an iPod. And although most of the article is a puff piece — that’s the price of getting to talk with her — with this revelation the tone changes, and the article starts to intersect with reality.

As the forces of free music grow cagier and more diffuse, Rosen is confronting them with the same overwhelming legal force she used to bury Napster. She has repeatedly said that the industry is open to finding online partnerships that work, but she has shown little interest in teaming up with potential partners like Kazaa and Aimster, both of which she has taken to court in recent months.

“We’d be glad to sit down with them,” says Philip Corwin, Kazaa’s Washington lobbyist. “But when someone’s hitting you over the head with a 2-by-4, it’s hard to reach out your hand.”

Rosen’s public image has only worsened as she’s intensified her attack on file-sharing uploaders, using tactics that make John Ashcroft look timid.

Even friend/admirer Jim Griffin admits:

…at least thus far, she will be remembered not as an agent for constructive change, but as an agent standing in the way of constructive change.

Deservedly so.

The opening of the XBox

It’s no secret that, unlike other gaming consoles, the XBox is basically a PC that Microsoft loses money on with every sale (analysts estimate $125 per unit). Since its introduction, there’s been tension between Microsoft (who naturally wants to keep the XBox a closed platform) and folks who see the XBox’s potential as a great and inexpensive platform (which won’t be running Windows, of course) for more than just games and DVDs.

Until now, hackers have focused on patching Microsoft’s XBox BIOS. Now, a company called OzXChip has introduced a new XBox modchip that comes with an open-source Linux BIOS (which can be “flashed” with an update merely by inserting a CD) preinstalled. Linux distributions that will work on this configuration are nearly ready for release. And that means that XBox shizzle is about to hit the fizzle, my peoples. [via Slashdot]

Bush Jr. "state of the union" remix

Whatever you think of Bush Jr., you have to admire this incredibly clever video/audio remix of a Bush Jr. “state of the union” address.

I told our contry and I told the world…if it feels good, do it. I hope you’ll enjoin me in expressing fear…and selfishness.

No U.S. media conglomerate would have the guts to show this funny, biting work. Thank goodness that, because of digital media and the currently-open nature of the internet, we can still see satire like this.

Another wonderful piece of satire is the Gulf Wars Episode II: Clone of the Attack poster created by Mad Magazine. It’s not as critical — members of the administration probably think it’s flattering — but it’s still very funny.

Hilary Rosen resigning from RIAA

Hilary Rosen, who’s been running the RIAA in full defensive paranoid mode since 1988, is finally resigning. Unfortunately, she’s not doing so until end of the year.

During my tenure here, the recording industry has undergone dramatic challenges and it is well positioned for future success. I have been extremely proud to be a part of this industry transition.

Which is odd, since she failed miserably. Rep. Rick Boucher put it this way:

I do not think that she has been a spiritual champion of the industry embracing the internet as a distribution medium. I think the industry clearly needs to do that. It’s the only way that the industry has to compete with peer-to-peer [file-sharing systems].

Jack Valenti, who also doesn’t understand any technology beyond color television and similarly runs the MPAA in full defensive paranoid mode, remarked:

Hilary has been a valiant, brave leader for the U.S. music industry. I confess that I am an ardent admirer of her skills, her tenacity and her integrity. She’ll be a hard act to follow.

I disagree. Her marketing instincts were completely backwards — product-oriented (“ship what’s on the truck”) rather than consumer-oriented (“what do people want?”). She damaged the RIAA’s reputation in ways that will take years to repair. As record sales flagged, she cowardly blamed her customers rather than herself or the economy, and it would not surprise me if she was finally asked to leave.

"Should I upgrade to 802.11g?"

There are two companies with “draft 802.11g” chipsets already out of the gate — Broadcom with their 54g chipset, and Intersil with their Prism GT chipset. These chipsets are what other companies use to make their 802.11g hardware.

Apple uses the Broadcom chipset for AirPort Extreme system (access points and client hardware), as does Belkin for their 54g Wireless system, Buffalo Technology for their AirStation G54 system, and Linksys for their Instant Wireless-G system. D-Link uses the Intersil chipset for their AirPlus Xtreme G (named after watching Steve Jobs’ Macworld keynote?) system, as does Netgear for their forthcoming system.

These almost-802.11g products are pretty interesting. They’re several times faster than 802.11b. Pricing is extremely reasonable, with access points (with the exception of Apple) selling for south of $150. (I personally refuse to buy an AirPort Extreme access point, not only because of the price, but also because Apple refused to replace my AirPort when it died an early death because of their design problem.)

Should you upgrade to 802.11g? No — at least not yet. The 802.11g standard isn’t even final yet. Interoperability between different vendors isn’t there. Even more worrisome, interoperability with 802.11b is poor. Wait until 802.11g is ratified this summer, at least — by then the chipset vendors will have had a chance to shake out the bugs in their firmware.

W3C launches Timed Text initiative

It’s hard to believe, but there currently isn’t a standard way to represent text over time for things like closed captioning. Last week the W3C created the Timed Text Working Group as part of its SMIL activities, and their charter is to develop an XML-based format for representing temporal text. The first working draft is scheduled to be available by March 15, and the final recommendation by July 2004 (!).

Kyocera's new Palm-powered smartphone

I’ve had a Kyocera 6035 Palm-powered smartphone for a couple of years. It has its quirks, but overall it’s the best phone and the best PDA I’ve ever had.

The 6035 is tough (I give it a good drop at least once a month…you know, to seat the chips), syncs with all of my stuff, and (most importantly) frees me from having to carry both a phone and a PDA. Plus, the thing goes three days without a charge — a fantasy for Windows-powered smartphones. There are other Palm-powered smartphones, but I prefer Kyocera’s phone-first/PDA-second design over the PDA-first/palm-second design of other Palm-powered phones.

Cruelly, Kyocera announced the 7135 Palm-powered smartphone six months ago, and I’ve been thinking unclean thoughts about it ever since. It’s smaller (about the size of a pack of cards), faster, has a color screen, and is GPS-ready. Just recently a U.S. carrier called ALLTEL (never head of them, have you?) finally launched the 7135 on their network. Kyocera promises that major carriers will announce support for the 7135 within six weeks.

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P2P media sharing with BitTorrent

Previously on PlaybackTime I’ve discussed PeerCast and Carnegie Mellon University’s ESM, both peer-to-peer streaming systems.

BitTorrent is an open-source (under the extremely generous MIT license) protocol (its URIs begin with “torrent://”) for peer-to-peer file sharing rather than peer-to-peer streaming. But as with PeerCast and EMS, the bandwidth burden is intelligently distributed amongst clients. BitTorrent been around for a while, but a much-improved 3.1 version has just been introduced, and recently it’s been gaining momentum as a method for sharing digital media.

BitTorrent clients are available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. | BitTorrent home | BitTorrent development home