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An anonymous reader sends word that Apple's iTunes DRM case has already been decided. The 8-person jury took only a few hours to decide that the features introduced in iTunes 7.0 were good for consumers and did not violate antitrust laws. Following the decision, the plaintiff's head attorney Patrick Coughlin said an appeal is already planned. He also expressed frustrations over getting two of the security features — one that checks the iTunes database, and another that checks each song on the iPod itself — lumped together with the other user-facing features in the iTunes 7.0 update, like support for movies and games. "At least we got a chance to get it in front of the jury," he told reporters. ... All along, Apple's made the case that its music store, jukebox software, and hardware was simply an integrated system similar to video game consoles from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. It built all those pieces to work together, and thus it would be unusual to expect any one piece from another company to work without issues, Apple's attorneys said. But more importantly, Apple offered, any the evolution of its DRM that ended up locking out competitors was absolutely necessary given deals it had with the major record companies to patch security holes.
187 comments | 2 days ago
HughPickens.com writes: Lex Berko reports in The Atlantic that although webcasting has been around since the mid-1990s, livestreamed funerals have only begun to go mainstream in the last few years. The National Funeral Directors Association has only this year introduced a new funeral webcasting license that permits funeral homes to legally webcast funerals that include copyrighted music. The webcast service's growing appeal is, by all accounts, a result of the increasing mobility of modern society. Remote participation is often the only option for those who live far away or have other barriers — financial, temporal, health-related — barring them from attending a funeral. "It's not designed to replace folks attending funerals," says Walker Posey. "A lot of folks just don't live where their family grew up and it's difficult to get back and forth."
But some funeral directors question if online funerals are helpful to the grieving process and eschew streaming funerals live because they do not want to replace a communal human experience with a solitary digital one. What happens if there's a technical problem with the webcast — will we grieve even more knowing we missed the service in person and online? Does webcasting bode well for the future of death acceptance, or does it only promote of our further alienation from that inevitable moment? "The physical dead body is proof of death, tangible evidence that the person we love is gone, and that we will someday be gone as well," says Caitlin Doughty, a death theorist and mortician. "To have death and mourning transferred online takes away that tangible proof. What is there to show us that death is real?"
69 comments | 3 days ago
An anonymous reader writes The WSJ reports that the revival of vinyl records, a several-year trend that many figured was a passing fad, has accelerated during 2014 with an astounding 49 percent sales increase over 2013 (line chart here). Some listeners think that vinyl reproduces sound better than digital, and some youngsters like the social experience of gathering around a turntable. The records are pressed at a handful of decades-old, labor-intensive factories that can't keep up with the demand; but since the increased sales still represent only about 2 percent of US music sales, there hasn't been a rush of capital investment to open new plants. Raw vinyl must now be imported to America from countries such as Thailand, since the last US supplier closed shop years ago. Meanwhile, an industry pro offers his take on the endless debate of audio differences between analog records and digital formats; it turns out there were reasons for limiting playing time on each side back in the day, apart from bands not having enough decent material.
432 comments | 5 days ago
Nerval's Lobster writes A funny thing happened to the iPod Classic on its way to the dustbin of history: people seemed unwilling to actually give it up. Apple quietly removed the iPod Classic from its online storefront in early September, on the same day CEO Tim Cook revealed the latest iPhones and the upcoming Apple Watch. At 12 years old, the device was ancient by technology-industry standards, but its design was iconic, and a subset of diehard music fans seemed to appreciate its considerable storage capacity. At least some of those diehard fans are now paying four times the iPod Classic's original selling price for units still in the box. The blog 9to5Mac mentions Amazon selling some last-generation iPod Classics for $500 and above. Clearly, some people haven't gotten the memo that touch-screens and streaming music were supposed to be the way of the future.
269 comments | about a week ago
HughPickens.com writes Maria Konnikova writes in The New Yorker that mondegreens are funny but they also give us insight into the underlying nature of linguistic processing, how our minds make meaning out of sound, and how in fractions of seconds, we translate a boundless blur of sound into sense. One of the reasons we often mishear song lyrics is that there's a lot of noise to get through, and we usually can't see the musicians' faces. Other times, the misperceptions come from the nature of the speech itself, for example when someone speaks in an unfamiliar accent or when the usual structure of stresses and inflections changes, as it does in a poem or a song. Another common cause of mondegreens is the oronym: word strings in which the sounds can be logically divided multiple ways. One version that Steven Pinker describes goes like this: Eugene O'Neill won a Pullet Surprise. The string of phonetic sounds can be plausibly broken up in multiple ways—and if you're not familiar with the requisite proper noun, you may find yourself making an error.
Other times, the culprit is the perception of the sound itself: some letters and letter combinations sound remarkably alike, and we need further cues, whether visual or contextual, to help us out. In a phenomenon known as the McGurk effect, people can be made to hear one consonant when a similar one is being spoken. "There's a bathroom on the right" standing in for "there's a bad moon on the rise" is a succession of such similarities adding up to two equally coherent alternatives.
Finally along with knowledge, we're governed by familiarity: we are more likely to select a word or phrase that we're familiar with, a phenomenon known as Zipf's law. One of the reasons that "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" substituted for Jimi Hendrix's "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" remains one of the most widely reported mondegreens of all time can be explained in part by frequency. It's much more common to hear of people kissing guys than skies.
243 comments | about a week ago
Bennett Haselton writes The corruption of the #Ferguson and #Gamergate hashtags demonstrates how vulnerable the hashtag system is to being swamped by an "angry mob". An alternative algorithm could be created that would allow users to post tweets and browse the ones that had been rated "thoughtful" by other users participating in the same discussion. This would still allow anyone to contribute, even average users lacking a large follower base, while keeping the most stupid and offensive tweets out of most people's feeds. Keep reading to see what Bennett has to say.
162 comments | about a week ago
UnknowingFool writes: In the Apple DRM lawsuit, the last plaintiff in the case has been disqualified. However, due to the number of potential consumers affected, the judge has denied Apple's motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs' lawyers will have to find a qualified plaintiff. To recap, the suit lost both plaintiffs in the last week when Apple reported to the judge that their iPods were not eligible (iPods must be purchased between Sept 2006 and May 2009). The first plaintiff withdrew when all her iPods were found to be outside the time period. The second plaintiff produced one iPod that was not eligible but two others that were eligible; however, Apple challenged the two eligible ones as the plaintiff could not prove she purchased them. They were purchased by her ex-husband's law firm. Since one of the suit's main claims was that the price of the iPod was raised due to Apple's actions, it was important to establish that she purchased them.
At the heart of the case is that Apple's use of DRM harmed customers by raising the price of the iPod and that Apple removed other competitor's music from the iPod — namely RealPlayer's Harmony music files. Apple does not dispute that it removed RealPlayer's files, but contends it was done for security reasons as RealPlayer was able to get the music files onto the iPod by posing as Apple FairPlay files. In testimony, Steve Jobs called RealPlayer's move "a hack" and there was considerable discussion at the time."
71 comments | about a week ago
SternisheFan writes with this excerpt from a story at AppleInsider that says "During in-court proceedings of Apple's iPod/iTunes antitrust lawsuit on Wednesday, plaintiffs' lawyers claimed Apple surreptitiously deleted songs not purchased through the iTunes Music Store from users' iPods. Attorney Patrick Coughlin, representing a class of individuals and businesses, said Apple intentionally wiped songs downloaded from competing services when users performed a sync with their iTunes library, reports The Wall Street Journal. As explained by the publication, users attempting to sync an iPod with an iTunes library containing music from a rival service, such as RealNetworks, would see an ambiguous error message without prompting them to perform a factory reset. After restoring the device, users would find all non-iTunes music had disappeared. ... It is unclear if iTunes or iPod encountered a legitimate problem, though Coughlin seems to be intimating Apple manufactured the error message as part of a supposed gambit to stop customers from using their iPod to play back music from stores other than iTunes. For its part, Apple said the system was a safety measure installed to protect users."
250 comments | about two weeks ago
First time accepted submitter neoritter writes "The Korean pop star PSY's viral music video "Gangnam Style" has reached the limit of YouTube's view counter. According to YouTube's Google+ account, "We never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer (=2,147,483,647 views), but that was before we met PSY. 'Gangnam Style' has been viewed so many times we had to upgrade to a 64-bit integer (9,223,372,036,854,775,808)!"
164 comments | about two weeks ago
itwbennett writes Plaintiffs in the Apple iPod iTunes antitrust litigation complain that Apple married iTunes music with iPod players, and they want $350 million in damages. The lawsuit accuses Apple of violating U.S. and California antitrust law by restricting music purchased on iTunes from being played on devices other than iPods and by not allowing iPods to play music purchased on other digital music services. Late Apple founder Steve Jobs will reportedly appear via a videotaped statement during the trial, scheduled to begin Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
246 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes AP reports that Montana lawmakers are drafting bills that would raise the daytime speed limit on Montana interstate highways from 75 to 80 and possibly as high as 85 mph. "I just think our roads are engineered well, and technology is such we can drive those roads safely," says Art Wittich. He notes that Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho have raised their speed limits above 75, and they haven't had any problems. Drivers on German autobahns average about 84 mph. State Senator Scott Sales says he spent seven months working in the Bakken oil patch, driving back and forth to Bozeman regularly. "If I could drive 85 mph on the interstate, it would save an hour," says Sales. "Eighty-five would be fine with me."
525 comments | about three weeks ago
wabrandsma (2551008) writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica: BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music have sued Cox Communications for copyright infringement, arguing that the Internet service provider doesn't do enough to punish those who download music illegally. Both BMG and Round Hill are clients of Rightscorp, a copyright enforcement agent whose business is based on threatening ISPs with a high-stakes lawsuit if they don't forward settlement notices to users that Rightscorp believes are "repeat infringers" of copyright. In their complaint (PDF), the music publishers also decided to publicly post IP addresses.
187 comments | about three weeks ago
New submitter Tucano writes The overtone singer Anna-Maria Hefele can sing two notes at the same time. In her latest video, spectrograms and frequency filters are used to explain how she can produce two melody lines at the same time, and how she uses her mouth to filter the frequencies of her voice. When the voice produces a sound, many harmonics (or overtones) sound at the same time, and we normally hear this as a single tone. In overtone singing, the mouth filters out all harmonics but one, and the one that remains is amplified to become louder. This is then perceived as a separate tone, next to the fundamental. In her video, Anna-Maria shows techniques that become increasingly advanced. She shows the overtone scale (steady fundamental, moving overtone), the undertone scale (steady overtone, moving fundamental), parallel movement and opposing movement of overtone and fundamental, and even complex compositions with two separate melody lines.
51 comments | about a month ago
braindrainbahrain writes: A rock star needs an agent, so maybe a rock star programmer needs one, too. As described in The New Yorker, a talent agency called 10x, which got started in the music business, is not your typical head hunter/recruiter agency. "The company's name comes from the idea, well established in the tech world, that the very best programmers are superstars, capable of achieving ten times the productivity of their merely competent colleagues." The writer talks with a number of programmers using agents to find work, who generally seem pleased with it, though the article has viewpoints from skeptics as well.
215 comments | about a month ago
First time accepted submitter Biswa writes YouTube launched its ad-free subscription music service called MusicKey. today. From the TechCrunch article: "YouTube finally unveiled its subscription music service today, and in some ways it’s very much like existing streaming music services, especially since it comes bundled with Google Play Music All Access. But YouTube Music Key also very much not like other streaming music services, because of the ways in which music is (or rather isn’t) defined on YouTube. One of the first questions I had about Google Music Key was how the company would define what kind of content from YouTube gets included: Would a home-shot cover of a Black Keys song with 253 views be as ad-free as the official music video for the original? Or was this a private club, designed for the traditionally defined music industry? Turns out, the nature of what Music Key encompasses is somewhat of a moving target, and the limited beta access that will initially gate entry to the service is in part due to that variability."
105 comments | about a month ago
An anonymous reader writes: The announcement this Thursday of another dubious piece of hardware from Amazon led Dustin Curtis to write an article critical of Amazon's hardware strategy, saying the company just doesn't understand what makes a device good or bad. Curtis says, "With Amazon.com, it can heavily and successfully promote and sell its products, giving it false indicators of success. It's an echo chamber. They make a product, they market the product on Amazon.com, they sell the product to Amazon.com customers, they get a false sense of success, the customer puts the product in a drawer and never uses it, and then Amazon moves on to the next product. Finally, with the Fire Phone, customers have been pushing back.
The media strategy that seems to be driving Jeff Bezos to make mobile consumption devices (with Amazon's media stores and Prime video/music) is flawed. No one makes money selling media for consumption anymore. That market is quickly and brutally dying. The media market is now so efficient that all profit is completely sucked out of the equation by the time you get to the consumption delivery system, to the point that it is barely possible to break even."
112 comments | about a month ago
An anonymous reader writes Amazon today quietly unveiled a new product dubbed Amazon Echo. The $200 device appears to be a voice-activated wireless speaker that can answer your questions, offer updates on what's going in the world, and of course play music. Echo is currently available for purchase via an invite-only system. If you have Amazon Prime, however, you can get it for $100. I've put in a request for one; hopefully we'll get a hands-on look at the Echo soon. It looks useful and interesting for random searches, and for controlling devices, but one small speaker (interesting driver arrangement notwithstanding) doesn't bode well for "fill[ing] any room with immersive sound," as Amazon's promo materials claim.
129 comments | about a month and a half ago
sciencehabit writes The flutelike songs of the male hermit thrush are some of the most beautiful in the animal kingdom. Now, researchers have found that these melodies employ the same mathematical principles that underlie many Western and non-Western musical scales—the first time this has been seen in any animal outside humans. It's doubtful that the similarity is due to the physics of the birds' vocal tract, the team reports. Rather, it seems male hermit thrushes choose to sing notes from these harmonic series. It may be that such notes are easier for the males to remember, or provide a ready yardstick for their chief critics—female hermit thrushes. The study adds to other research indicating that human music is not solely governed by cultural practices, but is also at least partially determined by biology.
80 comments | about a month and a half ago
Goatbert writes with word that pianist Dejan Lazic, unhappy with the opinion of Post music critic Anne Midgette, "has asked the Washington Post to remove an old review from their site in perhaps the best example yet of why it is both a terrible ruling and concept." It’s the first request The Post has received under the E.U. ruling. It’s also a truly fascinating, troubling demonstration of how the ruling could work. “To wish for such an article to be removed from the internet has absolutely nothing to do with censorship or with closing down our access to information,” Lazic explained in a follow-up e-mail to The Post. Instead, he argued, it has to do with control of one’s personal image — control of, as he puts it, “the truth.” (Here is the 2010 review to which Lazic objects.)
257 comments | about a month and a half ago
HyperTalk wasn't just easy, it was also fairly powerful. Complex object structures could be built to handle complicated tasks, and the base language could be expanded by a variety of available external commands and functions (XCMDs and XFCNs, respectively), which were precursors to the modern plug-in. But ultimately, HyperCard would disappear from Mac computers by the mid-nineties, eclipsed by web browsers and other applications which it had itself inspired. The last copy of HyperCard was sold by Apple in 2004. "One thing that's changed in the intervening decades is that the hobbyist has largely gone by the wayside. Now you're either a user or a full-fledged developer, and the gulf is wider than ever," writes Peter Cohen. "There's really nothing like it today, and I think the Mac is lesser for it."
299 comments | about a month and a half ago