Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thoughts on "piracy"

"The days after the raid, we had doubled our visitor numbers."

Documentary about a police raid on Swedish server The Pirate Bay, which gives links to BitTorrent files on the net (peer to peer fils sharing). The raid was instigated through the highest political level from the US and Hollywood. The video is quite interesting, especially the last half, which has some speculation about the philsophy behind the whole issue.
It's from (is this the worst web design ever?)
One thing a bit absent from the film: an explanation of why they are so enthusiastic about file sharing. What they expect it to bring to humanity.
"Piracy"... tricky question.
Some things I think I know:

1: Downloading free copies without permission is not piracy, no matter the careless language of the big studios. It is selling stolen content which is piracy. A different thing entirely.

2: When they say "Hollywood lost 5.1 billion in 2005 to piracy", they are full of feces. There is no way to figure out what is "lost". How can you measure how many people would have bought a legal copy? I am pretty sure they just estimate how much is downloaded and then assume (being fully aware it's bull) that every copy would have been bought otherwise. This way they get this huge number.

3: It will surely become harder to make money on restricted access to film/music in the future. I think "value added" business models will be one solutions. Example: people may buy a DVD if they can get better image/sound quality and some nice extras which they can't get in a free online copy. Example: post free videos of characters you made, and sell toys or art featuring those characters.

4: In any case, forcing people to "behave" is a losing proposition, like in all life's areas. Never has worked, never will.

5: The success of iTunes shows that people are perfectly willing to pay for content if it is made attractive and easy to do so. (And I think iTunes would be even more successful at half the price per track.)

6: Free content is one of the most effective ways of getting attention (traffic). Just make sure you don't give away everything. It's a balance. I do almost no advertising for DOMAI, the business comes from word of mouth and shared images.
David Gallaher ventured...
"Eolake, You are so right on. Presuming a right of ownership of intellectual property is a wrong turn taken by English law, and, in turn, the Founders of the US of A.
Patents are too. Imagine how far we as a world society could go, if we'd stop shooting ourselves in the feet every step of the way!"

Mm, but there has to be a happy, relaxed medium somewhere.
(Thinking about this.) You could be right, I guess.
Admittedly, if I imagine writing a book and then imagines somebody publishes it and sells it without permission and without paying me anything, that makes me flinch...
But!... how often does this really happen? Maybe it's just a paranoid fantasy?

At the very least, this will only happen to products which are already successful and have made money, otherwise why would anybody pirate it?
So I think we can conclude that piracy will never make anybody starve, it will only cut into existing largish profits at worst. (And maybe not even that.)

You see again and again in life that when you expect people to cheat you, they will. And when you trust them and give them freedom, they will behave much better.

I'm not saying it's easy, but maybe worth trying.

ttl opined:
Eolake advised: "6: Free content is one of the most effective ways of getting attention (traffic). Just make sure you don't give away everything. It's a balance."

This is good advice for a paysite such as DOMAI. But there are countless examples of very succesful businesses that give away everything. Google comes to mind. But this strategy has also worked particularly well for many small players.

For example, many people actually make a nice living from keeping a blog. This is the main reason for the current 'problogging' trend. Not all succeed, of course. And certainly most don't even try. But the point here is that it is possible.

Digital Photography Review gives all their content away. They sell nothing (save the obligatory branded T-shirt). And yet they even have hired people working for them.

And from the offline world comes this strange observation: Practically no one who first enters the music business is able to make a living. On the other hand, more or less every musician who tries busking makes a reasonable salary from it. (The best ones, in a good location, earn up to $1000/day.)

My question is this: Could it be that we have spiritually transcended past 'control economy' and are now ready for Gift Economy'?

Perhaps the fact that piracy has gradually become socially more acceptable is our way of telling ourselves that goverment imposed control of ideas and images serve no purpose; and that we have other ways of rewarding those who deserve it.

I suspect, and certainly hope, that you are right, my man. Are you sure about the examples you cite though? The ad-driven sites I know have not been doing so hot. (Admittedly old data.)

Update. Vanity Fair article on file sharing.
They say that Hollywood earnings are dropping. I wonder why. I sincerely doubt it is "piracy" or file sharing doing it. I think it is "The Long Tail" doing it. Young people are splitting up their attention to very, very varied content now, they are not watching TV or cinema screens anymore, sharing the same three shows and five films with their parents, like they did in the olden days. And obviously if The Long Tail grows, the Big Head shrinks. And that's a good thing, except if you're a Big Head.

(Hoky frig, this must be my longest article yet. It also seems like I often, now, write them in a strangely organic way, adding stuff when inspiration or comments hit me. Interesting.)

TTL retorted:
Eolake questioned: "Are you sure about the examples you cite though? The ad-driven sites I know have not been doing so hot. (Admittedly old data.)"

Yes. For example Steve Pavlina says he makes $1000/day from his blog. The info he has disclosed correllates well with his Alexa traffic rank history, so I see no reason to doubt his words.

(I also have data on some other blog type sites but unfortunately it has not been made public.)

Digital Photography Review's success is obvious to anyone having read the site for any length of time. Current traffic rank: 808.

I know an $800/day busker myself.

Thanks, dudeski. It does seem the tide is turning for real.

Here's a challenge to you: what's the big upside(s) to file sharing networks? I have a feeling there is one, but I can't really articulate it.

Saving YouTube videos

I just stumbled over Smosh. Man, there's some bad acting out there!! :)

I was testing Tube Sock, a $15 solution for saving YouTube videos to my Mac. It seems to work fine, so I'll probably cough up, unless I find a good free solution.

DRM update

The recent DRM post is updated.

Making links in comments

Have you wanted to make links in your comments, but don't know how?
Michael Burton kindly tells us:
Click on:

... I have to post this as a graphic, because the tags disappear, being interpreted as HTML (which they are), and I forget how to make them appear.

On control and psychosis

I think there's a basic schism in humanity: the desire to control other people versus the wish to let them be free. Almost all of us have a lot of both.

Somebody (extremely rare) who is all the way to the second one is a saint. Somebody who is all the way to the first one (also very rare) is a psychotic.

You don't get to be a dictator without a strong desire to control people, so this explains to us why all dictators apparently are psychotic.

"Answers"? and Region Free DVD player

Durn it all to heck. Google Answers has been cancelled. It was a great service, you offered five or ten bucks for an answer to a tricky question on the web, and some genius with time on his hands found an answer for you.

I wanted to find out if there is any way to make a MacBook Pro play DVDs region-free. I've been surfing for what feels like hours, and I have found no solutions. (VLC player doesn't do the trick on mine.)

Man, how stupid humans are in international relations. What possible good can come from using the law and millions of dollars to prevent people on other continents from buying and playing your DVDs? Geez Louiz. The only reason I can see to have set up the region system is to protect the European DVD publishers from import of American discs, and vice versa. But how many people will buy a disc from a different continent if they can buy one next door?

"It is widely held, even by the EU, that region coding was solely an attempt to enforce price differentials." Wikipedia.

Ze Futur iz here... almost

Pascal whispered:
"I've just remembered all these works-in-progress about designing stereoscopic TV screens and other "volume-rendering" image and movie viewers.
Clearly, we're getting there, like with HD-TV, digital, flat and wide screens. But dagnabbit dog'n'rabbit, it could hardly be any slower without going backwards!!!
I'd really appreciate it if I had one of these in my living-room BEFORE I go live on Mars."

Yup. Technology is advancing amazingly fast, but it will seem much less so if you read about burgeoning technologies before they come about. I used to read stuff like Scientific American, but after I realized that the things I had read about ten years earlier seemed no closer to becoming real, I gave it up as a bad job. More fun to be surprised by cool technologies you had no idea were coming. :)

Lizzy John art

Lizzy John.

It's all done on the computer, and the compositions and lines and tones and so on are impressive, and the works are also imaginative and expressive.
(Some of the characters are a little bit on the "manga" side for me, but I guess that's young people for ya.)

This is one of my favorites. I like the abstractness of the frame, and the brightness of the red which somehow manages to still look like it could be real. Not to mention that the red lines on the creature is one more abstract element. I love abstract elements which work well in otherwise representational art. I'd like to do more of it myself.

... I've been reading the comments Lizzy herself put under the works. And she often says things like "I know the background doesn't really work", and such. Which is silly, at her level, any of her work is as close to perfect as matters. So I wrote her this advice:

OK, here's a thing: forums like this site [Deviant Art] are wonderful, but there's a downside: one gets constant comments on technical details. And this can lead one to focus too much on those, long after it really doesn't matter.

After a certain point (which you, Lizzy, are long past) nobody from the general public will see the tiny "flaws" that you worry about. And after that point you should focus much more on production and promotion than on technical improvement.

Format wars

Informative article about the current state of the next-gen DVD format war.

Me, I'd go with a hybrid player. But it's a good point that it may all be a moot point... Perhaps the high-def-video-download-from-the-Internet future is already here?

Anyway, I'm shocked that apparently most blue-ray DVD titles don't use the new MPEG-4 encoding. It has four times the resolution for the same bandwidth. After Apple included the encoding in Quicktime, real-time broacasts suddenly became a pleasure to watch instead of a pain.

It seems that a key thing to developing new formats is to do it fast enough, which means dispense with all the infighting. And of course to make the right decisions. For example in the nineties they made a new format for 35mm film which would dispense with the perforation. Many of use were delighted: now we could get a bigger film image with the same size film and camera!
And it was delayed and delayed. When APS film finally appeared in mid-nineties, the damn thing had a smaller image than 35mm! And to finish it off, digital cameras were starting to appear, so, you know...

I'm always puzzled when big companies make a big investment in less quality. Remember "Kodak Disc" cameras? They took pictures on a small disk of film, and the negative was so unbelievably tiny that Kodak had to develop the "T-max" film specifically for the format, and the quality was still abysmal. I mean, we're talking big grain even on 10cm x 15cm prints! (4x6 inches). Who in Kodak thought this was a winning format? Even the handy 110 format disappeared after a while, and that negative, small as it was, was much larger than the "Disc" negative. It seems that the public do care about quality in the end, even though the differences take a while to penetrate.

Friday, April 06, 2007

About writing

I dislike reading grammar books or articles like this "Dangerous words" list about style when writing on the web. Because they keep telling me how I'm wrong. Don't do this, don't do that... Very distasteful to anybody with an ego. On the other hands this one has some good points.

On the third hand the writer could learn a bit from his own course: to use the title "dangerous words" is misleading at worst and imprecise at best: hardly any of them are "dangerous" in any way, merely poor style.

Induhviduals quotes

From the Dilbert newsletter:


Thanks to the observant readers of the Dilbert Newsletter, here are more True Quotes from the people who put the duh in Induhvidual:

"Do you think I've been sitting here twiddling my arse?"

"At no time do I ever condone you making changes to improve things in the office."

"Snakes on a Plane - what's that about?"

"Go jump off a lake."

"He's not the sharpest canister in the ocean."

"Keep a stiff upper chin."

"The squeaky wheel gets the spoke."

"I can lead you to horsewater, but I can't make you drink."

"He'd give you the arm off his back."

Announcement in store: "We have a customer by the balls in toys needing assistance." (It repeats.)

"You play ball with me, and I'll scratch yours."

"It's half of one, six dozen of another..."

"We do not have a smoking cow at this point."

"Is there 264 days in the year? Or is it 265?"

"My daughter is as smart as a tack."

"I've got a higher IQ than your little pinky finger."

"If Dad were here right now, he'd be rolling over in his grave."

"Well, it may be the wrong tool for the job, but it is the right tool for the business."

"It's our golden goose. We better figure out how to make her purr."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Google Desktop for the Mac

Google Desktop for the Mac is now available.
I have hopes that this will finally be the really usable search tool for my Mac. Much as I love most of what Apple makes, the Spotlight search feature in Mac OS X is not in that category. It sucks molten death through a lead straw.

Update: OK, in the two hours I've had Google Desktop installed, my machine has crashed twice.
It could be a conflict with another of my utilities or apps, of course.
And I'm hoping it only happened because GD was busy building the basic index, so I'm giving it a few more chances. It seems very useful.

Update: Strange, GD indexed over 400,000 files in the first few hours... but now it seems each file takes several minutes to be indexed. I thought at first it had just run into a couple of very big files, but it keeps being like this for hours now. Also the HD is not running amok like it did the first few hours of indexing. Is something wrong?

Update yet hours later: OK, it's done now.
However my computer still seems much slower, even though it's not indexing old files anymore, only new mails and web pages. I'll have to keep an eye on this. A marked slow-down is too high a price for convenient search.
Update: I have uninstalled it. Slowed down the machine too much. Quelle fromage.
Computers are weird.
I'm now fazing out AppleWorks. Not so much because it is pretty much an amateur app and outdated, though both are true, but because it is using often over 13% of the processor power... while sitting in the background without anything to do or even any document open! How crazy is this? It's a word processor, not a utility. I'd consider that a poorly written app.
I'll replace it with Nisus Writer Express, a very nice app.

3D viewing

This post has somehow turned into a discussion of 3D viewing of different sorts.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"Support nude culture"

"Support nude culture", says these two brave young Estonian women.

Rockaby Baby

Humor is a very interesting thing. Sometimes something can be sublime comedy just by the way something is said or done. Great example, this song from Marx Brothers' Big Store. Funny, intense, weird, creative.
(The last line is "shoot the talcum to me, Malcolm.")

And here's another good music/humor combo. (From A Night at The Opera.)
TTL exclaimed:
"Love the kids' reactions! :-)
Also, check out how he does harmonics on the harp towards the end of his (harp) performance at 4:47."

I am not sure what harmonics is, in music. Different from a chord?

Quoth Michael Burton ...
There's something oddly very exciting about that singer's deadpan performance -- it's funny, but it's more than just funny. There's a kind of emotional tension that really turns the whole thing up a couple notches.

In his later years, Groucho complained that he couldn't insult anybody anymore. It wasn't that he didn't try, but he was so famous for his funny insults that he could say ANYTHING, and people would laugh and feel flattered that they'd been insulted by the great Groucho Marx.

I've read a lot about the Marx Brothers, and I don't think anyone has ever said an unkind word about Harpo. Many people describe him as almost a saint. He and his wife adopted four children.

Eolake said...
I agree, she is very special.
I recommend Groucho's autobiography, it is interesting, funny, and it puts the "good old days" into perspective. An actor/performer in the early 20th had about as much social status as a gypsy, and often about as much morals.

DRM-free songs at iTunes!

EMI and Apple yesterday announced the removal of DRM from
all EMI content on iTunes Music Store. Also bitrate bumped
up to 256K on DRM-free tracks.

As you may be aware, Digital Rights Management is the controversial technology, meant to halt piracy, which stops a user from copying the content he has bought to whatever devices he likes. Like Jobs and many others I believe that DRM creates many more problems than it solves, and this is a big step forward to solving this.

There's a Q&A transcript with Steve Jobs here.

... O, what an excellent strategy from Apple to let the user be able to select to buy only DRM-free songs if he likes. If many users do that (and I think they might) then the other big labels will follow suit very quickly.

Featured comment:

ttl said...
Microsoft innovates!

From Computerworld:

The EMI announcement on Monday was not exclusive to Apple,” said Katy Asher, a Microsoft spokeswoman on the Zune team, in an e-mail to the IDG News Service today. She said Microsoft has been talking with EMI and other record labels “for some time now” about offering unprotected music on its Zune players in an effort to meet the needs of its customers.

eolake said...
No, it can't be true! Microsoft is *married* to DRM!
... Of course if the masters are going another way now, the running dogs have to follow...

ttl said...
I know. Microsoft Vista is designed to have the most elaborate DRM architecture known to man. In fact, it is the first operating system to have DRM facilities inside the kernel.

In contrast, Unix die-hards maintain that not even file locking belongs in the kernel. It should be done in a user level process. Mention DRM to a Unix geek and he will piss in his pants from laughter. :-)

And rightly so. Building copyright protection technology into an operating system is an idea so distasteful to me...

Even if you don't believe that protectionism is the problem of the copyright owner and that "information should be free", then just on a technical level... there's lots of evidence that Vista is way slower and more complex for no good reason except DRM.

iTunes and Extreme Engineering

Is iTunes music store also really, really slow for you? Like when you make a search it takes ten to thirty seconds? (Laurie says his is fast, but mine is this slow over several different machines and connections.)

If you are in the US (or have a US friend who will make you use his/her credit card) you can get movies and TV shows. (That service is a bit slow coming for Eu, huh?) This is attractive to me since I don't have TV, it uses too much time. But I like to cherry pick the most interesting shows to watch whenever I want.

Example: the show Extreme Engineering, especially the "science fiction" episodes like the one about a possible transatlantic tunnel or a big pyramid city in Tokyo Bay. Very kewl.

Paul sez:
"I don't have a TV, but a friend convinced me to buy a portable DVD player last week. I can borrow DVD's for free from the library, and I even bought the player on sale. Entertainment is remarkably cheap these days."

It really is! And in a few years, sites like YouTube will have millions of hours of high-resolution content all for free. Entertainment, education, you name it.

Peter Steele

"I think for the most part it really doesn't matter how good an album is; I think it really comes down to musical climate. I'm sure if Sgt. Pepper or Highway to Hell or Stained Class or Paranoid came out today, it would not even chart, simply because people like this "Rap and Roll" shit, which I hate. It's bad poetry executed by people that can't sing. That's my definition of Rap."
- Peter Steele, Type O Negative

The above is from an interview conducted by my gal pal Gail Worley. (Who interviewed me once.)

BTW, here is another opinion on rap by the very funny Dylan Moran. I watched this whole show ("Monster") yesterday, and I was in stitches.

Michael Burton urges:
"When I was young and listening to the Beatles or Jimi Hendrix or something, the old folks would sometimes say, "I don't know how you can listen to that stuff. It's not music, it's just noise!" Now I'm old, and when I hear young people listening to rap, I think, "I don't know how you can listen to that stuff. It's not music, it's just noise!"

Personally, I don't get it. But I don't think you can revolutionize popular culture with "bad poetry executed by people that can't sing."

When I was young and old people dismissed my music, I just wished they would just listen to it -- then they'd understand that it was more than "noise." Now I'm old. I don't really want to listen enough to give rap a chance to change my mind -- Sturgeon's Law applies to music, too. But I can't dismiss the whole genre simply because I have a closed mind.

I still feel free to recommend other other types of music, or to complain about songs that glorify violence or denigrate people or about music played too loud or too late at night. But for the most part, I say, "You're young! Have fun! Enjoy your life, and don't worry what the old folks think!"

Good points. I notice that when rap is on a boom box amongst teenagers hanging out it makes more sense.
Also I know some lovely rap songs, but funny enough they are all by non-rap bands. Blondie's "Rapture" for example.

Ruby Beach, Washington

Here's a nice picture from my friend Jim in Seattle.
Ruby Beach.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Google fun

I don't get it. I use Google all the friggin' time, so how come I haven't seen a single one of these Google April Fool's jokes?
(I wonder if they are only on, not A couple of years ago I started to get automatically redirected from to, and I don't know how to change it.)

"Werewolves of London"

Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London. Fun song.

Individual voices

OK, so I keep going on about Friends. But it takes time to re-watch ten seasons! :)

One thing which is a testemony to the subtlety of the show is how each character, without it getting pushed in your face, has his own individual voice.

Good example: Ross (and he is the only one) makes these semi-deliberate, subtle puns...
"You're over me? When were you... under me?"
"Wasn't this supposed to be just a fling? Shouldn't it have been... flung by now?"
"It turns out she [the dying grandma who suddenly woke moved after she'd been pronounced dead) isn't passed. She is... present."

And such things are consistent over ten seasons and lord knows how many writers working at the same time. I don't think I could do that.

Frederick Chang

Frederick Chang photos.
I really like this guy's work.
It seems he is using medium format, rare these days.

Here are two favorites.
I post them small so you'll have to click on them, because they are of the kind where you really have to see them large to appreciate the art.
(Big files, much detail, slow download.)

Beatles: Revolution (hard rock)

Did you ever see/hear the live, hard-rock Beatles version of Revolution? It's just the coolest thing. I really wish they had gotten around to make more hard rock.
I love Lennon's stone-face delivery.
I don't think this version was ever on an album, I think it's from a US TV show.

John Travolta has a theory that any person has a personality corresponding to one of the Beatles. Himself is "John all the way, baby".
Me, I would be Lennon. No doubt.
My only problem is, I can see how John is the intellectual, intense guy, and Paul is the charming, boyish type. But... Ringo? the... clown? And George, I have no clue.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Pascal said:
Somebody once said to Napoleon, who gave medals to his soldiers : "You reward men's bravery with toys and trinkets."
He replied : "The world is ruled with toys and trinkets."
It certainly works when people are fully satisfied just by receiving them!

It is amazing what one can learn about humanity from nasty dictators. It makes sense though, to rule a lot of humans, you have to understand them, unless you have a galactic fleet. And even then, how would you rule the fleet?

The first half of the 20th in particular saw some of the most spectacular mind-domination by PR, from Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini.
Some will say we still have this, but I disagree. The democratization of communication media has ruined that power. Just in the sixties, very popular movies appeared which portrayed politicians and police men as potential bad guys, something hardly anybody imagined earlier. And the Internet of course has clinched this big time. Even China is buckling under this.

"Waiting For The Man"

Get this rare, bitching cover of "Waiting For The Man" by David Bowie and Lou Reed.

"Cure Autism Now"

Rebekah, who wrote a touching letter for the Feb 9 issue of the Domai newsletter, is walking for Cure Autism Now.

I'm leaving

After twelve years of being online every day, I'm tired of it. Actually I am tired of modern life altogether. Too much stimulation. So I have sublet out my apartment for the next five years, and I have rented a little cottage in the lake district just a couple hours north of here. And the only electrical things in the place will be a refrigerator and a couple of lamps. So I'm selling all my Macs and digital cameras. Mail me if you want to put in an offer.
The date is a significant reason for this development.
Update, April the second:
OK, this was an April fool's joke.


(I don't know who painted them.)

Actually taking some

Spam Dada Poetry

I think we have a new generation of Dadaist poets. I just got this as part of the camouflage text in a spam email. It is strangely beautiful. Works at least as well as Finnigan's Wake anyway.

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