Monday, March 31, 2008

DRM is worthless

At least that's what Random House has concluded after doing a study on it's audiobooks sold with and without DRM. Here's an exerp from the AnythingButIpod article:

"The really interesting part of this story is the experiment that Random House conducted on piracy. They sold DRM free books online and water marked them to track them on P2P networks, but what they discovered was the pirated copies on these networks were from ripped audiobook CDS and cracked from DRMed audiobooks. Legitimately, purchased DRM free audio books did not show up on P2P networks. Random House concluded, “Our feeling is that D.R.M. is not actually doing anything to prevent piracy.”"

Wow. Sell people what they want, the way they want it, and for a fair price, and they won't pirate your stuff. Amazing concept. (Can you sense my sarcasm?) The entire NYTimes article is here.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Oh, the joys of virtualization...

I'm sure the question on everyone's lips these days is, "Hey Akshun J, how do you linux users get around in the internet world without Windows?" Yep, I know you were thinking it. Well, as I said in a previous post, the last two years have been really good for linux users. We've got a SMOKIN web browser (Firefox), with a suite of cool plugins including Java and Flash. Instant messaging (Yahoo, Google, MSN, etc) is handled by either Pidgin or Kopete, either of which are darn good and handle all the major protocols. Music streaming is particularly robust with either Amarok or my current favorite Exaile. I can grab podcasts, stream radio, or listen to my music library all with the same program! All of this stuff gets me to the dance, and the steady stream of online browser-based apps like Facebook and get me to the after-party. Did I mention that I paid exactly ZERO for all of these programs??? Paying for software is for suckas. It's all about the services, baby. Let me select the *free* app that I prefer to use, and then hit me up for a few bucks for the service. Data backup, MP3, what have you. I'll pay, but you can't get my money twice for the app AND the service. Ain't gonna happen. Check the technique:

But once in a while, there is an app that *requires* Windows without exception. Sometimes this is a program I can live without, like Joost. Not only does it suck, but it has an awesome cross-platform alternative in Miro. Other times, it is a program that I *really* want to be able to run such as Netflix's online streaming service. It needs some wacky Active-X plugin that is ONLY supported by Internet Explorer. Ugh. If there is an ass-end of the internet, it is truly the piece of crap known as IE to loyal Microsofties. This plugin provides some DRM functionality and supposedly protects the content thus making the MPAA happy. It also leaves every Linux (and Mac) user out in the cold. As I love and support Netflix, I have decided to find a work-around. (Am I letting Netflix off the hook? A little. But the real *ssholes here are the MPAA for being so tight-fisted with their content. But that's another story.)

When I need a little Windows in my Linux world, I've got quite a few options. There's WINE, Qemu, KVM, Xen, Vmware, and VirtualBox. The current best of breed is without a doubt Vmware. It literally runs an entire guest operating system (Windows, for example) within *whatever* O/S you happen to be running at the time. Why run virtual Windows when I can just install the real thing? Well, outside of the fact that I love Linux, virtual Windows is my way of taming the beast. I can literally take a snapshot of the current Windows state and if things get unstable I just revert. Accidentally install a virus? No prob, just revert to a snapshot. For once, *I* get to control Windows, and not the other way around. But, as good as Vmware is, at $189 it's a little pricey for my taste. My preferred virtualization program is VirtualBox.

VirtualBox is free, fast, easy-to-install, has most of the same features as Vmware, and even includes a few killer features that are exclusive to VirtualBox. My favorite is the "seamless-mode". Basically it lets Windows apps seamlessly integrate with your Linux desktop.

Yes, that is IE running the Netflix streaming app on my Linux desktop. That's the really sweet spot of open source. Free apps and cheap services. If you want to get started, bounce on over to And if you're a Windows user, try out VirtualBox to test the latest version of Linux. You might like what you see...

Oooo, I gots traffic!

I don't know where you guys are coming from , but I'm getting some serious hits on this blog. Well, serious for me is over a dozen a day. Over the last couple days, I've gotten about 100. Nice. Was it something I said?

Saturday, March 22, 2008 is KILLIN it!

Live DJ Dr. Madness over at is tearing the HELL out of some turntables right now. Or virtual turntables. Or whatever he's using. Who the hell cares, anyway! The point is that he is doing some next-level work over at Smoothbeats, and every hip-hop fan needs to hear it. It is NOT Top-40 crunk crap. It *is* a genre mash-up. I think he's on every Saturday evening, so please listen to him. Remember that old disco line, "Last night a DJ saved my life." Yep, after the day I just had, it was kind of like that...

I am officially an Amazon groupie!

I'm a pretty cheap date. Nachos and merlot, or some slick internet services that support linux, and I'm yours. Google kicked things off a couple of years ago with stuff like Google Earth and Picasa, all of which are cross-platform and run precisely as intended on my linux PC's. Google's online offerings like GMail, Google Chat, Google Docs, and YouTube are also deliciously O/S agnostic. In the span of about a year, linux users like me went from the back to the internet bus to the comfy "old people" seats up front! Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, Amazon drops in out of nowhere with a linux-supported MP3 store. And even better, it's DRM-free! Crazy, right? Now I can cozy right up next to iPod-owners so they can truly savor my cheaper, higher-quality, DRM-free MP3's from Amazon, on my cheaper, higher-quality no-name MP3 player.

And the Amazon just keeps on giving! Although I'm late to this party (hey, if it's new to me, it's new) by about four months, the Amazon S3 online storage service has been rated "The Bee's Knees" by the vast majority of the progressive linux community. Others have referred to it as the slightly less prestigious "Cat's Pajama's", although we're splitting hairs at that point. (Give me a break. I live in Wisconsin. I listen to this crap all day.) To be precise, Amazon provides the storage, but the real magic comes from the 3rd party interface. In this case, I'm referring to JungleDisk, my cross-platform interface of choice. Here's a quick blurb from their site:

"Jungle Disk is an application that lets you store files and backup data securely to's S3 ™ Storage Service.

* Store an unlimited amount of data for only 15¢ per gigabyte
* No monthly subscription fee, no startup fee, no commitment
* Your data is fully encrypted at all times
* Data is stored at multiple datacenters around the country for high availability
* Access files directly from Windows Explorer, Mac OSX Finder, and Linux
* Automatically backup your important files quickly and easily

Unlike other services, with Amazon S3 ™ there is no minimum and no maximum amount of data you can store. You pay only for the actual amount of storage you are using."

Seriously, this is the first time I have ever really looked at an online storage option. But now it's too cheap and too convenient NOT to use. For a few bucks, I can put my files in the cloud, and download or stream them whenever I want. Has anyone out there used this? How's the service? Good, bad or meh? I will soon try it and blog about my experience...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Keeping up on the social networks is TIRING!

Between Facebook,, various web forums, and my blog, keeping up with my social networks has become a full-time job. I wish somebody would pay me for it!

Did you know you can even get the Facebook on your cell phone? Non-stop, man.

Comcast is playing a new game with some old tactics

I think I've got it pretty good here in the frigid north/central part of the US, from an internet connectivity perspective. I've got good speed (up and down), short latency, and pretty cheap prices. And I'm with a cable company that doesn't seem to mind that I use their fiber optics to download all of my entertainment from sources all over the world, mostly via bittorrent. Well, at least they've never officially notified me that they have any issues. Um, knock on wood.

But apparently, some folks aren't so lucky. It seems that Comcast has broken the Net Neutrality de facto armistice and has turned the guns on it's customers. Reports from users, including some noted experts in the field, show that Comcast is blocking bittorrent traffic and shaping/throttling other "heavy" download traffic. And they are denying everything. That's some sneaky sh*t, Batman! Users are paying for bandwidth, but simply not getting it. It would be different if Comcast changed their terms of service and imposed a tiered pricing structure based on usage. But to resort to these kinds of deceitful practices is pretty dang low.

All is not lost, though. The FCC recently had a public hearing in Boston on Net Neutrality. Surely once they heard the voice of the many concerned citizens, they would gain some valuable insight on how the public truly feels about Net Neutrality and act to stop Comcast's shenanigans. Um, that's not quite how the hearing went...

Yup. Comcast paid a bunch of yahoos to pack the house, leaving the true concerned citizens literally out in the cold.

Look, I'm sooo not a fan of FCC meddling. They usually do more harm than good. I generally prefer they keep their noses out of things that don't concern them. But the internet is a communications INFRASTRUCTURE. Most companies and average citizens can't just lay a million miles of trans-atlantic fiber and start their own internet. Keeping the internet equally accessible to everyone MUST fall within FCC scope. And they need to wake up, quit bending internet radio over, and refocus on this Net Neutrality issue before it blows up in somebody's face.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Amazon rocks!

So, $0.99 per track is still pricey, but Amazon's MP3 store is still pretty frickin slick. And they will discount full albums, sometimes by 40%. Linux support is complete and easy. I just grabbed a Murs album that I could not find on EMusic. My name is Akshun J and I endorse this service.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Linux is taking OVER

My favorite little Eee PC is on-sale on in 3 DIFFERENT FLAVORS!!! Well, only two of them are manly. I openly reject and oppose the pink. Even though I am color-blind.

If Best Buy is selling it... Dude. That's gotta mean something.

Too cool, man. Too cool...

I'm loving some Amazon

Remember those chicks who wore armor, kicked ass, and burnt off their right breast so that it would not interfere with their ability to draw a bow and fire an arrow? Not that I am even remotely in favor of breast mutilation, but THAT is what I call commitment!

However, it is a different Amazon that I am loving today. to be precise, and although the book-selling e-company could not be further from historical Amazons if it tried, it has certainly displayed a level of commitment worthy of its warrior namesake. First, it muscled all of the major record labels into providing DRM-free music through their catalog. And then today, it has released download clients supporting most desktop computing platforms including Windows, Mac AND Linux. In the span of 6 months, has jumped to the top of my music download list, although $0.99 per track is still a little rich for my underpaid blood. Has anyone tried their service? If you have, what do you think? I will report on my experience in a future post.