May 29, 2003
Welll, with version 4.0.1, Apple fixed a little issue my scripts have been having with shared playlists (Thanks guys!!!). So, the update to that update is out.
As it turns out, the method I had chosen to deal with 4.0's little issues allowed me to handle the 4.0.1 update with relative ease…
What I had done was simply add an error - checking, or "Try" block to the section of code that grabs the track info. If there was an error, then we assumed that it was a shared playlist error, and changed the signature in E'rage or Mail to handle that.
Well, now with 4.01, we have fewer error conditions. So, all I had to do was check the version of iTunes. If it's less tha 4.01, then we do the "Shared playlists don't work, yadda." Otherwise, the sig changes to "iTunes is haveing issues right now."
So, by blind luck, I was able to keep the same code working for really different features.
Gotta love providence.
john| Comments ()
May 26, 2003
The time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of many things. With apologies to Lewis Carroll, that is most certainly true, and today, the time has come to speak of documentation. This is, of course a subject that is now near and dear to my heart, thanks to my current task of documenting the work of not one, but two projects, one of which is at least four years old. If this sounds like the first circle of hell, you're wrong. It's actually the seventh. I can also say that I now understand why
Tina the Tech Writer,is so brittle. Because I could easily commit mayhem seven or eight times a day in this epic task.
Now, I've done programming before. Did it for more than a few years as a full - time job, and I still do AppleScript as a need arises, either for my own needs, or for various friends and folks I know well enough to do work for on the cheap. I know it's a pain in the keister to comment and write notes on stuff, and that doing documentation gets you about as much respect as eating a ham sandwich in a synagogue. But documentation is important, in some cases as important as the code. How many times have you stopped using, or never started using an application because you couldn't figure out how to do something? Yes, the UI should help you, but there needs to be clear, well-written documentation that explains program functionality, and even shows you how to do stuff. This isn't just a Mac/Windows thing, or just a GUI thing. The better Unix man pages have examples of the command they are the manual for.
Documentation is also hard to do correctly. I was required to attend a week - long class in creating documentation in the Air Force, and it was some of the most mentally draining work I've ever done. The hardest part was removing the phrase,
They'll know what I mean from my vocabulary. Because when you are writing documentation, you aren't writing it for the people who know the application intimately. You're writing for the people that don't. You're writing for the people who may have never seen your application before. You may even be writing for people for whom this is the first time they've ever used a personal computer before. (Before you laugh too hard at this, there are more people like this than you think.)
So now, you have to define terms. All of them. You sometimes have to define the definitions. If you provide step - by - step instructions, you have to test them. But you have to test them as thought the only information you have are those instructions. It's tedious, stupefying, mind - numbingly draining work. But it's the only way to create documentation that works. You also learn to simultaneously love and hate products like Snapz Pro.
Don't get me wrong, I think Snapz is without a doubt the best screen capture/screen recording application on any platform. But I also cringe when I have to fire it up, because it means that I'm again writing documentation, and that means that I'm going to be in hell again. (Actually, I find most of Ambrosia's products elicit that love / hate reaction. I love what they do, but there are times when I wish they didn't write such damnably addictive digi - crack.) But the tedium of the process is only half the problem. It may even be only a tenth of the problem.
The really painful part is getting the source documents for your documentation. If you've never experienced this, then trust me, the phrase,
Just pull it down from CVS is another way of saying
I haven't documented a damned thing unless a gun was at my head, so you can just decipher code comments and my notes written in a code that would make Von Neumann become a janitor. Even worse is when they tell you,
Oh, I've got a bunch of documentation somewhere, I've been keeping it over the years, I'll just upload it to you.
At that point, I really recommend drinking. Heavily. Straight vodka works for me, just make sure it's really cold. Because programmers really suck at documentation. Now to be fair, it's not their sweet spot. It requires a totally different way of thinking about things, and having been on both sides, the context switch can be quite painful. But when you're trying to save money, what are you going to spend money on, good documentation, or good programmers?
Okay, so the people who send you money will complain, but that's what third party books are for, right? So the documentation is relegated to the coffee stain in front of the totem pole, the coders aren't given time to even comment stuff for themselves. Then you come upon the release date, and some poor bastard is given two months to create coherent docs from random notes that even a room with 10,000 monkeys would look at in disgust. Of course, the documentation will suck, but do the people who created the problem, i.e. project managers who blew off documentation from the start catch the hell? Oh no, it's the tech writers, for
not doing their jobs. Because this isn't the fault of the programmers either. They may create crap for documentation, but they are creating that crap for their own use, and for that purpose, the crap works well.
It's the project managers, and the project managers' bosses, and so forth who don't get that the only intelligent way to do documentation is to have the documentation people involved before the first beta. When you release a beta, you better have some beta documentation for it. Yes, it means more expense, and maybe slows things down, but you get a couple of benefits from it.
First, you get better documentation, because instead of trying to do everything at once, you get documentation built over time. No 100+ - hour weeks, but rather a steady, manageable process that follows the development process. The documentation can be beta tested, and if you're smart, you release it in a comment - able form, (PDF is excellent here), so that you get tester comments on what works and what doesn't.
Second, you get a better end application, because you get a completely different set of eyes on the thing. If you can't explain how to use an application in simple, non - tortuous prose, then you should be questioning the design of the application, or at very least the UI. Because if explaining how to use it is torture, then using it won't be far behind. We've all seen applications that make you wonder exactly what was going through the developer's head when they designed that feature. My personal favorite is Eudora's infamous
What an idea.
Instead of designing a proper settings UI, we'll just hide a boatload of functionality in secret codes, and then not ship the definitions of those codes with the application, so you have to know the secret web address, or that Adam Engst, of TidBITS has a special list set up to email you the definitions. Even better, we'll include a code that says, literally,
DO NOT TOUCH (x-eudora-setting:14701 for those who care). Nothing that says why you shouldn't touch this setting, and evidently it didn't occur to anyone to just disable it and not mention it. There's a bunch of them that say nothing more than
DO NOT LOCALIZE. Let me just say that defining the setting is not the same as properly documenting it.
But, this is a perfect example of what happens when documentation isn't taken seriously. I don't expect that this essay will magically right all the wrongs with documentation. I'd be surprised if it even gets taken seriously. Because the ROI on documentation isn't obvious. You can't count the people who don't get frustrated by your application, who are able to use good documentation to be productive, and really become fans of the product, and recommend it to their friends and co-workers.
But there is one thing that can be done. If you use an application, and the documentation is really good, then let the company that created it know. Call them up, email them, whatever, and tell them that the documentation really helped you use that program, and that because of it, you'll be using it more, and recommending it more. Along with that, perhaps an email to that program's competitors pointing out that, in part, good documentation is why you are using a competitor's products. Maybe positive, or positive/negative reinforcement will help, because we've all been complaining for years, and straight negative reinforcement certainly isn't making a difference.| Comments ()
May 24, 2003
If the title of this article, or its content pisses you off, good, you needed help anyway.
So, there are a lot of really annoying Mac users out there. No, I'm not kidding. While most Mac users are really a good bunch of folks who happen to use Apple Computers, there are…a sizable bunch that just make me want to go back to a 5250 terminal on my AS/400. (Yes, I own an AS/400. Yes, it works. Yes, it DOES make your little *nix box look like a toy. Accept it. UR!E)
Now, not all Mac users are MacMacs. I suppose, that since I'm using a term I created, I should define it:
MacMac: n. Someone who really can't talk about anything else. After a while, all you hear from them is a vaguely penguin-ish droning…“MAAAACmacmacmacmacmacmacMACMACMAAAAACmacmacmac”. Also prone to disturbing dreams about Steve Jobs and a grab tool.
They're annoying as hell, because like any fanatic, you can't talk to them about anything non-Mac related. Unfortunately, they can't really talk that intelligently about Macs either. Face it, being a fanatic, and intelligent conversation are mutually exclusive things.
- If you insist that using Virtual PC on a Mac for 8 hours a day is better than using a PC, you're a MacMac.
- If you honestly got upset that Apple stopped using the rainbow logo, you're a MacMac
- If you have hacked your system for the sole purpose of making sure your boot icon is a smiley Mac, you're a MacMac
- If you think that Mac OS 9 was the ultimate achivement in UI technology, you're a MacMac
- If you think that Aqua is the ultimate achievement in UI technology, you're a MacMac
- If you have any Apple tatoos, piercings, scars, or have permanently modified your body to display an Apple logo of any kind, you're a MacMac.
- If you have ever threatened to quit your job solely because you won't give up your Mac, you're a MacMac. and an idiot.
- If you have ever tried to use any of the iLife applications to convince an IT - type that you should get a Mac for work use, you're a MacMac.
- If honestly think that a Mac is a better (anything) than (everything else) in (all situations), you're a MacMac.
- If you have ever asked for an autograph from someone solely because they were a ‘name’ in the Mac community, you're a MacMac. (Disclaimer: this happened to me once, and my first reaction was, “Don't you realize who I'm not?”. I think he must have realized he was freaking me out, because he explained that he was having all the speakers for his Macworld sessions sign this swag - shirt. No one at Macworld is that cool. Really. Well, maybe Sinbad.)
- If you spend the money to go on a cruise to Hawaii, and you spend the entire cruise on your Mac, talking about them, etc., you're a MacMac. and an idiot
- If you spend the money to go on a cruise to Hawaii, and you even bring a computer, any computer, you're sad…really.
- If you wouldn't date someone because they use a PC, you're a MacMac. and probably lonely
- One Apple sticker on your car, cute. More than one? MacMac
I know there are more examples, but I'm tired, and I need to do stuff in the big blue room under the Day Ball. But really, comments are turned on, give me more examples of being a MacMac. It could be a book one day. (Note: I really don't care about profanity, as much as I dislike people who can't use it right. If you are going to use profanity, do it properly, please. If you aren't sure how to do that, then don't. Save yourself the embarassment.)
I will make one futile attempt to point something out. There is nothing wrong with liking your Mac. I like mine. Both of them. For whatever reason, I have yet to find a tool that works with me the way a Mac does. And I bet I've used more computers than you have.
Mac OS X is a better fit than Mac OS 9 ever was, and it made it more useful. I also enjoy going to Macworld Expo, and speaking there, (Let us all face California and bow to Paul Kent, who has helped make the Macworld Expo Conferences what they are today, and ran the Mactivity conferences for years. Paul kicks ass on a daily basis, and deserves far more credit than he gets. Paul is also one of the best guitar players I've ever heard, so if you can, go see his band.)
True, I am an attention whore, and asking me to speak in front of a room full of people is really feeding the addiction. But I've met some really amazing people, good friends, people who have, quite literally, changed my life for the better, and only met them because of Macworld Expo and this computer. (Yes, that fact does blow my mind on a regular basis. What if I never went to Macworld Expo? Well, I'd have other friends, but not these. That would suck.)
But that's not unique to the Mac. It's a function of any group of people who happen to share a common interest. People who SCUBA dive, fly planes, run marathons, do martial arts, etc., they ALL have made friends, and in some cases, marriages because of those common interests. It's not like Apple pioneered the common interest.
Remember, it's just a computer. A bit of plastic and metal that does math very fast. It's not anyone's life, even if you do make a living with one. There are far more things to life than the Internet and your computer, even if it is a Mac.
Don't lose sight of that.
Now go play outside, you're getting all sickly.
john| Comments ()
May 19, 2003
Not funny God
So, as anyone following the happenings of my life may know, I'm also part of a Mac OS X Education project called TackyShirt. It's been over a year in the making, and there's a lot of people busting their humps to make this dream work.
That number dropped by one Saturday night.
The mailing list that we've been using to track our work, and to let others track our work got the kind of message you never want to see, from Sam Crutsinger, the “Media Kingpin” for TackyShirt, and the guy who's put the most into the project from the start.
"Our art director Kurt Christenson died in an motorcycle accident the night
Kurt was the boyishly exuberant one on the set who brought in the all the
crazy set decorations including the life-sized astronaut, wizard, pirate and
army man. He exceeded my expectations and I was looking forward to having
him as a permanent fixture in my TackyShirt crew because I knew I could
completely trust him to keep coming up with even more brilliant ideas each
and every day.
People like that, you don't let go.
They're taken from you.
We'll be adding a dedication to the credits of our program to show our
gratitude for his artistic excellence in the short time we had together."
I really wish I had something intelligent to say. But I don't.
It's almost impossible to properly put in words just how much Kurt brought to the shoot. Almost everything you see on the DVDs had something of him in it. The set layout, the props, everything. During set changes, watching him, Sam, and the rest of the crew work was amazing. The set would just happen, and it was exactly what we needed for every shot.
You never realize how much work goes into a set until you watch one being built. But it was so cool to watch. Kurt would just come up with stuff that seemed minor, but would be just the thing a shot needed. And I know that he made it look ten times easier than it really is.
He was really good. But he was also funny as hell to talk to, cussed like a sailor, and he loved to ride. He was just one of those people, you know?
I really hate that I have to use the word 'was' for him now.
Not funny god.| Comments ()
May 8, 2003
Just say no to Micromanagment
I would just like to say a little something on micromanagment. It's a great way to reduce head count. Because if you do it enough, people will quit, only they won't quit on good terms.
It's a matter of trust, really.
When you micromanage someone, you're telling them: "My way is the only acceptable way. I do not trust your experience, skills, or knowledge. So, I will make sure that you have no room to think, innovate, make mistakes, or use initiative."
This may make you feel in control, but what happens is that you end up having to do everything yourself, because no one other than you will ever do everything exactly your way. They can't. They're not you. They're always going to deviate somewhat. So, a micromanager will come down on them even harder. At that point, they're either looking for a new job, or, they're going to resign themselves to the fact that what they really are is an extra pair of hands, and only do what they are told, when they are told. Nothing more.
So, you go from having a valuable, experienced, capable employee to a clock-watching drone. Your workload of course goes up, because drones take a lot more work to manage than thinking employees. You end up having to spoon feed them every part of the assignment, and getting status reports, or results is like pulling teeth.
But then, when you micromanage, that's what you want, and that's what you get. So congratulations, you've achieved your goals.
If there is a bigger sign that a manager has no clue as to how to be a manager, I don't know what it is. Micromanaging is simply insecurity translated into a lack of trust in anyone other than the manager. It's death to an organization, because it means that whatever that manager is in charge of is quite literally going to be non-functional without that person there all the time. But then, most management training is a joke.
No, let me reiterate that:
Most civilian management training is a joke.
It all deals with business cases, and processes, and project management, and legalities. It also makes the fatal mistake of avoiding leadership as though it's a dirty word. But that is what being a manager is about. Leadership.
Face it, resources are easy. You have X amount, and you have to make sure they are used in an efficient manner. But a thing isn't what finishes projects on time, or works overtime to fix a dead network. A computer isn't going to realize that there's a different, and potentially better way to get work done. A switch isn't going to have an 'aha' moment. Resources don't do much of anything by themselves. People do.
Coincidentally, people get treated like dirt the most often in our modern world.
Which is ridiculously funny when you read the articles bemoaning the lack of company loyalty. Well, no kidding. You treat your people like dirt, you cast them aside at the first chance, and you wonder why they leave at the first offer letter.
Keeping employees isn't a matter of resource allocation. It's a matter of Leadership. Leadership is about being the example. Because whether you understand leadership or not, you're going to be the example for your people. You don't give them the freedom to make a mistake? They won't try. You insist on micromanaging them? There went their initiative. You give them a nice handjob one day, and crap all over them the next? There goes trust.
I know that being a manager is hard. I've been one too many times to not know that in my bones. In some ways, it's harder than doing the work. Because now, you are not the master of your own fate. The people under you are. The people doing the work that you used to are going to determine your fate. That can be frightening. But the answer isn't going to be to control everything they do, and dictate their every action. That's going to make your life harder, and screw you over in the end.
You have to let go and let these people do their work. Your job is as a guide, and a protector. You have to make sure your people know what needs to get done, and any hard limitations. You have to make sure they have the resources to get their jobs done. You have to make sure that they know if they run into a problem, that you're going to do your part to help them. You have to protect them from external politics as much as possible, so they aren't worried about covering their asses. That's your job. You have to cover your people. That's part of being a leader.
Unfortunately, no one wants to be a leader. It's considered crude, not in touch with modern theory, to militaristic. Which is a problem, because as I said earlier, when you're in charge, you're a leader. You don't have a choice about that.
You only have a choice about what kind of leader you're going to be.
john| Comments ()
May 4, 2003
The Apple Music Store
So, I've been listening to the arguments about the Apple music store, and iTunes 4 for a few days now, DRM issues, selection issues, download encoding issues, etc. What is interesting to me about these is the same thing that always fascinates me about any sort of arguments in the Mac community, and that is the polarity of the arguments. Everything is either perfect, or horrid, and there's very little room for compromise.
Which is a shame, because the Apple music store, and iTunes 4 are both studies in compromise, and would not exist in their current form without compromise.
Of course, this was going to be one of the biggest issues of the service, and was completely unavoidable. Let's be clear on something. Without some form of DRM, without some way of limiting the amount of times you can copy a song, or stream it, this service wouldn't have happened. The major labels wouldn't have signed on at all. Period. I also doubt that the independent labels would have been able to jump on board, because the music industry is extremely incestuous, and the major labels are able to exert a lot of pressure on the indies if they so desire.
So DRM is a fact of life, we aren't not going to have it. So the real question becomes, is Apple's DRM setup overly onerous? Not really. Let's compare this to buying a (DRM-free) CD or tape.
With a CD or tape, you can listen to your music whenever you want in the player of your choice. If you wish to rip it to MP3/WMV/WAV/Whatever, you can, and then transfer that file to the player of your choice, and listen to it that way. If you wish to set up an MP3 server, and store your music there, and listen to it on another computer, you can. If you want to play it at a party, you can. If you want to make a mix CD or tape, you can. All of this is legal. It's all personal use.
With Apple's DRM, you've bought the songs. You can listen to them whenever you want in the player of your choice, as long as it handles AAC. (No, this isn't a restriction. A CD does you no good without a CD player of some kind, and a tape does you no good without a tape deck of some kind.) You don't have to rip it to another form unless you want to listen to it in a player that doesn't support AAC. But if you want, you can. (I'll deal with issues of quality in a second.) You can stream these files to up to three authorized computers, with a hard limit of 5 computers connecting to your computer, authorized or not.
Limitation the First
Ah, the first limitation. The authorization issue. Apple limits how many computers can legally play a downloaded song. Now, I will bring up that this only applies to downloaded music. If you rip your own, there's no authorization issue. Apple could have done this, with ease. But they didn't. Primarily because it would be a stupid thing to do. So authorization issue only hits you on stuff you download. Now, why are they doing this? Well, that nasty 'compromise' word comes into play. Remember, RIAA hates things like Gnutella, Kazaa, etc. Because they allow you to set up your system as a music server to the world, and you don't have to pay any licensing fees, or anything. Nobody, including the artist makes any money off of this. So Apple agrees to limit this. Let's face it, this is not a really bad number. Yes, I personally would like to see it at ten, but it beats none. Again, this is the kind of thing that makes the music companies nervous, the fact that one person buys a song, or downloads it illegally, and then distributes it to an unlimited number of other people.
While it could be argued that radio is a form of streaming, the fact is, radio stations pay a not insignificant amount of money for the right to play the music they play, and unlike internet sharing, their audience is subject to a hard geographical limitation due to range limitations on transmission strength. So WXRV here in Boston may be able to transmit to an unlimited number of people within it's transmission range, but not outside of that. Even the radio stations that are streaming on the Internet are paying for that privilege. While the artists aren't making a lot from the royalties that this generates, it is infinitely more money than they are making off of things like Gnutella.
So you can really only stream downloaded songs to three Macs, and ripped songs to five Macs. Well, so what? I mean it. So what? Are you really being oppressed because you can't stream to everyone on your subnet, or everyone who knows your IP address? I mean, if you want to get technical, that's public broadcasting, and personal use doesn't include that. So, in a sense, Apple, and iTunes 4 are giving you a wee bit more legally than you get normally. It's not an unlimited right, but no right is. As well, face it, as DRM goes, this is a pretty minor restriction, and it's also bypassed with about five minutes of work.
Limitation the Second
So back to the other DRM issues. The next one deals with burning CDs, and it is a really minor one. You can't burn more than ten identical CDs. Every ten CDs, you have to change the playlist. This one hasn't caused many issues, which is good, because it's a minor thing anyway. Again, it's a compromise. This way, RIAA can't point at iTunes and say "Hey! You're letting everyone become black - market CD distribution houses." It's about as secure as hiding your music in an invisible directory on your iPod. If you want to bypass it, you can, but why? I really don't see a desperate need to be able to burn a hundred CDs under anything resembling personal use. Even Sybil would have only needed sixteen or so.
I think the thing that worries me the most is that Apple's only solution to preserve your songs is to back them up to CD or DVD. The problem with that is what happens if your house burns down? Or some other catastrophe befalls your only authorized computer, you don't have an iPod, and all your backups are on optical disk? Okay, so that may seem like a stretch, but these things happen, and I think you need to plan for the edge cases with this type of scheme. I'm not saying Apple hasn't thought of this, only that I haven't seen any kbase articles on this yet.
There are still a lot of "what if's" with regard to the DRM Apple is using, and it would behove Apple to answer these sooner rather than later.
Another source of consternation is that the Apple music store is for U.S. residents only. This sparks cries of "discrimination", and "Apple is ignoring non-US Mac owners!" Nonsense. Anyone with any knowledge will tell you that music licensing, especially for a service like Apple's is a nightmare of laws that are often in direct opposition to each other. If you want to complain to someone, yell at the legislators in your respective countries, (U.S. included), to sit down and create a common standard. We'll all be dead of old age by the time this happens of course, but that's the only real solution.
Another issue to remember is that this is all very experimental. The deal Apple struck with the majors is only for a year, so this is really a trial run. If it works, then the companies may help deal with the licensing issues overseas, and more Mac owners can benefit from this. As with all things, when you sit down to write your concerns, be calm, cool, and polite. I'd also recommend sending your concerns to the labels as well as Apple. Both sides need to agree on this. There's that compromise thing again.
The quality, or lack thereof is another problem people are having with Apple's music store. The audiophiles are up in arms, heck everyone is. 128Kbps AAC isn't good enough, Apple is screwing the customer by not having a selection of bitrates, etc., yadda. I'm not going to comment on how 128Kbps sounds, as:
- I worked on B-1B bombers for years, so my upper range hearing is a mess. Midrange and lower range I am fine with, but there are huge chunks of the upper end that I either can't hear, or cause me pain. I will say I don't have any problems with 128Kbps, but caveat deaf twit.
- I'm not an audio engineer, so I don't have the background for deciding if an encoding scheme is good, bad, or indifferent.
However, looking at the music that I've been converting to AAC, from higher rate MP3, (I can hear the difference between 128Kbps MP3 and 256Kbps with VBR MP3), the file sizes seem to be a little less than a MB a minute. Now, Apple could encode at multiple rates, but that causes a lot of problems.
- Your storage needs instantly double, or triple. Disks may be cheap, but not in that quantity. That also increases backup costs, administrative costs, etc. Managing storage on that scale is not insignificant in terms of either money, time, or people. The more it costs Apple, the more it costs us.
- Bandwidth use goes straight up. Again, if you have multiple choices for encoding rates, or a higher encoding rate, then you have to be able to upload those files to your customers. That is not a non-trivial concern. Even at 128Kbps, Apple is getting overloaded. At higher rates, it would be worse. And the bandwidth costs go up. And the per-song costs go up. Remember the .mac lesson.
- You cut out people who don't have fat pipes. Yes, I know, get off the modem. Well, there are rather large parts of the country where a modem is your only option. I have friends in some of them. They would love to have cable, DSL, or even satellite Internet access, but they don't. While a 3 - 5MB file size is annoying on a modem, it's not a killer. You get into the 10MB and greater range, and people stop bothering. So a smaller file size with solid quality gives everyone incentive to buy and download. The customer is never always right, but they are the customer, and you at least try to get more of them.
- The record companies would have a fit. If Apple was downloading CD - quality audio, then I'll bet it would either cost a lot more, or the DRM would be a lot more onerous. So the bit rate is a compromise. And if you're an audiophile, why are you listening to lossy compressed songs anyway?
There's that compromise concept again. Nobody totally wins, nobody totally loses. But we get something we didn't have before, and that's a win in my book.
While Apple is bragging about having over 200,000 songs, that's really not that much. There's a lot of music they don't have. But it's new. They're ripping as fast as they can. And you can see new stuff every day. If you're talking about the really big bands, like Led Zeppelin, or the Rolling Stones, well, they do business differently. You have to get Led Zeppelin to agree to this, not just Atlantic Records. Groups that large make their own deals. The independent labels will come as well. Especially for them, this is a distribution pipeline that they'd kill to get, so I don't see them holding out. A larger selection only benefits Apple, so there's no logic behind insinuations that they are somehow shutting out smaller labels.
There is however, one real problem with the selection. More correctly, it's the naming conventions of the songs.
Dread Zeppelin did a cover of "Moby Dick". They did not cover "Moby D**k" The name of the album by Les Elgart that has the song "Bandstand Boogie" is "Dick Van Dyke's Dance Party", not "D**k Van D**e's Dance Party". The name of the song by Pinkard and Bowen is "The Ballad of Dick and Jane", not "The Ballad of D**k and Jane". Richard Pryor did not have a track on "Supernigger" called "Super N****r".
That's just stupid. I mean exactly that. It's stupid. It encourages stupidity. So, while Apple insists on taking that action, I personally will not buy a single track from their online store. Nor will I listen to previews. They can do stupid things, that's their right. But I'm not encouraging it monetarily, or in any other way. If you don't agree, cool. That's one thing that's nice about being different people. I won't think any less of anyone who does disagree, regardless of reason. But I just cannot support rampant offensensitivity about the English language and its uses. When you pervert the language, you pervert thinking. It's propaganda, and they can just carry on without me.
So, with the exception of my little issues with Apple's naming problems, what you see is a series of compromises. (Yes, I do 'get' that D**k is a compromise. It's just one I can't live with.) Most of them were necessary to avoid having this be a silly subscription service, with really onerous DRM, or charging more for burnable tunes.
Pressplay fights back
Well, that's what I want from a store. Gimme my stuff, take my money, see ya. I don't want to pay to listen to someone else's music. There's a way for me to do that for free, it's called "radio". I can listen to all the radio stations, internet and otherwise I want to, and it won't cost me $9.95 a month. I won't pay a dime until I want to buy the song.
Hmm...so you're charging them $9.95 a month for what they can get for free in an almost unlimited number of internet radio locations. I'm not seeing a real benefit to Pressplay yet.
So, in addition to paying for the privilege of listening, I have to pay you extra for a permanent download...just like Apple. It seems to me that you're making money off of what's out there and free, and then for permanent downloads, doing exactly what Apple is doing. The line about Apple's store taking away flexibility and choice is PR nonsense. Apple's store is not a streaming service with purchasing as an option. It's a store where you buy music with some preview ability. They are exactly what they claim to be, which is not the same service as Pressplay. If you want to just listen, go to Live365, and listen all you want for free. Why, that saves you $9.95 a month over Pressplay. What a bargain!
Ah, here Seth can't resist playing with numbers. He's silly for doing it. He's confusing listening with purchasing. Apple's store is not a listening service, it's a store. They don't claim to be a listening service. But let's compare prices on actual downloads. First, we have to understand something. What Apple is selling you is what PressPlay calls a "Portable Download". The "Unlimited Downloads" that you get for $9.95 a month aren't really yours. They don't work unless you keep sending Pressplay money. If you cancel your subscription, then you lose all that music you've been paying for. An analogy would be National Geographic taking back all your old copies of the magazine because you no longer want to get any more. So, the unlimited stuff isn't even close to your music. It's their music, you're paying for the privilege of listening to it. That's all.
To get "Portable Downloads" as a part of your monthly subscription, you have to go to the middle tier of service, "Unlimited Plus". (Okay, there is no such thing as Unlimited Plus. It's bad language, and you should dislike Pressplay for using such a ridiculous term.) That tier gets you ten portable downloads per month, but it's $17.95 per month. So, if all you do is Portable Downloads, (We're comparing similar services) those ten songs are going to cost you $1.79 per track. Hmm...Apple's already cheaper, by almost a buck a track. Not looking good for Pressplay here. But what about the highest tier of service, "Annual Plus"? Well, again, if you want that for the Portable Downloads, you get 120 per year, all available on day 1 of your membership. So that's now $1.49 per track. A better bargain than the Unlimited Plus, but Apple's still cheaper.
However, you don't have to go to one of the upper tiers. You can buy Portable Download 'packs' of 5, 10, or 20 downloads, for $5.95, $9.95, or $18.95 respectively. So, that works out to $1.19 per track, $.99 per track, or $.94 per track respectively. So at best, Pressplay is precisely a nickel per track cheaper for 'real' downloads than Apple's store. Of course, when you factor in that they're hitting you for $9.95 a month for listening, which you can do legally for free at hundreds of other sites, Apple is ahead before you start. Oh, and since you have to buy those packs in bulk, the prices I quote per track only apply if you download 5, 10, or 20 tracks. If you download less, then you pay more per track. Seth, here's a tip. The Mac market isn't really that dumb. We can count.
Which brings me to his last statement, and I'm really surprised he was silly enough to make it.
Wow...a service that's been around a day as of the date of this statement has less music than one that's been around for, well, more than a day. And it has features that Apple never claimed to have, and you get charged for them, even though you can get them for free with ease. Oooh, hold me back, I want Pressplay. Well not really, and that brings us to the last little gem in Seth's statement.
That's true. Because if we look at pressplay's FAQ on minimum system requirements, we see this little gem:
So this wonderful service is absolutely useless to Mac users. He's promoting a service that the people using Apple's store cannot use unless they buy a Wintel box, or Virtual PC. Exactly why is he even talking about this?
Because Apple scares people. Because they take risks like this. Because when the Windows version of iTunes 4 comes out, what happens if people realize that they can get everything pressplay gives them outside of Portable Downloads for free, and that Pressplay actually charges you more than Apple for a single portable download?
If Pressplay wasn't worried, they wouldn't have been so silly as to put out a statement this fragile. But this scares them, and scares them badly.
As it should.
john| Comments ()
May 1, 2003
I want my island
I'm done with living under government of the stupid, by the stupid, and for the stupid. After almost getting into three crashes on the way to work, and seeing that while working in a bastion of technological invention, my phone is older than I am, (and I was born in the 60s mind you), I'm done.
I want my own island.
That's right, SmartAss Island. I don't want to buy it either. (I'll get to the way this would work and why later.) I want it to be given to me by the U.S. Government from one of the good ones they own. (No, the Bikini Atoll does NOT count!) Bimini, or one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
But you couldn't just move there. Hell, you couldn't just visit either. I really hate large amounts of people anyway. No, really, I do. I agree with George Carlin on this one. Individuals are great. I have friendships that stretch across decades, and I cherish every one of them. But once people get in a group of more than ten, then they have no ability to do good, unless it's completely accidental.
So, my immigration problems will be handled by my real distaste for all groups.
But to get in, you're going to have to pass a test. Written. Spelling counts, as does grammar. Yes, I know my grammar is poor. Guess what? Life isn't fair, and people shouldn't all be treated alike ala Harrison Bergeron. Shaquille O'Neal can slam dunk, I can blow bubbles out of my right tear duct under water. We all have different abilities. If you don't get that, you fail, and back to the stupids you go.
The test will be a combination of multiple choice and essay. All questions will be trick questions. Life is a trick question. Anyone complaining fails, and back to the stupids they go.
Are you getting an idea of whom I want on my paradise? I want people for whom conversation is a full contact sport, but when proven wrong, are glad because that means they learn something. I want people who have passions, but don't let those passions overwhelm the acquisition of a new passion. Single - minded? Buh-bye. Did you invite a stupid to visit? Both they and you leave. Buh-bye.
I want cynical assholes who are thought of by the happy smurf-lovers as miserable, bitter, and depressed. If you had to live with a passle of people who are drooling and delusionally happy, you'd be bitter too. I like people like that. I'm like that. Because that way, when something nice happens, it's such a shock, we truly appreciate it.
I want people who question popular wisdom and thought, and want to see the raw data behind the surveys that run everyone else's life. (Hint: The right answer to any question about a survey is ALWAYS, “Who did it, what's their angle, and can I see the raw data?”) I want people who tell you you're full of shit and are right. I want people whom, if you're going to tell them they're wrong, you best have packed a lunch, and annotations.
In other words, I want the people that make the stupid pod people's lives hell. And I will be their king. Of course, since we're talking about people with common sense, it's an easy post. I drink a lot of rum, and they deal with things. Sans warning labels. Because my people don't bloody need them. Because if they do something silly, they admit it and move on.
That's a distinction worth noting. Everyone, even yours truly, does stupid things. For example, today I was pondering a videoconferencing system. Now, this is a neat idea, and I was doing a lot of mental imaging. On the way into the restrooms at a plaza on the Mass Pike. Unfortunately, what I neglected to do was make sure I was walking into the correct rest room. (In this particular plaza, there are four.) Luckily, the lack of urinals, and the three women looking at me very oddly, with some amusement clued me in. About face, and take the razzing with some humor. See, a dumb thing, but handled well. No stupid protests, no face saving. It was dumb. Accept it and move on.
A stupid would have tried to justify it somehow. Malarky.
This is why Shawn King, infamous as the “Big Doofus - San” would be allowed on the island. He's a never ending source of dumb acts, but he accepts responsibility with grace, and humor. Plus that, he tells stories far better than I ever will.
So getting on pretty much depends on me deciding you belong. Again, life isn't fair.
But how to finance it?
Well, I think that this could be easy.
Think about it...the U.S., and heck, the world governments would have a place to send the people that cause them the most problems. Not the idiots with signs. They don't know their ass from a hole in the ground. I mean the ones that write articles that really question the Emperor's wardrobe. For any government, those people suck. Well, I've got an offer. I'll take your smartasses for the low price of one billion dollars US per country. One time fee. It's really not that much for reducing your population's IQ into the middle double digits. You'll make that up in forced labor by the end of the fiscal year easily. However, the billion isn't a guarantee they get on the island. That just lets them take the test. If they fail, I keep the money, and you have to deal with them in whatever way you deal with false smartasses. I don't really care, they aren't on my island.
Again, I'm getting rid of your real problem children, not just the stupid loud morons. Morons are everywhere, but I understand they make nice drinks.
So that's my plan. If you know any world leaders, send them the URL for this article. I really think I'm on to something.| Comments ()