Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Another reason why the RIAA sucks...

In the news today, the RIAA is blaming music piracy for their decline in sales. My comment is below:


The reason their sales are down are myriad. First of all, most of the new music today sucks. Consumers are starting to realize that the process is broken, and that most music showing up nowadays is overpromoted derivative crap. There is no current overwhelming musical trend, the way grunge, for instance, was huge in the early '90s, or boy bands and barely post-pubescent girls were in the latter part of the decade. Most "artists" now are overproduced and overmanaged, and it shows in the diminished quality of the material. Consumers are finally waking up to it some.

The other huge factor in the decline of sales... Hmmm... Might it be... a recession? Perhaps?

When people have less money (or perceive that times are tougher), they will spend less on certain luxuries. CD's are a luxury. There is more competition for the diminished dollar, and so I refer you to the first part of my rant above. When the music sucks and people have less money to buy it with, they're going to pass up on music in favor of other pursuits.

What music there is is horribly overpriced. In the late '80s, before the shift to CD was complete, most vinyl albums still cost well under $10. CDs were newer technology, and so the price point got set higher - most people could tell there was a difference in quality and so they put up with the higher price. There's no excuse left now, though - it costs less to manufacture, store, and ship a CD in real dollars than it ever did to handle LPs. Factoring in inflation, there is no reason a CD should ever cost more than about $12 to the end purchaser. The only excuse is greed.

As for me, I bought five CD's last year (TMBG, a couple of Lyle Lovett discs, an old Hank Williams disc, and Springsteen's live album). My wife bought two (U2 and something else). I downloaded a couple of dozen songs - most of which I already owned on old vinyl and a couple of which were "pirated" singles. I also ripped all my CD's into iTunes, threw it on a server in the house, and now I can stream my jukebox to any room I want at home, which is neat.

Okay - I've fessed up. I have, among other things, a downloaded copy of Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" (what can I say - she annoys me but I can't get that damned song out of my head!). Put the cuffs on. But seriously, I offer my tiny, relatively weak voice to the din in the vain hope that someday a record company exec will read this and have an epiphany:

If you (the RIAA and it's member companies) continue on your present path of being as consumer-unfriendly as possible, I will eventually be pirating all my music. Just to spite you. I can afford to buy it but I won't because you suck.

But if you do the Right Thing, lower prices (hell - just stop raising them!), stop putting out the same old drivel, and make it easy and inexpensive for me to buy music, I will buy a lot more of it. That small portion of your profits that can be attributed to me will go up. A lot.

Which is no big deal by itself, but I'm pretty sure that I'm far from the only person who feels this way.

Olympic thoughts...

A couple of semi-random thoughts on the just-concluded Winter Olympics:

- My wife forced me to watch the womens' figure skating final. That said, Sarah Hughes's performance was absolutely spectacular. I have never seen a better figure skating program (not that I'm an expert). I'm still not convinced that you can call it a sport, but it was brilliant.

- My new favorite sport is curling. I can't tell how you play it, but it looks like a cross between shuffleboard, hockey, candlepin bowling, and janitorial work - so it must be fun. Plus, the players all look like they go out for a smoke and a beer between turns.

- My other new favorite sport is skeleton. Now I know where all the daredevils who used to belly flop down hills on their Flexible Flyers went. The bonus factor is that the women's winner had the wildest-colored hair I've ever seen in a major sports competition.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Goodbye, AT&T...

Yesterday I received my DirecTVDSL gateway box in the mail. My homenet has been running on AT&T Broadband's cable network since last April, when my DSL provider (XO) discontinued service as a result of Northpoint's shutting down. It was ironic, since I'd switched to XO when Flashcom went down before them.

Cable Internet service was fast - faster than my DSL is today or was before. But cable systems are designed for those who want to passively consume - not those who want to produce. Though what I produce may well be drivel, it's still not what AT&T has in mind.

Way back when, of course,, this wasn't a problem. AT&T Broadband in New England started out as Continental Cablevision HighwayOne - one of the first cable ISP companies. Their AUP essentially was "don't run a business off this, do no harm, and keep your systems secure". Then it became MediaOne, which after rollouts and system swaps in the Boston area wound up getting my town right around the same time TimeWarner decided to start rolling out RoadRunner internet service. Following this?

Anyhow, my town's TimeWarner became MediaOne which became At&T Broadband (but still using mediaone.net to identify this little backwater of the network). But between the reorg of the network that went along with @home's demise, and the forthcoming Comcast takeover, I can see the handwriting on the wall for cable's suck factor to increase exponentially.

So I went DSL shopping (Salem's always been good in that area), and settled on DirecTVDSL (the former Telocity). I ordered service on February 1st. Yesterday (the 12th), I got the gateway and took it home. 20 minutes later I had my network up and moved over - it would have been about 15 except I fatfingered the subnet mask when I reprogrammed my Netopia, and it took me a minute to realize it.

And to make things even better, not only does DirecTV have the kind of "lassez-faire" AUP that I remember from the Good Old Days, but they even tell you how to set up your own domain and cheerfully offer you an option on their customer pages to either point it at their pages (they offer the standard 10MB of free webspace) or point it at your STATIC IP! Woo-hoo!

So anyhow, I'm surfing and serving a little slower (I get about 800/160 ADSL, the speed tests are indicating), but I can feel the freedom in the air.

And Comcast won't be snarfing my packets once they Borg AT&T!

Tuesday, February 12, 2002


I think it's time to cut a deal in the interests of national security. To heck with the Middle East (and especially the Saudis).

What we ought to do is cut deals with the Russians. Become their largest customer, and supply most of our imported oil needs through them. Everyone wins. The Russians get the hard currency needed to continue modernizing their economy, we get a stable trading partner and the resources we need, and the Saudis get screwed.

Also worth noting in such a deal is that a close trading relationship with the Russians helps reduce conflict by binding our economies closer together. Tom Friedman had an interesting point in his book "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" (a terrific read). He postulated that no country with a McDonald's had ever gone to war with another nation with a McDonald's (though this may have been broken in Kosovo, depending on if you count that as a war or not). Commerce binds nations together to a degree that politics cannot easily overcome.

Monday, February 04, 2002

Feeling good today!

mentioned previously how I'm a wrestling fan. Well, I also like real sports, too - I ran track in high school, raced bicycles (road, not BMX - you know, wearing the funny outfits), I used to go rock climbing and I played a little rugby at college when we started up a club team. I golf and bowl (candlepins - the little ones) nowadays, along with a little bike riding. A lot of tech people aren't much for sports - I really enjoy them.

With that in mind, I also enjoy watching football and baseball - I like to go to games and I like them on TV, too. I root for the Red Sox (though I grew up in New York, I hate the friggin' Yankees), and I'm a Pats fan. I think frustration appeals to me - I still cheer for one New York team - the Rangers (who went over 50 years between Stanley Cups).

Accordingly, I have one thing to say about last night's events - Woo-hoo!

Sports are not the most important thing in the world, they're a nice diversion from reality and they can be fun to participate in. But there's a certain nice feeling that a community shares when their team is a winner - it's a competition between cities on a large and non-violent level and it feels good to finally be the winner. In olden days these battles would be fought with knights and catapults, now they're fought by football players. Yay Pats!

Now if only the new Sox owners can fire that idiot Duquette...

Go figure

The other day I was talking with a couple of my co-workers about how the perfect name for a dot-com nowadays would be "e-vulture.com". I decided to look it up.

It's been registered and is being held by domaincollecions.com - for sale to the highest bidder. I think that says a lot.