Fair Use Music Rights

Let’s Eat at the Audio Lunchbox

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I discovered a cool, new music site today. I was looking around MusicMatch, which had profiled The Distillers album “Coral Fang.” I listened to the songs first on MusicMatch MX radio; some rad punk. So I checked out the band’s homepage where there was a post about The Distillers going digital, with songs for sale over at Audio Lunchbox.

Audo Lunchbox is a legal download site hawking indie music. Lots of it, and stuff you’d buy from Apple’s iTunes Music Store (that means rights protection) or one of those Windows Media Audio outfits like MusicMatch (that also means rights protection). The problem with the rights-protected (a.k.a. digital rights management) stuff isn’t the restriction on playback (three PC cap for most music) but the compatibility. Apple’s music format and WMA aren’t compatible. The songs usually won’t play in the same media player or portable music player.  Read More


Windows XP: Game Over

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If you’ve got kids, kids’ games and Windows XP, you’ve problems. You see, Microsoft appears to have ignored an entire category of software during Windows XP compatibility testing: Educational and edutainment software for kids. If you have a closet full of hand-me-down games for that four or five year-old previously used by an older sibling, plan on turning many of them into coffee coasters.

Windows XP may have been on the market for more than two years, but plenty of kids games won’t work well or run at all on the operating system. If your kids have a beloved game for which there is no new version and you’re thinking about getting a shiny, new Windows XP PC, plan on keeping that older Windows machine around for awhile.  Read More

Digital Lifestyle

Lucky Brats!

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What’s the best remedy for snowbound kids! WebCams! Sunday’s snow socked in Washington, keeping my daughter and her friends down the road from getting together for play. Sure, she did the snowplay thing, but that gets old fast on a street without hills for sledding.

So, I pulled out a Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000 WebCam, which my daughter hooked up with her friend across town. Trouble at first as her friend had an iBook and iSight. The two tried to WebCam on MSN, but the Mac version doesn’t do videoconferencing. My daughter’s friend eventually got on her dad’s PC, and the two have been camming it up for the past two hours.

Damn, when I was nine years old and snowbound, we sat around shivering and playing cards. Lucky brats.


Washington Winter Wonderland

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Snow is pelting Washington this evening. Forecast for the D.C. metro region is 10-20 cm of snow. I’d say there’s 1 cm on the ground in the first half hour of snowfall.

Lots of losers in my household, though. Many Maryland schools had already planned Monday off as a teachers’ professional day. So, the kids won’t be getting a snow day. Neither will I. That’s one of the drawbacks of working out of a home office.

Some people have this concept that working from home is lazy work. Stay in the PJs all day long, lounge in front of the TV and work at a luxurious slow pace. Hah! Most work-at-homers I know put in longer hours than the office. I do.


Man on the Train

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Wednesday afternoon, while on the D.C. metro, I saw a homeless man working the train for change. Lots of loafers beg for money around Washington; they’re professional beggars whose job is collecting handouts, sometimes pretty aggressively.

But this guy looked truly down on his luck. I’m not tall, about 1.6 meters, and this guy, sporting a well-weathered sleeping bag, was shorter than me. He shuffled politely through the subway car, asking people for money. What surprised me was just how many folks gave him money. Unlike the professional beggars, which more typically use disposal cups, this guy took cash by hand. Like the others, I gave him some change; I wanted to give more but hadn’t hit the bank machine before going on a trip to New York. He literally got all that I had to give.  Read More


NeoPets Alarm Clock

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Rousting a kid is every parent’s morning nightmare. Those kids cling to the pillows the way leeches used to stick to our backs at the old swimming hole.

Two weeks ago, my daughter picked up a Pocket NeoPets electronic game, at the local Target using her allowance money. Promptly, at 7:30 each morning, the game buzzes to feed her critter—a Fairy Poogle, I do believe—and she hops out of bed with urgency no alarm clock could muster. It’s a parent’s dream situation.  Read More

Politics Rights

Voter Profiling

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I guess privacy doesn’t mean much during an election year. According to a Reuters story by Andy Sullivan, politicians are “drawing detailed profiles” of voters. Mr. Sullivan quotes Grassroots Solutions founder Robert Richman as saying, “It’s pretty scary, the stuff you can get on people”.

It’s funny how politicians often talk big about protecting people’s privacy (except maybe with regard to Homeland security). But in the crunch, some won’t hesitate to mine data the same as businesses.  Read More

Culture Living Society

Racism and Naiveté

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Growing up in Northern Maine, a white wonderland in more ways than just snow, doesn’t seem like the best place for exposure to other races, or even cultures. But, my hometown Caribou also was where many kids from “the base”, as in Loring over in Limestone, went to school.

My best buds growing up tended be a different color from me, like the Chung brothers, Davis and Winchell. Not that I noticed. I was colorblind to skin. I remember learning about slavery, civil rights, and racism in eighth grade, a concept that made no sense to me.  Read More

Ethics Journalism Media Politics Responsibility

If You’re Political, Then say So

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Should journalists make political contributions? That’s a quandary raised in a today’s Washington Post story by reporter Howard Kurtz. The situation is this: Some news organizations allow staffers—and that includes editors and reporters—to make political contributions. Such contributions could infer bias and so tarnish the contributor’s and/or news operation’s neutrality.

As a former journalist too often disgusted by the news media misbehaviors, I’m in favor of the contributions, as long as there is full disclosure. My reasoning is simple. Reporters, editors, and publishers are people. That means they do have biases and even agendas. But the mask of so-called neutrality often hides the real story behind news stories. I like the idea of those purporting to deliver unbiased news stories and analyses offering readers insight into their political leanings.  Read More