Technology


Copy Control

Copy ControlI tried ripping the latest Beastie Boys album, "To The 5 Boroughs", yesterday. "To The 5 Boroughs" contains Copy Control technology but because I disabled autorun I figured I had nothing to worry about because their piece of crap software wouldn't install. The fact is, on my home PC, I couldn't read the contents of the CD let alone rip it. Navigating to my CD Rom drive in Windows Explorer displayed a completely empty folder. It was as if I was trying to play a blank disc.

In the past I had no difficulties whatsoever ripping Copy Controlled CDs such as Nickleback's "The Long Road", but I've since swapped CD Rom drives and my current drive couldn't interpret the Beastie Boys' latest release. This, apparently, is one of the negative side effects of such shallow practices. I hate the fact they're trying to prevent ripping in the first place but preventing playing of the CD on some players and CD drives is insane. There was nothing I could do yesterday to get this disc to play in my home CD.

At work, I popped in this very same CD and ripped it without a problem. The MP3s sound great and now I'll copy the files back to my home PC. EMI didn't prevent me from ripping their product and converting their song files to MP3s, but they did piss off a customer. Was it worth it? One glance at the P2P networks currently sharing "To The 5 Boroughs" will tell you it wasn't.

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My Cassettes

My CassettesI've been going through a bunch of my old stuff cleaning out the crap. One box I stumbled upon in the cellar was filled with my cassette tape collection.

I wasn't sure what to do with my old cassettes. I'm 100% sure I'll never, ever play them again. As technology goes, cassette tapes are pretty damn obsolete in my world. Even my CDs are now stored away as I access my music in MP3. I probably should have thrown all my tapes in the garbage. Simplify, simplify...right?

I did throw out quite a few of my old cassette tapes, but I couldn't part with all of them. It was the musical format of my youth and how I listened to music in the 80s. I held onto a small box of tapes for strictly nostalgic purposes so I can recall my teenage Walkman years. I simply couldn't chuck them all. I think it's worth keeping them around so I can freak out the kids in about ten years.

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Rogers Yahoo! Hi-Speed Internet

Rogers Yahoo! Hi-Speed InternetRogers provides my home Internet service and I pay them good money to do so. Recently, Rogers announced they've teamed up with Yahoo! so there are several new benefits available to me at no extra charge. I took a long look at this "enhanced" Rogers Yahoo! Hi-Speed Internet service yesterday and I'm feeling more than a little cheated by the good folks at Rogers. Allow me to explain...

Rogers is celebrating the fact I can now "enjoy enhanced e-mail services with more storage, spam filtering technology, anti-virus technology and improved e-mail Web access". They're right, it's called Yahoo! Mail and I've been using the service for several years. It's available to any Tom, Dick or Harry at no charge. Rogers is merely allowing their customers to merge one Rogers email account with an existing Yahoo! account or simply use Yahoo! Mail with ones Rogers.com email address as the username. I'm certainly glad we weren't charged for a free product. Also of note, the ads that appear within Yahoo! Mail are not suppressed, even though you're paying a great deal each month for the service. You're treated exactly like the thousands of Yahoo! users who didn't pay a cent.

Rogers is also celebrating the fact you can "share and store digital photos online with friends and family". This is another current Yahoo! service that is free to Yahoo! users. Then there's all the marketing crap from Rogers about the Yahoo! content. In other words, you're now a Yahoo! User so you can do what every other Yahoo! User can do: use the Yahoo! Instant Messenger, use the Yahoo! Companion, program your very own Internet radio station with LAUNCHcast, play online games with thousands of other Internet players, watch thousands of music videos and access the latest news and weather via your Rogers Yahoo! Hi-Speed Internet portal.

None of the aforementioned facts actually bother me personally, because I've never used my Rogers email. I've been a loyal Yahoo! user from the beginning, and I'm actually glad to see my ISP and Yahoo! integrate like this. What bothers me though is what they're doing with the Rogers webspace you get as a Rogers Internet customer. At the end of this calendar year, Rogers is eliminating the 10 MB of webspace you get with each email account you create with them. Instead, they're telling you to start using Yahoo! Geocities instead. Yahoo! Geocities will force advertisements on your pages. They do this because their service is free. That's right, it's a free service to all and not exclusive to Rogers customers. Whereas Rogers webspace was ad-free, Geocities currently isn't. This affects me personally and it's not fair. If Rogers Yahoo! Users are going to be treated exactly like regular Yahoo! Users, where exactly is the benefit? Where is the enhancement? Isn't the opposite, in fact, more accurate?

At the end of the day the most important service I get from my ISP is Internet connectivity. This new service also offers 5.0 Mbps download and 800 Kbps upload speeds. That's really, really fast and I'd love to have this access at "no extra charge" and Rogers says that's the case. Oh wait, I just read the fine print. A DOCSIS modem is required and that's $99.95 plus applicable taxes. It's nothing as it seems...

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Reinstalling XP

Reinstalling XPI formatted my C: drive yesterday and reinstalled Windows XP. I felt it was time for a clean slate. I had the installation files for all the applications I use ready on my D: drive so getting things to the way I like it was fairly painless.

The first application I installed was Mozilla Firefox. I never even opened Internet Explorer. Firefox is so quick on it's feet, adheres to standards I respect and makes surfing the web much more convenient with their tabbing. There is no way I will ever return to Internet Explorer.

From what I can tell, this past month has been a big one for Firefox in terms of converting IE users. Several colleagues at work have made the switch and I've successfully converted a number of friends. I have no doubt IE still has a vast majority of the browser market under their wing, but I'm certain it's a substantially smaller figure today than it was six months ago. Firefox is only gaining momentum and as web users become more educated and wisen up to the facts, Firefox will get a bigger slice of the browser pie.

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Disable AutoRun!

Disable AutoRun!Way back in October, I wrote about new anticopying technology from SunnComm Technologies. The objective here is to restrict PC users from ripping CDs into MP3s. At the time, I thought the whole thing sucked and my entry was to remind people that they can suppress the AutoRun feature in Windows by holding down the SHIFT key.

RCA has released "Contraband", the debut from Velvet Revolver, with this anticopy technology installed. When you run the CD on your computer, Windows will automatically look for a file called Autorun.inf on the CD. This is the default setting in Windows. It will then automatically run the application.

Do yourself a favour and disable AutoRun. Not just so companies like RCA can't force you to install their shitty software so you can't listen to the music you purchased in your own way, but because AutoRun is dangerous. There are a lot of spyware and viruses distributed on CDs, it makes sense to disable such a security flaw. Besides, if you're like me, you'll want to rip "Contraband" to enjoy this fine compact disc. My buddy Greg was nice enough to give me this album, unfortunately it's edited and I need my swears.

Go here and follow the instructions so you too can disable AutoRun.

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Preferred Apps

Preferred AppsWith Six Feet Under on hiatus for a week due to the Independence Day holiday in the States, I find myself with a little free time this Sunday night. For whatever reason, colleagues, friends and family often ask me about my preferred applications for doing everything from ripping CDs to browsing the web. Below is a list of my preferred apps for various tasks you may or may not find useful.

Winamp - I use Winamp for playing my MP3 collection. It's light on it's feet and far superior to Windows Media Player.

Audiograbber - Audiograbber is the application I use to rip my CDs to MP3s so I can enjoy them in Winamp. It's good and it's free.

Nero Express - The CD burning capability built into Windows XP just frustrates me. I far prefer using Nero Express to create audio and data CDs.

Firefox - Firefox is my preferred browser for searching the web. It's secure, fast, handy with the tabbing and it's got a pop-up blocker built into it. Boot Internet Explorer to the curb and use Firefox instead.

Yahoo! Messenger - Everyone needs an Instant Messenger and I've been using Yahoo!'s for several years. I'm happy and have never felt pressure to use the others from Microsoft, AOL and ICQ. If you want an instant chat with me, you'll need the YIM.

WS_FTP - I've tried several FTP clients, and this one is the simplest and most effective. It does the job nicely.

1st Page 2000 - Although I'm content with Notepad, sometimes I work in an HTML editor because of the colour differentiation. It's easier on the eyes and makes me more efficient. This free editor is my preffered app for such purposes.

AVG - Everyone needs a good anti-virus software application and if you want one for free there's no better than the free edition from AVG.

Spybot and Ad Aware - I use both of these tools to scan and rid my PC of spyware. Both are effective and I find one often picks up something the other didn't. Together, they rule and they're both free.

Shareaza - Looking for a good P2P app for finding a good MP3 of that killer tune you just heard on the radio? Try Shareaza. No spyware, no trouble finding tunes and far less psyche outs than you get with Kazzaa.

In order to gel with my fellow employees, I'm tied to Microsoft Outlook for email and Word for word processing. If funky formatting is not required, I'm happier in Notepad because it's far less of a pig than it's Word brother. That's about it for applications I use on a regular basis. Good night y'all.

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Firefox 0.9

Get Firefox - Web Browsing RedefinedI've finally given Internet Explorer the boot. I installed Firefox 0.9 and gave it a good work out to see if it fit and it does. It's Firefox 0.9 only for me now.

What I like best about Firefox 0.9, besides the convenient tabbing and security, is that it keeps us developers honest. Internet Explorer allows HTML and XHTML programmers to get away with murder because it doesn't insist upon W3C standards compliance. Firefox does and that's good for everybody. I only wish more people will kick IE to the curb and give Firefox 0.9 a spin.

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8-Tracks

8-TracksAs I write this, I'm listening to an 8-Track player. That's right, the guy with the MP3 collection is listening to Stevie Wonder's Innervisions and Styx' Equinox on 8-Track.

This was one format I completely missed. As a child, I owned a few records but the main format I collected was the cassette tape until CDs came into vogue in the late 80s. 8-Track's had already come and gone. It looked as if I was never going to experience this antiquated technology until it came up in a conversation with some colleagues last week. A friend of mind ended up lending me his dusty 'ol 8-Track player and couple of tapes so I could hear what I've missed.

Half way through Stevie Wonder's "Living Just Enough For The City" the volume began to drop as if the song had concluded. Then, a few seconds later, there was a rather loud clicking sound coming from the player before the volume began to rise again and the song resumed. To my readers who also missed the brief period of 8-Tracks, you read that correctly. Smack dab in the middle of a song everything may come to an abrupt end while the tape switches tracks. No wonder the 8-Track era was so brief. It turns out I didn't miss a thing.

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Blogging

BloggingThe Pew Internet and American Life Project released a study on blogging yesterday.

According to this study, somewhere between 2 percent and 7 percent of adult Internet users in the United States actually keep their own blogs. Of those, only about 10 percent update them daily, the majority doing so only once a week or less often. So, if we consider that only 10 percent of 2 percent of adult Internet users in America are updating their blogs each day, I'm in some pretty select company.

According to this Ipso-Insight report, there are 128 million adult Internet users in the United States (a number that's actually dropping, by the way). 2 percent of 128 million is about 2.5 million people. 10 percent of that is 256,000 people who are apparently updating their blog daily. On second thought, maybe I'm not in very select company.

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File Sharing

File SharingReaders of this site know I try to keep abreast of the ongoing battle between the music industry and file sharers. I'll be posting significant developments as they arise both here in Canada or in the United States.

I just read Kate Taylor's article in Saturday's Globe & Mail. I agree with her that the legality or illegality of it all is so wishy-washy it's virtually impossible for a Canadian to know what's a violation of copyright law and what's not. There were significant victories for downloaders in Canada and the U.S. yet still a promise from the CRIA to file lawsuits. Kate Taylor sums up the current status below.

CRIA has specifically stated, however, that it will not sue mere downloaders. Although CRIA argues the practice is illegal, when you download a music file from the Net, you could be considered to be making a single copy for personal use, which is permitted under copyright law. When you upload, that is when you allow other users to copy your copy, you are on much shakier legal ground because you are distributing the music. And it is the users with thousands of music files sitting on their computers and available for sharing who are the industry's target for lawsuits.

In 2004, there should be more concrete developments in this arena so stay tuned.

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