One more…

In our IM conversation, Greg also pointed out that you can use the URL format suggested by What Do I Know, but fetch it with http:// instead of itms://. Why would you want to do that? Because you get the XML package that the server delivers, and you can pull out individual PlaylistIDs, so you can point even more directly to albums. Like: Why Is There Air? and Revenge, and even To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With. (Links only work with iTunes 4.)

Lots of traffic, lots more thoughts about the Apple Music store

Just got off a long IM conversation with Greg, in which he pointed me to, in no particular order:

  • stevenf’s proposal for a standard way, called mtaste, to represent your musical tastes on a blog (more thoughts on this in a second)
  • Jeremy Zawodny’s complaint that Apple’s music store doesn’t already know what he might like to listen to, through his iTunes file (more on this too)
  • The assertion in Business Week that the Verizon piracy records ruling + the Grokster/Morpheus ruling = legislative ruling that piracy is behavioral, not technological. No more thoughts about this one, just thought it was interesting.
  • Lessig’s thought that all the international and state DMCA maneuvers are a way to lock in the DMCA here makes a scary amount of sense. And it makes me wonder whose analysis of the law is right. Is BW right and all these laws are, courtesy the Grokster decision, obsolete? Or is Lessig right and the clawed hand of the RIAA is closing in on my iTunes? Or are both right, and the RIAA is betting that the forces of consumerism will get tired of getting all the laws struck down (or go broke doing so) by the time the RIAA sets them all up?

So, with that note… the mtaste thing. Comparing those files would be even more difficult than stephenf imagines. Basically, he’s describing something like what Amazon does, but decentralized.

The problem is, unless you have an exact match in your mtaste file with the other guy’s, you have to do the music match thing that Amazon does, which is a large clustering problem. To get a good match you need a good sample size—given the number of artists out there (428 in my limited library, probably a lot more in other places), probably thousands. Probably more. Because the record that you’re comparing to someone else’s is at least 428 artists long. By way of comparison, training data sets of around 1600 were needed to predict television show preferences, 5000 for a movie database, and over 32000 for movement around in a 1998 Microsoft Research study by Breese, Heckerman, and Kadie.

So, it’s a hard problem. You’d need, oh, a large dataset from users and a database to process it, a collaborative filtering algorithm, and a lot of data. And you’d need a standard way to convert the mtaste file (which, as proposed, is an arbitrary flat file) to a standard data structure.

LazyWeb, anyone?

But if you could pull it off… it would disintermediate Amazon. Really. It would do away with one of their powerful competitive strengths.

Which is probably why Apple hasn’t done it. Anyone seen the licensing terms on which they got the rights to use the One Click business method from Amazon?

(Oh, and the traffic… thanks to MacNetJournal and MacSurfer for pointing to this morning’s article. For the record, it’s about 4:1 in favor of MacNetJournal at present.)

Tips on the iTunes store

Some great discussion about how the iTunes store does its magic. From MacSlash, discussions of how iTunes does HTML, and some thoughts about how the information gets delivered from Apple’s servers. Bill Bumgarner identifies some nifty tricks you can do with search and music sharing. And Todd Dominey, at What Do I Know (an almost insanely well designed site, btw, though it appears to suffer when long unbroken URLs are in the content), reports on the format for creating links.

Shuman takes the red pill

No, not that red pill. Shuman’s started a blog. He’s handcoding it and he only has four entries and no permalinks, but hey.

Oh, and for the record, I disagree with him about The Two Towers. If it made more money, it was less about marketing inertia (though they certainly didn’t have to work as hard this time around to establish credibility with all the opinion leaders (i.e. Tolkien fanatics)) and more about the fact that, objectively, it was a better movie. More going on, less slack in the story, the amazing Helm’s Deep sequence, Gollum. Anyway, welcome to the blogging world, Shuman.

Artists the Apple Store doesn’t carry, but should

Going from my own list of tracks I’m trying to replace from CDs that were sold during college at the end of each semester for gas money (true!), I found some gaps in the Apple Music Store’s 2000 songs. I haven’t gone back to figure out who owns the rights, but I have pinged the Music Store Management using their handy suggestion form.

Here’s the list:

  • Peter Murphy: no tracks
  • Jesus & Mary Chain: no tracks
  • Jesus Jones: only their last album available
  • Radiohead: only OK Computer

There were also some tracks I didn’t expect to find, namely:

  • U2’s One single, including the fabulous “Lady With The Spinning Head”
  • Bugs Bunny on Broadway, including the full soundtrack to “Long Haired Hare” (“L-L-L-Leopold!”)

And finally, some notes on pricing: No apparent discounts for albums; you can only buy some songs, notably those over 6 minutes, on albums (no downloading just the 38-minute version of “Sister Ray” from the Quine Tapes box set for you!).

There is justice in the world

Although Peter Murphy is not available on Apple’s iTunes Music Store, William Burroughs is. Dead City Radio and Spare Ass Annie. Track by track.

If you’ve never heard Michael Franti and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprasy backing up Burroughs’ insane rants on the latter album, you at least owe it to yourself to spend the $0.99 to check out the title track.

Hey, anyone notice you can’t link to anything in the iTunes music store from the Web? Dumb, Apple.

Negroponte on spectrum, international media labs

Last week I went to an MIT alum event at which Nicholas Negroponte, founding director of the MIT Media Lab, spoke. It was less… revelatory than I would have expected. In fact, Negroponte, who said he doesn’t do that sort of stand up talking very often, largely eschewed the techno-prognostication that made him famous except for a discussion on the merits of open spectrum.

Instead, he talked about:

  • The Wired article (“You’d think that they could have chosen a more flattering photo… however, the article was substantially true.”)
  • Efforts associated with or partly sponsored by the Media Lab to wire third world classrooms (the Digital Nations project)
  • The international expansion of the Media Lab
  • The growth of the Media Lab from an organization funded, in no small part, from UROP fees to the heights of the late 90s, and the difficulty of raising the last bit of cash for the new building now that sober fiscal reality has settled in
  • On working with corporate research sponsors (“The only complaint I ever heard from the corporations was that we weren’t crazy enough… Have you seen what really creative people look like and how they act? Would they survive in a corporate environment? They were outsourcing that uncontrollable creative energy to us.”)

A great talk. I need to come back and blog more of the things he said about Digital Nations and about WiFi and mesh networks, but that can wait until later.

Apple’s new music download service

Details at MacInTouch (which is slammed): All five major labels, over 200,000 songs and growing, $0.99/song, AAC, burning allowed (but you have to change the playlist every 10 burns), browsable via iTunes (4), new iPods, new iPod dock with line out.

I’m getting ready for a presentation. More thoughts later.

Later: Details are now up on Apple’s site. Added to the above: only browsable via iTunes—so the service is Mac only. The service uses AAC, not MP3, which means higher fidelity music. You can “play your music on up to three computers, enjoy unlimited synching with your iPods, burn unlimited CDs of individual songs, and burn unchanged playlists up to 10 times each.” So of course the questions are:

  • If I buy a new machine and move purchased files to that machine, and erase them from the old machine, does that count as using them on two computers?
  • Do I have a separate license file to move with the media?
  • I may not be able to browse the files on my PC, but can I play them there once I download them?

Reading the Black Dog

Fortunately, I’m not in a mood where the Dog is too close, but I did finally start reading Churchill’s Black Dog. At first I was taken aback. It’s a collection, and only the first story is about Churchill. Also, the author (a psychoanalyst) spends the first 15 pages discussing various theories of Churchill’s temperament. Apparently Sir Winston was an “extraverted intuitive,” “predominantly endomorphic, with a strong secondary mesomorphic component,” and of “cyclothermic temperament.”

At this point the book almost went out the window. But I persevered, and on the next page, following an anecdote about Churchill’s depression before World War II, there comes the line:

Many depressives deny themselves rest or relaxation because they cannot afford to stop. If they are forced by circumstances to do so, the black cloud comes down upon them. … He invented various methods of coping with the depression which descended when he was no longer fully occupied by affairs of state, including painting, writing, and bricklaying, but none of these were wholly successful.…

Hooked. Guess I’ll have to keep reading now…

Ballpark. Back pain. Becalmed.

I scored some great tickets for the Mariners from a co-worker last week (thanks, Kathy!), for today’s game. It turned out to be a gorgeous afternoon in Seattle: mid-sixties, no humidity, sunny with patchy clouds in an enormous blue sky. The Mariners were up four-three at the top of the eighth, we had just had finished hot dogs and beer and were working on garlic fries and peanuts.

Then someone’s back went into spasm. (I knew that trying to dig in soaker hoses right before the game was a bad idea.) We got everyone home, appropriate backs were medicated, and feet were propped up. Now chips, salsa, tea, and relaxation.

I think someone was trying to send us a message about the proper use of Sunday afternoons. Relaxation is key right now.

Last words from William Gibson?

One last post from Gibson at the end of his book tour in Dublin, pondering hyper-branding, the oddity of soba noodles near the Liffey, and…

… winding up where I always eventually do if I’m jetlagged in Dublin: peering throughy the fence at the tiny, deeply strange Huguenot Cemetary on Merrion Row, c. 1693. Grave-markers like Shaker tables carved from stone. Bluebells growing up through boxwood. Litter-spillage from the Merrion Row bus-stop: tall tinnies of Guiness and Linden Village Strong Cider. Deja-vu of soul-delay.



Man, I’m going to miss hearing new words from that voice every day. But the next novel will be worth it.

Our drinking water filtration system…

…has two cut-off valves. One cuts off water pressure from the main line to the filters. The other cuts off water to the whole sink and faucet assembly—apparently, and to the filters as well, since the two valves are joined for some insane reason. Meaning that if the filter line is cut off, but the faucet is running, pressure will force water through the line to the filter.

And if you’re running the faucet to clean the cups under the filter, which you have removed for this purpose and to replace the filters, the additional back pressure will push water out the top of the filter unit and flood the area under our sink.

Needless to say, this was one of the quickest (and dampest) educations in plumbing I could have gotten. The mess is cleaned up, except for whatever leaked through the bottom of the cabinet and into the unreachable floor space to feed molds and mildews, and I’m onto step three, which is cleaning out the whole system with a mild bleach solution for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Which, by my clock, is enough time to drink a beer and ignore the whole mess.

Blog (or Outline) the Presidential Campaigns

Philip Greenspun discusses things that could be done on the Internet to improve our ability during the next Presidential campaign to understand what the candidates are saying and doing, including distributed outlining and blogging. He suggests that blogging will not help us get a “comprehensive view of any one candidate.” But what if there were a centralized site with a channel for each candidate, like PolState, with a bunch of people having the ability to post information to that channel about the candidate, like BlogCritics?

I invoke LazyWeb. Let’s get a group blog going on this.

Say it ain’t so

Craig spills the beans by pointing to a Washington Post article: Pep Band’s Last Stand. Apparently a rich alum has decided to finally settle the argument over whether the University should have a Pep Band or a bunch of blown-up loonies in uniforms—oops, I mean a marching band.

Chalk up another blow against self determination and for those who lack senses of humor. The irony that the gift comes with money for the performing arts center is not lost on me.

Was a Sunny Day

Drove into work this morning in my wife’s car. She’s taking my in-laws down to Mt. St. Helens, which is about a two and a half hour drive, so we figured she should have the newer, bigger car. This makes the second time she’s driven my car, the first being yesterday, so I hope everything goes well for her.

In the meantime, instead of my 2003 Passat, I have Lisa’s 1993 Geo Prizm. (Insert your own Will Smith Men in Black II reference here. (Number of hits Google returns for the query “old and busted” “new hotness”: 228.))

But I think it’s a pretty good day. The sun is shining, I just lined up plane tickets to see my family in a little under two weeks, it’s Friday, and despite the funk on my MP3 player there’s another silly song running through my head:

Was a sunny day
Not a cloud was in the sky
Not a negative word was heard
From the people passing by
’Twas a sunny day
All the birdies in the trees
And the radio’s singing song
All the favorite melodies

He was a Navy man
stationed in Newport News
She was a highschool queen
with nothing left to lose
She was a highschool queen
with nothing left to lose

Her name was Lorelei
She was his only girl
She called him “Speedoo”
But his Christian name was Mister Earl
She called him “Speedoo”
But his Christian name was Mister Earl