Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Black And Blue...|
[ No. 43 - May 2000 ]
Ceviche, gaspacho and consomme, like revenge, are best served cold.
Microsoft is now, officially, a monopoly. There's a shocker. They
won't go easy, though. "We're in this legal battle for the long
term," says MS CEO Steve Ballmer, assuring the continued existence
of half the lawyers in the country. Anyone who heard Ballmer's
defiant posturing couldn't help but notice his voice is a dead
ringer for Loony Tunes' Marvin the Martian, with the animated
broomstick headpiece, Roman Centurion garb and comments like: "I'm
here to destroy the Earth with my Acme Disintigrator!" Coincidence?
But there's a silver lining to this pro forma posturing. The
technology could see improvements as each individual spinoff
unit of Microsoft must actually compete in the marketplace.
Also, oddly, stockholders may possibly see gain as the spinoffs
gain strength. But enough about matters over which we have no
control. Let's get to matters which have some relevance.
Netscape 6 beta
and Microsoft's Internet Explorer browsers (MSIE 5) for Mac (at
are available for download.
The new IE is, atypically, a decent Microsoft product for the
Mac. It displays web pages as they were designed to look (and
how they do on other platforms), a nice change from the unreadable
text we've had to deal in the past. It's always good to have
the latest browser, sites will appear as intended. However,
our first reaction to the Netscape 6 beta left us a bit flat
in terms of the user interface. The FezGuys recommend waiting
for the real release.
The Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA) has new, redesigned
features for it's Artist Uplink offering. The administration
area has been expanded to let users choose where to have IUMA
send the checks (IUMA shares advertising revenues with bands).
Other new features include quicker first-time set up and detailed
reports of statistics broken out with page views, MP3 downloads,
RealAudio files streamed and ad revenue accumulated. Though
the site looks good the page layout was a bit off under IE 5
for the Mac. Functionality wasn't affected, however.
This new MP3 player/encoder is approaching full release and,
for a week during April, Earjam gave away free copies to users
reporting verified bugs. Bug reporters were also entered into
a contest for a free Rio 500 MP3 portable. The FezGuys applaud
Earjam's fearless tapping of the online music community to help
them develop a solid product. Perhaps the new Internet software
model will be taking feature requests from users and awarding
stock to those who suggest ideas they implement. Hey, weirder
things have happened.
Here's the stats: Emusic
has announced selling over 1 million
MP3 songfiles since their launch in 1998. This incorporates
single-track sales as well as tracks included as part of albums
and special collections. The site boasts more than 100,000 MP3s
for sale from over 600 independent record labels and popular
Here's what it means: People are paying money for online music.
This is good. Audiophiles are not happy, however, viewing MP3
songfiles as low-fidelity audio. It's true. MP3 songfiles *are*
low-fidelity audio. MP3 was never intended to be used as a
retail delivery format. But the ever-egalitarian FezGuys figure
the more people understand the value of music separate and
apart from the physical product the better. Get used to songfiles
flying around! It's imperative people understand what they're
buying. It's not the plastic disc! Despite the questionable
legalities of MP3.com's MyMP3 service, this partnership with
physical CD distribution is an appropriate combination of paying
for music once and having it in multiple formats.
Perhaps in the near future we'll purchase an album online and
instantly get streaming MP3 versions for immediate listening
while overnight the full 44.1kHz files download to our desktop
for us to burn our own CDs. Maybe a band logo coffee mug and
signed poster get put into the mail to arrive the next day.
Wouldn't that be nice?
for anyone hiding under a rock for
the past six months, is *the* hot ticket for MP3 use. This
freely available tool for sharing MP3 music files with other
online users even has a chat system. Now that's community
building on the Internet! The problem, of course, is that some
people upload their entire music collection for all to have
without the artists' (or record labels') consent. The FezGuys
like free music (even bad music is forgivable if it's free),
but we're a touch old fashioned on this one. We think the artist
should be the one to decide. Napster is currently being sued
by the whole music industry: the RIAA, the labels, the artists,
even our cat. The outcome is uncertain. As if that weren't
enough, Napster has also pissed off US colleges whose networks
have been crippled by increased MP3 songfile traffic as a result
of the popularity of their software. While legal issues continue
in a spinning, sucking vortex, plucky students at Indiana
University built a clever workaround. The fix, planned to be
implemented at other college campuses where Napster is currently
banned, reduces the impact Napster has over a network. At SXSW
in March, Napster hinted at future business plans which would
alter their status as the latest music industry whipping boy
(having temporarily dethroned MP3.com). Napster execs (the ones
over 21) said the company planned to add support for secure
music files and *gasp* hope to work with the music industry to
ensure artists are paid for traded music within Napster's
network. For the moment, the embattled company is reaching out
to independent musicians, encouraging them to download Napster
and share their band's songs and post a nice Napster logo on
their band's web site. Nothing like free viral marketing!
In related news (showing what can happen when a small company
is eaten by a large corpo-entity), recent AOL acquisition
Nullsoft (makers of the popular MP3 player Winamp) leaked out
a beta version of a Napster clone called Gnutella last March.
Unfortunately, that news sprinted up the chain of command to
AOL execs (amidst planning logistics to acquire Time Warner)
who promptly put a jackbooted foot down. But, of course, this
is the Internet. It's impossible to do recalls. Currently,
the software appears to have found a new home online at
One key difference between Gnutella and Napster is that Gnutella
shares files of all types. This distances Gnutella from a
purely musical focus. Now the issue becomes censorship instead
of outright piracy. Gnutella also is a friend to UNIX folks,
with new versions planned for Linux, FreeBSD, and others. Plus,
somebody at the site has a sense of humor. Very refreshing.
Until Napster releases their Mac version, the common Mac Napster
clone is Macster
One thing we aren't too grinny with is Napster's lame slogan:
"Music At Internet Speed." That doesn't say too much to people
on 28.8k modems!
More Places To Upload Your Music
- Flynote.com's beta site does not, thankfully, claim to be your
Internet Label or Industry Daddy Warbucks. Billed as a place
to: "Store Your Music Online," the site has a very easy
registration process (they don't ask for your phone number!)
but then throws us into the larger "community" of fortunecity.com.
Fortunecity.com requires a much more lengthy process that
effectively triples the amount of time it took to sign on to
flynote.com. What a waste. There are pages and pages of "offers"
to click "no" on and, like a multi-level warfare game, you
dodge spam ordinance like bullets. There is some music sorted
by a few genres (ie: the "Electronic" category has, as of this
writing, only four songs).
- ease of use - simple and tedious
- design - inoffensive
- tech support - undetermined
- expected user experience - "Great! I have a 100MB free storage
- overall - "...free storage space!"
chirpy tone fits well with
their message. They want to host your music and they want to
sell and promote it too. "It's Your Music. Shouldn't You Make
All The Money?" boasts the tagline at the top of the front
page. There is a regular upload section (create your own genre),
a special Lend A Hand Program (LAHP) for the technically
challanged ($15.00US) and a CD production and sales area called
Music Production System (MPS). MPS creates individual, one-off
CDs of your MP3 files to sell to prospective listeners. You
set the price and you get all the money. That's what we might
call "raising the bar" for other websites! Innovative Marketing
Solutions, Inc of New York is the parent company and they
apologize for the legal contract and blame the lawyers. The
contract is thankfully short but, when viewed in Netscape, is
set in a frame requiring scrolling up, down, left and right to
read the damn thing. IE5 does not do this. We copied and pasted
it into our own document to read it. Overall the site is simple
- ease of use - simple
- design - the monthly bill from the power company
- tech support - undetermined
- expected user experience - typical of the genre
- overall - recommended
ASCAP and BMI Grok The Web
The two behemoth performing rights collection agencies, though
still plodding along in the traditional world of inaccurate
and inefficient payouts, are moving forward in the online world.
By taking the first baby steps towards automated reporting of
webcasted music, it's more likely that smaller bands who
typically don't show up in a traditional radio station's top-ten
list may some day actually see some revenue from online plays.
Dear FezGuys - I have a small studio that specializes in spoken
word product. I've been converting some files to MP3 in
preparation for posting them to the web. I've set up AudioGrabber
with Blade Encoder, it seems to do a reasonable job when encoding
at128kbps and 44.1kHz. I can also encode decently at 112kbps/44.1kHz.
However if I try any lower than this I get what sounds like a
phase shift. I am sure it's not, but this seems to be the best
way to describe the the way the files sound. Am I doing
something wrong? The portable MP3 players all list 64kbps on
their specs as if it is a usable sampling rate. Surely the
world must be able make this acceptable, but when I do it the
files become unlistenable. Do I need different software, more
lessons in MP3 or a swift kick in the posterior? I have a lot
of files to encode over the next 6 months and could use the
help. - Fred
Fred - If it sounds like your files encoded at 112kbps have
phase problems, then perhaps they do! Sometimes the simplest
answer is the right one. Most MP3 encoders will automatically
submix down to mono at a particular bitrate (typically around
48 or 64kbps). If your raw audio has phase problems (God
forbid!), it is possible you aren't noticing them until this
happens. The easy way to test is to manually mix the raw audio
to mono and see how it sounds. Good luck! - The FezGuys
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