The FezGuys
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.

New Browsers

Netscape 6 beta <> and Microsoft's Internet Explorer browsers (MSIE 5) for Mac (at last!) <> 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.

New IUMA Artist Uplink

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 artists.

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'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?


Napster <>, 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 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

Fortunecity's <> -'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 requires a much more lengthy process that effectively triples the amount of time it took to sign on to 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 space!"
overall - " storage space!"

Kanoodle's <> 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 and straightforward.

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. Here's hoping...

Letters To The FezGuys

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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About the authors:

Jon Luini is a working technophile, a musician (bass player/singer) with full-blown facility and extensive experience on the Web and no free time. He is a co-founder of IUMA and MediaCast, co-creator of Addicted To Noise, and runs an Internet and music consulting and technology company, Chime Interactive (formerly Evolve Internet Solutions). <>

Allen Whitman is a working musician (bass player/singer/producer) with a keen, real-world interest in the practical use of the Web. Music credits include: The Mermen, "Brine-The Antisurf Soundtrack, biL, Deep Field South, Doormouse, Delectric and Drizzoletto. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, Wired, EQ, Revolution, Yahoo Internet Life, Prosound News, Surround Professional, Replication News and others. <>

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