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<br /> <b>Strict Standards</b>: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method unfancy_quote::strip_quotes() should not be called statically in <b>/home/martingo/</b> on line <b>166</b><br /> Martin Gordon's Blog / music

R.I.P. Leroi Moore

It pains me greatly to post this, but I just learned that Dave Matthews Band saxophonist Leroi Moore passed away today. The news came via the band's official site:

We are deeply saddened that LeRoi Moore, saxophonist and founding member of Dave Matthews Band, died unexpectedly Tuesday afternoon, August 19, 2008, at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles from sudden complications stemming from his June ATV accident on his farm near Charlottesville, Virginia. LeRoi had recently returned to his Los Angeles home to begin an intensive physical rehabilitation program.

Leroi had been with the band since its inception in 1991. I will miss him tremendously and there is no doubt that he will be missed greatly by the band, the crew and the entire DMB community.

Jeff Coffin has been filling in for Leroi since his accident in late June. Leroi's final show was at the Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge in Bristow, Virginia on June 28, 2008. If anyone would like a copy of the show, let me know and I will provide you with a copy or tell you where you can get one (DMB explicitly allows taping of their shows, so it is completely legal).

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Larry Lessig's Last Free Culture Talk

Larry Lessig will be giving his last talk on the topic of "Free Culture" in about an hour. I had the pleasure of seeing Professor Lessig give this talk in September of 2006 as part of the Penn Reading Project and I think the ideas he presents are fascinating and have had a great impact on me. We've come a long way in some areas, such as in the slow death of over-restrictive DRM, but we're still a ways to go in other areas, such as the predatory litigation undertaken by the music and movie industries. As the blog post announcing the talk mentions, Professor Lessig will begin focusing on corruption in Washington, a topic I'm admittedly less interested in.

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Tab Dump - Long Weekend Edition

Can't say I want to write anything too substantive on these links, but I do want to get them out there anyway because they're cluttering up my tab bar.

Monsters of the Programming World is a neat little poster anthropomorphizing common programming errors. I've been meaning to pick this up for our office.

Jeffrey Friedl has developed a Lightroom export plugin for Flickr. I haven't had a chance to test it out yet, as I've shamefully not uploaded any pictures to Flickr this year, but it should shave off a few clicks in my workflow if it works well enough.

Ken Rockwell on How To Afford Anything. The great thing about this article is that Ken isn't a personal finance guru, he's a photographer. This article isn't coming from a "I want to be rich" perspective but more from a "I want cool cameras" perspective, which appeals to me greater than the usual run-of-the-mill personal finance article.

Fraser Speirs on his photo editing workflow. Fraser uses Aperture, so his workflow is a bit more flexible than what is allowed (or rather suggested) by Lightroom. Still, some of his ideas carry across between any such application. I particularly enjoyed his rating process, something I currently do without much thought.

I'm working on listening to all of Fred Wilson's Top 10 Albums of the Year. Music recommendations from a VC, who would have thought? Fred's musical tastes are a bit off from mine and listening to his picks is an interesting experience. I haven't gotten through the entire list, but I did grab a copy of the Kings of Leon's Because of the Times, his number one pick. There are some songs I can't stand to listen to, and although the album as a whole isn't memorable, it is very catchy. That is, I can remember parts of songs but I can't identify which song it is or if it's the same part of another song. My biggest disappointment has to be the lyrical work. There's just not a whole lot going on there unfortunately.

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Vusi Mahlasela

Scoble linked to South African musician Vusi Mahlasela playing at TED. Dave Matthews Band fans might know Vusi from his vocal work on the title track of 2001's Everyday (and occasional guest appearances with the band since then). I have to admit that I've never listened to any of his own music until this video, but just watching this performance has spurred me to purchase his (only available) album on iTunes.

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Thoughts on The Beat Goes On

Despite being a day late, I still want to comment on the iPod announcements made yesterday.

iPod shuffle
New colors and no storage bump on the shuffles gets a huge yawn from me.

iPod nano
The actual nano looks much better than those leaked shots that were floating around a few weeks ago. There was no storage upgrade for these guys either, only price drops to $149 and $199 for the 4 and 8 GB version, respectively. Video finally comes to the nano, but with such a tiny screen I wonder how useful it will actually be. Still, having the nano hooked up to a TV via video out makes for a very portable DVD player replacement.

iPod classic
80 GB storage for $249 (and 160 GB for $349) makes the 6th Generation iPod (or 1st Generation iPod classic?) quite the monster. The standard iPod form factor has become, as the name suggests, a classic and I'm glad Apple stuck with it instead of forcing everyone to the touch screen.

iPod UI
The new iPod UI is an incremental upgrade, with the most notable feature being Cover Flow (which I don't find much use for personally). The new UI also marks the first time that the nano and classic have reached software feature parity (video on the nano also means complete feature parity), so it'll be interesting to see if Apple considers the nano/classic "complete". Prior to yesterday's announcement, it had been two years since both devices saw a significant upgrade, and I wonder if it'll be just as long before we see the next big change for these two lines.

iPod touch
I couldn't make up my mind over whether I thought Apple would actually release a phoneless iPhone this soon. On the one hand, pricing would have been tricky - either it would be priced too low to cannibalize iPhone sales or priced too high to make it a terrible value. On the other hand, there was only so much further Apple could take the iPod classic before it had to enlarge the screen (thereby necessitating removal of the click wheel). I personally dislike the design of the device. The chrome border is gone in lieu of either a matte metal or plastic (hard to tell from the shots) and the iPhone's scratch-resistant matte back is gone for the iPod's iconic scratch-prone shiny metal back. Further, the upper bezel looks disproportionate without the earpiece and the WiFi antenna's plastic covering makes the back of the device asymmetric. Other minor things I noticed (and am apathetic about) are that the sleep/wake button has switched sides and that the headphone jack is on the bottom of the device.

iTunes WiFi Store
Apple is ever slowly creeping into tablet/UMPC space and the touch was the second step in that direction. Instead of working down from the desktop, as Microsoft has done (with limited success), Apple has worked up from the iPod. It's apparent from the name: this isn't a MacBook nano, it's an iPod touch. Unveiling the iTunes WiFi Store and partnering with Starbucks is a small step into building Apple's mobile eco-system, something other device makers have either not attempted or have been unsuccessful at. This will be the touch/iPhone killer feature, and perhaps the future of mobile advertising - truly contextual advertising and services that supplement a brick and mortar's main operations. It's not the device that will reach out to the world, but the world that will reach in to your device.

That said, I don't see myself using the WiFi Store that much since I don't use the iTunes Store much to begin with. However, if the WiFi store allows for over-the-air podcast downloading, then I'll be all over it.

I'm tech-savvy enough to not need iTunes to walk me through making ringtones, but I would argue against those complaining about the price. The extra $.99 is something I see as AT&T having a hand in. Still, $2 for both the song and ringtone is a good deal compared to the $2-$3 one might pay for a ringtone-only otherwise.

iPhone at $399
Though Apple announced during their last earnings call that margins would be lower this season, no one saw this coming. The market is interpreting it as a sign that iPhones aren't selling as well as Apple would like. The original 5 GB iPod dropped 25% five months after introduction (from $399 to $299), so large cuts aren't completely out of the ordinary for Apple. I see the price drop as something Apple planned all along as a way to aggressively go after market share after milking early adopters for an extra $200 and as a way control demand during launch.

Am I upset that I paid $599? Absolutely not. I was perfectly paying that amount and the price drop doesn't change that. I don't see Apple owing me anything much more than I see BMW paying me for the depreciation of my car when the 2008 models come out (in fact, I'm paying them for the depreciation). Price drops and technology progressing are facts of life. The only thing that I might be upset about is that the cost of entry to the iPhone Club has gone down and iPhone owners who felt a sense of superiority and exclusivity as a result of ownership just dropped a few rungs on the social ladder now that the iPhone is accessible to "regular" people. I am not in that group. I see adoption of the iPhone (or Mobile OS X platform in general) a good thing for users, both in terms of a greater demand for new software features or an increased pressure on other device makers to make better devices.

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PayPerPost in Traditional Media - Ruckus and the DP Caught In Bed

Whatever little ethical integrity or journalistic standards the Daily Pennsylvanian still had left, it probably lost after a "guest editorial" ran this past week. The so-called editorial was basically an advertisement for the Ruckus Network, an online music subscription service that aims to compete with Napster, Rhapsody, et al by forming agreements with universities for campus-wide coverage instead of having to deal with pesky end users.

The editorial is "written" by Ruckus President and CEO Michael Bebel and tries to extol the benefits of using Ruckus over illegal services by running the RIAA line about how illegal downloading steals from the record industry ("According to industry observers, more than 25 million songs are illegally downloaded daily. This translates into roughly $4.5 billion worth of pirated music annually, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.") and how it can lead to getting sued ("Last year, the RIAA sent letters to 700 colleges nationwide, informing those students who ignore warnings and continue to engage in illegal downloading of music they will be sued.").

How do I know Ruckus paid to run this "editorial"? I don't. But why else run something like this? Surely the paper isn't starved for content; I haven't seen anything like this in the 3.5 years I've been reading the paper and there definitely hasn't been a shortage of news either (like what the University is doing about the string of assaults on campus?) Either it was a straight ad buy or there were promises of ad purchases or free iPods or something else fishy. I do think that running this type of ad under the guise of an editorial shows how morally bankrupt the editors of Daily Pennsylvanian are. This ad is a cut and paste/mail merge job. An almost identical piece was run in the Daily Princetonian on December 15th. And that was what I found from just searching for the last sentence of the article.

I've detailed why I don't like Ruckus when the Penn service was announced. Between this and the Brock Ruckus/Facebook incident that I just read about on the Wikipedia article, I like them even less. Only now I like the DP much less also.

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"YouTube Is My Hall of Fame"

(A Winer-esque post, but I really like this quote so whatever.)

Fred Wilson: "Shut the Hall of Fame. Because YouTube is my Hall of Fame. Rock on." The game has changed. There's too much stuff out there for us to only care about "the best". Especially when we all have different ideas of what "the best" is.

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Penn Unveils Ruckus Music Service, Alienates Mac/Linux Users

I just got an email from our Undergraduate Assembly chair announcing that Ruckus will be available to all Penn students for free (read: factored into tuition):

The Undergraduate Assembly, working with GAPSA, College Houses and Academic
Services, the Residential Advisory Board, and Information Systems and Computing
proudly provide a FREE, legal, music downloading service to all Penn students.

The Ruckus music library contains over 1.5 million tracks of music!

Ruckus offers:

* Unlimited downloads of music to your computer
* Downloads that are legal, virus free and sypware free
* New releases added every Wednesday
* Albums download in under a minute
* Online community, allowing you to trade playlists, share
recommendations and connect with friends
* Hundreds of movie titles and many current and classic television
series for an extra fee
* For more information about Ruckus at Penn, read the FAQ
-NOTE: Does not upload songs to iPod-

For what it's worth, here is the Daily Pennsylvanian article on it and the University FAQ page.

I do have to say that this is a huge disappointment. While I don't necessarily condone piracy and I do understand the University's need to cover their asses, they could have tried something a little more out of the box. Penn alum, Larry Lessig, spoke here for New Student Orientation. Why not work something out with Creative Commons? I'm sure the Podsafe Music Network wouldn't mind the exposure if they were willing to work out a deal. eMusic offers DRM-free (and hence cross-platform) music. What about a straight subsidy for a subscription based on the student's choice? I'll take $100/year from the iTunes Store over a worthless subscription to Ruckus. Now, I'm not discounting the evils of Apple's closed system, but if you want everyone to use your service, make it work on the devices everyone already used (I know this is impossible in the current state of things).

This is just stupid, stupid, stupid. Despite being pretty OS-agnostic, the University is now indirectly adopting Windows as the default OS choice. Imagine campus sales rep: "Well, the Mac would be ideal for your photography/filmography major, but you won't have access to the music service you're forced to buy into." And what about the 80%+ marketshare (probably a lot higher in college) the iPod holds? How do you explain to Joe English Major that his iPod can't play the music he's listening to on his PC? Even Microsoft's own Zune music player won't play PlaysForSure music from other services.

Is this new music service going to make music piracy disappear on campus? Absolutely not. Mac and Linux users gain nothing from the service and will continue to acquire music by the same means they used to. Windows users with iPods are in the same boat. They'll continue to pirate music or buy it from iTunes so it'll play on the iPod. Those that are able to might try it out, but it's not going to replace conventional means. Meanwhile, I'll be subsidizing this little experiment while listening to my free podcasts and live recordings.

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Moving Past DRM

Warner embraces YouTube and now Yahoo is offering an entire album DRM free. The album is Jesse McCartney's Right Where You Want Me and will be available for the iTunes-competing price of $9.99. While the music may be of questionable quality, it might be a good idea to urge people to pick this up to send the message that we are willing to pay for DRM-free music.

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Apple Announcements Thoughts

I was going to do a regular "report the facts" post on Apple's announcements today but I was busy with submitting resumes and didn't have a chance to. So I'll just post my thoughts on the whole thing.

The 5.5G iPods are a solid upgrade, but Apple didn't really show much improvement for a the year span between the 5G announcement and their successors. Apple did let us lowly 5G owners have downloadable games (but only because they can charge $5 a pop for them) and the long overdue gapless playback, but would it really have hurt much to give us the search feature?

The new nanos look very nice and bring back a lot of memories from when the minis ruled the world. It's a great tribute to the colorful ones that'll be a whole lot less scratch-prone than the 1G nanos. With both the 8GB nano and 30GB iPod sitting at $249, it's makes the nano vs video decision a whole lot tougher. It is an excellent hedge move by Apple in that they are now that much more indifferent as to the sale of a nano vs a full-size iPod (differing margins notwithstanding).

By far the most revolutionary update is the shuffle. No longer is the iPod relegated to the pocket or an awkward armband. The combination of the clip and weight loss make it possible to carry the iPod shuffle, literally anywhere. You can carry 240 songs with you and not even notice. It's pretty amazing.

iTunes 7 saw a whole lot of improvements that will have varying effects on people's enjoyment of their media. The reorganization and segregation of different parts of the Source list make things easier to find, and the new-fangled UI theme is pretty and refined, but consistency sticklers will rag on Apple for introducing Yet Another UI Scheme™. The blue note in the icon pays tribute to iTunes 2, which also featured a blue icon. iTunes 3 had a purple icon and iTunes 4-6 had a green icon.

The iTV is interesting, and is essentially an Airport Express for video. The shots of the "enhanced" Front Row look great, but I'm wondering how well even the new 640×480 videos will look on HDTV (this also makes me wonder whether or not the 320×240 versions will get free upgrades to 640×480).

It really looks like Apple is setting up to take over the living room like they took over our ear canals. My only concern is that the whole iTV messes with my thoughts on Apple's future and makes me really wonder what kind of innovation they'll push forth on the desktop hardware side now that the Intel transition is over.

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