ESC!Webs Blogitorials

Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina and the Waves

As I write this my wife, daughter and I are glued to the Weather Channel watching news of Hurricane Katrina's path of destruction across the Gulf Coast.

Predicted as possibly one of the largest and most destructive hurricanes of recent memory, Katrina is pummeling the south with 165mph winds, 40 foot tidal waves and is flooding centers of major cities such as Mobile and New Orleans. Reports from the mayor of New Orleans are saying that many old and historic buildings in the city have collapsed -- perhaps with people still inside. Levees have broken sending up to 37 feet of storm surge throughout the cities along the Gulf Coast. The mayor reports people are clinging the roofs of their buildings praying for rescue. Windows have been blown out of skyscrapers and other buildings in the city center and the streets are flooded with up to 8 feet of water. Even those who sought shelter in the Louisana Superdome are threatened with the storm as the layers of the roof tear off exposing 9000 people sheltering within to Mother Nature's wrath.

In addition to the destructive powers of the hurricane's eyewall itself, tornadoes -- a side effect of the hurricane -- are ripping across Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and even as far north as Kentucky.

Further, the Weather Channel reports that Katrina -- a storm whose reach stretches over 250 miles -- will still be packing hurricane force winds as it hits Hattiesburg, MS later this evening.

Being from the Upper Midwest, you might wonder why we're paying so much attention to a storm that the local papers barely mention.

We're watching so intently because as we watch Katrina tear through the South, our thoughts continuously wander to cousins, aunts and uncles who live in and along Biloxi, Gulfport, Ocean Springs as well as Hattiesburg, MS.

Hey Kelly, Lamar, William, Ryan, Aunt Sharon and everyone else: We know power and phones are out. And we know you have more important things to worry about right now, but we're thinking of you and hope to hear from you safe-and-sound very soon....

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Pretty Clear Whose Bed the Dave Matthews Band Sleeps In...

So the Dave Matthews Band has released a new album. I'm not going to promote it. I don't really care about them one way or the other, but they've achieved some level of notoriety with this album because it's one of the first to use the new copy restriction protection schemes the Recording Industry Ass. of America and the Record Labels are foisting upon unsuspecting consumers.

Here's the deal:
When you buy one of these albums, you'll no longer be able to "rip" it to your favorite MP3 player. No, you'll only be able to copy songs off the CD in WMA format which just happens to be Microsoft's proprietary music format. So if you are one of the small percentage of people in the country who own a player that can play WMA files, well, you're just fine aren't you? As long as you only want to make the number of copies the label TELLS you you can make.

In a seemingly funded by the RIAssA statement, the Dave Matthew's Band posts on their web site this big long, idiotic statement telling people that in order to get these tracks on their iPod (a non WMA playing device) they have to go through these very long and complicated steps and ... here's what rubs me the wrong way ... this is all APPLE'S fault.

Yes, it has nothing to do with the record labels or with the Dave Matthew's Band opting to go with the very limited copy protection in the first place. No, it's the fault of APPLE because they choose to NOT use WMA. Never mind that you can currently purchase the tracks through iTunes if you wanted to (I wonder how long Steve Jobs will keep their tracks up now). Nevermind that under US copyright law it's my RIGHT to make a copy for my own, personal use. Nope. The whole reason you have to jump through these hoops is because Apple didn't license WMA from Microsoft. It's always someone else isn't it?

Here's the truth:
This copy protection scheme ONLY works on Windows computers.

If you own a Mac or run Linux, you can rip the tracks like you always have. They even say that right at the beginning. "If you have a Mac computer you can copy the songs using your iTunes Player as you would normally do."

But according to the official Dave Matthew's Band website an "easier and more acceptable solution requires cooperation from Apple."

No it doesn't. All it requires is an Apple computer (or presumably a Linux computer).

Another easy and more acceptable solution would be for the Dave Matthew's Band to tell their label to shove it and jump to another, more artist and consumer friendly label. Obviously, they can't think that far ahead.

Since the Dave Matthew's Band is already giving you steps to circumvent the DRM of their CD, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on other, simpler, methods for getting their crap on your iPod without making Apple change their business model.

Method 1:

1) Don't buy the CD. Instead opt to purchase and download the tracks from the iTunes music store. There ya go. Done.

However, if you're going to rip the music then first buy the CD. Hey, I'm not advocating stealing the music!

Method 2 (ripping):

1) Try holding down the left shift key while inserting the CD in your Windows computer. This should stop the CD from auto-loading whatever DRM crap they are trying to install.

2) Start iTunes and rip the tracks as you normally would.

Technically, "they" might consider this to be bypassing the DRM of the disc, therefore putting you afoul of the DMCA. SO...

Method 3 (ripping):

Since the DRM is not applicable to Mac computers, there is no circumventing of it if you use a Mac to rip the tracks (unless the Feds decide that simply owning a Mac makes you a criminal because you can bypass the DRM with it. Don't laugh. Stranger things have happened.)

1) Simply borrow a friend's Apple computer to rip the tracks.

2) Copy those ripped tracks to a blank CD or shoot them back to yourself over the Internet.

3) Import those tracks into your iTunes.

Remember to delete those tracks from your friend's computer, though I suspect in this particular case they won't be able to get them off their computer fast enough.

For some RIAssA free music, be sure to check out the following sites:

Don't let the corporate, bottom line driven radio stations tell you what to like. There's some real kick-ass music to be found if you seek it out.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Thinning The Herd: Dumb Things People Do #1

It's been dry here in the upper Midwest.

Very dry.

Bone dry.

So dry that some folks have forgotten that it may, on occasion, actually ... rain.

Weather forecasters have been predicting rain for a few days now. Enough that some of us came to believe it may actually rain! (Those silly weather forecasters and their predictions...)

Anyway, this morning it was raining. Not a downpour, but enough to get out the ol' umbrella on my mile long walk to the office from the train station.

Along the way I passed a few folks who, perhaps rightly so, chose not to believe the predictions of rain and left home sans umbrella.

When that happens you are usually left with a limited range of choices:
  • Run
  • Pull a jacket over your head (assuming you have one)
  • Hold a newspaper or other object likely to disintegrate in your hands as it gets wet, over your head
  • Suck it up and get wet
  • or, apparently, pull a plastic bag completely over your head!
Yes, as I walked along Kingsbury street, I caught sight of a man who, without his umbrella, decided the best course of action in his situation was to pull an empty, plastic, shopping bag COMPLETELY OVER his head. Worse yet, he did this in complete defiance of the "The thin film may cling to nose and mouth and prevent breathing" warning message printed on damn near every plastic bag ever invented ... well, since lawyers began roaming the earth anyway.

I'm not even going to question how the man was able to see where he was going - it was not a clear bag. No, my only question is "What synapses fired in this man's brain to make him think that pulling a plastic bag over his head was a good idea?" Ultimately, the sad part is that since it worked this time -- he did not die did he? -- he'll do it again. And again. And again. Until he ... well ... dies.

If you ever had any doubts about the legitimacy of Natural Selection, let this man serve as a prime example!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Dumb Things Corporations Tell Us #2

Picked up a package of Good Sense Roasted & Salted Soynuts the other day and was amused to see the following printed on back:

"Ingredients: Soybeans, Sunflower Oil (Sunflower Oil, Citric Acid), Salt.

"Contains Soy Ingredients."

Really? Which part contains the Soy Ingredients? The Sunflower Oil? The Salt? The SOYBEANS???

I guess a corporation that calls soybeans and sunflower seeds "NUTS" can be forgiven for thinking that I would be confused by the fact that a product that has soybeans as its primary ingredient might actually contain SOY ingredients.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The End Is Nigh....

Fair warning to all those who believe the dinosaurs never walked the earth or that man is not descended from apes...

... I have seen our future -- and it was a gorilla disguised in human attire jaywalking Canal Street this morning.

I must admit with his dress shirt and tie -- his "monkey suit!" Ha! Ha, ha, ha! *ahem* -- I almost mistook him (it was a man's shirt after all) for someone who decided to let it all hang loose and grow out his beard for the crazy days of summer. But, no, it was definitely a gorilla, the proof coming when I nearly tripped over his box of Chiquita bananas left carelessly on the sidewalk - I kid you not!

(Perhaps, in retrospect, the bananas were left as payment for the meter.)

Further, apparently casting off all vestiges of "ape-kind," I noted the ape discarded a partial -- partially devoured? -- box of bananas in the garbage at the next street corner.

Obviously my close encounter this morning begs a few questions:

What is this ape's purpose?

Where did he come from?

What does he want?

Will we soon find our planet overrun by apes and monkeys ala "Planet of the Apes?"

Will I be glad I work "north of the river" away from the hustle, bustle and ape-slaughter-against-man about to happen in the midst of Chicago's "Loop?"

And, perhaps most importantly ...

Why did I not do a double-take as I passed a gorilla jaywalking Canal Street this morning?