Warner music in .mp3 format in US

28 12 2007

According to the BBC, Warner Music Group have agreed to release songs as .mp3 files, without copy protection, on Amazon.com.  Previously, WMG had been refusing to release .mp3s due to fears of file sharing.

Amazon’s download store was started in September this year.  A US exclusive service, it is becoming a major competitor with Apple’s iTunes, which uses Digital Rights Management to protect some of its tracks.

Sony BMG is now the only major label not signed up with Amazon’s download service.

Since this is a US-only service, it wouldn’t normally interest me.  However, I think this is a major step towards the end of the ludicrous copy protection, so it’s a good thing in my book.


A safer Scotland with Xbox 360

24 12 2007

The BBC have reported that the Scottish government are spending £10,000 on anti-drink driving advertisements to appear in Xbox 360 games.  The adverts will appear on billboards in the background of online versions of Need for Speed: Carbon, Project Gotham Racing 4 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2008.

 The adverts will be “subtle,” but will get the message across “loud and clear”.  An example of this message is “Drink Drive.  Lose Licence.  Don’t Risk It.” accompanied by the Safer Scotland logo.  If the scheme is successful, this could be extended to other road safety messages as well.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson says, “With statistics showing that road deaths, particularly among young people, are continuing to rise, it is clear we must look at new ways of getting road safety messages across…  This is exactly the kind of initiative we should be trying…  It is innovative, it is new, and it is far removed from the more traditional methods we have been using. I believe that is what we need if we are to reverse the number of Scots families suffering the tragedy of a loved one being lost.”

Given that police recently caught nearly 150 drink driving under 25 year olds during the “annual festive drink driving blitz” (the what?), and that more than 70% of 15-25 year olds in the UK own a games console, I’m inclined to agree with him.  Whilst I may feel he’s placing too much importance on this latest scheme (and let’s face it, politicians are always doing that), I think this is a good way to get the adverts noticed.

 Remember kids: drink driving is dumb.  Don’t do it.  Especially not at Christmas.

The Queen on YouTube

23 12 2007

The UK royal family have their own YouTube channel.  The Royal Channel is “the official channel of the British monarchy”.  There are currently 18 videos up, the most recent being the first ever televised Christmas Broadcast (Queen’s speech) from 1957.  Apparently, this year’s speech “will appear on this channel at approximately 3pm GMT on Christmas Day.”  Yep, just like that.

Well, I mentioned Downing Street’s channel earlier, so I sort of had to mention this.  You know, I’m feeling really Christmassy now.

Africa needs Internet

20 12 2007

As reported by the BBC, Dr. Nii Quaynor, professor of computer science at the University of Cape-Coast in Ghana, has said that, as well as resources like food and water, Africa needs affordable computing if it is to develop.  Said Mr. Quaynor, “Affordable computing is necessary. What is going to power development in Africa is going to be lower-cost user interfaces.”

One possible solution to this is the XO laptop, which the One Laptop Per Child project aims to give to millions of schoolchildren in the developing world.  The laptops are cheap, sturdy, require little power and come with waterproof, dustproof cases.

Of course, nothing is ever that simple.  However, I’m hopeful that, one day, everyone will be able to access the Internet (isn’t that the point in it?).  This would have felt like a daft statement a couple of years back, but now I honestly do think that the Internet will become a vital tool in ending world poverty and inequality.  After all, look how much business revolves around the Internet as it is.

More Internet statistics

13 12 2007

According to the BBC, 39% UK adults use social networking sites.  This compares with 53% in Canada, 34% in the USA, 32% in Japan, 22% in Italy, 17% in France and 12% in Germany.

These stats are courtesy of an Ofcom report.

 The report also showed that the USA is the only country where more there are more female Internet users than male ones (52% of US Internet users are women).  The only country where there are an equal number of male and female Internet users is the UK.  Everywhere else, men use the Internet more.

Yep.  Interesting.

And while I’m on the subject of that report, the UK enjoys some of the cheapest deals for mobiles, broadband and television.  Which is odd, because I was under the impression that everything costs more over here than elsewhere.

Using the Internet to counter human rights abuse

12 12 2007

I realise it’s been a few days since I’ve blogged about anything.  I’ve been really busy with other homework and coursework.

As reported by the BBC, the Internet has found a use in the fight against human rights abuse.  People have been uploading videos (recorded on mobiles or whatever) of abuses like police brutality onto the Internet to expose the human rights abusers.

With this goal in mind, international human rights organisation Witness run a website where people can upload footage of human rights violations.

Of course, there are always two sides to the coin.  Independant film maker Rebecca Sommer notes that “Human rights abusers are using the same tools to put propaganda videos on sites like YouTube.”

On the whole, though, it seems that the Internet will prove a valuable aid to human rights organisations.  Two police officers were recently jailed on the charge of torture following an incident where they beat up and sexually assaulted a bus driver.  They filmed this footage themselves and distributed it within Egypt to intimidate dissenters.  The video was put online by bloggers, and has been viewed on YouTube more than 112,000 times.  The officers were convicted of torture and have been sentenced to three years imprisonment.

The UN commemorated Human Rights Day on Monday.

Are mobiles the future of music?

8 12 2007

The BBC’s Click published an article recently on how the music industry is struggling due to a slump in CD sales.  Downloads are not selling sufficiently well to offset the loss.  In response to this, record companies are looking to promote mobile ‘phones as the primary music device; this is already the case in Japan.

Adam Benzine, of Music Week, claims that the industry is to blame for the loss of sales because it didn’t respond to the “online revolution” quickly enough.

“There was a feeling in the music industry around 1998 when Napster first came out, well, there was simply a feeling of bewilderment and confusion,” said Benzine.  “What is this thing, how do we deal with it and, more importantly, how do we turn it off? How do we stop people putting music on the internet, rather than how can we monetise this and how can we embrace this?”

I would normally feel smug about this, but I’m trying not to because I’m actually very fond of CDs and don’t want them to disappear.  The quality of .mp3s, which still seem to be the most widely supported format, is very notably poor when compared to CDs, and some songs just sound plain awful when converted into the format.  Besides which, when I make a purchase, I like having something physical to show for it.  Call me wasteful or environmentally unfriendly, but I like having CDs on the shelf (we all have our vices, do we not?).

Mr. Benzine goes on to say that “Pretty much everybody in this country over the age of 12 has got a mobile phone with them, not everybody has got a music device with them, but everybody has got a mobile phone so you’ve got an immediate captive audience.”

Speaking as an Englishman with an .mp3 player and without a mobile ‘phone I rather resent this, but he’s right.  I guess I’m in the minority.

There are currently three music stores which are available in the UK and target a mobile using audience.  The Apple iPhone can download songs from iTunes for a mere 79p (which I expect will be the final nail in the coffin for the already greatly diminished singles market).  Nokia has launched its own store which is compatible with certain Nokia mobiles (but not all of them), whilst Omnifone has launched Music Station, a subscription based service.  All three have their own advantages and disadvantages.  Compatibility issues aside, all of these services restrict users with DRM (grrr… copy protection, my sworn enemy!), the anti-piracy anti-customer software.  As Mr. Benzine concludes:

“The biggest hurdle that mobile music companies currently face is that it’s just not easy enough to buy music on the mobile phone…  It’s a long-winded and quite difficult process even for early adopters that it’s [sic] stopping the wider mass market from embracing mobile music at the moment.”

They’ll learn eventually.  Won’t they?