Last week, I noticed that the Top 5 Amazon music sellers were all under $10. Now, I've long lamented the recording industry's refusal to be more price competitive with other forms of entertainment.  
 
This led to a friend who works in the recording industry -- at a fairly influential post -- not only agreeing with that thesis, but explaining what is driving the prices of CDs down: He (anonymously) explains that its the "fault" of Apple iTunes. The 99 cent song and the $10 album is the prime driver of cheaper physical CDs.  
Incredible online credit card scam caught by a programmer going thru his email logs:
I recently noticed a charge on my credit card bill for “WLI*RESERVATIONREWARDS 800-7327031” CT for $9. I had no idea what the charge was, so I called 1-800-732-7031 and finally figured it out. Below is a slightly edited letter I’ve sent to the Massachusetts Attorney General Consumer Protection office. If nothing else, I hope this weblog entry shows up on a search for this company, the phone number, or Vincent D’Agostino (the President of the company) and Mary O’Reilly (the customer service director). (My apologies to any Vincent D’Agostinos or Mary O’Reillys out there who aren’t related to this scam).  
 
On November 2, 2004, I purchased airline tickets from the website onetravel.com.  
 
On my most recent credit card bill, I noticed a charge for $9 for a transaction on 12/2 posted on 12/5 for WLI*RESERVATIONREWARDS 800-7327031 CT. I had no idea what the charge was, and was certain I hadn’t signed up for any “reservation rewards” program, so I did a web search for the phone number for the item. Apparently, many other people have had the same exact charge for the same item without ever having ordered it.  
 
I called the company to dispute the charge, and they insisted that I had signed up for some kind of rewards service when I purchased airline tickets. I insisted that I had never signed up for any such service, but they claimed they had sent me three emails confirming the service, which apparently is a monthly subscription for $9 per month which gives you discounts on some products or services online.  
 
When I complained that I was sure I had never signed up for any such service, they said that they had “millions of satisfied customers” and that the complaints were just a few.
 
Amazing
A bizarre tale about a new strategy in digital rights management: Cripple a CD, but provide a work around for those who do the looking.  
 
This is a bizarre tale in 4 parts:
1) Someone tries to buy the CD "Z" by "My Morning Jacket" on Amazon, but notices all the DRM warnings and reviews there;  
 
2) They check out the band's website, where they learn the DRM restrictions were put on the CD without their knowledge or permission:  
 
3) Variety writes that "the new copy protection scheme — which makes it difficult to rip CDs and listen to them with an iPod — is designed to put pressure on Apple to open the iPod to other music services, rather than making it dependent on the iTunes Music Store for downloads."  
 
This is not about stopping piracy, but rather, is part of a pissing contest between Sony and Apple.  
 
4) If you write to DRM firm Suncomm, they will send you the WORKAROUND FOR THE DRM
 
How ridiculous is all of that?  
 
There's many more details at the link above . . .  
 
Here's a collection of links all Katrina/New Orleans related.  
 
In addition to an extensive list of Government Resources, it includes a list of Charities, a series of Gas/Oil related resources, links for Satellite Views, a variety of Maps and Graphics, a source for Media Coverage, Photos and Video  
 
 
Music Money Makers
Posted by maximus in entertainment 13 years ago
Here's a little secret the RIAA would rather not have you know: Musicians ,make most of their money performing and touring -- not selling CDs or downloads.  
 
Rolling Stone has a detailed analysis of the top 50 acts . . . here's the short list to whet your appetites:
1. Prince $56.5 MILLION  
2. Madonna $54.9 MILLION  
3. Metallica $43.1 MILLION  
4. Elton John $42.9 MILLION  
5. Jimmy Buffett $36.5 MILLION  
6. Rod Stewart $34.6 MILLION  
7. Shania Twain $33.2 MILLION  
8. Phil Collins $33.2 MILLION  
9. Linkin Park $33.1 MILLION  
10. Simon and Garfunkel $31.3 MILLION
Note most of the top performers aren't the new hot thing -- they are better known classics -- which the labels have mostly been ignoring for years. . .
Amusing Flash spoof of Homeland Security warnings, with a spin which yourgirlfirend will either laugh at or stop talking to you over. Depending on . . . well, you'll see.  
 
Careful, or you'll spend Valentines Day alone . . .
SPORT utility vehicles are beastly, or at least beastlike.  
 
That is the message of a new public service campaign from the governments of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The $27 million campaign, paid for with settlement money from a lawsuit against the Ford Motor Company, starts this week and is aimed at informing young men in particular about the rollover risks of sport utility vehicles.  
 
This latest dent to the aura of the S.U.V. stars "Esuvee," who looks like a cross between the Star Wars characters Chewbacca and Jabba the Hutt, with headlights for eyes and a grille for a nose. Esuvee - pronounced "S.U.V." - also rides like a bucking bull.  
 
In a 60-second commercial that is part of the campaign and will appear before movies in theaters, young men mount Esuvee, "buckling in" to the back of the hairy beast in a sort of mock bull riding championship. A gate opens and they hang on for the ride. As the first rider vaults out of control, the camera settles on a seasoned rider offering ringside advice.  
 
 
Original link is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/02/business/media/02adco.html  
 
EsUVee link is:  http://www.esuvee.com/flash.html
So much for the Malpractice crisis . . . it appears what we have here is a Medical Ethics crisis:
"Eighty percent of U.S. doctors and half of nurses surveyed said they had seen colleagues make mistakes, but only 10 percent ever spoke up, according to a study released on Wednesday.  
 
These mistakes are undoubtedly contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of people who die from medical errors in the United States each year, the researchers and experts on nursing said.  
 
Nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers need to be less shy about speaking up about mistakes, incompetent colleagues and other problems that can hurt patients, the report said.  
 
Healthcare workers who do speak up are not only able to nip the problem in the bud, but are also happier in their own work, said Joseph Grenny, president of consulting group VitalSmarts, which conducted the survey of 1,700 nurses, doctors, hospital administrators and other experts for the study."
Astounding -- another phony issue drummed up as payback for the White House's contributors.  
 
 
NOTE: Reuters stories have an annoying tendency of disappearing from the web . . . if that happens, try this link  
 
http://bigpicture.typepad.com/writing/2005/01/docs_witness_me.html
Dissecting Microsoft
Posted by maximus in the wired 13 years ago
A free, online book broadly analysizing Microsoft, its behavior, and its software, including comparisons of their products against some alternatives. It's continually updated with new information.
"Corporate Conduct: On the desktop, we have a strategic win today (monopoly). We must keep the desktop." - Presentation, Microsoft Executive Staff Retreat, May 10, 1990  
 
"We are engaged in a FUD campaign to let the press know about some of the bugs. We'll provide info a few bugs at a time to stretch it out." - Brad Silverberg, July 22, 1991  
 
"Objectives: FUD DR DOS with every editorial contact made." - MS-DOS 6 PR Plan, November 1992  
 
"look what znix is doing! cut those fuckers off." - Brad Silverberg, May 19, 1992  
 
"Five minutes after any agreement is signed with Microsoft, they'll be thinking of how to violate the agreement. They're predators. They crush their competition. They crush new ideas. They stifle innovation. That's what they do." - Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, Quoted by Matthew Szulik at a U.S. Senate Hearing, Dec 12, 2001
and check out their appoach to Open Source (you know, the commies):
Blocking Open Source From Intellectual Property Discussions: In 2003 the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was organizing a meeting on the significance of open source software. The meeting was suggested by 60 technologists, economists, and academics from around the world. Many nations, especially those with much smaller economies, could potentially benefit from the less restrictive copyright and opposing views on patents.  
 
Lobbyists from Microsoft funded trade groups, including their Business Software Alliance, encouraged officials at the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to prevent the meeting from taking place. "Lois Boland, director of international relations for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said that open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights." (Krim, Jonathan. "The quiet war over open-source." The Washington Post 21 Aug 2003)  
 
As Lawrence Lessig rightly counters, "open-source software is based in intellectual-property rights. It can’t exist (and free software can’t have its effect) without it. Second, the goal of WIPO, and the goal of any government, should be to promote the right balance of intellectual-property rights, not simply to promote intellectual property rights." The lobbying of Microsoft along with the ignorance of some members of the U.S. government ended an important discussion. The result is a negative impact on Microsoft's competition.
Lots of detailed research about the evil empire . . .
If you ever get stuck on Gilligan's Island, you will have hopefully read  Mr. Sun. He has laid out all the details you want to know about how to bed Mary Ann:  

My, my, my. In this time of war and great tragedy, I have naturally been preoccupied with the big questions. Namely, how would I have bedded Mary Ann if I were Gilligan. The answer? Strategy . I would have used my mind to create a rock solid Mary Ann Nailing Strategy that guaranteed I'd be rockin' the hut on a regular basis.  
 
My Mary Ann Bedding Strategy rests on six central pillars:  Flattery, Deceit, Appeal, Collaboration, Sabotage, Time . . .

Totally warped . . . Go read the entire warped analysis.
Day After Party photos
Posted by maximus in strangely funny 13 years ago
These are some of the funniest photos I have ever seen in my life. I laughed like a hyena over these mean-spirited snaps.  
 
The moral is, never get piss drunk and fall asleep if your friends and acquaintances are 1) clever; and 2) evil.  
 
Enjoy!  
 
 
UPDATE: To the spoilsports who gave this low ratings: Check out the page hits, grandpa  
"Read. Learn. Think."  
 
That's the the motto of literature.org. This site attempts to bring real books to people through the Internet -- full and unabridged texts of classic works of English literature.  
 
Copyright law was written so individuals got compensated for the works they created for the public good -- once written, they were supposed to fall in to the public domain eventually. The extension of copyright terms (long after the author is dead) is nothing more than a criminal land grab by the whores of the content industry, made possible by their corrupt lackeys in Congress.  
 
But I digress.  
 
Lots of classic books here for free. Check 'em out.
University of California, San Diego is out with a new study today that shows "deadly drug mistakes spike at the start of each month" -- and this suggests human errors at the Pharmacy:
"Beware not the ides but the start of March – and April and May and every month. In the first few days of each month, fatalities due to medication errors rise by as much as 25 percent above normal, according to new research by University of California, San Diego sociologist David Phillips.  
 
Published in the January issue of Pharmacotherapy, the journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, the study is the first to document a beginning-of-the-month spike in deaths attributed to mistakes in prescription drugs.  
 
The primary suspect, Phillips says, is a beginning-of-the-month increase in pharmacy workloads and a consequent increase in their error rates.  
 
“Government assistance payments to the old, the sick and the poor are typically received at the beginning of each month. Because of this, there is a beginning-of-the-month spike in purchases of prescription medicines,” Phillips says. “Pharmacy workloads go up and – in line with both evidence and experience – error rates go up as well. Our data suggest that the mortality spike occurs at least partly because of this phenomenon.”  
 
Phillips and his coauthors examined all United States death certificates from 1979 through 2000 to analyze the 131,952 deaths classified as fatal poisoning accidents from drugs. A small number, 3.2 percent, of the deaths were from adverse effects of the right drug in the right dose. The vast majority, 96.8 percent, resulted from medication errors – the “wrong drug given or taken,” or “accidental overdose of drug,” or “drug taken inadvertently
So much for desperate need for tort reform; What's really needed is less malpractice . . .  
 
You must check out the chart there  
Why RealNetworks Sucks
Posted by maximus in the wired 13 years ago
OK dude, we get it -- you don't like Real's software. (I find their streaming player to be far more robust than Windows Media Player, but thats just me).  
 
If you are into streaming media or technology tech, than read on:
"After listening to Real's most recent conference call, it certainly does appear that Real views its customers as a nuisance and as a necessary annoyance. In over forty minutes of presentation and Q&A, customers were barely mentioned. Instead, the discussion focused nearly exclusively on what Real's competitors were doing, and on the various distribution deals that Real was landing (and losing, such as Major League Baseball).  
 
Perhaps this is a result of some sort of Rob Glaser myopia. In the ten years Glaser spent at Microsoft (1983-1993), he managed a number of different products, including Microsoft Word. Locking up the channel, and wielding the power of being thrust upon customers (as opposed to being chosen by them) seems to continue to be the M.O. of Real, as it is at Microsoft. This does not appear to be changing any time soon.  
 
What does seem to be changing, however, is Real's focus, which is now not only on music but other downloadable content such as games. Real seems to realize that the audio/video space that they've been playing in since their inception is now crowded, and that they've been pushed to the sidelines in the process. It must irk Glaser to no end that, not only was he rebuffed by Steve Jobs, but now Apple has a 70% market share of the downloadable music market that he and Real, ostensibly, pioneered. So, in what was quite likely a move based more on emotion than sense (and probably driven by Glaser's reported bull-in-a-china-shop personality), he decides to trump up a petition and rally Real's customers to rail against Apple."
Interesting stuff
The Grey Album Danger Mouse Jay-Z, meet the Beatles: Only in the age of accelerating technology could someone have thought to pinch rhymes from the rapper's Black Album and synch them up to random riffs, refrains, and snippets from the White Album. The someone in question is DJ Danger Mouse, a.k.a. Brian Burton, and the result could have been a novelty worth one listen at most — the sound of an iPod with seriously crossed internal wires.  
 
Yet far from being a wack job, The Grey Album — a free download before the Beatles' reps not surprisingly put a halt to it — is the ultimate artistic validation of technology and the mash-up. Even such praise, though, doesn't hint at its ingenious merging of two generations: the hypnotic blend of ''Long, Long, Long'' and ''Public Service Announcement,'' the ''Hova!'' shout-outs in ''Encore'' newly buttressed by the guitar snarls of ''Glass Onion,'' the childhood recollections of ''December 4th'' merged with ''Mother Nature's Son.'' (The album would have been the perfect capper to Jay-Z's retirement, had he actually retired.) Rock and rap have tangled with each other for over a decade, but rarely this...