Maybe it is (or will become) legal to rip your DVDs

My oldest son met me at the door one day as I came home from work, holding two pieces of his favorite Bob the Builder DVD. “Daddy fix it?” he asked.

I can fix a lot of things, and I’ve learned a lot trying to fix his toys before, but when a DVD is snapped in two, there’s nothing I can do about that.

“What, you didn’t have it backed up?” one of my coworkers asked when I told him. “No,” I said. “And I wouldn’t admit it if I did.”
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How to tame e-books

I haven’t exactly been rushing out to buy an e-reader, for at least a couple of reasons. The practical reason is that I’m afraid of being locked in to a single vendor. Amazon is the market leader and the most likely to still be around for the long term, but they’re the worst about locking you in. The other vendors offer slightly better interoperability–supporting the same file format and, optionally, the same DRM–but the non-Amazon market leaders are Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Sony, all of which are scary. Borders is being liquidated; B&N isn’t losing money–yet–but its profit margins have shrunk each of the last two years; and Sony’s recent problems are well known to the security community. I’m not too anxious to climb into bed with any of them. Google is entering the market as well, but the first Google-backed e-reader doesn’t support highlighting or note-taking.

The Luddite reason is that I’m old enough to have an attachment to books. Physical books, printed on paper. Maybe this isn’t true for any generation beyond mine (I’m a GenXer), but for my generation and previous generations, having books on your shelf is a sign of being educated. And there are certain books–or types of books, depending on your field–that you’re expected to have on your shelf.

To a certain extent, the latter reason can be negated by playing the e-reader card. Of course I have the complete works of Shakespeare on my e-reader, so those Shakespeare books from college just became clutter…
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No reason for brand wars

On one of the train forums I frequent, a legitimate question quickly degenerated into brand wars. And brand wars are one thing, but when people hold their preferred company to a different standard than the other company–in other words, one company is evil because it does something, but their preferred company does the same thing, it isn’t productive.

Actually, I see very little reason for brand loyalty as it is. I drive a Honda and I use a Compaq computer. Do either of those companies have any loyalty to me? No. To them, I’m just a source of income from yesterday.I don’t like the categorization of companies as "good" and "evil." Companies don’t exist to be good or evil. Companies exist for one reason: Make money. And one thing to remember is that companies will always do exactly what they think they can get away with.

In the case of the toy train wars, the two antagonists are Lionel and MTH. MTH is a scrappy underdog that got its start building trains as a subcontractor for Lionel. A business deal went bad–in short, Lionel left MTH high and dry on a multimillion dollar project, so MTH decided to go on its own and sell the product Lionel decided it didn’t want, but Lionel didn’t like the idea of one of its subcontractors competing with it while also making product for them, and understandably so.

MTH and Lionel have been mortal enemies ever since.

A few years ago, MTH accused Lionel of stealing trade secrets. The specifics are difficult to sort out, but someone with intimate knowledge of some of MTH’s products started designing equivalent products for Lionel. MTH sued and won, to the tune of $40 million. The case is now in appeal.

There’s no question that Lionel benefited from this contractor’s knowledge of the competing product. The question is who knew this was going on, who authorized it, and what an appropriate punishment would be. The only people who are questioning guilt have blinders on. There is no innocence here–just possible degrees of guilt. The other question is appropriateness. Lionel doesn’t have $40 million in the bank. Arguably the company isn’t worth a lot more than $40 million. So that $40 million judgment is essentially the corporate death penalty.

MTH is anything but perfect and holy, however. The thing that bothers me most about MTH is its attempt to patent elements of DCC (Digital Command Control), a method for automating train layouts. It’s an open industry standard, widely used by HO and N scale hobbyists. So MTH was seeking to collect royalties on something that’s supposed to be free for everyone to use. That’s a particular pet peeve of mine, and it’s the reason I haven’t bought any MTH products since 2003.

I came close to relenting this weekend though, when I saw some people bashing MTH while holding Lionel up as some kind of perfect, holy standard. It made me want to go buy a bunch of MTH gear, photograph myself with it, and post it on some forums so I could watch these guys have a stroke about it. Fortunately for them, I have better things to do with $200 right now. I also looked on my layout, and I don’t know where I could put the things I would have considered buying.

I’m more familiar with the computer industry than I am with anything else, and if you mention any computer company, I can probably think of something they did that would fit most people’s definition of evil. HP? Print cartridges that lie about being empty. Lexmark? Same thing, plus using the DMCA to keep you from refilling them. Dell? Nonstandard pinouts on power supplies that look standard, but blow up your motherboard if you try to use non-Dell equipment. IBM? Microchannel. Microsoft? Don’t get me started. Apple? Lying in ads.

As far as I’m concerned though, the most evil company of all is Disney. Disney, of all people? Yes. Disney is the main reason for the many complicated rewrites of copyright law that we’ve had in recent decades. Whenever something Disney values might fall into the public domain, Disney buys enough congressmen to get the laws changed. Never mind that early in its history, Disney exploited the public domain for its gain as much as anyone (which was its legal right), even to the point of waiting for The Jungle Book to fall into the public domain before making the movie, in order to avoid paying royalties to Rudyard Kipling. The problem is that now that Disney is the biggest kid on the block, it’s changing the rules it used to get there, so that nobody else can do it.

Unfortunately I’ve even seen not-for-profit corporations, companies that exist mostly to give away money, do dishonest things and essentially steal. If a charity can and will do these things, you can be certain that a for-profit corporation will.

So I don’t see any reason for brand loyalty, aside from liking a product. If you buy a company’s products and you like them, fine. Keep buying them. But that doesn’t make the people who prefer a competitor’s product evil. They didn’t sign off on the decisions, and your favorite company has done its own share of underhanded things too, whether you know it or not.

And there’s certainly no reason to go to war for your company of choice. It wouldn’t do the same for you.

Outages

Yes, I’m still alive and so is my server. Unfortunately (note to self: cue up “I Hate My Frickin’ ISP” by Todd Rundgren in the background) Southwestern Bell seems intent on proving my theory that their technicians’ favorite thing to do when bored is to run around unplugging stuff to see what happens.
What usually ends up happening is my Speedstream DSL modem gets hopelessly confused and I fall off the ‘Net. Although this weekend the problem wasn’t that my modem couldn’t connect, it’s that I couldn’t authenticate. Hello? How could I have changed my password? I was offline!

Now, maybe my Speedstream is a piece of junk. Maybe Southwestern Bell is a piece of junk. Were I in the habit of looking around in toilets, I’m pretty sure I could find a better modem and ISP. Unfortunately, I signed a one-year contract. It expires in October. I look forward to telling them to find another sucker.

Meanwhile, yes, I’ve been on a bit of an unannounced sabbatical. What happened? Well, an editor on a power trip over at Wikipedia turned me off to all writing for a time (Zoe, if you’re reading this, just because you don’t know how to write or research doesn’t mean you need to take it out on the world, OK?) and then I found myself swimming in a video editing project that made me believe anew in curses, because I don’t think I’ve seen so many things go wrong since a weekend about four years ago when Steve DeLassus and I tried to install about 4 different flavors of Linux on his 486SX/20 and turn it into a router. When I finally put that project to rest, my leisure activities tended to drift towards anything that didn’t involve a computer.

So I’ve been tired and just haven’t had the energy or will to write much or deal with questions. It happens sometimes.

I guess the Wikipedia snipe deserves a little clarification. I love the project idea. I love writing history. Unfortunately, the project is tainted by several editors who delete anything they don’t like, often without much reason. An article I contributed to about osteopathy garnered a comment from an overzealous editor saying the article raised more questions than it answered and if those weren’t answered he was going to delete it. Well, duh! A lot of things raise questions. If osteopathy didn’t raise any questions, then allopathy (the medical techniques practiced by your friendly neighborhood M.D.) wouldn’t exist. The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, and if you don’t understand that you really have no business associating with anything with the letters “pedia” in its name.

Working along with one or two others, we were able to answer enough questions to save that article. But I was mad. The osteopathy article had minor problems and was on the chopping block, yet the article on Joseph Smith was so biased and incomplete as to be unusable, but was being ignored?

At one point I got into the habit of checking the historical events of the given day and looking for holes in the linked articles. It was fun, I learned a lot, and I think some articles improved for the better. I fondly recall writing about Joseph Pulitzer (as in the Pulitzer Prize). He’s a very misunderstood figure in history. On one hand, he was one of the biggest innovators in journalism, ever. On the other hand, he and William Randolph Hearst pretty much created the Spanish-American War just to sell newspapers, which is despicable. (Hearst falls a bit lower on the slimeball scale though; at least Pulitzer didn’t ever openly advocate the assassination of a president.) I came out of that endeavor with more respect for Pulitzer than I’d had before though.

But one day I found a photograph of Booker T. Washington at the Library of Congress and uploaded it. It got deleted when I neglected to answer a query as to its copyright status after 24 hours. Was the picture copyrighted? Very highly unlikely. Washington died at the turn of the 20th century and any published work prior to 1922 is now in the public domain. The Library of Congress isn’t willing to guarantee that particular picture is in the public domain, but they provide a huge, archival-quality TIFF for download, suitable for commercial printing use. So they must be pretty certain. You think the Library of Congress wants DMCA-related legal problems? William Jefferson Clinton may be above the law, but the Library of Congress isn’t.

Yet it turned into a controversy. A huge controversy. That particular editor wasn’t interested in improving the quality of Wikipedia; she was on an ego trip. Somehow she got gratification from teaching me and the person who re-uploaded my image (and then replaced it with another one) a lesson.

Meanwhile, an unattributed image of Britney Spears remains.

Of course there’s another lesson to be learned: When you’re trying to be an open-content encyclopedia, you need to attract people. You attract people by having lots of articles. The more articles you have, the more people read you, and the more people you have reading you, the more readers you’ll be able to convert into contributors. The Wikipedia would be a much better place with that editor writing articles and not harassing people who are also doing their best to make it a better place.

I do expect to return someday, but when I do, I’ll be writing the biographies of people like Calvin Schiraldi. Few people besides Red Sox fans care about Calvin Schiraldi, but that’s the point. I’ll get left alone if I linger in the obscure and I don’t upload images. I’m less valuable there, but we’ve already seen what happens when I think about value.

But in the shorter term, I need to find a paying gig. I’ve got a couple of leads on that. I can really use the money, but besides that, it’ll be nice to do some writing for magazines again. For me, writing stopped being about money at about age 19.

Analysis: Big retailers unite to make DMCA look stupid

A quartet of retailers ganged up on FatWallet.com and made it take down some ads for next week’s big sales, citing the DMCA. The ‘Net is up in arms.
It’s stupid. But not for the reasons you think.

In case you’re wondering, it’s been common practice for years now for someone to get hold of stores’ sales flyers in advance, then go on some forum somewhere (FatWallet.com isn’t the only place they go) and post scans of the flyers, or links to scans of the flyers, so people know what’s going to be on sale where. People make the biggest deal abut the holiday sales flyers, but it’s pretty easy to get the sales flyer from any old Sunday’s paper a few days in advance. If I want to know what’s on sale at Office Depot next Sunday, I can probably know by Thursday without going to too much trouble.

Retailers are starting to crack down on this.

The DMCA is the wrong law to be invoking. We’re talking scans of paper ads here. The stuff wasn’t digital media until someone other than the retailer made it into digital media. The appropriate law to be invoking is plain old copyright law. Let’s not make things more complicated than we need to. Unless we want to make the DMCA look like the stupidity that it is. They can feel free to do that if they want.

The community at large is in an uproar because they’re mad that the ads can’t be distributed in advance and big retailers who can afford lots of lawyers are picking on a Web site, probably operated on a shoestring, that definitely cannot. Yes, the legal system is a bunch of bullies. But that can go two ways also. Big companies can harass individuals or little ones, but if everyone who’s offended by these actions sued all four companies for $250 in small claims court in their home counties, that would be legal harassment as well, because it would cost these companies more than $250 to defend themselves from the nuissance suits. They would win, but the fight isn’t worth fighting.

Besides, when you scan an ad and you put it on the Internet, you are breaking the law. Copyright is just that–the right to decide who can copy something. Or can’t. And the conditions can be stupid and ludicrous. Or reasonable. And they can change over time too.

“But it’s a collection of facts!” people are whining. So is the telephone book. The telephone book is copyrighted. You can print your own telephone book (McCleod does just that, printing up its own alternative to the Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages), but if you copy someone else’s, they can (and will) sue you. There are bogus entries in every telephone book to keep people from doing that. A lot of copyrighted things are nothing more than collections of facts.

Other people are bemused that the store’s ads are being circulated, more widely than otherwise, for free, and the stores are offended that people might show up to buy stuff.

That argument I buy. But it’s not the public showing up that they’re worried about. I’m not sure that it’s the public knowing in advance what’s going to be on sale and for how much that they’re worried about either. Waiting an extra week for a sale before making a purchase is pretty standard practice anyway–it’s just that 20 years ago, you had to guess what might be on sale.

No, it’s that Target and Wal-Mart don’t want each other to know their sale prices. Best Bait-n-Switch doesn’t want Circuit… City to know its sale prices. Staples doesn’t want OfficeMax and Office Depot to know its sale prices. The longer the competition knows the prices in advance, the more time they have to adjust. It happens to be a lot easier for me to get in and out of my local Best Bait-n-Switch, so my natural inclination is to go there. Someone who lives a little north of me will find it a whole lot easier to get in and out of Circuit, so if Circuit has known its rival’s pricing for a week, its prices will all be the same anyway, so they’ll go there. Best Bait-n-Switch wants those people who live to the north to go to the extra trouble of making a left turn on Lindbergh (it’s a pain, as anyone familiar with the area can tell you) to save a few bucks.

So what can FatWallet.com do? I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know for sure. They’re on much stronger legal ground if they don’t present scans of the ads. Just the facts, ma’am. A list of goods and prices in plain old ASCII is probably protected free speech. If it isn’t, adjust the prices. You know how everything sells for $19.95 or $19.99 or something similar, right? Round the prices up. It’s easier to type anyway. Presenting them in the same order as they are on the page might be too close of a copy. Sort the items alphabetically.

It takes more time for someone to sit down and type up a few dozen items and prices. But the person who does it probably stands on good legal ground. After all, the ad itself is copyrighted material. But the facts, as they say, can’t be.

Linkfest since I’m busy

I wasted way too much time with this, so I’m passing it along.
Parliament of Whores. Ed Felten, the star of the Microsoft Antitrust trial, and infamous anti-DMCA activist, has a blog. I like his stuff. I especially like this: a list of devices that would have to have copy-protection hardware under the insane Fritz Hollings I-Sold-Out-to-Hollywood bill. Bookmark it and visit it weekly. Get a good laugh. Print out copies and send them to your congressman. Send one to mine too, while you’re at it. Dick Gephardt needs something constructive to do.

Benke for First Vice President. If you’re LCMS, you can make nominations for the 2004 Convention. Here’s the form. Unfortunately there’s no box for me to nominate Dr. David Benke, the man who dared go to Yankee Stadium on Sept. 22, 2001 and pray with heathens lepers infidels non-LCMS Lutherans present, for the office of First Vice President.

If anyone knows where I can find that form, I’d appreciate a link.

Meanwhile, yeah, I think Dr. Benke belongs on the LCMS Board of Directors and the CPH Board of Directors. Getting him on the Commission for Theology and Church Relations would make it much easier for the rest of the Body of Christ to deal with LCMS. And since he actually (shock, horror!) talks about his faith, he’d be good on Mission Services, too. And we’d do really well to have hundreds–no, thousands–more pastors just like him, so putting him on the Board of Regents for both the Fort Wayne and St. Louis seminaries would be an excellent move.

Boy, I’ve got plenty of work for him, don’t I?

But I’d really like to see him at 1VP.

As for Dr. Benke’s crimes against Lutheranism and humanity and God, evidently, the Apostle Paul was guilty of the same crimes. St. Paul was awfully abrasive sometimes, but I wouldn’t mind having him in one of our top leadership spots. Since we can’t get St. Paul, I’ll settle for Dr. Benke.

My Klez adventures

Today should have been a happy day. After all, the Kansas City Royals finally wised up and sent the worst manager of its history, Tony Muser, packing. And there was much rejoicing. It was all over the front page of the Kansas City Star. In other news, Boeing 747s are having a difficult time avoiding pigs, and Royals utilityman Donnie Sadler is hitting .265.
Unfortunately, a serious development in my life quickly jarred me back into the real world. An e-mail message arrived. I had Klez! I guess I shouldn’t have double-clicked on that attachment titled “Hot young 32-year-olds dressed like middle-school cheerleaders want you!” at work. But since everything on the Internet is true, and since the kid who mows my friend’s cousin’s neighbor’s lawn says his uncle told him e-mail travels over the Internet, I thought I’d better check it out. Opening that unexpected attachment from a complete stranger seemed like a good idea at the time.

The evidence that I had the Klez virus pointed back to a really old e-mail account I had, back in my days at the University of Missouri. So this must not have been the result of me opening the last “Hot young 32-year-olds dressed like middle-school cheerleaders want you!” e-mail I got. It must have been the result of a “Hot young 32-year-olds dressed like middle-school cheerleaders want you!” e-mail I got sometime in 1997 or 1998.

That’s really scary. Klez had the ability to trigger itself FIVE YEARS before it even existed, yet lie dormant until such a time as it did exist. Very powerful stuff. Very scary stuff. This is even bigger than the firing of Tony Muser. I think I should leak this discovery to The Register. Or maybe The Inquirer.

Then I looked at the headers more closely, and I noticed that even though it referred to that really old account, it also had a reference to my new Verizon account.

Then I realized I don’t have a Verizon account. So there’s only one possible explanation. Klez signed me up for a Verizon account! The nerve of it! And I’ll bet it’s using that e-mail account, and possibly also the cell phone that goes with it, to make marriage proposals to one of my ex-girlfriends. Probably the closet homo sapien. I’ll be in even more serious trouble after it realizes that all of my ex-girlfriends are closet homo sapiens and it proposes to all of them. This is bad. Really bad. I don’t think I’ll be able to blame this on Tony Muser.

I sure hope those cheerleaders know my new address in St. Louis. After all that scary Klez stuff, I could use some cheering up. They haven’t shown up yet, but that message never said when they’d show up.

When I went to lunch on that wonderful Tuesday, there was a TV in the lunchroom. There are always TVs in the lunchroom when important, newsworthy events of national impact occur. It was there so we could watch the latest developments of the Tony Muser firing as they unfolded on CNN.

I don’t think my coworkers believed me when I said that. So instead we talked about what I had learned about Klez. They were all really excited to hear about it. One of them asked if it had really neat graphics. I said sometimes. Another one asked if it would run on something as ancient as a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz with GeForce4 Ti4400 video. I said it probably would. They all wanted copies.

When I got back from lunch, there was something else waiting for me in my e-mail: an invitation to a meeting to standardize our virus delivery to one or two tools and formats. I thought this was a great idea, because when we limit our clients’ abilities by forcing them to use limited tools–tools that were designed for another purpose entirely, of course–of our own choosing rather than their choosing, they are always much more productive and they thank us for it. Ideally, these tools should cost a lot of money and should require expensive outside consultants to set them up, so that these outside consultants can later go to the clients directly and do what consultants always do, which is this: Tell people what they already know. In this case, what they already know is how this overpriced, clueless consultant can do the job much better without our involvement. Next thing we know, we’re out of the picture, the clients are happy, the consultants are happy, and I’m happy because there’s not as much work for me to do, and if this kind of thing happens often enough, I’ll find myself without a job and then I’ll have something in common with my longtime hero, Tony Muser.

So of course I was falling all over myself to attend this meeting.

I asked the person who invited me if his new laptop has a DVD drive. He said it did. I told him I’d bring a copy of Office Space to the meeting. He said he didn’t have the drive configured to work in Linux yet because he hadn’t yet had the need to watch a movie on his work laptop.

Obviously, he needs to go to this meeting even more than I do, if he’s too busy doing real work to waste time watching DVDs really loudly on his work laptop and disturbing the rest of us in the office. It’s all due to the lingering effects of the decisions Tony Muser made during his tenure as Kansas City Royals manager, of course.

I’m sure a few scenes from Office Space will help us to prove our point. And, besides, if you read User Friendly, you know it’s fun to violate the DMCA.

Tony Muser will have a lot more time to do that kind of thing from now on.

More on video editing

Last night I found myself watching some old documentaries my Dad had on VHS (mostly episodes of old Discovery channel series, circa 1990), as much to watch how they used footage from varying sources and how they handled voiceovers as for the information they were presenting–although the subject matter was something I find interesting. It’s much easier to deal with poor quality old footage today than it was then–what I’d try to do is digitize it into Premiere, then export it to a Photoshop filmstrip, then export that into PhotoDeluxe and use its automatic cleanup, then take it back into Photoshop and then back to Premiere. The result wouldn’t be perfect but in five minutes you could have a film clip that looks a lot better.
I’m not sure I can ever watch TV for enjoyment ever again–I find myself analyzing it, trying to figure out how I’d do something comparable, or better. Then again, aside from baseball games, I haven’t watched TV for enjoyment with any regularity since 1992 when Quantum Leap went off the air, so I don’t think my new hobby changes anything.

My next video project is a documentary. I won’t be spending much time behind the camera; I’m putting my journalist hat back on and doing the interviews. I don’t know yet if I’ll be the one assembling and arranging the clips. The challenges here are really different from my music video projects, but I don’t see it as being very different from my old magazine projects in college. The biggest difference is that now I can add audio to help tell the story, and the pictures can move. But it’s still a matter of gathering the story, then gathering elements that help tell the story.

This is a big change for me though. In Journalism 105–the second journalism class I ever took–they exposed us to the basics of all the major forms of journalism: newspaper, magazine, advertising, radio, and television. I learned how to write a basic, straight news story in high school, so newspaper writing was easy. Magazine writing appealed to me a bit more because you could get more creative. Radio was a nice challenge, because you had very limited space to tell the story since it would be read aloud. Advertising was the most different unit but I didn’t struggle with it too much, at least not in that class. The only unit I disliked was the TV unit, because I didn’t like storyboarding. I think I know what changed though. When I learned TV writing, we were still in the linear era. Non-linear editing systems existed, but they weren’t widespread, so that wasn’t what they taught us.

Fast-forward six years. A couple of media professionals in St. Louis taught me how to use Apple’s Final Cut Pro. I was competent in an afternoon. To me, it looked almost like desktop publishing software, the biggest difference being that final output was playback, rather than a printed page. Suddenly TV made sense, and I caught myself thinking I’d like to go back to journalism school and get a broadcast degree. Sanity quickly returned.

Video resources online. I’m going to let the cat out of the bag. The biggest obstacle to learning video editing is a lack of footage to work with. Sure, if you’ve got a DVD-ROM drive, you can rip video from DVD and use it, but then you can’t legally use the result for anything unless you go get the appropriate permissions. You want to get permissions before you start on a project, but you don’t want to wait around for permission before you start getting your hands dirty. The answer is to mess around with some public domain video. Then you can do anything you want.

The lowdown: Anything produced in the United States before 1922 is now public domain. This includes video, photos, and music–although a specific recording can be protected by separate copyright. As a general rule, it’ll be 2067 before you see widespread public domain music recordings. Anything produced by the U.S. Government, whether in 1776 or five minutes ago, is public domain. And a large number of works produced since 1922 have fallen into the public domain for one reason or another–the most noteworthy example being the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you’ve ever wondered why 800 of your 922 cable channels, seemingly including ESPN, C-SPAN and the Cartoon Network, are showing that movie at any given moment in December, that’s why–any TV station can play that movie without paying anyone a dime.

Public domain video or stills can also be useful if you’re in the middle of a project and need to illustrate a point and none of your sources (whether your own video or other video you’ve obtained permission to use) illustrate it adequately.

Finding public domain stuff is a little harder. So here’s a core dump of all the resources I’ve found in the last couple of days:

http://www.pdinfo.com — public domain music
Links page from above, includes other media
The Internet Archive’s Movie Collection, over 950 downloadable PD movies, mostly short informational or promotional pieces.
Rick Prelinger’s journal, related to the above collection.
Kino International, a distributor of old movies on VHS and DVD, some of which is in the public domain.
Retrofilm.com, a distibutor of public domain material on professional-grade media such as miniDV–they don’t sell material on VHS or DVD. Their catalog is surprisingly large and recent, including a 1980 made-for-TV movie about Jonestown that I remember seeing at least twice.
Tips for handling files from The Internet Archive Collection on various platforms
The Public Domain: How to find and use copyright-free writings, music, art and more, a 300-page book on the subject.

Tools. There’s a non-linear editing project for Linux called Broadcast 2000 that got rave reviews, but unfortunately, DMCA-related litigation caused development of the program to be halted (presumably because of fear of lawsuits, either due to liability or due to people possibly using the program to violate the DMCA) and the developer no longer offers it for download. I did find the source code on Tucows, and recent versions of SuSE and Mandrake are supposed to have it. Since the program was GPL, you can still legally download it and do whatever you want with it. GIMP was abandoned by its original authors early in its development cycle and subsequently picked up by others, so maybe Broadcast 2000 still has a future.

I found some Broadcast 2000 tips here.

Regardless of what tools you use for editing, be sure to get Virtual Dub–do a search on Google. You can use it to crop your video clips and convert between formats. I’ve had good results using the Indeo 5.1 codec at a high quality setting. Slice the video you want to use into the segments you want, leaving yourself a few frames on either side just in case you need to stretch the sequence out or decide you want to use transitions.

Wrapping up a week…

Someone at Google has a sense of humor. See (or should I say 533?) for yourself.
Dan Bowman sent me the link. My response?

+#4+ !$ $0 k3wl! +#4nk$!

Desktop video. I still can’t get my Pinnacle DV500’s composite inputs to work right. The rest of the card seems to function just fine. As a workaround, I tried connecting a DVD-ROM drive and ripping the source video digitally, straight off the DVD. I was able to get decoded .VOB files to the drive, but the utilities to convert them into usable AVI files (Premiere won’t work with VOBs) all had an annoying tendency to crash. At one point I suspected I had a binary compiled for Intel systems, and obviously my AMD CPU won’t like those SSE instructions. So I copied a single 1-gig VOB file over to a P3-based laptop. The utility got a little further, but it still crashed.

And yes, incidentally, I did secure permission from the copyright holders to use their video. As for the legality of what I did in the DMCA era, one of the utilities looked at the DVD and said it was unprotected. It’d be hard to prosecute me for circumventing copy protection when none existed in the first place.

I was going to say we’ve come a long way since Amigas and Video Toasters, but I’m not going to say that. Amigas and Video Toasters actually worked.

Tribute. How’d I forget this? The Silent Beatle died Thursday. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you already knew that.

The radio station I listen to most often, which can’t decide whether it wants to be a retro station, a New Wave station, a hair band station, or an Adult Alternative station, stepped way outside its format and did a nice Beatles tribute Friday at lunch, playing an hour’s worth of tunes, ending with “The Long and Winding Road,” which seemed eerily appropriate.

I remember when the Beatles boxed set came out a few years ago. I was still in college, and my next-door neighbor, Chip, got it the first day. He and I watched the corresponding TV special, and I remember someone walking in and saying he didn’t know any Beatles songs. I told him he was crazy. The Beatles are so pervasive, I said, that they’re not even just part of our culture anymore. They’re part of our DNA.

So Chip reached over and turned on his CD player and flipped through a few selections. A look of recognition came over his face to most of them. Yeah, he knew some Beatles songs. He’d just never recognized them as Beatles songs. Even young whippersnappers like us knew them and loved them.

The Beatles were history years before I was born, and for that matter, by the time I was born in 1974, even their record label, Apple Records, was in shambles. I have no recollection of the day John Lennon was murdered. The earliest Beatles memory I had growing up was hearing George Harrison’s “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You” on the radio and seeing the video on TV, in 1986. It was a good tune. Not as good as the best stuff he wrote, and it’s largely forgotten today, but what other songs from 1986 do people remember today? Bon Jovi? Puh-lease. It was such a bad year for music that The Police were able to remake their 1981 hit, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” and score a minor hit with it. Compared to the other choices we had that year, George Harrison scratching his nails down a blackboard for three minutes would have been cooler, just because it was George Harrison.

And he and the rest of his bandmates knew that. That was cool, because it freed them to experiment. So they had that stack of bubblegum pop hits in the early 60s that everyone remembers today, but in addition to that, they had their psychedelic period and by 1968 they had dabbled in everything else imaginable. Heavy metal? They did some of that. Industrial rock? They even did some of that. When it came to rock’n’roll, The Beatles tried everything. Everything that’s happened since has just been further exploration of territory they already covered.

George Harrison’s last few years weren’t pleasant ones, due to his battles with cancer and with deranged fans. I hope he’s happier now. I can’t imagine him doing anything else but sitting somewhere, making music with John Lennon, waiting for Paul and Ringo to show up.

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