The best news I’ve heard in a long time: The Public Domain Enhancement Act

The Public Domain Enhancement Act, which is the result of the Eric Eldred petition, has been introduced to Congress by two representatives from California. It’s now known as H.R. 2601.
This is excellent news.

Write your Congressperson and remind him/her that s/he represents you, not Walt Disney, not the RIAA, not any of the other special interests. Remind the Congressperson that roughly 2% of all copyrighted material retains commercial value after 55 years. So for every Mickey Mouse, there are 98 works that the copyright holder simply abandons and can’t be used by anyone. While that material may not be worthwhile to the copyright holder, it’s still of value to historians, archivists, and hobbyists. Which probably means you. If you’re not one of those three, the products produced by one of those three probably will trickle down to you, in which case you still benefit.

This act will not force Walt Disney to give up Mickey Mouse. What it will do is free any and all works that aren’t worth $1 to the copyright holder to renew.

Some have argued that once a work falls into the public domain, consumers are the losers because there is no commercial incentive to preserve and reproduce them. That’s wrong. Under current copyright conditions, the movie “Cinderella” could have never been made. Freeing old works allows a new generation to adopt and adapt them and make new classics.

While most public domain material is obscure, so is most copyrighted material. But the best public domain material is anything but. The reason Tom Sawyer is so cheap is because it’s free for anyone to copy. And we all benefit from that.

The RIAA owes you $20

In case you haven’t read about this elsewhere, be sure to file your claim if you purchased a CD, tape, or record at retail between the dates of Jan. 1, 1995 and Dec. 22, 2000.
This is the RIAA’s slap-on-the-wrist punishment for price fixing. If too many people file, the money goes to charity. And I’m curious what this will do to CD prices.

On an only semi-related topic, the RIAA asks for the last four digits of your social security number. I don’t know why they need that. You can find social security numbers of several of your favorite dead celebrities, including Richard Nixon, Dr. Seuss, and Kurt Cobain, here. (If the link goes dead, plug the URL into the Wayback Machine.

You are looking at a genu-ine inventor

In yesterday’s comments, I suggested you take the David Crowder Band’s CD, Can You Hear Us?, and put it in your CD player and glue it shut because you won’t want to change it anyway. (I really ought to write up a proper review. I’ve managed to graduate to their other disc. It’s good. Not glue-worthy though. Unless you’ve got a changer.)
Well, I should have patented the technique. Maybe I could still file. A method of protecting intellectual property, I’ll call it. Why?

Because Sony’s in the habit of sending out review CDs in Discmans that have been glued shut to prevent unauthorized bootlegging. They also permanently attach the headphones–no copying out the headphone jack, naughty naughty.

I guess they didn’t count on a journalist being handy with snips and a soldering iron, did they? Oh, wait. I’m not exactly a practicing journalist anymore. Well, not professionally, anyway.

I smell a way to make some money and stick it to an RIAA member, don’t you?

Copyright terriorists can’t take what they dish out

Aw, poow widdle awe-aye-ay-ay! Poow widdle bay-bee!
The RIAA, if you recall correctly, is endorsing legislation that would permit copyright terrorists holders to knock off or hack into computers they suspect are being used to violate copyright law. So I guess calling what they want “copyright terrorism” is apt. Read more

My video editing ephiphany

Something I learned yesterday. And it was entirely a happy accident. But many things that appear to have artistic quality are nothing but happy accidents.
My copy of Adobe Premiere 6.0 had a second disc in the jewel. I had assumed it was just tryout versions of other Adobe software, or a tutorial disc, so I never really paid much attention to it. It turned out to be a disc titled SmartSound QuickTracks for Adobe Premiere. It’s awfully cool, in reality. Install it, and then you can go into File, New in Premiere and select QuickTrack. Click Launch Maestro, and up pops a wizard-style interface. Pick a few options that describe the nature of your piece (style, mood, etc.) and tell it how long you want your audio clip to be, and it’ll loop musical bits in its library to give you one or more sound clips as close to your specifications as possible. Play them, and if any are satisfactory, it’ll generate a file and drop it into one of Premiere’s bins for you.

Very slick. And professional films almost always have a soundtrack to them. The reason is pretty simple. Music can heighten mood, and changes in the soundtrack can delineate segments of the film.

But I learned another reason. The video, with Luke speaking, had a lot of room noise in it, and I found it distracting. I tried filtering out the noise, but that’s hard to do if you don’t have any experience doing it. By the time I was done, his voice was crystal clear, but he sounded like a speech synthesizer. Imagine an old Texas Instruments Speak ‘n Spell with intonation and mood, and you’ll have a pretty good idea how Luke sounded. So I left the noise in there. (With pro equipment, you record room noise with one mic and the subject with another mic, so you can turn down the room noise at will. But I didn’t use pro equipment.)

What I found, after inserting a loop of Mozart being played softly on piano, was that Luke sounded clearer. The music covered up the distracting elements of the room noise, leaving just enough that you could still tell Luke was recorded in a living room, not a sound room. But the distracting element was camouflaged. And Mozart made me concentrate on what Luke was saying.

Steve DeLassus tells me this discovery qualifies me as a scientist.

I tried a couple of other pieces and found they didn’t work so well, so some experimentation is usually necessary. But it made the video look a whole lot more professional and a whole lot more polished. I won’t impress people in the audience who have Premiere and have loaded the same disc (I recognized a few of the more contemporary pieces as very commonly used stock music footage, mostly from low-budget commercials) but impressing people isn’t the goal anyway.

Of course once you get sick of the freebie tunes or if you can’t find an appropriate one, you can buy bigger libraries at $295 a pop. And that’s something I’ll probably do at some point.

If you happen to have Premiere (and if you don’t, I recommend you pick up a Pinnacle DV200 card, which sells for under $300 and includes Premiere, SmartSound QuickTracks, Photoshop LE, Pinnacle’s very nice DVTools for automatically scanning and cataloging your tapes, and plug-ins for titling and transitions–you get more functionality than Apple Final Cut Pro delivers, and Final Cut Pro costs $995), adding a musical score is a good way to spice up your home movies. I’m sure that someday the RIAA will determine that the use of commercial music in people’s home videos is the cause of declining record sales–since it can’t be the economy or the declining quality of new releases–but until that happens, private use of the music in your record collection will be covered under fair use. So I’m sure I’ll have to license rights to use U2’s “Kite” in the video I want shown at my funeral service in 2101, but for the time being, if you want to integrate Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55” into your vacation video, no one’s going to stop you.

Speaking of which, not to sound morbid, but give “Kite” a listen if you happen to have All That You Can’t Leave Behind. I can’t think of a cooler song to play at a funeral. “Who’s to know when the time has come around / Don’t want to see you cry / I know that this is not goodbye.” Although, admittedly, I misunderstood the line “I’m a man / I’m not a child” as “I’m a man / I’m out of time,” which has considerably more finality. But, as is often the case, I digress.

Elementary video. This guide is very basic. But if you follow its rules to the letter, you’ll always look competent. If you’re wanting to make your home movies look better or learn the basics of video editing, it’s a good start, and considerably less expensive than the route I took. Someone else paid for my initial training, but it sure wasn’t cheap.

The other thing to remember about rules: Eventually you’ll develop a sense for when to break them. And eventually you’ll give in to that sense, and you’ll discover that some shots look great even though they stomp all over the rule of thirds. Don’t worry about it. That’s the difference between breaking rules intelligently and non-intelligently. I’m sure there are sentence fragments somewhere on this page too. Most of them are there for some reason, albeit probably sick and twisted.

Boycott Adobe… And your congressman.

Need reason not to buy Adobe products? This oughta do.
At work the other day, I wondered aloud if, since I don’t buy things from totalitarian countries as a matter of principle, if that meant I couldn’t buy American-made products. One of my co-workers said, “You’re such a radical,” in an at least semi-admiring tone.

That scares me. These days, when you oppose an unconstitutional law, have principles and stand by them, you’re considered a radical. Since when is it radical to believe that the Constitution should be followed, rather than only being used when you’re out camping and run out of toilet paper?

(added later)

You know what? I’m getting madder and madder. You know what I should have done a couple of weeks ago? And still need to do? I know that of my congressmen, the only one who has any interest whatsoever in what someone like me has to say is Sen. Kit Bond, but I need to write to Rep. Dick Gephardt, Sen. Kit Bond and Sen. Jean Carnahan, send them a copy of the Constitution, a copy of the DMCA, ask them to read both of them–THEMSELVES–and come to the same conclusion I did. Unconstitutional. Point out that a Russian citizen is being prosecuted like a common criminal for doing nothing wrong, that the criminal in this case is none other than the United States government. And then I need to tell them that, as fellow citizens of Missouri, they represent me, not the RIAA, not Hollywood interests, and not the big software companies. Their job is to protect me, not them. And, if charges against Dmitry aren’t dropped, and the DMCA isn’t repealed, I am holding them personally responsible–regardless of how they voted on the issue originally or vote on the issue in the future–and exercising my rights as a U.S. citizen to vote them out of office.

A small part of me still lives under the delusion that a few thousand carefully-worded letters to that effect might have a difference.

Anyone else interested in finding out?

Meanwhile, tell Adobe where there’s a painful place they can shove their software. None of it ever was all that good anyway.

03/18/2001

About DDR… I should have stated the difference between the two types yesterday. PC1600 DDR runs on a 100 MHz double-pumped bus. PC2100 DDR runs on a 133 MHz double-pumped bus. Obviously PC2100 is much more desirable, providing about 33% as much bandwidth. Crucial is selling PC1600–a fact I didn’t notice–at the price of PC133 SDRAM. That’s less than 50 cents a meg. They aren’t currently selling PC2100 directly, which is what you probably want. PC2100 is currently selling for about a dollar a meg from other sources.

The short term bang-for-the-buck option is to go with a KT133A-based board, a 133 MHz FSB Athlon, and PC133 SDRAM. You’ll get 85-90% of the performance for $100-$150 less. Long-term, however, a DDR solution will make more sense from a performance standpoint and an economy-of-upgrading standpoint. Take a look at what EDO memory costs today and you’ll see what I mean. It’s more expensive than Rambus memory–while Rambus sells for about $2 a meg, antiquated EDO memory sells for about $3 a meg. The price of FPM memory, an even older technology, is over $3 a meg.

So… If you’re swapping out a motherboard and can afford PC2100 DDR, it makes sense to go ahead and get a board that uses it.

What’s this PCxx stuff mean anyway? It’s fairly easy to understand SDRAM monikers–PC100 means the memory bus runs at 100 MHz, PC133 means the memory bus runs at 133 MHz. But manufacturers have gotten ridiculous with the naming schemes of new memory. Along comes Rambus with PC600, PC700, and PC800 memory. But the slowest Rambus memory isn’t 4.5x faster than PC133–far from it. And then comes DDR, not to be outdone, calling itself PC1600 and PC2100.

Here’s what it means. PC600 Rambus is running at a memory bus speed of 300 MHz. PC700 Rambus is using a 356 MHz bus speed. And PC800 Rambus is using a 400 MHz bus speed. CPUs still run at their old bus speeds of 100 or 133 MHz when using Rambus.

Now, PC1600 DDR runs on a 100 MHz bus, while PC2100 DDR runs on a 133 MHz bus. Their names refer to the amount of memory bandwidth available.

So, PCxx isn’t a direct comparison of speed at all. Comparing SDRAM, Rambus, and DDR by their names is like comparing apples, oranges and bananas.

And now for something totally different…

The height of hypocrisy. The RIAA is saying  that paying royalties to songwriters for their work is too difficult–a similar argument to the one Napster used in its defense. The RIAA can’t have it both ways. (Never mind everyone else has to pay to use the songs, and rightfully so.) Hopefully the government will agree. Otherwise the only thing the past year has proven is that the RIAA can bully around anyone who’s smaller than they are.

The story goes like this. Now that the RIAA has turned Napster (who had little ground to stand on) and MP3.com (who had all the ground in the world to stand on) into shells of their former selves, they’re poised to launch their own online service(s). But the RIAA, who represents the record labels, has tried to cut the NMPA, who represents the songwriters, out of the deal.

I’ve heard people advocate pirating music, then tracking down an address for an artist and paying the artist directly. That’s more honorable than paying the RIAA. An honorable and legal approach is to just buy music from artists who also own their record label–when you constantly bend the rules in your favor, it’s hard to keep friends, as the powers that be at the RIAA seem to have not learned on the grade-school playground.

Boot multiple operating systems for free

~Mail follows today’s post~

XOSL doesn’t seem to like my Promise Ultra66 controller. At least not all the time. I don’t like that. I also don’t like how XOSL installs itself in the root directory–my poor root ballooned to over 40 entries after installing it. That’ll cause some system slowdowns. I don’t like having any more than 16 entries in there if I can avoid it.

Fortunately you can install XOSL to a dedicated partition, and that looks to be the better method.

But when XOSL works, it seems to work well. It’s slick and versatile and gives you a great deal of freedom over how and where you install your OSs, as well as how many you can install (and let’s face it, with 30-gig drives selling for $99 at CompUSA, running multiple operating systems is going to get common).

And I see from Brian Bilbrey’s site that patents may accomplish what the RIAA could not. Makes me wonder why one of the RIAA members didn’t just buy Fraunhofer Institut (who owns the applicable patents on MP3) and start charging outrageous royalties immediately. That’ll kill new technologies faster than anything — just ask Rambus.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Dustin D. Cook” <dcook32p@nospam.htcomp.net>
Subject: Windows Me
Dave,

Here’s my two cents on Windows Me.

I have been testing this operating system for some time now before I begin pre-installing it on new computers. We’ve run the gamut of stress tests, benchmarks, and usability tests, and we have some interesting results.

All tests were run on multiple machines with a minimum system being an AMD K6-2 500 with 64MB RAM and a Voodoo3 3000 graphics card. The best system tested was an AMD Athlon 1.0 GHz with 512 MB Mushkin PC133 2.0 memory and
a GeForce2 GTS 32MB DDR. We used the same HDD for each machine. It is a Maxtor DiamondMax 45 Plus (ATA/100, 7,200 RPM).

Windows Me should take home a gold medal for speed. It booted quickly, it loaded programs at blistering speeds, and it performed very well in our 3D tests. All-in-all, Windows Me is about one percent faster than Windows 98 SE. This came as something of a surprise to me. I was expecting slightly degraded performance due to the additional system overhead of Internet Explorer 5.5 and the new features of Windows Me. Either Microsoft did some serious “tweaking” to their code, or I’m missing something entirely about this operating system.

Stress tests were a different story. Occasionally, Windows Me would lock-up on us for no apparent reason. The same computer running Windows 98 SE would never falter during our tests. Actually, sometimes Windows Me would lock-up when we were not even running the tests! We replaced some hardware in the machine, but it did this on all of the test PCs. This was a big problem for us. We still haven’t officially tracked down the killer, but we think it involves the new version of Internet Explorer. We had already completed our tests before the new service pack was released, so I don’t have any data from that version. The stress tests involved opening a 25 MB Excel 2000 spreadsheet and minimizing it; open eight browser windows and loading miscellaneous things like Flash movies, several animated GIFs and PNGs, and several Java applications; having The Matrix DVD-ROM’s menu playing in WinDVD 2000; and running Unreal Tournament at 1280x1024x16bpp with our custom “movie”. Windows 98 SE performed admirably, but, as I had mentioned earlier, Windows Me couldn’t do it.

In the usability tests, we had some elderly people try out each computer. This isn’t really a test that can be easily replicated, but overall Windows Me seemed easier for them to use.

What’s my opinion on Windows Me? I think Microsoft made a fairly good product. I’m not very impressed by the lack of native DOS support. I frequently use that to diagnose customer’s computers. What do I do if I have forgotten my boot diskette? I return to the shop and grab one instead of making one right there. The stability issue is a big concern of mine. I’ll try to reproduce those results after downloading the new Internet Explorer service pack, and I’ll write back to you with those results. The speed is commendable. I appreciate the extra “oomph” that Windows Me appears to have behind it. The boot time is quite impressive!

My prize goes to Windows 98 SE. Speed is a very good thing, but when it comes at the cost of stability…we have a problem. My customers don’t want their machine freezing every time they try to open http://thesiliconunderground.editthispage.com/ . ๐Ÿ˜‰

Sincerely,

Dustin D. Cook,
A+ Campus Computers
Stephenville, Texas – USA
~~~~~

Thanks for the info!

You can add DOS support back in with a utility available at www.geocities.com/mfd4life_2000 — that was one of the first things I did after installing WinMe. As for stability, IE5.5SP1 might help. Running 98lite (www.98lite.net) to remove IE 5.5, then replacing it with IE 5.01 (or not at all) could help. I’m not at all impressed with IE5.5, so I’m inclined to speculate the blame lies at its clumsy feet.

I’ll keep experimenting with it myself. And I’m hoping my page is simple enough that it won’t crash any browsers. ๐Ÿ™‚

Stand up the RIAA and use MP3.com

Saturday, 5/6/00
Stand up to the RIAA. Speaking of fighting the machine… I think I hate the RIAA as much as I hate Microsoft. (Hey, I can hate institutions or organizations–they’re not people.) If you haven’t checked out My MP3.com yet, click the link and try it. If you have a dialup connection its usefulness is limited, but if you have broadband, you can essentially store your CD collection anywhere (alas, a lot of the stuff I own and like is out of print and not in their database). I can’t legally put a good Modern Rock radio station on the air, but I can beam up my collection and create a playlist so I at least have something to listen to.

I don’t see much room for abuse here. Sure, I could borrow some friends’ CDs and beam them, or send them my account info and have them do it, or go on a used CD binge and then sell them all back after beaming, but that’s not likely.

The RIAA just doesn’t get it. Look at the Grateful Dead, for Pete’s sake! Now, I’m not a Dead fan at all. But I can’t deny their success. They were the single most pirated band in history (if you can call it piracy, since they set up sections in their concerts specifically for fans who wanted to tape the shows), and one of the most successful both in terms of record sales and ticket sales. Part of that, I’m sure, is because they had such a huge catalog of songs that you didn’t know what you’d get because every concert was a unique experience (drugs or no drugs). But that’s a lesson to today’s musicians too, isn’t it?

When the RIAA gets its injunction against MP3.com I don’t know how much of my collection will still be available to me, but I’ll take my chances. For the short-term, I’ve managed to recreate an idealistic version of my favorite radio station from about six years ago, without the two songs on their playlist that annoyed me the most (“Trout” by Neneh Cherry and “Connected” by Stereo MCs). Now if I could just figure out why my Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions won’t beam…

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