Category Archives: Tech

Apple Meets the Little Guy

It has long been rumored that Apple is working on an Internet-based music-purchasing service. Many companies have tried this, and all have failed. The problem is usually a combination of anemic offerings, bad pricing, and harsh reproduction restrictions, with a lack of cooperation from the entertainment industry as the overall limitation. Apple seems to think that they can overcome this problem, presumably in part by capitalizing on the goodwill of iPod users and Apple-using artists alike. It will take more than that to pull it off, of course, but that’s not my interest.

I believe that Apple can further level the playing field in the music business with regard to the distribution system. Distribution of CDs is a tremendous barrier to success for a small artist. It’s economically infeasible to make CDs available to every market in the U.S. Not only is it bad business for small artists, but it’s increasingly obvious that it’s bad business for major-label artists, too. Printing 100,000 CDs and distributing them evenly — in terms of population density — throughout the U.S. is a costly proposition, and results in a lot of overstock. That’s why many small artists and small labels are selling direct, relying on a few give-away MP3s to provide people with the incentive to cough up $12 for a CD and $3 for shipping, and wait a week or two to get the object of their passing interest. Of course, they can also work with distribution companies like Redeye, but that’s often far more trouble (and cost) than it’s worth.

Digital transfer of songs for a fee is the obvious link between artist and consumer, which would cut out the middlemen. This isn’t to say that the middlemen aren’t useful to the transaction; they often are. But for somebody with nothing but a handful of songs recorded in their basement and a few hundred bucks to blow, paying middlemen simply isn’t an option. Although artists have long been able to provide MP3s in exchange for some cash via PayPal, or, this has failed to become a product in the sense that a sufficient number of consumers believe it to be a viable substitute for getting a shiny disc within a colorful plastic housing.

If Apple can properly commoditize the licensing of music via iTunes and the iPod — addressing the problems of reproduction and pricing — then they may be able to make the direct-to-consumer sales of music viable. Ideally, the artist would be able to self-configure their Apple-based sales. They would store the MP3s on their own webserver, and create an XML-based listing of the MP3s and relevant information about each one. This listing would then be published to Apple’s server, which would then become available to anybody browsing the purchase catalog. Upon purchasing, the MP3 would be relayed to the end user via Apple’s server from the artist’s server; an XML-RPC request would update records on the artist’s end to chalk up a purchase. For an additional fee, the artist could have their songs stored on Apple’s site, to avoid the bandwidth fees that could accompany success. Payment could be arranged via direct-deposit, periodic checks, even PayPal.

The long-term success of this system would almost certainly depend on Apple being able to generate revenues from the bigger sales of popular artists, although perhaps they could manage to generate a profit solely through smaller artists. It’s inevitable that some braver, independent-in-spirit artists — Barenaked Ladies, David Gray, Aphex Twin — would be willing to have their music sold via this system regardless of label affiliation, on pure principle.

So, sure, Apple buying Universal would be cool. And selling just about any track released in the past few decades for $1 apiece, that’s cool too. But this pales in comparison to the brighter future that this direct-to-consumer model would offer to independent artists.

Best. April. Fools’. Day. Ever.

I had change its focus from Dave Matthews Band to John Mayer for the day. It took me about six hours this weekend to set up, but it was totally worth it. I mean, how often do you get to play a hugely-intricate prank on ~75,000 people? We got nearly 1,000 pieces of e-mail. It was insane. My favorite e-mail was the sort from people that had actually fallen out of their chair laughing, waking up their entire house with the commotion. Some people, though, were really angry. I mean, threats, statements about my sexual preference, sanitary habits, the whole nine yards. I can see being upset, even angry, but threats? I mean, come on, it’s just a band fan site.

Anyhow, a good time was had by all. See the run-down for the full story.

Value America finally crawled into a hole and died. Thank God.

So, Value America has finally gone under. It’s about damned time. I’ve been a vocal opponent of Value America since shortly after they started, I don’t mind saying. They came into our town waving an “IPO” banner and I watched sucker after sucker line up and empty out their wallets. I had quite a few friends lose their jobs after the last round of firings when they “experienced a restructuring” a few months back. I’ve just wanted these carpetbaggers to get the hell out of our town; I guess this does it.

I saw a great letter to the editor in The C-Ville Weekly earlier in the year, in reaction to a negative article that they’d done on Value America. Some woman wrote in, arguing with C-Ville’s point that Value America was fundamentally worthless, existing solely for the purpose of an IPO. She was pointing out that surely this was inaccurate, because Craig Winn (a Value America founder) was building a really huge house out in Free Union, and where would he get the money for that if the company wasn’t worth something?

People astound me with their stupidity. It’s really breathtaking at times. But I’m happy about Value America’s long-delayed death, mostly because I’ll get a lot of points on Fucked Company.

In Wired.

Wow, it looks like I haven’t touched my site for a while, based on the dates on here. But, in reality, I’ve just been updating my cphack page.

Anyhow, I’ve got a mention and a little quote in Wired. It’s in Elisa Batista’s 2nd-ever article for Wired, "Vendors Overwhelmed by ‘Love’." (Top of the 2nd page of the article. It’s one of a handful of articles on the ILOVEYOU virus that Wired has produced in the past 2 days. I’d just e-mailed a link to Wired:


There's already a patch for Sendmail.

I'm sure Microsoft will have a patch out within the month.



I just wanted them to provide a link to this simple little fix. The phone rang a couple of hours later, and there was Elisa, looking for some quotes. Unfortunately, due to this being an audio interview, the quotes didn’t come out quite right. My mention of became, and my reference to client-side technologies became "client-site." And it looks like I’m insulting Symantec and McAfee, but that’s my fault — those words did come out of my mouth. I like these companies, for the most part. Peter Norton’s snazzy duds suck me in every time.

Anyhow, it’s just another piece where I insult somebody’s product and say how Linux rules. Yup, I’m a opportunist lamer. :)

After long last, there appears to be a real Charlottesville news website.

After long last, there appears to be a real Charlottesville news website. We’ve had The Daily Progress‘s extremely weak attempt at a site for about a year now, and The C-Ville Weekly does what they can, I suppose, but it’s not really a news website. And, to be fair, The Cavalier Daily does a bang-up job, but it’s mostly UVa-related. Yep, WINA, 1070AM, has gone on-line. They’ve got a good story selection, not-ugly design, and the site appears to be updated frequently. The downside is that the site is poorly-assembled. No database, no scripting, and what appears to be about 5 advertisers. Worst of all, they’re using Micro~1 Frontpage. Blech. But they’re doing it — they’ve got a solid website — and it kicks the pants off of any other local media offerings. Yay WINA. Now, when they want a manly website, they can come to us.

New Waldo.Net.

Wow, a new Waldo.Net! The old design was put up in January of 1998, 19 months ago, and it looked it. Rather than continue upkeep, I let it go to pot for a bit. Now it looks better than ever, IMHO. This is a preliminary version, run on a WinNT server. (Blech.) Soon, it’ll all be run through MySQL and PHP3, and is be hosted on my own in-office Linux server. What I’m hoping to do is come up with a few different site designs and let the user choose which one interests them. (Or maybe we’ll all read that statement in 6 months and laugh.) Anyhow, let me know what you think of the new look!