News from the world of music, entertainment, communications, and technology.
J.K. Rowling announced yesterday that she has finished writing the new Harry Potter novel and delivered it to her publisher. The new novel Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was apparently finished some weeks ago, but Rowling kept it under wraps to allow the publisher time to plan its release and publicity. The sixth Harry Potter book is scheduled for release on July 16, and it is already the top seller at Amazon.com.
Previous releases in the spectacularly successful Harry Potter series have broken virtually all book sales records.
J.K. Rowling: http://www.jkrowling.com.
Peter Cetera's newest release is a Christmas album, You Just Gotta Love Christmas. It features new recordings of nine classic Christmas songs (with Alison Krauss appearing on “Deck the Halls”) and three new songs, including the title track.
For shoppers having trouble locating the hard-to-find CD, Peter himself tracked down a few stores that have it and listed them on his web site.
Merriam-Webster have named “blog” the word of the year after it was the most requested word at their webster.com online dictionary. Several more election-related words made the annual list of the top 10 words.
Tim Finn and Neil Finn, best known for their 1980s work with separate bands, are working together these days. The Finn Brothers are touring to support their first album, Everyone Is Here, and they have placed a song on the soundtrack for the upcoming dog movie Because of Winn-Dixie, due out in February. Another noted guitarist, Dave Matthews, has a supporting part in the movie.
Apple Computer’s stock has been hovering near record highs since reports that many iPod buyers are going on to buy computers from the company. Meanwhile, the Canadian version of the iTunes Music Store may open in a matter of days.
Philadelphia’s ambitious wi-fi plans, which would turn the city into one big wireless hot spot, may be in jeopardy after the state of Pennsylvania passed a law banning Internet access initiatives by municipalities. City officials say they will still find a way to go forward with the plan, and industry observers say the technology is too compelling to be stopped by legislation. The Philadelphia plan is said to cost around one cent per user per day to operate, a tiny fraction of the 33 to 97 cents per day users pay for subscription-based Internet access.
As the new Firefox browser passes the 5 million download mark, there are indications that the market leader, Microsoft, was slipping even before Firefox's release two weeks ago.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) still holds a decisive majority in browser usage, but various surveys show the use of other browsers doubled in the past six months as Microsoft’s share fell month after month.
IE's security flaws are the main reason users are switching to other browsers, and reports of newly discovered flaws in IE continue to come on almost a daily basis. Just yesterday, Microsoft acknowledged that a flaw in all versions of IE allows web pages to install software on a user’s computer without asking the user’s permission. Previously, Microsoft had insisted the problem did not exist and had criticized the reports, which came from security companies, as false and misleading.
Members of Yes were plentiful at the Concert for the Prince’s Trust, and why not? The concert was held in honor of Trevor Horn, who after being lead singer of Yes for one album and tour went on to be one of the most respected rock producers in London.
It was apparently Trevor’s first appearance as a musician on stage since his stint with Yes. The show started with his one pre-Yes hit, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” performed by the Buggles, a band that featured Trevor Horn on vocals and Geoff Downes on keyboards. Trevor went on to play on many other songs throughout the concert, often playing bass or singing background parts.
Yes also appeared in the show, but it was a Yes lineup never seen before. The rhythm section of Chris Squire and Alan White — the constants in Yes — were joined by guitarist Trevor Rabin, and Steve Howe and Geoff Downes, who were Yes's guitarist and keyboardist during the time Trevor Horn was in the band before going on to form Asia. (Geoff is still leader of Asia; Steve is playing with Yes again.) It was Geoff's first appearance with Yes in 24 years, Trevor Rabin's first in a decade, and the first time these two played together. Yes played three songs from their 90125 album, an album that was produced by Trevor Horn and was the band's biggest commercial success. They appeared at the end of the show's first set.
Yes drummer Alan White also played with several other acts, including Seal, who audience members agreed was the highlight of the show. Steve Howe played guitar in support of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, who were making their first major appearance together since the 1980s. Frankie selected new lead singer Ryan Malloy for the show in heavily publicized open auditions a month ago.
Trevor Horn's most impressive moment in the show was probably in the Art of Noise performance of “Close to the Edit,” a techno-synth song that took on an almost human feel when performed live on stage.
Trevor Horn has an enormous resume as a producer, particularly in the 1980s. Other acts he produced that appeared in the show included Grace Jones, ABC, Pet Shop Boys, and Lisa Stansfield, along with several others.
Mozilla made version 1.0 of its Firefox browser available for download at 1 a.m. Pacific time, and its servers were immediately swamped with requests for information and downloads.
Many observers expect the new browser to gradually replace other browsers to become the predominant browser program. Mozilla’s own goal is to achieve a ten percent share by the end of 2005. If early reaction is any indication of that, they may reach that goal sooner than that. Over 8 million people downloaded the preview release, and experts from magazine columnists to U.S. government security officials have suggested that users switch from the current leading browser, Internet Explorer, to Firefox to avoid the security risks associated with Internet Explorer.
Mozilla plans full-page newspaper advertisements in New York, Boston, and other cities to promote Firefox. The first ad, in the New York Times, is paid for by contributions of around $30 from over 10,000 supporters. The names of the contributors will be listed in the ad to dramatize the broad base of support already enjoyed by the free open-source product.
(By afternoon, Mozilla’s web servers were not responding to most requests, but Firefox 1.0 had reached the major software-download sites, and users could easily download it there.)
Apple Computer and U2 announced The Complete U2, a 400-song compilation album available only at Apple’s iTunes Music Store. U2 fans can get the iPod U2 Special Edition, a black version of the iPod personal music player that sports the signatures of U2's four members. Apple also announced the iPod Photo, which can display photos and slideshows on its color screen, or on a projector or television.
A Raspberries reunion is on the way. The Raspberries were a Cleveland-based power pop band with a string of hits in the early 1970s, and the reunion concert November 26 is sure to call attention to the opening of the new House of Blues venue in Cleveland. In the show, guitarist/keyboardist Eric Carmen, guitarist Wally Bryson, bassist Dave Smalley, and drummer Jim Bonfanti will be seen together for the first time since 1973.
New browser Firefox will be announcing its official release in November in a New York Times newspaper ad that includes the names of some 10,000 supporters. The long list of names is intended to dramatize the breadth of support Firefox already enjoys among computer experts and power users. In 6 weeks, around 7 million users have downloaded the Preview Release of the free browser from Mozilla.org.
Bellydancers.us was left scrambling when their editor pulled out the day after the directory web site launched in October, but they've pulled together a new, improved directory that now includes a belly dance FAQ and more of the top belly dance web sites.
If anyone was wondering where Rick Springfield's Gomer Records label got its name, Rick's October 20 appearance with dog Gomer on Fox's The Best Damn Sports Show Period erased all doubt. Stills and video clips can be seen on Rick's web site.
The upcoming Prince’s Trust concert will mark guitarist Trevor Rabin's first appearance with Yes since the Talk tour of nine years ago. Trevor will appear with current band members Alan White, Chris Squire, and Steve Howe to perform Yes's biggest hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” The benefit concert features a multitude of acts with records produced by Trevor Horn, who himself was a Yes member before he became a famous producer.
Amazon.com is now allowing customers to add photos to some product reviews. The photos are intended to show products in use, which Amazon says can sometimes give customers a completely different idea about a product than they get from the standard catalog photos.
A federal appeals court has ruled against Lexmark in its bid to prevent the printer industry from making toner cartridges for its printers.
Lexmark had claimed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) made it illegal for companies to make toner cartridges that communicate with Lexmark printers, but the court disagreed, saying that making toner compatible with laser printers is just the kind of interoperability that the DMCA explicitly permits.
Lexmark is the second largest laser printer maker in the United States, but charges about double the prices of the rest of the industry for the toner it offers for its printers.
The preview release of Mozilla’s Firefox browser passed the 5,000,000-download mark overnight. The free web browser program has reached 5 million users in just one month, making it the hottest web browser release of all time and one of the most popular open-source applications ever.
MXS says its new product CherryOS provides software emulation for the Power Mac G4 platform on three versions of Microsoft Windows, allowing users to run a Mac operating system on an ordinary PC. CherryOS is a $49.95 download; Mac OS X 10.3 is not included, but can be purchased elsewhere for $129.
The developer recommends CherryOS and Mac applications as a safer way to connect a PC to the Internet. “If PC users would use Mac software to get email, perhaps they would avoid viruses, Trojans and spyware,” developer Arben Kryeziu said in a press release.
Emulation software has a long, spotty history — most recently, Microsoft released the new version of its PC emulation software for Mac almost a year behind schedule — so the initial release of CherryOS will mostly attract computer experts and other early adopters, at least at first.
Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett will now be known as a lead singer, with the release today of Jackson United's debut album Western Ballads. The band recorded 21 slightly punkish pop songs for the album and ended up including two thirds of them in the Sorepoint Records release.
Chris is still playing in Foo Fighters, and has had to cancel a few European tour dates with Jackson United to concentrate on preproduction for the next Foo Fighters album.
Yusuf Islam appeared on CNN's Larry King Live yesterday. He talked at length about his conversion to Islam and how he retired from music and stopped using the name Cat Stevens. Then he told the story of how he was detained and deported two weeks ago.
When he was taken off his flight, the FBI never told him why. They asked him questions about who he was and how his name was spelled. “I swore an oath that everything I was saying was the truth, gave a statement and then at the end of that they said, 'Well, I'm sorry, you're inadmissible.’” They drove him to Boston and kept him in a hotel overnight, and he learned the first details there when he turned on the television in the morning.
Yusuf Islam: http://catstevens.com.
Melissa Etheridge has canceled the rest of her current tour to concentrate on treatment for breast cancer.
“I am fortunate to be under a wonderful doctor’s care and thankful that this was caught early,” Etheridge said in a statement released yesterday.
The singer, whose “Lucky” tour would have taken her to Lowell, Massachusetts, tonight, expects to make a complete recovery.
Melissa Etheridge: http://www.melissaetheridge.com.
Bellydancers.us is a new directory of bellydance web pages. It lists alphabetically over 300 sites of dancers and instructors worldwide and those of dozens of shops and magazines.
Created by bellydancer Ayshah and designed by Lion Station web design, the new directory went online yesterday.
Cat Stevens was deported from the United States on September 22 for “national security” reasons that have not yet been disclosed. Suspicious about a possible political motivation for barring the singer and peace activist, Rick Aster has written a protest song about the action. “Stop That Train” is a free download at Zong of the Week.
Does the current music scene make you wish for music that is more vibrant and meaningful? Then you might be ready for American Idiot, the new album by Green Day. An estimated 250,000 copies sold in the first week of release in the U.S., enough for the politically charged album to debut at #1 on the album charts. The album also topped the charts in several other countries.
The book industry is slowly but surely running out of ISBNs, the 10-digit numbers that identify books in bookstores and catalogs. The solution? Starting in 2007, books will use 13-digit ISBNs. The 13-digit codes already appear on most books because they are used in the bar codes that are scanned at the bookstore checkout counter.
Following up on a successful concert video, Spooky Tooth have begun work on a new album. The reunited band includes guitarist Mike Harrison, keyboardist Gary Wright, and drummer Mike Kellie.
A year later, observers agree that the national Do Not Call list has resulted in fewer telephone calls from call centers — perhaps only half as many. Have the new restrictions resulted in the economic boom some predicted? Productivity measures are up this year, but they have been up year after year for more than a decade. Some call centers have switched to mechanical calls that leave messages on answering machines; these calls now have fewer restrictions than live calls.
The Olympics continue to make a good television show. NBC drew a larger audience for its Olympic coverage in August than it did for its usual programming in July. The gain was especially noticeable on NBC's cable channels, which together pulled about a 60 percent increase in viewers.
Half.com will not close after all.
Ever since it bought retail-catalog site Half.com, Internet auction giant eBay has been working steadily toward the goal of shutting down its former rival. The shutdown was previously announced for August, then pushed back to October. The short delay was meant to avoid a disruption in the middle of the fall textbook season.
Now, eBay says it has decided not to close Half.com. Instead, Half.com will continue to operate in its present form for the foreseeable future.
It might have been the textbook category that prompted eBay to change its mind about Half.com. People buy and sell millions of used books in eBay auctions, but the eBay approach is perhaps too complicated for textbooks. A college student who registers for a semester then needs to quickly buy as many as a dozen specific book editions. Finding the book in a catalog and buying it with a credit card — the Half.com approach — may be all they have time to do. The eBay approach of searching auctions, verifying items, comparing prices, bidding, waiting, and repeating the process until an auction is won may be too much to do as a way to buy a semester’s worth of textbooks.
Half.com has always promoted itself as a place to buy textbooks, and it mentioned a successful textbook season in the brief message announcing that it would stay open.
It took less than five days for the Preview Release of the Firefox browser to reach one million downloads. The Mozilla home page now emphasizes one reason why so many people are so anxious to make the switch. It shows a quote from the Wall Street Journal that encourages Internet Explorer users to switch to Firefox to avoid a few of Internet Explorer’s many security flaws — a recommendation that echoes a warning from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Mozilla’s next goal: 2 million. That milestone is likely to come in another two days. As of this writing, Mozilla has recorded 1,671,594 downloads for Firefox.
A fire destroyed underground cables and cut off electrical power to much of downtown Baltimore on Monday, September 20. The power failure snarled traffic in the city downtown for much of the day, and fire officials kept power off for several additional hours because of concerns over natural gas pipelines.
This area of downtown Baltimore has been called the center of the Internet because it has the biggest concentration of Internet server sites. During the fire, millions of web sites and e-mail accounts based there were offline for a few minutes or a few hours. Global Statements and Hall & Oates were two of the affected web sites. Large commercial sites, set up with servers in multiple locations, were mostly unaffected.
Fish Nation was offline around the same time, but for an apparently unrelated reason. Its domain name was affected by a delay in name server updates during a routine move to a new web server, making this site inaccessible to most places on the Internet for about a day from September 21 to September 22.
Technically, it is a Preview Release, but the Mozilla Foundation's release of Firefox 1.0 today is surely the biggest milestone in their quest for a compact, standard, cross-platform browser.
Mozilla took on the Firefox project (previously called Phoenix and Firebird) last year when its flagship Mozilla browser was staggering under the weight of feature bloat. Developers say cleaner core code and a trimmed-down feature set make Firefox smaller and more stable than Mozilla. Firefox is a 5 MB download, compared to 11-15 MB for current versions of Mozilla.
Even before its official release, Firefox has won awards and recommendations, including several government recommendations from agencies worried about the security threats posed by Internet Explorer.
Director George Lucas says the upcoming episode 3 of Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith, will be the last Star Wars movie. For a quarter century since the original trilogy, there have been reports that a nine-movie series was planned, but Lucas says he never had any plans for a story that would follow Return of the Jedi. “Episode six is the end,” he explains. “There isn’t any more to it.”
And episode 3? If you've seen the other episodes, the series’ last missing link couldn’t be much of a mystery. Revenge of the Sith is described as a survival story that centers around Padme and her children. As the political situation of the galaxy around them descends into chaos, they escape and carry on.
Twenty years after the release of their debut album, Twisted Sister has re-recorded the entire album, along with seven extra songs that weren’t included in the 1984 release. The new Stay Hungry will be released October 5.
“Where’s the computer?” you might ask. Apple Computer’s new iMac design squeezes the computer components into a two-inch space behind an LCD screen. If you use the new iMac, Apple suggests a Bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse so you don’t have a hopeless tangle of wires hanging from the back of the screen/computer.
Robin Gibb tours Germany this month.
Punk Voter is sponsoring the Rock Against Bush tour. In the three-week tour, Anti-Flag and six other acts will cross the country from west to east in late September and early October. What, you ask, would punks have to dislike about the incumbent U.S. President? Punk Voter says their opposition to Bush comes out of their support for the constitution, personal freedom, art, and democracy.
Pianist Vanessa Carlton’s second album is ready for release in about a month. Vanessa described the album as “more Gothic” than her first, and sneak previews of the music suggest an album that is quieter, more introspective, and not nearly as bold as fans might expect.
The endlessly touring They Might Be Giants take their tour to Europe next. Meanwhile, songs from the tour are available for download at their web site.
After years in New York and Los Angeles, MTV held their Video Music Awards show in Miami for the first time August 29.
This year’s venue, the American Airlines Arena, seemed easily large enough to hold the big show. There was room for several stages, so stagehands didn’t have to rush to clear and set up stages between bands. The large audience gave the carefully scripted event a more spontaneous feeling. The arena’s waterfront location allowed stars who arrived in boats to walk the red carpet from the dock to the arena.
In a presidential election year, politics was a recurring theme, with reminders of the importance of voting occurring at least once an hour. P. Diddy mentioned the “Vote or Die” initiative he’s been promoting the minute he stepped off his yacht. One political surprise during the show backfired, however, as the audience resoundingly booed a brief speech from the daughters of the two major-party presidential candidates, perhaps reacting to the cynical approach to politics that places so much attention on candidates’ relatives.
The musical highlight of the show was Alicia Keys’ performance of “Higher Ground” with Stevie Wonder and Lenny Kravitz. Another memorable moment came during the pre-show broadcast when Ashlee Simpson and New Found Glory played their respective hits back to back.
A new artist to watch is JoJo, who at 13 is the youngest ever to be nominated for a Video Music Award. Her speaking voice and presence onstage were even more impressive than the singing that made her famous.
The big award winners included Jay-Z, No Doubt, Outkast, Alicia Keys, and Jet. Maroon 5 won Best New Artist in a Video, and viewers selected Linkin Park for the Viewer’s Choice Award. Most winners were Americans this year, but the Breakthrough Video award went to British act Franz Ferdinand. For the first time, an award was given for the best video game soundtrack. It went to Tony Hawk's Underground.
Another first this year was the lack of a host, an innovation that seemed to make the show flow better. MTV's web site includes an interview with last year’s host, Chris Rock, in which he jokes about reasons why he didn’t return to host this year.
MTV could scarcely hold their Video Music Awards show in New York with a major political convention just a few blocks away, so they've decided to leave town this year. The awards show will be held for the first time in Miami. The day of the week has changed too. Look for the VMAs on MTV Sunday night, August 29.
The new Hall & Oates album Our Kind of Soul features “15 classic soul songs, stripped down and re-worked as only H&O can” and hits the streets on October 26. The first single, “I'll Be Around,” is out August 30.
Hall & Oates: http://www.hallandoates.com
Among the many get-out-the-vote music events being held this year, the Vote for Change Tour is likely to be the biggest. It features this year’s top concert act, Bruce Springsteen, along with more than a dozen other big-name artists touring states that political experts say are undecided in this year’s presidential election, during the first week of October. Tickets went on sale on Saturday for most of the shows, and most sold out immediately.
The tour is organized by Move On, and it is meant to do more than just motivate voters. The concert proceeds go to America Coming Together for their continuing get-out-the-vote efforts.
The quick ticket sales emphasize how much support Democratic candidate John Kerry is getting from the cultural voting bloc. Kerry was a professional rock musician himself in the 1960s, but it is more likely his opponent who is prompting musicians, music fans, and supporters of the arts generally to support Kerry.
Incumbent George W. Bush has made a special point of his opposition to arts and culture. He has started his stump speech this month with harsh words for artists, entertainers, and their audiences, implying that anyone who supports arts or entertainment of any kind is bad, lazy, and sinful, and directly criticizing Kerry for his previous comments praising the work of artists.
Apple is shipping yet another application for video professionals. Motion is an animation generator that provides moving text and a kind of object action Apple calls “behavior animation” and is aggressively priced at $299.
See Apple’s product description at http://www.apple.com/motion/.
If you needed proof that no one can turn out kid's songs like Kid's Zong of the Week, now you have it. Kid's Zong of the Week has achieved their goal of being the all-time leader among children's artists on download.com.
Leading with 8,773 downloads on August 1, Kid's Zong of the Week has drawn attention with the promise of “fun and silly songs for kids” and songs like “Here Come the Skunks” and “Crazy Zoo.”
You will shortly be able to buy a new music compilation that calls for political progress. Put together by They Might Be Giants and sponsored by Move On and Music for America, the CD features overtly political songs from bands and singers that aren’t usually so political.
Move On supporters can get advance copies of the CD by contributing $25 at a special page on the Move On web site.
They Might Be Giants’ contribution is a remake of the classic campaign song “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” . . . from 1840. They Might Be Giants are currently touring in support their new album Spine, which critics say sounds more characteristic of the band than the songs on their last three releases.
The Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11 has passed the $100 million mark in U.S. box office totals, making it not just the hottest documentary ever, but one of the top movies of the summer.
If Sony thought they had a product to compete with the iPod, matching Apple’s price points while boasting longer battery life a month ago, Apple may have pre-empted them by releasing new iPod models with lower prices and longer battery life that nearly equals that of Sony's Walkman music players. Meanwhile, Apple is doing a brisk business in spite of the embarrassing absence of the flagship iMac computer model from its stores this month.
When David Bowie ended his European tour early because of shoulder pain on June 25, doctors found an obstructed artery in his heart, and the singer had emergency heart surgery. Bowie spent a week in the hospital, then went home to recuperate. He hopes to return to work in August.
Breakfast releases the 5th edition of the Rick Aster book Professional SAS Programmer’s Pocket Reference this month. The publisher notes that it’s their largest book printing to date and the first to be printed in Canada.
The “Reinvention Tour” show started with two giant video screens. Images of “The Beast Within” from Revelations introduced the rock diva’s entrance. Fans were mesmerized, and including myself many of us were moved to tears as Madonna began singing to her audience.
Madonna treated her fans by singing many of her old songs that were missed in previous tours, along with the best of her new music. Many of her songs were enhanced with Hebrew script and one song depicted Christ on the cross, which were both featured prominently on video screens. Madonna wove together elements of dance theater, extreme sports, military drills, Cirque du Soleil, burlesque, and yoga into a whole.
The Reinvention tour is appropriately named. Madonna expresses her own spiritual journey into the mysticism of the Kabbalah as she gracefully and passionately recreates her music and stage style. Madonna delivered “Material Girl” without a trace of irony, “Vogue” with a French royal court twist, “Into the Groove” with bagpipes and kilts, “Express Yourself” expressing her personal views about ending the war in Iraq with military images and dancers marching. With sweetness she dedicated “Crazy for You” to her loving fans who she recognized for standing by her for twenty years through all the “mother f—ing bullshit.”
Every song was mesmerizing. Each costume was beautiful. In tune with Madonna the tour was filled with political expression, religious seeking, artful provocation, and the outstanding moves of her well toned body. As a singer, Madonna has never sounded better. She has matured into a strong, clear singing voice. On this tour she commands her music with equal clarity and there is no doubt she is a skilled guitar player.
Madonna did a beautiful presentation of John Lennon's classic song “Imagine,” with video images of cultures all over the world. This clearly moved older members of the audience as well as the younger generations. People brought out their cigarette lighters that looked like candles in the dark surrounding the illuminated stage to honor Madonna in this song that was like a prayer for peace.
Madonna closed the show with the ever-popular hit “Holiday” and confetti poured out over the crowd to create a true party atmosphere. The words “Reinvent yourself” were the message she left for her fans on video as she left the stage. The Reinvention tour summed up Madonna’s incredible career and has her fans longing for more.
It is unusual for a documentary film to be seen in theatres. Unheard of for a documentary to be the top movie of the week. No documentary film ever won the Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival before either. Michael Moore’s war documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 is the hottest documentary ever.
The documentary opened on 868 screens, a record for a documentary but surprisingly few for such a major movie release. In its first three days, it grossed $24 million, already making it the highest grossing documentary ever. It beat out White Chicks and Dodgeball to be the biggest movie of the weekend.
The previous box office record for a documentary was held by Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, a film that examined American gun culture.
Fahrenheit 9/11 stirred controversy with its focus on President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq war. The behind-the-scenes footage shows a president who did not take the war nearly as seriously as he appeared in public. The documentary provided political fodder for many weeks on television.
Controversy started before the film's release when Disney declined to distribute it, the first time ever that Disney refused to release a film because of its political content. Opposition to the film continues as a conservative group is trying to discourage theatre owners from showing the film. And litigation in federal court is trying to ban broadcast advertising of it.
Fahrenheit 9/11's official website: http://www.fahrenheit911.com
Sony practically invented the personal music player with the introduction of their Walkman 25 years ago. Then, in 2001, Apple’s iPod took center stage, and the Walkman was all but forgotten. Smaller than a Walkman and based on a hard drive, the iPod was a digital music player that could hold thousands of songs. The iPod's sales numbers broke even more records, selling three million in less than two years. Apple’s download music service, the iTunes Music Store, became the leading music seller, selling nearly 100 million song downloads so far in the U.S. alone.
Hoping to bounce back, Sony has introduced the Hi-MD Walkman and, most recently, the Network Walkman. The Network Walkman is based on a 20 GB hard drive priced at $400, the same price as Apple’s 20 GB iPod. What would make someone buy a Walkman instead of an iPod? Sony says the devil is in the details, specifically, the battery. Sony is not shy about playing the battery card: “One of the advantages Sony has over a computer manufacturer like Apple is its experience in making batteries. The Hi-MD Walkman has long playback time with a battery life of up to 36 hours.” The Network Walkman has a similar 30-hour battery life, three times that of the iPod, according to Sony.
Apple iPod consumers have complained about battery problems. For some, after 18 months, the battery life dropped to as little as 1 hour. Will Apple come up with a better battery? Will Sony be able to recapture any of its former glory? The personal music player soap opera continues tomorrow . . .
The Cure have released their first album in four years, The Cure, their first for Geffen Records. The Boston Globe says that the band is "more agitated and primal than it’s sounded in ages." The band plans a summer festival tour.
The Weather Channel recently upgraded its web servers to Linux. The staff engineers who did the transition said it was a snap, and the site shows an obvious improvement from its Precambrian beginnings. The notoriously slow and clunky web site has been replaced by one that is clean and snappy. It is still plagued by pop-up advertisements, but at least they load three times as fast.
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