Fish Nation Information Station

News from the world of music, entertainment, communications, and technology.

NEWS ARCHIVE 2005 JANUARY TO JUNE

Court Says File-Sharing Software Makes Copies

In a much-anticipated ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that peer-to-peer file-sharing software does make copies. The ruling mostly sided with the music and movie industries, who hope to hold file-sharing software makers liable for copyright infringement when users obtain illegal copies using the software. The software makers have always held that it is the users of their software who are responsible for the copies they make.

As expected, the ruling followed the logic of the court’s earlier decisions and said that the peer-to-peer architecture of current file-sharing applications did not automatically shield them from copyright liability. A software maker can be held liable for contributory infringement whether or not it encourages users to infringe on any specific work.

But the court went beyond that in a unanimous decision to say that the question of whether software infringes cannot be determined merely by the capabilities of the software. Instead, the intent of the software maker should be considered, and that intent can be measured by the company's marketing messages and other public statements.

This part of the decision came as a shock to supporters of peer-to-peer file-sharing software, who had expected the court to conclude that this software, like a videocassette recorder, cannot be found to infringe because it has substantial legitimate uses. How, they asked, could peer-to-peer software be in violation when e-mail and the World Wide Web also run on a peer-to-peer architecture?

But this argument must have struck the justices as geeky, and they sidestepped the question of capabilities by looking at the actual process by which software companies encourage infringement.

The decision is a substantial setback for products that have been promoted as, in effect, a way to steal music.

Copyright holders have hailed the decision as a victory for their side, but it remains to be seen whether that is the case.

The Supreme Court did not spell out a specific test that says how much and what kind of encouragement by a company and what degree of control or involvement by software would be sufficient to hold a software maker liable for contributory infringement. When a clear standard emerges, software makers might well be able to work around it.

What is more, the decision implies that file sharing that is done with a legitimate intent would be completely legal.

When the decision is looked at in this light, it seems that the effort by the music and movie industries to use the legal process to put an end to file sharing has fallen short.

2005-06-27

Michael Jackson Not Guilty of Molestation, Kidnapping, and Conspiracy

A jury today found Michael Jackson not guilty of ten counts related to an alleged incident of child molestation. Jurors said the prosecution witnesses did not provide a coherent account of events in the case.

The case, which was based primarily on an unflattering television documentary about Michael Jackson, also included allegations that Jackson and his staff had briefly kidnapped witnesses in the case. Experts and jurors said that was the least believable part of the prosecution's case.

Jackson waved to fans but made no statement as he left the courthouse for his trip home.

A video message on Jackson's official web site announced the verdict with a sequence of happy images and the words, “The truth runs marathons.”

Michael Jackson official news: http://www.mjjsource.com.

2005-06-13

24 Hours of Foo

The Foo Fighters are observing their album release by taking over MTV2 for a day.

After a ceremony renaming Times Square in their honor, the Foo Fighters proceeded to MTV2 studios with a hand-picked studio audience to deliver a 24-hour broadcast starting at noon today.

Like the 24-hour broadcast, the new album In Your Honor is an extra-long effort, sprawling over 2 CDs. The album is in stores Tuesday.

Foo Fighters: http://www.foofighters.com; MTV2: http://www.mtv2.com.

2005-06-11

Apple Switches to Intel Processors

Apple today released version 2.1 of its Xcode development environment, which includes Intel compilers, and asked developers to port their applications to the Intel platform.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, speaking to Mac developers at a conference, explained that the PowerPC processors Apple has used for the past decade use too much power and are inadequate in other ways to drive the Apple computers of the future. Starting early next year, he said, Apple will be making computers using Intel processors. He demonstrated a prototype running Mac OS X on an Intel Pentium 4 processor.

The move from the PowerPC to, presumably, the Pentium 4 might seem an enormous step backward in terms of computer architecture, but in truth, only users in audio, video, and science would notice the difference. Ordinary users already do not use the full processing power of current computers and would be more likely to notice the benefits of lower power consumption, less heat, smaller computers, and longer battery life.

Apple promises a relatively painless transition. Mac OS X was designed from the start as a portable operating system and has been tested on Pentium systems from the beginning. Most current Mac OS X applications can be transcoded to the Intel environment with no discernible slowdown. Developers will be able to port their applications to the new environment with an effort comparable to that of supporting a new Mac OS X version, such as the recently released Tiger and the next version, Leopard, due in 2007. Applications will ship with “universal binaries” that support both PowerPC and Intel processors.

Lost in the transition: Apple’s Intel systems will not support Classic applications written for Mac OS 9. Some Mac OS X applications will not transcode correctly and will have to be updated to run in the new systems. Hardware drivers are harder to update, so support for some older hardware might be lost.

Apple emphasized this move does not mean it is branching out. It will prevent Mac OS X from running on other manufacturer’s systems, and it has no plans to provide the libraries that developers would need to compile Windows versions of their applications in Xcode. However, Apple suggested that nothing would prevent its computers from also running other operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows and Linux.

The computer industry's response has been muted. Some doubt that Apple will go through with the transition or that it can pull it off. Others do not believe that Apple will be able to prevent their operating system from running on any Intel-based computer. The uncertainty surrounding Apple’s transition, coming at the same time that Microsoft tries to peddle a drastically altered version of its Windows operating system, is likely to provide opportunities for Linux, already a more mature operating system than any offerings from Apple or Microsoft, to move into the desktop space. Apple provided not details of its future product offerings, so most are taking a wait-and-see approach.

Apple’s move to Intel may be based on more than just the lower power consumption of some Intel chips. Apple has complained in the past about supply problems with the PowerPC processor, and may feel that they need to make a change in order to increase their volume of computer systems and expand their market share. For the last two years, Apple has been forced to charge premium prices for its high-end system because the supply of PowerPC processors was often not enough to meet demand. But Apple’s computer revenue comes primarily from the IBook product line, and it has been frustrated by its inability to get high-end low-power processors to move that product line beyond its current G4 processor.

Apple: http://www.apple.com; Intel: http://www.intel.com.

2005-06-07

Internet Gets .xxx

After initially rejecting the application, ICANN bowed to pressure from Washington and approved the new XXX top-level domain name (TLD) for adult-only sex sites, but the decision remains controversial. Advocates hope the new .xxx domain names will make web filtering slightly easier. Opponents say the move might seem to legitimize the largest segment of e-commerce, which many advocates of the Internet would like to pretend does not exist. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in a statement, worries that the new TLD could be used as a mechanism for state censorship.

2005-06-04

Notes

Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof has announced a new set of concerts July 2 in association with Make Poverty History. Dubbed Live 8, the concerts will raise awareness of global poverty. The July 2 date was picked to coincide with the G8 summit in Scotland as a way to put pressure on the world's wealthiest nations to address the issue of poverty. At his press conference, Geldof said, “This is without doubt a moment in history where ordinary people can grasp the chance to achieve something truly monumental and demand from the 8 world leaders at G8 an end to poverty.” The all-star lineup for the concert in London's Hyde Park includes Madonna, Elton John, and Coldplay. Other concerts will be held in Philadelphia, Paris, Berlin, and Rome.

Mozilla is preparing the first major update to its Firefox browser. Firefox 1.1 may be released in June. More than 60 million copies of Firefox 1.0 have been downloaded, making it the hottest new browser release ever.

After two weekends, the latest Star Wars movie is ranked #26 on the all-time box office list.

Apple quickly released an update to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. The 10.4.1 update corrects the file system stability issues we noted in our tests of Tiger, making it as stable as previous versions of Mac OS X. Meanwhile, a Time columnist named Tiger gadget of the week.

According to published reports, Intel is preparing a Mac Mini knockoff. Industry analysts say the imitator will have to eliminate key features to match the price points of the real Mac Mini because of the high costs of Microsoft Windows and Intel processors.

Bob Geldof: http://www.bobgeldof.info. Make Poverty History: http://www.makepovertyhistory.org.

2005-06-01

Dwight Twilley, 47 Moons

A growling return to form by a retro rocker whose last three albums saw him experimenting with styles with mixed results, 47 Moons makes its intentions clear with the opening line, which says, “You better watch out.” It’s all about guitars and vocals on this album, a steady backbeat and songs that take a rebellious look at the world.

That’s not to say this is a return to the sound of Dwight’s first records. The songs are longer and more thoughtful and there are more guitars and fewer pianos. Still, fans of that earlier work will have reason to be happy with this new album.

Dwight Twilley: http://www.dwighttwilley.com.

2005-05-28

Last Star Wars Movie Opens

Star Wars Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith, opened today. The final Star Wars movie generated record ticket sales in advance of its midnight opening, making it possibly the biggest movie opening ever.

Revenge of the Sith has received glowing reviews and comes during a slow movie season, both factors that could make this last episode bigger than the previous ones. The Star Wars series, noted for its epic science fiction story and groundbreaking visual effects, landed its first five movies in the all-time U.S. box office top 25, and Revenge of the Sith seems destined to join that list.

This episode’s war story seems to have struck a chord with the U.S. audience and even generated some political controversy, but the timing is coincidental; producer George Lucas wrote the Revenge of the Sith story, along with the other Star Wars episodes, more than 30 years ago.

Star Wars: http://www.starwars.com.

2005-05-19

Microsoft Drops Dot-Net

Microsoft’s “Microsoft.net” strategy is officially dead now that the software giant is circulating public beta copies of a revised Visual Studio development suite without any dot-net in sight.

Microsoft introduced dot-net in a flurry of publicity and hype, calling it a “bet-the-company strategy” that would “make the Internet obsolete.” That’s a tall order, of course, and the company never fully explained its concept and never delivered anything beyond a few preliminary development tools. The future of dot-net was seriously in doubt long before Microsoft stripped most new features from its next operating system release, code-named Longhorn, which already was a delayed, scaled-back version of what would be needed for dot-net. In Microsoft’s current plan, Longhorn will be almost bare of features in order to meet a self-imposed December 2006 deadline. In recent weeks, Microsoft has been talking down Longhorn, saying instead that its new Xbox video game console represents the future direction of computing.

Microsoft has been redirecting its microsoft.net web address to its standard corporate home page for some time now. Microsoft: http://www.microsoft.com.

2005-05-18

Huffington Post Gives News a New Look

Conservative political columnist Arianna Huffington launches a news aggregation web site May 9. Huffington calls the Huffington Post a “group blog,” but it promises to resemble a newspaper in more ways than just its name. It will be supported by advertising and at least parts of it will be syndicated in the manner of newspaper content. The content will focus on news, entertainment, and politics, and Huffington says the pieces her correspondents turn in will be “fresh,” sincere and relatively unedited.

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.

2005-05-08

Notes

Mozilla’s hot new browser Firefox is gaining momentum with 50 million copies downloaded since November. Recent studies of web usage give Firefox a market share between 5 and 10 percent, while surveys of computer enthusiasts and business professionals find higher rates of adoption in those categories.

Fjordstone has launched Shamanic Music Store, an online boutique selling a carefully selected catalog of music for shamanic journeying. It is the first store of its kind on the web.

Apple has released Mac OS X 10.4, “Tiger,” with new search, media, and news features and “200+ innovative new features,” according to Apple, who took longer than usual to prepare this latest operating system upgrade. There were long lines, typically around an hour, at Apple stores around the country. Also out: QuickTime 7, which boasts an impressive new codec that provides sharper images for both web streaming and HD video; Xcode 2, with productivity features to enable applications developers to write programs faster; and new sync features in Apple’s .Mac Internet service.

Vegbay is a new online auction site “for the green community.” It emphasizes animal-friendly, organic, new age, and recycled products and is supported by advertising rather than user fees.

Cover picture

Ten million English-speaking Shakira fans may be looking for Spanish lessons now that Shakira has announced that her next album Fijacion Oral 1 is entirely in Spanish. Lesson 1: “La Tortura” (that’s the leadoff single, available now) means “The Torture.” Fans can learn more Spanish words by reading the complete lyrics and their English translation at the Shakira web site. The new single debuted on MTV's Making the Video, which was shown in Spanish with English subtitles — a first for MTV. The bilingual Shakira has also recorded an English-language album, Oral Fixation 2, which is set for a fall release.

A new DVD single edition of “Sweet Release” is now available at the Billy Squier web site. Proceeds benefit surviving family members of a New York fire company.

Cover picture

Rick Springfield has two releases planned for this year: the 42-song collection Written in Rock, in stores now, and a new album of remakes, The Day After Yesterday, due July 12. The first single, “Broken Wings,” was just released to radio. Other familiar titles on the album are “Baker Street,” “Holding On to Yesterday,” “Love Is the Answer,” “I'm Not in Love,” and “Life in a Northern Town.”

Geoff Downes is joining White, a band formed by Yes member Alan White. Downes is a former Yes member, and the two last recorded together on the 1979 Yes album Drama. Downes went to Seattle to record tracks for White’s debut album last month and the album impressed him enough to persuade him to join. There is a possibility that two other Yes members from the Drama album will be touring together with White. Agents and managers are trying to put together a package tour that would feature White, guitarist Steve Howe, and Chris Squire’s reunited band the Syn. Squire recently released a compilation of his early work, mainly with the Syn, called Original Syn. The entire Drama lineup was reunited for the Prince’s Trust concert last year. “That was a great event, and thoroughly enjoyed by all who participated,” Downes commented.

Geoff Downes has also teamed up with Asia co-founder John Wetton for a new album, Icon, which will be available May 10 only as a digital download. Universal Music Group describes the album as their biggest download-only release to date. The album features guest appearances by Ian McDonald, Hugh McDowell, and Annie Haslam. A few years ago Wetton was a guest vocalist on an Ian McDonald album. Downes and Wetton co-wrote most of the first four Asia albums and more recently worked together on Wetton's 2003 album Rock of Faith.

Tal Bachman has finally negotiated a U.S. release for his album Staring Down the Sun. A U.S. release date is expected to be announced soon by Artemis Records.

Mozilla: http://www.mozilla.org; Shamanic Music Store: http://www.shamanicmusicstore.com; Apple Computer: http://www.apple.com; Vegbay: http://www.vegbay.com; Shakira: http://www.shakira.com; Billy Squier: http://www.billysquier.com; Rick Springfield: http://www.rickspringfield.com; Alan White: http://www.alanwhite.net; Chris Squire: http://www.chrissquire.com; Steve Howe: http://www.stevehowe.com; Geoff Downes: http://www.geoffdownes.com; John Wetton: http://www.johnwetton.com; Tal Bachman: http://www.talbachman.com.

2005-05-01

Adobe Acquires Macromedia

Adobe is purchasing Macromedia in a $3 billion deal. The two software giants, each the product of multiple mergers and acquisitions, plan to form a single company that will overwhelmingly dominate the media software business (excluding the specialty areas of audio and video production).

Although the two companies have sometimes been thought of as competitors, they actually have few competing products. Adobe’s areas of excellence are image editing, where its Photoshop product dominates, and typography, where it sets the standard with such products as PostScript, Acrobat, and InDesign. Macromedia is best known for Flash and related products that provide multimedia and rich web content.

Adobe and Macromedia compete head-on only in drawing software, where Adobe Illustrator is the popular choice while Macromedia Freehand is considered the industry leader. Their other attempts to compete have floundered. Adobe’s underperforming video and web-management software has confused and frustrated users, whereas Macromedia dropped most of its image-editing and typographic programs in the mid 1990s when it shifted its focus to web content. There is no word yet on which competing products might be spun off, consolidated, or abandoned.

The merger will give Adobe the chance to integrate Flash support into Acrobat. Also, Adobe might choose to revive Fontographer, which was the industry-leading font-design application until it reached a dead end at Macromedia in 1993.

Stockholders will receive 69 shares of Adobe for each 100 shares of Macromedia they hold. The deal awaits approval by stockholders and regulators, which is expected to occur late this year.

2005-04-25

Elton John, Peachtree Road

“It is very kind of you to drop by and visit.” That is what Elton John seems to be saying in the persona he has adopted for his latest album. The new southern-hospitality attitude is sure to startle most of Elton's fans, but after they get over the initial shock, they'll be pleased to discover an album that revisits Elton's circa-1973 approach to recording. Much of the original cast is here, notably lyricist Taupin and drummer Nigel Olsson, and the album is dedicated to the memory of producer Gus Dudgeon. The music is a return to the piano-based rock of albums like Don’t Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player — with perhaps a slightly easier tempo.

The opening song, “Weight of the World,” might explain the artist’s more relaxed attitude, now relatively free of record company pressure: “happy today, happy to play with the weight of the world off my back.” Peachtree Road is a carefully crafted, unpretentious album that should appeal to Elton John fans and anyone who likes the idea of the piano as the center of a rock band.

Elton John: http://www.eltonjohn.com.

2005-04-19

SCIgen Generates Random Conference Papers

Three MIT graduate students have written a program to generate random computer science conference papers. The SCIgen program, available online at http://www.pdos.lcs.mit.edu/scigen/ makes it easier than ever to have your own paper in the computer science field. Fill in your name, press a button, and the web page generates a paper complete with graphs and bibliography in HTML and PDF formats.

This reporter tried the system and found himself to be the purported author of “Decoupling Context-Free Grammar from E-Commerce in Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games.” It is a paper that nearly makes sense, according to the computer scientist I showed it to, except that it is utterly devoid of any legitimate content. But the style and formatting of the paper are so convincing that you would have to be an expert in the field to know that the paper contained no actual ideas. In other words, to the average reader, it is just as useful as a real conference paper.

Context-free grammar, by the way, is one of the simplest robot-inspired sentence-construction techniques that scientists are studying, and it is the technique SCIgen uses to generates its prose.

The authors of the paper generator themselves had one of their randomly generated papers accepted in an academic conference — evidence, they say, that some conferences are more interested in making money than in presenting quality content.

2005-04-15

Flute Duets Boost Tinkara’s O-range

Slovenian pop singer and flutist Tinkara is finding her way into the Italian market with help from Jethro Tull's frontman Ian Anderson.

Ian Anderson and Tinkara

Tinkara’s single “The Place 2 B” is breaking out on Italian radio, but some radio stations are playing a live concert video version of the song because it features alternating flute solos by Tinkara and Anderson.

The two flutists have appeared in concert together numerous times, including all five Italian dates of an Ian Anderson tour last year. Tinkara apparently made an impression on the Italian audiences because those shows have sparked interest in her single “The Place 2 B” and album O-range in Italy.

Photos and video of Ian Anderson and Tinkara playing flute together can be found on both the Jethro Tull and Tinkara web sites.

Tinkara: http://www.tinkara.net; Jethro Tull: http://www.jethro-tull.com.

2005-04-11

Notes

U2 on stage

The U2 Vertigo 2005 world tour to support their new album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is underway with two shows in San Diego. U2's tour continues for the rest of the year, with 96 of 104 scheduled dates already reported as sold out.

Computer users no longer have to be wealthy to store a mountain of audio and video, as hard disk storage costs continue to fall. External hard drive prices, which were stuck for years in the $300 range, have now started to creep below $100. The capacity of internal drives is creeping up toward terabyte territory, a trend celebrated last summer in the Paul Nordquist song “One Terabyte Drive.” Small-format drives, not much larger than a coin, hold only 40–80 gigabytes of data but cost less and less, driving down the weight and price of low-end computers.

Yes Years Relayer Classic Yes

Most Yes fans will probably not be surprised to learn that there is a story behind the many Yes album covers drawn by Roger Dean. Actually, the artist says, there is an entire fictional world, and he is currently arranging independent financing to make a feature film, Floating Islands, from the story that inspired the series of pictures.

Rick Aster has started a web site redesign that emphasizes black, gray, white, and red. Apparently it’s part of a trend. “The new album covers and web sites from Rick Springfield, U2, and others show how effective this color scheme can be for hard rock musicians,” Aster explains.

U2: http://www.u2.com; Roger Dean: http://www.rogerdean.com; Rick Springfield: http://www.rickspringfield.com; Rick Aster: http://www.rickaster.com.

2005-04-01

Springsteen's Dust

Bruce Springsteen's new album Devils & Dust got its start with songs he wrote on his solo acoustic tour in 1995. The album is said to feature dark, somber lyrics and a spare acoustic sound, though more elaborate than his 1982 acoustic album Nebraska.

The title track is available today as a pre-release single at iTunes Music Store and AOL.

2005-03-29

Eisner Ousted at Disney

As Disney CEO, Michael Eisner came to symbolize how vicious corporate politics could be, but after he alienated too many managers, customers, suppliers, and stockholders, the company finally decided it was time for him to go.

Disney founder Walt Disney's nephew Roy Disney led a shareholder revolt that came close to replacing the board of directors at the 2004 stockholder’s meeting, starting a series of moves that eventually led to Eisner’s ouster. Eisner will be replaced by current Disney president Robert Iger in September.

Disney is hopeful that replacing Eisner will stop its drifting, directionless performance of recent years and the drain of top talent from the company and allow it to patch up damaged relations with its customers and suppliers. There is even talk of Disney making a new deal with Pixar. Pixar’s animated featured films had provided the largest part of Disney's movie distribution business until Eisner scuttled that deal last year. Eisner diminished Disney's presence in the movie industry still further by refusing for political reasons to release last year’s blockbuster Fahrenheit 9/11.

While some have criticized the Disney board for not looking farther afield for a new CEO, Iger has made clear in his public statements that his leadership approach will be the kind of substantial change that Disney's critics have been looking for.

The Disney entertainment empire is best known for its Disney movie studios and theme parks and its ABC and ESPN television networks.

2005-03-16

Notes

The newest Internet trend is podcasting. It combines RSS news feeds with audio files to deliver radio-style programs that often have a blogger’s sensibilities. The iPodder application, available from Adam Curry's iPodder.org, completes the link by downloading audio subscriptions directly onto users’ iPods.

Apple Computer released new iPod models, increasing capacity with some models while cutting prices with others. Analysts described the product release as an aggressive move showing that Apple intended to continue to dominate the audio player market.

Ray Charles' death hasn’t slowed down his career, at least not yet. His last album Genius Loves Company was featured at the Super Bowl and won several Grammy Awards, and Jamie Foxx won the best actor Oscar for Ray, the movie, which is now out on DVD.

The new Judas Priest album released today by Sony is their first work since singer Rob Halford rejoined the band a year ago. Angel of Retribution features ten tracks that sound like classic Priest. The band tours Europe through April, going on to Japan in May.

2005-03-01

National Hockey League Cancels Season

The National Hockey League (NHL), which locked out its players last summer, has now announced that no games will be played this season.

The financially troubled ice hockey league had sought a salary cap and other concessions from the players union, but the two sides never appeared close to an agreement. The league made a series of offers but never entered into substantial negotiation with the union, and its arms-length approach has led some to speculate that its financial problems run deeper than the high cost of player salaries. A few players have said that the lockout is likely to last for several more seasons and could lead a significant fraction of players and fans not to return if play eventually resumes.

The NHL is in a unique position in the way it crosses the U.S.-Canadian border. It draws the greatest number of players and its core fan support from Canada, but the greater number of fans are found south of the border and most of the revenue comes from the United States. Dwindling U.S. fan support and disappointing television ratings might be partly to blame for the crisis the league now faces.

National Hockey League: http://www.nhl.com

2005-02-16

Super Bowl Entertainment

Paul McCartney's halftime show at the Super Bowl included rocking performances of “Drive My Car,” “Get Back,” “Live and Let Die,” and “Hey Jude.” McCartney's band performed on a video stage that turned the football stadium into a rock concert for a few minutes.

Advertisers continued the recent trend of having relatively few fresh ideas in their Super Bowl advertising. The most notable exception was a spot showing a cow starting off on a long trip to California — walking, of course. The product? California cheese.

Apple Computer boasted that its Final Cut Pro video-editing platform was used to put together pieces of the show.

The last two U.S. presidents were on hand in their current role of promoting tsunami relief efforts.

Oh, and the football game? The New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in a game that was unusually close for a Super Bowl, 24-21.

Paul McCartney: http://www.paulmccartney.com; Super Bowl: http://www.superbowl.com; Apple Computer: http://www.apple.com

2005-02-08

Saw Doctors Start 6th Album

The Saw Doctors return to the studio today to begin recording a new studio album, their sixth.

The party-rock band from Ireland have maintained a relentless schedule of recording and touring in recent years and have started to reach a broad musical audience in the United Kingdom and United States.

Recently the band made 1,000 CD copies of a concert recording to raise money for the Sri Lanka Relief Fund. The limited-edition CD sold out in 12 hours.

Saw Doctors: http://www.sawdoctors.com

2005-02-07

Notes

Paul McCartney will be the featured music act at this year’s Super Bowl in Jacksonville on February 6. It is not McCartney's first visit to Jacksonville. He appeared there 40 years ago with the Beatles. It is also not his first Super Bowl appearance. He was one of the pregame musicians three years ago. On that occasion, he was performing his new hit “Freedom.” Alicia Keys, John Fogerty, and several other musicians will provide pregame music this time.

Tori Amos has a new sound on her new album The Beekeeper: organ. The piano player is still playing piano, but is now adding classic organ sounds to most of the songs. Preview tracks are available on her web site for QuickTime streaming.

After three months in release, the free Mozilla Firefox browser may have 25 million downloads, with a market share around 5 percent. The release of the first major update, Firefox 1.1, has been postponed till May. Observers say there are no major problems that the open-source development team needs to fix quickly. Instead, project leaders say they want to improve installation and platform look and feel and won’t deliver a new version until those features are completed and thoroughly tested.

Paul McCartney: http://www.paulmccartney.com; Super Bowl: http://www.superbowl.com; Alicia Keys: http://www.aliciakeys.net; John Fogerty: http://www.johnfogerty.com; Mozilla: http://www.mozilla.org

2005-02-01

Songs for Tsunami Relief

Musicians around the world are using music events and recordings to raise money for the enormous effort required to pull things together in the Indian Ocean coastal regions damaged by last month's tsunami.

One such initiative is a concert that takes place tonight in Seattle. The charity concert features the first-ever performance by Alan White’s new band White. This will be followed by sets from Ogre and the Geoffrey Castle Band. The concert is sponsored by Music Aid Northwest in connection with CARE and KZOK radio.

On the other side of the world, Yusuf Islam wrote a new song “Indian Ocean” to raise money for children made orphans by the disaster. It is Islam's first recording with instruments since his Cat Stevens days. The sessions included A-Ha keyboardist Magne Furuholmen. “The tsunami disaster has changed the world in an extraordinary way and it requires an extraordinary response from everyone,” Islam said in a statement. “Indian Ocean” is planned for release as a single in February.

After recording the song, Islam traveled to Indonesia to open a local office for his Small Kindness charity and to set up a fundraising concert to take place January 31 in Jakarta. This concert will specifically benefit tsunami victims in the Aceh province.

Stolen Ogre: http://www.stolenogre.com; Music Aid Northwest: http://www.musicaidnorthwest.com; White: http://www.whiteband.net; Alan White: http://www.alanwhite.net; Geoffrey Castle: http://www.geoffreycastlemusic.com; Yusuf Islam: http://www. catstevens.com;

2005-01-28

Chicago's Love Songs

Chicago's new Love Songs compilation, out today on Rhino Records, includes two new live tracks from last year’s tour with Earth Wind & Fire. One of these is the Earth Wind & Fire hit “After the Love Has Gone” sung by the song's co-writer, Chicago member Bill Champlin. The other features Earth Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey on lead vocals in a remake of the Chicago classic “If You Leave Me Now.”

The CD's chocolate-and-roses cover picture makes it suitable as a Valentine’s Day gift for a Chicago fan.

Last year’s tour featuring Chicago and Earth Wind & Fire was so successful the two bands plan to tour together again this year.

2005-01-25

Not Much Ado About Mac Mini

Now that people are starting to use the Mac Mini, how does the new six-inch computer measure up?

Computer industry pundits were quick to point out that the Mac Mini is not the least expensive computer out there. News articles compared the Mac Mini to a Dell system costing $100 less, and several other PC makers offer similar models with similar prices. However, these stripped-down bargain-basement PC models are suitable only for low-end computer users who have limited interest in web-surfing, multitasking, or photo editing, and it is fair to say that these users would be better off with a used full-featured 1997-era computer — which they might get for free if they ask around. The Mac Mini comes at a remarkably low price for a full-featured computer, and other computer makers might do well to offer their computers sans monitor, keyboard, and mouse so they can match its price point.

Stories of people installing and using the Mac Mini have a ho-hum quality about them. We haven’t heard any stories of people putting that much attention into their new Mac Mini purchases. It doesn’t seem to have the new-toy appeal of an iPod or the setup hassles of a typical PC. People either spent a few minutes making sure it worked or got immediately to work on the particular task they bought the computer for.

Meanwhile, the new iPod Shuffle, released the same day, is temporarily in short supply. Industry analysts say it should be highly manufacturable item, and they expect it to be available in volume soon.

Apple Computer: http://www.apple.com.

2005-01-24

Apple Shrank the iPod . . . and the Mac

The much-rumored tiny iPod turned out to be smaller than people expected, about the size of a pack of gum. The iPod Shuffle is too small to have a detailed set of controls, so most people will want to play it in shuffle mode.

At the same time, Apple announced the Mac Mini, a miniaturized computer at $499, a price breakthrough for Apple. The computer is housed in a small aluminum case that might be mistaken for a box of mints. The Mac Mini doesn’t record DVDs, and its hard disk drive is only 40 or 80 GB, but other than that, it does everything you would expect a computer to do.

Apple also announced new software in various categories, including an office productivity bundle and the ’05 version of iLife, which adds countless new features such as pitch correction in GarageBand. Earlier this month, Apple updated its server line. A new version of its Mac operating system is expected later this quarter.

Apple Computer: http://www.apple.com.

2005-01-15

People’s Choice Awards Picks Top Movies

Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Passion of the Christ won People’s Choice Awards, but to the two filmmakers, it wasn’t the political controversy that some in the press made it out to be.

Michael Moore, whose Fahrenheit 9/11 won the Favorite Movie award, praised Mel Gibson's picture The Passion of the Christ, which was picked as Favorite Movie Drama, and was excited to meet the famous actor for the first time.

Gibson likewise praised Moore’s film and echoed the skepticism of the Iraq war that is the theme of Fahrenheit 9/11.

The other big movie winner was Shrek 2. Music winners included U2, Alicia Keys, and Usher.

2005-01-11

Notes

A two-page announcement of the Firefox browser release in the New York Times was paid for by Firefox volunteers and enthusiasts who contributed around $30 each to have their names appear in the ad. The list of over 10,000 names was supposed to dramatize the widespread acceptance already enjoyed by the new browser.

Persistent rumors of an iPod shortage didn’t dampen shoppers’ enthusiasm for the diminutive music player during the recent holiday season. The shortage never materialized, and the iPod mini was a popular selection as an upscale stocking-stuffer. Now rumors say Apple is on the verge of announcing a less expensive iPod without a hard drive.

At least three songs on the new Bah & the Humbugs album Fahrenheit 12/25 found radio airplay during Christmas week.

2005-01-01

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