Fish Nation Information Station

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

NEWS ARCHIVE 2005 JULY TO DECEMBER

Sony Settles in CD Case

In a settlement filed in a consolidated class action lawsuit concerning software it added to music CDs, Sony has agreed to recall CDs and provide MP3 files to consumers.

The more dangerous music CDs, containing a Microsoft Windows system-level hack now identified as XCP, will be recalled and replaced with CDs with no extra software added. In addition, Sony will provide consumers with access to downloadable MP3 files, giving them the opportunity to burn their own safe copy of the music CD. Sony announced a recall of these CDs a month ago.

Consumers who purchased other Sony music CDs containing spyware now identified as MediaMax will also receive MP3 files.

Sony has agreed to provide utility programs that will safely remove the problematic software from computers. Sony's earlier uninstall programs were recalled because they posed additional security risks, but it has been working on creating safe uninstall programs.

The settlement does not affect Sony's potential criminal liability for its spyware programs.

2005-12-29

Dark Christmas Lights Signal Economic Caution

A dramatic decline in Christmas lights in suggests that homeowners are feeling cautious about high energy prices.

In a non-scientific survey of the local area, the number of Christmas light displays is down by about half from last year, with the number of lights per display also down sharply. The reason, apparently, is that homeowners are trying to spend less on energy in the wake of dramatic increases in fossil fuel prices.

If this sense of caution translates to other areas of consumer activity that require energy purchases, such as driving, it could lead to various shifts across the economic landscape. For example, consumers might buy brighter paint colors if they use dimmer indoor lighting to save energy.

2005-12-26

Jackson Browne Wins Surround Award

The 2005 Surround Music Awards have been handed out, and the biggest recognition, Surround Artist of the Year, went to Jackson Browne for his work on the surround remix of Running on Empty. Talking Heads, Elton John, Porcupine Tree, and Beck were also among the award winners.

2005-12-19

Carvin Opens Sacramento Store

Guitar-maker Carvin has opened a store in Sacramento, California. More than 500 customers showed up for the grand opening, which featured a performance by guitarist Craig Chaquico. It is Carvin's first store outside of southern California.

2005-12-18

Google Launches Music Search

Google today launched Google Music Search, an enhancement of the Google web search engine that provides additional information about music.

A Google Music result appears above the regular search results when you search for a recording artist, song, album, or any phrase that Google recognizes as being related to a musician or musical work. For example, search for Billy Squier, and Google shows a list of albums and a link to its Music Search page with more information about Billy Squier’s music.

At this point, Google recognizes just a small fraction of the famous musicians and popular records you might search for, but the Music Search database can be expected to grow over time.

Google: http://www.google.com.

2005-12-15

U2 Wins Amnesty International Award

U2 and their manager were awarded the Ambassador of Conscience award, the highest human rights recognition given by Amnesty International.

According to Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, “U2 has arguably done more than any other band to highlight the cause of global human rights in general and Amnesty International's work in particular. Their leadership in linking music to the struggle for human rights and human dignity worldwide has been ground-breaking and unwavering. They have inspired and empowered millions with their music and by speaking out on behalf of the poor, the powerless and the oppressed.”

The latest example is the band's display of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the giant video screens behind the stage on their current world tour — a document that U2 guitarist Edge has called the “greatest piece of literature ever written.”

After receiving the award, U2 played a concert in Cleveland in which they dedicated one of their many songs with a human rights theme, “Miss Sarajevo,” “to this day which is Human Rights Day . . .”

U2's world tour, currently crossing the central U.S., continues in Australia in March.

Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org; U2: http://www.u2.com.

2005-12-11

Old Bands, New Singers

Two bands that achieved prominence in the 1970s and 1980s are preparing for new tours without their well-known singers — and the new singers are sure to surprise some fans.

Neither of The Cars’ singers were available for a new tour — Ric Ocasek is otherwise employed and Ben Orr died of an illness five years ago — so remaining members Elliott Easton and Greg Hawkes tapped Todd Rundgren to front their 2006 tour.

As surprising as this news was to Cars fans, it was even more surprising when word was leaked to Todd Rundgren fans, some of whom had been hoping for a 2006 reunion of Utopia, the progressive rock vocal band that Rundgren fronted from 1974 to 1985 and again in 1992. But Rundgren, in a letter to fans, outlined the financial pressure and difficult choices that face a “working musician” and insisted, “the possibility of a Utopia reunion of any kind has always been extremely remote. We disbanded for specific reasons . . .”

The new band, which might be called the New Cars to distinguish it from the original Cars lineup, will apparently be rounded out by two musicians associated with Rundgren: Kasim Sulton, who also played in Utopia, and Prairie Prince, best known as the drummer for The Tubes. No details of the tour and possible album have been announced.

Queen's run as one of the most adventurous arena rock bands effectively ended when lead singer Freddy Mercury died of AIDS. They always said Mercury couldn’t be replaced, and it’s clear that they didn’t try to do so when they selected singer Paul Rodgers, famous for such Bad Company songs as “Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy” and “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” and the Free hit “All Right Now.”

Queen guitarist Brian May says the fact that Rodgers is so different in style from Mercury is an advantage: “he comes from his own place musically and we can reinterpret these songs with someone who understands us — the songs would mean something new.”

Queen + Paul Rodgers have already played a tour of Europe and a few U.S. shows. Their concert DVD reached the top 10 in the U.K. On November 29 they announced a larger tour in March and April, with 21 shows in the United States and two in Canada.

Another high-profile band working with a new singer, INXS, has released its new album, Switch. The title refers both to the new singer and to the band's more electric sound. The INXS world tour begins in January and could last all year.

Brian May: http://www.brianmay.com; INXS: http://www.inxs.com.

2005-12-07

Notes

The National Hurricane Center shuts down today with the hurricane season still going on. The center operates for only half of the year because there is little history of tropical storm damage in the North Atlantic in the other half of the year. In this record-breaking season, though, Tropical Storm Epsilon remains a threat to an area of the ocean on December 1. The U.S. government will still be officially watching tropical systems, but from other offices.

Mozilla released Firefox 1.5 yesterday. The first major update of the world's second most popular browser gives it a more complete look and feel while filling in gaps in the original feature set. Since its release a year ago, Firefox's share of the browser category has grown to about one sixth.

Biologists have named a newly discovered species of lemur, the Avahi cleesei, after John Cleese, to recognize the actor’s work with lemurs.

After the massive success of a Spanish-language album released early in the year, Shakira’s new English-language album is now in stores.

Unisys, who a few years ago participated in an ill-fated advertising campaign to try to persuade its corporate customers that Linux was expensive, now says the open-source operating system is a good choice for many of its corporate customers. Its new marketing materials list open source software as one of the company's four areas of emphasis.

EMI has re-mastered The Move’s 1970 album Message From the Country, making the album available on CD again. The new booklet includes liner notes from all three band members.

Sony is attempting to recall the music CDs containing its now-notorious CD hack that gave viruses and spyware a place to hide on Microsoft Windows computers, but the bad news continues. The details of Sony's own spyware, which tells Sony what CDs people are playing, have started to come out, and security problems have been found in connection with other CD copy-protection schemes used this year by Sony. The only good news for Sony: its spyware fiasco is having little impact on retail sales of music CDs.

Microsoft’s new high-definition game console, Xbox 360, is finally available in limited quantities, but did they release it before it was ready? Initial reports suggest as many as one in forty units are crippled by hardware defects that make them overheat, crash, reboot, or have other difficulties similar to those that occur when a processor is overclocked, or made to run faster than its design intends. Microsoft is estimated to lose at least $200 on each Xbox 360, a much larger loss than it took for the original Xbox, suggesting that it had hoped the prices of components would fall farther before the release. Microsoft has apparently lost around $1 billion on the Xbox already, but could lose an astonishing $6 billion in the coming months if its sales forecasts come true. Apparently only 17 game titles were available at the launch of the Xbox 360, and gamers complain that the high-definition video makes games expensive while adding little to the gaming experience.

The Move: http://www.themoveonline.com; Mozilla: http://www.mozilla.com; Shakira: http://www.shakira.com.

2005-12-01

Laser Printers Break $100 Barrier

The big surprise of Black Friday was the declining price of laser printers, which are now widely available for prices around $100.

Consumers have grown weary of the high price of ink for ink-jet printers and are buying millions of laser printers for use at home. Toner for a laser printer costs only about 2 cents a page, compared to around 16 cents a page for ink-jet ink, so buying a laser printer is typically a cost-saving move even for a household that already has an ink-jet printer.

This trend may cause sleepless nights at HP, the financially troubled computer giant that has been losing money in almost all its product categories except ink for its ink-jet printers. They lose money on printers too but hope to make it up by selling the ink for the printers. If people buy less ink, HP may need to find a new business model to keep the company going.

2005-11-27

Icon or Idol

Madonna, Confessions on a Dance Floor

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Now comfortable in having conquered the world, Madonna wants to head for the dance floor and have a good time. This is no ordinary disco, though. Imagine an empty dance club with just you, a mirror ball, and Madonna explaining to you in her intensely personal way how the world is going to be.

Confessions on a Dance Floor is more fun than any previous Madonna album, partly because the artist lets in a few everyday contradictions and bounces from one topic to another the same way all your friends do, and partly because this album is all about the groove — the new Madonna, it seems, is content to keep the groove going all the time so you can dance. No need to grab you by the throat every minute or two to make sure you're paying attention. I remember how mellow and relaxed my high school teachers were in the few days of classes that came after final exams. Suddenly, everything was not a problem. Madonna on this new album is kinda like that. No, you will not be quizzed on this material.

Billy Idol, Devil's Playground

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Billy Idol took five years off not to relax, but to rev up from his usual overdrive to “Super Overdrive” for this album's opening track. On the whole, Devil's Playground is a touch more intense than Idol's previous albums, and at the same time, it’s done with impressive precision. Imagine Idol saying, “What the f—, we might as well take the time to get everything perfect. We don’t have anything more important to do, right?”

The attention to detail pays off in two songs that otherwise might not fit in here. One is a remake of “Plastic Jesus.” Even if you've heard it a thousand times before, you'll swear it’s a new song when you hear it here. The other is a nod to Johnny Cash — an original, but you can easily imagine it sung by the Man in Black.

The last song, “Summer Running,” invites you to spend your summer vacation on a motorcycle, and the fact that Idol can make this sound like not just a good idea but a miniature version of Shangri-La tells you how much charisma he has. If you like any kind of rock, Devil's Playground is ready to persuade you that its 13 songs just the kind of music you like.

Geoff Downes and John Wetton, Icon

Geoff Downes and John Wetton were the driving forces behind Asia’s biggest album Alpha, but Wetton tired of the compromises required to make Asia music and went on to make solo albums of more meaningful songs on a much smaller sonic scale. Downes, meanwhile, kept Asia going, but this new collaboration sounds little like Asia. The mood leans more toward the world-weary and heartsick mood of a John Wetton album than the sunny grandiosity of an Asia album, though there is some of that too.

This musical tension is most obvious in “Hey Josephine,” a Downes ode to a beautiful woman to which Wetton has added the kind of orchestral touches Asia is known for. But if this were an Asia song, the beautiful woman would not be so treacherous and the song's conclusion would not be the repeated question, “What did you mean?”

Asia fans may be fascinated to hear a set of Wetton/Downes songs with the piano-and-orchestra approach laid bare. Take away the superstar guitarist and drummer of the early Asia albums, add a few actual orchestral sounds, and you suddenly hear how the core of the Asia approach is much older than rock, deriving from the pop song with orchestra of a century ago. But if Icon is not particularly modern or aggressive in its sound, it is a collection of songs that will stick with you, and it stands up very well next to the solo albums from both Wetton and Downes.

2005-11-24

Sony Fix Opens Computers to Attack

Things just keep getting worse for Sony customers. First Sony admitted that it had distributed millions of hacked audio CDs that contained software to take over part of the root of the Microsoft Windows operating system, potentially making the system unstable. Security experts quickly found examples of viruses and other programs using the Sony code to invade a computer while evading detection by antivirus software. Now they have found malicious programs that exploit flaws in the fix Sony published. These programs use web pages to take over computers of people who ran the Sony uninstall program.

Anyone running a Microsoft Windows computer is at risk for this flaw if they play one of the hacked Sony music CDs, run the Sony uninstall program, and later view web pages in Internet Explorer. The ActiveX channels built into Internet Explorer allow network-based programs to exploit flaws in Microsoft Windows systems, and such a flaw was found in the Sony uninstaller.

Web pages that exploit this flaw look like legitimate entertainment web sites, but they install malicious software on susceptible PCs.

Experts are advising those affected by this problem to avoid using Internet Explorer, and use another browser instead. Sony has pulled its uninstall program and is preparing a new one.

2005-11-17

Fad Diet Books Fizzle

The low-carb craze is over in the book business, where booksellers are now finding it impossible to move books on fad diets of any kind. According to a Publisher’s Weekly story, readers are choosing diet books that emphasize calorie reduction, exercise, and good decision-making.

2005-11-16

McCartney: Musician to the Stars

In what the McCartney camp calls the first ever concert to outer space, Paul McCartney will provide a wake-up call to the crew of the International Space Station in his concert tonight.

At least two songs from the concert in California will be transmitted to the station in orbit around Earth. It is conventional for space crews to wake up to music transmitted from the control centers on Earth.

Paul McCartney: http://www.paulmccartney.com.

2005-11-11

Sony CD Hack Causes Serious Damage

The recently disclosed Sony CD hack that the record label hoped to use to deter CD copying on Microsoft Windows computers turns out to be a much more serious problem than was initially thought.

Computer security experts said it was possible that Sony's modifications to the root of the Microsoft Windows operating system could hide viruses, spyware, and Trojan horse programs, but this was thought to be a theoretical concern. After a few more days of study, they have identified multiple instances of viruses and other malicious software whose authors used the Sony CD hack to hide. Because of Sony's software, these hidden programs cannot be removed by conventional virus protection software, although engineers said a solution would likely be forthcoming within a matter of days.

This latest twist raises the specter of Sony's possible civil or even criminal liability for the damage done to computers by its unauthorized software and adds urgency to the lawsuits filed in recent days which essentially seek a recall of all CDs containing the Sony hack.

Even without a virus, Sony's software makes a computer slower and more likely to make errors and crash, say security experts, who have classified the program as spyware.

Sony's CD hack installs itself without disclosing what it is or getting permission when users play Sony's hacked music CDs on Microsoft Windows computers. It disables parts of the computer and operating system to prevent users from copying CD tracks and alters core features of the operating system in order to keep its files hidden. Sony says the installed software is possible to remove, but experts say the removal procedure may not work on all systems. Sony's CD hack does not affect CD players, DVD players, or Macintosh or Linux systems.

So far, Sony has insisted that its software is not inordinately dangerous and continues to sell the CDs that contain it.

2005-11-11

Grokster Settles, Closes

The writing was on the wall when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that software providers’ commercial conduct could be considered when deciding whether software infringed on copyrights, and today, the music and movie industry groups and Grokster filed a settlement of their long-running copyright infringement case.

Grokster agreed to stop distributing and supporting its network software. Grokster’s web site today contains a brief statement promoting its upcoming “Grokster 3G” re-launch as a provider of paid music and movie downloads. Grokster 3G promises “A safe, secure & legal P2P experience” with “no adware, no spyware, no bundles . . .”

2005-11-07

MTV Europe Music Awards

MTV can’t seem to stay away from hurricanes with its awards shows. True, last night’s MTV Europe Music Awards came weeks after the remnants of a hurricane drenched Lisbon and caused flooding, but it was the first time a hurricane had ever turned in Portugal's direction since people started keeping track of them. Hurricanes earlier this fall altered plans for MTV awards shows in Florida and Mexico.

The big winner was Green Day. Other winners included Shakira, the Rasmus, Alicia Keys, Gorillaz, and Robbie Williams. There were live performances by Madonna, Foo Fighters, Shakira, Gorillaz, and others. Bob Geldof won the Free Your Mind Award in recognition of his work on the Live 8 concerts.

2005-11-04

Sony Admits CD Hack, Prepares Fix

Sony suffered a major public embarrassment when the details of the software in one of its CD copy-protection schemes were released to the public. Initially, Sony strongly criticized the engineer who studied the software hack found on many of its recent CD releases and posted the details on the Internet. But a few days later, Sony acknowledged that its software could be used to mask viruses and other malicious software, rendering them impossible to remove from a Microsoft Windows PC.

Sony's software itself is almost impossible to remove. Attempts to remove it disable the computer’s CD drive, crippling the computer, unless the software is removed using a specific procedure. Sony has not published the process for correctly removing its software hack, but says it is making the information available to anyone who requests it.

The Sony CD hack, first identified on a Van Zant CD, but subsequently found on many other music CDs from Sony, works by taking over part of the root of the Microsoft Windows operating system in order to install files that are largely invisible to the user and the file system. The Sony files themselves are thought to be mostly harmless. They slow down a computer slightly, according to some users, and they seem to have the capacity to disable the CD drive under some circumstances, but no practical problems have been reported to date. The fear is that a virus writer could alter the invisible Sony hack files to store a virus that would be immune to all current antivirus software.

The patch Sony says it will post shortly will remove the file-hiding feature of its software so that antivirus and system management software can work correctly.

The legality of the Sony CD hack has been called into question. The Sony audio CDs are said to install software onto a computer without permission, and that would seem to be a felony under a number of state and federal laws. Sony has said that this particular hack is no longer being used in its new CD releases, but it continues to ship copies of prior releases that contain it.

2005-11-03

Notes

Having selected new singer J.D. Fortune and released a single with him, “Pretty Vegas,” INXS is at work on a new album and preparations for a world tour set to start in North America in January.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has apparently decided the hip-hop style it has cultivated for the past decade might clash with the sensibilities of the aging millionaires who buy most of its tickets. The NBA's new old-old-school dress code seems designed to make its retirement-age white fans more comfortable, but is sure to erode the league’s youth appeal. The dress code applies mainly to the clothes players wear when they arrive for work. NBA players continue to wear athletic gear during games and practices.

Google Print faces a second major lawsuit, this one from an association of book publishers which claims that Google’s opt-out provisions are not consistent with the concept of copyright. Google Print is an ambitious program to eventually digitize and index every work that is published in print, and make those works available for display in search results on the Internet.

Firefox passed 100 million downloads and is preparing for its second major release. Firefox 1.5, now in beta, improves Firefox's page rendering, already the best available, and adds performance, security, and automated update features.

Madonna says her new tour documentary I'm Going To Tell You A Secret presents a balanced picture of her recent Re-Invention Tour. Unlike her previous tour documentary, Truth or Dare, the new movie makes no effort to obscure the enormous amount of work involved in a Madonna tour.

The legendary pop composer Burt Bacharach has become a lyricist on his new album, At This Time, available November 1. His lyrics complain about social and political problems. Elvis Costello is one of the guest vocalists on the album, and Dr. Dre provided some of the beats.

Despite the intrigue of this year’s World Series matchup, with the Chicago White Sox winning for the first time in 88 years, the baseball championship scored its lowest television ratings in thirty years, down nearly a third from last year.

The Source, a magazine that has billed itself as “hip-hop's bible,” is in bankruptcy court and could be liquidated to pay creditors, who say the magazine has been losing money for four years.

Starting today, AOL is making much of its entertainment content available to the general public. It is also making its video programming available to Microsoft Windows XP users. However, new visitors will find AOL's movie previews and magazine-style coverage little different from what can be seen all over the Internet. The move is part of a larger strategy to boost the struggling dial-up provider’s advertising revenue.

INXS: http://www.inxs.com; AOL: http://www.aol.com.

2005-11-01

Catching Up With Billy Sherwood

Billy Sherwood or his songwriting can be heard on each of these recent progressive rock albums.

Back Against the Wall

The Purple Pyramid label tapped Billy Sherwood to produce this tribute, a remake of Pink Floyd's The Wall. Billy, in turn, pulled in some of the greats of progressive rock to make an album that is surprisingly effective. Having a single producer gives this album a coherence that tribute albums usually lack, and that is especially important for a dramatic work such as The Wall — the story of a touring rock star descending into emotional oblivion, then returning to reality in the end. It could be a distraction to have so many different singers delivering the story, but the mix puts the emphasis squarely on the story. And the story is so compelling that you might not immediately notice one song is sung by Fee Waybill (of the Tubes) and the next by John Wetton, for example.

With musicians like Keith Emerson, Adrian Belew, Tommy Shaw, Ian Anderson, Geoff Downes, Dweezil Zappa, Tony Kaye, and Steve Lukather, and especially with Jay Schellen and Alan White on drums, this version has a more assertive attitude than the original, giving the story a slightly different slant. This is most evident on “Comfortably Numb,” performed essentially by the Chris Squire Experiment. This song is still oblivious and larger than life, as the story dictates, but in a different way, drifting away rather than curling up in a ball.

Back Against the Wall is ultimately a satisfying and intriguing remake of The Wall that should appeal to anyone who liked the original and any progressive rock fan who likes the idea of an extended psychological tale.

Billy Sherwood, No Comment

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Billy Sherwood takes his rhythmically daring, experimental style of progressive rock a little farther out on the edge in this latest effort. If it is not quite as polished as his previous efforts, that is because Billy was determined to play every instrument on this album, including the drum set — apparently his first recorded effort on that instrument. But this all-inclusive approach also means this album is a more direct look into the soul of the songwriter: skeptical of institutions, intrigued by the link between inflexibility and failure, and exploring the frontiers of consciousness.

Billy has become a master of rock guitar, and the guitar-based polyphony on No Comment evokes an impressive array of moods, though they lean more toward the uncertain and questioning than to the certain and emphatic. The songs are too experimental to give you a hummable melody, but No Comment is nonetheless a comfortable experience, a good album for sitting and thinking.

Asia, Silent Nation

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The Asia sound is as orchestral as it is possible for a rock band to be without actually using orchestral instruments or sounds. The band is anchored by John Payne, who provides the impassioned soul lead vocals and heavy bass lines, and who also produced and engineered the band's latest album, Silent Nation. Keyboardist Geoff Downes, though, is the musical focus of the band, providing any mood a song requires without ever turning it into a keyboard exercise.

Silent Nation seems a conscious attempt to return to the sound of the band's biggest album, Alpha, but is even smoother in tone than that album. Add in some social commentary (it starts on the album cover, a city street with blank banners and people with no mouths) and this is a progressive rock album you could sneak in between your parents’ old Marvin Gaye albums.

But it’s still rock even if the solid beat and guitar licks don’t jump out at you, and just as rock fans got Alpha after a few listenings, the same is likely with Silent Nation.

Billy Sherwood: http://www.billysherwood.com; Asia: http://www.asiaworld.org.

2005-10-27

Fed Urges Increased Security for Bank Accounts Online

You will probably find it tougher to log into your bank account starting next year. Concerned that online bank accounts are too easy to break into, the Federal Reserve Bank is urging banks to adopt “multifactor authentication,” which would typically require the presence of a microchip device or a fingerprint scan in addition to a password in order to get into a bank account online.

According to the Fed, the move is necessary to protect the banking system and customer accounts.

2005-10-18

Apple Jumps Into Video

After tinkering with video offerings for a year, Apple Computer has jumped into the video-download market with a video iPod and a greatly expanded selection of video on its iTunes Music Store site.

Episodes of television shows like Lost are commercial-free, cost $1.99, and could take 20 minutes to download. Will TV viewers get in the habit of watching shows on an iPod during their morning train ride? And will music fans pay for videos so they can own them? Apple released its new iPods before Christmas, so we may find out in early January.

The availability of TV shows to download might also hasten the pace at which people are canceling their cable subscriptions, but that is a trend that should be much slower to develop.

At the same time, Apple introduced a new, thinner iMac that comes with a remote control that people can use for watching videos on the computer.

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

2005-10-13

Quills Honor Books, Promote Reading

A new awards show honors outstanding achievement in books. Winners in the first round of Quill awards included J.K. Rowling, Jon Stewart, Deepak Chopra, Sue Monk Kidd, and Bob Dylan. The Quills are presented by the Quills Literacy Foundation, which promotes “literature and literacy as lifestyle priorities.”

In the opening monolog for the show, comedian Jon Stewart, who is host of The Daily Show, had advice for other first-time authors who want to succeed in today's competitive book business: “Get your own TV show.” An edited version of the show will be televised October 22.

Quill Book Awards winners: http://www.quillsliteracy.org/categories.php

2005-10-12

The Latest Number Puzzle Craze

The biggest craze in puzzles in decades is sudoku, a Japanese number puzzle based on Latin squares that has become a sensation in the United Kingdom and is now making the jump to the United States.

puzzle

The appeal of sudoku starts with its simple rules. The object is to write one number in each square of a 9-by-9 grid, which starts partly filled in. You arrange the numbers so that the numbers 1 through 9 appear in each of 9 rows, 9 columns, and 9 mini-grids — that’s the tricky part. Despite the simple approach, a sudoku puzzle can be as difficult as a crossword puzzle.

(solution)

2005-10-07

Notes

Yahoo plans to convert books to digital form for text searches, but without the copyright trouble that rival Google has found itself in. Yahoo says it will be digitizing only public-domain books, those that are too old to be covered by copyright or exempt from copyright for other reasons.

The new Saw Doctors album, called The Cure, will be released this month in the British Isles. The U.S. release will follow early next year.

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The latest Styx album, Big Bang Theory, contains covers of hard rock classics. The new video from Styx is “Can’t Find My Way Home.” It starts with a ferry ride across the English Channel, followed by other modes of transportation from the band's recent tour of Europe. Styx began its U.S. tour to support the new album on Friday, September 23, in Yuma, Arizona.

Congress is considering changes to the U.S. patent laws covering computer software that have been so frequently abused. However, there is no consensus among interested parties about what should and should not be patentable and how fraudulent and frivolous patent applications should be identified under an ideal patent law.

Microsoft has demonstrated Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/E), a development tool that will allow computer programmers to create programs for multiple platforms. In its initial release next year, it will run on Windows and Mac. WPF/E is one of several new initiatives from Microsoft to further distance itself from its failed Microsoft.net strategy. In an interview before Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft founder Bill Gates suggested that Web application services, which had been one of the cornerstones of Microsoft.net and is now one of Google’s selling points, was never a viable strategy for sensitive corporate data. Instead, he said, Microsoft would be emphasizing the mobility of applications.

The new standard document format, dubbed OpenDocument, allows users to exchange word processing and spreadsheet documents without the security and compatibility problems that have plagued those who have tried this in the past. Most software vendors expect to support the OpenDocument format, with the notable exception of Microsoft, which depends on its incompatible file formats to persuade users to upgrade to each new version of Microsoft Office. The state of Massachusetts has already mandated OpenDocument, along with PDF, for official government documents, and other government bodies around the world are considering similar moves.

Styx: http://www.styxworld.com; Saw Doctors: http://www.sawdoctors.com

2005-10-03

Google Plan Tested in Court

Google’s Library program will finally be tested in court, as the Authors Guild has filed the first of what is likely to be many legal challenges to the program.

In the Library program, Google plans to make digital copies of entire university libraries and make them available online as part of its search engine results. In the process, Google will be putting online millions of works that publishers and authors have been striving to keep off the Internet so that they can be sold in book form.

Google is hoping the courts will expand the fair use exemption of the U.S. copyright law to cover its scanning and digitizing activities. Courts have been reluctant to grant extensions to fair use, however. In recent years, courts have rejected the fair use defense of mp3.com for its My.mp3.com service, which made encoded versions of a millions recorded songs available to its users, and file-sharing services that encouraged users to trade copyrighted works. On the other hand, courts have upheld the basic idea of a search engine database, even though it contains complete copies of web pages.

Perhaps mindful of mp3.com's financial collapse after it lost its My.mp3.com case, Google is being careful to limit the availability of its Library search. The search results are not yet available on the Internet. In theory, however, it could still be liable for billions of dollars in damages for copyright infringement if courts look at the intended uses of the copies it has already made.

Does fair use permit a business to move a creative work from one area to another, in this case, from print to electronic media, without the copyright owner’s permission? This is one of several questions related to the Google Library program that the courts must now decide.

2005-09-27

Asia With New Drummer, New Album

Asia has recruited Conspiracy drummer Jay Schellen to replace departing drummer Chris Slade. Schellen previously played with Badfinger and World Trade and recently played on Back Against the Wall, the remake of the classic Pink Floyd album The Wall. Another Conspiracy member, Billy Sherwood, cowrote some songs on the last Asia album, Silent Nation, and because of that connection, Asia was already familiar with Schellen's work.

With the new drummer, the band has gone into the studio in Los Angeles to begin recording a new album, tentatively titled Architect of Time. The album is scheduled for release next year on InsideOut Records.

As for Conspiracy, they have a new concert video DVD, Conspiracy Live.

Asia: http://www.asiaworld.org; Jay Schellen: http://www.jayschellen.com; Conspiracy: http://www.conspiracymusic.net.

2005-09-20

Monday Night Football Goes to Cable

This is the last season for Monday Night Football on ABC television. One of television's longest-running shows, Monday Night Football goes to cable next year as it makes the move to ESPN. To focus on Monday Night Football, ESPN will give up Sunday Night Football, which will go to broadcast network NBC.

Monday night games will still be seen on broadcast television in the local areas of the two teams playing.

ESPN's support for high definition (HD) television pictures was part of the rationale for the move.

ESPN gets a head start on Monday Night Football tonight as it broadcasts the second half of the New Orleans Saints game. The NFL is using the occasion as a fundraiser for the evacuated city of New Orleans. The first half of the game will be on ABC. It will be the first time Monday Night Football has broadcast a “doubleheader,” two consecutive games on the same evening.

2005-09-19

McCartney Goes Back to the Piano on New Album

The new Paul McCartney album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard is a self-conscious effort by the artist to do something new. Under the direction of producer Nigel Godrich, famous for his work with Radiohead and Beck, McCartney played most of the instrumental tracks himself, and in his own own words, “really made a lot of it up as we went along.”

Critics say the album recalls McCartney's piano ballads of around 1970 and has an organic feel similar to his work of that era.

The album was released September 13.

Paul McCartney: http://www.paulmccartney.com.

2005-09-15

ITunes-Compatible Phone Announced

At a press conference today in San Francisco, CA, Apple Computer announced an iTunes-compatible telephone, the Motorola ROKR. Apple CEO Steve Jobs described the new device as “an iPod Shuffle on your phone.” Cingular is providing wireless service for the ROKR.

The phone transfers music — and apparently recharges at the same time — through a USB cable connected to a computer running iTunes.

A new version of the iTunes music program lets users organize playlists into folders. It includes parental controls and enhanced shuffle controls that control the way the program generates random song sequences.

Apple also announced that is has licensed the complete Madonna catalog for its iTunes Music Store. “I got tired of not being able to download my own music,” Madonna explained over a live video chat.

Madonna will be one of the recording artists featured in an advertising campaign for the Cingular service.

Also new from Apple is a replacement for the iPod mini. The new iPod nano is half the size, holds 1,000 songs, and has a tiny color display. It includes widget-style applications such as a stopwatch.

2005-09-07

Bertelsmann Hopes to Move Columbia House Customers to BMG

Bertelsmann said it would cut costs after it acquired Columbia House July 1, and it isn’t messing around. Columbia House’s marquee business, Columbia House Music Club, closed September 1, and Bertelsmann is working on moving those customers to BMG Music Service, which it also owns. This leaves the United States with just one major record club.

Columbia House still operates a DVD movie club and a few smaller business, which will continue to operate, at least for now. Bertelsmann initially said it would cut about half the jobs at Columbia House, but the number of job cuts will surely increase with its main business gone.

Bertelsmann hopes to find significant revenue growth at the corporate level from the Columbia House customers, but it remains to be seen whether they will buy records from BMG Music Club. Columbia House was the market leader with a much larger catalog than BMG, and BMG has stated that it will not be changing its operations or expanding its catalog to try to keep Columbia House customers.

Record companies earn much higher royalties from music-download services than from record clubs, so BMG Music Service may come under pressure from record companies in the coming year and be forced to raise prices or cut back still more on its product offerings.

2005-09-07

Australian Court Orders Changes in Kazaa

File-sharing service Kazaa will have to change after a ruling in Federal Court in Australia.

In the decision, the court ordered changes in the Kazaa software to make it less easy for users to make copies of copyrighted works. Changes could include the exclusion of copyrighted works from the software’s search and indexing features.

The ruling seemed to echo a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that file-sharing software promoted for illegal purposes could be liable for the resulting illegal uses.

2005-09-06

Notes

News organizations are struggling to cover the flooding of New Orleans. Some have all but ignored the crisis, depicting it as ordinary hurricane damage, while others have focused on celebrity interviews or sensationalist aspects of the story such as the violence and looting. Ultimately, though, no one is able to completely avoid the crux of the story, which today is that while authorities debate the logistics of delivering water to people stranded by flooding, an unknown number have already died of thirst.

An example of the psychological denial that surrounds the problems in New Orleans can be found in the National Football League (NFL), which will not be able to play at the damaged and flooded SuperDome in New Orleans. Currently, the domed stadium is home to some 20,000 refugees, who hope to be evacuated from the city over the coming week. The facility's roof is torn open and its field level, like most of the city, is covered with water that engineers say will take months to remove. So far, the league has said only that it is looking at alternatives to the SuperDome in case New Orleans Saints games cannot be played there over the next four months.

The show must go on, though, and the latest players to sign with the NFL are the Rolling Stones. The English rock musicians will play the season's kickoff concert on September 8 and provide promotional support for ABC Monday Night Football television broadcasts throughout the season. The Stones are preparing a new album release and another of their famous 2-year world tours.

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The latest Bon Jovi music video turns the stock phrase “Have a nice day” into a political slogan. The video was filmed mostly in New York City over a five-day period in July. The album Have a Nice Day comes out September 20.

A new Bob Dylan movie soundtrack, No Direction Home, is available initially only at Starbucks, the popular coffee chain. Retail experiments such as this have been increasingly common as the record industry is becoming disenchanted with the low efficiency and high cost structure of traditional record stores. Record stores have sometimes retaliated by boycotting the artists in question, but the larger problem is that of music fans staying away from record stores.

Koen Book Distributors, an East Coast book wholesaler, is liquidating after creditors decided not to support its reorganization effort. Koen's strategy of selling a limited selection of books to independent booksellers in a limited geographical area might no longer be a viable business model in the increasingly fragmented book industry.

The NCAA is cracking down on culturally offensive names of college teams. It is especially concerned about team names that mock American Indian culture. Most team names that disparaged European or Asian culture were changed a generation ago. The NCAA cannot force a university to change its team name, but it is barring all culturally offensive team names and the associated logos and mascots from its tournaments. The move is mostly symbolic, but it means that some basketball teams might have to change their uniforms before they play post-season games.

2005-09-01

Green Day Wins 7 Video Music Awards

The big winner at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards was Green Day, who acquired seven moon men for their songs “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “American Idiot.” Other winners included Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, and Missy Elliott.

The days leading up to last night’s show in Miami were marred by bad weather, travel troubles, and gunfire, but none of this misfortune spilled over into the show itself. Green Day set the tone for the evening with a performance of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” It was Kelly Clarkson who closed the show with her live performance. The Killers and Mariah Carey provided live sets from the nearby “Hotel MTV.” Shakira and Alejandro Sanz provided a first with a Spanish-language performance of their duet “La Tortura.”

Diddy (formerly P. Diddy) made a good case for a musician hosting the awards show. There was no host last year, and in prior years the host was usually a comedian.

MTV used the occasion to promote their new “Overdrive” web service, where fans can assemble custom edits of the show.

2005-08-29

100,000 Phone Customers To Be Disconnected

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants you to be able to dial 911 and get local emergency help from any telephone. Concerned at the slow progress that Internet phone companies have made in implementing enhanced 911 (E911) service, the FCC ordered Internet phone companies to inform all customers about any limitations in 911 service compared to the E911 standard. Customers were required to acknowledge the 911 limitations of their phone service, and those who have not will find the service disconnected on August 30. It has been estimated that around 100,000 customers will be affected.

If you are one of these customers, you can have your service restored as soon as you read the 911 service advisory from your phone company and provide them with the necessary paperwork.

[Update: On August 26, the FCC extended the deadline until September 28.]

2005-08-25

Bob Moog Dies

Bob Moog, the engineer who created the Moog synthesizer, died yesterday. He had been receiving treatment for brain cancer.

Moog created the first keyboard synthesizer and the first synthesizer stable enough to be a viable commercial product. The Moog name was synonymous with synthesizers in the 1960s and 1970s and maintains its mystique among fans of the analog synthesizer sound of that period.

Moog continued to work on developing new electronic music performance technology up until his death.

2005-08-22

Hollywood Looking for Answers After Disappointing Summer

Summer is traditionally the season of Hollywood blockbusters, but this summer’s movie releases have been lacking, bringing in the lowest box office totals in five years and leaving the movie studios scratching their heads.

The most successful movie of the late summer season has been a nature documentary that follows a penguin family. Perhaps this is a sign that Hollywood's stock movie formulas have gone stale. Superhero, buffoon, and war movies that were expected to pack theaters have done poorly this summer, leaving moviemakers to wonder what they need to do to bring in an audience.

Part of the problem, apparently, is the declining effectiveness of television advertising. Viewers are becoming more resistant to commercial messages in general, and it is harder for a message announcing a movie to cut through. Some movie producers are suggesting that it is no longer possible to reach a mass audience through the television, and it is time for Hollywood to cut back drastically on its television advertising. Instead of trying to make sure everyone in the country knows about a new movie before it opens, they might target only carefully selected shows and cable channels in line with the movie’s message. This year, movie studios already cut back on Super Bowl advertising for movie releases, saying that approach no longer works. Much more drastic cutbacks in television spending can be expected in the coming year.

Some movie executives blame bootleg DVDs for the decline in movie viewing. Disney head Robert Iger last week went so far as to suggest releasing movie DVDs at the same time that movies are released to theaters as a way to compete with illegal copies, which often appear the day after the theatrical release of a movie. Traditionally, movie DVDs have been released the year after the theatrical release. Iger’s suggestion, however, is unpopular with theater owners who would see their audiences slip further.

Economic uncertainty and high gasoline prices also deter moviegoers. The cost of a car trip to the theater may add only a few dollars to the cost of seeing a movie, but the sharp increases in fuel prices this summer have made consumers more conscious of the cost of car trips in general.

Hollywood's problems this year parallel the problems of the major record labels over the past decade. If it is no longer possible to make a hit album that appeals to every kind of music buyer, then perhaps the era of the blockbuster film, intended to appeal to every kind of moviegoer, is also ending. There are no more Star Wars episodes on the drawing board.

If this is the case, moviemakers might have to go to more trouble to understand their audience and design movies that will appeal more strongly to specific segments of the moviegoing public.

For those looking for simplistic answers, one possible solution is to improve the names of movies. Terse movie titles such as Madagascar, The Cave, and The Island stand out on posters but fail to communicate any sense of story or drama to potential viewers.

2005-08-19

Streisand, Gibb Are Guilty Again

Twenty-five years after singer Barbra Streisand and producer Barry Gibb made the #1 album Guilty, they are working together again. A new album, Guilty Pleasures, will be released September 20. Like Guilty, Guilty Pleasures is an album of smooth dance music that makes good use of Streisand's versatile singing voice.

The video of one song from the album, “Stranger in a Strange Land,” is being featured this week on Amazon.com's music page. The song addresses the impact of an overseas war on the families back home, and the video includes scenes of U.S. troops on their way to unfamiliar places.

2005-08-16

Decline in Brand Identity Hurts U.S. Trade

The U.S. trade deficit, a pattern in which the country buys more from other countries than it sells to them, has been close to record levels recently. There are several technical economic explanations for this, including the artificially high level of the U.S. dollar and some of the mechanisms in place for setting energy prices, but a small part of the trade gap can be attributed to something much more simple: consumers around the world are less eager to select U.S.-branded products because of a general unease about U.S. foreign policy.

Consumer sentiment about major corporate brands closely tied to American culture has been falling for the past three years. Market researchers GfK NOP found the greatest decline in worldwide popularity this year in the Coca-Cola, Disney, McDonald's, CNN, and Microsoft brands.

But American-owned brands such as MTV and Nike are relatively unaffected because these companies never identified their brands with American culture. Other brands might be able to sidestep the United States’ rapid fall in worldwide popularity by taking a more local point of view or by focusing more directly on their customers’ lives, as MTV and Nike have always done.

It is interesting to note that the brand logos with the biggest declines incorporate combinations of red, white, and blue, the widely recognized American flag colors. The Microsoft logo is most often seen in blue and white, the Disney logo usually incorporates red or blue, and the others feature red and white together. Some brands might be able to distance themselves from the United States’ decline just by changing the colors in their logos.

Consumers still rate the U.S. as having a strong association for the ideals of wealth, power, and dreams, but a U.S. identity is no longer a positive for the ideals of honesty and integrity. Thus, a U.S. association may be helpful for selling luxury status items, but it has become a negative for most categories of consumer goods, and GfK NOP says American brands no longer hold a leadership position in the world.

With worldwide consumers no longer willing to pay premium prices for American products, most American companies say they can compete just by providing better value for their customers. In the long run, they say, you succeed only by giving customers what they want.

2005-08-13

ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings Dies

Peter Jennings, anchor of ABC World News Tonight, died last night of lung cancer. He was 67.

The last of the 20th-century major-network news anchors, Jennings represented the kind of world-impact journalism that is rapidly disappearing from television and other media. He had worked for ABC News since 1964 and was the evening news anchor and editor since 1987. He won 16 Emmy awards and numerous other awards.

2005-08-08

White Album On Hold After Immigration Problems

White is considering its options after immigration issues forced the cancellation of its More Drama tour, which was to have begun last night.

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White, a band formed by Yes drummer Alan White, recently completed its debut album and had expected to sell it on the tour. The release of the album is on hold for now.

The More Drama tour was to have featured guitarist Steve Howe, Chris Squire’s 1960s band the Syn, and a partial reunion of the lineup of Yes that appeared on its 1979 Drama album, along with White. Apparently heightened security in the wake of the recent bombings in London led the United States to bar one or more of the tour members, but there are no specifics that would indicate which musicians were barred from entering the United States or any reasons why that might have occurred. One member of White, keyboardist Geoff Downes, and the tour’s other acts are based in England.

White: http://www.whitemusic.net; Steve Howe: http://www.stevehowe.com; Yes: http://www.yesworld.com; Alan White: http://www.alanwhite.net; Geoff Downes: http://www.geoffdownes.com.

2005-08-03

Notes

Hoping to repeat the relaxed tropical vibe of last year’s Video Music Awards, MTV is keeping the awards show in Miami. This year’s top nominee is Green Day, whose album American Idiot has sold around 4 million copies. Tune in on August 28 to see who wins this year’s moon men.

The National Hockey League (NHL) is back in business, with a labor agreement good for six years, as the owners had insisted. The agreement cuts salaries and imposes a salary cap linked to league total revenue. The agreement, approved July 22, ends the year-long lockout that followed the expiration of the national television contract in the United States that had been the league’s largest single source of revenue. The next task is to persuade star players to continue playing with salaries that have been cut by 24 percent and could fall further. Then they have to bring back disenchanted fans who might be unhappy with rule changes that the league says will substantially alter the flow of the game. Finally, some teams will have to move or close if they can’t find a way to improve revenue. It is a tall order, but most industry analysts believe the NHL is up to it.

Song sales are picking up at iTunes Music Store. The leading music-download seller passed the 500 million mark on July 17.

In a new trend in computing, computer users are throwing their computers in the trash because the computers are infested with spyware and adware. This is not as nutty as it sounds. The average computer has around 40 spyware and adware programs on it. These programs are intrusive and pose security risks, eventually making a computer virtually unusable. But many exploit Microsoft Windows features that allow them to reinstall themselves automatically, making them nearly impossible to remove. There are utilities to detect and remove spyware and adware, but these require expert help and are not always successful. Of course, any computer system can be converted into a clean system by reformatting the hard disks and reinstalling the legitimate software, but this process could take most of a day, and that’s assuming you know how to do it. With new entry-level computers now costing a mere $400 to $800, some users find it easier to start fresh with a new computer.

Microsoft is tripping all over itself as it tries to get in on the podcast boom. Apparently afraid that “podcast” might remind people of the iPod, Microsoft has banned the word, but this makes it difficult for people to understand that Microsoft is making podcasts. At the same time, Microsoft refuses to follow audio data standards, relying on its own balky, incompatible audio formats instead. This will prevent many, if not most, podcast listeners from hearing Microsoft’s audio deliveries.

CardSystems Solutions, the credit card transaction processor that recently leaked account data for 40 million credit cards, is being barred from the Visa and American Express networks. This will effectively force the company out of the credit card business. In a statement, Visa USA hinted that CardSystems started to store magnetic-stripe data last August and is continuing to do so. This would be a violation of Visa’s rules because virtually the only purpose of stored magnetic-stripe data is to create counterfeit cards. There is no evidence that CardSystems participated in creating any phony credit cards, but the FBI is investigating to see if any federal laws were broken.

Billy Squier and Def Leppard toured together in 1983, and now they're doing one more show. Chicago's Loop 97.9 is hosting the two acts for the Loopfest show September 4. Def Leppard has been touring all summer with Bryan Adams. Loopfest will apparently be Billy Squier’s only performance this year.

Daryl Hall has posted an account of his recent Lyme disease diagnosis on the Hall and Oates web site. His experience has made him an advocate: “Lyme and other tick-related diseases are very serious maladies that for some reason have been underplayed by the media and medical profession.”

Green Day: http://www.greenday.com; MTV: http://www.mtv.com; NHL: http://www.nhl.com; Def Leppard: http://www.defleppard.com; Billy Squier: http://www.billysquier.com; Daryl Hall and John Oates: http://www.hallandoates.com.

2005-08-01

Alice Cooper Boasts Dirty Diamonds

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Alice Cooper is up to his usual tricks on his new album Dirty Diamonds. The advance single “Sunset Babies (All Got Rabies)” is a delightfully cheerful mishmash of sex roles and sexually transmitted diseases. “Got my shot,” the chorus concludes with ironically misplaced pride. The album repeats the garage rock of the last album, The Eyes of Alice Cooper, but unlike that set, has overdubs and a more polished sound that you might compare to a Rolling Stones album. Dirty Diamonds is available now in Europe and comes out next week in Australia and the United States.

2005-07-29

Telesur Broadcasts to Latin America

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Telesur, a new public television station backed by the governments of Venezuela and three other countries, has begun broadcasting across Latin America.

Billing itself as “la nueva televisión del sur,” “the new television of the south,” and as an alternative to CNN, the new satellite channel promises hard-hitting journalism and a Latin American focus. Telesur is based in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

Perhaps concerned by Cuba’s official support for Telesur or by comparisons to the popular Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera, the U.S. Congress is considering launching a propaganda television station that would offer Venezuelans a U.S.-centered view of the world.

2005-07-23

Paul Nordquist Launches Can Opener in a Can

Paul Nordquist has started a new blog that mixes up popular culture and reality. In this witty blog, called Can Opener in a Can, life is too complicated to explain. The two latest posts are “Medieval Disco Hits,” which offers Baroque disco lyrics, and “Consumer Warning: Fast Food Isn’t a Time Saver,” which estimates how much your life is shortened by each fast food meal you eat.

Can Opener in a Can: http://canopenerinacan.blogspot.com.

2005-07-16

Harry Potter Book Released

In what is expected to be the biggest book release to date, the newest Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, was released today. Many bookstores held midnight events for fans who wanted to be among the first to get the new book.

The most popular fiction series in history, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series tells the adventures of a boy wizard.

2005-07-16

Rick Springfield, The Day After Yesterday

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Fans who have wondered what Rick Springfield might sound like without the personal problems that his songs are made of can find out on the new album The Day After Yesterday, an eclectic collection of other people’s rock songs, made raspy, chunky, and funky in the Springfield style. The first thing longtime rock fans will notice is the collection of songs on this album. Safe to say, it is the first time that “I'm Not in Love,” “Life in a Northern Town,” “Holding On To Yesterday,” “Human,” and “Baker Street” have been put together.

But the album is propelled by outstanding bass playing from Matt Bisonette and guitar playing mostly done this time by Rick himself. On the standout track, a relatively faithful rendition of the Mr. Mister hit “Broken Wings,” it is John 5 playing the Frampton-like guitar licks and Mr. Mister’s Richard Page augmenting the lead vocals. Another noteworthy track is the remake of Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” a song that suddenly makes sense when you hear this new rendition of it.

And what does Rick Springfield sound like on an album whose lyrics lack even a single life crisis or emotional breakdown, at least nothing more consequential than the Beatles’ “tears cried for no one”? As it turns out, he is still the same earnest beat-heavy rocker. Perhaps those cries of anguish were just a put-on all along, not that he didn’t wish that he had Jessie’s girl, but maybe as he put it in that same song, he just played along with the charade. At any rate, the average rock fan might well have an easier time relating to the more even-tempered approach they will hear on this album.

Rick Springfield: http://www.rickspringfield.com.

2005-07-12

Europe Rejects Software Patents

The European Parliament yesterday voted down a measure that would have authorized U.S.-style patents on computer software.

Large multinational software companies spearheaded a campaign to enact the measure, but it was opposed by seemingly everyone else. European software makers lobbied hard against the measure, saying it would give Europe a competitive disadvantage in software development. It was also opposed by consumer groups and was defeated by a wide margin, with only about 10% of votes in favor.

It probably did not help the measure’s chances that its most vocal support came from Microsoft, a convicted monopolist that has been criticized this year for questioning the European Commission's authority and ignoring its judicial decisions.

Software patents are under pressure in the United States, with software companies asking Congress to repeal the provisions that permit them. Thousands of software patents have been granted, but not many of them hold up in court, as the supposed inventions usually turn out to be common industry practices.

If the United States continues to grant software patents while the rest of the world does not recognize them, this could turn into a considerable competitive disadvantage for U.S. businesses. It is easy to imagine scenarios in which U.S. companies would be unable to obtain or sell the latest computer technology because of pending patent claims against it in the United States, while this technology is freely available everywhere else in the world.

2005-07-07

Lyme Disease Interrupts Hall & Oates Tour

Daryl Hall has learned that the mysterious illness that has sidelined him for the past week is Lyme Disease. Caught early, this disease is considered easy to treat. “I'm looking forward to a complete, quick recovery and to get back out there with John as soon as possible,” Daryl said in a statement today.

Hall and Oates had already postponed a week's worth of shows and are now working to reschedule several more shows.

2005-07-06

Live 8 Concerts Highlight Extreme Poverty

Twenty years after the Live Aid concert, today's Live 8 concerts aimed to put pressure on the upcoming G8 meeting to address the problem of extreme poverty in Africa.

Around 1 million music fans attended the largest concert in Philadelphia, with perhaps 2 million more at concerts in major countries around the world. An estimated 2 billion people saw at least some of the music on television in what was considered the world's largest broadcast.

In Philadelphia, fans completely filled the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and spilled over into adjacent side streets to see Bon Jovi, Will Smith, Def Leppard, Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, and many other performers.

In London, the show included several musical surprises, starting with the opener, U2 and Paul McCartney singing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and ending up with a surprise reunion between Roger Waters and Pink Floyd.

More than a few top acts went to the other cities where concerts were being held, including Shakira in Paris, Green Day in Berlin, and Bjork and Good Charlotte in Tokyo. The Canadian concert, held in Barrie, had more than its share of rock acts, such as Bryan Adams, Deep Purple, Jet, Motley Crue, and Great Big Sea.

Organizers are urging supporters to add their names to the Live 8 List, essentially a petition asking the G8 heads of state to take action to end extreme poverty in Africa. Names selected at random from the list were displayed by the thousands on the video screens during the shows. This part of the appeal during the concerts seemed to be tremendously successful. The length of the list more than doubled during the afternoon, passing 20 million by the time the shows ended.

While the concerts were going on, 200,000 people gathered for the Make Poverty History march and rally in Edinburgh, Scotland, site of next week's G8 meeting.

No money was collected at the free concerts, but musical highlights are available for download, with proceeds going to relief efforts.

Some of the participants have spent years working on a particular aspect of the problem. Coldplay, for example, has been lobbying for fair trade rules so that poor countries can export their products to rich countries. Bono of U2 has become a virtual ambassador for the AIDS and poverty problems of Africa. Elton John heads an AIDS charity. Organizer Bob Geldof has focused especially on the disastrous effects of famine in East Africa.

Live 8: http://www.live8live.com; The Live 8 List: http://www.live8live.com/list/.

2005-07-02

Notes

Is Google one of the biggest companies in the world? Wall Street seems to think so, as the company's stock price sets its value close to $100 billion — easily the biggest stock bubble since the Internet bubble of the late 1990s.

Printer maker Lexmark has failed in its bid to enforce the copy protection it claimed to have in its toner cartridges. Courts ruled that copyright law encourages interoperability, so Lexmark cannot use its copyrights to prevent other companies from making toner cartridges that work with its printers, and the Supreme Court has declined to hear the case.

A year later than promised, Sun has released the source code for its Solaris operating system. The move might be too little, too late to save the last major version of Unix, but customers’ ability to fix the bugs they find in Solaris should at least slow down the rate of defections to industry-leading Linux.

It should surprise no one that Shakira’s new album Fijacion Oral 1 set all kinds of records for a Spanish-language album release, including a debut position of #4 on the Billboard chart in the U.S., higher positions in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and at #1 in most Spanish-speaking countries.

Howe-White-Squire

The Howe-White-Squire tour featuring most of the current members of Yes and one former Yes member is getting underway with shows across North America. The package tour includes White, a band formed by Yes drummer Alan White that also includes former Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes; The Syn, bassist Chris Squire’s reunited band; and solo performances by guitarist Steve Howe. These four members of Yes played together on the hugely successful Drama tour 25 years ago, so the new tour has been dubbed the More Drama tour, and the four will play a short set of songs fans have not heard live since the Drama tour.

Satellite radio providers XM and Sirius have received preliminary approval to sign up subscribers in Canada. Between them, they have over 5 million subscribers in the United States.

Possibly the largest credit card security breach ever was announced recently. CardSystems Solutions, a merchant service processor, improperly retained 40 million credit card records and then leaked them to unidentified third parties. The credit card industry has said it does not intend to notify the cardholders involved. However, a class action suit filed in California notes that California law requires such a disclosure and seeks to force card issuers to notify account holders and take steps to protect their information and accounts.

Apple has released software to support podcasts in iTunes and its iPod. It converted its iPod line to color displays and cut the price of the displayless iPod Shuffle.

Meanwhile, Mac users are holding off on buying computers this year as they await details of Apple’s future computer hardware plans. In a MacWorld survey, a third of respondents said they are less likely to buy a new Mac over the next year. Better news for Apple, though, is that 62% of users said they expect the new Intel-based systems to be faster and cheaper than the current PowerPC systems.

2005-07-01

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