Amazon MP3

amazon mp3 logo

If you purchase digital music at all (oh, I know some of you are pirates, don’t try to hide it from me), let me point out the newly born Amazon MP3 (beta). All of the songs are straight MP3s (no DRM) so they’ll work just fine on iPods or any MP3 player or can be burned to CD without any difficulty. The site doesn’t have as much selection as iTunes (at least not yet), but they’ve snagged content from major labels Universal and EMI. So you can enjoy artists such as Kanye West, Coldplay, and David Bowie.

You don’t listen to Bowie? Ok, that’s fair, neither do I.

Another advantage over iTunes: price. The top 100 songs are $.89/each and the top $100 albums are $8.99. In general though, song costs start at $.89 and depend on length.

via Daring Fireball:

Amazon’s single pricing is based on track length. Songs that are more than seven minutes long cost $1.94, songs more than 14 minutes cost even more. This isn’t necessarily a bad deal compared to iTunes — Apple makes many of these tracks album-only.

Oh, and for a sweet taste of irony… have you seen the new Apple nano advertisement? You know, this one:
YouTube Preview Image
iPod nano featuring Feist1234

The irony is that this song is the #1 (album version) and #4 (single) most purchased song on Amazon MP3, it costs 10 cents less than on iTunes, and there’s no copy restrictions.

Arrr! It’s swashbuckling time!

The Pirate Bay (one of the internet’s largest torrent indexers for movies, music, TV, etc.) is suing a number of large media companies including Fox, Universal, Paramount, and more. Why? “The charges are infrastructural sabotage, denial of service attacks, hacking and spamming, all of these on a commercial level.” More details at TPB blog.

How’d all of this come about? A company named MediaDefender (if you check Wikipedia, hope you’re getting it on a day that the company isn’t trying to sanitize its profile). The scandal seems to have started a few months ago, but more details are continuing to be revealed as 700MB of the company’s email was recently acquired, bundled up and offered for download from a torrent site. Essentially, it has come to light via these emails that MediaDefender has been working with a large number of the media companies to hack users of peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing services and attack various websites such as TPB.

One large aspect of MediaDefender’s work is digging up information about P2P users. They set up a video sharing website ( — not there anymore) in order to gather personal information about users who posted video content.

The most frightening aspect of all of this is the methods the company is using. The attacks on P2P sites, the fake video-sharing site, etc. And it’s not only the big media companies who use their services. A recorded phone call has surfaced containing a conference call between MediaDefender and members of the New York Attorney Generals Office. The NY AG office appears to have partnered with MediaDefender to track down info about child-porn sharers. Now, shutting down child-porn sharers is 100% an excellent goal, but I’m not much thrilled when any government agency is buddying up with a company who itself circumvents legal methods of action and resorts to phishing, hacking, DOSing, spamming, and sabotage.

In a fantastic twist of irony, hackers everywhere now seem to be using MediaDefender for target practice. The leaked emails were culled from one of their employee’s private Gmail accounts. I don’t know exactly how the phone call was captured, but the NY AG’s office was using a VOIP (voice-over-IP) connection and this could have been hacked/recorded somehow. Now that P2P users are aware of the threat from this company, they’re able to use information about the company in order to circumvent MediaDefenders ability to track them using applications such as PeerGuardian (site | wiki).

The outcome of the MediaDefender scandal will be interesting to watch. The company has certainly had their reputation trashed, at least among the IT crowd (no, not that The IT Crowd). The lawsuit will be watched closely as it could signal the tides of change in the ongoing privacy vs piracy war in Sweden and in general.

Note: I’m not defending intellectual property pirates. I just don’t want to relive 1984 or any other sort of dystopian nightmare.

The Pirate Bay Files Suit Against Big Media
Leaked Media Defender e-mails reveal secret government project
Peer-to-peer poisoners: A tour of MediaDefender
MediaDefender Phonecall
MediaDefender Emails
Hackers Smack Anti-Piracy Firm Again and Again
Media Defender emails

Unecessary Risks

CompUSA has presented me with some excellent discounts on hardware and software lately. Today, I got 60% on Windows Vista Home Premium (~$64 total after discount). I’m in the middle of installing it right now.

You might ask, “Is it wise to blog while upgrading your OS?” To which I would answer, “Probably not.”

“Is it wise to install Vista at all?” … “Probably not.”

But hey, it’s got eye candy! And it was on sale. I’ll keep repeating the mantra when it crashes or doesn’t work. I mean, really, who would exp

NY Times Reader

The New York Times has released an application called the Times Reader. This application attempts to emulate the look and easy accessibility of an actual newspaper. It’s available for download now.

Though it’s just in beta, I found the experience quite pleasant. After registering for the free service, I downloaded the application (requires Windows XP and it installs Microsoft .NET 3.0 software) and read a few of the Times’ articles for the day including a detailed story about China’s leaders and their stance on the nation becoming a global power, an article about a new type of keyboard, and an article covering the pros and cons of cell phone insurance.

NYT Reader screenshot
The New York Times Reader viewing the Technology section

It has several benefits compared to a standard news site or aggregator. The application enables the paper to maintain its typical look, feel, and layout on a computer screen. It does this while also providing enhanced abilities such as adjustable font sizes, links to external websites, and easy navigation to any section of the paper. Of benefit to the NYT is their ability to control the layout and sizing of the advertisements which obviously fund the service.

Another nice feature for the user is the ability to schedule updates. You can have it sync to the server and download the latest articles once a day. In addition to this, it can grab new stores on an interval you set (30, 60, 90, or 120 minutes).

If you’re able to run this application and our looking for a bit more news and depth than the Drudge Report can give you, or perhaps you can’t afford a real newspaper, this would be a great application for you to give a try.

Blogger Beta

For those of you who use Blogger, you may be interested to know that there’s a new beta version available. I don’t know what all the features are (the beta page lists them all), but it looks like there’s some new AJAX code running parts of the site in addition to other features meant to make it easier to edit the appearance of your site, add tags to your posts, and control who can read your posts. Not a bad upgrade at all.

However, if you use Safari (Jake, I’m talking to you), it won’t work. Yet.