Monthly Archives: August 2005

CD Niftyness

Jeff gave me a copy of _Little by Little_, the new “Harvey Danger”: CD today. I’ve been listening to a copy of the master for the past few weeks and really liking it, but it’s cool to see the finished product. The design and “artwork”: look great. It definitely has fetish value as a physical object in a way almost none of the other CDs I own do. Some of the LPs in my record collection, on the other hand…

I took the opportunity, now that I have the album and bonus CD, to enter track information into CDDB and freeDB. The general public won’t be able to get their hands on the album until September 13th, but this way people getting the hundreds of review copies being sent out won’t have to enter track info when they rip things for their iPod (or similar device). At least I hope they won’t have to. I don’t know how long it takes submissions to show up.

I also used “MusicBrainz”: to take audio fingerprints and submit them to their database. I really like the idea of MusicBrainz, which uses the content of a track to identify the music, rather than the lenghts of the tracks on a disk. Unfortunately, it seems to do a kind of random job. “Cream and Bastards Rise” which I think may be the first single has the same fingerprint as something like a dozen other songs by various artists.

It’s too bad, too, because something like Musicbrainz, if it worked could solve the problem of “Paranoia by Green Day”: which is really “Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger”:, which is probably the result of a few people mistagging an untagged MP3 of Flagpole Sitta they got off of Napster and then spreading it around again by P2P.

Music Industry Misses Foot, Reloads

With the iTunes music store, Apple and Steve Jobs did for the music industry what they proved incapable of doing on their own, it gave them a future in the world of online digital media.

Now, to show that they’ve learned nothing, portions of the music industry are trying to force Apple to change their simple consumer-freindly pricing model.

Apple, Digital Music’s Angel, Earns Record Industry’s Scorn – New York Times
If he loses, the one-price model that iTunes has adopted – 99 cents to download any song – could be replaced with a more complex structure that prices songs by popularity. A hot new single, for example, could sell for $1.49, while a golden oldie could go for substantially less than 99 cents.

This is ridiculous on many fronts. For one thing, the music industry has long discounted whatever new music they are pushing in order to help build critical mass. Why do they think their “hot new thing” model, which is already showing signs of strain and wear, is going to hold up if they start jacking up the price on the new product they are trying to move?

In addition, jacking up the prices on popular music is just going to feed the free trading in music to which iTunes has provided the first and most successful alternative to.

Finally, this approach could actually hurt their revenue from more obscure items in the back catalog by cutting prices on tracks that might be hard to find on a filesharing service by discounting those tracks. Most of my iTunes purchases have been back-catalog tracks. More importantly, the latest and greatest actually makes up a pretty small proportion of the music people listen to. The top 100 songs on Rhapsody only acount for about 1% of the music its users play. Meanwhile 90% of the 1 million songs in their catalog are listened to at least once a month.

I guess I can content myself with the knowledge that the big record labels aren’t exactly united in their opinions on the matter and the hope that the more shortsighted among them are only hurrying themselves towards irrelevance.

Google Web Clips: Target for an Advertising Sneak-attack?

I wrote yesterday about the beta of “new version of Google Desktop Search”: which has a clever new approach to RSS subscriptions. Rather than expecting users to explicitly subscribe to the RSS feeds of sites that they visit, the WebClips section on the new GDS sidebar automatically shows feed items for pages you’ve recently or frequently visited that have discoverable feeds. Rather than expecting a user to know about RSS feeds, and rather than trying to explain to them why they’d care, Google is demonstrating their relevance.

I really like this approach, but it didn’t occur to me until just now that this could be the target for abuse by advertisers. They could hide feeds on web pages that would start showing up in your Web Clips. In fact, they might already be laying the groundwork.

I just checked my Web Clips options and I saw that it had detected feeds for “”. Right now, that URL doesn’t return any content, so I don’t know what’s going on. I’m not sure if it’s a bug in Web Clips, or what pages the feeds were detected on, but it’s all very suspicious at this point.

New Google Desktop Search Beta

Google has released a beta version of their new desktop search software.

Very interesting, and I haven’t even run a search yet. I’m particularly intrigued with how they are handling RSS feeds with their “Web Clips” feature

The new version starts out hiding as a little search field in the Windows task bar, but if you click on the little widget next to the search field, it expands into a strip that stretches from the top to the bottom of the right side of your screen. This strip is broken up into sections. Some of the sections have an options button, other’s don’t seem to allow customization.

* *E-mail:* Displays the title, sender and time of recent e-mail. It can watch your Gmail account and/or your desktop e-mail client. You can appearantly filter what shows up, but it isn’t obvious to me how I’d exclude some of my e-mail accounts.
* *News:* Shows headlines from various news sources. There is no obvious way to personalize this. It may draw on the settings of my personalized google home page, but they don’t call attention to that fact.
* *Web Clips:* This one is very interesting. It seems to be an RSS/Atom Feed aggregator, but with a twist. Rather than requiring you to add a feed, it seems like it is automatically adding feeds from site’s I’ve visited recently. It was already populated the first time I saw it, so it must have gone back over my history or browser cache. If you click on the options for the section, it shows a list of feeds. You can add to the list by entering a URL, or by pushing a button that will add feeds for recently visited sites. You can also tell it whether or not you want it to automatically add feeds for frequently visited sites. I wonder if it works the other way, culling sites you no longer visit frequently.

I’m a big fan of watching user behaviour and then using that information to present them with options of things that they might want to do.

* *Scratch Pad:* A little spot to type notes. Could be very handy, I often find myself opening notepad to use as a scratch pad.
* *Photos:* Seems like its a mini-slideshow. I can’t tell for sure because all my photos are on a fileserver, which it doesn’t support (yet), and I’m not in the mood to take two seconds to copy some over to my computer. From the settings, it looks like it can also pull photos out of RSS feeds.
* *Quick View:* Very strange. It’s a list of recently viewed web pages, documents and other files. According to options, I can choose to have the list show recently accessed items, or frequently accessed items with some recent items thrown in.
* *What’s Hot:* A list of topics. It looks like they are using Technorati and BlogPulse to find recently hot topics.
* *Stocks:* It should be obvious, or was the Tech Bubble too long ago?
* *Weather:* Yup.

_Update_: “Google’s overview”: fills in some details I might have missed at first glance.

3rd party developers can create their own plugins. I’ve installed one to show my AdSense statistics, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

The “Web Clips” is an interesting innovation. I’m not sure the rest of it is all that novel, given Pointcast, ActiveDesktop, Konfabulator, Sidecar, etc, but it does seem nicely done.

More later, probably.

Warner Music readies CD-free ‘e-label’ | CNET

Interesting, and it only took them how many years?
Warner Music readies CD-free ‘e-label’ | CNET

[…]artists will release music in clusters of three songs every few months rather than a CD every few years.
The e-label will permit recording artists to enjoy a “supportive, lower-risk environment” without as much pressure for huge commercial hits, Bronfman said. In addition, artists signed to the e-label will retain copyright and ownership of their master recordings.

From Movable Type to WordPress

I’ve used a variety of blogging tools over the years. I think I started with Livejournal, then used Blogger. A few years back, I exported all my posts out of Blogger and imported them into MovableType which I’ve been using ever since.

A year ago a lot of people transitioned off of MovableType when they changed their licensing terms with the release of MovableType 3.0. Many people stuck with MovableType and made the upgrade to 3.0 and beyond, but I stayed put. Until recently, that is.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to install “WordPress”: because I was thinking about a blogging project that would force me to pay for a MovableType license. That project is still in limbo, but a couple of hours ago I finished the process of migrating my blog from MovableType to WordPress. This is my first post in WordPress.

The process was pretty painless, thanks in large part, I think, to all those people who made the switch before me and were kind enough to write about it. A lot of that learning is boiled down “on the WordPress wiki”:, which covers the basics of importing your posts and comments, and getting your feeds redirected so people don’t miss a post.

The best information I found wasn’t on the Wiki though, it was on a blog. Scott Yang has detailed information on what you can do to make sure that “links to your old MovableType pages still work with WordPress”: This is important for all the people who visit your site from seach engines and links on other people’s sites.

I wanted to go a little further though, I wanted to switch to a new URL naming scheme for my posts that uses the post title, rather than relying on the post ID# MovableType and WordPress generate. I also wanted to make sure the posts using the new URLs maintained the same search engine rank they originally had, which would require issuing permenant redirects to the new URLs when people and search engine spider’s visited the old URLs. I wrote Scott about it and he pointed me to another post announcing a “plugin he created to do permenent redirects”: It seems to work like a charm.

Update 8-21-06: I upgraded to WordPress 2.0 a while back, and a month or so later it finally sunk in that old MovableType-style URLs had reappeared in my javascript based traffic counter. When I investigated I realized that the redirect was no longer working, it was going to the WordPress 404 error page. It seemed to be an issue with a conflict between the new and much simplified mod_rewrite rules introduced by WP 2 for creating clean URLs and the rewrite rules I was using to redirect from the MT style URLs. After some poking around, I gave up and rolled back to the older .htaccess file with its more byzantine rules for clean WP URLs.

This week I started playing with WordPresses static pages feature, and was annoyed to find it didn’t work because it needed changes to the rewrite rules, so tonight I started experimenting again and figured out that I could get the redirects for MovableType-style URLs working with the simpler but more flexible ruleset for clean URLs if I modified them to “break” after a match by adding the “L” flag to each of them.

RewriteRule ^archives/([0-9]{6}).html$ index.php?p=$1 [R=301,QSA,L]
RewriteRule ^archives/([0-9]{4})_([0-9]{2}).html$ index.php?m=$1$2 [QSA,L]
RewriteRule ^index.rdf$ index.php?feed=rdf [R=301,L]
RewriteRule ^index.xml$ index.php?feed=rss2 [R=301,L]
RewriteRule ^atom.xml$ index.php?feed=atom [R=301,L]