Will I still be a user two years from now?

Social music site has been bought by US media giant CBS Corporation for $280m (£140m), the largest-ever UK Web 2.0 acquisition.

The online network was founded in the UK five years ago and it now has more than 15 million active users.

(Source: BBC News)

I joined just coming up to two years ago. As a music nut (my collection is currently 211gigs, all legal!), is perfect for me. I can see a ridiculous amount of stats about what I listen to and, even better, spy on what other users are rocking. I’ve got many great music tips from other users.

The buyout by CBS makes me feel a little wistful. I don’t think the site will go major-corp horrible overnight but the truth is, anything that major corps touch, they make shit. It’s the reverse Midas. These companies, by definition, deal in the volume, bland end of everything. What big companies give you is bland product at low, low prices. McDonalds = bland food, Sony = bland music, Ford = bland cars.

If you want innovation, excitement, revolution, you have to look at independent, small companies. Whether it’s indie labels or little restaurants, Tesla Motors or, the good stuff comes from outside the corporate bullshit world.

So… when the good stuff gets noticed, it gets bought. Just as the majors swallowed all the indie labels in the ’90s and made them unbearably shite (compare Creation pre-Sony to post), all the most brilliant web companies are getting bought by Murdoch or, in this case, CBS. On the forums, the reaction is pretty much as you’d expect: paranoid lefty users versus hipper-than-thou, petit-bourgeois kids, spouting right-wing flummery.

The big companies are too slow and stupid to innovate themselves, they just sit around burping and scratching their arses till someone else does all the work for them. Then they open their substantial wallets.

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe this buyout will be different. Maybe this time, the big company will keep its word and not change anything. Maybe…

The reason I’m particularly wistful is that I don’t think that CBS should be buying, I think should be buying CBS. CBS is a 20th century anachronism, it’s an old media company floundering in the 21st century. If you probe behind all the PR speak, there are no fresh ideas there. Apart from buying up good stuff someone else thought of, which, hey, isn’t exactly rocket science.

In an alternate reality, held out longer, managed to raise more income through ads or new sugar daddies. They expanded their user-base, they branched even more into streaming, letting subscribers access their entire listened library on cellphones anywhere, anywhen. They issued Slim Server and Apple TV clients, they offered paid, secure backup of music libraries. They became the go-to music hub. And, in 2009 or 2010, they bought CBS.

I just wish I lived in that reality.

Capitalism Literally Stunts Your Growth

Capitalism Stunts Your Growth

“We surmise that the health systems and high degree of social security in Europe provide better conditions for growth than the American health system, despite the fact that the system costs twice as much,” said study co-author John Komlos from the University of Munich in a statement. “There are also indications that American diets are deficient in several areas.”
(Source: Spiegel Online, via Boing Boing)

America, the richest country in the world, stunts the growth of its population thanks to it’s adherence to a rapacious, uncaring economic system. There’s no money for socialist welfare or healthcare systems like we enjoy in Britain (and that Blair and New Labour want to dismantle).

Of course, there’s always money for war. No problem there, killing kids in Iraq is a much more important task than feeding the hungry in America. That would be COMMUNISM!

I regularly have arguments with people I meet who claim to be pro-capitalism. These are average, ordinary middle and working-class Britons. None of them are Rupert Murdoch or George Dubya. And yet, they’ve swallowed the big lies of capitalism whole.

I point out to these people that everything they have, their salary, the car, the house, the paid holiday, the education for their kids, their GP, the stay they had in hospital, all of it, is based on rights won for them by the collective actions of previous generations. Capitalism never lifted a finger to clothe or house them: union power did that. Capitalism doesn’t care if their child starves or breaks a leg climbing a tree. The Welfare State does. By definition, the only thing capitalism cares about is profit.

So, the next time you hear some Daily Mail-type banging on about Nanny State this, benefit fraud that, ask them who paid for the midwife that helped birth them, who paid for their education, who provided a welfare and healthcare system around them, a safety net? It wasn’t capitalism.

Here’s the difference:

Whereas in the US, some 15 percent of the population has no health insurance and those on welfare can barely get by, almost all citizens of northern and western European countries enjoy universal health care and a generous social net. The result is that even those children dependent on welfare in Europe have a sufficient living standard, the researchers concluded.
(Source: Spiegel Online)

None of this was given to us. We enjoy rights and benefits that men and women fought and died to win for us, both against capitalism and it’s uglier brother, fascism. Every minute of sick pay, every second in an NHS hospital was won through that collective struggle.

Look at America and learn why we must never let those prizes be ripped from us.

Essential Vidcasts

Here’s some more progs that are essential if you’ve got an Apple TV or if you don’t mind squinting at podcasts on your computer:

The Merlin Show
The Merlin Show
I’ve got hooked on Mann’s warm, easy interviewing style and the playfulness of his questions. This is a bloke who wouldn’t be out of place as a prime-time chatshow host but, the world being what it is, primetime is taken up with Celebrity Organ Transplant.

My fave eps so far have been with John Roderick, a musician you may know from his work with Death Cab For Cutie, Nada Surf, the Decemberists or his own band, The Long Winters. It’s these episodes that gave us the classic line:

“I don’t think that Ben Affleck’s hair is a crime against humanity but…”

Recommended for geeks and particularly for musicians, there’s a lot of good info here.

Mobuzz is more bite-sized, each ep is around five minutes. In that space, Karina Stenquist (or Iria Gallardo if you’re watching the Spanish version) guides the viewer through the geekier news items of the day. In the past few days, I’ve heard about dark matter, synthetic blood, mobile Ubuntu… well, you get the drift. Geektastic.

And that brings me glidingly to my last pick:



As you can see, it’s presented by two geezers called Robert Heron and Patrick Norton, both uber-geeks, both laconically silly. Now, I warn you, this show is extremely geeky. If you’re the kind of person who likes seeing features on the availability of AGP cards in the PCI age or the best caddy for an ESATA drive, this show is for you. If you’re now going ‘whuh?’ then you can safely avoid it. I love it! I only wish I’d seen some of the older eps before some recent purchases I’ve made, that could have saved me a shitload of money.

And that wraps up the vidcast picks for today. I’ll probably have some more soon as I seem to be be watching more and more IPTV and less old telly.

Wake up, old media world, your audience is waving goodbye!

Police Chief: Britain Becoming Orwellian State


A senior police officer has said he fears the spread of CCTV cameras is leading to “an Orwellian situation”.

Deputy chief constable of Hampshire Ian Readhead said Britain could become a surveillance society with cameras on every street corner.

There are up to 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain – about one for every 14 people.

The UK also has the world’s biggest DNA database, with 3.6 million DNA samples on file.

(Source: BBC News)

This is another part of Butcher Blair’s grand legacy to Britain: we are the most surveilled nation on Earth. And it’s going to get even worse. Whether it’s the plan to monitor every single car journey or the money and freedom pit of ID cards, Blair’s Britain is the wet-dream of Stalinist commissars.

We now live in a country where we have less privacy than the average Chinese citizen. Ironically, this Friday, British MPs voted to keep their activities secret:

The House of Commons yesterday voted to exempt itself from its own Freedom of Information Act, ending the compulsory legal requirement for MPs to disclose their expenses and introducing further curbs on the release of already protected MPs’ correspondence.

The Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said after the vote: “This is a terrible day for parliamentary democracy and in particular for the House of Commons. I am ashamed to be an MP.”
(Source: The Guardian)

So, MPs want their activities to be private but everywhere ordinary citizens go, we’re subjected to banks of CCTV cameras and our DNA is retained just in case we commit some future crime?

For a change, I’ll give the last word to a copper:

“I’m really concerned about what happens to the product of these cameras, and what comes next?” he said.

“If it’s in our villages, are we really moving towards an Orwellian situation where cameras are at every street corner?

“And I really don’t think that’s the kind of country that I want to live in.”
(Source: BBC News)

AACS Cracked Again

AACS Key Cracked again...

Remember all the hoo-haa recently about the AACS DRM being cracked? And how the posting of the secret key a gzillion times on the net caused AACS to revoke that key and issue a new one?

Well, guess what – that one’s been cracked too!

In a way, I support DRM since I have my music on iTunes. But as soon as Apple give me the option of removing it, I will do. I have no problem with people sharing my music, they’re promoting it! Now, if they start to charge for that sharing (and don’t give me any money), I see that as piracy.

DRM on films is basically pointless. The real pirates will bypass it and the only people it will annoy and irritate will be legitimate users wanting to back-up their discs or perhaps rip them to watch on Apple TV / laptop / iPod.

This raises the question: what will AACS-LA do now? Key revocation doesn’t work. Suing the Internet doesn’t work. DRM doesn’t work (this DRM took years and cost millions, it was broken in days, for free, by hobbyists). Pirates who download movies don’t ever see DRM. Honest customers who buy media are the only people who ever get restricted by it — and it’s clear that a lot of people aren’t willing to pay money for movies that are less useful than the pirate versions they can get for free
(Source: Boing Boing)

Thank god CDs aren’t routinely copy protected, though I’m sure I read somewhere recently that some new nutjobs want to implement that too….

Imagine a future where all the DRM-ed media will be unreadable because of obsolete readers or timed-out keys. It’ll be a cultural black hole. And future citizens will wonder why we deliberately produced defective products!

DRM must go.