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16 October, 2002

The RIAA Discloses Future Plans

It's a joke, but it's not far from reality.

Posted on 16 October, 2002

Windows Media Player Series 9 Beta

A few weeks ago, I downloaded this product from Microsoft's web site. I was aware that it was beta software, but based on my past experiences, Microsoft's beta software is generally fairly usable. And since this particular product is geared to non-technical users and is heavily hyped on their web site, I figured it would be smooth sailing. I was wrong. It gave me lots of problems, and I quickly discovered that the only way to uninstall it is to use the Windows System Restore feature. Fortunately, I dumped it before it caused any real damage.

Since then, I've been browsing the microsoft.public.windowsmedia.beta newsgroup. It seems that lots of people are having problems with it. I really can't understand how Microsoft can release this product to the general public without the ability to do a proper uninstall. Amazing!

My main reason for downloading it was to get some first-hand experience with how it handles Digital Restrictions Rights Management (DRM). My theory: WMP9 is essentially a vehicle for DRM, designed for the benefit of the entertainment industry. Microsoft is hyping it big-time, and throwing in lots of bells and whistles so the average computer user will go ga-ga over it. They will quickly grab a huge market share, and the entertainment industry folks will finally be able to sell their crippled media to unsuspecting consumers.

Posted on 16 October, 2002

The Pope's Been Busy!

The Pope announced that he was declaring the period between October 2002 and October 2003 "the year of the rosary" and proposed changes to the method of prayer (full story).

I was born and raised a Catholic, but that was a long time ago. Call me sacrilegious, but a news story such as this strikes me as damn funny. For example:

It [the rosary] was composed of three groupings of mysteries for a current total of 15 mysteries. They were grouped into the joyful mysteries, events in Jesus' early life, the sorrowful mysteries, revolving around his passion and death, and the glorious mysteries, involving his resurrection.

So is there a committee that decides which category a mystery belongs to? Is there an appeals process?

With all of the recent sex scandals, you'd think these guys would have more important things to do.

Posted on 16 October, 2002

Being a Microsoft MVP

In 2000, I was named a Microsoft MVP. For those who are not familiar with this program, Microsoft makes this award (primarily) to people who reply to user's questions in the newsgroups. That's me. I spend a lot of time in the Excel newsgroups, and enjoy problem-solving and turning people on to the mysteries of Excel.

Being an MVP has several perks, including a free subscription to MSDN (or TechNet), discounts on selected items at the Microsoft Company Store, access to private newsgroups, and an MVP Summit meeting in Redmond -- a great chance to meet the folks who I know only from my e-communications.

Frankly, I have mixed feelings about this association with Microsoft. I've had a fair amount of interaction with Microsoft employees. Without exception, they are a great bunch of people. But the corporation itself can probably best be described as sleazy. Here's a recent example, and here's a blast from the past. With Microsoft, somehow the whole is much less than the sum of its parts.

Posted on 16 October, 2002

The Most Popular Part of My Web Site

I spend a lot of time working on my Spreadsheet Page site. Excel users from all over the world visit frequently, and give me lots of good feedback. A few even buy my software. But what's the most popular document at the j-walk.com domain? It's an eBay parody that I put together about a year ago. You might appreciate it if you've spent time on eBay. And you might really appreciate it if you're a guitar player.

Posted on 16 October, 2002

Pressplay? MusicNet? Just Say No!

With about 900 CDs in my collection, I could probably be classified as a music lover. You may have heard about the new pay-per-download sites, specifically PressPlay and MusicNet. If you're looking for a convenient way to download music legally, these sites are not the solution -- and not even worthy of a hyperlink. Read the fine print, and you'll see why.

As far as I'm concerned there is only one source for online music purchases: emusic.com. Unlike the others, the music that you purchase is in the form of MP3 files. For a small monthly fee, you can download as many files as you like. And they make it very easy with their 1-click full album download feature. I've been a member for about six months now, and I've downloaded about 1,500 songs. If you have eclectic tastes in music (especially jazz, blues, and electronica), do yourself a favor and check it out.

BTW, I am not affiliated with emusic.com in any way. Just a satisfied customer of one of the Web's best-kept secrets.

Posted on 16 October, 2002