Math Fun the RIAA Way!

You may or may not have heard by now that an Arizona teen has been convicted under an Arizona law prohibiting unauthorized copying of music. What’s wacky is how the RIAA figured the value of his “crime,” as Techdirt explains:

Yesterday, in discussing the odd case of a teen convicted under Arizona state laws for unauthorized copying, we wondered about some of the details — including the $50 million claim pinned to the material on his hard drive in early versions of the AP story (later removed, for no clear reason). Luckily, we’ve got some answers. Slate takes a look at the $50 million and explains how the content industry does math to come up with such figures. The real answer is they basically make it up. They determine that each work can be valued somewhere between $750 and $30,000, even if they can all be downloaded legally for $1 a piece. It certainly seems a bit presumptuous to put such a high number on the value. However, this story gets even better. Ernest Miller takes a crack at the specific Arizona state law that tripped up this guy, and realizes it turns fair use copying into a felony. That’s right. The details show that if you’re simply ripping your own legally purchased CDs into MP3s for personal use or backup, you are breaking this particular law, and could reach the felony stage with as little as 1,000 songs — even though fair use copying is legal. Of course, at $30,000 per song, that’s only $30 million. To get up to $50 million, you’d need to rip 1,667 songs. If we assume an average album has… say… 12 songs, you’d just need to rip approximately 140 CDs to reach the $50 million felon mark. Not so hard. You might already be there. So, while it appears this particular kid was doing much more, you too could be convicted of a felony for having $50 million worth of content on your hard drive just for legally (oh, wait, maybe not…) ripping a bunch of your legally purchased CDs into MP3s.

Meanwhile, we can’t get a single fucking cocktail waitress in our office

[Axl] accompanied Buckethead on a jaunt to Disneyland when the guitarist was drifting toward quitting, several people involved recalled; then Buckethead announced he would be more comfortable working inside a chicken coop, so one was built for him in the studio, from wood planks and chicken wire.

This from The Most Expensive Album Never Made the NYT’s long piece on the long-awaited “Chinese Democracy” from Axl Rose.

(As with all NYT stories, hit it quick or it goes away. Use nogators/nogators.)

McGovern on HST

From the LA Times, 3/3/05:

Gonzo but Not Forgotten
by George S. McGovern As the candidate who lost 49 states to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, I have always been pleased that among the precious few who thought I would have made the better president was Hunter S. Thompson, who went to his untimely grave saying that I was “the best of a lousy lot.” Thompson’s position was that I was “honest”–except for one “wicked moment” when I attended Nixon’s funeral and said a few sympathetic words to his family and friends. “Yeah,” Hunter told me, “you went into the tank with that evil bastard.” Hunter relished such frightful words. “Evil,” “wicked,” “fear and loathing.” These were the words that described the world best for him. Once, when he was pressed into the back seat of my car with three other people, he tried to escape to a nearby bar when I slowed for a red light in heavy traffic. Foiled by the baby lock that had been inadvertently clicked on, he raged at me: “Get me out of this evil contraption before I start killing.” On the jacket of his now-classic book about the 1972 election, “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail,” he printed a photograph of the two of us with the following caption: “Pictured above is George McGovern urging Dr. Hunter S. Thompson to accept the vice presidential nomination.” In retrospect, I wish I had. Perhaps then Hunter and I might both still be alive and well instead of dead and wounded, respectively. It’s true, as many have noted in recent days, that Hunter did not devote his energy and talent to the pursuit of factual accuracy. But accuracy isn’t everything. Frank Mankiewicz, the political director of my campaign, was right to call Hunter’s book “the least accurate and most truthful” of the campaign books that appeared after the 1972 race. Hunter was disheartened after the campaign, and it fell to me on several occasions to try to persuade him not to give up on what he called “this f—– up country.” What I didn’t get to tell him was that one of the reasons we should never give up on America is that from time to time, as we have been reminded recently, this country produces a genuine original–a Katharine Hepburn, a Ray Charles, an Arthur Miller, a Johnny Carson, an Ossie Davis, a professor Seymour Melman, or an inaccurate and irreverent and truthful Hunter Thompson. George S. McGovern was the Democratic presidential candidate in 1972.

“Mac for Productivity, Unix for Development, and Windows for Solitaire”

Some great thoughts and reflections from a computing pro on why the Mac actually makes her more productive. It’s a worthy read, and free of ideology (for the most part).

The post header is an old jibe at Windows. Ms Stamper quotes it in her final graf:

I’m sure that everyone has heard the old saying, “Mac for Productivity, Unix for Development, and Windows for Solitaire”. My experience has shown me that at least for my needs, the Mac is not only for productivity, but for development as well. Windows? Well, some things never change.

Department of Irritating Jackassery

So one of the companies I work with is evaluating Blackberry devices. I got one to use for a bit, and found it, frankly, utterly wanting. It receives mail pretty well, but managing and sending from the device is a very frustrating experience, beginning with the fact that folder management thereon is unusable; all messages are comingled in a single queue; all messages that come from it must come from the same email address; and the online “managment” site is so fucked it only works in IE. RIM may own this space for people saddled with Exchange back-ends, but their tool is a sick joke when hooked up to standards-based mailers — there’s not even any real IMAP support, for crying out loud.

Add to this the fact that the PDA functions are utter crap compared to, say, an 8 year old Palm, and you see why I pawned the thing off on a sales guy and got a Treo 650. Anyway, As part of the testing, I downloaded PocketMac for Blackberry, which allowed the Blackberry to sync with my desktop tools (well, mostly of them; it syncs only with iCal, Address Book, and Stickies — the Palm tools sync with StickyBrain). Since I’m done with the damn thing, I went to uninstall PocketMac.

It took a trip to the knowledge base before I found out that the install program (which I deleted) is how you uninstall PM. I re-downloaded it (jumping through some auth hoops in the meantime; thank goodness I kept the email with the URL) and stepped through to the “type of install” phase before I found the “uninstall” option; this alone is incredibly unintuitive, but what came next was even worse.

I’m accostomed to installers requiring my authentication before they do anything. This is normal on a Mac, and a good thing. What I was NOT prepared for was the fact that once I gave the PM uninstaller my password, IT SYSTEMATICALLY QUIT EVERY APPLICATION I HAD RUNNING. All of ’em. I had browser windows pointing to things I was planning to read; I had active terminal sessions on remote machine. A modern Mac is NOT a Windows machine; we don’t have to quit everything to uninstall a program, and we damn sure don’t appreciate having it done FOR us with no warning. It’s stupid, arrogant, and just plain fucked up.

PocketMac may be the only game in town for syncing Blackberries and Wince devices with Macs, and bully for them. But right now they’re on my shit list, and I’m damned glad I have no need of their software anymore.

Bush v. The Press

Salon has a good summary of how GWB’s administration has systematically avoided any sort of public accountability for its actions by ignoring the mainstream press — and, more disturbingly, how the country doesn’t care.

Not that we’re keeping track, you understand.

A fan writes, “Hey, how many posts on Heathen?” Well, son, we don’t know, but we figure we might be able to find out:

$ find . -type f -name "*.txt" | wc -l

The earliest is dated 29 November 2000, which means we’ve been Heathening for just over 4.25 years, for an average of 490.8 posts per year, or about 1.3 per day.

No wonder our wrists hurt.

(Oh, and make that 2,087, counting this one.)


Actually, and somewhat shockingly, that figure is low; it assumes that all our posts are stored in .txt files, but in fact the “original” few months (from November 2000 through the beginning of July 2001) are still in Blogger-generated HTML files, and are therefore not in that count. What’s to be done?

$ perl -e 'while (<>){ $foo++ while m/"byline"/g; } print "We have $foo posts\n";' *.html

Heh. Now the total, as of the original post, is 2,086 + 171, or 2,257, which works out to 531 a year and an astonishing 1.45 per day. This is now high enough that we suspect a problem with our method or our hobbies, but who’s got time to chase that kind of niggling detail? We’ve got posts to write.

This Just In: Sony Continues To Be Run By Complete Idiots

Apparently, they can’t even read their own study on DRM, and are therefore planning to hobble virtually all their releases this year — with some foolhardy DRM scheme that will be cracked in about 10 seconds. The Reuters coverage suggests the scheme will be the same old bullshit from SunnCom, which requires you to allow the new CD to install software in order to work. Um, why exactly would we do that?

We here at Heathen will refrain from buying anything DRM’d. If we can’t put a CD we bought on our iPod on our own terms, we don’t want it.