The most important audio innovation?

The Telegraph reports on Sony’s Walkman topping a poll conducted by the British tech magazine T3 for the most important audio (music) innovation of the last 50 years. The patent-encumbered MP3 codec (compression format) came in second, followed by the Apple iPod, the CD, and the original (free) Napster.

Which brings us to what is completely missing on the list:

  • Diamond (later SONICblue) Rio: the original portable digital audio player introduced in 1998. Without the Rio and myriad others to follow, there wouldn’t have been an Apple iPod.
  • The cassette tape format: Ditto. The Walkman would not have been what it was without the prior success of the cassette format (originally designed for dictation). The cassette was introduced in 1963, and easily qualified for inclusion.
  • Ogg Vorbis codec: This is at least as important as MP3; Vorbis is not patent-encumbered and with the reference encoder and decoder available under a BSD-style license, one may now include compressed audio in games without paying royalties to the MP3 patent holders.
  • Creative Sound Blaster: Prior to the widespread availability of the Sound Blaster card and clones, sound coming out of a PC was restricted to the internal speaker, called the “squeaker” and myriad derisive names by PC gamers of the era. (Arguably, the sound sampling capabilities of the Commodore Amiga could be said to be the forerunner of the Sound Blaster.)
  • Advances in the technology of headphones, most notably in the last 20 years. (Wikipedia’s article on headphones states headphones were actually invented in the 1920s; those headphones are crude by today’s standards.)

It starts with Usenet: squashing free speech

Zeropaid reports on yet another ISP censoring its Usenet access. AT&T will cease offering access to alt.bin* and alt.bain* newsgroups as part of its package later this week, due to pressure from New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo exerted under the guise of reducing the flow of child pornography.

The sheer idiocy of this logic is demonstrated by the following quote from the AT&T notice:

While we will continue to provide access to newsgroups as part of our Internet Service Offerings, we will no longer include alt.bin* nor alt.bain* hierarchies because of the possibility of child pornography in those particular groups and the difficulty in ensuring that no child porn reappears in them. You can still access newsgroups content through unaffiliated third party providers.

In light of that last sentence, Cuomo is an idiot if he thinks this move will have any real net effect on the child pornography problem. It’s a very thinly veiled attempt at censorship; Cuomo may as well fight to make it illegal to sell Internet access in the state of New York.

I, personally, haven’t been on Usenet in quite a while, and had no need for binaries groups when I did. However, for those who wish to use them, the option should be there. As a common carrier, AT&T–and for that matter, any Internet service provider–should be shielded from liability for what is posted via and to their Usenet servers.

Am I arguing for the right to post child porn? No. But I do believe the action against AT&T is just the top of the slippery slope.

Flyover denied

An Idaho TV station, KTVB-TV, recently reported on an incident involving a local festival which usually involves a military flyover, but did not this year due to the Pentagon’s refusal of the request. The Treasure Valley God and Country Festival in Nampa (a few miles west of Boise), Idaho,

Dave Kellogg opines on this event, in essence calling out the Obama administration for discriminating against an event that has had the same military flyover for the previous 42 years, dating back to the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. I don’t believe Obama’s administration is to blame here and I will explain why.

If one looks at the Web site of the God and Country Festival, particularly its about page, there is an unmistakably strong religious overtone. Quoting from the first two paragraphs of the about page:

The God and Country Festival in Nampa, Idaho is organized by a volunteer-driven organization called the God and Country Association, Inc. The organization is made up of Christians who are committed to strengthening the fabric of the Treasure Valley community through the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are also interested in helping believers around the nation get an independent God and Country event started.

We believe that Christians in America should have a natural affection for their country because it was founded on the godly ideal that liberty is derived, not as a gift of governments and politicians, but as a gift of our Creator.

To be honest, I’m surprised their requests have been approved for over four decades. According to this, the organization is not primarily about honoring the veterans at all, which is what some of the news quotes would lead you to believe. From what the Web site states, the organization’s purpose is more about furthering their religion as it is about honoring veterans. In fact, from the home page:

We want to make it clear that although it is unashamedly a Christian event, a major part of the Festival is honoring our troops who protect our freedom to assemble.

Yes, many of the original founders of this nation were Christian. However, the framers of the Constitution also wrote in freedom of religion for a reason. As one who practices a faith quite different from Christianity, I would feel somewhat excluded from this event, or even a similar event held locally.

Quoting the end of Dave’s post:

Isn’t this taking the separation of church and state just a bit too far? I guess it doesn’t surprise me, though, that this is taking place during the Obama administration. Considering this event has taken place during every Presidential administration over the last 42 years, including both Democrat and Republican Presidents, could it be any other reason other than someone in Obama’s administration doesn’t like the fact that it would’ve been taking place at a *** and Country Family Festival?

It doesn’t surprise me that the Pentagon has been flaunting the seperation of church and state clause of the Constitution for over four decades. I’m glad someone at the Pentagon decided to actually look up the organization before just rubber-stamping “approved” on the request.

Take the money and, er, investigate

Is it really illegal to carry around large amounts of money in Canada?

CBC reports on the story of CA$29,000 and a man who claims he raised that money collecting cans in the town of New Westminster, British Columbia (a suburb of Vancouver). According to the story:

The car smelled of marijuana, according to the release, so the officers searched the vehicle looking for drugs. Instead, they found $29,000 in two plastic Baggies, which they seized as they investigate where the money came from.

I personally do not think the presence of a large amount of cash is prima facie evidence that a crime has been committed. And the same goes for the mere smell of marijuana smoke, or even both put together. I will conede that it is not exactly intelligent to be carrying that kind of cash around. But, at least as far as I know, it’s not unlawful.

I hope this guy gets his money back. The cops are sworn to uphold the law, not use it as an excuse to commit larceny. And without proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the money is tied to a crime, for the crown (government) to keep the money does amount to larceny.

(Note: I’m assuming the amount is in Canadian dollars, given this is a Canadian news article.)

How creepy can Google get?

An article on Wired.com Epicenter reports on Google’s latest move: behavioral profiling ads. In a nutshell, anything you do on Google sites (including YouTube), combined with the info from DoubleClick (which Google recently acquired), can now be used to target your preferences on any sites using Google’s AdSense banners.

Most telling is this quote from the article:

Google says its mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google often says that it believes ads are information.

What it doesn’t say, but clearly believes, is that you are information to be indexed, made accessible and useful.

This is why Google fought government regulators who wanted search engines to limit how long they stored personal data on users.

If this wasn’t real, it would make one heck of a great horror movie.

Until recently, I declined all cookies from Google, due mainly to their previous practice of setting a cookie which did not expire until 2038. (Some may even know the quite infamous words of google-watch.org\: “Yikes! Too many preservatives.”) Even today, I only accept cookies from Google for the session (thankfully Firefox and its derivatives have this great feature) and when feasible, access Google via Tor and/or use alternative search engines.

It’s one thing for Google to index and archive content available on the Web. It’s another entirely for Google to indefinitely index me or you.