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Wednesday, June 04, 2003  

Tech Talk

*Buy the single or buy the dozen?

I haven't tried out the Apple music store yet. The FireWire port on my TiBook is broken. I need to get it fixed before I can upload to my iPod. But, blogger Kurt O of Me, Myself and I has me thinking about what I will put in iTunes and on Titania, my iPod, when I have things working again. Will it be full albums or CDs as it has been in the past? Or, will I shift to downloading, and perhaps buying, individual songs? He argues for the latter.

The music being produced today is, in most cases not worth $17 a CD. Why should I pay $17 for an entire CD when I only really want one or two songs, which I was forced to do before, but now I don"t have to. It is, IMHO, worth $1 song, tops. And that's for new hits. Older tunes? less than $1. With the sheer quantity of music being produced today, my consumer dollars are better spent on getting the specific tunes I want, and not, in essence, paying for something I don?t want in the form of eight tracks that are in all probability not as good as the single.

I predict, that a new paradigm will emerge, and the music industry will be less inclined to crank out garbage and the overall quality will improve, but there will be an explosion of one hit wonders as consumers get only what they want and pay for only what they get.

Kurt O may be on to something. When I make that trip to the Apple store, it will be tempting to download memorable songs for which I either never had or don't currently have the CD. Or, maybe I will download one or two additional songs by the same artist to round out multiple single MP3s I already have. For example, four hits by Bare Naked Ladies come preloaded in iTunes, including "One Week." But, I don't have all the CDs they're on. I could round out my 'The Best of Bare Naked Ladies" collection inexpensively by just downloading missing singles I know I like.

But, will downloading singles catch on in lieu of buying CDs as Kurt O suggests? I'm ambivalent. Part of getting to know an artist is listening to his good, bad and mediocre work. Furthermore, some songs one is not struck by when first hearing an album become favorites later, or at least comfortably listenable. I am going to guess I will go with a combination of downloads of singles and purchases of CDs.

*FCC deregulation: Misreading the tea leaves

Wired analyzes this week's deregulatory action by the FCC. Reporter Joanna Glasner focuses on the differing interpretations of how high tech impacts diverse content in the media.

. . .The Federal Communications Commission voted Monday to toss out or modify a number of restrictions placed on broadcasters and news publishers between the 1940s and 1970s in an effort to prevent local media monopolies.

While such rules may have made sense decades ago, FCC commissioners who supported Monday's ruling argued the restrictions were outdated in an era of broadband Internet, cable and direct broadcast satellite.

In a statement issued Monday, Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, one of three Republicans who backed the measure (which passed by a three-to-two margin), concluded that consolidation of media is less problematic now that the public has more sources of information from which to choose.

Abernathy can't see the forest for the trees. Having more mechanisms with which to channel and receive signals does not mean the content being channeled is more diverse -- or that those owning and creating it are.

Although technology has certainly opened up new avenues for distribution, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, noted that newer outlets are still largely owned by a small group of big media conglomerates.

"Those who believe the Internet alone will save us from this fate should realize that the dominating Internet news sources are controlled by the same media giants who control radio, TV, newspapers and cable," he said.

The Republicans are also ignoring the fact that Internet mediums, even the largest, are miniscule in comparison to the reach of broadcast television. Considering that 46 percent of the American population does not use the 'Net. even the opportunity to reach much of the public via a website, blog or other Web mechanism is precluded from the start.

*Gateway has a plan

Ailing Gateway is now promising customers a quick response via telephone technical service -- for a price.

The Gateway Priority Access program, introduced Tuesday, aims to provide a faster service response and more direct technical support to people who pay an extra fee, starting at $99. The Poway, Calif., PC maker said the program addresses its customers' most nagging complaints about service, including wait times.

Customers who buy priority access are guaranteed the phone will be answered within 30 seconds and other expedited services.

I had considerable problems getting technical help with my NEC mini laptop two and a half years ago. However, talking to techs at Apple is rarely a problem, though getting approval for some repairs can be.

If I had service response problems, I would consider paying extra if the company was reliable and likely to be around a year to three years from now, the periods of the contracts. However, considering Gateway's financial difficulties, I'm not sure they will last long enough to honor new commitments. The priority access program sounds like a maneuver to raise money to me. If the company goes out of business, the guarantee will be worthless.

*Surfing with Safari

Since upgrading Jaguar (Mac OS X, 10.2) to 10.2.6 last week, I have been surfing with Safari, the recommended browser, intermittently. Though the browser seems faster than Internet Explorer much of the time, there are some hitches. Mac-a-ro-nies looks horrible in Safari. The colors are muddy and the blue panel disappears entirely, turning a shade of green that clashes with the panel that is supposed to be green. Many programs still open in Explorer though I have set Jaguar as the default browser. Some of those pages, such as the ping site for Weblogs.com will not display properly in Safari. I will do some tinkering and report back if my experience improves.

*That Apple on the tree

The entry above reminds me Aaron at Uppity Negro is wondering what computer to buy to replace one that is getting long in the RAM. Since he is a Mac user, I'm going to stay with that platform. My suggestion for a desktop computer is the new iMac at $1,299. With 32MB of video memory it is Jaguar ready and will appear to be a speed demon after using an older iMac. If I could purchase a new laptop today, I would buy an iBook, probably the 14.1" screen model. Though I've owned three TiBooks, including Titanes, the one I have now, the iBook is equally attractive in many ways.

7:01 AM