Legal music downloads also compete with easy

The major record labels seem to have finally worked out that downloads are the future, that DRM will never work and that people will pay for high-quality music downloads. I've recently been buying a fair chunk of music. The independent labels are pretty good: Matador, Arts&Crafts and Warp are excellent. The majors have a way to go yet.

At issue is that they've wasted years now making legal downloads so painful that users have learnt how to use pirate sources. The pirate sources are quite easy to use, and the quality can be quite good. So the majors need to learn to make it trivially easy to buy legally, and give people exactly what they want.

Yesterday I bought the Empire of the Sun album from the EMI/7digital site musichead. It's mostly okay: 320kbps mp3, which is acceptable. The metadata seems mostly intact, though Squeezecenter doesn't quite cope with x/x track numbers. The biggest problem was the download process. I had to download every track individually and rename them in my preferred nn.trackname convention. I prefer the files to list in the right order in an alphanumeric sort, and this wasn't provided.

What they should do is provide the option of downloading a zip file of the entire album. There should also be the option of defining the naming format of the tracks, with a selection of various options available.

Ideally, I'd like to be able to download FLAC versions of the files. I'd even be willing to pay a small amount more for this!

Still, they're making progress. Even better, the "Alternative/Indie" category doesn't feature Coldplay. That's progress!

Sydney Festival First Night 2009

College Street stage, Sydney Festival First Night 2009

We went along to the Sydney Festival First Night last night, along with a few hundred thousand other Sydneysiders. I don't think it was quite designed to cater for the numbers they got, as moving around and actually getting in to see anything wasn't easy.

We arrived fairly early and grabbed a bite to eat, then went in search of a drink. The typical Sydney wowserism when it comes to alcohol was in play. We'd been told not to bring alcohol, yet all the kiddies from the suburbs seemed to have plenty. Those of us who'd obeyed the rules were confined to drinking in defined, fenced-off bar areas nowhere near the music. Sydney really needs to get over itself with alcohol. At a festival anywhere else in the world there would be a wide range of bars with a wide range of drinks, scattered throughout the festival.

Anyway, so we wandered along Macquarie Street to see what was happening. Not a lot really, though I bumped into Stevie K who I worked with at Pilat Media in London. Then we went in search of some takeaway booze so we could have a drink, but every bottle shop in the CBD had ridiculous queues out the door.

Next we wanted to see Santogold, the only act I really wanted to see that night. We couldn't even get close to the entrance to the College Street stage, unfortunately. Though I heard wafts of her singing, and a glimpse of her on a big screen.

At this point we beat a strategic retreat back to the People's Republic of Newtown. Less people, and more pointedly less suburban drunk kids. Ahh, must be getting old!

Not sure what they can do to improve circulation of people for next year's first night. I imagine the logistics of all those people in the city streets wouldn't be easy. Still, it was a fun night of wandering around town, then a few drinks with the droogs back in the safety of our home turf.

Mobile broadband over Bluetooth with Ubuntu 8.10

I've been intrigued since upgrading to the latest Ubuntu release where NetworkManager has a shiny new "Mobile Broadband" tab. This is something I've wanted to get working for a long time. I don't want a built-in 3G unit, or one of those USB dongle things, and I don't want an expensive monthly plan. All I want is to use my existing 3G phone to connect to the Internet occasionally.

The new "Mobile Broadband" tab, however, requires that you have already set up the appropriate serial connection over Bluetooth with your phone. There are command-line ways of doing this, but I wanted to see if I could do it in a GUI. Hunting around I found this excellent description of how to do it with Blueman and NetworkManager. I tried it out last night and it works a treat!

Blueman seems to be a decent Bluetooth tool for Linux, at last. For far too long we've had really poor Bluetooth tools, and now we have a rather sensible, and most importantly fairly comprehensive, front-end to it.

Now with the combination of a tiny Bluetooth USB adaptor, an Eee 900 and my mobile phone, I'll be able to connect from anywhere. Yay!

Happy New Year

Potatoes from the garden

I realise I'm about a week late, but hey I've been on holidays, for the first extended break in far too long, so I've been neglecting my readers. Too bad, I needed the holiday!

So, it's a new year and all that. What have I been up to? Well, Xmas was quite fun, as we went up to Wamberal and had some family around for Xmas lunch. Then I went for a swim in the afternoon, and spent Boxing Day at Ben and Kaz's place. Very nice, very chilled.

For New Year we went up North to a site near Nimbin for a friendly and fun party with mates from BrisVegas who I've known for years. A mixture of old ausravers and related people. Great to catch up with the crew, since the last one of these parties I went to was the 2000 New Year.

We've been back since the weekend and chilling out, mostly.

Some out-of-towners have been around, as usually happens in Summer, so we've managed to catch up with quite a range of people. Julie and Jeff popped around for a BBQ before Xmas. The photo above is potatoes we pulled from the garden and chucked on the barbie. The weird speckled purple ones stay that colour through cooking! Also in town: Greta and Steve, Margaret and Cordelia, Charlie and Bridget. Martin, Jo and Max are in town too. Woody and Liz are in Australia at the moment, and we managed to catch up over New Year.

Been to a few gigs recently. Holy Fuck at the Annandale were amazing. People have been trying to do the live techno thing ever since there was techno, without much success. These guys seem to have finally nailed it, without it becoming a different style of music. Amazing!

Another Canadian band, Stars were also very good. Beautiful music, with delicious textures and heartfelt delivery. These guys really love what they do.

Coming up this month is a whole host of more gigs. This Saturday is the opening night of Sydney Festival, with lots of cool stuff around town for free. We've got tickets to the Popfrenzy night at the festival bar with Metronomy and Pivot, which sounds like loads of fun. The following weekend is All Tomorrow's Parties on the fantastic Cockatoo Island in the harbour. This used to be a working shipyard in my lifetime, so it'll be an incredible place for a music festival. Even better, it's curated by Nick Cave!

Later in the month I'll be seeing Serj Tankian, though I'm more interested in the support band, Mike Patton's Fant%C3%B4mas. Then early in February, Playground Weekender, a festival on the outskirts of Sydney with a pretty fun atmosphere, by the sound of it.

All up, it's gonna be a hectic Summer. But hey, at least it's warm this year!

Around the house there's been some activity. The garden is looking great and we've been eating a lot out of it. The potatoes were good, though they take up a lot of space when growing so I doubt I'll grow them again. We've eaten stacks of rocket, lettuce and silverbeet recently. Tonight I did a stir fry of silverbeet, bok choy and chilli from the garden, spiced with some of the herbs. Coming along well are the tomatoes, and I had the first cherry one the other day. Delicious.

In the planning list is the shed for the garden. I've contacted someone to help me with the planning process, so we'll see how that goes. There's some complications like retaining walls and the like, so if I'm going to need an engineer I might go the whole hog and put in an underground water tank. Something to keep us busy!

Dear Embittered

Someone who seemingly would like to remain anonymous (88.209.73.252 252.73.209.88.dsl.monaco.mc) has been reading my blog and getting into a froth about something or other.

I have read your Blog and for the life of me I can't see why anyone would be interested in consulting you or having you on the same planet.

You are an offensive cunt, with not a single redeamable feature which shines through in your blog. You are a sad and embitered little man.

Fuck off and die.

All I can offer is a thorough and heartfelt meh?. Feel free to continue consulting my blog. Or not.

PS: some red pen corrections: redeamable should be redeemable, embitered should be embittered.

Lunch in Coffs

Geo: -30.289268,153.122356 Lunch in Coffs We've just arrived in Coffs Harbour after an early start. We're heading up the coast to Uki for a New Year do. We being Don, Christine, Eric, Holly and I. Rachel, Mikey, Leonie, Mark, Lee and Nick are in cars behind us.

Five percent

Carbon emissions by region

So Rudd has announced that we're going to reduce our greenhouse emissions by a staggering five percent. How ambitious! Worse, every polluting industry and his lobbyist appear to be in line to get a handout, giving them no incentive to reduce emissions. All the while the industries that aren't carbon-intensive don't get a handout!

Note that Australia's Kyoto target was for an 8% increase in emissions on 1990 levels by 2012. We're unlikely to even make this target, despite the fact that we managed to get the "Australia clause" into the treaty, which allows us to include the extraordinary land clearing in our 1990 baseline levels.

This new soft commitment is, instead, from a baseline of our 2000 emission levels, so you can't even compare it to our Kyoto commitment, and I suppose, means we'll still be emitting more than we did in 1990 by the time we hit 2020!

What's the point? So much noise, so little impact.