Monday, 30-Oct-06 16:59
Difficulty of logos

This is probably old hat, but I'll share it with you anyway.

I have no idea whether the designer of this wonderful logo really knew what she (or he) was doing, but if she did, I bow deep in respect. Innuendo is one art I would love to master some day.

Excellent!

(Via Outi on IRC.)

Monday, 30-Oct-06 08:29
Is free equal to zero worth?

Dragon asks an important question, and I'll try to respond here with some of the thoughts I've been wrestling with in the past few weeks.

For someone like me who makes a living by producing content, this offers a tough dilemma. I am like many of the arguments that P2P advocates have, and yet I also need to make a living. If all the products I’ve done in past 11 years would be available free of charge, I very much doubt I could have ever put any bread on my table. I also believe that Youtube-style snipped videos truly help the popularity of music, games, movies etc, as does the fansubbing of Anime series that I love. Products that you simply cannot buy in the area you live in, I have myself downloaded in the past. Indeed responsible fansites take such torrents down once the product gets licensed in their home country. And I always buy them when I can if I enjoyed them. This my conscience can live with. The trouble is, I think I am part of a tiny minority.

If someone can explain to me how I am supposed to make a living if the worth of my work is 0 (as apparently many people believe since they keep downloading stuff I’ve made even though it is available to them in a shop around the corner) then I might be more inclined to defend these boys.

Well, radio is free, but that does not mean that it's worth zero. And the people who work for it are getting paid.

Skype is free, yet the people working for it are getting paid.

Lots of open source is free, yet people are getting paid (though most of them aren't, but some of them are).

What I'm trying to get at is that free does not equal that it would be worthless. If it's worthless, it's (usually) free, yes, but the equation does not apply the other way.

The key difference is that most of the copyright industry is concerned about selling "units of consumption" to users at a price per unit (CD, theatre ticket, DVD). Therefore, they perceive that free is value zero. However, when you start to think that the entertainment industry is more like a service than furniture industry and start comparing it with other services like radio, TV, cell phone, electricity, gas, and water, you realize three things:

  • Everything tends to go towards flat rate (unless it's a consumable, which digital goods ain't)
  • Everything that is flat rate will become cheaper over time due to competition
  • P2P is a free service. Because it has almost no overhead or distribution costs, there are no employee costs, and it's not paying the originators (making it an illegal, but still free), it can afford to be free. Which makes it very, very difficult to compete with, since bringing anything else to the market is like saying that "we have this better radio, but you have to pay to use it". Now, this works with pay TV, so maybe it'll work with music and movies, too.

What's the tiny bit of difference then between copyright industry and the rest of the service industry? That's right - copyright itself. Because copyright is a government-granted monopoly, and the current business model is such that distributors own the copyrights, not the artists themselves, there cannot be proper competition. And that's because unlike gas, it does matter who makes the music. No matter how many Britney-clones there are out there, they're still not Britney. And because the industry is really mostly concerned with hits, they're what matters, and the system is built so that the profits from the hits can be maximized - even though a more liberal system would probably work better for the mid- and low tiers.

Some time ago, I speculated that in twenty years, assuming that current trends continue, we'll have an $500 iPod that can fit all the music ever created. I asked John Buckman, CEO of Magnatune about this, and he mentioned that we can assume that that is actually available in ten years, thanks to streaming, at least in home environments.

OK. So, if all the music ever made will be available at the touch of a button, won't that make it just like a service? And, if there were a multitude of service providers to choose from, wouldn't that then encourage competition? And wouldn't that eventually drive the price down to zero, just like radio?

And wouldn't DRM then become totally irrelevant, because you can have all the music from any provider anyway, so there is no need to make copies?

(I know this wasn't exactly an answer, but it sort of juggled my thoughts. I've been talking about music, but it seems to me that that the computer game industry is moving towards service model as well with things like XBox live. So maybe the service model is applicable to other things as well. It's left as an exercise to the reader to figure out how the service model gets funded. If you can't figure it out in 30 minutes watching TV, you're not gonna get it :-)

Sunday, 29-Oct-06 21:36
For the record...

...there is certain magic in looking the moon set behind the islands on a dark, calm, cold October night.

I almost wish I had had a camera, but then again, I can just go out and watch it anytime again.

Moving to Espoo was a good move.

Sunday, 29-Oct-06 16:40
Urgh

Hngh. I've been meaning to write long, meaningful posts about lots of different things, but I haven't simply managed to whip myself into actually doing something about it. For now I'm just happy sitting at home and thinking and planning some things.

We'll be back.

(And the fact that I've been out several nights this week does not help at all, either.)

Wednesday, 25-Oct-06 17:13
Touching Oslo

A week ago I jumped on a plane and like a man with seven mile boots landed in Oslo to participate in the NordiCHI 2006 Touch Workshop arranged by Timo Arnall. It was quite an interesting experience, since most of the time I am surrounded by engineers who have a very, um, particular way of thinking. Well, I'm an engineer too, and I find my brain so often constrained by the way it has been taught to think that I am beginning to find it frustrating. It's good to have the old noodle poked with a different stick in a different pan every now and then...

Anyway, I gave a short talk on some NFC security issues - only five minutes time and two pages so I couldn't say all I wanted, but maybe I managed to embed the seed into people's minds: security is something you need to think at the very beginning of the application design; you can't just treat it as a black box you draw on a board next to your other boxes and expect someone else to take care of it once you're done with development. Trust is lost easily, and regaining it is a long and complicated process. (As an example, witness this NYT article on "cracking" contactless credit cards. Simple screwups like this make it a lot harder to make people take the whole thing more seriously.)

Where the real fun ensued was during the actual workshop phase, where everyone was asked to create a physical prototype. Since we were at the Oslo School for Architecture, there were tools and materials available, so - after a relatively complicated and frankly speaking, crappy, process of choosing topics - we split into a bunch of groups and started working on the prototypes.

Alex and I veered a bit off to the side from our group, and started brainstorming an idea which revolved around culturally recognizable symbols - something that a particular peer group might recognize, but nobody else. For example, most Finns might recognize the ubiquitous "Gifu" - i.e. the "Sisu" salt licorice brand. Or Star Trek fans would recognize the Starfleet symbol. The idea was to deploy these in the city to be picked up by people so that they could then get into contact with this peer group by simply touching it with a NFC-enabled mobile phone. (How's it better than Googling? Because there's something to be said about the physical world as well. I am a strong believer in that once we've poked around enough with this "anytime anywhere with anyone" -stuff, we'll start appreciating our immediate environments a bit more again.)

Alex made a wonderful Flickr show about this to explain it all. On the right, my picture of the "tags" we made with foam. (Oh, it felt good to be doing stuff with my hands for a change. Too much computery stuff. Mind rests.)

I also put pictures of the other teams products into my Flickr stream. Check out

Anyway, thanks to all who participated. This was heaps of fun - and hopefully, useful as well. NFC as "anything but the credit card stuff" is still quite a lot in its baby steps, but a workshop like this shows well how it is inherently hackable - in a good sense of the word. All the prototypes were put together in just a few measly hours - and they're far better in crystallizing ideas than endless powerpoint shows describing how great an app is going to be once it's ready in 18 months. Things that make people think are always good. NFC is certainly tickling the creative nerve of people, whether they're thinking about barhopping or annotating the physical world.

Monday, 23-Oct-06 11:17
Olutopas avattu

Äyräväisen Seppo kertoi avanneensa Olutopas.info -sivuston, jossa on lueteltu ja arvosteltu (ainakin alkuun) kaikki Alkon myymät oluet. Jos siis kaupasta kannettu mäyräkoira ei enää jaksa innostaa, niin käy tutkimassa parempia vaihtoehtoja. Sivusto on jatkoa Sepon aiemmin kirjoittamalle, taskukokoiselle "Suomalaisen oma olutopas"-teokselle.

"Olutopas.info - jotta hyvä olut ei jäisi hyllyyn."

Monday, 23-Oct-06 09:43
John Buckman today in Helsinki

John Buckman, the founder and CEO of Magnatune, a fiercely independent record company that certainly thinks differently, is speaking today at Aula. The place is Korjaamo (Töölönkatu 51B), and the time is 19:00.

Magnatune is a great place - they license their music under Creative Commons non-commercial license, but there is a really easy web shop, too, where you can set the price. And the artist gets half of the money. So you can happily pay ten dollars for a CD - which is a bargain - and still feel good about yourself, because the artist gets five - way more than he would ordinarily get out of a full-priced CD. Out of my last three CD purchases all were from Magnatune.

Saturday, 21-Oct-06 11:52
Thanks...

...to everyone in the semi-random-annual Helsinki bloggers informal meeting (links to a bunch of pictures). It was fun, though we had to leave early to make it to the grocery store before it closed.

People were nice, but I got a terrible headache from the smoke. The less I go to pubs, the less I can stand it. I've realized that the biggest reason why I don't really go to pubs anymore, except for special occasions, is the all-permeating, headache-inducing, lung-ripping, sticks-on-your-clothes-for-good smoke. The sooner they ban smoking in restaurants, the better. It's a terrible nuisance.

Friday, 20-Oct-06 14:27
What does long tail mean for copyrights?

Copyright expires 70 years after the author's death. One of the big arguments against this long term is that it means that in order to protect the less-than-one-percent of works that actually make money throughout this extraordinarily long time, the 99% of the works that don't make money need to lie in oblivion throughout the entire period and possibly get lost forever. Long copyright period wastes a lot of culture.

Now, Chris Anderson, the author of "Long Tail", notes that Universal - a major record company - has been experimenting with the "Long Tail" theory by releasing online a number of songs which have not been in circulation for years due to the fact that the market is not big enough to justify CD/LP reprinting costs. And guess what? There turns out to be a market for this oldie music, just as predicted by the Long Tail theory.

"Online music fans have downloaded more than 250,000 tracks of previously out-of-print recordings by European artists since the launch of Universal Music’s pioneering digital catalogue reissue programme earlier this year....

Universal Music Group International launched its download-only reissue programme in February, as the first step in a multi-year drive to reinstate more than 100,000 European deleted recordings. The initial offering comprised more than 3,000 out-of-print tracks from the company’s vaults in the U.K., France and Germany. They were made available through online music services in 20 countries, mostly in Europe.

Overall, these results lend weight to author Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail theory. In his recently published book of that name, Anderson contends that given the growing choice and diversity of music that is legitimately available through the Internet consumers will be increasingly drawn to recordings beyond current hits. In this scenario, the total sales of this repertoire (the long tail) can match or exceed those of the hits.

Okay. So, now, suddenly, sitting on top of a song for a hundred years starts to make sense. Thanks to the online distribution, where distribution cost is practically zero, you can keep selling and making money off that record until eternity. In practice, this will probably mean that in the near future we'll see more cries to extend the copyright indefinitely, just so that "the poor artists, dead for a hundred year, won't starve."

So, Long Tail says "good bye, public domain".

Oops.

Friday, 20-Oct-06 12:33
Google ain't stupid

There has lately been a lot of discussion about whether it made any sense for Google to buy Youtube - because where there is money, there are also lawsuits.

However, as New York Times tells us, the deal wasn't just between Google and Youtube - the major music companies are involved as well. This is brilliant move from Google - that should shield them against the biggest litigators, and also probably means that others will adopt a "wait and see" attitude, with option of dipping in if it starts working.

Three of the four major music companies — Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, Sony and Bertelsmann’s jointly owned Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and the Warner Music Group — each quietly negotiated to take small stakes in YouTube as part of video- and music-licensing deals they struck shortly before the sale, people involved in the talks said yesterday. The music companies collectively stand to receive as much as $50 million from these arrangements, these people said.

(Via Sami P.)

Tuesday, 17-Oct-06 17:49
Copyright weirdosities

Couple of interesting tidbits on the ever-scarier and expanding field of copyrights:

Here's a company who says that you only "license" the fabric you buy from them, and therefore you cannot sell any products that you might be using their fabric for. I don't know how much legal ground these guys have, but I guess you can agree to anything these days. The weird thing is that you're not making a copy of anything here - you're just using it.

Also, recipes are traditionally presented as examples of things which cannot be copyrighted. However, apparently professional chefs are now panicking over this - they want to be able to copyright food. So, making a similar dish than someone else in the world would be considered copyright infringement. I understand the chef's desire to protect hours and weeks of creative work, but bitch-slapping the entire world by demanding that every single new dish is automatically protected for until 70 years after the author's death is a bit over the top. After all, the number of dishes that need to be protected this way is rather limited, and it takes considerable skill to even replicate the work.

Oh, well, if this goes through, I'm gonna hit you for $200 every time you eat a banana with ketchup and onion rings.

Update: Almost forgot. Apparently Creative is removing the option to record directly from radio from their portable music players due to pressure from record companies. If they can't make home recording illegal, they'll certainly try to kill the messenger.

Tuesday, 17-Oct-06 09:53
Verkkokakkonen, new episode

Ha!

Finally managed to make a new episode of Verkkokakkonen, Jyri's and mine Finnish podcast on this whole Web 2.0 shebang. It's still crap in a cute, amateurish way, but it's the best one we've made so far, if I may say so myself. In this episode, we're drinking beer and talking to Ward Cunningham, the man who invented wikis. I cut out about five minutes of my own umms and aaahs, and I have enough bloopers from the Finnish portion to make a whole episode ;-)

Monday, 16-Oct-06 14:22
Even more Loituma

This sheep-and-cows disco version of Loituma is destined for greatness. It positively reeks like a hit. I wouldn't be surprised if it broke Top 40 soon. It's getting so over the top, that I have to watch it again! And again! And again...

Update: Oh, by the way, of course there is a Wikipedia article on the original song.

Update2: Not completely unsurprisingly, the video is from the same company that produced us the Annoying Thing aka Crazy Frog.

(Thanks to Hrry.)

Monday, 16-Oct-06 10:58
Pale blue dot, pt II

Beautiful image, taken by the Cassini spacecraft, currently orbiting Saturn. Another great pale blue dot picture.

Wednesday, 11-Oct-06 19:30
The Bell Tolls For The Dead

New Scientist writes:

Around 655,000 people have died in Iraq as a result of the US-led coalition invasion, according to the largest scientific analysis yet. That is 2.5% of the country's entire population.

The 2.5% figure is about the same as Finland's losses during WW2. And we still carry the scars, and many still hate Russians, 60 years later.

A war this big will last a hundred years.

Monday, 09-Oct-06 13:00
Good news, bad news and terrible users

What a couple of bad days. First, a good journalist is killed, then North Korea paints themselves permanently in the corner. I was almost certain when I got a phone call this morning that it would continue the bad news streak. But the news turned out to be pretty good, so I'm personally rather satisfied.

Until I started reading the experiences of a journalist installing Linux (in Finnish). Yes, I've used Linux; yes, I still use it even if my main development platform is OSX these days; yes, I like it a lot; but frankly, I could do without some of the zealots. Someone dared to criticize (rather accurately, I might add) that the X configuration method is still rather arcane, and people start throwing crap at him. Someone says that "there should be better GUI configuration tools", and people scream at him and call him names. If the journalist is reporting any problems, the people go into predictable rants about "how Ubuntu is bad and you should use X" (I can't believe how many times I've heard this - for every distro), and "Well, Windows has problems, too!" (duh, but that's got nothing to do with this), and "You should read more manuals, because otherwise Linux will get a bad name." (I love the logic on this one - if it's difficult, it should be said out loud and clear so that people can fix it. If anything, the hordes of dumb people shouting bad advice will give Linux a bad name. It certainly worked for Amiga.)

Where do all these brittle people come from? I mean, if a journalist of a medium-sized magazine of a minor country has a problem with one Linux distribution (which he can fix after asking a couple of questions), that does not mean that Linus is going to implode, KDE be declared illegal, and armed troops will come after you if you download Debian Etch. Really. Linux is a big boy and it can handle itself. In fact, any problems that regular people have with Linux will make it eventually better, and if someone makes a really friendly version of Linux, that's not away from anyone else.

I'm a firm believer in that computing should be invisible to most people (in practice I may suck at implementing it, though). There will always be room for tinkerers, but tinkering should not be the primary method of interacting with a machine.

Saturday, 07-Oct-06 09:49
Control over secondary markets via copyright?

This is interesting: a company is trying to control resales of its product by claiming that taking pictures of their bottles is illegal. I knew this was going to happen at some point, but I always figured that it start with the record companies going after used record stores; or book publishers going at second hand book stores.

I mean - there is a huge second hand market for culture out there. Which will, by the way, die once we move to fully digital distribution, since you only lease things, you don't own them anymore, and therefore you cannot go and sell it to your friend or a second hand shop. So enjoy your Digelius while it's still possible. At this growth rate (tripling every year), digital music will own the market in 2010, and new records will no longer be available in physical form that could be exchanged or resold.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Friday, 06-Oct-06 13:27
Watching, not doing

Pirkka raises a good point, trying to define Web 2.0. Part of the attraction of Web 2.0 is the fact that you are aware that you could do all this cool stuff in Flickr, Youtube, etc, but you don't have to.

Chris Heathcote calls this marthastewartization, though he only refers to people watching TV programs about other people making things, instead of doing things.

Is Web 2.0 just marthastewardized version of Web 1.0, where prosumers rule and the consumers still stay consumers, they just think they're involved in the Web 2.0?

Thursday, 05-Oct-06 14:17
White and Nerdy

Weird Al Yankovich is using the Internet for what it was meant to be used for: laughing at nerds. First, You're Pitiful, then Don't Download This Song (which was, of course, available as a free download from Weird Al's site) and now, White and Nerdy.

LMAO!

Thursday, 05-Oct-06 10:01
Teleportation one step at a time

A team in Denmark has taken an important step in teleportation:

The experiment involved for the first time a macroscopic atomic object containing thousands of billions of atoms. They also teleported the information a distance of half a meter but believe it can be extended further.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Tuesday, 03-Oct-06 10:56
Ewww...

This is the most disturbing photoset on Flickr to date.

Don't worry, it's just people. And the occasional vegetable.

(Thanks to blackbeltjones.)

Monday, 02-Oct-06 13:28
Runaway global warming only 1 degree away?

New Scientist writes:

"Further global warming of 1 °C defines a critical threshold. Beyond that we will likely see changes that make Earth a different planet than the one we know."

Earth is already as warm as at any time in the last 10,000 years, and is within 1 °C of being its hottest for a million years, says Hansen's team. Another decade of business-as-usual carbon emissions will probably make it too late to prevent the ecosystems of the north from triggering runaway climate change, the study concludes.

Well, at least the global warming will kill most of the humankind, which will finally put an end to pollution. So the world will correct itself eventually. We'll just all be dead, and suffer horribly while dying.

Considering that humans have already exploited most of readily available resources, how likely it is that a new high-tech culture could form after we're all gone?

If we're alone in the universe, we're making very sure that we'll also be the only ones ever.


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