The Crandall Surf Report 2.0
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Friday, August 1, 2003

(this is a copy of a post of mine to tingilinde on 8/1/2003, which may or may not exist when you read it)

important speeches

I've been looking for high quality samples of famous speakers. Finding well recorded samples is very difficult, but I did stumble across what looks to be a great archive of important American speeches. Many of them have transcriptions. This looks like a great place to spend some browsing time.

10:25:57 PM    

(this article is a copy of a post of mine to tingilinde on 7/26/2003, which may or may not exist when you read this. the comment in the first line follows on this page)

more on

A few days ago I commented on the Windows online music service from Not having a Windows box, I wasn't able to comment on much other than what I could read on the page. As it happens I have a serious interest in this class of service, so I have asked several Windows users for their experiences and tried it over the shoulder of someone who had a new XP box.

I note that I have used and critiqued Apple's ITMS service - it is a solid first try that shows considerable clue understanding how people use music in this setting. It isn't perfect - there are many ways it could be enhanced and a few basic things are missing - but it works and its success has stimulated many others into trying (I know of a half dozen efforts at this point).

back to

The layout is ugly and navigation is lacking compared to ITMS. The songs download well (we tried a half dozen) although the licensing terms vary. There are real signs that this was thrown together with great haste and not everything made the deadline - there are numerous broken links and a general inconsistency to the place.

The actual act of buying is not transparent ... user agreements, entering all of your information and then going to a download page. There is no reason why a service needs to be so complicated.

Management of the music on the user's PC basically doesn't exist - you are on your own here.

We tried to burn the music to some CD-Rs. Two of the tracks burned well, but three didn't - each attempt produced a "coaster". Repeated tries to burn these three failed and each bumped the maximum number of burns category. We tried to use their tech support (email), but no replay has come in 36 hours. My guess is they are overwhelmed with questions and problems so, at this point, you are probably on your own.

The successfully burned CDs were then converted to mp3s to test transcoding between wma and mp3. Note that both codecs are lossy and source->mwa->wav->mp3 will sound worse than source->mp3 or source->wma. The test showed a noticeable degradation in quality (unfortunately I didn't have any of the standard source material used to push the codecs) ... turning up the bitrate on the mp3 step to 192kbps helped a bit, but the result was still worse than the original wma file. Both of us felt that wma->mp3(192kbps) sounded something like 96kbps mp3, but your results may vary and careful testing needs to be done. The weakest part seemed to be the addition of some artifacts on percussion. Additionally female voices sounded muddy. Transcoding is always a stupid thing to do if you worry about quality.

The service has the concept of a primary and secondary license. In theory the primary license has the ability to share music with one secondary device (say a work machine) and can write CD-Rs or transfer music to portable devices according to however the copyright owner has defined. We were unable to support multiple secondary devices. We were also unable to read files that were copied in a normal system backup (very strange). The rules suggest that you can not transfer primary licenses - if you get a new PC you (in theory) have to re-buy your music if you want primary access. I have sent mail asking for clarification on this, but haven't received a reply.

Joe (the PC owner) has three digital players. Two can handle windows media files and both claim to be SDMI compliant. We were unsuccessful in transferring music to either device and one of them crashed leaving the existing files damaged.

The quality of the music is variable. Some of it sounded fine, but one file was incomplete (buying it again indicated that the file was indeed broken) and two others sounded wrong -- like poor mp3 copies. I suspect conversions were done in batch without human monitoring (having done this sort of thing before for commercial quality).

So this strikes me as something that is unlikely to survive without major changes. The people involved probably reasoned that if they made a superficial copy of what Apple was doing, they would win due to the near-monopoly position of the PC. In rushing to service they missed numerous subtle and not to subtle points. This reminds me of the months following the success of the first iMac -- numerous PC makers repackaged PCs in colored plastic housings thinking that was the reason for the iMac's success.

There has been some initial bad press on the Net -- much of it from Mac users who offered screen by screen comparisons of buymusic and itms. Buymusic reacted by restricting access to browsers that claim to be Internet Explorer for Windows.

The worry I would have for is that doing something this unpolished and customer unfriendly will create bad will with consumers that may transfer over to other parts of their online store.'s CEO claimed he would be getting a million customers a day -- actually that wouldn't be a success as Apple's market share is so small. I think he needs something like five million a day to claim he has equaled what they have done. (the first cut at a number is more like 10 million, but a huge number of PCs are locked up at work at night and are unlikely platforms for the music).

Of course I may have misjudged what Windows users will tolerate - it is possible that they will be thrilled with what Mac users would consider a failing experience. Time will tell - but Joe was pretty annoyed with the service.

10:21:46 PM    

(this article is a copy of a post of mine to tingilinde on 7/22/2003, which may or may not exist when you read this)

buymusic isn't crisply thought out

BuyMusic is online with a music store for Windows.

Digging in a little one finds that the digital rights management policy is a function of record company - so your results for copying to CD-Rs, other PCs or your portable player will vary. Your portable player must be SDMI compliant.

The licensing isn't exactly clean. From their site:

Music File Licenses
When you purchase and download music from, your music files are accompanied by a license with certain restrictions. The music files are encrypted with SDMI license technology to be sure that they are used according to your license restrictions. (See Minimum System Requirements.)

Make sure you mean to buy your music from your primary computer (for example: your home computer) so that it contains your primary license. The licenses are non-transferable. Example: You cannot buy your music on your home machine and then transfer your primary license to your work machine. The computer you buy from becomes the primary computer with the primary license for that song. You can only copy music from your primary machine via your primary license. See below for details.

Two Types of Licenses: Primary and Secondary
There are two types of licenses: Primary and Secondary. The primary license is downloaded to the machine you used to buy your music (for example your home computer). Your primary license enables you to copy your music from your primary computer to your digital media players and to burn it to your CDs as many times as the record label allows.

If you download a secondary license, you do so onto a secondary computer (for example your work computer). Your secondary license enables you ONLY to listen to your music on your secondary computer. A secondary license does NOT allow you to copy your music from your secondary computer to your digital media players or to burn it to your CDs.

Make sure you mean to buy your music from your primary computer so that it contains your primary license. The licenses are non-transferable. You cannot buy your music on your work machine and then transfer your primary license to your home machine. The computer you buy from becomes the primary computer with the primary license for that song.

So much for buying music -- you are buying a restricted license to listening to and sometimes moving the music... It is not clear that you can have full use your music if you buy a new PC as there doesn't seem to be a mechanism to transfer the primary license. Digital rights management issues can get very sticky and I would hate to pay for this service's tech support.

Music quality is probably better than mp3 with 128kbps Windows Media Player 9 files. The site advertises $0.79 files, but I found many at $0.99 and $1.29.

As an OS X user I haven't tried it, but would be interested in hearing from people who have. This tries to be a clone of the Apple iTunes music store (down to the commercials), but there are details. To claim success relative to Apple I think these guys should show that they can do 95 million tracks in the first week (Apple did 1 million in the first 5 days with only OS X shoppers) or something that sustains around 25 million tracks a week.


It has been quite some time since I've seen a reference to SDMI.

SDMI is a step towards "trusted" computing - while independent from Microsoft's trusted computing, they are clearly interested in hardware control. The history is littered with interesting incidents (as an exercise google SDMI and Felton) and the consortium involved the major music companies directly. Of course this sort of lockdown will become very solid when Microsoft moves most of the world to their form of secure computing. The media companies will cheer and most people will frantically upgrade their PCs to get content - at least in the imaginations of some.

Where will they allow you to go today?

10:19:57 PM    

It is likely that tingilinde will have to die due to local funding.

Some of you know that I was a beta tester of the new TypePad service. While I like it, I don't like it well enough to cough up nearly $150 a year for the primo service so, unless money falls from the sky, I'm moving back here. It isn't clear how long I'll stay as I'm beginning to fill my disk quota.

I'm going to repost some of the more popular articles here.
10:15:34 PM    

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