John

Archive for March, 2007|Monthly archive page

Amie Street: now in the media spotlight

In News, Online on March 9, 2007 at 10:04 am

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The new music portal Amie Street has been around since last year, having been much hyped about by Techcrunch since middle of last year. But it’s only now that the site is building up a head of steam, more so over the past week when anti-DRM folks Barenaked Ladies posted their music up for sale at the site. I first heard about Amie Street through a Net@nite episode a couple of months back ago, but was skeptical about all these music portal sites because most of the bands featured are quite crap. Now, however, you’re going to see Amie Street emerge from obscurity, as it recently signed a new deal with Nettwerk Music Group, which is home to Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, and Paul Van Dyk.

What Amie Street does uniquely is two-fold; one is that it sells music in MP3 format, without any DRM attached to it–meaning that you can download, play, and share your music on any player, with anyone; a bold step considering music labels like Sony and Microsoft are constantly trying to beef up their DRM technologies. Secondly, songs sold are priced according to demand–they start off free when first posted up, and as it gets downloaded more, the price goes up incrementally. The Barenaked Ladies’ album didn’t take too long in reaching the highest price point of 98 cents, so watch out for more big artists to offer their songs on the site as time goes on.

Startups like these gives back power to both the consumers and the artists, which have seen their rights as creators and listeners stripped down by the record labels. I won’t say it’s going to be an instant success, but it’s heartening to see them growing up and offering an alternative to iTunes. If Amie Street is going to succeed, however, it’s going to need a whole lot more than Avril and BNL to support them–which, goes without saying, is a pretty fucked up task to undertake. If you’re interested in posting up your own music for sale, it’s easy too, with you taking 70% of the music sales above $5–a pretty decent deal that everyone can take up on.

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Microsoft moves in to replace JPEG

In Pictures on March 9, 2007 at 9:28 am

There’s been news that the JPEG picture format is due for a change, and after 15 years, I figured that it’s about time too. I read about the emergence of the new JPEG 2000 format awhile back, which does look good, but it hasn’t become a standard like its predecessor, as it isn’t widely supported in web browsers. I’ve got a feeling that the new HD Format is going to be big especially with Microsoft pushing hard for it; it’s soon submitting to an international standards organization a new photo format that offers higher-quality images with better compression, as reported by Computerworld.com. The new format incorporates a lightweight algorithm that causes less damage to photos during compression, with higher-quality images that are half the size of a JPEG.

But, as the reporter suggests, “Time will tell whether HD Photo can supplant JPEG by gaining the support of printer, camera and application vendors. But Microsoft is supporting the format in products such as its Vista and XP operating systems and has already gained an important vendor ally.”

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Scribd: “The YouTube for documents”

In News, Online on March 8, 2007 at 7:42 am

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Thanks to Michael Arrington, who maintains the excellent web start-up watchblog techcrunch, I learned about this little ingenious flash-app at scribd that allows you to upload and share documents as you would share videos on YouTube.

Scribd, a site for sharing documents, is coming out of private beta this morning with a fresh Angel investment of $300K on top of their original Y Combinator nest egg of $12,000. Scribd is most easily described as a text version of YouTube. It is a social network that lets you tag, share, and comment on uploaded documents (.doc, .pdf, .txt, .ppt, .xls, .ps, .lit).

Scribd is not just a carbon copy of YouTube. They borrowed a lot of the basic design principles, but also took advantage of the written format by including flexible file formats for download and upload along with some interesting analytics tracking. Documents can be displayed and embedded as html or the under-utilized, and faster-than-a-pdf, Flash paper format.

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Premiere Magazine taken off print, goes online only

In magazines on March 8, 2007 at 7:33 am

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Gosh. Here’s another magazine that’s about to dump its print version and go fully online. This isn’t the first magazine to change its medium–FHM US and Elle Girl have both folded their print divisions to go fully online–but I’m still not fully convinced about ditching print media altogether. Unless there’s a feasible advertising model for the online magazine–a bane to every advertising agency considering using media in this manner is so misunderstood–I don’t think this is the way to find a bigger slice of the advertising pie. Taken from the New York Post:

March 5, 2007 — Hachette Filipacchi Media is shutting down the print edition of movie magazine Premiere.

The Post broke the news that the magazine was on the block on Feb. 5.

Yesterday, Hachette Filipacchi CEO Jack Kliger met with Editor-in-Chief Peter Herbst around 3 p.m. for what was said to be a meeting over the magazine’s latest cover. Instead, he got the bad news.

The company had conceded that it was “exploring strategic options” several weeks ago but was apparently unable to find a deep pocketed investor to keep the magazine afloat.

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Man robs underwear stores believing he was a female elf

In News on March 8, 2007 at 6:53 am

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My father warned me about those Dungeons & Dragons games when I was 12. I threw my Dungeon Master game manuals out then, regretting my decision for the next 15 years, until I stumbled across this story this morning. So young children, be warned: Fantasy MMORPGs can make you turn into an underwear stealing elf.

A man accused of robbing a Belfast lingerie shop at knifepoint has fallen back on a time honoured defence – namely, his claim that he believed he was a female elf at the time.

Belfast Crown Court was told by the prosecution that 45-year-old Robert Boyd from Broadlands, Carrickfergus had held up the shop, Orchid, while disguised in a wig, hat and sunglasses. He allegedly made off with bras, knickers, stockings and suspender belts.

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Captain America Dies. Who’ll kick those Mexicans out now?

In Geek Stuff on March 8, 2007 at 6:46 am

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The big news of this morning–at least in the sphere of non-reality that comicbook fanboys and Wonder Woman obsessed geeks inhabit–is that Captain America is shot dead. Kaput. Vamanos. Personally, Cap America isn’t my favourite superhero, considering that he’s just a really strong dude who can throw a shield (WTF uses a freakin’ shield anyway? Not least in World War 2. Gawd, imagine the ribbing he must’ve got from his drill sergeant), but when a comic character survives for 66 years, you got to give him a space in the obituaries.

The venerable superhero is killed in the issue of his namesake comic that hit stands Wednesday, the New York Daily News reported. On the new edition’s pages, a sniper shoots down the shield-wielding hero as he leaves a courthouse.

It ends a long run for the stars-and-stripes-wearing character, created in 1941. Over the years, some 210 million copies of Captain America comic books, published by New York-based Marvel Entertainment Inc., have been sold in 75 countries.

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Jeff Jarvis on Teaching Journalism

In News on March 8, 2007 at 6:40 am

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Though I have my arguments against Jeff Jarvis for occasionally hyping up the death of Old Media, you can’t fault him for making the bold predictions that he does about New Media. Okay, so maybe I’m occasionally guilty about jumping to conclusions about his views, but he does put in some strong words about the death of Old Media, as he did in his latest post:

I think that – especially after the last year’s cold reality checks and volcanic change in the newspaper, radio, TV, and magazine businesses – everybody does get that the past cannot be preserved. Everybody knows now that change is inevitable. And everybody – which includes me – is searching for the right moves to make next. Is everybody innovating enough, fast enough? No, but I think everybody realizes they have to.”

Gosh, he makes it sound dire, doesn’t it? There is no doubt that the media landscape is changing tremendously, and especially with last year’s collapsing newspaper industry–not helped by the gun-jumping conclusion New York Times Arthur Sulzberger came to when he said that he doesn’t care whether the NYT will remain in print in five years’ time–there’s every reason for journalists all over the world to worry a little. That fear, however, shouldn’t be heeded, and I agree with Jarvis that there’s no better time to be a journalist than now. His recent article in Media Guardian allays those fears; in fact, journalists are given more tools, more freedom, and more power than any other period. If there is a fear, it stems from being insecure in understanding, and adopting, the modern media tools of photo-sharing, video-sharing, blogging, and a host of other collaborative mediums that the internet enables us to.

Why teach journalism? Aren’t newspapers and news doomed? Why ensnare young people in a dying profession? I respond with an article of faith: journalism is evolving – at long last – and actually growing, and that’s what makes this an exciting time to get into the news business.

Read on more about Jarvis’s take on New Media Journalism here.

I Hate MySpace: Here’s 10 reasons why.

In Online on March 6, 2007 at 7:23 am

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Ah, MySpace: Shameless self-promoting content, page layouts that makes you blind, and a million messages, all of which can be summed up as: “OMG, I haven’t talked to u in forever, LOL! How r u doin! Thanks 4 the add!”. I found this write up quite hilarious and true, and the point made about “social networking” made me remember how much I used to hate the word “network” until all this Web 2.0 jargon came up:

“The word networking in itself is annoying, because we all had to hear about how going to the job fair ‘to network’ was such a great idea, as if people were just these mindless nodes that only became something when they were a part of some workforce gestalt.”

And for goodness sake… stop signing up for more social networking sites! (you can find me on www.friendster.com/johnlim79, and www.myspace.com/johnlim79)

PS: It’s a little old, but the guys from Black20.com made a hilarious parody of the MySpace picture style with this mockumentary of “Sheffield Quigley: Professional MySpace Photographer.”

Clip from 300

In Movies on March 6, 2007 at 7:07 am

Well, considering that the movie is currently screening at the cinemas, I don’t really see a point to posting this up. But hey, it’s Frank Miller. And there are soldiers. And it kinda reminds me of God Of War. Gwwwaaarrrh!

Presenting: The Superficial Friends

In Celebrity, Drugs on March 6, 2007 at 6:56 am

Welcome to the Anorexic Hall of Justice! Featuring Bob Saget. Picked up from Dvorak.org/blog.

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How the Japanese turned prisoners into guinea pigs for gruesome experiments

In News on March 6, 2007 at 5:18 am

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Following the recent statement on which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Japan will not apologize again for forcing women to act as sex slaves, I picked up this gruesome, and very sadly, true article on the Daily Mail of how one Japanese WWII scientist cut open on his prisoners while they were still alive, “to improve his knowledge of anatomy.”:

“After more than 60 years of silence, World War II’s most enduring and horrible secret is being nudged into the light of day. Mr Makino was stationed there during the war. What he never told anybody, including his wife, was that during the four months before Japan’s defeat in March 1945, he dissected ten Filipino prisoners of war, including two teenage girls. He cut out their livers, kidneys and wombs while they were still alive. Only when he cut open their hearts did they finally perish.”

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Pointless Family Photo of the Year.

In Pictures on March 6, 2007 at 5:12 am

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Yeah. Well. Hmm.

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The Workaholic Wonder drug on the way? No sleep required, productivity up!

In Drugs on March 6, 2007 at 4:57 am

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Besides a pill that can make you instantly thin, I thought that the next coolest thing Big Pharma could make was a drug that could keep you awake for two days, make your brain sharper, and have little side effects after the drugs wear off. Well, turns out that the super drugged-up worker could soon be found working in the cubicle next to you, FDA be willing. Popular Science has reported that there’s a new super-eugeroic drug called armodafinil on the way, which outperforms its predecessor, Modafinil, a drug that was written about two years ago that enables you to stay awake for 40+ hours with close to full mental capacity and with few side effects. There is, of course, a healthier way to keep your mind sharp, like working out on regular basis. But that would destroy the entire purpose of Big Pharma trying to solve our health problems with a pill. Imagine all those poor, jobless pharmacists if we all exercised for better health instead of popping pills. Although, I have to admit, if I did take armodafinil, I’d still be lazing around and playing the PS2. Which, when you think of it, will come in pretty handy when God Of War 2 comes out. Sleep is the enemy. Gwwaaaarh!

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Reebok Voltron Lion Force Pack

In Geek Stuff on March 6, 2007 at 4:46 am

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Now, all that’s missing from these shoes is the ability to combine and form a blazing sword

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