Summary: Paul's at it again, giving his take on digital camera technology for the consumer, how the XBox is doing, writing to his local Congressman, and the state of the video card industry.
One of the fantastic things about the modern computing world is that Digital Cameras are here to stay. Once the exclusive domain of professional photographers, the technology and manufacturing has advanced to such a level that even the higher resolution models have become affordable for most consumers. Storage media densities have increased while prices have come down, meaning you can fit hundreds of pictures on a single $60 memory card. Compact Flash, Smart Media and now Mini-CD have all helped bring the joys of digital photography to the masses, and I’m astonished by the speed of the advances.
One of the knocks that digital cameras have taken is that they are not up to par with the quality of 35mm film prints. This has been, and still is the case. According to my research, when digital cameras hit the 8 megapixel mark, they should absolutely match and possibly exceed 35mm print quality. Currently, the market is pushing past 5 megapixels and heading to 6, so in another year, we should reach the magic mark of 8 megapixels. This means you will have no quality loss in switching from 35mm film to digital media, provided all other things are equal.
After the out-of-place rant from the music industry executives at the Grammys regarding digital ripping, I feel even more hostile towards the recording industry. I do not like that they seem to be getting away with selling damaged music to the masses while crying poverty in the press. They are very hypocritical, and I for one, hope that they get called on the carpet for it. Maybe the increasing number of lawsuits from songwriters and performers against the big labels will help. Maybe the small victories like that lady in the “Charley Pride” case will help move things along. With that in mind, I continue my little protest by identifying and praising the music released before this latest fiasco in FM quality copy protection. I hope you can do the same. As requested, I have identified one for each workday:
Pre-FM CD Tracks Of The Week
A follow-up to my earlier praise of Music Match 7. I have found that while it is very rich in features, it is a tremendous resource hog on my Windows 98 SE machine. I had a number of bad episodes with system lock-ups, out of memory errors and random reboots, and spent days tracking it down. Finally, I did a simple checklist of all things I had added to my machine in recent weeks, and through a process of elimination, found that Music Match 7 was sucking up resources like an aardvark at an ant convention. I have since moved back to Music Match 5, which I’m glad I saved. It uses 20% less resources - yes, you heard me - 20%! It also does not seem to suffer from memory leaks and the like, so for now, I’ll stick with the tried and true version.
I have been reading the press coverage of the Xbox release in Japan, and was glad to see that the controller I got to play with was the same one they shipped with the product. However, for a while there, it looked like there might be some bad news on the horizon. Rumor had it, via various media outlets, that Microsoft had made the fateful decision to region encode the controllers. If true, it would have meant that even if you could get your hands on an Xbox controller from Japan, it may not work with a unit from the US or Europe. Thankfully, it wasn’t.
Doing My Little Part
I got the call loud and clear: “Put up or Shut up”. So, I did. I contacted one of my Senators from the state of Washington, Maria Cantwell. She is a former executive from the folks who bring you Real Audio, and I felt that of the two Senators we have in this state, she would be in the best position to grasp the nuances of the legislation and of the concerns that many of us have. Below is the unedited text of her response to my letter:
Dear Mr. Sullivan:
Thank you for writing to express your views on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Enacted in 1998, the DMCA sought to achieve the appropriate balance between protecting copyrights and facilitating innovative technology. This law prohibits circumvention of technological protection measures and the trafficking of such technology. Thus, DMCA facilitates legitimate distribution of copyrighted work by allowing for the use of technological measures for the copyright holder and providing legal protections for those technological measures. Mr. Sklyarov is charged with violating this provision. This is a very complex issue and I will be closely monitoring this historic case.
Congress is in the process of reviewing whether these new provisions of copyright law impair the applicability of the "first sale doctrine" which provides that a purchaser of a work may transfer the purchased copy of that work with no further obligation to the copyright holder. The U.S. Copyright Office recommends Congress make no significant changes to this law right now.
We need to continue to encourage innovation in technology, but the intellectual property rights of inventors, artists, authors and musicians must also be protected. DMCA helps to meet both of these goals. Indeed, the pace of innovation requires diligence in maintaining the right balance. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over copyright issues, I will be very active on these issues and will keep your comments in mind.
In regard to private industry negotiations, I am hopeful that the market will find solutions that will bring the full range of musical offerings to the Internet and am encouraged when I see companies enter into online distribution agreements.
Thank you again for writing on this very important issue. Please feel free to contact me again in the future on this or any other issue.
United States Senator
As she states, this is a very complex issue. I wish that the reply had been a bit more opinionated, but I understand that a Senator must bide their time, particularly if they are new. I do feel that this issue is reaching a fever pitch, what with the proposed changes in the HDTV standard, the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA) and the copy protection currently being imposed on audio CDs all gaining attention in the media. Unfortunately, it looks like the entertainment industry is going to get even tougher restraints put into law, further diminishing our rights as consumers in regards to digital entertainment. There have been a few small victories by individual consumers, but there seems to be no groundswell in terms of class action. Hopefully more people will start contacting their representatives and voting with their wallets so an impact will be made.
Video Card Observations
I’ve been checking out the reviews of the latest set of video cards from ATI and Nvidia with some interest. What they do is important, particularly now that there will be no more Kyro cards coming out. I had hoped that the Kyro III would be a major player, but with that company going out of business, the big two are all that are left.
EULA: Take Two
A significant ruling came down a bit ago in regards to EULA’s (End User License Agreements), and I wanted to make sure you all heard about it. A District court judge in California ruled in a case involving Adobe in which a user purchased bundled applications from Adobe, split up the bundle and sold the items individually. Adobe claimed this was a direct violation of the EULA imposed on the buyer at the time of purchase. The court, however, sided with the other party, concluding:
"... the purchaser commonly obtains a single copy of the software, with documentation, for a single price, which the purchaser pays at the time of the transaction, and which constitutes the entire payment for the 'license.' The license runs for an indefinite term without provisions for renewal. In light of these indicia, many courts and commentators conclude that a "shrinkwrap license" transaction is a sale of goods rather than a license."
This case is again very specific, but it opens the door to a much larger push towards established consumer rights taking precedence over these over-reaching EULA agreements being forced upon consumers. Other countries have found that EULAs are generally unenforceable, but in the US things have been much slower to progress. This is a potentially a very big case, as it opens a Pandora’s Box for publishers. Should the company in question, Adobe, pursue this further and lose, it may damage the perceived enforceability of EULA’s from other software makers, including Microsoft. It will be interesting to see what happens in court.
Regardless of that ruling, I’m hoping that more people get involved in contacting their representatives and possibly even challenging these EULAs in court. It seems blatantly unfair to me that software I purchase legally can be limited to such an extent. If I pay for it, I want to be able transfer it, sell it or throw it away, and I don’t want Microsoft, Adobe or any other company telling me I can’t. I don’t want to pirate anything, and I don’t want you to pirate either, I just want fair use of the software that I pay for, bundled or not.
SIDEBAR: Do you worry about what the EULA’s say or do you just blow them off? Do the new Geforce 4 Titanium cards look as cool to you as they do to me? Are you addicted to digital photography? Tell it to the masses, in a respectful tone, in the Comments Section!
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