Friday, May 25, 2007

WTF Creative?

I just upgraded my version of Creative's Zencast Organizer. Basically it's just a podcast aggregator. It jumped from version 1.0-something to 2.0-something, so I thought I was getting a pimp update. Not the case. It's exactly the same. I couldn't find a single difference. No new features, no new options, nothing looks different, nothing. Angry, I checked the Zencast website for an explanation, here's what they say has been changed:

"-Allows you to subscribe to Flickr® and Windows Live Spaces™ photo feeds.
-Allows photo channels to be displayed in Thumbnails view.
-Adds the option to transfer ZENcast pictures into your player's photo library."

Picture crap? Excuse me?

To Creative: There were limitations to version 1.0, for instance when transfering to my Zen it doesn't organize audio podcasts at all unless I convert them to video. You havn't even addressed that fundamental issue with this new release. Adding support for photo feeds IS NOT a 1.0->2.0 release jump. At best, this should be called 1.2. That would be like Microsoft putting out a whole new whole number version of Word because they added support for PNG picture files. Shame on you Creative. Fix your fucking software.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Microsoft's Asshole Complex

Further example of how whenever something good happens outside of a ruling/dominant party and they're not making money off of it, they'll do anything to squash it. This isn't about Sun supposedly stealing patented code, it's about Microsoft trying to kill any chance of free open-source software that works better than theres becoming dominantly popular.

May 15, 3:14 PM EDT

AP Business Writer

SEATTLE (AP) -- Microsoft Corp. cranked up the rhetoric against open-source software with new details about the ways it says free programs violate its patents.

While the world's largest software company said it prefers licensing deals to legal action, it also indicated it won't ignore what it sees as infringement.

"There is no reason why any segment of the industry needs to be exempt from intellectual property rules," said Horacio Gutierrez, a Microsoft vice president for intellectual property and licensing.

At the most basic level, open-source software is built by a community of companies and independent programmers. It's distributed, often without charge, to businesses and consumers and programmers to modify, build on, and distribute again - also for free.

While proprietary software companies like Microsoft make money by selling licenses for programs, open-source companies usually make money selling support services.

On Monday, Microsoft said open-source programs step on 235 Microsoft patents. The core of the free Linux operating system violates 42 patents. Open-source programs' graphical user interfaces, or the way menus and windows look on the screen, breach 65. E-mail programs step on 15, and other programs violate 68 patents, the company said. The patent figures were first reported by Fortune magazine.

Microsoft also said Open Office, an open-source program supported in part by Sun Microsystems Inc., infringes on 45 patents. Sun declined to comment on the allegation.

Microsoft's Windows is the dominant software on servers and desktop PCs, but Microsoft views the free or low-cost Linux operating system alternatives "with a great deal of concern," said Al Gillen, an analyst at the technology research group IDC.

"It's one of the few operating systems that represents a viable threat that Microsoft has a great deal of difficulty containing," Gillen said. Because open-source developers share their code, the challenge to Microsoft's products isn't limited to one company.

Instead, Microsoft has struck a number of patent-licensing deals with companies that use open source code, most notably Novell Inc. last November. In one aspect of the deal, Microsoft agreed to sell Novell's flavor of Linux, called Suse. It also agreed not to sue the customers who bought it, even though it claims the open-source software infringes on its patents.

"Microsoft could have chosen to litigate many years ago, but we have decided not to do that," Gutierrez said. Instead, in the interest of making sure programs that include open-source technology work with Microsoft products and vice versa, the company will continue to pursue similar deals.

Much of the open-source community was unhappy with the Novell deal, which it saw as a workaround to a widely used open-source license called the GNU General Public License.

More broadly, the free software movement saw the deal as an attack on one of its core tenets. Under the public license, once open-source code is incorporated into another company's technology, the new product must also be freely available. But the deal also required Novell to pay millions in "royalties" - an indirect admission that Suse Linux contained Microsoft intellectual property and can't be given away for free.

"Now it becomes possible to divide and conquer our community," said Eben Moglen, an attorney for the Free Software Foundation, the entity behind the GNU license. By making a pact with Novell, Microsoft also implied that anyone who downloaded or bought Linux from another vendor was doing so illegally.

The next version of the GNU license, currently in draft form, aims to stop similar deals. Moglen said the draft states that if a company like Microsoft distributes open-source programs protected by the GNU license, it forfeits any related patent claims.

Open-source proponents are frustrated by Microsoft's repeated allusions to patent violations because "they never say what patents being violated, never make any assertions, never put the evidence out there," said Larry Augustin, a technology startup investor who launched, a prominent open-source development site, in 1999.

But Augustin also acknowledged that it's not in Microsoft's interest to do so: Open-source programmers could rewrite their code to avoid infringing on specific patents, or the courts could find that Microsoft's patent isn't valid.

An ongoing open-source patent case could indicate that it isn't easy for a software maker to prove infringement. The SCO Group Inc., a Utah-based company, sued IBM Corp. in 2003 for donating its proprietary Unix code to open-source developers. Late last year, a federal judge upheld a decision to dismiss about half of the claims against IBM, agreeing that SCO had failed to identify exactly which lines of code in Linux infringed on its patents.

Legal action by Microsoft could also kick off a massive patent war. An organization called the Open Innovation Network, funded by IBM, Red Hat Inc. and others, has amassed a vast number of software patents. If there is a Microsoft lawsuit against open source companies or customers, the OIN would retaliate in kind.

"We believe it's highly likely that Microsoft would infringe some of our patents," said Jerry Rosenthal, OIN's chief executive.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Fountain's Bad Rap

Time for another bad rap movie review. I don't have a lot of time so I'll keep it short.

The Bad Rap: The movie is pretentious, incoherent/hard to understand and emotionally monotoned.

My Defense: For those who say the movie is hard to understand, I respond by asking if they bothered paying attention to the movie or did they get up 8 times to get a refill on their coke and to subsequently drain the coke from their systems.

The film has 3 narratives, one taking place in the present, one in the future and one is a fictional account of a conquistador circa Spain 1500 (from a book written by the main characters wife). Some people get confused because they think that the narrative that takes place in the past is supposed to be this guy 500 years ago, but it's not, again it's a book his wife wrote and she based the character on him, hence why Hugh Jackman plays the part. And to be clear, the narrative that takes place 500 years in the future is in fact the same Tom that exists in the present. Each of the 3 narratives parallel each other in order to drive home a point; 3 different ways of looking at the same story.

Another similar misconception that I've read is that people think the 3 time lines are supposed to be 3 different people all together, played by the same actor. I have no idea why someone would think this, but it has happened.

It always makes me chuckle when a reviewer calls a movie pretentious because they've got the attention span and comprehension of a 5 year old. Anything that's ambitious is also called pretentious (you might recall my review of "Lady in the Water"). But you must also realize there are ambitious movies I strongly dislike; AI for example. Ambitious in and of itself does not a good movie make. However, it does increase it's chances of being shunned weather it's good or bad.

The Fountain is very much a science fiction/fantasy film that presents itself as a serious drama and perhaps that's where some people get mixed up. It requires you to accept certain things that are all but impossible in the real world, just as any science fiction film does. A tree that grants you immortality, a floating space-bubble used for inter-stellar travel are among these. Perhaps people are confused when they see true heartbreaking and believable drama in the movie.

As for the charges that it's emotionally monotoned I can only say that it's essentially a film about someone dying. This isn't a film where a lot of action and adventure happens and then through the circumstances of the story a major character dies. We are told right up front that this person is currently dying of a brain tumor, and is most likely going to be dead before the movie is over. Hugh Jackman's performance exactly matches this reality. Yes, Jackman is sad, depressed and distraught throughout most of the film, but this does not prevent him from giving a colorful performance in the least. To the contrary he fills out each and every stage of grief with completeness and amazing believability right up until the final frame of the film when he finally reaches acceptance.

When you see this film, actually see it. Pay attention to it and soak it up. If you do that it is not hard to understand or appreciate. Hopefully you will come to see that's great smart-science fiction in the vein of "Solaris" & "2001: A Space Odyssey".

Friday, May 11, 2007

Lost Set for 3 More 16 Episode Seasons

From Variety:

"In a potentially paradigm-shifting play, ABC has agreed to let the producers of "Lost" set an expiration date for the series -- three years in the future.

Skein will now wrap after the production of 48 additional episodes that will be divided into three, shortened 16-episode seasons. Final episode -- the show's 119th -- will air during the 2009-10 season.

In conjunction with the advance order, "Lost" showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have inked hefty new multi-year overall deals with ABC Television Studio to continue with the series until the end. Duo had made setting a wrap date for the show a condition for staying.

Lindelof and Cuse had wanted "Lost" to end after two more seasons. They're essentially still getting their wish: The 48 episodes they'll produce over the next three years is the same number the show produced during its first two seasons.

ABC execs, however, came up with a way to keep "Lost" on its sked for three more seasons. What's more, the 16-episode arcs will run without repeats (a la "24"), allowing the Alphabet to make the show more of an event.

"In considering the powerful storytelling of 'Lost,' we felt this was the only way to give it a proper creative conclusion," ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson said.

"I always said that we would allow the series to grow and give viewers the most compelling hour possible," he added. "And, due to the unique nature of the series, we knew it would require an end date to keep the integrity and strength of the show consistent throughout, and to give the audience the payoff they deserve. "

McPherson also acknowledged that getting Lindelof and Cuse to reup "was critical to me and the network."

ABC Television Studio prexy Mark Pedowitz shared that sentiment.

"We wanted to make sure we had the team responsible for its success in place for not only the run of the show, but so that each of their future series creations have a home at the studio after 'Lost,' " Pedowitz said.

J.J. Abrams, who co-created "Lost" with Lindelof, defected to Warner Bros. TV last year and has been focusing on a new slate of TV and film projects, including the revival of the "Star Trek" franchise for Paramount Pictures. He told Daily Variety that he fully supported the advance wrap decision.

"It is the right choice for the series and its viewers," he said via an email message. "It takes real foresight and guts to make a call like this. I applaud ABC and Touchstone for making this happen."

Lindelof and Cuse, who are putting the finishing touches on the third-season finale, released a joint statement praising what they termed "a bold and unprecedented move for ABC" and thanking McPherson and Pedowitz for making it.

Cuse added that he hoped more shows will be able to follow the "Lost" lead and declare an end date.

"I think for story-based shows like 'Lost,' as opposed to franchise-based shows like 'ER' or 'CSI,' the audience wants to know when the story is going to be over," Cuse wrote. "When J.K. Rowling announced that there would be seven 'Harry Potter' books, it gave the readers a clear sense of exactly what their investment would be. We want our audience to do the same."

Cuse confirmed that devising an exit strategy for "Lost" was key to reupping with ABC Television Studio.

"In making this deal, Damon and I had two priorities: defining an end point for the show and keeping the quality bar high," Cuse said. "To do that we are both fully committed to the day-to-day running of the show right up until the very end. It's also why the 16 episodes per year was key for us. Because our show is so mythological, and because, unlike '24,' we can't reset each season, we need the extra time fewer episodes affords us to really plan out the specifics of our storytelling."

Lindelof and Cuse made public their desire for an end date during the TV Critics Assn. press tour last winter (Daily Variety, Jan. 15).

Cuse and Lindelof also wanted an end date in order to mollify critics of the show who worried producers were simply spinning their wheels as they worked through the show's layer upon layer of mystery.

ABC execs had already been talking to the producers about the idea, but they seemed taken aback when Lindelof and Cuse made the conversations public.

Indeed, it would be understandable if ABC execs had been initially cool to the concept of an early end date.

After all, with major hits a rarity in the network game, the rule is to keep hits on the air until every last ounce of success has been squeezed from them (e.g., "ER" or "The X-Files").

And despite relentless media snarking this season -- and the fact that "Lost" has lost a chunk of its fall 2005 audience -- the series is still a top-15 hit that dominates its 10 p.m. Wednesday timeslot in key demos.

In its third season, it's still drawing as many young viewers as NBC's newer, more buzzed-about "Heroes" -- and that's not counting the roughly 2.1 million viewers who watch the show after its live broadcast or via free streaming on

ABC could be establishing a new formula by which nets find success through serving up skeins with more and more audacious concepts but shorter lifespans than the traditional network hit.

Already, the traditional syndie business model -- the one that required studios to produce 100 episodes of a show in order to recoup their investment -- seems to be fading away in an age of instant downloads and universal streaming.

That may be one reason, according to Lindelof, that McPherson and Pedowitz "never argued that the show should keep going and going. The issue has always been when it would end and how far out in front of that ending should we herald it."

Now that the end has been announced, Lindelof promised there would be no attempts to extend or continue the "Lost" mythology on air in some other way.

"There will be no extensions or enhancements. That number (48) is absolute," he said. And "once you begin to see where we're going, I think the idea of sequels and spinoffs will completely go away."

So if he, Cuse or Abrams suddenly come up with a killer plot thread that doesn't fit into the new timeline?

"We'll do it as a radio play," Lindelof quipped.

As for "Lost," show's end game is expected to kick into high gear later this month with the broadcast of the season finale. Details of the plot are under wraps, but a person who has read the script described it as a major shakeup to the plot.

"It changes everything," the person said.

Nothing's official yet, but ABC has all but said that the fourth season of "Lost" won't premiere until January or February of next year."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I've started a new blog/site related to my favorite music program in world, Buzz...