Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When Microsoft and DRM combine

No, this isn't a quote from Captain Planet (although I wish it were something as cheesy and campy as that).

No, this little piece of news that Microsoft is abandoning their DRM-music service through MSN heralds the end of the line for any of their past customers.

The setup: You want to buy some music online, legally, so you go out on the net and look for music download sites.

The bait: You might arrive at the MSN music download site and decide to purchase some DRM-licensed music, and download it to your PC. DRM allows for that music to be on only a certain number of devices, so you may keep one copy on your PC, maybe another on your mp3 player. Each time you want to move the music to a new device, your PC requests a new license file from the MSN DRM authentication system, which issues the approval to copy that piece of music to a new device.

The switch: Microsoft decides to drop their MSN music-download service, and discontinue issuing authorizations.

The dilemma: You are now forced to keep your PC running indefinitely if you ever want to listen to the music you have purchased ever again. Don't delete it from your mp3 player, either, if you ever want to listen to it from there. Because this is the last time you get to transfer the song off of your PC, too.


Because DRM will not allow you to move any licensed music you own to another device, never allow you to even burn it to a CD without the authentication from a non-existent MSN authenticator.

Need to reformat your PC?
Say buh-bye to your MSN DRM-licensed music.

Want to upgrade your PC to a new OS?
Oh, I'm sorry. Tough luck.

Want to free up some space on your mp3 player? 
Microsoft says, 'screw you'. 

I really hope that consumers will get the message and STOP SUPPORTING DRM MUSIC. How many people need to get screwed before consumers get smart and stop supporting DRM? Because if the consumers get smart, and the power of their money goes elsewhere, DRM will go away, too.

Switching to a service like iTunes doesn't really solve the problem, either. As long as there is money in the industry, you will always have companies like MSN or other up-starts trying to get a slice of the pie. That's a part of American economics. If iTunes lasts forever, that still doesn't negate the evil of DRM, or stop music listeners getting screwed by it.

The only thing that makes me less-than-completely-irate at Microsoft is the fact that consumers out there made the big mistake of purchasing DRM-infused music to begin with.

I almost feel like the customers are getting what they deserve.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day!

Pi Day.

March 14th.

You could even get more specific, and say, 
3/14 16:33 (converting 3.1415926... to m/dd hh:mm)

Regardless of how you want to split it up, today is the honorific holiday dedicated to one of the mathematical constants that has gained a near mystical reputation. 

I still remember the first time reading Carl Sagan's Contact (not the movie, youhave to read the book), and wondering if, in fact, God would leave his "signature" in the physics which governs our existence.

Don't forget to have some pie for dessert!

Monday, March 3, 2008

The passing of a Legend

Ernest Gary Gygax passed away today, March 3rd, 2008.

The original creator of Dungeons and Dragons, he set the framework for the genre of role playing games.

More info at

Thank you Gary, you have touched our lives and your many, many fans will miss you.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The geekiest concert of 2008

I just spent an awesome evening at one of the most enjoyable, and best performed, symphony concerts I have been to in a long time.

Distant Worlds: The Music of Final Fantasy.

Composer: Nabuo Uematsu
Conductor: Arnie Roth

Performances by: 
The Chicago Pops Symphony,
The Chicago Festival Choir

My good friends Jim and Paul from St. Louis drove up for the concert, along with their sister Catherine and friend Brandy. We also met up with Brandon, who plays in our World of Warcraft guild. Half the fun was just hanging out with that crew, of course. I wish I could see them more often!

The performance was superb. I attended the "Dear Friends" concert that was last at Rosemont, and as a Final Fantasy fan I thoroughly enjoyed the music, but as a music critic recognized a few flaws in the performance level. But this show was nearly flawless.

Here's a few highlights from the set list:

Liberi Fatali - One of my fav pieces, the choir was spot-on and was a great opener to get the crowd emotionally into the performance.

Vamo' alla Flamenco - the classical guitar soloist was amazing. I love this scene from FF9, the music gives you a sense of the adventurous but playful spirit in this game, and the performers nailed this one.

Main Theme - the guitar soloist also played for the main theme, was a great rendition of the main FF theme.

Opening Bombing Mission - This one took me by surprise as a most exellently performed piece, better than what was recorded on the Distant Worlds CD.

Fisherman's Horizon - Memoro de la Stono - These two pieces have never been played live by orchestra before, and were a nice addition to the show.

Opera "Maria and Draco" - Absolutely the highlight of the entire concert, the very popular opera piece from FFIII (FFVI jap) got the standing ovation it deserved. The Opera voice trio played perfectly to the crowd, adding some amusing but subtle expressions to their performance that prompted an overwhelmingly positive response from the crowd. As One reviewer put it, "Nothing less than a standing ovation is deserved. Bravo."

Terra's Theme - Another piece not often played live, a superb performance and a favorite of many.

One Winged Angel - The conductor introduced the last song as "And for our final piece... well, you don't need me to tell you..." A cult-classic favorite of Sephiroth fans, and excellently performed by symphony and choir.

I was very lucky to have a VIP ticket, which allowed a brief yet exciting meeting with the composer and conductor after the show (after 2 hours in line) but it was entirely worth the wait to get the awesome pics. It was a blast cracking jokes and talking to the friendly Rosemont staff while waiting in line. To Travis, the ultimate bouncer, who could break a man while blind-folded and with one arm tied behind your back: you rock.

I truly had a great weekend at that show, with friends as geeky about Final Fantasy as I am. What a blast!

If you ever have a chance to listen to the recorded Distant Worlds CD (performed by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Arnie Roth), you have to turn it up LOUD, close your eyes, and pretend you are sitting in the front section of an auditorium.