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Permanent link to archive for Monday, July 31, 2000. Monday, July 31, 2000

Welcome to the last day of July, another incredible month!

No fear 

Omar Vasquez points to an Internet radio station with no fear.

We have more fear than this. Perhaps we should work out a way to connect to one of these servers from Radio UserLand.

Oh the fear about pointing to things these days. Pointing at things is expressive, you know, like free speech and the First Amendment. Is this a total police state yet? Can I even say this? What happened to the US? (If you're a lawyer, call a judge and tell them how crazy things are getting on the Web.)

PS: Tonight we learned that George W's wife can't pronounce the word poignant. (The "g" is silent.) That is, in itself, for some reason, poignant.

PPS: Sam Devore has the playlist working on the Mac. Bonk!

Audio CD to MP3 

Thanks to someone named Dalai Lama for the pointer, I am now able to convert audio CDs to MP3 using CDEX.

Screen shot.

I'm taking a break and ripping a brand new CD. One of the CDs I bought yesterday was Frank Zappa's Strictly Commercial, a greatest hits album. I thought this was appropriate, since Zappa, if he were alive, would probably be one of the biggest boosters of music on PCs. I don't know that for sure, obviously, just a guess.

OK, next step. Here's what a folder produced by CDEX looks like. If you use MP3 software to convert audio CDs, does your folder structure look like this or does it look different?

Survey: What does your folder look like?

If yours looks different it would be great if you posted a screen shot to the Radio UserLand discussion group.

Andy Goldstein recommends MPEG Suite. (Crashed on launch.)

Today's song 

Little Feat: Strawberry Flats.

"Knocked on my friend's door in Moody Texas, and asked if he had a place for me. His hair was cut off and he was wearing a suit, and he said not in my house, not in my house. You look like you're part of a conspiracy."

Suck on Mozilla 

This Suck piece is a must-read. I've said many of the same things about Mozilla. If there's to be an alternative to Microsoft's browser, it must behave exactly like it, the pain to transition to it must be absolutely at a minimum.

Software and the First Amendment 

Dennis Wickham: "In 1999, Microsoft won a lawsuit here in San Diego because the Federal District Judge agreed with you that the First Amendment extends to choices made by developers in writing software. The case involved an inadvertent string of events that caused a user of Publisher 98 looking to images of 'monkeys' to pull up an African-American couple sitting on 'monkey bars.' The judge dismissed the lawsuit filed by a consumer ruling that the programing, even if it lead to unintended associations of ideas, were speech."

A time capsule 

In Web Techniques, Dale Dougherty reports on the WWW9 conference in Amsterdam in May.

"Given that publishing was in the title, and the fact that there were five other tracks available for the 500-plus developers, I wasn't expecting much interest. So I was really surprised to see that our room was packed, even overflowing at times."

The room was overflowing and the session was great. Thanks to Dale for continuing to carry the message. Let's get our Web apps connected to each other and to desktop apps. Let's make it easy to create for the Web.

Separated at birth? 

Have you ever noticed that Michael Jackson's Billie Jean has exactly the same beginning as Falco's Der Kommissar?

Or is it the other way around?

Napoli on Napster 

Lisa Napoli: "If youíre crying in your beer about the impending death of Napster, let me ask you this: If you were a musician, would you want to get paid for your work? In fact, chances are that youíre not a musician, so Iíll ask a different question: Do you expect to get paid for whatever work it is you do? Pardon me for presuming all of you arenít socialists, but surely the answer must be yes."

Considering that she already answered the question, let's back up and look at the assumptions she's made, and see where she took a wrong turn.

If I was a musician I would want to get paid for my work. And she's right, I am not a musician. She's doing great so far.

Now on to the next question. Do I expect to get paid for the work I do? The answer, sadly, is no. That's because I choose to be creative and honest, and writing software is even less appreciated an art than being a musician. I could take a job as the CEO or CTO of a slimy dot-com startup and promote non-existent software and bribe reporters for good press coverage. I've had a few offers, but I turn them down with such gusto, the offers have stopped, which is OK with me. I choose to have integrity in the work I do. I also choose to write software. So money has to take a back seat. (She didn't ask if I'd like to get paid, the answer is an enthusiastic yes!)

Most rock stars don't get paid very much, if anything, for the work they do, under the old system. That point has been made by quite a few artists, and hasn't been refuted by the music industry. Until they refute it, with facts that stand up to reasonable scrutiny, I'm going to believe the artists that have spoken publicly. So forget the bs about artists getting paid, when a reporter asks the question that way I wonder whose payroll they're on. Where are the fact-checkers when you need one? Talk about music company execs getting paid, then the story has some basis in fact, afaik.

Further, as I've said countless times but no one seems to hear, I pay for music. The stuff I download from Napster is stuff I've already paid for. How many times do I have to pay for it?

(That's the question for Ms. Napoli.)

For Scripting News readers 

It's time to lift the hood in a new way..

I am personally net-negative on UserLand, to the tune of a few million dollars. During the flame war that resulted when Frontier went commercial in 1998, we computed that I had personally paid $3000 for every copy of Frontier in use. I paid for the priviledge of people using my software. (Which made the selfish flames all the more ridiculous.)

The software distribution system forces developers to work for large companies, where there is diminished opportunity for artistic integrity. We learned in the early 90s that there was no way for a small company, even with a hot product, to net-out any money from software distribution. It was bad in the 80s, in the 90s it became impossible. It was cheaper to just give the software away, which is what we did in 1995.

Privately, I urged Apple to revise the distribution system, since they were getting beat-up for having no software, and they were making good money in the early 90s. The pleas fell on deaf ears. I proposed a pool of five percent of revenue for the Macintosh, to be distributed to software developers based on usage ratings. The more your software got used, the more money you'd get. I still think this is a reasonable way to do it. Users want the software for free, so did the platform vendor, but it costs money to develop. Somehow this has to be resolved. No one has had the guts yet to do it. (This would be the equivalent of the artists having an equity stake in the studio.)

Anyway, in twelve years I have never drawn a salary from UserLand. That's not true for the people who work here, who earn salaries and get stock options and benefits. In the above I carefully talk about me, not the company. We're not profitable, it would not make any sense for me to draw a salary. I'm not complaining, because since 1998 I haven't had to write any checks to UserLand. A lot of people assume we're rolling in dough, and we're not. That's one of the reasons I like that the music industry is bringing money into the discussion. Like the musicians, I want to be paid for giving people good stuff that does cool things, but only from honest people who like it.

Like good music, good software is expensive to make. When you see something cool-but-free coming from UserLand, think about money, and the gift you're getting. You're not paying for it, but you're getting something that cost money to make.

Since it's disclosure time 

One more thing.

At various times, we've had offers to sell Frontier.

Each time, on investigation, we learned that the product would be dismembered, and pieces would be integrated with other products from the acquiring company.

I always got angry at this point. "The beauty of Frontier is its integration. If you dismember it all its value goes away."

If we had done any of these deals we would have sold out our users. They'd be left holding a piece of software that would never be updated, bugs never fixed, no new features released, new platforms not supported.

I did that once, in the late 80s, the product died, and I hear from its users to this day, and it makes me angry and sad that the beautiful product died, for no good reason I could find. I decided that the art I do is far more important than money, and I resolved never to do it again.

PS: This is why I do it.

     

Last update: Monday, July 31, 2000 at 9:42 PM Eastern.

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