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Search from the Linux command line

You can search from the Linux command line without using a CLI web browser like lynx or Elinks. All you need is the curl and html2text packages installed. Then you issue the following command:
curl -A Mozilla |html2text -width 80
where you can replace Linux with another keyword of your choice. The results will be […] Continue reading

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Amie Street Also Takes Away Features… But At Least Is Honest And Upfront About How They Hate Having To

We’ve covered how eMusic (which had a fantastic reputation for a while) totally failed in communicating changes to its service, which involved increasing prices and taking away many valued features. The company tried to bury that news along with the fact that Sony Music would now be included, not recognizing that many of its users didn’t care, and were pissed off at the way eMusic presented this as a good thing. At least some others may be learning. Ragaboo alerts us that online music site Amie Street is also removing some features (such as the ability to redownload tracks — just like eMusic has done), but did so by admitting that it sucked and apologizing, but basically saying its hands were tied. They also gave advance warning of the changes. While Ragaboo isn’t thrilled about he, notes that he appreciated the honesty from the company. Here’s the email that he received:

“In several weeks we’re going to be making a change to how Amie Street handles downloads, and we want to be certain you are fully informed in advance about this change. In brief, starting on August 5th we’ll only be able to offer a single download of your purchased music unless you’ve encountered a technical problem.

Although most people only download their music one time, we’ve noticed that you have done so more than once on occasion. We realize that the ability to re-download files has been important to you, so it’s understandable that you might be disappointed to see this no longer available. Unfortunately a number of factors beyond our control, including legal and royalty concerns, have made this impossible going forward.

We’re very happy to say, however, that you can continue to stream all of the music you’ve purchased on Amie Street. That means wherever you have access to the internet, you also have immediate and unrestricted access to stream the entirety of your Amie Street music collection from your Library.

To make sure that downloading music continues to be as easy as possible, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the user experience and making updates to the site as needed. The primary voice that directs any such changes will be yours, so if you have suggestions based on your experiences using the site, we’d love to hear from you. Tell us exactly what you like and don’t like, and we can make Amie Street even better!


The Amie Street Team”"

Of course, the fact that both Amie Street and eMusic have removed the ability to redownload tracks over royalty issues makes you wonder what exactly is the issue here. Are record labels really demanding a royalty payment every time people redownload a song?

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Reminder: Insight Community Webinar On Enterprise Knowledge Management Tomorrow

Just a quick reminder that we’ll be running the webinar on enterprise knowledge management, tomorrow morning at 9am, featuring myself as the moderator. Joel Alleyne, a recognized expert on the subject (and a member of the Insight Community) will be leading the discussion, along with some guests from Sun and Intel (who are sponsoring the webinar). Whether you’re deep into knowledge management initiatives, or are even confused as to what “knowledge management” means, there should be something for you. Hope you’ll join us.

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This Is America… Why Are We Banning Books?

Last month we wrote about how a district court banned the publication of a so-called “sequel” (written by another author) to JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. I had a lot of trouble with this ruling, which seemed to be a complete assault on the basics of free speech and a total misreading of copyright law. The book itself is not a copy, but something entirely new. Whether or not it’s any good (and some of the reviews say it’s not), it is a new creative work — the exact type of thing that copyright was supposed to encourage. It’s good to see a lot of other folks are quite concerned about this ruling as well, and the Fair Use Project at Stanford has teamed up with some other universities to file an amicus brief on behalf of the American Library Association and some other library associations, who are reasonably concerned about the free speech implications of banning the publication of a book such as this one.

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Reuters Steps Up; Says Linking, Excerpting, Sharing Are Good Things For The News

A few weeks ago, after the AP announced its plans to crack down on people who it felt were linking/excerpting too much, we suggested that Reuters should speak up and respond to the AP’s position by encouraging linking and sharing of news. It appears that Chris Ahearn, President, Media at Thomson Reuters, has taken us up on the offer, writing a nice little manifesto: Why I believe in the link economy. And, of course, helping to prove that, he linked to a bunch of other sites — including our original blog post asking him to make a statement just like this (in contrast, by the way, while I’ve been quoted multiple times by the AP, I’m pretty sure they’ve never linked to Techdirt in an article). His post is pretty much exactly what I’d hoped Reuters (or others) would say (though, Ahearn is better at being diplomatic about the AP). Here are some key excerpts:

The Internet isn’t killing the news business any more than TV killed radio or radio killed the newspaper. Incumbent business leaders in news haven’t been keeping up. Many leaders continue to help push the business into the ditch by wasting “resources” (management speak for talented people) on recycling commodity news. Reader habits are changing and vertically curated views need to be meshed with horizontal read-around ones.

Blaming the new leaders or aggregators for disrupting the business of the old leaders, or saber-rattling and threatening to sue are not business strategies — they are personal therapy sessions. Go ask a music executive how well it works.

Exactly. There’s been too much misdirected blame placed on the internet, even though the internet has never been the problem. Not keeping up with what readers want is where the mistakes have been made.

I believe in the link economy. Please feel free to link to our stories — it adds value to all producers of content. I believe you should play fair and encourage your readers to read-around to what others are producing if you use it and find it interesting.

I don’t believe you could or should charge others for simply linking to your content. Appropriate excerpting and referencing are not only acceptable, but encouraged.

That’s basically exactly what I had suggested Reuters say… so that’s great. Once again, this makes me want to look for Reuters alternatives to any AP story I happen to come across.

Of course, I don’t agree with everything Ahearn has to say, though I do agree with the overall spirit of what he’s saying. He talks about the need to agree “on a code of conduct and ethics.” I’m not against the concept, I just don’t see how it’s possible or even necessary. These things tend to sort themselves out. Players who are “bad actors” become obvious over time. Good players get rewarded for it, and you deal with some questionable players on the margin. Rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing, why not just focus on providing more value yourself?

Then there’s this:

Let’s identify how we can birth it and agree what is “fair use” or “fair compensation” and have a conversation about how we can work together to fuel a vibrant, productive and trusted digital news industry. Let’s identify business models that are inclusive and that create a win-win relationship for all parties.

The thing is, the law says what’s fair use, not any voluntary agreement. And “fair compensation” isn’t determined by everyone chatting (that could be seen as collusion, actually), but in the market actually doing deals. I’m all for discussions on positive business models that are inclusive and create win-win relationships. That’s why we highlight examples of that all the time around here. But I don’t think discussing good business models means getting an entire industry to agree to use them ahead of time. For better or for worse (well, I’d argue for better), the world just doesn’t work that way. The win-win business models are being developed already — and that’s great. Let’s keep looking at those success stories, and pull out the important lessons from them — but that doesn’t mean everyone “agreeing” to things beforehand. Unfortunately, that’s just not going to happen. There are too many vested interests to make it work. But the nice thing is that those who don’t figure it out get swept out with the tide.

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And Of Course: Twitter Sued For Patent Infringement In Texas

This should hardly be a surprise, but with Twitter being so popular lately, it was only a matter of time until it was targeted in patent infringement lawsuits. At the very least, the company suing them appears to (a) actually be based in Texas and (b) have a product on the market. But… that doesn’t make TechRadium’s lawsuit against Twitter any more reasonable or sensible. Take a look at the patents in question:

  • 7,130,389: Digital notification and response system
  • 7,496,183: Method for providing digital notification
  • 7,519,165: Method for providing digital notification and receiving responses

Read through the claims on each of these patents and try not to gag on the obviousness of all three. If you picked any competent programmer (or, should we say, one who is “skilled in the art”) and discussed messaging systems, this is pretty much what any of them would develop. There’s nothing particularly unique or special in what’s described in these patents. And, now, unfortunately, Twitter needs to waste time and money defending itself for doing something (ahem) obvious.

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Trim and auto-post Qik videos on Android

Article updated 8/5/09 at 3:00 pm PT to clarify Qik’s YouTube uploading capabilties.

Qik brings simple post-production to Android.

(Credit: Qik)

It’s been about a month since Qik for Android became available on the Android Market as an open alpha version. Since then, Qik has been feverishly updating its video streaming and broadcasting app. Starting Wednesday, Qik for Android (version 0.1.3) lets you trim captured videos and more speedily share them with friends, or post them to social networks.

Qik’s editing mechanism comes in the form of a slider tool. It’s not immediately clear how to get to this point. You’ll need to film in offline mode for a start, then post-filming, tap on the “review” thumbnail to pull up the playback screen. From there, you press the “trim” button to see the tool. Though you can shave off each end by tapping endpoints and dragging them along the timeline, editing is not advanced enough at this point to support splitting. Once you reinstitute online mode, Qik will automatically shoot the edited footage up to your online account.

In addition to basic editing comes sharing. Qik’s settings now contain a sign-up dialog for entering Facebook or Twitter credentials. (There’s also a YouTube set-up, but that refers to a preference you’ll need to spell out online; Qik for Android can’t currently upload individual videos on a select basis to from the Android phone the way you can from Qik on other mobile platforms.) A fourth setting, shortcuts, lets you add people from your phone’s address book to a new sharing ribbon on the bottom of the app. Along with the icons for your social networks, this area serves as a kind of speed dial for alerting friends about your video broadcast via e-mail or SMS. Clicking on a social network will upload the video file to Facebook and YouTube, and will send the Qik link to your Twitter feed. New settings make it possible to enter a default tweet from the phone, and to program the app to automatically upload all videos to Facebook. Better keep it clean.

Even with the sharing bar, Qik still boasts an uncluttered interface. There’s plenty of room to grow to give users total control about the video capturing and creating experience, but these two features are significant steps forward.

Qik for Android alpha is freely available from the Android Market, but be aware that you may encounter bugs and other instability issues during your evaluation.

Related: Qik announces streaming video for BlackBerry

Originally posted at Android Atlas

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What does Google see in On2’s video tech?

So what, exactly, is Google planning to do with On2 Technologies’ video software?

The search giant isn’t saying. The planned $106.5 million transaction isn’t going to make too much of a dent in Google’s coffers, but the transaction comes during a hot debate about which future technologies will power Web video. CNET News’ Stephen Shankland and Tom Krazit pondered the implications of the deal, and here’s what they thought:

Shankland: When I heard about the acquisition, I immediately wondered if the move could tidy up the mess that is that Web video or clutter it up even more.

On2 offers video compression technology that’s used, among other notable places, in Adobe’s Flash software and the Hulu video site. The company licenses various “codecs”–the software used to encode video so it’s compact enough to squeeze down a narrow Internet pipe, then to expand it at the other end. It’s a major technical challenge–one that’s getting more important people to spend more time watching online video and more companies to attempt to profit from that.

Krazit: Well, it all depends on what they do with it, right? Google’s being coy about this particular acquisition, but there really are only two reasons to do this: open-source the codec and throw a third wrench into the HTML 5 video tag standards debate, or bake it into existing technologies like YouTube–in hopes of getting that business to start making money–or mobile software.

At the moment, my bet is on the YouTube-mobile option: does Google really want to risk holding up HTML 5 adoption any further, regardless of the hint they dropped in the press release that “video compression technology should be a part of the Web platform“?

Shankland: Those alternatives aren’t mutually exclusive. Google might just be buying trying to lower its costs by sidestepping YouTube’s current streaming technology, which uses Adobe Systems’ Flash software. Dan Rayburn, executive vice president at, says Google doesn’t have to pay Adobe fees to use Flash at YouTube. But Laura Martin, an analyst with Soleil-Media Metrics, believes that using On2 technology could trim YouTube’s network bandwidth costs.

In the long run, though, getting On2’s technology accepted as a built-in Web video standard could help both YouTube and Google’s grander ambitions for the Web.

Google controls Chrome, of course, but getting the other 97 percent of the browser world to move will be harder. When it comes to building support for Web video straight into the Web, rather than using a plug-in such as Flash or Microsoft’s Silverlight, Apple’s Safari uses H.264 while Mozilla and Opera use a license-free alternative called Ogg Theora. Chrome will support both, but Internet Explorer doesn’t have any support at all.

Right now, that video variety has been a thorny issue for the effort to hammer out HTML 5, the next incarnation of the Hypertext Markup Language that’s used to describe Web pages. Even though the video tag looks like a big part of HTML 5, specification author (and Google employee) Ian Hickson so far isn’t naming a codec.

Krazit: “Thorny issue” seems like an understatement. Why would injecting a third standard (that not everyone believes is necessarily a superior option) make sense, at this point? I suppose that there’s a Clintonian “third way” argument to be applied here, in that if Apple and Mozilla are lining up on opposite sides of the debate over H.264 versus Ogg Theora, a freely available version that has clear patent ownership collected in one place might solve some of the sticking points on either side. Still, we’d be once again dependent on Google’s “Dude, you can totally trust us. We’re Google!” argument that it won’t later subvert the standard with patent claims.

Not to mention the fact that Microsoft and its Internet Explorer are still unlikely to play ball, no matter what Google proposes.

Shankland: Well, one way Google could win over Mozilla at least is by releasing the codec as open-source software. That may or may not be possible, depending on what On2 has had to license, but Google apparently isn’t happy enough with Ogg Theora’s quality to bring it to YouTube, according to Hickson.

But I wouldn’t rule out Microsoft quite so fast, even though I’m sure that it would like to get as much royalty revenue as possible through Silverlight video streaming and its own video codecs. Google has an affinity for open-source licenses such as Apache that permit use of code in proprietary software. That could reduce the philosophical barriers to Microsoft. And if Google can offer a high-quality codec in the HTML 5 standardization effort, maybe making On2’s codec into open-source software could help coax the Internet Explorer team on board.

Let’s not forget that HTML 5 is under the auspices of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and they don’t like standards encumbered by royalty constraints.

Also, if I were writing standards, I’d favor codecs such as On2’s that also work on mobile devices. The iPhone doesn’t support Flash, and I’m sure that Google wants YouTube on as many handsets as possible.

Krazit: Google’s trying to pull off a lot these days, when it comes to making the Web the future platform for developers. It’s a huge proponent of the HTML 5 push, devoting an entire day of Google I/O in May to explaining why this move is so important, and preaching to developers about how open standards and browser-based development are the wave of the future.

But you’d think that at some point, the company would start thinking of ways to differentiate its own products against the rest. Chrome and the forthcoming Chrome OS are ostensibly being developed with the hope that they will gain traction in the market. How will they do that, however, if they are just cookie-cutter versions of the same standards-based technologies on which everybody else jumps?

One way would be through offering excellent video performance that isn’t widely available to the rest of the world, i.e., keeping VP8 and future On2 codec derivatives either in-house or available for a fee. Is Google going to open-source everything it ever develops under the strategy that anything that gets people on the Web ultimately comes back to its bottom line? Surely, that can’t scale.

Shankland: No, Google won’t open-source everything–and stop calling me Shirley. The company loves improving the Web as a foundation for applications, an effort that needles companies such as Microsoft or Apple that have their own developer ecosystems to nuture. But when it comes to the applications themselves–Gmail and Google Docs, for example–Google isn’t so into sharing.

So I guess that some of this On2 situation comes down to the extent to which the video codec work is an end or merely a means to an end, like Chrome.

Krazit: Google isn’t saying, at least for now. There’s little doubt that online video is a crucial component of the future Web (CBS’ David Poltrack is telling television critics this week that big money is coming to online video), and something will need to assume a role as the future technology enabler of Web video.

In the end, however, it must be nice to be able to make $100 million bets with relative ease. Nothing could come of On2’s technology, and Google would hardly be worse off than it was a day ago.

Updated 1:24 p.m. PDT with new information about Flash licensing and YouTube expenses.

Originally posted at News – Digital Media

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Rep. Lofgren: A Real Antitrust Issue That Needs Scrutiny Is Copyright

We talk here quite frequently about the fact that copyright (and patents) are gov’t granted monopolies, and should be watched carefully because of that. Historically, economically speaking, gov’t granted monopolies are bad for innovation and the economy. However, over the last few decades, there’s been a big push by those who benefit from monopoly rents to try to redefine them as “intellectual property” rather than the more accurate description as a gov’t granted monopoly. For the most part, our elected officials have bought into that language shift. Could that finally be changing back to a recognition that copyrights are monopolies and deserve the same scrutiny as any other economic monopoly? Today we saw a small move in that direction with a Congressional Rep admitting that copyrights are a monopoly and deserve scrutiny from the Judicial Dept. for that very reason.

I’m at the always-excellent State of the Net West event today, and the second discussion is about Antitrust in the Internet Era, and the discussion was introduced and led by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who had a number of surprising (in a good way) remarks. On traditional antitrust issues, she’s worried that antitrust actions aren’t being used to stop anti-competitive behavior but for anti-competitive purposes. She notes that many in Congress don’t really understand the purpose and reasoning behind antitrust and assume that dominance or marketshare automatically means there’s an antitrust problem. And, of course, there is the problem of regulatory capture. So, she notes that you’ll see elected officials basically read out talking points on antitrust issues from competitors — rather than actually looking at whether or not there’s real harm to the market. So, she suggests that the framework for antitrust issues should be looking at innovation and whether or not that’s happening or is being hindered. Of course, the cynical out there (you know who you are) might suggest that these sound sorta like Google’s talking points… Either way, she says she’s trying to set up a seminar for the Judiciary Committee about antitrust, to get them better educated about the real issues related to antitrust, and that seems like a good thing.

However, much more interesting and unexpected were her brief comments at the end of her remarks, where she took on copyright, noting that it is a gov’t granted monopoly that deserves antitrust scrutiny. She said, “Let’s face it, copyright extension these days is ‘limited’ to the life of Mickey Mouse.” And yes, there was sarcasm in her voice over the word “limited.” The guy sitting next to me who works at Disney started shuffling uncomfortably…. Lofgren went on to say that copyright is being used to put up barriers to competition and innovation and is an issue that antitrust regulators really should be scrutinizing. This is really surprising, but really good to hear. Lofgren has been one of the (very) few elected officials who actually does “get” copyright issues, but this is the first time I’ve heard any elected official recognize that copyright is a monopoly/antitrust issue that deserves serious scrutiny for the way it’s so frequently abused for anticompetitive purposes.

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Google Maps gets more landmarks, points of interest

(Credit: CNET)

Google Maps has added additional local landmarks and “prominent” businesses right on top of any map area you’re browsing. Just like any other points of interest, you can click on any of these to get the a summary, which includes things like related Web sites, phone numbers, hours of operation, photos, and user reviews.

In Google Earth (Google’s globe software) this layer of information is something you can turn on and off, however for Maps, Google has decided simply to bake it in. It’s definitely a logical next step, considering Google recently added nearby businesses on top of the results of your original search. This made it far easier to discover a local business, even if it wasn’t at the top of Google’s index.

Purists may find that all the extra points of interest may clutter things up. Although to combat this, the number of on-screen items increases with the zoom level, meaning that most of the time, you’re only seeing landmarks.

One thing to note is that the new mapping tiles do not yet appear on mobile devices like the Google Maps apps for iPhone and Android. We’ve pinged Google to see if the new tiles are headed there anytime soon.

Originally posted at Web Crawler

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