I’m 4 years late to the party on this one, but it’s too good not to pass along!

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I’ve intentionally avoided commenting on the new media guide that Verizon rolled out to all its DFW FiOS customers this week. I decided to wait because I was so completely underwhelmed after spending the first 10 minutes with it. It’s been a few days now and I’m sad to say not much has changed.

Before the switch to fiber I had a DirecTiVo. In retrospect, that guide was crafted like a work of art. It was easy, intuitive, and configurable. The change to Verizon, on the other hand, was painful. The original guide was ugly as sin and it wasn’t very intelligent either. Don’t worry; we eventually reached an uneasy truce. It helped a little when I discovered that the guide was actually Microsoft’s first attempt at media guide software.

I heard rumors of the new guide last spring. “Excellent,” I thought, “I can live with this crappy guide for a few months.” It was due sometime in the summer. Then it was September 1, then October 1. Then it was end of 2007. The delays were purported to be the result of some bad rollouts in some of Verizon’s smaller markets in New England. The new guide wasn’t quite ready for primetime, but it was close. I didn’t mind the delays – who would want a buggy TV guide anyway?

So this new guide rolls out, and it’s buggy as hell. Visually it’s a lot more appealing than the old one, but that counts for jack when you can’t work/trust the guide. The feature list has hardly improved and, incredibly, several of the annoyances from the old guide actually carried forward!

Currently I can’t see any of the HD channels above 803 on my Favorites list. They’re checked off as favorites on the config screen but they don’t show. If I switch to the HD channels view they’re there, but they’re AWOL from the favorites.

I may not have noticed this right away were it not for the fact that the list doesn’t loop back around to the first channel at the end. You have to page up manually to get back to the beginning. When a recorded program ends you’re dumped out to the top of the recorded list instead of being prompted to delete or keep the program you just finished. At that point don’t even think about hitting the Favorites button on your remote – you’ll need to exit the list view for it to become functional again. And, as with the old guide, the progress bar randomly freezes for the duration of the current program. The list goes on.

Dear Verizon: come on guys, this shit was solved by the cable companies 15 years ago. These are basic usability issues. They should have been flushed out long before it ever saw the light of day. I understand you’re new to the cable business, but I guarantee you this wouldn’t have happened if you had spent 10 minutes asking teenagers what they thought about it.

I should point out that while I was typing this the receiver just unmuted itself.

Please, for the love of all that is holy in this world, tell me that you did not intentionally include a “feature” that turns the volume back up after X minutes. Please tell me this was a quirk, a hiccup. Please tell me you didn’t burn developer hours that could otherwise have been spent debugging.

I think I’m going to go lie down now.
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Until today I’ve used a Greasemonkey script when I’ve wanted to download and save videos from sites like YouTube.

Not anymore.  Enter vDownloader, a freeware app that’s obscenely simple to use and works perfectly (so far).  There is no setup package – just unzip the download and start ripping! A cool feature I discovered accidentally: leave the program open and copy a video URL to your clipboard. vDownloader automagically downloads the file as generic data, prompts you for the destination file type, and then encodes the data according to your choice.  Sweet!

Today brings excellent news for music lovers of all stripes: EMI will start selling its entire catalog without any DRM restrictions. They will also upgrade the sound quality of the unprotected songs from 128kbps to 256kbps. The tracks do cost more – $1.29 each – but the price is still well within reason. I suspect the bitrate increase was a secondary consideration and most likely a P.R. move to justify the price bump. Whatever the reason, EMI is going to be watched very closely over the coming weeks to see what this does to their bottom line. If the world is fair and just, this will triple their profits and demonstrate to the RIAA just how wrong their failed policies have been.

Hold on to your britches because I have a feeling this is going to be my first good solid rant since I started this blog.

You see, I’m an amateur bass player… on hiatus. I’ve been focused on learning and improving my .NET skills for the past 2-3 years so the bass has been gathering dust in a closet. It’s because of this that I only now discovered what has been fact for well over a year: in December 2005 the Music Publishers’ Association (aka MPA, or NAMBLA) decided that posting tablature on the internet violates its members copyrights.

If you’re not familiar with it, tablature is like sheet music for morons. They look similar, but instead of traditional musical notes the fret number is printed on the line representing the string to be played. Tabs eliminate the need to understand sheet music. They literally allow anyone to pick up an instrument and start playing recognizable tunes in minutes. I still can’t read sheet music and don’t really have a desire to. I’m perfectly happy with snagging the tab for my latest favorite song because I enjoy being able to play along.

That’s why I was shocked when I went to the Bass Tab Archive in search of some 311 and Taproot tabs only to be greeted with the following message:

The Bass Tab Archive tab collection has been taken off-line in order to comply with a recently received takedown letter from legal representation for the NMPA and MPA.

Yes, it’s true. It is their position that transcribing a tab by ear and posting it on the internet for others to learn is a violation of the artist’s copyright. Think about that carefully. Have you ever gone online to find the lyrics to a song you liked? Did you feel like you were violating the artist’s copyright? Under this interpretation you were. Don’t you feel like a cheating bastard now?

Seriously, what the hell is going on with intellectual property rights in this country? Copyrights used to be a defense serving the interests of artists’ livelihoods and ultimately the livelihood of all those who create. Now they’ve become offensive weapons used to obliterate anyone who dares mention even the title among close friends. It’s sickening that our system of justice has allowed the pendulum to swing so far from sanity.

Issues like these are why I decided to join the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Join the EFF!They’re a coalition of lawyers, volunteers, etc. that work to protect us from the prick bastards at organizations like the MPA and the RIAA. Since those organizations have clearly demonstrated that there is no such thing as overreaching when it comes to protecting copyright, I think it’s money well-spent. At least I’m secure in the knowledge that I’m doing my little part to fight back against the subhuman pieces of shit that are hellbent on killing off music as we know it.

Two more music industry articles from Slashdot:

CD Music Sales Down 20% in Q1 2007

University Wants RIAA To Pay For Wasting Its Time

    It’s been a long time coming, but it appears the average music listener has finally had enough. This year the industry is posting its weakest sales records ever. Consider this: in 2005 you needed to sell about 600,000 copies of your album in a week to have a shot at #1. In 2007 that number has fallen to about 65,000. That’s a 90% drop in less than two years.

    We’re witnessing the end of the traditional music industry as we know it. Of course, given what it’s become I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. The real question is what will come next.

    Today Slashdot featured this letter sent to The Consumerist by a music lover who – try to contain your surprise – got screwed by DRM. It’s nothing new if you’ve been paying attention the last 5 years, but this quote struck close to home:

    I’d like to say I was outraged, but in the end I must admit to feeling remarkably sad and deflated over the whole process. See, the thing is, I was raised on music. I was saved by music. I (used to) live for music.

    Remind you of anyone? Perhaps yourself?

    DRM is a plague and sunshine is a disinfectant. It’s long been time for independent investigations into the RIAA‘s punitive tactics as well as their claims that illegal file sharing is the culprit behind plummeting sales numbers. Anyone who can stand to turn on a radio for 30 minutes knows why sales are down, and strong-arming 12 year olds into $3,000 settlements isn’t going to change that.

    The simple fact is the 21st century licensing model for music is horribly broken. As the author states in his letter, how long would Coke last if they required customers to consume their tasty beverage using Coke-approved equipment and only in ways deemed acceptable by Coke? Wouldn’t Pepsi like to know…

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