Tuesday Mar 21, 2006

Stereophile has a good two-part interview with Fred von Lohmann, attorney with the EFF on Fair Use, DRM and the Entertainment Industry.  Here's a quote:

People can get exactly the same content for free on file-sharing networks forever—you can't stop a motivated music fan from getting what he or she wants. The successful strategy has to be offering them incentives to pay for it: convenience, selection, discovery, playlists, and lots of things besides access to the track.

Read the interview:  Part 1Part 2.

Wednesday Mar 15, 2006

Project Darkstar
Amazon web services has just launched  Amazon S3 - Simple Storage Service.  S3 is a web-based storage system with a web services API.  Storage costs are $0.15 per GB-Month of storage and $0.20 per GB of data transferred.  S3 has an authentication mechanism that is intended to allow or limit access to your data.  There is some good API documentation too.  

Is the price too high? Hard to say, but if,  for instance, I wanted to keep my music collection on S3 so that I could access it where ever I am without having to carry an iPod with me it would cost about  $6 per storage (for 40GB) and about $3 for bandwidth (estimated for 100 plays per day that's 100 * 5mb == .5GB) ... for a total of $9 per month.  It'd be cheaper to subscribe to Yahoo Music Unlimited for $4.99 per month.

Tuesday Mar 14, 2006

betterPropganda is a music recommendation site that focuses on new and independent artists.  There are 'thousands of free, hand selected and fully legal mp3s' that you can listen to as you explore new artists.  betterPropaganda uses the Loomia  engine for recommendations and personalization.

The good thing about betterPropaganda is that there's lots of music and you can listen to it and even download 128kbs Mp3s.  There are about 1200 artists listed currently on betterPropaganda, and each artist has one or two mp3s listed.  There's some big name artists listed such as Aimee Mann, the New Pornographers and Green Day - and yes, you can download the song 'American Idiot' from betterPropganda for free.  This adds new meaning to the lyric: 'Now everybody do the propaganda. '

Monday Mar 13, 2006

It looks like Predixis has renamed itself  MusicIP and they've added a few  things to their product mix.  Here's the press release.   Their  'new' MusicIP mixer looks to be a renamed MusicMagicMixer (and it still doesn't want to run on my linux AMD64 laptop, ah well).

One thing that looks promising is the fact that they are open sourcing their music fingerprinting technology in order to encourage wide adoption.  The code is here:  MusicDNS.org the choice of licenses looks reasonable.

Most interesting is the partnership with MusicBrainz ... the other open-source fingerprinting technology.  Rob Kaye, founder and lead developer of MusicBrainz says:

"I am excited about MusicIP and MusicBrainz working together. This new partnership strengthens both of our offerings and extends the reach of the MusicBrainz project into the commercial world, while bringing MusicIP to the open source world,"

Here's the MusicBrainz press release.  Looks like Predixis/MusicIP did a lot to make this happen, the MusicBrainz folk certainly seem excited about it.


Sunday Mar 12, 2006

Andrew Hitchock uses the MusicMobs web services API to find out what your favorite albums are (based upon playcounts), and builds an album cloud using the album covers. The size of the album cover is proportional to the amount of play that album gets.  Cool idea ... and a great way of showing what cool things people can do with an open API. MusicMobs does a great job of providing access to their data through their web services API.  

Here's my current album cloud:

And you can listen to a 20 second signature version of my music collection here: Paul's Itunes Signature

Friday Mar 10, 2006

Music Sage is a new search engine that focuses on music.  Type in a band name like 'weezer' and Music Sage offers up results from all sorts of music related sources including the Wikipedia, album review sites, interviews, guitar tabs, lyrics, biographies and more.  Interestingly, they seem to be using a passage retrieval algorithm to extract salient phrases from the sources to display in the search summary.  All in all, the Music Sage results seem to me to be more relevant than a regular old google search.

MusicSage isn't just for searching for info about bands,  other types of music searches work well too.  Instruments, classical pieces, composers .. it's all there.  (Well, almost all there ... it does have a bit of trouble finding info on the band 'the the').

 Music Sage indexes all things musical.  MusicSage has a nice clean design, not cluttered with ads or irrelevant info, all in all, its a nice clean implementation. Oh yeah, and it's from Oz.

Wednesday Mar 08, 2006

MusicMap is a neat flash app that lets you explore artist similarity. MusicMap uses the 'similar artists data' from Amazon to form a graph of connected similar artists.  In concept, it is identical to LivePlasma (formerly MusicPlasma), but I've always found the LivePlasma interface to be awkward and confusing and downright slow.  MusicMaps is quite intuitive and really quite zippy.  You can explore an artist similarity space quite easily. This biggest problem with this app is that you can't listen to any music.  You may find that ColdPlay is similar to the White Stripes, but you can't listen to either.  First seen on Information aesthetics:

You may have read in Jonathan's blog about how PodBop was voted the most popular mashup at David Berlind's MashUp Unconference.  PodBop is a web2.0 mashup that scours the web for mp3s of bands that are coming to a nearby venue.  With PodBop your three steps to live music are:
  1. Enter your city and state.
  2. Listen to bands that are in your town this week.
  3. Go see a concert.
Ace MIR reporter/analyst Jeremy Pickens says:

There is not really any “content based” music IR in this system, but it is perhaps a good example of a metadata-based search tool.  Musical “relevance” might have time+location features attached to it.  To be able to go and listen to a few tracks from some unknown band who’ll be playing down the road from you next week is extremely useful.  It’s another form of music information discovery.

Jeremy goes on to say:

Imagine also a reverse tool, where bands decide which cities they should tour in, based on the music preferences of fans using this service in various cities.  Reverse music IR ... Music trying to find the fans.

Lots of interesting possibilities to be sure. It'd be interesting if some of the music discovery services such as last.fm or musicmobs collected some extra bits of data such as the geographic location of the listener, it would open the doors for all sorts of geographic based MIR systems. Ian Knopke of McGill university presented a paper at ISMIR 2005 describing a technique for locating sound and music files geographically, but that is very different than finding where the listeners are located. Maybe the next cool mashup would be a frappr map that shows the spread of a new song from a new band from its first performances in the local club to the point when its spread across the country and appears on the Billboard charts.

Be sure to read PodBop creator Taylor McKnights blog: GTMCKNIGHT

Tuesday Mar 07, 2006

I'm sure you've all heard about Ruby on Rails, as well as Ajax on Amphetamines, and even Snakes on a Plane

But the new, ultra-cool web 3.0 platform is now:

Pythons in Pails


Look to Search Guy  to see more about this intriguing development platform.

Saturday Mar 04, 2006

Over at SourceForge, Sphinx is the Project of the Month for March.  Sphinx is a family of speech recognizers from CMU.  Sun Labs (under the leadership of Willie Walker) has made significant contributions to Sphinx (in particular to Sphinx4, a flexible open source speech platform written in the Java programming lanuage.

Saturday Feb 18, 2006

One of the great things about working on a project like 'Search inside the Music' is that I get to surround myself with music all day.  I'm always listening to new music.  For the last year I've been doing quite a bit of experimentation with music from Magnatune. 

Magnatune offers an incredibly diverse music collection from heavy metal and punk to classical, ethnic and folk.    Some of the songs, particularly by the band called the strap-ons, are well ... a bit edgy.  They have one song called "this place sucks", which starts out with the singer screaming "this place sucks, it's f**ked".  A little while back, I was giving a rather high profile demo of our music similarity and visualization system. One of the attendees was Jonathan Schwartz, the president of Sun Microsystems.  During the demo, I get to show how we can use our visualization to explore our music collection by clicking around in a 3D visualization.  It occured to me during this particular demo that it would be rather unfortunate if I happened to launch "this place sucks" ... I'm sure Jonathan has a good sense of humor but ... well you never know.  Anyway, I did manage to avoid that song during the demo and it went quite well. By the way, here's the visualization (the album art here is for a band named pizzle)

search inside the music visualization

One of my favorites of the Magnatune artists is Bjorn Fogelberg. His 'Karooshi porn' album is rhythmic, soft electronica, but with lots of solid analog synth sounds.   His "Life in a tube" has become the unofficial theme song of the Advanced Search and the Search Inside the music research teams.  Every team should have such a good theme song.

Thursday Feb 16, 2006

A story in today's  Wall Street Journal:  Amazon Plans Music Service to Rival iTunes details Amazon's plan to roll out a digital music service this summer.  It is likely that Amazon's service will be centered around a branded digital music player (probably made by Samsung), and unlike iTunes offer an all-you-can-eat monthly subscription plan. 

It will certainly be an uphill climb for Amazon. Apple  has the player of choice and years of experience selling digital music. However, Amazon has some things going for them. In particular I like how they are always innovating. First of all, they have a great web services API that makes all sorts of web 2.0 style mashups possible.  They are always thinking about new ways to hook people up with content.   Their "Search Inside" feature, "statistically improbable phrases", and text stats  such as words per dollar give their customers other ways of exploring content.  Amazon's recommendation engine  is one of the better one's I've experienced.  (Despite the problems with scabs, breasts and  Coldplay).

So far, the iTunes alternatives have been mainly hampered by the fact that their content won't run on the iPod.  Amazon will have that problem too, but with their name recognition and a
few antitrust lawsuits, perhaps we'll have a viable alternative to iTunes when we shop for digital music.

Interesting post over on Sunfleet about the dumpster. I'm a sucker for cool visualizations of large and complex datasets.  What could be more complicated than the world of teenage romance?. Worth checking out.

Sunday Feb 12, 2006

I've been writing software professionally  for about 25 years, which makes me a geriatric programmer.  For 20 of those 25 years I've used vi or vim and make or ant as my main development tools, and I've been very happy with my productivity. Vim coupled with ctags and a bit of configuration gives you syntax coloring, in-the-editor compiling and quick code browsing.  It is a very efficient environment. 

Every few years a new development environment comes along. I usually kick the tires and give the new tool an honest try.  The first IDE I tried was TurboPascal which was fast and cheap, but it was Pascal ... and well,  it just didn't take.  I also remember Visual Cafe (my first Java ide), Eclipse and Netbeans 1 thru 4. 

For the last couple of months now, I've been using Netbeans 5.0, and I think I've finally been convinced to retire the trusty old VIM as my development environment. NB 5.0 does a whole lot of things just right to make coding much easier:
  • CVS integration  - everything can be done in the IDE, it's the most intuitive source code control integration I've seen
  • Matisse  - It is ultra slick - it is so easy now to create a quick gui panel - and the way the generated gui is represented in the code (using code folds to hide the code you shouldn't touch) is very nice.
  • Refactoring tools - things that should be easy (like renaming a package) now are, no more fighting cvs and  manually grepping through hundreds of imports.
  • Autocomplete - 80% of my trips to the JDK javadocs have been eliminated
  • Project dependencies - you can manage multiple projects and their dependencies in the ide, makes building much easier.
  • Ant at the core - uses ant scripts for building so you can build your software without the IDE
  • Stable - I've never lost a bit of work with nb5
Still there are a few things that could be better:
  • Startup time ...  vi/vim is much faster
  • Memory usage - after a day of edit / compile /run cycles I tend to need to restart netbeans, its heap tends to get large after a while.
  • The editor is not VI. I don't like having to reach for a mouse to do things.
After working with Netbeans 5.0 for a few months, I've decided it's a keeper.  So Long VI and thanks for all the :wq

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