More Music Industry Copyright Lunacy

Filed in Social IssuesTags: Copyright, Fair Use

The bone-headed lawyers for Universal Music Group (UMG) are now claiming that throwing away a promotional CD is a form of unauthorized distribution, and is therefore a copyright violation, and thus illegal. UMG makes this ridiculous claim in a lawsuit filed against an eBay seller for selling promotional CDs [links in original]:

In a brief filed in federal court yesterday, Universal Music Group (UMG) states that, when it comes to the millions of promotional CDs ("promo CDs") that it has sent out to music reviewers, radio stations, DJs, and other music industry insiders, throwing them away is "an unauthorized distribution" that violates copyright law. Yes, you read that right -- if you've ever received a promo CD from UMG, and you don't still have it, UMG thinks you're a pirate.

This revelation came in a brief for summary judgment filed by UMG against Troy Augusto. Augusto (aka Roast Beast Music Collectibles, eBay handle roastbeastmusic) buys collectible promo CDs at used record stores around Los Angeles and resells them on eBay. UMG sued him last year, claiming that the "promotional use only" labels on the CDs mean that UMG owns them forever and that any resale infringes copyright.

The music industry, apparently, will never learn...

(H/T: TSDgeos)

Microsoft Concedes Linux Threat

Filed in LinuxTags: Computers, Geekery, Windows

Consider two recent bits of news from Microsoft:

  1. Microsoft extends life of Windows XP for Ultra-Low-Cost PCs
  2. Microsft Vista successor Windows 7 rumored to be released in 2009

What do these mean? Two things: Microsoft recognizes that Vista has not been well-received in the market, and Microsoft recognizes an emerging threat from Linux.

Consider the various markets for computers: enterprise (corporate) systems, high-end (gaming, graphic design, etc.) systems, standard consumer systems, and ultra-low-cost PC (ULCPC) systems. Other niche markets also exist, as well.

Even more than a year after its release, Vista has not been well-received in any of these markets. By all accounts, the corporate adoption rate has been dismal. Due to hardware/software compatibility issues, users of high-end systems likewise have stuck with Windows XP. ULCPCs do not meet the system requirements for Vista. The other niche markets include MacOS and Linux users who don't use any version of a Microsoft operating system.

This scenario leaves the standard consumer system market as the only viable growth option for Vista. This market includes the pre-configured computers purchased through retail outlets or manufacturers' direct-sale web sites. The vast majority of Microsoft's claimed, more than one hundred million Vista license sales come from this market. However, consumer backlash against pre-installed Vista has led to a resurgence of sorts in sales of Windows XP installation media. Windows Vista has trailed Windows XP in these so-called boxed-copy sales from the week Vista was released - and many of those XP copies are being installed over pre-installed Vista.

Microsoft's business model for Windows depends upon the operating system becoming a commodity - that is, for the average computer user, Windows equals computer use, and computer use means Windows.

In this model, corporations standardize on Windows, and follow the upgrade path defined by Microsoft: when Microsoft releases a new OS, corporations dutifully upgrade their systems all at once. In the consumer market, the business model assumes first that users will view the operating system as an unchangeable part of the computer, and second, that those users will replace their systems every 2-3 years, by purchasing another pre-configured computer at retail.

Similar to Microsoft's Office business model, in which Microsoft ensured product lock-in by creating an environment in which their proprietary document format was used by 99% of productivity suite users, Microsoft's Windows business model ensured product lock-in by creating dependency on Windows-only third-party applications and by creating an environment in which consumers could only purchase PCs with Windows pre-installed.

Previous threats to this business model have been relegated to servers, high-end systems, and certain niche markets: Linux is incredibly popular in the server market, MacOS owns the market of those for whom their computer is a fasion statement or status symbol, the computer-geek market often favors GNU/Linux, etc.

However, the emergence of the nascent ULCPC market poses a serious threat to Microsoft's Windows business model. ULCPCs appeal to lower-income PC owners in the US and Europe (the largest PC markets), but are also being targeted at impoverished and third-world communities - especially as an educational tool for children in those communities (see: OLPC and similar projects). These ULCPCs open up a market segment that could, theoretically, dwarf either the corporate or consumer market segments; not to mention, the ULCPC would have an impact on at least the consumer market segment, given its attractive price.

This emerging market would not threaten Microsoft's business model, were it not that almost all such PCs currently come pre-installed not with a Microsoft operating system, but rather with GNU/Linux. These PCs favor Linux for two reasons:

  1. Hardware capability: ULCPCs, due to their hardware specs, are better-suited to running Linux. In almost all cases, they cannot run Vista at all. In most cases, though many are capable of running XP, they perform better under Linux.
  2. Cost: Linux distributions are almost all free; Windows requires licensing - a cost which directly impacts the bottom-line cost for the consumer, and which is counter-intuitive to a product positioned as "very low cost."

Thus, the ULCPC market segment poses a serious threat to Microsoft's market share. This short-term threat, if realized, would have long-term impact on Microsoft's Windows business model.

Should Linux-based ULCPCs become the norm, then what is potentially the largest market segment would be brought up in an environment in which Microsoft Windows is not equivalent with computer use. If the ULCPC brings the computer to those segments of the world population that could not otherwise afford a computer, then this entire population would be brought up in this non-Microsoft Windows environment.

Currently, one of the most popular ULCPCs is the EeePC, sold by Asus. This computer has proven to be popular: sales are expected to be around four million units for 2008 - and while Asus now makes a Windows XP model, the EeePC originally only came pre-installed with Linux. Granted, Asus expects the XP model to take up about 60% of expected 2008 sales, but that still leaves 40% - or nearly two million units - of those sales for Linux-based units.

Microsoft has conceded that increasing Linux pre-installation poses a threat to its Windows market share, due primarily to the ULCPC market. (Linux pre-installation in the consumer market segment, while not insignificant, still remains a niche. It may yet pose a threat to Microsoft's dominant market share, but that outcome will take significant time.) Note that, in order to break into the ULCPC market, Microsoft had to make two important concessions: Microsoft first had to offer discount XP licenses to ULCPC manufacturers, and then had to extend the end-of-life date for XP at least another year.

Microsoft has found itself caught in an untenable situation: take reduced profits (due to licensing discounts) on OEM sales of a product the company wants to end-of-life (Windows XP), in order to prevent a potential hemorrhage of market share, meanwhile trying to cut losses on the product into which the company has most heavily invested in the past seven years, but which has been mostly rejected by the market (Windows Vista) - all while being forced to put all long-term hope in a product the company must now rush to get out the door early in order to stem the tide (Windows 7).

Microsoft is facing a complete upheaval of its operating-system business model. Could this scenario be the reason that Microsoft is all of a sudden so interested in buying Yahoo?

Poor Hillary

Filed in PoliticsTags: Democrats, Elections

Poor Hillary. Not only does she have to face two men in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, but she has to do so while also taking time to do her hair (emphasis added):

While listing her credentials to be president, Clinton also said people vote for different reasons, including how a person looks or their hairstyle.

"And that is another difference, you know how long it takes me to get ready than my two opponents — I mean really just think about it," she joked. "I think I should get points for working as hard as I do plus the time it takes to get ready."

Nevermind that, had one of her male opponents said something similar - "jokingly" or otherwise - he would have been castigated to no end for his bigotry; when Hillary says it, the statement gets only passing comment as a humorous anecdote.

Okay, Hillary: we all feel so sorry for you - even without your on-cue tears (which, I assume, will be turning up again, just any day now). You could always try shaving your head and going without the makeup. It would sort of be like campaigning on your true agenda, without trying to pretend your some kind of moderate. Both would have the same outcome: scaring the crap out of the electorate.

(H/T: RedState)

Rice for VP?

Filed in PoliticsTags: Elections, Republicans

This news would have really excited me a while ago: Condi Rice is apparently making a play to be named as McCain's VP.

As it is, she had better re-think her views on some issues before I could even hope to support her on the ticket.

(H/T: LGF)

The 'sphere is already buzzing.

Special Announcement

Filed in PersonalTags: Family, Fatherhood, Marriage, Photos

Lily is going to be a big sister!

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The digital indicator says "Pregnant," and yes, we are - as this test (and two others, just for good measure) confirmed today!
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

We quite literally just found out today, and are incredibly excited and overjoyed! More news as we have it, but in the meantime, please keep Steph in your prayers.

Boundaries and Stress Relief

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions

At this weekend's church service, the pastor started a new series on stress relief. This week's message was titled "Breathing Room" and focused on identifying, establishing, and maintaining healthy boundaries in our relationships. The message borrowed heavily from Cloud and Townsend's Boundaries series, including some video messages available on their website.

The message covered a lot of ground, but initially addressed the concept of boundaries and having a compliant or controlling nature - that is, those who have a compliant nature tend to allow their boundaries to be tresspassed by others and those who have a controlling nature tend to tresspass others' boundaries. As the pastor began discussing these concepts, I was reminded of Steven Covey's principle of our Circles of Influence Concern. I thought that concept analogous to what the pastor was explaining, with influence and concern on one hand, and responsibility and authority on the other.

Here's what I mean:

Each one of us has some amount of responsibility, which can be envisioned much like Covey's Circle of Concern. For this example, we can treat this Circle of Responsibility as a fixed area - that is to say, at any given point in time, our area or amount of responsibility is a fixed, or unchanging, quantity.

Each of us also exerts some amount of authority, which can be envisioned much like Covey's Circle of Influence. Unlike our Circle of Responsibility, our Circle of Authority is variable. We choose the extent to which we exert our authority.

Consider the following diagrams:

Authority-Responsibility Balance Diagrams

  • The first diagram represents balanced boundaries: the circles of responsibility and authority encompass the same area. Such a person exerts his authority commensurately with his area of responsibility.
  • The second diagram represents compliant character: the circle of authority encompasses a lesser area than the circle of responsibility. Such a person allows others to exert their authority within his own area of responsibility.
  • The third diagram represents controlling character: the circle of authority encompasses a greater area than the circle of responsibility. Such a person exerts his authority beyond his own area of responsibility and into others' areas of responsibility.

It is important to realize that these boundaries do not exist in a vacuum. A controlling character cannot exert authority outside of his area of responsibility in the absence of a compliant character into whose area of responsibility he can exert that authority - and vice versa. In other words, these concepts are meaningless outside of the context of relationship. Likewise, it is the relationship between two people that experiences stress as a result of such a trespass of boundaries:

Relational Stress Caused by Boundary Trespass

The stress exists in the overlap of the controlling character's authority and the compliant character's area of responsibility.

Herein lies the point, for those experiencing stress induced by lack of healthy relational boundaries: identify either compliant or controlling character - or both - in your relationships, and then make the necessary changes to ensure that you are exerting your authority in balance with your responsibility.

As Pastor Ron emphasized in the sermon this morning, learning to exert authority is often as simple as learning when to say "yes" and when to say "no" with respect to the expenditure of your time, effort, and resources. Discipline yourself to establish healthy boundaries in your relationships by balancing your area of responsibility with the exertion of your authority, and you will find that those relationships will be come much less stressful, and much healthier themselves.

Church Search: Grace Church of St. Louis

Filed in Personal, ReligionTags: Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Marriage, Missouri, Saint Louis

We have been looking for quite some time, to find a church home suitable for Stephanie, Lily, and me - somewhere that we can get involved in the church ministries, outreaches, and service as well as somewhere that can meet our needs: worship service with which we can relate and be both fed and challenged, an excellent children's program, and small-group ministry to facilitate building relationships and friendships with other people our age and in similar life circumstances.

We have tried several churches, trying to keep an open mind about non-essential things such as membership size and style of worship, while at the same time looking for unity in the things we consider essential: namely, doctrinal matters. For the past couple months, we have been attending Grace Church of St. Louis, and have connected well enough that we have decided to go through the four-week membership class to determine how well this church might fit for us.

We will be considering several things, including the details of the church's doctrine, the dynamics of a smaller group (our class has about 70 people, which is considered "small" for a church the size of Grace), the ministry/small group/service opportunities, and the emphasis/mission of the church (missions, evangelism, discipleship, etc.).

If we have one concern thus far, it is the somewhat overwhelming size of the church. While I would be perfectly comfortable, provided that we can find smaller groups with which to get involved, Stephanie is not quite so comfortable. That is why the nature and dynamics of the church's small group ministries will be critical to our decision.

Please be praying for us in our search for a church home - that God will show us where He would have us to be, and especially that He will enlighten us with respect to Grace Church through this membership class.

Finally Uploaded a Bunch of Pictures

Filed in PersonalTags: Family, Fatherhood, Marriage, Photos

Sorry for the infrequent posting, but things have been really busy here.

My most recent project is the basement. When we moved in, I had basically everything that we didn't know what to do with, put into the basement workshop/storage room. So, now that we've got the main level and upstairs essentially in shape (except for the breakfast room), I've been concentrating on organizing the basement and storage room. Here's what it looks like now:

Basement Cleanup

Basement Cleanup

Cleanup and organization of the basement living areas.
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

Of course, I had to make some special additions:

Basement Cleanup

The basement would not be complete without a Colts shrine.
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

And then there's the workshop/storage room. Without having seen the before pictures, you really won't get the transformation - so these pics are mainly for my dad:

Basement Cleanup

Basement Cleanup

The area now resembles a workshop and storage area, rather than an overflowing dumping ground.
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

I also uploaded a bunch more Lily photos, to her Nine Month and Ten Month sets. She's been as adorable as ever, learning new things such as clapping, drinking through a straw, and trying to climb the stairs. But of all the photos, this one has to be the best:

Lillian Ten Months - April

Lily gives such sweet kisses. Also, note mommy's cute new hairdo!
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.