AOL gets it – DRM free music

Filed under:Music/MP3 — posted by Svein Kåre on 29 July 2005 @ 23:18

According to BetaNews, AOL will start offering DRM free music from popular artists from their AOLMusic.com service. Finally someone who gets it – when it’s possible to play music on the equipment you want, then it’s interesting to buy the music, too.

While there are other online stores that provides DRM free music, this is the first (to my knowledge) that will provide popular artists for download. Let’s hope this is a growing trend.

If ignorance is bliss…

Filed under:Browsers — posted by Svein Kåre on @ 19:44

…then there must be many who are blissful in the media. How many times have there been articles in the news, where the author seems blissfully unaware of Opera, even if it should be the most natural thing to at least mention considering the theme being discussed? It’s many.

This time, it’s Yahoo’s turn, talking about the Minimo project from Mozilla. That Mozilla now is releasing a preview version of Minimo is well worth mentioning, even writing an article about. The only thing is something written in the article:

In general, Mimimo looks to address the problems with current mobile-phone browsers, which are difficult to use and don’t display web pages very well. Only 9 percent of cellular-phone subscribers in the United States use browsers to access news and information, according to JupiterResearch.

“The lack of usability on the cellular phone or mobile device is a big hurdle to overcome before we can see faster growth of browsers,” Hofmann said.

Wouldn’t it be natural to mention Opera here, as one mobile-phone browser that doesn’t have these problems? There’s no need to have much of the article talking about the Opera alternative, but it would be nice to know that there already is an alternative browser out there, which already do what Minimo is setting out to solve…

Maybe if people were informed about the choices they already have, with a browser that provides very much usability today, the market would grow faster?

IE7 Beta 1 and the Acid 2 test

Filed under:Browsers — posted by Svein Kåre on 28 July 2005 @ 18:08

Well – the IE7 beta is out – sort of, it’s not for everyone. But, some have tried it, and in the IE Blog there is a link in the comments to a screenshot of IE7 running the Acid 2 test.

Seems there’s still some way to go for MS to compete with modern browsers 😉

Still, the comments about this beta goes to both extremes, from praising it to slagging it off. It will be interesting to see what we get, when it’s ready for public download.

Bittorrent in Opera – it’s a glimpse into the future

Filed under:Browsers — posted by Svein Kåre on 24 July 2005 @ 00:36

Not too long ago, a Technical Preview of Opera (Opera 8.02TP) was released with support for bittorrent, a move that was welcomed by many. So, when can we expect to see a final version of Opera with this support? I don’t know.

It has been clarified though, that a technical preview is not a beta release, just a glimpse into what the Opera guys are working with, and that bittorrent will not be included in version 8.02 Final. But in Opera 8.1, maybe?

I guess we’ll just have to hope Opera 8.1 is released quickly, then. 😉

Microsoft patenting emoticons!

Filed under:Web anything — posted by Svein Kåre on @ 00:20

Eh? What? I have a hard time believing what I just read myself, but Microsoft has patented emoticons (or well, filed for patent, patent no. 20050156873). More specifically, they’ve patented the method of making a character sequence, such as a colon and a right paranthesis, being “converted” into a graphic, which is recreated at the receiving end. That is, : ) becomes 🙂

On the one hand, I can’t believe that this is something people can have the idea of patenting – but I guess this is what happens if you can patent programming methods/algorithms.

It’s a crazy world. Or a stupid one.

What do you want from CSS3?

Filed under:Web development — posted by Svein Kåre on 23 July 2005 @ 20:36

Web design doesn’t stand still, and designers find themselves tweaking the options they’ve got and clamour for more. It’s nice then, that we now have the option to tell The CSS Working Group what we’d like to be included in CSS3 – so if you are a web designer, what are you waiting for?

It’s a smart move to get designers, not just technical people, to say what they want to be able to do with CSS. Let’s hope the result will be very useful – and that browser implementation don’t lag too far behind, of course. 😉

Testing Opera bittorrent

Filed under:Browsers — posted by Svein Kåre on 13 July 2005 @ 01:01

I’ve tested bittorrent in Opera – found myself a nice, big file and started downloading. It worked. How was the experience?

Well – Opera delivered what was needed, and not much more. The information I got was the download and upload speed, how much was downloaded and uploaded, estimated time left to finish download and how many I was connected to. This is basically the information needed, even if a bit more could be nice to know.

As I didn’t leave my PC to itself but continued working on it, including accessing the web, there were some features I missed from dedicated torrent clients; a way to limit the bandwith use a bit. I won’t claim anything after just one test, but noticing that Opera maxed out the available upload bandwith, other things felt slower – at times much slower than usual. However, this can very well be other things, including but not limited to my own imagination running wild.

Now, editing ini-files seems to be a nice way to tweak Opera to do like you want, and as I learned today (no time to read all the info at once, before testing ;)) it is possible to tweak bittorrent settings, too. Can’t try it out for a while yet, but I still wish these settings will get an easy to use interface to make changes.

For the time being though, the changes you can make to the opera6.ini file are these:

[BitTorrent] – add this section header and use the following:

Setting Description Default
Enable Enables BitTorrent support in Opera 1
Warning Dialog Displays warning dialog before initiating BitTorrent download 1
Listen Port Port for incoming connections (make sure your port is available). 18768
Bandwidth Restriction Mode 1 = automatic upload restriction, unlimited download, 2 = fixed rate restrictions for upload and download 1
Max Upload Rate Maximum upload rate in KB/s. Used only if bandwidth restriction mode is set to 2 0
Max Download Rate Maximum download rate in KB/s. Used only if bandwidth restriction mode is set to 2 0

Opera includes pirates’ tool…

Filed under:Browsers — posted by Svein Kåre on 12 July 2005 @ 23:54

As I was away on a little vacation when Opera 8.02TP was released with support for bittorrent, with rather limited means to update the blog and not to mention download/test the latest Opera, my chance to be among the first to tell about it dwindled fast. So I’m not going to tell you Opera includes bittorrent – you already know that by now. But I did manage to read a bit more or less informed articles about the news in newspapers, news sites and blogs.

It was a bit fun to see the different takes on the inclusion of bittorrent in Opera – seems there are many ways to show what you think about it. Here you get everything; some tells the plain facts about what Opera offers, some feel it’s more important to tell there is a Firefox extension planned to do bittorrent. Some make the point that bittorrent is used more and more by companies as a way to offer their files for download (legal use) while tabloid press may love that Opera include “pirates’ tool”.

Now, even those who stay away from the pirates angle can be thinking about the fact that bittorrent is popular among those who illegally share copyrighted material. Several torrent sites have been closed down, and not everyone’s too happy about the tool itself either, claiming it was made to share copyrighted material by illegal means. Where does this leave Opera? In trouble?

Some feel that Opera shouldn’t be too surprised if the police in fact did turn up on their door step, exactly because of the actions of RIAA, MPAA and the cases in the court systems. Most doesn’t worry though, and with good reason. True, it’s possible that useful tools can be deemed illegal (or something along those lines) if they’ve been made with illegal use as the (main) reason, but Bram Cohen – the creator of bittorrent – has kept his path clean that way by always stressing the positive sides of legal use, not illegal use. Even Microsoft is testing the water by getting their toes wet with Avalanche, their own file sharing model in bittorrent style. (OK, that MS does something doesn’t mean it’s legal, obviously, but still…)

So basically, while sensationalists may like to stress the piracy angle of bittorrent, it really is a nice tool for effectively sharing files in an economically sound way. This makes it attractive for companies as a way to offer their files for download, and more and more companies are discovering this and makes use of torrent files as an alternative.

IP Rights?

Filed under:Browsers,Web development — posted by Svein Kåre on 3 July 2005 @ 02:25

Banning Opera, part III

In the great debate – or ruckus – about the reasons for banning Opera users from visiting web sites, the point is this: Unregistered Opera browsers using targeted ad banners from Google are (mis)using the content on the web pages without the owners consent. The targeting means that competitors may be advertised, or even identical ads to the ones in the web pages may be shown. But it is the use of their content that seems to make some web masters ire, from what I’ve read in the comments here and in the thread in the Opera forums.

So I’ll concentrate on how the content of the web pages is used.

First up is Opera. How does this browser use the content? Well – it does parse the formatting commands in the document to show it as it is described. Just like a browser is supposed to do, and just like any other browser do. It doesn’t analyse the content to extract a meaning out of it, nor does it find any keywords to describe what it is about. When it has rendered the content as instructed, Opera does nothing more with it. In this way, it behaves just like any other browser.

But it does something more, even if it’s finished with the web page and doesn’t do more with that. It does send the URI to Google, saying “Hi, this is where I am now. What do you want to show in your own space in the browser interface?”

Google is the one indexing the pages, the one extracting keywords from the pages to discover what it is about. That’s why so many have answered that Google is the one to blame, and the one to go after. Some agree that yes, Google is doing these webmasters wrong, and they should find a solution. Others aren’t quite that convinced. Let’s take it in more detail.

First of all, Google has just as much right to traverse the Internet as any other, search engines and humans. And web masters have their rights to block search engines from all or parts of their sites. Google uses its rights to traverse and index the pages on the net, except the pages it’s asked not to index.

Secondly, what is Google actually doing? It does just what you’re doing right now: It reads pages, find the meaning in them, and can use what it has learned later on. Actually you, being a sentient being, does a much better job out of finding the meaning in the texts you read. Thus, you can do a much better job out of using what you’ve learned from my (or any other) pages than Google can.

Let’s say you do. You use what you’ve read on my pages for your own good, maybe even earn money on it. Are you allowed to do this, is it legal? Well, as long as you’re not just copying my stuff or haven’t signed a non disclosure agreement with me to get access to my pages, sure – it’s perfectly legal. Nor are there any ethical problems. The pages is available for anyone to read and possibly learn from.

If you had used a computer program to distill the information from my pages in some way, before you read the result, would the situation have changed? No, not really. Even if the process was completely computerised; reading, distilling the information, act on what’s learned – it still would be just as legal. That’s a description of how Google works, too. It reads my pages, it distill the information to find relevant keywords to describe the content, and act on what it has learned by showing relevant ads. (At least try to – for me personally it has been quite a lot of blog-related ads, unrelated to the content… But as I said, you are doing a much better job of understanding the meaning than Google. ;-))

So – is Google using my content to show ads? Well – it is using my content somewhere in the process. To use the content, you must be able to understand it, too. Thus, Google is using my content when it is distilling keywords from it. Just as you use my content to learn what it is about when reading it. When you use what you’ve learned you’re not using my content anymore – but can the same be said about Google when it use the keywords to show ads?

My initial response is no, it use what it has learned. But if I would say yes, how would my content be used? There’s no trace of it in the ads, nor can I find it any other place. True – it is in Google’s cache – but it’s also in the cache on your computer. That doesn’t mean you’re using it. So again – my second response is also no. Google use my content to learn what it is about – a use I’ve allowed – but not in the process of showing ads. And – do Google combine information from different pages, even different sites, to serve as relevant ads as possible? In that case Google use more than the information on the single pages to decide relevancy.

The combination of Opera and Google Ads – does that change anything? Well, let’s see.

It’s clear that ads in Opera itself may be in competition to ads on the web pages. While competition isn’t always wanted, it’s not a problem either. What some see as a problem, is the way the ads are picked: “Our content is used, without our consent, to serve targeted ads directly in competition to our own ads.” Those who have signed up for Google Adsense may even discover that there are identical ads in both Opera and the web pages.

Now, we know that no content is reproduced in any way when Google shows the ads. As previously argued, Google reads the pages and extracts information to learn what the content is about – which is how Google use the pages – and then use what it has learned to show ads. That usage has been allowed. Webmaster who have signed up with Google for using Adsense on their pages (such as I have) have even allowed this explicitly.

Of course, even if Google is doing everything legally, it doesn’t mean that no one is frustrated over not having control over what Google does with what it has learned. Therefore we can hear people trying to claim more rights than they have (something that’s not too unusual elsewhere either, unfortunately.) But again, neither Google nor Opera is doing something wrong.

What’s left then is, what can be done to please those who do protest, and is it worth it?

Opera has been made the scapegoat here, so what are they asked, and what can they do? They are asked to either make it possible to identify those who use unregistered browsers, showing targeted ads (read: Help webmasters to block Opera users) or to read and act on a meta-tag (or similar) that says not to show any targeted ads. The first option should be unacceptable. The second – asks Opera to do things browsers doesn’t do. It’s possible, but not necessarily easy. Is it worth it, to please those who don’t like what Google do in its space in Opera? So far, Opera doesn’t think so.

Google is the one who is responsible for the ads and which ones are shown. Google is the one part to blame, should there be any to blame at all. I know Google has been contacted about this concern, but I have no idea how the problem was presented. But Google didn’t want to do anything about it, as they have a contract with Opera. Still, it’s Google that has the key to it all – maybe if it’s presented correctly, Google will agree that there is a conflict of interest they should address?

In any case, the problem isn’t a case of someone doing something wrong or unethical, merely a conflict of interest. If something should be done, it would be to create goodwill. And if someone should do anything about it, the most logically choice would be Google, that has the control over the ads – anything else would just be patches, and there could be many of them, with a potential struggle to get them in place.

PS. The other side of this problem is the webmasters who block Opera users from visiting their sites. It has been said that anyone are free to block whoever they want, and that it only would create a bad reputation for themselves. But is this correct? Not about the bad reputation, but that anyone can block whoever they want? Or does that depend on what type of web site it is? Some countries have regulations that says that certain types of web sites should be accessible, i.e. available to everyone…

I’m a lallebommer

Filed under:Personal — posted by Svein Kåre on 2 July 2005 @ 03:13

I’m a lallebommer. Don’t know the word? Don’t worry. Here’s the entry for your dictionary:

Lallebommer (noun): One who lalleboms
Lallebom (verb): To stay up late, even if you know you should go to bed. The roots of the word are the Norwegian words ‘lalle’ (“babytalk” for go to bed) and ‘bomme’ (to miss) – meaning “going to bed – but missing (on the bed)”

Me, I’m lallebomming right now. I have been lallebomming for over three hours already, I’m afraid, but… Well, there must be other lallebommers out there who knows the situation well enough for me not to have to explain the reasons why?

But I’ve lallebommed long enough now. This lallebommer is going to bed right after publishing this post. (I think.) Have a good night, those of you who reads this at night!


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace