Tim Berners-Lee in 2001

Tim Berners-Lee in 2001

It was twenty years ago today (March 13, 1989) that Tim Berners-Lee wrote up his proposal for management at CERN, titled “Information Management: A Proposal“.

This document was an attempt to persuade CERN management that a global hypertext system was in CERN’s interests. Note that the only name I had for it at this time was “Mesh” — I decided on “World Wide Web” when writing the code in 1990.

Berners-Lee’s boss thought his proposal was “vague but exciting”. :)

A client/server model for a distributed hypertext system.

A client/server model for a distributed hypertext system.

At lunch today I was browsing Amazon.com via the Amazon iPhone app. It prompted me to try a new experimental service: Amazon Remembers. Seems you can take pictures of things you want to “remember” while you are out and about. The pix get sent to Amazon, and the system will try to find the item for you.

Well, all I had with me in the lunch room was the book I was reading. I took a quick snapshot of it (bad photo – too much glare from the overhead lights). Sent it on.

Later today I got an email from Amazon that they have found a “similar” item for me: And sure enough, they had a link to The Fire by Katherine Neville.

This is something that will come in handy!

Today’s XKCD strip fairly clearly explains why DRM (“Digital Rights Management” – i.e. Copy Protected)-hobbled media is bad. It’s also the reason I still get all my music on physical CD. Not only do I support the artist, but I can rip the music to mp3 (or any format I choose) and put the music on my home server. I can also take the music with me when technology changes (all I have to do is re-rip the music into whatever new format). Also, (barring the not-much-used superaudio and such formats) CDs have the highest quality music. Think “Master” recording. Most other formats (mp3, etc.) are “lossy”, meaning they are of lower quality than the original.

Let me make myself clear here. The comic above advocates Piracy. I don’t. The artists don’t get any support that way. I advocate buying CD’s or non-DRM digital files. But the comic is still funny. :)

Apple is aware of consumers’ distaste for DRM, which is why they make some of the music on iTunes available in “iTunes Plus” format – which is of higher quality and has no DRM. I think they charge $0.30 more per track for this. From what I can tell, all music on iTunes from EMI is available in the “Plus” format. Apple would gladly put all iTunes tracks in Plus format as well -but the only record company to give permission is EMI.

The evil Wal-Mart announced a month or so ago that it was taking down it’s DRM server. This meant that anyone foolish enough to have bought digital music from them would no longer be able to play that music if the computer they used ever crashed or was upgraded/replaced. This created such a backlash from the community that they recently changed their minds. But such a scenario will certainly replay itself in the future. So: Don’t buy digital music that has DRM.

Note that Wal-Mart’s solution initially offered to it’s users: Burn your music to CD and re-import it. Whoa. That would drastically reduce the quality. So why not get physical CD’s to begin with?

Right. I recently upgraded this installation of WordPress to 2.6, and just now tried to login as admin to change some settings. Nope, kept looping me back to the admin login page. Yes, I was using the correct password.

Turns out I was having a conflict with older plugins (I hadn’t disabled them). So, I went in to the backend MySQL database (via phpMyAdmin), and edited the wp_options table. I changed the option_value for the row with “active_plugins” to


which basically turned off all plugins. I could then login (and turn on plugins one at a time to find the culprit).

Note that you can also change your password via the backend by editing the wp_users table and using the MD5 function on the password value. Neat.

I went to see Suzanne Vega at Ram’s Head tonight (Tuesday). Great show; front row table at this intimate venue. I had never seen Ms. Vega live before and I can say she didn’t disappoint. She played songs from her first album (Suzanne Vega), through to her latest (Beauty and Crime). I really enjoyed myself (hey, they have “Genius Stout” on draft – made there).

I recorded the show on a Zoom H2 audio recorder. I just finished processing the first 17 songs of the set, and I have to say, the Zoom H2 in combination with Audacity on my MacBook really does result in good sound! Highly recommended. I’ve put three links below to mp3 snippets. They are saved as high quality VBR, so they are each about 1 MB. This is my first foray into “good” audio recording; I’ve avoided it in the past due to the cost of equipment. But the (relatively) inexpensive H2 has me hooked!

I had tried to record a Wilco concert recently at Tanglewood in MA, but that was a stadium concert, and I had set the gain too high (as well as playing with other settings), so most of the sound was clipped. This time I did more research, and left the gain on the low setting, and did not boost the “level” via menu options on the recorder. I also recorded at 48k/16bit, as my reading indicated that the “native” sampling rate of the ADC chip was 48k, not 44.1k. And 16bit was more than enough dynamic range. Also, it appears that all the “options” (and there are many) available on the recorder are done in the digital domain, *after* the source is recorded by the ADC chip. So post-processing on the computer will accomplish the same thing. Thus, I left things as “raw” as possible for the recording and I processed the files in Audacity, increasing the gain there to normalize, and split the large sound files into smaller individual song tracks. Note that iTunes read in the 48k sample tracks just fine, but when I tried to burn a cd via Toast, the sound was icky. I guess I’ll have to export as resampled 44.1k files to burn to cd. Anyway, the snippets are below:

Frank and Eva snippet
Pornographer\’s Dream Snippet
The Queen and the Soldier snippet

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