g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, May 10, 2003
02:59 - Oh good, they're still doooomed
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/05/Applesexitstrategy.shtml

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Steven Den Beste has come up with a negative spin on the iTunes Music Store. I knew he could do it.

Thursday, May 8, 2003
18:53 - This deserves recirculation
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=6552#c0026

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A comment by "Bleeding heart conservative" in a thread at LGF, in response to a one-line snipe. Talk about swatting a fly with a Buick.

I'm mostly just posting this to get it into the database, so I can link back to it for reference later.


17:13 - Switch to Homestar!
http://dirkcrimson.keenspace.com/pics/homestarswitch.html

(top)
Rock on.




16:46 - Charting the Course
http://www.mikesilverman.com/2003_05_04_log_archive.html#200263422

(top)
Mike Silverman has a great little table posted by which you can determine your personal political label. I seem to be a gutter-ball myself, pinball-bumpering down the trough between the "Liberal" and "Conservative" columns all the way down.

It's lower-tech than those ubiquitous web quizzes, but a good deal less annoying, too.


13:22 - Watch out for the sky
http://www.ucomics.com/boondocks/2003/05/08/

(top)
Today's "Boondocks":



It means we as a people discriminate not on the basis of race or skin color or gender or religion, but on the basis of opinion. Shouldn't that make you happy?

Perhaps you'd prefer it if the tyrannical US government were the one to censure the Dixie Chicks, eh? Then everything would fit into your little book o' rules right neatly.

Can't have those people speaking out against someone's opinion. No, sir. That would undermine democracy, you see.

Didn't you know the First Amendment only protects unpopular opinions, not popular ones? Didn't you know it's only the unpopular opinions that have any merit?


13:10 - Joining the Collective
http://www.shareitunes.com/

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Boy, this didn't take long. Remember how right after Apple released iCal, sites like iCalShare started popping up-- providing registration, grouping, and browsing for people's individual calendars?

Well, iTunes 4 has already spawned the same thing: ShareiTunes.com. Because you can arbitrarily connect to anybody else's shared music via their IP address, but because that method provides no implicit browseability or discovery, users are limited to typing in IP addresses from memory (there's no built-in bookmark function, which it needs). But ShareiTunes.com allows people to register their shared music libraries and give them descriptive names, allowing them to be grouped and browsed and connected to (via the daap:// protocol prefix); it's the missing "discovery" component for what's ordinarily only a non-browseable network. iTunes just became a massively interconnected system all its own.

The music is still all just streamed, as iTunes doesn't let you download the actual files you're streaming from someone else's machine; but if anyone is looking for a metaphor, "Internet Radio" is a perfect one. Suddenly, now that actual traditional Internet Radio seems to be suffering a fatal death-blow dealt by the RIAA, everybody with iTunes and a Net connection (and a static IP address) has his own Internet Radio station.

Life will find a way, Mr. Hammond.


11:51 - Panther Features
http://www.looprumors.com/

(top)
LoopRumors has an interesting list of Panther details; some of them repeat whisperings we've already heard, like 64-bit support and Piles. And the rest of the items listed seem plausible and sensible. Particularly this one:
Advanced Software Update. Several sources indicate that the Software Update Control Panel is redesigned. One report specifies that SUCP will maintain a history of all purchases made through one-click, i.e. iTunes Music and software purchased through the Apple Store, will always be accessible for download through that User ID.

Yeah, baby. That's the stuff.

Wednesday, May 7, 2003
19:09 - The rest of the story
http://www.thestar.ca/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&

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Via The Command Post. I was sort of expecting something like this to show up by now; after all the inevitable headlines (Newsweek and Time must have been in a race to the presses to be the one who got to use "Saving Private Lynch"), and the stories of heroism that consisted mostly of journalistic expansions on what the troops were told by Nasiriyah lawyer Mohammed al-Rehaief, it seemed like the thing to do was to wait and see what details surfaced once everybody got to tell their side of the story.

Three days before the U.S. raid, Lynch had regained enough strength that the team was ready to proceed with orthopaedic surgery on her left leg. The procedure involved cutting through muscle to install a platinum plate to both ends of the compound fracture. "We only had three platinum plates left in our supply and at least 100 Iraqis were in need," Raazk said. "But we gave one to Jessica."

A second surgery, and a second platinum plate, was scheduled for Lynch's fractured arm. But U.S. forces removed her before it took place, Raazk said.

Three days after the raid, the doctors had a visit from one of their U.S. military counterparts. He came, they say, to thank them for the superb surgery.

"He was an older doctor with gray hair and he wore a military uniform," Raazk said.

"I told him he was very welcome, that it was our pleasure. And then I told him: `You do realize you could have just knocked on the door and we would have wheeled Jessica down to you, don't you?'

"He was shocked when I told him the real story. That's when I realized this rescue probably didn't happen for propaganda reasons. I think this American army is just such a huge machine, the left hand never knows what the right hand is doing."

I'll buy that. I would also submit that al-Rehaief's impression of what was going on in the hospital may not exactly have been top-drawer intelligence, either. Based on what we're told he said to the American troops, I'd still say it made sense for the rescue unit to bash in the way they did. After all, they thought they were heading into an Uday charnel-chamber. The fact that, if this story is true, it actually turned out to be that we "rescued" Lynch from a place that was more professional and well-starched than my local Kaiser Permanente would owe more to good old-fashioned crossed wires and playing-it-safe than to any kind of propagandistic malice. That's why they call it the "fog of war".

What troubles the staff in Nasiriya most are reports that Lynch was abused while in their case. All vehemently deny it.

Told of the allegation through an interpreter, nurse Shinah wells up with tears. Gathering herself, she responds quietly: "This is a lie. But why ask me? Why don't you ask Jessica what kind of treatment she received?"

Good question; I've wondered that myself. How come we still haven't heard her side? That's something that's been bugging me for a while. I don't know if anybody's been on as many magazine covers as she has without being interviewed.

They're saying that the rescue was nothing like the Hollywood script that it's been made out to be. But I'd say that on the contrary, it actually sounds like a much more interesting and thought-provoking movie than it otherwise would have been. Ironic and self-denigrating and darkly comic. Just like most modern war movies usually are.


14:10 - New From Microsoft: The "Macintosh"
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/computing/20030505-1355-ca-futurepc.html

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Via the recently-returned-from-the-dead AtAT:



The demonstration will focus on usability and user friendliness - something that has often escaped the computer industry as hardware companies build machines and separate programmers come up with the software to run them.

The prototype machine, code-named Athens, had its hardware and software jointly built by Microsoft and computer giant Hewlett-Packard Co. With a built-in Internet telephone and video camera, it's targeted at businesses and improving worker productivity.

"It's more than just slamming things together," said Steve Kaneko, design director of Microsoft's Windows Hardware Experience Group.

Imagine that.

Clearly, a key element of a user-friendly computer designed under the "whole-widget" philosophy is a swooshy abstract brightly-colored desktop background. 'Cause, y'know, it probably doesn't work right without one.

Right? I mean, like, Apple--

Nah. No way.

I dunno, let's just hedge our bets. Should we put a widescreen display on it, Bill? How about making it cube-shaped, with a pulsing purple light on it? You know, just to make sure.

Well, we can't be too obvious, can we?

Nah, who'll know the difference? Besides, this one has a camera on it! And a phone!

Good point. Call the press. And add a toilet-paper dispenser, too. I think there's room.

Aye-aye, sir!

UPDATE: The Reg is on the case. Oooh, it's positively dripping with sarcasm. I love it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2003
22:17 - ...And again

(top)
Why, look: yet another disguised iBook. This time in an ad for that "FreeUp" thing, whatever the hell it is. (Why does this keep happening in cell phone ads?)



This time they're using butterfly stickers to cover up the evil Apple logo. Since I've been spending the past few weekends peeling butterfly stickers off the dark blue walls of my new bedroom, which previously (apparently) housed a pre-teen girl, and since there seems to be no end in sight to the onslaught of these celluloid monsters, I shall now declare unending war against the unjust forces of the Butterfly Sticker Oppressors. Their concealment of the truth, and their evil occupation of my walls, shall not stand against the glorious might of my iron will.


20:09 - O! I am slain!
http://bbspot.com/News/2003/05/itunes.html

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Here's BBspot's take on the iTunes Music Store:

Cupertino, CA - Apple's recent announcement that over 1 million songs had been purchased in the first week of its new music store's existence presents undeniable proof that Apple users will overpay for anything.

The iTunes music store offers AAC encoded songs for a dollar a piece, infinitely more expensive than the free songs windows users enjoy.

Steve Jobs said, "Over the years our dedicated users have been willing to pay a premium for less flexibility and smaller selection, from the original Macintosh to the current OS X. Now we've applied this concept to the world of entertainment. It's absolutely phenomenal that they fell for it again."

Loyal Apple computer users were unsurprisingly excited by the new offering. "I really appreciate the cost-savings of being able to download songs for a buck," said Pentagon procurement officer and Macintosh user, Wendy Sykes. "Before the iTunes Music Store I had to listen to one of the $37 music CDs that I purchased."

. . .

Users of Windows computers, who download their music for free using peer-to-peer file sharing programs such as Kazaa and Morpheus, were bewildered by news that the store would be available for them later this year.

"Sure, Apple users will eat this up. They're used to paying money for things like software and operating systems, but Microsoft users will never buy into something like this," said Yani Stevens of the Windows Alliance.

Ooooh. Ooooh. Ouch. The words, they are like barbs to the heart.

We Mac users are just too stupid to trade MP3s. I get it. Once again, we're behind the curve, missing the train, unfashionably late. Why don't we get with the program and pirate our music and software like the smart kids do?

Ugh. First the Onion turns out to be a bitter and petty excuse for a comedy site, and now this. I'm all for poking fun at Mac users (because if we don't, everyone else will, and in a way we won't like); but this is just dumb.


19:05 - Steve Blogs
http://www.apple.com/hotnews/

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Well, okay, not really. But Apple's "Hot News" page isn't just a running list of links to big-press reviews of Apple products from well-known Mac-faithful columnists anymore; apparently now it's not above engaging in a little bidirectional hat-tipping with ordinary bloggers.

Like John Vargo of bychance.net, who blogged this today:

Subject: An Open Letter to Steve Jobs
RE: MP3 Addiction

Steve,

You should know that for the past few years, I've been consumed by a sickness: an addiction, really. This sickness consumed my free time, distracted me when I really should have been doing other things, and maxed out countless hard drives in my macs over the years. The sickness that I'm referring to is Audius Downloaditis, or as its more commonly known, MP3 addiction.

Over the years, I've tried numerous medications: Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire, all of which had little or no effect. I continued to spend hours downloading, testing (and often deleting), renaming and storing my stolen audio tracks. My friends tried to help, lending me their CD collections to rip in exchange for burning custom mix CDs, but still to no avail. It seemed my infection of pirated audio would continue to grow until my demise.

Then, a coworker told me about a new feature in the latest version of iTunes that caught my attention. A music store that gives you access to free 30 second previews, album art, and high-quality downloadable audio tracks at just $0.99 a piece. After hurriedly downloading and installing the new software, I treated myself with 7 fabulous audio tracks. I transferred them to my iPod, and almost immediately I could feel the MP3 fever start to let loose its grasp on me.

And Apple linked back to it.
No More MP3 Addiction
"I'd like to thank you for developing a great tool that has me well on the way to recovery," writes recovering MP3 addict John Vargo on his conversion to iTunes 4 and the iTunes Music Store. "My treatment continues, as I have a lot of MP3 tracks (almost 8,000 songs) to replace with pristine quality AAC-encoded audio." [May 6]

It's foolish to suggest that any publicly traded corporation is in business for any other reason than to make money for its shareholders. Icons like Apple and Nike and Mountain Dew are encapsulated forms of mythology for the modern man, giving us the equivalent of the tales of real-life heroism that we once had and still crave. No one company is more moral or personable or fundamentally exciting than another; strip off the fancy logos, and companies are all just faceless machines with anonymous and nearly identical clockwork inside.

Right?


13:08 - Public Service Announcement

(top)
Because it seems to be so sorely needed, everywhere I turn, it falls to my hands to present: The "How To Spell Original FAQ".
Q: How do I spell 'original'?

A: O-R-I-G-I-N-A-L

Q: How many times does the letter 'O' appear in 'original'?

A: One.

Q: Wait, I thought it was spelled O-R-I-G-I-O-N-A-L.

A: No, it isn't.

Q: How did you say it was spelled again?

A: O-R-I-G-I-N-A-L

Q: How come?

A: Because William the Conqueror said so.

Q: Nuh-uh!

A: Yeah-huh.

Q: You can't chain me, man! Spelling is subjective, like a bird in the wind!

A: I'll give you a bird in the wind.

Q: You're stifling free speech!

A: No, this is stifling free speech: <wraps a pillow around Qer's head>

...Any more questions?

Good.


Monday, May 5, 2003
15:03 - Les machines de secrétaire
http://www.macbidouille.com/news-2003-05-05.php#5440

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Chris forwards me some interesting early benchmarks of PPC970 performance. I don't know how reliable they are-- and I'm not just saying that because it's a French site-- but if they are, these chips are something to look forward to indeed.


14:26 - I'm obviously missing something

(top)
A few weeks ago, Cartoon Network changed its weeknight/Sunday Adult Swim lineup. They swapped out the limited-animation short-production Home Movies for a show that I'd only seen glimpses of, in passing, several years ago when it was on first-run: Family Guy.

Back then, when I saw it through the windows of the Ricketts House lounge (the only on-campus house with a TV), I was sure I was missing something crucial. Judging from the animation and the art style, which was all I could see of the show (no sound penetrated those 1930s-construction adobe walls), it was a Simpsons knockoff. But also, judging by the crowd of Scurves sprawled out over all the chairs and sofas and cushions in the lounge, gazing raptly at the projection TV and heaving with silent laughter, it was evidently pretty funny. Original, even, one might almost say.

But lacking a TV of my own, as the vast majority of students did (and presumably still do, at Caltech), I didn't have the means by which to conduct any further observations or formulate an objective opinion of the show. I had to content myself with that 50MB QuickTime movie I'd just downloaded on what was marked "Download soxmas.mov Day" on the house's social calendar. Wow, what a great one-off. Imagine if they'd ever made that into a series!

...Ahem; anyway. So Family Guy faded into the background of my consciousness, and I thought no more about it until just a few weeks ago, when Cartoon Network started running it. And now I've seen a few episodes, while at the same time hearing from various sources that it's a stupefyingly funny show-- witty, original, addictive.

Well, unfortunately, after seeing some six episodes by now, I'm prepared to make the reluctant-- but firm-- statement that I think this show bites ass.

That's right; I've given it every chance in the world; I even wanted to enjoy it. Hey, who doesn't want another fun and subversive animated prime-time comedy? But my best efforts have failed, and it's now time to call a turd by its rightful name.

There doesn't seem to be any attempt made to conceal that the show is a Simpsons knockoff; it's of the "second generation" of such shows, following the litany of much more obvious me-too-ism that avalanched after the initial success of second-season Bart-Mania ("Family Dog", "Capitol Critters", "Fish Police", "Dinosaurs"). This second generation had a bit more time to plan their prime-time animated shows that stared beseechingly into the camera and pleaded shamelessly and earnestly for syndication. One might expect them to be palpably more carefully thought-out, more long-lasting. One might expect them to have their own unique edginess and their own irresistible memes which would grant the shows the immortality that their forerunners failed to deliver.

But I'm afraid that Family Guy fails just as badly, even for such a self-aware, fourth-wall-busting entry starting from such a plateau of studied advantage. Seth McFarlane might have a brilliant brother, but his ability to parlay his own meager voice-acting talents into an engaging series has thus far struck me as... well, inadequate.

I guess the fairest way to describe the show is that yes, it's a Simpsons knockoff-- but it's a Simpsons knockoff with more edge! Yeah! Extreeeeme! Peter is dumber, more morbidly obese, and more offensive than Homer even in the latter's "jerkass" episodes; Lois is homelier and yet more hidden-tiger-in-bed than Marge, and the kids-- well the less said about the kids, the better. They couldn't have less to do with Bart and Lisa, thanks be unto whatever gods rule the airwaves; apparently the writers, in their infinite wisdom, though it would be better still to cast the kids as viciousy stupid, pudgy, oblivious, instantly irritating ciphers whose role toward any plot point consists of whining like fire engine sirens spooling up. In fact, I don't know what flash of brilliance it was that led McFarlane to voice the entire family with nasal, high-pitched, wanna-be-uptown-New-Yorker-but-stuck-in-Rhode-Island-with-this-dumbass-family voices, complete with piercing warbling zitty-sci-fi-fan laughter, but it doesn't work, for God's sake. Jeez! I can't stand listening to more than one sentence of Lois' hyper-Fran-Drescher sneering nose-holding drone that sounds like it's being transmitted over heavily deteriorated phone lines from the offices of some long-lost 1960s Bell System central-office operator. Peetah! I am ve'ruy supraaahyzed at you! Now deposit ten ceynts for the next five minutes, plee-ase! Ugh. I find myself wishing I was back in the Ricketts breezeway peering through a window, watching the characters gesticulating in blessed pantomime.

But then, of course, there are the two remaining characters, the ones that are supposed to be the big "hooks" that endear the show to legions of adoring fans: the baby, Stewie, and the dog, Brian. Now: let me state for the record that I despise talking-baby shows. Ever since Dinosaurs, that prototypical talking-baby Simpsons knockoff in which the precocious "baby" character was the one positioned for placement on lunchboxes and t-shirts, and made into squeeze toys that yelp "Notdamomma!" and "I'mdababy!" and "Gottaloveme!" when the dog chomps on them at the bottom of the stairwell, the whole genre has been-- perhaps unfairly-- poisoned for me. I don't know if the Family Guy writers thought that if Maggie was cast at the far end of the spectrum of taste and believability, with a pacifier as her only means of communication, but with depth of character nonetheless, then the obvious alternative to avoid critics crowing Simpsons did it! Simpsons did it! should be to create a baby who's an ambulatory, conniving, evil little sarcastic bastard with a Noel Coward/Tim Curry/Dr. Smith voice espousing endless cynical bitterness and loathing for all humanity, but-- and maybe it's just the gypsum and fiberglass talking here, but-- I don't personally find that appealing. And Brian, who's apparently voiced by McFarlane (for once, a listenable character), but who sounds more like an uninteresting version of Patrick Warburton, is a drunk. That's right, the dog is a drunken pervert who's constantly in therapy, giving an oh-so-edgy-cool narrative angle to the show: relate it all in flashbacks told to a psychiatrist by the dog! Oh, be still my beating pancreas. There's supposed to be this outsiders'-cameraderie interplay between Stewie and Brian, two characters who aren't supposed to be able to talk and connive, but who do anyway, for reasons that don't seem to be clear; however, the pervasive bile spewing from Stewie and the disinterested tragic honesty coming from Brian don't exactly work together with innovative chemistry, and the premise of these two walking/talking misfits is so distracting that I can't enjoy even a moderately cleverly-written boxcar showtune that they sing during their odyssey back home. I just keep thinking, "Okay, heh, that was funny-- but wait a second. That baby just hotwired a car! Jesus Christ!"

The writing, in fact, is one of the most confusing things about the show. There are some clever gags, yes, and some genuinely funny plot points. But all too frequently, the writers exhibit such ineptness with timing and such a bull-headed lack of understanding of how long a joke can last before it stops being funny that I have to wonder just where these writers came from before getting this gig. The Y2K/Apocalypse episode, which is by far the worst example of such clumsiness that I've seen so far in the series, starts out with a literally five-minute long flashback sequence in which Peter fights with a man-sized chicken through the city streets. No reason; no point that affects the subsequent plot. Just a five-minute flashback fight scene that was apparently thrown in there to flesh out a script that wasn't long enough. (The whole fight scene probably took up less than a third of a page of script.) Ditto for the point later in that episode when the family encounters Randy Newman at a piano. Newman extemporaneously bangs out a song in which he narrates Lois's facial expressions as she stares at him. And this goes on for like a minute and a half! Ninety seconds of tedious, less-funny-every-moment variations on the same lame joke; finally, Peter whisks her hurriedly away, but where the hell was he forty-five seconds ago? Did the writers get lost on the way back from the break room? Or did they run out of monkey chow to hurl into the room with the million typewriters?

The texture of the show is extremely uneven. Again, there are moments of brilliance; some of the sight gags are unbeatable, and there are times when the comic timing is ingenious. But last night I sat through an entire half-hour episode and didn't even giggle once; whereas the Aqua Teen Hunger Force that followed it-- starring Danzig, a swimming pool full of elf blood, a doomsaying robot, and a dung-throwing hominid Santa Claus-- had me howling. That's a pretty sad state of affairs, if you think about it.

Finally, if I may toss one last petty jab into the cauldron of vitriol that I've been stirring: Why it that every single male character in the show has a scrotum for a chin?!

There's still apparently a large fan following for Family Guy; it gets good professional reviews, and there are fan sites all over the net. It's because of this that I assumed there would be something to be found in the show which would justify the favorable attitude everybody seems to have toward it. But at least in the episodes I've seen thus far, it's successfully eluded my grasp.


13:08 - A million in a week
http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2003/may/05musicstore.html

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Another data point on the curve of the Apple Music Store's proliferation:

CUPERTINO, California--May 5, 2003--Apple® today announced that its revolutionary iTunes® Music Store sold over one million songs during its first week. Over half of the songs were purchased as albums, dispelling concerns that selling music on a per-track basis will destroy album sales. In addition, over half of the 200,000 songs offered on the iTunes Music Store were purchased at least once, demonstrating the breadth of musical tastes served by Apple's groundbreaking online store. Apple also reported that over one million copies of iTunes 4 have been downloaded, and that it has received orders for over 110,000 new third-generation iPods since their introduction a week ago, with music lovers snapping up more than 20,000 of them from stores in the U.S. this weekend.

"In less than one week we've broken every record and become the largest online music company in the world," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "Apple has created the first complete solution for the digital music age--you can purchase your favorite music online at the iTunes Music Store, mix your favorite tracks into playlists with iTunes, and take your entire music collection with you everywhere with the super-slim new iPods."

"Hitting one million songs in less than a week was totally unexpected," said Roger Ames, Warner Music Group's chairman and CEO. "Apple has shown music fans, artists and the music industry as a whole that there really is a successful and easy way of legally distributing music over the Internet."

Interesting analysis implicit here-- especially the thing about the worry that album sales would be impacted by individual-track downloads. This isn't to say that the mix won't change as the music industry (at the artist level) starts to adapt to this new technology, as it did when tapes and 8-tracks and CDs all became ascendant; I fully expect a new model to emerge by which artists can group songs for bulk consumer purchase. (Individually-tailored playlists created by the record companies, instead of "Greatest Hits" re-release collections? Hell yeah! It's going to be a whole new world of opportunities for premiums, too-- the modern equivalent of "B-sides".) But in the meantime, it looks like the transition might be smoother than the naysayers have apparently feared.

New tracks will be added tomorrow, by the way-- 3,200 of them, though this is a pretty small number next to the 200,000 that are in there now. I imagine these weekly additions will grow in size as the labels release the big-ticket artists to be sold through Apple. Beatles and Led Zep, here we come!

Thanks to J Greely for the tip.

Oh yes-- and there's a new 10GB iPod in the cubicle across the hall from me. The infiltration continues...

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© Brian Tiemann