Vuze: the new Gator

Several years ago (seems like a lifetime ago) in a misguided attempt to help my younger daughter legally download free music, I installed something called “Gator” on my home computer.

Almost immediately I realized I was stuck in the equivalent of the innocent young couple in the movie Pacific Heights, in which Michael Keaton (perfectly) plays the role of their charming, evil, smarmy, horrible evil tenant that they cannot get rid of (until the climax, when he meets a very (to the audience) satisfying end).

Gator was just like the Keaton character. It pretended to be friendly and charming, but really it was from hell. It took over everything and fucked up everything. I don’t know if I ever got rid of it or if I simply went out and bought a new computer. I had frackin nightmares about Gator.

Then things changed and along came MP3s and there was standardization and itunes and everything was groovy.

A few months ago a friend of mine installed the peer-to-peer program Vuze on my machine. Since then I’ve used it to download a bunch of old films. Some obscure French films and some porno from the 80’s. About 7 flicks, total, I think. Recently it got hung, so I deleted and downloaded it & reinstalled it again tonight. And then I did a Mac OS & Safari software update & rebooted.

And now there is a Vuze toolbar in both my Safari and my Firefox. It’s late and I can’t figure out how to get rid of them. I’ll figure it out tomorrow.

But for now, when I see Vuze I’m seeing Gator, and I’m not liking it one bit.

Fuck you Vuze. Who told you you could mess with my browsers? By what right do you come in and mess with my stuff? Fuck you Vuze, you pigs. Fuck you vuze. Fuck you, Vuze. I don’t care what you say. This is malware tactics. Bite me.

I guess it serves me right for violating the sacrosanct copyright of 40 year old movies. But damn, does it piss me off.

Vuze, the new Gator. Sheesh.

VDC — Video VOIP

I confess I hadn’t heard of VDC: Virtual Video Cable until they filed a program access complaint. Of course, since the vast majority of people probably hadn’t heard about that either (or even know what a “program access complaint” is), I imagine I remain in the distinct minority.

VDC bills itself as a purely broadband-based cable-like service. I compare it to “video VOIP” (or voice-over-IP for the five readers unfamiliar with the acronym). In theory, a service like VDC could provide real competition to cable by letting you get an actual cable service (as opposed to video clips like YouTube or random episodes from iTunes or from some streaming site) — just like VOIP allows a company like Vonage or Sunrocket to offer voice if you have a broadband connection so you can discontinue phone service, saving a bundle (assuming your broadband provider does not make you buy a bundled service or interere with your VOIP packets).

So it is unsurprising that when a possible competitor like VDC emerges, cable uses its market power to try to squash it like a bug. In this case, cable companies have resurected one of the old reliable tricks from their early days: deny the would-be competitor needed programming. Here, Time Warner has refused to enter into negotiations to make CNN available to VDC. (We can expect that if this doesn’t do the trick, cable cos will move to the new fangled tricks — mess with the packets.)

But VDC has a few weapons in its arsenal. It has invoked a provision of the 1992 Cable Act called the “program access rule” that Congress passed to force cable operators to make programming available to would-be competitors like Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) providers. VDC has only two problems:

1) The complaint is being handled by the FCC’s usual cable enforcement staff which, as I have observed previously, does not exactly move on “internet time.”

2) The program access rules stop working (“sunset”) this October. So even if staff resolve the complaint in something approaching reasonable time, it may not do much good.

So is video VOIP dead before it even starts? Not necessarily. For a full explanation of what’s going on and how you (yes, you) can help make video VOIP a reality, see below . . . .

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War on the consumer: The DVD War

Businessweek has
this article
about the new DVD standards, which will come locked down with new, onerous Digital Rights Management restrictions. It’s a good overview of how new consumer electronica are being designed to basically protect big corporations from the consumers who buy them.

One point that the article really misses, though, is how DRM isn’t really aimed at pirates, despite all of the entertainment industry’s protests to the contrary. Instead, the only real purpose of this technology is to force you to pay multiple times for same content. Want to watch a movie on your TV? Great! Buy the DVD. Want to watch it on your iPod? Well, here you go, buy it at iTunes. Want that music you downloaded from iTunes as your phone’s ringtone? Cough up more dough. What’s that you say? Fair use? Well, according to the past head of the MPAA, it doesn’t exist.

On a brighter note, Ars Technica has a profile of some of the good guys in the music industry: Emusic. Emusic is a digital music subscription service with no strings attached. No DRM, no limited playlists, no nothing. Just high-quality MP3’s that are compatible with just about all of the digital music players out there. It is interesting to note that they chose to be DRM free not because of any idealism, but because of a sound business decision. They wanted the maximum possible customer base for their product, so they selected the format that is most universal. And they seem to be making money at it, too. I signed up a few months ago, and I have to say I’m a happy customer.

a rant on copy protection

<rant on>

I could just slap Steve Jobs. He really had a good thing going with me, until today.

All the people I hang out with are pretty avidly anti-Microsoft, on technical, business, and moral grounds. I work at a University where I and everyone else use Macs. My wife was a Mac pioneer from way back, has a business that may soon be buying educational computers by the truckload, and is a perfect candidate for the “Switch’ ads. I like Pixar movies, and I’m tickled that ol’ Steve’s iTunes was able to show those RIAA guys what morons they’ve been.

Well, it that’s all changed.

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