Why Not FLAC?

FLAC is the Free Lossless Audio Codec and does what it says on the tin. It is better quality than MP3 and smaller than Wav so it is a good halfway house for the discerning listener. WordPress do not allow FLAC files to be hosted. But for what reason?

One could argue it is because FLAC files are too big, much larger than mp3 or ogg files. But then why allow WAV files which are even larger?

FLAC cuts away all the data which is unnecessary in conveying the sound completely, unlike mp3 and ogg which cut some of that sound away. WAV files include this unnecessary data and so the file size is even larger than FLAC. Given this, file size cannot be the issue.

Maybe there is some restrictive licensing agreement or patent stopping the use of FLAC? Not so and it is in the name. The FREE Losless Audio Codec is a standard belonging to everyone and no one and can be freely used. Also, mp3 files were not free to use and yet were allowed by wordpress. Given this, licensing cannot be the issue.

Perhaps it is an issue with the end user? Again, as FLAC is free, there should not be an issue with playing FLAC back on users’ machines. Even if it were, WAV is far more unwieldy and difficult for users to work with, not least because WAV files cannot be tagged with properties. Given this, user-friendliness cannot be the issue.

I wouldn’t like to think it was an active attempt to discourage the uptake and use of FLAC. Perhaps I am being cynical? If so, can anyone think of a good reason why FLAC shouldn’t be allowed? I asked WordPress and was assured it would be added to “suggested improvements” but I don’t imagine anything will come of it.

However, since I started writing this, mp3 has become free! This is great news as you can now listen to my songs directly from my website (yay!, right?) and they will take up less space if you choose to download them. In terms of quality, I challenge even the most hardened audiophile to consistently tell FLAC from 320kbps mp3 in a double-blind trial.

Incidentally, I have just published music from the musical “A Man & His Piano” in 320kbps over on the downloads page.  Savour that high quality mp3 goodness!

HugeDomains Stole My Domain Name

HugeDomains Stole My Domain Name

But they’ll never take my freedom!

[This post originally appeared on dennisjohn.net]

My website is was dennisjohn.net.  I picked this as my domain name because .com was already taken.  At the time, I imagined dennisjohn.com was owned by another Dennis John, doing whatever it is that other Dennis Johns do, but decided to check yesterday.  It is not owned by another Dennis John.

A visit to http://dennisjohn.com redirects to a website called hugedomains.com who are selling the domain name dennisjohn.com at the bargain price of $2,395! [Since the time of writing, this has risen to $8595.]  To put this in perspective, dennisjohn.net cost about $10 when I purchased it.  So why the price?

Hugedomains.com buy/own hundreds of thousands of domain names (mainly .com as these are more ‘valuable’) and sell them at massively inflated prices.  And the price of dennisjohn.com is low on their standards; strapvelcro.com costs $38,000 while micrometeorite.com will set you back a cool $50,000.  Bear in mind that these are just the prices for the domain names – you will still have to build, host and maintain your own website.

So while this corporate cybersquatting is clearly big business (HugeDomains are also selling glossary.com for a mere $7,500,000), these business practices are not illegal.

Cybersquatting is purchasing a domain name that could be passed off as an existing entity (usually a company) with the intent of selling it to said entity for a high mark-up or using it for malicious purposes; like if I bought goggle.com and attempted to get you to enter your gmail password or sell the name to Google.  This is illegal in the US under bad faith concepts and in the UK under ‘passing off’ laws.  Where companies like hugedomains get around this is to call the practice ‘domain name speculation‘.  This is where a company acquires many (read, thousands and thousands) of non-trademarked domain names with the intent of selling them at a higher value to anyone who will buy them.  Basically, cybersquatting is legal if you do it en masse and don’t infringe on any existing trademark.

The greedy bastard behind this exploitative operation is Andrew Reberry, the owner of TurnCommerce which, in turn (geddit?!), owns HugeDomains as well as NameBright and DropCatch.  Mr. Reberry purchases over 35,000 domains a month ranking him second in the world for this practice, just behind a shady private registrant (possibly a collective) and just ahead of an illegal Chinese Whois.  Despite this profiteering, Andrew ‘not Dennis John’ Reberry has the tenacity to claim that his company are building ‘a better internet’.  How is pricing normal people and businesses out of the online market for personal gain making for ‘a better internet’?

So, while corporate cybersquatting should be illegal as it is unethical and is causing inflation of domain name prices, it remains legal (because, money).  It is also worth noting that Andrew Reberry and co. are not the only ones in on this and as we begin running out of .com domain names, we may be looking at paying a fortune to get them back.

Thankfully, many new domain name extensions have been released, such as .biz and .beer (dennisjohn.beer?)  This will perhaps cause .com to plummet in value and level the playing field.  Probably not in the near future as .com is pretty ingrained into public conscious but maybe one day.

And finally, dennis-john.com (note the hyphen) is being legitimately used by another Dennis John.  He draws quality pictures, you should check his stuff out.

The Future of Journalism

Commissioner Oettinger of the European Commission asks how we stop platforms like Google from “eroding copyright” if copyright is something we consider necessary.  With regards to newspaper publishers, he argues that we do not need the paper so much as the content and that there must be some way to support journalists and newspapers in the digital age.

For me, this raises two questions.

1)  Do we still need newspapers and journalists?
2)  If so, should search engines subsidize them?

Copyright Back At You

Ladies and Gentlemen, in the spirit of the bad tempered clavier, it is my pleasure to present to you The Copyright Album.

The album consists of 24 tracks, each track consists of one chord. As each song is my intellectual property, any artist wishing to use any of the chords contained within (such as the beautiful ballad ‘B Minor’ or the uplifting anthem ‘G Major’) must have my express permission to do so.  As all 24 Major and Minor chords are on the album, any song published from the 1st of January 2016 onwards that uses any of the chords (read- songs) from my album without my permission is a direct infringement of my intellectual property.

The album is available for free download from this link.

Enjoy!

Is the Internet God?

Think about it. People love and fear the Internet as they used to love and fear God. The internet is everywhere, holds all information and connects everyone. Pre-internet, nothing else could be said to hold these qualities except God. Unfortunately God is dead, or so say Nietzsche and John Proctor. From this, I went on a quest to find out if the Internet is God by, erm, searching the Internet.

So, the earliest instance of this idea I could find occurred nine years ago, the question “Is the Internet God” was posted to Yahoo answers (top answer- “Talk about RANDOM”). Almost everyone was of the impression that the Internet is not God. On the other hand, this was nine years ago when the internet was only just beginning to play a central role in our lives.

The first group I found holding these ideas were The Church of Google where the central tenant is that Google is the closest thing we have to God. The Church of Google’s proofs for Google’s divinity are as follows:

1) Google is omniscient

2) Google is omnipresent

3) Google answers prayers

4) Google is potentially immortal

5) Google is infinite

6) Google remembers everything

7) Google is omnibenevolent (don’t be evil)

8) “Google” is more searched for than any religious deity or term

9) Google exists

While these do apply to Google, most also apply to other search engines and the wider net in general. The first six proofs and proof nine all apply to the Internet in general. Proof seven is a play on the Google company slogan (Don’t Be Evil) and proof eight only proves that some people still don’t know how to work a search bar. In the end, Google is a corporation and therefore cannot be God (more on this later).

The debate over the holiness of the internet is ongoing within one group: The Missionary Church of Kopimism. Kopimism is a religion founded in Sweden that holds the act of copying to be sacred. Some consider this a political response to pro-copyright groups who endanger civil liberties by lobbying for laws which undermine information sharing but Kopimism is recognised as an actual religion in Sweden.

Some in Kopimism consider the Internet to be holy but this is disputed by the Maesters (according to Wikipedia). This makes sense as the Internet allows for an ease of copying and sharing that no other previous medium has allowed. The Australian branch of Kopimism does hold the Internet to be holy in their constitution. The idea of God is left open in Kopimism such as to allow free interpretation. So while it is feasible to interpret the Internet as God within the ideals of Kopimism, this idea is not necessarily constitutional to the church.

One man who believes he has found the God in the machine is Alexander Bard who founded the religion Syntheism on the premise that the Internet is God. Syntheism is the belief that we create (or will create) our own God through the network and is a response to the death of spirituality in the digital age. While I was initially dubious upon reading of the religion and its founder (Bard is a judge on the Swedish Pop Idol), one particularly interesting character who sees merit in Syntheism is Ray Kurzweil.

Ray Kurzweil proposes the idea of the Singularity (which you can read all about in Wait But Why’s fantastic article here), the point where an artificial intelligence entity overtakes human intelligence. This is significant as humans are the most dominant species on the planet as a direct result of our intelligence. If something shows up that’s more intelligent than us, it might fuck us up. Or lead us into a perfect future, human and machine working together in harmony. No one really knows as things will become pretty unpredictable at that point. This idea has become a movement in itself in the form of Singularitarianism, the belief that we should actively influence the forthcoming singularity towards good rather than evil.

In 2014, Google acquired DeepMind, a British artificial intelligence company. With the money and expertise that Google have, DeepMind could be a very promising contender as the almighty God-like super-intelligence.

So for now it would seem that the Internet is not God but it might be one day. Ray Kurzweil predicts 2045.

The Other Downside of Music Streaming

Most of the criticism aimed at music streaming services is based around the idea that streaming services do not do enough to “compensate” artists for their music being streamed.

Whether you believe this to be the case or not (hint- record labels keep all the money), the the discussion of artists being screwed by streaming platforms misses a greater problem- the “consumer” being screwed.

For the “consumer”, (industry-speak… some might prefer the term “citizen”) the cost is higher than it has ever been before and the currency is control of your information.

Streaming services track what you listen to and store this data about you. If they know what you listen to regularly, they know what you consider to be legitimate and can use this to manipulate you. They can aggregate this data with other data they have on you to profile you and sell your information on.

On top of this, services such as Spotify collect far more data than just what you listen to. This tracking is particularly bad if your Spotify is linked to your Facebook account.

And this is not just the case in music technology but in many forms of modern technology. Ever wondered why companies like Facebook are worth so much money even though they don’t sell you anything?

Free Music

Music is the weapon of the future” – Fela Kuti

My music has always been available for free… until now!

Initially, I was glad that my music was available to anyone for free. It was only when I begun learning the principles of free software from Richard Stallman that I questioned the meaning of this.

To be clear, I am talking about free as in liberty rather than free as in gratis (“Free” as in “Free Speech” not as in “Free Beer”).

Despite the facts it cost no money to download, it still was not free.

For a start, it couldn’t be freely downloaded. My music was being distributed through MEGA, which required many mobile listeners to install the MEGA app to access my music. This meant that users had to install a 3rd party app to download. The app requires permissions and is proprietary software. Therefore, the freedom of my listener is compromised through use of this app. Downloading from the desktop version of MEGA also requires your browser to run non-free software.

But how else am I supposed to distribute tunes? Many sites which would have allowed this, such as megaupload and rapidshare, have been shut down by the copyright monopoly (one fast, one slow). It should be pretty clear by now that the closure of ‘pirate’ sites has next to no effect on piracy.

My songs are now hosted on my site rather than on a 3rd party site.

My music was also available on youtube but, in a move that could only be comparable to Taylor Swift removing her music from Spotify, (and much to the dismay of all seven of my youtube subscribers,) I have removed all of my music from youtube. I will never again post my music on any streaming platform as they currently exist.

Music and video streaming sites track what you listen to and what you watch. This data is used to profile you and is sold to advertisers. This is called surveillance.

This is the least free music can be and yet it is the most popular method of listening in the modern era. This is perhaps a matter of personal preference- it would seem that people are generally willing to trade liberty for convenience.

When you download my music, you are then free to listen to it or not. You could listen to a song once or twenty times and only you would know this. This experience should be something private and something personal to you. But on modern streaming services this is not the case. Your listening habits are fed back to the service in real time. You might be listening to a song on a website or streaming service but you are not the only one who knows this. This data (and, perhaps more importantly, meta-data) is stored.

The last form of freedom which my music did not have was the encoding of the music itself. I have been distributing music in mp3 format. To play an mp3 file requires codecs licensed to Fraunhofer and Technicolor. Therefore, my music is now encoded in FLAC which is both free and better quality. (I will still distribute my newest tracks in mp3 format, you’ll just have to figure that one out).

I have ceased any power of copyright/ neighbouring rights I would have had over my music to the best of my ability (I do not believe it is completely possible to do this as the legal system currently stands). This means you have the right to make copies of my music and dish them out to other people. You can use any part of my music for anything. You can sample it, remix it or wear it on your head. You could record one of my songs, sell copies of the version you recorded and I wouldn’t be due any money from your sales. I don’t care.

Now my music is free…

…and also costs money. The Dennis John Album Vol 0 is available on Sellfy for £0.99.