Author Archive

Sky offers subscription-based music service

Rupert Murdoch’s Sky announced today that they are launching a new music service in the UK, that offers both streaming and downloads of tracks for a monthly subscription.

Downloads will be in mp3 format, compatible with any digital music player including iPods.  According to the press release, “a range of subscription options will be available, offering different download packages tailored to customers’ needs”, suggesting that downloads will be limited per month depending on how much you pay, but streaming maybe unlimited.

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Finally some sense – BBC, ITV and Channel 4 catch-up services to unite

Finally some sense - BBC, ITV and Channel 4 uniteThe three significant British terrestrial TV networks – the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 – have today announced an initiative to develop a combined service for accessing their on-demand and catch-up services. The new service is currently known under the working title “Kangaroo”. At the moment each network offers their own service, each with their own failings and benefits. Most recently the BBC launched their controversial iPlayer, which hit headlines after it was announced that it would only be available (in the first instance) for Windows XP machines, alienating Windows Vista machines and users of other operating systems.

By having a unified method of browsing, downloading and viewing programs from each of the three providers, viewers will have more control over the content stored on their machine. I argued a while back that a unified application just makes more sense. The end-user only has to learn one method to view their favourite programs, and not three. Imagine this as being similar to an electronic program guide (EPG) – one view for all channels (or at this time, for those channels covered by those networks). If, for example, Sky’s EPG was fragmented like the current online catch-up services, you would have one style menu for BBC, another for Sky channels, another for Channel 4, and so on.

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Six digital music pioneers

There is currently a revolution taking place in the music industry. It is common knowledge that music distribution has changed forever with the rise in prominence of digital downloads and the success of portable media players. The media has recently been full of speculation that the record label as we know it will soon disappear. This may or may not happen one day, but the change in the industry certainly isn’t just a recent development. High-profile recording artists have embraced the Internet as a creative and promotional tool since the mid-1990s and more recently have utilised the net as a medium for selling and distributing music independently. Listed below are just a handful of those pioneers. [Please add your own digital pioneers in the comments.]


Aerosmith Aerosmith have had a long, interesting and varied career, spanning four decades and fourteen studio albums. However, it is a little known fact that Aerosmith offered the first full-length commercial download back in 1994. The track was called “Head First”, recorded initially for the “Get A Grip” album but was later rejected. Geffen Records and Compuserve teamed up to offer the download over their lighting-fast 56kbps connections. The track later appeared as a B-side, but internet history had already been made.

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Blog Action Day: five environmental Internet TV offerings

This post is part of Blog Action Day, where bloggers around the web are uniting to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind — the environment.

Blog Action Day: Five environmental Internet TV sites

As the Internet has matured and reaches a more diverse audience, both physically and socially, it has become an efficient tool for the distribution of information on a wide range of topics. At the same time, the continuing improvements in bandwidth and video compression have allowed streaming video to become popular on the Internet. The culmination of these becomes evident when searching for Internet TV channels about the environment. Listed below are five of the best.

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Winamp goes where iTunes doesn't dare

WinampWinamp, that staple of media players, will soon turn 10! And its not letting it pass without a bang. On the 10th of October at 10:10am, Winamp 5.5 (PC-only) will be released sporting two new and potentially controversial features: support for mp3 blogs and the ability to stream your music collection over the Internet (a Beta version is available here).

Cashing in on the growing popularity of mp3 blogs, and the lack of tools to take advantage of them, Winamp’s Media Monitor can be used in conjunction with the software’s built-in browser to access any mp3s linked to on a blog page, presented as a playlist or even downloaded to your library. Winamp also includes handy links to a dozen or so music blogs to get you started.

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"GadgetTrak" USB device tracking software

GadgetTrak - USB Device Protection Software[Ed. GadgetTrak have replied to a number of Ryan’s criticisms — see the update at the end of this post]

Lots of consumer electronics devices connect to a PC via a USB connection, such as mp3 players, flash drives, digital cameras and mobile phones, and the amount and range of information that they can carry is astounding — gigabytes of music, video, photos and documents. Some of these can contain important information, such as personal details or business secrets, while others may just be of sentimental value and of little interest to anyone else. In either case, losing one of these devices, be it from theft or misplacement, is at best a nuisance, and at worst can be a disaster.

GadgetTrak have developed a software system that can be installed onto supported USB devices, which they claim provides a means of tracking those devices, in the event that they are lost or stolen. Various membership options are offered, starting at $12.95 for one device, increasing to $45.95 for up to twenty devices.

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The ultimate portable media player

1G iPod NanoThere are a vast number of portable media players on the market. They come in all different sizes, colours and configurations, each hoping to capture the greatest market share. The iPod, which has dominated the market since its launch in October 2001, is synonymous with the portable media player, in much the same way as the Walkman and the Hoover are for the personal stereo and the vacuum cleaner. Apple have maneuvered themselves into this position by being early adopters in the market (although they were by no means the first) and by innovating with their design, features and marketing.

Personally, I own a 2GB iPod Nano (1G). It is great! I use it every day and to be honest if I had to choose I would pick it over my mobile phone. However, it is starting to show its age, not just because of wear and tear, but also because of its design and technical capabilities. This got me thinking as to what features I would like in a media player, and why they’re not available yet. I’ve tried to show no bias towards Apple (or any other manufacturer) but comparisons to other media players are inevitable.

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10 sites for free legal music

Nowadays there is much reported about the rise of illegally copied music being made available on the Internet. However, there is also plenty of music on the web that is free and legal. In this post we look at ten sites or services that offer free legal music to download. ArtistServer has been around since 2001, albeit under the name In 2005 they transformed the site to widen their scope and incorporate social networking features. At its core is a database of over 7,000 songs that can be downloaded for free. An artist’s catalog also has an RSS feed that can be subscribed to like any other feed, allowing the user to keep up to date with any new additions. Photos, videos and blogs from artists complete this interesting site.

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Live concert recordings on USB sticks

Note: this post is part of the R/WW Files on Online Music.

[di]rec | Live concert recordings on USB sticks

In July, I blogged about a new company planning to sell recordings of concerts on USB sticks as you leave the venue. Since then I’ve actually found articles proposing a similar idea that dates back to 2004, although I believe it was a slow starter then. Nowadays, USB sticks have surpassed floppy disks and even CDs as the most popular way to physically move data around, plus they have a much higher capacity than they used to, and are more physically robust.

This is an excellent way of making money out of every live recording an artist makes — usually only one live recording is sold on through CDs/DVDs — and I think people would love to have a recording of the gig that they were actually at, rather than buy a recording through a record store of one random concert. The USB keys could be customised with artwork from the current tour, or contain video footage and photos from the show, which in-turn would make them more collectible.

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Internet and mobile video not safe from censors

V-chip - Internet and mobile video not safe from censorsIt was reported this week that some members of the U.S. Senate believe that the rating system used in US televisions needs to be taken further. There are moves to power-up the controversial V-Chip so that it can be embedded into more devices — such as computers, games consoles and mobile phones — which will, in turn, give parents greater control over what their children are able to watch.

The V-Chip, which has been compulsory in all televisions sold in the States since January 2000, allows parents to set filters which will block out content above certain rating levels. These levels are then encoded into television programs broadcast in the U.S.

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