Archive for Industry

Dave McLauchlan founds startup for mobile developers

Dave McLauchlan 1 560x634 Dave McLauchlan founds startup for mobile developersRegulars on the ABI forums are no doubt familiar with the awesome Dave McLauchlan or, as he is known around here, ”DaveMac-MS.” Dave worked at Microsoft for over 11 years, most recently as the Senior Business Development Manager for Zune. In addition to overseeing Zune hardware, Dave made sure the Zune HD always had a constant stream of high-quality apps. He’s always been very active in our forums, graciously interacting with the community and providing news and insights into Microsoft whenever possible.

On September 6, Dave announced that he was leaving Microsoft to found a startup company, Buddy, with fellow former Microsoft employee Jeff MacDuff. The two officially launched the company on Thursday, providing a great cloud-based solution for mobile developers. Buddy allows developers to quickly and easily integrate such services as geo-location, user accounts, meta data for users and applications, messaging, and much more into their apps.

Buddy provides a great service, and we wish Dave and his business partner the best of luck with their new company. Dave will continue to participate here on ABI as his “time and interests allow.” He’s always welcome here.

For more information about Buddy, head on over to the Buddy website or read more on our sister site, Anythingbutiphone.

Gawker hacked, change your passwords

AlertSign Gawker hacked, change your passwordsWell it had to happen to someone sometime. Gawker, the company that owns Gizmodo and other sites, has been hacked and 1.3 million accounts have been released as a torrent file on the Internet. That means that if you ever registered with any of their sites, your email and possibly password might be accessible to anyone. The group behind the attack, calling themselves Gnosis, have stated that “We went after Gawker because of their outright arrogance”. While many would agree with that statement, it’s hardly a reason to let 1.3 million users suffer.

Either way, the bottom line is still the same: if you have an account with Gawker, you should change your password on sites that use the same password or variations of it. Not a simple task for some, for sure. However, it’s not necessarily that grim. It appears as if the majority of accounts have either not had their password cracked or this has been blanked out prior to the release, stating the password as “NULL”. However the exception is a document called “dumb passwords” which list the full email and password of people with stupid passwords  like “password” or “qwerty”. So if you know you have a password that would require at least half a brain to come up with you’re probably safe, and if not then you already have major security issues.


Is free music worth your privacy?

telemarketer Is free music worth your privacy?

Facebook can be a very amusing place if you like me like to see stuff crash and burn. You will never find a bigger collection of grammatical errors, emo personal statements, useless trivia or technological misunderstandings. That’s why I knew it would be one of those days when I saw one of my “friends” post a link to a site that promised free Spotify premium memberships to Scandinavians- As I’m a month away from having a Bachelor’s degree in economics I know better than many people that “free” is a relative term. After further investigation into how this whole site operates, it became very clear that this was also the case here.

So what happens when you sign up on this site? Well, you either have to complete a survey, or invite 6 friends. A survey shouldn’t take you long you think and click your way through, where you’re met by a number of questions and a field at the end where it asks for your name, address, phone number and email address. To be sure no-one enters false information, the site actually checks if your address is correct and the same goes for the phone number- which is an easy thing to do since all such information is public in Scandinavia. What most people don’t bother reading though, is the terms. Those terms, cleverly hidden as a simple link in the text, states that by entering this survey, you agree to get newsletters from no less than four companies. You also agree than an unspecified amount of “partners” can contact you via phone, email, SMS and “other electronic means”, even if your phone number is reserved against such use. To top it all up, you agree that one last telemarketing service can contact you via phone, just in case those other 328746343 companies that now have ALL your contact information left you with a few extra minutes.

I had to shake my head when I read that and thought about all the idiots who blindly enter their information into anything that asks for it, and then wonders why their phone is ringing 24/7 with some telemarketer wanting to chat. A Spotify Premium subscription is about $15 a month, and to get that one month free you just told half the marketing companies in Scandinavia to contact you whenever they want to. If you selected to invite 6 friends instead, even better! More people that will give away their information freely. So to all of you who come across such an offer and wonder what the catch is, here it is. Ironically, one of the differences between Spotify free and Spotify premium is the lack of ads in the premium version, and to get that you just signed up for ten times the amount of ads via phone and email. Is it a scam? Technically no, you’re agreeing to everything they do, but I can certainly think of more honorable business models. So I ask you all, is free music worth your privacy?

UPDATE: A representative from Spotify contacted us to make sure we knew that they were not in any way affiliated with the site in question and are taking steps to do something about it. I already knew that, but in case it wasn’t clear from the article; this is an independent site that operates outside Spotify itself, and is in no way affiliated with Spotify.

Dear China: Stop Advertising Submachine Guns

mp10player Dear China: Stop Advertising Submachine Guns

Throughout history, the English language has evolved by adopting words that referred to something specific as referring to something broader. Kleenex isn’t just a brand anymore, it’s a product type. MP3, or rather MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 as it’s really called, has evolved from technically being a single format to a layman’s term for digital music in general. We all use the term MP3 player, as people would get confused if we said Digital Audio Player. MP4 on the other hand was never a video format at all, but rather a media container format. Yet, MP4 is now used by many as a term for video support. Even reputable companies advertise support for MP4, even though that says absolutely nothing about what the player can actually play. Chinese OEM manufacturers use the term even more loosely, applying it to players that can’t even handle any kind of format packaged in a MP4 container. The only thing that saves mainstream users from total confusion is the fact they don’t know why it’s wrong in the first place.

Unfortunately, the Chinese didn’t stop there. MP3 is good, but MP4 is better. Some simple extrapolation should then mean that MP5 players are better yet, right? But when the competitor has MP5 players, then the next thing is to develop a MP6 player. And an MP7 player. In fact, you can buy players that advertise support for everything from MP3 to MP10. Naturally MP10 must be the ultimate in entertainment ever created, at least that’s what the Chinese are trying to get people to think- and it’s working. I’ve heard people use the term MP5 player out in in the real world, and genuinely believed they got a MP5 player that hence must be very good. But what do they actually advertise when they advertise a player that supports everything up to MP10?

MP3 and MP4 is already covered, though the player I linked to with MP10 support actually does not support MP4. MP5 on the other hand, is a rather famous submachine gun produced by Heckler& Koch. I doubt very much the police would be happy if your media player doubled as a submachine gun, but that’s just me. mP6 is a little closer to reality, though since it’s a 12 year old microprocessor I wouldn’t exactly say it’s ground for bragging about. MP7 is yet another submachine gun by Heckler & Koch, and you gotta wonder how much firepower the Chinese think is really necessary to have in a media player. MP8 would be very interesting to see implemented in a media player, but considering it’s a rather expensive and big stage piano it’s more of a niche product. Back into the gun range we have the MP9 machine pistol, developed by Brügger & Thomet and based off the design of the TMP (which MW2 players should be familiar with). If your media player’s two main submachine guns should jam or run out of ammo, at least you’ll have a machine pistol as backup. Last, we have the MP10. I don’t really know what a “touch triggered inspection probe system with optical transmission for machining centres” is, but I’m pretty sure that it’s one feature that iPods don’t have.

So to recap, a player like this that would normally go for about $20 on Chinese sites not only has MP3 support and some sort of video support (though not technically MP4), it also has two submachine guns, a machine pistol, a stage piano, a 12 year old microprocessor and some sort of probe. When you see the prices of some players like the Sony X series you sometime start to wonder if the value for money aspect is completely gone in today’s society, but products like this once again bring hope to my heart.

Seriously though, this kind of product branding is getting ridiculous. As idiotic as it is to all of us who reads ABi, mainstream consumers have no idea what MP3 or MP4 really means and so don’t have any reservations against accepting MP5 or even MP10 as a better product. Hopefully people who do know it’s all a bunch of misleading marketing can help spread the word so we can stop this madness before MP50000 players start appearing as well.

A Day with the Phonak Audéo Team

 MG 8449 480 A Day with the Phonak Audéo Team

Phonak – one of the world’s leading hearing aid companies and manufacturer of our current editor’s choice in-ear phones, the Audéo PFE – invited me to participate in an earphone workshop in Zurich, the largest city of the country the Japanese Heidi, Girl of the Alps cartoon originates from.

Not sure what to expect but very excited about the opportunity I hopped on the plane. Arriving in Switzerland, I joined the very enthusiastic and motivated Audéo team for discussions and feedback on their current phones, different possible color variants of the housing, different acoustic filters, outlooks on possible upcoming models, and some general geeking out and brainstorming with this merry bunch of Eidgenossen.

Continue reading…

Dr Dre Teams Up with HP to Improve Sound Quality

dre hp main Dr Dre Teams Up with HP to Improve Sound Quality

If you feel like you’re listening to nails on a chalkboard when you put on the latest T-Pain album, there’s a good reason: poor sound quality. But you needn’t fret, according to a recent CNET article, Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine and gangsta rapper Dr. Dre have teamed up with HP in an effort to bring high quality audio to the masses.

“We have to fix the entire chain,” Iovine told CNET News. “Our position is to go to all the sources and try to improve sound and educate people…We can’t put anything weak in the line. Whoever puts out things that sound bad shouldn’t be as cool as something that sounds great.”

According to CNET, HP plans to release a premium line of headphones, laptops, and software under the “Beats by Dr. Dre” brand, which should be available sometime this fall.

By using this equipment, you’ll finally be able to hear the subtle nuances and intricate details of such masterpieces as the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling”. Oddly, there was no mention of Interscope dropping nearly every artist under its label, which is the only way it could possibly be “as cool as something that sounds great”.


Record Labels Still Hate You. #warnerfail

warnerfail Record Labels Still Hate You. #warnerfail

According to his own blog, 18 year old Even Sandvold Roland is a big fan of Dave Matthews Band. His excitement was therefor high when he discovered that their new album was going to be released bit by bit ahead of time on iTunes. Hitting the link, he got the all too familiar message (at least for us in Europe) “only available in the USA”. Annoyed as one can understand, he tweeted the following message on the microblog service twitter (translated from Norwegian): “Pissed now! iTunes Music Pass for Dave Matthews Band’s new album is only available in the USA. Typical! Don’t complain about pirating!”

Nothing out of the ordinary so far, but the reply he got from the Artists and Repertoire manager from Warner Music Norway, Terje Pedersen, certainly explains why there’s now a trend on Twitter called #warnerfail: “I think you should steal it, then you can brag about the process on your little kid blog afterward. After all I don’t want you to be angry”. It should also be mentioned that the Norwegian word for “little kid” (alternately “brat”, “little kid” is from the Oxford dictionary) he used is a curse word that doesn’t have a good translation, and that directly translated it would be “shit kid”.

The story has blown up big time and Even has been on radio talking about it, as well as his own blog and articles in national newspapers in Norway. the original reply from Terje Pedersen has been deleted, but can still be seen as a screenshot on Even’s blog and at the time of this writing it can also be seen by searching for “drittungebloggen” on Twitter. Terje Pedersen later apologized for the incident in a comment on Even’s blog, but frankly the apology talked more about why the record industry is still in the stone age.

The story is probably not over yet and I’m sure we’ll hear more about it in the next few days. Record companies are extremely busy digging their own graves these days, with the Pirate Bay trial giving pirating more free advertising than anyone could have hoped (or feared) and I doubt Warner will have more supporters after this little stunt. That fact makes it even more ironic that this whole story started because Even tried to pay for his music, but no-one would take his money.

Would You Pay $80 For a 95 Page PDF “Keepsake” of Your Favorite Band?

europe Would You Pay $80 For a 95 Page PDF “Keepsake” of Your Favorite Band?

The Swedish rock band “Europe” has been on my CD shelf since I was little even though it’s not among my top favorite bands anymore. Still, the initial joy was there when I received a newsletter from them a few days ago. During the last tour they had a photographer with them documenting the trip and this was now available as a 95 page PDF download described to have “135 high-resolution, printable images, documenting the band as they roll from city to city”. The e-mail didn’t say anything about price, so as I clicked the link I wasn’t sure if I’d find a free download or if I had to pay a little for the pleasure of this tour book.

As the page loaded my jaw dropped to the floor. 50 Euro was the price they asked for this download, which translates to about $80 USD. I figured it had to be some sort of a joke, but it soon hit me they were serious. Another thing that really made me wonder what they were thinking was the description on the download store: “IN: EUROPE is a collector’s keepsake offered exclusively for download from the band’s MP3 store, and is not something you will want to miss!”. Can you really say that a PDF file is a keepsake? Is there any real value in having a book that you either need to print or sit by the screen to enjoy?

WWTRD…? Read on to find out

Continue reading… Builds DRM-Free MP3 Download Store

amazon logo Builds DRM Free MP3 Download Store announced today that it is gearing up to launch an online music download store filled exclusively with DRM-free MP3s later this year. Reported to offer millions of songs from 12,000 record labels, EMI included, the as-yet-unnamed store will allow customers to play purchased songs (individual tracks and full albums) on absolutely any DAP or other MP3-supporting device as well as burn the songs to CDs.

The bitrate and prices of the music Amazon will be serving up have not been disclosed, but if the company is looking to slice into the Apple pie, both had better be good. What do you think: at least 192kbps at a max price of 99 cents apiece?

[News Release | Yahoo! News]

EMI to Offer DRM-Free Digital Music

emi logo EMI to Offer DRM Free Digital Music

It’s no secret that consumers aren’t the only ones who detest digital rights management (DRM). No one likes to be told what they can and cannot do with music they’ve legally purchased and downloaded. And today, record label EMI (one of the “big four”) announced that it will soon be doing something about it.

Well, sort of. Beginning in May, EMI will be serving up its entire digital catalog completely unshackled and in higher quality. First to receive the new offering will be (surprise!) the Apple iTunes Store, who will sell its patrons DRM-free 256kbps AAC tracks for $1.29 apiece alongside DRM-full 128kbps tunes (also in AAC) for the standard $0.99 price. The price of full EMI albums and music videos will not change, even though they will available sans DRM, and consumers can “upgrade” (i.e., remove the DRM from) already purchased songs for a fee of $0.30/each.

Although this is certainly a step in the right direction (and Microsoft may be next to follow suit), forgive us for being less than thrilled over the upcoming availability of more expensive music encoded in a format that few players actually support.

[Press Release (Apple) | Press Release (EMI)]