Monday, 28 January 2008

The end of DRM music?

Just spotted this announcement from Should shake up iTunes!

Jan. 27, today announced that in 2008 the company will begin an international rollout of Amazon MP3, Amazon's DRM-free MP3 digital music store where every song is playable on virtually any digital music-capable device, including the PC, Mac(R), iPod(R), Zune(R), Zen(R), iPhone(TM), RAZR(TM), and BlackBerry(R). Amazon MP3 is the only retailer to offer customers DRM-free MP3s from all four major music labels as well as over 33,000 independent labels.

"We have received thousands of e-mails from Amazon customers around the world asking us when we will make Amazon MP3 available outside of the U.S. They can't wait to choose from the biggest selection of high-quality, low-priced DRM-free MP3 music downloads which play on virtually any music device they own today or will own in the future," said Bill Carr, Vice President of Digital Music. "We are excited to tell those customers today that Amazon MP3 is going international this year."

Launched on in September 2007, Amazon MP3 offers Earth's Biggest Selection of a la carte DRM-free MP3 music downloads, which now includes over 3.3 million songs from more than 270,000 artists. Every song and album in the Amazon MP3 music download store is available exclusively in the MP3 format without digital rights management (DRM) software and is encoded at 256 kbps to deliver high audio quality. Amazon MP3 customers are free to enjoy their music downloads using any hardware device; organize their music using any music management application, such as iTunes(R) or Windows Media Player(TM); and burn songs to CDs for personal use.

Most songs available on Amazon MP3 are priced from 89 cents to 99 cents, with more than 1 million of the over 3.3 million songs priced at 89 cents. The top 100 bestselling songs are 89 cents, unless marked otherwise. Most albums are priced from $5.99 to $9.99. The top 100 bestselling albums are $8.99 or less, unless marked otherwise. Buying and downloading MP3s from Amazon MP3 is easy. Customers can purchase downloads using Amazon 1-Click shopping, and with the Amazon MP3 Downloader, seamlessly add their MP3s to their iTunes(R) or Windows Media Player(TM) libraries.

The company is not disclosing a specific launch timeline for individual Amazon international websites.

The freemium model

Fascinating interview with Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail and Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine) about the freemium model and the concept of 'free'. What is the freemium model? In simple terms it's the delivery of Internet services that are free to the user because the marginal costs of manufacturing and distribution are zero, or close to it. This means that businesses can now experiment with giving away one thing to sell something else. Read the interview here for the whole story.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

T9 predictive text - again!

I've been getting increasingly irritated by the fact that additional words I've saved to the T9 dictionary (because I used them maybe once) appear as the default option when typing a text message. There's no option to delete individual words or to reset the dictionary via the handset menu.

However, if you use a Nokia S60 handset, I've now discovered that you can delete the predictive text dictionary, reseting it to the initial factory state.

1. Using a file browser (I use the free SExplorer) delete the directory C:\Predic (delete the entire directory, not just the .dat file within it).

2. Power off and back on your handset.

3. The T9 dictionary is back to the factory settings.

T9 predictive text

The truth behind those strange words in your mobile phone predictive text dictionary!

Friday, 18 January 2008

My favourite software

A round-up of some of my favourite PC tools & utilities. All of these apps are free or at least have a free trial. After each item I've put a link to my previous post where you can read more about the software.

eWallet - Brilliant for storing details of your user IDs & passwords. Sevendotzero post

Devicescape - Automates the login process for personal & public WiFi hotspots. Also works on mobile devices like Nokia S60 smartphones & Windows Mobile devices. Sevendotzero post

CCleaner - Cleans up & optimises your PC. Sevendotzero post

Startup Control Panel - Mike Lin's very useful tool for stopping applications loading when Windows starts that just take up memory. Sevendotzero post

Revo Uninstaller - Makes a much better job of uninstalling applications than Windows, even removing corrupt installations that Windows can't handle. Sevendotzero post

Carbonite - Remote backup so I always know there's a copy of my data safe. Sevendotzero post

Firefox - No list would be complete without Firefox! Firefox is a great browser but what makes it for me is the ability to install add-ons (or extensions) that add to the functionality. I've got 25 on this PC!

Which are your favourites?

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Technology usability

I've got a great mobile phone, the Nokia E65. Nice size, good functionality and loads of additional applications I've installed. However, it's slower than my last handset, runs out of memory & sometimes restarts itself (issues not unique to this handset). Ah I hear you say, that's because I've installed additional applications on it. But that's the whole point of the S60 operating system, being able to personalise your smartphone and improve its functionality. If Nokia is going to offer this functionality then they should ensure the handset works properly with it. If there are gremlins in the additional applications these should be isolated to prevent them affecting the performance of the handset. I've highlighted a Nokia product here but this type of problem is common across a whole range of consumer devices - when did your PC last crash?

Why is it that we're surrounded by so much excellent technology but its usability is often so poor? Why do so many devices not work out of the box without significant configuration? Why are so many devices slow and prone to crash? I'm a real technophile and love using new technology but it frustrates the hell out of me. What's it like for the 'average' consumer? A nightmare - judging by the questions I get asked. Most manufacturers seem to have had a usability bypass! Do they ever test their products from the consumer perpective?

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

F-Secure Health Check

Having security software on your PC is vital to protect yourself from malware and ensuring Windows keeps updated with security updates provides another level of protection. But what about vulnerabilities in other applications. F-Secure has launched a free service, the F-Secure Health Check, that scans your PC for security vulnerabilities and out of date software. It then provides recommendations on how to fix the issues it finds. I ran it on my PC and was surprised to discover how many applications needed updates downloaded from the web.

Note that currently you must use Internet Explorer to run the Health Check. Other browser support is promised.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Thoughts & predictions for telecoms in 2008

Some thoughts & predictions for 2008.

Mobile VoIP (VoIP over 3G & WiFi) will start to make an impact in the mobile market, in part enabled by flat rate mobile data tariffs that are starting to become the norm.

New IP based operators will start to disintermediate the traditional operators from their customers by moving control of how when & where calls & messages are delivered, to the customer & away from the traditional operators.

Converged customer propositions will become increasingly vital to the traditional operators to avoid losing customers to the new IP operators.

And I'll throw in a fourth prediction which is a bit of a long shot! 2008 may be the year when Google finally emerges as the key new competitor of the future to the traditional operators. More on this later ...

Friday, 4 January 2008

CIA World Factbook

Ever wanted to find out the area of Denmark or the population of Estonia? Maybe not! But the CIA World Factbook contains a wealth of information on all countries of the world. A great source of info for the whole family. The area of all countries is given relative to a US state - apparently the UK is slightly smaller than Oregon!

Free air guitar

With thanks to Duncan Rawlinson and Chris Anderson.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008


I've previously commented on Rebtel & how it's a great way to make international calls using your inclusive mobile minutes. If you haven't already started using Rebtel there's never been a better time. Rebtel are currently running a promotion which triples your first payment, e.g. a $10 top-up gives you $30.

Rebtel is also a great way to make cheap international calls from a landline.

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