Saturday, May 2, 2015

Copyright and Creative Commons - Where are we headed?

Wikipedia defines copyright as the legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution, usually for a limited time (typically the life of the creator, plus fifty to a hundred years), with the intention of enabling the creator to receive compensation for their intellectual effort. The original intent of copyright law was designed to promote the creation of new works by giving creators control of and profit from the work. Although the original copyright law appeared well-intentioned, it has often been interrupted in ways that focus only on the financial gain of the creator or corporation, and does little to promote the creation of original work. Creative works are thankfully developed when creators have the creative fire to do so and copyright law appears to have little impact on when, how, or why the work is created.

Creative Commons offers a more flexible approach to copyright law. Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the creative reuse of intellectual and artistic works – whether owned or in the public domain. The Creative Common provides creators the ability to allow others to use their works for commercial purposes, or not; to make derivative works, or not. Creative Commons was based on the idea of universal access to research, education, and culture, made possible by the Internet. The Internet did not exist in the original copyright law era and the new technology does not fit within the laws as they were originally designed. Creative Commons offers creators the ability to select which license works for them when they have completed their work and they will no longer need to field requests to use their work. There are several options to choose from that can allow creators to be as limited or unlimited with their work as they choose; even allowing full rights to modify the work as long as some integrity remains in the original work.  The only downside that I have noticed in Creative Commons is that there does not appear to be a way to update or change the creator's original option. It would be ideal if a creator could choose one type of license and then ten years later change the option, based on their lifestyle changes.

In my opinion, I believe that Creative Commons is a model that allows for better collaboration between creators and users and retains the original intention of copyright law, which is to promote creation of new works. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Media Storage Options !!

For a very long time, the best option for storing and transferring large multimedia files was via an optical media device, such as a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, or Blu-ray disc.  This was a fairly inexpensive option, but physical media was often susceptible to damage. 

Another option was through an external hard disk drive.  This was another inexpensive option, but again the physical hard disk was susceptible to damage.

Cloud backup has given us another option to ponder.  Cloud backup is a subscription based service that offers the user the ability to backup data automatically and provides offsite storage of the data to ensure recovery.  The cost of Cloud backup can become pricey depending on the amount of data that you need to save to the Cloud.

I think many multimedia developers may begin to opt for Private Cloud Backup.  Private Cloud Backup uses software to save data to a device located on the users network.  Files can be copied automatically and authentication can limit the users that can access the data.  Local network transfer tends to be quicker than the Internet.  Network storage devices can be cost prohibitive and need to be configured on the network, but I believe they are worth the time and investment so that files are securely accessed by only the people that need to have access to them.

Where does good software go to die?

The time it takes to learn new software can be daunting.  It can consume your time to learn all of the tips and tricks of the application.  What happens when you have invested your time and energy into new software and it goes away? 

Case in point, Xtranormal Technology, a digital entertainment company that produced web-based and desktop animation software that turned text into an animated movie.  In August 2013, Xtranormal's online services were dismantled and by October, their website had been taken down completely.

Their software had offered a solution to the non-professional animators to begin to dive into the animation world.     This even included large companies, such as Geico Insurance.

How do you bounce back when a tool is removed from your toolbox and you don't have another one to immediately replace it?

The most important lesson that I am taking away from Xtranormal's situation is to not put all of your eggs in one basket.  Unfortunately, in the technological world that we live in, it is often difficult, if not impossible to see what software and applications are going to make it and which ones are going to be short-lived.  This is often scarier for us in the Information Technology / Information Systems world, because often our career depends on it.  Do I certify in Oracle or another database product?  Do I learn Dreamweaver or another HTML / Web publishing tool?  Companies expect IT / IS personnel to be experts in specific software, but how do we pick which path?  I think it's imperative to become a master at transferable skills.  Is there another comparable software that will be easier to learn because it closely resembles the one you learned and lost?  Can you learn both software  systems / applications at the same time so that if one is no longer available, you can rely on the other one?

In the end, nobody can predict which software applications will be around for the long haul, so it's important that we engage ourselves in learning as many as possible so that we can make an informed decision on which ones are right for us.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Marriage of Melody and Mac !!!

When Edison invented the cylinder phonograph to record and playback sound, the initial thought was that it would become useful as a business tool for dictation. Little did anyone know that this began the long journey to the marriage of Melody and Mac. Many innovations and advances needed to occur at the right time and the right place for us to be where we are now in the realm of the digital media time-line.

During the years of 1840 through 1899, several innovations in sound and music came to life. Emile Berliner invented both the microphone (1877) and the flat record player entitled the Gramophone (1887). Shellac gramophone disks will be developed in 1897 and speeds will vary on disks issued by companies in different countries. Danish inventor Valdemar Poulson invented magnetic wire sound recording in 1889. In the same year, Louis Glass invents the modern jukebox and installs it in a saloon in San Francisco. In 1892, Music Publishers begin renting office space on 28th street in New York City, in an area that would become known as “Tin Pan Alley.” “After The Ball” by Charles K. Harris, the songs' composer and publisher, became the first sheet music to sell a million copies. These years also began the convergence of music and film. In 1895, the Lumiere Brothers use piano music with a motion picture program and in 1896, an orchestra is used with silent motion pictures for the first time.

Mass duplication becomes possible between 1900 and 1924. This mass duplication makes the record industry possible. Edison, RCA Victor, and Columbia become big names in the industry, primarily because they had held the most patents on existing technologies. Disks become the preferred music medium over cylinders. Radio broadcasting begins during this time-frame, and the music industry finds a place for both the new and the old technologies. In 1900, Eldredge Johnson develops the first system of mass duplication of pre-recorded flat disks. RCA Victor's “Victrola” model record player is introduced and introduces a variable turntable speed control that will accommodate the collection of phonograph records that will be produced during that time. The Victrola's speeds ranged from 71-76 rpm, but disks from some countries and from some companies were being produced anywhere in the 66-90 rpm range. US manufacturers will come to an agreement in 1928 to standardize the rate of 78.26, and eventually standard speeds will be used world-wide.

In 1906, John Ambrose Fleming, a British scientist developed the first vacuum tube that was called a valve. In 1907, Lee de Forest is granted a patent for the first three-element vacuum tube. The third element of the tube was called a grid and allowed the tube to amplify signals which made radio with voice and music practical. In 1908, the double-sided phonograph record are introduced. In 1909, experimental radio station broadcasts were attempted by Charles Herrold and his assistant Ray Newby and by 1912, they begin the first regular public radio broadcasting of voice and music. In 1912, disk recordings overtake cylinders, which leads to the Edison Company introducing a disk player.

Recording technology continued to advance and analog sound reproduction improved. Radio joined the ranks of entertainment media in the home and recordings and radio became intertwined; allowing broadcasters to play records over the radio. In 1926, the National Broadcasting Company becomes the first radio network, followed by the Columbia Broadcasting Network in 1927. In 1928, manufacturers begin standardization on 78.26 rpm phonograph records. Although RCA begins work on a 33 1/3 rpm record during this time period, it fails as it is not capable to stand up to repeated plays and it will be many more years before a LP record is developed that is good enough for consumer use. In 1940, New York City sees FM radio broadcasting become regular. Captured German magnetic tape recorders are brought to the US and are copied for commercial use in 1946. In 1948, the commercial 33 1/3 LP disc is introduced by Dr. Peter Goldmark of Colombia Records and in 1949 RCA Victor develops 45 rpm phonograph records. This was intended to replace the 33 1/3 LP discs, but failed to do so. 45 rpm discs did become the preferred media format for singles.

1950 through 1974 was a period of time that revolutionized the fields of sound and broadcast technology, television and magnetic tape. The “space race” launched advances in digital electronics. The development of the integrated circuit that allowed holding thousands of transistors on a single “chip” led to large scale integrated circuits which made the development of microprocessors and memory “chips.” This was the beginning of personal computers and other embedded systems.

The Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) created a program to connect university research labs. This project was called DARPANET and eventually led to the Internet.

In 1950, RCA gave in and began producing 33 1/3 LP's to compete with Columbia and other manufacturers. By 1955, larger 12” LP's overtake 10” LP's as the preference and by 1957, compatible disk and record players are offered for sale. By 1963, compact tape cassettes and players are developed and in 1964, the 8-track stereo tape cartridge is developed for use in the automobile.

In 1981, the MTV Music TV Cable Network debuts and in the same year, the first IBM PC is released. In 1982, the digital compact disc (CD) was introduced by a Japanese company and the first CD released in Japan was Billy Joel's “52nd Street.” In 1983, CD titles are released in the US and by 1985, the CD starts to gain market ground on the LP, reducing LP sales by 25%. By June of 1986, CD sales had taken over LP sales in the US and by 1988 CD sales had taken over the LP sales world-wide. DVD technology is created in 1996 and increases capacity of digital storage.

Tim Berners-Lee finishes programming the first practical web browser that incorporates both FTP (file transfer protocol) and HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) in 1990 and allows his browser into the public domain in 1993 with the dream of furthering the World-Wide Web. By 1994, the Internet begins to take off and personal computers outsell TV sets for the first time in the US.

During this same time, the moving picture experts group MPEG-1 Audio Layer III, also known as the MP3, compressed file format becomes an international standard, and eventually will become the format that is primarily used for distributing audio files over the Internet.

In 1999, Internet Service Providers introduce consumers to broadband that offers faster and smoother downloads and streaming media and in this same year, recordable CD-R digital audio technology becomes part of personal computer systems. In 2000, Napster, an Internet site for sharing music is created and when record sales declined, the record industry blames online music swapping and begin to look into digital copy protection options.

In 2001, Apple introduces the iPod music play for playing MP3 files. Even though the iPod was not the first MP3 player available commercially, it does become the best known one and when Apple introduces the iTunes music service in 2003, they prove that people will pay to download music legally. On February 22nd, 2006, Apple's online music store has been fully integrated into their iTunes Software and iPod hardware, and sells their one-billionth song, which proves that consumers are open to a non-tangible form of media.

Consumers are now obsessed with their increasingly growing music collection and pay attention to securing their libraries for years to come.

I must admit that I am likely one of the few that does not have a large music collection in MP3 format, but I do enjoy music and listen to streaming music via iHeartRadio on a daily basis. I still do miss the anticipation of the old days; I remember waiting over a week to watch the epic release of Michael Jackson's Thriller Video on MTV in 1983. I also miss the antics that could occur from hearing a song for the first time and having to drive to the record / cd store and sing the song to the clerk to see if they knew what song we were talking about (this was before you could instantly Google the words or have the radio display the song and artist name as the song was playing). My favorite memory was my mother singing Red Dog Love to a clerk, only to find out that she was really referring to Radar Love !!!

Please see the below website for the entire technology timeline:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Driving while Distracted !!

I remember when I was learning how to drive and my mother or father was sitting in the passenger seat next to me and I was given the ground rules.  These ground rules did not only apply for that day during the driving lesson, but the expectation was that the rules applied until I was considered an experienced driver.  The rules:

* No friends in the vehicle at any time.
* No radio or music.
* No food or drink.

You see, I learned how to drive before the majority of technology related driving distractions were invented or at least before they were mainstream enough for my family to afford them.  At one time, cell phones (or car phones and then the bag phones that followed) were considered a luxury.  And they were costly, not only to purchase, but also to maintain due to the expensive monthly service and use fees.

 photo from

Distracted driving is defined as any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving.  All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Facts and Statistics.  Available from http://www.distraction .gov/get-the-facts/facts-and-statistics.html.  Accessed February 2, 2015).  These distractions include:
  • Texting.
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone.
  • Eating and drinking.
  • Talking to passengers.
  • Grooming.
  • Reading, including maps.
  • Using a navigation system.
  • Watching a video.
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player.
 As we have evolved into a technologically driven society,  we have been given amazing tools to enrich our worlds.  We can easily navigate ourselves to other locations by GPS (no need to remember how to fold a map so it will fit back in the glove compartment), we can obtain the hours that a store is open by pulling up their website on our smartphone (no more 555-1212 for directory assistance needed), and we can watch a video about a product so we can make an informed decision on our purchases.

Amazing advances, yet these advances create another world of distracted driving for us.

Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Facts and Statistics.  Available from Accessed February 2, 2015).

What is being done about this?  Many states are enacting laws, such as banning texting while driving, or using graduated driver licensing systems for teen drivers ( Accessed February 14, 2015).  Clear studies are not available on the impact that these laws and requirements have had on decreasing incidents involving distracted driving yet.

Remember, your life is too valuable !!  The text will be there when you have a chance to pull over and safely read it !!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Is your head in the clouds?

The market seems optimistic towards cloud computing and there is good reason for it. Cloud computing offers a viable solution for computing needs that can potentially lower cost, improve performance, provide users with instant software updates and universal access to documents.

Imagine a system that no longer requires you to purchase software at a big box retail store or through a download. Imagine if the software could exist in the cloud and the cost of the software could be spread among the many users.

Additionally, not having to load more and more software onto your system, means that your system could be used for running essential software. This would lead to improved system performance and potentially further financial gain because systems would not need to be updated or replaced as often.

And speaking of updating. Every time you use cloud computing, you would be using the most recent version of the software. Software updates would happen automatically and the end user would not need to remember to update software or set systems to automatically update the software.

Users would have universal access to documents. This would mean that as long as an Internet connection was available, people would not need to stress over remembering to save a file on an external device prior to leaving the office for the day. If they needed to access the file at home later, they would have access via the cloud.

Picture from

Although the cloud has many benefits, it is important to note that there are some concerns regarding cloud computing. Accessing data or applications from the cloud requires a near constant Internet connection and may not work well over slow connections.

Securing data has been a concern since the beginning of the digital age. As we move into the cloud, information security will need to become a top concern and strong information security programs will be vital for every organization that utilizes cloud services.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Digital Media Preservation

In an old shoebox, in a closet, in a spare bedroom, sits dozens of floppy disks.  If you are under the age of 20, the floppy disk likely only exists to you in a conceptual form.  Next to the floppy disk sits an unending pile of obsolete media formats.  Do you remember records, open reel tapes, mini-cassettes, steno-cassettes? What about VHS, Betamax, Video 8?

This, of course, is not my closet, but a theoretical closet (although I am sure that someone has amassed a large collection of obsolete media formats for their own amusement).

What would happen if within that collection, sat a piece of data that had substantial historical significance and that recording was the only one?  How long do you think it might take to acquire a machine that read, oh, let's say, a photographic plate?

Preservation of digital media is not the only challenge we face in the digital world, but I consider it to be of utmost importance.

Can you imagine a world that exists without the Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci), Starry Night (Vincent Van Gogh), or Symphony No. 5 (Ludwig van Beethoven)?  What if only one of these masterpieces was lost in history? 

These masterpieces, of course, are not digital, but they represent items that are significant to the world's history.  They are constantly protected and cared for.  They are preserved so that many more generations will have an opportunity to view them, hear them.

If these items were in digital format, would we care for them, preserve them?  Of course we would.  That is why preservation of digital media is vitally important.  Not all data that exists digitally is important (I can guarantee that this post will have little to no impact on generations to come), but there are some digital items that we need to preserve.

We need to consider a process that refreshes digital data and preserves access to archived data.  Promising solutions include migration and emulation.  Migration allows us to update digital data to a form that can be read and manipulated by current hardware and software.  Think about all your VHS Home Videos being recorded to a DVD (I bet if you are under 20, you had to ask your mom or dad what VHS was).  Emulation will allow new technology to mimic the capabilities of their predecessors.

Even when we are able to refresh and preserve access to data, we still we need to face challenges in the digital world, such as, file sizes, processor demand, standardization, and bandwith. 

I often have heard people say, "the Internet is forever."  I wonder if those people realize that digital data is not forever, not if we don't plan for it to be.