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The phone is dead. How to stay reasonably unbound?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/29/2013 - 23:31

So, today an endurance test can be declared as finished.

In early 2008, for the first time, I paid for a cellular phone (as my previous ones were all 100% subsidized by the operator in a fixed plan). I got a Nokia N95. And, although at the beginnning I was quite thrilled with my smartphone (when such things were still a novelty), it didn't take much to me to start dumbing it down to what is really useful to me: A phone with a GPS. And the GPS only because it is the only toy I want in such a form factor.

Anyway, despite the operator repeatedly offering me newer and more capable models, I kept this one, and as soon as I was free of the forced 18 month rental period, switched to a not-data-enabled, pay-as-you-go plan. I don't want to be connected to the intertubes when I'm away from a usable computer!

But yes, five years are over what a modern phone wants to endure. Over time, I first started getting SIM card errors whenever the phone was dropped or slightly twisted - As I'm a non-frequent phone user, I didn't care much. Charging it also became a skill of patience, as getting the Nokia micro-connector to make contact has been less and less reliable. Over one year ago, the volume control (two sensors on the side) died after a phone drop (and some time later I found the switches broken from the mainboard loose) - A nuisance, yes, but nothing too bad. I don't know how, but some time ago the volume went down when using the radio, and as I can't raise it again, my phone became radio-disabled. And today, the screen died (it gets power, but stays black). I can blind-operate the phone, but of course, it is really not meant for that.

So, I expect this Saturday to go get a new phone. Between now and then, I'll be cellphone-deprived (in case you wonder why I'm not answering to your messages or whatever). I would love to get a phone with a real keyboard (as I prefer not to look at the screen when writing messages, just to check if everything came out right and fix what's needed). I understand Android phones are more likely to keep me happy as a free software geek, and I'd be delighted to use Cyanogen if it is usable and stable — But my phone is *not* my smart computer and it should not attempt to be, so it's not such a big deal. I will look for something with FM radio capability, and GPS.

Of course, I want something cheap. It would be great to get it at no cost, but I don't expect I'll find such a bargain. Oh, and I want something I can find at the first Telcel office I come to, am I asking for too much? :)

Anyway - I'll enjoy some days of being really disconnected from any wireless bugs (that I am aware off).

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The joys of Internet The Bolivarian dream

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 01/23/2013 - 23:54

Oh, the joys of the Internet.

A Mexican and an Argentinian listening to a Spanish cantaor singing Mexican music for an Argentinian audience, remembering a Costa Rican woman.

What?

Regina and me are finally back home in Mexico, after a month (me) and six weeks (her) of vacations in Argentina. And this week, in the city of Cosquín (Córdoba, Argentina), they celebrate most important Argentinian folkloric festival. The Cosquín Festival can be followed live on the TV Pública website.

Right now, while I finish writing a short article and Regina fights her way to learn some of the GNOME 3 tricks, we are following Cosquín. Among many great Argentinian folklorists, they invited a Spanish cantaor, David Palomar, who is remembering Chabela Vargas, a great singer, born in Costa Rica, but who became famous in Mexico, singing very heartfelt Mexican music, and deceased earlier this year.

Trivia: Q: What do Mexico, Argentina and Spain have in common (besides a language that can be almost-understood)? A: They all have a city called Córdoba.

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Brazilian electronic booths hacked in a real election — Surprised, anyone?

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/26/2012 - 14:44

Doing my regular news scan, I stumbled across this: Hacker reveals in Rio how he rigged an election (in Portuguese; you can try the Google-translated version).

Why am I reposting this? Because, even after the reported studies by Diego Aranha and the information disclosure exploited by Sergio Freitas, Brazil is still portrayed as the biggest example on how electronic voting can be 100% secure and tamper-proof. Well, in this case, Rangel (his full name ahs not yet been disclosed), a 19 year old hacker, not only demonstrated how elections could be rigged, but admitted on doing so together with a small group, and even pointed at who was benefitted from this.

Rangel's attack was done during the transmission phase — After ~50% of the electoral results had been sent over the Oi network. And yes, the provider will most likely close the hole that was pointed at, but this basically shows (again!) that no system can be 100% tamperproof, and that the more electronic devices are trusted for fundamental democratic processes, the more we as a society will be open to such attacks. The security-minded among us will not doubt even for a second that, as this attack was crafted, new attacks will continue to be developed. And while up to some years ago the attack surface was quite smaller (i.e. booths didn't have a communications phase, just stored the votes, and communication was done by personal means), earlier booths have been breached as well. And so will future booths be breached.

So, the news of this attack are indeed very relevant for the field. The presentation I am quoting was held around two weeks ago — And December will surely dillute attention from this topic. Anyway, I will look for further details on the mechanism that was used, as well as to the process that follows in the TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal). I hope we have news to talk about soon!

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Goodbye, LastFM - Again

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 12/14/2012 - 08:15

I started using LastFM probably around 6 years ago, and loved its offering. I discovered a huge amount of music I would have never found otherwise.

Then, some time later, it changed its terms of use, and those of us not in some selected countries lost the ability to stream them for free. Bummer.

About one year ago, I decided to purchase a subscription. After all, getting to know new music is always good — And listening to recommendations for friends with interesting music tastes is fun as well!

Of my last music purchases, both in CD and as MP3 downloads (not a spectacular volume, probably some 15 albums in the last year), I can only point to two that I knew the interpreter beforehand. So, we could say I have bought approx. 1 album per month completely thanks to LastFM.

But, as of January 15, they are changing their licensing terms, and LastFM streaming service will no longer be available in Mexico. All it will continue to give me is recommendations based on my listening habits, given I continue "scrobbling" - Much less useful, not to say completely useless given my usual patterns.

So, I'm sadly cancelling my subscription, and quite probably will stop using the service altogether. And yes, this will make me reevaluate freely licensed music services. But while I know of several free music distribution sites such as Jamendo, I will long for this LastFM abililty to deliver me music that is aligned to my current tastes (instead of looking them up by myself)

Any suggestions on where to look for a similar service?

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Becoming a teacher!

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 11/30/2012 - 17:29

For many years, I have aspired being a university teacher. I remember asking at different universities as early as ten years ago — But I didn't have the needed papers. And yes, I have been a "Licenciado en Ingeniería en Software" for one year already.

Anyway, I won't go into the details on why I didn't do this earlier on. But this time, I did get my act together in time, and by mid October, I contacted Juan Carreón, an enthusiastic teacher I met a long time ago as he helped a lot for the formation and cohesion of the (now defunct?) LIDSOL group (Laboratorio de Investigación en Software Libre, Free Software Research Laboratory), a group of very worthy students, mostly from the Engineering careers.

Juan Carreón had long offered me help in getting to the right people in Facultad de Ingeniería as soon as I had my formal requirements ready. I just didn't expect it to be so swift! Within two days of my initial mail, he contacted me back asking me to look at the subjects in Computing Engineering and choosing some I would be willing to teach — Yes, understanding that due to my time (as I'm already full-time employed in UNAM) would allow me to take only one group.

Rush of excitement, of course. I promptly looked at the program, and answered with a list of 12 subjects I would be confident to teach. Next day I was contacted by the Chief of Computing Engineering Department, offering me to dictate the Operating Systems course. A subject that has always motivated me, and towards which I feel confident. A fifth semester course (from 9 semesters in the career), with around 30 students in the classroom.

And I'm very happy with this! Yes, this will be my first formal university course experience (either as a student or a teacher), and I'm quite nervous on how this will turn out. But I'm already reading again my books on the subject, starting to structure a set of teaching notes, and... Lets see what comes next!

So, I will be teaching this course starting January 28, three times a week for 1.5hr, for a formal theric total of 72 hours. We shall see how this results six months from today! :-D

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Update on my e-voting-related work — @e_voto

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 11/12/2012 - 11:15

For the last couple of years, one of the topics I have tackled with several columns and a couple of articles published, several presentations on conferences and many comments wherever I can is raising awareness on why security experts around the world oppose electronic voting.

Slightly over a year ago, I started gathering all the published news (in Spanish, with some notes in English if I feel them relevant enough) that came to my greedy hands and archiving them, categorized as well as I could, into what I came to call an Electronic voting observatory. I don't feed it with the frequency I'd like, but overall I do feel there is an interesting amount of information in there.

About a month and a half ago, via Twitterfeed, I set up a Twitter account where my bot echoes everything I get on that regard.

So, while you can follow the observatory via RSS (as probably most readers of my blog will do), I know there are many Twitter users among you — @e_voto might be interesting to you if you speak Spanish and are interested in the topic.

I try not to be partisan on the information I copy there; of course I am subjective (I try not to refer to news which don't provide new insight or data points, or to obvious repeats), but I am doing this effort to follow the development as it unfolds, not to push my viewpoints.

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Cycling: Atzcapozalco's cycle path; @p00k4 sends me rail-riding!

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 10/17/2012 - 18:16

Yesterday I went to FES Iztacala, the faculty where I worked between 1999 and 2003. It's nice to go visit some good friends (even if to talk for work issues). It is somewhat far from my usual roaming area (~25Km straight to the North), so I cannot do it as often as I'd like. But anyway - I had to be at work early in the morning, but leaving from here a bit early for lunchtime, and leaving home at ~14:30, I managed to arrive to Iztacala in ~75 minutes. Sustained cycling for 20 Km/h, even counting stops at traffic lights on the way, yay!

Anyway, had a productive and fun evening there, but around 18:00 I decided to head back before night got me — Specially for the first part of the way, as I'm not familiar with Atzcapozalco. Alejandro suggested me to go by the recently (some months ago) opened cycle path that covers 4Km and almost exactly crosses the delegation (each of the 16 constitutive parts of Distrito Federal, where an important part of Mexico City is located).

The cycle path is a good initiative... But I must say, I'm very very glad I took it still with good daylight. As well as the Recreative cyclepath that goes to the South, until the border of Morelos state, this one was built over abandoned rail tracks. Good use for a vacant and useless public space — Rail tracks which lay unclaimed in the city are uncomfortable to walk, and useless for anything else, so they basically mean a useless 2m-wide strip of common grounds. So, I welcome any initiatives that make it into a useful space again! And two meters are just enough for a comfortable cycling path - Yes, which will surely be shared with pedestrians, and sometimes becomes uncomfortable. But lets try it!

However... When rail tracks are decomissioned and cycle paths built over them... the metal should be dismounted! Not only because of economic concerns (good metal used for rail tracks is much more expensive and useful than asphalt), but because if it stays there, it just becomes a danger. Specially, as is the case, if the asphalt is just deep enough to sometimes cover the tracks — And sometimes not.

Had I known, I would have taken several photographs of important mistakes in the rail layout. I know I was very close to having an accident at least once (this means, I lost balance and miraclously managed to slow down from ~15Km/h by running with the bike between my legs!), and got in uncomfortable situations several more times. For a good portion of the track, there is a train track running at about ⅔ of its width, so I had to constantly ring the bell or shout whenever I saw pedestrians — As changing from side to side to route around them would put both them and me in danger. Towards the Southern part of the cycle path, as it is a much more active industrial area, there are many places where multiple tracks cross each other — under the thin asphalt, sometimes completely unpaved. In one of those points I even decided to step down of the bike and make ~20m walking.

This cycle path seems like it was done in a great hurry to present a successful project to the Politicians in Charge, without much thought on what it requires to be really a good project. It provides, yes, a very useful and good mobility solution for cyclists in the North-West. But it is too dangerous... And I am not sure whether I'd take it again. Probably not.

So, all in all...

  • Thanks to the Atzcapozalco authorities who thought of the cyclists and claimed back unused public space for us all to enjoy!
  • The job done was too hasty. Valuable money (selling the tracks) was lost by burying it under asphalt. But it was not enough asphalt — It needs attention before somebody gets hurt (or, before more people — I'd be surprised if nobody had yet felt adrenaline over there)
  • I hope the entrant city government takes the self-powered vehicle promotion more seriously than the outgoing one — Which has done great advances (such as the Ecobici program), but is still far from reaching its promises... As always, I know.
  • I managed to get back home alive and complete, yay!
  • Of course, the cycle path has been mapped into OpenStreetMap. My SportsTracker tracks are also there, but they require Flash (ugh): the way to Iztacala and the way back.

Oh, and lastly: Some might be surprised I'm using bits of Twitterspeak here. But well, I now have presence a bot repeating my posts over there, so I'd better get Alejandro to read this using the proper channels ;-)

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Joaquín López Dóriga interviews Rogerio Azcárraga

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 10/04/2012 - 10:24

On October 3, 2011, Joaquín López Dóriga interviewed Rogerio Azcárraga in his Radio Fórmula radio show:

http://www.radioformula.com.mx/notas.asp?Idn=200211

Rogerio Azcárraga, president of Radio Fórmula and of Orfeón, talked about the great careeer he has had on the music business. While doing so, he clearly shows (and Alejandro Miranda did a very nice job selecting ~10 minute highlighting it) how "successful industrial culture" in Mexico is equivalent to living off the works of third people — For the ridiculous period of lifetime plus 100 years.

The interview is in Spanish. But if you understand Spanish... Don't miss it!

(Yes, I'm not pushing this entry to my blog page, as it's not my work or anything like that — It's more of a convenient place for me to find this recording later on)

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Rethinking copyright in the digital era: Dialogs on arts, regulation and culture availability — Museo del Chopo, Mexico City

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 09/28/2012 - 11:49

I was invited as a panelist for the Laboratorio «Repensar el derecho de autor y el derecho de copia en la era digital:
diálogo sobre artes, regulaciones y disponibilidad de la cultura»
at the beautiful Foro del Dinosaurio in the Museo del Chopo, located very centrally in Mexico City. The list of speakers is quite interesting, and makes me very interested and happy to be there.

The laboratory will be next week, Wednesday through Friday. I am scheduled to be part of the 17:00 table, Knowledge availability and regulation in Internet, coordinated by Pedro Mendizábal (Creative Commons Perú), and together with Juan Voutsás (Biblotecologic Research Institute, UNAM), Armida Aponte (Creative Commons México). The other topics that will be covered are:

  • Rights, technologies and commons
  • The culture and its industries in the digital age: What are the interests at stake?
  • Intelectual, cultural and scientific works: Open access or availability?
  • New business models around copyright-protected works
  • nowledge availability and regulation in Internet
  • Visual arts and copyright in the digital media
  • Open governments and citizenship: Information, data and intelectual works

Sadly, it does not seem they have planned for remote people to follow along. I will ask and update here if there is any way for people outside Mexico City to tune in — For people able to attend, it's free entrance (and certificates will be given to people pre-registered, if you are interested, call 5535-2288 ext. 123)

For further details on the participants, go to the laboratory's web page.

Update: The talks will be streamed! http://www.chopo.unam.mx/chopoenvivo.html, via UStream.

Update About one year after this activity (which was very interesting!) I was contacted by the organizers. They will be publishing proceedings — Transcriptions of our participation! Yes, a transcription is never as easy to read as a text created as such, but I am very happy of this. I was sent a first version of my transcription, which I'm attaching here. It has several corrections to be made (which I asked them to do), but it's surely worth sharing!

Married!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 09/27/2012 - 11:47

So, yay! Title says it all!

On Saturday September 22, Regina and I got married in my parents' house, in Cuernavaca, Morelos.

We had a very very nice little party with our family and a small group of friends — Of course, due to the nature of our life, we could not forego inviting our family and friends in Argentina, as well as those in other parts of the world, so we set up a simple video stream so that our friends could follow along — And they did, with much greater success than what I expected!

So, besides those people present with us in Cuernavaca, we had people tuning in (at least to the degree I could get from the log files) from Argentina (Buenos Aires, Paraná, Formosa), Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

This next Saturday (September 29) we will have a second party, to which our friends in Mexico are invited, at home. And for the people from far away,, the stream will be available again — Expect at least one interesting surprise :)

PS- Visit also our wedding page, with some photos, video, and general information (Warning! Part of it is outdated by now)

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Great online course available: «Securing Digital Democracy», by J. Alex Halderman

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 09/13/2012 - 13:22

I was pointed at a great online course — If you are into e-voting analysis (or, more broadly, into democratic processes' history, evolution and future), I strongly suggest you to take a look at «Securing Digital Democracy». Just the name of the teacher should be enough to make it interesting: University of Michigan professor J. Alex Halderman, the guy who has analized/hacked several electronic booths, and one of the clearest, smartest voices to explain what should we require of a voting system and how electronic booths are the worst fit for any purpose.

The course is delivered through Coursera; I have found Coursera to be an effective, usable, unobtrusive platform — So much I even signed up for another course. I am not so happy with online courses requiring to wait so much between lessons, but after all, it tries to mimic what we see at "regular" (i.e. classroom) teaching settings. And, after all, we autodidacts are still a minority.

The course in question started ten days ago, but you can still perfectly join. Each week has two lessons, worth of approximately 40 minutes of video each, and are "graded" through a quiz. Lets see how this evolves.

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Electronic voting in Panama: Slower, more expensive, more uncertainty... Goodbye!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 09/04/2012 - 16:56

Panama just underwent a nasty e-voting exercise: Electronic-mediated elections were held for the committee of the PRD party. It sounds simple - Even trivial! There were only 4100 authorized voters, it was geographically trivial (all set inside a stadium)... But it blew up in smoke. I won't reiterate all what happened, I'll rather direct you to our project's (the e-voting observatorium) page: News regarding Panama (for those coming from the future, search starting at 2012-08-27 — and yes, it's all in Spanish, but there are free-as-in-beer translation services.

Many e-vote proponents/sellers/pushers were very eagerly waiting for this election to brag about one more success... So much that they could not just ignore it, and started rationalizing it away. Anyway, while feeding the observatorium, I came across this opinion-article in the Voto Digital website, which makes quite a bit of pro-e-voting noise. I replied to it, and I think my analysis is worth sharing also with you:

So, lets make some simple numbers, rounding the numbers: The PRD vote in Panama was done for a universe of 4100 voters.

It took 10 hours (instead of the planned 4), so 410 people were processed every hour. There were 40 voting (electronic) booths, so each processed 10 people per hour. This means, each person spent 6 minutes by the booth.

A manual vote in this fashion is highly parallelizable: Each of the voters can be given ballots with anticipation, or many of them cna be allowed in to be given the ballots in situ (depending on the electoral scheme employed). The contention time is the time it takes to each voter to get near the booth and deposit his ballot (either folded or in an envelope) - And it will very rarely be more than a couple of seconds.

So, given that using electronic booths parallelism cannot grow (there is a fixed number of machines) and the queues grew wildly, with traditional voting it would have surely fitted in the expected four hours (they were expected, also, based on their past experiences).

As for counting, that's the slowest part of manual voting, it's also highly parallelizable: If each of the 40 booths has slightly over 100 ballots, the party personnel can easily count them in under 30 minutes. Capture and aggregation for the 40 partial results would take an extra 10 minutes, even being generous.

Manual voting would have saved them around five hours, without demanding additional resources (and being thus much more economical than having to buy 40 specific-purpose computers). And as an additional advantage, the physical and tangible vote proofs would remain, in case they were ever again needed.

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WikiLovesMonuments wants *you* (and me!)

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 09/03/2012 - 17:35

What, haven't you heard about the WikiLovesMonuments photo contest around cultural heritage? Copying from its web page,

Wiki Loves Monuments is an international photo contest around cultural heritage monuments in September. Starting from the Netherlands in 2010 and organized on a European level in 2011, we go global in 2012!

I heard about this initiative in Iván Martínez's Wikimedia talk at COSIT 2012, held last week in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz (I intend to write a bit more regarding COSIT later on). I loved the idea, and intend to participate — Not because I take great pictures (I don't, and I usually take them using my aging phone, which gives decent results but nothing beyond that), but because I love to move by bike in the city, and it's one of the best ways to roll in front of some of them. But more on me later… Back to the topic!

WikiLovesMonuments aims to improve on Wikimedia's (the organization behind Wikipedia and several other Free Culture reference projects) coverage of important landmarks all over the world. To do so, they are offering a trip to attend WikiMania 2013 in Hong Kong to the first place winner, and other "photography-related" prizes to the other winners.

So, back to me: My motivation to enter the contest is to help Wikimedia. I know my shots won't be top-notch (although they will be the best I can do). I enjoy biking in my city, and often go not too far from many of the listed monuments. I am amazed at the number of monuments still pending in my area (of course, it's not by mistake this is called "La ciudad de los palacios", The city of the palaces) — Surely some of the readers of this post will have (or will find easy to take) some photos to add. Of course, I'll try to focus on the missing monuments, but if you are a good photographer, you might want to submit a better version for a monument that's already there.

So, some pointers, from what's closest to what's farthest from me:

At least for Mexico, the listings are taken from the National Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH)'s Public registry of archaeological zones and monuments. So, I cannot wait to start my biking session today to get some good end-of-summer evening sun and get some pictures taken! :-D

Historic airplane found, cash spammed!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 08/23/2012 - 09:46

Sometimes, very rarely, I am happy that the spam filters in my personal mail server are so far from perfect.

Many of us were amazed, some days ago, news broke that Amelia Earhart's plane was found in the Southwestern Pacific. The news is amazing and worthy in itself. But today, I got this mail, proof that Amelia lived through all those years: (all addresses obscured, of course)

Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2012 23:38:59 -0700
From: Amelia Earhart <some-mail@gmail.com>
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;
Subject: Hello
Reply-To: some-other-mail@live.com

Hello friend,

With due respect to humanity, i am compelled to write to you on a humanitarian ground, however, it has been my wish to execute in life.

Please, I am contacting you based on my desire to create a charitable fund in your country with this sum of EURO € 3.5 Million which I inherited from my late husband (Dr. Ahrens Earhart).

It is my desire to see that this money is invested in any organization of your choice in your country and distributed each year among the charity organizations, the house mother of the child, mosques, churches, schools, support for disadvantaged older men and women or in whatever way you intend helping the less privileged.

I took this decision because I was raised out of the house of mother and baby at the moment, i am admitted in a hospital in London were i am taking severe treatment to my cancer illness.

Please answer as soon as possible to confirm your agreement with this proposal, so I’ll give you all the necessary information that will enable you to have access to this funds my personal accountant will be aware of my arrangements with you.

Thank you for your attention and I hope to hear from you soon. Please contact me through my this email- some-other-mail@live.com the nurse helping me will attend to you i have been restricted from touching the computer due to my illness i will direct you through her she is a nice person.

Sincerely,
Ms. Amelia Earhart.

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An industry commits suicide and blames us

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 08/22/2012 - 11:32

[ once again, I am translating somebody else's material – In this case, my good Costa Rican friend Carolina Flores. Please excuse my stylistic mistakes — My English is far from native as you well know. But this material is worth sharing, and worth investing some tens of minutes doing a quick translation. If you can read Spanish, go read Caro's original entry ]

Have you been to a music record store lately?

I did so last Saturday, as a mere excercise. I was not planning on buying anything but I wanted to monitor things and confirm my suspicions.

What was I suspicious of? First, that I would only find old records. And so it was: The only recent record I found was ...little broken hearts by Norah Jones. the second, that I would only find music for over 50 year old people. so it was: Were I there to look for a present for my father, I would have walked out with 10 good records. Third, that in the store nothing worth commenting would happen. About that last point, I should point out it was around 10 AM and the store had just opened its doors. Lets concede the benefit of doubt.

I don't think many of you will remember, but in Barrio La California (where there is now a beauty parlour, almost in front of AM.PM) there was Auco Disco. In Auco Disco there was a guy specialized in rock (Mauricio Alice) and another one specialized in jazz (I don't remember his name). In that record you could always find rare records, but if they were not there, at least you were sure to find somebody to say: "No, we don't have that, but that's an excellent record, it's the best that [insert group here] have ever recorded because just afterwards they switched their guitar player, they had gone a bit south but with that record they are flying. But no, we don't have it; I can recommend you this record by [insert another group] because it has a guitar solo in track six that is amazing".

It would happen more or less like that, which means, one would arrive to Auco Disco at 10 AM and leave around 5 PM with three new records, after having listened to a spectacular music selection. What happened to those stores? Were they killed by The Pirate Bay? That's the simplistic answer from the recording industry! The answer is that those stores never got anything from the industry but an invoice. The industry –specially in prescindible markets such as ours– was limited to hiring artists, taking care of them recording a sellable product, producing the object called record, and that's it. The more commercial radio stations were paid to program those songs —as it cannot be casual that "Mosa, mosa" is the summer hit in all of Latin America, can it?— but, record stores? Nothing.

Lets carry on with that idea: Radio stations are paid to program said music. This idea should not lead us to believe that recording companies are to blame for bad taste. I won't reveal my sources, but I know the success of the "Locura automática" song by La Secta was a real example. Nobody paid for it. That song got to the number one because of its own merits(?) (you don't know the effort it took to find that thing, I cannot recommend it to you). Same thing happens with other stations that don't program reggaetón, that try to save the species, and where they play what we do like. But the thing is, everything we like is not available in any record store in this country. Then, even if we wanted to buy a record or give it as a gift to somebody, it is plain impossible. And don't tell me it's the same to present as a gift a link or a CD full of downloaded MP3 as it is to give a record with cover and booklet, wrapped in gift paper.

I might be old-school, but the fetish object record still exists, not only because of its cover, but because of its sound. A 3MB MP3 is akin to drinking coffee dripping from a bag that has been used eight times with the same coffee beans. That format is the worst that has ever happened to music, and if we had any bit dignity we would never purchase digital files in Amazon or iTunes safe for MP3 with an acceptable compression level. That, if we could buy them, because not only that is allowed to us. As the musical industry has no interest in resolving ITS problem (that is not our problem, it is those companies') it has not even been resolved how to charge for a MP3 download that includes import fees (well, if downloading from here a MP3 from a USA-based file server can be considered importing goods into Costa Rica!!!) so we don't have to get dizzy entering into the nineties to Titi Online to discover there is nothing by Muse, Andrew Bird, The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, Paramore, Björk... (believe me, I looked them all up, even Norah jones and La Secta. They also were not there).

This all leads me to the question, which I present with all due respect (NOT): What the fuck do they expect us to do??? It is outrageous; above all because in the best case they will sell us a watery coffee download that won't allow us to get all the details a vinyl or less compression would give us. In the worst case, post-MP3 groups will end up recording music with no harmonics or hidden sounds, because, what for? Nobody will hear it. They even admit it: "Some musicians and audio engineers say the MP3 format is changing the way studios mix their recordings. They say the MP3 format "flattens" dynamics –differences in tone and volume– in a song. As a result, a great deal of new music sounds very much alike, and there is nothing as focusing to create a dynamic listening experience. Why working so hard in creating complex sound if nobody can detect it?" (Rolling Stone, The Death of High fidelity, December 26 2007, taken from here).

That's why I am not surprised by Adrián's post regarding the sales of old records. The price has nothing to do with it. The causes are related to the fetish object record and what it means or does not mean for people that have never purchased one. Adrián also asks if somebody here keeps buying records. I answered that I would if the stores sold anything I like. I do it even after the nausea I feel while reading "This phonogram is an intellectual work protected in favor of its producer… COPYING IT IN WHOLE OR PARTIALLY IS FORBIDDEN…" (like that, uppercased, yelling to whoever is only guilty of having bought a record and defending the producer, not the artist). But I am sure that almost nobody buys records because doing so is no longer a gratifying experience; because if buying a record is clicking to wait 15 days for it to reach the mailbox, we prefer clicking on the download link.

But there is another reason for people not to buy records anymore. In one of my talks regarding the dictatorship of the all rights reserved, I asked the 30 twenty-something-year-old students if any of them had ever bought a record. One answered he had, because he is an author and performer (cantautor in Spanish) and understands the effort that producing a record entails. The rest of them had never done so. Is it possible that said young people have never listened to real music? Is it possible that, were it not for concerts, what they consider music is a set of washed-out MP3 that are about to fill up 1TB of their computer? Does people no longer buy records because they cannot differentiate one sound from the other?

It is not very clear for me where do I want to get to. The recording industry is despicable. An industry that instead of innovating sets its energy on suing adolescents for downloading songs, trying to pass laws restricting our freedoms in Internet, putting up DRMs making us hostages to our devices* and forcing us to listen just the aroma of music, deserves my whole contempt. If we add ot this that said industry won't allow us to legally download their breadcrumbs because it has not understood that Internet does not need a van crossing borders, besides my contempt they deserve my pity and my heartfelt condolence.

But the condolence is also for music, real music, that which is not compressed under the shoe using a terrible format. It is also for independent musicians that have not realized that begging for a bit of space to that industry they just add to themselves the "despicable" tag, given they deserve the fruits of their work to enter their bank account.

However, there are good things that have come out of this absurdity. Be it for those that have joined projects such as Autómata (even if it is in MP3) and for dreams come true such as Musopen (that have achieved that the music that's in theory Public Domain becomes so in practice as well). Good for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the list of lawyers willing to defend people accused of ilegally downloading music in the USA. Good for the Creative Commons licenses that allow free sharing.

All those are growing solutions, although none of them allows me to buy the Panamanian Carlos Méndez's record. Thankfully, a friend of mine who knows I will never give a dime to Apple, bought the files for me in iTunes. I thank him deeply, although I would have prefered to go to Auco Disco and have Mauricio tell me that the 2007 EP I have from Carlos is better than the record he did on 2009.

* My devices don't have DRM because I use free software. I also use the ogg file format.

Image by verbeeldingskr8

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