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September 2002

The on-line magazine of the Burnham Beeches Radio Club.

September 2002 Edition


Welcome to the September BeechLog!

Maybe not yet a transceiver, but a new use for USB.
Johns trip to Dayton Hamfest.
Product Review Sony ICF-SW7600GR
Copyright, what's going wrong?
This months Useful Links.

Welcome to the September edition of BeechLog.

In this issue you will find a couple of articles that are actually about radio! Many thanks to John G0GCL for writing them. The rest is just me going on about things that I find interesting. Minidisks, which I have written about before, and copyright of home entertainments. The latter is quite interesting, you can judge the stranglehold the companies have by the lack of willingness of anyone to reveal the financial details!

Anyway, I would appreciate more articles from members of the club, otherwise I will have to write about politics and relegion in future issues!

At the start of this month, BBRC held their second Foundation Licence course. This was judged a success, with ten out of the eleven students passing the exam on their first attempt.

The class We taught the whole course over the weekend, unlike many clubs. Dave G4XDU and myself did the 'lectures', the Morse, and the on-air training, and many other members gave help either at the Village Hall or on the other end of the students QSOs. Eileen supervised the exam sessions, so we were 'legal' this time (last time I did the job, and this turned out to be against the rules!).

So many thanks to all those who took part in some way, without you all we would not have done so well.

Over the next couple of years, the RA will be taking over the job that City & Guilds do now, as C&G will not be renewing their contracts. Clubs already hold Foundation and Intermediate courses, so I expect that clubs will have more involvement in the Full licence examinations. This could involve a great deal of work for us, although it looks like the attendance of courses will become optional, perhaps even for the Intermediate and Foundation. Clubs will probably continue with the practical aspects of training.

This will all begin next year, and give all club members the opportunity to put something practical back into amateur radio, and help the amateurs of the future.

Roger GØHZK, Editor

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Entertainment via USB

Last time I bemoaned the fact that the Japanese transceiver manufacturers were not making the radio-computer interface very easy. This hasn't been the same for all technology products, and I came across an example recently.

For some time portable mp3 players have been available, and by the very nature of the devices, effective connection to computers has been essential. During this year, other music equipment has been catching up, notably the Minidisc. I wrote about these a couple of years ago. At that time computer connectivity had been neglected - there was really little need, as PC sound cards were of poor audio quality, and none of the mainstream cards had an optical output. This year, portable Minidisc equipment grew USB ports, which opened up a few possibilities, as well as a few gotchas.

USB port The USB port on the Sony models has introduced the missing features, notably the ability to assemble disc layouts on a PC, and a much faster disc 'burning' process. Previously you could only record to Minidisc at real time, now Sony claim that the process can be up to 32 times faster.

These facilities have been long overdue, as this has always been possible with mp3 players. The advantages with Minidisc are probably the cheapness of the media, and the better quality. Most mp3 players rely on using flash technology (Compact Flash etc.) to hold the mp3 files. Typically 128 MBytes are built in, either fixed or in the form of a replaceable card. This holds about an hour at good quality, or a bit longer at noticeably poorer quality. A plug-in 128 MB card can cost over £100, especially the horrible memory-stick devices. Minidiscs cost about £1 each, and hold about 180 MB of data.

Music quality is higher with Minidisc for a number of reasons. Firstly the standard-play data rate is around 300 kBit/s, compared with the normal 128kBit/s of mp3. But even if you compare Minidisc long Play 2, at 132kBit/s, Minidisc still wins on quality. Even upping the mp3 rate doesn't restore the balance. Minidisc uses a proprietry encoding called ATRAC, which has many similarities with MPEG. But ATRAC was designed from day one to compare with Compact disc, and to better Compact Cassette. Musical quality was of great importance during the design. Not quite so with mp3, which was the audio layer of the MPEG 1 standard developed for video recording and playback. In practice, the audio quality of Minidisc hardware has also been better. Recorders/players have been marketed as quality devices too. There is a much greater difference in quality between different mp3 players than with different Minidisc machines. The driving force with mp3 has been the ease of circulation via the internet, rather than audio quality, and the players have taken second place to this.

Media cost has been a great restriction to the widespead use of portable mp3 devices. Since size is an important selling point, they tend to take the smaller and more expensive SD or Memory Stick cards. These can cost as much as the player, so owners rarely have very many! There are now a few other options. Some players have hard disks, with reduced battery life and increased costs and sizes. Others play mp3 CDs, either full-size or the smaller versions, cheaper, provided you have a PC with a CD burner. There are also some Minidisc look- alikes, with up to 500 MB re-useable discs (at £10 each) and the same USB connectivity.

OpenMG Anyway I digress, so what can you do with a USB Minidisc? The Sony devices come with a PC application called OpenMG Jukebox. This is an odd bit of software that runs on a PC. It allows you to 'rip' from CD's, and choose mp3, WMA and ASF, or WAV files to add to your playlist. You can also import files from the internet, on systems that use the EMD service. When you have selected the mixture of files to 'burn' to your disc, there is a two stage process. Firstly the files are converted to ATRAC format. This can take a bit of time, especially on the sort of PC that I have (it's now got a 500MHz pre-production Pentium 3). These files are written to your hard drive. The second stage is copying them to the disc. This is quite fast. The whole process is quicker than copying directly from CD. It's more convenient too, because you can more easily re-arrange track order, and title the tracks on the PC.

You can actually reverse the process, and copy Minidisc tracks back to the PC, although you cannot do this with sounds you have recorded yourself with microphones etc. Many people are enraged about this, but it's all part of Sonys copyright protection system, which is built into OpenMG Jukebox. This system also prevents you from making more than three recodings of the same track, although the instruction book describes how to get round this! Sony are betting on a great future for the OpenMG copyright protection system, more about this in another article.

While connected via USB, you can uperform most Minidisc functions from your PC, like rearranging track playing order, putting tracks into groups (to use to group play facility on some players), delete tracks or discs, re-title existing tracks, playing tracks, and so on.

Simple burner Sony also wrote another application called Simple Burner. This is a simple utility which allows you to copy CD tracks directly at high speed to Minidisc. This doesn't have the OpenMG protection system, nor does it fill up you hard disc with ATRAC files. You can also reorder, delete, re-title, and group existing tracks. Sony no longer provide this utility (surprise!), but it's easily found on the internet, although Sony are trying to prevent this!

One of the drawbacks of all this software is that it will only record at LP2 and LP4 quality. This means you can create recordings at 132kBit/s, 105kBit/s and 66kbit/s. Single Play recordings can be made using the Jukebox, although these are just transcoded 132kBit/s files. LP2 allows 160 minutes of recording time, LP4 twice that. Luckily LP2 quality is still very good, although of course it won't replay on older single play machines. It's also worth noting that the faster DSP in the USB recorders also allows higher quality single-play recording via the recorders optical input, This is called ATRAC-R, and this also plays back on earlier machines. The forthcoming Sony Sonic Stage software is reported to record ATRAC-R, whether this replaces OpenMG Jukebox, or not - who can tell?

There are also some third-party products coming along. There is an ATRAC plug-in for the latest Real Player, which will record to Sony USB Minidiscs, and other hardware manufacturers are bringing out products.

So is USB Minidisc any good? For me, it makes it more useable. Titling via the PC means that I will actually title my tracks, as this is now so much easier than before. Since most of the music that I listen to was written without consideration of record playing times, the good quality LP2 mode and track arrangement on the PC means that I can record longer things. You can get a complete opera on one disc, as any 2-CD sets will fit on one Minidisc. Recording via USB means I don't have to fiddle with the actual recoder - just plug it into the USB, then do everything on the PC. It's a worthwhile improvement. I look forward to USB on my radio.

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Dayton 2002

Belatedly, I am putting fingers to keyboard about the trip with Mark G7LTT/KC2ENI to the 2002 Hamfest in Dayton Ohio. I was not able to make a proper presentation to the club on this because whilst I went out there more fully equipped than in the previous year, my camcorder with all the footage I had shot there was stolen at Newark New Jersey airport within 30 minutes prior to getting on the flight home.

We both felt that having been there in 2001 and enjoyed the visit enormously, that there was unfinished business there and wanted to return. This time instead of making up a group of 5 and traveling together sharing the costs, we decided to travel as a pair; mainly because as Mark has moved away from Manhattan Island and is now about 50 miles west of there it would be more difficult to make up a group. He did approach some other local hams at the local club, but who had already made their own arrangements.

My 9.00am flight arrived on schedule in Newark at about 4.00pm EST. So this time we went with a short stopover at Marks house near Morris Plains almost immediately in Marks own vehicle (a Ford Explorer 5 seater) on the 12 hour run to Dayton. By about 10.00pm we were both exhausted and found a roadside motel on Route 80 not far from the border between Pennsylvania State and West Virginia, so we had covered approximately half the total distance. This part turned out to be a little bit of an adventure in itself as we started the following morning at sparrows fart, leaving the motel and just as we rejoined Route 80 picked up a Mennonite hitchhiker. We both had an interesting discussion with this man, but I feel this is a separate issue from the journey so can fill anyone in on this who asks me about it.

After a lengthy further drive during which despite calling our hearts out we made virtually no contacts except through one or two local 2m repeaters, we arrived in Dayton and as we had time to kill we both visited the Wright Patterson Air Force Base Museum in Dayton. To anyone who has been there this was the US equivalent of the Imperial War Museums display at Duxford Cambridgeshire, but had displays biased towards American aircraft types, going from some of the first Wright Brothers types flown during WW1 to the latest types including a stealth fighter, the B2 bomber, a Predator URV and a lot of sexy NASA research aircraft plus some of the largest bombers such as the B52. Brit types were represented by the Gladiator (Stringbag) and a blue painted Spitfire.

We then checked into our hotel, the same as last year. Having got some grub from the local supermarket, we then met up with one or two hams from the local area for a natter. I was able to log on at the executive center in the hotel and catch up with email issues.

The layout of the show was almost identical to the previous year, and I spent some of the two and a half days going around the principal stands. My main purchase this year was the Rigblaster Nomic unit enabling PSK and a lot of other nice things (when I have the time!). After a while however I wanted to attend some of the seminars of which there were several. There was even a couple there who had decided to get married! The general bias seemed to be in particular with respect to emergency communications issues following September 11th. Highlight talks were on state of the art improvements to GPS; emergency HF whips and auto couplers; the importance of mobile to mobile and mobile to base communications during emergencies; the inside workings of the National Hurricane Early Warning Service; and techniques of the best operators, many of these with live demos.

We finished up mid afternoon on the Sunday, and started back. I wasn't able to share any of the driving with Mark on this occasion as he did not have insurance clearance for a second driver and I have to say I felt guilty about not doing much driving on this visit, but he seemed happy enough about it.

The following day at Marks place I helped him with installing antennas, with also some construction work around his new shack, and we took a visit to his local club in Morrris Plains. The day after that I went by train into Manhattan, saw Ground Zero, took an MTA underground train uptown to Times Square and chilled out with a meal before ambling back with a ferry across the Hudson just before the rush hour started. We then went out to the cinema and saw the latest Star Wars movie ( not all that impressed), before returning the day after from Newark.

Mark expressed the wish next year not to go to Dayton yet again, but possibly to come over on a possible club visit to Friedrichshafen, which at about half the size is the largest such event in Europe. This is an exercise I am presently working on and will make a presentation to the BBRC committee early 2003.


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Product Review Sony ICF-SW7600GR

For some while now I have been considering the replacement of an existing portable radio receiver. This was a predecessor of the reviewed model and was the ICF- SW7600D.

The previous receiver was in my possession for about 20 years and was used as a radio alarm clock but also was used as a half decent portable world band receiver that I took with me abroad on numerous overseas trips. As you could imagine it took a tremendous bashing and eventually the metal trim at the front facing of the unit was starting to come away making it look tatty, but worse was its eventual failure as an alarm clock due to the time display (which was powered from a separate battery compartment) freezing at 8:22am!

ICF-SW7600GR Ideally I would have liked a portable DAB unit with additional AM and SW coverage however such an animal appears not to exist or if it does would cost an arm and a leg. So I knew that what I wanted would not be cheap, nevertheless I wanted something that could match the performance of my previous receiver.

So having considered a few options, including the Psion Wavefinder which could have been used in conjunction with this laptop, I was eventually drawn (on my birthday as it happens) to the new Sony shop on Slough High Street, where I browsed, and saw the updated version of my receiver. In the shop of course it didn't perform particularly well, and I asked them to produce the owners manual so that I could see the spec. Amazingly the spec didn't give an indication of receiver performance! For the record however this is an extract of what the spec does say:

Range: FM 76-108MHz super heterodyne
AM 1.621 29.999MHz and 530 1620 kHz MW and 150 529 kHz LW
So continuous coverage as an AM dual conversion superheterodyne.
Speaker 77mm 8 ohm delivering 380mW @ 10% harmonic distortion.
Power 4 x AA or 6v DC in via power jack socket.

Gross mass approx 608g
Dimensions 190w x 118.8h x 35.3d mm
Line out with stereo minijack and separate recording jack socket.

Provided also with a carrying pouch and external antenna extension which clips onto the provided telescopic antenna.

At home it seemed to be an improvement on the previous unit, in that firstly when running on battery power the clock derived its power from the same source as the radio, and there was a visible indication of battery low on the fascia, plus a permitted 60 seconds whilst replacing the batteries during which the unit memories are retained. The D version had 10 memories; the GR version 100 memories.
The D version had a single "standby" alarm time; the GR version 2 standbys.
Whilst off the unit displays either local or daylight saving time, plus current time in any one other world time zone.

Tuning can be carried out in either 1 KHz or 10KkHz increments whilst in the SW segment, or either in the prescaleable 9 or 10kHz increments on MW. Tuning is by direct keypad entry, memory, or by scanning of those frequencies previously entered to memory, or by manual scanning.

BFO provided with either USB or LSB selectable. Additionally there is a switchable "Synclock" facility which the receiver uses on SW to lock on to and retain a strong signal source whilst in AM. When this is switched out it would enable a weaker adjacent signal to be resolved. Whilst there is no bass or treble control unlike most other units, there is a tone control which is selectable for either news (more bass) or music (more treble).

The display has backlighting and there is "sleep" facility which enables the unit to stay on for selectable periods of 60, 45, 30 or 15 minutes prior to automatically switching off. The D version permitted only 60 minutes.

In terms of performance it appears to be at least the equivalent of the previous D version, and at least on FM seems to pull in several stations from here like Swan FM in High Wycombe that the previous unit had trouble with. A quick listen around this morning using the telescopic on 40m pulled in a Cornish station in qso with a GW, admittedly not as strong as the bench receiver, but the Alinco does have a long wire antenna.

So as a workaday item which is a useful backup to the Alinco transceiver here, it will certainly find its uses, and I will try to remember to bring it along on the next DX picnic to show it off!

John Kipping G0GCL 16th August 2002 © E&OE

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Copyright (and some reminiscences)

During the last few years, there has been a huge growth in the field of electronic representations of domestic data. By this I mean text publications, music, film, and allied media. While this has been broadly welcomed, there are some sectors of society who are fighting tooth and nail against it - namely the multinational entertainment corporations. The problem is copyright.

The advent of digital storage has greatly increased the possibilty of high quality illicit duplication of this media. For as long as I can remember, it has been possible to obtain unauthorised copies of film and music, but generally these have been of poorer quality than the original. I remember seeing bootleg LP's in a certain shop in Oxford Street, and copied videos and cassettes were commonplace.

The advent of the internet means that copies can easily be distributed. Internet copies are usually given away free, although pirate CD's are often sold at car boot sales and the like.

The first onslaught on pirate digital media has been on the peer-to-peer mp3 music sharing services. There has been a certain amount of success here, although as soon as one service is closed down, another soon appears. With the growth of broadband internet, the possibility of sharing film copied from DVD has become reality. The encrypted DVD format was so easy to overcome that the film industry sees itself as rapidly losing control of its products.

The entertainment industry is pursuing several ideas to protect the copyright of its produce, for example:

Controlling public access to web sites which might distribute their material. Note that AOL is the worlds largest isp, and also a major entertainment company, a good start! It's interesting to note that BTs internet branches have made noises about terminating subscribers who use peer-peer file exchange services, and that BT have a monopoly in ADSL.

Developing forms of digital media with built in copyright control systems. These are largely being ignored by consumers, who see no reason to buy products with built-in limitations, when other products without these limitations are available.

Persuading goverments to tax recordable media and pass the tax on to them. This hasn't really happened yet, I guess goverments that are elected don't want to upset their electors.

Promoting legislation which gives them powers undreampt of by other corporations, including the rights to 'hack' into private computers and destroy data with exemption from the prosecution that would normally be expected from such action. This is happening in the USA, the land of the free, where legislation is imminent. All made possible by a nineteenth century ruling on the US constitution, which enabled US corporations to claim the constitutional rights intended to protect US citizens from exploitation!

Persuading hardware manufacturers to build copyright control systems into computer components and media. Not much success so far, except where the manufacturer also happens to be a record company. However there is much work on TCPA, and some machines already have the hardware on the motherboard, ready to go.

Persuading software manufacturers to do likewise with their products. At present there are various means of manufacturing 'copy-proof' CDs, although all these techniques tend to go against CD standards. Apple computers users have found that some CDs crash their Mac and cannot be ejected (the technique uses an additional fake, corrupt table of contents which CD players ignore, but makes the CD unreadable on computers). There are some bizarre ideas around. Very few CDs have used these techniques. The DVD region scheme, once thought to be foolproof, is now easily circumvented, and is likely to be abandoned. Manufacturers know what the customer wants, and provide multi-region capability through a hidden, 'secret' menu!

The concept of Copyright evolved with the intention of giving authors and performers some control over, and reward for, the disctibution of their work. This has been stretched a little. Bach Last week I bought a CD of Bach Concertos, played by Murray Perahia and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. This is a brand new recording. Now as expected, Bach doesn't get anything from this sale, probably due to his death in 1750. Mr Perahia may get a little, and the orchestra players probably a miniscule amount, if anything at all. The bulk of the £16.99 I paid goes to the HMV record shop, the distributers, and the Sony record company. Walton It's interesting to compare this with another CD I bought at the same time, a 2002 Naxos recording of Waltons only ballet, which cost only £4.99. While Mr. Perahia probably does better than than the less well-known performers on the Walton CD, it makes you wonder what happened to the £12 difference in price! It does appear to me that copyright law is not being used to protect the rights of the musicians and composers, but to protect the profits of the recording companies.

It is obvious to anyone, with any slight experience of digital media, that the ability of consumers to store music and video on a computer will change the long established methods of distribution. The entertainment industry knows this, but is doing everything it can to delay this reality as long as possible. You can't blame them, I suppose, but if their companies were run by people with vision, they would have already accepted the inevitable and moved to the forefront of the changing market.

HMV site Instead they have introduced software like Sonys OpenMG system, and downloadable files that 'time-out' if you don't keep paying your subs. There are free downloads on record company web sites, that also time-out after a month or so. These can be played only either a special 'music match' player, or the current Windows Media Player, which presumably already has the required mechanism built- in. All this has done is annoy the very people who would otherwise embrace this new technology. The companies know that they will have to change their whole sales and distribution model, from something that has worked so well for them during the past hundred years.

However I think that we all might benefit from a crisis in the entertainment industry. Music, particularly in the USA, is in decline due in part to the present industry. The traditional performers of Country, Bluegrass, etc., are finding that their market is being withdrawn. Long established artists are finding that the major companies are not interested in recording them any more, and airtime is hard to get. The industry is only interested in the megastars who can generate a guaranteed large income for them. It's not so bad over here, where there are new genres like 'garage' which have an underground-like following, and numerous artists selling in modest quantities, and promoting themselves by performing live in small venues. Recordings of this new music are made by small record companies, independant of the five main American companies.

It's all different from 'when I was a lad' - although looking through the Oxford Street record shops I found lots of CDs of LP's (didn't have albums then) recorded over 30 years ago. For example I found a CD containing the first LP recorded by Renaissance in 1970. They were formed by two ex-members of the Yardbirds. Renaissance performed around Slough a few times back then. But these were days when small bands could get recording contracts. They still can in the UK, but not through the major publishers.

It is important is to understand that the large recording companies have deliberately restricted the range of artists that they record. This is not because of piracy, but because this is the way of large multinational companies. The intention is to concentrate their activities on the most profitable artists and music. However this is not working, because the customers soon lose interest in these artists and look elsewhere. Today there are few Frank Sinatras or Beatles, whose recordings could be guaranteed to be saleable almost indefinitely. Instead we have artists sold by TV programs, 'Popstars', 'Pop Idol', etc., rather than the artists the public want. Why is Britney always in the press? It's not because she's doing something newsworthy, it's just the action of the sales and marketing machines. They have to make a lot of noise, because the public might not otherwise buy her records.

The US once had a network of small local radio stations and small local record companies. Without these, the phenomena of Rock and Roll might never have happened. But the large record companies bought up the small ones, and big national chains bought up the radio stations. In the US, most local radio stations have the same playlist, the top 40 rules the airwaves, and local interests are no longer developed. This is also happening in the UK, where the dream of independant local stations is now destroyed as they are bought up by big conglomerates. This is also happening in UK Television too. And Tony Blair is trying to let the US dinosaurs move in and destroy UK broadcasting as well.

So what do digital recordings mean to consumers?

Currently, you buy a disc or tape. You can play this on any suitable player you have at home. You can take the tape/disc into your car, and play it as you drive about. You can take put it into your portable device, and play it as you jog (we all go jogging). You can lend it to your mum or neighbour (this is perfectly legal, despite what the warnings on the tape/disc might say).

Today, the system could be like this: you load your disc or files onto a server somwhere in your house. Using radio networking, this server is linked to any players in your house, so that the players can choose and play any music from the server. The server could also link to any internet site, and fetch any music or streamed radio, and any broadcast radio too. This system could also handle television, although the high bandwidth radio networking (>20 Mbit/s) is not really available now. Now here's the rub - these systems could easily be configured to communicate with all others in radio range, and your player would be able to access far more media than is stored on your hard disks.

How would you protect copyright in this case? Well, mechanisms such as OpenMG X could probably handle all this, but would not be very popular, as they make it inconvenient or impossible to do perfectly legal things. All hardware manufacturers and software providers would need to be forced to build these systems into all the available servers and players. People would need to be prevented from finding ways around the system - the US have their Digital Copyright Millenium Act precisely for this purpose, and the EU have enacted something similar which covers us! They would need a special police force to go around checking up, and enforcing compliance. These folk would be very popular!

So how do we reward those responsible for the film or music, and prevent piracy?

For a start, there is no way that anyone can stop the free circulation of nearly all existing recordings. And while CD, DVD and tape is still available, no-one will purchase anything else if it's going to limit or hinder their use of the media. And can anything be devised that will be truly uncopyable? Remember that only a few years ago the DVD format was hailed as being secure, yet today it's a simple job to produce duplicates.

Firstly I think that recording companies have to realise that their gravy train has almost reached the buffers. While I might still pay £16.99 for a recording of Bach, the same is not necessarily true of many popular music fans. This price level can only be maintained if there is an acceptance of widespread copying. Secondly, they have to find a completely new way of selling their produce. If recordings can be copied so easily, the price will have to drop, possibly to zero! Over the last few years, those of us in any US or UK industry have accepted great change, as those industries took a turn away from manufacturing and towards providing service. I think that this is what the recording companies have to do (although at present they are refusing to accept this, and are blaming consumers for their problems, rather than looking inwards).

This may be most easily done with pop music, as the youngsters who buy this stuff are used to spending all their income in bars and on services like text messaging etc. So give away the music online, or at hardware cost price (about 30p in practice). Then sell services and other products in record shops. With each new release, there could be be lots of publications - posters, magazines, models, signed photos, concert tickets (yes, get the 'stars' working for their money!), recordable CD's, glossy CD inserts, cases, CD recorders, copying machines, internet services, official fan clubs, players, servers, network gear, headphones, clothing, newsletters, meet the popstar draw tickets, popstar phone covers, popstar food and drink, etc., in fact everything associated with the music in any way, and everything that can't easily be copied! I find it amazing that shops like HMV and Virgin in Slough let all this possible trade pass by! You can now buy a huge range of products in motor service stations, but a very small range in record shops. You can buy a coffee in a Slough bookshop, but not in HMV. I would have thought that HMV would by now be cashing in on the whole teen culture.

It's possible that the income generated will not be as great as before, but should be preferable to going out of business. New stars may find that they can't buy mansions on the income from their first recording contract, oh what a disappoinment, they will have to get used to more reasonable incomes.

The more 'grown-up' forms of music are still saleable, although prices are still important. Looking at the 'classical' CD business, there are still plenty of new recordings. It's interesting to note that there is a pretty healthy independant sector who offer new artists and new music, but the major companies are more keen on megastars and reissues (The Walton CD was at number 20 in the classical chart, ahead of many of the big name recordings, although being a unknown piece to most classical fans. Doesn't this tell the major companies something?) Piracy is not such a big issue, and quality is still fairly important. And for video, there are still capacity limitations on home servers, and downloads in the Gigabit region are impractical for nearly all of us. So in this sector, commercial piracy is more prevalent, i.e. the sale of pirate DVDs.

There is one thing on the horizon which may effect copying in the future. Intel is leading TCPA, the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance. This proposes changes to computer hardware, and in particular a motherboard with built-in monitoring and control facilities. Microsoft is developing Palladium, which is software which it intends to build into future operating systems, which will assist and extend TCPA.

TCPA works like this. When you boot up your PC, a chip called 'Fritz' monitors the process. It checks that all your hardware is on the 'trusted' list, and that your software is also certified as 'trusted'. If anything has changes - new audio card, new software, it will go online to certify these components. When this process is complete, Palladium takes over.

Palladium runs the process that allows you to use your computer. If you wish to play music, it can check that your music is properly paid for, and licenced to play on your individual machine. Thus it can prevent your software from playing copies of protected recordings. If you want to word-process a document, it can check that you have the right to alter that document, and check that you have paid the necessary for the word processor. In fact it also changes the concept of 'bought' software or media, to 'rented' software or media, as it can control the time period that a program or data is available to you.

Now you might think that someone could write a player or wp that doesn't use Palladium, thus circumventing the controls. But this is where TCPA comes in - the naughty hardware or software needs to be certified - and it is most unlikely that the alliance will certify products designed to get round their protection systems! And Palladium will need to be active in order to get the certificates to play the media.

These systems tell us a lot about plans for the future of entertainment and computing. The very existance of them will be an encouragement for component manufacturers to supply TCPA parts like CPUs, video cards, hard drives, optical drives, etc. Would PC manufacturers build PCs which would be unable to play future music and video disks? Or produce CPUs which would not run MS Office? The same goes for standard entertainment items like DVD players, televisions, Walkmen-type music players, car audio. TCPA will be in these too, which means that the major component manufacturers will have their work cut out to produce the chips. Internet connections will be essential.

The intention is not just to get at software, music and video pirates, but to ensure that computers on a network behave in a safe manner. There should be a reduction in hacking, spam email and viruses. A company network should be more secure, with the servers having greater knowledge and control over the workstations connected to it. Businesses will want this. Their confidential documentation will be safer from theft. By cancelling the certification of a sacked employee, the company documents and data on his laptop will become unuseable and useless. Files just would not copy from a trusted machine to an untrusted one. Industrial espionage will be reduced. So businesses will want this trusted platform, which means that component suppliers will not have a market for non-TCPA parts.

I can see isps wanting only trusted machines connected to their networks.

Now, except in the most secure systems, these new trusted PCs will need to handle old applications and old data. So it will be possible to turn off these hardware and software features, so that you can play your pirate Pink Floyd mp3 tracks. But with the systems turned off, new applications and media will not be able to get the certs to allow them to run or play.

The way I see it, the entertainment companies are trying to hold off providing modern media until systems like TCPA and Palladium become widely available. Then they can force acceptance.

But it is possible that alternative networks will spring up in the meantime. Some of us BBRC folk have noticed that by taking a laptop with a radio networking card around modern business areas, that they can connect to other peoples networks! This is due to the apalling security built into these 802.11x standards. However the hardware makes it possible for alternative networks to spring up in residential areas. This is now happening, providing small groups of people with an alternative way to connect to the net. But it could provide an alternative to the net in itself. The idea of an alternative internet is quite attractive to some people, who feel that they will be able to share resources with like-minded people, without the interference of governments, multinationals, isps, etc. These people have also noticed that radio amateurs have been running a world-wide IP network for years, using a low cost infrastructure, indicating that an extensive free internet is possible.

So there is the possibility of ordinary people connecting to a 'free radio' form of internet, isolated from the influence of media giants. The TCPA and Palladium protected media will still be copied - the certificate system will be circumvented - and these copies will have free reign on the new networks.

I still believe that it is possible for authors and artists to make money from their recordings, and in most cases they can be as well off as today. The problem is that the current marketing and sales model has been broken. The musical copyright system, built into US law and imposed on everyone else, needs to be reformed.

Back 'when I was a lad', the media companies were also complaining. There were numerous offshore Pirate Radio stations, The Compact Cassette had made copying easy for the first time, and bootleg LP's were sold openly in Oxford Street. But you could also hear live music locally. There were well known bands playing at weekends at Slough College, Slough Community Centre, the 'Ricky Tick' and the '1832' in Windsor, the Adelphi Ballroom (now Gala Bingo), the Leopold in Slough High Street and many more venues. There were local folk clubs, bands in pubs and village halls, classical concerts in local churches and town halls, and I even confess to seeing Max Bygraves (I was forced to go) at the Fulcrum centre in Slough High Street (now the Virgin store and UCG Cinema). Around this time, musicians started complaining about being ripped off by the record companies.

It's no surprise that many bands set up their own record labels, but still had to use the big companies to get their CDs into the shops. Now some bands are selling their CDs themselves, using the internet as their shop front. This way the authors and performers actually get the reward from their efforts.

I don't know what it will be like in five years time, will the big record companies still be hanging onto power? If they don't start serving their customers soon, I think not.

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Internet links

The Radio Nederland review of the Sony ICF-SW7600GR receiver.

Stephan Großklaß has an interesting Sony 7600 series page here.

The Sony OpenMG system is described in this Press release from Sony.

You can find one of the online recording services here. This features downloadable free samples with timeouts. The .wma files downloaded from this site will 'phone home' via the net for a certificate.

One of the more complex means of copy protecting CDs is described here, the Doc-Witness system.

A free mp3 server for your networked music system!

There are various different copyrights applied to a music recording. There is the copyright of the author, maybe an arrangement copyright, and the copyright for that particular performance. For example, the remaining Beatles do not own any copyrights on their original recordings. If Paul McCartney wants to perform 'Yesterday' on stage, he has to pay to do this. The beneficiaries are EMI and IIRC Michael Jackson. Some info on musical copyright can be found here, but there is a wealth of info about the US Copyright system on the net. Janis Ian, who has been recording for decades, has a few words to say here and here.

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Copyright and Technical Stuff.

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