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NullVoid » 2004 » November NullVoid » 2004 » November

Archive for November, 2004

More about British humor

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004 -- By ET

I remember participating a HBS graduation party (TPMG, a 3-month executive training program). Two British graduates hosted the party and they used all kinds of funny remarks (they are so different from American language…) to bring the party to be one of the most impressive one I’ve ever participated.


Steven Hawking made a bet with an American physicist about a theory (Black holes do not obliterate information about things which fall into them, but mangle information instead. ). The bet was made with John Preskill in 1997. Earlier this year, he agreed that he lost the bet, the winner of the bet is supposed get a huge book from the loser. “John is all American, so naturally he wants an encyclopaedia of baseball,” said Hawking. “I had great difficulty in finding one over here, so I offered him an encyclopaedia of cricket, as an alternative, but John wouldn’t be persuaded of the superiority of cricket.”

100 things to do before you die

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004 -- By ET

Well, for me, at this time: 11:27pm, it is more relevant to ask about “100 things to do before I sleep”. WISE is 10 days away, I’ll have to work out something for presentation. Other projects are also moving on, I just hope I have enough time to go deeper into the dataset I have and dig out gold before I die right in front of the conference participants.

The British people are so funny that even their scientists make me feel so amused after such a long day. See here: “Turn yourself into a diamond: tips from science on a good life, and death “.

“A thinktank of British scientists has come up with a new way of quickening the national intellect – a brain-taxing spin on the old formula of 100 things to do before you die. The list, compiled by New Scientist magazine, suggests booking to see Galileo’s middle finger (preserved in Florence) or ordering liquid nitrogen to make the “world’s smoothest ice-cream” at home.

More complicated options include joining the 300 Club at the South Pole (they take a sauna to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, then run naked to the pole in minus 100 F) or learning Choctaw, a language with two past tenses – one for giving information which is definitely true, the other for passing on material taken without checking from someone else. ”

One of the most intriguing ideas is actually one thing to be done after you die: Become a diamond. LifeGem of Chicago, Illinois, will take a few grains of your cremated remains, subject them to high pressure and temperature, and you will emerge from the process, 18 weeks later, as a sparkling one-carat diamond.

why not blaming P2P for decreasing CD sales

Monday, November 29th, 2004 -- By ET

I can not believe that it is a week now since I blogged last time. Thanksgiving is a great period of time to relax and to get prepared for the coming pressure. I have a few presentations in two weeks, need to finish and substantiate them as soon as possible.

The RIAA blamed P2P sharing for decreasing sales of CD, CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association) is doing the same thing, and here in a Michael Geist‘s new article, he shows a few points that there are other things to be blamed too: Big Music p2p stats don’t tally. Michael Geist is the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa.

There seems to be more and more P2P based solutions to sell music these days.
How Do 3 Million Independent Artists Reach 80 Million Music Lovers? Through Their Fans.

P2P gets profitable

Monday, November 22nd, 2004 -- By ET

As predicted in my paper written in 2002 “Stardom, Peer-to-peer and the Socially Optimal Distribution of Music”, P2P could be potentially integrated in a business strategy for the music industry, and bring in profit.

A lot of news stories below:

P2P Tilts Toward Legitimacy

Weed is offering some way (based on DRM implemented by Microsoft) for people to sample music before they want to buy. Here is a story from Wired News.

Here is a Rollingstone article showing how the industry is shift gears, and if you read my 2002 article, you will see how my idea gets integrated in the new trend.

P2P gets profitable

OutKast, Britney, Destiny’s Child to be offered through new P2P service

Two pioneers of file-sharing — Napster’s Shawn Fanning and Grokster’s Wayne Rosso — are quietly working with the major labels to find ways of making peer-to-peer sites profitable.

Mashboxx, a new P2P site started by Rosso, is expected to launch early next year and incorporate new technology developed by Fanning. Called Snocap, it allows users to share music freely but with a catch: When you attempt to trade a protected song, Snocap will swap it with an authorized file — likely a low-quality version of the song or one that lets you listen just a few times. Mashboxx will then provide the option of buying a CD-quality file of the track with a click of the mouse.

Sony BMG is the first major label to embrace the technology, though others are expected to follow. According to a source familiar with negotiations between Sony BMG, Mashboxx and Snocap, the label will offer most of its catalog — which includes music by Bruce Springsteen, Destiny’s Child, OutKast, Britney Spears, Modest Mouse and Bob Dylan — through the service.

It would mark a new era in the relationship between labels and file-sharing sites — a relationship previously “characterized by fear, anger and a desire to take revenge,” according to Josh Bernoff, an Internet analyst at Forrester Research. The Recording Industry Association of America has long held the position that unauthorized use of P2P technology is the major reason for the decline in music-industry revenues in the past three years. Sony BMG CEO Andrew Lack quipped to the New York Times in September 2003 that “P2P stands for piracy to pornography.” But record-label sources say that since taking over Sony early that same year, Lack has been fascinated with the possibility of using P2P as a new way to distribute music.

Mashboxx is actively seeking deals with other labels, though none have yet signed on. Mashboxx users will still be able to freely trade songs from labels that decline to work with Mashboxx, as well as share bootleg recordings the labels don’t sell.

But some observers suggest that P2P users will likely migrate to other sites where Snocap does not operate. “If people want to get legitimate music, there are a huge number of legitimate distribution services they can get it from,” says Bernoff. “If they want to steal music using P2P, then they aren’t interested in paying for it. I can’t figure out who is supposed to use a service like this.”

(Posted Nov 22, 2004)


Monday, November 22nd, 2004 -- By ET

Had a talk with Carlos, and it seems that Harmonics is a good unit of analysis to figure out the “technicalities” of appeals brought about by music. (seems especially so for hip-hop).

harmonics According to a 9th circuit ruling, any derivative music work should get copyright clearance for every note included in the piece before it can be legally published. This creates a huge problem for hip-hop musicians who constantly borrow from previous works. Getting permissions for each and every note could be so cumbersome and ruin the whole hip-hop culture, so a better pricing mechanism is needed for clearing the rights among musicians. Harmonics seems to be a good starting point to study, there is an interesting connection between harmonics and the traditional hedonic model in econometrics. When I have time, I will have a look at this problem, and hopefully, this can evolve into something helpful for the music industry. I will add a few links belows for future research.

The Einstein playing violin picture is taken from Here. It explains the basics of harmonics.
There are a lot of papers about hedonic models:
Developing a Hedonic Regression Model For Camcorders In the U.S. CPI
Here is a PDF article: Hedonic Theory and Econometric Specification

a few more words about backing up

Monday, November 22nd, 2004 -- By ET

Backing up is very important to me. On my linux server, in the beginning of the HDD, there is a logical error, but I could not fix it no matter what kind of software I use. So I really need to be prepared for a HDD failure. My backing up strategy is as follows:

1. transfer important files from my laptop to the linux server with SyncBack (a free software). I do it with the scheduler in XP, and let it run at 3am each day. (This makes sure that my laptop files are safe). I also use the same software to sync the laptop files with my home desktop. So basically, I have 3 copies of these files, one on laptop, one on desktop and one on the linux server in my office.

2. for important directories on the linux server, e.g. /etc/, /home/, /var/lib/mysql, etc., I do daily backups within the linux server, with rsback, to a secondary harddisk. So if the system disk fails, I still have the copy of configration files, database files, etc.

3. For each of the directories, I do daily rotation for 6 days, then every 7th day, I make a backup to the weekly backup folder. The superiority of rsback over other solutions is that I not only can get back the latest version of the files, but can also get back the files in various states (in XP terminology: snapshots).

4. Just as if the above is not secure enough, I use rsync (enhanced by rsback) to backup the "backup folders" on my linux machine to another linux machine in another building every week for 3 weeks, then save a snapshot every month for 3 months.

When trying to restart apache, the system locked.  So I hard rebooted the machine, and it gives all kinds of weird messages, among which, the most important one is " can not mount root=LABEL=/ duplicate", and I found the problem is related to my second hard drive.  the disk /dev/hda1 has the label of /, and it is conflicting with the system drive’s root at /dev/hdd2, so I used the command "e2label /dev/hda1 /useless" to mark it and rebooted.  This time, it goes on smoothly, except one thing:

It says there is a problem with the hard drive.  Now I’m thinking to get a partition image of the drive just in case it fails some day.  Although I have all the contents backed up, I still think installing the system is a headache, not to mention I have to re-setup all the services I’m so used to use.

To get a partition image, I searched google, and  two solutions come to my attention.  First is called mkCdRec at  http://mkcdrec.ota.be/project/index.html the other is called System Rescue CD http://www.sysresccd.org/index.en.php.

With mkCdRec, I typed "make test" and make and followed the instructions, it created some tar.gz files on a portable hard drive.

And the SysResCD should be booted and it should create some image on a mounted portable drive.  I have yet to test the usability of the two solutions, but mkCdRec is very slow because it called tar to compress the files, and it can take too long.

After I get the image, I’ll "low-level" format the hard drive, and copy the image back, this ensures that the bad block will not create problems in the unexpected time. 


There is a g4l package (Ghost for Linux) Ghost for Linux is a hard disk and partition imaging and cloning tool similar to "Norton Ghost"(c) and ™ by Symantec. The created images are optionally compressed, and they can be stored on a local hard drive or transferred to an anonymous FTP server. A drive can be cloned using the "Click’n'Clone" function. g4l supports file splitting if the local filesystem does not support writing files >2GB. The included kernel supports ATA, serial-ATA, and SCSI drives. Common network cards are supported. It is packaged as a bootable CD image with an ncurses GUI for easy use.  The problem with G4L is that it used bit-to-bit copy, so I can not release big disk images to small disks. 

And, here is a very good tutorial on GRUB and LILO from IBM:

Boot loader showdown: Getting to know LILO and GRUB


linux backup

Friday, November 19th, 2004 -- By ET

I was looking for a good linux back up solution for a long time. Some of the needed features are:

  • easy to install and maintain (so that I don’t have to read an hour of documents each time I want to modify the configuration file)
  • automatic backup such that cron can be used
  • backup rotation so that I can get back files from one day to a few days ago
  • less storage needed than keeping multiple copies in each backup directory for each snapshot
  • do it on local machine and remote machine a like

This is a case of “Information Overload”, there are so many solutions out there, and it’s very hard to determine in a very short time which solution is the best fit to my needs. Then I decided to write my own script to do the job, and “rsync” seems the best solution. Given the little time I am willing to spend on this issue, the script can do the job but can not do it elegantly. Then I found rsback (RSync BACKup) (or here from sourceforge), it is a great tool to do the job, I’m very happy about it.

Weird price tag

Friday, November 19th, 2004 -- By ET

I’ve retrieved an old HP 11C scientific calculator from a box outside a professor’s office, it was supposed to be trashed by the cleaning people at midnight. 11c
At MIT, you can really dig a gold mine from piles of trashes. (Jeffrey helped me to retrieved an IBM server from a trash pile at the neighboring department, it had 3G rambus memory, and a burnt 2G Xeon CPU, the good news is that the box was still under warranty, so a call to IBM got it fixed… well, that’s another story).

Looking at this HP reminds me my dad’s old calculators back in the 80′s. Googling about it turns out that it was indeed first produced in 1987, the price then was $135. Then I went to ebay to check out its current market value, to my surprise, there are a lot of HP 11Cs offered in eBay, and they can sell from $150 to more than $200, depending on the quality. This is very strange, as similar calculators produced by Casio and TI were not found in eBay. I hope to find out a reason why this is so expensive now…


Wednesday, November 17th, 2004 -- By ET

When I created this website, when I created a birthday card for my wife, when I worked on a powerpoint slide, I alway felt that it would be great if I had some training in art and design.


This picture is taken from deviantART, created by *silveryn, I just don’t understand how this could be created from scratch.


Another amazing website is Larabie Fonts, where I can download or buy fonts.

Music Piracy Data

Tuesday, November 16th, 2004 -- By ET


ITIC has collected Internet activity data from nearly 81,000 individuals world wide to get a better idea of P2P activity. The stats, collected between January 1st, 2003 and December 31, 2003, paint an interesting demographic picture of the P2P world. CD
Q1. How many people had been downloading music files in 2003 (any Peer-to-Peer platform)?

A1. 81.5M of people, which corresponds to 4.98% of the Internet users in the World. The best P2P penetration rate was in Spain with 31% of population connected to the Internet. Other top countries were France (xx%), Belgium (26%), Venezuela (25%), Canada (23%), Argentina (22%), Netherlands (21%), Israel (19%), United States (19%), Singapore (13%), Germany (17%), Austria (16%), Morocco (14%), Portugal (12%), Sweden (10%), Mexico (8%), United Kingdom (7%), Australia (6%)…

Q2. In what countries did P2P users download the more?

A2. American P2P users downloaded 4,383,918,151 songs in 2003. Other top countries are: Germany (377M), France (xxxM), Canada (258M), United Kingdom (154M), Netherlands (87M), Japan (59M), Spain (53M), Australia (49M), Belgium (28M)…

Q3. What would best define digital piracy in 2003?

A3. We compared other facts like Software Piracy and Movie Piracy with our own records. This also involved analyzing various economical and statistical data for ~ 90 significant countries. The conclusion was that ONLY a computer with an Internet connection were common to each infringer. Whatever aspect you consider (like unemployment, poverty, literacy, amount of downloads…) will give you a completely different ranking.

Q4. What was the commercial value of digital materials illegally downloaded in 2003?

A4. This is the most sticky part of the analysis. First, remember that most of the infringers would never buy if they had to pay for what they consume. Second, the prices may vary from one country to another. Now if you consider one song to be 0.99 USD, here is an interesting ranking; this is the cumulative commercial value of [ pirated Software (BSA 2003) + pirated music (DIC 2003) ] per Internet connected capita. Russian Federation was #1 with 185 USD per Internet user. For the ~90 countries analyzed, the average Theft / Capita was 42 USD in 2003. Other top countries were Kuwait, Algeria, France, Qatar, Ukraine, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Paraguay, Slovenia, Morocco, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, Nigeria, Netherlands, Hungary, Oman, Finland, Tunisia, Lebanon, Ireland, United States, Denmark, Greece, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, China, South Africa… But the most interesting result is the value of such a worldwide digital market (excluding Movie piracy) : $ 34.3 billion in 2003.

Also interesting: A Wired interview with Wilco about how they got golden record by releasing music for free on P2P

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