Monthly Archives: April 2002

Oh Happy Day

Good times for PC filesharing:

Kazaa users, angered by the network’s inclusion of secretly embedded spyware, can now connect to the peer-to-peer network using a hacked version of the application called Kazaa Lite.

Kazaa Lite is a software client that provides access to the same FastTrack network as the peer-to-peer program, Kazaa Media Desktop, but does not require users to install any third-party software or view any banner ads.

80,000 downloads of Kazaa Lite already. Moments from now, I’ll make that 80,001.
· Kazaa Lite Download [KazaaLite.com]
· Kazaa Lite: No Spyware Aftertaste [Wired News]

Sun Rises

Some impressions from reading Vol. 1, No. 1 of the reborn New York Sun today.

  • Bad: No big scoops in the news coverage. Out-of-date arts coverage. I expected more from the debut issue.
  • Bad: Oldschool layout appears a direct descendant of the Sun of 1949. Not a fresh update, though (like the recent WSJ redesign). Too much text on the page.
  • Bad: Absurd sports headline on page 1: “Best of Boston Barely Enough to Beat Bombers.”
  • Bad: No sports standings?!
  • Wacky: Page one AP story that can also be found in Yahoo’s Most Emailed: “Ant Colony Largest Ever
  • Good: SmarterTimes.com critique of a story in today’s Times.
  • Good: Ad: “The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Congratulates the New York Sun”
  • Great: Ad: “May the Sun shin brightly with ‘our son’… Alan, Nina and Liz Stoll”

· Smarter Times [SmarterTimes.com] “Smartertimes.com will appear less frequently as a result of the April 16 launch of the New York Sun.”

Speaking of Smarter Times

Highly amusing ST critique of a New York Times Book Review of “Around the House and in the Garden: A Memoir of Heartbreak, Healing and Home Improvement.” Excerpt:

Smartertimes.com is of the perhaps antiquated view that this teenager’s “depression” and his confessions to his mother deserve to be kept private. If his mother feels the need to air them in public for the purpose of helping the Scribner publishing house make money and the purpose of supplementing her own income as the editor of House & Garden, that’s sad enough. But why should the New York Times cooperate in this? Did the Times contact this teenager independently to find out whether he wanted the details of his “depression” and other “revelatory events” aired in the newspaper’s pages? Did the newspaper contact him to verify the facts of the events? Or did the newspaper just take his mother’s word for it?

As Marshall Miller might say, “These are good questions.”
· So Much For Privacy [SmarterTimes.com]

Heady Days for Newsprint

A newsstand on 42nd St. is distributing broadsheet previews of the New York Sun, set to debut next Tuesday. Placards for the Sun near my apartment on the Lower East Side trumpet “New York on Page One!”… an indication of their committment to local reporting. Reports say the conservative broadsheet will run nine pages of news a day. I can’t wait to see it; also impressive that Ira Stoll, the Sun’s managing editor, continues to update Smarter Times as the launch approaches. Meantime, this week saw the debut of the new Wall Street Journal, with a revamped page one featuring color. I think it’s a big improvement. But lo! Look who weighs in with an opinion! The master of color and graphics himself, USA Today founder Al Neuharth!

Will the new look give the Journal a lift? Maybe a little. But nothing like the paper’s own assessment and expectations. WSJ actually ran ads this week calling the changes ”Our Biggest Story in 100 Years!”

The revamped Journal indeed is better. But the new soft, pastel colors will have to give way to brilliant reds and blues and greens. The still-small headlines and graphics must grow up.

Classic.
· Will new look mean new life for WSJ? [USA Today]
· The New York Sun [NYSun.com] Got some work to do on their website.
· Smarter Times [SmarterTimes.com]

Peer-to-Peer Smear

Unbelievable is the only word for the news that music file-share program KaZaA has been piggybacking a program that, when switched on (in several weeks’ time) will let a separate third-party company use individual PCs’ “unused computing cycles” and “unused storage space” for its own purposes. Good writeup in the WSJ yesterday by reporter Nick Paumgarten:

Millions of copies of the popular Kazaa Internet music sharing program contain software that could soon allow an independent company to take over portions of users’ computers and Internet connections.

The independent company, Brilliant Digital Entertainment Inc. of Los Angeles, says it will activate the software on users’ computers within the next four to six weeks. The aim is to form a broad “peer-to-peer” network that essentially will give Brilliant Digital the ability to use various resources on those users’ PCs to perform computing tasks for clients, according to the company’s president, Kevin Bermeister.

Brilliant Digital began distributing the program, dubbed Altnet, in February with Kazaa Media Desktop, a file-sharing program owned by Sharman Networks Ltd. of Australia that allows users to exchange music, video and other software. About 20 million copies of Kazaa containing this software have been downloaded, Mr. Bermeister said.

Jesus. Their defense is based on a very dubious “opt-in”: by agreeing to the seemingly standard program-install boilerplate you must click to install, you grant them rights to come and play on your hard drive whenever they want. Not good.

Separately, it’s interesting to note that Google is working on a similar distributed computing system using the excellent Google toolbar (which, if you’re on Windows, you must be absolutely insane not to have installed already. It’s the single best browser innovation since Netscape 0.9b.). In classic Google fashion, the idea is totally opt-in and uses your computer on behalf of non-profit causes including one that is “trying to understand the structure of proteins so they can develop better treatments for a number of illnesses.”

Mention of the Google toolbar reminds me of another must-use free download: Ad-Aware. It sweeps your hard drive to remove spyware just like that Kazaa crap. A new version came out a week ago for Windows. (Mac users, take solace in the lack of good fileshare programs for the Mac… at least there are no nasty side-effects either.) Along with Yahoo’s opting-in of their entire email userbase for spam this week, not a very happy week on the web.
· Peer-to-Peer Software Embedded in Popular Kazaa Raises Questions [WSJ.com] subscription required
· Brilliant Digital 10K Filing [EDGAR via Yahoo]
· Service changes baffle Yahoo customers [News.com]