Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Computer Glitch Drives Dow Drop

OK, so it turns out that a computer glitch is at least partly responsible for yesterday's big drop in the stock market. Apparently, trading got so heavy the computers couldn't keep up, and when they finally did, they showed a 200-point flameout in less than a minute.

Not surprisingly, that spooked many traders, who jumped on board trying to dump their positions as fast as they could.

Without the glitch, weakness in China, the attempt to bomb Cheney in Afghanistan, and Greenspan's comments about a possible recession in the US later this year still would have driven the market down, but perhaps not as fast or as far.

Fortunately, the effects of technical problems like this seem to be temporary. As of this writing, the Dow is back up some 100 points.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bit-Torrent Goes Legal. So What?

The media business still doesn't seem to get it. Everyone was making a big deal this week about BitTorrent finally offering legal downloads.

Well, great.

But as PC World and many others helpfully pointed out, the new service is pretty lame. Even apart from having to pay, the new service turns out to be nowhere near as good as downloading the unlicensed content you can find all over BitTorrent for free. The selection is relatively tiny, you can play it only on two computers (no mobile devices or TVs), and movie downloads last only 30 days and can be played only during a 24-hour viewing period. Sheesh.

You're trying to get people to "do the right thing" and pay the copyright holders, and then you hit them over the head with restrictions worse than iTunes and other "legal" download options? Yeah, that'll work!

The only real upsides are the fact that you won't get sued or go to hell, and that the image quality is likely to be reliably high. (Oh, and apparently you actually "own" TV show episodes that you download.) Still, if you ask me, if they want to charge for something, it ought to be way BETTER than what you can get for free. Appealing to downloaders' better nature simply isn't enough.

Oscars Take Low Road On Technology

I watched the Oscars the other night, and if I learned anything from the endless broadcast, it’s that the much-discussed marriage of Hollywood and technology is still one of convenience, not commitment.

Sure, some of the nominated movies incorporate some stunning effects – check out Pan’s Labyrinth -- and every movie has a Web site, but mostly the winners were pretty standard dramas and comedies.

That’s cool, but the show itself was decidedly low tech. I mean, they had a “Sound Effects Choir” making train noises. It was kind of fun to watch, but is that really still how they create the audio effects in modern movies? And they won’t even let animated films -- mostly done by computer – compete against the “real” movies.

Of course, the cool kids’ biggest dis to the geeks is that the Scientific and Technical Awards aren’t even part of the show. They get given out rather anonymously a couple weeks earlier. At least someone persuaded Maggie Gyllenhaal to show up.