||[Jan. 11th, 2008|03:09 pm]
the Messenger spacecraft is approaching Mercury. It will make three flybys of Mercury over the next couple of years before entering orbit for ongoing observations. This is our first return to the inner planet in 33 years!
On Mars, the Spirit rover just passed its four-year anniversary. (Earth years, that is.) Opportunity will soon pass the same mark. Though they have developed problems, they're both still actively exploring.
Also, it looks like a Mars collision won't happen. As I mentioned last time, the way the probability works is that it gets increasingly likely until it's finally determined that it will miss. (Except in cases where it actually will hit, of course.) So we won't get to see a dramatic planetary impact. This time.
It's now official: Sony will music sell on Amazon. This means Amazon will offer (inherently DRM-free) MP3s for sale from all four of the major labels. While there's a lot of great music not on the major labels, this is still huge from a marketing and philosophical point of view. It also maneuvers Amazon into an interesting position as a strategic market rival of Apple.
This is also a sharp about-face from earlier this week, when Sony announced the most convoluted way to sell MP3s. They plan to offer DRM-free tracks provided you go to a store selling their special cards, scratch off a code number, and then download one of only 37 albums available. WTF? I thought only the PS3 branch of the company management had contracted a terrible case of the stupids but it appears to be endemic.
Meanwhile, Swedish politicians are calling for filesharing legalization. They want to decriminalize it. Sadly, the US is moving the other direction, with the RIAA calling even personal fair use "unauthorized copying".
In case you haven't heard, there's actually a new Futurama direct-release movie out, Bender's Big Score. The show was so popular in DVD sales that they decided to bring it back for a few encores, this being the first.
Futurama fans may remember that there was an episode where Bender decided to brew beer inside himself. An inspired fan has built a home Bender-replica brewing rig. Nice workmanship, too. (Of course, I still have to give a nod to tilt_longtail's Bender with working beer storage. Best costume adaptation, I think.)
Comedy central picked up the futurama contract. They're not only doing a few encores but the new series should start on CC in the next couple of months
The movie is great. Pick it up if you miss Futurama, plus, it has lots of great extras.
It's interesting that in all the reporting of Sony (partially) dropping DRM, it's all being promoted as some big Amazon-versus-Apple thing - which I'm sure Sony et al are happy with, but.. do either of them care? As I recall, Apple turns a fairly slender profit on the iTunes Store - if Jobs closed it tomorrow, the impact would be more a matter of speculator confidence than anything on the bottom line. With Amazon's diversity, I wouldn't think they're any more in need of the crumbs the labels are offering by way of profit.
It's not a sustainable situation. Either the labels yield to completely different models like blanket licensing (and in the process more or less snuffing out the current incarnations of the RIAA, BPI, et al), or they wither away. Frankly, I'm more expecting the latter, given the labels' intransigence, and the lack of US political will to change matters. Which won't be a bad thing, of course - there's a vast amount of music out there, and a load more talent than many people believe, with no need of the overblown apparatus the RIAA seeks to defend.
Ultimately, it seems it may be Sweden (or perhaps Canada) that'll lead the way into a future where music production costs are very low, distribution and publicity costs similarly tiny, with the same amount of money as now available for discretionary spending on entertainment - just without the threat of jail or decades-long garnishment for non-profit sharing.
And whilst I felt the "data security" aspect of Bender's Big Score was rather overplayed early on, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not up to the best of the original show, but something to catch, certainly.
I think there's another aspect to it. Currently, Apple is the dominant player and is able to dictate terms. In particular, Apple is currently insisting on the flat pricing structure which the labels are quite unhappy with.
As Amazon gains influence in the market, it gives the labels a strategic bargaining advantage. They can play Amazon against Apple. I don't think there's any serious direct competition between the two companies. (At least for Amazon, at the moment, music is still a minor aspect of the business.)
Wow. It's hard to believe that we've only had one mission to Mercury over all of this time. I'm not sure why it's going to take so long to establish an orbiting craft. Compared to Jupiter or Saturn, it's not all that far.
It's because Mercury orbits so close to the sun, at the center of our gravity well. A craft moving "downhill" picks up a lot of kinetic energy. Messenger will slingshot past Mercury three times in order to bleed off that inwards-directed speed and match Mercury's orbit and velocity.
There are going to be at least three more direct to DVD futurama movies. The next one is due out around my birthday in April. Bender lurves me.