Cool Tech Reviews

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March 7, 2007

Free Barenaked Ladies

I couldn’t resist stealing much of the title from Michael Arrington’s Barenaked Ladies: New Album. Free. No DRM. Now.

I’ve been writing about the Amie Street music site since their launch last July. Their model has the potential to disrupt the music industry from the bottom up: Bands and labels upload music, which is downloadable in DRM-free MP3 format. The price always starts at free, and as more people download the song, the price starts to rise, eventually hitting $.98. Higher priced songs are by definition more popular, and I’ve found that anything over $.50 or so is pretty good music. 70% of proceeds go to the band/label, and Amie Street keeps the rest.

This pretty clever for two reasons. First, even at $0.98 the price per track is fine compared to iTunes or the Zune Marketplace, particularly since there is no annoying digital rights management to keep you from playing the MP3 wherever you want. From What is Amie Street:

Are there any restrictions on the music I buy from Amie Street? Can I play it on my iPod?

* We have no DRM on our mp3’s, so once you buy them, they’re yours. Put them on your iPod, your computer, a CD you made for road trips, or anything else you can come up with. Come up with something good? Send us a picture. The best we’ve gotten so far is an MP3 playing on a “digital” refrigerator.

The second reason makes a strength out of adversity. The major record labels are deeply mired in DRM, so it will only be the smaller, independent labels that put their music on Amie Street. The novel pricing scheme encourages users to download and try new music from the lesser known groups and labels. It’s a win for them as the good stuff gets discovered quickly and eventually rises to the full $0.98 price.

As for the free Barenaked Ladies I promised, the Barenaked Ladies are a moderately well known group published by the Nettwerk Group who has just agreed to put their whole library on Aime Street. Their latest album, Barenaked Ladies Are Men, was just released on Aime Street, but the tracks aren’t free anymore due to the number of downloads. However as I write this some are still below the $.98 max. Probably not for long though.

Posted at 11:54 am. Filed under Aime Street, Bargains, Companies, Freebies, Internet, Music downloads

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November 30, 2006

AOL offers free movie downloads on Dec. 2

A number of tech news sites are reporting that AOL will offer 30 movies for free download starting at 6 AM EST on Saturday, Dec. 2. For example, BetaNews:

AOL said Thursday that it would offer 30 movies to users of its AOL Video portal at no cost as a holiday gift. The titles, which would include recent releases like Spiderman 2 and holiday favorites like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation normally sell for $9.99 to $19.99 USD. Users would be limited to one movie download, and would have 24 hours beginning at 6:00am ET on December 2 to download it.

The movies would be delivered in Windows Media format, and require a Windows XP computer running Internet Explorer and Windows Media 10 in order to view them. Once downloaded, the user would be able to view the file offline, as well as on one other PC and two Windows Media-compatible portable devices.

The only difficulty is that I can’t find a direct mention of the offer at the AOL Video site. On the other hand, searching for “Free Today Only” currently turns up 77 results (some are previews) including the movies mentioned above that say “When you download today, your credit card will NOT be charged.” Since there’s a day and half to go before the free offer starts, I’m a bit confused or the folks at AOL are.

In any case, the point for AOL is undoubtedly to get you to sign up and register the credit card that they won’t charge in hopes that you will eventually want something for which they can charge you. Caveat emptor, but if you see a movie you like, nothing beats free.

Posted at 9:35 pm. Filed under AOL, Companies, Freebies, Internet, Video Downloads

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September 22, 2006

Torpark web browser provides anonymity

Matthew Broersma at ZDNet UK:

Hacktivismo, a well-known group of human-rights advocates and computer security experts, this week officially released a Firefox-based browser designed to allow anonymous Web surfing.

The browser, called Torpark, is a modified version of Portable Firefox, and can be run directly from a USB drive, meaning it can be used on public terminals in cybercafés. The browser creates an encrypted connection to the TOR (The Onion Router) network, which supplies a succession of different IP addresses. The browser is available here.

“Torpark causes the IP address seen by the Web site to change every few minutes, to frustrate eavesdropping and mask the requesting source,” said Hacktivismo in a statement. For example, a user could be in London and Web sites would see an IP address from a university in Germany, or other addresses belonging to the TOR network.

The browser is the work of Hacktivismo, which operates under the aegis of the influential hacking group the Cult of the Dead Cow. Developers said the browser is different from other anonymous browsers, such as Anonymizer or SecretSurfer, in that it doesn’t cost anything and is small and portable.

There’s more on The Onion Router Network here and as always, you need to have some idea of what is really going on:

The Torpark browser uses encryption to send data over The Onion Router, a worldwide network of servers nicknamed “Tor” set up to transfer data to one another in a random, obscure fashion.

Internet traffic, such as Web site requests, carries information on where it came from and where it’s going. But that’s muddled using Tor, which has been endorsed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and is hard to trace back to a source.

One minor downside is that surfing with Torpark is slower than with a typical browser over the same connection.

Torpark cautions that data sent from the last Tor server to the Web site is unencrypted. Since only the user’s connection is anonymous, Torpark advises that sensitive data such as username and passwords should only be used when the browser displays a golden padlock, a sign that a Web site is using encryption.

Not everyone needs anonymous browsing but for those that do, Torpark is an excellent option.

Posted at 1:57 pm. Filed under Browsers, Freebies, Internet, Privacy

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