Sony Rootkit Contains Open Source?

Adding insult to injury: After releasing a stealth DRM application that has spawned a new series of exploits, there are now reports that parts of the Sony Rootkit DRM were built on top of the LAME encoder, which is open source technology.

In the "I can't make up stuff like this department", Sony actually said that the rootkit was important tool to protect our intellectual property rights and those of our artists.

One might conclude that it is important for Sony to protect their IP, and only their IP. Too bad the LAME encoder is LGPL -- if only Sony had taken the time to read my post on Open Source Licenses and Intellectual Property.

PME: Audible Annoucement and the Aftermath

A ton of comments/linkage flying around about the Audible announcement saga, made much worse by Mitch Ratcliffe attacking anyone and everyone (and then trying to do some damage control).

My thoughts about it all:

I was at the PME on Friday and I spent quite a bit of time in the Audible booth asking a ton of questions about the product. There is a ton of heat around this announcement (thanks to Mitch), but trying to avoid the pungent crap fest, I found a few items very interesting:

  • Audible is trying to respond to podcasting - we all knew it, but here is some more validation for the space.
  • The new product ("WordCast") allows for ad insertion to help monetize podcasting (even more validation), however, Audible does not currently have anything in place to help Podcasters and Advertisers find each other (see Podtrac or FruitCast for that)
  • As you might have guessed, Audible has no plans to have their ad insertion technology kick out mp3 files (yes, this would reduce the value as true metrics would be harder to acquire. However, MP3 *is* the de-facto standard). Again - see Podtrac/FruitCast
  • In addition to the charges ($0.03 per download, etc), podcasts that have a per episode or subscription fee, Audible is charging 20% per transaction, or $1, whichever is more! (A transaction being the sale of a yearly subscription, the sale of a single episode etc). I found this to be an extremely high cost for basically handling a credit card transaction via their Merchant account.

This may turn out to be an interesting case study - I'll be looking for the Seth Godin and Steve Rubel write-ups.

PME: Jason Calcanis Keynote

Jason Calcanis gave the opening keynote at the PME. At least it was billed as a keynote. If I had to categorize it, I'd say it was more of a stand-up routine. He was pretty funny.

During his keynote, Jason analyzed different entreprenurial opportunities in podcasting using sounds from Pacman. He probably upset a few folks in the room as he ticked off the areas in podcasting to avoid including directory services, search and advertising.

His advice was to find the areas that caused the most pain and move forward from there.

Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay 2005

On Sunday, we ran the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay. From a scenic point of view, this is my favorite race.

The race started at 7am, with 4500 runners in downtown Monterey. The weather was much warmer than the previous time I had run this race (2003), approximately 65 degrees.

We ran north for a quick three mile loop and then along the Bay past Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Once we reached Pacific Grove, we ran along the water on a Ocean View Blvd, which included a new (to me at least) set of turns and hills that took me by surprise. After the brief detour through town, we then continued South past Lover's Point and Asilomar Beach, then to the turnaround at Mile 8. The remaining five miles retraced our steps and we ended the race at Custom House Plaza next to Fisherman's Wharf.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization - The race was very well organized - clearly marked and staffed. Grade: A

Course - About as scenic as it gets. Grade: A+

Aid-stations - Located as billed - each had water and Gatorade. Gu available at mile 10. Grade: A

Swag - Long-sleeve dri-fit shirt, nice Finisher's medal. Grade: A

iTunes: 1 Million Video Downloads

Hot on the heels of's 2 million download month, Apple has hit the 1 million mark for video purchases/downloads via iTunes. The 1 million downloads were done in the last 19 days.

This is pretty amazing if you think about a few things:

* The video library on iTunes has only 2,000 titles, compared to 2 million songs
* There are only a few big "hits" in the video section: Lost, Desperate Housewives
* A good portion of the traffic is probably word of mouth, as Apple's media campaign has barely begun

I ran into Clint Sharp at the airport last week and he had good things to say about the the Video iPod (and that is coming from a guy that knows the vlogging space very well).

If I own a network affiliate (ABC, NBC, etc), this development has me worried. If I don't control the distribution of exclusive content anymore, what is my value add? How does this affect the value of my FCC license?

The impact of time-shifted media isn't limited to audio only - the shift in video will be very interesting to watch over the next year or so. 2 Million Download Month announced today that they had their first 2 million download month.

Podcasting is a lot like the early Web -- actual quantifiable data is pretty hard to find. I haven't seen numbers for any Podshow properties so it is hard to say, but 2 million downloads is quite an accomplishment.

Congrats to John Furrier -- keep up the good work (in case you haven't already heard it, check out the podcast John did with Steve Forbes)

Russell Reports on the Video iPod

Russell has a great post about hooking up his new Video iPod to a TV and watching DiggNation, which he was really into:

..they were geeks and we’re geeks and it was *on TV*. It was probably one the best shows I’ve seen “on TV” in a long time

As to the future of time-shifted, open source media:

...there’s finally a mass-market, consumer friendly way of viewing these videos somewhere besides your PC, and that’s going to change *everything*.

Good stuff.

TechCrunch BBQ #3

Tonight I attended the third TechCrunch BBQ at Mike Arrington's place in Atherton. There were a number of demos scheduled, enough sponsors to have the event catered (:-)) and a whole lot of people.

I met Mike (and Keith Teare) at Gnomdex earlier in the year and this event had the same kind of "Gnomedex-like" feel (just no Chris Pirillo). The energy and overall vibe were quite strong - strong enough to put me in the "get out the Complete Studio Sessions by Led Zeppelin (all 10 CDs) and code till the sun comes up" kind of mood.

Dave Weiner did a presentation in the back yard and challenged us to work on innovating blogging. He felt like it hasn't changed much since 2002 or so. He also said that he had not seen this kind of energy in the Valley and was very excited by it all.

There were ~15 demos -- I certainly didn't see all of them and had seen a few of them previously at Web 2.0 (Flock, Wink). Seeing Sphere for the first time was interesting.

I met a ton of people including Kevin Burton (FeedParser,TailRank), Josh from Zazzle (a 2.0 version of my old company iPrint) and some of the guys from Bessemer. Thanks to the TechCrunch guys for having us over!

Don Dodge on Microsoft Acquisitions

Don Dodge (on the MS Emerging Business Team) has written an excellent post on entrepreneurship and Microsoft acquisitions. Having been acquired by MS earlier this year, I found that the post closely mirrored our experience at MessageCast. Some interesting quotes:

What is most important to Microsoft when making acquisition decisions? People are the most important factor in any acquisition. Microsoft looks for talented engineering teams with vision and passion and experienced management teams. Second is technology and IP that can add value to an existing Microsoft product.

We heard this from the MS acquisition team on many occasions - it's about the people/team, not just the technology.

Entrepreneurs should remember this. The "barriers to entry" are most often market position, not technical brilliance. I have heard start-ups say "we have a two year lead on our closest competitor". In fact, I have said it myself at previous start-ups. I was wrong. Most technologies can be replicated by a talented engineering group within a year or two.

Said another way - make vs buy is always a consideration.