While the heavy use of downloadable music tracks gives music listeners more control of their music choices, it sometimes leaves them with fewer ways to discover new music.
NoiseTrade ( http://noisetrade.com ) is a site that allows free music downloads (you can leave a tip, which is suggested but not required). Generally, what's offered are samplers -- for an established artist, that might mean a few cuts from previous albums plus a few to promote their newest release. It's a great way to introduce yourself to unfamiliar artists. You can get on NoiseTrade's mailing list and get announcements of what new downloads are available, and they usually compare a new artist to others in the same genre to help you get a sense of whether or not you'd be interested.
In a possible blow to Microsoft in regards to its Windows RT operating system, Samsung announced, somewhat suddenly, that it would not be bringing a new Windows RT tablet to the U.S. market.
Windows RT is a cousin to the newly-released Windows 8 operating system for desktops and the Windows Phone 8 operating system for phones. It is designed to work on tablets and similar mobile devices. Some tablets are capable of using the full version of Windows 8, which means they can run Windows desktop apps. But the tablets running Windows RT can only run apps designed for Windows' new "live tiles" interface.
Sound confusing? That's what Samsung says, as well. Samsung says consumers don't understand the benefits of Windows RT and that it would take too much marketing to get them to understand.
Microsoft is selling its own tablet, the Surface, in a Windows RT version and will soon add a full Windows 8 version as well. But even so, it surely can't be pleased at the fact that a manufacturer of Samsung's caliber has, for the moment, decided that Windows RT tablets won't catch on.
This month's Consumer Electronics Show led to an unusual problem for the technology web site CNET.
CNET had given a favorable review to Dish Network's new DVR, the Hopper, and it was announced as a finalist for the official "Best of CES" awards which CNET manages for the show. The DVR can record a number of programs and once, and by default it automatically records all of the primetime programs from the four major networks, so even if you didn't consciously decide to record something it's there for you to watch after you hear your co-workers gushing about it the next day at work. The newest version of the device, unveiled at CES, allows you to watch what you've recorded over the Internet or download it to your tablet to take with you.
According to multiple media reports, word of the positive review of the Hopper got to CNET's parent company, CBS. CBS, among other TV companies, is currently suing Dish Network over the Hopper. The networks believe Hopper makes it too easy for viewers to skip TV commercials. CBS, of course, makes its money from those commercials. CBS executives found out that one of their own divisions had been touting the Hopper's benefits, and might be about to give it the top award. They were, one can presume, not happy about it.
Suddenly, it was announced that the Hopper had been disqualified from the awards and that CNET would no longer review any products which were the subject of legal action by its parent company.
It's just a bad situation all around. One sympathizes with CNET, which needs to be able to review products without fear or favor if it wants to keep the respect and loyalty of its viewers and web site readers. One of the CNET reporters has already resigned, saying he can't work without editorial independence. Of course, you can also understand the legal ramifications of the parent company suing someone only to find out that one of its subsidiaries was, in effect, siding with the opposition.
CNET deserves praise for being open and honest about what was taking place, something they insisted on in their discussions with the parent company.
This is a definite example of the perils of media over-consolidation. The larger and more diverse media conglomerates become, the higher the risk that what one division is doing will create a conflict of interest for some other division.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government.