I just saw the world premiere of Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire’s Edge at the Mill Valley Film Festival. This is the story about Iraq we haven’t seen. It’s about the people of Iraq and what our invasion and occupation means to them. [QuickTime trailer]

But there’s a subtext that’s important to all Americans. Not only do we never get to see or read this story, we don’t even get to see this type of footage. Our billion-dollar news organizations only show us the latest car bombings and endless replays of about-to-occur beheadings. I blame the American media for this more than I blame the administration. If you get to see this film, you’ll know what I mean. If you’ve seen Control Room, about Al-Jazeera, you’ve had a hint. Battleground tells us much more of the story.

After the screening we had a Q&A with one of the film’s producers and she said there was currently no distributor for the 82-minute feature. To date, everyone has considered it “too controversial.” I hope that somehow it will be released and that you’ll be able to see it. It’s so well produced, I’m confident it will eventually find a distributor. In any case, keep your eyes open for it.

Here’s the blurb from the festival:

Intense, emotional and fascinating from the first frames to the last, Battleground goes beyond media madness and political posturing into the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and of American soldiers stationed on the front lines, to examine how the conflict has changed lives. Frank, a former anti-Saddam guerrilla and torture victim exiled for 13 years, finally returns to Iraq to see his family; Iraqis living without water or electricity wonder what has happened to their home in the name of “freedom and democracy”; American soldiers offer surprisingly candid views about the war. Shot over three weeks in late 2003, this superb documentary offers a real-world perspective you simply won’t see anywhere outside the Middle East.

The film was produced by Berkeley’s awesome Guerilla News Network, whose mission is “to expose people to important global issues through guerrilla programming on the web and on television” and who recently published True Lies, a book that also does what our mainstream media should be doing. Two thumbs way up for this film.

Sony So Doesn’t Get It

Just saw this on BoingBoing:

Sony sent a bullying shut-down notice to Retropod, a website selling hand-made iPod cases made out of recycled Sport Walkman housings.

Although it’s a different issue, this is consistent with Sony’s ongoing general attitude towards its customers, standards and proprietary technologies. I usually like Sony products: great VCRs, digital cameras, and more. But what’s with MemorySticks? They’re nothing more than Sony’s attempt at lock-in. Lower capacity and more expensive than open standard memory cards. I use MemorySticks because I have no choice, but every time I deal with one, I’m reminded of how locked in I am.

Even worse are Sony’s MiniDisk recorders. Sony doesn’t allow you to read the files digitally. You’ve got to play them back in real time through the line output and re-record on another device. Sucks.

My sense is that all of this happened when Sony acquired Columbia. When that happened, a company that was once seen as an advocate of consumer gadgets and technology began to take the wrong side of the DRM debate. Now when you buy a Sony product, it’s like buying an MP3 player from one of the major record labels.

I just bought a new Hi-MD (1 gigabyte minidisc) recorder from Sony because I need the capacity in a small device, but if there had been a more open alternative, I would have gone that route instead. Sony has finally announced it will support MP3 in some of its devices, but apparently not until next summer.

Get it together, Sony. Apple has replaced you as the company that understands the user by almost every measure. As far as I’m concerned, Apple now has an open road to lead in almost any consumer-electronics niche–peviously Sony’s opportunity.

ID3 Tags

Lots of discussion and email about the best way to utilize the MP3 ID3 tags. I’ve recently made some changes for IT Conversations, and I’ve received both positive and negative comments. I’d like your feedback on my current thoughts.

ID3 supports the following hierarchy: Artist—Album—Title

Here are examples of how I propose using this hierarchy for a variety of IT Conversations programs:

IT Conversations—The Gillmor Gang—October 15, 2004
IT Conversations—Memory Lane—Len Kleinrock
IT Conversations—Voices in Your Head—James Patrick Kelly
IT Conversations—Law and IT—The INDUCE Act 2.0
IT Conversations—Gnomedex 4.0—Steve Wozniak
IT Conversations—Joel Spolsky—Joel on Software

The last example is slightly different because it’s one of my own interviews. To be more consistent, I probably should create a series name such as:

IT Conversations—Doug Kaye’s Interviews—Joel Spolsky

I know the ID3 tags are handled in varying ways by different MP3 players, so let me know if you think the above scheme will work for your player or whether it can be improved. Leave a comment here (on the blog) so others can react.

Clarification: The above schemes are not the way I’ve been using ID3 tags, I just realized. They’re they way I propose to use them in the future.

BitTorrent for Flash Content

When I interviewed Bram Cohen back in March I realized how brilliant BitTorrent was: a content-delivery mechanism that actually scales better than linearly. The more downloaders, the cheaper the cost per download. I’ve used BT on and off for a few months, but tonight I wanted to see the clip of John Stewart on CNN’s Crossfire (thanks, Dave). I clicked on the link and the download was painfully slow. Then I remembered — I recently re-initialized my firewall.

I forwarded ports 6881-6889 to my PC and re-started the download. Wow…superfast! If you have popular large objects, it’s awesome. But you already knew that, right?

And the Golden Rule of BitTorrent: When you’re done your download, don’t close the BitTorrent Window. Give unto others as you would have them give unto you. It costs you nothing.

Pwop: The Sound of $$ and Podcasting?

Carl Franklin of .Net Rocks fame has launched a new company named Pwop to produce podcasts for others. Could this be the first commercial venture into podcasting? I’d take the credit for that honor, but IT Conversations doesn’t make real $$ yet. [Source: Robert Scoble]

Wait!…We had paying sponsors for our podcasts of Gnomedex 4.0. Could that be the first instance of paid sponsorship of podcasting? That might be a cool thing to remember in five years when everyone else is making a whole lot more money.

The Victim of Podcasting: TV

At first I thought podcasting would hurt broadcast radio, but after listening to Dave and Adam I think the opposite is true. Podcasting frees the radio broadcaster from the constraints of transmitters and geography. WHen they podcast, I can reach any radio station, anywhere, anytime. I haven’t done the math, but I expect that with BitTorrent delivery, the per-listener cost to the broacaster will be less than via the AM/FM airwaves. I haven’t been able to listen to Terry Gross for a long time because I’m working during her show, I refuse to pay $14.95/month for the privilege, and manually download MP3s is a pain in the ass. Now I’m going to get one of those radio-to-MP3 devices and podcast it to myself.

So if I’m going to spend even more time listening to audio content — I’m already in the studio at least eight hours a day, and boy are my ears tired! — where’s that time going to come from? It’s already coming from television. Although podcasting is less than two months old, I can get content that is more inspirational, educational and entertaining through podcasting than I get from the broadcast or cable TV networks. I’m spending no less time on the Internet, and I predict others will likewise find that podcatching (listening to podcasts) will cause them to hit the OFF button on their TVs as well.

Our First 100GB Day

It’s still only 11:30pm and I just determined that IT Conversations transferred more than 100GB of web-site and audio files today: 81.77GB of dowloads and streaming to the Windows Media Player, and just over 20GB of web-site and ShoutCast MP3 stream traffic. That’s up by 4x over the September average.

Why? First is the latest content: Gnomedex 4.0 presentations by Wil Wheaton and Steve Wozniak, a new show by Dave Slusher, and the usual programs like The Gillmor Gang. I figure that accounts for 2x increase. The other 2x? I think it’s from Podcasting and the hyperlinks (including the verbal equivalent) we’re getting from other Podcasters.

Thank goodness for Limelight Networks, our CDN. They’re awesome.

I’ve Been Farked!

What’s tougher on infrastructure than being SlashDotted? Feing Farked, that’s what. just posted a link to Wil Wheaton’s presentation and as of 12:30pm we’re getting a new listener every 8-9 seconds on average. Most of the audio (MP3 downloads and streams to the Windows Media Player) is delivered by the CDN thank goodness, but the MP3 ShoutCast streams and the HTML pageviews are server by a little Celeron box somewhere in Texas. Looks like the IT Conversations site will be a bit slow until this quiets down. Guess it’s time to think about that new server.

The Bandwidth Challenge

Adam Curry and I were comparing notes this morning. I just checked my logs and noticed that IT Conversations is up to >60GB day (1.8 terrabytes per month). That’s an average of 5.56mbps, probably peaking close to the capacity of a DS3 (45mbps). That makes sense, of course, since just 15 people simultaneously download files using 3mbps cable connections can hit 45mbps combined. Thank goodness for Limelight Networks, the content-delivery network (CDN) that brings you IT Conversations. Without them there would be no delivery. BGW, that 60GB/day doesn’t include MP3 streaming, which is handled separately.

Vera Drake

I dropped the ball on blogging all of the films I’ve seen at this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival, but since opening night I haven’t seen anything all that exciting. Last night we saw Vera Drake, the latest film by director/screenwriter Mike Leigh and starring Imelda Staunton. It’s a terrific film that I predict will receive critical acclaim, be loved by audiences, yet stimulate a controversy in the same was as Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. No, the film isn’t at all like Gibson’s, but the controversy could be as great. Staunton’s performance is an Oscar-level tour de force. The entire cast (with no exceptions) are great. The directing, editing and cinematography are superb. I’m purposely not telling you much about the film because there are some important twists, but it’s a film you’ll want to see. It has only played a few festivals so far, but I expect it will be released shortly.