Net Gains: The sound of music

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The Independent Culture

MP3 files are highly compressed virtual CD-quality sound files that you can download from the Internet and until a few months ago the music industry saw them as something of a long-term threat. Not any more. A new survey on the record-buying habits of teenagers suggests that they are buying fewer and fewer CDs and tapes, as against thirtysomething buyers who are buying more than ever. The only explanation the record industry can suggest is that teenagers have taken to downloading their music straight from the Internet.

On the one hand, it's easy to sympathise with teenagers. Anybody who remembers having to build up a record collection on the average 15-year-old's budget back in the 1980s isn't going to have any trouble seeing the Internet's attraction. But the music industry is so worried about the new trend that it is taking action against the major MP3 software producers, saying that that their programs, which are officially supposed to be used to distribute legitimate material, are being used to copy everything from The Rolling Stones to Julian Cope. Similarly worrying for the industry is the success of search engines devoted to seeking out sound files. MP3 Search, which is produced by the same people who run Lycos, for example, is one of the most popular but if the music industry has its way, it may not be around for too much longer.

Film Bloopers

Amongst the numerous discussions on the active Stanley Kubrick newsgroup (alt.movies.kubrick) following his death recently, were a number of suggestions as to what it might have been that killed him. If it wasn't old age, maybe it was sheer exhaustion at the effort of making his final film, Eyes Wide Shut. One particularly cruel person suggested that the famously obsessive director was so upset to discover from the newsgroup that there was a fleeting shot of a helicopter shadow on the opening establishing shots of The Shining that he collapsed in horror on the spot. It has also been said that Kubrick was particularly bothered by the Internet Movie Database's "bloopers" section. This lists errors spotted in hundreds of Hollywood movies. For a director like Kubrick, whose mythic reputation partially rested on the attention to detail that he put into his movies, it must have been particularly galling to discover that a masterpiece such as 2001: A Space Odyssey contains its own share of continuity and technical gaffes. The site is fascinating because it's one of the things that couldn't have been created without video recorders and the Internet. And although it sounds hopelessly trivial, it is one of the most compelling movie-trivia sites around.

iCab Browser

Apple Mac users still have a long way to go to achieve any kind of equality with PC users when it comes to the Internet. Microsoft's new web browser, IE5, which is available for download from is typically not yet available for Apple Macs. But if you want to protest with your feet, then you could try moving over to a new Mac-only web browser called iCab, an early version of which you can download from a site in Germany.