Be philanthropic and win money at the same time !

I didn’t get to update my blog during the last couple of days, so I would like to apologize to my friend Vel for not spreading the word earlier than this. Anyway, here it is:

I have been involved with a great organization – Project Why for a while.

Read more about them here –
http://www.ideamani.com/2005/09/project-why.html

They have more than 500 children that they take care of and only have money left for a month.

A few bloggers, myself included have come up with an idea – A lucky draw for the charity with a $2 raffle ticket and a prize (to be determined), with the profits donated to Project Why.

This is a great opportunity to help feed some poor children in India, and also stand a chance to win $100 in the form of a gift certificate. Vel is very active in the blogging community and has already raised $547 in the last 4 days!

Please spread the word out and contribute whatever possible in the form of multiple entries in the raffle! Remember, every ocean is made of several drops!

I bought a car !

I finally bought a car on Friday! It is a Ford Mustang and is in excellent condition, since of course, I bought it used. I love driving, and spent the better part of the day driving it to the temple, the mall, and the Indian movie theater.

More about this later!

The evolution of personal music players

I was walking down the campus yesterday when I realized that almost 2 out of 3 people on campus had a personal music player of one or the other type. These devices were almost invariably MP3 players the size of one’s palm. Some people had headphones attached to their cellphones or pocket computers, but everyone was listening to some sort of digital media.

This made me wonder. The concet of carrying your music with oneself has really evolved during the last 2-3 decades. In the very beginning, after the birth of portable stereo systems, some youngsters actually carried their stereo systems to listen to their music. Of course, this meant that the devices were bulky and inconvenient to carry, but the fundamental urge to “force” your favorite music down everyone else’s ears superceded the practical issues.

Then came the Sony Walkman in the year 1979. This extremely small pocket sized cassette player is credited with creating a “culture” based around portable music that lives even today. The Walkman was an amazing device. It cost $200 at that time, roughly half the average rent in the city of NY, and could only play back the music, not record it. “Walkmen” ruled the market until mid 90s, when CD sales actually took over cassette sales at a global level. I still remember walking into any electronics store and literally drooling over the multitude of Sony Walkman models, especially the water resistant ones with little digital clocks and FM tuners in them.

The main issue with personal CD players was the size. They were no longer pocket sized, and had to be lugged around in your hand or through some sort of belt clip. Nevertheless, a lot of them were sold just because it is human nature to try to be abreast with the latest and the best. Sony started making huge mistakes around the same time. In their endeavor to be the best electronics company in the world, they started focussing more on proprietary and rather “odd” design schemes instead of adopting the most widely used ones. Actually, Sony has been adept at this ever since they were incorporated (cue debates about the Betamax format), but their strategy isn’t or wasn’t suited for a truly global market where functionality rather than brand value rules the roost.

And then came the age of the MP3 files. Suddenly, the youth was spending more time listening to music downloaded from the Internet than from actually bought CDs. While the industry and record labels (Sony included) were trying their best to curb the free flow of music, Apple came out with the iPod. An iPod was to the personal music market what a Walkman was nearly 2 decades ago. It was exorbitantly priced, played MP3s, and had a massive storage capacity. To take it further, Apple even tied up with various record labels to enable youngsters to purchase music to play on their iPods. Sony was left totally dumbfounded.

Apple had the same advantage that Sony had in 1979. It had a revolutionary product that no one else had, or in fact, seemed to have. Apple took cues from Sony, and not only did it make the iPods functional, but also a fashion statement. Youngsters wanted an iPod for the very same reason they wanted a cassette tape Walkman years ago. Only this time, people had far more disposable income, which translated to a greater market penetration and sales numbers.

I am glad to have joined the revolution last week, although not with an iPod. Truly wonderful times to live in!

Yahoo! Music Engine

Screenshot of YME

I have been using Yahoo! Music Unlimited for a week now. My free 7 day trial ends today, but I think I am going to keep the subscription for some time now. The price is just too hard to give up. I can listen to more than a million soundtracks for $6 a month!

Before subscribing to Yahoo! Music, I had been using Real Rhapsody for more than a year. Rhapsody is a similar music subscription service. Both of them are based on the Windows Media DRM scheme and format, and allow you to stream music on your PC or music device. I am not sure why, but Rhapsody charges extra for the capability to transfer these music files to a portable media device, making their service cost $15 a month.

Price apart, I think both the services are pretty good, but after using Yahoo! for a week, I like how it is actually tied together with the Yahoo! suite of services. It plays well with the messenger service, and shows up as a subscribed service in your Yahoo! account information. The interface is crisp and clear, although a bit slower compared to Rhapsody.

I cannot say much about the music selection, as both the services seemed to offer the newest and the latest albums. As far as Indian music goes, I think Yahoo! offers a better collection, although Rhapsody’s collection was more organized and searcheable. A lot of the music comes from the Saregama label.

I like the personalized radio station too. Basically, it is a radio station based on your taste, and generated by software depending on the ratings given by you to various artists, songs, and albums. Most of the times, I get what I want to hear, and very rarely a song that I do not like.

The Dell DJ interoperation is flawless, and I have to just drag and drop to transfer music to my DJ.

I think Yahoo! has got a good thing going with the Yahoo! Music Engine (basis for the subscription service). If only they could figure out a way to make the Windows DRM available for other platforms, I am sure they could conquer the market with their pricing and personalization.

Interesting blog by a YME developer: Click here!

I now own a portable music player !

I finally relented and bought myself a new Dell DJ music player tonight! My last portable music player purchase was a Sony Discman I bought in 2002 for my sister. I thought it was finally time for me to get with the times and gift myself something I could use to listen to music while mobile.

My new gizmo has a 30GB hard drive, and comes with a neat docking station. It cost me $200 after $95 in coupons and customer appreciation discounts. I just couldn’t give up on this special opportunity. Another driver for the decision was the fact that I am absolutely amazed at the quality of Dell products. I have been a very happy Dell customer since early 2004 having bought a PDA, a top-of-the-line desktop computer, and a powerhouse Inspiron 9300 laptop.

I did consider getting the 20GB photo iPod before I ordered this, though. One of the main reasons I dislike the iPods is the way they try to lock you in into proprietary formats and services. They don’t work with major music subscription services, and are way overpriced for the value they carry. I don’t support music piracy, and paying 99 cents for every musical track isn’t my cup of tea.

The next gadget on my shopping list is a new cellphone. My current Sony Ericsson T637 has about given up on life. I was looking around for newer Sony Ericsson models (I have taken a casual vow to stick to Sony Ericsson phones for the rest of my life), when I came across the W800i. It is a mix of a Sony Walkman, a Sony Cybershot 2.0MP camera, and a cellphone. Unfortunately, it works on the 900/1800/1900 frequency bands, while Cingular mostly uses the 850/1900 frequency bands in North America. I guess the phone is more geared towards T-Mobile suscribers. The yet-to-be-released W600i works on the 850/1900 frequencies, and has a smaller form factor, not to mention EDGE compatibility. I can’t wait for the price of that phone to fall down.

I should have my Dell DJ 30 by Wednesday!

I bought a new domain !

I bought a new domain – cerebrawl.com last night through Yahoo! Small Business. They are running a special where you can get a domain registered through an affiliate Australian domain registrar for $1.99 a year. I got mine for 2 years!

I was looking to find something that had to do with a mental struggle, and chanced upon cerebrawl, which sounded kind of interesting to me. I am sure I could think a bit more and dwell upon the word’s deeper significance.

At this moment, I have no concrete idea on what I am going to use my new domain for, but I am sure of using my existing hosting provider TQ Hosting to provide me with bandwidth. I have been really happy with their service for the last year or so.

Finally, here’s hoping that I develop something new and innovative pretty soon !