Microsoft DRM woes

If you bought music from Microsoft’s MSN Music Store, you need to make sure you have it installed on the computer and operating system version that you intend to use for the rest of your life before August 31st 2008. Or you need to burn it to CD and reimport it into your music library as MP3 tracks. Why? Because Microsoft is going to switch off their authorization servers for this system of DRM (digital rights management) after that date, according to ars technica.

Afterwards, it will not be possible to upgrade either your computer or the operating system version and continue to listen to your music. This illustrates the risk you take if you buy music protected by DRM, even from the the industry’s biggest players – any time they lose interest in a market, you lose your music.

Spring is finally here

At last, after the recent snow, it has warmed up and some of the foreign birds have arrived from warmer climes. These ducks arrived today and are making themselves useful eating the duckweed in our pond.

‘Apothekenpreise’ – soon history?

In Germany, if something is ridiculously expensive for what it is, we refer to it having an Apothekenpreis (pharmacy price). If you’ve seen a typical Germany pharmacy (or chemist), you’ll understand why. They are usually fitted out with the top-of-the-market shop fittings and very well-staffed. Which means that we pay 2 or 3 times as much for common drugs such as aspirin in Germany compared to the UK or the USA.

That could be about to change. Medco Health Solutions have just acquired a majority interest in the Dutch internet company Europa Apotheek Venlo, who sell medication and drugs on the German market. Europa Apotheek provides a centralized dispensing-by-mail service through drop-off locations in Drogerie Markt stores, Germany’s second largest drug store chain – a distribution model similar to Medco’s system, pioneered in the United States.

Medco had net revenues of 17 billion dollars from its internet business last year, and will very likely shake up the staid German market, which would be no bad thing – unless you happen to run a pharmacy.

Reformatting Windows (NTFS) disks for Mac OS X

I’ve bought several external hard drives recently to use for backing up under Leopard. Getting them reformatted from the pre-formatted Windows NTFS partition to Macintosh Extended Journaled has been unexpectedly problematical – usually the best chance has been to reformat (on the Mac) to MS DOS FAT format and then try to change the partition to Macintosh Extended Journaled in a second step. But it seems to depend on the drive’s controller hardware as to whether this is successful.

Carl Bach has published a way of getting Maxtor drives re-formatted. In fact – in my experience – the method works very well for drives from other manufacturers too, even cheap no-name 2.5″ external drives have allowed themselves to be changed to Mac format using his method.

How English might evolve

All languages evolve, even French, despite the efforts of the Acadámie Française to freeze their language. If you are interested in how languages have evolved in the past, then take a look at The Loom of Language by Frederick Bodmer, which despite having been written over 60 years ago is still one of the best books on the evolution of languages. In fact, by showing how modern languages have evolved from common roots, it can also help spot patterns that help learning a new language.

There’s an interesting short article in today’s Daily Mail about how English is likely to evolve in the coming decades. (It summarizes a more detailed – and more interesting – article in the New Scientist [subscription required to read the full article]). The people pushing the evolution will probably be non-native speakers – those using English as a second language. There are well over a billion non-native English speakers today, compared with around 320 million native speakers, and they will drive a simplification of the language:

… As the new language takes over, “the” will become “ze”,
“friend” will be “frien” and the phrase “he talks” will become “he talk”…

However, this doesn’t mean that more people will be able to use this simplified English to communicate with each other, as at the same time the local variations that exist today will continue to exist and evolve too, resulting in increasing fragmentation into regional dialects. This is what happened to Latin, when between AD 300 and AD 800 it evolved into Italian, French and Spanish. Interestingly, the New Scientist suggests that what may function as the “glue” between the different dialects is scientific and technical writing, as well as worldwide media. This is what has happened with Arabic, which has many local spoken dialects, united by the literary Arabic of the Koran.

Schmitten 7:20 this morning

Schmitten 7:20 on 2008-03-26
The view this morning at 7:20. It has been snowing most of the night, and the forecast is for more to come today. It should warm up a bit tomorrow, so I hope the winter might have gone after the weekend!

View out of our windows

Ruth is in the UK at the moment for a few days, so these pictures are mainly to show her how much snow (and sleet and hail) we have had since she left on Sunday!

Snow in Schmitten 2008-03-25

More snow

And it was good job she flew into Heathrow and not London City (with its short runway surrounded by water and buildings), me thinks:

(YouTube Link via vowe dot net)


We visited a friend in Rostock from Thursday until today. It is a really lovely town – it has been nicely renovated since the reunification in the early 1990’s and is a very pleasant place to live. The historical building style uses bricks very effectively – and many of the modern buildings in the town center are also brick-built and blend in with the traditional buildings, as you can see in the case of the building on the left below.
Buildings in the pedestrian area of Rostock
One of the trademarks of Rostock is Warnemnde Lighthouse on the promenade (below), built in 1897. Next to it you can see on the left, a model of the sun, which is part of a scale representation of the solar system, which stretches about 6 km down the beach and includes plaques for each planet, showing the planet to the same scale and at the scale distance from the sun.
Lighthouse and sun in Rostock

Viral marketing?

According to AutoBild, the full-page advertisement they ran a couple of weeks ago for Cin King was viral marketing for a German car manufacturer.

Normally, viral marketing increases in brand awareness by getting people talking about or linking to the ads. I’m not sure how running ads for cars nothing like the ones you manufacture and also not mentioning your name in the ads is supposed to do that. Although AutoBild did name the company sponsoring the ads, I don’t think they really want to be named, so you can do your own research to find out who they are. I’m keeping my mouth shut here.