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June 2001

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Access denied

An editorial Opinion by the editors of the VOICE Newsletter.

They don't put it that plainly actually. It's more like "The CD wasn't found on this server" and at first it leaves you wondering that something may be wrong. But the fact is that Gracenote (developer of CDDB) has closed access to the CDDB for any client that is not using CDDB2. We should we care at all? Well, in my opinion we should be concerned.

In case you don't know what I am talking about at all, CDDB means Compact Disk Database. This database carries information about a myriad of CDs including title, artist, the tracks' names, the year of release, and the genre and resides on a server that is accessible via the Internet. A client calculates an ID from the data on a CD and sends it to the server that in turn responds by sending the related information. This provides a very convenient way to setup and maintain a database of your own CDs or make a cover for the CD you just burned for instance, as the client can simply fill in the required information for you.

While CDDB2 provides some advantage over the old CDDB like better support for certain characters and more detailed information, there are strong reasons why both developers and users wouldn't want to use it, besides the fact that OS/2 users can't use it, since it is and will not be available for OS/2 (neglecting the existance of Odin).

In contrast to CDDB, which is an openly defined protocol that could easily be implemented by developers, the CDDB2 applications now have to use a closed source Windows DLL, which also has been ported to a number of Unices. Who knows what this black box transmits to Gracenote's server? If you have a look at the license, it's very easy to get suspicious about this topic, not to mention others. Every user has to register first and provide some info about him/herself. The license states that this information and that collected by logging your requests may be used for creating user-profiles and for advertising. Greetings from Orwell...

Furthermore, once a developer signs the contract he/she is bound to using CDDB2 exclusively. CDDB2 doesn't allow using any other databases besides itself. Gracenote doesn't even accept seperate versions of a program which would allow connection to one database each. As a result users would be locked out of alternative offers, their freedom of choice is voided.

Last but not least the service won't be free any more. Developers will have to pay for supporting CDDB2 with their applications - depending on the number of users and per year! And requests generated by pirated versions count, too, of course. One can easily imagine the result: No more free updates, higher registration fees across the board, and no freeware with CDDB2 support.

So the users are going to pay dearly for this improved service. Quite interesting, especially since CDDB began as a private, non-commercial project and it's the users that made it big by submitting their whole CD collections' data for naught. I can't help associating the term theft with this new scheme. And lately we can add abuse as Gracenote signed a contract with Napster/Bertelsmann to help filtering unwanted song offers from Napster.

Obviously Gracenote has learned well from the master monopolist of the dark side, M$ itself. Maybe too well. When Gracenote first published their plans, few people cared. But some gathered and created an alternative to CDDB called FreeDB. This database is run under the GNU General Public License and uses the old standard CDDB protocol, so any client that can be configured to use other servers than cddb.com is able to use FreeDB. They began with a relatively small database, few servers (3 when I first noticed it) and a small web site, but have grown enourmously. It is even possible to download the whole database which hasn't been possible with CDDB.com for years. Thanks to this alternative, Gracenote's strategy seems to be about to backfire on them. Judging from what can be heard on the net, Un*x developers have almost completely dropped CDDB in favour of FreeDB and the trend seems to continue on the Windows platform, too. For instance the developers of Feurio!, a very popular shareware CD writing package from Germany especially designed with samplers in mind, decided that they won't support CDDB2 months ago.

So what does the future look like for OS/2 users? Well, to my knowledge all existing OS/2 applications with CDDB support should be able to use the FreeDB service. You may need to add the correct address, but that's it. Those that are still actively maintained have meanwhile been preconfigured for using FreeDB. You can find links to some at the FreeDB home page. So far OS/2 applications are missing one important feature, though: The ability to submit data to the FreeDB database. I strongly hope that it is going to be implemented soon. We don't want this relationship to be parasitical, do we? There is really no reason to use CDDB2 applications for other OSes, e.g. with Odin. Instead I strongly encourage you to heavily use FreeDB with native OS/2 applications and submit data about missing CDs once this feature is available (you can also do it via a browser, but it requires some editing).

This behaviour cannot be tolerated. It's high time that users stop silently accepting what the monopolists see fit for them. Gracenote's and Microsoft's (think of their plans to tie licenses to hardware etc.) recent strategies clearly show that things are going to get even worse. Write to Gracenote at licensing@gracenote.com and firmly but politely express your opinion on the matter. Here is the chance for users to make clear that it's this far and no further. Make them realize that to your purses and personal data for them is: Access denied!

VOICE Server Update: We now have a secure site at https://www.os2voice.com, though it is not functional yet. The new domain was contributed to VOICE by Internet Walkabout. VOICE has purchased a Thawte SSL server authentication certificate also.

In May we had two general meetings on May 7th and May 21st at 8PM EST (00:00 GMT, 02:00 Berlin). You can review the transcripts of these and other VOICE IRC events at http://www.os2voice.org/transcripts.html This month we have a general meeting on Monday June 18th at 8PM EST (00:00GMT, 02:00 Berlin). We will have a Speakup with Sundial Systems scheduled on June 4th at 8PM EST(00:00GMT, 02:00 Berlin). For more information on attending online VOICE IRC meetings please see the VOICE Meeting Information page - http://www.os2voice.org/meetinginfo.html

If you have an idea for a Speakup event, please submit it to liaison@os2voice.org, and we will try to schedule something. Also on the VOICE Calendar are weekly Warp Doctor team meetings every Wednesday at 9PM EDT (01:00GMT, 03:00 Berlin). As always, please be sure to check out the updated VOICE Future events Calendar in this newsletter or on the VOICE website at http://www.os2voice.org/calendar.html for more details on future VOICE events.

This month we start with a review of FileStar/2 V2.10, a feature-rich filemanager for PM, by Bob Stan. Next, Chris Ayers reports on his venture of updating an old machine in Resurrecting an AT case.

Then Isaac Leung presents us what he found out investigating Simplicity for Java, the RAD tool by Data Representations, followed by Don Eitner's comments on the soon to be released eComStation in eComStation Preview - It's about time. Don provides us with the latest facts as of his writing and his experiences with the preview.

This year's Warpstock takes place outside the US for the first time: in Toronto, Canada. Read about what's already going on in the planning process and what this city has in store for you besides computer stuff in Canada welcomes Warpstock 2001! With the GA of eCS imminent, Frank Berke takes a step back and a look at what is concerning him in the OS/2 world: Quo vadis, OS/2?

Finally we have the VOICE Newsletter OS/2 Tips page and the Letters, Addenda, Errata page. If you have any OS/2 or eCS tips you've uncovered, please send them to tips@os2voice.org. If you have any comments or suggestions about the newsletter or articles in it, please send them to editor@os2voice.org

That's it for this month. So far, for July, we have have articles covering the release of the eComStation GA release by Isaac Leung and Don Eitner. The review of Limewire, (a Java Gnutella client) by Frank Berke has been postponed so Frank can have a closer look at the latest version. Manfred Agne is going to provide us with a view from a different perspective on the trusty old Impos/2 image manipulation package. Another thing in the works is an in-depth review of Xact 7.x by Stefan Deutscher, but a date for publishing hasn't been determined yet.

We are always interested in your thoughts and views on subjects related to OS/2, and would like to see opinion/editorial pieces as well as hardware/software reviews. If you can help by writing an article please contact me at editor@os2voice.org. Guidelines for Article Submissions to the VOICE Newsletter.

Mark Dodel and Christian Hennecke
Editors, VOICE Newsletter

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