A busy month

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Every month when I sit down to write this column, I review the events of the past few weeks to decide on a topic. This month brought a new challenge, in that there are so many things happening it was hard to decide which one warranted the most attention.

Coding for IBOC

The pursuit of a terrestrial digital transmission system is rolling forward with renewed vigor. After stalling mid-flight with a substandard encoding scheme, Ibiquity has partnered with Coding Technologies to introduce HDC, a new perceptual audio encoder designed for the low bit-rates of IBOC.

After the NRSC nixed the PAC algorithm from its consideration, Ibiquity had to move fast to before all momentum was lost. While Ibiquity is fairly mum about the inner workings of the new encoder, the use of Spectral Band Replication, Coding Technologies' secret weapon to enhancing perceptual audio encoders, has already shown promise when it was applied to MP3pro and AACplus.

Meanwhile at Ibiquity, some heavy staff cuts have also been made. The company maintains that the “staff departures” were not made for budgetary reasons and says little more, but it makes one wonder if the encoder change and the staff cuts are related.

Ownership blues

While much of the heavy debate has ebbed on the new ownership rules, they are far from final. For radio, the market definition issue is causing problems. While the final outcome is still uncertain, I must praise FCC Chairman Powell for standing up to Congress. When the legislators said the new rules are no good and must be changed, Powell said fine — tell me how you want them to read. I guess there were some lessons learned while trying to write the equal employment rules.

Powell's new pet project is an increase in localism. Unfortunately, this appears to be a way to push LPFM and not reduce ownership limits.

Meanwhile, the FCC has also taken on a new project to study the effects of communication towers on migratory birds. Here we go again. I've heard the stories of entire flocks colliding to their deaths with tall towers, but I have never seen a flock of birds fly single file.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for protecting other species. With our ability to change the environment comes the responsibility of watching out for the animals we affect. I expect that the results of the study will show that just as many birds have trouble navigating natural barriers — such a trees — as they do tall towers.

Net disconnect

At the end of August came a persistent worm that sent unwanted e-mail messages everywhere. A writer in the San Francisco Chronicle summarized the best defense to virus/worm infection: Just disconnect everything from the Internet. She went on to write that the excitement of the Internet peaked in 1995; eight years later we are left with a form of communications that is so overloaded with spam messages and odd returned messages that we never sent.

Besides, one of the natural functions of the Internet - file sharing - has become a criminal act thanks to the free music downloaders.

Maybe the RIAA can insist that all music file sharing must use the PAC algorithm. Then the quality will be so bad that no one will want to listen anyway.

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