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HughPickens.com writes Stomp on the gas in a new Ford Mustang or F-150 and you'll hear a meaty, throaty rumble — the same style of roar that Americans have associated with auto power and performance for decades. Now Drew Harwell reports at the Washington Post that the auto industry's dirty little secret is that the engine growl in some of America's best-selling cars and trucks is actually a finely tuned bit of lip-syncing, boosted through special pipes or digitally faked altogether. "Fake engine noise has become one of the auto industry's dirty little secrets, with automakers from BMW to Volkswagen turning to a sound-boosting bag of tricks," writes Harwell. "Without them, today's more fuel-efficient engines would sound far quieter and, automakers worry, seemingly less powerful, potentially pushing buyers away." For example Ford sound engineers and developers worked on an "Active Noise Control" system on the 2015 Mustang EcoBoost that amplifies the engine's purr through the car speakers. Afterward, the automaker surveyed members of Mustang fan clubs on which processed "sound concepts" they most enjoyed.
Among purists, the trickery has inspired an identity crisis and cut to the heart of American auto legend. The "aural experience" of a car, they argue, is an intangible that's just as priceless as what's revving under the hood. "For a car guy, it's literally music to hear that thing rumble," says Mike Rhynard, "It's a mind-trick. It's something it's not. And no one wants to be deceived." Other drivers ask if it really matters if the sound is fake? A driver who didn't know the difference might enjoy the thrum and thunder of it nonetheless. Is taking the best part of an eight-cylinder rev and cloaking a better engine with it really, for carmakers, so wrong? "It may be a necessary evil in the eyes of Ford," says Andrew Hard, "but it's sad to think that an iconic muscle car like the Mustang, a car famous for its bellowing, guttural soundtrack, has to fake its engine noise in 2015. Welcome to the future."
815 comments | about a week ago
samzenpus (5) writes "Alexander Stepanov is an award winning programmer who designed the C++ Standard Template Library. Daniel E. Rose is a programmer, research scientist, and is the Chief Scientist for Search at A9.com. In addition to working together, the duo have recently written a new book titled, From Mathematics to Generic Programming. Earlier this month you had a chance to ask the pair about their book, their work, or programming in general. Below you'll find the answers to those questions."
42 comments | about two weeks ago
J. L. Tympanum writes: While discussing music with my 24-year old son, the Typewriter Song (Leroy Anderson) came up. Within 10 seconds he had it playing on his laptop, but he didn't really get the joke because he had never seen a typewriter, nor heard the characteristics sounds — the clack of the keys, the end-of-line bell, the zip of the carriage return — that the typewriter makes. What other sounds do we not hear any more? More points for the longer they lasted (typewriters were around for over a century).
790 comments | about three weeks ago
journovampire writes: We might live in an age of YouTube and Spotify being the go-to music players of teenagers, but radio was still the top method of music discovery in the U.S. last year. According to the research, "59% of music listeners use a combination of over-the-air AM/FM radio and online radio streams to hear music," and "243 million U.S. consumers (aged 12 and over) tune in each week to radio – 91.3% of the national population tuning in across more than 250 local markets."
126 comments | about three weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes: The Walkman is one of the most recognizable pieces of technology from the 1980s. Unfortunately for Sony, it didn't survive the switch to digital, and they discontinued it in 2010. Last year, they quietly reintroduced the Walkman brand as a "high-resolution audio player," supporting lossless codecs and better audio-related hardware. At $300, it seemed a bit pricey. But now, at the Consumer Electronics Show, Sony has loudly introduced its high-end digital Walkman, and somehow decided to price it at an astronomical $1,200.
What will all that money get you? 128GB of onboard storage and a microSD slot to go with it. There's a large touchscreen, and the device runs Android — but it uses version 4.2 Jelly Bean, which came out in 2012. It also supports Bluetooth and NFC. Sony claims the device has 33 hours of battery life when playing FLAC files, and 60 hours when playing MP3s. They appear to be targeting audiophiles — their press release includes phrasing about how pedestrian MP3 encoding will "compromise the purity of the original signal."
391 comments | about three weeks ago
journovampire writes with this story about the booming music streaming business. "Streaming is on course to make more money for the U.S. music business than downloads and physical sales combined within the next three years. The U.S. appears poised for streaming to become its most valuable music format in either 2016 or 2017, according to MBW forecasts – so long as you include SoundExchange royalties generated by digital radio platforms like Pandora alongside subscription and ad-supported platforms like Spotify. But in the other three biggest recorded music markets in the world – France, Germany and Japan – the public appears more hesitant to allow streaming to take over."
169 comments | about three weeks ago
New submitter journovampire sends this report about the resurgence of vinyl: Vinyl album sales smashed records on both sides of the Atlantic in 2014, as a format that recently seemed on its last legs hit astonishing new heights. ...n the UK in 2014, vinyl album sales totaled of 1.3m – six times bigger than its tally just five years earlier (2009). In fact, 2014 represented the most vinyl albums sales in the UK since 1995 – nearly 20 years ago. In the U.S., vinyl sales have quadrupled in the past five years, narrowly missing out on a 10m sales milestone in 2014. Amazingly, the year’s 9.2m vinyl sales haul is the biggest since Nielsen Soundscan records began in 1993 – by some distance.
278 comments | about a month ago
Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain, points out what could have entered public domain in 2015 but won't and why we need to use the upcoming Public Domain Day to focus on the importance of copyright reform. She writes: "What could have been entering the public domain in the US on January 1, 2015? Under the law that existed until 1978 -- Works from 1958. The films Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Gigi, the books Our Man in Havana, The Once and Future King, and Things Fall Apart, the songs All I Have to Do Is Dream and Yakety Yak, and more -- What is entering the public domain this January 1? Not a single published work."
328 comments | about a month ago
An anonymous reader writes I want to get a jump-start on next year's Christmas by wiring up my mother's gnome garden for a Christmas light show. I need a setup that can use wireless LED lights and speakers, the lights using a custom sequence set to music, that can be controlled remotely indoors to go off on a schedule, say every hour. Do you know of an off-the-shelf setup that is cheap and works seamlessly, especially for someone with little to no coding or custom building experience?
68 comments | about 1 month ago
the simurgh writes As the controversy surrounding Sony's handling of its hack, the movie The Interview and its aftermath continues, a singer is claiming that after failing to reach terms with Sony, the company put her music in the movie anyway. Yoon Mi-rae (real name Natasha Shanta Reid) is a U.S.-born hip hop and R&B singer who currently releases music on the Feel Ghood Music label. Sshe and her label claim that her track we learned that the track 'Pay Day' has been used without permission, legal procedure, or contracts.
180 comments | about a month ago
theodp writes In addition to The Ghost of Steve Jobs, The Codecracker, a remix of 'The Nutcracker' performed by Silicon Valley's all-girl Castilleja School during Computer Science Education Week earlier this month featured a Bubble Sort Dance. Bubble Sort dancing, it turns out, is more popular than one might imagine. Search YouTube, for example, and you'll find students from the University of Rochester to Osmania University dancing to sort algorithms. Are you a fan of Hungarian folk-dancing? Well there's a very professionally-done Bubble Sort Dance for you! Indeed, well-meaning CS teachers are pushing kids to Bubble Sort Dance to hits like Beauty and a Beat, Roar, Gentleman, Heartbeat, Under the Sea, as well as other music.
68 comments | about a month ago
HughPickens.com writes: Victoria Shannon reports in the NY Times that fifty years ago was a good year for music, with the Beatles appearing on Billboard's charts for the first time, the Rolling Stones releasing their first album, the Supremes with five No. 1 hits, and Simon and Garfunkel releasing their debut album. The 50-year milestone is significant, because music published within the first half-century of its recording gets another 20 years of copyright protection under changes in European law. So every year since 2012, studios go through their tape vaults to find unpublished music to get it on the market before the deadline.
The first year, Motown released a series of albums packed with outtakes by some of its major acts, and Sony released a limited-edition collection of 1962 outtakes by Bob Dylan, with the surprisingly frank title, "The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol. I." In 2013, Sony released a second Dylan set, devoted to previously unreleased 1963 recordings. Similar recordings by the Beatles and the Beach Boys followed. This year, Sony is releasing a limited-edition nine-LP set of 1964 recordings by Dylan, including a 46-second try at "Mr. Tambourine Man," which he would not complete until 1965. The Beach Boys released two copyright-extension sets of outtakes last week. And while there's no official word on a Beatles release, last year around this time, "The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963" turned up unannounced on iTunes.
153 comments | about a month ago
Onnimikki writes James Stewart, author of the calculus textbooks many of us either loved or loved to hate, has died. In case you ever wondered what the textbook was funding, this story has the answer: a $32 million dollar home over-looking a ravine in Toronto, Canada.
170 comments | about a month ago
An anonymous reader sends word that Apple's iTunes DRM case has already been decided. The 8-person jury took only a few hours to decide that the features introduced in iTunes 7.0 were good for consumers and did not violate antitrust laws. Following the decision, the plaintiff's head attorney Patrick Coughlin said an appeal is already planned. He also expressed frustrations over getting two of the security features — one that checks the iTunes database, and another that checks each song on the iPod itself — lumped together with the other user-facing features in the iTunes 7.0 update, like support for movies and games. "At least we got a chance to get it in front of the jury," he told reporters. ... All along, Apple's made the case that its music store, jukebox software, and hardware was simply an integrated system similar to video game consoles from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. It built all those pieces to work together, and thus it would be unusual to expect any one piece from another company to work without issues, Apple's attorneys said. But more importantly, Apple offered, any the evolution of its DRM that ended up locking out competitors was absolutely necessary given deals it had with the major record companies to patch security holes.
191 comments | about a month and a half ago
HughPickens.com writes: Lex Berko reports in The Atlantic that although webcasting has been around since the mid-1990s, livestreamed funerals have only begun to go mainstream in the last few years. The National Funeral Directors Association has only this year introduced a new funeral webcasting license that permits funeral homes to legally webcast funerals that include copyrighted music. The webcast service's growing appeal is, by all accounts, a result of the increasing mobility of modern society. Remote participation is often the only option for those who live far away or have other barriers — financial, temporal, health-related — barring them from attending a funeral. "It's not designed to replace folks attending funerals," says Walker Posey. "A lot of folks just don't live where their family grew up and it's difficult to get back and forth."
But some funeral directors question if online funerals are helpful to the grieving process and eschew streaming funerals live because they do not want to replace a communal human experience with a solitary digital one. What happens if there's a technical problem with the webcast — will we grieve even more knowing we missed the service in person and online? Does webcasting bode well for the future of death acceptance, or does it only promote of our further alienation from that inevitable moment? "The physical dead body is proof of death, tangible evidence that the person we love is gone, and that we will someday be gone as well," says Caitlin Doughty, a death theorist and mortician. "To have death and mourning transferred online takes away that tangible proof. What is there to show us that death is real?"
70 comments | about a month and a half ago
An anonymous reader writes The WSJ reports that the revival of vinyl records, a several-year trend that many figured was a passing fad, has accelerated during 2014 with an astounding 49 percent sales increase over 2013 (line chart here). Some listeners think that vinyl reproduces sound better than digital, and some youngsters like the social experience of gathering around a turntable. The records are pressed at a handful of decades-old, labor-intensive factories that can't keep up with the demand; but since the increased sales still represent only about 2 percent of US music sales, there hasn't been a rush of capital investment to open new plants. Raw vinyl must now be imported to America from countries such as Thailand, since the last US supplier closed shop years ago. Meanwhile, an industry pro offers his take on the endless debate of audio differences between analog records and digital formats; it turns out there were reasons for limiting playing time on each side back in the day, apart from bands not having enough decent material.
433 comments | about a month and a half ago
Nerval's Lobster writes A funny thing happened to the iPod Classic on its way to the dustbin of history: people seemed unwilling to actually give it up. Apple quietly removed the iPod Classic from its online storefront in early September, on the same day CEO Tim Cook revealed the latest iPhones and the upcoming Apple Watch. At 12 years old, the device was ancient by technology-industry standards, but its design was iconic, and a subset of diehard music fans seemed to appreciate its considerable storage capacity. At least some of those diehard fans are now paying four times the iPod Classic's original selling price for units still in the box. The blog 9to5Mac mentions Amazon selling some last-generation iPod Classics for $500 and above. Clearly, some people haven't gotten the memo that touch-screens and streaming music were supposed to be the way of the future.
269 comments | about a month and a half ago
HughPickens.com writes Maria Konnikova writes in The New Yorker that mondegreens are funny but they also give us insight into the underlying nature of linguistic processing, how our minds make meaning out of sound, and how in fractions of seconds, we translate a boundless blur of sound into sense. One of the reasons we often mishear song lyrics is that there's a lot of noise to get through, and we usually can't see the musicians' faces. Other times, the misperceptions come from the nature of the speech itself, for example when someone speaks in an unfamiliar accent or when the usual structure of stresses and inflections changes, as it does in a poem or a song. Another common cause of mondegreens is the oronym: word strings in which the sounds can be logically divided multiple ways. One version that Steven Pinker describes goes like this: Eugene O'Neill won a Pullet Surprise. The string of phonetic sounds can be plausibly broken up in multiple ways—and if you're not familiar with the requisite proper noun, you may find yourself making an error.
Other times, the culprit is the perception of the sound itself: some letters and letter combinations sound remarkably alike, and we need further cues, whether visual or contextual, to help us out. In a phenomenon known as the McGurk effect, people can be made to hear one consonant when a similar one is being spoken. "There's a bathroom on the right" standing in for "there's a bad moon on the rise" is a succession of such similarities adding up to two equally coherent alternatives.
Finally along with knowledge, we're governed by familiarity: we are more likely to select a word or phrase that we're familiar with, a phenomenon known as Zipf's law. One of the reasons that "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" substituted for Jimi Hendrix's "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" remains one of the most widely reported mondegreens of all time can be explained in part by frequency. It's much more common to hear of people kissing guys than skies.
244 comments | about a month and a half ago
Bennett Haselton writes The corruption of the #Ferguson and #Gamergate hashtags demonstrates how vulnerable the hashtag system is to being swamped by an "angry mob". An alternative algorithm could be created that would allow users to post tweets and browse the ones that had been rated "thoughtful" by other users participating in the same discussion. This would still allow anyone to contribute, even average users lacking a large follower base, while keeping the most stupid and offensive tweets out of most people's feeds. Keep reading to see what Bennett has to say.
162 comments | about a month and a half ago
UnknowingFool writes: In the Apple DRM lawsuit, the last plaintiff in the case has been disqualified. However, due to the number of potential consumers affected, the judge has denied Apple's motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs' lawyers will have to find a qualified plaintiff. To recap, the suit lost both plaintiffs in the last week when Apple reported to the judge that their iPods were not eligible (iPods must be purchased between Sept 2006 and May 2009). The first plaintiff withdrew when all her iPods were found to be outside the time period. The second plaintiff produced one iPod that was not eligible but two others that were eligible; however, Apple challenged the two eligible ones as the plaintiff could not prove she purchased them. They were purchased by her ex-husband's law firm. Since one of the suit's main claims was that the price of the iPod was raised due to Apple's actions, it was important to establish that she purchased them.
At the heart of the case is that Apple's use of DRM harmed customers by raising the price of the iPod and that Apple removed other competitor's music from the iPod — namely RealPlayer's Harmony music files. Apple does not dispute that it removed RealPlayer's files, but contends it was done for security reasons as RealPlayer was able to get the music files onto the iPod by posing as Apple FairPlay files. In testimony, Steve Jobs called RealPlayer's move "a hack" and there was considerable discussion at the time."
71 comments | about a month and a half ago