A busy month

September 1, 2003


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

Coding for IBOC

The pursuit of a terrestrial digital transmission system is rollingforward with renewed vigor. After stalling mid-flight with asubstandard encoding scheme, Ibiquity has partnered with CodingTechnologies to introduce HDC, a new perceptual audio encoder designedfor 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. WhileIbiquity is fairly mum about the inner workings of the new encoder, theuse of Spectral Band Replication, Coding Technologies' secret weapon toenhancing perceptual audio encoders, has already shown promise when itwas applied to MP3pro and AACplus.

Meanwhile at Ibiquity, some heavy staff cuts have also been made.The company maintains that the “staff departures” were notmade for budgetary reasons and says little more, but it makes onewonder 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 iscausing problems. While the final outcome is still uncertain, I mustpraise FCC Chairman Powell for standing up to Congress. When thelegislators said the new rules are no good and must be changed, Powellsaid fine — tell me how you want them to read. I guess there weresome lessons learned while trying to write the equal employmentrules.

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

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

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for protecting other species. With ourability to change the environment comes the responsibility of watchingout for the animals we affect. I expect that the results of the studywill show that just as many birds have trouble navigating naturalbarriers — such a trees — as they do tall towers.

Net disconnect

At the end of August came a persistent worm that sent unwantede-mail messages everywhere. A writer in the San FranciscoChronicle summarized the best defense to virus/worm infection: Justdisconnect everything from the Internet. She went on to write that theexcitement of the Internet peaked in 1995; eight years later we areleft with a form of communications that is so overloaded with spammessages 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 thePAC algorithm. Then the quality will be so bad that no one will want tolisten anyway.


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