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July 2005

One bad law
July 19, 2005 +
The pending extension to Daylight Savings Time in Congress is a sad example of government doing the wrong thing for the right cause. Energy conservation comes from tightened fuel economy, recycling, and emissions regulations, not by clinging to the afternoon sun.

Extending DST won't "save energy" just by keeping the sun up later. Lights will still need to run overnight on highways, city streets, and 24-hour facilities, and most stores won't change their operating hours. Try as they may, Congress can't mandate a shorter nightfall.

More importantly, solving one problem (people like when it's light out later) simply creates another. The shift to a longer DST period means that the sun will rise at extremely uncomfortable hours. For example, under the proposed change, sun-up won't happen in New York until 7:55 a.m. the night before DST ends, compared with 7:23 a.m. in the existing schedule. In fact, the entire four-week fall extension will put sunrise past 7:30 a.m. I used to get to high school by 7:40—how will students feel when they spend weeks or months in homeroom while the sun is still down?

Representatives Ed Markey (D., Mass.) and Fred Upton (R., Mich.) must be proud of the energy-conscious labels they can wear in their next election cycles, but this is terrible policy. I suppose it's par for the course in government, though; whatever sounds good on the TV news can get approved. Heck, with all this grandstanding in Washington, perhaps the 28-hour day can get an endorsement someday.

Apple's next step
July 14, 2005 +
Great news from Apple this week regarding iPod sales. Following the note on Daring Fireball that Apple is making its money on the unit and not the songs within the iTunes Music Store, I'm offering to Jobs and Co. their next smart move:

Let iTMS buyers select high-bitrate downloads at additional cost.

Think about it: to many people, 128Kbps AAC files sound "fine." But they don't sound good. Many people, particularly a subset of devoted music fans, would rather listen to a circa-1985 boombox than suffer the ignominy of lossy 128-bit encoding. I, for example, rip CDs at 192K or better, and I'm debating a switch to Apple Lossless encoding, even though I'll be able to cart less music around.

Loyalty to quality audio has mostly kept me out of shopping in iTunes. My wife has bought a few albums, mostly pop, where sonic quality matters less; my purchases have largely been dance tunes and single-song impulse buys. I'd rather spend $13.99 on a better-sounding audio CD than $11.99 within iTMS, convenience be damned. (I also retain an affinity for tangible ownership, but that's another issue entirely.)

Imagine, then, if iTunes offered me two choices: the usual 128-bit download for 99 cents and, say, a 256-bit "high quality" version for $1.49 instead. The cost difference would be minor enough to encourage select consumers to "upgrade"; full albums would still clock in at around $14.99—the same as a disc at retail—with similar audio performance. And the price differential would likely offset any increased server and bandwidth requirements on Apple's part.

With such an option, I'd be shopping iTMS a lot more often, and Apple could conceivably make even more money while increasing my purchasing loyalty.

Project management lessons learned
July 11, 2005 +
My apartment building is currently up in arms about a redesign of the lobby space that isn't going very well. I've been reading the mailing list chatter for the past few weeks, and the overall complaint arc unveils some great basic project-management pointers.
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June 2005



Copyright © 2005 David Wertheimer. All rights reserved.