February 23, 2019

The StartX Files: A Strong Lack of Grace

A soothing new name to go with your hijacking?

  • March 20, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

I missed my CD burner.

It came as part of the standard hardware package when I first bought my Linux box a couple of years ago. One nice little IDE CD-RW tucked nicely under a CD-ROM drive. And, for the two days I left the Windows OS on that machine before I could wipe it in favor of Red Hat Linux, I was blissfully content to burn lots of data and audio CDs.

Then Linux arrived, and I could not use my CD burner any more. Try as I might, I could not get SCSI emulation working for my IDE drive.

And then it came to pass that Linux-Mandrake's and SuSE's developers finally figured out a way for everybody to be happy. Suddenly, I could have my CD burner and use it too.

But which CD application to use? After all, there is the mkisofs and mkhybrid command line utilities to create the image and the cdrecord, cdrdao, mkvcdfs apps to actually burn the CD, but command line interfaces are pretty frightening for the uninitiated, and frankly, I have never seen a GUI that really simplifies the CD recording process.

There are several good GUIs out there for burning CDs, not the least of which is X-CD-Roast. I was rummaging around the site for this fine application, thinking I would do a nice little roundup of all the CD burners. I will probably do this in the near future, but for now, I wanted to touch on some sinister goings-on in the world of music databases.

Many music-oriented programs, such as CD players and CD burners, access a central database to acquire music artist and track information. Until July of last year, this was typically the CDDB database. The CDDB database was a model of openness: users would voluntarily submit data about their CDs and then could access the entirety of the database for their own needs. Developers benefited from this greatly because their own customers were maintaining what would become a huge database. Everyone seemed to benefit from this arrangement.

Suddenly, things began to change. In a fit of raging profiteering, CDDB, now going by the soft and soothing name Gracenote, changed the terms of its licenses for developers. No longer could developers give their applications free access to the database if those applications would generate any kind of revenue, including shareware, support, advertising, or even links. Now you had to pay what Gracenote terms a "modest" fee. Oh, it's modest, all right, but you now have to jump through some serious hoops to access the CDDB database.

To gain access to the CDDB database, your application now has to use the Gracenote CDDB Client, display the logo for this client, and provide end-users with the means to separately register with Gracenote's service. Oh, and just to be sure this all happens the way Gracenote wants, your application has to go through a mandatory validation process--otherwise you're stuck with the mere 100-user license Gracenote assigns when a developer asks for it.

For all of this rigmarole, you get to pay a one-time fee of $495 for the first 5,000 users, and then $.06/year for each additional user over the first 5,000. If you want to just prepay and buy the end-user licenses ahead of time, that schedule works out to:

  • 5,000 extra licenses: $575/yr
  • 50,000 extra licenses: $2,800/yr
  • 100,000 extra licenses: $5,500/yr
  • 250,000 extra licenses: $13,500/yr

Oh, and did I mention the $250/hour telephone support fees?

Not bad for what used to be a publicly contributed database.

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