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Old 14-01-22, 08:44 AM   #1
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - January 15th, 22

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January 15th, 2022

The AI Software that could Turn You in to a Music Star
Padraig Belton

If you have ever dreamed of earning money from a stellar music career but were concerned you had little talent, don't let that put you off - a man called Alex Mitchell might be able to help.

Mr Mitchell is the founder and boss of a website and app called Boomy, which helps its users create their own songs using artificial intelligence (AI) software that does most of the heavy lifting.

You choose from a number of genres, click on "create song", and the AI will compose one for you in less than 30 seconds. It swiftly picks the track's key, chords and melody. And from there you can then finesse your song.

You can do things such as add or strip-out instruments, change the tempo, adjust the volumes, add echoes, make everything sound brighter or softer, and lay down some vocals.

California-based, Boomy, was launched at the end of 2018, and claims its users around the world have now created almost five million songs.

The Boomy website and app even allows people to submit their tracks to be listed on Spotify and other music streaming sites, and to earn money every time they get played.

While Boomy owns the copyright to each recording, and receives the funds in the first instance, the company says it passes on 80% of the streaming royalties to the person who created the song.

Mr Mitchell adds that more than 10,000 of its users have published over 100,000 songs in total on various streaming services.

"Eighty-five per cent of our users have never made music before," Mr Mitchell tells the BBC. "And now we've got people who were paying their rent, and augmenting their income, with $100 (£74) or $200 a month from Boomy during Covid."

But, how good are these Boomy created songs? It has to be said that they do sound very computer generated. You wouldn't mistake them for a group of people making music using real instruments.

However, using AI to help compose music isn't exactly new: US classical composer, David Cope, developed such a software system back in the 1980s, following some episodes of writer's block.

One day he set it up to write compositions similar to those by Johann Sebastian Bach. Mr Cope then popped out for a sandwich, and returned to find that the computer had composed 5,000 Bach-inspired chorales. These were later released on an album called Bach by Design.

More recently, in 2019, Berlin-based US electronic music composer, Holly Herndon, made an album called Proto in collaboration with an AI system called Spawn that she had co-created. Ms Herndon is an expert in this field, and has a doctorate in music and computing from Stanford University in the US.

Mr Mitchell says that what has changed in recent years is that technological advancements in AI have meant song-writing software has become much cheaper.

So much so that Boomy is able to offer its basic membership package for free. Other AI song creator apps, such as Audoir's SAM, and Melobytes, are also free to use.

While AI composition inevitably grabs the headlines because of its novelty, new tech is continuing to change many other aspects of the wider music industry.

When the City and County of San Francisco imposed strict lockdowns back in 2020, Matthew Shilvock says that keeping an opera company going proved "extremely challenging".

He is general director of the San Francisco Opera, and it could no longer have "two singers, or even a singer and pianist, in the same room".

But when he tried running rehearsals with his performers online, "traditional video conference platforms didn't work", because of the latency, or delays in the audio and video. They were out of sync.

So, Mr Shilvock turned to a platform called Aloha that has been developed by Swedish music tech start-up Elk. It uses algorithms to reduce latencies.

Elk spokesman, Björn Ehler, claims that while video platforms like Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet have a latency of "probably 500 to 600 milliseconds", the Swedish firm has got this down to just 20.

Mr Shilvock says that, when working remotely, Aloha has "allowed me to hear a singer breathe again".

He adds that looking to wider tech to help solve problems is only natural for an opera house with Silicon Valley on its doorstep. "The energy and the drive to find solutions through technology is just so much part of the DNA of this city."

Meanwhile in Paris, Aurélia Azoulay-Guetta says that, as an amateur classical musician, she "realised how painful it is to just carry, store, and travel with a lot of physical sheet music for rehearsals, and how much time we waste".

So she and her fellow co-founder "decided to junk our jobs" and launch a start-up called Newzik, which allows music publishers and composers to digitally distribute their sheet music to orchestras.

Ms Azoulay-Guetta says that her solution replaces the stress of musicians having to turn physical, paper pages with their hands during performance or rehearsal. Instead, they now turn a turn a digital page via a connected pedal.

And if the arrangement of a concerto or other composition is tweaked - which can be done by using an electronic pen on the app screen - this will update on every orchestra member's copy of the electronic music sheets.

Ms Azoulay-Guetta says that this feature particularly helped when concerts finally resumed after lockdowns, because orchestras and ensembles faced last minute programme changes - for instance, if musicians were absent, self-isolating.

Other tech firms are focusing on helping musicians more effectively deal with their paperwork. One such company is Portuguese start-up Faniak.

Founder and chief executive, Nuno Moura Santos, describes its app as "like a Google Drive on steroids", allowing musicians - who are often freelancers -to more easily do their admin all in one place, "so they can spend more time writing and playing music".

Back at Boomy, Mr Mitchell is himself a classically-trained violinist. He says that the firm's users are now popping-up everywhere.

"We have Uber drivers creating albums and playing them during their drives," he says. "And [last year] I woke up to a frantic call from my head of engineers, asking if we were under attack.

"There was tons of traffic from Turkey, and we don't have a Turkish version. It was just a YouTuber in Turkey, who did a video about Boomy, and [from that] we have tens of thousands of users there."

Canon Can’t Get Enough Toner Chips, so it’s Telling Customers how to Defeat its DRM

Lack of chips produces "no negative effects on print quality," Canon says.
Tim De Chant

For years, printers have been encumbered with digital rights management systems that prevent users from buying third-party ink and toner cartridges. Printer companies have claimed that their chip-enabled cartridges can “enhance the quality and performance” of their equipment, provide the “best consumer experience,” and “protect [the printers] from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges.”

Left unsaid is the fact that requiring first-party cartridges also ensures a recurring revenue stream. It’s an old business model—Gillette sold its razor handles cheaply to sell more razors, for example—and it's one that printer companies have enthusiastically embraced. Lexmark, HP, Canon, Brother, and others all effectively require users to purchase first-party ink and toner.

To enforce the use of first-party cartridges, manufacturers typically embed chips inside the consumables for the printers to “authenticate.” But when chips are in short supply, like today, manufacturers can find themselves in a bind. So Canon is now telling German customers how to defeat its printers’ warnings about third-party cartridges.

“Due to the worldwide continuing shortage of semiconductor components, Canon is currently facing challenges in procuring certain electronic components that are used in our consumables for our multifunction printers (MFP),” a Canon support website says in German. “In order to ensure a continuous and reliable supply of consumables, we have decided to supply consumables without a semiconductor component until the normal supply takes place again.”

The chip in question tells the printer when toner levels are getting low. A useful feature, certainly, but one that printer companies often use to lock out third-party cartridges—without the chip, the printer will say it doesn’t know how much ink or toner is inside the cartridge, assume it's zero, and refuse to print.

But Canon has been having a hard time getting chips amid the shortage, so the company is telling owners of its imageRUNNER large-office printers how to defeat its own protections against cartridges that don’t have chips.

The software on these printers comes with a relatively simple way to defeat the chip checks. Depending on the model, when an error message occurs after inserting toner, users can press either “I Agree,” “Close,” or “OK.” When users press that button, the world does not end. Rather, Canon says users may find that their toner cartridge doesn’t give them a low-toner warning before running empty.

“Although there are no negative effects on print quality when consumables are used without electronic components, certain additional functions, such as the detection of the toner level, may be impaired,” Canon’s support site says.

Maine Broadband Authority has its First Leader

An advocate for improved internet access will serve as the first president of a Maine authority tasked with improving high-speed broadband in the state.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills swore Andrew Butcher in as the first president of the Maine Connectivity Authority on Wednesday. Butcher served as leader of the Maine Broadband Coalition and has worked to boost expansion of high-speed broadband in parts of the mostly rural state that lack it.

The Maine Connectivity Authority was created via state legislation last year. Mills’ office said in a statement the authority’s objective is “achieving universal availability of high-speed broadband in Maine.”

The authority is governed by an eleven-member board. The board is fully in place, Mills said.

Google Drive Could Soon Start Locking Your Files
Joel Khalili

New Google Drive policy cracks down on ‘abuses’ of the platform

Google has announced a new policy for cloud storage service Drive, which will soon begin to restrict access to files deemed to be in violation of the company’s policies.

As explained in a new blog post, Google will take active steps to identify files hosted on its platform that are in breach of either its Terms of Service or abuse program policies.

These files will be flagged to their owner and restricted automatically, which means they can no longer be shared with other people, and access will be withdrawn from everyone but the owner.

“This will help ensure owners of Google Drive items are fully informed about the status of their content, while also helping to ensure users are protected from abusive content,” the company explained.

New Google Drive policy

According to Google, the motive behind the policy change is to shield against the abuse of its services. This broad catchall encompasses cybercriminal activity (like malware hosting, phishing etc.), hate speech, and content that might endanger children, but also sexually explicit material.

“We need to curb abuses that threaten our ability to provide these services, and we ask that everyone abide by [our policies] to help us achieve this goal,” states Google in its policy document.

“After we are notified of a potential policy violation, we may review the content and take action, including restricting access to the content, removing the content, and limiting or terminating a user’s access to Google products.”

However, separating legitimate files from content in violation of abuse policies will be far from clear cut. In the policy document, Google explains that it may make “exceptions based on artistic, educational, documentary or scientific considerations,” which suggests there will be some element of editorializing involved in the process.

It’s easy to imagine a scenario whereby users’ files are rendered inaccessible without due cause. And it’s also unclear whether intimate photos of oneself, for example, are in breach of the abuse policy, or whether they fall under the “artistic” exception.

As explained in the latest blog post, there is a system to request a review of a decision if someone feels a file has been restricted unfairly, but it’s unclear how the process will be handled on Google’s end and how long it might take.

TechRadar Pro asked Google for comment on the potential for the new policy to cause disruption to regular users and for clarification over the review process. The company provided the following statement:

"Google Drive is constantly working to protect the security and safety of our users and society while always respecting privacy. Similar to how Gmail has long kept users safe from phishing and malware attacks, bringing these same protections to Google Drive is critical in ensuring Drive remains as safe as possible for all users.”

However, no information was forthcoming on the potential for content to be misclassified.

• If cloud backup isn’t your cup of tea, check out our lists of the best external hard drives and best portable SSDs.

Until next week,

- js.

Current Week In Review

Recent WiRs -

January 8th, January 1st, December 25th, December 18th

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