Friday, December 8, 2017

A Eulogy for What.cd, and the Ethics of Piracy for Preservation

Jeremy Pether
Staff Writer

“So long and thanks for all the fish.” This was the final message OiNK users would receive from the site’s staff before its doors were closed forever. The well-known “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” quote was the sign that Oink’s Pink Palace, or OiNK for short, had met its end. OiNK was a private tracker where users could illegally download music, ebooks, and software through the BitTorrent protocol. On Oct. 23, 2007, a raid by Interpol brought the site down and seized the domain. Servers were confiscated and admins were arrested, but there wasn’t enough data on the actual users to make any arrests.
 Despite the shutdown, the users were not deterred. Internet piracy is like a hydra; cut off one head and more will pop up. On Oct. 27, just four days after OiNK's doors were forcibly closed, former OiNK user WhatMan launched What.cd. Shortly after came other contenders, like newcomer Waffles, and the Pirate Bay’s quickly abandoned BOiNK. What.cd struggled for dominance against Waffles, but in the end, it solidified its place as the new major music tracker.
 The main thing that separated What.cd from OiNK was its userbase. While OiNK invites were easily available, and people joined just to get free albums, the users of What.cd were of a completely different nature. Invites couldn’t be given out publicly, and users were responsible for the people they invited as well. Without an invite, the only other way to get in was an IRC (internet relay chat) interview about ripping, encoding and categorizing music. Prospective users were asked questions about themselves, other sites they were a member of, and about audio formats and transcoding. Audio related questions covered everything from what files could be transcoded without losing quality, to ripping different quality MP3s, CBR vs VBR, to analyzing spectrals of audio files to see if it was transcoded incorrectly. It took about 30 minutes to an hour to complete, and depending on the size of the queue, it could take days to even get into an interview. At that point, anyone who got in had motivation to contribute to the site and follow the rules. People who just wanted the latest Taylor Swift or Kanye album had left long ago. All that was left was enthusiasts willing to build one of the most complete and well organized collections of music in the world.
 The site had a ratio system, based on upload divided by download. Users had to maintain a certain ratio based on how well they seeded the content they downloaded, but for the majority of users, the required ratio was .60. One of the best ways to gain upload and gain ratio was to rip albums that were not already on the site. This led to people uploading incredibly rare releases that couldn’t be found anywhere else. From obscure electronic records that only got one run of pressings, to rare versions of popular albums, What.cd’s catalogue was astounding. There was a rip of the mono pressing of the original “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” an accidental pressing with different tracks, in FLAC and three different versions of MP3. It’s a $15,000 record with less than 20 known copies in existence, and it could be downloaded and listened to for free. Popular albums with multiple releases were common too. There were 49 different rips of official releases of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” to choose from, ranging from the first release to the rarest limited editions.
 The most incredible thing about What.cd was the sheer scope of it. Practically anything imaginable had been ripped and uploaded. What.cd was great for getting music that was normally inaccessible. Plenty of records uploaded to What.cd were releases that hadn’t seen the light of day for years, and were given a new lease on life on the site. Not only were these available, but they had plenty of added info, meticulously tagged, and ripped perfectly. Along with the detailed info attached to records themselves, there were also collages. Collages were collections of albums under a certain theme that were put together by members of the site. These themes could be anything, from a collection of a review site’s perfect scoring albums, to collages of albums for people looking to get started with new genres. There were even collages with strange or inane themes, like “Tip Your Driver: The Comprehensive Pizzacore collage,” a collage of releases about pizza.
 What.cd was compared by some to the Library of Alexandria at its peak, due to the staggering size of the torrenting giant’s archive. On Nov. 17, 2016, it was destroyed, much like the aforementioned library. French police raided the servers of webhost OVH, where What.cd had setup reverse proxies to protect itself. In response, the admins of What.cd pulled the plug and destroyed the data to protect the users of the site. Collages, related artist webs, release info, ripping guides, and more were gone. While the music was not technically lost, as it was all stored on users’ hard drives, it was as if the map to access the music had been lost.
 The story of What.cd raises a question: Is piracy okay for the sake of preservation and availability? Plenty of albums on What.cd were impossible to buy, let alone in lossless quality. There’s always the possibility of buying used, but tracking down a used copy could be next to impossible, and the artist gets nothing from it. Most of the torrents on What.cd were for albums that can’t be streamed online or bought from stores, meaning most people weren’t going to be able to pick up legitimate copies.
 What.cd had recordings that would slip through the cracks of time otherwise. One of the more notable examples of this was the Phish community on What.cd. Phish is a jam band that does a lot of improvisation on stage, so each concert was a unique experience. The What.cd Phish community was one of the most active groups on the site, collecting and archiving bootlegs of the latest shows. There was always a Phish release or bootleg on the day’s list of top torrents. Access was now available for hundreds of different shows they’d played, that many people had never been able to experience before. This wasn’t exclusive to Phish, either. Plenty of bands had similar concert bootlegs uploaded, or demo tapes that might never be heard again without the site.
 The request system also drove the ripping and archiving of releases that had yet to be uploaded. Users could put some of their upload up as a bounty, and other users could claim the upload by finding the requested record and uploading it. Plenty of requests were filled every day, expanding the already massive collection What.cd had to offer. Some of the biggest bounties had driven incredible uploads, for example scans of a collection of three stories by J.D. Salinger that had never been released before made their way to the site’s ebook section. The stories had a bounty of over six terabytes, due to the fact one of them is under lock and key at Princeton, and the other two are similarly secured at the University of Texas. While the J.D. Salinger stories were removed to protect the site from the massive media attention, plenty of rare and long sought after releases were finally unearthed by people looking to claim these bounties.
 Another important reason is format availability. Even with all the secondhand vinyls in the world, there’s still no way to take them on the go. Vinyl rips make that possible. On What.cd, vinyl rips were heavily scrutinized, and 90 percent of them were done by approved submitters with almost professional quality ripping setups. For the average person to buy their own good quality vinyl ripping setup, it could easily cost upwards of $500. They can either drop a lot of money on a vinyl ripping setup, or download from someone with a top of the line system already experienced in doing so.
 Along with the vinyl problem, even albums bought legitimately on many digital marketplaces may not be in the desired format. A lot of albums on the Google Play Store or iTunes aren’t sold in lossless formats. For those interested in transcoding between different file formats for different devices, it’s important to start with a lossless format or else the file will lose quality on each transcode. What.cd offered FLAC for almost everything on the site, as its main focus was getting a lossless format first, then MP3 320 and MP3 V0. Anyone interested in transcoding for other devices or archiving the media for preservational purposes would want lossless files, which most services will not provide.
 Finally, What.cd opens up access to the music Spotify and iTunes do not think are worth putting on their services. Spotify and iTunes hold their ground by providing the popular tracks that most people want to hear, like a new Kanye or Taylor Swift album. It’s not worth their time to bother getting the rights to less popular or more obtuse music. Spotify isn’t going to gain many new subscribers by adding Judy Dunaway’s “Balloon Music” or Whitehouse’s “Bird Seed.” In a world that’s quickly turning to streaming and digital download, we’re relying more and more on the libraries that these services provide us with. Plenty of albums will be lost to time due to not being carried on digital distribution sites, which could be prevented with an archival site like What.cd.
 The loss of What.cd is a devastating blow to music lovers and archivists alike. Terabytes of great musical data were now gone. From incredible edition information, to sprawling collages to aid in discovering new music, the demise of What.cd felt like the end of an era. But What.cd’s ending was the beginning for other trackers. The torrent hydra lives on, with three new sites popping up shortly after What.cd’s demise. Pass The Headphones, Xanax, and Nostream had all opened their doors to the public. Within a month, Nostream was hacked and taken down, with attempts to relaunch failing due to users not joining due to security concerns. Pass the Headphones and Xanax both went through some growing pains, renaming to Redacted and Apollo respectively, and NotWhat popped up as another tracker with much stricter rules. Waffles, which had been down for a small while, raised funds to renew the hosting and come back.
 On Oct. 23, 2017, the day that would have been What.cd’s tenth birthday, What.cd, the tracker presumed to be dead, released one final breath. The site’s Twitter account updated, posting the “What.cd 10-year Anniversary Mixtape.” A backup of the non-user data was made before the site was originally shut down. The collages, release info and related artist web were able to be saved and released to the public again. A lot of data was still lost, but the 10-year mixtape has helped other trackers progress in their goal to rebuild the incredible archive on What.cd.

 What.cd was officially closed down on Nov. 17 when a reverse proxy was seized by French police. Because What.cd had protected itself better than OiNK, federal agents never got access to user data, and the domain was not seized. The What.cd staff closed the site with one final message: “Due to some recent events, What.CD is shutting down. We are not likely to return any time soon in our current form. All site and user data has been destroyed. So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

Monday, December 4, 2017

Why America needs Net Neutrality

Lauren Walinski
Staff Writer

On Dec. 14, the FCC plans to vote on whether or not they should repeal net neutrality. Currently, they lean towards gutting the protections, which should concern every single American citizen. Why? To start, having net neutrality means that internet providers cannot control internet usage by censoring, throttling, or forcing consumers to pay extra. Without it, internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon could make their customers pay extra in order to access things such as social media, streaming sites, news sites, or anything else they wanted by slowing severely slowing internet speeds on these sites for those who have not paid.
 Consumers may have to pay each and every time the site is accessed. Internet service providers could also block content entirely if they wanted, creating unfair censorship. In fact, before net neutrality laws were put in place, many companies were caught doing just this. Two examples among many include AOL being caught not delivering any emails criticizing their site. Comcast temporarily blocking Google and Gmail to try and coerce consumers into creating comcast email accounts instead. Verizon was discovered blocking people from signing up for an activism-based text message update system. The internet provider Madison River Communications, a phone company, was caught blocking online phone calls (including 911 calls) in an attempt to keep consumers from switching from their company. Without net neutrality protections guaranteeing a free and open internet, this sort of censoring could return. Consumers like you could find themselves paying extra to use social media or google drive, things most students use every day. Net neutrality is a necessity in our current culture, and every single person should be alarmed at the possibility of it being repealed.
People around the country are trying to help keep net neutrality. The FCC’s website has been flooded with over 22 million comments about net neutrality, however the FCC has decided it will no longer listen to public opinion. It would only listen if complaints or criticisms were in serious legal terms or presented new facts. Still, people have been calling and writing to their Representatives and Senators and urging them to spare and protect net neutrality and all the protections it offers.
 Even here in school, students can help fight the repeal of net neutrality. Speak to Mr. Giorgi if you would like to help get involved in writing or signing a letter to local senators or representatives to help protect free, open, and equal access to the internet. You can also send your message directly to Congress by signing one of the following petitions:

You can also contact them on net neutrality through https://resistbot.io/.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The new iPhone X is “Xpensive”

Jen Abele and Alex DiGena
Staff Writers

Apple announced the new iPhone X on Sept. 12 and obtained over sixteen million views on YouTube. The iPhone X began pre-orders at nine hundred and ninety nine dollars on Oct. 27 and shipping Nov. 3.
 The first iPhone was released on June 29, 2007 with the slogan, “This is only the beginning.”
Jony Ive spoke out to the press that the “iPhone X is only the beginning of a new chapter in iPhone development.” Now the new iPhone X has overshadowed the iPhone 8 and 8 plus. The new iPhone X has consumers pleasantly surprised by the new features.
The most popular features include Animoji, the OLED screen, and Face ID.
 Animoji is the animated emojis that adapt to the face, and the ability to record a message with the animated emoji replacing the face. Wireless charging allows consumers to no longer experience the dissatisfaction of ruining their phone charger. Unlocking the iPhone X has changed dramatically. The iPhone now turns on after raising it to the consumer’s face because it has the technology to recognize the owner’s face. Screen is now OLED, and the most important feature is being water and dust resistant. Apple Pay now works as your face to provide your Apple ID. Optical Vision Stabilization creates great quality photos and videos in low light.
 “It’s expensive but it's definitely a big step forward for apple,”Grant Cheung commented on the new iPhone X. “The upside would be the new screen size. As for the downside, there isn’t an home button anymore which a lot of people are used to.It’s a cool idea, but i feel like it might not work out as well as they planned it to.”
 “Nothing really impressive,” Ryan Keating commented. ““I don't think it looks that different than the Samsung Note 8. The iPhone X looks cool, but it doesn't have the headphone jack and the home button.”
 While talking to other peers there’s one thing on which we all agree: It’s too expensive!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A European under The Star Spangled Banner

George Griffin
Staff Writer

What do I say: Hello or Bonjour?
 This is a troublesome question for an English boy who spent most of his life in Paris. I was born in Buckinghamshire, and after living 4 years in England, my father’s job prompted us to move to Paris. Now, at the age of four, I only knew three words in the French language: yes, no and cheese. After 11 years my vocabulary has broadened, and I speak the language fluently; however, now my father’s job has forced us to move to the US. It’s been about a month now and I am still getting used to the change of culture, food and people; my experiences so far have been riveting to say the least.
 I’ve had some interesting interactions with the people of Pennsylvania so far. A few weeks ago upon entering the Giant supermarket, an eight-year-old boy came up to me and asked if I’d met the Queen, after a small chuckle I promptly answered no to which he said my accent was “rad”. (BTW: for this article, I will be putting the periods and commas outside the quote marks like we do in England where we invented the language.)
 Being a European I had never had a homecoming dance, so when I went in September I had an amazing time. I met a load of my current friends there and their reactions to my accent were not what I was expecting. Some people didn’t believe I was English and thought it was a prank, but most people just screamed, a long, loud scream. I was also quite surprised when talking to a friend a few days ago and finding out the house I will move into is next to the street where a murder happened last summer. Great, I thought, things just get more exciting here in the States with every passing minute.
 It was quite difficult for me to move to a new country. I had to leave behind most of my life. However, I was excited to see how an American high school really worked. The school systems across the Atlantic are quite different from they are here, and the only experience I had had with high school was when my sisters forced me to watch “Mean Girls” every weekend. I had only known the stereotypes and cliches of cheesy film and TV.  But I am impressed with what New Hope has shown me and am excited for the future to unfold.
 During my time here I have also noticed the language differences. It’s odd but there is actually a difference between British English and American English. There are differences like; colour, aluminium and aeroplane, for these you have simply dropped some of the vowels. There are pronunciation differences like zebra, pronounced as your “zee” and my “zed” which is precisely why I won’t go to an American zoo. Frankly, I feel as if the Americans decided to change the English language just to annoy the British when they come overseas purely as revenge for the mess we caused in the Revolutionary War. And don’t even get me started on metric vs imperial.

 All in all I have had an amusing time here in New Hope and I am excited to have actually bought a house a couple days ago. I knew this town would be the perfect place as soon as I saw it, I mean who doesn’t want to live in a place that shares the name of the greatest Star Wars movie? Who knows what the future will hold for me here. All I know is that I think I might actually like it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Roaring Corner: Episode 1

Amanda Horak & Parker Miele
Staff Writers

Hi! We are here to answer questions that students have submitted to us via Google Forms. We are here to take your responses and give advice about them to make you feel better about your certain situation!
 Recently, we have asked the student body the following question: “What questions do you have about high school or do you have any specific stresses towards high school?” We received multiple responses to this question. Most of which included answers about the upcoming CBAs, grades, college, and AP classes.
 One of the more popular topics was about the recent CBAs and how they are “very stressful.” We definitely understand the stress of CBA’s, but they can easily be overcome. If you start planning for the CBA early, you won’t have to cram and study. It’s also helpful to start studying early because we have other classes with other tests and assignments making it more difficult to study the night before. You won’t ever know when a random assignment will pop up and be due the day before your CBA.
 Another popular topic was how taking multiple AP classes at once can be stressful. Others wondered if it was necessary to take at least one to two APs during high school. Being seniors, we have had our share of taking multiple AP classes at once. It is difficult to manage, but when you are assigned something, definitely start it as soon as possible. Having these multiple AP classes is totally unnecessary, but it is recommended to have that rigorous schedule each year for colleges to be able to see you didn’t slack off during high school. Make sure to do your AP classwork on time and don’t stress! All of us are going through the same thing with each of our classes.

 We know how stressful AP classes and CBAs can be! Just make sure to stay calm, study ahead of time, and do your work as soon as possible!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

STDs are a Reproductive Death Sentence

Jen Abele
Editor  
There are 110 million cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections in the United States. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis cases are increasing according to a new report from Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Cases of chlamydia have increased 4.7 percent from 2015 to 2016, it is the most common std due to chlamydia being asymptomatic reported the CDC in a survey done in 2015.
 Why is this article important?
  In high school individuals find their identity, their partner, and build relationships. Some have decided to go all the way, and it shouldn’t be regretful. In college there will be more thirst for knowledge as well as desires. It’s completely normal to pursue desires, but do it safely.  
The CDC survey from 2015 stated that 41 percent of teenagers have had sexual intercourse, and 30 percent have had sexual intercourse in the last three months. Teens that did not use a condom was 43 percent, and 14 percent didn’t use any contraceptive to prevent pregnancy.
Nearly 230,000 babies were born to teenage girls aged 15–19 years in 2015.
 The CDC also collected survey results for HIV, and the findings were devastating. Only 10 percent have been tested for HIV, human immunodeficiency virus. People aged 13 to 24 accounted for an estimated 22 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2015.Half of 20 million new STD cases reported each year are obtained by young people between the ages of 15 to 24.
 Mrs. Walker is one of the PE and Health teachers at New Hope Solebury High School.“The biggest misconception is it won’t happen to me.“ Mrs. Walker stated.
STDs are very dangerous, socially and medically. It is important to take precaution with your partner. If you think your love life is dead, imagine how dead it would be if you got an STD. Having unprotected sex may seem like a good idea in your imagination, but it also seemed like a good idea for Eve to take a bite out of the apple. Is it worth it? I think not.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Why DACA should not be rescinded

Krupa Shah
Contributor

Recently, the Trump administration announced that it would be rescinding the Obama-era Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program with a six month window to find a replacement of the executive order. This program protects approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children.The DREAM Act parallels with DACA but has not yet been addressed. Now the immigration status of these individuals is ultimately in the hands of Congress where they may face the prospect of deportation to countries they have ostensibly never lived in.
 The Obama-era executive order allowed children of undocumented immigrants to pursue a college education, employment, and a possible legalized immigration status. All of these opportunities can be applied for and will be accepted, granted that they do not have past criminal history. The thinking behind this program is that these children did not have any input about coming to a new country and personally do not have any connection to their native countries. The program requires eligible individuals to apply for citizenship and renew their file every two years so they can eventually be naturalized.
 Universities across the nation have announced their support for DACA and will continue to stand in solidarity with their undocumented students. American University went as far as stating that they “will continue to offer protection to the full extent allowed by law, guided by policies that guard the privacy and safety of every member of the university community.” Furthermore, they went on to state that they “will use every legal means at our disposal to offer our support and protection”.
 DACA should not be rescinded as it has provided many with the opportunity to attend school and eventually pursue higher education while others obtained jobs and worked to further themselves. These individuals have legitimately contributed to society and are not purely leeching off the government for benefits. As a whole, DACA beneficiaries saw an increase not only in social mobility but in educational attainment as well as mental health.
 Prior to DACA, undocumented immigrants were unable to equate high academic standing with professional and personal success. This was mainly a result of the lack of credentials that would establish them as US citizens, such as driver’s license and a social security card. Resulting in limited job opportunities that leads to a minimalistic income that cannot be used to sustain a basic lifestyle.
 Educational attainment was largely reported by DACA individuals. Most notable is Christina Velasquez, a senior at Georgetown University majoring in International Politics. Velasquez has received the President’s Volunteer Service Award two years in a row and is a Walsh scholar. Additionally, she has interned in the United States House of Representatives and has held two part time jobs. Without the benefits of DACA, Velasquez would not have been able to do the things she has done so far. It is evident that DACA has provided major educational opportunities for individuals who would not have them if not for the program. DACA is extremely beneficial to undocumented immigrants who wished to be naturalized and contribute to the workforce.