iPod iCrime Wave?

Thieves must love iPods. They’re small, yet easily detectable by the sight of those white earbuds snaking out of pockets and into users’ ears.

A quick grab followed by a sprint down the street and a bandit has nabbed something that originally sold for hundreds of dollars at retail, and is worth more than a few bucks to the friendly neighborhood fence.

But are iPods responsible for a rise in crime? That’s what a D.C. think tank says, claiming the player’s rise in popularity corresponded with a rise in crime stats.

The Urban Institute originally raised the iPod / iCrime question last September, and recently held a panel discussion to further explore the matter. The think tank has compiled a lot of statistics backing up its hypothesis. However, as is often the case with stats, the truth is in the eye of the beholder.

The basis for Urban Institute’s iPod = iCrime logic is that robberies had declined since the 1990s but jumped dramatically in 2005 and 2006 – the same years iPods went mainstream.

The institute also bases its assertion on a commonly held theory that crime happens when a situation includes motivation, suitable victims and a good chance to get away with the illegal deed.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you that there’s something to the iPod iCrime wave theory, subway officials in San Francisco, New York and Washington, DC, have reported a rise in iPod thefts.

But is that enough to link iPods with rising crime stats?

Perhaps the answer lies in looking at other crime data. For example, homicides often arise from muggings, and even though the number of murders rose slightly during the years in question, the bump was a small one and did not match the spike in robberies.

Plus, even though the number of robberies rose, the number of larcenies – where iPods might be stolen from backpacks or coat pockets – dropped.

In other words, there’s evidence to suggest that iPods did cause a rise in crime. And there’s evidence that iPods did not cause a rise in crime. It all depends on how you interpret the statistics.

"There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence of cell phones, iPods, GPS systems that have been targets for theft. No research can tell us those wouldn’t have been substituted for other things," said Jack McDevitt, associate dean at Northeastern University’s College of Criminal Justice.

"I guess I could sort of understand and buy that in a very narrow place, in a short period of time – a short spike for a few months. But to suggest that that’s driving the crime numbers in a major way, I don’t think so."


The Latest NIN Download Adventure

A new Nine Inch Nails album – a collection of instrumental tracks called Ghosts I – IV – is available for downloading from NIN.com, and like Trent Reznor’s collaboration with Saul Williams last fall, price is based on audio quality.

The free option includes a one-time MP3 download of the first nine tracks from Ghosts I – IV encoded at 320 kbps, a 40-page PDF booklet detailing the release and a digital extras pack containing icons, wallpapers and other graphics.

For $5 you get all 36 tracks (yes, that’s right, 36 tracks) in a variety of digital formats, including fully tagged MP3 files encoded at 320 kbps, FLAC lossless and AAC lossless, plus the aforementioned 40-page PDF book and digital extras pack.

Moving up to the $10 price gives you everything included in the $5 option plus a double CD to be mailed later.

But wait, there’s more.

The $75 option includes the two audio CDs, a data DVD that includes multi-track session files for all 36 tracks stored in WAV format so the tracks can be reconstructed and remixed, a Blu-Ray disc containing 24 bit 96Khz high-resolution audio stereo mixes, plus a slide show that plays with the music. The $75 selection also includes a book containing 48 pages of photographs by Phillip Graybill and Rob Sheridan.

Then there’s the $300 Ultra Deluxe Limited Edition, which includes everything mentioned above plus a four-LP set imprinted on 180-gram vinyl in a fabric slipcase and a fourth book containing two exclusive Giclee art prints. Each limited edition package is numbered and personally signed by Reznor.

The drill is simple. Order the desired package and NIN.com sends an e-mail link for the download.

The Ghosts I – IV download went up on NIN.com on Sunday and was quickly jammed with orders, but a message from Reznor indicated that any congestion problems would be eliminated as soon as possible.

"We’ve been adding more servers to accommodate the unexpected demand and we expect to be running smoothly in the next few hours," Reznor posted on NIN.com. "In the meantime, if you’ve had any problems with downloads from the Ghosts site, don’t worry – you’ll be able to use your download link again when the site is more stable. Thanks everyone for making this such an immediate success."

The first sign of success is the how fast fans shelled out $300 for the Ultra Deluxe package. Within 72 hours of it being available, the package, which was limited to 2,500 copies, was declared a bonafide sellout by stats company ComScore, according to InformationWeek.


Lucky Number 7(digital)

A major label takes that anti-iTunes vibe to Europe as Warner Music International strikes a deal with 7digital.com to sell unprotected tracks online.

It was only a year ago when Apple CEO Steve Jobs outlined his objections to digital rights management in an essay posted on his company’s Web site. At first the major labels took issue with his statements about DRM, but one year later it seems the record companies are almost tripping over each other to license unprotected tracks to every online music service they can find. That is, every music service not named iTunes.

The Warner Music International/7digital.com deal covers the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, France and Germany, and is the first time WMI has licensed unprotected tracks for the European download market.

To promote the DRM-less deal, 7digital.com and WMI are working together to offer several exclusive online products, such as value-added downloads. The online music store will also construct specific pages for both artists and WMI that can be accessed and maintained by the artists and the label.

"This deal will offer music fans a new level of flexibility in their use of tracks from our world-renowned artists," said John Reid, vice chairman of WMI and president of Warner Music Europe. "We believe that providing consumers with this assurance of interoperability will encourage sales of music downloads and ultimately help the development of new digital music experiences."


Censoring the Mile High’s WiFi

If your next trip means spending some time at Denver International Airport, you might want to take something to read to keep your mind occupied, rather than rely on the airport’s free wireless service to provide access to interesting content.

That’s because airport management officials are blocking access to Web sites they deem "provocative."

On the surface that seems only responsible. After all, there’s a lot of nastiness on the Web, and it’s easy to imagine situations where children are sitting next to those punching up porn sites on laptops.

But the Denver Post reports that it’s more than porn being blocked by the airport’s filters. Sites like BoingBoing.net or those owned by Sports Illustrated (because of the mag’s annual swimsuit issue) and Vanity Fair apparently are too "provocative" for airport travelers to access as well. Even though Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair are sold at the airport’s news stands.

The filtering software used by DIA is Webwasher. What’s more, according to the Post, Webwasher is also used in countries like Sudan and Kuwait, which use it to filter out content that might contradict official government sources.

The Post says airport officials decided to use filtering when they switched the airport’s wireless network from a paid service to a freebie last November. Out of 4,000 wireless hookups per day, officials have only received two complaints about the filtering, the paper said.

While he may not be one of the two who complained, music artist David Byrne had some observations about the filtered WiFi at DIA after he was blocked from accessing BoingBoing.net.

"Give people some credit," Byrne said."And the more credit you give them, the more they respond. It’s just trusting people’s discretion."