Smart Cars, iTunes Drops DRM, and Burger King Treats Animals Right.

Every now and then you come across some good news. This past week alone I've come across a lot of really great news.

Smart Cars Are Officially Coming to the USA!

The first thing I want to mention are Smart Cars as someway, somehow, I totally missed out on the announcement that they are coming to the States! It's about time. For the longest time you could import them through a company called Zap! But honestly, I don't think I'm willing to pay $26,000 for a basic Smart. Well, fear not. In 2008 the Smart Car will find it's way into official US sales channels and pricing will be somewhat just. Still a little higher than I originally suspected, compared to hybrid and TDI alternatives the Smart is significantly cheaper starting at $12,000 for the ForTwo Pure. However, I think most of us will be interested in the "ForTwo Passion, which comes with a panoramic sunroof, and more importantly air conditioning! The passion will start at $14,000 and probably become a popular quircky and worthwhile investment for commuters. I wish this happened since Smarts inception but the US market catches on to important things VERY SLOWLY.

iTunes Strikes A Deal with EMI records to Sell Unprotected Music!

This is just groundbreaking stuff. A lot of people don't understand the seriousness of their tech freedoms that are being stripped away from them. The average consumer is dealing with something called DRM or digital rights management in many digital modern products available to them today. It's being snuck in without you being aware. For instance, did you know if you buy a PlayStation 3 you can't use an HDMI connection to play it in HD if the HDTV you are using doesn't support HDCP? Probably not! But what is all of that stuff anyways? It doesn't matter most of the HDTVs already have it so you don't have to worry about it. And that's the scary part. HDCP is a form of DRM that prevents you from playing copied discs or using pirated games. Honestly, it's there to keep you honest but it also limits your own freedom. What if you buy a videogame and accidentally scratch the disc? Well maybe you thought ahead and made a backup copy on another disc? Well that just won't work anymore because the embedded DRM tools in your TV and PS3 know it's not an original copy.

The same thing has been going on for a long time now with online music stores. iTunes being the first major online music retailer was only able to convince the major record labels to allow them sell music on the store because they sold the music files with embedded DRM. The DRM on iTunes is called FairPlay and it limits you to only being allowed to share your music on up to five computers. Whether or not you agree that the limits on present DRM's are liberal and fair enough for most people. The bottom line is if we live in a world where everything is protected by DRM... well... things won't be what they used to be. With DRM you never truly own what you buy. The very people you are buying the music from are telling you where you can play it and how you can use it. Well that's not quite the same as just buying a normal CD and copying it, ripping it, and basically doing whatever you want with it right? So why pay for protected content instead of open normal content?

Well fortunately, believe it or not, Steve Jobs and Apple are on our side after all. Even though they are one of the major driving forces bringing DRM into many of our lives with the iTunes music store, Steve Jobs doesn't believe it has to be like that. Nor does he think it should be like that. In his letter to the industry, Steve Jobs basically stated record labels are hurting themselves and the online music industry by not agreeing to sell unprotected content. In other words, Apple wants to ditch DRM. They just can't because the record labels won't let them.

And that leads up to this week's great news about DRM free music on iTunes courtesy of EMI. EMI is the first of hopefully many labels to agree to sell their music on iTunes without DRM. Normally, a song on iTunes is encrypted in AAC at 128kbps. If you don't know what that means just think of it as medium quality music in terms of the sound quality not the content! These protected songs cost you the consumer $0.99 each. Alternatively you can choose to purchase the new DRM free songs on iTunes for $1.29 each, these unprotected songs are encrypted in AAC at 256kbps. This means you not only pay a little more to have unprotected music but also music that has much better sound quality and clarity. It's a great deal and great news for all of us in the consumer world.

For more information on this check out the extensive coverage MacRumors had during the live press event about the agreement:

Burger King Is Becoming a Leader in Animal Welfare.

Outside of health reasons one of the major things that drives me to eat less meat is the fact that we all consume so much of it that the production of life for death for meals has become so industrialized that we forget those char broiled patties are living things with feelings just like you and I. Burger King used to get a LOT of grief from PETA with their Murder King campaign. But if you look now you'll see a different story. Back in 2001 the good ol' corporate stiffs in the BK Lounge thought it might be a good idea to agree that current conditions are cruel and figure out something they could do about it. Ever since then they have been working with Peta and recently it was announced that PETA is actually Praising Burger King!

So if you are an animal rights activist, or just feel some guilt with every delicious morsel of meat you eat, or... just like Burger King you can now eat there and feel as if you are eating an animal that was treated somewhat fairly. I'm sure things still have quite a way to come from the present. But it's great news to hear that PETA is applauding Burger King and stating that the company is now an industry leader in animal rights practices.

Again a link to the recent PETA article can be found here on MSNBC:

I'm happy to hear things are starting to head in a better direction this year.