Hard News by Russell Brown

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We also predicted the election date ...

As you read here last week, Vodafone New Zealand has today launched MusicStation, the music subscription service debuted last year by Vodafone UK.

The platform was created by a company called Omnifone. I've tried the service, and it works. It works better if you have decent 3G coverage, but once you have actually downloaded all you can eat from a very large catalogue, you keep and play that music for as long as you pay the subscription.

Folks used to such niceties as cover art and high bitrates might find it a little wanting, but I'm not sure if the target market cares all that much about those things, and MusicStation does have inbuilt social features -- so you can share playlists with friends, and tastemakers (the group Primal Scream has a nice playlist up at the moment) can also provide music discovery cues.

There are two major differences between the local implementation of MusicStation and the British one. The first is that the local service is significantly cheaper: $2.50 a week versus £1.99. The second -- and this is good -- is that it's accompanied at launch by a separate service selling 256kbit/s DRM-free MP3 downloads that you can keep, and play on your iPod. As far as I can tell, this is is a first for Vodafone anywhere.

Those cost the current market rate: $1.99 per single track, or $17.99 per album. Unfortunately, the Vodafone Music site where they'll be sold is advising us to please check back tomorrow.

I've been in Christchurch all weekend at the Autism New Zealand conference, and I'll write about that tomorrow, but for now (like you needed it) the headline of the new New York Times profile on Sarah Palin -- Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes -- underlines what anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty should acknowledge: John McCain's running mate has cheerily abused pretty much every little bit of power she's ever had:

Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials …

Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.

She's a vindictive nutjob and a liar who has relentlessly pursued personal vendettas through official office.

On a happier note, I enjoyed a crystalline day in Christchurch yesterday, strolling around the Botanical Gardens, visiting the art gallery -- I intended to just check in on 'As there is a constant flow a light', a painting that almost makes me tremble when I stand close to it, but got the wonderful bonus of Daniel Crooks' video installations, which brilliantly explore time and space -- having a beer out at Sumner and catching up with schoolfriends I haven't seen in many years. (None of them can remember John Key either.)

I also bonded with strangers in pubs over football this past weekend. I watched the brilliant test match between the All Blacks and the Wallabies on the big screen at Sullivan's in the Christchurch CBD (I was afterwards reminded that the Christchurch CBD is a far more unnerving place than, say, K Road at night -- or any time, really) and there was just enough time to watch the Warriors snatch a staggering NRL finals win over the Storm, before rushing onto the flight home last night. In the end, sport matters less than many other things, but when it's like that -- gee, it's fun …

PS: This week's Media7 looks at the sometimes uneasy relationship between journalists and the organisations that train journalists, and includes Simon Pound's report on the media-and-diversity talking shop organised by the Ministry of Social Development, where the journalists had to invite themselves. The panel is Jim Tucker, David Cohen and Jenni McManus. If you'd like to come along to The Classic tomorrow evening, hit reply and drop me an email to say so.

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