DNA Lounge: Wherein love for the city goes unrequited.

There was this big DJ festival last weekend called "I Love This City" that you've probably seen ads for on the side of every bus in town for months. We had an event that night called "I Love Dubstep" that was intended to be an after-party for it. The festival was a LiveNation thing with a bunch of big-name underground DJs (this is not actually an oxymoron) and it was advertised as happening in the parking lot of the baseball stadium... until, two weeks before the event, suddenly it was moved to Shoreline.

So what you're wondering is: had the city in question, the target of their love, been Mountain View all along?

Or did their love for San Francisco go unrequited, and Mountain View was just the sloppy-seconds rebound?

It may not surprise you to learn that it was the latter.

They'd been planning this event for ages, but of course they had to start advertising long before the permits were finalized, because -- who am I kidding, you know why. So it turns out that the stadium parking lot is actually owned by the Port Authority, who rent it to the City of SF (of which they are not already a part? I don't understand) and then SF rents it to the Giants. So there are three enormous bureaucracies who get to stick their fingers in.

Well, at the last minute, the Port Authority told them:

"You can't sell bottled water."
"What the?"
"It's bad for the environment."
"What is this I don't even."
"We're doing an under-21 dance party, we make all of our money from water sales."

I've never heard of any precedent for a bottled-water ban. Certainly there are no local laws about it. This appears to simply be the whim of someone at the Port Authority.

Then on top of that, while they knew the prices for most of the permits they were waiting on from the City, the Police Department was forcing them to do a "10-B" which is, basically, a shakedown. The "10-B" thing is when you are forced to hire off-duty police officers to work as your security staff, and both the officers and SFPD get paid for it. (You also might guess that these officers don't really work for you, so they don't have your interests at heart. You'd be right.) Well, the promoters couldn't get a straight answer about how much they were going to charge for that until the last minute (because apparently the algorithm SFPD uses for pricing 10-B is, "How much have you got?") and that number turned out to be significantly higher than anyone expected, based on what it had cost in the past.

Plus, their presales were a little low. That, combined with the ballooning costs and the elimination of one of their primary revenue streams meant they decided to move the whole thing to Shoreline at the last minute. The better terms they got from Shoreline also meant that they could make it be a 16+ event instead of an 18+ event, and that they could go all the way until 11pm instead of being forced to close at 10pm.

The goal here was to create a 40,000+ person annual festival in San Francisco, and that has now been 100% torpedoed because of SFPD's greed, and because some random bureaucrat doesn't like bottled water.

So once again: San Francisco would really, really prefer that you not do business here.

Have you heard of a sleepy little office-park suburb called Mountain View? Maybe Mountain View would like your business instead.



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"Secure Boot" and free software

Interesting, long post on how the hell Linux vendors make their product work now that MICROS~1 has enabled BIOS DRM.

(The tl;dr version: running a custom kernel on modern hardware just became rocket surgery.)

Fedora 18 will be released at around the same time as Windows 8, and as previously discussed all Windows 8 hardware will be shipping with secure boot enabled by default.

Most hardware you'll be able to buy towards the end of the year will be Windows 8 certified. That means that it'll be carrying a set of secure boot keys, and if it comes with Windows 8 pre-installed then secure boot will be enabled by default. This set of keys isn't absolutely fixed and will probably vary between manufacturers, but anything with a Windows logo will carry the Microsoft key. [...]

Secure boot is built on the idea that all code that can touch the hardware directly is trusted, and any untrusted code must go through the trusted code. This can be circumvented if users can execute arbitrary code in the kernel. So, we'll be moving to requiring signed kernel modules and locking down certain aspects of kernel functionality. The most obvious example is that it won't be possible to access PCI regions directly from userspace, which means all graphics cards will need kernel drivers. Userspace modesetting will be a thing of the past. Signed modules are obviously troubling from a user perspective. We'll be signing all the drivers that we ship, but what about out of tree drivers? We don't have a good answer for that yet. [...]

If I take a signed Linux bootloader and then use it to boot something that looks like an unsigned Linux kernel, I've instead potentially just booted a piece of malware. And if that malware can attack Windows then the signed Linux bootloader is no longer just a signed Linux bootloader, it's a signed Windows malware launcher and that's the kind of thing that results in that bootloader being added to the list of blacklisted binaries and suddenly your signed Linux bootloader isn't even a signed Linux bootloader. So kernels need to be signed.

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Nico Vega

Awesome show. How does such a huge voice come out of such a tiny pregnant lady?

I got a kick out of the "we're going to play an instrumental now because she has to pee" interlude.

People who liked Concrete Blonde, Le Butcherettes and PJ Harvey also enjoyed Nico Vega.

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The Form Has Been Chosen.

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DNA Lounge: Wherein Yelp oh-so-politely tells us to get fucked.

While the Permitting Apocalypse is ongoing, here's some more irritating nonsense we got from from Yelp.

This is all just completely stupid and pointless in the grand scheme of things -- Yelp will be out of business eventually and nobody will mourn them -- but it's kind of funny. Yelp's service completely sucks, and their customer service is non-existent and insultingly arrogant toward the businesses like mine upon whose backs they make their money.

Remember last month, when we finally managed to get someone from Yelp on the phone to ask why they wouldn't let us use our logo while communicating with our customers through their service? Her response was, "Your not the only person whose business I've lost over this: my employer is making it impossible for me to do my job." That was awesome.

Apparently my blog post about that got some attention over at Yelp, because a couple weeks later we got this:

From: Darnell Holloway <darnell@yelp.com>
Subject: Yelp- Your Recent Blog Post
Date: May 1, 2012 3:10:43 PM PDT
To: "barry@dnalounge.com" <barry@dnalounge.com>

Hi Barry,

I'm Yelp's Manager of Local Business Outreach. A recent blog post (link below) from DNA Lounge was sent my way, and I wanted to check in with you to see if you had any additional information or feedback about the situation that was described.



Darnell Holloway
Yelp, inc.

Barry wrote back with:

Yes. We want the following:

1. Be able to respond publicly to our customers with our logo as the image;

or if not number 1:

2. Opt out of being included on the Yelp site.

Can you help with either of these things?

A month later, Darnell, who is apparently Manager of Glad-Handing Complainers Without Actually Doing Anything, wrote back with 500 words that said "No". Here's our reply, including some quotes from him:

From: Barry Synoground <barry@dnalounge.com>
Subject: Re: Yelp- Your Recent Blog Post
Date: Tue, 29 May 2012 14:53:01 -0700<BR>
To: Darnell Holloway <darnell@yelp.com>

Beyond that, you mentioned in your blog post that there were some businesses you noticed that appeared to have a picture of something other than a person, being used to respond to reviews. It's important to note here that there is a difference between a user account on Yelp, and a business account. A user account is meant for personal, non-commercial purposes, and is used to participate in the Yelp community (write reviews, post in Talk forums, etc).

I understand that. Obviously we're talking about our business account.

A business account is used to manage a listing on Yelp. In order to take full advantage of the features of a business account (ie, the ability to message reviewers), we do require that a business owner upload a photo to their profile. And just as there is a difference in the accounts, the guidelines for acceptable photos differ as well.

Yes, I understand that that is your policy. I am asking you to make an exception to it, so that we can communicate with our customers using your service in the manner that we find appropriate.

Please tell me whose face appears when the administrator of the AT&T Park account replies to their customers.

Please tell me whose face appears when the administrator of the Best Buy account replies to their customers.

We require business owners to use a photo showing their face for two main reasons. The first reason is for your benefit as a business owner. We believe your messages will be received more warmly if there is not an attempt to disguise your appearance, because we have found that users tend to respond more favorably when they can attach a face to name.

That's an interesting theory. Please stop doing me this "favor".

The second reason is for the benefit of the reviewer. From a consumer perspective, a message from a business owner whose face can not clearly be seen may be perceived incorrectly.

Meaning what exactly?

We believe customers respond more favorably when they can see who is contacting them.

Again, that's an interesting theory. Please stop doing me this "favor".

An official communication from my business to my customers must have our logo attached to it, not the face of a random employee here. If you cannot make an exception, and approve our logo image, then we will simply never use your service.

That said, we do realize that uploading a photo may not be for everyone, and we can respect that. But again, in order to take full advantage of your business account, we require a photo in which your whole face can be seen.

This is an interesting definition of "respect". It sounds a lot like "no" to me.

Finally, the conversation you referenced in your blog post seemed out of the ordinary, so the purpose of my original e-mail was to check in and see if you had any additional information or feedback about the person you spoke with.

No thanks, I would rather not rat out the surprisingly honest Yelp employee I spoke to.

Thanks for your understanding,

Thank *you* for understanding that as soon as you approve our logo image for use when communicating with *our* customers on your site, we will continue using your service.

Until you do that, we won't be using your site, and certainly won't be buying any ads or other services from you.

I eagerly await your reply.

That finally got him to stop pretending there was some "misunderstanding" and come right out and say "no":

From: Darnell Holloway <darnell@yelp.com>
Subject: Re: Yelp- Your Recent Blog Post
Date: May 29, 2012 3:14:55 PM PDT
To: Barry Synoground <barry@dnalounge.com>

Thanks for your response. Unfortunately we won't be able to make an exception at this point on the requirement for a human photo. I've had our user support team look into the businesses you've mentioned, and there is nothing to suggest that exceptions have been made on the photo policy in those cases. In some instances, businesses may initially upload a non-human photo to their biz owner account, however all photos still need to be approved by our user support team on the back end before the messaging tools are made fully available. I also wanted to let you know that I will certainly pass your feedback along internally about your concerns with the current photo policy.

Darnell Holloway
Manager of Local Business Outreach, Yelp, Inc.
Tel: 415-230-6525

So, yeah. Screw those guys.

Yelp has gotten a lot of press for running a shake-down operation where they ask businesses to pay to have bad reviews removed. There was even a class-action suit about it last year. We made it pretty clear to them on the phone that we were willing to spend money with them to get our logo approved, but they didn't bite. Apparently they're not just scammers, they're bad at being scammers.

I understand Google's about to roll out their own Yelp competitor. I hope it isn't as much of a dud as Google Plus was.


King City

You should read King City by Brandon Graham. It's the best comic-book-type thing I've read in quite some time. The trade is a huge phonebook-sized thing and it's awesome.

It's hard to describe. Well, it's not hard to describe the plot, but it would sound really goofy, which it is, but it's amazing. This dude has a cat who can turn into lock picks or a grappling hook and he has to defeat a tentacle monster. And it's full of puns. But it's not really about that. You see what happens when I try to describe it? That's like saying Scott Pilgrim was about a slacker who punches people.

So you should just take my word for it and read it.

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Pop. 1280

What are all these goths doing here? I thought I came to a post-punk show.

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Magazines from the future

I think I used to subscribe to a couple of these.

Future Noir:

Turning down the block and ducking into a futuristic newsstand revealed the most humorous touches of layering, for it was here that this author immediately noticed that a number of faux twenty-first-century magazines had been stuffed into racks mounted on the newsstand's walls, and that many of them sported decidedly tongue-in-cheek covers.

These publications had been designed by BR art department member Tom Southwell. Periodicals of note include Krotch (going for $29 a copy!), Zord (at $30), Moni, Bash, Creative Evolution, and Droid. Horn, the "skin mag" of the future, had a cover which offered articles such as "The Cosmic Orgasm" and "Hot Lust in Space." Kill (whose logo was "All the News That's Fit to Kill") sported cover stories like "Multiple Murders - Reader's Own Photos."

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DNA Lounge: Wherein I think out loud about webcast upgrades.

The other night, one of our lovely customers decided, after leaving the club, to piss on the wall of one of our neighbors. He did this right across the street from a police car. When the cops came over suggested that maybe this was not such a good idea, he responded with:

"It's ok, I'm French."

This is a thing that actually happened.


We got some absolutely horrific news, permits-wise, about the construction of the new space above the pizza place that may actually scuttle the entire project. I'm trying to wait for more details before completely freaking out, but who are we kidding here, I'm completely freaking out.

Anyway, in the increasingly-remote event that our new performance space is ever allowed to open, I need to decide what to do about webcasting from that room, e.g., whether to do it at all.

We've been webcasting 24/7 since 1999, and it's mostly been a giant pain in the ass, but hasn't ever quite gotten to be such a pain to cause me to just pull the plug -- though it's gotten close a few times. The webcast brings us no business, and frankly brings us no press either. A lot of people do watch it, though. Of course, those people are by definition not customers.

So really, my answer to the question of "why do we webcast" is just, "Because it seemed like a good idea in 1999, and I'll get whiny email if I stop."


So do we webcast from the new venue or not? I dunno, if we don't people will ask about it constantly. It's kind of our "thing". So, our options are:

  1. Change nothing, no webcast from the new venue.
  2. Webcast from the new venue only when nothing's going on at DNA.

    We'd need a couple more camcorders, a bunch of cabling, and a bit of automation on audio input switching. Probably around $1,000 for the gear.

  3. Webcast both DNA and the new space, 24/7; two streams.

    For that we'd need the above plus a second Mac Mini, a second Component-to-DV device, and it would reduce our available outbound bandwidth by quite a bit, but I think it'd still be manageable. So this approach is probably around $2,000.

  4. But hey, the video's really kind of crummy right now. Wouldn't it be nice if the new venue was HD?

    The webcast would still need to be lower-than-HD resolution (we don't have the bandwidth) but using HD cameras and cabling would give us much better low light performance, so even a low-rez video stream would presumably look a whole lot better.

    That would require a more complicated and expensive video run (boxes on either end to run HDMI over cat5), more expensive cameras, and a new computer-controllable video switcher. This would leave the new room HD and the old room SD, and would probably be around $4,000 total.

  5. Well what about also upgrading DNA to HD too?

    That means replacing all of the cameras; replacing the panning cameras with multiple fixed-position cameras; replacing the video switcher; and each camera needs its own pair of HDMI-to-cat5 boxes. There's no real opportunity for starting small or doing it incrementally, so I think this ends up costing around $12,000 in hardware alone for both venues (not to mention the labor of running miles of cable).

So that's kind of a drag. I'm not about to spent twelve grand to make the "freeloading from home" experience better. In fact, any time I think about how much money I've spent on that already, I feel like an idiot.

Maybe I'll do a Kickstarter for it, har har har.