Argh! A Geek tragedy, complete with DeusExMachina.
Our story begins with a skim over the day's Slashdot headlines. The regulars are all present: Government X adopts OSS/ODF, Mr. Nobody gives a loose overview of security problem Y, and SCO does transparently underhanded deed Z. Yet one topic in particular grabs my attention...
Being a Weird Al fan, and well-aware of the problems he has collecting from his label, my mind registers the topic both as a must-Read-More and as another chapter to take note of in the long saga of digital music rights. With significant anticipation, I add it to my other fifteen or so open tabs and proceed to work my way through my article reading queue.
I (grudgingly) visit myspace, but something's amiss. There is no download link! Nothing in the navigation menu, the news posts, or the comments make mention of where I can obtain the song, yet visitors proceed to comment on how much they enjoyed it. Looking for an alternate link, I return to Slashdot, only to find more reactions without mention of any download difficulties. And so I begin to worry irrationally: "I'm the only one in the world who can't listen to Weird Al!" I've had usability issues with myspace before, but normally after a minute or so of misguided clicking I'm able to stumble upon something that hints at actual content. I try two other domains, weirdal.com and dontdownloadthissong.com, only to find the former hopelessly slashdotted and the latter unusable. My frustration continues to build.
I reflect that perhaps it is a browser compatability issue - I am using Konqueror after all - and try my luck with firefox. After configuring it to *not* attempt DNS queries over IPv6, that I might reach the content I so desperately seek this century, I find that myspace persists to mock me. It is as if some divine administrative force knows my IP address and has modified the web server specifically to torment me.
I search for torrent files - first through links from kind slashdotters looking to boost their karma, and when that fails, via KTorrent's integrated search plugin. Bittorrent.com? No matches. Isohunt.com? Nada. Mininova? Bytenova? Torrentspy?! My heart races as I continue to exhaust the list of built-in known search engines, until... Aha! The Pirate Bay has found one match, uploaded a mere twenty-two minutes ago.
But to use a torrent from the most infamous peer-to-peer site in existence, what would that make me? Is the torrent legal? Just because Weird Al chooses to distribute it on his webpage doesn't mean he releases that right to others. I'm sure under these circumstances he couldn't possibly mind, but not having heard of the song's existence prior to reading Slashdot, I simply do not know the record label's stance on the matter, or whether they even have partial rights over this particular mp3. But it does not matter - I must have the song!
The irony - that I am bittorrenting a free-as-in-beer song that possesses a satirical name mocking filesharing litigation, and am potentially committing a copyright violation in the process - is not lost on me. My idealistic side taunts the RIAA, "I just DARE you to try to sue me over this, my only infringement!" My pessimistically pragmatic side notes that the unusual circumstances would make no difference, as I would be forced to settle, and never see my day in court anyway.
I emerge from my digression to the present.
No peers or seeders. For the moment, the music industry and other enemies of Peer-to-Peer breathe a sigh of relief.
Then it occurs to me that the song might be unreachable to those who have not installed the dreaded Flash Plugin. But why? A slashdot commenter mentions that the song is indeed in the mp3 format, so it is not as if my lack of such a player could possibly prevent me from obtaining this song. For what kind of sick madman would consign a publically-downloadable mp3 to the clutches of a proprietary system and that system alone?
As a rule, I have abstained from using Flash on my desktop's Gentoo installation. This self-denial is due to a combination of factors: Flash's outdated linux versions, its tendency to make my browser unstable, its potential difficulty to install (and configure working audio), and of course, its closed-source nature. Given how most of the Flash content out there consists of ads, or otherwise pages that I would not wish to view anyway, I considered it a mostly favorable sacrifice.
But Weird Al is easily worth sacrificing my sacrifice! Whether the middle-man in my deal with the proverbial devil is The Pirate Bay or Adobe Flash, I must have his song, no matter the cost to my ideals. And so I click on the gateway into the proprietary plugin, and hover my mouse over the "Next" button belonging to the "I agree" EULA page. I can almost feel my clockspeed quicken to keep up with my heartbeat...
The plugin downloads, yet fails to install. It is as if some heavenly force is giving me one last chance to redeem myself. I scoff at the opportunity and continue my decent into darkness at full speed, this time seeking out the download for manual installation.
Moving the tarball to firefox's directory -
tar -xzvf'ing it -
Poised to execute the installer, when all of a sudden -
Ktorrent notifies me, with all the surreal nonchalance it can muster through its small corner popup, that my torrent has completed.
And so I open the directory, and see an mp3 and a lyrics file staring me in the face as my world begins to rematerialize. A sort of tranquil, blissful grin comes across my face as I fire up mplayer and enjoy Weird Al's satire...