My XBox Live Gamer Card
Wednesday, December 17. 2008
I haven't updated in a while, and you may notice that some of my entries or some of your comments are missing. That's because of some confusion with my old webhost. I'm not complaining, they'd been hosting me for free for about seven years (I just found out recently that he'd been paying my hosting fee out of his own pocket but he should have told me that!)
So I got to go through all the hassle of changing hosts. Hopefully this will be a good experience for me.
I'm going to recreate the posts that are missing so you should see them back sometime soon.
I had been hosting my email on a server in my basement. It let me keep my hand's "dirty" when it came to server maintenance, but I finally got tired of all the electricity being used, the moments of frustration when Comcast was down, or changed my IP and it didn't update correctly at DynDNS. So now my mail is also hosted with the new company.
I'll let you know how they perform. So far their tech support has been top-notch.
Monday, October 13. 2008
A couple of weeks ago, Walmart raised hackles when it announced it was going to turn off the servers that allowed people who had purchased music protected by digital rights management from their online music store to actually play the music they had purchased. In fact, they were instructing their users just how to circumvent their own DRM. (Eventually they did the right thing and decided to keep their servers on.)
DRM does nothing for consumers, and really does very little for suppliers. The most recent XKCD points out in black and white just how stupid DRM is.
Via: WWdN: In Exile
Friday, October 10. 2008
I've called out less than quality service on my blog before. I've also tried to give credit where credit is due and today I am happy to say, Philip at Sprint's customer support deserves a whole lot of credit. Not just for resolving my problem but for following through exactly how he said he would follow through.
Yesterday, the click-wheel on my trusty BlackBerry 8703 gave out. No click-wheel makes the device nigh-unto useless. The help desk hear at Rentrak was able to provide me with a temporary phone until they are able to get me a new 8830. The temporary 7250 worked as a phone, I could use the browser, I could SMS, but I could not send and receive email. Yesterday evening I tried to setup the email on the 7250 and when I put in my name and password I was told "Account has been suspended." That's never a good sign.
I dialed 611 and after a short wait I was put through to Philip. I told him my story of woe, he ran through a few things and said "I think it should be working now. But I will call you back in three minutes to make sure."
We disconnected the call, I waited a few moments, and got several "Activation" emails. I then got distracted by something...ohhhhh shiny...and not having set the phone up all the way, missed it ringing, so missed the call-back from Philip. I didn't notice this for a bit, but then saw the message light flashing saw I had voice-mail, and on top of that and email to my personal email account asking me to confirm that I had received it.
They're small things. But in a world where so many people apparently don't care, it was wonderful to meet someone who did care, and took an extra step just to make sure they had a happy customer.
Thank you Philip. I hope that I can pass this on to your boss.
Monday, September 8. 2008
I have PocketMac.
I hate PocketMac.
It sorta kinda works most of the time, but it requires me plugging in a USB cable--I don't know why, both my BlackBerry and my PowerBook support Bluetooth--and sometimes it gets all messed up and duplicates events, but like I said it sorta kinda works, but since it only sorta kinda works I often didn't sync it, it was just to frustrating. That frustration led to me not always remembering things I was supposed to remember, and that is bad.
I wasn't really looking for a solution, Rim had acquired PocketMac, and I was hopeful that they might eventually bring out a version of the product that worked the way it should. That hope, so far has been in vain.
First I started using GMail, then after several years of doing that I started using GReader, and with both those products working so well for me, I decided the time had come to try GCal. I messed around with it a bit and, as usual was impressed by how good a job Google had done creating a web app, but I didn't do much more than mess around a bit until I discovered that Google had created a syncing tool for the BlackBerry. Then things began to change.
The previous link will let you download Google Sync over the air, directly to your BlackBerry, once you have it installed, you can log in too GCal using your Google credentials and perform your first sync. By default Google Sync will resync every two hours or whenever you make a change on your BlackBerry. There are a couple of things you need to know. Google Sync will not sync events created prior to its installation. It will only sync new events. This seems to be a bit of an oversight, but that's the way it works. The other thing to note is that sync has frozen up on me at least once. I don't know why. It just stalled and it took me rebooting my BlackBerry to get it moving again.
After getting things working between GCal and BlackBerry I tackled getting things working between GCal and iCal. I found this reference at Google which will help you decide whether to setup a CalDav link between GCal and iCal or not.
Now that everything is configured, I can make changes on my BlackBerry and have them appear on my PowerBook as well as on the web at GCal. I'm sure I'll discover problems, but it works far better than PocketMac ever has.
Friday, August 29. 2008
My friend, co-worker and Dungeon Master, Transluscent has been working on a plugin for Vista Media Center called Open Media Library This is an open source effort that allows users to have great control over playing and managing their media libraries using Vista Media Center and Media Center Extenders (such as the XBox 360).
While I don't own a Windows machine, I have been watching the team's work, and think their interface is one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time.
If you have an interest in such things go download one of their builds (they are releasing nightlies) and join in the discussion on their forums.
Tuesday, September 26. 2000
It seems that a revolution is occurring around us. Sure, we have witnessed the digital revolution that has profoundly changed the way we work and play. But this revolution is different. This revolution actually has combatants and unlike the digital revolution, this revolution will have a profound effect on rights and privileges that we have held dear since the ratification of the Constitution.
While the RIAA v. Napster and the MPAA v. 2600 cases cover two different areas of intellectual property, they both have had, are having and will continue to have a profound effect on both the high-tech industry and high-tech users.
I'd like to call the RIAA and MPAA the forces of darkness, and the sundry individuals and groups on the other side of these issues the forces of light Unfortunately I can't quite get there. Sure the guys who wrote DeCSS are on the side of right, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) definitely is on the side of right, Napster is probably on the side of right. However, I can't quite place most of the users of Napster on the side of right.
The RIAA v. Napster suit is interesting because it was brought about not by the defendant's service, butt by the users of the defendant's service. While the recording industry is not made up of angels (see, Courtney Love's very interesting tirade) they should have a right to expect that their intellectual property rights will be respected. Unfortunately many of the users of Napster's service were not respecting those rights.
While a few Napster users said what they were doing was a form of civil disobedience, they are far from the majority, and for the most part that argument was used as an excuse. Regardless of how users are using the service, since when did a company become liable for the way in which its tools were used. Phone companies are not responsible when phones are used to conduct illegal activities. Ford is not responsible when one of its vehicles is used in a hit-and-run. So why should Napster be held liable for the illegal activity of some of its users.
Regardless of which side of this issue you stand on, the seeds for a revolution in how music is distributed, listened to and paid for have been sown. If the RIAA cannot get both its technology and its public relations acts together soon, they will be swept away by the winds of the digital revolution.
The MPAA v. 2600 suit is an excellent example of corporate bullying. I am very pro-business, pro-capitalism person, but I firmly believe that the MPAA has over-reached, and is trying to quell both intellectual freedoms, and copyright freedoms that we have held dear for a couple of centuries. The judges ruling in this case, while expected, shows that he just didn't get it. The MPAA obviously doesn't get it. They believe that Open Source advocates are a group of people out to eliminate all intellectual property rights.
There are two things that are extremely bothersome about this case. The first is that as consumers, you and I should have a right to do anything we want with the products we purchase. The MPAA is telling us this isn't so. They are telling us that the DVDs that we purchase can only be viewed on players which they have licensed. Why? If I by a DVD, I should be able to use it as a frisbee, smash it with a hammer, make Christmas ornaments with it and view in anyway I see fit.
Let's use a movie related analogy. As we all know, the normal use of a car is to drive it, to use it to get from point A to point B. The movie industry uses some cars in this fashion. However, in many movies the primary use of a car is to crash it, or blow it up, or, in the case of the most recent James Bond film, to cut it in half lengthwise. What would happen if BMW sued MGM because they did not approve of the way the studio used the lovely Z3? I would guess that MGM would laugh all the way to the attorneys office and would tell their attorney "We bought the car, we can do anything we want with it."
The MPAA is doing something similar. They are saying that the normal usage of a DVD is to play it on a computer or a home player that uses licensed CSS technology. Since DeCSS can be used to play a DVD on a non-licensed player, it should be banned. This effectively quells our nation's history of the Fair Use doctrine of copyrighted material.
The second issue is a free speech issue that has deep implications. While the MPAA was not able to show one single instance of a crime having been committed using the DeCSS code, they were able to get the judge to ban both the posting of the code on the web, and the linking to a site that posts the code. Since I definitely view my source code as a form of expression, as do many other hackers, this ruling will have a chilling effect on my right to write and share code.
I'm am a relative late comer to the world of Open Source. My views on intellectual property have been shifting significantly over the last couple of years. Unlike some Free (as in speech) Software advocates I do believe that there is room in our world for intellectual property. I don't believe in software or business process patents. The abuse of the patent system by many software companies is destroying what should be a fair and effective system. Software companies are not the only ones to blame. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been complicit in the problem by not adequately examining many of the patents that come through the system. It needs to be fixed.
After I originally wrote this piece, I became aware of another related situation...
A couple of weeks ago I got a box in the mail. It contained something called a CueCat that was produced by a company called Digital Convergence.
A CueCat is a cute little barcode scanner that actually looks like a cat. It only comes with Windows software, so I didn't play with it at all. The CueCat is designed to connect print media (e.g., "Wired" magazine) to the web. It works like this if you use your CueCat to scan a Cue that is printed in your magazine, your browser will start and you will be presented with more information regarding the topic associated with the printed Cue. This is actually a pretty cool use of technology. What is not cool is that Digital Convergence tracks your CueCat using a hardcoded serial number. It then tracks what you look at and when each time you scan something with your little bar code reader.
Since there was no Linux software available for the CueCat and since Linux hackers love a good challenge, it wasn't long before a CueCat decoder for Linux that allowed you to scan any barcode not just Digital Convergence's Cues showed up on the web. It wasn't long after that that the author started getting cease and desist orders from Digital Convergence's lawyers, saying that the Open Source driver infringed on Digital Convergence's intellectual property. Once again, we have a company telling us what we can and can't do with something we own.
I actually don't care about bar code, and don't have any use for the CueCat. Since I was mailed my CueCat without asking for it. I e-mailed Digital Convergence, told them that I did not agree with their End User License Agreement (EULA) and requested that they send me a shipping container and return postage so I could return it to them...
Saw this related post on Slashdot and thought it was very apropriate.
The EFF has filed their appeal of the DeCSS decision. The appeal can be found here and is an interesting read.
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