Wednesday, December 22, 2004

One batch down

Last night I brewed my first batch of beer. I started brewing about 8PM and finished off at 2AM. I only had a few minor mishaps like a small boil over, doing the mash at too high of a temperature, and forgetting to start the yeast and hence having to rush it. That said, I've got a pretty big IPA going and it's starting to ferment slowly.

Original gravity: 1.080
Bittering hops: 1oz Chinook, 1oz Centennial
Finishing hops: 1os Willamette

I'm planning on dry hopping with Columbus.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


What is the point of software licensing? It's supposed to protect the rights of the holders of that intellectual property.

We can have a debate about what should constitute intellectual property and whether those rights should be protected or not, but I think it's fair that someone that works hard to produce a product is compensated for that product. I don't want to have that debate now.

Vendors of software need this extra form of protection because it's too easy to reproduce their work at massive scale (make an ISO copy of a CD and put it on a website). Serial numbers, license servers, etc. put up a barrier that make it more difficult to reproduce their work without permission.

But, what protection do consumers of intellectual property have? Specifically, serial numbers, etc. are designed to keep unauthorized users OUT, but when an authorized user, one who has bought a legitimate copy of the software, loses a serial number they are kept out as well. In those cases, who/what protects the right of the consumer to use the software which they legitimately own?

Here's a concrete example. I bought a copy of Virtual PC. I saved all of the paperwork that I thought was necessary. I had a shrink-wrapped manual with Certificate of Authenticity from the copy of XP that shipped with Virtual PC. However, it turns out that I didn't save the serial number for the Virtual PC software itself. The Virtual PC installer won't let you install without that number.

I tried to relocate Connectix (I bought directly from the vendor). However, they've been bought by Microsoft. So I called Microsoft support directly (after spending 15 minutes on their website trying to find phone number!) I got some guy whose name I couldn't pronounce and he started asking me questions. Often there were uncomfortable silences and then he'd come back and say something like "Use the serial number on the CD" Duh! I guess he must deal with incompetent people often. Eventually, after a long pause he came back and said "You know Virtual PC 6.1 is no longer supported." Angrily I asked him what to do and he said I'd need to talk to their sales department who he transfered me to. I promptly got an answering machine. Grr...

The story ends with a Google search "Virtual PC 6" serial number. I got my answer in "0.10 seconds" on the second link, though it did make me feel a bit like a criminal. However I KNOW that I own a legitimate license, and I figure if a company is unwilling to support a product they have little claim to enforce it's licenses. In fact they should be required to release serial numbers for products they no longer support. It might create an incentive for them to produce a better product in newer versions.

Let me end with a radical proposal:
License the user and not the software.

I know there are all sorts of ways in which this is a horribly bad idea, but indulge me for a second. I'm a responsible software user. I make my living from software. I'm also able to afford software. Consequently, I regularly pay for software from cheap stuff like CodeTek Virtual Desktop to expensive stuff like Photoshop I have no intention or desire to be a software pirate. License me. When I say "I bought a license to that piece of software," trust me (because I'm licensed) and let me in. Make me do periodic audits, but don't make me remember to save a little piece of paper with a number on it. We could take this idea even further. Make the "user licensing" a centralized system that user's must register with. The centralized system has most known software available for download. It tracks what I've downloaded and makes auditing easier. Actually, this is starting to sound like software subscriptions...

Anyhow, the point is I'm tired of being treated like a criminal! Ironically my treatment forced me to look like one. Maybe I should have another post about whether the criminal justice system actually rehabilitates people or makes them into more hardened criminals...

Sunday, December 19, 2004

I was wrong...

I admit it. I judged Mark's Bikes too early. I had previously bought stuff from them for a trip and their people are amazingly friend, but when I took my bike in last for a tuneup and replacement of a broken shifter they seemed a bit incompetent. It took almost a month, and on a couple of occasions I called in to check up and they either didn't know what was up or they had ordered the wrong part, etc.

However, I went on a ride for the first time in 3 months and the first time since their repair job over the weekend. The weather was crisp December weather; sunny, calm, and around 40 degrees. It felt really good to get out (though it is AMAZING how quick you can lose form... I'd shed about 4 mph off my normal average for this route). However, what felt most amazing was the bike! The shifters (which I'd had them work on) have NEVER felt better. They shift so smoothly, and almost can't be heard. I don't think they worked this well when I first bought the bike. Brakes are also perfect (they replaced a bent front brake). It was truly a pleasure to ride.

So, while Mark's Bikes had some hiccups administratively. They're still great folks and whatever they did mechanically was a dream.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

All the cool kids do social software

I just got the following e-mail from Netflix:

Dear Andrew,

We hope you've been enjoying the changes we've made to the website
over the past few months. Many of these new features have come as a
result of your suggestions. We always like to get your feedback on
how we can continue to improve the service.

You've been selected to participate in a special preview of our
Friends feature that will give you a new way to discover great
movies. You'll be able to check out what your Friends think of a
movie, exchange movie suggestions with your Friends, and leave
your two cents worth on a movie for your Friends to read.

To get started, come check out the new Friends tab on the website.
Once you've created your Friends list, you can see what your Friends
are watching and give and receive movie suggestions. Please click
the link below to learn more about this feature:

-Your Friends at Netflix

I'm not sure I really care all that much. Netflix isn't so much a destination as it is a good service. I hear about and discover movies I want to see in other places and I drop them in my queue. All I care about on Netflix is their search and queue maintenance features. It'd be really nice to have some sort of telephony feature like so that I could add items to my queue just by calling a number and saying the name of the item... That or a text message interface.

UPS Tracking

UPS Tracking

Originally uploaded by aharbick.

I find it really amazing that you can ship something "3-Day Select" and indeed i does arrive three days later. Furthermore that package would make six stops across the country; all in sensible locations. If you had to start UPS from the ground up, how would you do it so that you ended as organized or more so than UPS is today? It's impressive, the amount of logistics, technology, infrastructure, and people that they've put into service for the explicit purpose of delivering my package. Oh and, they manage to do all of that for profit on less than $150. I'm sure there is a lesson here somewhere... Probably one of the Built to Last lessons.

Monday, December 6, 2004

School lunch (AKA how things never change)

If you don't have school-aged children you may not understand this until then. I had lunch with Aiden at his school on Friday. There were three things that really stuck out at me. First, lunch is really cheap. I had nachos, grapes, a baked potato and chocolate milk for a whopping $2.25. I can't tell if that means that I should be worried about the quality of what I ate (tasted fine) or government spending to subsidize lunches. Second, milk cartons haven't changed. They're still as hard to open as they ever were. Finally, the lunch ladies are the same. What is it about blue-hairs that draws them to work a register for children, make sure everyone dumps their milk into the slop bucket, cleans up endless spills, and is there to assist in opening the particulary incorrigible milk carton?

Even still, there's little in this world that feels as good as eating with your son who beams over the fact that daddy came to have lunch with him. How long until he doesn't want to hold my hand anymore? Hopefully never.

Whatever happened to snigglets?

Remember those books from the 80's with definitions for madeup words for every day things, like when vacuuming the act of picking something off the floor and dropping it back down so the cleaner can get it (don't remember the snigglet)?

I got thinking about them because I'm out in Seattle and I just had an identical experience to Ben's. Odd really. It needs a snigglet. Combining geekness and bodily function I suggest "dumplocked" as in "I had to let a load off my mind, but I got dumplocked"