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Comment: Re:grandmother reference (Score 1) 436

You're falling into the trap of confusing ethics and the law. Whatever you -- or I, since I expect we'd agree -- think of the ethics of the situation, so far I haven't seen anything to suggest their actions in not respecting keys used other than under the conditions they were sold with is actually illegal. The law with respect to digital purchases, DRM, and remote access/activation schemes may be some anachronistic dinosaur, but if it's the law right now then complaining about the action on a forum like Slashdot isn't going to change that.

Comment: Re:grandmother reference (Score 1) 436

Maybe, but for better or worse, the situation today is that Ubisoft is effectively empowered to "confiscate" keys acquired through illegitimate channels in violation of whatever terms of sale or licensing agreements those keys came with.

Now, you might argue that the law should be updated to address the rights of customers buying digital products in a more even-handed way. If you did, I'd be the first to agree. But even then, it's hard to see why those rights would or should protect someone with the digital equivalent of stolen property. If you wanted to legitimise reselling keys across borders as a matter of policy then you'd probably also need an explicit change so that DRM schemes attempting to prevent cross-border trade were prohibited and anyone operating them on a commercial basis was required to honour otherwise valid keys for any sort of activation or customer support purposes.

Comment: Re:grandmother reference (Score 1) 436

In that case, perhaps it's more closely analogous to paying someone abroad to buy something cheap and ship it to you, but then complaining when your delivery arrives that you got charged the import taxes your oh-so-honest supplier didn't pay.

Sometimes things that look too good to be true really are, but usually there's a catch. Seeing a deal that good and not checking thoroughly for the catch is just asking for trouble.

Comment: Re:CC chargeback and if they ban you fully paid ga (Score 1) 436

Chargebacks can seriously hurt the affected merchants. For one thing, usually the merchant has to pay a fee on top of refunding the full amount for each individual chargeback, possibly losing that fee even if they subsequently challenge the chargeback and win. For another thing, an unusually high chargeback rate overall can result in much worse terms for future card payment services or even being denied the facility entirely, which for many businesses is effectively a mortal injury.

If it's Ubisoft that was taking the money directly, this hurts them directly. It potentially even follows their officers if they move to other businesses later as well. If it's not Ubisoft taking money directly, then it hurts their resellers, and word quickly gets around that being a reseller for Ubisoft is a lousy gig. Either way, Ubisoft are losing something.

Comment: Re:grandmother reference (Score 1) 436

All true, but paying actual money for a licence key at an unusually low price from an unlikely source is like paying five bucks for a 60" 4K TV off the back of a lorry. If you're the recipient of stolen goods, however unwitting, the law in most places will leave you empty-handed if the goods are identified and returned to their original owner, unless you can find and take legal action against whoever sold you the goods.

I'm not saying the situation doesn't suck for the innocent party, and I'm certainly not supporting Ubisoft's generally aggressive use of DRM, but in this case it does seem that the situation is exactly analogous on-line to how the law has worked in the real world for a long time.

Comment: Re:I won't notice (Score 4, Insightful) 331

A human adult with average vision can't distinguish anything much above current HD resolutions from normal TV viewing distances at typical physical TV screen dimensions either. This is one of the big problems all the businesses creating flashy new 4K TVs haven't quite worked out how to deal with yet.

Meanwhile, plenty of people still have DVD players rather than Blu-Ray, because even moving to HD doesn't make much difference for a lot of material in practice, and the old "get them to buy Star Wars for the seventeenth time two step" has run out of music.

Then you have to consider the rise of on-line sources and the generally poor experience of the physical disc systems. Most of that poor experience isn't actually because of swapping discs. It's because of all the other silly things that all legally manufactured players are required using tortured legal tricks to implement, preventing otherwise obvious improvements in competing devices such as skipping to the !~%# movie straight away.

So personally, I'm expecting 4K and other very high resolution formats to flop outside of niche markets, like say luxury home cinema systems with a projector and a screen several metres across. Even where they do get adopted, I'm expecting the market to demand less messy distribution, which would make any sort of disc-based successor to Blu-Ray even less likely to succeed.

Comment: Re:Action vs. inaction (Score 1) 307

I agree with you about the difficulties of scope creep when the scope is determined by people who aren't technical experts.

I'm genuinely surprised about the Netflix-Comcast situation you described. That doesn't sound like my idea of net neutrality at all. Is that actually what some law in the US (or elsewhere) now requires, or is it just what Netflix would like a future law to require for obvious reasons?

Comment: Off-the-shelf vs. custom (Score 2) 300

Your food analogy works quite well, I think.

If I want a quick but useful meal when I get home after a very long day, I can pick up a ready meal from the store and throw it in the microwave or I can stop by a burger joint and get some fast food. This requires negligible effort and makes me not hungry any more.

Alternatively, I can pick up some meat and vegetables and a tin of sauce from the store or the market and cook something myself following a recipe in a book. This requires more work from me, but it probably tastes better and/or costs less and/or has nutritional benefits over the ready meal.

If I want a superb dinner, I will go to a good restaurant and let their chefs make dinner for me. They are going to make everything fresh from their own choices of raw ingredients and to their own recipes, but they will do a much better job than me, producing a meal where everything goes together perfectly, the nutrition is balanced, and the presentation is excellent. Of course, I'll have to wait while they prepare and cook the meal, and I'll have to pay more for it.

If you want a self-hosted blog site in half an hour, nothing will be faster than installing ready-made blogging software like WP and configuring it for a few minutes.

If you have more demanding requirements but you're still basically talking about a form-based front-end for a CRUD app, you can probably get that done quickest by developing with heavy frameworks like React or Angular.

If you want to build something larger and more specialised, where you need greater levels of control and flexibility, you'll probably be better off putting together a team with the skills to build anything you need entirely bespoke. They can still use existing tools if and when they're actually useful -- going this route does not mean you build every last detail from scratch -- but crucially, they'll have no problem creating something new if that gets better results and they won't have any clutter getting in their way when they do so.

Obviously the price, timescales and quality of results all increase sharply from each of these levels to the next. You need to decide how important that fine tuning really is for any given project, and look at your budget and timescales, and then build the best thing you can within your constraints.

Comment: Action vs. inaction (Score 5, Insightful) 307

This just seems bizarre.

Net neutrality is about forcing inaction: an ISP is already providing service to a customer, but is not allowed to actively discriminate by not providing the same level of service under various conditions.

What Chen seems to be proposing here is a requirement for action on the part of every app developer in the world, requiring them by law to spend their resources producing additional software regardless of any desire or commercial viability.

I think we can safely predict how this one ends. It's amazing his PR people didn't stop him before it started, though, because IMHO it just reinforces the perception that BlackBerry is desperate and struggling to stay in business by any means it can find.

Comment: Re:Only for the first year (Score 1) 570

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48875215) Attached to: Microsoft Reveals Windows 10 Will Be a Free Upgrade

Agreed, though I might say it's presenting them with not merely a choice but an active encouragement to switch.

I don't see anything inherently wrong with a subscription-based model, as long as it's genuinely got something in it for the subscriber. Various big name sites now offer vast libraries of music or movies on a subscription basis, for example, and for people who enjoy a lot of variety maybe it's convenient and/or cheaper than buying permanent copies of everything.

The trouble is when you try to replace a permanent purchase with a rental model without offering some significant value in return for the ongoing charges. That's just a one-sided rip-off. Some big software firms are dangerously close to that IMHO. They try to wriggle by arguing about how expensive it would have been anyway if you'd bought the Complete Super Deluxe Edition and then every upgrade for it at the old prices, and conveniently overlook the realities that lots of their customers neither bought nor needed the all-in top-level suite before, and that a lot of their customers also didn't buy every upgrade as soon as it came out.

Comment: Re:Only for the first year (Score 5, Interesting) 570

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48870643) Attached to: Microsoft Reveals Windows 10 Will Be a Free Upgrade

Which is the reason that software companies want to sell subscriptions. It's hard to employ an army of highly paid developers if you don't know whether you have any future revenue.

So maybe you should keep improving your software in ways that are actually worth more to your users. If you don't have a solid plan for doing that but you've got the point of employing an army of highly paid developers, you're doing it wrong and need new leadership.

There are literally dozens of changes that Adobe could have made to the major CS apps we use where any one of them would have justified a three-figure upgrade fee for everyone in my company who uses that app. I'm not even talking about huge changes that would have been expensive new developments; even some relatively small UI improvements to remove time-wasting frustrations might have made buying the upgrade an instant yes as a business decision.

They didn't do any of those things in several years before CC, and as far as I've seen they haven't since then either, so we wouldn't have upgraded so far. On the other hand, we would never rent essential software from anyone unless it was literally the only viable strategy to continue the related business activities at all, which in reality it never is. So in effect, Adobe have gone from a position where even one of many modest improvements would probably have earned a small business worth of upgrade fees from us sooner or later to a position where there is basically zero chance of ever getting more money from us.

You can play that game for roughly as long as the extra money you're making from other people makes up for the losses. However, as certain other big software companies have been learning in recent years, taking your user base for granted it rarely a viable long-term strategy in this industry. Sooner or later, significant people at your big customers start doing the sums, figure out you're charging them more in long-term pricing, and take steps to change that one way or another but invariably at your expense.

Comment: Re:Rent seeking (Score 1) 570

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48868435) Attached to: Microsoft Reveals Windows 10 Will Be a Free Upgrade

Technically, you already are renting most non-free software. The duration may be lifetime and only 1 payment, but you don't own the software outright.

In that we have copyright and what you're really buying is one copy and the right to use it? Sure.

In that you are further restricted in what you can do with that copy? Not so much, particularly since quite a few court decisions in recent years and multiple jurisdictions that have sided with the purchaser on their subsequent control of their copy even against major software companies fighting significant test cases.

Comment: Re:Only for the first year (Score 3, Interesting) 570

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48868307) Attached to: Microsoft Reveals Windows 10 Will Be a Free Upgrade

I doubt it. There wasn't a massive revolt when Adobe went to subscription. Or Microsoft Office.

True. It does take time for people who are annoyed by such a move to respond to it and for the market to create alternatives, particularly if you're talking about an incumbent industry giant with a diverse user base like Creative Suite or MS Office. There is always some resistance immediately, but given that these subscription services quickly become more expensive for significant parts of the previous user base, it may still be more commercially beneficial to take advantage of those users and force the move to software rental as Adobe did (though Microsoft haven't so far).

That said, in both of those cases, it's quite clear that the market is creating alternatives, and that significant numbers of users are starting to defect (or simply didn't get on the subscription upgrade treadmill and are waiting for better options). For example, people doing Web work on Apple machines now have several promising graphics applications that are getting much more favourable reviews than anything from Creative Suite has for a long time, for a one-off permanent purchase costing the equivalent to just a few months of Creative Cloud subscription. The days of asking what's out there to draw UI elements or illustrations for an article, laughing amiably with the FOSS evangelist who suggests the GIMP and Inkscape, and then coughing up a thousand bucks for Photoshop/Illustrator/Fireworks are gone, and they aren't coming back.

As long as they don't completely mess it up, they will be ok.

I'm not so sure. I doubt anyone is going to come along with a single killer app in either case, but huge all-things-to-all-people suites feel a lot like yesterday's software to me, and I find it quite plausible that both Adobe and Microsoft will steadily lose market share to a hundred small but highly specialised competitors. The moment we reach the point -- and possibly we already have in some contexts -- that using Real Office Document Formats or Real Photoshop Files is no longer a killer compatibility requirement, a significant driver that keeps people on MS/Adobe has already been lost.

And just to get back on topic... I don't really see why all of the above arguments wouldn't apply to Windows as well if Microsoft do pursue some sort of rental licensing scheme where your system locks up the day you stop paying. They already lost phones and a large chunk of the server/back office market. Losing desktops as well would surely be the end of Microsoft as any kind of serious force in the IT industry, because I don't think they can afford another Vista/8 fiasco so soon. With mobile apps, web apps, native OS X apps, and all the things you can do with Linux these days, there are plenty of other ways the market could realistically move before Windows 11 arrived, and again once Microsoft has lost the critical mass of effectively Windows-only software that advantage is probably never coming back again no matter what they do.

As I've said before, if it were me I'd push hard the other way: promote Windows as the one platform where stability and true long-term support were absolutely trustworthy, so if you buy Windows or develop software to run on it you know it's still going to work five or more years later. Then sell the OS with a clearly stated support programme where you get security and compatibility fixes free as the ecosystem evolves for a certain reasonable period (maybe 2-3 years) and then you have the option to keep them going for a modest fee after that, but without ever going full rental and putting customers in a potential pay-or-it-stops position. I don't see this happening under the current management, unfortunately, as they put in place a CEO whose entire background pulls in the other direction.

"If you want to eat hippopatomus, you've got to pay the freight." -- attributed to an IBM guy, about why IBM software uses so much memory

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