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Comment Re:a world without copyright (Score 1) 215

You got paid to write somebody else's code. They made the monetary investment in the code, and you produced it.

To relate this to the topic at hand, how do you think the company would feel if the code they invested in was taken by a competitor and used to gain an advantage? The competitor made no investment, they just took it. You aren't hurt because you got paid, but that's completely beside the point.

Sure writing software is a service. You are providing a service to whomever you're writing the software for, even if it's for yourself. Services cost money. The problem is when a 3rd party benefits from a service without investing in the service. They gain an immediate advantage because, simply, they didn't pay for the service.

Comment Re:This is a real problem (Score 1) 1654

I would love to agree with you, but in this case the woman is really at fault.

It's not her fault for not understanding Ubuntu or not knowing that "Write" = "Word" or not knowing that she doesn't need a CD to connect to the Internet (which she actually might, depending on the service provider, and perhaps she had a USB modem instead of a router?).

However, there is no way that this scenario should have caused her to drop out of school for TWO semesters. At worst, this is a week or two worth of problems.

Day One: computer doesn't "work right", call Dell. Dell talks her out of switching to Windows.

Day Two: computer still doesn't "work right". At this point, call Dell and arrange an RMA.

Days Later: new computer arrives. Go to fake school.

Even if there was a time crunch and she needed the computer to work right away it's still primarily her fault. What if the machine did have Windows but arrived with a defect? What if it had Windows but she didn't realize that she also needed Office? You need to allow a small amount of time to make sure that your new computer is going to work before you insist that it must work or you're going to drop out of school for an entire year.

Comment Re:Wikipedia is Targeted Ad Nirvana (Score 1) 412

Agreed. Using a targeted network like Adsense would be minimalist and not dilute the "integrity" of the site. When we talk about the problem of advertising influencing content, we're talking about an advertiser or group of advertisers who demand that content be changed or removed. This really should not be a problem with an ad network because advertisers don't have direct control over where their ads appear, and there is enough competition that a single advertiser or even a group of advertisers really don't have any weight. This is a new advertising model that doesn't share much in common with traditional advertising.

Considering my own limited use of Adsense in the past, even a small sidebar on Wikipedia should generate enormous revenue with minimal distraction.

Comment Re:We're so smart (Score 1) 855

I love it when applications make passwords "right". I've got a newer 3Com Baseline switch that truncates passwords to 8 characters. The problem is that it truncates them behind the scenes when it stores them. However, if you re-enter the password from the web form using more than 8 characters it doesn't work. Doesn't give you any hints about the problem either...just says invalid password.

Comment Re:The internet is broken (Score 1) 855

Yep, "the Internet is broken" is becoming the starting point of many of my phone calls anymore. Lots of people use MSN as their start page simply because that's what IE defaults to. So when MSN has a hiccup, nobody can "get on the Internet."

It's very, very difficult to explain to people how a single website can be slow while our actual Internet connection, and of course the Internet itself, is working just fine. I don't know what kind of metaphor to use at this point. I've tried tubes and cars and whatever else, but it just doesn't sink in.

The problem is intensified by memory. Once a person has an "the internet is slow" moment, every other time "the internet is slow" makes them believe even more that there is some underlying problem that essentially I need to "fix." In fact, after experiencing "the internet is slow", people often perceive their entire machine as being slow. What really sucks is that repeatedly saying that "the website you're on must be slow" just makes me look like a jackass. But it's almost always true. We use a few banking / financial sites that are frequently slow. And during the holidays some types of websites, like travel and some shopping sites can start to slow down.

I think that people simply don't believe "computer guys" because they've gotten so used to being blamed for their own problems. When you call tech support at some big ISP, for instance, the first thing they do try to put the blame back on the user. Perhaps they're right most of the time, but it really just gets people pissed off to the point where they don't even listen; they just want it fixed.

Comment Re:ID 10 T (Score 2, Insightful) 855

In my experience, it would be even more likely for the user to say: "Do you want me to save it in Word?"

It's amazing how many people use Microsoft Word for everything from file management to image editing. Some of these people never even see their "desktop" during the day. Word is their interface.

Comment Check Signal Cable (Score 4, Funny) 855

I had a user once who was a woman in her mid 50s. Most of her job duties were performed on the computer, so she could get around a little bit (a lot perhaps, considering that she got fired for spending upwards of 10-20 hours per week playing solitaire and shopping online).

Anyhow, she calls me up one day and says that something is wrong with her computer: "It says CHECK SIGNAL CABLE in big red letters!"

So I wander on down and sure enough, the monitor reads CHECK SIGNAL CABLE. Recognizing that the message was from the monitor itself, I started poking around at the back of the machine trying to see if anything was disconnected. After about five minutes and a big self-slap on the forehead I asked, " your computer on?"

"Well of course it's on, it says CHECK SIGNAL CABLE."

"Yeah, but I mean the computer itself. You know, the "tower", or the "CPU", or the "hard drive", or whatever you happen to call it." (I wasn't really so snippy)

She suddenly realized what I was talking about, and she proceeded to turn her computer on. We had a good laugh about it and I went back to my hole.

About a week later I get another call: "Something is wrong with my computer. It says CHECK SIGNAL CABLE."

I was speechless at first, and almost thought she was joking. After a moment I calmly asked her if she had turned her actual "computer" on, and not just the monitor. She gave an embarrassed laugh and made some apologies and I told her not to worry about it, everybody "has those days."

Maybe a week or two later I get another call from the same lady: "Something is wrong with my computer, it says CHECK.... oh wait, nevermind."

I hung up the phone and took a moment to reflect on how fragile reality can be.

A week or two later I happen to be walking past this lady's desk and one of the guys from our engineering department is looking at the back of her computer and pulling on wires and whatnot. Being a bit dumbfounded I just decided to keep walking on by.

A few hours later I caught up with the guy from engineering and asked him what was up. Sure enough, the lady had forgotten once again to turn her computer on. What really gets me though is that she called this other guy from a completely different department because she *knew* that calling me would somehow lead to embarrassment. And while she could remember this potential for embarrassment, she could not remember that the solution to this particular problem was to simply turn her computer on.

Anyhow, that's my favorite story. Maybe you had to be there. A close second was when a much younger and more savvy woman called me to fix her mouse which was "too slow". Before I was able to get into the mouse properties in Windows and adjust the speed, she insisted on explaining her hypothesis that this particular mouse was slow because it's cord was very long.

Which brings up an interesting reality. I bet that a large number of the support calls I get are solved by having people re-adjust the location of their wireless mouse receiver, which is rarely described as "my mouse isn't working right" but more often "my computer (or 'the internet') is slow, I have to click on things ten times before they open."

Another large number of calls are solved by having people shake the crap out of their keyboards... a stuck ALT or CTRL key can be hard to diagnose the first time. :)


Apple TV to be a Centrally Controlled P2P Network? 165

Rolgar writes "PBS' Bob Cringely theorizes that since the Apple TV will be an always-on device with a 40GB hard drive, Apple may move to content distribution via a P2P network. The ISPs will incur higher bandwidth locally, possibly lose some subscribers to cable TV, but have fewer costs through the Tier II Internet backbone providers. Bob also expects that Google will be involved with their fiber network and advertising expertise, and my hope is that they'll bundle in YouTube content as well. The article suspects that they won't get around to announcing the full details of this plan until they hit a half million units or more, and that this Apple and Google pairing will become the equivalent of a cable TV provider with almost none of the infrastructure costs. Eventually, he hopes, we'll see a real HD revolution from Apple and Google for this service." If Apple rolled something like this out to the service, would you bite on it? What would it take you to move to this over Tivo or MythTV?

Submission + - Robot snowblower lets Pennsylvania man relax

davidwr writes: A Pennsylvania man can take it easy while his robot snowblower does all the heavy lifting, er, blowing. It's basically a converted golf cart with a snowblower attachment, gear mods, and a remote-control hack. Is this the "must-have geek do-it-yourself-kit" for geeks in snow country next Christmas? Now if only the guys near Buffalo had a beowulf cluster of these babies last week....
Editor: Change icon to Monty Python Stomping Foot

Submission + - Network Computing Editor Wins RSA Hacking Contest

richkarpi writes: Network Computing's security editor won the recent RSA Interactive Testing Challenge, er hacking, contest. Read his blow-by-blow description of the events:

>>I squeaked out a win in the tie-breaking challenge the first day with only a few seconds to spare as my opponent was right behind
>>in the hunt to combine three injectable fields into one long javascript function.

Read all the details: For Hackers, By A Hacker

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