12/20/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

A failed review of McAfee Utilities 2000. I was going to write about the successor to Nuts & Bolts, the utilities suite that could have been so good, except parts of it were so bad. It was never second-best of the three I looked at in Optimizing Windows. It was sometimes the best in a particular category, and often the worst. I was hoping the new version would fix some of the shortcomings–add the launch acceleration features of Speed Disk, Fix-It, and Windows Defrag to DiskMinder and it would be the best of the bunch when configured properly.

It’s bloated. While Fix-It is clean and simple and NU is getting there, McAfee still insists on throwing in the kitchen sink and a hair dryer. Never mind that’s a particularly  dangerous combination. You can’t de-select some of the kitchen sink or hair dryer features either. Worse yet, the installer missed installing at least one critical DLL, so it doesn’t run. At first I figured it was incompatible with Windows Me, so I tried installing it on a 98SE system. It had the same problems there too–and this was a fresh install, with no special trickery. So I can’t tell you how good the good parts are because I don’t know.

I should probably look into getting a retail copy of it, because it’s presumably more polished (I sure hope so–imagine not even being able to install something, but not being able to return it!) but I’m less than hopeful. The reasons are obvious, I hope.

You can download an evaluation copy at www.mcafee.com , but I really can’t recommend you do. Check out Norton Utilities 2001 instead. You can get an evaluation copy of it at www.symantec.com .

Time for a new system. A friend and I are spec’ing out a system for another friend. We’re having fun spending someone else’s money. So far, we’ve managed to run up a $10,092 tab, but my friend was slacking. For one, he forgot the second 21″ NEC flat-panel display and TNT2-based PCI video card. We want him to be able to watch IrfanView slide shows on his second monitor while he plays Quake full-screen. (IrfanView doesn’t require the greatest of available cards, but we want like manufacturers since that works better for multi-head displays. And never mind that Tim doesn’t play Quake.) And he went with a TNT2 card for the main display. What’s up with that? Why would they make $400 64 MB GeForce 2 Ultra cards otherwise, except for Tim to buy them? But I approved a PCI-based TNT2 for the secondary display because I didn’t want to look too extravagent.

So we’re not done yet.

He’s been sending me specs and I’ve been telling him what’s wrong with them. I’d be great in upper-level management.

I’ve even got a Plan B. If what we come up with is too much, I’ll admit to Tim that The Gator’s being too extravagent. “Yeah, he insisted on putting a second floppy drive in there, in case you needed to copy disks. ‘Who copies disks?’ I asked him, but he insisted. So I humored him. You and me, we both know you can copy disks with a single floppy drive. So we’ll nix that drive, cut the bill by 15 bucks and everything’s perfect. There. Now THAT is a practical system.”

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Dan Bowman
Subject: RE: Whaddayadoin?
Yeah, there are some issues here. …and you are one of the voices of your generation, like it or not. Speaking of that, when you can, please take a look at the story I linked from the ETP site on Sunday, the one about smoking and the ads. Is her take on the ads valid? Are you qualified to answer? http://www.thegardencafe.com/2000_12_10_arc.shtml#1615885
 
Thanks; just looking out for my kids’ futures. I may have to take them by a morgue.
 
dan
~~~~~

Sorry for that aside.
 
Am I qualified to answer? Who knows. Does it sound accurate to me? You bet. I haven’t seen that ad, but it’d strike me as morbid, maybe funny. It sure doesn’t sound effective to me. Wouldn’t stop me from smoking. The stat that 1 cigarette cuts your life expectancy by 7 minutes helped, but that’s just me. I’ve smoked three cigars in my life. Cigars are worse for you, I know. But fear is a terrible motivator, when someone else is trying to scare you. Internal fear is a great motivator, but nobody thinks smoking will make them a failure.
 
Maybe the financial aspect could be effective. What will a year’s worth of cigarettes buy? I don’t know the answer to that question. But if smoking versus not smoking is the difference between driving a Ford Escort and something with some prestige to it, that’ll get some people’s attention. Not everyone’s. I see my peers thinking more about money than they used to. That may just be a coming-of-age thing.
 
I think honesty is just the best way, regardless of the other approaches used. Respect and honesty. Not that I’m an expert, but when my dad sat me down and talked to me like someone he respected and said, “This is what’s bad about marijuana,” and on down the line through each drug, I listened to him. (Tobacco may or may not have been included. Alcohol was not. I learned what was bad about alcohol from watching him. Some people can pick things up that way. Others won’t.)

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From: “Jan Swijsen” <qjsw@nospam.oce.nl>
Subject: Re: strings

Hey, I won’t out-do you every time. Just every time I can.

In Computer Shopper, the subtitles and section headings are worth a laugh too. Their editors add a personal touch without giving the impression of doing self promotion. In fact Computer Shopper and PC Plus (also a good one) are the only mags that I buy these days.
~~~~~

I’ve noticed that. I know Chris Ward-Johnson recommends PC Plus; when Shopper approached me about doing the “Optimise Your PC” series I noticed
they were published by the same outfit so I asked him his opinion of both magazines.

When I showed a copy of the article to a marketing guru I work with, he asked me where “those guys” were when I wrote Optimizing Windows. (“Why
didn’t you have those guys design your cover, and that ‘Try David Farquhar’s tips for pepping up your PC’ phrase should have been on it! Right on the front!”) That’s not the O’Reilly way, but I bet it sure would sell…

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Dan Bowman
Subject: Whaddayadoin?

Trying to take the heat off Pournelle or something?????
 
I didn’t see a slavish devotion to The One True Penguin Path in that post<g>.
 
dan

~~~~~

There is no One True Penguin Path. If someone tries to create one, then they’ve just totally destroyed the entire purpose. Not that they haven’t already. That “slavish devotion” you mention says a lot. Linux is supposed to be about freedom, not slavery. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with paying for intellectual property. The people who think otherwise have traded one form of slavery for a much more vicious form. I see absolutely no difference between total, blind devotion to Linux and total, blind devotion to Microsoft. None. Not at all. If you reach that point, you desperately need to go find religion.
 
And if people disagree with that, good. I would love to hear a reasoned argument why total, blind devotion to Linux is a good thing and people should do it, because I sure can’t figure out why on my own.
~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Håkan Waara” <hwaara@nospam.chello.se>
Subject: editthispage

Hey, great site!

How did you change the <body> attributes on your Manila site? I can’t see any way to do that from the “advanced” preferences..

Thanks.
~~~~~

Thanks!

I don’t think I changed the body attributes; I specify the font for the
daily posts (you’ll notice occasionally I miss), so I get a mixture of Times
and Verdana.

You can define a body tag in your cascading style sheet to accomplish that,
I think. I know standard HTML pretty well but I never bothered to get
comfortable with either XML or CSS. But maybe one of my other readers will pipe in.

If you can’t buy it, is it legal to copy?

3/29/00
Here’s a big, hairy question:

From: Francisco Garcia Maceda
Subject: Napster
To: Dave Farquhar

I have also been playing around with Napster for a couple of days and as you have seen there are a couple of rough edges still in the design and implementation. However, I think this is going to grow to something bigger and probably very different from the original implementation. There is already Wrapster, which allows you to “wrap” files, images, videos, programs, etc. in MP3 headers so you can exchange this “wraps” as if they were actual MP3’s. We’ll see.

The other day I was talking to a friend that made some research into copyright law both in the US and locally (Mexico). It appears that in both countries you can copy ANY copyrighted material that is out of print or distribution as long as you do not redistribute it or profit from it. This could be very important for people that don’t want to encourage piracy but at the same time is looking for some old tunes/books/etc. that are impossible to obtain today since they have been out of print for years/decades. Maybe you or one of your readers could shed some light in this topic regarding copyright law in the US and even in the EU?

Francisco Garcia Maceda

My understanding is that copyright law makes no provisions for material that’s in print or out of print, and until the copyright holder says it’s OK to freely copy something, freely copying it is illegal.

Tracking down the copyright holder can be a real pain. I wrote Optimizing Windows, but I don’t hold the copyright on it. If O’Reilly takes the book out of print, that doesn’t mean people can freely copy it. And in the case of my contract, O’Reilly retains the copyright, so you can’t get my permission to copy it–because I can’t give it. Sometimes the rights revert back to the author, but only the publisher and author can generally answer that question.

Those Young Snakes tunes I was referring to are a case point. Aimee Mann doesn’t own the copyrights on those, so she can’t give permission to freely copy them. She’s toyed with the idea of buying back the rights, but that’s never happened. So, technically, yes, by owning those MP3s, I’m breaking the law. Whether anyone cares is another question. Since no one’s making money off this 20-year-old EP that’s been out of print for probably 18 or 19 years, probably not. As Pournelle says, you have to let your conscience be your guide. [Ironic note: Some months later, Andy Breslau, the album’s producer, mailed me. We had a long, pleasant discussion over e-mail, and $10 later, I have a legal copy of the EP. So sometimes copyright holders will find you.]

Music is a bit hairy, because there’s the copyright on the lyrics and notes themselves, but then there’s the copyright on the recording. The label owns the copyright on the recording. The songwriter owns the copyright on the lyrics and notes. If an artist breaks from a label, the recordings don’t go with them, but they have the rights to re-record the song. Prince has long been threatening to do exactly this (and for all I know he’s made good on it).

That leads us into live concert recordings. A recording that a sound technician makes by splicing into the soundboard or that a fan makes by smuggling in a recording device isn’t covered by the label’s copyright, nor are they covered by the artist’s copyright, which is why the courts have upheld the rights of bootleggers. When you go into a record store and plunk down $40 for a Tori Amos live CD, Amos never sees a dime of it. The live recordings field is an underground industry, living on the very fringe of the law. As I said before, some artists worry about this stuff a lot, while other artists go so far as to encourage it. You have to be a fan to love these recordings, so I don’t see any problem with them. Record labels do, but the law isn’t on their side in this case. They may argue that this hinders their ability to sell live CDs, but I don’t buy that. I own every live Joy Division album their record label ever put out, plus every bootleg I’ve managed to find. The fanatics will buy anything that has their favorite band’s name on it, and those are the people who plunk down obnoxious amounts of money for these bootlegs. If those MP3s hurt anyone, it’s the bootleg record companies and the record stores that deal in them.

The other place where this question comes up a lot is old software. The author doesn’t make a dime if you go buy an Atari 2600 cartridge at a flea market for a buck, so it doesn’t make any difference to the author, I would assume, if you bought a copy of it or just downloaded the ROM image and played it with an emulator–though it makes a big difference to the law. With software this old, frequently the publisher is long gone, the author may or may not still be alive, but the copyrights are still valid for a few more years and someone, somewhere, owns them and could choose to enforce them.

Really, what it comes down to is two questions: 1. Am I hurting the owner of the copyright? And 2. If I’m not hurting the owner, morally I can do this, but legally I may not be able to, so am I willing to take that risk?

I hope that answers your question. I’m sure others will pipe in as well.

Dave

More thoughts on MP3. Record sales are down. The industry blames MP3. But as labels consolidate, they axe artists by the hundreds or thousands. The end result is fewer people recording music, and, probably, fewer sales. Plus, many artists don’t hit it big right away. It took U2 seven years and five albums. Today, they’re Ireland’s biggest industry. They wouldn’t have survived if they had come along in 1999 rather than 1979–Boy was a great album, a really great album, but probably wouldn’t have been a great commercial success in any era.

I don’t think MP3 hurts teenybopper bands like The Backstreet Boys and ‘NSync. Sure, those songs get pirated by the boatload, but they also sell by the boatload, and much of the money surrounding bands like that is in merchandising–lunch boxes, bedsheets, posters, videos… The records are an afterthought. (And it shows.) Those bands will disappear within a couple of years, just like the New Kids on the Block did in the late ’80s/early ’90s and the Bay City Rollers in the mid-1970s.

I think who the MP3s really hurt are the one-hit wonders. You know, bands like Deep Blue Something, who record an album with exactly one catchy song (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” in that band’s case) that goes on to become a mega-hit, but with no obvious followup the band drops off the face of the earth.

I don’t see how MP3s can hurt established bands any more than radio taping does. And record companies fall all over themselves to get their acts played on the radio.