Archive | January, 2005

Is that DVR a tool for committing copyright felonies?

NYT > Technology has a troubling article “By LORNE MANLY and JOHN MARKOFF” titled Steal This Show. “Homemade cable boxes. Episodes swiped off the Web. TV is becoming a do-it-yourself affair, and the industry is terrified.”

I was really disturbed by the tone that recording is the same as stealing. Time-shifting is a right. I don’t want to plan my life around a TV schedule. If I’m busy at 10 PM on Thursday (okay, more likely asleep), I want to record it and watch it at my convenience.

Broadcasters are losing out if people don’t record the commercials along with the show. Okay, I’ll concede that. So, keep the commercials in. Laura and I taped 12 hours of “Crossing Jordan” when A&E did a a marathon over the Thanksgiving weekend. It was kind of quaint watching (and yes, fast-forwarding through) the Christmas specials advertisments in January.

Laura pointed out that all the sharing hurts broadcasters because they don’t show up in the Neilson ratings. I hadn’t considered that, and that’s a really good point. If I understand correctly, it’s the ratings that let them price their advertising. Well, the NYT article might accidentally point the way there, too: The top of the article lists the top videos downloaded last week: this is not “lost” broadcasting, it’s just not counted.

Here’s a solution: the networks themselves need to host the video downloads, using something like BitTorrent that lets every downloader contribute to the uploading bandwidth. The network can offer some sort of an enticing premium like a higher-quality feed, with the commercials left in, and count the number of eyeballs that are watching using mechanisms like the BitTorrent tracking features. They get a bigger audience, viewers get to watch at their leisure. Is that a win – win?

Vendor support vs. user support

Jon Udell asks the question: “How can high-tech product support be so abysmally bad? And how did we arrive at the point where users, not vendors, provide so much of the useful information?”

What an unusual perspective! I’d been a fan of the PCVENDB forum on CompuServe for support from Fox Software, but far more importantly from the many wonderful “users” — fellow developers and consultants — who taught me Fox software and consulting and so much wisdom. Even after the purchase by Microsoft, support didn’t come from the vendor, but from the forums – CompuServe’s FoxForum and the FoxForum Wiki and Ed Leafe’s ProFox mailing list. The vendor might occasionally post a knowledgebase article confirming what we already knew. But users have always supported software. They have no choice.

I recall seeing a directory on some vendors CDs labeled UNSUPPORTED, with a disclaimer that said the vendor would provide no technical support for the included tools. My question: Unsupported? How can you tell?

HWP: Tiny Guide to

Hentzenwerke Publishing ships Tiny Guide to This sounds like a great little book. Looking forward to checking it out. I’ve been using for a couple of years now, on Windows, Linux and OS X, and I’m really pleased with it. I just installed the NeoOffice/J version, a native UI version for the Mac, and I’m enjoying it a lot more than the X11 version I had been using.

Via the RSS feed at Hentzenwerke Moving From Windows to Linux

VFP 9 EULA posted to FoxForum Wiki

Andrew MacNeill points out that the VFP 9 EULA is posted in its entirety to the FoxForum Wiki at

It’s great to see the brain-dead requirement of having to uninstall previous versions has been removed. However, there are some really bizarre new phrases added. Rush Strong points out the weirdest: “You may not.. work around technical limitations in the software,” Excuse me? That’s how I have made my living for the past fifteen years. VFP doesn’t include your inventory system, but that’s a technical limitation I can help you work around. Yes, it’s true that DROP TAG ALL will remove all relations, but I know of a product that works around that technical limitation… VFP crashes when used with some HP drivers, but there’s a technical work-around on the Microsoft KnowledgeBase that lets me work around this technical limitation.

I find it hard to believe that such a silly requirement could be enforced in court. On the one hand, OJ was found innocent and Sacco and Vanzetti executed. On the other, Microsoft was found guilty, guilty, guilty. I have neither the money nor the interest in finding out what is and isn’t enforceable in the EULA! But I think a lawyer at Microsoft needs to be flogged for writing such nonsense.

So, how hard can that be?

Laura and I enjoy listening to WERS, the user-supported radio station of Emerson College, on Saturdays: 10 AM – 2 PM Standing Room Only plays Broadway tunes, and 2 PM to 5 PM All A Cappella. Since we live just outside their broadcast area, we listen to the streaming audio. Thanks to, we can listen to the streaming music either on the iMac via iTunes or through the ThinkPads and WinAmp or Live365’s player. However, that means that we are stuck in the computer room with the good computer speakers or listening over the weak laptop speakers, right? Nah.

Downstairs, we moved my ThinkPad into the living room, and use the living room stereo via iRock. Okay, follow this: WERS broadcasts their radio signal, and also routes the audio somehow to, who turn it into TCP/IP packets. The internet packets route their way through the Internet, and end up on my Comcast cable, decoded by my local cable modem. Routed from there to my LinkSys WRT-54G. Wrapping around the room, an ethernet cable goes to a LinkSys 5-port switch, and back out again to a LinkSys WAP-11 802-11b transmitter. Back into radio waves, the transmission somehow finds its way to the living room, where the ThinkPad A31p‘s built-in wireless adapters turns it back into TCP/IP packets, again, and then into an MP3 stream, which WinAMP turns into audio output, again. Wait, we’re almost there! The iRock then turns the audio stream back into FM radio waves, which are picked up by tuning the living room stereo to the same frequency. Once again, back to audio, the sound, finally, comes out the speakers.

What’s remarkable is how good this sounds. And that it works at all.

How hard could it be?

If this works out, we may consider using an Airport Express, and cut out a lot of the complexity.

MySQL on Windows under attack

If you’re running a MySQL server on Windows, ensure that you have a rock-solid, hard-to-crack root password or, smarter yet, turn off remote root access. The Internet Storm Center logs a nasty bot that’s taking over Windows machines (an easy task, let’s admit it) using MySQL servers with weak root passwords.

Like any application exposed to the internet, it’s wise to disable the standard built-in user name and/or beef up the passwords to ones very difficult to crack. gets closed

Paul McNett has run as a Wiki for people wanting to run FoxPro on platforms other than Windows. Unfortunately, according to a note on the home page, Paul has had to take down the site due to spammers. He does, however, point to other links that contain great information on this, including WineHQ and his own web site.

With the recent VFP9 EULA (I still haven’t seen it online), someone asked if that meant that VFP is dead on Linux. Frankly, I’ve always thought of it as more of a parlor trick than a viable platform for development. I mean, if the vendor really doesn’t want to run on the many other operating systems out there, that is their choice, even if they are cutting off their nose to spite their face. The other answer is one that Paul points out in the white paper on his site: you don’t need to run VFP 9 or 8 or even 7 to get most of the benefits of VFP. If you are running (or at least distributing) VFP 6 level applications, the EULA had no noxious requirements about the operating system. As always, you should consult a lawyer about this, but it looks good to me…

Slashdot: Human Animal Hybrid Created in Lab

SlashDot notes: “National Geographic has an article stating that… “Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing chimeras – a hybrid creature that’s part human, part animal.”

Great! And are these creatures – HAnimals or Animans? – entitled to protection by the SPCA or by the UN Human Rights Commission? There are incredible ethical issues in this.

VFP9 co-existing with earlier development versions

Ken Levy responded to my earlier post with:

Based on the feedback from you and others in the VFP community after the release of VFP, I met with the Microsoft legal team who worked on the VFP 9.0 EULA and they allowed that section to be removed.æ So anyone can upgrade to VFP 9.0 and use “any” previous version on the same machine, no restrictions in the EULA on previous versions related to upgrading.æ You can blog my comment on that if you want so people know who don’t have VFP 9.0 yet.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.