Thursday
Feb262009

Piracy (yarrrr)

No, this is not about your Somalian variety of piracy. This is about digital piracy- the pirates of the new age. No doubt, you have downloaded a song without paying, and I'm sure you've searched youtube for clips of your favorite show, only to find they have been removed at the request of the producing studio. Piracy is rampant on the Internet, that much is clear. But, is it all bad?

I will gladly admit that I have downloaded music, movies, and TV shows illegally. At one point, my sole source of music was Napster, then Kazaa, and then some admittedly shady and underground sources. Any time I heard a new song, I could be sure someone on the Internet was sharing it for free. If I missed an episode of my favorite sitcom, I was assured that someone had put it online for the taking. And these days this sort of thing is only more common, with the prevalence and ease of use of file sharing applications.

Since then, I have changed my ways drastically. I no longer scour the internet for content. I no longer have the need. Now I have a TiVO, and Amazon's MP3 service. If I need a movie, I have Netflix. Didn't record an old episode of a show? Not to worry, Hulu will have it. Since the days when I would steal content with reckless abandon, the industry has changed. They didn't want to at first. In fact, content creators fought the internet with all their might. And when your industry makes billions in revenue every year, there's quite a bit of might to go around.

Piracy, the RIAA and MPAA would have you believe, cuts directly into sales. And sales are what keeps chart-topping albums in production. Without money, no artist could afford to create an album, go on tour, get TV and radio time to promote themselves, and least of all, get actual play time. Stealing music or movies means less money for the artists, too. And what hard working artist doesn't deserve to be compensated for their work? But piracy doesn't cut into sales. In fact, many independent studies seem to show that piracy is creating sales opportunities where they didn't exist previously.

The content creation industry typically creates certain types of content for certain regions. Here in America, we have a popular TV series "Law & Order". But, "Law & Order" may not be very popular with Swedish citizens. So, "Law & Order" would never be aired in Sweden. But, what if you were a Swedish citizen, and you did enjoy "Law & Order"? You have no way of watching it! So, your only option is to steal it online. But, if the creators make the TV series available to you at a price, the consensus seems to be that the vast majority of the people surveyed would gladly pay up. Most people realize that if they pay, they get the benefits of high quality content from the studio, released on a reliable schedule, and usually through an easy-to-use service. The fact that the authorities aren't going to pound down your door and cart you off the jail is simply an added bonus.

So, when you hear horror stories about piracy, think of your own experiences. Did you recently listen to a "leaked" song? Perhaps you downloaded a screener version of the latest movie? You could even be watching TV shows that aren't available in your region. But, once that content was made available legally, did you buy it? I can honestly say that in all cases, I have. If I enjoy a new song, I will sample the album and buy if it's good. If I like a movie that I wasn't able to see in theaters, I will gladly rent or buy it. And if Top Gear were ever brought to American television sets, I would be glued to it every Sunday night.

Wednesday
Feb252009

Running out of addresses?

For the past 10 years, I have read countless articles citing the Internet's limited address resources. For more than a decade, professors, technologists, administrators, and columnists have noted that one day, probably soon, we will run out of IP addresses to assign for the whole world! And of course, this would lead to catastrophe the likes of which mankind has never seen.

The reality behind the move to IPv6 (the next version of the Internet Protocol) is actually about more than just addresses, though. Yes, we will have enough unique and usable addresses to pretty much connect all of the molecules in the universe to the internet. But, what about network management? Why isn't anyone discussing this facet?

Today, if you are an Internet Service Provider, you hand out an address to every customer. Customarily, businesses start with five addresses, and can request more if they need them. The way the internet was originally envisioned, though, was that every device on every network would have it's own REAL address. So, by that standard we have run out several times over. This is where NAT came in. Multiple computers could be used on a private network, and each of those computers would hide behind a single public address. Clever, simple, and problematic for software.

Now consider this- A customer has requested an additional block of five addresses, but the next five (sequentially) are already used by someone else! What do you do? You could ask someone to change their IP addresses, but most people avoid this at all costs. You could do some fancy routing to get a new address block to show up for the customer, but that's an even bigger pain! Why not assign such a high number of addresses that the customer will never run out? Ever. This is where IPv6 makes its biggest impact.

With IPv6, I could assign a customer many thousand or even hundreds of thousands of addresses. Because the global pool is so massive, those wouldn't even account for 1% of the available space! This means, no more changes, no more requesting address space from providers, no more funky routing schemes, and most of all, no more NAT! These are all GREAT things!! And best of all, they are easily attained.

For the one-time cost of updating your internet equipment, you could be granted an IPv6 block of addresses. Every computer on your network would have its own, globally reachable (if you want) address, which would make things like file sharing an IM work more reliably. The benefits are so numerous, they would literally be impossible to list here.

Many nay-sayers, however, will tell you that switching to IPv4 is costly, time consuming, and requires a new set of skills. I would like to ask who is running such outdated hardware that it couldn't access IPv6? Most of the internet is very new, and even the old parts could EASILY be updated or encapsulated in IPv6. Moreover, the world economy could certainly stand a project that would stimulate job growth.

The bottom line is this. I'm tired of hearing people talk about the impending doomsday, when we run out of internet addresses. Will it happen? Yes, of course. It technically already has. But until people stop dragging their heels on the upgrades, there isn't a thing we can do about it. Just sit back, relax, and wait for the disaster.

Friday
Feb202009

Adding software

I will be adding the software I have written over the years to this site in the near future. I will be adding license files and headers to it all, cleaning up variables, documenting the code, and finally removing anything that may identify who the product was written for.

I feel it is important for me to release the source code to all of these application, since I have received so much benefit from others doing the same. I will be licensing all of the code under GPLv2, which means anyone may use the source in whatever way they want, as long as they give attribution to the original author. That's me.

Anyway, with luck I should be able to find the applications I wrote for FIRST to keep track of team information when scouting at events, the Serial number tracker I wrote for Elkco to maintain information for RMA's, the simple label maker application, my Active Directory account enabler and Account Disabler used for Sarbanes Oxley compliance at Timberland, and finally my MS SQL Database restore and network diagnostic collection applications for Bostonpost.

If you have questions about the sources to any of these application, please feel free to contact me. Enjoy!

Tuesday
Feb172009

Moving to squarespace

Well, I bit the bullet. I'm moving my website to Squarespace. I've manually moved all my previous blog posts over already, set up the theme I want, customized a few things, and all that nonsense. So far, I've been very happy with the entire experience.

Suarespace itself has been unbelievably fast. I'm not sure how they do it, asside from a massive cluster of machines scattered somewhere around the country, but it works extremely well. There have been no stability issues, no setup questions, and best of all, nothing has broken! The WYSIWYG editor has completely blown me away by not only being easy to use, but better than any I have ever used in the past.

So, I will lose a few features that Godaddy offers. I will also be paying slightly more for the Squarespace service than I did at Godaddy. But, the benefits I gain from having such an easy-to-maintain website justify the move. The simplicity of attaching media to a blog post, or adding a normal web page alone make this one of the best hosting platforms I've seen in my life.

If you would like to try Squarespace, please click here. They offer a completely free 14-day trial, which will allow you to try the service pretty thoroughly before you commit to a plan. Offering so many features in a free trial alone brings their service up a few notches in my book. If you do decide to try Squarespace's service, let me know what you think!

Sunday
Feb012009

Layoffs and a Bad Economy

Having worked in IT for a good portion of my life, I know many people that have lost their jobs recently. In the past year, several industries have gone south. Most of them have been sales and manufacturing, and fortunately IT industries have been spared...until the past month or two.

Recently one of my best friends was laid off from an unnamed software development firm. He has basically dedicated his entire post-college life to the company, even when other opportunities came his way. Company loyalty, unfortunately, seems to have done him a disservice. And he is not alone. Many organizations are catching onto Microsoft's slogan from around 2002-2003- "Do More with Less".

What will turn this depression around? That's a matter of great speculation, and fervent debate on Capitol Hill. I'm certainly no economist, but here is my take- Companies should lay off the top-heavy sections of their business, and invest in employees. In other words, where a company has many executives, upper and middle management, and too much lower management, those employees need to be eliminated or repurposed. With the capital saved there, those companies need to invest in lower level employees to do actual work. This is especially true in manufacturing. IT organizations are also starting to slide down this slope, and it needs to be avoided at all costs. Top heavy organizations have less feedback from the bottom up. While most executives and managers would argue the commands come from the top down, if you look at the most successful and innovative organizations there is a feedback loop from top down and from the bottom up. In fact, historically, lower-level employees have been the ones to introduce innovation into most organizations- they are the ones on the floor day in and day out.

So, my advice would be to wait it out for another 6 months. After that, start investing in employees on the ground level. Don't go hog wild, but do a few at a time. Hire employees where they have the most customer impact, too. Customer service, for what it's worth, is completely dead at this point. Consumers expect a garbage experience when they need to contact product support, and an surprised consumer is a happy consumer. Beating my expectation ALWAYS means I will spend my dollars with you.

 

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