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links for 2006-02-06

February 5th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Bookmarks, Live, Vista, Messenger, Windows, General | no comments

Thirty Years Of Bill G. Vs. Piracy

Maybe this will help explain why Microsoft keeps trying harder to fight software piracy. Slashdot links to a letter Bill Gates wrote thirty years ago, printed in the February 3, 1976 issue of Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter, asking hobbyists to please stop stealing his software. Gates was 20 years old at the time, had just left college, and was only a year removed from his history-making Altair Basic scam.

According to Wikipedia, the letter, while unpopular with those stealing the software, was key to gaining support from businesses, and represents the cementing of closed-source software development as the primary model of the last thirty years.


… the subject of the Open Letter to Hobbyists diatribe—Altair BASIC—did not pay any royalties to John George Kemeny or Thomas Kurtz, inventors of the BASIC programming language. However, Microsoft defenders point out that reading software for understanding is probably educational “fair use” (although the company expends considerable effort to prevent its own software being so used) and that being aggressive isn’t necessarily being unethical.

So, what’s your favorite form of development? Does open source work as a business model? Do you miss shareware? Did anyone ever pay for a shareware program?

February 5th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Corporate, Open Source, General | one comment

Who Hates ClearType?

One thing Internet Explorer 7 does when you install it is turns on ClearType. For some reason, some people hate it. Why?

I love ClearType! Someone advised me to turn it on this past summer, and I haven’t gone back since. I couldn’t stand my laptop for five minutes when I reformatted and didn’t have it on. ClearType works as advertised; brighter, bolder, more readable text. What’s the problem?

From what I understand, ClearType was designed with LCD screens in mind. Okay, so maybe CRT users might have a good case for being mad. Why can’t Windows just make ClearType the default for LCDs and turn it off by default for CRTs? So many notebook users don’t know how much they might like ClearType, so just turn it on for us, maybe with something at Windows install that asks you to compare the two and see which one you want?

Just a thought, maybe for Vista.

The IEBlog has been fielding comments on the change, and it has a short FAQ, including:

Q2: Why don’t we turn on ClearType just for LCD monitors?
A2: There is no reliable programmatic way to detect whether the monitor on a system is an LCD or CRT. When that type of detection technology is in place it is an option that we will consider.

First off, as far as I know it is easy for Windows to identify laptops, so at least you’ve got that much (since those darn CRT laptop are a little thick), and why not, for everyone else, just ask? That couldn’t be too hard. Besides, non-laptop monitors have known model names, and Windows could just compare against a a list of names.

But truly, Microsoft’s big mistake isn’t in turning on ClearType in IE7, it was turning it off in Windows XP. I’m hoping this is a first step to correcting it. Most people like ClearType, and the few that don’t (either for personal reasons or because of complacency) can just turn it off.

February 5th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Internet Explorer, Applications, General | 5 comments

Search Champs: Payola?

So, Valleywag, my new favorite guilty pleasure, is running an article asking, “Microsoft Search Champs: Payola or just a good conference?” Good question. On the one hand, we were flown out there, given great accomodations, free stuff, free food, hookers, and, most importantly, a plush MSN butterfly.

MSN Butterfly with Crucial Piggy

Of course, Crucial gave me the cute piggy awhile back, so I’m not sure which company I work for now.

Getting free stuff is the regretable part of being a reporter. And by regrettable, I mean “the best perk”. Top Perk #2 is probably free conferences, and #3 is interviews with celebrities, although I’m sure everyone else has their own list. Microsoft certainly treated me well, but I’d trade away all the free stuff to go off NDA for just five minutes.

Yeah, we saw some cool stuff.

And that’s the real way to wow a journalist, show us some products that are cool. I saw stuff, I overheard stuff (just so you know: MSFT employees + alcohol = you should thank god I can’t print some of that stuff), and now I know which Microsoft products are worth watching. You show me what you’re working on, and if I think its cool, I’ll be itching to tell everyone else. Of course, if it sucks, I relish giving bad reviews, so you might not want to invite me to those events.

I’d love it if some company helped get me down to Mix 06, or E3, or CES, or any conference. I wouldn’t owe them good coverage, although I’d definitely give them coverage. Microsoft wants to make sure it is on the radar? Done, Windows Live is a bigger deal to me than before. It wasn’t hard, just give me a reason to care.

Any company could do it, and they all have the money to do it. Google’s got offices 40 minutes from me, and I’d love to see a Google Search Appliance in action, but its never happened. That wouldn’t involve any expense on their part, in fact it would cost me the train fare, but its the same concept.

Hell, I’ll probably give away the butterfly in a contest at some point. But I’m keeping the piggy!

Lots of reporters are a spoiled bunch, and are all about this stuff. I grab all I can get, but if there was none, I wouldn’t really notice. I’m obsessed with access, and I got more out of the discussions than I got in swag. Not that I’d give it back, I’m not stupid, but I’m not going to pretend you can buy my objectivity with an Xbox controller.

Now, a free console would be something else…

Some websites have a policy of not keeping anything free. Why? Are you so unable to remain objective when reviewing a product that you know you will keep, that you can’t keep it and give a bad review? The price for most free stuff is a review. Reviews are publicity, good or bad, as long as people see your product exists, and if you can’t trash a product you got for free, you shouldn’t review products at all.

The truth: There were no free hookers, and I’m trying to figure out if its “piggy” or “piggie”. That’s what I care about!


Dori Smith, who was also there, says:

As mentioned here previously, yes, I was invited to and attended Search Champs. While it was pretty darn cool, it certainly wasn’t what I would think of as “all-expense-paid” (wanna see my credit card bills?). They were very generous, and the swag was very nice, but I felt like their money went towards getting honest feedback, and if you read this site regularly, you know that that’s not something I have a problem giving. Yeah, it cost me a smallish chunk of money, and a good-sized chunk of my time, but if asked, I like to put my two cents in, and that was what they asked for. They certainly didn’t buy a “Windows all the way!” from me.

And as for someone giving a positive review to a CD that they were given? Give me a break! We’ve been getting free software and books around here for ages — it’s part of the glorious life of a freelance journalist. If you give positive reviews to everything you get for free, you won’t be hired back by any reputable outlet for long. I’ve trashed bad software, as has Tom, and that’s just the way it goes.

Scoble says:

The Valleywag figured us out. We’re controlling bloggers just by flying them to Redmond. Your mind is under our control. (Insert evil laugh here). Oh, sorry, got a little out of control. Blame it on the payola I just got. Hanging out here with about 10 geeks. I’m well pickled. Sat in the hot tub for more than an hour. My fingers are all wrinkly.

February 5th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Live, Corporate, Windows, General | no comments