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Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

law

In short, because I don’t believe I legally have to.

I believe in intellectual property. I believe in copyright. I believe the creator of a work has implicit rights granted by the law, and that no license agreement can change what is written in law. Therefore, the only thing a license agreement can legally do is grant me additional freedoms that are not provided implicitly by the law.

So long as I don’t break the law, or attempt to do anything with the software that would otherwise violate those implicit rights and freedoms, then there’s nothing the license agreement can make me agree to that isn’t already covered.

Let me make one thing clear: I am not a lawyer. I have never studied law. Yet I still believe in law. I believe order must be maintained by the people for the people. How nice would it be if we each got to decide which laws to abide by and which to ignore?¹

¹ In fact, it wouldn’t be nice at all: it would be anarchy. I hope that was obvious enough.

I also believe in democracy–not because it’s inherently the answer, but because it’s worked so far. The election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States has only served to strengthen my belief that democracy is still alive. But as soon as 50% of the voting population becomes either corrupt or ignorant, democracy falls apart. It is therefore not only our right, but our duty as citizens and humanitarians to have educated opinions and beliefs. It is our duty to care.

Since I don’t believe that using a piece of software made publically available is against the law, and since in many cases checking a box that says “I have read and agree to the terms of this license” is the only obvious way for that software to become usable, I also believe that I am in fact being forced to check that box regardless of whether or not I agree with what the license agreement states, and therefore in doing so, the law provides that I am not agreeing to its artificial (and unfounded) terms, making all such end-user license agreements void and pointless.

Now the use of someone else’s work is another story. This is not a freedom granted implicitly by the law, and therefore licenses are required for things like open source software–not because they are imposing restrictions, but because they are liberating existing ones. This is fully within the creator of a work’s right to do, and I know for a fact I, and many others, appreciate this.

Ok so I lied: there are times you do need to read a softare license. But unless I intend to bundle that person’s software with my own (which is not a freedom granted implicitly), or do anything else besides simply use the software I paid for or otherwise obtained by legal means, then I see no reason why I should be forced to read an agreement that only tells me what I already know, let alone agree to it.

So that is why I never read software license agreements.

Logan Murray is a software developer, not a lawyer. This article is a piece of opinion. Feel free to argue it. Please don’t take it as legal advice or legal fact.

I’m delighted to announce that WordPress.com now (finally) supports custom blog favicons! This is an important step forward in what was previously a little blue circle-dominated world. Back when piHole started, I was using a custom installation of WordPress on my 1&1 Linux server, which allowed me to use my own favicon simply by placing a favicon.ico file at the root of my server, and tweaking a couple files. So I whipped up a little 4-bit blocky drawing of a pi symbol and a hole (fitting, no?) just for fun. Turns out I fell in love with its ironic simplicity and it came to be (in my mind at least) the perfect 16 by 16 pixel representation of my blog, and vicariously, myself.

Then came the day when piHole shut down because I had to move to ASP.NET to take advantage of my .NET skills on the web side of things, and sadly, WordPress was PHP. And so it remained for quite a while and I was without an informal outlet for my thoughts and ramblings.

Then one day while I was developing the early interface of OrangeNote I was just so thrilled at how things were turning out that I just had to tell the world, and so piHole was reborn. I decided to give the hosted service a try, even though I knew it had a few limitations. I’ll admit I first checked out Blogger, since I’d already had experience with WordPress (not that it wasn’t a good experience), but frustratingly, someone had already registered a “pihole” blog with Blogger! (Like, as if!) So I meandered back to WordPress and set up my very first WordPress.com blog, pihole.

I was delighted to discover that I could even reinstate the old pihole.org domain that I had lying around somewhere, which I promptly did, but was dismayed to learn that WordPress.com had no support for custom favicons whatsoever, and my little 4-bit drawing would have to stay buried in a directory somewhere, hidden from the world…

…until today (well, yesterday)!

favicon

My dad made the cover of Canadian Railway Modeller this month! His layout, a fictional Canadian National Railways division based in the 80s, fills most of the downstairs of our house in Napanee, Ontario.

crm0001

In addition to the cover, the issue also features an article written by my dad, which includes six more photos from his layout.

Needless to say I’m extremely proud. I know how much care and devotion my dad puts into this hobby of hobbies and the recognition is well-deserved. Great work, dad!!

In the past year or two I’ve come to dread the “yet another social networking site.” But recently I’ve come across three really nifty web portals that all have an aspect of social networking, but offer more to the mix than just a place for people to buddy up. Personally I’m not a huge fan of typical social networks because I find them dull and pointless, and time that could better spent elsewhere; I don’t care how popular they are. But these three portals are special in that, while still social, they are each of them geared towards a specific purpose, and the social aspect is simply an enhancement on top of that core idea.

 

Wakoopa (www.wakoopa.com)

Wakoopa

Wakoopa

 

Perhaps my favorite of the bunch is Wakoopa. Wakoopa is a startup from the Netherlands (Amsterdam) and is a social web site geared around desktop applications*. How does that work, you ask? Well you download a little lightweight tracker application (currently available for Mac and Windows with a Linux version under development) that sits quietly in your system tray and “watches” you. Now that might sound a little scary, but it only tracks what applications you run (and for how long), not what you do in them. Furthermore, Wakoopa is a member of the AttentionTrust Foundation, which upholds four key pillars of privacy and rights concerning what they call “attention”:

  • Property – you own the attention and can delete it at any time
  • Economy – your attention data is never sold to third parties
  • Mobility – your data can be exported
  • Transparency – you choose what data is used and displayed

What it all amounts to is a social network geared around the use of applications. You can see exactly what applications you use on a regular basis, and find out what applications other people are using. Wakoopa is adding new features all the time, and they are great at accepting and replying to suggestions you have for making the site better. You can suggest new features at any time by clicking an ever-present “Feedback” tab on the site.

You can see an example Wakoopa widget right here on pihole in the sidebar to the right. But the widget does not at all do the site justice, and you should really check it out for yourself. Just click the widget to be taken to my personal user page on Wakoopa (feel free to add me if you end up joining!).

*This isn’t entirely true anymore, as Wakoopa now tracks web applications too, but is still oriented heavily towards desktop applications.

 

UserVoice (www.uservoice.com)

UserVoice

UserVoice

 

The second site, UserVoice, is another that I’ve quickly grown attached to. It, too, is in its infancy, but already shows a great deal of promise. It’s basically a way to let users suggest new ideas and vote on them, so you can quickly find out what features your users really want, and which ones are only ho-hum. The publisher can add suggestions to see what end users think of them, or end users can add their own suggestions in a public setting that allows anybody to vote on anybody else’s idea. It could well be best way to come up with that next killer idea for your program, without even having to think it up yourself.

The premise is based on a limited vote mechanism where each user has ten votes per application (or “forum” as they call it). However the cool thing that makes the whole idea work is that votes are reclaimable. For example, if you change your mind, or find another idea that’s more important to you, you can take off votes from other ideas and redistribute them to your liking. When an idea is “accepted” (the company agrees it’s a good idea and promises to implement it), your votes are returned to you and you can redistribute them to other ideas as you like.

 

Get Satisfaction (www.getsatisfaction.com)

Get Satisfaction

Get Satisfaction

 

At first I thought GetSatisfaction was just the same thing as UserVoice, since it does have some overlap in that it allows end users to suggest new features and comment on each others’ ideas, but in fact there’s much more to it than that. Whereas a company’s UserVoice page is hosted and maintained by the company themself, GetSatisfaction is more a community of users than it is a company-hosted forum. In fact, users can even create a page for a company or product on GetSatisfaction without going through the company at all. GetSatisfaction allows companies to “claim” a page that has been created about them by the community, but even so that doesn’t give them control over it as is the case with UserVoice.

Personally I really like this idea because it empowers the end user, and gives them a place where they can discuss a company or product without worrying about whether their comments will be “accepted”. As such, you can expect a (for the most part) honest commentary about a product or company, and GetSatisfaction company pages even provide a way for end users to rate a company based on how likely you are to recommend the company to a friend.

* * *

As a developer and small company, I find something unique and valuable in each of them. I’ve already started a UserVoice page for OrangeNote, getting ready for the big release (which should hopefully be coming soon now), and am already excited about the ideas and feedback I’ll be receiving.

But perhaps the best thing about all three of these sites is they are all completely free. I encourage you to explore them on your own and discover three good examples of how social networking done right can actually be a great thing. If you’ve discovered another social site that offers more to the mix than just your typical buddy list or race to get the most friends, be sure to tell me about it in the comments.

See you in the cloud!


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