Friday, October 26, 2007

Copy Protection punishes honest people

I worked at Adobe Systems first in 1985, before PageMaker 1.0 was available. In those days software was copy protected through various means, all of which were nefarious. Aldus used to drill holes in the floppy disks and the installer would look for the bad disk sector to correspond to it.

Copy II Mac was a free utility that defeated copy protection easily. If you wanted a free copy of PageMaker, or any other app, you could get one.

22 years later, the situation is different, but the outcome is the same. If you actually buy a legal copy of software, you are either inconvenienced or completely incapacitated at least once by the copy protection (now called "activation"). I have a legal copy of Adobe InDesign CS3, and my computer freaked out so I bought a new computer and transferred all my stuff to it. I launched InDesign and it told me I needed to reactivate the software, but wouldn't let me because my old (dead) computer was still on the list. Instead of a nice easy way to say "transfer one of these licenses to your new computer" maybe with a nice list of my activated computers, it just told me I couldn't do it, and needed to call the 800 number. I've called twice (it's 9:00pm on a Friday night), gotten no one on the phone, but I've entered well over ONE HUNDRED digits on my phone accompanied by many # keys to confirm that no, I can't activate this computer.

They give me 5 days to solve the problem, which is better than shutting me down. But they put the onus on ME, the paying customer, to do all the work of reading or typing in all these god-forsaken keys into the phone or the activation screen. They are punishing me, again, for being a paying customer. And if I don't get this resolved in the next 5 days, on my time, calling and entering numbers and waiting, then I can't use the software that I paid for. The frustration level is very high.

The true criminals have a much easier time of it: they just go get an illegal key off the internet somewhere and away they go.

For a while there, maybe a good decade, everybody had done away with copy protection because it was well known that it punished the wrong people. It's come back, and it's as bad as ever. I guess there's a new generation of people now who really do believe they can prevent software piracy, and all they have to do is get the customers to enter 30-digit numbers. They're wrong, as were their forebears. I don't know if I can wait for the next cycle of anti-copy-protected software to come along.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

GMail security (or lack thereof)

I have a GMail account. I don't use it. I don't like Google's policies about keeping/filtering email. But I have a GMail account. Maybe one day I'll use it. They sort of force you to have one to do a lot of things, such as blogging on Blogger, which this blog is. Sigh.

Anyway, today I logged in to my GMail account, out of curiosity to see if I had any mail. I have a WHOLE LOT of spam, which is what prompts this blog post. 738 messages, as you can see in the screen shot to the left.

I have not given out my GMail account to anyone. I never send mail from that account. I use it only to log into Blogger, to save maps in Google maps, etc. So really the only entity that has my GMail address is Google. Evidently, they have been hacked/compromised or else they're selling my email address to the spammers directly. How else would this email address wind up on spam lists?! I tried searching for it (my address, and no, I'm not posting it here for spambots to harvest). There is no way I can think of for a spambot to have gotten this email address except through Google itself.

Kind of scary. Now I'm really not going to use my GMail account.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sky divers die in plane crash

It strikes me as extremely ironic that the plane crash today was 10 members of a skydiving company, all of whom apparently were in the plane when it hit the ground. You'd think they'd jump out, with parachutes, wouldn't you?