Friday Grab Bag

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And so the sun sets on another week. A good week, in my view, as the Red Sox are headed to the playoffs for another year. Though I hear there was some bad news on the capital markets front.

Though the less most of us hear on that front, the better, at this point. I’ll keep this brief, as I’ve yet to eat and I’m up early tomorrow – despite it being a Saturday – en route to Boston, for my second Red Sox game of the week. Which is good. Less good is the forecast – heavy rain, and a near 100% chance of precipitation – but you knew that. It’s me, after all.

Anyhow, rather than the intended piece on hybrid source, here’s the usual hodgepodge of items that may or may not deserve their own entries, but aren’t going to get them. Pity them. And so, the grab bag:

  • Dropbox & Migration:
    The seamlessness of the Dropbox experience – it Just Works (TM) – makes me pine all the more for a for-pay offering featuring with greater capacity. This week saw the introduction, as you might have read, of apone, and I would have much preferred if migration consisted of automagically pushing my home directory to the new machine. Would have beat the hell out of manually rsyncing directories all over the place.
  • Firefox & Ubuntu:
    I’m quite glad to see some of the fervor and vitriol of the Firefox v Ubuntu EULA controversy subside. I make no defense of the legitimacy of the EULA in question; nor would, apparently, Mozilla. EULAs, to me, are much like patents; patently useless, but – according the current system – a necessary evil. Unless, of course, a legal type can educate me otherwise (please). My principal hope following this incident – and the Google Chrome EULA mishap that preceded it – is that the software industry feels compelled to take a harder look at the question of EULAs in general. What are they actually useful for? What, legally, do they provide? What’s enforceable, and in what geographies? And if they’re being cut and pasted, how important can they be, really?
  • iPhone App Pricing:
    After forgetting my razor and running out of toothpaste during last week’s trip to Las Vegas, I was horrified at the price of replacements in the Venetian’s “apothecary.” Three razors (I only wanted one) and a large tube of Crest (which I couldn’t take home with me) cost me north of $20. Highway robbery, but I was a captive audience.

    Like I am on the iPhone. Similarly, but slightly less disturbing was the fact that a few days later, I spent $3 on an SSH client for the iPhone. This feature – standard issue on every open source OS I’ve ever used – was for pay in the iPhone world. But as one of the Mac users at the office told me last week in response to my surprise: welcome to the world of Mac applications. Mac apps, of course, have long commanded premiums where their Linux counterparts that requested actual money were often stillborn.

    This, by itself, wouldn’t be remotely enough to change people’s perceptions of the platform. Nearly the entire staff at Beale Street, a local pub which employs a friend of mine, are iPhone owners and, further, application buyers.

    But I am curious as to whether or not free applications on alternate platforms – Android perhaps – coupled with (IMO) absolutely asinine and developer unfriendly “approval” processes will eventually have an impact. Or not.

  • Location & Privacy:
    One of the least discussed, at least in my world, aspects of location based services and the privacy implications is not the impact to the user, but their friends. I’m on record as being fairly unconcerned with location based devices, given that I’m an unlikely target for would-be stalkers. But as a friend pointed out last week, that could prove problematic if you visit people’s houses. I don’t mind, terribly, if people can track me; my friends, on the other hand, might be significantly less sanguine at the prospect. Which seriously complicates the question of how to ensure that location based services don’t infringe on privacy. Maybe Schneier has some ideas on the subject.
  • New Bag:
    With one of the zippers of my five or six year old Patagonia briefcase destroyed by TSA (thank the heavens they found that dangerous bottle of Aquafina I’d dropped in there a few days prior and forgotten about), I’m in the market for a new bag. While the odds are that I’ve already found its replacement – I should know shortly – I’m open to suggestions for replacements. Patagonia, sadly, no longer makes the model I was so happy with, nor can I find one on eBay.
  • Tomboy & Github:
    Another consequence of the migration exercise was the realization that porting my Tomboy notes was…not difficult, exactly, but far from seamless. The Tomboy team has done a good job of providing notes syncrhonization via Webdav, but I’d be ecstatic if they – and other projects – took this further, and provided an integration with hosted DSCMs such as Github. Not only would it make synchronization a far simpler task, it would go a long way towards handling the difficult problem of collisions. You know, just in case anyone was bored.
  • Yankee Stadium:
    Last, let me say a surprisingly fond farewell – almost a week late – to Yankee Stadium, the home of the Evil Empire. While I’ve had my share of unpleasant memories there – this being probably the worst – I will always remember it as a great place to watch a ballgame, and the scene of the single most improbable comeback in the history of sports. I’ll miss it, and the history it represents.

    Good and bad.


  1. I don’t know that anyone thinks EULAs are ‘required’, but there is no other way to indicate in anything even vaguely approaching a legally binding way that ‘we’re giving you this software, here are the conditions we’re giving it to you under.’

    So the question is probably less ‘are EULAs necessary’ and more ‘are conditions necessary.’

    Generally, I think the answer is no; once you’re in legal possession of a copyrighted work you have the right to use it. (There are people who want to change this.)

    Unfortunately, if you want to disclaim warranties (which in many US states you do), the answer may well be ‘yes’. So you’re sort of stuck. (Admittedly, most EULAs are about waaaaay more than that, and they shouldn’t be, but at least that is a pretty plausible justification under US law.)

    Note also that in both the Chrome and Firefox cases these were more than ‘just’ software EULAs- they also doubled as Terms of Service for the (non-copyrightable?) services that sit behind the copyrighted software. That complicates things a lot, and frankly I’m not sure anyone has thought through all the implications. I sure haven’t. 🙂

  2. (And please nag me to write more about this next week.)

  3. How is the SSH client?

  4. @Luis: that’s exactly the kind of response i was looking for. i was actually thinking of asking you to do a Q&A on EULA’s, but if you’ve got a post in the works i’ll just shut up and wait for it 😉

  5. @Mike: have only tinkered with it thus far, but it’s fine. not bad at all.

  6. Regarding your need for a new bag. My Spire bag from 1998 is still going strong. Spire USA is a local (local for me: Western Massachusetts) company that makes great products: http://www.spireusa.com.

  7. Please nag me about it. I have some ideas, but not much time, so nagging will get you everywhere 😉

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