...what I'd really like is a $10/month or $12/month service that is restricted to four rentals a month. I think I'm pretty typical in that I only watch one movie a week, if that. Even though this will cost about the same as me going to the local, non-Blockbuster rental store, I would still go for it because I could keep the discs as long as I wanted, and I would have a much better selection. Some folks like to go to the video store and wander the aisles; I'd rather do it online.
It's not getting much press here in the US, but we recently asked Britain to send some of their troops into much more dangerous situations for no apparent military reason. There are some howlers in the BBC's coverage, including "Mr. Hoon has rejected claims that the request is political and an effort to boost George W Bush's election hopes. He said it was designed to free up US forces for operations in other areas." Mr. Hoon goes on to say "The US request is for a limited number of UK ground forces to be made available to relieve US forces to allow them in turn to participate in further operations elsewhere in Iraq to maintain the continuing pressure on terrorists."
Let me get this straight. We have more than ten times as many troops in Iraq as the Brits. We can move as many as the entire British contingency on as much notice as we are giving them for "a limited number". And he really thinks that we're going to believe that this isn't a political ploy before our election? Either he and Tony Blair have been drinking the same Bad Math potion our president has, or they're too scared to say to their bullying friend "er, no, we've had enough of this." The latter seems much more likely.
If you are wondering how honest (or un-senile) our president is, read the last two paragraphs of this article. It's one thing not to be so good at remembering facts that people tell you; it's another to keep changing a story you use to show why you are keeping a stable course.
Dantz, makers of the wonderful Retrospect backup program, has been bought by EMC. This is really good news. I've been a fan of Retrospect for over a decade; it is the way I back up my business-critical computer. 'Nuff said.
Some folks in the Mac community are wondering what this means for Dantz. For example, one blogger says "Retrospect has been a staple in the Mac backup market for as long as I can remember and is used by enterprise and home users alike. Let’s just hope they don’t forget the home users". If the way EMC has handled its acquisition of VMWare in January is any indication, we'll do just fine with Dantz.
VMware's low-end software isn't "home-user", but it is a godsend for tens of thousands of low-end IT folks. I use it every day in the VPNC test lab. A few months after the purchase, VMware came out with a free update to the VMWare Workstation 4.0, numbering it as 4.5; they easily could have called this 5.0 and charged an upgrade fee, but didn't. To me, this is a sign that EMC is happy to have its subsidiaries keep their loyal low-end customer base. The support policies for VMware and Dantz are pretty similar, which means that you'd better hope that the manual and online support forums tell you what you need. But, given that, the software is reliable, useable, and keeps getting better over time.
As I write this, PayPal has been hosed for almost four days. I have been trying to pay for an eBay auction I won, and PayPal sometimes lets me in (but then falls over), and sometimes doesn't let me in. This problem has been reported in many places on the web, mostly with greater frustration than mine.
The big problem is that PayPal is being completely dishonest about this. There is nothing in the error messages, and nothing on the home page, that says "we're having problems that we know about". The error message even has a "try again" link, indicating that they think the error is transient. After more than a few hours, you would hope they would be a bit more upfront about the problem, but no.
Old Bessie, the very-long-lasting Apple laser printer I have had for a zillion years, is getting put out to pasture (namely, getting put in the lab). She still works pretty well, but she sometimes smears the paper a bit and her toner costs a lot more than it should. So, I replaced her with a Brother HL5170DN, and so far I'm really happy with it.
One thing I have been wanting for many years is automatic duplex printing. I waste a lot of paper with one-sided printing that really could be done on two sides. So far, the duplex printing has been flawless. I also needed network connectivity so that Judy could print over the wireless from the other room.
MacOSX users will certainly be happy with this one. Brother very clearly treated MacOSX equivalent to Windows on the installer disk. All the instructions were clear. The only fault was that I had to go to the Brother support site to figure out how do duplex printing under OS X, but that's also due to Apple having too many options panels in the Print dialog.
I have recently been an expert witness in two civil cases about the commercial spyware, eBlaster. Well, in fact, I never got to testify, but I did give the lawyers in both cases a lot of information on what eBlaster does, how it works, and what it means in the bigger picture of computers today. I was even preparing to talk to the jury in the second case, but it settled a few weeks before trial.
There is a lot more discussion of "spyware" today than there was a few years ago, but most of it is talking about software that is put on your computer by someone you don't know in order to watch a narrow range of what you do. eBlaster, on the other hand, is usually installed by someone you know, and reports almost everything you do to them. In fact, when I ordered my copy from the manufacturer, the salesperson asked me "so, is this for watching your wife or girlfriend, or an employee?". Yeesh.
In fact, both of the cases I worked on were workplace-related. In both cases, someone surreptitiously put a copy on someone else's computer, collected very detailed reports of what the spied-on person did, and was later caught spying. Although there are some legitimate uses for eBlaster, there are many more illegitimate uses. If you look at the ads for eBlaster around the internet, virtually none of them talk about the few legitimate uses; no surprise there.
I love it when software designers talk about what was in their head when they wrote something new. If you're a Mac user who ever intends to write a blog (even one with a few posts per month as this one, for example), you are well-advised to consider MarsEdit. And, if you want to know why it's a great piece of software beyond it's nice feature list, the author explains how it came to be.
Did it last year; did it again. The folks over at the third annual Blogger Boobie-thon are collecting money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and having a good time of it. Wander over, look at the blogger's breasts (the site is safe for work unless you contribute $50 or more and get a password for the not-safe-for-work photos), then leave them some money for the cause. Heck, have a good time of it and send them a picture too. (Yes, you can see my not-so-artful picture there. Hi, Mom!)
Most of us know women who have had breast cancer, although we might not know about the cancer. Many of us have fewer friends because of breast cancer. There's still plenty of research and education to be done.