Pirates beware, Sony is here


DRM without telling anyone? Of all the stupid things in the world. What were you thinking?
 
We live in a world where tons of smart people watch everything that is going on. In this environment, Sony-BMG releases a copy protection scheme that stealthily installs on your computer to protect their CD from being copied. It meters how many times you can copy a particular CD and stops you from downloading the music to a personal player (focused on IPod). They give you the option to remove the software, but then you cannot even PLAY the CD on your computer.
 
Please note that it is not illegal to copy the CDs you buy. It is also not illegal to download copies of your own legally acquired music to your own personal listening device. It is, however, illegal to break the copy protection scheme to do things that are, otherwise, legal. But, feel good that Sony-BMG is protecting its billions against pirates by treating you like a criminal.
 
As an open note to Sony-BMG:
 
I used to be an avid purchaser of CDs. I have a collection of more than 100 titles. But, I refuse to buy anything that is not absolutely compelling these days (have purchased a few in the past couple of years) and the titles are primarily from indies these days.
 
I am not a pirate, as you have accused others of being when they have complained. I do not download from file sharing networks. Instead, I have chosen to listen on the radio. As long as you continue to act like a child, I will not support your temper tantrum. When you grow up, we can sit down and talk.
 
I truly hope more of your consumers head my direction and tell you where to stick your DRM.
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The Faithful Should Listen To Science


This week, the AP released an article entitled “Faithful Should Listen to Science.” I would first like to take some time to focus on the article; I will post a more thorough follow up on evolution and ID (Intelligent Design) at another time.
 
The Article
Quotes from the article are in italics.
A Vatican cardinal said Thursday the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, warning that religion risks turning into "fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason.

I have a hard time when I see the word “fundamentalist”, as it has so many connotations (much like “evolution” – covered later). In most instances, it is used as an emotional term, without logical basis.
"But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism," he said.

Now, we are firmly in the world of emotion. “Fundamentalist” used to mean “one who adheres to the fundamentals of his belief”. In the new vernacular, at least at the surface, a “fundamentalist” is one who believes that the bible is to be taken 100% literally. Below the surface, we use the word to brand suicide bombers and other fanatics as “fundamentalist”. This allusion puts pundits like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson on an even keel with Osama Bin Laden and suicide bombers, which is also an emotional appeal.
Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, or Science, Theology and Ontological Quest, reaffirmed John Paul’s 1996 statement that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis."
And, I agree with the Monsignor, with some caveats. Let’s continue:
"A hypothesis asks whether something is true or false," he said. "(Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof."
There are portions of the evolutionary theory that enough empirical evidence that only a fool, ignoramus or idiot would disagree. We can safely say these “have proof” or are “fact”. There are other portions [of the theory], however, that have little or no empirical backing and are pure speculation (or hypothesis, if we use the words of the Monsignor). When science is reduced to hypothesis, we are dealing with belief, or philosophy. As a philosophy, it should compete equally in the arena of ideas with other philosophical constructs, whether those constructs are ID, theology or even “fundamentalism”.
My Two Cents
If our schools are only teaching the empirically sound, or “proven”, portions of evolution (the facts) and not moving into the philosophical realm, it is not wise to introduce competing philosophical thinking. Science, when it is truly science, should not be forced to compete with philosophy. In this environment, only the portions of competing theories that can be tested should be allowed to enter. As there is little experimental evidence in the competitive space, it should not be taught.
If, however, our schools are entering the realm of philosophy, via extrapolations that may or may not be later shown to be empirically sound, other philosophical ideas should be allowed in the classroom. It is both unfair and dishonest to enter the world of belief, even in the guise of “science”, and not allow competing “beliefs” to be heard.
 
We certainly do face the danger of "fundamentalism" entering our schools, but the danger is real whether this "fundamentalism" enters the halls via the Southern Baptists (or other religious Conservatives) or via staunch neo-Darwinists. Any time one is committed to dogma, be it theolgical or "scientific", one risks losing reason. If the goal for our children is learning, we should educate, not indoctrinate.
 
I agree with the Vatican that people of faith must not become enemies of science. I also agree with scientists that argue we should not be teaching the biblical Genesis account alongside Darwin. Unless one can come up with an honest way of empirically experimenting on the specifics of the biblical beginning, it has no place in a science classroom. To date, I know of no such experiments. Even the musing of Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana (in Origins of Life) are philosophical in nature and not experimentally "proven."
 
On the other hand, if we are gonig to muse philosophically, we should allow both detraction of evolution (exposing problems in the science) as well as competing theories (ID). If we are going to teach the portions of evolution that are philosophical (hypothesis and speculation) as part of the "facts" of evolution then we should allow others to join in on the discussion. To do otherwise is intellectually dishonest and more focused on dogma than science, putting it on par with the "fundamentalism" the Vatican is afraid we will become prey to.

Pundits


I was reading Susan Estrich’s latest column today and saw the following:
 
No Democrats voted for the war — they voted to give the president authority, which hindsight makes clear that he had already decided, long before, how to use.
 
Now, while this may be technically true, one would be hard pressed to state that Democratic Congressmen were somehow suprised that the President actually went to war. Let’s go back a few years. It is post-9/11 and the citizens of the United States are clamoring for payback. Politicians are looking for a way to guarantee a path to re-election and having their parties represented favorably so they side with the people. When the vote came up, the members of both parties knew the President was planning on actually following through; there was no suprise here. In fact, it was not until month’s later that the feigned surprise (and Estrichian rewriting of history) began. If you are in doubt, do a search.
 
This leads us to a few possibilities: The Democrats are stupid, ignorant, not paying attention, whores or they knew what they were doing. Let me explain:
  • Stupid – yeah, we knew that the President was asking for the resolution, but we figured he just wanted to have the vote to appease the public.
  • Ignorant – yeah, we knew that the President was asking for the resolution, but we were sure he would never actually do anything about it.
  • Whores – We were against it, but afraid our Johns would leave us for other whores if we did not vote for it.
  • Knew what they were doing – One day Susan, Al, Janeane, et al will become an apologist for us, so we can play this either way and claim that was our idea all along.

Now, this is not an indictment of the Democrats, as all politicos are the object of my scorn. Nor is this an indictment of Estrich, as pundits on both sides play to their audience much like the politicos. The focus is the annoyance of revisionist history, no matter which side of the aisle one is on.

“Non-fiction” writers can sue fiction writers?


In Britain, two of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail  have sued Random House, claiming that Dan Brown lifted "the whole architecture" of The Da Vini Code from their book. I can see one of two directions for this suit:
  1. The authors are now saying scholarship can be copyrighted. Since they first discovered the idea of Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene and the Priory of Sion (at least the first published discovery in the modern era), they now own the discovery.
  2. The authors are finally admitting, as Lincoln (the third author, who has not enjoined in the suit) did in a recent interview, that the entire framework of the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail  is based on a fraud started by an egotistical Frenchman named Pierre Plantard. Thus, as a work of fiction, they can sue Random House and Dan Brown for lifting their ideas.

On point 1: People should not be able to own intellectual discoveries of this type. If scholarship can be owned, then it becomes difficult to further advance historical knowledge, as nobody else would want to risk lawsuits to further research. This would be a disaster to our understanding of important events.

On point 2: If Baigent and Leigh are finally admitting they have spouted a large glob of male bovine fecal matter, I say more power to them. Henry Lincoln, who did not enjoin in the suit, stated recently on Da Vinci Declassified (TLC – at 3 PM EST today, may show up again) that the entire foundation of their idea was based on a fraud: the Priory of Sion was a make believe organization created by Pierre Plantard (de St. Clair), with make believe documents created by Philippe de Cherisey. Lincoln admitted Plantard told him de Cherisey created the documents, but felt the story was still important as people once believed it.

I certainly agree that fictional authors should have the right to sue someone who steals their work and "re-writes" it in slightly different words. I do not, however, believe non-fiction writers should own the history they report on. As Holy Blood, Holy Grail  was published as non-fiction, I do not see where they have a leg to stand on.

The nine year old civil rights activist?


I am sorry, but I find it hard to have warm feelings about the former Chief Executive of the United States. He seems nice enough and is a very charismatic speaker, but something is just not right. I saw the transcript of his eulogy for Rosa Parks today. He had some very nice words to say, but then I read this:
I remember, as if it were yesterday, that fateful day 50 years ago. I was a 9-year-old southern white boy who rode a segregated bus every single day of my life. I sat in the front. Black folk sat in the back.
When Rosa showed us that black folks didn’t have to sit in the back anymore, two of my friends and I, who strongly approved of what she had done, decided we didn’t have to sit in the front anymore.
Now, this may be true; But the problem is not whether the story is true or false, but the fact the story was brought up. A eulogy is meant to honor the dead, not the speaker. I can see how one might think that this is a honor for Rosa Parks, as he and his friend did something to honor her defiant act, but it sounds more like he might end up with a muscle ache for patting himself on the back.
 

Visual Studio 2005 Information


Are you confused about what is, and is not, included in the various versions of Visual Studio 2005?
 
Express Products ($49 per*, free for SQL):
The express products are aimed at hobbyists. They have a very low price point ($49 for the developer tools*, free for SQL Server 2005 Express), which makes them attractive to the person with a low budget. Included in the family are language specific tools, as well as a tool focused on web development.
 
Please note that these particular products are aimed for hobbyists, so they contain very little other than the base tools necessary to develop an application. While you can certainly use them in conjunction with another Express product for the full development cycle, you will be forced to use two tools and to fight your way through the mire.
 
General notes: While there are ways around many of the restrictions presented in the list below (command line compiler comes to mind), the tool will fight you if you want to try to step outside of the box and still use the drag and drop ease of the tool.
  1. You cannot develop Office Applications using Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) with any of the Express products. You will have to move up to a Team System product or purchase VSTO separately for this functionality and the support will still be limited in an Express product.
  2. Data access is local only, except for Visual Web Developer (VWD), which allows you to connect to a remote server (when remote data access was missing in early beta builds of VWD, the crowd went wild).
  3. No mobile device support. If you are building PocketPC apps, you need to move up to at least standard.
  4. Limited MSDN documentation (MSDN Express) targeted at the particular Express product you own.
  5. No class designer. Must move up to Standard for this.
  6. Cannot connect to source control through the Express product.
  7. No SQL Server integration.
  8. No Server Explorer.
  9. No deployment methods included, no click once, no installer projects.
  10. XML support for XML only, no XSLT designers or support.
  11. The only extensibility to the product is adding external tools to the menu. You cannot add plug ins for this IDE.
  12. Can only debug locally
  13. Reporting support with Reporting Services only
Language Tools: The language tools are useful for creating class libraries, windows forms applications and console applications (run from the command line).
Visual C# Express
Visual J# Express – Java syntax
Visual C++ Express
Visual Basic Express
 
Others:
Visual Web Developer Express – VB or C# for web apps.
SQL Server 2005 Express – lite version of the SQL Server 2005 database.
 
Standard ($299, $199 upgrade)
Standard is much better than Visual Studio .NET Standard, which was not much more than Visual Studio Learning edition. It is designed for small ISV (Independent Software Vendors), largely for one man shops without heavy needs. While this edition is better than the Visual Studio .NET days, it is still a rather streamlined product. It is the minimum level I would probably want to develop at, but I would aim for Pro if you are more than a one man shop (if not some higher level).
 
Notes:
  1. You cannot develop Office Applications using Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) . You will have to move up to a Team System product or purchase VSTO separately for this functionality and the support will still be limited in the Standard product.
  2. Only deployment method included is Click Once. There are no installer projects included.
  3. This is the lowest level version that allows remote database access outside of the VWD.
  4. This is the lowest level version with mobile development support.
  5. This is the lowest level version that allows connection to source control (sold separately)
  6. This is the lowest level with the class designer
  7. Extensibility is limited to consuming extensions
  8. No server explorer
  9. No SQL Server 2005 integration
  10. Can only debug locally
  11. Reporting support with Reporting Services only
Professional ($809, $549 upgrade):
Professional is designed for smaller shops. It includes all of the .NET languages and the full "user experience" (as opposed to a streamlined IDE).
 
Notes:
  1. Does not contain Visual Tools for Office (VSTO) support. You will have to move up to a Team System product or purchase VSTO separately for this functionality. VSTO is a better experience in Professional than the lower level SKUs.
  2. This is the lowest level with deployment projects (more than Click Once deployment).
  3. This is the lowest level that is fully extensible; you can add plug-ins for additional features.
  4. This is the lowest level that includes Crystal Reports developer tools. Please note that the deployment license is extremely limited with the included Crystal bits.
  5. This is the lowest level with SQL Server 2005 integration.
  6. This is the lowest level with 64-bit tools (thanks PatriotB).
  7. This is the lowest level with the server explorer.

Team System Products:

There are three Team System products: Team System Architect, Team System Developer and Team System Tester. Each contains different tools based on the role the person using it plays. There is also a Team Suite, which contains the designers from each of the Team System products.

NOTE (added 11/17/2005): According to the Team System Licensing document (tinyURL for copying: http://tinyurl.com/97pyf), each Team System product contains a CAL for the Team Foundation Server. This is not a license to install the Team Foundation Server, however.

Team Architect Tools

  • Class Designer
  • SOA Design tools – Distributed Architecture Designer
  • Logical Datacenter Designer
  • Deployment Designer

Team Developer Tools

  • Class Designer
  • Static Code Analysis
  • Code Profiling
  • Dynamic Code Analysis
  • Unit Testing
  • Code Coverage

Team Tester Tools

  • Unit Testing
  • Code Coverage
  • Test Case Management
  • Load Testing
  • Web Testing – similar to Application Center Test (ACT) in Visual Studio .NET Enterprise

Team Suite

  • All of the Designers and Tools in the individual Team System products
  • Enterprise Level Source Control (also includes SourceSafe for small teams)
  • Work Item Tracking
  • Team Portal web site functionality (using SharePoint)
  • Reports for software schedule and quality

Pricing:

  • Team System Architect – $5479 street , includes MSDN Premium subscription (much cheaper with current MSDN Universal sub – see note below)
  • Team System Developer – $5479 street , includes MSDN Premium subscription (much cheaper with current MSDN Universal sub – see note below)
  • Team System Tester – $5479 street , includes MSDN Premium subscription (much cheaper with current MSDN Universal sub – see note below)
  • Team Suite – $10,949 street, includes the Team Foundation Server and MSDN Premium subscription (much cheaper with current MSDN Universal sub – see note below)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Those who subscribe to MSDN before the switch over date can save a lot of money by taking advantage of the free upgrade to Team System (this is individual products, not the full Suite – see below). Currently MSDN Universal subscriptions run $2799 street (can find quite a bit lower), saving you thousands of dollars. There is not much time left to take advantage of this (perhaps launch date – Nov 7th). Once you upgrade, the upgrade to Team Suite is an additional $1200 (through June 30, 2006), which saves additional thousands. Act now if you are thinking about heading into Team System.

Suggestions:

Below are some general guidelines towards which product you should consider.

  • Express Products
    • Great for students and those who develop as a hobby
    • Good for those who need to develop on a very tight budget
  • Standard
    • Primarily for the very small shop or the student/hobby developer that develops in multiple languages. Minimum level I would consider for anything other than learning or hobby development
    • If you want class designer, you must go to Standard or higher
    • If you want click once deployment, you must go to Standard or higher
    • If you need remote data access for anything other than web development, you will have to go to Standard or higher
    • If you desire XSLT support, you must go to Standard or higher
  • Professional
    • Designed for small shops. I would go to Professional if you are more than 2-3 developers and would aim for Pro in most of these cases (anything more than a single developer in a shop).
    • If you want server explorer in your IDE, you have to go Pro or higher
    • If you want SQL Server 2005 integration, you have to go Pro or higher
    • If you want 64-bit compiler support, you have to go Pro or higher
  • Team System
    • Designed for large shops focused on team development
    • I would have at least one Team Suite in house to ensure you have the server bits. The designers can be used without the Team Server, but the real power is in the team collaboration.
    • For figuring out which product is best for individual members of your team, I would consult the MSDN site for Visual Studio Team System.

For more Information:

* Express products are currently free for a year, with extension of license for those who download within the period (per the FAQ).