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Posted by james on Nov. 18, 2010
I keep getting interesting Google Alert hits for some software I wrote. Most interesting are links that seem to offer my software for free.
I got another one today so I decided to take a look. First, the page seems to show a keygen for my software available for download in a few places.
That's interesting. Let's look at those download sites:
Interesting - the second download "location" is a copy of the first, but with randomly generated values for all the numbers. The number of times downloaded and the speeds are all faked to make this look like a working download.
Last, when you try to click you get this:
Surprise! It's a "you must sign up to download this software". Which they don't have. Total scam, very obvious, but I'm sure someone's making money off gullible people who somehow justify spending money on a shady site (that will most likely end up charging their credit card for who knows what) in order to download something for "free". What's more sad than people trying to illegally steal my software (which is not great) is the fact that some of those people may get ripped off, be overcharged, or even worse get viruses and have identity theft problems because of it. But hey, that's the illegal underground for you.
Posted by james on Oct. 21, 2010
For a long, long time I've wanted a program that would automatically sync files between my computers. The typical scenario is that I have a copy of a folder on two computers (ex. a laptop & desktop), and I want changes in one to automatically sync over to the other computer.
I've tried a bunch of programs, but none really seemed suitable. I envisioned a very simple client that sat in the system tray. Then you'd be able to use a simple web UI to setup syncable folders, and the rest would happen automatically.
One day I tried Windows Live Sync, and the experience was eerie... this was almost *exactly* what I envisioned! You install a simple system tray app, you do all the configuration in a web browser, and you can even setup the same folder on all your PC's while sitting at a single computer through the web UI. Amazingly simple, very powerful. Even stranger - Windows Live Sync worked on mac. It seemed like a very strange thing for them to do, but it makes sense when you realize that this program used to be "FolderShare" by a different company before Microsoft bought it.
Seems too good to be true - a well-made, simple & powerful program from Microsoft that does exactly what I need. It works transparently, syncs files well, works on Windows & Mac, it's free. It seems very uncharacteristic of Microsoft to do something so well without any strings attached.
Starting today, I'm feeling those strings starting to pull. I got an email from MS announcing that Windows Live Sync was being shut down. It's being replaced by "Windows Live Mesh" which is essentially the same thing plus online cloud storage. The catch? It no longer works on XP.
I realize that XP is a very old OS. Unfortunately, that's what most of my gear runs (by choice). And it's still alive & supported by MS, and last I heard was the most popular Windows version out there. Good old MS. When it seems too good to be true (ie. too helpful to the end-user), then it probably is with them.
So now the hunt is back on - what's a very simple, easy to use, transparent, peer-based folder sync utility? Preferably free, but a reasonably inexpensive one would be fine? Do I really need to dig up my old code and finally finish my own version that's been "in progress" for the past 10 years?
Posted by james on Oct. 1, 2010
Email mailing lists are a common thing for open source projects. They were (and still are for most) the preferred way of getting support. What's nice is that a lot of times the project creators (or really experienced users) read the mailing list often, and they're normally pretty helpful.
However, mailing lists are a vestigial idea from older times when webpages were not as common. Now we have things like forums, stackoverflow-type Q&A sites, etc. Google Groups is a nice wrapper around a mailing list, and give it some forums-like qualities. But many mailing lists do not use google groups, they still use old-school plain email lists like listserv or mailman.
The problem is that these lists often lack the functionality that make the modern alternatives so great. I want to post a question, and get all replies emailed back to me. With most of these lists, this is not an option. I have to subscribe to the entire list, get all emails, and filter out the ones I don't want - all to answer a single question. Then I have to unsubscribe when I'm done. Repeat process for each question I might have.
In this regard, a forums-based solution is much easier. I can register (boo - openid ftw), then post my question and subscribe for email updates to my question (and any other thread I'm interested in). Then I receive updates just for my post... even if the answer comes months later. This is not possible if I have to manually subscribe/unsubscribe to the entire mailing list.
With good forums software, I can also get the same mailing-list type of email experience in addition to a modern forums-type experience... the best of both worlds. Some forums can be setup to email each message to any subscribers, just like an old-fashion mailing list. But it also gives the option to use the web UI instead, which for many (like myself) is necessary.
So basically the choice comes down to 1) mailing lists which give only a single experience, which is unsuitable for many, or 2) use good forums software that can give both a traditional mailing-list experience and a much-improved modern forums experience.
Given this, it's really hard to understand why many projects still insist on using old, limited mailing list managers. Is the installation that much easier than a forum-software install? Are people just used to it so they continue to propagate this throughout their other projects?
The simple, limited mailing list needs to die as a means of support. There are better options out there.
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