Pay you? To test your software?

Somebody at Microsoft seems to be bent on coming up with more ways to frustrate users, including this plan to charge users $1.50 to download the Office 2007 beta:

"Since the end of May, Beta 2 has been downloaded more than 3 million times…That’s 500 percent more than what was expected," the spokeswoman said. "The fee helps offset the cost of downloading from the servers."

So because people are stupid enough to download the software and test it, Microsoft is planning on recouping a measly $1.50 from each user.

I’m doing my part to help out by not downloading Office, and running OpenOffice instead. That also cuts down on Microsoft support requirements. I’m trying to do my part by using less Microsoft software, so that I won’t be contributing to their problem of too many users.

Tip of the hat to MasterMaq.

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Get a Mac.

I spent the day telling Rick that his problems could be solved by getting a Mac. He generally replied with increasingly vocal negativity along the lines of sticking my Mac somewhere.

So it was perfect timing to read how you can emulate the security of the ever forthcoming Windows Vista using an Intel Mac:

More than a few analyst have made the connection between Vista’s UAC and the long-available security and rights model used by the Mac OS X (and Unix and Linux). On the Mac, for example, you’re always running as a limited user, but at times — like when you’re installing software — you have to provide an administrator username and password.

If Vista’s UAC is a copy of Mac OS X’s approach, why not stare in the horse’s mouth.

It means a new computer — and Apple’s Intel-based Mac minis, iMacs, MacBooks, and MacBook Pros are not cheap, no matter what Apple’s fans say — as well as another licensed copy of Windows XP and some virtualization software, but it could be the best of both worlds.

If what you want out of Vista is its enhanced security, then you don’t really have to wait any longer.

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Ship it!

I’ve been in Los Angeles for week finishing up a product for a pretty serious customer – the kind of company that can really put a startup on the map. I can’t talk about it yet, but it is pretty cool.

It’s one of Rick Segal’s portfolio companies, so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Rick’s happy (and occasionally not so happy) face across the desk from me for about the past eight hours. Rick’s a guy that takes the customer very seriously, and he let me know pretty clearly yet politely when I wasn’t keeping the best interests of the customer at heart. I’m pretty careful, but he caught me a few times. So I figure if Rick says it’s good enough to ship, then he’s comfortable with customer perception of the product.

Inserting sanity into the mix was Wendell Hicken, who is about the most serious guy I know when it comes to music, and someone who can still display an amazing sense of humor after eight hours of testing and bug fixing. He really does need to blog more though.

The verdict? Ship it.

We decided that it was good enough to go to the customer for this pass. And good enough that I’ll be stretched out on the beach tomorrow.

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Something different.

I’ve eschewed Starbucks this week in favor of a little place called Bean Town in Sierra Madre, California, right at the foot of the mountains. It’s a local hangout, as eclectic as you can possibly imagine, where people are as friendly as can be. Furniture consists of a few old kitchen tables and couches indoors, and a few tables outside. The typical denizens are either chatting, reading, or absorbed in their laptops – predominantly Apple and it suits the place. And both the coffee and the wifi are excellent.

So I’m sitting there right now on a Friday night, and a band is playing in the corner, tables pushed aside to accomodate a small stage that hosts a folksy/bluesy quintet. A night’s entertainment for the price of a cup of very good coffee. And while it would be nicer if my lovely wife was sitting here beside me, it still is a pretty nice place to spend and evening. Or a few evenings.

It’s funny, but I ended up in Sierra Madre by accident the first time so long ago. So I guess it’s accurate to say that you don’t find Sierra Madre, it finds you.

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The customers will pay.

Interviewed by USA Today, John Chambers provided his view on Net Neutrality:

Q: What about the argument that we’d wind up with a two-tiered Internet and start-ups won’t have the same ability to reach consumers as wealthy companies such as Google?

A: I wouldn’t expect companies to pay for high-speed access — consumers will. If I want to watch a ballgame from multiple angles and perhaps telepresence across the country with my brother … to expect that free of charge is not realistic.

Note that he doesn’t actually answer the question.He throws up an example of a different kind of service – something not currently available – and says that you can’t expect that for free. But that isn’t what the discussion is really about. It is really about access to a choice of any kind of service, like search for example. And that’s exactly what people like Ed Whitacre intend to charge more for:

The Internet can’t be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! (YHOO ) or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!

It isn’t about charging more for better services. It’s about charging more for what you already have.

It’s about the fact the these services made the internet valuable, and the telcos want their cut, even though they already get paid for their services.

It’s about extortion. You wanna provide services to customers? You’re gonna have to pay up first.Only, as John Chambers points out, the customers are the ones who are being extorted.

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Paying for the pipes.

Ed Whitacre, CEO of SBC Telecommunications, is against net neutrality because he doesn’t want anybody using his pipes for free:

How do you think they’re going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain’t going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there’s going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they’re using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

Well it seems that even with a neutral network, people are paying Bell South to use their pipes. In fact, they’re paying them a lot more:

BellSouth Corp.’s second quarter profit grew 11.6 percent, boosted by Cingular Wireless’ performance and an increase in Internet business. The Atlanta-based telecommunications company said it earned $887 million on $5.2 billion in revenue for the quarter, up from a $795 million profit on $5.1 billion in revenue in the second quarter the year before.

Since it’s clear that these folks are getting a return on the capital they’ve spent, and a growing one even with the status quo, shall we assume that the real motivator is just greed?

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You may be a victim.

Paul Thurrott provides some screenshots of Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage tool warning him that his copy of XP may not be genuine. This most hilarious line is this one:

You may be a victim of software counterfeiting.

Please repeat after me.

Microsoft doesn’t give a damn if you are a victim of software counterfeiting. They just want your money.

After all, you don’t have any problems do you? Everything works just fine on the supposedly counterfeit software.

Clicking on their link will take you to a screen where you can pay them for Windows XP license. They aren’t about to refund anything you already paid for a non-genuine copy of Windows.

It’s interesting to contrast their concern over not being paid for a copy of Windows with their concern for the amount of time you’ve wasted as a result of having to deal with the poor security inherent in Windows, manifested in viruses and spyware.

A year ago I had four laptops running Windows, but this is yet another reason why I’m about to buy my third Apple laptop in a year.

Read any good books lately?

I’m a voracious reader, so much so that on a typical trip I have to carry two books because I’ll get through 400-500 pages on a flight to Los Angeles, and the same again on the way back. And that’s even taking time out to watch the movie.

I even frequently read several books simultaneously. There are two on my bedside table, and two more in my bag for my flight tomorrow. My wife enjoys reading as well, and I’ve even noticed my kids reading for enjoyment.

So I was stunned to see these statistics from the Jenkins Group:

One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. Many do not even graduate from high school.

58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.

42% of college graduates never read another book.

80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

57% of new books are not read to completion.

These and many, many other related statistics have been collected by Dan Poynter. They provide an incredible, and disturbing, peek into the business of books. I would never have imagined that over 50% of adults never read a book after high school.

Tip of the hat to Jeff Jarvis.

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Trapped in the past.

A woman in Canada has filed a Human Rights complaint as a result of the fact that Weight Watchers fired her for not complying with their dress code – that requires her to wear a skirt and pantyhose:

Wendy Moger, who has multiple sclerosis, started wearing pantsuits about a month ago after having an electronic walking aid fitted to her leg.

Then, after nine years as a meeting leader with the weight-loss organization, the 50-year-old was let go June 30 because she wasn’t able to adhere to the dress code.

My first reaction was to ensure that the year was actually 2006 and not 1956. It has been acceptable for women to wear pants for my entire life, and it is ridiculous that any organization would even begin to suggest such a ridiculous dress code. And that isn’t even considering the fact that the woman has a perfectly valid medical reason as a result of a medical condition.

They seem to have no problem showing a woman in jeans on their website, even though that would also violate their dress code.

So they now come off as not only trapped in the past, failing to acknowledge how career women have changed, but also appear insensitive to the disabled, and inflexible to the changing needs of employees.

Frankly, the fact that this got as far as a human rights complaint just makes them look dumb.

Your seat is guaranteed.

I just booked a flight at the Air Canada website. After they happily took my money, they offered to let me select my seats. I did so, only to find that there were no available seats on one leg of the trip. Concerned about that, I called their web help line, and spoke to a person named Smith. I told him that I was concerned that the flight was overbooked. He merely dismissed my concern and told me that my seat was guaranteed.

So I took a look at Air Canada’s Overbooking Policy:

Overbooking: why it happens and how it affects you

  • You may want to know if your Air Canada flight is overbooked. At any time, this information will be provided upon request.
  • In Canada, customers who are denied boarding on an Air Canada flight due to overbooking are eligible to receive compensation in the form of travel voucher or cash. In other countries, customers who are denied boarding on an Air Canada flight are eligible for compensation subject to local rules and legislation.
  • Customers who are denied boarding an Air Canada flight due to overbooking will be booked on the next Air Canada flight with available seats.
  • When appropriate, Air Canada will provide denied boarding customers with meal vouchers for airport restaurants.
  • In the case of overnight delays, Air Canada will provide out-of-town customers who are denied boarding with meal vouchers, hotel accommodation and transportation to and from the airport.

The Air Canada representative would not tell me if the flight was overbooked, even though I requested that information, a clear violation of this policy. And the policy also makes it pretty clear that my seat is not guaranteed, but that I am eligible to receive compensation, and they will book me on the next flight with available seats.

I booked the flight because I needed to be somewhere. A later flight won’t work for me. So though they happily took my money, they provide no actual guarantee for my travel schedule. Clearly it is their convenience that matters, not mine.

So I sent a note to their Customer Care people, and got this response:

The reference number for your question is ’060720-000243′.Thank you for your email. We endeavor to respond within 3 business days.

Breaking down the code, mine is request number 243 today. And they’ll try to get back to me in 3 business days, meaning by next Tuesday. For some reason I don’t feel better.

Travel is strenuous enough. Worrying that you’ll actually get the seat you paid for doesn’t make it any easier.

As Jerry Seinfeld said:

You know how to take the reservation. You just don’t know how to keep the reservation.

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