DRM is . . .

DRM is all about punishing the customer.

At some point, your DRM will let your best customers down, and you’d better have a damned good story then.

Right now, the person I’m talking to does not have a good story. They’re treating me like a pirate. Guess what I’m about to become?



Update: After nearly an hour on the phone, to no avail, I continued to hack away at the issue, and finally “solved” the issue by doing some kind of update. It looked a lot like the other stuff I’d been trying, but apparently this one update was different and seemed to do the job.

I am being purposely opaque about the product in question.

DRM systems are complex and difficult to administrate even when you know what you’re doing. If you’re an end-user and something goes haywire, you don’t have a prayer. You just see “Error: You can’t do that” for any one of a hundred reasons. You twist knobs and hit switches until something works.

In this case it looks like some of the internal utilities created by the team who developed the DRM have been pressed into service as customer-facing tools. As you might expect, these tools are horrible. They leave a bad taste in my mouth, and I’ve written more than my fair share of horrible tools. I still don’t know if things are working, or if this house of cards will fall apart again. It is a terrible thing that these tools have to exist.

As customers, we deserve better. As engineers and designers, we need to improve.

Travel companions

We’re back from a week in California, and visits to relatives and two theme parks. Ordinarily a coaster lover, the Gibber’s very coaster ride of the trip — the large, rickety Ghostrider at Knott’s Berry Farm — set the tone for further adult-ish attractions (“No, I don’t want to go on that”) and in turn kiboshed a planned visit to yet a third park. He did fine on the smaller ones.

For me, Legoland is still bringing forth entertainment in the guise of being internally re-colonized by another brand of e-coli. I contacted the park and had a pleasant chat with their head chef, who promised to do an investigation. A lesson learned: Don’t eat anything not cooked while on vacation (e.g., salads).

I will finish with: Immodium is fucking magical.

I have to go.

God, not /these/ Forerunners again

Are we alone in the universe? The recent discovery of /tons/ of planets around neighboring stars has made one of the factors in the Drake equation more solid, to the point where it’s quite possible there are half a billion planets in earth-like orbits in our galaxy alone.

Even slow colonization methods should give an advanced civilization the opportunity to spread through the whole galaxy in a few million years. Hell, let’s give it a conservative billion years. The galaxy is over ten billion years old, it seems like enough time already. They should be in orbit, trying to sell us cheap-ass hyperdrives or something.

Science fiction is full of stories that involve some kind of “forerunner” race. They were here before, did some awesome stuff, and they’ve gone away for some reason and left all kinds of interesting ruins and doo-dads behind.

Well, imagine that you’re the “unlucky” first race. No forerunners for you. You’re all alone, which sucks, but you get to make up the rules. You have the whole galaxy at your disposal, it’s your ball game.

What do you do? You know you’re not going to last forever and that some future race is going to dig up all the junk you left behind. So, that’s right: You fuck with their heads.

Imagine the galaxy-wide equivalent of Easter Island statues with Groucho Marx glasses. You build solar-system-wide practical jokes, carve meaningless runes and maps on the faces of moons, set up stellar snipe hunts and light-years-long “go-fer” missions (“find me a purple neutrino from the heart of an exploding star.”) A pie cannon made from dark matter, two billion miles wide, aimed at a black hole. An ancient archive, booby-trapped six ways to Sunday, containing a singing frog . . .

God, they would hate us 🙂

The Pale King

David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King is out, and I am reading it.

In 2008 we had arrived for a vacation in LA, and driving from the airport we heard on NPR that DFW had died. My wife and I were shocked (our son, in the back and age 4, didn’t get it).

When we returned home, I re-read Infinite Jest. I have to admit that I never finished The Broom of the System, but I have read all of the short stories and essays.

I am not a fan, but I wish I could have a signed copy of The Pale King.