October 21, 2008

Really, Microsoft?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:41 pm by Ian

So, I just had to re-activate Windows, after installing it on my new computer and then changing some hardware. The removal of a hard drive is apparently enough to trigger the “significant hardware changes” clause.

According to the popup, I couldn’t just reactivate over the internet. I had to call in and talk to someone. I’ve done this before, and it always felt a little silly. They ask you a few questions and read you a long code to key in. It all feels vaguely ineffectual.

But, this time, I never spoke to a person. No. I had to read off a 45 digit key to a voice recognition computer, then receive a similar one and type it in. Rather than send some bits over the internet, We went through the circuitous bits->voice->telephone->computer->telephone->ear->fingers route. Apparently, the entire purpose of this process is simply to waste my time.

I wonder if anyone is working on an automated system to interface with Microsoft’s automated system and make it easier to activate?


October 13, 2008

In The Red

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:58 pm by Ian

I do not wish to alarm anyone, but there are Communists in our midst. Actually, I don’t even think that will alarm anyone, given the current bugbear of international terrorism, and the more imminent threat of total economic collapse, but the possibility exists, and should rightly be forewarned against.

I have not personally observed these Communists, but I have been assured of their existence by a friend or acquaintance or significant other, whom I can only assume to be of the utmost sincerity and reliability because I cannot precisely remember who it was. If it was you, please corroborate in the comment section. This is, I understand, exactly the problem Joe McCarthy was faced with. Somebody made him aware of the Communist infiltration, but he had had a lot to drink that night, perhaps, and he couldn’t quite remember who it was that imparted this valuable information, or what, specifically, the Communists were infiltrating, leaving him with no choice but to subpoena most of the country and just ask.

The story goes thusly: Said friend or acquaintance was minding his or her own business at home, most likely engaged in fearing God or Democratically texting in votes for American Idol, when the Communist Scourge came a-knocking. She—for it was a woman—tried to sell them a subscription to a Marxist newspaper. Now, I should mention that Santa Barbara has about half a dozen local newspapers, so it is not at all out of the ordinary to find oneself accosted by their various representatives, but I will note, with prejudiced irony, that most of the Capitalist newspapers give their papers away for free. Ultimately, it was made clear that my friend was not particularly interested in paying cash money to read modern socialist news, and the woman went away.

This made me think about the concept of a paid-subscription Communist newspaper, and how sad it really is. I’m not going to say that it’s unreasonable to try to bring the system down from the inside. There’s a certain practical necessity to working within an existing system even while attempting to undo it. If I were, for example, a proponent of Monarchy, it would do me little good to just start referring to some guy as the king. I’d have to organize a political movement (or a military one, but let’s ignore that route for now) and get people to vote Monarchists into power, at least until they weren’t allowed to vote any more. And my doing so wouldn’t have to involve any philosophical support of the power and validity of Democracy; it would simply be due to the very real fact that that’s the way to effect such changes.

But a Communist newspaper subscription is different, because it acknowledges and embraces the very economic forces it claims are obsolete and incorrect. It’s no secret in the newspaper and magazine business that subscription fees are effectively meaningless in terms of paying for production. All the serious money comes from advertisements (and, no, I don’t believe for a minute that the Marxist paper would be free of ads). But the subscription fee is good for determining your market. You could just give newspapers away to everyone, but there would be a lot of waste. Charging a token fee eliminates most of that waste. Anyone who’s not willing to pay a quarter to buy the newspaper is probably someone who’s not going to bother to read the newspaper, either.

The whole subscription-limited ad-supported model, if you will, is based on the idea that the amount of money someone is willing to pay for something is an effective measurement of how much that person wants that thing; ie, classical economic liberalism.