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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

GMail has gone down (and it seems I lost some setting...)

It's sort of a news I won't tell you anything new because all of the world is talking about this: GMail has been down for hours and Google hasn't (yet) given any explanation about the service outage. The thing that drives me crazy it's that it seems I lost the labels' configuration: they all reset their color to that pale yellow they had before customizing (each of) them.

Yes, it's not that bad: I could have lost data, who knows... and it wouldn't be the first time for it to happen with GMail. But these little details throw a shadow about the reliability of a service I'm running without any concern or doubt about its stability. I'm acting as if I thought it was absolutely bullet-proof. I do no gmail backup and never store a copy of my emails in any of the computers I use. I don't even backup my contacts or calendar details.

My fault, I admit, but Google service quality and ubiquity made me accustom to them: I know they're there, when I want, wherever I want, whichever device I could be using.

Should think about that very famous beta tag and value my personal data for what they're worth.

Edit on 02/25/2009: Today I opened the browser and discovered that the settings made their way back into my account! Google accustomed us to high levels of service and we tend to magnify the importance of every problem, even though taking into account the critical importance these services have for the tenths of thousands of users that every day log in in Google servers. If I paid for it, I would expect something more from it, especially in terms of post-mortem diagnosis and explanations from Google. Today, I still don't know what happened yesterday to GMail.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Do you pay for the services you use?

And here the word service could mean everything: from software, to music.

This usually start with a dialogue like this:
Somebody: "Use Word. Now!"
Me: "I haven't got a license for Microsoft Word"
S: "I can burn you a DVD"
Me: "Still, I wouldn't have a license for Microsoft Word"

You can change "Word" with whatever you like, I'm sure most of the PC you're using are stacked up with mp3 or software you haven't paid for, even if you should.

I made a living out of programming, that's why I'm more sensitive about software than other things, but the point is the same. A world is really free if somebody wants to be paid for the work he's done. Period.

Don't flame me before reading on. I'm always been a supporter of free software and I couldn't even imagine a world without it! My workstation wouldn't even have an OS installed, in that case. Myself, I gave for free many of the things I've done. But in those case, it was me who wanted that software to be free. Paying for commercial software not only is an obligation; it's also an act of respect and appreciation towards people who worked for that piece of software to be as good for you. You chose it and you paid for it, there's some reason why.

In a world without free software, I wouldn't approve the use of unlicensed software either. But in a world full of alternatives, I cannot understand why some people simply ignore alternatives and stick with illegally hijacking software. On one hand, you're performing an illicity; on the other hand you're also damaging the community you could be member of if you only chose a free software that fitted your needs. Being an user is one of the most valuable ways you can contribute to the community: you could give impressions, spread the software, write documentation and, obviously, report bugs.

A few examples (if you still need them...)

Did you know that you can probably use OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office? Sure, they're not the same thing. But I'm sure that OpenOffice is as much as suitable as Microsoft Office, for the average user. Are you using some complex Visual Basic macro? Are you developing programs using automation? Probably no... And even if you were, OpenOffice could probably be the tool for you. As far as it concerns my own experience, the typical user uses just a small percentage of Microsoft Office functionality. Just the small percentage that made notice no difference, if you just switched.

Or maybe you're burning your CDs and DVDs using some commercial application, while you could use some valid free alternatives.

They're plenty of examples, right there in your PCs.

Music is the same

I always respected every form of art. It's the product of someone else's talent you're glad to enjoy. But many aren't glad to pay for it. Why? I really don't know.

The typical vicious circle I detect is the following reasoning: "CDs are expensive and average low quality (artistically speaking)... That's why I don't pay for them. Producers are losing money so prices continue to rise." Well, who's the guilty? That's an
infinite loop. I just think that, if I like something and I can afford it, I buy it. That's just the compensation I deserve for my own work, why shouldn't I pay for somebody else's? If you don't like it, don't buy it, that's freedom (of choice, too). But why stealing something you don't like?

Another reasoning is driven by envy: "I'm not paying twenty bucks to an incredibly rich guy that could live without them for the following two hundred years." So what? If you like it, that's something good into it, isn't it? And if he's rich, well... in part it could be part of the game (he's a rock star while you're not), in part could a bit of luck (maybe you're as skilled as him, but your glory days hasn't come, yet), in part it could simply be that he deserves the millions he earns, while you don't. It tastes bitter, probably, but those are the rules.

What happens if you don't pay?

Maybe nothing. Maybe a disaster. I can't think about Bruce Springsteen going flat broke because I'm not paying his last CD. Whenever I buy a CD of his, after an usually long and difficult wait, I really feel good! I'm happy that there are some Springsteen or McKennitt out there writing the music I like. That's their job and they earn their livings with it. I have no problem with that. I couldn't even imagine a young Springsteen trying to make his way into 2009 hit parade and giving it up because he's not earning what he expects. Or a Bill Joy opening a restaurant instead of writing software because software is something to steal, and not to pay for.

Shivering? You shouldn't. If you, like I do, wake up every morning and go to an office, you do it because you like it, maybe, but because they pay you for it, too. And you're probably striving to get better conditions or higher responsibility. Every day. Why? Because you think you deserve it.

That's the real point. Don't steal, just choose. And give a reward to somebody who deserves it.