Ethical Piracy

Written by: NetworkError, on 01-12-2008 12:22
Last update: 10-04-2009 21:35
Published in: Public, Musings and Soap Boxes
Views: 9114

Update: I found a pretty good article out on Digg.com about this.

“Piracy is bad.” - Corporate America
“Piracy is good.”  - The Pirates
“Piracy is only as good as the pirate doing the pirating.”  - NetworkError

On today’s issue of the soap box, I’d like to explore “Ethical Piracy”.  My target audience is pirates.  My hope is that a few will read this and take it into consideration when choosing how to conduct their black-market activities.

Fact 1:  Pirates often operate outside the bounds of the law because they demand a product or service that either isn’t available for the right price or isn't available in the desired form.  This is a failing on the part of the content producers.

Pirates who conduct themselves ethically can effect positive change in the market.  Pirates can put enormous pressure on content producers to fix prices, quality, etc...  Pirates can cut out greedy middle-men by obtaining content illegally and contributing money directly to the artists who produce the work.  Pirates can negate the effectiveness of consumer-controlling business practices by circumventing technologies like DRM.

Fact 2:  On the flip side, there is a tendency for pirates to get greedy and refuse to pay a fair price for goods and services.  This is a failing on the part of the pirates.

Pirates who conduct themselves greedily cause trouble for everyone.  Their failure to contribute harms content producers and gives the pirate community a bad name.

So how can pirates operate ethically?

I think there are two guidelines that each pirate can follow to fix the problems in the pirate community.

First, it’s important to understand that pirates operate on the honor system.  Since they’re usually beyond the reach of the law, it is up to each individual to conduct himself or herself in a manner that is not harmful to content producers, whenever possible.  Unfortunately, “honor” isn’t something that’s taken very seriously in today’s culture.  I think this cultural deficiency is the root this problem (and many others, IMO).  However, among the pirate community, a pirate’s honor should be closely guarded and of paramount importance.  Honor before greed.  This means exercising restraint and not pirating when you feel it is wrong.

Second, it’s important to understand that producers must be paid a fair price for their goods if they are to stay in business.  Caveat:  You may decide middle-men who artificially inflate prices to pad margins may not be entitled to full payment.  (I’m looking at your, RIAA and MPAA members!)  Or you may decide the product isn't worth its list price.  However, you shouldn’t rob the content producers.  You are empowered to pay content producers what you think a product is worth.

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Halloween Pyro Costume

Written by: NetworkError, on 03-11-2008 22:48
Last update: 10-04-2009 10:12
Published in: Public, Technical Wootness
Views: 15254

For Halloween this year, I was a Pyro.  I based my costume on the Pyro from X-Men.  Naturally, I needed to be able to throw fire from the palm of my hand.

I wasn't able to engineer as advanced of an effect as I wanted, so I stuck to basics.  Initially, I had a remote cable to activate my system, but I wasn't able to work the kinks out in time.

In the end, I settled for a basic fuel delivery system and a very stone-aged ignition method.

Fuel Source:
For my fuel source, I used an aerosol can of starter fluid.  It's highly flammable and comes conveniently packaged with a simple valve and propellant built in.

For the flow-control valve, I ended up using the little plastic deal that comes with the can.  I bored the nozzle out a little to accommodate my hose.

Fuel Line:
The fuel line was a little more complex. The smallest hose I could find was 1/4 inch which proved to be far to large. (The fuel would "glop" out of the end and form big, burning pools on the ground.) Instead, I used wire insulation from some small gauge, 2 pair wire. I pulled the wire out and fed the insulation through the 1/4 inch hose (which acted as a protective layer to prevent kinks and leaks). The small hose kept the fuel pressure high. This ensured it would fly further, stay airborne longer, and burn a bit quicker. Last, I put a piece of straw from a spray can of motorcycle chain lube in the end of the wire insulation. This keeps the stream of fuel focused and helps it fly even further and burn even quicker.

It's vital that your fuel disperses cleanly and is propelled quickly. If this stuff pools at all, it burns for a long time. You want it all to burn while it's flying through the air.

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Halloween Fog Screen

Written by: NetworkError, on 03-11-2008 22:17
Last update: 03-12-2008 17:55
Published in: Public, Technical Wootness
Views: 15947

This Halloween I built a fog screen for Omniture's Halloween party.  I got the idea from the waterfall effect on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney Land. The basic idea is to create a flat, thin screen of fog and project an image onto it.  This creates a holographic illusion of the projected image floating in the air.

After some experimentation, it became obvious that directing fog isn't easy.  The fog generated by fog machines is neutrally buoyant.  To get it to move in any direction and maintain its shape (a flat curtain), you have to sandwich it between two streams of air.  (I've also heard you can chill the fog to make it heavier than the warm surrounding air.  I haven't tried this yet.)

My initial design looked something like the diagram below.  After drawing it up on a whiteboard, I Googled for similar effects and found professional machines using a similar basic design.


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Bingo Card Generator

Written by: NetworkError, on 24-10-2008 09:36
Last update: 01-05-2009 08:47
Published in: Public, Technical Wootness
Views: 13413

Some friends of mine recently came up with some great General Conference Bingo cards.  Hilarity ensued.  The only problem was there were only 4 cards.  This got me thinking, "how hard would it be to write a random Bingo card generator?"  The answer - kinda' hard but not really.  So I whipped a little something up over my lunch hour.  It's nothing too fancy, but it was a fun problem-solving challenge.

I wanted some extra whistles and bells with my Bingo card generator.

  • Variable width
  • Variable height
  • Variable "FREE" square in the middle  (Calculated from the width and height settings)
  • Variable word list
  • Intelligent "no repeat word" logic (Only re-use words when the word list has been used up.)
  • Generate CSV or HTML

Try out the DIY Bing Card Generator.

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n.e.o 4.1 Design Notes

Written by: NetworkError, on 17-10-2008 22:50
Last update: 17-10-2008 23:24
Published in: Public, Technical Wootness
Views: 6608

I'm chronicling some of the details of this site's design for two reasons.

1.  I like taking notes so I can refer to them.
2.  In case someone else wants to try some similar site design strategies and needs some reference material.

The Layout:
My goal is to have the site feel more like a Photoshop file than a web page.  I want all the layers to blend with each other smoothly and show through each other.

To achieve this, NetworkError.org 4.1 is based on a layered design using PNGs with alpha blending.  (More on the alpha blending below.)  Rather than have the site's elements on one layer (the body), I've broken the elements into three distinct layers (as much as is possible with HTML and CSS.)

The body:  For this site, the only purpose the body servers is to display a statically positioned background image.  (The logo-on-water image.)
The content div:  All of the site's content (everything that scrolls) is actually in a div with overflow set to scroll.  In essence, I've removed the typical "body" from the equation and placed my own, custom body in it's place.  This gives me more control of the layout.
The top layer divs:  The floating pieces of the site (the logo, navigation, and footer) are all absolute positioned divs z-indexed above the content layer.  In this manner, I was able to achieve the scroll-under look I wanted without all the JavaScript hackery that usually goes with it.

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The New Site (n.e.o. 4.1) Is Up!

Written by: NetworkError, on 15-10-2008 21:06
Last update: 15-10-2008 21:47
Published in: Public, Technical Wootness
Views: 6344

After um...  *counts on fingers* ...5 years, I finally have NetworkError.org back up.  This is the fourth iteration of my site.  (I've worked up two versions of this layout, thus the '.1'.)  This site has become an all-purpose blog for me, my life, my projects, etc...  Hopefully some of that stuff appeals to you.  If so, please comment and share.

  Thanks for visiting.

P.S.  Since the layout of this site is extreemly expirimental, you may note the occasional oddity in page rendering.  I'm fixing these as I find them.
P.P.S.  Alpha blended PNGs are pretty nifty.  Yell

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Really Old Sites

Written by: NetworkError, on 14-10-2008 21:38
Last update: 15-10-2008 20:59
Published in: Public, Technical Wootness
Views: 6797

Sometimes it's fun to take a trip down memory lane. I dug up a bunch of sites I built many many years ago. Several of them are predecessors to this site. Some of them are just little side-projects. They're all just static HTML and often over-done Photoshop effects. I've listed them in chronological order. You may notice that I get less and less egotistical as time goes on. AMAZING! Enjoy!

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Fixing the Lasko Ceramic Heater

Written by: NetworkError, on 13-10-2008 19:09
Last update: 13-10-2008 19:21
Published in: Public, What We're Up To
Views: 9607

Our bathroom gets ridiculously cold in the winter. (It was built as an addition. The builder made the walls entirely out of cinder block. No dry-wall. No insulation. Brrrrr.)

When our space heater stopped working, we all started to worry. Luckily, it just needed dusting. Our house is rather dusty and after 4 years, our filter-less Lasko heater was a little worse for wear.

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