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Code Theft, CD Taxes, CoffeeKid and More!

You know what’s a crying shame? The fact that the music industry in Canada has laboured long and hard to make people feel guilty, feel almost as if they were criminals simply because they might tape various songs from music CDs *they own* onto a compilation cassette for playing in the car or on their walkmans (people still buy walkmans, don’t they?). It’s no secret that the music industry thinks you should pay them a royalty every single time you hear a recorded song, and since they can’t get that, they try to get the money any way they can – so even though you paid good money for a CD, until recently, it was illegal in Canada to convert that CD to a tape – the music millionaires demanded that you buy a second recording of the music – on tape – if you wanted it that way.

The music industry has done the job so well, they got the Canadian government to institute a new tax recently that is applied to every single blank CD-R, blank audio tape, and blank miniDiscs, with most of the money going into the hands of people who need it – like Celine Dion and Bryan Adams.

I had a very long rant based on stealing code written up, but I put it on the shelf. Suffice to day, I think it’s good that folks like Derek Powazek et al are up in arms over content and code theft. Kudos to them. My only question is, why are some of these people (not Derek, AFAIK) all chummy with some of the guys who participated a few years ago in some serious code theft from one of my previous sites? Where were they then when I was bitching and whining about it? At the time, I was perceived as a crybaby who should have just shut up and not worry about it. Sheesh.

Still today I routinely find elements of my websites ripped off, even without any of my underlying code changed. It gets my dander up for sure, but there’s not much I can do about it, and based on that experience a few years ago, I’ve learned not to bitch about it in public, as it only causes me more problems I simply don’t have the time to deal with any longer.

In the same vein, a site I developed recently, is getting fairly popular. It’s sitting as one of Yahoo’s Cool Sites of the Week this week, and before that it got kudos from other online sources. Last week and this week, I’ve gotten about a dozen emails from people claiming CoffeeKid is turning up as an “element” within the new national commercial in the US. I haven’t caught the commercial yet but I’m keeping my eye out – apparently (again, I cannot confirm this at this time), a few screenshots of are seen on a surfer’s computer screen as he checks out the web. I don’t know how I feel about that – on one hand, it’s pretty cool that the marketers find the site cool enough to use, but on the other hand, there are no emails in my inbox saying “we would like to use your intelectual and creative property in our ads – can we?”

The coffeekid site is draining me a bit – my programmer Wayne Venables and I built a core component of the site that allows visitors to review their espresso machines, coffee machines, vacuum brewers, grinders and more. This specific service for coffee lovers didn’t exist on the Net before, and a lot of the people in were getting tired of the same old same old “I’m a newbie, what machine should I buy” question, so we put it out there. This made the site take off – with minimal advertising (just some newsgroup postings) the daily unique visitor count was around 500 to 1000. Then the Yahoo thing happened, and we went to 5000 a day or so (spiked at about 6000 on Monday).

As a result, my email box is absolutely flooded. People think I’m some kinda super guru regarding all things coffee, and I have been getting the weirdest questions – like “where can I get good coffee in Small Town, Idaho” and the like. How the heck should I know!? 🙂 Since Sunday, I’ve been getting on average about 100 emails a day directly related to the coffeekid site. I try to stay on top of them (ie, respond to most as soon as they come in), but it is getting taxing.

As popular as the site is, I’m thinking about running some sort of advertising on the site – at least in the Reviews section, to offset some of my costs associated with running the site. It is a real moral dillema for me though because I never intended to make money off of this site. I kind of look down my nose a bit at sites like Steve’s Digicams or Digital Camera Resource, both great resources online (they were better in the past though), but far too peppered with advertisements and pleas for further advertising bucks. Heck, they even run advertising masked as “news items” from time to time. Sneaky. I don’t want coffeekid or to become like those. The review site and the Coffeekid site are truly labours of love and devotion to a beverage I really enjoy (in moderation, of course).

Sign of things to come? CNN finally broke out of the 640×480 shell. The site now targets the 800×600 minimum crowd. If these numbers confuse the heck out of you, then you’re probably running your display at the Windows default, 640×480 and 256 colors. Change it NOW! Everyone with a 15 inch monitor and up (except near blind people) should be surfing at 800 pixels by 600 pixels, 16bit color depth or bigger – there’s almost no excuse for continuing with the 640 default setup. I still design and code for 640 (with fluid websites that stretch to fill 800 pixel wide or bigger), but I’m contemplating changing. I was going to wait until Windows Millenium and Windows 2K and their new 800×600 minimum default installation, but I want the real estate NOW!

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about – this here site is set up for the 640 minimum, hence the centre column look to most pages. Coffeekid and my company site WebMotif are both 640 compatible, but flow into larger window sizes easily, thanks to plentiful table tricks. The drawback on those fluid designs is that they are screwed over by a Netscape 3.x bug where nested tables do not display their content if you set a width statement for the parent table. Blah I hate that bug.

My last rant on commercial printers and guns had some very interesting email commentary. Most of it was from pro gun nuts. I only had short responses for most of them, I listed the 5 schools in the US in the past couple of years where mass shootings took place. A few of them wrote back even after that, giving out every excuse in the book. Into the trash folder they went. I also got a few emails from some print shop owners or employees – most folks agreed with me on how the print shop industry is a backwards nightmare, but a few of them wrote fairly flame full emails (wow, they could figure out how to email?) about their internet savvy operations, while emailing from an AOL account. All of these emails had one thing in common – no web page address for their printshop, and an AOL or MSN account email addie (one was hotmail). Go figure.

Anyone tried the latest Mozilla release yet? It rocks! Still lots of bugs, but it’s nearing beta (M13, the current release, is the official Alpha). M14 should be out any day now. 5megs for download, includes the full deal – email, newsreader, browser, utilities, and it FLYs. Makes IE look like the old clunker bloated boat of a 1970s Chrysler it really is, just chugging along. They *have* to get this thing out soon – it should really rock the browser world – it’s already 9 months overdue, but I’m still hoping the wait is worth the wait. My latest log stats show Netscape continues to lose the war to bloatware IE – 54% of the surfers to my coffeekid site this week were IE users, 39% were Netscrape 4.x or below. Is there still time for Mozilla to make all the difference? After using the Alpha for a few days, I certainly hope so…

Till next time, thanks for stopping by!!!



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