Thursday, May 22 2014
As anyone ever, in the entire history of the web, ever filled out a survey that popped up over a web page found with a Google search? Why would someone fill out a survey before even learning about the page the survey is about? And yet, such surveys exist, presumably because they can are physically possible to create and because there exist a certain number of people in charge of web pages who fundamentally fail to understand how the human brain works.
A far more effective way to gather information from visitors is to make the giving of such information a pre-condition to getting something that is desperately needed. I'm used to this sort of thing from Adobe, but it came as a surprise today when the information blackmail came from Microsoft. Don't get me wrong, I have no expectations of ethical behavior from Microsoft, but updates of their software are often so essential to basic functionality for so many computers that (in the past at least) they made downloading a relatively-painless experience (though there was that period when they insisted that I prove that my Microsoft software was "authentic," a misleading term, given that digital copies of something digital are as "authentic" as the original). Today I needed software sufficient to locally create an instance of a Microsoft SQL database from a .bak file (in keeping with the Microsoft paradigm, that's a proprietary format that only Microsoft programs can read). The goal was to migrate this database forever away from the Microsoft software stack and into the world of the open-source LAMP stack. The last time I'd attempted to do something like was about a year ago, an effort that ultimately failed or petered out (because nobody was paying me money to do it), though I had success doing it in early 2010. The thing about Microsoft's database products is the confusing mix of names and licensing regimes, all of which are constantly changing. I might have known how to do this in 2010, but now I have to learn how to do it anew. You download one thing, only to discover it's management software for a database without containing the code to actually serve that database. My needs here were simple, and yet I kept failing. It would have been one thing if I just kept downloading software and it kept not working, but there's something particularly aggravating about filling out a form and giving away bits of personal information and then getting download that proves useless. Of course, I didn't actually give Microsoft any correct information beyond my throw-away email address. (I tried to give my name as "Fuckyou Microsoft," and when it didn't accept profanity, I changed it to "Fookyou Mykrosarft.")
Further compounding my problems was the series of thunderstorms that passed through today. I don't know why, but every time there is heavy rain or an electrical storm, Verizon DSL becomes unreliable, losing its connection frequently. So those annoying downloads from Microsoft had to keep being reattempted. (For one piece of software, Microsoft forced me to download an Akamai downloader program, a request so suspicious that I would not have obeyed it had I not felt I absolutely needed that software. At least it didn't try to make Bing my search engine!)
I took advantage of the absent internet to plant all of the tomato and pepper seedlings I'd been growing in the south-facing windows of dining room. Planting seedlings ahead of a period of cloudy, rainy weather is almost ideal, since the clouds give the plants a chance to gradually adapt to the sunnier outdoor conditions and the rain gives their transplanted roots the best welcome a seedling could hope to have. (I don't know if it's the ions or what, but nothing energizes plants like water in the form of rain.)
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