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Study in purple and grey, Leura: click to embiggenMy week of Monday 10 to Sunday 16 March 2014 has been a vast improvement, with plenty of signs of productivity returning.

The difficulties hinted at last week were more about continuing gastro-intestinal problems rather than stress and depression — though obviously such things interact — and I’m fairly sure that the third anti-depressant I’ve been trying has very much not been helping in this regard. But I won’t tangle that thread of thought into this Wrap.

While there might not seem to be that much more this week, that’s because I don’t include the various geek-for-hire things I still do from time to time for some legacy clients. A couple hours of relatively straightforward systems administration pays more than writing a typical column, which can reduce the stress remarkably. Such a thing happened this week.

Articles

By the time today (Sunday) ends, I should also have finished a piece for Crikey that’ll probably be published on Monday — though given the fascinating political news following the state elections in Tasmania and South Australia yesterday, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were held over until later in the week.

Media Appearances

None.

5at5

We seem to have gotten back on track from Wednesday, and the coming week is looking good.

Corporate Largesse

None.

The Week Ahead

On Monday and Tuesday I’ve got lunchtime briefings in Sydney, with Dell Australia and infosec company Imperva respectively, so that means I’ll almost certainly be in Sydney overnight too.

I haven’t locked in the exact order of play after that. It’ll depend on when payments arrive and when I feel in the mood for work, but obviously you can follow my Twitter stream to stay up to date.

[Photo: Study in purple and grey, Leura,14 March 2014, being a picture of the typical pre-storm cloudscapes we see up here in the Blue Mountains.]

ABC logoAfter 15 years, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) finally launched a Mac OS X version of its e-tax software for filing personal income tax returns — and it doesn’t work. Hah!

ATO bungles e-tax for Mac launch, wrote Ben Grubb at Fairfax. E-tax for Mac launch stumbles on developer certificate, wrote Josh Taylor at ZDNet. And so on.

I gave my feelpinion on ABC Radio’s PM program this evening. I was not complimentary. I mentioned steam trains. And sledgehammers.

The journalist was Johanna Jarvis. The presenter, Peter Lloyd. Here’s the audio.

Play

The audio is of course ©2013 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and over at the ABC website you can find their audio and a transcript.

Earlier this month I was less than impressed with cPanel, who sprung a new end user license agreement (EULA) on me and expected me to agree on the spot. I’m pleased with their response.

The other day I received a formal reply from their vice president of operations, Aaron Phillips, which I’m only posting today because I’ve been distracted:

I have been in discussions with our admin and legal teams today about your concerns. Currently, we are considering changes to the deployment procedures that should allow clients and owners of cPanel licenses more time to review updated agreements prior to their releases. The technical details have not been worked out, however, we are discussing solutions that will increase the amount of notice that will be given without a significant increase in administrative overhead for our customers.

We apologize if you have incurred any problems from cPanel’s procedures. While we do not have any immediate solutions to your particular situation, your comments and suggestions are taken very seriously and a new protocol will be developed to make the process easier for everyone in the future.

Please let us know if you have any additional questions or comments.

And my response to Mr Phillips is simple. Thank you very much. I completely understand that procedures and the software that implements them can’t be changed overnight, and it’s pleasing to see that the matter was taken seriously — rather than an angry rant from a crank.

If only more software vendors took the same attitude, rather than dictating terms to their users…

[Update 16 April 2012: Early communications with cPanel indicated that their EULA may in fact have been unchanged, just presented again as part of the license activation — which would put a very different perspective on things. I added a question mark at the end of the headline at that time. Either way, their eventual official response indicates that this process might well be changed. That's a win for us all.]

What is it with software companies that shove a multi-page contract in your face and expect you to click “I Agree” on the spot? Seriously, what level of ignorant arrogance does that require? cPanel Inc, creators of a popular web hosting management system, are just the latest in this conga line of suckholes.

(Note to fragile American readers: that’s a literary reference. Grow up and deal with it.)

This morning the shared web server I provide for clients had updated its cPanel/WHM software overnight. As it should. But I had to agree to a new end user license agreement (EULA) before I could even start to address an urgent maintenance matter.

I was far from impressed. If you want to change the rules, cPanel, you’ll bloody well give me the chance to consider those changes and decide whether I agree.

I just fired off this email. I await their reply.

Dear cPanel Inc,

I take serious issue with the way you have just handled the change to your end user license agreement (EULA) that came with the new version 11.30.6.7. of cPanel/WHM installed automatically overnight.

There is no warning of an impending change to the EULA that I can immediately see in either the news or blog sections of your website, nor was there any notice that I saw in the cPanel/WHM interface. You simply popped up the new EULA in front of people once the new software had been installed, giving them no choice but to agree or be unable to maintain their servers.

Forcing people to agree to a new contract on the spot?

This is appalling!

cPanel/WHM is not consumer entertainment software. This is operational internet-facing software used by businesses. The EULA sets out all manner of terms and conditions with operational, risk and security implications — not only for your direct customers but for their customers in turn.

To pick just two examples, you grant yourself the right to “access to any facilities in which the Software is used or stored, including without limitation the facilities which house the Licensed Server”, and to “copy, access, store, disclose and use cPanel Data indefinitely in its sole discretion”.

While there are phrases limiting those rights in some cases, you have not given your users a reasonable time in which to assess the changes, decide whether they will accept them and, if they are unhappy with them, to make other arrangements — let alone discuss them with their customers.

Maybe the changes are minimal. Maybe not. Did you provide us with a clear list of changes, explaining the implications? No, you did not.

Your customers face a true dilemma today. Do they roll back to the previous version of the software, knowing that it doubtless contains security flaws that have been patched in the new version? Or do they blindly accept your new EULA without being able to think through the implications for their business and their customers?

Your new EULA will not have been written overnight. Your lawyers will have taken time to consider it, and it will have gone through an approval process within your own company. Why did you not have the simple, basic courtesy to extend the same opportunity to your customers?

Not impressed.

I have pressed “I Agree” because I needed to perform an urgent maintenance task on my server. However I wish to make it clear that I have not, in fact, agreed to your new EULA because I have not been given a reasonable opportunity to consider it.

Your once-happy but now extremely unhappy customer,

Stilgherrian

Of course cPanel are far from the only example of this arsehattery. Who have you had to deal with lately?

Stilgherrian’s links for 08 November 2009 through 18 November 2009:

See what happens when you don’t curate your links for ten days, during which time there’s a conference which generates a bazillion things to link to? Sigh.

This is such a huge batch of links that I’ll start them over the fold. They’re not all about Media140 Sydney, trust me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Stilgherrian’s links for 22 October 2009 through 27 October 2009, published after far too long a break. I really, really do need to work out a better way of doing this…

Stilgherrian’s links for 22 September 2009 through 26 September 2009, gathered intermittently and posted with a lack of attention to detail:

Stilgherrian’s links for 11 August 2009 through 14 August 2009, gathered with care and lightly dusted with sugar:

Stilgherrian’s links for 29 May 2009 through 08 June 2009. Yes, another delayed posting which will give you plenty of Queen’s Birthday holiday reading.

  • How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live | TIME: Yes, TIME magazine’s cover story is about Twitter. It starts extremely badly: that clichéd, lazy trope about people tweeting what they had for breakfast. Despite that inexcusable slackness, it’s a useful addition to the cornucopia of Twitter-based articles.
  • 10 Things I would do differently | Still A Newspaperman: Written with the benefit of hindsight, a former newspaper journalist considers how he’d have handled running a metropolitan newspaper. He’s spot on in many ways.
  • Can the EU play Battleships? | Global Dashboard: Is it time for Europe, as a united entity, to develop a naval strategy? The article’s illustration is also a remarkable example of period gender stereotyping.
  • How IT Can Save Africa | SAP Network Blogs: While clunkily-written, this piece outlines why getting decent IT to Africa isn’t a “waste”, but in fact a core element of getting rid of poverty.
  • How Twitter’s Staff Uses Twitter (And Why It Could Cause Problems) | ReadWriteWeb: It turns out that the staff of Twitter don’t use it like “power users” like me use it. Could this affect the tool’s development?
  • The oldest sculpture ever discovered is a 36,000 year old woman with really big breasts. Is anyone surprised? | 3quarksdaily: Dubbed the “Venus of Hohle Fels”, this 6cm tall sculpture us about 36,000 years old. And it has large breasts.
  • Live Streaming Video From Livestream.com: The live video streaming service Mogulus has re-branded as Livestream. That should Hoover them into some generic wordspace, yeah. (Google it!)
  • Spootnik: A tool to automatically synchronise information between 37signals’ Basecamp (which use extensively) and OmniFocus (which intend to use).
  • Tom’splanner: Another software as a service start-up, this time about “creating and sharing project schedules”. Their website’s menu bar is the clichéd list of Home, tour, product Info, Pricing and — of course! — “Buzz”, so it must be good. Sigh.
  • How Journalists Are Using Twitter in Australia | PBS: Julie Posetti’s rather reasonable article which responds to “the views of resistors and detractors” who argue that “Twitter isn’t journalism”. “Sound familiar to veterans of the great blogging vs journalism debate?” she asks. “Of course Twitter isn’t journalism, it’s a platform like radio or TV but with unfettered interactivity. However, the act of tweeting can be as journalistic as the act of headline writing. Similarly, the platform can be used for real-time reporting by professional journalists in a manner as kosher as a broadcast news live report.”
  • Light Rail to Summer Hill | Metro Transport: The other Monday, yet another proposal for a new transport line in Sydney went to NSW state cabinet. This one involves extending the existing light rail line by 3.7km from Lilyfield to Summer Hill by converting the Rozelle freight line. It also has the advantage of running through the state seat of Balmain, where sitting Labour member Verity Firth runs the risk of losing to The Greens in the 2011 election.

Here are the web links I’ve found for 08 March 2009 through 10 March 2009, posted with a thin layer of grease for protection against corrosion.

  • Who is Fake Stephen Conroy? Full list of Suspects. | Amnesia Blog: Speculation about who Fake Stephen Conroy really is. Are they getting warm?
  • How the US forgot how to make Trident missiles | The Sunday Herald: Plans to refurbish Trident nuclear weapons had to be put on hold because US scientists forgot how to manufacture a component of the warhead. Complex manufacturing process do need to be maintained.
  • Historically Bad Ideas in Software | Bex Huff: A great conversation-starter. Just because something sounds good in theory, in isolation, doesn’t mean it’ll be good value in the long run.
  • Privacy in the Age of Persistence | Schneier on Security: “Data is the pollution of the information age. It’s a natural byproduct of every computer-mediated interaction. It stays around forever, unless it’s disposed of. It is valuable when reused, but it must be done carefully. Otherwise, its after effects are toxic. And just as 100 years ago people ignored pollution in our rush to build the Industrial Age, today we’re ignoring data in our rush to build the Information Age.” Bruce Schneier has written about this before, but this is one of the tightest explanations I’ve seen.
  • How to Twitter | WSJ.com: One journalist’s first cut at explaining Twitter to a non-Twitter audience. I’m amused by the observation that you’ll get more followers if you actually say something. Well, yes.
  • Okay, this is going to hurt… | Winnipeg Free Press: One journalist’s take on the “controversy” following political blogger Policy Frog’s decision to do commentary in the “mainstream media”.
  • The Evolution of Life in 60 Seconds | YouTube: Exactly what it says. Personally, I’d have presented it with images rather than words. Maybe that’s a project for me for another time.

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