Dear FedEx

I wrote about picking out a keyboard-and-case combo for my iPad.

FedEx has quite efficiently bolluxed delivery.

I’ve just spent two days waiting for a 2 lb box — after receiving a door tag on the WRONG DOOR on June 6th, The building super called the local office to advise them that the residential delivery door is on the side of the building, where it’s always been. We also left a note on the front (in BIG BLACK LETTERS with a helpful arrow) directing any deliveries to the side door.

Then I set out to actively watch for your driver, so as not to miss the delivery a second time—only to find out via the tracking service on your website (both yesterday and again today) that the driver has apparently reported attempts to deliver the package as “Customer Unavailable” which leads me to wonder to where precisely FedEx is supposedly trying to deliver my package. After today’s tracking report of a completely fictitious attempted delivery at 11:35 AM, I called the FedEx customer support number. They took my phone number and tracking number, and said they’d “sent a note” which I foolishly took to mean they’d follow up on the matter and call me back to arrange delivery.

The delivery exception excuse of “Customer Unavailable” is patently and demonstrably false—since I’ve been at the building entrance for the last two days, watching multiple FedEx delivery trucks go by without so much as tapping on their brakes or glancing at the building.The FedEx customer service guy never called. Nor have I received another door tag, since the initial attempt on July 6th, when the tag was left on the wrong door of the building. Nor have any of the PSE workmen in the alley from 7 am to 5 pm for the last two days seen anyone from FedEx attempt to deliver a package.

I’m really, really angry.

I live in a 110 year old brick building that’s been partially residential for decades—a building where I’ve lived for 3 years. It’s not like it’s a new and confusing subdivision.

What do I need to do to get FedEx to actually DELIVER MY PACKAGE?

At this point, to be blunt, it’s looking like I’d have better luck by simply waiting for the box to go back to the company, and re-ordering but specifying they ship via UPS or the Postal Service—both of whom, I’ll point out, have made deliveries to this same building all week.

ETA: FedEx claims that they attempted to deliver the package at a little after 6 AM on Saturday. We finally asked them to deliver the package to a local FedEx storefront, where we picked it up. I note that the package has a local phone number printed on the label and on the tracking data, a number that they never called.

It does seem based on comments here that FedEx ground has a much worse record than FedEx air.

MacWorld on DVD Ripping: Is It Legal?

One of the smartest, most thoughtful discussions I’ve seen about ripping backups of DVDs you own, from MacWorld Staff:

Is DVD ripping illegal?

The MPAA and most media companies argue that you can’t legally copy or convert commercial DVDs for any reason. We (and others) think that, if you own a DVD, you should be able to override its copy protection to make a backup copy or to convert its content for viewing on other devices. Currently, the law isn’t entirely clear one way or the other—Fair Use proponents claim you have the right to make a back-up copy of the media you own whereas those who support the Digital Millennium Copyright Act say that the DMCA overrides Fair Use.

Go read the rest here.

What Do you Mean, “DRMless”?

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It’s a way for content producers (publishers, television and movie producers, music production companies and artists) to control who can play or “consume” their work by embedding limitations in the content itself.

DRMless is a tag for posts about legally available digital content that is available for download without DRM. Should you be asked, DRMless (“without DRM”) should be pronounced Dream Less— because I very much believe that it is both imperative, and not just a dream, that high quality digital content be available without DRM — but still a source of genuine financial support for content creators.

While I absolutely and completely understand why artists and content producers and distributors want to control who can use their content, DRM just doesn’t work. Honest people will pay for content; dishonest people won’t. That being said, I am very much aware that there are a lot of people who do “try before buying,” and will download an ebook, mp3, or trailer, to see what the work is like. If they don’t like it, they delete the file; if they like it, they go buy their own version, either as a download or as “hard” media, in a the form of a printed codex book, a CD, or DVD.

I get that. I also know that there are a lot of us—yes I’m including myself in this group—who will not only pay for a digital version, but we’ll buy the “hard copy,” too, whether DVD, or printed codex book, or CD. I also think that there are reasons for using DRM for proprietary internal content—much the way we use encryption.

There’s a quotation from Steve Jobs from an interview he did for Rolling Stone magazine in December of 2003:

If copyright dies, if patents die, if the protection of intellectual property is eroded, then people will stop investing. That hurts everyone. People need to have the incentive that if they invest and succeed, they can make a fair profit. Otherwise they’ll stop investing. But on another level entirely, it’s just wrong to steal. Or, let’s put it another way: it is corrosive to one’s character to steal.

You’ll see posts associated with the DRMless category about the media, and the content, and the artists, who are providing digital content—TV shows, movies, ebooks, and audio files—that are DRMless. It’s also about the issues around DRM, and copyright, and the absolute imperative of making sure artists are paid for their art.

Sometimes, it is the User’s Responsibility

I’m generally a user advocate, but there are limits to even my patience and understanding. For instance, users who knowingly use beta software pretty much are out on a limb. Users who use Beta software as part of an active, primary production system are, well clueless. Dori Smith linked to this post from Mary Hodder regarding losing data (in the form of subscription feed data and post data) using a beta of an application. Now, frankly, if she’d just been unhappy about losing the data, I’ve have been far more sympathetic and understanding.

I’m not at all sympathetic since Mary Hodder posted what I can only see as a public attack on Ranchero Software, the developer of NetNewsWire, a beta of which Mary Hodder was using. Having decided she liked it “better than Shrook” she decided, based on the beta, to buy NetNewsWire. Here’s an excerpt of what she wrote (the entire post is linked above):

When they synced [I think she misunderstands syncing and how NNW works] my local copy of NetNewsWire with their server, to make sure I’d paid for the license, they lost all my data from the previous 30 days.

I emailed them. And they knew they blew it, offering a refund, and said they’ll fix this eventually. But they don’t understand! I’m tracking data on tons of services, people, companies, websites, blogs, projects, as well as reading feeds. This is fucking social media after all, people. And it’s my work, professional and academic. It’s a huge part of what I do. This is aweful [sic]!

Just so we’re all completely clear about how risky this kind of user behavior is, I’m going to enumerate the sequence of mistakes, mistakes that Mary Hodder made.

  1.  She’s using unfamiliar software in an active production environment.
  2.  She is using unfamiliar software that is clearly labeled as beta software. She could have downloaded 1.0.8 the current stable version at any point and used it, but she chose to use the beta.
  3.  She apparently doesn’t make daily backups, even of her production data, data that she herself says is for “my work, professional and academic.”

Mary Hodder clearly blames Ranchero Software, yet she herself made very poor poor choices at several points. Ranchero, to their credit, not only apologized for a bug in their beta, they refunded her money (yes, that’s right, she was purchasing a software beta). You should note that Ranchero has placed the beta download link on an entirely separate page on their site, a page that is clearly labeled as a beta download page. What’s more, right at the top of the page it says:

Warning!

Beta software has bugs! Nasty, vicious bugs with great big, sharp teeth!

Don’t use beta software unless you’re clear on what “beta” means and you’re comfortable running beta software.

You can’t be much plainer than that. But Ranchero, like the good citizens and good developers they are, have a second warning. They explicitly advise making a backup, and tell you how:

This is a beta, and you may want to go back to NetNewsWire 1.x. Before installing the new version, back up your preferences and data folder:

Preferences:

~/Library/Preferences/com.ranchero.NetNewsWire.plist

Data folder: ~/Library/Application Support/NetNewsWire/

But the final touch is this bit here from Mary Hodder’s original post:

ANSWER: I’m paying for the Shrook license now, because I need a backup, because I can’t trust NetNewsWire. But I will have Shrook’s data from two months this summer, added to current data, which [sic] a huge 2.5 month hole in the middle.

Because she “can’t trust” a beta, she’s going to use a product she’s already said she doesn’t like as well. Moreover, not only is she using beta, which is, by its nature, is buggy and unfinished, like all beta software, she’s not using it in an intelligent fashion. What she really should be using is a local database, perhaps DevonThink, or any number of other similar products, but she’d still have to learn to make backups. If it’s critical data, back it up daily, even hourly, and in more than one way, using more than one kind of media.

One of my old bosses, when I worked in development, was known to refuse to sell our software to some users, because in his judgement, they didn’t deserve it, or they weren’t smart enough to use it. I think maybe he had the right idea.

Update: I notice in the comments to Mary Hodder’s post that she says “Also, I didn’t download this from their site. It was sent to me to try. .” That’s an engraved invitation to disaster.

Update: Mary Hodder has had some second thoughts and toned down her attack, no longer referring to Brent Simmons as a moron; good for her— it changes the entire tone. I’ve mollified my own tone as well, though my essential take is unchanged.