Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Creating new homepage default widgets for vTiger

Create a new, custom "default widget" for the vtiger home page.  

We wanted to do this pretty badly. However, the vTiger documentation on the code sucks dead bunnies and the only post anywhere about how to do it was by someone whose native language was not english and who assumed "rather a lot" about the environment you were putting the modification into.

This post documents our process to get custom widgets running in vTiger 5.4.0. I make no guarantees that I didn't leave something out, but I tried by golly, and it's pretty good documentation as it sits. Good luck and happy programming!

-_ Rick

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Malicious Chrome Plugin.

I got bit.  :-/   I installed "Youtube Downloader." for what appeared to be a good and valid reason, really it was.

Then, today, when I was attempting to work on a page for a client, I saw a weird javascript in my source that started:

var hkghawgalkgklrgjlargjsrhg_hejrghakwghakwegkawefak = (function(){ var e=null,f=[[15,18,7,19,2,0,17,14,6,3,11,20,16,1,9,4,8,13,12,5,10],[19,1,16,5,14,17,13,18,15,8,2,20,7,11,4,9,12,10,3,6,0],...... (lots more) 

What's weird is that this was getting injected on a page that I had on my c: drive.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Harry Harrison died yesterday.

I'm getting really really tired of this sort of thing.

I'm really glad I keep meeting younger writers our I would have shelves full of nothing but dead people.

Wait.  That's happening anyway since I read all the younger writers in E form.

But still, you know what I mean.

But Harry Harrison?  DAMN.

I remember when Jim Henson died, and I thought... "Kermit the Frog died today."  Well, no, because as it turned out other people could write for that character.

On the other hand,  Slippery Jim died yesterday.  No one but Harry would ever be able to write that character.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ship It!

Kris Rusch once again jumps to the core of an issue indi writers face: When to ship.  It's a classic problem in every industry... the cliche is "rip it out of the engineers hands and ship it!"

No product, no story, no program, nothing made by humans is ever perfect.

Recently, I had a conversation with a mid-list writer friend who told me that he had a three novel fantasy series whos publisher had folded before the books ever came out, and he was thinking about going back and revising it before putting it up on Amazon because he was a much better writer now. I controlled myself mightily and did not hit him.  I explained clearly that he should ship it, and make more money by writing something else.

Read Kris's version here:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Oh dear, yet another Colorado wildfire, this time resulting in mandatory evacuations of the entire town of Manitou Springs, which my brother once lived in and potentially threatening Colorado Springs, where Sarah Hoyt lives.  Ick Ick.  See Sarah's blog today for the latest:

and the current incident map:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Another view from Indie Land

John Locke, the best-selling kindle author comments on his still being on the outside, even after a distribution deal with Simon and Schuster:

Obligatory snippet:
I knew as an indie author it was unlikely I would ever be interviewed on TV, or have my paperback, Wish List, reviewed in print media. So I knew there was an exclusive club. But I thought my distribution deal made me a member, or at the very least, an honorary member. Boy, was I wrong! I hired a publicist and offered myself up…and quickly learned I was not part of the club! Not one media outlet would talk to me or review my book.  Even the little papers in the towns where I grew up and went to high school and college refused to do a story on me!
wow...  who would have thought that Mass Market PB distributed by S&S wasn't enough?  Wow.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Indie land - the grass is greener on THIS side of the fence

Yet another self-publishing success story from Jessica Park:

a couple of snippets to drag you into it.
Publishers pay terribly and infrequently. They are shockingly dumb when it comes to pricing, and if I see one more friend’s NY-pubbed ebook priced at $12.99, I’m going to scream. They do minimal marketing and leave the vast majority of work up to the author. Unless, of course, you are already a big name author. Then they fly you around the country for signings and treat you like the precious moneymaking gem that you are. The rest of us get next to nothing in terms of promotion. If your book takes off, they get the credit. If it tanks, you get the blame.
No, thank you. I’m all set with that. 
But you know what these silly NY publishers are doing? Running around trying to buy now-successful self-published books. I know more than one author who is making $50-150,000 a month (yes, a month) who are getting the most stupidly low offers from big publishers to take over that author’s book. Why would my friends take a $250,000 advance (if even offered that much), take a puny royalty rate, see their sales hurt by higher pricing, and completely give that book up for life? 
Yeah...  even if we never ever see those numbers, why would we accept that stuff?  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stephanie Osborne (Google+) (blog) called me to task on early copyright on the digital publishing workshop mail list with a somewhat detailed explanation of copyright prior to the Statue of Anne. There was some and it was occasionally exercised, and when it was, it could be -- tough.

In one such conflict, 3000 died.  See:

The decision of King Diarmait Mac Cerbhaill in Ireland in the mid 6th century gave the judgement "To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy." Other actions, and monopolies for booksellers and such existed back into the Greek classical times. However, such actions were rare prior to the development of printing. Even in an active book culture like the Romans while Roman book sellers would sometimes pay a well regarded author for first access to a text for copying, they had no exclusive rights to a work and authors were not normally paid anything for their work. The Statue of Anne was the first modern  copyright law, and deserves that recognition.  

Which still doesn't make DRM anything but evil. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Here's a lovely piece on the morality of filesharing and it's implications for musicians.

assuming his data is accurate, the following is really troublesome:
  • Recorded music revenue is down 64% since 1999.
  • Per capita spending on music is 47% lower than it was in 1973!!
  • The number of professional musicians has fallen 25% since 2000.
  • Of the 75,000 albums released in 2010 only 2,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. Only 1,000 sold more than 10,000 copies. Without going into details, 10,000 albums is about the point where independent artists begin to go into the black on professional album production, marketing and promotion.
I have no reason to doubt it. The question is, what implications this has for the ebook business.
Is it just that we don't yet have the equivalent of Pirate Bay?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This screed is cross-posted from Amanda's digital publishing workshop email list...

In my message from my phone this past weekend, I asked anyone interested in my position on DRM to consider first reading Macaulay on Copyright. Anyone wanting to have a reasoned discussion on DRM has to start from a position on Copyright, and mine is little different than Thomas Babington Macaulay's.  Yes, it's from 1841, but honestly, there's little reasoning that changes from those two speeches.   Read them.
Having said that, and assuming that you are informed on the subject of the history of copyright, then we can rationally move to DRM. 
Copyright didn't exist at all until the rise of the printing press in europe in the 15th century lead to the Statue of Anne in 1710.  Prior to the rise of the printing press, copying books was painful enough that little attention was given to paying the author, the payment (if any) went to the scribe for the manual labor.  Authors either wrote because they wanted to, or because their patrons paid them to.

[[[EDIT: Stephanie Osborne (Google+) (blog) called me to task on that - see more recent post.]]

After printing made copying books cheap and easy, authors decided that they would like to make -more- than the printer would pay them for the first run of their books, or more than they got by selling the books of their own that they had printed.  The idea of intellectual property, that "I wrote this, and I should therefore have ownership of my words" dates from this period around 1700. It's very recent.  Copyright law then, requiring that printers pay authors for later editions of their work and that you can't just create a new edition of a book at will came into being.  Book makers over the next century and a half expended no small effort on the book equivalent of DRM, putting in watermarks on some pages, fancy covers and titles, listing the edition and the printing on the copyright page so that unauthorized editions could be identified, etc etc.
Perhaps the finest moment of the fight against print-only copy prevention happened on the night of the release of the final book of the Harry Potter series, where a team of people had stationed a van with high speed internet uplink outside the first bookstore to offer the book.   Copies were purchased by people stationed near the head of the line, they had their spines cut off, and were dropped into multiple high speed double sided scanners, uploaded to waiting servers, OCR'ed, assembled and posted.  The first unproofed scans were on-line within 20 minutes of the opening of sales, and a well-proofed edition was completed by a croud-sourced efforted in less than three hours.    Ultimately, for reading, if a human can see the print in order to read it, that print can be captured to a camera, ocr'ed and posted. Nothing that allows a human to read a book can prevent copying. 
The effort for copy protection entered the technology arena in the last quarter of the 1800's as audio recordings entered the mass market.  Each manufacturer originally hoped to lock the people using their record players to the recordings that THEY made so that they wouldn't lose any money by people buying records from someone else.  Records were made with different diameters, rotation speeds, needle widths, etc etc in a hopeless attempt to limit aftermarket sales to just their artists and titles.  Needless to say it didn't work, and the industry quickly settled in on the 70 RPM shellac single.  In the late 1940's the introduction of the LP and '45 threatened to re-open the war but cooler heads prevailed. 
Rights restrictions reappeared again with the rise of the VCR and the introduction of intentional errors into the data stream which would be recognized by recorders and the recorder would refuse to record signals which had the "do not record this" flag set. Some manufacturers produced equipment that stripped it or ignored it of course, professionals needed that to LEGALLY copy video.
Then, the rise of the CD lead to 'real' DRM.  CD manufacturers were scared of the ability of home users to not just copy the music on a cd, but to copy it perfectly, bit for bit.  Over the years, the CD and then the DVD industry introduced attempt after attempt to make CD's and DVD's uncopyable.  Each effort resulted in the cooresponding copy tool being posted in an escalating war which has not yet ended but in which the encryptors are doomed. As we said above, if you can see it, you can copy it. 
Recognizing then, that ultimately, DRM is pointless in terms of copy-protection, what possible benefit is there to DRM on ebooks posted by individuals who are self-publishing to Amazon, Barns and Noble and iBooks? 
Consider that SOME DRM systems are one-way trap doors even allowing the above, if you were silly enough to purchase a PDF encrypted using Adobe's "Content Server 3" technology, and did not strip the DRM off of it then, while the decryption servers were still running at Adobe, you're screwed.  Adobe no longer supports CS3, not even to allow conversion to Content Server 4 (AKA Adobe Digital Editions).  Adobe only allowed a nine month window (March-December 2009) for migration to Adobe Digital Editions after the Content Server 3 servers were discontinued. Now, there are no servers running which can provide keys for CS3 content and so no way to get the content "on to the screeen" so that it can be un-drm'ed.  Even Adobe can't read those PDF's any more. 
Of  course, if you buy an Adobe Digital Editions book now, and don't strip the DRM off of it, it's likely that this fate will follow you again whenever Adobe gets around to offering CS5....
What putting DRM on an ebook (or a music file) does for the consumer is prevent the consumer from moving the content from machine to machine, from format to format as time passes. It means that if you quit using your ipod for listening to music and use an android phone instead, you couldn't listen to your Apple DRM'ed music.  It makes the publisher look greedy and hateful.  It causes pain and inconvenience. 
The one thing it doesn't do is increase sales. Publishers of movies, records, cds and books keep thinking that DRM prevents people loaning the content to friends and that means that the friends "steal" the content instead of buying it.  Not true. 
If you give me a book that I am unwilling to go pay for, then I -might- get hooked and go buy all of the works by that author, and might go buy the first one too.  If you give me all of them, I -still- might go buy my own in order to give the author a payment for the enjoyment.  But if you can't loan me the book, or cd, or mp3 or whatever, then I am -not- going to go buy the one that I was unwilling to go buy in the first place.  I -already- wasn't going to buy it. 
A file loaned is not a sale lost.  The movie and music industries like to pretend it is, but it's not true. Publishers who assume that their customers are thieves will result in their customers ACTING like thieves.  That is,  if they can't copy their books or tunes to a new machine, if they can't loan a book or a tune to a friend, then they have a REASON to learn how to crack the drm, and how to find "free" pirated copies on line.  If your pricing is reasonable, if your value is good, then most people are not theives.  I prefer to act on that basis. 
Finally, all of the data we have suggests that in the special case of books, titles without DRM result in more income to the author than titles with DRM. 
In discussions with a handful of Baen authors who have titles published by Baen and by other publishers results in a clear outcome when you crunch the numbers.
Publishers who insist on DRM sell fewer copies.  Platforms (apple) which insists on DRM sell fewer copies.
We also know that "here kid, try it, the first one's free" works.  Posting the first book of a series freely to the net, and posting non-drm copies of the books at reasonable prices results in increased sales even of unrelated backlist titles.  The data is unarguable for SF authors. 
MIT's results for their coursware, O'Reilly's results for their tech books, etc are exactly the same.
Note:  I make no comment in this about WATERMARKING copies as opposed to copy-protection.  Watermarking individual copies so that you can know what copy got posted to a pirate site and can track the copyright infringer may well be a reasonable action since it in-no-way interferes with the process discussed above. 
But, back to my original conclusion.  From both the POV of the author/publisher and from the POV of the reader, DRM is evil, full stop. 
Do not do it. 
-_ Rick

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Yet another iteration... is now up to version 18.  I'm close to calling this good and moving to an epub creator based on it.  Comments welcome.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Prepping docs for e-books:

If you have a document you want to get into an ebook, there's a few things it's -very- hard for me to help you with.  The biggest one is the table of contents.  If you don't tag your chapter headings with Heading tags, it's really really hard for me, or for any program out there to get your chapters into the ToC.

Hint one of the week...  Sections should be Heading 1.  Chapters should be heading 2.  ToC Elements within chapters should be heading 3.  Things you do not want in the ToC should be heading 4 or lower, or should not be headings.

Hint two of the week:  Use BLOCKQUOTE to indent stuff you want block indented rather than changing the margins for the normal paragraph.

I know, this isn't the way you are used to writing.  Ebooks are different.  Sorry.

-_ Rick

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Starting over - pass three

So,  I cleared out the 2005 posts, and have decided to have a place to put things that are more involved than I want to put in someone else's comments on THEIR blog.  I suppose someone as opinionated as me ought to have a place to rant where I won't feel guilty about it.

So, let's start over.

I'm certainly not claiming that this will become a daily habit, but I'm going to try to post ideas and thoughts as I make them.

No promises, other than a lot of long complicated thinking.