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1 November, 2002

Madonna and Microsoft

According to this article, nearly half of Madonna's $56 million income last year (about $25 million) came from her Microsoft gig. You remember that song, Ray of Light -- the one that was used in the Windows XP promos.

I think the Rolling Stones only got $8 million for Start Me Up, the Windows 95 theme song. Hell, divide that four ways and it's hardly worth it.

I used to really like both of those songs, but now they just remind me of this.

For fun, check out this blast from the past: The original Madonna/Windows story as it appeared in the English language version of Pravda (October, 2001). An excerpt:

Madonna herself will not appear in the ad. Probably she will perform her hit live at the presentation of the new computer system on October 25 in New York. The entire Microsoft personnel is expected to be present at the presentation.

The amount of the transaction has not been exposed. Of course Madonna will get a lot, since Microsoft assigned $200 million for the commercial campaign to promote the new system. Moreover, the stars like Madonna are never cheap.

Posted on 1 November, 2002

Ouch! My Eye!

Poke it. Go ahead and poke it.

More where that came from.

Posted on 1 November, 2002

BSA Releases State-By-State Piracy Rates

The Business Software Alliance released a new study yesterday. This one focuses on the US. Specifically, software piracy in 2001 by state. Here are the results for my state, California:

Software Piracy in California
(Source: BSA)

State Piracy Rate: 18.5%
Total Dollar Losses: $987,931,392
Total Employment Losses: 14,302 jobs
Total Wage and Salary Losses: $873,479,609
Total Tax Losses: $230,124,633

As a software developer, I'm certainly opposed to software piracy. But I'm also opposed to presenting bogus information to support a cause. And that's exactly what the BSA study is all about.

It should be obvious that there is no direct and reliable way to measure software piracy. BSA (in conjunction with International Planning and Research, IPR) has come up with a way of estimating these figures, but their methodology leaves a bit to be desired -- or at least opens the door to many questions that are not answered.

Note: Interestingly, the word "estimate" is not even used in the BSA press release. The numbers are presented as if they are facts.

Take a look at BSA's official report (PDF), in particular the "Methodology" section. You'll find lots of superficial information about the data sources, but no real details. In other words, they are asking us to accept their findings, without telling us exactly how they were obtained.

The  study basically compares two sets of data, that represent demand and legal supply. Essentially, the study estimates the number of PCs shipped and then makes some assumptions about what software should be purchased for those computers. And these data are compared with estimates of software that was actually sold. Without knowing exactly how this is done, it raises lots of questions. For example:

  • Was free software taken into account?
  • What about software that was previously licensed and re-used on a replacement computer?
  • What about MS Office XP? The license for this software allows a legal installation on two different systems.

Read the report, and you'll see that many assumptions were made at every stage of the data compilation and analysis. Some of these may be warranted, but others seem very arbitrary. For example:

...certain states had a disproportionate amount of software sales. Some of these excess software sales were reallocated to other states. IPR attempted to minimize the impact of this judgmental data correction by keeping all reallocations to the contiguous states within each of the nine census regions.

Huh?

Perhaps the most serious flaw is the underlying assumption that every piece of pirated software represents a lost sale, and is counted as such. Even though this is a ludicrous assumption, it forms the basis for all of the dollar figures derived.

And what about the "staggering job losses" due to software piracy?

The total of direct and indirect losses are more than 111,800 jobs and nearly $5.6 billion in wage losses for the U.S. economy.

So, can we assume that all of these people are now unemployed? And if software piracy ended today, they would all be put back to work? This is simply fancy number crunching, folks, and the numbers that are spit out are meaningless, and have no basis in reality.

The problem is, the BSA is the only organization that does these types of studies. Therefore, it is the only source for any type of quantitative information on software piracy. These studies are widely cited, and the results are almost always presented as if they were factual numbers (here's an example). The methodology is rarely, if ever, questioned.

Give a dozen research companies the same budget as BSA used, provide each of them with the same data, and order up a dozen software piracy studies. I'm absolutely certain that they'd come up with 12 completely different sets of results.

Sure, software piracy is a problem. But feeding bogus numbers to the media doesn't help the situation.

Posted on 1 November, 2002

The Telemarketing Counterscript

I can't wait to try this. Don't overlook the link to the PDF file.

Posted on 1 November, 2002

Watching 24

Last night we finished watching the final episodes of the 24 - Season One DVD. This six-disc set contains all 24 episodes. At about 42 minutes each, this works out to nearly 17 hours of TV. We spread it out over about 8-9 sessions.

I must admit that I had not even heard of this TV series. But I read a few rave reviews and decided to buy it. I'd say that it ranks right up there among the best-ever network TV series. But watching it on DVD is the only way to go. There is no way I could sit through those commercials on Fox. So watching it on DVD essentially saves about seven hours of time.

Sure, the plot has lots of flaws, but these are easily overlooked because of the never-ending plot twists and the incredible amount of suspense that is generated. It also relies heavily on technology -- cell phones, GPS, and (of course) computers. The computers all have instant access to every bit of information in the world and, in the tradition of movie computers, all of them feature big graphic fonts.

If you're looking for a good way to kill 17 hours, this one is highly recommended.

Posted on 1 November, 2002

Kittens Playing Music on the Pool Table

Yes, that's exactly what this is all about (Flash).

Posted on 1 November, 2002