I have a lovely new desk and I am way more proud of it than I ought to be

This is a story of a teensy-weensy victory that has really put me in a good mood. I am way more proud of this than I ought to be because it’s really a very minor accomplishment that anybody with a small drill and the ability to read instructions can do, but these days even tiny little moments like these in which things all come together in a fulfilling way are very rare for me.

I always thought I had rather modest requirements for a computer desk, but it looks as though I was wrong. Ordinarily I’ve got the left side of my computer desk up against a wall with one computer partially underneath the left side of the desk, more or less up against the wall. Because of this setup, I always sit at the right side of the desk. That’s why I like to have the keyboard tray on the right side of my desk. Either that, or a keyboard tray that extends from one side of the desk all the way to the other side.

I had to replace my desk since it was ruined during Sandy. I thought it would be easy to find a desk with a keyboard tray on the right but it was surprisingly difficult. I found a few but none of them had any shelves or drawers or any other sort of storage space. I prefer a desk with either a couple of shelves or drawers to store cables and adapters and miscellaneous things like that.

I finally had the bright idea of buying a desk with storage features that I liked and then adding a keyboard tray myself. This was bold on my part, because I’m not someone you could ever call “handy”. I decided on the $99 IKEA Vallvik. It has shelves that you can choose to put either on the left or the right. It’s also just about the perfect width for a keyboard tray and it’s made of solid pine instead of that honeycomb stuff some IKEA products are made of, so I was pretty certain that the screws would hold in place well enough. Here’s the desk before I began my little project:

I had a look online at some ready-made keyboard trays but I didn’t like the idea that they wouldn’t run the full length between the shelves at the left and the right side of the desk. I wanted my keyboard tray to span that entire space. So I bought a set of 18-inch side-mount drawer slides (Fulterer 5000) and mounted them under the desk. I thought it was neat that these drawer slides come in different colors. I bought the black ones to match the desk.

If you're smart, you'll get a friend to help you install these.

If you’re smart, you’ll get a friend to help you install these.

I was super lazy and didn’t even remove the stuff from my desk while installing these. That didn’t turn out to be a problem, though it sure was difficult installing them alone. I ended up stacking a bunch of books on the floor to hold the slides up while I drilled some holes to screw the slides in. If I had somebody to hold the slides for me I would have finished in much less time and I wouldn’t have bumped my head on the underside of the desk nearly as many times as I did. The best way to do this would have actually been to disassemble the desk and lay the two side pieces in which the drawer slides get installed flat on a table.

The next step was to measure the distance my keyboard tray would need to be. According to the instructions for the drawer slides:

Check that the side clearance between drawer and cabinet side
is at least 12.7mm (1/2in.) on each side. Maximum allowable
clearance is 13.5mm (17/32 in.)

The distance from one side of the desk to the opposite was 28 inches. 28 inches minus two halves of an inch is 27 inches. So I got a board 27 inches long. The other two dimensions don’t matter too much as long as the board is not so wide that it doesn’t fit under the desk and not so thick that it looks silly.

So I got a board 27x18x1 inches. It was unfinished pine so it was a very light color, similar to the color of the table in the far left side of the first picture on this page. It would have looked lousy if I installed it as-is. So I got “Minwax Dark Walnut 2716” wood stain and a polyurethane finish. I followed the directions on the can and did 2 coats of the stain, allowing 4 hours drying time between each, followed by 2 coats of the finish, letting it dry 24 hours between each coat of finish. Now my board is a work of art.


All in all, it took 4 days of on-and-off staining, finishing, and drying before the board was ready for installation. I probably would have been just fine without waiting the full 24 hours for each coat of finish, but I wasn’t in any hurry so I was happy to wait.

Again, it would have been much easier to have somebody hold either the board or the slide while attaching the “drawer profile” pieces, but I managed to get it done myself with only a few minor splinters. Thank goodness I sanded that thing so well beforehand or else I might have bled to death.

The final result.

The final result.

You can see when I use the flash on the camera that the color doesn't match quite perfectly, but it's not noticeable under normal light conditions.

You can see when I use the flash on the camera that the color doesn’t match quite perfectly, but it’s barely noticeable under normal light conditions.

People should really erase their tablets before selling them (p.s. I have a Kindle Fire now and you don’t so ha-ha)

What a waste of an e-reader.

What a waste of an e-reader.

Note that I actually wrote this thing in late October 2012 and forgot to post it after, you know, getting my ass handed to me by Sandy. I checked my records and it looks like October 22nd was the day I got the Kindle Fire. That means I had a grand total of 7 glorious days to play with it.

I’m perpetually a generation behind. As is my wont, I went ahead and purchased a Kindle Fire the other day, shortly after reading about it’s successor, the new Kindle Fire HD. I have a Nook Color on which I run Cyanogenmod 7 and love it, but I found a good deal on a Kindle Fire listed as “bad battery” on eBay. Well, it turns out the USB port is the problem, not the battery. The USB port must be coming loose from the mainboard because it won’t charge unless it’s held in a certain position. Presumably this is why the seller took it to be a bad battery.

In any case, though I deny all accusations of being a stalker, I do enjoy the sort of voyeurism purchasers of used tablets are given opportunity to enjoy. The previous owner of the last tablet I bought seemed to use the device for nothing other than logging into his profiles at multiple online dating sites. Other than a few shirtless pictures of what I presumed to be him taken in front of a mirror using the built-in camera, there were hardly any multimedia files on the device at all. I checked the man’s email (which he had neglected to log out of) and found that he used it for nothing other than dating sites. He had even received via email nude pictures from a few ladies. He left himself logged into Facebook, too. I had a look at some of his friends’ profiles but got bored quickly. There weren’t any naughty or incriminating pics. Nonetheless, there was enough information available to me so that I could have found out where his house was and gone to kill or burglarize him had I had the mind to.

So it’s a fun thing to do, snooping through the stuff left on pre-owned devices, that is, not killing people. Of course, I always restore to factory settings after getting bored perusing the previous owner’s emails and other personal information and it should go without saying that I’d never actually reveal information that could be used to personally identify the previous owner or take advantage of it, since I’m an ethical sort of person. But I certainly could, if the mood struck me.

It’s both funny and a bit frightening that people don’t take the precaution of removing personal information from devices before selling them or giving them away. Sometimes it’s understandable, such as in the case of tablets with cracked screens. But other times, such as with this Kindle Fire or the shirtless man whose email I was able to read, there’s no explanation other than carelessness. On the other hand, most people, I would hope, even if given the opportunity to log into the previous owner’s online accounts, would take the high road and refrain from doing anything naughty, instead simply chuckling privately at the previous owner’s quirks and vices and then promptly wiping the device.

Pages and pages of novelty apps.

Pages and pages of novelty apps.

When you buy something like a Kindle Fire, you expect there to be some books on it. My generation 3 Kindle keyboard had lots of books on it when I got it, including Fifty Shades of Grey. Incidentally, an e-book reader is the best way to read a book you’re too embarrassed to be seen with. This Kindle Fire is well-used yet there’s not a single book on it. The reason I know it’s well-used is because of all the non-book shit left on it. There’s several hundred megabytes of useless apps on here. There’s a baby adoption app, ice cream shop simulator, daily joke, truth or dare, child lie detector, and something called “Fake iPad” which, when opened, simply throws up an image of an iOS screen to make your tablet look like an iPad. There are pages and pages of apps like this. Almost none of them do anything useful.

Out of the countless apps on the device, there are only a few that I would ever consider choosing to reinstall after I restore this device to factory settings and register it to myself. Pandora radio is one of them. Christmas is coming and I refuse to buy an entire album just to annoy my family with Wham’s “Last Christmas (I Gave You My Heart)”. The previous owner and I differ in our taste in music though. I opened up the Pandora app (which logged me into her account automatically) and the sounds of ‘Lil Wayne immediately spread through the entire apartment because the previous owner had left the volume set to maximum. This, by the way, was my first opportunity to listen to the speakers of the Kindle Fire which, I was pleased to learn, are incredibly loud and clear. I’m not an audiophile by any means and don’t know the first thing about speakers so I’m not speaking from a technical perspective, but from a practical one there’s no question that they’re much better and significantly louder than the speakers in my Velocity Cruz PS47, T301, or Nook Color. Heck, they’re actually a lot louder than the speakers in my Acer laptop, although part of that problem is a less-than-ideal driver implementation in my OS. After being blown away by the volume of the speakers I tapped the back arrow in the Pandora app to see if there were any other stations that the previous owner had created. There were seven or eight others featuring artists I’d never heard of. There was one with a name that I did recognize though and that was the Justin Bieber station.

The previous owner's Pandora radio stations.

The previous owner’s Pandora radio stations.

It’s not exactly my intention to ridicule (although that is always fun), but I can’t help but find it peculiar that someone would buy a Kindle Fire just to listen to Justin Bieber and play the ice cream shop simulator app. The previous owner was still logged into Amazon.com so I decided to check her recommendations. Interestingly, as far as I could tell she had never purchased physical goods from Amazon. She had purchased dozens and dozens of apps and had lots of recommended apps, but no matter which category of physical goods I clicked on — even music — Amazon reported that they had no recommendations, which is most likely because the previous owner never actually bought anything other than digital goods.

Of course, on the one hand I am very much a believer that every person ought to spend his or her money and time as he or she likes, particularly if it doesn’t harm anybody else. So it’s fine with me if someone wants to buy a Kindle Fire and never read a single book or periodical on it. It just seems to me though that if the chief reason you’re buying the tablet is to kill time with apps and listen to music, then why buy one marketed as an e-reader that lacks access to the ordinary Google Play store and costs $199?

Meh, probably the same reason I need four tablets and an e-ink Kindle.

I wasted my entire stupid day troubleshooting this stupid Arris modem

So I’m living elsewhere temporarily while my apartment is being demolished. I’ll be here until it’s rebuilt. Who knows when that’ll be. But that’s not the point. The point is that I have Time Warner Cable here and I’ve had the chance to use Road Runner for an extended period of time now. I’ve used Road Runner at friends’ homes several times in the past and had opportunities to do speed tests and the like, but I’ve never had the chance to use it on my own terms, with my own computers and home network equipment. I’m very upset at somebody — I know not whom — about a grievous oversight in the instruction manual for the DOCSIS 3.0 modem/router TWC gave me. The trouble is that I don’t know who to blame. It’s an Arris TG862G. Frankly, I had never even heard of Arris before they gave me this thing. The installer, who mentioned, by the way, that he has FiOS at home, said that the device is both a modem and a router, but that TWC doesn’t let customers change the SSID or the passphrase on the network, so if a customer wants to change that information, he or she must use his or her own router. I didn’t really care, since I do have my own router and I figured I’d just have to live with a suboptimal home network split on two different subnets (192.168.0.xxx on the Arris router and 192.168.1.xxx on my router). I didn’t think I was able to have TWC put the Arris in bridge mode since the TWC connection is on the account of the owner of the place in which I’m living (though nobody else will be using the connection). I figured I’d either do the 2 subnet thing or I’d simply use my own router as a switch and actually use the Arris router as a router. I figured I’d decide once I logged into the web configuration pages on the Arris and saw what features it had. If they compared favorably with my own router I’d just go ahead and use the Arris and use my own router as a switch (I have a real 24-port switch, but it, along with most of my stuff, is in storage until the apartment is fixed)

Anyway, the reason I’m angry is because either Arris wrote bad instructions or TWC made a slightly modified firmware for the Arris modem with an annoying feature. The manual says you can access the web GUI at, which of course is similar to most routers. I connected my computer directly to the Arris via Ethernet cable with nothing else connected to the modem but the coax cable and the AC adapter. I set my computer to get an IP address automatically to rule out the possibility that some pre-existing configuration on my computer was causing problems. I typed in the address, waited… and it timed out. After trying all sorts of other combinations (,,,, etc…) I finally figured out today (2 days of web searching later) that you can only access the web configuration GUI if you unplug the coaxial cable from the Arris modem first. If you have the coaxial cable plugged in and you try to access, it’ll just time out. The fact that this isn’t mentioned in the manual is a major oversight which caused me a huge pain in the neck. All I wanted to do was access the port forwarding settings page, which should be the simplest thing in the world but because I lacked this simple bit of information I had to go on a wild goose chase of searching through forums and support pages, none of which actually mentioned this. Hopefully posting this information will save somebody a bit of time configuring his or her Arris cable modem/router in the future. I just wish I knew whether it’s Arris that made this feature or if it was an adjustment that TWC does to the units they send to customers. I know that Comcast uses this same modem for some of their customers, so I’d be interested in learning if they also suffer from this “feature”.

P.S. The connection tests about 35Mbps/5Mbps to test sites in the NY/NJ area.

I’ve been very lucky in iSRO this week

These are just a few of the prizes I got in the White Day event.

I barely played at all, to tell the truth, and I still ended up getting some fabulous prizes. The last one is from SRO-R. Of course, I’m happy about it since I’m the one who benefits, but it’s quite obvious that the ease with which these items can be acquired will be ruinous for the game economy. It really ought to take a lifetime of grinding and alchemy, not to mention massive amounts of real currency, to be able to obtain these Seal of Nova and “Rare” items. Yet a person like me, who had barely played in the last year, was able to get those items using a brand new character that I hadn’t even been botting very much with. Case in point: I bought a level 101 “Rare” earring from a guy for 150k gold. That’s how flooded the market is with Seal of Nova and “rare” items; people will sell them for less than the price of a single star level 35-50 Dimension Hole.

Ruined though the economy may be, it was to my great advantage, especially since my character is a newly created one. I once again am reminded of my theory that the bad luck I used to have in SRO was due to some sort of invisible “luck” factor built into the game, one that is assigned to each character upon creation and never changes. Not that I really believe there is a hidden “luck” statistic, but I did play legitimately without botting from level 1 to 80 during cap 80 and it is true that I never once got an SOS drop or even a +5 drop. Yet, in the space of several days of light botting (not even 24/7), my character got these:

As though that wasn’t enough good luck, the new equipment exchange system is worth mentioning. I haven’t seen too much written about this yet, which surprises me because it strikes me as one of the biggest game-ruining updates ever implemented, dwarfed in imprudence perhaps only by the elimination of the triangular trade system. The idea of the exchange system is that if you have, say, a level 56 sword and you need a level 56 blade you can go to the Magic Pop NPC in any city and exchange the sword for a blade or any other Chinese weapon of equal level with randomized stats. You pay a small fee in gold for the exchange. The key phrase here is randomized stats. This isn’t random in the same sense that the alchemy success rate is “randomized” to never, ever work when you most need it to. No, it’s “randomized” in a good way. Say your sword has shit stats, no blues, and is +0. You might get a +5 blade with full blues and superb stats in exchange. All it’ll cost you is a very modest fee in gold. Here are some items I got today with my new character by exchanging equipment with no bonuses on them at all:

I don’t know if the best part about all this is

    a) that you can buy an item from the NPC and “exchange” it for a superior item of equivalent level or
    a) that you can “exchange” an item into something else and then “exchange” the resultant item back into the original type of equipment

The latter requires a teensy bit of elaboration. Let’s say you use blades and have a level 52 blade with garbage stats. You have no money or patience for alchemy to fix the stats on the blade. As long as you have at least a little bit of gold you can exchange it for some other weapon and then exchange that weapon back into a blade. There is a good chance the resulting blade will have better stats than it did when you started the process. If it doesn’t, you can just keep repeating this exchange loop, as it were, until you get a blade with stats that you can be satisfied with.

The fee is not enough to discourage gaming the system like this. I can’t remember the exact fees, but for low degree stuff the fee was only four digits. For the 8th degree staff it was around 250k or thereabouts. It’s highly affordable and less of a gamble than you might imagine. I didn’t go through the loop more than three times on any of those items, if I recall correctly.

Once again, this change to the game gives some instant gratification and I’ll even admit I did momentarily feel like posting a global chat message proclaiming my overflowing love for Joymax when I realised how I could take advantage of it, but, just like the White Day event, it takes one of the meaningful challenges out of the game while leaving untouched the most injurious of the game’s many flaws which is the amount of time it takes to level up. Planning ahead was one of the things that made SRO great. You could never be certain that you’d be able to find equipment mid-degree. By this I mean that, while you could always be sure in the knowledge that, in a pinch, you could buy NPC equipment, you couldn’t buy equipment after the first item for each degree from NPCs. So if you were level 52, you needed to start thinking about buying your level 56 and 60 weapons because, though you could buy the level 52 weapon from the NPC, you had to buy the latter two from actual human players via a stall or direct exchange. The same was true for equipment. The stall network made it easier to find the second and third tier items for each degree but didn’t actually do anything to reduce the scarcity of them. The exchange system, on the other hand, actually reduces that scarcity and makes it easy to create out of thin air equipment that cannot be purchased from the NPCs. This reduces the importance of long term planning and will surely precipitate a sharp fall in the prices of most non-SoX equipment and perhaps even elixirs.

Having said that, I should really quit biting the hand that feeds me. I will exploit the exchange system to the fullest. It’s not a bug, so I can’t be banned for it. I just can’t help but wonder if Joymax realised when they implemented it how generous they were being.

The most incredible episode in my series of good luck, however, must be the following:

I’m telling the truth when I say that I only started playing again in mid-March. I went to the Forgotten World a total of three times since I started playing and, as is my wont, only went to the first treasure box. I got Spell Paper on my first run, Red Tears on the second, and Elder Staff on the third. I’m now in the peculiar situation of having the two most sought-after talismans but nonetheless being unable to finish the quest for lack of a Puppet, which is not all that rare of a talisman. Yet in the entire stall network there has not been a single puppet since this morning, when I got the Elder Staff. I suppose I’ll just try to get one myself since I’m only level 56 and have no need to finish the quest just yet. I can’t wait to one-hit mobs in DW stone cave with my SoSun staff!

I’ve dumped Comodo

Haha, I just love this kid.

Comodo firewall is great if you like to micromanage every single process on your computer. Nothing slips past Comodo, seemingly even if you set the firewall to “disabled”. On the one hand, it’s a bit idiot-proof to the extent that it’s hard to accidentally disable the whole program by some mistake. On the other hand, I’m rarely able to get it to do exactly what I want. For example, just to get a simple P2P program working required making 4 non-intuitive application rules (one for port 80 for tracker announces, one for TCP in/out, one for UDP in/out, one to deny everything else) and a global rule. I also had to make these 5 new rules top priority or else they didn’t take effect. There’s a section for managing programs on an application-by-application basis so you’d think I could just point the firewall to P2P_program.exe and tell it something along the lines of “trust everything P2P_program tries to do; it’s safe” but that doesn’t work. Even the “allow all” setting doesn’t really allow all. You have to dig deep in the forums to figure out how to allow a single program access through the firewall on a single port or port range, as though this were some sort of uncommon task that only superusers need to know how to do. It’s not though. Whenever you install a program that needs relatively unfettered access to your Internet connection you need to let it through your firewall but there’s so much prerequisite knowledge needed to be able to do that in Comodo firewall that it can be extremely frustrating and time consuming. I should be able to choose a program, specify some ports and a direction (ie. IN/OUT) and be done with it. I shouldn’t have to mess with global rules, stealth port settings, and application-specific rules or be familiar with some arcane settings buried in an obscure “advanced” menu.

Comodo is not a bad firewall. Of course, I know nothing really about computer security, so even if it were a bad firewall I wouldn’t be qualified to judge. What I can say though is that Comodo makes it so difficult to actually allow a program to run normally that I may as well unplug my Ethernet cable for 100% security. The program is so secure that it makes it a real challenge to weaken it even slightly. A more user friendly approach is what I’m looking for, even if it may put me in a less secure environment than Comodo. I’d rather be put in a bit of danger by human error resulting from my own foolishness than do things safely but painstakingly with Comodo.

My other problem with Comodo though is cfp.exe, which unexpectedly jumps to 25% CPU utilization occasionally. I’ve read that this can be caused by conflict with another firewall or AV program but I don’t have another firewall and I’ve tried uninstalling my AV program Avast, with attention to meticulous detail including using CCleaner and the official Avast manual removal tool. I’ve also specified the entire “COMODO” directory to be excluded when Avast does virus scans. In the Defense+ settings of Comodo I’ve likewise specified all the Avast folders to be excluded. Neither of those ideas helped. The high CPU usage is not a reproducible reaction. It’s totally unpredictable and has no upside, which is what makes it so aggravating, unlike the strictness of the rules system which at least has the benefit of preventing me from doing something stupid. Sometimes I’ll simply be browsing the web without any P2P program open at all and cfp.exe will cripple my computer, sometimes for just a few minutes, sometimes for as much as a half an hour.

I didn’t want to use a commercial firewall as a replacement. I did a google search for “lightweight firewall” and came across PrivateFirewall. I’ve only been using it for about 30 minutes now but I already know how to make global rules, new application rules, how to trust an application completely, and how to make application rules that allow a program through the firewall only under certain conditions such as only via specific ports or only in one direction or the other. These are all things that were not satisfactorily covered in the Comodo help menus which meant I had to read countless threads on the Comodo forums before I could figure out how to do them and even then, my rules did not always work properly because I had missed some other minor setting that would render them ineffective.

I also like the PrivateFirewall taskbar icon of a friendly police officer.

Can I call ‘em, or what?

I read on wjunction that uploaded.to had banned US visitors and it looks to be true.

Sure enough, FileServe stopped making payments and dropped its affiliate program. I nearly feel guilty for predicting it, almost as though by making the prediction I somehow brought it to realization, like I’m a prophet or something.

Filehost operators are shakin’ in their boots, it seems. I suppose I don’t blame them, but as far as I know FileServe is in Hong Kong. I suppose that doesn’t necessarily mean that a person from the United States isn’t involved in running the company though, which would be a good reason for them to be afraid. As for uploaded.to, I’ve never used them so I know next to nothing about the service.

I’ve been getting a lot of false positives from Comodo these days

I'm so irresponsible; I had actually forgotten I was using Comodo DNS until now. I only did it because the entry to nyaa.eu propagated to Comodo DNS almost a whole day before Verizon the last time it was down.

It makes me feel a little bit better about this site being in various blacklists, including Avast’s, that the main website of the host itself is blocked by Comodo. It shows that lots of innocent people get in these lists, even businesses. It’s not just their DNS though; I’ve been having weird false alarms going off with lots of well-known, safe programs lately. It must have been a recent update, since I’ve been using Comodo firewall for a few years and I’ve had very few problems. Granted, I had to hire Professor Frink to help me open ports in the dozen different panes you have to repeat the same basic rule in, but once I got it working correctly, it more or less stayed that way. You really do need to be crazy aggressive in reading documentation to properly open ports in this firewall though. Even once you figure it out, you may not know that you still have to make a few more global rules or move some other rules around so that your new rule has higher priority than other rules that might nullify it. It’s not intuitive at all. Just clicking “Treat as trusted application” doesn’t cut it, unfortunately. But once you figure out the practical aspects of using the firewall, it seems fine. It does its job and even has a useful feature where you can view the IP addresses to which each program you’re running are connecting. You can expand and collapse lists of IP addresses for different programs. TCPView had this feature but it crashes if there are too many entries, which is almost always the case if you’re running a P2P program. It’s a useful feature when you know a program is phoning home and you want to block the IP address it’s connecting to.

Anyway, it’s the “Defense+” and “Sandbox Security” features that have been giving some funny false positives lately. For example, since an update or two ago it’s been prompting me to run Silkroad and VLC in the sandbox whenever I try to launch them. It makes sense that it would recognise SRO as something potentially dangerous since Gameguard is basically a rootkit, but VLC is surprising. There was another one too that I now forgot. I think it was NeroAACEnc but it might have been something else audio-related. In any case, it’s mildly frustrating. It’s not frustrating enough to make me want to switch back to ZoneAlarm, which gave me many BSODs for some reason, but it’s still a minor annoyance. Like brushing one’s teeth.

My IPR on my IPR infringement scheme have been infringed upon!

"Valencia? These are juice oranges!"

I was busy vacillating over whether to use my real name and address when signing one of those most-likely-frivolous online petitions a few days ago when I learned that someone stole an idea that I’d been keeping under my hat for some time.

I recently stumbled into a situation that provided me with expansive access to JSTOR, an online service that provides access to scanned, OCR’ed, and generally nicely polished content from so-called “academic journals”, which are indistinguishable, as far as I can tell, from the more plebeian-sounding magazines they actually are. The content is great, but the prices are just disgracefully high. They’re prohibitively high, in fact. The average person cannot afford to access the content they, presumably, painstakingly digitized. You can pay for a subscription for some ungodly amount or you can pay to download individual articles. If you’re an infrequent user, I suppose the latter is the better idea, but it’s still absurdly expensive.

My school, however, has a subscription to JSTOR, as well as other similar services, such as Springerlink. As soon as I found this out I noticed that they’re doing something sneaky where they’ve got a proxy server set up that students can use to remotely access the school JSTOR account and download content from anywhere. In other words, the school is not-so-subtly encouraging its students to engage in disingenuous behaviour, if not blatantly illegal copyright infringement.

I had known of the existence of JSTOR and some other similar services before enrolling in this school, but I never imagined I would be able to access the content. For that matter, I was sceptical of whether the content even existed, since JSTOR and Springerlink are invariably the top search results on Google when you search for the title of an article or the name of an author on Google Scholar. It seemed similar to the phenomenon by which you’re searching for a DDL link or torrent of some obscure object of desire and Google presents you with links to torrent indexers like Bitsnoop and torrentz.eu or DDL site search services like Filestube, which you click only to see that it just leads to a page informing you that no results were found for whatever you typed into Google. In other words, just an SEO tactic used to steer visitors looking for thing X to the JSTOR website where they procceed to sell you things Y and Z.

Having said that, I now know that JSTOR is a legitimate service that actually has the media they purport to have available.

Seeing how great the service apparently was, it seemed like a given that I could just go on over to my favourite torrent indexer or private tracker and download gigabytes of PDFs harvested from JSTOR for free. No dice though. I was very surprised, since it seemed like the sort of content to which the benefit of piracy would extend greatly, due to its ridiculous price. That is, it seems to me that the benefit of pirating, for example, a $15 music CD is relatively low when compared to the risk and discomfort of the moral qualms it may arouse, whereas pirating a PDF of academic materials that would have cost you $250 to purchase is a better risk to take. Educational content seems to be more expensive than popular content. I don’t know why; they’re printed on the same paper and pressed on the same CDs and DVDs as popular media. Perhaps it’s not that they’re more expensive because they’re educational but rather that niche stuff is always more expensive and many educational materials are considered niche enough to render a price comparable to popular materials unviable.

I’m digressing though.

Finding that, on the one hand, I couldn’t afford to purchase the materials I wanted legally, while, on the other, I couldn’t even acquire them illicitly if I wanted to, I was in a bind. That’s why I was happy when I enrolled in this school and learned of how they’re basically encouraging us to download content from JSTOR with reckless abandon (and, implicitly, do with it what we will).

You’d have to be an idiot or someone with absolutely no sense of opportunism at all not to think about making some script or other that downloads everything available to you from JSTOR and then publishing a torrent of it. Of course, let me make clear that I am a law abiding citizen and would never actually do that; I’m just emphasizing that you’d have to be pretty dense not to take notice of an opportunity that presents itself quite so flamboyantly.

But, to my simultaneous chagrin and moral endorsement — distinct from practical endorsement (read: I do not endorse this) — the founder of DemandProgress.org, Aaron Swartz, stole my idea, as people seem to have a penchant for doing. He was promptly arrested, it seems, but, to JSTOR’s credit, they did not pursue a civil suit against him, though the gummint threw the book at him.

This all happened in July, but I didn’t know anything about it until the other day, when I was signing one of those ubiquitous petitions against SOPA and PIPA. I didn’t want to give my name and address on a website run by some PAC I knew nothing about. For all I knew DemandProgress.org was run by American Crossroads. But it’s not; it’s run by an east coast pirate redditor whiner hipster-doofus troublemaker who stole my idea and I’m okay with that.