Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Customer Loyalty (KISSfp)

Recently I received one of the more fascinating emails in quite a while. Quite an experience, really. With Bill's permission, here it is:
Hi, Mike,

Sorry to bother you at this email, but I keep getting rejection notices from sending this to your KISSfp email address.

I have a dying PC with KISSfp installed on it and I need to reinstall it on another computer.

Unfortunately, the only copy of an install program I have is the trial version (2MB). Can I download the live version somewhere? The link from my original order confirmation is no longer valid.


Here's a copy of my order confirmation:

> Subject: Order #1234567 Purchase Information
> Date: 23 Sep 2000
> Your order has been approved - thank you for your purchase!

> =============
> Order #:          1234567
> Purchase Date:    9/23/00
> Purchase Amount:  USD 49.95
> Last Name:        XXX
> Nighttime Phone:  123.123.1234
>   (1)   KISSfp Microsoft FrontPage FTP Add-On - Business Edition for Commercial Webs
Now, if you don't understand why "fascinating experience", just check out the dates... Bill purchased a KISSfp license in 2000, and is contacting me today (October 2009) asking for support - 9 years on! Quite a lesson in Customer Loyalty, isn't it? Nine years is an eternity... since I created my KISSfp "Microsoft FrontPage FTP Add-On" tool. So many things have happened since: I have moved from Switzerland to Italy to Switzerland to California/USA to Switzerland... got married to an amazing wife... had two wonderful kids... wrote a book... not to speak about four great day jobs, .. and much more of course. Man. Man!

As I just got quite nostalgic, I dug into my "rummaging old, moldy files" (Bill in our email exchange following his request), and here is the full disclosure history of KISSfp: It all started in April 1998 (the pure C/CLI version), with some work done during my exchange year in Torino (thank you, Massimo, and Daniele!). Around Summer/September 1998, I appear to have started with the Borland C++ Builder-based GUI, coding away at least partly during the nights while interning during the day at the IPB in Geneva (thank you Jo & Adam for proof-reading the help!), with what eventually became the 2.0 (initially "professionally" packaged & released in February 1999; see also KISSfp Version History). Further developments during the summer of 1999, and if I recall right from then on more time spent on stuff like online marketing, the whole Digital River / NetSales story, my referral program, the MenuPlus partnership with Jeff (where are you, Jeff?), the inclusion in the Microsoft Office Update Vendor Program in April/May 1999 (yeah!), at least one FrontPage book ("Master Visually FrontPage 2002") but probably others with CDs including KISSfp, that PreviewSystems VBox thing (now apparently HASP; how ridiculous all that seems in retrospect from today's day and age where I live daily using open source Java enterprise components), with increasingly fairly intensive daily technical support (thank you, Divvya!), well into 2000... and ultimately priorities in life starting to shift significantly about 2001 I think, with rapidly less time available for KISSfp.

For Bill and anybody else who may still be out there, I have finally made available a free/non-VBoxed/unlocked version of KISSfp publicly ... To use it, first run the KISSFP21.EXE which is that classic setup installer, and then run kissfp20-pvtkey.exe or kissfp20-buskey.exe once and it will be "registered" - you'll have the same app that you could purchase in the those golden days, and it seems to still run just fine on XP today! - PS: The installer EXE doesn't seem to quit and hand around (I think it always was like that), so you should may be log out and re-login to be clean.

Hey, ya all out there, loyal KISSfp users (if there are any others than Bill left?!), starting with the enthusiastic early ones and the at least many hundreds if not (probably) few thousands total along the road - it was a great time! Thank you.

KISSfp, forever!

Take care.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Privacy, Firefox Geolocation, Google Location Service

I vaguely knew there was something like a W3C Geolocation API, had earlier read about the Google Gears Geolocation API, figured Yahoo had some Geo Technologies.

I had heard this works on recent mobile devices with built-in GPS, or exploiting cellphone network antenna/network triangulation, with the built-in browsers hooking into the mobile OS and exposing this information, but had always assumed that at home on a lapotp with a classic browser this wouldn't apply - how could it?

Then I stumbled upon the Geolocation support built-into Firefox 3.5, and unsuspectingly clicked "Give it a try!" on the test page, and... WTF, HOW DO THEY KNOW MY EXACT ADDRESS?? I live on a small street, and just looking at the map there is no doubt that "they" know the exact street - not just the area. (They being Google here, as "Firefox gathers information about nearby wireless access points and your computer’s IP address. Then Firefox sends this information to the default geolocation service provider, Google Location Services, to get an estimate of your location.")

Now, IP-based Geolocation is old news, you could figure out "geolocation" years ago by looking at the DNS names of the router hops shown by a traceroute, but unless my ISP in Switzerland shares details about their network topology with Google, how did this now get to street-level granularity?!

I know more recently there is this WiFi and cellphone tower triangulation stuff, but unless I'm totally not getting it, Firefox could only know my home WiFi SSID, so what? Or I guess may be it can ask the OS for the names of all access points currently being picked up, but still, it's a residential area, they're just neighbors, "they" couldn't have geolocation data on all of them?! And even so, WiFi SSIDs aren't exactly GUIDs..

Now generally speaking I am not a privacy maniac (e.g. I didn't quite "get" the surprising reactions in Switzerland when Google Street View came online recently; that's all already in public anyways!), but here I got... I don't know. Yeah yeah, Firefox respects my privacy and there is this toolbar thingie asking every time if I really do want to share my location... but isn't it still a bit... you know, scary?

PS: Curiously, the German version of that same Mozilla page thinks I'm in "Zurich" (I'm actually about 200km away from it!), and once I visited that even the English page forgot what it first knew, and also said Zurich. But a browser restart and visiting the English page again returns its 007 insight I first noticed. For a moment I suspected that may be Google is simply exploiting my account cookie (which wouldn't be very "location" aware at all), but a test where I logged out of Google and then went to the Mozilla page showed that probably it's got nothing to do with that.

PPS: After having already posted the above, a test/idea occurred to me: I completely switched off the WiFi on the laptop that I'm trying/writing all this from, and got a good old ethernet cable out of the drawer and plugged that into the ADSL router at home. Interestingly, it thought I was in Zurich again! (I noticed you have to best restart the browser for such tests, but then it's definitely repeatable.) So apparently this IS based on WiFi names then (really just SSID names, or do "they" have any other more GUID-like info available??), not simple IP-based location tracking. So "somebody" presumably drove by here, detected/measured and mapped out my and our neighbours access points, and recorded all this in one fr%*#ing global DB?? This is crazy!