BSA, MPAA, RIAA: Try again, but with data this time

I’ll admit it. When I was younger I used to pirate music, movies, games, and software. I was a poor high school and later college student. I had no money. I couldn’t afford to buy those things. If I didn’t find a way to get it for free, I just couldn’t get it, period. It wasn’t a question of wanting to pay or what the market thought was fair. I just didn’t have any.

That was a while ago. Now I have a job. And I don’t pirate any more. Partially, this is because I’ve been a software developer, and I see things more “from the other side.” But mostly, its because I can. I have $50 to my name so that I can go out and buy that game I wanted, or the box set dvd’s, or whatever (not to say I don’t think they are overpriced).

That’s why I’ve always thought that the piracy numbers given out by the movie (MPAA), music (RIAA), and software (BSA) industry groups have been complete garbage. I mean, Billions of dollars? Common, that’s rediculous. Just because someone has pirated your software/song/movie doesn’t mean they are willing to pay for it. That’s always been my assertion, but of course I could never prove it.

Luckily, Russel Carrol, Director of Marketing at Reflexive (a PC game company) has done it for me. In an article posted at Gamasutra, he lays out a very data-driven and scientific analysis of the company’s piracy rates both before and after taking steps which reduced piracy. Read the article. Really.

His conclusion: Only 1 in 1,000 pirates are actually willing to purchase the product.

Does it still seem worth suing college kids, guys?

Home Storage Server on the cheap — to drive your HTPC!

For the past few years, I’ve been using a Mac Mini as my main HTPC. This has worked out really great, as the Mini is a small, quiet piece of hardware, and generally Apple’s iTunes/Frontrow is simple, intuitive, and impressive as a content management system.

As my collection of media grew, I started to run out of disk space (My mini only has 80GB). First, I added a USB drive to it. Then two. Then, I created a RAID array out of USB drives using an OSX RAID stripe. But, that is dangerous, because if any drive fails, you lose all the data. So I added more USB drives, and created a second stripe, to use for time machine. I currently have USB and Firewire drives connected to my Mini at the moment, due to this escellation.

It has finally gotten to the point where it really makes more sense to just build myself a multi-terrabyte file server, with proper RAID built into it. Further, while I’m at it, I want to add some additional capabilities as well. Ideally, this is something that will live on the network, and give me the following:

  • Centrally store all my media files (music, movies, photos) which can be accessed from any computer in my house
  • Provide a “time machine” backup location for my macs
  • serve centralized home directories for any linux, mac, windows PC’s in my home
  • Act as an LDAP authentication server, for single sign on in my home (yes, my home will then be enterprise-ready)
  • Possibly serve a wiki and/or calendering/groupware system which my wife and I can use to sync our phones/mail clients/address book/calandar stuff (that would be nice)

Some or all of this may or may not come from the same software package. In fact, going the enterprise route, here is the solution I intend to implement:

Build an innexpensive file server based on the openfiler project. I’ve already put the order through for the components. Without drives, the whole solution, including a 12-bay hot-swap sata rack-mount case (and taxes and shipping), is about $600 for a Phenom 3-core CPU system w/ 4GB RAM. For drives, I can reuse a lot of the disks I already have running over USB (they are SATA inside), although I purchased an additional TB sata drive. Juggling the data while I’m setting up the new server will be tricky, but I should just be able to do it with the capacity I currently have.

Once the fileserver is set up, openfiler can export data as AFS, CIFS, or NFS to my mac Mini. Moreover, access will probably be [significantly] faster over gigabit ethernet than it was running RAID over USB2.

Then, I’ll install vmware on the openfiler server, and set up a virtual machine possibly running a linux distribution (TBD) to support local authentication for AD and LDAP.

With any luck, the system will be up and running by the end of the week. It’s pretty amazing that I can put together what is a business-class file server myself for under $1,000, even including storage.