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November 2008 Archives

November 15, 2008

Finalising our Everest book

Yesterday was a landmark in the life of our Rucksack Pocket Summits series, in that I finished my work on Harry Kikstra's Everest guidebook, and it's now off to repro for publication in March 2009. Getting this far hasn't been easy. After climbing his seven summits, guiding clients up Everest and making TV documentaries, author Harry is now cycling from Alaska to Cape Horn with his fiancée Ivana. So getting answers to queries has depended on whether and when he stops somewhere with good internet access. And sometimes getting high-resolution images has depended on what's on the hard drive in his pannier! The result is that my editorial role has been more demanding than usual, and I've been drawing heavily on my Xtreme Everest experience of April 2007 to make sense of the routes, the priorities and to fill a few photographic gaps.

I'm very proud of this series. Dozens of people have published accounts of their personal journeys to the seven summits, but nobody has ever published guidebooks that actually tell you how to. Harry gives an honest account of what is involved, and this must help would-be Everest climbers to decide whether it's really for them. So far, all those who have proof-read have said how much the book has put them off the whole idea. Maybe there will be a market among friends and family of aspirant climbers who want to put their loved ones off the whole thing? Anyway, looking at the book's gallery it's hard not to respond to the sheer beauty of the place.

It has also brought me into contact with two more amazing people (I'm used to Harry doing amazing things). For photographs high on the Nepal side, we are indebted to Alan Arnette of Colorado, whose website is a brilliant resource on Everest and many other mountains. He has superb photographs, videos and route narrative. His climbing drive is closely connected with his determination to raise funds to Cure Alzheimer's - the heart-rending disease that leads to bereavement by inches.

On the other side of the world, in New South Wales, is Lincoln Hall, Harry's team-mate who in May 2006 was left for dead high on Everest with no tent, sleeping-bag or oxygen. Because he had no pulse and wasn't breathing, his rucksack was understandably removed by the sherpas. He went on to defy physics and medical science by surviving overnight in extreme cold at 8600m. Dan Mazur and other climbers found him next morning, sitting cross-legged on a ridge near Mushroom Rock, and abandoned their climbs to save his life. They must have had the fright of their lives when Lincoln greeted them "I imagine you're surprised to see me here?". This masterpiece of under-statement gives you some idea what to expect from Lincoln's wonderful book Dead Lucky. Lincoln has just kindly agreed to endorse Harry's book. My correspondence with Alan Arnette and Lincoln Hall has certainly enlivened my daily emails recently.

November 20, 2008

Software upgrades, ethics and online purchase

Back in August, I thought that the only casualty of my upgrade to the iMac was AppleWorks. Little did I realise that my occasional use of Acrobat Pro would also become an issue. Mostly I use Acrobat Reader, which is free to download, but occasionally I need a few Pro features – for example to be able to chop a book into sections for our "Look inside" feature on the Rucksack Readers website, so people can "try before they buy". Sadly, when I tried to instal an old version of Acrobat Pro from my CD yesterday, I was thwarted: it's an upgrade to an earlier version (also a legal CD) which runs under Classic. The iMac doesn't do Classic, so it had a hissy fit and spat out that CD.

So I looked around the web intending to buy an update, and was horrified to find that Acrobat Pro costs £413 on Amazon, and nearly as much from US sources with all the extra delay, carriage and duty. Since I seldom need Pro, it seemed an outrageous price, and Adobe don't even do a 30-day trial edition for Mac (as they do for Windows). So I tried a Google search including the word discount, and was surprised to find dozens of sites offering OEM download-only versions for $60 US. Surprised, intrigued, curious, ... indeed I was almost tempted, since I certainly don't need the manuals, CD or packaging.

But having had a lot of my own intellectual property ripped off over a long lifetime, I am very old-fashioned about software piracy and had read with scepticism the reasons stated why the software was so cheap (bankrupt stock, auctions, no delivery costs etc). I then noticed that although the sites in question had very different company names, URLs and general appearances, the FAQ wording was suspiciously identical (with the same tiny mistakes in spelling or grammar), they all offered the same vast range of popular software, and, most dubious of all, they all had the same "call centre" number, a UK number 0203 286 4046 that claims a link with 25 Vartry Road, London, N15 6PT. Phone it and you'll get an answering machine. Check the address online and you'll find it consists of flats. So with no intention of buying anything from this dodgy-seeming source, I clicked the Checkout button.

These sites are littered with plausible-looking bits and pieces, moneyback assurances, privacy and anti-spam policies. The shopping cart page has a security logo and the site claims to be designed by

© VK Software. Approved by Google Inc.
This information is provided by the customer and is entered into our certified secure network. Any information provided by our customers is never shared, sold, or released to any third party outside our network.

But the bogus padlock graphic is merely artwork, not in the browser, and the URL lacks the vital s in https:// ... The unwary might not notice these small details and may enter their card details into this totally insecure environment with disastrous results.

The conclusion seems inescapable that the very low software prices are purely an inducement to divulge your card details. Whether you then get a working and/or pirated download is not the point. Once your card has been compromised, it will be very clear that this was a poor bargain. But if Adobe's pricing weren't so high, there wouldn't be such a strong incentive for such websites to flourish, proliferate and doubtless take lots of money from unsuspecting customers. Is Adobe's greed fuelling this particular market?

Deep sigh! I run an online business and I want people to be able to trust this form of commerce. It's disappointing to find so much human ingenuity going into deceiving others, and the whole thing has been hugely time-wasting. It's similar to a Trojan horse: "Timeo Danaos et[iam] dona ferentes" ("Beware of Greeks even if they bring presents" – a caution that the citizens of Troy should have heeded).

About November 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Jacquetta in November 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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