Blog - Unity Behind Diversity

Searching for beauty in the dissonance

Tagged: apple

I’ve Pad Enough — It’s 1984 for Apple

Defective by Design -- Apple Restriction Zone

Just hours before the iPad announcement yesterday, I wrote the following:

When we think of mobile computers as merely “phones,” we tolerate restrictions that we would otherwise reject on our computers. How many iPhone users would come to Apple’s defence if they instituted the same strict policies and arbitrary limitations on third-party applications for a Macbook as they do on their mobile computer?

The iPad is a general purpose computer with precisely those restrictions.

Today, Apple launched a computer that will never belong to its owner… By making a computer where every application is under total, centralized control, Apple is endangering freedom to increase profits… Their record of App Store rejections and removals gives us no reason to trust them. The iPad’s unprecedented use of DRM to control all capabilities of a general purpose computer is a dangerous step backward for computing and for media distribution.

Talk about lockdown. I’m still waiting for them to ban third-party apps on Macbooks that haven’t been approved through the app store. The Vista bodyguard may be annoying, but with new Apple products, there’s simply no “allow” button. Apple has become what it sought to destroy.

It’s worth quoting the rest of that paragraph from yesterday’s blog post:

Recognizing that these devices are really mobile computers is an essential step to gaining control over our mobile computing. Carriers and handset makers control our phones. We should control our own computers.

The same goes for tablets (and for “TVs” for that matter). Say no to computers that can’t be ours.

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Comments (2)

Unlocking An iPhone Is Not Freedom; Zittrain Argues For Civic Technologies

Cato Unbound has an outstanding online debate going on right now about Lawrence Lessig’s book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace as it hits 10 years. Declan McCullagh started things off with a post entitled, “What Larry Didn’t Get,” offering a libertarian critique of Lessig’s approach and accusing him of favouring “technocratic philosopher kings.” Jonathan Zittrain has the latest post, “How To Get What We All Want,” which focuses on the similarities between McCullagh and Lessig and takes a middle ground between libertarianism and government regulation, arguing for civic technologies. Adam Theier has a post going up on Friday, and Lessig himself will have the last word on Monday. I highly suggest you check it out, if you’re at all interested in these issues and haven’t seen it already.

Now, I haven’t yet read Zittrain’s book, The Future of the Internet — And How To Stop It, but from the sorts of things I’ve read about it, I don’t think I share his pessimism. However, one line in his contribution to the debate really resonated with me. After talking about the dangers and limitations of proprietary technologies controlled by vendors (e.g. iPhone, Kindle, Facebook), he remarks:

This is the future of the Internet that I want to stop, and it’s small solace that geeks can avoid it for themselves if they can’t easily bring everyone else with them. [emphasis mine]

I get so frustrated when people rationalize the locked down nature of the iPhone by saying that they can just unlock it. Unlocking an iPhone is not freedom. (1) It still rewards Apple, the maker of the chains, through the purchase; (2) it’s a disservice to the vast majority of people who don’t have the skills to unlock their devices.

I strongly believe that if geeks want to do something useful to solve the problems that Lessig and Zittrain identify, it has to involve supporting free (libre) technologies that don’t have any chains, instead of just buying into proprietary technologies and removing their own chains.

The counterargument to Zittrain’s thesis isn’t a jailbroken iPhone; it’s an OpenMoko Freerunner.

This is why Zittrain holds up Wikipedia as an example of a civic technology; he notes the fact that Wikipedia is licensed freely. Free culture and free software are what produce civic technologies.

I don’t share his pessimism, but I sympathize with his argument for civic technologies.

Civic technologies seek to integrate a respect for individual freedom and action with the power of cooperation. Too often libertarians focus solely on personal freedoms rather than the serious responsibilities we can undertake together to help retain them, while others turn too soon to government regulation to preserve our values. I don’t think .gov and .com never work. I just think we too easily underestimate the possibilities of .org – the roles we can play as netizens rather than merely as voters or consumers.

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Post a Comment

Apple Forgets About the Moron In A Hurry Test, Threatens School With An Apple In Its Logo

[This post originally appeared on Techdirt.]

It was just a few years ago when Apple used the moron in a hurry test to defend itself against a trademark suit, but their own legal department seems to have forgotten about it already. Apple has sent a cease and desist letter to the Victoria School of Business and Technology for the use of a blue and green apple element in their logo. The Canadian school has created a comparison page on their website in an attempt to highlight the differences between the logos, hoping to dissuade Apple from launching a lawsuit by building public support. The page also contains the legal correspondence to date, including a letter in which the school’s president asks if Apple is “suggesting that anyone using any variation of an apple for technology education related use is infringing on Apple’s trademark.”

The legal question is really about consumer confusion, as the Canadian Supreme Court has understood in the past. Trademark law doesn’t grant the holder an exclusive right over every use of a mark, just the right to prevent confusing or misleading use of it. The school is a technology school, but they’re also a school — an apple is a pretty common symbol for education. It seems like “even a moron in a hurry” would recognize the difference between the two logos, especially since the acronym “VSBT” is part of the school’s. The real problem here seems to be the requirement of trademark law that the holder of a mark actively polices its use. This requirement encourages these sorts of cease and desist letters, even if it seems like a comparison between apples and oranges.

[Read the comments on Techdirt.]

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Post a Comment

Why I Won’t Buy An iPhone

I thought I’d celebrate the official launch of the iPhone in Canada by noting a few of the reasons I won’t be caught dead with one.

  • The iPhone isn’t free software, like the Android or OpenMoko. As the FSF points out, why take a device you can’t control when there are devices you can?
  • The iPhone is extremely hostile to GNU/Linux. For previous iPods, developers already had to reverse engineer a proprietary iTunesDB file to sync with programs that aren’t iTunes, but Apple decided to throw a security hash on the iTunesDB file for the iPhone and iPod touch. To help a friend sync her iPhone to her Ubuntu laptop, I needed to unlock the phone (so she could use it in Canada), jailbreak it, install an OpenSSH server, mount the iPhone to the laptop over ssh via WiFi and then sync. If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. Not caring enough to support GNU/Linux is understandable, but throwing up roadblocks for those that will do it for Apple is dumb and insulting.
  • The iPhone is not a truly open platform for developers. There are technical and contractual problems, including apparent incompatibility with free software. The app store seems like a great idea, except that it’s the only way Apple wants developers to create software for the iPhone.
  • Rogers’ ridiculous pricing plans and lame attempts to appease the “very small group of early adopters,” because, you know, no one else wants to browse the web. Though, apparently Rogers didn’t get many phones, in stark contrast to the absolute frenzy here in Australia with three GSM providers all getting healthy stocks of the new device. Serves Rogers right.
  • From a purely technical perspective, it’s not quite there yet. I have three devices: phone, pda, digital audio player. By “there,” I mean that I’d love it if I could reduce that to one device, or even two. It’s a phone, not quite a PDA (I couldn’t use it to take lecture notes like I do with my Palm Pilot), and not quite the digital audio player I’d like (my collection is ~27GB and I use Ogg Vorbis). I’d rather try to get another few years out of my current hardware and let Moore’s Law work a little bit more magic.

However… that FreeRunner is looking pretty good.

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Post a Comment

MacBook Air first to be compromised in hacking contest

In a hacking contest pitting Windows, OS X and GNU/Linux against each other, a MacBook Air was the first machine to go down after just two minutes into the second day. The headline is in several places, but I’m linking to Slashdot because comments like these amuse me at 5:30am:

  • Ah, the pride of 0wnership.
  • the sound of a million fanbois as they screamed Nooooooooooooo i sense a disturbance in the reality distortion generator set comments to flamebait and activate the extra moderation modules captain taco
  • Safari browser has massive security hole.

    It’s funny how they turned a huge hole in the Safari browser into a commercial for the Mac Air.

    “Small size, big holes”

  • The Vista machine would have been hacked quicker if it ran faster
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Post a Comment

Apple TV – Why digital video rentals don’t make sense

Apple’s announcement that they will begin renting films via iTunes seems to me like a small step “ahead” for a struggling service, rather than anything indicative of what true success will be like in the merging area of computers/televisions.

Mike Masnick from Techdirt put it best:

Rentals make sense for physical goods, when you are returning the good at the end so it can be rented out again, but they’re an artificial construct in a world of digital goods.

Why should you have to “return” a digital download? It doesn’t make any sense. Plus, the extra hassle and nuisance of dealing the the Digital Restrictoins Management (DRM) surrounding these video formats is not worth it for the few dollars you might save compared to the price of owning a film. Mike Masnick focuses on the economic impact of other companies, such as Netflix (now offering unlimited downloads – though still encumbered by DRM), competing against Apple TV but not imposing unnecessary and artificial restrictions. If competitors don’t offer something more compelling, countless people still turn to unauthorized downloads which are completely DRM-free. Even if this “rental” model succeeds for Apple TV, it won’t last long and it won’t win out.

Also, renting a video from the old fashioned movie store down the street will avoid (some of) the DRM headaches caused by trying to find a device that will play the video. Good luck with Apple TV. I looked into it briefly over the summer when I was putting together my own home PVR, but the model is entirely locked down. (I opted to use MythTV instead, which has been running just fine on old computers that were previously collecting dust.)

No thanks, Apple. That kind of thinking is defective by design.

What Goes Around

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Post a Comment