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DOA

Deficit of Attention is a blog about nothing which is a fancy way of saying it's about everything; politics, corporate life, religion, personal rants, you name it, I blog it.

You Own Nothing!

Friday, April 29, 2005
I'm on a mailing list for a company called, Linspire. They sell computers with the linux operating system. Their president, Michael Robertson, does a periodic mailing that promotes his company and brings up important issues in regard to linux. His last mailing was really good in that it pointed out a dangerous trend in software and computer hardware, the trend toward "licensing" the use of a product rather than buying it. Here's a quote from his post,
"I want to own my property. I want the liberty to decide what software I use. I want the freedom to listen to music and movies that I pay for on whatever device I want."

Since I don't know where to link to it, I've pasted the rest of it below. It makes for good reading and it's worth thinking about,

You Own Nothing

About a year ago, it was revealed that I was the benefactor for the $200,000 Linux on Xbox project. The goal was to get Linux running on an Xbox without making any hardware changes. Many people perceived the project as a jab at Microsoft. It wasn't. Others thought it was an attempt to get publicity for Linspire. It wasn't (they used another Linux product). In fact, I did it in secret so the focus would be on the technical challenge and the implications of closed hardware. Only after the project leaders begged me to disclose my name because it would bring more attention to the effort did I allow them to tell the press. Though the project did not achieve its full technical goal, still $150,000 was distributed. To me it was money well spent because it raised awareness of the biggest threat to personal ownership in the digital age - DRM (Digital Restrictions Management).

In spite of sharing the insides with a traditional PC, the Xbox has a dramatic and dangerous difference. A PC buyer can install any software or hardware that they wish. They own the machine and can change it to suit their needs - true ownership. There are no limitations. This open architecture is largely responsible for the two-decade personal computer revolution. With an Xbox, the user is merely renting the box. Microsoft decides what software (games) users can load and even how they can use it. When it connects to the net, Microsoft can and has instructed the machine to change its behavior to block certain users, functionality or software that it does not agree with. They are changing the rules after you purchase it to suit their needs and not your needs.

The Xbox served as the training wheels for Microsoft's new Longhorn operating system, which is slipping to a 2007 launch. Like the Xbox, Longhorn will limit what software you can load. In the guise of "security", Microsoft is trying to dramatically change the way PCs work. Instead of the owner deciding what software they want to install and run, Microsoft is seizing that power from them. Under the smokescreen of security, they are pronouncing that it is good for Microsoft to decide what software you can use.

It's the ultimate marketing challenge to explain to the world that turning over more control to Microsoft is an improvement that computer users should desire and pay money for. Microsoft has floated a series of hyper-technical sounding initiatives like Palladium and Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB), each time explaining why it's a good thing for Microsoft to decide what software users should use. Earlier this week, Bill Gates talked about how it was like a "black box flight recorder," a not-so-subtle reference to 9/11 designed to tug on emotions. I leave it to others to comment on whether Microsoft has the security track record to decide what software is secure enough for me to be running. I'm more interested in the liberty and cost issues.

Some of you may be wondering why having choice over software is a "liberty" issue. We are quickly moving to a world where every communication, document, photo, song and movie is digitized and living on a PC or PC-like device. Software is the gateway to access parts of those elements. Without control over the software, there is no control of the underlying digital item. Your access can be taken away or modified at anytime. No control means you do not have ownership. This would be like buying a new home and then finding out that someone else has the keys to the front door and they control your access in and out of the home. You'd hardly feel like a home "owner" in such a situation.

Let me give you a concrete example. The biggest deployment of software control is Apple Computer's iTunes. Unbeknown to most users, all the music purchased from iTunes music store is only accessible from iTunes software because of DRM limitations. Buyers can't decide to listen to their songs on other software or even other hardware devices - Apple decides that, and they can change the rules when it suits them. (Apple states this in their Terms of Use.)

Unfortunately this is not a theoretical risk; it has already happened several times. Apple removed the ability to stream music from your home and office if they are on different networks. They tightened restrictions on how many CDs you can burn. They further clamped down on how many computers can stream the music simultaneously. They've even altered the iTunes software to limiting interoperability with music from competitor Real Networks. The problem is that this change all take place after you purchase the music and will continue to happen whenever it suits Apple. Music buyers are forced to use the new software because of bug fixes, security issues and new music needs they have, forcing users to meekly swallow the arbitrary changes Apple makes, which affects their music purchases. This is analogous to a rental agreement where the landlord can raise the rent, ban pets, or change other rules on a moment's notice. Now imagine this same corporate control over every document, photo, video as well as music file. This is what Microsoft will have and more if they can dictate what software can be run on your PC with their upcoming operating system.

I want to own my property. I want the liberty to decide what software I use. I want the freedom to listen to music and movies that I pay for on whatever device I want. I might like iTunes today, Windows Media tomorrow and Lsongs next year. I want that choice. The world needs consumers to have that choice so they will always be treated fairly. If consumers lose the choice they become locked into one vendor and lose control over the digital products they had purchased and assumed they "owned."

I don't think Apple or Microsoft are intentionally evil. I just think that corporations cannot resist the urge to block competitors and squeeze customers at every turn. If Microsoft controls what software I can run, they will charge a lot of money for that software because I will be locked in. If Apple has control, they will make it only work on their hardware, which won't be cheap. I don't want any company - even Linspire - controlling my digital world. If a corporation controls my PC, my software or how I use my digital property, then I really don't own it. Historian Lord Acton said it best:

"The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern... Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Linspire, MP3.com, SIPphone, MP3tunes, and all the other companies I am or have been involved with have steadfastly stood for open standards. I will continue to champion choice for consumers so each of us truly can own and control our property, including the portfolio of digital property consumers are acquiring in today's ever-expanding digital world.


-- Michael
=============

You can read past posts from Michael here.

Your Inner Packrat

One of my least admirable qualities is that I'm a packrat; I collect stuff on the offchance that I will someday be able to use it. I offer as proof the following:
  • I have my very first driver's license - but that's not the proof of packratism the proof is that I also have every other ID card from every year of school from my freshman year through graduate school. I've been out of graduate school for 17 years.

  • I still have the license plate from a car that I sold 10 years ago. It isn't a vanity plate, just a run of the mill license plate. Why do I keep it? I have no idea.

  • I have some floppy disks from my commodore 64 computer. I don't have the computer anymore and they're 5.25" disks.

Now that I've established myself as a true packrat, let me lead you down the path to the "dark side" of packratism.

It's called Delicious and I've only known about it for 2 or 3 months, but it's changed the way I surf the net. Delicious is an online bookmark manager. When you come to some website that you'd like to bookmark you hit the link you've setup on your tool bar and up comes the Delicious interface. You then make up a tag, any tag you'd like, to assign to the bookmark. In this way you are able to build up a robust list of all the sites you think are useful or interesting. I love delicious. Yet, it really brings out the packrat in me.


If you look at my tags, you get a sense that this could be addictive. There's so much out there on the net that could be useful. If you're a packrat, you have that inner voice encouraging you to constantly bookmark things in delicious. Afterall, you may want to re-visit that site again for it's "vital" information.

My tags are:

bible blogger blogs books_i_want business cellphone cheatsheets check_later check_out code comics cool css daily daniel delicious design design_examples download eap economic_dev flash free_pics get_a_job get_stuff gmail google govt_resource hacks html javascript ldap magazines milblogs milblogs2 mozilla nice_design pet_stuff photoshop powerpoint propaganda religion research roseweb rss rules_of_thumb scooter sitecounter software sources soviet special_forces urban_exploration village_govt village_websites weird wiki wiki_knowledge yagohoogle!

One of the neat things about delicious is that you can see what sites others have assigned to those same tags. For example, I have a tag that I call "code". I can see the sites that everyone else has tagged Code. Then there's a tag called, Daily.

I try to keep the packrat thing under control. The last time I got a new toothbrush I hesitated before throwing the old one out. Hey, it could be useful for cleaning the tile in the bathroom. Fortunately, I realized that I had to draw the line somewhere and tossed it in the garbage. Check out Delicious, it's pretty cool.

Too Many RINO's?

Thursday, April 28, 2005
President Bush is scheduled to deliver a press conference tonight and it's about time. Although conservatives won the election, there hasn't been much to celebrate lately.

Yes, the war in Iraq seems to be moving in a positive direction and democracy is breaking out in various places. But on the domestic front there hasn't been much progress. Not all of it is the President's fault. Much of the blame rests on the republicans in congress who don't seem to know what to do with their increased power.

Democrats may have lost the election for the most part but in the media they're still alive and well. Media partisanship hasn't gone away with the election and it continues to hamstring both the president and his republican colleagues. Somehow the message on the President's key issues has to get out and it isn't.

As a Grouchy Neocon I've been a little dismayed at the tepid reaction of both the president and congress on some important issues:
  • The Border - It's ludicrous to spend vast amounts of time and money overhauling the intelligence community and then fail to stem the tide of illegal immigrants coming across our borders. The next terrorist and his cell of supporters may very well come across the border undetected - they may already be here and yet nothing is done.
  • Social Security - It's my money and I want it back. Allowing me to invest a paltry portion of it is the least the government can do. Yet, the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy including AARP would rather let government take care of my money. They'll take care of it and I won't end up seeing much of it. Word needs to get out about this much more effectively. Where is congress on this and why does it seem like this is a solo effort on the part of the President?
  • Judges - The most influential legacy any President can leave is judicial appointments. Why is it taking so long to overcome Democrat's finagling on this issue? Republicans in congress are too scared of the public opinion polls to do the right thing on this. Those public opinion polls are sponsored by the same media that tried to elect John Kerry. If the Democrats were in the majority, the rules would've already been changed to allow for an up or down vote on every nominee.
  • Energy - In the paper the other day was a picture of the President literally holding hands with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The Saudis aren't our friends. We need to remove our dependence on foreign oil ASAP and if we're going to subsidize the defense of Saudi Arabia and most of Europe then we need to see something for it. High gas prices strangle our economy.
  • China - Not much has been said about them but they continue to eye Taiwan. They need to know in no uncertain terms that we will defend that democracy aggressively. America needs to wake up to this growing threat before it's too late.
A lot of work needs to be done in Washington and Republicans need to get to work and stop worrying about polls. I hope the President can turn the tide in this battle but I'm not expecting too much. I suppose things could be worse. John Kerry could be President. It makes me shudder just to think of it.

Sexy, Single and Christian

Monday, April 25, 2005
Maybe it's my age. I'm at that point in life where a lot of people I know are getting divorced and/or remarried. They seem to find new partners pretty quickly and that isn't necessarily bad.

There's something that's been bothering me though. It's the fact that many of these people are Christians - people who know the doctrine of their church, who know what it says in the bible about certain things, yet they are content to live with and presumably sleep with their new partner, prospective new spouse.

Maybe you are a member of a religion that doesn't frown on premarital sex and thinks it's perfectly okay for people to live together before marriage. If so, then you're in the minority. All of the major Christian denominations with which I'm familiar explicitly forbid it.

Yet these people continue to act as if what they are doing is perfectly okay. They attend church regularly - certainly a good thing for anyone, even those "living in sin", but you'd think they might be a little embarrased to show up at church after rolling out of the sack with their boyfriend/girlfriend.

I suppose there are worse things people could be doing and at mid-life, especially having been married before, it might be a little difficult to refrain from premarital sex. I don't know about your experience but it was tough enough to refrain the first time around at the age of 18 with hormones raging. I suppose that being intimate with each other comes more naturally the next time around. Fortunately, I don't know about this from firsthand experience since I'm happily married to my first wife.

Regardless of a person's past history there are still problems with the practice of living together before you are married. For one thing, it becomes awfully difficult to expect your children to wait for marriage since they've clearly seen that you didn't. For another, there's the risk that this new relationship isn't permanent and will vanish as quickly as it became established. Then there's the effect that blithely ignoring your conscience will have on your spiritual life.

(This is one of those points where I'm glad this is an anonymous blog. ) I happen to be one of those guys who loves sex. My wife swears I'm obsessed with it. I think I'm probably pretty normal in this regard. But as much as I love sex, I love my kids even more. If, for some reason, I wasn't with my wife any longer (something I hope never happens) and I got a new girlfriend, I would wait before being intimate with her or moving in together. I want my children to experience the best that God has to offer and to teach them any differently would be totally unacceptable to me as a parent.

So, why is it that so many other people don't seem to care about this?

Character and High Office: John Bolton

Saturday, April 23, 2005
I believe the truest measure of a man is how he treats people with whom he doesn't have to be nice. Anyone can be a shameless suckup to those in power or even those of equal power, but to be nice to someone underneath you is the best test.

I'm not in favor of John Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the UN. In fact, I wouldn't want the guy to be head dog catcher. The reason is that he seems to treat people beneath him like dirt. The fact that he reminds me of a walrus is just icing on the cake.

The Democrats have tried to "Bork" this guy but I think there's more to the case than partisan politics. There's the testimony of, Carl Ford, a former colleague at the State Department and a firm Bush supporter, "Secretary Bolton chose to reach five or six levels below him in the bureaucracy, bring an analyst into his office and give him a tongue-lashing..." [source] The former ambassador to South Korea also had some choice words about Mr. Bolton according to the Chicago Sun Times, "As it resumed digging into Bolton's past, the Foreign Relations panel received accusations of confrontation and undiplomatic behavior from Hubbard, who retired from the foreign service last year and joined a Washington law firm." [Source] Add to that a letter from 60 retired diplomats opposing his nomination and this is definitely more than just the mud-slinging of Democrats.

We've all met people like John Bolton. We've probably all had bosses, teachers, or co-workers like him. Often they seem to get ahead despite their lack of character. Well, this is one guy that I hope will finally get stopped.

I only wish GWB would've checked this guy out a little better before they nominated him to this post. It was an unfortunate decision.

Super Genius

Thursday, April 21, 2005
My boss, the ceo, is a freakin' genius. How do I know this? Well, it's because he always knows everything. No doubts whatsoever. The energy crisis? He's got the answer. Problems with the education system? Just ask him. He knows.

Maybe I sound a little bitter. Maybe I am. The problem comes when I'm supposed to follow his orders. He's the boss and what the boss says is the way it has to be. I don't have a problem with that. The real problem here is respect. I don't respect someone that never has any doubts.

I think such people are generally idiots. Not that my boss is an idiot. He's a very smart and successful man. But he never has doubts, at least none that I've ever heard him express. Someone like that is a catastrophe - maybe even several catastrophe's waiting to happen.

I have doubts all the time and there are many occasions where I've had to admit I was wrong. I consider the willingness to admit that you don't know everything a mark of character. There's a whole lot of people running around without any character - I just wish I didn't have to work for one of them.

Popus Interruptus

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Everything's about the Pope these days. It's pope-this and pope-that. People who aren't even Catholic seem to be interested in the goings-on at the Vatican.

I'm not Catholic but I don't have anything against the Pope. It's just that after Pope John Paul II died - actually it was even before he was dead - there was constant coverage of him. Turning on the TV was like watching POPE-TV, "all pope all the time". I imagine he was a pretty good guy, but nobody's that good.

Now there's a new pope. Pope Benedict XVI. I guess he's real conservative which in today's culture means that he actually believes the basic tenents of the Catholic faith. But I see a lot of people on the news complaining about the Pope's beliefs. My response to them would be, "Quit your whining! You know the basic beliefs and he's the guy who's supposed to stand up for them. He's standing up for them and you are complaining? If you don't like the Catholic beliefs, don't be a Catholic! Start your own religion!"

I'm protestant and I freely admit I don't understand Catholicism. The centralized nature of it strikes me as being very european and that's not a good thing. I don't see anywhere in the bible where it says there should be a pope, cardinals, etc, let alone anything about funny hats and funky looking outfits.

Besides some key theological differences I think Catholics have a lot in common with bible believing protestants. So in that vein, I hope Pope Benedict is successful.