Cisco provides a lesson

In my last blog post, I made a public stink about language in a so-called Declaration of Internet Freedom, which turned out to be some libertarians attempting to expand and develop the ideas in this Declaration of Internet Freedom. Mostly they did pretty well, except for one sentence they got completely wrong: “Open systems and networks aren’t always better for consumers. ”

That’s wrong. Open systems are better, always. Cisco has just provided us with a perfect lesson in why that sentence is completely backwards, and why we can never trust closed-source software vendors not to do evil under the cover of their code secrecy.

For those of you who have missed the news, last a few days Cisco pushed a firmware update to several of its most popular routers that bricked the device unless you signed up for Cisco’s “cloud” service. To sign up, you had to agree to the following restrictions:

When you use the Service, we may keep track of certain information related to your use of the Service, including but not limited to the status and health of your network and networked products; which apps relating to the Service you are using; which features you are using within the Service infrastructure; network traffic (e.g., megabytes per hour); internet history; how frequently you encounter errors on the Service system and other related information (“Other Information”).

So in order to continue using the hardware you bought and paid for and own, you have to agree to let Cisco snoop your browser history and monitor your traffic – a clickstream they would of course instantly turn around and sell to advertising agencies and other snoops. Those terms are so loose (“including but not limited to”) that they could legally read your email and sell that data too.

Disgusted enough yet? Wait, it gets better. The cloud terms of service also includes this gem:

You agree not to use or permit the use of the Service: (i) to invade another’s privacy; (ii) for obscene, pornographic, or offensive purposes; (iii) to infringe another’s rights, including but not limited to any intellectual property rights; (iv) to upload, email or otherwise transmit or make available any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, spam, junk mail or any other form of solicitation; (v) to transmit or otherwise make available any code or virus, or perform any activity, that could harm or interfere with any device, software, network or service (including this Service); or (vi) to violate, or encourage any conduct that would violate any applicable law or regulation or give rise to civil or criminal liability.

Translated out of lawyerese, this gives Cisco the right to brick your router if you use it to view anything Cisco considers pornography, or do anything that it might consider IP theft – like, say, bit-torrenting a movie. Or even if you send anything it considers unsolicited advertising – which doesn’t have to mean bulk spam, see “any other form of solicitation”?

The sum of these paragraphs is: “We control your digital life. We can spy on you, we can filter your traffic, we can cut off your net access unilaterally if you do anything we don’t like, and you have no recourse.”

And why can they do that? Because there’s a blob of closed-source software in that router that you can’t modify, that only Cisco can modify. You don’t own it, it owns you.

When I wrote yesterday of closed source trapping users at the wrong end of an asymmetrical power relationship, that was abstract. This is concrete – this is the shit getting real. This is why anyone who makes excuses for closed source in network-facing software is not just a fool deluded by shiny marketing but a malignant idiot whose complicity with what those vendors do will injure his neighbors as well as himself.

Now, if you have been following the news, maybe you’ve heard that Cisco backed off from the most egregious language in these terms of service under public pressure. Reassured? Don’t be – because Cisco keeps its control of the software and reserves the right to change the terms of service whenever it likes.

Cisco could change the terms of its service to give it even more sweeping and arbitrary privileges at any time. Or Apple could do that, or Microsoft could. The power relationship remains dangerously asymmetrical; the closed source remains their instrument of control over you.

This is why you should demand open source in your router, open source in your operating system, and open source in any application software that is important to your life. Because if you don’t own it, it will surely own you.

This is also why people who make excuses for or actively advocate closed-source OSs and network software (and yes, Apple/iOS fanboys, I’m looking at you) are not merely harmlessly misguided cultists. They are enemies of liberty – enablers and accomplices before the fact in vendor schemes to spy on you, control you, and imprison you. Treat them, and the vendors they worship, accordingly.

367 thoughts on “Cisco provides a lesson

  1. To me the red flag wasn’t porn or IP theft, but the term “offensive purposes.” These days that’s the excuse for all sorts of speech restrictions. “Our records show you recently emailed a link to a column by John Derbyshire….”

    But I don’t agree with your conclusions. I think it’s a series of big leaps to go from “what the lawyerese in the EULA says Cisco can do,” to “what Cisco planned/tried to do,” all the way to “what Apple and all closed-source vendors will do.” After all, this was in the EULA, it got exposed, and Cisco backpedaled PDQ. Seems like the system worked.

    (No, I am not much concerned about the fact that they reserve the right to change the terms of service whenever they want, which is more boilerplate from the lawyers. Everybody has to say that. They still have to get people to agree to a new EULA. If they go too far again, why won’t the result be the same?)

    I consider myself a friend of liberty (even with my iPhone, iPod, and MacBook), but try to acknowledge the balancing forces and not get too worked up about what “could happen” in extremis. I am similarly unworried about something that freaks out my liberal friends: “OMG, Citizens United means the rich will buy every election and usher in plutocratic tyranny!” I believe there are balancing forces that will also prevent that outcome.

  2. >I believe there are balancing forces that will also prevent that outcome.

    All the apologetics in the world don’t change the fact that you are willing for Apple’s closed source to remain in place as an instrument of control, not only over yourself but over others. You are, thus, an enemy of liberty. Your actions speak louder than your words.

  3. Pingback: Your electronic liberty under assault! « Phil Edwards

  4. It’s a trade-off. I am willing to sacrifice some liberty (my theoretical ability to read and modify Apple’s source code) in exchange for an operating system that I prefer. I want the computer screens I use to look good to me, and to work in ways I can (usually) easily understand. OS X and iOS do that for me. I sincerely wish you and all open source advocates luck, in part because you keep necessary pressure on Apple and others. The struggle between camps forces evolution and benefits all users. But in my opinion the distributed nature of open source makes it impossible to produce an Apple-level quality of user experience. I’d be happy to proven wrong, though.

    (Of course, this is all from my point of view. I can fully understand how a hardcore hacker would rile at Apple’s restrictions, or why the Third Worlder with his first phone wouldn’t want to pay for anything beyond the cheapest Android.)

  5. The power asymmetry in the case of a consumer router isn’t all that bad, for the simple reason that I can always just chuck it in the dumpster on any whim. Having my authentication credentials altered by an automatic firmware upgrade would be a very likely trigger for such a whim…

  6. I think I am gaining liberty by getting a computer and smartphone I find easier and more pleasant to use, in exchange for some open source liberty I would not probably use. Such trade-offs happen all the time: I also give up my anonymity in exchange for a driver’s license. I would prefer to not give up open source liberty or any other kind, but life is full of compromises. I don’t think it would be possible for Apple to do the good things they do if they were 100% open source, and those good things seem like a net positive for liberty.

  7. >I think I am gaining liberty by getting a computer and smartphone I find easier and more pleasant to use, in exchange for some open source liberty I would not probably use.

    And by funding Apple and advocating for their products – or doing likewise for any other closed source vendor of critical-path software – you are endangering other peoples’ liberty and are an enemy of that liberty. Cisco has just demonstrated this for all to see, in letters of fire nine feet high.

  8. A big problem for me as an (online) customer is, that I don’t know when the terms of services (ToS) changes. Nor is it easy for me to see quickly what the changes are.

    Is there a online service to keep track of changes in ToS or any other online document?

  9. Note that when I speak of “critical-path software” I am specifically referring to software that sits on a communications chokepoint – your router firmware, your computer or smartphone operating system, your browser, your mailer.

    This is the threat axis that Cisco has demonstrated. With other sorts of software there is less danger. It would be silly and excessive to call anyone an enemy of liberty for, say, playing Angry Birds. We can only solve this problem if we remain clear what the problem is – closed-source control of critical-path software.

  10. Except that Cisco was quickly shot down, so how much of a danger was it?

  11. >Except that Cisco was quickly shot down, so how much of a danger was it?

    The danger remains as long as the closed-source power asymmetry is in place. The capability to monitor, sensor, and control is dangerous in itself because it corrupts the people and organizations that have it.

  12. >A big problem for me as an (online) customer is, that I don’t know when the terms of services (ToS) changes.

    The vendors do their best to obscure such changes, making them at times and in ways that are difficult for you to notice and process. This is one of the ways in which they use the power asymmetry to increase information asymmetry (things they know that you don’t) which in turn further increases their power over you.

    Some past attempts to set up TOS clearinghouses have been shut down by IP lawsuits on a theory that the TOS is intellectual property of the vendor and cannot be reproduced without their consent.

    The only way to win this game is not to play – to get out of the closed-source trap and stay out.

  13. I don’t see it as fatally asymmetrical. The countervailing power (asymmetrical in its own way) is distributed among the customers for whom these corporations compete. When customers revolt over what Cisco wants them to agree to, Cisco loses. As long as there is a certain degree of transparency (e.g. it’s in the EULA), and there are no legally-enforced monopolies, why can’t unacceptable monitoring, censoring, or controlling be stopped by customer pressure?

  14. I would totally support any change in the law needed to ensure that any TOS could be reproduced at some sort of clearinghouse. That seems totally reasonable.

  15. The scary thing for me is that Cisco routers are all over the net. Most telecommunication companies use them. Our data passes through these gadgets every time we use the internet.

    I suppose data encryption is the answer.

  16. >It’s a trade-off. I am willing to sacrifice some liberty (my theoretical ability to read and modify Apple’s source code) in exchange for an operating system that I prefer.

    “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little
    temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Frnaklin

    The fact that you are giving up liberty for convenience doesn’t earn you any respect from anyone rational.

  17. Anyone who is not a pretty extreme libertarian is either a thug, a would-be thug, a coward, or just not paying attention to the real world (or an idiot, someone incapable of paying attention).

  18. The key words there are “essential” and “temporary.” I don’t feel I am giving up essential liberty. And I’ll bet you have a drivers license or some other infringement on your liberty for the sake of your convenience. Should I not respect you because of that?

  19. I think extremist thinking in any ideology, including the ones I usually agree with, is a mark of immaturity and creates mental blinders. Reality is more complex than any ideology can encompass, and any of them, applied at 100% strength to everything, will create absurdities. Extremism also makes it hard to achieve the messy and impure compromises that must be made in any democracy.

    (I would like to note that many of my friends out here perceive me as an extremist libertarian…!)

  20. I think you guys are way off base on this one..
    Several reasons.. all my personal opinions but here it goes..
    1) The control you talk about, Cisco wanting to control “your router”, is about trying to give consumers a more centralized way to control “your router” in a more intuitive way, hopefully that’s guided by consumer vision (and the backlash that’s evident here) rather than a pan-galactic paranoia about corporate hegemony.
    2) I have a cisco router, and i don’t see my router being hijacked. haven’t seen it before, I haven’t seen it now, i doubt i’ll see it later. This is my home router/switch, and i want to keep it that way.
    3) If you’re buying new routers from cisco AND if you watch the fine print on the product, you’d undoubtably not buy one if it said anything about you losing control. If it does say it, and if you still buy it, that’s your fault.
    4) If it doesn’t say it, but you sign up for centralized or cloud based control of your router, without reading the fine print on your “cloud signup”, then you’re at fault, not the manufacturer(s).
    5) You still have control. Turn it OFF and return IT.
    6) Cisco’s consumer business, if you’ve heard their quarterly earnings statements, especially the division that makes consumer routers and switches (ala the linksys router that is being talked about here), is hardly the policy maker of the company, with less than 1 % of the revenue. Get real. There’s no conspiracies here. Move on. Get something else to bite on. This fox-news chasing paradigm is getting old.

  21. Pingback: This is in response to the ridiculous claim about cisco router hijacking « lapax on stuff: caveat lector

  22. > And I’ll bet you have a drivers license or some other infringement on your liberty for the sake of your convenience.

    Hahaha!

  23. Note that Cisco’s wording seems to be aimed at interacting with the cloud service itself, not the traffic that passes through your router. The TOS says:

    > These Terms of Service create an agreement between you and Cisco Consumer Products LLC (“Cisco”) regarding your use of the Cisco Connect Cloud service, including any apps that facilitate use of the Cisco Connect Cloud service (“Service”).

    Provided my interpretation of what “Service” means, Cisco’s ToS are pretty standard for any online service, and should only cover your specific interaction with the service, and not your general Internet traffic.

    Now, that doesn’t mean I think this new approach to router firmware in any way is acceptable, because it gives Cisco the right to partially or fully revoke your own access to whatever device you have purchased from them.

    Please observe the screenshots posted in this reddit comment: http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/w1ami/cisco_updates_their_firmware_bricks_devices/c59haag

    According to those screenshots, if you are unable to connect to Cisco’s cloud service, either because you have no Internet connection, or because Cisco has shut you out of the service, you lose access to most of the functionality of your router.

    Now, this is problematic for several reasons:

    A router is a bit of infrastructure, and I am not at all willing to be identified by name for simply using such a device. Nor do I think it’s a particularly good idea to keep the router’s configuration online. The configuration of my personal network is what I would consider “sensitive data”

    Further, as far as I can see, me ordering a router on line from a third party, or buying it in a store can not constitute a legal agreement or contract between me and Cisco. The user did not sign a contract agreeing to a certain set of terms when buying the device, nor did he/she have any chance of reviewing such terms at the time of purchase. That Cisco then goes ahead and automatically updates the user’s firmware, severely crippling the device from it’s original configuration, unless the user agrees to new terms of service, is nothing short of lawsuit-worthy. If I had owned one of the affected devices, I would have taken Cisco to small-claims court to get a full refund.

    Yes, I know that, technically, a user can download a non-cloud version of the firmware, but this is an opt-out solution that requires a fair bit of technical know-how that _most users_ don’t possess, and possibly an international phone-call or two, which has costs associated with it.

  24. @esr: Your position of “Open source is always better for the consumer than closed source” implies that not using the computer at all is better for the consumer than using the computer with closed source. Do you intend this implication?

  25. @PapayaSF

    The liberty you’re giving up isn’t just your “theoretical ability to read and modify Apple’s source code”. In my opinion, the more important liberty you’re giving up is the ability to run the application software of your choice on your device(s). For obvious reasons, this is related to, but not identical to giving up control over your device operating system. If you think your choice to give up this additional liberty isn’t being used against you, you haven’t been paying attention.

  26. To me, the only reasonable counter position, which i twice tried to put into a comment but canceled the post, is that while we may have all the evidence in the world to say closed is worse for consumers, that still doesn’t lead to declaring a victory for open by fiat. Free will still trumps all.

    To me, freedom is the ability to make decisions that only directly affect you, regardless of whether someone thinks its a good idea despite the consequences.

  27. @PapayaSF: The key words there are “essential” and “temporary.

    The ability to control the devices you own is pretty damn essential. It does not mean you should reject all the devices which have binary blobs in them. The ability to install CyanogenMod or OpenWRT is a good substitute for free firmware “out of the box”. Even with CyanogenMod you are not really 100% free – but you are as free as you can be without change of the law.

    RMS write good article on subject very recently: http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4371

    @PapayaSF: And I’ll bet you have a drivers license or some other infringement on your liberty for the sake of your convenience.

    Sorry, but you mixing “convenience” and “possibility”. Without a driving license you CAN NOT drive a car (not for long, at least) – government guarantees that. You may try to change the law but as long as law stays in place you NEED it to drive – and in a lot of situation the ability to drive is life and death difference thus this ability can hardly be called “convenience”.

    If you explain why the use of iPhone is life or death choice for you then I’ll agree that such use can be justified (for example if you are in a desert without a car and the only means of communication is iPhone which your found in abandoned oasis then I’ll not fault you for the use of it).

    But if it’s merely the ability to play with prettier pictures then yes, it pretty much fits the definition of “little temporary safety” which you gen in exchange to “essential liberty”.

    @PapayaSF: I think extremist thinking in any ideology, including the ones I usually agree with, is a mark of immaturity and creates mental blinders.

    Exactly. Comparison of drive license (which takes very little from your freedom and gives you valuable ability in exchange) to iPhone (which gives you pretty pictures and basically nothing else but restricts your freedom in very tangible way) is exactly such thinking.

    If iPhone is imposed on your (not even extreme life-or-death case but, e.g. when you need to use iPhone because your job offer requires use of iPhone-only app) then it’s one thing, if it’s your own choice – it’s another. Life is not black and white, sometimes you are forced to give up some freedoms to save others, but if you buy an iPhone then you collaborationist. You may be reluctant collaborationist or enthusiastic one – and there are huge difference between these.

  28. @Ravi: Point taken, but I have yet to discover iPhone software that I need Apple denies me.

    @JonCB: Yes.

    @khim: A driver’s license is a convenience in the sense that you can also walk, bike, or get a cab or a bus or a friend to drive you. Of course iOS or OS X are not “life or death.” They are, to me, the difference between a (usually) pleasant experience and an unpleasant one. That has a value to me. It’s more than “pretty pictures,” and the freedom I lose is only potential or intangible or unimportant to me (so far).

    As for “collaboration,” I am collaborating with the company that revolutionized computing with (among others) the Apple ][, the Mac, OS X, the iPhone, and the iPad. Without those things, where would GUIs and smartphones and tablets be today? Android and Linux and Windows would all have worse user experiences than they already do. Apple has made immense contributions to liberty, in the practical sense of enabling people to use empowering technology, and in showing the way for other efforts (including open source) to follow.

  29. >Some past attempts to set up TOS clearinghouses have been shut down by IP lawsuits on a theory that the TOS is intellectual property of the vendor and cannot be reproduced without their consent.

    For me, the ToS doesn’t have to be archived for public view. I archive a copy for my private use. It just has to be scanned on a regular base to detect changes.
    This could be done by a online service.

  30. “And by funding Apple and advocating for their products – or doing likewise for any other closed source vendor of critical-path software – you are endangering other peoples’ liberty and are an enemy of that liberty. Cisco has just demonstrated this for all to see, in letters of fire nine feet high.”

    I do beg your pardon, esr, but, bullshit. Not the first quoted sentence, the second. I take extreme issue with the “letters of fire nine feet high” part. ‘Letters nine feet high’ is like the stuff happening in Syria at the moment. Cisco is trying (note continuing use of the present tense) the “letters in 8pt legalese buried in a licence agreement” approach, which is less bloody, but insidious, much, much more odious, and much more likely to work.

  31. Addendum (sorry, can multi-posts be merged?) – I’m sorry that “letters in 8pt legalese” makes for less dramatic copy. But that very lack of drama is another reason for concern.

  32. @Simon Smith
    IMO people nowadays have to exaggerate in order to get their point across. Until someone writes a pledge of “not exaggerating things” and people start to sign it (and I can start reading texts only written by such people), such toning down of affirmations now and then restores my faith on the interwebz.

  33. I agree that vendor takeover of routing rules in my router is something I’d be outraged over, and would have me marching to a store for a refund. Or joining a class-action to get a refund.

    But both times you’ve said “open networks”, I’ve thought “open access”. ISPs aren’t the only people with networks. *I* have a network. I have a router at my network gateway which disallows ingress traffic unless I allow it, or unless it’s related to existing egress traffic. Since I use IPv6, this is critically important for some blanket level of network security protecting my network hosts from script kiddies and the like.

    When you say “open networks”, you need to be very clear what you mean. I want to be in control of the hosts and hardware running on my network, and any traffic coming in or out of my network should be subject to agreements between me and my neighbor networks.

    Now, most people are in an asymmetric relationship with their neighbor network; Comcast is going to be far, far larger than most of their cable internet customers. Taking “open networks” to the extreme would give Comcast the right to expect to reach any host within their customers’ networks.

    So, no, “open networks” are not always in the best interests of _anybody_. If they were, we wouldn’t have firewalls. It may be picking nits, but some nits need to be picked.

  34. >why can’t unacceptable monitoring, censoring, or controlling be stopped by customer pressure?

    Say, I have a great idea! Let’s have laws allowing the government to censor everything you write, confiscate your firearms, and drain your bank account on a whim. Surely voter pressure will prevent these bad things from actually happening.

  35. @esr
    “Surely voter pressure will prevent these bad things from actually happening.”

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance

    There are no shortcuts to freedom. Neither from Libertarianism, nor from Democracy, nor from Anarchism (armed or not).

  36. ESR,

    I understand your sentiments but you are forgetting Saas which gives the whole thing a wholly different perspective. I am in the ERP business and I know how reluctant companies are to cough up like $50K up front for a say 30 users licence and another $50K for implementation services. OK, one solution is to have it OS and then you can scratch the licence cost and compete down the service cost. Fine, but there is another model spreading: you just use it as an online service, pay $1000 a month, going up with implementation services, and theoretically at least you can switch without having to throw out your investment if you are unhappy with it. This model is spreading, and in this model it is an entirely moot point whether the software itself is open because you don’t even have the software to begin with, you just use it as a service.

    So beside open an closed software, SaaS is a third kind of software with the same problems, even bigger problems, as closed software.

    However while closed software may be easy for open source to outcompete, Saas not – because anyone can take any open source software and provide it as a Saas. So they are not in any kind if disadvantage. Make the best open source ERP in the world and if you want $30K for implementation, you will be beaten in the competition by someone who offers it as a service of $500 a month. And then boom, you have exactly the same problems, even worse problems, as with closed source.

  37. A fine essay for the day after Independence Day 2012. Like most good patriots you have stirred up quite a controversy. Excellent.

  38. @khim
    “Comparison of drive license (which takes very little from your freedom and gives you valuable ability in exchange) to iPhone (which gives you pretty pictures and basically nothing else but restricts your freedom in very tangible way)”

    If the iPhone, as you say, only gives you pretty pictures, why would it matter, then? What tangible restriction of your freedom is to deny your access to pretty pictures? Surely even less than the “convenience” of driving. This would be the “Angry Birds” ESR is talking about when mentioning “acceptable” (wording mine) cases of using closed source software.
    ESR is angry _because_ he thinks the iPhone matters. I’d hazard a guess and say because a smartphone could control your communications and access to the open internet just as well as a router.

  39. Say, I have a great idea! Let’s have laws allowing the government to censor everything you write, confiscate your firearms, and drain your bank account on a whim. Surely voter pressure will prevent these bad things from actually happening.

    Indeed. Best not to put yourself in a position like this in the first place. Remember, you have to win every time but they only need to get lucky once. And they have a lot more time on their hands…

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance

    And if history has taught us *anything* at all, it’s that the sooner the vigilance is applied the better it is for everyone.

    There are no shortcuts to freedom. Neither from Libertarianism, nor from Democracy, nor from Anarchism (armed or not).

    Indeed. But there *is* defensive depth. Avoid brittleness and single points of failure.

  40. >ESR is angry _because_ he thinks the iPhone matters. I’d hazard a guess and say because a smartphone could control your communications and access to the open internet just as well as a router.

    That is correct.

  41. >Best not to put yourself in a position like this in the first place.

    Indeed. PapayaSF calls himself a libertarian, apparently sincerely, and yet when it comes to Apple he embraces the exact kind of subject position he would vociferously reject if a government were insisting on installing a closed-source blob of monitoring software on his router.

    This is why I keep describing Apple fanboys as cultists. It’s like they’re hypnotized by the shiny and their critical faculties shut down.

  42. @esr: Isn’t it feasible to have a Unix based box running as a home/small-medium business router? I’m thinking a Raspberry Pi-like running, say, OpenBSD ought to do the trick for a low-cost, open source router.

  43. “PapayaSF on Thursday, July 5 2012 at 2:17 am said:

    Except that Cisco was quickly shot down, so how much of a danger was it?
    esr on Thursday, July 5 2012 at 2:21 am said:

    >Except that Cisco was quickly shot down, so how much of a danger was it?

    The danger remains as long as the closed-source power asymmetry is in place. The capability to monitor, sensor, and control is dangerous in itself because it corrupts the people and organizations that have it.”

    I think it is incorrect to portray Cisco as having backed down here.

    So far, Cisco has done two things in reaction to the outcry:

    1. They clarified some of the language in the Cloud Connect agreement and wrote a blog post claiming they don’t collect and share data even though the agreement apparently gives them the right to do so.

    2. They offered instructions on how to revert routers to an older version of software and disable updates — although they also made it very clear this is also likely to be a feature downgrade (presumably future development for the router will be focused on Cloud Connect): “By downgrading your firmware to Cisco Connect 1.4 you are not able to take full advantage of your new EA Series Router.”

    This seems like a total Facebook move — make some radical change, blame the customers for being confused, and at the end of the day the average non-technical user just goes along with it not realizing just how much they’re handing over to Cisco.

  44. Pingback: Cisco “updates” consumer routers to allow tracking of internet usage, automatic bricking for terms & conditions violations « Quotulatiousness

  45. “and yet when it comes to Apple he embraces the exact kind of subject position he would vociferously reject if a government were insisting on installing a closed-source blob of monitoring software on his router.”

    Well, it’s a bit easier to buy a different phone or router than to pack up and emigrate. Plus, most governments are kind of doing the same stuff.

  46. My single largest gripe with Cisco/Linksys and the other companies that follow the same business model is that they use the software that we write in their products, and then they refuse to make the code and their modifications readily available.

    With Cisco in particular, they will release one or two “versions” of the source code for a device’s “firmware” but then won’t bother to release the changes for the later versions (let alone all the versions). Cisco also has a nasty habit of then discontinuing all support for the hardware, which then means people are stuck using hardware that contains software with security flaws. (No, I’m not just talking about wireless routers here, and most of their products don’t work with Tomato.)

    Even when they do release /some/ source code, key modifications, components or tools are generally missing, so there often isn’t enough there to actually build a new “firmware” image for the device. While Cisco will call the software “firmware”, under the hood it is actually a full fledged operating system based on the Linux kernel…

    This isn’t just an issue with “consumer” devices — they do the exact same thing with commercial grade equipment as well.

    While the Software Freedom Conservancy and the Open Compliance Program from the The Linux Foundation can help force some companies to release source code and get in compliance, many companies don’t see it in their best interests money-wise to bother staying in compliance. They see it as less expensive not to bother with compliance issues, and then just release a little bit of source code here and there to keep people from taking action, and/or release some additional source code when people make a fuss. While it is a calculated legal risk, it has been working out for them because these companies naturally have deeper pockets than either the end users or the people who wrote the software that they are using.

  47. @iajrz

    It certainly is. People make fun of me sometimes for my choice of “router”, which is currently a Pentium 233MMX with 512MB* of ram and 4x 4-port ethernet cards. At the end of the day though, while some people may call it “obsolete”, it works well and handles the traffic I need it to, and no one can lock me out of it or prevent me from maintaining its software.

    The tradeoff compared to a “consumer device” is that my “router” isn’t something the average person could configure or maintain. That might not be the case if we had an easy to configure web-based management toolkit that could be used for something like this, but all of the existing web-based management software I’ve looked at was too limited to fit well into this application.

    *512MB of ram is uncommon for Pentium P5 based hardware since the majority of the “consumer” chipsets were limited to 128MB (and using more than 64MB with these was /slow/). The motherboard in my “router” uses the Intel 430HX, which back when I bought it (brand new), it was new was one of the most expensive chipsets out there. It’s possible to run a modern Linux system (without X11) with only 128MB of physical ram, and I did so for many years, but BIND’s more recent memory requirements will require the use of swap space on a hard drive with only 128MB of ram. With 512MB, I’ve found it doesn’t need swap and the entire OS (not stripped down) will fit in about 500MB of space on a CompactFlash card.

  48. “The tradeoff compared to a “consumer device” is that my “router” isn’t something the average person could configure or maintain. That might not be the case if we had an easy to configure web-based management toolkit that could be used for something like this, but all of the existing web-based management software I’ve looked at was too limited to fit well into this application.”

    Wouldn’t _this_ be an interesting project for many hackers? Obviously with someone to dictate sane defaults and contain the configurability explosion, but…

  49. Isn’t it feasible to have a Unix based box running as a home/small-medium business router? I’m thinking a Raspberry Pi-like running, say, OpenBSD ought to do the trick for a low-cost, open source router.

    There’s a company providing networking equipment and services on this model; they’ve developed a Linux distribution based around Quagga and similar software, and you can run it as a VM or on bare x86 hardware (your own, or buy a preloaded system from them with T/E/GigE/10G interfaces). OpenWRT is a popular embedded distribution that runs on a wide selection of the ARM/MIPS-based home routers out there; I’m currently using it for my home office, where I have multiple subnets (allocated on the router’s physical ports) and a nailed-up IPv6 tunnel running on the router itself.

  50. >Wouldn’t _this_ be an interesting project for many hackers? Obviously with someone to dictate sane defaults and contain the configurability explosion, but…
    Just my thought.

    @Tothwolf : This sounds like a healthy, fun project… You know what needs to be conf’d, I’m willing to code a web interface. Mind getting your hands dirty?

  51. @Christopher:
    Sounds healthy, I guess… it’d be nice to have a package which served as a front-end to routing software that is fairly pervasive, instead of having to install a custom distro for this; I’m guessing that’d make the software more ubiquitous.

    In my head, I visualize someone getting a US$35 box, installing whatever distro they want, and installing the package. Or having a computer that is already running some other services be the router, too. That would help ubiquity, I think.

  52. @lex on Thursday, July 5 2012 at 3:05 am

    They can write it faster than you can read it.

    If we have to read all the fine print in all these ever-longer EULAs and other documents we won’t have time for anything else.

  53. Isn’t it feasible to have a Unix based box running as a home/small-medium business router? I’m thinking a Raspberry Pi-like running, say, OpenBSD ought to do the trick for a low-cost, open source router.

    There’s already a whole market for that stuff, distributions that run on regular PC-type hardware and ‘embedded’-type hardware, as well as the hardware itself. But there’s a certain threshold of knowledge and enthusiasm you have to surpass to get into that world….

    My first home (NAT) router was a Netgear box but then I moved to Astaro on a miniITX system and I gifted the Netgear to my brother. The miniITX system was maxi loud and Astaro was overkill for my needs so I sold it off and now run monowall on a WRAP board and have been for some time. It’s fantastic.

    Soekris or PC Engines boards (WRAP, now ALIX) are great for what they are but they tend to be pricier than the stereotypical Linksys-type blue box, most likely simply due to economy of scale.

  54. Sounds healthy, I guess… it’d be nice to have a package which served as a front-end to routing software that is fairly pervasive, instead of having to install a custom distro for this; I’m guessing that’d make the software more ubiquitous.

    You don’t have to install a custom distribution, but in practice you’re usually looking at one of three scenarios: embedded hardware, a standalone router appliance (running just that software on it), or a VM inside a corporate datacenter. The Vyatta software is just a commercial package around Quagga, which is a Cisco-like frontend to the routing systems of Linux, Solaris, and the BSDs. You can run Quagga on a machine that’s doing other things, but in my personal experience it’s always been on either a hardware or VM appliance just for ease of maintenance.

    The major downside is that while the Cisco IOS syntax is essentially the lingua franca for these sorts of frontends, it’s similar to Bourne-shell syntax in that it’s evolved over decades, sometimes inconsistently and sometimes flat-out stupidly. Writing a Web frontend to parse and intelligently display it would be a real undertaking.

    I suggest looking at OpenFlow; it’s an effort at building a vendor-neutral API for programming forwarding planes for networking infrastructure, and a Web frontend that could understand and manipulate OpenFlow could be very useful indeed.

  55. > They are enemies of liberty …

    Question for you: if I make a product, a browser plug in, that monitors your internet usage, and gives me statistics on where you are visiting on the net. And I use that information for some sort of advertising purposes, however, I offer you $5 a month to install and use it, would I be an enemy of liberty for doing so? Of course, you might not install it, but some people might and might be perfectly OK trading that information for money.

    At the grocery store, I have a loyalty card. In exchange for reduced price on many groceries I sell information about my shopping preferences to the store. Does that also make me an enemy of liberty?

    Which is to say, if I trade some of my privacy in exchange for some benefit (such as a software revision), am I selling out, or worse, selling out my neighbor?

    I think there is a valid concern with whether Cisco is fulfilling reasonable terms of whatever support agreements they might have, it is reasonable to expect the manufacturer to fix bugs in their software when you buy their hardware without adding onerous terms, though, unless contractually obliged to do so, they have no requirement to add features.

    But the basic principle of trading ones privacy for a benefit seems reasonable, in cases where you have a choice. Cisco is not the only game in town, sunk costs notwithstanding.

    It certainly demonstrates your original point that closed systems are detrimental to consumers, but I think “enemies of liberty” is rather a strong claim.

    Oh, and in regards to the benefits to consumers of closed systems, I think the point is one of the oft forgotten opportunity cost. Is a consumer better with an open system or a closed system? Clearly the former. But if the choice is between nothing and a closed system (because in the judgment of the creator an open system is insufficiently valuable to them) then the consumer may be better off with the closed system.

  56. “The major downside is that while the Cisco IOS syntax is essentially the lingua franca for these sorts of frontends, it’s similar to Bourne-shell syntax in that it’s evolved over decades, sometimes inconsistently and sometimes flat-out stupidly. Writing a Web frontend to parse and intelligently display it would be a real undertaking.”

    Which is why the newer Cisco NX-OS and IOS XR based products have XML API interfaces for just this reason. (NX-OS is getting OpenFlow as well)

    Amusingly enough, both are based on Linux/KVM environments for their backend OS now.

  57. esr said:

    “This is also why people who make excuses for or actively advocate closed-source OSs and network software (and yes, Apple/iOS fanboys, I’m looking at you) are not merely harmlessly misguided cultists. They are enemies of liberty – enablers and accomplices before the fact in vendor schemes to spy on you, control you, and imprison you. Treat them, and the vendors they worship, accordingly.”

    “Note that when I speak of “critical-path software” I am specifically referring to software that sits on >a communications chokepoint – your router firmware, your computer or smartphone operating >system, your browser, your mailer”

    As your average Android phone requires closed-source binary blobs to make communications chokepoints work, say, like the cellular radio, or the 802.11b/g/n stack to work, any Android supporter is an “enemy of liberty” as well, by this yardstick. They are, in essence, supporting the existence of these bits in order to make these supposedly open-source devices that they advocate be able to run. As they’re in critical spaces in the stack, they can and are used to control how traffic flows to and from the end user, especially in the cellular data space.

    (Not that I’m a Apple fanboy by any stretch of the imagination, I can’t stand the damned iPhone.)

  58. Which is why the newer Cisco NX-OS and IOS XR based products have XML API interfaces for just this reason. (NX-OS is getting OpenFlow as well)

    Yes, but I don’t think that these will ever see the sort of traction that classic IOSish does. XML simply isn’t practical for configuring by hand. And while I’m looking forward to seeing nicely-playing OpenFlow support from Cisco, their recent behaviors (completely ignoring this latest stunt) suggest they’re likely to attempt an Active Directory.

    Amusingly enough, both are based on Linux/KVM environments for their backend OS now.

    And this is a big part of why. The ISR series has actually had Linux available as a second brain for some of its onboard processing for a while now, but OpenFlow is seriously threatening to turn Cisco into a vendor of commoditized accelerator cards. When faced with the prospect of serious competition, they’ve had a tendency to unashamedly break standards, and I think this goes to the heart of Eric’s original point, which I think is almost entirely correct but ever so slightly misplaced: The crucial factor is the interface to whatever hardware or software systems are being used. I couldn’t care less what e-mail system you use; as long as it obeys the RFCs, we’ll interoperate fine, and if you really think Outlook and Exchange are the best options, then go right ahead, but it’s crucial that if your vendor starts trying to pull stunts like Cisco with SFPs you can swap out replacement parts, whether those are hardware or software components.

  59. @TomM:

    SmoothWall is a very nice product, but it is essentially a firewall and not a general-purpose router.

  60. >This seems like a total Facebook move — make some radical change, blame the customers for being confused, and at the end of the day the average non-technical user just goes along with it not realizing just how much they’re handing over to Cisco.

    I agree. But I didn’t focus on this aspect because the real problem is the underlying power asymmetry that allows them to (in effect) impose such terms.

  61. @Jessica Boxer -

    But the basic principle of trading ones privacy for a benefit seems reasonable, in cases where you have a choice. Cisco is not the only game in town, sunk costs notwithstanding.

    Agree, but…

    Most of the backlash against Cisco seems to revolve around two specifics. One, they “changed the rules in the middle of the game” (or at least obscured that rule change for the majority of non-tech users). For someone (say using a certain closed-source OS from Redmond) who has had the mantra of “always install all of the (so-called) security patches from your vendor, or Bad Things Will Happen” beaten into their ears for the last decade and a half, naively accepting the Cisco update which led them into the rabbit hole wasn’t a fully informed decision.

    Two, there is a widely held expectation that when I buy a physical thing, and it is in my posession, I control it – I get to choose how I use it. In this case (as also in the parallel case of Amazon deleting purchased (not rented) e-books post hoc from users’ Kindles), with very little notice or recourse, my gizmo could stop acting like I expected it to, just becase the manufacturer wants it so.

    Of course I could go buy another brand of router. But why should I be forced to?

    (I’ve got an analogous rant against a certain High Priced manufacturer of scanners and printers, ’cause my perfectly workable hardware won’t run on the latest version of the operating system sold by a company with Mighty Sophisticated marketing. No pragmatic reason – I’m just being forced to upgrade because someone(s) wants more $$$. But I’ll put that on my own blog :-) )

  62. >@esr: Isn’t it feasible to have a Unix based box running as a home/small-medium business router? I’m thinking a Raspberry Pi-like running, say, OpenBSD ought to do the trick for a low-cost, open source router.

    No need to get that exotic. I have OpenWRT running on a NetGear 600 downstairs. And the Raspberry Pi has one significant problem for this use; no clock.

  63. @iajrz

    The main components with a “consumer” router are usually going to include a dhcp client, a dhcp server, a firewall, a web server (for the router’s user interface), and optionally a nameserver (caching, local, or some combination of the two), a http proxy, and a wins server. There are webmin interfaces for some of these, but webmin itself appears to have issues of being very large and somewhat difficult to extend. Maybe webmin could still be adapted for this purpose?

    Shorewall provides a high level abstraction layer for iptables and netfilter and would probably benefit from a web-based interface, but I think it would be very difficult to create a web-based interface for it that works well. All configuration for Shorewall is done via structured text files, which are then “compiled” to produce the firewall rules. Most Linux-based router distributions try to handle iptables rules directly, but they would probably greatly benefit from an abstraction layer such as Shorewall.

    iptables
    Xtables-addons
    Shorewall
    ISC DHCP — DHCP client and server
    BIND — nameserver
    Samba — wins/smb server
    Squid — http proxy

  64. @esr

    And the Raspberry Pi has one significant problem for this use; no clock.

    Hell, Eric, plug one of your 1pps USB GPS modules into it – enough precision on your clock, yet?

    :-D

  65. @TomM

    You might want to look at http://www.smoothwall.org

    I’ve looked into Smoothwall and it is Far Too Limited. I’m not interested in paying for a “license pack” just so I can use more than 4 network interfaces and still have less functionality than my existing solution which is based on a stock Linux distribution. In this regard, Smoothwall might as well be part of a generic closed-source network appliance.

  66. No need to get that exotic. I have OpenWRT running on a NetGear 600 downstairs. And the Raspberry Pi has one significant problem for this use; no clock.

    …and only one network interface. O:-)

  67. I’ve never understood why people allow automatic updates. None of the devices that I own is configured to allow such updates. At the very least, this delays downloads of this type of abuse, increasing the chance that the user will hear about this type of behavior, and know not to let that update through at all.

    It’s a short-term fix, though, and doesn’t by itself solve the problem.

  68. >As your average Android phone requires closed-source binary blobs to make communications chokepoints work, say, like the cellular radio, or the 802.11b/g/n stack to work, any Android supporter is an “enemy of liberty” as well, by this yardstick. They are, in essence, supporting the existence of these bits in order to make these supposedly open-source devices that they advocate be able to run. As they’re in critical spaces in the stack, they can and are used to control how traffic flows to and from the end user, especially in the cellular data space

    This seems confused to me in several ways.

    First, “your average” Android phone. Are there any exceptions?

    Second, nobody in the Android world advocates that these blobs should remain closed. You won’t hear bullshit like the iOS fanboy’s talk of “superior user experience” trotted out as justifying them. Thus an Android user or advocate, if he or she is even aware of these, is not so much complicit as grudgingly accepting them for lack of any known alternative.

    Third, it’s not clear to me how your last sentence is true. Once the blob is in place, is there any control channel that allows the blob authors to (a) remove it disabling the device, (b) snoop traffic, or (c) selectively block traffic? I think the answer is “no”, and the consequence is that though the existence of these blobs is annoying they’re not a prompt threat. They may be a device for collecting secrecy rent, but they’re not an instrument of control.

  69. @Jessica Boxer:

    Which is to say, if I trade some of my privacy in exchange for some benefit (such as a software revision), am I selling out, or worse, selling out my neighbor?

    No. Case in point — google.

    The case of using google for search or email is easily distinguishable from the case where you paid cold hard cash for an appliance that you have every rightful expectation will do your bidding.

  70. What Cisco has done is but the camel’s nose.

    How many refrigerator and washing machine companies are salivating at the prospect of the same? The ubiquity of free marginal bandwidth and dirt-cheap digital electronics and I/O devices makes it all possible.

    Any washing machine company worth their salt is seriously contemplating how they will allow the machine to interact with the user via voice. Apple has shown them the way — if you can piggyback on the user’s preexisting bandwidth, you can do the voice recognition offsite. This opens the door to all sorts of marketing opportunities.

    It won’t be long before we have to insist on more and more open source devices in order to keep control of our lives. An appliance company that gets ahead of the curve on this could be a winner.

  71. >It won’t be long before we have to insist on more and more open source devices in order to keep control of our lives.

    Indeed. We near the point where your washing machine will want to chirp advertisements at you while you do the laundry.

  72. “Yes, but I don’t think that these will ever see the sort of traction that classic IOSish does. XML simply isn’t practical for configuring by hand. And while I’m looking forward to seeing nicely-playing OpenFlow support from Cisco, their recent behaviors (completely ignoring this latest stunt) suggest they’re likely to attempt an Active Directory.”

    I’m addressing your original comment of “Writing a Web frontend to parse and intelligently display it would be a real undertaking.”” I’m certainly not advocating hand-hacking the XML API files by hand to do device configuration! Thankfully they still have the IOS-like syntax at the CLI for the rest of it.

    Also:

    “…but it’s crucial that if your vendor starts trying to pull stunts like Cisco with SFPs you can swap out replacement parts, whether those are hardware or software components.”

    Are you talking about the fact that by default you can only use a Cisco SFP in one of their devices, or is there another issue you’re addressing here?

  73. @Jessica Boxer: I don’t think the scenarios you’ve laid out are in any way comparable to what Cisco was up to with this router firmware upgrade. A closer analog would be selling a browser plugin for some other useful purpose, e.g. to play videos, which incidentally spies on its users. Or if the reusable bag from the grocery store has some crazy chip straight out of a cheesy spy movie, that reports to the grocer on everything that was ever put in it, and can’t be removed without destroying the bag.

    On the other hand, some ISPs (NetZero comes to mind, but I’m pretty sure others have done this as well) offer internet service free of charge, or well below market rates, in exchange for the ability to show you ads on your desktop, or to record your internet traffic for their own use. This seems more in line with your proposals, and less like Cisco’s actions — i.e. not the actions of an “enemy of liberty.”

    The key criteria for “enemy of liberty” in these cases is that they take advantage of the asymmetry of the vendor-customer relationship to piggyback the taking of customers’ liberty onto a seemingly ordinary, unrelated market transaction. In contrast, you and NetZero are simply offering to buy liberty at the market price.

    Open source software doesn’t eliminate the asymmetry by any means — anyone who feels like they have real control over Android because Google publishes the source code is quite deluded — but it definitely serves to curb attempts to abuse the asymmetry in the software world.

  74. @Ton van Lankveld

    A big problem for me as an (online) customer is, that I don’t know when the terms of services (ToS) changes. Nor is it easy for me to see quickly what the changes are.

    Is there a online service to keep track of changes in ToS or any other online document?

    I have stumbled upon a service that watches for changes of terms of service for many online services (like e.g. Facebook), and highlights differences. Unfortunately it seems that I have lost this bookmark :-(

  75. >>It won’t be long before we have to insist on more and more open source devices in order to keep control of our lives.

    >Indeed. We near the point where your washing machine will want to chirp advertisements at you while you do the laundry.

    Even more seriously, as Doctorow and others have pointed out, we will be more and more increasingly both putting our bodies into computing devices (cars at least partially controlled by computers) and putting computing devices into our body (e.g. hearing aids and other biotech). And thus the question of open vs closed is only going to become more important over time….

  76. PS:

    … anyone who feels like they have real control over Android because Google publishes the source code is quite deluded…

    On second thought that may need some qualification. Those who are heavily involved in CyanogenMOD development probably feel like they have real control over Android — and indeed they do. On the other hand, I’ve been programming in C for about 20 years now, and administering Linux systems for more than 10, and I certainly don’t feel like I have any control over Android just because I can see all their code in git.

  77. @esr

    Indeed. We near the point where your washing machine will want to chirp advertisements at you while you do the laundry.

    …and they’ll scream “DMCA!” if us geeks and hardware hackers take a soldering iron to it and turn it into a generic MP3 player :)

  78. In regards to the information asymmetry, one thing I have not noticed being mentioned is that the very tools they use to putatively oppress you and rob you of your freedom, are also the tools by which you can protect and defend yourself. How ironic that Cisco backed off because of a campaign run on the Internet that they facilitate. How strange that you can readily defeat their snooping by using encryption technologies, also based on their technologies.

    Hoist on their own petard seems the mot juste.

    Oh and before everyone strokes their beards and tells me, ah they can prevent that the the great wall of Cisco… not really, commercial vendors actually have to satisfy their customers. They are not free to do anything they want. Certainly they can nibble at the margins, but every serious commercial company warily eyes the sword of Damocles dangling over their head.

  79. @ESR – We near the point where your washing machine will want to chirp advertisements at you while you do the laundry.

    This reminds me of a restaurant bathroom that had put up ads on bulletin boards over the urinals. They eventually had to stop the practice because some of the patrons would aim high in protest.

  80. >Certainly they can nibble at the margins, but every serious commercial company warily eyes the sword of Damocles dangling over their head.

    In general this is true. But it starts to become untrue, or irrelevant, or overridden, in situations where the company is either (a) a monopoly, or (b) able to buy legislators and regulators in order to rig the market, or (c) can otherwise make the transition cost out of its product so high that they’ve got their customers by the nuts.

    The way you get to (c) is by stages. At each stage, you use the existing transition cost out as a lever to persuade the customer to buy a “service” that actually locks them in harder. In this case, Cisco counted on the hassle and money cost of replacing their router to funnel customers to their cloud service, making the transition cost to get out of their “ecology” higher. Microsoft and Apple regularly pull similar maneuvers.

  81. > Even more seriously, as Doctorow and others have pointed out, we will be more and more increasingly… putting computing devices into our body (e.g. hearing aids and other biotech). And thus the question of open vs closed is only going to become more important over time….

    Then again, we’re currently locked in to a bug-ridden, unreliable, insecure, expensive-to-maintain, entirely closed-source platform that comes with no vendor support and is a nightmare to reverse engineer. So any change can only be for the better.

  82. @esr
    >(a) a monopoly, or (b) able to buy legislators and regulators in order to rig the market, or (c) can otherwise make the transition cost out of its product so high that they’ve got their customers by the nuts.

    a and b don’t apply to Cisco AFAIK (though you are absolutely right, government interference in the market is very bad for consumers generally speaking.)

    In the case of c though, you seem to be forgetting that the action is on the margin. Cisco ultimately doesn’t care about the stuff they have sold already (except insofar as they have ongoing maintenance contracts), what they care about is the stuff they want to sell today.

    If there is enough bad juju about Cisco being evil jerks that is definitely taken in as a factor in the purchasing decision. So really, they might have the sunk cost guys by the nuts, but they don’t care about the sunk costs guys. The guys they care about are the ones they don’t have by the nuts, and so it matters a lot, especially in a market as fungible as network equipment.

  83. Oh, and BTW the reason the network equipment market is so fungible is because of open standards guys, so that IP, BGP and TLS are the same regardless of what equipment hosts the stack.

    Many thanks to the guys and gals who did that and made us all richer as a result.

  84. It seems that this central cloud database of router configurations would be an interesting target for attackers. One advantage of distributed control is that distribution is more resilient in that failures are local, rather than global.

    There’s all sorts of mischief that a Bad Guy might do once he gained access to and control over the cloud. Bricking all the Cisco routers is the least interesting scenario (probably least damaging, too).

    And before anyone talks about the crazy leet cyber ninja security that will be protecting this, let me point out that (a) this is the Linksys business unit which may or may not have the same level of security cluefulness are Cisco proper, and (b) remember when IOS source code was published on the ‘net 7 or 8 years ago?

  85. @Tothwolf

    iptables
    Xtables-addons
    Shorewall
    ISC DHCP — DHCP client and server
    BIND — nameserver
    Samba — wins/smb server
    Squid — http proxy

    I’d say iptables and dnsmasq (for simple, integrated DNS+DHCP) is all you need. Squid maybe. What would you want WINS (samba) for ?

    Maybe throw in openvpn.

    I’m not familiar with web/GUI for any of those but
    dnsmasq configuration is dead easy, I imagine it’s feasible to have it generated by a script, at least for the most common configurations.
    Firewall Builder can generate iptables rules from a point and click interface. If I we’re to build a GUI to iptables, I’d first go look how they do it .

  86. >So really, they might have the sunk cost guys by the nuts, but they don’t care about the sunk costs guys.

    I think they do. They know that IT shops like uniformity in their equipment as a way of reducing the complexity costs of administering it, and of swapping in spares. So they count on “sunk” sales to generate more sales.

  87. @Cathy
    >I’ve never understood why people allow automatic updates. None of the devices that I own is configured to allow such updates.

    Mine wasn’t either, but my most recent Firefox upgrade changed my settings. The only thing Mozilla has going for it is that Microsoft is worse, FF just isn’t as bad as IE.

  88. @esr
    > They know that IT shops like uniformity in their equipment

    Rightly so, but always it is a pro/con decision, right? Pro — uniformity, Con — Cisco is reading the CEO’s email.

    This is my objection to the “enemies of liberty” comment. Enemies of liberty are either the government, or folks in cahoots with the government. The government really are the only organization that can truly rob you of your liberty. All commercial companies can do is offer you a bunch of alternative choices, where each choice is a basket of things you like and things you don’t like. Pick what suits you best. If you don’t like any of the choices, and you are not a totally unique case, then you have identified an entrepreneurial opportunity. If you ARE a totally unique case, don’t expect to get the cheapness of economies of scale, and instead pay someone to create the exact product you want.

    Like I have said before, what do you want on your pizza?

  89. @ Jessica Boxer

    Networking equipment may be a fungible market, but from my perspective, it sure doesn’t seem that way. Cisco is everywhere. Every data center I’ve ever been in has run primarily, if not entirely on Cisco equipment. Sure, the occasional firewall might be a Juniper product, but border routers? Core, distribution or wiring closet switches? Cisco. Most of the non-Cisco network equipment I’ve seen in the wild has been decommissioned junk awaiting a trip to the recyclers. Seems to me like Cisco has a near monopoly on the networking equipment which makes the Internet work.

  90. “commercial company warily eyes the sword of Damocles dangling over their head.”

    I think that they are distracted by the image of more profit. A related issue is the way that just about everyone is busting a gut to change their revenue model from ‘sales’ to ‘rent’. They’re all trying to squeeze a continuous revenue stream out of their customers, hence software licenses, rather than ownership, and mandatory ‘services’ that no one wants.

  91. >This is my objection to the “enemies of liberty” comment. Enemies of liberty are either the government, or folks in cahoots with the government.

    One of the reasons I used the phrase “enemies of liberty” (which I don’t do casually, believe me – it has the weight for me that calling someone a Nazi would for a Jew) is because in communications infrastructure the line between governmental and private action has a tendency to get pretty damned blurry.

    Nowadays that line mainly gets crossed from the corporate side – see, for example, junk lawsuits arising from DMCA claims. But those who advocate for closed-source software are also creating the preconditions for governments to install monitoring and control software in commercial OSes and communications tools that can’t be removed. Of course, the reasons will sound noble – anti-terrorism, preventing the dissemination of child porn, preventing IP theft, yada yada – but the reality will be other.

    If I control the software on my computers clear down to the metal, there’s a whole class of attacks on my privacy and liberty that can’t happen. It doesn’t matter to me whether the attackers are corporate, governmental, or some murky fusion of the two; enemies of my liberty are still enemies of my liberty.

    What has changed for me in the wake of the Cisco flap is that my attitude towards people who enable the enemies of my liberty (by advocating closed source in critical paths) has hardened. I am no longer willing to be polite about their rationalizations or excuses or their fscking bullshit about “superior user experience” – from now, that latter phrase goes in the totalitarian phrasebook alongside “purity of the Herrenvolk”. I no longer view them as merely misguided; they are collaborators.

  92. @Jessica & esr
    In the USA, what exactly is the difference between government and companies?

    Laws are written by company lawyers, party politicians end up in company boards.

    I always remember that the slave trade was a private bussines.

  93. @esr : I didn’t mean a Raspberry Pi, but a “Raspberry Pi-like”, i.e.: a tiny, dirt cheap, built-with-just-enough hardware to function specifically for home routing. I chip in with the comment regarding the USB GPS clock.

    Also, I didn’t quite mean making a full web interface that handles everything. I think there are simple steps that can be taken in order to make a cheap, small box feasible to use for home routing, such as a not-too-smart interface which still helps with the 20% of configuration changes that make up 80% of the use cases.

    @Tothwolf : thanks for the list. I’ll be playing around with those kids.

  94. esr on Thursday, July 5 2012 at 3:50 pm said:
    > But those who advocate for closed-source software are also creating the preconditions for governments to install monitoring and control software

    But advocating for closed source software is not the same as advocating against open source software. As long as there are open source alternatives that are ubiquitous your concerns don’t seem appropriate. I understand that if these open source systems can be isolated into a minuscule market segment then they can be killed by government demands, but as long as they are widespread, the closed source alternative doesn’t seem so much of a concern.

    Personally, I’m an advocate of choice, closed, open, blue, green, pepperoni, sausage.

  95. @Winter on Thursday, July 5 2012 at 4:02 pm said:
    > In the USA, what exactly is the difference between government and companies?

    The difference is choice. You can change your cell phone company much easier than you can change your government.

  96. >In the USA, what exactly is the difference between government and companies?

    Governments can jail or kill you, private companies cannot.

    Private companies are effectively constrained by the need to make a profit and please customers; the government is not.

    Threats to liberty may originate from either, but the purely private-sector threats require something near monopoly status as a precondition. In the really dangerous ones government is either the sole actor or a partner.

  97. “In this case, Cisco counted on the hassle and money cost of replacing their router”

    Or of, you know, rolling back the firmware:

    Have they secretly switched esr with rms in the past few days?

  98. >But advocating for closed source software is not the same as advocating against open source software.

    Come on, Jessica, you’re smarter than this. It is absolutely a zero-sum game, because they’re in direct competition with each other for domination of the communications and computing infrastructure. (I note that this is not true for other categories of software. Battle for Wesnoth is not in a zero-sum clash with Angry Birds.)

    The closed-source players must drive out open source for their dreams of customer control (dreams like Cisco’s) to come true. The extreme case of this is the RIAA/MPAA, which craves a leakless content pipe from their pay servers to the viewer’s eyeballs, and to get it is eager to fuck up not just our software but our hardware too.

    This is why dupes like PapayaSF are dangerous. They speak of liberty, but they fight for the other side.

  99. >Have they secretly switched esr with rms in the past few days?

    RMS loses the plot because, having decided decades ago that proprietary software is unconditionally evil, he is now unable to focus on the real, critical-path threats. He wastes his ire and blows his credibility opposing the equivalents of Angry Birds, and is thus unable to speak effectively against Cisco’s router hijack.

  100. >(with the help of a very effective lobby and an eager local government).

    See, that was the most important clause in your post. Corporations need governments to have coercive power.

  101. @Justin, the problem is that, unless there is a significant proportion of customers to demand that these solutions be supported and repel attempts to outlaw them, *WRT and Tor will inevitably disappear altogether.

    Personally, I don’t think we can rest until PCs have GPG installed and enabled by default.

  102. Allow me to illustrate my misunderstanding:

    Old Eric, upon hearing about the Cisco thing: HA! They are shooting themselves in the foot! They just lost the home router market. Routers that support open-source firmware have a clear advantage now that will be reflected in marketshare. Plus, this flap is a big PR loss for closed source so it will be that much easier to get people to see the light.

    New Eric, upon hearing about the Cisco thing: Every art-fag that buys an iPhone is helping the curtailing of my freedom!

  103. >I always remember that the slave trade was a private bussines.

    Which required government partners on both ends. The African barracoons were stocked by war captives, criminals, and others who had incurred the displeasure of the local chief. At the New World end, the whole edifice depended on laws that criminalized escaping slaves, forbade blacks from being taught to read, and disarmed free blacks.

    The laws disarming free blacks survived and were later broadened to apply to poor white people. They’re the historical foundation of the whole morally rotten edifice of “gun control” in the U.S.

  104. >New Eric, upon hearing about the Cisco thing: Every art-fag that buys an iPhone is helping the curtailing of my freedom!

    I still believe the former, and I always believed the latter. The difference is that I was more willing to only mutter the latter under my breath, before.

  105. ESR, c’mon. The accusation that you sound just like RMS here is spot on.

    iPhone users are “enemies of liberty” is pure hyperbole. I use plenty of Open Source. In fact when we build software systems where I work, they are built on Open Source Tools and, if possible, distributed as Open Source themselves.

    You’re splitting hairs in order to call me an “enemy of liberty” because I prefer the iPhone. And note, since that’s my choice, I have the ability to switch to android whenever I’d like. Wait, I can’t do that. In fact I don’t even really wholly own and control my phone and wouldn’t even if it were an Android phone.

    I MUST get cell service from a soul sucking cellular telephone company. I’ll worry about how evil Apple is after I can get a reasonable group data plan for my cellular contract, can switch phones whenever I want, and am not charged obscene amounts for overages. Oh, and who am I more worried will monitor all my communications, the cell company or the smartphone manufacturer? Heck the communication companies are already starting to play that game in the landline arena.

    We give up far far more liberty to the Cellular companies than we do (or ever have – remember when Apple provided a phone that the cell companies couldn’t lock down?) to the smartphone OS providers. I love the competition in the smartphone market, and I hate the patent wars. If the patent wars in the smartphone arena could be wiped away (… invalidation of sw patents, please …) the ecosystem of Apple vs. all the android manufacturers looks like an almost perfect system for dynamic evolution and advancement (even if apple’s mobile OS is closed source).

    Labeling people who agree with you on a great many things “enemies of liberty,” for a singular technology choice in a world of many choices is exactly the kind of anti-social behavior that gets RMS in trouble a lot of the time.

  106. I must confess I’ve been putting off commenting on this one because I’m mildly annoyed at being called an enemy of liberty.

    Put simply, you’re fighting an uphill battle in a manner that’s not like you. You’re arguing that freedom is paramount, even in the face of other considerations that govern users’ choices. This is the same battle that the OSI is fighting successfully with tactics you yourself developed, concentrating on why open source is better, not on the Stallmanite freedom argument. Why the change now?

    People who choose Apple products to get work done are making rational choices on bases that work for them. (No, not all of them, certainly; I’ll concede that many do choose Apple stuff because it looks cool or because all their friends are using it. Even so, there are many people, like me, who make a cold, rational analysis of their needs and then decide based on that.) My rational choice is not going to affect Apple’s course, nor would my decision to purchase or not the Linksys router/firewall alter Cisco’s. Cisco doesn’t care that I decided to run pfsense instead. I made that choice based, again, on a rational analysis of my needs.

    The way to alter the course of this argument is to do what you argue is appropriate in other contexts. Out-compete the closed-source stuff. Android is at least giving iOS a run for its money (and with me, as well; I’m breathlessly awaiting the arrival of my Nexus 7, though my next phone will almost certainly be another iPhone). On the desktop, though? Forget it. Open source systems will never reach the penetration of Windows, period. They may never reach the penetration of OS X. Even though Microsoft seems determined to shoot itself in the ass with Windows 8, its products will still rule the desktop for ages to come.

    If you can point me at a Linux box I can unpack, plop on my desk, and have running in 10 minutes – and with no further administration, no tweaking, no upgrade hassles, and the ability to run the software I need to run – I’ll look at it. Linux is nowhere near that point. Paul spends hours a week upgrading and administering and tweaking, and getting a new system running is a battle the usually lasts a week or so for him, even though he’s pretty experienced at it by now. I need to have systems I can just use, out of the box.

    It’s not for lack of knowing about Linux, either, as the Itanic server in the basement and the three Raspberry Pis I have on order will attest.

    In short, I’ll suggest that the way to beat Apple is to out-compete with them in the marketplace, not complain about the competition being anti-freedom.

  107. “[RMS] is thus unable to speak effectively against Cisco’s router hijack.”

    I don’t see associating Cisco with the nazis as “speaking effectively”. You were supposed to be the one able to sell the virtues of open source in this kind of predicaments, not the one blabbering of herrenvolk and collaborationism about what is for most people “just a damn phone”, or “just the fucking interweb appliance”.

    You may be right, I understand what you say and what you mean, but everytime you play the nazi card, I start rolling my eyes. Nobody cares about how Cisco’s anti-porn crusade is in the same path that ends in Auschwitz, so you’d better shape up and start being more convincing if you actually want to achieve something. It’s the same thing you criticize of RMS, and it’s astonishing that you don’t see it, and rationalize it.

  108. @kn

    Oh boy, this is going to get long…

    Samba can be used as a wins proxy when you have systems on different subnets that need to be able to see each other. Even if you have a Samba server on a machine in one of your DMZ subnets, workstations, printers, print servers, etc. in other subnets won’t be able to see it. You can tell those systems to use a particular wins server via a DHCP option, but large numbers of devices still rely on tried and true wins over the broadcast address and ignore the wins server option from the DHCP server.

    Naked iptables is nearly impossible to manage with more than a couple of network interfaces. You end up with tons of duplicate rules and it is extremely easy to make a mistake. Shorewall on the other hand makes this process much, much easier. Not only does it provide some sanity checking for rules, but it can optimize them and remove duplicate rules and tables to make them faster and much more compact.

    Xtables-addons is required if you want to make much use of ipsets, which you most certainly need if you need to filter out lists of IP addresses. It works extremely well for filtering bogons, reserved addresses, and addresses from the DShield block list, Spamhaus drop list, etc. (these all need minimal processing before loading into ipset lists).

    Ipsets also work extremely well for dealing with portscanners, since with a few rules I can craft an active firewall that automatically adds the source IP into an ipset that is then dropped early by a single rule in the INPUT table. The ‘iptree’ ipset type even allows a timeout value, so addresses can be “expired” from an ipset after a certain amount of time. Xtables-addons also adds support for other targets such as TARPIT, DELUDE, and CHAOS. These are also extremely useful in dealing with persistent probes and portscans from botnets and malware.

    While my setup isn’t typical for a non-corporate environment, I personally use a complex setup of ISC DHCP+BIND to hand out both static and dynamic IP addresses across multiple subnets. Even for statically assigned addresses, I find it much easier to maintain a MAC list and use DHCP to autoconfigure those machines and devices on my networks. I used to do it the hard way with statically assigned IPs for each computer and device, but at a certain point it got to be too difficult to maintain. While ISC DHCP and BIND are not something a beginner can easily configure, they are invaluable when it comes to flexibility and maintainability.

    If you can trust your ISP’s dns server, then dnsmasq would probably work for simple dns forwarding. The dns servers that my ISP provides (a very large and well known ISP) on the other hand will respond to bogus queries and serve up advertisement pages, so their dns servers are worthless if you are running say spamassassin or anything else that requires valid dns replies. Running your own dns server is also pretty much required if you are going to assign dns entries for your DHCP assignments.

    I’ve looked at Firewall Builder (and most all the other iptables rule building utilities [and previously those for ipchains, ipfwadm, and ipfw]) and none have ever fully gotten it 100% “right”. To date, for me as a “power user”, Shorewall has come the closest to providing the best user “interface” to iptables and netfilter.

  109. …I don’t see associating Cisco with the nazis as “speaking effectively”…

    What the hell? English comprehension fail much? Methinks you’re trying _way_ too hard to Godwinate this conversation.

    Give it a rest.

  110. Oddly enough, Cisco appeared to be planning ahead with instructions on how to downgrade the firmware in these routers (note the article id numbers).

    Title: Rolling back the Cisco Connect Cloud firmware to the Classic EA Series router web interface
    Article ID: 25856
    http://www6.nohold.net/Cisco2/ukp.aspx?vw=1&articleid=25856

    Title: How to manually upgrade the firmware of the Linksys EA-series router to Cisco Connect Cloud
    Article ID: 25866
    http://www6.nohold.net/Cisco2/ukp.aspx?vw=1&articleid=25866

  111. >I must confess I’ve been putting off commenting on this one because I’m mildly annoyed at being called an enemy of liberty.

    Live with it. That’s the role you choose every time you give Apple money.

  112. @esr
    > It is absolutely a zero-sum game, because they’re in direct competition with each other for domination of the communications and computing infrastructure.

    No it isn’t. Consider iPhone/Android. They are in direct competition, they are trying to kill each other, but the existence of Android clearly keeps the mobile space more open. Consider IIS/Apache. Apache clearly keeps IIS in check. In fact in this case the existence of Apache no doubt guarantees there are more web sites than there would be without it.

    >The extreme case of this is the RIAA/MPAA, which craves a leakless content pipe from their pay servers to the viewer’s eyeballs, and to get it is eager to fuck up not just our software but our hardware too.

    Sure, but they do this via government coercion, and people don’t like it. Heck, there are plenty of people who want to be tyrants but they can’t necessarily make it happen. Oh, I feel some Shakespeare coming on, Henry the Fourth if memory serves me:

    Glendower: “I can call spirits from the vasty deep.”
    Henry: “Why, so can I, so can any man; when you call, will they come?”

    BTW, I don’t want in any way to diminish the threat from the content middle men and their fits of rage and fire breath during their death throes. However, what is scary most of all is what the government can do, DCMA being one particularly terrible example of real tyranny.

  113. @Dan
    was I reading too much into this:
    “What has changed for me in the wake of the Cisco flap is that my attitude towards people who enable the enemies of my liberty (by advocating closed source in critical paths) has hardened. I am no longer willing to be polite about their rationalizations or excuses or their fscking bullshit about “superior user experience” – from now, that latter phrase goes in the totalitarian phrasebook alongside “purity of the Herrenvolk”. I no longer view them as merely misguided; they are collaborators.”

  114. @Tothwolf

    >Oh boy, this is going to get long…
    I’ll try to keep it short (it’s past my bed time anyway)

    >Samba can be used as a wins proxy

    I know what WINS is etc. But I was wondering
    a/ how much you really need it or want to support it when even microsoft is phasing it out (though I know some Windows apps doesn’t work without it)
    b/ why you’d want it *on a router*

    >Naked iptables is nearly impossible to manage with more than a couple of network interfaces.

    Probably true. the most I’ve done is 3 interfaces, which i found not too hard to set up, but maintaining it (i.e. add changes etc months later) was getting hard.
    It also depends what sort of router we’re talking about, I suppose. For a simple residential get-me-on-the-internet thingy you don’t need much more than a MASQ rule. Routing/firewalling between a multitude of networks is obviously more complex, but on that sort of device I wouldn’t expect all the DNS, DHCP, WINS, etc. you mention.

    > ISC DHCP+BIND to hand out both static and dynamic IP addresses across multiple subnets. … maintain a MAC list and use DHCP to autoconfigure those machines and devices on my networks

    Of course.
    But in a corporate environment, you might expect DNS and DHCP servers for that, so why implement it in a router ? On the residential get-me-on-the-internet thingy, a forward to a public DNS server is probably all 99% of the users need. It wouldn’t surprise me most of the current residential routers already run dnsmasq. You can point it to arbitrary dns servers, btw, it doesn’t need to be a sleezy ISP’s DNS.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t build the router/firewall you want. But if you’re promoting it as an alternative for a residential router, i looks like overkill to me and you’re not making the requirement of having a GUI config tool any easier, while if you’re talking corporate stuff or real network infrastructure, you’re adding a lot of functionality that I’d expect on a server, not on a router. Hence my questions.

  115. >was I reading too much into this:

    If it helps, I will cheerfully amend “alongside ‘purity of the Herrenvolk’” to add any Communist slogan you like. My intent was not a specific association with Naziism, but a more general association with the sort of creepy apologetics that accompany all totalitarian systems.

    The common and relevant thing about these sorts of slogans isn’t the specific content (racial theory or Marxist class warfare or whatever), it’s the way they function as mantras of self-delusion that enable people to tell themselves they’re participating in something praiseworthy or noble when the reality is they have willingly made themselves tools of a machine designed for total control. That’s what I hear, these days, when an Apple fan says “superior user experience”.

  116. >No it isn’t. Consider iPhone/Android. They are in direct competition, they are trying to kill each other, but the existence of Android clearly keeps the mobile space more open. Consider IIS/Apache. Apache clearly keeps IIS in check. In fact in this case the existence of Apache no doubt guarantees there are more web sites than there would be without it.

    Er…in what way are you disagreeing with me? You’re not denying zero-sum competition for the infrastructure, you’re describing it.

  117. “If it helps, I will cheerfully amend “alongside ‘purity of the Herrenvolk’” to add any Communist slogan you like. My intent was not a specific association with Naziism, but a more general association with the sort of creepy apologetics that accompany all totalitarian systems. ”

    If it helps, I will cheerfully amend “associating Cisco with the nazis” to mean any totalitarian group you like. My intent was not to lambast you for associating Cisco with the nazis in particular. The point that I and several others made at the same time, is that, even though you may be right about it in the end, almost nobody else cares so much, and people think you’re a kook and filter you out when you say it. Since you have repeatedly said that Open Source can stand on its merits, grit your teeth, mutter under your breath, and show that, in terms we can understand and relate to, like dollars.

  118. Pingback: Cisco/Linksys all up in your business...

  119. >Since you have repeatedly said that Open Source can stand on its merits, grit your teeth, mutter under your breath, and show that, in terms we can understand and relate to, like dollars.

    I certainly don’t intend to stop making the kinds of arguments you’re used to hearing.

    But the difference between today and three days ago is that after the Cisco “upgrade” I’m more angry and frightened than I was before. I will probably feel a bit calmer in a week, but I probably won’t go back to being polite about people who talk shit about “freedom” while funding the enemies of freedom.

    People who don’t understand any of what’s at stake have that excuse for giving their dollars to people who want to lock down the infrastructure into one ubercontrolled fiefdom; the Apple apologists here have no such excuse.

  120. @kn

    I have no plans to support newer versions of Windows on my networks (and the sooner I can get totally rid of Windows, the better), so if Microsoft is phasing out wins in Windows 8, I don’t think it will have much of an effect for the stuff I support. My print servers and printers on the other hand all require wins (which Samba happily provides), and since they live on a network segment that is isolated from the segments that I have workstations on (which are also separated from the various segments with different servers on them), I have to be able to propagate wins between certain network segments. The alternative would be to run a dedicated Samba system on the same segment as the printers, but that would defeat the purpose of keeping them on their own isolated segment.

    It is actually common for consumer-grade “router” type devices to include both DNS and DHCP ‘servers’. This is especially true for devices marketed towards small business/soho users. The source code I obtained for a number of Cisco/Linksys boxes actually includes ISC’s code. [On a related note, most these "routers" don't contain any sort of hardware clock and rely on ntp to set their system clock at bootup and to remain synchronized.]

    I’m not trying to promote something as an alternative for a consumer-grade device. There is however little to no flexibility when it comes to these type of “router” devices and everything tries to be a one-size fits all, which doesn’t work well for /everyone/.

    Where we really /need/ a more consumer-friendly interface are the more complex setups. There are numerous firewall/router type Linux-based software solutions that target consumer-type markets, but those too tend to be one-size fits all with little in the way of flexibility if you need additional network interfaces or extra functionality.

    On the corporate hardware side, you end up with specialized gear, per-seat/user/port “licenses”, and high price tags. On the consumer/home side, you end up with these ugly little plastic one size fits all boxes with very little (if any) expansion options. [Seriously? They expect people to pay US $100-$200 for these things?]

    There is just no middle ground for those of us who need something more complex than consumer-grade offerings, but don’t need or want a whole rack of gear such as you would see in a corporate environment. Surely I’m not the only one in this situation?

  121. Want me to quit giving money to Apple?

    Give me a credible alternative.

    Linux on the desktop or laptop is not that alternative.

  122. ESR, I just want to point out that if you had put this much vitriol in “The Cathedral and the Bazarr” it’s likely that far fewer people would even know who you are.

    I don’t agree that the smartphone market is a zero sum game. Yes, the desktop OS market is monopoly dominated, but I do not think the smartphone market needs that. The competition between Apple and Andriod is spurring innovation at a breakneck pace.

    I think you need to look at why the main target of you being pissed at Cisco is people who have iPhones.

    P.S. – I do not have a Cisco router and I am running OpenWRT for the one I do own.

    So am I noble for running an open router or evil for posting this through that router with my iPhone?

  123. >Linux on the desktop or laptop is not that alternative.

    How recently have you tried it?

    That’s not meant to be a contentious question. I really want to know. You sound like a person reacting to desktop Linux as it was before Ubuntu and Fedora got their installers right. Nowadays you answer a handful of questions to set your keyboard preferences and identify yourself to the OS, and you’re done. It’s all there, including wireless support and video codecs. The days when you had to, like, hand-configure graphics cards for X or tell it your mouse type are long gone.

    I basically don’t have to do system administration any more. OK, once a year or so my DNS setup needs a tweak (you’re usually involved when that happens) and my Postfix setup hiccups occasionally (and that’s only because I have a alightly odd multi-machine setup). But that’s it.

  124. >I think you need to look at why the main target of you being pissed at Cisco is people who have iPhones.

    That’s easy and doesn’t require any, like, psychoanalysis. The iPhone is currently the attempt at evil infrastructure lockdown that has the largest visible fanbase.

  125. I haven’t done a desktop Linux in a few years. I’ve been watching over Paul’s shoulder when he has, though…and listening to him cuss.

    The last time he did a machine from the get-go was a new Toshiba laptop he bought in February. He went through at least five distributions before he found one that worked – and it was an Ubuntu alpha. Then he got to enjoy getting Firestorm running on it due to 32-vs-64-bit library weirdness. Then he had fun getting wireless with WPA2 to work. This matches his experience with the other Toshiba laptop he bought before the, and with his nice fast desktop system, so it’s not out of the ordinary.

    For me, that would be an absolute beginning. Then I’d get to find an office suite that can handle Microsoft Office documents and Microsoft Exchange communications. I’ve heard enough about OpenOffice that it might be able to handle my needs. It might not. It would certainly get a good try. I understand Thunderbird can handle Exchange fairly well. That gets a try too. Hope it’s not the overblown hog Firefox is.

    Then I need to find an image editor. The GIMP need not apply unless it has acquired a user interface that fails to suck. It’s not as user-hostile as Blender – nothing is – but it’s not user-friendly to an experienced Photoshop user.

    Programming tools, no big deal. A virtual machine system to run Windows in a VM, doable. (And no, I’m not going to run Microsoft office inside that VM. Besides, this is about open source software, right? I only run things on Windows I absolutely have to.) Skype and other instant message stuff, not bad. Google Voice chat, I’m sure they can handle. Google SketchUp? Dunno. Maybe.

    Scanner apps? Aviation software? Other stuff I use less frequently? I’d have to perform a whole infrastructure transplant.

    The reason I use an iPhone as my smartphone is that it integrates tightly with the relevant applications on the desktop machine. I have no knowledge of how well that works in Linux with Android.

    Possible? Yes. The same level of just-plug-it-in-and-it-works functionality? No. Functional at all? Probably. “Probably” isn’t good enough.

  126. I’m certainly not advocating hand-hacking the XML API files by hand to do device configuration! Thankfully they still have the IOS-like syntax at the CLI for the rest of it.

    Of course, but I’m addressing the fact that IOS-like syntax is the de facto standard for configuring “alternative” router platforms (e.g., Quagga and equipment from tier-2 manufacturers like Netgear and ZyXEL); it’s a nasty hack, but interoperating with such systems requires speaking IOS. Either a translator would have to be added from some intermediate form into IOS and back, or Quagga would have to be overhauled to be configured via a different intermediate form.

    Are you talking about the fact that by default you can only use a Cisco SFP in one of their devices, or is there another issue you’re addressing here?

    Bingo. SFP’s an industry standard, but if you try to use any other manufacturer’s SFP in a Cisco device, IOS shuts the port down. It’s even worse than the stunt Dell used to pull with loading incorrect timings in its RAM on certain machines so that third-party memory modules wouldn’t work.

    Oh and before everyone strokes their beards and tells me, ah they can prevent that the the great wall of Cisco… not really, commercial vendors actually have to satisfy their customers. They are not free to do anything they want.

    An idea that’s been forming in my head for some time, which applies to this claim as well as to Eric’s general economic analysis of closed vs. open systems:

    You’re both clearly correct about terminal behaviors of the systems: open-source will, in the long run, outperform closed systems, and manufacturers who get clearly abusive will drive customers to alternatives. However, asymptotic behavior is only one of the practical considerations: Outcomes aren’t path-independent, and many scenarios have local minima in their curves that make switching difficult or expensive.

    As an example, consider a network using Cisco routers running OSPF: There will certainly be some costs to switching to a competitor’s products, but it can be done gradually and with relatively minor pain because each replaced component will still be able to communicate with the rest of the network. On the other hand, consider a company that’s been using Microsoft’s AX ERP system, which uses a Web interface carefully designed not to work with anything but IE: Switching to Chrome or Firefox isn’t the easy option it is for a company using a standards-compliant backend, and changing desktops isn’t feasible as long as IE’s a requirement. Furthermore, migrating to a different ERP system is a multi-year, 8-figure undertaking, meaning that even though a company would in the long run be better off eliminating Microsoft, the short-term costs are just too painful.

    Both companies and individuals have a tendency to look at the local slope and not pay attention to the wells they’re getting themselves trapped in, and I’ve come to believe that data representation (specifically in terms of file formats and network protocols) is the key to keeping that barrier under control, even more than open code.

  127. Having used Desktop Linux for almost 10 years now, exclusively, I can state with confidence that I rarely use windows these days.

    Yes, there are occasional annoyances with regard to hardware drivers. Some seem insoluble because of lack of developer interest. Again, things have improved to such an extent that the minor annoyances are OK. It is a matter of getting used to interfaces. GIMP also has improved a lot these days.

    The only thing with Open Source that I still find irritating is the tendency to break things that already work well in the name of progress. Case in point: KDE 3.x series, which is about as mature and usable a desktop as there ever was in *nix.

  128. I managed to overlook:

    Oh, and BTW the reason the network equipment market is so fungible is because of open standards guys, so that IP, BGP and TLS are the same regardless of what equipment hosts the stack.

    Many thanks to the guys and gals who did that and made us all richer as a result.

    Sort of. Cisco, especially lately, has been trying hard (with some disheartening success) to move customers away from these standards. For a long time, EIGRP was the poster child here, but a few years back, they eliminated SIP support from their VoIP and video-conferencing products in favor of a proprietary system. Now keep in mind that a phone system is a very large investment that touches a large number of business areas; even neglecting sunk costs, if a vendor like Cisco decides that from now on, you only use Cisco phones with CallManager, a customer might very well decide that ripping out the entire system and replacing it is just too expensive. You’re right to focus on marginal sales, but don’t forget the impact of network effects on the indirect costs of new purchases.

  129. I find I mostly agree with ESR on this one. The
    only part I don’t quite agree with is the degree
    of strident that comes across in this thread.

    My first thought when I saw the issue was “Oh
    shit!!”. Then “What kind of idiots would do
    something this blatant.” Then “Oh yeah, the kind
    of idiots that work at Sony.”

    However the fear and loathing was and still is
    present. Only sort of good part is that the
    routers they targeted aren’t ones that I use nor
    that we use at work (at least in the segment that
    I have any responsibility for.

    However, till now, Linksys was my preferred
    wireless router — next time I need to buy one
    I’ll look very hard to find an alternative. The
    last few times I’ve bought stereo stuff — not
    sony was an important criteria.

    Jay –
    I’ve been running Linux as my main home box for
    well over ten years. It’s been most of that long
    since I had a functioning windows partition even
    – although I will have to admit that I maintain
    one on a vista laptop that my kids abandoned — to
    run the garmin map updater.

    (Sorry, I ride a motorcycle. Garmin has many,
    many disadvantages in their attitude and software,
    but they make a gps that a) is weather resistant
    enough to make it not an issue, and b) has an
    interface that is quite usable with gloves on. It
    did come with the last bike I bought, and if/when
    I replace it I will look very hard for a non
    garmin alternative.)

    Linux desktop that I’m writing this on, second
    tower box running ubuntu and linuxcnc (emc), nexus S
    phone, asus transformer prime (unfortunatly the
    one with the bad gps antenna, nook tablet. Since
    I got the transformer, I don’t haul the laptop
    much. If it dies, I will probably get rid of the
    garmin gps and find something else. I use XP at
    work, because that’s the corporate box, but I have
    a linux box with a keyboard switch.

    So, I hardly think that running linux as your main
    system would be truly onerous — beyond the
    requirement to change and learn new stuff.

    Never tried a mac for real serious — I know that
    it takes more work to get a windows box tweaked to
    suit me with all the tools I use installed than it
    does to set up a kubuntu box from scratch. Both
    take a while to install and configure — more time
    to get all the tools installed than for the main
    install, and windows is much more of an annoyance
    than linux to bring up on cold hardware.

    So, I probably offend a fair percentage of you
    guys — I actively avoid Apple products. I don’t
    totally avoid Microsoft products. I tolerate
    Garmin because of the quality of the hardware.

    Oh well.

  130. I don’t understand the whole iOS vs Android dispute. Yes, the latter is opensource. At the same time most of the currently selling Android devices are closely tied to Google(or Amazon) cloud services. I honestly do not see the difference between using a crippled (unrooted) Cisco router, iPhone and an unrooted Android device: you are owned in each case.

    Furthermore, as was mentioned earlier, most of the currently selling Android devices are stuffed with closed drivers, which severely hampers users abilities to install and upgrade the software stack. Yes, it is nothing compared to cloud dependence, but it impedes the distribution of non-Android OSS systems.

    It doesn’t matter, if one prefers Android or other opensource smartphone OS, one should also support SOCs with least number of closed drivers, such as Ti OMAP.

    What we really need is devices with open systems and open drivers.
    http://openmoko.org/ seems promising, but the pricing is still high.

  131. Where we really /need/ a more consumer-friendly interface are the more complex setups. There are numerous firewall/router type Linux-based software solutions that target consumer-type markets, but those too tend to be one-size fits all with little in the way of flexibility if you need additional network interfaces or extra functionality.

    *snip*

    There is just no middle ground for those of us who need something more complex than consumer-grade offerings, but don’t need or want a whole rack of gear such as you would see in a corporate environment. Surely I’m not the only one in this situation?

    What, specifically, are you looking for? One of the biggest issues here is NRE costs; designing hardware like Cisco’s or Juniper’s that can forward data between hundreds of ports at GigE/10G line speed is quite expensive. If you’re looking at a midrange router, such as an equivalent to a Cisco 2900 or 3900 series, that’s the point where something like Vyatta is interesting.

    I will note that I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to build an inline QoS appliance for corporate datacenters, which have the irritating property that they need to apply a QoS policy on a per-destination basis rather than a per-output-port basis, which IOS doesn’t support. The primary reason I’ve not bothered with it is that lack of affordable, powerful-enough hardware. If there’s a serious market niche that could be filled with a nice custom ARM box with some dedicated coprocessors, maybe we should see what Eric’s engineering friends could do.

  132. You piss and moan about Apple being ebil and all but nary a word about Google.

    That’s funny as hell.

    Don’t give me the BS about how great Google is for giving you android. So what? Apple provides lots of open source too. NEITHER open sources their core software and you tell me which one is more in line with critical internet capabilities? The phone OS provider or the search, email, video, etc provider?

    Tell me that you can see what Google is doing with search results, how results are sorted and which ones you get to see at all?

    Tell me which thing dictators and authoritarian governments seek to tightly control. China didn’t stipulate one phone OS (which would be a locked down Android fork with spyware that would make CarrierIQ cry…not iOS)…instead they built a huge firewall and tightly control online services like search, email, etc. So who’s in far more position to cause harm, Apple or Google? Yet I don’t hear a single word about how closed source internet services or SAAS is ebil…just closed source iOS.

    I would assert that visibility into how search results are computed and returned FAR more critical to internet freedom than whether or not iOS is closed or whether some geek can custom load their own Android ROM which most people won’t do anyway. Being open source didn’t keep carriers from installing a root kit. And Apple more tightly constrained what CarrierIQ was collecting on the iPhone than what was being recorded on Android AND you could turn it off by turning off Diagnostics and Usage in Settings.

    Google trades your liberty for their profit every day. Hell, they got in bed with the carriers ever since the original Nexus didn’t sell and gave back all the ground Apple gained for consumers playing hardball with AT&T.

    So piss on you from a dizzying height for tacitly supporting Google while calling me an enemy of freedom. Every time you use Google search you are doing exactly the same thing as when I buy an iPhone. Worse really. Apple’s profit is driven by selling me hardware. Same for Cisco. I can moderate their behaviors by not buying their stuff. Google’s profit is driven by selling ads.

    Yah, those ad guys are the shining model of freedom and truth.

    I can’t not use search on the internet. Nor are there any non-ad driven searches worth anything…aside from the few limited services being used by Siri.

    So I use both and don’t worry about either. I don’t demonize Google users because I am one. I like many of their products and understand that I’m trading myself as a commodity for free stuff. When I’m tired of being a Google product, I’ll switch to non-Google services. When I tire of the iPhone I’ll buy something else. But not for a second do I believe either doesn’t do “ebil” on a daily basis or that I’m not supporting that “ebil” behavior when I buy/use any of their stuff.

    F(OSS)IJAGH. Don’t go putting on airs about supporting “freedom” because you’re all FIAWOL. And don’t give me shit about buying Apple if you use any Google services at all.

    And I call it “ebil” because it’s no where close to being evil in any real sense. Anyone really confusing any of this 1st world problem crap with actual evil or loss of freedom is either young or an idiot.

  133. I mainly run Windows for the Cisco VPN connection to a customer’s network. YOu know, that which brings in hard cash. I run that form within a VM, and then run Remote Desktop on top of that. I do also use the Garmin updater, though I understand their Mac stuff works pretty well these days. Unlike Jim, to me, GPS navigation begins and ends with Garmin. This comes from my experience as a pilot; Garmin owns that market for lots of good reasons.

    The GIMP would have to improve a lot to get up to “suck”, at least for me *as a Photoshop user*. The last time I tried it, I wound up screaming at it.

    And that really defines the difference for me between OS X and Linux and Windows: I don’t scream at OS X; I scream at Linux occasionally; and I scream at Windows regularly and loudly.

    I shouldn’t have to scream at my computer.

  134. >Possible? Yes. The same level of just-plug-it-in-and-it-works functionality? No. Functional at all? Probably. “Probably” isn’t good enough.

    I’d reply that I haven’t see the kind of crap you’re describing since about 2005, but that wouldn’t address what I think is the really central point here.

    You give up your liberty – and help Apple damage the liberty of others – to avoid inconvenience. We know how that song ends, and it never ends well.

    You have less excuse for doing this than almost anybody. J. Random End-User doesn’t know any better; he almost has to take the easy way out because he can’t handle anything but the easy way out, and his grasp of the the issues around proprietary infrastructure lockdown is minimal. You have neither excuse. You know what is at stake, and you fund the enemy anyway. (The “enemy” here is not just Apple, but it certainly includes Apple.)

    Suppose Apple Firearms made a weapon that never has to be cleaned or oiled, but the warranty says “we reserve the right to install a remote-controlled trigger lock at any time”. So conveeenient! And such a shiny finish! You’d recoil in horror at this, and rightly. Yet Apple-no-longer-Computers does the exact equivalent, and you reward them with money and praise. You set your peers and your neighbors and your relatives a bad example by buying in. You increase Apple’s positive externalities. You feed Apple’s dominance play.

    This is you acting against liberty – failing your duty and damaging the future.

    For all that he’s a fanatic, RMS is more in the right about this than you are.

  135. The problem with that is that it’s nice in theory, but runs into a brick wall in the real world. I can’t get Photoshop for Linux, and I have a substantial amount of work product that requires it. I can probably get something that will work acceptably with Microsoft Office documents. Yes, in an ideal world, we would be able to use OpenOffice to get that job done, but this ain’t an ideal world. The same goes for the Cisco VPN, and for the other stuff I listed.

    In an ideal world, I can tell someone that I’ll give them an almost-compatible document. In the real world, they’ll tell me to give them a truly compatible document or else they’ll find a contractor who will.

    Not all of us have the luxury of picking our customers.

  136. I can sympathize with people who have the need for specialized proprietary software. Funnily enough this need is stronger in expert or niche computing than general computing where Open Source is pretty strong. Expert or specialist fields almost always require some inside knowledge which an independent developer might not possess.

    The biggest issue with proprietary software is “price” for most of us. Most proprietary software are sold in USD that costs several months salary in other currencies. Ironically free beer is what inspires Free Software/Open Source adoption and it is a surprisingly strong argument. For a lot of general computing needs, “adequate” and “meets the requirement” is good enough.

    I am pragmatic enough to admit that cost is a big motivation for me. Spending several hundreds of dollars on software that I simply use for general computing purposes is too much, especially since I am not in the IT field.

  137. >Not all of us have the luxury of picking our customers.

    I repeat: This is you acting against liberty, failing your duty and damaging the future. And you know that’s true, or you wouldn’t be falling back on “my customers make me do it!”

    The measure of your love of liberty is precisely the amount of inconvenience, pain, and effort you are willing to undertake to increase it. You know this. Yet on this issue, you fail. What does that say about you?

  138. I keep trying to plug OpenOffice/LibreOffice whenever I can. I try to get my colleagues to adopt it, but they still insist on pirated MS Word. It’s banging your head against a wall.

    There really is no excuse for using proprietary software at least in general everyday computing. I agree that in certain niche or specialized fields there are no viable alternatives to proprietary software. CAD/CAM is an obvious example.

    The only reason proprietary software still works is because most people break the EULAs blatantly and the proprietary software companies cannot enforce their terms strictly. When the day comes when EULAs can be strictly enforced, proprietary software adoption might fall off. But they won’t do that, because they know the dangers of antagonizing paying customers beyond a point. All the restrictions are introduced in slow and subtle steps.

  139. @Jay: You keep mentioning a Cisco VPN. What setup are you connecting to? I’ve not yet run into a Cisco-terminated VPN that either vpnc or the Cisco AnyConnect client wouldn’t happily connect to from my Linux machine.

  140. “What does that say about you?”

    That I’m human?

    And yes, I know that the price was once stated as “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor”. For the right cause, I’ll pay that price. I don’t agree that this – or anything having to do with the freedom to write and run programs of my choosing – has risen to the level of that cause. I think that it’ll take much more than what Cisco actually did to reach that point. Perhaps if they actually did what you said they did, and then refused to retract it and instead stood behind it, then we’re in that ballpark. But I just don’t think it’s *possible* for a corporation to actually do that. Whether they backpedaled or not, they didn’t stick with the doomsday scenario. I contend that the market – remember the market? This is a song about the market – would not permit it.

  141. @esr
    > Er…in what way are you disagreeing with me? You’re not
    > denying zero-sum competition for the infrastructure, you’re describing it.

    Sure I am. I said the existence of Apache means more websites, therefore it is not zero sum, more IIS web sites does not necessarily mean less Apache websites. I think the same is true of Android but perhaps less obviously so

  142. Nowadays you answer a handful of questions to set your keyboard preferences and identify yourself to the OS, and you’re done.

    I wish. I was an Ubuntu user since 2006. The 12.04 upgrade punched my wireless connection in the face – we’re talking about having to reset the connection every 180 seconds. Unity was dog slow and would crash the machine a couple of times a day. I installed Debian, which looked like hell on my Asus widescreens out of the box. For grins, I tried and failed to install Arch. Then I figured out that Windows 7 has an Ubuntu One client. This is why I didn’t stick around trying to make Debian look good – even though it was running, I wasn’t sure how I was going to migrate my files out of U1 to some equivalent service, or what that service might be.

    I had Windows laying around because my Radeon 6870 could not be convinced to output to twinview under 11.04. Install the proprietary drivers that Ubuntu merrily offered you, and you got death screens that required booting to graphics-safe mode and hand-editing xorg.conf. 11.10 cleared this up, but by 12.04 we had a laggy, crashy desktop and hobbled wireless.

    I really, really want to do the right thing but spending a week beating my head against hardware that doesn’t want to play nicely with Linux is a poor use of my time. I’m planning to throw 12.04 back down on this machine so I can dual boot alongside Win7, but it will have to wait until I finish a current job that requires Sketchup.

  143. Hari: I own a legitimate copy of Office 2011 for the Mac. I refuse to use proprietary software I haven’t paid for.

    Christopher: That may be true, and if so, then it would eliminate my need to run Windows for that job (though I’d probably run it in a VM anyway so that I could use the VPN and keep my normal network connection for normal use while it’s up).

    And Eric, as for not seeing that kind of thing since 2005…then perhaps you can tell Paul where he went wrong, three times over?

  144. > Hari: I own a legitimate copy of Office 2011 for the Mac. I refuse to use proprietary software I haven’t paid for.

    This behaviour might be common in the US and other European countries. In the so-called Third World, a large number of proprietary software are blatantly copied and used. This kind of thing actually promotes proprietary software in a non-obvious way. I don’t agree with that behaviour myself and that’s why I choose to use Open Source, because I pay nothing and also because I get a product which doesn’t get locked down at the whim of a single entity.

    I am highly pragmatic in this way. The reason I mentioned .DOC format is because a lot of people refuse to/don’t know how to use anything else in spite of better alternatives. Luckily OpenOffice/LibreOffice does a decent conversion to DOC. Still, I push the ODT format wherever I can.

    I again repeat that for general everyday computing, I see no reason to use proprietary software and accept the license restrictions of the OEM vendor/proprietor; this apart from paying quite a substantial chunk of money for the privilege. This might technically be freedom of choice, but it’s like choosing a jail cell when you have freedom of the outdoors.

  145. When I say “I pay for nothing” I meant that in practical terms most Open Source software are also free in cost.

    Also don’t underestimate the huge motivation of zero cost.

  146. I think the whole, unavoidable point of this thread is:
    No matter how convenient your hardware/software/solution may be right now, empowering those who pretend to have power over you is a bigger inconvenience on the middle to long term. Yeah, it’s prettier. Yeah, it’s technically better. That doesn’t last, y’know? There are a ton of people working on anything you can come up with, and open technologies tend to improve faster, so in time they achieve technical superiority. Aesthetic standards come and go, and many an artist is available to work on anything that will be profitable.

    But! There are monsters out there, companies that are too ubiquitous. Too high a percentage of internet traffic goes through Cisco routers. Too much personal data is stored in Apple handsets, Facebook accounts, &c. There’s a lot of personal info in Android handsets, too.

    Many have pointed out, “Why not rail against Google?” For one: Google sends me a notification whenever their privacy policies are changing. Also, Google promises to remove my data from their servers if I ask them to. It’s wrong when someone you work with changes the terms of the contract without saying anything, independently of the result of the change.
    Yes, I mean if you were working with someone and they changed the terms of the contract to make you earn ten times what you were supposed to unilaterally it is wrong. Because, why on Earth do they have the right to do it? Why should they? Shouldn’t all the parties in a contract be required to notify the rest of the parties when they _intend_ to make a change? Even if they have the power to make unilateral changes, they should at least give the parties the choice of continuing or stopping the contract.

    Best case scenario, no one can change the contract unilaterally. They can propose, they can negotiate til they have agreements worked out. They can back out of contract, with the implications carried by that.

    Aye, aye, complications for the companies et al. Well, I didn’t say an ideal scenario was easy.

    For now, the middle ground would be good enough (a part intending to make a change should be required to inform the parties in time, and the parties should have the option of rejecting the new terms or backing out of the contract).

    @esr : could we just let it rest in the fact that the power asymmetry is very dangerous, particularly so when a few are gripping the many? And that no one should help that kind of situation if they could help it? And that everyone should be on top of more symmetric alternatives to what they’re working with right now, lest they be used and abused by powers that feed on power? I relate to the fear, the anger. I understand how seeing people hand our future into someone’s hands is frustrating. I understand the wish to make them stop.

    Think about this: by explicitly equating being a company’s client with being part of a totalitarian effort, you’re alienating the people you’d rather convince/coax into understanding the damage they do society when they facilitate an actor’s growth and asymmetric empowerment. Isn’t it a better option to have people see things a better way?
    You know, you’re exhibiting alpha male characteristics here. Picking a fight, even, I’d say.
    Don’t sweat it, man. There’s a lot of work to be done. Play smart. Don’t let these incidents get the better of you.

  147. Suppose Apple Firearms made a weapon that never has to be cleaned or oiled, but the warranty says “we reserve the right to install a remote-controlled trigger lock at any time”. So conveeenient! And such a shiny finish! You’d recoil in horror at this, and rightly.

    Sure.

    Android Firearms has all the same issues as Apple firearms except that it needs to be cleaned and oiled and is not quite as pretty because what you fail to realize is that Verizon, Sprint and AT&T Ammo holds all the cards in the end anyway. No ammo, no bang bang. No CarrierIQ root kit no carrier.

    And given that Apple Firearms only makes money from actually selling me guns I want to buy the odds they’ll ever install that remote trigger lock are very remote and is in generally better position to resist doing so or mitigating the effects when pressured to do so by the Ammunition makers more than anyone else because of the market power they have. Users will switch ammo makers before they switch from Apple guns and the ammo makers know this to the extent that one ammo maker has paid Apple Firearms handsomely for a model that chambers their round.

    Not to mention I buy a new gun every two years anyway and it doesn’t really matter because I can jailbreak the gun and disable the trigger lock and Apple just looks the other way. Because I’M their customer, not the carriers. They need to meet my needs if I’m going to buy any more guns.

    That’s completely unlike say Samsung Firearms that sells to carriers to resell to me. For Samsung the sale is to the Verizon.

    The day I can’t jailbreak an Apple Firearms gun is likely the same day that Ammunition makers require a locked boot loader on any Android Firearms gun before they sell me any ammo.

  148. > The iPhone is currently the attempt at evil infrastructure lockdown that has the largest visible fan base.

    Oh, so your attack on the iPhone fan base is based on how it looks. ;-)

  149. I repeat: This is you acting against liberty, failing your duty and damaging the future. And you know that’s true, or you wouldn’t be falling back on “my customers make me do it!”

    No, this is Jay, and myself, and countless others, being professionals.

    The world uses Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to communicate. This is a fact. If you work in the business world, it is your responsibility, as a professional, to ensure that you have the tooling to receive and transmit business communications — in the formats that business understands. Digging in your heels and refusing, because Microsoft products infringe on your holy freedom, is unprofessional. It’ll get you fired, it’ll get you shut out of almost any employment that involves touching a computer. There you’ll be, flipping burgers or pumping gas or something, but free because you don’t have to touch a Microsoft product.

    Man up and install Word already.

    The measure of your love of liberty is precisely the amount of inconvenience, pain, and effort you are willing to undertake to increase it. You know this. Yet on this issue, you fail. What does that say about you?

    Being a proprietary refusenik doesn’t actually increase your liberty. Not in any practical terms that can be measured. It closes more doors than it opens. It confines you to a ghetto.

  150. When I say “I pay for nothing” I meant that in practical terms most Open Source software are also free in cost.

    Also don’t underestimate the huge motivation of zero cost.

    TANSTAAFL.

  151. >The world uses Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to communicate. This is a fact. If you work in the business world, it is your responsibility, as a professional, to ensure that you have the tooling to receive and transmit business communications — in the formats that business understands.

    Outside of IT, most people don’t care that much. If you send them a DOC or PDF file prepared by OpenOffice.org/LibreOffice, nobody would know it or care much even if they did so long as they can open the file.

    At least, 90% of professionals outside IT don’t use the advanced features of Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Free and Open source alternatives that can read those file formats are just as good in practical terms.

  152. >That I’m human?

    And yet you sneer at RMS. By your own standards – your own expressed standards, mind you, never mind what I might think – he’s a better man than you. I’ve often thought this is why you are so venomous about him, precisely because he pursues his conception of liberty with a degree of courage and determination you have never applied to yours. So of course there has to be something deeply wrong with his “liberty”; you’ve been yelling that for decades.

    Well, there is something wrong with it – more than one wrong, actually. Sometimes I think you identify those wrongs correctly. But more often, when I’ve heard you going on about “Stallmanites” for the last 25 years, I’ve thought that it’s not really Stallman’s ideals you’re enraged at but the fact that you’ve never risked as much as he has for your own.

    Jay, it’s never too late to start doing the right thing. If you can’t manage that all the way through, you could at least stop pretending that funding and praising the enemy isn’t wrong.

    > Perhaps if they actually did what you said they did, and then refused to retract it and instead stood behind it, then we’re in that ballpark

    Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.

    James Madison was right. If you wait to take a stand for liberty until the lockdown actually is in place, it is much less likely that you will reverse the imposition. It is precisely at the point where the trial balloon goes up, when the initially-deniable experiment on our liberties begins, that the wise man recognizes the enemy and fights.

    You know this, Jay. Out of everyone I know personally you are among the least in need of reminding of these principles. When and how will you step up?

  153. “They are enemies of liberty – enablers and accomplices before the fact in vendor schemes to spy on you, control you, and imprison you”

    Apple fan bois, why you hate America and freedom?

    “Android Firearms has all the same issues as Apple firearms except that it needs to be cleaned and oiled and is not quite as pretty because what you fail to realize is that Verizon, Sprint and AT&T Ammo holds all the cards in the end anyway. No ammo, no bang bang. No CarrierIQ root kit no carrier.”

    That is only in America, in normal countries you can buy any phone outright and it will be network unlocked.

  154. I wish that somebody would make a movie about the world in which hackers have lost.

    In this world, ubiquitous computing has come to an ugly sort of fruition. All of your household appliances have tablets built into them, they all blare advertisements at you, and they all spy on you. People put up with it mostly because targeted advertising has gotten really, really good. The camera inside your refrigerator notices that you’re running low on beer, so the refrigerator offers to order you a new case, with the option to make such future orders automatic.

    Law enforcement has its fingers in everything too, of course. They can tap into any of your appliances for investigative purposes basically at will; this is supposed to require a warrant and probable cause, but there are so many loopholes in that requirement that it might as well not exist. If the police want to arrest you, there’s seldom any need for them to come and take you into custody. Instead, your self-driving car will just lock you inside and drive you to the police station.

    There’s still a recognizable hacker culture, but it’s marginal and irrelevant. It’s forced to work with decades-old equipment, because nothing newer will run anything other than vendor-signed binaries. Jailbreaking is prohibitively difficult because the DRM is all baked into the hardware at a very low level, so a software exploit will only persist until the next reboot or until the next automatic firmware update wipes your device state; more importantly, such jailbreaking is a serious crime for which you are almost certain to be caught and punished.

    Hardware engineers have been forced into a guild system controlled by a few of the biggest technology companies. Basic tools like soldering irons are regulated as “piracy-enabling devices”, and possessing them unsupervised requires a license which is only issued to guild members who have completed an apprenticeship.

    The old, unconfined hardware that hackers work with can’t get on the internet any more, so they’re relegated to exchanging data via ham radio. Building such radios usually requires a guild member’s assistance. There’s a vague sense that providing such assistance is frowned upon, but nobody really gets in trouble for this because hackers are just viewed harmless eccentrics.

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  156. >Many have pointed out, “Why not rail against Google?” For one: Google sends me a notification whenever their privacy policies are changing. Also, Google promises to remove my data from their servers if I ask them to.

    Even more importantly, Google has a Data Liberation Front. Their intent – and, modulo bugs that they’re continuously fixing, the reality – is that I can get my data back out.

    This puts Google in a completely different ethical category than the Apples, Microsofts, and Ciscos of the world.

  157. In case people think I’m just being a cheapskate and use Open Source because of zero cost, I don’t mind that impression because it does happen to be true to an extent, but I’d also like to state that another major reason I would continue using and promoting Free and Open Source alternatives is to promote, in my own small way, the adoption of open standards in data, software and hardware. I think that is the only way to avoid lock-down and tie-in to vendor specific incompatible formats.

    More than cost, the subtle, slow locking down of proprietary software/hardware is worrying especially because in this era of the internet, the vendors force you to verify software keys online and so on. More than the actual software itself, the binary closed file formats with subtle inconsistencies across versions to force upgrading are genuine concerns for a lot of us.

    Not all Open Source/Free Software supporters are idealists. In fact, the idealism is pretty much founded on genuine and real concerns.

  158. Well, there is something wrong with it – more than one wrong, actually. Sometimes I think you identify those wrongs correctly. But more often, when I’ve heard you going on about “Stallmanites” for the last 25 years, I’ve thought that it’s not really Stallman’s ideals you’re enraged at but the fact that you’ve never risked as much as he has for your own.

    No, Eric. Stallman can afford to be a radical because he has less to lose. He’s quite content not to breed; and even if he weren’t he can’t keep a girlfriend to save his life.

    In the real world, programmers have mortgages and families. Proprietary software — its use and especially its creation — puts food on the table. High-and-mighty arguments about freedom go right out the window when faced with the prospect of growling bellies and crying children.

  159. I don’t think I’d buy a router just to do routing, at least at home.

    A computer can do that (and I have a Linux box in the datacentre doing a whole lot more work with shorewall/iptables than any (well most) home device would).

    The hardware that’s difficult to make and sensitive to bugginess is the DSL / WiFi bit. Even then, you could, but it’s not a Raspberry Pi. Not sure how the premises equipment for FTTH hangs together though – separate laser transceiver/router or are they all integrated?

  160. @PapayaSF:
    >and there are no legally-enforced monopolies

    But the thing is that the copyright on the router firmware, as well as the DMCA’s prohibition on bypassing hardware features that prevent you from installing arbitrary firmware of your own, constitutes a legally enforced monopoly.

  161. @Jay Maynard:
    >I haven’t done a desktop Linux in a few years. I’ve been watching over Paul’s shoulder when he has, though…and listening to him cuss.

    >The last time he did a machine from the get-go was a new Toshiba laptop he bought in February.

    As far as installing the OS itself (as opposed to dealing with poor-quality/non-existent applications), you’re probably better off if you go the same route with Linux as you’d generally go with MacOS or Windows: Buy a machine with the OS preinstalled. I’ve had a much better experience with my System76 laptop than with the various machines that I’ve tried installing Linux on from scratch.

  162. If you ever doubt that morality is taste with some extra baggage, read this back-to-back with the “fanatical RMS” discussions. De gustibus…

    I’m pleased that ESR seems to be hewing much closer to my own tastes here. Although he’ll stay in character, I suspect he’s dropping the “enemies of liberty” bomb for the same rhetorical reasons that RMS does. They probably compare notes on this sort of project.

  163. Nigel, Jay Maynard, Jessica Boxer, Jeff Read: Yes.

    Jon Brase: I am not arguing in favor of the DMCA. What I mean is that government is not determining your choice of router/computer/etc.

    Eric, your absolutism on this reminds me of my leftist friends hyperventilating about Citizens United: they are positive that from now on the rich will buy all elections, swaying the dim multitudes with barrages of lying ads. Purists see slippery slopes everywhere, and ignore essential, counterbalancing parts of the situation. Geeks also tend to see things as engineering problems, and disdain any issues of design as mere “marketing” or “glitz” or “pretty pictures,” or believe that anyone preferring Apple is merely “avoiding inconvenience.”

    However, the greatest examples of art and design are by individuals or hierarchical teams. By it’s very nature, open source can never innovate on the level of the first iPhone or first iPad. These are beautiful and iconic and massively influential computing milestones that I’m afraid open source cannot equal, not anytime soon, and only by following Apple’s lead. Open source has never created a massively popular consumer product, and I’m afraid that its essential nature means it can’t. But don’t feel too bad: Microsoft and Samsung and Dell and Sony have been trying and failing for years as well.

    (Android is not a “consumer product.” It is an OS for many different consumer products.)

    Apple is creating revolutionary products that are enabling liberty and changing the lives of everyone from infants to grandmothers, all at good prices and with good profits for Apple due to vast economies of scale. Unfortunately, Apple can’t do this and also be 100% open source. (They are also not 100% closed, given Darwin, Apple’s support for web standards, etc., and I am unaware of any situation in which you can’t “get your data back” from them.) That’s a price I am willing to pay for now. If the boot of tyranny descends, I’ll scream as loud as you will, but as I said in my first posts I don’t see major dangers anywhere close. One can always freak out over “If This Goes On” fantasies, but there are good reasons to think that it won’t go on in the ways you fear. You are one of those good reasons, but your extreme position clouds your vision and causes you to see Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, the RIAA, the MPAA, and various statists as one looming and coordinated (or soon to be) “enemy.” (OK, I’ll grant the **AAs and various statists as “enemies.”) If Apple does something like preventing OS X from running programs from outside the App Store, I will say you were right and I was wrong, but I’d bet they won’t.

    I am willing to trade away a fraction of my computing liberty because it looks like it’s the only way these major innovations can be created. If you think what makes iPhones/iPads/iOS successful is surface gloss, brainwashing marketing, and/or vendor lock-in, it just means you are blind to the superb design skills that went into all levels of those products, and what that means to non-geeks. If you think that Apple’s design decisions are just in the service of tyranny, then you don’t know how designers think. The closed aspects are serving the design, and the design is not serving as a cover for tyranny. I can tell the difference.

    I work with professional designers and have done some myself, and we are all in awe of Apple’s skills, and grok their goals in ways you do not. True, Apple is not making ultimate geek products, but they are (for now) making the ultimate consumer products. It is also easier and more likely for Apple to shift in a more open source direction (e.g. by relaxing App Store restrictions), while it is probably impossible for Android to unfragment, vastly improve their user experience, and produce Apple-quality products at Apple-level price points. (Though of course there will be cheap Android items for the low end and geek-thrilling items at the high end.)

    Open source can only look at iPhones and iPads and try to create open source equivalents. Good luck, sincerely. Again, the competition is great for all sides. But admit that one company you group with “the enemy” is driving innovation these days, and that without the iPhone, Android would be a Blackberry clone, and without the iPad, tablet computing would barely exist. Don’t hate Apple, outdo them… if you can.

  164. @PapayaSF
    > If you think what makes iPhones/iPads/iOS successful is surface gloss, brainwashing marketing, and/or vendor lock-in,

    That is pretty emphatically not what he is saying. The most advanced, the most well-engineered, the most powerful and useful and amazing software ever created would still be intensely damaging in the long term when packaged the way the Apples and Ciscos and Microsofts in the world do.

    An Applelyte friend of mine once admitted that buying into Apple is a Faustian bargain; he said this with a straight face, not, I think, fully grasping the weight of what he was admitting.

  165. @jsk: Those opinions have been voiced around these parts.

    “Damaging in the long term” only if certain things Go On, and I don’t think they will. Competition from open source, customer outrage, and the free market in general will prevent things from getting too bad in the long term.

  166. A real-world example: All industry attempts to sell music online failed. Apple created the proprietary iTunes Store, getting the industry to agree to flat, low prices and sales of individual tracks, in exchange for some mild DRM. The iTunes Store flourishes. Then the industry freaks: Apple has become too powerful. They agree to sell through Amazon and others, without DRM. Then, iTunes drops DRM as well. Now we have robust markets for digital music, benefitting artists large and small, and no closed source/DRM slippery slope toward musical tyranny that I can see….

  167. Even more importantly, Google has a Data Liberation Front. Their intent – and, modulo bugs that they’re continuously fixing, the reality – is that I can get my data back out.

    This puts Google in a completely different ethical category than the Apples, Microsofts, and Ciscos of the world.

    Which has zero to do with your ridiculous assertion that Apple is evil simply because iOS is part of the communications infrastructure, closed source and therefore could maybe do evil things for the government to take away your privacy or liberty.

    Google’s search engine is a far more important part of the communications infrastructure than iOS and has larger market share than iOS. It is completely closed source and you have nearly zero visibility into how it works, what it decided to not show you (or bury on page 100) or why.

    It is VERY clear that Google is far more willing to invade your privacy than Apple to the point it hacked Safari to circumvent browser features designed protect user privacy. Google’s core business model is based on more effectively tracking users and creating massive data sets to better sell ads. Data sets keyed to your user account that Google WILL provide to governmental authorities 93% of the time.

    http://www.webpronews.com/google-transparency-report-2011-2012-06

    It is VERY clear that Google’s closed source has FAR more ABILITY to impact your liberty than iOS because the PRC uses search censoring to effectively make Tiananmen square not exist on the internet and regularly make people, organizations and other events disappear in the same manner.

    Governments don’t need to install monitoring and control software in your OS. Your ability to control the software on YOUR computer clear down to the metal is completely immaterial to your liberty or privacy if you connect to the internet. Good luck being relevant if you do not.

    I do agree that Google is in a different ethical category than Apple though. Far worse. Whatever mythical threat you can conjure up for Apple, Google has already deliberately exploited software vulnerabilities to track users. That’s highly unethical and they sure as hell did not inform Safari users that they were doing so.

    And Google censors search results today to comply with DMCA like they did with the Scientology stuff and perhaps more close to home, Google Shopping search results won’t return firearms, ammo or accessory results in the future.

    http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2012/06/foghorn/google-censor-firearms-related-shopping-results/

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/frankminiter/2012/07/05/google-sadly-joins-the-anti-gun-brigade/

    But I’m sure you’re going to figure out some way to rationalize continuing to support that bastion of liberty and privacy while lambasting Apple users as “Enemies of Liberty” in cahoots with the government.

    How do you justify that bullshit? And what the hell will they censor next? Maybe it won’t just be limited to shopping results but how would you ever know? Got the source? No. Do you care? Evidently not. Because obviously Google search is not a key component to the “communications infrastructure” crucial to liberty and we can trust them because they spout the right FOSS buzzwords, sponsor GSOC and have the Data Liberation Front.

    Great goggly moogly. Does Franklin have a pithy saying about trading essential liberties for some temporary GSOC?

  168. Mr. McCulloch:

    I am not a trusting sort when the issue is closed-source software in critical communications infrastructure, and the language in your cloud terms of service was offensive and overreaching in the extreme. Considering that Cisco reserves the right to change those terms of service at any time, including reverting to the overreaching language and policy, there is almost nothing Cisco could possibly say that I would consider anything but soothing bullshit intended to distract attention from that capability. (Please do not take this evaluation personally; I am willing to assume you are honest, it is just the legal posture your company has assumed makes your honesty irrelevant.)

    There is, however, one important exception. I would be delighted to assist Cisco in improvng its business and product strategy so that it does not rely on source-code secrecy. I have assisted other Fortune 500 companies in this manner, and it is cold fact that this advice has been worth hundreds of millions of dollars to them and in at least one case directly saved a well-known firm from going bust. I do not regard Cisco’s case as particularly difficult – the economics of the solution are quite obvious, the difficult part would be changing your corporate culture to be able to execute it properly.

    If you believe you can set up this conversation with your principals, please begin that process. I’d even travel by air to meet them, something I haven’t done since the TSA instituted zap-and-grope.

  169. @esr
    “Which required government partners on both ends. The African barracoons were stocked by war captives, criminals, and others who had incurred the displeasure of the local chief. At the New World end, the whole edifice depended on laws that criminalized escaping slaves, forbade blacks from being taught to read, and disarmed free blacks.”

    Calling the warring fiefdoms of Africa “governments” is a stretch into oblivion of the word. They mostly would not even qualify for “war-lord”. And for a person to be captured in a slave hunt it does not really matter whether the hunting party was called “soldiers” or “brigands”.

    Also, your US centric vision hides the fact that even more slaves were hunted by Arabs in the east than by westerners. And the Arabs simply hired brigands for their raids. And if we go back, Greek traders were always also pirates and slave hunters when the opportunity presented itself. Classical Greek stories contain ample examples of slaves who had been simply abducted by passing ships.

    And all slave holding societies treated slaves as property. There was little difference between the societies in North and South America, or the Sultanate. Bringing up some specific laws in the USA does not explain slave holder societies in Middle and South America and the Caribbean.

    In all of this, slave hunting, trading, and holding was a private commercial activity run by private “companies”. The law was only involved as a promoter of commerce. In the end, it was state laws that stopped the practice of slavery for the first time in human history. Without state laws, there would still be slavery now as there has been since the dawn of the neolithic.

  170. >They probably compare notes on this sort of project.

    We do not. I would be willing to, but one of the consequences of RMS’s fanatical tendencies is that his behavior around me is…we’ll just say “erratic”. I consider this a deep shame. We were close friends once, and I would still be his friend if his fixations allowed it. I still try to do him a good turn on the personal level, when I can.

    Yes, I know. You couldn’t make this stuff up, it sounds like melodrama from a bad novel, etc. Truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes.

  171. >That is pretty emphatically not what he is saying. The most advanced, the most well-engineered, the most powerful and useful and amazing software ever created would still be intensely damaging in the long term when packaged the way the Apples and Ciscos and Microsofts in the world do.

    That is correct.

  172. >Calling the warring fiefdoms of Africa “governments” is a stretch into oblivion of the word.

    You’re quite wrong on the facts here, but it’s an excusable mistake. Even well-educated people are normally unaware of the extent of state formation in Africa prior to European contact and as these governments existed during the era of the slave trade. Look up the Benin and Songhai empires sometime (just two West African states with organization well beyond the warlord stage). The Ethiopian kingdom was continuous from the 2nd century BC and strong enough to fend off the Europeans during the scramble for Africa.

    Africa was not a happy hunting ground for private-sector slavetakers. One of the clearest patterns to emerge from primary sources on the slave trade is that the actual enslavement of Africans was largely (though not entirely) a jealously-guarded monopoly of their own governments. Which makes sense; if you were the Emperor of Songhai or Benin or Ethiopia you would have to take a dim view of interlopers poaching your free subjects. And you would enforce that disapproval quite violently.

    Another reason you don’t know this is that it has suited modern political purposes to deny or minimize African complicity in the slave trade. Also, the sub-Saharan African states were pre-literate, and for centuries nobody took the primary sources from the early contact period seriously enough. Apparently the reason the captives of the barracoons were docile enough for tiny parties of Europeans to dominate them is that a large percentage had already been broken to slavery by their own people.

    You also quite wrong in imagining that state-originated law was either necessary or sufficient to abolish slavery. A notable case was England, in which slavery faded away in early medieval times without ever being formally proscribed – in fact, the legal apparatus available to the English kingdom at that time lacked the reach to proscribe slavery even if that had been intended. On the other hand, chattel slavery is still widely practiced in Saudi Arabia, much of the rest of Islamic world, India, and Southeast Asia despite having been legally abolished.

    Yes, I’ve read specialist histories of slavery. Er, more than one.

  173. @esr

    > the most powerful and useful and amazing software ever created would still be intensely
    > damaging in the long term when packaged the way the Apples and Ciscos and Microsofts
    > in the world do.

    That is correct.”

    The underlying principle is code is law.

    Code Is Law
    On Liberty in Cyberspace
    by Lawrence Lessig, January-February 2000
    http://harvardmagazine.com/2000/01/code-is-law-html

    This regulator is code—the software and hardware that make cyberspace as it is. This code, or architecture, sets the terms on which life in cyberspace is experienced. It determines how easy it is to protect privacy, or how easy it is to censor speech. It determines whether access to information is general or whether information is zoned. It affects who sees what, or what is monitored. In a host of ways that one cannot begin to see unless one begins to understand the nature of this code, the code of cyberspace regulates.

    I think I agree with the analysis of Lessig.

  174. Pingback: The problem with “never” | Sealed Abstract

  175. Pingback: Cisco provides a lesson | The World of Open | Scoop.it

  176. The most advanced, the most well-engineered, the most powerful and useful and amazing software ever created would still be intensely damaging in the long term when packaged the way the Apples and Ciscos and Microsofts in the world do.

    In what way does Apple, Cisco and Microsoft differ from Google? Care to send me the source for GMail? Or YouTube? Or Google Docs? Or Google Analytics? Or Google Search?

    None of these are “Angry Birds” level of importance. It would be nice if you guys were somewhat consistent.

  177. I think you should pity these closed source companies. The pressure on them by your own government is overwhelming.

    I don’t think Cisco needs the data, under the whole noise lies an invisible hand – that of the fbi, nsa and any other security agency.

    Now that the move to use Cisco to spy on the world has been blocked, expect a similar move either through the courts or through congress. Its inevitable, its coming.

  178. Eric, if I offended you with my earlier comparisons of your recent approach with RMS, I’m sorry. It was not intended personally, but as criticism of your actions.

    As to what I can do…I don’t know. I honestly don’t know if I can live up to the high standards you feel are necessary. I have bills to pay, and my line of work is such that I have to deal with technologies you find abhorrent. Perhaps that will change. I don’t know.

  179. Jon, the System76 laptops are not usable for me. They all have sucky Intel graphics chipsets that are not supported for Second Life under Linux, and adding support is well beyond my capabilities.

  180. @esr
    >The measure of your love of liberty is precisely the amount of inconvenience, pain, and effort you are willing to undertake to increase it.

    As you know, the Internet runs mostly on Cisco routers. Since you have determined they are an evil, opaque blob of binary, are you willing to put up with the inconvenience, pain and effort of not using those routers, and consequently not using the Internet, to increase your liberty?

    Not meant as a trap question, really, this isn’t reductio ad absurdum,, it is at most a step or two from Excel and Word .I should say that I am not unfamiliar with the sacrifice you mention, as some of your commenters know I have refused to get on an airplane ever since the TSA gonzo strip show started playing, which is a royal pain in the ass I assure you. There are far too few sunny beaches within drive of me.

  181. Christopher: That may be true, and if so, then it would eliminate my need to run Windows for that job (though I’d probably run it in a VM anyway so that I could use the VPN and keep my normal network connection for normal use while it’s up).

    That’s one of the things that I really appreciate about vpnc–since it was open-source, any fat-fingering by clients’ IT people doesn’t screw up my normal routing, and I can (and do) limit what I send over the VPN. The Cisco client, by contrast, tries to make your connection “secure” and is often too clever for its own good.

    Not sure how the premises equipment for FTTH hangs together though – separate laser transceiver/router or are they all integrated?

    Last-mile fiber is usually set up so that the provider can also run TV and phone over it, so you typically get a little demarc breakout box with an Ethernet IP handoff.

    By it’s very nature, open source can never innovate on the level of the first iPhone or first iPad. These are beautiful and iconic and massively influential computing milestones that I’m afraid open source cannot equal, not anytime soon, and only by following Apple’s lead. Open source has never created a massively popular consumer product, and I’m afraid that its essential nature means it can’t.

    The Internet, including e-mail and the Web, isn’t a massively popular consumer product?

  182. The Internet, including e-mail and the Web, isn’t a massively popular consumer product?

    The internet isn’t open source because some components within it is open source any more than OSX is open source because Darwin is open source.

    Some FOSS proponents like to take full credit for the internet but I remember back then we were building pretty much all the major components we consider the Internet on closed source components. The LAMP stack was too immature to deploy major sites on and didn’t scale well due to limitations in Linux even as late as 2000 when Apache had 60+% share. In comparison IIS was running Dell.com, Intel.com, Nasdaq.com on craptastic WinNT and Win2K servers and Solaris + Netscape (aka iPlanet) was the market leader in scalability.

    E-Commerce: webobjects, cold fusion, intershop
    Web servers: Netscape Enterprise Server, IIS
    DB: Oracle, Sybase, etc
    OS: Solaris, HPUX, AIX, etc
    Browsers: Netscape, IE

    The internet may have originally been driven by ARPA but proprietary companies like Netscape, Sun, Microsoft were soon in the drivers seat when it turned commercial. Almost all the user facing elements were proprietary: browsers, e-commerce sites, web portals, search engines and of course AOL which was a major gateway for internet usage back in the dialup days. Even most of the backend stuff was running on proprietary unixes until much later when the LAMP stack commoditized web servers after a massive IBM tech injection.

  183. @PapayaSF
    “By it’s very nature, open source can never innovate on the level of the first iPhone or first iPad. ”

    A very common meme. And wrong. The WWW was already mentioned (like the Higgs, from CERN).

    The problem with your reasoning is that you try to compare FLOSS projects, which produce software modules, with packaged hardware products.

    Designing and selling a finished, OTF hardware product is orthogonal to producing a software module, e.g., Apache or Firefox, that will perform a specific task. The former might chose to incorporate the latter, but that has nothing to do with it’s success.

    An honest comparison would be to take Apple software, e.g., Safari, and compare it to equivalent FLOSS software, e.g., Firefox, Chrome, or Konquerer. And then say who’s offerings are the incomparably more innovative or iconic.

  184. >As you know, the Internet runs mostly on Cisco routers. Since you have determined they are an evil, opaque blob of binary, are you willing to put up with the inconvenience, pain and effort of not using those routers, and consequently not using the Internet, to increase your liberty?

    No, for the obvious reason that not using the Internet would mean ceasing to fight for liberty in the most effective way I can do.

    In any case, your parallel fails because I don’t give Cisco money and praise.

  185. @Nigel
    “Some FOSS proponents like to take full credit for the internet but I remember back then we were building pretty much all the major components we consider the Internet on closed source components.”

    The World-Wide-Web was FLOSS at invention.

    @Nigel
    “The LAMP stack was too immature to deploy major sites on and didn’t scale well due to limitations in Linux even as late as 2000 when Apache had 60+% share.”

    Before 1991, there was not even a single Internet node running on Linux, not even email!
    (so much for your “late”)

    Upto 2000 most heavy duty sides ran on Sun. Which itself was a fork of BSD. Hotmail started out on BSD, and it took MS years to migrate it to Windows.

  186. @Christopher Smith

    What, specifically, are you looking for?

    Me specifically or the typical home-consumer type user? My own needs are adequately handled by a Linux-based machine with multiple 4-port 100Mb ethernet cards, but configuration of such a system is not something the average person can do. Consumer-type firewall/router appliances use software under the hood that is actually very similar to what I use, only with a lot of the functionality stripped out and a proprietary web-based interface grafted on.

    Hardware such as a Cisco 2900 or 3900 would appear to be overkill for my purposes. My current PC-based hardware really isn’t too different from say an old Nokia IP440, although I’m using a slower CPU with more memory (IIRC, the 440 used a 300MHz or 333MHz Pentium II). Software wise, my setup is vastly different from something like the Nokia IP440 though. When I eventually “upgrade” the system’s hardware, I’ll be moving to a PICMG PCI backplane based setup.

    There are dozens of Linux-based projects that aim to replace consumer firewall/router type appliances — either with the software running on an x86 PC or software running on those little plastic boxes themselves, but both tend to suffer from lack of flexibility and features.

    When you look at Smoothwall for example (ignoring for the moment their annoying business model of giving away a crippled version while “licensing” a full-featured version [never mind the fact that all of this functionality is in fact provided by free/open source software, pretty much all of which is available on a Red Hat/Debian/etc Linux distribution...]), it was never planned to scale from the beginning “This release added support for a 4th interface (called BLUE) for use by people with wireless access points, [...]“ and still has hard-defined zones and functions. With these sort of one size fits all solutions, you have to compromise on your own requirements if the solution doesn’t offer the exact functionality you want (yes, you or I could hack and modify something like Smoothwall, but most people cannot). The same thing applies to those little plastic boxes and to an extent the replacement firmware options available for many of them.

    For my own setup, I would be happy with an easy to use web-based interface that would make configuration easier. I don’t /mind/ editing text based configuration files, but the average person would never be able to configure the setup I run without having to learn the syntax of all these different configuration files. If such a web-based interface existed, it could also be scaled and/or adapted for even more basic consumer-type router/firewall purposes and would go a long way towards a replacement for the proprietary web-based interfaces companies graft onto the free/open source software they cram into their firewall/router appliances. To sum this up, we need a scalable web-based configuration framework — something that can fit into either the tiny memory footprint of one of those plastic boxes, or scaled up for a more complex setup like I use. Webmin is the closest thing I’ve seen, but webmin is -massive-.

    I will note that I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to build an inline QoS appliance for corporate datacenters, which have the irritating property that they need to apply a QoS policy on a per-destination basis rather than a per-output-port basis, which IOS doesn’t support.

    Well, that’s getting back into the higher end stuff, but Znyx has some hardware which might be adaptable for such a purpose.

  187. >Eric, if I offended you with my earlier comparisons of your recent approach with RMS, I’m sorry. It was not intended personally, but as criticism of your actions.

    That didn’t offend me – I’m used to hearing much worse. The fact that you claim to value freedom as much as you do while giving Apple your money, on the other hand…OK, I won’t say that “offends” me either, it’s not personal that way. But you diminish yourself when you do that. It makes me unhappy when my friends diminish themselves.

    >As to what I can do…I don’t know.

    This doesn’t seem like a difficult question. Start reducing your dependency. One obvious thing to do would be to start using LibreOffice for routine business correspondence, and only fall back to Word if you actually get a “Hey, that was garbled” from a customer.

    >I honestly don’t know if I can live up to the high standards you feel are necessary.

    Worry about my standards second, if at all. Worry about your own standards first. When you live up to them, I think all we’ll have to argue is details.

  188. @ Tothwolf, Christopher Smith

    A few years ago I spent some time planning a homebrew router to use up some parts from the pile and indulge in some geeking.

    On the software side, I looked at Smoothwall (already mentioned) and had meant to check out “RouterOS” (http://routerboard.com/) which looks like it could be more what you are looking for (they also sell cool-looking hardware).

    (Of course time got the better of me and I ended up sticking with my trusty WRT54GL running DD-WRT.)

  189. In regards to Jay’s, doubts, I’ll comment that since version 2.8, GIMP includes a single-window interface. I don’t know how much of your needs does it satisfy, but it’s there.

  190. @esr
    I might be to sceptical about the power of the old Western African empires. However, it is common knowledge here that my country men never did catch their own slaves. However, the Arabs did organize their own raids in the upper nile upto the 20th century. No government there to speak of.

    Slavery in the Americas ended by law, not by custom. The USA ended slavery by force after a civil war.

  191. Adriano, there’s much more to the differences than whether it’s one window or many. To start with, none of the tools are where I expect to find them, and when I do, they don’t act the same way.

  192. @hari: “The only thing with Open Source that I still find irritating is the tendency to break things that already work well in the name of progress. Case in point: KDE 3.x series, which is about as mature and usable a desktop as there ever was in *nix.”

    I’ll second that. I still run KDE 3 using the Trinity build on Ubuntu:

    http://www.trinitydesktop.org/

    My only worry is that sooner or later the Trinity project will run out of steam; they’re taking some time to get a build out that’s compatible with Ubuntu 12.04.

  193. @Jay:

    I’ll second Christopher’s vpnc recommendation. I use it to keep from having to run Windows at home.

  194. @Christopher Smith, @Winter: By “consumer product” I mean a product that a consumer buys. The WWW or Internet in general don’t count. Yes, packaged hardware is different from software, but given the Android/iPhone discussions here, I think it’s fair to conflate them. The software has to run on hardware, and their integration helps iOS/iPhone/iPad achieve their massive consumer success.

    FLOSS has had successes in software, sure, but I’d have a hard time calling Firefox “iconic” or even very innovative. It’s a very good web browser, but it didn’t really break any new ground, the way iOS/iPhone/iPad did.

  195. Well, that’s getting back into the higher end stuff, but Znyx has some hardware which might be adaptable for such a purpose.

    Oh, I’m not talking about that level of equipment, though I find their offerings quite interesting and wish they had more than shiny brochures on their Web site. For comparison, a WRT54GL could happily manage a DS3 line speed for the sort of idea I’m contemplating; the major issue isn’t horsepower, it’s simply that IOS doesn’t permit nesting of traffic policies like iptables does, and many medium-to-large businesses could benefit from being able to easily apply templates on traffic leaving their fat pipes headed to low-bandwidth offices.

    I’ll second that. I still run KDE 3 using the Trinity build on Ubuntu: [...] My only worry is that sooner or later the Trinity project will run out of steam

    I couldn’t stand KDE4 for a long time, but about 4.4, it finally got decently usable, and I’ve been quite happy with it since. There are still a few major features (like the “activities”) that could have been brilliant if they’d finished that last 10% so they actually worked, but all of the important functionality is there and smooth.

  196. @JessicaBoxer “But advocating for closed source software is not the same as advocating against open source software. As long as there are open source alternatives that are ubiquitous your concerns don’t seem appropriate. I understand that if these open source systems can be isolated into a minuscule market segment then they can be killed by government demands, but as long as they are widespread, the closed source alternative doesn’t seem so much of a concern.” – danger lies in exactly that line of thinking. Pushing close source provides foundation for eventually mandating close source (don’t believe me? – check relatively recent proposals by such Government officials as Sen. Schumer of NY,…) and with it some other mandates beneficial to the Government, not necessarily for the people. Cisco is perfect example – “public private partnership” with the Government definitely has a part in this grab. Information about customer habits is sell-able but not as much as many believe, particularly not to a company who (unlike say, Google) is not primarily in that business. There is no question in my mind that underlying drive for this is power grabbing Government. There we must make difference and make Open Source safe as well as put real limits on the fundamental issue of “ownership” that is eroding in these electronic days. Companies like Apple, Google, …. Cisco – MUST be forced to give full ownership of the devices purchased by the customers to the customers. They do not need to get out of closed source but they must be banned from assigning any “terms of service” to devices. Owner must be able to use them as he/she see fit. Only than do we have fundamentals that are beneficial to The People and not to the Government and its corporate stooges.

  197. @ Winter

    >Slavery in the Americas ended by law, not by custom. The USA ended slavery
    >by force after a civil war.

    Slavery was also propped up by law, see Dred Scott v. Sandford.

  198. Yes, packaged hardware is different from software, but given the Android/iPhone discussions here, I think it’s fair to conflate them.

    Not only not “fair”, whatever that means, but not particularly sensical. It *never* makes sense to try to put scarce and abundant goods in the same bucket; you end up with farces like SOPA.

    FLOSS has had successes in software, sure, but I’d have a hard time calling Firefox “iconic” or even very innovative.

    It managed to restart the browser wars after most people thought IE had killed off everything else. It was the first widespread browser to support tabs and wide-ranging extensions. And I’ve *still* never found another browser that’s able to keep 4 tabs open while using only 2GB of RAM!

    It’s a very good web browser, but it didn’t really break any new ground, the way iOS/iPhone/iPad did.

    The iPhone didn’t break new ground in the sense you’re implying; it didn’t do anything new technically. It was absolutely a well-designed and shiny product (not to mention the RDF), but it’s absurd to claim that Firefox didn’t “break new ground” like the iPhone.

  199. Talking of LibreOffice, I do all of my legal drafting in LibreOffice. I use my own templates and it works well, but saving in DOC format sometimes screws up the page layouts and only when I use a font that is not available on Windows. What I usually do to avoid it is to choose multiple fonts like “Liberation Serif; Times New Roman” meaning use Times New Roman as a fallback in case the first font is unavailable. Also sometimes numbering goes awry if I use too many nested numbering.

    Yes, DOC is a pain, but it’s not a dealbreaker. The bigger pain is when people send documents in DOCX format.

    @Jay Maynard, I cannot see your point about regular everyday work requiring expensive proprietary software. GIMP is really good enough for most everyday photo editing needs. I say that as a fairly active photography hobbyist. The interface is fairly straightforward and you get a feel for the tools fairly quickly. And LibreOffice/OpenOffice does the job very well for documents, spreadsheet and presentation work. Admittedly I don’t use much of spreadsheets or PPT.

    If you were a professional designer, artist or photographer, admittedly tools like Photoshop must be the norm. Even so, it’s amazing how productive you can get with Free and Open Source alternatives if you take a bit of time to alter your workflow a bit. For instance, I draw my comics in MyPaint, an excellent Wacom pen-tablet drawing tool with pressure sensitivity and then use Inkscape to vectorize the lines, colour and layout the panels and the lettering and finally export the comic to PNG and make final adjustments with GIMP. And the end product is what matters to me.

    The point is Open Source software tools aren’t as unusable as you make them out to be, though they may not have the spit and polish of user interface in proprietary software.

  200. @winter

    The World-Wide-Web was FLOSS at invention.

    So was the mach kernel. So OSX is FLOSS?

    Amusingly at invention it was built on a NeXT box. If closed source is ALWAY more evil then he shouldn’t have been using a NeXT box. Something that Sir Tim Berners-Lee has always stated saved him months of effort by subclassing the proprietary closed source (but reusable) TextObject into a HyperTextObject. Arguably without NeXT it is possible he might never have completed his browser or server due to time constraints…and the internet would be dominated by AOL…

    Today that direct lineage of Interface Builder, ObjC, etc is the driving force of the largest mobile app ecosystem, enabling individual developers to create new classes of applications and once again changing the face of computing.

    Yeah, Apple and closed source is teh ebil.

  201. >No, Eric. Stallman can afford to be a radical because he has less to lose

    Maybe it’s the other way around : he chose a life for himself in which he’s got little to lose, so that he could afford to be a radical.

  202. To say the iPhone “didn’t do anything new technically” is to miss the point, in the geek way I discussed above. The design and integration are what made it revolutionary. It changed smartphones profoundly. Without it, Android phones would be mere Blackberry clones.

    Firefox has done well, but it did not change browsers in the same way or to the same degree.

  203. >The design and integration are what made it revolutionary.

    No. what made the iPhone revolutionary is getting AT&T to carry actual smart phones on its network. It hadn’t been done before. That’s it.

  204. @PapayaSF
    > By “consumer product” I mean a product that a consumer buys.

    So Free (as in beer) products are excluded by definition? So, FLOSS cannot qualify by definition.

    Nonsensical.

  205. @hari
    >The bigger pain is when people send documents in DOCX format.

    The OpenOffice on my Ubuntu appears to open .docx files just fine

  206. > Slavery was also propped up by law, see Dred Scott v. Sandford.

    Slave have been held continuously from the Neolithic. In the America’s, since Columbus.

    Claiming they needed LAWS to do that is idiotic. The laws were just added to confirm the practice.

  207. @PapayaSF

    FLOSS has had successes in software, sure, but I’d have a hard time calling Firefox “iconic” or even very innovative. It’s a very good web browser, but it didn’t really break any new ground, the way iOS/iPhone/iPad did.

    Firefox has done well, but it did not change browsers in the same way or to the same degree.

    Surely you jest? If you had made those remarks somewhere where I had mod privileges, I’d have modded them -1 flamebait, troll.

    You may want to check up on the history of Firefox and Netscape…for that fact, these Wikipedia articles should get you started:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netscape_Navigator
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netscape_%28web_browser%29
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Firefox

  208. @ Winter

    Laws may confirm the practice, but they also prop the practice. Democratic laws always, by their very nature, lag far behind popular sentiment. As a result, outdated laws are used to uphold rulings and decisions that no longer comply to public wishes. It’s awful hard to maintain slavery if the slave merely needs to leave your property to become free.

  209. >Claiming they needed LAWS to do that is idiotic. The laws were just added to confirm the practice.

    You’re absolutely right. Where you go wrong is believing that the law alone is sufficient to end the practice. The widespread incidence of chattel slavery in places where it is formally illegal demonstrates this.

    Chattel slavery is usually, though not always, closely associated with latifundia-style agriculture. One of the reasons it withered away relatively early in post-classical times in Europe is that very large single-crop farms weren’t a winning economic model even in the relatively few places where the geography of Europe would have permitted it. Slaveholding by Europeans was revived during the Age of Exploration (never having died out in the Islamic world) because of the demand for New World foods and textiles (sugar, tobacco, coffee, cotton) that were most efficiently grown in colonial latifundia.

    Today, by far the most reliable predictor of whether chattel slavery is still entrenched in custom is the presence of Islam as a dominant religion. Islam forbids the enslavement of Muslims by other Muslims, but approves and sanctions the enslavement of khufr (non-believers) and the largest concentrations of slaves now on earth are in places where Islamic custom has more force than anti-slavery laws imposed by departed colonialists.

  210. My personal — really a big problem is with CA clipper — clipper associates clipper 5.2e

    In ’95 I started work here and my boss and I built an erp system for order entry, production, and shipping for a window manufacturing plant.
    At the time, clipper 5.2 was the very best platform available for the purpose — I thought so at the time and I still think so.

    The real problem came when computer associates bought out clipper — and abandoned it.
    I am still keeping the system working, and updated — but making a 16bit dos program work — especially one that was tied quite tightly to novell 2.2 — is a challenge.

    One of the very big reasons that I push Python is that the chances of Python being end of lifed in a similar fashion is slim to none. No one can take python away from us, or even force a version upgrade, although it’s worth the trouble to keep up most of the time.

    Java — well, oracle is trying their best to kill it. .net or whatever visual basic is these days — gets forced, incompatible upgrades every few years, and is quite painful to work with anyway. Production systems have to live for a very long time.

    Python — and open source — didn’t exist in anything like the current versions at the time, but my life would be noticlably easier if it had been avaliable and we had used it.

  211. >Maybe it’s the other way around : [Stallman] chose a life for himself in which he’s got little to lose, so that he could afford to be a radical.

    Yes. That is to say, my knowledge of his life suggests truth in both these explanations and a sort of mutually reinforcing feedback between them. This is where I repeat “All interesting behavior is overdetermined.” yet again.

  212. @Adriano:

    True, he was “Henry Percy, surnamed Hotspur” in the Dramatis Personae, but in the actual play all his lines are labeled “Hotspur”. I had assumed “Henry” was meant to refer to Prince Hal. Although actually, *nobody’s* lines are labeled “Henry”–it’s either “K. Hen.” or “Prince”. So I guess I was assuming when I should have asked who “Henry” was supposed to refer to…

  213. @Winter: The laws were just added to confirm the practice.

    Laws can only ever confirm, or perhaps at the margin slightly anticipate, recent majority practice. No state in history could do anything that pluralities of its subjects did not implicitly countenance for any significant period.

    In theory, a state may protect minorities from the habits of the majority. Since a state’s practices are derived from those of its subjects, such protection is rare when the majority’s habits are sufficiently predatory. Rather, the state is the hammer that strikes the nail that dares to stick out before its time.

    It is still appropriate to criticize unjust laws, just as it is to criticize other unjust practices. We ought also note that laws are an inherently conservative force, which retard innovation during times of change, whether that is times of changing attitudes toward slavery or changing norms of communication, employment, and commerce. Of course we see that majorities of modern societies countenance the proliferation of such laws anyway. Habit is for the short term. In the long term the material interest of the majority will prompt some changes. Institutions that lack sufficient flexibility will be discarded.

    Which means I agree with your point that people are bad because slavery, I guess. We have the lives we’ve made; no one is coming to save us. But I also agree with tmoney that laws prop up the outmoded practices of the past; they always do that.

  214. @kn
    “The OpenOffice on my Ubuntu appears to open .docx files just fine”
    So, since you don’t have a problem opening a small subset of possible .docx documents, nobody can have problems opening .docx documents in openoffice.

    ahh, logic.

  215. @esr
    We are entering semantic confusions. There are many types of serfdom now and in the past. I would not enter a discussion arguing that US prisoner chain gangs are slavery. Nor whether immigrant workers in Saudi Arabia are slaves.

    I limit myself to trade in people, where the owner can dispose of the slave’s body as he sees fit.

    That slavery was ended by law in the America’s. Laws follow customs. But in this case slaves were liberated by explicite laws and by enforcement. In the America’s this type of slavery is illegal and exists only in regions where state law cannot be enforced. As it is in most of the world.

    Many other kinds of serfdom can still be found in the world, but almost all of them are all illegal and thrive on a lack of law enforcement.

  216. @Jay
    >>Adriano, there’s much more to the differences than whether it’s one window or many. To start >>with, none of the tools are where I expect to find them, and when I do, they don’t act the same >>way.

    Now, that one is simply the “I don’t ‘like/can’t be bothered’ to learn something different.” problem.

    Not really being ‘holier than thou’, I do it too — but I do try to avoid blaming others because I’m ‘set in my ways/too damn lazy to change’.

    No, open source software isn’t truly free — it’s just that the cost is different — in this case, spending the time and mental energy to learn a new program. Not trivial, but not the fault of open source software that they didn’t do an exact clone of photoshop either.

    Open source tends to be “Pay forward” instead of “pay up front — then fight your way through learning the quirks” that is commercial programs.

    If gimp truly can’t do some task that is required in your work — that’s one thing. If it’s because “I don’t want to pay the cost of learning a new program and work flow.”, that’s another.

    (I find photoshop to be pretty incomprehensible — but I don’t live there.)

  217. Winter, you are being sophistic. Software means nothing without hardware, and for years we have been discussing Android vs. iPhone. With the exception of the edge case of Firefox, consumer FLOSS products are purchased with hardware. My point is that the degree of design innovation and refinement exemplified by the iPhone and iPad with iOS can’t be exceeded or perhaps even equalled by FLOSS plus the sort of hardware OEMs crank out. No OEM using Android can integrate it with the hardware to the same degree Apple can with iOS, and can’t differentiate enough from their fellow Android competition to sell enough units to get Apple-like economies of scale. The proprietary aspects of Apple are crucial to their revolutionary successes, and I don’t think that can be duplicated with FLOSS, because of inherent limits. Android is fine and necessary and will survive, but the user-level innovation it shows is a reaction to Apple, and wouldn’t exist without Apple. Hence Apple is more of a positive influence than Eric and others want to admit.

  218. Jay Maynard on Thursday, July 5 2012 at 9:43 pm said:
    >I haven’t done a desktop Linux in a few years. I’ve been watching over Paul’s shoulder when he has, though…and listening to him cuss.

    Interestingly the choices of hardware and software which you describe are *exactly* those which seem to have problems. Toshiba has NO interest in supporting or allowing Linux. It seems to actively choose hardware chips which are unsupported in linux. Since at least the late ’80s, Toshiba has ONLY sold laptops in Canada with Winblow$ installed. And will no remove or rebate the cost. I was unable to get the Competition Bureau interested in considering whether this was an illegal tied-sale, and have never bought a Toshiba product since.

    Ubuntu, at least as reflected in the screams of pain reflected in some mailing lists I read, has an *unblemished* history of making boken that which did not need to be frixed. Every “upgrade” has broken fundamental parts of the system. And Radeon graphics driver capabilities always trail the windows drivers for the same old, same old reasons we always see. Try Fedora. It installs cleanly.

    Regarding your other complaints: do you want cheese with that whine? You complain that GIMP is not Photoshop. DUH! But it actually does *everything* that PS does. But it has a long and kinda steep learning curve (which maps orthogonally to that of PS. Naturally.) And LibreOffice can do everything that Word does. Agreed that you may get a PPT file which does not look exactly the same when run under Windows. But you are allowed to tweak.

    You are complaining that “it’s not the SAME”. Which is a fuddy-duddy attitude. Of COURSE it’s not the same. It IS something different. Your new car is NOT THE SAME as your old car. But you *do* like the new-car smell, even if you can’t find the heater controls in the dark for the first two weeks. (I bought a ‘new-to-me’ car 2 years ago in December, and while driving home, after dark, I actually had to pull off the interstate and turn on the inside lights, so I could learn how the wipers and the heater worked. I could NOT find them in the dark at 70mph. But I did not complain about that. It was expected. And allowances are made.)

    I have run linux for 10 years, Fedora for 9. OS/2 before that back to mid-80′s? I have never run windows as a prime machine. So when my wife wanted a laptop, I bought her a MacAir. A nice applicance level machine for her to use. I was not going to inflict windows on her! And for what she wanted, I was not sure that Fedora would do. Now I am convinced that I should have bought her a used Thinkpad and installed Fedora. She uses my laptop without difficulty. And my iPhone is GONE at the end of July when the contract is up. Samsung Galaxy I think

  219. @esr
    > No, for the obvious reason that not using the Internet would mean ceasing to fight for liberty in the most effective way I can do.

    Hmmh, I agree that the ends often does justify the means. So are you OK with Jay using the facilities in Microsoft Office or Photoshop to create particularly appealing tracts and posters for liberty that he might not be able to do with open source tools (either because they lack the capabilities or he lacks the skills to use them well)?

    What about if he creates an iPhone game that has as its premise the idea that individual liberty is the best way, and he uses that game to spread the message. Does this end justify the means of buying a Mac?

    > In any case, your parallel fails because I don’t give Cisco money and praise.

    You don’t give them praise, but you sure as heck give them money — indirectly of course. Whether via your ISP or via your IP enabled phone contract, or via that thing you bought off Amazon. They are all giving a little part of your bill to Cisco.

  220. Dyspeptic: Paul purchased both Toshiba laptops based on one criterion: Not Intel graphics. Every other laptop in his price range got there by using Intel graphics, included as part of the chipset. These two both have AMD processors, one with Nvidia graphics, one with AMD/ATI. Once everything got to running, they’re fine machines. The later one works quite well in SL, and the older one acceptably so. A quad-core 15-inch laptop with decent memory and graphics and storage for $429? Yes, please. And Fedora was one OS that Paul tried and could not get to work.

    “Long and kinda steep learning curve”? Betcherass. When I tried it last, it wasn’t quite the learning cliff Blender is (I can tell you all you need to know about the UI idiocy in Blender with four words: “right click to select”), but it was sufficiently steep that I gave up on it. Indeed, I spent $200 upgrading Photoshop CS3 to CS6 recently because I judged that a better use of my time and money than fighting the GIMP.

    You talk about controls in a car. The analogy fails because the major controls *are* standardized. The gas pedal and the steering wheel and so on are in the same place on every car you drive (plus or minus left-hand/right-hand drive differences), and other major controls are in one of a small number of standardized places (transmission selector on the steering column or the floor between the front seats, for example.) You needed all of maybe 5 seconds familiarization before getting in that car and driving away.

    I just don’t see the world ending as Eric does.

  221. Jessica, I decided almost 20 years ago to never voluntarily give the Ford Motor Company another dime of my money after they screwed me for the second time to the tune of about $3400. I don’t buy Fords, I don’t rent Fords by choice, I don’t recommend Fords. If the Ford Motor Company asked the Tron Guy for an endorsement, I’d tell them no.

    But that doesn’t mean that I don’t do business with those who use Fords in their business. That’s simply unrealistic.

  222. @Adriano
    >So, since you don’t have a problem opening a small subset of possible .docx documents, nobody can have problems opening .docx documents in openoffice.

    a/ you have no way of knowing how big or small, or representative, the subset of .docx files I deal with actually is

    b/ where did you here me say “nobody can have problems opening .docx documents in openoffice.” ? I merely gave a counterexample to hari’s experience that docx is more problematic than doc; my experience being that they are equallu (un)problematic

    ah, indeed.

  223. “b/ where did you here me say “nobody can have problems opening .docx documents in openoffice.” ? I merely gave a counterexample to hari’s experience that docx is more problematic than doc; my experience being that they are equally (un)problematic”

    Since the problem is with people (at least one) not being able to open some .docx documents, your assertion that you can open them just fine serves exactly what purpose? Openoffice already claims to be able to open .docx. That it actually can do it is to be expected.

    Granted, his assertion would have been more useful if he detailed exactly what problems did he have, possibly not posted here but submitted to the relevant bug tracker, but still…

  224. I’ve also had more problems with docx than with doc.

    In the business world, with real customers who have real problems and can’t be arsed to quibble about file formats, it’s no excuse.

  225. For what it’s worth, I just tried GIMP 2.8.0pl1 on OS X, after installing the prerequisite XQuartz revision. It’s a lot better, to the point it might be usable – but it still had problems handling existing Photoshop documents with things like layer styles.

    Maybe one day it’ll grow up to the level of capability I need.

  226. >your assertion that you can open them just fine serves exactly what purpose?
    That in a number of cases (at least 1), openoffice is adequate for exchanging documents with people who send you docx.

    If you really want to pit OpenOffice against Microsoft Office in terms of exchanging documents/files with real life business partners, Excel is probably a better example. I’ve had far more problems with excel/spreadsheet formulas not being compatible between OOo and MSO than with reading text.

    Oter than that, I find the practice of exchanging word processor specific files rather strange. Most of the time the are meant for reading, not editing – pdf would do just fine; being compatible with the recipient’s word processor is a fake requirement. sending “docs” around is a habit from the 80s that we haven’t gotten rid of, yet.
    And the problem doesn’t only exist between OOo and MSO, it exists between versions of MSO as well. Yes, I know the workarounds – I installed them on 200 computers. I’m also the guy who needs to figure out what all those weird files are that people send us by mail, and go hunt for viewers and converters so our users can at least read them.

    I’m quickly developing a real appreciation for open formats and open standards. Life would be a lot easier if more people used them.

  227. @Jay
    These guys sell PCs with one of several flavors of Gnu/Linux preinstalled.

    http://zareason.com/

    They promise personalized support that cares, in which you’ll have a person assigned to you. It sounds promising to me. Take the time you need on the changes, it’s good that you’re working on it… no one’s asking you to starve or lose clients, but society (our friends and children, and our friends’ children) need us to step up and do what we can.

    Having only one copy of the privative software you might find yourself in need of is a way forward. I second the suggestion, then, to have one machine (maybe even a virtual one) to run MS Office, Autodesk, and photo edition software that is standard, and fall back to that whenever anything fails. Most important: don’t buy new licenses unless needed, and consider a small donation everytime you download a new major revision of a FOSS application you use regularly. I think it’s acceptable to “pay” 5 bucks for a new version of LibreOffice, for instance.

  228. @Winter
    Slavery in the Americas ended by law, not by custom. The USA ended slavery by force after a civil war.

    Not completely true. In what is now Dominican Republic, the blob of land next to Haiti, slavery ended because of custom. Might be the case elsewhere, too. If anyone would like to hear the details, I love telling this story :)

  229. @Jay:
    >Jon, the System76 laptops are not usable for me. They all have sucky Intel graphics chipsets that are not supported for Second Life under Linux, and adding support is well beyond my capabilities.

    Hmm… Just looked at their site. Currently the laptop lineup has about the least selection I’ve seen from them. I think their offerings do vary a bit according to what they have in stock, though, and they may be low at the moment.

    I had noticed earlier, though, that they’d nerfed the Pangolin since I bought mine. At the time I bought it, the Pangolin had an NVidia card. This is the first I’ve seen them without any laptop in their lineup with a decent graphics card.

    But my main point was that it saves you a whole lot of pain to buy a machine with Linux preinstalled rather than trying to install it yourself. I mentioned System76 because they’re the manufacturer I went with for that, and because I’m a satisfied customer, but there are other manufacturers that supply desktops and laptops with Linux preinstalled if System76′s lineup doesn’t have what you need.

  230. >Say, I have a great idea! Let’s have laws allowing the government to censor everything you write, confiscate your firearms, and drain your bank account on a whim. Surely voter pressure will prevent these bad things from actually happening.

    This is effectively the situation you have in the United Kingdom. The government can do anything it wants. It does, admittedly, have to be “reasonably explicit” (as in actually pass the law), but there really is nothing to stop the House of Commons other than the Queen or a filibuster. Our liberty seems fairly uncurtailed (other than the firearms thing, but even the US constitution struggled to hold on the that one).

  231. Dyspeptic: “LibreOffice can do everything that Word does.”

    Word maybe but I am unconvinced. Excel definitely not. Much as I would like to dispose of my remnant Windows XP / Office XP virtual machine inside virtualbox, it can’t happen yet.

    I have one personal legacy system built on Excel sheets with inter-sheet references. That simply does not work in Open/Libre, not naturally as it does with Excel, and not even when translated with explicit calls to DDE.

    I am the keeper of yet another legacy system which was built using a Word mail merge out of an Excel sheet. Because I am merely the caretaker, it would be a huge boon if Open/Libre could accomplish this in anything like the same fashion, because I will eventually have to pass this on to someone whose first job should NOT be to acquire a copy of Office 2019 for $$$$$$. I am not an incredibly talented software guru like so many here but I am willing to beat my head against the wall for a considerable period if I think there are long term benefits. I did just that in an attempt to convert this relatively simple task to an open source product. Weeks later I threw up my hands. No matter what I tried, no matter how I twisted or turned, I ended up with something with bizarre behavior and/or extraordinary fragility.

    The Excel/Word combo for this simple case just works. You can hand a working copy to anyone with a copy of Office and it will still work. Until Open/Libre get to a state where that’s possible, Microsoft will coin money.

  232. @esr: We were close friends once, and I would still be his friend if his fixations allowed it.

    I’m sorry to have elicited this in such a crass manner as I did.

    To what extent is it possible that your analysis of RMS’s fanaticism is colored by this disappointment about your relationship? Do you feel an empathy for those who’ve endured similar erratic behavior at his hands, even if your situation had personal causes while theirs were political or rhetorical in nature? It’s conceivable that RMS’s disappointing behavior could cause distrust at a personal level; does seeing public figures treated in the same manner impugn his political motivations in any way? Do you have a sense that the personal break, to the extent that it was RMS’s choice, was in any way motivated by a cold political calculus rather than a clash of personalities?

    I’ll understand if you don’t answer these questions, but I feel any answers could inform my opinions of your FOSS analysis.

  233. @kn
    > The OpenOffice on my Ubuntu appears to open .docx files just fine

    Yes, it opens DOCX files, but many a time the formatting gets screwed up for some reason or the other, especially with DOCX created in new versions of Word. I have not had that many problems with DOC files generally.

    And again the reason why I am forced to exchange DOC files rather than PDF is because the client can make any changes directly in the document rather than letting us know what to change. This allows us to go back and forth till we finalize drafts. Of course, most clients use only e-mail. Even concepts like dropbox are alien to non-tech non-IT users.

    One thing though: I’ve got my partner to install OpenOffice, so at least, between us we exchange OpenDocument format files.

  234. >To what extent is it possible that your analysis of RMS’s fanaticism is colored by this disappointment about your relationship?

    None at all. Our personal relationship collapsed after I went public with my critique of the FSF’s propaganda style, not before.

    >Do you feel an empathy for those who’ve endured similar erratic behavior at his hands, even if your situation had personal causes while theirs were political or rhetorical in nature?

    I don’t think I can answer that question meaningfully. There might be other people whose history with him resembles mine, but I don’t know them and have not compared notes.

    >It’s conceivable that RMS’s disappointing behavior could cause distrust at a personal level; does seeing public figures treated in the same manner impugn his political motivations in any way?

    I don’t understand that question.

    >Do you have a sense that the personal break, to the extent that it was RMS’s choice, was in any way motivated by a cold political calculus rather than a clash of personalities?

    No. I know there was no political calculus on my part and don’t believe there was any on his. Though to say “clash of personalities” also someone misrepresents what happened; there was a strong element of clash of philosophies, which is not the same.

  235. On my desk I have in front of me a system running Linux, several systems running MS windows, and an Apple Ipad. Seems to me that the existence of the system running Linux protects me against abusive behavior by Microsoft, but hey, the system running Microsoft software is just nicer to use. (The apple system is not to my taste, because it seems designed for morons information consumers rather than information producers.

  236. @Jim Hurlburt

    I would say that Oracle has as primary product the database system (in my opinion outrageously expensive; one friend of mine is system/network administrator at a medium company that used Oracle and I remember it costed around 80000 USD, I think one database, installed on a Microsoft Server 2003) ans as secondary products Java stuff (and others; don’t know product range at Oracle); as consequence, in all they are doing, they are propping up the primary product: the database.

  237. @iajrz
    “In what is now Dominican Republic, the blob of land next to Haiti, slavery ended because of custom.”

    Nice to hear. But many things seem to have gone well in the Dominican Republic because the people had sense. Their neighbors on the island did it in a revolution, but on the whole seem to have shown less sense.

    I know that slavery in the European colonies was ended by law (and force). But I must admit that I am not current with the history of every country in the Americas.

  238. >This is where I repeat “All interesting behavior is overdetermined.” yet again.

    Not just “interesting behavior”. Nearly all our choices have multiple reasons both for and against, so choosing either for or against can be considered overdetermined going by number of arguments supporting your choice.

    The interesting corollary is that the best way to tell if someone is making a biased decision is to see how they handle the arguments against their choice.

  239. Off-topic question: Have you read “A Lodging of Wayfaring Men”, if so, is their (very vaguely described) method of obfuscating IP addresses at all realistic? I didn’t think so, but I admit I don’t know that much about networking.

  240. >The measure of your love of liberty is precisely the amount of inconvenience, pain, and effort you are willing to undertake to increase it.

    Or, as a classic book on freedom, The Last Frontiers on Earth: Strange Places Where You can Live Free, put it, “You can have as much freedom as you want, if you are willing to pay the price to get it.”

    As they point out the price is not just in money, but in inconvenience, time, and effort, as well. For real freedom, I would say even more than the cost in money.

  241. @Winter
    > Slavery in the Americas ended by law, not by custom. The USA ended slavery by force after a civil war.

    iajrz on Friday, July 6 2012 at 6:17 pm said:
    > Not completely true. In what is now Dominican Republic, the blob of land next to Haiti, slavery ended because of custom. Might be the case elsewhere, too.

    In most countries, for example Britain itself, slavery faded out, and was made illegal after it had ceased to be an important economic force. Slaves became sharecroppers, which is something halfway between a serf and tenant. Sharecroppers became tenants, and after there were very few slaves remaining, it was then piously declared to be illegal.

    Slavery continued in the tropics after it had faded out of cooler places because white men working outside in the hot sun tended to catch fever and die. So they needed blacks to do the physical work, and free blacks were less satisfactory as employees than free whites. The economic value of slavery diminished everywhere, even in the tropics, as a result of mechanization and tropical medicine. You can’t trust a slave to drive a harvester – indeed you can’t trust a slave to drive a horse and plough.

  242. @Tom DeGisi

    >Thought this relevant. Walled garden fails to stop malware, as predicted:

    You just linked to an article that says that the iOS app store has been completely malware-free for five years. Meanwhile, the Android app stores have been infested with malware for years. Not to mention the literally-tens-of-thousands of Android malware apps that are outside the stores.

    And you point to this as evidence that Apple’s policies are of no help in combating malware?

  243. To PapayaSF I too was an Apple Fan Boy until Steve Jobs decided to change to intel chips and discontinue to support my mac book that cost $1200.00. I now use only GNU/Linux on all my equipment and have yet to see why I am having to settle for less when OSX is nothing more than Free BSD at highly inflated prices or from what I have seen of windows 7 or 8 last weeks Ubuntu. And as far as cheap Android phones go I personally know several folks who once they found out what my CHEAP Android phone would do jumped ship.

  244. Now that I’ve had time to catch up on this story, I’d like to point something out. This is from the extremetech piece:

    In a plot twist that could’ve been predicted by an eight-year old, users were enraged at having their routers stealth-updated, angry at being forced to register for a cloud service that provides no benefit whatsoever, concerned about privacy implications of the original Privacy Supplement, and unhappy at being initially told that there would be no way to roll back to the earlier firmware. Cisco has since retracted this and has provided a public link to the old firmware and a detailed guide on updating the router.

    So, in other words, the market worked as it was supposed to. Cisco did something stupid, customers reacted, and Cisco relented. Owners of these devices are completely free to carry on using them without any need to sign up to the cloud service.

    And, actually, it is not the case that routers were *ever* ‘bricked’ as ESR claims. The routers continues working, and it was apparently always possible to bring back the old non-cloud login option, although some ‘advanced features’ were ‘obfuscated’ in the router’s software interface. Whatever that means.

    The point is that we, as customers of closed-source vendors, do have power over those vendors, because they can only make money by selling us things that we want. They serve us. We are always free to choose a different product. And, for that reason, calling people who happily use closed-source software ‘the enemies of liberty’ is complete and utter nonsense.

  245. >And, actually, it is not the case that routers were *ever* ‘bricked’ as ESR claims.

    Excuse me? I never claimed that bricking actually occurred, merely passed on the (still apparently correct) report that routers would become useless if you refused the autoupdate.

  246. @esr

    >Excuse me? I never claimed that bricking actually occurred, merely passed on the (still apparently correct) report that routers would become useless if you refused the autoupdate.

    You said:

    >For those of you who have missed the news, last a few days Cisco pushed a firmware update to several of its most popular routers that bricked the device unless you signed up for Cisco’s “cloud” service.

    That is not true. The device continued to work just fine, even if you did not sign up for the cloud service. If you wanted to log into the router’s interface without signing up, there was a way to reset back to the old non-cloud login method.

  247. @James A Donald
    The “custom” for slavery faded early here, due to socio-economic circumnstances. And we’re in the tropic. By the start of the 1800s slavery was already gone. Haiti had slavery end around 1804, too. Isolated cases? Don’t think so. There were very different reasons for Haiti’s end to slavery and Dominican Republic’s, so I guess if we look into it we’ll findother palces, cold or not, where slavery ended in custom rather early.

  248. @esr:

    By all means help Cisco to become more moral if they ask for it.

    But I certainly don’t expect them to ask for it. About a year ago, they stole a page from Adobe’s pagebook:

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/07/a-pound-of-flesh-how-ciscos-unmitigated-gall-derailed-one-mans-life/1/

    Personally, I don’t feel powerful enough to give Cisco what it deserves, but maybe if we all band together and stop buying from it we can put a stake through its heart.

  249. Pingback: The Evil that Cisco Does | BizNax

  250. I’m looking for a home router. Where can I get a good open-source one?

  251. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/07/a-pound-of-flesh-how-ciscos-unmitigated-gall-derailed-one-mans-life/1/

    Since most routers are made in China these days, why are they not using open source for their routers the way they are using open source for their phones?

    I had completely forgotten about this incident – the criminal abuse of the court system, with the willing and eager cooperation of government and courts, to suppress competition by launching criminal charges against competitors. In the above case, closed source provided legal rationale to have the state do violence against a competitor. The rationale would not stand up in court, but, like Zimmerman, they just jailed him any way through abuse of the legal process.

    The solution, of course, is to use open source software in routers. A useful meme in this regard is that closed source exposes one to capricious and selective criminal charges if one uses the closed source of an evil company – the tos concerning copyright, pornography, and so forth suggests an intent to arm their lawyers with the capacity to throw anyone inconvenient in jail. It is unlikely that they intended to throw Joe Random customer in jail, but they intended to throw some customers in jail.

    In general, it is difficult to do business with the government because of their tendency to throw customers and suppliers in jail, steal or destroy their stuff, and so on and so forth, which is why people who do do business with the government tend to charge extraordinarily high prices.

    It is becoming similarly dangerous to do business with companies overly connected to the government, for example General Motors. And, evidently, Cisco.

  252. >I’m looking for a home router. Where can I get a good open-source one?

    I’ve been getting excellent service from a WNDR 3700 (aka Netgear 600) reflashed with OpenWrt.

  253. “The apple system is not to my taste, because it seems designed for morons information consumers rather than information producers.”

    That, I fear, is the inevitable result of Unix trying to “make nice” to non-programmers. The “users are lusers” meme runs too deep; the unix-hacker culture can’t take seriously the idea that non-programmers can (or should) do actual, productive, creative work. Rather, non-programmers are seen as Aunt Tillies who only need to use two, or at most three, different programs in a repetitive, stereotypical way. And if a lowly luser does express a need to do more, why then, he should learn to program and become a member of the hacker nobility, leaving his old luser-serfdom status behind.

    If open source is to win, then Unix is the Buddha that must be struck down.

  254. Deep Lurker: Uh, no. It is Apple the has been catering to the non-hacker with real work to do. Whatever else you can say about them, OS X is the only way for the average person to get Unix stability and robustness in a box they don’t have to be a geek to install and run.

    Linux isn’t at that point yet. It may be some day. That day is not today.

  255. > Uh, no. It is Apple the has been catering to the non-hacker with real work to do.

    Apple’s OS X is the result of attempting to produce a Unix that caters to the non-hacker with real work to do. I disagree with the idea that it has been a successful attempt: Successful at producing a Unix that doesn’t require lots of geeky tweeking, yes; successful at catering to actual non-hackers, no.

  256. >the unix-hacker culture can’t take seriously the idea that non-programmers can (or should) do actual, productive, creative work.

    This must be the Unix culture in whatever parallel universe you’re reporting from, because it certainly doesn’t resemble the one I wrote about in The Art of Unix Programming even vaguely.

  257. Deep Lurker: You sound like a Microsoftie. When the time came, once upon a time, to get rid of my roommate Paul’s parents’ calling us with technical support questions every time they turned around, we bought them a Mac Mini. In the years since we did that (in 2005), we have gotten three calls from them. Before that, we’d gotten that many a week.

    Damned straight they cater to the non-hacker.

  258. @Deep Lurker I suppose every designer I’ve met is either a hacker, a moron or not a producer but a consumer, nevermind every available evidence. Go figure. I smell a “no true scotsman” coming in 3… 2… 1… Either that or you’ve expanded the meaning of “hacker” considerably.

  259. @Jay Maynard: “You sound like a Microsoftie.”

    I suppose that I am, by default. Windows is a junkyard full of dangerous sharp edges and toxic waste – but I still find it less bad than the alternatives.

  260. @James A Donald

    Since most routers are made in China these days, why are they not using open source for their routers the way they are using open source for their phones?

    Many of the routers from Cisco/Linksys and other vendors are using open source software. This is especially true with Cisco’s “consumer” and “small business” type devices. Cisco/Linksys is however incredibly slow at releasing the source code for each firmware revision (and it seems they often never bother to release the code they’ve used for most of the firmware versions unless people make a fuss).

    What’s available via this FTP link is but a fraction of what they technically /should/ be releasing to stay 100% in compliance with licenses such as the GPL. The linksys and smallbusiness directories are where you’ll find stuff for WRV series wireless devices and such.

    Oddly enough, now that I’m looking, I don’t see the source code for the EA series devices (EA2700, EA3500, EA4500) or even the E series devices covered in the article that I previously linked to (E900, E1200, E2500, E3200) on their ftp server, and we know they’ve released many different firmware revisions for these and other devices.

    License notices (pdf): E900, E1200 (where’s v1.0?), E2500, E3200, EA2700 [CiscoConnect], EA3500, EA4500 (v1.0?) …

    In fact, since we clearly have Cisco’s ear due to some of the above comments…

    Hey Cisco, stop being a leech, get in compliance and release the damn code!

  261. > > I’m looking for a home router. Where can I get a good open-source one?

    esr on Saturday, July 7 2012 at 8:52 pm said:
    > I’ve been getting excellent service from a WNDR 3700 (aka Netgear 600) reflashed with OpenWrt.

    But, if home routers were to come with OpenWrt preinstalled on them, and labelled Obscure_Chinese_Company OpeWrt router, would the ordinary end user find himself in trouble? Would he find himself, as he is apt to do on a linux system, editing obscure config files with mysterious parameters?

    LuCl is, in theory, a user friendly interface, but my superficial and doubtless ignorant impression is that it exposes a lot of sharp edges on which the ordinary user, or even the ordinary expert, can cut himself. To be commercial grade software, would need to hide all those sharp edges under the “Advanced Router Options” menu, with a big fat “restore router and modem to plain vanilla settings” button.. My feeling, not based on any careful study, is that LuCl, the UI for OpenWrt, is not something one would like preinstalled on a product that one had to provide support for – that, like most open source software, it is by techies for techies, not written as a Cisco killer.

  262. @esr: I guess I am in contact with an alternate universe here. Gus Grissom, 1968. You?

  263. I’m looking for a home router. Where can I get a good open-source one?

    I’ll also recommend the Buffalo series; you can get some very nice models with simultaneous dual-band N, gigabit wired ports, and USB.

  264. OS X is the only way for the average person to get Unix stability and robustness in a box they don’t have to be a geek to install and run.

    This is why Apple has given more users more freedom than the open-source community alone has ever managed to.

    Recognize!

  265. I spent a while last night reading about the Gatekeeper feature in OS X 10.8, the upcoming Mountain Lion. By default, it refuses to run any program that was not either downloaded from the App Store or else signed with a certificate obtained as part of the $99/year Apple Developers Program membership. It can be disabled, or set to only allow applications from the App Store.

    There are plenty of conflicting opinions about Gatekeeper; a casual poke through the net will turn up plenty. Looking at it from the viewpoint of a user, I can see why it would have value: it would greatly reduce the likelihood of downloaded malware as an attack vector, while still permitting the user to turn it for so he can run anything he wishes.

    From the viewpoint of a developer, it’s a bit more troublesome as currently implemented. It says that you have to either pay Apple $99 a year for the right to distribute programs for OS X, or else tell users to turn off what could be a valuable security feature. (Or send your software through the Mac App Store, but that’s worse: not only do you still have to pay $99 a year, but you also have to conform to a bunch of rules that make your application even more secure at the cost of losing lots of functionality. Google for “Mac app store sandboxing” for details.)

    I can live with that, myself; I’d simply flip the switch to off on my system, and the stuff I develop, I can afford the $99 a year for the signing certificate. Others may well have philosophical problems with it, and I can’t argue very forcefully with them.

    The real danger lies in the possibility that Apple might remove the switch. When they do, I’m outta there. I can live with the feature as long as it’s optional. I can live with iOS being a walled garden, because of the effects of malware on a smartphone. (And no, that one malware app snuck through Apple’s vetting doesn’t negate the value of the checking; how many are out there for Android?)

    But when it becomes mandatory, then I no longer own my computer. Part of the value of a computer to me is that it can run anything *I* want it to.

    I’m not going to get worried until then, though. This is a slippery slope argument; to be true, one must demonstrate that the slope does indeed have a low coefficient of friction. I’m not convinced yet that it does.

  266. > OS X is the only way for the average person to get Unix stability and robustness in a box they don’t have to be a geek to install and run.

    That has not been my experience:
    My kid, who is not an honor student replaced Windows with Ubuntu 3 years ago without any help from me. He did that in 7th grade. Later, he put Windows back on to play an old game and said that installing it was harder than Linux.
    BTW: He did this because he was tired of wiping out and re-installing Windows every time it got stale or infected with malware. Linux has been much more stable for everyone in the house.

    > When the time came, once upon a time, to get rid of my roommate Paul’s parents’ calling us with technical support questions every time they turned around, we bought them a Mac Mini.

    Lately, I’ve been steering the parents and non-tech type friends to ChromeBook or CromeBox.
    Another great way for non-tech type people to enjoy the stability of Unix (Linux really) without needing a propeller head friend to support it. And it costs less.

  267. My kid, who is not an honor student replaced Windows with Ubuntu 3 years ago without any help from me. He did that in 7th grade. Later, he put Windows back on to play an old game and said that installing it was harder than Linux.

    Stories like this are encouraging, but by choosing Linux your son is rolling the dice. Will it work? Who knows? It’s uncertain until you actually try it. Can the shortcomings be addressed with an open source driver from God knows where? Maybe.

    Such uncertainty is fine for hobbyists and tinkerers, but for people who want to get actual work done it is NOT ACCEPTABLE. When you buy a Macintosh you are not only getting a powerful Unix workstation at least as capable as any Linux PC, you are getting one that Just Works, right out of the box. If it doesn’t, Apple will either fix it or give you a new computer.

    As for PCs, the hardware is designed against Microsoft’s requirements and QA’d with Windows, so if you use anything but Windows you are taking a risk. Newegg will void their warranty on any PC you buy from them and put Linux on, and despite their lip service to butthurt fosstards, they are perfectly right to do so.

  268. Personally my belief is that Newegg’s only wrong action was to try and appease the fosstards, who comprise the few and the loud. The right thing to do would have been to send a nicely worded corporate “fuck you” to that community and explain that Newegg’s warranty only covers a given usage profile, which includes a Windows operating system, because Windows is a known quantity; and that if Newegg buyers want to install another operating system on hardware purchased from Newegg, they are free to do so, but Newegg will shoulder none of the risk. Because that is the sound business decision.

  269. @Jeff Read:

    I usually buy a laptop with a smallish HD and simultaneously buy a larger HD. The small HD then has whatever crapware came with the system, ready for reinsertion for warranty purposes.

  270. @Jeff Read:

    BTW, I think that NewEgg has a much higher percentage of FOSS-using customers than the average store.

    Also, they have more FOSS-using thought leaders. It’s a calculated risk for them to not appease people who use alternative OSes. I don’t think it’s as cut and dried as you say.

  271. Jeff: Those you deride as “fosstards” are working for your freedom. I’ll even say that the Stallmanites, wrong as they are about what constitutes freedom, nevertheless have it at heart. I don’t understand the source of your apparent hatred for them.

    But there’s a more fundamental principle at work here. The computer itself does not care what software, or what OS, you run on it. If the hardware is broken under Linux, it’s broken under Windows too. Broken hardware needs to be replaced, quickly and without question, once the fault is verified. If verifying the fault requires re-imaging the machine with Windows and testing, then fine.

    I will agree that simply being incompatible with Linux is not a sufficient reason for an exchange for hardware failure. That, however, is not the same as what the user experienced. That’s also the reason that Paul thoroughly exercised both laptops when he bought them before every trying to put Linux on them: so he could rule out bad hardware.

  272. @Jay

    I think your assessment of the gatekeeper program is about right. Security is always a balancing act between convenience/accessibility on the one hand and security on the other. I think Apple has got the balance about right with this new feature. The default option of ‘app store and signed code only’ is probably the right one for most users.

    Although it is a bit onerous to have to pay $99 to get your code signed, the fact is that most developers who want to distribute apps to end-users (as opposed to other developers) are probably part of the dev program anyway, so it’s not much of an additional hardship.

    People looking to distribute more techie stuff (libraries, low-level utilities etc) can probably rely on the fact that their tech-savvy audience will likely have changed the setting to accept apps from anywhere.

    And that’s ok. These additional measures are for the 90% of non-technical users who are most vulnerable to installing malware. Developers ought to be smart enough to avoid it by themselves anyway.

    So, I think overall Apple has made the right choices here. But, like you, I will be making a break for the exit if they ever flip the switch to disallow non-signed apps. I think that is a highly remote contingency however.

  273. @Jeff Read
    You are consistently comparing computer hatdware running FLOSS, Darwin, webkit, CUPS etc with an OS that is supplied without hardware. Why should software developers sell hardware?

    Tricks with warranties are dependend on jurisdiction. What is possible in one countty, is illegal in another.

  274. Tom: “But, like you, I will be making a break for the exit if they ever flip the switch to disallow non-signed apps. I think that is a highly remote contingency however.”

    That is the 64 TB question, isn’t it? I don’t think the slope is that slippery. Eric hasn’t weighed in, but I’ll bet a cookie he does.

  275. > Such uncertainty is fine for hobbyists and tinkerers, , but for people who want to get actual work done it is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

    what uncertainty ?
    you get an Ubuntu Live CD. You boot from it. If everything works, you can choose to install it (next, next, finish)
    If the live cd shows that some of you’re hardware isn’t supported, you reboot from hard disk, and case closed.

  276. @Jay

    >That is the 64 TB question, isn’t it?

    It is. There are a few factors that make me think any further lockdown is unlikely.

    First, Apple knows that most normal users leave settings alone. Defaults stick. Assuming Apple’s goals are benign, and that they see gatekeeper as mainly protecting non-technical users, I don’t think they stand to gain anything by removing the option to turn the protection off.

    Second, all the devs at Apple use OS X every day for development. They’re not going to be at all happy if they can’t install whatever they want on their machines.

    Finally, the Mac (and old-fashioned desktop OSs generally) is increasingly the reserve of advanced users who want to do advanced things. We already have a locked-down, totally-safe, OS for ordinary people. It’s called iOS. The thing that makes OS X worth keeping around is that you can do advanced stuff with it. Part of that is being able to install whatever you like. Taking that ability away would diminish the very thing that makes OS X a distinct product that appeals to developers and other technical people.

    Apple would have everything to lose and almost nothing to gain by removing the switch. The only possible advantage would be the minuscule revenue from dev program memberships. Such revenue is completely irrelevant in the greater scheme of things.

  277. Tom: “Assuming Apple’s goals are benign,”

    And that’s the 64 PB question. The entire point of Eric’s blog entry is that they are not.

  278. Paul here. Yes, that Paul. I could go into much more detail, but I find I simply prefer Linux over Windows and Mac. And yes, I have tried both. I used to use Windows almost exclusively. I’ve cussed at them all. I cuss a LOT less with Linux. There is, even without digging into source code and hitching up a compiler, almost always a way to solve or bypass a problem. With Windows (and moreso for Mac) the answer seems all too often to be “Live with it.”

    That doesn’t mean I haven’t run into problems. I have. I find that solutions to those problems are easier to come by with Linux. Or if not easy, at least they exist. My biggest issues are always with new hardware and an install. It would be nice to be able to buy something with a Linux I liked on it and all decked out the way I prefer, but there are also economic considerations.

    In 2005, when we got my folks the Mac Mini, I gave some thought to a Linux system for them. For some programs my father used at the time, there was no Linux equivalent of which I was aware, and the support I was doing for myself convinced me that Linux wasn’t ready for that. Today? I could see my mother using a Linux machine and not having much trouble. *buntu has made significant progress. However, I rather suspect that what will replace that now rather old Mac Mini will be a newer Mac Mini.

  279. @Jay

    >And that’s the 64 PB question. The entire point of Eric’s blog entry is that they are not.

    But what would the cynical interpretation of Apple’s behaviour be here? To force people to sign up for the developer program?

  280. @Jeff Read

    Curious, what is your criteria for what makes one a fosstard?

  281. No, Tom…the endgame, if Apple were to be evil, would be to force everyone through the App Store, where Apple gets their cut of every software sale. The benefit to the consumer, so the argument would go, is that every app would be guaranteed to be harmless.

  282. Jay, I find that scenario unlikely because the very fact that Apple went to all the not-inconsiderable trouble of devising this elaborate Gatekeeper system, with its multiple levels of protection, shows that they understand and take seriously the necessity of keeping the platform open.

    I actually have much more confidence that they will never go to full lockdown now than I did before the Gatekeeper announcement.

    This is a *good* sign.

  283. Tom, I’m not as willing to write off the possibility of lockdown. It takes little more effort to implement such a system with a total opt-out option than it does to implement a simple lockdown: a few if statements.

    I agree that a total lockdown would be stupid *from our viewpoint*, but that depends on the long-term vision being that of a general purpose computer. If that’s not Apple’s vision for the Mac, all bets are off.

  284. Jay, I think we don’t really disagree much here. I don’t write off the possibility completely either, but I do think it’s rather unlikely.

    We’ll have to wait and see. One thing’s for sure; I’m VERY happy that Linux is there as a viable alternative should Apple take the nuclear option.

  285. I give it two years before Apple removes the ability to disable gatekeeper, using the ‘the majority never disable it’ argument.

  286. jsk, I think if they wanted to do it, they would just do it. They don’t need to invent any more excuses. All they would have to say is ‘it worked well on iOS, and we want OS X to be just as secure’.

    But I guess all we can do is wait and see. I’ll put a note in my calendar for 8 July 2014 to come back here and revisit the topic ;)

  287. Whether or not the sentence is technically true, it certainly does not belong in a statement of principle for freedom. It would be like the US Declaration of Independence acknowledging the rare times when martial law is justified. It just doesn’t make sense as a principle here.

    ESR has been focused on just one part, but overall, this declaration is mild and murky. The Openness section doesn’t even advocate Openness, it advocates against government intervention. Even ESR’s simple “we oppose closed-source control of critical-path software” would be far better for that section.

    I’d strongly suggest that they re-model the “declaration” after the US Declaration of Independence. Even just adding specific grievances, like this Cisco case, to the original set of principles would be a huge improvement.

  288. Off topic, but esr, do you have any plans to update your Linux hardware buyer’s guide soon?

    Or, failing that, can anybody point to another one that looks useful? I’m specifically looking for guidance on which specific components I can buy that will cause the least difficulty with Linux compatibility, driver problems etc.

  289. Tom, One of the experiences I’ve had is that despite AMD/ATI’s more open-source friendly stance than nVidia, I have more trouble with AMD/ATI video. This is across all distributions I have tried save one. Since I need the “3D” abilities of video, I end up using a propietary driver. Only on Pardus have I seen Catalyst work correctly. Everything else it acts weird or needs to be invoked from the command line (amdcccle) and even then it might crash rather than save my settings. This has been my experience with two laptops and two desktops. I was trying to have dual monitor setup on my main machine and Catalyst kept crashing and not saving settings so I wound up giving up on that, at least with AMD/ATI 3870 I had been using. I can’t do anything about the laptops, but the desktops recently got nVidia cards (I saved up and splurged on a 570 & 550) and things “just worked” with those. Alright, I did need to tell Xubuntu to the right driver, but that was readily handled with the GUI tool. My take: AMD/ATI video give me headaches, nVidia video gives me results. Linus might not like nVidia’s stance, but their stuff *works*.

  290. >> Yeah, but what if the need more than what they can run in a web browser?
    For them I don’t recommend Cromebook.

    My dad, for instance, is a retired but still active photographer.
    His heart would stop if he lost Photoshop. He can’t afford to go Mac so I still need to go up and untangle a mess of Window’s nonsense from time to time.

    What’s surprising is the number of people who find that they don’t need anything more than a browser. Google docs provides enough functionality to cover all of what 99% of people do with MS Office. Having all of their files on the cloud means that I no longer have to be the bearer of the news that all of their pictures of the grand kids are gone because some virus turned all of their JPEGs into maleware.

  291. Some advice required on hardware compatibility.

    I am planning to buy a cheap Windows-free netbook for my travel purpose. I want one with hardware compatible with Linux and possibly any of the BSDs. Would Acer or Lenovo be a good choice for netbooks?

    I am refusing to consider HP any more though I’ve been buying HP products a lot, because in my country all their laptops/netbooks are Windows loaded and I have no choice about getting a Windows-free model.

  292. Curious, what is your criteria for what makes one a fosstard?

    That’s a difficult question, since fosstardism is a radial category. The archetypal fosstard is a young naïf, typically a university student, who uses open source software, eagerly absorbs Stallmanite or even Raymondite/OSI rhetoric without considering the other side, and expects the world to follow suit into open-source utopia. And gets pissy when they don’t. And refuses to hear arguments for proprietary software (that it’s more useful or easier, that it puts food on the table, etc.). The comp-tech equivalent of the eager young campus liberal in a Che T-shirt.

    It’s perfectly reasonable for Newegg to void the warranty if you put a new OS on. The machine is QA’d against Windows. If it comes back damaged and with Linux on it, there’s no way for Newegg to prove that the damage was not caused by Linux. Don’t dismiss it, it happens. A killer poke in an “experimental” driver can brick a USB or WiFi chipset — and for many chipsets, it’s experimental or nothing.

    But fosstards don’t want Newegg to make economic decisions that are rational for them. They want Linux to be given equal footing with Windows from a warranty perspective. Until the manufacturers test against Linux, you’d better expect to assume all of the risk by putting it on your machine — and they won’t test against Linux for consumer PCs because the sales don’t justify the costs.

  293. I am planning to buy a cheap Windows-free netbook for my travel purpose. I want one with hardware compatible with Linux and possibly any of the BSDs. Would Acer or Lenovo be a good choice for netbooks?

    It’s 2012. Netbooks are dead. If you don’t want to run Windows, I suggest buying a used MacBook Air.

    Lenovo is going to be the most Linux-friendly of the major laptop manufacturers, and the only one besides Apple without build quality in the dumper. Still nowhere near Apple’s, though. You’re going to want to go with an older ThinkPad model; brand new ThinkPads and IdeaPads are bound to have compatibility problems. They come in all shapes and sizes, from light little 4-pound subnotebooks to my current back-breaker of a T510 (but so awesome).

    But really, you should just dig in and buy the Mac. It costs as much as two or three netbooks, but will last twice or thrice as long, and give you virtually zero hassle. If for some reason you don’t find the very powerful and effortless to use Unix system that comes preinstalled on the machine to your tastes, you can put Linux on it — in fact, that’s just what Linus himself did.

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  295. @pneubauer

    Thanks for that. It’s actually the reverse of what I had assumed. I don’t need advanced 3D stuff, but I *do* need to be able to drive multiple displays at something like 1920×1200. I’ll take a look at the nvidia line-up.

  296. @Jeff Read
    “It’s perfectly reasonable for Newegg to void the warranty if you put a new OS on. ”

    That reasoning would be completely void in the EU. The hardware should work for the expected time. If it stops, anything you did with it that would not damage the hardware is irrelevant. Warranty conditions restricting the duration or anything else are null and void.

    But in your words, the writers of the USA constitutions were the equivalent of FOSStards. They refused to see the benefits of the Royal way.

  297. @Winter:
    Does not follow. The only thing the invalidity of this reasoning in the EU leads to is more locked down hardware.

    For, you see, malfunctioning software CAN damage hardware (even wear down perfectly well designed one) and therefore there is an either-or situation. One can:
    1. Argue that hardware should have no warranty.
    2. That hardware should have a warranty unless the user modifies the supplied software. (or modifies it beyond some specific limits)
    3. That hardware should have a warranty, period, but the only way manufacturer can economically deal with it is by taking away user’s choice to install software.

    Which of those do you prefer?
    BTW, following your reasoning, if I adjust the microcode which drives the injector timing in a car and ruin the engine, will the EU courts hold that the car should still be repaired according to warranty? After all, I only modified the software!

  298. @EFraim:

    How about 4, that the hardware should have a warranty unless it’s used outside of particular design specifications? This isn’t hard, and Jeff’s bizarre rant is disconnected from reality: Before DDC, it was common to be able to physically damage monitors by running them at incorrect timings, and nobody thought the solution was to provide some sort of official drivers without which the monitor was unwarrantied. Rather, the manufacturer specified the timing limits for the monitor, and if you exceeded them and blew the tube, you could find yourself without a replacement.

  299. @EFraim
    “For, you see, malfunctioning software CAN damage hardware (even wear down perfectly well designed one) and therefore there is an either-or situation.”

    Contrary to popular believe, lawmakers nor judges are morons everywhere.

    If a seller in the EU (warranties are a responsibility of the seller) wants to argue the software broke the hardware, she has to prove it. Loading Linux onto any computer is using a computer for what it is made for: To load and run software. If your driver blows the tube (if you can find a computer with a tube), or wore down the hard drive, then that is easy to prove. If it is claimed it broke the motherboard or LCD, good luck proving that.

    @EFraim
    “Which of those do you prefer?”

    The one that says that the hardware should perform as is to be expected from laptops and computers of that price class. As computers are build to run software, they should not break if normal software is loaded. And what is normal is decided by the courts and consumers, not the producers.

    The world of consumer protection is pretty simple: Fresh fruit, meat, and dairy should indeed be fresh, hardware should work. No excuses needed.

  300. @Winter
    > And what is normal is decided by the courts and consumers, not the producers.

    I get that you believe that, but FWIW, I think that is exactly wrong, precisely backward. Warranties are contracts, same as any other contract. Producers should be held to these contracts, not held to some right made out of thin air by the courts. If, for example, Apple warranties that only apps from the app store should run on an iPhone, and you jailbreak it, and run something else, you have no right to demand that Apple fix your broken phone.

    You might not like that, but if you don’t then don’t buy their phone. Consumers are the ones in charge here — they have the checkbook.

    > The world of consumer protection is pretty simple: Fresh fruit, meat, and dairy should indeed be fresh, hardware should work. No excuses needed.

    Fraud is a different matter — making a claim or assertion that isn’t true. But your position is that courts and consumers can capriciously add to warranty contracts according to their standard of “normal.” The whole point of a contract is “here are the terms, renegotiate them, take them or leave them.”

    The courts changing these capriciously deeply undermines the whole concept of a contract and consequently deeply undermines the very principle of contract that is the foundation for our economic strength and liberty.

    And all that so that you can keep your warranty when you put Linux on a Mac? Big price to pay for such a little benefit.

  301. @Jessica
    “Warranties are contracts, same as any other contract. ”

    Sorry, but what ought to be is not what exists. For better or worse, the law in the EU is different.

    Warranties are “implied” when you do a sale to a consumer (b2b is different). If you offer a product for sale you imply that the product is sound and save, and the product will perform as is to be expected for a product in this class. There are limited ways to get out of such a consumer warranty, eg, fire sales, but the part to understand is “limited”.

    On the whole, the laws seem to work well. There is a cost, there always is. The population seems to like it this way. I most certainly do like it this way. If I want to buy rubbish, the product should be clearly labelled as such.

  302. @Winter:
    Failure modes can be much more elaborate than that, read what I wrote in previous comments.

    For instance your alternative driver for CD drive uses inappropriate drive speed or laser power and as a result causes more wear than expected in normal use. Who should be responsible in this case? Are courts supposed to examine OS kernel code or are they simply to decide that the producer should not be responsible for conditions which were never tested?
    More realistic example (as in, it actually happened) – what if malfunctioning power management power cycles the hard drive every 5 minutes – is the manufacturer still responsible?

    I tend to believe judges are not morons, mostly, (though there are gobs of anecdotal evidence showing otherwise, and as for lawmakers there is even more so) however neither they are experts in hardware or software design and it is not their place to decide ex-post facto what a particular contract was *supposed* to include. The original contract was about particular software/hardware combination – how is judge supposed to decide whether the current combination is identical?

  303. @EFraim
    “Failure modes can be much more elaborate than that, read what I wrote in previous comments.”

    Yes indeed. But trying to assert that running Linux on OTS hardware ruins the hardware is not supported by any evidence. If you ruin hardware by running it out of specs, that shows up quite easily.

    In practice, these type of things simply do not happen in consumer warranty disputes. Most resellers do not even bother and simply repair or replace faulty hardware. Apple was even gamed over here by teenagers who would try to get their iPods replaced at the end of the warranty period by claiming battery troubles.

    @EFraim
    “More realistic example (as in, it actually happened) – what if malfunctioning power management power cycles the hard drive every 5 minutes – is the manufacturer still responsible? ”

    If your software breaks the hardware, that is not covered by warranty.

    It is the producer that knows how the hardware can fail, not the user. So they are the ones who can tell the judge how it was the irresponsible user that is at fault. If they can offer proof that their product was mistreated, then they are off the hook. What they cannot do is simply refusing to handle legitimate claims with irrelevant excuses.

    @EFraim
    “The original contract was about particular software/hardware combination – how is judge supposed to decide whether the current combination is identical?”

    That is because you do not understand EU laws governing commerce. And judges are perfectly capable of asking for advice if they have problems with technical or medical details.

    @EFraim
    “I tend to believe judges are not morons, mostly, ”

    Pity your country. The solution is to get better judges. In any dispute, someone has to make a judgement in the end. Better be it someone who is good at it.

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  305. For instance your alternative driver for CD drive uses inappropriate drive speed or laser power and as a result causes more wear than expected in normal use. Who should be responsible in this case? Are courts supposed to examine OS kernel code or are they simply to decide that the producer should not be responsible for conditions which were never tested?

    What’s an “inappropriate” drive speed or laser power? If the drive reports to an inquiry that it’s capable of using those settings, then if it can’t, it’s defective; the whole point of Plug-and-Play-type standards is to avoid having custom drivers for each individual product when the capabilities of an entire class can be handled by one driver.

    More realistic example (as in, it actually happened) – what if malfunctioning power management power cycles the hard drive every 5 minutes – is the manufacturer still responsible?

    Whose malfunction? If it’s the drive’s onboard power management, the drive’s defective. If the OS was incorrectly sending powerdown signals, then look at the drive’s record of power cycles. This is how all of my experience with drive warranties has actually occurred: The manufacturer couldn’t care less about what OS was running on the drive, but they do check the wear indicators. (I believe Intel’s warranty on its SSDs is explicitly stated in terms of X years or Y wear level.)

  306. @Christopher Smith:
    Inappropriate according to warranty.
    Warranty is a contract which is based on the notion that according to some usage pattern the probability of a breakdown after some period of operation is such and such. If the software you employ uses a different pattern (but still valid in a sense that it still arrives at the end-result) then you will not sign such a contract because the probabilities are different.

    Thus it is completely reasonable that someone is ready to sign warranty contract if and only if the user employs the supplied software, or one which employs similar use patterns. (For instance filesystem or file cache drivers probably affect disk access patterns significantly)
    That’s like singing an insurance policy which has a condition you only drive up to some amount of miles per month. Courts do not find it reasonable to rule that the driver is covered even if his driving habits are different in this case apparently.

  307. @Winter:

    There are implied warranties in the states, too. Most states adhere to some version of the UCC.

    It is certainly true that some hardware can be damaged by software (and I remember the Linux power management fiasco that EFraim is referring to), and that no warranty should have to cover that.

    But even running windows, you could write a program that would beat up a hard drive.

    We really have to look at second order effects here. It’s bad enough that you can’t buy (except for specialized, expensive stuff) a laptop that doesn’t run Windows. It would be handing Microsoft a far too easy victory if every laptop manufacturer decided that it was OK to tie the warranty to the use of that OS. To the extent that antitrust law is supposed to do something useful, this is exactly the sort of thing it was designed to prevent.

  308. @EFram:

    If the software you employ uses a different pattern (but still valid in a sense that it still arrives at the end-result) then you will not sign such a contract because the probabilities are different.

    The answer to bad metrics is (I know this is difficult, so wait for it….) better metrics!

    Thus it is completely reasonable that someone is ready to sign warranty contract if and only if the user employs the supplied software, or one which employs similar use patterns.

    Business-to-business contracts are different. User walking into a store, walking out with a product — that’s covered by an implied warranty. Fortunately, Microsoft hasn’t yet managed to convince the entire world that computing can only be done with a Microsoft OS.

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  310. @Patrick
    “Business-to-business contracts are different.”

    Indeed. The thinking behind consumer protection laws about implied warranty is that consumers are random people who cannot (mostly) be considered to have the time and knowledge to make informed decisions about product quality. Especially as all but a vanishingly small minority of producers are willing to divulge the information needed to make an informed assessment in the first place.

    Producers want legal protection of their trade secrets and keep production details as a competitive edge. Then the law considers it only equitable that producers bear the risks that their products are save and sound.

  311. @Jeff Read, et al.

    As for PCs, the hardware is designed against Microsoft’s requirements and QA’d with Windows, so if you use anything but Windows you are taking a risk. Newegg will void their warranty on any PC you buy from them and put Linux on, and despite their lip service to butthurt fosstards, they are perfectly right to do so.

    Regarding the Newegg “warranty” silliness that Jeff Read linked to above, in this /specific/ case, the customer’s brand new computer suffered a hardware failure ~3 days after purchase which was not in any way related to the customer’s choice of operating system. As such, all Newegg initially needed to do is handle the exchange/replacement process and get the DOA machine back to Lenovo and a functional machine to the customer. Obviously, Newegg failed spectacularly at this task. Installing an alternative operating system does not void Lenovo’s warranty, so Newegg was certainly in the wrong to attempt to turn the customer away and decline the RMA. Newegg could have insisted that the customer handle the warranty with Lenovo directly, however since this was clearly a DOA/premature hardware failure, Newegg probably should have just done a quick swap out.

    Now, with that out of the way, the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act (USC), the Sherman Antitrust Act and Clayton Antitrust Act make this a little more interesting.

    USC Title 15 “Commerce and Trade¨ Chapter 50 “Consumer Product Warranties¨ Section 2302(c) “Prohibition on conditions for written or implied warranty; waiver by Commission”:

    No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer’s using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade, or corporate name; except that the prohibition of this subsection may be waived by the Commission if –

    (1) the warrantor satisfies the Commission that the warranted product will function properly only if the article or service so identified is used in connection with the warranted product, and

    (2) the Commission finds that such a waiver is in the public interest.

    With the computer’s “operating system” considered to be a part or component of the computer, companies cannot void a customer’s warranty if a customer replaces a pre-installed operating system (such as Microsoft Windows) with another operating system (such as Linux). A company (such as a computer manufacturer) also cannot legally require that a customer purchase/obtain replacement parts, components, add-ons, etc /only/ from that company/manufacturer. That said, if someone were to go out and buy the wrong type of RAM and fry their motherboard (hard to do but possible), that obviously isn’t going to be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, but simply upgrading the RAM does not void the warranty. Some computer manufacturers ask that customers remove any customer-installed/upgraded components before sending their computer in for service, but that’s because they don’t want to be responsible for keeping track of the customer’s parts while the computer is being serviced, and/or because they also may not be able to test an unsupported combination of hardware upgrades after any other repairs have been completed.

  312. @Jeff Read

    Personally my belief is that Newegg’s only wrong action was to try and appease the fosstards, who comprise the few and the loud. The right thing to do would have been to send a nicely worded corporate “fuck you” to that community and explain that Newegg’s warranty only covers a given usage profile, which includes a Windows operating system, because Windows is a known quantity; and that if Newegg buyers want to install another operating system on hardware purchased from Newegg, they are free to do so, but Newegg will shoulder none of the risk. Because that is the sound business decision.

    It’s obvious you are an Apple fanboy, but do you like having a broadband cable or ADSL modem? How about your Netgear/Linksys/D-Link/Motorola/Apple/[whatever brand] wireless router? Have a cable/satellite/TiVo/DVR/digital TV converter set top box? Know what most of these generally have in common today (/other/ than being manufactured in China)?

    Hate on FLOSS as much as you like, Jeff, but you can’t escape its reach.

    “I hope he can see this because I’m doing it as hard as I can.”

  313. @pneubauer:
    >Tom, One of the experiences I’ve had is that despite AMD/ATI’s more open-source friendly stance than nVidia, I have more trouble with AMD/ATI video.

    In my limited experience (one nVidia card on a Linux only machine and one ATI card on a machine running both Windows and Linux), the issue is that ATI has shoddy OpenGL support. My ATI machine has trouble (which can mean anything from low framerates to complete garbling of the display) with OpenGL software under both Windows and Linux, but runs DirectX software cleanly and quickly.

  314. @EFraim

    More realistic example (as in, it actually happened) – what if malfunctioning power management power cycles the hard drive every 5 minutes – is the manufacturer still responsible?

    Actually, it was much more complex than that. I was bitten by this specific issue myself back in 2008 and did a writeup on it which you can read here: http://tothwolf.livejournal.com/35252.html

    Ultimately Linux itself wasn’t the cause, the hard drive itself just defaulted to a very very dumb power management mode. The default power management mode might not have been as bad with a fat32 or vfat filesystem, but filesystems such as ext2/ext3 constantly want to update atime, so with my drive it turned out the heads would retract/reload roughly 1.71 times per minute.

  315. Hate on FLOSS as much as you like, Jeff, but you can’t escape its reach.

    The converse is true as well. Hate on close source as much as you like but you can’t escape its reach either. Closed source has been key to the success of computing and the net and exclaiming that it is evil is no more rational than denying the usefulness of open source software.

  316. @tothwolf

    Oh, and every Apple fanboy is a fan of open source software…there’s a lot of it in OSX.

    The combination of open and closed makes OSX far more successful than Linux and more elegant and powerful than Windows.

  317. @nigel

    The converse is true as well. Hate on close source as much as you like but you can’t escape its reach either. Closed source has been key to the success of computing and the net and exclaiming that it is evil is no more rational than denying the usefulness of open source software.

    I don’t generally hate on closed source software (unless you catch me after I’ve spent days building a new software image for a particular machine, then all bets are off), and I often have to support quite a lot of it. I do however very much dislike both Microsoft’s and Apple’s approach of selling newer software which grows more and more bloated (and locked down) with each release, requiring continual/forced hardware replacement cycles, while discontinuing security updates and patches for “old” software so people are at their own risk to run old software on their “old” computer. Many Linux distributions have also begun to suffer from various forms of “bloat” as well, but one can still strip a Linux distribution down and have it run /well/ on embedded systems or older platforms with limited resources (and even remove X11 for non-GUI applications). The same cannot be done with either OSX or any recent version of Microsoft Windows.

    From my point of view, if I buy a computer I should be able to continue to use that particular hardware for as long as the hardware itself does what I need it to do. The closed-source software industry is however closely tied with hardware manufacturers and both have a vested interest in forcing consumers to replace their computers (and software) as often as they can invent ways to get people to do so. [Please don't tell me it's just about "progress"...ultimately it really only boils down to money and corporate greed.]

    This isn’t just a phenomenon with computers though, the same thing happens with devices such as wireless routers, cable modems, etc. Even though the hardware itself may still be usable years down the road (and often even be far more capable than what its build-in OS will allow), device manufacturers will at some point stop releasing software updates, and the embedded operating system will eventually be vulnerable to some form of security flaw. This is also where I find myself frustrated with companies taking advantage of the work from open source developers for their embedded devices, but never releasing the source code (or just releasing the barebones GPL licensed fragments) for the software that they used to create the embedded OS.

    As for “Closed source has been key to the success of computing and the net [...]” [citation needed]

  318. You need a citation for the PC revolution? Really? Or that the first browser and web server were built on a NeXT? Or that the early internet largely consisted of proprietary unix boxes?

    As far as stripping down OSX or Windows for embedded environments, well that’s exactly what iOS is…and Windows Embedded even more so. The min requirements for Win XPe is 32MB compact flash, 32 MB RAM and a P-200 processor and used in ATMs, cash registers, etc. Win7 embedded requires 300MB which isn’t too bad by today’s embedded standards for things like cash registers and the like.

    There are also various projects that strip Win7 down into lite versions using tools like vLite, RTSe7enLite, etc for normal PCs.

    As far as hating on closed source, that’s exactly what ESR is doing in his post. Not just the writers of closed source but users of Apple gear are enemies of freedom.

  319. In my limited experience (one nVidia card on a Linux only machine and one ATI card on a machine running both Windows and Linux), the issue is that ATI has shoddy OpenGL support.

    Indeed. OpenGL is a second-class citizen for both of the major GPU vendors; DirectX is first-class. But NVIDIA has always done a pretty sterling job of wrapping its DX driver in an OGL API compatibility later; ATI — not so much.

  320. @nigel

    I see what you did there ;)

    As someone who owns (as in physically, right now) a very large number of “vintage” UNIX workstations, servers, and other computers which more than cover the early days of the internet, I can assure you that closed-source software had far less to do with the development and progress of the internet than you appear to believe.

    That NeXT computer Tim Berners-Lee was using when he developed the WWW actually used a lot more open source software than closed-source. The OS itself was directly based on 4.3BSD, with the Mach kernel using much of 4.3BSD’s kernel. While 4.3BSD was most certainly not freely licensed, both it and the Mach microkernel were open source and could be modified. If this had not been the case, NeXT may very well have never existed. I also have a collection of NeXT magneto-optical discs, including the development tools discs. In contrast to the restrictive license for 4.3BSD, those development tools were not only also open source, but very much freely licensed. We again have GNU to thank for those tools, which included among other things early versions of GCC, binutils, make, etc.

    While the “Home PC” may have resulted in a lot more people becoming interested in the WWW, I’m not sure I’d term it the “PC revolution”. In fact, I might be inclined to argue that the advent of Microsoft Windows 95 and Internet Explorer actually restricted and hindered the evolution of the internet and the WWW, which up to that point had been evolving at a very rapid pace. With Windows 95 and the commercialization of the internet that soon followed, there was suddenly far less focus on the evolution of the internet and more focus on how to capitalize on it and make money from it as it currently existed. I probably don’t even need to elaborate on Microsoft’s well documented attempts to create a monopoly and vendor lock with the WWW itself (embrace, extend, and extinguish) with Internet Explorer when they tried to eliminate competing web browsers from the marketplace, including the then dominate Netscape.

  321. @ Tothwolf

    I’m sure it was just my imagination regarding all the proprietary computing companies like IBM, Sun, DEC, Apple, MS, Honeywell, BBN, Sperry, Univac, etc that drove computing forward as much if not more than academic and open source computing. Even on the internet. It was also my imagination that pretty much every major unix box ended up being based on the proprietary SVR4.

    As far as the NeXT goes then by your definition OSX is not closed source but an open source operating system and there should be no reason that ESR should be ranting against Apple any more than ranting against RedHat. And as I pointed out earlier, the hypertext object written by Berners-Lee subclassed NeXT’s TextObject…not some open source component.

    And yes, PC revolution. Personal Computers built and sold by companies using proprietary OS and software like Apple, IBM, Commodore, Atari, Radio Shack etc. Not driven by either unix or open source. Like it or not it was Compaq, Microsoft and Intel that gave us cheap computing that anyone could afford not berkley nor linux. The clean room implementation of the IBM BIOS was not done by open source hackers but corporate coders and cost Compaq $1M. And PC hackers didn’t do open source but shareware or freeware and there was a ton of it.

    Don’t try to rewrite history for someone that was there.

  322. Apple’s corporate blurb on all their press releases used to say “Apple ignited the PC revolution”. Only recently (like a couple of months ago) was this taken off, since they seem to want to be distancing themselves from their computer business and focusing on their iThing business.

    But it’s true. More than any other single company, Apple deserves credit for making computers into desirable consumer devices. Apple alone has achieved so much that the open source community could only aspire to — such as making Unix a viable desktop OS for millions of users.

  323. Eric, there is a complementary lesson to be learned here:

    User interface, and making the software “customer facing” – in that it doesn’t take a CS program to use, or require the person to effectively self-teach themselves through a CS program to use – MATTERS.

    Ranting about the shitting-from-on-high is wonderful for making open source advocates-to-zealots feel good about themselves.

    Actually making open source software for running a router, and giving a way for someone with an IQ of 100 to install it on their existing router that doesn’t involve installing cygwin, emacs and running their fist through the bowels of gentoo would put Cisco’s Consumer Products division underwater. Which is what it deserves for this high altitude fecal distribution pass.

    Seriously – the right response to shitting-from-on-high should be the formation of Git repositories, and the creation of “ease of use” installer teams. Since it’s a problem for clueless lusers, not real hackers, it’s a boring problem and never gets addressed.

    When you give consumers a choice between “easy” and “technically correct”, bet on “easy.”

  324. Actually making open source software for running a router, and giving a way for someone with an IQ of 100 to install it on their existing router that doesn’t involve installing cygwin, emacs and running their fist through the bowels of gentoo would put Cisco’s Consumer Products division underwater. Which is what it deserves for this high altitude fecal distribution pass.

    Then it will never, ever happen.

    Routers, like cellphones, are (supposed to be) sealed boxes, intended to run only the OS they shipped with or a later version of that same OS. It doesn’t take “installing cygwin, emacs and running their fist through the bowels of gentoo” to reflash a router or cellphone — typically the OS is provided as a ready-to-go image — but it does take a certain degree of technical confidence and willingness to assume risk to install a custom OS on any such device. And there really is no way around this. The same is true of reflashing your PC’s BIOS, or even reinstalling Windows.

    What you’re actually saying here is that there are two levels of installation complexity: “one click, it’s done” and “it’s too hard, I’m not a computer science Ph.D.!” Which is why open source will never, ever, ever make headway on the desktop (except for the BSD bits of Mac OS X): in order to do so, Linux must be vastly easier to install than Windows, run absolutely flawlessly on all known PC hardware configurations, and offer users a more modern and powerful library of software than Windows does. It’s kind of almost there on the first item, but fails spectacularly on the second two.

  325. @Ken Burnside: “User interface, and making the software “customer facing” – in that it doesn’t take a CS program to use, or require the person to effectively self-teach themselves through a CS program to use – MATTERS.”

    Ken, Eric is very well aware of this — see his essays on “The Luxury of Ignorance”. You’re preaching to the choir here.

  326. Cathy: I’ve had the discussion with Eric on this a few times. What I’m pointing out is that this shitting-from-on-high should’ve resulted in a program to recreate the router OS for Cisco hardware and provided bootable installable images that have enough packaging that an IQ 100 person with a clue could install it.

    Always bet on “easy.”

  327. Ken,

    And what I’m pointing out is that sometimes installing a new OS is just plain difficult because the hardware vendor made it so.

    Challenge 1 (difficulty: intermediate): Create a one-click installer that will jailbreak, then flash Android onto, an iPhone. It should always succeed, provided the underlying software and hardware doesn’t fail; and under no circumstances should it brick the iPhone or damage the PC.

    Challenge 2 (difficulty: hard): Create a one-click installer that will jailbreak and install Linux on a PS3 with recent firmware. Same constraints apply.

    My research into routers indicates that the case is the same for them, perhaps somewhere between these two challenges in terms of difficulty. Some Android phones and tablets do have one-click rooters/reflashers; others require additional foldirol like hot-swapping SD cards or using a vendor-supplied reflashing tool to blast the bits onto the device, then rebooting a few times.

  328. @nigel

    Apparently you do have an overactive imagination…that and an /even stronger/ penchant for twisting and changing your arguments midstream.

    Your arguments have thus far changed from:

    “Closed source has been key to the success of computing and the net and exclaiming that it is evil is no more rational than denying the usefulness of open source software.”

    to:

    “The combination of open and closed makes OSX far more successful than Linux and more elegant and powerful than Windows.”

    …and later:

    “Or that the early internet largely consisted of proprietary unix boxes?”

    …and now:

    “I’m sure it was just my imagination regarding all the proprietary computing companies like IBM, Sun, DEC, Apple, MS, Honeywell, BBN, Sperry, Univac, etc that drove computing forward as much if not more than academic and open source computing. Even on the internet. It was also my imagination that pretty much every major unix box ended up being based on the proprietary SVR4.”

    You can toss around as many names as you like while making your assertions (Univac? You left out BSDi, SGI, Sequent, SCO, and a lot of others, oh and DEC’s #1 claim to fame is VAX, which is not UNIX, but I digress…) You clearly don’t know your history and are obviously relying solely on either Wikipedia or “the ether” for the “facts” you are attempting to use to advance your “closed source” argument. [Note: Try as some of us might, Wikipedia isn't always 100% accurate and will probably never contain everything. In fact, a quick check shows the merge of SunOS code into SVR4 is omitted from the more visible material which covers the lineage of SVR4.]

    You clearly don’t like the fact that these “proprietary unix boxes” as you term them were in fact primarily running operating systems which were directly based on “open source” code. While not all of that “open source” code was under a “free” license, and in some cases had been modified to include certain vendor-specific extensions, the reference code itself was still available to view (and modify/use, if your organization had an AT&T “license”, as many universities and companies at the time /did/) and if one wanted to obtain a copy of the code, it was readily available via FTP (this also includes AT&T’s “merged” SVR4 if you knew where to go).

    Proprietary AT&T license aside, it still does not change the fact that the operating systems of early UNIX systems were very much running “open source” code. The early attempts at vendor lock-in when companies began adding their own vendor-specific extensions to that code and re-releasing and bundling it with their own hardware still does not change the fact that these operating systems had a foundation on open source BSD code (/including/ SVR4) even if it did still contain some AT&T code initially.

    Had the Berkeley code never existed, or if it had been using the “closed source” model we see many proprietary operating systems using today, few, if any of those hardware companies and UNIX vendors would have sprung up, and we probably wouldn’t have the internet today. Despite your assertions otherwise, that early “open source” Berkeley code was FAR more important than any of the vendor-specific derivatives that came later. Hell, for that fact we can thank corporate greed “USL v. BSDi” [1] [2] for Linux, since it delayed 386BSD which gave Linus a reason to begin writing Linux in the first place.

    Now, to address your assertion that “pretty much every major unix box ended up being based on the proprietary SVR4″…

    My 68K based Sun3 and Sun4 boxes for example [SunOS 4.1.4_U1; w00t], which were /extremely/ popular and widely used by pretty much everyone, including internet companies (anyone else remember Netcom.com?) most certainly did not use SVR4, and SunOS itself was yet again directly based on the Berkeley code.

    “Like it or not it was Compaq, Microsoft and Intel that gave us cheap computing that anyone could afford not berkley nor linux.”

    *Snort* and here I thought it was Packard Bell. Seriously though, I know way more about Compaq’s history than you will _ever_ know. It was actually Commodore with the C64 who gave us cheap mass-produced home computers, /not/ Compaq. The Commodore 64 (and their competitors, including the Apple II series) gave many people a gateway into the early BBS scene.

    “Personal Computers built and sold by companies using proprietary OS and software like Apple, IBM, Commodore, Atari, Radio Shack etc. Not driven by either unix or open source.”

    “Don’t try to rewrite history for someone that was there.”

    Clearly, you either weren’t there or you are so bent on advancing your ‘Apple is better than everything else’ arguments that you are ignoring the larger picture. OTOH, I very much was there, so what’s your excuse?

    If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck…

  329. @Ken Burnside

    User interface, and making the software “customer facing” – in that it doesn’t take a CS program to use, or require the person to effectively self-teach themselves through a CS program to use – MATTERS.

    Considering what they /teach/ in mainstream university CS programs today, I don’t think you can even safely assume that someone with a degree in CS would be able to handle a more technical user interface either.

    Actually making open source software for running a router, and giving a way for someone with an IQ of 100 to install it on their existing router that doesn’t involve installing cygwin, emacs and running their fist through the bowels of gentoo would put Cisco’s Consumer Products division underwater. Which is what it deserves for this high altitude fecal distribution pass.

    Seriously – the right response to shitting-from-on-high should be the formation of Git repositories, and the creation of “ease of use” installer teams. Since it’s a problem for clueless lusers, not real hackers, it’s a boring problem and never gets addressed.

    I’m all for it.

    I have an extensive background with text based user interfaces and making sure they are usable by “clueless lusers”. Rule #1: Never trust user input because at some point, instead of putting in the IP address of the DNS server, someone, somewhere, is going to put in “Dog Poop”, after which your user interface better still be functional.

    Having had a look at the more recent LuCl work, I’m beginning to wonder if LuCl could be used as part of the foundation for a more polished, but highly extensible user interface.

  330. “DEC’s #1 claim to fame is VAX, which is not UNIX…”

    The VAX was hardware; VMS was software. The VAX hardware was perfectly capable of running Unix. See for example the VAX 8700 running Ultrix. (Yes, I was there too.)

  331. > I have an extensive background with text based user interfaces and making sure they are usable by “clueless lusers”.

    I don’t think text based user interfaces are usable by those customers that are apt to generate excessive support costs unless they resemble a well done windows wizard, which is not ordinarily regarded as a text based interface.

    > Having had a look at the more recent LuCl work, I’m beginning to wonder if LuCl could be used as part of the foundation for a more polished, but highly extensible user interface.

    If highly extensible, has sharp edges on which the user can cut himself. Hide the sharp edges behind an “advanced features” menu item, with a panic button that can reset all advanced features to default factory settings.

  332. Okay, I’m not logged in but I have a moment.

    Your arguments have thus far changed from…

    My position hasn’t changed one iota. Closed source has been every bit as important to computing as open source if not more. And that’s hedging deeply in favor of open source.

    Every statement is consistent with that assertion.

    The fact is that the AT&T unix license was proprietary and not open source. The fact that universities had access to a cheap license doesn’t make it open. The fact that you could get source does not make it open if a proprietary license is required.

    Whether or not SVR4 is in wikipedia the fact is that the merge occurred and BSD faded from the proprietary unix scene hence my comment that pretty much all the unix boxes ended up SVR4. That alone shows that if open source unix did not exist at all that history would not have changed all that much since there was always a proprietary unix kernel and userland available to OEMs. And, IIRC Sun had a valid AT&T license anyway for SunOS. Solaris, HPUX, AIX, IRIX, etc all were proprietary.

    The 68K Sun boxes were obsolete by then so the fact that your Sun-3 box runs the earlier bsd based SunOS means not a whole lot. Neither does your repeated comment that there was a lot of open source in the proprietary unixes then and now. AGAIN, by that criteria OSX is an open source OS. It’s not. Never was. Likely never will be. Neither was SunOS, AIX, HPUX, etc.

    I’m getting the impression that you don’t follow the common definition of open source. Which is fine since neither do I but for the purpose of this website I assume that ESR’s definition is that of the OSD. None of the major unixes in use at that time meet the OSD requirements for open source except for the nodes running net/1 or net/2. I think net/1 still had some encumbered AT&T code.

    My mentioning of Univac, IBM, DEC etc is to show that lots of other systems were out there besides Unix. In 1983 our Univac machine was still a signficant part of our computing resources and IBM machines dominated the rest. We were a major internet node connecting BITNET and NSFNet and later became FIX-East.

    As far as compaq vs commodore being more relevant for home computing given I was selling computers during that time I can state that when IBM compatibles became available they started dominating what we sold (which were Apple ][, Apple ][ clones, IBM PCs and IBM clones). I liked my C64 and I owned every Amiga model ever released but it was the PC that was the game changer. To argue against that is simply bizzare.

    And given that I spend a ridiculous amount of time on various fidonet bbs and even ran a very short lived /X bbs on my A500 (quickly I dumped to help do MUDs) I'm pretty sure that I was a well versed on the (east coast) BBS scene as you were.

    Much of the BBS scene was on proprietary BBS code...the best systems were and largely pirated if you didn't want to pay for it...running on proprietary boxes.

    And while I might agree that Apple was better than everyone else (heh, something I would never have agreed with in the 80s-90s...I always ran MacOS on my Amiga instead using mac roms) my primary point is that NEITHER closed source nor Apple is evil.

    OSX has IMHO the best combination of open and closed source and it is that which makes it better than either Windows or Linux on the desktop. The Apple approach to open source has been very pragmatic and very successful.

  333. @ Ken

    >Actually making open source software for running a router, and giving a way for someone
    >with an IQ of 100 to install it on their existing router that doesn’t involve installing cygwin,
    >emacs and running their fist through the bowels of gentoo would put Cisco’s
    >Consumer Products division underwater.

    IMO, more important than a router OS that’s easy to install is common, cheap and available routers with the open source OS already installed and configured with sane defaults. Tomato has a pretty good interface, with fairly sane defaults. Hardware is cheap. Why then are there no commercial open source routers on the shelves of best buy and tiger direct? Until the open source software comes by default, it will remain forever a niche. That’s why Android is the most successful consumer Linux installation, because it comes on the hardware already.

  334. @Cathy

    The VAX was hardware; VMS was software. The VAX hardware was perfectly capable of running Unix. See for example the VAX 8700 running Ultrix.

    You are absolutely right, I should have caught that before posting ;)

    I was thinking more of OSF/1 (Digital UNIX). Ultrix still wasn’t nearly as popular as VMS. It’s a shame they couldn’t or wouldn’t open these up to hobbyist use as they did with OpenVMS though.

  335. @James A Donald

    I don’t think text based user interfaces are usable by those customers that are apt to generate excessive support costs unless they resemble a well done windows wizard, which is not ordinarily regarded as a text based interface.

    Such as a web-based interface similar to what these consumer devices with stock software currently use? There really isn’t any reason you couldn’t also have a separate standalone “wizard” type program too.

    If highly extensible, has sharp edges on which the user can cut himself. Hide the sharp edges behind an “advanced features” menu item, with a panic button that can reset all advanced features to default factory settings.

    Well, again, the problem I’ve noticed is that we have no middle ground with these consumer type devices. On one end we have mass-marketed hardware with integrated software and a web-based interface that isn’t very flexible (Linksys, etc). On the other end, you have stuff like OpenWRT, DD-WRT, Tomato, and the roll-your-own Linux router/firewall solutions, which really are not something the average person who would buy a consumer-type device could easily handle.

    With both, the underlying software is largely the same, except that with consumer devices, a lot of functionality is cut out in order to dumb it down enough for the oversimplified web-based interface.

    Perhaps several different levels of more advanced/less advanced options would be a better approach?

  336. I am, in general, opposed to minding other people’s business unless it looks like they are just about to do me some harm. It seems to me that Cisco is pre-emptively minding other peoples’ business here.

  337. Pingback: Issue 9 – Find HIPPOs, Bogan Ipsum, and Skeuomorphs All In One Place – This Week’s TLN! — TLN

  338. These “Terms of Use” are unrelated to open source / closed source – it is a pure data protection issue. What is described in the terms of use leverages technical capabilities of an IT system (deep packet inspection, service logs, …) for a specific purpose. You have these technical capabilities also in the open sources pendants to Cisco’s products.

  339. Please excuse my grammar as English is not my first language.

    What about software for which you can buy the source code, modify it and distribute the mod to any license-holder? e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torque_%28game_engine%29
    Would an army of many eyes protect us from bugs and prevent such programs from doing us any deliberate mischief?

    The trouble with the open source model is that it’s very hard to see how a lot of software could be developed to a high standard without the incentive of making money from selling it. You haven’t convinced me or (apparently) the majority of the software industry that it can. Perhaps there is a middle position in the continuum between closed and open source where there is enough power given to consumers to protect them from the worst abuses, and developers could feel sure that they can earn a living. If you accept that the majority of devs may question the commercial viability of open source, would ‘licensed-source’ software be an alternative solution to the problem you’re right now posing?
    When I say ‘developers’ I don’t just mean the programmers as individual people, but also the businesses that make software.

  340. >What about software for which you can buy the source code, modify it and distribute the mod to any license-holder?

    There’s a problem of scale. If everyone is playing by the licensing rules, it would be difficult to grow the source-aware community to the point where bazaar effects start to kick in seriously. You need thousands of people looking at source to generate the hundreds who will look at it seriously so that you get tens of useful patches.

    On the other hand, if the licensing rules are being broken you’re back to not being able to collect any of the secrecy rent that you think is essential. In practice I think you’d get the worst of both worlds – no secrecy rent and not enough many-eyeballs effect to matter.

  341. >> These “Terms of Use” are unrelated to open source / closed source – it is a pure data protection issue.

    What “Terms of Use” can you attach to a product and have it remain Open Source?

  342. I like the TGE licensing model. It allowed indie game devs to buy something that was, at the time, a relatively high end game engine for a reasonable cost with a decent amount of 3rd party support in the form of content kits (sci-fi, fantasy, etc art, models, etc) and genre kits (instant FPS or instant RPG kits).

    No bazaar effect needed and honestly the bazaar effect is largely overrated for most open source projects due to a lack of the amount of eyeballs anyway. Even for something as popular as GIMP I doubt there are many more eyeballs looking at the source than for TGE at the peak of it’s indie popularity. For one thing, almost every TGE user was a developer at least trying to build a game. I would rate TGE as more solid than many of the contemporary open source engines.

    These days I’d say Unity occupies the niche that Torque once did (only without source).

  343. > What “Terms of Use” can you attach to a product and have it remain Open Source?

    As far as I can make out, terms of use refer to a service and its specific features/benefits and conditions. Open source has nothing to do with it.

    For instance, you can run an server with Open Source Software as an ISP but you can have your own terms of conditions to dictate its use by third parties. In other words, the users are bound by your service terms, not the software’s. If on the other hand, I choose to use the same Open Source Software on my own server, I would be bound by the software’s license.

  344. Nigel and Tothwolf, my recollection (at one time, I was peripherally involved in porting Solaris to non Sun hardware but it was a quarter century ago … ) is that Solaris 1.X was Berkeley based and Solaris 2.0 began the SVR4 flavor of Sun operating systems. My belief is that Sun’s 386 stuff was always SVR4, as it was basically the Interactive Systems 385 SVR4 Unix as Sun bought out that half of Interactive Systems (while I was there in fact).

  345. @SPQR Yes, that’s my recollection also. My point is that everyone either was already SVR4 or finally switched to SVR4 when Sun did which was mildly annoying given I was used to sunos/bsd. My vague recollection is that Sun was one of the last holdouts against SVR4 among the big unix vendors.

    I got over it since I eventually got my own Sun IPC box which was better than sharing. I do recall that a few years later that my new personal Dell XPS P90 running Linux was very much teh snappy in comparison.

    I googled to see if I had said anything interesting about linux back when and it appears I bought my XPS in june of 94 and was running Slackware 2.0 off the August ’94 walnut creek disks on it.

    Alas, I did not post the bogo-mips score of the two boxes although I have a vague recollection that I may have had an IPX or Sparc 5 by then. Man, 20 years ago…

  346. bbb said on Monday, July 16 2012 at 9:38 am:
    > The trouble with the open source model is that it’s very hard to see how a lot of software could
    > be developed to a high standard without the incentive of making money from selling it. You
    > haven’t convinced me or (apparently) the majority of the software industry that it can.

    Simplify the situation to extreme POV:
    Situation 1: open source promoters are wrong; proprietary software is cheaper to develop [or has a lower cost to software ecosystem as a whole], proprietary software wins, open-source is reduced to a minor margin.
    Situation 2: open source promoters are right; proprietary software is more expensive to develop [or has a higher cost to software ecosystem as a whole], proprietary software loses, proprietary software is reduced to a minor margin.

    Based on what has been said on this blog [and this blogpost], what will probably happen is widely used software will be open-source and niches proprietary. Open source OS makers will make money like they do now (for enterprise systems) and through validation/certification/whetever for desktop systems, for example.

    Either way, no magical conversion of the [software] world will happen. If open source “wins” it will be because proprietary software makers can’t compete, not because they “see the light”.

  347. The Solaris 1.x naming convention was a retconn. Sun’s BSD-based system was SunOS, Solaris was a new developement and renaming SunOS to Solaris 1.x after the fact was a marketing move meant to give the impression of continuity. Which Sun kind of needed, what with all the changing architectures, and then a major OS chnge to boot?

    I knew a lot of people who were *very* unhappy to lose SunOS.

  348. I don’t think text based user interfaces are usable by those customers that are apt to generate excessive support costs unless they resemble a well done windows wizard, which is not ordinarily regarded as a text based interface.

    Never seen a mainframe or Unix business app running on a green screen terminal, have you?

    Text-based UIs only support particular workflows well, but for those workflows they are fast and efficient. They were displaced first by client-server apps, then by Web apps, round about the 90s on through to today, causing much screaming, hair-pulling, and gnashing of teeth.

  349. Pingback: Track Record In China Sets Cisco’s “TOS” Scandal In A More Sinister Light | TechCrunch

  350. Pingback: Track Record In China Sets Cisco’s “TOS” Scandal In A More Sinister Light « DevelopersArena.com

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