Tax Funded Content Providers; Disenfranchising With DRM?

ABC is Australia’s Federal Government-funded public broadcaster, and has responsibilities under the ABC Act 1983 to provide services to the Australian people.The new ABC Shop has recently launched, with downloads of TV programs made available — but only to Windows users willing to install DRM-laden software on their computers.

read more | digg story

Like the BBC, Australia TV broadcasts are publicly funded, so they are essentially keeping access away from people who have already paid for the content. I’d love to see this fought out in court.

Game Distribution Systems; Steamrolled

Ran across an interesting article today Saving Progress: Impulse Buyer in which the author offers praise for Valve and their Steam game delivery system; and it’s ability to effortlessly deliver games to your desktop.

I’ll give the author points for identifying the reason that Valve promotes Steam, to the exclusion of all other methods of game installation. But he fails to unambiguously state what that reason is.

Profit Margin.

I’m a capitalist, I have no problem with profit. What I have a problem with is the continuing saga of limiting the usefulness of a product, even crippling same, for the explicit purposes of increasing profit margins; even when these actions limit the value of the product to the customer. DRM can come in many forms, and relying on Valve and Steam to continue to authorize a program’s use every time you start it will eventually end in your paying for the same game over and over again as their profit margin demands it.

Make no mistake about it, Steam is DRM. If you do not have an active online presence when installing the game from disc (those of us who continue the arcane practice of actually going to brick and mortar stores for our software) you will not be allowed to install, at all. No where on the packaging for The Orange Box or Half Life is this fact revealed, and good luck returning already opened software for a refund. That doesn’t happen, either.

Luckily (or maybe unluckily) we have high speed internet service, and so The Son was able to install his favorite programs and play them ad nauseum. Or he would be able to if Steam didn’t present me with a regular series of challenges based on arcane hardware limitations and failed upgrade problems.

After a few months of being Steamrolled, I’m declaring a moritorium on Steam controlled games in this household. I’ve had enough of re-installing and re-configuring, and then re-re-installing and re-re-configuring Valve games to last me for the rest of my life. The children keep asking me when I’m going to play Half-Life 2 (because, like Doom 3, they watched me play Half Life from the safety of the couch, where the monsters can’t get them. They want to continue the entertainment of watching dad scream in terror when the monsters start eating the back of his head) and my answer is a solid “never”. Never going to play it, because the frustation of making Steam work with Half-Life and the other Valve programs leaves little room for the entertainment that you are supposed to get from gaming. Never mind that I don’t want to get attached to a program that Valve could de-authorise whenever they please, for whatever reason they see fit.

I have a dream. I just want to be able to install a game, and then never have to worry about licensing again. If I were pirating…

[Copying without paying for software. Not really pirating. Pirating involves theft of value by force. Like taking your money and not giving you software that works, for example. Theft of my money is just as much piracy as continued use of a program you have not licensed properly]

…software, it would be that simple. I wouldn’t have to answer to the authors of the program when it came to methods of installation, numbers of installs, or online status when installing. That is what these games developers have to compete with when it comes to rolling out new software. The software may or may not work on my system, I may not get the bug patches, but the price (free) is right for that kind of risk. And I won’t have to listen to children beg me for the advertised games they don’t own, conveniently available through Steam.

No, Valve has found their version of an MMO (and World Of Warcraft, Blizzard’s premiere MMO, is experiencing astronomical profits) and they are milking it for all it’s worth. I just don’t have any need to be treated as a revenue source for game companies that really aren’t doing too bad after all.

The interesting part of the article was the information on other game companies intentions to compete with Steam for customers. Well, they might have one sitting right here.

Impulse claims to be much more open, in keeping with Stardock’s continuing policy of being DRM-free and rewarding the legitimate customer. Recent furores over invasive and overly protective piracy prevention tools has divided the industry, with some favoring the maximum effort possible to stop piracy, while the rest advocating a free system which does not punish the consumer. Stardock, being at the forefront of this movement, consistently promise to never restrict their customers in the name of reducing piracy. By distributing their games online via the same methods as those who steal games, Stardock is banking on the loyalty of their customers and the attractiveness of their product to survive. So far, it is working.

read more | digg story

It sounds good. But it only runs in Windows, a platform that I’ve vowed to abandon, for pretty much the same reasons I don’t approve of Steam. Too many hoops to jump through, too many limitations on what I can do, too much money for what I’m actually getting.

How about a cutting edge gaming system that is platform neutral, like Mozilla? No, I’m not happy about the state of gaming these days, and I don’t see much hope on the horizon. Still, it’s good that there are companies out there that realize treating customers like criminals is not the way to ingender loyalty amongst the endusers. Now lets see if they go the distance.

‘Former’ Palm user?

I’m beginning to think it’s time to trade up.

I’ve carried a Palm device since Handspring first offered it’s Visor. While I was content to nestle in the (expensive) corporate software world that Bill and his buddies have carved out, Palm desktop’s Windows exclusive interface was not a problem. Now that I’ve struck out into the (nearly) trackless wilderness of Linux, trying to get my Palm devices to reliably sync with any version of Linux has proven to be more problematic than I had ever envisioned.

Consequently, I was heartened to hear that Android rolled-out the long awaited open source OS for the as yet sight unseen gPhone.

By creating an open platform, Google is trying to make money not on software or hardware sales, but by creating vast hordes of ad-susceptible phone users. Google can be less selfish about design, and less worried about stumbles on the road to perfection. Google boss Eric Schmidt told us today that they would not be in the business of clamping down on independent development, and from the sound of it, would be encouraging carriers to adopt a hands-off policy toward third-party development.

Gizmodo – Analysis: Google’s Android Phone and the Four Carriers

Intrigued by this development, I wandered by the Engadget site, only to discover that

Palm, which has been struggling for years through countless setbacks to introduce its own Linux-based mobile OS, in the mean time using a continuously cobbled-together version of Palm OS 5 (originally introduced in 2002) throughout. Palm’s first attempt at a next-gen mobile OS, dubbed Cobalt, is announced in 2004 and quickly becomes the stuff of vaporware legend, delayed over and over until ACCESS eventually buys the flagging PalmSource (more here on how that whole thing went down); ACCESS pledges to finish development of Palm’s misplaced next-gen mobile OS, and then license it back to Palm (among other companies).

But Palm’s had enough, so earlier this year it announces its intentions to release its own Linux-based OS — again — but this time without the help of its spin-off sister company Palm Source (which, of course, is now a part of ACCESS). And that new OS is quickly hyped and lauded — and then delayed. Yet again. Pushed back into late 2008 at the earliest (although we won’t be surprised if Palm revises and makes that 2009 or even later). And so we ask, Palm, where the hell were you when Google was rallying its Open Handset Alliance?

engadget – Palm: assimilate with Android or die

Yes, where the hell were you, Palm? Why am I still forced to juggle an OS that has essentially remained unchanged since 2002 with newer and faster PC’s and their constantly updated OS’s? Why hasn’t a shift to a Linux based Palm OS come about? Why is the Palm Desktop still exclusively set up for corporate software solutions (Windows/Mac)?

Most importantly, will I have to endure a brain transplant? Long before the iPhone ad, or even the iPhone itself, I frequently referred to my Palm device as my brain. So will I need to get a brain transplant? Will I have to find some other smartphone manufacturer’s product that I can make myself understand in order to get a device that plays well with the OS that I intend to use for the foreseeable future? A Linux OS?

Will we ever see a gPhone? Google executives won’t say … yet. For now, Google CEO Eric Schmidt says there will be a variety of Android phones offered by several wireless carriers. But even without a dedicated gPhone, we can all look forward to a software platform designed to better the user experience, while also being light on the pocketbook. All the while, Google is extending its seemingly endless grip on the technological world.

TradingMarkets.com Google platform challenges Mac, PC markets

So, in the meantime, I’ll keep carrying my Treo 650. I’m just not sure what manufacturer I’ll be purchasing my next device from.


2019 – It was LG. That was the next phone. LG, then HTC, Then a Nexus 5. I’m currently using a Motorola/Lenovo G5. Get me as close to pure Android as I can get, please. That’s what I’ve determined that I want. As open source as I can get without having to program it directly myself, please.

iPhone Conundrums

The class-action lawsuit alleges that Apple and AT&T had illegally exerted a monopoly by telling customers their iPhone contract was two years long when in actuality the companies’ exclusivity agreement was for an indefinite, undisclosed amount of time. That means even after iPhone customers’ two-year contracts have expired, they still don’t have the option of switching to another carrier because AT&T is still Apple’s only U.S. partner.

Gizmodo – Lawsuit Accusing Apple and AT&T of an iPhone Monopoly

Intentionally breaking third party applications for their phone hardware is what is going to get Apple in trouble, in the end. It’s what got Microsoft in trouble, intentionally breaking Netscape‘s ability run on updated Windows products (something that was reversed in later releases) so that Internet Exploder, urm, Explorer, would run unchallenged on Windows systems. This was SOP at Microsoft for many years.

Yes Microsoft dominates the software market currently, but I wonder how much longer this will be true; and how is Apple ever going to gain customer loyalty when they alienate whole sections of their user base by purposefully breaking their customers phones with software updates?

First you pay 200 dollars too much for the thing, and now it doesn’t work at all. Thanks Apple. Stick with Palm or LG or Nokia next time, lusers.


…And then the other shoe drops. So much for Apple’s control over their product base.

Hackers Claim to Revive ‘Bricked’ iPhones

It’s unclear, however, how permanent any “unbrick” fix will be, or whether changes to the hacks that allow modifications will survive the next Apple iPhone update.

PC World Magazine

I still say you should have bought a Palm.


2019 – While updating the links in this one I ran across the Gizmodo article I quoted from at the top. The lawsuit was granted class action status in 2010. As far as I can tell, the lawsuit is still ongoing twelve years later.

Testimonial for Open Office

I have been using Open Office myself, exclusively, for more than 3 years now. The wife had built me a new system, and during the installation process I decided I would, for security reasons, abandon every piece of Microsoft software that I could get away from. I shifted my browser and e-mail client to Mozilla, and rather than installing Microsoft Office, I installed Open Office.

There were no transition issues. Open Office opens MS Office documents with very few problems, and saves documents in MS Office format if I need it to; however, I have been transitioning all my current files into open document formats, so the need to convert to MS Office format almost never occurs. If I need to send a document to someone else, there is a “convert to PDF” button right on the the main menu bar, making the process of creating a shared document completely painless. The interface is quite intuitive, and similar enough to MS Office programs to make general usage by those familiar with MS Office quite painless.

The wife dabbles in computer repair in addition to her day job. As her one and only flunky, I get to do most of the grunt work installations that go along with recovering systems that have been turned into zombies or spambots. In addition to installing Mozilla to handle internet and mail, I add Open Office to those systems that don’t have a valid copy of MS Office. I have never gotten a complaint resulting from this practice.

Here’s the best part, though. Since Open Office is an open source project, I did not have to pay a massive fee for the software, before I was even certain that I would find it useful. This is the Achilles heal of corporate software, in my experience. If I want to test new software, I am forced to either gamble my money on untested software, or I have to pirate a copy of it for testing purposes. Neither of those options are comfortable options for me, so I’m glad I have the option to simply download and install software without the intrusive licensing restrictions, and to contribute to those software ventures that I find useful.

I would like to thank the Open Office team for their dedication to OpenOffice.org.

Wal-mart begins selling DRM-free MP3s

The DRM dominos continue to fall with Wal-mart joining the DRM-free for all.

Engadget, Wal-mart begins selling DRM-free MP3s

From the Reuters story on the subject (also found on Yahoo):

Wal-Mart’s move into DRM-free downloads comes as major record labels debate whether dropping DRM will hurt digital music sales or encourage piracy. Copy protection software prevents unauthorized copying of a digital song bought from an online store, but it also limits where an owner can listen to it.

Apple founder and Chief Executive Steve Jobs has called on the music industry to allow online retailers like iTunes to sell songs without restrictions to give the digital music sector a boost and to give consumers what they want.

Universal, the world’s largest music label, said earlier this month that it was testing the sale of songs without copy-protection software and said vendors including Google Inc., Wal-Mart and Amazon.com Inc., would participate in the DRM-free trial.

EMI has also agreed to drop DRM, but the Sony BMG Music Entertainment venture of Sony Corp and Bertelsmann AG and Warner Music Group Corp are still testing the impact of such a move on digital music sales.


Mea culpa review 2017. Seriously, old self? What the heavenly fuck were you thinking? I need something for the blog just pretend you wrote the opening line? Listen you lazy old bastard, write or don’t post. That’s it, end of discussion. 

PC Mag Editor Throws in the Towel on Vista

From the Article:

Maybe it was something in the water? I’ve been a big proponent of the new OS over the past few months, even going so far as loading it onto most of my computers and spending hours tweaking and optimizing it. So why, nine months after launch, am I so frustrated? The litany of what doesn’t work and what still frustrates me stretches on endlessly. 

PC Magazine, Passing the Torch 

As someone observed in the comments section on digg, PC magazine has been bought and paid for by MicroSoft for quite some time now. For the editor to retire while publishing a scathing critisism of Vista speaks volumes.

Vista Hits Store Shelves. So What?

Stumbled across this article over at digg.com, discussing the departure of Windows chief Jim Allchin, and breathless praise concerning the latest version of Windows to hit store shelves, Vista.

My response? Goodbye Jim Allchin.

The rest of the article is a puff piece designed to spin the Vista delay in the correct direction, rather than discussing the real reasons for same. Reasons like the failure of Vista’s predecessor Longhorn, which failed because nobody wanted the invasive security measures that were touted as one of Longhorn’s strengths (the chipset it was to utilize was shelved, if I remember correctly, over the same issues) It’s taken nearly five years to design and build a version of Windows that Microsoft thought people would go for, a version that also included enough of the DRM and anti-piracy measures (that corporate America is inexplicably in love with) to satisfy Microsoft’s business partners and it’s legal department.

Good luck with it. It’ll never see the inside of any of my systems, at least not in it’s unadulterated form. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Apparently the opinion is pretty widespread, and not exactly earth shattering.

Of what use is an operating system that disables programs and media that it can’t verify are legally purchased (can’t verify as opposed to aren’t legally purchased, an important distinction) one that is hostile to other DRM schemes, schemes that are just as valid as its own (the issue with iTunes has been well documented, albeit patched) An operating system that requires every user to create a Windows Live account in order to validate the installation; a completely pointless requirement, except that MicroSoft is deluding itself into believing that it can compete with Yahoo and Google, and so think that forcing new users to register in the system will lead them to actually use the system.

Time to get serious about Linux.


2019 – Still using Windows. I’m actually starting to come to accept the requirement that I love Big Broth …err, I mean Microsoft. At least I don’t have to learn how to program to use it. They finally convinced me to create a Live account if only to keep my systems updated and to give me one Windows login to manage. See Authenticators for the latest.

Microsoft, It’s Just ON the Computer You Buy

If I had a nickel for every free marketeer that waxed poetic about the greatness of Microsoft and how we owed Bill Gates thanks for the computer boom, I could probably challenge big brother Bill for the title of richest man in the world.

But I don’t buy the scenario.

Microsoft doesn’t hold monopoly marketshare because they have a superior product. Microsoft wins because it is supplied on a PC system at no significant charge. It’s a lot like payroll deductions. Most people don’t notice the difference between net income and gross income. They don’t do their own taxes, balance a checkbook, etc. That’s why they support things like socialized medicine; it will be free to them because they don’t count the costs that come out of their pocket before they even know what they had. There isn’t a cost to them at point of purchase, so they think of it as free.

When you buy a computer system, there is a lump sum fee that you pay. There is no detailed record of what everything that goes into your computer costs. There is a software upchage of about a hundred bucks on the average windows system. I can buy a complete computer system with a Linux OS on it for 150 to 200 bucks. Windows systems are generally much higher than that.

If people had to pay for the software upfront, this would all be a different story. Microsoft would not have the marketshare they currently have. The MPAA and the RIAA would not have been able to advance their agendas because there would be no monolithic software giant to enforce their will. There wouldn’t be the problem that currently exists with viruses and malware, because there wouldn’t be a Swiss cheese OS out there that is specifically set up to be hijacked.

[The average windows system is shipped with a default user profile created, and an administrator account invisible on top of it. None of the accounts are password protected, and the average user doesn’t know about the admin account that anyone can log on to. When you plug the box into the network, it’s a simple thing for a cracker to ping it, load his software onto the system through one of a hundred or so open ports, log on to the administrator account remotely, and hijack the system. It generally takes about 15 minutes for this to occur, according to the last article I read on the subject. Systems set up to be hijacked.]

It is the massive market share (and sweet deals for exclusivity with Microsoft) that has gotten peripheral suppliers (like cameras and scanners) to program their drivers for Windows only. There was a time when driver disks had multiple OS options on them. I almost never see that anymore. It’s not the fault of Linux programmers that peripherals aren’t recognized, it is the fault of the manufacturers who don’t support anything but Windows; and will in fact build their hardware to rely on Windows (as in the case of some printers) to the exclusion of everybody else.

It’s a corporate disease, much like a free-government-provided disease.