Back to previous post: Really don’t try this at home

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Lenticular formation*

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

May 5, 2006

“Just because computers were a liberating force in the past doesn’t mean they will be in the future.”
Posted by Patrick at 01:18 PM * 22 comments

Bruce Schneier asks: “Who owns your computer?”

Comments on "Just because computers were a liberating force in the past doesn't mean they will be in the future.":
#1 ::: dan ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 02:37 PM:

Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice...

All live on the Win32 platform now; users are no longer constrained to Linux for Open Source software.

(I don't have to knowledge base to address the Mac world's situation in this case.)

#2 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 03:27 PM:

@ Dan: all three of those are available for Mac. And the guts of Safari (WebKit and JSKit) are Open Source.

#3 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 03:29 PM:

I've been pondering writing something about this for a while. So I finally did. There's three laws of robotics. I added a robotics bill of rights.

First ammendment: A robot will act as an agent representing it's owner's best interests.

#4 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 03:37 PM:

Well, they're not constrained to Linux if they want to open-source (though some of the problems there, such as the Sony Rootkit debacle, point out that your OS might be working against you too), but it certainly makes the job more complete.

#5 ::: dan ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 03:58 PM:

...and if someone does want to move the: The Equivalents List is getting better (non-exhaustive). Fedora Core 5 is almost ready for "Aunt Minnie", and certainly is if we 'support' her already on her Windows box.

#6 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 04:02 PM:

the problem isn't strictly limited to the computer hardware on your desk and the software it runs. Part of it is the services provided by third parties between you and another person. search engines having secret tilts added to their results, undisclosed entangling alliances between the middlemen and whoever has the most money.

Open source won't solve the whole problem. It is a start, though.

#7 ::: Sylvia Sotomayor ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 04:26 PM:

Of the 3 computers I own, the desktop and the server run linux, and the laptop runs Windows, with Firefox, Open Office, Apache & MySQL. The only reason the laptop runs Windows rather than linux is that many of the hotels I stay in when travelling require IE to initially access their "free wireless internet". And the only reason Mom's laptop runs Windows is that her sewing software requires it.

It does help that a close friend knows Windows & security very well, has shown me how to uninstall various Windows components, and has hooked me up with a better anti-virus.

#8 ::: dan ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 04:28 PM:

To second Greg: Pick a pair of keywords and pull a search with Google under IE and then the same pair with Yahoo under Firefox. YMMV, but it's indicative of the reality...

#9 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 06:11 PM:

Sylvia --

About those hotel wireless ports: Can't you just change your browser's user agent to fool the scripts?

#10 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 06:32 PM:

To me, the most interesting aspect of this debate is the legality of these pieces of software. A "clickthrough" or "shrink wrap" license is of questionable legality as a "contract" -- one of the features of a "real" contract is the ability of both sides to negotiate. This is obviously impossible with software. Microsoft negotiate ten million different contracts? No way!

Most people don't even read the "clickthrough" license. Presumably, we're supposed to run these things past a lawyer. With shrink wrap licenses, you can't even do that without opening the package.

Read the "terms of service" or whatever they call it for your bank, your stockbroker, your ISP. You may get some rude surprises.

I think the way to deal with this is a "customer's bill of rights" that spells out exactly what we can expect from software. With the current political climate, I suspect that trying to pas a law like this would do more harm than good.

#11 ::: Sylvia Sotomayor ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 06:57 PM:

A.J. wrote:
About those hotel wireless ports: Can't you just change your browser's user agent to fool the scripts?

I will have to try that next time. Usually when I first get to the hotel, I'm too tired from travelling to think of clever things like that.

Also, re software licenses, the few I've bothered to read seem to have some clause that says subject to change without notice, which makes them useless for us end users.

#12 ::: PoliticalCritic ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 08:18 PM:

I'm sure the government owns my computer. I just got rid of a virus that was designed to steal my passwords. Great. Perhaps the Bush administration got the NSA to design that one to make it easier to spy.

#13 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 08:33 PM:

I've never had a hotel not let me through with Opera.

Not all contracts are negotiable, unless you count "take it or leave it" as negotiation. Have you tried negotiating with a web store?

#14 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2006, 09:40 PM:

I think MS's vulnerabilities are there partly because they're designing the software for use in large corporate intranets, and automatic downloading of applications and remote administration are pretty common in that situation. In that environment, in fact, they work very well. The way they've done this, though, makes the systems terribly vulnerable outside of that environment (or any non-firewalled environment) and corporate intranets are terribly vulnerable to viruses and other malware.

#15 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2006, 11:46 AM:

By the way, the NYT has an article on a different aspect of this problem; a patent on a technology that would refuse to let you change channels during a commercial.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/07/business/yourmoney/07digi.html

(I am very glad I do not own a television...)

#16 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2006, 02:45 PM:

Patenting that is an iffy proposition, because it's an old idea . . . at least to me. Oracle video servers, circa 1997, could tag content in a way to prevent fast forward / rewind / etc.

#17 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2006, 02:57 PM:

Randolph Fritz: a patent on a technology that would refuse to let you change channels during a commercial.

The American public will calmly bear the systematic destruction of their liberties, but this would cause them to rise up from their La-Z-Boy recliners to riot in the streets.

#18 ::: Hanneke ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2006, 05:12 AM:

It's a good thing to be suspicious, but this feels a bit too much like "Loose Change" to me. Conspiracy gullibility. About that patent thing: it's not in any television yet, and it seems is the same tech that would let you *skip* commercials...

#19 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2006, 09:10 AM:

Dan: I'm not entirely sure what doing that would actually get you. If you'd kept either the search engine or the browser the same and found different results, fine, but getting different results from two engines is to be expected. Did I miss something?

#20 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2006, 05:22 PM:

I'm a little confused myself.

Yahoo and Google use different searching technologies, and started with different principles. I vaguely remember that in the early days of Yahoo, it chose who to link to- that is, the default for a webpage was to be NOT listed.

Why would you expect the same results from Yahoo and Google anyway?

#21 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2006, 06:07 PM:

I've gotten different results from the same search on Google on two different Windows computers. I don't understand that one!

#22 ::: David Harmon sees spam at #23 ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2011, 07:44 AM:

drowning in coupons.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.