Sunday, December 17, 2006

DRM and (Un)Trusted Computing: really a big deal?

I have blogged several times on how much I enjoy Apple's iTunes store, always burning any songs I buy to a CDR as MP3 as backup. I just did get burned by Apple's DRM however. This was partially carelessness on my part and partially some bad luck with hardware. You can only "authorize" 5 computers at once to work with your iTunes store account. I had a disk go bad on a Mac and had to re-install OS X without first unregistering the computer with the iTunes store. I had a similar experience recently with a Windows laptop: re-installed Windows without remembering to de-authorize that computer with the iTunes music store. Now I can't watch several Battle Star Galactica videos I purchased on my laptop. Oh well, no great loss.

(Un)Trusted Computing is a bigger deal: if I buy a computer, I want control over:
  • What software gets installed on my computer
  • When I buy a license to run an operating system, like Windows, I want to be trusted as a customer, and not have my computer (partially) disabled if Microsoft makes an error
I am currently running Windows 2000 on my laptop, and I am happy enough: I still can get security updates, my system is stable, and I can run Windows-only VPN software that my customer provides me. My experience with Windows XP was less happy, but still reasonable. While Microsoft Vista's (Un)Trusted Computing might appeal to unsophisticated computer users, Vista does not appeal to me, and I am hoping to permanently avoid Vista.

Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen of the FSF.org have been warning about loss of freedoms for computer users for many years, and unfortunately some of their dire predictions seem to be coming true.

What I think is important is that people who want Microsoft's Vista should have the right to Use Windows. Same with Apple users. People who want to use these proprietary systems will certainly be able to get "locked in" all they want.

The problem I have is for the 1% to 2% of computer users (like me!) who appreciate the advantages of running Linux, even without having access to media like DVDs, etc. I want to be "left alone", and be free to set up my Linux computer as I like it. In regards to patent issues: I see great hope because large companies like IBM are sharing part of their protective patent "umbrella" with the Linux community. Good going IBM - I will certainly give them my business when I can. Also, I hope that the courts take a fair approach to enforcing patents: patent holders like Microsoft who might want to legally attack Linux users should be made to publish which patent violations Linux is supposedly guilty of, and I believe that the Linux community will quickly get rid of any legally offending code if any such code exists in Linux.

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