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Thoughts on Thoughts - Please Visit http://glyph.twistedmatrix.com/ - This Blog Is Closed.
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Thoughts on Thoughts
I am in the market for a new computer, and it will almost certainly be a Mac.

Last week, I discovered that, with Vista, Microsoft has finally crossed the line between "pragmatic compromise" and "dangerous decision".  I have never been really comfortable with having a Windows machine that required "activation", but it's been worth it mainly for access to certain bits of software which are hard to get elsewhere.  I generally buy new computers with Windows installed to get the discount and avoid the hassles.  (Sure, Linux seems like a pain compared to Windows when setting up new hardware, but have you ever tried to get Windows bootstrapped?  From scratch?)  The new "premium content protection" garbage in Vista is such a terrible disaster waiting to happen that both the moral and practical ramifications of buying new Windows hardware have finally become overriding.

The first option I considered was System 76.  I desperately want to sing their praises, but the only experiences I've heard of with their laptops so far were decidedly ... lackluster.  Their service is apparently excellent though, and I will continue to consider them for future hardware purchases (the idea of not having to screw around with that one last fiddly device driver in my Linux setup is certainly appealing).

While I use, and will indefinitely continue to use, Linux for my day-to-day computing and development needs, having more than one major OS around is extremely handy to run the occasional bit of proprietary software.  Going over the pros and cons of Mac vs. Generic Windows hardware...

  1. I already know a few people who use Macs.
  2. Apple has already done right by me in the recent past, as the only company to contribute both software and hardware to the Twisted project.
  3. The MacBook is actually a fairly cost-effective way to get a reasonable Core 2 Duo setup.
  1. No Half Life games.
  2. Only one button on the trackpad.
As you can probably tell, I was already leaning in the "Get a mac" direction.  I still lacked a sense of real urgency or desire to get the new machine.

Then, today, I saw the latest from Jobs: Thoughts on Music.  In it, he lucidly declares the emperor naked and asks if maybe he would like to put on some clothes.  In a nutshell, he says DRM is obnoxious, ineffective, and extremely expensive.  Most importantly, he claims that Apple would prefer to support a DRM-free music store.

I could, of course, interpret this cynically as a publicity stunt, since there seems to be about zero chance that the big four music publishers will get their heads out of their asses before they're all bankrupt, but it wasn't offered as a sound byte or a press release.  It's in a sort of essay format and I get the impression that he is really trying to convince the reader that this is what he thinks is best, and he hopes it will happen.  Heck, if there anyone who can make it happen it's probably Jobs.

(I think I'll get the black one.)
7 comments or Leave a comment
(Deleted comment)
glyf From: glyf Date: February 7th, 2007 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I did see Mr. Johansen's "rebuttal", but it didn't have much impact for me. He quoted one or two news sources without any context, then said "QED". He missed all kinds of obvious problems with his critique. Maybe Apple's deal with the record companies requires them to DRM everything? Maybe it's cheaper operationally to DRM everything or nothing but not some things? Perhaps there's internal dissent at Apple as to what to do about this? Sure, it's inconsistent with previous statements but maybe it's inconsistent because something actually changed about their policy on DRM?

That's not to say that I trust Jobs implicitly; he's done some pretty scummy things in his career, and not everything in his statement added up. The main thing that Jon missed was that Jobs standing up and saying this kind of thing publicly has a huge impact -- even if it's not entirely true, or there are some elements within Apple that disagree with him. It sends a definite message to the record companies.
(Deleted comment)
glyf From: glyf Date: February 8th, 2007 07:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Nice letter. Nice kool-aid. I like Cherry.

Let me be clear, here: I don't think Mr. Jobs has a heart of gold. I am not buying an iPod. I have written before about my profoundly negative experiences with iTunes DRM. Despite its pretty chrome, I do not intend to run OS X. I am not going to buy anything from the ITMS - at least not until DRM is completely obliterated from both it and the iTunes player.

What I see here are two companies selling OSes that are the only supported platforms for various applications I'd like to run. In the one corner, we have Microsoft, saying "Wow, being evil is great. We love being evil. Being evil is soooo fabulous." XP's "Genuine Advantage" was a slap in the face, but Vista's "Premium Content Protection" is a rocket launcher to the groin. It is beyond the pale. In the other corner, we have Apple, who has long been saying "Evil is pretty okay I guess". Now, they're changing their tune and starting to say "You know, actually, being evil kinda sucks. We should be less evil."

Maybe all Apple is doing is recognizing the market reality that customers don't like evil, and don't want to buy it. I'm willing to admit the possibility that this is an indication that they're going to reduce the amount of evil that they're doing. I have not accepted that as fact, though, and I am well aware that they still stand to profit substantially from this sort of evil.

Perhaps my tone suggested that I thought they'd said more, but this is really how low my standards for corporate behavior have sunk: I think that you're doing pretty OK if you realize that you have to lie to me about your desire to commit crimes against humanity, history and culture to enrich yourself.

Even so, while I can understand reserving judgment, I do think it's important not to be overly negative about this. Whether he means it or not, Jobs is saying a good thing, while others are still saying outwardly bad things. Not that you're necessarily being overly negative, but since posting this I have certainly gotten much nastier comments in private communications.
tenth From: tenth Date: February 7th, 2007 04:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Everyone I know who has a Mac laptop has a USB mouse plugged into it. And that's five or six people, mind you.

(You can at least get a Mac mouse that has two "buttons", in the sense of places on the cover that go click when you put pressure on them. And I guess a third one if you count that clickable mini-trackball thing(?) on their new mouse. Or you can go the cheap route... I enjoy the irony of having a $6 microsoft mouse hanging off the side of my iMac.)

Also, with bootcamp, you can technically play the Half-Lifes on your MacBook. It sounds like windows gaming on intel macbooks is actually pretty good, though I haven't seen it firsthand.
piehead From: piehead Date: February 7th, 2007 04:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's always "control+click" to right click with a single button Mac trackpad, but if you're used to having two buttons that might be too annoying.

I can't stand the trackpad on this Dell laptop, so I never use if it I can avoid it, so the Mac trackpad always feels like heaven in comparison.

I tend to use a Logitech VX Revolution anyway (which is supported on OS X, unlike the MX 610.)
From: mattcampbell80 Date: February 12th, 2007 01:59 am (UTC) (Link)

What's so evil about premium content protection?

Please forgive me if I seem clueless, but why does Vista's premium content protection pose such moral and (especially) practical problems for you? Sure, DRM is inconvenient, but perhaps it's what we (meaning humanity in general) deserve, considering the rampant illegal exchange of music and movies over peer-to-peer networks. Actually, I believe we deserve much worse because of our sin, but that's another discussion.

Mind you, I don't even consider Windows Genuine Advantage a slap in the face; assuming the user's copy of Windows is legal, it's no big deal.

Anyway, even if Microsoft and the record labels are evil, I don't see any moral problem with buying Windows Vista and hardware that supports premium content protection. If you don't like premium content protection, just don't watch HD or Blu-ray DVD's.
glyf From: glyf Date: February 12th, 2007 11:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: What's so evil about premium content protection?

Clearly we have some disagreements on basic premises, such as the nature of the inherent conflict between physical and "intellectual" property - but as you say, that's a different discussion. If you want to comment on my views on the inherent immorality of DRM, there is another article on this blog which is better suited to it.

However, all that aside - even if I thought that "protecting content" were a fantastic idea, Vista's idea of how this should be done is a huge disaster. The article I linked to in the first paragraph is exhaustive in its description, but the one feature that leaps out at me as being both disastrous in its implications and having nothing whatsoever to do with copyright enforcement is the notion of "tilt bits". Vista can, in some circumstances, degrade or completely disable (very expensive) peripherals if their electrical characteristics change slightly.

My apartment has so much static electricity that my current USB hub re-sets itself once or twice a week with no obvious prompting. Other bizarre electrical phenomena happen all the time, related to the BIOS and my video card, if I don't run a humidifier.

It's occasionally a pain, but today this machine works great and is actually very stable. Vista will reduce it to a brick. QED: I will never purchase vista.
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