All posts filed under “Stallman

Some links

Some links. Guess what vehicle this is.

First, an apology for anyone who’s had problems with the RSS/Atom feeds over the last month or so. I think they’re fixed now (certainly Bloglines has started picking them up again) but please let me know if you don’t read this. Oops, that won’t work… anyway:

  • ‘Gadgets as Tyrants’ by Xeni Jardin, looks at digital architectures of control in the context of the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas :

    Many of the tens of thousands of products displayed last week on the Vegas expo floor, as attractive and innovative as they are, are designed to restrict our use… Even children are bothered by the increasing restrictions. One electronics show attendee told me his 12-year-old recently asked him, “Why do I have to buy my favorite game five times?” Because the company that made the game wants to profit from each device the user plays it on: Wii, Xbox, PlayStation, Game Boy or phone.

    At this year’s show, the president of the Consumer Electronics Association, Gary Shapiro, spoke up for “digital freedom,” arguing that tech companies shouldn’t need Hollywood’s permission when they design a new product.

  • The Consumerist – showing a 1981 Walmart advert for a twin cassette deck – comments that “Copying music wasn’t always so taboo”.

    I’m not sure it is now, either.

  • George Preston very kindly reminds me of the excellent Trusted Computing FAQ by Ross Anderson, a fantastic exposition of the arguments. For more on Vista’s ‘trusted’ computing issues, Peter Guttmann has some very clear explanations of how shocking far we are from anything sensible. See also Richard Stallman’s ‘Right to Read’.
  • David Rickerson equally kindly sends me details of a modern Panopticon prison recently built in Colorado – quite impressive in a way:

    Image from Correctional News

    …Architects hit a snag when they realized too much visibility could create problems.

    “We’ve got lots of windows looking in, but the drawback is that inmates can look from one unit to another through the windows at the central core area of the ward,” Gulliksen says. “That’s a big deal. You don’t want inmates to see other inmates across the hall with gang affiliations and things like that.”

    To minimize unwanted visibility, the design team applied a reflective film to all the windows facing the wards. Deputies can see out, but inmates cannot see in. Much like the 18th-century Panopticon, the El Paso County jail design keeps inmates from seeing who is watching them.

    Image from Correctional News website

  • Should the iPhone be more open?

    As Jason Devitt says, stopping users installing non-Apple (or Apple-approved) software means that the cost of sending messages goes from (potentially) zero, to $5,000 per megabyte:

    Steve typed “Sounds great. See you there.” 28 characters, 28 bytes. Call it 30. What does it cost to transmit 30 bytes?

    * iChat on my Macbook: zero.
    * iChat running on an iPhone using WiFi: zero.
    * iChat running on an iPhone using Cingular’s GPRS/EDGE data network: 6 hundredths of a penny.
    * Steve’s ‘cool new text messaging app’ on an iPhone: 15c.

    A nickel and a dime.

    15c for 30 bytes = $0.15 X 1,000,000 / 30 = $5,000 per megabyte.

    “Yes, but it isn’t really $5,000,” you say. It is if you are Cingular, and you handle a few billion messages like this each quarter.

    … [I] assumed that I would be able to install iChat myself. Or better still Adium, which supports AIM, MSN, ICQ, and Jabber. But I will not be able to do that because … it will not be possible to install applications on the iPhone without the approval of Cingular and Apple… But as a consumer, I have a choice. And for now the ability to install any application that I want leaves phones powered by Windows Mobile, Symbian, Linux, RIM, and Palm OS with some major advantages over the iPhone.

    Aside from the price discrimination (and business model) issue (see also Control & Networks), one thing that strikes me about a phone with a flat touch screen is simply how much less haptic feedback the user gets.

    I know people who can text competently without looking at the screen, or indeed the phone at all. They rely on the feel of the buttons, the pattern of raised and lowered areas and the sensation as the button is pressed, to know whether or not the character has actually been entered, and which character it was (based on how many times the button is pressed). I would imagine they would be rather slow with the iPhone.

  • Some links: miscellaneous, pertinent to architectures of control

    Ulises Mejias on ‘Confinement, Education and the Control Society’ – fascinating commentary on Deleuze’s societies of control and how the instant communication and ‘life-long learning’ potential (and, I guess, everyware) of the internet age may facilitate control and repression:

    “This is the paradox of social media that has been bothering me lately: an ’empowering’ media that provides increased opportunities for communication, education and online participation, but which at the same time further isolates individuals and aggregates them into masses —more prone to control, and by extension more prone to discipline.”


    Slashdot on ‘A working economy without DRM?’ – same debate as ever, but some very insightful comments


    Slashdot on ‘Explaining DRM to a less-experienced PC user’ – I particularly like SmallFurryCreature’s ‘Sugar cube’ analogy


    ‘The Promise of a Post-Copyright World’ by Karl Fogel – extremely clear analysis of the history of copyright and, especially, the way it has been presented to the public over the centuries


    (Via BoingBoing) The Entertrainer – a heart monitor-linked TV controller: your TV stays on with the volume at a usable level only while you keep exercising at the required rate. Similar concept to Gillian Swan’s Square-Eyes

    Review: Everyware by Adam Greenfield

    The cover of the book, in a suitably quotidian setting

    This is the first book review I’ve done on this blog, though it won’t be the last. In a sense, this is less of a conventional review than an attempt to discuss some of the ideas in the book, and synthesise them with points that have been raised by the examination of architectures of control: what can we learn from the arguments outlined in the book?

    Adam Greenfield‘s Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing looks at the possibilities, opportunities and issues posed by the embedding of networked computing power and information processing in the environment, from the clichéd ‘rooms that recognise you and adapt to your preferences’ to surveillance systems linking databases to track people’s behaviour with unprecedented precision. Read More

    Embedding control in society: the end of freedom

    Bye bye debate.

    Henry Porter’s chilling Blair Laid Bare – which I implore you to read if you have the slightest interest in your future – contains an equally worrying quote from the LSE’s Simon Davies noting the encroachment of architectures of control in society itself:

    “The second invisible change that has occurred in Britain is best expressed by Simon Davies, a fellow at the London School of Economics, who did pioneering work on the ID card scheme and then suffered a wounding onslaught from the Government when it did not agree with his findings. The worrying thing, he suggests, is that the instinctive sense of personal liberty has been lost in the British people.

    “We have reached that stage now where we have gone almost as far as it is possible to go in establishing the infrastructures of control and surveillance within an open and free environment,” he says. “That architecture only has to work and the citizens only have to become compliant for the Government to have control.
    Read More

    ‘Fair use, Xbox hacking, and how far will Linux users go to get a cheap PC?’

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, in ZDNet’s Hardware 2.0 blog, asks whether it is ‘ethical’ for users to install GNU/Linux on an Xbox, or in general, to use hardware they have bought in whatever way they wish.

    “First, is it ethical to hack an Xbox or any other bit of commercial hardware? I’m not just talking about Microsoft hardware here… I’m thinking about the smaller fish that might have a good idea, but can’t make it viable to get it out of the door because their business model could be undermined by people circumventing any security they put in place.”

    Other people’s failed business models should not be the concern of customers. If they’re buying the hardware, it’s up to them to do what they want with it. If customers want to do something with the hardware that the manufacturer has not anticipated, why not work with them?

    “Put a free operating system into the ecosystem and it’s only a matter of time before users start looking for free (or nearly free) hardware to run it on. Problem is, it’s much easier to make a virtual product that’s free than it is to come up with free hardware.

    While we’re on the subject of free operating systems (or free anything for that matter), it’s important to bear in mind that someone, somewhere, has paid for it, maybe not with money, but with their time or effort. There’s no such thing as a totally free lunch – someone, somewhere, always picks up the tab.”

    This is especially naïve. It’s free as in speech, not necessarily free as in beer.

    He then goes on to talk about how he “fears” that Nicholas Negroponte’s $100 Laptop may become popular in the west where it “is going to be attractive to a whole host of hackers and modders and could be used as the basis for countless projects.”

    How is this bad? The more widely the system is adopted, and the more user knowedge and expertise that is generated and disseminated, the greater the network benefits for all involved, from kids in Cambodian vilages to kids in Cambridge, MA.

    Indeed, a truly global, low-priced hardware system with a huge user base and huge knowledge base, modifying, improving and repurposing the hardware, including millions of users in developing countries right from the start, is surely something extremely desirable: truly the democracy of innovation.

    The comments on the post contain some great analogies to help set the record straight.