Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Doctorow on the War on General Purpose Computing

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the worth-reading-all-the-way-through dept.

Encryption 360

Cory Doctorow has posted the content of his talk delivered at Google this month on what he calls the coming civil war over general purpose computing. He neatly crystallizes the problem with certain types of (widely called-for) regulation of devices and the software they run — and they all run software. The ability to stop a general purpose computer from doing nearly anything (running code without permission from the mothership, or requiring an authorities-only engine kill switch, or preventing a car from speeding away), he says boils down to a demand: "Make me a general-purpose computer that runs all programs except for one program that freaks me out." "But there's a problem. We don't know how to make a computer that can run all the programs we can compile except for whichever one pisses off a regulator, or disrupts a business model, or abets a criminal. The closest approximation we have for such a device is a computer with spyware on it— a computer that, if you do the wrong thing, can intercede and say, 'I can't let you do that, Dave.'"

cancel ×

360 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

It's not that hard actually. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130349)

Just extend RFC 3514 to add an "Evil Bit" to all executables. If that bit is set, the program won't run.

Problem Solved.

Re:It's not that hard actually. (2)

VernonNemitz (581327) | about 2 years ago | (#41130491)

An alternate possibility might be a variant of spyware. It would run like a virus detector, except that the programs it prohibits come from a different list, than the lists of malware programs provided by anti-virus vendors.

Re:It's not that hard actually. (1)

mrstrano (1381875) | about 2 years ago | (#41130519)

The problem is that we have to wait until April 1st of next year to implement the technology. What do we do in the meantime?

Businesses.... (1, Offtopic)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 2 years ago | (#41130371)

... have long taken advantage of public disinterest, ignorance and general stupidity. The trend will continue. One only has to look at the clusterfuck that is copyright and patents. It's too bad we can't go back and time and kill it. It's become a monster. We alright have outright criminal laws that limit the rights of the public at large to own software. The game industry has become more and more corrupt and criminal as time has gone on and its going to get worse.

The worst thing about it is the millions of mouthbreathing morons who just eat it right up. Diablo 3 had 6Million+ morons buy it. There are days I just want to chuck an asteroid at earth and be dumb with the millions of dumb shits who feed this in the first place.

Re:Businesses.... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130529)

"Diablo 3 had 6Million+ morons buy it."

No, those are 6 million people that got screwed by Blizzard's business model. Same one used by almost all game makers today. A lot of those simply expected an improved Diablo 2, they didn't care about the reviews, because they expected, expected Blizzard to deliver something just as good as the previous one, or better.

Why I'm saying the business model is broken? Well, say you have a demo (not gameplay movie on youtube, because that's just a short movie where you just watch people doing stuff how they want it not how you want it, you watch their experience, not yours), in that demo, you don't see the network problems, the online only issues that crop up, the utterly fucked up auction house business model, and most of all it's hardly enough time to realize just how worthless it is compared to other titles, not just today, but in the previous years as well.

So, they hate piracy? Of course they do, if those 6 million would have played the pirated edition first, they wouldn't have bought the original.

Most games have very little value, or no replay value. Piracy hurts them, because people get a preview without wasting money on them, then uninstall them and try to forget the experience.

Should we care? Absofuckinlutley not. They try to con people into buying their games without puting any effort into their work. Those are the kind of games where you get only a few hours of playtime, at best, or hours of pointless grinding at best. Could you name a few names? You could try, but it would be very hard, those are the kind you intentionally wait until can pick them from the bargain bin, then an hour later, sigh with frustration over the wasted money.

Where am I know? I'm just playing a few flash games, online only, and PS3 to pass the time or socialize, the rest? Well, let's just say I gained a thorough knowledge of emulators for all kinds of platforms in the past decade.

Re:Businesses.... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130997)

They try to con people into buying their games without puting any effort into their work.

You're not a game developer, I take it?

Re:Businesses.... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130539)

Stop thinking YOU posses the only right answer. People perceive this as a feature. Apple keeps their devices largely free of malware. This is a benefit to them, and one of the major reasons Apple has grown so big so fast.

Your opinion is not "right", and you are not better than everyone else. People get to make up their own minds, even if you don't like what they decide. If they're tired of the fucked up malware ridden mess that is the Windows PC world, and they value an easy to use and largely safe computing experience, then they have every right to this.

Re:Businesses.... (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#41130653)

Apple never needed fascism to keep their devices largely free of malware. They even have old television advertisements that brag about this very thing.

My opinion might not be "right" but yours is certain wrong. It's contradicted by the facts.

Re:Businesses.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130759)

I see you got hit with the old "-1 Disagree".

Re:Businesses.... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130901)

I basically agree. Why impose you own opinion on others? As an long-term Apple user who switched to Linux some years ago I have stopped giving people advise on what to buy or not to buy. If people like the walled-garden approach, fine for them -- and fine for me, too, because don't have to give free support any longer. However, I do reserve the right to ridicule Apple users whenever I wish. Have fun with your glossy "retina" displays, fixed batteries, and soldered memory! ;-)

That's the user perspective. From a developer perspective, things look a bit different, because in comparison to 10 years ago it does feel a bit as if Apple is wanting to screw us. And you need to make money somehow,right? I still develop for the Mac, but it's likely that in the near future either Apple will have to pay me if they want a Mac version rather than vice versa. Or, more likely, the Mac and iOS versions of our programs will be more expensive than Windows and Android. Other developers should do the same, since app-store overhead, lack of portability, risk of being rejected by Apple for no reason, etc. all create additional costs and risks. No problem, since Apple users just love to pay more and have (obviously) have enough money to burn.

Re:Businesses.... (3, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 2 years ago | (#41131029)

I basically agree. Why impose you own opinion on others? As an long-term Apple user who switched to Linux some years ago I have stopped giving people advise on what to buy or not to buy. If people like the walled-garden approach, fine for them -- and fine for me, too, because don't have to give free support any longer. However, I do reserve the right to ridicule Apple users whenever I wish. Have fun with your glossy "retina" displays, fixed batteries, and soldered memory! ;-)

Well, why does it have to be black and white?

What about using the tool for the job? I recently boughtt a macbook pro. I got it because I knew I'd seen be doing a lot of photo stuff and wanted to use Aperture. I got a high end camera and am looking to do video, weddings,e tc. Final Cut Pro X is what I wanted for that...and the hardware and other software, are nice for everyday stuff on it...email, etc.

I have a number of linux boxes at home...I set them up as home servers, and my primary desktop in the back is a gentoo box...I'm also playing around with Backtrack, to teach myself security pen testing.

I have a win7 box (also win7 vm on the mac)...for doing some development for a job...that requires windows.

So, every job has its tool.

Sure there are things I don't like about the mac...so, I use a different box for that....etc.

I mean, these days..computers are largely commodity.....the days of saving forever to only have one family computer is long gone, I have to image most people have at least 2x computers in their homes today, don't they? Or at least a computer...a tablet...a smartphone....etc.

Tool for the job....

And that doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130377)

That doesn't work because it has to recognize that if you write an emulator, and program that emulator to perform the "running code without permission", then it will fail.

Re:And that doesn't work (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#41130611)

It works if the hardware isn't commodity. You could build an emulator for a self-driving car computer, or an artificial limb controller. But without the actual car or limb mechanics, it isn't going to do you a lot of good.

Oh shit! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130383)

I'm a woman who uses a PC and a Christian.

So, I now have to deal with a war on PCs, a Republican War on Women, and then there's the War on Christianity.

What is a girl to do!?

Re:Oh shit! (0)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41130441)

So, I now have to deal with a war on PCs... What is a girl to do!?

Buy a Mac... Duh!

Re:Oh shit! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130475)

I'm a woman who uses a PC and a Christian.

So, I now have to deal with a war on PCs, a Republican War on Women, and then there's the War on Christianity.

What is a girl to do!?

Quit acting like a stupid cunt and realize the world contains some idiots, and
that those idiots will not control your life unless you allow them to do so.

And you might want to consider the reality that religion of any kind is bullshit.
The fact that you have not done so already indicates you are an idiot.

Re:Oh shit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130829)

Well, that escalated quickly!

Re:Oh shit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41131045)

I'm waiting for the comments to evolve into those referring to Hitler and the Nazis.

Re:Oh shit! (5, Funny)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#41130599)

I'm a woman who uses a PC and a Christian.

I figure I know what you do with the PC. What's the Christian for?

Re:Oh shit! (2)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41130923)

I'm a woman who uses a PC and a Christian.

I figure I know what you do with the PC. What's the Christian for?

To help her with her grammar (I know, right?!).

Re:Oh shit! (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#41131041)

I'm a woman who uses a PC and a Christian.

I figure I know what you do with the PC. What's the Christian for?

To help her with her grammar (I know, right?!).

Then she doesn't seem to have been able to find him in time to check her posting. It might be that the War on Christianity has been more successful than we thought; she better check to see if he's OK.

Maybe he's a funny Christian. I found her post humorous.

Re:Oh shit! (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41131115)

Then she doesn't seem to have been able to find him in time to check her posting.

My [implied] joke was that her grammar would've been even worse had she not had the help of "her Christian."

Re:Oh shit! (5, Funny)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#41131223)

Christians have been used as lion food since the heyday of the Roman Empire.

Re:Oh shit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41131237)

Good, we should start using them as lion food again, and as dog food in general.

Re:Oh shit! (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41130641)

You can stop using the Christian. Stopping being a woman is difficult and PCs are too much useful to get rid of, but at least you'll get rid of a third of your problems.

all in all (4, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#41130393)

The article in full is a very interesting argument for why we will all regret our eagerness to embrace the "walled garden".

Has everyone forgotten the days when your computer actually belonged to you? The days before computing was more than just shopping?

Do you own your PS3 or your Xbox 360?

How did we reach a point where we will so willingly turn over our individual agency to Apple, Microsoft, Sony? Or AT&T and Comcast? Who here believes that those companies can be trusted to look out for our best interests?

Re:all in all (5, Funny)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41130459)

How did we reach a point where we will so willingly turn over our individual agency to Apple, Microsoft, Sony? Or AT&T and Comcast?

First the earth cooled... It was all downhill from there.

Re:all in all (5, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#41130665)

Because the majority of people are not nerds. They don't know a single command of any programming language, and barely understand the idea of a heirachial filesystem. When the computer doesn't do what they expect, they have no idea how to fix it. They are willing to give up control in return for simplicity - something that, in the words of Apple's marketing department, 'just works.' They are happy to let the manufacturer of their phone and network operator run all the technical stuff because they have no idea what HSPDA, 3G, GSM, TDM and GPRS mean and they don't want to have to know. They just want to be able to make phone calls and use a few simple apps. We've gone past the time when technology was inherently cool, and entered the time when it is just a tool - and the non-nerd wishes to use the tool to achieve an end, not learn how the tool works.

Re:all in all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130885)

Because the majority of people are not nerds.

Nothing about making a computer suitable for "non-nerds" necessitates

How did we reach a point where we will so willingly turn over our individual agency to Apple, Microsoft, Sony? Or AT&T and Comcast?

How is your diatribe in any way relevant to the question asked?

Re:all in all (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#41130927)

Because the majority of people are not nerds.

So, because "the majority of people are not nerds" means that nerds must not be allowed to exist?

Your argument sounds suspiciously like, "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?"

Re:all in all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130465)

Sorry, going back 30+ years in the industry, it's hard for me to remember what it was like not having to worry about malware or intrusion.

Re:all in all (4, Insightful)

grumbel (592662) | about 2 years ago | (#41130501)

Has everyone forgotten the days when your computer actually belonged to you?

To make a counterpoint: We need a certain level of restrictions so that the computer actually does what I want instead of does what the application wants. Current OSs offer very little in the way of actually restricting applications. If you execute an application from a third party, it can do quite literally what it wants. Even Open Source doesn't help much as you have no time to audit it all. At best it might not have root rights, but that still doesn't stop it from searching through your personal photo collection, your credit card info, your mail and all that stuff. In contrast you have Apples AppStore, it's a walled garden with all it's problems, but it also comes with a sandbox. If you execute an App from the AppStore it can't do anything to your system, as it's stuck in it's little box. It can't get your photos, credit card info or anything like that unless you explicitly allow it. The AppStore thus shift control away from the application and back to the user where it belongs.

Re:all in all (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130573)

check out SELinux, that does what you want. Or use the Android way and just create a user per application.

Re:all in all (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#41130631)

And the walled garden is fine for certain models. But when I consider what I've been doing lately, joining queries from heterogeneous data sources, there is no way this can work in a walled garden, where the limits are not so much on the questions I can ask but rather on the kind of data I can bring in to inform the question.

And for every walled garden we see, we see others bringing in virtualization services to try to capture the server and database markets, which are inherently general purpose in nature.

That and the fact that if the big guys did manage to wall in the PC completely, there's nothing stopping smaller companies from offering general purpose platforms. The Raspberry Pi and Beagleboard, and many other Linux-based computers show this can be done at the low end, and there's certainly nothing to stop scaling up from there. Most certainly if the next generation (or the generation after that) of PCs are completely locked down, there are and will be alternatives.

Re:all in all (5, Informative)

amorsen (7485) | about 2 years ago | (#41131085)

It's a bit funny that you use Raspberry Pi as an example. After all, it has code to prevent certain parts of its firmware from running unless unlocked by a license key. You cannot even boot the thing without loading proprietary firmware doing who-knows-what.

(Disclaimer, I own one)

Re:all in all (5, Informative)

next_ghost (1868792) | about 2 years ago | (#41130651)

Current OSs offer very little in the way of actually restricting applications. If you execute an application from a third party, it can do quite literally what it wants. Even Open Source doesn't help much as you have no time to audit it all. At best it might not have root rights, but that still doesn't stop it from searching through your personal photo collection, your credit card info, your mail and all that stuff.

Ever heard of AppArmor [wikipedia.org] ? It comes with a nice little tool which lets you interactively decide which files and directories will the software be allowed to access.

Re:all in all (4, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 2 years ago | (#41130655)

A walled garden does not preclude allowing the ability to turn it off. Apple (and soon, Microsoft) is not limiting you to the walled garden out of the goodness of their hart. It is pure greed. They could quite easily add an 'opt out' and let people install outside software at their own risk.

Re:all in all (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41131095)

Not the goodness of their hart, but for dough, a deer, a female deer.

Re:all in all (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#41130965)

At best it might not have root rights, but that still doesn't stop it from searching through your personal photo collection, your credit card info, your mail and all that stuff. In contrast you have Apples AppStore, it's a walled garden with all it's problems, but it also comes with a sandbox. If you execute an App from the AppStore it can't do anything to your system, as it's stuck in it's little box. It can't get your photos, credit card info or anything like that unless you explicitly allow it.

I'm not sure I understand your argument here. You've already signed away all the rights to your personal information to the operating system, so why are you thrilled that you are given the impression that you can opt out at the app level?

On my general purpose, non-walled garden machine, I can just block an apps access to the Internet, so no matter what the app does, it's not getting my photos, credit card info, etc.

The AppStore thus shift control away from the application and back to the user where it belongs.

The AppStore makes you think you have control, while keeping all the control for itself. If you don't have control, you don't have choice. One of the things a walled garden does not allow is you protecting yourself.

Re:all in all (4, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 2 years ago | (#41130523)

The Raspberry Pi has made me realize that computers have just gotten too cheap and ubiquitous for us to ever get to a situation where we can't easily and cheaply a general purpose computer. Sure maybe our phones tablets and even desktops will be severely locked down to the point where only approved software can be run. But that doesn't mean we wont have access to general purpose computers. For 90% of my tasks I don't need to have a general purpose computer and if it offered me the ability to not worry about viruses, malware, or even needing to manually update software, then I would use that computer and have a second general purpose computer for the remaining tasks.

Re:all in all (4, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#41130917)

the Raspberry Pi has made me realize that computers have just gotten too cheap and ubiquitous for us to ever get to a situation where we can't easily and cheaply a general purpose computer.

Will you feel the same when the most powerful Intel processors lock out your choice of OS?

I suppose if you don't mind using underpowered hardware, and being very limited in your choices of peripherals and software, then you're OK, but that's not the way things have been. Until now, those of us who want a general purpose machine with which to do things (instead of to buy things) have been able to choose among the most powerful personal computing hardware.

No, the Raspberry Pi is not my idea of a general purpose computer. It's great to use in limited applications, but not as an all-around workhorse.

Re:all in all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41131207)

I didn't say that the raspberry pi was a great general purpose computer. But rather thar the existence of such a device verifies to me that computer's arevheap enough and well understood enough that while some companies may not want to sell general general purpose computers there will always be someone to fill that market niche. The Raspberry Pi has its own set of encumberences anddigital locks but those choices were madero meet a certain price point and could have been avoided if the goal was complete openness.

Re:all in all (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41131013)

As usual, the argument then becomes "only dissidents will want or keep general purpose computers" and "only bad people care about their privacy." Sunrise, sunset.

Re:all in all (0)

kwerle (39371) | about 2 years ago | (#41130673)

How did we reach a point where we will so willingly turn over our individual agency to Apple, Microsoft, Sony? Or AT&T and Comcast? Who here believes that those companies can be trusted to look out for our best interests?

Nobody* gives a shit about GPC. They don't even want "computers". They want a way to browse the web, play games, do email, and run a few productivity apps - preferably without having to worry about viruses, etc. Oh, and do "phone stuff". In short, consumers are consumers. It's the apps, stupid. Why would you be surprised that the computer Uncle Bob wants to use doesn't look like the one you do?

Those of us who want/need to do software have a wide variety of CPUs and hardware (and software) to do it with. I don't know that it's more or less choice than ever before, but certainly we have lots of options.

* You and your /. buddies don't count.

Re:all in all (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#41131121)

Nobody* gives a shit about GPC

"Why can't I watch this DVD on my tablet when I lack an Internet connection?"

"...because your tablet has a walled garden and they want to force you to buy the movie again. We warned you about that before you bought that thing."

"Damnit make it work now!"

People most certainly do care about general purpose computing; they just do not know what that terms means or that they actually want it. Apple is not marketing the iPad as, "Do everything you want that we approve of! The magic is in us controlling your computer use!" because that is not what people want to buy. Look at the outcry when Amazon deleted 1984 from the Kindle; people expect their computers to do what they want and not just what Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, the MPAA, the Chinese government, etc. approve of.

On a subconscious level, people know that a PS3 is somehow different from their PC. They cannot articulate what that difference is, but they refuse to call the PS3 a "computer" -- even when they see a PS3 with a keyboard and mouse, running Firefox in YDL. People absolutely do care; they just lack the sophistication needed to express that, to identify when someone is tricking them into giving up their freedom, or to know how to protect themselves from such attacks.

Re:all in all (2)

dpilot (134227) | about 2 years ago | (#41130687)

Makes you wonder when the first publicly visible lethal abuse of the walled garden concept will happen, who will do it, what it will be, and what will be the logic in the case, and how the garden owners will weasel out of it. Makes you wonder even more about the non-visible case(s).

Re:all in all (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 2 years ago | (#41130707)

Walled gardens, meh, everyone of the died given time eg Prodigy, Compuserver, Atari. As soon as customers forget, just like toxic weeds they re-appear and attempt to take over the garden again. Every time they do they end up failing as certain people become more aware of them. Basically those walled gardens become an anti-competitive corporate applied tax sucking up all the profits forcing all those outside to continually strive to break the monopoly which they inevitably do. The harder corporate asshate lawyers and accountants squeeze the sooner the break up.

It is impossible now especially when you take into account the global basis of the internet, the harder Apple and M$ try to squeeze the sooner other countries will buck the pressure, fine the crap out of them and force the opening of the market. Other countries don't make money out of the monopolists just a hand full a tax avoidance tax havens do, basically they are becoming dangerous sources of corruption of government and a threat to democracy.

Re:all in all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41131033)

It's an excellent talk. Go watch it now!

Re:all in all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41131047)

> Do you own your PS3 or your Xbox 360?

I have a dozen general purpose computers laying around, and IMO it's great that I can buy $600 of video game hardware for $300, and I can buy a $800 cellphone for $200. Yes, there are use-restrictions, subsidies, and so on, but the informed consumer can come out on the winning side of these transactions.

Re:all in all (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 2 years ago | (#41131071)

Has everyone forgotten the days when your computer actually belonged to you?

Sorry, chum, but most Zombie Americans have forgotten even the value or importance of knowing who owns anything: nobody knows who owns the major banks, oil companies, telecoms, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

The reason FYI (just in case you are interested?) is that viewing certain shows from a young age (such as Peter G. Peterson's Sesame Street) induces the same brainwave pattern as apathy and obeisance to authority, as does years of viewing TV on a regular basis. Hence, people from ages 10 to 80 are equally zombie-like and apathetic stooges.

And it's oh so sad.....

Welcome to 2006, Cory Doctorow (2, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 2 years ago | (#41130411)

Let's see, where have we heard all of this before, on Slashdot, pointed out by average commenters? Oh yeah:

When TPM was introduced in 2006.

When Apple started doing code signing in 2008 on OS X.

Oh, and I forgot driver and application signing in Windows. When did that start?

Re:Welcome to 2006, Cory Doctorow (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130495)

Cory Doctorow has been writing about this stuff for years, and is a huge influencer on slashbot comments. Lame critique, dude.

Re:Welcome to 2006, Cory Doctorow (3, Interesting)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#41131053)

And perhaps you would like to argue that things are getting better instead?

Processors have bumped up against Murphy's Law. Multiple cores only go so far.

Windows 8 is scaring a large number of IT implementers.

Apple is {comment redacted}.

Google has become the US Government's willing bitch; the search results it returns are pure trash.

A fair number of judges, everywhere, lacking any understanding about how technology or freedom of speech works, have opted for a (holds at arm's length, with a gloved hand) social policy that undermines both, with their horrible rulings on 'deep linking / linking to copyrighted works.'

For some odd reason, we need a cyber-army now. Haven't had one for the past two decades when technology was actually evolving, but now that the power is flowing away from tech, we suddenly need one. I could have sworn that all the IT out there was the cyber-army, seeing as they know how to secure devices better than most wanna-be security experts, but then, company policy has been a brake on that for years.

If you don't like it, make it yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130413)

AFAIK nobody is preventing you from making your own computer that will run any program you want. Nobody is preventing you from designing your own microprocessors and any other component for which you can do computation. Nobody is preventing you from writing the software to do whatever computation you want.

Sharing that capability is what's being constrained.

Re:If you don't like it, make it yourself (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#41130533)

Preventing the sharing, that is preventing all collaboration, is effectively preventing the whole process. For one thing, fabbing a CPU is an expensive process. It only becomes practical on a large scale.

Re:If you don't like it, make it yourself (3, Insightful)

next_ghost (1868792) | about 2 years ago | (#41130545)

AFAIK nobody is preventing you from making your own computer that will run any program you want. Nobody is preventing you from designing your own microprocessors and any other component for which you can do computation. Nobody is preventing you from writing the software to do whatever computation you want.

Actually, it's already a criminal offence to run some programs (DRM crackers etc.). I say we'll see the first attempt to seriously enforce laws against running certain kinds of offline software (as opposed to online software like filesharing tools) by 2020.

Re:If you don't like it, make it yourself (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 2 years ago | (#41131217)

Actually, it's already a criminal offence to run some programs (DRM crackers etc.).

I'm quite sure it is also a criminal offence in many jurisdictions to use a word processor that you purchased completely legally, to write the planning for a murder, a kidnapping, a bank robbery and so on.

Re:If you don't like it, make it yourself (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#41130565)

If you've got the money for it. This isn't about just desktop PCs. It's about more embedded systems as well. The example of self-driving cars was used several times. Could you build a new control computer for a car, including reverse-engineering all the propritary (and likely encrypted) protocols used to communicate between the driving computer and the control chips in the engine, breaks, steering motors and sensors?

Re:If you don't like it, make it yourself (4, Insightful)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 2 years ago | (#41131093)

AFAIK nobody is preventing you from making your own computer that will run any program you want.

Except an army patent lawyers at every major computer and software company.

Authorities-only Engine Kill (2)

DevotedSkeptic (2715017) | about 2 years ago | (#41130419)

Are we willing to give up more control to "Authorities" and who exactly should these authorities be. Should those with authority be able to execute such a kill switch without notice or should users/citizens have notice? Thinking into the future, if i decided to go to a soft drink vending machine that is "smart" and i choose to purchase a sugar laden drink but my bmi is over a certain number should these authorities dispense a diet soft drink instead. I don't believe we are quite in a big brother society (but approaching it) IMHO users should have the option to disable the "dummy switch" on their devices. For example: if a user has(or feels they have) the technical savvy to be able to take care of their computer or device they should be able to retain responsibility for their devices/computers without being required to give it up to an "authority". Looking to a future where if you are 1 second late on your utility payment...oops you don't have that utility any more..

Re:Authorities-only Engine Kill (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#41130585)

Where would the money be in a machine like that? How about a machine that takes a photo of you from a distance, runs it against a customer database, and reforms it's e-paper front to advertise whichever brand of soft drink you have been determined most likely to buy, and using whichever style of advertising has previously proven most effective on you personally? It'll even record the time and location in your file, for use in marketing other things.

Gosh (5, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#41130425)

Its almost as though freedom requires responsibility or something.

Re:Gosh (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#41130855)

Too bad "responsibility" has come to mean things like, "buying things from corporations," "obeying pointless and destructive laws," and "not helping dissidents in China."

Re:Gosh (2)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#41130989)

Indeed. We need a time machine, to send people with these dark tendencies back to the wonderful days of Stalin's reign. A decade of his rule, and I am certain that freedom will acquire a new ineffable quality that makes it positively attractive when compared to the other options.

Which reminds me, new rule: He who does not understand the subject material does not get to make policy, in whole or in part.

I hate the idea of having to resort to technocracy to keep the various fields from collapsing under the weight of stupidity (not everyone need hold a Philosophy degree to contribute to the field; most of its major contributors did not), but then I am running into the minor problem of finding a pattern that prevents corruption and stupidity from spreading elsewhere ("Dude, if we use the corn that the farmers have stored for planting next year, this year to feed starving children in {third-world country}, we can come out ahead! I've been to the hardware / gardening store, a packet of seeds costs like $5, and they always have a lot of them! This way, we can feed the children, and stimulate the economy! Double-win!"), and we seem to be running into far too many of these idiotic situations (if it isn't dangerous now, it will be soon enough).

Re:Gosh (2)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | about 2 years ago | (#41131051)

It also requires eternal vigilance. Basking in the glow of one's freedom means that someone's (or some other "entity" acting on behalf of someone) going to try to snatch the freedom while you're not looking.

I like Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller), and I respect his positions and agree with most of what he says, but recently I watched a youtube interview with him and he said something that seemed uncharacteristic and almost naive. He said that he believes that people are generally good. He hasn't personally met very many evil people, you know, the inherently evil people. But I have to disagree. The current political climate and the wholesale slavery that is being attempted by major corporations with the force of law and lack of alternatives is not something inherently good people come up with. Evil is as evil does. The fruits of evil are abundantly clear and all around us.

The trick is to stamp the roots rather than burning the fruit. We're not working at the right level, which is why this crap keeps cropping up every few years. It's as if someone (or some group) like the *AA's or their kind keep the evil plan on the back burner until the hype wears down and tries again every so often, hoping we're asleep at the wheel. They are nothing if patient. One day we will be asleep at the wheel and they'll get another pile of restrictive slavery put into the mechanisms of the world. Just like they've done in the past.

Time to start killing the roots, people. Not slowly... quickly. And without mercy. Or we'll be looking back on the "wild west" days of the Internet and society fondly as they plug us into the thought scanner 9000 to make sure we aren't being subversive, like thinking for ourselves...

how long be for a Rosa Parks or concentration camp (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#41130455)

how long be for a Rosa Parks or concentration camp like thing comes up.

Banning apps based on connect is pushing 1st amendment issues.

Also there maybe anti trust issues as well now I don't think dell and say MS will be able to get away with selling systems that can't boot Linux or some other OS lets say apple open mac os x for more hardware and MS comes in and try to lock that out.

Re:how long be for a Rosa Parks or concentration c (4, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#41130497)

Quite possibly they won't. But the case will drag through the courts for a decade, and eventually Microsoft would face a fine of a few hundred million dollars. I'm sure they'd be willing to pay that much, if doing so allowed them to destroy linux on the desktop almost entirely. We've been through this before with their bundling decisions: A seemingly endless legal battle, and while Microsoft eventually lost the benefits they gained from their anticompetative actions arguably outweighed even the record-setting fine.

Glitch in the Matrix... (3, Interesting)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41130479)

11 of 9 comments loaded

it's what people demand. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130503)

People are buying products like the iPad and Android phones by the hundreds of millions. People are demanding exactly that: computers that are controlled by the "mothership" as he puts it. That's Apple's entire business model, and they're the most valuable company on the planet right now.

When that many people all want the same thing, it's inevitable than it will happen Those of us who don't want this world and refuse to buy such devices are in the tiny minority. We simply don't matter in any significant way to the market.

Re:it's what people demand. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#41130693)

People are buying phones. They aren't buying computers.

So your anti-geek screed is pretty meaningless.

The fact that it is a computer pretending to be a phone is no more meaningful than a 68030 being embedded in your microwave.

Re:it's what people demand. (2)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#41130737)

In fact, most programmers have an iPhone or an Android and accept the fact that they don't and don't need to completely control that device. It doesn't limit what they can do on OTHER devices that they own.

People without the technical savvy to manage a general purpose computer without support and restrictions don't NEED a general purpose computer without support and restrictions. They'll always be the bulk of the market.

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130505)

First, legally define what a general purpose computer is, and whatever regulation you think should apply to that, blah blah blah. Then all the same manufacturers you're complaining about now can say their computer is not that. Done.

Irony (0, Flamebait)

roman_mir (125474) | about 2 years ago | (#41130525)

I find it ironic that this guy writes an article about the kitchen sink and 'human rights' and inside it he makes this statement:

I've been hit by a car. I've cracked up a car. I'm willing to stipulate that humans have no business driving at all.

- so do I understand him correctly, he wants to prevent people from driving?

He is suffering from the same exact problem he is accusing everybody else of - wanting to control other people's lives.

depends on intended users (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130537)

Here is car/microwave analogy.. and forgive my crassness.

A) Stupid or indifferent people want a computer (car) that just works and they don't have to/nor want to fuck with the innards. They want the computer to be microwave simple. 1) Put food in microwave. 2) Press the "30 sec" button repeatedly until they get the cook time to time they want.* That is it. (Or for the car: key, ignition, go. It came from the factory with everything needed and how it came from the factory is how it will stay)

B) Slashdot "power users" car analogy is that of the muscle cars of the 1960s in the united states. They want to redo the suspension, the transmission. the engine, the carb(s), the differential, get it from the factory with aluminum instead of steel for the body, and have no federal E.P.A. emissions regulations.. straight pipes off the headers. They will get their hands greasy and it will not bother them.

Economically, Apple and Microsoft and all the other players know there is greater market of people for A than B.

Now, I do like the idea of a walled garden to protect the idiots from themselves without telling them "No" outright. (Just don't run as admin/root and you're 90% there, but most ISV can't or won't write code that works as non-root) I just don't want the walled garden applied to me. I don't need their excuse of "give me your freedom so I can keep you safe". I know how to fix my own car.

* About the 30 seconds and microwave. for some it seems "time cook" + "5" + "0" +"0" + "start" is too complex.

Re:depends on intended users (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#41130711)

Yeah. Sometimes you just want a phone that "just works".

When I bought an Apple smart phone, what I actually got was something that I had to hack before it operated like my previous Nokia feature phones. I had to jailbreak it and write a shell script and mess around with an sqlite database.

A phone that "just works" is a pleasant enough idea assuming that the relevant hardware vendor does their slieght of hand well enough.

Anything that is supposed to "run programs" is by definition NOT an appliance. So any anti-geek screed is pretty irrelevant at that point.

People aren't idiots for wanting things that work. (0)

Brannon (221550) | about 2 years ago | (#41130971)

...and you're not a genius because you like to fiddle with half working crap. Get over yourself.

Re:depends on intended users (2)

fa2k (881632) | about 2 years ago | (#41131099)

The analogy isn't perfect. It's not just that I want a computer with great performance. In the end, a car only exists for transportation (and to some: entertainment or shelter), and a microwave only heats food. A computer is like a TV to some, a telephone to some, a newspaper to some and many other things. A walled garden is fine for all these people. The problem is that a computer is a toolbox to some, with thousands of uses, facilitating all the other uses and inventing new ones.

Re:depends on intended users (1)

TheLongshot (919014) | about 2 years ago | (#41131197)

Course, the problem with car A is that when things go wrong you either can't fix it yourself or you have to pay thousands to fix it. Sometimes, it is because of all of that stuff that makes is "simple" that makes it complicated to fix.

This seems to mirror my experience with Android, when you have to do something beyond the bounds of just normal usability.

I don't buy GM (3, Interesting)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 2 years ago | (#41130579)

The OnStar system is one of many deal breakers that would prevent me from buying a GM product; that along with a zillion horror stories. Seeing that many people feel the same way all this does is open up an easy way for competitors to compete. They just won't put that feature in. Their advertising becomes easy, "Look we didn't screw up your purchase."

The only companies that will put these sort of features in are usually defending some other business model. So Apple will put in measures to defend iTunes. Google will put in measures to defend their store, and it looks like Microsoft is thinking about measures to defend either their OS or their store.

But does anyone really think that the server manufacturers are going to make servers that make it hard to install Linux? Also Microsoft is becoming weaker and weaker. They certainly have some weight to throw around but even if they bully a few desktop manufacturers into forcing some protection onto their systems no doubt they will just release a "server only" motherboard that doesn't have any protection and is a complete copy of the desktop except something like the BIOS will boot up and say "Server BIOS". Not to mention that other MB manufacturers will just tell MS to go pound sand.

Also does anyone think that say the Raspberry Pi will give a hoot as to what MS has to say?

The real war on General purpose computing is the trend people using smart phones and tablets. These devices do almost everything the average user needs. It is the more power user types who need what is becoming the specialty hardware of a desktop that they can control. As a programmer I need to be able to install the OpenCV libraries and whatnot but my mother wants the fewest clicks to get to her mail.

Also keep in mind that the seemingly locked down iPhone has done as well as it has due to the fact that it is far less locked down than the phones that proceeded it including the blackberry. Often you would buy a phone from Telus or Sprint only to find that they had crippled some features such as custom ring tones so as to sell you ring tones. When Apple introduced the iPhone they didn't let the Telcos crap up their phones. Can you imagine what the Telcos would have done to the iPhones if they could. All kinds of custom backgrounds, remove the app store and replace it with one of their own, make it so you can't upload your own music, can't surf via WiFi. Again these companies would have crippled the iPhone to protect their other business model.

Again as a programmer if Apple were to lock down the next version of the OS, I would not upgrade and then begin exploring other options. As it stands my next phone will almost certainly be something like an Openmoko.

PS The business model that GM seems to be defending is the fact that the government is their primary lifeline. They know who is buttering their bread and it certainly isn't the consumer.

Re:I don't buy GM (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 2 years ago | (#41130751)

They certainly have some weight to throw around but even if they bully a few desktop manufacturers into forcing some protection onto their systems no doubt they will just release a "server only" motherboard that doesn't have any protection and is a complete copy of the desktop except something like the BIOS will boot up and say "Server BIOS".

... and cost twice as much.

Already there... (2)

hamster_nz (656572) | about 2 years ago | (#41130593)

The author has obviously never tried to get an unsigned device driver running under Windows 7.

Having to switch the OS into "test mode" and jumping through other hoops is a real pain.

Re:Already there... (3, Interesting)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#41130805)

Freedom, security, stability. Choose two.

Most people have chosen security and stability. I prefer freedom and stability. If the machine is unwilling or cannot run the programs I create, I have no use for it (save it were an AI, but that's an entirely different situation); were I a carpenter, and my tools unsuited for carpentry, what use would they be to me?

Re:Already there... (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 2 years ago | (#41131131)

There is no technical problem with implementing a system where the owner of the machine has the root key. That gives you all 3.

Re:Already there... (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 2 years ago | (#41131179)

were I a carpenter, and my tools unsuited for carpentry, what use would they be to me?

[sarc]
But...but...we must prevent racists from using those tools to make wooden crosses to burn on peoples' lawns!

Only racists want carpentry tools that aren't designed/controlled by authority to prevent such bigotry and racism!
[/sarc]

Strat

Overblown (4, Interesting)

sqrt(2) (786011) | about 2 years ago | (#41130643)

I can still go to Newegg.com and order a bunch of commodity parts and assemble a general purpose computer, install a completely FLOSS operating system and all the software I want on it. I can load it up with quad GPUs for password cracking, terabytes of storage for all my pirated media and warez, run TOR and Truecrypt, and all sorts of other "evil" features. If there's a war on general purpose computing it's clear which side is winning.

As it stands now, an individual has never had more access to computing power, bandwidth, and data than they do now. Yes, there are locked down boxes you can buy if you're not interested in all that, but individual components are still being sold. There's a thriving market for computer hardware that isn't going to disappear any time soon, and neither will the free software made to run on such hardware. As little as $35 (or whatever the Raspberry Pi costs) gets you a "general purpose computer", albeit a very simple and underpowered one.

Walled gardens can peacefully co-exist without threatening general purpose computing.

And as we've seen from every iOS device, even walled gardens don't keep people locked in if they are determined to leave. If you make compelling hardware people will always find ways to use it how they wish. I can easily take root control over my iPhone if I wanted to. Same is true for Android devices.

Re:Overblown (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#41130837)

I can still go to Newegg.com and order a bunch of commodity parts and assemble a general purpose computer

Until every motherboard comes with a locked-down BIOS that only supports Microsoft/Verisign approached bootloader signing keys. Unless you are building your computer from discrete logic, this argument does not fly. We also have to worry about possible bans on general purpose computers connecting to the Internet (see e.g. ITU proposals for "next generation" networks, past proposals in the US congress, etc), or de facto bans i.e. ISPs/banks/utilities/etc. requiring a locked-down computer (and not everyone can afford two computers). This is not as simple as, "I can build one for myself!"

Walled gardens can peacefully co-exist without threatening general purpose computing.

Thus explaining the prevalence of not-locked-down cable and satellite TV receivers, DVD players, and video game consoles.

as we've seen from every iOS device, even walled gardens don't keep people locked in if they are determined to leave

Which is a nonsense argument for most users, and is simple silly -- you are suggesting that it is reasonable for people to have to attack their own computers just to run the software (or in a dystopian nightmare, compose the documents) they want to run.

If you make compelling hardware people will always find ways to use it how they wish

Yet someone who publishes a book on hacking cable modems is arrested. Do you really think the police would hesitate to arrest someone who is teaching people how to unlock their laptop's bootloader?

Re:Overblown (1)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#41130887)

The original manufacturers of software (operating systems and such) are experiencing some duress which is damaging to the field in general. In short, the Intelligence organs of the State are doing some terrible damage to the technology sector, and we cannot fathom why they have been told to f*ck off.

If the people are hell-bent on being happy as enslaved individuals, being told when and where to think, I prefer to stand on my own. To this degree, I am not alone.

I just find it very odd that the State is so interested in undermining itself. Distrust was spread because of their actions with capturing OBL and the vaccination program, and now they are interested in spreading distrust about machines (which is what happens when people are not sure they are their own; when you mandate backdoors; when you continuously use an iron fist inside a velvet glove to bend search engines to your pathetic wills). You take the good with the bad, or you only get the bad.

Who really cares? (2, Interesting)

Sasayaki (1096761) | about 2 years ago | (#41130685)

I've got karma to burn, so here goes.

As I get older I want to tinker with my machines less and I want them to just work more. That means that my home setup has gone from a half dozen servers all running a variety of Windows and Linux/BSD operating systems to one simple desktop with ESXi. All the VMs are backed up automatically, they're upgraded automatically (to stable versions -- I don't care about bleeding edge anymore), and they basically don't need to be touched for months and months and months. It means my desktop computer has gone from multibooting various flavours of Linux with Wine to just... Windows 7.

Why?

I just want things to work.

I don't want to spend hours trying to get Wine to run World of Warcraft better, I just buy a new video card and be done with it. I use an iPhone because its working is binary; either it works perfectly, more or less easily, or it doesn't work at all and I'm not tempted by some half-broken package that if I tinker with it enough will be mostly stable (this version). It just works or it doesn't, and there's nothing an iPhone can't do that I care enough to go Android. Who really care if you can't telnet to your phone? Really?

Windows 7 just works. My iPhone just works. That's what I want my machines to do.

After all, if you work for your machines, who owns who?

Re:Who really cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130761)

Who really care if you can't telnet to your phone? Really?

OMG! The Ponies! Won't someone think of the ponies, butterflies, rainbows and prancing unicorns set free by telnet!

Re:Who really cares? (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#41130987)

I just want things to work.

Me too -- when I instruct my computer to play a movie, copy a file, or print 1000 pamphlets criticizing the government, I want it to do what I tell it to do.

I don't want to spend hours trying to get Wine to run World of Warcraft better

So complain to Blizzard -- what does that have to do with running a free operating system? Blizzard ships malware with WoW; why are you not pointing the finger at them for failing to deliver an easy to use, malware-free product?

I use an iPhone because its working is binary

No, whether or not any particular program works is binary, and that decision is up to Apple. Do you consider a product that will run an email program but will not run a political cartoon program to be working or broken?

Who really care if you can't telnet to your phone?

That's a red herring and you know it. Hardly anyone is trying to telnet to their phone, but large numbers of people have been told that their program cannot run on iOS for one arbitrary reason or another -- it performs bytecode translation, it might offend Republicans, it might offend Democrats, it might enable jailbreaking, etc. Your iPhone only does what you want as long as Apple approves, and Apple's approval process is not about stopping you from telnetting to your phone (though I must wonder why they would even care), it is about making sure you keep paying them and the politicians stay happy.

After all, if you work for your machines, who owns who?

Funny how my laptop running ScientificLinux does everything I ask it to do without first checking with CERN...

Re:Who really cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130999)

I for one welcome our hackable robotic overlords if the alternatives are regulations or monopoly.

Re:Who really cares? (1)

jmbeck15 (1674782) | about 2 years ago | (#41131021)

This honestly has nothing to do with his article. I highly recommend you read it.

Re:Who really cares? (2)

fyi101 (2715891) | about 2 years ago | (#41131169)

I just want things to work.

Why are "Things just working" and "General Purpose Computing" in opposition? You see, that's just the thing. After a certain point of adding and adding restrictions, things will just "not work". I mean, you said it yourself regarding iPhones:

...its working is binary; either it works perfectly, more or less easily, or it doesn't work at all...

I can understand how this "seems" to be a nice thing (maybe if iPhones where 20 bucks a unit, and you could buy them from a vending machine along with a sandwich)

After all, if you work for your machines, who owns who?

You imply that the choice is "(in Soviet Russia) you work for machine" xor "machine works for you", when it's more along the lines of "you work for YOUR machine" xor "you work for THEIR machine". In any case, this is all nothing but empty expressions. I think there is a balance between "just works" and "tinker ready". I don't see how this things are mutually exclusive, if users are sufficiently warned about the problems of tinkering. Are we talking about "walled gardens" or "walled prisons"? Real walled gardens are supposed to protect from intrusion and protect children from wandering off, not protect from entry and preventing everyone from escaping. The good thing is that the nature of general purpose computing means putting TRULY EFFECTIVE limits on certain activities almost certainly means crippling the machine in some important way. The bad news is... that the nature of general purpose computing means putting TRULY EFFECTIVE limits on certain activities almost certainly means crippling the machine in some important way. And given the nature of computers as an extension of ourselves (like all tools), this means crippling OURSELVES.

Windows 7 just works.

Inigo Montoya:You keep implying that Windows 7 is an example of "tinker proof walled garden". I don't think you're implying what you think you're implying...

"I can't let you do that, Dave." (4, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | about 2 years ago | (#41130721)

Except in this case it's "They told me not to let you do that, Dave."

Cory Doctorow... (-1, Flamebait)

BumpyCarrot (775949) | about 2 years ago | (#41130745)

... writes fiction, sadly has a blog.

Same exact thing with cars (1, Interesting)

gig (78408) | about 2 years ago | (#41130847)

A car with a computer in it that prevents the car from hitting another car also prevents you from deliberately ramming other cars. We use our brains to make a judgement that it is worth it on balance. And no, we can't make a car that never ever crashes, but we can take legitimate steps to reduce crashes significantly, and in fact it is immoral to do any other thing.

The main thing people want from a computer is also not to crash. Not just literal crashes where the kernel panics, but also getting a virus that takes the machine down, or having data stolen, or being added to a botnet, or even just doing something that requires the user to stop their own work and put on an I-T hat and do some maintenance. We have to do everything we can to reduce those crashes, because again, it is immoral not to. If a computer wastes 30 minutes of a user's time per week, that is more than one day of their life per year your lousy computing product is stealing from that user. And 30 minutes per week is low.

Once again, Doctorow describes a Nerd Utopia where the other 90% of humanity die in car crashes and spend a day or more out of every year working around unproductive computer behavior. All to satisfy Nerd Dogma. The 90% is not interested. They did not even buy PC's — nerds did, business replaced their typewriters with them, and then sales topped out at 350 million per year, making up an installed base of about 1 billion PC's at any one time. The regular person does not want a general purpose computer that can configure. They want iPods: an easy-to-use device that has 100 specific features that never stop working, does specific tasks in a transparent manner, and yet provides the benefits of computing, and gets better via software updates.

iPad is not a general purpose computer — it only does about 1 million things. However, the regular consumer, armed with a general purpose computer can typically accomplish only a handful of things, and all of those are well within the 1 million things iPad does. That is why Nerds say iPad does less than a PC and everyone else says iPad does more.

A general purpose computer is like a workshop where you can go in and with a little work, make any tool. To some people that is Nirvana — to most, it is a grim jail cell. An iPad is a Swiss Army knife with 1 million tools inside, all ready to use. Nerds have to understand, for most people that is not just enough tools do they don't need a general purpose computer, they are also thankful that iPad has saved them from PC's. And there are plenty of True Nerds who find an iPad on the coffee table is Just Fine Thank-You. The monster workstation is still there in the Nerd Cave for your bash scripts.

To me, I don't think you have to do anything more on this issue but compare the first 5 years of Windows XP malware (seemingly infinite — at one point XP malware was the majority of Internet traffic) to the first 5 years of iOS native malware (zero.) END OF DEBATE. The iOS devices were online most of the time via various wireless networks and had no I-T managing them. They went from 16 native apps to 600,000. iOS should be awash in native malware but it has zero and that is the MINIMUM acceptable behavior for a consumer computer. An iPad has to be as reliable as paper.

And BTW — the same company that makes these blasphemous consumer computers that don't crash, also runs 4 giant developer programs (Mac, iOS, Safari, iTunes,) one of the most successful open source projects ever (WebKit,) and their instructions for how to make iTunes Extras/LP include bash commands. There is another side to the coin. They are serving the consumer computing user with iOS which does exactly what they want and serving developers and creatives with the Mac, which can do anything. To Buddhists, Mac OS and iOS are yin and yang, it is obvious. You can't make one thing for everybody. Doctorow is assuming that there will be only one kind of computer, either general purpose or not. No. Nobody is taking away your Unix. (Your Windows is gone, though.) But the rest of the world is not going to learn bash. For most users, the GUI is iOS and the command line is HTTP in their browser. For us Nerds, we have that plus we add a general purpose computer to get Final Cut or Xcode or bash. Just like we used to have CD, DVD, DAT, and game consoles, plus a general purpose computer. Go forward from there.

Re:Same exact thing with cars (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41130899)

Once again, Doctorow describes a Nerd Utopia where the other 90% of humanity die in car crashes and spend a day or more out of every year working around unproductive computer behavior. All to satisfy Nerd Dogma. The 90% is not interested.

This is brilliantly put. The vast majority of the market does NOT want what nerds what, and the nerd-rage this causes is astonishing to see sometimes. People want devices that are safe, reliable, and "just work". If that means handing control of the device over to Apple, then that's what it means. And in actual fact, that is what is happening, and to the rage of nerds everywhere, it seems to be what people actually want.

Re:Same exact thing with cars (4, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#41131063)

To me, I don't think you have to do anything more on this issue but compare the first 5 years of Windows XP malware (seemingly infinite â" at one point XP malware was the majority of Internet traffic) to the first 5 years of iOS native malware (zero.) END OF DEBATE

End of debate? Really? I would have thought the debate ended when Apple decided that the Bush II countdown app was not allowed on iPhone because it might offend Republicans, but then again, maybe I care more about free speech than I care about run-of-the-mill viruses (don't think for a moment that an intelligence agency could not create the iPhone equivalent of Stuxnet).

Nobody is taking away your Unix

This is not about Unix, this is about my ability to run the programs I want to run and to use my computer to do the things I want to do, and yes, that includes my ability to copy files without permission. If I want to run an Obama countdown app, why should I be prevented from doing so? Heaven forbid Democrats might be offended, right?

It is a sad day when we can honestly say that Windows users have more freedom than Linux users, but that is where we are now (but not for much longer it seems). Everyone loves it when their computers "just work," but when their computers start saying, "No you cannot play that movie, "No you never purchased 1984," and "That file is not allowed to be printed, except for a few author-selected paragraphs" people will suddenly demand their PCs back -- and by then it will be too late.

Engineering Workstations & Servers 4EVA (1)

RickRussellTX (755670) | about 2 years ago | (#41131011)

The Death of the PC has been predicted many times. I can believe that the modern surge of high-powered phones and tablets will displace laptops, but general purpose computing workstations? Engineers and scientists need lots of computrons in close communication with local high-speed storage and graphics hardware, so consequently there will always be a stream of low-to-mid-range server technology feeding into general purpose computing workstations, and so there will always be something for hobbyists. I suspect that any significant regulatory forcing in this ecology would affect scientific and engineering innovation to such a degree that any nation implementing draconian technology restrictions would soon find itself at the bottom of the heap. Those who allow free technology will define the next generation.

Not that fraudster, Doctorow (-1, Flamebait)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 2 years ago | (#41131043)

Please, no bullcrap stuff on Cory Doctorow, Public Fraud #1. That clown practises extreme censorship on his site, only allowing the most vanilla comments, completely worthless in content. That stooge also has a hardon for the uber corporate TED talks, psychometrically staged events, much like those psychometrically timed studies form the oil company people, Pew Research Center, which faux crats and rightwingers who claim to be self-described "liberals" claims is "respectable" --- until you mention they were also responsible for that so-called study claiming the Corporate-controlled media propaganda machine is "liberal."
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>