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Richard Stallman: 'Apple Has Tightest Digital Handcuffs In History' 515

Posted by Soulskill
from the taking-applications-for-digital-houdini dept.
jrepin points out a discussion with Richard Stallman in which he talks about how the Free Software movement is faring in light of companies that have been successful in the long term with very different principles, like Microsoft and Apple. Stallman had this to say: "I would say the free software movement has gone about half the distance it has to travel. We managed to make a mass community but we still have a long way to go to liberate computer users. Those companies are very powerful. They are cleverly finding new ways to take control over users. ... The most widely used non-free programs have malicious features – and I’m talking about specific, known malicious features. ... There are three kinds: those that spy on the user, those that restrict the user, and back doors. Windows has all three. Microsoft can install software changes without asking permission. Flash Player has malicious features, as do most mobile phones. Digital handcuffs are the most common malicious features. They restrict what you can do with the data in your own computer. Apple certainly has the digital handcuffs that are the tightest in history. The i-things, well, people found two spy features and Apple says it removed them and there might be more. When people don’t know about this issue they choose based on immediate convenience and nothing else. And therefore they can be herded into giving up their freedom by a combination of convenient features, pressure from institutions and the network effect."
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Richard Stallman: 'Apple Has Tightest Digital Handcuffs In History'

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  • Re:Freedom (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @04:47PM (#42195795)

    Most people don't really care about being free. They'd rather be safe and feel secure even if it's only an illusion.

    The malware I clean up day after day is not an illusion. Freedom isn't free. It requires constant vigilance. The freedom to tinker has no value to me, and the cost in my time is absurd. I would have to be an idiot not to use a locked down device.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @04:48PM (#42195817) Journal
    Why put him in a straightjacket? Crowds gather to listen to him rant and rave -- does that bother you? Why not let him opine for hours until he's hoarse if it fits his fancy?

    but the real problem with the "Just run Linux" solution is that non-Computer Science people want to do things like answer e-mail, write correspondence, and buy software from the store that has a nice, easy installer.

    I'm sorry, I didn't see anywhere in this actual article where he urges people to "Just run Linux" as you quoted, could you help me find it here? Whether or not he rambles about how people should use Linux seems a separate point from his (in my opinion) valid criticisms of Apple, wouldn't you say?

    Or are you just trying to get to the talking points that you've learned to parrot ...

    Freedom is nice, but when it involves having to become a computer engineer to exercise it - most people will take the padded handcuffs.

    OH! Okay, I see you have little to say about what was discussed in the article so you fall back on the same old boring bullshit. Carry on. Let me help you with that quote:

    Freedom is nice, but when it involves having to become a civil engineer or economist to exercise it - most people will take the oppressive government.

    Freedom is nice, but when it involves having to become a biological engineer to exercise it - most people will take big pharma.

    Freedom is nice, but when it involves having to become a radio engineer to exercise it - most people will take the FCC.

    Do I need to keep going or are you done with your "Freedom is nice but I'll totally trade it for some trivial shit" statements?

  • Re:PR genius (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @05:01PM (#42196031) Homepage

    And yet, he's absolutely honest and correct. Any marketing spin would be slightly dishonest and manipulative, and he won't stand for that.

    Humans are biased to our own detriment. We'll take immediate payoff (the "convenient features") over a bigger long-term benefit (Linux's flexibility). We'll trust recommendations ("pressure") from authorities as being absolute, rather than re-evaluating solutions to find what's best for us. When surrounded by others doing something, we'll assume that we must do the same (allowing the "network effect [wikipedia.org]")

    Humans just suck. Not saying that outright is being nice.

  • Sorry Richie (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @05:13PM (#42196205)

    Gadgets are there to get things (not necessarily work) done.
    They are not a political instrument to convince everyone of your narrow-minded world-view.
    And they certainly not a tool for tool's-sake.

    If OSS can get do the shit I need to to in a convenient, easy and fun way without causing eye-sore, fine. Sign me up.
    If not, get lost.

    There is a mentality problem. But NOT on the side of closed source software users, but on the FSF side.
    OSS ist not better just because it is OSS. You can't expect people to use OSS just because it is OSS, despite being a pile shit (hard to use, fugly, not documented, needs maintenance, needs compiling, etc).

    The last 25 years, OSS has catered the nerds (notable exceptions like Firefox, Android and (hidden!) Linux on routers aside). Unless OSS is truly mainstream, and that means being as polished as commercial Software, like Apple's for instance, he can talk as much as he wants. No one, except some acolytes of him, will listen to him and do what he says. And rightly so.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @05:14PM (#42196219)

    What are you talking about? Many engineering students make modifications to vehicles, purely for pleasure.

    The issue is simple:

    If I WANT to tinker, *I CAN*.

    THAT is the freedom being discussed here. I can't just decide one day that I am dissastisfied with the windows file copy dialog box's estimated time to completion algorithm, bust open the source code, and tinker on it.

    I *CAN* do that on linux. (Moreover, if my reimplemetation is superior, the linux community eagerly wants my changes!)

    If I *want* to modify my fuel injection system on my vehicle, I can. The hood isn't welded shut, and the ECM isn't designed to kill itself when tampered with. Compare that with say, an xbox360 with efuses, and tamper tape.

    Stallman is definately a crackpot in a large number of ways. (Harvesting fresh footfungus in front of an audience and all that..) however, arguing about this level of freedom, even if people choose not to make use of that freedom, is definately to the betterment of mankind, and should be supported.

  • Car (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ckhorne (940312) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @05:16PM (#42196253)

    I wonder what kind of car Stallman drives. Seriously. Does he update the firmware controlling the engine timing and fuel injectors?

    What's that? The car manufacturers have digitally handcuffed him so that he can't go mucking around with things? Oh - it must be a safety issue. OK, well, surely he can update the firmware for other things in his car, such as the radio display?

    People aren't hearded in to giving up their freedoms. There are certain freedoms that those people just don't *need* to begin with. My mother, who has an iPhone, isn't handcuffed - if anything, the device liberates her into using technology that she wouldn't otherwise use in in the modern world.

    There are products across the spectrum that address the balance between usable and the freedom to do whatever you'd like. Just because manufacturers lock down their devices doesn't mean there's not a suitable audience that doesn't benefit...

  • by killfixx (148785) * on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @05:20PM (#42196299) Journal

    Wrong. Just patently wrong. People care about safety after a host of different attributes, such as: convenience, sex appeal, price, social status, etc...

    People don't buy Apple products because they're safe, but because they fit into one of the above mentioned categories. Who would purposely purchase shackles when presented with a "shackle-free" alternative, ninety-nine percent of the (American?) population.*

    My favorite science teacher in school told me this, "Life is lazy". Everything wants to do the least amount of work possible. Why would people be any different. I'm not excusing this behavior, just illuminating the cause. Like I tell my students, "If you strive to fit in, you're aiming for the bottom. Be better."

    Now, if you had said, "Most people don't really care about being free. They'd rather do the "popular" thing", then I would be inclined to agree with you.

    We (people in general) have become "fat and happy" and don't want to be hassled with the responsibility of making our own decisions. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -Edmund Burke

    "Do not go gentle into that good night" -Dylan Thomas

    All great minds have railed against the "popular opinion". Why? Because as a people, humans are notoriously unreliable at making good decisions. As individuals, we have made magnificent strides in science, art, literature, etc...

    Please, consciously decide against the tyranny of corporate control. They will never have your best interests at heart.

    *I can only speak from an American point of view.

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @05:29PM (#42196411)
    I think it starts in school when the administration ostracises and persecutes people for acting diffrently and encourages "saftey in numbers" and the herd mentality.

    We then justify anyone outside the norm might be potentially dangerous and we'd have no idea so we let authority figures sort it out, and they tell us who is dangerous and what is the proper thing to do about it, and inform us when they've done so.

    They'd made it clear that challenging the status quo makes you just as much a target as anything else.

    The ability to change the status quo and innovate is reserved for leaders, and those in high standng., who we admire and worship for their flagrant disregard for set standards, and ability to walk away unscathed from what would cost us everything. To change the slightest things, we'd need their OK, given the full credit for our ideas, and be thankful we merely be allowed to exist.
  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @05:56PM (#42196805) Homepage Journal

    Privacy is a myth, it always has been a myth, and you are wrong.

    Sayeth the completely anonymous internet user.

    That's funny stuff right there.

  • by 19thNervousBreakdown (768619) <davec-slashdot&lepertheory,net> on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @05:57PM (#42196817) Homepage

    It's not just physically disgusting, it's borderline insane. The entire point of taking someone like RMS's opinion is based on the assumption that he's more informed than the average person, has dedicated more thought to it, and has come to rational conclusions.

    I have always had serious trouble with the "rational" part of that in regards to Stallman, and the foot-eating thing only reinforces that. Basic disagreements with his philosophy (in particular the extremist elements of it, the basic idea that software should be free I agree with but we live in a concrete world and our philosophical models aren't perfect so you need to be flexible) aside, I have a real problem delegating any thought at all to someone so unaware or uncaring of social norms.

  • by MrHanky (141717) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @06:05PM (#42196965) Homepage Journal

    Right. As if your grandmother would do anything differently when encountering problems under Linux than under Windows -- either she'd ignore it (like my parents do with their infinite number of browser toolbars bogging down their systems), or she'd come to you for help. Most people are entirely incapable of fixing problems under either Windows or OS X, as exemplified by the infinite number of hits you get when googling "repair permissions", the universal remedy for all Mac problems (which are remarkably frequent for a faultless system) that never ever works, suggested by clueless idiots to helpless computer illiterate users every day.

    In the end, most users just blame themselves for their computer problems: after all, they have chosen not to learn how the system works. Perhaps that seems less irresponsible with proprietary consumer software, a sort of feel-better-factor, but don't pretend your average computer user is capable of fixing problems under Windows or OS X.

  • Re:Freedom (Score:5, Interesting)

    by postbigbang (761081) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @06:05PM (#42196969)

    I use Linux, and I used to agree with some of your platitudes, but not any more.

    Although you believe that the community isn't trying to hide the flaws, most users didn't compile squat on their machines. They didn't look at the code, and although some are indeed coders, there are now millions of lines of code that change *a lot*. There's the kernel, in many revisions, and there are apps and distro families that change/mutate frequently and not very many people look at the code before they compile it and go Oh! There's a problem there! They may look at best, as a forensic exercise, long after they downloaded a replacement app, but that's about it.

    Yes, there are wonderful kernel contributors and many fantastic FOSS sites and apps and distros. Only a handful of organizations try and keep it together-- at all.

    "Found and fixed quickly" is largely a myth. Some communities really work hard towards fixing bugs, but there are many platforms and combinations needed to emulate problems. Coders move on, communities split, fork, or just die of boredom. There are no guarantees in either commercial or FOSS software.

    And having been hacked hard twice, I can tell you that you can be rooted in moments, your machine hijacked, and unavailable to a user session no matter what OS you use. With a big enough hammer, you can break *anything*. The smugness is unwarranted.

  • by sootman (158191) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @06:12PM (#42197061) Homepage Journal

    ... is that handcuffs do nothing but restrain you. An iPhone restrains you in certain ways but it also enables a whole lot of other things. It's all about trade-offs.

    It's the difference between an actual prison, and a prison where you can eat delicious food, see your friends, travel to some extent, etc etc etc., versus living "free" in the woods.

    Furthermore, they aren't "handcuffs" in that I can get out of them. I might lose some stuff, but then again, I might not -- it all depends on what I'm doing and how. As it happens, there is nothing on my iPhone that I a) care about and b) couldn't easily move to another system. So depending on who you are, they may not be handcuffs at all.

    Finally, it's a continuum. There's a difference between "handcuffs" and "oh well, I guess I can't watch this movie I bought in iTunes anymore because I have an Android phone now." I gain nothing from some pursuit of absolute theoretical perfection. Same thing with security: what do I gain by reading SSL certificates, if I'm going to give my credit card to a 19-year-old in a restaurant to take out of my sight for five minutes the next day? "Those who would trade...", yeah yeah yeah. It is impossible to live a life that is perfect in every way. Have you ever tripped? Well then, why don't you just stare at your feet for every single step you take in all of life? Oh, because the benefits of looking around every hour of every day outweigh tripping on things a couple times a year.

    The bigger problem with cell phones, really, are the odious terms from the telcos, like AT&T selling me a fixed number of bytes and then charging extra depending on what I want to do with them. Or requiring that all smartphones have data plans in the first place, and then making the "entry level" plans more and more expensive each year.

  • by 19thNervousBreakdown (768619) <davec-slashdot&lepertheory,net> on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @06:25PM (#42197257) Homepage

    First off, no, I don't chew my fingernails (I prefer nail clippers, but I don't think it's particularly odd to do) or eat my own boogers (eew!).

    But even if I did, I can recognize that there's a large difference between doing either of those things in private, and eating something you just picked off of your foot while not only in public, but while being recorded, in front of an audience. That's the borderline insane part. Any normal person would immediately be aware of the consequences, and have the self-control to not do it, even if they were gross enough to want to. If you can't see the difference, you should be aware that most people can, and the other responses of disgust you can find in this thread are on the low end of the spectrum of reactions you'd get if you showed this video to people outside the Slashdot community.

    For histronics, you should probably take a second look at your own post.

  • Re:Car (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lhunath (1280798) <lhunath AT lyndir DOT com> on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @07:03PM (#42197859) Homepage

    When your mother buys a printer and AirPrint happens to not work with it, she might ask you or anyone tech-knowledgable to make it work for her.

    Since the iPhone has locked you out of doing anything that isn't Apple-certified, your only reply to her will be, buy a new printer. This time, make sure it has AirPrint support on the label.

    If the iPhone hadn't been locked down (eg. it's jailbroken), you could easily install additional printer drivers or support.

    Yes, buying an iPhone is giving up the freedom to make your new computer do things that you need it to do but aren't certified by the vendor. And yes, consumers do suffer from that. Stop blinding yourself to that. The iPhone would work no different for your mom if there had been a way for techy people to become root. The only difference is, now any techy person can help her. Not just the Apple-certified ones, and not just with Apple-certified solutions.

    That is what software freedom is eventually about. It matters to tech people just as much as it does to non-tech people, because it enables them to go to tech people for help. Stallman's formulated four freedoms are simply the rules he figures will guarantee a consumer's freedom to control their own devices, or get help with them from a knowledgable person.

    Similarly, in your car analogy, it would be nice if vendors released sufficient documentation publicly so that the car repair person next door who happens to be a really awesome mechanic can help me with my car's issues. Instead, I'm forced to suffer the pain of finding a vendor-certified dealership. That pain is not for the better of me, kindly stop lying to me.

  • Re:Freedom (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @07:07PM (#42197911) Homepage

    > Well when Stallman can get people to properly configure and update their software

    Well engineered software should require neither.

    Windows is in a constant state of flux because it is a mess built on top of a mess built on top of another mess. It is a solution to a problem that Microsoft created itself. If it comes with it's own problems (like the registry does), then there is only one entity to fault.

    You're trying to blame the victim.

  • Re:Freedom (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Arker (91948) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:26PM (#42199195) Homepage

    And this brings us right back to the crux of it - freedom may not be free, but neither is your 'locked down device' ever going to be secure. We dont make secure devices anymore, we havent for years, the lockdown isnt to prevent software that YOU consider malicious, only to prevent software that the manufacturer (who generally doesnt even consider you a customer) considers malicious, regardless of your opinion. The manufacturer always leaves ways for themselves to get in, they are just locking YOU out. The malware makers then come along and find and exploit the doors the manufacturer left, so these systems wind up being LESS secure than Free systems.

    Freedom to tinker isnt only important to the tinkerer - it's important to 'consumers' in general, because todays tinkerer is tomorrows competitor in the marketplace offering something the customer wanted - or alternatively not offering it, because that freedom was taken away and they never had a chance.

  • Re:Car (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @11:51PM (#42200311) Homepage

    I wonder what kind of car Stallman drives. Seriously. Does he update the firmware controlling the engine timing and fuel injectors?

    Say what you will of Stallman, but the guy eats his dog food. He uses non-free software/hardware/etc when free alternatives are not available, but he is VERY tolerant of inconvenience when it will allow him to substitute something free. He is largely free of proprietary software, and I'm sure he's gotten quite far on the hardware front. I'm sure when he buys a new car that the sorts of things you mention are considerations for him, and if riding in the rain on a moped would get him closer to an all-FOSS world he'd probably do it.

    He also writes software, though I suspect not as much as he used to. So, he isn't just demanding that others write his software for him.

    Does he represent an extreme? Sure. However, he is actually reasonably practical about his beliefs. He doesn't insist on swimming across the Atlantic because all the planes and ships have proprietary ECUs.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 06, 2012 @01:53AM (#42200981) Journal

    And I wouldn't listen to him either. I just don't get it, this wasn't him getting caught in some moment he thought he was off camera, whacko RMS went and DID IT ON STAGE during a fricking lecture no less! I mean how whack a doodle do you have to get before people go "You know, maybe listening to this guy isn't the brightest of ideas".

    Lets face it folks the guy gets more bizarre as he goes along, he acts like a 5 year old (putting the name of a company you don't like into the language of your license? Really?) and as his munching down on toe jam on stage at a lecture shows he either doesn't have the good sense or just doesn't give a fuck about doing truly gross shit in front of God and everybody, on camera no less, so WHY does anybody listen to him?

    If there HAS to be a spokesman for FOSS, you have so many other choices that actually make FOSS look intelligent, Linus Torvalds and Eric Raymond just to name two and at least they aren't acting like a crazy homeless guy on camera or isn't calling what he doesn't like about a company "sins" like he's the fricking pope.

  • by milkmage (795746) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:42PM (#42204819)

    you didn't read the list.

    tea: "A supply of tea with milk and sugar would be nice. If it is tea I
    really like, I like it without milk and sugar. With milk and sugar,
    any kind of tea is fine. I always bring tea bags with me, so if we
    use my tea bags, I will certainly like that tea without milk or sugar. ...if he brings his own tea all the time, WTF milk and sugar? if he brings his tea with him, why even mention this?

    audio: It is best to provide audio recordings in the original recorded sample
    rate, up to 44100Hz. Monophonic is generally adequate for speech
    recordings and saves a lot of space over stereo.

    HOW to pay for his tickets? you're getting a free ticket why do you care HOW i pay for it?
    If you buy bus or train tickets for me, do not give my name! Big
    Brother has no right to know where I travel, or where you travel, or
    where anyone travels. If they arbitrarily demand a name, give a name
    that does not belong to any person you know of. If they will check my
    ID before I board the bus or train, then let's look for another way
    for me to travel. (In the US I never use long-distance trains because
    of their ID policy.)

    Don't give them your name either: please pay for the ticket in cash.

    hates breakfast:
    I do not eat breakfast. Please do not ask me any questions about
    what I will do breakfast. Please just do not bring it up.

    don't be polite: So please don't ask me "Where do you want to eat?" or "What kind of
    restaurant do you want to go to?" I can't make an intelligent
    decision without knowing the facts, and unless I am already familiar
    with the city we're in, I can only get those facts from you. ..i can see him storming out of a room because someone asked him a friendly question.

    coke vs. pepsi - sure state your preference.. but I don't give a shit WHY
    If I am quite sleepy, I would like two cans or small bottles of
    non-diet Pepsi. (I dislike the taste of coke, and of all diet soda;
    also, there is an international boycott of the Coca Cola company for
    killing union organizers in Colombia and Guatemala; see
    killercoke.org.) However, if I am not very sleepy, I won't want
    Pepsi, because it is better if I don't drink so much sugar.

    it's MY EVENT. STFU:
    If you plan to restrict admission to my speech, or charge a fee for
    admission, please discuss this with me *personally in advance* to get
    my approval for the plan. If you have imposed charges without my
    direct personal approval, I may refuse to do the speech.

    I'm not categorically against limiting admission or fees, but
    excluding people means the speech does less good, so I want to make
    sure that the limitations are as small as necessary. For instance,
    you can allow students and low-paid people and political activists to
    get in free, even if professionals have to pay. We will discuss what
    to do.

    Another method, which works very well in some places, is to allow
    people to attend gratis but charge for a certificate of attendance.
    If the certificate is given by an educational institution, many will
    find it useful for career advancement, while the others could enter
    gratis. Whether this would be effective in your country is something
    you would need to judge.

    can I have your couch? are you kidding me? - I do not have the ability to maintain a sleeping environment temperature +/- 2 degrees
    But please DON'T make a hotel reservation until we have fully explored
    other options. If there is anyone who wants to offer a spare couch, I
    would much rather stay there than in a hotel (provided I have a door I
    can close, in order to have some privacy). Staying with someone is
    more fun for me than a hotel, and it would also save you money.

    REALLY? would YOU stay in a place that doesn't card people?
    Please call the hotel and ask whether they will demand to see my
    passport, and whether they report all their guests to the police. If
    it has thi

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

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