08.27.19

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Computers Becoming Disposable

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Hardware, Microsoft, Windows at 1:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

ZimmerSummary: People’s control over their own computers is being taken away; the model of rental better describes many of today’s purchases

IT HAS long been the case that computers are sold with an operating system rather than tested for a variety of them and handed over for the user to install one (of the user’s choosing). The bundling of operation systems has been an enabler of Microsoft’s monopoly, which pursued tying Windows to hardware and called everything else “naked PC” or “piracy”.

But there may be an even bigger problem, exacerbated in part by so-called ‘smart’phones, tablets and things such as Chromebooks. There seems to be no obligtation whatsoever to keep them updated for more than a few years; after that the users are left unable to upgrade the operating system and installing something else is technically difficult. There’s the expectation that this hardware will then be treated as ‘obsolete’ or “End of Life”, only for a new machine to be purchased to replace perfectly fine hardware. Of course the more technical people might choose to install GNU/Linux or otherwise deal with a critically vulnerable and out-of-date operating system that was never designed for security anyway.

“…there may be an even bigger problem, exacerbated in part by so-called ‘smart’phones, tablets and things such as Chromebooks.”What is Chrome OS anyway? Built on top of GNU/Linux or based on Gentoo, Chrome OS is designed to (mostly) spy on users and when it speaks of “Linux” it’s mostly just reinventing the wheel, allowing users to get back what they’d otherwise get on a platform such as Gentoo, including free updates, upgrades, maybe rolling releases.

Chromebooks were traditionally used to exchange the data invasion for subsidies that made these laptops somewhat cheaper, but at the higher end this is not the case. Announced yesterday, for instance, was this grossly overpriced product:

Google today announced a slew of Chrome Enterprise updates, including a faster Google Admin console and managed Linux environments. The company also unveiled the first Chromebook Enterprise laptops: Dell’s Latitude 5300 for $819 and Latitude 5400 for $699.

In August 2017, Google launched Chrome Enterprise for $50 per managed Chromebook per year. The subscription gives Chromebooks enterprise features like advanced security protections and fleet management. Today’s updates are Google’s latest push to bring Chrome OS to more businesses.

How long before the users are alerted that these are no longer supported and another expensive machine must be purchased to comply with business regulations?

“My laptop’s age is 10 and modern distributions can easily be installed on it without having to tinker with bootloaders, BIOS and such.”This is sadly becoming somewhat of a ‘norm’ — a normalcy wherein machines become ‘disposable’ even when they’re very expensive (almost a thousand bucks). There’s an envionmental impact.

My laptop’s age is 10 and modern distributions can easily be installed on it without having to tinker with bootloaders, BIOS and such.

The idea that Chrome OS can break Microsoft or end a Windows monopoly is a convenient one. But what are we striving to replace Windows with if not something that’s based on Linux but offers no freedom (libre)?

As somebody put it in a comment yesterday:

The battle is won, but the war is lost…

Everything runs on OSS these days, but the Libre part of it is missing more than ever. The biggest issue I see is the issue of “ownership”.
Physical ownership: I own my phone, my car, my house.
Virtual ownership: I own my data.

Streaming services are a case in point. You rent everything for $xx a month. If an actor becomes a persona non grata, and data with them is scrubbed (Think the Kevin Spacey situation, and, per events in march 2019, maybe upcoming with Michael Jackson), you don’t have access to it anymore.
Another case in point is Amazon’s removal of purchased e-books of 1984 from Kindle devices (in 2009, if memory serves).
You can’t (easily) rewrite a book purchased in paper form. You can rewrite an ebook.

The formula (Personal Hardware) + (Free Software) = (Digital Freedom) is more important than ever, but we do need to focus more on the Personal hardware part, and I agree it is part of a greater issue…

Control over one’s own hardware (that one pays for) is being diminished over time and with it the expectation of ownership as opposed to rent. We’re becoming mere tenants of what we’re paying a full price for.

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