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05.09.20

Free/Libre Software is Greener Pastures for Dell

Posted in Dell, GNU/Linux, Hardware at 10:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A lot of people do not want Windows

What Microsoft tells you GNU/Linux is like; What OEMs tell you GNU/Linux is like when it's their expensive hardware

Summary: Dell’s overpriced computers will have more of GNU/Linux on them (announcement in 10 days); at the moment they’re working behind the scenes to get sites to produce a bunch of promotional puff pieces for them

SOME CULTURAL references aside (e.g. [1, 2, 3]), Free software has historically been aligned with the antiwar movement, green movement and so on. This is well documented and we mentioned it before. Microsoft is the antithesis of it, as we noted earlier today as well as last year. There’s ample evidence of this. So more people are attracted to GNU/Linux for ethical/moral reasons, not just technical or purely pragmatic reasons.

“Dell doesn’t care about Software Freedom, but Dell understands that Software Freedom-oriented folks are worth money to Dell.”After discussing the matter with a few people, and considering the fact I never at all agreed to any embargo, I’ve decided to publish what Dell is going to announce some time soon, based on an E-mail sent to me out of the blue a few days ago.

The message below shows that Dell is moving further away from Windows, which is a positive sign for sure.

Hi Roy – As a special offer to TechRights, I can give a sneak preview of Dell’s new lineup of Linux-based Precision workstations for developers. Dell Technologies already ships 150+ different Ubuntu-based PC models to over 100+ countries. Linux models will be available on Precision 5550/5750/7550/7750 being announced at this launch.

If you agree to an embargo of May 19 @ 9 a.m. CT, I can send you a virtual press kit outlining all the products that will be released. Admittingly, it will be light on the Linux news so if you want to focus just on that I recommend a 1:1 interview with Chris Ramirez, Strategic Alliances Manager and Engineering Industry Strategist at Dell who can elaborate on the developer features.

I never agreed to an embargo (I never would); maybe they don’t know how embargoes work. You give away the secrets before consent? Anyway, as one can see (it’s explicit), they’re manipulating and playing with the media — justifying our longstanding cynicism about how the media works. It’s like coverage for sale, not journalism. PR agencies ‘liaising’ with so-called ‘journalists’ and bloggers to manufacture a bunch of puff pieces using a “virtual press kit”.

Of course we never participate in these PR stunts. We suppose they send this to a lot of publishers right now. Will that be a surprise? Probably not. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is good news. Dell studies the market (it throws major resources at it) and it clearly finds out growing demand for GNU/Linux. It’s all about money; Dell doesn’t care about Software Freedom, but Dell understands that Software Freedom-oriented folks are worth money to Dell.

When People Realise Food and Medicine Exceed in Importance (Essentiality) Luxury and Travel Expenditure They Will Come to Accept Free Software as Basic Commodity

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Hardware at 6:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OEMs are increasingly abandoning Microsoft Windows

Puts on a tux; Realises a tux isn't edible
Early carrier of novel Coronavirus

Summary: With more announcements on their way, it is becoming apparent that people are tired of Windows and OEMs adopt Free (as in freedom) software as the default operating system

THE WORLD’S economy is in a state of turmoil. Worshippers of the market (an abstract concept, like man-made money) panic and those whose supposed “capital” is huge stand to lose at least some of their power. The illusion of endless growth is coming to an end. It’s simply not sustainable anymore. COVID-19 was merely a trigger, not the cause.

“For companies like Apple it has become harder to convince people to spend over a thousand dollars on a laptop or a so-called ‘phone’ (mostly a surveillance apparatus, more so in recent years or months).”More people are now ‘stuck’ at home (willfully, if not by imposed de facto curfews). They realise all they really need is shelter, food, and their basic health, which is related to the first two. Happiness is related to anxiety or lack therefore; for many people reduction in spendings means peace of mind and thus it can be beneficial to mental health.

For companies like Apple it has become harder to convince people to spend over a thousand dollars on a laptop or a so-called ‘phone’ (mostly a surveillance apparatus, more so in recent years or months). Even if more people waste their time ‘online’ — in social control media such as Facebook — turning that ‘screen time’ into money has become harder. People lack access to physical shops and many people lack a source of income (those who still have a salary aren’t sure for how much longer).

The ‘perfect storm’ breeds or leads to a reassessment of one’s spendings, one’s habits, one’s source of pride and identity. People aren’t being judged so much by what car they drive; many who bought a car no longer use it much. Where do they take it? To work? To dine somewhere? To visit a friend or loved one in quarantine?

“Dell contacted me a couple of days ago. They’re about to announce a bunch of new products with GNU/Linux preinstalled.”Techrights has long dealt with issues like abundance, digital rights, planned obsolescence, standards and artificial scarcity (copyrightd, patents et cetera are monopoly and induced scarcity, sometimes price-fixing). It hardly surprises us to learn that more people are nowadays installing GNU/Linux. One can see this in Valve statistics, Web statistics and even distro developers (who measure the number of downloads). People sit at home, mostly bored, hoping to learn new things, striving to lower the cost of living.

Our projection, which is likely more realistic than optimistic, would be huge upsurge for GNU/Linux in 2020. Dell contacted me a couple of days ago. They’re about to announce a bunch of new products with GNU/Linux preinstalled. Expect the embargo on that announcement to lapse/expire just over a week from now. It would be insincere and unfair to ‘leak’ out what they sent me. But after what Lenovo and others said last month it’s clear that OEMs too are seeing the growth in demand for such products. Their market intelligence exposes the evolving dynamics.

Oh…

And those who want a ‘leak’ of the Dell stuff, watch our IRC logs closely.

RMS (Richard Stallman) said he had been hit, but not knocked out; his vision is coming closer to fruition and deep inside he knows it. Prosperous times may be ahead for Software Freedom activists.

“Copying all or parts of a program is as natural to a programmer as breathing, and as productive. It ought to be as free.”

Richard Stallman

04.03.20

Clear Linux is to GNU/Linux What Clearly Defined is to Open Source

Posted in DRM, GNU/Linux, Hardware at 6:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Clearly proprietary and clearly vague and ambiguous terms (clearing GNU and freedom off the map)

Intel: criminal inside

Summary: The idea that we need Intel to take GNU/Linux ‘mainstream’ is ludicrous; as OSDL co-founder (now succeeded in the flesh of the Corporate Linux Foundation), Intel is more about Linux (with DRM, “secure boot” and everything that lets it be remotely controlled) than about GNU and it’s not too keen on GPL (copyleft), either

“FREE as in Freedom” is the motto or slogan imprinted upon the father of Free software in a famous biography. GNU wasn’t supposed to be just “another system” or “another UNIX” but a free system. It’s a paradigm change, not a branding change. There’s substance to it rather than mere identity. If geeks and nerds wanted to just advocate “not Windows,” then they’d be able to join the millions of gullible fools who voluntarily shill for Apple with its infinite moral deficit. People who look past false choices, buzzwords and ‘lifestyle’-themed marketing stunts understand the unprecedented importance if not urgency of GNU. The COVID-19 crisis shows us how marvelously fast the “security state” can advance with no proper safeguards just because “there’s no time” or whatever. Technical means, not just legal means, become necessary for guarding one’s human rights.

“The COVID-19 crisis shows us how marvelously fast the “security state” can advance with no proper safeguard just because “there’s no time” or whatever.”This morning Phoronix said that “[t]here has been plumbing within [Clear Linux] swupd package/bundle management system to support third-party repositories to expand the [proprietary] ecosystem [sic] and now we’re finally seeing that happen.”

Speaking of Phoronix, please support the site and support Michael Larabel. They really need it right now because they got a baby a few months ago (first-born) and the wife (mother) has just lost her job. Phoronix is a very important site which investigates, benchmarks and digs things no other site does. Michael treated us well over the years; we owe or ought to look after him, too.

Now, back to Intel…

“There’s nothing inherently special about it and Intel likely uses it for optimisations that help sell more of its deeply defective, back-doored chips.”As a reminder, Intel is the foremost pusher of DRM inside Linux (we did analysis of commits last year), with AMD coming not too far behind, working with the likes of Google.

Phoronix has been one of the main pushers or proponents of Clear Linux — a distro which otherwise nobody would bother with or care about. There’s nothing inherently special about it and Intel likely uses it for optimisations that help sell more of its deeply defective, back-doored chips.

The word “Clear” is close to “Pure” (like Purism and PureOS) and maybe even transparency if not freedom. But Clear Linux has nothing to do with any of those things. Like Microsoft’s “Clearly Defined” push, it’s mostly about imposing proprietary software (such as GitHub) on people. It’s not too far from the bogus concept of “ethical” software, wherein “ethics” refer to a reduction in freedom.

“It’s not too far from the bogus concept of “ethical” software, wherein “ethics” refer to a reduction in freedom.”A better term or name for Clear Linux would be “Intel Linux”; but that would not ‘sell’ too well (if they tried it). It’s made by Intel, for Intel, and users of it are controlled by Intel. In the same way that people who choose to host a Git repo in GitHub are controlled by Microsoft.

Nice try, Intel. Take your DRM and shove it somewhere else. The BSD world would likely be even less receptive than the GNU and Linux worlds. As de Raadt put it before he blasted Intel for its defects and security flaws, “Intel [is] Only ‘Open’ for Business”. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with business, Intel’s business practices if not crimes make it clear that Intel is clearly allergic to ethics.

Disclosure: My sister and my brother-in-law worked for Intel, but that never had an effect on my position regarding Intel, based on its ethical and technical behaviour alone.

11.27.19

Librem 5 Batches Are About 100 Each (in Production)

Posted in Hardware at 6:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A phone backlit

Summary: The vision of Purism is promising (freedom-respecting mobile devices), but practical limitations seem to be getting in the way and even big fans have begun reconsidering

EARLIER this week we wrote about evident problems with shipment/fulfillment by Purism after we had seen press reports about it and also heard from readers.

One such reader said he read an article on Techrights regarding Purism and “would like to add the problems [he was] having.”

“I can’t believe there is only 350 units being produced for the first 4 batches??? This stinks!”
      –Anonymous
“Last Tuesday,” he said, “after reading many articles about the Librem 5, I decided to ask for a refund on my ‘pre-ordered’ phone as I feel some things don’t feel right. The communication was cordial, making sure they had the right credit card details to my account and was told it would take 2 – 15 days.

“On Thursday I checked my Purism account to still find my order was ‘active’ and awaiting shipping, so I emailed again asking for confirmation, only to receive a very cavalier response saying ‘we’ll sort it in a couple of days!’

“As you can imagine this was a red rag with my reply being rather angry reminding them I wasn’t a backer but a pre-order and interest will [be] expected. As of today my order is still active and I don’t hold much hope that anything will happen soon.

“The good news is, less than a day ago we learned that Purism issued a refund.”“So info I did find strange was on the Purism forum, an early backer 350th (he screen shot his place) received his email asking what batch he would like, which he put Aspen, Birch and Chestnut, only to receive a reply he would be in Evergreen? I can’t believe there is only 350 units being produced for the first 4 batches??? This stinks!”

That’s the bad news. The good news is, less than a day ago we learned that Purism issued a refund. So at least our worst fears are bygones.

11.25.19

Purism Librem 5 Orders Take Too Long (No Delivery) as Biggest Fans Grow Impatient

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware at 11:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A freedom-respecting failure is still a failure

Anybody home? Where's my phone?
Anybody home? Where’s my phone? Where’s my money?

Summary: Purism fulfillment is a sad story; it is an untold tale in much of the media and in order for things to change something’s gotta give

THE saga is not new to us. We covered that very recently. Delivery of units isn’t happening — an issue I noticed even nearly half a decade ago. There are also many returns — a subject not so often explored by anyone in the media.

I’ve been a supporter of Purism, Librem, Librem 5 and everything else with these propositions. I probably mentioned these close to a thousand times in social control media over the years. At some stage, however, one must stop and ask, “can it become more of a disservice than a service?”

“I’ve been a supporter of Purism, Librem, Librem 5 and everything else with these propositions. I probably mentioned these close to a thousand times in social control media over the years.”What if I endorse or recommend (or sort of ‘promote’) something that leads people to disappointment? Should I persist or should I politely warn instead?

What Purism has been promoting is great. It’s a breakthrough. But can these people deliver? I still hope so. But things that I hear and read — both privately and online — aren’t too positive anymore. Someone should probably say something and we’ve always loathed self-censorship.

Some sources tell us stories about their undelivered (but still perpetually promised) Librem 5 units. We hear this from multiple sources and have asked for permission to quote (maybe permission will be granted later this week). Purism has some really tough questions to answer as some of the media is catching up. In one example even receiving a refund seems like an impossibility. Maybe it’s the exception, but it doesn’t quite seem so.

The above example isn’t a unique or isolated case. Days ago an article entitled The Librem 5 has been “shipping” for a month—but not to backers was published and it said:

Purism announced that shipping of its Librem 5 open source smartphone began in late September. Two months later, nobody outside the company has a Librem 5, and people are getting restless.

The Librem 5 is a crowdfunded project—and an ambitious one—so it wasn’t much surprise or cause for concern when it missed its original January 2019 delivery target—or the April 2019 target set after January slipped. Both date changes were announced well ahead of time, and the company continued to post progress reports, commit code upstream, and assure backers of its commitment to transparency. (Full disclosure: I am a Librem 5 backer myself and am scheduled to receive a phone in the Evergreen batch.)

The new delays are more troubling. On September 5, CEO Todd Weaver announced that the Librem 5 would ship in six iterative batches, codenamed Aspen, Birch, Chestnut, Dogwood, Evergreen, and Fir. The first three batches would effectively be usable prototypes of decreasing roughness; Evergreen would be the first entirely finished hardware production run, and Fir would be a relatively unspecified next-generation design.

Although Aspen, Birch, and Chestnut were to be somewhat rough, their descriptions did specify working hardware and functional software, with Aspen to begin shipping only three weeks from the announcement. A reasonable viewer would take this as a strong implication that the phone was ready to ship. This was unfortunately not the case; the Aspen batch turned out to have significant power and heat issues.

Our article on the topic has received considerable attention and even scorn from those involved. Not because it was wrong though; it’s just that people feel very passionate about the product, as were we. How many times have we mentioned Librem or Purism here? Probably more than a thousand times. But did we give publicity to something that might lead to disappointment? We hope not.

If we receive permission/go-ahead, then some time soon we’ll present some customer testimonies (and “customer” might not be the right term to describe someone who did not even receive the paid-for product).

10.31.19

Purism’s Problems Purely Boil Down to Trust and False Promises

Posted in FSF, GNOME, GNU/Linux, Hardware, KDE, Rumour at 1:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

PureOS sounds promising, just like OpenMoko, but we all want (and likely expect) to see results

Business silhouette

Summary: A promising, potentially exciting, freedom-respecting set of products would be easier to talk about than actually deliver; we take a look at what goes on at Purism

THIS is a particularly difficult subject for me to write about, having spent a number of years cheering for Librem (in its various forms or form factors) and by extension its parent company, Purism, whose goals I believe to be well-intentioned. They’re a sort of privacy-first, freedom-at-the-forefront company (freedom as in Software Freedom as well as hardware freedom — to the limited extent presently possible).

Lately I have been reading negative things about Purism. I also received messages and mail about it. I am committed to Software Freedom, but I am also deeply committed to truth, so let’s put right there on the table the knowns, unknowns, and what’s in desperate need of verification. Because transparency is needed for true trust; otherwise it’s fantasy. Here in Techrights we’re as transparent as possible with IRC logs that serve to reveal operations (behind the scenes too). We’re balancing privacy and transparency, e.g. in the name of source protection. We redact some things, usually to protect identities only. But those who lurk in IRC (or read our logs) can get a pretty good idea of what’s going on.

“Many companies operate at a loss and/or have massive debt. They don’t like to talk about those things.”Purism is different. The company isn’t always upfront. Sometimes it’s not even honest and some would say “misleading”. I’d like to believe they’re not intentionally misleading people, but over the past month there was more evidence to that effect. Are they dishonest for “the greater good”? I don’t know. Some companies pretend to do better than they really do, hoping for a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy effect — inertia built atop an illusion. I get that. I don’t respect that, but I totally get that. It’s quite common and many large companies — including Microsoft — do this. Many companies operate at a loss and/or have massive debt. They don’t like to talk about those things. It might scare away those who subsidise/invest in them. Sometimes they’re bank(er)s, sometimes they’re so-called ‘angels’, sometimes they’re the public or prospective buyers who raise funds for projects/products.

One person asked me yesterday: “Have you heard anything about Purism? Or Librem? Being a complete and utter failure/scam?”

“Well,” she said, “from what I heard…”

She shared some discussions about this and even new memes. Moments ago someone pointed out to me this recent article that I had read days ago. It’s titled “The Sad Saga of Purism and the Librem 5″ and there are 3 parts to it.

“Their laptop campaign had over 65% return rate, I heard closer to 70%.”
      –Anonymous
“And no comments from @purism to that,” I was told, so “seems like a really sad story to me.”

Going back to that first person, “2 years ago,” she said, “over 1.5 million — I heard close to 2.5… was raised.”

“But they cannot deliver on the units,” she added.

“Their laptop campaign had over 65% return rate, I heard closer to 70%.”

“When employees went to San Diego to the fulfillment center, they noted all the concerns – return rate, quality, etc. They wanted to work with Weaver for improvement. He would not meet F2F from what I heard but online. During that session, he went around to see what concerns people had. Quickly, 5 were fired. Another quit within a week or so.”

But apparently it gets yet worse. This is the part which is mostly speculative. “From what I heard,” she said, “Purism money is now going to Forbes and social media campaigns without the transparency of what is really happening. Phoronix is one of their media outlets.”

I can believe the part about Forbes, knowing how they’re manipulated. But I’m not sure about Phoronix.

“Media manipulation is possible,” I responded, “but I won’t vouch for it. Michael Larabel isn’t perfect, I often wonder what he does with hardware shipped to him (among other things), but there’s no evidence they pay him or are in cahoots, so that seems unfair. Please dig further with your contacts. Eventually I will write about this.”

“When employees went to San Diego to the fulfillment center, they noted all the concerns – return rate, quality, etc.”
      –Anonymous
For the sake of accuracy let’s just assume — at least for now — that Phoronix covers Purism stuff because Phoronix readers care about it. That seems a lot more plausible to me

“As we already are pretty certain,” she said, that “Forbes takes money – I mean, just even looking at the content Forbes puts out about certain tech is telling. Phoronix was a question, but is looking more and more like a media outlet that takes money too based on the Purism story.”

Phoronix recently did a story that’s actually an interview with Purism folks. But nothing suggested that it was promotional. Nothing that I could see.

“I believe Purism is starting other services/campaigns in hopes to raise enough to fulfill those previous orders,” she continued, “but it didn’t work out… (social media, tablet)

“That’s all the info I have on this.”

From what I can gather, Purism is struggling. Also, at this stage, workers are leaving (or get fired). This is not good.

Is there something malicious going on? Probably not, but people who fund-raised for this company are being left in the dark and it’s not fair to them.

The subject line of the above message was, “purism – where’s the hw?” [hardware] which to me says it all.

To me at least. There’s a story behind it. It’s an old story.

Half a decade (probably less) ago they said they’d ship a review unit for me to write about (just on loan, for me to pass on to the next person once done). I’d never buy their overpriced laptops, but they wanted me to assess. It’s them who suggested this to me; they had approached me. But it soon became apparent that they were inconsistent, unorganised, and unprofessional.

Did they ever ship?

No.

Never.

Just wasted my time.

Again and again.

Then the person was removed. The person who spoke to me. The one who approached me. The one who wasted my time.

Always excuses. Hardly any apologies.

“From what I heard Purism money is now going to Forbes and social media campaigns without the transparency of what is really happening.”
      –Anonymous
I posted online about that (at the time). Repeatedly even. It was a sort of warning. They seemed a tad suspicious to me. Trust was eroded and ever since then I never looked at them the same way. But the press carried on, then the FSF (endorsement), not to mention fund-raising for Librem 5.

At one point they said they’d connect me for an interview (to publish on my site) with the founder of Qubes OS. Did that ever happen? No.

You bet! Another round of false promises; a total waste of time.

So, in summary I view them as bad on communications, big on promises, never delivering anything. Anything. Later they make up a bunch of excuses.

And going back to the question, “where’s the hw?”

I wondered that many years ago, almost 5 years ago. I’ve lost count.

The dreams they put forth are dreams. KDE, GNOME…. on a small device. Nice, but will that be delivered? I heard they scattered around some units recently. Then I heard about technical issues. Now I hear about staff leaving.

Deep inside I hope they succeed, but I remain sceptical based on my personal experience.

Purism needs to speak out and be frank about what’s happening. I’ve been nothing but courteous towards them (I didn’t even name the person who let me down; maybe she quit, maybe she got fired), but courtesy should be a two-way street/bridge. The very fact that a project about “freedom” does not even offer “openness” is not compatible with the spirit upon which it managed to raise millions of dollars in funds, thanks in part to endorsements/promotions from FSF, GNOME, KDE and so on. Not to mention volunteer writers like myself who have mentioned them over a thousand times over the years.

Moments ago figosdev told me: “ive always been neutral/curious about these guys, particularly with the fsf endorsement. im very curious what oliva thinks.

“I believe Purism is starting other services/campaigns in hopes to raise enough to fulfill those previous orders…”
      –Anonymous
“but with all thats happened to people trying to create real freedom lately, is it possible this is another attack, rather than a real revelation? (i dont know how i can prove im neutral, this is just my reaction.)”

Tom Grz wrote: “I’ve always been suspicious, primarily because their products are high-priced, and if they really wanted to make a difference they should move down the population curve. Also, the president is a jerk.”

Some memes do target the president’s personality; I don’t know him personally. There’s a link there to a talk from him. “Todd Weaver has more to say about himself than the advertised subject matter,” Grz added later.

09.26.19

Linux is Not Free Software and It’s Getting Harder to Fix It

Posted in DRM, FSF, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Kernel at 3:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

AMD (now the owner of ATI) puts DRM in Linux through graphics drivers

Protest against ATI
Source: Protest against ATI nearly led to the arrest of RMS (2006)

Summary: The battle for digital freedom has long been lost in kernel space; earlier this year Techrights analysed the complete source code of Linux to find DRM already well entrenched inside the kernel and it keeps spreading further (Linux is becoming the very thing the FSF objected to in Windows Vista; it is “Open Source Proprietary Software”)

THE technical limits of removal of blobs from Linux had been reached long before DRM landed inside Linux. For instance, linux-libre issues were already mentioned the other day; blobs are "bugs". What does that mean? In simple terms it means that ‘fixing’ Linux by removing bad stuff from it (not the same as a fork) would produce an unsatisfactory outcome. Moreover, it gets worse over time. It’s not only “subpar” or “not ideal”; it can be very messy. Ask people who use linux-libre in their distro.

“In simple terms it means that ‘fixing’ Linux by removing bad stuff from it (not the same as a fork) would produce an unsatisfactory outcome.”Some months ago Phoronix mentioned in passing that AMD was putting DRM in Linux (the evil DRM, not Direct Rendering). So did Intel along with Google. Yesterday Phoronix posted this update to say: “The recent work over the past few months on HDCP support for Raven Ridge and newer. Granted, many open-source fans won’t be happy to hear about High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) support coming to the AMD Linux driver but it’s already been supported by the open-source Intel driver and NVIDIA’s proprietary driver. The HDCP support is actually good news in one respect as it’s likely at the behest of Google with AMD APUs now appearing in Chromebooks, similar to Google having pushed along Intel’s Linux HDCP support. This HDCP support could lead to enabling AMD to compete with other design wins for other Linux-powered devices. If you don’t want AMD HDCP support, at least for now they have it exposed as a Kconfig option so you can disable building the support via DRM_AMD_DC_HDCP.”

“What happened to “Bad Vista” and “Defective by Design”? We don’t suppose that a Stallman-less FSF would do any better against such threats to our freedom.”What’s most curious here isn’t that AMD follows Intel’s footsteps (that’s typical) but the lack of statement or complete silence from the EFF, the FSF, the FSFE…

All those who claim to have opposed DRM didn’t keep their eyes on this ball. Had they done so, maybe AMD would at least have second thoughts about it. But no… and so Linux gradually gets ruined in the same way the WWW was ruined, owing to inaction on EME (DRM inside the ‘standards’). The FSF did speak about it and organised against it. Why not HDCP? What happened to “Bad Vista” and “Defective by Design”? We don’t suppose that a Stallman-less FSF would do any better against such threats to our freedom.

As a side note, Phoronix tries to remain neutral; the above oughtn’t be interpreted as Michael Larabel’s endorsement of DRM. Larabel has thankfully highlight many of these things over the years and for that he deserves our gratitude and support.

08.27.19

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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