Ubuntu No Blobs By Default Petition

Posted in Action, Petitions, Ubuntu at 6:03 pm by Shane Coyle

Please, if you are so inclined, add your name to the UbuntuWiki petition.

We the undersigned petition you to reconsider your decision of including binary drivers by default in the next Ubuntu release. We believe, as you do, that it should be as easy as possible for end users to enable extra functionality via closed software when necessary and if they so wish, but only after an explicit acknowledgement and only after being informed about the issues at stake and possible alternatives. Users can be given the option to install closed drivers/software during installation or soon after installation or when an application that may require such software is run for the first time. It is a small change, but one that will avoid dividing the community on an issue that many hold dear, without sacrificing ease of use and product appeal. We therefore encourage you to opt for easy-installation as opposed to pre-installation.

Realize, this is not an anti-bling stance, but rather a pro-GPL one. As I have stated before, I am all for 3-D desktops and wireless access, I use both, but it is an end-user decision to taint the kernel.

Let Feisty install with the open source drivers, then have a customization dialog on first boot (and also some config checkbox somewhere for later) that says there are more powerful, but proprietary, drivers available and the user can click “install now” to download and install (explaining why its not installed by default). Right next to it, put a button that sends an email to the detected hardware vendor complaining about this extra step. Then, vendors will see just how many customers it does affect and act; by Ubuntu doing it for the end user without interaction, there will be no market backlash or incentive to open up.

Maybe by the time Wacky Walloby (or whatever the next next Ubuntu will be) is being prepared, the vendors will have gotten the message and this will be irrelevant, but right now it is not the right move. Ubuntu is getting very popular, this is the time to use that install base to actively petition the hardware vendors to recognize their needs as a market, not cave-in to hardware vendors who are ignoring their customers.

Weekend Reading – Novell, Microsoft, and Mono

Posted in GNOME, Microsoft, Mono, Novell at 5:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microvell’s Dark Shadow

Novell has all of the intelligence it gathered and software it created during the days when Microsoft was its arch-nemesis. Is any of that ancient stuff still useful? Without a doubt. Things haven’t changed as much as you think. Novell just didn’t have permission to dig in its own archives.

Linux Deal: Too Good to Last?

As a Microsoft partner, how seriously should you take this deal? Analysts George Weiss and John Enck of Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner had some solid advice in a research note for IT that applies equally well to partners. “Consider the publication and execution of a joint Microsoft-Novell roadmap as the critical missing piece of this agreement, with the potential to make or break its long-term value,” the pair wrote.

The companies promised a first roadmap in March. If there’s no document by then, look elsewhere for your next opportunity.

Seth Nickell made some interesting comments on Mono back in May of 2004:

Why Mono is Currently An Unacceptable Risk

With this agreement, you have turned your back on the rest of the Linux community by deciding to stop giving back to it. This is visible in the form of Mono, which now has more of a patent shadow over it then ever before, and so is unusable by the rest of the community, and in the form of the closed-source endeavors that you have chosen to pursue with Microsoft in the future

Talk About Defective By Design – The Cost of Vista

Posted in Deception, DRM, Hardware, Microsoft, Vista, Windows at 3:34 pm by Shane Coyle

Microsoft Windows Vista, with its content protection systems “could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history” and hardware providers are being forced to drink the proverbial kool-aid as well.

The worst thing about all of this is that there’s no escape. Hardware manufacturers will have to drink the kool-aid (and the reference to mass suicide here is deliberate [Note D]) in order to work with Vista: “There is no requirement to sign the [content-protection] license; but without a certificate, no premium content will be passed to the driver”. Of course as a device manufacturer you can choose to opt out, if you don’t mind your device only ever being able to display low-quality, fuzzy, blurry video and audio when premium content is present, while your competitors don’t have this (artificially-created) problem.

Of course, the impact of this DRM system will be felt industry-wide through higher costs associated with hardware design, software design and testing, and will eliminate open-source hardware since it requires operational details of the device be kept confidential.

Much more ominous are the impacts on actual Vista users, including Microsoft’s ability to disable drivers and hardware it deems unsafe on "your" pc, rendering them useless. The article also points out how malware writers intent on disabling a system could easily use these features against a Vista PC.

Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about Vista’s DRM are the unintentional side effects, and I feel the intentional effects are quite disquieting in and of themselves. Consider this rather plausible scenario:

Beyond the obvious playback-quality implications of deliberately degraded output, this measure can have serious repercussions in applications where high-quality reproduction of content is vital. For example the field of medical imaging either bans outright or strongly frowns on any form of lossy compression because artifacts introduced by the compression process can cause mis-diagnoses and in extreme cases even become life-threatening. Consider a medical IT worker who’s using a medical imaging PC while listening to audio/video played back by the computer (the CDROM drives installed in workplace PCs inevitably spend most of their working lives playing music or MP3 CDs to drown out workplace noise). If there’s any premium content present in there, the image will be subtly altered by Vista’s content protection, potentially creating exactly the life-threatening situation that the medical industry has worked so hard to avoid. The scary thing is that there’s no easy way around this – Vista will silently modify displayed content under certain (almost impossible-to-predict in advance) situations discernable only to Vista’s built-in content-protection subsystem.

Please read the entire paper, the scope of the impact of Vista and its DRM scheme is almost too much to imagine.

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