Some Slashdot musings…..

Posted on by Chris Warburton

This was originally a comment of mine on Slashdot, in reply to someone saying how Microsoft’s real customers are th NSA, FBI, CIA, etc., but I thought I’d put it here:

Spying is most effective when it targets the largest number of people. Windows is currently the most used desktop OS, thus is the most likely target. If that changes then it’s no skin off their [NSA, FBI, etc.] nose, thus there’s no value to Microsoft in going out of their way to support such ‘customers’ (apart from direct bribes, of course, such as, for example, disregarding certain anti-trust conviction requirements/punishments).

Personally I’d say their customers are Time Warner, Universal, EMI, etc. Those guys can choose Microsoft’s Media Player/Centre/codecs/DRM or take their business elsewhere. By coaxing them into the Windows fold Microsoft has the ability to deliver a desirable (in mass audience terms) ‘product’ which, due to exclusive contracts, nobody else can offer, ie. buy Windows and you can get HD quality Hollywood films and CD quality big name music streamed to your machine. Linux can’t offer that, Apple are currently closest (lagging behind on the movies) but wouldn’t be in Microsoft’s world, and nobody else can even try to compete, since it is not a technical problem, it is a legal one, and legalities can be arbitrarily created (there may be a chance in emerging economies, for example if a Linux program/distro/vendor set up a deal with Bollywood or far eastern film industries).

Establishing such services as standard, ie. ‘That’s what computers do’, would cement Windows more firmly than any amount of closed-yet-reverse-engineerable protocols or formats would. Just look at WINE. The only way to stop interoperability is by making it illegal using measures such as the DMCA (which would be a cruel irony considering Microsoft’s current issues in the EU), and labelling anyone attempting to deliver such newly established ‘basic functionality’ in an alternative fashion a ‘pirate’.

These are measures to keep Windows users consensually enslaved because, after all, slaves don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. Some are waking up to the fact that their guaranteed meals aren’t considered fit for kebab meat by those not locked in, but the vast majority have been brought up knowing that their masters know best and don’t dare lose their meagre lot in life for the unknown promise of more.

I avoid Windows like the plague, and I also despise the increasingly prevalent ‘content consumer’ idea of human beings (eyeballs, wallets, page hits, bums on seats (although that one’s been around for a very long time)). I find it dividing, since to me the idea of ‘user generated content’ being a surprising phenomenon doesn’t make sense considering that every piece of ‘content’ out there has been made by someone.

To me the best way to stop Microsoft, spread Linux (or some other Free Software system), and in turn make the world a less depressing place (ie. beating armchair culture since TV is a depressant (which is why I don’t have one). YouTube has the potential to go one way or the other. Currently is looking rather sad, which is just as well I don’t have Flash) is to push the creation skills of Free Software. On Windows you might be able to stream more videos than it is possible to watch in a lifetime, but on Linux every tool you could want for drawing, animating, video editing, writing, music creation, 3D modelling, programming, etc. is right there, available out of the box, for the same price as the OS: Free. Experimenting with programming, for example, is enjoyable on Ubuntu since Python is built in by default and any libraries I might want are a Synaptic click away. On Windows (going the ‘official’ way) I need to fork out for each and every language compiler/IDE I want to try, have to scour the web for awkward-to-install libraries and pay again and again for simple little plugins and time savers. Forget ‘Developers, developers, developers, developers’, Windows is designed as a conduit for selling crap software to dumb users purposefully kept in the dark.

Fostering a creative, imaginative, educated but most of all proactive population is a worthy goal to work towards, rather than locking down every useful innovation to ensure a revenue stream from some very tired, apathetic eyeballs with wallets to some useless FUD campaigners in order to pay the lawyers used against those very same ‘consumers’.