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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Explanation of Tivosiation and problems - comments sought

From: MJ Ray
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Explanation of Tivosiation and problems - comments sought
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2006 09:12:00 +0000
User-agent: Heirloom mailx 12.1 6/15/06

Chris Croughton <address@hidden> wrote:
> On Fri, Dec 15, 2006 at 04:10:53PM +0000, Ciaran O'Riordan wrote:
> > [...] Normally, when our software spreads, we gain
> > more developers as some of the users will know how to program, and
> > they will make small or large changes, and many will publish their
> > improvements so that everyone, including the non-programmers, can
> > benefit from the general ability of the community to modify the
> > software.
> Out of interest, how many good programmers has that actually created?

I don't know if I'm any good, but I've hacked everything from the
kernel to desktop applications, via ghostscript drivers, apache
add-ons and other stuff in between.  Myself and a lot of other
non-computer-scientists wouldn't be programming on the scale we do now
(far outside our original fields), if free software didn't exist.

I think some other statisticians are probably good programmers.  I
know English teachers and former receptionists who produce pretty good
software.  It was free software that made it easy and affordable for
them to start dabbling, find they like it and start learning.

> I don't see the locking of an appliance so that unqualified people can't
> monkey with it a a bad thing.

I do.  If I can't buy servicing and spares on the open market, it
limits the servicers and suppliers I can choose, reducing the
incentives for workers to provide reliable service at reasonable cost.

> I've seen too many 'faults' which were
> caused by the user messing with things they didn't understand, and
> wasted too much time trying to debug (or even reproduce) things caused
> by a user who claims that "I didn't change anything!" (except, as they
> admit later, for the things they changed "which made it better"),

As with software, locking hardware doesn't stop those people.  They
will still interfere, trying to bust the locks and so on, then claim
it was a previous repairman who busted the locks.  To detect user
changes, it is necessary to record the previous state of the system
and run some tests that detect the changes.  As soon as the system is
out of the supplier's control, it cannot be trusted as unmodified,
regardless of whether the supplier tries to lock it.

The main casualty of locks are the people who know what they are doing
and the people who are willing to take the risks in order to learn.
Such locks should have no legal support and should be subject to the
usual anti-competitiveness barriers.

> and in
> many areas allowing unqualified (and unsupervised) people to mess with
> them is downright dangerous and will get the manufacturer sued.  "No
> user-servicable parts inside".

How many appliances still say that?  None that I've in my office,
as far as I can tell.  Even the shredder has exposed screws that
invite one to pop the case and play with the blades if you think
you're hard enough.

Hope that explains,
MJ Ray - see/vidu http://mjr.towers.org.uk/email.html
Somerset, England. Work/Laborejo: http://www.ttllp.co.uk/
IRC/Jabber/SIP: on request/peteble.

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