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

From: Chris Croughton
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Explanation of Tivosiation and problems - comments sought
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2006 12:46:32 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.3.28i

On Mon, Dec 18, 2006 at 11:20:26AM +0000, Alex Hudson wrote:
> On Mon, 2006-12-18 at 09:12 +0000, MJ Ray wrote:
> > Chris Croughton <address@hidden> wrote:
> > > 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 think there's a couple of different arguments being mixed up here.
> Personally, I have no problem with many types of equipment being
> off-limits either legally or physically, or even just morally. Having
> someone meddle with electronics they don't understand, to me, is as
> morally dubious as driving an unsafe vehicle on the road. I say this
> mainly as someone who has been electrocuted a number of times by faulty
> installations, though only once involving mains, and having seen a lot
> of equipment which I couldn't in good conscience use.

It's not just that.  One person with a mobile phone with hacked software
can screw it up for everyone else (just as they can with TCP/IP or other
protocols).  At the moment it is unlawful to have non-approved software
on a phone except for testing, so anyone who does it can be prosecuted,
but once you force manufacturers to make the things user-codable that
protection vanishes.

The same as with cars.  If you allow unauthorised people to load
modified firmware then anything can happen, including the deaths of
innocent people (usually not the one at fault).

> I also understand manufacturers whose warranty and/or support ends at
> the moment you open the box on something. 


> I think, though, the arguments about safety and support are separate
> from the general point about hardware being "locked" somehow. Having a
> Tivo prevent you from installing new software doesn't really improve the
> safety of the device (I assume), and while I could understand Tivo not
> supporting people who do that, that is surely a choice for the end user
> (and presumably Tivo wouldn't bleat at the fact that their obligation
> had ended early).

Doing it with a TiVo won't do anything which hurts anyone else, I agree
(although some of the versions they have in the US may be used to
defraud the content suppliers, I gather).

> I suspect the main issue is that there isn't a black/white "this is
> closed" test. There will always be certain types of limitations that
> exist, and once something becomes a continuum, arguments based on where
> you ought to be on that continuum become basically relativistic.


> I am slightly worried by certain corner cases of the way the GPLv3
> addresses signed binaries - e.g., if you're supplying firewalls to
> people, and the firewalls are meddle-proof (which IMHO is a feature, in
> this instance), you'd be more or less forced to provide per-user
> binaries signed with different keys in order to comply (as I understand
> it, anyway), which is a bit of a burden. I suppose there are likely
> other technological solutions to that problem, though.

There are a load of things about GPLv3 which worry me even more than
GPLv2 did, there are several pieces of software where I may well end up
not using them if they go to GPLv3.  But I'll have to determine that
after it actually appears.  I may just stick with the older GPLv2
versions which I can tolerate.

> I will be interested to see if GPLv3 makes any real difference to
> "Tivoisation" at the end of the day. I suspect the only benefit will be
> a wider range of manufacturers who are obviously violating the license,
> and to whom enforcement persuasion can be easily applied. Those who
> understand the license and want to use the software will just find other
> ways of locking the unit down - it could only make a difference where
> 100% of the software on the unit is covered by GPLv3 (or licenses with
> similar clauses), which AIUI is rarely the case.

Indeed.  Unless GPLv3 has a clause which says that it can't be used with
any non-GPL software (which would kill GPL'd software, because very few
people can afford to run a system with no non-GPL software on it) they
can always find or produce some essential bit of software which will
only work when they authorise it.

Chris C

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