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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: Tue, 19 Dec 2006 17:15:44 +0000
User-agent: Heirloom mailx 12.1 6/15/06

Chris Croughton <address@hidden> wrote:
> On Mon, Dec 18, 2006 at 09:12:00AM +0000, MJ Ray wrote:
> > [...] 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.
> Free as in freedom or as in beer?

A lot of the people I'm thinking of had access to money for purchases
when starting, so I suspect the beeriness probably wasn't a major
factor. However, the lack of repeat licensing costs probably helped,
as it was less easy to commit to ongoing costs.  Fortunately, free as
in freedom usually leads to free as in beer sooner or later.

> I agree that many people wouldn't
> have got started if they'd had to buy the software (that was one of my
> main motivations for starting to use GCC, that it didn't cost me
> anything), but how many of them actually go so far as to modify and
> improve the code?  Your "a lot" could mean anything over about 10.

That is the sort of thing the public-funded surveys should be finding,
but they waste their money on poor systems with bad accessibility from
proprietary software suppliers (for example, IIRC, the EU funded
GIF-patenter UNISYS http://www.burnallgifs.org/archives/
to run its Open Source Observatory) and then they publish their
results under copyright terms which prevents their inclusion in free

For that reason, these numbers are limited and IMO weak: in the
FLOSSPOLS "FLOSS Developer Survey 2002" personalised survey of 361
developers (what a terrible name), 12% said they knew nothing and 53%
said they knew little about technical aspects before joining the FLOSS

> > [...] It was free software that made it easy and affordable for
> > them to start dabbling, find they like it and start learning
> Yes, note 'affordable'.   I know many programmers who got started with
> zero-cost software on cover disks [...]

The cost of the software is not the only cost.  Browsing through price
lists of some stats software training courses used to make me wonder
whether you need to ransack a small country to attend.  One
consequence of source code availability is that you can read the
source (or ask someone who can) to find out how something works.

> > [...] 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.
> You would buy your spares and servicing from unqualified people?  Remind
> me not to travel in any vehicle you've had serviced!

I try to buy them from qualified, competent people.  I don't care too
much whether they are original-maker-certified, which is closer to the
locked appliance problem: machines that only accept certified tools,
spares and servicing.

> > [...] 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.
> If the warranty is based on "was it opened" then it doesn't matter
> whether they did it themselves or someone else did it, they don't get
> the support and servicing (or they pay through the nose for it).

Wow, that sounds like a fantastic way for the supplier to punish or to
rid itself of uneconomic customers: just get the repairman to not lock
it when they're done fixing it temporarily.  Next time they come back,
"you've opened this!"

> [...] Thieves can
> break the locks on your house, does that mean that you leave your door
> unlocked because "they will ... try to bust the locks and so on"?

I have the keys to my house.  If I didn't have the keys, I would
object strongly to someone locking the house up after each job they
do for me.

> > Such locks should have no legal support and should be subject to the
> > usual anti-competitiveness barriers.
> It seems to me that banning locks is itself anticompetitive behaviour.

Indeed, it would be, and I've not noticed anyone suggesting that.  I'm
suggesting that such locks should have no legal support - breaking
locks on stuff you buy should be legal.

> If someone wants to make a locked PC, I simply won't buy it, I'll buy
> one which isn't locked.  As far as I have heard no one is passing a law
> that there must be locks on all computer hardware.  If they did then
> businesses would see such a rise in costs that it would quickly kill the
> economy, because they gain by using 3rd-party software far more than
> they'd lose by not having locks.

I admire the faith in 'frog' businesses being able to notice the water
being boiled around them.  I suspect it won't be done by laws at
first, but instead through bundling and other anti-competitive
cross-promotions ("this software costs X for a locked device or 2X for
an unlocked one") until they have a dominant market position.  At that
point, the screws will be tightened and they'll throw some of the
money they're printing at lobbying to establish their monopoly
(similar to getting governments to pay GMO patent fees for all their

> > [...] 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.
> Read the manual.

I don't seem to have one on file (why would it have a manual?  A mains
lead, a switch 0/1/F/R and some symbols - not a difficult interface.)

> And have a look at a PC power supply, the ones I have still say it.

I've looked and my Compaq's power supply doesn't say it.  Please
excuse me not dismantling the server cabinet to check those.

> So does my fridge, and the bug zapper, and the flash for
> my camera, and my external hard drives.

I don't have any of those in my office.

> They all also say things like
> "breaking the seal invalidates the warranty".  If your shredder really
> doesn't come with that sort of warning they are laying themselves open
> for a massive lawsuit (and please tell me which make and model it is, it
> would be worth buying it just to get the compensation).

It's an Acco Rexel that I was given. I hope that a compensation claim
would fail if you dismantle the shredder and dice yourself on its
blades, because the man on the Clapham Omnibus would call you a nit if
that event surprised you.

> Heck, even
> potted plants these days come with big labels saying "Do not eat!", and
> coffee in cups labelled "Contents are hot!"

And Sainsbury sells bags of nuts that say "Contains Nuts".  However,
it has been a long time since I've noticed a new appliance with a
notice saying not to open its casing.  Any reasonable person would
know the risks and it's a decision they should be allowed to make
without legally-supported obnoxious punishments from the device's

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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