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Richard Dreyfuss' dramatic reading of the iTunes EULA (cnet.com)
217 points by iwwr on June 8, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 53 comments

The "termination" one highlights a particularly absurd aspect of the EULA. You are supposed to do something specific on termination of the license, but they aren't required to tell you it's terminated?

Can you imagine if companies did this regularly? If people actually "listened" to what they're agreeing to when they use common software? They might actually look for alternative software.

New idea: A table on Wikipedia of software and the rights you give up by using it, compared to Free software and the rights you retain.

"New idea: A table on Wikipedia of software and the rights you give up by using it, compared to Free software and the rights you retain."

IMO, an obscure table on Wikipedia is not going to make anyone stop using software. EULAs were designed to make people "click through," and even if they DID read them, they generally wouldn't care if the software did what they needed it to do. I propose instead that whoever is interested in making Free software that they make quality software that people want to use. Apache, Firefox, and FileZilla are good examples of this (ok FileZilla may be stretching it, but see below). GIMP and OpenOffice are not.

Personally, I will jump through some hoops to get stuff working, but if it seems like it's going to be a time-sink just to edit a photo, open a .docx file or some other trivial task, I'm going to download and use whatever gets me there faster. I might get downvoted for saying this, but I'm just not going to waste my time configuring half-baked software when there are quality commercial alternatives available (and same goes in reverse, in the case of Apache, for example).

In complete honesty, what are some of the weaknesses of OpenOffice? Lest I seem like an OpenOffice fanboy, I will say that I expect that I will agree with a number of its weaknesses, but simply be unaware of them since I have not used Microsoft Office much since moving to Linux a few years ago. One weakness I do know of is that its .doc converter is not perfect.

I will tell you it's most important weakness.

Its templates suck hard.

Seriously. Open a recent version of Microsoft Office or Apple iWork and just start writing some letter or presentation. Chances are, it will look quite pleasant, if a bit generic. Do the same thing in OpenOffice/LibreOffice and it will look like a document in Word Perfect ca. 1995.

This is not to say that OpenOffice is not capable of producing nice-looking documents. Technologically, it is perfectly fine. But the templates are awful and sadly, that is what most people will notice when you give them a document written in OpenOffice.

Also, the GUI could use a bit work. LibreOffice is a step in the right direction, but it still looks a bit boring and clunky compared to its proprietary brothers. Case in point, my mother 'got' iWork Pages and MS Word after a short introduction. She might not know about all features, but she could find them and use them once we pointed out there existence to her. But over the course of about six months, we were unable to get her to use OpenOffice proficiently.

We use OpenOffice at work. Aside what the others said, it has horrible automatiritis, worse that old Word versions.

Example: I have a "Heading 1" style at 20pt, bold, italic. Start a new line at the end of a document, choose "Heading 1", OOo decides to make it 20pt, bold, but not italic. No idea why. Style setting is correct. Only fix is manually adding italic markup to the text.

IMO, its main weakness is that it feels like an outdated version of MS Office. It also makes users need to think a little but more. For example, it encourages you to make an informed decisions regarding your file format preference and be aware of their consequences with regards to file sharing, freedoms, etc. Something most users prefer to keep hidden. Spreadsheets and presentations aren't as pretty and even less pretty when opened in MS which means OO.org is pretty useless to anyone who uses these for work or school.

Basically its software for people who want free software or for people who don't want to pay for software, won't/can't pirate it, and either don't mind tiny inconveniences or have pretty basic needs.

Office is a software package that for many people, represents a big part of their computer literacy. Being a little different can be the same as making them a little dumber.

That said, its perfectly fine. IF MS fell off a bridge tomorrow most people would use it without much issues.

I'll have to disagree with two of those statements. To me MS Office (admittedly I haven't owned any version since the ribbon toolbar) looks much worse now than LibreOffice does (and as far as I know it hasn't deviated too far from OO.o).

As far as the file formats go, I like it to remind me to convert back to .odt when I'm done using a file in .doc because it uses less of my Dropbox. However, I've given LibreOffice to both of my parents now and they can barely tell the difference- once I set their initial preferences it stopped prompting them about file formats.

Sure you do. Most people don't want to know about file formats. Neither do I honestly. To people who have been using the ribbon toolbar (newer versions), OO feels like going back. And sure you can give it to your parents or anyone else, especially for home use. I did say it was perfectly fine.

What I'm saying is that by default it prompts you about file formats, but it's easy to set it once (as .doc, even) and never bother with it again.

Do you like the ribbon toolbar? I was under the impression that pretty much everyone hated it. Honest question.

Everyone hated it originally. Now people like it. It's just like most changes. I haven't used it much myself. I usually use Open Office.

Sure, setting is a possible "solution" but that implies there is a problem. Most people will do fine with it but most people probably also just wish their son would just install pirated Office for them like their neighbors.

The last time I tried to use Calc to generate some graphs it completely choked on tables with just a few thousand rows. I don't know how the competitors perform, but for me that was enough to switch to R for my plotting needs. R produced plots in less than a second where Calc took minutes just to open the file.

> One weakness I do know of is that its .doc converter is not perfect

That means it's DOA for a lot of users.

You are absolutely right but there are a great quantity of Hackers who will downmod you (or me) for simply suggesting that OpenOffice is not an adequate substitute for the M$FT version.

The dogmatism on these issues is sufficient deterrent and frequently I would rather avoid stating the truth than face the wrath of the FSF enthusiasts.

There are also people here who would downvote you for abbreviating Microsoft with a dollar sign.

We're all adults here, right? The fact that a for-profit company is a for-profit company is neither shocking nor novel.

"We're all adults here, right?" -- besides the fact that this is a patronizing way of putting things, history (and hacker new fads) shows us adults at times are no less capable of groupthink than children. Age is by no means sufficient for establishing wisdom.

Patronizing on purpose, I guess. I was trying to point out that the behavior was childish and not really welcome, at least not with me.

That's exactly the childish behavior though. People getting offended by others likes and opinions and downvoting because of their disagreement or offense.

Not to say that all FSF people write MSFT as M$FT -- it would only be a small subset. But getting angry, offended, annoyed by people that do this and then voting them down is childish.

It's not as much a question about being angry or offended, or even downvoting based on disagreement. It's more about (to me, anyway) indicating what kind of stuff doesn't add to the discussion.

A few days ago, I called out someone for making a pair of spelling mistakes in one name (spelling "Jimmy Hendricks" instead of "Jimi Hendrix"). I was downvoted because what I had to bring didn't add anything relevant to the conversation. And you know what? That's fine. I should have been downvoted. It was a totally pointless and irrelevant and smart ass thing for me to say, motivated by pedantry and affection for one of the best musicians to come from my home town.

Replacing the letter S with a dollar sign is the same sort of thing. At best, it's neutral and adds nothing, at worst, it's a distraction that will serve to discredit any valid point you're trying to make. It it ever had any novelty or cleverness, it wore off long, long ago.

If that was the entirety of the post, I'd say you would be correct. However, given that the point was defending the utility of Microsoft software against pure FOSS-inclined folk, I'd say it is pointless to downvote simply because the person in question (myself) referred to Microsoft as M$FT in the same posting. In fact, it is a bit like your behavior before -- did you downvote someone for misspelling Jimmy Hendrix's last name in an otherwise good post?

No, I didn't downvote based on the misspelling of Hendrix's name, it was basically a joke. But the joke wasn't really funny, and it wasn't really insightful.

I agree in my case that the substitution (i.e. S -> $) didn't add anything to the post. But I don't think it detracted much either. I'm surprised it is such a big deal to folks. It wasn't really the point and it was really just to heighten the contrast between FOSS enthusiasts and Microsofties.

Using the dollar sign is effectively an insult. Just like if I was to refer to Apply as crApple. How is it not childish to resort to name-calling like that?

If I starting my reply with "Look lhnz, you moron, ..." would you not downvote me or defend me if others did so?

I downvote people for things like M$ because I think that name-calling and inflammatory remarks aren't conducive to a worthwhile discussion.

I agree with you that people can get pretty worked up about the topic of free software, but I think you need to be a bit braver in the face of downvoting and disagreement. I can't ever recall seeing a respectful, well-thought post getting downvoted below 0 on hacker news.

One tactic for this situation is to post your truth then never look at the thread again. It might be rude to people who want to engage in honest discussion on your point, but if your post was a good one it will still benefit the hn community more than not posting at all, and you won't have to stress about troll replies.

Just be respectful. Assume the people reading your post are as smart as you and your post won't get hammered.

I've been downvoted below zero plenty of times -- sometimes when I am attempting to present a non-standard potentially provocative opinion -- but often not. I've also had comments that started off w/ a few upvotes and then went south to -4, and others that started off w/ a few downvotes and went up (this is less frequent).

I think part of the problem is you get penalized pretty quickly w/ the shading differences, and people are happy to knock you down. Believe it or not, the post you are responding to go at least one downvote before the upvotes boosted it back to normal text color.

As for your tactic for "post[ing] your truth" this doesn't work so much if it does get downvoted, since it fairly quickly becomes near invisible.

update: the post you are responding dropped to 0, went up to 3 (presumably both upvoted and downvoted along the way), and has dropped again to 1. I find these trends fascinating.

Excel has been top notch for as long as I've been using it.

For word processing however I've found OOo Writer a better alternative since it was renamed from Star Office.

(Ever tried sharing >25 page .doc with more than one person over a few weeks?)

I think Microsoft Word excels for the power user. My guess that once you get into advanced functions mail merge, change tracking, word art, etc. you will find that Microsoft's version has a lot more functionality and is easier to use.

Don't get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect for the FSF, for what it does, and for what it stands for. I am even willing to put aside some practicality (as I stated above) in order to use Free software. But when I have a job to do, and the candle is burning at both ends, I simply can't afford to fiddle with config files.

As an aside, I really admire RMS for sticking to his guns, especially after reading his biography. I don't appreciate the approach of "the Free way or the highway" (hah, no pun intended) because it's so uncompromising and shuns people like you and me from the "club". However, not a lot of people in this world can say they never compromised their ideology in the name of practicality, and I definitely admire that.

GNU has taken money for proprietary-friendly licensing of GNU projects. Entirely within their rights, of course, but they have certainly compromised their ideology for practicality in the past.

I mostly agree with your second statement -- building GNU tools on a proprietary OS was pretty much the only way to get started, especially considering the ongoing state of HURD, although I wouldn't necessarily go so far as to call that "compromising". Can you give me a reference for the proprietary-friendly licensing? Depending on exactly how friendly you mean, I didn't think their contributor agreement allowed them to do that.

Which of the terms of a license agreement like this do you think a significant number of people would find sufficiently onerous to make them go try to find something Free to use instead?

The purpose of creating such a table would be not to convince people to use alternative software, but just to expose the buried information, and to start a conversation with software users.

(Btw, personally, I'd prefer a .com informational website in the vein of www.riaaradar.com instead of a table on wikipedia.)

There's a recent South Park episode parodying the length and absurdity of Apple's EULA's and terms of agreement. The whole episode is great and does a pretty good job of goofing on Apple fanboyism.

"Due to copyright and other legal reasons, South Park video content cannot be viewed outside the United States."

Now add the fact that Richard Dreyfuss' fame and fortune comes mostly from the entertainment industry with its ridiculously restrictive licensing (which doesn't allow me to see his film work online, since I'm in a "wrong" country), and the irony comes full circle.

Personally, I'd rather click "Ok" on a absurd (and unread) EULA than to not have access to the product at all.

Your "no access to the product" of course includes a caveat, which is that you haven't paid for the product.

If you apply the same caveat to the EULA-bound Apple products, the net effect is the same: "no access to the product".

So no irony here, not even Alanis's flavor.

Which is exactly what the South Park episode parodies. Oh, the meta-irony!

I imagine this is what Wil Wheaton hears in his head when he's reading EULAs.

With that out of the way, would it be possible to represent EULAs in a simpler manner while still satisfying a company's legal department?

Probably - there's an excellent Planet Money story on doing the same thing with credit card agreements. I can only find two segments online. One where they talk to someone who writes them (http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/04/21/134633336/why-are-...), and one where they get 4th graders to read them (http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/03/18/134664249/the-frid...). That latter links to a simplified notice.

It takes a lot of effort, and they're only going to do it if required by law.

I find the link at the end of the article most interesting of all. http://www.thedreyfussinitiative.org/

Richard Dreyfuss is an outspoken civics activist and scholar. I believe he even lectures at Oxford. And it's no coincidence that he played Dick Cheney on Oliver Stone's W.

I do not want to accept iTunes EULA, but I feel like I'm blackmailed to do it: if I don't, I'll loose ability to synchronize/activate/restore my phone, I won't be able to update or download any applications for it. With cable-free iOS5 it looks like there isn't even a choice — you either accept iTunes EULA or you won't get past Welcome screen.

I'm locked-in and I have to perpetually "agree" to whatever Apple comes up with.

> I'm locked-in and I have to perpetually "agree" to whatever Apple comes up with.

If it bothers you, get out before you are locked in further. Stop buying new content via Apple's store, don't buy any more Apple (or Apple licensed) products and buy yourself something else to replace the functions the device has for you.

If the people who don't like being locked in but just accept it anyway and keep paying, Apple will never change as they won't need to. People like me who refuse to even join the game obviously don't seem to be a concern for them.

Perhaps try another kind of smartphone? There are some really nice models out there.

Hilarious. What we need is Shatner reading it, with bongs and all, a la Palin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpbSwSlP4Yc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mLvzARScak

I'm aching for someone to put a dub beat behind this, bongos, or some Greek Bouzouki.

Stop bashing Apple if you are using a MAC. Read its EULA, you agreed not to say anything bad about Apple when you first bought your Mac. :)

God knows what I agreed to when I installed XP.

So when is he doing one for MS, Adobe, Oracle, ....

Excellent! This is the best answer to the question: "Who reads the EULA?"

Does he take requests, I'd like to hear him do the "Think Different" ad again.

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