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I Don't Want To Be Part of Your Ecosystem (shkspr.mobi)
344 points by edent on Nov 23, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 227 comments

There are three things I want to do with PC technology: store stuff, run programs (which may mean consuming the things I've stored), and stay connected with friends.

None of these should be dependent on location, hardware, or my personal affiliations. Geesh, it's almost 2013 folks. I should be able to walk up to a panel at a store, have it recognize me, and have all of my stuff available. Do whatever I would do at home using my PC if I like. Walk away from the panel and it resets. There's no clue or trail that I was even there.

We keep trying to use these metaphors about how the internet should work. It's a walled garden. It's a bazzar. It's a type of newspaper subscription. It's a club for friends. Each metaphor works okay -- for a while. But then the people making money off the metaphor start trying to make sure that we never grow past their little idea of happiness.

The tech community is smarter than this. Location-free, hardware-free, non-walled technology is the goal. Let's start going there.

The tech community is cleverer than this yes, but the consumers aren't and businesses still will use any tactic possible to milk their accumulated crop of consumers dry and protect them from other wolves.

Better start listening to stallman if you want all that (I certainly do).

Better start listening to stallman if you want all that

Why? Stallman has written some software and posited some interesting ideas, but his philosophical bent lacks any kind of holistic approach to problem solving in the real world.

When Stallman tries to extend his ideas to larger contexts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Hurd), he fails because he's not a big picture guy. He's a laser-focused ideologue.

If you want that Star Trekky future, you're better off listening to the words of those who built business models (Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Walt Disney, etc.), not operating system libraries and software licenses.

I think you missed his point, and mine.

His solution is simply that the real world is broken and needs fixing, which it sorely does.

If you want that Star Trekky future, throw the corporations out who want to partition everyone into markets like cattle. Then build stuff for the good of humanity, not for cash. Oh wait - there's GNU already in that space.

Jobs, Bezos, Disney just worked out how to sell shit, not respect our freedoms or improve the world.

You're apparently not keeping up with the times, Stallman is imminently practical and realistic:


There's also the whole GPL, one of, if not the, most widely used software licenses in the world.

Well, one could argue that they improved the world in certain focused ways. For example, Amazon and Apple have raised the bar in online sales, delivery logistics, smartphones, tablets, and personal computers.

This doesn't absolve them from the fact that some of their revolution has taken place behind a paywall. But to say that they haven't improved the world because it didn't happen perfectly, is not quite correct.

My life - and that of many of my peers - is substantially better due to the actions of Amazon and Apple.

"is substantially better"

That's ... not the normal definition of "substantial".

Your life is materially more convenient, probably much much more so. The argument here is that the small and widely distributed negatives inherent in that model affect social things that are literally "substantial" and the gain in individual convenience is a poor tradeoff.

All I mean that I can point to several specific ways in which my life is improved ("materially more convenient", if you prefer) because of the actions of these companies.

I'm not sure what specifically you mean by "small and widely distributed negatives", but the balance of convenience against cost is something that each customer decides. If being a customer of Apple, Amazon (or whoever) is perceived as a net benefit, people become a customer. If not, then they don't.

But the argument was that they "improved the world", not that they were a good cost/benefit tradeoff for each individual consumer.

One of those has to take negative externalities (aka social/legal consequences or the "small and widely distributed negatives" I was referring to) and the other does not.

You don't get a "star trek future" by trading freedom for micro-improvements in convenience.

my life, and that of many of my peers, is substantially better due to the actions of stallman and torvalds.

Agreed - me too!

That is a tricky issue and comes down to financing riskier innovation. It is worth remembering that GNU originally existed as a way to clone a non free system in a way that made it free.

A lot of open source development is also done or funded by corporations to help build commoditize the parts they need in order to create platforms for software and media that are in many cases fairly walled garden.

Stallman and the like may have produced fine C compilers and text editors but it would seem unlikely for them to come up with something like the iPhone.

"Stallman and the like may have produced fine C compilers and text editors but it would seem unlikely for them to come up with something like the iPhone."

Actually they did, it was called 'Openmoko' and it was released before the iPhone (albeit there wasn't much between the two). It wasn't just an open source smart phone OS, but also open hardware as well.

Sadly it never took off: partly because iOS (and later, Android) were busy reshaping the mobile landscape; and partly because corporations started adopting Linux for mobile OSs which dragged many of the hacker crowd away from independent set ups.

As to whether Openmoko would have succeeded if it was conceived a couple of years earlier; or whether it such a project was too ambitious without corporate backing, i don't know. But for a while there was an a community driven smart phone available to buy.

I googled that and one of the first results was "OpenMoko Train Wreck", a video showing how clunky the phone was and how poor the UI is (teeny tiny software keyboard etc).

Looked more like a replacement to early versions of Windows mobile.

I suppose the question is why is this, is it just that the folks who are driven to open source development don't have a sense for aesthetics and convenient UIs?

While that's true, you have to bare in mind that the project barely made it past alpha stage and was anything but stable. So it's not really fair to compare OpenMoko to the matured interfaces we enjoy today.

Plus if you look at how long the iPhone was in development and compare that against the development time of OpenMoko, then I think you'll agree that what they achieved was impressive project given the lack of resources they had compared to businesses such as Apple and Google.

"Looked more like a replacement to early versions of Windows mobile."

Given that we're talking pre-iOS and Android, it's not really all that surprising. Back then, most smart phone OSs were pretty crap. Regardless of whether you believe that Apple innovated the mobile industry, there was a huge leap forward in OS design around then; and Openmoko pre-dates that leap.

>given the lack of resources they had compared to businesses such as Apple and Google.

I think this is exactly the kind of issue that crusso was speaking to. Richard Stallman et. al. don't have a realistic solution to this problem. "Just work for free" isn't realistic. "Just get paid by IBM" sounds good until you realize that you're essentially on IBM's IT staff and they happen to open source their tools. They're not producing the products that get ordinary people off the couch and opening their wallet. The closest they'll get is producing a single technical ingredient that someone else will use to make such a product.

That's sort of my point in that the "disruptive" products that really move the needle in terms of expectations seem to be produced as proprietary products first.

This means they get hype and first mover advantage which in turn means they get a chance to tie up the best deals for content etc and get lock-in.

Things often work out that way, but there are exceptions. For example Firefox raised expectations of what a good browser can be like. But then I guess you could argue that Firefox has enjoyed large contributions from Google and thus isn't a true community project either. So I'm not really sure where to draw the line.

However I don't want to sound argumentative as you do make a valid point there. It just wasn't clear from your earlier iPhone comparison that you were talking about disruptive products specifically (or perhaps I misread your post to mean that community-lead smart phones could never exist?). Either way, I think we essentially agree here :)

> I suppose the question is why is this, is it just that the folks who are driven to open source development don't have a sense for aesthetics and convenient UIs?

No. They do have a sense of aesthetics and convenient UIs. Ubuntu is an example. Open Source follows the trial-and-error iterative approach. If the project has enough momentum, the end is bound to be near-perfect, having gone through so many iterations and decisions by the users itself.

However, the problem with Open Source + Hardware is that hardware is too slow and unnatural for iterative development.

Yes this is true, but to be 100% honest, it wasn't finished. If you remember very early Android prototypes, they were in about the same place.

It's a matter of resources. It was a very ambitious project, and they didn't have the funding behind it that Apple and Google do.

I think you overestimate the importance of the smartphone. A free smartphone is still tied to a non free network and to be honest, isn't required for humanity to function. It's an accessory, not a necessity.

If they disappeared overnight, the world would still turn.

The same is not true for the text editor and compiler.

The same could be said about most pieces of technology. If emacs disappeared tomorrow the HN server would probably be crushed under the weight of angsty developers but stuff would still keep happening. It's not like GNU developed the first C compiler or text editor either, Stallman seems to believe the priority should be on developing free alternatives to things that have already been made (i.e the risk taken) by a proprietary company.

This is reflected in the FSF "high priority" list:


If you want a Star Trek future you need to develop all the little pieces of technology that are required incrementally.

>A free smartphone is still tied to a non free network

You know what else is a non-free network? The entire internet.

Clearly humanity would still turn if computers didn't exist at all, but I would argue that the internet has been directly responsible for more social change than the text editor and the compiler. If you want to trivially argue that the text editor and compiler are prerequisites for the internet, then I would point out that James Maxwell should deserve far more credit than either Steve Jobs or Richard Stallman.

>The same is not true for the text editor and compiler.

Now I know you're joking.

Given that the internet is dependent on the text editor and the compiler, you can't separate them like that.

Sure you can. In fact, I preemptively responded to that argument in my post.

>>If you want to trivially argue that the text editor and compiler are prerequisites for the internet, then I would point out that James Maxwell should deserve far more credit than either Steve Jobs or Richard Stallman.

More importantly, I don't think that's what meaty was saying, since that statement is so trivial that it's meaningless. C'mon, give him a little credit!

I don't think it's that trivial an argument - firmware is being constantly modified to help the internet expand and secure itself, and software is in the same boat; the same cannot be said of Maxwell's work. While Maxwell was foundational, it's hardly in the state of flux that code is in.

Currently , there's some open source research into neglected diseases. This is certainly a high risk project. I hope it succeeds.

I could imagine open source would work well for non-profits, some of them doing high risk projects(like the green revolution, or gates's work). It's also possible it would work well for university research(maybe with some change of universities operation models).

Open source is relatively new. Maybe it will take time to see what kind of high risk projects it's good for.

> His solution is simply that the real world is broken and needs fixing, which it sorely does.

That's not a solution, that's a problem.

Long after Steve Jobs is relegated to the dustbin of Past Industrialists and Apple has regressed to the mean, Stallmans work will still be moving both technology and our society forward in ways that are meaningful and positive.

Sorry, but that is utter bullshit. Somehow Stallman's importance is somewhere in foggy future with a lot of handwaving and FUD. The real relevance of his ideas is already in the past. I won't be surprised a bit if at the time you are talking about most OSS will be under MIT/BSD type licenses not GPL.

Strong disagree. GPL licensed software is powering an ever increasing fraction of all devices. Far more than I would have ever believed in only a decade ago.

There are some interesting network effects at work here. Th e more GPL'd software there is out there the bigger the chunk you have to write yourself (or pay someone to write) would have to be if you want to forego it.

Hence Linksys and Android.

Those would have never gotten as far as they did without the GPL's software underneath their externally visible features as a foundation to build on.

Linux on the desktop may never happen, but linux in your pocket is pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point.

Android is an interesting example. Google did use a linux kernel but threw out everything GPL they possibly could above that, to the point of writing their own libc. So I wouldn't really call it an example of GPL winning. It's equally an example of how it was necessary to throw away piles of code because it was GPL's and couldn't be used in commercially compatible way.

The GPL was never intended to eliminate NIH Syndrome.

Android could have based itself on a BSD, or even xnu, and done just fine.

Internet killed GPL. AGPL tried to win the Inernet, and the corporations dodged it.

The internet killed the GPL? Tell that to my home servers.

Most of the internet runs on a kernel that is GPL'd.

Digital rights/freedoms is becoming more of an issue not less. That makes Stallman more relevant every day.

"The dustbin of Past Industrialists" includes Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, R.J. Reynolds, Eli Whitney, and a fair number of others who are in our history books, whose names have entered the common vernacular, or both. I'm playing Devil's Advocate here, but it's still a serious question: is the reason we don't hear about the Stallmans of their eras in similar fashions because there simply weren't any, or because as it turns out, it's not the successful industrialists who end up in the dustbin, historically speaking?

I don't mean to downplay Stallman's contributions, and as maddening as I frequently find him I think he makes some very important points. The software world needs people like him. But I honestly think anyone who imagines that Stallman is going to be a household name in 70 years while Steve Jobs and Bill Gates will be forgotten is engaging in a hell of a lot of wishful thinking. I do hope Stallman is remembered then (and ideally favorably), but Jobs and Gates undoubtedly will be.

(As an aside, I think it's somewhat interesting that Jobs is the current decade's boogeyman, while Gates was the last decade's. Maybe this is because they're both deserving of it, but I suspect it has a whole lot more to do with "tall poppy syndrome" than we care to admit.)

I think Diesel might be a bit more along the lines of Stallman, than Ford.

IIRC he wanted to make sure the Diesel engine remained an open design -- a design that was made to use biofuel -- for the betterment of mankind, basically.

Then someone threw him in the English channel (or so it would seem), and we got gasoline engines.

If you want a Star Trek future, the last people you should be listening to are Jobs or Disney: http://www.peterfrase.com/2010/12/anti-star-trek-a-theory-of...

>as Gene Roddenberry presented it in The Next Generation and subsequent series, is that it appears to be, in essence, a communist society.

Wow, that's frustrating. It's not communist, it's post scarcity! Why on earth would we still have capitalism (i.e. a system for allocating finite resources) when resources are unlimited? Once you can have anything you can imagine by walking up to a machine and telling it what you want, what would you be buying with money?

Communism, in contrast, is a different approach to dealing with finite resources. That is, if all resources were infinite we wouldn't need communism either.

Otherwise the article looks good, but I suspect if we really arrived at post scarcity and all that was forcing us to slog into the office was IP, there would be a revolution in short order.

Why on earth would we still have capitalism (i.e. a system for allocating finite resources) when resources are unlimited?

The same damn reason we still have capitalism now, when industrial productivity keeps rising to all-time highs each year! Because some people view human life as a competition for hierarchical rank, and believe so strongly in that vision that they impose it on the rest of us.

marshall brain's "manna: two visions of humanity's future" does a good job of exploring this problem.


Except for being one of the worst-written pieces of science fiction I've ever read in my life, yes. And by "worst-written", I mean that even its so-called "utopia" is in fact a totalitarian state.

oh it has no real literary qualities - it might as well have been written as a counter-factual world history piece. But the idea it contains is interesting. Unrealistic (given current tech), but interesting.

Wow that was really interesting!

Startrek has huge resources, but not infinite. We (in western Europe and north America) reached a point of sufficient resources around 1970. Yet we still have homeless starving on our streets while the 1% who own 90% of the resources cruise around in their super yachts. If we continue this broken system then by the 24th century a typical 1%er might own 30 planets, a fleet of starships and a dilithium crystal mine, but I don't see why he would be anymore willing to share this hoarded wealth with the rest of humanity than the 1%ers of today are.

Indeed, the political resistance to welfare systems in the USA has always saddened me. It seems to me that at a certain point, a post-industrial first-world country has exactly two ways to continue its ascendance and raise the quality of life for its citizens: You can expand in an imperialist fashion (see: Britain in the 19th century, USA in the early 20th century, Germany in the late 1930's in dramatic fashion). Or you can become a welfare state (see: Germany post-WWII, Sweden, France).

The USA has a cultural heritage of expansionism. In the 1850's, losing everything was no biggie, you just moved to California and started digging. In the 1940's, losing everything was no biggie, you just joined the army and shipped out for the Philippines. But by the 1960's when imperialism more or less became untenable (see: the entirety of Africa), there were no more safety nets. America continued in its headstrong belief that no man needs charity, that hard work will provide opportunities for anyone who looks.

The rich always want to be richer. There's two things to do when a first-world country exhausts its own easily-exploitable resources: acquire more resources by force, or redistribute wealth. Otherwise the rich will exploit the only remaining source of wealth which is a country's middle-class.

30 planets and only one dilithium mine? I'd be having a stern talk with the procurement agent over that!

>Once you can have anything you can imagine by walking up to a machine and telling it what you want, what would you be buying with money?

Anything? I can have anything I want? My own personal Tal Mahal? One for all my friends? How about a full-size replica of Jupiter? Oh, and I's really love a Dyson sphere for Christmas.

Our current capabilities are immensely greater than anything dreamed up during neolithic times, but we're still unsatisfied. There is no reason to believe that further technological progress will change that condition.

These are some pretty silly examples. What would you do with another Jupiter? Do you really think that 100 years from now the 1% will be devoting all their resources to buying their own Jupiter?

There are still lots of reasons we need capitalism. As long as humanity has to clean toilets and take out the trash there will be people who will be willing to pay to not have to do that. But at some point we will have illuminated every single one of those tasks. At that point the gain we get from the rat race vs what it costs us will flip and people will be ready to trash the system. We're not there by a long shot even if people from centuries ago would have thought we are. I'm not saying this will happen in my lifetime or the lifetime of my great grand kids. But I'm confident it will happen eventually.

> I suspect if we really arrived at post scarcity and all that was forcing us to slog into the office was IP, there would be a revolution in short order

Post-scarcity doesn't happen all at once, it happens to different resources at different times.

There are a huge number of us slogging into the office for IP as well as the challenge of erecting artificial barriers in front of newly non-scarce resources in order to extract profit by imposing artificial scarcity on them.

So I have my doubts that the revolution would arrive in "short order" although I'm optimistic enough to believe it would arrive sooner or later.

This seems way off topic but too fun not to discuss

Even in a world with replicators someone gets the penthouse, someone else gets the first floor. Someone gets the 1br apartment in Detroit. Someone else gets the beachfront mansion.

That's just one example of the things a replicator will not make less scarce.

Another is people's time. Want 200 people to make assets for the next Call of Duty game? Want them to all be talented? You're going to have to give them something. Probably money so they can try to get one of the more desirable living spaces.

> Want 200 people to make assets for the next Call of Duty game? Want them to all be talented? You're going to have to give them something. Probably money so they can try to get one of the more desirable living spaces.

Why would you like to make a next CoD? Because you think it's fun and many people would enjoy it. You know they want it. There are likely to be more than 200 talented people wanting to take part in making this game. For fun, because they like the idea, they want the game to be made.

In post-scarcity society you and others won't have much extrinsic motivators; the intrinsic ones would run the society.

what would you be buying with money?

Services. Goods aren't the only resource one pays for. Peoples time and energy will still be scares.

What services? Services are generally things people want done but don't want to or can't do themselves. In a star trek world I would expect these things that are still relevant (e.g. tax support services and the like obviously wouldn't exist anymore) would be handled by robots, which themselves are made by the replicators.

There would still be things to do of course. But they would be things that people want to do and wouldn't need to charge for since they no longer have rent or food/utility bills to pay.

People who want to join and can qualify for Starfleet Academy (and less whimsical occupations) will be in relatively short supply.

What about entertainment?

Right now, if we look at just music, there are some people in music because they love it and it's their life. There are many more people who are there because if they make it they'll have insane amounts of money. But pretty much no one can do it for free because everyone has to buy food.

If there were no more money and no more bartering, only the first group would stay in music and they wouldn't need to be paid for it because they wouldn't need money.

I expect things like real TV would go away because that kind of stuff is mostly to push advertisement and without money what would you be advertising?

Services can be exchanged without money and interchangeably between goods as well.

I do this regularly. I rebuilt someone's Windows machine the other day in exchange for the fruit trees in my garden being pruned.

This works only if the two nodes in the network have exact matching needs/abilities. This is rare even in small groups.

If you will, money is a message is a message passing protocol. I don't care what's on the other side and how the message (money) was generated - all I care is that I received a message (money) and then I sent other messages (money) to other actors in the network (obviously I sent back something in exchange and so do the other nodes). Then they generated their messages and so on. This way all I need to know are the nodes immediate to me to work it out. I don't care how complex the message graph becomes, it's all irrelevant to me and to others as well. If you don't have that then you have to broadcast all that you offer and all that you need and somehow create the graph to work it out all out. Money is a cheap way of abstracting all that.

That's not post-scarcity. That is inefficiency. And it is still capitalism. Money is a bookkeeping system for IOUs, not an economic operating structure.

It's a barter/trade system, not capitalism.

Capitalism is primarily about generating profit, and there's no profit without money.

It all went downhill after the Enclosure Acts.

Even under barter and trade, there is profit. To go with the GP's example, one persona valued having his trees pruned more than he valued the time he spent upgrading the computer, and vice versa. Both parties profited and ended up better off or else they wouldn't have made the trade.

The lack of money involved just makes it potentially less efficient if the trade isn't well balanced, or potentially more efficient if they can avoid the friction of the taxman by avoiding money.

open source is a co-operation model. Historically new and sucsessfull cooperation models(democracy, capitalism , scientific method) had a larger effect than new products and services.

One interesting example is the industrial revolution: some claim that the technical innovations at that time are the result of England becoming a capitalist state based on competition(starting with land owners encouraging competition between farmers on productivity).

Will stallman succeed ? I don't know. But i wonder if the option he opened of extremely open source software has made companies more receptive to various kinds of open source licenses and business models that led to the large open source ecosystem we have today.

How is capitalism a cooperation model? How is Democracy, for that matter?

Democracy - The ability to vote peridically and demonstrate , the constitution are all various institutions that give power to citizens to influence the decisions of the ruler.

Capitalism - a combination of cooperation and competition by companies to achieve goals many consumers cooperate on getting(by paying). BTW when a few companies compete on the same goal , it's also a kind of cooperation.

Capitalism is built on cooperation - its foundation is mutually beneficial trades.

Not to split hairs, but that would be "free markets".

Free markets are neither necessary nor sufficient condition for capitalism. Compare the US in its heyday vs. the present day "state capitalism" in Europe and China.

Funny you should use those companies as examples of RMS's disconnection from "problem solving in the real world," since Apple's resurgence over the past 10 years is directly attributable to their adoption of BSD Unix as the basis for OSX, and Amazon's (and Pixar's) tech stack has been highly dependent (dependent) on Linux and Perl (Python in Pixar's case) over the years. All of these technologies owe all or most of their existence (existence) to the efforts of RMS, full-stop.

Apple and Disney are two of the most egregious campaigning against freedom via patent and copyright law. It's not going to be a Star Trek-like future when you are only allowed to sell ships without rounded rectangle displays and only allowed to use warp drive software from the single distributor.

"tech community is cleverer than this yes, but the consumers aren't "

I think consumers "can" be smarter. Given a chance. Right now they (we) are inundated with marketing. It's everywhere. So much so, that's hard to make an informed decision (this is especially true in politics).

Corporations (and many politicians) aren't interested in "truth". They're interested in making the sale. And the best way to do that is emphasized the good of the product and ignore the bad.

Every "product" in the world does this. From Coke to a credit cards.

Even Stallman wants you to live in an ecosystem, it's just his vision of an ecosystem.

Stallman's vision of an ecosystem is one in which you're not locked in by your data, since it's all in open formats and under your control. That makes his ideology very easy to get along with.

easy for us; not so easy for people aligned with the "lock your customers in as a revenue stream" model.

I should be able to walk up to a panel at a store, have it recognize me, and have all of my stuff available. Do whatever I would do at home using my PC if I like. Walk away from the panel and it resets. There's no clue or trail that I was even there.

How is it supposed to recognize you, but then have no clue or trail that you were even there?

The tech community is smarter than this. Location-free, hardware-free, non-walled technology is the goal. Let's start going there.

And who's going to pay for the platform to do all of that?

How do you keep the weeds out of your garden? Simple, build a wall. There is a reason walled gardens work.

That last sentence was hilarious. Weed seeds are in almost all soil. They arrive there on the wind. What constitutes a "weed" is that it's a plant that's not desired in a specific location. What is, and is not, a weed, is entirely contextual.

The reason for walling a garden is to create a microclimate that protects the garden from the wind. It's like a greenhouse. It's protection for species that would otherwise not survive in the area.

The way to get non-walled technology is government intervention. That's how the internet was invented. Then, as it was deployed and commercialized, it "won out" because it was open, while services like AOL, Delphi, GEnie, Prodigy, Apple's eWorld, CompuServe, and MSN were closed, walled garden online services.

You can't write out that coherent of an argument and expect any free market ideologues to answer you.

Cognitive dissonance is painful!

> How do you keep the weeds out of your garden?

In real life, you pull the weeds or specifically target them with pesticide. A wall is too granular of a filter to keep weeds out.

In software, the most successful filters -- such as e-mail spam filters --- specifically target malfeasors. A "wall" type of solution to e-mail would instead only trust e-mails from specific domains or recast the problem as "Facebook messages", eliminating interoperability.

Walls don't exist to keep out weeds, they exist to keep out neighbors or poachers -- aka, competitors.

  > There is a reason walled gardens work.
Amazing, how often this is forgotten. And way to often the attitude on HN is similar to that in Orwell's farm: "four legs are good, two legs are bad". Walled garden? Bad. Open? Good. The truth however is that goodness or badness is not defined by this.

Like a Linux LiveCD when you sign into Chrome. You authenticate, but when you close the session everything is gone and its back to default.

But that's google's garden. What is stopping them from getting bored of reading penis enhancement spam and shuttering gmail or reader?

While nothing is stopping them, Google provides ways to dump the contents of your feeds and mailbox locally so you can add them to some other email / rss client if you want. That is a lot better than what some of the higher up posts are getting at, which is platform lock-in

I said "like this" not "exactly this". Just a demonstration of how it could work.

That's called wishful thinking.

Which is what the parent was engaging in. The next guy then asked how it would work. I gave an example of how it could work. I'm not sure what the disagreement is here.

Your example is what I called wishful thinking. You haven't explained how it could work without authenticating to somebody's walled garden.

The original idea of some magical screen you walk up to with all of these abilities and none of the limitations of walled gardens is also wishful thinking; however it doesn't go so far as to claim it's an example of how to accomplish this.

Your imagination can't extend my example to something more private? You can't envision an NFC-based OpenID authentication connecting to your private server containing the information you wish to bring up on the screen? You can't imagine a Diaspora-style open source kiosk? You can't imagine even bringing up Chrome in Incognito Mode and feeding it data from your personal KeePass?

I was using an example I figured everyone around here would be familiar enough with to extrapolate the possibilities. If it actually existed, we wouldn't be wishing for it to happen. The whole point is that it's *not" "magical", it's completely possible, yet it doesn't actually exist.

Sure, I can envision that. But that's not what the original idea was. It was a box which recognized you (presumably via some form of computer vision). How could such a device work without having a database to match against people's identities?

Your NFC idea is a lot more plausible than the original idea.

I had read the original post as being open to the authentication method of choice. What you describe is certainly one authentication method (inherence, aka what you are or do). Most common is knowledge, aka a password or unique URL. NFC would be ownership, or what you have. Two of these would allow you to keep your own database. I guess the confusion came from our different interpretations of what the original poster meant by "recognize". I linked recognition with authentication, of which there are three methods to be used, and picked the most likely in my mind. I'm knee deep in authentication principles most of the day.

Sorry if I came off as hostile, it was a miscommunication.

>Sorry if I came off as hostile, it was a miscommunication.

Story of the internet, really. I get down-voted a lot on Reddit because people confuse my directness for hostility. I've tried couching my arguments with a more passive voice but sometimes it becomes too much of a hassle.

The only problem with your scenario is malware. That's not insurmountable, but people have spent so long concentrating on building the walls that the reasonable vision you present will probably never happen.

I agree that's a great shame.

I'm not sure I agree.

I definitely agree with the latter part about broken metaphors. I'm just not sure how well that agrees with the first part.

In my opinion, the broken metaphor that the blog is being chaffed by most is the metaphor of "owning content." We've never owned "content" before. Not as consumers. Labels & licensing companies owned "content" or "rights" or somesuch. Consumers owned records, books or video tapes.

When you own a video tape the rules are dictated (or at least suggested) by reality. You can watch it as often as you want. If you (and your equipment) take care of it, it will last a long time. You can loan it, you can sell it , you can give it away.

These days, "owning a song" is a metaphor. A broken one. These "ecosystems" are largely systems for maintaining this metaphor.

I have hope that most of the problems with roots in realities (eg controlling your Apple TV with an android phone) will be dulled over time. The ugly problems being caused by broken metaphors trying to simulate the past when we owned CDs will have ugly solutions.

The tech community is smart enough to know that removing your ability to do these things in order to improve user retention is a net win. Because most users might complain but will still use it anyway as long as your marketing is good.

You don't want a smarter tech community, you want a more altruistic or socially conscious tech community. I completely agree but ... HN is not a place where that message is well received in general.

Any sophisticated large-population demographic is going to require some form of governance, and a subset of that demographic will resent being governed.

Just being able to walk up to that panel will require rules regarding business zoning, construction codes, traffic organization and enforcement, etc.

Once you've arrived at the panel, there's all the standardization and regulation and coordination and infrastructure just to identify the face as you, securely transfer your data, standardized operating system to run on, etc. Much of what you do leaves traces - to your desirable benefit.

Anarchy is not conducive to sophisticated lifestyle.

The worst offender is actually Amazon. I just bought a Kindle Fire HD and boy am I disappointed! The only apps it runs are from Amazon App Store... but only the local one in your country. I can't access the US Amazon App store from France!!

And of course one can't transfer Kindle books from one account to another.

The answer is jailbreaking and de-DRMising; it's a pain of course but it's very much worth it.

I've recently bought for the first time an DRM protected ebook, from Kobo. Never again will I make this mistake, it's just ridiculous that I can't download a simple PDF file and read it on any device I want using any software I want, without having to install a stupid, bloated app.

No, I don't want to notify people on FB or Twitter about books I'm reading. No, I don't want to see achievements. No, I don't need personal stats. No, I don't want to join a club. I just want to read the damn book I just bought!

Great choice. There's software to remove the DRM from books, of course ... but the best way to remove it is to shop at places that don't use it.

The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. -- Hegel

I know guys can't learn from yesterday ... Hegel must be taking the long view. -- John Brunner, "Stand on Zanzibar"

Does anyone else remember this little thing called "the PC wars", where you couldn't use floppies from a Mac on a Wintel machine, and you actually had to care about what version of whichever word processor you were using because it might not be compatible? And then some crazy weirdo with a beard starts warning that hey, maybe user choice is important enough to be elevated to a freedom? And everyone predictably laughs him down.

But he was right, and he continues to be right, all while the fools forget history to their own detriment.

Wait, whose fault is this DRM thing? Device makers or the music and movie industry? http://www.apple.com/es/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/

It's a dilemma. For now there is good money to be made in these ecosystems, there are people that are really raking it in (and in an above-board way). At the same time you're setting yourself up with your head on the chopping block, after you've sharpened the blade with your labor.

Personally I would never build something that is not as much as possible stand alone (so without reliance on some third party controlled eco-system, of course everything needs hosting, bandwidth and power but those are commodities). But I have to counter that with the fact that I realize I'm losing out on quite a few opportunities.

Choices, choices. Long term vs short term.

This is one of the reasons I love services like Spotify and Netflix. They have no devices in the race, and tend to have client software for almost every platform. I can switch between phones, tablets and operating systems and still access to the same music and movies.

I could even drop Spotify and switch to Rdio if I wanted, and all I would lose are my playlists (not a big deal to me, but may be to some). These services don't lock me to devices, and I also don't feel locked into the services.

> This is one of the reasons I love services like Spotify and Netflix. They have no devices in the race, and tend to have client software for almost every platform. I can switch between phones, tablets and operating systems and still access to the same music and movies.

You're joking right? Netflix? Only recently have we seen murmurs of having some hacky way of getting Netflix to run on Linux.

Microsoft Silverlight lock in was, IMHO, a huge slap to Linux. They're as bad an example of "services that support every platform" as can be.


Don't hold your breath on that staying the case. We're going to start seeing those services get temporary exclusives on artists, because ultimately it's the only way to get an edge on their competitors.

I work in scientific programming for environmental science. Whenever I see or hear the word 'ecosystem' used to refer to a technology platform, I wonder who is eating whom.

There are predators in the works, aren't there? The term is somewhat subjective, but not very much so to the people who feel like they're lunch.

These kinds of posts really bug me. Users don't give a rat's left buttock whether the "ecosystem" is closed or open or anything in between. They want something which works well and lets them buy stuff they want. Simple observation of consumer behavior has shown over and over again that people simply don't care about whether their stuff is tied to Apple or Google, or whether their location is being tracked by Twitter or Verizon, or whether they'll have a difficult time moving their music to a different device later on.

If this was written as another post trying to convince developers to avoid developing for closed ecosystems it wouldn't as bad; evangelists can be a good thing, even if he's fighting a losing battle. However, as this post seems to be geared towards consumers, it's almost completely pointless ranting.

They want stuff that works yes, until it goes out of fashion or something that works better comes along. Then they learn th ecosystem lesson the hard way...

That is the problem.

Why is that a problem?

I suggest you think about it some more from a non-technical user's perspective:

"How the shit do I get my stuff off this iPhone onto my Nexus?"

How do non-technical users solve technical problems? They ask technical users. Who will tell them to sync their contacts from itunes to windows contacts then upload them to a google account.

I still don't see any problem.

Actually most non-technical users live with their loss and quietly swear at the technology. Technical users are realistically far and few between.

Exactly. Either this or just say "c'est la vie", deal with it, and move on.

I suggest at some point it could also become Apples problem.

They do charge a premium and they do make mistakes so they must have users moving to other platforms.

Right now the move to another platform is painful, but obviously anyone who goes ahead and moves despite that pain is going to have far less chance of ever moving back.

Author here. I'm sorry you feel that way. I think users should care. These monocultures we're breeding are - I think - harmful to society and the economy - see this excellent article about predatory pricing http://www.engadget.com/2012/11/03/editorial-amazon-and-goog...

I'm naive enough to think that we can change people's minds.

I hear you, sorry if I came across too harsh. While you may or may not be correct, I don't think these posts do anything to help the situation, and particularly given that you don't propose any suggestions it comes across (to me) as ranting. I personally think that nowadays, given where the industry is headed and how consumers have demonstrated their interests, it's completely unreasonable to expect the purchase of computer software to be similar to that of durable goods (e.g., your oven), and I don't see that changing without a sufficiently strong business model supporting whatever alternative that you can devise.

Oh, it's totally a rant. I'm just a lone blogger trying to see if anyone feels the same way I do.

It just disappoints me that industry is trying to move to a "buy everything from us - because that's the only guarantee it will work" system.

Good discussing things with you.

I'm "naive" enough to think that if you bought into an "ecosystem" that was known to be a walled garden, you have no business complaining about the perfectly foreseeable consequences of that decision.

Don't want to be part of the ecosystem? Then don't be. But what's the point of ranting about it? Just vote with your wallet.

This kind of thing goes back and forth. Sometimes people are happy to buy everything from the same company have it "just work". ...until something really cool comes along from an other company and all their locked in gadgets won't work with it.

In the 90's people rejected locked up curated networks in favor of the open internet. Sony has always tried to lock people into proprietary formats (Memory Stick, MiniDisc), but the open alternatives have usually won. When an open standard leads to more competition and better products people buy it, whether they care about openness for its own sake or not.

You're right, although I'll note that Minidisc wasn't really a failure. It was utterly huge in Japan, and widely adopted by other companies [no doubt playing big royalties to Sony].

Minidisk eventually proved a technical dead-end because of the development of solid-state storage and the internet, but I can easily see it lasting much longer and becoming more dominant if those things hadn't happened; it had a lot of momentum behind it for a while.

Lots of people don't care about voting in elections, giving to charity, partaking in public demonstrations or looking after their health either.

The problem is not so much whether people mind if their location is tracked or whether they have control over their hardware etc. It's more that once these things reach a critical mass it is very difficult to start to go back if we don't like where we are or indeed for an individual to make a choice to live outside of this stuff.

It is articulated quite well here:


At around 09:00

I'm a user who cares. Please don't pretend to speech for the world.

"Simple observation of consumer behavior has shown over and over again that people simply don't care..."

Depends on who's doing the research, doesn't it? Because my repeated observation for 25 years is that, when people become aware how they're being screwed by -some- technology (starting with C64 copy protection), they turn away from it.

So the behavior you claim to observe only obtains so long as consumers can be kept ignorant about their options. You might hope for that, but once people discovered the flaws in Edison's phonographs and records, they moved on. And, oh yes, they will.

Do you have very old records, old books, etc? Are you glad you can still enjoy them?

I don't worry so much about walled gardens as long as I can make backups to Ogg Vorbis (etc.) formats from iTunes purchases.

I am a happy customer of Amazon but I make permanent copies in open formats of a small percentage of Kindle books I buy that I might want in 10 years.

I have a lot of family and friends who are not techies. I advise them (and help) to save stuff they buy.

There's no sense in making a backup of a lossy format to a different lossy format. The decoders aren't going to go anywhere; just keep the original file.

> On a mobile phone network in the UK, you can use any phone you want.

That's the same in India. Standalone iPhones aren't affordable to a vast majority. If they come in tied with an operator where you walk in a store and get an iPhone with a small payment, and a monthly plan which covers your calls, data and phone installment, many people will happily buy it.

A separation of service provider and phone is good, but the customer has other data points to evaluate as well.

I was wondering though. From the way author emphasizes the separation of service and hardware, can't you buy an iPhone in US which isn't linked to a provider? You don't have buying phones and buying sim cards separately anymore?

I'm the author. I'm UK based, so I can't speak for the USA. Over here, you can buy the iPhone and SIM separately - or you can get them in a bundle.

I think Google Wave is an undeserved mention in the list of killed off DRM services.

First of all, Google supported data export from Google Wave[1]. Additionally, Google open sourced the project and it's available as Apache Wave[2] or as a protocol[3].

[1] http://googlewave.blogspot.com/2010/11/multiple-wave-export....

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apache_Wave

[3] http://www.waveprotocol.org/

I'm still amazed that almost everyone just laughed at Wave. We're still trying to break the hold of a proprietary document format (.doc), and now platforms like Google Docs have a proprietary protocol for real-time changes. Google offered us an open, federated version of that protocol - I think we should have seized it with both hands.

Like most Google open source projects, the open-sourcedness of Wave was open-washing, nothing more. To my knowledge there aren't a lot of Wave services floating around out there, and Wave's codebase was highly coupled, making it difficult for anyone to create a server.

I'm annoyed that its difficult and time consuming to move to a new house in a new city. I mean you have to hire movers, pack up all your stuff, and find a new place to live.

Well yes, but those are physical barriers that society has strived to solve by inventing transportation etc.

The author is complaining about more arbitrary restrictions such as in certain countries where you must fill out paperwork to inform the government that you intend to move.

Don't you know there's an app called Doubletwist that syncs your itunes collections to android phones? That music bought from the iTunes store is DRM-free?

So in a nutshell, Some chap doesn't seem to know the history of how music and movies became available online. So it's Apple's fault.

I would submit to you that the reason why Apple is what it is today is because software & hardware are intertwined.

The odd thing is that people who hate walled gardens also hate systems like Ultraviolet which are meant to brdige them.

You could criticize Ultraviolet for being a DRM system, but if you look closely at it, you'll see they've worked pretty hard to build a system that prevents casual copying while being pretty fair to the consumer

How is that odd?

Replacing a walled garden with a walled park does not improve the situation a lot for people who do not like walls at all.

I'm pretty invested in apps for iOS. I'm okay about this, I don't begrudge being locked into an ecosystem as I made a choice to be in that ecosystem.

I bought a piece of software on a Windows machine a while back, which was a PC, but because it was Windows software it's not usable now I use a Mac. It's locked to an ecosystem. We can all look back at that shiny, lovely past with our rose-tinted glasses, but it's a fallacy. For the most part you were as locked to an ecosystem then as you are now. There's plenty of people who bought music from Microsoft in DRM protected WMA files that ended up being locked in.

And games. And books. And software. And movies. And x. And y. And z. Smartphones are a microcosm of the exact same thing from the PC days, we just get fancy and call it an ecosystem and pretend like it's a new, bad thing that's been invented by Apple to horsewhip us.

> I'm pretty invested in apps for iOS. I'm okay about this, I don't begrudge being locked into an ecosystem as I made a choice to be in that ecosystem.

That would be great, if it were easy or even feasible to be a member of no ecosystem, but it's really not.

There are always web apps. I'd argue that they are as close to a non-ecosystem as you can get...

As long as there's software and media content you'll always have to be in some ecosystem. Getting out so there's no ecosystem is pretty much impossible.

Why not? I'm not a member of any of these ecosystems. What's stopping you?

I haven't really had problems with this. I have an Android phone, an iPod, and dual boot Ubuntu and OS X. Google Music syncs iTunes to my phone via the cloud just fine; the iPod naturally syncs with iTunes. On Ubuntu I just use Google Music via the browser, or Pandora.

The tech community is _already_ smart enough to deal with their stuff. And the consumer community doesn't seem to care much about being locked inside a brand; they don't know any better, for some reason, to most people, it makes sense that if you have a Mac, you need an iPad, not a Kindle Fire. Or if you get a Kindle Fire, you simply adjust your expectations accordingly.

Obviously it's unethical for companies to do this, but when was the last time megacorps operated with any higher morality than economics demanded?

Why now? All this was obvious at a time of first iPods..)

Media is what ties the uninformed to an eco-system. There are more options for paid DRM-Free media today and several DRM systems are trivial to break. I remember people that had an iPod and MP3 player because they thought that their Napster music couldn't work on their iPod and didn't know how to add them to their library.

More telling is the author's complaints about the complexity of integrating his Android device to a NAS, etc. It is the pre-built integration between Apple devices that sell their ecosystem and keeps people coming back for more. All of the integration in the world is meaningless if it doesn't work when your friends are over or it crashes halfway though a movie (Windows Media Center anyone...)

Agreed. This is exactly why I don't buy "new" hardware like a tablet.

you are missing out

See, this I'm not getting about tablets. What am I missing out on? Basically just when Laptops had hit a critical milestone of being thinner than ever, light(weight)er than ever -- MBA and Ultrabooks and so on -- at that crucial point tablets "happen" (iPads first, sure) and everybody is totally into them.

It's been a few years and their value proposition is the same as as a few years back: yay, vastly less power/performance, lower resolution, crappier sound, no keyboard, and just about equally painless in terms of weight or form-factor. Sure they're a bit smaller and lighter but just at a point in time where the weight and size of current-gen netbooks/ultrabooks/notebooks simply isn't an issue anymore anyway.

Smartphones, I get them. Neat to have a Maps app with a phone attached in your pocket. And commuters can play Sudoku on them, fine.

But tablets? What's the big appeal about them? Why have they become such a popular gadget for all their shortcomings compared to same-generation net/ultrabooks? I don't think I'll ever get it...

But since we're on Hacker News... what exactly is a Hacker Newser missing out on by forgoing a tablet?

Honestly, for a typical Hacker Newser, not much.

The people I've seen using a tablet most expansively are some combination of:

A. people never fully comfortable with a full laptop (meaning they effectively aren't losing much functionality by switching), in fact are gaining from the simplification of features they never really got

B. People doing field work, where a tablet's weight and form factor is strongly superior to a laptop (lighter, can operate standing up easily, etc.)

C. People who like to surf the web in bad, but find using the form factor of a laptop too awkward and a smartphone screen too small

D. People afraid of, or who never learned to, install applications on their computer.

This seems to portray them in a negative light, but I think the lack of installers/uninstallers is wonderful.

lower resolution

Not so. The only laptop with more pixels than a Nexus 10 is Apple's 15" Retina Macbook Pro. The 13" has the same WQXGA resolution as the Nexus, and every other laptop on the market is lower. For a short time, the iPad 3 was actually the highest resolution portable computer on the market, though a few obsolete mobile workstations matched its resolution.

Laptop makers ought to get off their collective asses and do something about this.

That's purely a matter of opinion.

everything is

Apart from mathematics, most of science, a little bit of philosophy and a fair bit of common sense...

That's the reason I really hope most of the software will be webbrowser-based in the future. I know that right now native apps give you a better overall experience but too often they pull you into the walled garden of hardware vendor.

There are solutions like phonegap etc. that let you write semi-native apps that use embedded browser inside it, but with HTML5 and successors I believe it will be possible to just have everything run in a browser, setting everyone free from any vendor specific solutions.

Still doesn't really save you unless you can export all of your data into some open data format that can be read hassle free by other services (oh and you need a guarantee that the company won't just kill their export functionality when they get bought by another company etc).

You also have to ask who controls the browser, this is going to ultimately be whoever controls the OS. iOS won't allow alternative browsers, not sure if Windows RT does?

So there's nothing really stopping the OS vendor with enough market share deciding they won't allow certain HTML5 / JS functionality incase it interferes with native app sales.

It might seem the case that one or two big ecosystems eat up everything else and choosing which ecosystem you live in becomes a major life choice. At this point computing and media have become a natural monopoly.

Of course then follows the "open" renaissance.

> iOS won't allow alternative browsers

Depends what you mean by "alternative browsers". iOS allows alternative browsers but not alternative engines (in that javascript executed on-device has to be executed through webcore). Thus Opera Mini is a completely independent implementation (all of its interpretation and rendering is done on Opera's own server), though most alternative browsers (and there are many) are UIWebView wrappers with additional features.

What iOS does not allow at all is setting an other browser as default.

> not sure if Windows RT does?

It's unclear. It definitely does not allow JITs (WinRT doesn't expose VirtualAlloc or VirtualProtect), which iOS does not allow either, but I don't know if a JIT-less completely independent browser implementation would be allowed.

If there's no way to add features to the underlying core then it's not really much better than just an alternative browser skin. A JITless browser is not going to be much good for performance sensitive applications either.

This is enough power to enable the OS vendor to gag browser apps into being second class citizens effectively.

Well.... yes and no. What happens if Google Docs goes down - or is killed?

I think it all comes down to standards, as the OP mentioned in the article. Google services usually support open standards (ODF for google docs), which makes migrating your data, when the service closes, a whole lot easier.

If only there was an open standard for "offline" apps that could be used on android, iphone, iOS, windows, linux...etc with the same end user experience.

There was one called java once. Oh wait...

Then the Data Liberation Front comes to your rescue.


The truth is that only the illuminati care about inter-compatibility and data freedom. Most people (myself included) value more something that works, not a hodgepodge of solutions from 15 different vendors where nothing integrates with nothing.

Provide both inter-compatibility and a good user experience and you win everybody. Android promised that, but failed.

Not to suggest breaking the law, but pirated music, movies and books are not locked into any device or ecosystem.

Agreed, and much of this would not have been possible without the draconian government protection of DRM (such as in DMCA). I could totally see some kind of PC application that would liberate all your iTunes, Kindle etc. material (which you legally own, mind), but it's illegal under the current laws.

Stream or rent media. "Buying" songs in an online service is as quaint as maintaining a collection of 8-track tapes. The "buy" option for movies and TV shows exists purely to extract extra money from anal retentives (what percentage of "purchased" shows ever get watched a second time?)

Yeah, there's no chance I'll want to listen to a song in ten years when the record label that owns the copyright has gone out of business and so can't license it to whatever streaming service is new and trendy. No chance of that at all.

You are underestimating the WTF factor of the iTunes store. Apple stopped renting series (not selling them - that I would have understood!) - and movies are often only available for either renting or selling.

And you are overestimating the availability of unlimited internet (I guess). Buying DRM free music off iTunes is the absolutely most painless way for me to have my favorite songs on my laptop.

The same thing that happened when vinyls and cassettes went bust. Content is ephemeral (except for books!)

And some e-books are now ephemeral because of the DRM or licensing.

That's a weird idea to me.

I live in the Apple ecosystem for one simple reason. Out of every other collection of technology items I could use for both work and entertainment, Apple products are the least frustrating ones to use.

I value my time above everything else.

I used Windows for years. Built, repaired, and maintained Windows systems for work. Setup and ran email servers. Even did some initial web development on IIS servers.

I am 32 and visibly grayer than I probably should be. If you know me in person, you can see it in my beard and in my hair when I let it get longer.

Getting nearly anything done with Windows has always been an exercise in frustration for me. Tools, user interfaces, etc. Even their best products always had something wrong, something just wasn't built right. One more little speed bump to slow down what I want to do.

Eventually I switched to Macs about 6 years ago. I had used them as a kid and it was easy, from that exposure, to switch back. Anything that needed terminal tools to get done, just works. Lots and lots of open source projects that run on Linux almost always just work on Mac OS. For the ones that don't work off to bat, its usually easy to fix.

In terms of phones, I've stuck with iPhones since they came out. For the first couple years, it was because there were no comparable products on the market in term of fit and finish. Android was a swamp of sorrows for the longest time. Any hardware companies made and slapped Android onto were just sorrows layered onto junk devices that were a miserable experience to use.

I had the joy of working with various Android handsets and tablets a few years ago for testing. It was good exposure that reinforced the simple "it works" of the iPhone.

When the iPad came out, I was excited by it like millions of other people. Oddly, while I still have my first-gen iPad and while I love it as a device, it turns out its never been a form factor that I have really been able to incorporate into my life. It wasn't that the iPad is a bad device, but rather that it hasn't been a tool that I really needed. But its a great tool that millions of other people have found to be very useful indeed. Any other Android tablets just couldn't compare in usability or hardware fit, which is why the earlier ones fell so flat.

More recently, I found the Windows Phone OS to be intriguing. A good friend that works at MS showed me the first ones that came out. I rather liked the fresh new take on a phone OS. Loved the interface. I seriously considered switching over to one for a while. But then as I used it, the rough bits showed through. Subpar hardware. Bad battery life. Random crashes. Oddly incomplete UI choices that made some simple tasks frustrating to complete. So, I kept my iPhone 4 for a long time.

Very recently, Windows 8. Metro UI. Looks great on a tablet, same nice looking interface. A couple years had gone by and more than enough time had passed for Microsoft to work out some of the early kinks. I excitedly bought a new copy the day it came out and installed it on a spare machine at the office. The installation went really smoothly.

But when I started using it, it was literally only a couple of minutes before the "wtf" moments started. The biggest issues I saw immediately was that too much of the UI is hidden away. I got very frustrated trying to do things like switching between apps, using IE 10, getting away from the completely anachronistic Desktop app. I tried installing some apps and some went to Metro, others went to Desktop with no clear indication why. When I needed to make some adjustments to system settings, it took me over 5 minutes to figure out how to even get to the settings.

I'm also still really pissed with my nice long complex password being chopped to 16 characters on Windows, Live, etc. Its fucking annoying.

Anyway, while I like the direction that MS is going, they still haven't gotten their stuff together. Its not the same as it used to be, but the frustration level is still there.

I've had an Xbox for years too. In its simplest form, I put a game disk in and it loads up, and I play the game. But in the last few years, they've added all of this extra stuff. New UI, music services, movie services, constant updates, Kinect, etc. And while it all looks shiny, none of it really works together that well. So, I almost never use my Xbox anymore because its just gotten too complicated to do what I want, which is to simply play games. Ugh.

The non-Apple tech I use and love: Gmail, Ubuntu for servers, Dropbox, github, Audible, Rdio, Netflix, torrents, Google Maps (PLEASE release an iOS app for this!), and others.

Notice that at no point in this ramble do I mention Music or Movies as keeping me with Apple. It literally has nothing to do with an "ecosystem". It just has to do with building superior products that have the least frustration to getting shit done. That's the sole thing you need to worry about when building a product that people will love.

Be less frustrating than your competitors, and you have a good edge.

Lots of companies make individual products that are well polished. Only a few make lots of products of high quality.

This is pretty much my philosophy. People rant and rave about what you can hack Linux and Android to do, without realizing that it's a hobby for them - one that I don't enjoy. Maybe I'm too stupid, slow, or lazy, but I don't give a shat if my phone can run apps that aren't in the app store - all the apps I need are there.

I want stuff that doesn't cause me trouble and doesn't make me think. Every time someone tries to tell me about all the stuff they can do in Windows or Android that I can't do, I stare blankly and wonder why anyone cares.

Amazon is a bit of worry for me, I like the Kindle software especially being able to use the Web version, but only being able to download (some of?) my books in AZW3 format is a PITA that is making me think twice about buying books from them in future.

I hear that in the new Kindle Paperwhite you can't even add other type of books anymore. Only Kindle ones.

Looks like it does still support mobi, and i'm guessing you can still use an app like Calibre to load them onto it?

For a lot of apps these days, you're only forced to use Android/iTunes to actually pay for it initially, but then you can access your data from either; I'm thinking of apps which store their data in the cloud - evernote, dropbox, etc.

Ohhhh, you are just sooooooo edgy saying 'fuck' in your headline.

Resistance is futile.

So sad but so true.

Forever with GNU!

Yes! Sounds awesome. Of course, it's unclear how such a system would produce beautiful and easy-to-use products so that users clammer to use them.

My brain had trouble parsing the headline:

I don't want to be part of your fucking (ecosystem) -vs- I don't want to be part of your (fucking ecosystem)

Well, we're all born out of an ecosystem of fucking - and I've no desire to leave that :-)

Fear not, it has been Bowdlerized for your convenience.

As long as it is available I will buy physical media.

>Music, movies, TV, and podcast subscriptions. All tied up in Apple's little ecosystem. A very pretty noose to keep people chained to its hardware.

Really? Because, last time I checked, people mostly RENTED movies and series off of iTunes -- not outright bought them (except some tiny majority of bizaros). In which case there is nothing to be "tied to".

As for music, last time I checked, iTunes sells DRM-free music, something that was first achieved for major music companies there, after Job's open letter on matter. So you can move your music to Android just fine. And even if it wasn't DRM-free (which IS) you can of course use your own DRM-free music collection with iTunes, like the vast majority of people do.

And podcast subscriptions? Really? Aren't they available everywhere, anyway?

People buy the hardware because they like it, and bought it since the first iPod, even before there even was an iTunes Store. Heck, they bought the iPhone even before there were third party apps too.

Sure, iTunes sells DRM-free music now, but it didn't always so many long-time users will still have DRM'd content around. And you can pull the DRM-free music to another device, but then there's your playlists, your ratings, play counts, current podcast subscriptions, you name it. With e-books it's bookmarks, highlights, and annotations. Each media type has its set of metadata that you'd like to bring along.

> Sure, iTunes sells DRM-free music now, but it didn't always so many long-time users will still have DRM'd content around.

All of it can be converted to DRM-free, including directly from itunes.

> And you can pull the DRM-free music to another device, but then there's your playlists, your ratings, play counts, current podcast subscriptions

There's a whole cottage industry of software reading iTunes Library.xml, though as a last recourse you can also copy your lists directly, as if it were a spreadsheet (it'll be placed into your pasteboard as tab-separated content)

iTunes itself is shit, but there's surprisingly little actual lock-in going on.

I think he means tied up more in the sense of its 'difficult' to move it for the average user. sure you can pull out your content and sync it to android if you know what your doing (read - tech savvy-ish) but the vast majority of the users use iTunes and have never used anything else. It's these users that will have the problems of being 'seemingly' locked into an ecosystem.. mainly because they don't know (or care to learn) anything different and it becomes too hard.

>> I think he means tied up more in the sense of its 'difficult' to move it for the average user. sure you can pull out your content and sync it to android if you know what your doing (read - tech savvy-ish) but the vast majority of the users use iTunes and have never used anything else.

That's just BS, you can simply select all your music and videos and whatever in iTunes and drag it to a folder. Probably there's even an export function, but I'm not sure, because I've been 'locked in the Apple ecosystem' long enough I never had the urge to move my music around (it's been sitting in an iTunes library on a Linux AFS share all this time, which is also accessed by my Squeezebox. Talk about being locked in :-S). If all else fails you can just type 'iTunes' in Spotlight and it will come up with the folder that holds all your music, so you can copy it from there.

As for all the other content that 'makes you part of the ecosystem' on something like iOS or Windows Phone: all these iOS and WP apps are built for their respective platforms, so you wouldn't be able to magically transport them to an Android phone (or whatever platform) and run them anyway. You can move them between different phones and tablets that run the same OS if you want though.

The comparison with a DVD player that only plays discs from a single vendor is kind of stupid. A DVD player is like a fridge or a television, it simply performs one single function and that's what people buy it for. A HD-DVD never worked in a Blu-Ray player, and a VHS tape never worked in a Betamax player either. I can make up useless analogies all day.

It's not really clear what the author of this article actually proposes would be better than having a few 'ecosystems' like iOS, WP or Android. A one-size-fits-all ecosystem that everybody is forced to use? Many different ecosystems that somehow all have exactly the same features so you can use all your applications and content on every device?

Na I don't think it is BS, especially if you've spent time rating your music. I've had an IPod since they first came out and I've been rating my music ever since, and then using playlists to ensure anything I rate poorly doesn't get transferred. I really wouldn't be happy losing that information in a move to Android.

>> Na I don't think it is BS, especially if you've spent time rating your music. [..]. I really wouldn't be happy losing that information in a move to Android.

That's a tad specific don't you think? Do you really propose that every piece of software in the world should be able to use every single bit of metadata ever used in any other random piece of software, on any other OS and any other device? Most of the iTunes metadata is in the ID3 tags, so it gets transferred. Not sure about ratings, but if they are not there it's probably because not all ID3 tag versions support it, or because different players interpret these fields differently. Anyway, tools exist to export this data from an iTunes library, nobody is stopping you from using them.

I don't really see how this is different from moving your music + ratings from Android to any other OS anyway. It's not like I can export a music library from Android or WP and preserve and import all their non-standard metadata into iTunes, right?

Tried a while back, the experience wasn't great and I didn't find any approach that I thought was viable. I probably will try again soon though as I've since moved to Ubuntu so really need to get off ITunes.

It isn't very different that moving from Android to another OS. Just to be clear I'm not criticizing Apple specifically, I'm just saying that the process of moving is not quite as painless as you might hope for.

I do think it is in the big players interest to consider making it easier to move. I know why they don't but I do think a company like Apple, confident in their hardware and software, would stand to benefit as much as lose out from such standardization. People like me might give up on ITunes for a year or two until the retina airs are more reasonable then switch straight back, where as right now if I do take the pain of switching I'm unlikely to be back any time soon.

> That's a tad specific don't you think?

Some image formats have lousy meta data. iPhoto has a lovely face tagging feature that's easy to use and really great way to index photographs. Moving that information among accounts on the same machine is weird.

> I don't really see how this is different from moving your music + ratings from Android to any other OS anyway. It's not like I can export a music library from Android or WP and preserve and import all their non-standard metadata into iTunes, right?

That's kind of the point. Very few people are building open eco-systems anymore. Everyone is happy to lock in users by creating weird software.

I've been rating my music ever since, and then using playlists

I think I spotted your problem.

What's the difference on PCs then? If users don't know how to move the stuff on their smartphones, they probably wouldn't know how to do it on a PC. Plus, many probably wouldn't know how to handle all that media period, except what's available from web services - where again there is no difference. I fail to see the point.

What the heck does he want? Should Apple make iTunes work for all 50 thousand different android devices too?

No, what I'd like is if there was a published specification for storing a music library. Then, any device could implement it. You could store your music on your Xbox and push it to your iPhone - or in iTunes and push it to your Windows Phone.

Imagine if your BlackBerry could only send emails to other BlackBerry devices. We wouldn't accept that (although BBM is trying to push us that way) - so why should we accept it with other services?

>> No, what I'd like is if there was a published specification for storing a music library. Then, any device could implement it.

If there were one published specification for storing a music library, before you know it some people will demand features that are not supported by it, and some software vendor will create and sell some piece of software that extends the format to provide it. It's just supply and demand.

I really can't wrap my head around this, are you really asking for generic, one-size-fits-all file formats, applications and hardware for everything, or are you just being naive?

I'm probably just being naive :-)

Look at email as a standard - a few people have tried to extend that and it hasn't worked.

Or, look at HTML as a standard. People want to extend that so they fight in a committee and collaborate until there's something which is mutually beneficial.

Or, look at USB. Literally a one-size-fits-all plug on both ends and a common transport layer - but you can stick whatever device you want on either end.

>> Look at email as a standard - a few people have tried to extend that and it hasn't worked.

Bad example. E-mail is basically just formatted text with binary attachments to be interpreted by the e-mail client. Still, almost every e-mail client uses some internal database-like format to store your inbox and augment it with metadata to make it easily searchable and whatever. E-mail clients are to e-mail what music players like iTunes are to music files. You can't just pick up your Thunderbird e-mail database and drop it somewhere for Outlook to use, just like you can't pick up your iTunes library and drop it into Windows Media Player or whatever other music player. With some effort you can often import/export e-mail databases between clients, but that's no different from importing/exporting an iTunes library.

>> Or, look at HTML as a standard. People want to extend that so they fight in a committee and collaborate until there's something which is mutually beneficial.

One of the most-heard complaints about the HTML standard is that it moves so freaking slow, and is still full of cruft and inconveniences from 20 years ago. HTML isn't actually that great at all, it's just the least worst option we have if you want cross-platform markup with all the features HTML offers today. That's not to say I propose a proprietary alternative to HTML by the way, just that HTML is hardly the prime example of a model you'd want to apply to every other piece of software.

>> Or, look at USB. Literally a one-size-fits-all plug on both ends and a common transport layer - but you can stick whatever device you want on either end.

First of all that's not entirely true, because USB only defines a transport layer, not how the data going over the wire should be interpreted. It isn't all that different from something like RS-232 serial communication, just a lot more advanced. In itself there's nothing you can do with USB alone, you still need a protocol, which is usually implemented by a driver. Apart from generic hardware such as mass storage devices, almost any USB device that implements any kind of specialized hardware functions needs a hardware-specific driver, and more often than not, thesre are proprietary. Don't confuse 'open' with 'generic' by the way, because even if some piece of hardware uses an 'open' protocol, it's still not 'generic' as you can't do anything with it without a (very specific) driver. Second, USB is not really the epitome of 'openness' either, as you have to pay royalties to sell hardware that uses the USB standard and carries the USB logo.

Any more examples? ;-)

Your Thunderbird email store is just a bunch of mbox files, which is a standardized (RFC 4155) and rather well supported file format. Outlook can't read it, of course, but that's because Outlook is shitty. You can certainly pick up your Thunderbird email store and drop it on (Al)pine, Mutt, Kmail, Atmail, Claws, Cone, Gnus, Opera Mail and others.

Outlook can pick up mbox, but how about moving your filters around? Or Apple Mail VIP contacts? Virtual folders, fancy tags and indexed search databases?

You can just move around the mails themselves, just like you can move around your music, and as a small bonus, the static playlists.

>before you know it some people will demand features that are not supported by it

Eh, what? Features don't matter. It's just the data that should be portable.

If one platform supports "dynamic playlists" (which is just the equivalent of a view in SQL) and another platform doesn't, that might be a bit inconvenient, but it really doesn't matter. At least your data can be converted.

Proposed: Everyone specifies their data model. No need to standardize.

Apple doesn't need to do anything to make iTunes work with other devices. In fact, they go out of their way to make sure it doesn't. Palm figured out how to make it work, and Apple figured out how to break it.

Palm made it work? Isn't this the same hack where they advertised themselves as an Apple device completely breaking the USB standard? They made it work by breaking their own agreements to be USB certified.

True. But that was Palm's decision. Apple was under no obligation to make any changes to prevent Palm's questionable decision.

Let me be clear here, advertising your device as another manufacturers is a BAD precedent be setting. For any company.

It also violates the agreement companies agree to to be usb certified. What Apple did afterwards to ensure only their devices were being advertised is their own business. But lets be clear. Palm was in the wrong here. It doesn't absolve Apples decisions, but I can see why they did what they did.

It also likely explains why Apple started doing drm-like authentication to its devices.

True. But that was Palm's decision. Apple was under no obligation to make any changes to prevent Palm's questionable decision.

That's literally the only point I was making. Apple didn't need to do anything to have other devices working with iTunes. Once they were, by whatever means, Apple made the decision to make changes to further disallow it. Apple didn't need to go out of their way to provide interoperability, but they did go out of their way to break interoperability, no matter how the competitors achieved it.

What Apple did wrong and what Palm did wrong are not part of my argument.

Its a bit of a useless point then to be honest. Apple is under no obligation to allow anyone to impersonate an iphone as a usb device with their software.

Apple making changes to disallow it were because they were breaking their usb agreement to do it. You are not supposed to identify your devices as anything but what they are. Explain to me how Apple is doing anything bad here because of what Palm started doing? As mentioned elsewhere, the xml file itunes generates is there for interoperability, Palm chose to do something they should not have. There is a difference of "breaking interoperability" (sic), and acting as if you are some other device to an operating system. Palm was doing the latter, not the former.

Nor were they under any obligation to support it in any way.

That's beside the point.

It's not beside the point. Do you know for a fact that Apple went out of their way to break functionality? Perhaps they had some reason for making the breaking changes and since they were under no obligation to support this 3rd party hack, why not do it?

The fact that Apple complained to the USB-IF about Palm's constant attempts to make the Pre sync with iTunes and that every update to iTunes after that broke the compatibility is enough to have a reasonable belief that Apple deliberately broke this functionality.

Apple had no obligation to let Palm sync with their software. Palm had no right to sync with their software. But Apple released three updates in a row that each conveniently broke compatibility with Palm's hardware. That's the extent of what I am saying. I'm not arguing that Apple had to support it, but rather that they explicitly disallow it, and will fight to keep it disallowed. Arguing that this was mere coincidence sounds like a violation of Occam's Razor. Possible, but unlikely.

I actually didn't know the history, so I wasn't arguing from that perspective.

In fact, they go out of their way to make sure it doesn't.

No they don't, iTunes offers the Library.xml file for interoperability. My Nokia E71 and E6 work just fine with iTunes (on Mac OS X) via Library.xml. In fact is works better than my iPods since iTunes doesn't need to be running to sync with my Nokia phones.

I'm not sure if you noticed, but Palm is out of business, and Apple is the most valuable company in the world. Might not be your best example for making me want to strive for this as a capitalist.

Palm isn't technically out of business, they were acquired. The fate of their assets were controlled by their parent company.

Capitalist or otherwise, my point wasn't "this will put you out of business", it was that iTunes was working with other devices without Apple needing to do any work on their end. The work they performed on their end worked to destroy that.

As a capitalist, I hope that you understand that shutting Palm out is not the reason, or even a contributing factor to Apple's success. I'm honestly not sure what point you're trying to make, as the Palm v Apple software dispute has nothing to do with Apple's valuation nor does it have anything to do with Palm's fate. That is a non-sequitur.

Apple shouldn't have to provide software for its competitors, and if it doesn't want them to fake a device being an iPhone they have every right to make iTunes not work for Palm. The point is that it is better for Apple that it doesn't work with Palm or anyone else.

Palm wasn't the biggest competitor, but they were certainly a competitor. If all of them went away it seems pretty obvious that that would be good for Apple, and Palm being gone is a contributing factor, albeit a small one.

Palm was acquired, and then for intents and purposes shut down last year.

Thye should just use the official way to integrate with iTunes.

Both my Sony android device and my lumia 800 syncs perfectly with my iTunes (non drm) media. Even my old Symbian phone did it before palm.

Well, the apps I have are a cost, as is the fact that I really like the .me domain (which I could use on an Android phone if I really wanted to). But it doesn't change the fact that the article does a ton of misrepresentation.

Like, "barely a warning about MobileMe". Uh, I remember being warned quite well. I guess Tim Cook must consider me his best friend forever, and I got an early warning. And I wouldn't really be surprised if Apple got rid of DRM on more stuff at some point.

Funnily, the linked article in the rantlog about MobileMe also says there were enough warning and reminders ( for a year ). iCloud was announced by Apple as MobileMe's free replacement ( for atleast 90% of services ) in July 2011. It was continued to be offered till July 2012 with frequent reminders to existing MobileMe subscribers to migrate to iCloud ( and to other services for things like iDisk and web hosting which aren't on iCloud)

You may not want to be part of an ecosystem, but every business ever wants you to be in their ecosystem exclusively. If Amazon can keep your credit card on hand, it makes it easier for you to buy things from them, whether they be physical goods (how they hooked me) or digital goods (how they are trying very hard to keep me).

I lobbied for a long time against DRM, and then I gave up, because I did want some of the content that was only available via DRM. I'll probably regret that the day Amazon decides to change the way their purchased movies work, or iTunes decides that it's streaming only (like Amazon is currently). But the fact is that unless I want to only consume Louis C.K. standup shows, it's really hard to not have DRM.

I still buy physical media a lot of the time. I would assume Sony would still make money on the Bluray licensing, the cost is passed on to me, but then I have a copy of the movie with which to watch on any of my TVs or loan out to someone else.

Contrary data point: the only DRM I regularly pay for is Netflix streaming, and I could drop that without too much pain. (I do wish I could buy ebooks more often instead of paper books.)

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