A backdoor attack on net neutrality

Wired.com reports on Apple’s arbitrary iPhone application approval/rejection process, and how some believe it to be a de facto attack on net neutrality.

A group called Free Press calls out the inconsistent decisions Apple has when deciding which iPhone applications to approve or reject and why. In particular, an application called SlingPlayer was rejected by Apple in its original form. After Sling crippled it to only work on Wi-Fi and not the 3G or EDGE cellular connections, Apple was more than willing to approve it. Another Wired.com story says an anonymous source says Apple rejected the application in its original state at AT&T’s request, due to network congestion concerns.

This sounds reasonable, but there’s another half to this story. Apple approved the Major League Baseball application as-is, allowing it to stream live sports events over 3G and EDGE as well as Wi-Fi.

Another curious rejection is Ben Kahle’s “Me So Holy” app, the premise of which was to allow users to make Jesus-like portraits of themselves. Apple rejected it to “protect the sensitivity of the customers” in its “worldwide market.”

This is exactly why OpenMoko came about. The Neo FreeRunner (and/or its successor) is the smartphone I’m saving up for. Granted, they aren’t cheap (if they appear much less expensive than an iPhone and you’re reading this before 2009-07-15 or so, that’s a clearance deal for the previous hardware revision). But I would honestly rather take a price hit than voluntarily limit myself to what some giant corporation decides is suitable to have on my phone.

Yet another Kindle DRM oddity

A recent Gizmodo article reports on Kindle users being left in the dark with regard to knowing how many times they can download a purchased book, and on how many different devices they can read said book.

The limits vary by publisher, but obviously Amazon has to maintain them on the servers responsible for the digital restrictions management (DRM). Yet, somehow, it’s beneath Amazon to actually tell the users. This excerpt detailing a tech support call to Amazon says it all:

“How I find out (sic) how many times I can download any given book?” I asked. He replied, “I don’t think you can. That’s entirely up to the publisher and I don’t think we always know.”

I pressed – “You mean when you go to buy the book it doesn’t say `this book can be downloaded this number of times’ even though that limitation is there?” To which he replied, “No, I’m very sorry it doesn’t.”

Jack Loftus, who wrote the article for Gizmodo, opines:

With certain books, you could be limited in such a way that your reading material does not follow your gadget’s natural upgrade cycle.

Such is the pitfall of DRM. My take? It’s time to give DRM the burial it deserves. Everywhere.

Bozeman backs off of the snooping (followup)

Following up on a previous story:

Not surprisingly, the city of Bozeman, Montana, decided to back off on requiring social networking site passwords for hiring.

CNet reports that the city sent out a press release on Friday with an update to the policy, where they also mention EFF attorney Kevin Bankston had some choice words for the city government:

I think it’s indefensibly invasive and likely illegal as a violation of the First Amendment rights of job applicants… Essentially, they’re conditioning your application for employment on your waiving your First Amendment rights… and risking the security of your information by requiring you to share your password with them… Where does it stop? How about a photocopy of your diary?

The Register updated their original story with information that Facebook itself has taken issue with its users passwords being collected. As well they should. I’m surprised more sites have not followed.

I personally believe even a requirement to add an official account as a friend on Facebook or similar sites goes over the line. (I saw this mentioned somewhere when reading up on the news today but can’t find it now.) Any background check on someone should only be based on public information tied to that person under an identity that can be confirmed as theirs. Even some blogs should be off-limits if they are written under pseudonyms.

Michael Jordan vs. Bill Gates: a second look

First, before I get to the main topic of this post, I think I need to say a little piece here. As many times as I have condemned the actions of corporations such as Microsoft, I have as of yet seen no reason to extend condemnation down to individuals working for the company. In fact, as a general rule I have not condemned the actions of individuals at all in my blog posts.

This, unfortunately, is unsustainable. Corporations are a function of the people that work for them, particularly their leadership. This is true of behemoths such as Microsoft all the way down to small garage/basement operations where the corporate filing fee is a relatively large expense.

I have not finished writing it, but I am drafting a post expressing my strong criticism of and contempt for something else Bill Gates has been doing, which is entirely disconnected from his involvement from Microsoft. There’s no sense leaving the gloves on now if I know I’m going to be taking them off later. With that said, on with the rest of the post…

I recently ran across this gem during a particularly lazy StumbleUpon session. I’ll cut out all the fat and leave the meat:

Is It Better To Be a Jock Or A Nerd…?
Michael Jordan having “retired,” with $40 million in endorsements, makes $178,100 a day, working or not.

(skip a whole bunch of silly things that put $40 million per year in some kind of perspective)

Amazing isn’t it? However…

If Jordan saves 100% of his income for the next 450 years, he’ll still have less than Bill Gates has today.

Game over. Nerd wins.

The premise is that one’s life is a success solely based on money. This is not always the case.

I never was Michael Jordan’s biggest fan, though mainly that was due to my rather strong team loyalty at the time; during the height of Jordan’s spectacular career, I was strictly a Houston Rockets fan, and even today I will quit following a sport’s post-season once my team has been eliminated. (Quick trivia note: the Houston Rockets never faced Michael Jordan as a player even once in the post-season.) These days, I can take a further step back and admire most great athletes strictly for their talent, regardless of which teams they play for.

I would much rather be Michael Jordan than Bill Gates today. I could not live with myself doing what Bill Gates has done. It is not the amount of money as much as the journey of getting it, looking back later, and being able to look myself in the mirror and being able to say (or not) that I am proud of what I have done.

I would never be proud of building walls between people, and forbidding them from helping their neighbors. This is exactly what Bill Gates has done, as the leader of Microsoft.

I just happen to have open an FSF Europe page entitled “Six questions to national standardisation bodies about MS-OOXML (Office Open XML). [edit: see note below] As a key shaper of the corporate culture at Microsoft, Gates played a strong role in making this kind of thing happen. Though his two decades plus of day-to-day involvement with the company ended recently, the corporate culture will take much longer to change. The questions FSF Europe raises here with regard to OOXML highlight just one example of Microsoft’s “holier than thou” mentality.

(I misread the Wikipedia article when I first wrote this; Gates was around day-to-day at Microsoft well into 2008, not 2006.)

Microsoft has changed in how it has countered the human tendency to help one’s neighbors. In 1976, Bill Gates himself wrote the well-known Open Letter to Hobbyists. Through the 1990s Microsoft ran an “Install One, Copy None” campaign, and by the turn of the century when CDs were the major form of physical media for software, most of Microsoft’s were imprinted with “Do Not Make Illegal Copies Of This Disc.”

And finally we have the obnoxious and draconian “product activation” that came into play with Windows XP. This is part of what fueled my desire to cut ties with Microsoft once and for all, and never give them another penny of my money. I had tolerated keeping Windows on one of my PCs, used primarily for running games not available for GNU/Linux. Today, I’m simply less picky about the games I play; today, the only time I use Windows–or any other proprietary OS such as MacOS X–today is on computers that do not actually belong to me.

Put Michael Jordan up against Richard Stallman, and I will agree the nerd wins. But if the choice is Michael Jordan or Bill Gates, sorry, the jock wins this one hands down.