Why Doesn't Anyone Give a Crap About Freedom Zero?

I never quite made the transition from the Apple II series to the Mac. Instead, I migrated from my Apple II to a PC. I always thought the PC ecosystem, although deeply flawed, was more naturally analogous to the eclectic third party hardware and software hacker ecosystem that grew up around the semi-open Apple II hardware platform. This, to me, was the most enduring and beloved quality of the early Apple community. The Mac, in contrast, was underwritten and driven by primarily Apple software running on completely locked down Apple hardware. It's almost first party only-- about as close as you can get to a console platform and still call yourself a computer. I guess you'd say I chose Woz over Jobs. The way Jobs ruthlessly crushed the fledgling clone market in 1997 only reinforced this lesson for me.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2008/01/why-doesnt-anyone-give-a-crap-about-freedom-zero.html

Umm… you fault Apple for being a giant dongle, but praise console games for simplicity. Game Consoles are even bigger dongles than Apple could ever hope for.

That’s my point-- they’re the same model.

Does freedom zero really matter if what works in practical terms is “zero freedom”?

"Umm… you fault Apple for being a giant dongle, but praise console games for simplicity. Game Consoles are even bigger dongles than Apple could ever hope for. "

You might want to re-read that. I think his point was to compare Apple to console games as big dongles that people accept because they prefer simplicity over freedom of choice.

I will answer your last question:

For most software CEOs:
DemandingUsers.satisfaction LessDemandingUsers.money

Thats how they build todays proprietary software market imo.

No-one (by which I mean most folks) cares about freedom zero because freedom zero is the right to run any software, and most people don’t particularly enjoy running new software. Most people aren’t computer enthusiasts, any more than they’re chainsaw enthusiasts or car enthusiasts. They enjoy what they do with their computer (e.g. talking to friends, listening to music), but the thing itself is just a tool.

I’m embarrassingly ill-informed on the subject, but I think there actually is a little dongle—the Mac ROM—inside Macs, that you need in order to run Mac OS X.

And not to get all fanboy-ish, but I don’t think the “legally pull the rug out from under you at any time” quite applies to the Mac, or indeed any hardware. I’ve run Linux on Mac hardware before, and I’d be very surprised if Apple could complain legally about it.

In regards to the 4 million iPhones Apple has sold, a massive percentage of them have been jailbroken (made to work with third-party applications) or unlocked (made to work with other cell networks.) I myself have a jailbroken 1.1.3 iPhone and enjoy using it to read email, web browse, play NES roms, or VNC to my home machine.

But, yes, as I say here (http://www.seretogis.org/2008/01/22/avoiding-the-cult/), OS X is a lovely front-end for a *nix system and that is really the only reason to use it. If Terminal were removed, it would be ridiculously limited and Apple would certainly lose some marketshare. I don’t think that locked-down console-esque computers are the wave of the future, and that eventually Apple will learn the hard way that consumers want choices moreso than 100% reliability.

But they could discontinue any piece of software at any time, with no way for it to move forward, I think that was his point.

I think a big part is that people don’t envision themselves using their machine 5-10 years down the road. I bought my Xbox for some specific uses, but I’m not expecting to use it forever, and the life cycle of the software for it just never enters the equation.

And yes, closed-source has for the most part created vastly more unique and sophisticated pieces of software, and open source has generally created copies of those. I think a huge piece of that is profit motive, and rightfully so. Which may be why Firefox is such an exemplary piece of open-source sortware, it’s drowning in cash.

Anyway, no real answer, I think it just comes down to it- people don’t care about the principles so much as they care about just using the machine, and I think that’s fine.

There’s nothing in this post that isn’t correct (though it’s worth noting, for the record, that the iTunes Store is actively moving away from DRM, not that it erases past transgressions, of course), however, it’s also worth noting that many people aren’t [themselves] hampered by the fact that what they’re dealing with is in some way locked down.

Nobody except people who don’t want to pay money for a Mac actually cares that you can’t easily run Mac OS X in its entirety on, say, a Dell. (I have several Macs, and two Dells: one runs DragonFlyBSD, the other runs Mac OS X—and it runs Mac OS X really, really badly). People in general, as with games consoles, buy the hardware for what it’s capable of—even if “capable” has been artificially limited in some way.

But, this is obvious stuff and I’m rapidly heading away from the point I’m trying to make, and that is that the reason that people don’t care about Freedom Zero is that it’s not important enough for most people to cause the to sacrifice something which makes their day-to-day life easier. I’m not going to stop using Mac OS X because it’s non-free until the alternatives are on a par or better than it. The same applies to search engines, television stations, DVDs, and anything else you care to think of. I—and most people I know—simply do not have the time to fiddle and mess around and put up with sub-standard results purely for the freedoms it buys (which only exist for the majority in terms of the hypothetical). It’s no good extolling the virtues of, say, Ubuntu, or Wikia’s new search engine, or OpenOffice.org, or anything else for that matter, if you can’t use them for the things that people need to do.

The reason the iPhone sold well wasn’t that it did everything; plenty of devices do everything, but the iPhone did the things it did far better—in the eyes of the beholder—than the alternatives. The iPod was the same: the Slashdot story about the announcement of the iPod was pretty typical—“firewire!?”, “it’s only HOW big?”, “the UI sucks, you can’t do anything”, “but I don’t want to use iTunes…”, etc. All perfectly valid criticisms, but none of them remotely important to the people who bought the thing.

The other aspect to it is that the populous at large don’t, and haven’t ever really cared about Freedom Zero, but SOMEBODY always does. In the long long term, the stuff created to those principles will survive, whilst the Apple and Google and Microsoft products will be blips in history.

@pauldwaite: Not only can they not stop you running Linux on your Mac, but Apple were responsible for porting Linux to the Mac in the first place (MkLinux was a research project co-managed by Apple and what is now the Open Group, and ran Linux on top of pretty much the same Mach Microkernel that sits at the heart of XNU/Darwin/Mac OS X now).

Thank you! I’ve been feeling this way since the Mac came out. I remember the disappointment when it turned out that the Mac was going to be a proprietary, overpriced and locked-down system. The Apple II, on the other hand, was open hardware and firmware. Still have the original reference manual with complete schematics and boot monitor listing (including Sweet 16!).

Well, there have been some open source successes too (and OS is really what this is all about). You say iPhone, I say Firefox. It’s a battle that hasn’t been decided yet.

I suspect most people don’t care about “freedom zero” because they practice it every day. I’ve worked and/or played with a fairly large sample set of computer users, and I can safely say that every single one of them has unlicensed software, that they use at least semi-regularly, installed on their computer.

The software industry has created this problem systematically in two ways; we create crappy software (and then expect users to pay for defect fixes!), and we price software out of the reach of most users. When one software package costs more than she paid for the entire computer, she has a powerful incentive to “borrow” a friend’s copy.

Sadly, the Open Source movement has only fixed one of these problems (the price factor). As you mention above, outside of some special niches, the quality and usability of Open Source is much worse than the proprietary stuff…

By the way, isn’t your copyright notice at the bottom of the site out of date ?

Nothing pisses me off more than buying hardware that is locked down. Whats the point of buying a supper blue tooth enabled, wifi enabled, mp3 playing smartphone … if you cant use any of it?

I love my iPhone because it is hackable. More so than any other phone… it’s unix after all. Apple keeps tightening it up though.

Ever wonder why there are no killer compact framework phone apps? Because all the smart phones that would run them are locked down.

I cant wait for a device / phone you can actually write apps for, above board. I want skype on my phone. :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s all about selling media. Controlling its distribution and play. Some record labels actually consider it piracy to rip a cd, that you purchased, and play it on an mp3 player. The only reason i buy cds is to rip them and play them on my comp/mp3 player… anyway. Many Verizon phones can play mp3s … but to get the mp3 on the phone you have to buy a crapply compressed version from V-Case for 2$

Apple is now in the same market. They don’t care about making inovative devices, their concern is distributing media.

You know how much money is in selling crappy ring-tones? It’s a lot more then selling Mac software, i’m sure.

Open source seems to divide into two major types of projects. The first are very innovative, the sort of thing for which there are no proprietary comparisons. I think these are often open source by chance; there’s no reason why they should be one way or the other, other than the interest of whomever got the idea in the first place. The second are the “copiers” – people who want to find free/open versions of proprietary software. That these should be open source makes inherent sense – who is going to be able to get a lot of people together to make a clone of Photoshop with a lousy, unintuitive GUI? Who would put up the cash to make a vector drawing program that can’t export to file formats usable in most desktop programs? Who would want to make a slow and buggy knock-off of Microsoft Office? These sorts of projects seem much more intelligently to be open source – it’s a neat challenge and the idea of “replacing” the proprietary world seems to motivate a lot of people.

I’ve been more disappointed with many of the promised open source programs than I have been pleased. They just never seem to live up to the hype or be quite as good as the proprietary ones. Only Firefox comes close, and even it has a lot of things I dislike about it (ugly way of handling forms, very slow at times, and after awhile the continual cry of ‘this add-on has an update, want to install it?’ makes me, against my will, long for the days when third-party add-ons stopped asking me for permission every time they wanted to do something). Some products, like OpenOffice.org have been downright depressing – at best it is a slow clone of Microsoft Office, with all of the bad ideas that were originally there. At worst it can’t even get to Office’s level – it seems practically impossible to make good-looking charts in OO.org; it’s only mostly impossible in Office. And Base seems like way more trouble than its worth – reproducing all of the unintuitive and difficult-to-use parts about Microsoft Access without providing any of the powerful functionality. It’s like the programmers never thought to consult with the potential audience, and instead barreled down the path of emulating a suite software which hadn’t changed it’s interface for a decade.

I’ve often thought that the problem with Microsoft is that it is software-development-as-decided-by-a-lot-of-middle-managers, and the problem with open source is that it is software-development-as-decided-by-a-lot-of-programmers. You can’t get good results from an all-manager environment, and you can’t get good results from an all-programmer environment. There’s got to be some sort of hybrid – I imagine a third market, which exists now but hasn’t really opened up, of managers and programmers who take the fruit of open source programming and build intuitive GUIs around it, installers that don’t require you to drop into a command line to “sudo” anything, and get rid of feature-clutter that programmers think people “might like” but have no real idea.

Don’t get me wrong – I think open source holds a lot of promise, and I’m in no way throwing my lot in with a purely proprietary model.

Oh, and I use an Intel Mac. Har har har. I like being able to run a fast, good-looking machine that can also quickly drop into a Linux command line and also load up XP in a virtualizer. I’ve got the best of all worlds, from what I can tell, and if I paid a little more for the benefit, well, that’s what the old “academic discount” is for. :wink:

Really Jeff, you don’t have to tell us that Apple is one evil proprietary company. We as software developer know, the problem the customers don’t and they don’t care.

It maybe cool for the Wii or XBox, but I never could understand, why the iPhone could get so successful, without being able to run 3rd Party software on it.
Not even simple J2ME cardgames 'common. It’s the one device I’m going to carry around everywhere, let me install the apps I need! Things like Coktail Reciepes, Language Dictionarys, a PDF Reader etc. I used all of this in 2002 on my first Symbian phone and 3rd party apps for mobile devices have been massive since then.

They went a long road to establish standards between different device vendors and now Apple enters the game and throws everything away. And people buy this stuff like theres no tomorow.

Also, nobody seems to care that iPods only work with iTunes. If I buy an overpriced Mp3-Player should’nt it be my choice which software I use? It’s not like you cant just plug any other Mp3-Player into an USB-Port and start transfering files.

People always critize Mircosoft for having restricted policies on topics like this, but Apple is even worse and still they maintain their nice clean image.

Freedom Zero is a promise of future gain. It does nothing to solve your current needs, only those which you think you might have in the future.

Consumers don’t buy promises. They buy tools to help them with whatever their problems are now. Regardless of what you think about Apple, they are solving people’s needs right now. And no-one is going to turn off all those devices and stop them doing whatever they are doing now (if we take icky DRM out of the picture for now).

Freedom Zero is a noble aim but it is not the only way, nor is it necessarily even desirable above other models. If enough people have a certain need in the future, then software will fill that need. The issue that really hangs over freedom is software patenting, which could stifle efforts to clone software that has since been unsupported.

greg: A large community of hackers/crackers has grown to turn the iPhone into an open platform for third-party applications. Just goog–wikia for it.

There you go, another post that I can totally say is mine.
Please share a picture poster size so I can hang it on the wall. :slight_smile: