Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Nobody reads EULAs anyway.

I'm a Unix guy. For the past ten years, I've spent the vast majority of my computing time in variants of Unix--Irix, Solaris, Linux, FreeBSD, and others. Like any good Unix guy, it takes effort for me to suppress my anti-Microsoft feelings, and most of the time I don't even try. However,
for various reasons, I've usually kept at least one Windows installation handy.

The reason used to be games, but nowadays the important ones either href="http://www.idsoftware.com/">work on Linux or href="http://www.rockstargames.com/grandtheftauto3/">live on the PS2.

It used to be web content, but recent versions of href="http://www.mozilla.org/">Mozilla can access anything I want
to--and the things it can't access are generally not worth it.

Lately, the thing keeping Windows in my life has been my laptop. When I first bought it, I installed Linux on it, and found that the hardware just wasn't supported very well. Windows ME, as shipped with the laptop, worked much better,
and so I've been grumpily using that. To be fair, it's served well as a dumb terminal--running an X server, I've been able to do useful work remotely on my FreeBSD machine. But still, I've had to deal with IE, Media Player, and all the baggage that comes with those.

In other words, I've become used to Windows as a necessary evil in my life. But on Saturday, I was reminded that "necessary" is relative, and that "evil" is not to be taken lightly.
On that day, Slashdot reported Microsoft's latest shenanigan. In a security update for Media Player, they slipped a change into the EULA which gives Microsoft permission to "upgrade" OS components that enforce digital rights, and to disable software which doesn't (in their view) enforce digital rights.

Now, when it comes to copyright, licensing agreements, and other IP issues, I'm more obsessive than anybody I know. I don't pirate music. I don't pirate software. I've even paid for every copy of every Microsoft product that I use.
I do everything by the letter of the law--so what do I have to fear from Microsoft's enforcement of digital rights?

If digital rights management were really about catching the bad guys, then I would have nothing to fear. But the trend in digital rights management--established by ridiculous legislation and happily embraced by mega-corporations--is to make it harder to do things that might be illegal.
That established rights and useful capabilities are lost in the process doesn't seem to be a concern.

The wording in the new Media Player EULA clearly places it in this sinister category. What's worse, they've attached the new clause to a security update, which means you either a) grant them this new power or b) knowingly use a product with a security hole.

I choose c). I have once and for all wiped Windows from my laptop. By lucky coincidence, recent versions of Linux have come to support all the hardware I own--not just the laptop, but my USB mouse, flatbed scanner, and even my digital camera.

The Microsoft Tumor is almost completely excised. Our desktop machine still has Windows 98, because my wife and I need a word processor. I'm currently evaluating word processor choices on Linux. The choices aren't impressive, but we don't need much from a word processor, so one of them should suffice.

Any minute now, I may be free again. I'm giddy.


  1. Have you looked into AbiWord? Based on some reviews of the product it looks quite promising. Plus, you can install a Babelfish Plugin!

  2. > Have you looked into AbiWord?
    Yeah, I've used ABIWord before, but I see that it's grown up a lot since then. Sadly, the babelfish plugin seems to launch AltaVists in a browser, rather than translating in place. It's still cute, though.
    StarOffice came with my distribution of RedHat, so I tried that out a bit. My first impression is that it's monolothic, clunky, and really slow. Plus, they've embraced something I can't stand: applications that you can only get to through an office suite that tries way too hard to be helpful.
    Between the two, I'm leaning towards ABIWord, though I may keep StarOffice around for its PseudoPowerPoint.

  3. Heh :-)
    I'm probably going to have a Windows installation at home soon for the first time in quite awhile. But if it helps, it'll probably be NT and won't have the EULA change. There's just one or two reasons I still occasionally find Linux, by itself, inadequate... :-(

  4. Mark VandeWetteringJuly 2, 2002 at 8:41 AM

    TeX/LaTeX is still what I use for writing. pdflatex works great too. Perhaps not what you want to tell computer novices to learn though.

  5. You guys make me feel guilty. I purchased XP this spring and find it to be very fast, finally useful and very stable.
    While I am very mideful of the fact that I am bent over the MS barrel, I have not found a platform, or a collection of software that satisfies my need for compatibility, stability and graphics production. Macs have finally reached the point where I would consider buying one, but I still like to play games, and the mac is the anti-gaming platform.
    Having worked on NT for my entire professional life, I'm stuck in the situation that no acceptable professional level compositors, graphics aps and modelers are compatible with our production flow. We are a windows production house and all of the tools that are available for Linux (that I have seen) require a level of tech support and in house coders that we cannot afford.
    Idealogically, I would like to be on of the free spirited who can dump the MS platform, however until the tools exist, and the management complexity is lowered and the compatibility is raised, I find that XP has performed better than advertized and exceeds my needs as a graphics professional.
    Now I just need to find a way to live with that.

  6. Kevin wrote:> We are a windows production house
    I happen to be lucky enough to work in a Microsoft-free company (where my desktop is a Linux machine), but I don't pretend that ideological issues make much of a difference in corporate choices. My rant applies to computing environments where I can choose. At home I can choose, and so at home, my ideology matters.
    > until the tools exist, and the management complexity is lowered and the compatibility is raised
    Those are certainly the obstacles. For hardware that's more than a few months old, modern Linux is impressively compatible--even plug'n'play. But when things don't work, the bar for patching and recompiling kernels is certainly high for non-Unix-heads.
    I spend a lot of time thinking about (and dealing with) intellectual property issues, and the Media Player EULA was a clear reminder of where Microsoft stands on the issue.
    Though it sounds melodramatic, that was the last straw for me, and I can't with a clear conscience run their software any more.