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Comment Re:Seems reasonable to sell a product (Score 1) 238

Ok, it's not really Microsoft selling copies of Windows when a consumer buys a computer at retail. The consumer is buying a copy of Windows from Dell (for example), and Dell is licensed to re-sell Windows. The distinction is not important to my point, which is this: The consumer enters into a transaction whose appearance and nature is that of a sale of chattel goods. When he offers cash for the purchase, he is within his rights to expect to fully own what he paid for. (This follows from the fact that consumers live in a world where simple sales transactions are the norm, and customized contracts of sale are not.) A EULA places encumbrances on the consumer's ownership that, due the the asymmetrical nature of how EULAs are formulated, are beyond that which is reasonable for ordinary consumers to understand, The goods were misrepresented; to sell them that way constitutes fraud. (Strictly speaking, Dell is committing fraud, but doing so under contractual obligation with MS. Getting Dell to do the dirty work makes MS a conspirator to fraud.)

I suppose EFF could come up with a industry-uniform EULA, though I would think they have bigger fish to fry. We sort of have that with the GPL. I wouldn't have any problem with a software vendor using the GPL as a EULA.

This reasoning applies to mass-marketed merchandise. I don't have a problem with arbitrary EULAs for bespoke-coded software projects, nor the licensing terms MS makes with Dell (except, of course, for the part where they conspire to defraud consumers). The problem occurs when we have asymmetrical lawyering; the solution is the first sale doctrine (or, alternately, uniform contracts produced through a process that properly represents consumers' interests).

Comment Re:Seems reasonable to sell a product (Score 1) 238

Oh, I am not defending taxi licensure; local governments have taken the simple need to "regulate and make uniform" commercial activity with some simple rules (If you offer services at a published rate, you must do so in a non-discriminatory fashion) and turned it into a giant rent-seeking scheme. A have to disagree with your assessment of the facts, though: Microsoft very much does want to sell Windows at Best Buy (and every other random retail channel); they want to do so as part of a bundle. It certainly is to Microsoft's advantage to have OEM's take cash for their products in sale as chattel goods (and bundled together in arbitrary combinations as is the right of someone selling chattel goods). My claim is that is it bad policy to allow them to do so without holding them to the first sale doctrine.

I suppose a case can be made that the software business is mature enough now that a uniform EULA can be put in place, much like the "uniform contract of carriage" you get with an airline ticket. That avoids the asymmetrical lawyering that has heretofore gone into EULAs; the industry and consumers negotiate en masse (ideally as private sector organizations but usually this happens through the political process) the terms of a uniform EULA without one side spending, literally, a million times as much effort as the other. The most successful example of this is the GPL.

On a final note, I would point out that a truly free market wouldn't have copyrights at all. Attacking restrictions on EULAs and software bundling on free-market grounds is a bit spurious. It's not for nothing that RMS dislikes the term "intellectual property".

Comment Re:Seems reasonable to sell a product (Score 1) 238

This gets into the legal weeds a bit, but freedom of contract, in the classical sense, assumes a proper negotiation process before entering the deal. There are all kinds of contracts that are prohibited due to time constraints, situations of duress, or asymmetrical information. We don't allow taxi drivers to triple their rates when a rider appears to be suffering a heart attack and needs a ride to the hospital (a freely negotiated rate, eh?). We prohibit sharecropping (bundling seed-corn purchases, land rents, and debt financing together in an exploitive way). In most cases, we don't allow drug-makers to transfer liability for poisonous contaminants to the consumer. For common transactions where the rules of an ordinary don't sale apply (airfares, amusement tickets, and car rentals for example) we have contracts that are uniform industry-wide. And yes, we have the "first sale doctrine" where a transaction that has the nature and appearance of a sale necessarily exhausts the seller's copyright interests.

If Microsoft wants the benefits that come from mass merchandising, they should be required to play by the rules of mass-merchandising. Instead, they want to treat a retail purchase at Best Buy like a Wall Street finance deal by inserting a click-license after the fact. This faux-contract is replicated millions of times for Microsoft (and therefore they can spend millions on legal fees crafting the language to advance their interests) but is seen only once by the consumer, who if competent to understand it at all, has a much smaller stake and can't afford to invest much effort into it. In the end, the consumer is confused and swindled. That isn't freedom of contract, that is fraud.

Comment Re:Seems reasonable to sell a product (Score 1) 238

Some of them appear to be parted out from a machine, but they sell bundled with hardware (usually a hard drive) to evade corporate lawyers. Therefore this is not evidence that consumers have won back their legal rights due to them for having paid cash for chattel goods, but rather an indication that Ebay has become infiltrated with black markets.

Comment Re:Seems reasonable to sell a product (Score 5, Insightful) 238

That points up the technical barriers to treating pre-installed software as chattel goods. True that, but even if you solve that technically, my point is that you are legally enjoined from re-selling or re-purposing the software. So, when it comes to bundled sales, the interpretation (that we have chattel goods) favors Microsoft's business interest at the expense of the consumer, but when it comes to parting out and re-sale, a conflicting interpretation (that we don't have chattel goods, but rather, a license) favors Microsoft's business interest at the expense of the consumer.

The terms of the agreement have been altered, pray that the corporate lawyers don't alter them further [insert Darth Vader breath here].

Comment Re:Common sense (Score 1) 74

You don't have to assume upgrades to have benefits from modular construction. CPU chips remained socketed long after CPU upgrades became exceedingly rare simply because CPU and motherboards had different product lifecycles, and some systems could be GPU-heavy with a cheap CPU, while others CPU-heavy, without needing separate MB designs. If you look at AV equipment, you can buy an integrated unit--no messing with cables but now that obsolete 30-pin ipod dock just sits there looking stupid--or a modular system with whatever unusual features you need (XM radio or a phonograph player). Modular phones of this sort (if they ever get the standards worked out right) would first appear in weird edge-cases: a re-implementation of Garmin's GPS-whose-antenna-doesn't-suck combo with phone, or cameraphone-whose-lens-aperture-doesn't-suck, or satphone combo, or phone with an RJ45 (a modern Zaurus), or hiker's phone with 3-week-battery-who-cares-if-its-1-inch-thick, etc. We already see a bit of this with the Square credit card reader to make phone-as-point-of-sale-device.

Comment Amiga profitability (Score 1) 205

Can't speak to the other systems (so this doesn't really invalidate your larger point), but I have to dispel the common misconception that the Amiga was anything but profitable to the end of its days. Commodore went under due to losses from the PC clone business, and Amiga production shut down when suppliers stopped delivering parts. Near the end, Amigas shipped with dealer-installed hard-drives (paid for in cash) since HD makers were among the first to get stiffed with delinquent invoices. I would posit that, under better management, the Amiga platform could have survived and have a market position similar to the Mac today.

There is a reason Amigans are so bitter about how that went down.

Comment Ad load (Score 1) 72

I recently did a quick analysis on ad-load on satellite TV (AMC, SyFy, IFC, etc.). A typical 110-minute movie will have 10 commercial breaks averaging 5 minutes, so that's 50 minutes of ads for 110 minutes of content, while some movies are padded out with ads to a 3-hour time slot. That computes to 30 to 40% ads and 60-70% content. I have to think that it really has gotten worse over the years.

I take the .avi files off my DVR and edit all those ads out, a process I have semi-automated with a spreadsheet and some scripts, and then copy them to my NAS box so they are available anytime. Often as not there is some programming promotion crawling on the bottom of the screen, but I also crop the letterboxing out so most of that is gone too.

Comment Re:Why you don't want most Things to be Intelligen (Score 1) 112

TV/VCR Combo are stupid

Heh, my combo set (which I didn't pay a dime for, and whose VCR broke long ago) can't play DVDs through the video input. The video passes through the VCR's AGC circuit whether I am using it or not, and Macrovision signal corruption creates brightness flicker as is its pathological intent. I use my xdimax Grex time-base corrector on it when I must.

I always recommend against "smart" TVs myself. To describe it succinctly, the upgrade life-cycle of a TV is much longer than the upgrade cycle of a streaming appliance. If TVs had slots for plug-in cards that would be better, but we don't really have anything like PCI or Cardbus for TV sets.

Comment Commodity hardware awaits (Score 1) 105

So, if the smartphone market has matured, commodity hardware can't be far behind. When Sammy & Apple can't get an edge on features, people will buy the cheapest and standardization drives down cost. Standardized hardware lends itself to open-source software. The biggest obstacle to flashing Sailfish on my N9 (how's that for clinging to old hardware?) is device drivers. Sailfish on iPhone hardware would be pretty cool. Small value-add shops can craft custom solutions. Imagine a local shop that can supply a phone tied, with encrypted links at the OS level, to your own cloud server, and the shop arranges for a contractor to bury the server in your backyard under 10 tons of concrete. Silicon Valley isn't interested in providing such solutions, but in a commodity world Big Data can be democratized.

Comment Re:You still own it (Score 1) 268

plenty of dead film formats

And the deadest of the all is the Kodamatic. When Polaroid sued Kodak in the 80's, the film supply disappeared. Consumers got a $50 rebate, and Kodak lost billions. So in the most prominent case of IP concerns leading to bricking a consumer device, the consumers got something. (This assumes DMCA blocks someone from providing an alternate cloud service for the Revolv.)

Comment Re:3G is terrible for all these things (Score 3, Informative) 118

If you are comparing 3G to 2G, both technologies can cut back on transmission power to conserve battery energy so there isn't much difference for a low data rate application. (I mention elswhere that long-term obsolescence, not power efficiency, is the likely motivation for using 3G.) The original post, however, was talking about short-range radio, and it simply isn't possible (as in mathematically impossible by the Shannon-Hartley theorem) for a cellular radio to push data to a tower 2 miles away without expending more energy per bit than a properly implemented short range ISM band radio hitting an in-building transponder 50 feet away. To take my previous example of a medical alert button, the mobile verison is 3x the size and needs a nightly recharge, compared to the ISM-only version which has a non-rechargeable battery that typically lasts over a year.

Comment Re:3G is terrible for all these things (Score 2) 118

I think the motivation for going with 3G is due to the carriers' long term plans to phase out 2G/GPRS. These devices often have very long service lives, 15 or 20 years. A 9600 bps analog cellular modem would have been perfectly sensible in 1994, but would have been forced into obsolescence in less than 15 years.

Comment Re:3G is terrible for all these things (Score 4, Interesting) 118

Price of the 3G service can be cheap if you do it right. The usual arrangement with M2M applications (like for example a moblie version of the ive-fallen-and-cant-get-up button that I was involved in--it used an earlier UBlox module) is to arrange contract pricing in bulk. So if you know your firmware only needs an average 100 kB/day of data service, you buy a bucket of 1 GB/day to cover your 10,000 devices and bundle data service with your device.

But yeah, the battery drain issue makes this sort of device suitable only for wide-ranging mobile applications. For in-buildling/factory/campus installations a short range ISM band radio is more suitable. A tiny module isn't much help when you have to bolt it to a fat battery and decent antenna. Often a short-range radio should be included even when when a 3G module is present if doing so can keep average data consumption down and conserve battery energy.

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