interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘Open Office’

No PDF Files Please

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 21, 2010

No Usage Based Billing


It is a fallacy that PDF files maintain the integrity of the information.

The idea behind PDFs was that they would freeze your digital document so that it can’t be tampered with.
Correction of Fact: I’ve learned from a comment below that PDFs were actually not intended to be secure. (Thanks D.A.) And that they could just as easily be created in landscape mode. They were intended to preserve the formatting for printing. My problem is that very often information being given in PDFs is NOT stuff that needs to be printed… and in fact does NOT need to be printed.

That’s simply not true.

Except from almost the first moment PDFs appeared in the world, people figured out how to deconstruct them so that they COULD tamper with them.

After all, forgery has existed for as long as we’ve had documents. But the idea that PDFs are secure has taken hold. But it is not true.

Worse, PDFs are a pain to use. For a long time I thought that PDFs were proprietary software because you need a special reader to read them. I have this idea that the only person who determines what can be on my computer is me. Because it’s my computer. If you want me to have specific software on my computer, you can buy me a computer, and I’ll put the software you want on it. But as long as I pay for my computer I own it.

Yet government offices lock information I want or need — information that I am entitled to — into PDF files. And school boards. Even my bank wants to replace statements with PDFs. Well. No.

Because even though I know there is software to take PDFs apart I don’t have it because I am not planning on forging anything. I’m looking to get information. But before I can get it, I have to install a PDF reader on my computer.

Even so, PDFs are miserable to read on a computer screen, because computer screens are in Landscape mode while PDFs are locked in Portrait mode. Hello. PDFs are designed to be read on paper. The format does not translate well to computer screens which are currently more and more commonly in wide screen landscape format.

If you read it on your screen you can’t just scroll through the document. You scroll down the first page. But before you can go to the second page you have to scroll back to the top to be able to click the arrow. The only civilized way to read a PDF is if you print it out. Not exactly a good paperless solution, eh?

PDFs were designed by Adobe, and the idea was supposed to be that you had to get an Adobe Reader in order to read them. That’s what made them proprietary. Eventually Adobe made PDFs partially open source, which means that programs like Open Office can now create PDF documents. And you can use other readers to read PDFs. That’s what I do when I am forced to open one.

But PDF files are nowhere near universally accessible because it is necessary to have a PDF Reader to read them. That is a huge barrier to accessibility. It doesn’t have to be an Adobe Reader, but only the Adobe Reader accesses an Adobe PDF perfectly. Recently I was given a colour PDF, but because I don’t use the Adobe reader, it will only print for me in black and white.

So just as an ordinary person who uses a computer, I hate it when information I need is locked up in a PDF.


But recently I’ve learned that PDFs aren’t just awkward and difficult to use they are insecure.

Putting information in PDFs does not make the information secure. PDF Files and Adobe Readers are actually dangerous to our computers.

I will not have an Adobe Reader on my computer because of the security problems inherent in the Adobe Reader. Adobe itself tells us that:

“a critical vulnerability (CVE-2010-0188) has been identified that could cause the application to crash and could potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system”

There are always new warnings because the Adobe Reader is insecure.

Adobe: Security Updates available for Adobe Reader and Acrobat versions 9 and earlier

And there are others who advise against PDFs…

ars technica: Flash security vulnerability exploited in PDFs

ZD Net: Adobe warns of Flash, PDF zero-day attacks

engadget: Adobe’s Flash and Acrobat have ‘critical’ vulnerability, may allow remote hijacking

United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team: Adobe Reader and Acrobat customDictionaryOpen() and getAnnots() JavaScript vulnerabilities

So please, don’t give me a PDF.

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10796 signatures.

If you have already signed, who else should you be asking to sign?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.

Because Usage Based Billing will harm both Canadians and our Economy.

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

D: BitTorrent

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 24, 2009

No Usage Based Billing
No Usage Based Billing

[The First Part of this series was <<A: Open Source. The second installment of the Stop Usage Based Billing alphabet series was <<B: Packets and the Internet. The third installment was <a href=”<<C: Deep Packet Inspection, and the final installment will be E: Open Source Deep Packet Inspection]

What is BitTorrent Anyway??

“BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol used for distributing large amounts of data. BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and it has been estimated that it accounts for approximately 27-55% of all Internet traffic (depending on geographical location) as of February 2009.”

Wikipedia on BitTorrent

BitTorrent is an extremely fast and efficient means of uploading and downloading. BitTorrent is an excellent way to distribute large materials to many people via the internet.

Radical Ideas

Like so many of the radical new ways to do things that technology and the internet have made possible, BitTorrent can only work through co-operation. BitTorrent requires a network of “peers”, or other people’s computers who are willing to share the file. This is referred to as “peer to peer” or “p2p.

If I have a large file I want to transfer, the first step is to “seed” the file, transferring portions of the file to multiple members of the p2p network.

BitTorrent begins seeding portions of the file for transfer

Diagram 1: Seeding

It only takes a small fraction of the file to be passed along before the process speeds up enormously.

Seeding continues, but peers have begun exchanging data

Diagram 2: Seeding and Sharing

Once I have a small portion, i pass it along at the same time as I’m receiving new bits of the same file, either from the original seed source of another peer.

uploading and downloading

Diagram 3: Upload + Download = Speed

With many participants (peers) uploading and downloading at the same time, large files can be distributed very quickly indeed.

Diagram 4: Finish Fast

Bell Canada “Throttles” BitTorrent

Bell Canada

When Bell Canada was first caught “throttling” internet traffic to the Independent ISP customers, Bell Canada’s justification to the CRTC was that the internet was too crowded, and that it was necessary to “manage” the traffic. Bell claimed that they needed to employ Deep Packet Inspection to identify BitTorrent Traffic so that they can “throttle” it.

“The CRTC’s mandate is to ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public. ”

CRTC Role, CRTC Website

Amazingly, the CRTC had nothing to say about Bell Canada’s plans to discriminate against particular Canadian internet users.

The CRTC has accepted Bell’s unsubstantiated contention that this discrimination was necessary, and in approving it they have allowed Bell Canada to think that this discrimination is acceptable. In no way does this serve the Canadian public.

You might almost think that the CRTC mandate was to suppress Canadian creativity and the creation of Canadian movies and music. The availability of the technologies that exist to make it easy to create our own movies and music should be welcomed as an opportunity to add to and help grow our Canadian Culture.

Why single out BitTorrent traffic for throttling if it is an efficient use of the available bandwidth?

One of Bell Canada’s arguments for implementation of Usage Based Billing is that Canadian internet bandwidth is in short supply, making it necessary for them to “manage” bandwidth by penalizing heavy users.

So how could anything as efficient as BitTorrent possibly be seen as a bad thing if the Internet is so crowded?

It doesn’t make sense to discriminate against BitTorrent use. There is nothing inherently bad about BitTorrent use or BitTorrent internet traffic. But Bell Canada’s contention is that BitTorrent is bad because people use it to download movies and music.

Which begs the question: how does that make BitTorrent bad?

The Copyright Red Herring

The “Copyright Lobby”, which consists of large media producers and distributors (like Disney), and corporations and organizations (like MPAA), who distribute commercial movies and music, want us to believe that this is a bad thing.

This corporate special interest group has spent a great deal of time, energy and cash trying to promote the “pravda” that any digital copying of copyright works is bad. Making no distinction between commercial bootleggers who distribute illegal copies for profit and legal purchasers who seek to make a back-up copy or digital format shift for personal use, the Copyright Lobby has been pressuring governments the world over to criminalize personal use copying.

The problem for ordinary citizens is that these corporate interests have vast quantities of money to spend and a great deal of media power. This makes it incredibly difficult for governments to stand up to their onslaught. In some parts of the world this persistent advocacy has paid off for the Copyright Lobby, as lawmakers knuckle under and legislate to the detriment of their own citizens by making it illegal even to copy or download movies or music for personal use.

Here in Canada the Copyright Lobby is seeking to influence our lawmakers to criminalize personal use copying. They are trying to make Canadians think that people who make copies for personal use are performing criminal acts, and should be penalized the same as a a bootlegger who films the latest theatrical release off a theatre screen and proceeds to sell hundreds of thousands of bootleg DVDs.

Once again, Channel Four’s hilarious I.T. Crowd puts this question in perspective with this send-up of a video piracy commercial I found on YouTube.

Strong and free?

Strong and free?

Canadian Law says

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, personal use copying is simply not illegal.

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, use of the BitTorrent file transfer protocol is also perfectly legal.

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, peer to peer (p2p) file sharing is legal; Canadians break no laws simply by joining in a p2p network.

The Copyright Lobby’s smear tactics have gone a long way toward making the world believe that BitTorrent is inherently bad.

Bell Canada has convinced the CRTC that it is acceptable to “throttle” BitTorrent, because of BitTorrent’s reputed connection with possible copyright infringement. So although BitTorrent is perfectly legal, Canadian internet users are paying the price for the success of this Copyright Lobby propaganda.

Myth: All BitTorrent/p2p internet traffic consists of copyright movies and music

The Corporate world doesn’t understand radical ideas like Open Source software and p2p file sharing because these concepts are so different from anything appearing in the old business models. Even more incomprehensible to the outdated business models is the fact that it may or may not generate a direct monetary profit.

International Business Machines

The classic example of corporate myopia is:

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. ”

—attributed to Thomas J. Watson, president of International Business Machines, circa 1943

IBM For many years IBM has taken the rap for this quote whether or not Mr. Watson really did say it. (Most likely not.) Maybe proving it wrong is part of why IBM is such a going concern in the 21st Century. Having weathered the storms of fortune today’s IBM is a world leader by continuing to innovate and adapt alongside evolving attitudes and technologies. IBM has been steadily increasing their participation and involvement with Open Source software in this new century.

The reality is that IBM not only understands the importance of open source, the corporation has actively supported and promoted adoption of Linux and Open Office in the corporate world. And naturally BitTorrent is a part of the equation because it is such an efficient means to distribute large files (like for instance, Canonical’s Ubuntu.)


—Thomas J. Watson, president of International Business Machines

Seems IBM actually does heed their most enduring slogan (which definitely was coined by Mr. Watson). Sadly, this type of foresight is uncommon. Because BitTorrent is such a radical idea, most entrenched corporations simply aren’t capable of understanding it.

There are other uses for BitTorrent that are not only legal, but even perfectly acceptable in polite society.

The Nightingale and the Rose
Probably my favorite use of BitTorrent is the amazing Project Gutenberg. This organization has been digitizing books in the public domain and distributing them freely… via BitTorrent, since this is such an efficient method of digital distribution. After all, BitTorrent is used for transferring very large files like music and movies because it is very efficient.
firefox logo

BitTorrent file sharing is not all movies and music. Like IBM, many people actually use p2p to help distribute open source software like OpenOffice via p2p. There is a growing body of open source software available, for instance my favorite web browser is Mozilla’s Firefox.

In fact, there the awesome SourceForge website which provides a place to find all manner of open source software, or where you can release your own.

When a new distribution of Ubuntu is released, people around the world gather together and have Ubuntu Release Parties making more good use of BitTorrent

And of course the Pirate Party of Canada has established Captain: the Canadian Pirate Tracker, their own BitTorrent site where Recording Artists and Filmmakers (and I imagine novelists, and software creators as well would be welcome to utilize this) to freely distribute their work.

Every bit of music and every movie transferred is not a copyright infringement. If I get to the point where my home made movies may prove marketable, I would certainly be looking at BitTorrent Distribution. In fact it would probably be easier to distribute home movies to family via BitTorrent than it would be to try to burn DVDs. (DRM makes the two commercial movie making software packages I’ve purchased almost unusable. Of course it doesn’t slow down the bootleggers.) If YouTube is an indicator, I’m not the only person who wants to transfer music and movies freely … not as copyright infringements. I have paid levies to the music industry for home movies I have made and burrned to CD for distribution to friends and family. If I choose to transfer them via BitTorrent now I can avoid the levy but instead suffer the added expense of Bell Canada’s deliberate throttling inflation?

Another really good legal use of BitTorrents are the actual commercial websites where people can go to to purchase downloads of music. So far no one seems to have found anything wrong with this practice.

But that’s not all. Canada’s own CBC Television Network tried their own experiment by releasing an episode of their program Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister via BitTorrent. Unfortunately the BitTorrent didn’t work so well because of Bell Canada’s CRTC approved BitTorrent “throttling”.

Geist tweets about the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation

Which is not to say it wasn’t a good idea. Not too long ago Michael Geist tweeted about the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation‘s foray into BitTorrent use. All accounts indicate that their experiment was very successful indeed, which is having a big impact in the way they do business.

Ink Poster

The sad tale of a pirated Independent film can be found in this TorrentFreak article Indie Movie Explodes on BitTorrent, Makers Bless Piracy.

I guess it isn’t such a sad story after all.  

Thanks to piracy this Indie film called INK was has been achieving a distribution level that the filmmakers had never dreamed of.  They are of course extraordinarily pleased.

I think what is being called piracy here is BitTorrent p2p personal use sharing. Friends sharing with friends is one of the most effective ways to achieve recognition. They used to call it a “grass roots” movement. This is one of the major issues for the large movie studios. This is the place where they complain of being ripped off. What they don’t seem to realize is that this is a good thing. Exposure garners fans, makes a “name”. Fans buy stuff.

BitTorrent Traffic is not the only thing Bell Canada is Throttling

Rumour has it that there are people who actually work from home.

Time was the government encouraged the idea of people working from home. There are all sorts of advantages to society, like reduced congestion on actual highways, less wear and tear on our roads, a decrease in commuting based pollutants in our environment, a reduction of human depletion of fossil fuels.

But if you work from home, you are probably going to have to transfer files back and forth between your home and workplace. Chances are good that you are going to encrypt this type of traffic for security reasons. Although Bell Canada says they are only “throttling” BitTorrent traffic, in fact there have been instances of Bell throttling encrypted internet traffic on the assumption that if it’s encrypted, it must be BitTorrent traffic.

Bell places the onus on the customer to prove their “innocence” before they will consider stopping throttling.

Since the CRTC gave Bell Canada permission to use Deep Packet Inspection to inspect our packets, the only way to ensure that our private information remains private is through encryption. And in Canada any encrypted internet traffic will most likely to be throttled.

Canadian Copyright Consultation

The Canadian Government is looking at updating Canadian copyright law. They held a copyright consultation process this year, traveling around Canada soliciting opinions of stakeholders. Even better, they set up a website where they accepted submissions from any Canadian who wished to contribute. This website was flooded with thousands of submissions. Some are simply a few lines, some are extensive essays covering all sorts of topics, but all I’ve read are heartfelt. Because of the overwhelming response it took a long time to get all the submissions posted. (My own submission finally made online.)

This process led a lot of Canadians, including me, to believe that the copycon process might actually mean that our elected representatives were listening to us.

Unfortunately there is currently a lot of pressure on our government to make copying movies, software and music for personal use illegal. The secret ACTA meetings have caused a feeling of dread to settle over most Canadians. There has been deprecating talk about weak Canadian copyright law.

Except it isn’t true.canadian copyright

If anything, Canadian copyright law is probably more robust than is good for us.

The essential problem that the copyright lobby is attempting to overcome the problem of suing their own customers for what they imagine are infringements. They have noticed that fighting personal use copying garners bad publicity. This problem can be neatly solved by passing the responsibility for finding and prosecuting copyright infringement to governments. And of course the only was to get government to take ob the responsibility is to convince them that the copyright infringement is a criminal offense.

Regardless, currently copyright law is imprecise as regards personal use copying. So we’ll just have to wait for an actual law to be passed before it becomes illegal. (This pressure is actually largely from foreign owned interests– like Disney. It will be interesting to see if our government caves to this outside pressure.)

mixed messages

The government mandated levy we pay every time we purchase a blank CD is a tacit governmental admission that it is legal to burn CDs of our own music.

In the pre-Tivo era, Canadian cable networks actively encouraged Canadians to videotape the movies that they showed so we could watch them when it was convenient. They called it “time shifting” in their massive advertising campaigns. But no media giants took our cable companies to court back then. For the same reason artists will lend or give away their work for free when they’re starting out (because they need to build and audience– exactly like the INK producers mentioned above), back then even Disney didn’t have a channel in Canada. So Disney didn’t kick up a fuss even though they had to have known this was happening. They let it go because it was in their best interests to allow time shifting (i.e personal use copying). Disney knew this was in their best interests because it would help the Canadian cable companies build their market.

Of course now Disney doesn’t want us to record their movies for personal use. Disney would be happy if our government decided personal use copying was illegal. They would be happier still if our government spent time and energy searching out and charging people who download Disney movies.

Disney would be happy they no longer had to expend time and energy chasing down copyright infringements. They would be ecstatic if our Mounties were to do it for them. Gratis.

But this precedent indicates copying movies for personal use is also legal in Canada

So even though p2p networks or copying movies and music are not actually illegal in Canada, our friends the CRTC gave Bell Canada permission to “throttle” anyone using BitTorrent transfers. Because the assumption is that even if you’re not technically performing criminal acts, per se, anyone who uses BitTorrent can’t be very nice.

The CRTC, the government body that is supposed to safeguard Canadian telecommunication consumers, gave Bell Canada legal permission to mess with BitTorrent traffic. Its discriminatory for one thing. If there are copyright infringements happening, there are laws to handle them. It isn’t any of Bell Canada’s business. Or the CRTC’s.

[More on copyright in my other blog– in the wind: Personal Use Copying vs. Bootlegging]

Dudley Do-Right?

Eirik Solheim's metaphorical image of the internet is the best I've seen: The internet is a series of tubes

Even if it were true that Canadian consumers were downloading music or movies, and even if it had been made illegal under Canadian Law, it should not make a whit of difference.

Because Internet Service Providers or Internet Carriers are NOT branches of Canadian law enforcement. They have not been deputized to enforce the law by the RCMP. If Bell Canada was in fact a Law Enforcement entity they would not be allowed to peek in any citizen’s packets without first acquiring a search warrant. Corporations don’t exist to uphold laws, they exist to make money.

The internet has been called dumb pipes, or a series of tubes, or a highway. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, what is most important is access for all.  
The people who control the pipes should not be allowed to discriminate against particular users for ANY reason. Net Neutrality is so important: the internet should be accessible to all.

revolutionary ideas

In the United Kingdom The Times Online Do music artists fare better in a world with illegal file-sharing? article looked at the benefits of personal use copying applied as peer to peer file sharing with some dramatic results.

Canada’s own ThisMagazine presented this thought provoking article Pay indie artists and break the music monopoly — Legalize Music Piracy which advocates making the law serve the artists and consumers rather than just the corporations.

Further rumblings about changing the way we look at this issue were reported recently by the The Globe and Mail blogs article NDP, Billy Bragg make case for free music
sign the petition!
10227 signatures


STOP Usage Based Billing

Posted in Changing the World, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

A: Open Source

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 26, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

[This was originally going to be the beginning of an article. As you can see it’s mushroomed into a much larger discussion. So, this is the first part of what may be three articles… but I won’t know until its done. So I’ll continue the alphabetical prefixes until I am finished with this issue. –LLR]

“‘Free software’ is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of ‘free’ as in ‘free speech,’ not as in ‘free beer.

Free software is a matter of the users’ freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it means that the program’s users have the four essential freedoms:

* The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
* The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
* The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
* The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.”

Richard Stallman, Free Software Definition,

what does Open Source actually mean?

Open source software is ‘free as in speech’ software which allows users to access the source code to make changes.

Closed source is software that doesn’t provide the purchaser any access to the program’s source code. Even if you’ve purchased the software if you “hack in” to source code, you are breaking the law.

Proprietary software is software with restrictions on use or modification. It’s proprietor(s) exercise control over what users can do with the software. Although more commonly linked with closed source software, proprietary open source software is possible. All it takes is for the proprietor to make the source code accessible and to designate it Open Source.

When Supaplex wasn't free: Here's Murphy

When Supaplex wasn't free: Here's Murphy

The first time I heard of open source software was a wonderful game called Supaplex.

Let me tell you the story of Supaplex. This was a proprietary computer game program that was sold commercially. Eventually the company that marketed Supaplex stopped supporting it and went on to do other things. But there were fans who loved the game, and some of them were able to do some programming, so they created level editors and added to the game as well as fixing the problems. For Supaplex, one big issue was the fact that computer speeds became far faster than they ran when Suplaplex was written. Without a speed correction Supaplex was inhumanly fast.

When the internet became available, one of the fans started started a webpage and began distributing and supporting the game, along with his level editor and levels and others supplied by other fans online for free.

This was early days, so no law enforcement agency broke down anyone’s door. You see, at first it didn’t occur to these game fans that this might not be legal. They had purchased the game. When you buy something if it breaks you are within your rights to fix it. Aren’t you?

Eventually they did realize that this might be a problem, so they approached the company, Digital Integration and the creators (Phillip Jesperson, Michael Stopp, Robin Heydon, Matt Smith and David Whittaker). These good folks said it was fine with them so long as no one made any money from it. The creators are quite happy because their work has survived.

I first played Supaplex more than ten years ago. There’s a bit of manual dexterity required but it is primarily a puzzle game. You need to solve the riddle of the level in order to get to the next. It makes you think, so it’s a great game on a number of levels. (accidental pun, I promise!) And you can still get it free from Elmer

When Supaplex was created the terms ‘open source’ or ‘closed source’ hadn’t even been coined. So although the game wasn’t ever intended to be open source, the proprieters allowed it to become open source. And because they allowed the people who had purchased the game to achieve all of Richard Stallman’s freedoms, the Supaplex game still exists and is in use today.

I would strongly caution against doing something like Elmer did in today’s world. Get your permissions first before investing masses of time. Although not originally intended to be anything more than a commercial video game, Supaplex is actually an excellent example of why open source is valuable.

You might ask: what’s in it for the company?

When the time comes that the work a company is putting into a product ceases to be profitable, a smart company pulls the plug. In the world of software, that means that the company doesn’t just stop selling the product, it also means that the company stops supporting the program. This is considered a good business practice, but can be bad for the consumer, because once a company stops supporting their product, the time will come that the product will not be able to function. Maybe because of faster speeds, maybe because there are no printer drivers for the software, there are all kinds of reasons this will happen, its just a question of when.

What benefit did the company(Digital Integration) that originally marketed Supaplex get? In the first place, they do not have an army of customers angry at them. They didn’t annoy their customers by making a business decision that would have been detrimental to their customers by rendering Supaplex inoperable. Without having to lift a finger or spend a dime, the game that Digital Integration bought and sold so long ago is still in existance and generating free publicity and a good reputation.

Because Supaplex fans have done their best to put in a good word for them. The word of mouth spreads every time someone new downloads the game, or someone old mentions them in an article like this. The programmers whose work would have been long gone are still getting this credit for their work. Creators want their work to survive.

How does open source software benefit the consumer?

I don’t know about you, but I have several board games in my cupboard whose manufacturers no longer exist. That doesn’t stop me from taking them out and playing them. Why should video games be any different?

People invested money in Supaplex by purchasing it, and then invested time in learning how to play it. But they didn’t lose out when the proprieters decided to pull the plug. Because a few of them behaved as if Supaplex was open source, they were able to make the necessary upgrades to keep it playable. In this way, their initial investment of both time and money was not lost. The fact that they made it available to others has not only kept the game alive, it also served the purpose of bringing together people who loved the game so much that they would create new elements for it. The Supaplex of today is no longer the same as the original because it has been added to.

Murphy on board... look out for bombs!

Murphy on board... look out for bombs!

Now most of us aren’t going to be messing around with source code. But if we have a program that is useful, or if its just a lot of fun, just because the manufacturer decides that they aren’t going to sell or support it anymore shouldn’t have to mean we have to throw it away. So long as the source code can be accessed, the game can remain playable. The program can continue to be usable. It may very well mean hiring someone to fix the problem or do the upgrade, but we can decide if it is that important to us. And THAT is good for the consumer.

And of course the environment benefits too if we aren’t pitching out computer gear every six months just because they tell us too.

If Digital Integration had enforced their proprietary rights Supaplex it would no longer exist. No matter how much anyone who purchased the original game might have loved it, it would be gone. After all, when’s the last time you saw a working Amiga computer.

Open Office is an excellent open source program. It is free as in freedom as well as being free as in free beer. It is always in development by volunteers. I started using it after the proprietary word processing software that I had purchased for myself stopped working because even though the version I was comfortable using worked perfectly well, it could no longer print anything since there were no new printer drivers for it.

I understand that computer software manufacturers want us to keep &rlsquo;upgrading&rdsquo; but &rlquo;upgrading” costs the consumer more than money, it costs us time. Whether we’re corporate customers or private individuals, there is a definite time and energy cost to upgrading because the software has to be relearned. Since I was going to be forced to upgrade periodically, I decided to switch to Open Office. At least here I know that the upgrades are done because they are necessary, not simply to wring a few more dollars out of me.

and then there is the issue of transparency…

Which is another compelling argument for open source software. If the source code is available, the public can find out what a program is actually doing. As the computer age has progressed and the internet has spread, all sorts of unwanted things have been happening. Not only are there vandals creating viruses, sometimes perfectly legitimate businesses put ‘spyware’ into their programs. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want my computer performing actions I don’t know about, particularly since I am putting these programs on my computer alongside all my private and personal stuff. I certainly don’t want my computer passing along any of my personal information to some corporation just because I bought their software. Personal privacy issues have become increasingly important with the proliferation of the information age crime of Identity Theft.

Of course I can look at source code and have no idea if there is a ‘trojan horse’, or if the software is mining my personal information, but if there >is< something malicious in a program, there are plenty of people who can spot the bad stuff. And these programmers are likely to spread the word, which is good for the rest of us. Fortunately there are also programs that don’t allow your software to “phone home” to the mother company without getting your permission. If you use one of these programs you can decide if you really want your computer to contact the company.

[The second part of the series is B: Packets and the Internet >>]
8073 signatures

Editor’s Addendum:
I just stumbled across the The Canadian Association for Open Source
(No, I haven’t figured out why the website domain name is “”… it should be CAOS … for all Get Smart fans anyway….)

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , | 11 Comments »