A Bill Of Rights

I found this article on EFF to be a very concise summary of many of the issues I've written (and often talked about) in the past, pertaining to the freedom to use the devices you have paid for and own as you see fit, and the increasingly worrying trend of manufacturer lockdowns that largely define what you can and cannot do with them. While Apple with its popular iOS may be the most well-known (and most successful) ambassador of the lock-down platform, the trend has been on the radar well before Apple managed to escape the threat of extinction in the late 1990s; Microsoft, with Windows RT and the Secure Boot flag in UEFI only manages to actually implement all those technologies they initially developed, studied and proposed more than ten years ago with Palladium/TCPA. The cat is still out of the box, but technology ages quickly and the threat is quite real: a combination of a cloud abused by the Valley oligopoly, lack of the computing storage ubiquity and locked down devices would be a nightmare scenario that would strip the computer of its fundamental differentiating quality from appliances of yore: its malleability, the power derived from its programmability and its ability to solve countless problems, to achieve infinite different tasks and not perform a single function, as manufacturers would most likely want.

On Device Identifiers.

Mere hours after pressing ‘Publish’ on the previous mini-article concerning walled gardens, an article on TechCrunch, this morning, clarified the situation we have more or less been suspecting for a while now: that Apple, after deprecating UDIDs (one of the things they truly did well in iOS from the beginning), they will start rejecting apps after the backlash caused by lawsuits, noise and a few rogue developers that seemed keen to take advantage of their users and use their private information in ways they didn’t agree (and which are illegal in more ways than one). The situation with unique device…

Independent companies

WSJ: Before Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. died, he approached you with a buyout offer. Why did you turn it away? Mr. Ferdowsi: The problem that we're trying to solve is a problem that only an independent company can solve. We want to let you use a Mac, or Windows PC, or iPad, or Android, without having to think about any of the technical details. It isn't a problem any of those larger companies is going to be as inclined to solve in the same way we are.
A very very pertinent point, seeing that we're experiencing a renaissance of massive, vertical closed systems, walled gardens and a childish desire to lock people into proprietary platforms that try to offer everything. Look at how Google, Facebook, Apple and now Microsoft are heavily promoting their respective 'authentication' platforms, playing the game of ignoring_the_competition. Facebook would certainly like you to use their APIs to authenticate your users, but they don't have to try much because they have the most powerful database right now. Microsoft heavily promotes their 'Microsoft Account' (previously known by half a dozen names) and will do even more in Windows 8, while Apple makes ever increasing use of their Apple ID, across their products and services. Google, in lieu of their recent privacy terms update, needs no introduction I think with Google+ and every other service tied to a single Google account. The fact that Dropbox fully supports practically every single system platform I can think of using is reason enough for me to prefer it from competing services (Ubuntu One, Microsoft Skydrive, iCloud etc) and a refreshingly sane choice they made contrasted heavily by that of the established market leaders who fear of inadvertently promoting their competition.


According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.” […] The breakthrough was enormous, says the former official, and soon afterward the agency pulled the shade down tight on the project, even within the intelligence community and Congress. “Only the chairman and vice chairman and the two staff directors of each intelligence committee were told about it,” he says. The reason? “They were thinking that this computing breakthrough was going to give them the ability to crack current public encryption.”

It would have been truly hilarious

..if it weren't about the sad fact that 22% of UNESCO's funding was withdrawn by the U.S. this year, because they dared vote and recognize 'Palestine' as a member state. As a sidenote, I'm not quite clear on why people like Wexler, the U.S. congressman would agree to participate in an über-sarcastic piece like this one (assuming he cared enough about his image to ask to see it before it was broadcast). It makes him look insensitive at best (insanely dumb at worst).

Break free, create your own walled garden.

It's ironic, how 'ease' becomes the noose that chokes innovation and development. AOL, Facebook, iTunes, they all offer closed, proprietary solutions to 'problems' that --- in more ways than one --- are not so hard to solve. Solutions that seem to 'work', that 'succeed' because the 'trend' is to embrace 'easy', as opposed to 'moderately challenging', because the 'smart money' is behind them and because of network effects. In the last few years, that is after the wave of 'Web 2.0' (ironically, yet another 'trend' exploited by 'experts' that abused it for profit) subsided, Facebook started making serious money. Its real success as an advertising platform is not only arguably minimal, but quite controversial. It took a long time for the advertising industry and the hordes of marketing monkeys to embrace Facebook's walled garden approach and doing what they do best, counting. Only this time it wasn't 'impressions' or 'clicks' or 'conversions' they were counting, but 'likes', another frivolous metric that doesn't really mean anything in the real world. Facebook apps, once touted as the next big thing and a threat for the web, were stillborn, largely because Facebook itself made significant steps to expand beyond the confines of its site, by creating interfaces, programmatic and user, for other platform-owners to embed in or integrate with their platforms. So we got a slew of 'social plugins', more 'APIs', etc. But there were some exceptions, like Zynga, a gaming company living inside Facebook. Now, Zynga just launched Zynga.com. And it's a big deal, because this is the first Facebook-dependent business of significant scale that expands beyond the confines of this walled garden du jour. The whole 'frenzy' with Facebook in the ad world is now in its third year. As with AOL's endeavours fifteen years ago, the Facebook frenzy may be past its prime; as a teenager of the early-to-mid 1990s, AOL 'keywords' seemed to me like a pointless exercise, yet another 'top-down', force-fed business model that people never cared about. Clearly people care about Facebook; they care about the platform that connects them to people they love: their friends and their relationships, news from their social circles, people they'd like to know better or simply keep in touch. They could hardly care less about Facebook pages, Facebook ads, the Facebook business. Sadly, marketers and advertisers, typically the last group to perceive change --- and perhaps the most dependent on 'convention' (make no mistake, Facebook is convention, as is Google), will take a bit longer to 'wake up'. That Zynga chose to move beyond Facebook is undoubtedly a wake up call and a sign of maturity in an industry that more than often adopts the strategy of others, instead of coming up with its own.