Convenience Before Freedom: How Tech Companies Are Slowly Trapping You [Opinion]

Chris Hoffman 15-02-2013

Computers were once under our control. We could run any software we wanted on them, and the companies that manufactured the computer had no say. Today, computers are increasingly being locked down. Apple and Microsoft rule over their app stores with an iron fist, deciding what we can and can’t do with our devices. We live in a world where changing an iPad’s default web browser 4 Cydia Tweaks That Will Make Google Chrome On iOS The Best Browser Around [Cydia, iOS] You were excited when Google Chrome launched on iOS. I was too; but then I remembered that you cannot simply make it your default browser, and this makes it tough for me as I actually... Read More or email app is a crime.


This is an article about closed platforms and how they’re a plague upon the industry. This article isn’t just about Apple and their inconsistent censorship 8 Ridiculous & Inconsistent Apple App Store Guidelines [Opinion] Here’s a radical opinion - you should be able to run any apps you like on the devices you own. Apple doesn’t agree, and it’s twisted itself into pretzels creating arbitrary rules for what app... Read More . It’s about Microsoft and how they’re phasing out the desktop in favor of the new “Modern” environment 6 Ways Microsoft Is Killing The Traditional Desktop In Windows 8 [Opinion] The traditional desktop is still around in Windows 8, and it’s probably the best Windows desktop yet (aside from not having a Start menu.) But Microsoft is setting it up for the kill. The writing... Read More where apps can only be installed from their app store. It’s about carriers that block sideloading on Android phones How to Manually Install or Sideload Apps on Android Want to sideload apps on your Android phone? Installing APKs manually on Android opens up a whole new world of apps, and it's easy to do. Read More , as AT&T once did. It’s about dangerous laws From The Web To Jail: 6 Types of Computer Crimes You Can Get Arrested For Governments across the world have tried to tame the Internet as a tempest of new technology threatens everything from strict government censorship and control over the media to entrenched media conglomerates and old concepts of... Read More that make escaping these closed platforms a crime.

One Company-Controlled Store

Whether you’re using an iPhone, iPad, Windows 8 tablet, Windows RT machine, or Windows Phone, one thing is true: you can only get software for your device from an app store controlled by the company that makes your device. The company doesn’t allow just any software into their store – they have certain rules.

The problem isn’t restrictive app store rules, it’s locked-down platforms. When Microsoft or Apple block an app from their store, it means no one can actually use it.

Neither Microsoft, Apple, nor any other company that makes our devices should be the self-appointed arbiter of our morality. We should be able to freely choose the software we want to run and the content we want to view. They should be free to block things from their store, but we should also be able to go elsewhere and get them.


Games Can Be Art, Too

Apple, Microsoft, and every other purveyor of a closed platform decides what content is and is not appropriate for you. While Apple doesn’t censor books, music, or movies, apps are different. Apple censors apps that contain political content, satire created by Pulitzer-prize winners, games that challenge child labor policies in the smartphone industry as a whole [Broken URL Removed], and anything they just don’t like. “We view apps different than books or songs,” Apple’s guidelines state bluntly.

But games can be art, too. While the mainstream game industry is stuck in a rut, there are indie developers constantly pushing the boundaries of what is a game and what is art. On Apple’s iOS, developers have to self-censor. if they don’t censor themselves, their apps are refused.

Microsoft is doing the same thing. When Windows 8 was released, the Windows Store refused to include games that had a PEGI 16+ rating — a category that includes games such as Skyrim. Microsoft had decided to prevent a large category of games from ever running in the Modern environment on Windows 8. Microsoft backed off on this restriction after taking a beating in the gaming press, but they tried to slip it past us. Is it any wonder that developers from Valve to Blizzard to Notch (creator of Minecraft) see Windows 8 as bad for PC gaming?


From the Smartphone to the Tablet to the Laptop

Apple bans competing web browsers from its iOS devices. You can get a competing browser, but it has to be a shell wrapped around Safari. It also can never become your default web browser. Imagine if Microsoft had this rule on Windows, years ago – only Internet Explorer 6 If You're Still Using IE6 You Are A Problem [Opinion] IE6 was the best of the best when it came freshly squeezed out of Microsoft's software factory. Because of that it was able to achieve the record 95% browser market share at the height of... Read More was allowed. Other web browsers were available, so long as they were just wrappers around Internet Explorer 6. The web as we know it would not exist – Firefox would never have been able to challenge Internet Explorer. After Microsoft stopped development on Internet Explorer, no one could have forced them to improve.

In other words: If Microsoft had the same restrictions on Windows as Apple did on iOS, Apple could have never released iTunes for Windows. Microsoft would have banned it.

Microsoft’s Windows RT Windows RT - What You Can & Can't Do Windows RT edition was discreetly launched about a month and a half ago with the flagship Microsoft Surface RT tablet device. Though visually indistinguishable from Windows 8, there are some key differences as to what... Read More shows us one possible path the future of Windows could take. The Windows RT desktop only allows applications written by Microsoft. The Modern environment only allows Microsoft-approved applications from the store – and no third-party web browsers are allowed. Windows RT devices also have locked boot loaders, so you can’t install any other operating system on them. They’re Windows RT-only, Internet Explorer-only, and Microsoft-approved software only.

This isn’t just a theoretical concern – we could have ARM-based laptops running Windows RT soon. As our own Angela wrote about her experience with Windows RT Can A Windows RT Tablet Replace My Laptop? Windows RT is not anything like a regular windows install - It looks like Windows 8, but it's really very different. Most notably, you can't install regular Windows applications on it. You can only install... Read More , “Despite the limitations, Windows RT is quite powerful and designed very well. It’s easy to see yourself using it on a regular basis to replace a laptop.” As ARM outcompetes Intel in power usage, Chromebooks What Is a Chromebook? What is a Chromebook? What's a Chromebook good for? How does a Chromebook compare to a laptop? We answer these and more. Read More ship with ARM chips What Is an ARM Processor? Everything You Need to Know ARM processors dominate mobile technology. What is ARM and how do these CPUs differ from Intel and AMD processors? Read More , and Apple talks about using ARM in their Macs, the danger of Windows being locked up tight becomes more and more serious.


windows rt tablet previewEven on Windows 8, the new “Modern” environment – the future of Windows – is restricted to only Microsoft-approved applications from the Windows Store. Microsoft has a strong interest in moving away from the Windows desktop and making everyone use Windows Store-based applications. That would give them a 30% cut for all software sales on Windows.

Windows Phone also doesn’t allow you to run apps that weren’t approved by Microsoft, just like Apple’s iPhone. Apple isn’t alone, and we shouldn’t just focus on Apple – they’ve set a bad example that other companies in the industry are following.

Why Jailbreaking Isn’t a Solution

Many people shrug off these concerns, saying jailbreaking is the solution. Jailbreaking just isn’t good enough, for several reasons:

  • It took many months before a jailbreak for iOS 6 was created. Apple is trying their hardest to block jailbreaking, and they’re getting better at it.
  • Many apps for jailbroken devices just don’t get made. While it would be possible for Google to write a native Google Chrome app for jailbroken devices, they never will. The market is too small and the risk of jailbreaks being blocked again is too high. The Surface RT has been jailbroken to run Windows desktop apps compiled for ARM, but only a few open-source applications are available – Adobe will never release Photoshop for jailbroken Windows RT systems.
  • Jailbreaking voids the warranty of your device, so you’re out quite a bit of cash if the hardware fails. As newer devices get better at detecting jailbreaks, this will be more of a problem.
  • Jailbreaking is a crime in many countries. This isn’t just an accident. Companies like Apple lobby to make jailbreaking a crime.

Convenience Before Freedom: How Tech Companies Are Slowly Trapping You [Opinion] ios6jailbreak


Controlling the Devices You Own Is a Crime

As if it wasn’t enough that manufacturers are locking these devices down, governments are stepping in to enforce the lock-down. In the United States, it’s legal to jailbreak a smartphone, but jailbreaking a tablet is a crime. In other words: jailbreaking your iPhone Should You Still Jailbreak Your iPhone? It used to be that if you wanted advanced functionality on your iPhone, you'd jailbreak it. But is it really worth it at this stage in the game? Read More is fine, but jailbreaking your iPad makes you a criminal facing up to 5 years in jail or $500,000 in fines. If you don’t think the government would ever enforce these laws, take a look at the case of Aaron Schwartz, who committed suicide 7 Online Resources To Help Those Who Are Depressed & Suicidal Even though I am the Managing Editor of MakeUseOf, I have a huge disability in my life which is clinical depression. It started back in 2002, as a depression related to stress in my job,... Read More after the US government tried to nail him with a lifetime in jail for the crime of breaking a website’s terms of service. (Yes, breaking a website’s terms of service is also a crime in the United States.) Unlocking new cell phones just became illegal in the USA, too.

This isn’t just about the United States – Canada recently passed a law that makes any act of “breaking a digital lock” a crime. Jailbreaking an iPhone is a crime in Canada. International treaties like ACTA The State Of The Internet, 2012 [Opinion] Trouble is brewing, dear readers. Our rights and freedoms are under increasingly under attack from corporate entities with enough money to control those in power. We may have won a minor victory against SOPA, but... Read More are pushing laws like this everywhere.

It’s not hard to imagine a future where all computing devices sold will be locked down. The RIAA already tried to make this happen back in 2002, with the proposed Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act in the USA. The act would have banned any technology that could be used to view digital content without DRM. Every digital device would have been forced to include software designed to lock down the system and control what you can do with it. Penalties for violating this law would have been as high as 20 years in jail.

This would have been unworkable in an age when users had full control over their own computers, but it would now be very easy for laws to force Apple and Microsoft to include monitoring software in their devices. Governments could even pass a law forcing devices that connect to the Internet to pass certain checks, ensuring that only locked-down devices had access to the Internet. Just look at the war around SOPA – governments and large corporations will keep trying to lock down the Internet and control it.

In retrospect, Apple’s famous 1984 ad An Apple (Ad) A Day: Top Ten Commercials You’re Likely To Remember Apple is a company that you either love or hate; there's very little middle ground. This is because you either buy into the company and its culture or reject it outright. Seeing as I don't... Read More is sadly comical now that changing the default browser on an iPad is a crime.

Open Platforms

We already live in a world where more and more devices are increasingly locked down and installing your own software on them is a crime.

But all is not lost: Open platforms do exist. Android isn’t perfect, but it allows us to run the software we want without becoming criminals. (Even if Google removes an app from Google Play, you can download it from elsewhere and install it.) Microsoft hasn’t yet moved to lock down the Windows desktop the way they have with the new Modern interface and the desktop on Windows RT. Windows 8 is an open platform (the desktop) glued to a closed platform (the touch environment).

We need to support devices that keep us in control. We need to tell Microsoft that we want the future of Windows to be an open platform, just as the Windows desktop is today. We need to tell Apple that we want the ability to change our web browser and install games they may not approve of. We need to tell our governments that people should not be sent to jail for installing unapproved software on their own computers or breaking a website’s terms of service.

types of computer crimes

The Future

Apple makes amazing hardware, and the iPad is probably the best tablet out there – if only for its rich suite of apps, particularly content-creation apps that just aren’t there yet for Android tablets. Hybrid laptops that can seamlessly switch between laptop and tablet mode when necessary sound potentially awesome, if done right.

But I’ve drawn a line in the sand. I don’t want that iPad, with its criminal sanctions on doing anything Apple doesn’t approve of. I don’t want that Windows 8 machine, with its touch environment that’s locked down like an iPad. I don’t want to contribute to that future of computing that seems to be barreling down on us.

If every computer in the future is an iPad – or Microsoft’s locked-down version of an iPad – we’ll have a serious problem.

What will we say in 50 years when our grandchildren ask us what we did when our computing freedom was taken away from us, given over to large corporations and governments? “I thought the iPhone was a bit nicer than the Nexus 4”?

Image Credit: Handcuffs on Laptop via Shutterstock, Comic via XKCD, Prisoner in Old Jail Cell via Shutterstock

Related topics: Apple, Digital Rights Management, Jailbreaking, Mac App Store, Microsoft, Online Security.

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  1. Swizzle 1
    April 30, 2013 at 7:51 am

    thanks for another well written article on a volatile subject. Knowledge is power - keep writing - so that we, as readers, can pass this information on to others.

  2. Wes
    March 19, 2013 at 1:41 am

    I think your article is very well written, and definitely on point. I will admit I laughed my butt off when I tried to watch the video in the middle and it wouldn't let me because it was private.

  3. Terry
    March 6, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Dudes, vote with ur dollars. If the likes of Apple and Microsoft try to dictate to u, buy or use something else. As the customer, u have the upper hand, the supplier is ur servant. Dont let that change.

    I refuse to buy sony, microsoft or apple products for the fact they try to dictate to me.
    Its my money, if they want it, they do what I want.
    Remember No customer = no profit.

  4. Darrin Long
    February 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    its all about money thats the bottom line and companies dont want us to have free stuff because they loose out and for that matter thats any kind of company. look at it this way god give us water from the sky for free but the big dogs make us pay to use it.if this high tech stuff keep going the way its going ill just go back to communicating with people the old way meaning pen and paper or direct socializing other than over a device screen if we all had this attitude these computer comanpanys would start loosing money and then maybe they would start letting us do what ever or want to download to our devices. but seening that theres lot of lazy people out there this will never happen because they have to have things right in there reach and the tech companies make things to aid these people. sometimes i wonder if the old tv show startrek has anything to do with all the devices we use today where as in the tv show these things were fictional. but now look around you and its reaility it should be up to us to what we want with our devices because if was'nt for those of us that work hard to go and buy these products with our hard earned cash these companies would not be in business. so microsoft apple and all the above need to stop with these stupid rules......

  5. Harke
    February 20, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Its a consumer product. Its not a necessity. If you don't like the product, don't buy it. If you are overwhelmed by the constant pressuring of your peers and loved ones to buy, use and then complain about good marketing and intelligent business practices, then you're talking to the deaf.

    You talk about computing freedom being "taken away", but nobody is pushing $300+ dollar devices into your hands or making you pay the monthly premium to keep it connected to 4G. Nobody forces you to play games with DRM. You see a law being passed that infringes on your ability to steal high-definition pornography? Fight it. It worked with CISPA and people less lazy are fighting more and more laws like it every day. At the very bare-bones the Google Play service is free to use off their browser, Firefox, or Internet Explorer. You want "free"dom? Learn to code, get Linux or get out. The entire world is based of of a service-consumer model, the way these devices are built and the way Windows is being modeled is just adapting to society. Read that, Society, not the Economy, one makes the other. In this case, people namely, you, your family and friends want to touch big glossy screens for their productivity apps/games/pornography. If a product doesn't provide enough freedom, there will be competitors, that's capitalism there will always be someone to sell something someone wants. That's how Android got into the market, its a household name now. Imagine someone competing with Steve "Tech Jesus" Jobs ten years ago! Windows 8 will either stick around, improve or go the way of Windows ME/Vista.

    Change happens, adapt and get your foot in the door do something to change the way things are give your children the avenue to have "freedom" to steal, to create to innovate, to own little bytes and bits or get out, nobody is going to wait while you wax poetic about 50 whatever from now.

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 28, 2013 at 6:47 pm

      What you said is true, really. I'm a writer, so writing about it is my attempt to get this idea to more people, really.

      For me, my big concern is that we could see laws like the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act make owning any sort of open platform illegal. (For the purposes of "stopping piracy.") Such laws would force all devices to be closed platforms with a government rootkit that controls what you can and cannot do. Once the government gets involved with such laws, "capitalism" won't save us because they remove choice.

      • Harke
        February 28, 2013 at 10:05 pm

        Extremist bills like that will never get passed, huge over-arching blanketing restrictions on what is basically the freedom to create are inherently unconstitutional and based, much like CISPA, CBDTPA is more of an empty threat than something rationally feasible as a law. The likelihood of anything like this being passed in a capitalist economy would pretty much need for more than half of the country and corporations to be deaf and unable to move, the country to not be in debt to be able to afford the enforcement of what is essentially programmer's Big Brother. Making anything illegal is a tricky business in a country that is desperate for jobs and outsources everything.

        I'm not going to say something similar might not crop up, but it is clearly a work for attention and a common political tactic. The big scare with CISPA brought to attention the need to regulate the internet where things like child pornography, e-stalking, real-kidnapping and murder can happen. Now there is a rapport where there was none before, about the need (and there is one) to make the internet a safe public forum (because it isn't currently and hasn't been) within constitutional reason.

  6. martin
    February 20, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Money talks. But not only for the big corporations.
    We can also let our money talk, use and buy open systems

  7. Christopher
    February 19, 2013 at 7:19 am

    This is why I gave up on Apple and use Linux...but with Microsoft soon locking down their o/s to laptops I along with many will seek hacks to get Linux on their o/s restricted computers...

    • Anomaly
      February 21, 2013 at 2:08 am

      No need to hack.

      If you want to dual boot Linux and Windows the new versions of Linux come with a key in the installer let will let you install on Windows machines that have secure boot enabled.

      If you want just Linux go in and disable secure boot and revert back to legacy BIOS.

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 28, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      Anomaly is right, as long as you buy an Intel x86 system and not a locked-down Windows RT/ARM system, you'll be fine.

      Hopefully Microsoft doesn't tighten the noose in Windows 9 and 10, though. That's a real fear.

  8. Choon Khai
    February 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I have been disliking Apple since the very first day I heard about it, and now I am using iPhone 3G, which the problem are far worst than what I thought, I got to say they got a fine software and hardware but, the freedom of how we use it is so bad. Comparing it with Android, Android would be the best for long term usage. Once your iPhone reaching 3-4 years, they are dropping software and apps support as well as blocking you from using it, you won't be able to use any apps illegitimately.

    The only way is jailbreak it, which is not suitable option for most of my family members and friends, because they're not fully IT literate. Of course, I would able to survive with my iPhone 3G, there're a lot of limitations, currently whatsapp blocking users from using older version of whatsapp by disabling registration (which need to access their server). My fear was, in future, my smartphone's only function is call and alarm clock.

    And yes, I'm going to buy an Android soon. Even my friend's low range Android smartphones are able to whatsapp. The apps market downloads the version which is suitable for your phone level. I always talk about it to everyone I knew, and spread awareness about it. My parents and family are buying Android, because of me.

    • Choon Khai
      February 18, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      I bought second-hand iPhone, for the sake of trying and knowing why I'm hating it by the way..

  9. Sas
    February 18, 2013 at 6:55 am

    So true so so true and sad. Everyone write emails to Apple and Microsoft telling them about the future. DO IT NOW AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE! SAY YOU WILL NEVER EVER BUY AN APPLE DEVICE IF THEY DON"T CHANGE THEIR WAYS!! DO IT NOW! HAVE THE COURAGE!!

    • Anomaly
      February 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      Better yet don't buy them now. Simply make Windows 8 a disaster for Microsoft.

      Look what happened to Vista and Windows Millennium. They were rejected by consumers and they flopped for MS and were replaced very quickly. The problem is all the people that don't seem to mind the Nazi like restrictions being put in place and are lining up to buy this junk.

      I thought for sure I would see Mac OS X locked down before Windows. After seeing iOS become such a success I thought for sure Apple would follow with OS X but it hasn't yet and Microsoft has with Windows RT and is starting with part of Windows 8. It looks like Windows 7 will be the last version of window I own.

      The tech blogs like this one should not be talking positively about Windows 8. Review it and write how to's etc but it should be slammed for what it is like this a article did.

      • Sas
        February 26, 2013 at 6:29 am

        I totally agree with you.

      • Chris Hoffman
        February 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm

        I agree, "vote with your wallet" and all that. It's kind of a silly phrase and it isn't so simple -- but what else can we do? Avoid such devices and tell people why.

        I thought we'd see Mac OS X locked up first, too. Microsoft is trying to leapfrog Apple. I don't know when OS X will be locked up, but if I could look 10 years into the future, I'd bet OS X would be a closed platform.

  10. Anomaly
    February 17, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    This is an article that is long over due. You see it exactly as I do. The future of the Internet and computers is going to be totally screwed if things continue on their current path.

    The solution is actually quite simple. I will die before I will own an iOS device. I will never use or own Windows 8. If Mac OS X ever locks down like iOS it will get kicked to the curb to. I,m mostly in Linux now and this crap doesn't go on there. Even if Canonical tired to mess with Ubuntu there are hundreds of distros out there to use.

    the problem is all the fools lining up to buy iOS devices and being led by their ignorant noses down a very bad path for all of us. I guarantee you if people stopped buying these locked down garbage machines the companies would have to change and fast. They are doing what they are doing because people let them. It's that simple. In the future if things go very wrong people have no one to blame but themselves

    • dragonmouth
      February 19, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      "... there are hundreds of distros out there to use."

      You and I may know that. But whenever someone asks what distro to use, invariably the answer is "Ubuntu, Ubuntu, Ubuntu" as if the entire Linux universe started and ended with Ubuntu. Just look through MUO articles and Help Tips. How often is Debian, Gentoo, Slackware or Mandriva/Mageia suggested? When was the last time anybody mentioned siduction, Sabayon or Manjaro? People, especially newbies, are being brainwashed by the pundits to use Ubuntu, just like years ago people were brainwashed to use Windows.

      • Chris Hoffman
        February 28, 2013 at 6:39 pm

        We write about Ubuntu because that's what most people use, really. It's hard to write an article that applies to everyone with all the different software installation systems, desktop environments, etc out there.

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      Thanks, Anomaly. I'm definitely hoping to see desktop Linux establish itself as a more credible option on the desktop. This really needs to happen now.

  11. dragonmouth
    February 17, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Another example of a noose slowly tightening around users' necks is the wonderful, benevolent Google.

    I use the latest version of Firefox to browse the 'Net. When I try to use some of Google's features, I get a snotty message that I "should upgrade to a MODERN (emphasys mine) browser - Chrome" to be able to use those features. I have two words for Google - NOT TODAY!

    Also, any news or information about updates or changes is only posted on Google+, not where ALL Google users can see it. AFAIAC that is a blatant strong arm attempt to force more users to signup for Google+.

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 28, 2013 at 6:37 pm

      To be fair, people can read Google+ without signing up for it. Google is definitely desperate to push Google+, though.

  12. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    February 17, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Gotta love that comic. Sadly it's true. While I completely understand why we can never truly own copyrighted media, it's insane that we can't even treat it like we want within reasonable conditions. We can pass down paperbacks to our children, but not ebooks? I thought they called it progression.

    • Ken E Baker
      February 22, 2013 at 7:47 am

      It's horrible right? I really support the authors who make a digital version available if you buy the print book. The way the publishers treat it at the moment is hard to swallow, to say the least.

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 28, 2013 at 6:37 pm

      That's really a feature from their perspective. They can make people re-buy the same content. Already bought a movie on DVD? Well, why not re-buy the same movie as a digital download? It's a crime (under the DMCA) to rip the DVD.

  13. Asif Mistry
    February 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    What about Linux and open source softwares, they are getting more popular because of this

    • dragonmouth
      February 17, 2013 at 2:07 am

      Yes, with Linux and BSD the user OWNS the software and can make any changes he or she desires. The only requirement is that if the user then makes that software available to the wide world, the user is obligated to make the source code available for all (GPL license).

      Unfortunately the developers of some distros are heading in the same direction as Apple and Microsoft. They are integrating applications with the operating system so that the apps cannot be uninstalled. During the install, Ubuntu loads by default language packs for just about every dialect in the world, printer drivers for most of the printers in existence and video drivers for almost every card ever made. It would be fine if the unneeded language packs and drivers could be uninstalled once the system is set up. All I need is a language pack for English and a couple of other languages. I cannot remove the extra ones because not only will the Office suite cease working but the system will be corrupted. If I try to remove extra printer or video drivers, most of CUPS and Xorg will be uninstalled, rendering my computer inoperable. Then there are silly and trivial programs such as Fortune and Cowsay which are integrated into "ubuntu-minimal" system package. Removing either Cowsay or Fortune causes the Software Manager to call for the uninstallation of "ubuntu-minimal" effectively disabling the system.

      Ubuntu and any distros that are based on it have taken away much control from the user.

      • Lisa Santika Onggrid
        February 17, 2013 at 12:07 pm

        I don't know you can't uninstall those extra bell-and-whistles. Did you move on from Ubuntu because of that? What distro are you using now?

        • dragonmouth
          February 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm

          I switched from Windows to Linux to get away from the Microsoft tyranny. I have distro-hopped through most of the popular ones. When I tried Ubuntu and Mint group of distros, it felt like I was back using Windows. You can't uninstall this, you can't remove that, you must only use these apps, etc. Ubuntu-Mint family of distros may be great for Linux newbies who would use them as installed, that is making no changes. For anybody that likes to tailor the system to their needs, those distros are a Royal Pain.

          On my main PC I use Simply MEPIS which is based on Debian Stable branch. I installed sometime last spring and it has been up since then. On my backup PC I use PCLinuxOS. It is my "beater" system because I use it to do all the things one is not supposed to do, like open up liks in spam emails, click on strange URLs. If I catch some malware, I just reformat the HD and re-install from scratch.

          Currently on my laptop I am using siduction which is based on SimplyMEPIS but uses Debian Unstable repositories. This gives me much of the stability of Debian but with bleeding edge program versions.

          I have also built a system using antiX Core as a starting point and installing just the packages I really want giving me a slim and fast system. antiX Core is just what it sounds like, a really bare bones distro that will boot and do nothing else. For each function you want (office, GUI, network, etc.) you have to install that package. It's like making something out of LEGO blocks.

        • Lisa Santika Onggrid
          February 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm

          Thank you for the detailed reply. It's very informative. Still to far out of my reach with my computer skills now, but I understand that you like having control over your computer. That's what I call personalization.

  14. Michael Vario
    February 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Nice article. It all began with the heinous DMCA, which has provisions against breaking digital locks similar to the Canadian copyright act you referred to.

    Cory Doctorow predicts that things will get far worse in the years to come...

    and of course one thing that people can do is to abandon locked software start using GNU/Linux and other Free Software alternatives.

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 28, 2013 at 6:34 pm

      Cory Doctorow's thoughts are definitely on-point.

      The DMCA was definitely the start of all this. It's amazing that it's been around for 15 years now, considering how upset people were and still are about it...

  15. Bahrâm
    February 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    It was a great article. I am glad that there are writers like you among MUO's team.

    I don't know if that evil marketing genius Jobs hadn't started all this, somebody else would have. Maybe it would have started years later. But I guess it was a logical idea that eventually somebody would come to it and make huge money from peoples unawareness and lack of knowledge.

    Anyway, I wish that Apple's dominance stops soon. That people understand this expensive fancy jail they are so willingly and eagerly imprison themselves in isn't really worth it. If it doesn't happen and Windows loses its dominance or adopt closed censored platforms, I wish Linux at least gets more popular. I know these are unrealistic childish wishes, but many share them. World would be a much better place with the open source idea.

    By the way, I am an Android user who wants to get an Ubuntu smartphone as soon as it is released :)

    • dragonmouth
      February 17, 2013 at 11:26 am

      "I don’t know if that evil marketing genius Jobs hadn’t started all this, somebody else would have. "

      The concept of proprietary software goes back to the days of the first commercial mainframe. For PCs it was loudly promoted by Bill Gates, way back in his computer club days, before Microsoft was even a hint of an idea in his mind.

      • Chris Hoffman
        February 28, 2013 at 6:32 pm

        The sad thing is that Microsoft rose to where they are because they were an open platform. Sure, Microsoft did a lot of evil things, but they never controlled what software you could and could not run on your own computer. That was your choice.

        It's sad that, at this point, we look back longingly to Microsoft's behavior in the 90's in some ways.

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 28, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks. Hopefully Windows loses a bit of dominance and we have more choice on the PC side, too. The move to cross-platform browser-based software and Steam on Linux is definitely helping this.

  16. SaapeXD MoHods
    February 16, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Its always about " MAKING MONEY! "

  17. Mac Witty
    February 16, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Good old days! I'm glad I was around at the time when computers and OS was something you should explore behind its limit. Thinking about how Steve Jobs started to making money...
    I agree let them have shops where they decide what they want to sell - as all shops but let me decide what I want to install om my computer. Yes, there are great and safe apps outside the "shops" I do not want to be without. What's next - they decide what cover you can have without breaking the license, dress code for the one using the device...? Grrrrrrrrrr

  18. dragonmouth
    February 16, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Have you forgotten UEFI motherboards?! If an O/S is not Microsoft approved (if it isn't Genuine Windows) it cannot be installed on a PC containing that motherboard. In the name of "Secure Computing" all of a sudden a number of O/Ss cannot be used. The hysterical part about that is the "banned" O/Ss are way more secure than Windows.

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 16, 2013 at 5:02 am

      Yes, this is a problem. On Windows RT/ARM, the boot loader is entirely locked down and you can't install otehr OSes.

      However, Intel/Windows 8 machines aren't yet this locked down. Secure Boot is indeed enabled by default, but it can be disabled and you can install any other OS.

      The big fear is that, with Windows 9 or Windows 10, Microsoft could force Secure Boot to On for all PCs, just as they did for Windows RT/ARM ones.

    • Friend of Tux
      February 20, 2013 at 5:46 pm

      I have a uefi motherboard. It is hard-coded to load windows7.efi as the bootloader. I was able to rename the file win7.efi and made a new windows7.efi that was a boot loader (so i can select from multiple operating systems --i dual boot linux[daily] and windows[occasionally for games])

      • dragonmouth
        February 20, 2013 at 6:22 pm

        You have just shown how stupid and insecure "Secure Computing" from Microsoft is.

  19. Jorge
    February 15, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    I get you. You own the device. But let's not forget that we (the users don't own the software).

    The software's owner is Apple or Microsoft. They grant a license for us to use their software.

    Demanding that the owner of the software lets us do whatever we want is like saying that, because I lease a house, I have the right to do whatever I want with it. I don't think you'd be happy with a tenant like that.

    By the way, I'm an iPhone user.

    • Jon
      February 16, 2013 at 3:00 am

      Jorge - The point of the article is more about having a choice of software, not the granting of a license for its use.

      I don't lease the house, I own it. Therefore I have the right to determine which color and brand of paint I use. The same applies to the device I own.

      By the way, I’m an Android user.

      • Paulo Teixeira
        February 16, 2013 at 4:13 am

        Talking about leasing or owning, this Office 365/2013 marketing stuff says something about Microsoft's plans.

      • Guy McDowell
        February 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm

        Unless you live in a neighbourhood with a Home Owners Association with restrictions on such things. Or the neighbourhood may have a covenant agreement outlining what you can and cannot do. This is happening more and more too.

        By the way, I live in the country.

    • Javier Vega
      February 16, 2013 at 3:36 am

      I know there are lots of user who don't really want the freedom of choice, for them a closed environment won't be a problem, but as i use daily, there are other users who want that freedom, not to be chained to what Apple or Microsoft gives you as an only option, but to be capable of choosing.

      I'm an Android user, i won't say this freedom of choice is something all users will complain about, but if some users can live chained to some software, then do it, just don't tie all others.

      "the power to determine action without restraint."

      • dragonmouth
        February 17, 2013 at 1:34 am

        "I know there are lots of user who don’t really want the freedom of choice"
        I don't think those user do not want the freedom of choice, I think they do not realize that choice is possible or they may be afraid to make the choice.

        • Lisa Santika Onggrid
          February 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm

          Agreed. They will only realize when it's time to replace their current devices and discover that their data cannot be migrated.

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 16, 2013 at 5:00 am

      This is the problem, really. I mean, you're right -- that is the case. They own the software and they restrict what we can do with it.

      I think that's the problem. I think we should *own* and control the software running on our devices. I want the individual person in control of their own device. If you want to use Apple's app store and only do things they approve of, that should be your choice. But if I want to go outside of Apple's app store and do things they don't approve of, that should be my own choice. It shouldn't be a crime.

      I'm really, really sad that this has to be part of an ecosystem war. I don't want to be the ground troops arguing for Google. But what other purveyor of open platforms is left? Microsoft left the building and is copying Apple now.

  20. BenN
    February 15, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Great article!

    Recently a lot of articles with a range of topics (DNS, Proxies, SOPA, DRM, Steam and game licensing...) all have that same underlying worry- loss of choice and freedom on the internet.

    You really covered it here, mostly my comment is just to compliment the article. The graphics used are great too. Well done.

    • Chris Hoffman
      February 16, 2013 at 4:57 am

      Thanks, Ben. I've been worried about this stuff for a long time, since the DMCA was introduced (1998!) with laws that lock things down and since the iPhone was unveiled. it's scary to me that it seems like an industry-wide trend with Microsoft following along, it's not really just an Apple thing anymore.