Who do You Trust with Your Computing?

Some of you may have read my friend and collegue’s blog named “Blog of Helios” and visited his website lobby4linux.com enough to have understood what he has tried and is trying to accomplish with regards to Trusted Computing and Digital Rights Management. Many of you probably respect this approach and support it as I do. Others may not have any idea what I’m speaking of. Allow me to background a bit:

A few months back, despite life threatening illness, Ken aka helios DROVE from Texas to Washington D.C. to talk to congressmen and women about DRM and TC. He did this on a shoestring budget because he knew the Linux community was counting on him to do something about legislation (he had raised money for the trip and felt obligated to go)…and he’d made a promise. That kind of drive and compassion you don’t find much in people…sure they can have a great opinion about something…but many sit on their hands and shout the opinions. Actions speak louder than words and Ken aka Helios is FULL of action.

Helios was speaking out against trusted computing (TC) and Digital Rights Management (DRM) that is humming softly at the hardware and software level inside YOUR computer right now. That’s right! Chances are, it’s already made it on a chip on your and my motherboards…but it’s there. Soon, if what can happen does happen…we’ll all be so very unhappy at being told how we can and can’t operate our PCs.

Some of you may be asking, “what the heck are you talking about? They can’t tell me how I can use my computer inside my own home”. Unfortunately, that statement is false. DRM chips are already on a majority of motherboards and even built into some processors (viiv anyone?). All it takes is a flip of the switch and you’ll do what Microsoft or any other company that wants to manage your rights for you tells you to do whether you like it or not. That is, of course, unless you use Linux 🙂 Linux has always been about choice…we choose to compute in ways WE want to…not ways that are defined for us. If we don’t like something, we code it different ourselves and then release the change…chances are, someone else thinks like you do and will like that change also. With Windows, that’s not possible…you’re locked from the start…so you’ll be locked to the finish as well.

Trusted Computing is not about trust. It’s about NOT trusting. Companies do not trust consumers to allow them to compute on their own…see, companies think consumers need help…AND THEY want to be the ones helping…for a fee of course (whether license or support). Really, it comes down to money. Companies have found a way they can make a ton of money and they’re going to exploit it and bleed it dry.

What I find odd is that people actually put up with this. They pay the royalty fees. They pay the license fee. It’s sad to watch. Perhaps if we put this in a different perspective, you’d see why I say it’s so sad to watch. Clear your mind for a moment and picture this:

You go down to the Chevy/Ford/Toyota/Honda (pick one) dealership and decide to buy a car this weekend. You walk the lot pausing ever so slightly at the truck/car/SUV (pick one) that interests you. Man that baby is sweet. You hash out the price and go through the pains of negotiation with the salesperson. Finally, the price, interest rate, and payment plan are just right and you decide to go for it. You sign the papers, dot the “i’s” and lower case “j’s” and you’re in business. A week goes by and your car/truck/SUV is operating at a great level. It’s all you ever dreamed of. That is of course until you try to drive it on Interstate 95 inside North Carolina….that’s when the engine just shuts down and won’t turn over.

So you bring the car/truck/SUV back in to the dealer and ask them what the heck is going on. Little did you know that you’re not allowed to drive your car/truck/SUV in North Carolina because you didn’t pay the license fee to do so. You’re now being told HOW you can use the truck YOU ALREADY BOUGHT. You’re being told the way in which you should utilize a tool that gets you from point A to point B. The dealership/manufacturer is now telling you WHERE, maybe even WHEN, you can or can’t operate your vehicle in a certain area. Idiotic eh? That’s what is happening with computers. If you don’t think so…think about DVD regions…you can’t play American DVD’s in Africa and vice versa…it’s against the law. And that’s after you bought the silly DVD.

Soon, very soon, we’ll once again be entrenched in a battle of DRM and TC…these things go in waves…and it seems Novell and Microsoft have stolen the headlines until next year. While the war waged earlier this year…it has not come full circle. Many people are unaware of the fight and the implications of this battle and what they may lose personally if the war is lost. Hopefully, you understand a bit better now. I didn’t set this article out to tell you what RC and DRM are all about…just what impact they can have on YOU and ME as people. To me, it’s more of an impact than it should be and it’s an outright invasion of my privacy to be told how I can and can’t use my own computer that I built with my own two hands. If you’d like to get more involved in the fight against DRM and TC, phone your representatives in Washington or visit Helios’ site linked in the first paragraph. It’s up to you…you can compute on YOUR terms with Linux…or continue on the path that Redmond has mapped out for you.

Author: devnet

devnet has been a project manager for a Fortune 500 company, a Unix and Linux administrator, a Technical Writer, a System Analyst, and a Systems Engineer during his 20+ years working with Technology.

4 thoughts on “Who do You Trust with Your Computing?”

  1. Well remember, you didn’t build your computer. You put the parts together that various people built. Its the makers of these parts you should be angry at. Not the operating system you choose. Seeing how this is the way Microsoft is going, you now have a choice to choose it or not.

  2. Yes but the operating system must take advantage of this hardware…if it doesn’t, the hardware is just plain old hardware…so it IS the operating system that is to blame here.

    MS could be like Linux and not employ the built in chips to do anything.

    And I have more choice than to use it or not…I can also choose to inform others about this and persuade them not to use it as well…which is what this post was geared to do.

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