Troubleshooting Professional Magazine
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Rapid Learning: Secret Weapon of the Successful Technologist.
What does the banning of Linux mean to Linux advocates? What does it mean to Windows users? What does it mean to America?
How could a free country like America ban an operating system? Republicans pride themselves in minimal government intervention in business. How could the Republicans allow a law that would tell every business in America what operating systems that business could and could not use? Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska is a co-developer of SSSCA.
Democrats pride themselves in being pro-consumer and anti-monopoly. How could the Democrats permit passage of a law that would eliminate Microsoft's last competitor? Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina is the other SSSCA co-developer.
And guess who is helping these two senators write the legislation? None other than Disney corporation -- those champions of diversity. Disney's love of diversity extends to all races, religions, and sexual preferences. But it stops short of users of operating systems. Consenting adults MAY NOT use Linux.
What will your life be like when Windows is the only major legal operating system? If you choose to try to stop this law before it becomes law, what can you do? And what will become of Americans who violate SSSCA and continue to run Linux?
How can Disney, huge copyright holders, and other SSSCA supporters show their face after such shameful behavior? What is their excuse, and does it hold water? What is Microsoft's position?
This issue of Troubleshooting Professional Magazine discusses the law that will reach right into your office or living room and determine what operating system you can use. At this point of the Editors Desk column I usually mention that if you're a Troubleshooter, this is your magazine. This time it's a little different:
If you want to live free, this is your magazine.
Trouble is, it's not about security. It's about copy protection. SSSCA "secures" two things:
But if that were the only downside, I wouldn't be so concerned. I part company with the FSF in that I strongly believe in copyrights, and strongly believe I have a right to charge what I want for my books, and not giving others the right to copy my books. If a vendor wants to copy protect his CD or file, that's his right.
But he doesn't have the right to reach into *my* office and tell *me* what kind of technology I can have in my computer system. He doesn't have the right to tell me my hard drive must contain expensive copy protection technology that makes restoring from backups difficult or impossible. And most of all, he doesn't have the right to make my operating system of choice illegal. You see, SSSCA mandates that every operating system incorporate copy protection schemes. By its very license Linux cannot incorporate proprietary (and likely patented) copy protection schemes.
Some might respond "but we must do something to prevent piracy". Maybe that's true, but that "something" should not be reaching into the office of innocent third parties and messing with their technology. Let me give an analogy of child abuse.
We all abhor child abuse. We all agree that all reasonable steps should be taken to prevent child abuse. But would we stand for legislation mandating video survelence cameras in every room of every house and business in the country. That would certainly prevent most child abuse. But look what it would do to the lives of the 99% of us who don't abuse children.
You can't invade the private property of all individuals just to prevent the bad acts of some. SSSCA does just that. It invades your office, your computer, and your operating system.
Vote against SSSCA. Vote out any legislator who votes for SSSCA. Vote with your pocketbook, and buy nothing from those corporations endorsing SSSCA. Films, records and amusement parks are soooo trivial compared to freedom.
But that's not the worst of it.
Linux won't be banned in Europe, India, Ireland, Australia, or Mexico.
As the United States retreats into technological inferioriority, those
countries will continue their march into the future. The world's programmers
will learn and progress while American programmers learn ever more arcane
ways to circumvent Windows glitches. Like never before, the United States
will lose technologists in a brain drain to Europe, India, Ireland, Australia
and Mexico. In 10 years might we be seeing U.S. programmers captured at
the border trying to sneak into Mexico?
Failing that, Microsoft will lose more and more market share to Linux and Open Source. Few disagree that Linux is more reliable and more powerful. Few disagree that Linux treats its customers better than Windows.
As Microsoft retreats from the marketplace, small new proprietary companies will sprout up. This will cause an employment rise, spurring an economic boom.
For their support of this law, I'll never buy anything from Disney again. No theme parks. No videos. No promotional products. I'll buy nothing advertised on ABC, the network owned by Disney. I will continue this boycott even if SSSCA fails to pass, for Disney has shown themselves to be a company willing to reach into my office and rip off my Linux just so they can garner even more profits.
Because they will be primary beneficiaries of this law, I will never buy anything from Microsoft again. Obviously, I wasn't going to anyway, but this must be mentioned.
Because Apple is partly owned by Microsoft, I will buy nothing from Apple.
Because of the various big copyright holders' sponsorship of this law, I will buy no music and no videos. I'll listen to the radio, to CD's I already have, and to independent artists offering their MP3 songs on the net. I'll tape movies off the TV and tape music off the radio.
It's kind of funny. Theme parks, videos, CD's, Disney clothing -- it's all so frivolous anyway, and quite easy to do without.
I call Artie "the first musician of the post SSSCA era". Artie does everything: singing, playing guitar, running the drum machine, working with the flangers and fuzzetones, working the mixing board, and recording the MP3's. And best of all, his music is spectacular. He's ideally suited for the coming boycott and the desire for alternatives to the record companies.
When I heard Artie perform in the basement of Bernies Bagles in Columbus, Ohio I vowed to sometime own an Artie Kegler CD. But the record labels wouldn't record him. For years I had to do without. Then the Internet happened, and I found his MP3's on the net. He has a new song called "Stark Raving Mad" from his new "Modern Art" album that knocks my socks off.
Links to Artie's fan club site (guess who runs that :) and links to his MP3's are listed in the URL's section of this magazine. Download Artie's music and that of other great self-publishers so long denyed deserved recognition by the same record labels now trying to take away your Linux box.
If you think that's just liberal-speak, look at SSSCA. How could anyone seriously propose a law that eliminates consumers' choice of an operating system? And thereby solidifies a monopoly for one of the most hated organizations on the planet?
How could those freedom loving Republicans sign off on such a law? How could those trust-busting consumer supporting Democrats sign off on such a law?
In a word, Money.
Campaign contributions. Soft money. Slush.
For years we knew the Democrats walked in lockstep with their union contributors. And look at the Republicans, those protectors of individual responsibility who fought every dollar spent for societal safety nets, now rushing to give $20 billion to an airline industry that, through its own arrogance, was half in the grave before September 11.
Corporations get what they pay for. Their money funds the campaign, and they're rewarded after. Gone is any sense of equity or justice.
And now comes the SSSCA, which reaches right into your office and destroys your Linux computers. Bought and paid for by big copyright holders, with Disney and large copyright holders in the lead, and the ultimate beneficiary being Microsoft. The big copyright holders will spend millions -- maybe billions. Disney is helping to write the law. Is that the fox guarding the henhouse? Or maybe receipt of goods paid for?
Maybe you're a Windows user and don't care about Linux. You should care very deeply about Linux. Linux is the only thing standing between you and a $500.00 annual subscription fee. Judge Jackson couldn't keep Microsoft in line. The current Justice department certainly won't -- that's not what they're paid to do. The only thing stopping Microsoft from abandoning all quality and quadrupling their prices is the fear that if they go too far users like you will migrate to Linux. The day Linux is outlawed, your "Windows Experience" will get a lot less fun.
Worse yet, through its inclusion of patented copy protection technology, SSSCA erects a tall barrier to entry into the PC sales business. You know all those little shops that compete at computer shows and swap meets, driving down the price? They'll be gone. Prepare for a return to the days when a top-notch personal computer cost $4000.00.
Will SSSCA be enacted? Too close to call. If given the opportunity to vote, would you vote for SSSCA? Would anyone you know vote for SSSCA? How in the world could such bad law be even considered? Where could such a law possibly get enough votes to pass? How could the president not veto it? Once again, let me quote Robert Reich:
But will every one of you write? Or will you simply hope someone else will? If many do the latter, expect it to pass.
Were you a Democrat who didn't vote in the 2000 presidential election? If the election had gone the other way, how would you non-voting Republicans have felt? It's a lousy feeling -- take action.
Taking action is very simple. Write a letter to your congressman (house of representatives), and each of your two senators. Here's where you find out who your congressman and two senators are, and find out their mailing addresses:
You can find your US Representative (Congressman) here: http://www.house.gov/writerep/
You find each of your Senators here: http://www.senate.gov/senators/senator_by_state.cfm
In case you need to write President Bush asking that he veto this law that intrudes on business, you can write President Bush here:
President George Bush 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500Here's the letter similar to what I wrote to my congressman and each of my senators:
|Dear Senator _______,
My friends, family and I, all of whom are voters and vote regularly, are concerned about a proposed law euphemistically called "Security Systems Standards and Certification Act", or SSSCA for short. It is sponsored by Senators Ted Stevens of Alaska and Fritz Hollings of South Carolina. This law is not about security, but rather about forcing copy protection down the throat of every law abiding citizen and business in America.
This law mandates that every digital system, either hardware or software, include copy protection. Because the Linux operating system's license precludes inclusion of proprietary software such as the copy protection mandated by the proposed SSSCA, this law will ban Linux, forcing many businesses and a large segment of the Internet to switch to inferior Microsoft operating systems.
Unauthorized copying of copyrighted materials is unethical and a crime, but this law goes much too far. We're all against child abuse, but you wouldn't vote mandatory placement of video cameras in every citizen's house to prevent it. This is a valid analogy.
The loss of Linux will hurt America badly. If SSSCA passes:
1. Over half the Internet infrastructure is destroyed.
2. Many businesses (including mine) must migrate to Windows. Many will be bankrupted in the process.
3. With its only significant competition gone, Microsoft will no longer be pressured to deliver quality or keep their prices in check. Licensing provisions will become even more onerous.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. With half the Internet and many businesses forced to migrate to Windows, you can bet Microsoft will do the technology equivalent of a convenience store charging $10.00 per gallon of water after an earthquake. With the single exception of Redmond, Washington, a deep recession will engulf the economy.
But that's not the worst of it.
Linux won't be banned in Europe, India, Ireland, Australia, or Mexico. As the United States retreats into inferior technology, those countries will continue their march into the future. The world's technologists will learn and progress while American technologists learn only how to work around Microsoft's software glitches. The technological superiority that's fueled our economy for the last 50 years will be gone. What will we do --- become an agricultural or hospitality economy?
SSSCA is ludicrous. It's unbelievable that the United States is considering a law which will effectively ban American Citizens from using the operating system of their choice. Many will remember who voted for it and who voted against it. Please vote against it.
Given the current state of the United States Post Office after the anthrax mailings, you might want to back up your letter with either a fax or an email. Once again, here are the places you can find out who serves you in the legislature and all their contact information:
You can find your US Representative (Congressman) here: http://www.house.gov/writerep/.
You find each of your Senators here: http://www.senate.gov/senators/senator_by_state.cfm.
Contact and involve Linux-using government agencies like NASA, NERSC, NIH, NIST, NOAA, USGS, Fermilab, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Sandia National Laboratories, and enlist their help.
If you don't take action, and SSSCA passes, and you can no longer legally use Linux, don't come crying to me.
Don't let them do it. Oppose ANY law requiring copy protection in ANY equipment or software. Better yet, give very close scrutiny to ANY law proposed by either of this pair. If they could attempt this sham, imagine what else they're capable of.
Don't think this thing is over. If Hollings, Stevens, Disney, and the record companies and the movie studios are not punished severely for their attempted theft of our Linux, they'll be emboldened to try again.
Keep up your anti SSSCA campaign. If the law's name is changed, campaign against the newly renamed law. These greedy and selfish people will try again and again until they make a few more bucks at the expense of your choice of software, hardware and operating system. Just say no to enforced copy protection. Vigorously. Continue writing your congress critters. If you don't, a slightly lesser form of SSSCA will pass, and you'll have the choice of Windows or felony.
Even if SSSCA sinks back into the primordial ooze, I will continue my boycott of Disney, commercial music and commercial videos. Those entities tried to rob me of my Linux. It appears like at least for now they might have failed. But future attempts must be prevented. Besides, these guys don't deserve my money. How dare they attempt to reach into my office and rip off my operating system.
It's odd. Attempted murder or attempted kidnapping are punished by years behind bars. But attempted creation of a blatantly unconstitutional law and attempted theft of your freedom -- no punishment at all. Let these selfish and greedy people know there's a punishment for attempted theft of Linux.
As you remember, on June 7, 2000 Judge Jackson ruled that Microsoft was an illegal monopoly, and ordered it broken up. Soon after he deferred the breakup until appeal. Soon after that, Judge Jackson spoke publicly of Microsoft's distasteful behavior (you can't blame him -- who better to understand just how distasteful they are than Judge Jackson).
A few months after Judge Jackson's ruling, the United States presidency was decided when the Supreme Court ruled to stop the recounts which increasingly portrayed the possibility of a Gore victory. Many felt that a Bush administration would be soft on monopolies, or even friendly to them.
Judge Jackson's public utterances gave Microsoft what they needed at appeal, and on June 28, 2001, the Federal Appeals Court threw out the divestiture (breakup) penalty, but upheld the finding that Microsoft used illegal means to maintain its monopoly status. Microsoft appealed to the Supreme Court, who rejected their appeal on October 9, 2001.
On November 2, 2001, the Department of Justice reached a settlement with Microsoft. It was basically businss as usual, except that Microsoft must reveal their middleware (not OS) API. They're granted an exception where it impacts security or copy protection (however broad that may be). It also allows computer manufacturers to place other software and icons on Windows PC's, without retribution. But downloaded Microsoft software can de-install those vendor installed software and icons if it's over 14 days after initial use of the OS.
Consent decrees such as this usually carry severe consequences for violation. Consequences like breakup. Not in this case. The consequence is 2 more years of the same slap-on-the-wrist consent decree. In a cynical moment, one might wonder if Microsoft's case was settled by the Supreme Court after all -- the day they stopped the recounts.
And now (11/6/2001 at 6:00pm Eastern time) the lawsuit remains only
in the hands of 9 of the 18 states that were in the lawsuit 2 weeks
as of 6/6/2001 at 6:00pm Eastern time
|These States fight on||These states capitulated to Microsoft|
Nine states and the Linux OS are now all that stand between you and a new, boldly empowered Microsoft monopoly. If you live in one of those states, call your attorney general and let them know you support fighting on.
Meanwhile, the fact that the DOJ and nine states capitulated to the
Microsoft-centric agreement invokes something called the Tunney act requires
public comment on the new "agreement" between Microsoft and the DOJ (supported
by 9 states). Quoting from the "agreement":
|6. Members of the public may submit written comments about the proposed Final Judgment to a designated official of the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice for a period of 60 days after publication of the proposed Final Judgment and Competitive Impact Statement in the Federal Register.|
Every Troubleshooting Professional Magazine reader should write to the "designated official of the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice" saying that the proposed settlement won't stop Microsoft's illegal monopolistic behavior. Here's why. Here's what I've gathered from a quick skim of the new settlement:
And keep supporting those brave states that continue to fight this illegal monopoly.
My machine is a dual Celeron 300A (cranked up to 450mhz), with 512MB RAM, 80GB of 7200 RPM IDE disk, and Mandrake 8.0 Linux using the Icewm desktop. In February of 2000 I paid a little over $500.00 for the memory, and considered it a steal (local sources were over $100.00 higher). This is a fast machine, but my 117,000 word LyX file takes about 20 seconds to render. An inconvenience, but tolerable.
At the last LEAP Installfest I installed 512MB in my experimental machine, a Mandrake Linux 8.1 Celeron 333 (cranked up to 375mhz). The 512MB was purchased from LEK Computers in Winter Garden, Florida for $57.00. I could have gotten it for $42.00 plus tax at a computer swap meet, but with something as incompatible as RAM it's better to buy from a trusted vendor.
The extra RAM, combined with the use of the extremely light weight Icewm desktop, makes this experimental machine practical for actual work. If my main machine went down I could carry on with the experimental machine.
But the real news is the opportunity. With RAM so cheap, you can get
a really heavy hitter machine for very little money:
|Pentium 4 1700 or less expensive Athlon XP 1700+|
|Western Digital 100GB 7200RPM||
|4 sticks of 512 (careful of compatibility)|
|Name brand, see www.tomshardware.com for evals|
|High capacity processor Fan||
|Don't skimp on the fan, especially with AMD processors|
|32MB Graphics card||
|Go commodity, or raise the price for killer cards|
|Intel EEPro 100+ NIC||
|Reliable with Linux|
|Midsize case, 300Watt||
|Older soundblaster or Ensoniq for max compatibility|
|16/10/40 CD burner||
|Hermanator hard disk cooler||
|Misc cables and fans||
|Mandrake 8.1 Linux||
|From LinuxCentral.Com, includes shipping.
Add $20 to $30 for commercial boxed set.
If you already have Mandrake 8.1,
subtract $13.00, as it's perfectly legal to
install it on multiple machines.
|Not bad for a computer that can hold
a book, its authoring program,
and a couple music CD's in RAM.
The following is a very rough estimate. If you're aggressive with Internet purchases, or if you live in a competitive market, you can probably get it for less. If you live in a rural area and want to buy locally, you'll pay more. But the bottom line is that for about $1400.00 you can get a full featured business computer with a 1.7Ghz processor, 2GB of RAM, and 100GB disk. Remember to use a 6GB partition for swap -- you're slinging a lot of RAM. With a machine like this, disk reads will be very rare, and performance will be incredible.
I'll be ready to buy a new main computer in about a year. By that time $1400.00 will probably buy me a 2.5Ghz processor, 4GB of RAM, 150GB disk, and a much faster Linux kernel. What a pleasure work will be.
If, that is, I'm still legally allowed to use Linux.
If SSSCA passes, Linux will be illegal. At first I'll be able to use it under the grandfather clause. Hardware and software made before SSSCA passage will be exempt. But soon any modifications in these systems will require SSSCA copy protection. So no new Linux. And when my current crop of computers break, any new computers I buy will be SSSCA enabled and probably will deliberately sabotage Linux. The rest of the world will use state of the art Linux, and I'll still be on Mandrake 8.1.
According to initial Windows XP test publications, 2.5Ghz, 4GB and 150GB will be a little bit better than adequate for Windows XP. My dreams of owning a screamer machine will be dashed.
I'll never go back to Windows. Maybe I'll violate the law. Maybe I'll drop out of programming, technical writing and book writing. Maybe I'll emigrate to a saner country. Maybe I'll stay and fight the crooks who are hijacking this country. But I'll never go back to Windows.
SSSCA or not, I'll never give another cent to Bill Gates. I'll never
again endure the blue screen of death, or whatever its Windows XP equivalent.
I'll never participate in Passport.
|WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.|
Goodbye Microsoft. Goodbye record industry. Goodbye film industry. Goodbye Disney. I'm independent.
All you readers out there -- come join me.
By the time the government admits that SSSCA was a mistake and repeals it, superior foreign competition will make American technologists unemployable.
The "Made in America" label will evoke an image of junk 10 years after SSSCA passage. American software will be the butt jokes worldwide.
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