14
Nov
09

Comments and Trust

Some doughboy has a series going on how he is “freeing himself from Apple’s grip after being a fanboy for 15 years. Again, I could give a shit what kit someone else is using. As long as I don’t have to support you, go nuts. In fact, everyone should be familiar with the major computer platforms and at least handle the various smartphones. Competition is good and knowledge is power.

That being said, Mike Doyle seriously has his head up his ass about Apple. He complains that Apple locks people into their platform by doing such insidious things as including useful software like a web browser, calendar app and mail client. Or having said web browser include RSS functionality. Or by making and selling peripherals, which I assume includes input devices (mouse and keyboard) and a monitor.

Oh, and the iPhone is evil and tying OS X to only (reliably) run on Macs is wrong, despite a court defending Apple’s right to do the same. I left a rather lengthy comment on his site, but I decided to just publish it again here.

I just wanted to chime in and say that while its great that you’re exploring alternatives to the platform that you’ve been using, I don’t really understand where a lot of your anger is coming from. In your earlier posts, you complained that Apple was exerting too much control by including a lot of Apple software, notably Safari, Mail, iCal and iTunes. And that that Safari includes an RSS reader. (FYI, Mail has one too.) Are you really arguing that Apple shouldn’t include useful functionality out of the box? That makes about as much sense as the people who argue that Microsoft shouldn’t include IE with Windows. As in, none at all. So you just discovered Firefox, DragThing, NNW and whatever else. These are not new apps that suddenly broke through Apple’s tyranny. (Well, Picassa’s new, but that’s just because Google didn’t port it to OS X until this year. Again, not Apple’s fault.)

But that’s not because Apple didn’t want you to, otherwise this link wouldn’t make sense, would it? (BTW, that link is the #5 top download at apple.com/downloads.) Just because Apple doesn’t ship it, doesn’t mean they don’t want you to use it. Its not Apple’s fault that you didn’t discover Google’s apps until recently, or that both Mail.app and Mobile Mail have always supported IMAP. You know what’s even better than Google Calendar? Busy Cal. Check it out. It uses iCal’s open library database and easily syncs with Google.

Oh wait, did I say open? Why yes I did. Your iCal data is open and easily exportable, your Address Book data is open and easily exportable, your Mail.app data is open, easily exportable and uses open standards and your iTunes library is in an open file structure, in /USER/Music/iTunes/iTunes Library. Any Mac app that uses Core Data stores its data using SQLite. Address Book even directly syncs to Google. Don’t like iTunes? Use Double Twist. To the guy who said that Apple basically stole BSD: a) the BSD license is not the GPL and has no sharealike requirements and b) Darwin, OS X’s kernel is not BSD. It takes a lot from BSD, but it is its own open source project. Yes, that’s right. Apple’s kernel is completely open sourced, as is Webkit. Go look at Safari’s Help>Acknowledgements sometime. Hmmm, looks like BSD license, and GPL v.2 license in there!

As for that PC World article you linked to, please. The iPod/iTunes thing has been done to death. There are plenty of non iPod PMPs out there. Go buy one of those. BTW, the Zune uses the exact same business model as the iPod. iPhone and AT&T? Where are the howls of outrage that the Droid isn’t available on Sprint or that there’s no GSM version for AT&T? Carrier exclusivity is nothing new or unique to Apple. OS X and the Mac? That’s Apple’s business model. Apple is not Microsoft, Red Hat or Dell. Apple tried licensing the MacOS before, and it almost killed them. Oh and 10.6.2 didn’t kill Atom support, because Atom was never supported. Pushing unwanted software onto Windows users was bad behavior and was, frankly, inexcusable. But they must have figured that Windows users would never notice, since Microsoft does that all the time. And a patent? Tech companies apply and receive stupid patents all the time. Wake me up when that actually shows up in a real product.

As for your phone, this is a tricky issue. There is clearly a difference of opinion at Apple. Clearly they want the iPhone to be both a pocket computer and an embedded device, but it can’t be both. The situation with the App Store is bad, without question. Something has to give. The question is whether or not it will before Android gets better than the iPhone. The Droid and Android 2.0 are good, but not good enough to make a dent in the iPhone. Yet.

As for the legal stuff, you actually did commit at least one crime there. Seeing as how you used Pwnage instead of Blackra1n, you were a party to a violation of the DMCA on the Dev Team’s part and you violated copyright law when you downloaded that hacked .ipsw file from that Google link. Why do you think that the Dev Team doesn’t distribute those files? If you answered “Because that’s really fucking illegal and Apple would sue us and win?” then you’d be correct! Yes, you bought that iPhone and you can do whatever you like with it, but the OS is Apple’s and fucking with it is illegal under the DMCA and redistributing it is illegal under the Copyright Act.

Before you protest, EULAs like Apple’s have been held up in court, and no, the Psystar case has no bearing here because Apple doesn’t distribute the iPhone OS independently of iPhone devices. And don’t tell me about the developer builds because I’m an iPhone dev and you’re not and I had to agree to all sorts of shit, including agreeing not to fuck with the OS. That includes reverse engineering, decompiling, digging out private APIs and the such. That’s not Apple tramping on my rights, by the way, that’s a contract that I read, and agreed to.

And the baseband unlocking is another issue. Is it legal to hack the baseband? I don’t know, you tell me. Its a legal gray area, but not the slam dunk “its my right to do what I want with my stuff” that you think it is. If you want to run your own custom OS on the iPhone and still be legal? Then port Android. There’s no law (at least in the US) preventing you from doing that. The hardware does belong to you, but the software doesn’t. Don’t like it? Call your Congressman.

Also, do you know where you got that .ipsw file from. I mean do you *really* know? Are you aware that jailbreaking involves finding a security hole in the OS, you know like a buffer overflow that can enable arbitrary code execution? How do you know that you don’t have a keylogger installed, just waiting for you to go to your bank’s website? And of course, the answer is, you don’t.

I also jailbroke my 3GS so I could run GV Mobile, which is nice, but not OMFG nice. (Version 2 could change my mind, but since that’s not due until Christmas, I’m not going to hold my breath.) I used Blackra1n, which took about 30 seconds, much nicer than the hours of terminal voodoo the original jailbreak took, let me tell you! The difference is Blackra1n only installs itself and not anything else (a quick SSH session does wonders). The problem with jailbreaking is that it can render your phone highly unstable (my original required constant reboots until I got fed up enough to just rejail it) and removes code signing.

Also, if you haven’t already, get a terminal emulator and change your passwords (both the root and mobile user account use alpine as their passwords). type ‘passwd’ and your new password then type ‘su’ then ‘alpine’ then ‘passwd’ and then your new password.

And finally, don’t use iTunes to update your phone. This isn’t because Apple hates jailbreaking, its simply because jailbreaking is an unsupported hack. That means that Apple doesn’t support it, doesn’t test for it and doesn’t really think about it when they build new OS versions. The reason why you lose your jailbreak when you update is because the update overwrites the whole OS, but doesn’t touch the userland, kind of like how a major OS X update works. There is *never* any danger of bricking a jailbroken phone just from an update. The danger is when you update an unlocked phone, which is running custom baseband firmware. Again, its not because Apple hates you, its because you’re running an unsupported hack that may or may not be compatible with the upgraded firmware.

Since you’ve been an Apple user for so long, I’m going to assume that you’ve never had to flash new firmware onto a motherboard. Before Apple, that was a really, really scary thing to do. In fact, other than iPods, iPhones, Macs, PS3s, PSPs and Xboxes, it still is. Apple made firmware updates easy and reliable. Once you step out of there, its both hard, scary and often unrecoverable. Try recovering a bricked PSP after a failed firmware hack. Trust me, its a hell of a lot harder than simply plugging it back into iTunes for a restore.

This is already way too long, but I just want to say that I don’t really care what kind of computer or phone you use. I think that more people should experience as many platforms and ways of computing as possible. I just think you need to let go of the notion that Steve Jobs spends his days thinking about how to lock you into Apple’s ecosystem. You also need to not blame Apple for your failure to explore alternatives until now and to stop blaming Apple for things that are clearly not Apple’s fault.

Steve Jobs is not your friend. Apple is not your buddy. Apple is a publicly traded, multinational, multibillion dollar corporation, which like all such entities, exists to make money. They happen to make the most money when they build high-quality hardware running unique, high-quality software that provides an excellent customer experience. The things that Apple gives away, its does so for its own advantage. Such advantages might help the open source community, or potential rivals like Google and Palm. Don’t forget that Google is exactly the same. You are not Google’s customer. You are a set of data points and a pair of eyeballs that Google sells to its real customers.

PJ over at Groklaw, while discussing Apple’s victory over Psystar, mentioned that if what you’re really after is software freedom, then you need to go somewhere other than Apple or Microsoft. Or IBM or Adobe or Oracle or really Google for that matter. If that’s what you’re really interested in, then its open source only for you. That involves a lot of work, but its doable. I tried it and its not for me.

The other thing to be aware of is that the GPL is exactly the same as any EULA from Apple or Microsoft. Its just that the GPL favors “the community” over a corporation. Your usage of the code is still restricted and still bound by copyright law. The GPL would have no teeth without copyright law. There’s no open source free for all and there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

My comment about running a black box iPhone ipsw file? The same concern applies to Google and Android. Google doesn’t disclose what it does on its servers, nor does it disclose how its closed, proprietary Android apps work. Additionally, there is no requirement for handset makers or carriers to disclose the changes they make to Android before you get your hands on it? How much do you really trust Google? How about Verizon, Motorola or Samsung? Its in Apple’s best interests not to fuck its users, because Apple sells directly to those users, and it knows that trust lost is never regained. Google “sells” Android to handset makers and carriers, not to end users. Google just needs to keep them happy, not you. Google doesn’t sell you email, calendar service or maps. It gives them for free so that it can harvest data to sell to its customers, who are advertisers. Google makes its money from advertisers, not from you. Google is selling you to advertisers. How much do you really trust Google?

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