The Blob

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Be afraid. Be very afraid

Bruce Schneier, a noted computer security expert, wrote Why Vista is bad for you, a chillingly insightful article that is a must-read for anyone who uses a PC. Schneier points out that much of the slowness of Vista is because the new operating system was rewritten to make heavy Digital Rights Management (DRM) a core function. He points out that Microsoft may try to spin this as being at the behest of the mullahs running the record and movie industries, but it's crap. The real reason, Schneier asserts, is to allow Microsoft to exercise complete control of all digital content, including music, movies and even content that you create.

Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer was once quoted as saying, "DRM is the future." I take him seriously, as to me, it shows that Microsoft intends to extend its monopoly even further than we might imagine. Regardless of the broadsides Microsoft has taken from anti-trust lawsuits, the company has never wavered. It's not enough to control operating systems. Ballmer has set his sights on owning the Internet and digital media by setting proprietary "standards" that only work with Microsoft-based operating or DRM systems.

This is why I don't use a Windows-based PC at home. I don't have that option in the office, and I am a lot less productive as a result.

Schneier suggests that we avoid Vista like the plague, in part to avoid the control it will exert over us. He posits that voting to not buy Vista, along with legal pressure, might be the only way to assert our interests on Microsoft. But it's easier said than done, because we'll have to and want to upgrade at some point. And with all the money that Microsoft has, they can hold their collective breath longer than we can.

There is one other option: get a Mac. (Insert snide sarcasm about my being a Steve Jobs fanboy here.) Say what you will, if you have not tried the Mac and OS-X, you will be in for a pleasant surprise. I'm not saying Steve Jobs is a complete angel. But compared to Steve Ballmer, he is. When it comes to holding someone like Ballmer accountable, nothing beats competition. God knows, federal anti-trust lawsuits aren't something to depend on, given the past record of the government. Besides, rarely has the blunt instrument of judicial review or legislation ever worked the way you thought. Such is the law of unintended consequences.

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