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The Wealth of Minds

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A few months ago in New Scientist, Annalee Newitz took the pessimistic view of the next cyber-movement in the making:

    “If web 2.0 is about generating your own content and sharing it, *web 3.0* will be about making information less free. Privacy fears, new forms of advertising, and restrictions imposed by media companies will mean more digital walls, leading to a web that's safer but without its freewheeling edge.”

Citing the commercialisation of blogs and the potential impact a major leak or private information theft would have, her argument is that a public backlash would reverse the current trend toward disclosure. To the amateur tech enthusiast, this is riveting copy; but like many journalists who specialize in media issues, her argument lacks depth of analysis.

In truth, it is only a matter of time before our politicians start arguing for the deregulation of information.

The Price of Data

Few people understand the roots of our unprecedented information wealth; often taking it for granted as a product of technological progress. The knowledge economy, they figure, is merely the product of advances that demand ever more skilled workers to operate. On the contrary, it functions in much the same way as an economy.

Case in point, some of you might remember that during the early 1990s, when the internet was first starting to gain popular appeal, .wav and .midi files were the only known types of file for playing audio. And back then, there were whole websites dedicated to short sound bites in these formats. The drawback, however, was that these formats were bulky and ill-suited to the standard dialup connection of 56k. Most clips would have been a few seconds at best, and took a while to complete.

In time, it was this disparity between demand and capacity that would later drive the rapid uptake of mp3s. Converting to the format meant that the customer could gain significantly more content for less data; and the changeover cost was little more than the time to download the software. Had there been a faster rollout of broadband and computer upgrades, we would not have the mp3, and higher capacity networks would offer a less efficient exchange.

By contrast, if we eliminate the pressure to streamline a product, we are left with what some have dubbed “Bloatware.” Which is a bit like verbose prose or a car with too many parts: sloppy, ineffective and a nuisance to repair. And, as any economist would predict, the biggest culprits are the monopoly producers like Microsoft, who have retained market share despite competition from free and higher quality alternatives.

If the community is to take full advantage of the information revolution, then we must take stock of the economic forces that govern the spread of ideas and utilize market forces for our collective benefit.

The Free Market of Ideas

Back in 1994, one of the more insightful takes on the economic impact of the internet was John Barlow’s piece on The Economy of Ideas for Wired. Starting with the realization that we cannot sell information if they cannot be contained in pages, CDs or DVDs; he anticipated an economy based on relationships rather than intellectual property.

Fourteen years later and look where we are – still trying to figure out sound policy while various cartels keep the intellectual market locked up. Be it through buying out patents to block products from market entry or perhaps by enforcing royalties for every time their music is played in a public space, these groups continue to argue that nothing would be produced if people were not paid for their creative efforts. Yet this is dead wrong, and all intellectual property serves to do is create red tape for innovation and drive up the price of functioning.

Case in point, the reason that Hollywood became the filmmaking capital of the world had more to do with artists fleeing Edison’s technology patent than anything else. If one major English speaking nation decided to abolish its intellectual property laws, the outcome would be a flood of investment in their local I.T. industry and more. Freed to borrow any idea you wished, all products would have to compete on individual merit and the onus would be on all businesses to innovate just to stay in the game. And, as Yochai Benkler points out in this video, crowd sourcing now presents vast opportunities for businesses willing to share their information with the public.

Too often, after listening to the intellectual property advocates, we forget that economies are supposed to moderate the supply of real products and services. And – on account of how readily they are reproduced – this is precisely why the true market value of ideas really should be zero. By protecting intellectual property, we prevent the market from doing its job and suffer the consequence of expensive inefficient products.

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About Jonathan Scanlan

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Truly and deeply misguided. The protection of intellectual property rights is the cornerstone of a functioning and competitive and productive society. Take that away and you have chaos and economic devastation. How do artists and inventors and designers and writers get paid for their work if there is no way to protect their ideas?

    The one thing keeping the US ahead of the rest of the world is our ability to invent and create. Give up control over those creations and we fall apart.

    Dave

  • Doug Hunter

    I disagree, some virtual goods like songs and software can be developed in this way. When you need real experiments with teams of highly paid scientists and complex multimillion $$$ equipment no one other than the government will foot the bill unless they will get some return through rights to their creation.

  • Clavos

    What would be the incentive to write or in any way produce anything without the possibility of compensation for your efforts.

    Acknowledging that there are persons who, for some reason mysterious to me, do produce open source software which is distributed free (Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice e.g.), but these are the exceptions. The far more common model is Microsoft.

    The author writes:

    “If one major English speaking nation decided to abolish its intellectual property laws, the outcome would be a flood of investment in their local I.T. industry and more. Freed to borrow any idea you wished, all products would have to compete on individual merit and the onus would be on all businesses to innovate just to stay in the game.”

    An intriguing theory, but fails to answer (realistically) why the creators of ideas would be willing to share same if there were no prospect of compensation.

    I submit that almost nothing we use today would exist had the inventors not had the possibility of payment on their horizons.

  • troll

    ‘payment’ is conditioned reinforcement and can take many forms…I submit that the notion of compensation as we apply it today is accidental and that fundamental changes in our motives to produce are not only possible but necessary

  • David

    Has anyone ever heard of Linux and the opensource community? Here there are no “intellectual property” rights and there is tremendous innovation taking place. I paid for my last piece of software recently and found out that I couldn’t use it because it was defective. I intend to learn to program myself and contribute to this FREE economy because of the way it is so liberating.

  • Clavos

    troll,

    What other forms of compensation do you see as viable “fundamental changes in our motives to produce”?

  • Ian Kemmish

    Well, I guess nobody has ever disputed that SOME people have ideas that are without value….

  • Clavos

    @#5,

    “Has anyone ever heard of Linux and the opensource community?”

    Of course. The problem with Linux is that it’s far too difficult and sophisticated for the average Windoze customer to use, let alone comprehend.

    As to the open source products which ARE accessible (from a simplicity of use standpoint), there are three examples in my #3, above.

    The problem, as I state there, is that it’s a limited paradigm; there is not enough interest in producing anything (from software to tomatoes) without some kind of compensation, to sustain such a concept.

    It’s all well and good (admirable, even) for the software engineer to contribute his talents and energies to the development of open source software, but, if he’s doing nothing else (for which he receives compensation), how does he pay his rent (or mortgage) and buy his tomatoes?

    An economy purely based on barter is inefficient and unwieldy; that’s why they no longer exist in the First World.

  • troll

    Clavos – how about the underlying reason that we produce now: the satisfaction of watching our brothers go to sleep by the fire with a full belly free from fear…the sky’s the limit when you set about imagining how people can change – after all it’s a matter of individual choice

    by ‘viable’ I assume that you mean that the motive must be part of an efficient book keeping system to regulate production – free markets seem to work fine for this purpose despite their inherent ‘lag times’ which can be minimized in this age of info sharing

    …..one could view your body of work here on BC as a work of art or brilliant product

    so – why do you do it – ?

  • Schismatic

    The only way open source works is on a very small scale or when the author expects to benefit from the work in some secondary way as a cinsultant or through peripheral sales or through the development of a markwt for other products or just through boosting his rep to make him more marketabke for other work.

  • Clavos

    troll,

    “how about the underlying reason that we produce now: the satisfaction of watching our brothers go to sleep by the fire with a full belly free from fear”

    Cynic (and selfish man) that I am, I question whether your assumption applies to more than a small (very small) portion of humanity. I really believe that the great majority of people are far more motivated by their own needs (and desires) than by altruism.

    “so – why do you do it – ?”

    Why do I participate in these boards and write for BC?

    It’s a hobby; I enjoy writing, I enjoy debating, I am interested in the issues debated here in the Politics section (You rarely will see me commenting in the more cultural areas of the site, and I’ve only written one article, a CD review, outside of Politics), some would say I do it because I have an inflated ego, as well as an erroneous idea of the value of my contributions. Take your pick.

    In short, I do it for a variety of selfish reasons.

    But, if I thought I could get paid (in money or barter) for it, I would. I do get paid (very modestly) for writing and editing advertising materials and press releases for small yacht brokerages who can’t afford the big guys.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    People who enjoy “the satisfaction of watching our brothers go to sleep by the fire with a full belly free from fear” are natural leaders. The ones asleep by the fire are not.

    Many people just do what makes sense to them internally without necessarily thinking about where that might lead or what the rewards might be. Those that don’t, well, they’re the ones asleep by that fire.

    Ironically, the former can often lead to unimagined wealth or other rewards.

  • Clavos

    “People who enjoy “the satisfaction of watching our brothers go to sleep by the fire with a full belly free from fear” are natural leaders.”

    Thanks for proving my point; the “leaders” (natural or unnatural) are a very small portion of humanity.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Of course. It would be anti-survivalist any other way.

  • Doug Hunter

    So, this is a free country. If communists want free ideas and free products and free services there is nothing stopping them from creating them, have at it.

    There is no requirement to patent or protect your ideas. No one makes you slave for wages (Ok, there are minimum wage laws that might kick in), you are welcome to find some likeminded folks and get your own commune. Each of you can give freely to each other and all fall asleep by the fire together.

    The problem is this imaginary utopia of ideals doesn’t and can’t work here in reality. It’s been tried and failed countless times with disastrous and often genocidal results.

    Why then do the dreamers continue to fall for the mirage?

  • Doug Hunter

    So, this is a free country. If communists want free ideas and free products and free services there is nothing stopping them from creating them, have at it.

    There is no requirement to patent or protect your ideas. No one makes you slave for wages (Ok, there are minimum wage laws that might kick in), you are welcome to find some likeminded folks and get your own commune. Each of you can give freely to each other and all fall asleep by the fire together.

    The problem is this imaginary utopia of ideals doesn’t and can’t work here in reality. It’s been tried and failed countless times with disastrous and often genocidal results.

    Why then do the dreamers continue to fall for the mirage?

  • troll

    ‘free”s got nothing to do with it…

    but you are right…every commune that I’ve looked at has ended up nothing more that some guru’s tyranny

    (apologies to the exceptional groups who are no doubt out there making it work)

  • Baronius

    This is a little bit off the thread, and back to the original article – What about the value of “clean” information? It seems to me that more of us are spending our time removing bugs and spyware from our software, buying firewalls and antivirus programs, et cetera. The sharing of information is becoming increasingly difficult. I don’t think that the next innovations are going to increase connectivity, despite the predictions. They’re going to be more restrictive.

    Why do we post on BC? Because it’s one of the three or four things you can do online that doesn’t infect your hard drive.

  • bliffle

    Unfortunately, by exaggerating the value of IP (by extending copyright and patent privileges to unreasonable lengths, for example) we’ve created a huge money gap between various creative efforts. We’ve also created the nefarious business of pre-empting a creators benefits through predatory contracts imposed by oligopolies.

    There’s got to be some middleground. Perhaps better protection for authors from their employers.

    As it is, the high monopoly prices demanded by many companies for ‘their’ IP is a fraud since they didn’t really create it. We all know the stories, too numerous to be listed, of creators who’ve been cheated out of the just proceeds of their efforts and invention.

  • Jonathan Scanlan

    Guys, I think you’ll find that a lot of people get paid for their creativity and designing in spite of copyright or patent because they function more like trades people – they recieve a fee for projects and expert consulting.

    In a free market of ideas, there is very little change for the knowledge worker.

  • Surfer

    Never read so much rubbish in all me life!

    Queenslanders … an entire State full of Australia’s modern-day equivalent of the flat-Earth society :)

  • Surfer

    It’s not really their fault though.

    They’ve gone troppo with the heat up there.

  • bliffle

    Doug Hunters assertions fly in the face of direct evidence. Around here there are many improvised living arrangements that can only be described as ‘communes’. From Budhist enclaves, catholic novitiates, monasteries, nunneries, etc., to atheist/agnostic/nondenominational collections of people. Even the townhouse/condo community is a sort of soft commune wherein, generally, people pitch in to help each other in a low-profile way. They take all kinds of forms, with sometimes more and sometimes less, in the way of formal agreements and contracts. And they have been around for many years and demonstrated great stability.

    Clavos is wrong about ‘altruistic’ people being a small minority. In fact, if you think about it you realize that the most powerful force in peoples lives is gregariousness: the desire to be accepted in social groups. That is the spur, in fact, for the greed that Clavos imagines as a motivation. Greed is just a way station on the way to commanding power over people and/or winning their admiration and love. Altruism is similar to what is sometimes called ‘enlightened self-interest’, but is quite apart from that. For example, I am quite happy to pick my wife up at the airport in a couple weeks when she returns from China, even tho it’s a 20 mile drive there, and then I drive more miles out of my way to drop her at her daughters house. No reward visible and I don’t have to do it. But I feel that if it is good for my wife it makes me feel better immediately. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what I would want were it me. Empathy.

    Almost all people are gregarious. The human animal is so inclined. we would never have survived evolution without gregariousness. we are simply to weak, vulnerable, poorly furred and protected, weak of claw and fang. People who are NOT gregarious are considered freaks. Sometimes called sociopaths or psychopaths, they are recognized as defective and dangerous. And, indeed, they often commit dreadfully anti-social acts. Their lack of empathy and poor socialization marks them.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan Miller

    Obviously, most of us work for money, and that is a necessary driving force. I don’t for a moment think that the intellectual property laws should be repealed; innovation would slow down dramatically. Despite my modestly Luddite tendencies, I think that would on balance be a bad thing.

    However, Money is not always the driving force. Clav, you say, there are persons who, for some reason mysterious to me, do produce open source software which is distributed free. . . With all respect (and I did read your subsequent posts), I don’t think it is a really a complete mystery to you. Lots of us, you included, submit articles to and post comments on Blogcritics, even though we don’t get paid a penny. Indeed, some of us (again, you included) spend quite a lot of time doing so. Could it possibly be that we enjoy it and derive satisfaction from it? There are lots of things we all do for free, just because we want to. I like to ride my horses and to drink rum (although not at the same time); I don’t get paid to do either, and in fact both cost me money.

    As to open source software, it strikes me that Firefox, Open Office, and other pretty nifty things are not done on “very small scale” (comment #10). There is lots of that stuff out there, and some of it is pretty good and very widely used. Sure, I know, Sun is behind Open Office, and probably derives some satisfaction from putting MicroMushy in its place; as well it should. It may even see some potential financial return on the horizon. So?

    In L’Envoi, Kipling looked forward to a day when, after the Earth’s Last Picture had been Painted,

    . . .no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
    But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
    Shall draw the Thing as he see it It for the God of Things as They Are!

    Silly, perhaps, but still not such a bad idea.

    Dan

    PS My internet connection has been quite irregular and constipated all day, to the point that I already poured prune juice into the keyboard and am about to attack the CPU in similar fashion; won’t work, but I will still get some satisfaction. If this problem results in a double post, please forgive me.

  • troll

    …I await the arrival of Wells’ comet

  • Clavos

    I love it when you go all touchy-feely, bliffle.

    But I think your example of picking up your wife at the airport is a poor one; she’s your wife, it comes with the territory, although it does remind me of a true story from the days before my marriage, when my wife and I just lived together as impecunious college students. At that time, we had only two vehicles: her bicycle and my motorcycle. One rainy afternoon, she called and asked me to come pick her up about two miles away because it was pouring rain. My reply was to remind her that I had only a motorcycle and would thus also get soaked in the process, concluding with “There’s no sense in both of us being miserable.” That’s an exact quote from about forty years ago; I know, because she has never let me forget it (I didn’t go get her).

    I still insist that my logic made more sense than hers.

    Bliffle, you say:

    “if you think about it you realize that the most powerful force in peoples lives is gregariousness: the desire to be accepted in social groups.”

    If you had said most people’s lives, I could agree with you, but I think there are a lot of people out there who really don’t care much what other people think of them, and many more who fake it to gain some sort of an advantage (politicians, e.g.).

    I tend to think of myself as selfish in the Randian sense; pretty much everything I do, even acts that to an observer seem altruistic, are performed because I gain something from them, and that is my motivation.

    Dan’s example of our participation in BC is a perfect example of that. None of us are paid, but we do it because we derive personal satisfaction from it.

    I don’t sell boats to make the world a better place, or even to please my clients (although I do strive to please them because it helps to consummate the sale). I do it because I love pleasure boating and because I make good money at it; in other words, for selfish reasons.

    I believe if we were all brutally honest in our self-analysis, we’d find that the root reason for doing things, even the things we tell ourselves we do “because it’s the right thing,” are done for selfish reasons: at the most minimal level, we feel good doing them.

  • bliffle

    Many readers of Ayn Rands claptrap picture themselves as the hardnosed Roark individualist, tramping over vanquished weaklings, with a certain cock to their rakish fedore, leather jacket defining the broad shouldes and narrow waist of their masculine, masterly bodies. It almost takes your breath away! Such powerful self-ceneterness. James Bond-like. Rands version of 007, with a license to kill.

  • Clavos

    bloffle,

    I guess I’ll never convince you that I’m a sociopath, huh?

  • Clavos

    I DO like Rand’s claptrap, though; it’s so much more entertaining than most best seller claptrap published these days. Better written, too.

    But, I wasn’t evoking Roark; rather Rand’s essay.

    I don’t have either broad shoulders or a narrow waist, I don’t crush weaklings, or do anything glamorous; I’m just reasonably adept at separating rich guys from some of their money in exchange for tawdry symbols of their ill-gotten gains – sorta like their trophy wives.

    I don’t join groups, either. I don’t belong to a church, a country club, no yacht clubs or social organizations, no civic groups, have at most 10 friends, no children (didn’t want them), and am thoroughly satisfied with my uncommitted life.

    The only fly in my ointment is my wife’s illnesses, but they too, are just part of life; you play the cards you’re dealt, and none of us exits alive.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Clav, it sounds like J McC needs to consult with you on how to be a maverick…

  • Clavos

    It’ll cost him, Doc. I don’t do nuthin’ altruistically. :>)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Well, if he can afford* to shell out $300 mil for whoever can develop an environmentally-friendly car battery…

    * Not a hoot in hell.

  • STM

    Clav: “I do it because I love pleasure boating and because I make good money at it; in other words, for selfish reasons”.

    Man’s gotta make a living somehow.
    But mate, what a shitty job … out on the water all day, taking in the sun, cruising around picturesque waterways.

    Someone has to do it though.

  • Clavos

    Yeah, I know, mate.

    Almost as tough as being a surfer living in Sydney, surfing on slices of paradise like Bondi, and getting paid to write about it.

    We all have our crosses to bear…

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I think I may engage in the modest altruistic things I engage in solely NOT to be stuck thinking of myself as a randian individual.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    Just “A few good men,” Dave…:>)

  • STM

    A randy individual?

    Shame on you Dave. That’s way too much information.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Clavos, re your #29; the way life extension research is developing, it may not be quite so true for much longer that “none of us exits alive”.

    I’m not sure if it will happen in your lifetime or mine but for many kids alive now, they may well enjoy effectively limitless lifespans. This science will change human culture more radically than anything we have ever seen before.

  • bliffle

    I find it hard to believe that anyone reads Rand for her writing. Even when I enjoyed her politics I broke out in hoots after I read a “Fountainhead” as a 19 yr. old.

  • Clavos

    “Even when I enjoyed her politics I broke out in hoots after I read a “Fountainhead” as a 19 yr. old.”

    That’s a long book, bliffle. You had to get through the whole thing before you “broke out in hoots?”

    I’m obviously not as sophisticated a reader as you are, bliffle, but that’s not surprising, as I’m not as clever an economist or as perceptive a political analyst, either.

    And I certainly am not as creative a fantasist as you…

  • David

    Clavos:
    The Linux community is HUGE. Check Distrowatch.com. I was an “average” (probably somewhat below) windows user. I switched because I got so frustrated with vista. It also doesn’t require buying new equipment. Same computer, just different OS. People will produce just for the fun of it, as long as the tools they are using aren’t forced on them.

  • Clavos

    David,

    While Linux does do well in the server market, the OS picture is very different. According to a number of sources, including Wikipedia:

    “Desktop adoption of Linux is approximately 1%. In comparison, Microsoft operating systems hold more than 90%”

    I don’t think Gates is losing any sleep yet…

  • bliffle

    The Linux OS and Apache server code dominate the server market.

    Linux is coming on strong in desktop computers. Some computer makers are offering it as a lower cost option. This is becoming a bigger factor as peoples budgets are pinched.

    I gave my 9 yr. old faux granddaughter a Thinkpad equipped with Ubuntu and all I had to show her was how to change her password and desktop theme. There is an XP partition on the HDD, but AFAIK she hasn’t used it.

    Most kids learn the consensus operating system, i.e., a meld of XP, Mac and linux, pretty early at school and with there friends and family. They go quite easily from one to another.

    And Bill Gates does worry about linux. He has tried to launch several strategic attempts to attack it. It must upset him that where the tech types make decisions, i.e., servers, he gets beat by linux. But he’s using the old IBM stunt (since MS is the new IBM) of selling at the CEO level and cutting out the tech people.

    Open software has some interesting contraries to the traditional patent/copyright idea of Total Market Dominance, in their use of “Copyleft” and, IIRC, Common Usage agreements. Just as with the common “EULA” of software peddlers that you implicitly agree to when you use their stuff, the same applies to these new instruments of shared IP usage.

    I think linux is much easier to use than windows in a great number of areas. For example, if I want to convert an AVI of some family affair to a DVD movie it is much simpler to do it with something like ‘deeveedee’ on linux than with the traditional tools that I’ve been using for 10 years on windows. Much easier. Even in those few cases where I have to resort to the Command Line Interpreter (CLI – the prototype for DOS) such as converting an FLV to run on my Palm, it’s quite easy to use an old ‘ffmpeg’ script that I composed a few years ago rather than startup one of the clumsy converters on windows, including one that I paid $50 for.

    You can run a lot of windows utilities under ‘wine’ anyway because it supplies all the utilities of the windows programming interface.

    And you can access all your old windows files easily from linux.

    linux also has a gizmo, ‘wubi’, for running linux from windows.

    linux may surround and devour windows.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I’m not sure if it will happen in your lifetime or mine but for many kids alive now, they may well enjoy effectively limitless lifespans. This science will change human culture more radically than anything we have ever seen before.

    As long as we all understand that ‘limitless’ isn’t the same thing as ‘immortal’.

    I’ve no intention of dying, but I’m realistic enough to know that even if the medical technology comes along in my (current expected) lifetime, it can only protect me against disease, not accident.

    However many pills I pop, however careful I am, sooner or later, be it in five years or a thousand, I or someone else will have a lapse in concentration and I will experience a spectacular loss of argument with a moving train, a cliff, a tsunami or some other irresistible force.

    “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men…”

  • David

    Clavos:
    The main reason windows has such a huge (monopoly) market share is because most manufacturers are forced to ship their computers with microsoft through “agreements”. If people actually did get a choice on OSs, micro$oft wouldn’t have such a control over the market. In addition, with their latest, vista, software/hardware vendors have to buy a license (not sure if that is the correct word) to write programs/drivers for vista, and only then, will vista support those programs. As for older material/hardware: forget it. I got Diablo2LOD to run when I had vista on, but only because it was the 32bit version. I found out later the 64bit version would have been incompatible with it. Not so Ubuntu.

  • Clavos

    “Linux is coming on strong in desktop computers.”

    Crap.

    Less than 1% market share is nobody’s definition of “coming on strong.”

    Even Firefox (which I use), the open source world’s greatest success story, has only gained a 19% market share, even with the boost from the release of v3.0 last week, according to Computerworld.

    Gates is far more worried about open source software as a phenomenon than he is about Linux per se, and open source for Windows is growing far faster than it is for Linux OS.

    Linux proponents remind me of 9/11 and New World Order conspiracy freaks with their blithe disregard of the facts in their eagerness to push their favorite fantasies.

  • bliffle

    Clavos’ 1% number is at least suspect. That’s the lowest I’ve ever seen, but it’s hard to get consistent numbers. Especially over time. Probably 7% is a more consistent number.

    Regardless, past performance is not necessarily a predictor of future gains. In the OS wars each side has to demonstrate it’s capability of handling future computer needs and to adapt to changes. One would have to favor newcomers for innovation and oldtimers for market clout and there is no doubt that Gates has shown himself to be a capable business samurai warrior.

    One of the big OS battlefields is China because piracy has leveled the financial playing field. Using free pirated software the Chinese have a prediliction to use Windows because it is so widely used around the world. What will happen when MS tightens the noose and flushes those pirates out? And they are doing it as more and more companies and government agencies send down the commands from on high to switch to paid-for windows. To facilitate that MS offers ultra-low prices to the Chinese and exerts powerful influence through the US State dept. Most Chinese purchasing authorities seem quite willing to switch to paid-for windows rather than linux.

    Against all that is the fact that when anyone runs windows on his computer he has surrendered a significant part of his privacy and security to Dark Unknow Forces in Redmond, and possibly anyone they rent space to. Rootkit, anyone?

    In the past many of us have experienced the horrors of a windows system being infested and possessed by worms, viruses, malware, etc. Even in spite of Virus checkers and such. Is that enough to scare windows users away? Well, it seems to be for a number of people.

    I think the culprit is “ActiveX” and it’s cohorts. Which I purposely disable in my windows partitions. Even though MS punishes me by not running some of their things. I believe that they are subletting some of those extraordinary privileges to other vendors, such as Macromedia Flash. And then they compound the problem through the popularity of some of their customers, like Youtube.

  • bliffle

    Incidentally, disabling ActiveX and Flash seems to work pretty good. I’ve been using the XP, so configured, on this bedroom T60 for the past few days and it is running very benignly. Of course, I can’t watch youtube here (should I care?) and a lot of fascinating ads don’t pop up, but it does just keep on running. And the widescreen is handy for watching cinemascope movies while relaxing in the whirlpool bath.

  • davidpeace

    Also with commercial software, you don’t OWN it. You have bought a right to USE it. With open source, like Linux, you actually OWN the software, which means you can do anything you want with it. If you want to modify it, go right ahead. You are even free to make terrible mistakes with it or improve it. Not so with windows and other paid for programs.

  • Clavos

    True, davidpeace, but most folks just want to keep track of their P&L or write some letters, maybe surf the web a little; they’re not really informed enough or interested in dabbling in software mods, so it’s a moot point for the majority of PC users.

  • davidpeace

    With DRM going ahead, there may come a time when the corporations that produce commercial software will decide that they own what you wrote. Even if it was just a personal diary. With the administration shredding the Constitution and Congress letting them get away with it, I can foresee a time when some person will be convicted of a bs crime based on a corporations ownership of software, thus legally able to take it and created with it handing over someone’s personal papers that would ordinarily not be admissable. A stretch, I know, and maybe unrealistic. But consider how “far” we’ve come in seven years, let alone 230 +

  • trevor girl

    the body walks talks
    the head turns
    we look stop think act
    are we automotons
    are we lomotil bodies
    will we make the winning side
    are we doing the right thing
    what should we do
    we are lonley sad depressed people
    individuals made without choice or freedom
    we are put on earth and the creator
    doesn’t talk to us
    just makes us
    looks at us

    and then he is on she to his next job task
    filling the world up with things

    we are things driving cars eating shopping sleeping

    things to fill up becuase he is an unlimited capacity thing maker creator