Friday, February 21, 2020

The Road To Serfdom, And The Train To Freedom

SiG's got a great post on how software licensing is creeping into everything, including high-end items (cars, tractors, and all "your" stuff), and making slaves of nominal "owners".


Like much of the march of progress (and chaos) this is going to take lawsuits to fix.

People are going to have to sue to force hardware manufacturers to assume the cost of upgrading, for example, a PC, when it is no longer capable of handling the operating updates.

It's going to have to be turned back around on them.

When Ma Bell owned the phone system, the phones were built like brick sh*thouses, to last 100 years of heavy-duty use. The onus to upgrade them was on Ma Bell, not you.

Alternatively, people will have to revolt: if my PC/car/gadget can be turned on and off, downgraded, etc., then the maker is going to have to eat 90% of the costs for it up front, as it's no longer "mine".

I'll happily pay $20/year to rent their machine, and they can do what they like with it.
If they're not willing to do that, and take the hit on not collecting revenue up front, someone else will build machines that will run actual open-source software, and run existing computer and software companies out of business, exactly as happened to music companies, as is happening to movie and television production studios.

Boilerplate "licensing" agreements aren't worth the signatures they're not signed with, and it's going to take some nuclear lawsuits to make that point in court, but it's inevitable. And it's happened before.

Precedent: how Thomas Edison killed the NJ movie industry, and cut his own throat

Back in the day, Edison & Co. tried to shake down everyone making a movie as someone who owed him a cut of the action, since he'd invented the camera and the manufacturing rights for the projector, and NY/NJ courts and judges, in Edison's pocket, upheld that idea. I should point out that typical "Joisy" tactics were employed to enforce this racket. (Click the link and watch the video, it's a great short explanation of what really historically happened.)

So half a dozen young gentleman of primarily Ashkenazi heritage realized that if they were going to make movies, they'd have to get out from under Edison's thumb, and they hopped the train westward. They arrived in Phoenix the one day it was raining in months, so they continued on to Union Station, in Los Angeles, and decided that was the perfect place to make movies.

Edison's stranglehold on the technology was eventually broken, and the rest is history. Literally.

The next train hopped will be metaphorical, but somebody (or a lot of them) are going to do with software and the internet of my things, what guys named Laemmle, Fox, Zucker, Mayer, Thalberg,  etc. did with motion pictures: break them out of serfdom.

Mark my words.

People will be free, and they will own their possessions outright. You can't stop the signal.


Phil said...

I laugh in their faces.
This is why the newest vehicle I own is 30 years old.
This is also why we bought a refurbished older Maytag washer and dryer set with the turn knob.
This is why we don't own a Smart Fridge or coffee pot or fucking toaster.
You get the idea.

Somebody is going to wise up and make a damn fortune making things that work without all the electronic bullshit in them again.
What's a new car cost on average, twenty five, thirty grand?
Find a nice vintage vehicle that has been in a dry environment, pay to have it shipped, spend four to five grand on it and have a dependable vehicle without all the bullshit.
Newer cars and trucks are simply rolling entertainment centers, that tattle on your every move.
These farmers have finally had enough of John Deere's bullshit.
Vintage tractor prices have gone through the roof for the exact reasons I just pointed out above for cars and trucks.
People are dragging them out of the brush and out of barns all over and there are farmers willing to pay cash for them, get them refurbished and FUCK John Deere.
I think they are onto something myself.

Bezzle said...

> "If they're not willing to do that, and take the hit on not
> collecting revenue up front, someone else will build machines
> that will run actual open-source software, and run existing
> computer and software companies out of business
, exactly as
> happened to music companies....

Exactly that: Capitalism, where permitted by His Majesty's gracious whim.

Class-action lawsuits are nothing but parasite-enrichment programs.

Charles in VA said...

Acerbic Sarcasm alert!

"Boilerplate "licensing" agreements aren't worth the signatures they're not signed with, and it's going to take some nuclear lawsuits to make that point in court, but it's inevitable. And it's happened before."

No. We need to form militias and kill them all! And we need to do it in the next 15 minutes!

See what I did there?

Charles in VA said...

@ Phil,

I like the way you think. I passed a 1940's model Ford pickup truck going down the road yesterday. Dual chrome exhaust, mag wheels and purrin' like a kitten. My first thought was...I need one of those! You can't hack that! I miss setting the distributor point gap with a matchbook cover, not taking 4 hours to change out a thermostat, not being lied to by 400 faulty sensors, and being distracted by 50 different dashboard idiot lights.

I miss having to own just one set of SAE wrenches and sockets.

I miss incandescent light bulbs...the good 100 watt variety.

Damn. Somebody must have slipped a 'member berry in my muffin this morning.

Charles in VA said...

@ Phil,

The problem with the old tractors is (and I'm seeing more of the old Fords for sale around here lately) that you can't find parts for them any more. I sold a 1973 model Kubota last year that I'd had since 1980. I was reduced to shopping for parts from the tractor graveyard for it. At that point the parts you buy may be no better than the ones you're replacing. It's problematic.

I find the same is true for cars and trucks. At some point, unless you're able to fabricate your own parts, you're going to have to bite the bullet eventually. Good luck building a carburetor or transmission from scratch. I doubt I could do it.

Proper care and maintenance only get you so far down the road. Fortunately, I'll probably be dead in another 20 years or so, so it isn't as much an issue for me as it is for today's generation.

Borepatch said...

The only thing to add to this is 3D printing or low cost CNC machining can make a lot of parts that are otherwise unavailable.

John the River said...

So lets think about government 'mandates'. Did you know that Elon Musk has petitioned to be allowed to eliminate all the mirrors from his vehicles? The rear and side mirrors, the actual reflective glass. Make the vehicles (I can't call them 'cars') sleeker aerodynamically. Supposedly increase mileage. First step is being allowed to get rid of mirrors in favor of cameras, 360 degrees of view. Next step is making this mandatory for all new built vehicles.
Just like the stupid rear, backup cameras are now mandatory in all new cars.

(an aside, don't you hate it when you are driving down the road and all your mirrors fall off at the same time? Never happened? Well that expensive center console TV might and probably will fail some day and so much for your 360 degree view! And the fix isn't going to be a trip to the autoparts store for a $15 mirror. Figure at least $2,500 before labor.)

And the emissions crap is mandatory, and the airbags on every internal surface are mandatory, and the tire pressure monitor (my favorite) is mandatory. And all this junk costs money, it adds a heck of a lot to the initial price of the vehicle and even more in future maintenance and repair costs. I was forced to replace one of those tire pressure (wireless) senders at a cost of $139 for one tire. It's the reason my winter radials aren't mounted on their own hubs, $550 extra for another set of TPM.
The car manufacturers keep coming up with this stuff and more as fast as they can think of something new and stupid; because it all adds to the sticker price, is highly marked up and a future maintenance windfall to their shop.
Then their friends in the Congress make having it, "Mandatory".

The government likes to see vast herds of 'wireless' cars endlessly radiating their unique ID roaming the roads. Makes it easy. Another good reason this junk is 'mandatory'.

I don't think they are going to allow any backyard mechanical genius or small startup company to interfere with the process.

Anonymous said...

YEP FUCK JOHN DEERE, says right in the paperwork YOU ARE NOW AN AUTHORIZED USER !!!!!!!!!!!!! not owner. KISS MY ASS. DAN

Unknownsailor said...

This is why I use a desktop PC I built with parts I purchased myself, with an operating system I installed myself, as my daily driver. Not a tablet, not a phone.

If Windows 10 eventually gets too uppity, I can (and will) nuke it and put Linux on it. I know about the propensity of Windows 10 to phone home, and I can program around it by DNS black holing all requests to certain Microsoft web sites via Pi Hole installed on a Rasberry Pi 3b. Great little piece of software, I haven't seen an advertisement online (Pi-Hole was designed to block ads) since I put it on my network.

There is open source Android for phones, too.

Regarding those license agreements that are plopped in front of you when you install software, most of them aren't worth the effort it cost to put them there, and the rest really won't withstand aggressive legal challenge. This is not a tested area of law, from what I understand, but boiler late legalese is never very strong.

Charles in VA said...

@ unknownsailor,

This is the last year you'll b able to use Turbotax to file for your extortion rebate unless you upgrade to Win 10.

Talk about putting your nuts in a vice.

Etaoin Shrdlu said...

First-time commenter here. Liking this blog!

As noted above, open source software, firmware is a good thing. Putting OpenWRT on an old router in the next day or two.

Unknownsailor said...

@Charles in VA

I file on paper. I made just over the standard exemption this year, and will owe about $180. I haven't filed electronically in about a decade.

Yes, I am one of those starve the monkey types, why do you ask?

Anonymous said...

Not working so well with "Property Taxes" I still pay rent on my house I "payed" for 25years ago.

Anonymous said...

At least car companies were required to make their software accessible with OBD protocol. I can pick up a 200 dollar code scanner and do pretty much anything I can reasonably be expected to do mechanically with a newer car. Off highway is definitely another kettle of fish. Living in farm country I hear the JD etc proprietary horror stories pretty frequently. My equipment is 70 and early 80s vintage but it's more or less hobby equipment as my farm is far too small to make a living with now. The thing I'm running into personally is my newer 2010 atv. Polaris requires a "digital wrench" program and cabling to do some procedures and they will not sell it to the general public. You're stuck using the dealer for certain things. CanAm, Honda Yamaha and everyone are using something similarly proprietary on their ATVs and SxSs now as I understand.

Oh and don't get me started on property taxes. They're doubly odious in Missouri where you also have Personal Property Tax which taxes things you supposedly own like your car, truck, airplane, motorcycle, farm animals, grain, hay, shop equipment, you name it. You're just renting it from the state. Don't pay the tax/rent on something you "own" they send men with rifles to take it from you and sell it to someone who will pay rent for it.

Charles in VA said...


I didn't ask.

I just shined a light on another of the many rackets that plague us.


Back in the days when I worked in automotive I remember going to the Detroit auto show and seeing the oooh-and-aaah stuff being hawked by various first and second tier suppliers. Entertainment this, touch-screen that. And wondering why on earth anyone would pay another $2000 or more for this in their car.

A new car, even a basic new car, is getting to the point of being out of reach for the average person. All because of all the cr*p they stuff in to "enhance value"... let alone all the safety stuff they put in because of government mandates.

Bezzle said...

> Entertainment this, touch-screen that.
> And wondering why on earth anyone would
> pay another $2000 or more for this in their car.

The hilarious thing is that all of that crap is twenty bucks off Amazon now. E.g., pay thousands for built-in GPS navigation, or get a spiffy adjustable gooseneck phone mount for $19.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I've been full-time in the computer field for almost 35 years, so I'm neither a stranger to, nor afraid of technology. That said, I absolutely refuse to have internet connected appliances, or Alexa, or remote activated door locks/light switches, or an internet connected surveilance camera. I have been giving some thought to installing security system, perhaps with the ability to turn outside lights on or off from anywhere in the house, but the connectivity will END at the wall of the house (I see no need to be able to do these things when I'm not actually home).

I'm also a big fan of things being as complex as they need to be, but no more so. A couple years ago a guy I know bought a washer-dryer combo that was all computerized. A year after he bought it (STILL under warranty) the mother-board croaked, and they'd changed the model so the old mother-board was no longer available. The only option they offered was a discount on a NEW washer (I'd have told them to stick it where the sun don't shine, if you can't fix my old washer that's still under warranty I want the new one free). Wife and I are due for new washer/dryer, and I'm planning on as simple and old-fashioned as possible.

Mark D

nick flandrey said...


Speedqueen. You won't be disappointed. Everyone who can afford it, and who wants their clothes clean and fresh again (amongst the 'ladies who lunch' set in the neighborhoods around ours) is buying Speedqueen. We did, after years of a "high efficiency" front loader and dryer combo. Clothes are now clean in 15 minutes and if I want hot water for whites, by gum I can GET hot water.