Apple locked ecosystem and the EU

by Miguel de Icaza

Ian Williams mailed me to point out an article this morning at the BBC about Apple and its practices.

The article builds on the EU ruling against Microsoft and points out:

Apple has spent much time trying to ensure that anyone who buys an iPod is completely locked in to an Apple-centred world in which they use iTunes, buy from the iTunes Music Store, purchase only Apple-certified iPod accessories and, ideally, abandon their plans to migrate from Windows XP to Vista and instead purchase a shiny new iMac.

It is very nice to see the BBC coverage go into the depth of the issues involved in the closed interfaces (the now read-only database; the streaming limited to Apple products by means of using encryption to lock the competition out; the new cable add-ons; the locking-out of Linux jukebox software; and the ringtones fiasco):

It is hard to see what justification there can be for these various measures other than an attempt to lock customers in and keep competitors out.

I've asked Apple why it is doing this, but it has remained characteristically silent, preferring to invest its time and energy in the iPhone's UK launch.

[...]

But its business practices do not stand up to scrutiny, and when it comes to music downloads it is just as bad as Microsoft on servers, putting its time and energy into creating barriers to competition instead of letting its developers and designers concentrate on doing great stuff.

If Apple was serious about building a music industry around downloads and digital devices then it would open up its devices and interfaces to allow greater innovation and greater competition.

It would have faith in its own products to compete in this larger ecosystem instead of trying to lock everyone in with tactics that resemble those of IBM in the days of the mainframe.

I wrote a presentation this morning using Microsoft's PowerPoint, but displayed it using Apple's Keynote. Apple can sell Keynote because it took PowerPoint apart and figured out how the files work.

Had Apple been unable to do so, or found that every time it figured out what was happening Microsoft changed the format, it would have complained loudly.

Yet this is exactly the technique it is using against third party jukeboxes. And it is time it stopped.

Read the whole piece.

The BBC article missed the bit where purchasing DRM music also locks you into a particular platform (Apple could license the DRM to allow users to re-encode the songs into another DRM if necessary).

So the EU has teeth, lets make sure that they do not end up wrapped around Apple marketing and they act decisively to ensure interoperability and an open ecosystem.

Posted on 20 Sep 2007


Qt bindings for Mono

by Miguel de Icaza

Back in June David Canar from the Qyoto project emailed me pre-announcing the launch of Qyoto. Qyoto is a Mono/.NET bindings for TrollTech's Qt4 library:

You can:

This is another toolkit that you can use to develop cross platform GUI applications.

Posted on 18 Sep 2007


iPods Hash Puzzle Unlocked

by Miguel de Icaza

The folks in #gtkpod figured out the hash used for newer iPods using a debugger on Windows. The code is here and hopefully it will be integrated in the relevant applications soon enough.

Thanks to everyone on #gtkpod that made this possible (wtbw, nopcode, retar_d, oleavr, desrt and everyone that provided DBs and IDs).

Although we -the Linux community- can choose not to buy iPods, many other people will. And it is our goal to make Linux a viable modern computing platform that allows people to use all of their existing devices.

Breaking the hash is not really a long-term solution, as they can keep making the process harder every time. The long-term solution is for iPods to have a standard interface that third parties can communicate with.

This probably should be compounded to the EU's findings on Apple's anti-trust practices to ensure open access to a popular device.

Posted on 16 Sep 2007


iPods

by Miguel de Icaza

Yesterday after rumors that new iPods require a cryptographic checksum on the song database we confirmed that Banshee can no longer store songs on the new iPods.

The new firmware will now refuse to play any songs that you legally own unless you use Apple's iTunes (which is only supported for Windows and MacOS)

A temporary solution is to not upgrade the firmware on your current iPods and avoid purchasing any of the new iPods until someone figures out hwo to generate the checksum.

As a consumer I can vote by not buying Apple products. What bothers me is that they are the market leader and pretty much own that space, other people will buy iPods and they will just not be able to use them with Linux.

With this move they are preventing people from using their iPods with Linux which will be added to the list of things that "Linux can not get right". Not because we can not get it right, but because of Apple's anti-competitive practices. What better way to keep your potential competitors down than with a little lock-out strategy, using the strength in one market to help weed out the competitors on another market. In fact, today's experience with Banshee is no different than using iTunes: plug, sync, unplug.

Apple being the darling of the computer industry will face little or no criticism over this.

Maybe this need to be brought up with the EU commission as another unfair business practice from Apple.

Although someone will eventually break the new lock from Apple, they can keep changing it, and every time they change it, they will keep stopping consumers from using their iPods with Linux. Maybe it is time for Apple to be subject to some quality-time government sponsored regulation.

Update: As Lennart points out, this is hardly the first time that Apple has locked out competitors or products that interoperate.

Cory Doctorow weighs in on the issue, and states:

I guess my next player won't be an iPod after all.

Cory last year stated that he would switch to Linux from OSX. I hope that he did.

Posted on 15 Sep 2007


Mono's GC

by Miguel de Icaza

Paolo covers three issues on his blog post about the Mono GC:

  • Setting expectations as to what the new Compacting GC will be able to do.
  • The new support for purely managed object allocation (without having Mono transition from managed to unmanaged code to allocate objects).
  • Performance improvements that you might expect from this optimization in Mono 1.2.6

Zoltan has also implemented the needed support for managed-based allocation on the ahead of time compiler.

Posted on 12 Sep 2007


Not a Gamer, Part 2

by Miguel de Icaza

As I discussed back in January am not much of a gamer. The only redeeming feature of the Wii was watching Laura and my friends play Wii Sports

Nat recently convinced me to get a Nintendo DS, he said something like, but not necessarily "This stuff is great while waiting for your next flight, and going through all those security checkpoints". He strongly recommended the brain training games for the Nintendo DS.

So I went and purchased a DS and just like in January, I asked the sales guy to give me a bunch of the best games for the DS he had on store. I figured, maybe am the kind of gamer that could get used to the DS.

Like January, I did not really get into any of the games.

A few observations:

  • The Internet Destroyed the Fun in Puzzle/Adventure Games: I still fondly remember playing Space Quest: one hour every day, then discussing with friends the possible solutions and eventually solving it.
    The Internet makes it so easy to get solutions to most of the problems that it has taken the fun out of it.
  • Stories: The stories for the games I have tried so far (on the DS and the Wii) seem incredibly dull and there is a linearity and lack of interesting challenges.
  • Game Play is Not That Different: Until this year, I had spent about 15 years not playing games (with a short stint for about nine-twelve months playing Quake) and the games are not significantly different.
    But at least the graphics are superb (uh oh, hope Slashdot does not come after me), the animations are very gracious and some of the details are incredibly well taken care of.

I got some mistery game (Hotel something or other), a remake of SimCity, some cooking game, some Lego point-and-shoot and some others that were not worth remembering.

The only game that I liked was the brain games. I like the practice exercises and most importantly, the Sudoku which I play every night before going to sleep.

So I spent about 300 dollars in hardware and games to end up playing Sudoku. A better investment would have been to buy a 5 dollar Sudoku book.

So all of the above was just an excuse to blog about my good friend Jordi Mas' brain games for Gnome.

He has been working on a set of pretty cool games for the desktop. He wrote GBrainy which comes with an assorted collection of mind games that are quite fun in the same way that the Brain Games for the DS is:

Anyways what are good games for the Wii and the DS for aging software developers? (And am not really a fan of Quake derivatives; I got Metroid, and its passable).

Posted on 12 Sep 2007


Mono Bugzilla Migration

by Miguel de Icaza

This Saturday morning (September 15th) at 8am MDT we will be doing our final migration to the Novell Bugzilla system. Although we expect this migration to take much less time, we have planned a http://bugzilla.ximian.com outage until Monday (September 17th) at 8am. During the outage, http://bugzilla.ximian.com will not be accessible.

Once the migration is complete, http://bugzilla.novell.com will be the official Mono Bugzilla. In preparation for the switch, please create a Novell.Com account by going to the following URL.

Novell Login Creation Page.

It is important that you use the same e-mail address for this account that you use on http://bugzilla.ximian.com.

Posted on 12 Sep 2007


Jon Galloway Introduces New Acronyms

by Miguel de Icaza

From Twitter today:

Posted on 10 Sep 2007


Short Internet Case Studies: Creating Mortal Enemies

by Miguel de Icaza

Jeff Artwood uses Twitter to quick-blog (as opposed to his usual larger treaties).

From today's twitterness, how to go from "Flickr, good but not for me" to "Flickr, mortal enemy" in 10 seconds:

Posted on 09 Sep 2007


Moonlight Follow-Up

by Miguel de Icaza

After my last post, Matt Asay and myself exchanged a few emails regarding Novell and open source. And Matt posted a very nice follow up: "80% on Novell" on his blog about Novell and our involvement in open source, so some good came out of this:

Net net: I'm going to work on seeing Novell with less bite and more neutrality. It's admittedly very hard for me.

His post is difficult to quote without removing too much context and doing justice to it, so you should read it yourself.

Simon engadged in a lengthy discussion on my blog's comments on Google Group here and here.

We exchanged platitudes and concluded that patents are bad (shocking, I know) and that the "system" is far from optimal (second shock). We both agreed that Sticking it to the Man was a worthy goal.

Posted on 09 Sep 2007


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