Java and avoiding software piracy?

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ada...@gmail.com

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Jul 10, 2007, 8:27:30 PM7/10/07
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Hi,

Im *hoping* to release an application that I developed in Java, and I
want to release a free version as well as a pay version.

Clearly I want to be able to avoid people cracking it, or creating key
generators... Although i know that it is unlikely to actually stop
them entirely.. I want to do as much as I can to ensure that IF they
want to crack/keygen it, that it will be as difficult as possible.

Please let me know what your thoughts are as to how to achieve this.
Strategies? Resources?

Please send them my way!

Thanks!

Ashoka!

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Jul 10, 2007, 9:12:33 PM7/10/07
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Depends on how may people are going to be using the paid version you
can make a small application that collects several system properties
like size of hard disk etc and use these as a seeds for a random
number generator. The random number will be sent to your server to get
a corresponding key. You will then mark that key as used and not allow
future registration on it. On the down side every time the users
change system configuration they will require a new key. You can
manage this by asking them to enter private info like credit card
number (you already have this because you charged them the first
time).

Its not foolproof and needs some work on the concept but you get the
picture.

regards
Usman Ismail

Andrew Thompson

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Jul 10, 2007, 10:43:33 PM7/10/07
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ada...@gmail.com wrote:
..

>Im *hoping* to release an application that I developed in Java, and I
>want to release a free version as well as a pay version.
..

>Please let me know what your thoughts are as to how to achieve this.

Charge for support, and drop that other nonsense
of keys.

--
Andrew Thompson
http://www.athompson.info/andrew/

Message posted via JavaKB.com
http://www.javakb.com/Uwe/Forums.aspx/java-general/200707/1

~kurt

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Jul 11, 2007, 12:40:34 AM7/11/07
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Ashoka! <0xff...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Depends on how may people are going to be using the paid version you
> can make a small application that collects several system properties
> like size of hard disk etc and use these as a seeds for a random
> number generator. The random number will be sent to your server to get
> a corresponding key. You will then mark that key as used and not allow
> future registration on it. On the down side every time the users

Lots of computers are not connected to the Internet - just internal
networks. One needs to take this into consideration.

- Kurt

Roedy Green

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Jul 11, 2007, 12:55:38 AM7/11/07
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On Wed, 11 Jul 2007 00:27:30 -0000, ada...@gmail.com wrote, quoted or
indirectly quoted someone who said :

>
>Im *hoping* to release an application that I developed in Java, and I
>want to release a free version as well as a pay version.

see http://mindprod.com/jgloss/obfuscator.html
--
Roedy Green Canadian Mind Products
The Java Glossary
http://mindprod.com

Hunter Gratzner

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Jul 11, 2007, 2:35:45 AM7/11/07
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On Jul 11, 2:27 am, adam...@gmail.com wrote:
> Clearly I want to be able to avoid people cracking it,

You can't. End of discussion.

> Please let me know what your thoughts are as to how to achieve this.
> Strategies?

You are wasting your time.

Roedy Green

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Jul 11, 2007, 2:50:51 AM7/11/07
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On Tue, 10 Jul 2007 23:35:45 -0700, Hunter Gratzner
<a24...@googlemail.com> wrote, quoted or indirectly quoted someone who
said :

>> Clearly I want to be able to avoid people cracking it,


>
>You can't. End of discussion.
>
>> Please let me know what your thoughts are as to how to achieve this.
>> Strategies?
>
>You are wasting your time.

You don't have to make it impossible. You merely have to make it more
expensive and frustrating than writing the code from scratch. If you
can insist on an Internet connection, then new possibilities open up
to drive pirates insane. There is also the option of native
compilation of highly optimised (and hence naturally obfuscated) code.


See http://mindprod.com/jgloss/obfuscator.html

Bent C Dalager

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Jul 11, 2007, 5:35:29 AM7/11/07
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In article <1184113650....@m37g2000prh.googlegroups.com>,

<ada...@gmail.com> wrote:
>Hi,
>
>Im *hoping* to release an application that I developed in Java, and I
>want to release a free version as well as a pay version.
>
>Clearly I want to be able to avoid people cracking it, or creating key
>generators... Although i know that it is unlikely to actually stop
>them entirely.. I want to do as much as I can to ensure that IF they
>want to crack/keygen it, that it will be as difficult as possible.

Now, this depends a lot on the nature of your application and your
target market, but in the general case chances are that in doing this
you will be destroying whatever market you otherwise might have
had. If you're Microsoft, and therefore ubiqutous, or AutoCAD(*), and
therefore indispensable, you can get away with the unavoidable
inconvenience a copyright protection system causes your users.

In pretty much all other cases, however, your main problem is probably
in creating a user base that desires your product and the best way to
do this is to make it as easy as possible to use your software -
whether it's paid for or not. Adding registration keys, activation
schemes, etc., isn't doing this for you.


* - Or whatever it is they are using these days.

Cheers
Bent D
--
Bent Dalager - b...@pvv.org - http://www.pvv.org/~bcd
powered by emacs

Laie Techie

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Jul 11, 2007, 4:23:49 AM7/11/07
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There are several free decompilers so it is next to impossible to do what
you're asking.

Jet Brains (the makers of IDEA) store a bunch of information:
* Client Name (hashed)
* Client Number
* Expiration Date
* Expiration Version
* Key

All that stuff is combined together in some undisclosed binary format.
None of their methods returns a simple boolean or Date object. The goal
is to use nondescript method names in nondescript classes. Use of
reflection also makes it harder to crack.

-- Laie Techie

Lew

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Jul 11, 2007, 9:30:14 AM7/11/07
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Laie Techie wrote:
> Use of reflection also makes it harder to crack.

and maintain.

Don't use such a thing heavily throughout your code because you think it will
protect you from hackers. Who would then protect you from yourself?

For a small authorization module reflection techniques can be useful. Just
don't go replacing viable algorithms with it wholesale in a vain attempt to
secure your app.

--
Lew

ada...@gmail.com

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Jul 11, 2007, 9:43:08 AM7/11/07
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Ive read all the posts, and have to admit requiring an internet
connection isnt bad, seeing how the user has to download the
application to their computer to begin wih. But still, easily
hackable with decompiled code. But the reality is that some people
will pay for it and others will find a way to hack it.

I think I just want to put a relatively thin layer of security behind
it, but I do admit that if it is too easy to hack that it will welcome
all types of hackers, and casual users... So I want to make it at
least somewhat challenging for them. In addition, my other concern is
that my server will go down (the one I pay some godaddy for), and then
the user will try to open their application and have it fail to reach
the server for license verification, making my paid users angry.

On the same thread, if I dont have them hit the server, or rather on
server verification I allow them entry to the application, then a
firewall that blocks the connection will simply give them access to
the full app.

As for a key only, perhaps it is a good way to go. But there are just
infinite key generators out there, so clearly anybody who wants to
will be able to find a hack, unless I release fake hacks.

Thanks for the feedback. While I think it is a bit of a lost cause, I
will do something based on the feedback here and post my final
decisions on the matter for any future reader of this thread.

Thanks

ada...@gmail.com

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Jul 11, 2007, 9:44:23 AM7/11/07
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On Jul 10, 10:43 pm, "Andrew Thompson" <u32984@uwe> wrote:


I think that charging for support will earn me very little $$$... as
it is a little application. But thanks for the interesting thought

~kurt

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Jul 11, 2007, 10:19:06 AM7/11/07
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ada...@gmail.com <ada...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Ive read all the posts, and have to admit requiring an internet
> connection isnt bad, seeing how the user has to download the
> application to their computer to begin wih. But still, easily

What typically happens is the application is downloaded, burnt to a
CD or DVD (maybe even copied to a floppy if it is small enough),
virus scanned according to the company policy, and then installed
on the internal network. If you go this route, then you must have
some way for the user to call in to get their authorization code.
We ran into this with JBuilder - they only had email support listed,
and it took them over a week to get back to us. I'll never buy one
of their products again.

- Kurt

RedGrittyBrick

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Jul 11, 2007, 10:42:30 AM7/11/07
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ada...@gmail.com wrote:
>
> my ... concern is

> that my server will go down (the one I pay some godaddy for), and then
> the user will try to open their application and have it fail to reach
> the server for license verification, making my paid users angry.

I may be wrong but I thought that what was being suggested was accessing
an Internet server for initial *registration* after installation, not
for ongoing *verification* on each invocation of the program.

At registration you would retrieve and store a token that the
application would then check at startup - to see if the stored token
matches the gathered hardware fingerprint.

E.g. the token could be the fingerprint and expiry date signed using
your private RSA key. The app would hold your RSA public key and use it
to verify the signature of the fingerprint. Of course a miscreant could
probably hack the bytecode to skip the verification check.

An alternative is to make your application a web-hosted application like
"Google Docs & spreadsheets".

Twisted

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Jul 11, 2007, 5:27:46 PM7/11/07
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Don't waste your time and effort trying to lock up information. It
will always be either easily copied or unusable, one or the other.

Instead, make money off your ancillary expertise in the software, its
internals, and the problem domain. Your talents in that area are
scarce and rivalrous, so they make sense as private or metered goods.
Charge for customization of someone's install of the software, or for
support beyond basic bug-fixes and how-tos. Open a consultancy, with
the software as testament to your competence in the field. Whatever.

Joshua Cranmer

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Jul 11, 2007, 5:35:06 PM7/11/07
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On Wed, 11 Jul 2007 00:27:30 +0000, adamorn wrote:

> Hi,
>
> Im *hoping* to release an application that I developed in Java, and I
> want to release a free version as well as a pay version.

Put only what pertains to the free version in the free version. Don't
even try to have the free version be the pay version with the features
locked out. The pay-only features MUST NOT BE PRESENT IN THE BYTECODE /AT
ALL./ Then only distribute the pay version after people order it.

> Clearly I want to be able to avoid people cracking it, or creating key
> generators... Although i know that it is unlikely to actually stop them
> entirely.. I want to do as much as I can to ensure that IF they want to
> crack/keygen it, that it will be as difficult as possible.

You're trying to do what just about every major software company is
trying (and failing) to do. Simple online license key verification would
be sufficient; if you're really willing to go far, some code sanity tests
for verification (involving java bytecode assembly and knowledge of
obscure parts of the Java VM specification) would probably trip up 90% of
decompilers. Then again, nesting a few synchronized, finally, conditional
break/continue, and loop statements is practically guaranteed to trip up
a decompiler.

l...@mail.com

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Jul 12, 2007, 2:26:48 AM7/12/07
to

I'd suggest you take a two step approach:

1. Compile your application down to native code using GCJ or Excelsior
JET:

http://gcc.gnu.org/java/
http://www.excelsior-usa.com/jet.html

It will become about as hard to decompile as if you wrote it in C++.

You may also use a name obfuscator for extra protection:

http://www.excelsior-usa.com/kb/000023.html

2. Protect the resulting native application using a tool of your
choice. Note that Excelsior's tool requires you follow a special
procedure, discussed in their forum:

http://www.excelsior-usa.com/forum/index.php?topic=744.0

Hope this helps,

LDV

Philipp Leitner

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Jul 12, 2007, 7:33:11 AM7/12/07
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> Instead, make money off your ancillary expertise in the software, its
> internals, and the problem domain. Your talents in that area are
> scarce and rivalrous, so they make sense as private or metered goods.
> Charge for customization of someone's install of the software, or for
> support beyond basic bug-fixes and how-tos. Open a consultancy, with
> the software as testament to your competence in the field. Whatever.

This is only a valid business model under certain circumstances:
- the tool under discussion has to be something "enterprisey", since
only at least medium-sized companies pay for customized software,
support or consultants. If you wrote e.g. a RSS reader or anything
else that definitely targets the single end user you're out of luck.
- the tool has to be obscure / complex / buggy / ... enough so that
consultancy is even necessary. Again: if you have a well-written
little RSS reader it is unlikely that enough questions arise that a
paid support is even necessary.
- you as the author have to be able and willing to dedicate a lot of
the time following into consulting and/or maintaining the software. If
you already have a day job you're unlikely to have enough spare time
that you can spend to follow this business model. Customization takes
time. So does maintaining and supporting an application.

Conclusion: I am definitely a friend of OSS, but the idea that seems
to go around that an OSS business model is the one and only way to
earn some money with software is just bogus.

And for the OP: I wouldn't care too much about crackers and key
generators. Unless your software /really/ catches on the problems
arising from these guys are marginal.

/philipp

Oliver Wong

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Jul 12, 2007, 5:34:56 PM7/12/07
to

<ada...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1184113650....@m37g2000prh.googlegroups.com...

If you have no idea how to do start, forget about doing it on your
own. All the crackers out there have way more experience than you (because
you have zero experience!) and so you don't stand a chance.

If you really need copyprotection for your software, license a scheme
from a third party. Just be careful not to get a scheme that people
really, really hate (e.g. StarForce).

- Oliver


Twisted

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Jul 12, 2007, 9:32:02 PM7/12/07
to
On Jul 12, 7:33 am, Philipp Leitner <philipp.leit...@gmx.at> wrote:
> - the tool under discussion has to be something "enterprisey", since
> only at least medium-sized companies pay for customized software,
> support or consultants. If you wrote e.g. a RSS reader or anything
> else that definitely targets the single end user you're out of luck.
> - the tool has to be obscure / complex / buggy / ... enough so that
> consultancy is even necessary. Again: if you have a well-written
> little RSS reader it is unlikely that enough questions arise that a
> paid support is even necessary.

If it's something like a little RSS reader, there's no money to be
made off it anyway, certainly not in a competitive market if you play
fair. If there's no market for the ancillary expertise due to anyone
and his brother being able to do it, there's no market for the
software itself for the same reason. Someone will make something
compatible and sell it cheaper. Someone else will do it and make it
FOSS. You won't be able to compete on price OR quality in this case.
The reason to write such software is when it directly benefits your
own productivity through your own in-house use, and then there's no
reason to be stingy and not open-source it since you derive the
benefits of its direct use anyway, and releasing it encourages quid
pro quo (you may get nice free tools and not have to write them; you
might get bug fixes or suggestions from other users of such stuff
savvy enough to modify the code).

> - you as the author have to be able and willing to dedicate a lot of
> the time following into consulting and/or maintaining the software. If
> you already have a day job you're unlikely to have enough spare time
> that you can spend to follow this business model. Customization takes
> time. So does maintaining and supporting an application.

If you already have a day job you already have a steady paycheque and
no need to charge for the software.

> Conclusion: I am definitely a friend of OSS, but the idea that seems
> to go around that an OSS business model is the one and only way to
> earn some money with software is just bogus.

The only ways to earn money with software that depend on charging for
access to the software itself are by their nature coercive and
extortionate. They are also doomed in the long term because your
competitors can always undercut you on price without any loss in
quality. Microsoft is learning this lesson right now. They're reaching
for any legal bludgeon they can invent (software patents for example,
or a "trusted computing" mandate) to kill open source competitors by
criminalizing them, all because they cannot compete in a fair and open
market. Only aggressive marketing and questionable business practises
enabled them to become rich in the first place, that and a lack of
access to alternatives for most consumers for a long time before
widespread access to broadband developed in the industrialized parts
of the world.

> And for the OP: I wouldn't care too much about crackers and key
> generators. Unless your software /really/ catches on the problems
> arising from these guys are marginal.

Anybody using such wasn't ever going to pay for the software anyway.
Actually, scratch that -- some of those using such methods would never
pay no matter what. Making it harder might force them to use a
competitor's software but it won't get your hand into their pockets
successfully. On the other hand, some of those who crack it might
later pay, if they derive benefit from the software and decide it's
worth subsidizing its further development and maintenance. More than
those who just play with your crippled free version, who will just be
annoyed by random and arbitrary restrictions and have a generally
terrible user experience that will put them off ever sending you a
dime.

Why not make the full version free, but offer a registration
certificate or something for a certain amount of money? It may turn on
frivolous features of the software or just a personalized greeting or
something, or let you get early access to bugfix-test beta versions or
something. Plenty will just use the software and never send you a
dime, but they'd likely never have sent you a dime no matter what you
did. Others may gladly pay if they know it will finance further
development of the software, including some that never would have if
subjected to any sort of coercion or made to feel obligated to pay.

You could probably get away with giving the fully-functional version
for free and selling a snazzy "pro skin" even. This works for the
Limewire folks. (They also sell T-shirts. The "pro" version isn't
actually any faster than the free one, despite what they claim; it
just tends to make more redundant connections to hubs to make it
slightly more stable in connectivity perhaps.)

Oh there are lots of creative ways to make money without ticking off
your prospective customers, denying the use of your software to the
poor, or using threats, extortion, gratuitous cripplage, or any copy
protection crap that just adds bugs and subtracts features. Nobody
wants to pay for added bugs and fewer features! Outmoded "copyright"
business models just use the increasingly unenforceable copyright laws
as a crutch to lean on in a futile attempt to avoid the obligation to
innovate. It's red queen syndrome though -- you have to run faster
just to stay in the same place. If by some means (becoming a complete
fascist police state?) the US began to really successfully enforce
copyrights, it would just cause the US to rapidly fall behind other
countries, particularly China, which looks set to topple it and take
on the role of world superpower in the next few years *anyway*. If
they don't, copyright-reliant businesses within the US are quickly
outcompeted by innovative firms with other business models. It's the
whole protectionism-vs.-free-trade thing again, only with information
flow and services instead of physical trade goods. History repeating
itself in the usual manner when someone failed to learn from it. Free
trade won the last few rounds. Anyone want to bet against the proven
champ this game?

Twisted

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Jul 12, 2007, 9:32:50 PM7/12/07
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On Jul 12, 5:34 pm, "Oliver Wong" <ow...@castortech.com> wrote:
> If you really need copyprotection for your software, license a scheme
> from a third party. Just be careful not to get a scheme that people
> really, really hate (e.g. StarForce).

Or XCP ... :P

Oliver Wong

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Jul 13, 2007, 12:16:30 PM7/13/07
to

"Twisted" <twist...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1184290322.2...@q75g2000hsh.googlegroups.com...

>
> The reason to write such software is when it directly benefits your
> own productivity through your own in-house use, and then there's no
> reason to be stingy and not open-source it since you derive the
> benefits of its direct use anyway, and releasing it encourages quid
> pro quo (you may get nice free tools and not have to write them; you
> might get bug fixes or suggestions from other users of such stuff
> savvy enough to modify the code).

Feel free to accept them if they arrive, but don't *expect* bug fixes
or suggestions. Only the top 1% or so of open source project ever receive
outside help.

>
>> - you as the author have to be able and willing to dedicate a lot of
>> the time following into consulting and/or maintaining the software. If
>> you already have a day job you're unlikely to have enough spare time
>> that you can spend to follow this business model. Customization takes
>> time. So does maintaining and supporting an application.
>
> If you already have a day job you already have a steady paycheque and
> no need to charge for the software.

That's not necessarily true. Your day job might not be paying enough,
and yet it's the best you can get, and so you need to supplement it with a
second or third job. If programming software is a part of your skillset,
then there's no reason not to consider writing software for profit as one
of those second or third jobs.

>
>> Conclusion: I am definitely a friend of OSS, but the idea that seems
>> to go around that an OSS business model is the one and only way to
>> earn some money with software is just bogus.
>
> The only ways to earn money with software that depend on charging for
> access to the software itself are by their nature coercive and
> extortionate. They are also doomed in the long term because your
> competitors can always undercut you on price without any loss in
> quality.

Depends on your definition of "coercive and extortionate", I suppose. Take
the computer game industry, for example. Most games are one-shot deals.
You won't have enterprises buying support contracts. You won't have users
paying for support. You won't even have users expecting continuous updates
over the next few years of the product. There are some exceptions to this
(Blizzard, for example, semi-regularly releases updates to their game
Diablo), but most games are play-once-and-then-forget-about-forever.

Different games take different approaches to restricting access to the
software. Some uses virtual device drivers that take over your CD drive to
try to differentiate between original CDs and copied ones; others have you
enter a serial number which is then verified online; yet others just
release the game without any software copyprotection at all, relying on
the "honesty" of the Internet (or more cynically, on the guilt that might
be generated in pirates).

The latter of these, I would certainly not consider to be coercive nor
extortionate.

> Microsoft is learning this lesson right now. They're reaching
> for any legal bludgeon they can invent (software patents for example,
> or a "trusted computing" mandate) to kill open source competitors by
> criminalizing them, all because they cannot compete in a fair and open
> market.

It was recently fashionable to demonize Microsoft, such that a lot of
accusations thrown their way was unfair. I think that trend has died a
little bit, but I still see the occasional blogs with one entry saying
"Vista sucks" and followed by another entry saying "I've never tried Vista
and I never will".

First of all, anthropophormizing corporations is dangerous, because it
then becomes extremely tempting to assign emotions to them (e.g. fear,
jealousy, envy, anger, etc.) and then to try to make predictions about
their future behaviour based on what emotions they are supposedly
experiencing.

I think a much more accurate model is to think of corporations as a
perfectly rational utilitarian whose sole metric is profit. There's no
good vs evil, moral vs immoral issues to enter into the consideration of a
coporation's "mind". It's solely about what action can maximize profits.

Keeping that in mind makes it much easier to understand Microsoft's (or
any corporation's) actions. They break the law when the profit they gain
from doing so outweighs the penalties they'd pay. They embrace Open Source
when it's profitable to do so (Windows XP has some BSD licensed code in
it, for example), and they try to stiffle competitors of all form (open
source or otherwise) *when it is profitable to do so*. Honestly, I don't
think Microsoft is very concerned about losing the desktop market to
Linux, so they aren't spending much resource in fighting it there (the
reason being the expenses paid in "fighting" Linux will be greater than
profits from the marketshare regained). They might be more concerned with
Apache vs IIS, and so you do see a lot of marketing in that area (I see a
lot of banners citing IIS is better than Apache, for example).

To address the patents issue in particular, because of the way patent law
is set up, if you're a big company, you are essentially forced to horde up
on so called "defensive patents". It's a like a cold war, where none of
the big corporations sue each other, for fear of getting sued in return.
That's the way the rules were set up, and Microsoft (and other
corporations, like IBM, Sun, etc.) are just playing the smart strategy
according to those rules. Again, it's fallacious to think in terms of
"evil corporations hate our freedom, that's why they patent everything"
versus "acquiring patents is the action with the highest utility at this
point".

> Only aggressive marketing and questionable business practises
> enabled them to become rich in the first place, that and a lack of
> access to alternatives for most consumers for a long time before
> widespread access to broadband developed in the industrialized parts
> of the world.

Drop the keyword "only" and I'll be in agreement with you.

>
>> And for the OP: I wouldn't care too much about crackers and key
>> generators. Unless your software /really/ catches on the problems
>> arising from these guys are marginal.
>
> Anybody using such wasn't ever going to pay for the software anyway.
> Actually, scratch that -- some of those using such methods would never
> pay no matter what. Making it harder might force them to use a
> competitor's software but it won't get your hand into their pockets
> successfully. On the other hand, some of those who crack it might
> later pay, if they derive benefit from the software and decide it's
> worth subsidizing its further development and maintenance. More than
> those who just play with your crippled free version, who will just be
> annoyed by random and arbitrary restrictions and have a generally
> terrible user experience that will put them off ever sending you a
> dime.

On the other hand, I know some people who had pirated Windows XP, but
are going to pay for Windows Vista simply because Vista is too much of a
pain to pirate. It's like Roedy said (and it echos a dogma in the security
industry as a whole): Perfect security is impossible. The goal isn't to
attain perfect security. The goal is to make it such that the least
painful solution is to just go ahead and pay for the software so that this
will be what all rational people (who always choose the least painful/most
pleasurable of all options) end up doing.

[snip some creative ideas for making money; I've no comments or arguments
against that]

- Oliver


Twisted

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Jul 14, 2007, 12:28:21 AM7/14/07
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On Jul 13, 12:16 pm, "Oliver Wong" <ow...@castortech.com> wrote:
> That's not necessarily true. Your day job might not be paying enough,
> and yet it's the best you can get, and so you need to supplement it with a
> second or third job. If programming software is a part of your skillset,
> then there's no reason not to consider writing software for profit as one
> of those second or third jobs.

Hire out your programming expertise then. There is always work for
people with a talent for coding.

> Depends on your definition of "coercive and extortionate", I suppose.

My definition isn't unreasonable. It includes things like one party
interfering with a consensual transaction between a second party and a
third party, especially if there's a financial motive such as
preventing competition. (In this instance, the second party is letting
the third party examine an object the second party (legitimately)
possesses, and construct a duplicate of that object with their own raw
materials and time and on their own dime.)

> Take
> the computer game industry, for example. Most games are one-shot deals.
> You won't have enterprises buying support contracts. You won't have users
> paying for support. You won't even have users expecting continuous updates
> over the next few years of the product. There are some exceptions to this
> (Blizzard, for example, semi-regularly releases updates to their game
> Diablo), but most games are play-once-and-then-forget-about-forever.

Well I can see a few options here that don't involve coercive
activities and can still make you money.
* Make it a multiplayer game. Give the game away. Open a pay service
for online play; playing through your service requires access to your
servers and that in turn costs you bandwidth and electricity and the
like; you can certainly meter this access and make money this way. Of
course, if third parties can't create compatible servers then you are
doing something anticompetitive and sneaky!
* Make a game for your own enjoyment. Your own future enjoyment of the
game is the "payment".
* Say you have a great game idea but need financing to create the
game. If enough money is pledged you'll make the game and give it
away. If not enough is pledged by a certain date you'll return the
money already received and won't make the game. This amounts to being
paid up front to write the code, so you don't lose money if it's
easily copied once it's released.
* Make arcade machines that are coin-operated, and to which only you
have the key to the coin-box. If the game's not otherwise available
it's admittedly a bit morally dodgy, but even if it is you'll make
money from machines in places where people have to sit around and wait
for a particular time or a number to come up, like airports and movie
theatre lobbies and suchlike. People often forget to bring their
Nintendo DS or a book or something ... and then you've got some of
their pocket change.
* Demo it to rich people until you sell one copy for a bazillion
bucks. Retire. Don't care if the rich guy then spreads copies around.
Some people have piles of money and nothing better to do with it than
be the first ever to do/have something.
* Give the game away. If it's any good, and especially if the source
code is publicly visible, you might get job offers. Even if game
companies no longer made any money selling copies of games this
wouldn't change, since someone might want a game made with particular
features and not have the skills themselves but have the money to hire
someone to make it for them; and since your proven skills with Java or
whatever are likely of broader use than just game making.
* Use the game as a loss leader to sell something else. A special case
of this is to sell access to one online service for multiplayer gaming
with this game; the game creates the whole market for such online
services, and you start one of them. As the game's maker you may be
able to make a better one more cheaply than a competitor could without
a lot of study of your game's code. More generally, the game might
become popular and you could sell related T-shirts, stuffed game-
character animals or game-character action figures, and other such
physical goods. The game could also contain paid product placements --
e.g. you could make a GTA clone and get Coke and Pepsi to bid for
which one's logo gets on a big billboard and all the vending machines
in the game world or something.
* There's the outright adware/spyware route too, but that's evil, not
to mention stupid since people will just strip that crap out and
spread the "cleaned" version around, and it will outcompete your
original.
* Make copies and sell them! If you don't do anything coercive,
obviously sooner or later other people will make copies and sell them,
and more will give copies away. Some will still prefer to buy from the
trusted original source, or to subsidize the possibility of addons or
new games from a proven good game-maker. Red Hat sells copies of Linux
on CD for $60 a pop, and makes money at it, even though anyone else
can do the same, one company started selling copies of Red Hat's
distro for $30 a pop, and lots of places have free downloads of Fedora
Core. Admittedly not a game, but it still proves you can make money
without restricting others from making copies and giving them away or
selling them.

> Different games take different approaches to restricting access to the
> software.

I hate all gratuitous restrictions on access. If I can pay the
marginal cost of reproduction of something I see no reason I should
not be permitted to have one if I want it, and a grave moral wrong in
withholding access to something for someone who can pay its marginal
cost. Worse, this type of thing involves by its very nature intrusions
and breaches of privacy, because party 1 is trying to impede certain
consensial transactions between parties 2 and 3, not merely to set the
terms of transactions between party 1 (themselves) and other parties.
The only way to do this effectively is to spy on parties 2 and 3 and
then intrude on them when they try to conduct a transaction you don't
like. If done in person, that's called eavesdropping, break-and-enter,
and assault where I come from.

If you really want to control access, you should not furnish copies at
all. Put your game on a server and charge for access to it. Secure the
server against being hacked. Without hacking, all someone can do is
play the game through the interface. Give away a thin client (most
likely a browser applet) which isn't of any use without what's on the
server. Just don't expect many users unless the game is very, very
good or membership is cheap and one fixed-sized payment buys you a
lifetime of access.

> Some uses virtual device drivers that take over your CD drive to
> try to differentiate between original CDs and copied ones; others have you
> enter a serial number which is then verified online

Evil and rude. VXDs being installed without the system administrator's
explicit knowledge and consent ought to be downright illegal, because
they can easily corrupt and crash the OS. Sony recently got into a
world of legal hurt over exactly this sort of BS, namely the infamous
XCP rootkit CDs. Gratuitously requiring a net connection is nearly as
bad, and makes the software stink of spyware. More generally, all such
schemes add a bug-prone component whose very INTENT is to make the
software gratuitously fail sometimes, and any bug in which is sure to
do so. Worse everyone reporting such bugs gets treated with scorn and
suspicion. Treating your customers like criminals and their hardware
and OS configuration like your personal property is a sure way to lose
friends and influence people!

> It was recently fashionable to demonize Microsoft, such that a lot of
> accusations thrown their way was unfair. I think that trend has died a
> little bit, but I still see the occasional blogs with one entry saying
> "Vista sucks" and followed by another entry saying "I've never tried Vista
> and I never will".

This probably has a lot to do with the fact that Vista sucks, and I've


never tried Vista and I never will.

Seriously. It does suck.

> First of all, anthropophormizing corporations is dangerous, because it
> then becomes extremely tempting to assign emotions to them (e.g. fear,
> jealousy, envy, anger, etc.) and then to try to make predictions about
> their future behaviour based on what emotions they are supposedly
> experiencing.

No, it makes more sense to regard them as emotionless, cold-blooded
sociopaths, since that is what all large corporations are. With IQs in
the mid-to-upper forties, seeing as they're almost invariably less
than the sum of their parts.

Note that I didn't anthropomorphize Microsoft in the original post
anyway. I said they couldn't compete and decided to try to use their
money to buy laws to effectively outlaw competing with Microsoft. This
much is provable fact (they can't compete -> observe Linux server-side
market share eating Windows alive; ditto Apache vs. IIS and JSP vs.
ASP; law-buying, well, just look, the campaign donations are a matter
of public record. No I don't know the URL offhand.)

> I think a much more accurate model is to think of corporations as a
> perfectly rational utilitarian whose sole metric is profit.

This fails to explain Arthur Andersen and Enron, Worldcom, Sony's
brain-dead rootkit shenanigans, and lots of other things. Your
"perfectly rational utilitarian" has an IQ inversely proportional to
the CEO's annual salary. I doubt they actually are perfectly rational.
A rational RIAA would embrace music sharing and monetize music some
new way. In practise, companies often show some degree of dominance by
the will of one or a few people exhibiting all the usual human
foibles. Cartels more so than individual companies; they can be
downright schizophrenic and for obvious reasons. Ultimately however
they often lust for power and control, and obviously so, regardless of
whether this is rational.

They also lack a key element of sanity -- satiability. Corporations
are, by and large, insatiable. The more they have the more they want.
It's not enough to have 47% of the market, 400 full-time paid
employees with full benefits, and enough money coming in to pay the
salaries and expenses; they want 57% of the market and to expand to
500 employees and rake in money faster than they spend it, so they can
panel the CEO's office in oak and he can cut down from three days
working a week to two and spend another day a week playing golf at
expensive Augusta.

> There's no good vs evil, moral vs immoral issues to enter into the consideration of a
> coporation's "mind". It's solely about what action can maximize profits.

Explain irrational decisions like outsourcing all of your support to
Brokenenglishstan, with the result being customers abandon you in
droves? In fact, the guys that do this stuff are not doing it for the
benefit of the company's long term profits. They do it to get short
term profits or show decreased expenses in their own department, so
they get promoted and more stock options, so they can buy when the
next product is shipping and the stock jumps, sell right after, and
retire, leaving someone else holding the bag when the customer neglect
comes back to bite the company in the butt.

Companies show some tendency to maximize short-term revenues, about
three or four months out (roughly one fiscal quarter, which cannot be
coincidence), and damn the long term consequences of their behavior.
They act like spoiled children that have not learned empathy, more
than anything else -- little sociopaths with no more than a vague
sense of any time scale beyond a few months, and impulsively grasping
for shiny baubles and smacking at anything they don't like.

> (I see a lot of banners citing IIS is better than Apache, for example).

I don't. Must be Firefox's adblock. You really should get that plugin.

> To address the patents issue in particular, because of the way patent law
> is set up, if you're a big company, you are essentially forced to horde up
> on so called "defensive patents". It's a like a cold war, where none of
> the big corporations sue each other, for fear of getting sued in return.

And they like it just fine that way, since they can all nuke any small
upstart that threatens to horn in on their turf, especially one that
looks like it won't play by the unspoken rules of the existing cartel.

You know the sort of unspoken rules they have. Like that they will
spend no money fixing bugs except security holes. Or they will all
outsource their support simultaneously and anyone who reneges by
keeping support local to grow its market share by not pissing off its
customers as much as its rivals will get punished in some way. There's
all kinds of collusion like this, though nothing easy to prove.

> That's the way the rules were set up, and Microsoft (and other
> corporations, like IBM, Sun, etc.) are just playing the smart strategy
> according to those rules. Again, it's fallacious to think in terms of
> "evil corporations hate our freedom, that's why they patent everything"
> versus "acquiring patents is the action with the highest utility at this
> point".

Either way, such patents do more harm than good. I think all so-called
IP law does more harm than good, save perhaps trademark law.

> On the other hand, I know some people who had pirated Windows XP, but
> are going to pay for Windows Vista simply because Vista is too much of a
> pain to pirate.

Fools -- they already have a free copy of XP and are willing to pay
for a downgrade?

> [snip some creative ideas for making money; I've no comments or arguments
> against that]

They prove copyright law unnecessary to "promoting the progress of
science and the useful arts", which in my opinion leaves it at the
mercy of the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech and of the
press.


Philipp Leitner

unread,
Jul 14, 2007, 4:46:12 AM7/14/07
to
Honestly, you have some strange ideas of what is 'coercive'. If I
coded some app and want to see a few bucks in return for people using
it ... how can that be coercive? If I plant potatoes and want people
to pay for them before eating them, do I "restrict people's access to
my potatoes"?

> Well I can see a few options here that don't involve coercive
> activities and can still make you money.
> * Make it a multiplayer game. Give the game away. Open a pay service
> for online play; playing through your service requires access to your
> servers and that in turn costs you bandwidth and electricity and the
> like; you can certainly meter this access and make money this way. Of
> course, if third parties can't create compatible servers then you are
> doing something anticompetitive and sneaky!

[snipped a lot more ideas]

All of those ideas are possibilities, but all of them will only work
out only in certain circumstances (do you see a big company like IA
produce games 'for the benefit of their own pleasure'?). I cannot see
why you are so strictly against the simple business model of 'we
produce something, you pay to use it'. And no, I really do not think
that everybody has the legal conception that such a business model is
evil and coercive (as you seem to imply). I think this is just the
most natural business model that can come around.

/philipp

Twisted

unread,
Jul 14, 2007, 5:37:15 PM7/14/07
to
On Jul 14, 4:46 am, Philipp Leitner <philipp.leit...@gmx.at> wrote:
> Honestly, you have some strange ideas of what is 'coercive'. If I
> coded some app and want to see a few bucks in return for people using
> it ... how can that be coercive? If I plant potatoes and want people
> to pay for them before eating them, do I "restrict people's access to
> my potatoes"?

I don't see anything coercive about those. Not giving people copies of
your app if they don't pay, or your potatoes if they don't pay. It's
your right not to give them to someone if you don't want to, or to
want something in return.

Where it gets coercive is if you insist that the guy with the potatoes
must eat them and cannot plant the "eyes" off one to grow his own,
simply because then he might not buy more from you, and you want to
force him to only ever do business with you. (An agribusiness called
Monsanto has raised a lot of farmers' hackles by doing almost exactly
this.) Likewise if you don't let the guy with a copy of your app
"grow" more copies.

Then you aren't just setting the terms of one transaction with you as
a participant; you now seek to govern the buyer's use of what they
purchased and limit in various ways after the fact. THAT is coercive.
In fact, it abrogates some of the buyer's property rights in what they
bought.

In the case of copy-protection schemes, they all tend to be
ineffective against a determined adversary, and they all tend to
compromise users' property rights in the computing hardware they own
as well as the copies of software they bought. They may not be able to
back up the software, for example, or effectively restricted from
upgrading their hardware (MS Vista refuses to work without buying a
new copy if you replace the mobo, from some reports I've read).

> All of those ideas are possibilities, but all of them will only work
> out only in certain circumstances (do you see a big company like IA
> produce games 'for the benefit of their own pleasure'?).

I'm not claiming they are universally applicable. In any given
situation a few of them will be options and most of them won't be, I
expect.

> I cannot see why you are so strictly against the simple business model of 'we
> produce something, you pay to use it'.

I'm not. Keep it on a server you have to pay to access and I won't
complain of coercion. I won't use it, but I don't see other peoples'
property rights being trampled on in this case, nor their freedom of
speech.

I also see no problem with selling disks with copies. It's trying to
control someone's use of what they purchased down the line that
bothers me. I wouldn't want to buy a hammer and get told by the
manufacturer that they would spy on me and confiscate the hammer if I
ever used it to hit nails of a brand they didn't like, or told I
couldn't lend it or sell it, or told I was required to check in with
them for permission every time I wanted to hit something with it.
Software with copy protection and especially with any kind of "product
activation" is exactly like this hypothetical hammer and its ham-
handed manufacturer. And if I bought a hammer and it came with a
shrink-wrapped notice claiming that by using the hammer I "agreed" to
never use it on nails bigger than 3" long, or whatever or whatever,
I'd ignore the notice as not any kind of binding agreement at all. I
don't recall entering into any kind of negotiations with the
manufacturer after all, only the retailer at point-of-sale, and I
certainly don't recall signing anything. If it also said the
manufacturer expressly disclaimed all warranties even fitness-for-
purpose I'd take it back to the store and insist on a refund.
Unfortunately there's not as much choice with software as with hammers
-- just about everybody disclaims fitness-for-purpose, amazingly.

> And no, I really do not think
> that everybody has the legal conception that such a business model is
> evil and coercive (as you seem to imply). I think this is just the
> most natural business model that can come around.

If you mean a business model of "hand me that twenty and I'll hand you
this valuable object" I agree. If you mean any business model that
depends on forcibly restricting the customer's use of their purchase
after the sale has been completed, then I disagree; that is about as
unnatural as things can get. In fact, it undermines the twin pillars
of free-market democracy, one being freedom of speech and transaction
and the other being strong guarantees of property rights. Undermining
these is damn dangerous. And treating information (other than
particular copies, separately) as if it were "property" and
considering any use you don't like (whether or not it takes a copy
away from you) as "theft" is a perversion of every natural law.

Oliver Wong

unread,
Jul 16, 2007, 2:37:01 PM7/16/07
to
"Twisted" <twist...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1184387301....@d55g2000hsg.googlegroups.com...

> On Jul 13, 12:16 pm, "Oliver Wong" <ow...@castortech.com> wrote:
>> That's not necessarily true. Your day job might not be paying
>> enough,
>> and yet it's the best you can get, and so you need to supplement it
>> with a
>> second or third job. If programming software is a part of your
>> skillset,
>> then there's no reason not to consider writing software for profit as
>> one
>> of those second or third jobs.
>
> Hire out your programming expertise then. There is always work for
> people with a talent for coding.

Yes, that's exactly what I was suggesting, and seems to run counter to
your "let's give all software away for free" philosophy.

>> Depends on your definition of "coercive and extortionate", I suppose.
>
> My definition isn't unreasonable. It includes things like one party
> interfering with a consensual transaction between a second party and a
> third party, especially if there's a financial motive such as
> preventing competition. (In this instance, the second party is letting
> the third party examine an object the second party (legitimately)
> possesses, and construct a duplicate of that object with their own raw
> materials and time and on their own dime.)

It's the *other* stuff that your definition includes which worries me.
Stuff like charging money for the right to use a specific software
program, for example.

>
>> Take
>> the computer game industry, for example. Most games are one-shot deals.
>> You won't have enterprises buying support contracts. You won't have
>> users
>> paying for support. You won't even have users expecting continuous
>> updates
>> over the next few years of the product. There are some exceptions to
>> this
>> (Blizzard, for example, semi-regularly releases updates to their game
>> Diablo), but most games are play-once-and-then-forget-about-forever.
>
> Well I can see a few options here that don't involve coercive
> activities and can still make you money.
> * Make it a multiplayer game. Give the game away. Open a pay service
> for online play; playing through your service requires access to your
> servers and that in turn costs you bandwidth and electricity and the
> like; you can certainly meter this access and make money this way. Of
> course, if third parties can't create compatible servers then you are
> doing something anticompetitive and sneaky!

The success rate for this business model seems to be much lower than
the traditional model.

> * Make a game for your own enjoyment. Your own future enjoyment of the
> game is the "payment".

The success rate for this business model seems to be much lower than
the traditional model.

> * Say you have a great game idea but need financing to create the
> game. If enough money is pledged you'll make the game and give it
> away. If not enough is pledged by a certain date you'll return the
> money already received and won't make the game. This amounts to being
> paid up front to write the code, so you don't lose money if it's
> easily copied once it's released.

The success rate for this business models seems to be much lower than
the traditional model.

And so on... hopefully, you see the pattern here. Recall once again
that businesses are about making money, and given two business models, one
which is more successful than the other, it seems to make sense that most
businesses would pick the more successful one.

I mean, it's great that you're able to come up with alternative
business models. But the business people aren't really *looking* for
alternative business models. They're plenty happy with the model they
currently have (the one of selling games with copy protection). *You're*
the one who's unhappy with that model, and I'm not sure you have enough
clout to sway the entire game industry.

You could try voting with your wallet and boycotting games with
copyprotection. But for what it's worth, there exists games out there for
which I consider the copyprotection scheme sufficiently unobtrusive that
they have a minimal impact on my purchasing decision. Therefore, I am
likely in the foreseeable future to continue buying games that have copy
protection on them. And I suspect there is a significant market who will
continue to do so as well.

I wanted to highlight one particular business model you mentioned:

> * Demo it to rich people until you sell one copy for a bazillion
> bucks. Retire. Don't care if the rich guy then spreads copies around.
> Some people have piles of money and nothing better to do with it than
> be the first ever to do/have something.

This business model is laughably ridiculous. It's comparable to having
"Win the lottery" as your retirement plan. By including this within your
list, you've weakened the credibility of the rest of the list. IMHO,
anyway. Go for quality of ideas, not quantity.

>> Different games take different approaches to restricting access to the
>> software.
>
> I hate all gratuitous restrictions on access. If I can pay the
> marginal cost of reproduction of something I see no reason I should
> not be permitted to have one if I want it, and a grave moral wrong in
> withholding access to something for someone who can pay its marginal
> cost.

Everybody has a different code of ethics and moral compass. To me, if
someone tells me "I'll only let you have A if you promise not to do B",
and you say "Fine", and then take the A, and then later go ahead and do B,
you have committed a "grave moral wrong" in my eyes:

"I'll only tell you this secret piece of information (which happens to
take the form of a series of zeros and ones) if you promise not to tell
anyone else."
"Ok, I promise."
"Here it is (binaries for a video game)."
"(torrents it and shares it with the world)."
"Hey, what give? You promised you wouldn't tell anyone else my
secret."
"Information wants to be free! You're oppressing me!"

[...]

>
>> It was recently fashionable to demonize Microsoft, such that a lot of
>> accusations thrown their way was unfair. I think that trend has died a
>> little bit, but I still see the occasional blogs with one entry saying
>> "Vista sucks" and followed by another entry saying "I've never tried
>> Vista
>> and I never will".
>
> This probably has a lot to do with the fact that Vista sucks, and I've
> never tried Vista and I never will.
>
> Seriously. It does suck.

Maybe it was too subtle, but the implied question was "How could you
possibly make an informed decision about whether a piece of software sucks
or not without having actually ever tried it?"

>
>> First of all, anthropophormizing corporations is dangerous, because it
>> then becomes extremely tempting to assign emotions to them (e.g. fear,
>> jealousy, envy, anger, etc.) and then to try to make predictions about
>> their future behaviour based on what emotions they are supposedly
>> experiencing.
>
> No, it makes more sense to regard them as emotionless, cold-blooded
> sociopaths, since that is what all large corporations are.

You use the keyword "No", but you seem to be agreeing with me. What do
you *really* mean?

[...]


> I said they couldn't compete and decided to try to use their
> money to buy laws to effectively outlaw competing with Microsoft. This
> much is provable fact (they can't compete -> observe Linux server-side
> market share eating Windows alive; ditto Apache vs. IIS and JSP vs.
> ASP;

Your evidence doesn't support your assertion: "Compete" doesn't mean
"Win". Maybe they are simply competing and losing.

>
>> I think a much more accurate model is to think of corporations as a
>> perfectly rational utilitarian whose sole metric is profit.
>
> This fails to explain Arthur Andersen and Enron, Worldcom, Sony's
> brain-dead rootkit shenanigans, and lots of other things.

It wasn't intended to explain those things. But if you want an easy to
grasp explanation: the corporations don't have perfect information. You
can be perfectly rational, but make the in-hindsight-wrong-decision if you
don't have perfect information.

> Your
> "perfectly rational utilitarian" has an IQ inversely proportional to
> the CEO's annual salary. I doubt they actually are perfectly rational.

Note that I didn't say they were perfectly rational. I said that
thinking of corporations as "a perfectly rational utilitarian" is a "much
more accurate model" than an emotional anthromorphic entity who bases its
decision mostly on rage, envy, fear, etc.

> A rational RIAA would embrace music sharing and monetize music some
> new way.

I suspect it's actually vastly more complicated than that, but I'm too
lazy to explain all the details right now, so I won't be surprised if you
continue to believe this.

> In practise, companies often show some degree of dominance by
> the will of one or a few people exhibiting all the usual human
> foibles. Cartels more so than individual companies; they can be
> downright schizophrenic and for obvious reasons. Ultimately however
> they often lust for power and control, and obviously so, regardless of
> whether this is rational.

I think you have a different definition of rational than I do. If they
lust for power and control (or to phrase it more formally, if their metric
is power and control), then doing whatever you can to maximize power and
control is the most rational thing a utilitarian can do.

The problem, I think, is that you're applying your metrics to the
actions of another entity with a different set of metrics, and they aren't
maximize their score in your game, and so you suspect they must be
irrational, when actually they may be maximizing their score in their own
game.

[...]


>
>> There's no good vs evil, moral vs immoral issues to enter into the
>> consideration of a
>> coporation's "mind". It's solely about what action can maximize
>> profits.
>
> Explain irrational decisions like outsourcing all of your support to
> Brokenenglishstan, with the result being customers abandon you in
> droves?

(1) Profits exceed costs.
(2) Imperfect information.

> In fact, the guys that do this stuff are not doing it for the
> benefit of the company's long term profits. They do it to get short
> term profits or show decreased expenses in their own department, so
> they get promoted and more stock options, so they can buy when the
> next product is shipping and the stock jumps, sell right after, and
> retire, leaving someone else holding the bag when the customer neglect
> comes back to bite the company in the butt.

Are you implying that this is irrational behaviour, given the metrics
that the companies are applying to themselves?

>
> Companies show some tendency to maximize short-term revenues, about
> three or four months out (roughly one fiscal quarter, which cannot be
> coincidence), and damn the long term consequences of their behavior.

Again, are you implying that this is irrational behaviour, given the
metrics that the companies are applying to themselves?

> They act like spoiled children that have not learned empathy, more
> than anything else -- little sociopaths with no more than a vague
> sense of any time scale beyond a few months, and impulsively grasping
> for shiny baubles and smacking at anything they don't like.

Recall my warning:

<quote>


anthropophormizing corporations is dangerous, because it
then becomes extremely tempting to assign emotions to them (e.g. fear,
jealousy, envy, anger, etc.) and then to try to make predictions about
their future behaviour based on what emotions they are supposedly
experiencing.

</quote>


>
>> (I see a lot of banners citing IIS is better than Apache, for example).
>
> I don't. Must be Firefox's adblock. You really should get that plugin.

You seem to be under the assumption that I do not wish to see such
advertisements. On the contrary, this particular ad allowed me to be more
informed about the real world than you. ;)

[...]


>> On the other hand, I know some people who had pirated Windows XP,
>> but
>> are going to pay for Windows Vista simply because Vista is too much of
>> a
>> pain to pirate.
>
> Fools -- they already have a free copy of XP and are willing to pay
> for a downgrade?

Your question is based on false premise, and thus is nonsensical.
Here's the information I'm guessing you want:

My friends already have a free copy of XP and are willing to pay to
replace it with Vista.

- Oliver


Roedy Green

unread,
Jul 16, 2007, 4:46:29 PM7/16/07
to
On Mon, 16 Jul 2007 14:37:01 -0400, "Oliver Wong"
<ow...@castortech.com> wrote, quoted or indirectly quoted someone who
said :

> I mean, it's great that you're able to come up with alternative
>business models.

My thinking is that software should be rented. You don't give all
your money up front. The vendor then spends time doing things that
make existing users happy rather than silly flash to sell naive new
users. It evens the flow of revenue for both parties.

See http://mindprod.com/project/prebrandedsoftwarerental.html

Jeff Higgins

unread,
Jul 16, 2007, 5:14:38 PM7/16/07
to

Roedy Green wrote

> My thinking is that software should be rented. You don't give all
> your money up front. The vendor then spends time doing things that
> make existing users happy rather than silly flash to sell naive new
> users. It evens the flow of revenue for both parties.
>

Yes[] No[X] Sounds like a good idea, but consider software subscriptions,
support contracts, service contracts, etc. Ends up the same old thing,
silly flash each period, bugs not fixed, and enough rent paid on my part
to lease a houseboat on the riviera for some sales exec.


Twisted

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 1:49:20 AM7/17/07
to
On Jul 16, 2:37 pm, "Oliver Wong" <ow...@castortech.com> wrote:
> > Hire out your programming expertise then. There is always work for
> > people with a talent for coding.
>
> Yes, that's exactly what I was suggesting, and seems to run counter to
> your "let's give all software away for free" philosophy.

Nope. I don't have a problem with saying "I'll code this for you if
you pay me thus-and-such". It's trying to control the downstream use
of the code once published that bothers me.

> It's the *other* stuff that your definition includes which worries me.
> Stuff like charging money for the right to use a specific software
> program, for example.

Let's see. If I use a specific software program where a copy is
installed on my machine, what are the actual burdens I place on others
in so doing?
* The copy must be furnished. Its marginal cost is close to zero
unless it's trillions of bytes in size, however.
* Running it consumes electricity, which must be provided. OK; let the
hydro company bill me for my usage.
* If it involves network activity, bandwidth is needed. OK; let my ISP
bill me too.

I don't see any way in which the software's author is incrementally
burdened by my usage, given that he isn't the direct source of my
copy.

If the software is on his server and I access this server to use it,
then I use his bandwidth and he has every right to charge me for the
privilege; I've never objected to that. In that case I'm burdening his
network connectivity with my usage.

So let's see. I don't object to him charging me for a copy if I want
to get one directly from him. I don't object to him charging me to use
servers or other hardware he owns or bandwidth he paid for. I do
object to being told what I can or cannot do with a copy once I've
gotten it.

It's true, if anyone can make more copies and spread them around, sell
them or give them away, the market will tend to force the price for
copies down to zero. This kind of thing happens all the time; it's
called "competition". Makers of all sorts of other products have to
put up with competitors producing identical or fully-substitutable
products and undercutting their price.

Red Hat sells software without restricting others from making and
selling or giving away copies, and it manages to prosper just fine.

And insisting on downstream control of use ultimately leads to Big
Brotherish evils. Dongles and similar coercive devices; spyware-like
behavior (MS WGA anyone?); and of course simple denial of access to
the poor, who may be able to furnish the marginal cost of a copy for
their own use but cannot pay the grossly inflated price the software
company asks, which is generally hundreds to thousands of times the
marginal cost.

In no other area besides software and entertainment, except maybe big
pharma and gene-engineered crops, do we see manufacturers collecting
margins of 99.9% on product sales. Even patent-infested areas like the
auto industry get by with thin margins of a percent or so at every
step of the supply chain, from retail/dealership up to manufacturer.
Computer hardware included.

All of those industries have to pay R&D costs somehow, and only those
few I've mentioned do it by creating monopoly lock-in somehow and then
charging thousands of times marginal cost for each physical item.

The worst effects are on the poor, of course. People in poor countries
have rampant HIV-infection rates and are unable to afford the hugely
inflated prices for medication that could save their lives and manage
infections chronically. So they die and die. Farmers get screwed by
big agribusinesses that use pricing and seed-propagating policies and
so-called "terminator genes" to force them into virtual indentureship
where they could buy one load of seed and then be largely self-
sufficient. This can't help but make food less available to the poor
worldwide, beyond harming the generally not-very-wealthy farmers
themselves. In the developed, urban parts of the world, the effects
are certainly still there -- students find software, textbooks, and
other things priced way above marginal cost. So do the instructors,
who pass the pinch on to the students in the form of hefty tuition
fees, and end up not making much money themselves. Student debt is
skyrocketing, and young-adult debt, and a lot of that debt is
basically the Microsofts and McGraw-Hills of the world demanding their
huge margins. They have a hell of a racket going. You can't possibly
not have noticed Microsoft and Bill Gates laughing all the way to the
bank for the past ten plus years.

Closed, paywall-blocked access to the outputs of academic research
have a giant, hidden cost we don't even see or notice. How much faster
would our progress be; how many more problems in e.g. the third world,
or climate management, would have been solved or better-mitigated by
now if the wheels of research in academia had been greased with wide-
open access to more general participation? How many would-be Einsteins
out there are shut out of contributing substantially to the system
because the barrier to entry is too high?

All of these show areas that have "cartelized", where the incumbents
(existing academics, publishers, software makers, etc.) inflate prices
well above costs and create barriers to entry (often not just price-
barriers, but regulatory ones where they can lobby such into
existence) to keep out upstarts and maintain an exclusive club of some
sort.

Actually, one of those groups doesn't seem to be laughing all the way
to the bank. Academics just seem to be stuck in a vicious cycle of
paying through the nose to reach a position of being able to
contribute, and then feeling the need to charge exorbitant amounts for
access to their own research just to cover those expenses once they
can. Which makes the next generation have the same problem, and the
next. It's a few large publishing companies that are raking it in in
this case, rather than the academics, who are stuck on a treadmill
jammed on "super-fast" in order that the publishing companies can
protect their massive profits.

All of this impoverishes the world, culturally, scientifically, and
financially, while enriching a few megacorporations and their
executives. Most of those who try to force exorbitant per-copy pricing
on fundamentally non-scarce goods are just trying to recoup the costs
to them that resulted from bigger fish doing the same thing; the money
they get goes up the chain and accumulates in the pockets of the Bill
Gateses of the world.

It's the next big robber-baron crisis after the big railroad baron
problems of a century or so ago. They're sucking the economy dry, and
forcing most smaller vendors and makers to be intermediaries in
funneling them money, all to line their own pockets. This obviously
isn't sustainable; soon nobody will be able to afford their overpriced
crap. We're already seeing it. Jobs offshoring; prices skyrocketing;
costs of living going up while real wages plummet and unemployment
soars domestically. Either they all go bankrupt when everyone else
does and can no longer pay them, or (more likely) there's some kind of
revolt. Aristocracies bleeding the peasants dry have a bad habit,
historically speaking, of getting beheaded one day. These will be no
exception, if it keeps on the way it has been.

Except for one thing: the Internet makes the machinery for funneling
the money, so-called "intellectual property" laws, largely
unenforceable, and one large emerging world power, China, is showing
little interest in strongly enforcing international "intellectual
property" treaties and laws. So instead, either the system just fails
without violent revolution, or China ascends to world superpower while
the US becomes a has-been like the British Empire did about a century
ago, eventually out-prospering everyone else -- the way the early-
twentieth-century US did, at least until the debut of Steamboat
Willie, and Disney's buying of perpetual copyright extensions from
Congress ever since.

> The success rate for this business model seems to be much lower than
> the traditional model.

Risk's a part of the game. There's always less of it if you cheat, or
use coercion to make your market position unassailable, but that
benefits nobody else. Lack of risk encourages lack of innovation, and
folding most of your money into aggressive marketing, aggressive legal
actions to shut down would-be competitors, and aggressive lobbying to
get more ways of competing outlawed, not to mention encouraging lazy
lack of bug-fixing or other improvements. Seen Microsoft Windoze
lately? How long has Explorer has the bug that scrolls all your open
windows to the top spontaneously from time to time? Or the one where
dropped files don't always go where you dropped them but sometimes to
the bottom of the folder instead? They've had 12 years now to fix
that, since Windows 95 debuted Explorer and these bugs, and they've
done nothing.

> And so on... hopefully, you see the pattern here. Recall once again
> that businesses are about making money, and given two business models, one
> which is more successful than the other, it seems to make sense that most
> businesses would pick the more successful one.

Recall once again that businesses are not ENTITLED to a profit; nor
even to recoup their R&D costs and break even. A "can't lose" business
model is a sure sign that someone is cheating, or the game itself is
rigged somehow. Even in a non-zero-sum game, the existence of a "can't
lose" strategy for one party means that everyone else, other
businesses and consumers alike, "must lose" as the "can't lose" guys
take over and grab an ever bigger share of the pie. Why else would
America's GDP be growing but America's poor actually getting poorer
(after quite a while of getting less poor, relative to cost of
living)? Because the system is increasingly being shaped by a few big
players that "can't lose" to funnel all wealth to them and make it
harder and harder for anyone else to accumulate any.

When I was a child, people saved and invested. When I was a young
adult, people lived paycheque to paycheque and "got by" until they
could retire, but sometimes lost their jobs, couldn't find new ones,
and wound up poor, or committed suicide, or killed everyone in their
family and THEN committed suicide. Now, people are deeply in debt by
the time they enter the workforce, if they can find a job at all of
course, and a lot more wind up poor, or commit suicide...

Who's robbing everyone? GDP is growing, but the wealth is not being
spread. The rising tide isn't floating all the boats. Someone's shaped
it into a monster tidal wave that raises theirs and smashes all the
others. A few rich white men, mostly CEOs and the odd shrub or two,
from the looks of it.

> I mean, it's great that you're able to come up with alternative
> business models. But the business people aren't really *looking* for
> alternative business models.

That's because they've been handed a nice government-granted and
enforced monopoly gravy train. Why would they look, when they can just
sit there doing little useful and rake in the cash anyway? This is not
however a system that is good for society!

You really need to check out http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/against.htm
-- it can explain a lot of this stuff better than I probably can.

> They're plenty happy with the model they
> currently have (the one of selling games with copy protection). *You're*
> the one who's unhappy with that model, and I'm not sure you have enough
> clout to sway the entire game industry.

Everyone except the top executives in the game industry has reason to
be unhappy with that model. It benefits the few at the expense of
everyone else. As such it is doomed in the long term.

> Everybody has a different code of ethics and moral compass. To me, if
> someone tells me "I'll only let you have A if you promise not to do B",
> and you say "Fine", and then take the A, and then later go ahead and do B,
> you have committed a "grave moral wrong" in my eyes

It's called "breach of contract". There's no need for this "copyright"
BS, or any of the rest of it, since we have contract law anyway. Of
course, contract law is somewhat weaker. If I breach the contract and
give someone a copy, that someone is not bound by any contract and
whatever it is is now freed. And mass-market transactions can't
generally require every customer read and sign something; that's OK
for rare, big-ticket purchases like cars and houses but nobody's doing
that for every CD they buy at HMV. This is exactly as it should be;
businesses can not easily bludgeon their way to riches with a business
model based more on inflating their prices massively and suing
everyone in sight and have to actually innovate to succeed that way.

> Maybe it was too subtle, but the implied question was "How could you
> possibly make an informed decision about whether a piece of software sucks
> or not without having actually ever tried it?"

Everything experts have written about Vista indicates that it's a
steaming turd-pile. A huge multi-gigabyte steaming turd-pile that
reeks of Microsoft greed and corruption, and even of media company
greed and corruption. Why does the Vista feature list seem to be what
you'd expect if the RIAA and MPAA were the paying customers rather
than the Vista user-base? That is very interesting don't you think? It
smacks of the rich-old-white-men's club members protecting their own,
at everyone else's expense, from such annoying things as "competition"
and "we, the people, now also find it self-evident that information,
costing next to nothing, should be essentially free". The fact is, at
last count 100,000,000 Americans (more than 1/5 the population) have
decided to engage in mass civil disobedience. That isn't a few
scofflaws or "organized crime" or even terrorism. That is the biggest
revolt against government policy since the Vietnam peace protests and
civil rights riots. In this case (and probably the war), corporate-
bought policy.

I don't remember anything in the Declaration of Independence,
Constitution, or Bill of Rights about corporations getting votes and
legislative power. (Yet the DMCA combined with dongles or other
software lockouts effectively gives them the power to make law.) I do
remember at least one of those having something to say about the
peoples' need sometimes to revolt against aristocratically-imposed
serfdom in various forms. That time has come again, and this time
there might not even be any bloodshed, unless there's a serious
attempt by the government to clamp down with violent force. In that
case, obviously, there WILL be trouble.

> > I said they couldn't compete and decided to try to use their
> > money to buy laws to effectively outlaw competing with Microsoft. This
> > much is provable fact (they can't compete -> observe Linux server-side
> > market share eating Windows alive; ditto Apache vs. IIS and JSP vs.
> > ASP;
>
> Your evidence doesn't support your assertion: "Compete" doesn't mean
> "Win". Maybe they are simply competing and losing.

Given the shoddy quality of e.g. IIS, do you really think they are
trying to "compete" in any arena that doesn't involve either lawyers
or lobbyists?

> > This fails to explain Arthur Andersen and Enron, Worldcom, Sony's
> > brain-dead rootkit shenanigans, and lots of other things.
>
> It wasn't intended to explain those things. But if you want an easy to
> grasp explanation: the corporations don't have perfect information. You
> can be perfectly rational, but make the in-hindsight-wrong-decision if you
> don't have perfect information.

These aren't "wrong" decisions, they are "brain-dead" decisions, which
anyone with a couple of neurons to rub together should have known
would backfire in some way. Pretexting scandals, private-info-leaks,
rootkits ... there seems to be another big scandal every fiscal
quarter and dozens of minor ones these days.

Companies used to have to compete in the market. Now they have gotten
a sense of "entitlement" to government largesse and access to
government muscle to forcibly get their way. Corporations pay* police
to gas protestors at peaceful anti-corporatism rallies. Corporations
pay* government for legislation that makes something the competition
is doing that they don't like illegal. Corporations pay* government
for a system of so-called "intellectual property rights" that are
based on the idea that by developing an idea they are somehow entitled
to profit from it. If they can't turn it into a marketable commodity,
they can at least wait until someone else does and then sue them to
extort billions from them (NTP v. RIM comes to mind here). In a
properly functioning system, corporations that can't turn "it" into a
marketable commodity go bankrupt, and another one that can succeeds,
and consumers and competent businesses all win, while businesses that
can't manage to quite do it quietly fold. You succeed by producing a
product that customers love and want and gain by using, and doing it
more efficiently than the competition.

In the system as it currently runs, you succeed by producing a product
that, while shoddy and actively hostile to customers, embodying in its
very essence your distrust of and contempt for your customers, is also
indispensible to these customers in some way, and of course is their
only realistic option because you bully would-be competitors into
failing, or simply have them all arrested or shot or something.

That isn't free-market capitalism. It's fascism of some kind, or maybe
even a weird quasi-communism, with fixed prices, theoretically
"private" providers of goods and services that are all state-supported
monopolies, and everyone has to buy from "the company store".

> Note that I didn't say they were perfectly rational. I said that
> thinking of corporations as "a perfectly rational utilitarian" is a "much
> more accurate model" than an emotional anthromorphic entity who bases its
> decision mostly on rage, envy, fear, etc.

What about insatiable greed, an arrogant (over)confidence that they
won't get caught, and utter contempt for the peons in the streets
crawling like ants at the base of their grotesquely expensive new
highrise headquarters offices?

Look at those towers and those huge penthouse corner offices for the
executives and tell me we're in a free-market capitalist democracy and
not some kind of crypto-plutocratic feudal society with an
identifiable aristocracy and identifiable peasants?

Somewhere along the line it all went pear-shaped, sometime after about
1960 or so. Maybe it was the Cold War. Maybe it was abandoning the
gold standard. I'm not a professional economist or historian; what do
I know? But I know enough to be able to see what goes on and smell the
stink when there is one.

> > A rational RIAA would embrace music sharing and monetize music some
> > new way.
>
> I suspect it's actually vastly more complicated than that, but I'm too
> lazy to explain all the details right now, so I won't be surprised if you
> continue to believe this.

My guess is they'd continue to sell plastic discs, and regard
filesharing analogously to radio airplay -- it has promotional value.
People would still buy the discs, either to subsidize the artists (not
that the artists usually see a thin dime from CD sales, though that
could obviously be changed) or simply to have a physical disc and
jewel case with cover art, or an "authentic" copy, or whatever.

> I think you have a different definition of rational than I do. If they
> lust for power and control (or to phrase it more formally, if their metric
> is power and control), then doing whatever you can to maximize power and
> control is the most rational thing a utilitarian can do.

It's at the meta-level that their rationality is lacking. A human has
only limited ability to change their core drives and motivations
(which tend to primarily involve self-fueling, reproductive
opportunities, and not getting dead). A corporation in theory can have
whatever motivations some board of directors decides it should have,
and the board could decide that it will be a good citizen and become
very rich that way, but by and large, none of them do.

> The problem, I think, is that you're applying your metrics to the
> actions of another entity with a different set of metrics, and they aren't
> maximize their score in your game, and so you suspect they must be
> irrational, when actually they may be maximizing their score in their own
> game.

If they consider all the top executives going to jail (Enron, etc.) to
be "maximizing their score" I rest my case regarding their rationality
at the meta-level.

Regardless, public policy should focus on the interests of society at
large, not narrow special interests. Of all the special interests out
there, compared to e.g. the disabled, or pregnant women, or the
elderly, or the poor, or the HIV-positive, or minorities, the super-
rich are pretty much the least deserving of special consideration by
the government; they provably can take care of themselves, and if you
crash their fortunes to 1/10 what they are now with some policy they
end up "merely" rich. If that happens, it's no skin off my nose. So
they have to settle for a 70' boat instead of an 80' boat, when most
people still have none and lots don't even have clean frigging
drinking water. :P

Of course, going too extreme that way leads to communism, a proven
dismal failure. Smoothly-functioning markets that are not easy to game
into an "I-can't-possibly-lose" position have historically done the
best job. Too bad they've been gutted and replaced with pale
imitations in recent decades.

> > Explain irrational decisions like outsourcing all of your support to
> > Brokenenglishstan, with the result being customers abandon you in
> > droves?
>
> (1) Profits exceed costs.

Profits exceed costs means "it ain't broke" so "don't fix it".

> (2) Imperfect information.

Anyone who doesn't know that outsourcing is bad for the job economy,
bad for the customer base, and eventually bad for your own bottom line
isn't suffering from "imperfect information" but from "I've lived in
this cave in the woods for the last 17 years and then despite by
woeful lack of qualifications I somehow managed to bag this high-
responsibility job that happens to make me a seven-figure annual
salary and somehow avoid being quickly fired for incompetence; lucky
me!".

> > In fact, the guys that do this stuff are not doing it for the
> > benefit of the company's long term profits. They do it to get short
> > term profits or show decreased expenses in their own department, so
> > they get promoted and more stock options, so they can buy when the
> > next product is shipping and the stock jumps, sell right after, and
> > retire, leaving someone else holding the bag when the customer neglect
> > comes back to bite the company in the butt.
>
> Are you implying that this is irrational behaviour, given the metrics
> that the companies are applying to themselves?

It's rational behavior by the executive that does it (although it is
not rational for society to set the rules such that this behavior is
rewarded); it's not self-maximizing for the corporation itself, which
feels the pain shortly after. In effect, the executive is a parasite
on the corporation that the corporation inexplicably permits to bleed
it. The corporation is behaving analogously to a person who allows a
mosquito to settle, drink, and possibly infect them with West Nile or
malaria or something rather than slap it off them.

> Recall my warning:
>
> <quote>
> anthropophormizing corporations is dangerous, because it
> then becomes extremely tempting to assign emotions to them (e.g. fear,
> jealousy, envy, anger, etc.) and then to try to make predictions about
> their future behaviour based on what emotions they are supposedly
> experiencing.
> </quote>

Why do my predictions about their behavior better fit observed reality
than yours, then?

> >> (I see a lot of banners citing IIS is better than Apache, for example).
>
> > I don't. Must be Firefox's adblock. You really should get that plugin.
>
> You seem to be under the assumption that I do not wish to see such
> advertisements. On the contrary, this particular ad allowed me to be more
> informed about the real world than you. ;)

Ads? Informed? Are you out of your cotton-picking mind?! Ads do not
inform; they present biased or just outright-wrong "information" to
try to persuade you to buy something. If I want a web server some day
I will research what web server is better at that time, rather than
impulsively choose because of some slick piece of ad copy where the
company that makes one claims (of course) that the others all suck.

I expect in the foreseeable future that such research would reveal
Apache to be the superior choice, on price and reliability, though I
could be wrong.

Anyway, if I let an ad influence me, a glitzy, flickering, annoying,
obtrusive, noise-making, animated Flash ad (or worse, popup or other
browsing-obstructing BS) for IIS would instantly sell me on Apache!

> > Fools -- they already have a free copy of XP and are willing to pay
> > for a downgrade?
>
> Your question is based on false premise, and thus is nonsensical.

What false premise? That Vista is a downgrade?

Let's see. Vista takes the XP experience and makes the following
changes:
* Replaces Explorer, whose bugs we're familiar with, with a 3D
something-or-other that looks slick on TV demos but is worse to use
and
has bugs we'll need a whole nother 12 years to get used to and learn
how to work around.
* Adds more DRM BS than you can shake a stick at, all apparently
bought and paid for by Hollywood.
* Costs a fortune, when it's easy to get XP for free; it won't be as
easy to get Vista for free for quite a while.
* System requirements and resource usage jump by roughly an order of
magnitude.
* Oh, and you can now play DirectX 10 games -- all one of them, so if
you're a Halo 3 fan it's a must-buy despite the above.

Given your existing hardware, "upgrading" to Vista will mean out-of-
pocket expenses of a few hundred dollars and result in being able to
do less, more slowly, with more bugs and crashes than you currently
can, except that you can now play the latest Halo game. And now it has
much more "Big Brother Inside" to boot.

Contrast with XP, which was a significant reliability, stability, and
performance improvement over Win9X and especially the execrable WinME,
despite including the WinME features such as thumbnail views in
Explorer and System Restore, and the only onerous DRM BS it added was
product activation -- and THAT was highly controversial at the time,
but proved to be largely a non-hassle (for normal users and for
pirates). XP of course was the best Windows ever from Microsoft's
perspective too -- it sold tremendously well, raking in record
profits, and was still buggy enough to keep their pay-support a profit
center into the bargain.

The only thing I can think when I read or see anything about Vista is:
"What was Microsoft *thinking*?!"

Please check out http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/against.htm
before making any more lengthy followups to this thread. Other readers
of this thread are encouraged to read (or at least skim) the material
there also. It won't bite, despite the pdf format of much of the
material there.

Twisted

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 2:35:11 AM7/17/07
to

Seconded. Software "rental" or "as a service" is a euphemism for
software "serfdom": taking our functionality away from us and renting
it back to us. The existing gratuitous upgrade treadmills or (in
business settings) mandatory "maintenance" plans are bad enough. All
are clearly extortionate behavior by a company powerful enough to game
the system in whatever ways maximize its own revenues at everyone
else's expense. Robber barons.

Roedy Green

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 3:02:37 AM7/17/07
to
On Tue, 17 Jul 2007 06:35:11 -0000, Twisted <twist...@gmail.com>

wrote, quoted or indirectly quoted someone who said :

>Seconded. Software "rental" or "as a service" is a euphemism for
>software "serfdom"

I think you have it backwards. Once a vendor has all your money he can
laugh at you. He can sell you crap that does not work at all. With
rental, after 2 months you can leave having given him only a fraction
of the dough he would get had he delivered.

The other advantage is the vendor keeps all his customers up to date.
He does not need to worry about supporting old code. he can update as
often as he pleases to fix bugs quickly.

Roedy Green

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 3:03:20 AM7/17/07
to
On Tue, 17 Jul 2007 05:49:20 -0000, Twisted <twist...@gmail.com>

wrote, quoted or indirectly quoted someone who said :

>Nope. I don't have a problem with saying "I'll code this for you if


>you pay me thus-and-such". It's trying to control the downstream use
>of the code once published that bothers me.

I certainly try with my "non-military use only". I don't want blood
on my hands.

Twisted

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 4:18:47 AM7/17/07
to
On Jul 17, 1:49 am, Twisted <twisted...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Corporations pay* police
> to gas protestors at peaceful anti-corporatism rallies. Corporations
> pay* government for legislation that makes something the competition
> is doing that they don't like illegal. Corporations pay* government
> for a system of so-called "intellectual property rights" that are
> based on the idea that by developing an idea they are somehow entitled
> to profit from it.

The footnote here being:

* Well, they actually pay campaign contributions to mayoral
candidates, congressional candidates, senatorial candidates, and
presidential candidates, supposedly not for consideration but as
gifts, but we all know how the game is really played here, don't we?

(What the HELL is going on with GG? The post I'm replying to appeared
at the text-only read-only NNTP host I use for reading and checking
propagation almost as soon as I'd posted it but did not appear on GG
itself for a full hour! How can it be injected at GG but make it to
some obscure server in Eastern Europe an hour sooner than to Google's
own server? It's not logically possible. They must have some bug that
is causing the GG post-viewing interface to show a heavily out-of-date
version of what's actually on their news spool. It's probably an HTTP
cache in their load-balancing infrastructure that's not managing
timestamps properly. Given the nearly exact 1 hour difference, I'm
guessing they had to reload a machine somewhere and its clock wound up
on standard instead of daylight time, perhaps because they restored a
config file from a backup made during the winter. Too bad there's no
obvious way to give them a heads-up about it. It's probably a five-
minute fix once they realize what's gone wrong.)

Twisted

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 4:51:14 AM7/17/07
to
On Jul 17, 3:02 am, Roedy Green <see_webs...@mindprod.com.invalid>
wrote:
> On Tue, 17 Jul 2007 06:35:11 -0000, Twisted <twisted...@gmail.com>

> wrote, quoted or indirectly quoted someone who said :
>
> >Seconded. Software "rental" or "as a service" is a euphemism for
> >software "serfdom"
>
> I think you have it backwards. Once a vendor has all your money he can
> laugh at you. He can sell you crap that does not work at all. With
> rental, after 2 months you can leave having given him only a fraction
> of the dough he would get had he delivered.

Wrong. With the subscription, he can laugh all the way to the bank.
Maybe he's locked you into an N-year contract. Maybe he simply has a
monopoly on the software and nobody else's is remotely compatible.
Most likely your data is on his servers instead of your computer, and
he can dictate terms by holding this data hostage.

Not to mention, right now if you want to word process, you pay $X up
front and then can word process to your hearts' content for the rest
of your life for only the costs of electricity and keeping the
hardware maintained. With your vaunted subscription model, you have to
pay $X over and over and over again or the software stops working.
After some point in time you've paid far more money than in the non-
subscription scenario but you're no better off. Continuing to use the
software doesn't cost the software vendor anything, unlike continuing
to use electricity which costs the hydro company, yet you're being
billed as if it's a utility whose "consumption" somehow actually is
consuming something other than electricity. This simply doesn't make
any sense! It's extortion, pure and simple.

"Rent-to-own" where after you've paid the original full purchase price
you "own" it and don't need to pay any more except to get a whole new
version is better, and arguably better than the current system where
you pay up-front.

Better yet is just to disallow software merchants disclaiming "fitness
for purpose".

Best of all is to set information free and charge for things that are
genuinely scarce.

> The other advantage is the vendor keeps all his customers up to date.

Yes, a very big advantage for the vendor. Not for the customers, of
course. Customers of course get this experience:
* New bugs appear as if by magic and they can't just sit at a version
they can use and whose bugs they're used to working around.
* Features disappear or tell you one day you now have to pay extra to
use them.
* DRM components are updated, which invariably makes things worse
rather than better for consumers.
* And so forth.

Forced updates and "subscription models" have some prototypes we can
examine:
* Google Groups. The interface and bugs keep changing. Bugs and issues
don't get fixed often and it's not possible to get ahold of the
developers to report stuff or get help.
* Intuit's upgrade treadmill basically makes its tax-preparation and
accounting software into "subscription" software. There are numerous
reports of former functionality disappearing or becoming "premium"
stuff that they demand extra money for you to use.
* Subscription TV services such as satellite companies drop channels
you can only get back by paying more each month than you used to.
(While their costs are no doubt actually going *down* over time.) They
frequently rearrange channels or otherwise gratuitously scramble your
favorite lists into unusability every couple of months.
* Prices keep jacking up and up on both of the above items that aren't
free.
* Apple's iTunes DRM keeps changing. Upgrading is apparently mandatory
for some things to keep working, from all accounts, making it
essentially a subscription, so there's no escape from the random and
arbitrary limits on song-burning, playlist-building, and other things
gradually contracting, from 7 of something down to 5 and then 4, and
things of that nature.
* There are numerous well-documented examples of automatic updates to
anti-virus subscriptions generating new bugs, false positives, or
otherwise corrupting things, and often expiring something so that you
have to pay for a more expensive version, instead of just paying the
existing subscription.
* Microsoft has pushed a nefarious Windows update, "Windows Genuine
Advantage Notification", by deceptively putting it into the so-called
"critical" updates, which are supposed to only be security patches.
Windows Genuine Advantage was made outright mandatory but didn't do
much harm to most users of Windows XP. However, those who downloaded
the "Notification" update and installed it, which would supposedly
just tell them whether or not their XP was genuine (what the existing
WGA already was determining and reporting to Microsoft when you used
Windows Update), found that in fact it would classify a percentage of
installations as "pirated" basically at random, including known
legitimate ones. In fact, the "Notification" was nothing of the sort;
it was a booby-trap that would cause WGA to fail and XP to demand
reactivation on a random percentage of the infected machines. Of
course, reactivation of XP has suddenly become curiously difficult
right around the time of the big Vista roll-out ... it's notable that
Microsoft continues to push the WGAN "security patch" at those users
like myself that have refused to install it, and that if you "hide"
the update in the Windows Update Web site interface, this particular
one periodically unhides itself. If you're not wary, the automatic
update tray thingie will download it and try to install it soon after
that happens if you don't go and rehide it. (Needless to say, I've
long since turned off automatic installation of updates. I review the
list when it says there are new updates and it's bogus fairly often.
Besides the bogus WGAN "security patch" one update, cryptically named
"917953", repeatedly shows up as new after it's been installed. In
fact, I install it again every time there's other patches than just
that one showing up new, and after a couple of reboots it again shows
up as if it were brand new! It does so periodically every few days
until the next batch of updates. This has been the case for more than
a year now. So I manage the update process manually, or my computer
would be rebooting itself every day or two due to "917953" if it
worked at all after being infected with WGA "notification".)

Actually, I guess WGA "notification" *is* a security patch of a sort.
It just doesn't provide any security for the user's computer (rather
the opposite, as it's more vulnerable to requiring reactivation, which
is bad). Rather, it is a "critical security patch" for Microsoft's
cash flow, and particularly the less-than-stellar sales of Vista...

So, does any of the above sound like anything you'd want becoming more
widespread than it already is? Oh, I forgot, you're apparently
planning to be a vendor of such "services", which means you'd be
laughing all the way to the bank. So I guess your answer would be
"yes".

I know what mine is.

Lew

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 8:00:34 AM7/17/07
to
Twisted wrote:
> * The copy must be furnished. Its marginal cost is close to zero
> unless it's trillions of bytes in size, however.

You keep harping on the "marginal cost" of reproduction, as if that were the
only cost. What about the amortized cost of invention, just to name one, the
overhead of keeping inventor staff working (utilities, health insurance, ...)
during development?

What about the added value one's invention brings to the customer? Cost is
not the only side of the price equation; there is also value to the customer.

If I provide a million dollars worth of value to you, and charge half a
million, you're ahead even if it only "cost" me fitty ce't to do it. (We are,
of course, in this case not ascribing a cost to the acquisition of knowledge
that made it possible for me to succeed at your task, but we should.) What
about the fact that my quality of work will be superior to that of a
competitor who would "spend" the same amount on the marginal cost side, but
didn't invest as much labor or cleverness in gaining skill as I?

Your economic argument is naive at best, disingenuous most likely, and
fraudulent at worst. Even the most rabid Marxist would include the labor of
developing a developer's skill set as part of the value, and the labor of
creation, and the labor of marketing, and the labor of creating and
maintaining a business structure to support the product, and a zillion other
factors beyond the putative "marginal cost" of the byte stream.

"Marginal cost" is not the only variable in the price equation, but it does
make a pretty, expert-sounding buzzword to make your argument less obviously
flawed.

Econ 101 is a good idea in order to get a grasp on some of these concepts.

--
Lew

Bent C Dalager

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 8:24:10 AM7/17/07
to
In article <ULSdnSbAq-T7MgHb...@comcast.com>,

Lew <l...@lewscanon.nospam> wrote:
>Twisted wrote:
>> * The copy must be furnished. Its marginal cost is close to zero
>> unless it's trillions of bytes in size, however.
>
>You keep harping on the "marginal cost" of reproduction, as if that were the
>only cost. What about the amortized cost of invention, just to name one, the
>overhead of keeping inventor staff working (utilities, health insurance, ...)
>during development?

The development cost certainly has to be covered somehow. It does seem
incredibly suboptimal, however, to charge per copy, or per seat, or
per minute, etc. In order to maximize benefit to society, a different
model should be found to cover the development cost of useful
software.

>What about the added value one's invention brings to the customer? Cost is
>not the only side of the price equation; there is also value to the customer.
>
>If I provide a million dollars worth of value to you, and charge half a
>million, you're ahead even if it only "cost" me fitty ce't to do it.

If you find 1,000 customers for which this is true, you will have
"created" a surplus value of 500 million dollars that society can
benefit from. If, on the other hand, you were to give it away
(i.e. anyone can copy it for free) and the average value of the
software seen across the entire population is only $1 per person, then
you will have "created" a benefit for society of 5 billion dollars.

This is at the basis of the argument for free copying: its benefit to
society will often be enormous.

>What
>about the fact that my quality of work will be superior to that of a
>competitor who would "spend" the same amount on the marginal cost side, but
>didn't invest as much labor or cleverness in gaining skill as I?

This is presumably calculated into the conjectured half million dollar
upside to purchasing your product.

>Your economic argument is naive at best, disingenuous most likely, and
>fraudulent at worst. Even the most rabid Marxist would include the labor of
>developing a developer's skill set as part of the value, and the labor of
>creation, and the labor of marketing, and the labor of creating and
>maintaining a business structure to support the product, and a zillion other
>factors beyond the putative "marginal cost" of the byte stream.

The point is rather that once the product exists, producing more
copies is practically free and each copy that goes into use is a
benefit to society. It is therefore foolish of us to perpetuate a
system that will outlaw such a benefit. Clearly, more copies will go
into use if the product is free of charge than if it has an
appreciable cost and so the copies should be free in order to maximize
benefit to society.

The problem remains as to how to ensure funding for the development of
the software. The answer will presumably vary from one field to the
next. As an example, in the professional graphics design field, a
great number of professional companies will presumably be prepared to
pay for running maintenance and support contracts in order to ensure
that they are constantly at peak performance (the cost/benefit
analysis of such a scenario is likely to trivially favour paying a
reasonable support fee). Amateurs and less serious professionals can
happily surf in the wake of this bleeding edge crowd.

>"Marginal cost" is not the only variable in the price equation, but it does
>make a pretty, expert-sounding buzzword to make your argument less obviously
>flawed.

The marginal cost argument presupposes that development is funded from
some other source than charging for copies. Its main use in the
current economic regime is to point out how silly we are being for
artifically assigning a cost to what is essentially a free benefit and
that we should be getting our asses in gear in order not to keep
shooting ourselves in the foot.

Cheers
Bent D
--
Bent Dalager - b...@pvv.org - http://www.pvv.org/~bcd
powered by emacs

Lew

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 8:30:28 AM7/17/07
to
Bent C Dalager wrote:
> The development cost certainly has to be covered somehow. It does seem
> incredibly suboptimal, however, to charge per copy, or per seat, or
> per minute, etc. In order to maximize benefit to society, a different
> model should be found to cover the development cost of useful
> software.

If it's sub-optimal, the system will tend to balance it. You are free in an
open market to create alternate business models and try to make them sustainable.

Lew wrote:
>> What about the added value one's invention brings to the customer? Cost is
>> not the only side of the price equation; there is also value to the customer.
>>
>> If I provide a million dollars worth of value to you, and charge half a
>> million, you're ahead even if it only "cost" me fitty ce't to do it.

Bent C Dalager wrote:
> If you find 1,000 customers for which this is true, you will have
> "created" a surplus value of 500 million dollars that society can
> benefit from. If, on the other hand, you were to give it away
> (i.e. anyone can copy it for free) and the average value of the
> software seen across the entire population is only $1 per person, then
> you will have "created" a benefit for society of 5 billion dollars.

The Prisoner's Dilemma. What about the benefit to the seller?

If the seller goes out of business, who will support that "free" software? If
inventors can't make money off their inventions, who will invent? You have to
account for the long-term benefit of keeping inventors working at invention.

The beauty of capitalism is that its "Invisible Hand" balances all these forces.

--
Lew

Bent C Dalager

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 8:45:45 AM7/17/07
to
In article <v9adnb3andX4KwHb...@comcast.com>,

Lew <l...@lewscanon.nospam> wrote:
>Bent C Dalager wrote:
>> The development cost certainly has to be covered somehow. It does seem
>> incredibly suboptimal, however, to charge per copy, or per seat, or
>> per minute, etc. In order to maximize benefit to society, a different
>> model should be found to cover the development cost of useful
>> software.
>
>If it's sub-optimal, the system will tend to balance it.

Ah, except the system is designed so as not to. If copyright were
eliminated, then your statement might be correct.

>You are free in an
>open market to create alternate business models and try to make them sustainable.

A business also tends to be sub-optimal: it only optimizes on its own
revenue. This is not what I am talking about. I am talking about
optimizing for benefit to society as a whole.

>
>The Prisoner's Dilemma. What about the benefit to the seller?

I addressed this in the text you did not quote.

>If the seller goes out of business, who will support that "free" software?

Anyone who cares to.

>If inventors can't make money off their inventions, who will invent?

If you cannot make money off your invention, it most likely was a
crappy one. Either invent something worthwhile or get a day job.

> You have to
>account for the long-term benefit of keeping inventors working at invention.

Indeed. The current system, however, does not. It encourages inventors
to invent one single thing and then spend the rest of their lives in
court trying to squeeze money out of various businesses that may or
may not be using their invention.

Inventors tend to be more useful out of court than in it and so that
is what we should be trying to achieve.

>The beauty of capitalism is that its "Invisible Hand" balances all these forces.

Unfortunately, "beautiful" capitalism has no room for state-sanctioned
monopolies like copyright or patents. So long as they are in effect,
"beautiful" capitalism is not.

Which isn't to say capitalism shouldn't be regulated, but it should be
regulated in a manner that actually benefits society rather than the
other way around.

Cheers,

Lew

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 9:02:46 AM7/17/07
to
Bent C Dalager wrote:
> If you cannot make money off your invention, it most likely was a
> crappy one. Either invent something worthwhile or get a day job.

But I thought you said the inventor should give away their invention in order
to benefit society? How will they make money that way?

--
Lew

Bent C Dalager

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 9:43:17 AM7/17/07
to
In article <d4OdnR7Gy9prIAHb...@comcast.com>,

I addressed this in the text you did not quote.

Cheers

Lew

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 10:27:12 AM7/17/07
to
Bent C Dalager wrote:
> In article <d4OdnR7Gy9prIAHb...@comcast.com>,
> Lew <l...@lewscanon.nospam> wrote:
>> Bent C Dalager wrote:
>>> If you cannot make money off your invention, it most likely was a
>>> crappy one. Either invent something worthwhile or get a day job.
>> But I thought you said the inventor should give away their invention in order
>> to benefit society? How will they make money that way?
>
> I addressed this in the text you did not quote.

You addressed it, but did not resolve it.

The argument is flawed in that it deems reproduction cost as the only cost
worthy of consideration. Basic accounting practices factor in the amortized
cost of development and overhead costs, like maintaining a physical plant,
that you conveniently ignored. There is also the desire side of the equation
- value is not merely a function of cost, but of desire on the consumer side.
You seem to feel that people should not pay for what benefits they receive,
and that not paying will benefit society. That latter is not addressed but
merely asserted in your post.

If people don't pay for the software, or other goods that have low
reproduction costs (but possibly high other costs), then how will those
corporations who are magically going to take care of the inventors going to
pay those inventors? This was not addressed in the "text [I] did not quote",
but hand-waved as to where that revenue will arise for them to pay the inventors.

The rhetorical device of saying, "it will benefit society", is assertion of a
conclusion to support the argument, a.k.a. "circular reasoning". I disagree
that your plan to give away software will benefit society; I conclude that it
will harm society by reducing the feedback from sales of one's labors as a
psychological incentive to perform those labors. As the former Soviet Union
and the People's Republic of China's experiences indicate, arbitrary policies
of "this should benefit society, therefore it does, and we aren't going to pay
the worker" don't work. Capitalism does, even in its imperfect forms as
practiced today.

As support, I indicate that the most capitalistic economies produce the
largest amount of innovation and material well being. The profit motive
actually is a motive. The only examples I can find of your ideas lie in
political and economic ruin.

--
Lew

Bent C Dalager

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 10:51:57 AM7/17/07
to
In article <ruednbuOUdxcTAHb...@comcast.com>,

Lew <l...@lewscanon.nospam> wrote:
>
>You addressed it, but did not resolve it.

If I could resolve the socio-economic problems surrounding
remuneration for intellectual labour, I would be writing a thesis not
a Usenet post.

>The argument is flawed in that it deems reproduction cost as the only cost
>worthy of consideration.

It does not. I explicitly addressed the development cost.

> Basic accounting practices factor in the amortized
>cost of development and overhead costs, like maintaining a physical plant,
>that you conveniently ignored.

This is all just part of the development cost, which I addressed.

> There is also the desire side of the equation
>- value is not merely a function of cost, but of desire on the consumer side.
> You seem to feel that people should not pay for what benefits they receive,
>and that not paying will benefit society. That latter is not addressed but
>merely asserted in your post.

Indeed. Some products will not benefit society much if freely
available. Others will have some small or large benefit, and yet
others will have negative benefit. I am assuming that software that
could otherwise have generated revenue are more likely than not to
actually be useful and therefore have a good potential for benefiting
society if made freely available. One example would be IDE software,
another would be word processing software. Both make people (hobbyists
and professionals alike) more efficient at what they do and so they
will be able to do more of it.

>If people don't pay for the software, or other goods that have low
>reproduction costs (but possibly high other costs), then how will those
>corporations who are magically going to take care of the inventors going to
>pay those inventors? This was not addressed in the "text [I] did not quote",
>but hand-waved as to where that revenue will arise for them to pay the inventors.

It was addressed in the form of an example. For your benefit, here is
another one: game producers may move towards subscription-based models
a la WoW, wherein what they are selling is not the game software as
such but running development of the game world (and, incidentally,
appropriate patches/new versions of the game software).

>The rhetorical device of saying, "it will benefit society", is assertion of a
>conclusion to support the argument, a.k.a. "circular reasoning". I disagree
>that your plan to give away software will benefit society; I conclude that it
>will harm society by reducing the feedback from sales of one's labors as a
>psychological incentive to perform those labors.

If the WoW designers and programmers can reliably create new
worthwhile content, the subscription dollars will keep ticking in. If
they fail to do this, they deserve to go out of business and they will
do so because people will stop paying for the non-service. Please
point out where you perceive the lack of feedback.

>As the former Soviet Union
>and the People's Republic of China's experiences indicate, arbitrary policies
>of "this should benefit society, therefore it does, and we aren't going to pay
>the worker" don't work. Capitalism does, even in its imperfect forms as
>practiced today.

Trying to equate anything with which you disagree with communism is a
particularly desperate form of rhetoric. You would do yourself a
favour if you stopped doing so.

>As support, I indicate that the most capitalistic economies produce the
>largest amount of innovation and material well being. The profit motive
>actually is a motive. The only examples I can find of your ideas lie in
>political and economic ruin.

To my knowledge, there are no examples of information age societies
that did away with copyright.

Unless you are referring to fiction?

Cheers,

znôrt

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 11:01:53 AM7/17/07
to
Lew wrote:

> If it's sub-optimal, the system will tend to balance it.
> You are free in an open market to create alternate business
> models and try to make them sustainable.

Not at all. This aparent freedom is just fake. In the end it's just a matter of
dominance. Rules are very well set and here to stay, and they are designed
to perpetuate existing predominance and always will be adjusted to serve
dominant sectors. This is the game and the rules, although sounding good
and being written in nice golden capitals, are foul from the very start. Twisted
already told you about lobbies and about how the legislative corpus is
systematically coerced to benefit certain groups, at the expense of general
social progress. This is just the tip of the iceberg. His argument may be a
little overstretched, but he sure has a point. The point, I would say. This
shouldn't surprise you, it has always been that way. Globalization only
makes it more dramatic.

Lew

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 11:42:19 AM7/17/07
to
Bent C Dalager wrote:
Lew <l...@lewscanon.nospam> wrote:
>> You addressed it, but did not resolve it.
>
> If I could resolve the socio-economic problems surrounding
> remuneration for intellectual labour, I would be writing a thesis not
> a Usenet post.

And likely winning a Nobel prize.

I agree with some of what you say, but I think restricting the market to "free
distribution" as you say is a mistake, as forbidding free distribution would be.

>> The argument is flawed in that it deems reproduction cost as the only cost
>> worthy of consideration.
>
> It does not. I explicitly addressed the development cost.

In one area, yes, but the larger part of the argument seemed to rest on the
notion that the only cost involved in distributing software is media cost and
shipping or downloading. I see now that you meant your alternative
remuneration model to allow recoupment of the investment.

> It was addressed in the form of an example. For your benefit, here is
> another one: game producers may move towards subscription-based models
> a la WoW, wherein what they are selling is not the game software as
> such but running development of the game world (and, incidentally,
> appropriate patches/new versions of the game software).

For certain types of business it does seem to be a good model.

>> As the former Soviet Union
>> and the People's Republic of China's experiences indicate, arbitrary policies
>> of "this should benefit society, therefore it does, and we aren't going to pay
>> the worker" don't work. Capitalism does, even in its imperfect forms as
>> practiced today.
>
> Trying to equate anything with which you disagree with communism is a
> particularly desperate form of rhetoric. You would do yourself a
> favour if you stopped doing so.

I wasn't equating anything you said with communism, not even as rhetoric,
desperate or otherwise. And what makes you think I "disagree" with communism?
I cited those examples as evidence that capitalism is more socially stable
than pure socialistic economic models. One failed to embrace that fact and is
gone, the other is introducing capitalism at a controlled pace and is
benefiting hugely. I wouldn't characterize the PRC as having abandoned its
communist ideals at all; they may well be a shining example of success at
implementing a communist political system.

Characterizing an objective point designed to illustrate an applied principle
as mere rhetoric would seem the more desperate tactic.

>> As support, I indicate that the most capitalistic economies produce the
>> largest amount of innovation and material well being. The profit motive
>> actually is a motive. The only examples I can find of your ideas lie in
>> political and economic ruin.
>
> To my knowledge, there are no examples of information age societies
> that did away with copyright.

The United States, in certain segments of the market. Illustrating that the
free software model, for which you actually argue rather cogently, can coexist
with the models you call restrictive, due to the advantages of an open market.

Of course it didn't "do away with copyright" but it allows individual
competitors to (effectively) do so, and they have.

Other examples abound - Where does Linus Torvalds live?

> Unless you are referring to fiction?

You make good points, except for the "fiction" remark and the off-base
accusation of "desperate rhetoric".

--
Lew

Oliver Wong

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 12:29:17 PM7/17/07
to

"Twisted" <twist...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1184651360....@22g2000hsm.googlegroups.com...

> On Jul 16, 2:37 pm, "Oliver Wong" <ow...@castortech.com> wrote:
>
>> It's the *other* stuff that your definition includes which worries
>> me.
>> Stuff like charging money for the right to use a specific software
>> program, for example.
>
> Let's see. If I use a specific software program where a copy is
> installed on my machine, what are the actual burdens I place on others
> in so doing?

[List of burdens in answer to one's own rhetorical question]

So what? Just because the activity you wish to do "only minimally"
burdens other people does not necessarily mean that those other people
*must* grant you permission to perform those activities.

[...]


>
> I do
> object to being told what I can or cannot do with a copy once I've
> gotten it.

Yes, I understand that. All I can say is "too bad for you", since
you're closing off a lot of opportunities to yourself.

>
> It's true, if anyone can make more copies and spread them around, sell
> them or give them away, the market will tend to force the price for
> copies down to zero. This kind of thing happens all the time; it's
> called "competition".

I guess it depends on your definition of "competition". In the context
of markets, economics, products, etc., "competition" to me means making a
similar, but different product, and trying to gain the marketshare of the
original product.

If you make a car, and then I make another car, and I claim my car is
better/faster/cheaper/whatever, then I am competing with you.

If you make a car, and then I put it in my magical "cloning" machine,
and generate millions of clones of your car, and give them all away for
free, then I'm not creating a "competing product".

> Makers of all sorts of other products have to
> put up with competitors producing identical or fully-substitutable
> products and undercutting their price.

Notice that reasoning which applies to products which are mostly bits
of information might not apply to products which are mostly physical
matter. Actually, you ARE aware of this (you state the "marginal cost of
reproduction" argument over and over again), but you seem to ignore this
fact when it's convenient (such as in the above paragraph).

> Red Hat sells software without restricting others from making and
> selling or giving away copies, and it manages to prosper just fine.

Red Hat makes most of its money from support subscription from
enterprise companies. This business model is not applicable to all forms
of software. E.g. games.

>
> And insisting on downstream control of use ultimately leads to Big
> Brotherish evils.

So don't use their products. But don't stop other people from using
their products if those other people *like* their products.

>
> In no other area besides software and entertainment, except maybe big
> pharma and gene-engineered crops, do we see manufacturers collecting
> margins of 99.9% on product sales.

Haha.

You make it sound like I should be filthy rich from my sales of
software. Yet, this doesn't seem to be the case. Maybe there's some flaw
in your theory...

[snip long text about cars, medicine, and other off topic stuff]


>
>> The success rate for this business model seems to be much lower
>> than
>> the traditional model.
>
> Risk's a part of the game. There's always less of it if you cheat, or
> use coercion to make your market position unassailable, but that
> benefits nobody else.

I guess you're working under the assumption that corporations are
trying to benefit other people? I think they're trying to benefit
themselves.

[...]

> Seen Microsoft Windoze
> lately?

Do you mean "Microsoft Windows"? You may be interested in
http://www.datasync.com/~rogerspl/Advocacy-HOWTO-6.html
<quote>
Refer to another product by its proper name. There's nothing to be gained
by attempting to ridicule a company or its products by using "creative
spelling".
</quote>

I'm using Windows right now, actually.

> How long has Explorer has the bug that scrolls all your open
> windows to the top spontaneously from time to time?

I wouldn't know. I've never seen this bug.

> Or the one where
> dropped files don't always go where you dropped them but sometimes to
> the bottom of the folder instead?

I think you are assuming that the order in which the files appear in a
folder is persistent. It's not. Telling the folder to "sort by name", for
example, does not re-order the bits on the harddrive.

> They've had 12 years now to fix
> that, since Windows 95 debuted Explorer and these bugs, and they've
> done nothing.

Did you submit a bug report? Personally, I'm pretty happy with the
progress Window has made, so I will probably continue to use their
products. I'm not happy with *everything* in the Windows series of OSes.
They have their flaws, just like every other OS I've tried, but so far, I
like them better than the alternatives (MacOSX, various flavours of Linux,
a couple flavours of BSD, QNX, etc.).

>
>> And so on... hopefully, you see the pattern here. Recall once again
>> that businesses are about making money, and given two business models,
>> one
>> which is more successful than the other, it seems to make sense that
>> most
>> businesses would pick the more successful one.
>
> Recall once again that businesses are not ENTITLED to a profit; nor
> even to recoup their R&D costs and break even.

I've never forgotten that (and you say "once again" as if you've
brought up this point before; have you?) I think you should recall,
though, that you are not ENTITLED to free software either.

Here's what it sounds like you're saying to me: "Information should be
free. Any body who imposes restriction on my sharing files over the
internet is evil and oppressive. All software should be free."

Here's what I'm saying: "When people make you an offer, you can either
accept it or reject it. So for example, if someone offers to license you
software for a specific purpose, you can accept that deal, or you can
reject that deal. You can't force other people to do what you want. In
particular, you cannot force people to release their software for free, if
they don't want to do that. Otherwise, *YOU* are the one being
oppressive."

> A "can't lose" business
> model is a sure sign that someone is cheating, or the game itself is
> rigged somehow.

Strawman. Nobody said anything about "can't lose" until you brought it
up.

[...]


>
> When I was a child, people saved and invested. When I was a young
> adult, people lived paycheque to paycheque and "got by" until they
> could retire, but sometimes lost their jobs, couldn't find new ones,
> and wound up poor, or committed suicide, or killed everyone in their
> family and THEN committed suicide. Now, people are deeply in debt by
> the time they enter the workforce, if they can find a job at all of
> course, and a lot more wind up poor, or commit suicide...

That's a sad story. Is it relevant to... you know... whether or not
people should be allowed to not give their software away for free?

[...]


>
>> They're plenty happy with the model they
>> currently have (the one of selling games with copy protection).
>> *You're*
>> the one who's unhappy with that model, and I'm not sure you have enough
>> clout to sway the entire game industry.
>
> Everyone except the top executives in the game industry has reason to
> be unhappy with that model. It benefits the few at the expense of
> everyone else. As such it is doomed in the long term.

If that's true, then I guess you can just sit back and relax, as
you'll eventually get what you want.

>> Everybody has a different code of ethics and moral compass. To me,
>> if
>> someone tells me "I'll only let you have A if you promise not to do B",
>> and you say "Fine", and then take the A, and then later go ahead and do
>> B,
>> you have committed a "grave moral wrong" in my eyes
>
> It's called "breach of contract". There's no need for this "copyright"
> BS, or any of the rest of it, since we have contract law anyway.

Yes, but you refute this argument in your next couple of sentences...

> Of
> course, contract law is somewhat weaker. If I breach the contract and
> give someone a copy, that someone is not bound by any contract and
> whatever it is is now freed. And mass-market transactions can't
> generally require every customer read and sign something; that's OK
> for rare, big-ticket purchases like cars and houses but nobody's doing
> that for every CD they buy at HMV.

Right, so now we see the demand for copyright laws, and perhaps have a
bit of insight into why it was created in the first place.

> This is exactly as it should be;
> businesses can not easily bludgeon their way to riches with a business
> model based more on inflating their prices massively and suing
> everyone in sight and have to actually innovate to succeed that way.

With the exception of the RIAA, businesses typically won't sue you for
pirating if you don't actually pirate. I hope your argument isn't merely
"RIAA is evil, therefore everyone should give their software away for
free".

>> Maybe it was too subtle, but the implied question was "How could
>> you
>> possibly make an informed decision about whether a piece of software
>> sucks
>> or not without having actually ever tried it?"
>
> Everything experts have written about Vista indicates that it's a
> steaming turd-pile.

That's factually false... unless, of course, *you* get to choose whom
the "expert" label applies and doesn't apply to: This guy doesn't like
Vista? Well, he must be an expert them. This guy does? Must be an idiot.

> Why does the Vista feature list seem to be what
> you'd expect if the RIAA and MPAA were the paying customers rather
> than the Vista user-base?

Question is based on false premise, and is therefore nonsensical.
You're assuming that Vista's feature list is appears to *everyone* to be
what one would expect if RIAA and MPAA were the paying customers.

> That is very interesting don't you think?

I don't find your question particularly interesting, no.

[...]


>
> Given the shoddy quality of e.g. IIS, do you really think they are
> trying to "compete" in any arena that doesn't involve either lawyers
> or lobbyists?

Question is based on false premise, and is therefore nonsensical.
You're assuming that IIS is perceived to be shoddy by everyone.

>
>> > This fails to explain Arthur Andersen and Enron, Worldcom, Sony's
>> > brain-dead rootkit shenanigans, and lots of other things.
>>
>> It wasn't intended to explain those things. But if you want an easy
>> to
>> grasp explanation: the corporations don't have perfect information. You
>> can be perfectly rational, but make the in-hindsight-wrong-decision if
>> you
>> don't have perfect information.
>
> These aren't "wrong" decisions, they are "brain-dead" decisions, which
> anyone with a couple of neurons to rub together should have known
> would backfire in some way. Pretexting scandals, private-info-leaks,
> rootkits ... there seems to be another big scandal every fiscal
> quarter and dozens of minor ones these days.

I think you're assuming that the corporations had, as part of their
"imperfect information", the knowledge that they'd get caught.

[...]


>
>> Note that I didn't say they were perfectly rational. I said that
>> thinking of corporations as "a perfectly rational utilitarian" is a
>> "much
>> more accurate model" than an emotional anthromorphic entity who bases
>> its
>> decision mostly on rage, envy, fear, etc.
>
> What about insatiable greed, an arrogant (over)confidence that they
> won't get caught, and utter contempt for the peons in the streets
> crawling like ants at the base of their grotesquely expensive new
> highrise headquarters offices?

What about them?

Are you arguing that these traits (whether or not we agree that the
corporations actually have them) make it such that the "emotional
anthropomoprh" model is more accurate than the "rational utilitarian"
model?

>
> Look at those towers and those huge penthouse corner offices for the
> executives and tell me we're in a free-market capitalist democracy and
> not some kind of crypto-plutocratic feudal society with an
> identifiable aristocracy and identifiable peasants?

Is this a question, or an imperative statement?

>> I think you have a different definition of rational than I do. If
>> they
>> lust for power and control (or to phrase it more formally, if their
>> metric
>> is power and control), then doing whatever you can to maximize power
>> and
>> control is the most rational thing a utilitarian can do.
>
> It's at the meta-level that their rationality is lacking. A human has
> only limited ability to change their core drives and motivations
> (which tend to primarily involve self-fueling, reproductive
> opportunities, and not getting dead). A corporation in theory can have
> whatever motivations some board of directors decides it should have,
> and the board could decide that it will be a good citizen and become
> very rich that way, but by and large, none of them do.

Actually, I believe there exists a law which forces a corporation to
have exactly one motivation: maximize profits. Read "The Corporation" by
Joel Bakan (ISBN 978-0743247467)

Here are some quotes from the reviews (which are really mainly summaries
of the book) from Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-reviews/0743247469/sr=8-2/qid=1184687364/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_summary/105-2760513-0097202?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books&qid=1184687364&sr=8-2#customerReviews
<quote>
legislation REQUIRES companies to put shareholder financial interest, or
profit, above all other interests.
</quote>

<quote>
all that counts when managers make decisions is the cost vs the benefit of
those decisions. For instance, if a company makes more money by letting
people die, breaking laws, or spoiling the environment, managers have no
choice but to make those decisions in order to fulfill their legal
requirements towards shareholders.
</quote>

<quote>
It is against the law, not to mention the longstanding traditions of
western capitalism, for corporations to do anything but maximize profits
and shareholder value, with no regard whatsoever for the social,
political, or environmental consequences.
</quote>

etc.

>> > Explain irrational decisions like outsourcing all of your support to
>> > Brokenenglishstan, with the result being customers abandon you in
>> > droves?
>>
>> (1) Profits exceed costs.
>
> Profits exceed costs means "it ain't broke" so "don't fix it".

That's not what "profits exceed costs" to me, and I suspect there was
a miscommunication here, so let me rephrase point (1).

(1) The profits from outsourcing support (in the form of reduced
support costs) exceeds the cost of outsourcing support (in the form of
lower customer satisfaction).

>> (2) Imperfect information.
>
> Anyone who doesn't know that outsourcing is bad for the job economy,
> bad for the customer base, and eventually bad for your own bottom line
> isn't suffering from "imperfect information" but from "I've lived in
> this cave in the woods for the last 17 years and then despite by
> woeful lack of qualifications I somehow managed to bag this high-
> responsibility job that happens to make me a seven-figure annual
> salary and somehow avoid being quickly fired for incompetence; lucky
> me!".

I disagree.

[...]


>> Recall my warning:
>>
>> <quote>
>> anthropophormizing corporations is dangerous, because it
>> then becomes extremely tempting to assign emotions to them (e.g. fear,
>> jealousy, envy, anger, etc.) and then to try to make predictions about
>> their future behaviour based on what emotions they are supposedly
>> experiencing.
>> </quote>
>
> Why do my predictions about their behavior better fit observed reality
> than yours, then?

Please tell me what your predictions are, and what you think my
predictions are.

>> >> (I see a lot of banners citing IIS is better than Apache, for
>> >> example).
>>
>> > I don't. Must be Firefox's adblock. You really should get that
>> > plugin.
>>
>> You seem to be under the assumption that I do not wish to see such
>> advertisements. On the contrary, this particular ad allowed me to be
>> more
>> informed about the real world than you. ;)
>
> Ads? Informed? Are you out of your cotton-picking mind?! Ads do not
> inform; they present biased or just outright-wrong "information" to
> try to persuade you to buy something

This next part is said toungue-in-cheek, because this really is a
minor, silly sub-argument (to me, at least), but there seems to be some
misunderstanding, so I felt I should clarify:

I am arguing that Microsoft is trying to promote IIS over Apache. By
arguing against me, I guess you are implying that you believe Microsoft is
NOT trying to promote IIS over Apache (or maybe that you just like
arguing). I cite the existence of advertisement as evidence for my
argument that yes, Microsoft is trying to promote IIS over Apache. You
counter with the fact that you've never seen such an add, adding that you
have an adblocker installed.

Therefore, I conclude that I am right and you are wrong, and I am
crediting my being right to the fact that I was able to see the ads.

>> > Fools -- they already have a free copy of XP and are willing to pay
>> > for a downgrade?
>>
>> Your question is based on false premise, and thus is nonsensical.
>
> What false premise? That Vista is a downgrade?

More or less. I would phrase it as "That Vista is perceive universally
(by everyone) to be a downgrade".

[...]


>
> Please check out
> http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/against.htm
> before making any more lengthy followups to this thread.

Sorry, I haven't read it yet, though I did glance through it. It's on
my TODO list.

In the meantime, here's something for you to ponder: What exactly is
your goal with this thread? Are you trying to convince all the programmers
here to release their software for free? Are you trying to convince people
that copyright is bad? Are you trying to convince people that corporations
are evil? Are you trying to convince people that corporations are
emotional? Are you trying to convince people that the pharmaceutical
industry is harming the poor? Are you trying to convince people that Vista
is bad?

There are all separate goals, and you're sort of going all over the
place. I think because of this, you might be falsely assuming that when I
disagree with you on one point (e.g. that all software should be given
away for free), then I also disagree with you on all your other points
(e.g. that corporations are "evil").

A lot of what you write seems to me like non-sequitur. I might write,
for example, that corporations can be modeled as "rational utilitarians"
and then see you reply of "Look at how evil they are!" to which I'm
wondering "So what?" The tone of your message makes it sound like some
sort of rebuttal, but the content seems to indicate that you're just
bringing in completely unrelated topics.

- Oliver


Roedy Green

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 4:00:34 PM7/17/07
to
On Tue, 17 Jul 2007 08:51:14 -0000, Twisted <twist...@gmail.com>

wrote, quoted or indirectly quoted someone who said :

>Wrong. With the subscription, he can laugh all the way to the bank.


>Maybe he's locked you into an N-year contract.

Purchasing is 100 year contract with a guarantee the product will
fail.

The whole point of rental is to avoid locking in. In any system I
have seen the worst you are on the hook for is one year.

Oliver Wong

unread,
Jul 17, 2007, 5:32:58 PM7/17/07
to
"Bent C Dalager" <b...@pvv.ntnu.no> wrote in message
news:f7il2d$cn9$1...@orkan.itea.ntnu.no...

>
> game producers may move towards subscription-based models
> a la WoW, wherein what they are selling is not the game software as
> such but running development of the game world (and, incidentally,
> appropriate patches/new versions of the game software).

I find it interesting that:

(1) I am arguing in this thread against the viability of making
profits from games via a subscription model.
(2) I have "sworn off" MMORPGs (or, as a matter of fact, any type of
game) which cost a monthly fee to play.

I wonder whether this is coincidental, or if (2) caused (1), or if
there is some other causal chain.

<digressions inReferencedToPoint="1">
One of the main complaints of copyright law and intellectual property,
from what I can see from Twisted's link to
http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/against.htm is that it takes
power away from society and places it in the hands of a few already-rich
individuals.

MMORPGs that are financially successful are apparently extremely expensive
to make (I've seen development cost figures in the hundreds of millions of
US dollar thrown about for WoW, EverQuest II, etc.), so it seems to me
that pushing all games towards MMO would worsen things in this aspect.

non-MMOs with regular updates are very rarely successful. Diablo is the
one example that comes to mind. Total Annihilation is an example of a
company which tried to do regular updates, but abandoned this goal about 1
month after the game release, because it was just too expensive to do.
</digressions>

<digressions inReferencedToPoint="2">
A new, retail, pay-once game usually costs around $60. MMO subscriptions
are typically on the order of $20 per month. I'm a relatively busy person,
so I don't have too much time to play games. I might be able do a
"serious" gaming session (i.e. longer than 5 minutes) maybe 2 days out of
a given month.

That's about 6 days of play in an MMO versus an potentially infinite
amount of play for a typical retail game. Now given, most retail games get
boring after a while, but the good ones tend to be more fun than merely 6
day's worth.

I'm not saying MMOs objectively suck and we should ban them. I'm saying
for my specific situation, paying-once makes much more sense that
subsc