With Great Power Comes Great Exploitability

Between Christmas and New Year I saw Wolf Hall & Bring Up The Bodies at the RSC’s Swan Theatre. They tell a tale of how low men will sink, initially in pursuit of power, then to hang on to it and finally, just to survive. I’m sure Samsung, Google, Apple and Microsoft are not Henry VIII but I noted that the only thing the powerful are afraid of is the opinion of ‘the people’. When they lie to us, even to themselves, someone needs to point it out to them. Perhaps their souls might still be saved.

Allow me to take a break from the tale I began in my most recent blog entry, to give a real world example of why open standards matter, while it’s fresh in my mind.

I have a ‘Smart TV’ made by Samsung (which they no longer support.) I have a Samsung Galaxy S phone (2 actually, because Samsung no longer support them either, so ‘normals’ buy a new phone.) I have boxen, in various states of decrepitude, running Linux and I have occasional access to Apple OS X, Windows 7 laptops and a Google Nexus 7. They all connect over a wireless router from O2 and a Wireless Access Point from Netgear. They are not part of the problem.

It should be easy to play content from any of the intelligent devices on any of the display devices. Blindly moving bit-streams over distance is what The Internet was designed for. There is a device discovery protocol called UPnP and a wireless streaming protocol called DLNA that were defined for this. I’m sure you will be amazed to know that it isn’t easy. While AllShare on my Galaxy S plays nicely with it’s cousin the Samsung TV, the software isn’t available for the newer Android on the Nexus 7, nor even on the latest Samsung phones. Neither have Samsung made their AllShare software available for Linux (now renamed ‘Samsung Link’ to reduce irony levels.) Odd, as I thought Google said Android was ‘open’ and Android is built on Linux.

Apple want me dependent on the company iTunes store. Microsoft would like me using MediaServer to ‘keep me’ committed to Windows. Samsung wanted me to use AllShare/Link and Google now want me locked in to Chromecast, so ‘all my database are belong to them’.

I’d like life to be easy. I think most of us would. Apple will sell me easy. Google and Microsoft will sell a close approximation, and cheaper. I suspect Samsung will change their definition of easy every 6 months because clearly everyone should upgrade all their electronic equipment annually. I’m not willing to play this game of ‘1984’ bred with excessive consumption. I suspect DLNA underlies all these ‘products’ and they can be made to work together but an electric fence is still oppressive, even if you only believe it to be turned on.

I want freedom and privacy and I’ve accepted that I’ll soon have to pay for that. If we are in a new services market then I want it to be fair, transparent and competitive. Private protocols should not be used to lock us in walled gardens, however shiny the handles on the shovels.

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