Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Forced Obsolescence

by rdf Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 04:42:00 PM EST

Microsoft Vista has been released and a check of the usability of some of my photo-related peripherals reveals that the makers have no intention of providing new drivers to support the older equipment.

I posted this to several photography blogs and got interesting replies.


My point was that I felt makers have a moral obligation to support products that they sell for a reasonable period of time. This includes providing spare parts,  consumables (like unique batteries or ink cartridges) and upgrades.

Many people felt that rendering equipment that is less than five years old useless is entirely natural and that one is under no obligation to buy the new software from Microsoft. They missed the point that one may be forced to buy the new software when one's existing computer fails and needs to be replaced. Why should one then have to replace everything else associated with the CPU unit?

Seeing so many people take the position of the makers was just a surprise to me. The concept that a firm owes something to people who have purchased their product seems not to exist anymore.

Others, however, got the point as this press release from the UK Green Party indicates:
Green Party asks: who has the key to your Vista PC?

"There will be thousands of tonnes of dumped monitors, video cards and whole computers that are perfectly capable of running Vista - except for the fact they lack the paranoid lock down mechanisms Vista forces you to use. That's an offensive cost to the environment.

"Future archaeologists will be able to identify a 'Vista Upgrade Layer' when they go through our landfill sites."

I have camera equipment which is 50 years old and works fine. Apparently younger people see nothing wrong with being forced to junk operational equipment in under five years.

No wonder the ideas of conservation are getting so little traction. Maybe attitudes in Europe are more enlightened?

Display:
yet another of the bizarre mechanisms of demand creation, to which we are now so acculturated that we no longer perceive them.  it is "normal" to most people under 65 that every surface in public space, as well as many surfaces in private space, is covered with advertising;  that an ever-increasing chunk of air time in "entertainment" programming (whether radio or tv) is devoted to advertising, that visible brand names appear regularly in major-release films, that products are flimsy and swiftly "obsoleted" (industry uses this as a verb nowadays), that products are not repairable or that it costs more to repair a product than to replace it, etc.

increasingly what is sold to the consumer is not so much the product as the experience of shopping;  to repeat the shopping experience over and over one must either have an Imelda-like fetish for collecting, or one must dispose of product regularly to make room for more product.  forced obsolescence is one way to provoke this discarding behaviour even among consumers who do not suffer from an addiction to novelty.

the most effective cure in this case is to use open-source software;  however, many vendors resist supporting open-source OS like Linux -- allegedly because of its small market share or difficulty in driver porting, but in actuality I suspect because of (a) coercion from MS and (b) attachment to the forced-upgrade path which gives them a degree of control over their buyers.

a fundamental theme of capitalism, despite all the rhetorical lipstick about Freedom(TM) and Choice(TM), is the creation and maintenance of captive markets and customer surveillance;  one-way information flow is the goal of all totalising authority, and concentrations of capital in industry tend strongly to absolutist secrecy about their processes and operations, and intrusive data gathering on their customers... concentrated power and its control-freaquerie is still the same ol' pig...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 05:46:55 PM EST
a fundamental theme of capitalism, despite all the rhetorical lipstick about Freedom(TM) and Choice(TM), is the creation and maintenance of captive markets

In a market economy, for any given firm in any given sector, the ideal is monopoly (and, as a buyer, monopsony). The only real purpose of business strategy, with all its tools and charts, is to do anything to come the closest possible to monopoly, even if it's in a niche, and once there, to maintain it at any price. Those who deny it are liars (BTW, I've been teaching business strategy in a business school for several years...).

But the problem, when you've reached a monopolistic position, is to convince customers to buy new products. And, as a company having no competition, you have no incentive for innovation and your organisation is designed to exploit your monopoly, not innovate (It is typically the case of Microsoft). Thus, the only way to make people buy new products is to force them, one way or another, for example by making it difficult for them to keep using their old software/hardware.

That's the reason why there are laws against monopoly and cartels.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 07:08:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the reason why there <strike>are</strike> used to be laws against monopoly and cartels.

hey, how come scoop doesn't honour <del> or <s> or <strike>?   that's odd.  may one request support of these tags?  they do come in handy now and then.


The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 08:45:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, these laws are less and less enforced, but, in EU at least, Microsoft has faced some problems...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 09:18:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"forced obsolescence is one way to provoke this discarding behaviour even among consumers who do not suffer from an addiction to novelty."

I once took a pair of shoes into a shoe repair shop, because part of the sole on one had worn through. The guy there told me the shoes couldn't be repaired-- they way they had been put together, they'd fall apart if the sole was removed. So I had to discard the shoes and go shopping. I am the ultimate mall rat, but even I thought that was ridiculous.

Lately I've taken to Supergluing the (loose and falling off) soles on another pair. Seems to work, and I don't have to go shopping.

You can still find items that last, but you'll have to search.

We've become accustomed to everything being within reach and easy to get. Even food has fallen prey to this. It's hard to find information on what to do with leftovers (at least, here in the U.S.)-- there are some sources, but not many. Unless you look in older cookbooks. Other than "The Joy of Cooking," the only books I have that specifically address leftovers are three from Marguerite Patten, with recipes from the '40s and '50s. (Because if you do something with those leftovers, you're not spending as much money on new food, right?)

I'm rambling, but maybe it's my way of combating the drowning feeling I get when I think of just how much stuff is out there and how easy it is to generate garbage.

by lychee on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 12:16:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
oh yeah, I forgot to mention the obvious which is that the watershed effect obviously applies to enclosure, surveillance and the like.  as vendors put more and more effort into fancy features to prevent customers from copying their wares (and so forth), they divert more and more of their programming effort away from actual functionality delivered to the customer.  govts which pour all their effort into surveilling and controlling their populace have very limited resources left for actually providing services.  products malengineered for speedy obsolescence or rushed to market on forced novelty-driven schedules are often so bugridden and dysfunctional that they burn more user time than their "convenience features" allegedly save.

as with empire and trade, enforcing control and coercion takes a lot of energy, diverting resources from more productive activities.  the wacky thing about money-based economies is that real productivity is almost totally divorced from the accumulation of cowrie shells, so that more money is "made" the more useless makework is done and the less value is delivered to the customer.  serving the customer poorly is usually more profitable than serving the customer well (DeAnander's Law rephrased)... thus we have a health care system in the US where -- I forget the exact figure, but it's large, like 30 or 40 pct -- of the total money passing through the system is devoted to denying health care, i.e. enforcing enclosure and access control.  kind of like having a house with locks on the front door that take 1/3 of your waking hours just to lock and unlock.  sure, your valuables are safe, but it is not a very functional house... and heaven help you if it's on fire and you need to get out fast :-)

having a national moral consensus about 'deservingness' and 'undeservingness' helps to hide the absurdity of these tailbiting activities behind a smokescreen of worthiness/ranking, so that we can be distracted from the enormous waste of health care dollars spent on denying health care, by our selfrighteous outrage at the notion of undeserving persons getting something for free;  and we can be distracted from the inferiority of the sw and hw we are purchasing and the outrageously intrusive and controlling "security" measures insisted on by vendors, by our high moral dudgeon about "music pirates" and the like.

whether this descent into increasing diversion of effort and resources into unproductive control-freaking activities is just some kind of macro entropic law of complex systems, I have no idea.  if we were a beehive it would signal imminent failure to make it through next winter, as we'd be raising all drones and guards and not enough gatherers and nurses.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 06:00:36 PM EST
(OT, but I'm interested in why you're chosing to maintain the capitalisation of "I".  Disclosure: I (ho ho!) decided that specific names deserved a capital, but not adjectives.  Country names, I decided, count as specific names.  So "Europe" and "european"; "China" and "chinese"; "England" and english.  Slothrop over at moonofalabama made a sidepoint about the inherent...well, he expressed it better than me...and my reply was that I enjoyed how the centre of the sentences became--potentially-more interesting.  I think he lowercased the "i"...Charles Bukowski did it effectively.  I'm still uppercasing at the beginning.  I dunno...the eye smooths over, but a wall of black gives pause....Or the curve of the "O"...etc...just interested.  Anyways, hope things are going well in DeAnanderland!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 06:28:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sure my capitalisation behaviour follows some kind of pattern, but don't ask me to publish the ruleset :-)  sometimes I find myself following the classic Greek convention and capitalising the lead word in a graf.

maybe it's my C19 habit of using initial caps for emphasis that makes me parsimonious w/them elsewhere.  the uppercase I is admittedly an anomaly -- perhaps a disinclination to look too much like an e e cummings groupie?  or perhaps just a bit too much Ego in my typographical Kosmos?

things are not going well anywhere.  in the immediate and very small radius of my private life they are not too bad, just overly busy.  otherwise... ya know the score:  world, hell, handbasket, helpless horror, etc.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 06:45:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cough cough!

Thanks for the reply!

Avoiding hell (if possible--and hell is other people...), and keeping away from handcarts headed in that direction...let's turn our thoughts to The Baiji Yangtze Dolphin...

The baiji is Functionally extinct. Lipotes vexilifier is the first species of cetacean - whales, dolphins and porpoises - to disappear from our globe in modern times...the first large mammal to go extinct as a result of man's destruction of their natural habitat and ressources.

But I don't want--right now--to mournmournmourn.  The planet is four billion years old.  Life comes...life goes.  Some lifeforms have what it takes to survive and thrive.  Bacteria.  Virii.  Birds.  Fish.  The larger mammals die first....while the largest mammal eats the smallest animal....so maybe some other animal is the wisest on the planet...camels...

...cough cough!

Well, I just wanted to say yes, humans are changing things for the worse for much life, and life...is also human, so up they go and down they go, you get your turn, you can't choose your century, your species...or can you?  I'll come back as...as...well...my philosophy is still....try to enjoy as much of it, let the good times roll, and fight those anyone and anything who wishes to....ach...tai chi...defend and attack...and protect yourself....keep the lymph nodes loaded!



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 07:29:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Someone whispered in my ear that life is four billion years old while the planet is six or seven billion years old.  But...where does life stop and start?  I think one of life's aims should be to avoid becoming a cancer cell, to avoid cancer cells, and to fight them as and when they turn up, so, er, let's, er, enjoy what we've got--I won't be happier because a rich person forgoes a glass of champagne; "Drink the bugger," I will say.  "You've got it, might as well enjoy it!  What?  Don't mind if I do!  Now, I have a lot of ideas for useful and enjoyable things to do with yer cash."--so I suppose someone worse off than me doesn't want or expect me to be unhappy (though people do--from all walks of life...m i s e r y...)...Help where help is needed, and sometimes I need help, not someone else...well, sometimes we all need help...and whose to give it--those who have energy to spare...so take care, DeAnander!  Look after yerself!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 07:37:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it's hard to avoid being a cancer cell when you are part of a tumour.  

possibly the distressing moral quandary of our time;  merely by existing w/in our industrial culture we participate, willynilly, in the destruction of our own and others' habitat.  our participation is to some extent coerced, since most of us have been Enclosed and deskilled out of any hope of supporting ourselves w/o labouring as wage slaves for concentrated capital.  to some extent it is bribed, as we are soothed and distracted by an endless succession of entertainments and shiny toys that are supposed to compensate us for (e.g.) the staggering vandalism and impoverishment of the living world in our lifetimes, the toxic body burden each of us bears, the nonquantifiable but deeply distressing sense of futurelessness under which many or most of us labour.

nothing that industrialism has ever bribed me with is worth the decimation of the world's fisheries, the destruction of coral reefs, the deforestation of entire continents, the destabilisation of climate, the annihilation of the rich variety of traditional cultivars and the resilience thus stripped from our agriculture, the monopolistic centralised control of food, water, information.  and yet, were we ever given a choice to refuse the bribe?  the industrial/capitalist system was forced at gunpoint on those who did not greet it eagerly.  and now that it reaches the predictable and sordid (and terrifying and violent) end state of its own contraphysical delusions, what the heck do we do?

what is to be done?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 08:39:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space." Italo Calvino in "Le citta invisibili"


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 09:28:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cancer cells are those that don't shut down...ever...  I don't think I am a cancer cell...but maybe I am on the edges....

I don't agree completely with your assessment of humans.  We could all be living perfectly sustainable lives and be wiped out--or have our ways of life change irrevocably--by, say, the himalayas growing an inch a year, or krakatoa exploding, or Mt. St. Helen.

There's a moral issue related to human destruction: "we" are responsible.  But having watched salt flies round a small pond--a one-metre thick wall of flies...  We destroy more because we are too many, simple as that...we just can't regulate our growth...our expansion is not healthy.  But all cells will have urges--signals--in different directions.  We can see some behaviour as cancerous...and avoid it--ach, you know all this...  I do believe that if one is fundamentally against the nature of the city, one shouldn't live in a city; if one is fundamentally against the idea of industrial production, one should avoid all industrial products....  Some people are making the attempt...good luck to 'em.  I'm way more positive that we have (for the first time in history?) the technical knowhow to regulate our behaviour (our impact) on the planet without resorting to blood sacrifices, child abandonment, war, or any of the other old methods....

Coz, like Marek, I don't think the past is an ideal I would like to return to.  But to learn from best practice, yes!  All the things we can do to avoid becoming another part of the cancer...imagine a cancer where one third of the cells are fighting to turn back into healthy cells....that's a cancer under attack...and I know the metaphor doesn't quite hold...but if one is a cancer cell, might as well enjoy it because soon enough the cancer, as you say, destroys its host...unless stopped--excised, reduced, defeated, converted, etc....

So...all I wanted to say was: there are ways of measuring life that result in despair (We're all doomed!)....but we were all doomed anyway.  Hell and Heaven are on Earth, some people are in Hell...I don't think it's most...(because of human context...I suppose using the analogy that nowadays more and more people are in Limbo)...but, to hold onto the religious imagery, Hell is to be defeated...except for those who deserve to live there, or those who refuse to leave...

And, I suppose on a practical level, given the choice between shiny objects  now and certain death and misery tomorrow....so we need myths--images, ideas, imaginings of the future that don't just involve destruction (and...to be fair...species are wiped out all the time, by other species, by climate change, kinks in the planet, we're not guilty in an existential way...we're part of life...maybe an ugly part (best to live alone, don't have children etec...)...but I still like humans.  I think we are a young species, terrible teenagers wrecking havoc.  But I don't think other animals "blame" us, nor do trees or bees.  I suppose it's a christian mindset to aportion guilt and blame into life processes.  We're like foxes, or chickens, or badgers, or stoats.  We're like virii, or bacteria, or grass, or snow...  Or...and this is the metaphor and myth of myself I hope to avoid...a cancer cell, good for nothing but getting bigger and more dangerous....

So..."What is to be done?"

Many many things--and maybe five minutes a day to contemplate death, destruction, and evil is good for the soul--but, yes, many many things.  I have a few I'm getting on with, if I do them well maybe some more will pop up....lateral lateral, walk the windy road...linear is bad...circles and helixes....

You told me that ;)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 03:41:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An old friend of mine summed it up this way: "the best thing I can do for the planet is kill myself."

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 03:17:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm pretty sure this will get me PN points.... BUT

  • The earth has been dated by the U/Pb decay rate at 4.56 billion years give or take some 10 million years. This is pretty much the current standard, not-withstanding the bulwark of creationists.

  • Life on the earth was probably already shaping up after 4 billion years

  • Life may've been at it before that, but after the earth's collision with Theiawe ended up with our moon, the earth began with tabula rasa.

Because biologists have such troubles definig what life is, I just skirt around the problem and stick to: "Life just happens."
by Nomad on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 11:53:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey!

I was going to post up "Heaven" by Talking Heads...

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

...you reminded me of it.

...but I couldn't find it on youtube, so instead...

I bring you...

Migeru!  

Yes!  Migeru and his lovely band.  An excellent track, one of his best.  Of course, he'll deny its him, but we know...



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 12:13:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Capitalizing nouns but not adjectives is the rule that is followed in German; it got that convention from Latin, I believe.

Also, Germans complain that the capitalization conventions for book titles etc. are a mess. That is why American librarians basically follow the conventions of French: capitalize only proper nouns.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 03:39:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Correction: We follow the conventions of the language of the piece.    

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 03:51:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am confused. If you go to this link at the Harvard online catalog, you get this as the book title:
The boom and the bubble : the US in the world economy / Robert Brenner.
The same goes for this link at a public library online catalog. But then consider this link for a German book:
Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne : zwölf Vorlesungen / Jürgen Habermas.
Here the practice seems to be to use the conventions of the language of the piece, unless that language is English. ;-)

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns
by Alexander on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:28:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You've lost me...  How does the 1st not conform to English standards (cap. proper nouns) and the 2nd not conform to German (cap. all nouns)?

Cataloging is descriptive, usually literally transcribed (or transliterated) as it appears on the piece.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 02:29:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't suggesting that the German title doesn't conform to German conventions.

Now you've lost me. You say cataloging "usually literally trascribe[s]... as it appears on the piece." I have a book in which the title on the title page is written as "Baudrillard: Critical and Fatal Theory". But the Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data overleaf writes this as "Baudrillard: critical and fatal theory".

Here is what the Chicago Manual of Style has to say about capitalization in "textual matter":

Capitalize the first and last [that's new to me] words and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions.
And this is what everyone learns in junior high. Essentially the same rules are used for bibliographies and the title page of a book. But the Library of Congress does not use those rules: it treats a book title as if it were ordinary text.

So in the case of English-language books, I disagree that cataloging is descriptive: it does not preserve the original capitalization.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 06:58:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I may be being dim (not unknown...)...but...

If you keep your old operating system disks, and keep the drivers for your hardware, then--unless the hardware irrevocably breaks down (I have an old mac--19 years and counting, it's never broken down)...and even then, I expect there are secondhand shops (and ebay?  Never been there so I don't know) that can sell the relevant hardware bits...

So we'll see how many people upgrade and how many (including businesses) think...well...they don't need to.  And also, we'll see how many manufacturers of peripherals (if that's the right term) start offering MAC/LINUX/MS VISTA drivers...you choose which...and if MS VISTA refuses to allow dual (or more) use...if they try to lock down the peripherals...sounds like an excellent business opportunity for many....

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 06:10:08 PM EST
Did I write 19 years?  Should be "10"...another nine and I'll be writing the truth!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:37:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No matter what the lure of glitzy features or easy software add-ons, this is the salient, irreducible fact.  

Every once in a while it is good to be reminded WHY Microsoft is evil, and why it will never change.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 07:56:11 PM EST
I don't know why Microsoft is evil. I can tell you how Microsoft is evil, but the why I really don't understand - except that it seems to be based on some kind of sociopathic contempt for customers, competitors, and apparently anyone who uses a computer.

MS products seem to be based on IT S&M. Customers know they're going to be abused, but they keep coming back for more, and even paying for the privilege. And all the while the abusiveness of the relationship is camouflaged with endless swathes of marketing-speak.

It's like being trapped in one of Terry Gilliam's grimmer films. Only even less fun.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 09:39:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Microsoft is obsessed with what it did so well before: claiming the dominance on the OS and software market, locking custommers with upgrade strategies. They wanna do nothing else but keep playing the dominance game. They are maniacs.

If there can be custommer backslash against Microsoft, it must happen now.

by das monde on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:19:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have posted this in an evening thread, and sure hope you'll pardon the repetition, but I feel it's worth it .

1) Even if you do not ever use Vista, you should be aware that you will still bear the cost :

Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called "premium content", typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources.
Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost.
These issues affect not only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effects of the protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever come into contact with Vista, even if it's not used directly with Vista (for example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server).

See A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection.

2) If you do plan to use Vista, this document shows how if one single part of your hardware chain does not comply with the Vista Digital Rights Management scheme (say, your brand new hi-res display), then even your legal content will be crippled.

We are just being run over by a megacorp.

by balbuz on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 11:59:52 PM EST
The more I read that piece, the more unbelievable it becomes. If Microsoft will dig itself into grave with Vista, it fully deserves that.

Alongside the all-or-nothing approach of disabling output, Vista requires that any interface that provides high-quality output degrade the signal quality that passes through it if premium content is present. [So] if you're using an expensive new LCD display fed from a high-quality DVI signal on your video card and there's protected content present, the picture you're going to see will be, as the spec puts it, "slightly fuzzy", a bit like a 10-year-old CRT monitor that you picked up for $2 at a yard sale. [...]

Windows' anti-piracy component, WGA (or in Vista's case its successor Software Protection Platform, SPP), is tied to system hardware components. Windows allows you to make a small number of system hardware changes after which you need to renew your Windows license. [If] a particular piece of hardware is affected by a driver revocation (even just temporarily while waiting for an updated driver to work around a content leak) and you swap in a different video card or sound card to avoid the problem, you risk triggering Windows' anti-piracy measures, landing you in even more hot water. [...]

Vista's content protection requires that devices (hardware and software drivers) set so-called "tilt bits" if they detect anything unusual. For example if there are unusual voltage fluctuations, maybe some jitter on bus signals, a slightly funny return code from a function call, a device register that doesn't contain quite the value that was expected, or anything similar, a tilt bit gets set. Such occurrences aren't too uncommon in a typical computer. [Previously] this was no problem -- the system was designed with a bit of resilience, and things will function as normal. [...] With the introduction of tilt bits, all of this designed-in resilience is gone. Every little (normally unnoticeable) glitch is suddenly surfaced because it could be a sign of a hack attack, with the required reaction being that (from the spec) "Windows Vista will initiate a full reset of the graphics subsystem, so everything will restart". According to Microsoft this will only take a few seconds and will only affect the graphics subsystem (so it's not a complete restart of Vista), but the true impact of this mechanism remains to be seen. [...] Going beyond deliberate denial-of-service attacks, it's possible to imagine all sorts of scenarios in which the tilt bits end up biting users. Consider a warship operating in a combat zone and equipped with Vista PCs for management of the vessel's critical functions which does nothing more wrong that to suffer a severe jolt from a near miss, scrambling the bus just enough to activate the tilt bits (without causing any other real damage). [...]

[Hence,] if you design a new security system, you can't get it supported in Windows Vista until well-known computer security experts like MGM, 20th Century-Fox, and Disney give you the go-ahead (this gives a whole new meaning to the term "Mickey-Mouse security"). It's absolutely astonishing to find paragraphs like this in what are supposed to be Windows technical documents, since it gives Hollywood studios veto rights over Windows security mechanisms. [...]

Protecting all of this precious premium content requires a lot of additional technology. Unfortunately much of this is owned by third parties and requires additional licensing. For example HDCP for HDMI is owned by Intel, so in order to send a signal over HDMI you have to pay royalties to Intel, even though you could do exactly the same thing for free over DVI (actually you could do it better, since DVI is provides a higher-quality link than HDMI). [...]

In order to prevent active attacks, device drivers are required to poll the underlying hardware every 30ms for digital outputs and every 150 ms for analog ones to ensure that everything appears kosher. This means that even with nothing else happening in the system, a mass of assorted drivers has to wake up thirty times a second just to ensure that... nothing continues to happen. [...]

An indication of the level of complexity added to the software can be seen by looking at a block diagram of Vista's Media Interoperability Gateway (MIG). Of the eleven components that make up the MIG, only two (the audio and video decoders) are actually used to render content. The remaining nine are used to apply content-protection measures. [...]

Vista doesn't provide any other pagefile encryption, and will quite happily page banking PINs, credit card details, private, personal data, and other sensitive information, in plaintext. The content-protection requirements make it fairly clear that in Microsoft's eyes a frame of premium content is worth more than (say) a user's medical records or their banking PIN. [...]

As a user, there is simply no escape. Whether you use Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 95, Linux, FreeBSD, OS X, Solaris (on x86), or almost any other OS, Windows content protection will make your hardware more expensive, less reliable, more difficult to program for, more difficult to support, more vulnerable to hostile code, and with more compatibility problems. Because Windows dominates the market and device vendors are unlikely to design and manufacture two different versions of their products, non-Windows users will be paying for Windows Vista content-protection measures in products even if they never run Windows on them.

Time for a joke:

I can just see this as a plot element in Ocean's Fifteen or Mission Impossible Six, "It's OK, their surveillance system is running Vista, we can shut it down with spoofed premium content".

Consider also a cartoon here.

by das monde on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 02:53:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Vista is a beautiful hooker with AIDS. Microsoft is her pimp.

But all will be fine. Maybe.

by balbuz on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 03:31:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Microsoft is a rapist, Vista is AIDS.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 03:51:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is Vista so beautiful? Anyway...

It is shame that Microsoft forced humanity to burn tons of eletricity unnecessarily with the XP. Now the world will appearantly need even more power stations just to run content protection paranoid checks and encodings/decodings on all Vista controleld CP's and device processors. Just what we need for faster global warming.

by das monde on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:11:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not beautiful, it's a pig with makeup.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:15:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru is shamelessly plagiarizing my cooyrighted intellectual property :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 07:12:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, it preexists.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 06:45:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another interesting link.

The easiest option is to do nothing. Let the "war" play out. If Intellectual Property wins, then freedom is lost. Presumably Western Civilisation will decay into tyranny, collapse after a few centuries, and then we can all start again. Or Digital Freedom will win, and we will just tolerate the loss of Hollywood and commercial pop music.

Or, we could start reconsidering our options in advance, before any of these terrible things happen. Perhaps we could start designing and implementing a software architecture for a viable Voted Compensation system.

At the very least, we should carefully consider the assumptions underlying the "war", before we commit to a fight to the death.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:40:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What link?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:47:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:56:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is 1729?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 05:03:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I mean't "That's a great link at the bottom of your piece, das monde, cheers mate!"

Here's more from the front page of http://www.1729.com/

My book What is Music? (which is now available as a free download), explains a new scientific theory about what music is. According to the theory, music is a super-stimulus for musicality, where "musicality" is a perceived aspect of speech. Each aspect of music is a super-stimulus for a cortical map in the brain that is responsible for perceiving a particular aspect of speech.

I have a friend who said the same thing a while back--"Music is the sound of the language of the creator"...or somesuch.

Right, I'm guessing 1729 is the birthdate of a composer...let's see...

SOLER, ANTONIO [1729 - 1783]

The Catalan composer Antonio Soler had his early musical education at Montserrat. In 1752 he joined the Jeronymite order at the Escorial, where he became maestro de capella. He was able to study with Domenico Scarlatti in Madrid and became involved in some controversy with his important book on modulation, Llave de la modulación (Key to Modulation), which laid down the principles of modulation, how to shift from one key to another. His interest in the theory and history of music was considerable, coupled with an enthusiasm for other branches of learning, including mathematics. He was also employed as a consultant on the construction of new organs.

Keyboard Music

Soler is principally known for his many keyboard sonatas, of which he wrote some 120. In some of these typical Spanish rhythms and turns of phrase appear.

Also...

Ignatius Sancho  (1729-1780)

From African Slave to Composer & Author
Born on a Slave Ship Near Guinea, West Africa

Otherwise known as...no...hold on...there's a caribbean composer (of african descent), but he was born ten years later...(I highly recommend his music.)

So...maybe it's in memoriam to Soler?

OT, from the 1729 site:

Consciousness in 25 words or less:

Consciousness is a system for deciding whether or not to do the thing that you were going to do next.


Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 05:25:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
THE COMMITTEE OF 300

The Committee of 300, by Dr. John Coleman

This is a very old secret society, founded in 1729 by the Black Nobility[5] through the British East India Company to deal with international banking and trade problems and to support the opium trade. It is run by the British Crown. It comprises the whole world banking system and the most important representatives of Western nations. Through the Committee of 300, all banks are linked to the Rothschild's. The Committee is a very important part of the Illuminati, and is placed high up in the Political Pyramid. Dr. John Coleman wrote a book called: 'Conspirators' Hierarchy: The Story of the Committee of 300'[6], which extensively explains the connection. It also includes a list of the 21 main targets of the Illuminati and the Committee of 300[7].

http://www.illuminati-news.com/moriah.htm#10

by Trond Ove on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 01:23:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Time to revisit Richard Stallman's prescient The right to read (1996)
For Dan Halbert, the road to Tycho began in college--when Lissa Lenz asked to borrow his computer. Hers had broken down, and unless she could borrow another, she would fail her midterm project. There was no one she dared ask, except Dan.

This put Dan in a dilemma. He had to help her--but if he lent her his computer, she might read his books. Aside from the fact that you could go to prison for many years for letting someone else read your books, the very idea shocked him at first. Like everyone, he had been taught since elementary school that sharing books was nasty and wrong--something that only pirates would do.

And there wasn't much chance that the SPA--the Software Protection Authority--would fail to catch him. In his software class, Dan had learned that each book had a copyright monitor that reported when and where it was read, and by whom, to Central Licensing. (They used this information to catch reading pirates, but also to sell personal interest profiles to retailers.) The next time his computer was networked, Central Licensing would find out. He, as computer owner, would receive the harshest punishment--for not taking pains to prevent the crime.



"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:54:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just a thought on the Voted Compensation thing:

When you look at all those Big Brother, Survivor or Idol reality shows, and how much money people spend voluntarily voting for nothing more than a face on TV screen, you may think that voting compensation schemes might be vialable indeed. Anyone making a download of a song or software can be easily forced to make a few voting choices (not only regarding the piece just bought, but several related "products" as well). What you need for motivating voting, just a little dramma?! Deciding artist's or programmer's financial well-being is quite dramatic act, in fact. Or is it essential that the winners would appear on TV next week.

by das monde on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 07:34:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but you're assuming that money will be given to artists and programmers.

This is an interesting idea, but possibly just a touch optimistic, considering.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 05:38:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How about this Vista nuisance (via ever interesting blog How the World Works):
Earlier this week Slashdot linked to a lengthy post by Gen Kenai detailing the sorry saga of a country completely in thrall to the Microsoft monoculture -- South Korea. Due to a series of decisions made way back in the late 1990s, Korean computer users managed to lock themselves into a situation where today, if they want to complete an online transaction, they are entirely dependent on Microsoft. It's bad enough that this means Apple and Linux users are a minuscule minority. But what's even worse is that Microsoft Vista, set to launch within days in Korea, doesn't work well with the old Active X technology that is ubiquitous in Korea.

So suppose you decide to buy Microsoft Vista, perhaps in conjunction with a new computer that is powerful enough to run Vista, but then you suddenly discover that you cannot bank or purchase online or do anything else that requires secure encryption. It's kooky, a huge number of people in Korea are justifiably outraged, and lawsuits are beginning to fly.

by das monde on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 01:02:46 AM EST
Seeing so many people take the position of the makers was just a surprise to me. The concept that a firm owes something to people who have purchased their product seems not to exist anymore.
Most middle-class people ally with the wealthy not because of who they are, but of who they would like to (and delusionally think they will one day) be. That's the only explanation for the popularity of regressive tax policy, among other things.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 08:13:44 AM EST
The answer is simple: If it's made by Microsoft, it's a hunk of shit.  What, exactly, has Microsoft delivered in the last decade?  Windows, Office and Internet Explorer -- at best mediocre programs.  Windows can't hang with OS X.  IE can't hang with Firefox or Safari.  And Office is increasingly under attack by free services and programs via Google and the open-source crowd.

It's a joke of a company, and, while it used to be the case that one could argue that we needed Microsoft's garbage because of everything being based on it, it is no longer the case.  In the time it has taken these fucking clowns to "finish" Vista, Apple has released God-knows-how-many new OS X updates.

What a joke of a company.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:36:35 AM EST
Why, then, does everyone insist on shipping computers pre-installed with Windows (Vista, at the time of writing), and to design hardware that only runs with Windows?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:39:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who is "everyone"?  What programs can you not run on Mac?  And can you not buy substitutes?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:48:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Every computer shop around here, and every PC hardware manufacturer.

Why should one have to resort to a closed hardware platform (Apple) in order to escape Microsoft's closed software platform?

And yes, I run Linux on my own PCs and laptops, but sometimes it has been at the cost of not being able to use some of the hardware because the manufacturer will only support windows and not allow third-party Linux drivers.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:51:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As far as everyone selling with Windows preinstalled, I have to ask: What other option(s) do they have?  Apple won't let them use OS X.  And there doesn't appear to be a big, standard Linux system that could fill Windows's shoes.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:49:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What are Window's shoes? "A load of crap"?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:52:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can think or Fedora, SUSE and Ubuntu, just off the top of my head. There are even versions of Linux that will boot the entire operating system off a CD (like Knoppix, or even the ubuntu installation CD) so you don't even have to install an operating system.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:55:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ubuntu is getting damn close to being an easy replacement for windows for average users (I run it on both of my computers now). Ipod support is decent (no itunes but interfacing is easy), decent USB support, decent printer support, most video cards supported, etc. Unless you use really recent tech (as a gamer would) it's pretty easy to use.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 03:27:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this idea that Linux is not ready for average users is nothing but a myth at this point. Average users just surf the Web, do word processing, send email, and listen to music and watch movies. Except for the multimedia, the applications are the same under both Windows and Linux (if you use Open Office, which is probably easier to use than MS Office, but I wouldn't really know, since I use Emacs and LaTeX for "word processing").

And administration is easier under Linux than Windows, in my opinion. (I run Fedora, but I installed Ubuntu on my laptop. I agree, Ubuntu is more user friendly.)

As for video drivers, nVidia now releases proprietary drivers for Linux, which you need if you want to use TV-out etc.

As someone else said, the only reason to use Windows would be if you're a gamer.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:48:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the "vista experience" is bad enough for some users, that might bump linux's market share up enough to get decent driver support. For example while I run ubuntu on my thinkpad of recent vintage without many issues it would be really, really nice if the software used to control the display, power schemes, etc were available under linux.

I use ATI's linux graphics driver on my laptop...I wouldn't be able to run linux without it.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 11:16:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The licensing deal which forces manufacturers to ship PCs with Windows is a foundation of the Microsoft strategy.

Sellers don't get the choice. If they diversify into Linux to any significant extent, or try selling bare metal machines, Microsoft simply stops selling them Windows.

Since most people want Windows, sellers have no option but to follow the Microsoft way.

This was one of the key points of the anti-trust suit in the late 90s. Actually it wasn't enough of a point, considering, and of course the suit died when GWB was elected. There was a Consent Decree from the US establishment setting some limits on Microsoft, but enforcing it is hardly a BushCon priority.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 05:45:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I seem to recall it was possible at some point to get your money back for the cost of the O/S if you didn't want Windows pre-installed. That died quickly too.

My question was rhetorical, but thanks for giving the "right" answer anyway.

Free market economy, my ass.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 05:55:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point was that I felt makers have a moral obligation to support products that they sell for a reasonable period of time. This includes providing spare parts,  consumables (like unique batteries or ink cartridges) and upgrades.
Micro$oft is a corporation, so it operates outside of the sphere of morality: it is a predator. Commercial software is immoral by definition.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns
by Alexander on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 03:34:44 PM EST
Micro$oft is a corporation, so it operates outside of the sphere of morality

I just spent too much time arguing with various Libertarians over this.

What you say is true in the sense that current laws are set up so that a corporation's goal is to maximize profit. However, corporations are legal constructs, and in a democratic society, they can be assigned whatever goals and restrictions society deems appropriate. I call this a "moral obligation" but you can call it whatever you wish.

Firms already have to do many things which impact their profits. They have to follow various employment, health and safety regulations. They have to pay taxes. In some places there are restrictions on things like plant closings and firings. In some cases there are already regulations about the number of years firms must make spare parts available.

In principle the firms should have no objections to following rules. If they are applied fairly then no firm gets a competitive advantage. If they raise costs then the firms are free to raise prices to compensate. Most opposition to regulation is based upon the egos of corporate managers whose authoritarian personalities dislike any limitations on their control.

If the world gets its act together firms will soon find themselves facing a new range of ecological impact restrictions. Preventing forced obsolescence can just be one of them.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 04:34:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think we have a disagreement. I agree that we can make moral demands on corporations, and try to get laws enacted that would require corporations to heed those demands. But corporations themselves can have no morality, since only thinking beings can have morality, whereas corporations are just formal organizations.

As for Micro$oft, it is necessarily immoral, since it only has a market because of immoral law which puts executable code under copyright. As Richard Stallman has argued, that is an abomination. Micro$oft is only able to exist because of this government interference with the market. Micro$oft is probably the biggest racket that has ever existed, outdone only by the US "defense" industry.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 10:09:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All true, but consider this :

We often say that people get the politicians they deserve, the Yanks with Bush, the Froggies with Chirac, and the Brits with Blair.
In the same vein, people get the corporations they deserve. And they deserve Microsoft.

I have trying to get many people to switch to Linux : as you said earlier, it is destop ready, it does everything the other OSs do, it is safe, it respects what is yours, you can have most everything for free. But I have had no great results.

People hate change. They don't like new  processes. They know how to muck around with Windows, they don't want to relearn new ways. This has been at the heart of Microsoft's strategy from the beginning : play on people's basic fear of change. And Microsoft does it again, by giving away Vista to students. They know they will be repaid handsomely later on. It will work.

PS : there is one aspect where Linux is sorely lacking, and it is in video editing tools : Windows or OSX video editors are much much better.

by balbuz on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 03:58:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not just that people hate change. For whatever reason, people in the Western world have lost an intuition of what it means to be free. People hate change; I'm not very fond if it, other things equal, either. My sense is that most people who use Windows hate it. But they have been cowed into living with it, because they think that that it is what the market has presented them with, and you can't argue with the market. In other words, that a rational solution to technical problems (free software in this case) might be possible, is something that never occurs to most people today. That is the problem -- not fear of change. Whatever happens must be right, because markets determine what happens, and markets are always right, by definition (that the market might be fixed by power players is a possibility that is not considered). People have been conditioned not even to start thinking out what might be a reasonable solution from their own point of view. In any case, that's the way it is in America.

As regards to video editing tools in Linux, you are probably right. On the few occasions that I wanted to do something like that, I gave up very quickly.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 05:22:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Today I had a discussion with my creative writing students about forced obsolescence. We weer really discussing the construction of character in fiction, and in particular, the famous Virginia Woolf essay, "Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Brown," in which she taks Arnold Bennett to task for his fetish of explaining people through the objects they own.

I asked my class to tell me about their most cherished object, and how it defined their character and personality. The vast majority couldn't take part in this exercise. They don't own anything that has intrinsic or sentimental value. Almost all of their belongings are either planned obsolete or else meaningful only in a "marketing"s ense, as an identity badge. The only exception to this rule were the musicians who to a person all prized their musical instruments.

I felt foolish because it's been my habit to slowly upgrade my guitar over the years. They retain their price quite well, so I know I'm going to keep trading up for a better and better guitar each time. I could never establish the "value" relationship that thye have to their instruments.

Regardless, I do think "planned obsolesence" says something quite negative about our culture, our identities, our personalities, and perhaps about our future. It's a striking metaphor, no?

It reminds me of Henry Miller's visit to a beautiful downtwon Detroit in the 1930s-1940s. He said, "This is the capital of the new world that will destroy itself." And look at Detroit today.

by Upstate NY on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 09:42:30 PM EST
that is a fascinating anecdote -- and I think it illuminates a catch-22 of industrialism and human nature.  we value artifacts for their scarcity and uniqueness and for the labour (our own or others') that went into them.  but industrial processes eliminate scarcity via mass production, uniqueness ditto, and increasingly remove production from the sphere of average individuals and locate it remotely in both social and geographic space, in the rarefied realm of specialists or the degraded realm of (wage)slave labour.  

that is, we neither make things ourselves (so as to have a sense of our own labour going into them) nor do we know the person who made them.  essential human measures of value are destroyed and replaced by a universal "solvent" [hat tip Hornborg] which makes us able, insanely, to trade rainforest for CocaCola products.

while the industrial process gives us -- temporarily, until it implodes -- one measure of traditional wealth and status (a plethora of material goods), it undermines and vitiates the other fundamental axis of the sensation of wealth or material contentment, which is the intrinsic value of our goods and their function as a repository of meaning and identity.  if we have "mountains of things" [T Chapman] none of which means anything to us, we have the form of affluence without any human or emotional content.  this may be an accessible example of Hornborg's somewhat abstruse model of money vs meaning, i.e. money as a semiotic pollutant, diluent, or caustic.  I wonder if this vitiation of intrinsic value or "specialness" is one driver of compulsive shopping:  do we seek endlessly for the thing that will restore to us that sense of intrinsic value w/o which we do not feel truly affluent?

for me the process of getting rid of Stuff in preparation for relocation has brought into sharp focus the distinction between possessions I can part with easily -- or with only a minor pang -- and possessions that I want to "still have when I am 80."  so, thanks to this gruelling process, I now know that my most treasured material possessions are... paintings and sculptures made for me by a friend;  a few relics of friends and family now deceased (like my Granddad's pocketwatch, still running);  my archive of photographs, from very old family pics to recent digital snapshots;  certain hand and power tools to which I am sentimentally attached;  my guitar;  my bicycles;  certain books which mean a lot to me;  art materials;  journals and notebooks;  a particular fountain pen;  favourite clothes;  that kind of thing.  other possessions are valued because they are practically useful, were costly (or difficult to source), and when living on restricted income they would be hard to replace and much missed;  but this is not quite the same thing as "treasured" in the sense of the classroom anecdote -- things whose loss would injure one's sense of self.

I also know now, to my chagrin, that the most treasured possessions are not the ones I spent the most money on over the years.  too soon we grow old, too late smart...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 06:51:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wrote an essay on this a couple of years ago, but I think I like your take on it better as it is more personalized, but for the record:

What we Save From a Fire

I also have an anecdote. I was on the NYC subway a couple of years ago and a class of first graders got on. I assume they were off to some sort of field trip. Many of them had tee shirts with various brands advertised on them or they had clothing with logos on them. These kids can't even read yet, but they can identify all the brands by name. The are being turned into consumers before they can even establish their own personal identities.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 07:11:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was just thinking that if someone stole my backpack I would be mildly PO'd about my good rain jacket, but violently angry about the half-finished mitten I am knitting for a friend.  I can replace the rain jacket for "mere money" but I would lose hours of mindful labour on the mitten.  I suppose if the rain jacket were fabulously expensive it would be the equiv of as many labour hours as I put in on the mitten, and thus a far more painful financial loss, but still I think there would be a difference in the personal anger I would feel;  in one case a Thing, a commodity, is stolen and in another case it is... well, a piece of myself.

of course, for musicians their instruments are a piece of the self.  for cyclists, their bikes.  I wonder if the degree to which motorheads love their cars and assimilate them as a piece of the self is related to the number of hours spent polishing and vacuuming and washing the windscreen and filling with gas, as much as or more than the far larger number of hours spent working to pay for the gasguzzler.  do sailors labour lovingly and generously over their boats because the boats are personalised in a kind of modern animism, or is the animism a product of the labour put in, a gradual growing-together of human and tool/artifact over the hours of labour?  many people personalise or talk to their vehicles as if in a wistful reminiscence of our historical relationship with draught animals.  [but then again, some of those in the modern world who use draught animals on a daily basis do not sentimentalise them at all.]

there is a pleasure in knowing the provenance of objects, which industrialism has almost eliminated from modern life.  it has substituted a more obsessive and dweebish fascination with model numbers and small manufacturing variations, the expertise of the really good parts vendor who recognises the grimy and mysterious widget in your hand immediately as the secondary pressure pump from a Kenmore Model XYZ from the late 60's.  this kind of expertise itself is now under assault by the deskilling of retail labour, the push for non-repairable disposable appliances, and the push for totalised barcoding or rfidding that removes all call for human pattern recognition and scholarship from the parts and repair sector...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 09:34:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shopaholism: I think throwaway objects obviously contribute to the disease (by definition of course, marketers depend on the sickness) but its root cause is surely some kind of malformation of desire. People are not really looking for the valuable item or object that will fulfill them, but instead they are more interested in the relationship of desire/suffering that extends roughly from the moment they are advertised to, until they actually attain the prized object. The suffering/desire experienced in that interval is then extinguished, and it needs to be reconstituted immediately.

Yes, I am the annoying person who, during the opening commercials at a movie, makes the loud observation that, "for some reason, I crave a coke," making the fact of being marketed to at a totally inappropriate place (I freakin' paid to see a film, not to waste my time on ads!!!) obvious to all. Most people just look at me like I'm crazy. "Come on, give in, don't fight it!"

by Upstate NY on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 11:30:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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