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    I recently heard the term app console for the first time.

    My paraphrasing is “If your relatives can’t load any software they want on their computer, it’s no longer a general purpose computer.”

    My relatives aren’t going to jailbreak their devices, they’ll be limited to whatever is available in their silo.

    I didn’t believe Cory Doctorow when he talked about the coming war on general purpose computing, but now I believe him.

    From the link above:

    we all know what computers are, and iPads are no computers

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      A reflection on the progress of the war on general purpose computing. Felt more philosophical than culture, hence the tag.

      If it seems too alarmist or fails to spark joy in its exploration, as always, please flag.

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        A reflection on the progress of the war on general purpose computing

        I’m always curious about phrases like this. Do you believe that, say, Tim Cook is sitting somewhere in a dark room in his lair, twirling his moustache and cackling with glee every time he gets one step closer to finishing his dastardly plan of destroying freedom forever?

        Because that is the inescapable result of the typical framing of this by advocates like yourself, and a hundred times more so for the framing given by people like Doctorow. One cannot arrive at that framing without believing that one’s opponents are not just evil people, but openly, proudly evil people who know they are evil, relish their evil, and delight in the perpetration of evil for evil’s sake. I’m always reminded of Aaron’s speech before his execution in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, which concludes:

        Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
        As willingly as one would kill a fly;
        And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
        But that I cannot do ten thousand more.

        But I don’t think any person can actually literally believe their opponents are such cartoon-level villains. I think you know that people have complex motivations which may lead to one person prioritizing certain things above others, and a different person coming to a completely different conclusion. I think you know that group behavior and emergent behaviors exist and sometimes seem deliberate and directed despite not being so. I think you know that there is no “war on general-purpose computing”, nor anything even remotely similar to what is implied by that phrase, any more than there is a “war on Christmas” or any of the other rhetorical “war” framings our polarized society so often encourages us to ascribe to those who are unlike us.

        I also deeply disagree with any nostalgic/utopian framing of computing’s past as some sort of glorious place of unfettered freedom, or even of the promise of such freedom – I’m not old old, but I’m old enough at least to remember clearly back into the specific mid/late-1990s period your piece yearns for, and I know that any such claims about that period are, to be frank, bullshit. The golden age you want to return to never existed in the first place, and is largely a myth which has been woven, out of whole cloth, to support diatribes of more recent vintage.

        In light of which, I find it hard to take you as either honest or serious in what you’ve written.

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          Well, I never mentioned anything about morality or evil or villains or whatnot–none of which has anything to do with war. All of that is very much your own strawmanning. :)

          A trivial example of this war on general computing is seen in the security work underpinning web-browsers: client code in a page is given very strict access to what it can and cannot do–as it should be, if the user is not trusted to know what they’re running and the implications thereof. Another obvious example would be the obstacles put into place with app signing and bootloader signing and whatnot. It isn’t some kremlinology.

          The idea of these being “diatribes of recent vintage” ignores the work of the FSF and Stallman in the 80s. This is not some new issue, even if the recent grousing by Doctorow is.

          You mention this unfettered freedom being some illusion, but one can make an easy case that dominance of the Microsoft ecosystem was underpinned by an openness to let anybody ship software for PCs–or as we used to call them, IBM clones. Sure, you could pay extra for certification or whatever, but you weren’t kept from running things. You weren’t prevented from screwing around with config.sys or memmaker or autoexec.bat or whatever to try and get your game to run. The Commodore 64 and Apple II both shipped with a basic interpreter anybody could drop into–and manuals talking about how to use them! Again, this is historical fact.

          For what it’s worth, I think there is some conflation between the different-but-related war on general purpose computing, the right to repair, nethead/bellhead-esque struggles around centralization, and the shifting usage of computers.

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            All of that is very much your own strawmanning.

            When you use phrasing like the phrasing you used, there’s no need to straw-man it – it literally only makes sense if Tim Cook wakes up in the morning and thinks “Boy, I can’t wait to further destroy general-purpose computing today!”

            And he doesn’t, and you know he doesn’t. He’s got a different set of priorities than you do. He’s allowed to have a different set of priorities than you do. Him having a different set of priorities than you do is not a “war” on you or your computers or your personal freedom. Which is why I drew the analogy I did – it literally does remind me of the people who go on about a “war on Christmas” because a Starbucks cup has a generic holiday message on it, and it makes about as much sense to me.

            You mention this unfettered freedom being some illusion

            People today complain about companies like Facebook building walled gardens online. There’s truth in that, and there’s plenty of reason to worry about and criticize those companies. But the mid/late 1990s, which you are hearkening back to, were an era when for most people (other than, basically, university students and staff) the only options for being online involved buying into one company’s walled garden or another.

            The 90s were the era of the Hacker Crackdown. The era of people literally being threatened with prosecution for writing software that could encrypt things. The era before Linux became a viable alternative for even server operating systems. The era of paying the Microsoft tax on every computer you owned. The era of “works best in Internet Explorer”. The era of cheap computers that were only cheap because they literally had adware built in to make up the price difference. The era before widely-available and high-quality free-as-in-beer compilers and development toolchains. The idea that it was some glorious lost age of “general-purpose computing” only makes any sense if you redefine “general-purpose” to include only an extremely narrow and specific set of things that you personally happen to care about.

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            Do you believe that, say, Tim Cook is sitting somewhere in a dark room in his lair, twirling his moustache and cackling with glee every time he gets one step closer to finishing his dastardly plan of destroying freedom forever?

            Unlike @friendlysock, I will absolutely take this bait.

            YES, I do believe Tom Cook is sitting somewhere in his air conditioned office, stroking his silvering hair, and smiling in his typically understated way every time an underling gets one step closing to finishing their dastardly plan of …checks notes…making personal computing accessible to each and every individual so as to help change the way we think, work, learn, and communicate.”

            As @friendlysock already pointed out, you’re strawmanning. But no participant in a “war”, such as the metaphor goes, believes they’re the baddies. I believe Tim Cook— and frankly most the industry— see the most profitable way to making computing accessible for the masses is by controlling the experience… and I don’t necessarily think they’re wrong!

            […] I’m not old old, but I’m old enough at least to remember clearly back into the specific mid/late-1990s period your piece yearns for, and I know that any such claims about that period are, to be frank, bullshit.

            The FSF and Stallman have been pressing this point since long before the 90s. @friendlysock’s Commodore 64 and Apple II are both ’80s tech. You keep talking about “being online” as if that has something to do with “general purpose computing.” “Works Best In Internet Explorer” was, at best, ’99… so not even the ’90s.

            You keep trying to bring this back to what you know, and what you know is clearly limited.

            Have you even read the works referred or are you attacking your interpretation of a phrase?

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              the most profitable way to making computing accessible for the masses is by controlling the experience

              You’re so close here to getting it, because you’ve made a much more defensible statement here. But you still aren’t quite there, because there is no way to reconcile the above with a framing of “war on general-purpose computing” or a Stallman-style framing of an attack on “freedom”.

              And that’s basically my point. “There is a war on general-purpose computing” makes as much rational sense, and has about as much grounding in reality, as “there is a war on Christmas”.

              You keep talking about “being online” as if that has something to do with “general purpose computing.”

              I mentioned online “walled gardens” and the IE abuse as part of a larger list of examples. And, yes, walled gardens of any sort, even online, do have something to do with “general purpose computing”. If you’re unable to see how, I’m not sure I can help you.

              But the fact that it was part of a larger list of examples, and that you chose to respond in a way which framed it as the only point made, shows improper argument on your part. Again: I cited a longer list of examples, including restrictions on crypto, the US government’s “hacker crackdown”, lack of availability of tools that would let ordinary people truly “own” their computers (in the Stallman/FSF sense, where only the needs of programmers are generally truly considered or catered to), the lack of good alternatives to proprietary operating systems… and here you are completely ignoring all of that. And then accusing me of arguing in bad faith.

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                But you still aren’t quite there, because there is no way to reconcile the above with a framing of “war on general-purpose computing” or a Stallman-style framing of an attack on “freedom”.

                First off, “you still aren’t quite there” implies I’m coming around to your points:

                1. There is no “war” because this is conflict of priorities. (on point)
                2. We want a mythical golden age ’90s back, with free computing and free Internet maaaan (off point, no one has said this but you)

                wrt. your first point, you haven’t demonstrated that you’ve read the literature. The “war on general-purpose computing” metaphor is, as far as I know, a Doctorow invention. It arose as a continuation of the Copyright Wars and descended from the Crypto Wars. He is quite explicit about this in his works. So, I’m guessing you don’t like the use of “war” in those contexts too?

                And, yes, walled gardens of any sort, even online, do have something to do with “general purpose computing”. If you’re unable to see how, I’m not sure I can help you.

                Stallman and Doctorow and many others, including myself, have issues with walled gardens. I don’t believe they’ve conflated those two issues. And I’ve put in the hours and work to break down walled gardens; I’ve got the cease-and-desists and legal scare letters pinned on the wall. I am very at peace with my politics here.

                You’re picking your meaning of “war” and you’re picking your meaning of “general purpose computing.” 🤷🏾‍♂️

                But the fact that it was part of a larger list of examples, and that you chose to respond in a way which framed it as the only point made, shows improper argument on your part. Again: I cited a longer list of examples, including restrictions on crypto, the US government’s “hacker crackdown”, lack of availability of tools that would let ordinary people truly “own” their computers (in the Stallman/FSF sense, where only the needs of programmers are generally truly considered or catered to), the lack of good alternatives to proprietary operating systems… and here you are completely ignoring all of that. And then accusing me of arguing in bad faith.

                • Hacker Crackdown (90s)
                • Crypto Wars (90s)
                • Rise of Linux (90s)
                • Microsoft Tax (90s - 2000s)
                • End of the Browser Wars (early ’00s)
                • Cheap adware computers (late ’90s - now)
                • Pre-GCC getting good and clang (’90s)

                Mate. That’s your list. There’s nothing there that’s before the ’90s.

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                  Mate. That’s your list. There’s nothing there that’s before the ’90s.

                  I don’t need to explain to you that you’re just a troll, but for anyone else who happens by: this is the conclusive proof that the poster above is not engaging in good faith. The OP article – which this poster likes to accuse me of not really having read or understood – opens by anchoring its idea of a lost computing utopia to a specific range of dates, beginning in… 1995. Hence my anchoring of counterexamples to that time.

                  The poster above clearly has abandoned even the pretense of trying to have a real debate on this, and is now hoping passers-by will see them “dunking” on my comment and lack the context of the main article to understand why it’s no “dunk” at all and actually shows that the poster above is just an ordinary troll who won’t be engaged with any further.

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                    👋🏾 Oh gosh, hi posters, I’d almost forgotten you were there! Like / comment / subscribe if you liked the trolling in this thread!

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              Do you believe that, say, Tim Cook is sitting somewhere in a dark room in his lair, twirling his moustache and cackling with glee every time he gets one step closer to finishing his dastardly plan of destroying freedom forever?

              Of course not, but that’s irrelevant. What matters isn’t the motives or the state of mind of Tim Cook and other industry executives, but only the result. Most computer users are indeed losing freedom, and if Doctorow’s war framing mobilizes us to fight that, then it’s good.

              I agree with you that the 90s weren’t an ideal to return to. Neither were the 80s. But we should still want a better future.

              In particular, I want a future where my nieces and nephew have even more freedom to explore and reshape their computers than I did with my family’s Apple IIGS. I’m well aware that the dichotomy between professional developers and end-users was encroaching even then. In some ways things are much better now; we have programming environments we can access in our web browsers, others that are just an app install away, and cheap single-board computers that will let us hack at any level we want. 10-year-old me would have loved all of this. But in other ways, particularly for the devices and applications that people use in daily life and work, things have only continued to get worse. My worry is that the next generation won’t have the freedom to shape these devices and applications unless they happen to land a job at one of a handful of companies in a relative handful of places. (Yes, I currently work at one of those companies, and it gives me cognitive dissonance that I will have to resolve before too long.)

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              Thank you for this piece. I do find it an important reflection. Some parts of it are kind of speculative, or presume to know motives that we can’t really know, but overall I agree with the thesis.

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              We are told that our computers are being stripped of their functionality because they are just too insecure and too complicated for the average “normal” or “normie” to deal with. After all, the problem could not possibly be that the Windows operating system is an insecure piece of junk, reminiscent of a 40-year-old family minivan held together with chewing gum and bailing wire.

              I bet if Microsoft actually managed to fix every single remote code execution and privilege escalation flaw in Windows, that it wouldn’t even cut the number of people who lose their bank account to keyloggers in half.

              The number and variety of malwares is plenty documented to anyone who’s curious. What’s in it? Some of them are drive-by downloads and worms, but a lot of them are just phishing. They have spreading methods like:

              Copy and Paste Scams. Users are invited to paste malicious JavaScript code directly into their browser’s address bar in the hope of receiving a gift coupon in return.

              Fake Plug-in Scams. Users are tricked into downloading fake browser extensions on their machines. Rogue browser extensions can pose like legitimate extensions but when installed can steal sensitive information from the infected machine.

              I hate arguments like this, because the OP never says anything that’s false, but rather, they just totally ignore the counterargument. Maybe there isn’t any “The Problem(tm),” but rather a bunch problems that contribute to the effectiveness of malware as a way to make money.

              This is, at its root, an ethical problem, and so it’s also a political one. If it seems one-sided to you, then you’ve probably been mindkilled. If you honestly think the existence and effectiveness of phishing is worth it for the sake of free speech and the ability to modify your hardware, then just say so.

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                This is an excellent point. If you want to secure the availability of general-purpose computing devices (which I would like to do), it’s important to understand why ordinary consumers of computing devices might not care about having a general-purpose computing device, or why they might value other things (like a reasonable guarantee that their software vendor will make sure they can’t get phished when they log into their bank account) more than the ability to compute freely; and either be able to build general-purpose computers that solve those problems for people, or be able to create a viable software ecosystem that doesn’t rely on that substantial number of people interacting with your hardware and software.

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                Could this url be edited to remove the trailing slash? The page looks a lot better this way: https://cheapskatesguide.org/articles/techno-cage.html

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                  Good idea! Could a mod fix that?

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                    Fixed, thanks for pointing it out.

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                  When people finally stop confusing UEFI with SecureBoot and saying UEFI is evil? I agree with many points of the write-up, though.

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                    Formerly having been a staunch defender of free speech as a concept and it’s cultural practice, Twitter, Facebook and the like have led me to believe it’s too dangerous for the common man to wield. I will open my arms to the sacrifice of my freedom of expression, and yours, to save everyone else.

                    (That’s not to say I won’t speak freely, or attempt to do so; I just do not believe it should be easily-accessible, or agreeable.)

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                      My list of dangerously wrong ideas which should be purged:

                      1. The belief that free speech can be harmful.

                      I’m sure I’ll get around to writing the rest down later.

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                        I’ll believe otherwise when Qanon and King John III fanatics are no longer mentally, financially, and in the former case, physically harming themselves, eachother and those around then

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                          I certainly see these harms, but I think whether speech can be harmful is kind-of the wrong question. Free speech is an important principle for moral reasons, it comes to us as a given. As somebody whose entire life is in some sense about exploring ideas through the use of my mind, I would find it all but impossible to bear living in a country where that right wasn’t protected. I don’t think anybody should back down on that.

                          So the practical problem is how to prevent the harms of anti-semitic conspiracy theories, within a framework where people are allowed to say those things. The question isn’t whether speech can cause harm, it’s what to do when it does.

                          It hasn’t come up much on lobste.rs, but I feel I should mention, just to acknowledge it, that my detractors would accuse me of wanting censorship. I categorically reject that accusation.

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                            But free speech, which is certainly a good, is not the good. It is perfectly possible for free expression to come into conflict with other goods, and the decision about which carries the day is necessarily a contextual one.

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                            King John III

                            Is this thejoke.jpg or yet another conspiracy theory leaking in from a part of the Internet I’ve never visited?

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                              Joseph Gregory Hallett, “common law” scammer and now monarch of the United Kingdom and all associated commonwealth realms. Will also apply to cancel your debts for a nominal fee.

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                                I’ve never heard of this person but I am not at all surprised he exists.

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                            I’ll get around to writing the rest down later

                            I think that’s all of them.

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                              You say you believe in free speech, but call for the purging of incorrect ideas.

                              Curious.

                              (Unless you’re being facetious, in which case, well played.)

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                                It’s the paradox of tolerance all over again.

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                                  Free speech, and indeed all the values in the American constitution, are most correct for governing a people who believe in individualism, and would be hard pressed to question free speech. As such, societal moves to freer individuals are essential, so government doesn’t have to be misused for such evil purposes.

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                                The problem isn’t so much that some people are worse at speech than others; it’s that all of our tools for understanding and regulating speech on a personal level completely break down when there is a potential audience of thousands, to say nothing of billions. I guess my argument would be that the problem isn’t really the breadth of speech; it’s the speed of speech, these days.

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                                  I think you’re correct to identify the speed problem. “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” I also think that the structure of social media really does optimize for intensification of societal conflicts, rather than for talking things though. That is: Controversy makes money. I think that can be addressed with careful restructuring.

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                                    I agree wholeheartedly, I didn’t really explain my reasons or justify them, but the speed (and vastly increased direct audience) of speech may be the core of the problem.

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                                    Formerly having been a staunch defender of free speech as a concept and it’s cultural practice, Twitter, Facebook and the like have led me to believe it’s too dangerous for the common man to wield.

                                    The alternative is giving the power to control acceptable speech to those currently in power.

                                    Even putting aside questions of the benevolence of those in power, I don’t like the status quo enough to allow it to definite acceptable speech.

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                                      Thankfully there are those willing to reload their arms, to keep it.

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                                        I don’t live in the US

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                                        Now that is refreshingly honest of you! But wait, you think there’s some “free speech” on the TwitBook? Oh my.

                                        Too bad I’ve wasted enough time on Lobsters for today and need to get some work done, because this could be the thread that finally gets me banned. No doubt there will be future opportunities. Peace!

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                                          Once there are limits, if you may not wield without a license, you are at the whims of others.

                                          Free Speech is a pretty massive chesterton’s fence. If you think it should be limited, you already don’t understand why it exists.

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                                            Your argument is more or less “anyone who disagrees with my position must be stupid”. That’s what is implied by the Chesterton’s-fence reference.

                                            Also it’s effectively an empty statement – Chesterton’s fence can be used to defend anything that already exists, and thus in an indirect way basically proves too much.

                                            For example: one could just as easily point out that absolutist “free speech” as often advocated for on internet message boards does not exist anywhere; everywhere, including the First-Amendment-having USA, currently imposes some type of restriction on speech, historically such places have imposed far more restriction, and thus the correct Chesterton’s fence position is anti-free-speech – the problem is you simply don’t understand why these restrictions historically have existed, and until you do you should not be trying to remove them.

                                            (and Chesterton likely would not have been a free-speech absolutist in the sense we understand today; his politics, by modern standards, were often quite regressive)

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                                              Also it’s effectively an empty statement – Chesterton’s fence can be used to defend anything that already exists, and thus in an indirect way basically proves too much.

                                              Chesterton’s fence is not a defense. It suggests you should understand why something exists, for your own sake.

                                              The US has its form of Free Speech for reasons; other places have their relatively more restricted forms for other reasons.

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                                                Chesterton’s fence is not a defense.

                                                As used on internet discussion forums, it absolutely is. It’s a meme whose sole purpose is to kill discussion, and it works to do that on literally any thing that exists, as I demonstrated by showing how it could be used to defend restrictions on speech.

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                                                  You chose your interpretation, mate. You derailed yourself.

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                                              It is limited, and everyone knows about the limitations (yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, etc.) Sorry that conflicts with your grandstanding.

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                                                everyone knows about the limitations (yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, etc.)

                                                Everyone but you.

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                                                  It is limited, but yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre is almost explicitly protected. For speech to lose it’s protected status the intent must be to advocate imminent unlawful activity AND has to be likely of causing said activity.

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                                                    The original quote was “falsely shouting fire”. The supreme court case from which that quote originates was about whether socialists could be legitimately jailed for passing out pamphlets advising Americans to resist being drafted, which is the thing a supreme court justice analogized to falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater. But there have been subsequent supreme court cases that have set precedents doing a better job of protecting free speech. And of course this is the American supreme court and this precedent applies specifically to American law in the context of the American constitution; other countries may run their legal system differently.

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                                                      I meant to edit “falsely” in but fell asleep. Point still stands, those two prongs have to be violated for the speech to no longer be considered protected.

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                                                  I understand the reasoning behind it. I just disagree, to some degree.

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                                                However, we can affect the future of computing simply by refusing to pay for the instruments of our own imprisonment. Although computer and software companies do have significant control over us, they cannot build computers that we absolutely refuse to buy.

                                                Color me skeptical. This structural problem won’t be solved by individual consumer choice. Consumer choice like this just serves an “out of sight, out of mind” function. The fundamental problem is the power imbalance between corporations and governments on the one hand, and everybody else.

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                                                  Governments (liberal democracies, anyway) are theoretically answerable to “everybody else” via legislatures and courts of law. Corporations are theoretically answerable to “everybody else” via consumer choice, and the courts. Of course there are real power imbalances, but these are very complex problems, and I don’t really think anyone is very seriously advocating for simplistic solutions, although their rhetoric may suggest it.

                                                  If the author were to omit the word “simply” from the phrase you quoted, and add in something about supporting appropriate legislation, would you be placated?

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                                                  Disclaimer: I work on Notion, a cloud collaboration app.

                                                  I think mostly software is moving online, off of the personal computer and into “the cloud” because that is where other people are. This is like bemoaning that an MMORPG requires an internet connection - yes, it does, because the entire point is to play with others. So it is too with multiplayer, collective productivity tools. Most users are willing to sacrifice features, speed, quality, and control of software in exchange for more seamless collaboration. Case in point: there are significant UX issues with the basic text editing experience of Notion (for example, no text selection between multiple paragraphs), compared even to other cloud document editors like Google Docs. But, users prefer Notion to even Google Docs for the collaboration advantages.

                                                  Can collaboration be implemented in a decentralized, distributed fashion? Yes, operational transforms are well-researched since the 90s, and there’s a lot of interest in “blockchain” and CRDTs in general these days. But distributed designs for collaboration have too many trade-offs for what amounts to the warm-and-fuzzies of being correct on principle. I do wish we could build something like Notion offline-first, decentralized, and there are people out there trying (example: https://anytype.io/)

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                                                    I really like this approach.

                                                    Would you agree with a paraphrasing that says that the shift to online is a function of desire for collaborative software and that just being much easier in non peer-to-peer architectures?

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                                                      Yes, exactly.

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                                                    Many readers will probably not believe me when I say we are being pushed towards a locked-down computer that is basically nothing more than a dumb terminal

                                                    No. This idea of a “war on general purpose computing” is not only wrong, it’s not helping.

                                                    What companies are doing is closing off things into walled gardens, not making computers dumber. They’re quite happy with all sorts of new things like VR … as long as it is inside their garden. In fact, it’s in their best interests for your computer to do all sorts of things … as long as those things involve keeping you on the computer.

                                                    The general purpose computer is what got us here. I buy a computer to do accounting, suddenly the kid is playing Donkey Kong. General purpose means we can sell you one way, then keep selling you in a million other ways only limited by our imagination.

                                                    So yes, if the point here is that the walls are coming down, I agree. But it’s got exactly nothing to do with general purpose computing. The goal is to give you all sorts of general purpose computing powers, just under a controlled and commercialized watchful eye. We’ll probably be playing inside of holograms in another 20 years. Wide-open tech to sell stuff is just going to keep on going.

                                                    Right now I’d like to buy a new e-reader. Can’t find one without it being general purpose. It plays games, it has a color screen, it updates over the net, it reports on all of my reading habits, and so on. I used to have an e-reader. It did just that: let me read. I used to have a device that played music. It only played music. I used to didn’t have to worry about rebooting my TV set. We got general purpose computing. And we’re going to get a lot more of it whether we want it or not. What we also got was walled gardens. And those gardens are slowly locking down to control every piece of the stack. That’s the new part.

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                                                      General purpose means we can sell you one way, then keep selling you in a million other ways only limited by our imagination.

                                                      That is certainly one thing those words could mean, but it is not their intended meaning in the source work. The intended meaning is that general purpose computing means we can sell you one way, and then you (or anyone else who is not us) can add a million other ways not limited by our imagination.

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                                                      Hard truths, wrapped in perhaps just a wee tissue of hyperbole. Upvoted; suggest hardware.

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                                                        I long for a dumb terminal. The missing piece of how computers work is that for jobs other than programming, the output is ‘outside’ of the computer. The product, the content, the reason we use the tools, is not to create more software, but to create more music, more designs, more plans. Fearing that general purpose computing will fall out of our hands when open source silicon (and raspberry pi/SBCs displacing Eee PCs as even cheaper units) are all thriving seems chicken little. We can have both, because the developers for any given system (even inside of completely walled gardens) need tools that can treat the content they create as new tools to create further with.

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                                                          The Priviledge Few, the We, the priesthood, will always have general purpose computers. What is feared is that the general public will not (and in fact, in many cases already does not) leading to analogous problems to the preisthood+illiteracy problems of the past.

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                                                            I don’t think knowing how a given generation of computers and their associated languages work is quite as generalizable as knowing a language and literacy. The church went through issues when services were done in native languages instead of Latin, the ‘open’ languages of computing aren’t going to close up anytime soon. At this point nearly all of the major and minor computer languages have open versions, in toolchain, specifications and libraries. Open hardware is also widely known and available to those interested in joining the “privileged few”, indeed the barriers are not in the hardware existing, but in social and economic issues that keep some of the most curious among us held in positions of working poverty (in both money and free time).

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                                                          I believe netbook manufacturers may have intentionally sabotaged the netbook market. Though I can never prove this, I can point to a couple of pieces of evidence. The first is the ASUS EEE PC itself. The Asus EEE PC 900 that I bought had a 4 GB SSD held in place by a screw that was soldered in place. This prevented the SSD from being upgraded. Why would Asus go out of its way to make this model of EEE PC non-upgradeable? The most likely reason I can think of is that Asus wanted to force EEE PC owners to buy new computers in order to get larger SSD’s.

                                                          Because soldered components are cheaper, lighter, and smaller? The entire selling point of Netbooks was that they were cheap, light, and small machines intended as a second machine to “browse the net”, so to speak. They were killed by the rise of Tablets - which serve the same function for many people – and the rise of “Ultrabooks”, which actually allow people to do real work.

                                                          Besides, I bought a decent-ish laptop for about €250 last year which would compete with the Netbooks of ten years ago. It has 2 memory slots and a NVMe connector. You wouldn’t call it a “netbook” but it sits in roughly the same price class and addresses all the concerns listed (except that it’s a “real” laptop which allows you to do real work).

                                                          Netbooks weren’t “killed”, they just became a superfluous category.

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                                                            Netbooks arose because consumers saw the OLPC and was “oooh, cheap laptop”. Now that you can get 15” 200$ laptops, no one cared that they were small, and no one cared about upgrading a cheap POS anyways.

                                                            (Also not mentioned: the return rates on the models with Linux preloads…)

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                                                              I cared that they were small. It’s so hard to find a laptop in an appropriate size these days. Everyone wants to build 14-15” monstrosities. I think 11-11.5” is the sweet spot for me.

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                                                                I do too - my I always thought my ThinkPad X-series were a bit big, and everyone else thought they were tiny! I use an MBA 11” now, and that’s much closer to the right size even with bezels the size of a fist. I’m tempted to get the first-gen ARM Macs if they can do a small model for launch.