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Linux on Xbox: The shape of DRM to come

Michael Robertson, who funded the $200,000 attempt to get Linux running on an Xbox, writes about the XBox’s successful DRM implementation as a harbinger of Longhorn:

In spite of sharing the insides with a traditional PC, the Xbox has a dramatic and dangerous difference. A PC buyer can install any software or hardware that they wish. They own the machine and can change it to suit their needs – true ownership. There are no limitations. This open architecture is largely responsible for the two-decade personal computer revolution. With an Xbox, the user is merely renting the box. Microsoft decides what software (games) users can load and even how they can use it. When it connects to the net, Microsoft can and has instructed the machine to change its behavior to block certain users, functionality or software that it does not agree with. They are changing the rules after you purchase it to suit their needs and not your needs.

The Xbox served as the training wheels for Microsoft’s new Longhorn operating system, which is slipping to a 2007 launch. Like the Xbox, Longhorn will limit what software you can load. In the guise of “security”, Microsoft is trying to dramatically change the way PCs work. Instead of the owner deciding what software they want to install and run, Microsoft is seizing that power from them. Under the smokescreen of security, they are pronouncing that it is good for Microsoft to decide what software you can use.

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6 Responses to “Linux on Xbox: The shape of DRM to come”

  1. Wow, this is one paranoid geek.

  2. You’re not paranoid if you’re right.

  3. It’s really stretching it to compare Longhorn, a software OS, with a piece of proprietary hardware like the Xbox.

    Also you can get Linux onto an Xbox without a hardware modchip:

    Since they couldn’t stop hackers even with complete control of the hardware, I’m deeply skeptical they’ll be able to stop them with some software on their computers.

    Not to mention by 2007 I think they’ll be feeling the heat more from Apple and Google/web-based services which are usable in any OS with a decent web browser.

  4. I think he’s pretty accurately describing what Microsoft’s Orwellian “trusted computing” initiative is about. They don’t have to stop all hackers. They just have to make it hard enough. It’s already too hard for me to copy DVDs, even though hackers know how to do it — the software stops me from watching it on the device I want to.

  5. Here is the deal though, guys. It should be yours when you pay for it. The minute the exchange of money and product happens, you should become the owner of the product. But with computers and digital media these days, that’s not how it works any longer. We become co-owners of the product. We can put the device where we want, we can decide when it is on or off, but we cannot decide what we will view or play with it. We can not decide what we will play it in or who will be allowed to hear it or see it. The fact is, they don’t let us tell them how they can use the money we give them in exchange for the product. And they would never sell if they had to sign an agreement beforehand or read a terms of use document. Therefore, we have done this to ourselves. We read the licenses that limit our use and we say to ourselves that it is just part of the price of having the new technology. If we stop buying and tell them we will not buy until we control OUR devices and digital media once we pay for them, they will change their agreements. But, we are too week. We want what we want and so we make sacrifices and give in to their tactics which ultimately make our purchases useless or at the very least less valuable.

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