BT et C

Friday, November 17, 2006

Metaphors II

Mr. Ballmer gives us a textbook example of the danger of relying too much on metaphors, which I just recently spoke about. Let's begin. Microsoft and Novell

agreed on a, we call it an IP bridge, essentially an arrangement under which they pay us some money for the right to tell the customer that anybody who uses Suse Linux is appropriately covered. There will be no patent issues. They've appropriately compensated Microsoft for our intellectual property, which is important to us.

An "IP bridge"... ? Curiouser and curiouser ...

If you didn't know already, descriptions of the MS-Novell deal are weird and getting weirder because telling it like it is would utterly ruin Novell. What's happening is that Novell is licensing software patents from Microsoft. They cannot say this though, because the GPL forbids distributing covered code unless you give the recipient all the freedoms you have. So we will hear about things like "IP bridges". We will hear that "Novell's customers receive a covenant not to sue directly from Microsoft" (src). The last is curiousest since the covenant's terms are not fully disclosed to the customers it is supposedly being given "directly" to.

Metaphors can be tools of enlightenment or of concealment. Take care.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


As an expert in English and Philosophy, sorta, I love a good metaphor. So delicious... at times, so clarifying. One of my faves of all time, which I never get tired of linking to, is Moglen's Metaphorical Corollary to Faraday's Law. Anyway...

A metaphor that I'm kinda iffy about is the "War on Drugs". This, of course, conveys the seriousness of the drug problem in America, the expensiveness maybe, and the determination of our leaders to protect people, etc. etc. But we can all pretty much agree that this metaphor can be carried too far; for example, should dealer, or even just a user, of drugs be considered an enemy combatant in this war, and deprived of hisher rights as a citizen?

Probably not. We instinctively know that the metaphor is being taken too-literally there.

But no one is really suggesting such things, so I'm relatively indifferent to the "War on Drugs" metaphor.

A less "violent" but more pervasive metaphor that I think should basically be discarded is "intelleectual property". This one has wandered so far afield that many people don't even realize it's a metaphor anymore.

To test whether it really is a metaphor, try to prosecute somebody under theft or vandalism laws for (respectively) stealing or damaging your ideas or words. It won't work, because at the very least most of our courts remember that it is a metaphor.

Many of our citizens, and even some senators have forgotten, and this is really pretty unfortunate. A metaphor understood as such is generally not too dangerous, but when a metaphor comes to be taken as reality a curious thing happens: metaphors are built upon it.

Once you've lumped artistic output, "business methods", and trademarks into the "intellectual property" metaphor and forgotten that the symbol doesn't "map" exactly, it's not long before you start speaking of this property's "owners", of buying/selling/renting it. Of "thieves" and so on.

Now I don't contend that one is a horrible person for using these metaphors, but I caution against using them too loosely. I personally avoid them and try to be as exact as possible when talking about this stuff.

Friday, November 10, 2006


That stands for "Follow Up" (i.e. to the previous article) not .. ahem... the other thing. Although it stands for that too.

Okay, all you guys who are chomping at the bit to agree to Microsoft's terms and "upgrade" your machine (after you buy it) I've got an offer for you:

If you didn't know, you are basically forbidden from telling anyone how that computer performs under scenarios of your choosing. As soon as you click "I agree, install that Vista baby!" (button text subject to change) you are thus forbidden. Well I've got an offer for you:

I'll do it. Because of certain freakish aspects of my professional life and my personality, I will be free of the restrictions of Vista's end-user license agreement forever. That is to say: I'm not going to click that button at any time.

That puts me in a unique position w/r/t your computer: I can study it, see how it performs, tell others about my findings, and learn about how to improve its performance. And this freedom (seriously) just fell into my lap as a result of the above-mentioned non-clicking on Vista's EULA buttons.

Call me up, or post a comment or something. My prices are *very reasonable.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I somehow missed Thurottš recent shot at a topic I find fascinating, viz. the upcoming Vista EULA. As a result, I also missed a scathing response by Ed Bott. Oh well, I'm going to call attention to one bit he didn't focus on much: Thurott'š attempt to explain away the virtualization restrictions as non-restrictions. Referring to the fact that only two of the (most expensive) versions of Vista can become guest OSes, we learn that

as it turns out, there's no massive conspiracy. Currently, the majority of Microsoft's virtualization users fall into exactly two groups: business customers and enthusiasts. Business customers will want Vista Business and enthusiasts will use Vista Ultimate. Simple. And though pundits might like to complain about this apparently arbitrary decision, the reality is that very, very few people can ever come up with a legitimate reason to run, say, Vista Home Basic in a VM

Never mind that what Thurott says here is false (thousands of freelance web developers would put cheap Vistas into Xen to see how their sites look in the latest IE). The problem is the psychology of EULA abuse: Forbid by default even while admitting (as here) when you are placing legal (non-technical accomplishing virtualization is just as easy with any version of Vista) restrictions on some users.

If they dont like these completely superfluous restrictions, defend it by saying there arent very many of them. Fascinating, like I said. This is truly a test of what people will put up with.