September 20, 2006

Whom do you trust

Commenting on this Futurismic post about opening up consumer hardware for hobbyists. In the post, the author says:

but will the average consumer ever trust code and devices that have been made by 'hobbyists and hackers'?

This is a disappointing question. It's the kind of position that reinforces the dangerous illusion that corporate interests are aligned with consumer interests. The intentional obscurity and arbitrary secrecy in the soft/hard/firmware of many products is intentionally there to keep control over the customer and keep competition down.

I think we're all increasingly in trouble as long as ANY of the technology we use is closed. I welcome the day when we have machines running on entirely open hardware.

Let's take the Linux kernel/Windows kernel as an example:

Regarding the Windows kernel, I have to not only wait for repairs and fixes from Microsoft, but also I have to trust Microsoft to even acknowledge problems. I have to hope that any very serious flaws that jeopardize my data, livelihood and even life, that Microsoft may know about, are going to be disclosed to the public and then repaired quickly. Now, we all know this is not what happens. They have an agenda at companies like this, and it's not the agenda I would choose for myself. But who really knows what they're deciding anyway? Much of it is secret. I'm not comfortable with that. I just plain don't trust this system.

Take a fully open source piece of critical OS software like the Linux kernel. It's being looked at by hundreds, probably thousands, of people all the time. There's a large opportunity there for review by parties not under the controlling politics of a corporate entity. People like you and me, perhaps geekier, but regular people nonetheless. And there is no secrecy involved. Period. It's this type of code that I trust.

The average consumer had better start thinking for themself.

Posted by dino at 03:51 PM