Cory Doctorow, You Are a Consumer, Too

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I saw a—the—Rally Fighter, an open source car in Austin. This is what the "finished" interior looked like, more or less. That's what Cory Doctorow wants you to drive.

Okay, not really. I can't be too mean to Cory. I've got too much respect for him. He's plucky, and the world needs pluck. In fact, I'm basically writing this to him, in public, because he's so sharp it pains me when I disagree with him so vehemently.

But when I read his post, "Why I won't buy an iPad (and think you shouldn't, either)", my head swells with sadness and I leak confusion from every orifice.


I don't like DRM. I think it's a fool's game.

I don't prefer a closed ecosystem for applications without a way to unwall the garden


I don't like that it's illegal to install a different operating system on an iPad.

These are legal issues. They are issues that should be fixed by legislation and by judges. Donate to the EFF, because they put the pressure in the right places. It's money well spent.


But you know what won't change these things? Refusing to buy an iPad, the stage for some of the most exciting software of the last decade. Nor will using Linux on a Lenovo laptop. It definitely won't help to sneer at everyone who is excited about the iPad, warts and all, and explain to us that we're dupes. And it is a sneer. It's talking down to hundreds of thousands of people who probably already know your position by heart. You may not read it like that, Cory, but I'm telling you that's how it comes off.

Computers becoming appliances. Is this so bad? Computers that do amazing, new things that also happen to be extremely reliable? Is it worth pushing all of that innovation and engineering excellence aside because it's more comfortable to hold onto an idealized vision of a future that never came to pass? The market gave open source 15 years to do a proper consumer desktop operating system.


Who brought Linux to the mainstream? Google. Giant, corporate, rule-bending, corruptible Google. The for-profit megacorp it's okay for open-source visionaries to work for, because at least they're not Microsoft or Apple. The Google that has a "virtual monopoly over literature". The company that sells the Nexus One still has tons of restrictions on apps that can be sold in their market—the only market that a majority of users will ever see. That's better than Apple's completely closed market, but let's not pretend that Google won't break out the lawyers when hackers step out of line .

I'm glad the Apple ][+ came with schematics for the circuit boards. I'm glad it encouraged a generation of kids to tinker and explore. I'm also glad that I don't live in the fucking '70s and have to type in programs from a magazine anymore.


There is absolutely nothing about the iPad that portends the end of innovation, tinkering, programming, design. If that were the case, there wouldn't be 150,000 applications on the App Store right this second. So what if you can't make iPad programs on an iPad. I don't complain I can't make new dishwashers with my dishwasher.

The old guard has The Fear. They see the iPad and the excitement it has engendered and realize that they've made themselves inessential—or at least invisible. They've realized that it's possible to make a computer that doesn't break, doesn't stop working, doesn't need constant tinkering. Unlike a car, it's possible to design a computer that is bulletproof. It just turns out that one of the ways to make that work is to lock it down. That sucks, but it certainly appears to be a better solution than design by committee gave us for the last couple of decades.


It all just kills me. It literally makes me sick to my stomach. I am sitting here looking at my computer screen and looking over at your post and just wanting to take it apart line by line but what's the point? I agree with so much of what we all seem to think about culture, about copyright, and freedoms to tinker. But I don't want to use shitty computers with shitty operating systems, just like I don't want to drive cars that come with their own schematics. Instead I want to drive beautifully engineered machines that scream with precision fury. And if they break, I want to take them to a shop and have them fixed. You keep the 3D printer; I'll take AAA.