Against The White Cliffs of NeoPalladium

Back to Sony.

Remember the rootkit fiasco?

That was the one where Sony deliberately infected its customer’s machines with a rootkit virus – of the sort that hackers use to take total control of their victim’s machines – Sony did this to prevent people (you) from doing things that Sony didn’t like. They thought they had the right.

They should have gone to prison. If they were small-time hackers they would have… but apparently it’s ok to break the law if you’re a corporation and you’re only doing it for money.

Remember The Palladium Scare of the early 00s?

This one really, seriously put the shits up people who understand the web. It involved building a rootkit into the hardware of every computer – so then Microsoft (or other “trusted” parties) could spy on everything you did and prevent you from doing things it didn’t like – with the ability to completely disable your machine if they wanted… basically make you ask permission for everything you ran, and lock you into its proprietary formats. Forever.

You’d have to be a hacker to get round it, and you know… hackers go to prison.

In the same way that Microsoft could lock down Word documents to “trusted” applications, HP could just as easily force its printers to output low resolution documents if a genuine HP color cartridge was not used in the printer. This would certainly make some customers angry, but when you consider that HP makes its “printer” money on accessories, losing a customer who isn’t purchasing their brand of cartridges is not really losing that much.

Echoing Anderson’s sentiments, Bruce Schneier opined “this [Palladium] has nothing to do with security; it has everything to do with protectionism.” – from 2002

So that was yesterday. Today is tomorrow already.


So welcome to the teenage years of the 21st Century. Much has changed, little has changed. “The Mobile Web” they say. “Smartphones: Platform of the future”… all that sort of thing, and tomorrow (or is today?) Apple are launching their new secret product that everybody already knows is a tablet PC. Whether it’s a tablet PC or a tablet iPhone remains to be seen… the only thing we know is It’s very new, It’s very tablet, And it’s Very Very Apple.

There will be a clamour of jackdaws. There will be videos of people on youtube unwrapping their first one. Personally I couldn’t give a toss, but that’s me. I’m casual. A bit over-casual actually. I’ve over-shot. It’s an issue – or would be if I gave a rats, which I don’t, so that’s ok then.

So anyway, back to Apple… or more specifically, back to the iPhone.

People often bitch about Microsoft nicking Apple’s ideas but this one goes the other way. Apple has created Palladium in the iPhone. You have to ask permission to run anything… which coming from a cellphone-angle is predictable enough, but if this is going to be a future platform of the web, then it’s a fairly serious problem.

Some people think that the App-Store is A Good Thing… developers can make a shitload of money they say. What it does however is lock in place the “Work once, get paid forever” model – which… well… it feels to me like it defies some sort of law of thermodynamics. You work once, then you extract value from your customers forever. I mean I’m all in favour of a diverse ecosystem of business models, but to enforce one particular model… THIS particular model, is profoundly counter-productive.

THIS particular model, is profoundly counter-productive…

… because it involves micro-monopolies. Each new innovation needs to be legally ringfenced to stop anyone else using it… which (as is plain to see) seriously chokes innovation. This is why in the end Open Source… anything, is going to piss all over proprietary anything. Which maybe (just maybe) is why Apple have enforced the “work once, get paid forever” model.

As an aside, if “work once, get paid forever” is set in stone as some moral imperative, then you’ve got the makings of one of the blindest evils that we humans manage to inflict on ourselves, and that’s Institutions who’s responsibility is to enforce the unenforceable. More on this later.

So I had a look at current state of play of Palladium… apparently MS changed the name (doubtless to distract the growing sea of ire that they were provoking)… to “Trusted Computing Platform” – which actually means “Untrusted Computer Customers” (that’s you)… and the Trusted Computing Group was formed, that seems to include everyone in the whole fucking world… except Apple.

Ironic as hell that they’ve managed to pull it off, on their own, with nary a complaint. Apart from people who’ve fallen foul of it already – had their apps rejected. You know… people like Google.

So is the tablet going to have an App Store? Who knows.

(This post is one of four interlocking posts, the other three of which I haven’t started.)

1 Comment » for Against The White Cliffs of NeoPalladium
  1. Tony says:

    Excellent rant. I used to be a dedicated mac lover, but I reverted a few years ago when I started to compare prices and functionality – and when I discovered the AMD dual-core chips! Fuck the I-phone, and the i-pod (which also forces you to buy rather than borrow, swap, or nick).

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  2. […] every pore now doesn’t it? Nary a day goes by without some new piece of evil flowing from the White Cliffs of NeoPaladium… whether it’s lying to its customers, egregious labour practices (including child […]