Let’s be clear:  I am a stubborn git.  I’m the first to admit it.  To the dismay or, perhaps, bemusement of my friends, I struggle with product concepts such as the iPhone, iTunes, Amazon Kindle, eBooks in general, Facebook and Skype.

My friends tell me it’s because I don’t like to conform with the “normal” things that everyone else does.  Things like broadcasting my whereabouts and the company I keep at all times in my life, wherever I am.  Apparently, disagreeing with the background, terms of service, patenting practices and Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) of various “social media” service providers is anti-social and rebellious. 

It’s a curious thing to be a digital pariah.

What my friends don’t understand is that I don’t restrict my opinions to Apple, Facebook Inc., Microsoft and Amazon.  It’s just that they’re the companies my friends use, so to relate to them I cite them as examples.  I feel exactly the same way towards some of Google’s services and products, although I do have slightly more faith in Google than any of the above named alternatives.  They do more good, in my opinion.  And, with Google, at least you have confidence in being able to delete anything you create.

My main objections to these services & products, then, are:

  • privacy: I do not wish to be “guilty by association” on any social network.  Being tagged without my permission, and/or the attempt of tagging me (whether I disallow or permit the tag – or ignore the attempt to tag) is not acceptable.  It is especially unacceptable when I have no faith that the service provider will protect my interests as a private individual and law-abiding citizen.  
  • security: anyone remember when the iPhone took pictures of its users without their knowledge?
  • product quality: I am not interested in any iDevice because of the standard of software engineering and product management.  I am also not interested due to the restrictive rules of the app store.
  • freedom and flexibility: smartphones are good if they are flexible.  If I buy any device with gigabytes of storage, I want to be able to use it for whatever purpose I choose.  And, I don’t want to use any device:
  • with a proprietary connector which requires an expensive proprietary cable to connect it to a computer;
  • which uses a proprietary, “secret” protocol that my chosen computer can’t connect to; 
  • that virtually prohibits me from putting my own digital content on the device, rather than that obtained through the device vendor’s sales channel;
  • that supports in any way the obscuring of content I have a right to, or in some way supports an ecosystem where the alteration, deletion or other control of content is deemed “acceptable” through the EULA;
  • that limits me!
  • On this last point, it worries me that Google Inc are appearing to adopt the Apple way of doing things on their Nexus devices – and in their cloud software.  Not being able to use additional data storage (no SD card in a phone, in this instance) means a greater reliance on the Google way of doing things.  Android software is becoming less flexible with regard to media storage (the camera app no longer lets you select the photo storage location, for example, although Android still supports external SD cards and will utilise media stored on it).
There is a greater trend also: that of the death of physical media and moving everything “into the cloud”.  There are a few fundamental problems with this:
  • Physical media can be shared and enjoyed by more than one person.  Sharing is not copying nor is it stealing.  If I am attending a family gathering – a party, say, then I am free to bring along a couple of CDs to play.  How can this simple act be replicated by cloud-only storage?  If we all use cloud-storage network devices at home, sharing a CD will become impossibly.  
  • One solution to this, touted by a friend, was to “bring along your iPod“.  Disregarding that I wouldn’t have an iPod, introducing this as a solution means I would have to ensure that my portable music player is up to date with all my music.  A solution to that is, of course, a cloud-based music service – iTunes and Google Play Music are two obvious contenders.  But there’s a further problem: connectivity.  Is a 3.5mm headphone plug to amp/speakers standard equipment in most households?  Unlikely.  So there my music stays, locked inside my device unable to be shared.
  • Books.  I can pick up a physical book, read it, share it.  I will probably get my book back if the borrower is respectful, thus I haven’t been denied it in the process of lending.  Can the same be said of eBooks?  Can one “lend” an eBook to a friend?  Perhaps.  More worryingly, though,, can it even be guaranteed that any digital eBook provider will not alter original material or remove any purchased books from my library?  Again, unlikely.
  • We begin to see, further and further, that DRM is abused by on-line content providers.  We are restricted in new ways that the old ways couldn’t (and shouldn’t) prevent.  It is troubling that access to information is price-controlled in this way; entire cultural values can and will be influenced by the (lack of) availability and slowly, surely, belief systems and perceptions of free thinking and free will may be curtailed, even ceasing to (legally) exist.   Hello, 2084. 
    This is why I will not lock my photo, book or audio content in any on-line silo.  I will always have off-line access to my copies of digital media and I encourage others to do this also.
    Does this make me a stubborn git? Or does this make me someone who is not prepared to endure extortionate business practices with items as important as art, literature and music…?

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