Rant: Sheep on the Internet

Lately, I’ve been coming across more and more articles/blogposts on the internet that are either misleading, completely BS, or both. And even worse is that all the sheep that are whining have absolutely no fucking idea of what’s actually going on.

One such incident is about outrage at Spore’s DRM. Ideonexus has an interesting opinion on this one, which I completely agree with.

But mainly I want to focus on a recent Slashdot post, because alot of their posts lately fall along the lines of pure BS, but this one takes the cake. Slashdot, you’re letting me down. The post I’m referring to is “Apple Declares DRM War On Sneaker Hackers“. This post is not just 100% BS in it’s assertions, but just plain propaganda. Here are the assertions of the post:

“Nicholas Carr is not pleased that Apple has applied for a patent to extend DRM to tennis shoes and other articles of clothing. Apple apparently views tennis-shoe DRM as a way to head off a potential plague of sneaker hacking. ‘Some people,’ the patent application observes, ‘have taken it upon themselves to remove the sensor from the special pocket of the [iPod-linked] Nike+ shoe and place it at inappropriate locations (shoelaces, for example) or place it on non-Nike+ model shoes.'”

Ok, I’ll agree that the Slashdot synopsis pretty much sums up the content of the article. But why would this even be posted on Slashdot? Sheep, I tell you. Just reposting and linking to an article that in itself if 100% BS. About a topic that neither the poster on Slashdot or the writer of the original article understands even in the slightest. In fact, it seems as if nobody has even bothered to actually READ the patent application.

First of all, filing a patent has nothing to do with restricting people from removing their devices. It only restricts others from making a similar device.

Second of all, the patent doesn’t really address the iPod part of it at all. It’s about making sure the sensor(ie. accelerometer, not the ipod) is paired with the correct garment(in this case shoe). From an engineering standpoint, this makes perfect sense due to calibration issues(lets say the stiffness/flexure of the sole). This is what the patent is about.

Third of all, the patent does not cover putting a sensor in a garment or shoe. Others are still free to do that. It just covers the method of authenticating the garment with the shoe(garment).

And most importantly, exactly what the fuck does this have to do with DRM? I’d be really curious to know what bodily orifice that claim came from, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the mouth. Oh yeah, it would make a good sensionalistic headline to lead the sheep to water. Authenticating 2 devices to each other has nothing to do with DRM. We may as well start complaining about all the DRM in just about every modern car. Yeah, you know, most new models have a chip in the key that needs to be authenticated by the car before the ignition will start. I guess that’s now considered DRM?

That article has more holes in it than a block of swiss cheese. Actually, it has has more holes in it than the grater used to shred it.

But sure, let all the sheep blame that evil corporation Apple. Because if Slashdot says it’s true, it must be true. Really, I saw it on the internet.

And for the record, I am anti DRM, and not very pro Apple either.

(HT ClintJCL)


~ by chriggy on September 14, 2008.

19 Responses to “Rant: Sheep on the Internet”

  1. I sure as hell would rather pirate Spore than buy it. At least it wasn’t like Quake3 where you had to purchase 3 copies to play online on 3 computers, but what they put in is way more than is needed. All that is needed for any game is a simple online check. And EA already scaled back the DRM for the next game in response to the outrage — 5 licenses instead of 3, and only one-time authentication instead of authentication every time (which is bad – what happens when the company’s servers go down, like when Microsoft took down their DRM servers and nobody could play their purchased music anymore?)

    This is a positive thing, and is a direct result of the action of these “sheep”.

  2. And, you know, if you don’t like certain editors on Slashdot — you can remove their stories from your preferences. Lots of people hate Zonk.

    Also – from an engineering standpoint, it may make sense to pair a sensor with a specific garment. But from a freedom of technology standpoint — if I’ve bought a sensor, I’ll do whatever the hell I want with it. You quoted the patent as specifically saying “some people have taken the sensor and put it on non-Nike shoes”. If they are preventing that through device pairing that is not required for the device to function — then yes, that is unnecessary DRM, whether or not you think it meets youro wn definition of the word.

    And yes, those VAT keys that have chips on them are a form of DRM. It may not meet the strict definition, but it meets a lose definition. Technological words do not have exact and unchanging definitions. Just look at “hacker” in 1980 and today.

    I can’t just take my key to the shop to get it cloned; I have to pay extra for the dealer to give me a new set of digital credentials (the key chip) to be able to use my own car. As if a skilled car thief can’t hot-wire my car anyway. I’d rather have a key I can make a spare of at Home Depot. I only have 1 left. I definitely consider that a form of DRM, though I never thought of it until now.

  3. First of all, you’re not buying the sensor, you’re buying a system that’s meant to work together as a system.

    Calling it DRM is ludicrous. Just how loose do you want to get on the definition? Because then just about anything that is meant to be paired together is DRM’ed. You motherboard? Only takes a certain type of Intel/AMD chip, right? DRM. What, my telephone wont’t work without a handset? DRM.

    But let’s address the freedom of technology aspect. Ummm, just how does device pairing keep you from doing what you want with it? You apparently also have not read the patent. The proposed method uses an RFID tag embedded in the shoe. In the proposed method, the sensor is also embedded in the sole of the shoe. Translation: In order to get at the sensor you would have to cut your shoe open. If you’re going to do that, just what exactly is preventing you from cutting out the RFID chip as well, and placing both the sensor AND RFID on a different shoe? Nothing! Unless you’re really going to stretch things and say that embedding the sensor in the shoe is in itself a form of DRM.

  4. response to your paragraph1: If I’m buying something that contains a sensor, I’m buying a sensor. Similarly, when I buy my house, I’m also buying my heating unit, and the toilets within it. Nice try to simply call a spade something else, but if a sensor is part of what I buy, I am buying it.

    response to paragraph2: You quite conveniently ignored a clause of what I said — “device pairing that is not required for the device to function”. A motherboard only takes a certain type of chip because that is how it is engineered. That is not DRM. DRM would be if the motherboard had the capabilities to take chips, but had extra functionality installed preventing you from excercising your digital rights. But obviously you can’t stick an american plug in a european outlet – that’s not DRM. DRM in this context is when you go and add something not functionality required, who’s only functionality is to reduce functionality, which is exactly what they are doing. They even said it in their parent – people are putting the sensors on other shoes. Now, were these sensors only engineered to work on certain brand shoes? If so, why are people moving them to other shoes? Looks like they added an unnecessary restriction.

    response to paragraph 3 – This is getting into minutia of the particular case, and I am more concerned with the overtones and generalities. However, if I own the shoe, I should be able to cut exactly what I want out of it. If I have to cut a 2nd part out simply because the 1st part comes with crippleware functionality that prevents it from working without the 2nd part — That’s twice the cutting, and that is definitely a restriction. Your argument seems to be coming from a standpoint of practicality. Hell, if I steal a penny from you every day, I probably wont bankrupt you, so why not let me? Because many people hvae basic principles of not wanting to be wronged, even a little bit. This is one of them. I would never buy such a device (assuming I was informed about this! it could always happen by accident!), and would buy a competitor, if given.

  5. In case the above comment needs some clarification — If you were to force-wire a chip a motherboard is not engineered for (tough, but physically possible) … It would likely break. Nobody has decided to “manage” any digital rights. It would just fry, spark, catch on fire — You’re more likely to know than me, though I’ve had to blow a fire out on an Asus video card before (brand banned for life!, and now I grab a fire extinguisher any time my computer wont turn on the first try).
    At the point where the setup would work, and they have gone in and introduced software (firmware really, I guess) that prevents, say, you from using a processor that was not pre-approved (something I’ve done), then they are managing your digital rights. It’s not just simple a matter of the components being able to function or not; they can, but they are being told not to.

    My technology does what *I* say it should do, not somebody else.
    I wish more people stood up for that.

    (For background on my processor installation anecdote, barely related: My old computer Storm was upgraded for several months before finally dying — and maybe it was me who caused the motherboard to fry, but a critical fan had failed and that was the more likely culprit … By running a CPU that was 1700mHz on bios that only supported 1200mHz. It actually involved some sick logic that I briefly understood… basically faking out the cpu multiplier bit via strange BIOS settings that shouldn’t make sense… I had a guru help me.)

  6. Ok, got to modify my CSS to put the comment number in front of the comment 🙂

    #4: Interesting that you should mention houses and heating units. Yes, you bought the heating unit with your house. You’re free to do with it as you wish. However, let’s say you want to replace it. Do you have electric or gas? What is the cost to switch from one type of system to the other? Probably more than it’s worth paying. Now let’s move on to AC units. The compressor sitting outside the house has to be matched to the coils on the inside of the house. Generally this means they have to be from the same manufacturer. You got a problem with that?

    I didn’t ignnore “device pairing that is not required for the device to function”. In this case, it is required. In order to get accurate data, you need to know the shoe type and placement of the accelerometer(calibration issues). But just to bring up a more everyday type of situation, I own a wireless grill thermometer. If the sensor probe is removed, it won’t work. I can’t buy a 3rd party probe. Problem with that too?

    “Now, were these sensors only engineered to work on certain brand shoes? If so, why are people moving them to other shoes?”

    Umm, yes. To get accurate information you need to know thing such as sensor placement and shoe stiffness. If they where designed for certain Nike shoes, then that’s what they were designed for. As an Engineer, this makes perfect sense to me. Will your car work with someone else’s ECU?

    Your clarification does not help your case. It might not be DRM per se, but force wiring a chip into a motherboard is going to cost you alot more time an effort than cutting a second chip out of a shoe, which is pretty trivial.

    Furthermore, the patent doesn’t restrict anybody from hacking the sensor to not need the RFID chip. It merely keeps them from marketing and reselling it.

  7. Actually, no. It doesn’t even keep them from doing that.

  8. P0: Hmm, CSS modification costs money. I hadn’t noticed the missing numbers. Might be part of the theme?

    P1: I don’t have a problem with that, as long as the devices are not self-disabling simply by virtue of detecting another manufacturer. Though my units certainly aren’t advanced enough to know what the other one is. It sounds to me like you’re simply describing a round peg that wont fit in a square hole (american plugs are not DRM because they can’t be used in european circuits).

    P2: That’s just a bloody rationalization! You’re assuming the manufacturer is somehow the ultimate and final authority of what as accurate or not, and you’re assuming that the person using the chip is incapable of making his own decisions about accuracy. I’m not sure what your definition of freedom is, but for me, it means using things as *I* see fit, not as some engineer writing a spec sees fit. Next thing you know, they’ll make Q-tips that detect my ears and wont go in them!

    P2 part 2: Depends why you can’t buy a 3rd party probe. Are they not available, or is there some intelligent software detecting that the probe is not ‘their’ probe? If so, then I would have a big problem with that, and would like to know the name of the company so I can not purchase anything they have.

    P3&4: See my response to P2.

    P5: You’re getting distracted by the practicality. I’m talking basic ideals. It doesn’t matter if the wiring takes 1 minute or 1,000 years for the purposes of my earlier statements. The reason that the CPU would not work is not some nefarious firmware telling me it’s refusing to do its job because my rights have been managed by some decision ingrained in the cicruit. The reason that the CPU would not work is simply that CPUs are complicated things and not every motherboard can contain enough engnieering to understand every CPU.

    P6: Having to hack something to make it do what it can already do is a quite an insult to me. Though it seems to be becoming the norm more and more. (You use CHDK or whatever it’s called for your camera, I have a modded PS2, some people jailbreak their iPhones, etc.)

    The resell doesn’t concern me as much, and honestly is the part I have the least problem with. I’d need to know more details to really have an informed decision on that. But if someone sells me a car, I’m allowed to take its tires and put them on a different car and resell them. And even copyrighted works fall under the First Sale doctrine – basically, I can sell it to whoever I want after I buy it. So when I really think about it, I might still have a problem with this as well. If it’s restricted to the 7/17 year patent length that could be harmful for innovation but helpful for the company. Tough call, tho I tend to prefer innovation over all.

  9. P0:I know about CSS modification. I’ve already paid the fee(not because of the numbering). But yes, it’s part of the theme. I rather like this theme, but there are some shortcomings I want to modify. I just noticed the numbering and just wanted to add it to my to do list.

    P1: From my point of view, it doesn’t make any difference if it’s a square peg in a round hole, or whether it’s done digitally. Ideologically it’s the same.

    P2: Yes, I am assuming the manufacturer is the ultimate and final authority on what’s accurate or not. Why? Because I work with and design systems using sensors(including accelerometers). And quite honestly the customer In most cases is NOT qualified to make that decision. They just care that it works as promised.

    P5: Impractical ideals are pointless. You know who practices impractical idealism? People who think that teaching abstinence is actually going to work.

    P6: This is completely off topic. I paid for a camera with certain specs for a certain price. Not really related to this discussion though.

    P7: This also has absolutely nothing to do with first sale doctrine. As far as patents go, yes, they’re supposed to be helpful for the inventor. That’s the whole basis of the patent system. Basically, you get the reward for innovation. A limited time monopoply, in exchange for publishing to the world how to recreate your invention, vs keeping the info proprietary. Granted, the patent system has some flaws(such as the length of the protection period), but that’s a whole other topic.

  10. One last thing. Apple getting this patent would actually be a good thing. It would keep others from pairing their sensors. Which would mean the competition would have to pay licensing fees or not use that technology. Which could very easily drive consumers to the competition. As we all know, this wouldn’t be the first instance of Apple shooting itself in the foot(pun intended).

  11. P1: So something not working because it physically can’t, and something not working because someone else told it not to (when it CAN work)– are the same ideologically? No. Not at all. I don’t know how you can sit there and say that.

    P2: Wow. I guess corporations should dictate how we use anything we can use, huh? Who are we, but mere peons, unable to live up to the ivory towers of those paid to professionally know about things. How dare we try to exercise any freedom or discretion of our own. Like I said, and you conveniently ignored — someone might want to use the sensor for an application where accuracy is not important. Because when I buy an item, I’m not buying the ability to use it as I see fit? Instead, I must answer to a central authority?

    Wow. Sounds like you ascribe your own personal expertise with some things as being a rationalization for corporate control over private property. I find that fascist.

    P5: Way to ignore what I said again. My point had nothing to do with that specific example, but instead all you could think about was the example I gave. This seems to be exact same confusion that I talk about in P1. You seem to think something not working is the same (or “idelogically” the same) as DRM. It’s not. Impossibility — and possiblity stopped only by someone else “managing” your property — are not the same thing. One is a horse with no legs; the other is a horse with its legs shackled to a pole.

    P6: Not at all off topic. This is about using your hardware as you see fit. Exactly the same thing. Lucky for you your camera doesn’t prohibit the operation of CHKD, or you’d have no battery percentage left indicator. Lucky for you there aren’t intentionally locks on this functionality.

    P7: I brought up first sale doctrine because they might try to say the software on it is copyrighted even after the patent expires. It wasn’t intended to be about patents, sorry for the confusion.

  12. P1: It’s a device meant to measure distance traveled. In order to that it needs to know about the shoe. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.

    P2: Once again, you are looking at it ideologically, vs practically. You bought it to measure distance. They probably have some software to give accurate results with certain shoes. I’m glad you mentioned the case about someone who doesn’t care about accuracy, though. That person is a moron. If accuracy is not important, a pedometer will do the same job. You can get one for $3. Why spend $30 for the Apple kit? And if you’re trying to do something entirely different with it, there are also cheaper and more practical alternatives.

    It’s also not about necessarily corporate control, it’s about making sure things work. I do a lot of work with embedded type systems. It’s about making things robust. If a sensor failure occurs(or in this case, if the shoe is mismatched with the sensor), I’d rather have the system not work at all as opposed to putting out garbabge data.

    P6: You can still use your hardware as you see fit. As an Engineer I can guarantee you 2 things. The first thing I will guarantee you is that Apple buys these off the shelf. They’re not in the business of making accelerometers. The thing consists of a cheap(REAL cheap) accelerometer mounted on a PCB. If the sensor is what you’re after, remove it from the PCB.

    P7: Still don’t see where you were going with that. Copyright doesn’t prevent you from reselling your software, or anyone else from reverse engineering it.

  13. P1: You ignored my question and brought up a specific situation in response to a general question. Avoidance.

    P2: And you’re still missing me: The specifics DO NOT MATTER. Take the specifics, and draw blanks over them. Just because this device happens to be “X” where you can by something else that does “X” for $3 has *nothing* to do with the right or wrong of the situation. Maybe someone works at a shoestore that closed, has a ton of leftover shoes, and wants to use them to form a jacket that lights up when you move around. It doesn’t matter. Reality is pretty complicated, and components are re-used in many ways that are not the intended way. That’s part of innovation. I don’t know how as an engineer you cna act like you can’t imagine a situation where someone might want to use these things — but even if you can’t, it doesn’t matter. The right or wrong is not based on how easy someone can do the same thing with something else.

    You then talk about what you want, but this isn’t about what you want. This is about letting a person do what they want. You seem to be using your own expertise as a justification for limiting others. Maybe I’m just looking for a binary value, and accuracy matters now. It doesn’t matter!!

    P7: Copyright has indeed been used to prevent resell of software. Google about Microsoft and people selling windows on Ebay. People have had to re-assert Doctrine Of First Sale in the courts — I believe in the last 6 months. That’s why I mentioned that.

  14. (*used windows, not counterfeit windows, obviously!:))

  15. ugh, i wish i could edit my comments – “and accuracy matters NOT” is what i meant.

  16. “This is about letting a person do what they want.”

    You hit the nail on the head there. Exactly. You see, I don’t distinguish between individuals or corporations. An individual or corporation(and many corporations are run by individuals) has the right to design a product to work, or not work, in whichever fashion they see fit. The consumer has the right to modify to modify that product to make it work the way they want(except that that may run afoul of DMCS, which is a crock of shit). That doesn’t mean the designer needs to make it easy for you to do so. The consumer also has the right to vote with their wallet and not buy said product, or better yet, design a better alternative.

    You see, for each restriction the manufacturer adds, there will be a competitive market for the same type of item without restrictions.

    As far as copyright goes, I’d like to see how those cases went. Copyright should not prevent resale. I sure do hope that first sale doctrine was upheld.

    But this whole discussion has gotten really off topic. My post was about the fact that the majority of the people posting or commenting on slashdot(if you look at some of their claims) have absolutely no idea or technical knowledge of what they are complaining about. This was merely one very blatant example of that.

  17. (I think you meant DMCA?)

    Not distinguishing between individuals and corporations is a great way to pull the wool over your own eyes. Fact of the matter is, even if corporations are legally identical to people (which they aren’t — ever seen a corporation given the death sentence for murder? I haven’t.), they AREN’T people, and they aren’t the same thing. The corporate charter has gone way too far, and corporations are largely not held accountable for their actions.

    As for sheep – I think following a large trend of people railing against something I consider evil is about the most noble form of “sheepism” in existence.

    It seems to me that you are calling a large group of people sheep not because of why you think you are, but because they simply believe something different than you. You claim they don’t understand, but honestly, after this discussion, it seems you are the one that doesn’t understand. (Too bad you’re not part of a larger group, or I could call you a sheep! :P) I’ve read the articles, I’ve read what it does. You don’t really need to go into the patent-level detail to understand the issue, though you tried to disguise it as being “too complicated for the layman; I know because I’m an engineer”; that doesn’t stop the reality of the situation from being understandable to others, including non-techies.

    And the “consumer also has the right to not buy it” is a classic conservative-oriented “the market will fix itself” argument. Not every person who can buy a pedometer can afford to run a business making and selling pedometers. (Probably less than 0.1%!) And alternatives don’t necessarily exist. Choice existing somewhere else doesn’t mean choice here isn’t being taken away.

    I fail to see anything sheepish about joining any group of people and standing up to what IS indeed DRM that prevents you from using functional hardware as you see fit.

    Some other random comments from other people:

    “I got the impression from the patent you would utterly wreck the shoe by taking the authenticating RFID chip out – to work it would have to be buried within it pretty inaccessibly. Like you’d have to dig it out of the rubber sole or something.”

    “Hmmm sounds like a lot of bureaucratic big brother syndrome to me… ”

    “rm just a thought here – but if people remove the sensor and put it on a different shoe..then what stops them removing the RFID tag too?? rendering the system pointless”
    -Yes, but what if the RFID tag gets broken? A perfectly good sensor disables itself using DRM. Better buy more Nikes!

    “In most case the trainers won’t last as long as the pedometer. So I would be tempted to remove the pedometer from the shoes when they are worn out. This prevents your from salvaging a good pedometer from worn-out shoes. Forcing you to buy Nike again if you want to keep this feature.”

    “I pay for the shoes I can do whatever the hell I want with them. God, screw yourselves and your chinese slave labor.”

    “Well I’ll never be able to use the Nike Plus Ipod thing now. I have wide feet and Nike shoes don’t fit (in mens sizes they offer “D” width only), so I have to wear New Balance shoes because they fit my feet. :(”

    “Fascism brought you the Volkswagon, but Communism brought you the Yugo. You decide!”

    (last one included for humor)

  18. Yes, the market will fix itself is my mentality. You’re not going to change that, so no use arguing about. I would like to bring up some issues that aren’t being brought up in comments or the articles.

    Does anybody know what Apple is actually planning to do with it? No. Yes, they could potentially enter into an exclusive agreement. Or, they could also take it in a completely different direction, and license the technology to any shoemaker that wants it. Now let’s assume that the sensor remains the way it is as an external device. Hmm, now you can switch your sensor to a different shoe and still get accurate results. Now wouldn’t that just be awful. Seeing as they don’t get residuals from the sensors(unlike iPhone), this would actually be a much smarter business strategy.

    Also, from the claims and wording in the patent, it indeed appears this is what their plan is. For instance:

    “It should be noted that at any time, any of sensors 306 can be swapped for any other sensor or interchanged between any of garments 308 thereby affording the user complete freedom of association between available sensors, garment inventory, or sensor/garment replacements. ”

    “In this way, an extensive database of pertinent garment data can be stored and made available for the user and any other interested party such as a manufacturer interested in garment wear patterns, a user interested in correlating specific garment design to user performance statistics as would be the case with running shoes and run times, for example. Such data can include specific performance data (number of hours of use from time of purchase, for example) and any other data deemed appropriate. It should be noted that there could be a one-to-one correspondence between a particular garment and a particular tag identifier at a time. However, at any time, a particular tag identifier can be re-assigned to any other garment simply by removing the identification module associated with the particular tag identifier from one garment and placing it onto or in another garment. Moreover, the tag identifier can itself be re-assigned by, for example, re-programming a non-volatile type memory device (incorporated in the identification module) into which the particular tag identifier had been previously programmed.”

    Why don’t I see these things being brought up? Hmmm, cause none of the sheep actually read the whole patent. And that’s why I am calling them sheep. If someone has read the whole patent and wishes to complain and have an opinion on the matter, that’s great. But anyone who hasn’t bothered to do so doesn’t have all the info to form an informed opinion, and is therefore a sheep(including the author of the original article).

  19. Interesting article:


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