Oh, “open” enthusiasts. Is there anyone more earnest than you? More painfully naive? More annoyingly utopian? More willfully obtuse in the name of their cause?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to tell you all about “Apple’s Crystal Prison and the Future of Open Platforms”
“Crystal Prison.” That was a Doors song, right?
Two weeks ago, Steve Wozniak made a public call for Apple to open its platforms for those who wish to tinker, tweak and innovate with their internals.
Two weeks ago, Steve Wozniak called for Apple to jettison all its existing customers in order to chase a tiny market of techno nerds who frankly prefer free software and would never buy Apple products anyway, and wasn’t it obvious 30 years ago that Woz wasn’t the Steve with business skills?
EFF supports Wozniak’s position: while Apple’s products have many virtues, they are marred by an ugly set of restrictions on what users and programmers can do with them. This is most especially true of iOS, though other Apple products sometimes suffer in the same way.
Like, have you ever tried booting into open firmware on iPod Socks? It’s impossible!
There is no doubt that, with many of its rules, Apple is having its cake and eating it, too. But the Macalope rejects the notion that there is no benefit to customers. You only have to look at the “malware cesspool” that is Android to see that. A cesspool? That’s the worst kind of pool ever! That’s not good for cool fun on a hot summer day!
This is what the EFF would condemn us to.
See, here’s the thing. We already have an experiment and control for this hypothesis. And pardon the Macalope for being an Apple iSheep but he’s happy to be in the group with more restrictions, and which doesn’t have him soaking his furry hide in a cesspool, thank you very much.
Oh, he supports the EFF’s “Bill of rights for mobile computer owners” in theory, particularly the second two—the ability to install other operating systems and hardware warranties that are separate from software warranties. That, in particular, should be a given. But Apple’s already shown that locking down the first two—the ability to install arbitrary applications and access to the OS as root—makes a platform demonstrably more secure. The Macalope thinks these restrictions should be on by default and rather hard to find.
The problem, of course, is that users are stupid. The EFF and Cory Doctorow and the Open Source Unicorn don’t want to admit that, but the user is the real vector of attack for most malware. If you make turning these things off an option and you open the store to all software, it’ll be about 3.5 seconds before someone posts an app that says “Hey, noticed you’re not running as root. What’s up with that?! Click OK to run as root and, oh, thanks for all your information, bye now.”
It’s true that you might accidentally install malware if you get software from outside of Apple’s App Stores. But while Apple tries to test all submitted apps to see if they’re malicious, they don’t always succeed.
So, let’s completely stop trying! The cesspool is open, come on in!
Yes, the App Store rules are set up to favor the house and, yes, there probably is another way that Apple could set this stuff up that strikes a better balance for everyone. But it’s actually working better for the user than the alternative. To deny that is deny reality.
Which is par for the course for open source enthusiasts.
[Editors’ Note: In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]