Day 20 -- Vista

Here at DefectiveByDesign we have been working towards the goal of making Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) a socially unacceptable technology practice. That message is spreading.

By highlighting the threat DRM posses not just to consumer rights but to our freedom to be in control of our computers and electronic devices, we have been able to gain widespread political support.

For the last two years, the BadVista campaign has been an advocate for the freedom of computer users, opposing adoption of Microsoft Windows Vista and promoting free (as in freedom) software alternatives.

As Bruce Schneier explains:

Windows Vista includes an array of "features" that you don't want. These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure. They'll make your computer less stable and run slower. They will cause technical support problems. They may even require you to upgrade some of your peripheral hardware and existing software. And these features won't do anything useful. In fact, they're working against you. They're digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest of the entertainment industry--And you don't get to refuse them.

DRM gives power to Microsoft and Big Media.

  • They decide which programs you can and can't use on your computer
  • They decide which features of your computer or software you can use at any given moment
  • They force you to install new programs even when you don't want to (and, of course, pay for the privilege)
  • They restrict your access to certain programs and even to your own data files

DRM is enforced by technological barriers. You try to do something, and your computer tells you that you can't. To make this effective, your computer has to be constantly monitoring what you are doing. This constant monitoring uses computing power and memory, and is a large part of the reason why Microsoft is telling you that you have to buy new and more powerful hardware in order to run Vista. They want you to buy new hardware not because you need it, but because your computer needs it in order to be more effective at restricting what you do.

Microsoft and other computer companies sometimes refer to these restrictions as "Trusted Computing" -- given that they are designed to make it so that your computer stops trusting you and starts trusting Microsoft, these restrictions are more appropriately called “Treacherous Computing”. After all, who should your computer take its orders from? Most people think their computers should obey them, not obey someone else.