Furry and elusive

The Macalope will likely be laying low this week. Please talk amongst yourselves.

Can't hear your utopian vision over the sound of my iPod.

Cory Doctorow takes his cardboard sign that says “DRM-ER, REPENT!” to Salon today to harangue you mindless sheeple who continue to buy iPods.

Tsk. You idiots.

Doctorow doesn’t believe Steve Jobs when he says he’d drop DRM in a hearbeat if the recording companies would let him, saying Apple is enjoying the benefits of locking customers into iTunes. If Jobs is serious, he asks, why won’t Apple sell songs from artists who own their own music and want it to be sold DRM-free? Why are some podcasts DRMed and some DRM-free? Why has Apple always sold Pixar movies with DRM? Why was Apple’s first pitch to the music companies to sell DRM-free music?

Whoops, he didn’t say that last one.

To be sure, though, Jobs is only talking about music. No one is under any illusions that the movie business is going to budge one inch. The Macalope will stipulate that there is a bizarre inconsistency in the treatment of the two media. One’s DRM is under attack, the other’s is not.

Mr. Gruber has opined here on whether or not Apple would offer both DRMed and DRM-free music and the Macalope agrees with his analysis – it’s going to take some critical mass to get Apple to do it (not just a smattering of indy bands), but if one of the companies says “OK”, Apple better come through.

As for podcasts being offered both ways, it is an inconsistency, but consumers of podcasts are almost certainly more aware of what the heck DRM is in the first place.

Doctorow does make some good points but, as usual for him with this subject, he’s so wound up about it that he keeps heading off into la-la-koo-koo crazy-bananas land to make sure you know how bad DRM is.

Apple may have created a successful “Switch” campaign by reverse-engineering Microsoft products like PowerPoint to make Keynote, an Apple program that lets you run old PowerPoint decks on your Mac, but Microsoft can’t create a “Switch to the Zune” campaign that offers you the ability to play your iTunes Store songs on a Zune, Microsoft’s latest abortive iPod-killer.

What? Apple’s “Switch” campaign is based on getting PowerPoint files to open in Keynote? Since when? Apple’s own “Get A Mac” ads actually reference the Mac version of Microsoft Office, not iWork.

The Macalope knows Doctorow is trying to compare Microsoft’s lock on office applications to Apple’s lock on digital music, but it’s a rather tortured comparison. Even MP3s are not editable in the way a PowerPoint presentation is.

Not only won’t your iTunes Store music play on those devices, it’s illegal to try to get it to play on those devices.

Doctorow doesn’t say it explicitely, but he seems to be implying that even burning an audio CD of your iTunes Store purchases and re-ripping them as MP3s is illegal under the DCMA. The Macalope has never heard that before and is inclined to think that’s not true, but he wouldn’t be completely surprised to find out it is. You would have to re-enter all the metadata and for a large number of tracks that’s going to be a huge pain in the ass.

Doctorow then plays his Apple street cred card again.

I’m a lifelong Apple fan boy — I have an actual Mac tattoo…

That’s cute. As long as we’re whipping it out and comparing sizes here, the Macalope feels compelled to point out that he has a head actually shaped like a Mac.

So… you know…


If you rip your own CDs and load them onto your iPod, you’ll notice something curious.

The iPod is a roach motel: Songs check in, but they don’t check out. Once you put music on your iPod, you can’t get it off again with Apple’s software. No recovering your music collection off your iPod if your hard drive crashes.

So now the complaint is that the iPod isn’t an archival device? Well, it’s probably good you’ve got the CDs, then.

The Macalope thinks the real concern would be your iTunes-purchased music and those files can be copied off your iPod and onto another machine. Frankly, the Macalope doesn’t understand why Apple restricts this feature to iTunes-purchased songs. Probably at the behest of the recording industry which assumes any MP3s you have on your iPod must have been stolen in the first place.

What’s more, Apple prevents copying indiscriminately. You can’t copy any music off your iPod.

Not technically true as you can sync your purchases to another authorized machine. But, yes, you can’t copy them off individually.

Apple even applies the no-copying measure to audio released under a Creative Commons license (for example, my own podcasts), which prohibits adding DRM. The Creative Commons situation is inexcusable; because Creative Commons licenses are machine-readable, iTunes could automatically find the C.C.-licensed works and make them available for copying back to your computer.

Apple has “locked” the iPod so you can’t copy any non-DRMed content synced with iTunes off of it, but the files themselves have not been DRMed. You can copy them from machine to machine a variety of other ways, including using the iPod as a hard drive. It’s a rather stupid encumberance, but it’s not exactly keeping people from copying Creative Commons works. It’s really just saying you can’t use iTunes to do it and if you want to play it and copy it, you have to put it on there twice.

Stupid, yes. Evil? Only if you’re incredibly pedantic about DRM.

Videos you buy from the iTunes Store can only be watched on Apple’s products. So every movie you buy from Apple is a tax down the line of switching from Apple to a competing product.

The Macalope’s got to go with him here. This is a piss-poor situation engendered by the recording industry’s ability years ago to control how DVDs and DVD players were designed. The least the industry and Apple could do is allow customers to burn them to a fixed number of DVDs.

Conceptually, spyware and DRM have the same goals: to do something to your computer that you don’t want to happen.

Oh, please. It’s crap like this that makes Doctorow so unbearable on this issue. Does the Macalope need to point out the difference between consensual sex — albeit with someone who you fear may end up being too clingy but, hey, they’re right there and they’re willing and you wouldn’t even have to get up off of the couch or possibly even move — and, well, getting raped?

At the end of the day, DRM is the biggest impediment to a legitimate music market. Apple doesn’t sell music because of DRM — it sells music in spite of DRM.


Doctorow’s strident war against DRM certainly has a goal the Macalope agrees with. But while the horny one is not naive about the motivations behind Jobs’ statement, he also doesn’t think Doctorow helps his own case by stretching the truth to try to scare the kiddies about Apple’s DRM.

Monkeys flinging their own poo

Apple TKOs Cisco in iPhone bout, analysts say.

As part of the settlement, all legal action on both sides has been dismissed, but the rest of the arrangement’s details remain confidential.

[Emphasis the Macalope's.]

That didn’t stop analysts familiar with Apple, Cisco and the iPhone brouhaha from speculating on who won and, more important, who lost at the negotiation table.


“The rule in Silicon Valley is that if Apple leaves the table smiling, the other guy got screwed,” said Rob Enderle, an independent analyst and principal of the Enderle Group.


Roger Kay, of Endpoint Technologies Associates, agreed. “It certainly looks like Cisco gave away the store.”


Both Enderle and Kay said their take was based on the clear value of the iPhone name, and the vague interoperability promises made in the statement. “I’m not convinced that Cisco got what it wanted out of this,” said Enderle. In the past, he added, Apple has made promises to partners that it didn’t keep. “That’s been a history of deals with Apple. The partner always regrets it.”


As usual, Enderle is talking out of orifices that were not meant for such purposes.

Cisco clearly could not have given a rat’s ass about the iPhone trademark. It Photoshopped the name on existing products to try to give the illusion that it had great big plans for it. Then it happily came to an agreement with a company that was going to put it on a landmark product that will turn Cisco’s use of the trademark into a footnote. A brief anachronism.

Do not, dear readers, shed a single tear over poor Cisco. The Macalope doesn’t know the terms of the deal any more than Enderle does, but whatever it got, it was adequately compensated for half an hour of Photoshopping.

iPhone, youPhone, we all use "iPhone"

Apple and Cisco make a deal (Wall Street Journal subscription-only).

Under the agreement, both companies are free to use the trademark on their products globally and acknowledge the trademark ownership rights that have been granted. Each side will dismiss any pending actions regarding the trademark.

iPhones for everyone!

ADDENDUM: The Macalope would just like to add that this was really a silly thing to worry about. Does anyone really care what the Apple phone was called, as long as it wasn’t called the Apple Portable Communications Device for Business Or Personal Use Brought To You By Cingular, The Greatest Phone Company Ever?

The Macalope never found time to delve into Brier Dudley’s column last week, but one of the standout moments was Dudley coming down with a case of the vapors over Steve Jobs’ lack of concern for U.S. trademark protection.

In just over a month, he’s been flippant about U.S. trademark protection, accounting standards, securities regulators and European antitrust enforcers.

After ignoring Cisco’s trademark on the term “iPhone,” Apple called the resulting lawsuit “silly.”

The Macalope is relieved to see that our great nation survived this month-long crisis.

Grand Theft Options

(Sure, sure, you could see that one coming up De Anza Blvd.)

Ryan Brant, the founder and former CEO and Chairman of Take-Two, makers of Grand Theft Auto, pleads guilty to illegally covering up the backdating of options.

For those of us on Jobs options watch, there are some disturbing results here. Not only was Brant fined, but he was barred from every holding a top office at a publicly traded company again.

However, the charges were considerably different than what Jobs was involved in.

The SEC and New York prosecutors accused Brant of awarding himself 10 backdated option grants from 1997 to 2003 for a total of about 2.1 million shares of Take-Two stock, all of which he exercised before resigning from the company in October.

Looks like Brant will avoid jail, sparing himself the uncomfortable irony of having to do time with actual car-jackers.

And then Norway sued Chrysler

The iPod is not the first in-car system to feature music that can’t be played on another device.

That limited availability – which also meant you could only listen to artists under contract with Columbia – was part of the problem with the option, which died at the end of the model year.

Must the Macalope do everything?

The Macalope had thought the rather inconsequential business of Apple’s decision to charge for its 802.11n enabler was behind us, but two recent posts — one pro and one con — both manage to get it wrong, so he guesses he’s going to have to weigh in on the issue.

The Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley says:

…Apple said generally accepted accounting principles forced it to charge customers $1.99 for a software upgrade. Accounting standard-setters said that’s untrue.

(The Macalope may address the entirety of Dudley’s bone-headed piece in another post.)

Meanwhile, InfoWorld’s Tom Yager says:

Apple is required to charge you for the enabler. 802.11n was R & D intensive; it’s not your granny’s WiFi. You can’t amortize R & D costs against new products–in this case, AirPort Extreme and Apple TV–and then give that same R & D away somewhere else. That would create what’s called an accounting irregularity, and these aren’t popular at places like Apple and Dell just now. The only way to put 802.11n into existing Mac users’ hands was to turn it into a product against which R & D could be charged.

The Macalope knows what you’re saying to yourself. You’re saying, but, Macalope! Those can’t both be right!

(You do know the Macalope can’t hear you when you talk to your computer, right?)

So, mighty Macalope, was Apple required by GAAP to charge customers for the enabler or not?

(Still can’t hear you!)

No, technically it was not. Dudley’s statement is technically correct while Yager’s is technically incorrect.

But before you picket your local Apple Store, you should hear what Dudley jackassically fails to discuss, which Yager does get into. Because Apple’s decision suddenly makes a lot more sense when you look at what the cost to the company would have been to not charge for the enabler.

After apparently receiving some, ahem, negative feedback on his piece, Dudley defends his statement by indignantly linking to a Wall Street Journal piece and pulling a favorable quote. But he ignores one of the piece’s key grafs:

If Apple had given the enhancement away free, Apple’s auditors could have required it to restate revenue for that period and could possibly have required Apple to start in the future to defer all the revenue from computer sales until all such enhancements are shipped, this person said. That would have had a devastating impact on Apple.

Yes, Apple was technically incorrect in stating that it was “required” by GAAP to charge for the enabler. It could just have easily decided to reopen its books (for the second time in about as many months), taken a charge against prior earnings and potentially affected its future ability to recognize revenue when products ship. That sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

In addition to having a responsibility to its customers, Apple has one to its shareholders, and that option is clearly damaging to shareholders.

Ultimately, however, this whole thing is a rather absurd discussion. Are we really arguing over a $1.99 download? And since when did the Wall Street Journal have a cadre of reporters assigned to covering Apple’s accounting treatments?

Can we be done with it now?

Good thing he didn't double-dog dare

Because then this would be really embarrassing.

Cringely on Gates famous challenge to break Windows every month:

According to US-CERT, some 812 Windows vulnerabilities were discovered in 2005 alone — an average of one per month … for 67 years.

The Macalope, his antlers dripping with sarcasm, is sure that won’t happen to Vista (trolls can read a more detailed version of the Macalope’s opinion on Vista security here).

And, speaking of trolls, some of the Macalope’s friends who happen to be trolls may find this amusing (tip o’ the dripping antlers to Wil Wheaton).

And the joke comes full circle!

Step 1: Crazy Apple Rumors invents Artie MacStrawman.

Step 2: Someone starts an Artie MacStrawman blog (actually, the second Artie MacStrawman blog).

Step 3: Irony-deficient security enthusiast takes Artie MacStrawman to task for being… Artie MacStrawman.

I’ll just leave you with this last bit of ignorance from the Artie MacStrawman blog, “I love Apple, Mac OS X is invulnerable and I’d jump off a cliff if Steve asked me to.” and “The Mac is utterly impregnable to attack. I’ll never switch to Windows or Ubuntu or something.” That sums up the thinking of most OS X users… a flawed sort of logic that really makes me believe that OS X is the new Linux… at least when it comes to cocky, arrogant, know-it-all users….

You can’t write this stuff.


Microsoft’s own antivirus fails to secure Vista.

“Vista cannot fend off today’s malware without help from security products. It certainly looks like people upgrading to the new platform are going to need additional security solutions.”