This Week in Web #39

Software and Terms of Service Control Ownership

You don’t own the things that you pay for if those things are based around software. Nowadays, that is describing more and more things.

HP has caused a minor uproar with a new update for their Office Jet line of printers, which included a DRM lock which is intended to block third party ink cartridges from working. Customers were not happy. HP backtracked on this particular update, but they didn’t explain exactly how they were going to implement it or how they would avoid doing the same in a future update.

When you purchase something you should be free to do what you want with it. HP is losing market share on printers, and forcing you to buy their ink (probably the most expensive liquid you’ll ever buy) is a desperate gambit to maintain that revenue. The ability to use whatever ink you purchase should be obvious. The ability to do what you want with your ebooks should also be obvious, even if a Quartz poll (on terms of service no less!) shows that most readers don’t understand that.

You can choose not to install updates to firmware, and hope that your device still works. But what if you miss out on an important security update? One that allows someone to gain control of your device for use in a botnet, or to remotely set your printer on fire.

What about wanting to use your device after the manufacturer no longer supports it? In the past week I’ve been unable to find firmware updates for a bluetooth controller that came from Kickstarter a few years ago and was sold in major retailers. The website simply no longer exists, and a mirror for the firmware and instructions is hard to find, if it exists at all. Narrative, the life logging camera that also came out of Kickstarter shut down on Monday, though their website doesn’t even acknowledge this yet, instead saying that cameras can’t be purchased because demand is too high.

I waited over a year to get my camera after purchase, yet a few months later it is effectively an expensive puck, until they release their promised photo retrieval tool. Which they have no obligation or timeline to actually do. If they do release a tool it could arguably improve my usage over being tied into their system. If they don’t, the DMCA and other laws could legally halt others from creating free, open source tools to get back usage of your camera.

If you want to be able to use whatever ink you want in your printer, or think that this is an important first step into affirming your rights over the things that you pay for, the EFF has an open letter that you can sign to the CEO of HP, which has garnered over 11,000 signatures so far.

Pepe is the Alt-Right Poster Child. Image courtesy CommanderCorson
Pepe is the Alt-Right Poster Child. Image courtesy CommanderCorson

Anti-Defamation League Declares Pepe the Frog a Hate Symbol

Sarah Begley, Time

The life cycle of any meme is strange. They can transcend the internet and enter popular culture. They can become newsworthy items on their own. Or they can completely eclipse their original meaning. Some even gain additional life and find a way to reach more people positively, as the creator of the Equity vs. Equality meme describes in the second life of his presentation slide.

Pepe the frog did not get this positive treatment. It moved from a webcomic character into a symbol of the new breed of white supremacists who hide their terribleness behind the name “alt-right”.

Can you abuse technology? It certaintly works the other way around!

Frank Buytendijk, Gartner

Techno-anger, the new rage affliction? All of us yell at our devices every once in a while. Some parents are making their kids say please and thank you to Siri and Alexa. Someone thanking Google becomes a news story. Research by Dr. Sheryl Brahnam suggests that anti-social behavior with computer agents is both common and something that should be avoided if possible.

Neiman Marcus and Vogue blame fashion’s woes on bloggers: β€œYou are heralding the death of style”

Marc Bain, Quartz

Vogue and Neiman Marcus are mad at bloggers. In the world of fashion capitalism maybe some of their points are valid. Or maybe they are making less money while paradoxically having to pay less for advertising of new fashion.

The gatekeepers of old industries are losing their grasp, and they don’t like it. Anyone has the ability to make a change online and anyone can find a voice given an internet connection and effort. The complaints of these gatekeepers will get louder and more frequent as their power over PR is eclipsed by the voices of their fans.

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