What if Hardware Vendors are Trapped Too?
February 9, 2007 Leave a comment
chromatic has a very good post on his blog about hardware vendors providing open drivers and specs. This is a topic I've covered before. In the post he goes through a variety of reasons you'll often see from vendors and gives a counterpoint. His conclusion sums it up very well though:
Unfortunately, the best choice is not to buy such hardware, when possible. (It’s often a question of pragmatism versus expedience, where short-term benefits mask long-term problems.)
That’s often not possible, especially when buying specialized hardware or devices with difficult-to-replace components, such as laptops.
However, it's clear that the normal approach – that is, complaining in small groups and rewarding vendors with your business anyway – is not working. Nor does reverse engineering drivers address the root of the problem. It's valuable in that it mitigates the damage, but it does little to prevent further problems.
Acknowledging vendors with the courage to deal with their customers respectfully and honestly may help. Free and open source software advocates can do a much better job of praising honest efforts to work with communities – and to encourage other companies to do so in a mutually beneficial way.
The ultimate long-term answer is continued work to produce actual and lasting reform of legal systems that reward information hoarding to dangerous extremes. This change will only occur with focused and directed action from the people affected. This means you. Have you shared your concerns about software patents with your legal representative lately? (However, if you like software patents and DRM that prevents fair use, then now is a time for very quiet reflection.)
It’s unfortunate that the acts of a few dedicated individuals and companies have so punished both vendors and their customers. Instead of casting aspersions on each other, perhaps working together for common interests will both increase the market for high-quality hardware from trustworthy vendors and provide free and open source communities with open and redistributable drivers and specifications.
He's right: we should do a better job of dealing with vendors with the courage to deal with their customers respectfully and honestly. Fixing a very broken legal system is also certainly the long term answer. The question becomes, what is the best way to make this happen in an expeditious manner. There's probably no one specific answer, but focused and directed action also seems like the best course to me. If you have a few free moments today, why not take action yourself. What you do is up to you, but do something. In the end, it's up to all of us.