Last week New York Times’ ran a great article on the new Dell Linux laptops. The interesting part of the article is that it not only pointed out the drawbacks to a Linux including the fact that the new Dell machines do not play DVDs out of the box, but also walked users through the process of enabling the DVD drives that come with the computers to play DVDs.
US users acting on these directions may return some balance to the the market for Operating Systems(OS’s). Microsoft and Apple have been using standards and proprietary drivers to lock users into using their OS’s in a practice that is anti-competitive and harmful to consumers. Civil disobedience may be our only tool for asserting users preference and preventing monopolies from controlling users in a democratic system where the legislative process is being controlled by the deep pockets of said monopolies. Civil disobedience is working to bring down the price of music online and remove DRM it may work here too.
Quote from NY Times:
One challenge for Linux users is finding media players that work with encrypted music and DVDs. Ubuntu comes with a movie player, but it is not automatically configured to play copy-protected commercial DVDs. To watch a movie, the Linux user must install necessary codecs, or decoders. One way to do that is to first download a program called Automatix from www.getautomatix.com. When you run that program you get an ominous warning that downloading and installing “non-free codecs without paying a fee to the concerned authorities constitutes a CRIME in the United States of America.” Users in the United States are advised: “please do not install option AUD-DVD.” Users who ignore that legal warning can then configure Ubuntu to play commercial DVDs.
Image from NY Times, edited by Brian Rowe.