Re: [rp-ml] Open source whatchamacallits

From: Steve Baker (
Date: Wed Aug 10 2005 - 17:58:20 EEST

Adrian Bowyer wrote:

> Remember that companies (and money) are only a means to an end, not an end in
> themselves. If it becomes simpler and more efficient to do without either,
> then that's what we will do.

That's true - but companies are self-sustaining, evolving machines. They do
things that no human really wants them to do - but which is fiscally efficient.

Hence, we should expect big companies to resist a world in which they are
no longer required to manufacture things.

Expect strong digital rights management (DRM) on these machines (allegedly to
"protect our designs and intellectual property" - but in fact to lock you
into designs purchased from that company).

This is precisely the way Microsoft have been working to lock out OpenSourced
software. The advent of supposed-DRM built into your computer's hardware at
the CPU level will completely prevent software not 'approved' by them from running
on that machine.

If you find this hard to believe, look at the X-box game console. It has
encryption built into the CPU chip so that the software that allows the X-box
to boot has to be encrypted using a code that only Microsoft knows. This prevents
me from writing my own software to run on that machine. In this particular
case, some clever people figured out a way around it - but you can be absolutely
certain that X-box II will be iron-clad. Future generations of PC may be unable
to run Linux because the DRM forces them to run only Windows.

I have computer games that I wrote for the fun of it that would run on the X-box.
I'm very happy to give them away for nothing to anyone who wants them. But
Microsoft doesn't want that to happen because if people are playing freeware
games then they aren't paying $50 a shot for games from companies that pay
Microsoft $20 for every game they sell.

I can't make my games get through MS's DRM - so they won't run on X-box - period.

If I buy a 3D printer from Microsoft (or anyone else with similar business
practices) then what chances are there that I'll be able to download freeware
designs from the web and fabricate them 'for free'?

You might argue that other people would make 3D printers that compete with MS
by allowing OpenSourced material to be replicated on them - but you'll notice
that this hasn't happened in the Video Game console market.

There was once a company called 'Indrema' who wanted to make a video game console
that would run free games (as well as selling commercial games for it). The
problem is that the X-box sells for $200 but costs Microsoft $350 to manufacture.
They make a profit because most gamers buy an average of 12 games for their
console over it's lifetime. If MS makes $20 per game in licensing fees, they
make an average of $240 per machine on games licensing. That offsets the $150
they lose on selling the console in the first place.

Poor Indrema had to sell their console for twice the price of an X-box - and nobody
would buy it. (In fact, their venture capitalists spotted this flaw in the plan
and the Indrema console never even hit the store shelves).

The general public are too stupid to realise that whilst the X-box costs less to
start with, the $50 games are going to cost them more in the long run than a more
costly game console which could sell games for $30 and still make money.

You see this attitude everywhere. The cost of inkjet printers is WAY below the
cost of manufacturing them - they make all their money on the INSANE prices they
charge for ink. But there is an arms race between the printer manufacturers
and the ink cartridge refill market. If you can refill your cartridges for
nearly $0, then the printer manufacturer goes out of business. So they now
have encrypted protocols between the printer and the ink cartridge that verifies
that it's genuine and that it hasn't been refilled.

This business model is appearing everywhere. Sell something cheaper than your
competitors - but reap the profits in some kind of post-sales scam - and you'll
beat out the opposition every time.

This could EASILY be the way the home fabricator goes.

I hope not.

---------------------------- Steve Baker -------------------------
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