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More Pots calling Kettles Black

Written by Gordon Fecyk, 11/24/2006

Symantec has no right criticizing Microsoft of a practice that it itself imitates.

Even if done through a mouthpiece magazine like Securityfocus.

THE ENGLISH IDIOM of the pot calling the kettle black describes one person criticizing another of doing something, when the critic does the same thing themselves.

I accused Symantec, sponsors of Securityfocus, of practicing the same product activation and deactivation techniques that Mark Rasch, lawyer of 24 years, accused Microsoft of practicing in Windows Genuine Advantage. To be honest, I don't know if Rasch takes his paycheque directly from Symantec or not, but I do know that Securityfocus calls itself "Symantec's Online Magazine." To me, this means Symantec supplies Securityfocus with Rasch's paycheque. Yet my calling Rasch on this a second time seemed to draw the ire of Securityfocus' comments moderator:

This article has nothing to do with Norton Antivirus, Symantec, or the expiry of subscription-based software (which Windows is not!).
Please stay on topic or your comments will not be approved.

um... ok. Apparently comparing the sponsor of this magazine to one of its author's rants is off-topic... Personal attacks, indeed... If you want to read a personal attack, read this.

However, I applaud Rasch for standing up and defending his claims, and I will not fault him for doing so:

Indeed, that is the point of the article. While you can lease a car, the car doesnt [sic] have the power to determine if you have breached the lease, and then disable itself. The concept of "self help" appears to be inherent in digital intellectual property - and represents a new phenomenon, that courts have not yet fully addressed. [...] As the courts held in the early cases, this constitutes economic extortion. Where to draw the line?

RASCH POSES A TOUGH QUESTION: Where should a software company draw the line in protecting its intellectual property?

If you ask me, a software company can draw the line by first not imitating its competitors. If Symantec is such an innovator in computer security, why are they borrowing techniques from Microsoft? Symantec can set a better example than Microsoft by not following in Microsoft's footsteps.

And that is the topic of my criticism: A software company has no right criticizing another software company of a practice that it itself imitates. Even if done through a mouthpiece magazine like Securityfocus. And if you at Securityfocus wish to take me to task on that, you should first stop acting like Symantec's mouthpiece. Rasch, Martin, Biancuzzi, Granneman and the rest of you need to distance yourself from Symantec if you want your criticisms to have credibility. Otherwise, I will continue to call you on them.

Enough of that. I'm writing about pots calling kettles black today, and there are plenty of software company pots looking to call the Microsoft kettle black.

RASCH PROVIDES A HANDY EXAMPLE of "pot-kettle-black" at the end of his Vista product activation criticism:

Following the movie "Happy Feet," you can decide to find software with a little penguin on it.

Four years ago, Linux advocates threatened that Microsoft's original product activation scheme would finally drive users to Linux. These quotes come from Windows XP's beta testing and initial release:

[Windows Product Activation] has also generated an incredible amount of misinformation and [fear, uncertainty and doubt], and has sparked an increased interest in Linux as an alternative to "Paying the Piper".
As Linux matures it's looking better and better as my primary operating system! Another 18-24 months and I'll have no reason to put up with Microsoft's draconian licensing tactics.

I love this last one: "As Linux matures..." It came from June 2003, over three years ago -- way past the 18-24 months the author claimed he'd have to wait. Has Linux matured since then? Well, not according to Novell in February 2006 but that's just The Register talking. Other editors seem to think Linux has matured:

Xandros Home Edition Premium ran fine [on a Sony Vaio VGN-FS840/W] right out of the box. Indeed, it has turned out more functional on this Linux-hating computer than even a vanilla Windows installation, which is not something one expects.

Hey, pretty impressive progress for the past three and a half years. Xandros claims to provide, "a secure, compatible, and easy-to-use alternative to Windows."

THERE'S JUST ONE LITTLE PROBLEM: Xandros doesn't exactly have the support of the Linux community at large:

Xandros says they have an alternative to Windows, but they're criticized because they practice product activation!

Just like Symantec does!

I can hardly wait until Xandros starts practicing Product deactivation!

The single largest criticism that people in the Linux community have with Xandros stems from the fact that the distribution includes in-house developed software that is proprietary, thus drawing irksome reviews from those that believe software should be free as in free speech, not as in free beer.

It gets better!

Another source of criticism is the inclusion of product activation in the operating system, similar to that introduced in Microsoft's Windows XP. If [the product is not activated], Xandros Networks cannot be used.

I live for this kind of irony! The most progressive Linux distributor and member of the Desktop Linux Consortium, with the capability of installing its software on the most proprietary of equipment, is criticized by the community that built it because they imitate Microsoft! Just like Symantec does! I can hardly wait until Xandros starts practicing Product DE-activation!

Well... if I ever have to recommend an alternative to Windows, you can bet I'll be recommending Xandros Linux!

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