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Editor's Note: If Houses Were Like Proprietary Software

Aug 15, 2009, 00:02 (6 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)


How to Help Your Business Become an AI Early Adopter

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

I've been doing a lot of work on my house this year. It's ten years old and a good, stout house. But houses always need something fixed somewhere, and I've been doing some remodeling. Nothing major, just knocking out a wall or two, adding some windows, painting, putting down pretty wood floors, electrical work, the usual fun.

This place is festooned with decks, four of them. They're all crap, built poorly and cheaply. I have my ace carpenter rebuilding the front deck. (Hi Jose! Thank you!) A simple one-day job has turned into something a bit more major because part of it is behind the foundation, and that part is rotten. Fortunately we won't have to tear up any floors to attack all the rot, but in another year or two it would have been a real nasty job.

Naturally, as I sat here working amidst the hammering and sawing noises, I got to thinking what if my house were closed and proprietary? I wouldn't be able to do most of the work I've done. Just the painting; all the rest would have closed off to me. No opening walls, no ripping up the porch, no new windows, just trivial cosmetic changes. My own house that I paid for and live in would be controlled by the manufacturer. I would depend entirely on the manufacturer for repairs, upgrades, and changes, and be completely at their mercy. No choice of doing it myself or hiring a contractor, no competitive bidding.

In my case that would be akin to buying a software application created by a lone independent programmer, because the builder of my house was also the owner. It was going to be the happy-ever-after dream house for him and his wife. But they lived in it only a few months and then she ran off with a traveling salesman (really, I am not making that up) so that was the end of the dream. So to continue the comparison, I would have been without recourse because he is long gone, and I would have been stuck with a house that I could not do anything to, nor could anyone else.

OK, so these aren't particularly deep thoughts, and the analogy is a bit strained. Still, it's not that daft in this brave era of business people without conscience who see nothing wrong with exploiting us in every way possible, by collecting, mining, and trading our personal data, and micro-managing what we do with our own property that we have purchased. Look at the latest offender, Palm, with their shiny new Palm Pre WebOS, complete with spyware that phones home on the customer's dime. How nice to see Linux used to abuse us, now that's innovation!

Thank you to everyone for all the nice birthday greetings and compliments in last week's editor's note! That was very nice and unexpected. You are the best!

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