Adobe, Linux and DRM

Adobe, Linux and DRM

Summary: My fellow ZDNet blogger, David Berlind, has a great post titled The skinny on desktop Linux pros, cons and adoption where he does a good job of spelling out what is hindering Linux as a widely accepted solution and what the future for Linux holds. As David notes, there is a groundswell of Linux adoption across the world, but what is really keeping Linux from the mainstream is the fact that it doesn't support the DRMed media that the world has become accustomed to.

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linux_flash.jpgMy fellow ZDNet blogger, David Berlind, has a great post titled The skinny on desktop Linux pros, cons and adoption where he does a good job of spelling out what is hindering Linux as a widely accepted solution and what the future for Linux holds. As David notes, there is a groundswell of Linux adoption across the world, but what is really keeping Linux from the mainstream is the fact that it doesn't support the DRMed media that the world has become accustomed to.

If Adobe threw its full weight behind Linux, it could make the operating system relevant on the desktopDavid's post is rather timely because I was just talking with someone today about Adobe software on Linux. I have made no secret that I think Adobe has a lot of potential if they embrace Linux. However David brings up the Digital Rights Management (DRM) issue which is where I think Adobe and Linux users should really be cooperating. David is absolutely correct when he says that one of the major shortcomings of Linux is its inability to handle multimedia. Scoble is also correct when he says that Linux has horrible, horrible fonts. These are two things that Flash could improve immensely if Linux users bought into Adobe's platform.

Let me be clear. If Adobe threw its full weight behind Linux, it could make the operating system relevant on the desktop. I realize the boldness of the statement, but I'm willing to explain. I want to also be clear that at this stage in the game, it makes no sense for Microsoft to support Linux. There aren't enough users, Linux is still a threat, and despite the value in a cross-platform solution, it doesn't jive with Microsoft's strategy. Now, Adobe is a different story, but there are some hurdles they need to overcome.

The first is DRM. Right now Flash has no DRM. This is both very good, and very bad. It is good because most DRM solutions are implemented very badly. It is a pain to users, especially ones that just want to own the content they pay for. It is bad because the Flash platform has a lot of potential when it comes to multimedia. Video, Audio, everything just works on Flash, regardless of the platform. Think about what iTunes is. It's a music store and a music player. Why couldn't that be implemented in Flash? Why couldn't Flash have a DRM system that allowed you to buy music or video, play it via the Flash Player, on any device you own that runs Flash. Windows? Mac? Linux? PSP? Doesn't matter, as long as it runs Flash, the DRM works and your stuff plays. If Adobe were to implement DRM well, then instantly Linux has a DRM solution that can handle all types of media.

Linux has some very solid tools, but they are built by geeks, for geeks. That won't fly with the mainstream.Flash is all about providing experiences. It is a great RIA tool because you can build very rich applications that run anywhere. Linux has some very solid tools, but they are built by geeks, for geeks. That won't fly with the mainstream. Scoble speaks for a lot of people when he says "What keeps me from using Linux? Three things: readability. Fonts. Aesthetics." With Flash, you can build applications that give you the same type of experience you would have on a Mac, but it runs everywhere. You aren't bound by the operating system you use because the core experience lies within the applications. With Flash (and DRM) the designers and developers who work so hard have a way to monetize their work. Those who want to give it away for free in true Web 2.0 spirit are more than able to.

Again, I realize that all of these things take time, and to be blunt, throwing a lot of support at Linux isn't in Adobe's best business interest right now. There is a lot of risk for very little definitive gain. But they are making sure to bring Flash Player 9 to Linux, and that's the first step. If they can solve the DRM problem, and make sure that is available for Linux, then little by little Linux gets a platform that behaves like the rest of the world. If pushing Linux adoption is important to the community, then Linux needs to embrace Flash. If they do, then Adobe can help them.

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • GPL

    The issue is that a lot of the 'community' support for Linux comes from people with an ideological objection to DRM, full stop. The focus so far has been on developing media players that let you strip DRM from protected content.

    At a second level they object - on principle - to proprietary standards like Flash. It doesn't matter that it is publicly defined (unlike, say, the old Word format), the issue is that it is not publicly owned. (See also objections to Java).

    Of course, a lot of these guys make more noise than contribution - there are a lot of firms out their commercialising Linux that have no problem offering proprietary software on top (although there are legal issues with the way in which this is distributed) - but it is a much more fraught issue than with the BSD 'Unix' Apple has built on.

    Linux is 'opinionated' in the way BSD isn't - it was designed to stop companies doing what Apple has done, or making compromises that affect the whole community. The problem is that to get back out of the path it has taken would require a rewrite of all the code already given to the GPL.
    JulesLt
    • RE: GPL

      Jules, as is often the case, you've got it right. I think I focus on the companies who are making money from Linux as opposed to the fanatic hobbyists that see Linux as an ideal instead of an operating system. Are there legal potholes, sure, there are.

      I'm not sure how the community pleases both the zealots and the people who want to bring Linux to everyone. I just don't see the two living side by side very easily.
      ryanstewart
      • The GPL is a minor problem...

        ... and many distros get round it already by selling Linux as per the GPL for installation but then allowing an on-line update which installs all the non-GPL stuff.

        IIRC SUSE does this - stuff like java is installed as a separate part of the process or by a YaST update.

        There's nothing to stop you selling a "dual installer" that installs Linux and then applies the non-GPL stuff as a post install task. There is no reason to disturb the user either, just stick the install disk in and 30 minutes later you're off and running...
        bportlock
    • Oh Well...

      I had thought you had a better understanding or at least a broader perspective....

      The idealogical objection to DRM is about the "R" and whether that means "Rights" Because without those rights being applied equally it is more likely "Restrictions" (primarily for control, segmentation and of course profit) for the few.

      What do you mean by ?
      "The focus so far has been on developing media players that let you strip DRM from protected content."

      On the second level "proprietary standards" maybe in principle, as more often then not they are unnecessary, but still that is a choice, that one should be able to make in a free market and not have it forced upon one.

      There are really not that many (legal) problems of providing proprietary software for GPL or Linux. Mostly they are the same or similar to the licenses of any proprietary software. There is the LGPL & shims or creating your own libraries.

      Opera is one example, Cycas, Pixel, ProEngineer, Maya, Oracle, are others, Shake was another as you had mentioned before. There are quite a few others if you work (or look) in that area.

      I think BSD and Apple are also Good alternatives to MS.
      Also if one has the interest there also are.....
      YellowTab/Zeta & Haiku (BeOS)
      MorphOS (Amiga)
      eComstation (OS/2)
      if you really want to get FSF/GPL you could go Hurd or Plan9

      I had always thought it strange, no one took BSD as Apple did and make it in to another commercial venture. There is a great deal of BSD in MS (mostly obfuscated) Still BSD would not be as far along without many of the GNU/GPL tools....

      GPLv3 is still a work in progress and a work for the future, when even less "rights" will be available. Consider more than 15 years ago, (remember I, B, & C Tron) with an abundance of commercial compettition, GPLv1 did not seem that necessary.

      Yet today (despite the desires of others & ZDnet) GPL is the connerstone of OpenSource and both are market players..
      LazLong
  • a warning sign?

    While I can see why you would pick flash, Linux users don't need or want that on the desktop. The only folks who want flash outside of the crazy cool artists expressing them self are advertisers and proprietary information distributors. Flash if you hadn't noticed hinders personal control in the browser by striping the browsers controls out from under it, through the use of a plugin. Without the plugin flash cannot be run in a browser, DUH, because flash objects are not real web documents!

    Come on, will somebody else just call flash on what it is with me, A Back Door. Though it mostly seems to act like a stage entrance, where embedded objects, (applications) are ushered onto your own machine/stage and you don't get a back stage pass! Most of the time we don't like this sort of behavior, because of worms, viruses, etc.. Sure we should just trust Macromedia/Adobe, like we should just trust anything.

    Because it strips personal browser control and puts it (most of the time) in the hands of folks wanting to sell you something, the commercial embrace of flash is no surprise. The fact that there is a not so subtle linking of DRM C.R.A.P with flash I personally am not surprised, nor would I be if Adobe entered the DRM frey on the back of a flash object!

    Come on these commercial entities would want us to pay for their ads too if they could get away with it! Most folks running Linux don't pay for software, or support the way the commercial entities want us to, often, and deeply. Why is desktop Linux adoption so slow, it is not for lack of an Adobe app and certainly not flash!

    While flash can be pretty cool, and convenient, folks that run Linux like their personal control! DRM is for the crass, truly non creative corporate types that want to squeeze blood from turnips, because they have no stomach for hunting real meat; basically they are gatherers, trying to gather yours and my money. Granted, gathering can be successful, but what is the level of their true craft skills, what do they really make? Deals with flash objects? Deals, trading the crafts of others, ok they are common merchants, dictating the future of Arts, Media, and true Information by lobbying and buying laws that limit personal use of something you have already payed for, or that they want you to pay for.

    Right, Linux is built by geeks, but for everyone, not just geeks as you put it. The fact that a turnip like yourself or Scoble cant install a font server is no reason to implement DRM in Flash. LOL. Linux can use all the pretty/aesthetic fonts that Windows or Mac can; where have you and Scoble been? Oh yea, gathering; gathering all the broken minds that you damaged with commercial disinformation. Where do get off?

    I don't buy the conciliatory tone at the end, like you are a friend to both Linux and Adobe. Like Adobe needs to know if it is OK to invest in Linux from you. Or that if us awkward geeky types want our pablum Flash 9 we should be nice to Adobe. It so warm fuzzy and sympathetic; It's pathetic.

    Should this post be considered a warning sign?
    TakeIT2
    • RE: a warning sign?

      Takel, thanks for taking the time to comment, especially with the depth of the comment. I'll try to address the main points.

      1) I think the browser model limits Flash. I don't think Flash applications should run in a browser, I think they should run on the OS. Right now, "browsing" to Flash applications is the best way to facilitate this, but technologies like <a href="http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/Apollo">Adobe's Apollo</a> are going to change that.

      2)You're right that the reason Linux adoption is so slow has nothing to do with lack of Adobe apps, but I see those Flash/Adobe apps as a way to bring an experience, something that IS lacking, easily to the OS. Why do you think Linux adoption hasn't taken off?

      3)I hate DRM, but it's the world we live in. I'm an economics major, I understand the need to get paid. I see Flash as a good way to implement DRM because of how ubiquitous it is. No lock in from Microsoft or Apple, support for Linux, ect. Unlike Microsoft and Apple, Adobe makes their money on the tools, so they want the platform to grow as large as possible.

      4) I would love to see Linux succeed. I love Microsoft, but I think they are at their best when they are competing. More Linux adoption means more options for everyone. And Adobe doesn't need my permission for anything, I wasn't trying to say that Adobe may be allowed to help, I'm saying that they will be able to help.

      It's hard to reconcile the need to keep Linux free and open with the need for people to make money. RedHat makes money off of Linux, as do many other companies. I don't see why Adobe and people that provide Flash content can't make money off of it without having it be seen as detrimental to the community.

      Thanks again for commenting, Takel.
      ryanstewart
    • RE: a warning sign? (better formatting)

      It looks like the formatting was messed up in my comment above, here's a more readable version.

      Takel, thanks for taking the time to comment, especially with the depth of the comment. I'll try to address the main points.

      1) I think the browser model limits Flash. I don't think Flash applications should run in a browser, I think they should run on the OS. Right now, "browsing" to Flash applications is the best way to facilitate this, but technologies like <a href="http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/Apollo">Adobe's Apollo</a> are going to change that.

      2)You're right that the reason Linux adoption is so slow has nothing to do with lack of Adobe apps, but I see those Flash/Adobe apps as a way to bring an experience, something that IS lacking, easily to the OS. Why do you think Linux adoption hasn't taken off?

      3)I hate DRM, but it's the world we live in. I'm an economics major, I understand the need to get paid. I see Flash as a good way to implement DRM because of how ubiquitous it is. No lock in from Microsoft or Apple, support for Linux, ect. Unlike Microsoft and Apple, Adobe makes their money on the tools, so they want the platform to grow as large as possible.

      4) I would love to see Linux succeed. I love Microsoft, but I think they are at their best when they are competing. More Linux adoption means more options for everyone. And Adobe doesn't need my permission for anything, I wasn't trying to say that Adobe may be allowed to help, I'm saying that they will be able to help.

      It's hard to reconcile the need to keep Linux free and open with the need for people to make money. RedHat makes money off of Linux, as do many other companies. I don't see why Adobe and people that provide Flash content can't make money off of it without having it be seen as detrimental to the community.

      Thanks again for commenting, Takel.
      ryanstewart
    • RE: a warning sign? (one more time)

      Ugh, one more try:

      <p>Takel, thanks for taking the time to comment, especially with the depth of the comment. I'll try to address the main points.</p>

      <p>1) I think the browser model limits Flash. I don't think Flash applications should run in a browser, I think they should run on the OS. Right now, "browsing" to Flash applications is the best way to facilitate this, but technologies like <a href="http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/Apollo">Adobe's Apollo</a> are going to change that.</p>

      <p>2)You're right that the reason Linux adoption is so slow has nothing to do with lack of Adobe apps, but I see those Flash/Adobe apps as a way to bring an experience, something that IS lacking, easily to the OS. Why do you think Linux adoption hasn't taken off?</p>

      <p>3)I hate DRM, but it's the world we live in. I'm an economics major, I understand the need to get paid. I see Flash as a good way to implement DRM because of how ubiquitous it is. No lock in from Microsoft or Apple, support for Linux, ect. Unlike Microsoft and Apple, Adobe makes their money on the tools, so they want the platform to grow as large as possible.</p>

      <p>4) I would love to see Linux succeed. I love Microsoft, but I think they are at their best when they are competing. More Linux adoption means more options for everyone. And Adobe doesn't need my permission for anything, I wasn't trying to say that Adobe may be allowed to help, I'm saying that they will be able to help.</p>

      <p>It's hard to reconcile the need to keep Linux free and open with the need for people to make money. RedHat makes money off of Linux, as do many other companies. I don't see why Adobe and people that provide Flash content can't make money off of it without having it be seen as detrimental to the community.</p>

      <p>Thanks again for commenting, Takel.</p>
      ryanstewart
      • Etcetera abbreviated is etc

        An economics major would know that.
        jsharsky-3@...
        • \r\n problems on linux?

          It's funny that the formatting problems above were probably caused by the EOL char differences in Linux. An indication of non-compatibility to the core.
          jsharsky-3@...
      • RE: a warning sign? (one more time) Pay Up Sucker!

        "Why do you think Linux adoption hasn't taken off?"

        Frankly I think it has taken off, but I'll humor the question, bluntly.

        Linux has been black listed for years because very few folks spend money on it. Spending money is the key to it all! A lot of linux users are cheep, not because they are poor but because they can get away with it. They blow right by free-use and head streight for free-beer. What is lower than a Drunken Dillitante?

        Commercial venders of propritary software and hardware have spent their money their way to run a business. That said, they can and have the right to refuse service to anyone. The problem is at this point they are well beyond having come up with the action of black listing as individual companies.

        Given the trend in the allegations of monopoly actions in recent corperate law suits, it takes no strech of the imagination to have heard in the past somthing like, "we do not do business with folks doing buisness with Linux." I have no proof, it is wild speculation on my part, that I can attribute to no one but my experienced imagination.

        Do education with Linux; fine. Do hard core science or medical research; fine. Leasure and luxury activities, these are not rights or entitlements, they are not free. Call it a luxury tux.

        At the same time, people complain about lack of driver support for hardware. Thank the hardware manufacturer for declining developer requests. The most common subtrfuge I have read about is the claim that the hardware is no longer in development, therefore no support for development.

        Conexant makers of the fabulous win-modem(which even frustrated a few widows users) eventually allowed Linuxant access to chip designs for a Linux driver. I can only guess what is going on now with the software driven TV-tuner cards Conexant makes. Very few work under Linux publicly, most drivers are considered experimental because they are based on reverse engineering the chip specs by hacking. That goes over real big with folks that like to have trade secrets, security or military contracts. Non-disclosure agreements are stock and trade in the tech industry. And people complain about driver support.

        If more Linux users said they would pay and did for drivers there might be a quicker shift. It's not that the programers dont have the skills to make an iPod work with Linux! "Compromise" is not the word needed here. Jesse James has it tatooed on the palm of his hand, "Pay Up Sucker!"

        There are a lot of similar examples that can be made, but there is always the adage "why sell them the cow when all they want is milk?" I don't expect companies to give their business away, nor loose lucrative clients because some iDiot off the street wants the free version support, before you get to a regular paying customer.

        If compromise is the word, it cuts both ways. Bluntly, if black listing Linux continues(and I think it is very minimal today by yesterYears standards), there is no large scale way to develop a Linux consumer. If Linux users only want the media players they should pay for it. Otherwise it is a stalemate/impass that escallates to some DRM, OneWorld, Single Sign On, Epidermal Taged, Biometric Enforced Nightmare.

        People by hardware, and Linux users buy a lot of hardware, new and used. There is a viable driver market to say the least. The folks at Nvidia know and AMD too, they don't require even an email adress, like Apple does for a copy of iTunes. Do you see the diparity in that?

        A payed for SuSE Enterprise Desktop and a one year Novel service agreement is at least $150 less per workstation. It is an excelent value. You don't just get installation support for the OS, you also get a couple thousand application choices on the media you buy! You don't have to jiggle it any more than windows for a fully functional desktop including flash. Folks go to Ubunatu because it is Free, can't get flash going, then wine how desktop linux is not ready for prime time; I'm sorry, what made you think you were anywhere but off broadway! Oh yea, must have been all that free beer.

        I like an honest value, I dislike folks who only want me to pay.
        TakeIT2
  • DRM

    There is NO good DRM solution out there - what we have are >20 cockamamie worthless proposals which in the end do not solve the problem. All existing DRM is so poorly thought out that it requires secret computer code to implement. It may very well be that DRM must be implemented via the CPU core so that disabling DRM code in the kernel means you can't play stuff (as opposed to playing what you please when you disable it). Audio CDs were not designed with DRM in mind - and the "copy protected disks" are the worst garbage on the market due to these half-ass solutions. The recording industry needs to pay good people to work out the next generation Audio or video disc formats. Now... whatever can be implemented in hardware can be implemented in software. So - it is extremely likely that any DRM can be circumvented. If that is the case then DRM is an absolute waste of time - if there really is a problem, look elsewhere for the fix because DRM ain't it. All my Audio discs are legit - I never pirate. But a handful of those poorly labeled "copy protected" dics have infiltrated my music collection - they get extracted and written to a standards-compliant disc so that I can play the music when I please and on any equipment I wish. In some places it would be a crime for me to do that. So, those incarnations of DRM are a nuisance to me - and do they stop piracy? Not in the least bit - and this topic has come up innumerable times on audio forums and in audio magazines and blogs. All current forms of DRM are a festering donkey carcass.
    zoroaster
    • I wonder how much cr*p people will put up with ...

      ... as some people have finally noticed the obvious flaw in DRM.

      [b]It has to be unencoded or else you can't see or hear it[/b]

      No matter how complex the protection, at some point the unencrypted signal has to travel along a copper wire to a screen or a speaker at which point it can be diverted into a recorder and re-burned to disc.

      I have heard that somebody was experimenting with doing the unencryption inside the TV tube / plasma display to stop the signal wire from being tapped, but even this is vastly impractical since a change to a DRM encoding format would render the TV (or whatever) useless.

      There was singer last year who released her album at a very low price (no DRM) and it sold in huge quantities. Piracy was reported as being much lower than normal. Basically, she undercut the pirates.

      That is the lesson that ALL these media companies need to learn.
      bportlock
      • RE: I wonder how much cr*p people will put up with ...

        I've always liked the model of undercuting the pirates, and I think iTunes is, for the most part, a reasonably priced solution. But they still try and protect their songs, which creates the DRM issue, and cripples consumers.

        Thanks for the comment bportlock.
        ryanstewart
    • RE: DRM

      "All current forms of DRM are a festering donkey carcass."

      Hey, I'm not arguing with that. I wouldn't go to that extreme, but DRM thus far has been ugly. So what solution do we use? Free music and video for everyone? That would be great, but we need SOME form rights management, don't we?

      Thanks for commenting Zoroaster.
      ryanstewart
  • Linux doesn't Need Flash (Adobe)

    Rather,
    Adobe (Flash) needs Linux.

    Anybody paying attention sees why Flex is written on the Eclipse platform. (Designed to be O/S agnostic)

    Linux has alternatives.

    Beuler?
    [url=http://www.laszlosystems.com/lps/laszlo-in-ten-minutes/]Laszlo?[/url]

    Later! ;)
    D T Schmitz
    • RE: Linux doesn't Need Flash (Adobe)

      I'm still not sure I buy that Adobe needs Linux. I think it's a symbiotic relationship. They do just fine separately, but if they "teamed up" each side would benefit equally.
      ryanstewart
      • Linux doesn't Need Adobe

        I fully agree !
        But, if Adobe do that, then they will loose his "diferentiated support" from Apple and Micro$oft, so I realy dont think so ....
        fabior
  • Linux has the same problem

    that Unix did in the early 90s that allowed Windows to proliferate: There were too many versions. Everybody had a *better* implementation or version and that led to confusion and squabbling and incompatibilities.

    How many different distros are there?
    ordaj@...
    • RE: Linux has the same problem

      Thanks for brining that up ordaj, this is another reason I think Flash is such a good fit. If Flash can cover a lot of the major distros, then that could make using those applications simpler for users.
      ryanstewart