Apple to add Trusted Computing to the new kernel?

People working with early versions of the forthcoming Intel-based MacOS X operating system have discovered that Apple's new kernel makes use of Intel's Trusted Computing hardware. If this "feature" appears in a commercial, shipping version of Apple's OS, they'll lose me as a customer -- I've used Apple computers since 1979 and have a Mac tattooed on my right bicep, but this is a deal-breaker.

I travel in the kinds of circles where many people use GNU/Linux on their computers -- and not only use it, but actually call it GNU/Linux instead of just "Linux," in the fashion called for by Richard Stallman. Some of these people give me grief over the fact that I use Mac OS X instead of GNU/Linux on my Powerbook, because the MacOS is proprietary.

I've been an Apple user since 1979. I've owned dozens -- probably more than a hundred -- Macintoshes. When I worked in the private sector, I used to write purchase orders for about a quarter-million dollars' worth of Apple hardware every year. I've stuck with the machines over the years because the fit-and-finish of the OS and the generally kick-ass hardware made them the best choice for me. I've converted innumerable people to the Mac (most recently I got my grandmother's octogenarian boyfriend to pick up a Mac Mini, which he loves). Hell, I even bought half a dozen Newtons over the years.

When my free software companions give me grief over this, I tell them that I'm using an OS built on a free flavor of Unix, and that most of the apps I use are likewise free -- such as Firefox, my terminal app, etc.

Here's the important part though: when I use apps that aren't free, like Apple's, BBEdit, NetNewsWire, etc, I do so comfortable in the fact that they save their data-files in free formats, open file-formats that can be read by free or proprietary applications. That means that I always retain the power to switch apps when I need to. That means that if the vendor changes their policy in a way that is incongruent with my needs, or if they go out of business, or if they treat me badly, I can always go across the street to another vendor, or to a free software project, and switch. This acts as a check against abusive behavior on the vendors' part and it is, I believe, partly responsible for the quality and pricing of their offerings.

The Trusted Computing people say that they intend on Trusted Computing being used to stop the unauthorized distribution of music, but none of them has ever refuted the Darknet paper, where several of Trusted Computing's inventors explain that Trusted Computing isn't fit to this purpose.

The point of Trusted Computing is to make it hard -- impossible, if you believe the snake-oil salesmen from the Trusted Computing world -- to open a document in a player other than the one that wrote it in the first place, unless the application vendor authorizes it. It's like a blender that will only chop the food that Cuisinart says you're allowed to chop. It's like a car that will only take the brand of gas that Ford will let you fill it with. It's like a web-site that you can only load in the browser that the author intended it to be seen in.

What this means is that "open formats" is no longer meaningful. An application can write documents in "open formats" but use Trusted Computing to prevent competing applications from reading them. Apple may never implement this in their own apps (though I'll be shocked silly if it isn't used in iTunes and the DVD player), but Trusted Computing in the kernel is like a rifle on the mantelpiece: if it's present in act one, it'll go off by act three.

It means that the price of being a Mac user will be eternal vigilance: you'll need to know that your apps not only write to exportable formats, but that they also allow those exported files to be read by competing apps. That they eschew those measures that would lock you in and prevent you from giving your business to someone else. I'm pretty sure that apps like BBEdit and NetNewsWire won't lock me out, as their authors are personally known to me to be wonderful, generous, honorable people. But personally familiarizing yourself with the authors of all the software you use doesn't scale.

So that means that if Apple carries on down this path, I'm going to exercise my market power and switch away, and, for the first time since 1979, I won't use an Apple product as my main computer. I may even have my tattoo removed.

My data is my life, and I won't keep it in a strongbox that someone else has the keys for.

* We've discovered that the Rosetta kernel uses TCPA/TPM DRM. Some parts of the GUI like ATSServer are still not native to x86 - meaning that Rosetta is required by the GUI, which in turn requires TPM. See the forum topic here.

* After much careful analysis of the files from the new Intel-based Macs, it would appear that SSE3 enabled processors are required to run the GUI. We are still testing this theory, though - nothing has been proven conclusively. Check out this forum thread for evidence and discussion.

* Check out some of our members' earliest work - using Darwin and the "mactel" leak.

Link (via /.)