Full Disclosure: Regrets Or Not, I'm Still Using My iPhone

Don Tennant

My previous post,"Why I Regret Buying an iPhone," in which I wrote about the ramifications of Apple's almost psychotic obsession with secrecy, begs an uncomfortable question. Have I stopped using my iPhone? The answer is no.


It would be difficult to refute the argument that if I felt so strongly about the negative consequences of Apple's culture of ultra-secrecy that I regret having purchased an iPhone, then as a matter of principle I should stop using it. I don't have a particularly good answer for someone who might say it's hypocritical to bash Apple in a blog post, and then use the iPhone I regret buying to keep track of how many Diggs the post received.


The simple fact is I'm unwilling to take the financial hit that switching phones and service plans would cause, and the inconvenience it would entail isn't all that appealing, either. Am I wrong to be unwilling to make those sacrifices as a matter of principle? As I ponder that question, I can't help but be reminded of the day about a year and a half ago that I met Richard Stallman.


Stallman is the somewhat eccentric founder of the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation, and is widely considered to be the father of the free software movement. He sees the use of proprietary software of any kind as not just unethical, but downright evil.


When I met Stallman in his MIT office in Cambridge, I couldn't help but be amused by the computer this technology legend was using. It looked like it came straight from Fisher Price. I wrote this about the encounter:

On the table in a small room outside his office was a laptop that could easily be mistaken for a toy. I recognized it as the product of One Laptop Per Child, the Nicholas Negroponte project to provide very-low-cost computers to schoolchildren.


"I decided to switch to one of these last November because it has a free BIOS program, and no other laptop in the world that I knew of was available without a proprietary BIOS program," Stallman said. "It took several months to arrange for us to get a machine, and then for me to switch to it. As I was switching, in April, the head of that project announced his betrayal of our community."


That "betrayal" was Negroponte's decision to run Windows on OLPC laptops.


"The machine's supposed to lead millions of children to freedom," Stallman said. "But instead I fear it will lead millions of children under the dominion of Microsoft."


When I suggested that adopting Windows was likely to make the OLPC machines more pervasive, Stallman bristled.


"It's completely misguided to try to make something a big success if it's doing a bad thing," he said. "Proprietary software subjugates the user. It's an injustice. And the idea that it's good to get people using computers regardless of everything else is shallow and misguided. It's better not to use computers than to use proprietary software."

Just so you know, I'm not a fan of Stallman. I think his views are way over the top, and I have no patience for his demeanor, which I found arrogant, rude and thin-skinned. But you have to appreciate the fact that he's not just talk. He sacrifices a lot to be true to his principles.


Stallman gave Twitter a shot last May, but only wrote four posts. His first post said it all:

A lab assistant and I wrote a script so I could use twitter without a browser.

Browsers, you see, are propriety. That's hard core.


It's also admirable, even if it is a little flaky. I guess we all have to pick our own battles, though. Hmmmm 82 Diggs

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 20, 2010 4:46 AM Drahkar Drahkar  says:

And this article is precisely why people are calling you a hypocrite. You trash talk someone for standing behind his principles and being more than a mouthpiece trying to garner attention. The two things that would be expected of you if you were to have any kind of credibility.

I had hoped, albeit weakly, that you would have some legitimate content in this post justifying your weak, naive and fairly inaccurate observations from your original article, but I don't. Instead I see a arrogant 'Personality' that's just trying to draw in attention on themselves.

And yes, if it sounded like I spit the word 'Personality' out, you would be correct. Mass Media is dead. The true journalists are all turning in their graves and all we have left are attention grabbing sensationalists that are generally refereed to as 'Personalities'. Its sad and disappointing.

Feb 20, 2010 5:31 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to Drahkar

I trash talked him for standing behind his principles? Really? What I said was that "you have to appreciate the fact that he's not just talk. He sacrifices a lot to be true to his principles," and that his refusal to use a browser because it's proprietary software is "admirable, even if it is a little flaky." FYI, the article I linked to was one I wrote titled "Richard Stallman lives and works by his principles," and it ended with this line: "Not enough of us are willing to truly sacrifice for the principles we believe in. If for no other reason than that, Stallman has earned the admiration he has inspired."

If you're taking issue with my use of the phrase "a little flaky," come on. The guy insists it's better not to use computers than to use computers that run any proprietary software whatsoever. So I'll stand by that assessment. I did share my observation that Stallman is arrogant, rude and thin-skinned, but I obviously did not call him on those traits "for standing behind his principles." That's just the way he is, and, as I said, I have no patience for it. So I'll have to plead not guilty to the trash talk thing.

Feb 20, 2010 6:22 AM Drunken Economist Drunken Economist  says: in response to Don Tennant

Oh Mumbai Don. Would that you also did some actual RESEARCH when you write hit pieces like this one.

"That "betrayal" was Negroponte's decision to run Windows on OLPC laptops."

..without telling the readership that the reason ol Neggy HAD TO SWITCH is that the client states TOLD HIM that they did not want hunks of plastic with SugarOS, but to be like the 1st world and have Windows... or NOT have the hunks of plastic he was pandering to them.

Stallman is a blathering idiot, and you are a blathering scribe. Who's the fool in this comedy skit? Hm?

-Drunken Economist



Feb 22, 2010 2:47 AM ivan xenium ivan xenium  says:

hi there, talking bout Iphone ,mmh i have something to share .it,s all about how easy an Iphone been crack! or unlocked! are you there sure that iphone are gently dificult to cracked ,no i found so many iphone can use another provider in different areas only cracked for $45!! was Apple made a bunch of toy to create an ugly users to use it check it for checksum ,where they  buy it

Feb 27, 2010 11:23 AM F_Face F_Face  says:

So, the factory is in China & China has a repressive work environment...So you are going to go buy another phone where all the parts or the phone are made in a repressive country. You might have made sense if you said you were not going to buy anything made in China...but somehow it's Apple's fault. Apple & any other corporation has the right to not divulge what products they are building. After all there are plenty of competitors out there. That's capitalism. The employee was out of line (if this story is true & if it was an employee) but China is not exactly a bastion of free press. You are a blithering idiot.

Feb 28, 2010 2:34 AM Pete Pete  says: in response to Don Tennant

You also said "I think his views are way over the top, and I have no patience for his demeanor, which I found arrogant, rude and thin-skinned."

From reading your piece it seems to me rather that you are the one who is  arrogant, rude and thin-skinned.

Feb 28, 2010 6:52 AM Mortimer Mortimer  says:

So not only are you clearly a biased sensationalist with no journalistic credibility, but you have absolutely no self control, no resolve, no conviction to your shallow ideology and an even thinner skin.

I hope this damages your career-not for the Apple hate but the blatant hypocrisy and total lack of critical thought.

Feb 28, 2010 10:52 AM G McKeown G McKeown  says:

So you have what you think are principles, but they have a price on them... OK

It's a shame that the price you put on human life is less than a thousand dollars. If you had just bought the most expensive iPhone and had to forfeit the entire 2 year contract, it still wouldn't come to $1,000. Yet you think that's too high a price to pay for someone getting beaten up and someone else taking their own life. Well, it's good to know where you stand.

It's actions that count in this world, not words or wishes. Now that we know clearly what your actions are (handwringing and blind eye turning) we can attach the appropriate level of belief in your words.

Mar 3, 2010 3:58 AM matt from rahway matt from rahway  says: in response to G McKeown

Don I would have more respect for you- if you did give up your Iphone  and symbolically started a movement with  an entire boycott of ALL products made in China. But you have a  weakness to the materialism and dependence of these very things you chastise and lay blame on the manufacturer and your limitations and diligence are not as strong as the social conscience of a consumer or as with a thorough investigation of a writer. The exceptionally emotional and descriptive hearsay however was your stronger representation over mere proven fact. The  tabloid luring "Why..." only magnified these elements.You were on to "something" and hopefully you could admit your faults here as much as you "found" in others.  I come out of this observation of your writing that you are more "Op-ed"; And with more critical replies to your writing and with practice you will grow from this experience and have the potential of being highly respected and recommended

Mar 3, 2010 4:24 AM Peter Kust Peter Kust  says:

"The simple fact is I'm unwilling to take the financial hit that switching phones and service plans would cause, and the inconvenience it would entail isn't all that appealing, either."

The simple fact is you are nauseatingly hypocritical.  If Apple's business practices offend you so much, boycott their products.   If you won't do that, then the only ethical stance for you is a noble (and greatly appreciated) silence.


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