My laptop runs windows XP, which none of the other computers in the house do – why should they upgrade? — and is also set to collect automatic security fixes. So this morning it asked whether it should upgrade to IE7. Why not? It’s not as if I were going to switch to it. But I noticed, as the upgrade collection ran, that it was simultaneously running the whole "Windows Genuine Advantage" business (Note, the advantage is entirely Microsoft’s). Presumably, at this stage, there is nothing it could do if it concluded that the program were pirated except refuse to upgrade; but within three or four years it might just cripple the whole machine.
At that point, most optimistic nerds would conclude that this is why Ubuntu, or some similar flavour of linux will make the great breakthrough. It is simple, reliable, and free. And, if you run it, you, not anyone else, determines what you may do with your computer. Yet of course most users will neither know or care about licenses or DRM. The idea that a computer and its data belongs to the user starts to feel terribly quaint when most people have no idea what’s on the computer and what’s on the net. The network is the computer, and you have no rights on the network.