Miami Newspaper Tells Tale of Heroic Psystar Founders & Their Battle For Mediocrity

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The Pedraza brothers: Two men fighting the good fight against a corporate behemoth bent on controlling our technical lives - a company willing to trod upon Lady Liberty in the process with their "millionaire lawyers" riding around in their Bentleys and Jaguars and stuff. Sniff...It's a story for the ages.

Or so The Miami New Times would have us believe. The Pedraza brothers are the owners of Psystar, and the New Times has published an ode to these two secondhanders that reads somewhere between a love letter and a fairly tale, mixed with a splash of yellow journalism.

For instance, read this passage: "Robert cracked the code behind Apple Computer's elegant operating system, OS X. It's the engine that drives iPhones, MacBooks, and all the other shiny white toys the world loves. For more than a decade, the Silicon Valley firm has coded its operating system to work only on the firm's expensive hardware."

And this one:

"For hundreds of buyers -- and lately a score of copycats in Los Angeles and around the world -- the brothers' bold move has meant freedom: Mac's acclaimed software has been liberated from its pricey hardware."

First of all, a note to the reporter, Tim Elfrink: It's Mac OS X. And it's Apple's Mac OS X, not Mac's OS X. This dude is one of those folks who uses "Mac" as the company's name some of the time.

Anyway, look at the use of the phrases "expensive hardware" and "pricey hardware," which are used to put a bias in the reader's mind. The brothers, on the other hand, strike a blow for "freedom," and make "bold moves," biased phrases intended to set them up on a pedestal.

Likewise, Psystar has a "tiny warehouse," while Apple is a "giant firm." Apple also employees "millionaire lawyers," but the brothers will fight, "because they think the courts will eventually agree with them, and maybe most of all, because they don't like a bully telling them what to do."

Apple is a "bully," and that concept is presented not as the opinion of someone being written about, but rather as a known fact as presented by the reporter.

All in all, it's a six page report - six frakking pages - three of which detail how the brothers overcame having a father who was jailed for drug-related offenses, but triumphed over their resulting poverty to eventually form Psystar. It's real tear-jerker stuff, to be sure, especially the parts about what great students they were, and the near-death experience Rudy Pedraza had in a traffic accident that helped him find focus in life.

Bah. It's a bunch of crap. Not the details - I don't know the Pedraza brothers from Adam - but the tone, the language, the lack of understanding of some basic issues, and the brazen attempt to cast these two as heroic Davids fighting a corporate Goliath, all without any context for what's really at stake. The whole thing isn't worth the digital ink it's printed on, let alone the trees that died for the print version of the damned thing.

So please allow me to provide that context. I've been wanting to write something about why I think it's very important for the computing industry as a whole for these two sacks of crap to lose, and this is a good excuse to do so.

Psystar, reporter Tim Elfrink, and other defenders of this company have made much about how we, as buyers of Mac OS X, should be free to do with it as we please once we've bought it, whether or not Apple's EULA says otherwise. On the face of it, this seems like an easy argument to get behind, perhaps something like the argument against record labels who didn't want us to be able to rip CDs to our computers.

There's no real comparison between those two situations, however, and the biggest aspect of this is that because Apple sells Mac OS X as an OS for its own hardware, the retail price of the OS is heavily subsidized by the profits Apple makes on that "pricey" and "expensive" hardware. Mac OS X has always been less expensive than Windows, despite Microsoft's substantially larger economies of scale.

Apple can afford to do this because it, alone of all the computer makers on the planet, is able to sell its hardware at a premium, and that premium pays for all the R&D Apple does and the development of Mac OS X. In other words, you don't get the awesomeness of Mac OS X without Apple's hardware business.

Companies like Psystar, PearPC, Quo, and the other would-be cloners are just leeching off of Apple's hardware business, especially with Snow Leopard, which was priced at the retail level (at US$29) as an upgrade from Leopard. Were Apple forced to allow companies to sell Mac clones, the retail price of Mac OS X would have to increase if Apple's hardware business were to take a hit.

This stuff doesn't occur in a vacuum, something that Mr. Elfrink doesn't seem to comprehend, despite having the audacity to preach at us under the guise of journalism. (Yeah yeah yeah, I'm preaching, too, but I'm doing so in a flat-out opinion piece, not a news article).

The biggest reason, however, that I am praying to the gods I do not believe in for Psystar to fail is not that I own a few shares of AAPL (I do, but that's not the reason), it's because far from thinking these guys are trying to liberate us from Apple's tyranny of heavy-handedness, I see Psystar as trying to chain us to the tyranny of mediocrity.

The Mac is awesome, in my opinion. I love the platform. The platform consists of two elements, hardware and software, that work in harmony. They are able to do so because Apple controls both of those elements. Mac OS X has to work on a narrowly defined field of computers, and that allows Apple to ensure that it does so.

Windows, on the other hand, is good enough for some folks, and hundreds of billions of dollars every year are spent by companies and individuals on an army of IT chimps many tens of thousands strong around the world whose job is to deal with all the problems inherent in an ecosystem where hardware is controlled by hundreds of companies and software controlled by another.

Yes, that camp gets the benefit of cheaper (and almost always uglier, but to each his own) hardware and a choice of vendors, not to mention not having to deal with a company as arrogant as Apple can be, but we Mac users have chosen instead for a proprietary ecosystem where things just work.

The greater expense to enter that ecosystem (in the form of more expensive computers that don't suck) pays for that "just working" thing, and at the same time limits Apple's reach to a small percentage, but profitable percentage, of the market, even if that percentage is growing. For us, it's an easy choice.

I laugh at the way Windows people deal with what I think is computing mediocrity, just as many Wintel-heads laugh because they think I pay too much for my computer. Whatever, it's a wide world, and there's plenty of room for both approaches in the market.

Psystar, however, wants to take that choice away, and chain us, instead, to the same mediocrity that is inherent to any open-licensing model. That they would destroy the very source of their hacked up pieces of crap is, apparently, lost on them. That destruction would either take the form of higher prices for Mac OS X, the same sorts of onerous registration methods like those employed by Microsoft, or the breakdown of how smoothly Mac OS X works on legions of crappy hackintoshes.

Of course, what would really happen is that Psystar would be out-Delled by Dell, Emachines, Asustek, and maybe even HP, and would find itself quickly ignored by both the computing-buying public and the media, and even by all those smack-talking bloggers that Tim Elfrink complains about in his article. Nobody wins if Psystar wins, not even Psystar.

What would be even worse, however, is that if Psystar were to win, the courts would basically be ruling that proprietary systems are a no-no. That, to me, is simply unthinkable. We've seen what kind of crap we have to deal with in open-licensing models in the computing world. I'd like to see more proprietary competition in this market, not less.

While that's not likely to happen at this stage of the game, forcing Apple to allow cloning would be a major step backwards for everyone.

In the meanwhile, shame on The Miami New Times and Tim Elfrink for a poorly researched, and even more poorly presented piece of bad journalism.

Comments

James

“We’ve seen what kind of crap we have to deal with in open-licensing models in the computing world. I’d like to see more proprietary competition in this market, not less.”

Word, and word! I leave comments with a similar sentiment on all of these Psystar related stories-it’s that very competition that drives innovation, this is how it was done in the era that gave us our greatest advances in personal computing, and I’d love to see it come back as well.

Also I’ve stated before, I am so tired of people piggy-backing on the successful efforts of others rather than being inspired to create something of their own. There is always room for and money to be made with genuinely inspired ideas. If Apple (and this isn’t just Apple-we have to include all of the efforts of the NeXT folks too, an awful lot of work over a very long period of time) were not a large company this entire debacle would seem ludicrous and stand out as the blatant theft that it is. I don’t want to be thrust into another Windows era of computing, not when we’re finally starting to make our way back into the light again.

Lee Dronick

Well know you know why fark.com has a Florida tag for stories out of that state.

John Molloy

Well the good news is that quotes from the article directly contradict what their lawyer said in court under oath and the court case continues today. Looks like Apple’s lawyers are gonna have a lot of fun.

mrmwebmax

+

Nice one, Bryan. I especially liked some of the Randian phrases thrown in (secondhanders in particular), as well as what seemed a potential nod to The Incredibles (the horror of embracing mediocrity). As for the newspaper article, though, I’m not surprised: The whole country is awash in bleeding-heart Socialist rhetoric right now. Being strong and successful is definitely NOT in vogue anymore.

geoduck

There is not a lot of difference between what Psystar is trying to do and those spammers that will sell you Win7 or Office2007 for $5.

Bennyboy

I don’t know how you were able to get thru all 6 pages.  I got to the second one and was no nauseous I had to close the page.  It’s like Homer Simpson eating a bad sandwich, as painful it is to keep swallowing, you need to get to the end.  Why?  It’s so FOS that it’s like a recruitment piece for the Taliban.  The next thing they’ll claim is that they’re freedom fighters.  Can’t we just call Tony Montana and be done with it?

Bennyboy

Elfrink?  Is that Spanish for The Frink? Like in Professor Frink?  I’m watching too much Simpsons. Hmmhay!

Lee Dronick

Elfrink?? Is that Spanish for The Frink? Like in Professor Frink?

More likely the Comic Book Store Guy. You got me to thinking, maybe the deep pockets behind Psystar is the Rich Texan.

geoduck

maybe the deep pockets behind Psystar is the Rich Texan

I’ve speculated it was MD for a while now. For much of the ‘90s he seemed obsessed with Apple and this would just be an extension to that. I also seem to remember reading that he wasn’t happy being so wedded to MS. He wanted options.

Lee Dronick

?ve speculated it was MD for a while now. Fo

Doh! With a Homer slap to my head, I forgot that MD is a Texan. No I was referring to the Rich Texan character on The Simpsons I almost suggested Fat Tony or Monty Burns as the deep pockets

JKP

Great article. Well reasoned and your arguments well presented.

Sonshi

I think that if those Brothers are that good has they think they are why don?t they start a Company that produces Original Products instead of hacking the others Company?s Products. Because they have a limited mind.
I think that the USA and the rest of the World should change Computers Laws to the extend that this type of Crime, the Copyright Violation would Stop. I think that a couple of Years in Prison should to the Job. Maybe 10/20 Years would be an example for others to came.

Gareth Harris

Parasites- ticks, fleas, worms, patent trolls, Pystars - will always develop and need to be purged regularly for good health.

Nemo

Mr. Chaffin’s cogent analysis of why social policy and law should protect Apple’s business model is persuasive.  He shows why copyright, as I understand it and as I believe most judges and lawyers understand it, does and should allow the holders of the copyright to restrict its operating system to its own devices, rather than forcing the copyright holder to license its operating system to third parties who would compete with it. 

Where, as here competition thrives, Apple should be free to restrict its operating system to its devices by the exercise of its exclusive rights under the Copyright Act.  Here, Apple has plenty of competition to keep it in check, force it to compete, and require that it continue to innovate to succeed and survive.  Apple, after all, has only 9 to ten percent of the U.S. market and less than four percent of the world market.  That leaves plenty of competition to provide consumers that want cheaper computers with plenty of choices that are based on licensing of operating systems.  For those that prefer the benefits of superior quality, design, and innovation, there is Apple.  The law of copyright should guarantee that both models, licensing an OS to third parties and not licensing the OS to third parties, can exist so that consumers can choose the one that they prefer and society can benefit from the advantages of both models.  Hopefully, Judge Alsup will see it that way.

Nemo, Esq.

ziploc

This caught my eye, from the article:

Psystar pays full price ? $29 ? for each copy of OS that it installs on its computers.

The $29 price tag is for Leopard upgrades only.  Psystar has certainly bought a lot of copies of Leopard but the systems they are installing the $29 OS on are not upgraded Systems, supposedly most of the Leopard machines they have built have been sold and shipped.  That means that for every single new system that is not an actual upgrade they owe Apple $140 (the only other option for non-leopard owners apparently is the $169 box set).  Yes?

geoduck

Nemo
The corollary I keep thinking of, and please tell me if I’m off base here, is for writers. I’ve written several books. I arrange with a publisher to get one of them published as a book.  If the court were to rule in PsyStar’s favour, would that mean that someone could then go out, buy my book for $25 and have the right to make a movie out of it without paying me a cent? Could they then take this ruling and say that if they own the book they have the right to do whatever they want to with the contents?

Nemo

Dear Geoduck:  I’ve used the book analogy myself.  However, I think that the more precise analogy would be that, if the court ruled in Psystar’s favor, you, as an author, could, under Psystar’s reasoning, be forced to license your book to anyone who wished to publish it.  That of course would devalue your copyright, because, if a publisher, say Random House, couldn’t get an exclusive right to license your book for publication, it wouldn’t be willing to pay much, if any royalty, for your license.  However, not paying a royalty for making a movie or publishing your book seems to go beyond the implications of Psystar’s reasoning.  It is just that the royalty would be less, because you, as the copyright holder, could not offer an exclusive license for either books, movies, or anything else.

For Apple and society, the situation would be even worse.  Apple’s copyright in OS X would not only lose much of its value, but a ruling in Psystar’s favor would eventually destroy Apple’s business model; force Apple to stop innovating in hardware and in the integration of hardware and software, because it couldn’t get an adequate return on such innovation; and society would suffer because that would be the end of the type of business model that can produce iPhones, Macs, and OS X.

ivo

For Christs sake, that is a newspaper you are talking about—a paper which has won more than 70 first-place awards for editorial excellence.  It’s not supposed to be another Apple shrine like this site.  How many awards have YOU won?

Newspapers have real journalists that write about real people, not about machines.  And people read the local paper because they want to see local stories.  The publishers have no obligation to satisfy a few rabid MacSnobs.  To any sane person, it’s obvious that MNT is simply trying to help the reader understand what motivates the creators of Psystar.  They are profiling a cultural phenomenon here.  This is not only the kind of writing that wins awards—it’s also far more intelligent than the banal bleating that goes on in here.  You wouldn’t know good journalism if it sneaked into your bedroom and raped you. 

Did you seriously expect a real newspaper to call for a lynching and parrot the same incoherent hate speech that spews from the keyboards of immature Mac fanatics?  You’re just upset because the democratization of Mac OS would threaten your social status.  But you’re not all that: you are just another Apple fanboy who thought you could purchase superiority in a store.  Get real, man—and get a life.  Apple doesn’t need you to come to its rescue.

John Molloy

ivo.

One would think that with their awards they might be able to recognize the difference between news and doing a hagiography on two people who are out to rip off Apple.

“You?re just upset because the democratization of Mac OS would threaten your social status.”
Linux is democratic. I suggest you try there.

“Apple doesn?t need you to come to its rescue.”
That is why Apple employs lawyers. To take thieves and miscreants like this to court.

Bryan Chaffin

They are profiling a cultural phenomenon here.? This is not only the kind of writing that wins awards?it?s also far more intelligent than the banal bleating that goes on in here.? You wouldn?t know good journalism if it sneaked into your bedroom and raped you.

That’s pretty funny, Ivo.

I offered up some clearcut examples of why this MNT piece is an example of just awful journalism. with shoddy reasoning, wording intending to advance a bias, a lack of understanding of the facts, and a one-sided approach to the issue that is just appalling, this bag of crap of an article won’t be winning any awards.

I stand behind my criticisms.

I’m all for a local newspaper publishing a look at the people behind a company being thrust into the national limelight, but the approach used by Mr. Elfrink is a slanted, error-ridden love letter, not proper journalism.

Lastly, I suggest you read through to the end of my column for a better understanding of why I think that Psystar is the bad guy in this pathetic saga, your accusations of me being an Apple fanboy notwithstanding.

Lee Dronick

Bryan, using your weblogs you can read the IP Address of visitors. It might be interesting to see from where ivo is coming.

geoduck

For Christs sake, that is a newspaper you are talking about?a paper which has won more than 70 first-place awards for editorial excellence.

And that is very much irrelevant. A newspaper even a good one can have a bad reporter. Over the last couple of decades I there have been several cases of top of the line papers in NY, Washington, LA and elsewhere that had to fire reporters for plagiarizing or making up stories.

This is a much more subtle issue however and something you see in all news sources, print or broadcast: the tendency to slant a story to favor the local guy. I remember when I lived in Minnesota that it became a standing joke how the print and broadcast media always had to have a Minnesota angle on national and world stories. This is much the same. Slanting the story to make it into a ‘little local guy gets beaten up by the big corporate bully’ is poor journalism, but it sells papers. What would have made it better? How about replacing all the personal human interest background on the guys behind PsyStar with comments from a lawyer who could supply relevant case history. That would be “editorial excellence”. This screed would get a C in a high school journalism class. But this has also become the norm for print, which is why I no longer subscribe to any newspaper.

Lee Dronick

Breaking News!

Yesterday Judge Alsup ruled in favor of Apple in the Psystar case:

“In this copyright-infringement action, plaintiff Apple, Inc. and defendant Psystar Corporation have filed cross motions for summary judgment. For the following reasons, Apple?s motion is GRANTED and Psystar?s motion is DENIED.”

Read the rest of the ruling here http://www.groklaw.net/pdf2/Psystar-214.pdf

geoduck

I looked at the PDF and I realized something. IANAL. When the legal speak starts my eyes glaze over and I hear elevator music inside my skull. Could someone tell me what this means?

Lee Dronick

Could someone tell me what this means?

Psystar is in trouble.

I am exchanging emails with John Martello and he tells me that The MacObserver has a story on this ruling. We should have something in layman’s terms soon.

Lee Dronick

For some reason the MacObserver story did not show up on my RSS feed. Read the breaking news here http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/judge_grants_apples_summary_judgement_denies_psystar/

Dan

IT Chimps? Who the pho do you think you are with that kind of attitude. Oh, right the over achieving reporter who’s making a killing working for an internet periodical. Get a life carrot top and watch what you say or else I will put you in timeout boy.

Bryan Chaffin

You seem a touch defensive, Dan.

I stand behind my piece.

geoduck

Oh just give him a banana and he’ll be fine

(Remember I’m one of those IT Chimps, at least that’s what I get paid for)

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