No Love for Linux: Olympics closed to Open Source

I’ve returned from CT. I had a great time, although there was some rough going with my stomach for a few days (on and off). I think I overdid it on the wings and picked up a stomach bug, which my dad also caught (he doesn’t eat hot wings). Still, it was a great vacation.

My sister and I closed my trip by watching the Olympics online and on TV last night. I just tried to go watch them myself, but it turns out that NBC partnered with Microsoft to do the webcasts of the Olympic games. Microsoft avoided using the more widely adopted Adobe Flash, and instead chose their less widely adopted Silverlight video. The NBC website only allows Windows and Mac, despite availability of a Linux plugin for Silverlight video.

The NBC/MS website error box when I try to watch Olympic video from LinuxThe Olympics are supposed to embody the spirit of bringing diverse peoples together, to compete instead of promoting warfare between their nations. Ironically, this Olympics failed on many fronts (as have many previous Olympics) to do that. Russia invaded Georgia, China’s human rights violations were rubbed in their faces everywhere except in China (yay, passport control!), and the widespread Linux community (many in poor nations unable to afford the Microsoft tax in the first place, and certainly unable to buy Macs!) was shut out of enjoying these games – or even highlight video from the games!

The open-source community was then forced to “break the law” to watch the Olympics. Peer-to-peer systems were used to distribute video of the games, in some cases reported to be much higher quality than the Silverlight video!

If the goal was to unite nations under Microsoft, all NBC and MS have done is breed new resentment of “big media’s” use of the internet, and their further locking down of content on the internet as a means to force people to pay for knowledge. I was even further saddened to see that when I installed the open-source “moonlight” plugin [1], an implementation of the Silverlight 2.0 standard, NBC’s MS-run website STILL wouldn’t let me play video!

So much for the Olympic spirit. When the most open community in the U.S. is shut out of a global event like this, by the very technology they made possible in the first place, it’s a sad commentary on the future of the internet.


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