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Phoning home?

There’s been a buzz lately about Mac OS X phoning home. The skinny of this is that with the 10.4.7 update a new program called the dashboardadvisoryd makes two requests to Apple servers every eight hours. The purpose of these requests is to check if all of your Dashboard widgets are up to date. Now people are making a big fuss comparing this to Microsoft’s WGA. The rumor mill being what it is, let’s assume for the moment that all the rumors are true.

We have on one hand an anti-piracy scheme by Microsoft that deactivates Windows and prevents it from running if The Powers That Be determine that your copy of Windows is illegitimate. On the other, we have something similar to Software Update. Software Update, which you may or may not know checks with Apple’s servers periodically (by default, once a week) to see if there are any updates to the software on your system. Where’s the public outcry? Or did Andrew to disable this draconian system service? Not only that, but just about every 3rd party application I have installed checks for updates each time they are run which is much more often than once a week. Here’s just a partial list of software that “phones home”:

  • Firefox
  • Cyberduck
  • Adium
  • Comic Life
  • Pith Helmet
  • SubEthaEdit
  • Google Earth
  • LimeWire
  • Thunderbird
  • VLC

Additionally, here’s a (non exhaustive) list of operating systems that “phone home” to check for updated software:

  • Red Hat
  • Debian
  • Ubuntu
  • Windows XP
  • Fortigate

And now suddenly Apple is the bad guy? Did you all take stupid pills this morning? For frak sake people, let’s keep this in perspective.

UPDATE: As noted below by Martin, SubEthaEdit does not check for updates. However, my point was that accusing software of phoning home carries the implication that it’s being done for surveillance of individuals in order to ensure or enforce particular behavior. There’s a huge difference between surveillance and software updates, as is also noted by BWhaler on Red Sweater.

UPDATE 2: As of version 2.5.1 SubEthaEdit now checks for updates on launch.