I mostly use linux to get my work done, but occasionally I am very glad that my network has Macs on it. It means I can easily buy music from iTunes or use Skype for example.
I thought I would try out Skype with video, all the cool kids are doing it so why not. Oops, not available for linux. Hmm, try some other apps that do the same thing? Mixed results. Ekiga is not so great, other tools are just not usable, not least because they are built in Tcl. Time to move to the Mac.
Cool, plug in my new web cam, the Logitech QuickCam Pro 5000, and off we go. . . but wait! The web cam does not work on the Mac? But I just had it working on linux, yeah I had to download a driver and some pretty freaky software but it worked. How can they not support the Mac?
Oh well, I guess I will just use Skype to make phone calls, without the video. Hmm, what is the deal here with Skype’s license? I know it is the non-free section of Ubuntu so it is not GPL’d. Better look through the EULA. Oh. Nasty. Time to turn to Google.
My friend Google tells me that Skype is apparently reading from the BIOS on certain Windows machines, glad I do not run Windows or let it onto my network! But what is the story here? Aha, Skype uses the BIOS information to identify specific machines, perhaps to limit connections, perhaps for something else, Skype doesn’t say.
Google also tells me that Skype seriously obscures its code (.pdf). Why? What do they have to hide? Maybe this is to be expected from a company that ran roughshod over copyright law when they built Kazaa. Even Skype’s CEO, is afraid to set foot in the US for fear of being immediately arrested upon arrival. I guess money can’t buy you everything can it Niklas Zennerström? No Disney World vacations for you!
On a serious note Skype, why not open up a little? Let us know what you are doing on our computers. Start by answering these simple questions;
1. Does Skype contain backdoors or Malware?
2. How can we know without just taking your word? You only provide a “black box” which is impossible to see inside. You are purposely vague about what you do with the information from the BIOS you obtain.
3. Can I refuse to become a SuperNode? (SuperNode = no firewall + fast cpu + lots of bandwdth. This is one of the reasons why many universities ban Skype, because universities often have computers on their network that become SuperNodes.)
Until I get more information, I am going to apt-get remove skype and send to to the trash on my Apple machines. I will stick with my Apple tools and things available under the GPL, at least that is software I can trust.