When it comes to the end of the world, some folks assume it’s going to be brought about by a group of mad scientists. Another theory is that lawyers will destroy it. The lawyers will almost certainly be involved, but it wouldn’t be fair to put the full blame on them either. No, the end of the world will be the responsibility of Apple Computers CEO Steve Jobs.
A few days ago I decided to make one of my rare online music purchases. Most of the music I acquire online is made available for free by independent artists such as Tom Smith or the various members of the Funny Music Project. Other music purchases tend to be actual CDs so I can play them wherever I want to. But sometimes I only want one or two songs, and that’s when I use iTunes.
It’s not that I’m particularly fond of iTunes, quite the opposite really. I don’t own an iPod and getting the songs to play in the car or on anything other than my PC involves jumping through a number of hoops. (So far, Apple hasn’t taken me up on my quite generous offer to evaluate an iPhone.) But all the other online music stores also seem to be tied to a particular device and early on at least, Apple seemed to have the largest selection of songs. (Though they still don’t have The Beatles.)
It’s been a while since the last time I bought anything through iTunes and the version of the software on my computer is kind of dated. It plays the music just fine which is what I’m most concerned with, but to actually go and buy a song, Apple requires you to have the most recent version of the software.
So I downloaded the latest version of the iTunes software and set out to install it. Unsurprisingly, when you install the new version, you have to agree to the latest version of Apple’s software license agreement. This is a key element in Steve Jobs’ plans for destroying the world.
Apple makes it very easy for you to agree to their license terms. Or at least, they make it a heck of a lot easier to just click the “I accept the terms in the license agreement” than it is to actually read it. To keep you from being overwhelmed by its length, the license is “conveniently” displayed in a little window that’s less than two inches high and less than five inches wide. Only 12 lines of text are visible at a time and reading the license in its entirety requires you to hit the “Page Down” key a total of 35 times. They also don’t point out that when you accept the license, you agree to everything in there. Every last bit of it.
You really should read the iTunes license agreement. About four pages down, under the “Permitted License Uses and Restrictions” heading, you acknowledge that “THE APPLE SOFTWARE IS NOT INTENDED FOR USE IN THE OPERATION OF NUCLEAR FACILITIES, AIRCRAFT NAVIGATION OR COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS, LIFE SUPPORT MACHINES OR OTHER EQUIPMENT IN WHICH THE FAILURE OF THE APPLE SOFTWARE COULD LEAD TO DEATH, PERSONAL INJURY, OR SEVERE PHYSICAL OR ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE.” (The capitalization is Apple’s, not mine.)
With a little effort I can imagine the sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that would allow iTunes to be used in controlling a nuclear reactor. Something where a rise in the reactor’s core temperature trips a heat sensor which activates the speaker attached to a PC running iTunes. The iTunes computer is playing Barry Manilow’s Mandy at top volume. This wakes the baby who starts crying and startles the squirrel which pulls the string attached to the switch that turns the reactor’s cooling system back on.
So that’s how you can use iTunes to control a nuclear reactor. Using iTunes in air traffic control, etc. is left as an exercise for the student. But here’s the thing, because you agreed to the iTunes license agreement, you’re not allowed to use it that way.
Hit the “Page Down” key another 15 times and under the “Export Control” heading, you’ll find another forbidden use for the iTunes software. Now you’re agreeing (this time without unneeded capitalization) that you won’t use iTunes for “…the development, design, manufacture or production of missiles, or nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.” It seems to me that if you use the iTunes software to control a nuclear reactor, then whether you know it or not, you’ve already used iTunes to develop a nuclear weapon. (Suppose for example the squirrel chews through the string and isn’t around when baby starts crying? Or what if the baby’s taking a lunch break?)
By making the license agreement so lengthy and giving you such a small display to read it on, Apple pretty much assures that most people won’t read it. And if they don’t read the license, they won’t know that they’ve agreed to not use iTunes to control their nuclear reactors.
And that’s how Steve Jobs is going to destroy the world.