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Python obfuscation

Are there any commercial, or otherwise obfuscators for python source
code or byte code and what are their relative advantages or
disadvantages. I wonder because there are some byte code protection
available for java and .NET, although from what i've read these seem to
be not comprehensive as protection schemes



http://petantik.blogsome.com - Telling it like it is

Nov 9 '05
159 12023
On Tue, 15 Nov 2005 03:06:31 -0800, Ben Sizer wrote:
My interest lies in being able to use encrypted data (where 'data' can
also include parts of the code) so that the data can only be read by my
Python program, and specifically by a single instance of that program.
You would be able to make a backup copy (or 20), you could give the
whole lot to someone else, etc etc. I would just like to make it so
that you can't stick the data file on Bittorrent and have the entire
world playing with data that was only purchased once.


Well, if and when you find a way to make water not wet and three-sided
squares, then you can turn your mind towards solving the *really* hard
problem: how to make bytes not copyable.
--
Steven.

Nov 22 '05 #151

Alex Martelli wrote:
Money is made in many ways, essentially by creating (perceived) buyer
advantage and capturing some part of it -- but market segmentation is
just one of many ways. IF your predictions are ENORMOUSLY better than
those the competition can make, then offering for free "slightly
damaged" predictions, that are still better than the competition's
despite the damage, MIGHT be a way to market your wares -- under a lot
of other assumptions, e.g., that there is actual demand for the best
predictions you can make, the ones you get paid for, so that your free
service doesn't undermine your for-pay one. It just seems unlikely that
all of these preconditions would be satisfied at the same time; better
to limit your "free" predictions along other axes, such as duration or
location, which doesn't require your predictions' accuracy advantage to
be ENORMOUS _and_ gives you a lot of control on "usefulness" of what
you're supplying for free -- damaging the quality by randomization just
seems to be unlikely to be the optimal strategy here, even if you had
determined (or were willing to bet the firm that) marked segmentation is
really the way to go here.
Suppose I grant all your theories about optimal marketing strategies.
This still doesn't account for the way the market is behaving *now*. It
isn't in any way logical or optimal. For example in Holland (where I
live) complete governmental departments are dedicated to make life
miserable for the unemployed, for asylum seekers, for people that
disagree with any official policy. If looking at the recent
developments in France I find it hard to believe that such social
inequality an injustice develops naturally. To me it looks more like
it's caused by organized crime, where *official* legal governmental
organizations are either crimimal organizations themselves or are
cooperating with such organizations.

You seem to tackle the problem of python obfuscation by first proving
that it isn't feasible and then giving some kind of solution that will
work and give the desired result: webservices. However when I look at
obfuscation techniques I see a desire to profit from giving some person
the idea that he or she is superior to someone else because he has a
better product. In order to avoid copying we now need obfuscation. The
difficulty to copy the thing (whether it is a swiss watch, a sportscar,
designer clothes, the latest computer game, an ipod, a computer
program) is part of the advertising game and is the basis for
associating it with a certain status. If you look for a few minutes at
a TV screen and notice what the commercials are trying to tell you, you
will see that it's almost always that you will be better, stronger,
more popular or beautyfull etc. if only you use product X.

You are perfectly right if you would say that it is an illogical
strategy to make people feel better relative to other people in order
to get them to do something you want. Commercial entities could in
principle be free of such things but we live in a world that is
dominated by this worldview and if one tries to sell something one has
to take that into account.

So how to get the same kind of market segmentation (as you call it)
when you deploy your program as a webservice and where essentially the
cost for you (moving a few electrons to produce a solution to a
problem) is exactly the same whether you give the user a good or a bad
result. If you give optimal results to everyone, users will go to other
sites just because these sites give them opportunity to feel better
than other people, not because this is objectively better, but just
because that is how they think the world "works".

<snip>
I hope this analogy clarifies why, while I don't think deliberate damage
of result quality can be entirely ruled out, I think it's extremely
unlikely to make any sense compared to ofher market segmentation
tactics, even if you DO grant that it's worth segmenting (free samples
are an extremely ancient and traditional tactic in all kind of food
selling situations, after all, and when well-designed and promoting a
product whose taste is indeed worth a premium price, they have been
repeatedly shown to be potentially quite effective -- so, I'm hoping
there will be no debate that the segmentation might perfectly well be
appropriate for this "analogy" case, whether it is or isn't in the
originally discussed case of selling predictions-via-webservices).


I agree it doesn't make sense. Like uncle Harry who thinks he can lay
golden eggs. We could cure him but we need the egss :-)

Alternatively, lets just forget about obfuscation and try to get
people to freely share by promoting open source (and open webservices).

Anton

Nov 22 '05 #152

Alex Martelli wrote:
Money is made in many ways, essentially by creating (perceived) buyer
advantage and capturing some part of it -- but market segmentation is
just one of many ways. IF your predictions are ENORMOUSLY better than
those the competition can make, then offering for free "slightly
damaged" predictions, that are still better than the competition's
despite the damage, MIGHT be a way to market your wares -- under a lot
of other assumptions, e.g., that there is actual demand for the best
predictions you can make, the ones you get paid for, so that your free
service doesn't undermine your for-pay one. It just seems unlikely that
all of these preconditions would be satisfied at the same time; better
to limit your "free" predictions along other axes, such as duration or
location, which doesn't require your predictions' accuracy advantage to
be ENORMOUS _and_ gives you a lot of control on "usefulness" of what
you're supplying for free -- damaging the quality by randomization just
seems to be unlikely to be the optimal strategy here, even if you had
determined (or were willing to bet the firm that) marked segmentation is
really the way to go here.
Suppose I grant all your theories about optimal marketing strategies.
This still doesn't account for the way the market is behaving *now*. It
isn't in any way logical or optimal. For example in Holland (where I
live) complete governmental departments are dedicated to make life
miserable for the unemployed, for asylum seekers, for people that
disagree with any official policy. If looking at the recent
developments in France I find it hard to believe that such social
inequality an injustice develops naturally. To me it looks more like
it's caused by organized crime, where *official* legal governmental
organizations are either crimimal organizations themselves or are
cooperating with such organizations.

You seem to tackle the problem of python obfuscation by first proving
that it isn't feasible and then giving some kind of solution that will
work and give the desired result: webservices. However when I look at
obfuscation techniques I see a desire to profit from giving some person
the idea that he or she is superior to someone else because he has a
better product. In order to avoid copying we now need obfuscation. The
difficulty to copy the thing (whether it is a swiss watch, a sportscar,
designer clothes, the latest computer game, an ipod, a computer
program) is part of the advertising game and is the basis for
associating it with a certain status. If you look for a few minutes at
a TV screen and notice what the commercials are trying to tell you, you
will see that it's almost always that you will be better, stronger,
more popular or beautyfull etc. if only you use product X.

You are perfectly right if you would say that it is an illogical
strategy to make people feel better relative to other people in order
to get them to do something you want. Commercial entities could in
principle be free of such things but we live in a world that is
dominated by this worldview and if one tries to sell something one has
to take that into account.

So how to get the same kind of market segmentation (as you call it)
when you deploy your program as a webservice and where essentially the
cost for you (moving a few electrons to produce a solution to a
problem) is exactly the same whether you give the user a good or a bad
result. If you give optimal results to everyone, users will go to other
sites just because these sites give them opportunity to feel better
than other people, not because this is objectively better, but just
because that is how they think the world "works".

<snip>
I hope this analogy clarifies why, while I don't think deliberate damage
of result quality can be entirely ruled out, I think it's extremely
unlikely to make any sense compared to ofher market segmentation
tactics, even if you DO grant that it's worth segmenting (free samples
are an extremely ancient and traditional tactic in all kind of food
selling situations, after all, and when well-designed and promoting a
product whose taste is indeed worth a premium price, they have been
repeatedly shown to be potentially quite effective -- so, I'm hoping
there will be no debate that the segmentation might perfectly well be
appropriate for this "analogy" case, whether it is or isn't in the
originally discussed case of selling predictions-via-webservices).


I agree it doesn't make sense. Like uncle Harry who thinks he can lay
golden eggs. We could cure him but we need the egss :-)

Alternatively, lets just forget about obfuscation and try to get
people to freely share by promoting open source (and open webservices).

Anton

Nov 22 '05 #153
Anton Vredegoor <an*************@gmail.com> wrote:
...
Suppose I grant all your theories about optimal marketing strategies.
This still doesn't account for the way the market is behaving *now*. It
isn't in any way logical or optimal. For example in Holland (where I
live) complete governmental departments are dedicated to make life
What makes you think that governmental departments are part of the
*market*?! Government behavior is controlled by laws that are vastly
different from those controlling market behavior; if you're interested,
you could study the "theory of public choice".

Studying "perfect" markets (which can be mathematically proven to be
optimal in some senses -- the Arrow-Debreu Model, for example) is
parallel to studying physical systems that do not have attrition or
other such complications -- it's mathematically sharp (not easy, but WAY
easier than taking account of all the complications of the real world),
intellectually fascinating, AND practically useful in many (not all)
cases, since many real systems can be usefully modeled as "perfect" ones
with "perturbations" (second-order effects) considered separately.

If Galileo had tried to START physics by studying real-world systems in
all of their complexity, we'd still be at square zero; fortunately, he
was able to identify systems "close enough to perfect" (e.g., heavy
weights faling to the ground, compact enough to ignore air resistance,
etc) to get the ball rolling. Physics still faces a lot of challenges
after many centuries in areas where the "perturbations" are much
stronger than "second-order" -- I'm told our physical modeling of cloud
systems or such everyday phenomena as welding is still way from perfect,
for example (forget quantum and relativistic effects... I'm talking of
everyday observations!-), and of course so does the much younger
discipline of mathematical economics. Nevertheless the study of the
"perturbations" is well under way, with Nobel memorial prizes having
already been awarded in such fields as "bounded rationality" and
asymmetric-information markets.

Just like a gunner in the mid-19th century had to know fundamental
physics pretty well, but also developed experience-based heuristics to
compensate for all of the "perturbations" in his system, so the
practicing economic actor today needs a mix of science and art (in the
original meaning of "art", of course).

You seem to tackle the problem of python obfuscation by first proving
that it isn't feasible and then giving some kind of solution that will
work and give the desired result: webservices. However when I look at
That seems to me to be a practicable technical approach, yes.
obfuscation techniques I see a desire to profit from giving some person
the idea that he or she is superior to someone else because he has a
better product. In order to avoid copying we now need obfuscation. The
You're discussing the *motivation* for obfuscating, while what I was
giving was a possible way of *implementing* similar effects.
difficulty to copy the thing (whether it is a swiss watch, a sportscar,
designer clothes, the latest computer game, an ipod, a computer
program) is part of the advertising game and is the basis for
associating it with a certain status. If you look for a few minutes at
Yes, this is close to the theory of luxury goods (which is WAY
underdeveloped, by the way: if you're a post-doctoral student in
economics and are wondering where best to direct your research in order
to stand a chance to gain a Nobel memorial prize some day, you could do
worse than turn your efforts to this field). The maths are complicated,
in the theory of luxury goods, because utility is RELATIVE: buyer's
advantage cannot be computed, even theoretically, from knowing just the
buyer's utility curve and the amount of good supplied to that buyer,
because the curve depends on the *relative* amounts supplied to that
buyer versus other buyers.

Throw asymmetric information into the mix, and, besides a mathematically
unmanageable mess, you get the famous anomaly whereby an INCREASE i the
price may locally result in an INCREASE in demand (backwards-sloping
price-demand curve) -- each buyer, lacking information about other
buyers, infers it from price signals, and *assumes* (as is normally the
case) that higher price means fewer buyers; since fewer buyers means a
higher relative advantage, this assumption increases each buyer's
appetite and thus, in the aggregate, raises demand.

While this is fascinating as an open research topic, AND crucial to
economic survival for purveyors of luxury good, I dispute the wisdom of
trying to model MOST markets of interest as subject to the fascinating
complications of "luxury goods theory".

Take, again, the specific example of the sawmill with NC saws, doing
custom work by cutting customer-specified shapes out of standard planks
of wood. If things can be optimized, so that six such shapes can be cut
out of each plant rather than the five which would result from a simple
layout of the shapes, the mill can meet an order for 3000 shapes by
consuming 500 planks of wood, rather than taking up 600 planks. There
is no need at all for any of the complications of luxury-goods theory to
understand and model this: the developer of the superior heuristic has
created "objective" value, under the simple and natural assumptions that
wood costs money and wasting less wood for the same output is therefore
an indisputable savings.

NOW you may get into the issue of how that value is split between
supplier (of the heuristic) and buyer (the sawmill), under various
possible arrangements. Market segmentation may well enter the picture
here, because there may be different orders of widely different sizes --
maybe 3000 shapes is a typical order, but there may be some for 300
shapes and some for as many as 30,000; if the supplier charges the same
price for usage of his heuristic for any size of order, either the
heuristic will not get used for the smaller orders (making the overall
"pie" of value to share smaller), or the buyer will capture close to all
the value for larger orders ("buyer's advantage" situation). So, it is
definitely to the supplier's advantage, and it can be shown that
situation exists in which it's of MUTUAL advantage, if different prices
can be used for the same (good of) service when used in different
situations (size of orders), which is exactly what market segmentation
is all about.

a TV screen and notice what the commercials are trying to tell you, you
will see that it's almost always that you will be better, stronger,
more popular or beautyfull etc. if only you use product X.
Whether such ads WORK, of course, is an entirely open question; targeted
ads, which get paid for only when they DO work, appear to be the
direction advertising is taking these days.

Anyway, ads are practically _irrelevant_ to all we were talking about so
far, except in as much as they may help in asymmetric information
markets, which is a separate (and infinitely fascinating) sector of
economic theory. It seems to me that you're mixing in all sort of
somewhat anecdotal observations, without a sound basis in either
economical theory or deep practical experience, just as when you were
taking your opinions about government departments as somehow related to
the working of markets (?).

If Galilei had started dispersing his energies and attention by worrying
about the COLORS in which the balls he was dropping to the ground were
painted, rather than focusing on RELEVANT issues such as size and mass,
he'd hardly have made much progress on the issue, would he?-)

You are perfectly right if you would say that it is an illogical
strategy to make people feel better relative to other people in order
to get them to do something you want. Commercial entities could in
I'm not saying that: if I had to sell luxury goods, I would definitely
pursue such a strategy. However, there are plenty of goods and services
which do NOT particularly need the complications of luxury-goods theory.
principle be free of such things but we live in a world that is
dominated by this worldview and if one tries to sell something one has
to take that into account.
If you're selling luxury goods, sure, you can't afford to ignore related
issues. But for most goods and services, particularly in the "business
to business" sector, the approach (which DOES get tried, as you can see
by some ads in magazines such as the Economist, Business Week, Forbes,
and so on) is IMHO quite silly (and a good example of that 50% of money
spent on advertising that is proverbially wasted).

So how to get the same kind of market segmentation (as you call it)
when you deploy your program as a webservice and where essentially the
cost for you (moving a few electrons to produce a solution to a
problem) is exactly the same whether you give the user a good or a bad
result. If you give optimal results to everyone, users will go to other
sites just because these sites give them opportunity to feel better
than other people, not because this is objectively better, but just
because that is how they think the world "works".
I believe that you are quite wrong: if your results are in fact better
than other sites', users will come get your results. Markets are
imperfect, rationality is bounded, etc, etc, but users in general are
not total morons, to deliberately go and get worse results "to feel
better than other people". For example...:

I was reading recently that Google's market share of web searches has
grown from 47% to 57%, comparing September 2004 with Sep 2005, for
example. If your theory had ANY validity whatsoever, this should be
impossible, since Google does give the best results it can to any comer;
therefore, it would follow from your theory, another site could steal
our traffic by serving artificially-degraded results to the non-paying
public, and true search results only to subscriber, or something. The
world just does not work this way -- thanks be.

Similarly: until recently, Opera "degraded" the user experience of
non-fee-paying users (by devoting a portion of its window to showing
banner ads) and required user to pay a fee (so, according to your
theory, "felling better than other people") to get a pure, undegraded
browsing experience. Firefox came along and "gave optimal results to
everyone" instead. Result: Firefox ate Opera's lunch, forcing Opera to
change its business model drastically. These events, once again, are
totally incompatible with the theory you advance in this paragraph.

I doubt you will be able to do a good job of comprehending, much less
_explaining_, market segmentation strategies and tactics, unless you
take the trouble to shed the ideological baggage, and stop trying to
force a vision of the huge system that's the complex of markets in this
world through the narrow slit of that small subset of those which are
"luxury-good markets". I don't deny that luxury goods exist (that would
be just as silly as your attempt to claim that ALL goods and services
fall under the complexity of luxury-good market theory!): I specifically
claim that luxury-goods situations are a small subset of markets (they
may be very visible, and can command large profit margins to offset
their small volumes and large advertising costs, but they're still
NICHES compared to "where the action is", namely ALL OTHER markets put
together).

Alternatively, lets just forget about obfuscation and try to get
people to freely share by promoting open source (and open webservices).


I tend to a more pragmatic stance, just like Eric Raymond: although open
source is going to prove preferable in _most_ cases, there _will_ be
other cases (like the NC saw example, where ESR himself was the
consultant who advised the inventors to keep their new heuristic a
secret) where the overall production of value in the world (quite apart
from who's going to capture what fraction of that value) will increase
if certain kinds of innovations can be exploited by their inventor.

Since redistribution of value, as long as a lot of value is created, can
be dealt with by other means, maximizing the creation of value tends to
be the goal I prefer -- a policy that quashes part or all of value
creation based on redistributive precepts is, by this very fact, going
to be something I look askance at (making the pie smaller to try to
ensure that what little is left gets sliced according to your political
preferences, rather than ensuring the pie is as big as possible as the
first order of business, and dealing with the slicing issues as
_secondary_ ones).
Alex
Nov 22 '05 #154
Anton Vredegoor <an*************@gmail.com> wrote:
...
Suppose I grant all your theories about optimal marketing strategies.
This still doesn't account for the way the market is behaving *now*. It
isn't in any way logical or optimal. For example in Holland (where I
live) complete governmental departments are dedicated to make life
What makes you think that governmental departments are part of the
*market*?! Government behavior is controlled by laws that are vastly
different from those controlling market behavior; if you're interested,
you could study the "theory of public choice".

Studying "perfect" markets (which can be mathematically proven to be
optimal in some senses -- the Arrow-Debreu Model, for example) is
parallel to studying physical systems that do not have attrition or
other such complications -- it's mathematically sharp (not easy, but WAY
easier than taking account of all the complications of the real world),
intellectually fascinating, AND practically useful in many (not all)
cases, since many real systems can be usefully modeled as "perfect" ones
with "perturbations" (second-order effects) considered separately.

If Galileo had tried to START physics by studying real-world systems in
all of their complexity, we'd still be at square zero; fortunately, he
was able to identify systems "close enough to perfect" (e.g., heavy
weights faling to the ground, compact enough to ignore air resistance,
etc) to get the ball rolling. Physics still faces a lot of challenges
after many centuries in areas where the "perturbations" are much
stronger than "second-order" -- I'm told our physical modeling of cloud
systems or such everyday phenomena as welding is still way from perfect,
for example (forget quantum and relativistic effects... I'm talking of
everyday observations!-), and of course so does the much younger
discipline of mathematical economics. Nevertheless the study of the
"perturbations" is well under way, with Nobel memorial prizes having
already been awarded in such fields as "bounded rationality" and
asymmetric-information markets.

Just like a gunner in the mid-19th century had to know fundamental
physics pretty well, but also developed experience-based heuristics to
compensate for all of the "perturbations" in his system, so the
practicing economic actor today needs a mix of science and art (in the
original meaning of "art", of course).

You seem to tackle the problem of python obfuscation by first proving
that it isn't feasible and then giving some kind of solution that will
work and give the desired result: webservices. However when I look at
That seems to me to be a practicable technical approach, yes.
obfuscation techniques I see a desire to profit from giving some person
the idea that he or she is superior to someone else because he has a
better product. In order to avoid copying we now need obfuscation. The
You're discussing the *motivation* for obfuscating, while what I was
giving was a possible way of *implementing* similar effects.
difficulty to copy the thing (whether it is a swiss watch, a sportscar,
designer clothes, the latest computer game, an ipod, a computer
program) is part of the advertising game and is the basis for
associating it with a certain status. If you look for a few minutes at
Yes, this is close to the theory of luxury goods (which is WAY
underdeveloped, by the way: if you're a post-doctoral student in
economics and are wondering where best to direct your research in order
to stand a chance to gain a Nobel memorial prize some day, you could do
worse than turn your efforts to this field). The maths are complicated,
in the theory of luxury goods, because utility is RELATIVE: buyer's
advantage cannot be computed, even theoretically, from knowing just the
buyer's utility curve and the amount of good supplied to that buyer,
because the curve depends on the *relative* amounts supplied to that
buyer versus other buyers.

Throw asymmetric information into the mix, and, besides a mathematically
unmanageable mess, you get the famous anomaly whereby an INCREASE i the
price may locally result in an INCREASE in demand (backwards-sloping
price-demand curve) -- each buyer, lacking information about other
buyers, infers it from price signals, and *assumes* (as is normally the
case) that higher price means fewer buyers; since fewer buyers means a
higher relative advantage, this assumption increases each buyer's
appetite and thus, in the aggregate, raises demand.

While this is fascinating as an open research topic, AND crucial to
economic survival for purveyors of luxury good, I dispute the wisdom of
trying to model MOST markets of interest as subject to the fascinating
complications of "luxury goods theory".

Take, again, the specific example of the sawmill with NC saws, doing
custom work by cutting customer-specified shapes out of standard planks
of wood. If things can be optimized, so that six such shapes can be cut
out of each plant rather than the five which would result from a simple
layout of the shapes, the mill can meet an order for 3000 shapes by
consuming 500 planks of wood, rather than taking up 600 planks. There
is no need at all for any of the complications of luxury-goods theory to
understand and model this: the developer of the superior heuristic has
created "objective" value, under the simple and natural assumptions that
wood costs money and wasting less wood for the same output is therefore
an indisputable savings.

NOW you may get into the issue of how that value is split between
supplier (of the heuristic) and buyer (the sawmill), under various
possible arrangements. Market segmentation may well enter the picture
here, because there may be different orders of widely different sizes --
maybe 3000 shapes is a typical order, but there may be some for 300
shapes and some for as many as 30,000; if the supplier charges the same
price for usage of his heuristic for any size of order, either the
heuristic will not get used for the smaller orders (making the overall
"pie" of value to share smaller), or the buyer will capture close to all
the value for larger orders ("buyer's advantage" situation). So, it is
definitely to the supplier's advantage, and it can be shown that
situation exists in which it's of MUTUAL advantage, if different prices
can be used for the same (good of) service when used in different
situations (size of orders), which is exactly what market segmentation
is all about.

a TV screen and notice what the commercials are trying to tell you, you
will see that it's almost always that you will be better, stronger,
more popular or beautyfull etc. if only you use product X.
Whether such ads WORK, of course, is an entirely open question; targeted
ads, which get paid for only when they DO work, appear to be the
direction advertising is taking these days.

Anyway, ads are practically _irrelevant_ to all we were talking about so
far, except in as much as they may help in asymmetric information
markets, which is a separate (and infinitely fascinating) sector of
economic theory. It seems to me that you're mixing in all sort of
somewhat anecdotal observations, without a sound basis in either
economical theory or deep practical experience, just as when you were
taking your opinions about government departments as somehow related to
the working of markets (?).

If Galilei had started dispersing his energies and attention by worrying
about the COLORS in which the balls he was dropping to the ground were
painted, rather than focusing on RELEVANT issues such as size and mass,
he'd hardly have made much progress on the issue, would he?-)

You are perfectly right if you would say that it is an illogical
strategy to make people feel better relative to other people in order
to get them to do something you want. Commercial entities could in
I'm not saying that: if I had to sell luxury goods, I would definitely
pursue such a strategy. However, there are plenty of goods and services
which do NOT particularly need the complications of luxury-goods theory.
principle be free of such things but we live in a world that is
dominated by this worldview and if one tries to sell something one has
to take that into account.
If you're selling luxury goods, sure, you can't afford to ignore related
issues. But for most goods and services, particularly in the "business
to business" sector, the approach (which DOES get tried, as you can see
by some ads in magazines such as the Economist, Business Week, Forbes,
and so on) is IMHO quite silly (and a good example of that 50% of money
spent on advertising that is proverbially wasted).

So how to get the same kind of market segmentation (as you call it)
when you deploy your program as a webservice and where essentially the
cost for you (moving a few electrons to produce a solution to a
problem) is exactly the same whether you give the user a good or a bad
result. If you give optimal results to everyone, users will go to other
sites just because these sites give them opportunity to feel better
than other people, not because this is objectively better, but just
because that is how they think the world "works".
I believe that you are quite wrong: if your results are in fact better
than other sites', users will come get your results. Markets are
imperfect, rationality is bounded, etc, etc, but users in general are
not total morons, to deliberately go and get worse results "to feel
better than other people". For example...:

I was reading recently that Google's market share of web searches has
grown from 47% to 57%, comparing September 2004 with Sep 2005, for
example. If your theory had ANY validity whatsoever, this should be
impossible, since Google does give the best results it can to any comer;
therefore, it would follow from your theory, another site could steal
our traffic by serving artificially-degraded results to the non-paying
public, and true search results only to subscriber, or something. The
world just does not work this way -- thanks be.

Similarly: until recently, Opera "degraded" the user experience of
non-fee-paying users (by devoting a portion of its window to showing
banner ads) and required user to pay a fee (so, according to your
theory, "felling better than other people") to get a pure, undegraded
browsing experience. Firefox came along and "gave optimal results to
everyone" instead. Result: Firefox ate Opera's lunch, forcing Opera to
change its business model drastically. These events, once again, are
totally incompatible with the theory you advance in this paragraph.

I doubt you will be able to do a good job of comprehending, much less
_explaining_, market segmentation strategies and tactics, unless you
take the trouble to shed the ideological baggage, and stop trying to
force a vision of the huge system that's the complex of markets in this
world through the narrow slit of that small subset of those which are
"luxury-good markets". I don't deny that luxury goods exist (that would
be just as silly as your attempt to claim that ALL goods and services
fall under the complexity of luxury-good market theory!): I specifically
claim that luxury-goods situations are a small subset of markets (they
may be very visible, and can command large profit margins to offset
their small volumes and large advertising costs, but they're still
NICHES compared to "where the action is", namely ALL OTHER markets put
together).

Alternatively, lets just forget about obfuscation and try to get
people to freely share by promoting open source (and open webservices).


I tend to a more pragmatic stance, just like Eric Raymond: although open
source is going to prove preferable in _most_ cases, there _will_ be
other cases (like the NC saw example, where ESR himself was the
consultant who advised the inventors to keep their new heuristic a
secret) where the overall production of value in the world (quite apart
from who's going to capture what fraction of that value) will increase
if certain kinds of innovations can be exploited by their inventor.

Since redistribution of value, as long as a lot of value is created, can
be dealt with by other means, maximizing the creation of value tends to
be the goal I prefer -- a policy that quashes part or all of value
creation based on redistributive precepts is, by this very fact, going
to be something I look askance at (making the pie smaller to try to
ensure that what little is left gets sliced according to your political
preferences, rather than ensuring the pie is as big as possible as the
first order of business, and dealing with the slicing issues as
_secondary_ ones).
Alex
Nov 22 '05 #155

Alex Martelli wrote:
Anton Vredegoor <an*************@gmail.com> wrote:
...
Suppose I grant all your theories about optimal marketing strategies.
I wish I hadn't done that :-) But seriously, I'm having trouble
answering in detail all of your points (which doesn't mean I don't
value them highly) because my online time is limited by the time period
this library is open, and I also want to scavange as much offline
reading material as possible while I'm connected.
This still doesn't account for the way the market is behaving *now*. It
isn't in any way logical or optimal. For example in Holland (where I
live) complete governmental departments are dedicated to make life
What makes you think that governmental departments are part of the
*market*?! Government behavior is controlled by laws that are vastly
different from those controlling market behavior; if you're interested,
you could study the "theory of public choice".


I don't think so, so the question can't be answered. It's the same
logic that enabled me to say "payed webservices can only work well if"
when in context of replacing obfuscation techniques. From 1+1 == 3 I
can derive anything. I know its lame, but my time limitation forces me
to go back (or up) one level in order to refute you.

<snip>
You seem to tackle the problem of python obfuscation by first proving
that it isn't feasible and then giving some kind of solution that will
work and give the desired result: webservices. However when I look at


That seems to me to be a practicable technical approach, yes.
obfuscation techniques I see a desire to profit from giving some person
the idea that he or she is superior to someone else because he has a
better product. In order to avoid copying we now need obfuscation. The


You're discussing the *motivation* for obfuscating, while what I was
giving was a possible way of *implementing* similar effects.


Yes, that's the point. If you can produce at zero cost then the whole
economic theory falters. You enter another continuum where traditional
economic values become meaningless. From obfuscation to webservices is
a big step in that direction.

<snip>
Since redistribution of value, as long as a lot of value is created, can
be dealt with by other means, maximizing the creation of value tends to
be the goal I prefer -- a policy that quashes part or all of value
creation based on redistributive precepts is, by this very fact, going
to be something I look askance at (making the pie smaller to try to
ensure that what little is left gets sliced according to your political
preferences, rather than ensuring the pie is as big as possible as the
first order of business, and dealing with the slicing issues as
_secondary_ ones).


I agree with your sentiment, but in order to maximize value creation we
should leave material payments out of the equation when they only slow
things down. From your writing I gather you already live in those
quarters but you are still using materialistic concepts to describe the
world. I don't blame you for it because I wouldn't know myself what
would be applicable to a zero cost - maximal gain economy.

Anton

Nov 22 '05 #156

Alex Martelli wrote:
Anton Vredegoor <an*************@gmail.com> wrote:
...
Suppose I grant all your theories about optimal marketing strategies.
I wish I hadn't done that :-) But seriously, I'm having trouble
answering in detail all of your points (which doesn't mean I don't
value them highly) because my online time is limited by the time period
this library is open, and I also want to scavange as much offline
reading material as possible while I'm connected.
This still doesn't account for the way the market is behaving *now*. It
isn't in any way logical or optimal. For example in Holland (where I
live) complete governmental departments are dedicated to make life
What makes you think that governmental departments are part of the
*market*?! Government behavior is controlled by laws that are vastly
different from those controlling market behavior; if you're interested,
you could study the "theory of public choice".


I don't think so, so the question can't be answered. It's the same
logic that enabled me to say "payed webservices can only work well if"
when in context of replacing obfuscation techniques. From 1+1 == 3 I
can derive anything. I know its lame, but my time limitation forces me
to go back (or up) one level in order to refute you.

<snip>
You seem to tackle the problem of python obfuscation by first proving
that it isn't feasible and then giving some kind of solution that will
work and give the desired result: webservices. However when I look at


That seems to me to be a practicable technical approach, yes.
obfuscation techniques I see a desire to profit from giving some person
the idea that he or she is superior to someone else because he has a
better product. In order to avoid copying we now need obfuscation. The


You're discussing the *motivation* for obfuscating, while what I was
giving was a possible way of *implementing* similar effects.


Yes, that's the point. If you can produce at zero cost then the whole
economic theory falters. You enter another continuum where traditional
economic values become meaningless. From obfuscation to webservices is
a big step in that direction.

<snip>
Since redistribution of value, as long as a lot of value is created, can
be dealt with by other means, maximizing the creation of value tends to
be the goal I prefer -- a policy that quashes part or all of value
creation based on redistributive precepts is, by this very fact, going
to be something I look askance at (making the pie smaller to try to
ensure that what little is left gets sliced according to your political
preferences, rather than ensuring the pie is as big as possible as the
first order of business, and dealing with the slicing issues as
_secondary_ ones).


I agree with your sentiment, but in order to maximize value creation we
should leave material payments out of the equation when they only slow
things down. From your writing I gather you already live in those
quarters but you are still using materialistic concepts to describe the
world. I don't blame you for it because I wouldn't know myself what
would be applicable to a zero cost - maximal gain economy.

Anton

Nov 22 '05 #157
yepp schrieb:
Once you got the model of free and open source software you can't but shake
your head at obfuscating people treating their users as enemies.


Sorry but this is naive nonsense. Open source is a good model but
it can't be applied everywhere. Look at the following example:

There is a company who is developing and marketing a single application.
It is a simulation software for industrial processes which embodies an
enormous amount of knowledge accumulated by the hard work of many
individuals since about twenty years, algorithmic, process, implementation,
market knowlegde. This application is of great value to the customers
because it helps them save lots of money and improve the quality of their
products. No wonder that they have (and are willing) to pay a considerable
price for it.

If the company would decide to go open source it would be dead very soon
because it wouldn't no longer have a competitive advantage. Most customers
wouldn't see the necessity to pay high prices, the competition would use
the source code in their own products, the earnings would fall rapidly and
there wouldn't be enough money availabe to pay highly skilled developpers,
engineers and scientists for continued development.

In certain sense suppliers and customers ARE enemies because they have
different interests. The customer will pay a price only if it is neccessary
to get the product. If he can get it legally for nothing he won't pay anything
or at least not enough.

So please: continue praising OSS (as I do) but don't make ideological claims
that it fits everywhere.

Peter Maas, Aachen
Dec 25 '05 #158
On 12/25/05, Peter Maas <pe********@somewhere.com> wrote:
yepp schrieb:
Once you got the model of free and open source software you can't but shake
your head at obfuscating people treating their users as enemies.
Sorry but this is naive nonsense. Open source is a good model but
it can't be applied everywhere. Look at the following example:

There is a company who is developing and marketing a single application.
It is a simulation software for industrial processes which embodies an
enormous amount of knowledge accumulated by the hard work of many
individuals since about twenty years, algorithmic, process, implementation,
market knowlegde. This application is of great value to the customers
because it helps them save lots of money and improve the quality of their
products. No wonder that they have (and are willing) to pay a considerable
price for it.


You just described UNIX, which has been all but replaced by open
source projects, and the general state of the operating system market
a few decades ago.
If the company would decide to go open source it would be dead very soon
because it wouldn't no longer have a competitive advantage. Most customers
wouldn't see the necessity to pay high prices, the competition would use
the source code in their own products, the earnings would fall rapidly and
there wouldn't be enough money availabe to pay highly skilled developpers,
engineers and scientists for continued development.

In certain sense suppliers and customers ARE enemies because they have
different interests. The customer will pay a price only if it is neccessary
to get the product. If he can get it legally for nothing he won't pay anything
or at least not enough.

So please: continue praising OSS (as I do) but don't make ideological claims
that it fits everywhere.
You're looking at the wrong things here. What you're describing is
actually a potentially very successfull open source project - many
companies, single source, highly technical, high price. An open source
project could easily succeed in this area. Of course, it would not be
in the interest of the current monopoly supplier to open source thier
product. But a third party that started such a project could quite
possibly succeed. Not that it neccesarily would, knowing what I know
about business - hell, I can't even get approval to use Eclipse on a
couple desktops.

Peter Maas, Aachen
--
http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/python-list

Dec 25 '05 #159
Chris Mellon schrieb:
There is a company who is developing and marketing a single application.
It is a simulation software for industrial processes which embodies an
enormous amount of knowledge accumulated by the hard work of many
individuals since about twenty years, algorithmic, process, implementation,
market knowlegde. This application is of great value to the customers
because it helps them save lots of money and improve the quality of their
products. No wonder that they have (and are willing) to pay a considerable
price for it.
You just described UNIX, which has been all but replaced by open
source projects, and the general state of the operating system market
a few decades ago.


No, I didn't describe UNIX. UNIX and OSs in general are software which is
needed by everybody who is using a computer. You have many developers all
over the world willing to contribute. But the software I mentioned is a
highly specialized field with a (compared to OS users) a tiny number of
customers and a degree of complexity at least the same as an OS. So I
think that an OSS model wouldn't work here. Also using UNIX as an example
is qustionable here because of its special history. UNIX was to a large
extent developed in academic environments and later closed sourced by AT&T
at a time when much OS specific knowledge was available in universities.
If the company would decide to go open source it would be dead very soon
because it wouldn't no longer have a competitive advantage. Most customers
wouldn't see the necessity to pay high prices, the competition would use
the source code in their own products, the earnings would fall rapidly and
there wouldn't be enough money availabe to pay highly skilled developpers,
engineers and scientists for continued development.

In certain sense suppliers and customers ARE enemies because they have
different interests. The customer will pay a price only if it is neccessary
to get the product. If he can get it legally for nothing he won't pay anything
or at least not enough.

So please: continue praising OSS (as I do) but don't make ideological claims
that it fits everywhere.

You're looking at the wrong things here. What you're describing is
actually a potentially very successfull open source project
Successful for whom?
- many
companies, single source, highly technical, high price. An open source
project could easily succeed in this area. Of course, it would not be
in the interest of the current monopoly supplier to open source thier
product.
The supplier doesn't have a monopoly. He has competition but the supplier
started first, has always been the pacemaker and has therefore an advance.
His revenues are based on this advance. If somebody would suggest him to
go open source - what would be the advantage for him? Doing business is a
game, games are about winning and it isn't realistic to tell a player
to commit suicide.
But a third party that started such a project could quite
possibly succeed.


There are several 3rd parties all with closed source :) If an OSS 3rd
party would enter the game it would have to answer the question how
to fund the development. To succeed the OSS player would have to catch
up to its closed source competitors. This is anything but easy - there
is a lot of knowlegde (a crucial part of it not available for the
public) to be worked out. The developers have to earn money, who pays
them?

I think a lot of people believe OSS isn't about money. This is wrong.
Either OSS developers are working in their spare time for their own
pleasure. This puts some limits on their projects. Or they are working
all the day on OSS projects. Then they have to be paid, e.g. by academic
institutions (tax payer) or by companies like IBM and Novell who are
funding OSS because they have appropriate business models. There's
nothing wrong about this. But to pretend that OSS miraculously solves
the money problem for consumers _and_ producers is wrong IMO.

There are conditions for OSS for to succeed. It is worthwile to get to
know these conditions. To claim that there are no conditions at all and
OSS is successful by itself is certainly not true.

Peter Maas, Aachen
Dec 28 '05 #160

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