Files Articles

Welcome to the Domain of Isidore, my personal website.

You may wish to visit the Files page where I store things like the DDWW Minecraft world backup.

The Articles index is home to some of my musings on Catholicism and technology, how the two interact, and how they ought to interact. I am a staunch GNU and Free Software supporter in part due to my religious beliefs. Yes, I run Arch.

This site’s name is intended as an homage to St. Isidore of Seville, my confirmation saint.

St. Isidore of Seville was a scholar, or even an archivist. I chose him originally due to his being the patron saint of the Internet, but my fascination with him grew deeper as I personally feel attached to the concept of so-called “digital archivism”. As a child I spent the majority of my time playing video games – and a such I feel myself called to the preservation of them. I sincerely believe that video games can be art. Some games are art only insofar as they are entertaining and fun – but others may and often do ask some very interesting philosophical questions, the NieR series being a prime example.

What is the goal of The Domain of Isidore?

I wish to, by any means possible, advocate for the right to free technology, and free art.

No, I don’t mean “free” as in “no money”, though true freedom implies one might be free to not pay for a piece of software. Take Nginx for example. The server this website’s hosted on uses it. Nginx is free web server software. You can download the source code, compile it on your system, give it to your friend, and use it to host your collaborative website on a headless Debian box in your basement. It is free. However, should you use it for your business and need enterprise support or other services, you’d simply go to nginx.com and pay for it. The myth that Free Open Source Software (FOSS) cannot make money is just that – a myth. It is, however, a fact that many open source projects have failed to turn a profit. However, how many proprietary pieces of software have also stopped making money and driven a company bankrupt? Free Software doesn’t mean bad software won’t still be bad and fall out of use. It’s troubling to see an interesting project perish, but the profitability of Nginx, the Linux kernel, even RHEL are all proof that money can be made with Free Software. BSDs are a different story, poor bastards.

What about this “free art”?

Some time ago, Nintendo moved to shut down dozens of ROM hosting sites for infringing upon their copyright by hosting their games. This all seems well and reasonable until you remember many of the games weren’t even being sold anymore, and this act was indeed one of destruction on the history of video games.

Yes, the rude awakening provoked by Nintendo’s sudden removal of dozens of technically illegal ROM hosting sites was, for some, the first sign that “retro” games are in danger. One letter from a lawyer in Kyoto or somewhere, and hundreds of retro video games went from practically the easiest thing besides pornography to find on the internet, to being buried away in obscure private trackers or other far less accessible websites. Make no mistake, these video games were not eliminated, though indeed hundreds or perhaps thousands of unique pieces of software hosted on these same sites may now be lost to time.

Why would Nintendo do this? I can’t really answer that question. The video games we’re talking about aren’t Super Mario Bros. or Duck Hunt. Not all of them at least – the vast majority of these games were not being sold by their original copyright/IP holders and were being made available for no profit. In my opinion, this operation was one of the biggest blows to freedom of emulation since the original Sony v. Bleem case in 1999.

So, is the battle already lost? No, and I don’t believe that with myself and others who share my ideals that this can ever be (fully) possible. There are many sites such as The Eye which mirror and/or host many or all of these games, but the end result was a success(?) for Nintendo: Playing their games is now much more difficult.

It is my sincerest wish to see these video games enter the public domain and become free for play and research, or at least for them to be actively sold again. The extinguishing of digital art is not an acceptable outcome. So what can we do? Should we, perhaps, boycott Nintendo? That’s up to you. I have funded Nintendo myself – I own two Nintendo Switch consoles. One to hack, and one to play with my friends.

If you wish to boycott Nintendo, go ahead and do so. I boycott Microsoft and avoid Google wherever possible. I, however, hold hope in repackers such as No-Intro and hosts like The Eye and perhaps someday myself to carry the torch of these early games on to the next generation.

This is just one of hundreds of examples of anti-consumer practices in tech, committed by Nintendo, Microsoft, Google, Sony, and more. The transgressions are nearly never-ending if you dig deep enough into computing history. However, I (mostly) believe in letting history be history and focusing on what is, right now. Right now, the world is fighting malicious DRM practices in AAA video games (Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC, anyone?), active restrictions of computing freedom from the likes of Microsoft and the Windows operating system, and every layman who doesn’t know how to use a computer being manipulated to fuel the fire.

What can we do?

Use Free Software everywhere. Fund the right team. Educate yourself and others on their due rights in the modern age of communication. Be a good Catholic.

Signed,

-L