Friendly fire, coincidence, or blood-hungry journalists?
Three weeks ago, amid tremendous amount of security FUD from Microsoft, we exposed the many lies. Recently we posted another quick update. It was just a couple of days ago as a matter of fact. Now we come to discover that the same tricks are being pulled yet again. Microsoft patches its software silently, for undeserved vanity purposes.
Vista SP1 will contain undocumented fixes
Interesting email in today mailbag: “Will SP1 contain undisclosed or undocumented security fixes?”
For some people, counting the number of security flaws that one OS has compared to another is important because it offers a metric upon which to determine which OS is the most secure (personally, I feel that it’s a bogus metric, but I’ll let it slide for now). However, many claim that Microsoft stacks the deck in its favor by not disclosing a full list of vulnerabilities that have been patched by omitting to include those discovered and patched in-house.
Speaking of security, remember Microsoft’s ActiveX menace, whose main purpose was to exclude rival Web browsers from the market at the expense of security? Well, it appears to be getting the boot at the government.
The federal agency’s warning to disable all Internet Explorer ActiveX controls might as well be recommendation to use Firefox—or Opera or Safari. Hey, AOL, are you sure about pulling the plug on Netscape?
It’s time for the Federal government to look more closely at ‘ActiveX 2.0′, better known as Silverlight [1, 2]. Some States have already warned about this.
In other security news, Linux gets sort of ‘invited’ to the Mac hack contest. To give you an idea of what’s involved:
Last year, security researcher Dino Dai Zovi spent a sleepless night hacking his Mac in order to take the prize at the show’s first PWN to OWN contest. Dai Zovi found a QuickTime bug that allowed him to run unauthorized software on the Mac once the computer’s browser was directed to a specially crafted Web page.
At the moment, there is tension between Mac users and Linux. A questionably tactless remark from Linus Torvalds (about Mac OS X’s filesystem) has already been taken out of context and it used against him in the press. Journalists are implying — if not explicitly saying — that he attacked Leopard or OS X as a whole. The press incites Apple Mac users against him and responses include:
Matt Asay: the Linux desktop is ‘utter crap’
This is a follow-up to a headline which said something along the lines of:
Linus Torvalds: Mac OS X is ‘utter crap’
Of course, Linus Torvalds never said this, but they shove words down his throat for drama and hostility. See the previous post about creating civil wars (UNIX versus Linux in this case), be aware that Microsoft owns a lot of the press (literally) and recall the recent Brett Winterford incident (attacking IBM in the press after a free trip to Redmond). █
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Whatis and Whatif
The following is nothing but a theory, but it is worth presenting nonetheless.
Let us begin with an antitrust court exhibit. From a leaked Microsoft document (Comes vs Microsoft trial, 2006):
“[Microsoft:] Gathering intelligence on enemy activities is critical to the success of the Slog. We need to know who their allies are and what differences exist between them and their allies (there are always sources of tension between allies), so that we can find ways to split ‘em apart Reading the trade press, lurking on newsgroups, attending conferences, and (above all) talking to ISVs is essential to gathering this intelligence.“
Be aware that Gary Edwards and Marbux (of the organisation formerly known as “The OpenDocument Foundation” [1, 2]) have begun submitting links to their new site. They use Digg where they post elaborate comments about a decoy, a distraction. They comment on each other’s submissions, which are barely receiving any attention at all. The OpenDocument Foundation’s Web site has meanwhile become a link farm (inactive) with many inbound links. This is not very ordinary.
“At times, however, new people are introduced to intervene and create tensions, misunderstandings, and civil wars.”Also be aware that Microsoft tries to have its rivals fight against one another (BSD vs GPL, RMS vs Linus, Tanenbaum vs Linus, Sun vs Linux GNOME vs KDE etc. etc.). Watch the quote from the antitrust exhibit at the top again. The Foundation’s work may therefore leave you suspicious.
There is a story behind some of the examples given here, e.g. a subtle bribe offered, which is provable. Knowing all the people at the Foundation, I know their intentions were good, but it is possible that their minds are being poisoned by an external source which deceives. Nobody knows for sure and it’s extremely unlikely. At times, however, new people are introduced to intervene and create tensions, misunderstandings, and civil wars. This happens in many places. The next post will possibly provide another such example that is new (Apple turned against Linux).
Ironically, here we are doing the very same thing that we complain about (civil wars), but the take-home message is that whenever a civil war crops up, pause and ask yourself if an outside force is responsible for it in one way or another. If so, the issue must be raised and explored until it’s resolved.
Timely quote again:
“A couple of years ago this guy called Ken Brown wrote a book saying that Linus stole Linux from me… It later came out that Microsoft had paid him to do this…”
–Andrew S Tanenbaum, father on MINIX
In other OOXML/ODF news, we continue to see signs of disorganisation ahead of the BRM.
Rather remarkably for a 6000-page specification, OOXML is on a fast track, but it has come into collision with over 3000 comments on that specification, many of them negative. The question is, how on earth can the national bodies (NB) who do the prodding, poking and voting, work their way through those comments to pick out the really key ones, and make sure that they get sorted before approval is contemplated?
That would be a good question if only it was possible to get access to these comments that affect virtually all of us. As we explained before, the process if closed and it is deeply flawed [1, 2, 3, 4]. Also see [1, 2, 3, 4]. █
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Result from inquiries
In the middle of January, Mandriva and Turbolinux announced that they would collaborate. The negotiations between the two companies carried on for some time and communication was apparently hindered by the fact that Turbolinux sold out (to Microsoft) just a few months ago.
The two companies finally reached an arrangement that is claimed to have resolved the Microsoft issue. In other words, Mandriva should not be affected by Turbolinux’s deal with Microsoft. There were a few who begged to differ or had some doubts though.
“Mandriva is very certain that there are no issues.”Our thoughts and writings in the past were based on conversations in forums like Groklaw and a response from Mandriva’s community leader. An interview that LinuxToday had with Mandriva’s CEO was another.
Brian from LinuxToday, as well as Pamela Jones from Groklaw, challenged and addressed the fact that Turbolinux gains visibility of Microsoft source code. Pamela must be thinking about SCO-like allegations. Again, as you are aware, Turbolinux signed a patent deal with Microsoft and it now gets access to Microsoft’s so-called IP (not just a case of software patents in this case because there are copyrights also).
People out there are divided when it comes to interpretation of the future effect on Mandriva. I personally do not believe there is any trouble associated with the Mandriva deal, but Pamela Jones and Brian from LinuxToday remain a little suspicious. Meanwhile, this question disappeared into the darkness (it’s old news), but definite answers are not quite out there. Mandriva is very certain that there are no issues. Microsoft’s take on this would be interesting (watch the LinuxToday interview). █
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To justify the tireless work that we do here slamming software patents, watch what Linus Torvalds said in this interview that has just been published:
“One thing that has been worrisome over the last few years are … stupid external issues — especially patents and stuff like that. Those are the things that worry technical people. Probably because they feel like they — including me — can’t necessarily do a lot about them.
“When you don’t feel in control you start worrying,” said Torvalds.
You are strongly encouraged to follow the link and watch this one-minute video. It cannot be embedded outside ZDNet (believe me, I’ve tried hacking around it, without success unless iframes are used).
Questions that have already been answered such as “is Linux ready for the desktop?” or “does Linux contain stolen code?” are somewhat of a distraction. They are irrelevant as long as Microsoft is piling up patents and signing deals for royalties to be extracted from GNU/Linux. Novell is a major part of this problem. █
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Let us begin this with the EPO (or Europe), whose shaky state has increasingly become grounds for concern. To give you an idea of the EPO’s view of those who protest against software patents, read this.
European patent chief paves the way for change
She is dismissive of some of the criticism leveled at the patent system and specifically at the EPO from parts of the open-source and free software movements.
“There’s a high degree of emotion, but a low degree of light,” she said, referring to both sides in the intense lobbying when the European Union was debating a proposed law on software patentability that was scrapped in 2005.
There is more information about the EC’s potentially tactless moves with regards to standards and software patents.
The European Commission is organizing next week in Brussels a conference on “European ICT standardisation policy at a crossroads: A new direction for global success”. Among the papers in discussion for this conference, one paper suggests to allow RAND standards as general policy. The European Commission seems to listen to the big industry who contributed to the discussion paper. RAND standards (such as h264 or MPEG2) are a way to exclude FLOSS developers, because they require royalty payments that developers cannot afford.
Just recall the flak they were getting some months ago [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11] after implicitly excluding Samba in a settlement with Microsoft.
The worrisome Community Patent is back in the scene again, which isn’t encouraging news.
Europe’s relations with China in respect of IP rights, the perspectives of introducing the Community Patent and the question of a central European court for patents were discussed during a visit by a high-level German-French delegation to the EPO today.
Over in the United States, the Bush administration continues to discuss the issues, but based on the wording in CNET, this isn’t too hopeful.
The administration’s key concern is a section that it argues waters down the ability of judges to award damages in patent suits as they see fit, potentially depriving patent holders of the right to obtain the compensation they deserve. Right now, the Senate bill doesn’t give judges or juries enough discretion in deciding how much to award, Dudas said. That’s been arguably the biggest sticking point all along among supporters and opponents of the bill.
The reexamination process which the EFF has been relying on is apparently at jeopardy because an explicit request is made to for the US Senate defend it.
EFF’s Patent Busting Project is one of a number of public-interest projects that use the reexamination process to defend the public against the most dubious patents. Four of our five petitions for reexamination have been granted, and EFF expects the last will be after the PTO has had an opportunity to review it (it was filed last week). One of the first reexamination requests submitted by EFF has already resulted in the PTO revoking the patent.
Illustrating the severity of the problem, here is another trivial patents that uses sophisticated language to describe interactive/customised wallpaper/menus. Needless to say, none of his is new or ingenious.
A new BlackBerry Patent application entitled System and Method for Adaptive Theming Of A Mobile Device describes ways that a BlackBerry wireless carrier or third-party theme screen developer could configure, or reconfigure, a subscriber’s BlackBerry theme remotely.
Acaciasoft on the Attack
Our good ‘buddy’ Acacia, which is also a Microsoft buddy [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10], appears to be relentlessly continuing its crusade.
Acacia Research Corporation today announced that its subsidiary, Mobile Traffic Systems Corporation (MTS), has settled patent litigation against Cobra Electronics Corporation that was pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. With this settlement MTS has entered into a license agreement with Cobra Electronics.
The likes of Ray Niro [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Meet J. Carl Cooper, a Patent Troll (Plus Other Patent News)] must be bursting with laughter at the sight of a broken system that is coughing out cash at the direction of those who are heartless enough to abuse it. These are also the people who haven’t made a single invention in their lives. They sue for a living. █
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A fortnight ago we mentioned the scrutiny which Hewlett-Packard and Palamida had come under. Palamida is probably misunderstood by its critics, whereas the only real concern over H-P should its scale, which could push businesses like Black Duck or Palamida aside, i.e. gain at their expense.
Brian at LinuxToday has just published a an informative short article that sheds a little more light on the situation, having published an article on this matter just a week ago.
Now, five years later, Palamida is still going strong… albeit under a cloud of increasing concern from the open source community.
The perception about Palamida, Black Duck, and now the community project FOSSology held by many in the community is that somehow these organizations cast a pall on open source software. By locating open source in their client’s IT infrastructure, they seem to be enabling the removal of such software.
The 451 Group added to the discussion by mapping the players in this market and stressing that it’s a matter of understanding (or orientation), not removal. This space is also getting rather crowded on the face of it.
It used to be there were only a couple of players in town who combed through software code, specifically looking for open source packages and licenses: Black Duck and Palamida. A year ago, we figured there was plenty of room for additional players…
Over the weekend we mentioned some seemingly-mysterious BSD-GPL hostilities, which are in some way similar to the love-hate relationship one finds when it comes to companies that track and inform about Free software. The GPL(v3)/FSF vs. Linus/Linux kernel hostility is another example. Much of it is to do with Tivo.
“This seems to be begging for unjustified separation.”One particular interview that is used to isolate and fracture the two sides has been titled with the statement from Stallman: “If you care about freedom, don’t follow Linus.” This seems to be begging for unjustified separation. Stallman talked about philosophy at the time, not the engineering of the excellent kernel. GNU and Linux get along just fine. The press just exaggerates things a little. And yes — the same goes for BSD-GPL flamewars that are fueled by outside factors.
Speaking of hostility, Information Week appears to be creating some of these civil wars, just as Microsoft intended (see "evangelism is war").
While we’re on the subject of software licences, it is worth adding that the AGPL might soon be added to the OSI’s list of approved Open Source licences.
If you follow open source, or at least this blog, you remember the debate around GPL and the ASP loophole. In a nutshell, companies using a trick to avoid returning changes to the code back to the community. The last chapter is that AGPL v3 (the GPL version that fixes the ASP loophole) was finalized in November, and we switched the Funambol project to it.
Shortly after its release, the momentum of AGPLV3 began with Funambol. There have been other noteworthy adoptions since then, e.g. [1, 2, 3]. █
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