We sometimes hear from people who suspect that their Web site or forum’s community is getting poisoned by companies. The following is not necessarily related to the previous post about Microsoft 'evangelism', but one we received a couple of hours ago from a known and reliable source reads: “Do you have any way of finding out more about who is employing this shill on behalf of Microsoft?”
“Åtkomst nekad Du har inte behörighet till denna sida,” the request for this page returns, meaning that details are unavailable except for subscribers. LinuxPortalen’s sysadmin would have to provide details about user “plun” somehow, based on what we were told.
In a short conversation that soon developed it came up that Microsoft employs by proxy. “If I understood correctly Waggener Edstrom is [only] one of several (many) marketing firms, but the main one though.”
Watch the news in their front page at the moment:
“Yankee Group Chooses WE [Waggener Edstrom] as its Communications Partner”
Remember the Yankee Group, which we last wrote about just a fortnight ago? The apple doesn’t fall so far from the tree. Increased disinformation activity has been noticed not just here.
A reader points out that “though Microsoft is famous for lobbying / marketing, it isn’t even good at that. Those functions are outsourced. So, Microsoft is good at … well … nothing, except outsourcing.”
We had our share of problems too. This nymshifting troll (mind the comments) caused a lot of pain and hours of lost time. He keeps changing names and he harasses Beranger also.
In previous correspondence said the same reader: “It would also be useful to shoot down the Microsoft "talking points", the blog entries [on ODF] can help compensate for Microsoft functional ownership of the media. I’d also like to know how Microsoft is gaming Google’s page rank.” (c/f ODF smear campaign, akin to "The Slog")
“Earlier attempts to hire veterans from firms like Microsoft had awful results. “Google is so different that it was almost impossible to reprogram them into this culture,” says CEO Eric Schmidt.”
–Google Goes Globe-Trotting (2007)
Microsoft was caught spamming (the ‘proper’ way) search engines before and it still does that. It has no guilt or shame. It’s the beautiful naked emperor in its own eyes.
“Microsoft has warned Google to steer clear of corporate search, declaring that the market is “our house”.
“Those people are not going to be allowed to take food off our plate, because that is what they are intending to do.”"
–Microsoft warns Google off business search (2006)
Further says our reader: “I would appreciate if you could send [share] the link. Since 2004 and onward I’ve mentioned a few times to Google staff about the problem of developing toxic shock. I see former Microsoft employee as largely unreformable and unemployable inside of high-technology for the rest of their careers. However, be that as it may, taking them without a cooling off or acclimitization period at another company means that all the problems at Microsoft transmigrate to Google.”
It is a worrying thought, surely, but it doesn’t quite ring a bell. There was another recent example where Microsoft escorted a Microsoft-to-Google defector out of campus like he was a criminal. It was only mentioned in Microsoft blogs, but not in the mainstream media. Microsoft’s Google envy has spun a little out of control, which brought out vanity as we showed before. It’s a hard problem to solve.
“They use lies, insults, extreme libel and bury everything (comments, submissions) they want to intercept.”Going back to the problem with manipulation of content and search, the reader added: “Google and others could deal with the problem. Rather than let it slide. Google did announce a change in policy a few years back and said that it will interfere with pages and groups gaming their ranking system.
“Back to Slashdot. On Slashdot, for example, there has been a lot of offensive text (coprophilia, homophilia, etc) posted prominently in discussion of articles which strike at the core of the issues. Some of it is more low key, for example towards the bottom of the wiki page on codes, there is a link to a problem in Australia.”
Speaking from personal experience, the same tactics seem to be used in particular newsgroups in USENET, namely the use of vile language that drives readers away. It happens in forums that are focused on Linux or — more broadly — on Free software. The very same people (from the same newsgroups where they have harassed for over a decade) came to Digg.com where they systematically insult me in the same obscene way using libel (see this, for example, because the problem recurred just a couple of days ago). Memories of a recent article spring to mind because it’s not an unusual tactic (even outside technology):
“The activities uncovered by Wikileaks include deleting Guantanamo detainees’ ID numbers from Wikipedia, posting of self-praising comments on news websites in response to negative articles, promoting pro-Guantanamo stories on the Internet news focus website Digg, and even altering Wikipedia’s entry on Cuban President Fidel Castro to describe him as “an admitted transexual” [sic]…
The proof Wikeleaks assembled includes the IP address and whois ownership record for public.jtfgtmo.southcom.mil, which is Guantanamo’s Internet gateway server, google hits on that IP address, a traceroute through a satellite downlink, the whois ownership record for that downlink, links to the defaced Wikipedia entries, links to comments posted at news websites, records of approximately 140 promotions of news articles at Digg, links and quotes about three alleged US military propagandists who are stationed at Guantanamo, and fourteen links to other Wikileaks articles about Guantanamo.”
–US military propaganda team busted (2007)
The personal attacks that you can find in Digg (in my case, from users with the names “kretik”, “flatfish”, “harlowmonkeys” and several more) come from the same people who have harassed advocates of Free software for many years (in some cases for over 8 years with victims re-chosen until they give up or flee). They use lies, insults, extreme libel and bury everything (comments, submissions) they want to intercept. They lurk in Slashdot too and post anonymously sometimes, for a fact (it’s permitted in Slashdot, but not in all popular sites, whose reputation companies attempt to ruin if they dislike the message or topical focus they change).
An interpretation of this broad phenomenon comes from a reader: “That creates several problems, one of which is to turn new people off from both the topic and the site. Another, is that in regions or institutions using corporate censorship products, the site will eventually ease its way into the banned category. Yet another is that it tries to piggyback one issue onto another, unrelated, topic.”
There is a lot more to this and the issue was raised before, e.g. here. In addition, false accusation were made against my Web sites, saying they are the source of DDOS attack. Shades of Sys-Con and Groklaw. Then, my sites got blacklisted by Websense (Groklaw likewise).
“‘Riders’ are not any more appropriate in technology than they are in congress,” concludes the reader. It’s an interesting thing to explore, overall. █
“Ideally, use of the competing technology becomes associated with mental deficiency, as in, “he believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and OS/2.” Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make the complete failure of the competition’s technology part of the mythology of the computer industry. We want to place selection pressure on those companies and individuals that show a genetic weakness for competitors’ technologies, to make the industry increasingly resistant to such unhealthy strains, over time.”
–Microsoft, internal document
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Over the past few months we have shown evidence and provided actual examples of Microsoft advertisers in disguise. They occupy blogs, forums and even news sites.
Microsoft continues to have what it calls “evangelists” (effectively a more positive connotation for “shills”) posting comments in places. Here is one with a disclosure. Not just an employee, mind you, but “an evangelist” (whose job is probably to concentrate on such stuff, c/f Microsoft’s "Evangelism is War") that defends Silverbullet in ZDNet. In other words, innocent commenters in ZDNet need to take their arguments against those who are paid by Microsoft to do this.
In response to the article “Mozilla warns of Flash and Silverlight ‘agenda’”:
So far, though the technology is quite young, Silverlight has already an impressive momentum, and we do receive a very positive feedback from both our customers and partners, and the users.
Christophe Lauer — Web & RIA Evangelist, Microsoft France
(NB: I’m not working at Microsoft Corp, nor in the Silverlight product group. All I mentionned is public data and information that everyone can verify)
Look at that fearful/defensive disclaimer at the end. For what it’s worth, Novell too has some boosters.
There is some good news about resistance to this horrid deformation of the World Wide Web. Remember Microsoft/Yahoo? Shortly after the Yahoo bid was made I published an article that appeared in Slashdot and said that Microsoft might want to use Yahoo to further spread Silverlight (without paying millions to achieve this, as was the case in the Library of Congress). Well, the latest news is about “Microsoft walks[ing] away from Yahoo,” whatever that actually means. Remember that it’s not over until the fat lady sings, as the old saying goes. They could just be playing psychological games hoping that Yahoo shareholders will sue or pressure the board by proxy. They tried this before, so wait before popping the bubbly and running back to Zimbra. The Yahoo saga might not be over yet.
Just a couple of minutes before posting away this item I actually received the following from a friend, whose opinion is similar. He says: “Many articles are yammering about Microsoft claiming to backing off from Yahoo, but few look in any depth regarding the plans to oust the board members and replace them with sock puppets. It’s amazing how little investigation the ‘journalists’ do and how much they serve as a platform for Bill’s press releases.” █
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“Lobbying” a gentle propaganda term for legalised bribery
The numerous problems associated with the role of money in writing laws was brought up in here before. The lobbying business has mushroomed to become a multi-billion-dollar industry in the United States alone. Yes, that’s an industry whose only role is akin to a middleman serving corporate agenda, typically against the interest of citizens whose activists (benign equivalent of lobbyists) are honest volunteers.
It was both surprising and encouraging to find that there will finally be some sort of a crackdown on lobbying in the United Kingdom.
The Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has lost an appeal to keep secret its meetings with business lobbying group the Confederation of British Industry.
The case has dragged on for three years and originally concerned secret meetings between the CBI and BERR, which was formerly known as the Department of Trade and Industry.
The victory is a big filip for the wider movement, led by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, to force the UK government to introduce more transparency into its dealings with lobbying groups. ALT is calling for compulsory registration of lobby groups and a record of their meetings with politicians and civil servants.
Might we actually enter an age when laws are written for a purpose rather than for a company? Might laws actually serve the nation rather than those funding those who run it (corporations, not taxpayers)? There’s a glimmer or hope. To be fair, the United States government tried to save face by claiming to have done the same thing, but other than astonishing disclosures, which result from new and compulsory disclosure rules, not much appears to be done to curb the phenomenon. Recognition of a problem through transparency does not practically resolve it.
“Diplomacy typically trumps logic.”As we have witnessed over the past few months, similar games are being played inside standards bodies, not just in politics of law-making. Diplomacy typically trumps logic. Another important aspect that’s affected is patent laws, which can be used to ban Free software if politicians are corrupted sufficiently. It’s not just DMCA laws that are being spread by media companies and software companies to whom Free software is a threat; it’s also laws pertaining or directly applying to patents.
Whatever the implication of this might be, Australia has just facilitated easier access to patents by the broad public. Is more visibility a solution really?
The Federal government and patent agency IP Australia have launched a new open, online database featuring almost 20 years’ worth of the country’s patent application records, in a bid to make it easier for inventors to check if someone else has already had their light bulb moment.
What would be nice to have, theoretically at least, is a detector of patent collisions in computer programs. Why? Because it would soon reveal that programmers — not just in this large ‘niche’ that is Free software — are supposedly a nation of infringers in a handful of countries (the phrase “nation of in infringers” was famously used to illustrate just how out-of-hand and insane copyright law had become in the United States). Software patents do not make economic or scientific sense, yet Australia fell right into this deep trap. The same goes for DMCA, which Microsoft is still trying to force if not just push [5.a] onto Canada [5.b-g] (see references below).
For those interested in other funny new laws from Australia, here are some fairly recent articles (all from Australia). Watch how laws against “terrorist”, for example, evolve to become laws for political censorship, among other things (introduce & extend). The references below Labeled and numbered only for referencing purposes.
[1.a] Conroy announces mandatory internet filters to protect children
“Labor makes no apologies to those that argue that any regulation of the internet is like going down the Chinese road,” he said.
[1.b] Feds tout malware as Australia’s biggest cyber threat
This change in landscape has seen cyber crime rise to a podium place in the competition for the most significant criminal threat facing the nation.
[1.c] Australia to get net censorship
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will be able to force content providers to take down offensive material and issue notices for live content to be stopped and links to the content deleted.
[2.a] Australia to extend web censorship
Privacy advocates take a dim view of this proposal, naturally. Roger Clarke, chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, said “This government’s extremism has reached new heights today.” He asked “How can a politician claim the right to hold office if they set out to undermine the critical democratic right of freedom of speech, and blatantly decline to evaluate the impact of measures put before the Parliament?”
[2.b] Web ‘censorship’ bill brings police state one stop closer
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has slammed moves to give the Federal Police powers to ban access to certain Internet content as “another step in Australia’s descent into a police state”.
[2.c] Howard row over Wikipedia edits
Staff in the Australian prime minister’s department have been accused of editing potentially damaging entries in online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.
[2.d] Australia’s porn-blocking plan unveiled
While individual filters will be available beginning later this month, ISP-level blocking may take some time to implement. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is currently planning a trial of ISP-level filtering in Tasmania that will inform the government’s decision on a national launch.
[2.e] Australia becoming a totalitarian state with email snooping to become the norm?
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland wants to let employers snoop on employees emails – without the consent of workers – as an anti-terrorism measure. Where do we draw the line on privacy?
[2.f] NSW police to search computer networks
The New South Wales Cabinet has approved new powers for police designed to help them track terrorist threats, fraudsters and paedophiles through computer networks.
[2.g] Major Aussie ISP Telstra BigPond shafts open source OpenOffice
Australia’s largest Internet service provider Telstra BigPond has removed the free open source office suite OpenOffice from its unmetered file download area following the launch of its own, free, hosted, office application, BigPond Office.
Our reader was outraged by Telstra’s move, which he sees as an attack on the open source software movement.
“The principle of the matter upsets me,” he said. “The fact that BigPond has removed previously allowed open source software is un-ethical. They are discriminating against me, even though I pay the same as other customers. They are attacking the Free Software movement.”
Moving on to a more on-topic example, watch how laws are used to suppress Free software procurement.
[3.a] Is Open Source adoption set to mushroom in Australia?
Optimism and take-up is growing around the platform-independent code with the industry taking more notice of this fast growing area
[3.b] Open source increases its share
BUSINESS generated directly from open source software in Australia is worth about $300 million a year, with government a large contributor to the pie, a study shows.
[3.c] Australian open source industry worth $500 million
“The industry as a whole is earning $500 million,” said Jeff Waugh, co-founder of Waugh Partners, which conducted the survey online late last year. “Directly open source related earnings are about $300 million, but the reason why we’re distinguishing between these numbers is the industry is not just companies that build open source software. They also use open source products to support other parts of their business as well.”
Waugh said the figure was calculated by taking the midpoint earnings figures specified by companies who took part, and extrapolating over the broader ICT industry using existing data such as surveys by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Computer Society. Waugh Partners estimates the respondents represent about a quarter of the overall industry.
[3.d] Open Source programmers earn more and combat trade deficit
The findings from the fourth-quarter 2007 Open Source Industry and Community survey is out. The authors say the results show open source is effective in combating trade deficit and that IT professionals involved in open source earn more than their more proprietary colleagues. Let’s check it out.
[3.e] Local Government Urged to Consider Open Source
The senior IT officer from a West Australian shire says open source software can provide a way forward for councils suffering budgetary constraints.
The Anti-FOSS Policies and Laws
[4.a] Open source the biggest potential game changer for government: Senator Lundy
Senator Lundy, a former Shadow Minister for IT, said she’d elected to focus on open source as the biggest potential game changer across the portfolios she’s involved in.
“The key issue that needs to be solved is independent invention. IP doesn’t cope with the commonly occurring ‘idea whose time has come’ – the patent system considers that a crime,” Tridgell said.
[4.b] Governments slammed for anti-competitive software tendering practices
A leading Australian open source advocate has called for an end for to tender lock-outs of competitors to Microsoft, claiming the practice is costing Australian taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year.
[4.c] Feds revise IT procurement model
The federal government has launched version two of the SourceIT model contracts and user notes aimed at simplifying procurement of information technology 12 months after the first version.
[4.d] Ignore the open source hot heads, CIOs told
Some of the public responses to the article labelled Gibson a “bureaucratic parasite” and his concerns “short-sighted”.
While Waugh believes the open source model holds better security outcomes than its proprietary equivalent, he equally describes the vitriolic reaction to Gibson’s comments as being ‘disgraceful’ and says they achieve nothing for the industry.
“I can tell you that at the very highest levels of government, there is interest and opportunities that exist for open source,” Waugh said. “This doesn’t help.” Waugh was also disheartened when personal attacks were levelled at Standards Australia’s Alistair Tegart over Microsoft’s push to have its OOXML format accepted as an ISO standard.
[4.e] Govt ‘computer bungle cost $51m
THE State Government has bungled a deal and bought computer software for 12,000 computers in the Health Department that do not need it – costing taxpayers more than $50 million over five years, Parliament has heard.
Opposition Leader Martin Hamilton-Smith yesterday said the computer “blunder” saw thousands of Health Department computers loaded up with $675 versions of Microsoft Office software, which the computers did not use or need. Just 4000 of the 16,000 computers actually used the software, Mr Hamilton-Smith told Parliament.
[5.a] Microsoft Misleads on Copyright Reform
The Hill Times this week includes an astonishingly misleading and factually incorrect article on Canadian copyright written by Microsoft.
[5.b] Movie, music giants seek a Canadian DMCA
The Canadian copyright reform debate raged on during a panel discussion on intellectual property rights Wednesday, and while members of the recording, film, and Parliament argued in support for controversial legislation, at least one industry expert said they are failing to listen to the Canadian public.
[5.c] Canadian DMCA On Hold?
Rumours tonight indicate that the government has again decided to delay introducing the Canadian DMCA. With the House of Commons off next week and the budget coming the following week, if this is true it would appear that there will be no copyright legislation for at least another month (assuming there is no election).
[5.d] CD copying OK, DRM circumvention not OK
Circumventing DRM to make copies for personal use will remain illegal for consumers, under copyright reform proposals floated by the UK government today….Copyright law should also recognise that consumers can legitimately make copies of copyright material they’ve already bought, the government proposes.
Speaking at the launch today, Lord Triesman said it made no sense to prevent someone making a playlist for use in the car from material they had legitimately purchased.
[5.e] Microsoft: We Like DRM
Steve Jobs wants the music business to drop restrictions for digital tunes. But Microsoft, which began competing head to head with Apple in the digital music business last fall, is happy with the way things are, says media exec Robbie Bach.
[5.f] Microsoft Tells Apple To Stop Complaining About DRM
[5.g] DRM – a big win for Microsoft
Recently I came to conclusion that Microsoft is the company, which profits most from the Digital Rights Management.
I don’t know the numbers, but I guess that DRM is little or no success for the recording industry. To say it stopped pirating films and music would be a joke.
Microsoft people must have known that the protection would be broken very soon. So why they are implementing it after all?
Companies that love to change laws using money have used their money to change laws and legalise the practice used to change laws using money. It’s called lobbying. A little funny, is it not? Welcome to Planet Earth, the place where your basic rights will be taken away from you unless you protect them. █
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Knowing who is who…
The other day we mentioned an eye-opening incident which occurred at Interop. The industry that extracts money from Free software by spreading fear and purporting to resolve real, exaggerated or imaginary issues is a tad controversial, but to be fair, there are two sides in this story.
In light of the fact that Black Duck is among those controversial companies, which are also seen moderating panels or weighing in on the Novell/Microsoft deal (betrayal of the GPL and consequences of GPLv3), it’s worth bringing up the observation that a 'Walli effect' seems possible here and thus we must be careful. Black Duck was actually founded by — wait for it –a Microsoft employee. This is new to us.
I met Black Duck CEO, Doug Levin back in October 2003 at the Enterprise Linux Forum in Washington D.C. I instantly liked him. He was just starting Black Duck Software and as a ex-Microsoftie talking about IP assurance I wasn’t convinced about the bright future of his business. However, I enjoyed meeting Doug and wished him the best of luck and went on my way.
To be fair, just coming from Microsoft does not make a person malicious (cultural effects aside), but other Microsoft employees who started companies which offer ‘open source solutions’ tend to blend in ‘real’ Open Source software with software that’s reliant on the Microsoft stack (inconvenient matchmaking), including .NET stuff with licences unapproved by the OSI. In some way, they serve as bridges and so-called peace-makers, but hidden motives — if any exist — must be born in mind. They may still have some former colleagues and friends, whose goals are different from that of Free software. It’s quite likely actually.
While on this particular subject, 2 days ago I decided to drop Open Sources (an Inforworld blog) from my reading list because every single page there has a huge Microsoft Port 25 ad (it’s AdBlock-resistant) which reads “open source heroes,” showing me photos of Microsoft employees. It’s as though someone approaches me upon every single pageload and says: “These are your friends. Meet your heroes from Microsoft.”
“Black Duck markets itself as an ‘open-sourcy’ company even though it’s purely proprietary.”With all due respect, having read the blog for years, Open Sources can no longer be seen as an (free) open source blog and it’s also run by IBM and Sun employees now, both of whom seem to be fond of hybrid models (dual-licensing). It used to be just Matt Asay and Dave Rosenberg, both of whom moved to CNET and pretty much abandoned InfoWorld, albeit over time. This was merely a straw that broke the camel’s back because trollish blogging (e.g. “Microsoft should buy Red Hat”, use of the derogatory word “freetards”) had me openly protest and threaten to leave before.
Getting back to the main subject at hand, in my personal blog I wrote approximately a year ago about the fact that Black Duck markets itself as an ‘open-sourcy’ company even though it’s purely proprietary. Also noteworthy is the fact that Black Duck got accused by Palamida of ‘stealing’ (coping, typos included) a GPLv3 database that required a huge deal of research.
The bottom line: Despite Black Duck’s latest acquisition (essentially of userbase), which could be worse news than good news, it’s probably safer to stick to those whom we can trust a little more. Palamida appears to be it because Hewlett-Packard, which recently introduced and now boasts a similar project/initiative, is uncomfortably close to Microsoft — to the point of striving to intervene with the already-made vote on OOXML. That was utterly unacceptable.
Last but not least, over the past few years, having read the relevant RSS/news feeds very carefully, it seems as though Black Duck spreads more fear (for sales) than its counterparts. It’s just an observation. █
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from the who-didnt-see-this-comin dept.
Charles wrote about it less than a week ago and now comes the update, followed by some sad homour.
At the time this post is being written, there is still no news of the final version of Ecma 376/DIS-ISO 29500, aka OOXML. I guess we’ll have to wait until midnight, today, Geneva time to have it. Yet some also claim that the deadline was midnight yesterday on the First of April.
What’s holding it back, assuming it remains away from the public eye (scrutiny)? Once again it is shown that ISO and ECMA, which seemingly controls ISO, act very irresponsibly and run away from the public, the most affected stakeholder.
Meanwhile, Peter Judge, whom we consider to be trustworthy, weighs in to extinguish Alex Brown's latest FUD.
According to engineers at OpenOffice, the problems Alex Brown raises are non-issues – brought about by errors in his tests.
Brown tested the ODF code using a validator without applying an option that disables unecessary checks, says OpenOffice. He also used a version of OpenOffice that saves to ODF 1.1 – a format which is not going to be submitted to ISO – they say.
It is truly shameful to find ODF smears being spread by an ISO member with vested interests in this mess called OOXML (he even admitted it's deficient). What low level have standards bodies like ISO sunk to? █
“It’s a Simple Matter of [Microsoft’s] Commercial Interests!”
–Microsoft’s Doug Mahugh about OOXML in Malaysia
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OpenSUSE makes the ‘base’ of SLED and SLES in the same way that Fedora is partly used to construct Red Hat’s enterprise product line. However, in the former case a lot is lost (and 'added') throughout the process, whereas in the latter case there’s adherence to principles. It is therefore encouraging to find that OpenSUSE in its current form is still no match for Fedora or Ubuntu. Consider this latest OpenSUSE review an example. (highlights in red are ours)
So, in short I actually don’t mind SuSE, and yes Sontek, zypper is usable (though slow) and YaST has some good points. But in general, my machine was faster and more usable in ubuntu or fedora. Now, I have heard that the speed issue (with both zypper and the system in general) is fixed in 11.0, and YaST has apparently gone through some remodeling and consolidation in the new version. When that gets released I will have to revisit OpenSuSE to check it out.
It is reassuring to find that (Open)SUSE is unlikely to become a ‘de facto’ distribution for the desktop or the server (where Ubuntu/Canonical and Red Hat dominate, respectively). Anything that can prevent Microsoft from controlling GNU/Linux users by proxy would be beneficial.
One approach and method of achieving this is the omission of SUSE (don’t mention it anywhere or bring it up with anyone), which is more friendly, polite and less harmful to GNU/Linux as a whole than occasional bashing (is any publicity — including negative one — actually good publicity?). █
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