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08.28.08

Links 28/08/2008: Distribution Developer Bought Out by Hardware Monopolist

Posted in News Roundup at 7:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Garth Dickey, President and CEO of Progeny, Inc. 04 (2004)

Ogg Theora

Digital Tipping Point is a Free software-like project where the raw videos are code. You can assist by participating.

Some New (But Very Old) Microsoft AstroTurfing Examples

Posted in Apple, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Servers at 6:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

One year ago, due to increased trolling against this Web site, we presented a bunch of incidents where Microsoft got caught poisoning the Web using marketing people in disguise.

This is a reality, not a speculation. Here is another index where some of the following were found. They go a long way back, but they teach us about the present too.

One memorable example is this one.

An ad, titled “Confessions of a Mac to PC convert,” was posted to Microsoft’s Web site last week. The article purports to be a first-person account of a writer who decided to switch from an Apple Macintosh computer to a PC running Windows XP.

It later turned out that Microsoft had faked it. There was no Mac-to-PC covert. It was fictitious and it was orchestrated by a marketing agency hired by Microsoft (one agency among very many [1, 2, 3]). Remember this when people claim to be GNU/Linux users and slam it endlessly.

Here is another faker:

Microsoft has yanked another of its fraudulent user testimonials, in this case a fictitious twelve-year-old boy raving about a fictional homework assignment and the indespensable insights he received from MS Encarta Reference Library in preparing it.

Some of the all-time favourites reveal just how Microsoft manipulates the media, including CNET, which was mentioned just minutes ago.

The contracts, signed with companies such as Walt Disney, PointCast, and CNN, have received intense scrutiny from federal and state regulators, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the European Commission. (CNET, publisher of NEWS.COM, also has signed a contract with Microsoft.)

The following report, despite its age (available from the Internet Archive), is worth mentioning too.

Microsoft employee’s move against AOL backfires
By Melanie Austria Farmer, Staff Writer, CNET News.com
August 13, 1999, 9:00 a.m. PT

A Microsoft programmer apparently masqueraded as an
independent computer consultant in an effort to discredit
America Online’s tactics and behavior in its instant
messaging battle with Microsoft, according to reports.

The Barkto incidents are not to be forgotten, either. Last but not least, here is the article “MS targets Linux, Mac rivals with IIS astroturf.”

In total, we’re three-quarters of the way to collecting the full set, from various concerned correspondents, and were whimsically thinking of trading them with you. Can you swap us a Mac OS X vulnerability for a couple of PHP Engine Disable Source Viewing Vulnerabilities? We’ve lots of those… But most correspondents point out the first two on the list. And almost all such letters continue the theme: “It doesn’t matter what system you are running, if you don’t keep up to date you will be hit.”

Microsoft surely gave an honest answer yesterday, by tacitly accepting that IIS has a unique problem (or combination of problems), that they recognize it, and are taking steps to fix it with a rewrite. But we fear that this kind of Astroturf will continue for a while yet.

There are many more such examples and we shall revisit this in the future.

“Working behind the scenes to orchestrate “independent” praise of our technology, and damnation of the enemy’s, is a key evangelism function during the Slog. “Independent” analyst’s report should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). “Independent” consultants should write columns and articles, give conference presentations and moderate stacked panels, all on our behalf (and setting them up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour). “Independent” academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and research money granted). “Independent” courseware providers should start profiting from their early involvement in our technology. Every possible source of leverage should be sought and turned to our advantage.”

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

CNET Hypnosis: Only the Poor People of Brazil Might Want GNU/Linux

Posted in America, Deception, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Servers at 6:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Well, that’s pretty much the message they send

Ina Fried, one of Microsoft’s media talking points, has taken a trip to Brazil. Now that articles begin to be published, it’s clear that this is no vacation. There appears to be a subtle yet visible agenda there.

It was several months ago that Ina Fried downplayed the impact of GNU/Linux in Brazil by quoting some Microsoft-obedient analysts. It’s happening again when Ina writes:

“There was a retailer in one of the countries that sold their systems with Linux,” said Gartner analyst Luis Anavitarte. “They made a survey of clients within the first 30 days; 95 percent were already on Windows.”

This is not the first time that Ina quotes Microsoft’s Partner [sic] Group [1, 2, 3] on this subject in order to downplay the role and ubiquity of GNU/Linux. How was the survey conducted? Who sponsored it? Who would have had an interest in funding or ‘cooking’ a study with such conclusions?

“It’s likely deliberate, it’s biased by design, and this is probably how IDC is instructed to collect and unleash statistics.”It was only a week ago that Paul DeGroot, a Directions On Microsoft analyst, said: “There’s a lot of Linux out there — much more than Microsoft generally signals publicly — and their customers are using it.”

Also today in CNET, you might find Matt Asay quoting figures from the Microsoft-obedient IDC [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], claiming that GNU/Linux has a 13% ‘market share’ in servers. How is it measured? Revenue. Yes, and preinstalled only by industry giants. They don’t count units, they count money. They don’t count D-I-Y, they don’t consider cost, and they don’t track actual use or utilisation. It’s likely deliberate, it’s biased by design, and this is probably how IDC is instructed to collect and unleash statistics. They glorify Microsoft and this was covered here before.

Fortunately, some shrewd readers don’t let CNET/ZDNet get away with it all. Need it be mentioned that it’s indirectly funded by Microsoft, just like many other sites?

Apart from readers’ comments in CNET, there’s this response in Linux Today where Munchins are rare.

Ina Fried talks about Brazil’s big Linux usage but right off the bat implies it is not what the people want. And not only does the author start putting Linux down right from the start, the author uses the last few paragraphs to promote Microsoft’s agenda. Adding quotes such a 80% of Linux PCs get Windows installed by users within 30 days and another 10% in another 30 days. That’s write, the Microsoft employee is quoted as saying that 90% of Brazils Linux PCs are getting user installed Microsoft Windows.

The story is a pitch against Linux usage and very much about Microsoft’s products and strategies. And the Microsoft employee also stated that Linux is good for Microsoft because it keeps them on their toes. He then goes on to say that it exposes where they need to do better with distribution. That is correct, not make better software but push harder in the distribution channel. That means limit choice folks.

This is classic Ziff/Davis style of doing Microsoft PR work.

The next post will take another careful look at how Microsoft manipulates public perception in news sites like ZDNet and CNET.

Novell to Triple Collaborations with Microsoft

Posted in Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Ron Hovsepian at 6:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand.”

Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO

Having already tripled the number of collaborations with Microsoft, Novell intends to triple them yet again, according to the following new interview with Ron Hovsepian.

It’s going very well insofar as we originally agreed to co-operate on three distinct projects and now we’re working on nine projects and there’s a good list of 19 other projects that we plan to co-operate on.

How long before there is complete overlap?

How long before it makes sense for Microsoft to just buy Novell, which already supports all of its proprietary technologies. Microsoft’s recent moves towards Utah are interesting too (we gave two examples in the past week).

Ron Hovsepian begs Ballmer

Voice Your Support for the World Day Against Software Patents

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Law, Patents at 2:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Software patents protest in India

If you have a moment to spare, please visit the following page and put your name down. The world needs your support to ensure elimination of the main legal barrier to the triumph of Free software.

You want to get your software association, software company, software consultancy, software project involved in the 24 September World Day Against Software Patents and are able to speak in the name of your organisation? Please give us your contact data below. Your organisation gets the opportunity to be listed as a supporter for the announcement of the World Day Against Software Patents.

Considering the following:

  1. The issue of software patents is a global one, and several governments and patent offices around the world continue to grant software & business method patents on a daily basis; they are pushing for legal codification of the practice, such as currently in New Zealand and India, and via the misappropriation of Free Trade Agreement instruments;
  2. Previous initiatives as the Noepatents.org petition (approx. 400 000) at the EU level are outdated (notably on the issues of the central EU patent court) and not open for signatures anymore.
  3. Companies still view software patents as assets. They have yet to understand that software patents should also be considered liabilities, especially if they are in the hands of trolls.
  4. Time is on our side as litigation gets spread wide: Markets learn the hard way that you may not leave reform to patent professionals. Patent litigation is becoming wide spread in key markets such as the financial sector, and will be more wide spread in the software sector in the forthcoming years due to the number of applications pending;
  5. The United States lacks a coalition of business and civil society against software patents
  • The lobby gap makes Congress and Senate, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) and the Supreme Court susceptible to lobbying from patent industries, holders and patent professionals. American software creators have been intimidated by the patent establishment and have failed to make themselves heard.
  • Companies affected by software patent litigation have been lobbying for reform, but their advocacy for “quality” and “lower damages” aims at symptoms rather than the roots of the problem.

For these reasons,

We declare the 24 September as the World Day Against Software Patents, in commemoration of the European Parliament First Reading in 2003 with amendments stopping the harmful patenting of software, guaranteeing that software programmers and businesses can safely benefit from the fruits of their work under copyright law.

A Global Petition will be launched which asks to stop software patents, with some localised versions of the petition for specific regions, such as New Zealand, India, United States and Europe. The public will be invited to comment on the draft between the 1st and the 23rd September.

You can vote for it in Slashdot to help promote the cause.

Routes to Innovation: Innovation by Publicity

Posted in Bill Gates, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft, Patents, Ubuntu at 9:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Working behind the scenes to orchestrate “independent” praise of our technology, and damnation of the enemy’s, is a key evangelism function during the Slog. “Independent” analyst’s report should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). “Independent” consultants should write columns and articles, give conference presentations and moderate stacked panels, all on our behalf (and setting them up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour). “Independent” academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and research money granted). “Independent” courseware providers should start profiting from their early involvement in our technology. Every possible source of leverage should be sought and turned to our advantage.”

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

Innovation Only If the Press Says So

Talk about hype. The mainstream press is humming again over Microsoft’s reinvention of the wheel — in this case private Web browsing mode. It’s worth reiterating this loud and clear: Nothing is truly ‘invented’ until Microsoft announces that it will be released some time in the distant future as part of some mass-marketed (or force-fed) product which may, eventually, drop that 'invention' anyway.

The New York Times has some weird coverage of the non-event. This is an IDG article, but it showed up in the New York Times, which has always seemed grossly pro-Microsoft [1, 2]. Groklaw has already pointed out what seems like an obvious mistake: “I find this article a bit puzzling, unless there are other features not mentioned, because you can already achieve the first mentioned privacy already in Firefox and in Opera, and more.”

Irrespective of prior art and erroneous claims of novelty, this did not prevent Microsoft from attempting to get a patent on this ‘invention’.

Microsoft (News – Alert) has reportedly applied for trademarks to protect two of its Internet tools, InPrivate and Cleartracks.

If you think this won’t work out, just watch how they recently got granted a patent on PgDn and PgUp [1, 2]. The USPTO is a mess.

Patent Poll Stacking

Yesterday we warned about the possibility that lobbying in Malaysia might be trying to inject software patents. Similar activities around patents were noted in the UK. Groklaw, having seen these reports, had this to say: “I wonder if the pro-software patents strategy is to solicit input from the public, stack it, and then claim the public demands software patents? In the prior News Picks item, we see such a request in the UK. Here’s one in Malaysia, so if you notice others in your country, will you please let me know?”

Groklaw also pointed out this new patent lawsuit, which clearly shows a junk patent. The venue? Eastern District of Texas, as usual.

Patent holding company Klausner Technologies Inc. has sued Verizon Wireless and LG Electronics Inc. for infringement of a patent on the visual listing of voicemail.

New York-based Klausner said late Tuesday that Verizon Wireless’ Visual Voicemail and LG’s Voyager phone, sold by the carrier, infringe on a patent that covers services through which a user is able to view and retrieve individual voice messages through a menu.

Klausner filed suit in the eastern district of Texas.

‘Innovation’ by Embargo

Another fine example of how patents do not benefit consumers.

U.S. importation of smartphones and other devices using SiRF’s GPS chipsets could be banned by December, if the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) adopts a recommendation made last week. Announced by Broadcom, the ruling is the latest development in a patent battle between the chipmakers.

We wrote about this problem quite recently.

Microsoft’s Forgotten History of Imitation, Not Innovation

A regular fan of Microsoft (also a paid fan for that matter [1, 2, 3, 4]), which is called the Gartner Group, once said the following things.

Repeatedly pushed by Gartner Group analyst Scott Winkler regarding criticisms that Microsoft doesn’t do anything innovative but merely takes existing technologies and ideas and puts them, quite successfully, into its own business model, Gates seemed evasive. Winkler asked Gates to list specific innovations and when the Microsoft chairman and chief executive officer said that his company was the first to separate operating system development from hardware development, Winkler cut him off.

“You didn’t innovate that,” the analyst said, noting that Microsoft obtained DOS externally.

Watch and learn from history how Microsoft steals people’s ideas and then stabs the original inventors in the back. Later it claims credit.

Crushed by Microsoft: What I learned

[...]

Then Microsoft came along.

By the middle of 1994, Microsoft wanted real-time 3D software for its push into the PC consumer entertainment space. Privately, it began courting all three British companies. As head of U.S. operations for Argonaut, I was thrilled when–after a very positive meeting in Redmond, Washington–we were lead to believe that Microsoft had chosen to license and promote our technology over the others. Someone close to the negotiations even told me to “crack open the champagne.”

The euphoria that resulted lasted about a week. Through the grapevine, we learned that Microsoft had decided to license the software of our competitor, Rendermorphics, and, worse still, was going to purchase the entire company.

Real-time 3D software is relevant and timely for a variety of reasons. One of them is a debut of Photosynth. Photosynth has roots in GNU/Linux. Yes, before Microsoft ruined it. Photosynth ran on and was demonstrated on GNU/Linux before Microsoft acquired it (sorry… ‘in-no-vated’ it and blocked its #1 rival, which was already supported anyway). You can still find the videos in YouTube — videos that show Photosynth running on Ubuntu GNU/Linux before the acquisition.

Microsoft doesn’t really innovate; not much of use anyway. Watch this oldie (the original address is a dead link now). It shows how Microsoft is forcing DirectX on people.

Was I fired from Microsoft?

Yes, I was indeed escorted from my building Tuesday afternoon June 24th around 12:15 in the afternoon, roughly four years and six months after joining the collective.

Why?

So many answers to this. The straw that broke the camels back was indeed a piece of email I sent to Bill and Paul challenging the competency of the management in charge of Microsoft’s 3D technology. This might fall under the broader category of being an insufferable bastard, but it was indeed a piece of email that did it. To be clear I don’t believe Bill or Paul gave my execution order. They’re very reasonable guys whom I have enormous respect for. It was a layer to middle managers on the thread between myself and these guys who made the decision based largely on how stung they were probably feeling from my choice of verbiage. Suffice it to say that I did some extremely outrageous things in my time, which tended to cause people to have very polarized opinions of my performance.

3D vs. OGL

As many of you know, my last stand was in the area of 3D. For the record; In my opinion John Carmack is a God, and has my complete respect. The longer I’ve known him, the more he has impressed me. In theory John is absolutely right about OGL, but in practice it will never be for reasons that have little to do with technical purity, and a lot to do with cold market forces, politics, and NDA’s.

I have to say it will be nice to look at the industry again through my own eyes when the Borg implant scars have healed. I’m hoping things will seem simpler now to me to.

Who am I?

I was originally hired by Microsoft as their Publishing technology evangelist. The position of “Game Evangelist” was created for me a year and a half after joining the company, because I wanted very badly to pioneer some “New” technology frontier, and I have always loved games. The “dream” of DirectX was originally had by three evangelists in Microsoft’s Developer Relations Group who all wanted to make great technology. The other two, who’s names I won’t associate with this posting, left DRG to build DirectX. They shipped versions 1-3, before the technology was re-orged to another group as part of the great “internet” refocusing that happened several months ago. I stayed in DRG to carry the message.

DirectX and its goals is an issue that we explored and alluded to many times before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]. The better and more recent analysis is probably this one.

He Who Imitates Microsoft Will Suffer from Its Flaw

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Security at 8:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

He Who Controls the Bootloader…”

We have warned before that any imitation of .NET is likely to inherit its problems and the same goes for OOXML. Some of the more severe problems pertain to security.

A new vulnerability has just been found in Mono. This one is funny:

Vulnerability reported by Redhat.

Is that a technical vulnerability only, or also a legal one? Either way, Fedora 10 has no Mono in the Live CD. It’s not there anymore.

Early in the week, we also remarked on Novell's support of ActiveX from Microsoft. Carla Schroder is far from impressed.

Nominum Solves Kaminsky Attack, and Novell’s iPrint Open to Attack, Say Researchers. What do these stories have in common? I was thinking perhaps institutionalized delusional thinking and incompetence, but maybe I’m being too harsh.

[...]

Lest anyone think I am being too mean to poor old defenseless Novell and Microsoft, I recall ActiveX security advisories almost from its inception back in 1996 or so. What has changed since then, twelve years later? Nothing, as this random recent security bulletin shows:

“Microsoft has released Security Advisory (955179) to describe attacks on a vulnerability in the Microsoft Office Snapshot Viewer ActiveX control. Because no fix is currently available for this vulnerability, please see the Security Advisory and US-CERT Vulnerability Note VU#837785 for workarounds.”

So we need to revise the popular “fool me once” saying:

Fool me once, shame on you
Fool me twice, shame on me
Fool me thousands of times over many years…let’s get married!”

Now why is it again that corporate participation is important to FOSS?

When will Novell finally start thinking for itself? It already supports Windows Vista , Internet Explorer, ActiveX, .NET, and XAML (Silverlight). It only helps in spreading the problems and everyone suffers as a result, except Microsoft.

“Two security researchers have developed a new technique that essentially bypasses all of the memory protection safeguards in the Windows Vista operating system…”

Dennis Fisher, August 7th, 2008

Quick Mention: Miguel de Icaza Loves .NET, Dislikes GNU GPL

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GPL, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, OpenDocument at 8:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Steve Ballmer scared of GPLv3

From the Novell VP who says the darnest things:

For a project of mine, this weekend I put together a command-line editing class for .NET shell applications.

[...]

It is licensed under the MIT X11 license and the Apache 2.0 license so there are no annoying licensing issues and can be mixed with anything out there.

That’s a suggestion that GPL has “annoying licensing issues.” And what's behind X11 anyway? Is this the former president (until recently) of the GNOME Foundation?

This comes a year after Miguel de Icaza’s ODF insult, to use Richard Stallman’s words:

Your insult is too vague to be checked, or refuted, but the reasons
why this question of standardization is important are very specific.
Governments around the world are interested in using an open standard
format. They have to decide whether to insist on a real open
standard, such as ODF, or accept a sham open standard, OOXML. If they
choose the former, they are likely to move somewhat to OpenOffice.
Otherwise they are likely to be stuck with Microsoft Office.

With ‘friends’ like these, need we have enemies?

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