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09.03.08

Links 03/09/2008: New Open-source Lab, Linux Devices

Posted in News Roundup at 9:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Embedded

Releases

MidnightBSD 0.2.1 and DragonFly BSD 2.1-DEVEL (Live DVD) were released. Also:

  • PC/OS 2008v2 Available Now
  • Fluxbox 1.1 Released, 100+ Changes
  • TeX distribution TeX Live 2008 released

    The TeX Users Group has released TeX distribution TeX Live 2008. ISO images and source code can be downloaded from the Comprehensive TeX Archive Network (CTAN).

    [...]

    TeX Live Manager is also used to configure the distribution. In future, the TUG also plans to make new packages and updates available at the same time as they are released on CTAN, allowing Linux users to keep their TeX systems up to date without waiting for updates from their Linux distributor.

Events

F/OSS

Google

Leftovers

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Sam Hiser, Global Marketing Lead for OpenOffice.org (retired) 01 (2005)

View video

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

Microsoft Uses “Piracy” Against the Laws

Posted in Antitrust, Asia, Bill Gates, GNU/Linux, Law at 8:16 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

How to defeat regulators? ‘Piracy’, of course.

Antitrust complaints are said to be arriving from China due to Microsoft's abuse there and use of so-called 'piracy' against the people's freedom. The following article suggests that Microsoft is now using ‘piracy’ not just as a weapon against competition (primarily Free software), but also as a weapon against regulators.

Microsoft – We Don’t Have a Monopoly in China Because of Piracy

Here’s a relatively unique way to blame piracy – say that it’s the reason you don’t have a monopoly to avoid anti-trust fines.

There are those that hear the same old tired scapegoat. Profits down? Blame piracy. Sales down? Blame piracy. Sales up? It’s in spite of piracy and there could be more sales. Profits up? It’s in spite of piracy and they could be higher. Who knew that a major software giant would use piracy to their legal advantage?

Microsoft loves what it pretentiously calls “piracy”. It owes its very existence to it.

“It’s easier for our software to compete with Linux when there’s piracy than when there’s not.”

Bill Gates

Penguins on a beach

Microsoft Might Sabotage Google’s Big Announcement Using Shills

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Windows at 7:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

When Ina Friedshill [1, 2] tried to rain on Google’s parade, she later received this response from Google: “Sometimes, as in the case of Google Chrome, this means that the legal terms for a specific product may include terms that don’t apply well to the use of that product. We are working quickly to remove language from Section 11 of the current Google Chrome terms of service.”

“The Maureen O’Gara incidents teach a lot about the ways such a routine works behind the scenes.”For those who do not know, Microsoft’s ‘public relations’ figure in CNET (motives are always disguised) muddied the water a bit when Google announced Chrome. This is only to be expected and it is also likely that Microsoft’s intelligence staff knew about Chrome well in advance, so they could prepare ‘FUD points’ to sling via the media, using special friends like Ina Friedshill. The Maureen O’Gara incidents [1, 2] teach a lot about the ways such a routine works behind the scenes.

Licensing ambiguities/issues aside, there are some other known ‘Microsoft moles’, who walk around praising Microsoft in the press and slamming its rivals. Some of them wear an “analyst” hat. A new example you can find here, under the article “Analyst Says Google’s Chrome Browser Needs Polishing.” Looking inside the article for the ‘meat’ by which a sensationalist headline was chosen, people can find only this:

“But for all the hype, Michael Gartenberg, vice president of mobile strategy for Juptermedia, said Chrome is somewhat underwhelming for a first release.”

Michael Gartenberg, eh?

Who is this guy? Is he a shill? Why, yes he is! He’s a former “Microsoft evangelist” on the company’s payroll.

We even mentioned him previously in [1, 2, 3] and I once sent him an E-mail, to which he replied, denying any connections with Microsoft.

Let’s look carefully at what we have here.

Evangelist Gartenberg back to being analyst

After only three weeks at Microsoft as an “evangelist,” Michael Gartenberg is returning to his old job as vice president and research director at JupiterResearch.

Perhaps he has had enough ‘recruitment time’ in Redmond. Shortly afterwards came his anti-GNU/Linux piece, which made it into a lot of publications and was finally rebutted here.

More recently he was found praising one of Microsoft’s most disastrous products: the Zune.

Microsoft upgrades Zune players to challenge Apple iPods

[...]

“It’s a nice evolutionary development to the product line,” said Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg.

Gartenberg is surely part of ‘The Club’.

“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]

Other known AstroTurfers are clinging onto any morsel of dirt there is against Google Chrome. They pick up anything that they can find, then spreading it all over the place. It’s happening at the moment. We base this on observations made throughout the past couple of days. People whose preference is blatantly anti-GNU/Linux articles (sometimes dedicated just to that) and other Microsoft competitors are all over this one.

Could it be because Microsoft really needs IE8 to break the Web? Dana reports:

Microsoft’s decision, with IE8 beta two, to make its proprietary standards the default in corporate Intranets, defining Web pages using open standards as “broken,” may be the final break between these two Internets.

Can the two Internets be brought back together? And can we return to an Internet where consumers have choices and are free to do as they will?

Could it be because, according to some new tests, IE8 is a resource pig?

In a multi-tab browsing session against 10 websites under Vista, IE8 grabbed about 380MB of memory, in contrast with 250MB consumed by IE7 and just 159MB by Firefox 3.0.1. That makes IE8 nearly one and-a-half times more memory intensive than IE7 and well more than twice as greedy as Firefox.

Could it be because reports are suggesting that Google Apps, for which Chrome is optimised, are ‘stealing’ customers from Microsoft? Sales of Microsoft Office are already declining.

Google Apps tops 1 million businesses

Almost all of the company’s revenue comes from its search engine, which last quarter accounted for more than $5 billion. New initiatives, such as the Chrome browser, Google Gears, and Google Friend Connect, are focused on building a mostly open-source Internet operating system out of Google technology in order to funnel more user data and targeted advertising opportunities into the Googleplex financial engine.

Could it be because Google is said to have ‘gained’ 1% market share in just one day or so, whereas Microsoft lost 1% in the past month?

Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer lost nearly a full percentage point in market share during August, the browser’s biggest drop in three months, a Web metrics firm said today.

This Web metric is highly inaccurate if not altogether meaningless, but trends as opposed to absolute number may say something. For an explanation about this “Web metrics firm”, see this previous post.

Google weather

“Peace of Mind” Over Piece of S* Software Patents, Lobbyists

Posted in Linspire, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Open XML, Patents, Standard at 2:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Linspire sold FUD, whereas Novell claims to be selling “intellectual property peace of mind” [1, 2, 3]. They are both in the business of GNU/Linux fear, having become partners of Microsoft (Linspire is dead now).

Since this whole Web site began, E-Channel Line has always provided a lot of Novell coverage. Virtually all of it was positive, so there is likely to be bias there. It is now, after Microsoft's latest cash infusion, that the site also talks about software patents.

That IP peace of mind being customers need not fret over being sued by Microsoft as the deal also includes a patent protection. The protection extends to Novell’s Linux users and covers any potential infringement of IP that allegedly exists in Linux.

Sadly, many Novell apologists look the other way and pretend that if they don’t know about this, then it has no impact. But ignoring problems or brushing and sweeping them under the rug does not make them go away; au contraire! It helps them grow quietly until it’s impossible to combat them.

“But ignoring problems or brushing and sweeping them under the rug does not make them go away…”So whilst Novell contaminates everything with .NET and OOXML patents, for which it claims to have acquired ‘protection’, a lot of people are asleep at the wheel. Instead of waking up and steering off the groove, they are shouting about Novell’s financial results, which they crave to embellish. They make Novell even stronger this way.

In reality, many patents of Microsoft are toothless tigers because there is no complete duplication of technology and no originality. Take the Page Up/Page Down patent as an example [1, 2, 3]. This latest article explains why the cost of reexamination is the greater concern, not the validity. It’ll never come to court as that would rubbish the patent and make Microsoft’s portfolio less formidable. It’s about perception and inspiration of fear.

Microsoft’s patent claim says that prior to its invention, a computer user couldn’t easily punch the Page Up or Page Down keys to scroll exactly one page down or up; instead, those buttons would move up or down a variable amount within a document, depending on how magnified the document’s text was.

The patent dossier lists Timothy Sellers, Heather Graham and Joshua Dersch, all of Washington state, as the inventors, and Microsoft as the patent owner.

It is not clear whether Microsoft’s patent will be enforceable. Another company could implement the same scrolling method if it can show that the technology was generally available and widely known before Microsoft filed a patent application.

Microsoft will not be able to assert ownership over the scrolling method in Canada because it has not yet filed an application for the same invention with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

Another argument can be made with respect to the invalidity of software patents in the vast majority of the world. Using lobbyists [1, 2], Microsoft intends to continue its fight for their expansion, which the world must fight against. [via Digital Majority]

Florian Müller’s book tells you the intriguing story of how we all managed to influence policy makers by telling the truth against a plethora of paid lobbyists from Microsoft, Siemens etc.

As a reminder to those who think that standardisation means “no patents”, here is a quick pick from the news. [via Andy Updegrove]

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed consent order and complaint against Negotiated Data Solutions LLC (N-Data). In that matter, the agency alleged that the technology company engaged in unfair methods of competition and unfair acts or practices in violation of Sec. 5 of the FTC Act by enforcing certain patents against participants in a standard-setting organization employing Ethernet, a computer networking standard used in nearly every computer sold in the United States.

Imagine complying with standards only to get sued. Therein also lies one trouble with the Free software-hostile OOXML.

Citibank Signs Deals with Microsoft, Deliberately Blocks GNU/Linux Users

Posted in America, Bill Gates, Deception, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, SCO, Security, SUN, Windows at 1:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Background

Patterns which are learned from history can be useful for the establishment of an hypothesis — in this case it being the hypothesis that Microsoft partners have implicit obligations which favour Microsoft and ‘punish’ its rivals. This can be harmful for many reasons and even cost lives at times.

The US Federal Aviation Administration seems to have gotten itself entangled after choosing Microsoft, but there are many other government departments which follow a similar route. The US Library of Congress comes to mind as a recent example of Exclusion Through Silverlight™ [1, 2, 3].

Just moments ago we attempted to show that the BBC’s deal with Microsoft seems to have resulted in exclusion of GNU/Linux users and even bashing.

Bank of America

In the case of the Bank of America, even Firefox was banned — until recently. To say more about this:

“As the usage of Firefox browsers has increased with our customer base, we will be initiating a full support model for Firefox version 2.x in the very near future,” spokeswoman Tara Burke told Networkworld.com.

Think “the very near future” will prove to be very soon? Don’t bank on it.

This was a case of merely beginning to support something other than Internet Explorer, despite its many known deficiencies and continued lack of adherence to standards. It’s stubborn snobbery. But what about GNU/Linux, the operating system level?

Welcome Citigroup

One reader, Jose, points out that Prince Alwaleed leads to just one link among others between Microsoft and Citibank (“Prince Alwaleed proposes Microsoft operation for Kingdom”). Bill Gates is mentioned there too. Remember where the SCO cash infusion almost came from and witness the many bits of circumstantial evidence.

According to Bill Parish, “[i]t is often forgotten that crown prince Al-Waleed saved Citicorp from going under a decade ago.” So a circle seems to be closing. Moreover, just watching old news, collaborations between Microsoft and Citibank are clear for all to view. Here are 3 examples:

1. Microsoft Business Solutions Joins Forces With Citibank Merchant Services To Offer Enhanced Retail Management System

Building on their strong relationship, Microsoft Corp. and Citibank Merchant Services today announced an extension of their collaboration to offer Microsoft® Business Solutions’ customers — specifically small and midmarket retailers — technology and services designed for the independent merchant. The agreement, announced at the National Retail Federation (NRF) 92nd Annual Conference & Expo, enhances Microsoft Retail Management System (RMS) by introducing a new payment processing module.

2. Microsoft Signs Citibank Indian Software Unit Deal

Microsoft Corp has formed an alliance with Citibank’s Indian software unit Citicorp Information Technology Industries Ltd (CITIL) to market the latter’s banking products world-wide. CITIL will use Windows NT and Back Office as its platforms of choice. Microsoft will sell the Indian firm’s banking industry products – Microbanker, Fundpower, and Finware – all over the world.

This pair seems to have gotten pretty close with a joint bill venture dating one decade ago:

3. Citibank joins Microsoft bill venture

Citibank has made an equity investment in MSFDC, a controversial joint venture of Microsoft and First Data for online bill presentment and payment.

Citigroup Snubs GNU/Linux

Blaming security, Citibank refuses to support GNU/Linux. Customers are furious. They deserve to be.

So you use that web browser to fill the application for a credit card at Citibank, and finally receive it. But when you start using that credit card and want to check you card usage on-line, the system won’t work when accessed with Linux. That’s exactly what has got Linux users furious at the banking giant.

Jason Antman, a techie and IT major at Rutgers University in New Jersey, got furious last week after realising that getting a card from Citibank using a Firefox is as easy as a walk in the park, but then checking his card activity on CitiCards.com using the open sauce browser was, well, as hard as a stone.

These complaints about Citibank are nothing new by the way. Here is one other rant from last year.

I hope they hear from enough people to take note. I think the Americans with Disabilities Act may be a powerful argument in favor of making web sites more standards compliant and accessible.

For its Web site, Citigroup deploys Solaris (UNIX), so it seems unwilling to run Windows on the server, yet it conveniently requires that customers do so on the desktop. Given the horrifying statistics which claim that one in two (Windows) PCs is a zombie, it’s a gamble, a Russian roulette. As Geer put it, “in zombie we trust.” What is Citigroup thinking?

Windows in ATMs

Citibank is in no position to brag about security. Here is a recent incident:

The alleged thieves made off with about $2 million between October 2007 until March of this year. Officials believe they remotely broke into the back-end computers that approve cash withdrawals and grabbed the PINs as they were being transmitted from the ATMs to the transaction processing computers, which increasingly use Windows, the report says.

From the comments:

Windows should not be used, nor shout OS X or Linux if it is running a GUI. While Windows can not be striped to a secure level and OS X is a bit of a challenge, Linux is very easy to run with a very minimalistic build.

Check out the NSA version of Linux.

Those PIN hacks seem reminiscent of the disaster which is Windows on ATMs. Here are some references that are relevant:

1. Windows-based cash machines ‘easily hacked’

ATMs, or automated teller machines, today face the Internet-born threat of worms and denial-of-service attacks, as well as being at risk from malicious applications that can harvest customer data or hijack machines.

2. Madness: ATMs Running Windows XP?

3. Pictures of ATM Machine Running Windows XP Crashing

The other day I pulled up to an ATM and it was in the middle of crashing and so I was able to shoot these pics during the crash and reboot. The ATM never did come up fully so I was unable to get some cash.

4. ATM using un-activated Windows

Ok, so lets be realistic for a moment here, first off, is ‘Hackers Best Friend” MS Windows really the optimal choice for an operating system that spits out cash?

5. ATM with Pirated Windows

In Russian you can sometimes meet pirated copy of Windows even on ATM. It warns that this copy of Windows need activation and the work of ATM gets interrupted.

6. Why not Embedded? ATM’s Running XP Professional…

This time, I happened to be there when it suddenly BSOD’d and began a reboot cycle. Obviously, to BSOD it needs to run Windows, and moments later, that was confirmed. But that’s not the story here — believe it or not, most ATMs run Windows nowadays, and there’s absoloutely nothing wrong with that.

[...]

There’s a million reasons why an ATM should must be RTOS, be it Linux or VxWorks or Windows CE, but even if you don’t go with RTOS, Windows XP Professional most certainly isn’t the answer. Especially if it’s not even SP2.

7. ATMs hacked using MP3 player

A criminal gang in the U.K. was able to steal confidential banking data by bugging ATMs with an MP3 player, The Times of London reported in its online edition Thursday.

Only Windows seems to reinterpret device insertion as a call for execution of arbitrary and untrusted contents. NASA recently saw its laptops out in space getting infected in this way (computer viruses passing via USB drives in Windows). With that in mind, how can Citigroup promote Windows for security reasons? Brazil seems to have stepped up to the plate and voted for change.

Brazilian banking giant Banco do Brasil this year is preparing to start a massive migration of one of the world’s biggest ATM fleets to the GNU/Linux operating system.

This is one among many migrations to GNU/Linux in Brazil. It includes hundreds of thousands of voting machine, so no wonder Microsoft is scared and resorting to FUD over there [1, 2].

OpenDocument Format Keeps Winning in Sweden, Brazil

Posted in America, Europe, Formats, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 12:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML protests in India
From the Campaign for Document Freedom

The bad taste of Microsoft’s OOXML must not be doing it any favours. While most of the news at the moment revolves around anti-ISO backlash, not all is about hate, loathing, and revolt. There is actually a lot of positive news for ODF. First of all, the latest addition to the ODF family is Sweden.

Without making a press release or public announcement the Swedish Standards Institute has formally approved ODF 1.0 as a national standard. Only the “SS” prefix in SS-ISO/IEC 26300:2008 give away the status of the document.

There’s more than just a paragraph over at Open Malaysia, where ODF has been spreading like fire in recent weeks.

Time to fly the flag again. This time, Sweden’s. The last time Sweden was dubiously mentioned in this blog was during the OOXML voting saga. Nothing dubious about the car of Swedish make that I drive. Nothing dubious about ODF being approved as a national standard in Sweden! See the report by Peter Krantz, and the SIS page (in English) that describes SS-ISO/IEC 26300:2008.

But wait. That’s not all. Brazil is becoming ever more responsive to the benefits of ODF, in addition to its action against OOXML.

Some very significant bodies of the Brazilian Government and government-owned corporations have just signed an agreement to adopt Open Document Format as their standard format for the exchange of electronic documents.

In previous posts about the latest ISO headache [1, 2, 3], it was made clear that Brazil played a key role. Bob Sutor has finally found the time to comment about this ISO crisis and how this might be resolved.

So here are a few things to remember about what’s coming out of the OOXML fiasco and how ISO/IEC handled it:

* There are a lot of very angry people out there, and these people are willing to work for significant change.
* These people are not going away, and the ISO and IEC can’t just “wait them out.”
* People are in this for the long haul. Some things can be done quickly, but if others take years, then people are committed to work on them however long it takes.
* ISO and IEC have damaged their reputations and caused people to question seriously their relevance to IT interoperability standards in important emerging economies.
* Change at this point in inevitable.

There are interesting developments ahead. Alan Lord argues that “[t]his has really been a sorry affair for ISO. They have lost all credibility…”

A world that is orphaned from a centralised standards body (or lacks trust in it) is bound to approach a fresh new attitude. Might Free software take precedence over open standards? One can always hope. Just watch what happened Kerala, India.

Microsoft’s Grip on the BBC is Tightened

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 11:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Former Microsoft executives inherit the Beeb

Whereas Microsoft crumbles at its executive ranks, it appears to find its influence penetrating other innocent companies, some of which are direct competitors of Microsoft. In addition, bias in the media can transcend the borders of the technical industry amid managerial changes, so this can affect also commerce-independent channels, such as the BBC.

Issues with the BBC were expressed before (to catch up with an assortment of criticisms, see [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]). Problems almost immediately followed a technical collaboration that had been established with Microsoft rather than with trusted UK-based companies, which are not convicted monopoly abusers.

Bias in the media comes in different forms. Editorial control, which is also supervised by the management, can affect article headlines and convey hidden messages. It is therefore interesting (yet worrisome) that Microsoft has just ‘lost ‘a vice president. Although it reflects badly on the future of the company, it turns out that this man will likely land in a position of influence where he can serve Microsoft better. He is reportedly headed towards BBC Worldwide, which is still perceived as trustworthy media.

Chris Dobson, Microsoft’s VP for its UK Online Service Group, is leaving the company. Dobson is believed to be joining BBC Worldwide in a senior role. He joined Microsoft in 2001 following positions at Zenith and MTV Networks.

He would be not the first executive from Microsoft who occupies a position of great responsibility there. Also inside the BBC, Erik Huggers, who arrived from Microsoft, continues to use iPlayer against GNU/Linux. Despite the fact that everyone pays tax, the BBC underplays the role of the operating system and has so far refused to support it. In addition, it threw FUD at it, suggesting that only 600 people in the UK are GNU/Linux users. How familiar a routine [1, 2].

“The language and attitude is very clear to see and for the BBC to publish such articles would simply be irresponsible.”Let us assume — but not hope — that Microsoft employees at the highest of levels are running the BBC and managing public money (tax money). What might be the impact? Technical facilities (e.g. iPlayer framework) is just one small ingredient of this equation; the other is media coverage. Might the BBC refuse to say anything positive about GNU/Linux, or altogether ignore its need/right for coverage? It is always hard to measure such things. One must consider incidents, keep track of them, and maybe count them.

The BBC’s inter-personal connections and partnership with Microsoft may already have a subtle effect. For example, just earlier, the BBC published this GNU/Linux-bashing article. It published it unchallenged. It contains ‘weasel words’ like “Hippy ideals” and it’s referring to the software just as “Linux” and explaining “open source”, not Free software. The latter mistake is not so uncommon, so it’s worth ignoring for now.

Looking at the myths that are spread and reinforced throughout the article, one finds “It’s not the machine itself that’s driving me to violence, but the operating system that controls its programs and hardware: Linux.” Another piece of FUD about GNU/Linux in 2008: “As someone used solely to double-clicking on pretty pictures to do most anything on a computer this is pretty hairy stuff.” There’s also the “no support” FUD at the end: “Bang a couple of lines of code into the terminal window to tell the machine to install what we’ve downloaded. Bingo, we’re cooking on gas,” it says. The language and attitude is very clear to see and for the BBC to publish such articles would simply be irresponsible.

The bottom line is: do not consider the BBC a credible source. This is far from the first such example.

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: September 2nd, 2008

Posted in IRC Logs at 10:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Enter the IRC channel now

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