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12.07.08

Microsoft Keeps ‘Embracing’ and ‘Extending’ Education

Posted in Africa, America, Europe, Microsoft at 9:29 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Extinguishing choice and learning

About a week ago we wrote about Microsoft striving to 'manage' national education and we also showed what was happening in BECTA. It is only now that we find this Microsoft press release, whose headline is “Microsoft Hosts Global Education Leaders at School of the Future World Summit.” Since when is Microsoft an authority in education? This is not education, it's misuse.

This week, school administrators and policymakers from more than 30 countries are gathering in Seattle for the fourth annual School of the Future World Summit, hosted by Microsoft Corp.’s Partners in Learning.

Here is a report from there, which features Microsoft’s Mr. Bean, whom we recently mentioned here for ‘poisoning’ the Open University.

…[Microsoft employee Martin] Bean told a group of educators gathered Tuesday for Microsoft’s School of the Future World Summit in Seattle. Bean said schools largely are not adapting to their students’ digital lifestyles.

[...]

For instance, he said, Microsoft’s Live@edu initiative, which principally manages e-mail for educational institutions, would expand its offerings.

He also said Microsoft is working on a set of “content-creation tools” that teachers will be able to use to assemble digital content for students.

And Microsoft will add specific tools designed for use in educational settings to Office and SharePoint, its collaboration technology.

So, top educators and decision-makers gather in Microsoft’s back yard and are being preached by Microsoft employees (who also occupy chief positions at supposedly ‘open’ universities) about the use of Microsoft lock-in, which they are advised to pass to young people.

This is similar to what they do in UNISA (South Africa). They expand this ODF- and GNU/Linux-hostile strategy beyond just South Africa, according to this item from the news. They also want to bring more of that ‘addiction’ (as Gates calls this dependency and lock-in) to other part of Africa now.

Chalkboard
Closed-source learning

Eye on Security: ‘Fun’ with Zombies, Press Ignorance, and Bizarre Solutions

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Windows at 8:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Our products just aren’t engineered for security.”

Brian Valentine, Microsoft executive

Microsoft software is not exactly renowned for being secure, despite attempts to manipulate journalists. The software is notorious for being deficient or defective. To Microsoft, security and networking were an afterthought, not a design consideration, as shown here. Granted, trouble should be anticipated.

Zombies Conundrum

Stories about Windows zombies are a dime a dozen, just like zombie nodes. It is estimated that about 320 million Windows PCs are zombies. Here is the latest story on this never-ending (and very costly) battle.

Researchers at Trend reported that 500,000 unique hosts have been infected across the globe. Macalintal said that because of the behavior of the worm, he expected to see the botnet grow bigger and produce more variants.

That’s small potatoes compared to the whole, but it just happens to be a new example. Not so long ago we witnessed hospitals and army bases becoming botnets, as well. It’s a hugely serious subject that results in many untold deaths.

Insecure by Design

As prior links demonstrate (we strive to avoid repetition), it is agreed even by Microsoft’s biggest of fans that Windows fails at security because it’s just bad at it. It’s nothing to do with market share and those lies are running thin. In the following new article, Microsoft’s security model comes under fire.

When Microsoft released an emergency patch last month for a critical vulnerability in the server service in Windows, administrators and security teams in enterprises around the world scrambled to test the fix, schedule downtime and get the patch distributed as quickly as possible. If ever there was an occasion to use all due haste in deploying a patch, this was it. Not only was the vulnerability present in every supported version of Windows, but Microsoft officials had warned that it was a prime candidate for a worm.

Here is another one from the news.

Security Manager’s Journal: When is a patch not really a patch?

[...]

If you don’t reboot a Windows server after a patch is applied, the patch doesn’t take effect, but SMS doesn’t notice that failure to reboot. This insistence on rebooting is one of the things I dislike about Windows. In the Unix world, all that’s usually required is that a particular process be restarted.

There has been lots of chatter about a flaw in Mozilla Firefox, but like many previous ones, this new vulnerability only applies to Windows, where Firefox inherits some risky behaviour which it sometimes attempts to mimic due to necessity. Why isn’t the press covering this properly?

Bad, wicked Firefox, bad wicked open source…except that this trojan *only* works on Windows…which means it’s bad wicked Windows, yet again. But the article never mentions this, of course.

[...]

And yes, you guessed it, it only works on Windows. So that bit about “[t]he most remarkable feature of the episode may not be the breach of security, but the cost of dealing with it” is really about the cost of using Windows – well, it’s The Economist, what do you expect, accuracy? When will they ever learn?

As Glyn Moody shows, there are rare exceptions among the reporters.

The Web Vector

Adding to a mountain of reasons for infection:

1. Facebook hit by virus

“Koobface” that uses the social network’s messaging system to infect PCs, then tries to gather sensitive information such as credit card numbers.

2. Most recent Windows infections result from the same simple trick

BitDefender’s Top 10 E-Threats Report identifies just one type of attack as being responsible for more than a third of Windows infections in the past month: fake anti-virus scans, also known as scareware.

Attacking the Outcome, Not the Cause

Here is a good and short article titled “Punishment vs. Prevention.”

Finally, I feel compelled to issue the warning, “Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.” If the government takes over Internet security, there is sure to be a large amount of new regulation imposed. And this could mean security companies like F-Secure would have to devote a lot of resources towards compliance. I think it would be much better for us to take responsibility for finding solutions ourselves.

This is a hot topic at the moment because concerned authorities ponder tackling the zombies issues by making punishment for those caught a lot more severe. But it’s totally the wrong way of addressing the issue. As Carla argues very rightly: ““Instead of Throwing Everyone In Jail, Fix Your Lousy Products”

Have any of them– has one single vendor, whether it’s Symantec or Trend or McAfee or F-Secure or anyone– ever said “Quit throwing your money down a rathole– stop using Windows, or at least don’t put it on the Internet”? Wouldn’t that little tidbit of honesty be refreshing? But no, they’ll never do that. If the same conditions existed in, say, the small home appliances industry people would be getting electrocuted by their toasters and hair dryers every day, and the manufacturers would advise them to learn correct handling of live wires, and a thriving industry of insulated safety garments would prey on the survivors. If they made safety gear for swimmers it would be so bulky and uncomfortable they either wouldn’t use it, or they would drown under the weight of it.

Following current trends, anyone who criticized them would be persecuted under the DMCA.

Instead of pointing a finger at those who produce and sell shoddy software, those who suffer are blamed for negligence and stricter rules are devised as means of punishment (false cure), not prevention. It won’t work. The systems need to be changed, as opposed to just their side-effects.

Microsoft’s DRM May Get More Aggressive, Apple Bullies to Defend DRM

Posted in Apple, DRM, Microsoft at 8:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Broken CD
Defective. By design.

Shelved away in our DRM category we happen to have a lot of posts on the subject, some of which cover Novell’s ambivalent take on this issue. Novell is, after all, a largely proprietary software company.

It seemed worthwhile to draw attention to the attitude towards DRM where proprietary operating systems are dominant (mostly desktops). Microsoft’s attitude towards DRM we have already covered in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Microsoft openly says that it likes DRM and according to this new report from The Register, things can get worse than Vista.

Microsoft is adopting technology from EMC’s RSA security division for Windows to police data and prevent loss and theft of information.

[...]

Microsoft would not be drawn on whether the DLP engine will be built into Office or the forthcoming Windows 7. Office would be logical move given it features the Outlook client used by Exchange and is where potentially sensitive documents can be created in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Why is RSA being adopted? Is it for whatever is says on the tin? Such things are often phased in using “security” as an excuse, but this turns out to be financial security to media monopolies. It’s a two-edged sword. Are backup features more about forensics, for example?

“DRM is the future.”

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO

Either way, as reiterated in this article, Microsoft refuses to consider practical examples and steer away from DRM, which is not effective. It harms honest people and fails to limit copying by those who are sufficiently determined.

Valve says DRM is stupid, but Microsoft still doesn’t get it

Valve is a wonderfully open company—in many cases, direct questions sent to the publisher will be answered by a member of the creative team within hours. One gamer recently e-mailed Valve and asked why he saw EA’s logo on a commercial for Left 4 Dead: he bought the game via Steam but didn’t want to support EA after the Spore DRM debacle. He got a reply from a managing director at the company, Gabe Newell, that was to the point: EA only handles distribution for the physical product, and Valve thinks most DRM is “just dumb.”

In order to defend its DRM and lock-in, Apple continues its appalling crusade and legally harasses a blogger for it.

Apple copies Microsoft tactics in Itunes row

[...]

Sam Odio, operator of bluwiki, did what Jobs’ Mob demanded only because he said he lacked the money to take on the fruit-themed toymaker.

He told AP that, when a lawyer calls you up and implicitly threatens litigation that would bankrupt your little project, you obviously have no choice but to comply.

The next time Apple pretends that it only implements DRM [1, 2] because of the music industry, such examples are worth bearing in mind. Better options do exist [3].

It is almost amusing that Apple/Mac enthusiasts vilified Vista for DRM whilst the company they so loyally defended goes down the same route, only later. Free software is a safe haven; replacing one proprietary ‘master’ with another is no solution and Novell, by the way, is still predominantly proprietary (with exceptions.

_____
[1] Apple’s new MacBooks have built-in copy protection measures

Apple’s new MacBook lines include a form of digital copy protection that will prevent protected media, such as DRM-infused iTunes movies, from playing back on devices that aren’t compliant with the new priority protection measures.

[2] EFF: Apple DisplayPort DRM Will Lead to More Piracy

When Apple released its new MacBook and MacBook Pro models, as well as updated MacBook Air models, one feature of those latest laptops touted by Apple was their Mini DisplayPort video connection. This new connector is part of an open standard and is smaller than the DVI, mini-DVI, and micro-DVI ports found on the previous generation of Apple laptops. But there’s one feature of the Mini DisplayPort on Apple laptops that isn’t sitting well with many users–High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP).

[3] MP3 Store Guide: ‘Don’t buy DRM’ (like iTunes)

Yesterday korporate download sites HMV, Woolworths, 7digital, Digitalstores, Tescodigital, Tunetribe, and Play.co launched a new ‘100% MP3 compatible’ logo devised by the Entertainment Retailers Association.

Links 07/12/2008: GNU/Linux Takes Over University, British ISPs Shoot Down Wikipedia

Posted in News Roundup at 1:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

F/OSS

Copyleft

Leftovers

Novell’s Financial Results for Q4: Synopsis

Posted in Finance, GNU/Linux, Novell at 11:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Pie chart

WE wrote about this briefly on Thursday, just hours after the results had been published. Here is a more comprehensive roundup of Novell’s financial results.

Anticipation

Ahead of the results, Novell’s stock was quite shaky and rocky. It declined sharply for several consecutive days. Here is an earnings preview (also here).

Novell, Inc. (NOVL: News ), a provider of open source software for businesses, is scheduled to report financial results for its fourth quarter and fiscal year 2008 after the markets close on Thursday.

Previews also appeared in:

Announcement

Here the press release with a very generic headline.

Novell, Inc. (NASDAQ: NOVL) today announced financial results for its fourth fiscal quarter and full fiscal year ended October 31, 2008. For the quarter, Novell reported net revenue of $245 million, consistent with the fourth fiscal quarter of 2007. Loss from operations for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2008 was $6 million, compared to a loss from operations of $13 million for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2007. Net loss in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2008 was $16 million, or $(0.05) per share, which included a $14 million impairment charge related to the Company’s auction-rate securities. This compares to a net loss of $18 million, or $(0.05) per share, for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2007. In the fourth fiscal quarter of 2008, foreign currency exchange rates did not materially impact net revenue and favorably impacted operating expenses and loss from operations by $1 million compared to the same period last year.

Associated Press has a copy of its report in Yahoo.

Software maker Novell Inc. said Thursday its loss for the fiscal fourth quarter narrowed, meeting Wall Street estimates.

More here:

Waltham, Massachusetts-based software maker Novell Inc. (NASDAQ: NOVL) registered fourth-quarter net loss of $16.3 million, or 5 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $17.9 million, or 5 cents a share, in the same quarter a year earlier.

Microsoft’s MSN put up some articles about it too.

For the fourth fiscal quarter of 2008, product revenue increased 6%, but was offset by a services revenue decline of 26%, resulting in total revenue of $244.7 million. Revenue was essentially flat from the prior year — down 0.1% year-over-year — and shy of the consensus estimate that called for $249.8 million.

Another one:

Revenue was essentially flat at $244.7 million, from $244.9 million a year ago. Analysts, on average, were looking for $249.8 million.

And another one from MSN:

Novell reports EPS in-line, misses on revs Reports Q4 (Oct) earnings of $0.06 per share, in-line with the First Call consensus of $0.06; revenues fell 0.1% year/year to $244.7 mln vs the $249.8 mln consensus.

Optimists

Matt Asay, a former Novell employee (but also a former critic), spoke about Novell ahead of the results.

Analysts are almost universally giving Novell’s stock a price target in the $8 range, yet the company’s stock currently trades for roughly half that. The same is true for Red Hat, which trades around $9 per share, yet has most analysts targeting double (or more) than that.

With this in mind, will it really matter if Novell and Red Hat report strong earnings? Probably not, at least in the short term. No good deed goes unpunished…

He is pushing Red Hat to become more like Novell in certain ways (not patents) and he posted something after the results had come out.

Novell delivers another 33 percent quarterly rise in its Linux business

[...]

In case Red Hat had ever been tempted to be complacent, Novell’s consistently good Linux numbers should eradicate that temptation. Novell is a viable Linux competitor again. Sure, much of its success, at least initially, is owed to the grace of Microsoft, which would be foolish to bet on long term.

As Alan Lord correctly points out in the comment, “you have to ask yourself how much of that Linux number are “real” sales and how much is Microsoft’s pocket money?”

There are more of those who isolate the Linux component of Novell as though the company can just rely on this small portion of itself. Colin Barker, for instance, summarised Novell’s news as “Novell reports leap in Linux revenues.”

Novell’s Linux business grew by 33 percent over the fourth quarter last year, according to the company’s latest financial figures. Identity and access management revenues were up 11 percent compared to the same period last year, and systems and resource management revenues climbed 15 percent.

Sean reported similarly.

How confident is Novell’s CEO Ron Hovsepian about the appeal of Linux? He is calling the open source operating system a key driver helping to push the company through the current global economic slowdown.

The VAR Guy picked on the bad points too:

1. Top-line Revenue: Novell’s overall quarterly revenues were $245 million, flat compared to last year’s corresponding quarter but $5 million below Wall Street’s expectations, according to Reuters.

The VAR Guy’s Spin: Bummer. But our resident blogger isn’t so concerned about Novell’s top-line revenues. Rather, he’s preoccupied with SUSE Linux revenue growth.

2. SUSE Linux Revenue: According to Novell’s press release, the company “reported $36 million of product revenue from Open Platform Solutions, of which $33 million was from Linux Platform Products, up 33% compared to the same period last year.”

The VAR Guy’s Spin: Mixed reaction. Thirty-three percent growth is impressive in a horrendous economy.

But consider this: Novell says it generated $120 million for the year from Linux Platform Products. That’s not much money within the overall IT industry…

For this analysis, overall, thumbs up must go to Joe P. He was able not only to see but also to list the weaknesses which Novell tried so hard to hide in the press release (followed by very shallow coverage from the 'press').

In a nutshell, Novell’s revenue is down (Netware is dying) and losses continue. Unless Novell can reverse this, it’s a leaking ship. And Microsoft won’t be around forever to prop it up.

Netware is to Novell what UNIX was to SCO. Microsoft (and/or investors) abandoned SCO after a while, maybe because it was no longer able to exploit it so much after it turned out that Microsoft had sent proxies like Larry Goldfarb and BayStar to feed SCO’s lawsuits against Linux. As a reminder:

“…Microsoft wished to promote SCO and its pending lawsuit against IBM and the Linux operating system. But Microsoft did not want to be seen as attacking IBM or Linux.”

Larry Goldfarb, Baystar, key investor in SCO

“[Microsoft's] Mr. Emerson and I discussed a variety of investment structures wherein Microsoft would ‘backstop,’ or guarantee in some way, BayStar’s investment…. Microsoft assured me that it would in some way guarantee BayStar’s investment in SCO.”

Larry Goldfarb, Baystar, key investor in SCO

“Microsoft hardly needs an SCO source license. Its license payment to SCO is simply a good-looking way to pass along a bribe…”

Bruce Perens

“On the same day that CA blasted SCO, Open Source evangelist Eric Raymond revealed a leaked email from SCO’s strategic consultant Mike Anderer to their management. The email details how, surprise surprise, Microsoft has arranged virtually all of SCO’s financing, hiding behind intermediaries like Baystar Capital.”

Bruce Perens

On ARS

Timothy at The Register explains the effect of auction rate securities on Novell’s performance.

Software maker Novell has reported financial results for its fiscal fourth quarter of 2008 ending October 31, and the meager profits that the reorganized company was able to eek out were mostly wiped out by an impairment charge related to its investment in auction rate securities. ARSes, for short.

There is additional information about ARS right here.

More Reports

A lot of the coverage was boring repetition of the press release with no fundamental analysis or insight. It’s not helpful and it creates an empire of ‘yes men’ where the naked emperor can never be ridiculed. As a famous saying goes, “truth is treason in the empire of lies.”

As the Boston Herald put it:

Waltham software maker Novell posted a quarterly loss of $16.3 million after writing down the value of auction-rate securities.

This is the bottom line really.

The results are also covered in:

Previously we also covered or cited:

Conclusion

We have already summed up these results some days ago. Having digested all this newer information, it seems safe to say once again that Novell disappoints but only in alignment with the rest of industry, which suffers considerable slowdown (if not another great depression).

Those who are optimistic and bullish about Novell (or GNU/Linux) typically point out Linux growth, but that remains a small portion that cannot compensate for Novell’s overall demise. Novell continues to rely on a financial lifeline (coupons and referrals) from Microsoft.

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: December 6th, 2008 – Part 2

Posted in IRC Logs at 4:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Enter the IRC channel now

Read the rest of this entry »

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: December 6th, 2008 – Part 1

Posted in IRC Logs at 4:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Enter the IRC channel now

Read the rest of this entry »

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