12.22.08

New Year, Some Readers Want a New Policy

Posted in Novell, Site News at 9:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We never had a site policy

OCCASIONALLY WE RECEIVE suggestions saying that we should moderate the Web site, but we never deleted comments. In very exceptional cases, where people come only to curse and to vandalise, we append a message in red, but only three individuals (they sometimes change their names) were ever treated this way due to extreme abuse which is well documented.

Some readers feel as though we don’t go far enough and with over 200 comments yesterday, most of which from heckles, comes another polite, if slightly strong, suggestion that we want to share in order to receive opinions. The message goes like this:


Have you considered radically moderating the comments by the trolls at your site? It is always good to have differing opinions and people correcting our views and facts [...], but these guys at your site are starting to behave quite distastefully, and it is no more just some dissenting readers, it is increasingly looking like a well planed and even coordinated attack (again it might be my paranoid instinct, but even if this is not the case, these commenters are getting quite nasty and don’t add anything useful to the conversation in most cases).

“I also hate their strategy of trying to overwhelm you by buddying at attacking two or three at a time.”
–Anonymous reader
I think they are draining a lot of energy from you and always try to distract and misdirect the conversations with ad-hominem attacks and comments not quite on topic in order to undermine the message of your posts.

You should start applying a strict policy of not permitting ad-hominem attacks, strawman arguments, etc. [...] you must be absolutely and ultimately in control and have the last word about what and what not shows on it, most of their comments are now aimed at disrupting the conversation when they cannot counter the arguments (most of the time).

I also hate their strategy of trying to overwhelm you by buddying at attacking two or three at a time. I also hate people trying to have always the last word, and it is the case of these trolls, they always try to add the last comment to any of your posts and be on top of everybody else, which shows a total lack of respect for [the] site and its visitors.

I think it is high time you get rid and silently drop comments of those Microsoft-loving stalkers, and never ever reply their provocations neither let them surface on your site.

Surely they will hate that you selectively and silently drop and/or edit their molesting comments without giving them any explanation whatsoever (let them read your “enhanced comment policy” at the site if they want, but never ever engage in a discussion about the legitimacy of your moderation, or whether if it is fair or not for them [...] you don’t owe any justification to them, and they don’t deserve any explanation whatsoever since they perfectly know what they are doing — IMHO they seem like PR-agency paid stalkers every day that passes, so better silence and ignore them, they could be professionals and will try to drive you crazy).

If they enjoy commenting BS, let them go to port25.


Personally, I am very much against deleting comments, but a policy might make it clear in advance that certain behaviour will not be tolerated (or disclosures be required). For over a year we saw even readers of the site coming under personal attacks for ‘daring’ to express a point of view in the comments. This is not acceptable in their own point of you, so it forces them into silence or drives them away.

We’re not sure what to do. This is not the first such suggestion, but Shane and I feel strongly on this issue of free speech. How should we proceed then?

Links 22/12/2008: Linux Videos and Red Hat Results Coming

Posted in News Roundup at 8:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

F/OSS

Leftovers

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Markos Moulitsas, creator of the Daily Kos on-line political magazine 02 (2005)

Ogg Theora

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

Eye on Microsoft: Opposition Links

Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Security, Vista, Windows at 7:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IT WOULD TAKE quite a while to cover them all properly, so here is just a big group of links.

Windows Vista

· Opinion: How is Microsoft with Vista like the Big Three automakers?

With Gates long gone and the Google-obsessed Ballmer in charge, I don’t think there’s any real question about it. Microsoft has become yesterday’s news. The only real question is how long its fall will take and how it will play out.

· Microsoft launches Concentration Breaker 3.0 [Joke]

Microsoft has proudly announced a raft of new ways to frustrate users and lower productivity with its new version of its celebrated Concentration Breaker software.

· Vista OOBE Part 1

Although this PC is aimed at home and small business users, the Out Of Box Experience would make many of the people I know in those categories uncomfortable. First, the network connection didn’t work. I know enough to dig down to the Network Connection applet and restart it, and it worked fine. Would your mother know to do that? Mine certainly wouldn’t.

· Vista OOBE Part 3: Networking Problem with Some Routers

I might be picking out which sledgehammer to use on my new computer if not for an article in Windows Secrets last week. Since I was awaiting for my HP PC with Vista, the headline “Microsoft DHCP Bugs Make Windows Lose Networking,” caught my eye. The problem described by Windows Secrets is exactly the problem I have with this new system.

· Vista OOBE Part 4: Summary

The appearance of the Aero Glass interface makes Vista Vista, and it’s pretty, but nothing special. I’ve seen multiple Linux distributions from years back that did many of the things Vista has, and we won’t go into the Vista versus Leopard discussions.

I have two big problems with the interface. First, and most important, it slows Vista down. I have a new Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 processor running at 3.00GHz with 3GB of RAM, and Vista’s snap and presentation lags behind XP and Ubuntu Linux, both running on old Pentium 4 boxes with 512MB and 768MB of RAM. Sure, people suggest turning Aero Glass off for a speed increase, but do you have Vista then? In name only, but it looks like XP, albeit a slower, more ornery XP.

· Demand Still Strong For Vista-XP Downgrades

Although downgrade rights are part of the Vista EULA and have no expiration date, Microsoft is currently scheduled to stop providing the media for downgrades to OEMs on July 31, 2009. The Microsoft spokesperson said customers will still be able to access their downgrade rights after that date by contacting Microsoft, but didn’t specify how that process would work.

“That’s one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard,” said one system builder, who asked not to be named. “Can you imagine the kind of resources Microsoft would have to allocate to handling downgrade rights phone calls? It doesn’t seem like that would make sense for them financially.”

· Microsoft Extends XP Availability For Distributors

Distributors say the best part of the new arrangement is that they won’t have to take title to the reserved XP licenses until they’re sold to an end user, which helps them avoid having to sit on inventory for several months, which is a major concern in a low-margin business.

Windows Mobile

· Can Microsoft make its future mobile?

Apple is minting it with its sleek but expensive iPhone. And only a few months ago internet search giant Google entered the field with its Linux-based Android software, designed to power internet-savvy mobile phones.

[...]

But the real Achilles heel of Microsoft’s devices was their abysmal user interface – firmly wedded to the look and feel of old-fashioned computer desktops, a concept that doesn’t work on small screens.

· Does Microsoft prefer the iPhone to Windows Mobile?

Who would have thunked it, not only has Microsoft released a dedicated iPhone application but it has not yet developed a version for the Windows Mobile platform.

More here.

XBox

Previous lawsuits are worth attention.

· Microsoft knew about Xbox 360 disc-scratch problem, employee claims

Microsoft knew prior to the Xbox 360’s launch that the console can damage discs if gamers tilt the unit while a disc’s spinning inside, documents from a lawsuit focused on the problem reveal.

The revelation was made by Hiroo Umeno, a Microsoft programmer, in an ongoing case that was filed with the Seattle District Court in July 2007. The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status on behalf of affected gamers, but the documents containing Umeno’s confession have only just been unsealed at the court, according to a report by website Seattle Tech.

· Microsoft Knew About Xbox 360 Damaging Discs

As per an unsealed document in a Washington lawsuit filed last week at Seattle, Microsoft was aware about Xbox 360 damaging game discs before it was introduced in November 2005.

More details can be found here, here, here, and here.

· ‘Red Ringed’ Xbox 360s still dog Microsoft

If you look online, you’ll find lots of people like Travis. Really angry people. Every game enthusiast site has multiple forums dedicated to the Red Ring problem – home remedies on how to solve it, condolences for people who’ve just experienced it, and gamers claiming to be on their fourth, sixth or ninth Xbox 360

Web Operations

Amid major departure:

· Will the Microsoft Live Search turmoil ever end?

As other pundits have noted, Microsoft needs to try something — anything — new to fix its Online Services business.

Microsoft’s query share is stagnating, in spite of the company’s continued attempts to tweak business models with programs like Live Search Cashback. And its decision to focus on a handful of key verticals hasn’t done a whole lot to improve Microsoft’s search mindshare or marketshare, either.

· Microsoft rolls back some changes to Hotmail

In late September, Microsoft began rolling out a new Windows Live Hotmail, drawing a fierce reaction among many users of the e-mail service.

Hotmail users complained about specific bugs in the new Hotmail. They also said the changes were largely unnecessary. Microsoft, for instance, combined two previous versions of Hotmail — a lightweight version, known as “classic,” and one better for faster Internet connections, known as “full.”

· Live Search Continues to Lose Ground to Google

While Microsoft is focusing on the organic evolution of its search engine, Live Search continues to lose ground to Google. With Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer trumpeting commitment to take down the Mountain View-search giant, the reality delivers an entirely different perspective on the market performance of Live Search.

Security

· DHS and Cybersecurity: Yes, No, Maybe So?

There’s no question DHS is a troubled agency and it’s doing not nearly enough to prepare for a potential Cyber 9-11. But I’m skeptical of the idea that Washington will do better by simply moving the responsibility to another part of the government.

Last week, a group of outside experts recommended cybersecurity be moved from DHS — which “isn’t equipped to protect the federal government against cyberattacks” — to an office within the Obama White House. Many members of the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency “felt that leaving any cyber function at DHS would doom that function to failure,” according to its recently-released 96-page report.

One of our readers writes: “While there is no known variant for Linux, BSD, Solaris or OS X, these users can be affected anyway if there is an infected Windows user in the vicinity. So, yet again we have use of Windows affecting even people who have taken steps to use systems designed for Internet use. By connecting their Windows computers to the net, they are causing harm to everyone else. Just as dumping trash anywhere outside of a designated dump or land-fill is illegal in the physical, the electronic equivalent, that of running Windows, should also be actionable. Those who have chosen to purchase and deploy Microsoft products ought now be pursued legally to recover the cost of spam and malware.”

A Microsoft magazine writes:

· Microsoft Ends 08 with Two Security Battles

Just when the software giant thought it had sated the public’s desire for answers regarding a zero-day vulnerability that was thought to only affect IE7, yet another new bug had been identified over the weekend with SQL Server database. The kicker here is that a seasoned hacker could in theory use the IE bug to then deploy the SQL Server bug. A report from Austria-based SEC Consult Advisory said it’s possible for outsiders to target the vulnerability remotely on Web sites that link search boxes, customer databases or other Web apps to SQL Server. Redmond was still investigating both flaws as this post went up and, as per procedure, said it will issue workarounds and possible patches in the future as part of its normal monthly security bulletin release.

· First Look: Five Browsers in One

But all is not perfect in Wired-land — and perhaps it can take some of the money it saved on all those fonts to hire some better headline writers. My beef is with a recent cover story about Ray Ozzie: “Can This Man Save Microsoft?” Given that I follow Redmond’s finances — which seem to set a new record each and every quarter — I was confused by the premise.

Also:

· Hackers Use IE Bug to Taint Word Docs

Attackers are exploiting the just-patched vulnerability in Internet Explorer (IE) by hiding malicious ActiveX controls in Microsoft Word documents, a security company said Thursday.

“Inside the document is an ActiveX control, and in that control is a line that makes it call out to the site that’s hosting the malware,” said David Marcus, the director of security research and communications for McAfee Inc.’s Avert Labs. “This is a pretty insidious way to attack people, because it’s invisible to the eye, the communication with the site.”

· IE8 and IE7 Mitigations Failed Against the MSHTML.DLL Critical Exploits

On December 17, 2008, Microsoft released in excess of 300 distinct updates for all supported versions of Internet Explorer, packaged as MS08-078, in its rush to patch a critical vulnerability in the systems, which was under attack at least as early as December 9. Not only was the security flaw actively exploited in the wild (allowing for remore code execution), but the majority of mitigations built into the Windows operating system were useless to stop attacks, according to Michael Howard, senior security program manager in the Security Engineering group at Microsoft.

· Windows For Submarines: Please Tell Me This Is A Hoax

The British Royal Navy is actually boasting of rolling out a new “next generation” installation of Windows 2000 and XP on their entire fleet of 11 nuclear submarines, and they’re so pleased with it they want to do the same to their battleships. I am not making this up– they are boasting and they are happy, and they are saying “next generation” with straight faces.

[...]

I’ve seen reports that say they replaced a SPARC/Solaris infrastructure, though I haven’t been able to verify it. This has me so flummoxed I am at a loss for words– they’re claiming a savings of 22 million pounds over the next ten years. A savings from what? Is your fleet of nuclear submarines really a good place to penny-pinch? I doubt they’re saving any money anyway, and I’ll bet money that Microsoft did the TCO and ROI “studies”.

More background here.

· Hackers bypassing IE patch with Word bugs

Attackers are exploiting the just-patched vulnerability in Internet Explorer (IE) by hiding malicious ActiveX controls in Microsoft Word documents, according to security researchers.

“Inside the document is an ActiveX control, and in that control is a line that makes it call out to the site that’s hosting the malware,” said David Marcus, the director of security research and communications for McAfee’s Avert Labs. “This is a pretty insidious way to attack people, because it’s invisible to the eye, the communication with the site.”

· Does the Internet Need its Own Police Force?

Criminal activity for financial gain remains the driver for the massive increase in Internet threats. Today’s malware is produced by highly organised criminal gangs using increasingly sophisticated techniques. This year has seen increasing botnet activity around the world.

· U.S. Computers Generate Most Malware

Too many compromised computers

“Not only is the U.S. relaying the most spam because too many of its computers have been compromised and are under the control of hackers, but it’s also carrying the most malicious Web pages,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. “We would like to see the States making less of an impact on the charts in the coming year. American computers, whether knowingly or not, are making a disturbingly large contribution to the problems of viruses and spam affecting all of us today.”

· Malware Hunting

OK, about now my editor is going to be wondering where on earth this column is. It should have been in his hot, sweaty hands hours ago, but as I was beginning to write about a couple of searching tools my Windows XP SP2 machine started acting up. Again.

You might remember a few months ago the problems I had with deferred procedure calls. These recently returned in a minor and transitory way that may be related to my current annoyance, which is that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7 is acting weird.

· Worldwide alert on Microsoft browser

MORE than 500 million internet users around the world are at risk from a major flaw discovered in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer software that can give criminals access to personal details, including banking passwords and log-ins.

· Vulnerabilities in several virus scanners

Secunia and IVIZ Techno have published reports of vulnerabilities in virus scanners. A vulnerable ActiveX control in Trend Micro’s online scanner House Call can allow an attacker to infect a PC and then all that is needed is for the victim to visit a malicious site. The problem can be found in House Call 6.51.0.1028 and 6.6.0.1278. Users should remove the Housecall_ActiveX.dll and then visit the HouseCall site and install version 6.6.0.1285.

Apple

· iPhone Dev Spends $500k on Development, Still Not Approved by Apple

Apple’s App Store is an interesting, exciting and frightening place all at the same time. iPhone application developer Chris Nikkel knows this first hand. His application “Newber” has spent nearly 75 days waiting for approval from Apple, and he has yet to hear a word.

· Day 11: iTunes

You may have heard this week, that iTunes was going DRM-free. Of course, it didn’t happen. Apple’s iTunes, under Steve Jobs, is still stubbornly the only major distributor of DRM-encumbered music at a time when Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster, eMusic, Magnatune, 7 Digital and more are all selling music without restriction.

Leftovers

· Three Sentenced for Selling Pirated Software

Court documents accused the three men of operating Web sites offering pirated software for download from early 2006 to September 2007, the DOJ said. The three men promoted their business by purchasing advertising from major Internet search engines. They processed more than $1.2 million in orders during their time in business, the DOJ said.

· Barack Obama Doesn’t Own a Microsoft Zune

Political maneuvering extends far beyond the reaches of Washington. In fact, the Barack Obama PR machine extends all the way to Redmond, Washington and Cupertino, California, resulting in quite the little scandal even before Barack Obama officially takes the greatest office in the land.

Microsoft EEE

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 6:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

No, not Eee PC

THE LAST discussion about OOXML revolved around software patents, but more problematic is Microsoft's attempt to ruin what already works: ODF. This issue was raised before [1, 2] and there is a new article that compares Microsoft’s tactics against document standards (ODF) to what Microsoft did to Netscape.

That’s how Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) killed Netscape many moons ago. Embrace this newfangled “Web browser” market with a new product. Extend the existing Web standards with proprietary technologies like ActiveX. Extinguish the competition by denying them access to those fancy new features. When it works, this is a great way to build and maintain wide, alligator-filled business moats.

It seems to me that Mr. Softy is up to his old tricks again. The target this time is the OpenDocument standard, a free and open alternative to Microsoft’s own Office formats for text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more. The standard’s biggest proponent so far is Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA) and its StarOffice/OpenOffice software packages, but other alternatives like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Documents, IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) Lotus Symphony, and Corel (Nasdaq: CREL) WordPerfect come with ODF support, too.

[...]

Instead, Microsoft has put up a Web site full of “implementation notes” for this new feature, which will be added in a service pack for Office 2007. Office will write “additional data” into its files, and there are “implementation variances” from the published, open standard — all according to a set of “implementation decisions.” We’ll have to wait on the specifics, but this sounds eerily reminiscent of IE-versus-Netscape to me.

Another case of Microsoft EEE (embrace, extend and extinguish) might be “open source”, whose isolation from Freedom and flexibility Microsoft keeps exploiting.

We previously showed some new tricks that Microsoft was using to have the Silver Lie somehow associated with those two words, “open source”. Here is another new example of Silver Lie and Open Source sharing a headline to deceive.

Deep Earth: When Virtual Earth Meets Silverlight 2 and Open Source

Deep Earth is a project created at the intersection of Microsoft Virtual Earth, Silverlight 2, and open source. Hosted on the Redmond company’s open source repository CodePlex…

This is possibly designed to make Silver Lie look as though it’s not proprietary. For purposes of openness or freedom, this is totally pointless. They may want to create a confusion that will make it hard to separate Microsoft’s proprietary technology from Free software. They blur the gap deliberately. What they did to standards they also do to code.

When SUSE Fails

Posted in GNU/Linux, Novell, OpenSUSE, Review at 5:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft SUSE

Some early reviews of OpenSUSE 11.1 are beginning to trickle in and several of them highlight the problems in more obvious ways than reviews which we mentioned on Saturday.

Here is one person’s horrific start with OpenSUSE 11.1:

In the past 24-hours with the latest openSUSE 11.1, I’ve had a horrific experience. And while I’ve not given up on the distribution, I’m putting down my experiences here neither as a call for help nor as a rant to keep people away. Rather, an honest approach spreads honest knowledge… and hopefully I will be proved wrong, and others will not make the same “mistakes?” I made. What follows is a quick historical recount of my experiences with openSUSE and also my current trauma.

This one was posted in USENET:


    Message-ID: <%Fc3l.12739$i_6.11499@newsfe11.ams2>
    From: The Lost Packet <jmthelostpacket@googlemail.com>
    Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
    Subject: OpenSuSE 11.1 PPC Part II
    Date: Sat, 20 Dec 2008 20:34:49 +0000
    User-Agent: Thunderbird 2.0.0.18 (Windows/20081105)
    Organization: virginmedia.com

Not much to tell, I haven’t tested it (the memory) and have no intention
to do so ‘cos it works thus far and that’s all that matters to me.

Really all I did was to add the 11.1DVD to a virgin 10.3 install as an
update repository. After adding kernel, KDE and proprietery ATI drivers
as the update package and resolving the few dozen dependencies that
cropped up (which mainly consisted of “<i>gnore this conflict and carry
on”), YaST updated the install to 11.1 and after that, allowed me to
autoupdate everything else via YUM. Have fun! Warning, when you get a
stack of XML files downloading it’ll take an hour or so on a fast link;
you know the kernel update’s worked and it’s updated the version key as
well, it’ll be downloading the latest patches for 11.1 rather than for
10.3 which seems to be AWOL. Though, for some reason it requires the
10.3 disc to clear the update cache the first time round… hohum.

(cc of a reply to a private message)


There are a few more positive experiences that we will mention later, but either way, comprehensive reviews typically conclude that SUSE is matched or surpassed by its competition that has no ties to Microsoft.

B.A.D. Microsoft

Posted in Africa, Asia, Deception, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 5:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

B.A.D. (Bribing, Addicting, Dumping) Tactics

WE HAVE SEEN a lot of stories just like this over the past few months [1, 2, 3, 4]. Microsoft is watching its back as the temptation to move to Free software grows. In response, Microsoft tries to get people stuck with its own tools. We have 3 new examples today.

First, Microsoft is raising and growing an army of people who will install just Windows on old PCs (that’s what they are trained to do) and not GNU/Linux.

Microsoft has commenced a scheme that will make Windows XP accessible to buyers of refurbished personal computers in Nigerian.

The scheme, under the Unlimited Potential Group of the firm, is called the Secondary PC Programme and will start as a pilot in Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan and Czech Republic.

That’s Unlimited Potential again, aka “Anti-GNU/Linux” [1, 2].

More on Microsoft’s ‘help’ to these people (making them servants of Microsoft) can be found here in the Nigerian news.

Second, Microsoft works on getting children ‘addicted’ in the Philippines.

According to Microsoft, the Microsoft Windows Multipoint allows teachers to engage the class in more interactive discussions since one computer is capable of linking up to 50 mice.

This technology is part of Microsoft Philippines’ Unlimited Potential (UP) initiative, which is a global program that aims to bring the benefits of technology to the next five billion people worldwide.

Unlimited Potential. Yes, it’s the potential to get people stuck with software they can’t afford when they grow up. It’s not about empowering people but about ensuring they don’t get exposed to Free software. Later on they’ll be accused of being "pirates" and maybe sued.

Lastly, businesses are being locked in as well. This new example is from India.

In its bid to woo startups in India, Microsoft Corp (India) Pvt Ltd. has launched Microsoft BizSpark – a program designed to provide free access to Microsoft’s professional software.

We already wrote about this in [1, 2]. Lock-in and forced purchases (updates, bundling, etc.) are the business model. Those who fail to see it will become prey. It’s unfortunate that the press rarely points this out and some of the articles above read like commercials, almost as though they were ghostwritten by Microsoft or lazily derived from press releases.

Jewelery

Rumours: More Microsoft Layoffs Next Month

Posted in Finance, Microsoft, Rumour at 5:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

MICROSOFT LAYOFFS have actually begun already and we covered them in:

From a Microsoft employee (just posted):

Come 22 Jan 2009 Microsoft will be asked by the analysts what it is doing to contain costs. And I believe Microsoft will have an answer. I think this is one solution that you don’t want to be a part of.

We live in interesting times.

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