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01.01.09

Links 01/01/2009: Another GNU/Linux Sub-notebook, Sabayon Release

Posted in News Roundup at 7:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

F/OSS

Media

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Digital Tipping Point: Marcelo Marques, visionary security networks entrepreneur 05 (2004)

Ogg Theora

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

Cybercrime Rises and Vista 7 is Already Open to Hijackers

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Vista 7, Windows at 3:10 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

No fixes available

Number 7

AN INTERESTING YEAR — not in the good sense by any means — lies ahead of many. As more people are under financial pressure, crime is likely to soar and it already does, according to news reports. The BBC warns about the effects of the recession/depression on cybercrime.

With the economic downturn affecting every corner of the globe, it is perhaps no surprise that it is likely to affect hi-tech criminals over the next 12 months.

Now more than ever it is crucial to ensure that systems are highly secure. Break-in attempts will most likely rise, so defenses must too (or else).

As we mentioned back in October, Vista 7 [sic] was given to particular people with critical flaws in it. It was inherently hijack-capable (or hijack-ready) and there were no patches available to fix this. Here is a new short report about the very same problem, which relates to the latest build.

Leaked Windows 7 Beta Includes Free Security Holes

[...]

Turns out that it’s impossible to apply security updates to the bootleg version, including the recent “out of band” update for a seriously critical vulnerability in Internet Explorer.

It’s worth emphasising that Microsoft has said absolutely nothing about security improvements in Vista 7, despite the fact that Windows Vista is a security failure and all Microsoft can do is bother journalists over their exposure of this problem. Since Vista 7 is just Vista with a mild facelift, it will be as insecure as Vista.

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

Brian Valentine, Microsoft executive

Opportunities Open Up for GNU/Linux as Apple Suffers

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux at 1:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Dog and apple

BEING IN THE MIDST OF A HOLIDAY, not much has happened since the "Hard(er) Times at Apple" post, but in order to keep readers up to date, worth maintaining track of are these technical issues which brick Apple Macs. This is pretty serious.

As PC Mag reported last week, Apple OS X 10.5.6 can break some MacBook Pros leaving some users (like me) with a dead backlit black screen after the Apple logo appears.

Apple’s enormous marketing budget (about $300M per year) will probably send this one “oopsie” under the shade

It is saddening to see OS News turning a mere rumour into the headline “Jobs’ Health Rapidly Declining, Inevitable News Spring 2009.” A more accurate report is probably this one.

Apple’s stock fell abruptly on Tuesday, but later recovered some ground, after an online report said CEO Steve Jobs bowed out of next week’s Macworld Expo keynote address because of declining health.

In a report it labeled “rumor,” the gadget blog Gizmodo quoted an unnamed source as saying Apple “is choosing to remove the hype factor strategically” by holding the keynote without Jobs, whose “health is rapidly declining.” Gizmodo said the source had been correct in the past, though only about Apple products and not about Jobs. Apple did not comment for the Gizmodo post and did not immediately respond to IDG News Service requests for comment.

It is worth remembering that Apple is not invincible. It spends outrageous amounts of money on shaping perceptions, so it’s too easy to be deceived. Apple is not exactly a friend of Free software, to say the very least. Its people also fail to acknowledge their ‘debt’ to ideas which come from the software community but are never mass marketed.

“Hey, Steve, just because you broke into Xerox’s store before I did and took the TV doesn’t mean I can’t go in later and steal the stereo.”

Bill Gates, Microsoft

“Our friends up north [Microsoft] spend over five billion dollars on research and development and all they seem to do is copy Google and Apple.”

Steve Jobs, Apple

Farewell, Zune?

Posted in Hardware, Microsoft at 12:53 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Try again next year

Back in September, Microsoft was advised to take Zune out of its suffering and misery by axing it.

The Zune is another matter. Apple’s lead is too large. The Zune is not a product which is terribly different from its competition.

Microsoft can simply say it does not want to take a bath on the Zune while it is taking a more intelligent risk with Xbox profitability.

Kill the Zune. Save some money.

Steve Ballmer calls “Zune” a funny product because the company has not figured out how to actually make money out of it. Like many other products, it only helps Microsoft bleed cash and generate press releases.

Also related to this:

  1. Zune Guy calls Microsoft ‘liars,’ says Zune situation is ‘f***ing bulls**t’
  2. Zune Guy Rant Against Microsoft and Zune no Longer Available
  3. Zune absent from Microsoft exec’s speech
  4. The beginning of the end for the Microsoft Zune
  5. Zuneral this Saturday!
  6. GameStop to Stop Zune Sales
  7. From Vista to Zune: Why Microsoft Can’t Sell to Consumers
  8. Zune Sales Still In the Toilet
  9. Microsoft May Build a Copyright Cop Into Every Zune
  10. Microsoft says Zune executive will leave company [article removed]
  11. Dancing Ballmer subjected to Zune dance therapy
  12. A Legitimate Reason to Hate the Zune (And Microsoft Too)

Is the following news the public relations disaster that’s the last nail on the Zune’s coffin?

Right, so this is a weird one: we’re getting tons of reports—tons—about failing Zune 30s. Apparently, the players began freezing at about midnight last night, becoming totally unresponsive and practically useless.

The crisis has been dubbed by Zune users ‘Y2K9′, due to the apparently synchronized faceplantings across the country. According to tipster Michael, the Zune users experienced something like this:

Other models of the Zune suffer from this error as well and detailed reports, of which there are plenty, suggest that the ‘fix’ is that there is no fix, just an excuse (explanation, apology).

Microsoft’s responded to the Zune 30GB failure, blaming a leap-year handling bug. And they’ve provided a fix. Which is to wait til New Years, when the bug will go away by itself. Huh.

Some products speak for themselves by performing and earning a reputation. As Service Pack 1 of Vista and Windows Home Server prove, not even enormous marketing budgets (exceeding a billion dollars per annum) can turn a dud into a winner.

Smashed Zune
Tom Davis took this photo of a Zune which was smashed in anger

Quick Mention: Über Puppet?

Posted in Microsoft at 12:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

I HAVE only just noticed some referrals coming from this post of Microsoft Watch. Check out the arguments in the comments thread. The author is also censoring comments and someone called “Mary Jo” (Foley?) has told a poster to “go suck on a razor blade and get over it.”

Ouch.

Microsoft History of Exploiting Free Labour Repeats Itself

Posted in Antitrust, Apple, Bill Gates, Courtroom, Deals, Deception, Finance, Free/Libre Software, IBM, Patents, Steve Ballmer, Windows at 11:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bruised face
Partners you can’t trust

WE have already warned Free software developers who are led to believe that Microsoft is genuinely interested in helping them, rather than exploiting them as usual. Those who are new to this debate are advised to read:

Microsoft is renowned (or notorious, depending one’s point of view) for only exploiting developers who help Microsoft increase sales, e.g. of Windows. If those developers make some money, then Microsoft copies them and undercuts them through pricing or bundling. But there is another form of exploitation, which a reader sent us a tip about. It’s about what Microsoft calls “getting IBMed.”

The definition of “getting IBMed,” says our reader, is “getting our ‘competitors/partners’ to work for us and getting our ‘partners/competitors’ to pay for it.”

And how nicely it is illustrated in this confidential message from Bill Gates to Steve Ballmer (dated August of 1989). We append the full text at the bottom and we have just made a permanent local copy of the original court exhibit [PDF] from Comes vs. Microsoft (Iowa antitrust). One part of it says:

Windows is still not as nice as the mac and it would be easy to be a lot better. Win 3 goes a long ways but we cant get IBMed on this one.

That’s from Bill Gates. He said that the Mac was better, but they needed IBM to help them reverse this, just like with Sony and Playstation. Two days ago, in the Wall Street Journal, the following article was published:

…in 2001 Sony partnered with Toshiba and IBM to create the so-called Cell processor — a chip so powerful that it would redefine PC-scale power…

[...]

In late 2002, Microsoft approached IBM about making the chip for Microsoft’s rival game console, the (as yet unnamed) Xbox 360. In 2003, IBM’s Adam Bennett showed Microsoft specs for the still-in-development Cell core [...] The result was that Sony’s R&D money was spent creating a component for Microsoft to use against it.

“According to this, Microsoft joined the party late and got IBM to show them the specs for the joint Sony/Toshiba CELL processor [...] only it was Sony that paid for it” says a reader.

The history that we present here is similar and the full text is below. Readers may spot repeated spelling mistakes like “basicly” and “agressive” (it’s not just a typo because it’s repeated separately). Here is a part about patents where Gates says:

First, we have to make sure windows isnt easy to clone for both technical
 and legal reasons. Who is smart that thinks about this – patents and
 such. I can do it at some point and I think we will be able to achieve ito
 DOS being fairly cloned has had a dramatic impact on our pricing for DOS.
 I wonder if we would have it around 30-40% higher if it wasnt cloned. I
 bet we would!

Another part talks about “software evangelization” (namely “We may need to do some more software evangelization in certain catergories”). By “evangelization”, does he refer to "the Slog"?

Concludes Bill Gates: “IBM never knew our plan and if they did they shouldnt like it – our old plan (DOS) which is the current financial success of the company- sell cheap to IBM and make money from everyone else.”


Aug 6 21:34 1989 MAIL Page 1

From billg Sun Aug 6 21:34:05 1989
To: steveb
Subject: OS strategy
Date: Sun Aug 6 21:34:03 1989

I have been thinking about this in a pure MS context to understand what
is important for us and then see how the IBM relationship helps with that.

ny worth $7B. Thats
doubling the current valuation. We would have to more than double our
profits. Let say systems has to bear the same proportion of that burden
in the future as it does now and that as a group (server, mouse, lang,
 and toolkits) do their share (small) with server making up for the
 fact that mouse, lang and tollkits cant bear their part. That leaves
 the Os part (dos, win, os/2) with a huge burden. Basicly last year
 (I may get the numbers wrong) it was around $180M worldwide PROFIT.
 Assuming 12m machines thats $15 PROFIT per machine or giving IBM
 1/3 of the market (a little high) $22.5 per non IBM machine. We have to
 drive that number up to around $45. Taking a 3 year time frame I think
 windows has a lot to do with it -I can see us lowering the price
 differential for “high end windows” (a nickname I have for what os/2
 has to be perceived as over time) because we want to get it bootstrapped
 to the point where it wont cost a lot more than windows does. This means
 the price we can charge for windows will drive a lot of our future.
 Now how can we get this doubling per system thing to take place.

First, we have to make sure windows isnt easy to clone for both technical
 and legal reasons. Who is smart that thinks about this – patents and
 such. I can do it at some point and I think we will be able to achieve it.
 DOS being fairly cloned has had a dramatic impact on our pricing for DOS.
 I wonder if we would have it around 30-40% higher if it wasnt cloned. I
 bet we would!

Second, we have to make windows really good – not in the ways we have assig
 to os/2 but in ease of use approaches and software environment richness
 approaches. We will need smart people to adavnce the product – smaller,
 faster for the kernel but smarter for all the interface pieces. Apple
 isnt dont what they should in this area and we can. I am not saying to
tilt back towards windows or even to keep particular people but rather to
 keep what we have and focus it on refinement of speed/size and interface
 stuff. We may need to do some more software evangelization in certain
 catergories.

WE have to make windows like DOS is today – basicly new applications all
are done for it and people assume it.

FInancially if we havent tied our hands we need to be able to double the
oem price or go after a VERY agressive retail strategy. The things we
cant afford are:

1. Not being able to improve the product freely. In other words getting
into the mess that Os/2 is in. Windows is still not as nice as the mac
and it would be easy to be a lot better. Win 3 goes a long ways but we
cant get IBMed on this one.
2. A cheap royalty to IBM that means if other oems refuse to per system
license we end up getting very little.


Aug 6 21:34 1989 MAIL Page 2

3. Transferring a lot of money to IBM.
4. Not positioning windows agressively.

If we hold windows back we wont double our oem revenues. I know os/2
is important and we need it to get UNIX apps ported and to fight the
high tech and server battles. But windows is DOS for twice the price
and we need it to be pervasive.

I am afraid of a structure with IBM where we are in partnership for the
following reasons:
 a) server businesses arent enough of a gold mine to be a huge part of
 our goal. With IBMs cost structure I would like you to explain to me
 how a server business can even break even.
 b) I am hard core about not putting DOS/win into the financial partnership
 If only IBM users buy their package or that % then a low roaylty is ok
 but how do we avoid IBM holding us back on windows. Maybe I am paranoid.
 c) Lan business is too fast moving to let them write all the code
 d) Once os.2 takes over I see our profit per machine actually dropping
 and never increasing again. This last point I meant to spend more time
 on. Os/2 will dominate eventually and it should allow us at some point
 to double again (is that asking too much? maybe) or at least grow per
 unit more than the UNIX machines cut into the desktop market so we
 grow with the market.

One question I have steve is:
 Shouldnt we let the slow pace of negotiation continue? I think that is
 in our best interest.
 Shouldnt we force them to explain how to make money in the server business
 since they are the ones who put so much into it?

IBM never knew our plan and if they did they shouldnt like it – our old
plan (DOS) which is the current financial success of the company- sell
cheap to IBM and make money from everyone else. I prefer an OS.2 deal like
that a lot more than a joint venture. OF course it makes us sensitive to
2 phenomena I worry a lot about: a) cross selling and b) IBM increases
market share. A is the worst since increases in royalties will force some
oems to rely on A. I dont know how to solve that. If you feel we have to
“joint venture” with IBM I think we give up growth opportunity.

SOmehow this discussion is the most important one for the companies busines
future and I guess I should think about it more. In any case there are
some thoughts. You can call them greedy. Its funny but I always thought
other people in the company would end up pushing me to think more about thi
financial upside stuff but it never happens. I was supposed to get to be
a product guy with people pushing me to charge enough but when It comes to
oses I feel more guilty than anyone that we dont have the clear plan to
make 2x as much in oses. Os profit is our past present and future so lets
you and I figure out how to double it without IBM problems. No easy job!


Novell’s OpenOffice.org FUD Rallies Disruptors

Posted in Fork, GNU/Linux, Mono, Novell, OpenOffice, Patents, Ubuntu at 6:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Broken bridge
Novell & Microsoft: building bridges

WHILST one person pushes Novell's Mono into Ubuntu, another lobbies to push Novell’s fork [1, 2, 3, 4] of OpenOffice.org into Ubuntu. Why? We wrote about this phony controversy earlier.

I was considering filing a bug for package request or creating a spec
for Go-Ooo.org for inclusion in Ubuntu, or possibly as a replacement
for OpenOffice.org vanilla. Start-up time is faster and feature set
is expanded.

There seems to be some contention between the world in general and Sun
over OOo; people have forked or threatened to fork the project several
times, and Go-OOo seems to be the most active as far as I can tell.
I’m not sure where this will lead in the future– possibly to a
stagnating OOo from Sun and then to a completely different office
suite, or possibly to a new fork, or possibly to Go-OOo, or possibly
to some improvement in community view and/or management of Sun’s OOo–
but I think the current political atmosphere and the availability of a
more featureful fork warrants some investigation.

Has anyone else tried this thing? I’m curious to know any opinions
(political and technical, but please if you must pick one than go more
technical than political) on the software, as well as any “better” or
“more active” forks out there, or other viable alternatives entirely.

The followup states:

Aaaand some more googling around brings up claims that the version in
Ubuntu’s repositories -is- Go-oo …

https://answers.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/openoffice.org/+question/14965

That threw me, because Go-oo purports to not be Sun branded, and
Ubuntu’s OOo splash screen uses Sun’s branding last I checked…

Ah well. The question still stands.

It’s important not to give Novell control of the office suite in Ubuntu. Novell already has virtual control of many applications in Ubuntu (through Mono, on which they are built) and Mark Shuttleworth does not respond to known risks, despite the fact that Groklaw's editor, for example, says: “What Shuttleworth may not understand is that a patent troll can be a proxy for someone else who does have something to lose.”

To an extent, Mono is a questionable first step because it 'wraps' many vital applications with an underlying layer whose evolution Microsoft pretty much controls (.NET is a model for Mono to follow) and legal terms are volatile.

“What if Novell was acquired? What if it was a hostile takeover?”One must remember that Microsoft need not necessarily sue as it can apply the “it’s too similar” [1, 2] argument (like SCO with UNIX versus Linux) to openly accuse Linux users/vendors of “stealing” Microsoft’s “innovations” without providing appropriate “compensation”. Evidence is less of an issue this way because less work is required to produce some, even if the evidence is largely perceptual.

It must never be forgotten that Microsoft continues paying Novell a lot of money (100 million dollar this year, depending on how one views it). Novell’s Linux business is still just a fragment of its overall picture (less than 20%) and Novell is operating at a considerable loss, so it very much depends on those payments and any strategic lifts it can receive from Microsoft.

Should we trust Novell? Short term? Long term? What if Novell was acquired? What if it was a hostile takeover?

On the other hand we have Sun. It’s no saint, but those who defend Novell typically resort to just exaggerating the issues with Sun simply because they find themselves unable to defend some of Microsoft & Novell’s shameless actions. Let’s remember how Novell marketed itself by offering "IP peace of mind" (for SUSE)?

Microsoft will try to put Novell in (greater) control of GNU/Linux distributions because Novell plays by Microsoft’s rules, namely software patents, Microsoft protocols/APIs and so on and so forth. This is dangerous and Jose_X explained why, independently expressing a similar point of view:

Sun is no angel, but in this particular battle of “evil” corporations (Sun vs Novell rivalry), they are the one offering checks on the biggest threat to FOSS by far (on Monopolysoft), and they aren’t doing too bad of a job with OO.o, either. Keep perspective, people. Let MicroScrooge spend real monopoly money. Give free help to other Office suites if not to OO.o (if you want to contribute to such software/community). If you don’t like Java, OO.o, Sun, etc, there are alternatives less influenced by Monopolysoft than what Novell produces.

Imagine Microsoft losing their huge leverage and huge MSOffice market! Free OO.o is a real threat. Neutralize it? Allow Microsoft to leverage it? Not a chance. Avoid Monopolysoft’s embrace and extensions. Petition Novell to dump their “partner”. They should be competing against Microsoft and not with them. Novell can play the same game Sun is playing by opening up Netware and beefing up their services. [One of evil Sun's saving graces is OO.o and Java to the extent these really do help free Linux/FOSS and/or dent Monopolysoft's levers and revenues.]

It all boils down to trust. A community divided against itself is the best thing Microsoft could hope for. It is the best thing Novell’s ally could hope for. It is the best thing Novell’s big funding source could hope for. It wants infighting and it wants to have a hand on the spigot of patches, even if only an intermediately does this trick. At least one journalist has described Novell as the role player who commits GPL code 'on behalf' of Microsoft, or for their own benefit.

“A community divided against itself is the best thing Microsoft could hope for.”As stated earlier on, we urge everyone to go to the go-oo Web site and read the first sentence. It’s all about OpenXML [sic] (OOXML) and VBA. Microsoft understands that by controlling mindshare and standards — usually de facto ones — it can win the war. Why else have Microsoft bloggers begun promoting Moonlight and — to a lesser extent — Mono too? Everyone ought to know that Robert Scoble, a former Microsoft evangelist, once wrote: “I saw that internally inside Microsoft many times when I was told to stay away from supporting Mono in public. They reserve the right to sue.”

Is OpenOffice.org without flaws? Of course not. But better the small devil whom we know than an ally of the Big Devil, who competes head-to-head with OpenOffice/StarOffice and has billions of dollars at stake. Office is one of the few Microsoft products that are actually profitable and by far the most profitable.

This is just the beginning of Novell & Microsoft, whose relationship gradually grows. Here are a couple of statements made in 2008. Ron Hovsepian, Novell’s CEO, said that their partnership with Microsoft continued to expand and more recently he said that “[the partnership with Microsoft is] 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.”

One’s trust in Novell must never be seen as totally separable from trust in its partner, which gets closer to it as time goes by.

“I have lost my sleep and peace of mind for last two months over these distasteful activities by Microsoft.”

Professor Deepak Phatak

Microsoft Sends Its ‘Partners’ to Prison

Posted in Asia, Law, Microsoft at 5:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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

Bill Gates (2007)

FROM TODAY’S news about China:

A court in Shenzhen, China, sentenced 11 members of a software counterfeiting operation Wednesday, with the defendants getting between one and a half and six and half years in prison, according to Microsoft.

[...]

Microsoft applauded the PSB and FBI for their work in the case. “Software counterfeiting is a global, illegal business without borders,” David Finn, associate general counsel focused on piracy at Microsoft, said in a statement. “Criminals may be on the other side of the globe and may not even speak the same language, but they prey upon customers and partners all over the world. This case is a testament to the importance of Microsoft’s commitment to close collaboration with government bodies and local law enforcement agencies around the world to bring these criminals to justice, wherever they may be.”

PSB raids in July 2007 lead to arrests and the convictions. The PSB, with tips from Microsoft and the FBI’s Los Angeles bureau, found about 55,000 copies of counterfeit software and traced them back to the same syndicate, based in the province of Guangdong.

Microsoft sure loves calling them “criminals” — a word that it repeats several times in the official statement. Again, regarding China specifically:

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

Bill Gates (2007)

Why the sudden change? Here is what Gates said about China:

“They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

Bill Gates

Microsoft needs money now. It’s imploding. These crackdowns are good news to Free software.

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