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05.12.09

Vista 7 is About Digital Rights. Not Yours, Microsoft’s.

Posted in DRM, Microsoft, Security, Vista, Vista 7, Windows at 8:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Pessimistic look at Microsoft’s latest iteration of Vista, known as “7″

THERE ARE SOME valuable news items today and they illustrate just how bad things will get for Vista 7 when it’s out there for Unwashed Masses©.

Charlie from the Inquirer says that with Vista 7 “you have no rights” and he thoroughly rips the operating system apart. [hat tip: Mad Hatter]

MICROSOFT IS DOING its level best to make Windows 7 seem more palatable than the Broken OS, but it is all just show. As usual, once you look beyond the hype and spin, you will see it is once again a cynical scam.

We have already covered the “hype and spin” Charlie is referring to. Those who say the truth by merely delivering scientific numbers get viciously attacked, whereas those who senselessly rave about the operating system often turn out to have been bribed by Microsoft. It’s the magic of aggressive, compulsive marketing. Many journalists who never even tried the software simply parrot what bribed reporters/bloggers wrote. Microsoft pays a lot of money to create the consensus that Vista 7 is to be loved by all. Those who dislike it are treated as insane and attacked personally. Vista 7 is the naked emperor, even in beta.

To further illustrate what Charlie says about users’ rights, how about this from the news?

Phony fixes will automatically install in test of Windows Update

[...]

Microsoft plans to test Windows 7′s update mechanism by feeding users of the just-issued Release Candidate as many as 10 fake updates in the coming week, the company said Friday.

As Groklaw puts it, “Whose computer is it, anyway? If they want to use my equipment to test their software, I think they might want to ask me and then pay me.”

Microsoft can use “security” as an excuse for these unnecessary mass-intrusions. There is probably justification for it given that Microsoft Office is suffering from two new vulnerabilities which will not be patched any time soon:

Microsoft’s software will never be secure. It’s just the familiar old cycle and Vista 7 is no exception.

Vista 7 starts now

Why Microsoft-ODF (MSODF) is Broken by Design and Why Microsoft is Daemonising Rob Weir Now

Posted in IBM, Interoperability, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 7:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft mockup
Microsoft engineers ‘implement’ ODF for interoperability

Summary: Does Microsoft’s ODF ‘support’ work best when it doesn’t work (with other office suites)?

NOW that antitrust law is being elevated, Pamela Jones over at Groklaw lists some reasons to grill Microsoft. She writes: “Does funding SCO count? How about avoiding interoperability with ODF? Say, this could be fun. How about getting people fired? Smear campaigns? Let me count the ways.” Microsoft has done all of that and even a lot more in order to stifle the progress of a free, capitalistic market. It’s Microsoft’s way or the high way.

The same rules apply to everything Microsoft has done to ODF. All along it has been little short of sabotage with deeds and words [1, 2, 3]. Also see:

Sun’s Simon Phipps is already implicitly recommending that people use the ODF Plug-In for Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 rather than rely on Microsoft’s own broken implementation. Open Malaysia explains just why it’s so broken.

My point is that if you know something is broken, the correct engineering approach is to see how others have fixed it and to follow their footsteps if the fix is reasonable. As it so happens, others have replicated OpenOffice with decent results. If Microsoft had done the same, their users would be able to share documents between other ODF supporting office suites just fine. Now, that would truly be serving the spirit of an open standard!

Perhaps it’s time to call it MSODF in order to warn users and distinguish between the real ODF and the fake ODF. Having no terminology to distinguish between the two can be terminal. Let’s look at an example.

“…Gray just tries to individualise the debate and pretend that Microsoft’s ODF stance is a matter of “company”, not decision-makers.”Gary Edwards links to this article which totally misses the point by saying nothing about the fragmentation Microsoft causes, just as it did with Java for instance. Ben Slivka from Microsoft wrote internally: “Don’t encourage new, cross-platform Java classes, especially don’t help get great Win 32 implementations written/deployed. [...] Do encourage fragmentation of the Java classlib space.”

Microsoft is obviously unhappy with our analysis, but rather address the issues, Gray just tries to individualise the debate and pretend that Microsoft’s ODF stance is a matter of “company”, not decision-makers. Well, companies are people (that includes you, Gray). It’s as simple as that. Peripheral people like shareholders count too. To his rescue come quotes from biased people like Alex Brown, so who is supposed to be impressed? He selectively quotes Rob Weir in order to daemonise him. See the quote from Pamela Jones again (at the start), particularly the part about “getting people fired” and “smear campaigns”. These are things Microsoft is very good at. Just ask folks like Peter Quinn or even last week's reviewer of Vista 7. Those who stand in Microsoft’s way will be ripped apart.

“It’s a Simple Matter of [Microsoft’s] Commercial Interests!“

Microsoft on OOXML

New York Times — Just Like National Baseball — Dumps Microsoft Silverlight

Posted in Finance, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft at 6:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Microsoft’s GNU/Linux-hostile vision of the Web is not catching on

LAST YEAR we wrote about the New York Times promoting Silverlight from Microsoft. This was not surprising given the strong relationship between those two. Just months ago there was a rumour that Microsoft would buy the New York Times and the selection of Silverlight — as bad a technology as it is — was no good sign. Microsoft, however, does pay (bribe) customers rather than charging them, as revealed last year by Adobe.

For technical reasons alone the New York Times is now dumping Silverlight and replacing it with another proprietary piece of software which at least works on GNU/Linux.

Having begun my day by sniping at the New York Times, I wanted to end it by complimenting it: The company released version 2.0 of its Times Reader application today. The new version–which dumps Microsoft’s Silverlight platform for Adobe’s AIR–runs on Windows, OS X, and Linux, and in many ways it’s an impressive piece of work.

This would be demoralising to Microsoft not just because it’s a lost customer but also because it represents Microsoft’s lost ground on the Web.

“Maybe they don’t prepare to buy anything and they simply bluff by passing money between accounts.”We’ve learned that Microsoft is very envious and scared of Google these days. A reader told us today that “at OFESUmmitt2009, there was a Microsoft lobbyist asking a stupid question about antitrust of Google+Chrome and at the end of the conference there was one guy who asked why Microsoft was not invited.”

Microsoft was perhaps not invited because it’s suing competitors and calls them “cancer”.

“It is funny they focus on Google,” says our reader, “they see it as the enemy.”

Just how bad is Microsoft doing? Well, earlier today we wrote about Microsoft taking debt and now we find that, contrary to speculations, “Microsoft insists debt issue[is] not a prelude to SAP bid.” Maybe they just have no money. Maybe they don’t prepare to buy anything and they simply bluff by passing money between accounts. Who knows?

One reader asks whether Microsoft is “drowning in red ink,” saying that “the scan needs to get shut down before it drags down more of the world’s economy. The depression is worse than it needs to be because of the decreased efficiency and increase TCO from Microsoft products. Then there are the worms.”

Links 12/05/2009: Fedora 12 Features Preview, TrueCrypt 6.2 is Out

Posted in News Roundup at 6:10 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Best Linux distros for power users, gamers, newbies and more

    What kind of user are you? Take a step back and ask yourself what you need from a Linux distribution.

    Before you embark on a distro adventure, it’s worth giving some thought to the kind of Linux user you are.

  • Ubuntu One: Free Online Storage

    Canonical has just released a new “cloud” service for all users: Ubuntu One starts today as an invitation-based Beta. There are two storage options momentarily: a free 2GB account and a $10/month 10 GB one. If you are familiar with services like Dropbox, Ubuntu One apparently does the same job.

  • Test driving UbuntuOne

    Anyway, on to the important stuff. Earlier today, I heard that UbuntuOne (Canonical’s Web-based file syncing/storing/sharing service) was beta testing and was accepting request for invitations. Of course, I jumped on it. And, to my surprise, I got an invite within a couple of hours.

  • Give Linux for the holidays

    Top ten reasons to give Mom a Linux desktop for the holidays?

    How to get two or three more years from Dad’s computer while giving him the gift he really wants?

    Linux: the operating system that gives you more and saves you money?

  • Does GNU/Linux need cult figures like Jobs

    But has Apple come to overly depend on Jobs? Is it a good thing when someone comes to symbolise an operating system to this extent?

    One could argue that Apple, the company, has an unhealthy dependence on Jobs given the panic that broke out when it was learnt that he was stepping down from the role of chief executive.

    Apple shares fell 10 percent when the news broke and there have been an endless stream of articles after that, speculating on what would happen if, God forbid, he is unable to return to the helm.

  • Ubuntu (Jaunty) vs Windows (Vista)

    I complained in a previous post about how much my windows machine has let me down and how much I was ruing my decision to get a Mac. Anyway my saviour has come in the form of the latest version of Ubuntu.

  • Virtual Desktops: Brilliant or Nuisance?

    Funnily enough, whenever I put a Windows user on a Linux system, this is the thing they struggle most with. Most of the time, they just can’t grasp the concept, or don’t understand how it could be useful. As a result, they always stick to the first workspace, and whenever a window ends up on another, they can’t find it again.

    [...]

    For me, switching between workspaces is the same as switching between applications, but apparently it’s a difficult concept for most people, and the only reason I can think of why this is so, is because users have become so accustomed to Windows (or MacOS X), that they can’t think of screen estate beyond the actual borders of the screen.

  • An Open World

    In 1999, the Chinese Academy of Sciences developed Red Flag Linux, an operating system based on open-source Linux technology, for the Chinese market. The decidedly patriotic tinge of the name, as well as the decision two years later by China Center for Information Industry Development’s venture capital subsidiary CCIDNET Investment to become Red Flag’s second largest shareholder, confirmed the Chinese government’s interest in developing a domestic operating system.

  • Lies, Damn Lies and Linux Market Share Statistics

    “The numbers from NetApplications are clearly unrepresentative of reality,” blogger Robert Pogson told LinuxInsider. “Around 2003/4, IDC determined by survey that GNU/Linux was ahead of Mac OS at about 3 percent. Since then GNU/Linux has had growth numbers from 20 to 50 percent in various places.

    “That would put GNU/Linux at 7 to 9 percent,” he asserted.

  • Migrating To Linux–Safely

    Over the years, a ferocious debate has raged over the total cost of ownership for Windows vs. Linux systems. Countless studies have tackled this issue; chances are you can find “proof” for almost any conceivable position on the TCO controversy.

    Taken together, however, these studies actually illustrate a single important point: Never trust cookie-cutter solutions to complicated IT problems. Treat Linux as one possible solution, rather than as the solution, and you’re already ahead of the game.

  • Windows 7 Will Never Outshine Vista

    Fast forward to 2009, and you choose hard- and software according to need. Want a cheap, portable workstation? Linux netbook it is.

  • Elderly Ubuntu User Says Books Far Better than Forums

    I read Mr. Sobell’s instructions for doing that (read them at least 8 or 9 times!), took a deep breath, and went at it. WOW! In a lot less time than the other attempts had taken, I had a solid Ubuntu 8.10 desktop up and running with two primary partitions (/ and /home) and a great big extended partition where swap and /usr now live and there’s room for lots more company.

    My point is this: a book is a more reliable source of answers than a forum or a Help icon – a book doesn’t go black unexpectedly, it doesn’t time-out a session, it doesn’t flame you as a clueless newbie when you ask a dumb question, and above all, the best of them give you a ”why” to do something as well as a “what”. An old gaffer like me wouldn’t stand a chance of gaining any geek creds without BOOKS!

  • Switching My Dad to Linux – Part One

    The Wi-Fi software switch was so damned annoying that it was actually one of the biggest factors in the decision to ditch Vista on this particular machine. Under Ubuntu I was able to get Wi-Fi working automatically on each boot, with no user intervention necessary, as I’ll explain in Part Two of this series.

  • Adventures in Benchmarking – Part 4 : (Re)constructing an Environment

    No, what I had to do was ‘remaster’ an existing Live-CD. I’d take the base environment, strip out the bits I wasn’t going to use, add in my benchmarking software, and recompile. Now, this has always been something users have wanted to do with Linux distributions, and it is possible. Some distros like Gentoo even trade on the fact that they allow this (ironically I later found out that the Phoronix beta Live-CD is built from Gentoo).

  • Applications

    • Cairo Dock 2.0.0 is Here (Linux Dock Menu)!

      Not so long ago I was telling you about the new version 2 of Cairo Dock which was at the time still in beta/rc and that it doesn’t look at all like the old 1 branch – this new version is by far the best dock menu application I’ve seen for any operating system.

    • 5 Easy Wine Front-ends for Linux

      WINE, which stands for ‘Wine Is Not an Emulator’ is a piece of software which enables Linux systems to run Windows software. Some programs don’t work at all, some work perfectly, but some work if certain configurations are made. This is where these Wine front-ends come in. There are several Wine front-ends that help users to install Windows software without tweaking or performing any configuration manually.

  • KDE

    • Skrooge in playground

      The website currently hosted on sourceforge gives some more indication. Obviously, it will be migrated extragear once skrooge made it to extragear.

    • The Best KDE Twitter Client

      For KDE there are a few options, but there is one that I have found to be superior to them all.

    • KMess 2.0 beta 2 is out!

      Hi, yesterday we’ve released our second beta of our next-gen Live Messenger client for KDE!

  • Distributions

    • Before Ubuntu Was SimplyMepis: A Long-Term Review

      SimplyMepis ships with Linux kernel 2.6.27-1, Xorg Server 1.4.2, and GCC 4.3.2. Besides most of the usual KDE applications and those previously mentioned, SimplyMEPIS includes applications such as KMPlayer, Kino, Guarddog Firewall, JBidwatcher, and Amarok. It also includes codecs and plugins needed to enjoy local and streaming multimedia and Web content. Lots of other applications are available in the repositories.

      Other than the few situations described, using SimplyMepis the past two months has been a pleasure. It was very nice having such complete hardware support and not having to set up all the multimedia and Web plugins myself. The other applications I require functioned without issue. It was delightful being able to concentrate on my work rather than the system underneath.

    • Kerio MailServer adds Ubuntu, Debian support

      Kerio MailServer 6.7 features a global address list, support for Ubuntu and Debian Linux, and speedy migration from other IMAP servers.

    • Mandriva

      • Mandriva 2009.1 Spring shows a lot of promise

        So if you are looking for some distro hopping I can warmly recommend to give the latest Mandriva a whirl – especially if you are looking for a KDE4 based solution, but their Gnome offer totally fine as well. You just might end up liking it.

      • Review – Mandriva 2009.1 (KDE edition)

        But could I use it full time? Almost certainly yes, and if I wasn’t very tied to Gnome and the Gnome libraries and applications then I’d consider making the switch.

    • Red Hat

      • Fedora 12 Features Get Laid Out

        Fedora 11 with all of its Nouveau support, Btrfs capabilities, and kernel mode-setting support glory isn’t being released until later this month, but the features for Fedora 12 are already being planned out.

    • Ubuntu

      • Ubuntu on my netbook – Manila Standard Today

        In the weeks since setting up Ubuntu 9.04 and the programs I need, I’ve been using the Aspire One as full-featured notebook at work—connecting to the company network, browsing the Web, communicating online, and writing and editing documents. In fact, with Jaunty Jackalope, this netbook feels just like the little engine that could.

      • Sabily 9.04 released

        The Sabily team is proud to announce the release of Sabily 9.04, codename “Taibah”. Sabily is the new name of Ubuntu Muslim Edition, the Operating System designed by and for Muslims (but non-Muslims are very welcome to use it too Wink).

        Sabily 9.04 is available as a Live DVD (so you can test it without installing anything on your computer), with 3 versions…

      • Linux Mint 7 (Gloria) RC: A Review

        It’s been a while since I did one of these, for one because they’re time consuming, and also because after you’ve done a couple of reviews, it’s like you have nothing new left to say. These days, it’s rare that a Linux distribution is anything else than a different repackaging of traditional open source software. When Linux Mint first appeared, it seemed that it was nothing more than “Ubuntu with codecs”, but that doesn’t explain it’s popularity (at the moment of this writing, Linux Mint is third in the rankings, after Ubuntu and OpenSuse, but before established distributions like Fedora, Debian and Mandriva).

        [...]

        Even if Linux Mint was nothing else than Ubuntu with a different look, it would have its followers, since it looks just so good. But Linux Mint does more than just provide its own theme, it tries to rethink Ubuntu’s interface, not drastically but subly, which together with added codecs for multimedia layback, should make Mint easier and more logical for new users or Windows converts. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve succeeded. A big thumbs up to everyone who made this wonderful OS possible.

      • Is this the One for Ubuntu?

        As a spot survey on Linux Journal currently confirms, Ubuntu is by far the most widely-used distro on the desktop. But popularity isn’t enough: for long-term success, Ubuntu’s backer, Canonical, needs to come up with a serious business plan. Is Ubuntu One it?

      • Ubuntu 9.04 “Jaunty Jackalope

        Open Source and its pace of evolving is growing as fast as it can. I am a fan and a somewhat user of Ubuntu – Linux Operating System since the inception of it. Recently Ubuntu has released its New version Called “Jaunty Jackalope: 9.04″, the name looks ridiculous but It holds lots of great features in it.

    • New Releases

      • Releases : Zenwalk Live 6.0 Released!

        Based on Zenwalk current repository, Zenwalk live 6.0 is, as it should be, an almost perfect clone of the latest Zenwalk 6.0 with the addition of the latest security patches & bug fixes. Zenwalk Live 6.0 uses the version 6.2.9 of the Linux Live scripts & its kernel 2.6.28.7 is patched with Aufs2-20090327, Squashfs3.4, Lzma457 along with Sqlzma3.4-457.

      • Welcome to jibbed 5.0

        Hello folks! Here we go again with a new version of the NetBSD Live CD.
        This time no fancy features are included. Just the good old Live CD.
        On disk are the latest packages from pkgsrc and as usual the xfce4 window manager.

      • GParted 0.4.5-1
      • Parted Magic 4.1 Brings GParted 0.4.5

        Patrick Verner announced, on May 8th, the release of Parted Magic 4.1, his Slackware-based Linux distribution that was created to help users partition their hard disks or perform recovery tasks. This new version fixes several bugs, but also brings new features and applications. Parted Magic 4.1 resolves a scripting error that caused deb files to not load in certain scenarios. Also, to prevent overwriting of the new fstab by a “Save Session” one, mkfstab will load later in the boot sequence.

      • RIPLinuX 8.5
      • Parted Magic 4.1
      • Tiny Core 1.4.2
  • Devices/Embedded

    • Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2009 Call for Presentations

      The CE Linux Forum would like to invite you to make a presentation at our upcoming Embedded Linux Conference Europe. The conference will be held October 15-16, 2009 in Grenoble, France. CELF is the primary sponsor of this event, which is open to the public. This year we will be holding the conference in conjunction with the Embedded Systems Week (ESWEEK), an exciting event which brings together conferences, tutorials and workshops centered on various aspects of embedded systems research and development.

    • RealNetworks continues to develop DVD-copying device

      Real has posted a job ad on Craigslist asking for qualified Linux engineers to apply.

    • Seagate releases storage server

      Aimed at small businesses with 50 or less employees, this Linux-based appliance is full-featured and flexible, with the promise of further extensibility via freeware and open source widgets in the near future.

    • Linutop 2 super small desktop PC

      If you need a standalone machine to drive an interactive display, a digital noticeboard or some other non-performance critical role, then the Linutop 2 is ideal, and about half the price of a Windows XP Embedded thin client. It’s simple, tough and uses only a trickle of power. Set Firefox to load at bootup with a custom homepage and all it would take is some HTML for a customised display – with little or no Linux knowledge needed and no need for a server to boot off. Alternatively, rewrite or replace the OS and embed the whole box into your product to top things off.

    • Head-mounted computer offers voice recognition

      Kopin is showing off a Motorola-branded computer built into a Bluetooth headset (left), providing a “virtual 15-inch display” via a swing-down eyepiece. The “Golden-i” incorporates speech recognition, weighs three ounces, and runs Linux or Windows CE for more than eight hours per charge, says the company.

    • MontaVista Linux rebuilds around top SoCs

      MontaVista announced a new version of its embedded Linux development platform, now offered in separate packages for major system-on-chips. In addition to providing “Market Specific Distributions” for Intel, Freescale, and Texas Instruments SoCs, MontaVista Linux 6 adds a new build engine and content server, plus an upgraded DevRocket IDE.

    • Phones

      • New Android 1.5 (Cupcake)

        The last time there was an Android upgrade, I had to wait over 1 month to get mine. Fortunately this time it appears Europe had Android 1.5 launch date before users in the U.S. This is a much expected release because of the extensive list of new features.

    • Sub-notebooks

      • What was the first netbook?

        Therefore, the first netbook has to be the so-called $100 laptop: the OLPC (One Laptop per Child). The OLPC, with its 366MHz, AMD Geode GX2-500 CPU, 128MBs of RAM and, this is the important part, 802.11g Wi-Fi networking. It’s also noteworthy that today’s OLPC runs XO 8.2 a Linux distribution with the Sugar interface.

      • What’s the point of a Windows 7 ARM port?

        The difficulty of getting anyone to port their Windows app to ARM on a Windows 7 ARM netbook would probably start life with a basic Windows 7 install, very limited driver support for peripherals, and a limited application lineup—probably something like a calculator, Solitaire, possibly Microsoft Office, and the handful of native .NET apps that are floating around out there. As for the rest of the Windows application base being ported, Peter Bright, our resident Windows developer, tells me that fat binaries (a la OS X) aren’t feasible with Windows’ current executable format. So developers would have to sell separate ARM and x86 versions of Windows apps like they did for NT in the Alpha days.

        [...]

        In sum, an ARM-based Windows 7 netbook just wouldn’t run very many Windows applications, and if you can’t run Windows apps on your netbook, then why not use Linux?

        [...]

        If Microsoft really wanted to shake things up and take on Linux, the company would develop one single kernel and platform to run across desktops, servers, phones, and the Xbox. But even then, Linux would still retain one important advantage beyond its one-kernel-fits-all approach: Linux can never come under antitrust scrutiny for being too successful.

      • Dell punts £199 10in netbook

        To get the price down under 200 quid, Dell has dropped the 10′s 160GB hard drive for an 8GB SSD, replace the 1024 x 600 display with a 1024 x 576 model, and pre-loaded the mini laptop with Linux: Ubuntu 8.04, to be precise.

      • EMTEC Gdium Liberty 1000

        The Gdium Liberty 1000 is an elegant and stylish netbook manufactured by French company EMTEC with focus on security and mobility. The Gdium will only power up when the G-Key is locked in, which is a removable USB key that contains the operating system, applications and user data.

Free Software/Open Source

  • 2009 OSI Board Elections held in April

    The OSI board’s annual nominations and elections were held on April 1, 2009.

  • Research and Markets: A Fresh Look At Open Source Software – Order Report Now

    We recently had a fresh look at open source software in Europe with a collection of executives from open source software vendors, service providers, investors and customers. Open source technology is an evolving and critical
    component of Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud Computing.

  • Teaching the blind to help themselves

    Krishnakant Mane, who is blind, said open-source applications are available for the visually handicapped and he is working to create greater awareness of these technologies.

    From, Mumbai, India, he will be here to speak at the MSC Malaysia Open Source Conference (OSCONF) 2009, which will run from May 31 to June 3. The theme for the inaugural conference is “Open to Change.”

  • How do open source projects develop? Continuation.

    This cycle continues and the program becomes bigger and better. More and more programmers join the project and it is getting rave reviews from blogs and magazines. The original programmer takes a look at his creation and is pleased. From a single idea he has created a whole new world and a community of people has populated it. His creation now has a life of its own and will go on with or without him. Feeling satisfied that he has succeeded he decides to take a sabbath and relax. Or maybe start on the next idea he has been mulling over.

  • OpenOffice.org 3.1: The next generation

    The latest version of the open-source office suite OpenOffice.org 3.1 has just arrived, and it’s a good one. While some of the improvements are visible to the naked eye, I found that the most important changes were hidden under the hood.

    What is it? OpenOffice.org 3.1 is a set of office productivity applications: Writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheet), Impress (presentation manager) and Base (database manager). It’s missing an Outlook substitute, but otherwise it’s a complete replacement for Microsoft Office. The suite is available as a free download for Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, and Windows; there are versions for most major languages.

    [...]

    Final verdict: I’ve been using OpenOffice.org for years now. With these performance and appearance improvements, I can see more users moving to this free office suite. In particular, I think anyone who does spreadsheets every day owes it to themselves to compare Calc and Excel. You’ll be impressed.

  • TrueCrypt 6.2 disk encryption software released

    Version 6.2 of TrueCrypt has been released and includes several improvements, security enhancements and bug fixes on all platforms. The open source, cross platform disk encryption tool has an updated I/O pipeline that uses read-ahead buffering to improve the read performance, especially on solid-state drives (SSD), by around 30 to 50 per cent.

  • simon – Open Source Language-Independent Speech Recognition System

    simon, developed as an open-source platform under the General Public License (GPL) has the aim to serve as an advanced and state of the art speech recognition system (SRC) for people with locomotor and cognitive dysfunctions.

  • Browsers

    • Chrome on the boob tube as Google pitches browser to masses

      Google intends to promote Chrome on television with a new advertising campaign. The move is somewhat ironic, given that it comes from a company that is widely recognized as one of the most prominent players in Internet advertising.

    • Mozilla

      • Sneak Preview: Five Game-Changing Features in Firefox 3.5

        The latest Firefox may still be in beta but it boasts a number of behind-the-scenes features that will make developing for the web easier as well as end-user changes that add new functionality, like private browsing and support for drag and drop.

      • Future Firefox to run separate processes

        A semi-functioning draft of the browser is planned for mid July, followed by fleshing out the main code by the start of November and then final compatibility and performance tweaks. There is as yet no estimated date for the final release.

      • Mozilla Magazine

        A periodical driven by Mozilla. This project is the SFX contribution part of this project.

        The purpose is to get an overview for users and fans of Mozilla in the growing landscape of the Internet. It could tie Poetry and Paradigms (read more)

      • Mozilla Brings Webapps to the Desktop, Challenges AIR, Silverlight

        HTML, the lingua franca of the web, is coming to the desktop.

        Mozilla reached a significant milestone this weekend with the new beta release of its Prism add-on for Firefox which lets you pull your favorite website — like Gmail or YouTube — out of the web browser and run it as a stand-alone application on your computer’s desktop.

  • Business

    • The Open Source For IT Management

      Effort aims to bring an open source style approach to standards to the broader community of IT management systems vendors and projects.

    • How Sun and Oracle are Using Open Source

      Sun Microsystems and Oracle offer insight into the motives behind accelerating their involvement in open source projects. Matthew Sacks describes how these major players are pioneering their own software products by more actively using open source and virtualization technologies.

    • Allianz removes walls of paper with open source ECM

      After a three-month evaluation process, Allianz selected the open source Alfresco ECM with support from local IT consultancy Lateral Minds.

    • Eucalyptus Systems takes public clouds private

      Eucalyptus uses an application packaging technology that impersonates the public cloud in a data center, he explained. It uses Web service protocols the company created to satisfy service requests, and it is now making them available as open source.

  • Government

    • FI: City of Oulu publishes e-government platform as open source

      The City of Oulu is releasing the source code and the architecture documentation for its e-Government platform, the OmaOulu municipal portal.

      The portal will be made public as open source today, during a conference on IT in the public administration in Helsinki, says Teppo Kuisma, project officer at the Finish IT services firm Ixonos, which built the portal. “We will use the GPL licence for some parts and the MIT licence for others.”

    • Open source viewed as aid to Philippines e-health goals

      Emphasizing on how electronic health records (EHRs) can give healthcare in the Philippines its much-needed shot in the arm, several speakers of the first Philippine eHealth and Telemedicine conference and exhibition highlighted the efficacy of Free Open Source Solutions (FoSS) in bolstering the delivery and organization of this critical digital medical information.

  • Open (But No Source Code)

    • Cornell University Library Removes All Restrictions on Use of Public Domain Reproductions

      In a dramatic change of practice, Cornell University Library has announced it will no longer require its users to seek permission to publish public domain items duplicated from its collections. Instead, users may now use reproductions of public domain works made for them by the Library or available via Web sites, without seeking any further permission.

    • European Open Data Summit

      Last week was the first European Open Data Summit in Brussels (which we blogged about here) organised by EU Transparency, who created farmsubsidy.org. The event brought together journalists, researchers, civic hackers, and representatives from European institutions for two days of documenting and building on documents and datasets from European institutions and member states.

    • A rare victory for public sector data reuse in Europe

      From Jeff Thurston at the Vector One blog, news that the Dutch operation of Landmark Information Group have won a case at the Dutch High Courts asserting that they should be able to access environment information from the City of Amsterdam without high license costs or limitations to its reuse.

Leftovers

  • Censorship/Web Abuse

    • MPs miss chance to embrace YouTube generation

      In the spring of 2007, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, the well-known broadcasting advocacy group, began posting videos and podcasts of Parliamentary committee proceedings on the group’s website. When officials at the House of Commons caught wind of the activities, they promptly sent a “cease and desist” letter, demanding that the videos and podcasts be removed from the Internet. A lawyer for the House of Commons argued that posting excerpts from committee proceedings could be treated as “contempt of Parliament.”

    • Canadian Parliament Threatens People For Posting Video Of Proceedings Online

      It would appear that the Canadian Parliament is no big fan of transparency. When some activists started posting video and audio of various Parliamentary committee proceedings online, in order to both increase transparency and to comment on those proceedings, lawyers apparently sent them a cease and desist, claiming it was “contempt of Parliament.”

  • Copyrights

    • Has HADOPI Driven the French Insane?

      I refer, of course, to the infamous HADOPI law, which aims to deprive French citizens of their Internet connection purely on the say-so of French media companies. Doesn’t sound like much égalité, fraternité there, does it? That’s bad enough; but it seems that this bad legislation is leading to even worse knock-on consequences.

      [...]

      Now, one aspect not evident from the legalistic mumbo-jumbo above is that this spyware may well not support GNU/Linux:

      The Assembly also postponed a handful of amendments that sought to exempt the subscriber if the system is not interoperable with software security, with the first assumption that it uses a system that is too old. An “old” Windows with expensive software installed on, for example. Or a free software …

      An amendment sought to nip in the bud the potential for discrimination technological and financial background of interoperability ( “the means of secure, freely available to consumers, are interoperable). But again, it was rejected by the rapporteur implacably Franck Riester and the Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel.

    • Hadopi Law: Spyware Provisions and the TF1 Sacking

      How can this not amount to a wholesale surveillance of online activity? Who will have access to the data collected and transmitted by these ’security systems’ (sic), and how will that access be managed? Will the security systems be transparent (free software/open source), or proprietary black-box money-makers, prone later to surrender to a veritable orgy of exploits? If proprietary, how will it be interoperable with free operating systems such as GNU Linux?

    • Pirate Bay Closer to a Retrial, Demands New Investigation

      The connections of Pirate Bay judge Tomas Norström to national and international pro-copyright lobby groups are even more far reaching than initially reported. Consequently, many leading figures within the Swedish judicial system are now convinced that a retrial is necessary so the defendants can have an unbiased trial.

    • Pirate Bay co-founder demands new police probe

      One of the Pirate Bay’s co-founders is calling on Swedish police to conduct a new investigation into the notorious BitTorrent site’s operations.

      Peter Sunde – aka BrokeP – said in a blog post yesterday that himself, and the three other Pirate Bay men who were convicted of being accessories to breaching copyright laws last month, could demand “a completely new police investigation”.

    • Major law firm drops filesharing threats

      Davenport Lyons, the high profile London media law firm, has dropped its mass letter writing campaign on behalf of copyright holders, which accused internet users of illegal filesharing and threatened court action if they did not quickly pay hundreds of pounds compensation.

    • Breaking the bargain: copyright extensions violate “moral rights”

      When the copyright industry lobbies for extensions to already-long copyright terms, they always present it as a way of giving the artists of the past their due — as a further protection of the “moral rights” that artists have in their creations.

    • The World Is Going Flat(-Rate)

      A New Study Shows Copyright Exception for Legalising File-Sharing is Feasible, as a Cease-Fire in the “War on Copying” Emerges

    • RIAA’s campaign against file sharers continues

      I find the RIAA’s actions over the past few months rather hypocritical, and completely detrimental towards stopping file sharing.

    • Approximately 62 new cases filed by RIAA in April

      Based upon a quick examination of the records in PACER, I detected 62 new cases brought by the RIAA against individuals in the month of April alone.

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Steve Weber, creator of the phrase “anti-rival goods” 09 (2005)

Ogg Theora

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

Did Microsoft Bribe Its Way Into Kicking GNU/Linux out of South African Schools?

Posted in Africa, Apple, Finance, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 8:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ballmer money
Steve Ballmer in Windows 1.0 advertisement

Summary: Can students be required to buy a particular product from a particular abusive company that virtually bribes teachers to achieve this?

THE OTHER day we showed that Microsoft had paid South African teachers not to use GNU/Linux. It’s part of an ongoing attack on ODF and GNU/Linux adoption in this country. It’s one among several such attacks on the competition.

In order to achieve its goals, Microsoft has already insulted South Africans and used the Live@Edu stunt (paying students to sell out their peers) to restrict choice ans harm GNU/Linux users at the University of South Africa. This strategy is related to EDGI, which is a programme for fighting the competition by dumping software. This may be illegal.

The latest news from South Africa would suggest that Microsoft’s strategy may be paying off because, as the author puts it, “South Africa’s department of education shuts out FOSS.”

The decision by the department of education to specify proprietary Microsoft software as the minimum requirement for the purchase of laptops by teachers runs contrary to the South African national strategy of open standards and open source software. The government-backed Minimum Interoperability Standards (MIOS) for information systems in government, for example, specifies a set of standards for information sharing within government departments as well as between government and citizens, which specifies formats such as text, OpenDocument Format, XHTML and CSV for document sharing but does not include Microsoft’s Word format.

Has Microsoft suddenly reversed the country’s policies?

For what it’s worth, Apple is no angel either. Using the education system in Missouri Apple or its fans appear to be pushing students to buy a particular product from a particular company.

Missouri journalism students required to buy iPhone or iPod touch?

[...]

Before you protest that it may seem ridiculous, lavish, or favoring Apple to force students to pick up one of these expensive pieces of hardware, Brian Brooks, associate dean of the journalism school, told the Columbia Missourian that the requirement “will not be enforced, however, and there will not be a penalty for students who chose not to buy an iPod touch or iPhone.”

So why require it? Brooks said that it’ll helps students review recorded lectures, but the real reason for “requiring” the purchase is for the benefit of students on financial aid.

Say what? Microsoft is already known to be bribing professors and occasionally it shows, but what about Apple? It does have some academic plans (one DRM per child).

Microsoft Debt and Tax Evasion

Posted in Finance, Microsoft at 8:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“There is such an overvaluation of technology stocks that it is absurd. I would include our stock in that category. It is bad for the long-term worth of the economy.”

Steve Ballmer

Summary: Microsoft reenters “Reality Mode” as financial issues inevitably surface

IT WOULD only be reasonable to say that following Microsoft's abysmal results (earnings are down 32%) and additional layoffs, Microsoft struggles to hide its problems. We’ve already remarked on Microsoft’s massive tax evasion [1, 2] (billions of dollars per year) and even the Seattle press cannot turn a blind eye to it, despite the harm this may cause to their beloved Microsoft. That’s billions of dollars that Microsoft virtually took from taxpayers’ pockets (the hidden “Microsoft tax”).

How Obama’s tax reforms could impact Microsoft’s bottom line

[...]

The debate hinges on policies that let companies with international operations avoid higher U.S. tax rates by reinvesting their foreign earnings overseas. The Obama administration last Monday detailed its plan to put a damper on that practice.

“Currently, businesses that invest overseas can take immediate deductions on their U.S. tax returns for expenses supporting their overseas investments but nevertheless ‘defer’ paying U.S. taxes on the profits they make from those investments,” the White House said in a May 4 briefing document. “As a result, U.S. taxpayer dollars are used to provide a significant tax advantage to companies who invest overseas relative to those who invest and create jobs at home.”

From the same publication comes this report about Microsoft debt.

Microsoft, which has historically avoided borrowing money, this morning took the next step in its previously announced plan to raise funds through a public debt offering. The company made the move in a preliminary prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It underplays the severity of the matter. This Microsoft-sympathetic reporter cites a Bloomberg article from another reporter who is close to Microsoft (Dina Bass). This leads to the funny feeling and suspicion that Microsoft is spinning this discomforting (probably obligatory) disclosure using all of its friends in the press. It’s a familiar strategy when attacking competition (seed, the reference and repeat). Microsoft debt would not surprise us though. See for example what we wrote in:

A Microsoft shareholder already likens Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates to Bernard Madoff and other shareholders are equally resentful and want Steve Ballmer out.

When it comes to Microsoft’s news about debt, we have already alluded to it yesterday. Also yesterday in the very same post we showed that Microsoft is attacking Google using regulators. It’s worth keeping an eye on Christine Varney because TechCrunch suggests she may try to deflect antitrust pressure from Microsoft onto Google.

Watch Out Google, Obama’s Antitrust Chief Is Looking To Make An Example Out Of You

The Obama Administration’s new chief antitrust enforcer at the Department of Justice, Christine Varney, is making it very clear that she is going to be much more aggressive in bringing antitrust actions against large, American corporations.

Microsoft has its share of government insiders [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] with whom it can attack Google via the authorities. There is precedence here, so it’s just not a theory; it’s predicated upon Microsoft’s consistent behaviour and Microsoft is at great risk right now, so it’s merciless.

Debt and demand

Software Patents Want to Enter Europe from the Back Door

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Patents, Ubuntu at 5:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Back door

Summary: New signs that attempts are being made to legalise software patent without ever debating the subject

WHEN it comes to software patents, the EPO appears to have already lost its way. There is obviously some friction within, too. Over in the UK we find that Nokia, a true fiend when it comes to software patents in Europe [1, 2], is only making things worse [PDF]. Despite some of the good work it did in the Linux ecosystem, it keeps injecting patentability of software via the United Kingdom, where Canonical is — to its credit — fighting against software patents. Glyn Moody has this new report about Canonical’s amicus curiae brief:

Patent Differences: Canonical vs. Microsoft

I make no apologies for returning to the subject of the European Patent Office’s referral of a “point of law” concerning software patents.

Dull as many might find the intricate theoretical arguments, the outcome will have very real consequences. If software patents become easier to obtain, it will have a hugely negative effect on free software, which will find itself subject to more attacks on the legal front.

Recently I commented on the submissions of Red Hat and the FSFE. The full list of “amicus curiae briefs” can be found here; I’d like to pick out those from two high-profile names for their contrasting positions: Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) and Microsoft.

Canonical’s offering is very similar in tone to that of Red Hat: it’s very matter of fact, written in a highly-accessible language that makes its points simply but effectively.

The Microsoft-sponsored Czech presidency carries on pushing for a sort of “globalisation” of patents (at a limited scale), which would probably legalise software patents. Digital Majority has just found this report.

Czechs call for unity on patent legislation

[..]

Diplomats say that, because of its potential to turn into an international agreement, the draft litigation system needs to be checked by the ECJ to determine whether it is in line with the EU’s treaties. National experts will meet tomorrow (8 May) to discuss the exact questions to be put to the ECJ. Supporters of the system hope that sending the draft to the ECJ will spur talks on finalising the text. Unresolved issues in the Council of Ministers include French concerns that the system would not use the ECJ as its court of final instance, German concerns that it will work less effectively than its own national patent litigation system and Spanish worries over the proposed language regime.

There is more. Here is a new cross-border intervention of patents.

By limiting copyright restoration, the ruling might prevent the US from fulfilling its obligations under the Berne Convention and the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights were also specified in the draft of ACTA [1, 2]. With all this unification (or “harmonisation” as Charles McCreevy attempted to call it), it’s clear that there is considerable risk of software patents entering Europe without any proper, explicit debate on the matter. The following alarming press release from FFII says a lot more.


European Commission pushes for software patents via a trusted court

Brussels, 12 May 2009 — The European Commission is pushing for software patents via a centralised trusted patent court that would be created with the United Patent Litigation System (UPLS), an international treaty that would remove national courts. This court system would be shielded against any review by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Thus patent judges would have the last word on software patents.

At the next Competitiveness meeting of May 28-29, the Council of Ministers will request a legal opinion to the ECJ about potential conflicts of the UPLS with the EU treaties. The current draft mentions that the ultimate power to interpret patent law will rest with hand-picked patent judges.

Hartmut Pilch, founder of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) predicted this already in 2007: “I don’t think EU joining European Patent Convention (EPC) would automatically mean that ECJ can intervene on substantive patent law questions. If there is a ECJ above the European Patent Judiciary (EPJ), then probably only for very special questions relating to areas outside patent law, such as EU treaties, and it would not be accessible to the litigating parties but only to the EPJ itself.”

Benjamin Henrion, President of the FFII and leader of its litigation working group, says: “A central patent court forbidding any petition right for review to the ECJ means the patent court has the last word over software patents. The Agreement is drafted in a way to avoid the ECJ intervention on substantive patent law.”

Brian Kahin, senior fellow of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, says: “Given the U.S. experience with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the many areas where the Supreme Court has recently stepped in to provide balance, it is clear that the European Court of Justice needs to be able to oversee the evolution of patent law. Otherwise, there is constant danger that a self-interested patent community will successfully press to expand the scope, volume, and power of the patent system.”

The UPLS carries the risk that specialized patent courts will have the last word for important questions such as limits of patentability. This is typically what happens in Germany where the Senates of the Federal Patent Court should refer basic questions to the Supreme Court but do not do this.

Benjamin Henrion concludes: “This specialized patent court will be shielded against external intervention and won’t be an EU institution. Those patent judges want to have the last word over European patent law.”

Background

The proposed United Patent Litigation System (UPLS) is an international treaty which is heavily inspired by the now defunct European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA).

In 2005, large companies asked the European Parliament to drop the software patent directive, and push for a central patent court instead.

The German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology clarified that the validation of software patents goes via central caselaw: “We must moreover continue to attempt to harmonise the practise of granting patents for computer-implemented inventions at the European level. This is to be attempted by a common European patent court system (EPLA) in which the member states can voluntarily participate. Thereby a unified procedure and legal certainty are achieved.”

The current UPLS draft is shielded against ECJ intervention in software patents and substantive patent law. The centralised patent court won’t be an EU institution.

The Court of Justice of the European Communities would only “rule on preliminary questions asked by the court structure established in the framework of the Unified Patent Litigation System, [...] on the interpretation of EC law and on the validity and interpretation of acts of the institutions of the Community.” The UPLS itself would not be a “institution of the Community” (the EPO is not either) and thus not fall under ECJ jurisdiction.

On the other side of the Atlantic, specialized patent courts in the United States (CAFC) have watered down the patentability requirements, allowing software patents, business method patents and lowered the threshold for patent quality. The poster child of the lowering quality is the Dembiczak case, where the specialized patent court allowed a patent over a plastic bag with a pumpkin drawing. The Supreme Court judges overturned the patent, heavily criticising the obviousness threshold of the specialized patent court: “This is gobbledygook. It really is, it’s irrational. It’s worse than meaningless.”

Canonical Hires Noveller, Job Probably Won’t Include Mono

Posted in GNU/Linux, Mono, Novell, Ubuntu at 4:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: From Novell’s SUSE to Ubuntu and what it may all mean to Mono

A GNU/Linux developer whom Novell had laid off has just been hired by Canonical. Congratulations to Rodrigo Moya. It’s always better to have more developers where there is less Microsoft control (and no GNU/Linux patent tax). From Rodrigo’s post about it:

Being quite busy last week with my new job, I totally forgot to blog about it, so, in case someone is interested, I started last Monday working at Canonical.

As Stefano points out, there could potentially be some Mono here, but it is highly unlikely.

I don’t know anything about how the project will evolve, but I really doubt it will just sync files, as it would end up being a clone of existing services with no added value. Assuming I’m right in wondering it’s the project Rodrigo was talking about, his job position may be enlightening:

REQUIRED SKILLS AND EXPERIENCES

Extensive experience with the GNOME development platform, desktop environment and technologies such as GTK+, Cairo and X11

DESIDERABLE SKILLS

Python, Mono

So, why is Mono a desiderable skill? For two possible reasons, Stefano argues:

  1. The role is a generic GNOME developer, so Mono fits.
  2. For UbuntuOne, the client is in Python, so the server side is unknown (probably Python or C).

“But patching existing applications may and will be required,” he writes, “if you read my post, there’s a snippet which claims UbuntuOne will become a full blown platform, with APIs for third party applications to use it.”

Of course, Rodrigo might choose Python over Mono at any time. As one of our readers put it, “I believe Canonical is playing being smart at the moment [...] and by the way, they promote work [with] Python.”

One of our readers is slightly concerned about another man who has a worthy role in Ubuntu (upstream relations) because, according to him, he’s “advertising Mono in many ways.” For example:

I am the project owner of the simias and ifolder projects on Launchpad if anyone is interested in getting Debian/Ubuntu packaging going; drop me a line. Thanks to Zonker for pursuing this and thanks to Novell for doing the right thing. Now if only people could get it to build … heh.

Side information from our reader says that it is “so weird he [Jorge] advertised use of iFolder (Mono) instead of dropbox, and then Canonical released UbuntuOne, which is proprietary. [...] well, besides that, what I wanted to say: I don’t think Jorge is in the decision making process but he’s a Canonical employee and he’s close to Shuttleworth (he acted as a channel op many times when Shuttleworth was speaking on IRC).”

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