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Links 16/12/2009: LinuxCon 2010 Coming, Mandriva One XFCE 2010

Posted in News Roundup at 9:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Announcing LinuxCon 2010

    The Linux Foundation — the non-profit organization dedicated to all things Linux — is involved in a number of conferences throughout the year. Among those, the newest is LinuxCon, which will be celebrating it’s second year in 2010.

  • How is it doing that?

    Most impressively, the machine can flawlessly stream a 1280×528px 1536kb/s *.mkv file over my wireless network.

    As a comparison, I have a Windows Vista machine with a 2.3GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 512MB video card upstairs that can’t play the same file without special codecs and the help of a program called CoreAVC. Even with these, it plays the file imperfectly.

    I can’t explain how this is possible, but needless to say, I am astounded at the ability of Linux.

  • Chrome for Linux: Good Browsers Come to Those Who Wait

    About a year after it first appeared as a Windows application, Google’s Chrome browser is finally available in beta for Linux. Google had to limit its compatible distro list to a handful of popular Linux versions, but those who can use it will likely enjoy its speed, features and the hundreds of extensions Google has made available.

  • Kernel Space

    • Phoromatic Tracker Launches To Monitor Linux Performance

      Last month Phoromatic went into public beta, which is our remote test management software for the Phoronix Test Suite that allows a wealth of possibilities including the ability to easily build a benchmarking test farm.

    • How I apply patches to the stable tree

      I decided to do a screencast of how I apply patches to the Linux stable tree to give people an idea of my patch workflow.

    • When your hobby becomes a job: reflections on the em28xx driver situation
    • Graphics Stack

      • The Linux Graphics Documentation That’s Needed

        A week ago we shared that the first of the slides and videos from VMware’s recent Gallium3D workshop were now posted on the Internet. This morning some more of this content is being published, which covers the VMware SVGA driver status, a Gallium3D state tracker overview, and the status of the OpenGL ES state tracker. The content from the previous video/slides push along with today’s uploads can be found here. Unfortunately we have found out that some of the videos from the Gallium3D workshop have been lost.

      • NVIDIA Releases New X.Org DDX Driver

        Only 11 code commits have been made to the xf86-video-nv driver (that only touch about 100 lines of code) since the 2.1.15 driver update back in September, but coming out this afternoon is xf86-video-nv 2.1.16.

  • Applications

  • K Desktop Environment

    • KOffice – We Have a Plan

      At the end of November, the KOffice developers met in Oslo for their semi-annual developer sprint. You have probably read some of the many blog entries from that meeting or read some of the news articles that Jos Poortvliet wrote on the dot.

      Many things were discussed during the meeting, and one of them is how we can make KOffice mature enough for real users. If you have followed KOffice development, you have probably noticed that in all our release announcements, the latest of them for KOffice 2.1, we always labeled KOffice as not yet ready for real production usage. This is now about to change.

    • Searching and Filtering Photos in digiKam — Part 1
    • Custom Transitioning Backgrounds In KDE3
  • Distributions

    • One XFCE 2010 Live edition is out

      Please remember, this edition is not a Mandriva product (so do not expect any kind of support directly from Mandriva), but has been completed with a great cooperation between the company and the community.

      On the 19th November 2009, the mandriva community has released the One XFCE 2010 Live edition to the world. We tried to ensure the XFCE experience is even better than before, do not hesitate to contact us if you think more polish is needed.

    • Taking a Look at VLOS

      This is the second distro that I know of that is using entropy as their main package manager. Cuba came out with a distro called Nova a while back and they are using entropy. I have no experience with their distro. We currently have another guy developing another linux distro based on Sabayon tools also. This is all good and exciting stuff to see. Sabayon Linux is making a difference for many. I would like to hear from those that are currently using our tools to build their distros. Drop us a line and let us know. If you are looking to do something like this, I suggest looking at molecule. Fabio should be proud of himself and the best part, he is willing to help these developers. He will take the time out of his busy day and answer questions.

    • Debian Family

      • MEPIS 8.5 Beta1
      • Quick change artist

        ONE of things that might disconcert Windows users after they’ve switched to Ubuntu Linux is the frequency with which the operating system is updated.

      • What’s New In Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx Alpha 1?

        As per their report, the new Ubuntu will come with a decreased number of games, cutting short the number to just 5. The Update Installer gets a new button that when clicked, will update the Updater itself, so that a broken Update installer shall not cause problems for other installations. Amongst other things, the Software Center has earned itself breadcrumbs for smoother navigation and a new application called Byubo comes pre-installed. Although not revolutionary changes, the updates are worth checking out, as it is said, ‘small steps makes up the complete run’.

      • UDS from an embedded hacker’s perspective

        The Ubuntu Developers Summit (UDS), held November 16-20 in Dallas, while kicking off the development cycle for the next Ubuntu release, “Lucid Lynx”, had a surprising amount to interest a kernel hacker with embedded tendencies. The Summit covered a wide range of topics from low level kernel details, to best community practices, but the ARM netbook support sessions were particularly interesting. At this UDS, the Ubuntu ARM developers set out to enable support for many ARM machines in a single distribution, a difficult task due to the lack of a standard firmware interface on ARM systems; a familiar problem to embedded developers. This report covers the solutions debated at UDS — including Kexec bootloaders and the flattened device tree — and the choices made for the next Ubuntu release.

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Europe’s txtr Ready to Fight Amazon’s Kindle

      txtr, a Berlin-based startup, is building an e-reader that it hopes will be Europe’s answer to the Amazon Kindle. Christophe Maire, CEO of the company, sat down with me in Paris earlier this week and gave me the details. He is one of the co-founders of gate5, a German navigation/mapping service that was acquired by Nokia in 2006. While Maire went to work for the Finnish phone giant, his co-founders started txtr, and Maire only just joined as the CEO.

    • x86 SBCs gain flashy new Linux SDKs

      Diamond Systems announced software development kits (SDKs) that include solid-state IDE flashdisk modules. Preloaded with Linux 2.6.23, the bootable modules plug directly into Diamond’s boards, supplying all required drivers, the company says.

    • Cisco 802.11n router for SMBs runs Linux

      Cisco announced a Linux-based WiFi router touted as the first 802.11n dual-band clustering access point for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The Cisco AP 541N Wireless Access Point includes 802.11n, gigabit Ethernet, “robust” security, voice roaming, and clustering technology, enabling a single point of administration for multiple access points.

    • Nook hiding MMS and speech recognition smarts

      If you somehow get your hands on a Nook, the process for getting at it’s secrets is a little involved – you’ll need a screwdriver, a microSD card reader and a computer running Linux – but if you’re keen you can read through the process over at the Nookdevs Wiki.

    • Nook Hacked Within Two Weeks of Release


  • Europe’s txtr Ready to Fight Amazon’s Kindle

    txtr, a Berlin-based startup, is building an e-reader that it hopes will be Europe’s answer to the Amazon Kindle. Christophe Maire, CEO of the company, sat down with me in Paris earlier this week and gave me the details. He is one of the co-founders of gate5, a German navigation/mapping service that was acquired by Nokia in 2006. While Maire went to work for the Finnish phone giant, his co-founders started txtr, and Maire only just joined as the CEO.

  • x86 SBCs gain flashy new Linux SDKs

    Diamond Systems announced software development kits (SDKs) that include solid-state IDE flashdisk modules. Preloaded with Linux 2.6.23, the bootable modules plug directly into Diamond’s boards, supplying all required drivers, the company says.

  • Cisco 802.11n router for SMBs runs Linux

    Cisco announced a Linux-based WiFi router touted as the first 802.11n dual-band clustering access point for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The Cisco AP 541N Wireless Access Point includes 802.11n, gigabit Ethernet, “robust” security, voice roaming, and clustering technology, enabling a single point of administration for multiple access points.

  • Nook hiding MMS and speech recognition smarts

    If you somehow get your hands on a Nook, the process for getting at it’s secrets is a little involved – you’ll need a screwdriver, a microSD card reader and a computer running Linux – but if you’re keen you can read through the process over at the Nookdevs Wiki.

  • Nook Hacked Within Two Weeks of Release
  • Pandora

  • Phones

  • Nokia

  • Android

    • Motorola’s Milestone (The U.K.‘s Droid) Flies Off The Virtual Shelves

      Some very positive news for Motorola (NYSE: MOT) as we head into the weekend … Online retailer eXpansys says that the Milestone—the U.K.-version of the Droid—sold out in just three hours. eXpansys is the exclusive seller of the handset; the company said it had received well over 1,000 pre-orders for the Milestone a week before it went on sale. eXpansis expects a second shipment of Milestones to arrive in time for holiday orders.

    • Acer A1 Liquid Android smartphone

      Over the last 12 months Acer has been spitting out smartphones like there is no tomorrow. Some of them, like the Tempo F900, have been quite good while others, like the beTouch E101, have been, ahem, less impressive. Yet none have really scored as a hit in our book, but that may be about to change with the release of the A1 Liquid, Acer’s first Android phone.

    • Googlephone videos uncovered

      Evidence is mounting that Google’s smartphone will be called the Nexus One, following the appearance of a video showing the phone’s packaging and OS.

    • Happenings: droidcon London 2009

      As Android starts appearing on more devices, so developers are getting together to exchange notes on how to develop on the rapidly changing open source mobile phone platform. At the first droidcon London, subjects ranged from alternate languages, programming audio and implementing Android on devices to reverse engineering programmes, testing Android applications and the future of mobile devices.

    • Bright future for HTC’s Hero

      As you’ll probably know by now, the Hero runs Google’s Android operating system, which – like the iPhone – is built around a Unix-based core OS, in Android’s case that core being the ever popular Linux kernel.

    • Google phone with T-Mobile contract in Jan: source

      Google Inc plans to sell two versions of its own-branded cell phone: one with a service contract with T-Mobile USA and another that is unlocked, a source familiar with the matter said.

    • Unofficial id classics pulled from Android
  • Sub-notebooks

    • Cherrypal Launches $99 ‘Africa’ Netbook

      Cherrypal has added a new netbook to their range, which will cost just $99, the Cherrypal Africa Netbook, which is named after Cherrypal’s recent community building initiative in Ghana.

Free Software/Open Source

  • Eucalyptus open-sources the cloud (Q&A)

    It’s reasonably clear that open source is the heart of cloud computing, with open-source components adding up to equal cloud services like Amazon Web Services. What’s not yet clear is how much the cloud will wear that open source on its sleeve, as it were.

    Eucalyptus, an open-source platform that implements “infrastructure as a service” (IaaS) style cloud computing, aims to take open source front and center in the cloud-computing craze. The project, founded by academics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, is now a Benchmark-funded company with an ambitious goal: become the universal cloud platform that everyone from Amazon to Microsoft to Red Hat to VMware ties into.

  • 50 Essential Free Open Courseware Classes for Web Designers

    Web design is an increasingly important aspect of media and business. Because the Internet has become essential to the way we do business, find information and accomplish a number of other tasks, Web design truly is vital. And someone who understands Web design and can do a good job with it is valuable in a number of ways. If you are interested in improving your web design skills, here are 50 great open courseware classes for web designers

  • China to nurture open source software development

    China intends to nurture the development of open source software in 2011-2015, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

  • Is open source a train anyone can stop?

    Open source code is steadily seeing growth. WordPress, Opera and Mozilla are companies making significant financial inroads in the software industry. With thousands of open source developers and volunteer programmers adding features and plug-ins, open source software continues to rise in popularity and is for many a profitable industry. Using a variety of software licence options within GNU – GPL, vetted by several organizations such as Open Source Initiative and Free Software Foundation, the genesis of a software application now flourishes, creating a never ending ecosystem of growth and updates.

  • Find Bar – Second version of a search toolbar for OpenOffice.org

    The find bar consists of an edit field which contains the search text and buttons to search down and upwards. A hidden button to open the find & replace dialog can be configured via the context menu.

  • FOSDEM 2010: Call for presentations

    The tenth annual Free and Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting (FOSDEM) is scheduled to take place on the 6th and 7th of February, 2010 at the University of Brussels. The KDE Developer Room (DevRoom) organisers have announced that they are now accepting submissions for talks on any KDE related topic. All proposals must be submitted before the deadline of the 3rd of January, 2010. More details about submitting talks, including available times and requirements, can be found on the KDE FOSDEM 2010 wiki.

  • The Open Source IP PBX: A Growing Trend

    For instance, the five-year-old FreeSWITCH platform recently came out with its 1.0.5 release and, working with its parent, developed the standalone Cudatel Communications Platform, featuring FreeSWITCH as the core technology, along with integrated Sangoma hardware.

  • Open Source Business Intelligence in the real world

    What are the options for developers constructing intensive data churning software systems that need to overcome the hurdles of compliance? Surprisingly perhaps, if you simply Google “BI” for business intelligence, the third result (at the time of writing) comes in US open-source vendor Pentaho.

  • GoGrid Exchange: BitNami Open Source Web Applications Images Available

    BitNami also offers development environments for LAMP (Apache, MySQL and PHP on Linux), Ruby on Rails, JRuby and others.

  • Open source, Linux set for unheralded coronation in 2010

    Perhaps Mike Olson, Sleepy Cat founder and now Cloudera CEO, said it best when he told Network World earlier this year, “At Sleepy Cat, we were proud to be an open source company. At Cloudera, I think of us as an enterprise software company that happens to be built on open source software.”

  • RSSOwl.org Selects Versant to Power Its Atom & RSS Newsreader

    Versant Corporation (Nasdaq:VSNT), an industry leader in specialized data management software, announces a new customer, RSSOwl.org and a case study on its product, the Atom & RSS Newsreader RSSOwl. The case study provides an overview of the compelling reasons for which RSSOwl.org selected Versant’s db4o object database for its next generation newsreader, RSSOwl 2.0.

  • Mozilla

  • Databases

    • Oracle, MySQL and the EU: The Endgame Q&A

      Like a tea kettle, the ongoing acquisition of Sun by Oracle, objected to by the EU, has gone from cold to boiling to cold to boiling and back again these past few months. The diversity of opinions, even amongst the those considered to be experts on the subject, is remarkable and has led to a wide ranging, passionate debate.

    • MySQL 5.5 Milestone 2 improves replication and stored procedures

      The MySQL developers have released milestone 2 of MySQL 5.5, on the path to a general release in mid-2010. The new milestone release incorporates semi-synchronous replication in MySQL 5.5 based on patches to InnoDB developed by Google. This is designed to ensure that when a change is committed in the master database, at least one slave has confirmed that the data has arrived and been buffered before the commit is complete.

    • EnterpriseDB Receives High Marks from AQA

      EnterpriseDB, the enterprise Postgres company, today announced that the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), the UK’s largest examination board, has selected and deployed Postgres Plus Advanced Server to create a business-critical extranet application. Utilizing Postgres Plus as the database solution for its ‘Examiner Extranet,’ AQA empowers its users with reliable, real-time access to core business data in a secure and highly cost-effective manner, ultimately saving the non-profit organization valuable capital and ongoing operational expenses.

    • The case in favor of the open source enterprise database

      Another indication that the database market is ripe for commoditization is that specialized, open source database management systems are appearing on the horizon to address niche markets. Derby (pure Java) and Hadoop (for data-intensive, distributed apps), for example, are gaining traction for unique applications.

    • BI and Data Warehouse Vendors Chime in on Oracle’s MySQL Commitments

      Cautious optimism. This was the basic reaction shared this week by open-source business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing vendors commenting on ten commitments Oracle announced December 14 on how it would handle MySQL. Issued in hopes of winning approval of its acquisition of MySQL owner Sun Microsystems by the European Commission, the commitments made a favorable impression on open-source database partners and OEM licensees.

  • BSD

    • Quick Overview of Bsd Systems With Main Focus on Openbsd

      Today, when too many companies bring out various distros, it is hard to tell which of them best suits our needs and you may become mixed-up in such a huge list. If companies invest money to a software solution, they may become disappointed if its licensing policy changes. OpenBSD has one sturdy feature above everything – the system and packages are perfectly audited for security holes.

    • My experience with FreeBsd 8 (comes free with rants and review)

      I would like to give FreeBSD 8 two thumbs up. It really lives up to its name in terms of stability and sleekness.

    • Install a BSD-variant with the help of PC-BSD

      I’m very glad to see that someone has created a BSD variant that is easy enough for the masses to install. PC-BSD allows anyone to give one of the most solid, reliable, and secure operating system available a try.

  • Licensing

    • Understanding licenses, bit by bit

      An idea that is suggested every now and then is to look at software licensing and give it a kind of “Creative Commons” feel; that is, present the terms of the license in a pleasant and orderly way by means of icons. Now, we’ve already come to the realization that calling something “Creative Commons licensed” is vague to the point of being useless (just “some rights reserved“). Calling something “Free Software” is also vague, but there is a rock-solid guarantee at the bottom: the term guarantees you, the recipient of the software, at least the Four Freedoms. Any Open Source software you receive usually means at least the Four Freedoms as well. So you need to say which CC, which Free Software license, which Open Source license.

  • Openness

  • Programming

    • Qt Graphics and Performance – An Overview

      At the centre of all Qt graphics is the QPainter class. It can render to surfaces, through the QPaintDevice class. Examples of paint devices are QImage’s, QPixmaps and QWidgets. The way it works is that for a given QPaintDevice implementation we return a custom paint engine which supports rendering to that surface. This is all part of our documentation so perhaps not too interesting. Lets look at this in more detail.


  • Top cop’s ‘stop stopping snappers’ memo: Too little too late?

    As yet another senior copper reads the riot act to his fellow officers over the policing of photographers, concerns are growing amongst senior ranks that this is all too little too late – and that serious damage has now been done to relations with the public over this issue.

    John Yates, Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations, put out a message yesterday reminding all Met Police officers and staff that people taking photographs in public should not be stopped and searched unless there is a valid reason.

  • Police release film of suspects’ ‘terror targets’

    Police have released footage which they say was made by a suspected terror cell filming potential targets.

    They believe an Algerian gang was conducting reconnaissance for a plot to target train stations in London.

  • Facebook’s loosening sense of privacy

    I’ve taken care to keep much of the private data on my Facebook account properly private; my public profile is quite limited and only friends can see anything I want to keep personal. Seeing no reason to change this, I kept the settings as they were and left it that. But then a few days later, in our conversation Kathryn warned that there were new privacy settings added in, so I checked it out. And lo and behold, there’s a section I hadn’t seen before, in the “Applications and websites” section, called “What your friends can share about you through applications and websites”

  • Googling for Sociopaths
  • Data Nerds Hack NASA — in a Good Way

    A bunch of data nerds from inside and outside NASA will gather this Saturday at a house in Cupertino, California, called the Rainbow Mansion to hack through the agency’s data jungles.

  • Introducing namebench

    Slow DNS servers can make for a terrible web browsing experience, but knowing which one to use isn’t easy. namebench is a new open source tool that helps to take the guess-work out of the DNS server selection process. namebench benchmarks available DNS services and provides a personalized comparison to show you which name servers perform the best.

  • Intoxicated by power, Blair tricked us into war

    The degree of deceit involved in our decision to go to war on Iraq becomes steadily clearer. This was a foreign policy disgrace of epic proportions and playing footsie on Sunday morning television does nothing to repair the damage. It is now very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Tony Blair engaged in an alarming subterfuge with his partner George Bush and went on to mislead and cajole the British people into a deadly war they had made perfectly clear they didn’t want, and on a basis that it’s increasingly hard to believe even he found truly credible. Who is any longer naive enough to accept that the then Prime Minister’s mind remained innocently open after his visit to Crawford, Texas?

  • Look Out, Canvas – A Fifth Of TVs Will Have Internet In 2010

    Project Canvas, the BBC’s proposed connected-TV EPG standard, is facing a couple of challenges next year…

    Not only has the project been delayed from 2009 to late 2010 by the regulator’s request for a more detailed proposal (meaning it won’t get to piggyback the launch marketing of Freeview HD) – many of the very same TV makers that the BBC is trying to convince to use Canvas are busy actually selling tellies with their own built-in internet services…

  • Health-care bill needs major improvement to be worth passing

    Few Americans will see any benefit until 2014, by which time premiums are likely to have doubled. In short, the winners in this bill are insurance companies; the American taxpayer is about to be fleeced with a bailout in a situation that dwarfs even what happened at AIG.

  • Data

    • Alistair Darling signals death of ID cards

      The Chancellor suggested that biometric passports, which carry the same information as ID cards, would be sufficient.

      In an interview in The Daily Telegraph today, he said there was “probably no need” to “go further” than the new passports, paving the way for ID cards to be scrapped. Although he claimed later that he wasn’t going beyond existing plans, his intervention could spell the death knell for the project.

    • DVLA data powers likely to be abused by foreign officials

      Personal data belonging to nearly 40 million UK motorists is likely to be abused by foreign officials under new automatic access powers, according to a restricted report.

      Drivers’ details such as name, address, motoring convictions and some medical information will be available to more than two dozen European countries around the clock under the Prüm Convention.

    • ID card minister forgets ID card

      Hillier blamed her forgetfulness on the demands of looking after her baby.

  • Environment

    • Climate Talks Near Deal to Save Forests

      Negotiators have all but completed a sweeping deal that would compensate countries for preserving forests, and in some cases, other natural landscapes like peat soils, swamps and fields that play a crucial role in curbing climate change.

    • Canadians *Do* Have a Sense of Humour

      Of course, everyone should have known that Canada wouldn’t do anything like accept massive emission reduction targets, or agree to reparations.

    • The Enbridge Oil Sands Gamble

      Canada’s highly unconventional resource (heavy oil from sand or rock) lies under a forest area the size of England (140,000 square kilometers) and is arguably the world’s last remaining giant oil field. Almost every major private and state-owned oil company has a presence in the tar sands. The project could make Canada the world’s fifth largest oil exporter by 2020.

    • There is plenty of oil but . . .

      There is a huge amount of oil which theoretically can be extracted, but the question is whether the cost will be cheap enough for us to be able to afford to extract it. If the oil is too expensive to extract, the shortage of oil seems to cause a recession, similar to what we are having now. I discuss this in purely monetary terms, but it is also an issue with respect to low energy return on investment (EROI), for those of you used to thinking in EROI terms.

    • Demand a Science-Based Treaty
    • Deniergate: Turning the tables on climate sceptics

      “Climategate” has put scientists on trial in the court of public opinion. If you believe climate sceptics, a huge body of evidence involving the work of tens of thousands of scientists over more than a century should be thrown out on the basis of the alleged misconduct of a handful of researchers, even though nothing in the hacked emails has been shown to undermine any of the scientific conclusions.

  • Finance

    • WaMu filing: JPMorgan had inside info

      A filing in the Washington Mutual bankruptcy case says that new evidence supports allegations that JPMorgan Chase used access to inside information about WaMu to drive down the bank’s credit rating and share price, scare away other suitors and arrange to buy the ailing Seattle bank from regulators at a bargain price.

    • Evening Wrap: Wamu Demands JP Morgan Documents; XTO Execs Waive Some Payout; Wells Offering Oversubscribed

      Washington Mutual, the bankrupt holding company whose banking business was sold to JP Morgan-Chase (JPM) last year, requested a U.S. federal court to ask the Federal Reserve Board, the Treasury Department and others to turn over documents it believes are relevant in its suit against JPM. Wamu filed suit against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in March asking for $13 billion in damages. A Reuters piece tonight says Wamu has a JPM email from the week before the sale to JP Morgan showing the FDIC talking with the bank about whether it might be interested in Wamu.

    • WaMu seeks to investigate US regulators, others
    • SEC Report Sheds New Light on Deal for Bear Stearns

      The report looked into allegations made in an anonymous letter that Linda Thomsen, who was SEC enforcement chief at the time of the Bear Stearns takeover in March 2008, improperly gave information about ongoing SEC investigations involving Bear Stearns to a lawyer for J.P. Morgan who was also Ms. Thomsen’s former supervisor. The report exonerated Ms. Thomsen, concluding that she didn’t violate any rules and didn’t provide specific information about the SEC’s investigation into Bear Stearns.

    • JPMorgan Poised to Lead CLO Comeback After Loan Rally

      The $440 billion market for CLOs, which pool loans and slice them into securities of varying risk, largely disappeared at the end of 2007 as losses on subprime mortgages led investors to flee bundled debt. While new sales would signal Wall Street’s return to investments that contributed to $1.7 trillion of writedowns and credit losses worldwide, they may help companies refinance $1.5 trillion of high-yield loans and bonds maturing by the end of 2014.

    • FDIC Approves Giving Banks Reprieve From Capital Requirements

      The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. gave banks including Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. a reprieve of at least six months from raising capital to support billions of dollars of securities the firms will be adding to their balance sheets.

  • Internet/Censorship/Web Abuse/Rights

    • Questions for the new European Commissioners

      2 weeks after launching a consultation, la Quadrature du Net is submitting to the European Parliament a set of questions to be asked to the Commissioners designate.

      They cover a broad range of issues that are essential to people’s right to access a free and open Internet. All these topics should be a core component of the upcoming European digital agenda.

      All questions directly relate to the portfolio of Neelie Kroes, Commissioner for the Digital Agenda. Other Commissioners designate whose Directorate-General are competent for specific issues are indicated below.

    • Government wants new powers to block wikileaks and squeeze web tv

      Just over a week ago I wrote a fairly dry legal analysis of the Digital Economy Bill. I spotted an extremely serious provision — clause 11 — in the version being discussed in the House of Lords. Having looked at the amendments (which you can find on the Bill’s document page) I am worried that no-one in Parliament appears to be taking the problem serious.

    • Danish police abuse climate-change demonstrators

      Zoran sez, “Earlier this week (12th Dec), a massive, peaceful protest of 100,000 people — the largest demonstration for climate justice in world history — was met with a heavy-handed response by the Danish police. Thousands of riot police swarmed the march route, blocked off streets surrounding large groups of protestors, and arrested almost 1,000 people. Arrestees were cuffed and forced to sit in rows for hours, as the temperatures dipped below freezing; numerous people urinated on themselves after being denied use of toilets.”

    • BBC deletes important story on toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast after legal threats, 12 Dec 2009

      This file contains a deleted BBC news article on the toxic-waste dumping of commodities giant Trafigura. According to a September 2009 UN report, the dumping drove 108,000 people in the Ivory Coast to seek medical attention.

      Trafigura and their lawyers Carter Ruck had been pursuing an ongoing libel case against the BBC over a news story from on the case that aired in May 2009[1].

      In the story “Dirty Tricks and Toxic Waste in the Ivory Coast”, the BBC’s Newsnight programme stated: “It is the biggest toxic dumping scandal of the 21st century, the type of environmental vandalism that international treaties are supposed to prevent. Now Newsnight can reveal the truth about the waste that was illegally tipped on Ivory Coast’s biggest city, Abidjan”. The programme alleged that a number of deaths had been caused by the dumping of this toxic waste, which had originated with Trafigura.

      Until this week the story was still available on the BBC website.[2]

      The link stopped working some time on December 10th or 11th, but at the time of writing the Google cache is still available[3].

    • Stand up to Trafigura abuse of outdated libel laws

      Trafigura took a very aggressive stance, using the UK’s outdated libel laws to gag the media, and questions in Parliament. When the Guardian reported that it had been served with a “super-injunction” that didn’t allow it to name Trafigura, or Carter-Ruck, *or* the fact that they had taken out an injunction on them, the Internet took up the case and plastered the details everywhere.

    • Child groups slam Conroy’s ISP filtering plans

      Children’s rights groups have spoken out against the Federal Government’s plans to introduce mandatory ISP-level filtering, saying it will not effectively protect children.

      International child rights group, Save the Children, said while it congratulates the government on its attempt to improve the safety of children online, an ISP-level filter is not the best way to offer protection.

    • Child safety vetting list will grow from initial 9m

      There had been plans for some 11.3 million adults to be vetted – but after criticism from school leaders and children’s authors the rules on frequency of contact have been eased, reducing this to an estimated nine million.

    • Silvio Berlusconi: Italian government threatens to block anti-Berlusconi Facebook groups

      Outraged Italian ministers have threatened action against dozens of Facebook groups which have sprung up praising the actions of the man who allegedly attacked Silvio Berlusconi.

    • Battles over Berlusconi rage in cyberspace
    • Facebook to Monitor Berlusconi Content

      Facebook said Tuesday that it would monitor content on its Web site dealing with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy following an attack at a political rally that left him hospitalized.

    • Italian student tells of arrest while filming for fun

      Police community support officers (PCSOs) stopped Italian student Simona Bonomo under anti-terrorism legislation for filming buildings in London. Moments later, she was arrested by other officers, held in a police cell and fined. She talks Paul Lewis through the footage she recorded of her conversation with the PSCOs. Source: guardian.co.uk Link to this video

    • Online-only news to be overseen by press watchdog

      Internet-only publications are to face the same regulations as newspapers for the first time under an extension to the powers of newspaper industry self-regulator body the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

    • Google weighs in to Aussie firewall row

      Google has criticised the Australian government’s forthcoming mandatory ISP censorship system for targeting a “too wide” a range of content.

    • Australia introduces web filters

      Australia intends to introduce filters which will ban access to websites containing criminal content.

      The banned sites will be selected by an independent classification body guided by complaints from the public, said Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

  • Intellectual Monopolies/Copyrights

    • Will The Chinese BitTorrent Crackdown Boost Criminals?

      Recently it became clear that Chinese authorities were going ahead with their planned video site purge. Many BitTorrent sites fell including some of the country’s largest, but of course none of this changes the demand for free or near-free media. So will the crackdown force those seeking cheap movies back onto the streets?

    • Of Access to Copyright Materials and Blindness

      First, in what sense is providing more access to the visually impaired not compatible with US copyright laws? The proponents of this change have gone out of their way to make sure that the access given is within current copyright regimes, which are not serving this huge, disadvantaged constituency properly. And how would it undermine expanded access? It would, manifestly, provide access that is not available now; the publishers have proposed nothing that would address the problem other than saying the system’s fine, we don’t want to change it.

      But the most telling – and frankly, sickening – aspect of this post is the way its author sets up the rights of authors against the rights of those with visual disabilities, as if the latter are little better than those scurvy “pirates” that “steal” copyright material from those poor authors.

      In fact, *nothing* is being taken, it’s simply that these people wish to enjoy their rights to read as others do – something that has been denied to them by an industry indifferent to their plight. And which author would not be happy to extend the pleasure of reading their works to those cut off from it by virtue of physical disabilities?

    • [A2k] US delegation welcomes views on WIPO Treaty for the blind

      Justin Hughes of the US delegation asked that I pass on his email address, so that people can communication with him if they want to express views on the WIPO treaty for disabilities being discussed at the WIPO SCCR 19 this week.

    • Statement of Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) at SCCR 19

      I represent the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), which works to serve the 2 million people with sight loss in UK.

      As part of this work, RNIB has a library of some 40,000 books in audio, large print and Braille, which we distribute to reading disabled people.

      Most accessible books are made by specialist organisations like ours, even in cases where publishers provide licenses or the source files. These specialist organisations have limited resources, and are very often charities.

      It should be noted that we cannot even use all our funds to make accessible books! We provide many vital but costly services, such as emotional support and employment advice.

    • Digital Economy Bill [HL]
    • Taking forward the Gowers Review of IP
    • New Zealand Releases Revamped Three Strikes Proposal

      The New Zealand government has released a revamped three strikes proposal that incorporates full court hearings and the possibility of financial penalties. A prior proposal, which would have resulted in subscriber access being terminated without court oversight, was dropped earlier this year following public protest. The new proposal is essentially a notice-and-notice system where ISPs would be required to pass along alleged infringement notices to the subscriber. After the third notice, the rights holder could seek up to $15,000 at the Copyright Tribunal for damages sustained. If the infringements continue, the rights holder could go to court to seek suspension of the subscriber account for up to six months.

    • Openness? Transparency? Not When Biden Gets To Hang With Entertainment Industry Lobbyists: Press Kicked Out

      Then we heard that Attorney General Eric Holder was reinvigorating the Justice Department’s “task force” on copyright. Why? There’s still no indication of any actual harm (both the movie and music industries are growing). Then, Commerce Secretary Locke noted that anti-camcording efforts are an important part of the anti-piracy effort. Funny timing, given the recent fiasco over a young woman arrested for incidental capturing of snippets of New Moon.

      So it started out just great. And then? Well, then the press got kicked out.

    • Holder At White House Summit With Entertainment Executives

      Vice President Joe Biden led a round table meeting of high ranking government officials and entertainment industry executives at the White House conference center today, where he pledged that the Obama administration would work to combat piracy in the rapidly changing technological age.

    • Hypocrisy, Thy Name is MPAA

      What the MPAA wants is for ISPs, for example, to change their businesses “to reflect current realities and adopt modern, flexible systems where they do not exist”: how strange, then, that the MPAA is not prepared to do the same by working according to the new digital rules instead of clinging to the old analogue ones…

    • UK Aggregator NewsNow Dumps Newspapers After They Demand Payment To Link To Stories

      Back in October, we wrote about how various newspapers, under the auspices of the “Newspaper Licensing Agency” were threatning NewsNow, a UK news aggregator that is (in my experience) one of the more comprehensive aggregators out there, but which only shows headlines and links to full stories. It’s difficult to see how that would be a copyright violation in anyone’s definition of the term or why that should require any kind of license.

    • Congress Gives $30 Million To Fight ‘Piracy’

      Recent studies have shown that — despite a massive recession — both the music and movie industries are having fantastic years. However, both industries are complaining about how they’re being “killed” by “piracy.” There’s no evidence of this of course, but when it comes to copyright, politicians don’t seem to believe evidence is necessary.

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Computer science student Josh Abraham 02 (2004)

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

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: December 16th, 2009

Posted in IRC Logs at 7:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Read the log

Enter the IRC channel now

To use your own IRC client, join channel #boycottnovell in FreeNode.

“Enderle Has Been Paid by Both Microsoft and Dell to Say Bad Things About Apple”

Posted in Apple, Deception, Dell, FUD, Microsoft at 3:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Dell monitor logo

Summary: New claims about a source of anti-GNU/Linux FUD, who is close to Microsoft’s PR department and executives (also paid by them)

Roughly Drafted Magazine has just gone on a round of shill-busting, slamming Strand Consult and Diaz for breaking Godwin’s law. But more relevant to us is this new essay about Rob Enderle, one of Microsoft’s more incestuous shills [1, 2].

Back in 2007, the New York Times first instated a ban on shills like Rob Enderle, who purport to be independent analysts while actually serving as paid mouthpieces for the firms they represent. In the words of Times spokeswoman Abbe Serphos, this supposedly included any “analysts who have an obvious business relationship with a company.”

It’s no secret that Enderle has been paid by both Microsoft and Dell to say bad things about Apple. It eventually became embarrassing for the Times to realize its sloppy journalists were stooping to quote him as a shortcut to performing actual investigative research, hence the ban.

Why can’t newspapers stick to the ban of people with a conflict of interests? The guy is already exposed and so are many others.

“Analysts sell out – that’s their business model…”

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

Microsoft Says Selling Free Software is Not Legal, Prepares to Sue Over It

Posted in Antitrust, Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 3:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell coupons

Image from Wikimedia

Summary: Using another so-called “promise”, Microsoft has just implicitly confirmed that it is on a warpath against people who make money selling Free software

MICROSOFT has a funny habit of building fences around Free software using all sorts of “promises”, such as the useless promise regarding Mono. A reader has just sent us a pointer to this article from IDG’s Microsoft Subnet: [via]

As part of the agreement Microsoft has struck with the European Commission to offer a ballet screen for browsers, Microsoft has issued what it calls the “Patent Pledge for Open Source Developers.” The pledge tells open source developers that Microsoft won’t sue them for developing open source software for its flagship products as long as they are not selling their software.

Microsoft has already sued TomTom and Melco for using Linux. But there’s more to it. Our reader says: “Remember the one where, they allow you to work on your code, as long as you don’t own it, and don’t work on it in company time?”

“Look up the original openSuSE patent pledge and compare it to this one,” he added. We wrote about this in 2006.

This is indeed what Microsoft has in mind. Microsoft has just exploited its useful affair with the Microsoft-bent European Commission (staff has changed) to threaten anyone who ‘dares’ to make money from Free software. Microsoft threatens the livelihood of Free software developers.

Regarding the Web browsers dispute, it’s not quite over yet, despite what the mainstream press is telling.

Microsoft EU dispute to last into 2010

Today (16 December) the EU ends a decade long dispute with Microsoft over its Internet Explorer browser. But the US software company is not out of the woods yet, as outstanding antitrust complaints could see the European Commission continue sparring with the giant in 2010.

This process has been a farce in recent months (see details below).

Related posts:

  1. A Ballot Screen is Not Justice, Internet Explorer Still Compromises Users’ PCs
  2. Mozilla Unofficially Joins ECIS and Opera in Opposition to Microsoft’s Deal in Europe; Microsoft Poisoned Firefox
  3. Parties Behind Complaints Against Microsoft in EU Not Pleased
  4. Microsoft’s Older Crimes Against Web Browsers Return, Microsoft’s New Attacks on JavaScript Revisited
  5. Opera Complains About Vista 7
  6. Microsoft Bypasses the Law and Breaks the Web for Opera and GNU/Linux Users, Again
  7. Mozilla and Opera Still Object to Microsoft’s Deal with the Commission
  8. Microsoft Hopes a Tickbox Will Restore Fair Competition in Europe; Opera Disagrees
  9. Microsoft Crowd Incites People Against Rival Web Browsers

Erwin Tenhumberg Can Convince SAP to Stop Attacking Sun and Free Software

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Oracle, Patents, SUN at 2:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Erwin Tenhumberg blog header

Summary: Erwin’s belief system dances along with the paymaster, but surely he can do better than that

AS we have been showing for several weeks now, SAP is lobbying to destroy Sun along with important projects like OpenOffice.org. Erwin Tenhumberg departed from OpenOffice.org/Sun last year, willingly moving to SAP. Ever since, his actions have been ambivalent at best. He was involved in an EU strategy document, implicitly lobbying against Free software by lobbying for software patents in the Open Source Software Workgroup.

What’s up with all that? Is it like Don Dodge [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], where people’s actions are aligned with whatever tyrannical* force pays the wage? This type of disloyalty to values and ethics is exactly what harms GNOME these days. What the world needs are people who stand up for justice, not capital.
* The chain of command is identical to tyranny in such corporations.

ODF Gains in Europe, Microsoft Still Sneakily Attacks ODF

Posted in America, Europe, Free/Libre Software, ISO, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 2:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Also see: Judge Likens Microsoft’s Effect on Java to a Bang on the Knee

World map

Summary: The ups and downs of ODF, the latter being largely the result of Microsoft’s gentle blows

ODF (OpenDocument Format) is still doing pretty well, especially in developing countries like Brazil (also here) and nations where corruption rates are low (notably Scandinavia).

According to this report from IDG, Holland is prepared to help Denmark with ODF, resisting the infinite cronyism of Helge Sander.

The Dutch government has provided Denmark with information regarding the Dutch national plan Heemskerk for open government IT.

In Denmark, there is heated debate about the approach for open IT usage by the government. One of the obstacles is the open file format for mandatory use by the government and government organizations. ODF (Open Document Format) and OOXML (Open Office XML), originally developed by Microsoft, are the candidates for use.

The Dutch Ministry of Finance shared with Denmark the experience and knowledge it has gained from the national plan Heemskerk and the resulting action plan “Nederland Open in Verbinding” (NOiV). Finance spokesman Edwin van Scherrenburg confirmed to Dutch IDG news site Webwereld that the two governments are in contact. “We have shared all information regarding NOiV,” he said.

Further up in Norway, one person writes: “New task: write report for Norwegian government on whether to recommend/require ODF and/or OOXML in Norwegian public sector” (a response to which is: “I did the same for the Danish goverment about 2 years ago, “comparing” ODF, OOXML and PDF. Did I make a difference? I’d like to know”).

“On the menu: one of the smallest cities in Belgium – Nieuwerkerken – needs some new and fancy automatically generated documents in #odf,” says this gentleman from Belgium and ODF is also mentioned in German news sites.

Europe is clearly warming up to ODF and so do developers (new examples here and here).

Bart Hanssens writes from Belgium (a meeting was held in France): “uploaded proposal for #odf 1.1 Interoperability Profile http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/document.php?document_id=35565″

“ODF TC done,” writes Cherie Ekholm, “starting PDF/UA.” Dennis Hamilton announced: “ODF TC e-ballot on #ODF 1.2 Part 1 CD04 as Public Review draft ends tonight, expected to pass easily based on current votes.”

In addition he wrote: “ODF TC discussed whether to align OSI/IEC IS 26300 and #ODF 1.1 or would ODF 1.2 overtake the effort and time to accomplish. Unresolved.”

Later came: “#ODF TC Approves ODF 1.2 Part 1 Committee Draft CD04 to submit for first-ever Public Review. OASIS to announce after docs all set.”

Bart Hanssens took note and so did Pim Bliek. Mary McRae (the key person for ODF at OASIS) has also responded.

An important subject which was brought up by several people has also been shared by an OpenOffice.org guy, who wrote:

Locked out by design


Software vendors have tried on and off to lock these documents so users needed the original software to use them. This can go horribly wrong, as some users of Microsoft Office 2003 have just found out to their cost, when the software refused to let them get at their documents – their own intellectual property. This is a design feature of Microsoft Office software which happened to misfire.

What it highlights is that no-one outside Microsoft has a clue what is hidden inside their secretive software. It also highlights the importance of not using a secret format to store valuable office documents. The safe way to store valuable documents is in OpenDocument Format (ODF) – an ISO approved open standard which isn’t owned by any one company. It’s the best guarantee against being held to ransom one day by a software supplier.

We wrote about this a few days ago and so did Microsoft. Wolf Corcoran-Mathe writes: “[Microsoft Fixes Office 2003 Document Lockout] Great. Now if they could only stop breaking ODF.” He is referring to Microsoft’s inability (or unwillingness) to obey interoperability needs [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7].

“Brown’s private firm benefits from Microsoft as we showed many times before, so he never relents.”Now we get to the ugly parts where Microsoft is attacking ODF, as usual. Alex Brown [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22] is sticking his nose again, trolling/heckling John with some poison against ODF (see the comments in the blog above). Brown’s private firm benefits from Microsoft as we showed many times before, so he never relents. Microsoft’s very unethical Doug Mahugh is also pushing the same Microsoft line, which gets passed around by others who are associated with Microsoft. It's like a cult of money and power. Corruption is a key ritual, which the heavily-spammed ANSI pretends never happened. But to quote Brown’s predecessor: “This year WG1 have had another major development that has made it almost impossible to continue with our work within ISO. The influx of P members whose only interest is the fast-tracking of ECMA 376 as ISO 29500 has led to the failure of a number of key ballots. Though P members are required to vote, 50% of our current members, and some 66% of our new members, blatantly ignore this rule despite weekly email reminders and reminders on our website. As ISO require at least 50% of P members to vote before they start to count the votes we have had to reballot standards that should have been passed and completed their publication stages at Kyoto. This delay will mean that these standards will appear on the list of WG1 standards that have not been produced within the time limits set by ISO, despite our best efforts.

“The disparity of rules for PAS, Fast-Track and ISO committee generated standards is fast making ISO a laughing stock in IT circles. The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting “standardization by corporation”, something I have been fighting against for the 20 years I have served on ISO committees. I am glad to be retiring before the situation becomes impossible.”

It indeed became impossible and ISO is now corrupt [1, 2, 3, 4].

ISO sells stamps

So, Microsoft got away with misconduct, who cares? Many people said the same thing when George Bush stole the elections. Whatever.

A post that we cited the other day comes from Rob Weir and Glyn Moody calls it a “good summary of where we are, and why Microsoft’s moves are fishy…”

Microsoft’s obligations are by definition unethical and very much against ODF. That’s just how the company operates, for its shareholders. “[T]hat’s super screwy because “O”OXML is Microsoft’s format. ODF is the REAL open format,” says this one person to a peer/friend, later adding that the nature of this situation is “making ODF far more resilient against bugs, because they can easily be patched.”

“Things Are Going Downhill at Novell These Days”

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Marketing, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Videos at 12:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Novell deceives the press just as the company is imploding, as well as getting much smaller

NOVELL is falling apart as a company and as a brand. Quite symbolically (of Novell’s bleeding to death), one person has just uploaded a video titled: “Novell Provo Campus Building H Water Leak”

The description of the video goes like this: “Things are going downhill at Novell these days. There was a massive water leak and huge amounts of damage done to the Lobby of Building H. Novell Provo Campus Lobby Water Leak”

Direct link

Novell’s much bigger internal issues are actually a lot less visible than the above. Novell is currently trying to ‘dress up’ the real news about the management exodus that we covered last night. The press is catching up very quickly, but the company’s press release [1, 2, 3, 4] tries hard to spin, spin, spin. That’s what PR is all about: defensible omission, distraction, selectivity, and reasonable distortion.

“They announce the departure of many executives (as a bundle) and then treat such big departures as minor, describing the whole move as “reorg”, which is a vague concept.”Novell’s PR Director, Ian Bruce, completely ignores the departures and pretends that the decoy of “reorg” is all there is to talk about. This is an old trick devised also by Microsoft. They announce the departure of many executives (as a bundle) and then treat such big departures as minor, describing the whole move as “reorg”, which is a vague concept. It is ambiguous as this can be interpreted as either bad news or good news. They sort of “package together” (or group) a lot of bad news that must reach shareholders and mix it with something that’s positive or only seemingly positive in order to just bury the bad news and be done it.

Many news sites have fallen into this PR trap, which was set up by Novell’s marketing/management people, no doubt. Those who were docile and gullible only/mostly spoke about “reorg”, just as Novell had hoped. Examples:

1. Novell announce a reorganisation

2. Novell reorganizes business and management

3. Novell Corporate Restructure

4. Novell reorg aims at solution sales

In this reorganization, three current units—identity and security management (ISM); systems and resource management (SRM); and open platform solutions (OPS) will meld into one security, management and operating platforms business unit headed by senior vice president Jim Ebzery.

Well done, Novell. You lied to journalists and here they are rewriting your press release (more or less). It’s a disgrace to both Novell and to the practice of professional journalism.

There are exceptions however. The very prominent (as in widely-syndicated) Associated Press came out with a more appropriate headline, but it leaves out major news about major departures. Apart from the raw article there were copies in news sites such as ABC, BusinessWeek, the Washington Post and the New York Times. Only one publication (as far as one can tell) has modified the Associated Press headline to add: “[Novell] says 2 executives to leave”

That’s the main news. It is about Novell shrinking and losing key suits (managers). It is very bad news, it’s not just a “reorg”. To quote from another news source:

On an interim basis, Jeff Jaffe, who has served for the last four years as CTO and executive vice president of the business units, has agreed to report to Hovsepian as a strategic advisor. He will be leaving the company this February. Senior Vice President of Strategic Development Roger Levy will also be leaving Novell.

J.P. Morgan’s response? “Change Does Not Always Make it Different” sums it up.

Manek, a British consultant who writes at ZDNet UK, has just published this short article about Novell. The headline says: “Whither Novell?”

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Novell still doesn’t know what it’s for. Recent news that the company has once again re-organised itself, following a fairly abysmal set of financial results, smacks slightly of desperation.


What’s depressing is that I seem to have been making the same or similar comments every few years about Novell, ever since the company went bonkers buying Unix, WordPerfect and a whole host of other bits and pieces as it looked to replace its failing NetWare business.

Boycott Novell is linked there among the comments, in relation to Mono. In other news this week, Miguel de Icaza is still looking appease Microsoft. Perhaps that’s all Novell has left, namely fusion with Microsoft.

“Now [Novell is] little better than a branch of Microsoft”

LinuxToday Managing Editor

Microsoft Assumes You Too Are a Criminal

Posted in Google, Microsoft, Security, Windows at 12:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”

Albert Einstein

Summary: Microsoft treats everyone like a criminal with its COFEE software; preventive measures are therefore created

BACK in November we wrote about Microsoft’s COFEE [1, 2], which makes use of diagnostic/forensic antifeatures that Microsoft put in Vista and in Vista 7, right under many people’s noses. After Vista in particular, Windows is a really user-hostile piece of software and after a lot of noise (especially against DRM) people seem to have forgotten about it, much to Microsoft’s delight. They even renamed “Vista”.

In essence, Microsoft has Windows spy on any user by logging his/her actions. What is wrong with all this? Well, it is not there for the user really, thus it’s an antifeature; it’s there to be used against the user.

The danger of COFEE was explained by Bruce Schneier last week (incidentally in response to Eric Schmidt).

Schmidt said:

I think judgment matters. If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines — including Google — do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.

This, from 2006, is my response:

Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need.


For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that — either now or in the uncertain future — patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.


This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. And it’s our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives.

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as “security versus privacy.” The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that’s why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.

Abuse of power is a true danger to democracy, which is precisely what laws were establish to prevent (e.g. requirement of a search warrant). But Microsoft is turning in all users to authorities/policemen, who can also abuse their power to weaken democratic dissent (here in the UK even pro-environment activists are abused, harassed and sometimes arrested after eavesdropping, despite doing nothing wrong). Microsoft does not make “COFEE-readiness” selective based on prior activity like a criminal record or inclusion in a suspects list.

Software that’s called DECAF has just made its debut and the Microsoft folks write about it.

Two developers have created “Detect and Eliminate Computer Assisted Forensics” (DECAF). The tool tries to stop Microsoft’s Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor (COFEE), which helps law enforcement officials grab data from password protected or encrypted sources.


More specifically, the program deletes COFEE’s temporary files, kills its processes, erases all COFEE logs, disables USB drives, and even contaminates or spoofs a variety of MAC addresses to muddy forensic tracks. It can be told to disable almost every piece of hardware on a machine and delete pre-defined files in the background. The 181KB DECAF program even has a ‘Spill the cofee’ mode in which it simulates COFEE’s presence to give the user an opportunity to test his or her configuration before actually using it. Source code for DECAF has not been made available, since the authors fear it will be reverse engineered, making it unclear what else the tool might be doing and whether or not it is completely safe to use.

This seems like a tool that any activist who is still not using Free software should make use of.

Is it not hysterical that Microsoft pretends that it cares about privacy? Microsoft remains a great threat to democracy. Unlike Google, Microsoft does not ask if you are willing to be spied on and there is no option to opt out, either. This spyware/malware is already preinstalled on most new computers. It’s ‘baked into’ Windows.

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