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08.08.10

Microsoft’s KINect is the next KIN-Like Disaster (and Why Kinect Patents Are All That’s Left)

Posted in Hardware, Microsoft, Patents at 7:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Zune logo in black

Summary: From the upcoming product tactlessly named “Kinect” (formerly “Natal”) come some patents but a terrible demo and little promise

E

ARLIER today we had a discussion that also touched on KINect, which another new survey claims to be overly expensive. It is an overpriced (and over-marketed) piece of of junk which is disliked by many in the media before it’s even launched. The headline from Geek.com says “Kinect played by half-naked Asian babes still looks rubbish” and it concludes as follows: “Is Kinect a disaster waiting to happen? All the evidence points to this being a complete dodo for Microsoft.” We saw some other rants about it last week.

“Kinect demo leaves Microsoft red-faced,” says another report and there is “Kinect Demo Goes Horribly Wrong” — an article which states:

Events like these don’t inspire much confidence in Microsoft’s new motion control device. As you can see in the video above, the company believed it wise to hire a couple attractive models to showcase how playing with Kinect would somehow inspire attractive models to come to your house and jog in place. Or something… To be honest, I’m not really sure why the pretty ladies were asked to demo the peripheral, but it likely has something to do with the fact that boobs = attention so the more you can have showcasing your hardware the more attention you’ll get. Turns out, what actually happens is a hot mess.

[...]

Videos like these do very little to instill confidence in Kinect, and it makes us wonder just how much the carefully staged E3 demos will differ from the actual Kinect experience. The E3 Dance Central demos were conducted in a special area with all the sensors and dancers facing just so. Furthermore, all of Microsoft’s first-party demos were in hermetically sealed chambers to make sure nothing went wrong.

Truth be told, the mangers of such projects have left the company. They named “Kinect” (or “Natal”) as something that might actually succeed, but it doesn’t look like it. “Microsoft Kinect demo grinds to a halt in Hong Kong,” says another report:

Microsoft’s upcoming motion-controlled gaming peripheral, Kinect, has bombed at a Hong Kong animation festival, freezing mid game as two models attempted to demonstrate the much hyped accessory.

The Microsoft boosters don’t pay attention to the facts, so they dare dream that it will become a “$1 billion dollar business” (a controller? Really?). The only thing which surely comes out of this piece of hardware is patents, one of which got some press coverage, including:

As we saw earlier today, Microsoft uses patents aggressively. Its only possible excuse is that it too sometimes gets attacked by the likes of Uniloc [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], which in turn attacks Microsoft rivals (having received money from Microsoft). The Australian press has some more news coverage about it:

Ric Richardson, the “man in a van” battling Microsoft in a patent suit worth hundreds of millions of dollars, is now taking the fight to tech giants including Sony and McAfee.

The Australian inventor whose company, Uniloc, was awarded $US388 million in a patent infringement case against Microsoft, only to have the jury decision overturned by a judge, says his patent has withstood legal scrutiny and now the rest of the tech industry must pay up.

Several days ago his PR ‘front end’ tried contacting us to arrange an interview/chat with the manager. They probably mass-mailed it to many people, so in the interests of showing how this patent parasite operates, here is the mail

Good afternoon. I saw your article on Techrights entitled “Apple’s and Microsoft’s Robbery of Knowledge Using Patents, i4i Case Might Reach SCOTUS” and found it extremely interesting. As you know, Sony Corporation, McAfee, Activision, Quark and two other companies have been sued by Uniloc USA for patent infringement. The suits stem from a massive case against Microsoft (in which Uniloc initially won $388 million in damages – the 5th largest award for Software infringement ever) and the suit is remarkable because of its potential reach: the technology in question became so popular as to be virtually ubiquitous today. The case against Microsoft is currently on appeal.

The lawsuit mentioned below follows closely on the heels of a wave of other suits by small businesses against goliaths (including two filed last month – Ebay was sued for $3.8 billion by XPRT and Apple, Google, Microsoft and others were sued by NTP, as you know, over patented smartphone technology), indicating small businesses are becoming more aggressive in fighting for their intellectual property rights.

By way of background, in 1992 software companies were losing billions to casual software copying. Uniloc was the first to combine the concept of product key and Hardware ID, and using both they created an airtight registration system (before this invention, most software relied on just a product key that Tom, Dick and Harry could take to college, give to their girlfriends and before you know it – millions of dollars in lost sales). For the first time, Uniloc’s invention locked software to a specific computer, making this casual copying next to impossible.

After patenting the invention in the early 90s, Uniloc commercialized the product through a licensing deal with IBM, and then began talks with Microsoft. Microsoft signed a non-disclosure agreement to not reverse engineer the product. But, as Microsoft’s own internal documents show – that’s exactly what they did, then used the software in Windows XP. Microsoft is a bellwether for significant trends in the software publishing industry, many other companies – including the ones named in the lawsuit – observed their success and took the information that Microsoft had made public to pursue or develop their own software activation systems.

Please let me know if you would like to speak with Brad Davis, CEO of Uniloc USA; I’d be happy to coordinate a conversation.

Thank you for your consideration.

Uniloc does not want it to be known that it’s just a parasite, so it is trying to control the message. Techrights does not sympathise with Uniloc at all. In fact, the flood of abusers in this system is only ever helpful when calls are made to reform the system and get rid of the likes of Uniloc (a symptom of a disease). Check out this new article:

Law360 Calls Lawyer-Owned Shell Company a “Public Interest Group”

Our competitors are never afraid to call a spade… a public interest group.

Law360 seems to have a pretty flexible definition of that term. Last month, it included Americans for Fair Patent Use. Who is so concerned about such fairness? That would be F&B LLP, the Texas law firm that owns Americans for Fair Patent Use, which is a limited liability company set up to prosecute a false marking lawsuit filed in East Texas on July 14. The suit, against Apple, Sprint, Samsung, and Verizon, alleges that various smartphones made by those companies have false patent marks.

What a dysfunctional system. And what a bunch of unethical players.

Heads Are Said to be Rolling After Apple’s hypePhone 4 Antenna Cockup, iOS 4 Update is Broken

Posted in Apple at 6:40 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bust of Alexander

Summary: Apple too is experiencing difficulties after the launch of a defective product which the company is said to have known was defective before launch time

Did Apple Exec Depart Over “Antennagate”?

The Apple executive in charge of iPhone engineering and responsible for the innovative–yet problem prone–antenna design on the iPhone 4 has left the company. Based on Apple’s response to “antennagate”, and Steve Jobs press conference to address issues with the iPhone 4, it seems unlikely that Mark Papermaster’s exit is connected to the antenna issues.

Apple Loses SVP Mark Papermaster: Is The Antenna to Blame?

The playlist has run out for Apple’s senior vice president of engineering for the company’s iPod and iPhone devices. Mark Papermaster, a 26-year IBM veteran who started work with Apple in April 2009, has left the company. Neither party has spilled the details of the departure, but unconfirmed sources say that Papermaster was shown the door.

Apple has only gone as far as to confirm that an executive switch-up has taken place. Spokesman Steve Dowling told The New York Times that Papermaster, “is leaving the company and Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Macintosh hardware engineering, is assuming his responsibilities.”

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber claims that Papermaster was let go, possibly as a result of the oft-mentioned “Antennagate” situation affecting the signal quality of Apple’s iPhone 4. It was Mansfield, after all, and not Papermaster that appeared alongside CEO Steve Jobs and COO Tim Cook at the related July 16 press conference. The strangeness in that fact, according to Gruber, is that Papermaster was known around Apple as, “the guy responsible for the antenna.”

Apple seeing iOS 4 update issues with iPhone 3GS users despite report

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that Apple has not heard of any issues regarding iOS 4 on the iPhone 3GS. This may come as a shock to the nearly 1,000 replies on a single Apple Support Discussions forum thread where users are complaining of random reboots in the middle of calls after installing the update.

IRC Proceedings: August 8th, 2010

Posted in IRC Logs at 6:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Read the log

Enter the IRC channel now

Microsoft Security Worse Than Ever, All Windows Users Still Vulnerable

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Windows at 6:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Grunge cover

Summary: Code red for Microsoft as just days after an “emergency” patch comes the largest-ever patchset and all versions of Windows still seem to be left open for attackers

LAST WEEK was an emergency week for Windows users [1, 2, 3], all of whom were left vulnerable to hijacking due to Microsoft’s incompetence. Here is just one more article about it:

An emergency Windows software update will close a loophole in Microsoft’s operating system that makes it easy for hackers to take control of a computer using shortcuts

Have things truly improved after this emergency patch? Don’t bet on it. Microsoft is breaking new records in this Tuesday’s security update, which is said to plug 34 holes:

Microsoft will issue 14 security bulletins on Tuesday to plug 34 holes, including eight that are critical, in Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, SQL and Silverlight, the company said on Thursday.

There is a lot more coverage about this [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9] as “Microsoft [is] to issue record number of security bulletins next Tuesday” [via].

For those who think that 34 holes is the correct number, think again. Microsoft is patching its software silently and unethically so as to fake numbers that its employees decrease by hiding some of the applied fixes. In other words, Microsoft is knowingly lying and giving fake numbers. Previously we wrote about how Microsoft also spurned researchers who had warned about security flaws in Windows [1, 2, 3]. Microsoft is trying to make up after the Microsoft-Spurned Researcher Collective had been created and “TippingPoint’s ZDI sets a 6-month deadline on vendors to encourage faster patching,” according to this report. There is more information about it here.

Microsoft’s problems are not over and all Windows users continue to be vulnerable to attacks (even after Patch Tuesday) because:

1. Unpatched kernel-level vuln affects all Windows versions

Researchers have identified a kernel-level vulnerability in Windows that allows attackers to gain escalated privileges and may also allow them to remotely execute malicious code. All versions of the Microsoft OS are affected, including the heavily fortified Windows 7.

2. Microsoft probes new Windows kernel bug

3. Unpatched Vulnerability in All Windows Versions Claimed

4. Kernel-level Vulnerabilities Hit All Windows Versions

Microsoft on Friday announced to have launched an investigation into kernel-level vulnerability hitting Windows. As per reports, all versions of the Microsoft OS have been engulfed by the bug, including the heavily fortified Windows 7.

We wrote about this in a previous post. Rather than security improving over time, Microsoft seems to be getting worse and the number of holes is increasing.

Another Vice President Quits Microsoft: Birger Steen

Posted in Microsoft, Virtualisation, Windows at 5:40 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

But Parallels is now being watched and run by a Microsoft executive

Webcam

Summary: Another top man leaves Microsoft, but it’s not necessarily good news because he becomes the CEO of Parallels

Departures carry on at Microsoft, which is nothing like the giant it once was. Microsoft is still an unethical bully (more so than before), but it is declining, so key managers are leaving.

Birger Steen is the latest VP among many who leave. Here is the press release and coverage from 3 Microsoft boosters with a blog (they are the only sources we found covering this, but there might be more).

Birger Steen, who we mentioned here briefly in 2008 is indeed ‘infecting’ a company which used to do GNU/Linux virtualisation and now does more around Macs.

Parallels Inc., known for its Parallels Desktop virtualization software for running Windows on Macs, today named a Microsoft executive, Birger Steen, as its new president. Steen, previously Microsoft’s vice president of small and medium business and distribution, is set to join Parallels next month. The company has its U.S. headquarters in Renton, south of Seattle.

From Mary Jo Foley:

The latest to depart is Birger Steen, who at the end of August will be hanging up his hat as Vice President, Worldwide Small Medium Business & Distribution. Steen is going to become president at virtualization vendor Parallels, according to a Microsoft spokesperson. Microsoft currently is searching for a replacement for Steen.

Microsoft Nick writes:

Birger Steen, Microsoft’s vice president for small and midmarket business and distribution (SMB&D), is leaving the company to take over as president of Parallels.

On the brighter side of things, Microsoft is left more disrupted by management vacuum.

Microsoft’s Patent Offensive “a Sign They’re Not Making Enough Money With Their Old Business.”

Posted in Finance, Microsoft, Patents at 5:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Microsoft, the world’s most valuable company, declared a profit of $4.5 billion in 1998; when the cost of options awarded that year, plus the change in the value of outstanding options, is deducted, the firm made a loss of $18 billion, according to Smithers.”

The Economist, 1999

Summary: Analysis of Microsoft’s transition into a bully that sues companies using software patents in order to make money; further evidence of software patents disdain, even from patent holders (monopoly owners)

UNDERNEATH the coat of hype, Microsoft is a fragile company with persistent layoffs and increasing debt. Nowadays, as we repeatedly show, Microsoft is attacking those who share Windows and claiming money from them. In essence, it is suing and extorting its very own distributors.

“What this really ought to be called is, extortion as a business model.”But Microsoft is not just suing and extorting its partners; its competitors too receive similar treatment. “A sign they’re bleeding money” is how Rui Seabra explains it and he adds: “When a company starts using it’s [software patents] portfolio regularly, it’s a sign they’re not making enough money with their old business.”

Watch this gory metaphor from the headline of the ‘Microsoft press’ (about the Salesforce extortion): “Microsoft Draws Blood in Salesforce.com Patent Suit”

Glyn Moody asks: “old patents to block new ideas?”

What this really ought to be called is, extortion as a business model. Here is the article Moody was referring to:

Microsoft and Salesforce.com Patent Dispute – a Sign of Battles to Come?

[...]

It’s also a sign that Microsoft is starting to cash in on its patent portfolio.

So, that leads to the next question:

What company is Microsoft targeting next?

Microsoft has resorted to patent racketeering [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. How shameful. Apologists of Microsoft rarely defend this strategy, either. Here is Microsoft’s booster Alexander Wolfe writing about the rush for patents. The Financial Times is producing similar patent propaganda by equating patents with progress (rather than hindering of one’s progress). From the opening paragraph:

The north-east, birthplace of the steam train and Newcastle Brown Ale, is once again a hub for new ideas, generating more patents per person per pound invested in R&D than any other region of the UK over the past decade.

It is articles like this one which brainwash the public and have the public believe that patents are beneficial to the public rather than the biggest corporations (which use them to marginalise emerging businesses and artificially elevate prices).

Watch this good new article from Vivek Wadhwa, a co-author of several software patents. He is calling for such patents to be abolished in his new piece “Why We Need To Abolish Software Patents” (we mentioned his criticisms of patents last week as well [1, 2]):

During my tech days, I co-authored four software patents. Each cost my startup about $15,000—which seemed like a fortune in those days. I didn’t really expect these to give me any advantage; after all if my competitors had half a brain, they would simply learn all they could from my patent filing and do things better. But I needed to raise financing, and VCs wouldn’t give me the time of day unless I could tell a convincing story about how we, alone, owned the intellectual property for our secret sauce. We got the financing, and the plaques of the patents looked great in our reception area, so the expense was worth it. But there was definitely no competitive advantage.

[...]

New research by Berkeley professors Stuart J.H. Graham, Robert P. Merges, Pam Samuelson, and Ted Sichelman highlights the extent of this problem. They surveyed 1332 early-stage technology companies founded since 1998, of which 700 were in the software/internet space. Here is what they found:

* In software, only 24% of startups even bothered to file a patent. In medical devices, this proportion was 76%; and in biotech, 75%. Far more venture-backed companies file patents: in software, 67%; in medical devices, 94%; and in biotech, 97%.
* Venture-backed companies also file more patents than others that file patents. They file, on average, 5.9 patents as against the all-company average of 1.7. In medical devices and biotech, this is 25.2 vs. 15.0 and 34.6 vs. 9.7, respectively.

Actually, VCs don’t want software patents (at least those who have blogs) and they too — like Wadhwa — are enthusiastically citing the new study from Stuart Graham, Robert Merges, Pam Samuelson, and Ted Sichelman [1, 2, 3].

The world does not want software patents, but Microsoft does want software patents. What does that say about Microsoft’s meaning to the world?

Media Spin Watch: Internet Explorer 9 Promotion, MS-PL Defence, GPL Scare, and SAP as an ‘Open Source’ Company

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GPL, Microsoft, Windows at 4:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“You’re getting very dizzy…”

Twirl

Summary: An aggregation of nonsense from news sites, ranging from Microsoft boosting to FUD about its competition, notably software which respects the users’ freedom

THIS post is an assortment of observations about very recent news which we gathered. We start with Internet Explorer 9 (IE 9) because Microsoft deceives about its speed and about its security. Here is yet another criticism of what Microsoft does through its boosters, people who function like the company’s PR appendage while trying to seem independent:

I saw Microsoft spammer extraordinaire, Paul Thurrott, talking about IE 9…

Apparently IE 9 is the Microsoft browser that will solve world hunger, cure AIDS, and bring lasting peace to the middle east.

The spin:

IE 9 is fast, real fast.

IE 9 is standards compliant.

IE 9 will be more secure.

The truth:

IE 9 so far is not that much faster than Firefox 3.0, it loses to Firefox 3.5, is is half the speed of Firefox 4 development builds in the synthetic Peacekeeper benchmarks, and manages to give a similar spread on Sunspider. IE 9 will have hardware accelerated canvas and video playback, but so will Firefox 4, and that launches months ahead of IE 9 even if Microsoft releases on time. Opera already has production level support for hardware acceleration, today. IE 9′s pre-beta speed benefits over existing versions of Firefox is questionable, its benefits over Firefox 4 are non-existent, and when you compare IE to Opera, it is laughable.

Another writer whom we criticised here before is seemingly promoting Microsoft licences that it controls. “The MS-PL is not a bad license as far as things go,” he says in order to justify the “all licences are equal” mode of thinking. We have already written a great deal about what’s wrong with MS-PL (parts of Mono will soon be MS-PL-licensed).

“It’s essentially licensing FUD and it’s working out well for OpenLogic, at least financially.”Another company which cares a lot about licences is OpenLogic, which makes money from scanning proprietary code (for the most part) for violations. It’s essentially licensing FUD and it’s working out well for OpenLogic, at least financially [1, 2]. Phil Odence (Black Duck) does pretty much the same thing and he is marketing his company in blog comments and blog posts in IDG’s ‘open source’ blog (Black Duck is a proprietary software company) after his colleague from IDG created some GPL scare (watch the picture he chose). It is worth remembering that Black Duck recently promoted SAP with its parasitical approach towards "Open Source" (attacking it while exploiting it, pretty much like Microsoft) and this gets promoted by Savio Rodrigues, not surprisingly at all. The whole episode seems like a mutual advertisement or endorsement. It is more of an advertisement for Black Duck in places, but for SAP too it’s a form of reputation laundering (pretending that a proprietary software company is somehow “open”).

“[A]fter analysing a five-day working week in the media, across 10 hard-copy papers, ACIJ and Crikey found that nearly 55% of stories analysed were driven by some form of public relations. The Daily Telegraph came out on top of the league ladder with 70% of stories analysed triggered by public relations. The Sydney Morning Herald gets the wooden spoon with (only) 42% PR-driven stories for that week.”

“Over half your news is spin”

Patent Threat Banshee Gets Hooks Into Ubuntu 10.10

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Ubuntu at 4:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fishing equipment and seaweed

Summary: Another word of warning about Mono software which is excluded from the MCP and why Canonical should not mimic Windows and Mac OS X

TWO days ago we wrote about Banshee being put in Ubuntu 10.10 NBE by default. It turns out now that Bertrand Lorentz is already integrating this patent liability with the desktop edition too. From the OMG! Ubuntu Web site (now in the midst of a controversy for trolling GNU/Linux users):

Bertand Lorentz has begun work on Sound Menu integration for Banshee as part of the Banshee Community Extensions project.

Some months ago we showed that in order for Ubuntu 10.10 to become Mono-free it just needs to remove Tomboy (and gbrainy [1, 2, 3, 4] which is tiny), having recently decided to remove F-Spot [1, 2]. Some sites carry on promoting Tomboy, which is not exactly helpful (OMG! Ubuntu is also promoting a lot of Mono applications).

“Apple’s market share is very scarce, but it gets a lot of publicity because of demography.”It is worth saying all of this because of care about Ubuntu, which is just the victim of Microsoft/Novell encroachments. Being one of the vacuum cleaners of users, it also becomes the victim of those who promote Microsoft’s agenda (Microsoft puts Canonical in its SEC filings, as a serious competitive risk alongside Apple)

Speaking of Ubuntu, its strategy ought to focus less on Fog Computing and more on advancing freedom ideals. Fedora does pretty well in that regard. Canonical’s attempts to mimic Apple (probably inspired by Mark Shuttleworth and Mac Asay, a longtime Apple fan) is another strategy which is bound to disappoint because trying to make GNU/Linux desktops mimic another operating system like Windows just leads to disappointment. The user comes to expect that it’s just a cheap version (knock-off) of something else but gets upset when it behaves differently. Ubuntu’s initial target demography ought to be different too; by mimicking Apple Canonical may fail to see that not all Ubuntu users live in London offices. In fact, many use it due to cost, at least initially.

Apple’s market share is very scarce, but it gets a lot of publicity because of demography. Do not let the press resort to taking some rich schools as an example for Apple proponents to stroke their ego with [1, 2].

Ballmer's slide on Macs and GNU/Linux
Steve Ballmer’s presentation slide
from 2009 shows GNU/Linux as bigger than Apple on the desktop

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