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01.04.11

Links 4/1/2011: Linux is Everywhere, GNU/Linux to be Sold in Walmart

Posted in News Roundup at 5:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Linux everywhere

    2010 was the year in which Linux took over. Not that many people will have noticed.

  • GNU/Linux Returns to Walmart

    Walmart lost interest in GNU/Linux on netbooks for some reason but welcomes it again on tablets.

  • Linux: CrunchBang Linux 10 on a MacBook Pro

    I tried CrunchBang Linux 10 on a MacBook Pro. Previously, I had a lot of trouble dual booting with OS X, so I did the same thing I did for Ubuntu–I told it to use the entire disk. This turned out to be a big mistake.

    I put GRUB on the MBR since I wasn’t dual booting. I also set up an encrypted LVM. The system wouldn’t boot. I just got a flashing folder with a “?” icon. I think this is a known problem with Debian right now.

  • How your secure your Linux system

    There is no golden rule for security that applies in every single case, and even if there were it would have been cracked already. Security is something that needs to be worked upon, and personalised. Follow the tips and tools in this tutorial as we show you how to adapt them to your very own Linux installation.

  • Desktop

    • Happy New Year & Browser and OS stats for 2010

      Browsers
      Firefox 57.11%
      Chrome 16.44%
      Internet Explorer 16.40%
      Safari 3.43%
      Opera 3.25%
      Mozilla 2.21%
      Konqueror .47%

      Firefox is now on a multi-year slide while Chrome has passed IE to move into the number two position. Safari made some significant gains while Konqueror use was cut in half.
      Operating Systems
      Windows 51.71%
      Linux 41.33%
      Macintosh 5.78%
      iPhone .21%
      Android .15%

    • A tip for software companies.

      It amazes me that so many times people who are in charge of large and small software companies make dumb decisions. They get nice salaries but often make decisions that come back and bite them later on. One good strategy for any large or small company that is lagging behind on the Windows or Mac OS market is to create software for GNU/Linux.

  • Server

  • Ballnux

    • Samsung Galaxy Player up for pre-order at Amazon UK, £150 buys 8GB worth of Android Market apps

      We Americans may not see it until summer, but Samsung’s 3.2-inch Galaxy Player is about to call Europe home, as following French presales the PMP has now appeared at Amazon UK. There, it’s sporting a tentative January 7th release date and a pair of capacities and prices, with a modest £150 (about $234) nabbing you 8GB of storage and £180 (roughly $280) fully doubling that capacity to 16GB.

    • Peerless Finds Linux

      Companies rely on technology for marketing, human resources, supply chain and numerous other applications, and as a rule, executives understand the tasks these singular tools execute and comprehend their cost-cutting benefits.

  • Kernel Space

    • Graphics Stack

      • VIA Launches A Graphics Card. Will It Work With Linux?

        Linux is not mentioned once in the press release. At least its better than their S3 Graphics side talking about magical Linux drivers in their press releases.

      • The Challenge In Delivering Open-Source GPU Drivers

        In order to see same-day support “out of the box” for Sandy Bridge graphics, in the case of Ubuntu 10.10 the Intel developers would have had to mainly meet the Linux 2.6.35 kernel and Mesa 7.9 releases of months ago. The final Sandy Bridge bits would have had to be done over six months ago when the 2.6.35 merge window was open and Mesa 7.9 was released this September. The 2.6.35 kernel merge window, which is what’s used by Ubuntu Maverick, opened in early May and per the Linux kernel development process, only bug-fixes would have been allowed after that window closed. While the Linux kernel release schedule is predictable for the most part, the Mesa updates come every quarter too and are generally released by Intel’s own Ian Romanick. Even if Ubuntu 10.10 shipped with “out of the box” OpenGL acceleration support for these new Intel processors, the code would have still been months out of date. There certainly would have been new features and bug-fixes the users would have wanted, like the VA-API Sandy Bridge support not going into libva until early December and the many Mesa Sandy Bridge fixes since then.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments

    • GNOME Desktop

      • Multiple backends for GTK+

        I have to blog about this before the other Kristian finds out and beats me to it. Kris wrote about the new GDK backend work that Alex Larsson started and Benjamin Otte and Matthias Clasen finished. The backend work lets us compile several GDK backends into GTK+ at the same time. Over the holidays I was able to dust off my Wayland backend work for GTK+ and bring it up to date with all the cleanup that’s been going on and make it work with the multi-backend stuff.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

    • Red Hat Family

      • Is Red Hat Ready to Rebound?

        Linux provider Red Hat has taken a beating of late, as investors sold their shares following a sizable run in the stock. But with the stock up 2 percent on Monday, can investors assume the declines are finished?

      • Red Hat Inc. (RHT) EVP, CFO Charles E Jr Peters sells 22,364 Shares
      • Cramer’s Mad Money – The Top Dow Stock for 2011 (1/3/11)
      • Suit of Red Hat ex-CEO is referred for mediation

        The $60 million lawsuit filed by the former chairman and CEO of Red Hat against his family’s former financial advisers has been referred to mediation.

        The referral by the federal court in Raleigh means that the next stage in the lawsuit filed by Matthew Szulik and members of his family, which accuses an investment management firm of losing $60 million of their money through improper investments and fraud, will be conducted behind closed doors.

      • FSMLabs TimeKeeper Supports Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 for High-Precision Time Synchronization

        Support of Leading Linux Platform Enables Refined Market Response and Venue Arbitrage Through Precision Time Data Delivered to Trading Apps

      • Press Release: Linux RedHat Advanced Adapter is Now Being Released by IdentityForge

        In their latest venture into server based OS adapters IdentityForge announced today that they now support Linux RedHat OS. IdentityForge is the leader in standard access integration into many different target systems, including ERP, OS, Mainframe, and application security managers.

      • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 review

        A sensible new release of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform that, with enhanced hardware scalability plus support for the latest RAS technologies, should enable it to maintain its position at the top of the corporate Linux tree.

        It’s not cutting edge and there are no big surprises, but then that’s what the enterprise Linux market demands, the only worrisome note being the move to KVM rather than Xen virtualisation.

        Pros: Scalability to 4,096 cores/threads and 64TB of memory; default EXT4 file system; integrated KVM virtualisation; SELinux sandboxing of VMs; new range of subscription-based add-ons

        Cons: EXT4 limited to 16TB; move to KVM virtualisation may deter some customers from upgrading

      • Fedora

        • Fedora: How many Fedora-based distros are there?

          I noticed the creation of a new Fedora mailing list today when Rahul Sundaram sent out the first post on it… a mailing list for Fedora Remixers.

          That made me wonder just how many Linux distributions there are that are Fedora-based. I did a quick search and found a Fedora wiki page that says, “There are roughly over a hundred distributions based on Fedora.” Then it links to a distrowatch.com search page that shows 41 distributions that are “Fedora based”.

        • Download every default Ubuntu and Fedora wallpaper in one pack

          Well it’s now been updated to include the latest Fedora 14 drapes and the Maverick murals.

    • Debian Family

      • 16 Debian contributors that you can thank

        I put 5 EUR in Flattr each month and I like to spend those among other Debian contributors. That’s why I keep a list of Debian people that I have seen on Flattr (for most of them I noticed through an article on Planet Debian).

      • How to install build-essential in Debian
      • Canonical/Ubuntu

        • Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 218

          In This Issue

          * Announcing the next Ubuntu User Days Event
          * Results from the December 17th Americas Membership Board meeting
          * Results from the December Asia-Oceania Membership Board meeting
          * Welcome new Edubuntu members and an Edubuntu Developer
          * Announcing Ubuntu IRC Membership
          * Natty Alpha 1 Released
          * Ubuntu Stats
          * LoCo News
          * Launchpad News
          * Caching Ubuntu Package Downloads
          * Sound Indicator news and updates
          * Natty Translations Plans I-III
          * Ubuntu Screencasts: How To Sign the Ubuntu Code of Conduct
          * Working together to get Unity ready for Natty
          * Project Unity L10N
          * Unity Bitesize Progress Report for 20 December
          * Checking in with the Artwork Team
          * No More PS3 CD Builds for Natty
          * Paul Tagliamonte’s “Myth Busted” Series
          * Ubuntu Translations Interviews: André Gondim (Brazilian Portuguese Translation Team)
          * AskUbuntu reaches 5000 questions – 11000 answers – 7000 users – 50000 votes
          * Ubuntu Cloud Screencasts
          * Design Museum exhibition London
          * Full Circle Magazine – Issue #44
          * Full Circle Magazine – Issue #43
          * Featured Podcasts
          * Weekly Ubuntu Development Team Meetings
          * Monthly Team Reports: October 2010
          * Monthly Team Reports: November 2010
          * Upcoming Meetings and Events
          * Updates and Security for 6.06, 8.04, 9.10, 10.04 and 10.10 in December
          * And Much Much More

        • LibreOffice Is the Default Office Suite for Ubuntu 11.04

          Matthias Klose announced yesterday, January 3rd, some details regarding the replacement of the old OpenOffice.org 3.2.1 packages with the new LibreOffice 3.3 ones, starting with the upcoming Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) Alpha 2 release.

        • Ubuntu Unleashed 2011 Edition

          I am the sole editor and contributor of new content for the just-released Ubuntu Unleashed 2011 Edition. This book is intended for intermediate to advanced users.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Conservancy Activity Summary, October-December 2010

    I had hoped to blog more regularly about my work at Conservancy, and hopefully I’ll do better in the coming year. But now seems a good time to summarize what has happened with Conservancy since I started my full-time volunteer stint as Executive Director from 2010-10-01 until 2010-12-31.

  • Why I am still supporting Free Software?

    Today I no longer do programming, except for a few improvements at getdeb and some scripting at my job when I look at code this days is mostly to identify a problem or feature. For me the (open source) code has lost the magic it had a few years ago. Thankfully to my loved wife, daughter and friends I no longer have the required free time or desire to learn/work on what is required to fix bugs or develop new features. I have lost most of the capacity to use one Free Software’s fundamental freedoms “The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1)” , I can still do many things with the code, but no longer the ones I wish.

    Why am I still here, an Ubuntu member, supporting Free Software yet economically dependent on and surrounded by commercial/closed source software?

    I have assimilated the values of the Free Software -without the radicalism of some of it’s activists-.
    I believe that the ability to keep and expand such freedom is still more important than to use it.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox, Linux and the future of the web

        Tristan Nitot started working for Netscape in 1997, and was one of the first volunteers to work on the Mozilla project that rose out of Netscape’s ashes.

        He started Mozilla Europe (he’s now president of that organisation) and has seen the birth, growth and worldwide success of Firefox from the inside – so who better to ask about the future of the project, how its guiding philosophy chimes with that of Linux and why the folks at Mozilla welcome the competition from Google’s mighty Chrome.

  • Oracle

    • A Year After: The People

      It’s been (almost) a year since Oracle’s Acquisition of Sun. Some of the ex-Sun folks stayed at Oracle but others moved to other companies, small and large, public, private or still in stealth mode. This Diaspora will contribute talent, expertise and experience to many companies, and, I hope, also some of the culture at Sun that I’ve enjoyed for so many years.

    • Despite anti-Oracle hysteria, firm is an Open Source powerhouse

      Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, one of the IT industry´s most hard-working firms in the fight for open standards and against the Redmond juggernaut, the Evil Empire of Redmondia. Sun was also one of the most unrecognised firms by FOSS pundits, despite its vast contributions to the open source movement, be it in the form of developers on Sun´s payroll collaborating with FOSS projects -from Gnome to MySQL to OpenOffice.org to you-name-it, and also when taking into account the hundreds of thousands of lines of proprietary code turned to open source.

  • BSD

    • Learning About NetBSD 5.1

      The NetBSD project isn’t one which I’ve given much thought to over the years. Its reputation of being able to run on just about any architecture is something I consider amazing, but not specifically useful for my purposes. The project’s famed flexibility, when placed against the backdrop of the rest of the open source community, brings to mind a contortionist in a room full of gymnasts: impressive, but not so much as to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps that’s unfair, I am very much an outsider where NetBSD is concerned. Aside from my pleasant brush with Jibbed last year, I’ve never taken the time to properly investigate the project.

  • Project Releases

    • OCRFeeder 0.7.3 released

      I’ve just released OCRFeeder 0.7.3.

      This first version of 2011 doesn’t introduce as many features as the previous ones but fixes a few issues and introduces user documentation (F1 help).

    • HandBrake 0.9.5 Has Been Released (Ubuntu Installation Instructions)

      Handbrake is a multithreaded video transcoder that supports any DVD-like source and most multimedia file it can get libavformat to read and libavcodec to decode.

      Even though it’s not its first aim, Handbrake is used by many as a DVD ripper and it was voted as “best Linux DVD ripper” by the WebUpd8 readers.

    • Muon Suite 1.1 RC

      The release candidate of the Muon package management suite 1.1 is now available. As with beta 2, the main focus for the release candidate milestone was to iron out issues to make sure the 1.1.0 release rocks. (Expect 1.1.0 to be released in around 2 weeks) Packages are available for the development version of Kubuntu 11.04 as well as for Kubuntu 10.10 via the QApt PPA as usual. Packages of interest are the muon and muon-installer packages.

  • Government

    • Code for America: A New Kind of Public Service

      Government can be seen as an answer to the often messy question of collective action. There are some things people need together, but since that’s not easy to coordinate, we set up institutions to do so. Over time, the government’s focus and expectations developed — understandably — to a place where it was seen less as a coordinator and more as a service provider. This is what some call the vending machine model of government. My tax dollars in, a safe and well-kept community out.

      But, as we’re all seeing now, that machine is profoundly broken. Buckling under the weight of the budget crisis and burdened with ever-increasing demands from its citizens, governments are unable to provide those services we’ve come to expect. The federal debt is in the trillions, many cities and states are nearing bankruptcy, and some already have. And so this analogy needs to change. Government can’t be a vending machine any longer; it must be a building block, something we use together to create the communities we hope to live in.

  • Licensing

    • The Unlicense: The First Year in Review

      It’s Public Domain Day again, and it’s now been exactly a year since I first introduced the Unlicense.org initiative: an easy-to-use template and process intended to help coders waive their copyright and dedicate all their code to the public domain with no strings attached. It seems a good time for a brief recap of the happenings on this front over the last 365 days.

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Public Domain Day 2011

      It’s January 1st, 2011, New Year’s Day and, for millions of “works” in the copyright law sense of the term, the first day of the rest of their existence. Yes, it is Public Domain Day, the day on which “life-plus” copyrights expire in those countries which calculate the duration of copyright from the death of the author, for N years thereafter, and to the end of that final year.

    • CC: Thank You!

      Thanks to all our supporters who helped us raise over $500,000 for our annual fundraising campaign! Stay tuned for a precise total and analysis — we’re still counting mailed checks! If you didn’t get a chance to donate to the 2010 campaign, start 2011 off right by showing the world how much you appreciate CC.

    • Open Data

      • Mashing up library data with open source

        Open Data

        Let’s start with the obvious. Without open data there wouldn’t be mashups. Coming from the library industry I’ve often heard vendors or computer services staff say “you can’t have access to that,” but it never sat well with me. I always wanted to know why. Why if I spent eight hours a day entering that data couldn’t have access to it in any format I wanted?

        The ludicrousness of it all became even clearer to me as I was doing my mashups research. There were all if these amazing APIs out there that I could use to enhance the data I was putting into our systems, but without proper access to my own data I was stuck watching organizations around the world making use of these tools instead of being able to participate in mashing up content. I’ve heard this phenomenon in libraries referred to as a “culture of learned helplessness.” After years of being told “no” we have come to just accept that the answer is going to be “no” and we no longer ask “why” or try to find a way around the limitations.

        This experience isn’t limited to libraries of course. We all have been in situations where we too have come up against these barriers of entry. Being the stubborn person that I am though I couldn’t accept it and so I moved away from the “culture of learned helplessness” to become an educator, teaching the power that comes along with open source and open data.

    • Open Access/Content

      • What Could Have Been Entering the Public Domain on January 1, 2011?

        What other works would be entering the public domain if we had the pre-1978 copyright laws? You might recognize some of the titles below.

        * The first two volumes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers
        * Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (his own translation/adaptation of the original version in French, En attendant Godot, published in 1952)
        * Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim
        * Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception
        * Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
        * Pauline Réage’s Histoire d’O
        * Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent, subtitled “The influence of comic books on today’s youth”
        * Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
        * Mac Hyman’s No Time for Sergeants
        * Alan Le May’s The Searchers
        * C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, the fifth volume of The Chronicles of Narnia
        * Alice B. Toklas’ The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook

  • Programming

    • Parallel Programming: Announcement
    • What happens when over 1000 Java developers compare their development environments?

      Last year, we published a report on turnaround time, tools and application containers in the Java ecosystem. Over 1300 Java developers ended up sharing info about their development environment, and over 40,000 people found these results helpful.

    • Fujitsu Accelerates Exhaustive Verification of Java Software Through Parallel Processing
    • 7 programming languages on the rise

      Programmers looking for work in enterprise shops would be foolish not to learn the languages that underlie this paradigm, yet a surprising number of niche languages are fast beginning to thrive in the enterprise. Look beyond the mainstays, and you’ll find several languages that are beginning to provide solutions to increasingly common problems, as well as old-guard niche languages that continue to occupy redoubts. All offer capabilities compelling enough to justify learning a new way to juggle brackets, braces, and other punctuation marks.

    • New JBoss puts Java EE 6 to work

      The newest version of the open source JBoss Application Server has been released, and is now one of the first production-ready app servers to support Java EE 6.

      Java EE 6 is the newest version of the Java Platform, Enterprise Edition, which was designed to build enterprise applications with the Java programming language and related tools. The Java Community Process (JCP) oversees the development of Java EE.

    • Minimalism

      What do Scheme, Bash, and elisp have in common?

      They’re infinitely flexible and infinitely customizable and, if you force two users with great libraries of customizations to swap profiles, you are a cruel, cruel person.

  • Standards/Consortia

    • Future-proof your data archive

      For example, Archivematica’s media-type preservation plans convert .doc, .rtf, and .wpd word processing files to the XML-based Open Document Format (ODF) for preservation and to Adobe’s PDF for viewing. Likewise, the system saves .bmp, .jpg, .jp2, .png, .gif, .psd, .tga, and .tiff raster image files as uncompressed TIFFs for preservation and as JPEGs for viewing.

Leftovers

  • Twitter 2010 by the Numbers
  • How Cumbria’s village halls are pioneering a hi-tech revolution

    This winter, 130 activists gathered to discuss superfast broadband in a village hall in Cumbria. They had come from 100 villages, by 100 paths. Ali had presumably travelled north along the shore of Ullswater, rounded Loadpot Hill and turned south down the Lowther valley, until (three miles from where she began, but 45 minutes by car), she could take the narrow track east across the moor. Brian came over Hartside at 3,000ft, down the switchbacks into Eden, and worked his way along the East Fellside. They were joining a community experiment, which is becoming almost a revolution.

  • News of The World unique user numbers collapse behind paywall

    The News of the World website has recorded a 59 per cent decrease in unique users to its website in November -it’s first full month behind a paywall – compared to September 2010 – its last free-to-air month, according to comScore data supplied to the Beehive.

  • Gamer Completes Quake Under 1 Hour @ 100%

    A gamer completed the original Quake title for the PC in just over 52 minutes, killing off all enemies and discovering all secret areas.

  • 2011 New Years Computer Resolutions

    Every year about this time, people make resolutions. The origins of this practice are shrouded in mystery, but it suffices to say that for most people they have become a joke. Few people actually follow through on any of them. This is mostly because they are unachievable resolutions. This year, I have a list of universal resolutions for computer users that may solve part of this problem and help them improve themselves in the process.

  • Google Linux search suggestions

    Google Inc. continues to make incremental improvements to web search, and in this vein, Instant search was added in 2010. For better or worse, the accompanying search suggestions cannot be disabled. This drop down list is intended to save time, but it also gives some clues about what other people are searching for.

  • Is RSS becoming irrelevant?

    If you’re reading this post via a feed, you aren’t a “typical” user. According to stats gathered by Mozilla only about 7% of users use the RSS button. Though fewer Windows use the button, and nearly 14% of Linux users make use of it.

  • Science

    • ‘intelligent design is not creationism in any shape or form’ – yeah, right!

      A few weeks ago one of my fellow SciBloggers, Siouxsie Wiles, wrote an interesting piece about a childrens’ film that she’d seen where the underlying message seemed to be: you don’t have to understand, you just have to believe. Which as she says, does rather encapsulate a lot of pseudo-scientific nonsense that’s promoted these days (homeopathy, ‘miracle mineral supplements’, etc etc etc). Anyway, Siouxsie mentioned creationism in her post, & now a new commenter has dropped by to inform us that ‘intelligent design… is not creationism in any shape or form, but serious scientific debate about the latest evidence for the origins of life.’ My immediate response emulated the famous Tui billboards (here’s an example), but then I & other regulars there went on to point out that this comment is a long way off-base. And I thought the subject was worth revisiting in a separate post.

      For Siouxsie’s correspondent is wrong – so-called ‘intelligent design’ is creationism, pure and simple, and not a valid scientific explanation for life’s diversity. There’s a lot of evidence out there to back up this statement.

  • Security

  • Defence/Police/Aggression

    • Britain’s anti-terror control orders condemned as ‘trademark of despots’

      A powerful coalition of human rights groups has intensified pressure on the government to abandon its use of control orders, as ministers continue to wrangle over whether to scrap the controversial counter-terrorism measure.

      An international alliance of civil liberties organisations has united to condemn the UK for presiding over one of the “most serious violations” of natural justice in any developed democracy.

    • Monitoring schoolchildren

      Hundreds of schools have begun monitoring children in the past few year with the United Kingdom intent on stepping up the pace in the new year. Biometrics and CCTV are the most prevalent with many schools in Scotland planning on introducing or expanding schemes in the coming year.

    • United Nations against internet filtering
  • Cablegate

    • Why we must all join in the battle for WikiLeaks

      The WikiLeaks saga could be summed up as an affair which pitches the no-frontier freedom of the internet against the might of the world’s most powerful state. Its operations, impeded in the United States where private companies buckled under pressure from the administration, but relayed across the world thanks to the multiplication of ‘Mirror’ sites (see Mediapart’s WikiLeaksMirror site here), the daily disclosure of confidential US diplomatic cables has been continuing in the manner of a kind of Chinese torture. Totalling 251, 287, they have been released at the rate of a little less than 2,000, day after day, drop by drop.

  • Finance

    • The New Speed of Money, Reshaping Markets

      A SUBSTANTIAL part of all stock trading in the United States takes place in a warehouse in a nondescript business park just off the New Jersey Turnpike.

    • NJ Server Farms Remake the US Financial Markets

      he engine of Wall Street has shifted from the stock exchange floor to data centers in New Jersey, where computer-driven trading now accounts for 56 percent of all trading activity, according to the New York Times.

    • Goldman Sachs Prospers at Taxpayers’ Expense

      Robert Rubin was a very powerful man. After 26 years and rising to the level of co-senior partner, he left Goldman Sachs in 1994 to become Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration.

      [...]

      What is this Goldman Sachs that issues forth such powerful people as Robert Rubin? What is its magic? Maybe we can find something out from their financial statements? If we look at the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. and Subsidiaries Consolidated Statements of Earnings for December 2009, the company identifies itself as being in three businesses: Investment Banking, Trading and Principal Investments, and Asset Management and Securities Services. To get a better historic picture of these businesses, we have gone back to the beginning of Goldman Sachs’ life as a publicly held company in 1998.

    • Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Were on Dudley’s Agenda in First Days on The Job

      Meetings with top Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. officials were on the schedule of Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley in his first days on the job in February 2009, the regional reserve bank chief’s daybook showed yesterday.

      Dudley, a former partner and chief U.S. economist at Goldman, had an appointment to meet that bank’s chairman, Lloyd Blankfein, on Feb. 6, 2009, according to his schedule for 2009 and the first nine months of 2010. Four days earlier, Goldman was the topic of a planned meeting between Dudley and his staff.

    • New year resolutions for the business world

      Halt your threats and turn on the charm. We’ve heard enough dire warnings that JP Morgan, HSBC and hordes of hedge funds will quit the square mile in favour of Hong Kong or Geneva if higher taxes and bonus restrictions come into play. The public, for the most part, doesn’t care – in fact, there are plenty of volunteers who would pay bankers’ taxi fares to Heathrow in the hope of seeing the back of them.

      If you want an end to “banker bashing”, change tactics. Make the case persuasively for the contribution that finance makes to Britain’s economy. Explain how you’re helping business to grow. Teach us about how you can put our savings to work. Give us lessons that you’ve learned from the credit crunch. Tell us why we should love bankers. Nicely.

    • Special Report BAC, GS, C, JPM, MS, AIG, MET, DB

      A suggestion that banks deemed “Too Big” to fail should be broken up or made small enough to fail. an idea backed by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and hedge-fund manager David Einhorn, also failed to win any support from US policy makers, as bank executives argued that size alone did not make a company risky, and that it could be essential for banks to compete.

    • Prosperity, Real or Imagined

      The author sees a conflict at the heart of Americans’ attitudes toward money and debt. We tend to view ourselves “as reasonably prudent and sober people,” he writes, while “the choices we make at the ballot box seem to be at odds with that self-image.”

    • Barack Obama: Jobs a priority in 2011

      President Barack Obama began the new year with a fresh promise to make jobs his top priority in 2011, even as he expressed optimism the nation has been “riding a few months of economic news that suggests our recovery is gaining traction.

      “And our most important task now is to keep that recovery going,” Obama said in his weekly address. “As president, that’s my commitment to you: to do everything I can to make sure our economy is growing, creating jobs and strengthening our middle class. That’s my resolution for the coming year.”

    • How the mortgage clearinghouse MERS became a villain in the foreclosure mess

      In the early 1990s, the biggest names in the mortgage industry hatched a plan for a new electronic clearinghouse that would transform the home loan business – and unlock billions of dollars of new investments and profits.

      At the time, mortgage documents were moved almost exclusively by hand and mail, a throwback to an era in which people kept stock certificates, too. That made it hard for banks to bundle home loans and sell them to investors. By contrast, a central electronic clearinghouse would allow the companies to transfer thousands of mortgages instantaneously, greasing the wheels of a system in which loans could be bought and sold repeatedly and quickly.

    • Oil rises to near $92 as global equities rally

      Oil prices rose to near $92 a barrel Tuesday, close to a two-year high, as a stock market rally to start 2011 boosted crude trader optimism.

    • Career Shift Often Means Drop in Living Standards

      The study, conducted by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, was based on a survey of Americans around the country who were unemployed as of August 2009 and re-interviewed about their job status twice over the next 15 months.

      As of November 2010, only about one-third had found replacement jobs, either as full-time workers (26 percent) or as part-time workers not wanting a full-time job (8 percent).

    • U.S. stock markets up in 2010 despite Europe crises, double-dip recession threat

      In a year of political upheaval, fiscal crisis in Europe and the threat of a double-dip recession in the United States, the stock market weathered all challenges, plodding upward.

      The final tally after Friday’s light trading day: The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index closed up 12.8 percent for the year, at 1257.64, and the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 11 percent, at 11,577.51.

    • Mortgage lenders now advertising as crisis solvers

      PacWest Funding’s CEO watched in late 2007 as rival mortgage brokerages, banks and collaborators collapsed under the weight of the declining housing market.

      Fearing his company would be next, Curtis Melone restructured his business to offer what he felt people needed most: help with their crushing mortgage debt.

    • Bank of America hit with setback in MBIA Insurance mortgage liability lawsuit

      The bank lost a major procedural ruling in a lawsuit over its liability for allegedly toxic mortgages. The ruling will make it harder for the bank to defend itself in that case, and it could set a standard for similar disputes.

      Bank of America had tried to set a high bar for plaintiff MBIA Insurance by requiring that the files for each of 368,000 or more disputed loans be evaluated individually. That process would have cost MBIA $75 million, and it would have taken a team of 24 people more than four years, MBIA estimated.

    • About Grand Ole Ponzi

      Grand Ole Ponzi exposes the GOP’s intentional Ponzi Scheme being perpetrated on the American people. The GOP intends to make the top 2% wealthiest Americans even wealthier while making the middle class and everyone else poorer.

      A Ponzi scheme is an intentional fraud set up to get you to invest money while promising you that you’ll get a lot more money back – even though the schemers promising this know you will not get a lot more back and that they will be profiting from your money.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

  • Censorship/Privacy/Civil Rights

    • 2010 Trend Watch Update: Web Browser Privacy

      At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we’re going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting.

    • Anonymous Attacks Tunisian Government over Wikileaks Censorship

      Anonymous, the loosely-organized band of hacker activists and vigilantes, has chosen its next victim: The government of Tunisia. (They’ve taken down its official website.) Why? In part, because it tried to block access to secret-sharing website Wikileaks.

    • A Bittersweet Goodbye Post

      So I’ve been dreading this for some time. But this is going to be my last post for FDL, a community I’ve been honored and fucking thrilled to join ever since Jane let me take Attackerman 2.0 here in June 2008. My departure is pretty mundane: the congressional press galleries are wary of giving me permanent credentials while I’m affiliated here, and I don’t want to impede any of my reporting responsibilities at my day job with Wired‘s Danger Room. So off I go.

      It’s really hard for me to imagine writing Attackerman without it being a part of FDL. I’ve been incredibly privileged to host it among a community as thoughtful, challenging, provocative and passionate as this one. Thanks to everyone who challenged me in comments: even if I got pissed, you helped me reexamine the weak points in my thinking. I love seeing FDL expand, grow and develop. Now I’ll watch it happen as a commenter, well-wisher and reader.

    • Saudi Arabia clamps down on bloggers, news sites, others

      Saudi Arabia is beginning a major internet clamp-down, starting with blogs, forums, news sites, personal websites, electronic archives, chat rooms and online ads.

      New regulations were approved by Dr. Abdulaziz Bin Mohee Al-Dien Khoga, the Minister of Culture and Information, which will require licences for the operation of an e-publishing site within the country when the laws come into effect in a month’s time,

    • FTC Chairman: ‘Do Not Track’ Rules Would Help Web Thrive

      Let’s say I stop at the mall to pick up a new jacket. As I browse through the stores, I am followed by a man with a walkie-talkie, reporting on every item I look at and passing that information to the other stores in the mall. By the time I reach the third floor, out of a store pops a salesperson, holding exactly the madras jacket I want, in the red-and-yellow plaid I favor as well as in my size.

      Disconcerting? A little. Convenient? Absolutely. I buy the jacket.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • WikiLeaks: US targets EU over GM crops

      The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show.

      In response to moves by France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety in late 2007, the ambassador, Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of former US president George Bush, asked Washington to penalise the EU and particularly countries which did not support the use of GM crops.

      “Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits.

      “The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices,” said Stapleton, who with Bush co-owned the St Louis-based Texas Rangers baseball team in the 1990s.

    • Copyrights

      • Publishers worry that Ottawa will allow more access to foreign firms

        At a recent panel discussion about the book industry, publisher David Kent cut through the moderator’s polite introduction and jokingly accepted the label Satan. The bubbly Kent might seem an unlikely incarnation of evil, but he’s the CEO of HarperCollins Canada, a foreign-owned publisher, and his Canadian competitors were out in force that night in Toronto, ribbing him as they aggressively denounced foreign ownership – just in case anyone was thinking we might need more of it in the Canadian book industry.

Clip of the Day

Bohemian Rhapsody, for Four Violins


Credit: TinyOgg

Techrights is a Group Effort

Posted in Site News at 12:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Concert illustration

Summary: Clarifications about how we are run and how people can help

The previous post spoke about someone calling Groklaw to open up. As always, Techrights welcomes post submissions from anyone, so please get in touch if there is something on-topic which can be posted here. Additionally, translations are always encouraged and they get added to our localised Wiki pages, e.g. for Spanish.

“We’re delighted to open 2011 with a steady flow of long posts that contain a lot of external references.”We never lack topics to cover (we have about 20 post drafts at the moment), so what we truly need is more contributions from people who enjoy the site. The best help we can get is corrections and new content. A lot of the posts’ content is conceived in IRC and some gets sent by E-mail (then attributed properly). Everyone can participate. One reader flattered us by suggesting a “TUG” (Techrights Users Group) some days ago.

At the end of 2009 we stopped paying attention to Internet trolls and other distractions, which made 2010 a very productive year. We’re delighted to open 2011 with a steady flow of long posts that contain a lot of external references. We work extremely transparently and take pride in it (nobody can ‘leak’ anything), even if our detractors sometimes try using it against us.

As India Picks ODF, Novell-Microsoft Influence in LibreOffice Raises Questions (the Unfortunate ‘Go-OO Factor’)

Posted in Asia, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 12:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summer palace

Summary: Novell staff is said to be pushing for OOXML write support in LibreOffice just when ODF becomes a standard in more and more large nations

Techrights is a supporter of LibreOffice because it is willing to believe that — as promised to us personally — the project is not steered by Novell employees. Last night in IRC one of or readers raised some concerns about what goes on at LibreOffice and its umbrella organisation. There is active discussion about it in Twitter and in Groklaw. If there are blog posts or articles about it, then we have not come across them yet. The short story is that OOXML write support becomes a controversial subject for all sorts of reasons, some more justifiable than others (and some are fictional). Charles from LibreOffice has kindly responded to us about 3 times already, denying all of the allegations (more on that in Twitter).

For those who are not familiar with this debate, start here in an IRC log from last night. This came at the same time as the news about India going with ODF, which is a fantastic development. To quote a Red Hat employee:

Here is some good news to kick off the new year. As a follow-up to the Policy on Open Standards for e-Governance, the Department of Information Technology has published the “Interoperability Framework for E-Governance in India (IFEG).”

The draft of the IFEG lists out the standards approved for e-governance in India. The last date for comments on this draft is 27th Jan 2011.

The current concern is that Novell, which was paid handsomely by Microsoft, may continue pushing for OOXML. We wrote about this last month and this question returns not just due to discussion in Groklaw but also because IBM’s Rob Weir writes that the “Document Foundation debates OOXML support in LibreOffice. With freedom it is hard to be only half pure. http://bit.ly/hjPqMU”. The FFII says: “A user is concerned about #LibreOffice #OOXML write support http://comments.gmane.org/gmane.comp.documentfoundation.discuss/3058″

As Weir added: “Half-pure is starting with the goal of being independent of a Oracle, but then doing what Microsoft is paying Novell to do.”

“Half-pure is starting with the goal of being independent of a Oracle, but then doing what Microsoft is paying Novell to do.”
      –Rob Weir, IBM
As a result of this, Weir comes under another pressure offence from Microsoft, over ODF. He is having a long powwow (about 30 tweets back and forth) with Microsoft employees and also boosters like Jesper Lund Stocholm, starting with messages like this one which says: “if OSS doesn’t add support for OOXML, .NET, XPS, SilverLight , etc., then they’re “detroying your ability to choose”?”

It’s like Microsoft speaking using a peripheral person, Jesper. They spin OOXML as “choice” again. We’ll probably post a little more on this subject at a later date. A lot of it is in Twitter and in our IRC logs. Maybe it’s just a manufactured controversy, it’s still hard to tell without a lot of research and personal queries. There is more in Groklaw comments and interestingly enough, a longtime supporter of Groklaw, Brian Proffitt, opines that Groklaw should open up to more people:

The problem is that in the short term, Groklaw’s mission (stopping SCO from hurting Linux) has basically succeeded. Yes, there are pending appeals from SCO, but Jones is concerned that any efforts to continue the fight against SCO will only serve to help companies like Novell. Other suits are out there, but right now the community interest for those seems to be waning. And, I suspect, Jones’ own interest might be waning: she has been at this since 2003, while facing several personal attacks along the way. The potential for burnout has to be very real.

When one person, any person, gets so wrapped up in something and then has to deal with the lack of that issue in their lives–even if they have won–it has a profound effect.

My most constructive suggestion would be for Groklaw to become a more community-run site. Instead of being a strictly one-person show, perhaps a shift to a more collaboratively run organization is possible. There is precedent: Linus Torvalds is still leading the Linux kernel development, but over the years he has delegated a lot of responsibilities to the various kernel maintainers. Surely there are those in the Groklaw community who could step up and fill similar roles for Groklaw.

I believe this approach would enable Groklaw to dedicate more time to covering all of the different legal issues surrounding FLOSS these days. In effect, it would become a meta-blog, like Huffington Post, or Engadget, or what have you, with a focus on FLOSS legal battles.

Change isn’t easy, but it can be an opportunity to do something bigger than you had ever planned.

The whole post is very thought-provoking and it has attracted Microsoft mobbyists too (libel and crazy theories in the comments).

Addendum: As this post comes into publication time Charles posts this rebuttal in his blog. He also told me: “I think it might be #Oracle trying run some brainfuck here. Oracle more #FOSS than #LibreOffice? Who does benefit from this?”

Bill Gates Forms Government Connections to Avoid Paying Tax and Further Exploit the System

Posted in Bill Gates, Deception, Finance, Microsoft at 11:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bush, Cheney, and Pelosi

Summary: More government connections for the Gates Foundation and the effect on taxing

Back in October we wrote about Pelosi and Microsoft, noting in the very same post that Bill Gates had become the #3 man in United States government (not private sector). It is appalling as it helps these people arrange tax benefits for both Microsoft and for Gates (violator of the law), obviously at the expense of mere mortals, so to speak. “Top Pelosi aide leaves speaker’s office” says Politico and don’t miss this bit:

Pelosi’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Cheryl Parker Rose left on Oct. 1 for a job as deputy director of government affairs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said Parker Rose’s departure has nothing to do with the pending election. Rose started the job on Oct. 18, a Gates Foundation spokeswoman said.

Yes, and former Gates staff is moving to other places too, spreading similar agenda more often than not. A couple of years ago we wrote about the head of the Gates Foundation moving to the Smithsonian (government) and guess what happens now in the news? “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Gives $50 Million in Grants to the Smithsonian Institution” and there are already ‘gifts’ from Microsoft, announced in CNET under the headline “The Smithsonian welcomes Microsoft’s Surface”. It’s a Trojan horse and it’s promotional. The following news about Smithsonain [sic] is probably not related. It has a similar name, but apparently in South Africa only (“By Emeka Aginam, in Cape Town, South Africa”):

The global software giant, Microsoft in partnership with Smithsonain Institution and TakingITGlobal have launched Shout initiative , a capacity building program designed to encourage teachers to use technology to help students explore, connect and act to address some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, while gaining important skills including collaboration, critical thinking and social responsibility.

“Microsoft in partnership with Smithsonain Institution” pushing for changes in the schools, eh? Well, Gates’ effect on schools is a subject we’ll address in a separate post, based on some of the very latest news. Here is the schools agenda being promoted by the Washington Post, where Melinda Gates was on the board until very recently (more on that later):

Gates Foundation donates $50 million to Smithsonian

[...]

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving $50 million to the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum announced late Wednesday.

[...]

Gates is giving $30 million of the gift to “reach underserved students” in the United States.

As Gates Keepers put it, “Former Gates staffer’s museum gets a grant from the Foundation” and to be more specific: “Patty [...] is the former CEO of the Gates Foundation. She is now Chair of the Board of the Smithsonian. And the Smithsonian is now the proud recipient of a grant from the Gates Foundation. It is nice to have friends who remember you. Melinda Gates is on the Board of the Washington Post but the Post writer does not point out the connection.”

Hello, cronyism? We predicted this years ago when Stonesifer entered the Smithsonian.

This leads us to another new example where Bill Gates is exploiting government connections. The establishment gives Gates tax exemptions, but why? The “Gates Foundation posts 2009 taxes” according to the news and people have begun looking for clues inside it, especially in particular Web sites which are critical of this foundation’s activities.

It oughtn’t be news that Gates is exploiting governments all around the world to give franchises or taxpayers’ money to certain companies which he lobbies for. We gave many examples before. The foundation itself consists of many people from the companies whose patents they advance/seed in the market using a so-called ‘charity’. Here is a new example of the “revolving doors” effect:

Medical equipment maker Stryker Corp. said Friday that it has hired Allan C. Golston, who heads the U.S. arm of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as a director.

Well, guess what? Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have just been named in
top 5 “World’s Most Heinous Climate Villains” over at Alternet:

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet

Misdeeds: Pretend to be friends while engaged in a vicious competition to see who ends up with the most expensive coffin. Flew together to inspect the Alberta Tar Sands and ponder investments, looking to add to Buffet’s $34 billion Burlington Northern Santa Fe coal-hauling railroad purchase and the Gates Foundation Nigerian oil portfolio. Gates is dumping cash into geo-engineering as a way to “hack” the climate, instead of getting off oil and coal. The duo insist that the government should be responsible for clean energy development, but that we need to tax our citizens to pay for it. They can’t be bothered, since they’re too busy banking on sure things like fossil fuels.

Corporate Teat: They’re the tits, not the pups. Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway, much of it tax sheltered by the Gates Foundation.

Most Egregious Lie: “We need an energy miracle.” Gates’ time frame for converting to clean energy is 40 years, giving him and Buffet plenty of years of income from their dirty investments.

For those who do not know or remember, Gates invests in BP [1, 2, 3] and in Exxon [1, 2]. Some charity, eh?

There are also many private investments which are tax-exempt, including one in JJB Sports (a shop that I personally hate). “JJB taps Bill Gates, others, to stay afloat” says this new report

Struggling British sportswear retailer JJB Sports (JJB.L) said investors including Bill Gates, the United States’ richest man, have backed a 31.5 million pounds ($48.57 million) fundraising to keep the firm alive.

There is more coverage about this elsewhere [1, 2] and it makes one wonder if Gates runs a charity at all. As the previous article from Alternet stated, these people are investing without the inconveniences associated with tax. Here for example is an article from one month ago about investment in Waste Management (covered in this site before): “As it happens, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates — through Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A), Cascade Investment, an asset management firmed own by Gates, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — are major holders in Republic. The Gates Foundation owns Waste Management shares too. It’s not hard to discern why Buffett and Gates like the trash business: It has significant barriers to entry because new landfills are hard to site and expensive. And despite the buzz about zero waste, Americans generate lots of trash — an average of 4.5 pounds a person per day, the EPA says.”

Moving on to the last topic of relevance, a lot of people still fail to understand how showing generosity can actually be a ploy for tax avoidance. it’s a loophole. To quote a recent post we were told about a few days ago by MikeC:

[I]t helps to explain the first part, all these billionaires willing to donate to charity. For such family foundations allow the cash to be put into them tax free. And then the cash can be invested attracting no tax on any returns to it over the generations. Subject only to paying out 5% of assets (I think I’ve got that right) each year in charitable works. Such 5% can be made up of paying family members to administer the trust…..

Which is why Joe Kennedy left his money to a series of family trusts, the Hewletts, Packards, Fords, Rockefellers and so on.

Leaving the money to a “charity” is in fact the American way of making sure that a) no tax is paid on it and b) that the heirs cannot piss away the capital.

So, given that the traditional Amercian manner of making sure you keep the money in the family is to give it to a charity the news that 40 billionaires have been presuaded to leave their money to charity really isn’t all that surprising. Nor is it really something that might have taken a great deal of persuasion to bring about.

The same old disinformation which relies on people not knowing about these tax exemptions gets spread by many sites/blogs, which is sad. Truthfully, we gave many examples of this disinformation before and it’s troubling that they won’t stop making the false claims about Gates’ (senior and junior) lobbying on tax issues. Although it mostly goes a couple of months back, here are some examples of bad coverage [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12] which portrays Gates, who does not pay tax, as someone who wants rich people (those without exemptions) to be taxed more. So while Gates’ lobbying staff is enjoying luxury homes and no burden of tax, ‘mere mortals’ continue to suffer more and more. Whose country is it and who really controls government officials? Answers to this question will be given in the coming days when we cover Gates’ latest private sessions with President Obama. We have a massive backlog of postings.

Yet More Microsoft Staff (Now Suzan DelBene) Enters Government to Assist Microsoft’s Looting of the System

Posted in Finance, Microsoft at 7:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Seattle by night

Summary: Microsoft veterans sneakily take over key positions in government and enable Microsoft to not pay tax, passing all the burden to poor people and leading to cancellation of state programmes

FROM a Microsoft employee who at last saw the light and decided to expose his former employer for what it does to avoid paying tax (financial misconduct notwithstanding) come some new posts that help reveal how Microsoft uses politics to essentially loot the public at large. The latest posts are:

i. Thank Ross Hunter for Making Microsoft’s Record Profit Untaxable

Under Democratic Rep. Ross Hunter’s leadership in the Washington State Legislature, Microsoft’s licensing revenue is no longer taxable in Washington. Hunter led the change to Washington’s royalty tax so that only licensing revenue sold to Washington State customers is taxable. Prior to 2010, worldwide royalty revenue was taxable.

Hunter is a former 17 year veteran of Microsoft, now head of the powerful finance committee. Rather than apportion the royalty tax (which resulted in only a tiny gain in state revenues), Hunter could have adopted stricter enforcement language around out of state tax transactions such as was proposed by the state’s Department of Revenue. Since 1998, Microsoft has used a small office in Reno, Nevada to record its worldwide royalty profits – avoiding nearly $1.25 billion in tax liabilities.

ii. Now for what really matters…

If there’s one thing I learned the past year working the Microsoft tax dodge issue, it’s that the state legislature is pretty well bought and paid for by corporations like Microsoft. Who would have thought Rep. Ross Hunter would lead the charge to raise taxes on voters while giving Microsoft a giant back door tax cut? Well, at least today, we’ll see what voters think of Ross Hunter’s efforts.

iii. Microsoft’s Nevada Employees Probably Shouldn’t Joke About Criminal Activity

If you want to know what the Kool-Aid tastes like at Microsoft, check out this clip of its Nevada Licensing employees offering up their own “I’m a PC” anecdotes. It’s not quite as cringeworthy as the Windows 7 Launch Party and not as bizarre as the IE8 vomit girl ad, but it’s definitely painful to watch.

I was most intrigued by this brief segment in which an apparent Reno-based Microsoft Licensing employee jokes, “I’m a P.C. and I’m a criminal.” On the wall in the background, there appear to be pictures of two to three other mugshot photos – perhaps also Reno employees? Exactly what is she referring to?

iv. An Update on Microsoft’s Nevada Tax Operations and Washington State’s Budget Deficit

* Most people in Seattle (and Washington State), know nothing at all about Microsoft’s Nevada tax practice in part due to the fact that The Seattle Times has never reported the story.

* Local coverage of this issue does not appear to be improving. e.g. The Gates Foundation gave $400,000 to local news blog Crosscut.com, which later was caught removing anti-Microsoft sentiment from a published editorial by the University of Washington’s Bill and Melinda Gates Chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Department.

* Perhaps due to the lack of awareness of his actions, King County voters re-elected Rep. Ross Hunter. Diane Tebelius, Hunter’s Republican opponent never mentioned the Microsoft tax dodge, though she was briefed on it (by me), presumably because she did not want to alienate Microsoft employees in her district.

v. Ex-Microsoft Executive to Lead Washington State Department of Revenue

Today, Governor Gregoire appointed former nine year Microsoft executive Suzan DelBene to run Washington State’s Department of Revenue. DelBene’s husband Kurt is President of Microsoft’s Office Division. DelBene’s basically a marketing executive, although she recently ran unsuccessfully to unseat Congressional GOP Rep. Reichert. As far as I know she has no formal background in tax law. Full disclosure: I used to work with Ms. DelBene and for her husband Kurt at Microsoft in the early 1990s.

[...]

The Seattle Times has reported in the past that Mrs. DelBene is also a longtime friend of Representative Ross Hunter. Hunter is the 17 year ex-Microsoft veteran who as Democratic chair of the powerful legislative finance committee led the move to apportion the state’s royalty tax, getting Microsoft off the hook for up to $145 million annually in taxes and potentially over $1.24 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties. Since 1998, Microsoft has recorded the bulk of its software licensing revenue in Nevada to avoid Washington State’s royalty tax. This blog regularly questions the legality of this accounting practice.

Rick Perry is already pulling a fast one and it is worth emphasising that Microsoft has debt to repay while it claims to have possession of money (we are sceptical of it). To quote a recent article:

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) just borrowed $6 billion even though it has roughly $40 billion in idle cash. Crazy.

Crazy indeed. Why borrow money when you already have money? As other sites have been pointing out, this may indicate that Microsoft is hiding or distorting something, just as it distorts numbers in its reports to the SEC. But anyway, sticking to the subject of tax, here is some information about the Microsoft veteran who enters the government to become head of Department of Revenue. Amazing!

DelBene, a former vice president for marketing on Microsoft’s mobile communications team, contributed $2.3 million of her own money to her campaign. She is married to Kurt DelBene, the current president of Microsoft’s Office business.

Crony capitalism in action. For more about her, see the text here. Todd Bishop claims that “Microsoft pedigree isn’t enough to ensure a Congressional victory in the company’s home region.” That’s a straw man argument. Nobody suggested that Microsoft pedigree alone is enough to assure such a position. Bishop at least mentions this: “Also of note on the state level: Incumbent state Rep. Ross Hunter, another Microsoft veteran and Democrat, is facing a tough fight for his seat. He’s leading Republican challenger Diane Tebelius, but the race was still too close to call as of early this morning. Hunter has come under criticism for helping to enable the company’s practice of recording software royalty revenue in Nevada, reducing its tax bill in its home state by an estimated $100 million a year.”

The same blog said right in the headline that “Ex-Microsoft exec DelBene to head state revenue department” and ABC (Bill Gates-sponsored) hosted content from AP, saying that “Gov. Gregoire Appoints Suzan DelBene to Cabinet” (nothing at all about the Microsoft tax controversy).

Former congressional candidate Suzan DelBene was appointed director of the state Department of Revenue on Tuesday, with Gov. Chris Gregoire saying that the former Microsoft executive “has the knowledge, skills and experience needed to guide the agency through what is a transformative time for the department and the state.”

This article from AP also appeared in MSN. Microsoft ought to like such shallow reporting which bothers not at all with the real issues. There is more news from Reno, where Microsoft manages to arrange the Washington tax avoidance. “Angle Appears at Reno’s Microsoft Licensing” says the headline.

Lately, every day feels like Election Day. The frenzy is everywhere from those TV commercials, to sign-crowded intersections. And protestor-frenzy, in Reno to greet Sharron Angle as she made a Monday visit to Microsoft Licensing off Neil Road. Microsoft would not let us in…we weren’t exactly invited. Angle’s campaign did not even tell us ahead of time that she was appearing. Outside was a group of protestors, comprised of a man in a chicken outfit, 2 Reid campaign workers, one unemployed volunteer, and 3 members of local 3, the operators-engineers union. They told us they’re not getting any work. Union apprentice Ronald Feemster told us he’d “like to see somebody in office that might actually do some good for northern Nevada.” As to why he doesn’t blame the current administration, including Harry Reid, he told us, “Because I feel it was inherited.”

Elsewhere in the news it’s now announced that many programmes are being cut in Washington and citizens are furious. One site has nearly 1000 comments posted in response. It contains a lot of finger-pointing, with Microsoft and xenophobia being the lead topics.

It ought to be added that Microsoft’s avoidance of tax and the cronyism which enables it were never a US-only issue. Microsoft was found guilty in other countries and in Europe it is using Ireland as a tax haven, with severe consequences to the whole of Europe. From the new article titled “Consequences of the Irish Bailout”:

The key bailout test was whether or not Ireland would retain its 12.5% corporation tax, which has attracted a number of giant multi-nationals to relocate there — such as Google (GOOG), Pfizer (PFE), and Microsoft (MSFT) — much to the annoyance of other European countries, especially France and Germany who had this at the top of their conditions hit list. The fact that Ireland has apparently retained sovereignty over the corporation tax bodes well for eventual economic recovery as the relocated multi-nationals account for more than 70% of Irelands exports and generate more than 50% in corporation tax revenues, without which Ireland truly would be bust for the next decade.

Also see this new case of blackmail, titled “Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard Warn Ireland on Tax, Telegraph Says”. Well, via a lobby group, the Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft is driving its interests in Europe, at the expense of mere people as opposed to corporations. The article says: “The American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland warned the country that an increase in its corporate tax as part of a European Union and International Monetary rescue package may damage foreign investment, the Sunday Telegraph reported.” The Irish Times has published an article titled “The people person at Microsoft”, but Microsoft does not care about people; it cares only about its shareholders who are mostly in the US.

One can conveniently ignore all of this, but Techrights will not.

OpenSUSE’s Future is Doubted Even by OpenSUSE Sympathisers

Posted in Microsoft, Novell, OpenSUSE, SLES/SLED at 6:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Stars and Christmas tree

Summary: OpenSUSE critics from the project’s own base of supporters are coming out voicing their discomforting opinions

SUSE means a lot to me historically. It has always been one of the leading distributions, but when Novell liaised with Microsoft its reputation took a tumble. There is not so much news about OpenSUSE anymore. Sure, there is still the occasional security alert, the Weekly News (in need of writers), and an attempt to fill up the vacuum left by departing members. Many people seem to be leaving the core of the project, not just as users.

Groklaw worries about Novell’s betrayal and worries for OpenSUSE’s future [1, 2, 3]; it’s about user confidence, which is being lost in this Novell aftermath. Today Groklaw warns about OpenSUSE’s foundation and to quote some portions from a very long post:

Wikipedia’s page on the OpenSUSE Project says it’s sponsored by Novell, AMD and IP Exchange, not just Novell, and OpenSUSE’s sponsor page confirms those three and adds B1 Systems GmbH as another. Then there’s the community of programmers that develop and maintain the project, judging by this OpenSUSE development page, which says “the openSUSE distribution … consists of around 3500 applications, libraries and utilities. All of them are cared-for by openSUSE Package Maintainers who integrate, polish, update and maintain them. Maintaining packages is the bread and butter development task that is done in the openSUSE project.”

So why is the trademark Novell’s alone?

It doesn’t feel right, does it, when you look at it like that? My point is, there’s more than one stakeholder in the OpenSUSE foundation being set up, and you’ll see that discussed in the log. Trademarks have economic value, and if the community is helping in building that value, I think it’s logical that they should gain a share of ownership rights so as to get some share in that value and some say in what happens with the trademark.

[...]

Don’t be fooled by who from the community signs up with the foundation or think you can rely on them to play fair with you. No matter who the foundation hires or puts on a committee, nothing changes with regard to developers. You have to look out for your own interests. Microsoft has buckets of money. The staff are paid. You are not, so your interests and the corporate and hired interests are not identical, even if they are really nice guys. So keep your guard up, read the bylaws, and notice the licenses that a foundation is using too. If the license allows for taking the code proprietary, as per the Apache License (they call it “keeping your modifications secret”, which is allowed by the license), then it’s maybe Open Source but not Free Software in the sense that the GPL guarantees. It means there is no guarantee that modifications to the code will remain free. That’s why Oracle turns red at the thought of the Apache License on Java, I would imagine.

About a month ago there were signs of progress amid release delays (affecting the milestones even after Novell had slowed down release pace):

openSUSE 11.4 has feature freeze with Milestone 5 to be published on December 16th. So, it’s too late for a full review of all 11.4 features in time – and thus the team will only a review and push a few features.

Novell is reaching out to the community with a new survey. While some users like Dedoimedo and Andy still write about OpenSUSE, it sure seems like the community once fostered by Novell keeps slipping away and a longtime supporter of OpenSUSE makes predictions for 2011, claiming that “OpenSUSE will die”:

openSUSE will die. Or at least as we know it. Attachmate is still beholden to Microsoft for helping them come up with cash to purchase Novell. MS did not do this so that Attachmate could continue developing openSUSE. So what I see is openSUSE being put to rest by Attachmate and a spin off will be created by freelance open source developers.

Another person who supported OpenSUSE (Brian Proffitt) is as sceptical as us about AttachMSFT’s poor assurance. In his summary he claims: “One-on-one interview confirms fates of SUSE Linux, openSUSE tied together.”

Yes, it seems like AttachMSFT might do with OpenSUSE what Xandros did with Linspire and Freespire, in due course.

It is sad to see all of this. Important projects suffer, whereas unwanted projects like Mono and Moonlight are still around. Here we have a new post about a Mono program from Novell and an overly optimistic roundup of 2010 from the OpenSUSE Web site. “Integration with Banshee” (Novell projects that’s a no-no) is shown as something positive there. If OpenSUSE considers .NET to be a selling point, then maybe the demise of OpenSUSE won’t be all that terrible after all.

Microsoft Confirms — and Also Spins — Loss of 17,000 Hotmail Accounts

Posted in Mail, Microsoft, Servers at 6:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Missing piece

Summary: Microsoft’s reputation takes another dive as many people lose their mail for a couple of days

YESTERDAY we wrote about serious Hotmail problems that ‘greeted’ people as the new year kicked in. Microsoft is now acknowledging that this happened and the first link sent to us about it is of Microsoft booster Gavin Clarke, who says that “[t]he outage comes after a year in which Microsoft has relaunched and rebranded Hotmail with a new-look inbox intended to make it easier to manage and view emails, along with pictures, video, and links that might be sent along with the actual email messages.”

“The company in December asked Reddit readers to give their feedback on the changes. Hotmail remains the web’s most popular free email service with 360 million users, but during the last decade it lost momentum to Google’s Gmail in terms of new features and popularity.” [via]

This does not quite refer to the real issue, which is the 2-day-long loss of data (Clarke gave Microsoft’s side of the story and response to it). In closing he writes: “Microsoft has been PR-ing people hard, trying to convince us that Hotmail is just one of a suite of services that the company can competently and reliably deliver in – where else? – the cloud.”

How tongue-in-cheek. A lot of this “PR-ing” for Hotmail and Fog Computing came from the author himself. He even does a special, one-of-its-kind show for The Register, focusing solely on Microsoft. A lot of sites had not covered this until Microsoft had a PR response, but to be fair, that’s just probably because of the new year and the accompanying break reporters took. Another possibility is that they waited for Microsoft’s formal confirmation before publication.

[About 70 more reports can be found about it at the moment, so it was definitely not overlooked as some claim.]

Microsoft Cannot Provide Security

Posted in Deception, Microsoft, Security, Windows at 5:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Indecision

Summary: A roundup of security news showing what an utterly poor job Microsoft is doing when it comes to securing customers’ systems and telling them the truth

WE HAVE not been covering these issues for several months now, but over the weekend there was time to catch up with about 2 months of security news. This post contains a concise summary of some key security problems Microsoft has been having, with fresh examples towards the end (a lot of bad news around the Christmas period).

Let us begin with the not-so-distant examples of DLL hijacking. “Most Microsoft DLL Hijacking Vulnerabilities Remain Unpatched” said this report which implied neglect and irresponsibility from Microsoft. They had not patched or addressed known problems, as usual.

Many new flaws were found in Windows, including one that evades Windows’ UAC pseudo-security. There was a privilege escalation exploit and an issue with buggy Internet Explorer [1, 2], whose low quality gives crackers many opportunities to hurt its users. Over Christmas there were many headlines about an Internet Explorer zero-day warning [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. Microsoft just warned about it but did not patch it. Microsoft also said that there was no exploit and soon enough it dealt with a second zero-day vulnerability. It did not take long for exploits to surface and IDG said that researchers revealed attack code for new IE zero-day vulnerability. It’s important to remember that it’s terrible to leave people in this state over the holidays. It prevents some people from taking a break or be mentally peaceful. Microsoft produced only a workaround, a hack [1, 2]. It wasn’t a patch. Soon thereafter, on December 30th, it was announced that Microsoft was also warning about Microsoft Word attacks (which means that exploits exist too).

“The priority is reputation rather than the safety of systems. Microsoft’s financial security comes before real security.”Microsoft deserves mocking for this. When there was previously an IE vulnerability the company produced nothing for months, until December according to IDG (also see this other IDG report or this report which says that “Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday for November does not include a fix for a zero-day flaw in Internet Explorer”). Microsoft left users vulnerable for far too long simply because it could get away with it, under the assumption that many users are stuck with Windows. One must not allow Microsoft to fool the public by claiming its responses to be fastest because only a Microsoft spin site like Neowin would so conveniently ignore silent patches and recent studies on the subject. Neowin parrots Microsoft when it says that Microsoft patched 247 exploits in 2010. It’s inaccurate because those numbers are fake. Many more patches were applied silently, in order to give Microsoft bragging opportunities (hinged on falsehoods). For PR reasons, Microsoft just does not deliver patches sometimes. The priority is reputation rather than the safety of systems. Microsoft’s financial security comes before real security.

The matter of fact is, Microsoft can’t even secure Windows itself. “Hackers hijack Microsoft’s servers for fake-drug spam” said this recent headline and on the seventh of December Microsoft was warned of the “protected mode” flaws we mentioned earlier. This has not been addressed yet.

Security researchers have issued a warning to Microsoft that the much-vaunted Protected Mode introduced into Internet Explorer in recent releases offers little or no protection in its current form.

When it comes to patches, some people will reject them anyway, as yesterday's post about AP downtime ought to teach everyone.

Going about a month back, we also find reports relating to the handing of Windows sources code to Chinese hackers, which led to reports that we missed such as this one (“Chinese firm hired Blaster hacking group, says U.S. cable”), this one (“Leaked Cables: Chinese Hackers Used Microsoft Source Code To Attack Google & US Government”), or the redacted cable itself (“US embassy cables: China uses access to Microsoft source code to help plot cyber warfare, US fears”). How about this one (“China Used Microsoft Source Code To Hack Google — And You?”) which says:

A State Department cable released by WikiLeaks says the Chinese government used Microsoft source code in its attacks on Google and in its cyber warfare efforts in general. (Via The Guardian)

How did they get their hands on Microsoft’s closely guarded source code, you might ask?

Well, two Chinese IT security companies, Topsec and Cnitsec, are licensed to access and use Microsoft’s source code. In yet another example of incredibly blurred lines between the government and business in China, those companies gave the source code to the government.

Later in December, a Microsoft booster called Emil Protalinski spoke about Microsoft’s largest Patch Tuesday ever and so did some other sites [1, 2]. We covered this at the time, but the important point to be made is that invisible patches are not being named or counted by Microsoft, so the real numbers can be much greater.

From older reports we also learned about the effects of Zeus [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10], which in a world where one in two Windows PCs is said to be a zombie PC is doing a lot of damage despite a token of response from Microsoft [1, 2]. The headlines are “Microsoft: Botnet infection plague continues despite wins” and “Zeus Trojan defeats Microsoft security tool”. “Microsoft tool unable to detect new versions of Zeus” says another report.

Neil J. Rubenking writes to warn people that Passware found Bitlocker in Windows to be broken:

Password-recovery experts at Passware warned Friday that the security of Microsoft’s Bitlocker whole-disk encryption is seriously compromised on a computer configured to use sleep mode. The same is true of the open-source TrueCrypt whole-disk encryption tool.

Now we come to some of the latest news. “Microsoft ActiveX Security Bugs ‘Highly Critical’” said Ziff Davis some days ago:

Researchers at Secunia are warning users about ActiveX bugs the firm described as ‘highly critical.’ Microsoft is unaware of any attacks targeting the issues.

[...]

Besides the ActiveX bugs, the company is also investigating a denial-of-service issue impacting IIS FTP 7.5, which ships with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Proof of concept exploit code has already been made public, according to Nazim Lala, IIS security program manager at Microsoft.

It relates to an older report from the same publication:

With attack code public, Microsoft said it is investigating a report of a new vulnerability impacting Internet Explorer.

“Microsoft reports drop in data breaches” said this less-than-recent headline and shortly afterwards it turned out that Microsoft messed up in a major way. To name some headlines, “Microsoft Corporation Cloud Security Breached”, “BPOS: a data leak in Microsoft’s cloud”, “Microsoft BPOS cloud service hit with data breach”, and “Microsoft Cloud Data Breach Heralds Things to Come”. Quoting from that last one:

Microsoft announced that data contained within its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) has been downloaded by non-authorized users, possibly making it the first major cloud-based data breach.

[...]

Encryption isn’t the final word. Even encrypted data has a history of being compromised, usually due to bugs in the encryption software.

All of this means that, if your business is going to put data into the cloud, you will have to factor in the very real possibility it will be made public at some point. It will happen. It’s just a matter of when, and what damage will be caused. It would be interesting to visit the offices of Microsoft, Google, and others to see if they eat their own dog food: Does Google rely on Google Docs for all of its hypersensitive business data? Somehow I suspect not, although I look forward to being proved wrong. There are laws in place covering data breaches, requiring companies to enforce reasonable security systems, but none of that amounts to a hill of beans once the data has escaped the cloud. And should stolen data be turned into a bit torrent, as appears to be the fashion at the moment, there’s absolutely no chance of discreetly cleaning up by getting the data back from those who stole it.

Wired has just taken a “Four-Day Dive Into Stuxnet’s Heart”, noting at least that it’s a Windows problem:

It is a mark of the extreme oddity of the Stuxnet computer worm that Microsoft’s Windows vulnerability team learned of it first from an obscure Belarusian security company that even the Redmond security honchos had never heard of.

The sophisticated worm, which many computer experts believe was created as a specific attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear power plant centrifuges, has written a new chapter in the history of computer security. Written to affect the very Siemens components used at Iran’s facilities, some analysts have even speculated it may have been the work of a state, rather than of traditional underground virus writers.

For more about Stuxnet’s damage see the posts below.

  1. Ralph Langner Says Windows Malware Possibly Designed to Derail Iran’s Nuclear Programme
  2. Windows Viruses Can be Politically Motivated Sometimes
  3. Who Needs Windows Back Doors When It’s So Insecure?
  4. Windows Insecurity Becomes a Political Issue
  5. Windows, Stuxnet, and Public Stoning
  6. Stuxnet Grows Beyond Siemens-Windows Infections
  7. Has BP Already Abandoned Windows?
  8. Reports: Apple to Charge for (Security) Updates
  9. Windows Viruses Can be Politically Motivated Sometimes
  10. New Flaw in Windows Facilitates More DDOS Attacks
  11. Siemens is Bad for Industry, Partly Due to Microsoft
  12. Microsoft Security Issues in The British Press, Vista and Vista 7 No Panacea
  13. Microsoft’s Negligence in Patching (Worst Amongst All Companies) to Blame for Stuxnet
  14. Microsoft Software: a Darwin Test for Incompetence
  15. Bad September for Microsoft Security, Symantec Buyout Rumours
  16. Microsoft Claims Credit for Failing in Security
  17. Many Windows Servers Being Abandoned; Minnesota Goes the Opposite Direction by Giving Microsoft Its Data
  18. Windows Users Still Under Attack From Stuxnet, Halo, and Zeus
  19. Security Propaganda From Microsoft: Villains Become Heroes
  20. Security Problems in iOS and Windows
  21. Eye on Security: BBC Propaganda, Rootkits, and Stuxnet in Iran’s Nuclear Facilities
  22. Eye on Security: ClamAV Says Windows is a Virus, Microsoft Compromises Mac OS X, and Stuxnet Runs Wild
  23. Windows Kernel Vulnerability for Thanksgiving, Insecurity Used for Surveillance Again

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