Links 14/12/2011: Pear OS 3.0, $99 Linux Tablets

Posted in News Roundup at 4:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source


  • Security

  • Civil Rights

    • Why The Government’s Lawful Access Claims Stand on a Shaky Foundation

      Early next year the government will introduce lawful access legislation featuring new information disclosure requirements for Internet providers, the installation of mandated surveillance technologies, and creation of new police powers. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the chief proponent of the new law, has defended the plans, stating that opponents are putting “the rights of child pornographers and organized crime ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

  • ACTA

    • ACTA Adopted By EU Governments, Now in EU Parliament’s Hands
    • 100 years after Amundsen ACTA goes South

      100 years after Amundsen reached the South Pole in the Antartics our European member states sent ACTA on a mission to benefit the South. No, kidding?

      Sure, an Medicines Sans Frontiers representative once indicated ACTA may generate some serious effects on pharmaceutical supply for their emergency operations in the least developed nations and patients’ access to retroviral drugs etc. But these effect he argued would be rather negative.

SUSE in Clouds, OpenSUSE in Marketing Mode

Posted in GNU/Linux, Marketing, Microsoft, Novell, OpenSUSE at 10:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: A critical assessment of where SUSE stands at the end of 2011 and how this interacts with the release of OpenSUSE

THE past year has been good for GNU/Linux. On the server, for instance, it carried on gaining.

According to some figures, Red Hat keeps beating Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Linux (SUSE), and Solaris. This is not especially surprising given the recent results and upgrade of Red Hat (c/f our daily links). SUSE can see the growth of GNU/Linux, but it cannot quite steal Red Hat’s thunder, not even with Microsoft’s assistance. From the news: “Even as the Linux Foundation reports on Linux jobs in the U.S., the global picture seems to be even more encouraging.”

Over in New Zealand, SUSE is looking to “re-open Linux conversation” — whatever that actually means. They cannot even get the name right. The news site says: “Suse has informed us the official pronunciation is written soo-sah – check out this YouTube video if you’re still not sure.”

At SUSE there used to be a lot of buzz over “IP peace of mind” (Microsoft FUD) and right now there is more and more of the Fog Computing (“cloud”) hype. We gave many examples over the past couple of years. Consider this new Q&A from Australia:

There are two types of Cloud — public and private, and there is also the hybrid Cloud that’s a combination of both. We’re already in the Cloud business. You can use SUSE through a number of public Cloud providers, and we use Telstra locally. We also work with IBM and Intel, Rackspace and we’ve got some more global announcements coming up shortly about this.

Joe Brockmeier, formerly of Novell/SUSE, also pumps in that type of hype:

SUSE announced its commitment to OpenStack in October, along with a development preview available via SUSE Studio. This includes the three major components in the Diablo release (Nova, Glance, and Keystone). Brauckmann wasn’t sure about specific contributions that SUSE would be making to OpenStack, but did say that the company plans to follow up with a second technology preview in Q2 of 2012. (The “Essex” release of OpenStack will come out in late Q1 if it sticks to schedule.)

At SUSE, it is no longer important to encourage software freedom; patents and decoupling one from his/her data is now a priority. On the purely proprietary side there is also IDM which Novell spreads to keep track of people. Novell’s account in YouTube promotes the proprietary Vibe [1, 2] (based on open source but proprietary) and some other proprietary software stuff that can be found in other new files like this one. The only thing which remained somewhat open is OpenSUSE, but this is a promotional move/tool for SLE*. The so-called ‘community’ is being approached for free artwork [1, 2] while others provide documentation and reviews. OpenSUSE is not unique, but this one review says: “when I read about some of the features in OpenSuse 12.1, I couldn’t resist giving it a try.”

All those features are available elsewhere. What YaST has should have equivalents elsewhere too. There is of course also the volunteer composition of weekly reports [1, 2], putting aside the OpenSUSE project site itself [1, 2] or those who took it for a spin for comparative purposes.

The bottom line is, SUSE lost to Red Hat and it is not promoting Open Source at all. OpenSUSE is being used to add the “open” angle to SUSE marketing. Nobody really needs either of those. Smart folks simply see what else is out there and let SUSE dry up inside Microsoft’s wallet. The boycott was not in vain, and it has been very effective.

Software Patents in the EU Become a Central Concern Again

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Software patents. From the back door/stage.


Summary: A quick catchup with patent news, emphasis persisting on the situation in Europe

PATENT rants have become abundant and over the coming weeks we shall cover several that we missed over the past week or two (yours truly was absent).

Granting of software patents can be influenced by the proposed patent harmonisation in Europe and the “EPO can influence patent harmo[nisation] through translation, classification, PPH,” notes one person. This matter is especially sensitive because software patents in Europe are the bridge for US monopolists (including Apple and Microsoft) to take their abusive behaviour global, i.e. their embargo war becomes indisputable. In some cases even access to life-saving drugs is at stake.

Glyn Moody, a Brit, wrote about the danger earlier this month and pointed out that:

Aside from the general issue of transparency and accountability, there is also a more particular concern for readers of this blog. Despite the fact that in Europe patents may not be given for software “as such”, patents are being issued for software using a variety of legal tricks (mostly involving extremely dubious redefinition of key terms to avoid the ban on software patents.)

Just watch what happened in Germany where Apple tried to embargo Linux-powered tablets:

A German court has ruled in Motorola Mobility’s favour in a patents dispute with Apple.

The Android smartphone maker had complained that Apple failed to license one of its wireless intellectual properties.

As the FSFE’s Karsten Gerloff (in Germany) put it, there is a “Good summary of #Apple ban in Europe ur1.ca/6jiri (DE) Can we all agree now that #swpat are silly?”

In the United States, Apple cannot get its way all the time. Based on leaked documents, Apple is more vicious than its followers realise. To quote: “A person within Apple has leaked the company’s ‘Retail Blogging and Online Social Media Guidelines’ which explain that employees cannot use blogs, wikis, social networks, and similar online tools to communicate about their employer internally.” This means no complaining about Apple’s patent aggression presumably. What a lovely company, eh? In separate posts we are going to tackle what Microsoft is doing as well. Antitrust regulators get increasingly involved in what constitutes racketeering, proxy wars, and anti-competitive collusion. There are even those who say that “Patents violate the constitution in discouraging innovation”.

A more comprehensive coverage of the situation in Europe will be posted soon. Now is the time to fight back for elimination — not proliferation — of software patents all around the world.

Botnets Versus Comes Versus Microsoft

Posted in Microsoft at 10:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Precision in targeting


Summary: Out-of-control machines (or otherwise vandals) from Microsoft Corporations target a Web site critical of Microsoft

A LOT of visitors come to this site having searched for or browsed for Comes vs Microsoft material. But there are other sites that host this type of material.

Slated.org, which famously hosts all the Comes vs Microsoft stash, has been hit by what seems like zombies from Microsoft. To use its own explanation:

Now, as regular readers will already know, Slated is a site dedicated to GNU/Linux, Free Software, Free Standards, civil and human rights, business ethics, altruism and, generally, the cause of social liberalism. This upsets certain types of people and companies, no doubt including Microsoft. So it doesn’t really surprise me when they attack Slated, although I find it rather disturbing that a global corporation like Microsoft should do it so openly.

Perhaps this “hack” is nothing more than yet another compromised Windows PC inside Microsoft’s Redmond HQ, or maybe it’s something more sinister, but either way someone or something on Microsoft’s network just attacked Slated.

Good to know I have their full attention.

There were also DDOS attacks on other Microsoft-hostile sites. The botnets sometimes come from Microsoft. Claiming and also proving that there was malicious intent bringing those attacks from Microsoft is nearly impossible because of the structural nature of botnets, but it does need to be highlighted. We have already caught some pro-Microsoft trolls in blog comments who later turned out to be Microsoft employees. Novell did the same thing and so did SCO. It is not unusual.

Divergence From Microsoft Front Groups

Posted in Deception, Microsoft at 10:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Kaspersky is one of the latest members of the BSA to leave and IDC dares not to shower Windows with the usual paid-for compliments

LAST year we saw the BSA losing some key members after it had gotten worse than terrible. Techrights made it into some mainstream news sites for breaking this story at the time.

The BSA recently fronted and promoted SOPA, which led to yet more of an exodus. Can the BSA become defunct like other Microsoft front groups, let’s say within a decade? We shall wait and see. What we already find in the news is that FUD spreader Al Gillen and his colleagues lose blind faith in Windows as IDC expresses concerns about Vista 8. How times have changed…

Links 14/12/2011: KahelOS, Fujitsu Linux Phones

Posted in News Roundup at 3:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • Open Source Trust Abused

    The matter has been a unhealed wound for more than six months, but this week the problem that C|Net’s Download.Com website has been perpetrating leapt into high profile with a complaint from the developers of NMap and others. The download.com site is one of the oldest software download sites, running since the nineties to offer downloads of free-of-charge software of all kinds – shareware, trialware and other proprietary software with loss-leader business models as well as true open source software.

  • 60 Open Source Replacements for Communications Software

    By 2013, experts estimate that e-mail users will send 507 billion messages every day. Currently, the average person receives about 419 e-mails per day, with a little less than half of them related to work.

    When you add up the time it takes to read and manage all that e-mail, plus time spent instant messaging, reading and writing blogs, and viewing and creating Web content, it’s clear that digital communication is one of the primary uses for technology.

  • Introducing LibrePlan: Project Planning, Monitoring and Control
  • Events

  • Web Browsers

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • Grammar checking in LibreOffice

      Competitive grammar checking would be a nice improvement for LibreOffice. Supported by FSF.hu Foundation, Hungary, I have made two sentence checking patches to the English and Hungarian dictionary extensions of LibreOffice, based on the Lightproof Python UNO environment: see the related issue, the description and the standalone extensions.

    • A look at IBM Lotus Symphony

      BM Lotus Symphony is a free Office Suite available on Windows, Mac and Linux. The project began in 2007 and is basically a modified version of Openoffice.org. Though active, it still uses Openoffice 3.0 as its base. The developers seem to be focusing on stability and have released 3 “fix-packs” for Symphony 3.0 last year instead of newer versions. After the Libreoffice/Openoffice split, Symphony will continue to be based on the “official” version of Openoffice maintained by Apache.

  • CMS

    • Louvre using Drupal

      Big news! The world’s most visited art museum in the world is now using Drupal for its website: http://louvre.fr. Très cool!


    • GNU Fdisk 2.0.0a1 released!

      We are happy to announce the new release of GNU Fdisk.

      As reported in the previous release, the software has been rewritten from scratch with a new design. With this release we include a first backend.

    • GIMP 2.7.4 now available for testing

      The maybe last development release in the 2.7 series of GIMP has just been made available for testing purpose.

  • Project Releases

  • Licensing

    • The GPL and distributing binaries

      Of late I’ve become the “build guy” in GNOME it seems. One thing I want to clear up is I do not actually care about building just because I think it’s fun or interesting in and of itself. No, the reason I care about building is because if software doesn’t build, then clearly it’s not being run. And if it’s not being run, then it’s not being tested. And if it’s not tested, then it will be crap. In other words, a competent build system is necessary for not producing crap (but not sufficient, obviously).

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Charter of Open Source Org is Classified, CIA Says

      Open Source Works, which is the CIA’s in-house open source analysis component, is devoted to intelligence analysis of unclassified, open source information. Oddly, however, the directive that established Open Source Works is classified, as is the charter of the organization. In fact, CIA says the very existence of any such records is a classified fact.

    • Open Data

      • White House to open source Data.gov as open government data platform

        As 2011 comes to an end, there are 28 international open data platforms in the open government community. By the end of 2012, code from new “Data.gov-in-a-box” may help many more countries to stand up their own platforms. A partnership between the United States and India on open government has borne fruit: progress on making the open data platform Data.gov open source.

  • Programming


Open Washing the Tivoization of Windows

Posted in Antitrust, Microsoft, Vista 8 at 2:11 am by Guest Editorial Team

A Doomed Microsoft Again Spins Legal Compliance into Something it’s Not.

Tivoized PC with a lovely Ballmer tongue

A Tivoized PC will look like an ugly TV.

The Windows press is doing damage control to quell a rising realization that the Microsoft demands and will have complete practical control of the next generation of Windows devices. Microsoft cleverly divulged key details over the past months to prevent people from understanding the implications. Free software advocates immediately understood the implications of signed code and some adopted a wait and see attitude believing OEMs would not be foolish enough to make all of their hardware Windows 8 logo compliant. Microsoft’s App Store rules made the intentions clear for Windows users, so Microsoft boosters are Open Washing the program to keep users from bolting. Boosters celebrate a Microsoft limited choice of free software and Microsoft’s cynical license compliance as a “Big win for Open Source.” Microsoft’s demands should trigger anti-trust investigation. Free software developers who still concern themselves with Windows should think carefully about the implications for their code. Windows users should migrate immediately because the PC ecosystem they grew up with is long gone.

A spokesman for Microsoft lead Business Insider to believe the revocation feature may only be for “Metro”

The Windows Store will be the exclusive distribution channel for apps that use the Windows 8 “Metro” interface, which is designed for tablets and smartphones, but will also contain some traditional desktop apps. Microsoft wouldn’t confirm if the kill switch applies only to Metro-style apps or if it covers any app in the store. “It’s really the early days yet,” said a spokesperson. “The terms of use applies to apps that people are creating now. More info will be shared as we get closer to release.”

Microsoft’s claim, of course, is ridiculous hair splitting. If Microsoft succeeds in Tivoizing all x86 and ARM hardware, only Microsoft signed code will run on Windows 8. Stopping any program from running will be as easy as revoking the keys no matter how they are installed.

Extreme Tech claims compliance terms in the App Store documentation are a “big win for Open Source.” The article is titled, “Windows 8 Store will allow open source apps, unlike iOS and Mac App Stores” and says:

There may be another win for the open source movement today, as there has been some interesting legalese found in the recent publication of the Windows Store Application Developer Agreement. … The section in question states that apps released under a license from the Open Source Initiative (GPL, Apache, etc.) can be distributed in the Windows Store. Further, it says that the OSI license will trump the Microsoft Standard Application License Terms, namely the the restriction on sharing applications.

The article offers some explanations that glorify Microsoft and belittle competitors but fail to make the common sense observation that Microsoft is forced to comply with the licenses used. They sink as low as to compare Microsoft’s long running patent extortion[2] to a friendly game of chess. Here’s another article that makes some of the same silly claims.

“Choice” and “Open” code are poor substitutes for software freedom and Tivoizing hardware defeats meaningful software freedom. Microsoft will be able to comfort their users with free software like browsers, image and audio editors. They will dutifully provide users with source code if the license requires as much but it is of no real value to the user because they can never run a modified version. The user gains none of the security, privacy or control of real software freedom from a single free program on top of a malicious OS. Users of Windows 8 will never have the tools to guard themselves.

Both articles are filled with Microsoft’s language about “security” and “legal” reasons for revocation of code. This is a smoke screen. The only security signed code provides is financial security for Microsoft from a lock out of competition.

In the past, I’ve often warned free software developers that porting to Windows is a waste of time and energy better spent making gnu/linux and other really free software better. It was easy enough to point to all of the companies Microsoft ruined by technical sabotage and ask people why they would bother with such an anti-social company. People who ignored that warning should be asking themselves some serious questions about what extra efforts they will now be forced to go through. What process will Microsoft demand for approval? Will a partial distribution be worthwhile? Can they trust Microsoft to distribute code free of modification beyond selection?

Microsoft’s attempt to Tivoize the computing world is far from assured. Vista and Windows 7 were both dismal failures [2] mostly because of Microsoft’s insane anti-competitive and digital restrictions plans. Windows 8 is more of the same with even less to offer the user. Plans to lock out competition by signed code is a sign of desperation born of complete failure to compete on merit. The only real question is how many of their partners they will ruin before they fail. Apple, IBM and Google each have more to offer those partners.

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