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07.15.12

Links 15/7/2012: Chromebooks, Linux Devices, and PCs for Senior Citizens

Posted in News Roundup at 6:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Why People Seem to Love Closed Systems

    Patrick Gray, writing in TechRepublic, has some theories about why open source computing has yet to live up to some expectations. In the abstract, people may love the idea of the openness and freedom in technology. In practice, however, “vendors and consumers alike voted with their wallets for closed systems.” He cites the appeal of Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.

  • A French open source software specialist woos U.S. e-retailers

    France-based e-commerce platform provider PrestaShop seeks to expand in the U.S. Having opened a Miami office in 2011, it provides software for about 6,000 U.S. e-commerce stores—roughly six times as many as last year.

  • Best Ruby on Rails Hosting 2012

    The web hosting review site Top-Cheap-Web-Hosting.com announced the best Ruby on Rails hosting provider for 2012, based on ruby on rails hosting features, loading speed, reliability, technical support and price.

  • Workshop in Free Open Source Software (FOSS)

    The first 30 minutes of the workshop will present an overall of goals of the foundation, the philosophy and advantages of open source software and how it hall be implemented in Fiji.

    “Linux has the same features of operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh,” said SFF President, Mr Kush Singh.

  • Open Source Web Development Provides Custom Web Development Services at Reasonable Rates
  • Samsung Open Source Code for Epic and Skyrocket Models

    Samsung, in an apparent attempt to encourage hackers and developers and trying to give them a head start with the ongoing roll out of the OTA updates, have released the source codes of the Sprint Epic and AT&T’s Skyrocket on their download pages. The updates are available currently on their download pages for anyone interested.

  • 25 free open source projects IT pros will love

    Although it’s popular these days to pooh-pooh the advertising-supported, for-profit SourceForge in favor of GitHub, the SourceForge folks want to remind you that the forge still hosts more than 300,000 projects and serves up a good 4 million downloads a day.

  • Digsby becomes Open Source project

    There are a number of reasons why a closed-source project is turned into an Open Source project by its parent company or developer. Among them lack of interest by the parent company or developer, a drop in popularity, not enough resources to continue development, having been bought by another company, or a change of hearts. It is not really clear from the announcement why Digsby is going down the Open Source route but judging from the frequency of blog posts on the official site, it could be a bit of everything sans the being bought by another company part.

  • Digsby becomes Open Source project
  • Major Open-Source ARM Announcement Coming

    There’s a very exciting open-source announcement coming soon that will please an increasing number of ARM Linux users and fans of open-source graphics drivers.

    This forthcoming announcement, which isn’t being detailed yet but will be yet another Linux graphics exclusive for Phoronix the near future, is something entirely different from the other recent open-source ARM Linux graphics advancements. As something until then. let’s recap the existing open-source ARM graphics activities:

    - The Lima driver project that’s sponsored by Codethink and led by Luc Verhaegen as a reverse-engineered open-source ARM Mali graphics driver. Here’s the latest update on Lima from LinuxTag Berlin back in May.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla Introduces Persona, A Better And Secure Login System

        A normal web user may login and use to tens to hundreds of sites everyday. This is a hectic task and also one may remain in doubt as how his/her data is being used in each of these networks. To simplify this login system and to give users better control over their data, Mozilla has introduced a new product in the market, Persona.

      • Is Firefox’s Rapid Release Cycle Causing Too Many Problems?

        In early February of last year, we noted that for the very first time, Mozilla had pledged to move to a rapid release cycle for the popular Firefox browser. “Can’t wait,” responded one reader. It was clear at the time that Mozilla was making the move to better respond to competition from Google Chrome, which was already on its own rapid release cycle.

        Fast-forward to today, and Chrome’s market share is about equal to or possiby greater than Firefox’s, depending on whose numbers you believe. And, Mozilla has had to wrestle with problems related to its rapid release cycle. Now, one former Firefox developer is saying that Firefox’s woes can be blamed on the cycle itself.

      • Mozilla’s Rust language version 0.3 released

        With the announcement that version 0.3 of Mozilla’s Rust has been released, the alternate procedural, concurrent, OO and functional style is continuing its rapid evolution. Designed as a safe alternative to C or C++, as it is being developed, Rust is being used to create an experimental parallel browser called Servo. Version 0.1 of Rust was introduced in January 2012 after being created as a side project by Graydon Hoare in 2006 and revealed to the world in 2010. Version 0.3 includes over 1,900 changes from April’s version 0.2, as the developers work through the roadmap that will lead to a 1.0 release of the language.

  • SaaS

    • How a Looming Talent Gap Will Crush Enterprise Hopes for Big Data

      Large enterprises are putting a lot of money and effort into making sure they have the latest and greatest in Hadoop and other big data infrastructure tools, but it turns out their IT teams are far from prepared to actually use those tools once they are in place.

      That’s one observation from Jeremy Howard, president and chief scientist of Kaggle, which uses crowdsourcing techniques to provide statistical and data analytic services for clients.

  • Databases

    • The stealth success of PostgreSQL

      Other open source databases may have more name recognition, but PostgreSQL is seeing strong growth — as is the company EnterpriseDB, which helped develop it

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

  • CMS

    • Drupal Experiences Exceptional Growth

      Drupal is possibly one of the most popular open-source CMS in the world, and probably one of the largest free software community with over 800,000 members. During the last year, the Drupal business has experienced exceptional growth, both financially and socially.

    • Joomla! 3.0 Alpha 1 Released
  • Healthcare

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • A GCC Proposal To Build It Better, Faster

      There’s a proposal within the GCC development camp to change the CFLAGS under which the GNU Compiler Collection is built when in a release mode.

      Dimitrios Apostolou proposed on Wednesday to the GCC development list Change default BOOT_CFLAGS for release builds.

  • Public Services/Government

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Filmmaker Pledges to Live Open Source for a Year

      It’s one thing to like open source, but it’s another thing to live open source. Sam Muirhead, a 28-year old filmmaker who lives in Berlin, is making headlines for an unusual pledge he has made: He has sworn that beginning August 1st, he will spend one year living totally open source. And he doesn’t just mean he will use open source technology. He means that his beer, the paper he uses–everything he uses–will be open source.

  • Standards/Consortia

    • Accounting for Vendor Lock-in

      I am not an accountant. However, as a Graham and Dodd value investor over the years, I’ve picked up some of the fundamental principles. A key one is the Matching Principle, that revenues and expenses should be booked in a way that clarifies the underlying business performance, rather than based purely on the timing of cash transactions. In some cases this requires the use of special accounts, for things like depreciation, where the lifetime of a fixed asset (say factory machinery) extends beyond a single revenue cycle.

      A similar technique is used when dealing with deferred expenses. For example take the case of a nuclear power plant. A plant has a useful lifetime, but when that end date arrives there is a clean up cost. The property is not immediately usable for other purposes, but must undergo an expensive remediation. From an accounting perspective there is an asset retirement obligation, a form of deferred expense. This deferred expense is recognized on the books as a liability based on the present value of the expected clean up cost, which is then depreciated.

Leftovers

  • Linus Torvalds Asks Google To Stop Google+ Event Spam

    If you are a Google plus use, there are two things you would be most annoyed about. One is there is no way to see the private messages sent to you if you plan to respond to them two days later. Second is the new Google+ Event. I was bombarded by the event invite the moment it was announced.

  • Oracle, HP face off in court over Itanium

    Oracle turned its attention away from its Android patent fight with Google on Monday to battle Hewlett-Packard over Oracle’s decision to stop making new versions of database software that works with HP’s Itanium-based servers.

  • Security

  • Finance

    • Andrew Williams, Ex-Treasury Spokesman, Headed To Goldman Sachs

      Andrew Williams, a former spokesman for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, is headed to Goldman Sachs at the end of July, the Financial Times reports. That’s only increased the speculation that Geithner may head to Goldman next year.

      Williams, currently director of media relations at General Electric, is the second of Geithner’s top spokesmen to decamp to Goldman. Richard “Jake” Siewert, also a former spokesman for Geithner, left the Treasury Department a few months ago to lead Goldman Sachs’ public relations department.

    • Goldman’s fall from grace continues

      Starting tomorrow banks will begin to tell investors how they did in the second three months of 2012. Overall, the indications are that the quarter will be a disappointment. But, surprisingly, Goldman Sachs (GS) may emerge as the biggest loser. Expectations for the once-vaunted investment bank have fallen more than rivals.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • How a Right-Wing Group Is Infiltrating State News Coverage

      When Idaho state legislators proposed a seemingly uncontroversial bill to ban access to commercial tanning beds by minors earlier this year, IdahoReporter.com took up the issue with force.

      The state news website, an affiliate of the conservative Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and overseen by the free market Idaho Freedom Foundation, posted six stories on the proposal between Feb. 16 and March 22, when the bill was voted down in a state Senate Committee.

    • Malcolm Gladwell Unmasked: A Look Into the Life & Work of America’s Most Successful Propagandist

      In the vast ecosystem of corporate shills, which one is the most effective? Propaganda works best when it is not perceived as propaganda: nuance, obfuscation, distraction, suggestion, the subtle introduction of doubt—these are more effective in the long run than shotgun blasts of lies. The master of this approach is Malcolm Gladwell.

      Malcolm Gladwell is the New Yorker’s leading essayist and bestselling author. Time magazine named Gladwell one of the world’s 100 most influential people. His books sell copies in the millions, and he is in hot demand as one of the nation’s top public intellectual and pop gurus. Gladwell plays his role as a disinterested public intellectual like few others, right down to the frizzy hairdo and smock-y getups. His political aloofness, high-brow contrarianism and constant challenges to “popular wisdom” are all part of his shtick.

  • DRM

Amazon Absorbs More Microsoft Managers

Posted in Microsoft at 4:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

An executive

Summary: The apparent entryism at Amazon — a pattern which pays Microsoft for Linux and Android — continues

THE mobile dysphoria of Microsoft has left it facing an exodus of executives and a trail of dead products, several of which being mobile devices. Microsoft lost billions in the area, and this generalises well.

“The move comes as reports suggest the retailer-turned-e-book-maker is building its own mobile to rival Apple’s iPhone.”
      –The Register
Amazon, on the other hand, has seen relative success with Kindle, but more Microsoft executives move into Amazon, the latest being this one: “Robert Williams, a WinPho business development boss, has left Redmond and tweeted he’s now “at work” at the online shopping centre. Williams had been with Microsoft at least until May.

“The move comes as reports suggest the retailer-turned-e-book-maker is building its own mobile to rival Apple’s iPhone.” (but with Microsoft tax)

Following many departures we saw more and more Microsoft people entering Amazon (Kindle, for example, is now managed by former Microsoft staff), which then decided to pay Microsoft for Linux and Android. We called it entyrism. Let us hope that Amazon does not become another alter-ego of Microsoft in the same way Nokia and Yahoo did.

CSIRO is a Patent Troll

Posted in Australia, Patents at 4:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Under the bridge

Sydney harbour bridge

Summary: A debate about an Australian body which the public funds (through tax) and does nothing but taxation, passing this tax to the public

CSIRO, the taxpayers-funded patent troll from Australia, is being debated in the Australian press, having its reputation laundered. To quote: “A growing number of technology patent wars around the world has highlighted the rise of the “patent troll”: rights holders whose claim to an invention does more harm than good.

“The concept of a patent troll is particularly relevant in the US, where relatively unknown entities that may not make any products lay claim to a core process employed by a commercially active software maker.”
      –ITNews (Australia)
“Non-competing entities that litigate over software patents are often accused of imposing a tax on innovation by blocking others from developing products despite having no intention of doing so themselves.

“The concept of a patent troll is particularly relevant in the US, where relatively unknown entities that may not make any products lay claim to a core process employed by a commercially active software maker.”

By this definition, given what the government-backed CSIRO has done, it is a troll*. Should it be deprived of public funds now? We think it should. NPEs are parasitic and contribute nothing to the economy; this is based on hard and consistent evidence.
___
* The “relatively unknown entities” part is not obligatory as some trolls are very massive and well known, e.g. Intellectual Ventures.

Microsoft Front Group Lobbies on Patents in the United States

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 3:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

US flag

Summary: The BSA reportedly infiltrates debates about laws that apply to the USPTO, overriding public opinion

THERE is an argument in Politico that non-technology ideas might soon get harder to patent. To quote: “The technology industry is closely watching a legal case that could make software patents harder to get — and some say that would be a good thing.

“The case, WildTangent, Inc. v. Ultra- mercial, revolves around a patent for something consumers have long been used to doing — seeing paid advertisements before viewing copyrighted material online, such as a video or a game. Such so-called business method patents have drawn fire in recent years for granting their holders exclusive rights to a particular way of doing business but not necessarily to any innovative technology.”

“This sounds like an attack on civil liberties, in patent form.”Also, back at the end of May, SCOTUS was mentioned in relation to software patents again, as noted by a longtime opposer of them. As harmful patent applications continue to be filed we realise that the matter must be resolved as soon as possible. To quote this one example: “The patent was first spotted by a NeoGAF user and essentially warns the player than an advertisement is about to interrupt their gameplay session. Once the ad has been shown, the player will then be returned to his/her game after a brief pause.”

Here is another malicious patent: “LJMU has been granted a patent by the US Patent and Trade Mark Office for novel software products for the rapid forensic analysis of computer hard drives.”

This sounds like an attack on civil liberties, in patent form.

“It is when front groups for large corporations and patent lawyers step in that we see a distortion of public opinion and policy.”Based on this other report, “[i]n testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Business Software Alliance (BSA) Director of Government Relations Tim Molino expressed support for rules proposed by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to implement the America Invents Act. Molino suggested only minor clarifying changes to the proposed rules to provide additional guidance to patent examiners and applicants, according to a press release by BSA.”

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is a Microsoft front group. In this age of motion to stop software patents Microsoft and its allies work hard to keep them and spread them. It’s a sad reality. Here is another recent example of a move in the right direction (“Federal Circuit Upholds Jury’s Verdict Invalidating a Software Patent Under the On-Sale Bar of 35 U.S.C. §102(b)”). Given legal and public dynamics, it seems likely that software patents will diminish over time. It is when front groups for large corporations and patent lawyers step in, however, that we see a distortion of public opinion and policy. People need to speak to politicians.

Apple Sued by Trolls, Sues Practising Companies Rather Than Trolls, Blocks Android Sales

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Patents at 3:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Guarding a cult

Old tank

Summary: A criticism of Apple’s approach to patents and litigation

APPLE is being sued for patent violations again, in a lawsuit that we covered here before. To quote an article about it, “Chinese company claims Apple’s Siri technology infringes on a patent for software providing a similar service.”

“Satires arrive in this age where Apple is itself a patent aggressor, suffering a Hubris conflict.”Apple, instead of suing patent aggressors and trolls (it cannot), is suing practising companies for producing original gadgets that it wants the world to believe Steve Jobs ‘invented’.

Apple continues to amass patents (new example) even though these cannot be used to defend from patent trolls. All that Apple can do with those is sue competitors, or at least intimidate them. This is not innovation, it’s the exact opposite; it is the prevention of innovation coming to the market. Satires arrive in this age where Apple is itself a patent aggressor, suffering a Hubris conflict.

walterbyrd cites the article “Samsung’s request for expedited Galaxy Nexus hearing accepted, Apple groups them with “pirates, thieves and counterfeiters”,” noting that: “After the return of the Galaxy Nexus to the Play Store, we have some more good news on the Samsung vs Apple patent battle: the Korean manufacturer’s request for an expedited appeal against the preliminary injunction granted against the Galaxy Nexus has been grated. As a result, they must submit their court brief by the 16th of July to the US Court of Appeals, after which Apple has 14 days to respond. Final comments will take place on the 6th of August.”

“It is clear that Android tablets are doing well, so Apple’s action has nothing to do with “pirates, thieves and counterfeiters”; it has to do with Apple’s sheer arrogance.”But Apple is already taking it a step ahead by sending threatening letters to retailers that stock particular Android devices (there is a discussion in Slashdot about it). Here are Apple’s threats. It is clear that Android tablets are doing well, so Apple’s action has nothing to do with “pirates, thieves and counterfeiters”; it has to do with Apple’s sheer arrogance.

“We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

Steve Jobs

OpenSUSE Has RC, But Issues Inside Still Not Resolved

Posted in GNU/Linux, OpenSUSE at 3:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Mango and green

Summary: A quick look at SUSE at a time of crisis and face-saving RCs

THE NEWS about OpenSUSE reaching Release Candidate (RC) has travelled from the official site of OpenSUSE to SUSE-friendly outlets, a few exceptions, and sources that typically cover such SUSE news (owing to authors’ preferences). To quote: “Release Candidate for openSUSE 12.2 has just been released, taking one step closer to a stable release after the recent shake up”

“The project/product is facing real problems and the RC is no guarantee of technical quality.”To put things in context: “One month after openSUSE admitted it had a problem and was seeking a new direction, the first release candidate of openSUSE 12.2 is now available.”

There is also a response to Torvalds' rant about SUSE. To quote: “openSUSE team has announced the release of openSUSE 12.2 RC1 for testing. This release candidate gives us a glimpse of what openSUSE 12.2 will offer. There were some problems with Grub2 till the previous released, now it has been finally updated to Grub 2.0. The team has fixed the serial console support by respecting the console width. Its branding was also updated. There were fixes to udev, and to udisks and udisks2 to hide LVM RAID partitions, and many fixes came to autofs from an updated upstream patch.”

This hardly changes the fact that there are internal problems. The project/product is facing real problems and the RC is no guarantee of technical quality. There is no response to UEFI yet.

Patent Lawsuits Against Linux, Android; Call for Pressuring of Politicians

Posted in Asia, Courtroom, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Patents at 2:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Monopoly (uniformity) versus openness and diversity

Mangos

Summary: A mixed roundup of news and analysis affecting the growth of Linux

THE REALITY of “patent wars”, as a Microsoft-friendly site put it (especially in smartphones), is being realised by more and more people. “An infographic showing who is suing whom and who is selling patents to whom shows that patents are indeed a source of much friction and the only likely winners are the lawyers.” This is the description of this recent article which helps illustrate just how harmful patents have been, unless we take into account a patent lawyers’ perspective. In this post we’ll present some news with evidence-based material that can help support an appeal to authorities.

Over at Groklaw, the biggest lawsuit against Android is being covered only to say that: “The judge in the Oracle v. Google litigation has denied Oracle’s risible renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b), one day after Oracle filed its reply to Google’s opposition to it. No ruling in Oracle’s favor, therefore, will be forthcoming, and no new trial. Also, no hearing on the 26th. The judge didn’t need to hear them jabber on about all this in person, at further expense to both sides, before making his decision.”

“The judge in the Oracle v. Google litigation has denied Oracle’s risible renewed motion for judgment …”
      –Groklaw
Recently, one writer questioned Larry Ellison’s motives for filing this whole bogus lawsuit. We have always suspected that his best friend Steve Jobs played some role in this decision. To quote the writer however: “IT SEEMS that Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over its use of Java in Android has fallen apart. Although the trial is still ongoing, and the judge has yet to hand down an important copyright ruling while the jury has yet to return its verdicts on patents and damages, if any – it’s already apparent that Oracle is unlikely to win billions or even millions of dollars from Google, and it’s possible that Oracle might lose entirely.

“This lawsuit is rather important, however, if only because it has raised the spectre that software APIs might be found subject to copyright. As many people have already noted, that would have dire consequences for interoperability and software freedom throughout the IT industry. It would put into play programming languages, the interfaces of software stacks and potentially even the internet itself.

“All kinds of APIs could suddenly become targets for the extraction of licensing fees and endless litigation. That could effectively destroy the entire software industry and stifle innovation for years, creating a terrible dystopia.

“While that depressing vision might not in fact develop if APIs are deemed copyrightable – and it seems unlikely that Judge Alsup will rule that they are, given that US copyright law has always considered them functional elements and not creative expression that’s deserving of copyright protection – that’s what Oracle has argued for in its lawsuit against Google.”

Oracle’s case is weak and meanwhile the main party benefiting from it is Apple. After the lawsuit against Google some said that software patents as a whole were discredited.

More recently, the judge in another case against Android explicitly questioned software patents (well done, Mr. Posner), noting in an actual column (rare for a judge) that “there are too many patents in America (that is his headline, see a printer-friendly version for future reference). “Recently,” says the judge, “while sitting as a trial judge, I dismissed a case in which Apple and Motorola had sued each other for alleged infringement of patents for components of smartphones. My decision undoubtedly will be appealed, and since the case is not yet over with it would be inappropriate for me to comment publicly on it.

“But what I am free to discuss are the general problems posed by the structure and administration of our current patent laws, a system that warrants reconsideration by our public officials.*

“U.S. patent law confers a monopoly (in the sense of a right to exclude competitors), generally for 20 years, on an invention that is patented, provided the patent is valid — that is, that it is genuinely novel, useful, and not obvious. Patents are granted by the Patent and Trademark Office and are presumed valid. But their validity can be challenged in court, normally by way of defense by a company sued by a patentee for patent infringement.

“With some exceptions, U.S. patent law does not discriminate among types of inventions or particular industries. This is, or should be, the most controversial feature of that law. The reason is that the need for patent protection in order to provide incentives for innovation varies greatly across industries.”

Over at Groklaw, another valuable reference was provided for the new work from Boston. To quote: “Jim Bessen and Mike Meurer have published their latest paper examining the impact of “patent trolls” (they politely refer to them as Non-Producing Entities or NPEs) on our national economy. Entitled The Direct Costs From NPE Disputes [PDF], the paper examines the direct costs of patent assertions by NPEs against operating companies, i.e., companies that actually make things to earn their revenues. More on the Bessen/Meurer paper in a bit.

“In the meantime, Prof. Colleen Chien of the Santa Clara University School of Law is conducting a survey on the economic impacts of patent litigation on the economy, and she could use your help. Prof. Chien is particularly interested in survey responses from start-ups and small companies. Respondents need not be patent holders or in the technology business. If you know of anyone who could provide a useful response, please encourage them to participate.

“Now, back to the Bessen/Meurer paper. Here are some of the highlights:

* The number of defendants in NPE patent suits doubled from 2009 (approximately 2,700) to 2011 (more than 5,800).

* Direct costs of patent assertions by NPEs are cost our national economy more than $29 billion dollars a year, and that tab also doubled from 2009 to 2011.

* Much of the burden of this NPE litigation falls on small and medium-sized companies. 82% of the defendants, accounting for 50% of the defenses, had median revenues of less than $12 million a year.

* They find little evidence to support the contention that NPEs promote invention. [Why am I not surprised?!]”

“They find little evidence to support the contention that NPEs promote invention.”
      –Groklaw
So now we have both judges (lawyers) and scholarly people (academics) telling us that the system is broken. In order to ensure this does not spread to Europe, please, our dear European readers, consider writing to politicians whom we named.

A month and a half ago we saw Kelora losing a patent for it being “obvious”, leading to the question, are “Software Patents In Danger?”. To quote: “As software patent litigation ramped up over the past few years, software patents have come under the microscope within the technical community. Many investors and technologists believe that software patents should be abolished all together, while others take the less extreme position that many software patents are obvious over known prior art (“prior art” being earlier publications that show a patent is obvious or not new). Courts are increasingly cognizant of these criticisms.

“Though it is unlikely that software patents are going away any time soon, as the recent summary judgment in eBay v PartsRiver (PartsRiver is now known as Kelora) demonstrates, courts are beginning to do a more thorough job of applying the obviousness standard to software patents.”

Right now we must work to squash software patents while at the same time ensuring we can compartmentalise and contain this virus, simply by preventing our politicians from being bamboozled. The evidence is overwhelmingly on our side. We need the voices though. As we’ll show in a later post, Microsoft lobbyists are paid to speak about patents on ‘our behalf’, at our expense, resulting in great disparity (or distortion) between public policy and public opinion.

UEFI Debate Rages on While New Workarounds and Advice Surface

Posted in FSF, Microsoft at 2:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Defence

Summary: Routes that are less complicit with Microsoft are noted in light of the anti-competitive UEFI scheme

THE UEFI saga has got booting freedom at stake and within a day or two I will have a chance to speak to Dr. Stallman about it. Canonical did not follow the FSF’s advice, as we noted before. “There’s been plenty of speculation as to Canonical’s rationale,” writes this one pundit. “Meanwhile, reports of murmurings on the topic among Debian developers have kept imaginations active, as has the arrival of the first retail PCs to support UEFI Secure Boot. Bottom line? No proverbial “fat lady” is going to be singing around here anytime soon. On Slashdot and beyond, the flames of controversy just keep getting higher.”

The Debian position was mentioned here before [1, 2, 3] and it intersects with the attempt by Debian to fully satisfy the FSF. Brian from Linux Today fame says that “[t]he Debian Project, developers of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution, are making a concerted effort to get within the good graces of the Free Software Foundation.

“The Debian position was mentioned here before and it intersects with the attempt by Debian to fully satisfy the FSF.”“Debian Project Leader Stefano Zacchiroli proposed the plan over the US holiday last week, specifically stating that project members “should either get Debian in FSF free-distros list, or document (from our [point of view]) why Debian is not there.”

The FSFE's advice was something along the same lines that Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols mentioned in his latest coverage where he speaks to a GNU/Linux-friendly vendor. To quote: “Will the advent of Windows 8 really mean that Microsoft’s secure boot lock-in will be on every PC? Cathy Malmrose, CEO of the Linux PC vendor ZaReason doesn’t think it should.

“Malmrose told me “With UEFI’s Secure Boot around the corner, we are hoping to raise awareness that [GNU/]Linux distributors don’t need to sign with Microsoft [or use their secure boot. Computers that are rooted with open bootloader are available. That’s what we ship.”

“ZaReason’s mission isn’t just to make free/open hardware: it’s to ensure that there is always a free-as-in-free-speech option for your computing needs.”
      –Cory Doctorow
“She knows, “UEFI’s Secure Boot is implemented at OEM (originial equipment manufacturer) level, all new PCs purchased (with the intent of loading your favorite distro) will have Secure Boot.” This cripples them as far as Malmrose is concerned.

““Yes, you can disable it. But ‘disabling’ something that’s ‘secure’ makes you bad.” Besides as Malmose told me, “the keystroke(s) needed to get [GNU/]Linux to run on machines post-2012 will be simple at first, becoming increasingly complex at a non-shocking rate. It’s a monumental shift at OEM level.” Malmrose fears that this will desktop [GNU/]Linux “too difficult to new users, [and this will cause] slow death by suffocation” for [GNU/]Linux.

“So what can [GNU/]Linux users do instead? Malmrose thinks we can avoid a “Greek Tragedy “ by recognizing that Linux needs hardware vendors, like ZaReason, “who can keep things open, [who keep our collective foot in the door at the factories.” Malmrose insists that it isn’t about her particular company. “There is 0 profit.* If we ever did have profit, we would donate to support the EFF, FSF, Software Freedom Conservancy, LinuxFests, GNOME Foundation, various conferences, the works. Hopefully someday there will be but most months it’s a stretch to make payroll.”

“So why take this stance? Cory Doctorow, in describing ZaReason, put it well, “ZaReason’s mission isn’t just to make free/open hardware: it’s to ensure that there is always a free-as-in-free-speech option for your computing needs.”

“She’s right. We need to support [GNU/]Linux-friendly hardware vendors. There is no law that says computers with UEFI must use Secure Boot. Yes, Microsoft may want it that way, but if we support companies that offer open systems we can still get open hardware to go with our open-source software.

“The myth that it contributes to security will be spread again and there will be no defence against secure boot being mandated by governments.”
      –Sam Varghese
Another writer who has criticised Red Hat’s and Ubuntu’s (or Canonical’s) decision right from the start notes that “[b]y going along with Microsoft, and not even bothering to join together and raise a stink, the rest of the computer industry has created a situation where Microsoft can surface again a couple of years down the track and lobby for making secure boot mandatory for all devices. After all, the company can argue that secure boot has been widely accepted – this will be true – and nobody has objected. Everyone has adapted and started to use it.

“The myth that it contributes to security will be spread again and there will be no defence against secure boot being mandated by governments. Is there any guarantee that the cost of a key to implement secure boot will cost $US99 at that stage? It will turn out to be a nice little earner.”

This analysis from Sam Varghese hits many of the important points — the same points stressed by Techrights right from the get-go. The above will prove handy for future reference.

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