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05.12.13

Prominent GNU/Linux/KDE Developer Jonathan Riddell Complains About UEFI Restricted Boot, Calling it “a giant Microsoft conspiracy to make installing Linux more faffy than it already is.”

Posted in Antitrust, GNU/Linux, KDE, Microsoft at 11:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Jonathan Riddell
Image from jriddell.org

Summary: UEFI abuses continue, but Microsoft PR, lies, and attempts to silence the media go a long way, ensuring evidence gets insufficient coverage

A few days ago we wrote about UEFI, stressing that it offers no real security and that Debian should issue a complaint to improve the antitrust complaint already filed in Europe. This has not got sufficient coverage; a lot was done to legitimise UEFI in the press. Power-hungry companies love it because it takes control away from computer users.

Microsoft engages in patent racketeering and anticompetitive sabotage, so Microsoft’s arrogant manager should quit telling the press to stop criticising Microsoft. If journalists whom Microsoft has not given gifts and bribes seem unwilling to self-censor, then it’s because Microsoft is worse than a technical failure. It’s an abusive, anti-social, manipulative, corrupt, deceitful and despite all of this highly vain movement. Microsoft treats its domination as a right, not a status quo. And it acts accordingly.

Dr. Garrett, who has since his Microsoft apologism for UEFI left Red Hat (assuming he was not pushed out), tried to make Secure (Restricted) Boot sound benign and now he does the same for Treacherous Computing. His latest long post concludes with: “TPMs are useful for some very domain-specific applications, drive encryption and random number generation. The current state of technology doesn’t make them useful for practical limitations of end-user freedom.”

“Microsoft is probably going to drop the RT version of Surface…”
      –Christine Hall
But they will almost certainly be used for that, in due course. Every war starts with the claims of ‘national security’ and UEFI restricted boot got marketed similarly before it got sort of cracked. Is Dr. Garrett not reading history books, only biology or technology book? Security has almost a monopoly on being used as pretext and excuse for control over people.

Microsoft would love to see UEFI lock-in creeping into more hardware (one where restricted boot cannot be disabled) and Christine Hall writes: “Our bet is that it’ll be a long, loinng time before we see a 64-bit version of RT made available to consumers. Microsoft is probably going to drop the RT version of Surface, and OEMs aren’t going to want to touch it until there’s a decent list of apps available for it–which will probably be never.

“If you don’t believe us, you might want to read what Toshiba had to say about RT at a product launch in Sydney, Australia this week.”

Thankfully, she is probably right, but Microsoft should never be tying hardware to software like this. It’s what Apple used to do. Well, even Apple suns Windows RT, so we know Microsoft’s copycat will go extinct.

Anyway, this brings us to the core of this post. A prominent KDE developer writes: “We installed Kubuntu but it didn’t set up Grub and we couldn’t do much useful at the Grub command line.”

KDE/Kubuntu is my choice for the main workstation, so Jonathan Riddell’s post is relevant to me. Last month I upgraded to the latest LTS and found myself struggling with the Grub command line. The system would not even start. Fortunately, on my Debian box, I was able to search the Web for a complicated solution that required chrooting the installation from a live CD. Nobody without a dose of Linux skills would manage to achieve this. It’s demoralising. Even I nearly gave up and resorted to a clean Debian install on my main workstation, abandoning Kubuntu after 4 years (I had used Mandriva before that).

The post from Riddell reveals a Microsoft riddle. The monopolist has made it very difficult to install GNU/Linux, and it is not a coincidence or side effect. “If you go to ubuntu.com,” writes Riddell, “to download it points Windows 8 users to this scary UEFI wiki page with scary headings like “Installing Ubuntu Quickly and Easily via Trial and Error”.

“Kubuntu is slightly more broken then Ubuntu but not much.”
      –Jonathan Riddell
Here is his conclusion: “UEFI is a giant MS conspiracy to make installing Linux more faffy [implies hassle] than it already is. Kubuntu is slightly more broken then Ubuntu but not much. Only silver lining is that Windows 8 is rubbish and when we tried it there genuinely was a notification saying “Warning: your children might not be protected”. Think of the children and don’t use Windows 8!

“Oh well, here’s some pretty pictures to keep you amused.”

Vista 8 is a pile of garbage, just like its logo, which looks like a rotated garbage can. Microsoft has been releasing lies about “sales” and sending out trolls to deceive the public. These are all lies wrapped in a riddle. And unless we appeal to regulators Microsoft will continue to warp the market, the press, and computer users’ rights.

Microsoft is hardly a victim of negative press. It reserves a lot more negative press. Some turncoats in the FOSS world helped prevent negative coverage regarding anticompetitive aspects of UEFI. And now they suffer the consequences. Remember that Kubuntu is no longer run by Canonical (the project was hardly warped by Canonical/Mark’s ego, so Canonical abandoned it). I strongly endorse Kubuntu.

Facebook and Microsoft Get Closer, Now Reaching Their Relationship’s Peak as Facebook Declines

Posted in Microsoft, Search at 11:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Facebook ranks

Summary: Facebook starts leaning on Microsoft for help now that its users (products) no longer log in and give data (content) to consume advertisements (Facebook’s real clients) as much as they used to

Irrespective of financial performance, Facebook is losing impact based on various metrics that we have tracked for years. Confirmatory media reports aside, Alexa ranks show Facebook peaking and then plateauing in 2011, finally suffering a statistically-significant decline of 4% in the past month alone. The past month has been exceptionally bad for Facebook, showing not just plateau but decline. In order to stay relevant, Facebook has been lobbying with Microsoft against public interests (this contributes to further isolation and alienation). Just like Yahoo, which is stuck with Microsoft after getting hijacked by Microsoft, Facebook is too closely aligned with Microsoft and against Google. As CNN put it, “Yahoo may want out of its search agreement with Microsoft, but the Internet giant doesn’t really have another option.” Yahoo nearly signed a Google deal some years ago, but Microsoft used AstroTurf tactics to stop it. Now Yahoo! is a dead man walking. Microsoft’s investment in Facebook has had a similar effect. It doesn’t let Facebook deviate from the ‘Microsoft line’.

“Facebook will decline from majority market share to negligible market share in years to come.”Now we discover that Bing, the Microsoft-censored ‘search’ which scrapes Google results pages, is to be further integrated with Facebook. Just like Nokia, Facebook will decline from majority market share to negligible market share in years to come. Don’t let Microsoft-friendly sites make it seem like Nokia after the Microsoft takeover is anything but irrelevant. Even they say that “if you are thinking that this new Lumia is giant leap forward for Nokia and Windows Phone, you are mistaken.”

Microsoft never helps companies. It devours of them. It leaves the unwanted bits out in the cold to rot.

Dr. Ravitch: Gates Foundation Underwrites Almost Every Organisation in its Quest to Control American Education

Posted in Bill Gates, Finance at 11:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ravitch's book

Summary: More complaints about yet more rogue influence that is masqueraded as “public interest” or “for education” (whilst in fact having the opposite effect)

The Gates Foundation has been upsetting teachers and parents who increasingly realise that schools are being taken over by special interests of the world’s richest, assisting indoctrination. The bribery fronts, charitywashing the lobby of the super-rich in the US, have been closely tracked by Dr. Diane Ravitch, whom we mentioned a lot in the past, e.g in [1, 2, 3, 4]. She is very influential. Her latest output asks, “Is There Any Organization That Is Not Funded by Gates?”

“Billionaires don’t just try to buy elections. They try to buy anyone who might help them or hinder them in their quest for power.”
      –Dr. Diane Ravitch
She writes: “Obscene amounts of money translate into power,” she says, stating the obvious. Gates swaps some slush funds to get more lobbying power for his for-profit investments. To quote the author further: “Obscene amounts of money–billions–often translate into the ability to buy elections. But not always, as we saw in the recent school board election in Los Angeles, when the candidate of the Billionaire Boys Club was beaten by Steve Zimmer.

“Billionaires don’t just try to buy elections.

“They try to buy anyone who might help them or hinder them in their quest for power.

“The Gates Foundation, for example, underwrites almost every organization in its quest to control American education. It supports rightwing groups like Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence and Ben Austin’s Parent Revolution. In the recent past, it gave money to the reactionary ALEC. It pays young teachers to oppose unions and to testify against the rights of tenured teachers. It also pays unions to support its ideas about evaluations, despite their flaws. It spends hundreds of millions of dollars to support “independent” think tanks, which are somewhat less independent when they become dependent on Gates money.”

It is noteworthy that she names the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which we recently saw slamming Google in a complaint after getting some Gates staff inside it and perhaps some Gates money too. Ravitch mentions the ACLU to show yet another controversy. Merciless lobbying by Mr. Gates, eh? Never mind the handicapped, or students with disabilities.

“Power corrupts. So does money,” she concludes.

“None of it is charity. The man owns too much and too many people have to do as he says. Unless we address the root of the problem, he will continue to abuse his assets to gain more power,” Will Hill says.

Formerly Microsoft, But New FUD

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 11:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Let us tell you about FOSS…”

Retired man

Summary: Microsoft FUD by proxy; or, how the old claims that FOSS is complex and dangerous are now coming from firms created by people from Microsoft Corp.

The other day we mentioned OpenLogic, which had most recently played a role in a wave of claims that FOSS is where high risk exists. This two-part [1, 2] FUD piece from Jilayne Lovejoy (from OpenLogic at the company’s own site) is yet more of the same. Behind the company we have one man, a man who came from Microsoft. Coincidence?

“Behind the company we have one man, a man who came from Microsoft.”As Alex Woodie (pro-Linux) helps remind us, proprietary software is where dangers lie, not FOSS. To quote his article: “Enterprises shouldn’t be surprised to discover they’re having trouble understanding their enterprise licensing agreements. While Oracle, SAP and other big players publicly tout transparency and fairness in their licensing and pricing policies, customers often disagree when they get to the bargaining table or open the results of an audit.

“Oracle and SAP are in unique positions as the two biggest and most respected enterprise software companies in the world. Combined, they account for more than 40 per cent of the worldwide ERP market. No other enterprise software vendors offer software lineups that are as broad and deep as those of Oracle and SAP.”

Be wary of Microsoft FUD campaigns that portray FOSS licences as complex and dangerous. It is reality distortion, just like the manufactured anti-Google smears. Consider some of the other new Microsoft FUD, portraying online office suites as bad even though Microsoft too is going in that direction (Microsoft is behind). As AOL put it: “After Bing and its Scroogled campaign, Microsoft is now taking aim at Google Docs. Jake Zborowski, Microsoft’s senior product manager for Office, actually published two anti-Docs blog posts today: one homes in on document fidelity, and the other, which includes a number of user testimonials, argues that Google Docs isn’t quite ready for primetime.”

“Over a decade ago Microsoft released many whitepapers demonising FOSS for licensing risk. It got chastised for it.”What about Office 360? That pile of garbage cannot even stay online, let alone process documents reliably and deal with formatting correctly. To Microsoft, the hypocrisy matters not.

Over a decade ago Microsoft released many whitepapers demonising FOSS for licensing risk. It got chastised for it. There was blowback. Now Microsoft has partners like Black Duck absorbing the flames and making those same old claims seem more legitimate.

Let us mention again the caution needed when dealing with Coverity. The company is not a proxy, but output was “initiated between Coverity and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2006 and is now managed by Coverity.”

Well, where is Coverity’s own code? The matter of fact is, one has to be careful legitimising voices whose interests are not clear. Sometimes these proprietary software companies make business out of fear — a fear of FOSS driven by hyped-up articles that alter perceptions.

Matt Asay is Wrong, Microsoft Does Sue (SLAPP Action), Doesn’t Just Threaten

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents, TomTom at 11:06 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In Soviet Russia, only Microsoft ever gets sued

Matt Asay

Summary: Misleading article helps portray the aggressor as a negotiator, using patently false claims that are easily disprovable

The notion of SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) is well understood in the legal world. If the cost of defending oneself in court is higher than the cost of settlement and the outcome at the court is not so crucial (e.g. if you make Android devices but not Android itself), then the legal system can be perturbed and radically manipulated. It enables people in suits to call ‘business’ what really is the direct equivalent of the Mafia demanding ‘protection’ money from local shops. It’s akin to what some label “financial terrorism”, evoking particular detrimental behaviour through economic strangulations.

“It enables people in suit to call ‘business’ what really is the direct equivalent of the Mafia demanding ‘protection’ money from local shops.”Matt Asay, whom we sometimes refer to as Mac Asay for his advocacy of Apple products and Microsoft apologism*, has this article titled “Microsoft’s Mobile Patent Strategy: Threaten, Don’t Sue” (untrue, see TomTom and others, as it was definitely neither the first nor last). The article comes from a site formerly (until very recently) managed by an inflammatory anti-Linux man.

SLAPP tactics are not taken into account by Mr. Asay, so his hypothesis is misleading. It makes Microsoft look quite soft. Asay cites this article from many years ago and says “Microsoft has never been one to sue. In its long history, the company has only taken someone to court a small handful of times, and itself has had to pay out more than $9 billion in damages. Perhaps because of how hard Microsoft has been spanked by the courts, it has taken a different tactic with Google Android.”

This is nonsense. Microsoft sued plenty of times. We covered many examples.

“As reported by Reuters,” he continues, “Microsoft now makes far more on Android patent royalties than it does on its own Windows Phone OS. (For some this might make Microsoft a patent troll, but we’ll leave that for a separate blog post.) In fact, by some estimates Microsoft will clear $3.4 billion in Android royalty fees in 2013, and is on pace to top $8.8 billion within the next few years.”

“Truthfully, given Microsoft’s business practices, it deserves no real opportunity in mobile devices and its executives should be trailed for racketeering, among other abuses.”No evidence for that, as we noted the other day. These are mere guesses and FUD that Microsoft just loves printed/echoed in the media (it leads to intimidation against Android adoption by companies). There are numerous other issues with Asay’s article. He doesn’t use facts properly. But it it is easy to agree with his closing words: “It’s time to give Microsoft the chance to prove itself in mobile, too, rather than collect fees on others’ hard work.”

Truthfully, given Microsoft’s business practices, it deserves no real opportunity in mobile devices and its executives should be trailed for racketeering, among other abuses.

Gutierrez, Smith and other top lawyers, even Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates to some degree, are behind the racketeering. There is a law against racketeering and it should be put to use at long last. It was put there for a reason.
____
* Asay, a former Novell employee, routinely communicates with Microsoft employees and he was also interviewed for a job at Microsoft at one point, later letting the company intrude the FOSS world via OSBC, OSI, etc.

Todd Simpson From Mozilla Joined an Angry Patent Troll, IBM Tries to Warp Debate About Software Patents to Focus Just on Trolls

Posted in IBM, Patents, Red Hat at 10:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Simpsons
The Simpson family as they first appeared in The Tracey Ullman Show. (via Wikipedia)

Summary: Revisiting the stance of FOSS proponents on software patents and patent trolls; Mozilla, IBM, Red Hat, and Nokia (also before Microsoft takeover) discussed

A former (maybe present, still) Microsoft booster, Nancy Gohring, writes about the former chief of innovation at Mozilla. She makes Mozilla look bad by describing former staff as though it is still tied to Mozilla. She writes: “Todd Simpson, formerly chief of innovation at Mozilla, just made an intriguing job change. From working at the community-driven organization on open source projects, Simpson has joined InterDigital, a company commonly accused of being a patent troll.”

Mr. Simpson lacks ethics. The company he joined is unethical and he should have known this. InterDigital was already covered here under posts such as [1, 2, 3]. Mozilla itself is unequivocally against software patents, so why do this type of demonisation by attribution to Mozilla in the headline? Here are some relevant articles we published:

You want to pick on a FOSS proponent which is strongly in favour of software patents? Then pick on IBM. The company’s staff has been trying to shift the debate to trolls, replacing legitimate grassroots movements with corporate-controlled agenda that dilutes efforts and weakens real progress (the way USAID, for example, does it). Watch the following new statement: “Software is thriving and highly innovative – do not eliminate patents for software, instead address those that abuse them”

“You want to pick on a FOSS proponent which is strongly in favour of software patents? Then pick on IBM.”Who said it? The Chief Patent Counsel of IBM (we mentioned similar statements from him before). So this rogue policy comes from the very top, still. Chastise IBM, not Mozilla. As for Red Hat, which is a close ally of IBM, it manages to keep a mind of its own. The other day its CEO said: “I think I speak for the entire software industry that software patents are a bad thing. The entire software industry has been aggressively promoting a position that says software shouldn’t be patentable. It gets tied up with, obviously, the pharmaceutical industry, which believes patents are necessary to drive innovation in pharmaceuticals, and it continues to go around and around and we make some progress here and there. Hopefully it gets solved someday, but I don’t think we’re close to it.”

Lastly, former Linux proponent Nokia has been a strange animal for a long time, promoting both software patents and Linux at a later stage (along with FOSS). After Microsoft had taken over things, Nokia started feeding trolls more than before (Nokia’s use of MPEG-LA against Ogg involved staff that had come from Microsoft to Nokia about half a decade ago) and not much has changed on the patents front. An excellent new article (no longer behind paywall) says: “Of course, Google already knows if Nokia was the mysterious twelfth member of the defunct MPEG LA patent pool, and, if it was, then Google has known about its patents for quite some time. But either way, nothing stops any other company from springing a similar attack on VP8 or any other codec. In the battle to make VP8 an MTI standard in any web specification, the parties that benefit from license sales of rival codecs have no incentive to cooperate. That goes for H.264 as well as for the next generation, and it is not merely a hypothetical problem. Apple’s Maciej Stachowiak has already voiced his objection to making VP8 an MTI standard in HTML5. The agreement between MPEG LA and Google has smoothed over the issue of VP8′s patent status, but it cannot perfectly resolve it, simply because nothing can.”

We covered this before, back when it was news.

Unitary Patent Impediments Covertly Addressed by EU Member Governments

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Software patents may be imported by the United Kingdom (UK) via the Unitary Patent

US-UK flag

Summary: The UK is modifying its law to accommodate takeover of national interests by foreign interests which may usher in software patents among other nasty elements of protectionism (primarily exported by multinational corporations from across the Atlantic ocean)

Treaties and so-called ‘free’ trade agreements are an effective tool for large-scale policy laundering. EU economies have been hurt by such deals that serve the super-rich (heads of corporations) at the expense of everyone else. It’s time to do something about it. Activism is desperately needed.

The German government has spoken out against the EPO's disregard of the law. Gérald Sédrati-Dinet (of APRIL, based in France), who has been watching software patents in Europe, says “the only beneficiary from #UnitaryPatent and #UPC is the #PatentMicrocosm” which of course includes the EPO. The patent lawyers are a parasitical element which impedes innovation and taxes everything.

“EU economies have been hurt by such deals that serve the super-rich (heads of corporations) at the expense of everyone else.”What we need is for people to start speaking out against the parasites, that’s all. Citing this article, “Danes may well have a referendum on the European Unitary Patent Court as it’s been judged as giving up sovereignty,” writes Loz Kaye, Leader of Pirate Party UK. Here in the UK, a new bill is being passed and a fellow Brit, Dr. Glyn Moody, cites the Open Rights Group while showing (in his own words) “New powers to enable the UK to implement the Unitary Patent Court Agreement” (not just in the UK, either).

Unless people know that this is happening, activists remain weak in opposing these moves. We must really do more to drive away the Unitary Patent as an initiative or even a concept/idea (it keeps coming up with different names/brands). It is not even constitutional, some argue (in previous incarnations when it was known as Community Patent), or simply adverse to the treaty upon which the continental union is based.

Opposing patent law is not illegal; it’s not even qualifying as civil disobedience, not yet anyway. Patents are all about protectionism; the less of them we have, the less power those already in power (and their assistants) will have. In a world where consensus or public opinion endorses software patents it will be harder to reform the system; right now the issue is mostly compartmentalised (in the US). At the very least we should keep it compartmentalised (i.e. prevent it from expanding/spreading) and ideally we should work to reform the misaligned compartment (USPTO) with its cross-border lobbies.

Software Patents May Have Just Died in the United States, According to Some Pundits and Experts

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 11:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Grave

Summary: The collection of opinions from notable figures and sources that analysed the CAFC decision regarding a software patent in the US

Excessive optimism in NZ will do not good for the cause of software patents elimination. Software patents have been weakened in NZ, but they are not dead. The same is true for EU. Loopholes remain, and they remain by design.

A couple of days ago we mentioned the CAFC (US) ruling/s, noting that it helps legitimise the status quo because mixed messages are sent, offering no decent clarity. It was a missed opportunity. CAFC was not only lobbied by multinational corporations but also front groups like the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which is funded by Microsoft for lobbying (for software patents of course). Here is the original ruling/s [PDF] (text version here). Grant Gross wrote in IDG that the ruling/s could be the end of software patents. It could, but won’t. “The case generated briefs from Google, Facebook, Newegg and software trade group BSA, with some tech companies arguing the Alice patents should be invalid,” he writes. And based on this report, perhaps the headline in particular, Nicolas Charbonnier wrote: “Most Apple and Microsoft patents are hereby invalidated and worthless. Have a nice day.”

The article from Groklaw was more in-depth than most and it transcribed /extracted the content of the PDF, making it more accessible and searchable. Pamela Jones wrote: “I remember the first time we wrote on Groklaw that software and patents need to get a divorce. Remember? So long ago, and how everybody laughed at us. I remember that too. I am thinking about Apple and Microsoft and all the software patent bullies. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

Restrained optimism is better than excessive optimism, but let’s survey some other optimists. Jones wrote by citation/blockquote, attributing Moore: “Let’s be clear: if all of these claims, including the system claims, are not patent-eligible, this case is the death of hundreds of thousands of patents, including all business method, financial system, and software patents as well as many computer implemented and telecommunications patents” (that is why it’s such a big case).

Brian J. Love, a Law Professor at Santa Clara University, said: “Ultimate analysis of CLS Bank: Back where we started, in that panel draw still determines who wins 101 appeals in software cases.”

Poul-Henning Kamp, “Author of a lot of FreeBSD, most of Varnish and tons of other Open Source Software” (to use his own description of himself), said it “Looks a lot like the end of pure software patents to me” (source).

The Oregonian correctly pointed out that the court was split on the issue. To quote: “The nation’s top patent court issued a deeply divided opinion Friday on how to determine whether software is eligible for legal protection, reflecting the broader debate that has split the computer industry.

“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, which handles all patent appeals, issued a 135-page decision by 10 circuit judges that included five viewpoints and “additional reflections” from Chief Judge Randall Rader.”

AOL said that the “Federal Circuit Rules Software Invention Unpatentable” and this is inaccurate if applied to the whole, in generality. This gives false expectation that something will happen despite there being no major change.

The bottom line is, as the EFF points out, patentability of software needs to be addressed by the SCOTUS again. The decision there needs to be less than a two-way tie this time around.

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