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Links 27/6/2013: Kubuntu to Deviate Further From Canonical, New Debian Derivatives

Posted in News Roundup at 4:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source


  • Digg Reader Opens in Beta

    Digg Reader is designed for a power-user demanding the freshest and the hottest. The challenge of replacing the Google Reader is in the infrastructure. Reader needs to be reliable and snappy. Jake Levine (GM) and Andrew McLaughlin (President) of Digg promise their reader to be just as good and better than Google Reader.

  • 2 Amazing Google Reader Replacements You Haven’t Heard Of
  • Health/Nutrition

    • USDA Forces Whole Foods To Accept Monsanto

      In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation’s 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America’s organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal.

  • Finance

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • Does Jon Meacham Remember the 2000 Election?
    • Seven Faces of NRA/ALEC-Approved “Stand Your Ground” Law

      As George Zimmerman’s trial for shooting and killing unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in early 2012 gets underway, the “Stand Your Ground” law that initially kept Zimmerman from being arrested is still the subject of much controversy. Florida’s law became the template for an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “model bill” that has been introduced in dozens of other states. As the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported, the bill was brought to ALEC by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

    • For Bradley Foundation, Challenging Affirmative Action & Voting Rights Is Part of Long-Term Crusade

      The Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation is one-for-two in legal challenges to civil rights and racial equality this term, with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in one case bankrolled by Bradley, and in another, remanding an affirmative action case to a lower court, turning back the Bradley-backed challenge. The cases represent the latest in the Bradley Foundation’s long-term effort to dismantle the gains of the civil rights era.

  • Privacy

    • The personal side of taking on the NSA: emerging smears

      When I made the choice to report aggressively on top-secret NSA programs, I knew that I would inevitably be the target of all sorts of personal attacks and smears. You don’t challenge the most powerful state on earth and expect to do so without being attacked. As a superb Guardian editorial noted today: “Those who leak official information will often be denounced, prosecuted or smeared. The more serious the leak, the fiercer the pursuit and the greater the punishment.”

      One of the greatest honors I’ve had in my years of writing about politics is the opportunity to work with and befriend my long-time political hero, Daniel Ellsberg. I never quite understood why the Nixon administration, in response to his release of the Pentagon Papers, would want to break into the office of Ellsberg’s psychoanalyst and steal his files. That always seemed like a non sequitur to me: how would disclosing Ellsberg’s most private thoughts and psychosexual assessments discredit the revelations of the Pentagon Papers?

    • Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Skype & Yahoo Hit With Prism Data Protection Complaints In Europe

      The European data protection activists behind the Europe v Facebook (evf) campaign group, that has long been a thorn in Facebook’s side in Europe, have filed new complaints under regional data protection law targeting Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Skype and Yahoo for their alleged collaboration with the NSA’s Prism data collection program.

    • NSA takes surveillance fact sheets off website
    • Potential Blind Spots in Clearance Process that Gave Snowden Top-Secret Access

      More than a million Americans have security clearances to access classified information. Here’s what the government does–and doesn’t–do when deciding who’s trustworthy

    • An EFF sticker on your laptop is an Insider Threat warning sign?
    • NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama

      The Obama administration for more than two years permitted the National Security Agency to continue collecting vast amounts of records detailing the email and internet usage of Americans, according to secret documents obtained by the Guardian.

    • FAQ: What You Need to Know About the NSA’s Surveillance Programs

      A record of most calls made in the U.S., including the telephone number of the phones making and receiving the call, and how long the call lasted. This information is known as “metadata” and doesn’t include a recording of the actual call (but see below). This program was revealed through a leaked secret court order instructing Verizon to turn over all such information on a daily basis. Other phone companies, including AT&T and Sprint, also reportedly give their records to the NSA on a continual basis. All together, this is several billion calls per day.

    • EFF Sues FBI For Access to Facial-Recognition Records

      As the FBI is rushing to build a “bigger, faster and better” biometrics database, it’s also dragging its feet in releasing information related to the program’s impact on the American public. In response, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed a lawsuit to compel the FBI to produce records to satisfy three outstanding Freedom of Information Act requests that EFF submitted one year ago to shine light on the program and its face-recognition components.

    • ‘World order unjust and immoral!’ Ecuador’s Correa rips into Snowden coverage

      Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa came up with scalding online remarks over criticism his country faced from the US press for potentially granting asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

      “They’ve managed to focus attention on Snowden and on the ‘wicked’ countries that ‘support’ him, making us forget the terrible things against the US people and the whole world that he denounced,” Correa said Wednesday in response to a Tuesday Washington Post editorial.

      “The world order isn’t only unjust, it’s immoral,” Correa added.

      The US newspaper accused Correa of adhering to double standards in the NSA leaker case, as Ecuador is considering harboring Snowden from prosecution over US espionage charges. It descried the Ecuadoran president as “the autocratic leader of a tiny, impoverished” country with an ambition to replace the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez as “the hemisphere’s preeminent anti-US demagogue”.

  • Civil Rights

    • Pandering to Racism

      It is unpleasant for a nation to be singled out as comprised of particularly untrustworthy individuals against whom special measures are needed. Theresa May appears quite deliberately to be singling out countries whose citizens are normally black or brown – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ghana and Nigeria. They are all citizens with extremely close ties to the UK. For example, all of those countries supplied large numbers of men to British armed forces in two World Wars; with little resulting gratitude.

    • A failiure of oversight that goes beyond the police

      The revelations about the Metropolitan Police’s efforts to discredit the family of Steven Lawrence have rightly brought cross-party condemnation. Taken alongside disclosures from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the wider questions about the oversight of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are too important to ignore.

      As David Davis MP wrote in the Guardian:

      “Sadly this is not an isolated example. Back in 2002 the Labour government set out to smear members of the Paddington Survivors Group, an organisation made up of those injured in the rail crash that killed 31 people. When the group’s leader, Pam Warren, dared to criticise Stephen Byers, then transport secretary, muckraking spin doctors quickly went digging for dirt on her political affiliations and even her sexual history.

    • Federal Judge Dismisses Abu Ghraib Case Under Sweeping Ruling Under The Alien Tort Statute

      The Lee ruling illustrates the hypocrisy of the United States in proclaiming our government as committed to the rule of law while denying review of the most egregious abuses by our government and its contractors. It also reflects the Obama Administration continue scorched earth approach to public interest litigation seeking review of the actions of the government from warrantless surveillance to torture to prison abuse. President Obama has made clear that his preferred court and form of transparency is the secret FISA court with secret rulings, rubber stamp approvals, and no adversarial process.

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

  • Intellectual Monopolies

Insulting GNU/Linux and Free Software, Courtesy of Microsoft Moles

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, SCO at 10:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Stephen Walli

Summary: Microsoft staff which infiltrates the opposition is smearing this opposition from the inside and pushing Microsoft’s proprietary software deep within

We are still seeing that typical smear from Walli [1, 2, 3] and fellow Microsoft staff who try to demonise FOSS users, calling them “freeloaders”. This is not the first time we see this insult, but why does Red Hat give Microsoft’s Walli a platform with which to spread the insulting ideas? Here is the link (don’t click) and here is some more brainwashing where Microsoft interviews Microsoft on Linux (at a Microsoft site), grooming another puppet and infiltrator like Hilf and Ramji [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12] before he quit. This one is K.Y. Srinivasan, whom we wrote about in relation to what he does inside Linux. Some Microsoft Web site recently pushed some articles repeatedly, trying to paint Microsoft as a friend of Linux. Will they kindly just step away and stop insulting Free software advocates while pushing Microsoft into everybody’s life, even GNU/Linux users?

People will never forget how Microsoft bankrolled the SCO case, which more than a decade later is still going on:

SCO is saying, we don’t have the copyrights. But we had contracts. The “among other things” means they have more in mind they don’t wish to tell us about yet, as is SCO’s wont. It’s about post-1995 SCO products and Project Monterey and IBM allegedly turning folks against SCO. Like they needed to turn anyone away from SCO. When a company shoots itself in the foot by suing its own customers right and left, it tends to create an atmosphere of alarm and distrust, resulting in others putting space between them and the foot-shooter.

IBM gets to respond next, and I expect them to say that SCO has zero claims left standing. And then we’ll get to IBM’s counterclaims, at last. Here’s a chart of all the summary judgment motions left hanging when SCO filed for bankruptcy protection.

Remember that some people from SCO moved to Microsoft, where they now pretend to be FOSS people. notably Sandeep Gupta.

“[Microsoft's] Mr. Emerson and I discussed a variety of investment structures wherein Microsoft would ‘backstop,’ or guarantee in some way, BayStar’s investment…. Microsoft assured me that it would in some way guarantee BayStar’s investment in SCO.”

Larry Goldfarb, BayStar, key investor in SCO

Microsoft Nearly Loses Nokia; Are Major Layoffs Coming?

Posted in Microsoft at 9:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bad news to be announced on Monday, but gigantic spin is being prepared as time is running out


Summary: Analysis of some recent moves from Microsoft and serious fundamental failures that drove away key people

The company most recently abducted by Microsoft (that would be Nokia, preceded by Yahoo and Novell) was almost turned over to Linux/Android by takeover from China, but in order to distract from it and reduce coverage of this option Microsoft seems to have spread some false rumours about buying Nokia. Murdoch’s China-hostile press said: “One of the people said talks took place as recently as this month but aren’t likely to be revived.” Of course not, Microsoft thought about it years ago (this is well documented) and ran away, deciding to put mole inside, taking over the company at almost no cost, instead. It is similar to what Microsoft did to Yahoo.

Watch what IDG‘s Gregg Keizer says in “What’s the matter with Microsoft?”

He writes: “Microsoft’s had a tough year, and it’s not even half over.”

“Next week we’ll hear some spin about Microsoft “reorg”, which may involve more layoffs.”“What’s going on? Is the company’s decision-making suddenly fundamentally flawed? As the PC industry goes through its largest-ever slump, is it so desperate that it’s trying to milk revenue wherever it can by forcing change — even when it knows customers will rebel? Has it taken to hauling up the white flag at the first sign of resistance rather than toughing it out, as the old Microsoft might have?

“Companies make mistakes all the time, sometimes crippling ones that drag them under. But if the organization is large enough, robust enough, it survives, learns. Ford weathered the Edsel, Coca-Cola New Coke, Netflix its Quikster, Apple the 1985 ousting of Steve Jobs, 2010′s Antennagate and last year’s Maps fiasco. But the pace of Microsoft’s missteps and the resulting turnarounds — three in the span of four months — is unusual.”

Next week we’ll hear some spin about Microsoft "reorg", which may involve more layoffs. The CIO quit recently. “According to a new report,” says this news site. “layoffs of prominent Microsoft officials could be at the heart of that makeover.” (makeover is a euphemism, just like “reorg”)

Back Door Access Discovered in Backup Servers of HP, Showing Urgent Need to Dump Proprietary Software

Posted in Hardware, HP, Security at 9:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Binary-only printer drivers can also be trusted no longer

HP printer

Summary: More revelations about back doors which go beyond ‘the cloud’ and into people’s desks or offices

HP has betrayed people’s trust, not just because it helps Microsoft suppress Free software adoption in the German government [1, 2] but also because its hardware has remotely-accessible back doors. Never again should you trust hardware from HP.

Not only Microsoft Skype is a horrific piece of spyware on people’s desk (with microphone and webcam). As it turns out, HP backup servers too have back doors. As one article put it, “StoreOnce backup systems are not low-end products: the version with twelve 1TB disks (with a usable capacity of 6TB) costs more than €12,000. The price premium compared to a normal server of this size is explained by the StoreOnce Catalyst software included with the server. According to HP, the product’s deduplication functionality reduces the size of data backups by up to 95 per cent.”

“These primarily US-based or Anglo-Saxon companies seem to have total disregard for privacy, as their spy agencies reveal”Towards the end it says: “The disclosure is given added spice by Technion’s decision to publish the SHA1 hash for the password for accessing the hidden administrator account. Hashes can be brute forced to obtain the actual password. It will not be long before the decrypted string is circulating on the usual forums. The password is just seven characters long and draws on a ten-year old meme.”

These primarily US-based or Anglo-Saxon companies seem to have total disregard for privacy, as their spy agencies reveal. It seems like Germany is finally taking note of this. A major German newspaper says: “Overzealous data collectors in the US and Great Britain have no right to investigate German citizens. The German government must protect people from unauthorized access by foreign intelligence agencies, and it must act now. This is a matter of national security.”

They should be dumping Windows in Germany, following Munich's lead. Christine Hall talks about back door access by the NSA into Windows when she writes:

Time to Take Advantage of Microsoft’s Vulnerabilities


It wasn’t news to most of us in the FOSS world that Microsoft was one of the companies shoveling information over to the NSA’s project PRISM. As much as we’d like, we can’t fault them any more than anyone else in that sordid affair. Only Yahoo comes out with any degree of redemption, since they at least bothered to go to court to try to stop the No-Such-Agency guys.

Nor were many of us surprised to discover Microsoft was making it easy for U.S. spooks to monitor traffic on Skype. That news probably damaged the folks in Redmond a little more than the plain vanilla NSA/PRISM story, but there was still some wiggle room for Ballmer. It started before Microsoft’s ownership. My people hardly knew what was going on. We’ll fix it. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

The latest news though, which so far seems to have little to do with the NSA scandal but plenty to do with espionage, might be a Windows breaker. Ballmer & Friends might not be able to squirm their way out of this, especially if the commercial GNU/Linux players get in gear and get moving.

This is definitely going to change how people view Windows. The latest TechBytes episode covers that as well. It’s reassuring to see what we covered for years becoming common knowledge, affecting people’s judgment. Free software is going to capitalise on all this.

Microsoft is Exploiting Children to Sell Its NSA Surveillance Engine, CBS Advertises It

Posted in Microsoft, Search, Vista 8, Vista 9, Windows at 9:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft thinks about the children

Scary baby face

Summary: How CBS is promoting Microsoft agenda and even removing articles critical of Microsoft

Someone amongst our readers sent to us a link to an advertisement from a Microsoft booster. An article by Lance Whitney/CNET is not much different from habitual advertisements, but it is disguised as news. This former Microsoft press writer, Lance Whitney, has been doing this type of thing for years, so promotion of Microsoft’s latest little scam is only to be expected. Almost every Microsoft marketing scam gets promoted in CNET and one just needs to review the authors’ background to understand why. “A special version of Bing will be offered to schools later this year,” says the booster, “one that promises no ads, no adult content, and special learning features.”

“An article by Lance Whitney/CNET is not much different from habitual advertisements, but it is disguised as news”The only learning is machine learning. Microsoft will be profiling children along with the NSA. The same author is also advertising Vista 8, embedded in something that has little to do with Windows, where Microsoft is barely even a contender. Watch him injecting his Microsoft agenda into artticles that actually speak about tablets — an area where Microsoft does so poorly that some expect Microsoft to give up altogether and dump Windows RT (we covered this earlier this week).

CBS is not a news network and coverage of the NSA leaks helps prove it. It’s no better than the embarrassing CNN. It’s mostly propaganda and agenda, shrewdly disguised as balanced reporting.

ZDNet, another CBS site, has just spiked an article titled “Is Microsoft Abandoning Its Mobile Operating Systems?”

Yes, the article has been deleted and censorship is likely the cause.

“The original article which started this whole investigation is helping Microsoft to infiltrate schools and spy on everyone’s children (clients).”The author told me “It’s in the middle of an editorial fight that has nothing to do with the content.”

I asked: “If it has nothing to do with the content, what does it have to do with, the author?”

“One way or the other it will see the light of day again,” the author told me. This author is responsible for the little Microsoft criticism that’s left in the site. ZDNet seems to be in bed with Microsoft in the sense that Microsoft pays for the editorial structure to be altered (I gave examples over the years, notably Microsoft Windows 7/8 promotion in designated editorial sections). A lot of ZDNet writers are also associated with Microsoft. CBS does a similar thing in CNET, so watch out. Generally, the very act of challenging a critic can lead to self-censorship. It interferes with independence of writers. I am not naming the author, for his own protection.

The original article which started this whole investigation is helping Microsoft to infiltrate schools and spy on everyone’s children (clients). Any spying for toddlers or children disguised as “education” is fundamentally malicious. “In the past,” says iophk, “if M$ gave hard cash to schools, they just turned around and used to buy Apple to avoid M$ garbage.” He points to this article which uses the word “pushing” (like a drug deal) to describe what Microsoft does here, gathering data on children and schools and then selling it, just like Gates and Murdoch [1, 2].

It is not nice when privacy abuses are marketed as helping poor kids. This is crude.

TechBytes Episode 79: Richard Stallman Speaks About Back Doors

Posted in TechBytes at 3:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Techbytes 2013

Direct download as Ogg (00:09:50, 5.7 MB)

Summary: The second part of this interview series focuses on back doors in software

TODAY we speak about back doors and software freedom tackling this issue. Now that we know that the NSA receives notifications about zero-day flaws in Windows (long in advance, directly from Microsoft), which enables cracking PCs abroad, this is very relevant.

This is the second of several (the first part is here) and the transcript follows.

Dr. Roy S. Schestowitz: I want to try and discuss with you this whole subject of back doors. I think in the past — I know from experience — people were trying to call people like yourself “paranoid” for discussing or even entertaining the possibility that there may be back doors in proprietary software. Well, now we know that they exist. One of the things…

Richard StallmanDr. Richard M. Stallman: We know for a long time about specific back doors in specific proprietary software. It has been documented. For instance, the existence of a universal back door in Microsoft Windows was proved years ago. And the existence of a universal back door in most portable phones was proved years ago. Now, a universal back door means that they can be used to do absolutely anything. It can be used to change the software, so whatever they want to do, they could put in software which does it.

RSS: We can make an educated guess about what they think is intercepted and how, but I think that many discussions lack technical details on exactly how the NSA is doing what it does because Glenn Greenwald is not going to release the documents related to that. But some people were talking about hardware-level — even firewall- of network-level — back doors. We may know, based on the leaks for example of Klein in AT&T, they might be harvesting the data at the chokepoints.

RMS: Well, it’s not a back door. If AT&T agreed to connect its computers to surveillance of the NSA, that doesn’t involve a back door. Those computers belong to AT&T, so if AT&T has full control over them, which it should, then AT&T could also connect to the NSA. You see, these are somewhat different issues. The first issue, which Free software is part of, is that you should have control over your computer. Now, that’s violated with proprietary software if your computer is running, say, Windows, or Mac OS, or if it’s an iThing, or most kinds of Android products, then you don’t control it, some company is controlling it and making it do things that you’ll like. So the first thing is, [incomprehensible] says that the computer should have full control over it.

“I don’t think the US government should use operating systems made in China for the same reason that most governments shouldn’t use operating systems made in the US and in fact we just got proof since Microsoft is now known to be telling the NSA about bugs in Windows before it fixes them.”But that doesn’t mean that when you’re using some company’s service, if a company has full control over the computers that implement that service, which it should, that doesn’t mean the company will treat you right. That’s a separate issue. It’s wrong for [another] company to have control over these computers and if AT&T uses proprietary software, it [that other company] fully has control over AT&T’s computers and that’s wrong. However, making sure AT&T has complete control over its computers doesn’t guarantee that AT&T will treat us right.

RSS: I was thinking about a different scenario where the company that you interact with might itself backdoored in the sense that the firewalls, they might be using older hardware and might be using — maybe — back door by design, so that the NSA, for example, can quietly and silently infiltrate and capture data, for example, [from] firewalls or Intel chips for example.

RMS: It’s possible, and not just necessarily Intel chips because the Pentagon suspects that devices made by Huawei might have some back door of the Chinese government…

RSS: And the latest NDAA is actually explicitly forbidding the use of hardware made in China. That’s from the NDAA 2014. But not many speak about why this is happening, why they modified the rules. Recently, interestingly enough, a guy who was interacting with these companies — I’m not sure if you’ve heard about Shane Todd — the guy who lived in Singapore was assassinated apparently under the — basically, the guise of suicide — and there seems to be a lot of suspicion among those two camps of telecom companies and what they might be doing at the back room.

RMS: Well, it’s perfectly reasonable suspicion to me. I don’t think the US government should use operating systems made in China for the same reason that most governments shouldn’t use operating systems made in the US and in fact we just got proof since Microsoft is now known to be telling the NSA about bugs in Windows before it fixes them.

RSS: I was just going to bring this up exactly, so I was saying that the NSA recently received notifications about the zero-day holes in advance and [incomprehensible] the NSA and the CIA to just crack PCs abroad for espionage purposes.

RMS: Now, [incomprehensible] that this proves my point, which is that you have to be nuts if you were some other country and using Windows on your computers. But, you know, given that Windows has a universal back door in it, Microsoft would hardly need to tell the NSA about any bugs, it can tell the NSA about the mal-feature of the universal back door and that would be enough for the NSA to attack any computer running Windows, which unfortunately is a large fraction of them.

The next part will be published next week.

We hope you will join us for future shows and consider subscribing to the show via the RSS feed. You can also visit our archives for past shows. If you have an Identi.ca account, consider subscribing to TechBytes in order to keep up to date.

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