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08.01.13

Microsoft is Trying to Occupy South Africa’s Computing Infrastructure in Schools

Posted in Africa, Microsoft at 11:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

Bill Gates

Summary: The next generation of people in the former British colony can end up colonised by Microsoft with its proprietary, NSA-ready software

Not too long ago Microsoft was seen interfering with GNU/Linux in Africa and now we see that again. Last month in Oxford I spent an hour talking to someone from South Africa and he explained to me what Microsoft was doing there. He was a Free software proponent, so he was passionate about this. He explained how gentle Microsoft bribes got Microsoft into schools in there, derailing Free software and ODF plans.

iophk told us that Microsoft is “afraid of FOSS in African schools” based on this new article which says:

Microsoft is expanding the push for so-called “white spaces” broadband to South Africa, where it will help to deploy the technology in a pilot project serving five primary and secondary schools.

The pilot project is aimed at getting schools in rural parts of the country’s northeastern Limpopo province connected to the Internet. If successful, it could give South Africa a tool that would help the country reach its goal of affordable broadband for 80% of the population by 2020.

[...]

In the South African project, Microsoft will work with the University of Limpopo, government agencies and a local network builder called Multisource. The project will set up a central white-spaces radio at the university and one at each of the five schools.

This is a backdoor plan to occupy the server and desktop side, too. Schools should be made aware that students will be spied on by the United States unless they choose freedom-respecting software. With memories of apartheid they should be able to grok freedom.

“Schools should be made aware that students will be spied on by the United States unless they choose freedom-respecting software. With memories of apartheid they should be able to grok freedom.”The problem is not just Microsoft but proprietary software, especially from the United States. The NSA must already know about a lot of back doors in US-made products because it’s eavesdropping on everyone’s E-mails — HP’s and IBM’s included — and then uses legal threats against companies until/unlesss they comply with US law and obey orders of excessive surveillance. It’s not just the PATRIOT Act.

We see a lot of it in NSA-Microsoft collusion and LeftHand back doors leave room for concern in hardware appliance (it's not just LeftHand). HP admits having back doors in storage servers by stating: “All HP StoreVirtual Storage systems are equipped with a mechanism that allows HP support to access the underlying operating system if permission and access is provided by the customer. This functionality cannot be disabled today.”

Here is more in this admission:

Hewlett-Packard has agreed that there is an undocumented administrative account in its StoreVirtual products, and is promising a patch by 17 July.

The issue, which seems to have existed since 2009, was brought to the attention of The Register by Technion, the blogger who earlier published an undocumented backdoor in the company’s StoreOnce products.

Proprietary software is malicious and dangerous. South Africa oughtn’t touch it, and especially not impose it on children. This software comes from a country that labelled Mandela “terrorists” until 2008 and provided information to aid his arrest decades ago.

Hardware Companies Continue to Dump Microsoft Windows

Posted in Dell, Microsoft, Vista 8, Windows at 11:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Yet more disdain and abandonment of Microsoft as a platform

Last month we wrote about OEMs dumping Windows and Microsoft’s booster Ina Fried adds another new example, which is ASUS. The ongoing attempt to use vapourware won’t work anymore (Blue is hogwash).

“The ongoing attempt to use vapourware won’t work anymore (Blue is hogwash).”Vista 8 is a total disaster and Microsoft’s results are getting harder to game [1, 2, 3], with some people who urge Microsoft to fire Ballmer. As Pogson puts it, Microsoft is “Trying To Work For A Living” now that preinstalls of Windows are weak (Android is preinstalled more times). Here are some numbers of Microsoft’s own (rebadged) hardware sales: “Microsoft’s shares took a beating following its gloomy fiscal 2013 earnings report earlier this month, in which it wrote down nearly a billion dollars on its unloved Surface RT fondleslabs. But the software giant isn’t out of the woods yet, because new details have emerged that have the full Surface picture looking even worse than was previously thought.

“In Redmond’s annual 10-K report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), published on Tuesday, the software giant reported actual Surface revenue figures for the first time – and they’re not good.”

Also note that “Microsoft managed to mow through an $898m marketing budget in just eight calendar months – and consumers still didn’t take the bait.”

An article from famed computer expert Jean-Louis Gassée says: “Last week’s Monday Note focused on Microsoft’s conversion from a divisional to a functional organization. It resulted in interesting discussions in the comments section as well as in e-mail exchanges and conversations around a couple of Valley watering holes. Some thought Microsoft’s statements had the sincerity of a death-bed conversion, others pointed to the challenges in remaking a cricket team into a football squad, most expressed doubts about Microsoft’s ability to successfully adapt to a world where the PC no longer reigns supreme.”

Either way, even Microsoft-friendly sites take notes of growing impatience at Nokia, which despite being a Microsoft pawn has openly complained about Microsoft’s failure. Interesting times. Can Dell still rescue/salvage itself?

As Apple Loses Notorious Software Patent the Debate About Software Patents Reappears in the Corporate Media

Posted in Apple, Patents at 10:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Some coverage about a loss of ammunition against Android and another debate about software patents, which economists do not like

Apple is going to appeal, i.e. protest the decision to kill its pinch-to-zoom patent. Apple boosters try to deny the seriousness of this verdict from the USPTO and less biased sites put it like it is. The debate about patentability of software has just returned to the trend-setting media. “Here’s why economists hate software patents,” explains the Washington Post. It starts like this: “Should software be eligible for patent protection? With litigation over software patents increasing rapidly, it’s an important question. And a growing number of economists are concluding that the answer is “no.” The latest is Gary Becker, who made the case against software patents in a recent blog post.

““Disputes over software patents are among the most common, expensive and counterproductive,” the Nobel Prize* winner wrote. “Their exclusion from the patent system would discourage some software innovations, but the saving from litigation costs over disputed patent rights would more than compensate the economy for that cost.”

“Moreover, Becker argues, “some software innovations would be encouraged because the inability to patent software will eliminate uncertainty over whether someone else with a similar patent will sue and do battle in the courts, ”a circumstance that has become increasingly common in recent years.”

We covered his take before and it is good to see this issue in the headlines again (not just patent trolls).

Corporations Still Focus on Patent Trolls While the Public (People) Worry About Patent Scope

Posted in Patents at 10:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Another reminder of the disparity and the difference between corporate interests and public interests when it comes to patent policy

Serving large corporations is the norm for a government that’s funded by them. Google wants a crackdown on trolls, based on this new report, but what about software patents? To quote this report: “Dozens of major U.S. companies, including Morgan Stanley, Google, Wal-Mart and Dell, on Tuesday urged lawmakers to pass bills that they said would protect new products against “extortive demands” on patents.”

“Levy writes for a good blog called “patent progress” (worth following) and he has been focusing on patent scope for quite some time.”But what about people? Corporations are not people. Why always obey the will of huge companies and not do anything about software patents? As Matt Levy put it the other day: “The only thing that would change is whether the PTO can fully review a broader set of patents. If one agrees that “patent quality” is a problem, then it only makes sense to let the experts (i.e. the PTO) help to fix that quality problem.”

Levy writes for a good blog called “patent progress” (worth following) and he has been focusing on patent scope for quite some time. Now that even cures for cancer in the form of genetic data (naturally-occurring) get patented, this is an ethical issue and this new article tells us about “An effort to build a public database of BRCA gene variants” (genetics are being patented). This is a catastrophe even greater than software patents because it kills many people. Here is a new example of software patents doing their thing:

MotionPoint Corp., a Coconut Creek-based tech company, recently lost a verdict to New York-based TransPerfect Global over patents on its website translation software.

The jury verdict was $1 million, but the impact of the verdict remains unclear.

Who benefits from this? Neither developers nor users of software. For sure it is patent scope that’s the biggest problem; the debate about the patent system got warped in recent years.

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