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12.03.13

Links 3/12/2013: Applications and Instructionals

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

Apple and Microsoft Claim Patent Tax on GNU/Linux, Red Hat’s Response Too Weak

Posted in Apple, Google, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 10:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Racketeering — like bank bailouts — increasingly seen like “business as usual”

Rob TillerSummary: GNU/Linux is said to be among the targets for illegal extortion, but even self-professed backers of GNU/Linux aren’t interested in addressing this problem

Apple and Microsoft are only alleged to be making money from Linux; nobody knows for sure, but analysts who are close to Microsoft (or Microsoft lobbyists) try to tell us that somehow they know what's behind NDAs, almost as if they relay the official party line on behalf of Microsoft. What’s probably most disturbing about it is lack of an effective response from the likes of Google and Red Hat. IBM is a lost cause because when it comes to patents IBM is more or less in the same camp as Microsoft (they cross-license and they lobby for software patents around the world, not just in the US).

Mr. Pogson, who tends to find interesting stuff every now and then, picked up this link from sec.gov and as iophk points out, “”commenter “IGnatius T Foobar” picked up on the fact that M$ is including income from Android patent extortion as Windows Phone revenue.

“Follow the link and scroll down to “Windows Phone, including related patent licensing; and certain other patent licensing revenue;” The only way I can think to interpret that is that it is income from extorting Android. Because that is a lot of money it can be hiding a really bad situation for Windows Phone, up to and including losses.”

According to this new report, “Apple’s secret deals with mobile operators are squeezing smaller companies out of the market and driving up costs even for those who don’t use their products, according to Register sources across the industry.

“”In my opinion Apple are in a grey area,” one legal expert with first hand experience of the contracts told us.”

If this is true at all (and evidence is still absent), then this is extortion and we need to bring it to light in order for legal procedures to follow. Some company needs to leak out information, potentially breaking an NDA. That’s how Edward Snowden helped hold the NSA and GCHQ accountable.

One would expect companies like Red Hat and Google (most affected by such extortion) to do something about it, but Google hired patent lawyers and is now accumulating software patents. Red Hat follows a similar trajectory and its lawyer Mr. Tiller keeps on talking about trolls rather than about giants like Microsoft and software patents in general. The other day he wrote: “With patent reform legislation moving forward, an impressive group of law professors weighed in last week in favor of reform. The group submitted a letter to Congress that effectively demonstrates the seriousness of the problem of patent assertion entities (PAEs) and supports pending legislation.

“This issue is timely, because the Innovation Act (HR 3309) was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on November 20 with a strong majority (33-5) in favor. There is a good chance that the full House will take up the bill this week.”

As iophk points out, Tiller is doing “[e]verything except removing the actual problem: software and business method patents. All those that write but dodge the question of software patents themselves just feed the problem. I’m disappointed that some choose not to look for the base cause and buy into the PR from the lawyers.”

We find more or less the same in FOSS Force, which writes: “We find it very heartening that some firms are now fighting back rather than rolling over when the patent trolls come knocking. We especially like the hardball route being taken by FindTheBest. After all, when we were growing up we were taught that the best defense is a good offense.”

Personally, I more or less gave up (for the time being at least) on the cause against software patents because the scene got abducted by large corporations and billionaires who fund laywers (even EFF lawyers) to tell us that the problem is “bad” patents or “trolls’. That’s not the problem, it’s just a decoy and the real debates are being crushed by this corporate hijack of grassroots movements against software patents. The real problems here are patents on algorithms (reducible to mathematics) and extortion/racketeering, which is of course against the law. Here we are dealing with very high levels of criminality, where companies are engaging in racketeering and nobody goes to prison, just as those same companies illegally spy on people in exchange for government contracts/favours. Back doors seem to become more common (home routers now have back doors), showing the high degree of collusion between government and business [1]. Never count on corporations to serve people’s interests; they serve particular people’s interests: shareholders and government officials (with a huge budget and an open door to favouritism). Red Hat too helps the NSA.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Stallman: Microsoft, Facebook Spying for US Government

    Famous computer programmer and President of Free Software Foundation Stallman says it’s so many years now that Microsoft and recently Facebook have been gathering the personal information of users in violation of the US constitution.

GNU is Not Linux: Richard Stallman Explains the Origins of GNU

Posted in Site News at 10:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Another series of interviews coming…

Richard Stallman on chair

Summary: Stallman tells Techrights/TechBytes lesser-known details about the birth of GNU in the early 1980s

Freedom is appreciated by more and more people who now understand how freedom gets covertly derailed, either by corporations, by authorities, or both. The NSA leaks have helped people reassess their views.

A lot of the digital oppression that we now suffer from was vaguely foreseen decades ago. Back doors and other malicious features were only a few years or decades away back then; trust in computers was maintained owing to secrec; behind the scenes computers and networks turned from instruments of enablement to instruments of control (restriction, surveillance, and more). The trend we are seeing was predictable to pessimists. As times goes by the words of warning from Richard Stallman find support from a wider audience of former optimists.

Stallman’s life as a freedom activist mostly began 30 years ago. Our readers regularly ask for him to come back and share his views. Iophk pointed out that GNU’s anniversary was an opportunity to speak about the past. “Any kind of interview, either via e-mail or via SIP,” he said, “would be great.”

“I don’t think I’ve seen any retrospective yet covering where progress has actually been made. There are a lot of things that have become so common that we almost take them for granted or forget their origins.”

The interview with Stallman tries to focus on GNU as a movement and as a software project. It does cover some topics outside the area of software, but any topic other than software is not the main topic this time around. Some questions came from readers, giving an opportunity to receive a video response. Others were written in advance in order to address contemporary issues. The overview is as follows:

Part 1: the Origins of GNU

- – Can you recall the text/code editor (amongst other tools) used to initially create GNU and over time render proprietary software non-obligatory for development work?

- – What was the first GNU program?

- – How did the number of active participants vary over the years back in the 1980s?

Part 2: the Achievements of GNU

- – What is it among the goals of GNU which has not been fulfilled yet (if any)?

- – If the GNU operating system was widely preinstalled on restrictive hardware and preloaded with binary blobs, would that, in your view, be better than lesser ubiquity for GNU?

- – What will it take to break the desktop monopoly and tackle the OEM bundling trap?

Part 3: the Future of GNU

- – Do you believe that GNU receives as much credit as it deserves?

- – To what extent does attribution to GNU (which usually accompanies understanding of its principles) contribute to its sustainability as a long-term project?

- – Are you optimistic or pessimistic with respect to the future of computing as increasingly free/libre?

The interview took a short time compared to the 2.5 hours I spent with Stallman, mostly speaking off the record. Questions were also taken from readers and then answered. Someone asked me to ask “Richard what he thinks about Google? is it evil? is it lesser evil, just like in RMS’s example of lending a copy of software to your friend, even though this copy should not be copied?”

Questions were also asked about darknets and such. One person sought Stallman’s opinion on “i2p, freenet and the meshnets that are rising like Hyperborea with the altDNS deal.”

One reader wanted to “ask him to join Diaspora!”

For all those questions and much beyond them be sure to keep an eye on Techrights.

Among the topics covered we also had trolls, or those who focus on reputation damage to the Free Software Foundation, the GPL, and people who are associated with these. The interview will get split into segments and then edited as before, probably to be released over the span of the next 3 months (I work full time, so I must pace this editing process accordingly).

Reminder to Corporate Press: PHP is Not Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Security, Windows at 9:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

PHP

Summary: Reporting on scare-mongering from Symantec mostly off target

A PHP worm is widely described in the press as a Linux problem, even though PHP runs on many platforms and flaws in PHP are not uncommon. The FUD comes from an insecurity firm, Symantec, which has history of hostility against GNU/Linux. This FUD has occupied the press in recent days. Here is an example from IDG. Somehow a PHP issue gets described as a “Linux worm” (usually in headlines, too) for many other writers to repeat without researching any further. If there is any issue associated with embedded devices (which cannot be patched easily, if at all), then don’t blame Linux; embedded systems just happen to be an area reined by Linux and GNU. Windows would not have coped any better.

As Mr. Schneier helps remind us these days [1], proprietary software is a helluva lot worse than GNU/Linux, even if there were some security issues in particular combinations like Linux+PHP. Well, proprietary software is often designed with back doors, as Stuxnet helps remind us (Microsoft works closely with the NSA).

So, before bashing Linux over software that also runs on Windows (PHP) be sure to check which platform has vulnerabilities by design. The most disturbing fact is, nowadays it is common to call out “Linux” when there is some Linux-associated weakness but never call out Windows when only Windows is at fault (as in Stuxnet and NSA back doors).

PHP is rarely used on Windows because performance- and cost-wise Windows is a pile garbage; especially developers should realise this (some develop on Windows/Mac OS X but only ever deploy on GNU/Linux). Why pick on the operating system when the flaw is to some degree platform-agnostic? Maybe it was Symantec’s malicious intention again. Symantec makes money from offering remedies to users of a back-doored operating system (like selling insurance for a soon-to-be-broken product). So ignore Symantec’s sensationalism and those whom it bamboozled into parroting.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. More on Stuxnet

Bill Gates Brings NSA-esque Surveillance to Children

Posted in Bill Gates at 9:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Rupert Murdoch with Bill Gates

Summary: Plutocrats are using US schools to indoctrinate, control, and even spy on tomorrow’s adults

Compatibility prison is what many schools leave students in. They teach children habits which only help them become unwanting/unwanted customers of an abusive company and files which are written by these children are not even readable several years down the line (hence school work becomes self-burning). This is the legacy of Microsoft in schools — a legacy which the Gates Foundation is working hard behind the scenes to enforce. The upgrade treadmill is all they care about; it has nothing whatsoever to do with education and everything to do with Microsoft’s revenue. It’s corruption. Remember that Facebook, for example, is not obligatory, whereas schools are.

But Gates’ rogue legacy in schools goes much further than all this. As we showed before, Gates now uses schools to spy on children for profit. It’s about profitable indoctrination, shrewdly disguised using euphemisms like 'Common Core'. One one article put it the other day: “There are also concerns about the longitudinal data system that goes along with Common Core. The system is designed to collect up to 400 data points on each child, which can include personally identifiable data, she said. The data will be collected by a company called inBloom, created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”

Schools must not use software that spies on children; since nobody knows what proprietary software actually does (nobody except few developers) it must never be used in schools, either. Gates is working to make this the norm by mislabelling proprietary spyware “open”. If not students, then parents and teachers should be up in arms, uniting to stop this injustice.

Culture of Violence a Disservice to National Security

Posted in Action at 8:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Drones don’t just kill “targets”

Victims of drones

Summary: How a culture of unprecedented violence leads to less security and more hostility towards the West

THE Russian press is having a day field. Violence in the United States is not just rising domestically (“A high school student suffered a brain injury and remains in a medically-induced coma after a Texas sheriff’s deputy tasered him,” according to this report) but also in other nations. Drones which are run by the CIA (targeting people the NSA staff chooses) are invading countries and blasting a lot of people, not just “targets” which the NSA selects (based on electronic communications and profiling, not a trial). Even the US corporate press is starting to provide coverage of the anti-drone movement [1]; the same goes for British corporate press [2], which is trying to give the other side of the story. In the Washington Post (close ties to the government and the CIA) yesterday there was a piece calling the drone war “immoral” (it’s actually illegal), attributing it to Obama although it’s Bush who started it.

Maybe one day it will be realised that giving children guns as toys (in a holiday that is supposed to be about birth), tasering children and killing children abroad with overpriced Hellfire missiles is just fueling the United States’ enemies and in no way serves the national interests (a.k.a. “National Security”) of this nation. That’s just what happens when paramilitaries take over a country. Feuds cannot be ended using violence; negotiation is needed and people who left the CIA say that negotiation did work. It’s just not as profitable as war.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Yemen’s New Ways of Protesting Drone Strikes: Graffiti and Poetry

    Proponents argue that drones offer an efficient way of fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based affiliate of the global terrorist network. The Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has endorsed the program, praising ongoing U.S.-Yemen counterterrorism cooperation and the “high precision that’s been provided by drones.” Human rights activists in Yemen and the families of many victims are outraged by the so-called “drone war” in the country, which the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates has resulted in between 21 and 56 civilian deaths. Aside from more conventional methods of protest – such as demonstrations, media campaigns, and the production of often scathing reports – activists are increasingly employing art as a medium through which to express their anger.

  2. ‘There were pieces of my family all over the road’: Afghan citizen describes seeing relative’s burning bodies after deadly U.S. drone strike
  3. President Obama’s immoral drone war

    U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries may be militarily effective, but they are killing innocent civilians in a way that is obscene and immoral. I’m afraid that ignoring this ugly fact makes Americans complicit in murder.

    It is understandable why President Obama has made drone attacks his go-to weapon in the fight against terrorists and the Taliban. Armed, pilotless aircraft allow the CIA and the military to target individuals in enemy strongholds without putting U.S. lives at risk. But efficacy is not legitimacy, and I don’t see how drone strikes can be considered a wholly legitimate way to wage war.

Anti-GNU/Linux Campaigns Are Not Left Behind at Microsoft, Only the Brands Change

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google at 8:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Worldwide surveillance by Microsoft is at risk

Global

Summary: Microsoft’s offensive and facts-free campaigns still target products which run GNU/Linux, even if the “G” and “L” words are not mentioned (Chromebooks/Google are the target now)

IT WASN’T MANY years ago that Microsoft launched blatantly deceiving anti-GNU/Linux marketing campaigns. What can only be described as manipulative propaganda Microsoft called “Get the Facts”; only George Orwell was right, getting the facts on newspeak.

As we pointed out the other day, the crooks from Microsoft give even porn stars a bad name by calling their propaganda agents ‘Pawn Stars’. Wait, wasn’t it Microsoft that called developers “Pawn”? Yes, it did. And watch how far and deep Microsoft’s propaganda goes now. As one site put it: “The world of advertising is a cut throat world, the strong survive and the weak are left behind. Microsoft has reached out to the popular History Channel show, Pawn Stars for their “Scroogled” campaign.” One writer at IDG called this “reality-distortion field” and said: “Much like reality TV, Microsoft’s anti-Chromebook ads overlook several facts about Google — and Microsoft itself” (the same goes for anti-Google commercials that Microsoft airs in the UK, hiding its own special relationship with the NSA).

The anti-Chromebook campaign is yet another anti-GNU/Linux campaign, targeting one particular brand which became competitive and is gaining share [1].

As Microsoft is a company of financial fraud (it would not be shocking if the US government indirectly subsidised it to carry on spying on the whole world) we should be happy to see Windows going away, but it should be noted that Chromebooks don’t respect user’s freedom and privacy. Robert Pogson pointed out the other day that: “When the legacy PC market is struggling for growth and PCs are being delivered to consumers down to ~$250 or so, the burden that M$ is to the market is clear. GNU/Linux or Android/Linux give OEMs a much larger margin. Sure, OEMs get a markup on the licence, but that doesn’t help if their competition is selling multiple small cheap computers for every legacy PC the OEM ships. Guess who does all the work? The OEM. M$’s not even breaking a sweat issuing permission slips to use hardware they don’t make. Despite declines, M$’s gross margin is still 90% of licensing revenue. OEMs actually make legacy PCs at a loss offset only by the margin on the licences for that other OS. OEMs are tired of being M$’s slave and are steadily decreasing the number of PCs shipping with that other OS. Instead they are producing what the market wants, small cheap computers running FLOSS. This trend is accelerating as OEMs trip over each other trying to exit. Even retailers are placing unboxed Chromebooks on shelves once cluttered with that other OS. My local Walmart doesn’t even bother to unbox desktop PCs with that other OS. They are piled up on the floor under the bottom shelf.”

Chromebook are not a comforting trend. They have in them some of the same problems Windows has had. This should serve as a reminder of the need to advocate software freedom and tech rights like privacy, not just “Linux”.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Microsoft Should Be Scared to Death of Google’s Chromebooks

    In the 1990s, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) worked hard to undermine Java, Sun Microsystem’s programming language. Back then, it was believed that Java would allow programmers to write applications that could effectively run on any operating system, whether it was Windows or anything else. Although it never really materialized, the promise of Java’s “write once, run anywhere” design philosophy held the potential to destroy Microsoft’s Windows operating system monopoly.

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