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12.05.13

A Western Assault on GNU/Linux Security and Privacy

Posted in Action at 12:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Governments (which are dominated by corporations) continue to make security hard as part of a campaign to spy on everyone under claims that it helps “national security” (control from above)

I

T OUGHTN’T BE so shocking that empires rely on a lot of spying; they require remote penetration (infiltration, informants, eavesdropping, etc.) in order to deter against possible uprise — a challenge to their often-illicit colonisation and/or domestic imposition of power. The negative influence of Western policies (Anglo-Saxon in particular) on security and privacy of Free software products is only to be expected. We need to understand it if we wish to circumvent it.

No company has helped the NSA like Microsoft has. The only ‘competition’ to Microsoft in this respect are the telecom giants. Microsoft launched a new AstroTurfing campaign, trying to convince us that Google is worse even through it’s not. Microsoft is using privacy as an advantage point, falsely believing that the public is not smart enough to realise that Microsoft has been in bed with the NSA for over a decade. As one blogger put it, Microsoft’s “Scroogled” line of anti-Google T-shirts, mugs and other novelties “was guaranteed to be an instant collector’s item when it was first designed because of what it says about Microsoft — that they’re running scared [...] When you have to resort to mudslinging instead of simply competing, it’s clear that you’re playing catch-up.”

But wait, how privacy-respecting is Linux really? Well, unlike GNU, Linux is now developed to a large degree by US corporations that also work with the NSA. Google, which has made somewhat of a joke the notion of privacy on devices running Linux, is only one of them. Red Hat too is working with the NSA and based on this news about a Red Hat partner, the relationship only gets somewhat stronger. As one site put it, a the CIA is now involved, not just Red Hat partners and former staff. Ubuntu too makes mockery out of privacy, especially because of its arrangement with the CIA’s datacentre partner, Amazon (the CIA says is strives to collect all data and never delete it). Based on Snowden’s leaks, the NSA/CIA uses spying on porn surfing in order to discredit activists it does not like, so knowing what they search for on their desktop would help too. What happens when those agents are also getting the historical locations of activists, going many years back (hence knowing where they have been, not only who they spoke to)? Here is some sobering news, confirming what we knew but could not prove. This was originally covered by the Bezos (of Amazon)-owned Washington Post last night:

  • NSA tracking cellphone locations worldwide, Snowden documents show

    The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.

  • This Is How The NSA Is Tracking You This Instant

    That little “entertaining” cell phone in your back pocket, which you are so addicted to thanks to all its apps, videos, messaging function and all other cool bells and whistles, that you can’t possibly live without? It is simply the definitive NSA tracking beacon used to find where you are at any given moment. The following infographic explains how the NSA does just that…

Western powers don’t seem to think that anyone in the world has privacy rights. Linux is originally from Finland (now developed in the US), GNU being all along from the US (MIT). In a way, these two projects have become targets of the nation they are currently made in. Developers seem to be aware of it.

Cisco, the giant whose sales in China are collapsing because of NSA connections, is buying some Free software projects, including those which facilitated private chats (Jabber). Here is an item from the latest news: “Newly absorbed, acquired and assimilated by Cisco for its cyber security prowess, Sourcefire remains a subsidiary company under its own brand name.”

Cisco is monopolising security and insecurity; this is not good. And there are also complaints (even from Linux developers) about Intel and random number generators, arguing that work is being done to subvert security in Linux and by extension in SSL. And just consider what Intel has done with ‘secure’ boot, making it so much harder to set up GNU/Linux and possible to remotely brick PCs. As one UEFI critic out it the other day, it may lead more people to Windows. “My attempt at installing Mint 16 on a UEFI system with Ubuntu has had some – at best – mixed results,” he said.

We could go on to IBM with TPM and other companies whose agenda, which is tied to forums that the NSA is a part of, makes the world a vulnerable place. It’s about control (by the top 1% or less), not control by users. And it ought to worry everyone. Free software is supposed to be about emancipation from control by others (“masters”), so Free software is in jeopardy now.

The Copyright Cartel Takes Over Schools to Deceive and Indoctrinate Children

Posted in Deception, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft at 10:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

School copyright propaganda

Summary: Schools become a target of shameless copyright propaganda and promotion (advertising) of copyright boosters/maximalists

THE Open (as in libre) Access movement has brought great benefits to students, as this new article reminds us [1]. Now that we have sharing-friendly licences such as Creative Commons 4.0 [2] it is no surprise that extensive encyclopaedias like Wikipedia are available for download by all [3]. It maxmimises sharing of knowledge, much to the disdain of “Copyright And Patent Maximalists” [4] who promote criminal cartels (the “Copyright Monopoly” [5]). All sorts of proxies and fronts, including some British thing that’s deceivingly called “Culture Committee” [6] (back in Sept.), continue to promote the fiction of piracy and those who the “Culture Committee” claims to represent do not even agree [7]. Basically, a bunch of non-artists in suits are manipulating and misrepresenting society’s interests so that they can hoard money and tax everyone while limiting dissemination of culture.

One jaw-dropping gallery of propaganda at schools was assembled and explained by Will Hill the other day. Watch how the cartel is now working to indoctrinate everyone’s children under the obligatory system known as schools. As Hill put it: “Here is some of what public school students are being taught about computers, the internet copyright and sharing. These are screen captures from a film my twelve year old daughter was shown and quizzed on. Some of the message is useful but the overall tone is one of paranoia, distrust of your neighbors and obedience to authorities, such as publishers and government officials. Facebook, Microsoft and Google are promoted, with the lion’s share of promotion going to Facebook and Microsoft. There’s more than a hint of racism at one or two points.”

Watch the images and be disgusted. This is the cartel taking its propaganda into the classrooms. We need to fight back against this. Culture is at stake as some opportunists want to privatise it.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Open-source textbooks could mean lower costs for students

    The average cost for college textbooks for the 2013-2014 school year at OU is $848 per student, according to OU’s website. If you plan on obtaining a four/five-year education, those costs can really add up.

    But what if some of your books were free to use and accessible to anyone with Internet access at any time? Doesn’t sound too bad, right? This initiative is called open-source textbooks, and colleges across the nation, including OU, are giving this alternative method of providing resources for students a glance. Not only are certain schools looking into this, the general book cost issue has gained national attention.

  2. Creative Commons unveils new 4.0 licenses

    Creative Commons proudly introduces our 4.0 licenses, now available for adoption worldwide. The 4.0 licenses—more than two years in the making—are the most global, legally robust licenses produced by CC to date. Dozens of improvements have been incorporated that make sharing and reusing CC-licensed materials easier and more dependable than ever before.

  3. Downloading Wikipedia is easier than you might think, what’s in store for Linux in 2014, and more
  4. The USTR’s Revolving Door With Copyright And Patent Maximalists Removes All Credibility

    Tim Lee, over at the Washington Post’s The Switch, has an excellent, detailed look at why the USTR seems to think that patent and copyright maximalism is in the best interests of America. There are two key reasons, which I’ll paraphrase as (1) the employees at USTR have strong connections to copyright and patent maximalists, and there’s a constant revolving door between USTR and IP maximalists, and (2) they’re basically ignorant of how the digital world works today.

  5. Copyright Monopoly Disintegration Inevitable As It Only Takes A Single Country

    The emergence of experimental legally autonomous startup zones in Honduras and other places is one of the most exciting developments in a long time, and forebodes the collapse of the copyright industry’s tyranny over culture and knowledge.

  6. Culture Committee copyright report one-sided and simplistic

    This morning the Culture, Media and Sport Committee published its report into how to support the creative industries. While it is a wide-ranging report, on copyright reform there is plenty to be disappointed about.

  7. Russell Brand: Get My New DVD From The Pirate Bay

    English comedian Russell Brand is no stranger to controversy and in the past few days the funnyman has been at it again, this time concerning the release of his new DVD. Brand informed his Twitter followers that obtaining Messiah Complex can be achieved in various ways, not least via The Pirate Bay. Potential UK viewers need not be concerned about ISP censorship either, as Brand helpfully provided a link to a Pirate Bay proxy.

While Nokia Becomes Microsoft’s Anti-Linux Litigation Front, Pre-Elop Nokia Revived, Jolla Sells All Available Phones

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 9:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: More of the old products of Nokia are brought back to life owing to former Nokia staff while existing Nokia staff, led by a Microsoft mole, continues to attack Linux-powered phones with patents

MICROSOFT has crushed and destroyed Nokia, using its moles to take over the company and turn it from a Linux backer into a Linux foe. This is not an unusual routine from Microsoft; Corel comes to mind.

Nokia’s war on Android has taken another step in the UK, banning some of the nicest phones that I have come across (HTC phones are in many ways more impressive than Samsung phones). As the corporate media put it, a “London judge said HTC Corp. (2498) couldn’t sell its One Mini phone in the U.K. from Dec. 6 after it was found to have infringed patents owned by Nokia Oyj. (NOK1V)

“While Judge Richard Arnold also ruled that HTC’s One phone contained microchips that breached Nokia’s patent, he delayed an injunction against the product so HTC could appeal. Blocking U.K. sales of the One would cause “considerable” damage to HTC, he said in a ruling today.”

As iophk put it, Microsoft “left Nokia with the patents so it will have to troll for Microsoft to “monetize” them.”

Android has become so dominant that even BlackBerry is starting to lean towards it [1]. Google says that iPhone is behind [2], the new release of Android is a big improvement [3], and Free software is not neglected, not even by Ballnux companies (paying Microsoft for Linux) like HTC and Samsung [4,5]. Google is beaten to things by its partners [6], which shows just how passionate companies have become about Android.

The patent assault on Android shows that Microsoft has nothing technical to offer; it gave up trying, so it leans towards patents. This is a proxy war. There should be an antitrust investigation, but there is none. Nokia is a convenient proxy. Microsoft knows how to commit crimes and always get away with it, perhaps appeasing governments by aiding illegal surveillance.

Anyway, Microsoft’s attempts to destroy Nokia’s Linux efforts have not been entirely successful because the projects were licensed liberally. N900 is still around as Neo900 [7] and Jolla kept MeeGo alive and now has phones available (as covered in some massive publications including the BBC [8,9]), with good reviews already [10] and also claims that the “initial order was sold out” [11].

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. BlackBerry increases Android app support

    BlackBerry is making it easier for Android applications to run on its latest smartphones.

  2. Eric Schmidt explains how to switch from iPhones to the ‘more intuitive’ Android system
  3. Android head talks Project Svelte and how Android 4.4 KitKat is the leanest Android version yet

    Back during Google IO 2012, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean was officially unveiled unto the world. Major firmware versions always bring their share of new features, it was a little something Google called Project Butter that got us the most excited. Addressing Android less than consistent frame rates, Project Butter looked to finally make the Android UI as silky and smooth as iOS butter.

  4. HTC, Samsung release open source files for Google Play edition phones; KitKat OTAs should follow soon
  5. Android 4.3 rollout for Samsung Galaxy S4 resumes
  6. Android eyewear beats Google Glass to market
  7. Open source Neo900 phone gets enough pre-orders to go into production

    The Neo900 is a phone designed to pick up where Nokia’s discontinued N900 left off. The N900 was one of the last phones to ship with the open source Maemo Linux operating system, and the developers of the Neo900 want to bring Maemo back to life with a compatible device featuring a faster processor, more memory, and support for 4G LTE mobile networks.

  8. Jolla: Ex-Nokia employees launch smartphone
  9. Jolla’s open-source smartphone makes debut
  10. Hands On With Jolla’s First Phone — The “Spearhead Device” For Its MeeGo-Successor Sailfish OS

    The first handset from Finnish smartphone startup Jolla is simply called Jolla. This phone has been some two years in the making – a timeframe that testifies to the complexity of building handset hardware and a new mobile platform, not to mention rallying developers and achieving Android compatibility. So really two years ain’t bad for a plucky startup whose members used to work for erstwhile king-of-the-mobile-world, Nokia, and left to do what that phone maker decided it couldn’t: make a go of MeeGo as an alternative to Google’s all-consuming Android.

  11. Sailfish-Based Jolla Phone Debuts; Will Its New OS Fly?

    That initial order was sold out, and the Jolla Oy company (pronounced Yol-la) said it has tens of thousands of orders pending from manufacturers in 136 countries looking for an alternative to Android. Without subsidies, the phone retails for about $540, including European Union taxes. The device, which some have compared to Nokia’s Lumia line, features a 4.5-inch display, a dual-core processor , an eight megapixel camera, 4G  connectivity, Nokia’s HERE map service, 16GB of memory and a user-replaceable battery  that’s good for up to about 10 hours per charge.

Custom-built Distributions and the 2,000+ GNU/Linux Distributions Listed by Softpedia

Posted in Site News at 8:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Archlinux

Summary: Customisation for different users, localisations, system ages etc. motivate plurality and diversity, which now yields thousands of packaged (for installation) GNU/Linux images

JUST A COUPLE of months after this previous release Arch Linux has a new final release [1,2], which even former Microsoft employees are exploring [3]. This release uses Linux 3.12 and it is targeting advanced GNU/Linux users.

The nice thing about Arch is that it’s very much custom-built by the users. It can be suitable for almost anything, including old computers which are now targeted by many different distributions [4] (Softpedia now counts as many as 2,000 distros [5]).

There are many options out there other than the well-known distros, such as Fedora, Ubuntu, and Debian. For instance, in the past few weeks/days alone we found some reviews of SolydXK SolydK 2013.11 [6], SparkyLinux 3.1 [7], AntiX 13.2 [8] Emmabuntüs 2 [9], Elementary OS [10], and Salix Ratpoison 14.0.1 [11]. These are all viable options which are typically derived from better-known distros but make some further improvemens/customisations (for those who don’t know how to build their own systems with Debian, Arch, or Gentoo). It is important to support lesser-known distros, which are the equivalnt of many automotive makers with different customisations on different models.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Arch Linux 2013.12.01 Is Now Available for Download

    Another month, another ISO image of the amazing Arch Linux operating system is now available for download, released today, December 1, 2013, on the official website.

  2. Arch Linux Is Now Powered by Linux Kernel 3.12

    This was a lot faster than expected, but the Arch Linux developers have just pushed a few minutes ago, November 14, 2013, the final and stable packages of the recently released Linux kernel 3.12.

  3. Arch Linux on a HiDPI Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro
  4. Distros For Old Computers

    Defining hardware as “older” is tricky. Newer resource hungry software levering on the pace of hardware developments is rendering even relatively newer hardware obsolete. Examples of these relatively recent “older” hardware would be single-core or dual-core AMD Athlons and Intel Pentiums.

  5. Softpedia Now Lists More than 2,000 Linux Distributions

    Yes! We are proud to announce that we have just crossed the mark of 2,000 Linux distributions, right here on our Softpedia Linux section, as you can see from the counter situated on the top right of the page.

  6. SolydXK SolydK 2013.11 review

    SolydK is the KDE edition of a line of distributions published by SolydXK, an outfit made up of an odd 4-man team. For home users they publish two distributions – SoldK and SolydX. The latter uses the Xfce desktop environment. Both distributions began as community or unofficial Linux Mint Debian projects, before the founder decided to go solo.

  7. Everyday Linux User review of SparkyLinux 3.1 Razor-Qt Edition

    The SparkyLinux website describes SparkyLinux as a lightweight, fast and simple distribution designed for old and new computers.

  8. AntiX 13.2 – More Modern But Still Some Quirks

    Blimey, it’s been a long time since I reviewed antiX already and it’s about time to give it a second look. The overall judgement may have been a bit harsh last time around and I’m going to see whether we can write a more positive piece this time. Some of the issues raised seems were valid though as the distribution has changed a bit since then. Enough of that, let’s hop right in.

  9. The Joint Contest of Emmabuntus and Linux notes from DarkDuck

    You probably know that Emmabuntüs community prepares the next release of their operating system: Emmabuntüs 2. This is the reason why I am happy to announce today a joint contest from Linux notes from DarkDuck and Emmabuntüs community.

  10. The origin and evolution of Elementary OS
  11. Salix Ratpoison – An Esoteric Distro For The Alpha Geeks

    If you don’t care much about fancy desktop bling, and think the keyboard is still the best means of interacting with the computer, then you’ll find yourself at home with Salix Ratpoison 14.0.1.

    If you haven’t heard of it before, think of Salix OS as Slackware with the convenience of a package manager.

    The developers of Salix OS think of the distro a bonsai: small, light and a product of infinite care. They prune the list of apps that make up a release to make sure they aren’t packing in multiple apps for the same job.

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