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07.31.14

Links 31/7/2014: Zorin OS Educational 9, Android Nearing 90% Share

Posted in News Roundup at 3:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Looking for a technology job? Learn as much as you can about open source

    The Friday afternoon I received an offer for an internship at Red Hat was hands down one of the most important days of my career. Every time people asked me where I was working and I saw their reactions when I told them, I knew I was in a fortunate position.

    Just look at all the headlines surrounding open source today: Facebook is opening its hardware, Tesla is opening its patents, even Apple has a page on its website dedicated to the open source projects it implements and contributes to.

  • Google release source code for the 2014 I/O app as a learning tool

    Google have today released the source code for their I/O app as a means of providing a glimpse into what Google expect from their open-source developers.

  • Open Source provides compelling benefits to business

    Executives have traditionally viewed proprietary systems as safer, lower-risk options. However in recent times increased scrutiny of capital expenditure has forced corporations to consider alternative technologies in an effort to extract maximum value from their IT budgets.

  • NICTA unveils seL4 open source operating system
  • Secure Microkernel seL4 Code Goes Open-Source

    General Dynamics C4 Systems and Australia’s Information and Communications Technology Research Centre (NICTA) today open sourced the code-base of a secure microkernel project known as seL4. Touted as “the most trustworthy general purpose microkernel in the world,” seL4 has previously been adapted by organizations like DARPA as high-assurance systems used onboard military unmanned aerial vehicles and for similar defense and commercial uses.

  • Fresh attacks on open source miss the mark

    Critics are laying siege to open source, but their arguments both mistake what open source is and how companies benefit from it

  • Futures Lab Update #69: Open Source Commenting System; the Verification Handbook

    This week we learn about a collaboration to build an open-source commenting and discussion platform for news organizations, and we explore how the Verification Handbook can help inform the use of citizen-generated materials.

  • Apache Spark Gets Billed as the Next Big Data Thing

    People in the Big Data and Hadoop communities are becoming increasingly interested in Apache Spark, an open source data analytics cluster computing framework originally developed in the AMPLab at UC Berkeley. According to Apache, Spark can run programs up to 100 times faster than Hadoop MapReduce in memory, and ten times faster on disk. When crunching large data sets, those are big performance differences.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • OrFoxOS combines Firefox OS and Tor on a $25 smartphone

        Mobile privacy concerns are at a fever pitch right now with all the NSA spying, tracking by advertisers and other privacy violations happening on the Internet. I came across an interesting video that demos a new mobile operating system called OrFoxOS. OrFoxOS combines Firefox OS and Tor to help protect your privacy.

      • My Life with Firefox OS

        It is not the best smartphone in the market, I know. In fact, I read lots of reviews before buying this phone. The most interesting point was that it was labeled a “developer” device, not an end-user phone. Even with its many “flaws,” I made up my mind and bought this smart thingie because it has everything I want on a cellphone: Firefox OS ;-)

  • SaaS/Big Data

    • Coding all summer long in OpenStack

      The end of Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is near, so I wanted to share with you how things worked out for me as an intern with OpenStack. Precisely, I wanted to let you know my perception about what it takes to participate in GSoC,

      the blockers you may encounter and how to overcome them, what to expect after the internship, and a brief description of what I have been doing during my internship.

  • Databases

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

  • CMS

    • UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity

      Every so often, people who don’t really understand the importance of anonymity or how it enables free speech (especially among marginalized people), think they have a brilliant idea: “just end real anonymity online.” They don’t seem to understand just how shortsighted such an idea is. It’s one that stems from the privilege of being in power. And who knows that particular privilege better than members of the House of Lords in the UK — a group that is more or less defined by excess privilege? The Communications Committee of the House of Lords has now issued a report concerning “social media and criminal offenses” in which they basically recommend scrapping anonymity online. It’s not a true “real names” proposal — as the idea is that web services would be required to collect real names at signup, but then could allow those users to do things pseudonymously or anonymously. But, still, their actions could then easily be traced back to a real person if the “powers that be” deemed it necessary.

    • Govt.nz, built on open source code, goes live

      A new website making it easier for government in New Zealand to deliver information and services was designed and developed in-house by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), using the Common Web Platform. The templates are written in PHP, which DIA runs on the Silverstripe CMS.

      Govt.nz is based on the open source code available through Gov.UK. Its design and content was tested with users on a publicly available beta site, and content fact checking was undertaken in collaboration with more than 40 government agencies.

  • Business

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GDB 7.8 Betters Python Scripting, Adds Guile Support

      Version 7.8 of the GNU Debugger is now available with a variety of enhancements.

      GDB 7.8 notably brings Guile scripting support, improvements to Python scripting, a variety of new options, PowerPC64 litt-endian target configuration, BTrace enhancements, ISO C99 variable length automatic arrays support, and a variety of other new features.

  • Public Services/Government

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Company Offering Open-Source Biological Reagents Hopes To Recapitulate Free Software’s Success

      I have synthesized, manufactured, tested, and fully validated a collection of open source plasmids [small circular DNA strands] coding for some of the very basic building blocks of biotechnology. I do charge an initial purchase price to pay for storage, ongoing quality control, and the provision of a reliable source of these molecules. But there is no proprietary barrier of any type on their use. You may grow them on your own, modify them, give them to others, sell them, sell products derived from them, and do whatever you (legally) want to do with them.

      What’s fascinating here is to see the application of the business model commonly found in the world of open-source software — whereby the code is freely available, and customers effectively pay for a service that provides quality control — in the world of DNA. Given the easy profits that will be put at risk by this new offering, we can probably expect the same kind of scaremongering and lobbying from the incumbents that free software experienced when it became clear that it posed a serious threat to the traditional, high-margin world of closed-source code.

    • Open Source iPipet System Created as an Alternative to Costly Liquid-Handling Robots

      A team of Whitehead Institute researchers is bringing new levels of efficiency and accuracy to one of the most essential albeit tedious tasks of bench science: pipetting. And, in an effort to aid the scientific community at large, the group has established an open source system that enables anyone to benefit from this development free of charge.

    • Open Data

    • Open Hardware

  • Programming

Leftovers

Microsoft-Linked Codenomicon and Bluebox in the Business of Smearing FOSS/Linux/Android

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, FUD, Google, Microsoft at 3:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Name tag
Embracing and extending, but not yet extinguishing

Summary: Codenomicon and Bluebox, two companies with strong Microsoft links, fill the media with negative articles about Android

“M

icrosoft marketing again” is what our reader labeled it. Brett Winterford, who played ball for OOXML after Microsoft had given him gifts, smears Android using a Microsoft buddy, Codenomicon, the company that hyped up an OpenSSL bug, or as this new article puts it:

Codenomicon, which coined the term “Heartbleed” upon discovering the OpenSSL flaw, will name and shame app developers later this month when it publishes its findings on those that neglected robust security practices.

Codenomicon did not discover the bug (a man from Google did, but some give both credit); Codenomicon did the marketing, registered a domain, and spread the “Heartbleed” brand.

The “Heartbleed” marketing is still floating in the media, this time because of Venafi, keeping it in the media nearly 4 months later. What we basically have here is Codenomicon making a comeback, this time making derogatory claims about Android.

A reader of ours says that “it makes sense. I have trouble tracking all the names though. If one is cynical, pretty much 100% of the pro-Microsoft or anti-Linux (especially anti-FOSS) writings can be tracked to direct Microsoft influence. One wonders society can do with all the “former” employees, especially the managers.”

Codenomicon’s board is managed by a man from Microsoft, one of Microsoft’s chief executives, for those who have not been keeping up.

Another company like this is Bluebox, whose Microsoft connection we covered here before. It is a Microsoft partner created and managed by a Microsoft guy. Now it has some dirt to throw on Android, too.

We first saw that covered by the FOSS-hostile Dan Goodin (he still only covers FOSS/Linux security issues, ignoring any proprietary software issues) and then we saw this in the Bill Gates-funded “The Guardian” and BBC, which like to chastise only Google over things that Microsoft does (and worse). This is definitely some of the earliest coverage, maybe coordinated ahead of distribution, leading other sites to covering it, only later on, even though the issue was already fixed. Later on we saw a report saying that it “Could Put Millions in Jeopardy” (key word is “could”) and Microsoft-friendly sites joined in, making a huge fuss about a bug that was patched very quickly.

“One need to keep track of who’s who and where the money travels.”While it is hard to show a conspiracy to smear Android, like Microsoft asking its former employees and affiliates who run Codenomicon and Bluebox to fill the media with negative coverage about Android bugs, we do need to consider such possibilities based on evidence that exists. It is clear who these companies are loyal to; it’s no secret, just follow the money. Why don’t they cover the loads of bugs in Windows or even the back doors, which are there by design?

The media too should be held accountable here, as we know that Microsoft bribes publishers like O’Reilly (we gave examples for years) and based on fresh complaints from the President of OSI [1], it is true that OSCON (O’Reilly’s so-called ‘open source’ conference) has become more of a Microsoft-subsidised breeding ground for moles and misdirection (sponsored by Microsoft in exchange for stage time/room).

When living in a spin zone (not spin-free zone), where many of the messengers are funded by Microsoft, it would be unwise to take and accept everything at face value. One need to keep track of who’s who and where the money travels.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. SAP embraces opens source — sort of

    At the annual OSCON (Open Source Convention) last week, those stuck in a worldview of open source from the previous decade would have suffered serious cognitive dissonance.

    First, Microsoft was an anchor of the conference, with a full-scale display from Jean Paoli’s subsidiary Microsoft Open Technologies. As I walked past I repeatedly heard people expressing shock that Microsoft was there at such scale. Wholehearted support for open source still largely stops at the boundaries of Microsoft’s Azure cloud offering, but plenty of staff people with genuine open source credentials were showing their wares. Microsoft’s journey is definitely progressing.

Is Microsoft Being Raided Not Just for Anti-Competitive Reasons but for Bribes and Back Doors?

Posted in Apple, Fraud, Microsoft, Security at 2:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Great Wall of China

Summary: News about raids in Microsoft China mostly lacking when it comes to background, context, and information about Microsoft’s crimes in China

THE WORLD is moving away from Microsoft. It starts with countries like China, which makes its own hardware (as well as much of the world’s), and then there’s Russia, which abandoned x86 (Wintel) and will make its own chips on which only GNU/Linux will neatly fit. We covered all that earlier this year and it’s clearly not just rhetoric; these things are already happening as the wheels are in motion. Microsoft is desperate to keep up with the changes, but Wintel is like an order of magnitude more expensive than Linux with ARM. It’s game over. Android is dominating many areas, along with its derivatives or other Linux-based operating systems.

The other day there was plenty of press coverage (e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]) about Microsoft being raided by Chinese authorities. “Chinese regulators swarm Microsoft offices over antitrust concerns,” said some headlines (focusing on competition issues, not back doors), but most reports were a lot more vague with claims [1, 2, 3] ranging from nationalism to concerns about Office tie-up. The plutocrats’ media tried to blame it on China and make the Chinese government look irrational (watch what Microsoft boosters say, another one that’s Gates-washing it, and ludicrous claims that “China steps up the arms race in the digital cold war”). The English-speaking Chinese press says that 4 Microsoft offices were visited in the raid. One summary says that “[r]egulators claim Office, Windows illegally tied” while mostly, instead of speaking about recent success stories with Linux, including Android, the article looks backwards and says: “While there have been several attempts to get Chinese punters to switch to Linux – including Red Flag Linux and the unimaginatively named China Operating System – none have been particularly successful at shaking off Windows’ dominance.”

Now, remember that Microsoft was raided in other countries before (e.g. Hungary) and in 2013 the “US probe[d] Microsoft China bribery claim”, as we covered at the time. There is a criminal element to Microsoft’s conduct in China. One of our readers asked, “pressing for more bribes, discounts and backdoors?” Watch China demonised in Western media for protecting itself from espionage (terms like “Microsoft Chinese burn riddle” don’t help).

As Charlie Demerjian reminded us a short while ago, Microsoft is now extorting Windows users:

Microsoft decided to extort Windows 7 users too

Not content to blow both feet off with a shotgun, Microsoft is going for the kneecaps now by blackmailing it’s customers. If you are still dumb enough to use Windows, you are about have your wallet shaken down by Microsoft in a familiar yet still unwelcome way.

We don’t feel the need to sugarcoat this much because the company’s behavior is so blatant and uncaring it is almost staggering. Worse yet the victims, that would be almost all Windows users, have only themselves to blame because the pattern has been well laid out for years now. Microsoft has been unapologetically blackmailing users for years, anyone who bought one of their products in the last few years should have known better.

China has an issue like this; even in the UK the NHS has faced similar issues and is constantly being pressured by Microsoft, as we showed some weeks ago. Office (online) and Windows (the platform for Office on the desktop) are both banned by the Chinese government now.

Leading Chinese media, the New York Times (trend-setting in the US) and BBC (trend-setting in the UK) covered this and have ended coverage by now, so we saw no urgency to point out the news immediately (unlike some bloggers), only to add some background information which has been omitted by the media. A year after Microsoft came under investigation in the US (over allegations that had bribed Chinese officials) it got a visit from Feds, so what is the likelihood that these raids are at least partly related to criminal activity? Microsoft bribery in China is nothing new; it’s how Microsoft does business and the investigation dealt with numerous countries in which Microsoft was alleged to have bribed officials. The BBC says:

Microsoft has confirmed that officials from China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce – the body responsible for enforcing business laws – have visited some of its offices.

It sounds like bribes would fall under this category. This comes amid shrinkage of Microsoft’s presence in China:

Microsoft Corp’s biggest reduction in company history could cost China more than 1,000 jobs, analysts warned on Friday.

Apple too is laying off employees, 200 people in fact, so let’s not treat Microsoft alone as the problem. Moreover, based on today’s (and yesterday’s) news [1-7], Russia may be close to banning or kicking out Apple and SAP, due to the fact that their software is secret (proprietary) and thus cannot be trusted.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Russia wants Apple and SAP to prove that their software isn’t used for spying
  2. Russia: Apple, SAP to share source codes to combat spying

    Russia has suggested that IT-giants Apple and SAP disclose their source codes to Russian state specialists in order to clear up information security issues after the chain of spy scandals undermined trust in foreign products.

  3. Russia Wants Apple and SAP’s Source Code to Check Spying Activities
  4. Quick Note: Russia Requests Apple, SAP’s Source Code to Prevent Spying

    Russia has made a bold request for both Apple and SAP’s source code to make sure that neither company’s software contains any sort of spy tools.

  5. Russia Asks Source Codes from Apple, SAP
  6. Russia wants Apple and SAP to prove that their software isn’t used for spying
  7. Sorry Russia, Apple and SAP aren’t revealing their source code

    To ensure that SAP and Apple products aren’t vulnerable to spying, Russia suggested last Tuesday that the companies give Russia access to their source code, Reuters reports.

Former Microsoft Engineer Working on Windows BitLocker Confirms Government Asks Microsoft for Back Doors

Posted in Microsoft, Security at 1:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Built with elegance, concealed with compilers

Iron doors

Summary: Recalling the times when even Microsoft staff spoke about secret government collaborations and back doors

China and Russia are currently moving away from Windows (GNU/Linux to be imminently installed on all government machines) — a point which we are going to focus on later today because truths about security and privacy rapidly come out, revealing the clear advantage of Free — as in freedom/libre — software. China and Russia must be motivated by advice of security gurus (of which they have plenty) and the secret services; it’s not about anti-American sentiments but about national sovereignty, especially now that we know about espionage and attacks on companies like Huawei (breached by the NSA, with proof provided).

On numerous occasions in the past we highlighted Microsoft’s relationship with the NSA, going about 7 years back. Many of Microsoft’s back doors are there by design; they need not involve slow patches, hidden patches, malware (e.g. CIPAV) or even warrants for physical access (COFFE). Microsoft is like the world’s leading back doors specialist, and it needn’t even require that people upload their data to some so-called ‘cloud’ services which tempt the gullible (low-hanging fruit). Surely Microsoft understands that it is losing business because people understand what it does now; it’s not due to misconceptions; quite the contrary; businesses and governments finally realise what was true all along. Remember Stuxnet?

Microsoft’s Scott Charney, a professional liar with agenda and big salary (people would happy lie for the type of money he receives), is trying hard along with Smith (lawyer who lies or deceives by omission) to deny Microsoft book doors, but as the following new article explains, the admissions from Microsoft itself are already out there and they cannot be retracted:

Scott Charney, of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing, said the government has “never” asked for a backdoor in Microsoft products. Yet a former engineer working on BitLocker claimed the government does ask, but those requests are “informal.”

Four of Microsoft offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, China, were raided as part of an official government investigation. Microsoft China spokeswoman Joan Li confirmed that Investigators of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce were investigating the company and Microsoft would “actively cooperate”’ with the Chinese government. The South China Morning Post reported that the investigation may involve antitrust matters.

[...]

Yet in September 2013, The New York Times reported the NSA worked with Microsoft “officials to get pre-encryption access to Microsoft’s most popular services, including Outlook e-mail, Skype Internet phone calls and chats, and SkyDrive, the company’s cloud storage service. Microsoft asserted that it had merely complied with ‘lawful demands’ of the government, and in some cases, the collaboration was clearly coerced.”

Mashable followed up these claims by asking the FBI if it had ever asked for backdoors in Microsoft products. Although the feds denied it, Peter Biddle, the head of the engineering team working on BitLocker in 2005, claimed that the government makes “informal requests” for backdoors. Allegedly after making claims about “going dark,” the FBI “informally” asked Microsoft for a backdoor in BitLocker.

A request for a backdoor, whether informal or not, is still a request for a backdoor. That’s quite a bit different than the government having “never done that,” but perhaps the feds didn’t request backdoor access directly from Charney?

[...]

Yet you might be wise to recall that Caspar Bowden, the man formerly in charge of Microsoft’s privacy policy for 40 countries, claims he no longer trusts Microsoft or its software; he added that Microsoft’s corporate strategy is to grind down your privacy expectations and that the company’s transparency policies are nothing more than “corporate propaganda.”

Over the years we have covered several more examples. Whenever Microsoft makes claims about collaborations with government surveillance pay careful attention not to what Microsoft is saying but what Microsoft refuses to say. The same goes for Apple. They embrace carefully-worded non-denying ‘denials’. When everyone sees through the lies they will both pay for it dearly, and perhaps go bankrupt owing to the network effect.

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