Summary: Microsoft Windows mentality and strong dependencies continue to cause immeasurable damage that costs people a lot in terms money and in terms of health
London police (Met Police) continues to waste money on a platform with back doors (accessible by a foreign nation), according to this report from The Inquirer.
“THE UK METROPOLITAN POLICE,” it says, “has confirmed it will be seeking an extended support deal with Microsoft, after it was revealed that it is still running a staggering 35,000-plus machines powered by Windows XP almost 13 months after the operating system was degraded to end of life.” They are paying vast amounts of money to merely maintain a terrible operating system which is unfit for purpose. What a heist! Microsoft makes a lot of money from obsolescence. It’s the same in the NHS. They must both migrate to GNU/Linux to justify the amount of money they cost British taxpayers, never mind privacy aspects. London police has been stuck with Microsoft Windows for quite some time and there have been security-related incidents due to it. How much is too much? It’s a matter of national security, not just cost.
In other news, Fukushima’s nuclear facilities used a 10 year-old operating system, Windows XP, during the meltdown in 2011, according to this other report from The Inquirer. “Fukushima nuclear plant ordered to upgrade from Windows XP” says the headline, so presumably they mean other versions of Windows rather than GNU/Linux. People who think that it’s acceptable to run Windows in nuclear facilities should recall BP, whose platform caught on fire due to Windows (at least the alerting failed, due to Windows blue screens of death). With GE’s involvement in Fukushima’s nuclear facilities it might be worth noting that GE recently dumped Windows when it comes to its CT scanners, which emit a lot of radiation. Someone who works at GE told me about this migration some months ago. They are moving to GNU/Linux.
“These need to be looking at FOSS,” wrote to us iophk, “including transitioning suites like Zentyal The exit costs need to be included in any upcoming assessments of considerations.” █
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Summary: Another publicity stunt from Microsoft, this time going under the name ‘Visual Studio Code’, which is basically proprietary lock-in
DESPITE an openwashing campaign and an effort to deceive the public (as chronicled here before), Visual Studio is (and will remain) proprietary. There is currently yet another PR blitz from Microsoft, which at the moment is trying to openwash it and pretend that it’s ‘news’ (it’s not, it goes back to last year).
Sadly, some FOSS proponents have already fallen for it and Phoronix is doing marketing for Microsoft [1, 2]. This is not really news and it’s not even a surprise. It’s just some publicity stunt which got Microsoft boosters and Microsoft-friendly sites on board. There is a press release and a lot of what looks like ‘prepared’ coverage (ghost-written or written in advance with a so-called ‘embargo’) [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, , 12, 13, 14, 15, 16].
Microsoft may be good at marketing, even when it comes to proprietary software whose aim is to promote Microsoft APIs, i.e. Microsoft lock-in. █
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“The primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction which is to divert public attention from important issues”
Summary: Omission of important developments around Microsoft’s war on GNU/Linux and Free software, notably against Android and ChromeOS as of late
II IS HARD to remain apathetic or even maintain neutrally towards the corporate (or “mainstream”) media when it shamelessly does so much Microsoft promotion, including dissemination of utter lies, which Microsoft calls "marketing" (nice euphemism for lies). Here is Eric Knorr, IDG’s editor of InfoWorld (one of several IDG technology ‘news’ sites), continuing to act more like a Microsoft salesman. If Microsoft can get away with gross distortion of facts, like saying that it “loves Linux”, then truth is a primary casualty and the press/media becomes complicit in Microsoft’s war.
Here is Microsoft’s propagandist Paul Thurrott writing about the "embrace extend extinguish" endeavor bu Microsoft against Android and Linux. Microsoft loves neither of them; it hates both of them and it is busy trying to destroy them from the inside (because attacks from the outside have not worked so far). Where is the media in all this and why is it not covering Microsoft’s patent war on Android and Linux? It’s nowhere to be seen, even when new extortion deals are announced (almost nobody covered this at all!). We only find a lot of comments about it, but nowhere in the corporate press is there sign of that. It’s like there’s an effort to hide evidence that Microsoft is viciously attacking Android and Linux using patents and other subversive means.
Microsoft is trying to stay relevant and keep Windows within the game by mixing it with the platform which is now most dominant and Linux-based (Android) while at the same time attempting to devour GNU/Linux in its ‘cloud’ (Azure). Remember what Microsoft did to Netscape and Java in the 1990s. Any such “embrace” by Microsoft usually means an embrace of a python; the ultimate goal is to kill.
What we found rather disturbing was the degree to which the narrative of Microsoft of the victim got pushed into the media. “Microsoft loses mobile patent infringement lawsuit,” said a Microsoft-friendly site. It is not about patent extortion failing but about Microsoft being the target of a troll, much like itself and its own trolls. “A U.S. International Trade Commission judge,” says the report, “has ruled against Microsoft in a patent infringement lawsuit, finding the company used patented software from InterDigital Inc. in its mobile phones.
“The judge ruled Microsoft infringed on two wireless cellular patents, which date back to original patent infringement claims against Nokia in 2007, which Microsoft acquired in 2013. The judge said it would not be against the public interest to ban the Microsoft devices from being imported into the United States, though the full trade commission must review the decision before any ban takes place.
“In a statement, Microsoft confirmed it would continue to challenge the patent infringement claims as an ongoing part of the process.”
ITC rulings do not immediately take effect, so Microsoft will most likely get its way at the end (see I4i vs Microsoft for similarities). Why is this even such massive news? We wrote about InterDigital before and there is nothing exceptional about it. It has been around for a long time (it used to fight with Nokia), Google wanted to buy it, and it hired an executive from Mozilla. Reuters considered that to be top news with subsequent updates (at least two of them). It said that “Microsoft Corp lost a round in a potentially costly patent battle when a U.S. International Trade Commission judge on Monday found that the software giant used InterDigital Inc’s technology in its mobile phones without permission.
“The judge, Theodore Essex, said that Microsoft infringed two wireless cellular patents owned by InterDigital, a patent licensor, and said it would not be against the public interest to ban the Microsoft devices from being imported into the United States.”
That’s about it. No real reports, i.e. reports which add something new, have since then arrived. There have since then been many dozens of superficial (PR-like) articles about this [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36], despite the fact that almost nobody ever buys these phones and Microsoft barely even counts in the mobile market. There is not even a ban, expect an appeal to come.
By contrast, here is some of this week’s coverage about Apple in China [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Apple, unlike Microsoft, at least has some market share. Why is it that corporate media only ever covers patents-related news when giants like Google, Apple or Microsoft are in some way involved and pro-patents slant is possible?
As we mentioned the other day, Google is not looking for a real patent reform anymore, it just wants to buy a lot of patents. We found about a hundred different articles about this, including 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18].
Where are the stories about Microsoft’s patent attacks on Android and GNU/Linux? Why is there such deafening silence on this important matter? There is seemingly no interest in investigative/original journalism anymore, just promotion of brands. █
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Summary: On Thursday (tomorrow) yet another demonstration is organised in Munich, less than a week ahead of the UPC decision (May 5th)
The EPO’s corrupt management is not off the hook. No solution has been reached. Last week we wrote about the EPO's management which was trying hard to appease its critics ahead of May 5th. We did wonder why so much momentum had been lost when it comes to opposition, but as it turns out, based on this announcement
[PDF], staff will march to the Dutch embassy tomorrow, knowing that Dutch politicians are already aware of the issues and may take serious action (among other reasons, including the role of the Dutch branch and the court at the Hague). This was only announced two days ago (far shorter a notice than before), which limits Battistelli’s ability to threaten staff which ‘dares’ to exercise the right to protest. Here is another take on it.
“I don’t know if you went on this webpage lately,” wrote someone to us, “but some other articles than the one from “Le Monde” concerning the office are available [...] some translated [into] English.”
El Pais (the Spanish newspaper) wrote about it
[PDF] and so did Ingeniøren (Danish website), which published a piece
[PDF]. “An article about the French management in France Telecom,” says our source, “a case more and more similar to the EPO,” was published here
[PDF] by SUEPO.
Here is the English translation of the article from El Pais:
The “Happy Office” goes on strike
Staff at the EPO, the European patent authority, which employs 7,000 people, is declaring war on its President after 40 years of happy existence
Miguel Ángel Noceda Madrid 19 APR 2015 – 00:10 CEST
It is the authority on which all the patents of European companies depend. More than 7,000 people work there, highly qualified people from a range of European nationalities, making it the second biggest inter-governmental employer in Europe. It is almost 40 years old, and its employees have passed that time in a calm and peaceful organization, with the assurance of support from staff who are well paid and enjoy enviable conditions.
But it is an organization which is also little known. This is the European Patent Office, the EPO, and behind this happy façade a crisis is brewing which is putting the employees on a war footing, due to the “dictatorial attitudes” of the President, Frenchman Benoit Battistelli, with the consent of the Board of Administration, which represents 38 European states (those of the EU plus others not in the Community).
The EPO was founded in 1977 by way of the European Patent Convention. Its tasks consist of examining the applications, which, if granted, come to be known as “European Patents”. Headquarters are in Munich, although there are also three outposts, in The Hague, Berlin, and Vienna. It is the second largest body in Europe, in terms of budget and number of employees, after the Commission in Brussels. The Office, which in 2014 dealt with 274,000 applications, is financed by the income from the patents.
It benefits from extraterritorial status, which allows it to make its own rules when it comes to taxes, social security, and pension schemes. It does this with the International Labour Organization (ILO) as supervisor. In other words, it’s a happy world, where the employees earn an average of 5,000 Euros, and have medical and family benefits into the bargain.
But in the view of the majority union Suepo (acronym for the Staff Union of the European Patent Office), to which 50% of the workforce are affiliated, this whole world could come crashing down thanks to the decision adopted by Battistelli, a long-standing French official aged 64, and graduate of the prestigious National School of Administration (École Nationale d’Administration – ENA), who came into office in 2010 and was ratified last year for another mandate period.
Suepo have denounced Battistelli for cutting back the employment rights of the staff members, abusing the judicial immunity which the organization enjoys, and having created a stifling and intolerable environment. According to the employees, who have raised the issue before the courts by way of French attorneys William Bourdon and the Spanish Ledesma y Asociados, Battistelli has at no time consulted the representatives of the personnel when it came to putting his reforms into effect. And they also accuse him of taking reprisals.
The union accuses Battistelli of having changed the rules, and of having made it “impossible” for a decision to be reached internally. The list of accusations which has accumulated during his time in office is a long one, and significant: Refusal to recognize the union representatives as the legitimate representatives of the staff, and proposals for changes in the structure of employee representation; installation of filters to block internal E-mails; censorship of internal publications; introduction of rules whereby an employee can be investigated without the need for them to be advised of this beforehand; change in the rules for calling strikes, in such a way that this now requires a petition to the President signed by at least 10% of the workforce, and a minimum participation of 40% in order to be quorate.
As well as this, the unions accuse of Battistelli of not having allowed an investigation into the causes of the suicide of an employee at his place of work, and of isolating the members of the staff who have suggested that the management bear responsibility in this suicide. And they add that he has systematically refused to follow the recommendations of the Internal Complaints Committee.
In the light of all this, they are petitioning the European Commission, which already holds a majority of representation on the Administrative Council, such that, “if they wish to take seriously the use and promotion of the Unitary Patent”, a policy be instituted which will be sufficient to settle the conflict “by means of the introduction of policies of consultation and negotiation, and not of repression and intimidation”.
Here is the English translation of the article from Ingeniøren:
EPO: the image’s feet of clay are crumbling
By George Brock-Nannestad 10 Feb 10:46
IDA chairperson Frida Frost came to the following conclusion about the future Patent Court in Ingeniøren on 12 May 2014, before the referendum:
“… And of course small businesses must safeguard their inventions with a patent. There is no reason to stand idly by, waiting to see what will happen in practice under the new collaborative system. Conversely, it makes complete sense to enter into the unitary patent on a level playing field and to be able to influence collaboration as much as possible to optimise this. Not least for the sake of small businesses.”
The way things look at the moment, small businesses in particular will suffer hugely in the slightly longer term because the foundations of the unitary patent and the Patent Court are rotting away.
Right now there is a very unfortunate development at the only subcontractor of unitary patents, i.e. the European Patent Office EPO. Up until now, this development has been the concern of specialists: patent attorneys and judges, as well as case handlers – the highly educated patent specialists who work at the EPO. In recent months, they have been so frustrated about the consistent erosion of their ability to do a good job that they have been out demonstrating in Munich, where the EPO has its headquarters. The most recent demonstrations ended at the Danish consulate in Munich, because the president of the EPO’s Administrative Council, the highest responsible authority, is a Dane.
I cannot at this juncture provide a course on patents with a view to explaining in depth where the problems lie, but I can cite some principles. There are a few blogs online where discussions are ongoing, and the most professional one is http://ipkitten.blogspot.dk. Try a Google search of <"administrative council" ipkitten>.
As stated, there are two independent problems which will have the combined effect of degrading legal certainty.
One problem is inherent in the actual basis from 1973 and 2000, the European Patent Convention (EPC). All countries have a Board of Appeal associated with the patent system – in Denmark, it is Ankenævnet for Patenter og Varemærker (the Patents and Trade Marks Appeal Board). Anyone who is dissatisfied has two instances to approach. However, if the EPO rejects a European patent application, that leaves only one independent instance, i.e. the Board of Appeal. That is the “asymmetry flaw” when it comes to the EPC.
The EPC emphasises that the Board of Appeal should be like a court, independent of the administration, precisely because it has to determine whether the administration is in error. And, if anyone is unhappy about the Board of Appeal having upheld the approval of the European patent application, then in each country where it has been validated, it is possible to conduct an opposition proceeding against the now national patent. Once the Patent Court is up and running, it will be possible to conduct an opposition proceeding there, and thus impact all Member States in one go. In other words, an error at the Board of Appeal is not the last word when it comes to approved patent applications.
For more than a year, the Administrative Council of the EPO, at the instigation of the president (actually outside his remit), has been making plans to subjugate the Board of Appeal directly to the management of the EPO. Going forward, the EPO Service Regulation will also be applicable to the Board of Appeal. The Service Regulation places fixed constraints on staff conduct, and the extension of appointment of Board of Appeal members and any promotions will now become contingent on performance. This has led to strong protests from judges at courts and patent courts throughout Europe. They are frankly appalled that it is possible to force through suspension of the independence of the Board of Appeal.
There will no longer be even one independent instance for a company that fails to get its European application approved. That amounts to serious prejudicing of rights!
The other problem is that the case handlers are being given less and less time to process cases because they are required to meet purely arbitrary production targets to make savings for the EPO. Those savings will not result in lower charges. It could be said that, going forward, case processing will become rather perfunctory. In other words, neither the applicant nor any competitors will be able to assess whether any right granted will be fit for purpose or something to be wary of. The case processors, who are specialists in their field, have used every means at their disposal to protest about this.
It is now being suggested quite seriously in professional patent advisory circles that clients should be advised to avoid the EPO (and thus the unitary patent) entirely and apply nationally, the way things were done long ago, before 1978. Things have become much easier today, partly because many countries now accept submissions in English, which in some countries then have to be translated into the local language by a later deadline. But that is tantamount to declaring the bankruptcy of a system that has had so much invested in it since 1978.
The entire EPO system is now run by a group of self-perpetuating, incestuous officials who are far more adept at manipulating the system than politicians imagined. Unfortunately, the president of the Administrative Council is a Dane who, back in the day, arrived with great words about setting up pan-European collaboration in order to reduce the bulge of applications, whereby some of the case processing for European patent applications would be done by the national patent authorities as external suppliers. It really makes you wonder why he has moved from this open policy to an extremely closed one, complicit in the president’s manipulation.
A subcommittee of the Administrative Council, known as Board 28, will be presenting a proposal on Wednesday regarding the future administration of the EPO, and the Administrative Council itself will adopt this at an actual Administrative Council meeting in March. There are no channels for arriving at a dialogue or for influencing the Administrative Council, except if the ministers with responsibility in the individual Member States take the matter up. Unfortunately, however, the five-yearly ministerial meetings prescribed by the EPC have never taken place! And the planned diplomatic conference, designed to modify the EPC in line with lessons learnt from how it has been working up until now, has been taken off the table.
Why should users have the wool pulled over their eyes? Why should the European patent system of the future be degraded?
“Among the some interesting blogs and websites,” said our source to us, there is this item from the pro-patents site IAM. It says that “transparency and independent oversight look unattractive for many that work inside IP’s major institutions. Such reactions are understandable among people who, like most inside the IP world, entered the field when it had a very different, much lower profile. Nevertheless, I am afraid, that’s the way it has to be. We cannot hold off on doing the right thing because it discomfits certain people and interests. IP is too important for that.”
The problem is not only transparency, there are much more severe and far worse problems than that. Staff of the EPO is not going on strikes and protests because of lack of transparency. That’s just a convenient straw man of EPO apologists. █
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Summary: Revisiting the subject of patents on life or life-saving processes, plus a hedge fund’s extortion-type attack on such patents (for quick profit)
TECHRIGHTS has been focused on software patents, but in earlier years there were quite a few articles here about other notorious kinds of patents that should not at all exist because they kill a lot of people and contribute nothing at all to innovation, progress etc. They are clearly against public interests.
“We examine the effect of pharmaceutical patent protection on the speed of drug launch, price, and quantity in 60 countries from 2000-2013,” said this new article about evidence from TRIPS, responding to some rather disturbing developments around patents and lobbying from pharmaceutical giants (seeking more protectionism from governments, especially Canada’s). See last week’s article “Startup Pledges To Cut Cost Of Breast Cancer Genetic Testing From $4000 To $249″. It says that a “startup called Color Genomics is announcing that it will provided genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer – the same genetic tests that led Angelina Jolie to have her breasts and ovaries surgically removed – at one-sixteenth the cost of the main test that is currently used.”
“They are now using patents, or threats of invalidation thereof, to manipulate markets.”This isn’t about pharmaceuticals’ abuse but it is related to it and it tackles patents which pertain to life — patents that oughtn’t exist in the first place.
Much of the news coverage this month actually revolved around a case which was mentioned here before because of the very dirty tricks involved (“hedge funds are extorting money from pharmaceutical companies by either filing or threatening to file for re-exam,” is how Steph put it). The Wall Street media wrote: “A well-known hedge-fund manager is taking a novel approach to making money: filing and publicizing patent challenges against pharmaceutical companies while also betting against their shares.”
Other Wall Street media wrote: “Shire Plc is “confident” it will prevail against a U.S. hedge fund’s challenge to its drug patents after winning a similar fight with Actavis Plc, according to an intellectual-property attorney for the Dublin-based company.”
The Financial Times went with the headline “Shire rebuffs hedge fund’s attack on patents” and various Wall Street-centric sites covered it 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] without paying much attention to the unethical side/aspect. Here is a press release, coverage from lawyers’ media, and some from pharmaceuticals’ media [1, 2, 3]. Since one party is Irish, even the Irish press covered it, adding to a lot of other reports in English [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].
To put it in very simple terms, what we have here is abuse by gambling agencies/firms (hedge funds) that so often act like vultures in order to make a quick buck. They are now using patents, or threats of invalidation thereof, to manipulate markets. We have sympathy for neither side because both hedge funds and companies that hoard patents on drugs (to artificially elevate prices) are deeply unethical. Both have been criticised here before. █
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Summary: More news about Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft’s and Bill Gates’ anti-Linux tool, who lost a battle because of last year’s SCOTUS ruling and is now groomed by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
THE PATENT troll known as Intellectual Ventures is so vast that it does not need an introduction. It is one of the most hated entities in the world, rivalling even ALEC (which Bill Gates financially supported, just like he financially supports Intellectual Ventures). This monstrous patent troll is very closely connected to Microsoft and people from Microsoft. Just look who’s heading and funding Intellectual Ventures. To quote leaked E-mails, “Intellectual Ventures, the investment vehicle and sometime patent troll set up by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold [has] taken to market by TerraPower, which is partially funded by Gates.”
Well, we wrote about this ‘special’ TerraPower relationship several years ago. This greedy bunch is looting; it’s looking to profit together, as once again Gates is subsidising his mate Nathan Myhrvold, in order for both Gates and Intellectual Ventures (and sometimes Microsoft) to profit, often at the expense of the public. That’s a disturbing pattern which we have shown repeatedly and demonstrated for almost a decade now.
“All we have here is a patent troll who attacks Microsoft’s rivals, including Android and Linux.”Last week we wrote about Microsoft's troll (Intellectual Ventures) losing software patents. This is important because Intellectual Ventures attacks Linux and Android (even this month, as we highlighted weeks ago). Something must be done about these vultures (not ventures). All we have here is a patent troll who attacks Microsoft’s rivals, including Android and Linux. It is run by a friend of Bill Gates, who uses Gates’ and Microsoft’s money to attack their rivals. One potential solution to this is not to crush trolls but to crush software patents. As it turns out, based on this report, it was the SCOTUS decision regarding Alice that demolished these vultures’ agenda. Quoting The Register: “A US district court has torn the heart out of two patents wielded by Intellectual Ventures against two antivirus makers.
“In a judgment [PDF] this week, Chief Judge Leonard Stark ruled that Intellectual Ventures’ US patents 6,460,050 and 6,073,142 were “ineligible,” meaning they are too vague and the technologies they described unpatentable.
“The ’142 and ’050 patents described email filters designed to catch spam and malware. A third Intellectual Ventures patent, 5,987,610, which described “computer virus screening methods and systems”, was upheld by the judge.”
Here is some subsequent press coverage and a press release. As one headline put it, “Citing ‘Alice,’ Judge Squashes IV Email-Sorting Patents”. It says that “Latham’s Douglas Lumish and Paul Hastings’ Yar Chaikovsky teamed up in a successful Section 101 attack on two Intellectual Ventures patents.”
This helps show that trolls can be combated by squashing software patents, not just by obsessing over patent trolls (the small ones, not big ones like Microsoft).
We were shocked and disgusted to discover last night that UCLA put this horrible troll in a commencement ceremony. An article’s author, Ara Shirinian, decided to write about this without mincing words. He complained and said that “keynote speaker for UCLA’s commencement ceremony has just been announced as Nathan Myhrvold. He is the cofounder of Intellectual Ventures, the worlds biggest “patent troll,” a company that exploits the loopholes in the patent-granting system by collecting patents and suing other companies, both big and small, hoping to get a piece of their revenue.”
Watch the comment which says “Intellectual Ventures is the patent troll division of Microsoft. It exists to keep the large foot of Microsoft Corporation firmly on the throat of the entire Tech Industry.”
This article drew attention from Tim Wilson, who asked: “Will UCLA students protest patent troll founder’s selection as commencement speaker?”
They definitely should. UCLA has too much pride and reputation to associate itself with parasites and aggressors. Are they actually paying this troll for his self promotion? █
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