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08.13.15

Privacy Controls in Vista 10 Are Decorative, Not Intended to Help Guard Privacy

Posted in Microsoft, Vista 10, Windows at 7:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: More people realise that even with configuration to fit one’s preferences, Vista 10 remains an Orwellian piece of spyware

VERY counter-intuitively, Vista 10 should be scary to its users, but not to GNU/Linux users. Vista 10 poses plenty of dangers to people who are using it (i.e. used by it) and it is not gaining market share because a lot of people quickly realise that adopting Vista 10 means becoming a product for Microsoft to sell. Microsoft always brags about ‘sales’/number of useds [sic], but not this time. Vista 10 is demonstrably a huge failure, despite the low initial advertised cost (gratis ‘upgrade’).

Last week we reminded readers that settings in proprietary software from Microsoft are often decorative, meaning that they serve no function other than give users the illusion of control. With proprietary software, especially from Microsoft, the software controls the user. Microsoft has been ignoring user settings (regarding privacy and other critical things such as automatic updates) for at least 14 years. This isn’t a shocking new development as it has been done since Windows XP, if not beforehand as well.

British media made it top news today that Vista 10 “contacts OneDrive, MSN and other services even if a user has activated privacy-protecting options” (i.e. Microsoft ignores these).

“Microsoft has been ignoring user settings (regarding privacy and other critical things such as automatic updates) for at least 14 years.”Almost all the articles are linking to Microsoft Peter (a British Microsoft booster), but some, such as Phil Muncaster, frame Microsoft’s attack on privacy based on the company’s own words. “The offending clause was spotted by eagle-eyed journalists who waded through the new 12,000 word terms of use,” Muncaster wrote and other British journalists, along with US counterparts, focused on Microsoft Peter (some have explained why forced automatic updates that cannot be disabled are a “Dangerous New Direction”).

“Microsoft’s claims that it makes great software are open to dispute,” said this article the other day and The New American, a reasonably high profile site, went with the headline “Windows 10 Is Spyware”. There is a trend here. Vista 10 is quickly becoming synonymous with spyware and there is finally a Wikipedia page titled “Microsoft Spyware”. It’s actually a Wikipedia article on Microsoft Spyware, providing some preliminary examples.

iophk reminded us this morning that “Slashdot used to tag articles ‘vista failure’ for a few weeks.” Having just checked Techrights traffic again, for the past 4 days (since Sunday), Vista 10 market share is up to just 1.1%. Still pathetic given that the ‘upgrade’ is advertised as gratis.

FOSS Force published this article this morning, reminding us that Vista 10 AstroTurfing, like a lot of Microsoft AstroTurfing in general, relies on trying to “create stories that find the positive within the negative” because “a story that simply states that “Windows 10 is great!” might not make the cut as a news story, even with the always lowering standards on what passes as news sites these days.”

“The job for the Mad ad men,” explains Christine, “is to create stories that find the positive within the negative — which they’re doing with great abundance, mainly because Windows never fails to offer a surfeit of negative.” It’s drowning the signal with noise, turning negatives into positives. It’s a classic PR strategy which we wrote about in past years.

Microsoft Peter Writes About Malicious Microsoft Antifeatures, Tries to Blame Lenovo and Succeeds

Posted in GNU/Linux, Lenovo, Microsoft at 6:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Peter Bright
Photo courtesy/source: Twitter profile

Summary: Malice from Microsoft is being framed as malice from Lenovo, owing to some shrewd spin from a longtime Microsoft booster

Peter is a brave man. Despite his love for Microsoft, he has been hanging out in our main IRC channel for a number of years. He probably joined after we had criticised many of his articles and pointed out the gross bias, which sometimes got a lot more severe and clearly upset a lot of readers, even employees of companies like Opera. Factual inaccuracies, outright errors, semi-truths, spin etc. are a standard routine.

Today we wish to discuss this article because it helps raise awareness of malicious things that Microsoft has been doing. What Microsoft Peter calls “anti-theft feature” is neither “anti-theft” nor a feature but an antifeature. It is part of Wintel’s attack on general-purpose computers or home PCs, tying these to Microsoft software at the hardware level (like OS signatures to be accepted or rejected at the motherboard level).

Microsoft Peter uses a cleverly-crafted argument of diversion; “Lenovo used Windows anti-theft feature to install persistent crapware” is the headline, but it might as well have said that Microsoft had turned many computers against their users and Lenovo merely borrowed this facility from Microsoft.

“The criticism is going to Lenovo for using this when it should be going to Microsoft for even allowing it.”
      –Ryan Farmer

In our IRC channel, Ryan Farmer, a former Microsoft MVP (albeit no longer loyal to them), wrote: “Turns out there’s a Windows 8/10 “feature” that runs Windows programs that OEMs can put in the EFI firmware. But it works in Windows 7 as well because of a Microsoft extension to ACPI that lets the firmware pass Windows executables to Windows, which it executes even if they’re not related to power management. Seems like the last version of Windows that wouldn’t do this was maybe Vista. The criticism is going to Lenovo for using this when it should be going to Microsoft for even allowing it. In theory, it’s there to make it impossible for laptop thieves to remove anti-theft software, but since there’s no limitation on how it can be used…”

This article is debated right now by people without an understanding of the technical details. It’s talked about in some other sites and forums, even corporate media like Time. Microsoft Peter managed to get people angry at Lenovo rather than Microsoft (the culprit). Cory Doctorow fell for it and everyone else is directing the anger only at Lenovo (just take a glimpse at those headlines while they last in Google’s index, there at least two dozen of them at the moment).

We wish to remind readers to properly research before buying a PC without GNU/Linux already installed. Microsoft has been setting up artificial obstacles, culminating in Vista 10 with the latest/newest dual-boot complications, set aside UEFI ‘secure’ boot barriers (Microsoft now allows for no “off” switch to be present). Yesterday, a site specialising in this area reported =”GRUB-Install errors while attempting to dual-boot Windows 10 and Linux distributions” (check out the screenshots).

Cisco: When a Patent Troll (by Some Criteria) Claims to be Against Patent Trolls, Has Much Left to Prove

Posted in Deception, Patents at 5:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fiasco Cisco

Summary: Analysis of Cisco’s claims that it is making a new video codec ‘royalty-free’ in an effort to fight trolls (probably MPEG-LA et al.)

Cisco, itself somewhat of a troll these days (reversal of a previous stance and previous actions), is trying very hard to paint itself ‘anti-trolls’ right now (picked by LWN by now), leading to misleading press coverage like “Cisco hands license-busting troll-hammer to THOR”. To quote:

Cisco is sick of the state of patent licensing for video codecs, so has decided to set a royalty-free of its own loose on the world.

The Borg’s problem is twofold: on the one hand, the licensing pools for H.264 fail to represent many of the participants in the industry; on the other, the successor, H.265, can be vastly more expensive.

Is Cisco ever going to stand up to MPEG-LA? Cisco enters a space already populated by Google’s WebM/VP9 and Ogg Theora/Vorbis (here is Monty Montgomery’s initial response to Cisco making its codec free, but not Free software like his own ‘baby’). It would be nice to see Cisco throwing its weight against MPEG-LA, and by extension MPEG-LA backers such as Apple and Microsoft. Some sites frame Cisco’s software as “H.264 and H.265 alternative”. Let’s see how they cope with the patent troll, MPEG-LA. Sooner or later we are bound to find out.

It is no secret that Techrights distrusts Cisco, even for reasons other than patents. Today in the news there are damaging allegations about (and also from) Cisco. Cisco claims that its gear can be hijacked (Cisco’s very own back door must not have helped and instead contributed to it). Perhaps Cisco found out that letting only the “Good Guys” get into everything from Cisco rarely works in practice. Cisco is a back doors industry leader, with public attempt to even standardise the practice and Web pages that boast about it (Cisco may have removed or watered down these pages since the Snowden-provided leaks). Does anyone wish to actually use Cisco products, irrespective of the codecs used, to transmit audio and video inside a private business? Sensitive data is being passed around, making it an attractive target for espionage. Cisco gear is a bug waiting to be remotely accessed (or its communications intercepted) by Cisco’s partners in high places, such as the NSA. Remember that Cisco’s stacks are almost entirely proprietary, no matter how much openwashing the company habitually resorts to.

Geographical Scope of Broadening Scope of Patents is Expanding With 1%-Centric ‘Globalisation’ and ‘Trade’ Deals

Posted in America, Australia, Europe, Patents at 5:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The plot to monopolise more of what is public (e.g. public domain, common knowledge) gradually unravels as people secretly (dodging public participation) congregate to centralise power structures, opportunistic predation, costly litigation, and enforcement of demands from corporations (like I.S.D.S.)

IT IS saddening to see that despite some patent progress which is being made in the US, owing for the most to SCOTUS*, other countries/islands/continents regress and essentially derail their own economy. It’s a class war waged between multinational corporations, i.e. plutocrats without borders, and everyone else, irrespective of nationality. It’s a large-scale heist cleverly disguised as harmonisation of national and international laws.

Not too long ago we explained how the software patents debate in New Zealand was being bypassed or worked around in secret. Some vigilant people caught this secretive ploy and alerted the media, calling for action while fighting back against software patents. Now there is a press release and resultant/accompanying media coverage from the local/national media, even ZDNet outside the country [1, 2, 3, 4]. Will this be enough? Well, it’s only the beginning of what could become a very long struggle. New Zealand has already devised the same loophole that Europe is sneakily using in order to allow software patenting, provided it’s tied to some unspecified device.

Speaking of Europe, the Unified Patent Court (UPC) ‘harmonisation’ ploy is well under way as here in Britain, without public consent (no referendum, no polling, not even a Parliamentary debate), the London division of the UPC [is surprisingly] announced”. Yes, the patent parasites (practitioners) just jump the gun and according to this report, “UK Intellectual Property Office has announced the new location of the London section of the Unified Patent Court.”

So UK-IPO basically ignores the standard authorities and procedures, just like the EPO‘s management. One might say that they virtually operate outside the law, much like the Mafia. They know what’s good for them and they don’t bother consulting the public. According to IP Kat, a blog of patent maximalists from London, the Enlarged Board (tackling EPO disputes) finally has something to reveal.

Just like these secret (and now notorious) ‘trade’ deals which we rarely write about (even though more is known about them now), these patent conspiracies (or collusions) serve to just enrich a meta-industry of people who profit from taxation of real practitioners — people whose practice is producing stuff like software and machines.
_____
* According to Patent Buddy, the SCOTUS ruling in Alice keeps squashing software patents. “New PTO eMod system,” allegedly (no link to the source), “seamlessly generates automated § 101 rejection on every appl’n, saving the PTO millions of $$ a year in exam costs.”

Links 13/8/2015: KDE Frameworks 5.13.0, Red Hat Satellite 6.1

Posted in News Roundup at 4:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Is Bassel Nearer to Freedom?

    Earlier, Bassel won the Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award, which helped get him moved from a horrifically bad jail to a less hostile Adra Prison. Winning this award will further increase the spotlight on Bassel, which increases the pressure to release him, your fellow Free Software engineer and Creative Commons activist.

  • HashPlex Unveils Lightning Network Implementation

    Lightning Network is a proposal for an off-blockchain network that would support super-fast transactions and boost Bitcoin scalability. Wednesday, miner hosting company HashPlex unveiled an alpha Lightning Network hub implementation, as developers continue to refine the layer (sometimes called layer-2) on testnets.

  • Google’s Open Source Project: Why They Did It and What’s Next

    The word “Kubernetes” may not roll off the tongue as easily as the word “Google,” but it is nonetheless an important project many outside the software community have probably not ever heard of.

  • Goldman Sachs to Give Out ‘Secret Sauce’ on Trading
  • Goldman Sachs just pulled a Silicon Valley move

    The investment bank is giving away some of its trading technology to clients through open source software, according to The Wall Street Journal.

  • Goldman Sachs to give clients more open-source access
  • Why Open-Source Middleware Will Rule the Internet of Things

    Market researchers are predicting that by 2020, more than 20 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. These objects and devices will produce massive amounts of data 24-7, which will be a pain in the backbone to manage, unless tackled efficiently. To a great extent, the solution to the influx of IoT data rests in the effectiveness of the data infrastructure supporting cross-device communication—or, in other terms, in the effectiveness of IoT middleware. I firmly believe that in order to succeed in its purpose, this infrastructure should be founded on open-source platforms and technologies.

  • How Open Source Can Help the IoT Industry Reach Full Potential

    The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to be one of the most powerful technological innovations to date. In fact, its reach will be so extensive—encompassing billions of connected endpoints across the globe—that it will completely change the way companies and consumers connect with one another and share information.

  • Open sourcing Grid, the Guardian’s new image management service

    For about a year, a small dedicated team has been building the Guardian’s new image management service.

    From the beginning, the vision was to provide a universal and fast experience accessing media that is well organised and using it in an affordable way to produce high-quality content.

  • Go wide: Open source advocacy on Twitter

    Effective open source advocacy on Twitter requires you to go wide. You need to find and participate in communities of people who are not focused on open source. Maybe people passionate about arts education. Public health advocates. Bicycling enthusiasts or bridge players or pet rescuers or Habitat for Humanity people or meditation people or Esperanto speakers or folk music singer/songwriters.

  • The changing face of open-source software

    The increasing number of open-source initiatives in existence leads some to catch a dose of initiative-fatigue. What’s really going on here?

  • Open Source and Enterprise App Development

    To open source or not to open source, that is the question for many IT teams that are struggling with deciding on the best approach to mobile application development. There is no doubt that today’s broad array of open source offerings appear to offer development nirvana – free, community driven, customizable software.

  • Bringing IoT to Fruition with Fully Open Source Software

    Non-profit foundations can help encourage fully open source software (FOSS) collaboration across industry and community. A relative newcomer is the prpl Foundation, an open-source non-profit foundation focused on enabling next-generation datacenter-to-device portable software and virtualized architectures. One of prpl’s focus areas is OpenWrt, a Linux distribution for embedded devices. Industry and community collaboration on a common FOSS baseline software stack can help facilitate new IoE products, applications and technologies, and enable easier connectivity and data exchange across a variety of platforms in the market.

  • Events

    • The Potential of the Blockchain: LinuxCon Keynote Preview

      There are many similarities between Linux and the blockchain and so I was thrilled that Greg Maxwell, one of the core Bitcoin maintainers and a long term open source and cryptogrophy developer, accepted my invitation to keynote LinuxCon this year. I recently caught up with him to talk about his speech and the potential he sees for the Blockchain.

    • Open Source T-Shirt Contest
  • Web Browsers

  • SaaS/Big Data

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice community achievements

      Saying LibreOffice or OpenOffice to people can lead to interesting reactions. For some people, LibreOffice is the darling of the open source world, and for others, it is a crappy Microsoft Office alternative that they look down on.

      I believe that LibreOffice plays an important function in the world, and one that spans beyond the mere function of an office suite. Before we get to that though, I think looking back through the tremendous journey that led to the LibreOffice project we know today is important.

    • LibreOffice 5.0, one week later

      Following the announcement, donations have doubled in comparison to the previous weeks. As a consequence, we have reached the threshold of 150,000 donations since May 2013, when we started keeping track of the numbers. A huge thanks to all donors! With their money, they make LibreOffice sustainable, supporting the costs of the entire organization.

    • LibreOffice 5 released with bug fixes, cloud and mobile aspirations

      LibreOffice, the non-Microsoft and (to many) beloved office suite, has reached a new milestone with the release of version 5. It’s of particular interest to Linux mavens, but the rest of LibreOffice users will benefit as well, thanks to an impressive boost in performance through GPU hardware and some interesting new features.

  • CMS

    • Czech TV and radio switch websites to Drupal

      The Czech government-owned public TV broadcaster Česká televize has switched to using the open source content management system Drupal for its CT 24 news website, it announced on 6 August. One month earlier, the government-owned Český rozhlas (Czech Radio) also began using Drupal.

  • Funding

  • BSD

    • Two Year Anniversary

      We’re quickly approaching our two-year anniversary, which will be on episode 105. To celebrate, we’ve created a unique t-shirt design, available for purchase until the end of August. Shirts will be shipped out around September 1st. Most of the proceeds will support the show, and specifically allow us to buy additional equipment to record on-site interviews at conferences.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Licensing

    • Random Windows licensing facts

      These facts brought to you by “let me just stick the GPL in an ACPI table so I can install the damn thing already”.

  • Programming

    • Love for Perl unites diverse community

      I’ve used Perl for several years, beginning in 2002 on Solaris, then moving to Debian and working on Koha in 2008. Surprisingly (bafflingly, in retrospect), I had not connected with the larger Perl community at all in that time, choosing to stay within the smaller communities I was already embedded in.

    • Your “Infrastructure as Code” is still code!

      Whether you’re a TDD zealot, or you just occasionally write a quick script to reproduce some bug, it’s a rare coder who doesn’t see value in some sort of automated testing. Yet, somehow, in all of the new-age “Infrastructure as Code” mania, we appear to have forgotten this, and the tools that are commonly used for implementing “Infrastructure as Code” have absolutely woeful support for developing your Infrastructure Code. I believe this has to change.

    • The making of ZeMarmot: planning
    • Assign Phabricator reviewers based on module ownership

      Inspired by Quora’s Moving Fast With High Code Quality post, we are thus implementing a review routing system – the code is live on GitHub at phabricator-utils. It’s written in Python (hey, we’re a Java/JS/Python shop), though we do plan to contribute closer to the Phabricator codebase itself and that will be in PHP.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • State spending $1.5m on computer science training for teachers

      Vinter acknowledged that MassCAN’s campaign is driven in part by self-interest: Google and other companies are worried about a lack of programmers and developers, specialists that are highly in demand in the booming Massachusetts tech industry.

    • 5-year plan for improving diversity in tech

      I think we can all agree that open source is a good way to spread knowledge and empower people in many different ways, but it’s also true that competition, natural in a meritocracy, can and often does privilege those who can invest in the competition itself; minorities are being outspent and thus left aside by those who can afford to work, basically, for free.

  • Security

    • Linux Concerns: Convenience vs. Security

      Once upon a recent time, Linux was more secure than it is today. Only the root user could mount external device, and in many distributions new users were automatically assigned a few groups that limited the hardware they could access. Distributions followed the principle of least privilege (aka least access), under which users, applications, and devices receive only the access to the system that they absolutely require.

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • One Definition Of Lock-in: Running “2003” So Many Years Later

      Why do they do it? Run “2003” in 2015! It’s not cost, because Debian GNU/Linux would cost $0. It’s lock-in whether by habit or by application. Lots of folks have invested heavily in applications that still work so they are willing to risk everything, perhaps by adding other layers of security. Why?

    • Imploding Barrels and Other Highlights From Hackfest DefCon

      Visiting Las Vegas can feel a bit like being a metal sphere in a pinball machine—you’re tossed from bright lights to blaring shows and back again until you eventually (hopefully) emerge out a hole at your home airport. When you visit Vegas with a swarm of hackers and security researchers, the dizziness gets amped up tenfold and can be laced with a dose of dark mischief.

    • Cisco networking gear can be hijacked, warns company

      An attacker can swap out the device’s firmware with altered, malicious software.

    • Video Shows a Terrifying Drug Infusion Pump Hack in Action

      It’s one thing to talk about security vulnerabilities in a product, but another to provide a proof-of-concept demonstration showing the device being hacked.

      That’s what occurred last month when BlackBerry Chief Security Officer David Kleidermacher and security professional Graham Murphy showed how easy it is for hackers to take control of a hospital drug infusion pump by overwriting the device’s firmware with malicious software.

    • August ’15 security fixes for Adobe Flash

      …Adobe released updated Flash player plugins which adddress many new vulnerabilities (as usual).

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

  • Finance

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

  • Privacy

    • Facial Recognition Software Moves From Overseas Wars to Local Police

      Facial recognition software, which American military and intelligence agencies used for years in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify potential terrorists, is being eagerly adopted by dozens of police departments around the country to pursue drug dealers, prostitutes and other conventional criminal suspects. But because it is being used with few guidelines and with little oversight or public disclosure, it is raising questions of privacy and concerns about potential misuse.

    • Facebook axed internship for student who exposed location flaw

      If you’re about to start an internship at one of the world’s biggest social networks, it might not be in your interest to publicly embarrass it shortly before you begin. It’s a lesson that Harvard student Aran Khanna learned the hard way after creating an app that took advantage of a privacy flaw within Facebook Messenger. Khanna had found that, whenever you chat to your friends, the system automatically shares your location. As such, he built a browser plugin, called the “Marauder’s Map,” that showed you where your buddies were as they were talking to you.

  • Civil Rights

    • Boston Police Commissioner Wants Cameras Further Away From Cops, Criminal Charges For Not Assisting Officers

      Earlier this year, Texas legislator Jason Villalba attempted to shortchange the First Amendment in the name of “officer safety” by making it illegal to film police officers from within a 25-foot, constantly-moving radius. His proposed law was greeted with criticism (and death threats, according to Villalba) and was consequently discarded because it was a terrible, arbitrary law that had only the briefest of flirtations with reality and logic.

      For one thing, the law would have prompted officers to split their attention between the job at hand (whatever crime they were responding to/investigating) and Villalba’s directive. Of course, officers could easily choose not to enforce this bad law, but far too many officers have been filmed leaving crime scenes just to hassle citizens with cameras. And the instant the officer started closing the gap between him and the photographer, a law would have been violated in letter, if not in spirit. Villalba is a staunch supporter of law enforcement agencies and his proposal was just an attempt to give officers a little less accountability.

  • DRM

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Rightscorp Deal Turns DMCA Notices Into Piracy Lawsuits

        Piracy monetization firm Rightscorp has signed an agreement to provide lawfirm Flynn Wirkus Young with the IP-addresses of persistent pirates. The data will be used to target U.S. Internet users who ignore DMCA notices and settlement offers sent by copyright holders. The first cases are already in progress.

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