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09.11.15

Links 11/9/2015: Rackspace Liaising With Canonical, Amarok 3.0 on the Way

Posted in News Roundup at 6:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

Leftovers

  • As US$12bn is wiped off Apple’s value in one day, iOS 9, OS X 10.11 and Watch OS 2 dates set

    Maybe that enormo-slab stylus wasn’t such a hot idea?

  • Why Apple’s Launch Event Was “Creepy As Hell”

    Yesterday all eyes were on Apple’s product launch.

    This is because Apple has become a bellwether for the stock market as a whole.

    Legendary short seller Jim Chanos spoke candidly to CNBC, explaining that institutional investors and hedge funds are treating Apple stock as a “hedge fund hotel” where they can buy a single name and ride it upwards as opposed to concocting complex trading systems as they did in the past. Indeed, SEC filings by hedge funds bear this out, and so the product launch attracted a huge audience, generating play-by-play reporting on CNBC and Yahoo Finance.

    By the end of trading, Apple stock declined nearly 2%, indicating that investors were not impressed.

    To paraphrase poet Horace, the mountain shuddered and gave birth to a ridiculous mouse.

  • Skype restricted my paid account, without recourse, over a billing hiccup

    Skype is a regular tool in my journalist toolkit. It’s far and away the easiest method by which to record phone interviews (using the Call Recorder plug-in). I prefer it over Google Voice or Google Hangouts because it’s a much simpler tool to deal with, and damn near everyone already has a Skype account anyway. For about $60 a year, Skype gives me a phone number in my area code and the ability to make unlimited calls to and from it, and I’ve been paying that $60 a year and using Skype for six years without incident.

  • Security

    • Friday’s security updates
    • Major web security company sought to conceal that it ran compromised servers

      A controversy has erupted today at London security conference 44CON as details emerge of U.S. security company FireEye’s attempts to stifle any public disclosure of a major series of vulnerabilities in its suite – all of which have now been patched.

      The vulnerabilities are said to have included the default use of the ‘root’ account on a significant number of the Apache servers providing services to FireEye’s clients.

    • GM Took 5 Years to Fix a Full-Takeover Hack in Millions of OnStar Cars

      When a pair of security researchers showed they could hack a Jeep over the Internet earlier this summer to hijack its brakes and transmission, the impact was swift and explosive: Chrysler issued a software fix before the research was even made public. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration launched an investigation. Within days Chrysler issued a 1.4 million vehicle recall.

    • John McAfee: For today, for the future — here’s why I’m running for president

      The last few days have been amazing. I am humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement that I have received. I did 27 interviews yesterday and today looks to be about the same. I have found that the issues we are bringing up are resonating. America cares about these things. Officially, my complete presidential platform is forthcoming, but I wanted to share on Digital Trends a number of reasons why I am running for president and founding a party.

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

    • Jeremy Corbyn confident Labour will unite around him if he wins

      Runaway favourite in election will offer collegiate leadership, but criticism from right of the party is already growing

    • Labour Are Still a Bunch of Crooks

      Tessa Jowell claimed she did not read the mortgage documents before signing them or know where the money was coming from. David Mills was eventually acquitted on a technicality by the Italian legal system, but it is not in dispute that the money came from Berlusconi or that he lied in court. Jowell claimed she did not read the documents and had no idea where the money came from or what her husband was doing. She then “left” him and went through a sham “separation” which the whole London establishment knew was a fake, (but the media obligingly did not publish), until the heat died down and the couple could get together again.

    • This is bad: Russia ‘abducts’ Estonian officer after Obama says US will defend Estonia

      On Friday morning, less than 48 hours after President Obama delivered a speech in Estonia warning that Russian aggression against Estonia could trigger war with the US and NATO, Russian security forces have seized an officer with Estonia’s state security bureau at gunpoint and taken him into Russia.

      Estonia says the officer was kidnapped (or “abducted”) on Estonian soil and taken across by force. Moscow says the Estonian officer was on Russian soil and detained with a gun, 5,000 euros and “materials that have the character of an intelligence mission.” Nearby Estonian police radios were reportedly jammed during the incident.

    • Shovels for Guns: Mexican Artist Melts Guns to Make Shovels for Planting Trees

      Culiacán, the western Mexico city, has the highest death rate from gun-related crime and violence in the country.

      Creative activist Pedro Reyes felt that something positive could be done with the city’s weapons. He addressed the issue of gun violence by turning them into more productive tools, like shovels for planting trees in the local botanical garden.

      Reyes started a campaign for residents to hand over their guns in exchange for a coupon. They could use those coupons to buy electronics or household appliances later on.

    • The Day Chile and the Rest of Latin America Remember as Their 9/11

      There are two 9/11’s: one that we all know of and a second, older and neglected aerial assault that took place on Santiago, Chile, when Air Force jets bombed the La Moneda presidential palace and replaced an elected president with a military dictatorship that lasted close to two decades.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • California drops plan for 50% cut in petroleum use

      California has dropped plans to halve petroleum use in vehicles by 2030, after intense oil industry lobbying.

      Governor Jerry Brown and other senior lawmakers had included the proposal in a climate change bill, but were forced to retreat amid growing opposition.

      State senate leader Kevin de Leon, who supported the cut, accused oil firms of deploying “scare tactics”.

      The leaders have vowed to push ahead with other reforms, including boosting renewable electricity use.

      “I’d say oil has won the skirmish, but they’ve lost the bigger battle,” Mr Brown said.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

  • Censorship

    • The debate over “Concussion”: Is movie “self-censorship” merely censorship by another name or just good business?

      We like to think about the history of copyright as a grand sweep from control over publication by the sovereign, aided by the guild as the beneficiary of monopoly rights, to the current reconfiguration, which emphasizes the author and the arrangements by which incentives to create are put into place for the
      ultimate benefit of the public. Censorship as a system for regulating what gets published is anathema to our fundamental values of what copyright is all about. That is true, as far it is goes. But what about the role of private censorship and the willingness of the creator or the commercializer of the creative work to self-impose restrictions on the content of a work, having regard to possible considerations regarding third parties?

  • Privacy

    • How Ashley Madison Hid Its Fembot Con From Users and Investigators

      The developers at Ashley Madison created their first artificial woman sometime in early 2002. Her nickname was Sensuous Kitten, and she is listed as the tenth member of Ashley Madison in the company’s leaked user database. On her profile, she announces: “I’m having trouble with my computer … send a message!”

      Sensuous Kitten was the vanguard of a robot army. As I reported last week, Ashley Madison created tens of thousands of fembots to lure men into paying for credits on the “have an affair” site. When men signed up for a free account, they would immediately be shown profiles of what internal documents call “Angels,” or fake women whose details and photos had been batch-generated using specially designed software. To bring the fake women to life, the company’s developers also created software bots to animate these Angels, sending email and chat messages on their behalf.

      [...]

      Emails in Biderman’s inbox from November 2012 contain evidence that the company knew very well that most of their money came from bots flirting with men. Security researcher Alejandro Ramos found these emails, which contain an internal presentation that was passed around to many of the company managers. One slide (reproduced below) reveals that 80% of the men who “convert,” or make a purchase on Ashley Madison, are doing it as a result of engagers.

    • Germany’s Homegrown NSA

      It’s somewhat amazing how much important news doesn’t reach us via the mainstream press. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see photos or film on Facebook of massive demonstrations that somehow never make it to the six o’clock news. For example, I’m willing to bet that very few people here in the U.S. know of the protests in Berlin outside the still-under-construction new headquarters of Ger­many’s for­eign in­tel­li­gence agency, the Bundesna­chrichten­di­enst (BND).

      This looks like important news to me. Many are saying that the BND is getting ready to go NSA on us. Indeed, the spooks at the BND already cooperate with the NSA to an extent that isn’t known, according to a report yesterday from NationalJournal’s Dustin Volz.

      This news is somewhat, but not completely, surprising given Snowden’s revelations of the NSA’s spying on Germany that included listening in on German Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s phone calls. But there are reports that the BND, at the request of the NSA, is spying on German and European companies — Airbus and Siemens are mentioned — and politicians.

    • FBI and Apple’s Encryption

      It’s not. The rumor I am hearing is not about access to a particular user and his communications. It is about general access to iOS data and communications. And it’s in the FISA court, which means that it’s not a domestic criminal matter.

    • Let’s talk about iMessage (again)

      It’s this detail that exposes the real weakness of iMessage. To make key distribution ‘simple’, Apple takes responsibility for handing out your friends’ public keys. It does this using a proprietary key server that Apple owns and operates. Your iPhone requests keys from Apple using a connection that’s TLS-encrypted, and employs some fancy cryptographic tokens. But fundamentally, it relies on the assumption that Apple is good, and is really going to give you you the right keys for the person you want to talk to.

      But this honesty is just an assumption. Since the key lookup is completely invisible to the user, there’s nothing that forces Apple to be honest. They could, if inspired, give you a public key of their choosing, one that they hold the decryption key for. They could give you the FBI’s key. They could give you Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s key, though The Rock would presumably be very non-plussed by this.

      Indeed it gets worse. Because iMessage is designed to support several devices attached to the same account, each query to the directory server can bring back many keys — one for each of your devices. An attacker can simply add a device (or a fake ‘ghost device’) to Apple’s key server, and senders will encrypt messages to that key along with the legitimate ones. This enables wiretapping, provided you can get Apple to help you out.

    • US spy chief’s ‘highly unusual’ reported contact with military official raises concerns

      Barack Obama’s intelligence chief is said to be in frequent and unusual contact with a military intelligence officer at the center of a growing scandal over rosy portrayals of the war against the Islamic State, the Guardian has learned.

      James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, is said to talk nearly every day with the head of US Central Command’s intelligence wing, Army Brigadier General Steven Grove – “which is highly, highly unusual”, according to a former intelligence official.

      Grove is said to be implicated in a Pentagon inquiry into manipulated war intelligence.

    • First Library to Support Anonymous Internet Browsing Effort Stops After DHS Email

      Since Edward Snowden exposed the extent of online surveillance by the U.S. government, there has been a surge of initiatives to protect users’ privacy.

      But it hasn’t taken long for one of these efforts — a project to equip local libraries with technology supporting anonymous Internet surfing — to run up against opposition from law enforcement.

      In July, the Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire, was the first library in the country to become part of the anonymous Web surfing service Tor. The library allowed Tor users around the world to bounce their Internet traffic through the library, thus masking users’ locations.

      Soon after state authorities received an email about it from an agent at the Department of Homeland Security.

    • FBI, intel chiefs decry “deep cynicism” over cyber spying programs

      On a stage in a ballroom in the Walter Washington Convention Center on September 10, the heads of the United States’ intelligence community gathered to talk about the work their agencies perform and the challenges they face—or at least as much as they could in an unclassified environment. But the directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency also had one particular mission in mind as they took the stage at the Intelligence & National Security Summit, an industry event largely attended by government officials and contractors: stopping the poisoning of the public debate around their missions, and especially around the issue of encryption, by unreasonable haters.

      CIA Director John Brennan suggested that negative public opinion and “misunderstanding” about the US intelligence community is in part “because of people who are trying to undermine” the mission of the NSA, CIA, FBI and other agencies. These people “may be fueled by our adversaries,” he said.

  • Civil Rights

    • Raed Jarrar on Syrian Refugee Crisis, Tim Karr on Net Neutrality Trickery

      People around the world have been riveted by heartbreaking images of refugees fleeing Syria, as well as heartening ones of European citizens offering help and hospice. But if the pictures drive you to want to know more, don’t expect much help from US media, who are not that interested to get at the roots of the situation. We’ll talk about the Syrian refugee crisis with Raed Jarrar from the American Friends Service Committee.

    • Saudi Arabia offers Germany 200 mosques – one for every 100 refugees who arrived last weekend

      Saudi Arabia has reportedly responded to the growing number of people fleeing the Middle East for western Europe – by offering to build 200 mosques in Germany.

      Syria’s richer Gulf neighbours have been accused of not doing their fair share in the humanitarian crisis, with Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the UAE also keeping their doors firmly shut to asylum-seekers.

      According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which quoted a report in the Lebanese newspaper Al Diyar, Saudi Arabia would build one mosque for every 100 refugees who entered Germany in extraordinary numbers last weekend.

    • Washington Post’s Balko Blasts Media’s “Fact-Free Fearmongering” About A “War On Cops”

      Conservative media have consistently worked to undermine and smear the Black Lives Matter movement by blaming them for the recent deaths of police officers in Illinois and Texas, even labeling the movement a hate group that inspires violence against police.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Why academics need to lobby for copyright reform – now

        The Hargreaves review teaches us several things. First of all: Progress is possible.

        But the fact that it is surprising that the government listened to academic evidence on copyright also tells us that in many other instances, simply producing evidence has not been enough. We’ve seen this on a European level in the case of the term extension for phonograms, where independent academic evidence was largely ignored.

      • Popcorn Time Creator Reveals His Real Identity

        The man behind Popcorn Time, the popular and free BitTorrent-based video streaming platform, has decided to reveal his true identity in an interview with Norwegian website DN.no.

EPO Has Become Political and Benoît Battistelli is Lobbying for UPC (Large Corporations’ Wishlist)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The intrinsically political activity of EPO management serves to demonstrate that higher agenda is being pushed at the behest of private interests, discrediting any portrayal of EPO officials as public servants

THE corrupt EPO management is now openly promoting the unitary patent (UPC) in the EPO’s Web site and in Twitter. It is becoming more of a political entity, not just an organisation whose goal is to decide what merits a patent given the law (handed down from above). This is rather gross and it’s unsettling to observe.

“Meeting in Rome,” says the EPO’s site, “EPO President Benoît Battistelli and Italy’s Under Secretary of State to the Ministry of Economic Development, Simona Vicari, discussed the role of patents in supporting innovation and the upcoming introduction of a European patent with unitary effect for the EU member states. After clarification of important legal questions on the unitary patent by the Court of Justice of the EU Italy has initiated the process to participate in the new patent scheme which is expected to become operational in 2016.” Battistelli is now acting more like a lobbyist or a politician, akin to Michel Barnier and Charlie McCreevy before him. This isn’t what the EPO should be doing. It’s overreach. Ultimately, if Battistelli gets its way, his mates in giant corporations can end up suing companies all across Europe in one fell swoop. Patent lawyers’ sites in Europe are jubilant of course, as they can get a share of the loot.

Thankfully, the abuses of the EPO’s management are making it into the media again. The major Dutch papers have just covered it and although we don’t have English translations (not yet anyway), SUEPO has this outline:

De Volkskrant (printable version) reports on the fifth suicide since 2012 at the EPO and the persistent refusal of Mr Battistelli to let the Labour Inspectorate enter the premises. A similar article was published in De Telegraaf.

“Opinion on the applicability of International Human Rights norms to the internal workings of the European Patent Office” was also shared by SUEPO yesterday (full paper in PDF form), remarking on highly repressive abuses of the EPO against its very own staff, not just European citizens. SUEPO outlined it as follows: “Paul Beckett from Quinn Legal is a lawyer concerned by the plight of EPO staff and has independently assessed the applicability of fundamental rights in the internal workings of international organisations, and the EPO in particular. This document reflects his academic opinion, which may be taken into consideration in further legal work.”

The EPO is definitely out of control. It’s a corrupt organisation led by corrupt officials, some of whom probably belong in jail over many criminal charges. European taxpayers have every right to call if not demand a shutdown, reset, or independent (by an external body) probe of the EPO. It’s not some private entity; it’s supposed to be a public service (not an overpaid clique of friends and family members), but means of oversight/accountability systematically got thwarted by Battistelli. Belated external intervention is imperative at this stage. The EPO’s management is trying to block it by means of intimidation (including scapegoating), or at least stonewalling.

The Shameless Openwashing of Rebranded Internet Explorer, ‘Edge’

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, Google, Microsoft at 7:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

What’s closed is “open”, but only if you’re a good liar

University of Manchester

Summary: Response to the disturbing rise in openwashing of Internet Explorer/’Edge’, with many headlines that combine the term Open Source with these malicious proprietary programs that also spy on the users and manipulate these users

EARLIER this week we bemoaned the continued openwashing of 'Edge', which is little more than a Vista 10 publicity stunt and an excuse for shutting out rival Web browsers. Despite all the openwashing, ‘Edge’ is proprietary and standards-hostile. It is “cancer on the Web,” to use a popular characterisation of Internet Explorer, whose extremely bad reputation ‘Edge’ is merely trying to erase/dodge.

Calling ‘Edge’ or Internet Explorer “open” is extremely dishonest. At Techrights we have repeatedly tackled this kind of spin, specifically showing how the browser was being openwashed earlier this year [1, 2, 3]. We covered prior attempts to distort facts and frame ‘Edge’ as “open”, putting any sense of reality or facts down the wastebasket. It is usually Microsoft that starts this PR; others merely follow this lead with misleading articles. Above all, they spread misleading headlines (many people only read headlines). Even SJVN has just helped Microsoft openwashing of Edge (despite it being proprietary and standards-hostile) with his title — or perhaps the ZDNet editor’s title (it’s widely known that it’s usually editors who write all the headlines) — “​Microsoft supports VP9 in Edge as it continues its open-source move”. Here is another new example of this gross spin, where Microsoft piggybacks other projects from other companies in an effort to portray ‘Edge’ as “open”. Unlike most Web browsers, Microsoft’s browser remains proprietary, DRM-leaning, anti-competitive, and Microsoft lock-in-pushing. Watch how Microsoft broke the media with this spin [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11], not just in Microsoft propaganda sites. The only somewhat meaningful headlines that we could find was “Microsoft: Thanks, Google, we’ll have your media codec for Edge”.

Yes, and since Google’s codec is genuinely Open Source, Microsoft is hoping to covertly/cleverly paint ‘Edge’ as “open”, despite it being purely proprietary. This is quite a wonderful example of how Microsoft spin typically works.

Speaking of spin, watch how Microsoft's openwashing spinner (Metz) writes “Nokia, a Finnish company famous for recent failure.” (also “Nokia’s [sic] failure” despite it being due to Microsoft entryism).

A reader of ours pointed out this spin to us. “Squeezing in some revisionism there” is what he called it.

There are actually some people out there (including SJVN, based on a chat which I had with him yesterday) who believe that Microsoft is becoming “open”. It’s not, it has just become ever more manipulative in the media and it perpetually distorts what “open” actually means.

Microsoft Clogs Up Networks to Push Vista 10 Spyware Into PCs, Even Without Users’ Consent

Posted in Microsoft, Vista 10, Vista 8, Windows at 6:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Using PCs and networks as skylines, just like Sky(pe)net, which is basically an intrusive, parasitic, large-scale botnet

Manchester Airport
Manchester Airport

Summary: The Microsoft botnet (using people’s PCs as nodes and relays) is shamelessly and without users’ consent clogging up whole networks by passing around spyware (in executable binary blob form)

THERE are many negative things to be said about Vista 10, including criminal aspects of it. A lot of it began in its predecessor, Vista 8, which used so-called Dark Patterns (“User Interfaces Designed to Trick People”) in order to seduce people into violating their own principles and accepting unacceptable things, clearly against their will.

“If you remotely download a keylogger onto people’s PCs without their consent, you may end up in prison. Microsoft does the same and it’s framed as benign, or “business as usual”.”According to a growing number of reports, Microsoft is still operated by anti-competitive thugs, who even without users’ consent take over Windows (prior versions, not Vista 10) and secretly download gigabytes of data for business reasons alone. Dumping Windows becomes imperative now, even versions prior to Vista 10. They’re all part of a botnet and Microsoft commandeers this botnet to do just about anything it wishes. It’s truly a menace, let alone a national security threat.

As Geek.com put it, “Microsoft may be pushing the [Vista 10] install files onto your system” even if you did not consent to that. Some people are paying for their bandwidth, so what Microsoft does here is abusive and it can, as already reported elsewhere, cause severe issues to corporate and home networks (not just reduction in productivity but also something akin to DDOS). Quoting the original report from The Inquirer:

MICROSOFT HAS CONFIRMED that Windows 10 is being downloaded to computers whether or not users have opted in.

An INQUIRER reader pointed out to us that, despite not having ‘reserved’ a copy of Windows 10, he had found that the ~BT folder, which has been the home of images of the new operating system since before rollout began, had appeared on his system. He had no plans to upgrade and had not put in a reservation request.

He told us: “The symptoms are repeated failed ‘Upgrade to Windows 10′ in the WU update history and a huge 3.5GB to 6GB hidden folder labelled ‘$Windows.~BT’. I thought Microsoft [said] this ‘upgrade’ was optional. If so, why is it being pushed out to so many computers where it wasn’t reserved, and why does it try to install over and over again?

If you remotely download a keylogger onto people’s PCs without their consent, you may end up in prison. Microsoft does the same and it’s framed as benign, or “business as usual”.

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