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08.30.19

A Closer Look at the ‘Trojan Horse’ That is exFAT Inside Linux

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Kernel, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 6:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Snakes like to deceive

Snakes like to deceive

Summary: Microsoft and its boosters (media insiders) spread the illusion that Microsoft is “opening up”; the reality, however, is that it’s looking to tighten control over Linux while at the same time profiting from exFAT patents owing to back room deals

TECHRIGHTS has come to the saddening realisation that entryism inside Linux is in an advanced phase if not a “terminal” stage.

The “4 Freedoms” of Richard Stallman (RMS) are probably not enough for Software Freedom. There are glaring loopholes or workarounds. We’re not talking about stuff like systemd here. We talk about changes/passage of ownership/control. If you allow moles, entryism and other forms of infiltration into key projects — and those projects are too complicated (or vast) to fork because that doesn’t scale well — these projects are screwed. Again, we’re not talking about Devuan/Debian here but mostly about Linux, the kernel.

“We’re losing the battle… we’re ceding control.”It’s extremely sad for me to say it, but access to source code (and permission to modify, run, redistribute) is not enough for Software Freedom anymore. We see a lot of evidence of this in Linux. That’s aside from the fact that openwashing — a term I believe I coined more than a decade ago — is a massive threat to Software Freedom (yes, right now more than ever before). We’re losing the battle… we’re ceding control. It’s all about control.

Microsoft doesn’t come to Linux “in peace”. It’s hostile. It did the same thing to Yahoo, to Nokia, and to Novell. My wife’s view on Microsoft ‘helping’ Linux is the same as mine. Microsoft needs to belately adopt EXT4 if it cares about Linux; but it’s only entering Linux to advance Microsoft’s ‘standards’, APIs and proprietary software inside Linux… through Linux. It’s exploitative, pure and simple.

“Microsoft doesn’t come to Linux “in peace”. It’s hostile. It did the same thing to Yahoo, to Nokia, and to Novell.”Microsoft loves Linux like Donald Trump loves the women whom he groped, illegally, by his very own admission. We’re only glad to see that a lot of Linux sites reject Microsoft’s dishonest ‘storytelling’ about how it ‘fell in love’ with Linux — the most laughable story since Temer and Bolsonaro claiming to serve people of Brazil. But let’s leave politics out of it, at least for a second (they’re used only for analogies here).

Steve R. at Linux Questions wrote: “Can’t argue against better interoperability, but I’m skeptical. Why should the Linux community adopt Microsoft technology while Microsoft is apparently reluctant to incorporate Linux technology.

“For example, Microsoft could adopt the “EXT4″ file system instead of pushing exFAT. Obviously Microsoft won’t do that to preserve its proprietary nature, even though they are opening up exFAT.”

fido_dogstoyevsky responds as follows: “They could, but as you say they won’t. It’s just the scorpion promising to not sting.

“If only we had the wherewithall to embrace what they’re offering and then extend it…”

Many of the comments we see are more or less the same. Unless one asks proprietary software front groups such as OIN for their views…

I should know; Many years ago on the phone (he phoned me) OIN’s CEO told me that many of Microsoft’s shakedown actions over Linux involved exFAT patents — some software patents that Alice/Section 101 likely would invalidate (if it went to court).

“Many of the comments we see are more or less the same. Unless one asks proprietary software front groups such as OIN for their views…”OIN, being a pro-software patents group, won’t bother actually invalidating these patents. It never even tried, e.g. at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). And suffice to say, my image of OIN ‘darkened’ over the years because it turned out it was more interested in fronting for proprietary software giants than in Linux or anything “community”. It’s like the Linux Foundation.

What does the Linux community (i.e. users and developers) actually think of all this? See the comments here; Microsoft spinners won’t be able to catch up with honest, frank, unpaid-for opinions.

Microsoft made a fortune from exFAT blackmail and it is likely still being paid ‘royalties’ for it, owing to large and high-profile OEM patent deals it signed years ago (even under Nadella).

“Microsoft made a fortune from exFAT blackmail and it is likely still being paid ‘royalties’ for it, owing to large and high-profile OEM patent deals it signed years ago (even under Nadella).”Obviously, and perhaps inevitably, Microsoft helpers like Greg K-H are happy to help, willing to oblige. Greg’s 'professionalism' notwithstanding, we’re supposed to think that this ‘mature’ (read: industry-friendly) man has no choice but to do what Microsoft says, never mind the community’s views.

Michael Larabel of Phoronix wrote about the Microsoft-friendly (Novell past) Greg carrying water for Microsoft, yet again, with its “horrible” code (like he did Hyper-V). To quote “The Existing Linux exFAT Code Is ‘Horrible’ But Could Soon Be In Staging”:

Following Microsoft’s approval of seeing exFAT support on Linux and at long last releasing public specifications to the file-system, the existing out-of-tree Linux driver code was quickly volleyed on the mailing list for review and hopeful inclusion into the kernel.

The existing out-of-tree exFAT Linux driver is the several year old one that was accidentally leaked by Samsung though later cleared up back in 2013. Due to uncertainty over Microsoft’s exFAT patents and the company previously not publicly giving their blessing to this file-system Linux support, it’s never been mainlined.

Tom’s Hardware did a relatively good job reporting on this, having researched it further than press releases and blog posts from Microsoft. Nathaniel Mott actually went on to dig some actual responses from actual Linux developers to Microsoft’s EEE-like move against Linux file system components/parts. “Phoronix reported today that Linux developers weren’t particularly enthused about what Microsoft released, with one kernel developer calling it a “pile of crap,” which is exactly the kind of frankness we’ve come to expect from Linux developers,” he said. Sometimes the truth needs to be said. Free as in speech, right?

“Tom’s Hardware did a relatively good job reporting on this, having researched it further than press releases and blog posts from Microsoft.”In our previous post about it, a month after we wrote about this plan and the associated patent issues, we mentioned that this agenda of Microsoft is mostly being promoted by Microsoft boosters who pretend to care about Linux (after bashing it for years if not decades). Bogdan Popa, Microsoft News Editor [sic] (propagandist for over a decade), has just proven our point again (“Microsoft loves Linux” lie as an image). Microsoft Tim did so too. Notice how all the Linux haters suddenly pretend to care about Linux; They try to UNDERMINE it and they know what Microsoft has in mind.

We have meanwhile noticed some more shallow puff pieces. This one says that Microsoft “Opens Up exFAT”; It did not open it up, there are still patents on it and it’s controlled by a company that attacks Linux. Making a statement about patents isn’t the same as “opening up”. “Microsoft opens up the exFAT filesystem” was this headline in bit-tech.net. So much for “open”. Like a hunter opens a bear trap, waiting for the bear to come. It’s only about cementing monopoly or monoculture.

“Microsoft publishes exFAT spec” was a more accurate headline, but it continues/proceeds to saying that “it attempts to woo Linux…”

“So much for “open”. Like a hunter opens a bear trap, waiting for the bear to come.”Errr… nope, to control Linux. Not the same thing. How about this article? This is really bad code, according to Phoronix, so why is it being added? Shouldn’t Torvalds make a public rant? Is he afraid to speak out now in light of recent events? As far as we’re aware, he has said not a word about it.

Puff pieces still dominate the news; there are quite a few more like the above-cited ones. There are also spammy press releases from Paragon Software (we saw them several times so far this week). Paragon has long profited from perpetuation of Microsoft’s patent blackmail against Linux and now it wants more money. We’ve found lots of puff pieces later in the day yesterday. Microsoft totally controls the narrative here (few people would bother reading comments). Reactions from actual users and developers of GNU/Linux don’t seem to matter.

Ryan Farmer, a former Microsoft MVP who over a decade ago turned against Microsoft and became a regular in our IRC channels, had a lot to say about it.

Last night he asked me: “What did you think of Microsoft saying it will “donate” exFAT patents to get a kernel module into Linux? They published the specification of exFAT and announced that they would be giving a patent license to all OIN members with the goal of getting a kernel module merged. They said it won’t be them that writes the kernel module though.”

MinceR responded in IRC with a joke: “good, at least it can be good then…”

“Microsoft totally controls the narrative here (few people would bother reading comments).”“Well,” Ryan pointed out, “there’s already at least one GPL licensed kernel module out there. That one that initially leaked out of Samsung. It just hasn’t been merged because Microsoft has sued people over file system patents so many times. Microsoft was quick to point out that they are not “currently engaged in any ongoing litigation related to exFAT patents”. Of course they aren’t. Litigation is what happens when threats don’t work.”

I showed him the latest reports about Microsoft moving to second “E” [1, 2]. “More gifts,” Ryan joked.

So yes, it’s really happening!

“Lawsuits work the same way plea bargaining does,” Ryan said. “Microsoft doesn’t want to sue people over patents that may be found invalid. It wants money.”

“Quite a few OEMs already pay Microsoft for exFAT patents. Now that there aren’t any large ones left to ‘milk’ Microsoft is ‘opening up’…”The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) should never have granted these patents in the first place.

“The way to get money isn’t to nuke everyone,” Ryan concluded. “It’s to threaten them if they don’t pay up. Usually like part of what the cost of going to court and losing would be. As long as you never go to court, you don’t risk anything.”

Quite a few OEMs already pay Microsoft for exFAT patents. Now that there aren’t any large ones left to ‘milk’ Microsoft is ‘opening up’…

Quite the publicity stunt!

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