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08.20.19

Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: There is More Than One Iceberg Ahead

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat at 10:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A publication from the Free Media Alliance

Overview

Iceberg

Summary: “This strategy is not far from when Microsoft talked about “de-commoditizing protocols” in the late 90s, as part of their plans to control, dominate, and end Open Source and Free software.”

THE Free Software Foundation knows that a licence can have vulnerabilities, just like computer code. Tivo found such a vulnerability in GPL2, created an exploit, and the FSF patched it in GPLv3.

If a licence can have vulnerabilities, then any argument that relies on “it’s Free software, so…” is an oversimplification. Software is free because it gives you the four freedoms in the Free Software Definition, the definition is implemented via the GPL and similar licences, and a vulnerability works around (despite) that implementation. It may even work around the definition itself.

“Tivo found such a vulnerability in GPL2, created an exploit, and the FSF patched it in GPLv3.”The most tiring hubris from the FSF is that Free software is by nature, immune to the sort of attacks that Microsoft outlined years ago in the Halloween Documents. It is not immune, it is resistant. The Four Freedoms create substantial resistance to lock-in, bloat, bad security, and monopoly.

It shouldn’t take half a decade to explain to the FSF why a great strategy for reducing Software Freedom is to take a bunch of projects that are well-designed, stable, reliable and vital to Free software — glue them together into a single project from a single maintainer, and then make it more work to separate them again.

“It shouldn’t take half a decade to explain to the FSF why a great strategy for reducing Software Freedom is to take a bunch of projects that are well-designed, stable, reliable and vital to Free software — glue them together into a single project from a single maintainer, and then make it more work to separate them again.”This strategy is not far from when Microsoft talked about “de-commoditizing protocols” in the late 90s, as part of their plans to control, dominate, and end Open Source and Free software. When faced with this prospect and threat, the FSF and its fans tend to compartmentalise. To oversimplify, at great risk of a straw man:

Things are good or they’re bad,

Free software is good,

So everything under a Free software licence is good.

Of course the FSF knows better than that, they aren’t stupid. But when presented with arguments why systemd (as the primary example) are designed to reduce freedom and have reduced freedom, the FSF falls back on defensive apathy and indifference:

Using indifference towards a better viewpoint is a normal and common example of this. It can be caused by someone having used multiple compartment ideals and having been uncomfortable with modifying them, at risk of being found incorrect. This often causes double-standards, and bias.

Although it is not the inspiration for the title, given that the overarching metaphor chosen is the Titanic, it is hard not to compare the indifference and denial towards this threat to the insistence that the Titanic did not need lifeboats.

“Choice and freedom are certainly not the same thing — freedom is broader than choice, and while freedom seems to imply choice exists, choice can exist (as it does in most any proprietary software) without something that even resembles freedom.”Do we need to preserve choice for Free software? The FSF has always suggested otherwise, even if this seems (and ought to seem) very backwards from a perspective of freedom.

Choice and freedom are certainly not the same thing — freedom is broader than choice, and while freedom seems to imply choice exists, choice can exist (as it does in most any proprietary software) without something that even resembles freedom. Preserving choice — the modularity that made UNIX so easy to rebuild with Free software — is not and never was a priority for the FSF.

Trying to find a quote about Stallman saying that other desktops are fine, but not needed because the FSF already has GNOME, may turn this old quote instead:

Since we already have GTK support, there’s no reason we could not have equivalent Qt support, if it someone wants to maintain it.

However, GNOME is the main GNU desktop, and GNU packages are supposed to support each other. It would not be right for Emacs to have more support for KDE than for GNOME.

Giving priority to a GNU project makes plenty of sense for GNU, but this is just one more quote that suggests that the FSF has never considered choice to be important. This comes up again in a conversation with Alexandre Oliva of FSF-LA, who goes so far as to imply that preserving choice might go beyond the FSF’s mission and that perhaps another organisation could tackle something like that.

Is that really what it would take? Granted, that’s very nearly the premise of this writing — but can the FSF really not do anything in this regard? It seems bizarre, but either way we will attempt to help people understand why choice is vital to Software Freedom.

“Without the preservation of choice, both GNU and the FSF itself have a single point of failure.”We live in a society where monopolies are considered “too big to fail,” and the Titanic was also considered too big to fail — we also communicate with a global network, the concept of which was presented to then-monopoly AT&T as an alternative to their vulnerable, overly top-down system with a single point of failure.

Without the preservation of choice, both GNU and the FSF itself have a single point of failure. “Choice” does not mean, just to state the obvious, that “all combinations of anything are possible.” It means that freedom has redundancy (and better caters to diversity), and that things must fail multiple times on several levels before the failure is catastrophic.

Although the “lifeboats” metaphor is primarily intended to refer to a safe escape if the Free Software Foundation itself fails, (the global chapters do not really operate in practice like redundant or autonomous nodes, they are more like foreign bases of operation coordinated by a primary node and will likely fail if the main office does) if a large project like GNOME is no longer suitable, additional desktop environments (preferably smaller ones that are simpler and less likely to fail) could also act as lifeboats.

If this concept is too foreign (it shouldn’t be) for the FSF to acknowledge the obvious importance of, they can certainly recognise that users strongly feel a need to have alternatives for just this reason. The denial and rhetoric from Free software supporters (with some very notable exceptions) on this matter is pathological, but relentless.

The FSF has made its decision on the matter, and the 5 years of development time stolen, along with the power consolidation of too many projects by a single commercial monopoly — which was recently purchased by an even larger commercial monopoly — and is hosted on servers owned and controlled by their largest sworn enemy (of freedom itself) you might really ask yourself what the hell they’re thinking. We have an answer: they’re not, denial is something different.

So the FSF doesn’t need lifeboats, yadda yadda yadda. We’ve heard that one before. Even if the FSF doesn’t need them, We as “passengers” on this thing do, so we will provide them if we want to stay afloat. And as long as we are engineering safety where the FSF courts disaster for their mission, we might as well try to provide their safety along with our own. They may ignore our warnings, but we still care deeply about what they’re doing.

“The FSF has made its decision on the matter, and the 5 years of development time stolen, along with the power consolidation of too many projects by a single commercial monopoly — which was recently purchased by an even larger commercial monopoly — and is hosted on servers owned and controlled by their largest sworn enemy (of freedom itself) you might really ask yourself what the hell they’re thinking.”Lifeboats for us then, and lifeboats for them. And like the resistance of a licence to a monopoly dedicated to Free software’s destruction, this metaphor can only go so far, so to construct “lifeboats” it is really necessary to talk about what will “sink” without them — namely the threats and possible disasters that Free software may encounter or have already encountered, now, recently, and in the near future.

If we understand and don’t deny the threats, it should (with luck) help us work on ways to address them. With a visit to the Librethreat database.

We find a “malware-threat-like database of threats to libre software”. The first threat is “Tivoisation” and the field “Also recognised by FSF:” is filled out with “Yes“. The summary is: “GPL2 not strong enough to prevent DRM/TPM from allowing device owners to change operating system in devices” and the mitigation is: “Migrate to GPL3.”

Interestingly enough, that migration to GPL3 was supposed to include the Linux kernel. What went wrong there was a multipronged attack to a singleprong (licence-based) solution. The GPL3 is a good licence — in many ways it is a clear upgrade. But the attack was followed up by lobbying from the Association for Competitive Technology (covered in a story by Infoworld in 2007) which according to Techrights in 2019,
worked to get Linus Torvalds against it and prevent its adoption for Linux development.

GPL2: [ fail ]

GPL3: [ ok ]

ACT Lobbying: [ fail ] WARNING: This will cause Linux to remain GPL2

Both licences and organisations can fail to protect Free software from interference from monopolies like Microsoft. Just implying that Free software is immune to their tactics “because it’s Free software” is a falsehood and a way of pooh-poohing a threat.

“Regarding some of the things they have spent the past 5 years or more in denial about, systemd is the largest example.”Historically, the FSF has a very good track record (indeed, the best record) of recognising these threats and responding to them. The point is simply that they too can fail — the FSF is fallible, human, imperfect. Regarding some of the things they have spent the past 5 years or more in denial about, systemd is the largest example.

Security researchers, professional bloggers and journalists, higher-ups from other Free software organisations such as Dyne.org and users and administrators have all spoken out against systemd, and the FSF has done nothing to help them or give them a real voice. If the FSF has any members paying for the privilege of being ignored and dismissed with the rest of us, we don’t know much about them.

The FSF fails as a megaphone for Free software advocates, it does not always listen very well to advocates, but perhaps it should do more of that. As to what response its critics should have made, perhaps a formal petition to the FSF should have started to get them to drop their support of the systemd takeover, similar to the petitions the FSF made regarding DRM and UEFI.

“The FSF fails as a megaphone for Free software advocates, it does not always listen very well to advocates, but perhaps it should do more of that.”One of the undeniable failures of those against systemd is that no such petition was ever presented to the FSF — instead, our actions always fell short of one. (If you think it’s not too late, let us know or perhaps go ahead and start one.) In the future we would recommend formal petitions to make the FSF take threats like this more seriously. It’s one thing to say “we can’t do anything.” Saying there is nothing that needs to be done is probably false, and there’s no excuse.

We maintain that systemd could be a weapon against Software Freedom. We can’t say that on the Debian mailing-list, but we know that one or more companies remain out to do harm to Free software, we know their tactics have never changed with their marketing rhetoric, we know that systemd does things that are strikingly similar to the tactics outlined in corporate documents designed to wage war against Free software. So why wouldn’t it be a weapon against software freedom? It looks like, walks, and quacks like a duck. How is it actually different? Oh, the licence?

Even when the same people who talked about the problems systemd would cause, look back on 5 years of cleanup that could have really been better spent improving software rather than salvaging it from wreckage, the FSF remains silent. If it only hurt the FSF then perhaps we could let them live with it, but what about the rest of us? The FSF ignores and denies the problem, ignores what we say, and ignores the damage done to all of us. Thankfully, some of us have worked on alternatives. Unfortunately, there is a threat (or category of threat) similar to systemd that is even bigger:

Redix

Threat type: Broad category

Affects: Free software development, stability and reliability, autonomy, organisational structure

Summary: Disruption of POSIX, EEE of Free software projects, Infiltration of organisations that offer Free software

Recognised by: Free Media Alliance, some critics of Systemd

Also recognised by FSF: No

Mitigation: Avoid / fork / replace / document examples of Redix in software, use Systemd-free distros, assist Hyperbola developers

Examples: Pycon, Systemd

The FSF does not talk much about infiltration of FLOSS organisations by employees of monopolies like Microsoft, even when such monopolies and related lobbing organisations did so much to thwart GPL3, which patched critical vulnerabilities in their primary defensive weapon (the GPL.) Neglecting threats of this nature continues to weaken the FSF’s defenses in the 21st century, and the evidence is everywhere. Monopoly forces continue to move farther and farther into our territory. Why is the FSF so quiet?

“Neglecting threats of this nature continues to weaken the FSF’s defenses in the 21st century, and the evidence is everywhere.”Again, we recommend petitions. They may not be enough, but they are a good place to start. They can even be informal, provided that they are well-documented enough (we don’t need to use change.org, for example.) The point is fighting to be heard, something that shouldn’t be necessary but clearly is. (We have fought hard for a year, other organisations have fought for years longer, to no avail.)

If the FSF is not a megaphone for its members, we continue to build one that you can use for the purpose. We should build a network of megaphones, so that when Free software is headed for yet another iceberg, the FSF cannot dismiss the noise so easily.

But the larger threat is to POSIX itself. Stallman coined the term, and we insist it is the glue that holds Free software together. Perhaps you can destroy POSIX altogether, and systemd along with zircon (the kernel of Google’s Fuchsia operating system) are two projects that may aim to do just that. Microsoft themselves said decades ago:

Systematically attacking UNIX in general helps attack Linux in particular.

In modern terms, there is not a better description of “UNIX in general” than POSIX. At this point, it is far more relevant than UNIX.

Once again, if we move past systemd and look at the threats to POSIX, we do not come up wanting. We can show that POSIX itself is in the crosshairs, we can give this strategy a name: “Redix.” We can show that systemd is the Redix flagship, but someday it could be retired, and replaced with a new flagship. We would rather point out the trend, the strategy, than just a single example or implementation.

If the FSF has any contingencies against this, they are silent and are certainly fooling us. Do you have reasons to ignore this threat as well?

“In modern terms, there is not a better description of “UNIX in general” than POSIX. At this point, it is far more relevant than UNIX.”Is there something we left out? The Free Media Alliance talks about more details related to this all the time; you can ignore one example, how about five? Ten? How many examples would it take to make this credible in your opinion? As long as Free software is threatened, it the job of those who care to do something, to at least admit the threat exists. Why wouldn’t we?

Unfortunately, systemd proponents have spent the past 5 years beating us down and shutting us up. Even as new organisations form, the struggle to be taken seriously continues. The FSF went through that for many years (arguably they still do) and there’s no reason we won’t have to do the same. But it’s a terrible shame, when the same rhetorical tactics used to fight Free software itself, are used by Free software advocates to silence those sounding the alarm.

We recommend the Librethreat database as a primary radar for new threats to Free software, and no one can make you take each threat equally seriously (we don’t. Some of it is pure speculation.) It includes threats that even the FSF recognises, but why stop there? The FSF has proven itself unable to respond fully to Tivoisation. GPL3 was an effective licence measure against it, we can’t fault that. Only the sale to Torvalds failed, due to lobbyists that may claim to “♥ Linux.”

“Are we ready to acknowledge the severity of these threats yet, or will it take another 5 years?”Companies who wish to “Tivoise” can simply get the same GPL2 kernel as before, Tivoise it all they wish, and then — they can’t use newer GPL3 applications, can they? No, like Apple they will simply dump those and use non-GPL applications. Perhaps there are threats bigger than Tivoisation out there. And if there weren’t, perhaps the FSF’s plan to patch Free software against it would have worked.

Are we ready to acknowledge the severity of these threats yet, or will it take another 5 years?

Let us know.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (Public Domain)

08.17.19

Concerns About IBM’s Commitment to OpenSource.com After the Fall of Linux.com and Linux Journal

Posted in IBM, Red Hat at 8:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Long history to that domain, from OSI control (not today’s OSI) to Red Hat alias and now IBM’s

OpenSource.com

Summary: The Web site OpenSource.com is over two decades old; in its current form it’s about a decade old and it contains plenty of good articles, but will IBM think so too and, if so, will investment in the site carry on?

PUBLISHING is tough. It’s especially tough when writers expect a salary. Where does money come from? It varies; there are options. A publisher we often link to (because it writes about a dozen articles per day), Common Dreams, apparently has rich donors pumping a million bucks into it every year, but they want something in return (maybe ideological). Maybe the donors are the readers alone. What about GNU/Linux? In its true and pure form nobody ‘owns’ it; it’s not proprietary.

Linux Journal's sad demise just months after Linux.com's demise (the site might go offline permanently within days or weeks due to lack of funds) is very troubling. We already see the effect; there’s a lot less news about GNU/Linux. Here in Techrights, e.g. for the purpose of daily links, we need to dig deeper and deeper in order to find links and picks. There’s an information vacuum and it’s being exploited by few malicious corporations, e.g. for googlebombing. They hijack the narrative and misinform the public.

“IBM has just confirmed nearly 1,000 layoffs in the UK in spite of financial resurgence in that market.”For a variety of reasons we’ve long been sceptical of IBM’s intentions. Will it keep Red Hat’s news sites going (there are several)? And if so, which ones? If there’s no “business model”, then IBM will likely shut it down. IBM has just confirmed nearly 1,000 layoffs in the UK in spite of financial resurgence in that market. That’s just typical IBM. If a site doesn’t help IBM sales, it probably won’t last long. If a member of staff isn’t profitable to IBM, he or she will be handed a pink slip. Last we checked, OpenSource.com had outsourced the technical/back end aspect to Acquia; it is a large Drupal site and it won’t be cheap to maintain it, let alone pay writers to add new articles to it. Without new articles a site becomes merely an archive. It’s less attractive because it’s eternally outdated.

Rikki Endsley, the person who edited OpenSource.com for a long time, retweeted Linux Journal and added: “Well this is sad news. Sending hugs out to the Linux Journal folks.” Jim Hall, who wrote for Linux Journal and sometimes writes for OpenSource.com, wrote about it last week (at OpenSource.com).

Endsley’s relocation or reassignment is curious.

Months ago we noticed that she had stopped writing for OpenSource.com. We asked questions like, did she leave (jump) or was she pushed? Did IBM play a role in this? Nobody from Red Hat is willing to say anything. Some of them saw these questions. Some might even have answers.

“Nobody from Red Hat is willing to say anything.”Her profile says: “Rikki Endsley is the Developer Program managing editor at Red Hat, and a former community architect and editor for Opensource.com.” Twitter says “Editor ✒️ @RHdevelopers”.

She’s no longer listed here in “Meet the team” (of OpenSource.com) however. “Jen Wike Huger is the managing editor for Opensource.com,” it says and many of the articles are nowadays technical posts from Red Hat’s own staff. It’s not what it used to be. Lots of posts are promotion of Red Hat products like Ansible.

It seems clear that Endsley is still with Red Hat, but we wonder what goes on at Red Hat; she still tweets, but there are no posts in the site she edited (since the middle of February). Is IBM committed to it? In October 2018 IBM made its plans known (for Red Hat), but IBM isn’t a publisher and it has lots of financial issues.

“Is IBM committed to it? In October 2018 IBM made its plans known (for Red Hat), but IBM isn’t a publisher and it has lots of financial issues.”Endsley probably knows what’s going on. We contacted her earlier today and have not heard back. The Red Hat developers site she does participate in, possible alongside other Red Hat roles, but the main question is, what is going on at OpenSource.com? They must have published about 10,000 articles, some of them very long and detailed. My wife has read OpenSource.com for about 6 years, almost every day. She says the quality of the articles has vastly decreased and she hardly finds anything of interest there anymore.

Is OpenSource.com potentially the next casualty of the media-pocalypse? We hope not. The people who have closely been involved with the site probably know a lot more and have a rough (if not good) idea what IBM plans for the site. Something must have been communicated to them at some point since last year. Was Endsley reassigned, based on her skills, to another department/site? Did she choose to move. Unless someone opens his/her mouth, we can only speculate. The silence doesn’t inspire much confidence.

08.16.19

Nothing Says ‘New’ Microsoft Like Microsoft Component Firmware Update (More Hardware Lock-in)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat at 9:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“One thing I find myself wondering about is whether we shouldn’t try and make the “ACPI” extensions somehow Windows specific.

“It seems unfortunate if we do this work and get our partners to do the work and the results is that Linux works great without having to do the work.

“Maybe there is no way to avoid this problem but it does bother me.

“Maybe we could define the APIs so that they work well with NT and not the others even if they are open.

“Or maybe we could patent something related to this.”

Bill Gates

Summary: Vicious old Microsoft is still trying to make life very hard for GNU/Linux, especially in the OEM channel/s, but we’re somehow supposed to think that “Microsoft loves Linux”

YESTERDAY we saw Red Hat’s (now IBM’s) Richard Hughes complaining about Microsoft [1], whereupon Phoronix picked that up [2] and it was then discussed in our IRC channels, Phoronix forums etc. The corporate media obviously showed no interest in it. All it can do is post “Microsoft loves Linux” images because Microsoft asks for that. To quote Richard: “All the dependency resolution should be in the metadata layer (e.g. in the .inf file) rather than being pushed down to the hardware running the old firmware.”

“All the dependency resolution should be in the metadata layer (e.g. in the .inf file) rather than being pushed down to the hardware running the old firmware.”
      –Richard Hughes
As Michael Larabel put it, “implementation has a number of issues that complicate the process and could quickly evolve into another troubling specification from Microsoft in the hardware space.”

Remember UEFI ‘secure boot’? How did that work out for security?

Microsoft certainly loves Linux with a knife in the back — hence Bill Gates' "Jihad" remark (about Intel’s support for Linux). MinceR at the #techrights IRC channel said: “you can tell something from Microsoft is _really_ _really_ shit when their sycophants at GNOME say it’s shit…”

“Nowadays Zemlin is mostly quoted by the media as saying wonderful things about Microsoft. Most GNU/Linux user just want to vomit.”It is worth remembering that Richard’s work is now supported by the Linux Foundation (since months ago when it adopted LVFS), so maybe Richard can explain to the Linux ‘genius’ Jim Zemlin (who never uses Linux) what Microsoft does here and why it is anticompetitive. We don’t suppose this will happen though. Zemlin is a 'true believer' in Microsoft and his wife managed a close partner of Microsoft when Microsoft paid the Linux Foundation. Nowadays Zemlin is mostly quoted by the media as saying wonderful things about Microsoft. Most GNU/Linux user just want to vomit. Money talks; people who love money are therefore a vulnerability. Jim Zemlin and his wife are the sorts of people whose life aspiration is to have dinner with Bill and Melinda Gates. It’s all about class and power (Harvard). A decade ago Jim Zemlin said negative things about Microsoft and now (after/since Microsoft had given him $500,000) he says Microsoft is a good company while ignoring the below among many other things, patent extortion included (it's still going on). His wife worked for a Gold Microsoft Partner at the time (as a General Manager and Global VP of a SaaS Business Unit). Her business was moving companies to something like Microsoft Azure. In his own words (Jim Zemlin’s interview with Jeremy Allison; 1m:30s), “I’m about as much [boss of Torvalds] as I am the boss of my wife…”

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Musings on the Microsoft Component Firmware Update (CFU) Protocol

    CFU has a bazaar pre-download phase before sending the firmware to the microcontroller so the uC can check if the firmware is required and compatible. CFU also requires devices to be able to transfer the entire new transfer mode in runtime mode. The pre-download “offer” allows the uC to check any sub-components attached (e.g. other devices attached to the SoC) and forces it to do dep resolution in case sub-components have to be updated in a specific order.

    Pushing the dep resolution down to the uC means the uC has to do all the version comparisons and also know all the logic with regard to protocol incompatibilities. You could be in a position where the uC firmware needs to be updated so that it “knows” about the new protocol restrictions, which are needed to update the uC and the things attached in the right order in a subsequent update. If we always update the uC to the latest, the probably-factory-default running version doesn’t know about the new restrictions.

    The other issue with this is that the peripheral is unaware of the other devices in the system, so for instance couldn’t only install a new firmware version for only new builds of Windows for example. Something that we support in fwupd is being able to restrict the peripheral device firmware to a specific SMBIOS CHID or a system firmware vendor, which lets vendors solve the “same hardware in different chassis, with custom firmware” problem. I don’t see how that could be possible using CFU unless I misunderstand the new .inf features. All the dependency resolution should be in the metadata layer (e.g. in the .inf file) rather than being pushed down to the hardware running the old firmware.

  2. Microsoft’s Component Firmware Update Is Their Latest Short-Sighted Spec

    Microsoft’s newest specification is the “Component Firmware Update” that they envision as a standard for OEMs/IHVs to be able to handle device firmware/microcode updating in a robust and secure manner. While nice in theory, the actual implementation has a number of issues that complicate the process and could quickly evolve into another troubling specification from Microsoft in the hardware space.

    Red Hat’s Richard Hughes who is the lead developer on Fwupd and LVFS for firmware updating on Linux has written a lengthy blog post with his thoughts after studying the specification. Now that vendors have begun asking him about CFU, he’s getting his opinions out there now and there are issues with the specification. Ultimately though if there is enough interest/adoption, he could support Component Firmware Update via Fwupd but he certainly isn’t eager to do so.

08.10.19

Sometimes It Feels Like Microsoft — Not IBM — Bought Red Hat

Posted in IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat at 9:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Months ago: Always Remember That Red Hat Also Considered Microsoft as a Buyer

Red Hat Microsoft event

Summary: People find it odd and off-putting that Red Hat is allowing Microsoft to be the foremost sponsor of its event (see above); Microsoft is still attacking GNU/Linux in a lot of ways

Red Hat’s promotion of Microsoft’s stuff (such as .NET) has been noted here and criticised heavily over the past couple of years. Red Hat had hired too many managers from Microsoft. As recently as Friday we saw Red Hat’s site (now IBM actually) pushing Microsoft .NET. What the heck is going on? A reader has just told us that, as per the screenshot above (page here; scroll down to the bottom of this page), Red Hat’s upcoming event in Belgium has Microsoft as the biggest and sole “Diamond” sponsor. Is this a Microsoft event? Truly disturbing. Imagine a Greenpeace annual summit, sponsored by BP as the biggest sponsor.

“Unfortunately, it pays more to attack FOSS than to participate in it.”Things like these worry us greatly; this should not be considered ‘normal’; Microsoft is still blackmailing GNU/Linux using ridiculous patents and bribing officials (to secure Microsoft contracts against GNU/Linux and FOSS). Microsoft has not changed at all, except in the infiltration ‘department’/strategy.

“Microsoft wants to be everywhere and control everything, even the ‘Linux’ Foundation.”Unfortunately, it pays more to attack FOSS than to participate in it. Ask the Mono team, the Linux Foundation and various other Microsoft-centric camps. The money is in sabotage of what’s free, not its creation. Just before the weekend we saw CBS and Business Insider (Rosalie Chan) promoting Microsoft proprietary software under the guise of “open”. That same mainstream media is also googlebombing “Linux” with Microsoft products. Everywhere Linux goes, Microsoft follows to push its proprietary lock-in. The media should know better, but it actively participates in the googlebombing. This is pure spam. Does Microsoft buy ads from these sites? Sure it does. This way it controls the narrative.

“The Foundation already got cracked in the past. Do they want to end up like Canonical in GitHub?”Welcome to 2019, the year when even “Linux” is Microsoft and Microsoft is just… Microsoft. Microsoft wants to be everywhere and control everything, even the ‘Linux’ Foundation. We’ve meanwhile noticed that the Foundation’s security is an utter disgrace, not only because they outsource almost everything to Microsoft (notably GitHub). They haven’t updated their site’s software for nearly half a year. What kind of slackers are they hiring for the technology side of the Foundation? The Foundation already got cracked in the past. Do they want to end up like Canonical in GitHub?

07.17.19

Red Hat’s Freedom Reduced to Just Online Partner Enablement Network (OPEN) and Microsoft as a Close Partner; Canonical’s Ubuntu Just an ‘App’ for Windows?

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat, Ubuntu at 3:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNU boiling

Summary: Free software is being snapped up by proprietary software giants and patent bullies that treat it as little more than an ‘add-on’ for their proprietary offerings

WE HAVE long been sceptical and apprehensive about IBM, not only because it lobbies for software patents at the EPO and USPTO (IBM spearheads a lobbying campaign against 35 U.S.C. § 101). IBM still did it — quite a lot in fact — since announcing its plans for Red Hat. IBM that we remember from one or more decades ago is very different from today’s IBM; the management too isn’t the same. For example, 2 decades ago IBM aggressively pushed (GNU) “Linux”, but in recent years it was mostly in bed with Apple. A decade ago IBM promoted OpenDocument Format (ODF), but IBM has since then more or less abandoned office suite-type endeavours (sold outwards, just like the ThinkPad business which had become famous for Linux friendliness).

“No connection whatsoever to Free software; also remember that the word “community” means nothing to IBM.”When I first heard about Red Hat getting bought by IBM I found solace in nothing but the fact that Red Hat did not sell to Microsoft or to Oracle. As it turned out days later, Red Hat had actually entertained a Microsoft takeover. What a betrayal that would have been (had that happened).

Last night (or around the afternoon/evening) Red Hat published this worrisome new page entitled “Microsoft and Red Hat, inspired,” which said “we’re pleased to be recognized as the 2019 Microsoft US Partner Award winner for ISV Azure Accelerator.”

Here we go again with the Azure agenda, which is all about Microsoft controlling GNU/Linux. Then came another new Red Hat page, this one entitled “Red Hat Global Services + IBM” and to quote: “Last week, we announced the IBM acquisition of Red Hat. It is a monumental deal, one that will enable us to work together to help customers deliver any app, anywhere, to realize the true value of the hybrid cloud.”

Here they go again with “cloud” (meaningless nonsense, pure marketing), but scroll down and find that under IBM “open” at Red Hat is reduced to just an acronym: “Online Partner Enablement Network (OPEN).”

No connection whatsoever to Free software; also remember that the word “community” means nothing to IBM. Nothing.

“They are promoting Microsoft Windows (Vista 10) using the “Linux” brand. “We are getting somewhat worried here. Ubuntu fans will be very pissed off if or when Microsoft decides to buy Ubuntu via Canonical (it’s now possible as it changed the way it’s registered). Canonical still refuses to delete GitHub (even after an embarrassing security incident). Microsoft is already 'eating' desktop GNU/Linux with WSL and Michael Larabel has just highlighted this post we cited a day ago. Hosted on GitHub, i.e. Microsoft, what we have is the next phase of EEE: “Ubuntu-WSL Package Offers Better Ubuntu Integration On Windows Subsystem For Linux” (to quote the headline)

Here’s another one: “Want Better Integration with Ubuntu on Windows Subsystem for Linux? Try This New Metapackage”

So this is where the efforts go?

“In related reading,” Larabel said, “Microsoft’s Tara Raj wrote a Medium post yesterday on more background information on Linux/WSL for Windows.”

They are promoting Microsoft Windows (Vista 10) using the “Linux” brand.

“WSL is about ensuring people never leave Windows; Microsoft already works to make it a lot harder to install GNU/Linux as a standalone/dual OS…”See the Phoronix comments. One person said: “MS has realized that Linux is superior for development, and developers are moving to Linux. However, why would anybody compromise security by using Windows and WSL instead of Linux? Also, I’m considering to run Qubes OS to strengthen security, not other way around,… Lowering security by moving to windows.”
​​​​​​
A further comment says: “MS has realized that Linux is superior for development, and developers are moving to Linux. However, why would anybody compromise security by using Windows and WSL instead of Linux? Also, I’m considering to run Qubes OS to strengthen security, not other way around,… Lowering security by moving to windows.
​​
“No, Microsoft isn’t acknowledging any such thing, and there’s a great many Windows developers that would disagree with you. What you’re seeing is Microsoft acknowledging it’s basically lost the server closet and data center wars. So to stop hemorrhaging server platform and administrators to MacOS and Linux who require a decent compatible terminal to do their job – much like the graybeards used to need for IBM mainframes (3270 compatible terminal software) – they are adding Linux compatible terminal software in Windows along with the ability to prototype Linux server software in Windows.

“Will it work? Probably. Most people still need Windows to do the rest of their job and WSJ is more convenient than VirtualBox et al.

“But if you think business client development and the multi billion dollar gaming industry are starting to or going to switch en mass to Linux you are sadly mistaken.”

WSL is about ensuring people never leave Windows; Microsoft already works to make it a lot harder to install GNU/Linux as a standalone/dual OS, e.g. using UEFI ‘secure boot’ restrictions — an agenda incidentally shared by IBM.

07.16.19

IBM is a Threat to the Internet, Not Just to Software Development (Due to Software Patents Aggression)

Posted in IBM, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 3:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Backed by exhaustive research, Black’s case is simple and stunning: that IBM facilitated the identification and roundup of millions of Jews during the 12 years of the Third Reich … Black’s evidence may be the most damning to appear yet against a purported corporate accomplice.”

Michael Hirsh, Newsweek

IBM recently published a dataset for facial recognition AI made up of images...

Summary: IBM continues its aggression against technology — a fact that’s even more distressing now that IBM calls the shots at Red Hat

Because of Red Hat we are going to at least try to like IBM (it was a much more benign and FOSS-friendly company a decade ago! Its ODF work is one example among many), but each time IBM advocates and lobbies for software patents at the European Patent Office (EPO) and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) we’ll call IBM out on it. So should Red Hat’s people, whose walkout can potentially sway policy a bit. IBM not only fires people (or sends their jobs to India) but it also lobbies for software patents in India. We wrote many articles about it over the past half decade. India has the most to lose because software is the gem of its economy.

Yesterday Mike Masnick wrote about IBM, opening with the following paragraph: “This perhaps isn’t a huge surprise, but IBM is being disdainful of the wider tech ecosystem, yet again. It has an incredibly long history of this kind of activity — mostly in the patent space, where it is the world’s foremost patent bully. The company gleefully announces each and every year that it gets the most patents of any company in the US. It has done this (no joke) for 26 straight years. Of course, given how many patents it gets, if patents actually were a marker for innovation, you’d think that IBM would still be putting out all sorts of innovative new products all the time. Right? Except, of course, it is not. Instead, it uses the patents to shake down companies who actually do innovate. The most famous of these stories is the one about IBM and Sun in its early days, in which IBM showed up at Sun’s offices with threats of patent infringement…”

“IBM not only fires people (or sends their jobs to India) but it also lobbies for software patents in India.”Masnick then cited a famous old article. This is the new boss of Red Hat, mind you, and what a malicious company it has become in recent years. Again, we must stress, it wasn’t like this a decade ago. The current CEO of IBM is a disaster. Masnick recalled that “[b]ack in 2013, when IBM first went after Twitter, I highlighted how it was an example of how older tech companies focus on litigation when they have no innovation left. In the comments, a few people challenged that claim, saying that IBM was innovative. “Just look at Watson,” the company’s big AI project, they all said.”

It’s disgusting marketing. IBM did more such marketing to hide reports about it racially profiling people for NYPD. IBM is still a highly problematic company and that hasn’t changed since the buyout of Red Hat was first announced. They simply refuse to change. They still push for software patents. They not only apply for these but also lobby/bully/bribe politicians to welcome such patents (in defiance of 35 U.S.C. § 101).

“IBM is still a highly problematic company and that hasn’t changed since the buyout of Red Hat was first announced. They simply refuse to change.”Masnick’s new article (less than a day old) is mostly a rant about IBM’s latest attack on the Net. “Of course,” he wrote, “IBM doesn’t give a shit about the open internet. To them, killing Section 230 opens up all sorts of neat possibilities. First off, IBM doesn’t host any significant online services that rely on Section 230 protections, so it doesn’t increase its own liability. Second, it handicaps the companies who actually have been innovating in AI technology, like Google and Microsoft. Third — and this is the key — you can bet that one way that many companies will try to prove “reasonable care” would be to purchase an expensive filtering technology. Perhaps one based on… Watson? IBM gets to salvage its junk technology and have the government create a market for it. Bonus. [...] IBM has long been a black hole for actual innovation. Now it wants to suck down the open internet with it. Don’t let it.”

We’re trying to be optimistic about Red Hat, but we aren’t able to see IBM changing, certainly not for the better. Over the past week we saw several reports about Fedora that made it seem like IBM already gave up on GNU/Linux (as a laptop/desktop platform). Then there’s the question of public advocacy; the bigger problem for opensource.com (a Red Hat site) is that IBM might not spare it (layoffs) because many positions expressed there, e.g. on software patents and on patents in general, are not compatible with IBM’s patent blackmail agenda. IBM has been preparing some very big “parcels” of patents on blockchain while Zemlin’s PAC (the Linux Foundation) let IBM lead the HyperLedger push. Will IBM leverage that too as a patent trap? Time will tell, but let’s hope not…

Remember that Linux Foundation staff such as Zemlin does not oppose software patents. It has not even brought up this subject in nearly a decade! The same is true for OIN, but we’ll say more about that in our next post, which concerns the Zemlin-led group.

“We’ve long said that when it comes to software patents IBM is hardly more benign than Microsoft.”Yesterday the FFII’s President highlighted this new tweet that said: “In just 1 year the number of IBM blockchain patents has grown by 300%. When one of the largest companies in the world (366,000 employees) spends so much of their resources on developing a blockchain department, this tells a lot about the market potential…”

As we explained last week, we expect IBM to pressure Red Hat staff to apply for software patents; one worker who refused to do so at Red Hat (Oliva) quit his job about a month ago. What we have above isn’t innovation; it’s software with a database somewhere disguised as “AI” and “blockchain” (for lazy USPTO examiners to grant fake patents — patents which IBM then uses in bulk for blackmail). IBM is a real pest or parasite when it comes to patents. IBM makes billions of dollars per year this way. We’ve long said that when it comes to software patents IBM is hardly more benign than Microsoft.

07.14.19

Microsoft’s WSL is Designed to Weaken GNU/Linux (on the Desktop/Laptop) and Strengthen Vista 10

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, Java, Microsoft, Red Hat at 12:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Don’t encourage new, cross-platform Java classes, especially don’t help get great Win 32 implementations written/deployed. [...] Do encourage fragmentation of the Java classlib space.”

Ben Slivka, Microsoft

Summary: What Microsoft does to GNU/Linux on the desktop (and/or laptop) bears much resemblance to what Microsoft did to Java a couple of decades ago

Windows Vista 10 is a terrible operating system, both technically and commercially. Its track record in the market has been appalling and not even sick deviants like Microsoft Peter could spin that (they tried a lot, every day/week). Microsoft, fearing a growing adoption of Chromebooks and various forms of more Freedom-respecting distros (than Chrome OS), is trying to chew the competition and hijack the brand, then distort it. It’s an old strategy, so many analogies exist.

“The person in charge of GitHub (Microsoft put him in charge!) has a history of attacks on Java.”Java is a powerful toolset and language (it became a lot more than just syntax). It’s still very widely used, though not everyone is a fan. “If Java had true garbage collection,” ‬Robert Sewell jokingly said,‭” ‬most programs would delete themselves upon execution.‭” Some would say similar things about Python and other high-level languages. Similarly, many people mock low-level languages because they involve more complicated things such as pointers and may be prone to buffer overflows, especially when used by inexperienced programmers with little or no testing. I haven’t touched Java in years, but many moons ago I used it for its cross-platform nature. That’s one of its major selling points; not many frameworks are as portable and cross-platform, so it’s hardly surprising Google adopted the APIs.

“With Java, Microsoft gave out a broken, non-standard, Windows-only variant in violation of their contract with Sun AND nonetheless persisted in trying to call it Java. I see that as what Microsoft is doing to GNU/Linux via WSL,” one reader told us this afternoon.

“They attempted, relentlessly, to infect GNU/Linux with this patent trap; thankfully they failed. People pushed back.”The person in charge of GitHub (Microsoft put him in charge!) has a history of attacks on Java [1, 2]. It’s hardly surprising that his Xamarin sidekick Miguel de Icaza has a history of FUD and bashing of Java, e.g. after the Oracle lawsuit against Google/Android. They have been pushing .NET for ages, in the form of Mono. They attempted, relentlessly, to infect GNU/Linux with this patent trap; thankfully they failed. People pushed back. We won one battle, but not yet the war. Microsoft keeps fighting Bill Gates' "Jihad".

Our reader believes that what Microsoft plans to do with WSL is somewhat similar to what it did to Java, not just to Netscape. “It is unlikely that Microsoft is in violation of the GPL in this specific case,” he added. “However, it is certain that what we see is a port to Windows and probably increasingly incompatible over time.”

“Our reader believes that what Microsoft plans to do with WSL is somewhat similar to what it did to Java, not just to Netscape.”They already did this numerous times before, e.g. with curl (there was a controversy a couple of years back). By deviating from known and accepted standards they can make stuff constructed or coded on Windows incapable of running in its original, native environment. “Some research again on Java can help come up with similarly alarming analogies,” I replied, knowing some of the things that Microsoft said internally while sabotaging Java. We have quite a repository of old articles on this topic, including antitrust material.

The fact that Linux Foundation staff keeps celebrating WSL and even the takeover of GitHub serves to show whose side the Foundation is on. Let that sink in for a while…

Christine Hall from the OSI’s Board told me a few days ago that “considering the name, the Linux Foundation is no friend to Linux or the spirit behind open source.”

“Many of us (GNU/Linux users) feel so technically-orphaned or homeless when it comes to representation of GNU/Linux, especially on the desktop.”“Jim Zemlin never met a dollar he didn’t like,” she told me separately (and publicly) about Jim Zemlin. “He has nothing but disdain for desktop Linux,” she continued. “He wishes we would just go away.”

Many of us (GNU/Linux users) feel so technically-orphaned or homeless when it comes to representation of GNU/Linux, especially on the desktop. We don’t suppose IBM will take leadership; earlier today Phoronix reported that platform support is being narrowed in Fedora (less than a week after the IBM deal was closed!). Fedora/Red Hat/IBM staff is meanwhile starting unnecessary disputes with Canonical/Ubuntu over Snaps in GNOME.

07.13.19

Linux is Doing ‘Well’ Only for Those Who Dislike Software Freedom and Love Control Over Users

Posted in Deception, DRM, GNU/Linux, IBM, Kernel, Microsoft, Red Hat at 9:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Recent: Azure Running GNU/Linux Isn’t About ‘Love’ But About Control

Microsoft loves control

Summary: Linux, the kernel, has become a corporate playground or a sandbox that’s used to upsell proprietary software, including surveillance; freedom in Linux is gradually being diminished if not completely obliterated and it does not worry the foundations entrusted to guard against it

THE urgent need to return to old topics (hence this reader consultation) was realised some time last year, especially after we had seen various groups — OIN included — becoming mouthpieces of Microsoft and its PR/reputation laundering campaigns (e.g. "Microsoft loves Linux" at OIN). Months ago we also saw Microsoft staff (on Microsoft’s payroll) entering the Board of OSI, then speaking for the OSI in the OSI’s official blog. We responded similarly to the Microsoft/Novell deal, which yielded various other lies. Now there’s the IBM/Red Hat problem. As we noted last night, Alexandre Oliva, who refused to pursue (software) patents at Red Hat, very recently left the company. It’s pretty significant because he was one of the few in that company who truly valued Software Freedom (as in Free/libre software in its purest form). He told me he had declined this push for patents and days ago he told me that he no longer works for Red Hat. These companies no longer attract these high-calibre developers. These companies become incompatible with them. It’s not the developers who change; it’s those companies that change (Oliva cited problems associated with the company’s move to “the cloud” and some likely proprietary, privacy-hostile tools).

All of these things very much matter to Software Freedom (perhaps we should start capitalising that). “It is relevant to the OSI because the LF [Linux Foundation] is using its position to weaken and undermine the GPL rather than advance its for its advantages,” one reader told us. “However … As mentioned, I think the fundamental premise of the LF is wrong: it’s currently about representing the members’ interests inside Linux rather than advancing Linux itself and representing it to the world. That would be a very hard situation to turn around now that it has been allowed to develop for so long.”

We often feel guilty for, having covered European matters so closely for a number of years, dropping the ball on the LF situation. We barely wrote about it until earlier this year, whereupon sources came forth and gave us a lot of additional, invaluable information. Days ago Benjamin Henrion quoted his deceased friend, who suggested starting new initiatives rather than trying to repair broken ones. “I was thinking of that as an option as one way of ‘turning around’ the situation,” one reader then told us, urging us to cover these things at Techrights rather than pressuring the likes of OSI or LF to do the same. “For a new [Linux] foundation to have any relevance,” he added, “it falls nearly 100% on Linus being willing to pull up stakes and move to it. He still owns the trademark but is probably still uninterested in the bureaucracy. And all of that will involve a lot of money. I presume the current group has him tightly by the mortgage and college bills.”

Speaking personally, I’ve become more sympathetic towards Torvalds after what they did to him last year, indirectly removing (or shaming) him from his own project, even if just temporarily. It reminded me of what happened in Docker after Microsoft had gotten involved (Docker is nowadays in Microsoft’s pockets and the founder, who originally came from Red Hat, was pretty much ousted).

Looking at the latest from the Linux Foundation and Linux.com, I am rather frustrated. It has a very long history (OSDN, OSTG, then the golden days with Tina Gasperson and others under SourceForge). Over the past few days I kept asking my wife whether to cover this or how to even approach the issue without offending anyone*. It seems as though some generally good people have been ‘co-opted’ by the Foundation (and its corporate overlords), so I don’t think they deserve blasting, let alone naming. Attached to the pockets of millionaires like Jim Zemlin, these people are just desperate for a job or a gig (they’re vulnerable, poorly-paid writers swimming around ‘big sharks’ like Zemlin, funded by proprietary giants). Linux.com essentially shut down back in April, leaving some people unemployed or partly employed. Days ago we noticed that Linux.com sort of came back to life at a very limited capacity of just a couple of paragraphs a day, authored by “swapnilbhartiya” (the RSS feeds give that identity away; he’s sometimes linking to his own blog, where Foundation puff pieces get posted).

“Looking at the latest from the Linux Foundation and Linux.com, I am rather frustrated.”Well, if the Foundation is trying to revive Linux.com with just one writer doing about 2 paragraphs a day, including Microsoft promotion, then it’s using a site called “LINUX” (.com) to promote “Microsoft” and other Linux-hostile interests. Just before the weekend they advertised Microsoft, rendering it not too hard to see what these sellouts really are…

Some time on Friday they published: “Get a digest of original Linux and open source news and tutorials from Linux.com delivered to your inbox weekly.”

So there is at least some intent or a plan to make something of the site. On Friday morning Google News search results for “Linux” included several items from Linux.com, but 50% of the results were actually about Microsoft (promotion of Microsoft and Azure) and a quarter came from the Linux Foundation, so who’s this good for? You search for Linux, you get Microsoft (articles like this one or this one.) This is what Microsoft wants us to see in search results for “Linux”: Azure, WSL and so on.

“Linux.com essentially shut down back in April, leaving some people unemployed or partly employed.”Eric Brown, who used to write for Linux.com, has just done this Azure piece; there are also AWS pieces in similar sites about devices. What we see here has been brewing for a while and it’s getting worse all the time. My wife too complains about it. She wants to post news stories about Linux in Tux Machines, but RSS feeds are stuffed with Microsoft instead. Whose kernel is it now? IBM’s? Microsoft’s? Intel’s? Can we support Linux if it’s led and controlled by companies that use it to spread DRM? And Microsoft patent traps? Remember that Microsoft is still suing over it.

“Can we support Linux if it’s led and controlled by companies that use it to spread DRM?”We recently began wondering if Linux still holds the same promises of freedom the GNU project initially put forth. “I’d say yes for now,” one reader argued. “And especially support Linus himself. If he moves, follow.”

And when asked “what about other OSes?” (as in supporting Hurd, Guix etc.) this reader said: “Yes, though with caution. The FreeBSD Foundation has a very different structure and goal than the LF but is no less out of the sights of Microsoft. OpenBSD is quite insular but maybe a higher priority for Microsoft to crush. There are also trivial side projects like Haiku OS and ReactOS. I’m not in favor of the latter though it still deserves some respect as an Open Source project. There are also major disruptors flying for now under the radar. Fuchsia is the main one there and it carries a lot of danger along with its positive potential.”

This reader went on to expressing his concerns about IBM. “I really don’t know what to do about the IBM/RHT thing,” I confessed. “Or rather, not sure… that too needs to be clearly defined and time will tell (depending on what IBM does)…”

“Proprietary stuff gets built around “Linux” and then sold/rented. That’s not freedom; that’s arguably a ‘lesser’ form of digital slavery.”“I’m neutral on that,” the reader replied. “Close to 20 years ago, IBM invested $1 billion in the kernel and got that money back with profit within the year. So this purchase might turn out to be quite beneficial for RH. However, there is also a different generation involved at IBM now. Some of these have grown up on anti-GPL rhetoric and some have intentionally funded Poettering to name one of their money attacks. The risk I see from IBM is that they might be following the decommoditization strategy outlined in The Halloween Documents. They are in a position to do so, far more than Microsoft is. However, Microsoft is really trying that with Azure and, I suspect, moving more and more departments’ budgets under Azure to give the illusion of growth. Fake-it-till-you-make-it is admired in the business community and those chumps are Microsoft target still.”

IBM won’t profit from “Linux”; it will profit from stuff like RHEL subscription (supporting systemd and Wayland or other Red Hat-centric things when they break); Microsoft profits from Azure and WSL helps Microsoft push Vista 10 at the expense of GNU/Linux. Surely the likes of Torvalds understand that. How they feel about it and what they do (if anything) about it is another question altogether. Proprietary stuff gets built around “Linux” and then sold/rented. That’s not freedom; that’s arguably a ‘lesser’ form of digital slavery.

“Torvalds is wealthy enough to run the kernel on his own, even without a salary.”The Linux Foundation was supposed to prevent one single company from controlling Torvalds (and by extension the kernel) through salaries; at the end, however, it controls him collectively on behalf of companies that are largely hostile towards freedom. So what is really achieved by that? Torvalds is wealthy enough to run the kernel on his own, even without a salary.
_____
* I’ve said dozens more things in microblogs over the past week or two, but they were not too significant and might cause offense (although likely to those who deserve it… for helping foes of Linux).

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