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02.25.13

Microsoft Uses the FBI to Intimidate Innocent Citizens Abroad, Raid Them

Posted in Australia, Microsoft at 9:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Abuse of powers

Apaches

Summary: Xbox-related overseas raid (over a hoax) involved the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was collaborating with Washington Police at the behest of Microsoft

NO THEORY here but a real conspiracy that reminds us of Microsoft’s backdoors in Windows, which US secret agencies love to exploit. Amid hype in the corporate press over China ‘hacking’ one must remember that it’s the US which attacks other countries with cyber weapons like Stuxnet and President Obama recently made that legal (legalising it after the illegal act), as we covered in our daily links some weeks ago. Techrights is not a political site, so we won’t delve into the politics behind it, but let us point out that Microsoft collusion with the police, as pointed out the other day, had involved the FBI as it turns out:

A Perth teenager — who has gained popularity in cyberspace under the name SuperDaE — has had his home raided and possessions seized by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and WA Police as part of an international corporate espionage probe.

The incestuous relationship between Microsoft and the secret services ought to make every user of Microsoft software — especially governments — seriously worried. Right now in Iceland there are serious debates over the FBI’s abduction of a Wikileaks employee, which the FBI tried to use to frame Julian Assange. Iceland kicked those FBI agents (who had come in a private plane) out of the country for not respecting national sovereignty, but this is far from a resolved case. What we have here is a blurring gap between legal and illegal as we descend into moral corruption and rule of power, not law.

Last week we shared some links about the revelation that Aaron Swartz was flagged by the FBI. So much for fighting terrorism, eh? More like defence of corporations. In Occupy, as a leak reveals, protesters were labeled “low-level terrorists” and every other week we read about another so-called “terror plot” which actually involved undercover FBI agents providing tools to a stung perpetrator in a group/circle FBI had infiltrated (they call it “Sting Operation” and it’s actually throughcrime, i.e. criminalisation of political views).

07.28.12

Microsoft’s Bad Mouth Causes Linux Havoc

Posted in Australia, GNU/Linux, Kernel, Microsoft, Virtualisation at 5:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A mouth

Summary: Removing Microsoft’s “boobs” from Linux would lead to technical complications

Microsoft’s decision to put “boobs” [1, 2, 3] in the Linux kernel (in the code, not the comments) is not so easy to fix by mere revision because some older builds now technically rely on the “boobs” being inside the code:

Microsoft Azure users may have their service disrupted as the software giant tries to rectify an embarrassing line of code, which roughly translates as “Big Boobs.”

The 0x0B16B00B5 string of code has been causing blushes for Microsoft since its presence was highlighted by coder Paolo Bonzini. B16B00B5 is leet speak for ‘Big Boobs’.

However, it was Matthew Garrett, who works for open source provider Red Hat, who claimed the code could cause problems for Microsoft’s public cloud platform.

Great. So Microsoft made Linux sexism-reliant. Thanks, chauvinist Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4], and thank you, Novell, for letting Microsoft do this. What a disgrace.

Speaking of virtualisation, notice how the Australian government helps subsidise Microsoft. As Pogson puts it:

ATO has tax-filing software that only runs on that other OS. MacOS and GNU/Linux users are out of luck but the ATO will allow them to deduct from taxes the cost of running that other OS just to run the software, a pure subsidy of M$.

STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! Australians and their government do not owe M$ a living. M$ should work for a living and Australian taxes should not go directly into M$’s coffers. Make your software a web-application that any browser on any OS can access. Get your act together, ATO.

He is right, the “$” aside. This just helps show how out of touch the world has become; it aids criminals rather than their victims, taking up public money to make up for Microsoft’s loss [1, 2, 3]. Bailout? Too big to fail? Sociopaths get all the entitlements?

07.15.12

CSIRO is a Patent Troll

Posted in Australia, Patents at 4:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Under the bridge

Sydney harbour bridge

Summary: A debate about an Australian body which the public funds (through tax) and does nothing but taxation, passing this tax to the public

CSIRO, the taxpayers-funded patent troll from Australia, is being debated in the Australian press, having its reputation laundered. To quote: “A growing number of technology patent wars around the world has highlighted the rise of the “patent troll”: rights holders whose claim to an invention does more harm than good.

“The concept of a patent troll is particularly relevant in the US, where relatively unknown entities that may not make any products lay claim to a core process employed by a commercially active software maker.”
      –ITNews (Australia)
“Non-competing entities that litigate over software patents are often accused of imposing a tax on innovation by blocking others from developing products despite having no intention of doing so themselves.

“The concept of a patent troll is particularly relevant in the US, where relatively unknown entities that may not make any products lay claim to a core process employed by a commercially active software maker.”

By this definition, given what the government-backed CSIRO has done, it is a troll*. Should it be deprived of public funds now? We think it should. NPEs are parasitic and contribute nothing to the economy; this is based on hard and consistent evidence.
___
* The “relatively unknown entities” part is not obligatory as some trolls are very massive and well known, e.g. Intellectual Ventures.

07.03.12

US Political Pressure Used to Spread Software Patents

Posted in America, Asia, Australia, Patents at 9:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Imperialism through law

An aqueduct

Summary: India, Australia and New Zealand lobbied by some corporations-backed US politicians to approve US patent monopolies

CABLES from Cablegate have shown us how diplomatic pressure is put on nations in order for them to embrace a US-style rule of law. Recently, the US tried doing this in Australia and/or New Zealand, bringing software patents there, amongst other things. The following article may be mixing copyrights with patents, but it does show how US pressure is applied to india’s law making:

- Patent proceedings: The United States displayed concerns over inefficient streamlining of patent opposition proceedings and ineffective system for protecting against unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure of test or other data generated. It has urged India to take additional steps to improve coordination with enforcement officials of certain state governments within India, address its judicial inefficiencies and to strengthen criminal enforcement efforts by imposing deterrent level sentences and giving IPR prosecutions greater priority. The report added that the United States will monitor developments concerning compulsory licensing of patents in India following the broad interpretation of Indian law in a recent decision by the Controller General of Patents, while also bearing in mind the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health found in the Intellectual Property and Health Policy section of this Report.

Over in New Zealand this is happening as well and we wrote about this at the time. So did others:

In its latest 420-page National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, the USTR expresses concerns at Australia’s National Broadband Network, and government concerns at offshore storage of personal data; while New Zealand is in the crosshairs for legislation currently before parliament that would ban software patents.

They use blackmail to impose software patentability. Here is criticism of the TPP, a vehicle for wiping many existing laws in one feel swoop:

This week, San Diego is hosting the latest round of talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Australia and New Zealand are at loggerheads over this secretive new trade treaty spanning the Pacific Rim. The rift between the neighbours over the Trans-Pacific Partnership was revealed after the investment chapter of the agreement was leaked to the public.

Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson has argued that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the first step toward a regional free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific. But Australia, it appears, has refused to submit to the “investor-state” tribunal system in the negotiations over the agreement.

A while ago there was this Australian forum on software patents and Australia’s IDG sites asked if software patents harm innovation:

Do software patents stifle innovation?

Software patents are stifling innovation and should not be applied to computational information processing, according to a Victorian software developer.

At least they quote those whose opinion matters the most.

The lawyers got their way in Israel based on this piece from Australia:

The patentability of software and computer implemented technologies has been a veritable hotspot in patent law over recent years in many countries. The Israeli Patent Office has now, after lengthy deliberations, settled on a formal policy….

Given US influence on the nation, this is not shocking.

Over in Poland, which we mentioned before in relation to software patents, Glyn Moody claims there is something rotten going on:

Earlier this year, Poland played a crucial role in igniting street protests that pretty much stopped ACTA in its tracks. That’s not the first time it has had a major impact on European tech policy. Half a decade earlier, it derailed a proposed EU software patent directive, which had sought to make software patentable in Europe — something that Article 52 of the European Patent Convention had appeared to rule out. That led to a later vote in the European Parliament where software patents were decisively rejected.

The polish presidency did a lot of harm when it comes to software patentability [1, 2, 3, 4]. At the end of the day, it’s clear that European citizens have nothing to gain from such policies; it’s for multinational corporations, many of which are headquartered in the US. If only there was as much popular resistance to software patents as there it to ACTA…

03.28.12

Press Covers Software Patents Amid Their Possible Elimination

Posted in Australia, Patents at 4:18 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Keep clean

Summary: A roundup of press coverage on the subject of software patents and reasons for optimism

THE software patents backlash surely will increase as we see more and more patent trolls doing what they do best: sue en masse.

According to this article, entire cities are now the target of some patent trolls with software patents (there is a proven correlation between the two):

The crisis that is the American software patent system has reached a tipping point. It’s no longer just established companies who are being hit with frivolous lawsuits, it’s startups as well. And in a new twist, American cities that are already strapped for cash are getting the shakedown from patent trolls.

Another writer explains why software patents are problematic. To quote:

YAHOO has recently gone to court. Its case: a software patent claim against Facebook, a distinctly profitable social network on the cusp of floatation and at the very centre of the social web. Yahoo was once the Internet’s most profitable search engine, an original dotcom boomer from a time when people said “cyberspace” and meant it. Hard times have lead them to pursue a claim that Facebook have been abusing Yahoo’s techniques for serving targeted advertising to users.

Software patents have been at the centre of some heavyweight industrial disputes over the last few months, though the patents themselves can seem rather insignificant. Apple is currently locked in battle with Motorola, Samsung and other phone manufacturers, with one recently settled case being to do with code for zooming in to photos. Samsung is suing Apple right back, claiming they infringe a patent that deals with displaying text messages.

To be granted a patent, you must have a concrete invention, not an idea. Is a computer program an idea or a patentable process? Does our patent apply to the description of the process, the code written by a human, or the low-level instructions generated by the machine? Can we enforce a patented procedure across programming languages, across computers with fundamentally different modes of operation? Questions like these highlight the inherent difficulties in patenting pure information.

We still find it disheartening that patent trolls are being whitewashed by the media. Here is a new example of Australian press propaganda, where a patent troll gets called “innovator” instead of “troll”. They put it like a fairy tale, which it’s not, even if Microsoft is the defendant in this case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. The Australian patent maximalists also do this in other sites, Here is the new article titled “LBT Innovations: international patent applications to bolster commercial prospects”. Contrariwise, another site says that “sharing patents encourages innovation” (although the notion of “sharing” monopolies is odd). To quote the analysis:

Instead of preventing competitors from infringing on their patents with costly litigation, business researchers now say that patent holders can often profit even more by free-licensing their patents to competitors.

The reality tends to upset patent lawyers, such as Lundberg. To them, all that matters is their own interests. As this new piece puts it, “patent lawyers are clueless about the software industry.” The outspoken promoter of software patents (a patent lawyer, Lundberg) is having his message debunked:

A major reason for the recent explosion of patent litigation is that it’s hard for software firms to figure out which patents they’re in danger of infringing. There are hundreds of thousands of software patents in existence, with more than 40,000 new ones issued each year. Indeed, in a recent paper, Christina Mulligan and I estimated that it’s effectively impossible for all software-producing firms to do the legal research, known as a “freedom-to-operate” (FTO) search, required to avoid infringing software patents–there simply aren’t enough patent attorneys to do the work. That’s a major reason why most software firms simply ignore the patent system.

[...]

So why is Lundberg so oblivious to the realities of the software industry? Julian wrote on Wednesday about peoples’ tendency to extrapolate from their own experiences. Lundberg’s post is not an accurate description of the software industry as a whole, but it probably is an accurate description of the parts of the software industry he sees on a regular basis. By definition, Lundberg’s clients are drawn disproportionately from the minority of software firms with the resources and infrastructure to effectively navigate the patent system. This means he rarely interacts with the vast majority of software-producing firms who only deal with the patent system when they are forced to do so by an unexpected cease-and-desist letter.
Consider, for example, the patent troll Lodsys, which began extorting money from small app developers last year. For the small firms targeted by Lodsys, the rational thing to do is to pay the money Lodsys demands whether or not the target believes he’s actually guilty. That’s because the legal costs of defending against a patent lawsuit is likely to vastly exceed the amount of money Lodsys is demanding. But because many targets of frivolous patent threats settle their cases quickly, guys like Lundberg rarely interact with them. In other words, Lundberg works with the patent system’s winners on a daily basis, but he rarely interacts with the system’s losers, even though there are many more of them.

As a result, there’s a deep and persistent rift between the community of computer programmers, who are overwhelmingly hostile to software patents, and patent lawyers who seem mystified by all the outrage. The job of a patent lawyer gives him a systematically skewed understanding of how the patent system affects the software industry.

This debate was never about reason, not when it’s dominated or monopolised by panels of lawyers. We previously mentioned how even Google was getting occupied by lawyers, especially in light of cases like this one. Google might not be doing evil, but why can it not do good? Why can it not help end software patents? Right now there is a legal case that can help eliminate software patents in the US and while Red Hat addresses the subject, Google does not. Google is too busy indexing patents, which only helps the very same system that harms Android. Groklaw brings us the latest from this important case:

As Dennis Crouch of Patently O earlier predicted, the world-changing Mayo v. Prometheus decision by the US Supreme Court is already impacting the other case regarding gene patents, Myriad Genetics. Today, the Supreme Court vacated and remanded [PDF] the case back to the Federal Circuit, telling it to take another look and come up with a ruling in harmony with their Mayo decision:

ASSN. FOR MOLECULAR PATHOLOGY V. MYRIAD GENETICS, ET AL.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for further consideration in light of Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 566 U.S. ___ (2012)

Techrights will keep track of this case because the #1 priority right now is to eliminate software patents, which can in turn guarantee the triumph or at very least safety of Free software.

03.05.12

Novell’s Buyer, Attachmate, is Financially Troubled

Posted in Australia, Novell at 7:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Attachmate receives very bad ratings and cancels its call for loans (more debt)

THE buyer of Novell had debt and could barely buy Novell. The whole sale smells like some kind of corruption and there is secrecy around it. Novell is being liquidated now, as Glyn Moody alleged. Consider the fact that Attachmate is not new to controversy; its CEO was arrested for mass-murdering animals with a firearm. Attachmate’s purchase of Novell faces a lot of opposition from Novell shareholders, but that was not enough to stop it. Attachmate debt and fragility will most likely mean the death of Novell. Microsoft gets Novell’s patents, Attachmate puts the rest in the graveyard. It’s cheaper than buying the whole lot and it also evades regulators (although CPTN did receive some scrutiny at the end).

AttachMSFTLast month we wrote about a major downgrade of Attachmate and later on we showed some desperate moves. Attachmate has since then cancelled the call for loans (which made the company’s evaluation drop):

Credit Suisse AG was arranging the debt, which included a $300 million incremental first-lien term loan due in April 2017 and a $100 million incremental second-lien term loan due October 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

More here:

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said that its rating and outlook on Attachmate Corp. are not affected following the company’s announcement that it has withdrawn its proposed $609 million dividend recapitalization transaction.

This cancellation was too late because Moody’s says Attachmate’s B2 rating and negative outlook not affected by cancelled dividend transaction. The company is still going down the drain and Forbes mentions it in a related context:

Still, dividend activity remains inside the $8.7 billion monthly average of the liquidity-drenched opening half of 2011. And the fact that Attachmate recently pulled its transaction shows that investors have limits and are not willing to go along with the most aggressive dividend proposals.

The planned dividend was large. Attachmate was seeking to pay out $609 million, comprising the entire cash equity position of the owners plus an estimated $40-50 million of additional payout. Although the absolute increase in leverage was not outsized at a one-turn increase, to 3.7x, investors were wary about the business trend line. Indeed, the recent Attachmate-Novell merger represents cost-cutting play as opposed to the equity-friendly growth story pitched by Asurion. Existing lenders were in a power position, having to amend to approve the incremental debt used to fund the dividend, and second-lien investors in particular were concerned about the additional first-lien debt coming in ahead of them. And some investors felt that the corresponding leverage would be uncomfortably close to Attachmate’s total valuation in a downside scenario.

Not to end on too pessimistic a note, Attachmate still has presence in Australia and this is perhaps the only area of expansion based on what we’ve seen in the press this year and last year. Here is a new example:

Lilli’s commercial space also now houses US IT company Attachmate, which has made the building its Melbourne headquarters. The company is occupying half the building’s 2500 sq m of office space.

They are lucky to have some major contracts in Australia; there are some actual products in Attachmate, but announcements about them are rare. Press releases reveal staff that left the company and since it’s a private company it is hard to say whether Attachmate is quietly collapsing.

02.25.12

More Microsoft Lock-in Under the Guise of ‘Standards’

Posted in Australia, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 10:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Binary as a standard

LED

Summary: A format which is detrimental to preservation, control and inter-operability is being picked by the Australian government

WHEN Microsoft was corrupting standards bodies all across the world we wrote about it a great deal. There were numerous formal complaints from nations, too, including very large nations. It is sad to see that Microsoft’s atrocious behaviour persists with apparent entryism. Based on the latest from Australia, OOXML, which is proprietary, is being considered as a format for government use:

  • Reviewing the Common Operating Environment Policy

    Just over 12 months ago, we published the first version of the Whole-of-Government Common Operating Environment (COE) Policy on this blog. Unexpectedly, it resulted in the largest number of comments we have ever received on a single post. The surprise was compounded as we had sought comments on the draft policy twice in the preceding months, to little effect.

    Most of the discussion was on a small aspect of the policy: the prefered document standards for interoperability within government. This was a little frustrating as only a small number of correspondents identified that the policy neither drove any new expenditure nor affected citizens or business. Readers will see that we have tried to better explain the situation this time.

  • Government of Australia Revists Document File Formats

    Clearly, the Australian government, not unlike many others is not high on expertise in IT to even consider taking another step on the Wintel treadmill. They need educating and perhaps this latest round in requests for comments will educate them. We can only hope.

  • Australian Govt re-kindles office file format war

    The Australian Government’s peak IT strategy group has issued a cautious updated appraisal of currently available office productivity suite file formats, in what appears to be an attempt to more fully explain its thinking about the merits of open standards such as OpenDocument versus more proprietary file formats promulgated by vendors like Microsoft.

    In January 2011, the Australian Government Information Management Office raised eyebrows globally when it published the first draft of its Common Operating Environment Policy. The document contained a number of guidelines restricting how departments and agencies across the Federal Government should set up desktop PCs, including a stipulation that Microsoft’s Office Open XML file format become a standard.

  • Office format war: AGIMO faces horde of critics

    However, most alternative office suites cannot write documents in the standard. The ODF Alliance, which is supporting a rival format, claimed last year the Office Open XML format was riddled with “Windows-platform dependencies” and essentially tied users to Microsoft Office, and some organisations, such as the National Archives of Australia, have picked the ODF standard instead in the long-term. AGIMO subsequently defended its decision, stating it had no vendor bias.

    On Friday last week, AGIMO noted in a blog post that its policy was now complete, but it wanted to re-open the debate about the issue, as this might inform future policies. The result was a sea of criticism directed at the agency for its decision to standard on Office Open XML instead of the rival ODF format.

We have had some discussions about this in IRC. In short, this decision should not be permitted because it makes the nation a hostage of one overseas company — one with a very abusive past and deals that are economically unsound. Since at least one of the people deciding ‘on behalf’ of Australians used to work with Microsoft, there’s room for complaints here. We hope that our Australian readers will take action.

12.23.11

Update on Software Patenting in Australia and New Zealand

Posted in Australia, Law, Patents at 3:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Sydney harbour bridge

Summary: Bits of important news from Australia and New Zealand, less so from Europe

IN THIS status quo of “patents as products” we keep hearing about patent-pending hype/bragging rights from incognito companies. They do not always have products, but they sure have pieces of papers with an idea on them. The situation is worse in the States than in most other countries and Australia, for example, still has activism fighting the issue:

When it comes to software patents, Melbourne developer Ben Sturmfels is sure of one thing: his campaign to end them in their entirety will succeed in the long run.

[...]

Though he is a free software advocate, Sturmfels campaign against software patents extends to all genres of software. Patents can affect proprietary software as much as they do free and open source software, he pointed out when I met him recently.

In February, Sturmfels’ petition was accepted by the government’s Petitions Committee, in three batches. “Collecting 1000 signatures on paper is a hard task and a huge one in terms of the amount of paper needed,” he said with a grin.

More recently we saw some similar activism in New Zealand, where there is a danger that the “Software patent law in New Zealand [might] be overhidden by the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).” Here is another article about it which says: “A pending international trade treaty could override a recent New Zealand law change that excluded software from patent protection.

“All the political parties supported the controversial change. But the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) could see the US pro-patent view override our local law makers.

“Last month, I met Trade Minister Hon Tim Groser and the government’s chief trade negotiator to get the inside word on what was happening with the TPPA, particularly in relation to technology and intellectual property (IP).

“Mr Groser’s openness and candour was excellent and I can’t speak highly enough about the minister’s willingness to engage and discuss these issues.”

The situation in New Zealand has been eerily similar at times to the situation in Europe — a situation so depressing that we prefer not to write about until after Christmas.

Watch how some people are treating patents like property. To quote a new example:

The Government has published draft legislation for its Finance Bill 2012, which includes draft measures aimed at creating improved conditions for business investment and growth in the UK. The proposals include a new tax scheme intended to reduce corporation tax for profits arising from patents, dubbed the “Patent Box”.

“Law” sites keep promoting software patents in the UK, under seemingly innocent titles. We are going to address software patents in Europe in a later series of posts later in the month. We need to do some activism to defend European software developers from the bureaucrats, paper-pushers, and multinational monopolists.

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