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07.16.14

Secrecy Allows British Government to be Manipulated by Microsoft for Spyware Behind Closed Doors

Posted in Europe, Microsoft at 11:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Keys

Summary: Dependence on malicious software from NSA ally Microsoft is highly dependent, at least in Britain, on government secrecy and vain refusal to comply with Freedom of Information (FOI) requests

Several nations have already moved away from Microsoft or expressed intent to do so within months if not years. It is not just China anymore but also Russia and amid a spying scandal in Germany it makes sense for Germany to do the same along with much of Europe, for reasons we explained some days ago. Nobody can trust a backstabbing ‘ally’ and companies which facilitate surveillance at its behalf (Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle and so on).

Vista 8 is a banned by the Chinese government and this new article reminds us that “The German government has always been militant in matters of data protection. In 2013, it warned consumers against using Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system due to perceived security risks, suggesting that it provided a back door for the US National Security Agency (NSA).”

Microsoft’s very special relationship with the NSA has cost a lot and layoff are coming to Microsoft (more on that in our next post). Now that the British government tries to get away from Microsoft there is lobbying going on and the government tries to hide it. “in March,” wrote Glyn Moody, “I asked about industry lobbying against ODF in UK. I’ve heard nothing, now asked for formal review FOI”.

Moody’s request to Cabinet Office was covered here before (Moody must have learned from experience) and the latest can be found here:

Dear Cabinet Office,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
Information reviews.

I am writing to request formally an internal review of Cabinet
Office’s handling of my FOI request ‘Open document formats’.

The response to my request is long overdue; by law, under all
circumstances, the authority should have responded by now. No
official explanation has been offered for this delay.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
available on the Internet at this address:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/o…

Thank you for your help.

Yours faithfully,

Glyn Moody

Why do UK authorities cover up Microsoft lobbying against standards? I warned their staff about such lobbying months ago.

As Moody later pointed out, “my FOI request is nearly 4 months old now…”

How obscene is that? He even wrote a whole new article about it, stating:

So GCHQ is able to to search through the UK’s entire Internet stream to find all the vaguely bad things there, but the Cabinet Office is unable to locate a few specific emails on its own servers.

Moody also says “they send PDFs that are *scans* of documents – I had to re-type the excerpts in my post…”

The CIA famously uses this tactic to discourage publication and other forms of dissemination. They’re embarrassed, they have something to hide.

07.13.14

Cronyism at Play: European Hostility Towards Free/Libre Software Despite Espionage and Moles

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software at 8:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Europe continues to be held hostage with back doors, lock-in, and massive payments to foreign powers, despite evidence that these powers are destructive and hostile

EUROPE has an odd relationship with foreign powers in north America or with corporations that are based there and subsidise the politicians. Rather than seek autonomy, there seems to be a collusion which, among some things, leads to back doors in computer systems in France, Britain, and Ireland (to name just a few examples from western Europe). These back doors are controlled by and made accessible to the United States. This is an absurd situation which we wrote about several times in past years. There is no real sovereignty, not in the digital sense anyway. Only Free software with local companies to maintain and support it can ever guarantee self determination, which is why Europe should really have moved to Free software (entirely) a long time ago.

According to this article, the proprietary software lobby is trying to pressure Cabinet Office to get off its current course, which includes promotion of standards such as ODF. Cabinet Office has been the target of lobbying, usually behind the scenes. Here is Maude’s response to this lobby:

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has hit back at claims that Cabinet Office policy was responsible for recent IT problems at the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).

Now watch what Maxwell says: “Government CTO Liam Maxwell agreed that poor procurement practices were at the root of the problems in BIS and DECC.

“Speaking to ComputerworldUK, Maxwell said: “The procurement was not done properly.”

Misplaced accusations are being used to discredit Cabinet Office, insinuating bad conduct. Shame tactics are turning technical considerations into politics.

Dr. Moody, who is still waiting for Cabinet Office to obey his FOIA request about the lobbying, argued the other day that the EU has an “Anti-Open Source Approach to Procurement”. This might actually go further up (higher level). The FSFE says that “The European Commission has recently renewed its commitment to a proprietary desktop and secret file formats. The Commission is refusing to get serious about breaking free from vendor lock-in, and is ignoring all available alternatives. In doing so, the EU’s civil service fails to practice what it preaches.”

Or as Moody put it:

In recent posts, I’ve looked at the increasing use of open source software by governments in countries as diverse as China, Russia, India and Germany. Here I want to contrast those moves with the continuing failure of the European Commission to embrace free software – with huge costs for European citizens as a result, to say nothing of lost sovereignty.

Now that Germany finds moles inside its government departments [1-47] (some sources say there might be a dozen) it is probably time for Europe to actually foster an industry based around Free software. China is close to banning Apple (not just Microsoft) products [48-62] and is now blocking parts of Facebook [63] as part of its extensive censorship policy [64], citing national security-related reasons.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. US agent arrest reveals gap between Obama and secret service

    The arrest of at least one American agent infiltrated the secret services in Germany, one of the closest allies of the United States, hinders the relationship between the two countries and reveals ignorance, by President Barack Obama, the actions of their own spies.

  2. CIA Officer Expelled From Germany Is Not The First
  3. U.S. Out of Germany
  4. Alleged CIA Spy in German May Have Worked for Russia All Along
  5. The Moscow Times: Alleged CIA spy in German may have worked for Russia all along
  6. Germany kicks out top US spy over espionage claims
  7. Obama and the CIA—who runs Washington?
  8. Opinion: Wake up, Washington
  9. ‘The Americans have humiliated us again’

    Germany’s expulsion of the CIA station chief in Berlin in a spy row with the United States has found widespread support in the country.

  10. Germany Calls For ‘Honest Foundation’ In Relations With U.S.
  11. NSA Spying on Germany
  12. Op-Ed: U.S. German spy scandal — less obvious problems for NSA
  13. What’s a Little Espionage Among ‘Friends’?
  14. Germany Confronts US On Spying, Demands Answers
  15. Obama Fails to Reach Out to Merkel Over CIA Expulsion
  16. US committed ‘grave political error’ with spying
  17. When the CIA keeps the president in the dark

    When President Obama spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel about Ukraine last week, there could have been an awkward moment prompted by the arrest the day before of a double agent allegedly working secretly for the CIA within German intelligence. At least there likely would have been, had Obama known about the arrest or the undercover spy to begin with.

  18. Germany’s Merkel reiterates U.S. spying unacceptable

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that Germany and the U.S. had different ideas on intelligence and that Germany will be “persistent” in delivering the message that U.S. espionage against a close ally is unacceptable. Her comments, in an interview with public broadcaster ZDF to be aired Sunday, came two days after Germany told the CIA station chief in Berlin to leave the country amid a German investigation of two government employees suspected of spying for the U.S.

  19. We are not in Cold War any more, says Merkel as spy row grows
  20. US double standards exposed in Berlin spy row

    A few years before he died in 2006, the former East German spy chief Markus Wolf, known as “the man without a face”, told me about the qualities he looked for in the agents his spies recruited in the West. Status was a poor indicator of effectiveness, he said, and secretaries and doormen were among the most valuable recruits. Political ideology was the best reason for passing secrets to another country but money and vengeance were good motivators too.

  21. Germany may have to tolerate NSA spying, says key Merkel aide
  22. John Kerry Lands in Vienna to Iron Out ‘Deep Differences’ in Iran Nuclear Talks

    On the sidelines of the talks, Kerry will also meet his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier to discuss recent spying allegations.

    Berlin has recently asked the CIA station chief to leave the country over snooping charges.

  23. Kerry arrives in Vienna for Iran nuclear talks
  24. Germany checking for more CIA moles in its intelligence agency
  25. More than a dozen US spies infiltrate German ministries, says Bild

    The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has recruited more than a dozen spies in several German government ministries, according to the Bild am Sonntag tabloid paper.

  26. Expulsion of top spy a ‘wake-up call’ for US
  27. German spies clamor for counter-espionage funding

    The discovery of US spies in Germany’s intelligence service and Defense Ministry has sparked outrage. Now German spies are calling for a boost in funds and staff directed toward counterintelligence.

  28. Merkel angrily blasts U.S. over new spying allegations

    Angela Merkel made her feelings toward Washington clear in an interview on German broadcaster ZDF today, reports Reuters.

    “We are not living in the Cold War anymore,” Merkel said. “We should concentrate on what is essential.”

    Germany’s government told Berlin’s CIA station chief to leave the country on Thursday, in the wake of new allegations of U.S. spying in the country. Of two suspected spies discovered by German officials, one reportedly worked for German foreign intelligence, while the other operated within the country’s defense ministry.

  29. Expulsion of US spy chief was inevitable
  30. Germany says expulsion of US spy chief was inevitable
  31. German spy agency searches for more moles after US breach

    BND president orders analysis of agency’s communications for irregularities, and foreign minister to meet John Kerry

  32. Serving two spymasters
  33. Germany plans to overhaul partnership with US
  34. Germany eyes overhauled US partnership in talks on spy row
  35. NSA Spying On Germany – OpEd
  36. What’s A Little Espionage Among ‘Friends’? – OpEd

    Germany, after all, has a powerful economy — one that, driven as it is by a strong manufacturing sector and a solid trade surplus, including with the US, in many ways is much stronger than the US economy. Germany has no need to worry about any risk of US trade sanctions, the way most countries do that consider trying to stand up to the US. Nor does Germany need to rely on the US military for protection. The country faces no threat from any direction. (As anti-war activist David Swanson puts it in his column US out of Germany, “Protection from Russia? If the Russian government weren’t demonstrating a level of restraint that dwarfs even that of the Brazilian soccer team’s defense there would be full-scale war in Ukraine right now. Russia is no more threatening Germany than Iran is preparing to nuke Washington or the U.N. is confiscating guns in Montana.”)

  37. Germany tells top U.S. spy official to leave the country
  38. Germany: Expulsion of U.S. spy was necessary
  39. Germany should offer political asylum to Snowden
  40. Spy scandal jeopardizes negotiations on free trade area between EU and US

    The spy scandal that has burst out in Germany jeopardizes negotiations on creating a free trade area between the EU and the USA, Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection of Germany Heiko Maas believes.

  41. German FM, press applaud expulsion of CIA chief
  42. German Chancellor Expels CIA Station Chief

    In an unprecedented move between allies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ordered the CIA station chief in Berlin to leave the country or be forced out, reports the Washington Post.

  43. Germany calls on US to stop spying after expulsion order

    German politicians on Friday called on the United States to stop all spying activities against Germany and to work together to revive bilateral ties on the basis of honesty.

    This latest German plea follows Thursday’s expulsion of the U.S. intelligence chief in Berlin.

  44. Germany Said to Review ‘No-Spy’ Buying Rules Amid U.S. Row
  45. Report: Germany turned down US spy deal
  46. Suspected German spy was in contact with friend at State Dept – US officials
  47. German suspect was in contact with State Dept not US spies: officials

    German defense official under investigation for alleged spying was in contact with a US State Department officer rather than American intelligence agencies, raising questions about whether any espionage occurred, US officials familiar with the case told Reuters yesterday.

  48. China Calls iPhone National Security Threat
  49. China Calls iPhone A National Security Risk
  50. Chinese TV says iPhones are a threat to national security
  51. Chinese state media calls iPhone a security threat
  52. China calls the iPhone and iOS 7 threats to national security
  53. Apple’s iPhone poses national security threat, China says
  54. Chinese state-run media say Apple’s iPhone is a threat to federal security because it can track and time-stamp the locations of its users
  55. iPhone’s location tracking is a security threat, says China state media>
  56. China Says iPhone Location Tracker Could Expose State Secrets
  57. Apple iPhone Labeled “National Security Concern” in China>
  58. Apple’s iPhone branded a ‘national security concern’
  59. China Labels iPhone a Security Threat
  60. Chinese state broadcaster flags iPhone as security threat
  61. Chinese Media Terms Apple’s Location Tracking as Security Threat

    Mainstream Chinese Media has termed Apple’s iPhone as a national security threat. The state owned CCTV has reported that the location tracking feature in iPhone could collect data about location of the users.

  62. Now Chinese state TV says iPhones are a threat to national security
  63. Instagram becomes latest victim of Chinese censorship

    After blocking Google and its services in China in June, China’s internet censors blocked the popular networking app Line and Yahoo’s photo-sharing platform Flickr on July 1, the day of massive democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong on the 17th anniversary of the territory’s return to China. Instagram, the online photo and video sharing platform owned by Facebook, has now undergone a similar fate, reports Duowei, an outlet run by overseas Chinese.

  64. Are Hong Kong’s pan-democrats censoring opposing views by public figures while they blast censorship themselves?

06.29.14

Arguments Persist Over Whether Software Patents Died in the US Whilst European Patent Law is Quietly Assimilated to US

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 5:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Keep clean

Summary: Continued discussion about the meaning of the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling and what it means to programmers all around the world, not just patent lawyers who seek to monopolise and tax software development

THE recent SCOTUS ruling on patents ended software patent scope where it reaches "abstract ideas" (whatever exactly it means, as no criteria were specified or even a test). The ruling left room for patent lawyers to exploit (pretending nothing has actually changed). We have demonstrated, based on dozens of analyses from patent lawyers, that lawyers’ responses are quite consistent, ensuring only that people still come to them to patent algorithms.

Here is another new analysis from Dykema Gossett PLLC, saying that “Litigants involved in current or future litigation over software patents will want to study the claims at issue to assess their vulnerability under the framework laid out in Alice Corp. While patent eligibility of any particular software claim will remain a case-by-case, fact specific inquiry, at least now there is some guidance by which to conduct that inquiry.”

“Basically, the corporate media is now a platform by which lawyers ‘report’ to the public on a decision in which they have vested interests.”Dr. Glyn Moody looks at the glass as half full, celebrating the fact that the SCOTUS is at least recognising that there are limits to software patents. He also, however, bemoans Europe moving in the opposite direction. To quote Moody: “I’ve written a number of times about the curse of the “as such” clause in Article 52 of the European Patent Convention, which has allowed software patents to creep in to Europe by the backdoor. In the US, which has a far more liberal attitude to patenting everything under the sun, there has been a cognate problem, whereby patent applications have been made on a abstract/trivial idea simply by appending “using a computer” to make it novel. At long last, the US Supreme Court has addressed this issue.”

“European Unitary Patent system will work means that there is no independent court to which appeals can be made – only an appeal court within the new patent system itself. That lack of an external check is an extremely dangerous feature – and one that the European Union may well come to regret.”

The European angle is interesting as the EU’s position on software patents has been gradually morphing/assimilating to the US position.

Here is America Online (AOL) giving a ‘report’ (not analysis) about the SCOTUS ruling. Guess who wrote it. That’s right, AOL treats ‘IP’ groups as journalists now, boosting their position, which is what we foresaw and worried about. The article begins with the following promotion: “Michael Gulliford is the Founder and Managing Principal of the Soryn IP Group,a new breed of patent management and advisory company that provides a host of patent-centric services to a select group of innovators.”

“The great majority of patent trolls use software patents, so rather than speak about stopping trolls we need to concentrate on patent scope.”Basically, the corporate media is now a platform by which lawyers ‘report’ to the public on a decision in which they have vested interests.

Here is an analysis from Davies Collison Cave, separate from the press (legal sites host these). It says: “To be eligible for a patent in the US, a computer implemented invention will probably now need to provide a technological improvement, solve a technical problem or effect some improvement in technology or a technical field. It will certainly need to involve more than simply implementing an abstract idea on a generic computer.

“Whether it was intentional or not, the US Supreme Court may have introduced into US law technical contribution requirements similar to those of European patent law.”

Yes, so the US is moving closer to EU patent law while EU patent law is moving closer to US patent law, which includes software patents. There seems to be some kind of dangerous convergence here. We need to fight hard to stop it.

Here is another new analysis from Stinson Leonard Street LLP (another patents firm):

Software patents vulnerable: use of a computer is “not enough”

[...]

This decision will likely be cheered by technology companies with patent portfolios directed to more sophisticated inventions that go beyond computer-implemented business methods. However, software patents directed to general business processes, such as those that involve the performance of well-known financial transactions on a computer, may be in jeopardy of being invalidated.

That basically sounds like the “as such” nonsense that we have in Europe and to some degree in New Zealand as well. This is not good. This might mean that spurious patent litigation (over software patents) can soon break out of places like the Eastern District of Texas, where stories like this one are being reported by the patent trolls-obsessed:

A controversial patent that has been used to wring millions of dollars in settlements from hundreds of companies is on the verge of getting shut down.

US Circuit Judge William Bryson, sitting “by designation” in the Eastern District of Texas, has found in a summary judgment ruling (PDF) that the patent, owned by TQP Development, is not infringed by the two defendants remaining in the case, Intuit Corp. and Hertz Corp. In a separate ruling (PDF), Bryson rejected Intuit’s arguments that the patent was invalid.

Notice the type of patents they are using. The great majority of patent trolls use software patents, so rather than speak about stopping trolls we need to concentrate on patent scope. Here is Steven W. Lundberg (highly vocal proponent of software patents [1, 2, 3]) boosting software patents again (as if nothing has changed) and several other patent boosters like Fenwick & West LLP and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP. Perhaps they view all this as an opportunity (in the long run) to file their patents in yet more continents, making even more money by taking away from society and tying the hands of programmers.

Timothy B. Lee is a little more optimistic than us. He says that “the Supreme Court might kill software patents” and here is why:

Last week I argued that the Supreme Court’s widely anticipated ruling in the case of CLS v. Alice wasn’t the knockout blow software patent opponents had been hoping for. The Supreme Court struck down the specific patent at issue in the case, but it was vague about when, if ever, other software patents were allowed.

Reading commentary on the case has made me more convinced that software patent owners should be worried.

In a nutshell, the Supreme Court said two things: you can’t patent abstract ideas, and merely implementing an abstract idea on a generic computer isn’t enough to turn it into a patentable invention. The big question is: what’s an abstract idea?

The patents the Supreme Court struck down last week and in a 2010 case called Bilski v. Kappos were extremely abstract. In essence, both patents took an abstract business strategy — like holding money in escrow to prevent either party to a deal from backing out — and claimed the concept of implementing it on a computer. In both 2010 and 2014, the Supreme Court said that wasn’t enough for a patent.

Some software patent supporters, like former Patent Office director David Kappos, have concluded that the decision leaves most software patents unscathed. But the respected patent scholar Robert Merges, a software patent supporter himself, is not so sure.

David Kappos is not credible because he worked both for the patents-greedy USPTO and for IBM, one of the most aggressive patent-rattling companies and leading lobbyist for software patents, even in Europe. The argument we made some days ago is that all software patents are — by definition almost — abstract. Unless there is a working implementation to be patented, all that the application allude to are ideas, barely any function at all.

What it boils down to is this; if a judge was competent enough to tell the difference between pseudo code, programming, UML etc. (which is unlikely, especially in clueless, biased and corrupt courts like CAFC), then every software patent would be deemed “abstract”, hence invalid. To construct a legally-cohesive argument along those lines might require a lawyer. Are there any “good” patent lawyers out there?

06.14.14

US Patent System May Inevitably Be Coming to Europe While Patent Reform Attempts in US Crushed

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 5:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The US is not even trying to truly reform patent policy and Europe is preparing to ‘import’ (through globalisation/treaties/etc.) this atrocious policy, based on new reports in the British press

WE shall slowly return to covering patent issues, for they are certainly becoming a huge subject again, especially in light of renewed Apple lawsuits/aggression, corruption in the courtrooms (blindly favouring al patents), and distraction by the media (we covered all three just two days ago), not to mention software patents (and patent trolls) in Europe becoming a huge issue because EU patents may soon follow US criteria for acceptance. “New EU rules have been created which allow the judgments of new unified patent courts (UPCs) to have legal effect from early 2015,” says The Register. This is great news for trolls and also for patent lawyers who wish to see patent scope expanding.

Mr. Mark Bohannon (Red Hat lobbyist) has written a couple of articles in the past week. In them, Bohannon focuses on trolls (not the real issue) and also expresses little or no hope for imminent change in the US patent system. To quote: “Late last month, as you’ve likely read by now, the US Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) abruptly pulled consideration of a legislative patent reform package from consideration. For this year, at least, the prospect of addressing abusive patent litigation through Congressional action is on ice.

“The move by the Committee disappointed, even outraged, a broad coalition working for legislative reform.

“Reaction came not just from many in the technology and Internet innovation sector, which have been at the forefront of reform efforts. Consumer and civil society groups (EFF, Engine Advocacy, Public Knowledge) voiced deep concern.

“Reflecting the wide swath of the US economy that is affected by abusive patent litigation, the view of many in the mainstream of American business was that the SJC “chose special interests over jobs on main street.” Retailers noted that “withdrawing the patent reform bill is a victory for patent trolls.” They were joined by restaurant owners, home builders, credit unions, hotels and lodges, the gaming industry, and the online travel industry, just to name a few.”

The problem, however, is not “abusive patent litigation”, it is patent scope. It sure seems like even if a patent reform was passed in the US, it would be beneficial to large corporations but hardly help the public. In other words, not only is there no sign of improvement in the US; even if the said reforms were to pass, not much would have changed. The real solutions are totally off the table. This system is inherently rigged, probably beyond repair, which is why we started focusing on limiting its reach (e.g. to Europe) rather than fixing it before it spreads.

06.03.14

Newcastle Pays for Back Doors From Microsoft Rather Than Procure Freedom-respecting Software From Local (British) Companies

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 10:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Newcastle wraps itself in shackles for the next three years

Newcastle

Summary: The latest example of the British public sector snubbing local software companies, instead bringing malicious software from abroad (land of economic and political espionage) via a local proxy (reseller)

Three years ago I traveled to Newcastle in order to configure GNU/Linux servers there; I was surrounded by a Windows-dominated environment and a systems administrator who was only skilled enough to handle Microsoft stuff. The sad thing is that in the public and private sector in the UK there is a lot of software with NSA back doors, including (and primarily) Microsoft software.

According to this news report, the latest Newham-style nonsense has spread to Newcastle, with cost analysis totally ignoring the worth of security and autonomy. To quote the article: “Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council has chosen to renew its enterprise agreement with Microsoft rather than opt for cloud-based service provision or open source products.”

Well, cloud-based services usually mean “surveillance-friendly” or “surveillance-ready”, so these are not the real alternative anymore. The article continues: “The deal, for the provision of software assurance and server licences through a certified reseller for the next three years, replaces the council’s previous five year Microsoft Enterprise Agreement which expired on 31st May 31.

“The renewal, which commenced 1st June, will ensure that the corporation’s desktops and servers can be used and updated within legal requirements.

Why choose spyware and why not explore Free/Open Source software? Well, the article says: “Having considered options such as subscription-based agreements, cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) provision and open source products, which are already in use by the council for its anti-virus and email filtering systems, Newcastle-under-Lyme decided it was better to renew its existing agreement – expected to total £263,284 in costs over its three-year lifetime.”

This does not even seem to cover support. They have just paid for spyware to go inside their server room/s, negatively affecting many British citizens. Did they even consult the public at all? As Munich has demonstrated, nobody needs Microsoft in the public sector; all it does it spy on everything and everyone.

05.11.14

Non-technical Men in Suits Fight Against ODF and Free Software in the Wake of New British Government Policy

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, FUD, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 4:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

David Cameron

Image from the 10 Downing Street Web site

Summary: A roundup of resistance to OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Free/Open Source software (FOSS) in the British public sector

AS ONE ought to expect, especially based on past experiences, a migration to FOSS won’t happen without resistance from an old generation of Microsoft proponents. Just watch how Microsoft rallied its partners to object to a pro-ODF consultation (we explained Microsoft's very dirty tactics to the Cabinet Office). It didn’t quite end there.

Despite the fact that a foreign government is cracking PCs with Windows on them (and seeking to make this practice legal), some people in suits here in Britain insist that Windows in the public sector is an acceptable risk. It’s not. It should be banned. Well, some government departments quietly move towards FOSS (I work with them) and numerous keep quiet about it for fear of retribution from Microsoft and/or its partners, who view FOSS like it’s some kind of Communism that’s spreading.

Continued resistance from Luddites and “tribe elders” of technology (who grew up in another type of world and dined with executives of proprietary software vendors) was expected all along. The ODF consultation showed just one portion of it (publicly-visible, unlike some stories I know of but cannot share).

One reader asked me yesterday: “what became of that government consultation?”

Well, nothing so far, as far as we know. This new article that this reader sent us states: “if you blithely email someone a .docx file you are effectively condemning them to pay rent to Microsoft for ever.”

Indeed, and this too is a reason to shun Microsoft, not just the back doors. The author continues by stating: “One way to loosen the corporate stranglehold would be for everyone to adopt the set of standards called Open Document Format, designed so the files work the same whatever software or computer type you use.”

Yes, indeed, but there are people who stand in the way of implementing national (top-down) policy.

Earlier this month there were a bunch of Microsoft-friendly British articles (at least 3), the latest of which is this one. They all cite Jos Creese (the original/seminal article was this, but it led to some more, even overseas), relaying claims that “Microsoft is cheaper” (than FOSS).

This is wrong on so many levels. It very much depends on what’s calculated and how. OOXML is massively dangerous lock-in. Microsoft had to corrupt the world’s standards bodies to get it where it is today. The bribery for Windows-only formats was documented here half a decade (or more) ago and it was coupled by patent extortion, bribing of companies, and all sorts of other criminal acts. To say that Microsoft is cheaper is almost like saying that robbing a bank is cheaper than working (labour) for the same money. To use a better analogy, to get oneself locked into one vendor is not “cheap”. It has been reported that the British government pays ~$10,000 per Windows desktop per year. Cheap, eh? It’s more like extortion. There is a monopoly on support.

Concurrently, Adrian Bridgwater offers some convenient hogwash that ‘vanishes’ Microsoft’s criminal activities against GNU/Linux, pretending that there is something inherently wrong with FOSS and/or GNU/Linux and that this is the reason it does not (yet) dominate the desktop. Never mind OOXML abuses, bribes against GNU/Linux (we documented some), and many other forms of manipulation. This is the type of revisionism that Microsoft requires right now, creating the illusion that FOSS is inadequate for desktop use, even though Chromebooks are taking off (they run GNU/Linux), defying Microsoft’s vicious attack ads.

One commentator at IDG alluded to the above people as “clueless CIOs” in his headline, stating that “companies are using open source to bring their legacy apps up to code, but all too many CIOs are still clueless about how often open source is being used in their own organizations.”

It wasn’t just clueless CIOs like Jos Creese who offered Microsoft lip service in the British press earlier this month, proposing lock-in rather than freedom because lock-in is supposedly “cheaper”. Another article, citing another bunch, speaks about LibreOffice/OpenOffice, focusing on Microsoft macros lock-in and OOXML lock-in to make FOSS seem inadequate. Titled “Open source ‘fails to excite councils’”, the article makes arguments like the following:

It added that open source software is seen to be difficult to replicate automated interfaces to Microsoft Office products which connect with council systems.

This is precisely the reason to dump Microsoft, not to avoid dumping Microsoft. This is evidence of lock-in and the better one gets out of the lock-in, the better.

On a brighter note, there is a new article from Ireland titled “open source is where I think the future is headed in local government…”

It is not a formal article, but it shows that people — influential people even — do in fact promote FOSS. To quote:

So, I’m in Dublin tomorrow for the OGP Europe Regional conference in Dublin in advance of next week’s Digital Lunch asking if Northern Ireland is ready for an open government partnership? If you are interesting in the subject, do keep an eye on Twitter throughout the day, and I’ll update with a blog report on Friday morning before I leave again.

It is expected that in the coming months or even years some vassals of Microsoft will go public (to the press) bashing FOSS with FUD, misdirection, miscalculations and stereotypes, sometimes criticising FOSS for not being sufficiently Microsofty (e.g. dealing with OOXML). Their arguments often insinuate that abandoning Microsoft would be wise (the opposite of what they mean to say); the British public sector got caught up in expensive and dangerous (back doors for starters) dependence. Free software would give Britain back its sovereignty. Technical autonomy is priceless; it is invaluable.

04.06.14

Document Liberation: The Time is Now

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 9:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Preservation a priority

Old chair

Summary: The Document Liberation Project makes the press and software such as LibreOffice plays a role while other players, such as Open-Xchange, are also hopping on the ODF bandwagon

IN THE MONTHS of February and March we revisited ODF because of a policy that had been promoted in the UK — one which favours disseminating government documents not just to customers of Microsoft (who purchased proprietary software like Microsoft Office).

The problems caused by OOXML are explained again by one whom we interviewed in episode 74 of TechBytes. His name is Charles-H. Schulz and he is from LibreOffice. He says that “Microsoft Office had been released and with it an undocument format called OOXML which, as far as experts were concerned, had little to do with the ISO 29500 (aka OOXML) standard. While Europe and Brazil were struggling to migrate their public sector’s documents to ODF, any company or government, let alone any individual acquiring Microsoft Office 2010 migrated to the new and shiny OOXML, officially without remorse or complaint. The ODF advocacy groups here and there were launching all sorts of events and meetings to guide and assist migrations to ODF. Results were mixed. We had victories. We had defeats. At the end of the day what was at stake was fear of failure and change from CIOs and IT services. That’s still the case today. But while these are mostly human factors, there is one thing we hadn’t tried yet, or at least hadn’t been tried enough: turning the hundreds of thousands of files that are out there and locked up in various proprietary file formats to ODF documents.”

Another advocate of ODF, Andrew Updegrove, tells the story of Microsoft’s attacks on officials who ‘dared’ to promote ODF. Updegrove recalls: “By the end of December 2005, I had been blogging on ODF developments in Massachusetts for about four months, providing interviews, legal analysis and news as it happened. In those early days, not many bloggers were covering the ODF story, and email began to come my way from people that I had never met before, from as far away as Australia, and as near as the State House in Boston. Some began with, “This seems really important – what can I do to help?” Others contained important information that someone wanted to share, and that I was happy to receive.”

We are not going to go about a decade into the past again, but the point worth making is that OOXML remains a huge issue. Microsoft’s worldwide bribery was not in vain. My wife reports that OOXML crashes LibreOffice (on GNU/Linux) for her, sometimes even freezing the entire operating system.

Making the news these days is the Document Liberation Project [1-3], which even Updegrove wrote about [4]. For those who think that ODF is old news, be aware that Open-Xchange is entering the online office suites business [5,6] and “support for the Open Document Format (ODF) is forthcoming, probably within the next three months, a company spokesman said.” (source: IDG)

Later this year we are going to see if the British government, owing to Cabinet Office, goes ahead with plans of making ODF the default format for editable document exchanges. This could set an important precedence for other nations to follow, ensuring that their documents down fall down the digital ashtray with Microsoft’s proprietary formats.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Document Liberation… And justice for all

    Ever been in a situation when no maintained software reads your old files? During Libre Graphics Meeting 2014, Document Foundation announced a new project called Document Liberation.

    This project unites developers who help users to access data in file formats that are locked to proprietary and even abandoned software.

    Essentially it’s a new face of the existing joined team from LibreOffice and re-lab that is already “responsible” for libraries to read and convert Corel DRAW, Microsoft Visio and Publisher, Apple Keynote and Pages files. Implementations in end-user software include (but are not limited to) LibreOffice, Inkscape, Scribus, and Calligra Suite.

  2. Document Liberation Project aims to break vendor lock-in

    New open source developer consortium promises to end upgrade arms race, enabling users to reclaim orphaned documents

  3. Wanted: developers to make outdated documents readable again
  4. It’s Document Freedom Day 2014: What Does that Mean for You?

    You’ll recall that I noted above Document Freedom Day awareness is limited in the U.S. So is participation in DFD activities, as you can see from the image at left, which shows where they are being held this year. That’s a shame, because document freedom is a universal, and not a regional or national concern.

  5. Open-Xchange adds spreadsheet to open source online app suite

    Open source collaboration software vendor Open-Xchange has added a spreadsheet function to its open-source, web-based productivity suite, allowing the online editing and sharing of Microsoft Excel documents.

  6. Open Source Collaboration Provider Open-Xchange Launches OX Spreadsheet Tool: WHD.global 2014

03.27.14

ASA Should Issue a Fine and Immediately Stop Deception/FUD Campaign From Microsoft, Falsely Claiming That Google Reads Mail While Microsoft (Implicitly) Does Not

Posted in Deception, Europe, FUD, Google, Microsoft at 6:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Misinformed by Microsoft in attack ads

Couch potato

Summary: New leaks, and not just leaks from Edward Snowden, show that Microsoft is abusing people’s privacy in E-mail, so the ASA should put an end to Microsoft’s anti-Google ads

IN THE UK we have the ASA, which helps crack down on excessively deceiving advertising (almost all commercials are deceiving by design, but some are very blatantly lying). In the past we wrote about the ASA in relation to Microsoft. Microsoft is lying in a very gross way.

There is one particular type of adverts in the UK these days which can annoy me quite a lot. They are not Microsoft ads, they are anti-Google ads, sponsored by Microsoft (as Microsoft is promoting Penn, this is now their strategy). I heard those ads and complained about them before, citing the ASA as the body that needs to receive formal complaints about this. Well, what I didn’t know is that several Brits had already reported these to the ASA, noting that FUD campaigns as the business model are not acceptable, especially when the smears/FUD are untrue, or even libelous. According to a new report from the British media: “”At issue was a radio advertisement that limped onto the air as part of Microsoft’s hoary Scroogled campaign. In a voice-over, Microsoft used Pig Latin to disguise its criticism of its rival and then dwelled on that to make Outlook look like the better option.

“”A radio ad, for Microsoft Outlook, began with a character who stated, ‘may ivatepray e-mailway isway onway ofway eirthay usinessbay’,” explained the ASA.

“”The voice-over then stated ‘Pig Latin may be hard to understand, but you probably need it if you use Gmail, because Gmail scans every word of your emails to sell ads. But Outlook.com doesn’t. And you can choose to opt out of personalised ads. To stop Gmail from using your e-mails, use Outlook.com. Learn more at KeepYourEmailPrivate.com and keep your e-mails ivatepray’.”

“Catchy, snappy stuff, but it did not sit nicely with a couple of people who complained to the ASA about the ad taking liberties with the truth. It was suggested that while Microsoft did not make this clear, it scans its users’ emails too.”

Now, guess what? The ASA did nothing! Microsoft was allowed to get away with it because “the ad made no claims (whether explicit or implied) that Outlook.com did not use any other form of e-mail scanning.” (source)

This is “bizarre in light of recent revelations about Microsoft mail and chat,” said iophk, alluding to revelations that we covered earlier this month.

Perhaps it’s time to resubmit (or amend) the complaints to the ASA, citing documents leaked after Syrian crackers showed FBI-Microsoft relationships, in addition (consequently) to Microsoft’s admission that it is snooping on people and their E-mails for business reasons, not even national security reasons. This can at least lead Microsoft to dropping these false (or at best hypocritical) ads that pollute the British media and aggravate many Brits (rightly so).

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