“Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make the complete failure of the competition’s technology part of the mythology of the computer industry. We want to place selection pressure on those companies and individuals that show a genetic weakness for competitors’ technologies, to make the industry increasingly resistant to such unhealthy strains, over time.”
–Microsoft, internal document
Summary: At the CBS-owned ZDNet, which is Free/Open Source software-hostile, new FUD surfaces, but the FUD is so flawed that a full rebuttal is easy and almost imperative
Microsoft still chronically hates Free/libre software (especially classic copyleft) and it is desperately craving for some ‘dirt’ on it, no matter how hard it is to find. Microsoft propagandist (for nearly a decade now, or at least half a decade, both at CBS and at IDG) Mary Branscombe decided to pick on Free/libre software. The result is laughable. It’s a terrible piece. ZDNet, part of CBS, published this nonetheless. The editor (probably Larry) was apparently OK with that.
With fair use in mind, we are going to deconstruct everything in Branscombe’s article and show that it’s just a pile of baloney. Let’s start with the headline:
“Open source: Free as in speech, beer – or puppy?”
Not even original. Sun’s old CEO used this analogy (“puppy”) a very long time ago, before Sun defected to Free/Open Source software (FOSS) and got a new CEO. Branscombe is just copying or even ‘stealing’ the analogy without any attribution.
“It’s hard to give developers more control over how their work is used and still keep it open source.”
That’s an insane talking point. It’s like saying that the needs of the developers to oppress the users outweigh the needs and the interests of users. Branscombe encourages and advocates user-subjugating software. How ethical does it make her seem? Moreover, as we shall explain later, this affects all types of software, including proprietary software. It’s not a FOSS issue at all.
“When you put your code out under an open source licence, how much control can you expect over what it’s used for?”
Free software developers are developing because they want people to use their software. If Branscombe had spoken to any developers (even those of proprietary software), she would quickly realise that exercising control over the users is not the goal of these developers. Exploiting users is often the job (or the goal) of non-technical managers, who sometimes share users’ data with marketers, spies, etc.
“Open source has often been described as ‘free as in speech, rather than free as in beer’. Yes, it’s software that’s free to use, but the lack of a price tag isn’t always the main point.”
That’s quoting Richard Stallman without naming him. But to say that free software means “free to use” is to show lack of comprehension of his points. Free/libre software isn’t about “free to use”; the four freedoms which Stallman speaks about are what it’s really about.
“For some it’s about not being encumbered by limiting commercial licences or patents and royalties, for others it’s about the importance of being able to see and modify the source code of what they’re running (or distributing source so users can see it).”
By “commercial licences” she means proprietary licences. That’s a different thing. Regarding “patents and royalties”, this may inadvertently refer to software covered by the terms described under the text of the GPLv3.
The point about “distributing source so users can see it” is bizarre because visibility alone does not make software “Free software” or even “Open Source”. That’s just how Microsoft fraudulently openwashes a lot of its software. Branscombe helps this villainous mirage.
Now comes some of the more horrid stuff, as Branscombe probably believes that she kindly introduced FOSS in a fair and balanced fashion.
“And as I’ve long said, open source can also be ‘free as in puppy’; you take on the responsibility of care and keeping when you start to depend on open source software.”
Right, because nobody ever comes to depend on proprietary software? Whose stewardship and maintenance are both monopolised by people whose agenda differs from yours? This, if anything, is a point against proprietary software.
“You can run into problems if the project is no longer developed, or pulled suddenly when the company is bought by Apple and you discover you were using open source components that depended on a closed source core like FoundationDB, and that core is no longer available.”
Because proprietary software companies never get bought? Or discontinue a product? Oh, wait, they do. And often. If it’s Free software, then you can at least take charge or rely on others to take charge (e.g. forks or newly-created successors). Again, if anything, this is a point against proprietary software. Branscombe twists a problem with proprietary software as one exclusive to Free software. We saw other examples of that shameless spin very recently, as recently as one week ago.
“That makes it vital to always look carefully at the licence for open source software, especially if your business is involved (that’s part of the care and keeping of the free puppy).”
Right, because proprietary software licences never change? Or the EULA (see how Vista 10 trashes privacy this week)? You don’t even get to vote on or reject those. If a Free software project diverges from a licence in a way that people are opposed to, they can then fork while maintaining the more desirable licence. This, in turn, puts more pressure on the developer to obey the needs of the users. It keeps developers honest and obedient to their users; they cannot merely ‘occupy’ and thereby mistreat users. Isn’t that a positive thing in a moral society?
“But for some software developers, the free speech comparison is getting more relevant.”
The example she thus provides is irrelevant to free speech:
“Take the GIMP project, which stopped using SourceForge to distribute the Windows installer for its open source image editor in 2013, because of the ads that started appearing on the site featuring download buttons for alternative versions of the software.”
Advertising is not a matter of free speech and denying advertising is not a matter of free speech, either.
“GIMP left the site up because there were so many links to it online, but stopped updating the installers there. SourceForge deemed the product abandoned and started mirroring the releases from GIMP, but it also ‘experimented’ with wrapping the GIMP installer with adware.”
Therein lies the problem. Adware. It’s not just about ads on a page. It’s proprietary garbage that is not wanted and is improperly bundled.
“The GIMP team wasn’t happy (and SourceForge stopped wrapping the installer, although it didn’t stop mirroring it). But because GIMP is under the GPL and LGPL licences SourceForge did nothing wrong: those licences allow software to be repackaged.”
Nobody ever alleged that SourceForge had violated any software licences, so it’s unclear where Branscombe is going with this. No point is being made except the fact that developers can revoke endorsement (not distribution) of some piece of software if inappropriately packaged. GIMP developers packed up and moved. That’s a good thing. Some call it “free market”.
“Android tool developer Collin Mulliner was equally upset to discover that Hacking Team (an Italian company that sells surveillance tools to governments) had used his Android framework to build their Android voice call monitoring software.”
That is a licence violation. So what’s her point?
“”For the future I will use a license for all my software that excludes use for this kind of purpose,” he said in the blog he wrote to make it clear that he didn’t work on the Hacking Team tool. But that might be hard: writing a licence that lets people use your code freely means they can use the code for anything they want.”
But Hacking Team violated the terms of the GPL. Therein lies the main issue. Proprietary software would not have done any better at preventing use for malicious purposes, so how is this even relevant?
“Douglas Crockford famously added a line to his licence for JSON that said it couldn’t be used for evil (and just as famously said that IBM had asked for a variation because they couldn’t guarantee that their customers wouldn’t use it for evil).”
Is that a bad thing?
“Yes, the GPL has repeatedly been used in court, but mostly to force companies to comply with the rules about open sourcing their own code if they’ve published software based on GLP-licenced code.”
The typo/bad English aside (the verb has an “s” in it, but maybe this poor pieces was composed in a rush), is Branscombe trying to insinuate that honouring a licence is a bad thing?
“Commercial use is easier to police, but anyone who is going to use open source code for evil is unlikely to pay much attention to licences that say they can’t, and having people use your code for purposes you don’t approve of is pretty much the definition of free speech.”
Proprietary software (commercial software as Branscombe calls it) has exactly the same issues, so what is her point anyway? Where is that “free puppy” point ever coming into play?
“It’s going to take some careful writing of licences to give developers more control over how software they open source is used in the ways they want, without stopping the open uses they want to enable.”
Again, nothing to do with “Open Source” (Free software) at all. Branscombe takes an issue that applies to all software and frames it as one pertaining to Free software. But why? Just look at Branscombe’s history of badmouthing Microsoft’s competitors. █
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The “legally-binding” and “transparency” conundrums grossly distorted
Summary: News sites mislead their readers, teaching them that the biggest dangers associated with proprietary software are in fact problems exclusive to Free/libre Open Source software
FOR Microsoft to ever pretend to care about security would basically mean to lie, blatantly. Microsoft works hand in glove with the NSA and it has, on numerous occasions, admitted that true security isn’t the goal. Its actions too show this repeatedly. Known flaws -- or holes, or bug doors, or whatever one frames them as -- are not being patched unless the public finds out about them.
In order to bolster security perceptions and to give an illusion that Microsoft actually cares about security and invests in security, the company has just hired some staff in Israel (acquisition is one other way to frame this). The media calls it “security provider”, but given Israel’s record on back doors, cracking (e.g. Stuxnet development), wiretapping etc. this is rather laughable. A lot of Microsoft’s so-called ‘security’ products are made in Israel, and some companies in this military-driven industry facilitate and cater for spies using back doors, usually under the guise of ‘security’ (they mean “national security”). We wrote about this in past years.
“This proves that security through obscurity is a myth that merely encourages people to rely on poorly implemented programs with shoddy security, whereupon developers choose to hide the ugliness of the code.”We were rather disturbed to see this bizarre article yesterday. Titled “Hackers targeting .NET shows the growing pains of open source security”, the article is a big lie. The headline is definitely a lie. .NET is PROPRIETARY (still), it has holes in it, and some fool tries to use it to call Free/libre software “not secure”. Let’s assume for a second that .NET code becoming visible to the world exposes many holes, indeed. It proves exactly the opposite of what the headline says then. If anything, it shows that Microsoft keeping the code secret assured low quality code and bred vulnerable code. Once shown to the world, these holes are being exploited. This proves that security through obscurity is a myth that merely encourages people to rely on poorly implemented programs with shoddy security, whereupon developers choose to hide the ugliness of the code. A lot of the claims from the article come from a FOSS foe, Trend Micro, but they can be framed correctly to state that, if anything, a public audit of .NET now shows just how terrible proprietary software can be, having never been subjected to outside scrutiny.
In other disturbing headlines we find another inversion of the truth. The Business Software Alliance (BSA), or the EULA police, has done a lot to show how dangerous proprietary software licences can be. Nevertheless, Slashdot with its pro-Microsoft slant as of late [1, 2] gives a platform to Christopher Allan Webber.
“Is this another false “I really like the GPL except” post,” asked us a reader. To quote the author: “The fastest way to develop software which locks down users for maximum monetary extraction is to use free software as a base” (oh, yes, those greedy Free software developers!)
The article has a misleading/provocative headline (hence we provide no direct link) and Bruce Perens, who had already accused Black Duck of FUD against the GPL (“I think it’s 100% B.S.,” he said three years ago), responded to the piece by stating:
I help GPL violators clean up their act, it’s my main business.
Every one has had a total lack of due diligence. I will come in and find that they have violated the licenses of 21 proprietary software companies (this is a real customer example) by integrating their code into their main product, just like the GPL code. Some of them only had an “evaluation” license, some not even that, some wildly violated the terms of any license they got.
Most of them are in silicon valley. They seem to have the attitude that they will clean up their legal problems when they’re rich, and nothing but getting their product out of the door matters until then.
They don’t ask me to feel sorry for them. I bill them a lot, and in the end, they’re clean and legal.
When it comes to legal risk and licensing, nothing beats proprietary software. It’s risky, it’s expensive (lock-in makes the exit barriers considerably higher), and it is very hard to obey or comply with, especially when you are low on staff and funds (must renew licences all the time). Contrariwise, it is very easy to comply with copyleft; there is no renewal work required and no renewal fees. All one is required to do is to maintain the copyleft of the code used. The rules are very simple. █
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Summary: CIO, a Web site of IDG, smears Microsoft’s competition by quoting sources that are closely aligned with and/or subservient to Microsoft
AN old ‘friend’, a branch of Microsoft AstroTurfing ‘Consumer’ ‘Watchdog’, has just reared its ugly head again with help from IDG‘s “CIO” (a misleading site name). Consumer Watchdog is not a watchdog and it’s not for consumers. IDG should know better than that by now. Consumer Watchdog is an attack dog and a front group against Google. Right now it complains that Google is not censoring enough (as if censorship is a good thing). Remember that censorship is not privacy and “Consumer Watchdog” cares only about making Google look bad, it never cared about privacy at all.
To quote the nonsense from IDG’s “CIO” site (neglecting to correctly identify the messenger): “Consumer Watchdog will file a complaint against Google with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission Tuesday, said John Simpson, director of the group’s Privacy Project. The complaint will ask the FTC to rule that Google, by declining to delete search engine links on request from U.S. residents, is an unfair business practice that violates the U.S. FTC Act.”
‘Consumer’ ‘Watchdog’ has a Privacy Project? That’s just hilarious. That’s would be like BP forming a “green group”. Moreover, it is hilarious that IDG covers “privacy” and pretends that it cares about the concept because CIO, for example, based on NoScript, want to run a massive number of scripts on my machine from just about thirty different domains! Holy cow! The reader is the product and browsing habits are up for sale to so many entities at the same time. The same is true for other sites of IDG (there are many of them).
“The original source of that really bad scraper site is a CIO trash opinion piece,” wrote someone to us. IDG has become complicit in lobbying and AstroTurfing, whether it realises this or not.
Another new piece of garbage came from IDG only a short while ago, quoting XenSource (Microsoft-friendly as we have shown many times in past years) as some kind of authority on FOSS. This is again mischaracterising the messenger to give the messenger undeserved credibility. That’s like calling Richard Stallman an “open core” proponent. The headline boldly states that “open source business model is a failure” and the body belatedly adds vital context to this headline: “That’s the conclusion of Peter Levine, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm that backed Facebook, Skype, Twitter and Box as startups. Levine is also former CEO of XenSource, a company that commercialized products based on the open source Xen hypervisor.”
“…sites that pretend to offer ‘news’ often just treat readers (audience) as the product, selling the audience to the real client (the advertiser or agenda setter).”Levine is not a truly technical person and he ignores plenty of evidence that open source as a business model works, and often works very well. A lot of people can easily claim that the proprietary software business model is inherently flawed because very few proprietary software companies sell stuff (only a few giants do). A lot of those claiming that no open source business model can work also say FOSS is sexist, racist, not secure, brings licence/liceinsing risk, etc. — the very same things that can be said about proprietary software. If only 10% of Free/libre software companies manage to survive in the long term (based on level of sustainable income) it might not be any different, statistically, from their proprietary counterparts. The company my wife and I work for does manage to make income from Free/libre software development and maintenance. This company is far from the only one in Europe and many are doing very well. Proprietary software is not a business model. Free/libre software development is not a business model either. It’s modality of distribution/development. People buy services, not zeros and ones. For IDG to publish and republish misleading headlines like “Why the open source business model is a failure” is merely to provoke. For IDG to call ‘Consumer’ ‘Watchdog’ a “privacy group” (even in the headline) and to label censorship “right to be forgotten” is to reveal sheer bias. Remember that Microsoft is a huge client of IDG (advertising, IDC contracts and so on), so maybe we oughtn’t be very shocked by that. Here is a great new example of proprietary software advertment disguised as an article. It bashes Free/libre software as a whole, too, while promoting one particular piece of proprietary software in Computer Weekly.
Watch out what you read because there is plenty of agenda on sale everywhere. Moreover, sites that pretend to offer ‘news’ often just treat readers (audience) as the product, selling the audience to the real client (the advertiser or agenda setter). That’s their business model. Very unethical. █
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Summary: Black Duck uses gullible (or easy to manipulate) journalists to spread its marketing talking points, which grossly overstate risks of using Free software
THE Microsoft-connected firm Black Duck was started as an anti-GPL entity, by its very own admission. This firm which keeps openwashing itself at every opportunity is purely proprietary and it holds patents on software. So how can one be fooled into characterising it as “the open source vendor”, as this new article does? ChannelWeb calls it “open source”. That’s like calling a demolition company “builder”. This article is basically a container of typical FUD, not checked for accuracy but just parroted, based on the vendor’s claims (trying to sell its own proprietary software): “He said 80 per cent of enterprises using open source do not know what type of open source code they have, where it is located or if there are any vulnerabilities in it – something his firm’s offering helps with.”
What about vulnerabilities in proprietary software? Many of them cannot be fixed, they are not remediable. What about proprietary software licences? Have they decided to ignore what the BSA does to British businesses?
“Black Duck is just trying to make money by scaring businesses and making them dependent on proprietary snake oil.”ChannelBiz, at the same time (also in the UK) published similar nonsense which may suggest that Black Duck is quite probably pressuring British journalists to print (or reprint) Black Duck nonsense. Here is how the latter put it: “Bland said that while nearly 80 percent of enterprise companies are using open source, a majority acknowledge that they don’t know what open source code they have, where it is located, or if it has known security vulnerabilities. And few, he said, have any open source management processes.”
Taking points again. Not even an independent study.
Black Duck is an ugly parasite that should be shunned by the Free software community. Black Duck is just trying to make money by scaring businesses and making them dependent on proprietary snake oil. █
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Image courtesy of Red Hat, demonstrating lack of correlation between severity and logos/brands
Summary: Some more FUD from firms such as Sonatype, which hope to make money by making people scared of Free/libre software
The corporate media is in the business of selling (for corporations), not informing. Advertising is the business model, as well as media ‘partnerships’ (euphemism for PR). Security firms too are in the business of selling, not informing. Misinformation often helps improve sales. We have already ranted quite a lot about media misdirection, designed to sell products or malign the competitors of those who try to sell unnecessary products. We must assume that this is happening because it has always been happening; it’s just that it got a lot more frequent now that Free/libre is more widely used.
The other day IDG published some promotion of Veracode. To quote one paragraph: “The scale of the problem is significant. Cryptographic issues are the second most common type of flaws affecting applications across all industries, according to a report this week by application security firm Veracode.”
This is not an independent security researcher; it is the Black Duck-connected Veracode (Black Duck came from Microsoft and VeraCode’s co-founder recently joined Black Duck), which overlooks security issues with proprietary software. Veracode is not an objective observer; it is trying to sell something. Sonatype too, a nasty company which we wrote about before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], rears its ugly head in the media, in an article provocatively titled “Open-Source Code Can Be More Dangerous Than Useful”.
So Sonatype has launched yet another FUD attack on Free software, using myths and rhetoric, capitalising on gullible ‘journalists’ who would print just about anything, along with clueless pasting of bugs with logos (for extra fear), no discussion about severe bugs in proprietary software, and many other issues. This article is relaying marketing from Sonatype and dramatises it even further. “It gets worse,” says the writer, “according to Sonatype: Many of the software companies that have built insecurities right into their products wouldn’t be able to tell which of their applications are affected by a known component flaw because of poor inventory practices.”
Well, proprietary software deliberately adds flaws to act as secret back doors. How about that in the discussion? The article totally omits that. The article then adds some talking points from the FOSS-hostile Symantec, another company which tries to sell its proprietary software based on perceptions of insecurity.
Thankfully, there are a couple of comments there (below the article) that highlight the issues with the article; both are titled “Not only open source…”
As Free/libre software becomes more mainstream we should expect more parasites like Sonatype to look out for fools who are willing to do their marketing, monetising trash-talk. █
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Summary: Many Free/libre software-hostile articles from IDG (worsened this past week) exploit public miscomprehension or misunderstandings about computer security
TECHRIGHTS readers are advised to treat with great caution the output of IDG, perhaps the biggest network writing in a variety of languages about technology on the Internet (the paper publications of IDG are mostly defunct by now).
Readers may still recall the regular FUD from Sonatype [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], a firm which is not itself anything like a Free software firm but sure likes to talk about Free software (negatively). Sonatype’s shameless and self-promotional talking points are now being masqueraded as media articles (in the IDG network) and for extra FUD they are reposted it in many sites of IDG, even rarely-accessed ones. It smacks of misuse of media resources. They are also modifying the headline for extra reach (SEO in the news aggregators) with this same FUD that is based on/derived from a self-promotional Sonatype press release.
“If Edward Snowden’s NSA and GCHQ leaks taught us anything, it’s that proprietary software is not secure and Free software should not tolerate proprietary blobs or hardware (e.g. in hard drives).”Sonatype should issue/produce a study on how many proprietary systems are not being patched. Or worse: say how many don’t get fixed by the vendor; how many bits of proprietary software have severe flaws with never even fix issued? How many flaws are not being revealed to the public? See how Microsoft admits hiding flaws. What about back doors (intentional flaws)? Abandoned software with secret code is almost guaranteed to be Swiss cheese. These debates are mostly missing from corporate media. Only yesterday security guru Bruce Schneier wrote: “One of the biggest conceptual problems we have is that something is believed secure until demonstrated otherwise. We need to reverse that: everything should be believed insecure until demonstrated otherwise.”
Glancing at another IDG piece from the past few days, it looks like there is agenda, maybe the editor’s or publisher’s (Microsoft and Apple are big clients, e.g. with advertising and IDC contracts). The piece is a one-sided attack on Free software security; flaws in Free software aren’t any worse (or more in quantity) than in proprietary software, developers are just not hiding them. That’s not hard to understand, is it? IDG likes to promote this ‘New Illusion’ of Free software being not secure (part of the latest FUD wave/strategy), using bugs with “branding” [1, 2, 3], irrespective or real severity.
If Edward Snowden’s NSA and GCHQ leaks taught us anything, it’s that proprietary software is not secure and Free software should not tolerate proprietary blobs or hardware (e.g. in hard drives). Don’t let IDG change the consensus. Surely IDG has the budget to hire some technical journalists who can challenge myth makers, but would that ultimately suit the agenda and appease existing customers? █
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Summary: Insecurity firm McAfee, whose record on Free software is appalling (it is Windows-centric for its business), continues years of tradition by slinging mud at Tor
TECHRIGHTS regards and has for many years considered McAfee to be a leading source of FUD against Free software. To give a very recent example, McAfee is connected to the "VENOM" hype (former management), just like Microsoft.
The latest McAfee FUD targets Tor [1-4]. It’s FUD which associates Tor with crime. Framing Tor as a crime tool is like framing kitchen knives as weapons for murder, but this kind of characterisation sure fits the current war against Tor (anonymity). The attack on encryption is also on the rise and much of the British media is now spreading propaganda that associates encryption with terrorism. A recent movie that I watched, The Imitation Game, shrewdly associates encryption with the Nazis. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
The ransomware is free to use but site retains 20 percent of any ransom that is collected, McAfee researcher says.
We might be entering a whole new era of malware, one where even those who lack any semblance of deep technical expertise will be able to acquire and disseminate viruses and the like on the fly.
A free collection of files has been discovered that aids in the creation of ransomware; the process of encrypting the contents of someone’s computer until they pay to have it unlocked. Set your price and away you go.
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Any logo/s yet?
Summary: The Microsoft crowd is good only at marketing, even when it comes to small bugs in software
Another brand for a bug, namely “logjam”, was made up by Microsoft et al. Linux sites cover this and add to the panic already. As the Microsoft-friendly BBC put it: “The “LogJam attack” was discovered by researchers at Microsoft and a number of US and French universities.” This “logjam” nonsense already has its own brand and even a dedicated Web site, just like Heartbleed™. As a reminder, Heartbleed™ too was coined by a Microsoft-connected firm, despite the fact that the bug was found by a man from Google.
Just over a week ago a Microsoft-connected firm spread the word VENOM™ as part of a marketing/propaganda campaign, serving to discourage companies from adopting Free/libre software for virtualisation. People remember brands better than they remember numbers (of advisories) or technical details, which may or may not indicate level of severity. █
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