Summary: Western Digital and other hardware companies help turn general-purpose machinery into Windows-expecting machinery
Our criticism of UEFI Restricted Boot is not just to do with GNU/Linux and BSD. It’s to do with a troubling trend where hardware gets closely tied to software. It’s an artificial limitation which is dangerous and costly. Tech tabloid ZDNet has this post which says “ARM now recommends UEFI as the preferred boot loader for its 64-bit processors that are based on the ARMv8 AArch64 architecture, silicon that is finding its way into all sorts of devices, from smartphones to servers and introduced a new raft of features, including a larger register file, enhanced addressing range and support for cryptography instructions.”
“With FAT preinstalled, Microsoft comes knocking to demand payments, even if support for FAT is implemented by Linux.”This is not good. And not just because of Microsoft. On devices there is no option for disabling Restricted Boot. Microsoft can exploit that for unfair advantage, or an antitrust violation. Moreover, says Claudio in D*, “First it was Winmodems, and now it’s Windrives? WTF?!? This is 2013, guys.”
To quote the article he references: “PC makers using the Black SSHD will be able to choose between WD’s proprietary driver and one provided by Intel. The drivers behave similarly, according to Rutledge, but they’re not identical. The WD driver was developed in-house and works with both Windows 7 and 8. In an interesting twist, that driver also employs system memory as part of the caching scheme. We’ll probably have to wait until the Haswell launch next month to find out exactly what Intel is bringing to the table.” (source)
As TomTom found out, there is another problem with storage devices. With FAT preinstalled, Microsoft comes knocking to demand payments, even if support for FAT is implemented by Linux. There is also preinstalled NTFS on Seagate, which makes it no better than Western Digital with built-in DRM (all magnetic drives seem to be Microsoft-infected). These are issues we need to protest against. It’s the beginning of the slippery slope. Hardware, unlike software. cannot be re-imaged (like replacing Windows with GNU/Linux). █
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Barnes and Noble: From hero to zero; Legitimising Microsoft FUD rather than challenging it, eventually selling out
Summary: The Barnes and Noble (B & N) saga continues following disclosure of a typically-NDA’d nastygram and a formal complaint to the government
There have been little concrete exhibits which show how much Microsoft profits from Android patent extortion. The figures may be negligible, but the goal of Microsoft is to discourage use of Android, not just to tax it. FUD has been a tool of choice. It’s effective to a degree, but it has hardly stopped Android’s explosive growth.
“Barnes & Noble was essentially passed a large bribe after it litigated against Microsoft’s extortion of Android (reverse-SLAPP by Microsoft).”There is this new post which attempts to quantity the cost of extortion. “Microsoft has had trouble getting people to use its Windows Phone operating systems, however, it might make as much as $3.4 billion on Android phones,” Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols writes.
This is based on conjectures and speculations. We oughtn’t help legitimise those. Remember the FUD about royalties allegedly paid by HTC [1, 2].
One should generally avoid certain companies not for paying Microsoft for Linux but for legitimising the claim that Linux has a debt to Microsoft. It’s a crucial point to grasp.
There is an interesting twist in the business of B & N, which we coincidentally wrote about earlier this week. “Shares of Barnes & Noble skyrocketed in early trading on Thursday after a report said Microsoft was offering $1 billion for the digital assets of the bookseller’s e-reader business.” That is what the trend-setting media says. Recall that “Microsoft already owns about 17.6 percent of the Nook division, having paid $300 million last year. According to TechCrunch, the company would seek to take over the unit’s e-books and devices operations.”
Barnes & Noble was essentially passed a large bribe after it litigated against Microsoft's extortion of Android (reverse-SLAPP by Microsoft). This was a threat to the perceived legitimacy of the extortion, so Microsoft paid up for the silence. Corruption indeed. Followed by coverup. There is not much for B & N to gain except money and in fact it continues to sell Android devices, not Windows. We showed it earlier in the week. Microsoft may already be extorting those devices through complicated-to-analyse extortion deals which target the manufacturer.
Swapnil Bhartiya, writing about AstroTurfing by Microsoft (“perception management”), has this to say: “The amount of resources Microsoft is investing in PR stunts – whether it be bogus patent signing deals with Android players (which could be about things like FAT partitions – B&N case already showed that all of Microsoft’s accusations were bogus and bluff and that’s why the company settled out side the court just before it moved forward and ‘paid’ B&N in the name of ‘investment) or these ad campaigns. The amount of experience Microsoft is gaining in smear campaigns Microsoft may actually have a better career as a video ad company than a software maker.”
Fortunately, the three Android tablets that my parents and I use are not part of the patent extortion blanket of Microsoft. Vote with your wallet and never buy anything at all from Barnes and Noble. it’s the only way for your voice to count. █
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The universal operating system should help hold Microsoft accountable for anticompetitive practices
Summary: With UEFI cracked as a security measure, all that is left can be deemed an impediment to GNU/Linux booting; hence, Debian GNU/Linux (leading among the free operating systems) should be used as evidence against Microsoft in an antitrust case
Microsoft cannot quite market the limitations of UEFI, notably restricted boot. Truth be told, boot-time malware is not the real threat but mostly a conceptual one (with proofs of concept put out there by security researchers), and moreover UEFI is easy for malicious entities to bypass [1, 2], as proven before (Torvalds, clearly not a fan of all this, saw it coming). Just like DRM, it hurts legitimate users and developers the most. No wonder there is an antitrust complaint over it,
“Truth be told, boot-time malware is not the real threat but mostly a conceptual one…”“A critical vulnerability in Internet Explorer 8 is being exploited in the wild and full information about how to make use of the vulnerability is now in widespread circulation. The recent attack on a sub-site of the US Department of Labor has revealed the attackers were in fact using a new exploit for a 0-day vulnerability which only affects Internet Explorer 8,” says this report. So why does Microsoft obsess over boot-time?
UEFI addresses an issue which hardly exists, it is a solution in search of a problem. A highly-anticipated Debian version was released the other day and it is not compatible with Microsoft’s latest hardware restrictions, says Sam Varghese. To quote:
The Debian GNU/Linux project released version 7.0 of its well-known Linux distribution on May 4, two years and three months after the last version came out.
Debian backs the FSF on this matter, so it can hopefully add its support to the antitrust complaint too. █
NB: I am a Debian GNU/Linux user. This distribution recently got some endorsements from the FSF, and vice versa. Its policies under the latest leadership are commendable.
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Accepting the status quo, like sheep led to slaughter
Summary: Red Hat is too soft on the issue of software patents, based on its comments to the USPTO; Linux/Android continue to suffer from software patents in court cases which may last years
Red Hat has hardly been a flag bearer in the fight against software patents. It is not as bad as IBM, but it is not always helpful, either. Red Hat itself is filing to receive software patents of its own, making a distinction between what it calls “bad” software patents and “good” software patents. It tends to focus on trolls and in its Web site OpenSource.com (Red Hat-run) it has almost a monopoly on views regarding software patents.
Nevertheless, in the wake of USPTO opening up to feedback Red Hat is making its policy known:
The USPTO has been asking the public to respond to a series of questions with suggestions on improving patents. It is aware that the technical community isn’t happy with the way patents are being issued, particularly software patents. You are familiar with some of the USPTO’s questions, because we at Groklaw responded to two of them, topic 1 on how to improve software patents, regarding functional language, and topic 2, suggestions for future topics for discussion.
Red Hat’s suggestions play along the lines of software patents as a given, which is problematic. Groklaw‘s ‘cref 66895 suggestions], on the other hand, were very good and they are essential for a meaningful discussion of the real issues. Elsewhere in Groklaw there is a discussion about a legal case involving the best-selling Linux devices, the ones from Samsung. Here are the latest two updates on that:
1. Joint Case Management Statement Filed in Apple v. Samsung
The judge in the first Apple v. Samsung patent case in California, the Hon. Lucy Koh, asked the parties to file a joint case management statement, just in case she decides to go forward with an immediate second jury on the issue of damages on the 14 products where the first jury got the math wrong. And they have now done so [PDF]. There will be a hearing on all this on April 29. Of course, they disagree. Because they don’t agree on how to go forward, they each set out their positions, once again. The short version is that Apple wants to hurry up and have the trial immediately and Samsung wants to hear from the appeals court before the new damages trial goes forward, so as to ensure the same mistakes aren’t repeated.
2. Judge Koh’s Order in Apple v Samsung: No Stay on Damages Retrial, Unless…
Judge Lucy Koh has reached a decision [PDF] on going forward on the retrial on damages in Apple v. Samsung. Trial is set now for November 12th, on damages only, same Daubert rulings, motions in limine, discovery disputes, and evidentiary objections ruled on the same as the first trial, meaning if she made mistakes in the first trial, they’ll be repeated in the retrial. “The parties may not relitigate these issues,” she writes. So it’s all for the appeal court to figure out. She isn’t interested in reviewing all that. So if the appeals court orders a third trial, that’s the way it will have to be. She wants to keep the damages retrial short and sweet and limited to just one issue, and then send it on its way to appeal, so no new theories and no new fact discovery. There is a schedule for expert discovery. The jury will be 8 people, with the parties’ given three peremptory challenges each. Apple asked for the very same jury instructions, but she says they will get together on October 17th to discuss “how to
present infringement and validity findings” to the new jury. Other than that, she is silent on that point.
Trial expected at the end of this year, eh? Justice is taking too long, so it’s SCO all over again in that respect. What needs to occur some time in the next year or two is elimination of software parents in the United States (or radical cut-down). Red Hat just doesn’t go far enough to achieve that. We need other fronts in the fight against software patents; Google ain’t it, either. █
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Summary: Yet another display of bias from the state in which former Microsoft executives run the government and write the policy
A few days ago we wrote about 'former' Microsoft people inside Washington state authorities enabling Microsoft to avoid billions of dollars in taxes. This is corruption through infiltration.
There is a major battle going on over the future of Android. A lot of money is at stake. Apple and Microsoft are suing Motorola (Google) and the MSBBC serves their party line, still (the BBC has been Android-hostile for years).
The Seattle courts, as biased (in favour of Microsoft) as one should expect them to be, continue to harm Android. After Microsoft had sued Motorola there was an attempt at deterrence by Motorola, but the courts don’t let it be. As CBS put it: “Judge determines Motorola is entitled to $1.8 million in royalty rates for patents used in Xbox — not the $4 billion it had sought.”
Notice the following remarks:
The Verge asks if anyone can work out why Google bought Motorola. Their argument being that they’re not having much luck in enforcing the patent portfolio against anyone so therefore that’s $12.5 billion just wasted.
Google sought to prevent the Apple/Microsoft cartel from getting Motorola’s ammunition like the cartel got Nortel’s and Novell’s. Google can also use Motorola’s portfolio for deterrence, but silly corruptible Seattle courts are one-sided. How many people in this system are former Microsoft staff?
Motorola will get 3.5¢ per Xbox; not the $4-$6 per machine it wanted.
Here is good coverage and a post about “FRAND, Uncertainty & Doubt”:
It’s been interesting to watch the latest patent litigation between Microsoft and Motorola. The judge’s opinion have been well documented (see Groklaw’s copy here and an annotated one there over at the Essential Patent blog). Now I’m not going to offer an informed legal perspective in this post and by the way, “IANAL”. What I’m expressing here are the views of someone who’s been in the I.T. industry, the field of digital standards and Free Software for over a decade.
FRAND has had until the end of the month of April 2013 no definition. What “Fair” terms, let along “Reasonable And Non Discriminatory” mean had no agreed definition. Worse, it had no definition at all. It is the first time that a U.S. judge is struggling with this matter and while it is applied to a specific case only (the use of patents in the H.264 codec claimed by Motorola to be used by Microsoft in its products), it is nonetheless interesting to see someone actually tried to evaluate them.
Here is an earlier report and some further analysis:
I’ve found some materials that I think will help us to put the order [PDF] from Judge James Robart in context, the order setting a RAND rate for Microsoft to pay Motorola. From the materials, particularly this report [PDF] from a conference on patent pools and standards bodies held in Brussels in April, 2012, I think you will see that the judge has used the wrong ruler, namely patent pools, to set a rate that is not fair to Motorola for its standards patents. And as you will see, that is the very danger that the conference highlighted, that patent pools can impede innovation, by lowering the price for newcomers to a field who wish to merely implement the standard, like Microsoft, by letting them unfairly underpay those who did the research to develop the standard, as in Motorola.
At the same time, Seattle court are pounding Motorola. Is this justice or “just us” (Seattle)? █
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Summary: BT starts sending out nastygrams to companies which facilitate secure and standards-based communication
I have been having serious disputes with BT recently. It’s not the first time, either. I am currently speaking to managers there about their poor service that has gone on since January. My Internet connection’s socket being an utter disaster is not my sole reason for disliking BT though. The company has been attacking Linux using FUD and patents [1, 2]; now it goes after free protocols for secure communications using patents, based on this report from the British press which says:
VoIP-to-PSTN termination providers and SIP vendors will be watching their inboxes for a lawyer’s letter from BT, which has kicked off a taxing licensing program levying a fee on the industry, based on a list of 99 patents.
As noted in Australian telco newsletter Communications Day, the move seems to have caught the VoIP industry by surprise, with SIP Forum chair Richard Shockley saying the move has shocked the industry and is already frightening smaller players.
BT is a dangerous giant which seems to have aligned with Microsoft a little too often in recent years. Who is BT trying to defend here, Skype the spyware? Its overpriced landline business? This is an attack on the customers. If BT cannot be reformed by criticism, then hopefully it will suffer consequences for its behaviour. We really need secure communication in the age of Big Brother states. In the news today we have articles such as:
In a CNN interview about the Boston Bombings investigations, a former FBI counterterrorism agent admitted a startling (yet unsurprising) fact: “all digital communications” are recorded and stored. All of them. All phone calls, all e-mails and all social media interactions. According to him, there is definitely a way of retracing and listening to any phone call made on US soil. While most Americans ignore or deny this reality, the shaping of the USA into a heavily monitored police state is complete. Here is part of the CNN interview.
Skype is spied on and so are cellphones and landlines. So what’s left for secure long-distance communication? This is a privacy and civil rights issue, not just a matter of software freedom and open standards. █
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Summary: UEFI Restricted Boot continues to be blamed for impeding the growth of free operating systems amid widespread Vista 8 dissatisfaction
The truth of the matter is that “Windows 8 is making only marginal progress and Windows RT continues to flop,” says the Associate Editor of InformationWeek.com, which is a Microsoft-friendly Web site. Even Windows boosters hardly ever denied that Vista 8 is a flop. They just blame others, e.g. OEMs, the users, etc. Mr. Pogson points out that Microsoft is creating a new breed of lock-in and OEMs are still part of it. With UEFI Restricted Boot, which distros are still just trying to catch up with, Microsoft has even upset some rather Microsoft-friendly entities, as Ravi reminds us. The Linux Foundation says that “this has raised concerns that Microsoft Secure Boot will make it difficult to install Linux or other operating systems on a Windows 8 computer.”
The very notion of a “Windows 8 computer” is rather sickening. Microsoft wants to impede general-purpose computer architecture. A Linux and BSD proponents site says that Vista 8 is the “most important reason to switch to [GNU]\Linux” and UEFI has a lot to do with it. The site’s author starts by stating:
As somebody who fully embraces the Free Software principle, I have no need for Windows 8 in my environment. Never used any version of Windows, and never will.
Previous versions of Windows were bad enough, but Windows 8, with its Restricted Boot requirements, have made dual-booting a Linux distribution with Windows 8 on store-bought computers a royal pain in the rear end.
Developers mostly reject Vista 8 and even Linux critics (masquerading as “advocates”), lean on the FSF for support. To quote:
The Free Software Foundation has taken recently to running a rather aggressive campaign.
Go to the website and judge for yourself. I hope the information helps you to make an informed decision that includes switching away from Windows to Linux.
“A hedge fund whose purpose is to influence boards sees potential in Microsoft and wants it to bring Office to more platforms,” according to a new report on which our contributor remarks as follows: “The office format monopoly is what ties people to Windows and helps keep the Windows monopoly. Here is pressure to break that.”
Windows on portable devices is a failure as Windows RT never took off and one pundit wrote:
The Web usage numbers are in: Windows RT can’t get traction, and Lenovo doesn’t believe RT ‘is what businesses want’
From the same site we pull this other criticism:
iOS and Android work well enough on a smaller screen, but Windows 8 will not
This is an area where Microsoft has been trying to make embedded chips Linux-hostile, especially with companies like ARM involved. This never worked because Microsoft lacked inertia in the area, but what about the desktop? A formal antitrust complaint has been lodged. █
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Meanwhile in Taipei…
Summary: Foxconn and other Taiwan-based corporations seem to be grouping against Android, which has mostly benefited the Koreans
Foxconn, which sold Linux down the river (to Microsoft), does not self-brand devices it makes, so adding it to the list of companies to avoid for Linux patent tax would be hard. But there are other issues to consider.
The other day we saw Microsoft seeding some new types of FUD against Android; I heard some of those lies repeated by salesmen at a store when I bought Android devices. The reality is, Google is much more secure than Microsoft and when Google got cracked it was Windows’ fault (thereafter it got banned for internal use). There is still some FUD about everything Google, but Microsoft is always behind it. The Foxconn patent deal may in fact involve nothing but FUD; we don’t know if Microsoft is really being paid and we cannot check due to secrecy. This secrecy should be challenged by government officials; it’s detrimental to everyone but the conspirators, that’s why they insist on it.
Upon the signing of this deal Pamela Jones wrote: “I hope Foxconn loses all that business, then, followed by the FTC and DOJ investigating antitrust issues.” Wishful thinking. Microsoft has got the government in its pocket. It is one of its biggest sponsors (Obama’s top technology funder when he got elected).
Recently it turned out that the home of Foxconn liaised against Android. To quote a pro-Apple site:
Apple is also believed to be playing a key anti-Samsung role for Taiwanese companies over display panels. Last year, device manufacturer Foxconn attempted to buy a 10 percent stake in panel maker Sharp Corp., a move that the AP noted was believed to have been spurred by Apple as the company expressed “eagerness to find an alternative supplier to Samsung.”
“Well, well,” wrote Jones. “This puts the Foxconn-Microsoft patent deal into an interesting context, wouldn’t you say?”
Pamela Jones separately added: “Remember when SCO Group complained to the courts that the GPL, the license on Linux, was UnConstitutional? No one, Darl McBride, told them can compete with free. And Microsoft helped to fund SCO. So did Sun, now belonging to Oracle. And here we go again. How pitiful.
“Evidently the first complaint against Google didn’t go the way they hoped, so they regroup and try a new angle. Here’s the problem: Google isn’t guilty of anything like what they claim. You can just modify you phone any way you want, including removing Android altogether and using Linux, purely, instead. Or you can fork Android, without any consequences, as Amazon has done, without consequences and without having to prominently display a thing for Google. You have freedom of choice. So this new complaint is, frankly, ludicrous. It’s actually offensive, because it’s cynical. Here’s how I read their complaints: they are saying to me, “We can’t compete with Google as far as products are concerned. We are accustomed to gouging our customers on price, and with a free offering in the market, we can’t keep doing that.” Is that really something antitrust agencies like the EU Commission should be helping them with? And how about the EU Commission look into how come the same companies keep suing and complaining about Google? Any antitrust implications if the old guard plots together to kill off the new guy trying to compete with something better than the world has fallen in love with? I do want to commend Apple for apparently not joining in this.”
The European authorities have been too weak for effective action recently. They also helped ligitimise software patents after they had rejected them in 2005. US law keeps spreading. As noted recently in relation to the CFAA, that’s how it goes (and thus we cover a lot of US news):
How can all of us non-US people help with this? Just by mentioning “Your senseless laws will create dangerous precedents and will “inspire” other law-makers around the world!”?
In relation to Android a new petition was set up, stating:
As can be seen in the Oracle v Google lawsuit, legacy vendors are getting together to try to overturn a court ruling that APIs are NOT copyrightable. If successful in their appeal, the ruling would prevent competitive implementations of the same API, resulting in a new kind of lock-in that reduces competition and set a precedent that affects all APIs and programming languages
Oracle is a member of the CPTN conspiracy (as in conspiracy to harm common rivals, using patents), which received Novell’s patents. A “Novell exec plots company’s return,” says this article which states/quotes claims as follows:
“Since the Attachmate acquisition, Novell has been asleep at the wheel in several competitive markets,” said Hyoun Park, principal analyst at IT research firm Nucleus Research
Well, Nokia is the same. Microsoft destroyed it just for its patents. A pattern is emerging here, with Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Nokia, and even some manufacturers in Taiwan seeking to use their patent-stacking tactics to destroy the market leader, Linux/Android. Apathy from the public is the greatest thing the conspirators could hope for. █
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