…but some people install it because it doesn’t cost them anything upfront
“I’m going to f—ing kill Google.”
–Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO
Summary: A roundup of recent reports about Windows 10, which is akin to Windows Vista in many ways
VISTA 10 is a mess. Ask the management of Microsoft what it thinks of it (while no cameras or microphones point at the management’s direction). When Vista was released the company gloated and dubbed it the “best ever” although later E-mails (requested by subpoena) showed that internally the opposite was being said. Ask Microsoft’s engineers what they think of Vista 10 (I have). Look at how a third mega patch got released within just 2.5 weeks, essentially acting almost like a re-release of the whole operating system given its massive size (almost everything at the core gets replaced).
See “Bill Gates dumped a huge amount of Microsoft stock this year” and “Bill Gates unloads $717M in Microsoft stock in first half of 2015, tops list of U.S. insider stock sales” (composed by Microsoft’s longtime booster, Todd Bishop). This accelerated just shortly after the release of Vista 10, as we noted over a week ago. He seems to be taking his money out before it’s too late, more quickly than ever before. This is not a sign of confidence.
Attacking the Competition
Last week we wrote about how Microsoft attacked Linux on Raspberry Pi. This was first announced quite a while ago and now that it is practically happening reviewers say that Vista 10 IoT Core is a disaster on Raspberry Pi, which hardly surprises us. It’s all just branding. There is no substance and it’s technically a misfit.
A couple of weeks ago we showed how Microsoft used Vista 10 to also attack Mozilla, not just Linux dual-boot setups, as this article serves to remind us. Any of “the failed attempts [to install/configure dual-boot] had been reinstalls of once successful installations. And in all the failed attempts, the cause centered around installing the boot loader GRUB, as you’ll see from the following screenshots.”
Microsoft Tim wrote about how Microsoft uses Vista 10 to essentially delete (or remove the path to) Firefox as the default browser, just as Microsoft treats Linux partitions when one installs Vista 10.
Let this remind us that any news about Vista 10 is therefore relevant to GNU/Linux users. It cannot be ignored by GNU/Linux users because Vista 10 certainly won’t ignore, as opposed to try to screw, the competition. Remember that Google formally complained (to the authorities) about Windows Vista. It happened when Vista came out. Microsoft was deliberately trying to “f—ing kill Google,” to use Ballmer’s language. A lot people don’t remember this anymore. Microsoft plays dirty, still.
Privacy Violations in Vista 10
The Daily Fail, probably Britain’s worst newspaper, referred to Microsoft Peter as “Analysts” in this piece about Microsoft’s privacy violations that even GNU/Linux sites have covered. Well, Microsoft Peter didn’t find out about it, he just wrote about what people had been saying in some popular Web forums and what we also covered here nearly a fortnight ago. Microsoft blatantly ignores users’ settings for business reasons.
“With Windows 10 snooping on your every keystroke,” wrote SJVN, “it’s time to consider an alternative: the Linux desktop.”
Microsoft’s ‘muppet labs’ (that’s what our reader iophk calls this PR unit of Microsoft) is now being propped up by the New York Times. It is marketing disguised as an article, in which Microsoft’s attack on privacy is framed as “science”. They try to pretend that surveillance over people is somehow beneficial to ‘research’ or ‘science’. Nice spin they got there…
Microsoft Emil (Emil Protalinski, predecessor of Microsoft Peter at Ars technica) is back to Microsoft propaganda with this Vista 10 promotion. Has Microsoft recruited him or something? Maybe his loyalty from his previous job…
There are certainly still a lot of manufactured ‘articles’ in favour of Vista 10. There is a big budget behind it.
Deflecting the Outrage to Lenovo
Microsoft Peter managed to deflect criticism from Microsoft to Lenovo last week, causing some sites to call for a boycott of Lenovo rather than a boycott of Microsoft (or both). As The Register put it, “Microsoft made it possible,” so shouldn’t we discuss the role of Microsoft too?
Pushing People to Adopt Newer Versions of Windows
Some Microsoft apologists and boosters have been calling on Windows users to buy (pay for) or install newer versions of Windows, with more antifeatures. Citing “security”, as if newer is actually safer (the opposite is often true), they try to induce panic and rush people to ‘upgrade’.
Simon Sharwood of The Register has expressed concern about many out-of-date servers running an old version of Windows — one that is not even supported anymore. Back doors may therefore be exploited in many Web sites, databases etc. — back doors which not only Five Eyes espionage agencies know about.
Sharwood claims that at least 175 million such servers exist and that this “number comes from Netcraft’s regular count of the world’s web servers. The company’s August survey found 874,408,576 sites running on 5,391,301 web-facing computers.”
“The bottom line?” says Sharwood, is that “ten per cent of all web-facing computers are running old and poorly-secured web servers, at least by today’s standards.”
Well, any version of Windows has back doors, so any server which runs any version of Windows is a “poorly-secured web server,” to use Sharwood’s words.
Remember that some of these contain credit card details. Windows, which has contained NSA back doors for well over a decade, is clearly not suitable for any server anywhere in the world. Over the years we have given many high-profile examples where millions of credit card details had been snatched from Windows servers. Almost every such incident turned out to involve Windows, despite it being in a minority market share in this area.
But Hey, Microsoft Lowered the Cost to $0
Vista 10 is definitely not free, but for existing users of Windows, it can be viewed as a ‘free’ ‘upgrade’, if selling oneself to Microsoft qualifies as ‘free’ (it’s definitely not freedom).
As Susan Linton put it the other day, citing a poll from Microsoft-centric site and a Microsoft booster, “nearly 2/3 respondents say the zero price tag was the reason they chose to upgrade to Windows 10.” █
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Photo courtesy/source: Twitter profile
Summary: Malice from Microsoft is being framed as malice from Lenovo, owing to some shrewd spin from a longtime Microsoft booster
Peter is a brave man. Despite his love for Microsoft, he has been hanging out in our main IRC channel for a number of years. He probably joined after we had criticised many of his articles and pointed out the gross bias, which sometimes got a lot more severe and clearly upset a lot of readers, even employees of companies like Opera. Factual inaccuracies, outright errors, semi-truths, spin etc. are a standard routine.
Today we wish to discuss this article because it helps raise awareness of malicious things that Microsoft has been doing. What Microsoft Peter calls “anti-theft feature” is neither “anti-theft” nor a feature but an antifeature. It is part of Wintel’s attack on general-purpose computers or home PCs, tying these to Microsoft software at the hardware level (like OS signatures to be accepted or rejected at the motherboard level).
Microsoft Peter uses a cleverly-crafted argument of diversion; “Lenovo used Windows anti-theft feature to install persistent crapware” is the headline, but it might as well have said that Microsoft had turned many computers against their users and Lenovo merely borrowed this facility from Microsoft.
“The criticism is going to Lenovo for using this when it should be going to Microsoft for even allowing it.”
In our IRC channel, Ryan Farmer, a former Microsoft MVP (albeit no longer loyal to them), wrote: “Turns out there’s a Windows 8/10 “feature” that runs Windows programs that OEMs can put in the EFI firmware. But it works in Windows 7 as well because of a Microsoft extension to ACPI that lets the firmware pass Windows executables to Windows, which it executes even if they’re not related to power management. Seems like the last version of Windows that wouldn’t do this was maybe Vista. The criticism is going to Lenovo for using this when it should be going to Microsoft for even allowing it. In theory, it’s there to make it impossible for laptop thieves to remove anti-theft software, but since there’s no limitation on how it can be used…”
This article is debated right now by people without an understanding of the technical details. It’s talked about in some other sites and forums, even corporate media like Time. Microsoft Peter managed to get people angry at Lenovo rather than Microsoft (the culprit). Cory Doctorow fell for it and everyone else is directing the anger only at Lenovo (just take a glimpse at those headlines while they last in Google’s index, there at least two dozen of them at the moment).
We wish to remind readers to properly research before buying a PC without GNU/Linux already installed. Microsoft has been setting up artificial obstacles, culminating in Vista 10 with the latest/newest dual-boot complications, set aside UEFI ‘secure’ boot barriers (Microsoft now allows for no “off” switch to be present). Yesterday, a site specialising in this area reported =”GRUB-Install errors while attempting to dual-boot Windows 10 and Linux distributions” (check out the screenshots). █
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Microsoft: Doing to the operating system what Facebook does to uploaded data
Summary: Corporate media helps Microsoft take charge of every device, even devices running Linux, in order to sell data and perform data-mining (extremely gross violations of privacy)
ALONG with the synthetically Microsoft-manufactured Vista 10 hype came a lot of shameless marketing that piggybacks reputable products. One of these products was Raspberry Pi.
The people behind Raspberry Pi have actively helped (we suspect in exchange for payments/incentives) the abusive monopolist, Microsoft, and the company or Foundation even helps distribute/spread spyware (Windows). That’s hardly beneficial for education, except it helping Microsoft ‘study’ the users. Microsoft has, in a sense, reverse-engineered the purpose of Raspberry Pi, turning it into a device that subjugates users. Raspberry Pi lost its way when it first announced (or let Microsoft announce) its role in Windows integration — a truly tactless move which we recalled earlier this week.
Watch how Microsoft turns Raspberry Pi into a publicity stunt for malware. It exploits the project to promote Vista 10 [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] and as one person told me: “Despite Eben’s assurance when questioned, I am not convinced there is mutual promotion there for free.”
“Watch how Microsoft turns Raspberry Pi into a publicity stunt for malware.”Microsoft and the spyware known as Vista 10 are hardly a promotion for or of education. Microsoft gets marketing/PR out of Raspberry Pi, whereas Raspberry Pi gets nothing but shame. “One way or another,” wrote the same person, “using Windows to promote an educational board for #Freesw [Free software] is bad news all round.”
Because of Microsoft’s money or power, now it is Raspberry Pi that neglects its goal/spirit, just like OLPC before it. This morning I had the displeasure of eating a whole large pack of semi-rotten raspberies (left in the fridge for too long by mistake), but it wasn’t as displeasing as seeing yesterday’s news littered with headlines that associate the British Raspberry Pi project/initiative, i.e. computing education, with spyware such as Vista 10. The Foundation is financially supported in part by Google, so it oughtn’t be desperate for endorsement from the likes of Microsoft.
“The Foundation is financially supported in part by Google, so it oughtn’t be desperate for endorsement from the likes of Microsoft.”Only hours ago we also saw Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (SJVN) using non-news and a provocative headline (“Canonical and Microsoft working together on containers”) to associate Microsoft with GNU/Linux. Yesterday we saw the Linux Foundation posting this interview with Microsoft Ramji, saying that “you can try it on code, as downloads, like with Microsoft Azure” (Microsoft endorsement from Linux Foundation staff).
What is going on here? See the trend? Cade Metz from Condé Nasty is once again openwashing Microsoft, having groomed Bill Gates and Microsoft for years. Where does the money come from? Cade Metz is now painting Microsoft as GNU/Linux steward and “open”, attributing these claims to a Microsoft mouthpiece (Mark Russinovich) who claims “Linux now drives about 25 percent of the activity on Azure” (GNU/Linux is just universally far more dominant than Windows in many areas in the back room, so this isn’t too shocking).
It seems as though Microsoft attracted enough fools or lazy people (those who use existing fiscal accounts) to also set up GNU/Linux instances, only to be monitored and spied on by Microsoft, whose host operating systems have back doors. Mark Russinovich’s blurb has also been spun against Google while shameless ads from Microsoft MVPs (minions that IDG employs for Microsoft promotion) continued to be posted, encouraging people to do all their work on Microsoft’s own servers, even work which involves sensitive data (like customers’ information). The business press now says that “Microsoft’s $15 billion cloud bet ended up at the center of the company” and given the company’s special relationship with the NSA, only fools would head in this direction. For a lot of companies, in fact, doing so would be a violation of law (if enforced rather than overlooked or selectively applied). █
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“These procedures allegedly included helping the NSA to bypass encryption on the Outlook.com email client; providing the FBI and the NSA with easier access to SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, and helping the NSA to boost their capability threefold to intercept video calls made via Skype.”
Source: Edward Snowden claims Microsoft collaborated with NSA and FBI to allow access to user data
Summary: Microsoft’s unprecedented assault on privacy now targets rivals of Microsoft, not just people used by Microsoft
THERE is something worth noting amid all that Microsoft-manufactured hype about its NSA-centric spyware. There is this ‘article’ which looks like a Microsoft advertisement from UBM, encouraging GNU/Linux users to choose Microsoft as their host. How inane. As we pointed out yesterday, Microsoft wants to expand surveillance beyond Vista 10 (even to predecessors) and do the same to GNU/Linux by becoming a host of GNU/Linux instances. And let’s not put aside all the spyware Microsoft tries to put in Android (even if by patent extortion and/or entryism). It is definitely something to avoid by all means. Windows, in this age of many devices (‘smart’ phones, tablets, boards and “IoT” hype), is gradually slipping away to minority market share. Linux is becoming the dominant platform (kernel at least), not Windows. Looking at tuxmachines.org statistics, in the first week after Vista 10′s release Vista 10 share was at 0.0471%. A week later: 0.092%. Based on the past 2 days’ tuxmachines.org statistics, Vista 10 might finally break a barrier and reach 0.1% by week’s end! That’s hardly a success story, especially considering the lowered cost of Windows (Microsoft does this due to pressure from GNU/Linux).
“What we wrote a year ago about Vista 10 becoming a monstrous surveillance machine (despite Snowden’s revelations) turned out to be correct.”Microsoft gives ‘free’ spyware (Vista 10) to Raspberry Pi 2, after Raspberry Pi was targeted by Microsoft along with other such projects that typically choose GNU/Linux and BSD. Microsoft already eavesdrops (audio/video) on many GNU/Linux users through Skype, but it wants more. The abusive monopoly is hungry for personal, sensitive details. In this age of rising snitchocracy, intercepted secrets are an asset. Ask GCHQ why it intercepted videos (which is still retains) of millions of people, including over 100,000 people masturbating in front of their webcam (codename “Optic Nerve”).
Judging by this new post titled “Windows 10 phones home when you search your start menu, even with Bing disabled”, Vista 10 is malicious spyware even if you disable everything that is associated with spying. What we wrote a year ago about Vista 10 becoming a monstrous surveillance machine (despite Snowden’s revelations) turned out to be correct. Many businesses, as it increasingly becomes more evident (and provable), would blatantly violate agreements with customers if they stay with Microsoft. █
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Officially becoming a malware company, expanding beyond patent racketeering and political blackmail
The Microsoft apologists insist that privacy is dead, giving Microsoft the carte blanche
Summary: The villainous side of Microsoft comes out more bluntly, as any regard for privacy is dismissed as irrelevant, private networks are becoming Microsoft’s playground, Windows silently but remotely gains more malicious antifeatures (with the hallmark of espionage), and the same rogue operations are extended to Android and GNU/Linux (if Microsoft can gain a foothold there)
THE TERM “Vista 10″ has been catching on (many people use it now) and the wiki page for Vista 10 has had nearly 3,000 page views since Vista 10 was released (that’s when the page was first set up). Since then we have seen GNU/Linux-centric authors writing about Vista 10 (there are two examples today [1, 2]), but we don’t see what the big deal is. Here in Techrights, having accumulated data over the past 8 days, only 0.7% of visitors used Vista 10 (we checked the back end, which strictly retains logs for no longer than 4 weeks) and some other Web-wide surveys put it at around 3%, contradicting popular lies about adoption rates of this seemingly gratis ‘upgrade’. Vista 10 is a huge disappointment for Microsoft, but the company will never publicly admit it (we know what people from the inside, i.e. Microsoft employees, think because we confidentially hear from some). There is a massive budget dedicated to manufacturing bogus (sometimes pre-prepared or ghostwritten by agencies) ‘reviews’ and praises of Vista 10. It’s peaking right now, so it may take some time for the ‘hangover’ (real users’ feedback) to truly show up and dominate the Web. It was the same when Vista 8 was released, never to be widely adopted at all, just loathed (the boss got fired, too).
“There is a massive budget dedicated to manufacturing bogus (sometimes pre-prepared or ghostwritten by agencies) ‘reviews’ and praises of Vista 10.”Today’s article is not a rant about Vista 10 but a survey of recent revelations and key articles, as opposed to puff pieces (there are plenty of those because the release is relatively recent, meaning that the marketing budget has not been exhausted just yet). As we are going to show, Microsoft is seemingly coordinating a response to criticism, almost as if it sends talking points or memos to ‘buddies’ in order to confuse the public and berate critics.
Several authors (Linux-centric people on the Web) told me that they get abused for criticising Vista 10 and I too received many personal insults, none of which address anything that I wrote but instead are an attack on character. These come from people whom I never heard from or heard about. Remember that Microsoft recently got caught paying for abusive AstroTurfing of this kind (planting comments). Showing the ‘smoking guns’ is hard unless whistleblowers come out (as some recently did, acknowledging that Microsoft pays them to game Reddit).
Microsoft Crowd Says Privacy is Dead
We kindly ask readers to inform us if they see the following rather terrible ‘damage control’ from Microsoft. Here is Microsoft’s response to allegations over privacy violations. It goes along the lines of, “if they ask, we give. Erk. In the post-Snowden era, that’s going to put a few noses out of joint.”
Microsoft has done absolutely nothing to deny that it seriously violates privacy. That is far too well documented to deny. What we have found, however, is diversion tactics. Here is a Microsoft/MSN-connected site (also “Microsoft apologists,” according to iophk) responding with shameless spin, claiming “The inevitable death of privacy” (Microsoft apologists and employees use the same kind of excuse habitually).
“We have strong reasons to suspect there’s behind-the-scenes coordination here.”Notice the pattern and spot the party line. Microsoft is basically heralding the death of privacy as if this alone will make its own attacks on privacy any more acceptable. We ask readers to post a comment if they see more of this and share information about where it comes from. We have strong reasons to suspect there’s behind-the-scenes coordination here. We saw that back in the Vista days.
Security Not Guarded, Only Mocked, Stampeded
The other day The Register asked: “Are you a Windows 10 converts responsible for young computer users? Be on your guard. Child-friendly Family Features from Windows 7 and 8 won’t be recognised or accepted in the new operating system.”
It’s hardly a surprise. Based on feedback we see on the Web, many people complain about anything-but-smooth an ‘upgrade’ process.
As we pointed out the other day, installing Vista 10 turns one's PC into part of a botnet (Windows Update, which cannot be blocked). The Microsoft-operated botnet is clearly out of control, or out of the scope of what’s legal (not that Microsoft believes laws can be enforced against it, ever). It’s also a massive security breach. “Windows 10 commandeers users’ upload bandwidth,” said the headline of this IDG article, composed by a Microsoft critic. “Windows 10 is FORCING ITSELF onto domain happy Windows 7 PCs,” said this article from The Register. Is this even legal? “Windows 7 PCs are being force fed a diet of Windows 10, breaking a promise made by Microsoft,” says the author. “The problem is affecting domain-attached Windows 7 PCs not signed up to Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) for patches and updates, but looking for a Microsoft update instead.
“Based on feedback we see on the Web, many people complain about anything-but-smooth an ‘upgrade’ process.”“The upshot is PCs, ranging from 10s to hundreds at a time, simultaneously chowing down on the 3GB-plus Windows 10 load, killing business networks.
“The problem began showing up on Monday with complaints beginning to notch up online.”
Vista 7 and 8 Silently Turned (Modified) Into Malware
“And now they are adding the tracking and telemetry to Win 7 and 8 in updates,” pointed out one person to me last week, “for those who don’t upgrade https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3068708” (can this be legally tolerated?)
Clearly enough, whatever Microsoft has made of Vista 10 (and now predecessors too!) is violating privacy or data protection policies in many firms, such as law firms. They need to wipe this malware off their networks to avoid being sued for confidential document leaks. Their keystrokes, for instance, mustn’t be divulged.
“Windows has technically become malware.”“Indeed Microsoft has realized that its income is going downwards,” said one person to me. “And more important, as many other companies, they now know that the data of their “clients” is more valuable than the services and software they provide. So the tendency is clear: they are offering zero price products and services because they don’t want people thinking about expending some $ or €. They just want data, and more data and more data…”
Windows has technically become malware. It already was, but it’s getting worse. It is hard to deny that it is now malicious software, operating well outside the control (and consent) of the user. If people click “OK” to express consent to the new policy, however, their chances of a day in court greatly diminish.
The site recommends GNU/Linux instead, stating: “The version of Linux I like best is Linux Mint. With it, you can run OpenOffice (also called LibreOffice), which does everything essential that MS Office does. Then get Firefox for a browser and Thunderbird for email, and you’re in business.”
“Microsoft does not find it sufficient to spy on Windows users but also tries to do the same in Android and in GNU/Linux (well over a billion users).”Brad of “Goodbye Microsoft” remarked on this article by saying: “In the thirteen-plus years that I’ve been using Linux, I have never signed a user agreement to do so. Nor have I checked “accept” to terms on a web page, nor opened a shrinkwrap package with a you-accept-this license inside. In fact, I couldn’t legally use Linux at all but for the fact that the authors have accepted an agreement, the GNU Public License (GPL), which says that I’m free to use their work.* (With each passing year I become more amazed at the brilliance and the foresight of the creators of the GPL.)”
It’s a Data Harvesting Venture
Microsoft does not find it sufficient to spy on Windows users but also tries to do the same in Android and in GNU/Linux (well over a billion users). Microsoft wants to spy on GNU/Linux servers too (with confidential data of customers or staff) because Scott Hanselman, whom we mentioned here for Microsoft spin (like the 'new' Microsoft uses Microsoft’s channel and “talks to Khalid Mouss about how you can monitor your Linux machines within an Azure infrastructure.” We have already explained why this is extremely dangerous.
To illustrate just how dangerous it is to let Microsoft operate servers, consider the latest excuses for Office 360 spyware at the heart of British politics (where Microsoft blackmails MPs [1, 2]). Bogus excuses are now being given, after Microsoft failed for several days to deliver mail to MPs (the article downplays this duration by a factor of 6). The Register acts as Microsoft’s courier by blindly saying (without any proof) that it’s a case of “Microsoft failing to inform itself about a technical change” (as if changing something in a mail server should take it down for several days, without expectations as such).
“When it comes to privacy, Microsoft is demonstrably far worse than Google.”“The outage occurred on 23 June,” The Register says, “and resulted in a total of 13 hours of downtime, the Parliamentary Digital Service said in response to a Freedom of Information request.”
According to reports in the British media (not much of it covered this blunder — something that people openly complain about in social media), this outage lasted days, not 13 hours. Why is The Register relaying Microsoft’s propaganda and ‘damage control’ without even a challenge?
Either way, does Vista 10 not provide enough evidence that nobody should relay mail through Microsoft (snooping of mail by Microsoft for business reasons has been done before) and definitely mustn’t host a servers (including GNU/Linux) inside Microsoft datacentres? When it comes to privacy, Microsoft is demonstrably far worse than Google. █
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Patents not on engineering (or physical products) anymore
Summary: News about patents from all across the Web, placing special emphasis on software patents and how these affect Free software projects, including Linux and Android
THIS week’s patents roundup revolves around practicing companies that act in a way which is almost indistinguishable from patent trolls. As we have said here for several years, the term “patent trolls” can be misleading because many large companies act in the same way but don’t get labeled “trolls”, mostly because of their size. It means that a fight against “patent trolls” often turns out to be a fight over scale, waged by large corporations against smaller ones. Check again who is behind the PATENT Act [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8].
Today’s post brings together several stories and themes/strands in order to keep readers abreast of the latest developments.
Open Invention Network
We have spent over 8 years writing about the Open Invention Network (better known as OIN) and why it cannot effectively protect Free software projects. We also exchanged many E-mails with the OIN and some trolls. We saw how toothless the OIN can be in many scenarios and we challenged the OIN over it. I spoke in length with their CEO a few times over the telephone and I still think that it helps legitimise software patents and rarely achieves very much, except promote the interests of large corporations (like those which founded it and still fund it).
Earlier this morning FOSS Force published this very long interview with Deb Nicholson, who had worked for the FSF before she moved to OIN. This interview is very good and Nicholson’s views on patents are fine. We shared them here before.
“My work at OIN involves a lot of research,” Nicholson says. “I read academic papers on litigation trends and try to stay on top of who’s getting sued this week. It also involves a lot of behind the scenes emailing. I have lots of informal conversations with people about how you run a free and open source software project. Sometimes, they don’t realize that lots of other companies are succeeding with FOSS business models and shared community resources. Once they see that it can be done, they often feel more confident.”
Nicholson then speaks about the role of SCOTUS in lowering the risk of software patents.
“The Supreme Court,” she explains, “has given the lower courts the tools to rule against two specific categories of vague and frivolous patents. This is great for companies that have the cash and the time to go to court. For companies that don’t want to fight in court — which is lots of them, because it really is expensive and time-consuming — the letters will keep coming. Plus, there are still plenty of overly broad or obvious patents on the books that may not be affected by the recent rulings. So, things are improving but I wouldn’t say that we’re finished.”
She makes an important point regarding the cost of litigation, but the matter of fact is, USPTO examiners are now tougher on software patents and fewer companies (or shell firms) are eager to assert software patents for fear of losing them. Not only the extorted party (usually developers) is scared of the courts; the plaintiff, e.g. a patent troll, is too. What SCOTUS has done is, in our humble assessment, the best news in nearly a decade. We cannot recall anything bigger or better in terms of magnitude, at least not when it comes to systematically squashing software patents (not one patent at the time as per the EFF’s much-advertised earlier efforts, dubbed “patent busting”).
The Finjan-led patent extortion crusade was mentioned here just weeks ago (they are Microsoft-connected) and now, just weeks later, this firm’s troll entity (Finjan Holdings) gets extortion money from a really nasty company, Blue Coat, which some say the EPO hired to spy on people like yours truly and EPO staff. “Finjan Holdings,” as a trolls expert explains, is “a patent-licensing company operating in the cybersecurity space” and it has just “won a hefty $39.5 million jury verdict (PDF) on Tuesday, when a San Jose jury found that Blue Coat Systems infringed five of its patents.”
Keep an eye on Finjan, not just because of its Microsoft connections. Finjan has become a very malicious company. It deserves to go out of business. The sooner, the better.
Cisco, now known for its surveillance and back doors (which is even openly discusses when applying for standards), is receiving negative publicly because as its profits run dry (or more meager), it increasingly turns into more of a troll, just like Microsoft and Apple. Is this what Cisco wants to be renowned (or notorious) for? Remember that TrollTracker, a fighter against patent trolls. was a Cisco lawyer, but Cisco is now turning into what it fought. Arista, according to this article, says that Cisco is “Very Much Like a Patent Troll” (that’s the headline) and it’s coming all the way from the top. To quote the article, “Arista’s top lawyer used the company’s earnings call for trash-talk Thursday, saying Cisco is “behaving very much like a patent troll” in its intellectual property lawsuit against Arista.
“Arista Networks Inc. CEO Jayshree Ullal kicked off the badmouthing: “Despite all the overheated rhetoric we’ve been hearing from Cisco blogs about Arista’s brazen copying, we think the only thing brazen about the suit is the extreme length Cisco has gone to,” she said. “Our customers have shown unwavering support.”
“Cisco has basically become another very malicious company, if not for colluding with espionage agencies, then for bulling/attacking rivals using patents.”“Arista Vice President and General Counsel Marc Taxay agreed. “Ironically … it appears to us at any rate that Cisco is behaving very much like a patent troll, which is pretty much what they’ve spent the last decade condemning.” Cisco is claiming patents for widely implemented features and functionality that exist on a broad range of switches today, and some of the patents affect features the patents were never intended to cover, Taxay said.”
The Wall Street Journal, taking note of “expensive legal battle with Cisco”, also expresses concerns about this case. “That may give some investors pause,” the author claims, “especially when Arista remains embroiled in an expensive legal battle with Cisco, which has accused it of infringing on patents.”
Cisco has basically become another very malicious company, if not for colluding with espionage agencies, then for bulling/attacking rivals using patents. Cisco used to be on the defensive, but now it’s on the ofsensive, and not against trolls. For a company that is eager to be seen as a FOSS and GNU/Linux supporter, this surely is a dumb strategy whose gains — if any — are massively outweighed by public image erosion.
A new article from Timothy B. Lee helps chastise the bully called JDate, which we wrote about very recently. “JDate,” he explains, “recently sued JSwipe, a mobile dating app for Jews that works like Tinder. Most media coverage has focused on mocking JDate for essentially claiming that it has a monopoly on certain uses of the letter J.
“But in some ways, the part of JDate’s lawsuit that really merits mockery is the patent infringement claims. JDate is suing JSwipe for infringing a broad patent that essentially claims the concept of using a computer to match pairs of users who express interest in each other. The lawsuit illustrates the continuing need for patent reform, because the current system makes it too expensive for defendants to challenge dubious patents.”
There are some interesting comments about JDate here. Although this Web site only targets a small niche, we strongly encourage all readers to boycott JDate, or else they’ll continue their shameful bullying, perhaps inspiring other companies to do the same.
The Economist Versus Patents
The Economist, interestingly and surprisingly enough (given its strong pro-business bias), chastises the patents regime in at least two articles this month. One is titled “A question of utility” and says in its summary: “Patents are protected by governments because they are held to promote innovation. But there is plenty of evidence that they do not” (we have covered such evidence for almost a decade).
“The ability to patent,” says the author, “has been extended from physical devices to software and stretches of DNA, not to mention—notably in America—to business processes and financial products.”
Yes, patent scope is a huge part of the problem.
“Time to fix patents” is the second such article from The Economist and it too is an assault on the status quo. “Ideas fuel the economy. Today’s patent systems are a rotten way of rewarding them,” said the summary.
Here is a key part of this article: “Patents are supposed to spread knowledge, by obliging holders to lay out their innovation for all to see; they often fail, because patent-lawyers are masters of obfuscation. Instead, the system has created a parasitic ecology of trolls and defensive patent-holders, who aim to block innovation, or at least to stand in its way unless they can grab a share of the spoils. An early study found that newcomers to the semiconductor business had to buy licences from incumbents for as much as $200m. Patents should spur bursts of innovation; instead, they are used to lock in incumbents’ advantages.”
It is nice to see even The Economist debunking these tiresome myths, many of which still perpetually spread by patent profiteers rather than producing companies. Are we on the cusp of a mindset change?
Patent Propaganda From Lawyers’ Sites
Lawyers’ media, seeking to maximise dependence on patent lawyers, promotes patents on construction in this series that starts with the following paragraph: “In the first of this three part series, clean tech, or green construction, was defined as construction that reduces or minimizes the environmental impact in building construction, operation and use. That article also discussed the importance of building intellectual property walls, and especially with patents, to protect inventions from being incorporated into projects by unlicensed users. Equally important is knowing the patents that may prevent a company from incorporating patented technology for which it has no license. Patent rights can shape an industry; consequently, companies must develop patent strategies. Patents for green construction encompass everything from building materials, to software for optimizing various processes, to green energy systems, amongst others.”
Yes, they even suggest software patents right there.
“The US may not have a world class patent system,” say the patent maximalists of IAM, “but its professionals are second to none” (for taxing by lawyers perhaps). Another site of patent lawyers who lobby for a lot of ludicrous types of patents (including software) pretends that patents take a short time to receive, despite that infamous backlog and these notorious issues which can only be tackled by lowing examination standards, hence granting bogus patents (trivial, and/or with prior art).
“Intellectual property & intangible assets” is the headline of this British article which is so full of nonsense that we don’t know where to start. To quote one part of it: “Newton says the real value in business these days is in knowledge, which is tied up in intellectual property, patents, trademarks and designs.”
That’s nonsense. The term “intellectual property” refers to patents, trademarks, and copyrights, so it cannot be separated as above. Then there are designs, which are already (in most domains) covered by copyrights and if the author wishes to speak about trade secrets, that’s different from all the above and still pertains to knowledge, without having to introduce that vague notion of “intellectual property” and “intangible assets” — both horrible propaganda terms that equate ideas with objects.
“Patent scope has been getting so much worse over time, to the point where abstract concepts like business methods, algorithms, and even basic designs become patents although copyright should definitely suffice.”The article titled “9 Tech Startups Disrupting the Legal Industry” talks about proprietary software that patent lawyers use to keep track of their work. “Experts say the market for legal technology is as much as $400 billion,” the article says, but there is nothing like a citation to support such a figure.
“We hear the same complaints over and over every time Congress tries to improve the patent system,” Matt Levy wrote the other day. “In fact, we’ve been hearing some of them for over 70 years.” Patent scope has been getting so much worse over time, to the point where abstract concepts like business methods, algorithms, and even basic designs become patents although copyright should definitely suffice.
Design Patents and Linux Gadgets
Speaking of design patents, watch what patent maximalists celebrated this weekend: “The text cluster provided here shows that much of Hasbro’s portfolio of 1,772 patents (339 of which are active) are related to toy vehicles, electronic games and ornamental designs, indicating a fair amount of design patents.”
The notion of “design patents” has got to be one of the most loathsome and ridiculous. The article “Apple v. Samsung and a Fight Over the Patents for Designs” was published by Forbes the other day, reminding us of so-called design patents (such as the widely-ridiculed 'rounded corners' patents). Apple is very desperate to stop Android (and by extension Linux), but doing so by bullying with outright bogus patents isn’t the way to compete. CPTN members (i.e. holders of Novell’s patents) Oracle, Apple and Microsoft have been systematically attacking Android using patents and Oracle now takes this further. “Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over Java copyrights probably won’t be back in a courtroom again until next year,” wrote The Register, “but in the meantime, Oracle has asked the court to let it expand the scope of its complaint to include events that have occurred since it was first filed in 2010.”
This forever-legal-limbo scenario helps hurt Android, so we cannot just pretend that software patents are not a problem. More FOSS and GNU/Linux site must learn to address these issues as a matter of priority. Not enough are doing this at the moment and it definitely helps our foes. Many people seem to forget that Microsoft still attacks GNU/Linux using patents (albeit more discreetly than before). █
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Looking for royalties — no matter how minuscule — on every Linux device sold
Summary: Microsoft is very desperate to extract money out of Linux (which has won major battles and billions of users), using software patents and royalty stacking with help from patent trolls
ONE MUST be deluded or seriously misinformed to actually believe that Microsoft is doing well, having just laid off many employees, admitted billions in losses, permanently ended many of its products, and then revealed a widely-loathed version of Windows which many people are simply unwilling to adopt. They won’t ‘upgrade’ to it, not even for ‘free’ (a false promise even for those who 'upgrade'). Our confidential sources inside Microsoft say that even Microsoft staff doesn’t like Vista 10.
At the same time that Vista 10 was released Bill Gates, who is officially back to Microsoft’s management team, dumped his Microsoft shares by the millions (see “Warning Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) optimists! William Gates just Unloaded 4,000,000 shares.”)
Useds [sic] of Vista 10 don’t like it, so they use other software and defect away from what Microsoft is offering. Based on silence from Microsoft, not many people even install Vista 10. In the first day, despite it being a ‘free’ upgrade, less than 1% of useds actually moved to it and Microsoft has been tight-lipped since then. Every other number has been unofficial, speculative, and patently false, for reasons that we explained here before.
We now see more hogwash from the trend-setting media. Referring to Microsoft’s losses, the author says this “was only the third loss in its history as a public company.”
Not really, as there is a long history of financial fraud (false reporting of revenue and income). The New York Times trusts Microsoft’s claims far too irresponsibly. It’s just gullible. It also promotes the illusion of Microsoft layoffs not being Microsoft’s fault. Remember that Nokia did much better before Microsoft hijacked the company, initially with a mole. Microsoft layoffs are not just a Nokia thing. See this video from a guy whom Microsoft laid off “after 15 years of service” (to use his own words).
IBTimes, another misleading publication (usually misleads in favour of big businesses), pretends that Microsoft was “third among global smartphones”.
“That’s a low bar,” explained iophk to us. “But the ibtimes lumps several categories together to boost appearances of Microsoft market share.” Yes, they make it seem like Microsoft had nearly 4% of the market. In reality it’s far lower than that. Microsoft will soon head down towards 1% or 0%, considering its abandonment — indefinitely — of Windows Phone/Mobile.
A few days ago many news sites (e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4]) covered Nokia’s sale of HERE Maps for just over 3 billion dollars. Recall old articles such as “Nokia to Pay $8.1 Billion for Navteq”. “Contrast with sale price from a few days ago,” iophk wrote to us. It’s now down to less than half, so Microsoft’s damage to Nokia goes far beyond just the mobile business. German companies are eating Nokia’s remaining business, so Nokia will soon appear (and function) as nothing but a pile of patents, i.e. a patent troll.
Florian Müller, a German lobbyist who has worked for Microsoft, calls the sale of HERE Maps the “next stage of transformation into patent troll”. Remember that Microsoft already instructed Nokia to pass its patents to trolls such as MOSAID, i.e. trolls with a Linux-hostile track record. MOSAID has renamed itself since, but it’s the same evil entity with the same patents at hand. Microsoft armed MOSAID using Nokia’s patents. Sites like Groklaw didn’t miss that because of the huge number of patents involved. MOSAID is now known as “Conversant”, not to be confused with the Conservancy (pro-GPL).
“Remember that Microsoft already instructed Nokia to pass its patents to trolls such as MOSAID, i.e. trolls with a Linux-hostile track record.”Müller, incidentally, also wrote about Corel suing Microsoft using patents, perpetuating an unverified myth that “Microsoft has numerous patent cross-license agreements in place (including with dozens of smartphone, tablet and netbook manufacturers who pay Microsoft considerable amounts of royalties on devices powered by Google’s Android and Chrome operating systems)” (we do not know if Microsoft gets anything from these, except FUD and leverage). Remember that Microsoft’s goal is not to make Android its own cash cow but to make it uneconomic (not competitive in terms of price) because of many small royalties, aggregated/combined from many non-producing directions/vectors, to ultimately become huge numbers (patent stacking with help from Microsoft-leaning trolls, of which there can be thousands). Consider Intellectual Ventures, which was pretty much the creation of Microsoft and Bill Gates. It already has thousands of proxies (to litigate from) and 2 days ago this bizarre piece was grooming it (“Built By Industry Leading Companies” even though it is undeniably Microsoft connected). This revisionism and grooming of the world’s largest patent troll ought to worry everyone because in recent months Intellectual Ventures repeatedly used software patents to attack Android (we covered this at the time).
Putting aside the unverified claims from Müller (he has pro-Microsoft history and paychecks from Microsoft too), it is interesting to see Corel, which Microsoft destroyed like it later destroyed Novell and Nokia, taking Microsoft to court after all this time.
Another legal battle that made the news last week was to do with Motorola, a steward of Android (under Google) which Microsoft was extorting using patents. Google bought part of Motorola after Microsoft and other Android foes created CPTN and Rockstar, using patents from large companies that they bought. Those same Android foes wanted to buy Motorola’s patents (based on credible reports), so Google had to act fast and prevent that by bidding defensively, even overpaying by a huge margin. If Android foes tried to buy Motorola’s patents to weaponise them as well, having already used patents from companies like Novell and Nortel offensively, who can blame Google for buying Motorola’s patents? And watch what Microsoft is already doing with Nokia’s patents.
“Don’t think that a dying company like Microsoft will just drop dead without a last fight.”The Microsoft-Motorola situation quickly become a Microsoft-Google feud and some days ago Google lost this battle. To quote corporate media (Fortune): “The patent-fueled litigation frenzy among tech companies has finally subsided but, even as firms make nice with each other, there’s a lot of mopping up to do from the earlier fights that peaked around 2012. Take, for example, that time when Google GOOG bought Motorola and its patents in order to fight rivals, including Microsoft MSFT and Apple AAPL , who had ganged up to attack its Android devices.”
There is a lot more coverage in legal sites, legal chronicles, and legal blogs, not to mention Microsoft-friendly sites, pro-Microsoft sites (by design) [1, 2], and much of the corporate media [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9], even some smaller news sites [1, 2, 3], some of which focus on law [1, 2]. These all serve to remind us that Microsoft is still attacking Android (and by extension Linux) using software patents. Don’t think that a dying company like Microsoft will just drop dead without a last fight. Secrecy has been Microsoft’s strongest weapon here; it’s a shame that many Linux-leaning sites have been ignoring or overlooking this. █
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Summary: Microsoft debunks its own false promises, showing that Vista 10 as ‘free’ is virtually a mirage
With Vista 10, Microsoft still makes it hard to install GNU/Linux (without Windows then wiping or breaking it). But to make matters worse, watch how Microsoft now treats people who ‘upgrade’ their computer to Vista 10:
Vista 10 is not free. It’s not free for anyone. Get over it. █
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