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11.27.19

Librem 5 Batches Are About 100 Each (in Production)

Posted in Hardware at 6:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A phone backlit

Summary: The vision of Purism is promising (freedom-respecting mobile devices), but practical limitations seem to be getting in the way and even big fans have begun reconsidering

EARLIER this week we wrote about evident problems with shipment/fulfillment by Purism after we had seen press reports about it and also heard from readers.

One such reader said he read an article on Techrights regarding Purism and “would like to add the problems [he was] having.”

“I can’t believe there is only 350 units being produced for the first 4 batches??? This stinks!”
      –Anonymous
“Last Tuesday,” he said, “after reading many articles about the Librem 5, I decided to ask for a refund on my ‘pre-ordered’ phone as I feel some things don’t feel right. The communication was cordial, making sure they had the right credit card details to my account and was told it would take 2 – 15 days.

“On Thursday I checked my Purism account to still find my order was ‘active’ and awaiting shipping, so I emailed again asking for confirmation, only to receive a very cavalier response saying ‘we’ll sort it in a couple of days!’

“As you can imagine this was a red rag with my reply being rather angry reminding them I wasn’t a backer but a pre-order and interest will [be] expected. As of today my order is still active and I don’t hold much hope that anything will happen soon.

“The good news is, less than a day ago we learned that Purism issued a refund.”“So info I did find strange was on the Purism forum, an early backer 350th (he screen shot his place) received his email asking what batch he would like, which he put Aspen, Birch and Chestnut, only to receive a reply he would be in Evergreen? I can’t believe there is only 350 units being produced for the first 4 batches??? This stinks!”

That’s the bad news. The good news is, less than a day ago we learned that Purism issued a refund. So at least our worst fears are bygones.

11.25.19

Purism Librem 5 Orders Take Too Long (No Delivery) as Biggest Fans Grow Impatient

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware at 11:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A freedom-respecting failure is still a failure

Anybody home? Where's my phone?
Anybody home? Where’s my phone? Where’s my money?

Summary: Purism fulfillment is a sad story; it is an untold tale in much of the media and in order for things to change something’s gotta give

THE saga is not new to us. We covered that very recently. Delivery of units isn’t happening — an issue I noticed even nearly half a decade ago. There are also many returns — a subject not so often explored by anyone in the media.

I’ve been a supporter of Purism, Librem, Librem 5 and everything else with these propositions. I probably mentioned these close to a thousand times in social control media over the years. At some stage, however, one must stop and ask, “can it become more of a disservice than a service?”

“I’ve been a supporter of Purism, Librem, Librem 5 and everything else with these propositions. I probably mentioned these close to a thousand times in social control media over the years.”What if I endorse or recommend (or sort of ‘promote’) something that leads people to disappointment? Should I persist or should I politely warn instead?

What Purism has been promoting is great. It’s a breakthrough. But can these people deliver? I still hope so. But things that I hear and read — both privately and online — aren’t too positive anymore. Someone should probably say something and we’ve always loathed self-censorship.

Some sources tell us stories about their undelivered (but still perpetually promised) Librem 5 units. We hear this from multiple sources and have asked for permission to quote (maybe permission will be granted later this week). Purism has some really tough questions to answer as some of the media is catching up. In one example even receiving a refund seems like an impossibility. Maybe it’s the exception, but it doesn’t quite seem so.

The above example isn’t a unique or isolated case. Days ago an article entitled The Librem 5 has been “shipping” for a month—but not to backers was published and it said:

Purism announced that shipping of its Librem 5 open source smartphone began in late September. Two months later, nobody outside the company has a Librem 5, and people are getting restless.

The Librem 5 is a crowdfunded project—and an ambitious one—so it wasn’t much surprise or cause for concern when it missed its original January 2019 delivery target—or the April 2019 target set after January slipped. Both date changes were announced well ahead of time, and the company continued to post progress reports, commit code upstream, and assure backers of its commitment to transparency. (Full disclosure: I am a Librem 5 backer myself and am scheduled to receive a phone in the Evergreen batch.)

The new delays are more troubling. On September 5, CEO Todd Weaver announced that the Librem 5 would ship in six iterative batches, codenamed Aspen, Birch, Chestnut, Dogwood, Evergreen, and Fir. The first three batches would effectively be usable prototypes of decreasing roughness; Evergreen would be the first entirely finished hardware production run, and Fir would be a relatively unspecified next-generation design.

Although Aspen, Birch, and Chestnut were to be somewhat rough, their descriptions did specify working hardware and functional software, with Aspen to begin shipping only three weeks from the announcement. A reasonable viewer would take this as a strong implication that the phone was ready to ship. This was unfortunately not the case; the Aspen batch turned out to have significant power and heat issues.

Our article on the topic has received considerable attention and even scorn from those involved. Not because it was wrong though; it’s just that people feel very passionate about the product, as were we. How many times have we mentioned Librem or Purism here? Probably more than a thousand times. But did we give publicity to something that might lead to disappointment? We hope not.

If we receive permission/go-ahead, then some time soon we’ll present some customer testimonies (and “customer” might not be the right term to describe someone who did not even receive the paid-for product).

10.31.19

Purism’s Problems Purely Boil Down to Trust and False Promises

Posted in FSF, GNOME, GNU/Linux, Hardware, KDE, Rumour at 1:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

PureOS sounds promising, just like OpenMoko, but we all want (and likely expect) to see results

Business silhouette

Summary: A promising, potentially exciting, freedom-respecting set of products would be easier to talk about than actually deliver; we take a look at what goes on at Purism

THIS is a particularly difficult subject for me to write about, having spent a number of years cheering for Librem (in its various forms or form factors) and by extension its parent company, Purism, whose goals I believe to be well-intentioned. They’re a sort of privacy-first, freedom-at-the-forefront company (freedom as in Software Freedom as well as hardware freedom — to the limited extent presently possible).

Lately I have been reading negative things about Purism. I also received messages and mail about it. I am committed to Software Freedom, but I am also deeply committed to truth, so let’s put right there on the table the knowns, unknowns, and what’s in desperate need of verification. Because transparency is needed for true trust; otherwise it’s fantasy. Here in Techrights we’re as transparent as possible with IRC logs that serve to reveal operations (behind the scenes too). We’re balancing privacy and transparency, e.g. in the name of source protection. We redact some things, usually to protect identities only. But those who lurk in IRC (or read our logs) can get a pretty good idea of what’s going on.

“Many companies operate at a loss and/or have massive debt. They don’t like to talk about those things.”Purism is different. The company isn’t always upfront. Sometimes it’s not even honest and some would say “misleading”. I’d like to believe they’re not intentionally misleading people, but over the past month there was more evidence to that effect. Are they dishonest for “the greater good”? I don’t know. Some companies pretend to do better than they really do, hoping for a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy effect — inertia built atop an illusion. I get that. I don’t respect that, but I totally get that. It’s quite common and many large companies — including Microsoft — do this. Many companies operate at a loss and/or have massive debt. They don’t like to talk about those things. It might scare away those who subsidise/invest in them. Sometimes they’re bank(er)s, sometimes they’re so-called ‘angels’, sometimes they’re the public or prospective buyers who raise funds for projects/products.

One person asked me yesterday: “Have you heard anything about Purism? Or Librem? Being a complete and utter failure/scam?”

“Well,” she said, “from what I heard…”

She shared some discussions about this and even new memes. Moments ago someone pointed out to me this recent article that I had read days ago. It’s titled “The Sad Saga of Purism and the Librem 5″ and there are 3 parts to it.

“Their laptop campaign had over 65% return rate, I heard closer to 70%.”
      –Anonymous
“And no comments from @purism to that,” I was told, so “seems like a really sad story to me.”

Going back to that first person, “2 years ago,” she said, “over 1.5 million — I heard close to 2.5… was raised.”

“But they cannot deliver on the units,” she added.

“Their laptop campaign had over 65% return rate, I heard closer to 70%.”

“When employees went to San Diego to the fulfillment center, they noted all the concerns – return rate, quality, etc. They wanted to work with Weaver for improvement. He would not meet F2F from what I heard but online. During that session, he went around to see what concerns people had. Quickly, 5 were fired. Another quit within a week or so.”

But apparently it gets yet worse. This is the part which is mostly speculative. “From what I heard,” she said, “Purism money is now going to Forbes and social media campaigns without the transparency of what is really happening. Phoronix is one of their media outlets.”

I can believe the part about Forbes, knowing how they’re manipulated. But I’m not sure about Phoronix.

“Media manipulation is possible,” I responded, “but I won’t vouch for it. Michael Larabel isn’t perfect, I often wonder what he does with hardware shipped to him (among other things), but there’s no evidence they pay him or are in cahoots, so that seems unfair. Please dig further with your contacts. Eventually I will write about this.”

“When employees went to San Diego to the fulfillment center, they noted all the concerns – return rate, quality, etc.”
      –Anonymous
For the sake of accuracy let’s just assume — at least for now — that Phoronix covers Purism stuff because Phoronix readers care about it. That seems a lot more plausible to me

“As we already are pretty certain,” she said, that “Forbes takes money – I mean, just even looking at the content Forbes puts out about certain tech is telling. Phoronix was a question, but is looking more and more like a media outlet that takes money too based on the Purism story.”

Phoronix recently did a story that’s actually an interview with Purism folks. But nothing suggested that it was promotional. Nothing that I could see.

“I believe Purism is starting other services/campaigns in hopes to raise enough to fulfill those previous orders,” she continued, “but it didn’t work out… (social media, tablet)

“That’s all the info I have on this.”

From what I can gather, Purism is struggling. Also, at this stage, workers are leaving (or get fired). This is not good.

Is there something malicious going on? Probably not, but people who fund-raised for this company are being left in the dark and it’s not fair to them.

The subject line of the above message was, “purism – where’s the hw?” [hardware] which to me says it all.

To me at least. There’s a story behind it. It’s an old story.

Half a decade (probably less) ago they said they’d ship a review unit for me to write about (just on loan, for me to pass on to the next person once done). I’d never buy their overpriced laptops, but they wanted me to assess. It’s them who suggested this to me; they had approached me. But it soon became apparent that they were inconsistent, unorganised, and unprofessional.

Did they ever ship?

No.

Never.

Just wasted my time.

Again and again.

Then the person was removed. The person who spoke to me. The one who approached me. The one who wasted my time.

Always excuses. Hardly any apologies.

“From what I heard Purism money is now going to Forbes and social media campaigns without the transparency of what is really happening.”
      –Anonymous
I posted online about that (at the time). Repeatedly even. It was a sort of warning. They seemed a tad suspicious to me. Trust was eroded and ever since then I never looked at them the same way. But the press carried on, then the FSF (endorsement), not to mention fund-raising for Librem 5.

At one point they said they’d connect me for an interview (to publish on my site) with the founder of Qubes OS. Did that ever happen? No.

You bet! Another round of false promises; a total waste of time.

So, in summary I view them as bad on communications, big on promises, never delivering anything. Anything. Later they make up a bunch of excuses.

And going back to the question, “where’s the hw?”

I wondered that many years ago, almost 5 years ago. I’ve lost count.

The dreams they put forth are dreams. KDE, GNOME…. on a small device. Nice, but will that be delivered? I heard they scattered around some units recently. Then I heard about technical issues. Now I hear about staff leaving.

Deep inside I hope they succeed, but I remain sceptical based on my personal experience.

Purism needs to speak out and be frank about what’s happening. I’ve been nothing but courteous towards them (I didn’t even name the person who let me down; maybe she quit, maybe she got fired), but courtesy should be a two-way street/bridge. The very fact that a project about “freedom” does not even offer “openness” is not compatible with the spirit upon which it managed to raise millions of dollars in funds, thanks in part to endorsements/promotions from FSF, GNOME, KDE and so on. Not to mention volunteer writers like myself who have mentioned them over a thousand times over the years.

Moments ago figosdev told me: “ive always been neutral/curious about these guys, particularly with the fsf endorsement. im very curious what oliva thinks.

“I believe Purism is starting other services/campaigns in hopes to raise enough to fulfill those previous orders…”
      –Anonymous
“but with all thats happened to people trying to create real freedom lately, is it possible this is another attack, rather than a real revelation? (i dont know how i can prove im neutral, this is just my reaction.)”

Tom Grz wrote: “I’ve always been suspicious, primarily because their products are high-priced, and if they really wanted to make a difference they should move down the population curve. Also, the president is a jerk.”

Some memes do target the president’s personality; I don’t know him personally. There’s a link there to a talk from him. “Todd Weaver has more to say about himself than the advertised subject matter,” Grz added later.

09.26.19

Linux is Not Free Software and It’s Getting Harder to Fix It

Posted in DRM, FSF, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Kernel at 3:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

AMD (now the owner of ATI) puts DRM in Linux through graphics drivers

Protest against ATI
Source: Protest against ATI nearly led to the arrest of RMS (2006)

Summary: The battle for digital freedom has long been lost in kernel space; earlier this year Techrights analysed the complete source code of Linux to find DRM already well entrenched inside the kernel and it keeps spreading further (Linux is becoming the very thing the FSF objected to in Windows Vista; it is “Open Source Proprietary Software”)

THE technical limits of removal of blobs from Linux had been reached long before DRM landed inside Linux. For instance, linux-libre issues were already mentioned the other day; blobs are "bugs". What does that mean? In simple terms it means that ‘fixing’ Linux by removing bad stuff from it (not the same as a fork) would produce an unsatisfactory outcome. Moreover, it gets worse over time. It’s not only “subpar” or “not ideal”; it can be very messy. Ask people who use linux-libre in their distro.

“In simple terms it means that ‘fixing’ Linux by removing bad stuff from it (not the same as a fork) would produce an unsatisfactory outcome.”Some months ago Phoronix mentioned in passing that AMD was putting DRM in Linux (the evil DRM, not Direct Rendering). So did Intel along with Google. Yesterday Phoronix posted this update to say: “The recent work over the past few months on HDCP support for Raven Ridge and newer. Granted, many open-source fans won’t be happy to hear about High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) support coming to the AMD Linux driver but it’s already been supported by the open-source Intel driver and NVIDIA’s proprietary driver. The HDCP support is actually good news in one respect as it’s likely at the behest of Google with AMD APUs now appearing in Chromebooks, similar to Google having pushed along Intel’s Linux HDCP support. This HDCP support could lead to enabling AMD to compete with other design wins for other Linux-powered devices. If you don’t want AMD HDCP support, at least for now they have it exposed as a Kconfig option so you can disable building the support via DRM_AMD_DC_HDCP.”

“What happened to “Bad Vista” and “Defective by Design”? We don’t suppose that a Stallman-less FSF would do any better against such threats to our freedom.”What’s most curious here isn’t that AMD follows Intel’s footsteps (that’s typical) but the lack of statement or complete silence from the EFF, the FSF, the FSFE…

All those who claim to have opposed DRM didn’t keep their eyes on this ball. Had they done so, maybe AMD would at least have second thoughts about it. But no… and so Linux gradually gets ruined in the same way the WWW was ruined, owing to inaction on EME (DRM inside the ‘standards’). The FSF did speak about it and organised against it. Why not HDCP? What happened to “Bad Vista” and “Defective by Design”? We don’t suppose that a Stallman-less FSF would do any better against such threats to our freedom.

As a side note, Phoronix tries to remain neutral; the above oughtn’t be interpreted as Michael Larabel’s endorsement of DRM. Larabel has thankfully highlight many of these things over the years and for that he deserves our gratitude and support.

08.27.19

Computers Becoming Disposable

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Hardware, Microsoft, Windows at 1:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

ZimmerSummary: People’s control over their own computers is being taken away; the model of rental better describes many of today’s purchases

IT HAS long been the case that computers are sold with an operating system rather than tested for a variety of them and handed over for the user to install one (of the user’s choosing). The bundling of operation systems has been an enabler of Microsoft’s monopoly, which pursued tying Windows to hardware and called everything else “naked PC” or “piracy”.

But there may be an even bigger problem, exacerbated in part by so-called ‘smart’phones, tablets and things such as Chromebooks. There seems to be no obligtation whatsoever to keep them updated for more than a few years; after that the users are left unable to upgrade the operating system and installing something else is technically difficult. There’s the expectation that this hardware will then be treated as ‘obsolete’ or “End of Life”, only for a new machine to be purchased to replace perfectly fine hardware. Of course the more technical people might choose to install GNU/Linux or otherwise deal with a critically vulnerable and out-of-date operating system that was never designed for security anyway.

“…there may be an even bigger problem, exacerbated in part by so-called ‘smart’phones, tablets and things such as Chromebooks.”What is Chrome OS anyway? Built on top of GNU/Linux or based on Gentoo, Chrome OS is designed to (mostly) spy on users and when it speaks of “Linux” it’s mostly just reinventing the wheel, allowing users to get back what they’d otherwise get on a platform such as Gentoo, including free updates, upgrades, maybe rolling releases.

Chromebooks were traditionally used to exchange the data invasion for subsidies that made these laptops somewhat cheaper, but at the higher end this is not the case. Announced yesterday, for instance, was this grossly overpriced product:

Google today announced a slew of Chrome Enterprise updates, including a faster Google Admin console and managed Linux environments. The company also unveiled the first Chromebook Enterprise laptops: Dell’s Latitude 5300 for $819 and Latitude 5400 for $699.

In August 2017, Google launched Chrome Enterprise for $50 per managed Chromebook per year. The subscription gives Chromebooks enterprise features like advanced security protections and fleet management. Today’s updates are Google’s latest push to bring Chrome OS to more businesses.

How long before the users are alerted that these are no longer supported and another expensive machine must be purchased to comply with business regulations?

“My laptop’s age is 10 and modern distributions can easily be installed on it without having to tinker with bootloaders, BIOS and such.”This is sadly becoming somewhat of a ‘norm’ — a normalcy wherein machines become ‘disposable’ even when they’re very expensive (almost a thousand bucks). There’s an envionmental impact.

My laptop’s age is 10 and modern distributions can easily be installed on it without having to tinker with bootloaders, BIOS and such.

The idea that Chrome OS can break Microsoft or end a Windows monopoly is a convenient one. But what are we striving to replace Windows with if not something that’s based on Linux but offers no freedom (libre)?

As somebody put it in a comment yesterday:

The battle is won, but the war is lost…

Everything runs on OSS these days, but the Libre part of it is missing more than ever. The biggest issue I see is the issue of “ownership”.
Physical ownership: I own my phone, my car, my house.
Virtual ownership: I own my data.

Streaming services are a case in point. You rent everything for $xx a month. If an actor becomes a persona non grata, and data with them is scrubbed (Think the Kevin Spacey situation, and, per events in march 2019, maybe upcoming with Michael Jackson), you don’t have access to it anymore.
Another case in point is Amazon’s removal of purchased e-books of 1984 from Kindle devices (in 2009, if memory serves).
You can’t (easily) rewrite a book purchased in paper form. You can rewrite an ebook.

The formula (Personal Hardware) + (Free Software) = (Digital Freedom) is more important than ever, but we do need to focus more on the Personal hardware part, and I agree it is part of a greater issue…

Control over one’s own hardware (that one pays for) is being diminished over time and with it the expectation of ownership as opposed to rent. We’re becoming mere tenants of what we’re paying a full price for.

08.16.19

Nothing Says ‘New’ Microsoft Like Microsoft Component Firmware Update (More Hardware Lock-in)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat at 9:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“One thing I find myself wondering about is whether we shouldn’t try and make the “ACPI” extensions somehow Windows specific.

“It seems unfortunate if we do this work and get our partners to do the work and the results is that Linux works great without having to do the work.

“Maybe there is no way to avoid this problem but it does bother me.

“Maybe we could define the APIs so that they work well with NT and not the others even if they are open.

“Or maybe we could patent something related to this.”

Bill Gates

Summary: Vicious old Microsoft is still trying to make life very hard for GNU/Linux, especially in the OEM channel/s, but we’re somehow supposed to think that “Microsoft loves Linux”

YESTERDAY we saw Red Hat’s (now IBM’s) Richard Hughes complaining about Microsoft [1], whereupon Phoronix picked that up [2] and it was then discussed in our IRC channels, Phoronix forums etc. The corporate media obviously showed no interest in it. All it can do is post “Microsoft loves Linux” images because Microsoft asks for that. To quote Richard: “All the dependency resolution should be in the metadata layer (e.g. in the .inf file) rather than being pushed down to the hardware running the old firmware.”

“All the dependency resolution should be in the metadata layer (e.g. in the .inf file) rather than being pushed down to the hardware running the old firmware.”
      –Richard Hughes
As Michael Larabel put it, “implementation has a number of issues that complicate the process and could quickly evolve into another troubling specification from Microsoft in the hardware space.”

Remember UEFI ‘secure boot’? How did that work out for security?

Microsoft certainly loves Linux with a knife in the back — hence Bill Gates' "Jihad" remark (about Intel’s support for Linux). MinceR at the #techrights IRC channel said: “you can tell something from Microsoft is _really_ _really_ shit when their sycophants at GNOME say it’s shit…”

“Nowadays Zemlin is mostly quoted by the media as saying wonderful things about Microsoft. Most GNU/Linux user just want to vomit.”It is worth remembering that Richard’s work is now supported by the Linux Foundation (since months ago when it adopted LVFS), so maybe Richard can explain to the Linux ‘genius’ Jim Zemlin (who never uses Linux) what Microsoft does here and why it is anticompetitive. We don’t suppose this will happen though. Zemlin is a 'true believer' in Microsoft and his wife managed a close partner of Microsoft when Microsoft paid the Linux Foundation. Nowadays Zemlin is mostly quoted by the media as saying wonderful things about Microsoft. Most GNU/Linux user just want to vomit. Money talks; people who love money are therefore a vulnerability. Jim Zemlin and his wife are the sorts of people whose life aspiration is to have dinner with Bill and Melinda Gates. It’s all about class and power (Harvard). A decade ago Jim Zemlin said negative things about Microsoft and now (after/since Microsoft had given him $500,000) he says Microsoft is a good company while ignoring the below among many other things, patent extortion included (it's still going on). His wife worked for a Gold Microsoft Partner at the time (as a General Manager and Global VP of a SaaS Business Unit). Her business was moving companies to something like Microsoft Azure. In his own words (Jim Zemlin’s interview with Jeremy Allison; 1m:30s), “I’m about as much [boss of Torvalds] as I am the boss of my wife…”

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Musings on the Microsoft Component Firmware Update (CFU) Protocol

    CFU has a bazaar pre-download phase before sending the firmware to the microcontroller so the uC can check if the firmware is required and compatible. CFU also requires devices to be able to transfer the entire new transfer mode in runtime mode. The pre-download “offer” allows the uC to check any sub-components attached (e.g. other devices attached to the SoC) and forces it to do dep resolution in case sub-components have to be updated in a specific order.

    Pushing the dep resolution down to the uC means the uC has to do all the version comparisons and also know all the logic with regard to protocol incompatibilities. You could be in a position where the uC firmware needs to be updated so that it “knows” about the new protocol restrictions, which are needed to update the uC and the things attached in the right order in a subsequent update. If we always update the uC to the latest, the probably-factory-default running version doesn’t know about the new restrictions.

    The other issue with this is that the peripheral is unaware of the other devices in the system, so for instance couldn’t only install a new firmware version for only new builds of Windows for example. Something that we support in fwupd is being able to restrict the peripheral device firmware to a specific SMBIOS CHID or a system firmware vendor, which lets vendors solve the “same hardware in different chassis, with custom firmware” problem. I don’t see how that could be possible using CFU unless I misunderstand the new .inf features. All the dependency resolution should be in the metadata layer (e.g. in the .inf file) rather than being pushed down to the hardware running the old firmware.

  2. Microsoft’s Component Firmware Update Is Their Latest Short-Sighted Spec

    Microsoft’s newest specification is the “Component Firmware Update” that they envision as a standard for OEMs/IHVs to be able to handle device firmware/microcode updating in a robust and secure manner. While nice in theory, the actual implementation has a number of issues that complicate the process and could quickly evolve into another troubling specification from Microsoft in the hardware space.

    Red Hat’s Richard Hughes who is the lead developer on Fwupd and LVFS for firmware updating on Linux has written a lengthy blog post with his thoughts after studying the specification. Now that vendors have begun asking him about CFU, he’s getting his opinions out there now and there are issues with the specification. Ultimately though if there is enough interest/adoption, he could support Component Firmware Update via Fwupd but he certainly isn’t eager to do so.

08.04.19

Microsoft’s War on the Right to Repair (One’s Own Computers) Makes Lundgren an ‘Enemy’ to Microsoft

Posted in Hardware, Microsoft, Windows at 12:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Overview

Microsoft’s Declaration of War on Recyclers

  • Part 4: Microsoft Being Microsoft, Bullying Everyone Who Reduces Microsoft’s Profits
  • You are here ☞ Part 5: Microsoft’s War on the Right to Repair (One’s Own Computers) Makes Lundgren an ‘Enemy’ to Microsoft
  • Part 6: Damage Control Mode: Satya Nadella Fleeing Lundgren After Realising What Microsoft Had Done
  • Part 7: Slander and Libel From Microsoft (Demonising the Victim)
  • Part 8: Similar High-Profile ‘Bargains’ (Aaron Swartz and Marcus Hutchins)

The Legal Aftermath

Pending review and research

Microsoft killed RightToRepair

Summary: Microsoft killed legislation that allows people to repair their own computers and gadgets (that they paid full price for), so why not also destroy the life of a prominent recycler who helps hardware repairs at a vast scale (reducing demand for new electronics with new Microsoft Windows licences)?

TECHRIGHTS recently embarked on this series which may seem like old news even though some of the material is new. There’s new information and all material has rock-solid sources. We’ll also be posting proof, evidence, court material etc. There’s no lack of it. The Washington Post’s coverage of the Eric Lundgren case dealt with what happened last year and the year before that (see “Eric Lundgren, ‘e-waste’ recycling innovator, faces prison for trying to extend life span of PCs” and “How did this advocate of e-waste reuse end up behind bars?). The Verge explained that by attacking Eric Lundgren Microsoft very well knew that it attacked everyone who recycled old PCs (“E-waste guru going to prison says cracking down on refurbishers is ‘harmful to society’). The Verge, formerly edited by Bill Gates, unfortunately ended up amplifying Microsoft. On the same day it published a headline that contained Microsoft’s deliberate lie (‘he was counterfeiting Windows software’). Even Microsoft knew this was false, but again, this is Microsoft. Facts don’t matter. Only profits matter. As we shall explain in a moment, Microsoft’s attack on Lundgren was very much consistent with the company’s disdain if not sheer hatred of recycling in general. Lundgren and Microsoft are philosophically and ethically opposed.

“I currently support #RightToRepair,” Eric Lundgren told me after I had asked him about Software Freedom, e.g. use of GNU/Linux on recycled machines. “I currently support PIRG.” To quote the site: “Most of us have dozens of electronic devices in our lives, from smart phones and home computers, to inkjet printers and flat screen TVs. Things don’t last like they used to—a tiny broken part or outdated software can mean the end of the road, and the life spans seem to get shorter and shorter. This endless cycle of make, use, replace, and throw away may be good for the electronics companies’ bottom line, but when we stop and consider the impacts on the environment, and the threat to our health, it just makes no sense.

Scroll down a just a little bit to find “TELL MICROSOFT: DON’T PUNISH RECYCLERS” (PIRG supports Lundgren in return, sending the love back). Lundgren is extremely popular among recyclers, but Microsoft defamed him to that effect (trying to portray him as a foe or a threat to the recyclers’ world). We’ll come to that later in this series. The demonisations were rather outlandish and way beyond insulting. Lundgren still thinks about suing over it. These psychological attacks (fabricating things and making up stuff to dehumanise the victim) have long-lasting effects.

To quote that page (the relavent part): “Microsoft pressed criminal charges against Eric Lundgren for making restore disks that allow people to fix old computers—even though the software on those disks is available online for free. We need to stand up for repair—or risk a chilling effect on repair and refurbishing, a key strategy to reducing electronic waste.”

It cannot be stressed strongly enough that recyclers support Lundgren; Microsoft tried driving a wedge between him and other recyclers. Did that work? Not exactly, but it served to show just how evil Microsoft still is. The only lesson here is that Microsoft would do anything to destroy critics. Last month we presented many other examples (Microsoft phoning people’s bosses, trying to get these people fired because of their stance on Microsoft). Microsoft is a bully incorporated into company form. It acts like a violent cult.

Further down PIRG tell “Eric Lundgren’s Story”:

Eric Lundgren is a recycling entrepreneur, and has made it his mission to extend the life cycle of used electronics. At age 19, he started a company that takes discarded electronics and rebuilds them into new, functional devices, thereby diverting working electronics from landfills. He even built the world’s longest-range electric car out of electronic waste, or e-waste, and set the world record for distance on a single charge.

Lundgren developed a strong passion for this cause in his twenties when he decided to follow America’s exported e-waste. He witnessed the harmful and toxic effects e-waste landfills had on people living in China, India and Africa at that time. It was clear that we needed to do more to keep toxic e-waste to a minimum.

But, Lundgren is heading to prison for providing restore disks that allow people to fix their old computers. Even though this software is given to everyone who buys a computer with a licensed operating system and can be downloaded for free, Microsoft decided to press criminal charges against Lundgren for planning distributing the disks to help people keep their own computers running longer. Eric did put the Microsoft logo on the disk, which is a copyright violation, but since the software is available for free, it’s not clear how Microsoft could claim this is criminal violation. Why not just ask that he take their logo off the disks, which he would surely have agreed to do?

While this is an extreme example, it could set a dangerous precedent and result in a chilling effect on electronic refurbishing across the globe. We’re standing up for repair by calling on Microsoft to work with people who recycle—not criminalize them.

Together, we can make sure Eric is last person who faces prison for doing what we all need to do more of—repair and reuse.

“Best to be guided by your heart’s conviction,” Lundgren told me. He wants justice. He also wants to recycle. Both things can take a lot of time and effort, endless energy, leading to fatigue. Mental exhaustion may seem inevitable, but Lundgren is surrounded by a lot of supportive people, who love him and want to help him. They give him hope and motivation. Microsoft was unable to change that (it tried hard). Worse — Microsoft is just making more enemies. Its attacks on Lundgren will backfire in a very big way.

“Microsoft fights the right to repair,” I told Lundgren. “The site Motherboard [among others] covered how Microsoft fought this legislation…”

“That is true,” he responded. “The founder of #RightToRepair told me all about it.”

And “that was months ago,” I continued, so “you probably could not read that at the time” (Lundgren was still in prison).

A lot of the media focused on Apple’s role (fighting the ‘Right to Repair’), e.g. [1, 2]. Lundgren heard all about it by now. He also mentioned the CEO of IFixIt.com. They have their rants about Microsoft-branded hardware (notoriously difficult to repair).

Cory Doctorow covered the issue back in April, a year after Lundgren’s time behind bars had commenced (Not just Apple: Microsoft has been quietly lobbying to kill Right to Repair bills). “I like Cory Doctorow,” Lundgren noted. “He is a smart dude!”

It’s also well within his ‘ballpark’. He wrote about digital obsolescence for decades. One article of interest comes from PIRG and is entitled “Microsoft named as stopping “Right to Repair” in Washington”. We linked to it at the time (when it was new). Here are some key passages:

In an interview on iFixit’s Repair Radio, Morris, who was the original sponsor of the bill last year, claimed that “word on the street” was that big tech companies, specifically Microsoft, “marshaled forces to keep the bill from moving out of the House Rules committee.”
Rep. Morris further claimed that, while he didn’t see the “smoking gun,” “there was a tax proposal here…to pay for STEM education.” Furthermore, “in exchange for Microsoft support[ing that tax,] having Right to Repair die…” was a condition, as well as another privacy policy Microsoft wanted to advance.
He shed some light on the kinds of things Microsoft lobbyists were doing, saying that last year, “Microsoft was going around telling our members that they wouldn’t sell Surface Tablets in Washington any longer if we passed the bill.”
In our own conversations about the opposition to Right to Repair in Olympia, Microsoft’s full-throated opposition was often brought up by legislators, and it was to clear to us that the company was lobbying extensively against the bill, and was the most high-profile opponent.
Across the country, large manufacturers like Microsoft and Apple tend to do much of their public opposition to Right to Repair through trade associations. Microsoft is among the manufacturers represented by trade groups like CompTIA, Consumer Technology Association, Information Technology Industry Council and the Entertainment Software Association, which are all active opponents to Right to Repair reforms.
These trade associations can mask the role of an individual company, but are one of the key ways the opposition works to defeat pro-consumer Right to Repair legislation. But the behind-the-scenes targeting of Right to Repair by Microsoft seemed to play a more significant role in the bill’s demise.

Microsoft has a complicated recent history on repair

Last year, electronics recycler Eric Lundgren went to prison for duplicating Dell restore discs, software meant to help fix old computers and that is free to download. Microsoft faced intense scrutiny for their actions in that case.
In response, U.S. PIRG delivered more than 11,000 petitions to Microsoft offices, calling for greater accountability for electronic waste disposal and easier access to the tools and information needed to repair products.
The case also brought attention to several other ways Microsoft makes it difficult for people to reuse its products: lobbying against Right to Repair laws, violating warranty regulations by attempting to forbid independent repair in warranty clauses and “void warranty if removed” stickers, and making several products which are notoriously difficult (if not impossible) to repair.
On the other hand, Microsoft has taken steps to help computer recycling and reduce waste, making a new operating system that runs smoothly on older devices, reducing the need for new upgrades. That’s no small step, and iFixit praised it at the time.

“According to State Rep. Jeff Morris, Microsoft played a leading role,” PIRG said (a role in killing the bill). Here’s the video in which it’s covered:

On occasions I asked Lundgren about rejecting Windows and just putting GNU/Linux on computers instead. “I’m all hardware via Recycling,” he emphasised. “Don’t really know too much about software.”

Microsoft Being Microsoft, Bullying Everyone Who Reduces Microsoft’s Profits

Posted in Hardware, Microsoft at 1:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Overview

Microsoft’s Declaration of War on Recyclers

  • You are here ☞ Part 4: Microsoft Being Microsoft, Bullying Everyone Who Reduces Microsoft’s Profits
  • Part 5: Microsoft’s War on the Right to Repair (One’s Own Computers) Makes Lundgren an ‘Enemy’ to Microsoft
  • Part 6: Damage Control Mode: Satya Nadella Fleeing Lundgren After Realising What Microsoft Had Done
  • Part 7: Slander and Libel From Microsoft (Demonising the Victim)
  • Part 8: Similar High-Profile ‘Bargains’ (Aaron Swartz and Marcus Hutchins)

The Legal Aftermath

Pending review and research

The WannaCry Hero Deserves a Pardon, Not a Conviction and analogy of Marcus Hutchins
Reference: The WannaCry Hero Deserves a Pardon, Not a Conviction

Summary: People who serve society the most (to the chagrin of some corporations and secret vested interests) are being put in prison or threatened with life in prison (i.e. death); Eric Lundgren is a classic example of that because his work reduces consumption/sales

THE incredible story of Eric Lundgren is one that Microsoft hoped — if not prayed — would go away by now. It’s one of Microsoft’s ‘skeletons in the closet’. We’re opening this closet. We sensed the stench from the outside and it is a lot worse when one takes a mere peek inside. Lundgren has been released and he has a lot to say. He has so much to show. Unlike 1.5 years ago, there’s none of that immense stress of a courtroom clocking legal bills (about a million bucks), facing potentially decades behind bars. Now it’s time to spill the beans. The record needs to be set straight. It must.

We’re angling or planning to start presenting legal documents soon. The story presented in prior parts reveals 1. media manipulation; 2. distortion of court processes; 3. lies told to court and 4. defamation in media (defamation of an already-vulnerable and poorly-funded defendant).

As Mr. Lundgren put it, the problem with these court documents is that they show “no one in the room knew what a “Restore CD” was… or worse — they knew and convicted me anyway.”

As The Verge put it in April 2018, E-waste recycler must serve 15-month sentence for selling discs with free Microsoft software (free as in gratis).

There are at least half a dozen aspects to cover in this case. The injustice is multifaceted and rather breathtaking. Thankfully, court documents are a written documentation and maybe transcriptions too can help show the lying, the distortion, the mobbing. There was character assassination and outright defamation (intentional). If the story stays in our news cycle for weeks/months, making a difference when it comes to public opinion, then at least we can clear the person’s name. He will never get his life back, but why live in shame too? Microsoft on the Issues — Microsoft’s nefarious lobbying blog — defamed him under the guise of “The facts” (that’s in the title!). It led to puff pieces such as Microsoft defends conviction of e-waste recycler over piracy (they actually used the word “piracy”). That’s how Engadget portrayed him, comparing him to a murderer at high seas (false equivalence from Hollywood); An e-waste recycler is going to jail for ‘pirating’ Windows was another headline from the same publication. Putting aside the propaganda term “pirating”, this isn’t what actually happened. For a lot of people who look up “the facts”, however, defamatory material like “the facts” from Microsoft on the Issues will become visible. Are they reading about a recycler looking to reduce waste on this planet? Or a pirate who attacks ships/boats, possibly holding as hostages (or killing) crew members?

“The truth is in the details,” Lundgren told me this weekend. “I did NOT copy or distribute MSFT [Microsoft] License.”

See Hackaday’s The Eric Lundgren Story: When Free Isn’t Free or “E-waste warrior slapped with 15-month sentence for flogging Windows restore discs“. These aren’t installation CDs but “restore discs”.

“Nothing was sold,” Lundgren insisted. “It was just the freeware Restore-CD that no-one sells.”

The last version of Windows that I used was Windows 98 and I remember receiving such CDs, twice even (the vendor sent me more). So I had two sets of CDs for the same laptop, which had come with a licence to use Windows.

“It did not cost MSFT a dime,” Lundgren continued. “They already sold the product that I was trying to help consumers legally use.”

This isn’t even a new practice! Compaq gave me that laptop with the restore CDs, even several times (they sent me more later). This was perfectly legal. The purpose of these CDs was crystal clear. Having more restore CDs does not imply having more copies of Windows. It’s like a ‘factory reset’ utility.

Over time it seems increasingly clear that Microsoft just decided to bully a person and make his life miserable. Microsoft violated and corrupted the process at many levels and each represents a major scandal on its own (or in its own right). We’re increasingly convinced that they made an example of Lundgren in order to, at the very least, scare other recyclers (who think of doing something similar). More than a decade ago we wrote many articles on how they did similar things in other countries such as Oman and China. Now they do this in the US, at risk of the media getting hostile. They make ‘examples’ of people, sending them to jail for years just to set some legally-unsound precedent.

This whole case is totally insane!

“Dell wanted nothing to do with this,” Lundgren told me. “They refused to be involved. (These were Dell Restore CD’s) I went to those in charge at Dell, I was told that if anything I helped provide free tech-support.”

Herein we see another strand of scandals; the very person who was spreading Windows and providing gratis support is being thrown in prison by the very same companies/people he was helping. We wrote about the absurdity of it several times a decade ago (in relation to other countries). Microsoft is ascribing value to ‘freebies’ — to the point of criminalising those who legally pass these around and maintain the network effect, cementing the Microsoft monopoly/monoculture.

“There are many more points to discuss,” Lundgren stressed. Perhaps the simplest analogy that can be used here is putting people in prison for passing around discount vouchers/coupons; people who use these merely give more business to the shops, which still make a profit (in spite of discounts).

How was this court outcome reached?

“Judge threw out my expert witness and retired right after my case,” Lundgren told me. “Judge T.K. Hurley.”

It gets yet worse. “My lawyer shut down his practice and became a Judge Magistrate right after my case,” he continued.

We’ve seen it before in other cases and places. Appointment of judges isn’t always a ‘clean’ process and the ‘reward’ system does not necessarily reward legal success or absolute integrity. We have examples that were covered in the patent realm (so-called ‘IP’). Live and learn…

There’s a reason why someone like Bill Gates can commit so many crimes and never spend a night in prison. His father is well connected; he runs one of the biggest law firms in the country. He helps super-rich clients. Lundgren? Nope, he just mostly helps poor people. In future parts we’ll shed light on Lundgren’s positive contribution to society and thus the injustice of this persecution (bogus claims, defamation, and prosecution by the firm of pseudo-philanthropist Bill Gates).

“My legal battle cost $870,000 USD. (+) $50,000 Court Fine (+) 15 Month Prison Sentence (+) Felony,” Lundgren explained. So unless you’re a millionaire it renders you a prisoner for life. Financially indebted, unable to pursue work and so on.

Now that he’s out of jail (for a non-crime), Lundgren is trying to put back pieces of his life. His grandfather who had raised him died several days ago, so he is grieving with relatives. “I am currently creating an AI Platform to offer ‘National Free Home Recycling’,” he told me. ” It will be completed within the year and should aggregate & recycle more eWaste than all recyclers today. (Currently 18% of eWaste is Recycled & 82% is Exported or leaching toxic chemicals into our water table via landfills)…”

This is what Lundgren has done (almost) his entire adult life. He lives to do this. “I recently found an article done when I was (17) years old in “Business Pulse Magazine” where I am saying the EXACT same thing that I am saying today!

“It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s been 17 Years and my story hasn’t changed.. Still fighting for the same thing.”

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