Alternative (dirty) business models on the rise
Summary: The Wintel press, which is bribed by companies that it covers, is challenged by prominent developers and Microsoft continues to plant its patent propaganda in the Wintel-centric (and paid) press
Things are changing for the better as GNU/Linux, usually on non-x86 platforms, continues to gain. The Wintel monoculture is trying to use patents, lockdown (‘secure’ boot), bribes and other forms of abuse to maintain revenue.
“With some exceptions, especially desktops (not necessarily laptops), x86 can now be abandoned.”The many crimes of Intel have not, until very recently, bothered the UEFI apologists, notably Garrett, who now hates Intel (see “Actions have consequences (or: why I’m not fixing Intel’s bugs any more)”. UEFI is bad for several reasons that we mentioned here before and FreeBSD accepts it nonetheless. It is becoming part of an operating system that does not even need x86 because:
A new Beta version has been made available for the FreeBSD 10.1 branch, an operating system for x86, ARM, IA-64, PowerPC, PC-98, and UltraSPARC architectures. Users can now download and test it.
Who needs x86 anyway? With some exceptions, especially desktops (not necessarily laptops), x86 can now be abandoned. Samsung makes its own processors now and it has a thriving business based on Linux (Android and Tizen). When Samsung tried messing about with UEFI it ended up making a machine that was remotely brickable (a real problem that the NSA may exploit). Bricking is only one among numerous problems with UEFI. Our main concern about UEFI is that it’s designed to secure the monoculture known as Wintel.
“Microsoft does not receive a billion dollars per year from Samsung for Android; the deal works in two directions and the PR stunt is attempting to portray Android as very expensive.”Speaking of Samsung, the company is finally fighting Microsoft over patents (rather than sign secret patent deals) and The Mukt explained the insignificance of the latest news spin. As we noted at the time, not only Microsoft boosters relayed the deception but even some FOSS blogs repeated it (probably because of the former group, based on their links), including GNU/Linux advocates such as Robert Pogson and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. Microsoft does not receive a billion dollars per year from Samsung for Android; the deal works in two directions and the PR stunt is attempting to portray Android as very expensive. This is propaganda that mostly (originally) comes from pro-Microsoft circles such as CBS and IDG. █
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Summary: More anti-competitive aspects are revealed inside UEFI, which helps merginalise GNU/Linux
Boycotting Intel is not hard to justify. The company is deeply corrupt. We spent over two years explaining why its UEFI antifeatures too should face a boycott and Silviu Stahie provides yet another reason in this article about a new petition. It says: “The Intel Atom Bay Trail tablets have been out for a few months already, but none of the hardware vendors is providing 64-bit firmware builds for them, which means that you can’t install any Linux distros.”
Here’s more: “In fact, you can’t install Linux on any 32-bit UEFI PC, because the boot loader only supports 64-bit, and this is a major issue for people who really want to used their Intel Atom Bay Trail-powered devices with a Linux OS.”
The solution is quite simple; avoid Intel, potentially dodge x86 (where practically possible), and definitely avoid anything with UEFI on any kind of device. It is not only a patent trap but also means for securing Microsoft’s monopoly. In addition, it’s a potential back door for bricking computers remotely. Intel should be shamed of itself. █
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Yet another reason to boycott Intel
Summary: The dark hearts of computers, with a lot of secrets and circuitry whose behaviour cannot be verified, are also convenient back doors, even without additional bugs (implanted en route)
THE FSF has this interesting new article about “Active Management Technology”. It was written by Ward Vandewege, Matthew Garrett, and Richard M. Stallman, who awarded Garrett for his work on UEFI.
One year ago, around the same time that Snowden leaked some NSA documents, we warned that UEFI could be used to remotely brick PCs. Later on, after the NSA leaks had gone maintream, the NSA pretty much confirmed it was a possible strategy (but defecting this to the Chinese). Going back to 2008 we also warned about back doors, some of which facilitated by broken encryption in hardware (e.g. Intel’s ‘hardware-accelerated’ RNG). That was about a decade after Microsoft had allegedly built back doors into Windows (we know that there are back doors now, but it’s just hard to say when Microsoft started it).
We already wrote a great deal about the problem with UEFI patents, UEFI ‘secure’ boot (taking control over computers, moving control away from the users to put itinto corporate hands and governments), but we have not done much to cover UEFI remote control capabilities, or more broadly Intel’s rogue role in intelligence, leading to a ban in some places (some variants of BSD refuse to use Intel RNGs due to fear of intentionally low entropy that derails encryption).
Quoting the article from Vandewege et al.: “Intel’s Active Management Technology (AMT) is a proprietary remote management and control system for personal computers with Intel CPUs. It is dangerous because it has full access to personal computer hardware at a very low level, and its code is secret and proprietary.”
Intel is a deeply criminal company, so to blindly trust its proprietary technology would be foolish. We have always campaigned against Intel not just because “intel” is shorthand for something rather insinuative although this latter point is now a growing factor, too. Watch what China is doing these days when it comes to hardware policy, not just software policy. Or simply watch what Snowden has been leaking; it’s rather revealing. █
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Microsoft — unlike Nokia — cannot fall/revert back to the tyres business
Summary: Xbox One is a failed product and “Surface” is losing hundreds of millions of dollars
THE LATEST episode of TechBytes covers the good news that “Microsoft May Halt Xbox One Production”; it’s news that reminds us of an important fact: “We know that the company has shipped 5 million consoles to retailers since launch, but Microsoft hasn’t been as forthcoming with actual end user sales data.”
When Microsoft does not divulge these figures it always means that Microsoft has something to hide. The same thing has historically been true when it comes to Windows (number of licences issued) and other Microsoft hardware. Microsoft is full of lies.
In other interesting news, Microsoft’s “Surface Loses” because it’s a losing product, by design. As Robert Pogson put it (citing a Microsoft booster, Gavin Clarke): “Do the maths: it cost M$ $2.1billion to sell $1.8billion worth of Surfaces… That’s a loss of $300 million. Eewww! Even without charging itself the tax, they can’t compete in the market.”
The headline at The Register (chosen by the editor) is Microsoft: The MORE Surfaces it sells, the MORE money it loses” (so it’s a bit like Xbox, which lost billions of dollars over the years).
Microsoft is really struggling to re-invent itself for the post-Windows world. So far it has failed and there is now some Microsoft advertising from Microsoft Peter who promotes subscription-based Windows — a horrible idea which is sure to bring rise to GNU/Linux-based operating systems ($0 purchase and subscription charges).
In this article we are citing no Microsoft-hostile sources; instead we link to props of Microsoft, rather than journalists. It helps show just how bad things have become for Microsoft. Microsoft Jack has been defecting away from Microsoft as of late (we wish him well for that), repeatedly promoting some of Microsoft’s competitors for the first time in many years, unlike some in the British press. Gavin Clarke may pretend to be covering GNU/Linux, but most of the time he is just the source/outlet of Microsoft agenda, including his new piece whitewashing Bill Hilf.
We are entering an interesting era where Microsoft is not only struggling (along with Apple) but is also fighting publicly and aggressively against GNU/Linux using attack ads (more so under the 'new' leadership) and racketeering. █
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Summary: Reports of “loss of Linux dual-booting” due to Windows Update are investigated further; FSF award to Garrett faces opposition
IT WAS recently reported in Reddit that UEFI was used by Microsoft Windows to wipe out GNU/Linux. Windows Update rendered GNU/Linux unbootable and allegedly turned ‘secure’ boot on to achieve this.
According to this new analysis from Jamie the UEFI explorer, it’s not an isolated incident. He starts by stating: “I can finally report that yes, there is a problem — but it’s generally not as serious as has been reported.” He also writes: “While I found that I was able to ‘fix’ the loss of Linux dual-booting on both of my systems, I am NOT trying to say that everyone who has posted claims about dual-boot being ‘destroyed’ by Windows Update is wrong. I certainly have enough experience with UEFI boot configuration to know that all sorts of strange things are possible, and it may well be that some systems, with some configurations, really do get more seriously damaged by Windows Update than mine have. One very obvious example might be that the Linux items could get deleted from the boot object list. If that happened you would have to use efibootmgr to put them back again.”
But who would know how to do this and how many people would just turn away from GNU/Linux at this stage? This is why UEFI should face a boycott and antitrust complaints against Microsoft get bolstered. I wholeheartedly disgree with FSF for giving Garrett an award. This can be a PR disaster waiting to happen, a bit like Miguel de Icaza and Theo de Raadt and getting such an award before their FSF bashing. Apparently I am not alone in disagreeing with the FSF; Sam Varghese expressed similar concerns, having opposed ‘secure’ boot for quite some time along with many others. He writes: “The Free Software Foundation has given an annual award this year for work that enslaves people to the demands of Microsoft – something that flies in the face of all that the organisation has stood for since its founding.”
This has indeed been a bizarre move and it can help weaken existing complaints (in Europe) over Microsoft’s UEFI tricks. █
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Summary: UEFI ‘secure’ boot is bricking laptops again, showing that there are worse aspects to UEFI than the anti-competitive (anti-GNU/Linux) nature of it
THERE IS a new UEFI nightmare scenario, which relates somewhat to the fact that the NSA can remotely destroy (as in brick) computers with UEFI, provided they use a ‘faulty’ implementation of UEFI  (UEFI ‘secure’ boot is faulty by design). “”Beware Samsung laptops” is a lesson the Linux community has already learned,” says the author of the article, but why not name UEFI also? “For Swedish Linux users,” he says, “the main lesson seems to be “Ask your big-box store salesperson to certify in writing that the machine she sells you is capable of running Linux equally well as it runs Windows”.”
This is becoming a serious issue. Germany has already pretty much banned machines with UEFI ‘secure’ boot, perhaps realising the potential hazards. Here in the UK there is concern about Windows in general, even among CESG staff (the CESG’s Web site has been down for half a day now, seemingly after getting cracked, following a migration to Windows 2 years ago). To quote CESG: “Local authorities connect to central government systems through a Public Services Network (PSN), via which they can share essential services in an effort to drive efficiency. GCHQ IT security arm CESG provides advice and certification for councils using the PSN.
“According to Gartner’s public sector research director Neville Cannon, CESG rules state that in order to connect to the PSN, authorities must run “patchable” software, which means those running XP after D-day could be in serious trouble.”
This again is an NSA back door. The security panic leads some major entities to migrating to Linux [2,3] and Microsoft’s UEFI-equipped (and Linux-hostile) hardware is now declared dead, perhaps because nobody really wanted it and it self-bricked, due to UEFI 'secure' boot'. This is a “so-so article but points to an interesting attitude,” iophk said, but it basically shows that the ‘new’ “Surface” is a failure as big as the ‘old’ and clumsy “Surface”, which was dubbed a “big ass table” and vanished quietly about half a decade ago. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
As detailed here before, a few Samsung laptop models have a firmware bug that makes them liable to becoming inert bricks if you install Linux. It’s a one-way process. This happened to me when I bought an ultrabook from the Elgiganten big-box store last summer. Both Samsung and the store refused to reimburse me for the loss of my machine’s use. At the suggestion of my home municipality’s consumer advisor (konsumentrådgivare), I took the matter to Allmänna reklamationsnämnden, the National Board for Consumer Disputes (complaint no 2013-10081).
The second alternative is to go for an alternative OS altogether.
This is not as farfetched as it sounds: Linux has a much smaller footprint than Windows 7 and, as a result, some ATM operators are considering a switch to Linux rather than the Microsoft product.
This would not be the first time ATMs have transitioned to a different OS. Before the industry moved to XP, most ATM’s were running IBM’s OS/2 operating system.
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Summary: Chih-Wei Huang, widely known for his role in the Chinese Linux Documentation Project and Chinese Linux Extensions, wants the Justice Department to investigate Google because Asus, his employer, does not ship Android on Intel hardware
ECT, going by the name Linux Insider, has just published this article about Android-x86 — a project that mostly helps a convicted monopoly abuser (Intel) interject itself into Linux/Android.
The article is very negative about Google and it speaks of complaints for abuse in a Free software project. We have seen such stuff before and it usually turns out to be provocation. It has been very typical for Microsoft people to do so, or even Microsoft proxies such as Nokia. It’s often provocation against Google using forks that don’t obey simple rules, or simply lead to FUD, patent taxation, and even severe privacy issues like NSA/Microsoft Skype.
“Sadly enough, ECT only quotes people who are against Google. No balance is offered, not even an attempt at balance.”Dealing with the core of the article from ECT, it says that the “maintainer of the Android-x86 Project has suggested that the Justice Department should investigate whether Google has been interfering with adoption of the open source code his community is developing.”
This is attributed to Chih-Wei Huang, which is a common name in places like Taiwan. There is Dr. Chih-Wei Huang, who worked 5+ years in Washington/Redmond (with Microsoft payroll), but he is not to be confused with this guy (same full name and even the same username in the same country) that has a good track record when it comes to Free software in China and Taiwan. We already know of former Microsoft staff like Xuxian Jiang, who pretend to be researching Android but are actually FUD mills against Android. But this one guy has nothing to do with Microsoft, unlike Dr. Chih-Wei Huang (see his revealing CV).
According to ECT, Huang said (to ECT): “Asus announced the dual OS laptop TD300LA in the CES and got very positive feedback. However, Google asked to stop the product so Asus are unable to ship it, sadly.”
This doesn’t sound right. Days ago we covered this and it was actually Microsoft that put the kibosh on the project (see the links here), not just Google as previously (and perhaps even falsely) reported. Neither party wanted to support this product. Several publications reported on that. So why is Huang picking only on Google?
Sadly enough, ECT only quotes people who are against Google. No balance is offered, not even an attempt at balance. There is no approach for comment from Google. It only says: “Asus executives did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Huang’s assessment of the alleged thwarted hardware release. Google officials several times declined requests for interviews to discuss the Android-x86 Project.”
What about Asus then? Maybe he should ask Asus (according to Wikipedia his current employer) for more information before accusing Google. What does Google have to lose here? Motivation is too weak for this theory to make sense. If anyone has reasons to interfere here, it would be ARM (UK-based) or Nvidia (also external to Asus).
Asus already ships a lot of Android (e.g. the Nexus 7), so only hardware limitation is the mystery here. Intel’s x86 is notoriously unsuitable for mobile devices, especially due to heat, size, and energy consumption. Intel’s “Atom” was a massive failure; heads were rolling. In fact, Google would generally be wise to avoid or to dodge those chipsets that put Windows to shame (heavy, clumsy, not running for long). But it doesn’t mean that Google intervened; in fact, maybe Asus reached those same conclusions on its own.
Five years ago when Asus announced a Linux-booting device (Android Eee PC, running Linux/Android) is was most seemingly killed because pressure from Microsoft, not Google (just read what the head of Asus said at the time).
It seems likely that Huang is barking up the wrong tree. We are eager to give Google the benefit of the doubt here because looking at the track record of Android, there tend to be provocations every now and then, trying to portray Android as “not open” (common line from Apple and Microsoft), abusive, monopolistic, etc. Almost every time this type of claims floods the media it eventually turns out to be bogus and often it ends up revealing an embarrassing link to Microsoft (which shamelessly runs anti-Google smear campaigns). █
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In Sovietised West, Xbox watches YOU!
Summary: Xbox “One” so big a failure — not just a surveillance device — that its chiefs continue to jump ship, leaving Microsoft in disarray
THERE has been an exceptionally major departure of high-level staff inside Microsoft and we mostly covered it years ago (well before Ballmer stepped down). These days we cover additions to this list only when readers send us links such as this one, which says that the Xbox Chief Product Officer is quitting Microsoft and canceling his appearance at GDC. “Infecting wireless Hi-Fi and audio company Sonos now,” says our reader, alluding to a culture of moles such as Elop.
Xbox-related departures are frequent and many. Recent posts noted that Xbox One was failing to sell. It is far behind the competition, which almost doubles it in terms of sales (Sony easily holds the crown).
Why would anyone at all ever buy anything that’s branded “Xbox”? It’s not only burning down houses, killing people inside those houses (due to design flaws in Xbox 360). It’s an abusive piece of DRM in a box. Those who buy Xbox are in essence paying for what we know to be surveillance equipment that spies on the buyer [1, 2, 3] for various governments such as Britain’s. If more people knew what Xbox is really doing, then nobody would be foolish enough to buy it anymore and the whole product line would have to be cancelled, just like Microsoft’s many failed platforms for mobile. █
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