Renting Microsoft software rather than using Free (as in freedom, or libre) software?
Summary: Equipped with PR about toilets, Gates’ lobbying arm is stepping into a GNU/Linux and Free/libre software vanguard, namely Kerala
It is no longer controversial to say that many foundations set up by rich people have an agenda other than or beyond what they publicly say. Many journalists take that as a given because they have come across stories that convince them of that. The Gates Foundation has been arranging panels around the world and scheduled lobbying journeys for Gates to guard his ever-growing wealth and investments. Last month Dubai was the destination and Gates was scheduled to meet public officials there for lobbying and some investments (he is lobbying leaders as though he is a technology expert because he is wealthy, which evidently is his main skills, monopolising and then profiteering).
“They are lobbying governments to give taxpayers’ money to companies they invest in, essentially a subsidy for billionaires to profit from, as usual”One notable outcome of the meetings in the middle east is a pact of foundations of the super-rich, including another Gates pact with Alwaleed Bin Talal. See [1, 2, 3] for background about those two. They are lobbying governments to give taxpayers’ money to companies they invest in, essentially a subsidy for billionaires to profit from, as usual. That is the business model. As one report in the Indian press put it: “Other participants at the summit also announced their contributions — USD 457 million from Britain, USD 250 million from Canada, and USD 240 million from Norway.”
The headlines all parrot the same taking point about “eradicating polio”, but Gates should not be given credit (he tries to hoard and opportunistically monopolise credit). People in this area of research know he wasn’t the one to eradicate polio, which is almost eradicated anyway. He wants to grab credit for it and funnel further investment/taxpayers’ money to companies he is investing in, for personal gain, e.g. through patent monopolies. Watch the press release health-washing it for reputation laundering benefiting Gates and his plutocrat friend.
With all that said, let us recall the EDGI tactics of Microsoft, and in particular Gates’ role in it. When India was going towards software freedom something disruptive happened. Gates was announcing AIDS-related activities, essentially a lot of hype, to help Microsoft derail GNU/Linux-friendly policy in India. They are buying politicians this way and the hype usually turns out to be in vain some time down the line (a journalist recently gave me an example of this from Microsoft and Gates in Egypt).
Something similar might be happening in Kerala right now. The political camps there can be played off against one another based on new Wikileaks material and Gates seem to be appealing to politicians in Kerala, a famous adopter of GNU/Linux.
” We gave a lot of examples where Gates pushes for Microsoft in libraries in prior years.”The Gates Foundation has announced some health-related stuff and got a lot of fake press (PR) for it, e.g. [1, 2] (publicity and lobbying go hand in hand) , so watch out for politicians who call for Microsoft in schools and government (public sector) again. We saw this before.
Having just lobbied the middle east’s richest nations, Gates managed to impose Microsoft software on many libraries in the region. From last month’s news: “Reach Out To Asia (Rota) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have announced a three-year collaboration deal to increase public access to libraries in Asia and the Middle East.”
So basically that’s more Microsoft in the public sector, courtesy of Gates. We gave a lot of examples where Gates pushes for Microsoft in libraries in prior years [1, 2, 3]. Don’t let him do the same in Kerala with his toilets-themed (“sanitation”) PR. █
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Europe stops illegal Microsoft-leaning ‘tenders’, US should follow suit (SCOTUS hallway imaged below)
Summary: Microsoft cannot bypass public tenders, based on a ruling from a court of law in Europe
Microsoft’s many offences are diverse in their nature. Just about any imaginable offence Microsoft has committed or is still committing. Right now Microsoft is offering lock-in in exchange for some gifts/cash, in liaison with Forbes. This, however, does not qualify as a bribe like this one which bypasses the public and uses politicians. As the Gates Foundation certainly knows, the best way to assure annual profit (or bailout) is to lobby politicians to hand over taxpayers’ money to corporations you have investments in (the Gates Foundation is a tax-exempt investment instrument). This has rendered many corporations political in nature and heavily reliant on lobbying. Microsoft is no exception.
“To Microsoft, anything that’s non-Microsoft is unfair.”On the one hand, what Microsoft does when it comes to government contracts is not so unique. On the other hand, notes ESOP, Microsoft has been engaging in several other illegal activities in Portugal. And the latest ESOP press release is titled “Court Annuls Public Tender for MS Software in Municipality of Almada” (there are usually incentives for officials who play along, i.e. bribes). The press release says: “Following a legal action brought by ESOP to the Administrative and Fiscal Court of Almada, public tender no. 31A2012 regarding licensing and maintenance of Microsoft software costing up to 550.000,00 EUR was annulled. The tender, now deemed illegal, was launched by the City of Almada and prevented all the competing solutions from being supplied.
“It is the first court decision of this type in Portugal. The court confirms that, according to the Portuguese Law, public tenders must include functional requirement and must NOT include specific brands.”
Moreover, says the text: “Compliance with public procurement rules will enable the City of Almada to receive more and better proposals for the supply of software, including solutions based on Open Source.”
Fair competition is not a term that Microsoft understand. To Microsoft, anything that's non-Microsoft is unfair.
If only more countries, including the UK, had the guts and the activist spirit to do what ESOP did in Portugal… █
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Microsoft tries to paint itself as “fighting the bad guys”
Summary: Software security ‘standard’ to be led by the company which made insecurity an acceptable engineering practice?
According to this new report (criticised heavily in this LXer thread), Microsoft is trying to lead security standards as if Microsoft is the master of security. Oh! The vanity!
“Previously, roughly half a decade ago, Microsoft fonts also enabled remote hijacking of one’s Windows-running PC.”Microsoft is not just bad at security but also at patching security flaws; many people, especially in businesses, won’t install updates from Microsoft without qualms because these tend to break the software every now and then, even weeks ago. As IDG put it: “The saga of botched patch MS13-036 takes new twists and turns — including a problem with Multiple Master fonts” (familiar story, not the first of this kind).
Go on and wonder how poor modularity must be if a security patch can impact fonts. Previously, roughly half a decade ago, Microsoft fonts also enabled remote hijacking of one’s Windows-running PC. █
“Our products just aren’t engineered for security.”
–Brian Valentine, Microsoft executive
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The world has moved on and beyond the “desktop”
Summary: With Microsoft’s common carrier and browser share down considerably Microsoft finds itself increasingly irrelevant and it tries subversive means of making another comeback
According to this new article from IDG, Forrester has no faith in Vista 8, despite Forrester ‘research’ (for a fee, for agenda) being Microsoft-funded for years. To quote: “Windows 8, the most significant upgrade to Microsoft’s operating system since Windows 95 and one of the most important products in the company’s history, will not achieve enough adoption in enterprises to be considered a standard, according to Forrester Research.”
“Even the Microsoft boosters have ceased trying to lie about Vista 8 sales.”Britain’s leading Microsoft booster can offer damage control no more. He wrote: “Those who upgraded to Windows 8 aren’t the only ones unhappy with the new touch-driven operating system – Wall Street is too. Just don’t expect any of the criticism hurled at Steve “Teflon” Ballmer, Microsoft’s shy and retiring boss, to stick.
“The chief executive is under fire from money men who responded to tech reporters trolling the markets for blistering opinions on Microsoft’s leadership, given that: PC sales are crashing; Windows Phone 8 smartmobes are in fourth place in the US mobile OS market; and Windows 8 Surface gadgets are barely on the worldwide tablet sales charts. The new touchscreen-friendly Windows has not been that well received, resulting the software giant undoing decisions made at the highest levels.”
Here are his closing words: “Arguably, Ballmer’s pain has been postponed. Microsoft’s Windows growth isn’t coming from new Windows 8 PCs sold to consumers, rather sales of Windows 8 licences to distribution channel partners and volume customers. Actual Windows 8 machines haven’t moved in any significant numbers. The PCs that are selling run Windows 7.”
Even the Microsoft boosters have ceased trying to lie about Vista 8 sales. Android already became far more of an industry standard than Vista 7 and 8 combined. Android will soon celebrate one billion activations. It sometimes seems like Google has helped harm many Microsoft de facto standards, including multimedia ones, not just operating systems. The hardest part to knock down is Microsoft’s most profitable monopoly, Office, which relies solely on format-induced lock-in.
According to this piece from the pro-Microsoft 'news' site ReadWrite, “Google is Prepping a Sneak Attack on Microsoft Office” and the author says: “Google sources also say they’re confident that Microsoft won’t be able to block QuickOffice with licensing issues or other legal threats. Eventually, these individuals say, QuickOffice will become the foundation of Google Apps, although that’s still a ways off.”
“The hardest part to knock down is Microsoft’s most profitable monopoly, Office, which relies solely on format-induced lock-in.”Pamela Jones responded as follows: “I hope Google doesn’t make the mistake of thinking that building your business on a Microsoft “standard” format that includes a right for Microsoft to add proprietary doodads is going to work out for them. And if they don’t include ODF, Microsoft will be correct that then Microsoft will be more open than Google in that one area. On the other hand, if the lawyers are in this decision because Microsoft is a litigation bully and competes in courtrooms instead of in the marketplace, who knows what has gone into the decision? Dealing with Microsoft is a headache, and it causes others endless troubles for absolutely no good reason with folks ending up doing things to protect themselves from attack that they’d otherwise never have done.
“And speaking of openness, what’s with ReadWrite’s new policy of making their articles impossible to copy and paste? This is the Internet, and there are principles and a culture, and they are violating them.”
Recall how Microsoft resorted to corruption for OOXML, which Google, for some reason, no longer opposes as fiercely as it used to, partly due to Microsoft's pollution in formats space.
“Google has made good progress on weaning Microsoft lock-in, but the job is not done yet.”According to a post about OGC, Microsoft is now trying to ‘pull an OOXML’ again, this time not against video chats through Web standards, namely WebRTC (a threat to Skype) but against another common standard. As one person put it: “Most (all?) current OGC web service standards to date have an Open Source reference implementation, which was often (always?) part funded by OGC testbeds, and open source implementations were tested against proprietary implementations during OGC testbeds. As far as I’m aware, there has been very little up-take from the Open Source community of the “GeoServices REST API”, and I’m unaware of any testing of non-ESRI applications during OGC testbeds. (Someone may be able to correct me here).”
Here is the source. Pamela Jones, who fought against OOXML, calls this “Another OOXML,” noting that it is “a “standard” proposed when there is already a FOSS overlapping standard in use. ESRI lists Microsoft, Oracle, Novell and SAP as partners.”
In order to starve Microsoft, a longtime abusive monopolist and patent racketeer (Microsoft tries to extract money from devices using FAT patents in exFAT), one needs to erode its lock-in. Google has made good progress on weaning Microsoft lock-in, but the job is not done yet. █
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Violent revolution by Microsoft, CIA style
Summary: A recollection of very dirty tactics from Microsoft, which uses money to oppress, overthrow, and even hijack its opposition
Paul E. Singer (aka “Elliott“, a misnomer for a bunch predatory investors) can be accused of letting Microsoft grab Novell’s patent portfolio through CPTN. More recently we saw this vulture preying on another company and now we see it destroying BMC for personal gain. The Microsoft booster (only occasional) at the Financial Times says: ‘The deal marks a success for Elliott Management, the activist investor that accumulated 9.6 per cent of BMC shares and won two seats on the company’s board.”
That’s entryism. Pamela Jones wrote about it that “Elliott Management forced the Novell deal too. Since Microsoft was involved in all that, what is the real purpose of all this?”
Novell is no longer a focus of ours. We mostly ignore articles about SUSE, taking a passive approach. But Novell’s patents and the tactics of entryism cannot be ignored. Microsoft is now doing to Nokia what it did to Novell and at the end of the day we are left dealing with just another SCO. Here is some more coverage about Novell and SCO, courtesy of Jones:
Our own Justin Ellis attended today’s hearing at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Novell’s appeal in Novell v. Microsoft. This is the antitrust litigation Novell brought over WordPerfect. He has a report for us. He begins with his general impressions, and then provides his notes on the arguments.
What we have learned from those two cases is that Microsoft can turn opponents (like Nokia) into allies using entryism, essentially an infiltration and/or bribe. Microsoft funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars for Novell to change teams after Novell had become a fierce antitrust opponent of Microsoft and Microsoft paid tens of millions of dollars to SCO when it attacked Linux with empty copyright claims. More recently Microsoft also bribed Barnes & Noble to defect from legal action against Microsoft to a Microsoft alliance or even a sale to Microsoft (see [1, 2, 3] for background). Not too long ago Barnes & Noble complained about the patent system and shortly thereafter Microsoft tried to abduct and silence the company for good. Regarding the news that “Microsoft Mulling Nook Media LLC Purchase For $1 Billion” Pamela Jones wrote: “And so Microsoft kills off another Linux-based offering in the market, just as its deal with Nokia killed off another. Anti-trust regulators, are you noticing the subtle strategy?” Regarding the news that Microsoft claims to be making billions from Android ‘licensing’ (extortion), Pamela Jones wrote: “To regulators: please notice that it is Microsoft and Apple who are claiming that Motorola is asking for unconscionable amounts of money. But Microsoft is making much, much more per device. Remember that they claim if they had to pay Motorola less than this per device, somewhere between $3.50 and $4.00 per unit, they couldn’t stay in business. So, the question before you has to be, is Microsoft using patents to destroy its chief competition? And NO ONE has tested these patents to determine if they are even valid. It’s all done by bullying. Barnes & Noble revealed that the patents shown to them by Microsoft were junk, that they didn’t want them, use them or need them. Please look into this. Thank you.”
What Microsoft does is almost certainly illegal, but since it takes a lot of lawyers and lobbyists to enforce the law against criminal corporations, it is unlikely that anything other than a large corporations can successful press charges against Microsoft executives, leading to a jail term (e.g. for racketeering, bribery, and so on). We see this quite frequently in the energy and banking sectors. The law is not being practised (or practised only in one direction), hence it’s just relish. █
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Skype is Stalin’s dream
Summary: Microsoft’s response to allegations that Skype is spying on all users is full of holes
Sometimes, albeit not always, silence is better than anything else. For Microsoft, keeping quiet amid the latest controversy would probably have worked out better.
Jürgen Schmidt, writing for the German technology press, contributes to a London-based branch to defend allegations against Microsoft Skype — allegations we wrote about before. He writes: “The next question is: how does Microsoft intend to rate a page without knowing its content? Potential explanations referring to a reputation database are not valid if no reference data is available for the pages – as was the case with the URLs that were specially generated for our test. Neither are we convinced by the suggestion that the only purpose of the HEAD request is to discover potential redirections to known malicious pages. Firstly, such a redirection could also be triggered in the HTML code that has not been retrieved (meta http-equiv=”refresh”), and secondly, many web pages embed the actual malware code via iFrame tags – which is not included in the HEAD data either.
“Microsoft should at least document the use of these surveillance techniques…”
–Jürgen Schmidt“Finally, the use of the SmartScreen Filter technique is documented, for example in Internet Explorer, and users can choose to disable it. Not so in Skype. There is no concrete information to suggest that SmartScreen filters are being used in Skype chats, and Skype users have no way of declining the use of this surveillance technique.
“Despite all this, it is likely that the observed access activity is connected to some form of security feature. However, if this is the case, the feature has been poorly implemented. It has very few potential benefits – especially in view of the rather substantial invasion of users’ privacy. After all, Microsoft purposefully accesses even personal information that is not intended for third parties – such as the URL to a private photo album of a family trip that is sent to mum – and then stores this information on its systems. Microsoft should at least document the use of these surveillance techniques and provide users with the option to decline the well-intended security measure.”
Do not believe for a moment that Skype facilitates security and privacy. This is not even software, it is malware and spyware. █
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Summary: Nokia is shown lobbying for embargoes while it is also suing — with limited success — Android handsets makers
The Microsoft mobile patents ‘subsidiary’ known as Nokia just can’t help attacking Linux. Not too long ago it attacked Android and free codecs [1, 2, 3, 4]. HTC tries to make deterrence and it “seems to have found a way to get over a courtroom loss to Nokia in Holland by scoring a legal victory against the Finns in Germany.
“Nokia wants bans on Android, so it is said to be lobbying right now.”“HTC said that on Tuesday the District Court of Mannheim, Germany dismissed a Nokia patent claim, ruling the complaint was “too poor.”"
Nokia was said to have gotten an injunction and Pamela Jones wrote: “Talk to the DOJ and FTC about it, and let them know you care about the attacks on Android from the non-Android vendors, using patents as the attack mechanism. The losers are you and me, the consumers.”
Here is a correction showing that Nokia did not get an injunction and a reminder that shareholders are getting tired of Elop, reminding him that Microsoft ideology does not come before profit.
Nokia wants bans on Android, so it is said to be lobbying right now. To quote: “They are lobbying on unspecified policy matters concerning intellectual property rights cases before the ITC. The federal agency can order U.S. Customs and Border Protection to block infringing products from entering the United States.”
Regarding the news that Microsoft signed patent deal with Chinese phone maker ZTE (Nokia was big in China) Pamela Jones wrote: “That’s what SCO Group said. Exactly. IP bullies must all attend the same prep schools. I have the same suggestion I offered SCO Group: Microsoft should reveal its allegedly wonderful patents and precisely how Android allegedly infringes, so we can all show proper respect. As I recall, when Barnes & Noble was targetted, they noticed the IP claimed was worthless and not something they wanted or needed. Unless Microsoft reveals such matters publicly, we’ll probably just continue to believe that the smartphone wars are designed to cow Android into submission, so Microsoft can make money inappropriately, which was, I believe, SCO’s dream too, to make money without earning it, off of someone’s else’s hard work.”
So Microsoft is working to tax while Nokia, the proxy, is working to ban. █
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Lock-in, not security
Summary: News and analysis of UEFI ‘secure boot’ (lockdown), including the new role played by the Microsoft-funded SUSE
The UEFI Forum contacted me yesterday, seeking to arrange an interview with UEFI executives. I clarified that my intent is to focus on the impact UEFI has on freedom and choice. It’s not just a Microsoft problem, but Microsoft uses a ‘feature’ in UEFI to impede adoption of GNU/Linux.
Novell, which is close to Microsoft not just due to CPTN (Novell was funded by Microsoft and so is SUSE), has had its former developers help spread UEFI [1, 2], much to Microsoft’s chagrin. They did this inside the Linux Foundation. OBS, another Novell project that got into the Linux Foundation, is helping UEFI restricted boot even further. To quote Mr. Larabel: “OBS, the Open Build Service developed largely by openSUSE, has reached version 2.4. With Open Build Service 2.4 comes support for a new package format, Secure Boot signing, and other features.”
“By refusing to bootstrap a compromised system UEFI would offer neither cure nor prevention.”Therein lies the issue with Microsoft influence. Even Torvalds appears to have complained about this influence.
Microsoft did not need restricted boot for security. It is nonsense. Days ago Microsoft announced 33 more security holes in its software (the real numbers are higher, but Microsoft keeps some holes hidden for vanity purposes). Well, that’s where the real security threat exists, not in boot time. Microsoft essentially calls for setting up an alarm system in premises that have neither walls nor fences. Microsoft is also spying on people in the name of 'security' (Skype), leading to this reminder that software freedom matters (“Skype is following your links – that’s proprietary for you”).
By refusing to bootstrap a compromised system UEFI would offer neither cure nor prevention. All it does is prevent people from having choices, █
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