Unable to cover up the deeds
Summary: Microsoft’s partner Tuxera is claimed to be violating the GPL, adding insult to injury (helping Microsoft make money from Linux shakedowns, using code that was illegally copied)
LAST year we campaigned with great success for Samsung to obey (i.e. comply with) the GPL after it had gotten caught violating it [1, 2. 3], specifically when it served Microsoft with patent traps (exFAT). Samsung’s GPL violations go years back and they show that this company, which has just liaised with Google on patents (Google too is becoming patents-greedy), is no friend of FOSS. Samsung also commits crimes, but that’s beyond the scope of our coverage.
Another company which can easily be confused or mishandled as a FOSS company because it uses Linux (but mostly provides proprietary software with Microsoft patents) is Tuxera. Like Xamarin, all it really does is promote Linux dependence on Microsoft patent traps (the ones that allegedly have Samsung paying Microsoft for Linux). exFAT (promoted by Samsung and Tuxera) as well other forms/variants of FAT are not really needed, we need to abolish them.
The woman who told us about Samsung’s GPL violations contacted us earlier today to say that based on this file (forked to https://github.com/rxrz/asuswrt-merlin just in case), Tuxera is violating the GPL.
As the reporter of this violation put it, “download the blob, run `modinfo` on it:
description: Extended Macintosh Filesystem
author: Brad Boyer
vermagic: 184.108.40.206 mod_unload MIPS32_R2 32BIT
“it’s MIPS32, so `strings` won’t give the function names, rather something like this:
`strings /tmp/thfsplus.ko | grep -i tux`:
<6>Tuxera HFS+ driver 3013.11.18
“Seems like a GPL violation to me,” she concluded. “I’d like to have that source code now, since it’s been based on native code from Linux.” █
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Summary: Samsung is still playing with software patents and it is now turning Android devices into restrictions devices, similar to Apple’s
APPLE ‘news’ sites are trying to elude the fact that Android is a real headache to Apple. Here is gross spin from pro-Apple sites along with a report from a former Microsoft booster (who worked for a pro-Microsoft site). One pro-Apple site says that “Apple’s smartphone marketshare continues to ease downward despite record sales for the company’s latest handsets, while rival Samsung’s share of the Android ecosystem is being squeezed in key markets, according to new analysis covering the fourth quarter of 2013.”
Samsung is not Android. Pro-Apple sites are desperate for some positive angle for Apple and negative for Android.
Samsung, as we noted in 2007, began supporting Microsoft’s patent assault on Linux and was one of the first companies (for embedded devices at least) to do so. We spent years drawing attention to this problem and here we are 7 years later with Samsung as some kind of “champion” thanks to Android. Samsung — like LG — is not championing Android, it is helping Microsoft assert ‘ownership’ and hence it is endorsing extortion.
This morning we came to discover that Samsung is boosting patents again, this time with Google. To quote the Head of Samsung’s Intellectual Property Center (notice the propagandistic terms): “This agreement with Google is highly significant for the technology industry…Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes.”
This is nonsense. We don’t need this kind of public endorsement of patents, with or without so-called “peace” (only for large patent holders, such as IBM and Microsoft, or even Apple and Microsoft).
There are also technical and practical reasons to avoid Samsung, never mind the patent policy. Samsung is hoping to conquer the Android market with lots of new devices, not just phones , and based on reports such as [2,3], Samsung is now doing exactly what Apple has done, making devices jails for their users and taking control over people’s devices. This is bad and one way to say “no” to this behaviour is to avoid, as a matter of principle, anything from Samsung. █
Samsung has revealed plans to expand its smartphone and tablet portfolio in 2014. At the company’s conference, Executive Director Hyunjoon Kim announced that Samsung will first “create a new tablet category” that will be aimed at businesses with a high-end, “high-resolution,” large screen tablet around 20-inches. He added that the company will produce many variants by modifying their Galaxy Tab series.
A number of users are claiming that the Galaxy Note 3 KitKat update breaks compatibility with some third-party accessories. The accessories affected are unofficial versions of Samsung’s S-View Flip Cover, a case with a window over the top half of the screen. A working S-View cover will turn the screen on and trigger a special display that shows the time and notifications through its window. In the previous update, Android 4.3, unofficial S-View covers could trigger this special display mode as well, but after the update to 4.4, the phone will only recognize Samsung-made products.
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Summary: Corporations are still defining the problem with patents — wrongly — and then tackle the wrong problem so as to benefit themselves
Julie Samuels, who works for the EFF on behalf of billionaire Mr. Cuban (who invested in a patent troll, Vringo), continues to miss the point when it comes to patents. She focuses on trolls/fees rather than on software patents. “Today,” she writes, “EFF—along with Engine, the App Developers Alliance, and Public Knowledge—filed a brief asking the Supreme “Court to retain some sanity in the law and tighten up the rules around fee shifting. Fee shifting, sometimes called “loser pays,” is already in the Patent Act. While the statute currently says that “the court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party,” the Federal Circuit has created a standard that makes this law essentially meaningless—fees are granted in but the smallest fraction of cases.””
Well, Apple is said to have “spent over $60 million on U.S. lawyers against Samsung”, which probably means that Samsung had to pay a similar amount. Apple has sued some other companies, notably HTC (which is how Apple’s litigious war on Android began). Reuters says that “Apple Inc has paid its leading outside law firm approximately $60 million to wage patent litigation against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in a California federal court, according to Apple legal documents filed late on Thursday.”
Also, according to this other report, “On Thursday, a Korean court ruled that Apple did not violate three Samsung patents related to messaging services. The Seoul Central District Court rejected Samsung’s request that Apple should pay 100 million won ($95,000) in damages, as well as a ban on sales of older iPhones and iPads.”
This shows that scope and patents themselves — not fees — are the problem. Apple’s patents are beyond ridiculous and they relate to software. Samsung’s patents, by contrast, are often hardware patents because Samsung is a hardware company (Apple is a branding company that integrates components from suppliers such as Samsung).
The bottom line is, in order to address the core problem we need to restore the debate’s focus on software patents, not size of litigant (e.g. troll) or the fees. Here is Linux Foundation staff (front for corporations) writing about Samsung and Apple in the context of FRAND (which to a lesser degree relates to fees, not patent scope). Updegrove writes: “Ever since Apple set off the mobile platform wars by suing Samsung for what Steve Jobs believed were egregious borrowings of patented Apple smartphone innovations, the courts have been busy processing the disputes. One of the most effective weapons the combatants made use of has been the so-called “standards essential patent” (SEP). And the armament of SEPS is very large, because each mobile device which implements many hundreds of standards. For example, if a company owns a SEP necessary to include a camera, wireless function or other key feature, the owner of the SEP can its price to license it, or even refuse to license it at all.
“That is, of course, unless the SEP owner was part of the standards setting organization (SSO) that developed the standard in question, and had made a commitment to license that SEP on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.”
Since huge corporations hijacked the debate about patents (and now fund the lawyers at the EFF to do the same) we have sort of lost hope when it comes to fixing the US patent system. Corporations do whatever the heck they want there. No wonder Professor Lessig, a copyright pioneer, sort of abandoned his copyright reforming efforts and now works hard to tackle political corruption in his country. Patents, like copyrights, have become a political problem. It’s all about money and those who have the money set the rules. The EFF spoke about software patents a year ago; it no longer speaks about it. Follow the money. █
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Surveillance Don James R. Clapper back in his military days
Summary: Popular manufacturers of phones (and software platforms for phones) say that they cannot track switched-off phones, but they are lying using carefully-crafted statements
TECHRIGHTS is no friend of Nokia and Samsung, especially after what they did with Microsoft (regarding patents and beyond), but today we deal with a completely separate issue. It’s irrespective of brands. There is a lot of media hype (even brainwash) — accompanied at times by expectations from employers, peers, family and friends — to purchase and constantly carry a mobile (cellular) phone. I never really carried one, except in unusual circumstances (e.g. when going somewhere dangerous or an important meeting).
Well, as pointed out the other day, the thing about companies that say they can’t track switched off phones is that they are lying. They use semantics and wording that’s shrewdly designed to sort of say the truth while actually dodging the more accurate/well-targeted questions and the real issues (same as ‘cloud’ companies did after PRISM became public knowledge).
Leading companies in the mobile phones arena insist that they can’t track/listen to powered-down phones, but they can release updates which enable this, so in a sense they really can listen (they just need to take a step before doing this, it cannot typically be done directly). The phones cannot be switched off, they merely pretend to be powered down (mimicking this behaviour). There is a new article titled “Cell Phone Manufacturers Offer Carefully Worded Denials To Question Of Whether NSA Can Track Powered-Down Cell Phones” and it says the following: “Short of pulling out the battery (notably not an option in some phones), there seems to be little anyone can do to prevent the device from being tracked and/or used as a listening device. The responding companies listed above have somewhat hedged their answers to the researcher’s questions, most likely not out of any deference to government intelligence agencies, but rather to prevent looking ignorant later if (or when) subsequent leaks make these tactics public knowledge.
“Any powered up cell phone performs a lot of legwork for intelligence agencies, supplying a steady stream of location and communications data. If nothing else, the leaks have proven the NSA (and to a slightly lesser extent, the FBI) has an unquenchable thirst for data. If such exploits exist (and they seem to), it would be ridiculous to believe they aren’t being used to their fullest extent.”
“Apple’s devices are surveillance devices on steroids; they go a a long way (more than counterparts) to maintain the integrity of the eavesdropping functionality.”The problem is being downplayed, too. It’s actually a lot worse than just tracking. Phones with camera/s and microphone in them can also transmit images, video, and/or audio once they are converted into surveillance devices (carried by s/he who is surveilled and his/her surroundings). Earlier this year the Wall Street Journal released a report which says even Android is susceptible to this. The FBI exploits the back doors in order to take over microphones of Android devices.
I happen to be the only person I’m aware of who has been pulling batteries out of phones (inevitably reverting clock back to factory defaults) for a number of years now. I have written about this for a long time, but only after Snowden’s leaks can more people appreciate this. Removal of batteries is not “paranoid”. This ought to become more common a practice and everyone should be doing this, even if they “do nothing wrong” (we need to make it the norm if we are ever to impede abusive entities like the NSA). No phone that I ever touched or used had my name attached to it at the carrier. Never.
It is worth adding that Apple won’t even answer the questions. Apple is worse in many ways because it makes it virtually impossible to remove the batteries (sometimes there is more than one, and some may not be detachable). Apple’s devices are surveillance devices on steroids; they go a a long way (more than counterparts) to maintain the integrity of the eavesdropping functionality. Microsoft too is rather unique because there is no need to convert devices with Windows into listening devices; there are back doors there 'out of the box', which is hardly surprising because Microsoft and the NSA are in bed together. █
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Summary: Why Samsung, despite its dominant position in the Linux world, is still a company to avoid
SAMSUNG has become the biggest seller of Android devices. That’s not necessarily good news because Samsung pays Microsoft for it, so it helps legitimise extortion. We have a “Ballnux” section in our daily links for this reason.
“Hardware suitable for Linux is available from companies that don’t pay Microsoft for it.”Rumours suggest that Google will shift Nexus 10 production away from Samsung , which is promoting gimmicks  with the “Galaxy” brand  (synonymous with its phones). Samsung tried to take over Cyanogen development through hiring of developers (who have left to create their own company ) and it is now trying to take over MeeGo (Nokia/Intel) .
What’s noteworthy is that Samsung goes everywhere but Windows. Being a Windows shop does not pay off anymore. But Samsung pays Microsoft for Linux and this is a serious issue. Hardware suitable for Linux is available from companies that don’t pay Microsoft for it. With Tegra, for example, Nvidia has become its own powerhouse  that destroys Microsoft’s monopoly . Nvidia has its own tablet now. Torvalds has given Nvidia a finger pointing up, but it was not his thumb, so companies like ASUS, Motorola, and even little Archos are worth prioritising when it comes to Android. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
We have already received second iteration of the Nexus 7 and now its turn for Nexus 10 to show up. Samsung manufactured the current Nexus 10, but it seems Asus has taken over as the maker of the next version of Nexus 10.
Samsung is pulling out all the stops for its Samsung Galaxy Gear, aka Smart Watch. That’s nice, but the watch is yesterday’s format.
Samsung released their new mid-range phone for the Indian market, the Galaxy Trend, for a price of Rs. 8,700. The phone is listed on the official Samsung site for India, but no information about the delivery is currently available. Yet interestingly, online retailers like Flipkart and Snapdeal are also offering it, but with a delivery time of 3 days and at a discounted price of Rs. 8,490 to boot!
Cyanogen, makers of popular software based on Android that extends the abilities of smartphones, is making a bid for the mainstream. The four-year-old company, which began as a one-person side project, said today that it has raised $7 million from Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures. The goal is to vault past Blackberry and Windows Phone to become the third-most popular mobile operating system, after traditional Android and iOS. And the company is already closer than you might think.
Samsung still has no Tizen phone, but there are big plans for bigger devices.
Unlike Nvidia’s Project Shield handheld, which came out earlier this summer, the Tegra Note won’t be sold directly by Nvidia. Instead, it will be offered by some of the firms who currently sell Nvidia graphics cards—EVGA and PNY in North America and EVGA, Oysters, and Zotac in Europe, to name a few. The device will be released worldwide “in the next few months,” Nvidia says.
Developers have been trying for years to make Linux a global platform and to make it available to the masses and not just a select few, but Linux has now become the future of gaming in a surprising manner.
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The Software Freedom Conservancy did well
Summary: The fuller story behind Samsung choosing the GPL for a previously-proprietary piece of software that helps Microsoft
A few days ago we wrote about Samsung [1, 2, 3. 4] deciding to make it seem like it never violated the GPL licence, having done so before. Well, the group which years ago told us not to taunt Samsung over it claims to have just played a role. To quote:
Conservancy’s GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers worked collaboratively with Ibrahim Haddad, the Group Leader for Open Source at Samsung Research America, and fellow community leaders, throughout the process after this code first appeared on GitHub. Conservancy’s primary goal, as always, was to assist and advise toward the best possible resolution to the matter that complied fully with the GPL. Conservancy is delighted that the correct outcome has been reached: a legitimate, full release from Samsung of all relevant source code under the terms of Linux’s license, the GPL, version 2.
The Software Freedom Conservancy has announced that it has helped Samsung to release a version of its exFAT filesystem implementation under the GPL. This filesystem had previously been unofficially released after a copy leaked out of Samsung.
This is good work, but without the leak, would it have happened? Without some public shaming, would Samsung have cared? Sometimes there’s no choice but to be brave (blowing some whistles) and potentially rude/crude. █
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Microsoft’s hawkish patent extortion possibly jeopardised
Summary: Just like Microsoft after its unintended or secret GPL violations, code is being made GPL-licensed and the violations covered up as though they never happened
Over the past few weeks we have covered the latest noteworthy GPL violation by Samsung [1, 2, 3. 4].
“It looks like Samsung may have fixed the licensing problem,” said iophk. “Now how to put this in a positive light? It’s strange that the big companies act as if they are under no obligations to follow copyright and seem to do so only under duress.”
It seems like pressure and leaks have worked in the same way that Snowden’s leaks led to bogus government and NSA “transparency” (making public what’s already leaked). Based on Michael’s report, Samsung makes the code GPL-licensed all of a sudden.
Back in June, Phoronix was the first to report of a native exFAT file-system implementation for Linux that appeared on GitHub. It later turned out that Samsung accidentally leaked their exFAT source code. The solution has now been corrected with Samsung formally open-sourcing their exFAT source code.
The exFAT driver talked about in June was modified from an accidental Samsung source code leak that the independent developer found on GitHub. It was a confusing situation and he removed references to the original Samsung source code and it led to a confusing situation in the weeks that followed with tons of comments in the forums.
This was reported to GPL-violations and gave Samsung bad publicity, so they released it as Free software. As for what it means to patents on FAT, I am not qualified to say. It’s not GPLv3 though.
“This was reported to GPL-violations and gave Samsung bad publicity, so they released it as Free software.”In the past, GPL violations by Microsoft were also handled in this way. Microsoft decided to pretend the violation was open-sourced to rewrite history. iophk calls it spin, noting that “‘accidentally leaked’ == Samsung got caught ripping off kernel code” (indeed).
iophk quotes: “While Samsung accidentally put out the source code in the first place, they have now formally released the code under the GPL after it was discovered they violated the GPL in the first place. Samsung was shipping this closed-source exFAT driver on a tablet yet they were relying upon GPL-only symbols.”
iophk says that “all that aside, it’s an improvement that they have properly licensed the code finally… too bad it took all that trouble… Their image got tarnished a bit and that could have been avoided if they had just respected copyright from the start. It was also a bit of necessary extra work.”
This resolves the problem/dilemma for the leakers. Without them, this would not have happened. What does all this mean to Tuxera, Paragon, and patents on exFAT in general? Lawyers might tell. █
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Summary: More about Samsung’s Microsoft-serving code which seems like a gross violation of the GPL
Having been in contact with the source of the Samsung leak for a few days, we now have a lot more information that wasn’t published before. For the uninitiated, see the following three posts [1, 2, 3].
It turns out that the leaked code came from this man, who did not really mean to blow the whistle,
“Thank you very much for covering this story,” wrote the leaker. “It seems like GPL v2.2 is the way to go for this driver, correct?”
“ Kenneth R. Crudup is the one who leaked the driver. He got that driver through working for Broadcom on some android-ware.”
–rxrz (pseudonym)We previously suggested a suitable licence for the leaked code, but we wanted to know who has the copyrights. The leaker explained: “I wish I had those logs, but I found the leak on github, and the original account has been deleted. Although I made a fork of that repo, here it is https://github.com/rxrz/kernel-N8000/tree/master/fs/exfat Kenneth R. Crudup is the one who leaked the driver. He got that driver through working for Broadcom on some android-ware. The driver in that repo is as original as it’s possible to get…
“In those files you can see the version log and the author names. I believe it was written by two people during their contract with Samsung.”
We have already identified and studied one of them. They are in Seoul.
We may still need some legal advice for handling this existing leaked code. The leaker is not sure who to ask. “If you get a minute,” she wrote, “could you please compose a license file for exfat-nofuse? I will merge it asap.”
“Maybe this is something that could be solved over at Groklaw,” said iophk from our team. “The twisty path that the code has taken to arrive where it is now makes it harder to guess who gets assigned the copyright. GPLv2 seems the right choice but who owns it?”
The probe continues… █
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