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12.16.19

Recharging for 2020

Posted in Site News at 5:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Colourful butterfly

Summary: Techrights prepares for another big year with more coverage than past years (we have become more efficient and our team grows)

Colourful seasons have gone. It’s cold. It’s dark. But we’re ready to rise again in 2020, maybe with a new operating system (we’re going to experiment around Christmas, as upgrades are long overdue). The site will definitely look the same, irrespective of what runs at the back end, as backward compatibility is very important to us and we don’t intend to change the look-and-feel any time soon, not even for so-called “smart” or ‘smart’ devices. The way things stand, the European Patent Office (EPO) is our top priority because nobody else covers it (not properly; puff pieces quoting EPO press releases don’t count), the USPTO affairs/matters at a policy level (pertinent court cases go into Daily Links), and we’ll keep an eye on software patents in Europe, which the EPO hopes to legitimise by smothering the national courts (with UPC, which António Campinos supports as much as Battistelli did).

“We’ll keep fighting, we’ll fight for those who need it.”We don’t expect 35 U.S.C. § 101 to be successfully undermined, no matter what the hive of lawyers keeps telling us. So we won’t pay too much attention to that. Instead we’ll focus more on GNU/Linux and attacks on it, including the attacks on GNU/Linux that we see coming from the Linux Foundation (it nowadays helps Microsoft more than it has helped actual GNU/Linux users). As always, we welcome but refuse to beg for financial support. We accept donations through PayPal and we’re grateful for any contribution readers can make, even if as meager as a jar of coffee’s worth (I pay less than 2 pounds for a jar of coffee, which makes about 100 cups to keep me awake, to keep me reading and writing). My wife and I run the site at our own expense and we reject corporate money for the sake of complete autonomy. We live a very frugal life; almost all the food we buy is significantly price-reduced and we mostly walk (sometimes public transport gets used; I haven’t owned a car in over a decade). We never turn on the heating unless there’s a guest. The upside is, that’s good for the environment as well. My birthday is tomorrow and I’ve planned nothing for it; I will be writing, as usual…

We’ll keep fighting, we’ll fight for those who need it. European patent examiners (let’s face it, the scientists/examiners do want increased quality of patents!), Free software users, and marginalised people in need of privacy and a platform through which they can blow the whistle. We got dozens of those in 2019.

2020 will be our fourteenth year as we’re proud to say that all our sources have been kept safe. We definitely intend to keep it that way whilst ensuring maximal level of transparency (reducing opportunity for mischief and misconduct).

12.08.19

Things That Cannot Be Said

Posted in Site News at 1:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Anonymity is very important

Peephole secrets

Summary: The limits on what we can say are mostly defined by what sources permit us to say publicly (for the sake of source protection)

HERE in Techrights we always tell or at least try to tell the truth, even when it is not convenient, e.g. risk of harming the reputation of supposed allies. But there remain some exceptions or — put another way — circumstances under which we cannot share information. The primary reason, in our experience, is source protection. If we say something that a source does not wish to be said (for fear of being caught or identified usually), then the key dilemma arises: while not legally-binding, the promise to one’s sources establishes a nonverbal contract of trust. In other words, if we choose to say something a source does not want said (or prefers to keep private), then there’s an element of betrayal that reduces prospects of future tip-giving and leaks.

“The reality of the matter is, responsible reporting cannot just be a data dump, the reason typically being source protection.”What does that all mean?

Simple. It means that over the years we’ve amassed a lot of information that we never published. Some of it may seem like gossip, but some of it is substantial. Some of it has proven essential for judgment or understanding of various affairs.

“We turned 13 a month ago and have not burned sources since the start/inception.”The reality of the matter is, responsible reporting cannot just be a data dump, the reason typically being source protection. It’s a level of obfuscation necessary to ensure the ongoing/future flow of information.

We turned 13 a month ago and have not burned sources since the start/inception. We intend to keep it that way, even if that means keeping particular bits of information close to our chest (with the possibility of publicising in the future, if or when it becomes safer).

11.28.19

Borg Console

Posted in Site News at 11:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In progress

Locutus of Borg

Summary: Introducing the “Borg Console” — a page that tracks companies’ actions against society and computing freedom

11.25.19

Everyday We’re Shuffling

Posted in Site News at 10:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

When proprietary software giants call themselves 'open source' you know that the way you tackle their campaign of lies has got to adapt

Summary: To better cope with emergent threats and trends we’re modifying the structure of Daily Links, interrupting a pattern that is over a decade old

Shuffling of the categories in Daily Links isn’t just inevitable. It’s very much necessary. And why? Because the market and the society change over time. Brands change, threats change, and even topics of priority come and go. Over the past week or two many of the search results (for news) about “Linux” were negative articles portraying GNU/Linux as a major security threat. That’s owing to a bunch of trolls and liars, notably those in the CBS tabloids and provocation sites. When it comes to search results (for news) about “open source” it’s mostly openwashing, i.e. proprietary software and proprietary services disguised as “open” for marketing purposes. We’re therefore restructuring or refactoring Daily Links. Category-wise, we considered headings such as:

  • Security
  • Proprietary
  • FUD/Fear-Mongering/Dramatisation
  • Linux Foundation
  • Pseudo-Open Source
  • Openwashing
  • Confidentiality
  • Privacy/Surveillance
  • Integrity/Availability

Many of the above are connected in various ways (one way or another), so we’ve been discussing (details in the IRC channels/logs) how to better organise news to catalogue and occasionally tackle falsehoods.

One hierarchal proposition was as follows:

Integrity/Availability
	Proprietary
		Pseudo-Open Source
			Openwashing
			Privatisation/Privateering
				Linux Foundation
			Entrapment (Microsoft/GitHub)
	Security
		FUD/Fear-Mongering/Dramatisation
		Privacy/Surveillance
			Confidentiality

FSF
	FSFE
	GNU Projects
	Licensing/Legal

Devices/Embedded
	Open Hardware/Modding

Programming/Development
	Perl
	Python
	Bash

This is still work in progress and it will likely change/evolve over time.

11.22.19

Techrights is Still a Team Effort

Posted in Site News at 4:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Back in 2011: Techrights is a Group Effort

Enter the IRC channels now

Thanksgiving table

Summary: Getting involved in what we do is not difficult and it is even encouraged

THERE is a tendency to assume that because most if not all articles appear under the same name (limitation of the CMS) there’s only one person behind the site. But the site is actually more like a trusted community of people, some of whom know one another since before this site’s existence. The identities aren’t too secret (some of us use real names in IRC) and we publish logs about how things operate to assure those willing enough (it only takes time) that we aren’t working for a company or a state or whatever. Most of us are motivated by Software Freedom and some are inspired by more political ideology. Progressive/liberal tendencies are probably in the majority.

“In many ways we operate like a newsroom, except we’re 100% independent, we oppose censorship in all forms, and our goal is to expose corruption, not glorify/whitewash the corrupt.”This month turns out to be the busiest one in terms of European Patent Office (EPO) coverage, mostly because of the Breton series (the EPO and Battistelli connections will become more apparent soon). Anyone out there who can offer input can contact us as usual, even anonymously. In many ways we operate like a newsroom, except we’re 100% independent, we oppose censorship in all forms, and our goal is to expose corruption, not glorify/whitewash the corrupt.

11.12.19

Maintaining the ‘Delete Github’ page

Posted in Microsoft, Site News at 11:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

By figosdev

GitHub RepositoriesSummary: “This list really is a starting point, which can hopefully increase awareness about the issue of concern.”

THE primary goal of the Delete Github page is an early-warning system for projects that Microsoft has undue control over — they can restrict access, delete projects, or (perhaps in a worst-case scenario) either deliberately modify a project download as SourceForge once did, or simply act a vector for malicious activity — as has already happened to Gentoo and Canonical.

“At this stage there is an effort to be as comprehensive as possible — to include as many mainstream Free software projects as we can, to give people a better idea of how many projects are potentially threatened by a monopoly.”As with higher quality warning systems, including all anti-malware software, false positives are a known possibility. Some care is taken to avoid them, simply to increase the quality of the list itself. At this stage there is an effort to be as comprehensive as possible — to include as many mainstream Free software projects as we can, to give people a better idea of how many projects are potentially threatened by a monopoly.

Admittedly, there is a lower threshold of evidence to get on the list than to be removed. While people may decide to make decisions based on this list, we hope they would double-check our findings first. This is research, it is not law — the list includes IceWM, which I use routinely, and JWM, which I have running as a process as we speak. It includes Leafpad, which I am using to type this very line of text. If we find evidence that WordPress is using Github (and there is a repo for it, I haven’t checked it yet and it isn’t on the list yet) it is unlikely that Roy will decide to remove it from the Techrights servers.

“To some of us, this list is like an endangered species list — we are concerned about the future of projects that are hosted on Github.”If a clerical error places an allergy you don’t have on your medical records, it is very possible that when this error is found, a single line will be drawn through the note. That is the sort of response that will most likely come of discovering errors in the list. A prominent note (perhaps in bold text) is the most likely correction.

To some of us, this list is like an endangered species list — we are concerned about the future of projects that are hosted on Github. And we are most eager to update the status of each one (even possibly Systemd, not necessarily for any wishes of success.)

But how can we know that we are in error? Certainly there is some level of assurance we can be given, most likely we will try to re-evaluate items that are called into question as our priorities allow. But we can check on the first one during the writing of this article:

“We will also probably use this lowercase convention for projects that abandon Github for other repos — if it’s all lowercase, that means we no longer believe the project is relying on Github.”“OpenBSD does not use Github for development at all Roy. They do not even use git!”

“I’m sure there are others in the list that also do not use github.”

Hopefully so. And by no means is Wikipedia a facts-only source of information, but if we simply grep https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenBSD:

$ leafpad <(wget -O- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenBSD | tr ">" "\n" | grep ithub)

We get this:

<a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="https://github.com/openbsd"

“When this list started, it was a completely manual process.”Now, it’s possible that OpenBSD doesn’t use this repo. If so, the article should be corrected. Let’s increase the quality of this check and visit the actual article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenBSD

Ah, now — one of the not-yet-implemented (though already considered) quality checks is to verify if the Github link is in the summary box (or whatever it’s called, I’m not a Wikipedian) on the top right. Selecting it and right-clicking, “View Selection Source” we find this is probably called an “infobox” and that it begins with:

<table class="infobox vevent"

It completes with "</tbody></table>" which we can use in the future to parse infoboxes.

Doing a further search for our Github link, we find the non-url text of our link is in the “External links” section, titled “Github mirror”.

“There are still checks in place, but in the writing of this article we have found things we can do to refine the process.”What have we learned:

1. The Github link isn’t in the infobox section, which decreases the significance of the link.

2. The official repo is https://cvsweb.openbsd.org/cgi-bin/cvsweb/ this is actually the most pertinent information.

3. The text of the very link that put OpenBSD on our list was labeled “Github mirror” which isn’t necessarily criteria we want or need to add projects to this list.

“Obviously people who are more intimately familiar with these projects are encouraged to help us, as arm did.”I would say this warrants a correction, which I will issue now before the article is finished. Since the first letter of every list entry is capitalised, we will make it easier to parse / automatically filter corrected entries by making the title all lowercase: OpenBSD -> openbsd. And… updated. Thanks to arm for setting this straight.

We will also probably use this lowercase convention for projects that abandon Github for other repos — if it’s all lowercase, that means we no longer believe the project is relying on Github.

When this list started, it was a completely manual process. Since then, (only) some aspects have drifted towards rudimentary automation. This has produced a more complete list, with a slightly higher tendency towards false positives. There are still checks in place, but in the writing of this article we have found things we can do to refine the process.

“For the moment, the highest priority is still adding to the list, so we may not double check every existing entry right away.”Even after items are added, we can use this new information to double-check the entries (even all at once.) That doesn’t mean this will happen today, but it may ultimately make it easier to discover when projects abandon Github, which would be a bonus. Obviously people who are more intimately familiar with these projects are encouraged to help us, as arm did.

For the moment, the highest priority is still adding to the list, so we may not double check every existing entry right away. This is the stage where the list is built as large as possible, within reason and utility.

At no point has the process become entirely automated, though I did just parse all of English Wikipedia for Github entries. Wikipedia will not be (is not) our only source, entries do not automatically go from discovery to inclusion (they are checked further, and also chosen manually for relevance, but please feel very free to suggest items you think are worth adding) but we will now try to slightly refine the process of adding new entries, first.

“We also want to encourage projects to leave Github.”We want everybody to realise that Github holds more mainstream projects than many of us thought. We also want to encourage projects to leave Github. We already know that GNOME and KDE mostly have their own repositories, though at the moment it appears that Kate for example, may use Github for something (that is still being looked into.) It’s surprising to discover gnuradio on Github — we are also aware that some of these (like OpenBSD) are just mirrors.

This list really is a starting point, which can hopefully increase awareness about the issue of concern. As awareness increases, we fully expect the quality of this information to be further refined — not unlike the software projects listed here as talented people review them and contribute to the sources.

Thanks again, you’ve helped make this list better than it was when we started.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

11.07.19

Happy Anniversary to Us

Posted in Site News at 12:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Finally. It’s thirteen.

Number thirteen mix

Summary: We’re still alive and well after non-stop (daily) publication since 2006

I DON’T fancy celebrating instead of focusing on further publication (there’s lots going on at the EPO this week), but later today I’ll have posted 700,000 tweets. The 700,000th will probably be posted some time in the evening. More importantly, however, today is our thirteenth anniversary and the number isn’t particularly special (like ten or fifteen). It’s safe to say that we’re stable enough to reach fifteen and still be active every day. Twenty years? Too far to tell… that’s 7 years from now. Now, at age 13, this sites serves at a pace of about quarter billion hits per year. Tux Machines is the same. We might not seem big, but we have broad reach and it improves over time. Our main IRC channel, #techrights, regularly has 55-70 members online. Some lurk, some talk, and there’s more going on behind the scenes (we try to shed light on that in order to discourage unnecessary suspicion or false rumours).

11.06.19

Gone Are the Days of Large IRC ‘Data Dumps’

Posted in Site News at 3:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A month after starting to post IRC logs on a daily basis (as we had done until around 2010) we’re about to celebrate our thirteenth anniversary

Thirteen eggsTHE IRC channels started around spring or summer of 2008. We hadn’t anticipated they’d mature the way they did, especially because IRC is relatively old technology (I first used that in the early 1990s). Posting IRC logs is a time-consuming process because of redaction-related curation. We’re careful not to harm people’s privacy when/where it’s necessary. Many lurkers have been there for a long time, even over a decade. The more active participants are a close-knit community that sort of grew up together, talking about technology for the most part. All our IRC logs are complete; when loggers had gaps, which was a rare situation, the decentralised nature of IRC was leveraged to fuse together the missing bits. So we almost never lost any data.

“That’s thirteen eggs on the left by the way…”A month ago we devised a work pipeline or a workflow that allows us to post IRC logs every morning. We know that some people are reading those. Some cite these to make particular points or informal observations. The purpose was explained too.

We’re not secretive; we never were. Obviously we make exception when it comes to source handling; in 13 years we never ever let down a source that needed protection. We hope to maintain this perfect record.

Tomorrow this site turns 13. We’ll write about that separately. That’s thirteen eggs on the left by the way…

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