Summary: Linux gets injected into it some code that potentially ties software to hardware (in the lock-in sense)
Based on antitrust exhibits, Intel’s relationship with Microsoft is complex, but Intel generally uses Windows to keep the Wintel cash cow going. Earlier this year I spoke to Intel employees who run the UEFI Forum (a forum decorated by some more members who help distract from the real dominating force) and I tried to be polite and constructive, advising the head of this forum to withdraw ‘secure’ boot. I didn’t bring up the fact that his employer, Intel, is a criminal company whose former staff plays a big role in parasites like Intellectual Ventures. I just pointed out that my brother in law works for Intel and that perhaps Intel can be changed for the better. But that was too optimistic. The utter mess which is UEFI ‘secure’ boot (harming hardware, not just computing freedom) goes forth and despite the fact that it is bricking devices with Windows on them (apparently things are getting even worse ), Linux developers let that nonsense enter the kernel, specifically for ARM , where so-called ‘secure’ boot cannot even be disabled.
“This is like another Tivoization taking place and Linux Torvalds, who spoke out against UEFI ‘secure’ boot, will probably just find some excuses for letting it be.”This is probably happening because Intel funds the Linux Foundation. UEFI Forum is Intel is Linux Foundation (in part). That’s how the influence of money works. This is like another Tivoization taking place and Linux Torvalds, who spoke out against UEFI ‘secure’ boot, will probably just find some excuses for letting it be. The situation is similar when it comes to the W3C (Linux Foundation equivalent), where corporate members (like Intel/UEFI Forum) push DRM into the Web while the founder, Tim Berners-Lee, just lets it be, essentially forcing everyone to just swallow the poison, even good forces like Eich/Mozilla .
The head of the UEFI Forum mocked or at least dismissed DRM as just for “business models”, but his employer promotes DRM. UEFI ‘secure’ boot — like DRM — is just about business models, so who is he kidding? Likewise, Berners-Lee has many reasons to dislike DRM given his historical background (he created the Web to share his work), yet he keeps defending DRM right now [1, 2, 3]. Are these people thinking for themselves or are they all just blindly/reluctantly following orders of those who pay their salaries? Rather than protect copyright monopolies in their respective areas (which is why the monopolies try to use DRM on the Web) or protect the monopoly of software crooks (who use bribe and sabotage to hold back GNU/Linux) perhaps those influential people should make a brave stand and rise up against corporate takeover, spilling some beans or using public humiliation to drive away the lobbyists. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
And then, there’s the celebrated Microsoft update to convert your Windows 8 RT computer into a Windows 8.1 RT… brick! It went so bad that Microsoft had to prevent people from installing it.
I don’t know if they fixed it but, according to this post, the update to Win 8.1 now seems to convert your computer into a cat (because it does not play nicely with mice).
While EFI was originally developed by Intel and largely targeting x86 platforms, the EFI 2.3 specification does exist for Itanium and ARM architectures too and early this year the UEFI Forum had shown a proof-of-concept UEFI boot environment for ARMv8. With the EFI pull for the Linux 3.13 merge window, the Linux EFI support extends to ARM.
If I didn’t before, after talking to Eich I had a strong sense that Mozilla is constrained by conflicting desires – to do the right thing, for example, while retaining enough browser share that it remains able to do the right thing. As you might expect, there are no easy solutions. Fortunately, things seemed more hopeful regarding another topic we discussed: I’ll be exploring that in my next column.
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Summary: Short synopsis of a long discussion with the UEFI Forum regarding ‘secure’ boot
We don’t always speak to figures of authority in pursuit of reform, but when we do, it is rather productive (pardon the meme). OIN is a good example of this. Last year, UEFI criticism began as a ‘feature’ of UEFI, namely ‘secure’ boot, was put to use by Microsoft, which basically misused it for anticompetitive reasons, making it hard to boot GNU/Linux.
“Security was not the main outcome of UEFI ‘secure’ boot being put in place.”The UEFI Forum got in touch with yours truly, setting up an interview for exchange of thoughts and ideas. It was productive because a consensus we reached was that ‘secure’ or Restricted Boot in UEFI has no purpose (or little purpose) other than to serve or facilitate business models of corporations, at the expense of customers. It is akin to DRM and TiVoization and it is hard to defend the inclusion of this antifeature, for reasons we covered here before . It was a one-hour conversation mostly with the president of the UEFI Forum, who is a technical and humble man. I politely made suggestions for UEFI, focusing on freedom aspects, and there was no lack of subjects to discuss (including patents). After an hour had lapsed we decided to call it a day (it was Friday night and I was already late to meet some friends at a local pub), but the mutual sentiment can be described as amicable. I accepted the invitation hoping it would lead to progress, not friction. The phone conference focused on questions pertaining to UEFI, with clear focus on the negative aspects, i.e. areas of improvement. In it were UEFI spokespersons Mark Doran, UEFI President, and Michael Krau, UEFI Forum’s Industry Communications Working Group (ICWG) Chair. A lady called Christine was there also, but she did not participate in the technical discussion; she had helped set it all up.
To summarise some of the key points, it was agreed that ‘secure’ boot only gives UEFI Forum a lot of negative publicity. Other issued were raised, but none else got the same amount of coverage, I had not prepared notes, mostly because the goal was to focus on freedom and not to deviate from that. UEFI Forum’s President was understanding. He said I was asking the right questions and did acknowledge that some of my concerns were legitimate (the conversation was recorded with consent from them, but it is not for publication).
Security was not the main outcome of UEFI ‘secure’ boot being put in place. They agreed to some degree. That’s why it was productive as a lengthy debate.
Towards the end, emanating from the conversation were the following tips and links, prepared and sent by Christine, who had also been on the conference call. She wrote:
> Thank you for taking the time to speak with us to address your questions
> regarding the UEFI Forum. If you have any additional questions or need
> information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
> For your reference, I’m including a link to an abstract of the
> referenced today by Mark Doran, President of the UEFI Forum, and
> delivered by Matthew Garrett at the Linux Tag conference in Berlin. The
> title of Garrett’s presentation is “Making UEFI Secure Boot Work for Linux.”
> During the call, Mark also suggested that you might want to view the
> repository of information pertaining to UEFI at Tianocore.org
> a community site surrounding the open source components of Intel’s
> implementation of UEFI.
> And following are links to the three Intel YouTube videos Mark
> referenced about UEFI Secure Boot configuration:
> · Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAnlhkbMang – Enabling
> & Disabling UEFI Secure Boot. Instructions for setting up a system with
> UEFI Secure Boot to dual-boot between Microsoft* Windows* 8 & Ubuntu*
> · Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwlbf1VRJ60 -UEFI
> dual-boot setup with Microsoft* Windows* 8. Instructions for setting up
> a system with UEFI Secure Boot to dual-boot between Microsoft Windows 8
> & Ubuntu 12.10.
> · Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAnlhkbMang – UEFI
> dual-boot setup with Linux* (Ubuntu* 12.10). Instructions for setting up
> a system with UEFI Secure Boot to dual-boot between Microsoft* Windows*
> 8 & Ubuntu* 12.10.
> Again, thank you for your time, and please let me know if I can provide
> you with additional information.
To go along with ‘secure’ boot is to help endorse what sure has become a threat to booting freedom, not just to choice. The conference did not alter my mind in any way on this topic. The key point, as was made abundantly clear to them, is that ‘secure’ boot does a major disservice to UEFI by giving it bad reputation — an inevitability when a convicted monopolist like Microsoft perturbs UEFI for non-technical reasons. █
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Summary: Arguments against the GPLv3 turn out to have come from companies which all along were nothing but trouble
HE third version of the GPL is largely accepted, widely adopted, and those who are affected by it are mostly out of business, e.g. Novell. Novell and SUSE opposed the GPLv3. “Linus is changing distros,” told us iophk, quoting Linus Torvalds as saying:” I gave OpenSUSE a try, because it worked so well at install-time on the Macbook Air, but I have to say, I’ve had enough. There is no way in hell I can honestly suggest that to anybody else any more.”
“That’s good news,” says iophk. But another company which the GPLv3 affects is TiVo, which not only pioneered the malpractice now known as “TiVoization” but also became a patent aggressor with growing appetite (it wants of billions of dollars from software patents). TiVo is a very bad company, no matter if it leverages Linux. See our TiVo wiki page for details. Might all Americans with cable television be forced to pay “TiVo tax” for some software patents?
The GPLv3 sought to address two problems which TiVo makes real. The obvious one is “TiVoization”; The other one is software patents. Sadly, a Microsoft marketing executive created a company which routinely bashes the GPL. It is called Black Duck and days ago we found yet more statistics that contradict its dubious, proprietary output (saturated with Microsoft input after a Microsoft deal). We put that in our daily links.
In other news, trolls suffer a loss against Nintendo in the US:
Today sees Nintendo of America prevailing in a patent infringement lawsuit. At the center of the case was the Wii remote, Wii Balance Board, and Wii Fit software. Impulse technology claimed that these three devices or software infringed upon their patent (U.S. Patent No 5,524,637) which was issued in 1996.
Note that this is an American lawsuit. Nintendo is not an American company, but this is where the patent system breeds trolls. We need the GPLv3 to prevent this, but first the licence must become widespread. It’s clear why Microsoft spreads a lot of FUD about it, usually through proxies. █
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Summary: Despite elimination of file system patents, the road remains long in the struggle for software freedom
THE FFII’S mailing lists started debating the news about Microsoft’s FAT patents. “You know the malaria thing,” said their president, quoting Richard Stallman as saying that “fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitos will eliminate malaria.”
One subscriber asked: “It is the same patent that was recognized by German Court?”
“Yes,” replied another person, “it is 352 patent.”
We wrote about the ruling in Germany before.
Shane McGlaun notes that:
I’m betting this is really good news for smartphone makers. Open-source poster boy Linus Torvalds stepped up and helped stop a Microsoft patent from being used to choke licensing fees out of other companies. The patent Microsoft owns is being used to force Google Android and Linux handset users to pay licensing fees.
This is indeed, based on what the OIN's CEO told me, what Microsoft often uses to tax Linux and Android. Torvalds’ fight against the FAT patent (he thinks the patent fight is a sign of Microsoft's business dying) is definitely big news and one that other pro-Linux sites are addressing:
There is a Microsoft patent #352 which deals with “storing filenames with lots of characters in old filesystems such as the Windows FAT (File Allocation Table) filesystem that are designed to use very short filenames. Mobile phone makers use this type of technology so that their devices interoperate with other operating systems, including Windows,” reports Wired. You can read more about the patent here.
This whole development helps show that Torvalds takes a stand against patents, even though he tolerates and even “likes’ Tivoization. We ought to remember that TiVo is bad not just for this practice but also for patent aggression. As one Microsoft booster puts it:
TiVo today accused Motorola and Time Warner Cable, a Motorola Customer, of violating patents covering the company’s digital video recorder technology.
Let’s hope that Torvalds will decide to do about Tivoization what he already does about software patents. Both are detrimental to users of software, which is just about everyone in the twenty-first century. █
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The Best Tool For Freedom is a Free Tool
Two friends have a good chat about free software at OSCON.
The CarrierIQ issue, even if it is part of an organized campaign to smear and ruin Android , is showing people the dangers of using non free software. Even one piece of non free software can betray users, so mostly free, “pragmatic” systems can be just as bad as regular non free systems. The free software community should capitalize on this awareness to change people’s attitudes towards their devices so that they will reject non free software in the future. Software freedom must be complete for users to have real conrtol and privacy.
Richard Stallman wrote an extensive review of Android back in September. It lists all of the parts of available phones that can be used maliciously against users, which surprisingly include the radio control firmware. The conclusion was unequivocal, “Android is a major step towards an ethical, user-controlled, free-software portable phone, but there is a long way to go. … While any computing system might have bugs, these devices might be bugs.”
When the CarrierIQ scandal broke, Mr. Stallman was not surprised. His comment was,
The root cause of this problem is that the users don’t control the software on these phones. So if they didn’t put in this surveillance package [Carrier IQ], they would put in some other. The users’ only protection against malicious features (surveillance, intentional restrictions, and back doors) is to insist on free software.
Anyone in the Open Source community who’s surprised should think hard about what the Free Software Society has been telling them. About four years ago at a “Web 2.0″ meeting, Eben Moglen urged the Tim O’Reilly and the Open Source community to quit, “wasting time promoting commercial products.” O’Reilly was sad that Moglen did not want to talk about protecting people’s data on other people’s computers in “the cloud,” but CarrierIQ makes it plain that those rights and protections are meaningless if the user is stripped of privacy by malware in their pocket. It might have been useful ten years ago to hide scary talk about freedom from big companies like IBM. It worked, thanks, but talk about “best tool for the job” and “pragmatic” mixes of free and non free software should now be considered counter productive and the results dangerous.
There are community alternatives to carrier issued Android. Stallman mentions Replicant, a 100% free software replacement for Android. There is also a less careful distribution called CyanogenMod that is focused on performance and includes non free software from Google and perhaps device drivers. Jeff Hoogland, the founder of Bodhi GNU/Linux, is working on Debian for cell phones and we can be sure many others are as well. In the mean time, if you must have a smart phone, it might as well be Android because there is no chance a phone from Apple or Microsoft will be liberated, but don’t expect it to be a Freedom Box the community really wants [2 and don't trust it until it's really free.
Sadly, US law is mostly a hindrance. Senator Al Franklin had some very pointed questions about possible violations of law for the company and a lawsuit has been launched against the guilty parties - Apple, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Carrier IQ. That's good but it will be difficult to prove what actually happened, and the free software community can do better. Like Vista and Windows 7, CarrierIQ establishes encrypted communications to hide the data transmitted. It would be better to have free software on your cell phone, so the FSF has petitioned the Librarian of Congress for a DMCA Exemption Without that, it may be against US law for people to replace the software on their phones or even to delete CarrierIQ malware.
The lack of freedom in cell phones is not a natural state but is unlikely to end without changes and enforcement of US law. Android has emerged as the top cell phone OS because it is free software and creates a productive commons for the odd hundred companies that must cooperate to make a cell phoneThe obnoxious US patent system has allowed Microsoft and Apple to practice judicial extortion that should have been blocked by US anti-trust and racketeering laws[1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]. Spectrum licensing itself is a technically obsolete and harmful practice but the FCC could demand adherence to technical standards, demand the publication of technical standards required to operate phones, and forbid practices such as phone locking as the price carriers pay for spectrum as it transitions to open spectrum.
We are in this hole because a long running propaganda campaign by non free software owners has played down ethical issues while convincing people that they are helpless. Billions of dollars in propaganda spending still drown out the basic truth of the situation and non free software use remains prevalent even among people who have every reason to fear spying by the rich and powerful. CarrierIQ gives us a good chance to fix that.
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Summary: The largest Free/libre software advocacy group issues a formal statement and call for action against Microsoft’s TiVoization push
ON SEVERAL occasions before we mentioned the situation with regards to UEFI for Vista 8 [1, 2, 3] and we are gratified to see the FSF getting involved because it has a lot of influence, so it can make things happen. From its formal statement:
Microsoft has announced that if computer makers wish to distribute machines with the Windows 8 compatibility logo, they will have to implement a measure called “Secure Boot.” Secure Boot is designed to protect against malware by preventing computers from loading unauthorized binary programs when booting. In practice, this means that computers implementing it won’t boot unauthorized operating systems — including initially authorized systems that have been modified without being re-approved.
Please go ahead and sign the statement.
This just helps show that the FSF was right all along about TiVoization. It had insight and foresight. Speaking of the FSF, its founder Richard Stallman has just told me that “My feelings regarding Jobs are about his work, not about him personally. What I said about Jobs was about his work.” This is worth clarifying for all those who took his words out of context (and we chose not to feed these by doing an article about it). █
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Financial security to Microsoft, environmental disaster for the rest
Summary: The lesser-realised problem with machines that are made to include TiVoization for Microsoft compliance; more “security” FUD from Microsoft
IT has been a while since we last wrote about the UEFI scandal [1, 2]. Nothing has actually been resolved, despite the comforting sense that the authorities have been informed and Microsoft issued a statement (which was no reassurance).
Several years ago we wrote some articles about the impact of Windows Vista on the environment, but it wasn’t until someone from Asia pointed this out that we realised TiVoization seriously impedes reuse:
Consumers Don’t Own Computers “Designed for Windows 8″, and They Go to Landfills Earlier (Side Effects of “Trusted Computing”)
Microsoft Windows 8 alpha is released and downloadable. But no, I am not recommending it. Nor am I denouncing it in favor of GNU/Linux (well, not in this article anyway). What you should be aware of and concerned about as a consumer is those machines labeled as “Designed for Windows 8″. Much more so if you care about the environmental and humanitarian problems caused by e-wastes, for these machines will end up much faster as e-wastes than the ordinary machines manufactured now.
Machines labeled as “Designed for Windows 8″ have to support UEFI. UEFI is said to have many nice features, which I am not knowledgeable about and will not discuss. But I can assure you that one of those features is a downright hoax, scam, and lie. The “secure boot” feature in UEFI is claimed to make your computer more secure by disallowing intrusions from untrusted sources. This and certain other features in UEFI are important elements of Trusted Computing, a mechanism advocated by Microsoft and other big IT companies. The claim is that booting a computer from an untrusted source (such as a tux usb key which has applications in tourism, education, environment preservation, LOHAS, and ethics) is a security threat and should be avoided.
There is just one tiny problem: it’s not you, the consumer, who gets to decide who is to trust. The propaganda claims that the consumers are too dumb (well, ok, actually phrased in a much more polite way) to make their own decisions about whom to trust. (“Microsoft or Chao-Kuei?”) Software booting from an untrusted source may contain rootkit, for example, which would gain absolute control of your computer. The real, unsaid intention, however, is to prevent consumers from using alternative players and readers on alternative operating systems to circumvent the human-right infringing and infamous Digital Rights Management. If the big IT companies let you decide whom to trust, then they cannot trust you as a DRM-abiding consumer. With the secure booting mechanism in UEFI, the IT companies finally can trust that you will not be able to ask your computer to do what is best in your interest, for example exercising your fair use right and other rights requested in the digital consumer bill of right.
This abusive behaviour from Microsoft (and Apple) should not be tolerated silently because it is yet another example of using “security” to pass new and self-serving rules that harm everyone’s freedom. In a similar vein, Microsoft is smearing the free Web browsers/competition, very much as usual (although the competition does not quite do that itself). This latest attack too uses “security” and to quote The Register:
Microsoft has unveiled a website aimed at raising awareness of browser security by comparing the ability of Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome to withstand attacks from malware, phishing, and other types of threats.
Your Browser Matters gives the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome a paltry 2 and 2.5 points respectively out of a possible score of 4. Visit the site using the IE 9, however, and the browser gets a perfect score. IE 7 gets only 1 point, and IE 6 receives no points at all. The site refused to rate Apple’s Safari browser in tests run by The Register.
We recently saw how Microsoft's friend used "security" to derail Free/open source adoption in Bristol. █
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The criminal court in London
Summary: News about CPTN, the Open Invention Network (OIN), and Microsoft patent cases
WAY back in the days, Novell took great pride in its OIN membership, reassuring us all that many of its patents were wonderfully innovative and benevolent because of the OIN. Novell actually used this propaganda for marketing of Novell’s products, even proprietary ones. It was the “goodwill” PR. Now that Novell is eager to give those patents to Microsoft, what is a person supposed to call Novell? There are many words that fit here and our readers and intelligent enough to fill the gap.
The latest CPTN development is now described by IDG, which correctly states that this is “Microsoft’s Purchase”, not the shell it’s hiding behind (like OuterCurve [1, 2] and others) for regulatory reasons and PR purposes. Novell should be shamed and boycotted for what it is doing here. Even when it’s sold to AttachMSFT, its products ought to be avoided. There is no point in asking Novell to withdraw the CPTN agreement because a withdrawal is not going to happen. Novell is now run by a bunch of Microsoft vassals, to whom monetary gifts from Microsoft — Trojan horses included — are a matter of priority.
“Novell should be shamed and boycotted for what it is doing here.”So anyway, what will it be for OIN if CPTN (Microsoft proxy) gets some of the patents once owned by the OIN? We covered this some months ago when companies reacted by joining the OIN before the closure of Novell’s deal. Ever since then OIN grew 28 percent (in the first quarter alone!) and CIS — with roots in OSDL because of Stuart Cohen — will speak about that very soon. Facebook, a patent aggressor with Microsoft ownership (a partial stake), has also just joined the OIN this month and that says a lot. It was already mentioned in that previous post about Facebook joining. Since Microsoft Florian and other Linux haters from Microsoft circles spread so much FUD about the OIN, we can tell for sure that the OIN is doing something positive. So thanks, Florian, for validating what we already knew. Reading Florian is like reading manipulative strategies from within Microosft, the bias, defamation, FUD, and lies included. He is currently pushing for Microsoft to get Novell’s (and probably Nokia’s) patents, by proxy. As for the Nokia situation which he gloats over (premature sealing of the Microsoft deal [1, 2] with Elop), this should definitely get reported to the anti-cartel authorities in Germany, just like CPTN. Microsoft’s Elop, representing Nokia, signed the deal with his former employer very quickly, before an investigation for this cartel-like tactic or entryism could be announced. Even seniors at Nokia too called it a "take over" as opposed to a deal. This is an example of corruption, a white-collar offence that nobody seems to be investigating even though a lot of people complain. This is why Microsoft is generally distrusted or even loathed throughout the industry.
Some ‘Linux companies’ are notorious for a dubious patent strategy and no company is more notorious for it than TiVo, which turned into an aggressor and a loser in its fight for relevance. Here is the latest from the TiVo-EchoStar court case [1, 2]
A federal appeals court upheld a ruling that EchoStar infringed TiVo patents for digital recording technology, raising hopes the long legal battle could end with a TiVo victory.
TiVo shares shot up after the ruling, trading more than 30 percent higher in the early afternoon.
This is nothing to be celebrated. And one need not pardon TiVo for Tivoization, either.
Microsoft is also in court because of patent violations. It is the important case of i4i. Microsoft is in fact at the Supreme Court because it knowingly infringed patents and also engaged in trial misconduct, quite characteristically. Here is some of the latest coverage from IDG, in addition to SJVN’s take [1, 2]. There is another news article today about patent troll Ric Richardson, who used that joke of a ‘company’ called Uniloc (see [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]) to get a lot of money for code he did not write at all. Watch him help this propaganda piece titled “Innovation festival”:
Inventor Ric Richardson made a name (and a whole lot of money) for himself when his company Uniloc successfully sued Microsoft for a breach of their anti-piracy software patent.
Innovation in software happens at the keyboard, not a “festival” or even a patent lawyer’s office. Now, if only these patent trolls could lead Microsoft to finally flip-flopping on the software patents stance. It would be good to have more such trolls suing Microsoft. 50 is not enough. █
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