Summary: Security news that applies only to Microsoft products
• Microsoft investigating new Windows flaw
Microsoft said on Tuesday that it is looking into reports of a new Windows flaw that could compromise the security of machines running older versions of the operating system.
• McAfee provides anti-virus to secure USB devices
INSECURITY SOFTWARE VENDOR McAfee has announced that its anti-virus software will be used on most USB devices thanks to partner programmes with the major orignal equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
• Microsoft patches Freetard-by-design bug
• Windows Trojan Kills Antivirus
Researchers at Websense have uncovered a new Trojan that poses as a Windows Input Method Editor, or IME, and infects a system.
IME is a Windows component that allows users to input characters or symbols on their keyboard from other alphabets.
• Failure isn’t an option, it’s integrated into the new Hotmail
If you are like me and use POP3 to get your email in your own client, congratulations, Microsoft has officially broke your secure login options.
So now I guess that in addition to sending all the emails from my bank and Amazon and other perfectly legitimate sites to the Junk folder while hosing down my inbox with obvious Nigerian scams, I can’t use TLS/SSL/STARTLS to log in either. I now have to send my password as plain text over a non-encrypted connection. I wonder if the NSA or the Russian KGB/FSB helped them engineer Hotmail like they lent a hand with Windows 7…
• Disgruntled security researchers take aim at Microsoft
The Microsoft-Spurned Researcher Collective welcomes other researchers to join, though Microsoft employees are not welcome: it notes that it has a “vetting process” to weed them out.
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Summary: The company which cost Microsoft half a billion dollars to acquire produces nothing but products that increase Microsoft’s losses; we take a look at the past week’s news about these
LAST WEEK we wrote about the end of "KIN", which was soon accompanied by a major blow to Sidekick. It was only days beforehand that Verizon quietly cut the prices of “KIN” (probably to clear the inventory) and another publication spoke about a next-generation “KIN” or a new offer.
Anyway, here is the troubling news coming from a Microsoft proponents and claims that Microsoft is “taking stock of redundancies”:
At the recent D8 conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer questioned Google’s dual strategy of building Android and Chrome OS. Two operating systems doesn’t make sense, he said.
Microsoft is apparently listening to Ballmer’s advice, killing off its 2-month-old Kin line of social-networking phones. The company recently confirmed to Cnet that it is not going forward with a European release of Kin and is instead folding the Kin team into its Windows Phone 7 unit.
Zune might die next. There were no headlines about “Zune” last week. “Microsoft Fails to Impress,” argues one blogger who takes stock of Microsoft’s latest failures:
Once again, Microsoft has a product that failed miserably. The Microsoft phone “KIN” has already been pulled from the US market, and will not be making its European launch as had been planned. The reality here is that Microsoft’s only money maker is Office. Windows sells well only because of its being pre-installed on most PCs. Linux would likely do just as well were MS Office available for it. Likewise, if people did some research and found out that iWork and MS Office were available on Macintosh machines, I am willing to bet that Mac sales would escalate even higher. This isn’t the first Microsoft product to fall flat on its face (the KIN sold, by some reports, only 500 devices).
KIN, Vista, ME, Bob, Zune, CE (never garnered more than 5% of the market), XP Tablet Edition
One caption reads “Microsoft’s Robbie Bach showed off the Kin phone on launch day”; he left in disgrace along with Allard [1, 2, 3]. Here is some news coverage:
Here are 10 Reasons Why “Microsoft’s Mobile Strategy Is a Mess” and a call for more focus, not fragmentation [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].
The news about Sidekick gets covered in:
T-Mobile has announced that it will stop offering its youth-oriented Sidekick phone from Microsoft. The news comes as Microsoft and Verizon Wireless discontinued the Kin social phones. Microsoft says it is moving resources from Kin and presumably Sidekick to focus on the Windows Phone 7 series. T-Mobile promised “exciting updates” to come.
Joe Wilcox asks rhetorically, “What does it mean that KIN, Sidekick and Symbian-Guru went R.I.P. within about 24 hours?”
After just 48 days “KIN” was called off. It speaks volumes about Microsoft’s situation, which Microsoft boosters sometimes attempt to embellish:
That last one is part of a pattern we’ve noticed. Microsoft boosters/sympathisers divert attention to something else. How about Nokia?
Mary Jo Foley blames Verizon and her friend/colleague Gavin shifts the subject to Vista [sic] Phone 7. Shane O'Neill does the same thing:
Other boosters of Microsoft publish an analysis of Danger assets:
The now-dead KIN was not a bad idea (read our hands-on with the platform). Microsoft’s ambitions with the KIN were sound. As much as the iPhone and, lately, Android handsets garner all the press attention, smartphones represent only a minority of phone sales—a growing minority, but a minority all the same. There are many, many people who don’t have a smartphone, and don’t even particularly want one, and they easily outnumber smartphone users.
Adrian, despite his pro-Microsoft bias, is being rude about it and he also takes shots at the hypePhone:
“What if Microsoft bought out a product where you had to spend $30 on an accessory to make it work right and stop is from breaking?”
That’s a question I received from a reader earlier today.
My reply: “I think people would go stark raving ballistic on Microsoft – and rightly so.”
“Let the Kin comedy begin,” says TechFlash and The Inquirer is being very funny about it. Microsoft sympathisers may treat it as just a lesson/experiment, as if it wasn’t all just work in vain. As usual, Microsoft partners get burned [1, 2].
Finnish electronics company Elcoteq (ELQAV.HE) said it expected its operating profit to turn positive in the second half despite Microsoft’s decision to scrap the sale of “Kin” smartphones in Europe.
Shares in Elcoteq fell sharply on Thursday and closed 14.6 percent down at 1.40 euros, compared with a 1.9 percent weaker Helsinki bourse general index .
One writer explains “Why Microsoft’s Kin Phones Were Destined to Fail” and in Twitter someone of authority says “I’ve seen Microsoft abandon a lot of products (including some that were pretty good). I’m floored by this Kin killing.”
Here is a new article titled “Microsoft Flops: A Look Back”; it comes from a financial news site:
The Kin is gone. Add it to a long list of less-than-stellar product launches from Microsoft (MSFT).
The tech giant’s two-month-old phone was discontinued this week, and the team responsible for developing it has been dispatched to work on Windows Phone 7, the company says. While the Kin was never expected to be a major contributor to Microsoft’s bottom line, the failure of the device in the market is more about “hurting their pride,” says Carolina Milanesi, vice president of research in mobile devices at Gartner. (A Microsoft spokesman says it will incorporate “ideas and technologies” from Kin into future Windows Phone releases.)
Another financial news site posts “Microsoft Needs Wake-Up Call: Outrage”:
Courier, your tablet idea, died on the drawing board while Apple’s(AAPL) iPad rocketed. Your mobile phones don’t stack up to Apple’s iPhone or Google’s(GOOG) Androids. And now your stalled travel business just got rear-ended.
As we showed last night, hypePhone too is having growing pains. Android, which is based on Linux, is going to take advantage of that. MeeGo is also a very strong contender. █
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Summary: The Microsoft MVP who is also a vice president at Novell says what he would do if he was in charge of Vista 8
WE rarely use question marks in headlines, but this one almost begs for it. In fact, the news came to our attention by this good blog whose headline asks, “Miguel de Icaza: Secret Desire To Head Windows 8?” To quote the crux of the argument regarding this ego trip:
Miguel De Icaza is a known Microsoft supporter. He is often criticized for his endorsement of Microsoft product — he was heavily criticized for endorsing Microsoft’s controversial OOXML standarad.
Many call him a traitor as he leads the Mono project to implement Microsoft’s new .NET development platform on Linux and Unix-like platforms. Now, Icaza returns, suggesting what Microsoft should do to improve the next version of Windows, rumored as Windows 8.
He goes at length taking pains and suggesting what Microsoft should do to improve. Wow! No wonder its coming from Icaza, the long time supporter of Microsoft.
This whole vapourware routine around Vista 8 is a subject we wrote about twice at the beginning of this week [1, 2]. It’s funny that after all those years, Microsoft MVP de Icaza is still fascinated with everything from Microsoft. “At Microsoft I learned the truth about ActiveX and COM and I got very interested in it inmediately [sic],” he wrote about a decade ago and nowadays he drools over Silverlight (de Icaza is also pushing some more Apple stuff this week). Several days ago IDG published this article:
Novell’s de Icaza: ‘People are scared of installing software on Windows’
While de Icaza may be right that developers and users harbor concerns about Windows, it’s unlikely the developer community would reject the App Store concept entirely. Microsoft’s .NET Framework is popular with developers, and Windows’ mammoth market share will likely lure in developers, even those concerned about making applications run properly on Windows.
Why is he so concerned about Microsoft’s monopoly prevailing (his work on Mono and Moonlight contributes to that)? Why is he still trying to help Microsoft? We don’t wish to end with a question, so instead we’ll suggest that de Icaza views Microsoft as an ally, not a competitor, despite all that we know. █
“I once preached peaceful coexistence with Windows. You may laugh at my expense — I deserve it.”
–Be’s CEO Jean-Louis Gassée
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Summary: Internet Explorer 9 (IE 9) is not as fast as Microsoft wishes people to believe, according to independent tests
MICROSOFT loves to compare competitors’ real products to products that it has not even released yet (and therefore cannot be benchmarked reliably). Microsoft uses draconian terms in the EULA to prevent parties from conducting and publishing benchmarks. False performance claims are currently being spread around by Microsoft, touting the speed of a product which is not even out in the market.
Ryan Farmer has performed some tests and he concludes that “IE 9 Preview 3 is still really slow…”
That was the answer to your question. “Is it really fair to be bagging on something that’s not even released?”. Yes and no. Normally no, but when Microsoft is already lying about it being faster than the speed of light on a day that God did a line of coke, I’d say they made the damned thing fair game already.
In one of our IRC channels, Ryan said that “IE 9 is as fast as a browser can get without breaking the laws of physics. Lie mode cancel. How does Microsoft manage to make up benchmarks that anyone can download their browser and debunk?”
“There are ways to cheat,” Oiaohm responded to him. LifeHacker has its own benchmarks too. Microsoft is not a winner there, either. █
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Summary: With just a few cash cows remaining, Microsoft is advised to cut back radically and give up on wasteful diversity
MICROSOFT IS having a hard time for reasons that SJVN put very succinctly in his latest post about Ballmer and Gates. This post has made some waves but not as many waves as the claim that an ex-exec of Microsoft says Microsoft should cut 30,000-40,000 employees (mini-Microsoft suggested just about the same). That’s a lot less than the 50,000 who Cringely suggested laying off last year (it is rumoured that Microsoft is still laying off quietly these days, not just moving existing jobs to Asia).
As for the headcount issue, our source says there’s probably 30,000 to 40,000 more employees than needed at Microsoft. There’s a lot of overlapping roles, and employees at the company are focused on solving internal issues, rather than fighting external competitors.
Here is the article from Electronista:
Ex-exec says Microsoft should cut up to 40,000 jobs
A former Microsoft executive today argued that Microsoft could easily cut 30,000 to 40,000 employees. The unnamed worker claimed that CEO Steve Ballmer organizes every division identically. While it keeps the company simple, it also creates unnecessary overhead and isn’t as effective as it could be, the executive told SAI.
Chips B. Malroy adds: “I think those cuts will sadly be forecoming at MS if this trend of non-performance continues.”
Given some recent failures that are major, larger-scale layoffs are likely to be considered at Microsoft. Microsoft’s demise does not imply victory for software freedom though, as there are other companies that increasingly behave in a similar fashion. █
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Summary: Advocacy of freedom seen as “negative” by so-called ‘pragmatists’ who chose to serve Novell
The former community manager of OpenSUSE (who left Novell some months ago) continues an old tradition. Sometimes he lies about the FSF and sometimes he only daemonises. There are other Novell employees who do this, including Microsoft MVPs who still work for the company.
“Joe Brockmeier Has a Bad Day,” argues Pogson in response to this new piece.
He declares the campaigning of the Free Software Foundation for Free Software is negative and must change.
Talk about a narrow point of view. The FSF must advocate for Free Software. That is its purpose. There is nothing negative about requiring software to be able to be run, examined, modified and distributed under a global and popular licence. There is a battle raging with the forces who would take freedom away. It is necessary to have sentries guarding the boundaries. It is necessary to have leaders rally the troops.
Brockmeier would have us believe that open source is good enough, or something. It is not clear what he wants. I see FLOSS as widely accepted and growing constantly in share of usage. What does he see? Negativity!
Need criticism be forbidden? It was only a week ago that we last wrote about this subject, having written about it extensively in 2009 [1, 2].
Here are two more responses to Brockmeier’s piece:
i. Shooting The Messenger
There’s been another round of criticism on various blogs of the FSF’s media campaigns to draw people’s attention to the harm that not respecting software users freedom does. But the FSF’s campaigns explaining why Microsoft and Apple’s failure to respect users freedom is harmful have been successful in getting out the message that alternatives are needed. In the mainstream press as well as in the tech and tech culture media.
The FSF’s critics are ignoring the fact that most of the FSF’s work consists not only of the positive promotion of the idea of free software, but in practically supporting and protecting its creation and use.
ii. More Anti-Free Software Spin
Secondly, the lead anti-FSF person is – surprise, surprise – Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier, who not only is consistently confused about the FSF, he’s also amusingly fond of distorting FSF claims to try to make them appear like they support his position.
Mr. Brockmeier’s writings on the FSF reveal a misunderstanding so deep and profound of the FSF and its mission that I have a hard time accepting it is honest. It starts at the very first sentence, where Mr. Brockmeier falsely implies the FSF has no “positive way to push for software freedom” and continues to the very end, where Mr. Brockmeier idiotically implies that the FSF is not at the “center” of “folks concerned with protecting software freedom”.
Another example: Mr. Brockmeier’s ignorance (or maliciousness, take your pick) is revealed when he insinuates that RMS is “taking the FSF out of the game” by telling users not to use Saas, without mentioning that the FSF is in fact developing alteratives like GNU Social and LibrePlanet.
We won’t address the article from Brockmeier simply because 3 other people have done this already. There is no need for more rebuttals and some people would characterise this as a “personal attack”.
In more important news, “FSF Starts Anti-ACTA Campaign,” says Slashdot. We have included more references about it in our daily links.
My presentation will not be a very technical one but instead will be an analysis of where we are and where we are going. I will start by speaking of the economic and political context in which ACTA is being discussed. Then, I will give an overview of elements of EU IP enforcement legislation that is related to the ACTA text and that is at the centre of EU legislative debate. Finally, and most importantly, I will reflect upon the movement critical of ACTA and similar measures of IP enforcement the strategic options, coalition building, contradictions, strongpoints and pitfalls.
Florian Müller drew our attention to his comment about it. He speaks about the impact of ACTA on software patents. “Just thought I’d mention because the thing about EU responsibility for patents being included may be an angle of interest to you next time you write about ACTA,” he told us. From his comment:
My concern about ACTA is not related to copyright law but to its effect on patents. Copyright law is practically always infringed by intent, while patent infringement in the field of software is in most cases inadvertent (that’s the most fundamental problem I have with software patents). It would be desirable to introduce into patent law, at least in connection with software, an independent invention defense. However, ACTA in the version I saw might do quite the opposite, treating a patent infringer as a “pirate” once he is made aware of an infringement (for an example, by a cease-and-desist letter). That’s unreasonable and unjust in my view.
Here is the feedback from Pogson and from a former MEP. Nobody except Hollywood and other monopolists seems to like ACTA. In fact, everyone hates it. It’s part of the class war. There are loads of links here for those who wish to read further about the subject.
One reader drew our attention to this insulting article from The Register. It calls the FSF “freetards” (right in the headline) and our reader mailed us the following screenshot from the article to show how they are being daemonised where Microsoft is glorified.
Here is a better article about the FSF’s action:
Richard Stallman and the Free Software Federation have issued a call to arms for the free software movement to mobilise against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) currently being negotiated.
In an extended posting on the FSF web site Stallman [pictured] called on people around the world to sign a declaration calling for severe limits on the powers being proposed in ACTA, or better yet the scrapping of the entire treaty currently being hammered out by politicians and industry.
“Those politicians serve the big music and movie companies,” he wrote.
The Inquirer says that the “Free Software Foundation calls for ACTA fight”
In a statement, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) said that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) treaty is designed to attack the rights of computer users in some 40-odd countries.
“ACTA threatens, in a disguised way, to punish Internet users with disconnection if they are accused of sharing, and requires countries to prohibit software that can break DRM,” the FSF statement said.
The FSF clearly fights for people’s rights. So why the hostility from those whose rights the FSF is defending? It’s rather absurd. █
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Summary: Among the vulnerabilities that Microsoft actually chooses to tell the public about there is a zero-day XP vulnerability and critical ones involving Internet Explorer (the “secure” Web browser)
• Google researcher gives Microsoft 5 days to fix XP zero-day bug
A Google engineer today published attack code that exploits a zero-day vulnerability in Windows XP, giving hackers a new way to hijack and infect systems with malware.
But other security experts objected to the way the engineer disclosed the bug — just five days after it was reported to Microsoft — and said the move is more evidence of the ongoing, and increasingly public, war between the two giants.
• Microsoft Warns of Windows Bug Found by Google Engineer
• Olympus Stylus Tough camera carries malware infection
The first thing to point out is that the camera itself is not at risk – the autorun worm being carried on its internal memory can not activate on the Stylus Tough camera, but can attempt to infect your Windows PC.
• Microsoft Patches Critical IE, Windows Vulnerabilities (let’s remember silent patches which Microsoft will never disclose)
• Not Paranoid Enough
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It gets harder to escape patents on DNA
Summary: Proposed solutions, impending cases, and another new case where patents go so terribly wrong that even people needlessly die
TODAY we look at 3 types of news from the past 3 days or so. Software patents are being covered too, but everyone is still waiting for In Re Bilski to be concluded.
USPTO and Patent Conundrums
Today (May 26th), the USPTO has this workshop which is intended to “explore the intersection of patent policy and competition policy”. How about tackling the problem of patent pools, which make up thickets and abusive cartels?
Three separate companies are steadily recruiting intellectual property holders into patent pools for LTE (Long-Term Evolution) technology, initiatives intended to get more manufacturers building gear for the fast network.
Patent pools are only suitable for large companies — those that exclude new entrants. The only small entities to benefit from this system are the NPEs (trolls). Samsung and LG, the two Korean giants which pay Microsoft for Linux, are complaining about patent trolls right now.
Representatives say South Korean electronics makers are becoming targets from “patent trolls” as increased competition between manufacturers makes room to seek more money in legal suits.
Did Microsoft, which Salesforce’s CEO Benioff compares to a patent troll, sign those Linux patent deals with Samsung and LG only after threats of litigation? We might never know.
In Re Bilski
Brad Feld writes about “innovating against software patents” and receives support from Groklaw.
Last week, Microsoft sued Salesforce.com claiming infringement of 9 software patents. This comes shortly after Nokia sued Apple who sued Nokia over software patents, and after Apple sued HTC who sued Apple over software patents.
As an example of the ridiculous nature of software patents, Microsoft’s claims cover user interface features, including a “system and method for providing and displaying a Web page having an embedded menu” and a “method and system for stacking toolbars in a computer display.”
This explosion of litigation based on the patenting of software cannot be brushed-off as large corporations doing what they do, as almost every start-up software company is at some point being shaken down by software patent holders. It’s a massive tax on and retardant of innovation.
From Pamela Jones:
I have a request from End Software Patents’ Ciarán O’Riordan. He’d like your help.
He says VC good guy Brad Feld is interested in in mailing out copies of the film Patent Absurdity (Full title: Patent Absurdity: How software patents broke the system) to 200 people — politicians, influential people in companies, policy setters at standards groups, and whoever will be influential in the debate the breaks out post-Bilski — and he’d like to have some help from you coming up with a list of who best to send to.
This system in the United States (USPTO) needs a change and it needs it urgently. Glyn Moody writes about the German ruling on software patents [1, 2, 3, 4] and points out that “some argue there were similar ones in early 90s” (so maybe it’s not as bad as some people imagined). It is mostly the USPTO which ‘exports’ those bad laws to the rest of the world. The problem ought to be squashed in the US and in Japan.
Patents on Life
Red Hat’s new Web site writes about how the GPL can inspire a solution to the increasingly-serious injustice which is patenting of living things [1, 2].
The Economist is right on top of the story of the first fully synthetic life-form. For those of you who may have missed the announcement last week, Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith, the two American biologists who unravelled the first DNA sequence of a living organism (a bacterium) in 1995, have pushed the envelope again, demonstrating the first successful boot-up of a synthetic bacterium. Editors at the Economist argue that the only sensible way to protect ourselves from such creations is to require that the DNA sequences be open source. It is a profound insight.
But now he’s back, and he’s built the one thing that sits as an exception to the Gene Patent exclusions: a wholly synthetic lifeform. Does Ventner really want to advance science (which he has done), or is he searching, like Charles Muntz, villain of the PIXAR movie UP, for his ultimate, exclusive patent on life?
What happens when patent law kills patients? [via]
When a child dies of brain disease at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Philip H. Schwartz meets with the parents, explains his research and asks them to donate their child’s brain to his quest for a cure.
“These are not easy conversations to have,” he said. “There are expectations by parents that if they allow us to do that to their child, it will serve a useful purpose.”
But for three years, the cells derived from many of those children’s brains have been suspended in limbo, frozen in Thermos bottles. The nonprofit Southern California hospital has shut down the research, intimidated by a patent claim from the Palo Alto biotech company StemCells. The company’s co-founder is esteemed Stanford stem cell scientist Dr. Irving Weissman, one of the world’s most passionate advocates for giving scientists access to a field entangled by politics, ethics — and now money.
Against Monopoly asks, “Who Owns You?” █
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