Great example of Microsoft PR agencies distorting the news via moles
Summary: A timely look at how ‘former’ Microsoft writers — not just current ones — help manage perceptions at Microsoft’s behalf, infiltrating the media and even forums
AS WE last explained yesterday, there is some ugly pattern of deception emanating from Microsoft boosters. They try to shift liability for the failure of Vista 8 — a failure that not even they cannot deny any longer. There are ‘former’ Microsoft writers (as in, people who used to work for Microsoft) who continue to promote Vista 8 in various ways. This one, who works for CBS right now, does this trick by saying that low-cost gadgets are “to energize the PC market”. This may be true and Microsoft is totally out of this game, right? Well, not based on his framing. The article by this Microsoft booster mentions “touch-screen laptops” to give the illusion that Microsoft is still relevant in the future. This is how propaganda works. And by citing numbers from Microsoft’s partner Net Applications in the former article he also helps give the illusion that Vista 8 adoption is wonderful. Lies so big that they can make one vomit, eh? With Windows Blue (vapourware) being the focus of Microsoft right now, it is clear that Microsoft is already giving up on Vista 8 (retreat), but the boosters carry on with their deceptive ‘reports’. Well, there are more examples like that, involving many other writers, but we just focus on this one writer (formerly of Microsoft) with his two latest articles which are flawed in order to make the point. Vista 7 relied on similar tactics, including bribery of bloggers.
There is a fairly new article which covers this fascinating and troublesome phenomenon as a whole. Charlie Demerjian’s analysis is summarised as “Unleash the astroturfers to blacken the forums ASAP” (AstroTurfing is perpetually a strategy at Microsoft).
“Given the echo chamber effect of the internet where no one seems to think about the numbers they are reporting much less actually fact check them, it is really easy to manipulate the press and create “truth”. Microsoft is quite adept at this technique.”
–Charlie DemerjianTo quote: “So when Microsoft has good news, they shout it from the rooftops loudly. It is usually picked up by anyone that will listen and printed in just about every news outlet out there. Given the echo chamber effect of the internet where no one seems to think about the numbers they are reporting much less actually fact check them, it is really easy to manipulate the press and create “truth”. Microsoft is quite adept at this technique.”
Microsoft moles in the media are managed by Microsoft PR agencies which pass them material to publish in respective publications. That’s how it works. Demerjian continues as follows: “If change in PCs was needed to spur sales, that didn’t happen during the launches of Vista and 7. Sales rose. It did happen during the launch of Windows 8 and sales plummeted. Before you point out that change may be the actual cause of this plunge, think about one other little thing. You can still get Vista/7 form factor PCs now, you just can’t get them with those OSes. See the logical problem?
“Sadly though the damage control team, agency more likely, did their market research right. The whole fairy tale about PC makers being at fault seem to be getting some legs if not showing early signs of going viral. This is a really well thought out campaign given what they have to work with, cynical, unethical and anti-consumer though it is. Make no mistake though, it isn’t organic and is very manufactured. Things like this don’t go from nowhere to everywhere overnight without lots of backing and low wage forum drones to astroturf on your behalf. That said, it seems to be money well spent on Microsoft’s behalf.”
Be wary of the well-coordinated disinformation campaign, the deception centred around the idea that hardware companies — not Microsoft — are to blame for Vista 8′s poor adoption. Microsoft is trying to play with people’s minds, as always. █
“The first wave will attack the perception that Linux is free.”
–Brian Valentine, Microsoft
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Summary: People charged twice for rejecting what they never asked for in the first place
CONVICTED MONOPOLIST Microsoft has lost staff and money because Vista 7 and Vista 8 are not changing anything and because Windows generally assumes the ‘desktop’ will always dominate. Android proved otherwise, so Microsoft tries to profit from Android via extortion. A big news item in blogs these days is this stampede:
Hey, Microsoft? Just a little heads up. If customers despise your latest and ostensibly greatest operating system so much that businesses are offering a downgrade service, you might want to take that as a sign that something has gone wrong. Because while we can understand having to pay for an upgrade, ponying up cash just to take a step back on your new laptop with pre-installed software is well, it’s a step back.
People pay a lot of money to escape Vista 8 while Microsoft calls it a ‘sale’ and make more money this way, claiming two sales for one PC Valve now urges Windows users to install Ubuntu. █
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Summary: Desperate and expensive measures include AstroTurfing tactics and blocking of Linux by subversive technical means
IN ORDER to avoid clutter and repetition we no longer post many articles about Vista 8 like we did Vista 7. Vista 8 is also self-destroying (there’s some short burst of links about it in Twitter, Identi.ca, etc. for those who follow me more closely).
As Cringely put it over the weekend, “Windows is doomed.”
To quote further: “Having not invented any of the products it is known for, why should we expect Microsoft to invent its way out of declining markets? We shouldn’t.”
Microsoft has begun doing what it does best with a budget of (reportedly) a billion and a half dollars. Through its PR proxies, which have astroturf patents, it is planting favourable coverage and there is aid from former Microsoft staff with a “journalist” hat (offering no disclosure of that conflict of interests). Microsoft also fakes excitement. It knows it won’t get sued for it.
Additionally, Microsoft has made it harder to install or run GNU/Linux and it shows:
This is how SecureBoot is managed in Ubuntu and Fedora. Debian is still unclear as how they will manage SecureBoot.
The second stage features a GURB2 bootloader which does usual tasks as before. Earlier Canonical had plans to use a non GPL bootloader here, but they were thrashed.
Langasek says that they will backport the secure boot mechanism to Ubuntu 12.04 release as well, so that the LTS version can be installed in Secure Boot devices. So the next major service pack of Ubuntu Precise (12.04.2) will include support for SecureBoot.
Steam, in the mean time, targets Ubuntu because Vista 8 sucks. Microsoft is alienating developers further and further on all fronts, not just the desktop:
Microsoft annoys developers with Windows Phone 8 secrecy
The company is accepting requests for the Windows Phone 8 software development kit (SDK), but only from a select few. The rest will have to wait, as Microsoft is trying to keep some of the OS’s features secret for now.
This closed-source nonsense in due course annoys developers, many of whom already move to Android. Open Source and Free software empower developers. giving them greater advantages. No wonder Android is taking over and becoming the dominant OS. Windows revenue is down sharply. █
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Summary: Antifeatures that are associated with spying have been included in Vista 8, raising concerns for those who need protection in their private lives
THERE are many reasons to believe that Vista 8 will fail just like its predecessors (after XP).
Vista was not just horrible but it also introduced massive violations of privacy, which ought to deter and scare businesses. Having Vista or later installed is like having Stalin on your hard-drive. It ‘phones home’ a lot, gathering information about the users. This information is stored remotely and indefinitely.
“It ‘phones home’ a lot, gathering information about the users.”Now we learn that Vista 8 goes much further than Vista. It uses insecure means to help Microsoft spy on the users’ activity. To quote: “There are a few serious problems here. The big problem is that Windows 8 is configured to immediately tell Microsoft about every app you download and install. This is a very serious privacy problem, specifically because Microsoft is the central point of authority and data collection/retention here and therefore becomes vulnerable to being served judicial subpoenas or National Security Letters intended to monitor targeted users. This situation is exacerbated when Windows 8 is deployed in countries experiencing political turmoil or repressive political situations.”
See what Microsoft did in Russia. Remember the sound bite: Stalin on your hard-drive. █
“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
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Summary: After very poor adoption of Vista and Vista 7 (especially in businesses) it is expected that Vista 8 will bring more of the same
THE failure of Vista 8 is foreseen by many. It is profound enough for OEMs to complain about it already [1, 2] and Dell joins the antagonists by making its stance known.”In the earnings call to discuss its latest financial results,” says The Register, “Dell’s CFO Brian Gladden said the introduction of Windows 8 in October would have a limited effect on Dell’s results at first, since the company is really focusing on enterprise systems, and he expects the new OS to have limited appeal early on in that sector.”
“Our guess is that Linux, the kernel, which is common to all these platforms, will thrive on desktops just as it does on phones, servers, and increasingly tablets too.”The interface of Vista 8 makes it unsuitable for serious use. To quote another new article: “Though Windows 8 is winning rave reviews for its touch-friendly tablet experience, many feel that the operating system’s “Modern-style” UI makes life more difficult for PC users. Count usability expert Raluca Budiu of the Nielsen Norman Group among these critics. Though she has not conducted any formal studies on Windows 8, the former Xerox PARC researcher and user experience specialist has used the new OS enough to conclude that, for productivity tasks on the PC at least, Windows 8 is less user friendly than its predecessors.”
GNU/Linux is alive and well, but Android too is looking for growth at the expense of Windows while Chrome OS gains a more favourable position among OEMs. Our guess is that Linux, the kernel, which is common to all these platforms, will thrive on desktops just as it does on phones, servers, and increasingly tablets too. █
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Summary: The main pillar of Microsoft’s monopolistic power is shaken and battered
THE myth Microsoft created out of Vista 7 is that it’s good; in reality, it’s just better than Vista. Now we learn from the Microsoft booster that 3 years after Vista 7′s release only about 20% of large businesses use it. To quote: “Windows 7 is running in just 20 per cent of large enterprises with the most difficult migrations yet to come.” As Pogson puts it: “There are lessons to be learned from this. Why not rewrite those web applications in FLOSS and use FLOSS clients to prevent a repetition?”
Microsoft’s encryption has just been cracked, assuring that Windows security will continue to be poor:
Security researcher Moxie Marlinspike has turned his attention to VPNs based on Microsoft’s MS-CHAPv2 protocol, demonstrating software at Defcon that can capture and crack passwords.
Chapcrack  parses the credential information out of MS-CHAPv2 handshakes, which are then sent to Cloudcracker . Cloudcracker will then return a packet that can be decrypted by Chapcrack to recover the password.
As noted by ThreatPost , MS-CHAPv2 is an old protocol that should have been replaced, but hasn’t: criticisms go back as far as 1999.
This affects all versions of Windows.
Microsoft in general is declining as Windows declines. Despite whitewash pieces like this one, the reality remains clear to see; it is not just a lost past but also a lost future. As one pundit put it, Microsoft is in a “downward spiral”:
In essence, Microsoft was unwilling over the last 12 years, since Ballmer took over as CEO, to give new technologies a gestation period without demanding that they prove their worth in dollar terms. Technology companies come up with a great many ideas, 90 per cent of which prove to be ghosts in the dark. The 10 per cent that do succeed make the big bucks.
But it all takes time. And, from Eichenwald’s article, it looks like Ballmer is always in a big hurry – though he does not appear to have a clue about his destination.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates himself was more of a marketing man than a technology person; he was interested in the money and did not mind selling mediocre products that he convinced himself were the best. None of his minions ever dared to contradict him.
That culture has been taken to its logical extension by Ballmer. Some technologies like the e-book were looked at by Microsoft in 1998, well before other companies did; yet Gates did not have the patience to give developers their head to go off and create the right kind of hardware for such a product. No time was given for consolidation of the product because it did not look like a Windows product. It had to immediately had to have a business plan, a projected profit and loss statement.
This is a surprising development because it indicates that Microsoft did not learn from its own history of never getting anything right except on the third try.
And then, Eichenwald writes, there was the stack ranking system for evaluating its workers. When a given group was evaluated, there was a predetermined outcome. Some people had to get lower rankings than others, the evaluation wasn’t objective. Which meant that some people just could not progress in career terms.
People, in short, became dispensable. If you were in good with your manager, you got ahead. The incompetent were encouraged by this, the competent (read less mainstream types) were discouraged.
Microsoft’s monopoly is a “house of cards” in the sense that without Windows monopoly Office too will suffer. In a later post we’ll show new studies which suggest declining market share for Windows. Things change rapidly and Linux gains the most through Android right now. █
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Form factors revolution
Summary: Bad news for Microsoft and its monopoly, which lies atop Windows with all its problems
Microsoft’s financial state was discussed recently in light of the losses. One former Microsoft executive calls for the company to be broken up, probably splitting it into the part which should be decommissioned and the one that can somehow live on, notably the Windows and Office franchises (illegally-obtained monopolies). To quote CNET: “Microsoft has lost its way, says Kirk Eichenwald, who talked about his Vanity Fair piece on “CBS This Morning.””
CNET also says that “PC shipments continue downward trend” based on Microsoft’s friends at IDC and Gartner. Christine Hall goes further by invoking the “end of the Windows era” (without Windows, Office too can fade away). “I thought about this the other day while reading an article somewhere online about Windows 8,” Hall writes. “The author wrote something about how at this stage of the game, Windows 8 with its Metro interface was facing the same uncertainty that Vista faced right before it was released. I almost found myself in agreement, until I remembered my friend Phillip in those last days before the release of Vista.
“There was a big difference between the pre-release days then and the current situation as we wait for Windows 8′s big official debut. Back then, all the Windows fans were actually looking forward to Vista. XP had been a big hit, and the Redmond fan boys thought Vista would be even a couple of notches better. After all, they’d been working on it for ages; all that work was bound to turn into the most super duper operating system ever.
“Windows 8 with its Metro interface was facing the same uncertainty that Vista faced right before it was released.”
–Christine Hall“The rest, of course, is history. Vista turned out to be an even bigger embarrassment to Microsoft than ME had been six years earlier. It wouldn’t run properly on anything but the latest NASCAR rated processors. It needed gazillabytes of RAM. Worse, a massive number of peripherals, from printers to scanners, were turned into toast because they couldn’t be installed due to a lack of drivers. Very quickly the Windows fanboys came to see that the new best-of-breed was basically a lame horse.
“Now, Microsoft is only a few months away from the official release of Windows 8. This time, all we hear from the Windows fans is that they don’t like it. They’re unsure of the Metro interface on the desktop and worry about the wisdom of offering the exact same OS to do duty on the desktop and on tablets. They’re wary, with many convinced they won’t like the new, improved and better than ever operating system. I don’t hear anybody at all anticipating this will be the Windows to beat all Windows, a trophy that still goes to XP. At this point, all I hear is some hopes from Ballmer and his friends that the new OS will keep them from entirely loosing in portable devices and whatever comes next in the new computing zeitgeist.”
There are some further comments in her site and outside the site. She has clearly struck a nerve. It’s usually proportional to the amount of pro-Microsoft trolling.
In other news, Microsoft is besieged by malware. It takes radical measures now: “Microsoft has revoked more than two dozen digital certificates used to prove its wares are genuine after discovering some of them could be subject to the same types of attacks orchestrated by the designers of the Flame espionage malware.
“Tuesday’s revocation of 28 certificates is part of a much larger overhaul of Microsoft’s cryptographic key management regimen that’s designed to make it more resistant to abuse. The housecleaning follows last month’s discovery that some of the company’s trusted digital signatures were being abused to certify the validity of the Flame malware that has infected computers in Iran and other Middle Eastern Countries. By forging the cryptographic imprimatur used to certify the legitimacy of Windows updates, Flame was able to spread from one computer to another inside an infected network.”
This is related to Stuxnet, based on some researchers. It’s a Windows-specific problem, and that’s all that matters. Incidentally, there is some story going around about alleged “malware” for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux. The Microsoft booster at IDG spins it as merely a Linux story, spinning it as dishonestly as he typically does (link omitted). All this security FUD serves a broader agenda, such as the political agenda of the US versus Iran. Moreover, based on a new conference, Microsoft runs another campaign to promote online censorship, using the “child porn” excuse. This is how Microsoft’s poor security record ultimately leads to the erosion of human rights and civil liberties. For Microsoft, it is not even possible to implement GUI features without leaving massive holes. The outcome is severe: “Microsoft has advised Vista and Windows 7 users to put Gadgets and the Windows Sidebar to the sword, following the revelation of yet-to-be-detailed remote code execution vulnerabilities in the features.”
Ryan Naraine calls it “early death” and this is far from the first security menace in Vista 7. “Microsoft is pulling the plug on the Windows Sidebar and Gadgets platform ahead of news that security vulnerabilities will be disclosed at this year’s Black Hat conference,” notes the journalist. It sure looks like Microsoft is gradually being pushed to the sidebar in this age when Android/Linux grows rapidly. How come Android, despite its popularity, does not have so many security flaws?
Here is more from the news: “On its July Patch Tuesday, Microsoft released nine security updates to fix a total of 16 vulnerabilities in Windows (XP SP3 and later), Office, Internet Explorer, Visual Basic for Applications and Sharepoint Server. Three of the updates close critical holes, among them an XML Core Services vulnerability that has been actively exploited for over a month.” As The Register put it “Microsoft has patched an under-attack zero-day vulnerability in XML Core Services as part of the July edition of Patch Tuesday.” [via] █
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Summary: Microsoft reassures us that bribes are not a mistake but a deliberate act of marketing
THE MARKETING company known as Microsoft just cannot learn a lesson, or maybe there is no lesson to be learn when bribery is simply the business model rather than a “rotten apple”. Previously in this Web site we wrote all about Microsoft bribes that we are aware of. Vista 8 will be no exception because it is already happening. Ryan from #Techrights (IRC) writes: “They did something like this when Vista and Vista 7 went out. In that case, they sent out Alienware laptops to bribe favorable reviews for Vista from the people that got one. LINK (Archive.org copy, the original was disappeared)
“Now it appears they are promoting Vista 8 like this as well, only it’s tablets this time.”
Vista and Vista 7 had bribes as well. One former Microsoft manager wrote at one point: “I’ve been thinking long and hard about this, and the only conclusion I can come to is that this is ethically indistinguishable from bribery. Even if no quid-pro-quo is formally required, the gift creates a social obligation of reciprocity. This is best explained in Cialdini’s book Influence (a summary is here). The blogger will feel some obligation to return the favor to Microsoft.” The blog post is titled “bribing bloggers, █
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