Apparatus of espionage and vandalism
TPM module inside a computer
Summary: The NSA may not have managed to persuade Torvalds to put back doors in Linux, but Microsoft is just too eager to put more and more remote controls (UEFI, TPM, zero-day vulnerabilities, etc.) as new releases of Windows arrive
A REASONABLY SHORT WHILE back Kaspersky spoke about issues like the Stuxnet-ready Windows causing disasters in nuclear Russian facilities, not just nuclear Iranian facilities. The Russian press denied it, but based on translations we got shown by readers, this denial was rather weak. Concurrently there was FUD in some media channels trying to blame GNU/Linux for Stuxnet-type issues. Here is an update on this whole misinformation campaign: “Using the International Space Station as an example of an isolated critical infrastructure, Kaspersky pointed out that despite being in space, it is still vulnerable to attack. In fact, on a number of occasions over the years the orbiting outpost’s computers have become infected by malware.
““Scientists, from time to time, are coming to space with USBs which are infected. I’m not kidding,” he said. “I was talking to Russian space guys and they said ‘yes, from time to time there are virus epidemics in the space station.’””
All the above issues are the fault of the NSA-made Microsoft Windows (Microsoft and the NSA work on Windows together) and it should not be shocking that Vista 8 makes things even worse. As Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols put it the other day, “Windows 8 and TMP [are] said to combine to permit NSA spying on our computers” (as expected, but TMP is a typo).
Techrighs wrote a lot about Trusted Platform Module (TPM) in the past. The notion and implementation is being steered and promoted by large companies with software patents and connections to government spies, so we can pretty much guess who it serves. As Vaughan-Nichols puts it: “The Microsoft fan club is up in arms. Those reports about Windows 8 allowing the government to spy on us? Nonsense, they fuss. It’s simply not true that Windows 8 combines with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) to create a built-in back door for surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA).
“No, no, they whine, the German newspaper Die Zeit had it all wrong when it claimed that the combination of TPM 2.0 and Windows 8.x (German-language article) gives Microsoft complete control over which programs can and can’t run, plus access to Windows BitLocker encryption, and the ability to remotely administer devices beyond a user’s control.”
It is clear, however, what Windows is really for, at least from the NSA’s perspective. It’s a Trojan horse. We should treat it as such. █
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GNU and Linux (which already dominates by its inclusion in the core of Android) are rising
Summary: GNU/Linux may become dominant on the desktop as early as next year, some pundits argue, citing the problems with Vista 8 and the end of Windows XP
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a longtime critic of Microsoft, calls the bugfix release of Vista 8 “more Windows fail,” noting of course what we’ve stressed since last year. Microsoft made too radical a change to Windows, so due to retraining costs it might be worth for businesses to just make the migration to GNU/Linux, not ‘upgrade’ to Vista 8.x. To quote Vaughan-Nichols:
My assessment: Windows 8.1 doesn’t suck as much as Windows 8. If you felt, when using Windows 8, as if you were banging your head against a brick wall, Windows 8.1 might feel as if you’re banging it against a wooden wall. Much better, right? Of course, someday you might ask yourself why you need to bang your head against a wall at all.
Let’s start with Start. Yes, we’ve all heard that Microsoft is bringing the Start button back, responding to all those users shrieking about its disappearance. So that’s better, right? Not so much. All that the new Start button does is bring up the touchy-feely Metro — uh, I mean, Modern — no, wait, make that “Windows 8 Store apps” interface. Is it any wonder that Lenovo bundles the Pokki Start button and menu replacement software with its Windows 8.x machines?
About that interface name: Windows 8 Store apps. Really? Could it be any lamer? Tell me, is there any way Ballmer can be shoved out the door faster?
In the new article “Three signs you’re drinking the Microsoft Kool-Aid” some good points are being made, noting that a lot of people choose to use Windows (or tolerate it being preinstalled) for the wrong reasons. The problem, however, is that the article started with or focuses on the wrong battle — a battle of brands of proprietary software. It says “Mac users have long been criticized for drinking the proverbial Apple Kool-Aid, but as iOS and OS X market share continues climbing, and Microsoft continues hemorrhaging, now might be the time to ask whether you’re drinking the Microsoft Kool-Aid. Here are three sure signs you need to step back, take a deep breath, and re-examine marketplace realities.”
A much better article  notes that the “year of the Linux desktop” may be imminent because of the changes Microsoft makes to Windows. A couple of IDG articles [2,3] note that the end of support for XP can make a big difference and that “[f]or the Mac, like the PC, it’s all downhill from here” (“PC” as in Windows). █
Related/contextual items from the news:
The “year of the Linux desktop” has been prophesied by Linux supporters almost every year for the last decade. This was once a lofty goal in the Microsoft-dominated enterprise, but times are changing. Linux has grown into a formidable competitor in the smartphone and cloud computing markets, which has caught Microsoft off guard. More importantly, Google, IBM, Red Hat, Facebook, and Netflix have made huge investments into Linux innovations.
Should Linux Replace Windows XP?
Windows XP is headed for the scrap heap, should Linux be used to replace it on older computers? TechRepublic takes a look at this question, and comes away with a negative point of view.
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Angela Merkel, by Αντώνης Σαμαράς Πρωθυπουργός της Ελλάδας
Summary: The NSA is getting US corporations (subsidised by US taxpayers to an extent) banned for security reasons, showing in the process how proprietary paradigm helps conceal back doors and reduce trust
Angela Merkel has been working with the NSA, Microsoft’s close ally, for quite some time. But right now this relationship is exploding right in her face and jeopardises her election campaign in Germany (voting is imminent). She needs to rethink her policies in light of the NSA abuses which everyone now knows about.
The NSA has been involved in Vista 8 development (as usual, the same was done with previous versions of Windows) and it gets notified of back doors in the operating system (while they are universally unaddressed). Add UEFI to the equation and the NSA can now remotely brick some motherboards as long as they run Windows. The British military does not seem to mind this. It gave the US control of all PCs. National Security in the UK assumes that by “national” we mean the US. We already have some NSA bases in the UK.
Nations are finally grasping the threat of the NSA. First China and Russia took action, with China launching a large probe and Russia abandoning some computers. Well, now Germany joins the pack. As David Sugar said it to me, “Windows 8 banned by German govt for integrating forced hardware surveillance & backdoors”
They also warned against UEFI (for secure boot) less than a year ago. Here is the a summary of a report written in German:
According to leaked internal documents from the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) that Die Zeit obtained, IT experts figured out that Windows 8, the touch-screen enabled, super-duper, but sales-challenged Microsoft operating system is outright dangerous for data security. It allows Microsoft to control the computer remotely through a built-in backdoor. Keys to that backdoor are likely accessible to the NSA – and in an unintended ironic twist, perhaps even to the Chinese.
The backdoor is called “Trusted Computing,” developed and promoted by the Trusted Computing Group, founded a decade ago by the all-American tech companies AMD, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Wave Systems. Its core element is a chip, the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), and an operating system designed for it, such as Windows 8. Trusted Computing Group has developed the specifications of how the chip and operating systems work together.
The other day, unofficial Microsoft spokeswoman Mary Jo Foley (her criticisms of Microsoft are rare and weak) was pushing people to buy new software from Microsoft, citing security reasons. [via]
Microsoft’s latest tack in trying to wean users off Windows XP is to warn them of a possible ‘zero day forever’ scenario in the post-April 2014 support cut-off world.
This is nonsense because after the NSA leaks we know that this threat is perpetual. As Pogson put it:
Well, I don’t think those numbers are very accurate but it’s the trend that matters. There are still hundreds of millions of PCs out there using XP and after 234 days there will still be ~200 million clinging to what they know. According to M$, XP will be revealed as the garbage OS that it is after that because it will be a huge unprotected target for malware artists. They shipped it with ~50K bugs and added more over the years. Malware artists have been discovering hundreds of ways of penetrating the OS every day for more than a decade. XP inspired whole industies of “anti-malware” and malware, spending the resources of IT defending IT from the carelessness of M$ for security, integrity and performance. M$ has used hundreds of millions of users and owners of PCs as slaves all these years and many have accepted that slavery as a way of life.
Pogson’s point is valid. But he does not address the fact that flaws are being spread to partners (like Microsoft does with the NSA). An article from the British press says that “Microsoft warns it’ll hand out zero days for Windows XP” (like it has done for a dozen years with the NSA). To quote:
Microsoft has a Windows XP problem: people still like it and aren’t willing to upgrade just yet. So it’s warning users that if they don’t upgrade soon, each new Patch Tuesday will gift a new series of vulnerabilities to the hacking community.
Windows XP is already Swiss cheese. Microsoft is trying to exploit its rubbish security as a marketing tool right now. It wants to upsell.
Woody Leonhard, an author of IDG, wrote about 17 epic Microsoft Windows Auto Update meltdowns [via], preceding it with:
These legendary clunkers made Patch Tuesday a living hell for Windows users the world over
A lot of the press has been overlooking an important point. The Windows toggle button which tells Microsoft not to automatically update (modify) the system has no effect. We know this empirically, at least when it comes to XP; about 5 years ago it was shown to have no effect. Automatic update is a back door, so Microsoft would let the NSA take over PCs with this back door, too. Staying “up to date” with patches can thus have the opposite effect.
The bottom line is, any company that comes in contact with the Department of Espionage (the NSA) should be suspect and should be avoided where possible. Germany should do nationally what it already did in Munich and a few smaller places, █
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Summary: Vista 8 found to be rigging benchmark results and subsequently banned
Over the years we have covered numerous instances where Microsoft falsified data and methods to defame the competition [1, 2]. Microsoft lies with numbers the same way the NSA does. Now we find that Microsoft is apparently rigging benchmarks that involve Vista 8, the worst version of Windows ever (worse than Vista based on market performance). The world’s top benchmarking site caught and banned it:
In an odd turn of events, Windows 8 has been banned from HWBot, one of the world’s top benchmarking and overclocking communities. All existing benchmarks recorded by Windows 8 have been disqualified. This is due to a fault in Windows 8′s real-time clock (RTC), which all benchmarking tools use as a baseline.
Moving forward, HWBot simply says that it’s “impossible to verify the veracity of a system performance” under Windows 8, and thus benchmarks performed under Windows 8 will no longer be accepted. The blog post also says that all previous Windows 8-based records will be disqualified, though some comments from the moderator suggest that they’re still deciding if this is the best course of action. The moderator also says they don’t think that this flaw in the Windows 8 RTC is being actively exploited, but it’s obviously a case of better-safe-than-sorry.
For Microsoft’s part, this issue can probably be fixed with a patch, though it might be difficult given Windows 8′s cross-platform nature. It will be interesting to see how quickly Microsoft responds, because benchmarking tools really have no recourse without an accurate RTC. Having an entire operating system outlawed from one of the world’s biggest benchmarking sites is a big deal. For now, PC enthusiasts have yet another reason to stick with Windows 7.
Microsoft will probably say it’s just an accident and we’ll be expected to just give it the benefit of the doubt, despite Microsoft’s long history of fraudulent benchmarks. Did Microsoft have the same properties in previous versions of Windows but was never caught? It’s worth verifying. █
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Found circulating in JoinDiaspora
Summary: The operating system which introduced hardware tie-in is doing so badly that Microsoft will release it again under a different name with minor changes
MICROSOFT’S COMMON CARRIER will soon die unless Microsoft does something major. Vista 8 is doing so badly that Microsoft plans to re-release it under a different number (not much has been changed)later this year.
Microsoft will unleash Windows 8.1 for world+dog to download in October, it’s claimed, a year after it released the touchscreen-friendly, tile-tastic Windows 8.
Vista 8 was partly to blame for Microsoft’s hardware woes too. This has been worse than many people imagined it would be. As one blog put it:
Microsoft’s Surface RT is an “Unmitigated Disaster.” What’s wrong with that?
After Microsoft successfully used Restricted Boot to make dual-booting Linux distributions and Windows 8 on newer desktop and notebook computers a painful adventure.
And after the company successfully locked out Linux distributions from ARM tablets running Windows RT, any bad news streaming from Steve Ballmer’s office is sweet music to my ears.
UEFI people, including some managers, continue to contact me as they are concerned that their work is getting a bad name. Freedom should no longer evade their minds, it’s the users who should be in charge; Microsoft-OEMs collusion prevents this. As long as they are complicit in Microsoft's antitrust abuses, they get what they deserve. █
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Microsoft propagandists speak out of their bottom part
Summary: Claims that Microsoft makes billions of dollars from Android not supported by any concrete evidence, just conjecture from messengers of Microsoft agenda
There is some new chatter about Android tax and I only found it in two sources (I did not look deep enough), which raise suspicion that Microsoft is seeding the message. Why? Because Microsoft boosters, those who work closely with Microsoft, are disseminating it. This is a familiar pattern, seen in particular with Florian Müller.
We don’t really know the financial terms of patent deals involving Android. There might be no money changing hands at all. Microsoft has not even given real numbers, it is just making them up [1, 2, 3] to create FUD (deterrence against Android adoption), or relying on others who make them up.
The latest provocation/trolling by Microsoft booster Gavin Clarke says:
In its latest SEC filing, Microsoft said Windows Phone revenue increased by $1.2bn in the year to 30 June, 2013.
But that number included an increase in “patent licensing revenue” in addition to sales of Windows Phone licences.
How does this compare to last year? It’s difficult to say, because Microsoft is not consistent in the numbers it breaks out – cherry-picking the best, burying the worst.
Another Microsoft booster, Todd Bishop, uses an even more inflammatory headline:
The number reflects “an increase in patent licensing revenue and sales of Windows Phone licenses,” the filing says.
Microsoft has been cheating on its finances for decades, so nothing can be inferred from the above.
“They ask to see the real numbers someday,” wrote Pamela Jones. “I’d like to see the patents. If they are as invalid and unwanted as the ones Microsoft tried to bully Barnes and Noble into paying for, it would mean this is a hustle, not a business. As in, “Nice business you have here. It’d be a shame if anything happened to it.”
Vista 8 is called a “flop” even by notable Microsoft investors, so Microsoft increasingly relies on taxing the competition; whether it succeeds or not we don’t know. We should discard speculation from Microsoft boosters.
Speaking of tax, Microsoft’s shared proxy MPEG-LA is now suing Motorola (Google/Android/VP8) over compression:
Back in June, we alerted you to a number of infringement suits brought by licensors to the MPEG LA ATSC patent pool in the Southern District of Florida, targeting several television manufacturers — ViewSonic, Craig Electronics, and Curtis International. Yesterday, a different group of MPEG LA licensors filed suit on patents related to a different MPEG LA patent pool (relating the MPEG-2 video compression standard), but most of the defendants include those targeted in the earlier suits. This could raise speculation that MPEG LA (through its licensees) is becoming more apt to bring enforcement actions to “encourage” technology companies to become licensees to its various patent pools.
It says that the plaintiffs “include Mitsubishi, Philips, General Electric, Thomson Licensing, Panasonic, and Sony,” but let’s not forget Apple’s and Microsoft’s dispute against Motorola over FRAND. This seems like patent stacking, that’s all. █
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Summary: Yet more disdain and abandonment of Microsoft as a platform
Last month we wrote about OEMs dumping Windows and Microsoft’s booster Ina Fried adds another new example, which is ASUS. The ongoing attempt to use vapourware won’t work anymore (Blue is hogwash).
“The ongoing attempt to use vapourware won’t work anymore (Blue is hogwash).”Vista 8 is a total disaster and Microsoft’s results are getting harder to game [1, 2, 3], with some people who urge Microsoft to fire Ballmer. As Pogson puts it, Microsoft is “Trying To Work For A Living” now that preinstalls of Windows are weak (Android is preinstalled more times). Here are some numbers of Microsoft’s own (rebadged) hardware sales: “Microsoft’s shares took a beating following its gloomy fiscal 2013 earnings report earlier this month, in which it wrote down nearly a billion dollars on its unloved Surface RT fondleslabs. But the software giant isn’t out of the woods yet, because new details have emerged that have the full Surface picture looking even worse than was previously thought.
“In Redmond’s annual 10-K report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), published on Tuesday, the software giant reported actual Surface revenue figures for the first time – and they’re not good.”
Also note that “Microsoft managed to mow through an $898m marketing budget in just eight calendar months – and consumers still didn’t take the bait.”
An article from famed computer expert Jean-Louis Gassée says: “Last week’s Monday Note focused on Microsoft’s conversion from a divisional to a functional organization. It resulted in interesting discussions in the comments section as well as in e-mail exchanges and conversations around a couple of Valley watering holes. Some thought Microsoft’s statements had the sincerity of a death-bed conversion, others pointed to the challenges in remaking a cricket team into a football squad, most expressed doubts about Microsoft’s ability to successfully adapt to a world where the PC no longer reigns supreme.”
Either way, even Microsoft-friendly sites take notes of growing impatience at Nokia, which despite being a Microsoft pawn has openly complained about Microsoft’s failure. Interesting times. Can Dell still rescue/salvage itself? █
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Summary: The man behind strategic flukes, including racketeering and oversupply, is asked to go (by shareholders and the press)
Ballmer has turned Microsoft into a company of patent terrorism and after the Surface oversupply fiasco [1, 2, 3] (and more financial damage) one news site calls for elimination of Ballmer:
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has revealed a sweeping corporate reorganization of the company which scraps its longtime business model of pitting each of its internal units against each other for competitive purposes, in favor of an all-for-one model which has everyone at Microsoft working toward the same larger goals. The mere fact that it’s taken Ballmer thirteen years to figure this out is enough to cast doubt on his ability to lead Microsoft in this century. But a look at the near total lack of successes under his tenure is enough to make the case for his outright ouster.
Other sites and some shareholders agree.
Ballmer has already admitted blame and took responsibility. To quote this second source: “Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has admitted that the company built too many Surface tablets, and it’s not selling as many Windows devices as it wants. During an internal town hall event earlier this week, Ballmer and COO Kevin Turner both addressed the recent $900 million hit for Surface RT and the sales pace of Windows across various devices.”
Ballmer needs to go. He is a fierce enemy of Free software and nobody really trusts him. █
“We believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability.”
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