Lack of demand
Summary: The software bully which manipulates its financial reports is said to be unable to sell the latest Windows and a new Microsoft product running this version of Windows is axed before arrival
Microsoft’s criminal behaviour does not work quite so well in hardware, where bribes are harder to get budget for (unlike with software, which can be copied infinitely). Microsoft was already forced to kill many products and divisions and it has many famous failures in hardware, including Kin, Windows Mobile, and Xbox (which lost money). Now we learn that Microsoft has ditched yet another product. This article uses promotional language which fails to explain what a colossal failure Surface has been (the big table as well as the tablets with the same brand name).
Based on other reports like this one from ZDNet (citing the Microsoft-funded Net Applications), right after China banned Vista 8 and various countries/businesses rejected it for technical reasons:
Net Applications has found that Windows 8.x actually lost user share in June 2014, while Windows 7 has really been the operating system to gain from XP’s end of support.
This is not good for Microsoft’s financial bottom line. It’s also embarrassing because it shows systematic pushback.
Another ZDNet report says that Microsoft enables XP to still receive patches (a month ago IDG reported inaction from XP users). The NSA is going to benefit from this as more PCs have lots of back doors piling up. The NSA flags GNU/Linux users (or people who read GNU/Linux sites) for extra surveillance, based on leaked source code. Those who want security (e.g. Russia, China, Korea) will surely move to GNU/Linux very soon. █
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Summary: Back door in all versions of Windows (for Internet Explorer has been embedded deep inside Windows to suppress browser competition) worries governments around the world, including those behind NSA and GCHQ
IT HAS long been known that Microsoft and the NSA work together and share information about back doors, voluntary or involuntary. Any government that still uses Windows is leaving itself vulnerable to espionage and sabotage like Stuxnet. It’s a strange mystery that many governments still have Windows in their networks. Technically it makes no sense and strategically it’s suicidal.
A few days ago we learned about a permanent back door in Windows XP. To quote one site: “Microsoft reported an alarming security flaw exposed by security farm FireEye, Inc. that affects all versions of Internet Explorer from 6 to 11. Though the newer versions of Windows operating systems will be patched in a couple of weeks, Windows XP users should be worried. Windows XP support was discontinued by Microsoft from April 8, 2014 and it is not going to get any more security patches.”
“Even when a flaw in OpenSSL was found and reported it had already been patched by all the major GNU/Linux distributions. It hadn’t yet been patched by Microsoft and Apple.”Feds are genuinely concerned about this based on the Canadian and the US corporate press, not just because Microsoft will leave Windows XP vulnerable but because at present every version of Windows is vulnerable and there is no fix. Since it’s proprietary software, nobody other than Microsoft can create a fix, either.
This latest back door shows that moving to GNU/Linux makes the most sense. Even when a flaw in OpenSSL was found and reported it had already been patched by all the major GNU/Linux distributions. It hadn’t yet been patched by Microsoft and Apple.
For those who think that Vista 8 (or 8.1) is going to offer some kind protection, mind this unfavourable new analysis. To quote just one bit: “Before shutting down, I manually told it to check for updates. It found one. The description says “Windows 8.1 Update”, and the accompanying text says the stuff about you must install this update to ensure that your computer can continue to receive future updates. So, was my HP updated or not? According to the test described by Microsoft, it was; but according to the Windows Update that is waiting to install, it was not.
“Which is correct? Beats me. How do you tell for sure? Beats me.”
Windows is a mess and this mess is filled with back doors. No government anywhere (not even the US government) should rely on it. The world is moving on and it’s time to move with it. GNU/Linux is the secure option. █
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GNU/Linux is rapidly gaining, partly because of Microsoft’s mistakes
Summary: Reports about new Microsoft-funded propaganda are easily serving as yet more proof that Windows and other Microsoft software ought to be abandoned
EVERY YEAR we are told the same lies. The propaganda is coordinated by Microsoft-funded entities like IDC and the Business Software Alliance (BSA). We tackled this propaganda year after year, also noting that IDG (the parent of IDC) helps disseminate the propaganda in the corporate press. It’s disgusting and it really ought to stop. It’s like the classic routine of rogue think tanks.
Glyn Moody has done a good job tackling the propaganda in two blogs. One of them was his Open Enterprise blog (ironically hosted by IDG), where he wrote: “As those make clear, we are talking here about Windows malware, found on purchased PCs, Web sites, in P2P downloads and CDs bought on the street. Moreover, it’s evident the infected software is proprietary, paid-for software. Why do we know that? Well, for the simple reason that nobody pirates open source software, because it’s always free of charge, by definition. So Microsoft’s report is about closed-source code, running on Windows.
“This means that IDC/Microsoft’s disturbingly high figure of $500 billion for 2014 is not so much the projected worldwide cost for enterprises of using pirated software, as the cost of running non-free programs on Windows. Most of that $500 billion could be saved – pretty much at a stroke – simply by switching to free software. ”
Glyn Moody also wrote about it in TechDirt (very large audience), under the headline “Microsoft-Sponsored Study Says Problems Caused By Using Windows Software Will Cost Businesses $500 Billion In 2014″ (similar to the other headline he chose). To quote his arguments: “Although the report doesn’t say so explicitly, we are clearly dealing with Windows systems here — computers are referred to throughout as “PCs,” never as Macs, and some of the malware is named as “Win32/Enosch.A, Win32/Sality.AT, Win32/Pramro.F,” which attack Windows systems exclusively. We can also be pretty sure that none of the infected programs was open source. Why? Because pirating software that is already freely available makes no sense — and is certainly unlikely to be as profitable as offering black market versions of costly closed-source programs.
“Putting this information together — in order to “Get The Facts” as Microsoft always liked to say — we arrive at the interesting conclusion that the use of commercial closed-source programs running on Microsoft Windows will cost businesses around $500 billion in 2014 alone because of the wasted time, lost data and reputational damage that will result from associated malware infections.”
Moody did a good job breaking down the arguments, so we need not do this again (we do this every year). Instead, let’s look at the situation Microsoft is in.
Yesterday and the day before that we wrote about the rise of Chromebooks, which led to a massive campaign of FUD and AstroTurfing from Microsoft. It’s always the same. Moody links to this article from the British press [via], stating that “London Council Dumping Windows For Chromebooks To Save £400,000″ (this was later covered in ). There’s no denying the fact that Vista 8 is driving many enterprises away from Windows and Vista 8.1 won’t change much, based on SJVN’s analysis that says: “By this time next year we’ll know if Microsoft has managed to reclaim its users’ and vendors’ mind-share, or if we really are seeing the end of the PC computing market in favor of a mobile, cloud-based computing paradigm.”
A state with 70 million people is now moving to GNU/Linux , so it’s rather clear where we’re heading. “Microsoft finally admits defeat,” says a Microsoft-friendly site  regarding the future Windows 8 update and based on numerous reports, Microsoft now drops the price of Windows to 0 for some device types . “Apple already made the move to free-of-charge operating systems,” explains iophk. “Between that and FOSS, the OS has become a commodity. This is good, without charging, Microsoft cannot give kickbacks or similar financial incentives, at least not for much longer.”
You really know that Microsoft is deep in trouble when even its peripheral PR, such as Microsoft Peter , projects worry about the number of XP users (people who still use a version of Windows from 2001). Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ quotes US figures and says  that “[a]bout 95% of the 211,000 ATMs owned by financial institutions, run some version of XP. But some of those machines run on a unique version Microsoft will support until 2016, according to a Department of Homeland Security memo sent in March. Independent companies, such as gas stations, own another 210,000.”
Many of them will move to Linux. Even Rupert Murdoch’s company, despite being anti-Google, is dumping Microsoft for Google. Interesting times. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Microsoft has more reasons to worry about Linux. After reports that an Indian state switched from Windows XP to Linux, now a UK-based organization is ditching Windows and going for Linux-based Chromebooks. The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham is going the open source way as it shifts away from Windows XP desktops in favor of 2,000 Samsung 303Cs Chromebooks for employees and 300 Chromeboxes for reception desks and shared work areas across the borough.
The Indian State of Tamil Nadu will solve its Windows XP problem by adopting Linux.
Tamil Nadu is home to over 70 million people and its capital city is Chennai, a hub for India’s business process outsourcing industry second only to Bangalore.
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So boycott UEFI
Summary: The latest experiences with UEFI (reported by one who is experienced with UEFI) suggest that a boycott of UEFI is still justified
AS we pointed out before, UEFI ‘secure’ boot is actually a mechanism for reducing security, enabling remote entities to take control of one’s hardware or destroy it ‘IBM style’ (IBM works with the NSA on self-destroying hardware). Even the NSA recognises this ability. In addition, UEFI makes it harder for people to explore operating systems other than those which have NSA back doors.
Several days ago Jamie Watson reported  that he had purchased a computer saddled with the notoriously unwanted Vista 8. He said he was getting it “ready for Linux” and days later he reported on his findings, having had many issues with UEFI before (the UEFI Forum contacted him as part of well-coordinated attempts to change perceptions). His opinion on UEFI is hardly changed. He calls UEFI “a royal pain” after trying almost a dozen distributions with it (over the course of nearly 2 years). He said: “For those who might not be personally familiar with UEFI boot yet, and especially for those who might be familiar with only one UEFI boot implementation, I’m going to include some more details here to explain and illustrate why it is, for me, such a pain.”
Intel and Microsoft are making it very hard to dodge back doors, surveillance, etc. in pursuit and in favour of freedom. It’s time to dodge Microsoft and Intel and it’s time to seriously just boycott any hardware that comes with UEFI. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
One of the large retail chains here in Switzerland has a low-priced product range that it calls “M-Budget”, which includes everything from groceries to housewares to computers, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
As I was walking past one of its shops on Saturday, I saw that it was offering an HP Compaq laptop for 333 Swiss Francs (about £225/€272/$370), and that is so low for the Swiss market that I couldn’t resist.
But as for UEFI: what a royal pain. For those who might not be personally familiar with UEFI boot yet, and especially for those who might be familiar with only one UEFI boot implementation, I’m going to include some more details here to explain and illustrate why it is, for me, such a pain.
The UEFI BIOS boot configuration is made up of two basic parts — a list of boot objects, and a sequence in which they should be attempted. When you get a new Windows 8 system, there is usually only one “real” item in the list, that being the Windows 8 Bootloader.
There will probably also be some other “pseudo” items or “generic” items in the list which allow for CD/DVD and USB boot, for example. The boot sequence on the a new Windows 8 system will contain the Windows Boot item first, and then perhaps some or all of the pseudo/generic boot items.
This is the first place I saw something unexpected in this UEFI BIOS, because there were items included in the default sequence which don’t even exist in the list of boot objects. Weird.
When you install another bootable operating system, such as Linux, it will add an item to the boot object list for itself, and that item will be placed at the front of the boot sequence list.
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Summary: Microsoft’s Windows booster, Mr. Thurrott, is admitting that Windows is a “messy product”
Paul Thurrott is one of the best known boosters of Microsoft. He has been the company’s best known Windows supporter (probably bar none) since decades ago. He rarely complains about Windows and he habitually throws FUD at Linux in exchange for payments. This is not being objective; it’s being self-serving.
Since Vista 8 is such a horrible disaster (some boosters like Thurrott still actively deny this) there is now a point of break-down of sorts. As Ryan, a former Microsoft MVP, put it in our IRC channels the other day: “Even Paul Thurrott is now admitting there are problems.”
To quote Thurrott’s analysis, titled “What the Heck is Happening to Windows?”
When critics described Windows 8.1 as a step backwards, I disagreed: Responding to customer complaints is never wrong, I argued, and the new version of the OS made it more acceptable on the many different types of PCs and devices on which Windows now runs. With Update 1, however, I’m beginning to question the validity of this new direction, and am now wondering whether Microsoft has simply fallen into an all-too-familiar trap of trying to please everyone, and creating a product that is ultimately not ideal for anyone.
If you look back over the decades at the many high-level complaints that have been leveled at Windows, one in particular sticks out: Unlike Mac OS, in particular, Windows has always attempted to satisfy every possible customer need, and as such it often provides multiple ways to accomplish the same thing. The result is a messy product, if you will, one that lacks the singular vision that is typically associated with the Mac and Apple’s other products.
As one person put it in Diaspora: “I saw this posted at Hacker News, and figured, “Oh, another Apple / Google / Linux fanboy kicking Microsoft while it’s down”.
“No. This is Paul Thurrott. He’s a long time Microsoft booster, some have said shill. And he’s clearly got some major questions over the future of the OS if not the company.” █
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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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