Bonum Certa Men Certa

Disaster Capitalism and Microsoft



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Summary: How Microsoft makes money out of natural disasters; Microsoft takes Perl down with bot shakeups

KATRINA is well behind us, but several Microsoft Web sites used to speak about the dumping of Microsoft software (at zero cost, initially) that got many victimised businesses and local operations 'stuck' with Microsoft. They became victims twice. When disaster strikes, it is often seen as an opportunity for corporate takeover (there is a lot of budgeted money for reconstruction). In Naomi Klein's "shock doctrine", she explains how Katrina was exploited by corporations to transform their business success rather than transform the ruined land.



We have discussed this in the IRC channel for the past couple of days [1, 2] because of the Haiti earthquake. Separately, one of our readers mailed us the following last night:

Microsoft is puffing up some kind of disaster capitalism in Haiti. Eweek uncritically announced some $1.2 million of donations and a call to employees for aid. While it is nice of them to encourage others to help, $1.2 million is a piddling amount for such a large company and Eweek might have asked if the "donations" were more of the usual, $1,500 worth of CDs and temporary licensing keys with a MSRP of $1.2 million. It is a shame that details were not provided to reduce well earned cynicism.

Having seen Microsoft in action for Katrina and Rita, I can say that they are a hindrance rather than help. Red Cross offices suffered under Microsoft's notoriously poor networking, which kept them from being able to act as efficiently as they should. Citizens were forced to use IE to sign up for relief because government websites were poorly designed, so free software was banished from evacuation centers and people fell back to pen and paper. To top it all off, Microsoft used the opportunity to expand their grip on public education and small business with state funded, strings attached deals. I can only imagine what they will do in Haiti, where there's less to milk when all is done.


Speaking of making money out of chaos, Heise finally writes about Microsoft's denial of service attack on Perl, which gives Perl's allegations legitimacy. The H says:

The Perl CPAN Testers have been suffering issues accessing their sites, databases and mirrors. According to a posting on the CPAN Testers' blog, the CPAN Testers' server has been being aggressively scanned by "20-30 bots every few seconds" in what they call "a dedicated denial of service attack"; these bots "completely ignore the rules specified in robots.txt".


Microsoft's own servers also act as drivers of DDoS attacks (when hijacked) and as sources of referrer SPAM (as a matter of design) [1, 2]. It's probably worst when DNS goes down due to Microsoft.

As PC Pro (UK) puts it, Microsoft is now liaising with HP in hope of fighting GNU/Linux.

Microsoft and HP tie $250m knot



[...]

From Microsoft's point of view, the deal will help ward off the threat of Linux-based solutions in businesses, while HP can count a near-guaranteed revenue stream from Microsoft-centric customers.


Secret/exclusionary deals are related to the exploitation of natural disaster, but they are not quite the same. Both are means of imposing the use of inferior software through loopholes, euphemistic bribes, and back doors.

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