Big Brother's computer company
on this page:
- Vista: the "Homeland Security" version of MS Windows
- Linux: the "Metric System" for computers - a viable alternative to Microsoft and Apple
- Apple switches to Intel - will now have Digital Rights Management chips to enable internet censorship
I always feared that my own TV set or iron or toaster would, in the privacy of my apartment, when no one else was around to help me, announce to me that they had taken over, and here was a list of rules I was to obey
-- Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick
|Recommendations for personal computers: from best to worst|
- Linux: a good solution for converting an existing computer using
Windows, free from covert computing surveillance systems
- Macintosh Operating System 10 (OS X). Newer Macintoshes running
on Intel chips can run Macintosh and Windows (along with Linux and Unix).
New software (Cross Over) is being developed to run Windows programs on Macintosh
without the need for installing the full Windows operating system. The safest
way to run Windows is on a Macintosh, isolated from the internet (which keeps
viruses and other mal-ware away from the defective Microsoft software).
- Windows 2000 operating system
if you have Windows programs that cannot be substituted via Macintosh or Linux
avoid using Microsoft Word or Outlook (the only word processor and email programs that have their own forms of viruses due to incredibly defective Microsoft programming practices). Several other word processors can create Microsoft Word compatible documents - there is no need to use their application programs even if you are stuck using Windows.
The best version of Windows that Microsoft ever made was Windows 2000 - the most stable, without digital registration snooping systems, and able to run on most older machines.
Advice from the Electronic Frontier Foundation
Avoid Microsoft products where possible. Computers using the Microsoft Windows platform are especially vulnerable as of this writing (although no operating system is immune to all potential attacks). Consider using a non-Microsoft operating system if possible. However, if you have to use Microsoft Windows and you are connecting to the Internet, your best bet is to minimize the number of Microsoft Internet applications you use – for example, use Firefox as a browser or Thunderbird as a mail client. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and its email programs Outlook and Outlook Express are very difficult for even professionals to secure. Furthermore, adversaries tend to attack more popular platforms and applications.
Keep your software updated. Use the latest stable version of your operating system. As of this writing, Windows 95, 98, and ME are utterly obsolete. You should be using at least Windows Server 2003 for servers and Windows XP for clients, with all patches and service packs applied. For Macintosh computers, use OS X 10.4 or greater, with all patches applied. For Linux and Unix, get whatever version is the most recent stable release, and follow all updates. It is especially important not to let server software versions lag behind, since servers are always on and always connected.
Maintain your firewalls. Firewalls are software or hardware components that protect your computer or network from the Internet, blocking traffic based on network-related parameters like IP addresses and port numbers. Firewalls can protect against those who want to access your computer without permission. Configuring network firewalls is pretty tough for the layperson and beyond the scope of this guide, but you should learn how to use the personal firewall software that’s included in most recent operating systems.
By the end of 2005, there were 114,000 known viruses for PCs. In March 2006 alone, there were 850 new threats detected against Windows. Zero for Mac. While no computer connected to the Internet will ever be 100% immune from attack, Mac OS X has helped the Mac keep its clean bill of health with a superior UNIX foundation and security features that go above and beyond the norm for PCs. When you get a Mac, only your enthusiasm is contagious.
Microsoft is planning to take concerns about viruses that exploit loopholes in their amazingly defective software to fool the world into accepting what they call "Trusted Computing" - an ambitious "bait and switch" to censor the internet (but it won't fix the inherent defects in windoze).
Trusted Computing is a "Bait and Switch" Scam: other Operating Systems (Macintosh, Linux) are much more secure than Windows without any need for Digital Rights Management censorship
Big Brother's computing system / censor-ware: Did Microsoft make a deal with Uncle Sam to install spy ware in Windows to prevent breakup under anti-trust laws?
|Richard Clarke says use a Macintosh for computer security|
Spies in the system 27.09.2004 By PAUL BRISLEN
"Richard Clarke, the cyber-security adviser appointed by former US President Bill Clinton.
Clarke, who toured New Zealand recently, said he has managed to protect his computer from more than 99 per cent of all known viruses, worms, network attacks and spyware.
He runs an Apple, not a Microsoft PC, and says that does the job nicely."
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Clarke rips Microsoft over security
Former White House adviser alludes to its vulnerabilities
By TODD BISHOP
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
SAN FRANCISCO -- Don't expect Richard Clarke to rely on Microsoft Corp.'s anti-virus or anti-spyware programs to protect his own computer.
"Given their record in the security area, I don't know why anybody would buy from them," the former White House cybersecurity and counterterrorism adviser said yesterday, when asked for his thoughts on Microsoft's forthcoming line of security software.
The observation came during an impromptu interview on the sidelines of the RSA computer security conference in San Francisco, where Clarke took part in panel discussions with other experts in technological and national security.
|Microsoft Windows is defective|
"Mr. Gates acknowledged today that the company's error reporting service
indicated that 5 percent of all Windows-based computers now crash more than
twice each day."
-- New York Times, 25 July 2003, p.C2.
Microsoft's "innovation" is in its monopolistic business practices, not software development.
"Why I hate Microsoft" - long article, but the best
deconstruction of the monopoly
A thirty-two bit extension and GUI shell to a sixteen bit patch to an eight bit operating system originally coded for a four bit microprocessor and sold by a two-bit company that can't stand one bit of competition."
(Anonymous USEnet post)
See, the Vista is not so grand (COLUMN)
Toby Shapshak: Getting Technical
Published:Dec 10, 2007
Market consensus is that Microsoft really messed up this time
Somebody has to say it: Microsoft has made a terrible mistake with Windows Vista.
I heard an interesting statistic recently about how two-thirds of new-computer buyers are asking to be downgraded from Windows Vista to XP at one of the largest distributors in the country. And I haven’t met a single person, outside of those who work for Microsoft, who have a good thing to say about Vista, while the blogosphere has torn the world’s largest software maker to shreds. ....
Vista is too slow, too clunky, too unresponsive, too unwieldy. There are nine ways to turn Vista off or put it in standby, because there were 43 different people working in various teams on the shut-down function.
And the latest versions of Office files cannot be read by older versions of Word or Excel. I kid you not. Earlier this year Microsoft spectacularly lost a vote to have this new Office format declared a standard — while a perfectly good OpenDocument Format standard already exists.
There is no other way to put it: Vista is a disaster. It’s not the worst piece of software Microsoft has written (that goes to Windows ME by all accounts, although I personally think Windows 98 deserved that title), but it’s right up there in the lexicon of how not to try and solve your problems. Bill Gates joked that Vista was “the best 6-billion I ever spent”.
For the seven years Microsoft spent on Vista, what was it doing?
The more I play with it, the more I keep thinking I’ve missed something. I don’t want to be the one who stands up in public and says the emperor has no clothes.
You see, Microsoft is part of the landscape. Let me rephrase that, Microsoft is the landscape.
Microsoft takes on net nasties
JUNE 06, 2006
"Microsoft executives love telling stories against each other. Here's one that platforms vice-president Jim Allchin told at a recent Windows Vista reviewers conference about chief executive Steve Ballmer," David Frith reports for Australian IT. "It seems Steve was at a friend's wedding reception when the bride's father complained that his PC had slowed to a crawl and would Steve mind taking a look."
"Allchin says Ballmer, the world's 13th wealthiest man with a fortune of about $18 billion, spent almost two days trying to rid the PC of worms, viruses, spyware, malware and severe fragmentation without success," Frith reports. "He lumped the thing back to Microsoft's headquarters and turned it over to a team of top engineers, who spent several days on the machine, finding it infected with more than 100 pieces of malware, some of which were nearly impossible to eradicate."
Frith reports, "Among the problems was a program that automatically disabled any antivirus software. 'This really opened our eyes to what goes on in the real world,' Allchin told the audience. If the man at the top and a team of Microsoft's best engineers faced defeat, what chance do ordinary punters have of keeping their Windows PCs virus-free?"
What's Wrong With Microsoft?
As Bill Gates Steps Away, Microsoft Braces Itself Against Mounting Developmental and Legal Issues
July 13, 2006 — - The bloom appears to be fading from the Redmond rose.
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp., the most powerful technology company in the world, has faced a variety of legal and operational hurdles this year, leaving some observers to believe the company has peaked and has begun a steady slide from industry dominance.
Microsoft's Vista Goes on Sale to Corporations (yawn)
Posted on Dec 1st, 200
The reality is Microsoft isn't really a technology company. It's a toll collector. It buys up toll-generating properties and then just collects the tolls on them, just as Spanish and Australian consortia are buying up the Chicago Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road. Don't believe it? Take a look at this list of Microsoft innovations; you'll find that most of them actually were built at other companies, and then bought by Microsoft. That's why Vista took five years -- Microsoft actually had to build something instead of just maintaining it. It's just not the company's core competency.
Microsoft's main products have all come from other companies:
Common Internet File System
Intellimouse Explorer's Optical Tracking Technology
Standard C++ Library
iPod vs Zune: Microsoft's Slippery Astroturf
Friday, December 1, 2006
There are a number of fan sites that sound excited about the Zune, but a big part of that excitement stems from the fact that those websites were set up by Microsoft as astroturf. They are really just advertisements pretending to represent real people, created by Microsoft to generate buzz.
This is similar to the scam Microsoft pulled with its own imitation of Apple's Switchers ad campaign. Titled “Confessions of a Mac to PC Convert,” Microsoft's ad portrayed a professionally dressed woman complaining about her Mac, but ended up being a canned picture pulled from stock photography and voiced by a professional writer.
Astroturfing doesn't work reliably in the area of technology. As Abraham Lincoln observed, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time." It turns out that technically oriented people are less likely to be fooled by the impassioned ploys that are more at home in politics.
Microsoft’s Astroturf Legacy
Somebody should inform Microsoft; the company has a long history in using astroturf. The LA Times exposed Microsoft for sponsoring fake letter writing campaigns intended to create the illusion of populist support from individuals during its Windows monopoly trial.
Minnesota's Attorney General Mike Hatch called Microsoft's astroturf campaign "sleazy," saying, "This is not a company that appears to be bothered by ethical boundaries."
Back then, Microsoft was sending letters with fake return addresses or using the identities of people who were dead. Today, Microsoft's "people" sit in chat rooms and post anonymous comments on the web or use email addresses that don't reply. ....
Sloppy Is As Sloppy Does
Fortunately, Microsoft does its typical sloppy job even with astroturfing, so it's generally easy to spot.
Paid placements almost always recite the exact same "talking points," the easy to repeat phrases that come on a template and sound identical to the company's web pages.
The company has also made the mistake of registering supposedly independent Zune fan websites before it ever announced the Zune name. Oops!
Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Web users turn tables on Microsoft
The page documented a switch from Mac to PC
Microsoft has been caught using a fake advert that claimed people were switching from Macs to Windows PCs.
The advert on Microsoft's website supposedly recounted the story of a former Apple Mac user who had converted to using Windows.
But investigative work by net users revealed that the supposed "switcher" actually worked for a marketing company employed by the Seattle giant.
The Microsoft advert was a response to the high-profile campaign run by Apple which showcased people who have moved from Windows to a Mac.
Why Does Windows Still Suck?
Why do PC users put up with so many viruses and worms? Why isn't everyone on a Mac?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, February 4, 2005
So about a year ago, the SO finally upgraded her Net connection to DSL, carefully installed the Yahoo! DSL software into her creaky Sony Vaio PC laptop and ran through all the checks and install verifications and appropriate nasty disclaimers.
And all seemed to go smoothly and reasonably enough considering it was a Windows PC and therefore nothing was really all that smooth or reasonable or elegant, but whatever. She just wanted to get online. Should be easy as 1-2-3, claimed the Yahoo! guide. Painless as tying your shoe, said the phone company.
She got online all right. The DSL worked great. For about four minutes.
Then, something happened. Something attacked. Something swarmed her computer the instant she tried to move around online and the computer slowed and bogged and cluttered and crashed, and multiple restarts and debuggings and what-the-hells only brought up only a flood of nightmarish pop-up windows and terrifying error messages and massive system slowdowns and all manner of inexplicable claims of infestation of this worm and that Trojan horse and did we want to buy McAfee AntiVirus protection for $39.95?
Four minutes. And she was already DOA.
My SO, she is not alone. This exact same scenario, with only slight variation, is happening throughout the nation, right now. Are you using a PC? You probably have spyware. The McAfee site claims a whopping 91 percent of PCs are infected. As every Windows user knows, PCs are ever waging a losing battle with a stunningly vicious array of malware and worms and viruses, all aimed at exploiting one of about ten thousand security flaws and holes in Microsoft Windows.
Here, then, is my big obvious question: Why the hell do people put up with this? Why is there not some massive revolt, some huge insurrection against Microsoft? Why is there not a huge contingent of furious users stomping up to Seattle with torches and scythes and crowbars, demanding the Windows Frankenstein monster be sacrificed at the altar of decent functionality and an elegant user interface?
There is nothing else like this phenomenon in the entire consumer culture. If anything else performed as horribly as Windows, and on such a global scale, consumers would scream bloody murder and demand their money back and there would be some sort of investigation, class-action litigation, a demand for Bill Gates' cute little geeky head on a platter.
Here is your brand new car, sir. Drive it off the lot. Yay yay new car. Suddenly, new car shuts off. New car barely starts again and then only goes about 6 miles per hour and it belches smoke and every warning light on the dashboard is blinking on and off and the tires are screaming and the heater is blasting your feet and something smells like burned hair. You hobble back to the dealer, who only says, gosh, sorry, we thought you knew -- that's they way they all run. Enjoy!
Would you not be, like, that is the goddamn last time I buy a Ford?
I see it all around me. All Chronicle employees receive regular email warnings from our IT department about all sorts of viruses that are coming their way and aiming for company PCs. The AP tech newswires are full tales of newly hatched viruses and worms and Trojan horses and insidious spyware programs sweeping networks and wreaking havoc on PCs and causing all manner of international problems, and all exploiting this or that serious flaw in the Windows OS.
Oh yes, the Serious Windows Flaw. This is astounding indeed. It seems not a month goes by that Gates & Co. isn't announcing yet another Microsoft Security Bulletin, one that could cause serious problems for users and networks and millions of Web sites alike, could compromise your personal data and make it very easy for any 10-year-old hacker to waltz right into your hard drive and swipe your credit card info and wipe out all your porn and read your secret emails to the babysitter and won't you please hurry over to Microsoft.com and download Major Windows Security Bug Fix #10-524-5b?
There have been not a few of these dire warnings. There have been dozens. Maybe hundreds. Each more dire and alarming than the last.
And with very few exceptions, every Mac owner everywhere on the planet simply looks at all this viral chaos and spyware noise and Microsoft apologia and shrugs. And smiles. And pretty much ignores it all outright, and gets back to work. (By the way, yes, I own a tiny handful of Apple stock. Do I need to advocate for Mac? Hardly. I'm already happy as can be thanks to the success of the brilliant, world-altering iPod.)
It's very simple. The Mac really has few, if any, known viruses or major debilitating anything, no spyware and no Trojans and no worms, and sure I've been affected by a couple email bugs over the years, but those were mostly related to my mail server and ISP. For the most part and for all intents and purposes, Macs are immune. Period.
I know of what I speak. I am not a novice. I've been using Macs almost daily for 15 years. I am online upward of 10-12 hours a day. I run multiple Net-connected programs at all times. I receive upward of 500 emails a day, much of it nasty spam that often comes with weird indecipherable attachments that try, in vain, to infiltrate my machine. My Mac just shrugs them off and keeps working perfectly. I dump them all in the trash and never look back.
I'm a power user. And I have yet to suffer a single debilitating virus or worm or spyware or malware whatsoever. Not one problem in 15 years, save the time I spilled water in the keyboard of my PowerBook and I took off the back and let it dry out for two days and it worked perfectly.
Oh, I know all the arguments as to why Macs aren't the dominant system in the world. I know Apple screwed up 20 years ago by not licensing its OS, and Gates stumbled in and made a killing by stealing the Mac's look and feel but mangling the actual usability and thus irritating about 150 million people for the next 20 years.
I know Macs are (well, were) more expensive, even though they're really not, when you finally jam that ugly cheapass Dell with enough video cards and sound cards and disk burners to make it comparable to a Mac that comes with all of it, standard.
I know Macs are not perfect, that there have been a handful of serious Apple security fixes over the years, and even a few rumored viruses and spyware apps (though rarely any reports of major server attacks or system shutdowns). I know Apple releases regular security updates of its own. The Mac is not flawless. But it's damn close.
And I know, finally, the argument that says that if the world was using Macs instead of PCs, the hackers would be attacking the Macs. It's a game of numbers, after all. Anti-Mac pundits always mutter the same thing as they install yet another PC bug fix: there just aren't enough Macs out there to warrant a hacker's attention.
Which is, of course, mostly bull. I'm no programmer, but I know what I read, and I know my experience: the Mac OS architecture is much more robust, much more solid, much more difficult to hack into. Apple's software is, by default, more sound and reliable, given its more stable core. (Sometime in the later '90s, a Mac org whose name I forget ran a rather amazing hacker competition: they offered a $13,000 cash prize to anyone in the world who could hack into the company's unprotected Mac server and alter the contest's home page in any way. Needless to say, no one ever could).
Perhaps there is something I'm missing. Maybe there's something I don't understand as to why there is not a massive rush of consumers and IT managers to dump PCs in favor of Macs (or even Linux OS). Surely thousands (millions?) of work-hours have been lost nationwide as tech departments spend untold months debugging and installing PC virus protections and keeping abreast of the latest and greatest worm to come down the pike, all due to Microsoft's lousy software.
Am I being unfair? Maybe. Hell, I'm sure Windows has its gnarled and wary defenders, war-torn and battle-tested folk who still insist that, because there's more software available for the Windows OS, it's somehow superior -- though I challenge them to name one significant, common activity the Mac can't do as well as, if not better than, PCs. For 97 percent of users in the world, Macs would be a more elegant and intuitive and appealing solution. Period.
So then. Here's hoping the new, incredibly affordable Mac Mini converts a hundred million people to Mac in the next year. Here's hoping the borderline illegal and monopolistic domination of Microsoft comes to an end in the next decade. Apple appears poised, finally, again, ready to take over the consumer world. Hell, thousands of glorious iPods have already infiltrated the Microsoft campus up in Redmond, causing MS management no end of humiliation and frustration. Can revolution be far behind?
And what about my SO's PC woes? Well, after her Vaio was so violently debilitated, and after being told by various experts that it would require nothing short of a complete (and very expensive) Windows system debugging and OS reinstall followed by a mandatory soak of the machine in a tub of bleach and then spraying it with a thick coat of road tar as she waved a burning effigy of Steve Ballmer over it while chanting the text of the Official Microsoft 'Screw You Sucker' Windows Troubleshooting Guide, she promptly dumped the useless hunk of sad landfill and bought herself a beautiful new iBook.
And of course, in a year of solid use, she has yet to have a single problem.
Oh wait. I take that back. She has had one nagging issue with her Mac. One program keeps crashing in the middle of her work, for no apparent reason. It is baffling and frustrating and makes you shake your head and want to scream.
The program in question? Microsoft Word.
A more sober perspective from the Wall Street Journal
A Digital Crime Wave
By WALTER S. MOSSBERG
if you're totally fed up with the security crisis but want to continue using your computer for common tasks, consider dumping Windows altogether and switching to Apple's Macintosh, which uses its own operating system, called OS X. There has never been a successful virus reported on OS X, and there is little or no spyware for the Mac.
In my view, Macs have better hardware, a better operating system and better bundled software than Windows PCs. They are as good as, and often better than, Windows PCs at e-mail and Web surfing; at word processing and other productivity tasks; and at handling digital photos, videos and music. And most popular Windows file types open right up in Mac programs, without the need for any conversion or translation.
What you do when you've sold a bazillion copies of XP and have a stranglehold on the corporate market: pocket the cash so you stay atop the world's wealthiest list.
What you do when you've sold a bazillion cheap little hard drives sold as music players with a solid sound and elegant interface (ipod): put those profits into upgrading your hardware, releasing another version of a great OS, and design a charming $500 budget box with a VGA port in the back so those frustrated Wintel users can plug their keyboards and monitors into the thing and never look back.
So you see, it's not about the technology: it's about what you decide to do with the money.
Brian Donohue, M.A. -April 26, 2005
Charles Arthur: Europe brands Microsoft's Windows Media Player 'monopolistic'
19 November 2003
Friday, 27 February, 2004, 12:25 GMT
Trusting Microsoft over security
Security is at the centre of what they do now, says Microsoft. But how can we be sure, asks technology analyst Bill Thompson.
David Aucsmith is Microsoft's security architect, and he came to London this week to ask forgiveness for his company's former sins.
Speaking to an audience of senior police officers and security professionals at the E-Crime Congress, he admitted that when Windows 95 was released to the world it came with no security features at all.
200 apps clash with XP SP2
"Windows remains a quite dangerous system to connect to the Internet"
KEEPING THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF YOUR COMPUTER
DECLAN MCCULLAGH OF POLITECH quotes a citizen who reports, "I have taken my computer through customs many times and I have never had it seized. But I'll be damned if G.I. Jackboot didn't walk into another room with my computer. I couldn't see what he was doing. I suppose it is possible that US Customs now has a copy of my hard drive. All of my stuff is password protected so perhaps that kept him from accessing anything other than the logon screen. Or perhaps there is now a bug in it that sends them a copy of everything I do."
Says Mccullagh: "So be sure to:
1. Encrypt your files, and preferably entire hard drive volumes, using PGPdisk or OS X's FileVault. Might as well switch to a Mac or some non-Windows operating system while you're at it.
2. Seriously, about the Mac thing. Police organizations are far more proficient with Windows.
3. Password-protect your computer, including a boot password.
4. Ideally find some way to verify that your computer hasn't been tampered with. You could boot off a known-safe CD when you get home, for instance, and compare current file hashes with previous hashes saved to a CD."
The Independent (London) December 24, 2003
Microsoft's festive advice: Don't plug our PCs into the Web
By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor
Its slogan is "where do you want to go today?" But Microsoft asks that if you get a Windows computer for Christmas,don't take it to one particular place: the internet.
At least, the company says, not until you've been to the shops again to buy extra software, and protected the system from the deluge of viruses and worms that target the flaws in Microsoft's software as soon as you take it online.
The warning came as anti-virus companies said 2003 was the worst year ever for viruses attacking Windows, with two "global" outbreaks which were the biggest in the history of the internet.
And now a new Windows virus, called Sober, is spreading fast in Germany and Europe. It turns personal computers into mass-mailing machines that can be used by spammers to send messages, and spreads the virus to anyone in the machine's address book.
Microsoft's advice features in a new page on - inevitably - its website, entitled "Protect New PCs Before Connecting to the Internet". Anyone who manages to go online to read it without being infected will find the company warning users to obtain anti-virus software, and turn on a protection system called a "firewall" (which new versions of Windows include, yet the company leaves turned off) before they venture online.
But as Simon Moores, an internet consultant, pointed out yesterday, the software giant's admonitions "place the world in a catch-22: you can't be sure that it's safe to go online unless you connect to the internet and get a huge file of security updates from Microsoft, and new anti-virus files - which are also only available online".
Windows desktop stranglehold slipping
the barrow | David Frith
OCTOBER 05, 2004
THERE are a few straws blowing in an increasingly strong wind for Apple Computer. Straw 1: When the White House's former top cyber-security and anti-terrorism expert, Richard Clarke, visited Australia and new Zealand recently, he carried an Apple Macintosh, not a Windows machine.
Clarke, who served under four presidents but is no friend of the Bush administration, says he chooses a Mac because it protects his data from more than 99 per cent of all known viruses, worms, network attacks and spyware – issues that plague the Windows operating system daily.
Straw 2: Daryl Forrest is a US-based developer of software for Microsoft Windows. Here's what he recently told USA Today newspaper: "I have moved all non-work-related computing to a new Apple Power Mac G5. I like Windows XP, but the risks are too high these days. It's sad that it has come to this."
Straw 3: Walt Mossberg, the veteran IT writer for the Wall Street Journal, tells his readers: "If you use a Windows personal computer to access the internet, your personal files, your privacy and your security are all in jeopardy. An international criminal class of virus writers, hackers, digital vandals and sleazy businesspeople wakes up every day planning to attack your PC. The most effective way to avoid viruses and spyware is to simply chuck Windows and buy an Apple Macintosh."
Straw 4: In the past few months the share price of Apple Computer has soared to near-record levels.
The roaring success of the Apple iPod music player and – in the US, the iTunes online music service – explains part of that, but many analysts say the share price is also being driven by indications that a growing number of Windows users are moving to the Mac platform.
SP2 on XP Home
By Thomas C Greene
Published Friday 17th September 2004 07:06 GMT
... Windows remains too difficult for the average person to administer, and therefore profoundly unsafe on the internet.
MS caught tweaking web to discredit rival software
Windows Update keeps tabs on all system software
Microsoft - it's worse than you think
Issue 8.03 - Mar 2000
WIRED SPECIAL REPORT
Fear and Trembling in Silicon Valley
Even with an initial federal court finding that Microsoft is a monopoly, it takes real courage to stand up publicly to Bill Gates' empire - just ask any of the CEOs who have yet to come forward. John Heilemann tells the inside story of high tech's struggle to do the right thing.
How NSA access was built into Windows
Microsoft Windows vs. CP/M (original PC disk operating system, about two decades
User, beware of new XP patch
Sunday, August 22, 2004
... I believe Microsoft should take full responsibility for the faulty design of Windows and recall every last copy of Windows ever sold. Buyers should get a working, safe, secure operating system in return.
Some say that's just not going to happen. But I can't find anything in the realm of common sense that requires Ford or General Motors or any other automobile manufacturer to act responsibly by recalling defective vehicles while leaving Microsoft free to do as it pleases in its monopoly software market.
Some say I'm crazy to expect such a thing. But this crazy guy isn't letting up. I'd even like to see Microsoft put a warning label on Windows, just like the warning label on packs of cigarettes.
People need to be reminded that Windows is unsafe. There are millions of copies of non-XP versions of Windows in use worldwide, and these unsafe versions - Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 2000 and Windows NT - are not covered by the latest service pack.
In light of Microsoft's record and because of the current flood of Windows spyware and Windows viruses - an uncountable number of spyware infections and an estimated 125,000 active Windows viruses as of this month - I recommend two approaches.
Make a change
I urge anyone who uses Windows to consider the two main alternatives to the Windows operating systems, Mac OS X and Linux. Both are much safer than any version of Windows and are free from spyware. There are only a few viruses for Linux PCs and none for Mac OS X.
Linux has a big advantage: It can be installed as a replacement for Windows on just about any Windows PC. Mac OS X is an operating system designed for Apple's Macintosh computers, so you have to change from a PC to a Mac to switch to OS X.
But Mac OS X has a huge advantage. Apple makes the Macintosh computers and the OS X operating system, and they work together seamlessly, without the problems that plague many Windows computers and some Linux PCs.
Nobody else makes the computer and the operating system. Apple's advantage here is immense.
Wait for the fix
If you have to stick with Windows and you're using Windows XP, don't install Microsoft's patch yet.
Microsoft seldom gets things right the first time. Let the brave and the foolhardy find the bugs in Microsoft's bug-fix software, and let the hackers find the security holes in Microsoft's security-hole patches.
Then, after the company has fixed the fix, go ahead and install Service Pack 2. I'd guess the best waiting period is two or three months.
In the meantime, Windows XP users who don't want to switch to OS X or Linux should check with Microsoft for problems it knows about with SP2.
No Need to Upgrade Windows - Older Versions Work Fine and the Newer Versions Don't Fix the Inherent Structural Problems
Users cling to old Microsoft operating systems
Last modified: December 12, 2003, 3:36 PM PST
By Ina Fried
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
update Microsoft can stop selling older operating systems, and it can even stop supporting them, but that doesn't mean that customers won't still use them.
Microsoft Is Getting Information Directly From Your Computer
When connected with your computer to the Microsoft Windowsupdate.com web site you reveal a lot of private information to Microsoft without even realizing it.
It used to be that no information was sent to Microsoft when you accessed their software updating hub at Windowsupdate.com. Unfortunately times have changed and not for the better.
As of now, a lot of information about your computer is sent back to Microsoft though this has not been officially disclosed. What actually happens when you connect to this Microsoft Web site can be precisely verified and studied.
Though the data transferred to Microsoft is encrypted in an SSL connection and cannot be normnally examined with a standard network packet analyzer, researchers at Tecchannel.de have been able to decipher the commands the queries and protocols used during this information exchange.
The biggest privacy issue in this the list of hardware components that is transferred from your PC to Microsoft. Through this Microsoft is able to detect the exact brand and model for each component installed in your system.
A German research firm has analyzed this issue in detail and has published a detailed report which reveals exactly which data is transferred to Redmond and what Microsoft could learn from it.
The question for now remains open: What does Microsoft want to do with your data.
To find out more, come back to this column and see also:
The full 14-page report (6 pages are available for free) is available for online purchase at only € 1.99. Together with the article you will also find a set of handy utilities to verify what explained in the article.
I have bought a copy the next second I read this. What are you waiting for?
The IT industry is shifting away from Microsoft
Comment In the beginning there was Microsoft. Then it exploded
By Charlie Demerjian: Sunday 28 December 2003
... [Microsoft] has profit margins on its two major products of over eighty per cent. The rest of the products, from handhelds to MSN and the Xbox are all horrific money losers. Its finances are so opaque and badly presented, that it can shuffle money around from one part of the company to another without anyone noticing. Make too much money one quarter? Stash it in the closet labeled investments, or write off some losses. Not making the numbers? Cash in some assets and make a 'profit'.
Overall, it has been able to show a smooth earnings curve, and surprise on the upside every time it reports a quarter? Monopolies and almost no cost to make your physical product other than R&D has itss advantages.
Corporations cry Linux
About a year ago, things started to change. The cries that Linux would dethrone Microsoft remained the same, but there was a shift in the corporate reaction to those cries. CxOs started to say 'tell me about it'. In a down economy, free is much cheaper than hundreds of dollars, and infinitely more attractive. Linux started gaining ground with real paying customers using it for real work in the real world, really. ....
The designed in security flaws, that make Microsoft software insecurable, are only adding to the misery. Every day that a company is down due to worms or viruses, it starts re-evaluating Microsoft software. ....
The phrase 'it will be fixed in six months, trust us' seems to have a magic power when emanating from Microsoft. Every time someone big enough comes to it with a list of complaints, it announces an initiative, comes out with a slick Powerpoint presentation, half a dozen press releases, a Gates speech, and several shiny things to distract people.
The fact remains that security has been getting worse every year since Windows 95 was released. One hell of a track record don't you think? The fact also is that for the first time, Microsoft revenue is flat, it has competition, and it publicly blames security woes for the monetary loss.
The fact remains that Microsoft's entire infrastructure is based on fundamentally flawed designs, not buggy code. These designs can't be changed.
To change them, Microsoft would have to dump all existing APIs and break compatibility with everything up till now. If Microsoft does do this, it will have the opportunity to fix the designs that plague its product lineup.
I doubt it will. Even .Net, the new secure infrastructure, and built with security in mind, lets you have access to the 'old ways'. Yes, you are not supposed to, but people somehow do, and hackers will. Microsoft and its customer are addicted to backwards compatibility in a way that makes a heroin addict look silly.
And if Microsoft does change its ways, what incentive will you have to stick with Microsoft? If you have to start over from scratch to build your app in this new, secure Microsoft environment, will you pay the hundreds or thousands of dollars to go the Microsoft route, or the $0 to go with Linux?
Starting from Scratch
Starting over from scratch nullifies the one advantage that Microsoft has, complete code and a trained staff. Migration and retraining features prominently in most Microsoft white papers, and if it has to throw all that away, what chance does it have?
In light of the won't do and can't do, Microsoft sits there, and watches its market share begin to erode. That's happening slowly at first, but the snowball is rolling. A few people are starting to look up the hill and notice this big thing barreling down at them, and some are bright enough to step out of the way.
The big industry change is happening, and we are at the inflection point. Watch closely people, and carefully read each and every press release. If you can see the big picture, this is one shift that won't be a surprise in hindsight.
Bundeswehr verbannt Microsoft-Programme
After realizations of German security authorities the American espionage service NSA has encoded data all relevant source codes of the US firm and can read in such a way. In order to protect secrets, the Ministry of Defense sets Siemens and Telekom therefore on encoding techniques of the domestic companies.
The Foreign Office reset meanwhile its plan to introduce video conferences with its representations abroad. Undersecretary of state Gunter Pleuger experienced with a Telekom presentation in Berlin at the beginning of March that all satellite transmission ways for technical reasons run over the American city Denver in the Federal State Colorado.
Pleuger was too uncertain the detour via the USA. " then we can hold our conferences directly in Langley ", spoettelte a Pleuger coworker. In Langley (Virginia) the American secret service CIA resides.
Der Spiegel 17. März 2001
For Windows Vista Security, Microsoft Called in Pros
By Alec Klein and Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 9, 2007; D01
When Microsoft introduces its long-awaited Windows Vista operating system this month, it will have an unlikely partner to thank for making its flagship product safe and secure for millions of computer users across the world: the National Security Agency.
For the first time, the giant software maker is acknowledging the help of the secretive agency
China to view Windows code
By Ken Gao
Special to CNET News.com
February 28, 2003, 6:34 AM PT
Microsoft on Friday signed a pact with the Chinese government to reveal the Windows source code, making China among the first to benefit from its program to allay the security fears of governments.
In addition, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates hinted that China will be privy to all, not just part, of the source code the government wishes to inspect.
The Chinese government and military have previously stated their preference for the rival Linux operating system because its source code is publicly available.
Without knowing the inner workings of an operating system--a fact revealed by its source code--governments like China fear that backdoors may be installed to leak sensitive information.
Forbes names Gates as richest of the rich
By Martyn Williams, IDG News Service
February 28, 2003 8:05 am ET
Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft Corp., is still the richest man in the world, said Forbes magazine on Thursday as it released its ranking of wealthiest of the wealthy.
Gates' total wealth was estimated at US$40.7 billion at the end of 2002, easily earning him a place at the top of the billionaires' ranking. His nearest competitor, investor Warren Buffett, had an estimated net wealth of $30.5 billion at the end of the year, said Forbes.
Gates' net wealth fell $12.1 billion during the year -- or around $23,000 per minute. That's more in a minute than the average U.S. private sector worker earns in a month or a worker on minimum wage earns in an entire year.
Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen was ranked fourth, behind German supermarket magnates the Albrecht brothers, with a net wealth estimated at $25.6 billion or around half that of Gates. Larry Ellison, chief executive officer of Oracle Corp., was ranked sixth with $16.6 billion, the last IT billionaire to make it into the top ten.
Other prominent IT figures ranked in the top 25 included Steve Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive officer, at number 16 with $11.1 billion, and Michael Dell, founder and chief executive officer of Dell Computer Corp., at number 24 with $9.8 billion.
Telecommunications helped make Carlos Slim Helu, who owns a major stake in Teléfonos de México SA de CV (Telmex), Latin and South America's richest man according to the Forbes rankings, with an estimated net wealth of $7.4 billion. The richest Asian on the list, India's Azim Premji, can also attribute much of his $5.9 billion net worth to IT. He owns a majority stake in software company Wipro Ltd.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs came in at 236 with a net worth estimated at $1.7 billion.
|Vista / Longhorn: the "Homeland Security" version of Windows - censorship via "Digital Rights Management"|
Microsoft joins hands with Yahoo!, Google to censor China's web
Mon Jun 13, 2005, 3:57 AM ET
BEIJING (AFP) - Users of Microsoft's new China-based Internet portal have been blocked from using the words "democracy", "freedom" and "human rights" in an apparent move by the US software giant to appease Beijing.
Other words that could not be used on Microsoft's free online blog service MSN Spaces include "Taiwan independence" and "demonstration".
Bloggers who enter such words or other politically charged or pornographic content are prompted with a message that reads: "This item should not contain forbidden speech such as profanity. Please enter a different word for this item".
Officials at Microsoft's Beijing offices refused to comment.
Internet sites in China are strongly urged to abide by a code of conduct and self-censor any information that could be viewed by the government as politically sensitive, pornographic or illegal.
For many Chinese websites, such content also includes news stories that the government considers unfavorable or does not want published.
New regulations issued in March now require that all China-based websites be formally registered with the government by the end of June or be shut down by Internet police.
Microsoft formed its portal joint venture with China's state-funded Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd (SAIL) last month to launch the MSN China web portal.
Microsoft is not the only international tech company to comply with China's stringent Internet rules.
Yahoo! and Google -- the two most popular Internet search engines -- have already been criticized for cooperating with the Chinese government to censor the Internet.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) earlier said it "deplores the irresponsible policies of United States Internet firms Yahoo! and Google in bowing directly and indirectly to Chinese government demands for censorship".
It has called on the United States to apply the principles of its Global Internet Freedom Act on its private sector's activities in "some of the world's most repressive regimes".
The Global Internet Freedom Act, passed by the US House of Representatives in July 2003, aims to combat online censorship imposed by governments around the world.
In their efforts to conquer the Chinese market, Yahoo! and Google are "making compromises that directly threaten freedom of expression," RSF has said.
Cryptogon's forward looking analysis is coming true... Again.
In Militant Electronic Piracy, I wrote:
Crimes involving the loss of corporate profits will increasingly be treated as acts of terrorism and could garner anything from a local law enforcement response to activation of regular military forces....
Expect a legislated, "national security" justification for Microsoft's long awaited (and dreaded) Digital Rights Management scheme, codenamed Longhorn. Microsoft will tout Longhorn as the solution to piracy and other "terrorist" uses of computers and the Internet. Besides turning each computer into a tamper proof vending machine (this will mean The End of general purpose computing), Longhorn will provide an astonishing surveillance capability to ACS law enforcement, intelligence and military organizations. Those who refuse to use Longhorn will increasingly find themselves locked out of networks. The goal will be to apply maximum surveillance and control to "trusted" users on the Internet.
And now, from today's ZDNET News:
Counterfeit DVDs and cigarettes may be funding terrorists.
That's what the Senate Homeland Security committee heard Wednesday from John Stedman, a lieutenant in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department who's responsible for an eight-person team of intellectual property (IPR) investigators.
"Some associates of terrorist groups may be involved in IPR crime," Stedman said. "During the course of our investigations, we have encountered suspects who have shown great affinity for Hezbollah and its leadership."
Even though Stedman's evidence is circumstantial, his testimony comes as Congress is expected to consider new copyright legislation this year. An invocation of terrorism, the trump card of modern American politics, could ease the passage of the next major expansion of copyright powers.
Steadman said he saw Hezbollah flags and photographs of the group's leader in homes that he raided, coupled with anti-Israel sentiments on the part of those arrested.
New Microsoft Longhorn chief is indigestion expert
By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco
Published Friday 18th March 2005 09:56 GMT
Microsoft has a new star hire to head up its Longhorn project, Mike Sievert. And he brings a deeper and richer personal experience to the job than many of his marketing counterparts in the technology industry.
Sievert took up the post of Corporate VP for Windows Product Management, to give him his full title, at the start of the month. He joins from AT&T Wireless, which has just been acquired by Cingular, and before that he was at E-Trade. Nothing unusual there, you might think. But once upon a time, Sievert held one of the most important marketing posts in the nation: he was brand manager for the United States' favorite indigestion remedy, Pepto-Bismol®.
`Trusted Computing' Frequently Asked Questions
- TC / TCG / LaGrande / NGSCB / Longhorn / Palladium / TCPA
Version 1.1 (August 2003)
A MUST READ FOR ANY WINDOWS USER!
The Digital Imprimature:
How big brother and big media can put the Internet genie back in the bottle.
by John Walker
September 13th, 2003
Revision 4 -- November 4th, 2003
I'm convinced that the only hope for preserving the Internet as we presently know it is to alert as many technologically literate people as quickly as possible to where we're going and the consequences once we arrive.
A Net of Control
Unthinkable: How the Internet could become a tool of corporate and government power, based on updates now in the works
By Steven Levy
Issues 2004 - Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for. Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas in the cradle, and no one can publish even a laundry list without the imprimatur of Big Brother. Some prognosticators are saying that such a construct is nearly inevitable. And this infrastructure is none other than the former paradise of rebels and free-speechers: the Internet.
To those exposed to the Panglossian euphoria of Net enthusiasts during the 1990s, this vision seems unbelievable. After all, wasn’t the Internet supposed to be the defining example of empowering technology? Freedom was allegedly built into the very bones of the Internet, designed to withstand nuclear blasts and dictatorial attempts at control. While this cyberslack has its downside—porn, credit-card fraud and insincere bids on eBay—it was considered a small price to pay for free speech and friction-free business models. The freedom genie was out, and no one could put it back into the bottle.
Certainly John Walker believed all that. The hackerish founder of the software firm Autodesk, now retired to Switzerland to work on personal projects of his choosing, enjoyed “unbounded optimism” that the Net would not only offset the powers of industry and government but actually restore some previously threatened personal liberties. But in —the past couple of years, he noticed a disturbing trend. Developments in technology, law and commerce seemed to be directed toward actually changing the open nature of the Net. And Internet Revisited would create opportunities for business and government to control and monitor cyberspace.
In September Walker posted his fears in a 28,000-word Web document called the Digital Imprimatur. The name refers to his belief that it’s possible that nothing would be allowed to even appear on the Internet without having a proper technical authorization.
How could the freedom genie be shoved back into the bottle? Basically, it’s part of a huge effort to transform the Net from an arena where anyone can anonymously participate to a sign-in affair where tamperproof “digital certificates” identify who you are. The advantages of such a system are clear: it would eliminate identity theft and enable small, secure electronic “microtransactions,” long a dream of Internet commerce pioneers. (Another bonus: arrivederci, unwelcome spam.) A concurrent step would be the adoption of “trusted computing,” a system by which not only people but computer programs would be stamped with identifying marks. Those would link with certificates that determine whether programs are uncorrupted and cleared to run on your computer.
The best-known implementation of this scheme is the work in progress at Microsoft known as Next Generation Secure Computing Base (formerly called Palladium). It will be part of Longhorn, the next big Windows version, out in 2006. Intel and AMD are onboard to create special secure chips that would make all computers sold after that point secure. No more viruses! And the addition of “digital rights management” to movies, music and even documents created by individuals (such protections are already built into the recently released version of Microsoft Office) would use the secure system to make sure that no one can access or, potentially, even post anything without permission.
The giants of Internet commerce are eager to see this happen. “The social, economic and legal priorities are going to force the Internet toward security,” says Stratton Sclavos, CEO of VeriSign, a company built to provide digital certificates (it also owns Network Solutions, the exclusive handler of the “dot-com” part of the Internet domain-name system). “It’s not going to be all right not to know who’s on the other end of the wire.” Governments will be able to tax e-commerce—and dictators can keep track of who’s saying what.
Walker isn’t the first to warn of this ominous power shift. The Internet’s pre-eminent dean of darkness is Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford University guru of cyberlaw. Beginning with his 1999 book “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace,” Lessig has been predicting that corporate and regulatory pressures would usurp the open nature of the Net, and now says that he has little reason to retract his pessimism. Lessig understands that restrictive copyright and Homeland Security laws give a legal rationale to “total control,” and also knows that it will be sold to the people as a great way to stop thieves, pirates, malicious hackers, spammers and child pornographers. “To say we need total freedom isn’t going to win,” Lessig says. He is working hard to promote alternatives in which the law can be enforced outside the actual architecture of the system itself but admits that he considers his own efforts somewhat quixotic.
Does this mean that John Walker’s nightmare is a foregone conclusion? Not necessarily. Certain influential companies are beginning to understand that their own businesses depend on an open Internet. (Google, for example, is dependent on the ability to image the Web on its own servers, a task that might be impossible in a controlled Internet.) Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are sounding alarms. A few legislators like Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Norm Coleman of Minnesota are beginning to look upon digital rights management schemes with skepticism. Courts might balk if the restrictions clearly violate the First Amendment. And there are pockets of technologists concocting schemes that may be able to bypass even a rigidly controlled Internet. In one paper published by, of all people, some of Microsoft’s Palladium developers, there’s discussion of a scenario where small private “dark nets” can freely move data in a hostile environment. Picture digital freedom fighters huddling in the electronic equivalent of caves, file-swapping and blogging under the radar of censors and copyright cops.
Nonetheless, staving off the Internet power shift will be a difficult task, made even harder by apathy on the part of users who won’t know what they’ve got till it’s gone. “I’ve spent hundreds of hours talking to people about this,” says Walker. “And I can’t think of a single person who is actually going to do something about it.” Unfortunately, our increasingly Internet-based society will get only the freedom it fights for.
© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.
Mac OS X is exponentially more secure than Windows
Sunday, December 14, 2003 - 05:01 PM EST Richard Forno is a security technologist, author, and the former Chief Security Officer at Network Solutions. Here he explains why Mac OS X is more secure than Windows by a large margin: (excerpt)
... Then there's the stuff contributing to what I call "truly trustworthy computing."
When I install an application, such as a word processor, I want to know with certainty that it will not modify my system internals. Similarly, when I remove the application, I want to know that when I remove it (by either the uninstaller or manually) it’s gone, and nothing of it remains on or has modified my system. Applications installed on Mac OS X don’t modify the system internals – the Mac version of the Windows/System directory stays pretty intact. However, install nearly any program in Windows, and chances are it will (for example) place a different .DLL file in the Windows/System directory or even replace existing ones with its own version in what system administrators grudgingly call "DLL Hell." Want to remove the application? You’ve got two choices: completely remove the application (going beyond the software uninstaller to manually remove things like a power user) and risk breaking Windows or remove the application (via the software uninstaller) and let whatever it added or modified in Windows/System to remain, thus presenting you a newly-but-unofficially patched version of your operating system that may cause problems down the road. To make matters worse, Windows patches or updates often re-enable something you’ve previously turned off or deleted (such as VBScript or Internet Explorer) or reconfigures parts of your system (such as network shares) without your knowledge and potentially places you at risk of other security problems or future downtime.
Further, as seen in recent years, Microsoft used the guise of a critical security fix for its Media Player to forcibly inject controversial Digital Rights Management (DRM) into customer systems. Users were free to not run the patch and avoid DRM on their systems, but if they wanted to be secure, they had to accept monopoly-enforcing DRM technologies and allow Microsoft to update such systems at any time in the future. How can we trust that our systems are secure and configured the way we expect them to be (enterprise change management comes to mind) with such subtle vendor trickery being forced upon us? Sounds like blackmail to me. (Incidentally, Lance believes the ability of a user to "hack" their own system to circumvent the Apple iTunes DRM makes the Macintosh a bigger "hack target" for the purposes of his article....apparently, he's not familiar with the many nuances of the terms "hack" and "hackers" or knows that power-users often "hack" their own systems for fun.) Were Apple to do such a thing, Mac users would likely revolt, and Apple's credibility seriously damaged.
What does that say about trusting an operating system's ability to perform in a stable and secure manner? Windows users should wonder who’s really in control of their systems these days. But Lance is oblivious to this, and happy to exist in such an untrustworthy computing environment.
.... You see, because of how Mac OS X was originally designed, the chance of a user suffering from a malicious code attack - such as those nasty e-mail worms - is extremely low. Granted, Mac users may transmit copies of a Word Macro Virus if they receive an infected file (and use Microsoft Word) but it’s not likely that – again, due to Mac OS X's internal design – a piece of malicious code could wreak the same kind of havoc that it does repeatedly on Windows. Applications and the operating system just don’t have the same level of trusted interdependencies in Mac OS X that they do on Windows, making it much more difficult for most forms of malicious code to work against a Macintosh.
Unlike Windows, Mac OS X requires an administrator password to change certain configurations, run the system updater, and when installing new software. From a security perspective, this is another example of how Apple takes a proactive approach to system-level security. If a virus, remote hacker, or co-worker tries to install or reconfigure something on the system, they’re stymied without knowing the administrator’s password stored in the hardened System Keychain. (Incidentally, this password is not the same as the Unix 'root' account password of the system's FreeBSD foundation, something that further enhances security.) In some ways, this can be seen as Mac OS X protecting a careless user from themself as well as others.
...Windows and Mac OS are different not just by vendor and market share, but by the fundamental way that they're designed, developed, tested, and supported. By integrating Internet Explorer, Media Player, and any number of other 'extras' (such as VB Script and ActiveX) into the operating system to lock out competitors, Microsoft knowingly inflicts many of its security vulnerabilities onto itself. As a result, its desire to achieve marketplace dominance over all facets of a user's system has created a situation that's anything but trustworthy or conducive to stable, secure computing. Mac users are free to use whatever browser, e-mail client, or media player they want, and the system accepts (and more importantly, remembers!) their choice.
... the small market segment held by Apple doesn't automatically make the Mac OS less vulnerable to attack or exploitation. Any competent security professional will tell you that "security through obscurity" ... doesn't work. In other words, if ... Mac OS was the dominant operating system, its users would still enjoy an inherently more secure and trustworthy computing environment even if the number of attacks against it increased. That's because unlike Windows, Mac OS was designed from the ground up with security in mind. Is it totally secure? Nothing will ever be totally secure. But when compared to Windows, Mac OS is proving to be a significantly more reliable and (exponentially) more secure computing environment for today's users ...
NOVEMBER 20, 2003
Not Even Microsoft Will Last Forever, but They Plan to Try
By Robert X. Cringely
.... No amount of money is enough for Microsoft.
A key part of Microsoft's product strategy for the next decade is Digital Rights Management (DRM), which they couch primarily in terms of protecting the intellectual property of others. But what about the intellectual property of Microsoft, itself? It's nice to get business from protecting movies and music from being pirated, but DRM is for Microsoft mainly a means to get more revenue from customers like us.
Remember that Microsoft is moving to monthly security updates. The next step is denying us those updates unless we pay for them, and the step after that is making our software unusable if we don't install updates that must be paid for. Nearly every Microsoft user is online at some point, and at that point, their system reaches out for those automatic Windows updates. But with DRM it goes further. Imagine a remote procedure call that goes out every time you are online. The RPC doesn't do anything but act as a key. The call goes out to some Microsoft server, but it is only returned if your OS and applications are legit and up-to-date. This is how piracy goes away, and how Microsoft plans to make more money by turning us all into Windows subscribers whether we want to or not. We'll see it first when you try to play a bootleg MP3 or that VCD image downloaded from Finland, but eventually your system won't work at all if you aren't on some kind of support contract and Microsoft gets paid twice. Products that are late, products that don't work, products that people don't really want or need won't matter anymore as the money flows in no matter what. That's when the price of old pre-DRM Win98 CDs will start to rise.
Reread the Digital Millennium Copyright Act with this in mind, and you'll see that the new copyright law not only enables this kind of behavior, it enforces it. Circumventing this Windows RPC will be illegal.
None of this has to do with making computing more reliable or seamless or more trustworthy or whatever this week's catchphrase is. It has to do with improving Microsoft's financial picture at a time when the company is trying to reinvent itself as a media delivery/DRM outfit. But if they wanted to do this, why didn't Microsoft just buy a movie studio, a record company, and maybe a TV network? Because that's too small a goal. Through this DRM ploy, they'll ultimately try to grab revenue from every movie studio, every record company, and every TV network. And all the while, that cash cache in Redmond will grow and generally remain unspent until Bill Gates can finally figure out what he really wants to do when he grows up. Then look for Microsoft to start doing enormous acquisitions, first with stock and later with cash, as it attempts to pull itself out of the electronics business and into the 21st century.
New Office locks down documents
Last modified: September 2, 2003, 4:00 AM PDT
By David Becker
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
As digital media publishers scramble to devise a foolproof method of copy protection, Microsoft is ready to push digital rights management into a whole new arena--your desktop.
Office 2003, the upcoming update of the company's market-dominating productivity package, for the first time will include tools for restricting access to documents created with the software. Office workers can specify who can read or alter a spreadsheet, block it from copying or printing, and set an expiration date.
The technology is one of the first major steps in Microsoft's plan topopularize Windows Rights Management Services, a wide-ranging plan to make restricted access to information a standard part of business processes. ....
The new rights management tools splinter to some extent the long-standing interoperability of Office formats. Until now, PC users have been able to count on opening and manipulating any document saved in Microsoft Word's ".doc" format or Excel's ".xls" in any compatible program, including older versions of Office and competing packages such as Sun Microsystems' StarOffice and the open-source OpenOffice. But rights-protected documents created in Office 2003 can be manipulated only in Office 2003.
"There's certainly a lock-in factor," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst withDirections on Microsoft. "Microsoft would love people to use Office and only Office. They made very sure that Office has these features that nobody else has."
Information Rights Management (IRM) tools will be included in the professional versions of all Office applications, including the Word processor and Excel spreadsheet programs.
To use IRM features, businesses will need a server running Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 operating system and Windows Rights Management Services software. The server software will record permission rules set by the document creator, such as other people authorized to view the document and expiration dates for any permissions. When another person receives that document, they briefly log in to the Windows Rights Management server--over the Internet or a corporate network--to validate the permissions. ....
There's also the potential for confusion in companies that don't upgrade every desktop to Office 2003 at the same time. Workers with Office 2003 will be able to produce documents colleagues with older versions can't use.
6/17/2003 - www.cryptogon.com
1984 Telescreen: Microsoft Athens
Digital Rights Management (DRM) computers are going to be a reality just as certainly as the sun will rise in the morning. The systems will be ubiquitous within two years. But what will they look like?
Microsoft has unveiled (unfurled) its hellish vision of the future of computing: Athens. Never mind the fact that Longhorn sees all and knows all. Never mind the fact that you are not root on Longhorn. Never mind the fact that the system is fully integrated with a thumbscanner, camera, telephone and microphone. Never mind the fact that there will be no way to run a non DRM operating system on Longhorn class hardware. (Cops will show up if you somehow manage to circumvent the DRM mechanisms.)
Make sure you're sitting down for this one:
Would you believe that Microsoft's system of the future has no "Off" state? From HardwareCentral.com :
Speaking of mute, Athens will be a whisper-quiet, small-form-factor machine, whose power button switches between on and standby modes rather than on and off -- resuming work in no more than two seconds. In the event of a power failure, a built-in battery will last long enough to hibernate or save system status to the hard disk.
Here is more on the no "Off" feature from a Microsoft document entitled, The “Athens” PC (Microsoft Word document):
The notion of "off" is confusing to users , because the PC can be in standby, hibernation or true “off” modes, Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) states S3, S4 and S5, respectively. Each of these states has a different latency when the user turns the PC on again: it takes longer to start the PC from S4 than from S3, and still longer to start the PC from S5.
In usability tests, participants preferred a two-state (on/standby) power model over a three-state (on/standby/off) model. They felt the two-state power model was more appealing than the power model used by today’s PCs. This research suggests that users would be more likely to put their PCs in standby mode if it were more convenient to do so.
Note: The system checks your email when in standby mode, i.e. the network interface and applications are operational in standby mode. That thing isn't off. Not by a long shot.
Yes, you can pull the plug out of the wall, and let the battery go dead.
Will Microsoft call you, though, wondering if your PC is being tampered with? Is the person who unplugged the PC from the power socket authorized to do so? Maybe you will just learn from habit --- from habit that will become instinct --- to never pull the plug out of the wall.
From 1984, by George Orwell:
The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live --- did live, from habit that became instinct --- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
This article appeared in the February 1997 issue of Communications of the ACM (Volume 40, Number 2).
(from "The Road To Tycho", a collection of articles about the antecedents of the Lunarian Revolution, published in Luna City in 2096)
For Dan Halbert, the road to Tycho began in college--when Lissa Lenz asked to borrow his computer. Hers had broken down, and unless she could borrow another, she would fail her midterm project. There was no one she dared ask, except Dan.
This put Dan in a dilemma. He had to help her--but if he lent her his computer, she might read his books. Aside from the fact that you could go to prison for many years for letting someone else read your books, the very idea shocked him at first. Like everyone, he had been taught since elementary school that sharing books was nasty and wrong--something that only pirates would do.
And there wasn't much chance that the SPA--the Software Protection Authority--would fail to catch him. In his software class, Dan had learned that each book had a copyright monitor that reported when and where it was read, and by whom, to Central Licensing. (They used this information to catch reading pirates, but also to sell personal interest profiles to retailers.) The next time his computer was networked, Central Licensing would find out. He, as computer owner, would receive the harshest punishment--for not taking pains to prevent the crime.
Of course, Lissa did not necessarily intend to read his books. She might want the computer only to write her midterm. But Dan knew she came from a middle-class family and could hardly afford the tuition, let alone her reading fees. Reading his books might be the only way she could graduate. He understood this situation; he himself had had to borrow to pay for all the research papers he read. (10% of those fees went to the researchers who wrote the papers; since Dan aimed for an academic career, he could hope that his own research papers, if frequently referenced, would bring in enough to repay this loan.)
Later on, Dan would learn there was a time when anyone could go to the library and read journal articles, and even books, without having to pay. There were independent scholars who read thousands of pages without government library grants. But in the 1990s, both commercial and nonprofit journal publishers had begun charging fees for access. By 2047, libraries offering free public access to scholarly literature were a dim memory.
There were ways, of course, to get around the SPA and Central Licensing. They were themselves illegal. Dan had had a classmate in software, Frank Martucci, who had obtained an illicit debugging tool, and used it to skip over the copyright monitor code when reading books. But he had told too many friends about it, and one of them turned him in to the SPA for a reward (students deep in debt were easily tempted into betrayal). In 2047, Frank was in prison, not for pirate reading, but for possessing a debugger.
Dan would later learn that there was a time when anyone could have debugging tools. There were even free debugging tools available on CD or downloadable over the net. But ordinary users started using them to bypass copyright monitors, and eventually a judge ruled that this had become their principal use in actual practice. This meant they were illegal; the debuggers' developers were sent to prison.
Programmers still needed debugging tools, of course, but debugger vendors in 2047 distributed numbered copies only, and only to officially licensed and bonded programmers. The debugger Dan used in software class was kept behind a special firewall so that it could be used only for class exercises.
It was also possible to bypass the copyright monitors by installing a modified system kernel. Dan would eventually find out about the free kernels, even entire free operating systems, that had existed around the turn of the century. But not only were they illegal, like debuggers--you could not install one if you had one, without knowing your computer's root password. And neither the FBI nor Microsoft Support would tell you that.
Dan concluded that he couldn't simply lend Lissa his computer. But he couldn't refuse to help her, because he loved her. Every chance to speak with her filled him with delight. And that she chose him to ask for help, that could mean she loved him too.
Dan resolved the dilemma by doing something even more unthinkable--he lent her the computer, and told her his password. This way, if Lissa read his books, Central Licensing would think he was reading them. It was still a crime, but the SPA would not automatically find out about it. They would only find out if Lissa reported him.
Of course, if the school ever found out that he had given Lissa his own password, it would be curtains for both of them as students, regardless of what she had used it for. School policy was that any interference with their means of monitoring students' computer use was grounds for disciplinary action. It didn't matter whether you did anything harmful--the offense was making it hard for the administrators to check on you. They assumed this meant you were doing something else forbidden, and they did not need to know what it was.
Students were not usually expelled for this--not directly. Instead they were banned from the school computer systems, and would inevitably fail all their classes.
Later, Dan would learn that this kind of university policy started only in the 1980s, when university students in large numbers began using computers. Previously, universities maintained a different approach to student discipline; they punished activities that were harmful, not those that merely raised suspicion.
Lissa did not report Dan to the SPA. His decision to help her led to their marriage, and also led them to question what they had been taught about piracy as children. The couple began reading about the history of copyright, about the Soviet Union and its restrictions on copying, and even the original United States Constitution. They moved to Luna, where they found others who had likewise gravitated away from the long arm of the SPA. When the Tycho Uprising began in 2062, the universal right to read soon became one of its central aims.
This note was updated in 2002.
The right to read is a battle being fought today. Although it may take 50 years for our present way of life to fade into obscurity, most of the specific laws and practices described above have already been proposed; many have been enacted into law in the US and elsewhere. In the US, the 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act established the legal basis to restrict the reading and lending of computerized books (and other data too). The European Union imposed similar restrictions in a 2001 copyright directive.
Until recently, there was one exception: the idea that the FBI and Microsoft will keep the root passwords for personal computers, and not let you have them, was not proposed until 2002. It is called "trusted computing" or "palladium".
In 2001, Disney-funded Senator Hollings proposed a bill called the SSSCA that would require every new computer to have mandatory copy-restriction facilities that the user cannot bypass. Following the Clipper chip and similar US government key-escrow proposals, this shows a long-term trend: computer systems are increasingly set up to give absentees with clout control over the people actually using the computer system. The SSSCA has since been renamed to the CBDTPA (think of it as the "Consume But Don't Try Programming Act").
In 2001 the US began attempting to use the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas treaty to impose the same rules on all the countries in the Western Hemisphere. The FTAA is one of the so-called "free trade" treaties, actually designed to give business increased power over democratic governments; imposing laws like the DMCA is typical of this spirit. The Electronic Frontier Foundation [eff.org] asks people to explain to the other governments why they should oppose this plan.
The SPA, which actually stands for Software Publisher's Association, has been replaced in this police-like role by the BSA or Business Software Alliance. It is not, today, an official police force; unofficially, it acts like one. Using methods reminiscent of the erstwhile Soviet Union, it invites people to inform on their coworkers and friends. A BSA terror campaign in Argentina in 2001 made veiled threats that people sharing software would be raped in prison.
When this story was written, the SPA was threatening small Internet service providers, demanding they permit the SPA to monitor all users. Most ISPs surrender when threatened, because they cannot afford to fight back in court. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1 Oct 96, D3.) At least one ISP, Community ConneXion in Oakland CA, refused the demand and was actually sued. The SPA later dropped the suit, but obtained the DMCA which gave them the power they sought.
The university security policies described above are not imaginary. For example, a computer at one Chicago-area university prints this message when you log in (quotation marks are in the original):
"This system is for the use of authorized users only. Individuals using this computer system without authority or in the excess of their authority are subject to having all their activities on this system monitored and recorded by system personnel. In the course of monitoring individuals improperly using this system or in the course of system maintenance, the activities of authorized user may also be monitored. Anyone using this system expressly consents to such monitoring and is advised that if such monitoring reveals possible evidence of illegal activity or violation of University regulations system personnel may provide the evidence of such monitoring to University authorities and/or law enforcement officials."
This is an interesting approach to the Fourth Amendment: pressure most everyone to agree, in advance, to waive their rights under it.
The administration's "White Paper": Information Infrastructure Task Force, Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure: The Report of the Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights (1995).
An explanation of the White Paper: The Copyright Grab [wired.com], Pamela Samuelson, Wired, Jan. 1996
Sold Out [american.edu], James Boyle, New York Times, 31 March 1996
Public Data or Private Data, Washington Post, 4 Nov 1996. We used to have a link to this, but Washinton Post has decided to start charging users who wishes to read articles on the web site and therefore we have decided to remove the link.
Union for the Public Domain [public-domain.org]--an organization which aims to resist and reverse the overextension of copyright and patent powers.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.
hired Ralph Reed
(former head of "Christian Coalition")
Microsoft paying Religious Right leader Ralph Reed $20,000 a month retainer
MICROSOFT SECRETLY PULLS SUPPORT FOR GAY RIGHTS BILL IN WASHINGTON STATE TO CURRY FAVOR WITH RELIGIOUS RIGHT
Microsoft caught lying to New York Times about abandoning gays
Leaked Microsoft CEO's email confirms they're abandoning gays. Only supported gays rights in the past because hadn't given the issue enough thought.
Microsoft employees strike back on the blogosphere
What You Can Do to Punish Microsoft for Abandoning Civil Rights
by John Aravosis
In the past year we've watched the radical right and their allies in the Bush administration grow increasingly bold as they attempt to impose their own warped vision of morality on the rest of America. Whether it's education (evolution out, creationism in), our relationships (promoting some marriages, banning others), an independent judiciary (attacks on "activist" judges), or our most personal decisions (Terri Schiavo), the political hubris of the religious right and their elected henchmen no longer knows any bounds.
Where is the progressive response?
Most of the traditional liberal groups are nowhere to be found. And when they do respond, it's with boring fact sheets and well-intentioned arguments about how we deserve to win, really we do. The left treats political battles as if they were high-school debates while the right wages total war.
And we are finally paying the price. We're no longer making progress, we're falling back. Our latest Waterloo: Microsoft.
Microsoft withdrew its support for the Washington State gay rights bill, legislation that lost in the Washington State Senate by only one vote. Microsoft's public relations flacks would like us to focus on whether or not Microsoft reversed its position to please one radical-right activist. But that discussion is a red herring. Microsoft didn't abandon years of support for gay civil rights merely because a single preacher complained. Something else influenced their decision, something far more dangerous. Microsoft caved in the face of an anti-gay and anti-left culture war that's been gaining ground for years. The pressure from the religious right was more than the company's senior management was willing to bear.
That is not to exonerate Microsoft. Plenty of corporate America's finest names, from Boeing to Nike, remained steadfast in their support for Washington's gay rights bill. Unlike Microsoft, those companies haven't turned their backs on fairness and equality.
At least not yet.
Microsoft's capitulation is a sign that the religious right has not only compromised our government, our schools, our media, and soon our courts, but they also are targeting corporate America. Of even greater concern is the message that Microsoft's capitulation sends to the rest of the business community. Whatever one thinks of Bill Gates, the man knows how to make money. If Bill Gates no longer thinks defending gays rights is good business, other corporate leaders will follow his lead.
Unless we get up and fight.
Too many people on the left think engaging in battle is beneath us--it's something a "Republican" would do, and we're so much better than that. But you don't have to fight dirty to fight back. You can beat the bejesus out of your opponent fairly. The alternative, not responding at all, or responding with a chorus of "Kumbaya," is no longer going to cut it.
So what should you do?
If you're a Microsoft employee who believes in equality, know that progressives stand with you, tell us how we can help, and raise hell from inside--protests, press conferences, leaks are all good.
If you're a gay rights group, grow a spine and fight back. We have to draw the line in the sand here, or other companies will soon follow Microsoft's lead. For inspiration, look to Equal Rights Washington, which demanded Microsoft fire $20,000-a-month consultant Ralph Reed (the former head of the Christian Coalition), and the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, which gave Microsoft a diversity award in 2001 and is now demanding it back.
Consider finally making the switch. The Mac mini at $500 is an affordable test-drive for anyone considering switching to Apple.
Switch web browsers. If you currently use Microsoft's Internet Explorer, use Mozilla's Firefox instead (www.mozilla.org). It's way better.
|Apple signs on to Digital Rights Management censorship with Intel and Microsoft|
Watch Steve Jobs Unfurl :.
Ordo Ab Chao: The circle is nearly complete.
For the last five years, Apple has been secretly developing x86 versions of Mac OSX and all of their applications in parallel to their regular commercial releases, "Just in case," as Steve Jobs puts it. In an astonishing, live demonstration, Jobs announced that he was giving his keynote presentation on a Pentium 4 system, complete with a money shot of "About this Mac" showing the Pentium 4.
I know. I nearly fell out of my chair.
Now, take a guess who was working with Apple on the Xcode development environment as it related to portability to x86?
After witnessing that little trick with OSX on the PC, I was in such a state of shock that I nearly missed the significance of a single sentence that was spoken a little later, not by Steve Jobs, but by Roz Ho, the manager of the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft.
"Our team has been working closely with Apple engineers on Xcode so we can make the transition."
Did you catch that, all of you iTwits out there? B Gates sent his minions deep into the nether realms of Apple's skunkworks (surly, there's a crypt somewhere inside 1 Infinite Loop) to assist with the development of Xcode, the key to Apple's transition to Intel's hardware.
This thing is going to be Longhorn with pretty widgets and iTunes.
Confirmed: Apple Switches to Intel Microprocessors :.
One DRM architecture to rule them all!
Apple Computers will have Intel inside by this time next year said the company's CEO Steve Jobs at a gathering of software developers in San Francisco Monday.
Specifically, Apple said it "plans to deliver models of its Macintosh computers using Intel microprocessors by this time next year, and to transition all of its Macs to using Intel microprocessors by the end of 2007."
In doing so, the firm will abandon the PowerPC chip platform it has used, in partnership with Motorola and IBM, since the early 1990s.
I looked through my archives and found this little gem from 2002:
I personally don't believe that Apple will be able to resist the DRM scheme for long. The powers behind the DRM freight train are too big and too powerful. Microsoft, Intel and AMD are all for it. This means that they will buy legislation to make non DRM hardware illegal.
They won't have to declare non DRM hardware illegal. There won't be any non DRM hardware.
Intel's New Pentium D Equipped with DRM Capability
Digital content control now may be possible through your PC's hardware.
Julian Bajkowski, Computerworld Today
Friday, May 27, 2005
SYDNEY -- Microsoft and the entertainment industry's holy grail of controlling copyright through the motherboard now comes closer as Intel said it is embedding digital rights management within in its latest dual-core processor Pentium D and accompanying 945 chip set.
Officially launched worldwide on May 26, the new offerings come digital-rights-management-enabled and will, at least in theory, allow copyright holders to prevent unauthorized copying and distribution of copyrighted materials from the motherboard rather than through the operating system as is currently the case.
Posted on Tue, Oct. 01, 2002
Dan Gillmor: Apple stands firm against entertainment cartel
By Dan Gillmor
Mercury News Technology Columnist
Intel's doing it. Advanced Micro Devices is doing it. Microsoft is doing it.
Apple Computer isn't.
What's Apple not doing? It's not -- at least so far -- moving toward an anti-customer embrace with Hollywood's movie studios and the other members of the powerful entertainment cartel.
Unlike Intel and AMD, the big chip makers for Windows-based computers, Apple hasn't announced plans to put technology into hardware that could end up restricting what customers do with the products they buy. Unlike Microsoft, Apple hasn't asserted the right to remote control over users' operating systems.
The era of Digital Rights Management, commonly called DRM, is swiftly moving closer, thanks to the Intels and AMDs and Microsofts. They're busy selling and creating the tools that give copyright holders the ability to tell users of copyrighted material -- customers, scholars, libraries, etc. -- precisely how they may use it. DRM, in the most typical use of the expression, is about owners' rights. It would be more accurate to call DRM, in that context, ``Digital Restrictions Management.''
But Apple has taken a different tack in its rhetoric and its technology. As I said in an introduction to a panel I moderated Tuesday at a conference in Santa Clara, Mac OS X, Apple's modern operating system, is becoming, whether by design or by accident, a Digital Rights Management operating system where the rights in question are the user's rights -- and they are expansive.
Now, the music and movie industries have been attacking Silicon Valley and the technology companies for some time. But they've reserved particular venom for Apple among the major computing-platform organizations, and have been witheringly contemptuous of Apple's ``Rip, Mix, Burn'' advertising that describes the process of converting music CDs to MP3 files, which can be loaded on CD-ROM disks and, of course, Apple's own iPod MP3 player.
The company's ``Digital Hub'' concept has been one of its major selling points. The Mac is becoming the hub of a digital lifestyle, in which you move data between a Mac and various devices around the home, such as digital cameras, MP3 players and the like.
Apple does admonish users not to infringe the copyrights of others, as it should. And the company built a small speed bump into the iPod, which basically lets users share MP3s between one computer and the handheld player. But it took little time for a third-party programmer to come up with software that let users move MP3s to other machines, too, and as far as I can tell Apple hasn't said a word.
I recently discovered that Apple's DVD Player software, which came with my Powerbook G4 laptop, gives me flexibility in a way I hadn't expected. Sometimes I like to watch a movie while I'm on a plane, but the DVD drive in my machine drains my battery too quickly. So before I leave home, I copy a movie -- note to Hollywood: I do not do this with rental DVDs, only ones I own -- to my hard disk. The DVD Player software reads it from the disk, which uses less power than the DVD drive.
I wonder, now that I've published this, whether an upcoming version of the DVD Player will remove this user-friendly feature. Which leads me into some other questions:
Can Apple's distinctly pro-customer approach continue in the face of Hollywood's ire and the entertainment industry's clout in Congress?
Will the manufacturers of the chips that Apple uses for the central brains of its computers build in what Intel and AMD are now promising? They've embraced an idea known as ``trusted computing,'' which sounds better than it may turn out to be. Trusted computing could give us more faith that an e-mail we send to someone else will get there intact and in privacy, but it's also the perfect tool for the copyright cartel, not to mention future governments that care even less for liberty than the current one, to lock down PCs from officially unauthorized uses.
An Intel senior executive vehemently disputes my characterization of his company as a toolmaker for the control freaks. He wants me to see trusted computing as an innovation.
Sure, it's an innovation -- and could have some positive uses. But it inevitably will be used against us by the people who crave control.
Meanwhile, Apple is holding fairly fast to the real compromise position. It's encouraging honor, but not locking us down in ways that prevent innovative uses of the gear it sells.
Maybe Apple will cave, too. If it does, it will betray customers and principle. So far, however, so good.
|Linux: a viable alternative to Microsoft and Apple|
National governments have begun actively considering use of free software for all the reasons (price, flexibility, power of modification - in other words, freedom) that other corporate and individual users also identify. But they have at least one additional reason for adopting free software: they suspect that Microsoft has done favors for the US intelligence community, embedding 'back doors' in Windows that permit US listeners to monitor encrypted communications generated using the Windows Cryptographic Applications Program Interface(CAPI).
www.microsoft.com runs Linux? Up to a point ...
Monday, 20 June 2005
Computing without Windows
by Michael Desmond, PC World
You don't have to run Microsoft's omnipresent OS, but why should you try an alternative?For many years there have been several operating systems to choose from, but the newest ones – those based on a Linux kernel – have usually been hard to use, at least for the average user. Times have definitely changed. Get your hands on a recent version of, say, Xandros Desktop and you’d almost swear you'd been working with it forever.
None of this means you'll automatically dump Windows (unless you've simply grown tired of Microsoft, as some vocal computer users have). It does, however, mean you have choices. Do a little shopping around and you may find an operating system that works better for you.
Windows has dominated the desktop and notebook PC operating system scene for so long, it's easy to see why people might not realise that competition is still out there. In fact, computer owners have never enjoyed a better selection of operating systems, according to Jon Changnon, a network security engineer for a large financial institution.
Changnon has been using various versions of Linux on his home and work PCs for more than 10 years, starting out with the Slackware version.
"It's definitely at its most accessible point ever," Changnon says of the Linux operating system. "It used to be a nightmare of finding drivers and getting the monitor to configure correctly for LCD support and all that stuff. Now you just throw in a CD, and you can get a Linux install up and running."
It may not always be that easy, but people are clearly growing more comfortable with Linux. Both Linux and Apple are gaining desktop market share, although the two operating systems have a long way to go before they challenge Windows for supremacy. Today, Microsoft's share of the PC OS market hovers above 90 percent, while Linux and Apple account for about 3 percent apiece.
Numbers aside, consumers can find a lot to like in either camp. Apple recently rolled out an update of Mac OS X, code-named Tiger, that offers some refinements to the already polished system.
Its new integrated desktop search tool, Spotlight, adds instant system search, while the Safari 2.0 web browser now has support for RSS and Atom feeds, used by many blogs. There are also the somewhat bemusing Dashboard features, which should invite a surge of useful desktop modules for doing everything from telling the time to connecting to internet-based data sources.
Of course, anyone who buys a new Apple computer also gets the iLife package, including iTunes, iMovies, iPhoto and iDVD. This refined and tightly integrated software makes Apple the best overall platform for consumer-based media editing and management.
The water is less clear on the Linux side of the creek. Because it is an open-source operating system, different companies, organisations and individuals are free to craft their own versions. While these different Linux distributions – or ’distros’ – use a common set of core code, they are tweaked and extended by the authors. The result: an embarrassment of riches that Changnon admits can get overwhelming.
"There's always the distro of the week, and now there's hundreds and hundreds of distros to choose from," says Changnon. "If you want a safe bet you want to go with one you know has been around awhile."
The most popular and prominent Linux distros can be counted on two hands. Here's a quick list, presented in order of ease of use.
Xandros Desktop: Standard Edition Xandros distro is astonishingly easy to install and use.
Red Hat Desktop: The buttoned-down version of Linux most favoured by corporations, Red Hat Linux is a polished, fee-based product that most resembles traditional software in its packaging and support.
Novell Linux Desktop: The Linux OS formerly known as SuSE should enjoy a healthy run with the suit-and-tie crowd now that Novell is working to make this client attractive to businesses.
Fedora Core: Also produced by Red Hat, Fedora Linux is a free distro that shares a great deal of technology with its Red Hat cousin. Fedora Linux often receives cutting-edge technology updates before Red Hat, since the company field-tests code and features on Fedora first.
Mandriva (formerly Mandrake): Long regarded as the most user-friendly Linux distro, Mandriva can be a bit less stable than other distros.
Debian: Another popular distribution, Debian enjoys a reputation as the hacker's Linux and offers comprehensive control over the system. Installation and setup are much easier today than in the past.
Slackware: A pioneering distro, Slackware remains a favourite among Linux experts for its compactness and speed.
Gentoo: A sleek and swift distro that caters to the technical crowd. If you're just starting out with Linux, you probably won't choose Slackware or Gentoo.
You can also find terrific applications tuned for Linux, including OpenOffice.org (a free and very complete Microsoft Office clone – see PC Advisor’s August 05 cover DVD), Firefox (the popular browser), the Gaim multiprotocol instant messaging client and the Evolution mail, calendar and contact-management software that integrates with Microsoft Exchange Server.
Michael Desmond is publishing director at Bock Interactive, a US e-commerce consulting and software firm.
Linux may become the "metric system" of computers ...
Japan, China, Korea to develop Windows replacement
REUTERS [ SUNDAY, AUGUST 31, 2003 10:57:29 AM ]
TOKYO: Japan, South Korea and China are set to jointly develop a new computer operating system as an alternative to Microsoft Corp's Windows software, Japanese media reported on Sunday.
Quoting sources close to the matter, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) said that, if the plan matured, the three nations were likely to build upon an open-source operating system, such as Linux, and develop an inexpensive and trustworthy system.
The plan is to be proposed by Japanese trade minister Takeo Hiranuma at a meeting of economic ministers from the three nations in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, it said, adding agreement was seen as likely.
Government officials were not available for comment.
The Nikkei said that the recent spread of computer viruses targeting the Windows system was one reason behind the plan, as it had awakened governments to the need to reduce their dependence on Windows operating systems.
A framework for developing the system would be set up during meetings by government ministers in mid-September, followed by committee meetings involving private-sector specialists from each of the three nations in November.
The three governments may even consider partly subsidising development of the new system, which could eventually be used in government computer networks.
Linux, a recommended upgrade to Microsoft Windows (TM)
RALEIGH, NC -- March 31, 2003 -- Red Hat, Inc. (Nasdaq:RHAT),
the world's premier open source and Linux provider, today
announced the availability of Red Hat Linux 9. Drawing from the
work of the open source community, Red Hat Linux 9 allows users
to take advantage of the newest open source technology first.
With an improved graphical installation, new usability
enhancements and end-user applications, Red Hat Linux 9 is
designed for students, home computing and technology enthusiasts.
„Red Hat's community-based distribution became an option for
home computing with the introduction of the BluecurveTM
graphical interface in 2002. In Red Hat Linux 9, we've refined
the installation and interface, adding new tools and
applications for end users,‰ said Brian Stevens, vice president
of Operating Systems Development at Red Hat. „The result is an
open source desktop operating system that is flexible and simple
to use for mainstream technology enthusiasts.‰
Red Hat Linux features Bluecurve, an easy-to-navigate interface
with intuitively organized menus. Bluecurve has been upgraded in
Red Hat Linux 9 and now extends to more areas of the operating
system, including the menu and layout of the desktop. Red Hat
Linux 9 features include:
* First introduction of new threading technology: NPTL
(Native POSIX Thread Library)
* OpenOffice.org office suite for creation of documents,
spreadsheets and presentations.
* Mozilla Web browser , email client, address book, HTML
composer and authoring tool
* Ximian EvolutionTM email client, calendar and contact
* CUPS for drag-and-drop printing capabilities
* Upgraded core components: Linux kernel 2.4.20, GCC
3.2.1,, GNU libc 2.3 (with NPTL), web server powered by
See www.redhat.com for a complete overview of Red Hat Linux 9
Pricing and Availability
Red Hat Linux 9 binaries and source code are currently
available to Red Hat Network subscribers. To subscribe to Red
Hat Network, please visit http://rhn.redhat.com . Red Hat Linux
9 will be widely available at retail locations and for purchase
on www.redhat.com on April 7, 2003.
* Red Hat Linux 9 has a MSRP of $39.95, and includes 30
days of Red Hat Network Basic Service and Web-based support.
* Red Hat Linux 9 Professional has an MSRP of $149.95, and
includes the operating system on DVD, SysAdmin Rescue Tool, an
office and multimedia applications CD, 60 days of Red Hat
Network Basic Service, 60 days of Web-based and telephone
Switching to Linux
Living with Red Hat 8 as a productivity client
By John Lettice
Posted: 07/01/2003 at 15:07 GMT
... One of my overriding impressions of Windows after six years ... is of an OS where hardware is progressively thrown at dodgy code, rather than the code being tightened up.
The INQUIRER guide to installing Linux
"Buying a computer with future versions of Windows installed is like buying a car with the hood welded shut -- you won't be able to tinker or repair anything yourself. Of course, Micrsoft will try to argue that this system will protect you from the bad guys, in the same way that having a welded hood will prevent the bad guys from stealing your motor. But what's the point of owning a computer if you can't do anything general purpose with it? You might as well go out and buy an abacus -- that's one platform that Microsoft will never dominate or infect."
Oracle's Ellison anticipates the death of Windows
Linux, Star Office sharpen knife, aims between shoulderblades
By Paul Hales: Wednesday 02 April 2003, 10:20
ORACLE BOSS LARRY ELLISON has been knocking Microsoft again, saying that open source Linux will steal the data centre market out from under the whiskered wee snout of the Vole.
He told a gathering of Oracle ISVs yesterday that Microsoft had already been "killed" by Apache Web server where it sought to rule the roost with its Internet Information Services technology. He said Microsoft's Web server offering had been, "slaughtered, wiped out, taken from market dominance to irrelevance,"
"They had a virtual monopoly on Web servers, and then they were wiped off the face of the earth. And it's going to happen to them again on Linux," he said.
Ellison a well-know swaggerer, had been hyping the benefits of running Oracle software on Linux platforms when he turned his ire on Microsoft - one of his favourite targets. He told his New York audience:"Apache destroyed them there and that will happen again with Linux which is faster and more reliable than Windows on standard Intel hardware."
By then he was up and running, suggesting that once there was an alternative to the combination of Microsoft Office running on versions of Windows, "all hell will break loose." He said Sun's Star Office was "almost usable", and once the combination of Star Office running on Linux gained acceptance it would be snapped up first in the huge but somewhat more price sensitive markets of China and India.
By then, said Ellison, it'll be a "whole new world" for Microsoft. "And I'm looking forward to it," he added.
|Macintosh Operating System 10 (OS X) - "because making Unix user friendly was easier than fixing Windows"|
Tiger earns stripes for Apple
Apple is promising a lot with Tiger, the latest version of its operating system. We clawed our way through the facts to find out if it is really worth all the fuss
Saturday April 30, 2005
the biggest improvements Apple has made to Mac OS X with Tiger are tucked away under the hood. Every Mac OS X upgrade that has been released to date has improved overall performance across virtually all supported systems, and that list of supported systems has barely shrunk with Tiger. .... Apple's ability to pack an ever-increasing number of powerful features into Mac OS X without extending its system requirements is one of the company's unique and often overlooked high points.
Mac OS X (10)
"But more than two years after its introduction, not a single Mac OS X-specific virus has yet appeared."
OS X: Because making Unix user friendly was easier than fixing Windows.
IBM Fellow dumps Microsoft Windows XP, switches to Apple's Mac OS X
Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 03:28 PM EDT
"I've decided to make the move to a Microsoft-free computing environment, having tired of the time I spend on the care and feeding of XP as compared to my relatively worry-free network of Linux appliances and Macs. My latest acquisition is a 17" Apple Powerbook powered by the IBM G4 processor which I'll use to replace my XP laptop and an older G4 tower. In addition to a breathtakingly beautiful form factor, this machine has every feature I need, from DVD-R to Airport and Bluetooth connections. More importantly, there's no essential application I need that doesn't run on this platform. In this manner, I'll avoid the Microsoft operating system tax, although I will break down and install the Microsoft Office suite (which actually is nicer on the Mac than it is on XP)," Grady Booch writes in his IBM developerWorks blog.
"When Longhorn comes out in a few years, I might take another look, but in the meantime, I have some real work to do and would rather not be distracted by the whinings of a needy operating system that seems to come down with a cold every time I take it out into the world," Booch writes.
Full article here.
Grady Booch is an IBM Fellow who has served as architect and architectural mentor for numerous complex software-intensive systems around the world in just about every domain imaginable. Grady is the author of six best-selling books and has published several hundred articles on software engineering, including papers published in the early '80s that originated the term and practice of object-oriented design.
Linux Doesn't Make Sense for Desktops
By David Coursey
August 31, 2004
.... Mac OS X has a better user interface than Windows, better security and is more stable. It's all the operating system most users need. It doesn't have the application support Windows enjoys, but there are many more excellent commercial OS X apps than there are Linux apps.
Mac OS X and Linux are much more secure than Windows XP. For example:
- Windows comes with five of its ports open; Mac OS X comes with all of them shut and locked... These ports are precisely what permitted viruses like Blaster to infiltrate millions of PCs. Microsoft says that it wonít have an opportunity to close these ports until the next version of Windows, which is a couple of years away.
- When a program tries to install itself in Mac OS X... a dialog box interrupts your work and asks you permission for that installation -- in fact, requires your account password. Windows XP goes ahead and installs it, potentially without your awareness.
- Administrator accounts in Windows (and therefore viruses that exploit it) have access to all areas of the operating system. In Mac OS X, even an administrator canít touch the files that drive the operating system itself. A Mac OS X virus (if there were such a thing) could theoretically wipe out all of your files, but wouldnít be able to access anyone else's stuff -- and couldn't touch the operating system itself.
- No Macintosh e-mail program automatically runs scripts that come attached to incoming messages, as Microsoft Outlook does.
...the conclusion is clear: Linux and Mac OS X aren't just more secure because fewer people use them. They're also much harder to crack right out of the box.
"security through obscurity"
That's funny. Anyone can get source code for both Linux and MacOS X (Darwin). Only limited people has access to Windows code. So, which OS is using security through obscurity?
First, I fail to see how "9.3 million active OS X users" [quote from Jobs' latest keynote] equates to being obscure.
What would be a more cherished and potentially newsworthy event, being the 82,791st person to make a MS Windows virus or to be the very first to make a Mac virus? The creator of a successful Mac virus would be the focus of international attention, if not by the news media, I am quite sure Bill Gates would shout it from the roof tops himself and take out full page ads in every major newspaper in the world.
To anger him further, he is also well aware that the vast majority of Mac users use no virus protection at all. And, STILL there hasn't been a single self-replicating breach of security. A single Mac virus would be extraordinarily devastating. That, unto itself, makes the prize all the sweeter.
Bill Gates has absolutely no proof that no one is interested in writing a Mac virus. Being a programmer himself, he is well aware that a Mac virus is the Holy Grail of programming, and there are thousands of people in search of the elusive code (probably, most are on MS payroll, working in Bill's basement, not unlike Mr. Salt making his peanut factory workers look for Golden Tickets in the movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory". See time index 00:15:42.)
"Security through obscurity" is not a nonsense. The term I believe was first used by OpenBSD group to describe the security model of Windows. MS claimed by preventing people from looking at the source code, hackers will have more difficult time to break. Thus,their claim was open source OS like Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and Darwin will be easier to break in. The originator of term countered MS' claim by stating that "security by obscurity" is not secure. They claimed by opening up the source code, more people can examine the code, thus the OS become more secure.
If one remembers back few years, Linux (version 1.x) was very insecure OS. Since then it has been examined and corrected by thousands(?) of programmers and it is now a very secure OS (at least based on the statistics of break ins). So, who was right? MS or Open Source group.
Mere Speed Is Not Enough
By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, November 23, 2003; Page F01
If you just want a machine to get on the Internet, just about any hardware sold today will do. The software on any given machine, however, is another issue. Far too many Windows users have been victimized by viruses, worms and spyware for me to pretend that Windows or Mac OS X are equally suited for general Internet use. They are not. Forget about aesthetic preferences or initial hardware costs; life is just easier on the Mac side and will remain so until Microsoft makes overdue repairs to Windows.
Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2003
Panther: A whole new Macintosh
By Sandy McMurray
Special to Globe and Mail Update
Sandy McMurray is a Toronto-based writer, editor and consultant. His Web site is www.TechStuff.ca.
... Mac OS X "Panther" (version 10.3) is the third major update to Mac OS X in three years. Like the previous releases, Panther mixes high-tech and high-touch, combining the power of UNIX with beginner-friendly buttons, menus and icons. It's simple enough for a child to use yet powerful enough to drive a super-computer.
Panther provides better performance, better compatibility with Windows, plus some innovative new features.
As a Windows user, I was trained to save my work frequently "just in case." I knew from experience that some random event (like launching my e-mail program while printing a Word document) might lead to a "blue screen of death."
The classic Mac system was easier to use than Windows, but it could not walk and chew gum at the same time. If a program crashed, the whole system often went down as well. The cute little picture of a bomb on the screen offered little comfort.
Mac OS X is different. Panther uses a new memory system that protects the computer from unstable programs and device drivers. If a program freezes or crashes in OS X, you can kill that specific "process" (to use UNIX terminology) without affecting the rest of the system. There's no need to shut down or restart the Mac because of one bad program.
Even dead people can't escape AOL
By David Sheets
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Maxine Gauthier doesn't own a computer. She doesn't know the first thing about Web browsing or sending e-mail. She's not even sure where to find a computer's "on" button, as she describes it.
Yet for the past nine months, she has been fighting one of the most persistent and some say irritating institutions in cyberspace: AOL, formerly known as America Online.
"They just haven't wanted to let go," the 55-year-old St. Louisan said. "I don't think they'll ever really let go."
Her struggle has involved about a dozen phone calls often ending with an AOL customer service representative or manager hanging up on her. She even tried impersonating someone else in a couple of the calls. The giant online service provider wouldn't budge.
The problem? An AOL account once held by Gauthier's late father still showed billing charges accumulating against it. The account had been dormant for months; the credit card he used for it was inactive at least as long.
Nevertheless, AOL kept charging $25.90 each month for dial-up online access. Late fees for non-payment accumulated on the credit card, too.
Gauthier even offered to send a copy of her father's obituary as proof he truly was dead. AOL was unmoved.
"An AOL service guy told me to stop complaining and learn to use a computer," she said. "Then he hung up."
Customer service hell
Gauthier's experience with AOL mirrors that of millions who have tried to discontinue their dial-up or other service, only to encounter stonewalling or outright verbal abuse from the company's customer service agents.
The Dulles, Va.-based company, with more than 17 million customers, was once the leading online service provider. But it has bled customers in recent years -- it lost almost 1 million customers between May and June alone -- as more people have moved away from dial-up service toward faster, more dependable broadband Internet connections.
Most of AOL's $1 billion in profits continues to come from subscriptions to dial-up service, a market it still dominates.
Another factor in AOL's decline has been the increase in free services elsewhere online, such as e-mail and ad blocking, that AOL provided at a cost. The company announced Wednesday that it was dropping many of these charges but would continue charging fees for dial-up service.
Yet, neither the Internet's transition to broadband nor the increase in Web-based freebies has damaged AOL's bottom line in recent weeks quite as much as its lamentable customer service, now a punch line on late-night television and in cyberspace.
Thank Vincent Ferrari for that.
The New York blogger and former AOL loyalist used to spend his time online exclusively at AOL's Web portal. He even met his wife there. But broadband beckoned and Ferrari's AOL usage declined to nearly zero. He decided to end the relationship.
Ferrari had heard that breaking up with AOL was difficult to do -- customer service agents allegedly employed every trick short of threats to keep people from dropping out -- so he recorded his call to customer service and posted it on his Web site.
The acrimonious result made huge news online and on television, and inspired a flood of responses. Immediately, AOL clients everywhere recounted their own bad experiences on blogs, TV and radio.
Gauthier saw all this and was inspired. She nearly had given up her own fight.
"I saw that I wasn't the only one with trouble. So, that's why I called you," she told Tech Talk.
"Shut up and listen"
When Gauthier's father, Melvin Berkowitz, died last summer, he was living in Florida and had one credit card. Its only charges were to AOL. Gauthier's mother, Marion Berkowitz, now 80, and still living in Florida, had her name on the account but never used it.
Gauthier discovered the continuing dial-up service charge as she was settling her father's estate. She first called to cancel the AOL account last November.
"They told me I didn't have the answer to his 'security question'," a query many shopping Web sites once employed to assure themselves they were talking to the account holder, "so they said 'Thank you' and hung up," Gauthier said.
She turned to the credit card company and asked that it stop accepting the charges.
"They told me they needed a letter first from AOL saying the account was inactive," Gauthier said.
Another call to AOL, which promised Gauthier it would send the letter immediately. That was in December.
"But I never heard any word," she said. "And these charges kept appearing on the credit card statement."
She kept calling AOL, trying to find out more about the letter. AOL countered by saying it never received a request to send it.
With each subsequent call, AOL became more curt with Gauthier. During one exchange, "the guy - I think it was a manager - just told me to 'shut up and listen to what I have to say or don't bother calling.'
Then he hung up on me," she said.
Gauthier even resorted to pretending she was her mother, because her mother's name also was on the credit card statement. "No luck. They just kept asking me for the answer to the security question," Gauthier said.
A nice guy named Ben
Through the spring and early summer, Gauthier made no progress. The charges -- and now, credit card late fees -- kept mounting, totaling at least $200. After Ferrari's experience with AOL became public, she pressed harder, thinking the bad publicity might loosen AOL's grip.
In June, she called again. This time, AOL insisted that her father's account had not been active since January, and AOL had not charged Melvin Berkowitz's credit card since.
The credit card statements since January, however, said otherwise.
Gauthier again called the credit card company. In early July, she received two letters from it. The first said the charges were fraudulent. The second said they weren't.
"That's when I gave up and called your Tech Talk column," she said.
We tried contacting AOL using all the customer service numbers Gauthier had used. Initially, AOL's headquarters in Virginia didn't answer our messages, so we tried the general customer service number. Within seven minutes, Tech Talk was speaking to Ben, based at an AOL customer service center in Albuquerque, N.M.
Ben, in fact, was very nice.
"A few bad apples"
"If (a customer calls) and gets an AOL rep such as myself, we have to cancel that account at their request," Ben said, explaining procedure. "We have to honor that request. So, there is no ulterior motive or agenda on us to not cancel, really.
"It changed recently where, you know, we have to cancel immediately,"
Ben continued. "We can offer them a better price; that's our job. But if they're adamant, then you cancel the account."
Gauthier had given Tech Talk her father's account information, and we in turn passed it along to Ben, who couldn't give his last name because AOL disallowed it.
"I see here that on May 28, there was a form filled out that this person was deceased. ... That account is cancelled out, right now," Ben said.
He explained that, for whatever reason, the form didn't get back to Melvin Berkowitz's file until mid-June, "so that month was our last bill. There won't be any more bills; I can assure you of that."
Not long after Tech Talk spoke to Ben, we received a call from Sarah Matin, AOL corporate communications manager, in Dulles, Va. She denied that AOL condoned hard selling among its customer service workers.
"We have a huge volume of customer service, millions of customers, so within that scale, of course, there are going to be a few bad apples," Matin said. "Obviously, we have to do much better."
Resolution, or not?
Finally, this month, Gauthier was able to cancel her father's credit card. The AOL charges, going back to last summer, were wiped away, and she was reimbursed for both the charges and late fees.
But the story apparently isn't over. It turns out that Gauthier also has an AOL account, established more than a decade ago when her two daughters were pre-teens first learning to surf the Internet. She has no idea what has become of the account; it has been dormant for years.
She never used it. She's hesitant to find out its status.
"After going through all that trouble over my father, I'm not sure I could handle that again," she said.
Plus, there's this: A few days ago, Gauthier obtained a letter from AOL that was sent to her mother in Florida. The letter was addressed to Melvin Berkowitz.
"Dear Mr. Berkowitz," it said. "We hope you'll come back to AOL."
Once an AOL customer, always an AOL customer.
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