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Archive for November, 2012

Six Years After the Microsoft/Novell Deal

JUST 6 years (and 2 days) ago Novell signed a horrible deal with Microsoft — a deal which in turn got me so passionately upset that I became a frequent blogger rather than just a journalist. Nearly 6 years after Boycott Novell had been created and became part of Techrights I still run Techrights to the best of my abilities, even though I write almost every post on a tablet when time permits, usually in the streets or whilst in the gym.

There is a certain sense of achievement derived from the death of Novell. The company is no more; it was sold. Moreover, my prophecies were correct all along, as Novell gave its patents to Linux foes and Mono, for example, got far closer to Microsoft. Those who sought to vilify me (especially Microsoft and Novell boosters and/or employees) failed for the most part.

The issue of software patents has become more mainstream since then. It is now the #1 target for me. When attacks on the patent system become as frequent as pro-Android article, then the battle is inevitably going to be won. For Linux, mainstream adoption in the form of Android is marked by a 75% worldwide market share, based on a firm close to Microsoft (IDG).

No US Elections Next Week

Presidential election

A LOT of people think that a presidential candidate will be chosen next week, and moreover that a party is to be elected to have a real impact. The truth is, those people are wrong.

The US elections were held behind closed doors a long time ago. The system as a whole had been abducted in a coup detre fashion and every once in a few years rich people meet to discuss what policies they want and which party is equipped to deliver the goods. The head of the party is a face and a character, but there is rarely enough power for that person to really determine a party’s policy. The business interests mostly conquered two parties in the Unites States. The rest are being marginalised and kept out of the public’s reach using the corporate media, which is of course influenced tremendously — if not owned by — the aforementioned rich people.

So should you vote next week? Well, the voting was done already, and you have lost. What remains to be discussed is, should one bother voting for the “lesser evil” to keep someone else out of Office? Should one make a stand by protesting? Should one vote for obscure candidates, who are often the most poorly funded because corporations cannot invest in them (i.e. corrupt their focus on people)? I am not eligible to vote in the United States, but many in my family are.

I don’t protest, but I do try to promote better understanding of a rather transparent-to-see problem. It doesn’t take an overly inquiring mind to see that elections hardly change policies which truly matter, e.g. policies regarding war.

Tuesday will be a good day out. Follow George Carlin’s advice and enjoy the day as though nothing special is happening. Because, let’s face it, nothing special is happening. The elections were held already, and guess what? You could not be part of them. You are not a billionaire.

Privacy in E-mail Nearly Impossible

Key lock

Almost one decade ago I shifted all of my E-mail to a domain that I control. Well, to be accurate, my host and I control it, and that host is based in Ireland/UK. But over time it became apparent that this was usually useless for privacy. If the recipient uses an E-mail address in one of the big providers of ‘free’ E-mail services (e.g. Yahoo, Google, Microsoft), then my messages (incoming, outgoing) will be visible to corporations and governments whose business should not be other people’s personal lives. So among those who were close to me I was pushing to move to a private domain as well, often the same as mine. This goes back to around 2004. Alas, this wasn’t enough. People routinely use SMTP servers provided by their ISP (‘free’ traffic, free to engage in surveillance), and some use Web-based clients that spying-happy browsers are accessing. Those browsers got worse in that regard over time. Ubuntu now uses search to turn users into products. Besides all of this, the ISP has access to packets, and here in the UK we have Phorm, which helps ISPs do DPI (deep packet inspection) under the guise of “marketing” surveillance.

The bottom line is, encryption for E-mail is needed, but the problem is that few mail clients actually support PGP. Some make it cumbersome to use. Perhaps it’s fair to say that privacy in E-mail is almost an impossibility in practice (even among two willing parries). I no longer use E-mail all that much. face-to-face conversations remain one of the most private options for those who value privacy.

Google Apps Are Bad

Office surveillance, like in phones

Mobile phone

GOOGLE is sometimes said to have rescued us from Microsoft Office monopoly. But what has it really brought about? Now we are distracted enough to forget about Free software alternatives such as and instead we push some enterprises into using spyware — an office suite which tracks everything and keeps one’s data online for government to access upon will. Moreover, Google Apps (including Docs) does not properly support ODF, causing all sorts of issues, including on Android devices.

Google should not be treated as a solution to office suites lock-in. Google has become part of the problem.

INN conference New York 2010

INN conference New York 2010 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

TechBytes Season 3 Opens

Techbytes 2013

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TechBytes’ message for the new season.

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More Google Surveillance

Google knows precisely what you search for and keeps a record of it indefinitely. If you have a Google account, it also knows all YouTube videos you watch (how long, how many times) and many Web pages you visit (with AdSense, YouTube embed, etc.). Never mind PageRank, Feedburner, etc. It knows your real identity now. The PATRIOT ACT (and the likes of it) lets governments access this data, too, so it’s not a purely corporate issue anymore. Lawyers and thugs turn up at the scene. There is nothing for Web users to gain from it, no matter the propaganda about “terrorists” and “pedophiles”. It’s sickening to see how lightly privacy is taken by those whom we supposedly elect.

When Google started requiring that people sign up to access a lot of its stuff (with a verified E-mail address) it was no longer just playing dice with IP addresses. Google Plus was a step further, which drove me to other search engines. Sometimes people have a common name, such as John Wilcox. By offering Google Profiles/Plus Google is able to discern one from another, plus pair it with an E-mail address. They even know how you navigate through Google StreetView and Maps. Google may also have copies of all your mails which you sent to people in GMail (certainly all of it if you use GMail). People tend to forget all of this. And this data is not being destroyed. Some is used for marketing and Google openly admits many government requests for people’s data all around the world (Google complies without a fight and without informing those affected). Transparency through statistics hardly makes the practice benign.

Do you still use Google? You probably oughtn’t, except when there is no other choice. Consider accessing YouTube from other devices without a cookie. Wherever Google is going, I don’t like it. And a lot of people forget that it’s dominantly proprietary, so I hardly care it it’s “not Microsoft” or “not Apple”. Even Android is becoming a little too creepy on the privacy side (e.g. its browser which phones home with location and usage data). Canonical takes a lesson from this business model of Google and now turns Ubuntu into spyware. I spoke to Richard Stallman in recent days. He will soon write about this topic. As always, Stallman had good foresight when it comes to privacy on the Net.

“Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.”

Bruce Schneier

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