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Microsoft Loves Painting Apple (or "GAFA") as the Problem

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Mask Me No Questions: The 'new' Microsoft; Mask Me No Questions

Summary: The latest twist in Microsoft's PR strategy is, divert attention and blame to other companies [1,2], even if their alleged abuses are in fact a copy of Microsoft's own

  • Microsoft Backs Epic’s Apple Battle on Game Technology Access

    The graphics technology, known as Unreal Engine, is a suite of software used by millions of developers to build 3-D games and other products. Cutting off Epic from Apple’s iOS and Mac developer tools would mean the gaming company can no longer distribute Unreal Engine to other developers, Epic said in its legal filing. Microsoft, which makes the Xbox, uses the technology for games developed for consoles, PCs and mobile devices.

  • Microsoft Supports Epic Games, Says Apple Blocking Access to Unreal Engine Would Harm Game Creators

    In a declaration in support of Epic Games [PDF], Microsoft gaming executive Kevin Gammill wrote that "Apple's discontinuation of Epic's ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers." Specifically, Gammill said that games utilizing Unreal Engine will be put at a "substantial disadvantage," citing Microsoft's own racing game Forza Street for iPhone and iPad as an example.

In the face of an Orangutan

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Orangutan

Mother of two species.

The camels' outcry

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Camel

When a human doesn't know what to do and people don't know how to tackle the real issue, the animals are becoming the sacrifice. Billion of animals were lost to bushfires alone and millions are slaughtered every day, yet the audacity to kill the camels is astonishing. I wonder what would be the humans' reaction if the animals called for human culling. Think about it.

Why Tux Machines Occasionally Adds Editorial Comments

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Editorials

Summary: Editorial remarks (or Editor's comments, "Ed" for short) play a role in highlighting potential inaccuracies -- and manipulations of the mind -- when those aren't so shallow and aren't abundantly obvious

Recently, and as lately as a few hours ago, Richard Stallman exchanged some messages and we might meet again in a few months (he is traveling to the UK). Stallman and I share a concern about neglect of truth and history; for instance, many GNU programs are nowadays dubbed "LINUX COMMANDS" (I saw one example of that just 2 hours ago) and people sometimes lose sight of the important goals, focusing on brands instead of philosophy, political aspects and so on.

"Sometimes we link to something which isn't entirely accurate or can be misleading."

I would like to take this moment, on the last day of this year, to explain where we stand on issues pertaining to software freedom. A few times in the past one reader bemoaned my editorial comments (marked "Ed"), which typically bemoan something about the cited article/s. Sometimes we link to something which isn't entirely accurate or can be misleading. One example of that is openwashing. Another rather common and increasingly ubiquitous example concerns Microsoft "loving" Linux (it actually loves Windows).

We live in a world with Public Relations and marketing agencies. They exist to mislead; they shape perceptions -- that's their business model! To blindly link to just anything online without commentary or curation would likely lead us astray. Truth does matter. Facts need to be checked. This is what Tux Machines strives to achieve; throwing the word "LINUX" into something like Google News would expose one to loads of cruft, irrelevant stuff, plagiarism, pure spam and sometimes intentional lies. With no human operator or editor just about anything can be dunked into search results, owing to SEO manipulation and mishandling of indexes. I've seen that for well over a decade. Automation just doesn't work; someone who understands the problem domain needs to assess things for quality and accuracy.

"To be fair, comments are open, so readers can respond."

My adult life (since age 18 or so when I became a GNU/Linux user) involved very hard work and lifelong activism for software freedom. Not everyone agrees with me and if sometimes I may say something readers disagree with (e.g. in editorial comments), then it's likely because I try to be realistic, not jingoistic. Moreover, no two individuals will agree on everything 100% of the time. That's inevitable. So some readers might dislike these editorial comments. To be fair, comments are open, so readers can respond.

At the moment, the way I personally see it, Free software is under a number of attacks. There are different types of attacks. I think Free software will endure regardless. On a more positive note, Free software is nowadays used everywhere, it's just not being called that ("Open Source" is the term corporate media prefers) and it has been leveraged as a low-cost 'cushion' for DRM, surveillance, militarism etc. Think of companies like Facebook and Netflix (GNU and Linux at their back ends). Is this what we strive for? Closed systems that are merely built upon Freedom-respecting stacks?

"At the moment, the way I personally see it, Free software is under a number of attacks."

Software freedom is a huge objective in a world where almost everything becomes digital (only more so over time). I think it's up to us to somehow guide the world's software towards ethical uses, without necessarily imposing how it's used, and that is perhaps a future challenge for the Free Software Movement. It's a monumental challenge because politics can be a massive terrain to navigate. Over at Techrights I mostly focus on issues such as patents (laws), with emphasis on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the European Patent Office (EPO) granting software patents in Europe and so on. Patents on algorithms are one kind of barrier (among many) impeding Free software adoption.

Koalas Need Our Help

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Koalas Need Our Help

Watching videos/photos of Koalas being rescued from a charred/burning forests in Australia is heart-breaking and devastating. More than 350 Koalas are reported being dead and these numbers are growing. Those who live far from Australia (just like me) can't help physically rescue them, but a small amount of money/donation to sustain the hospital/facilities, volunteers and rescuers is of great help. Koala is just one of the many species that perish from the bushfire and they need our help, so please donate through the GoFundMe page and through other legitimate websites. Help those who support animal welfare.

Twins for Meng Meng and Jiao Qing

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Meng Meng

About 8 months ago we had the chance to meet Meng Meng (above) and Jiao Qing, the female and male pandas on loan to Berlin Zoo in Germany. I took lots of photos with them and we stayed in their Pagoda sanctuary a little longer. Seeing them eating, napping and wandering inside their secured place brings joy to my heart. I don't really like seeing animals in the zoo, but if this is the only way to keep and protect them from any harm or from becoming extinct, then so be it. Today, in the news (video) the two adorable pandas became parents as they were having twins; this is good news and I'm so happy for them both. To Meng Meng and Jiao Qing (and also to Berlin Zoo), congratulations!

Slack: It Used to Be a GNU/Linux Distro, Now It's Surveillance Capitalism

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I like "Freedo" (a symbol for freedom) better

Freedo

THE meaning of words can change over time, along with connotations that accompany these words. A little cat, for example, we can no longer call "pussy" and the word "gay" rarely means happy (colloquially). What about "Slack"?

Once upon a time I knew Slack as a solid, freedom-respecting distribution (GNU/Linux distro), whereas nowadays it is something to be stubbornly avoided as it threatens my freedom. It's technically spyware. It is a threat to everybody's freedom because of the network effect. When we use it we participate in a viral campaign of unwanted societal dependency. We help it spread exponentially. Like disease amongst anti-vaxxers. Richard Stallman had spoken about it in the context of Skype long before Microsoft entered the fray/picture. That's just common sense. The requirement of opening a Slack account to interact with other people is like the equivalent of an employer demanding the applicant has a Facebook account (despite all that is known about Facebook's incredible abuses). It can harm our neighbours, colleagues, family and friends as much as it harms ourselves.

As a little bit of background/context/polite remarks on this, I had been writing about Slack (the spyware, not the distro) for several years -- years before the prospects of actually using it. I never ever used it, but I know about it technically, from various angles (not just the shallow, user-centric end). Slack is proprietary at the front end and the back end. Only Slack employees know for sure what it does (and may do in the foreseeable future, as per secret roadmaps). They cannot speak out about it, for fear of retribution (so they're inherently gagged by fear over mortgage etc. or self-restraint that defies logic/ethics). Stallman has long warned about the morality of such circumstances and the ideology they breed. It was recently discovered that Facebook had targeted its critics (a huge number of them), subjecting them to Stasi-like treatment not for any government but for a private corporation, namely Facebook. It had been 'hunting' people using dubious and shallow justifications/pretexts. Nobody has yet been held accountable. Negative press has been the only cost/toll, so they got away with it with barely even a slap on the wrist. Others may imitate them, seeing that there are no fines, no arrests, no sanctions.

A colleague told me several months ago that someone at our company wanted to experiment with Slack; there was no final decision about it, so I assumed it was like our RT/OTRS 'dance' (choice of ticketing system half a decade ago). Sometimes we explore FOSS options/alternatives, which is a good thing! He sent me an invite, but he wasn't assertive about me joining as it was still an experimental thing (as I understood it back then, based on what I was told; I'll come to that in a moment). I thought we would, if it got adopted, still have options (duality). One colleague (at least) wasn't even sent an invite, so I took that as a sign of the adoption's semi-hearted nature (at the time). My colleagues never mentioned it since, except one person (who apparently liked Slack). Another colleague wondered why nobody had told her about it; as if she was left out, but she's happily using Kopete on KDE, so on she went with Jabber.

I've long been writing about Slack, maybe about 15 years (even when the name referred to a Live GNU/Linux distro, well before the name got 'hijacked'; it's Debian-based, it still has regular releases a few months apart, not the same as Slackware despite the names' similarity; BoycottNovell made a Slack-based distro called SUEME Linux 12 years ago); Tux Machines publishes announcements of Slack releases several times a year, but it's always about the distro. It's a European distro with pedigree; but I digress..

Nowadays "Slack" means something different; in a technical context, people no longer recognise it as the distro's name; Slack is now the darling of corporate media; myself and others could never quite explain why (we were rather baffled as it did not seem particularly innovative and we thus attributed most/all the press coverage to good marketing/PR); the name collision also raised legal questions because Slack is a well-known distro and the name is strictly used in the domain of software; it has been used for decades. Now the distro's development team needs to explain to people what came first and how this confusion came about.

OK, so now Slack is enjoying a valuation at $billions (as per very recent news headlines), with IPO rumours floated as well (making it easier to buy/subvert). Slack is relatively new a player/contender; it goes about 3-4 years back (in the mainstream), around the time we were in Alton Towers. I still remember that based on other events. Privacy activists had been warning about it and recently I kept seeing (also publicly writing about) more red flags. Slack, the company, is getting more invasive over time. It's like Facebook. Facebook for business. LinkedIn got picked by Microsoft, along with all that data (NSA PRISM comes to mind). Personal messages, passwords, social graphs, employment records and so on. Even location (picked every 60 seconds or so from one's phone through the 'app'). Same for Skype, which Microsoft added to PRISM just months after buying it (Microsoft was first in PRISM, based on Snowden's leaks -- it was one among the first stories to come out/emanate). Far less opinionated people than myself have blasted Slack for a variety of reasons. Some tweets of mine about it go ~3 years back (warning for 'opinionatedness'... I don't mince words much).

I still remember having to install Skype on an old phone for one company meeting. Back then the mere installation (for one hour, then deleted) meant sending Microsoft entire address books, entire call history and more. This phone of my wife is 7+ years old, so that's a lot of data, going a long way back. That's their business model. I'm usually apprehensive because some of my sources, e.g. for exclusive articles in Techrights (I published my 25,000th article last week in Techrights!), are named in files on my system. I'm no Free software 'purist' per se (I use proprietary drivers sometimes), but "Slack would be the surveillance capitalism competitor to Jabber," to quote something I read yesterday. They digest information, including corporate communications. There's a certain risk associated with this, including competitive risk. As a Free software-based company I think it's important to demonstrate that every piece of proprietary framework can be swapped with FOSS. There are quite a few Slack equivalents that are FOSS; a colleague told me that another colleague had brought some of these up. We might examine these soon, maybe test and adopt these. Time will tell. Maybe I'll write about some of these.

I am also reading about bridges between protocols that enable access to Slack, but yesterday when researching it I found that Slack is gradually burning these bridges/gateways. Not entirely surprising, as once they get to a certain point/market share they up/boost the lockin. Naturally. More so if they have obligations to shareholders. Twitter did this last August, shutting out all third-party apps/APIs for the first time ever (in the company's entire existence). Many of us were devastated because we had built interaction tools, custom-made around these APIs). So, basically, whatever a centralised platform gets adopted, we can always lose control as they can change everything they want at any time. Even, at worst, some company can just buy them for the data; they can start charging a lot, they can shut down, change ToS etc.

The bottom line is, Slack ought to be avoided. It's worse than proprietary because it's all centralised, even the data. There's no concept such as "private" or "privacy". These are only illusions.

Unixstickers

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Unixstickers

Awesome products, will definitely get another bunch of some more stickers soon Smile

GitHub as the Latest Example of Microsoft Entryism in Free/Libre Software

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"This is in effect the very same trick they did/pulled with Novell and SUSE (where Nat Friedman came from after his Microsoft internship) about a decade ago."

Postman

THE recent GitHub takeover, which has not formally been approved just yet (although there are no foreseen barriers to it), is definitely bad news; it is a lot of things to Microsoft however. It is good news only to Microsoft and GitHub shareholders, who basically sold out many developers without rewarding/compensating them for this unwanted (to them) takeover.

There are many aspects to it: First of all, it helps paint Microsoft as "open source" and it helps Microsoft gain leverage over developers, e.g. their choice process of framework/s and licence/s (Microsoft still dislikes copyleft); by leverage over platform they can suggest Azure, for example, or create bindings to it; they gain leverage over projects tied to governments, including some of our clients at work; Microsoft can vainly tell them, i.e. the governments and their developers: "look, you want FOSS? We're FOSS" (so they effectively become their own competitor!). In fact, there's so much more and I could easily name a couple dozen examples, but I know people pursue/need concision here. For an analogy, in politics this concept or strategy is known as "entrism" or "entryism".

Microsoft also uses patents to blackmail FOSS; there's that element too, albeit many people conveniently choose to forget it. Microsoft is sending patents to patent trolls, then offers "Azure IP Advantage". This is in effect the very same trick they did/pulled with Novell and SUSE (where Nat Friedman came from after his Microsoft internship) about a decade ago.

There are many other angles to it, including programming languages, frameworks (e.g. proprietary IDEs like MSVS), code editors and not just bindings to Microsoft as a host and API provider. People, especially developers of software, generally know how E.E.E. works; the basic precondition/premise is that you gain controls/leverage over that which threatens you (Nokia: Elop, Novell: Mono and lots more examples). So that's kind of a way of getting inside, gradually forming a partnership and then shutting down or sidelining whatever threatens you. Like Xamarin did to RoboVM, in effect killing it under Friedman's leadership. Friedman is going to be the chief of GitHub.

Microsoft can direct the opposition's decisions and its fate. Sadly, they already do this inside the Linux Foundation, where Microsoft staff already has chairs in the Board.

From what I can gather, developers ditching GitHub is becoming a fairy common thing this month. I already see the 1) active 2) large 3) non-Windows ones leaving, but it can take time; some told me they still rely on open bug reports and other 'vendor lockin'; that needs some work before they can migrate; the real alternative is self-hosted git.

"Sadly, they already do this inside the Linux Foundation, where Microsoft staff already has chairs in the Board."

In Memoriam: Robin "Roblimo" Miller, a Videographer and Free Software Champion

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Videographer Robin Roblimo Miller

Robin "Roblimo" Miller was a clever, friendly, and very amicable individual who everyone I know has plenty of positive things to say about. I had the pleasure of speaking to him for several hours about anything from personal life and professional views. Miller was a very knowledgeable person whose trade as a journalist and video producer I often envied. I have seen him facing his critics in his capacity as a journalist over a decade ago when he arranged a debate about OOXML (on live radio). Miller, to me, will always be remembered as a strong-minded and investigative journalist who "did the right thing" as the cliché goes, irrespective of financial gain -- something which can sometimes be detrimental to one's longterm health. Miller sacrificed many of his later years to a cause worth fighting for. This is what we ought to remember him for. Miller was - and always will be - a FOSS hero.

May everything you fought for be fulfilled, Mr. Miller. I already miss you.

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