Archive

Archive for July, 2007

Flipping a coin

July 31, 2007 Leave a comment

Although they are rare, there are days when two significantly major stories vie for my attention and I have to try to determine which to talk about. In this case, both demand immediate attention, at which time the question becomes, “Which do I talk about first?”

So I have this quarter, I flip it, and it comes up . . .

Crackers do a number on California’s e-voting machine: Here’s the story from TGDaily.com: In summary, a study commissioned by the California Secretary of State has found that several electronic voting machines have serious security vulnerabilities.

The study pitted two cracker teams, better known as “red teams” against voting machines manufactured by Diebold, Hart and Sequoia. The hackers found several security problems and were able to change firmware, access the election database and even open up the machines without detection.

The teams were from UC Davis (Go Aggies!) and UC Santa Barbara (Go Gauchos!). “The red teams demonstrated that the security mechanisms provided for all systems analyzed were inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the election results,” said Robert Abbott, one of the red team leaders.

And why? Here’s one reason: Abbott’s team was able to access election data directly by exploiting vulnerabilities in the Diebold machine’s Windows operating system – an operating system that all three e-voting machines use. They were also able to bypass locks and other physical security with “ordinary objects”.

Matt Bishop of UC Davis complains that his teams didn’t have enough time to fully document all the security vulnerabilities because they study started in mid-June and ended July 20. Bowen had said that the deadline could not be extended because the counties need at least six months to examine the findings. Bishop added that Abbott’s team was close to finding several other problems, but simply ran out of time.

So . . . this speaks volumes about the elections of 2000 and 2004, if anyone is willing to listen. And nothing is really riding on the proper functioning of the voting technology except for democratic principles that are the cornerstone of the republic, if not the fate of the republic itself.

And what came up “tails,” you ask?

The Disconnect That Could Fail Thousands: I’ve never met helios, a long time GNU/Linux advocate named Ken (and unlike Sting or Cher, he has a last name, but I don’t know what it is) whose Blog of Helios is one of the most — if not the most — prolific and informative blog on all matters Penguin. In this recent blog item, helios confronts GNU/Linux’s sacred-cow-du-jour — Ubuntu — and asks why they can’t fix a disk mounting problem that appears (at least to yours truly, a newbie with portfolio) to be easily repaired. Instead of getting a “Hmmm, maybe you’re right . . . ” apparently some in the *buntu Nation have set their sights on him and are branding him an “enemy of the people.” Wrong, folks — helios should be commended for having the cojones to say, “Um, sorry, but it appears to me that the emperor’s wearing no clothes,” and it’s the duty of those who support the emperor to clothe him, rather than just “see” the finery the other yes-men and yes-women see.

This problem that helios brings up with Kubuntu doesn’t seem to be a glaring one. But in comparison, helios outlines a request to fix something he made to Clement Lefevbre of Linux Mint that was fixed relatively quickly. With Ubuntu’s resources — vast by most distros’ standards — why can’t this be addressed and fixed (especially when Ubuntu is now the “face” of GNU/Linux that most of the people see when trying it for the first time)?

Go helios and, as he likes to say, All-righty Then.

[FSF Associate Member]

(Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

Get Linux Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Greens Dead buttonWordpress button Xfce button

Eliminate DRM!

But wait, there’s more . . .

July 29, 2007 1 comment

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

After writing my last entry, I went to bed thinking that I had forgotten to mention someone. And as I have been reminded in many of the posts in the last entry, I did — possibly the biggest FUD-meister of them all.

Rob Enderle.

So here’s his nomination:

Rob Enderle: As one of the Four Horsemen of the FUD-pocalypse, Rob Enderle seems to have never missed an opportunity to malign GNU/Linux in the years that he’s been a self-proclaimed “one of the most recognized commentators on tech” heading The Enderle Group (which I am told, but can’t confirm, may only consists of Mr. and Mrs. Enderle). As of late, his efforts to provide “a unique perspective on personal technology products and trends” (the Enderle Group’s raison d’etre, although it’s a mystery why “. . . while spoon-feeding the public Microsoft’s propaganda because we’re Redmond’s lap dog” is not part of that, truth-in-advertising laws being what they are . . . ) have given us such gems as “Open Source if Losing its Momentum” (after talking with non-FOSS software executives, and you would expect them to say, “Oh absolutely — FOSS is completely kicking our ass,” right Rob?), and (paraphrasing) “monopolies make the best business sense” — yeah, for fascist dictatorships, Rob. And never mind that Rob thinks you’re a communist and a terrorist for being a GNU/Linux user.

[In fairness, there is one other nomination that was received in an LXer.com forum thanks to a poster named dinotrac, and that would be . . . .]

Larry Cafiero: This print journalist whose career spans three decades over two continents saw the FOSS light last year, and has taken up evangelizing for software choice and against software and hardware hegemony, whether it’s Redmond’s or Cupertino’s. He plans to publish Open Source and Free Software Reporter, a bimonthly print magazine, in January while currently maintaining Open Source Reporter and this blog. While characteristically avoiding the chore of rearranging his living room so three iMacs (with different distros) aren’t taking up space on a coffee table, he came up with The Elmers — an award for those spreading disinformation and misinformation about FOSS. However, this newby GNU/Linux evangelist had the unmitigated audacity, in the eyes of one LXer.com forum denizen, to “imply” that .Net won’t run on GNU/Linux. In his defense, he would like to take that back, but ask “why anyone would . . .?,” hoping that answer is forthcoming.

[However, how ethical would it be to win an award that I proposed? Not very, so I cannot accept dinotrac's nomination, but not without thanks and a tip of the hat to the one making this nomination.]

Further nominations will still be accepted . . .

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

Get Linux Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Greens Dead buttonWordpress button Xfce button

Eliminate DRM!

The envelope, please . . .

July 24, 2007 16 comments

The overtime that some computer publications and industry pundits have been clocking to propagate FUD around GNU/Linux has grown geometrically over the last several weeks.

While this disinformation deserves our eternal vigilance, our constant attention and our continuing “correction,” its purveyors also deserve recognition — outing, if you will — with a dubious award of their own.

With this in mind, below are the initial nominees for The Elmers, named after the patriarch of the FUD family. [Yes, I know Warner Bros. spelled it with two d's, but for the sake of argument . . . ]

The nominees for the 2007 Elmers are:

Steve Ballmer: As the Joe McCarthy of our time, Darth Ballmer tries to force everyone to think and act alike in the digital realm, in the image and likeness of the Microsoft way. Arguably, calling Ballmer a digital Taliban is not too far afield. CNN.com nailed it when it posted an article that said that the current battle between the forces of FOSS good and dark side of monopoly evil “pits Microsoft and its dogged CEO, Steve Ballmer, against the ‘free world’ – people who believe software is pure knowledge.” [And for some shameless self promotion, we have some shirts that are guaranteed to be the toast of LinuxWorld next month: "Sue me first, Steve" T-shirts.]

Brad Smith: If Steve Ballmer plays the architect of digital McCarthyism, then Brad Smith is his Roy Cohn. Just as McCarthy and Cohn supposedly had a list of 205 names of State Department employees “that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party” — a list that never materialized — Ballmer and Smith say that the GNU/Linux operating system violates 235 Microsoft patents — patents that are never named. Am I the only one that sees a pattern here?

Kevin Carmony: The Lindows — sorry, Linspire — CEO has been giving the GNU/Linux blogging world a lot of fodder with his revisionist zeitgeist: Sell out your distro for 30 pieces of silver just to get four items — True Type Fonts, Windows Media Player, DVD Playback and patent (ahem) “coverage” — and then have the audacity to think that people would actually believe you when you say that Microsoft’s assistance could make a better distro. Right, Kevin, and look at that flock of pigs settling on those branches. If Orwell were alive today writing “2084,” he might include “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Microsoft improves GNU/Linux.”

Alexander Wolfe: Poor Alexander Wolfe — a “Chips, Vista and Advanced Techology” blogger (whatever that means) for Information Week. Wolfe bemoans the fact that he, and everyone else, are enslaved by the freedom to choose what to run on your computer, from more than 300 active distros in the GNU/Linux galaxy. This guy probably avoids Baskin-Robbins because — jeez! — 31 whole flavors of ice cream to choose from? Way too many. And then he drags out the tired “distro-as-religion” argument that went out with Y2K. [Wolfe thinks having over 300 distros from which to pick and choose is a "forking mess," but maybe Wolfe is just a "forking wanker."]

Savio Rodrigues: Info World’s Savio Rodrigues throws up (and I do mean “throw up”) the “what if” of Microsoft buying Red Hat. “Just imagine a Microsoft that could offer customers a choice of Windows/.NET, Linux/JEE or, and here’s the magic, BOTH, The fact is most customers have heterogeneous environments, and those that don’t today, will likely in the future.” Now, let’s break that down for a second: Why would Red Hat want to lower itself to join Microsoft when it is already a player in the corporate IT world? How about a Red Hat that offers Windows/.NET instead of the other way around (although “why would they want to?” is a bigger question)? How stoned is Savio, and who’s his dealer? As a caveat, he says in a postscript: “PS: I truly doubt this deal will ever happen, but it’s interesting to think about the possibilities.” Yeah, and it’s interesting to think about the possibilities of my winning the Olympic gold medal in the 100 right before bearing triplets at the finish line; a possibility that’s still not quite as ridiculous as the one Rodrigues raises.

No doubt there are others out there who deserve a nomination. Feel free to add to the list.

[Additional nominations can be found here.]

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

Get Linux Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Greens

Eliminate DRM!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers