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Windows Blue Blues, Symantec’s Kernel Confusion & More…

Friday FOSS Week in Review

Looking at life through the prism of the NSA

We thought last week was the week for leaked government secrets on government spying. Nope. Last week was just the tip of the iceberg coming over the horizon, with the helmsman going into full reverse attempting to avoid a collision. This week the slow motion ship of state made contact with the iceberg. Damage assessment is being done now as we write these words.

We would be appalled. We would be frightened. Trouble is, this is an old movie, a midnight double feature picture show. We know how it ends. It doesn’t. It’s like the Eveready bunny. It just keeps going and going and going…

Actually, this is a lot of fun for us. We’re constantly aware of how close we are to loosing everything to the power brokers who could not care less about us or our rights. Although we’re not expecting this latest round of leaks to do any good, we like seeing the black suited men carrying attaché cases squirm, even if only for a little while.

However, we are appalled over a few things. Not surprised. Just appalled.

First there’s Obama who thinks it’s just fine that our every move is now being collected in bits and bytes and stored forever in case needed. If we can paraphrase, he said we can’t have both our constitutional rights and safety from “the terrorists.” We would comment on this, but the boss just reminded us this isn’t a political site. Besides, we’re up against deadline.

As freedom loving sorts, we’re also surprised that a whole slew of Capitol Hill types who’re supposed to be on our side are now siding with Franco…er, Duvalier…er, the spooks at the NSA.

It also appears that while our government is 100% against racial profiling when it’s Barney and Andy doing their job in Mayberry, those practices are perfectly okay when being practiced by the No Such Agency folks. At least, that’s how it seemed to us when we read this item Joseph Menn and Jonathan Weber penned for Reuters:

“One former high-ranking NSA official told Reuters that such broad assembly of records was essential to investigations.

“If ‘a known terrorist in Yemen calls someone in the U.S., why did he call them and what happened when the person in U.S. starts making calls elsewhere in the U.S.?’ he asked. ‘On the surface it looks like the emergence of a terrorism cell.’

“Data-mining programs map such connections and provide grounds for further inquiry, potentially including the contents of calls, according to former operatives and Justice Department officials.”

If this former high-ranking NSA official had said, “If a known terrorist calls someone in the U.S.,” we would have no trouble accepting his statement at face value. However, by using “Yemen” as a qualifier, we begin to suspect that anyone from Yemen who’s not known to our “intelligence” guys qualifies as a known terrorist. Of course, we could be wrong.

Windows 8 getting less respect than Vista

It appears as if the folks in Redmond are being given the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons these days. For one thing, they’re learning that while owning 90 plus percent of the PC market is well and good, indeed it’s made them the big bad wolf that we all know and loathe, it also means the PC is theirs to lose.

No surprise this week when there were more “dire” warnings on the future of both the PC and of Windows. This time the warnings were coming from Citi Research, the research arm of the giant Citigroup. According to CNET, Citi is rather bearish on the prospects of the PC:

“‘The Citi global technology team is revising down its 2013 PC growth estimate to -10% y/y (from -4%) based on further sub-seasonal demand’ in the first quarter and slowing notebook production.

“In a section titled ‘Y/Y Growth in 2H? Don’t Think So,’ Citi says that despite investor optimism on a resumption of year-to-year growth in the second half of 2013, ‘we do not expect [PC] units to grow’ due to a ‘softening in PC end-demand’ and ‘muted benefit from Haswell and Windows Blue [Windows 8.1].’

“In short, no uplift from Windows 8.1 or Haswell — Intel’s newest processor.”

Alarmism aside, here’s what’s really happening. If the PC biz was the Dow Jones, bankers would be telling you that what we’re seeing is only a correction being brought about by new players on the block. The PC isn’t dying, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. However, those friends of yours who need a computer to stay connected but hate them? They’ve probably owned their last desktop or laptop. From here on out, it’s only a tablet or really cool smartphone for them. That would mean the PC market’s going to get a wee bit smaller, no?

This shrinkage of the PC market was going to be a problem for Microsoft anyway, but the Redmond folks haven’t helped themselves with Windows 8. It seems the latest version of Widows has managed to do the impossible–get less traction than Vista. What’s really bad for the Redmond people here is that while people vocally despised Vista, they don’t seem to even be inspired to go that far with Windows 8.

Now Citi seems to be getting in line with other prognosticators to say that the upcoming Windows 8 remix, 8.1, is going to inspire yet another case of consumer ho-hum.

Citi, along with most of the other mainstream researchers, seem to be missing a big indicator of where things are going, however. While it’s true that Microsoft isn’t coming up with anything to inspire consumers to pick-up a new computer or laptop, Google is. The Chromebook is selling, and seems to be selling well.

Symantec or The Inquirer one needs to get their facts straight

Yesterday we found a news item posted on The Inquirer about a Linux kernel exploit that’s been ported to Android:

“The Linux kernel CVE-2013-2094 vulnerability was first published on 14 May and affected a number of Linux distributions that used the Linux 2.6.x kernel, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, Debian 6 and Suse Enterprise Linux 11. While Red Hat, Canonical and other distributions have long since issued patches, Symantec claimed that the exploit has been ported to Android.”

As this is a newsworthy story of importance, we put-up a link in the news feed we publish on our Facebook page and Tweeter feed.

Not long after we posted it, one of our Facebook followers with a sharp eye placed a comment:

“Since when did Ubuntu 12.04 LTS use kernel 2.6? It had Kernel 3.2 if i’m not mistaken”

It turns out our reader is right. Either The Inquirer or Symantec needs to employ more fact checkers. Meanwhile, we’ve got the most on top of it readers on the Internet.


Well, that does it for this week. Until next Friday, may the FOSS be with you…


  1. salparadise salparadise June 17, 2013

    It seems to be happening more and more often. People writing for newspapers and websites seem to just make stuff up, publish it and not care that they’ve done so. Either Editors no longer exist or are as ignorant as their writers. It’s left to the posting public to point errors out and offer corrections.

    When truth is treated with such contempt, trouble isn’t very far behind.

  2. Dudley Overbey Dudley Overbey June 17, 2013

    Well, unless you’ve been leaving under a rock for the last 40 to 50 years, the government has been collecting all types of data on all the people; just now the technology is there to let everyone know in a short period of time.
    On the “Windows 8” front; it seems to have been Microsoft’s way to “TELL” us what it is that we want and need and then give us what they want.

  3. riot riot June 17, 2013

    I would also like to point out Android has been using the 3.x series of Linux for a while. The Ice Cream Sandwitch Android tablet I purchaced at Christmas says it has Linux 3.0 and I’m sure that newer device have an even more recent verson of Linux. Especially those shipping with 4.1 So the idea that a Android has an exploit because it uses Linux 2.6 is just total FUD.

  4. John John June 18, 2013

    They have the kernel version wrong in certain platforms, but not the things impaced. Anything below kernel version 3.8.9 applies to CVE-2013-2094, which includes Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and Android 4.2.2.

  5. Christine Hall Christine Hall June 18, 2013

    So they’re right about the vulnerability being present in those systems, they’ve just got the kernel wrong. That’s still a big problem. A lot of people are going to look at that, see their OS with a different kernel and think, “Oh, they made a mistake, that doesn’t apply to me.”

  6. Gaius Maximus Gaius Maximus June 18, 2013

    Non-Linux users probably haven’t heard that the same UI battle (and it *is* all about the UI, not the OS) that has engulfed Microsoft is also raging in the Linux community. And it all comes down to over-zealous yet out-of-touch, even arrogant product designers entirely misjudging the market, which is something one almost expects from a Microsoft, but not from any corner of the Linux ecosystem.

    How did they misjudge? They seriously thought phablet UIs were what we’d want everywhere, entirely missing the point that form-factor is what makes those devices so popular, not their UIs. And you might think a reality-check would have raised questions like, do programmers do their work on a phone? Are books written on tablets? Are phone-users suffering because their laptops’ UIs are so different? You’d be wrong, but only because such reality-checks never even took place.

    To be fair, UI designers are not like, say, automotive designers. When an automaker has a hit product, they can never just leave it alone. The always feel the need to make it even better (again, without ever consulting fans). And they invariably lose customers in huge numbers. This was most recently seen in the restyle of the 2010 Ford Mustang, which cut its sales figures overnight to below that of the Chevy Camaro, itself no sales leader, for the first time ever in the decades-old marketing battle between the two. And, what is Ford’s response? Well, to ‘fix’ it, of course. They always do. But, ‘fixing’ it, for some reason, never entails undoing their poor styling choices. Rather, they try to gin-up the marketing machine to find an entirely new clientelle, then try to paste on a few glittery baubles to overwhelm buyer/user resistance, and finally make a few paltry, half-hearted, unwilling concessions to ‘traditional’ users, anything except admit that they goofed, and just go back to what they had before.

    Oh, wait, that’s exactly what Ubuntu, Gnome, and Microsoft are all doing. Never mind. I take it all back. UI designers are just as ego-laden as car designers.

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