And what business is of theirs what software I'm running and how often I'm using it?
It is their business when their business depends on it. The common complaints users have with Windows have led them there. The large amount of hardware, software variations coupled with the different user types makes it difficult to have something universal that just works 100% of the time.
My only beef with them is that they won't tell us what they collect and what are the triggers. I'm all for letting them grab data on my usage and the condition of my system. After all, it's in my best interest to help them improve the OS.
MS in has recently shown interest in listening to the community and it's important we keep prying them for that information so that we can eventually feel at ease about what's happening.
If you don't like it then disable the services that use those ports. I'm sure these ZDNET writer is on a domain so that 100% explains the port 135 requests. The others are probably applications that are installed. Turn them off.