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Analyzing Palladium 481

apeir0 writes "The Register has a story which proposes an ulterior motive to Microsoft's new Palladium: a GPL-killer. 'It's the very fact that this appears insoluble to me that helps me realize that MS has put tremendous, careful thought into it. To make the commons Linux-hostile, MS is taking dramatic steps to make it GPL-hostile. Very clever and admirably diabolical.' Is this a valid point or just paranoia?" Ross Anderson has been writing about this recently; we covered his paper a few days ago, and he's now got a Palladium FAQ up. Another submitter sent in this interview with the Microsoft manager in charge of Palladium. The Washington Post has a column. Update: 06/27 22:43 GMT by T : Bob Cringely also has a column on Palladium up, in which he says that several of his fears have been realized by it.
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Analyzing Palladium

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  • by ObitMan ( 550793 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:23AM (#3778007) Journal
    Ok so they do this, Does this "fritz" thingy get installed on all motherboards or just Dells, Hpaq's, Ibm's...
    It seems to me that if the hardware isn't forced we end up with 2 distinct branches of the computing world. those that will still bow to the MS gods and those who do what the hell they want.
    Basically nothing changes???
  • by PMuse ( 320639 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:28AM (#3778028)
    Call me crazy, but I think M$ just said that opening (some of) its source was the way to achieve trust.

    Juarez: ... As a side note, we will publish the source code on that Trusted Operating Root. We will make sure that people have the opportunity to really go deep on that and kick the tires and know that what we're doing in there is what we say we are doing.
  • No big shocker here. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NetRanger ( 5584 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:28AM (#3778031) Homepage
    I can see this kind of technology being abused to the 1,000th degree. Imagine software that would automatically use your previous usage data to force you to buy individual features that you use the most, the next time your annual subscription fee comes around? Or deleting all your home movies because they didn't carry a copyright tag, and thus could be illegal? Or finding the cops at your door because little Timmy downloaded his favorite song on MP3 or Ogg?

    It seems that we, the mass public, are expected to give up the idea than when we buy something, it's ours. Now that even seems to include our hardware, not just our software.
  • by AgTiger ( 458268 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:29AM (#3778041) Homepage
    From the article:

    > For example, some mobile phone vendors use challenge-response
    > authentication to check that the phone battery is a genuine part
    > rather than a clone - in which case, the phone will refuse to recharge
    > it, and may even drain it as quickly as possible. Some
    > printers authenticate their toner cartridges electronically;
    > if you use a cheap substitute, the printer silently downgrades
    > from 1200 dpi to 300 dpi.

    I wonder if there's a list of printers and/or phones that perform in such a manner. I'm not sure if the law would deem such behavior as "anti-competitive", but I as a customer certainly find it so, as well as offensive.

  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:32AM (#3778057) Homepage Journal
    I can add at least one more reason this darn Palladium thingie won't work (for the previous reasons I mentioned, see the previous discussion on Palladium):

    • Economics & the rule of profit.

    Think about it for a second: a lot of people, though not the [MP|RI]AA, are going to be royally pissed off about this.

    Therefore, they will be tempted to do something about it. So, we'll see one of these solutions:

    • Clever hacks, designed to completely fool the Palladium/DRM solution into thinking some software/hardware combination is legit and acceptable. This is highly possible, given the fact that no secuity is foolproof, and the abysmal track record of Microsoftin security and stability.
    • The appearance of "GNU Hardware": open designs, based on a strict "No Palladium" clause, along with an explosion of small, customized hardware shop based on these designs. For instance: small computers, based on accepted -- and fairly open -- industry standards such as IDE, PCI, USB and ARM processors.
    • The fact that somebody, somewhere is bound to remark that this whole Palladium thingie hurt sales, profits and image. When enough PC builders realize their mistakes, they'll backtrack faster than you can say "GNU/Linux kernel" back to non-DRM, non-Palladium (non-MS?) machines.
    • All of the above!!

    Finally, I think the US .gov could go along with this hare-brained scheme, but do you think the EU will? And what about most third-world countries who, even as we speak, are flocking to open-source solutions in droves?

    Again: I believe M$ is just testing the waters here. It's probably either a marketing test balloon or vaporware, designed to please the US government in these post-9/11 times.

    Remember: Palladium can only work if every company joins the conspiracy. Some, maybe even a lot, won't.

    YMMV, IANAL, Standard::Disclaimer and so on and so forth.
  • by Organic_Info ( 208739 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:38AM (#3778092)
    Will hardware DRM functionality go the way that the Pentium 3 CPU ID fiasco did. There was a lot of attention about the invasion of privacy and in the end it never got used. Will hardware DRM go the same way. Present but not used.

    Lets face it for the H/W manufacturers to implement this it's going to cost them money. How will MS get everyone to co-operate? Lets face it Big businesses don't play nicely together very often - why this time. What will be their incentive.

    If this is an MS ploy to rein in the renegade Linux lovers its very subtle and very clever - it definately needs to be watched. MS is very good at thinking about the long run when it comes to competition.

    Then again it could be bollocks and we're all wasting our time :)
  • by proj_2501 ( 78149 ) <> on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:38AM (#3778094) Journal
    In this case, I would hope that XESS [] makes a PCI version of their nice little FPGA boards in which to put this GNU hardware [].
  • Invisible hand (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dilbert_ ( 17488 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:42AM (#3778118) Homepage
    I think the market is silently going to take care of this. Would you rather buy an intentionally crippled product, or an 'open' competing product? Yeah, they might make those illegal in the US, but the rest of the world won't follow, so there will always be a steady supply of 'open' hardware (which will probably be cheaper, too). After which the American industry will scream bloody murder because of the unfair competitive advantage of foreign corporations using all this open stuff. Then they will buy some senators to overturn this initiative, and all wil be well...

    Or so I hope.
  • Re:Ignore them. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by warpSpeed ( 67927 ) <> on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:43AM (#3778121) Homepage Journal

    However I can't ignore this. It does worry me since most of my clients only know MS. It is very difficult to get your avarage joe user to break the MS habit, and some clients believe the FUD being spewed/parroted by media.

    We can't ignore it, MS have a monopoly and they are going to leverage to its fullest extent until it is (if ever) taken away.

    I cheer on your use of linux, but we are a minority, a well informed minority, but a minority non the less.
  • The Cartel Problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xtal ( 49134 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:43AM (#3778124)

    Remember: Palladium can only work if every company joins the conspiracy. Some, maybe even a lot, won't.

    This, IMHO, is why it won't succeed for the same reason cartels designed to artificially restrict supply sooner or later all fall appart. Initially, people might go for it. When an economic disadvantage is passed on to consumers - designing this, after all, isn't free, and developers who can't or won't pay the fees required to have their code "Certified" will be unable to develop for that market - and consumers of Palladium PC's will be unable to use their wares.

    This will result in a incentive for a manufacturer of CPUs or motherboards to produce a non-Palladium product. People will move to those platforms for a variety of reasons, producing an incentive to produce non-palladium products, springing up a non-MS taxed industry. It probably would motivate a lot of busy people like me to start working on GPL products to fight against the mark of the beast. Sooner or later though, a hardware manufacturer will spring up to produce hardware to meet the demand. That's inevitable.

    This, frankly, sickens me to think about. I'll become physically ill if Apple announces they're going to soil their OS X and Powerbooks with this platform.

  • by justsomebody ( 525308 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:46AM (#3778133) Journal
    Yes, and as it seems based on the article, Intel is making another mistake (AMD is in MS posession (or influence) already so AMD is forced).

    Let's say, in my case Intel will lost 200-300 (all what's possible Intel) PCs yearly. but then again I'm only one. I will just move my bussines to first quality non-DRM platform (and if that's Apple than Apple it will be (god I'm proud I wanted my bussines as platform independant as possible)).

    But to state my case more clearly, if there is 1000 resellers as I am, it will be a significant market loss. Anyone remember CPU number?
  • Call me paranoid... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Elledan ( 582730 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @08:53AM (#3778181) Homepage
    It almost seems like the big companies are doing everything they can to make Orwell's book "[i]Nineteen Eigthy-Four[/i]" come true. They want to total control over what everyone does with their copy of some software, music or a movie. It'll be only a matter of time before some big company proposes tracking every single individual in a country. Hang on, I seem to recall this already having been proposed in a similar form...

    So, what are we going to decide? Will we allow the big companies (the 'Party') to take away all of our freedoms one by one? Today fair-use, tomorrow anonymity?

    It sounds to me like this would be the ideal time to use the united force of all people around the world who value their freedom to fight the sickening proposals being made by those who stand above the possible effects of their ideas.

    Certainly, this technology might be useful in certain situations, but it should never be used to limit the freedom of the individual.
    Are we willing to sacrifice our freedom for the sake of the profits of the 'entertainment' industry? It would hardly surprise me if after a successful introduction of TCPA, the number of sold CDs/movies and the profits made on movies in theatres would rapidly decrease, instead of rise, like they did before the introduction of TCPA (profits made by the entertainment industry has continued to rise in the past few years, despite the doubling of the number of sold illegal CDs and the exponentially growth of P2P software over 2001).

    I propose that we, the people, make our final stand here and let utter defeat be the fate of our opponent(s).
  • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:00AM (#3778216) Homepage Journal
    If I thought this was a good idea and I worked as head of this project, I would compensate for the points your making. This plan is so large that they must have thought this through. I would get the manufacturing companies on my side, get the hardware and write the software, but only activate a small portion, probably just multimedia DRM. That could be used as the initial focus. If this were pulled off well and accepted, then I'd start to turn on everything else, like only running "authorized code" and such.

    So if they want to get this adopted and in use - below the radar if possible - they have to do it very slowly. Get the stuff out there and then launch BigBrother.exe (or actually, bigbro~1.exe).
  • The obvious hole (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Shillo ( 64681 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:01AM (#3778228)
    The entire system, even with Fritz in the CPU, absolutely depends on the single private key: The one required by Fritz to boot the machine. And there is another key, the one used to sign the trusted software.

    Frankly, I think it HIGHLY unlikely that one of these keys won't be uncovered, either by an insider or by a large distributted cracking project. And once a key is out, ALL THE MACHINES CAN USE IT TO BYPASS PALLADIUM.

    Nuff said.

  • by Tripman ( 88428 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {cinampirt}> on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:06AM (#3778248)
    It will go the same way as DVD players.

    All the manufacturers will be nodding their heads at MS while producing security free boards in the background. The market always follows what people want, and many consumers won't want to be tracked and stamped by MS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:08AM (#3778260)
    Hm, I wonder if you just could program a VM and get that certified. Then you could run any software on that VM >:)

    SUN to the rescue ;D
  • by tony_gardner ( 533494 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:10AM (#3778272) Homepage
    It's like the security scheme for credit cards though. If one person compromises Palladium on your computer, you need to change all your identifiers. Otherwise you have the problem of identifying falsely authourised code amongst the legitimately authorised code already there. Then you're exactly back to where we are now, running virus scanners and firewalls, except the user has forked out money for a security scheme which doesn't work.
  • by rhost89 ( 522547 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:23AM (#3778360)

    I would think that an identification code embedded in hardware is going to be cracked, and in short order.

    Hardware is enormusly dificult to crack, look at the ASIC on DBS cards for example, reverse engineering software is one thing, anyone with a afternoon and a hex editor can do that. Getting a electron microscope out and figuring out how the circuits work on a eeprom substrate is an entirely different matter.

    What happens to Charlie consumer when he finds that his version of Word no longer works because some cracker has a hold of his unique identifier?

    How about this, what happens to Charlie consumer when he wants to upgrade his system and move all of his software from one to another, you guessed it, he cant, its tied to the first machine for good, fork up another say $2000+ dollers to upgrade all of your software.

    Just let MS run with the ball

    Isnt that what got us into this mess in the first place?

    In addition, I think it would die in Anitrust. Just wait until those computers start being returned, because they won't play nice with my operating system of choice, and watch Intel turn on a dime.

    Isnt that how it should be? Vote with your $$$ just dont buy one and it will die a horible horible death, more importantly inform as many people as you can about it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:29AM (#3778413)
    In May, IBM launched the T-30 version of the Thinkpad which can be bought with a TCPA-compliant security subsystem.

    The T30 security chip looks like a big mystery to everyone. I've been to a presentation of the new TP and no one could tell what the security chip does, or what it is there for.
    We've been told that it might be used for storing passwords instead of storing them on the HD, and it can do more than that, but it is still unclear, so if a customer asks you about it, there's not much you can tell.

    After reading the FAQ, I'll make sure I know where I can find the setting to disable it, as it seems it's all I want to know about using the chipset right now!

  • by GroovBird ( 209391 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:39AM (#3778484) Homepage Journal
    This is true.

    I have an Olympus C2000Z with a panorama feature, which can only be accessed if I insert a Smartmedia card from Olympus with this feature enabled.

    I recently purchased a new smartmedia card of 128MB from a white brand, and the feature is unavailable with this card. It *may* have to do with vendor lock-in, but it may also be that those Smartmedia cards have a special (read: more expensive) feature of providing more temporary storage or something.
  • by FlynnMP3 ( 33498 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:41AM (#3778506)
    All kinds of various manufacturers are being more and more hostile to 3rd party products. No longer are consumer goods made for the good of the consumer. Mega advertising and money grubbing companies scramble for larger and larger slices of the economic pie. While at the same time those companies try and lock down their respective business models. It's a viscious cycle. It's capatalism run amuck.

    My thought is one of these companies will over step the bounds and get sued. Oh wait..Microsoft already did and they are buying their freedom. God I feel good about America right now.
  • Re:Ignore them. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:45AM (#3778522)
    However I can't ignore this. It does worry me since most of my clients only know MS. It is very difficult to get your avarage joe user to break the MS habit, and some clients believe the FUD being spewed/parroted by media.

    The parent post to which you replied should never have been marked Troll, and I will enjoy ripping the moderator responsible a new one on meta.

    That having been said, I disagree with his suggestion that ignoring this problem is the answer, but not for the reasons you say (or at least, not entirely for those reasons). This must be fought tooth and nail, as we are being attacked from two sides:

    1) Microsoft, trying to leverage their monopoly to impose further, very detrimental, restrictions on the freedom of customers to deploy the correct technologies for their solutions under the guise of DRM.

    2) The entertainment industry, that is trying to legislate the very same restrictive technologies and require them in all digital hardware.

    We would be absolute fools to ignore this.

    Having said that, fewer and fewer people care about Microsoft's proprietary protocols. Even offices that deploy Microsoft on the desktop are, in my experience, deploying open protocols in place of Microsoft's wherever possible to avoid the sort of nonsensical moving target and deliberate breakage MS service packs often result in.

    The result, interstingly enough, has been a quiet movement on the part of several businesses away from Microsoft not just on the server side, but also on the desktop ... and in every case, it has been a very successful move.

    This is why Microsoft is scared, this is why Microsoft is trying to impliment coercive technologies that will remove the last vestiges of customer choice, and this is why their unholy alliance with Hollywood will likely succeed in creating a Revelations-esque dystopia if we sit on our hind ends and do nothing to prevent it.

    Unfortunately we as Americans are so thoroughly conditioned to not become actavists about any cause, no matter how much we care about it, that it is very possible we will do nothing about it in time.

    BTW - As another person who works at a company that has completely depircated Microsoft products and deployed GNU/Linux widely throughout our enterprise I can echo the original poster's comments (that were so unjustly marked as a Troll): Life as a non-Microsoft shop is damn good.
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:23AM (#3778861) Homepage
    • # Clever hacks, designed to completely fool the Palladium/DRM solution into thinking some software/hardware combination is legit and acceptable. This is highly possible,

    Palladium is based on the patented Xbox method. The hack for that requires an expensive mod chip, a soldering iron, and a willingness to break your warranty and (arguably) the law in the form of the DMCA. That's pretty darn good security in practical terms, and it'll be better by 2006. This isn't some afterthought dongle, this is Palladium hardware that will only talk to the Palladium OS, and vice versa.

    • # The appearance of "GNU Hardware": open designs, based on a strict "No Palladium" clause, along with an explosion of small, customized hardware shop based on these designs

    Bzzzt, wrong. Not enough market, and this won't open a niche, because Intel and AMD will sell expensive "server" versions that will run non-Palladium OS's (then expect to see sales licensed to "crack down on piracy"). But surely (I suspect you'll say) people will realise that it's better to support a cheaper and technically superior solution over a bloated expensive incumbent. Uh, right. Nobody every got sacked for buying IBM, goes the adage. Remind me, how is Transmeta doing these days? Still burning up the venture capital, right? OK, we can go to PPC, but that sinks one of the great strengths of Linux/BSD, that you can install it side by side with Redmond on your Intel/AMD system and see if you like it.

    • I think the US .gov could go along with this hare-brained scheme, but do you think the EU will?

    Er, yes. Or rather, I think that EU politicians will let it in, and then the EU courts will have to deal with it after the fact. You know, the way it always works. Third word? What's the interest in the third world? It's to increase the potential market. OK, but companies know that it's more expensive to recruit than to retain. It's way more efficient to lock in your high value customers than to spend money to try and persuade low value customers to join in. And once you're infected by Palladium, they've got you. You're never getting out. They don't have to win everywhere at once with this, they just need to start the ball rolling.

    • Remember: Palladium can only work if every company joins the conspiracy. Some, maybe even a lot, won't.

    Spurious assertion. First off, by 2006 Microsoft plan to have everyone - corporate and residential - on software-as-a-service plans, with automatic updates. And they'll simply stop offering anything other than Palladium. Then look at it from the point of view of risks and penalties. What's the cost of not signing up? It's guaranteed exclusion from the Palladium network. Initially, that means Microsoft, which means (depending how they want to play it) patches, fixes, MSN, MSDN, Microsoft Messenger, Hotmail, Passport, you name it. Then if just one of your big customers or partners switches, you have to switch, or lose them. I agree that it'll be hard for Microsoft to get the ball rolling on this, but when it starts, my god will it pick up momentum.

    Maybe I'm being Chicken Little. Maybe you're being Pollyana. But the costs of me being right are a heck of a lot higher than the cost of you being right. I say we scream about this, and we scream about it now, before it has a chance to gather momentum.

  • by Yankovic ( 97540 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:40AM (#3779453)
    I realize this is slashdot, but does anyone even READ the articles?
    It can do all kinds of interesting things. But there's nothing in the system that says, for example, that if you run something in one of these vaults that you've got to have the code signed, or you have to have things authenticated. It's a very basic, open environment and we're not trying to build any elements of it that are going to require verification or the participation of anything other than the ISV and the person who is using the services want to have happen.
    Allow me to repeat for emphasis. "... there's nothing in the system that says, for example, that if you run something in one of these vaults that you've got to have the code signed..." You want to run GPLed software? Fine. You want to run your unsecured mp3s? Fine. This seems like only upside to me, so that IF I want to buy a secured mp3 or write a document that can only be read by one person on this computer I can do that. Plus they're publishing the source so if I don't trust them, I can view it myself! SHEEESH.
  • Outsourcing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Paul the Bold ( 264588 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:41AM (#3779472)
    Pay attention to the hardware world. There is a move away from the centralized chipmaker (design, test, fabricate in one facility). It is more common to outsource pieces of the design/fabrication process. It's not cheap to have a custom chip fabricated, but it's a lot cheaper than building your own fab. (Yes, there are benefits to having your own fab, but it's a huge risk in your first few years.)

    Second of all, Intel and AMD are the only games in the x86 desktop/server town. There is an Apple town, there are towns where Motorola is mayor, and Transmeta has moved in on a few. Don't forget to count the mobile processors. Your list is short by at least half, and I am sure Slashdotters could come up with more.
  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:55AM (#3779578) Homepage
    The sourse they publish will be useless.

    First of all, what they publish will be the interface to the hardware. The important stuff will still be hidden down in the hardware, or up in the application.

    Secondly the code will only work if it is signed my Microsoft. If you change a single bit the hardware will flag it as "untrusted" and lobotimize itself, as the MS-DRM-OS patent puts it, it will "renounce the trusted identity". Altered code will not work.

    MPAA/RIAA will jump onboard and start offering locked content. Sales of the system will be diven by movies/audio only useable on "Palladium enabled" computers.

    The system will be cracked, but it will require a student in a college lab scanning the data off of the hardware, or maybe someone in his garage hacking a new circuit into the motherboard. It will be the biggest hack-target in history. It wont last long.

  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @12:01PM (#3779628) Homepage Journal
    Sorry, I have to disagree here: RISC chips could be the perfect answer to that problem.

    One of the most successful chipmaker of all time is ARM. The first version of the ARM chip (a 16-bit RISC chip) was created by just two people, with no money, no help and no support from the main company (Acorn, at the time). If I remember well, these two people did not even have a lot of experience in chip design.

    The great-grandchildren of this chip can now be found in millions of devices all over the world. iPaq, Nokia, HP, you name it: they all use it (even Palm, in its latest models).

    Even when ARM1 came out, it was touted as more powerful than anything Intel had to offer at the time. It was also easier and cheaper to produce and consumed less power than all other CPU models.

    And there are ARM clones out there, including one on Open []. Not that I think that desiging an ARM clone is necessarily good, just that that designing a cheap RISC CPU can be done.

    So, designing a complete "GNU Hardware" system is possible, and it could even be a way of ditching the mess which is the PC architecture.

    Think about it:
    • No Palladium, no DRM, no Micro$oft. Ever.
    • A new, open architecture, open CPU core, based on open standards and free for everyone to take, copy and reproduce.
    • Your choice of operating system: Linux, NetBSD, OpenBSD, you name it. Plus, a huge amount of quality software that will stay free for ever, thanks to the GPL.
    • Can't produce it in the US? Ask European firms! No luck? Try Taiwan, or China, or Korea or whatever.

    Let's face it: some people (including me) would pay good money for a "no-Palladium" system. Especialy if I have no choice!

    Operating Systems such as Linux are a commodity -- but a commodity that break M$ monopoly. I think it's time for the hardware itself to become a "free speech" comodity as well. And Palladium could push the Open Source community to do just that...
  • Re:Ignore them. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JWW ( 79176 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @12:09PM (#3779682)
    The funny part about this is that if Hollywood and Microsoft get what they want, they will be the ones whining in a couple of years that they aren't making enough money.

    This is a disabling technology and DRM management laws would be disabling laws. Take a look at prohibition to see what would happen. Most people will begin using computers illegally, black market devices and software will be developed, economic calamaty will eventually ensue due to the brakes being put on free commerce in many arenas, including Hollywood and Microsoft.

    It will be one hell of an ecnonmic downturn. I alos predict that all the financial pundits will not key on DRM laws being the cause, but they will be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2002 @12:55PM (#3780021)

    We've seen this before (with a slight new wrinkle.)

    Keys not withstanding, this is a hardware crypto system decrypting ciphertext into plaintext, and forwarding the plaintext to file descriptors.

    Wrote a paper on this, short synopsis is;
    1- Only way to secure the hardware is to keep it out of the hands of people who could modify it.
    2- Without secure hardware, software can not be secured (ciphertext is available before decryption, plaintext is available after decryption)

    In short, stop looking at the FUD, and focus on the flaws in the design. This is not a very good system.

    Know any 14 year old crackers?
  • The infamous Halloween Documents [] (granted, they're from 1998, but the MO hasn't changed a bit - it's just being approached from a different angle) out-and-out prove that MS perceives Linux as a threat - MS honestly sees Linux as a true threat to its stranglehold on market share, and with shifts in corporate IT departments to Linux and other UNIX-based systems in favour of XP or 2k-based systems, MS clearly thinks that Linux is an obstacle to be steamrolled in the process of gaining back lost market share.

    With the Macintosh crowd turning firmly toward UNIX-based systems with the release of MacOS X, it's all the more clear that UNIX is beginning to win back all the space it lost through the 90s.

    What's more, the application suites in Linux are quickly beginning to rival those developed by MS for its own OS - I've tried OpenOffice 1, and it's just as good as its Microsoft-produced counterpart.

    There's just one more hurdle to clear - getting independent software developers to see things the same way. Games make the system, and this is one area where Linux is lacking. Smash-hit store-bought games is one major reason why Windows took off. Linux still doesn't have the wealth of games that Windows has, unfortunately.

    Here's my suggestion. Make inroads into the home market - get the average Joe User to see how well Linux performs - and word will spread like wildfire. As long as the only people who proselytise Linux are IT directors, it won't achieve the one thing we all want - the downfall of the Big Redmond Machine.

    Linux has made considerable gains in recent years - and this is largely attributable to its consistently top-notch development system and the initiative to develop applications that compete head-on with similar Windows products. But it's not over yet.

    As the columnist said, Tuxers, it's time for the gloves to come off.
  • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @05:56PM (#3782334)

    I remember working with GPL'd stuff back in 1989, a few years before the name Linux had even first been mentioned... why didn't [Microsoft] see it as a threat then?


    It wasn't until Linux actually entered the fray of being a serious operating system that MS sat up and took notice. Yep. I think it's more about Linux than the GPL -- the GPL just happens to stand in their way of being able to control Linux, so they attack it that way.

    Its kind of like noting that the Internet was in (somewhat) widespread use well before 1996, so why didn't Microsoft pay attention if this Internet thing is such a big deal. It wasn't until the graphical web browser showed up that Microsoft paid attention. Therefore, its not the Internet - its the Web.

    In some people's minds the two ARE the same thing. And while they really are seperate entities, one depends greatly on the other for its success. And once the Internet with its more user-friendly flashy graphical Web front-end hit the scene... businesses, even those who had spent years running competing technology / practices, were forced to adopt it.

    Linux and the GPL share many of the same traits. To the uninformed, the GPL and Linux are the same thing (if both aren't simply labled 'freeware'). The GPL license and GNU project layed the foundation for Linux. Linux drove the popularity of the GPL. At first GPL/Linux went unnoticed by the IT industry. And then it sprung forward, caught momentum, and is now an issue most IT Industry players must tackle - including Microsoft.

    The GPL and Linux provide a whole range of threats to Microsoft. Competing software. Competing standards. Demand for open standards. Loss of control over implementation of those standards. Loss of control over publically available code, to include technology and code developed at Universities and through the US Government. Competative advantages to competing businesses able to adopt a business model that can make use of this code base. It doesn't matter if its specifically Linux or the GPL - its all full of nasty potential for Microsoft.

    Microsoft's strategy is pretty simple. Linux presents a unique threat - it can't be bought, out-marketed, or simply smothered. Linux is grassroots and now a part of a wide number of corporate strategies. Its an IT industry hydra and the time-tested strategy of lopping off a head won't work. So Microsoft has decided to go for the heart; the GPL. Which would be a nice and neat thing to do - poison the GPL and ALL the issues of Linux and the GPL begin to fade.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"