Tag Archives: Microsoft

Google routinely hands your smart phone data to the police

Reason 4,326,987 to never use a Google smart phone: Google handed the police the GPS data for every single smart phone that was in the vicinity of a robbery, resulting in an innocent bike rider becoming the primary suspect in a burglary.

The [man’s] lawyer, Caleb Kenyon, dug around and learned that the notice had been prompted by a “geofence warrant,” a police surveillance tool that casts a virtual dragnet over crime scenes, sweeping up Google location data — drawn from users’ GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular connections — from everyone nearby.

The warrants, which have increased dramatically in the past two years, can help police find potential suspects when they have no leads. They also scoop up data from people who have nothing to do with the crime, often without their knowing ─ which Google itself has described as “a significant incursion on privacy.”

What happens is Google gives the data to the police, with no names attached. If the police see something they think worthwhile, they then ask for the identity of the person in question. Google then warns that person, giving them seven days to defend themselves before handing the police their name.

This type of search stinks to high heaven. If Google really considered this “a significant incursion on privacy” they wouldn’t cooperate with the police. Thus, they are lying if when they say that. Google likes prying into your private affairs, and using that data for its own benefit. In fact, based on Google’s track record, I’m surprised they didn’t demand a payment from this man to prevent the release of his name to the police.

Google, like Facebook and Microsoft, is a corrupt and dishonest company. No one should be doing business with them, and if you are, you should be finding ways to switch to the competition as quickly as possible. This is why I haven’t used Google or Bing to do any web searches in about a decade, using Startpage and DuckDuckGo instead. This is why I abandoned Microsoft Windows fourteen years ago, switching to Linux.

In fact, I think this story calls for a repost of the links to the series of articles reader James Stephens wrote for Behind the Black back in 2016 for getting and installing Linux. If you want to try out Linux, all you really need is a spare laptop or desktop, one or two years old, that you aren’t using any more, and to then follow James’ step-by-step instructions below. I’ve done it now three times. The two laptops I use were bought for $20 and $35 each. I wiped Windows 7 from both and installed my favorite flavor of Linux. And they work as well if not better than any Windows machine.

Find an old laptop you aren’t using any longer and put Linux on it. And stop using Google. It is pure poison.

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Microsoft inserts ads in Windows 10

Why I use Linux, part 5,234,657: Microsoft is now inserting advertisements for its software throughout its Windows 10 operating system.

Microsoft has taken the next step in pushing advertising on customers of its Windows 10 operating system, with users reporting an advertisement for Microsoft OneDrive now appearing in their File Explorer.

Windows 10 has been repeatedly reprimanded by technology journalists over the past year for the increasing amounts of advertising that are baked into the system. Advertisements in various forms have appeared in the Start menu, the lock screen, the taskbar, in the Windows Store, and various other areas. This seems to be the first time that users are noticing them in the File Explorer, the application that allows users to look through their documents and applications on their computer.

As I have been saying for years, dump Windows. It invades your privacy, provides you bad service while crashing at the worst possible moments. There are alternatives. I have been using Linux now for more than a decade, and it hasn’t held me back. Here again are the links to James Stephens’ series on Behind the Black for Getting and Installing Linux:

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Windows 10 breaks computers

Why I use Linux, part 3,332,468: A consumer organization is calling for Microsoft to compensate people for the hardware damage caused by upgrades to Windows 10.

Microsoft needs to pay compensation to customers who have suffered after upgrading to its latest operating system, consumer watchdog Which? has urged. Since the US technology firm pushed out the new software last year, it has been flooded with complaints. Customers who moved to Windows 10 experienced a slew of issues, including printers, webcams, wifi cards and speakers no longer working with their PC. Instances of lost files and email accounts no longer syncing, and, most significantly, computer encountering such significant issues customers had to pay someone to repair it were not uncommon, Which? has reported.

The consumer group surveyed views on the upgrade from over 5,500 members in June this year. Of the 2,500 users who had been upgraded to Windows 10 from an older version of Windows, more than one in ten ended up rolling back to their previous version of the operating system.

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More reasons why I don’t use Windows

A close look at Microsoft’s track record in rolling out Windows 10 suggests the company “blatently disregards user choice and privacy.”

After describing the numerous horror stories of how Microsoft forced Windows 10 updates on people against their will, there was this:

The trouble with Windows 10 doesn’t end with forcing users to download the operating system. Windows 10 sends an unprecedented amount of usage data back to Microsoft, particularly if users opt in to “personalize” the software using the OS assistant called Cortana. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of data sent back: location data, text input, voice input, touch input, webpages you visit, and telemetry data regarding your general usage of your computer, including which programs you run and for how long.

You do have to opt-in to Cortana, but even if you don’t, your privacy is still not secure:

And while users can disable some of these settings, it is not a guarantee that your computer will stop talking to Microsoft’s servers. A significant issue is the telemetry data the company receives. While Microsoft insists that it aggregates and anonymizes this data, it hasn’t explained just how it does so. Microsoft also won’t say how long this data is retained, instead providing only general timeframes. Worse yet, unless you’re an enterprise user, no matter what, you have to share at least some of this telemetry data with Microsoft and there’s no way to opt-out of it. [emphasis in original]

It is once again time for people to consider alternatives. Here again are the links to James Stephens’ series on Behind the Black for Getting and Installing Linux:

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France: Windows 10 collects “excessive personal data”

Why I use Linux, part 3,443,4021: The French government has accused Microsoft of gathering “excessive personal data” from Windows 10 users, while also not insuring good security.

They have ordered Microsoft to comply with French privacy laws within three months.

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Microsoft gives people another reason to dump Windows

Why I use Linux: In its effort to convince users of earlier versions of Windows to upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft is now inserting a full screen pop-up upgrade notification, often at decidedly unwanted moments.

The Redmond software giant confirmed today it will start showing dark blue screens urging people to install the latest version of Windows. The full-screen ads will pop up on Windows 7 and 8.1 desktops from now until July 30, when the free upgrade period ends.

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Why I use Linux, part 3,453,333

A woman has won $10,000 in damages from Microsoft for its attempt to upgrade her computers to Windows 10, without her permission.

I suppose one could argue that this is a reason to keep Windows, as you’d have a chance to win a jackpot from them in court. I prefer to be able to do the work I want to do, without harrassment.

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Why I won’t use Windows

A remote wildlife project in central Africa has been significantly hampered by the unwanted Windows 10 forced upgrades.

The Chinko Project manages roughly 17,600 square kilometres (6,795 square miles) of rainforest and savannah in the east of the CAR, near the border with South Sudan. Money is tight, and so is internet bandwidth. So the staff was more than a little displeased when one of the donated laptops the team uses began upgrading to Windows 10 automatically, pulling in gigabytes of data over a radio link.

And it’s not just bandwidth bills they have to worry about. “If a forced upgrade happened and crashed our PCs while in the middle of coordinating rangers under fire from armed militarized poachers, blood could literally be on Microsoft’s hands,” said one member of the team. “I just came here recently to act as their pilot but have IT skills as well. The guy who set these PCs up didn’t know how to prevent it, or set a metered connection. I am completely livid.”

As I’ve noted before, I have been using Linux for ten years. Though there have been some areas of annoyance (no software is perfect), I have not found myself limited in what I need to do, in any important matter. If you’ve got a spare older computer that you’re not using right now, install Linux on it and play with it. You will soon find that it does everything a Windows machine does, without the crap.

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Why I use Linux, part 2

Microsoft has changed its options so that Windows users will no longer be able to refuse an upgrade to Windows 10.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 nagware campaign has entered a new phase, with all options to evade or escape an upgrade finally blocked.

Recently, Microsoft’s policy had been to throw up a dialogue box asking you whether you wanted to install Windows 10. If you clicked the red “X” to close the box – the tried-and-tested way to make dialogue boxes vanish without agreeing to do anything – Microsoft began taking that as permission for the upgrade to go ahead.

Now Microsoft is changing gears. It has eliminated the option to re-schedule a chosen upgrade time once you’ve confirmed it while also removing the red “X” close option from the screen.

The moral dishonesty here is vile, to put it mildly. Microsoft is enforcing these upgrades by offering a series of sneaky bait-and-switch options that are intentionally designed to fool the user into doing something the user doesn’t want to do. And the company is doing this while still claiming that it isn’t forcing anything on anyone.

When you find yourself dealing with a lying snake-oil salesman, you only have yourself to blame if you continue that relationship and get screwed.

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Microsoft and Facebook to lay Atlantic cable

Microsoft and Facebook have announced plans to lay a trans-Atlantic communications cable from Virginia to Spain.

Running from Virginia Beach, Virgina to Bilbao, Spain, MAREA (which is Spanish for “tide”), it will be the first cable to connect the US to southern Europe, over a distance of 6,600 km (4,100 miles). From Blibao, it will connect to network hubs in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, with the goal of improving speed and reliability. For Microsoft this means improvements for users of its cloud services, such as Bing, Office 365, Skype, Xbox Live, and Microsoft Azure, while for Facebook it means improvements for users of its eponymous social network.

I find this story very puzzling. The whole reason communication satellites exist is because they have historically been far cheaper to build and launch with far greater capacity than ocean cables. Thus, the decision of these companies to go with an undersea cable instead of satellites suggests that something has changed in that equation, though I can’t see what. Have undersea cables improved so much that they have a bigger capacity than satellites, so much bigger that it compensates for the higher cost of installation and maintenance?

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The death of the double click

The death of the double click.

The story includes some nice history behind the invention of the GUI.

Interestingly, I could probably count on one hand the times I have double-clicked on a computer, since I rarely use the mouse at all. Instead, I have found it is far faster to use the keyboard to access commands, files, programs, etc.

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For Some Entrepreneurs, Moon Is Money

Software engineers to the Moon!

Crazy? Absolutely! Impossible? Probably not! There are a growing number of people who believe that with federal funding for our space program getting scarce, the future lies in private-public partnerships. Entrepreneur Elon Musk’s third job (after leading electric car company Tesla and acting as the Chairman of solar installer SolarCity) is heading up SpaceX, which was the first private company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a rocketship. Virgin’s Richard Branson has a similar private space venture.

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