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    Microsoft is tied to Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Foreign Bribes, Whistleblower Alleges

    GadgeteerZA · / gadgeteerza-tech-blog · Monday, 28 March - 09:59 · 3 minutes

Although Microsoft claims this was 'dealt' with a while ago, the question should be asked whether it was criminally investigated. Otherwise, this would be much like the UK Government whitewashing their own Christmas parties during lockdown.

I spent many years doing IT business within government, and although I was never approached with a potential bribe, I did witness a lot of unethical practices around Microsoft deals, and I watched Microsoft's grip get ever tighter and wider across Government (below is my own opinion based on my experiences and e-mails):

  1. In South Africa, although Microsoft had offices in the country, they insisted in invoicing from their Ireland HO in US$. This meant they did not collect or pay any VAT within the country (unlike other suppliers). This had a twofold effect: Their prices appeared cheaper than competitors, but the client departments were not reminded that they were supposed to go declare and pay the VAT themselves. A third issue is that the bulk of the funds went out as Forex, with only the few percent markup being returned in Rands to pay the resellers. This was confirmed with the Revenue officials. You can blame the government departments, but as the seller, MS was not giving the whole picture.
  2. The MS Enterprise Agreement signed with SA government was supposed to be an enabling agreement (similar to the agreements with Oracle, SUSE, and others), yet most departments were under the impression it was a "contract" and they could just buy any new product off it without testing the market. There were certainly good competing products on other contracts for project management, operating systems, databases, e-mail, and more, yet the requests would go through as "existing contract". It was Treasury's intention that the market always be tested before purchasing a "new" solution. If you have bought the OS and MS Office, a project management solution is a new solution. Yet if a department were to consider buying off some else's contract, MS would be quick to point out the market must be tested first. Yes a lot of this is "advice" behind the scenes, but I do have one e-mail thread where this was thrashed out in writing with Microsoft. Again, though, one could blame the departments themselves, except for in my e-mail the Microsoft Reseller was vigorously defending their view.
  3. We all know South Africa had a MIOS interoperability standard approved. This was to ensure that any software implemented (whether FOSS, proprietary, cloud or otherwise) could exchange information using these international open standards. Yet we saw tenders going out with no requirements stated for interoperability (every tender is supposed to get a certification against standards). Again one could blame government officials as it is they who are supposed to apply this. But I have so often seen that departments are misguided by resellers who punt their product (often even stating it is the only available product - no it's not there are plenty of office suites, project management, e-mail solutions). Interestingly enough, we have an Eastern Cape District Municipality that runs fully on free and open source software - why only them, though?

"Advice" though, is a lot more subtle than actual bribery, and in many cases it is resellers who are at the forefront, not the OEM. Officials too are ignorant around firstly the detail of their own policies, but also in terms of market awareness (the latter also comes from speaking far and wide with other resellers). SA did create the State IT Agency to help fulfil some of this specialised knowledge gap, but even there the same effects were often present. There was even a point in time when some strong vendors stopped approaching IT officials, and instead targeted senior managers without technical experience. SA probably fell down a bit with not declaring strong open standards as well as potential default products to achieve them, with a special motivation required for anything else. The closer we move to cloud too, the more we will lose the specialised IT skills on the ground, as the concentration of expertise moves towards the cloud provider (including a looming and dreaded vendor lock-in if open standards are not seen to have priority over convenience). I see where it is going to end, and of course then the pendulum will have to swing the other way again...


#technology #microsoft #bribery #southafrica #interoperability

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    New EU law could require iMessage and WhatsApp to work with other, smaller platforms - NOT using proprietary, but hopefully interoperable standards instead

    GadgeteerZA · / gadgeteerza-tech-blog · Friday, 25 March, 2022 - 13:24 · 1 minute

It's a great idea as WhatsApp, iMessage, and others are creating more and more fragmentation and walled gardens for users who have to install 10+ apps to message their friends elsewhere. But this why open (not insecure) interoperable standards exist in the first place.

Rather than letting each provider now go create their own API, this is the opportunity to ensure open standards exist for each technology so that everyone can reach others. If RCS is to be the open standard for messaging, then let iMessage and WhatsApp adopt that. That way a message from one app can reach users on iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram and more. Each app will still have its own UI and own bells and whistles that differentiate it from the others. As users, it will mean we are no longer locked into an app that prevents us from leaving.

Such data interchange standards do already exist such as XMPP, XML, RCS, and others. XMPP for example can enable encryption between the end-points so that need not be the issue here. Maybe this will also force the bigger players to help improve these interoperability standards.

It is quite clear that Apple, Facebook, and other big players had no intention of opening up interoperability with their competitors, and we can see already how this harmed consumers on both sides. It is therefore only likely that some legislation will achieve what BigTech has failed to do on their own. Clearly the few consumers that exercised their freedoms to leave platforms, had no real effect on the those running the platforms, so market forces were also not achieving any beneficial change for users (the lock-in effect for mainstream users was just too strong).


#technology #BigTech #interoperability #messaging #EU

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    The 10 best Android games that support cross-play with platforms such as iOS, Windows, Playstation and others

    GadgeteerZA · / gadgeteerza-tech-blog · Saturday, 29 January, 2022 - 16:46

Games that support cross-play are common on consoles like Xbox and PlayStation, but mobile gamers can often feel left out. Controls suited for console and PC games often don't translate well to mobile. You can buy gaming peripherals, but these are often bulky and inconvenient to carry around.

But even with these issues, there are plenty of fantastic cross-play games available on Android. These great Android games won't require you to buy any fancy peripherals and were designed with cross-play in mind.


#technology #gaming #mobile #crossplay #interoperability

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    Google exec gives harshest rebuke yet of iMessage lock-in effect in push for RCS on iOS - We can't replace SMS texts without having one standard for messaging

    GadgeteerZA · / gadgeteerza-tech-blog · Sunday, 9 January, 2022 - 12:55

MS text messaging is an archaic, expensive, and limited messaging standard. Yet it remains in place as the de facto standard for notifications because everything else is a walled garden and cut off from other messenger services. WhatsApp does not send to Telegram which does not send to Signal, etc.

Apple has deliberately withheld iMessage from non-iOS platforms, so that has never been considered as an option. To replace SMS though, the messaging has to be baked into the phone OS (not to be voluntarily installed or uninstalled by a user), and this is where the RCS standard came in, which also needed mobile carrier support. As it stands, RCS has been adopted by most major carriers and Android devices... but it has zero penetration on iOS because Apple won't adopt it.

It's time Apple faced up to this and sat around the table with the other players to discuss a solution that benefits all users. We can't move on from SMS unless there is a proper alternative that is fully adopted.


#technology #RCS #SMS #interoperability #apple

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    Matter was a major star at CES 2022, but can it maintain its shine? The soon-to-be smart home standard gained momentum in Las Vegas

    GadgeteerZA · / gadgeteerza-tech-blog · Saturday, 8 January, 2022 - 16:00 · 1 minute

Two years ago, on the floor of CES 2020, there was a lot of buzz about a chip — not the latest AMD or Intel announcement, but a new alliance of major tech companies that called itself Project Connected Home over IP, or CHIP for short. Its promise was to develop an open-source smart home standard that would make every connected home device work together, simply and securely, regardless of who made them.

In all, close to 30 companies showcased their involvement and / or pledged their support for the new smart home standard backed by Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, and others. Many of whom represent a broader slice of the industry — Tuya Smart, an IoT development platform service provider based in China that supports over 446,000 developers with over 1,100 smart home products, said it will support Matter. We also saw a number of new products debut with Thread, one of the main protocols of Matter.

This issue of upgradability of existing devices is still an area Matter has largely skirted and one that it really needs to address. But, based on many of the announcements coming out of CES this week, it is looking increasingly like creating a Matter smart home is going to require users buying a fair number of new gadgets. As Mitch Klein of the Z-Wave Alliance told me late last year, “We can’t leave devices behind, or this whole program won’t work. The idea that everyone has to throw everything out and start again is just not going to work.”


#smarthome #technology #interoperability #matter

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    The internet was designed around principles of openness, simplicity, and decentralization, but Big Tech's private networks and protocols threaten the 'net, say internet registries

    GadgeteerZA · / gadgeteerza-tech-blog · Thursday, 9 December, 2021 - 14:05

So says a Study on the Internet's Technical Success Factors commissioned by APNIC and LACNIC – the regional internet address registries for the Asia–Pacific and Latin America and Caribbean regions respectively – and written by consultancy Analysys Mason.

The document states that "a significant fraction of global IP traffic now consists of data that is moved between the datacentres and edge networks of large internet companies." Those companies' needs, and growing networks, lead the analysts to suggest that "over time, we could see the internet transform into a more centralised system with a few global private networks carrying most of the content and services.

Another risk is that when private networks break, many users suffer. Exhibit A: yesterday's AWS brownout, which hurt Netflix and Disney+, among others.

Yet, if you look at nearly all the alternative social networks springing up, you'll see decentralisation, openness, interoperability, chronological feeds, no Big Tech...


#technology #interoperability #BigTech #openstandards #decentralisation

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    Get to know XML, a strict yet flexible markup language used for everything from documentation to graphics, and the basis of most government open standard formats

    GadgeteerZA · / gadgeteerza-tech-blog · Monday, 12 July, 2021 - 13:59

XML is a hierarchical markup language. It uses opening and closing tags to define data. It's used to store and exchange data, and because of its extreme flexibility, it's used for everything from documentation to graphics (or for interchanging data between different systems or applications).

Reading the sample XML, you might find there's an intuitive quality to the format. You can probably understand the data in this document whether you're familiar with the subject matter or not. XML is also extremely flexible. Unlike HTML, there's no predefined list of tags. You are free to create whatever data structure you need to represent.


#technology #openstandards #XML #interoperability