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Can Novell’s Protection Racket Swing a Timebomb?

Posted in Formats, Microsoft, Novell at 5:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Verfasst von Oencke has come up with some interesting insights. He highlights the parallels between a classic protection racket scenario and the Novell/Microsoft deal.

What does the wikipedia say about protection rackets? I’ll add my comments in brackets {..}. These may or may not be accurate:

“A protection racket is an extortion scheme whereby a powerful organization {Microsoft?}, most often a criminal organization or gang, coerces individuals {you} or businesses {you} to pay protection money{ SUSE subscription fee} which allegedly serves to purchase the organization’s “protection” services {“patent peace of mind”, S. Ballmer*} against various external threats {patent lawyers}….

It would be reasonable to assume that Microsoft, being the ‘bully’ here, will use Novell to promote its own agenda and commercial interests. I opine that it is no longer necessary to draw any comparisons with SCO. This analogy has been used by various respectable editors who went overboard with the intention of sending loud warning signals.

While Novell remains committed to ODF, as indicated below, Novell may have also ‘contaminated’ OpenOffice in the process of development. The legal boundaries are vague, but Novell has little fear because it has struck a mutual protection deal while excluding all others. This could work to Novell’s benefit in the short term (shareholders would cheer), at the expense of the rest of the Linux community. In fact, since many of the projects at hand run under multiple platform, it is also a great threat, to be broader, to Free software. Harm can be due to inclusion of Microsoft code, visibility of Microsoft code, or collaboration. Richard Stallman realised this in the dawn of the Free Software movement, which is why Linux easily ensures/d SCO’s (Microsoft proxy) baseless accusations.

We will also continue to contribute as part of the OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications Technical Committee to enhance ODF and ensure that ODF standards are the premier file format standards for office applications.

Let me take my tinfoil hat and confess that it would be overly presumptuous to jump to conclusions. However, I merely try to present some possibilities here. With regards to Mono or OpenOffice, no clear violation has been identified as there isn’t yet any concrete proof. I would like to close by quoting an item that grabbed my attention a few months ago.

The best part of the file Michael sent to me was that the data was formatted into a “Data Pilot,” which is OpenOffice’s analog to the Microsoft Excel “pivot table.” Data pilots, as well as support for xls pivot tables, is a whole new feature area in OpenOffice.org that I really ought to post something about, too. (So many features, so little time.)

Source: Ted Haeger, Novell

This writeup dates back to August. One wonders if a ‘bomb’ was planted in the code (deliberately by Microsoft while not deliberately by Novell), which sets a legal minefield that has percolated onto other distributions by now. If so, can patches be identified, retracted, or altogether rejected? Can anybody trust Novell at this stage? Their hand on this project, particularly at this stage, seems harmful because any element of FUD is worth a thousand lawsuits, to quote [H]omer.

[puts tinfoil hat back on head /]

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  1. Ted Haeger said,

    November 20, 2006 at 2:03 pm


    “One wonders if a ‘bomb’ was planted in the code (deliberately by Microsoft while not deliberately by Novell), which sets a legal minefield that has percolated onto other distributions by now.”

    This is crazy-paranoid. Novell did not work with Microsoft on the features we contributed to OpenOffice.org.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    November 20, 2006 at 2:10 pm



    I appreciate the response. I can’t help but feel that collaboration between the two sides changes the legal terrain /entirely/.

    Wanna see “crazy-paranoid”? Check this one out:


    And right there I actually defended you guys. I have been advocating SuSE/SUSE for years, but Novell seems to have ditched SUSE (or Opensuse, the community), renamed it, and evolved to become something rather strange.

    Why can’t you guys be more like Red Hat? See the latest news from the Fedora project.

    Fedora to Become More Open and Independent of Red Hat

    ,—-[ Quote ]
    | The most obvious change will probably be the omission of “Core” in
    | the distribution name. That’s because the core packages are to be
    | moved into the community infrastructure, so that they are open
    | to contributions by external developers.


    Samba is trying to help you guys. Why won’t the management listen, admit it has made a mistake and reverse (to the extent possible)?

    Another thing I fail to comprehend is why/how an executives can say the following:

    ,—-[ Quote ]
    | Microsoft Corp is using scare tactics to exert pressure on PC vendors
    | not to explore the potential of desktop Linux, according to Novell
    | Inc president and COO, Ron Hovsepian

    Several months later he exchanges smiles with one of the biggest business thugs of the past two decades. It’s almost as though he decided to join ‘the gang’ while punishing all others (including those who coded for him and supported his products) in the process. This leaves one speechless.

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