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12.04.06

Novell OpenOffice Fork?

Posted in Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, OpenSUSE, VBA at 8:10 pm by Shane Coyle

Novell has released a new version of OpenOffice.org 2.0.2, replete with all kinds of fancy (and possibly patent-encumbered) “interoperability” features. Let’s count the number of times we see the words "Microsoft" or "Windows", shall we?

key features of OpenOffice.org 2.0.2

The Novell® Edition of OpenOffice.org contains enhancements that are not available in the standard edition. These include:

  • Enhanced Support for Microsoft Office File Formats: OpenOffice.org supports import and export of Microsoft Office file formats, even taking advantage of compatible fonts to match document length. Transparent document sharing makes OpenOffice.org the best choice if you are deploying it in a mixed Linux/Windows environment.
  • E-Mail as Microsoft Office Document: The standard edition of OpenOffice.org supports e-mailing of files as PDF files from within the OpenOffice.org application. With the Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org, you can also e-mail any document as a Microsoft Office file. For example, you can e-mail a Writer file as a Microsoft Word file, so the file is automatically converted and attached to an e-mail in your default e-mail application.
  • Excel VBA Macro Interoperability: The Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org eases the migration of many macros from Microsoft Excel. Although not all macros can be successfully migrated, this interoperability offers more than the standard edition, which does not support migration of macros.
  • Enhanced Fonts: For the Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org, Novell licensed fonts from AGFA that use the same or similar names as the fonts available in Microsoft Office. The fonts also look similar to those used by Microsoft and have identical metrics. This allows OpenOffice.org to match fonts when opening documents originally composed in Microsoft Office, and very closely match pagination and page formatting.
  • ODMA Integration: The Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org for Windows includes initial release of ODMA integration such as GroupWise.

Okay, I didn’t really count, but there were a bunch weren’t there? Interestingly, this article notes that Novell is adding the support to its Linux version of Novell OpenOffice.org, but the download page only indicates Windows 2000/XP as the platform:

Novell has announced that they are adding support for the recently launched MS Office 2007 document format to their version of the OpenOffice productivity suite for the Linux operating system.

Novell has provided a modified version of OpenOffice.org 2.02 as a free download for their registered users, which is compatible with Office 2007 documents.

Did you catch that last part about “free download for their registered users”? What do you want to bet that is so they have a counter for their royalty payment to Microsoft for their “Interoperability IP”? Why else restrict the downloading of an "Open-Source" product, or can Novell customers not redistribute the special Novell Edition now? Is the Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org under any license other than LGPL?

I have lots of questions about this announcement that I will be further researching, Pamela Jones of Groklaw is also on the case, so be sure to check out what she has come up with:

Well, if there are any Novell supporters left, here’s something else to put in your pipe and smoke it. Novell is forking OpenOffice.org.

There will be a Novell edition of OpenOffice.org and it will support Microsoft OpenXML. (The default will be ODF, they claim, but note that the subheading mentions OpenXML instead.) I am guessing this will be the only OpenOffice.org covered by the “patent agreement” with Microsoft. You think?

Yes, unfortunately I do.

UPDATE: Miguel De Icaza says Novell OpenOffice is not a fork, but a patched version of OpenOffice.org. I did get a kick out of this though:

Btw, I believe the translator that people are discussing is built with C# and XSLT and is available here. I wonder some of the posters on the Groklaw thread are going to have a stroke over the fact that the software is hosted at source forge.

The document converter they are working on is in C#? So, I need to use Mono to use their converter for MS OpenXML? How many lawsuits must I expose myself to just to get at my own information in those documents?

Novell to Face the South African ‘Jury’

Posted in Action, Novell at 2:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

As Shane recently pointed out, Novell is heading toward South Africa where it will confront resistance to its foolish moves. Tectonic has some more details which complement the full schedule.

As a quick reminder, a principal IT chief vowed to extricate Novell products and it seems evident that South Africans are leaning toward Ubuntu, which works in Canonical’s favour. Mark Shuttleworth is, after all, South African. Novell may have given the excuse to many who were looking for SuSE/SUSE/SLED/SLES/Opensuse alternatives. They are the victim of their own tactlessness.

Daily Quotes We Won’t Accept

Posted in FUD, Patents at 2:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Wake-up call of the day

This one has just been published in PCWorld:

Microsoft tacitly notified other players in commercialized open source that Microsoft sets the rules for Windows interoperability from now on

Chilling statement of the day:

There are many contenders, but let us pick foolish statements like
open-source backers don’t understand the software business“. There were other people who selfishly sought to please their own interests and support their businesses, integrity aside.

Here Come the Pro-patents Shills

Posted in Deception, FUD, Intellectual Monopoly, Patents at 12:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A misinformed & self-serving perspective from a pro-Microsoft figure has just been published by CNET [rel="nofollow"]. It should very well demonstare why you must boycott Novell.

The days of kumbaya, where vendors are locked arm in arm singing open-source love songs to “grow the market” through co-opetition are over.

Comments in this article prove it to be flamebait, but judge this for yourselves. Don’t let it make you angry. Instead, remember that some people live in a bubble where ideas as fundamental as eCommrse become a personal property.

Related reading:

Big businesses boast of patent benefits, for small businesses

A report published by an EU task force on intellectual property claims that small businesses benefit from a patent system, despite lacking almost any participation by the small business community.

Instead, the report, titled IPR (intellectual property rights) for competitiveness and innovation, was written up almost entirely by large corporations and the patent industry.

[...]

The report does note objections from the likes of patentfrei.de and Sun Microsystems, which were recorded at some length in the report. But this does not appear to have impacted the conclusion of the report in any way

[...]

Jean-Pierre Laisne, of ObjectWeb, an open source software community, said that he found the report useless: participants were told that all their contributions would be recorded but at the end only those of Business Software Alliance and Microsoft were used.

Even opinions that came from Linux vendors were altogether ignored.

Novell Shoots Down International Standards, Gives Control to Microsoft

Posted in Fork, Formats, Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 11:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft’s Open XML format has a poisonous nature. There is little or no question about it. The highly respectable Bob Sutor explains why.

Who will implement Open XML correctly and fully? Maybe Microsoft. Why? Since it is essentially a dump into XML of all the data needed for all the functionality of their Office products and since those products are proprietary, only they will understand any nuances that go beyond the spec. The spec may illuminate some of the mistakes that have been made and are now being written into a so called standard for all to have to implement, but I’m guessing there might be a few other shades of meaning that will not be clear. Fully and correctly implementing Open XML will require the cloning of a large portion of Microsoft’s product. Best of luck doing that, especially since they have over a decade head start. Also, since they have avoided using industry standards like SVG and MathML, you’ll have to reimplement Microsoft’s flavor of many things. You had better start now. So therefore I conclude that while Microsoft may end up supporting most of Open XML (and we’ll have to see the final products to see how much and how correctly), other products will likely only end up supporting a subset.

Several hours ago, Novell announced, in the form of a press release, that it would support Open XML in OpenOffice. Why on earth would Novell boast about it? Is it a Microsoft press release? Just like Corel, which previously fell victim to a Microsoft deal and some time afterwards dropped WordPerfect support for GNU/Linux, Novell is helping Microsoft sabotage OpenDocument adoption. OpenDocument is the ISO standard which is recognised by various office suites.

As a result of this mishap, Microsoft will continue to offer ODF support as a semi-functional plug-in for Office 2007. Novell’s move gives backing to this loose ‘support’, despite its promise to preserve the status of ODF format. Sadly, this type of strategy has the same effect on the EU‘s antitrust ruling.

This is by no means shocking anymore. Not so long ago, Novell carried a joint full page advert in the UK Financial Times (paid for by Microsoft), which boasted patent protection (in a country where such patents are illegal). This leads to confusions and develops Linux misconceptions/myths, which Microsoft tried to encourage and reinforce.

Thank you, Novell, for helping Microsoft control and manipulate a standard while changing public perception. In other news, Novell continues with the ‘chair shuffle’. I can only imagine, based on several such stories, that they have been losing some staff recently. They are quite likely in the process or reorganisation amid the departure of betrayed developers and angry customers.

What About the “Hobbyists”?

Posted in Law, Microsoft, Novell, OpenSUSE, Patent Covenant, Patents at 2:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Here is a quote-worthy statement from Groklaw regarding an interview with Novell’s marketing VP:

Linux Action Show has an interview with Novell VP for Marketing Justin Steinman, who talks about the deal. He says some interesting things. One thing he says is the Novell has noted that the deal for non-compensated developers (he calls them “hobbyists”) should be irrevocable, and Microsoft is “willing to talk about it.” Of course, that isn’t the real problem. The real problem is distribution and sharing and the apparent acknowledgement of some unknowable Microsoft “IP” — whatever that is. What about the compensated developers?…

The Ides of March Approaches for Novell

Posted in Action, FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, Novell at 2:05 am by Shane Coyle

It was either that title, or “Et tu, Samba?”

A GPL3 symposium was recently held by the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre in conjunction with Linux Australia, at the University of New South Wales, with the purpose of further discussing aspects of the GPL3 in respect to internationalization. Even at this late stage in the process, it should be noted that the Free Software Foundation is still actively seeking out input and suggestions for the newest revision of the General Public License.

Notable attendees included Samba’s Andrew "Tridge" Tridgell, and FSF counsel Eben Moglen via teleconference. Novell will be unhappy to note that Tridge made no bones about it, Samba will be moving to GPL3: “The Samba project intends to move to GPLv3 quickly after it is released,” he said. “We’ve been following the development of GPLv3 closely, and think that it suits us very well.”

Some have noted that such threats are idle, with even Novell repeatedly stating that until there is an actual GPL3 to comment on, they have no worries about its impact on their future. Well, during the conference we were provided some insight into the timeline for GPL3 completion (emphasis mine):

In both a pre-recorded video and live telephone call, Eben Moglen communicated the purpose of the GPL and how updating it will preserve the FSF’s philosophy of protecting developers, and users, rights.

Moglen said the next draft of GPL3 is due in four weeks with the final version to be published on March 15, 2007.

“GPL3 is an attempt to make a licence that would work identically across the world’s legal jurisdictions and we believe we have come close to this,” Moglen said, adding that the licence includes measures to provide a “usable patent defence”.

“IT and consumer electronics companies have strong patent portfolios and we believe the last draft will show how the community can defend itself against patent infringement processes.”

Some have questioned the need for a GPL3, and we have all heard that some high-profile project owners have no intention of moving to GPL3 – whether because they feel GPL2 is ‘good enough’ or that the DRM clauses are uncalled for. As was the case with GPL2, the GPL3 will not be for everyone, and as Eben Moglen pointed out, the GPL is the “FSF’s own mission and not a process of consensus legislation”.

However, many expect the Microsoft – Novell deal to cause much wider review and adoption of the new revision of the GPL by many Free Software projects, despite any short-term hurdles that may be involved:

GPL3 will be inherently incompatible with the version it replaces, but according to Tridge that is less of a concern than having a static licence which is rendered obsolete by changing laws.

“GPL3 delighted me and I hope more people choose it for the right reasons, not the wrong reasons,” Tridge said, adding open source projects are in danger if they are complacent and stay with old licences because laws governing their validity continue to change.

Tridge said the GPL is aimed at ensuring the “chain” of software rights from developer to user is not diluted because it allows direct contact with the work’s author.

“DRM can be used as an impediment to rights and patents may prevent distribution,” he said.

So, Novell now has something concrete to ponder – on or about the 15th of March, 2007, they should expect to lose the right to distribute updates and improvements to the very software that gives them their precious “interoperability” with Windows – Samba. And they should expect other projects to follow, leaving Novell and Microsoft to maintain their own forks.

More Shuttleworth on Novell-Microsoft

Posted in Intellectual Monopoly, Ubuntu at 1:06 am by Shane Coyle

The chat log from the Ask Mark IRC session has been posted on the OpenWeek Wiki, and a few questions touched on the significance of the deal between Novell and Microsoft. Interestingly, there were no questions about the OpenSUSE developer invitation and reaction.

In all, there were 3 questions on the Novell-Microsoft topic, relating to the Microsoft threat level, Canonical’s own patent policies, and what actions are planned in case of an infringement claim. I reproduce the three questions and Mr Shuttleworth’s responses in their entirety:

< Admiral_Chicago > Is Ubuntu considering revisitng[sic] their own patent license or how they approach licensing in the wake of Novell / MS?

We are certainly looking at ways to strengthen our stand against software patents. We are entirely opposed to them, and its possible we can actively help to prevent their spread, beyond the advocacy we already do. Whether or not the Novell executives who negotiated the recent Novell-MS deal were aware of what was going on, it’s entirely obvious that MS is working to establish an IP framework that limits the spread of free Linux.

It was obvious to many of us the moment the deal was announced that “virtualisation interop” was far less interesting to MS than the patent implications. MS paid Novell a lot of money to stand up on stage and validate their theories about patent licensing and MS will expect a return on their investment :-) So, i was not surprised when Ballmer came out with the statement that “anybody running any Linux other than SUSE has an undisclosed balance sheet liability.”

What that means, in english, is that anybody who uses any version of Linux other than those that pay MS, are liable to get sued by MS that includes Debian, Gentoo, Ubuntu, Fedora etc. Make no mistake about it, this is a major assault on the key things that have driven the success of Linux. This is why i think its so important to protest the deal and why I think we should find ways to take a stronger public position on patents within Ubuntu.

< ailean > How threatened do you feel by Microsoft? Do they actually have any claim on Ubuntu’s code, will any legal threat fail, or does money talk?

Interesting question. MS have done some wonderful things for the world. They made software cheap, which is great. They made it standard. They have produced some excellent software and some not-so-excellent software. I think, now that we have the internet, that the free software process is a fundamentally better way of producing software, though.

I think that free software platforms will innovate faster than proprietary ones. So at a deep level, I think its them that should feel threatened. That said, history shows that a big organisation that can’t change fast enough to adapt to changes in its environment and ALWAYS tries to lock the environment down.

Look at the RIAA, the members there cannot see a way forward that preserves their profitability, so they are suing their own customers to try to preserve a 70′s era analog business model. I think MS is prepared, if worst comes to worst, to sue their own customers in order to protect an 80′s era business model, of software licensing. That’s dangerous.

They are of course also trying to innovate out of the corner, Windows Live is interesting, so is the X-Box, and the Zune. They are all attempts to shift to subscription-based revenues, relationship-based revenues. If they can be successful there, they are less likely to go nuclear, but if not… That’s why we can’t legitimise their IP dogma now. Why the Novell deal is so treacherous.

< Spec > Pending legal action, would Ubuntu redirect all of their efforts in extracting “patented” code from the OS?

We would certainly do our bit. If anything that Canonical has created infringes someone’s patents, we hope they will let us know so we can fix that, or that they will licence the patents for free use with free software. We would also of course coordinate with upstreams working on their part. I do not actually believe that a nuclear patent option will stop linux at all. IBM and others have made it very clear they will use the muscle in their patent portfolios to stop big IT companies from trying that and as for small patent trolls, we can work around any patents they might come up with. While at the same time, the Linux vote is getting stronger and stronger. If we had 50 million users in the USA, we could certainly block dangerous patent legislation.

Of course there are other topics in the *buntu world that are covered in the chat, including requests for more Kubuntu staff, the controversy over proprietary driver inclusion, and if there is anything to the Googlebuntu distribution rumors. Head over to the entire log of the chat for more information and insight on all things Ubuntu.

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