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12.11.06

Novell in the News

Posted in Finance, Formats, GNU/Linux, Open XML, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu at 11:53 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

From the out-in-the-wild department:

Novell Ships OpenSUSE 10.2

Created in Partnership with the Open Source Community, OpenSUSE 10.2 Provides Everything a User Needs to Get Started with Linux

Highlighted (using bold fonts) is a series of words that could raise one’s brow.

Ubuntu Linux is once again victorious:

openSUSE 10.2 GA / Linux Mint 2.0

Looking at 10.2 and asking if it is ready as Enterprise Desktop. Then realizing that is the wrong question for the computer at hand, and installing Linux Mint 2.0.

On the financial front:

Novell Linux push fails to cover NetWare losses

The Waltham, Massachusetts-based software vendor’s fourth quarter revenue was about $6m shy of analysts’ estimates, which was never likely to keep Wall Street happy. Announcing that the company expected revenue to be “flat or near flat” at $945m to $975m in 2007 was the double-whammy that pushed the company’s share price down to $5.70, its lowest price since March 2005.

On the issue of ‘standards’ which Novell helps promote:

A cathedral of formats or a castle of cards?

ECMA has strong ties with Microsoft, and the very philosophy of the ECMA is to acknowledge existing technologies and call them a standard. This view is quite opposed to the one of the OASIS consortium, because the consortium does try to design specifications based on consensus, plausible engineering decisions and not on the fait accompli.

Who’s Afraid of Oracle Linux?

Posted in Fork, GNU/Linux, GPL, Novell, Oracle, Red Hat at 3:23 pm by Shane Coyle

Regardless of the denials, I have always thought the Microvell deal was at least in part a response to Oracle’s entry into the Linux market, it all felt rushed and even in the ensuing days it was clear that both parties weren’t in total agreement on the significance of the deal.

I don’t think the Microsoft-Novell deal was born of any specific Oracle Linux concern, but it seems to have been an induced birth that may have been a bit premature, and perhaps unnecessary. If Novell had taken the time to look, they probably would have noticed that Oracle’s Linux is a pile of poo.

Maybe Novell is feeling silly now for their knee-jerk reaction to speculation of the time, while everyone saw the obvious attack on Red Hat posed by Oracle Linux, analysts also recognized the potential impact on Novell:

So does Oracle Linux actually hurt Red Hat?

Not as much as you might think.

I believe that it actually hurts Novell far worse since Oracle is essentially standardizing on a Red Hat base. As long as the myth of binary compatibility between Oracle Linux and RHEL exists, users will potentially have the option of moving back and forth between the two.

Novell should have noted "the myth of binary compatibility", which would have only taken a download by one techie at Novell and perhaps they wouldn’t have sold their souls. Red Hat is not afraid of Oracle Linux, because it is apparent that Oracle has no idea what it is doing with Linux.

“They rolled out something that they don’t understand,” Pinchev told ComputerWire of Oracle’s announcement. “He [Oracle chief executive, Larry Ellison] tried to announce that Oracle is supporting Red Hat Linux, what he really announced is Oracle forking Red Hat Linux.”

[...]

“They are delivering no innovation, delayed patches, delayed releases, no real knowledge of open source and no involvement with the community, so where is the value?” he asked.

Pinchev also said that Oracle had launched its offering on a basic misconception of the value customers get from open source software. “They are not buying just the support, they are buying the speed of innovation, because this is very important today to compete. They are going to open source for innovation.”

When I had first heard that Oracle announced their Unbreakable Linux Support for "Red Hat", at lower cost than Red Hat, I was intrigued. When I also saw there was to be an "Oracle Enterprise Linux" distribution that was going to maintain RHEL certification and compatibility, I thought nice – CentOS is getting a backer. But no, it is just as Pinchev said, Oracle is forking Red Hat Linux, and given their history in providing timely bugfixes and security updates, I can’t see why you’d want them for your Operating System support. Here is an Unbreakable Uncompatible Linux experience:

The installation was just like CentOS installation. It went by without incident. After I rebooted, I went through the same initial boot configuration. And then I was dropped onto a Gnome desktop, where things got bad:

  • When I click the Applications menu, there is nothing available.
  • When I try to add an application to a panel, there are no applications available.

Out of the box, those two are already show stoppers. So much for “unbreakable”. I question the reliability of Oracle’s QA department over this. Out-of-box experience should not be this horrendous. But, it gets even worse. Ellison and his FUD factory promised “compatibility with Red Hat Linux“. Not even true. I ran an up2date in Breakable Linux and the little up2date icon turned green — telling me that everything is up-to-date. So:

  • Kernel version: 2.6.9-42.0.0.0.1.EL (compared to Red Hat version 2.6.9-42.0.3.EL)
  • Firefox version: 1.5.0.3 (compared to Red Hat version 1.5.0.7)
  • Thunderbird is completely missing from the installation options

That shows that first: Oracle has already broken from binary compatibility with RHEL because the kernel version is completely off (and who the hell got decimal happy?). Second, it shows that Oracle is already behind in putting out bugfixes when you look at the Firefox version. Lastly, Thunderbird being missing from the custom installer really proves that Oracle is not putting together a true RHEL rebuild.

Perhaps Oracle is listening, and will get it right, perhaps not. But, as long as they abide by the letter and spirit of the GPL and the community, they are welcome to keep trying.

Embrace Microsoft, or Join With Us (In our Embrace with Microsoft)

Posted in Deals, Deception, Fork, FUD, GPL, Intellectual Monopoly, Novell, OpenOffice, OpenSUSE, Red Hat, SLES/SLED, Ubuntu at 1:41 pm by Shane Coyle

Novell sounds alot like Microsoft these days, complete with Anti-Linux FUD.

Here are some snippets from the recent forum hosted by The Cape Information Technology Initiative (CITI), these are excerpts from the Question and Answer session (OGG | MP3 ) with Novell SA country manager Stafford Masie.
[ editor's note: I transcribe only as well as I can hear, so my apologies for any typos...]


Join the Dark Side

Apparently, Novell sees a real need for a Patent Cooperation agreement for other Linux distributions like Red Hat and Ubuntu. If you are a Linux distributor (or a developer of any piece of code that you ever give to anyone), Novell recommends that you contact Microsoft to get your very own Patent Cooperation agreement, and consider if your preferred distro provides you indemnification.

We can’t say and speak on Microsoft’s behalf that they will speak to a single developer thats building a commercial product on the distribution and ensure that they have the same agreement covenant in place, we(Novell) can’t say that I mean, someone needs to go to them (Microsoft) and see if they are willing. Microsoft is very willing to sign up now, they are very very willing , so I do believe small, medium large, everyone can go and do this.

Is this(deal) somehow exclusive by inference, because of the size that we are? I don’t believe so, and I also believe the people that are participating the individuals in the community take a look at the linux distros that you are participating in and building your technology upon, and by mere inheritance of agreements that are in place and the patents that they own and how they provide indemnification like RedHat does, like we do, that by inference would cover you.

So, I can’t say that this wont cover the little guy, because the little guys we are encouraging to go speak to Microsoft and take a look at doing that, and Ithink Microsoft will take a look at doing that I dont think they would be aversed to doing that, unless they believe there is a patent infringement – clear, based upon that little thing that youve done but again this is where we would encourage you then to bring your little innovation, put it on SUSE Linux, and we’ll kick Microsoft’s ass jointly with you. (laughter)

That was Masie’s laughter, and it really should have been the classic mad-scientist "Mwah-hah-ha" kind of laugh, but it honestly wasn’t.

Using their friend Big Mike, Novell is doing just what we feared, making the only "MS-Approved" (and presumably safe from their IP litigation) channel for software distribution back to Novell only. Then, you may need to purchase the distribution that includes your code to get continued coverage..

Either way, if you want to distribute your software around here, you need Big Mike’s protection, or Novell’s.


"Open Source" is Dead

"Open Source" died on November 2 2006, and the next frontier in the language battle will be the word "Free" as in Freedom:

"I agree with you. This was the week ‘Open Source’ ceased to be a useful phrase because it denoted everything up to and including Microsoft’s attempts to destroy free. Language is subject to this problem. Since the beginning of time uprising movements have taken pleasure in perverting the language of criticism used against them by the ancien regime – the ‘brave beggars’ of the Netherlands, and Yankee Doodle, and the Whigs and the Tories – it’s all the same terms of dis-endearment turned into a weapon. But the game is also played by modern propaganda in the other direction – by turning language into the property of the guy on top: Fox News "Fair & Balanced ™".

"What Microsoft did to ‘Open Source’ was what Stallman always said could be done to it: first you take the politics out, and when the veal has been bleached absolutely white, you can cover it with any sauce you like. And that’s what Microsoft did, and ‘Open Source’ became the sauce on top of Microsoft proprietarianism. And once that process has been completed they have to go after the next vocabulary."

And now?

"So now they’re going to try the hard work of cracking ‘Freedom’. Free, well that means stuff you don’t pay for…"

Further evidence that Novell is now Microsoft’s Linux Division, here were Stafford Masie’s words on the differences between OSS and FOSS during the Q&A session, sounds like Novell is beginning Microsoft’s assault on "Freedom". A member of the audience asked if Novell Linux Desktop and/or SLED were at this moment compliant with a "FOSS" software policy, and this is Masie’s response:

what is foss compliancy mean? that its free and you never pay for it? Yeah, you can get derivatives of that, we can give you that , weve got derivatives of that technology that competes with Ubuntu, Red Hat, Fedora, those things, but we’ve got the enterprise versions of our technology too.

Now, it is clear to me he is referring to OpenSUSE as FOSS compliant, he understands that the enterprise versions of their products are not FOSS, and have proprietary software as well, but I take issue with his interpretation of a FOSS policy. The "F" is for Freedom, and Novell is assisting in diluting the term by inferring it has any other significance.

Personally, I think we should move to "Software Libre", that should be pretty difficult to associate with anything other than Liberty, as opposed to Free(dom) being spun as Free(cost).


Lots more to come on the CITI forum, you can be sure. Novell admits they are a hybrid company, as opposed to Red Hat’s end-to-end open source enterprise approach, Masie explains how Novell’s OpenOffice.org is a fork, that the Microvell deal is "Microsoft’s Official Entrance into the Linux space", Novell will use its patent agreement as a competitive edge against competitors, and more…

Novell: Join Us on the Dark Side, Ubuntu

Posted in Deals, Deception, GNU/Linux, GPL, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Novell, Ubuntu at 10:19 am by Shane Coyle

I am downloading the MP3s right now, and will have more to say soon I am sure, but finally we have coverage from Novell’s face-off in South Africa.

Not surprisingly, Novell feels the community should "embrace Microsoft", and other distributions should consider striking similar deals with them.

"This deal is not an exclusive arrangement with Microsoft. We are encouraging Redhat, Ubuntu and others to consider a similar agreement with Microsoft. We are encouraging them … especially from a patent perspective," said Masie.

"We encourage Shuttleworth and the folks to go and do what we’ve done. Investigate what we’ve done. Don’t be fanatical about it but take a look at it," said Masie.

Masie said that the free software community should “embrace Microsoft”.

"We should embrace Microsoft’s participation in this community [and] the way they are starting to be participants. Take a look at what they have. Let’s not alienate them. Let’s not be fanatical about them," said Masie before begging for similar tolerance of Novell from the free software community.

Apparently, there was also some discussion of patents in the software industry, and Novell still isn’t quite clear on their position on software patents. Here, Novell they admit patents inhibit innovation, yet they apparently want to simultaneously work to oppose software patents while using them as a marketing tactic. Novell has never been shy about being pro-software patent, but does this signal a shift in their stance?

"We will never, never, ever utilise our patents to attack or exercise any of our patents on the [Foss] community. The good thing about the covenant is that we are explicitly stating our position with regards patents. Customers don’t like the cloud of risk of liability. Enterprise customers don’t like that risk. What we’ve done with covenant is explicitly take away the risk,"Masie said.

He then said: "Patents are actually bad for innovation. But we will use patents to protect ourselves," while at the same time suggesting the company would look to working with local initiatives working to oppose software patents.

Head over to Tectonic, grab the Oggs or Mp3s and have a listen, I will be too.

The Quiet Before the Storm

Posted in Deals, Deception, FUD, GPL, Intellectual Monopoly, Interoperability, Patents, Ron Hovsepian, Steve Ballmer at 9:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It would be foolish, if not downright naive, to assume that Novell can regain its positive image from the Free software community. As time goes by, Novell ties itself to more actions which lead to backlash. It is clear that there is no going back now. If anything, the resentment may lead to greater distance between the company and the community that used to cherish it. This is better exemplified by this article from InformationWeek.

With the controversy still alive and Novell still in a fight for its life, there’s no reason to expect Hovsepian will get too comfortable in the months ahead.

If you thought that the patent threats — however baseless — are actually behind because Steve Ballmer has not spoken for a while, think again.

The irony of the GPL is that Microsoft is not bound by it, and the only entities that can be harmed by it are those who benefit from it – open source vendors. Enforcing the GPL would mean that Novell, and any other Linux vendor who agrees to Microsoft’s terms, could be forced to stop distributing Linux – which is just what Microsoft wants.

I opine that we are yet to see another wave of attacks. The tighter the squeeze that GNU/Linux applies, the less ethical Microsoft will become in its exploitation of Novell (more latterly OpenXML servitude). This follows a destructive and self-serving path, e.g. ‘interoperability’ bargaining card, neglect of Hula and so forth.

Novell Could Anger Apple, Too

Posted in Apple, Deals, Deception, Formats, Intellectual Monopoly, Interoperability, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, Patent Covenant, Patents, Servers, SLES/SLED at 12:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Yom Yager, a Mac-oriented writer, reckons that Novell’s deal may also punish Apple and have a negative effects on widespread interoperability and heterogeneity in the server room.

Microsoft has intentionally rendered unsafe all but one path to heterogeneity — that being the use of Novell’s SLES (Suse Linux Enterprise Server) in networks with Windows. By immunising Novell against future intellectual property actions, Microsoft has tacitly notified other players in commercialised open source that Microsoft sets the rules for Windows interoperability from now on.

The potential fallout of Microvell is enormous. I’ll grant that I may be overreacting, but I’m hearing voices in the wind that Microvell has the potential and intent to force serious changes in the market for non-Windows commercial system software. I have two major concerns. The first is what I see as Microsoft taking aim at Apple through Microvell. The second, which I address here, involves Advanced Server for Unix.

As a quick reminder, the formats war where Novell assists Microsoft may also ‘punish’ Mac users. If I were a Mac user, I would certainly take offence in Novell’s selfish move.

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