From time to time, folks will question what our motives here at BN are exactly, and some have accused us of advancing Microsoft’s very goal of fragmenting the community.
Those criticisms hit home, because obviously there is some validity to those arguments – the site is called boycott Novell after all. I just didn’t think that dearnovellpleasefixthepatentcovenant.com would have the same mnemonic value, y’know?
Anyhow, my problem with this deal, and therefore Novell, is the patent covenant. Novell is paying Microsoft royalties for Microsoft’s promising not to sue Novell’s customers for some unspecified potential ip⁄patent infringement that may or may not be in Novell’s Linux or other Open Source offerings.
At best, Novell is naively validating and contributing to Microsoft’s FUD campaign against Linux, at worst it is a patent cross-license with some clever wording to sidestep the GPLv2. Unfortunately all signs point to the latter case.
Consider this statement by Jason Matusow in response to a comment on his "Your input requested" blog entry, which illustrates the manner in which Novell is using Microsoft’s patent threats to render OpenSUSE.org as the only presumably safe channel for commercial redistribution of GPL code, a right that apparently Novell is paying Microsoft for and I feel is a violation of the GPLv2.
TAG – thanks for the comment.
We have to separate two things. The openSUSE.org covenant is for ANY developer (even professionally compensated for that work) to contribute to the openSUSE.org code base. The covenant terms apply to that activity.
The individual covenant is for any OSS development, for any project, done in any geography – as long as it is done non-commercially. We want to get the covenant to the point where it is clear that even if the code ends up being used in a commercial sense, the individual who did the work remains covered by the covenant – only the entity that is bringing the code to market commercially is responsible for clearing that product for use (like ANY other commercial entity bringing a product to market).
TAG, I hear you about OSS development that the meritocracy element is built upon the quality of the code you create and the accpetance of that code by a project maintainer. I disagree that “generic” is a requirement although broad benefit is important. My view of the issues we are looking to deal with (not there yet) are getting code, modifying code, generating new code, using that in binary form for yourself, and then distribution considerations.
I will continue to Boycott Novell until they fix the patent covenant, at least. My antitrust concerns about the deal are pretty strong as well.
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BoyCottNovell has taken special interest in Microsoft’s use of Novell to empower support for its so-called standard, Open XML. You may wish to read the following long writeup from Rob Weir. He calls Open XML a “DNA sequence”.
This is a running criticism I have of Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML). It has been narrowly crafted to accommodate a single vendor’s applications. Its extreme length (over 6,000 pages) stems from it having detailed every detail of MS Office in an inextensible, inflexible manner. This is not a specification; this is a DNA sequence. For example, take this part of the OOXML “Standard”:
126.96.36.199 autoSpaceLikeWord95 (Emulate Word 95 Full-Width Character Spacing)
This element specifies that applications shall emulate the behavior of a previously existing word processing application (Microsoft Word 95) when determining the spacing between full-width East Asian characters in a document’s content.
188.8.131.52 footnoteLayoutLikeWW8 (Emulate Word 6.x/95/97 Footnote Placement)
This element specifies that applications shall emulate the behavior of a previously existing word processing application (Microsoft Word 6.x/95/97) when determining the placement of the contents of footnotes relative to the page on which the footnote reference occurs. This emulation typically involves some and/or all of the footnote being inappropriately placed on the page following the footnote reference.
Other related critiques:
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Yesterday we mentioned Matt Asay’s speculation about an upcoming Novell acquition. The worst case scenario, as explained before, is that where Novell scoops Xen and then punishes other GNU/Linux distributors. Such a move would hurt Linux tremendously, according to a humble analysis.
Although it is hard to verify the identity of commenters, Ray Ozzie has just posted a comment which confirms this.
Novell will buy Xensoure (sic).
They will release a new ZENworks Q1 for application virtualization on Windows and Suse. Novell also has the only reliable Identity Management, and Directory that scales the Enterprise. No one else comes close IBM, Sun, Oracle and certainly not Red Hat. Suse is now the only “sanctioned” Linux for the Enterprise due to the agreement and work with Microsoft.
If this comment (which was followed by another from a Microsoft MVP who ‘diggs’ for Microsoft at Digg.com) is not authentic, then we apologise for the confusion. However, it cannot be ignored. I have seen Ozzie commenting in blogs before (e.g. Microsoft-Watch), so I’m inclined to suspect it’s a genuine and authentic statement.
If true, Novell may have just moved closer to betraying the community, again. As David Mohring told BoyCottNovell yesterday:
Also consider that if Microsoft purchased XenSource directly then VMWare and the other virtualization vendors would rightly scream “Antitrust”, since Microsoft would be building versions of Vista/WindowsServer targeted to work with Xen’s Paravirtualization mode. Maybe such Antitrust issues could be avoided by Novell purchasing XenSource ( using funds provided by Microsoft in November ) and Microsoft and Novell working on getting Microsoft’s OSs and Xen together ( under the *existing* Novell Microsoft November agreement ).
Addendum: More background at LinuxWatch
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