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Rumour: Microsoft Wants to Buy Novell

Posted in Microsoft, Novell, Rumour at 9:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A couple of weeks ago, the wild idea of Microsoft acquiring Novell was discussed, with reference to similar speculations. SUSE-IRC.org has an interesting new item. Now, bear in mind that the following does not come from a reputed (or idetifiable) source. We will quote it nonetheless.

An internal memo leaked by an anonymous (and unhappy) management level worker at Novell shows an already ongoing plan whereby Microsoft will acquire Novell, by a stock transfer operation to take place in the next few months. Both companies have their legal teams working on the technicalities.

Nothing more needs to be said at the time because it’s probably just a rumour, even an outright lie. No need for premature hypothetical thoughts…

Note: mind the date (in Europe).

Novell Could Lose Access to at Least 15% of Its Codebase

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, Law, Mono, Novell at 4:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It remains unknown at this stage whether or not Novell will retain access to an up-to-date GPLv2 Linux kernel. But Novell will almost definitely lose access to GNU utilities which, according to the latest licence draft, leave Novell out in the cold. Despite all of these rejections objections, Novell chooses to insist that it can comply. It believes that the licence in its present form does not achieve its goals. Here is an intersting interpretation of this, as well an elaborate explanation about this mistake.

That cavalier attitude could come back to hurt Novell if it sticks by its guns. I think Stallman would take the company to court over these issues in a heartbeat. His GNU tools will most certainly be licensed under the final version of GPL3, since the FSF runs both of those shows. Without that vital glue, you don’t really have an operating system, and the whole Linux platform falls apart. In fact, Stallman has long insisted that we call it GNU/Linux, rather than just naming the kernel, to give the GNU project its props. Either Novell convinces the FSF to drop its anti-Novell wording, or the Microsoft pact is history.

According to another new gem, a typical distribution such as Debian contains a great deal of GNU utilities. In fact, 15% is that chunk of the pie that’s assigned and attributed to GNU, with the kernel being just a fraction in comparison. There are some interesting charts therein.

This isn’t really about “GNU/Linux”, it’s really about asking “Where does free software come from?” In order to answer that question in any really definitive way, of course, you first have to collect all the relevant free software applications into one giant collection so you can do statistical analysis on them.

For obvious reasons, Novell cannot switch to the BSD camp. What would it do if it was denied access to vital code? Fork everything? Return to the Windows environment (choosing the “escape strategy”, as theorised by Perens)? How does the controversial Mono, to which Novell is giving a boost, fit into all of this?


Leaving Opensuse, Finding Kubuntu or Fedora

Posted in GNU/Linux, KDE, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu at 8:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We previously listed some short stories about people who gave up on Novell’s Linux and moved on to other distributions. Here is another story, which involves someone who flip-flopped, but ultimately decided to live without Novell.

You might have read my earlier article about moving to OpenSuSe from Kubuntu. I couldn’t resist the temptation to move back to Kubuntu. I didn’t see anything wrong with OpenSUSE, but I wasn’t comfortable using that compared to (K)Ubuntu, so I downloaded the latest Kubuntu Feisty Fawn beta and burnt it in a CD.

Kubuntu might not be for everyone, but let this inspire you. If Novell’s installed base shrinks, the message to them will be clear(er). The following comment indicates that others seek Opensuse alternatives as well.

Fedora 7 Test 3 – featuring KDE live CD


Now I’ve a good reason to remove opensuse

Is Linux Focus Being Lost at Novell?

Posted in GNU/Linux, Marketing, Novell at 6:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell has just dissolved its Linux Impact Team.

Novell this week dissolved its Linux Impact Team (LIT), headed by Nancy Faigen, and rolled the members of LIT into the regional sales teams.

With the possibility of layoffs on the way, it has become clear that Novell needed the community’s support.


When Will GPLv3 Come Into Effect? (Updatedx2)

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, Law, SUN at 11:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

According to one source, we may see GPLv3 finalised later this year.

The GPL version 3 will take a few months more to come into effect. A March deadline has slipped and it is now looking like it may take until the final quarter of 2007 before the licence is formally ushered in.

This leaves Novell with a short fuse, especially now that both Linus Torvalds and Simon Phipps express satisfaction w.r.t. the new licence. SJVN, on the other hand, is very pessimistic. He believes the process of reaching a consensus might take years. Worth reading.

Update: add Red Hat to the list of those who endorse GPLv3.

Update #2: Google as well

The Samba Project Still Affected by the Novell/Microsoft Deal

Posted in Europe, Google, Interoperability, Law, Novell, Patents, Protocol, Red Hat, Samba, Servers at 10:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Several Samba developers have left Novell in protest. Most recently is was Günther Deschner, a Samba developer who has recently decided to leave Novell and join Red Hat. What sounded inaccurate at first seems to gradually become a reality. This latest departure follows Jeremy Allison’s departure, which we covered back in December. He later joined Google where he is seemingly happy and productive as he continues to write some ZDNet columns while carrying on with the Samba newsletter (and also coding, of course).

As observers, one of the main concerns is the implicit (and sometimes explicit) mentioning of patent infringements in Samba, without disclosure of specifics. It is natural to imagine that the developers’ stance on this issue is sometimes filled with and fuelled by anger. Does anyone, other than the mis- and less informed customers, actually perceive these allegations as legitimate? To make matters worse, what happens when people are driven into fear by marketing people, who use this as a weapon (or conversely — a selling point)?

Several developers in the GNU/Linux community have compared the effect of the Microsoft/Novell deal to that of SCO’s lawsuits. Some believe the situation could even escalate to action in court. In response to this, several community initiatives were born, including ShowUsTheCode. Does anybody believe that action in court would be more damaging than a state of so-called ‘cold war’ which leads to fear, uncertainty, and doubt? SCO, after all, has lost its venom after many of its claims got dropped and discarded. Sometimes the unknown, just like darkness, has a stronger impact. It later turned out that SCO ‘stole’ Linux code, just like Microsoft ‘stole’ BSD code.

In a fairly recent interview with LinuxWorld, Jeremy Allison said he had been informed of clients/user who hand over ‘protection money’. Large companies that use Linux may be approached by Microsoft and asked to pay for the use of software such as Samba. Has any of our readers had any experience with such incidents? As it verges the litigious boundaries of extortion (with legal implications), have you heard of or seen anything? What would your advice be to companies who find themselves in this position?

SMB2 is said to be bringing new challenges, which a gradual uptake of Windows Vista will inevitably lead to. Have a look at this:

The Microsoft Zombie Army will force Samba out of the Enterprise

Vista is to ship with a new version of SMB, called SMB2. At minute 40 in this FLOSS Weekly podcast, Jeremy Allison of Samba talks of behavior that will flood the network with 1500 packets just to do a network file delete. This will turn Vista computers into a DOS (Denial of Service) attack upon Samba based computers on the network.


‘In the section of the interview from around 33m30s to 39m00 Jeremy Allison reports how he was told that the Microsoft team implementing SMB2 were ordered to “f**k with Samba”.’

Does anyone believe that interoperability efforts were deliberately being sabotaged or curtailed in the past? Will Novell be able to address the issue of frequently-changing, out-of-date, or hidden APIs? Is complete documentation being delivered, as recently promised owing to the 2004 European ruling? At the moment, small businesses are barred access to the market. One delay just follows another while market saturation is being lost, which leads to monoculture (and yet another case of monopoly abuse). Europe is concerned about this and Novell makes it even harder to combat this abuse.

One of the things that are considered the most important next step for Samba (technical aspects of the project or otherwise) is the ability to mimic the rather dynamic Windows network protocols. Since these are not standardised (surely not in an open and free fashion), this leads to legal traps. Fortunately, Europe chose to describe the protocols in question as “too trivial to be patentable”. Therefore development continues and it looks rather encouraging.

Samba 3 preview release behaves more like Windows


The latest code changes and improvements to Samba 3.0.25 weren’t overly dramatic, said the project’s release manager, but the subtle changes do push things along toward a scheduled production release in early April.

What is worth mentioning is that some of these protocols are derivative of Open Source code (prior art springs to one’s mind), or at least equivalents with proprietary ‘extensions’. Some of these extensions brought more harm than good because — being closed — they arguably facilitated back doors, to be later accessed by the wrong people. These have led to damages that could be estimated at billions of dollars in damages.

We are yet to see how the Novell/Microsoft deal is going affect Microsoft’s legal battles in Europe. We have already witnessed some of its effects, but Novell has not been mentioned explicitly. More particularly, we are yet to see how issues which revolve around servers and communications get treated and addressed, and to what extent the deal plays a role. Surely, this so-called ‘interoperability’ deal did no good to Samba, which is all about interoperability.

GPLv3: Microvell Escape Clause Clarification

Posted in FSF, GPL, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 10:30 am by Shane Coyle

In the coverage and early reviews of the latest draft of the GPLv3, the "Microvell Escape Clause" is garnering alot of attention, causing alot of confusion and a even a bit of uproar around the community (we updated our poll, feel free to make your feelings known). I, too was quite shocked at first read, and immediately grabbed the rationale document [pdf] to mollify my concerns.

The so-called escape clause is, at this time, only a proposed piece of language (indicated by the fact it appears within brackets in the new draft) that essentially limits the effects of Paragraph 5 in Section 11 to any future discriminatory deals. On its surface, this is indeed a grandfather clause that would apply directly to the Microvell deal, but that is not its sole intent.

One point in particular that’s drawing a lot of attention already is the bracketed clause in section 11. We’ve proposed language that would prohibit distributors from entering discriminatory patent deals like the one between Microsoft and Novell; the text in brackets is still under consideration, and would make that effective only against deals that were made starting today. If the text is removed, the draft would be “retroactive” because it would prohibit companies from distributing GPLv3ed software if they’ve already entered such a deal. That’s as far back as it can go—we don’t have a magic trick to retroactively stop those companies from distributing software under GPLv2.

So, if the text in brackets is adopted for the final version of the license, it is true that this would grandfather in Novell. That’s not the reason we’re considering it, though. After all, that deal would still be affected by the previous paragraph, forcing Microsoft to offer its patent protection to everyone instead of just Novell’s customers. At the same time, a number of other companies who distribute free software are worried that our language will affect other kinds of patent agreements they’ve made that aren’t harmful to the community, like patent cross-licenses. If you want to learn more about this, the rationale document has details.

So, Novell is not off the hook, if they want to be GPLv3 compliant as they have promised, they will likely need to revisit their Microsoft deal in some way if the current draft is accepted. As I understand it, Section 11, Paragraph 4 will require Novell to pass on their patent license to all recipients, rather than just "customers". I’m not sure how Microsoft will feel about that prospect, so we’ll have to stay tuned for that.

I, personally, love the new GPLv3 draft improvements overall. In regards to the grandfather clause, I think I like it, but am still giving it consideration. I’ll be perusing this draft a few more days, and looking for some enlightened analysis to help me, anyone who stumbles on a great link or article please leave it in the comments so that we may have an informed, fact-based discussion.


The Linux Kernel Could Go GPLv3

Posted in GNU/Linux, GPL, Law at 6:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

After a lot of harsh criticism (even cursing at times), Linus Torvalds seems rather satisfied with the new General Public Licence, which addresses Novell-type deals. This is of course excellent news.

Linus Torvalds, leader of the Linux kernel project and a major figure in the open-source programming movement, said Wednesday he’s “pretty pleased” with changes in a third draft of the General Public License (GPL) released Wednesday.

What could be even better for the GPL? Well, Dell has decided to give away GPL-licensed drivers, to be added to the Linux kernel. It has also confirmed that Linux-loaded laptops and desktops are on their way.

Dell has heard you and we will expand our Linux support beyond our existing servers and Precision workstation line. Our first step in this effort is offering Linux pre-installed on select desktop and notebook systems. We will provide an update in the coming weeks that includes detailed information on which systems we will offer, our testing and certification efforts, and the Linux distribution(s) that will be available. The countdown begins today.

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