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04.06.07

Microsoft Lobbyist Attacks the GPL in the Press

Posted in Deception, FSF, GPL, Microsoft at 10:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This is truly a recurring pattern, a coordinated effort if you like, in which Novell plays a role as well. If you remain unconvinced, then you are urged to follow those links where we discussed (with proof) cases where the media is being used as a weapon to discredit the FSF, Richard Stallman, the GPL, Groklaw, Open Source software, and GNU/Linux.

The latest comes from eWeek, where ACT warns about “the risks with the latest GPL draft”. The article, in its defence, cares to mention something important which must not be overlooked.

But ACT, a Washington-based technology lobby group whose membership includes large companies like eBay, Oracle, Orbitz and VeriSign, and which was founded in 1998 in response to the Microsoft antitrust case, is largely dismissed by those in the open-source community as nothing more than a lobby group for the interests of Microsoft and those other large corporations.

Who exactly are those ACT folks? A little research reveals too much.

ACT has been accused of being an industry front for Microsoft, promoting a Microsoft-friendly agenda in relation to property rights and anti-trust legislation.

Here is an even better example.

Long before it employed bloggers to do the job for it, Microsoft hired sympathetic members of the public to make its case in online forums, posing as disinterested citizens. Things got much more professional as the antitrust trial unfurled. After hiring DCI in the late 1990s, Microsoft created two new trade groups, the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), and the Americans for Technology Leadership (ALT), and marshaled campaigns such as “Freedom to Innovate” – encouraging Windows users the chance to make spontaneous gestures of support for Chairman Bill.

These weren’t always too successful. A campaign in 2001 to petition 17 state’s Attorney Generals – who had pooled resources to bring their own antitrust action against Microsoft – resulted in supportive letters being written by dead people.

Microsoft is not a distant party in these attacks by proxies, pressure groups, and the ilk of Open Source foes. Firstly, consider this:

Unsurprisingly, the speediest criticism [to GPLv3] came from Microsoft, whose deal with Novell prompted the inclusion of the controversial clauses in the first place.

Keep in mind that in order to avoid criticism, Novell and Microsoft are likely to call opposition from supposedly independent parties. It is dishonest and it is self serving, rather than objective.

Is the Microvell Clause Going to Be Completely Removed From GPLv3?

Posted in FSF, GPL, Rumour at 8:26 pm by Shane Coyle

Here are some of Allison Randal’s impressions of a recent conference call of the GPLv3 Drafting Committee A, in which she expresses the possibilities of not only possibly achieving Apache license compatibility after all, but the possibility that the "grandfather clause" may not be enough and the entire Microvell paragraph may be removed altogether.

First, the FSF (or at least the SFLC) recognizes that the “Microsoft/Novell clause” (paragraph 5, section 11) in the third draft may block not only deals that they consider dangerous, but also deals that they consider perfectly legitimate. The bracketed phrase at the end of the paragraph, granting amnesty for past deals, is motivated by exactly this problem: they don’t want to negatively impact companies who are friendly to free software and acting in a way that is entirely not harmful to free software. But amnesty for past deals doesn’t solve the problem for future deals. They will try to rephrase it in such a way that it doesn’t impact the legitimate deals. The task may prove impossible, which would significantly hinder any software agreements around GPL’d software, in which case they’ll remove the paragraph and address their goals in a different way. That’s a reasonable position and I respect it. Personally, I think removing it is the best solution. The 4th paragraph of the same section “…the patent license you grant is automatically extended to all recipients of the covered work and works based on it.” is adequate to meet the needs of free software, and fits very nicely with the philosophy of the GPL in general.

OOXML: Five Month ISO Ballot Process Begins

Posted in ECMA, Formats, Intellectual Monopoly, Interoperability, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Patent Covenant, Standard at 3:07 pm by Shane Coyle

As previously reported, the 5-month ISO fast-track balloting process has begun as of April 2, and will conclude September 2. Perhaps this is why Microsoft is trying so hard to generate support for OOXML lately.

GENEVA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The JTC 1 Secretariat informed Ecma International today that Office Open XML will move immediately to the next phase of the ISO/IEC’s review of the Ecma standard. The ISO/IEC Information Technology Task Force (ITTF) issued the 5-month DIS 29500 (Office Open XML) ballot on Monday, April 2, 2007; the ballot will close on Sept 2, 2007. This action came after the closure of the one-month “perceived contradiction” period, and after Ecma had provided a review of the National Body comments which had been received.

The best part of this press release is the document it links to, a 57 page pdf containing the ECMA responses to all those contradictions raised, including sections for commonly raised objections – Overlap in Scope with ODF, Intellectual Property Rights, and Undocumented Legacy Features.

2.1.4 OpenXML and ODF Can and Do Coexist
As mentioned, Ecma is already aware of many products that will support both ODF and OpenXML: OpenOffice supports both ODF and OpenXML (due to Novell, which integrated the OpenXML support1), Sun is working on a new spreadsheet import filter for the Calc project,2 Corel announced support for both ODF and OpenXML in Wordperfect, the open-source Gnumeric project is implementing both ODF and OpenXML, and Microsoft implemented OpenXML in Microsoft Office 2007, provided free OpenXML updates for older versions of Office such as Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003 and sponsored an ODF Translator (and finalized a Word add-in January 2007) that enables all those versions of Office to read and write ODF files.

This shows that today, both formats can co-exist, that it is possible to install applications that implement the OpenXML and ODF specifications on the same computer system and to install software that translates in a bidirectional, useful way between the two in a way that meets users’ needs. This way, the issue of formats is of less concern to most users, as translators provide for effective interoperability between them. Translators exist between OpenXML and ODF, as well as between other formats.

As discussed above, OpenXML and ODF were designed to meet different user requirements, and therefore support different functionality. Additionally, users often translate documents in a way that stores only the information needed for the new purpose. For example, one might convert ODF or HTML to PDF to lock in a particular view of a document, suitable for printing or read-only distribution. This conversion intentionally loses the information needed for further editing of the document, or for the application of different style sheets.

The co-existence of these formats allows users to capture information in a manner ideally suited for each of a number of different purposes. Translators designed for different purposes allow for re-purposing of content through translation and storage of just the information of relevance to each purpose.

I haven’t read through all of it yet, and I really hope and expect that some learned folks like Andy Updegrove, Rob Weir, or even our own frequent visitor Stephane Rodriguez will be able to shed more light on the subject.

Concerns About Mono Raise Suspicion About a Hidden Plan

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, OpenSUSE, SCO at 3:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

One thing we already know is that Novell makes Mono a priority in platform migrations, with movements such as Make it With Mono gaining both attention and attraction. We also suppose that this will introduce the issue of Microsoft-imposed royalties, bound to Free software, atop which Mono is mounted. Would this ultimately justify Steve Ballmer’s claim that “Open Source [or Free software] is not free”. That outrageous claims is something which he said in relation to the main purpose of his company’s deal with Novell, surpassing the importance of interoperability.

Could Novell take its ‘mixed source’ strategy and use it ‘contaminate’ projects like Opensuse? Could Opensuse cease to be free (as in “free beer”)? It certainly seems as though the liberties of free software are being lost due to these dependencies on patented Microsoft technology. It is worth quoting a fragment of a column which we previously cited.

Look at the wishlist which de Icaza mentioned in the interview – he wants a technical deal between Mono and .NET and wants Microsoft to recommend Mono to developers looking at migration. Sure. A company which is trying to push its own operating systems into every possible nook and corner, and facing some resistance from Linux, is definitely going to be inclined to recommend something that will take people away from its own O-S and help them move to one with which it is doing battle. Excellent logic there, Miguel! These crackpot arguments are exactly why I think there is something much more sinister in the Novell-Microsoft deal, something that is intimately connected with Mono. It is high time that the whole story was told.

Always keep your eyes open. Personally, I cannot say that I trust Miguel. I confroned him on a few occasions. His career’s track record should be an eye opener:

In summer of 1997, he [Miguel de Icaza] was interviewed by Microsoft for a job in the Internet Explorer Unix team (to work on a SPARC port), but lacked a university degree to obtain a work H-1B visa.

Miguel maintains personal ties with the guys at Microsoft’s Open Source Labs (Port 25). He does interviews with them, despite the fact that they are deceptive and their intents are no stranger to malice (for a variety of reasons that would take us off topic). By no means do I make a comparison here, but have a look at Darl McBride, the notorious figures behind a Microsoft-backed legal onslaught on GNU/Linux (which has just turned into a vicious vandetta against Groklaw).

From 1988 to 1996, he [Darl McBride] worked at Novell, where at first he was in charge of Novell Japan and later was vice president and general manager of Novell’s Embedded Systems Division (NEST). He left Novell to become senior vice president of IKON Office Solutions. IKON fired him in 1998 after his involvement in the execution of 33 business acquisitions.

Perhaps Novell and Microsoft are twins separated at birth after all. The Baystar-SCO Group link is enough to raise a brow (or even two).

As always, any flames or correction you can offer would be greatly appreciated. We do try to eliminate inaccuracies and back all claims using sources that we consider credible.

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