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06.11.07

Google, Novell, Microsoft, and the Dependency Trap

Posted in Google, Novell, Office Suites, Ron Hovsepian, Security at 8:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This post is a small collection of observations. There are a few recent stories that probably should not escape without comment.

Noorda Doubts Them, Schmidt Doubts Them, Hovsepian Welcomes Them

A recent story about Google-Microsoft antitrust affairs reminded us that Schmidt had raised antitrust concerns about Microsoft when he worked at Novell. Mr. Noorda never trusted Microsoft either. In fact, he even supported Linux back in the 90s, under Novell’s own umbrella. So why is it that Mr. Hovsepian ignored all the warning signs and entereed a partnership that makes him excessively dependent on Microsoft? Could it be all about personal reward? The deal continues to seem absurd and it continues to be denounced by many people who are in the business of selling Open Source software.

And Speaking of Google…

This was mentioned before, but it is worth repeating that Novell’s redacted disclosure potentially revealed some secret strategies at Microsoft.

Start-ups are emerging on the back of the movement making use of open source and the open source inspired AppExchange from Salesforce.com. Google and Yahoo are pushing their SaaS word-processing, spreadsheet, and related productivity tools.

[...]

Recent documents relating to Microsoft’s open source patent agreement with Novell suggest it is thinking about making Office available as a software service over the internet.

The Insecurity Complex

Movell gets a mention for being one among 8 worthy stocks which represent security software. A story that we caught the other day could leave Novell a little bashful though.

When Conners started his job in November 2004, there was no reliable way to find, update or patch the hospital’s desktops. Having a system that is planned and implemented properly is “like throwing darts in the dark,” he says. The shortcoming was attributed to a shaky implementation of Novell’s ZenWorks, which couldn’t always verify that a security patch or a software update had reached its destination because ZenWorks had been improperly installed. According to Conners, the hospital’s I.T. staff had rushed to install it—in what felt like a weekend, he says—without documenting processes and procedures at a time when the hospital was growing fast. Novell says it wasn’t involved with installing ZenWorks at the hospital and didn’t find out about the problems until after they occurred. Novell adds that the hospital declined its offer of services to fix the problems.

“Declined Novell’s offer,” the article said. So should you.

Nothing Will Be Lost with a Demise of Xandros

Posted in GNU/Linux, Novell, Xandros at 7:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It has become clear (probably even to Xandros) that deals with Microsoft are simply a bad idea. Why are companies still fooled and why do they fail to learn from history? Perhaps some companies are desperate for anything that looks promising, or perhaps they just think alike (the ‘Microsoft mindset’). Does Xandros now deserve the name “Xandrosoft”. Evidence suggests that it may be so. DistroWatch Weekly sets the record straight and explains why Linux would be fine even without Xandros.

But even before this deal, Xandros had never been a community player (it has failed to release a single piece of its own software under a free licence) and the only raison d’être of this Canadian company was to profit from free software. And while its first two releases of Xandros Desktop brought some interesting advancements into desktop Linux, the company later abandoned its innovative spirit and desktop enthusiasm to focus on business Linux instead. Disappointing, to say the least, from a company that held so much promise in its early days….

The same cannot be said about Novell, which has clearly contributed a fair deal (e.g. Compiz, SLED’s GNOME and KDE menus). Why are they escaping Free software though? Is it greed, confusion, or a combination thereof?

Is the Linux Kernel Approaching Acceptance of GPLv3?

Posted in GNU/Linux, GPL, Interview, Novell, Xandros at 6:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nobody likes change. Change leads to concessions. It can abruptly end existing relationships, then give way to new (yet unforeseen) relationships.

In the context of the Linux kernel, TiVo serves as a good example of companies which gain control at the expense of the consumer and/or developer. Meanwhile, emerging (and constructive) threats such as OpenSolaris play a role as well. So what will it be? According to some of the most recent correspondence on the issue, Linus Torvalds has softened a little. To quote an article which covers this:

Writing on the Linux Kernel Developers mailing list yesterday, Torvalds responded when a developer wrote that he (Torvalds) “was quite impressed with the toned down version of the final draft of GPLv3.”

Recently, Alan Cox made remarks that seem to suggest that he is more fond of the GPLv3 than Linus is. Consider, for example, the interview which was published yesterday. He realises that GPLv3 is needed in order to protect Free software. Going about a month back, Alan expressed his support more explicitly:

Open source guru Alan Cox has voiced his support for the controversial version 3.0 of the GNU General Public Licence in an exclusive podcast interview with Computer Weekly.

It was shortly before this interview that Linus looked at an older draft of GPLv3 and said that he was “pretty pleased”.

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.

Perhaps it is only a matter of time. If that’s the case, then not only will access to GNU be denied. This is bad news to Microsoft and possibly to Novell and Xandros as well.

Linux seems to be getting cozier with GPLv3 . It is too early to make predications though.

~~ Interlude — About Boycott Novell ~~

Posted in Site News at 6:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Earlier today, the site got some visual makeover and a general cleanup treatment. The Web site’s goals were also specified in a new static page. Shane is meanwhile working on a new domain whose name is SueMe Linux (mind the footer).

We invite you to participate using comments, to which we regularly respond. We also wish to stress that we will happily publish your contributions if you mail us something like an essay. We have done this before and want content to be driven by the audience, not just a couple of editors.

Thank you for reading this.

Patent War Erupts in Mobile Phone Industry

Posted in America, Courtroom, Hardware, Patent Covenant, Patents at 6:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We recently mentioned the patent storm (in a teacup) which had led to a ban on certain chips. It appears as though patent trolls are now uniting in their effort to manipulate certain court rulings and abuse the broken system as much as it takes in order to restore calm (as in, a “cold war” again). Here is the gist of this counter-suit claim:

Oyj, the world’s top mobile phone maker, filed a patent counter-suit against Qualcomm Inc in a Texas court seeking damages and an injunction against the U.S. chip maker.

This entire scenario could teach us that there are no winners in patent confrontations. The biggest losers are probably the trees, which are cut down to be consumed as unnecessary paperwork, without any fruits that have innovative merits. This will hopefully speed up some muchly-needed reforms.

With big piles of nearly identical patents, it is worth reminding ourselves of this recent story which involves Microsoft’s profit from unspecified patents.

Microsoft is facing a patent lawsuit over its failed Ultimate TV DVR system. The lawsuit, filed by joint venture company Intellivision (no relation to the Mattel console), accuses the company of making fraudulent and misleading claims in order to acquire intellectual property without having to make royalty payments.

Is this the future? Or is it the end of constructive and rapid scientific progress?

Want an eight-figure check in time for Christmas shopping? Sure you do. Microsoft’s vague patent threats against Linux create an opportunity to do a nifty variation on the patent trolling business model.

[...]

Naturally, Microsoft, in order to win, needs to keep the actual list of patents secret.

The rule of terror is without a shadow doubt the least productive. It distracts the inventor, it leads to hesitation, and it builds barriers. The world of science and technology can do better than this. More to the point — it deserves change.

The Axis/Ally Against Free Standards Leads to Fragmentation, Lockin

Posted in America, Formats, Interoperability, ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard, Xandros at 5:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

One thing to keep abreast of is Novell’s role in the selection of document formats. Being as obedient as it simply must be, Novell is on Microsoft’s boat. As for Xandros — it is the latest recruit.

Earlier today, ComputerWorld published yet another article among a recent series on document standards. It puts special focus on American state legistlation. The article explores what’s underneath the surface. It talks about a debate which has become a political one, not a technical one.

To those who observe, track and watch the developments like a hawk, it has become a recurring theme; a shrewd tactic too, no doubt. The article talks about “heavy lobbying” from Microsoft and its allies. The company consistently escapes gory technical details and uses diversive strategies to get its way. Not directly in response to this, a member of the Linux Foundation, whose writings on the topic have been very influential (his expertise is standards), has more to say.

As both Peter Quinn and Louis Gutierrez both found out, trying to make responsible standards-related decisions where huge sums of vendor revenues are at stake is scarcely a career-enhancing pastime. CIOs should be entitled to stay out of harm’s way, and try their best to serve the public’s interests the best they can. Where that can’t be done, legislatures should protect them, and keep them safe from the types of unwarranted threats and attacks that Carol Sliwa reported on in a series of public-records request-based stories at ComputerWorld last December.

[...]

After the impressive lobbying assault mounted over the past six months against open document format legislation, I expect you won’t be hearing of many state IT departments taking the baton back from their legislators.

And who can blame them? If they tried, it wouldn’t be likely to be anything as harmless as an open document format that would bite them in the butt.

A certain concensus has become that lobbying may just an integral part of this ‘debate’, which should have been a purely technical one (ideally!). The result of this is fragmentation. It has even led India to headaches, if this morning’s news is anything to judge by:

Adoption of open source software platforms like Linux is on the rise despite the [Indian] government’s refusal to officially endorse the technology as other emerging markets have done. However, the government wants to make clear in its national E-governance policy that “no compulsory open source” does not mean “no unified document standards.”

Novell and Xandros Hit by the GPL Cluebat

Posted in Deals, GNU/Linux, GPL, Interview, Kernel, Microsoft, Novell, Xandros at 3:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In a couple of new items — one is an interview and another is a column — Novell and Xandros get a little piece of people’s minds. The first one comes from no-one other than Alax Cox, who is one of the most promoninet Linux kernel hackers. He is also the man who recently gave somewhat of a nod of approval to GPLv3. Here is what he has to say about Novell:

Personally I think it’s [Novell's deal with Microsoft] a bad idea and that Novell are going to get stung by the GPLv3, and rightfully so. The license is designed to keep the software free, if it fails to do this then it needs fixing, so GPLv3 hopefully will fix this flaw.

Novell has nobody to blame by itself. It should have known what it was getting into. The management entered an absurd partnership and sealed an even more absurd deal.

Xandros did not escape harsh comments, either. Have a look at this advice to the CEO, who is being encouraged to “sell potatoes”.

It’s amusing to note that a man [Xandros CEO] becomes a recognisable public figure only after he’s signed a deal that could well mean the demise of his company. Strange indeed are the ways of mega-corporations.

[...]

Incredibly, a patent cross-licensing deal was signed without once discussing patents. Now how could anyone imagine that people would talk about patents when they were signing such a deal? Silly me!

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