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Putting a Price Tag on Free Software by Holding Interoperability Hostage

Posted in Deals, Europe, GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Patent Covenant, Patents, Protocol, Red Hat, Servers at 8:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Certain arguments become can truly repetitive, but it’s probably because they should. This is one of them. Microsoft has a clear strategy whose implementation has already begun. It came to the limelight when its deal with Novell was negotiated (if not earlier).

So, what is that plan? Let us call it the “No Linux tax, no play” strategy, along the lines of “pay to play”. Microsoft knows all too well that free-of-charge software is just too competitive. Microsoft’s only chance to compete is by elevating the rivals’ prices (or shamelessly using disinformation).

The company holds back compatibility between platforms and applications in order to get its way. It lends a hand only to companies that are willing admit they some ‘guilt’ (over IP). A wad of cash is added to sweeten a seemingly-terrible deal.

We saw that coming last year. Shane was probably the first to point out the implications in the EU. Microsoft is now getting desperate to make Linux expensive and, as we have seen before, it refuses to make its products compatible with other products, unless all those products bring revenue to Microsoft. Microsoft also did this with Xenix, so there is precedence. History ought to teach us a lesson.

As we have said at the start, none of this is new. However, other Web sites begin to see this more clearly. Red Hat/Microsoft negotiations that regularly break illustrate this point. Here are a couple of blog items that say more on this.

MS: We’ll only interoperate if you sign a patent deal. Red Hat: No.

…Microsoft is refusing to interoperate well unless FOSS agrees to these patent deals, not just so it can collect money, but so it can get your brains to work for them. It also achieves a goal of FOSS costing more. Ever hear of the Microsoft tax? And it also allows Microsoft to put its heavy thumb on FOSS and reset its terms. You don’t want to code for Microsoft and share your skills and your money? Don’t wish to give up control or change your development model? Then they’ll maybe sue you, and for sure they won’t interoperate with you well.

The Reason for All These Patent Deals?

But even Microsoft’s child-like “that’s mine” attitude about intellectual property and patent violation claims against open source doesn’t explain the company’s resistance to Red Hat. The question to ask: Whose intellectual property rights are Microsoft seeking to protect? Microsoft’s insistence on combined interoperability and patent deals makes more sense if the company’s concern is that its software infringes on open-source intellectual property.

Novell, AppArmor, and the Linux Kernel

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel, Novell, Security at 1:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Amid talks about Red Hat’s role in the Linux kernel, there is further discussion about Novell, AppArmor and whether they can gain acceptance from the kernel hackers.

SELinux offers strict but sometimes difficult-to-manage security. Will a simpler approach, championed by SUSE, make it into the mainstream kernel?

Novell has got Greg Kroah Hartmann doing some excellent work at the core of the Linux world, but some others just muddy the waters. One of Justin Steinman’s tactless statements was a whine about Red Hat’s lack of contribution to Linux (it’s truly quite a saga). No wonder. Controversial, poorly-researched statements come from this direction quite often. Marketing people often miss the technical details completely.

Will the news mentioned above enable Novell to boast more contributions (if this ever materialises)? Some fairly knowledgeable people already doubt it.

After all I read about AppArmor and SELinux even Novell’s comparison of the two systems doesn’t help giving me a better opinion about AppArmor. The information shown there isn’t what I had expected, they’re repeating themselves to fill the page and the point about SELinux’ low adoption rate is a joke.
Just like Novell’s distros AppArmor is targeted at the normal user.

Remember that some Novell/SUSE developers are being exposed to Microsoft code (visibility), so involvement in mainstream packages such as the kernel might be considered a grey area by some. Remember what SCO alleged several years ago.

Bob Sutor Questions Interests and Affiliations in Standards Bodies (Updated)

Posted in America, Formats, IBM, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 1:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

International standards (such as OpenDocument format) are a central point in Microsoft’s deals with Linux distributors. It seems as though the gloves are gradually coming off. ‘Political’ aspects of standards selection receive more attention, all at the expense of technical discussions. While big executives usually prefer to turn a blind eye or deny this, there is a lot of ‘monkey business’ going on. Political manipulation and string-pulling are becoming too difficult to ignore, even if the consequences get a little nasty or inconvenient to people with 6-figure salaries.

Have a look at what Bob has to say on things we should not only ask ourselves, but also ask our national standards bodies:

I’ll ask one big question here and then point to some other technical questions.

Who are the members of your national standards body, when exactly did they join, and what are their primary commercial partnership relationships?

Bob receives many E-mails on this topic. He knows more than all of us combined, so he probably has some evidence to back this suspicion. We already know about Microsoft employees who were voting for their own company in the ISO. We also know about a Microsoft lobbyist in MA replacing two CIOs that showed ODF affinity (can you blame them for pursuing their state’s best interests?).

It’s only the tip of the iceberg because we covered many similar stories. That’s the ‘political’ front alone. What about the technical front? What about the press which, just like standards body, usually has some commercial partnerships? All one has to do is see the breathtaking FUD articles that take over the media (example from yesterday).

If OOXML ever becomes an ISO standard and if it ever gets adopted by nations, be aware how it got there. Those who want justice will at least have the evidence at hand, for support, as well as for historical value and significance.

O-O-X-M-L: It has “corruption” written all over it.

Update: FFII has apparently elevated the value of its bounty, which we mentioned last week. It has an interesting statement that is worth sharing.

FFII campaigner Benjamin Henrion, founder of the noOOXML.org site, explained: “Microsoft is spending millions on rent-a-crowd support for international certification for its proprietary Office format, OOXML. But we already have an ISO standard for word processing, called ODF (Open Document Format). OOXML is Microsoft’s attempt to subvert this existing standard, to keep its strangle-hold on the world of documents. It’s time for activists across the world to stand up, to reach out to their national ISO bodies, and to explain why Microsoft’s format is not open, not a standard, and not XML.”

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