A Patent Reform is Here, Microsoft’s Anti-Linux Weapons Get Blunt

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, OIN, Oracle, Patent Covenant, Patents at 9:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Here is some reassuring news about the House Committee approving a patent bill in the United States. It is another step in the right direction.

House Committee Approves Patent Reform Legislation Favored by Software Companies

You may wish to remind yourself why software companies are concerned.

For all of the hype these days over enormous jury verdicts — including the record $1.5 billion judgement against Microsoft Corp. in March — few juries ever decide a patent dispute. The huge stakes and the unpredictability of juries ensure that “most companies choke down some kind of a settlement or licensing deal,” says veteran patent litigator Woody Jameson, a partner at Duane Morris in Atlanta. And, of course, the cost of just getting in front of a jury is staggering: a big patent trial now costs each side more than $4 million to try.

As the following article indicates (and rightly so), Microsoft’s weapon remains fear, but it’s truly just a clawless toothless tiger. Microsoft knows it.

“If [Microsoft] found the knife, they’d use it — but I don’t think they found the knife,” Bottomley says, referring to patent violations. He rattled off a few of the Linux community’s defenses: “Patent law is supposed to protect people who wish to publish their ideas. I suspect these ideas were never published. Whoever invented [something] first is entitled to the patent — it wouldn’t be unlikely to be [the open source community], in which case the patent would be invalid.”

Let’s not forget the Open Invention Network which, as Matt puts it, offers peace of mind. Novell should have simply joined OIN and augmented its arsenal rather than sign a deal with Microsoft.

Then there is Oracle licensing agreement with the Open Invention Network, formed in 2005 to protect Linux from patent threats. By agreeing to a royalty free license to the OIN patents Oracle also agreed not to assert its patents against the Linux operating system.

So if you can avoid suing anyone for patent infringement related to those 150 standards, you’re safe from IBM, and if you’re using any form of Linux, you are safe from patent infringement claims made by Oracle.

Now, that sounds like peace of mind.

Microsoft Loses Its Battle for Lock-in (OOXML) in South Africa (Updated)

Posted in Africa, Formats, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 9:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Support by as many as 4 Linux companies (Microsoft ‘partners’) was apparently not enough to convince South Africa that OOXML is acceptable. Tectonic has the news.

Open standards beat Microsoft 13 to 4


“South Africa will vote no,” she said, referring to the international voting to take place.

This truly is relieving given some recent uncertainties. South Africa and Japan are just 2 among several countries that have recently come to realise, approve, and acknowledge the importance of open, vendor-independent formats.

In related news, I came across an article that discusses Microsoft and standards. Some people want you to believe that only negligence led to poor support of Web standards in Internet Explorer, but as the following new article shows, this total disregard for standard is seemingly deliberate. Right from the horse’s mouth:

In a video interview with ZDNet Australia last month, Microsoft blogger and group manager of technical community, Frank Arrigo, explained how important it is for the Redmond giant to follow Web standards.

“Standards are important,” said Arrigo, who admitted that Microsoft had been guilty of ignoring them in the past. “If you look at IE6, we didn’t quite follow all the standards but standards are important … IE7 as an example is trying to address that.”

That is exactly why Microsoft can never be trusted when it comes to document formats. It is just one reason among many. We have shown many similar examples before, including an admission that Microsoft wants to avoid standard bodies and exploit its userbase (size) to go de facto. Remind yourself of this old antitrust exhibit [PDF]:

From: Bill Gates Sent: Saturday, December 05, 1998 9:44 AM
To: Bob Muglia (Exchange); Jon DeVaan; Steven Sinofsky
Cc: Paul Mariz
Subject: Office rendering

One thing we have got to change is our strategy — allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by OTHER PEOPLES BROWSERS is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company.

We have to stop putting any effort into this and make sure that Office documents very well depends on PROPRIETARY IE capabilities.

Anything else is suicide for our platform. This is a case where Office has to to destroy Windows.

I’ll be posting quickly today (mainly due to lack of free time), so apologies for the scarce level of commentary, lack of polish, and poor writing style. Most of the posts are composed in haste and the pointers ought to complement the key messages.

Update: there are some interesting reactions to the news from South Africa and one item cannot escape without a quick mention.

The apparent decisiveness of this particular National Body vote [in South Africa] is less of a surprise than might otherwise be the case, given that South Africa is one of the nations that has experienced a stormy experience with document formats in the past. As I reported back in February, the SABS warned that if harrassed by proprietary proponents of standards, it would no longer abstain in voting, but would vote against the standard in question.

Hey, Adam Farquhar, are you watching this? Will the misuse of invaluable public data in the United Kingdom continue?

Another item worth mentioning is an excellent OOXML-chef analogy from Rob Weir.

Opensuse Leadership Shakeup (Corrected)

Posted in GNU/Linux, OpenSUSE at 7:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Just for your information.

No comments seem necessary, but changes at this level are never a sign of health.

openSUSE gets a new manager

From: Andreas Jaeger [OMITTED]
To: opensuse-announce-AT-opensuse.org
Subject: [opensuse-announce] openSUSE distribution Project Manager change
Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2007 15:51:10 +0200

I’m glad to announce that I have given over my responsibilities for the
openSUSE distribution to Stephan Kulow [OMITTED]. As from now on
Stephan is project manager for the openSUSE distribution.

Stephan – known also as Coolo – the “born release dude”, has been with
Novell/SUSE for five years. Before that he worked on Linux distributions
at Caldera. His wide experience in Linux includes the dinosaurs (called
s390), desktop technology (KDE), several build systems (including his
own at Caldera), and SUSE tools like package translation.

Stephan’s first challenge will be the release of openSUSE 10.3 Alpha6
this week and I fear I’ve left him some hard nuts to crack. Having
worked with Stephan for many years, we can expect nothing but an
excellent openSUSE
10.3 release in the end. ;-)

Btw. in my new function as Director of Platform and openSUSE, I’ll stay
involved with openSUSE,


Correction: as Stephen points out, Andreas was in fact promoted, so there is no real sign of weakness here. Apologies for the mistake and thank you, Stephen, for the quick response.

Microsoft Uses Position of Power to Impose OOXML on National Assets

Posted in ECMA, Europe, Formats, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 6:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It is truly astonishing to find that many government bodies actually have their key positions occupied by Microsoft employees. I am intimately familiar with quite a few examples and I will name only two.

The first one is very recent. It comes from New York where Microsoft muscled the legislature and lobbied to pass a so-called ‘Microsoft amendment’ that is discriminative towards Open Source.

Microsoft’s proposed change to state law would effectively render our current requirements for escrow and the ability for independent review of source code in the event of disputes completely meaningless – and with it the protections the public fought so hard for.

An older example involved changing of an important report by a Microsoft employee.

That agreement was nearly imperiled last weekend, though. Gerri Elliott, corporate vice president at Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector division, sent an e-mail message to fellow commissioners Friday evening saying that she “vigorously” objected to a paragraph in which the panel embraced and encouraged the development of open source software and open content projects in higher education.

So much for independent assessment for the benefit of the citizens, eh? Welfare and greed are mutually exclusive and even contradictory.

Here comes the latest finding, which is concerned with Microsoft’s OOXML — the very effective venom that Linux ‘partners’ are forced to digest. Another discussion with Mark Kent led to another example where public money is being used to promote Microsoft’s agenda by locking vital data to this monopoly. The BBC is not the only Linux-hostile establishment over here.

Watch this discussion in an article about archiving data using suitable formats

Open-source advocates claim that the Microsoft-championed format is not as open as it should be and doesn’t compare well to rival formats such as the community-developed OpenDocument Format (ODF).

“If it were, Microsoft wouldn’t need to make Novell and Xandros and Linspire sign NDAs (nondisclosure agreements) and then write translators for them,” Pamela Jones, an open-source expert and editor of the Groklaw blog, wrote recently.

But the National Archives said that it is not wedded to any particular data format and that all technology options are being considered at this time.

Mark did a little legwork and found out a little bit more about National Archives, which seemingly chose to sidle with Microsoft and even gleefully talked about OOXML in a recent BBC article.

Mark wrote:

Look at this, from the *joint* National Archives and /Microsoft/ press

Adam Farquhar, Head of eArchitecture at the British Library and
co-chair of the Office OpenXML standards committee said:
So this guy, paid for by *our* taxes, is working for Microsoft
to promote their proprietary formats. Now look at this:

“Microsoft has shown considerable initiative working with The National
Archives, The British Library and others to increase our ability to
ensure access to today’s digital information tomorrow. This announcement
represents an important step and shows the sort of value that effective
collaboration between public and private organisations can bring to the
challenge of preserving our nation’s heritage.”

Which you can sum up as:

“we’re putting national heritage, at tax-payer’s expense, into
the hands of the world’s greatest monopolist, to ensure access
to data in the future”.

So we, the taxpayer, have to *pay* to have *our* data locked into a
proprietary format which will never be readable on standard platforms,
supplied by a company which cannot even manage to add a proper ODF
format to its office suite, and pushed by a guy, Adam Farquhar, who *we*
pay for, who chairs an OOXML “standards” committee.

This is just beyond anything you could imagine. Can we get this guy
moved to a more suitable job – in Microsoft, say?

So there you go. Apparently, lock-in is about ‘politics’, not rational choices. Microsoft has always loved escaping discussions about technical merits and turning them into a political debate. It is easier. It’s diversion.

We could probably just learn from continental Europe. It understands better than most that open standards are essential. OOXML is not open, even though the acronym contains the word “open” within it. OOXML goes against the existing unified standard. On the other hand:

EU backs standard for mobile TV


David McQueen, principle analyst with research firm Informa, is not surprised that the EU has come down in favour of DVB-H.

“It is the most open standard and there are more players in the market. Finland has networks already and in France there is a satellite hybrid solution,” he said.


Posted in Site News at 12:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We typically deliver over 3,000 pages per day (to human visitors, not bots), but yesterday was a rare exception with over 35,000 pages delivered. Not even our interview with Jeremy Allison attracted so much interest.

The Web site might have some impact after all. When Shane and I started 8 months ago, we were happy enough to just write down our thoughts and maybe receive the attention of a few readers whose curiosities intersect.

Say No to Mono

It is probably the blue bars that you ought to look at. Bandwidth was exceptionally high because returning visitors have cache enabled (which reduces server load).

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