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07.30.07

Novell’s Big Open Source Test (and Chance)

Posted in Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Servers, Tivoization at 10:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell’s virtualisation agreement with Microsoft has been controversial for a variety of reasons. Among those reasons is Novell’s willingness to make GNU/Linux secondary to Windows in the datacentre. Consider this old interview.

In an interview with Computerworld, Ron Hovsepian gives some background on the genesis and workings of the Microsoft-Novell deal. Hovsepian states that the deal began in search of virtualization, and that initially Microsoft’s position was that Linux could be virtualized within Windows, but not Windows within Linux.

Later on, Novell indicated that its special ‘deal’ with Microsoft brought it what others were already able to achieve without a deal. Then arose the suspicion that Microsoft might use virtualisation as a bargaining card (or extortion) to have more companies sign patent deals. Recall what Shane said at the time. Here is where a news article fits in. On the face of it, Novell and Microsoft will shortly introduce a shim.

In particular, there is some work going on to support paravirtualized drivers for Windows guest machines running on SUSE. Having this in place would allow Windows guests to run on SUSE Linux without needing to go through an emulation layer, thereby improving performance. I’m going to be particularly interested in hearing how these drivers will be licensed, as my suspicion is that they will end up needing to be open sourced, which will make them available to everyone, not just Novell customers.

This is Novell’s chance to show that it doesn’t work in isolation. We previously criticised licensing that accompanies this work. Is Novell a mixed source company or is it truly stuck in its proprietary roots? We shall soon find out.

Videos: EFF’s Patent Busting Leader, Patents in Europe, and More Patent FUD

Posted in Europe, FUD, Google, GPL, Patents, Videos at 10:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patents in America

At risk of generalisation or exclusion (the EFF is working overseas as well), here is a presentation which speaks about eliminating poor patents in America. This talk is part of Google’s TechTalks.

Danny O’Brien is the Activism Coordinator for the EFF. His job is to help EFF’s membership in making their voice heard: in government and regulatory circles, in the marketplace, and with the wider public. Jason Schultz
Jason Schultz is a Staff Attorney specializing in intellectual property and reverse engineering. He currently leads EFF’s Patent Busting Project. Prior to joining EFF, Schultz worked at the law firm of Fish & Richardson P.C., where he spent most of his time invalidating software patents and defending open source developers in law suits.

Patents in Europe

There is this one short video from Europe. It seems to be very amateur, but it is also hard to find such videos, so it might as well be included here.

GPLv3 FUD Watch – Follow the Money…

Mind the following cautionary note.

The [GPLv3] issues can be dealt with, but they need to be considered early, as a different approach to programming and distribution may be required to meet your needs.

There are some other publications which seem to be defending their own turf. As an example, consider this seminar from the AIPLA, which merely serves its own agenda (promoting more patents and stronger patents).

Healthcare Developer Gives GPLv3 the Nod

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GPL at 10:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Now, isn’t that heart warming? Some people would bet their lives on it, so to speak. The GNU GPLv3 continues to gain support, despite the disinformation which is being spread.

PatientOS is a free healthcare information system released under GPL 3.0. This enterprise wide software is designed for healthcare facility physician, nurses, pharmacy, laboratory and other clinicians and departments.

With an eye on Palamida, it seems safe to say that the licence has broken a mental barrier.

I believe that the GPLv3 is a very valuable addition to FOSS licenses and solves many of the challenges faced by GPLv2. Companies distributing FOSS should consider it and companies using FOSS should be prepared, in most cases, to accept it”.

                                  –Mark Radcliffe, Open Source Initiative

The OSI Invasion Merely Follows the Linspire/Xandros/Novell/Turbolinux Invasion

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, GPL, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, Turbolinux, Xandros at 8:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Embrace-and-destroy strategy — working from the inside

Several days ago we spoke about Microsoft’s OSI approach. We were suspicious. I then sent the following article around.

Head of open-source group says more than half of [Microsoft] licenses don’t pass muster

[...]

Michael Tiemann, president of the non-profit Open Source Initiative, said that provisions in three out of five of Microsoft’s shared-source licenses that restrict source code to running only on the Windows operating system would contravene a fundamental tenet of open-source licenses as laid out by the OSI. By those rules, code must be free for anyone to view, use, modify as they see fit.

This whole suspicion was not just ours. Others picked up that very same smell.

Groklaw sums up many of the key arguments, so there is no point in discussing it much further at this stage. The interesting part of this strategy, however, is the way it resembles all those Linux deals. Microsoft wishes to do to Open Source programming languages and companies just what it does to ODF. Speaking of which, Microsoft and its allies continue to play dirty. Bob has the latest.

I’ve heard several reports of supporters of OOXML trying to get national standards bodies to change their votes from “NO with comments” to “YES with comments” because “it’s the same thing.” The logic, which I’ll explain in a later post, is that any comments will trigger a ballot resolution meeting, so there is no need to be so negative and vote NO.

[...]

It would be hard to make this stuff up.

We’ll close off with strong words from Groklaw.

Let me please clarify something for you. Most of us do *not* want Microsoft to participate. I would like to personally barricade Microsoft out, until it alters its negative, rapacious and hostile behavior toward the GPL and FOSS. And so should you.

Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t invite them to speak at conferences or take their money. I know. That’s the hard part for some. I wouldn’t pretend the company isn’t what it is, because it *is* what it is. This is starting to feel like Wonderland, where Alice finds that up is down and large is small and nothing is the same or logical. Think tea party strange.Why would anyone want Microsoft to participate? Seriously. Why? And no, patent deals with Novell don’t make me like them. I despise them for what they did, and I know what it means. They intend to coopt Linux, destroy the GPL, and hop on board to make some money, honey. Oh, and kill it if it doesn’t wish to be ridden, while isolating and rendering pointless and helpless all developers who won’t go along. Why would you hope for that? Seriously. Why?

Read the entire item. PJ hits the nail right on the head. She took time to align and organise the arguments, which takes patience.

Where Will Novell be Years Down the Line?

Posted in Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, Patent Covenant, Patents, SUN at 8:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

With growing rumours about an Oracle Linux fork and similar suggestions upon the departure of Con Kolivas from kernel development (he focused on more desktop-oriented scheduling), one must stop and wonder. Where is Novell heading? Two years from now, things will have probably changed dramatically.

With serious .NET plans for Novell’s Linux, Mono dependencies, and with Window-ised version of OpenOffice.org from Novell, one wonders what will come. Don’t you?

Might Novell…

  • mimic Windows in the same spirit as Linspire (Lindows)?
  • hand over partial control of SUSE to Microsoft?
  • bring more Windows applications to Linux?
  • lend Linux to Microsoft?
  • be used as a mediator/subsidiary for ‘Microsoft Linux’?
  • become more closely involved with Port 25?
  • be sued by Microsoft?
  • spearhead an attack on software patents?
  • come under assault by patent trolls?
  • be acquired by Microsoft?
  • carry on with small acquisitions, as Ron Hovsepian projected?
  • receive a bankruptcy lifeline from Microsoft and then be forced to serve Microsoft’s agenda?
  • attempt to escape the relationship with Microsoft?
  • reassess or change its Linux strategy, possible seeking alternatives?
  • extends it existing relationship with Sun Microsystems (OpenOffice.org being a tight link)?
  • lose control over its development community, which will fork OpenSUSE and steal Novell’s thunder?

Speculations are fun, but a lot of the above might sound dumb (and possible become regrettable in the future).

No Patents in Linux

OOXML ‘Extension’ Tricks Have Roots in the Past

Posted in Antitrust, ECMA, IBM, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML at 2:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

After about a week of silence, Rob Weir is back and he’s already swinging. You’ll find Rob’s letter with OOXML objection arguments and you’ll also find this elaborate view on properietary ‘extensions’ in OOXML. This isn’t exactly new information, but it’s worth discussing further.

In previous posts I have pointed out numerous “features” in OOXML which cannot be implemented by anyone else but Microsoft. These stem from a variety of causes, including elements lacking definition (“lineWrapLikeWord6″) to features that are tied to Windows or Office (e.g., Windows Metafiles) to items that are “merely referenced (OLE, digital ink) to items that although featured prominently in Office marketing materials, are curiously not mentioned at all in the OOXML text (scripts, macros, DRM, SharePoint, etc.). When these issues are raised, the typical response from Microsoft has been along the lines of, “Don’t worry, these features are optional. You don’t need to implement them. They are there for implementations that know what they mean. If you don’t understand them, you can ignore them.”

Something in this strategy rang a bell, so dumpster-diving for some antitrust exhibits seemed like a fun idea.

Evidence that this is a recurring strategy is presented below. Highlighted using bold face are bits of particular interest.

Watch how Microsoft used OLE in the past.

Exhibit #1 [PDF]:

From: Bill Gates
Sent Sunday, October 06, 1996 11:54 AM
To: Bob Muglia
Cc: Aaron Contorer; Richard Fade; Steven Sinofsky; Paul Maritz; Nathan
Myhrvold; Brad Silverberg; Adam Bosworth
Subject: Access, Internet studio, VB and other overlapping products

..

Why is the difference between Internet studio and Access? I can’t detect any reasonable difference. Internet studio has taken an approach of putting onto HTML pages the most ugly Microsoft garbage ever seen since COM/OLE programming in C++ was declared a success in order to block language invocation. i am still blown away by seeing all those ugly PARAM statements in the HTML totally confusing anyone who tries to do anything. If something isn’t part of the WYSIWYG output then it should be succinct and understandable. This was the opposite of that.

Behold the “black project”.

Exhibit #2 [PDF]:

From: John Shewchuk
Sent: Thursday, October 05, 1995 2:46 PM
To: bens; bradsi; chrisjo; craigm; donbrad; jallard; jimall; johnlu;
mikecon; paulma; rict; thomasre
To: thomasre
Cc: patler
Subject: RE: Webmaster/Server ISV event – day one

When I got Gosling and Naughton started on the Java OLE control for Blackbird, it was a sensitive issue at Sun – Gosling was getting it done as a “black project”. So please don’t raisepublic awareness of the project without checking with Naughtion.

Regarding Java vs OLE controls

Both Gosling and Naughton will admit that java is a programming language and that without APIs to call, Java is kind of stupid. There is a growing consensus among developers that tried HotJava that it has major limitations.

The lack of APIs is the reason StarWave is doing the Java OLE control – so they can get access to OLE automation especially automation of Blackbird objects. Gosling admits that once someone does this it is no longer cross platform and it is hard to be safe.

Finally: OLE and Java go together nicely. You don’t need to position them as competitive. Java goes up against VB. We need to get the VB team to respond to Java. Maybe VB should be cross-platform and safe. See the Blackbird rude Q&A.

Regarding overall messages

I think the whole cross-platform issue is going to die down once we start getting cool OLE controls (or Netscape add-ons) that take advantage of DirectX and other Windows 95 APIs. Cross platform is an important customer message but in the long run it a bad technical goal because it means lowest common denominator. So talk the talk, but show customers and publishers what they are missing. Leverage our strength in great Windows 95 capabilities.

Netscape add-ins ONLY RUN IN A NETSCAPE BROWSER. You can’t use them in IE, Word, PowerPoint, VB, Delphi, VC++, Blackbird or anything else. You can’t even use them inside each other. OLE is OPEN, Netscape add-ins lock you into a Netscape only strategy. This is lame. Java is probably not much better.

Finally, both Java and Netscape add-ins fail to address design-time operation. This is a huge leverage point for Microsoft. Senior people that are fillly in the Netscape camp think twice when they see the Macromedia Director editor come up inside the Blackbird design environment. They think about what it will take to get this done in Netscape and it is a pain.

Why does this matter? Because it represents a radically different model of content creation than Java or Netscape add-ins suggest. CPs don’t want to write code!!! They want to focus on creating cool content. They
want simple, simple, simple. Programming is hard. OLE controls are PACKAGED bundles of capability. OLE makes it easy for hot software developers to package up a lot of code that the creatives can use. LibD from CRG can attest to the fact that Bud and they could provide their cool runtime to lots of non-programmers. (it turns out that many Macromedia users hate the fact that they have to learn Lingo to do anything cool.)

So let’s make sure we explain that OLE controls are more than JUST an add-in strategy. OLE Controls are the start of a COMPLETE strategy. Add an open message, VB Blackbird, IE with OLE control support, open
scripting, and so on, and then you have your story. Lets fight on our own turf – in other words, focus on content providers and ISVs (they are the enablers for the content providers) and give them what they want. And let the great applications win over the viewers.

FROM: Brad Silverberg

Infamous Microsoft documentation (if any is made available at all).

Exhibit #3 [PDF]:

To: Douglas Wilson @ Lotus, Scott Kliger @ Lotus, Phil Stanhope @ Lotus,
Alex Morrow @ Lotus, Joe Gulhridge @ Lotus, Jack Ozzie @ IRIS, Barry
Brfggs @ Lotus, Aswan Dev, Ailen Olsen @ Lotus, Aswan Clients, Jeffrey R
Beir @ Lotus, Michael Welles @ Lotus, Steve Manousos @ Lotus, Mike
Vassilopoulos @ Lotus

cc: John Landrt @ Lotus, Ilene Lang @ Lotus
From: Noah Mendelsohn
Date: 02/03/95 03:54:31 PM

Subject: Meeting with Sara Williams Regarding OCX Status and Support

Sara Williams, an OLE/OCX/Cairo evangelist in Microsoft DRG visited with a group of Lotus developers at Rogers Steel on Tuesday afternoon, January 31. Here are minutes of our meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to review Lotus’ concerns regarding Microsoft’s fairness in supporting OCX development, and to answer other questions regarding OCX and OLE.

Unless otherwise indicated, all questions are from Lotus personnel and all answers are from Sara. Sara has promised to respond by email on all the unresolved points listed below. I’ve rearranged the order of discussion to put the most useful new information near the top.

Lotus Attendees: Noah Mendebohn, Scott Kliger, Phil Stanhope, Edward Ogu~ofor, Jeff Buxton

Primary topic:

Lack of appropriate support and documentation for OCX. Microsoft applications and tools seem to have an unfair advantage using OCX-how did Microsoft release container apps when nobody is supposed to have sample code yet?

The most important issue we discussed, and the one we spent the most time on, is Lotus’ concern that OCX support for ISV’s is inadequate, that sample code for containers is not available, that the only server samples are part of MFC and carry restrictive licenses, and that Microsoft has somehow managed to ship products using OCX in spite of these limitations. Speaking only for herself, Sara indicated that she shares many of these concerns. She also said that Microsoft as a whole does recognize that there is a problem regarding support for ISV’s using OCX.

We emphasized the degree to which we view this as a serious threat to our ability to compete. While there were also problems when OLE 2.0 itself was released, the OCX situation is far worse. For OLE 2.0, Microsoft provided comprehensive published documentation, an extensive support infrastructure, and sample implementations which were of moderately good quality and no more restrictively licensed than the Windows operating system itself.

The current situation with OCX is inappropriate. Sara reiterated that she understood our concerns, but said she had not realized the seriousness with which we viewed these problem. She asked what could be cone to resolve the problems. Among the possibilities that we suggested were:

(1) provide freely licensed production quality sample implementations of container and server immediately … if other samples cannot be provided, remove the licensing restrictions on the relevant parts of the MFC controls implementation and the CDK.

(2) publicly acknowledge that OCX is an operating system API, to be supported with at least the same degree of open process as is applied to the windows API and OLE 2.0.

(3) Provide open support and immediately redress any advantages which may currently be given to Microsoft applications or tools products in using OCX

(4) Lotus believes that support could be improved and integration with OLE technology streamlined if Microsoft were to transfer OCX development responsibility to their systems organization, but that is ultimately an internal concern of Microsoft.

Sara acknowledged that the problems we highlighted are real, and that many of them do trace to the fact that OCX development is done in the tools group. She promised to promptly review our concerns with Doug Heinrich and other senior managers at Microsoft.

OTHER

Q. What OCX containers are available tor testing. For which ones is source available?

A. CPatron (source available, but not a production quality sample), Access (no source), VB.4.0 (Beta-no source), Visual FoxPro (no source). Doesn’t know whether Eforms has OCX container. Cairo shell will.

Q. What about Mike Blaszczack’s sample container?

A. Right, that’s coming when the MSJ article is published, but it’s based on MFC OLE support, so you probably have licensing problems with it. Also Kraig Brockschmidt is writing some new white papers on creating
an OLE controls container.

Q. We’ve heard that Microsoft is contemplating support for 32 bit VBX’s after all.

A. I’ve heard nothing about it and I can’t imagine why we would do that.

Lotus: Because VBX vendors are telling you that OCXs are too hard to build and that they have too much overhead.

A. I haven’t heard that and I think I would know about any change in strategy. It’s still: VBX is 16 bit only, OCX is preferred, and on 32 bit, it’s the only option.

Q. Is OCX on the Mac? Will it be? What about other Wise platforms?

A. Don’t know…will check. At best, Wise platforms would lag significantly.

Q. Will the OLE documents extensions previewed last week apply to OLE
Controls.

A. I would think so. (BTW, I’m not sure she’s right about that. Some of the OLE documents extensions are implemented in the OLE default handler, which is not normally used by OLE controls.)

Q. Tell us about OCX futures.

A. There is an improved CDK in the new Visual C-+, just out. Beyond that, can’t say much. A strange situation has arisen within Microsoft according to Sara. Although the Developer Relations Group (DRG) of which she is a part is organizationally affiliated with the Tools Group (i.e. languages, data bases, etc.), DRG actually has a much closer working relationship with the sysems organization See discussion above.

Q. Can we get the VB 4.0 beta? It’s the only useful example of a production quality OCX container wilh scripling.

A. Will check.

The lack of clear OCX documentation is aggravating a problem we’ve had with OLE 2.0 since the beginning: everybody’s doing it differently.

A. Microsoft is working on a validation suite for OLE 2.0 to test interoperability. First wave may see this in the next couple of months. Not clear whether this applies to OCX – I suspect not (NRM).

Lotus: Great, something like this is needed, but please make sure that ISV’s get to comment before the validation suite is frozen. Compatibility checking is important, but let’s make sure you’re not preventing our apps from doing what they need to do.

Q. Do you have more information on apartment model threading in OLE?

A. Apartment model threading will be supported in Win95 and NT 3.5.1. Should be in current win95 builds on ISDN. Fundamentally, each COM object does its work on a single thread. Sara is currently writing a white paper, with sample code. It will (probably) be available within the next 2 weeks or so on the ISDN server.

Q. When will a common .EXE be usable with the OLE .DLLs on NT and Win95

A. Don’t know. Will check.

What are the details of OLE support in the Chicago shell? Why was Lotus told that the shell would not be OLE enabled when In fact it is? Why was Lotus not given earlier warning if there was a change of plan? We’re still lacking useful documentation on OLE in the shell-is there any?

A. Sara didn’t seem to be familiar with the history of this problem, or with any of the details of OLE enabling in the shell.

Q. .DLLs have advantages over .EXE’s in terms of performance and flexibility, but doesn’t the OCX architecture take us back to where we were with Win16 in terms of programs (in this case components) impacting each others’ integrity? Also: isn’t this an incredibly powerful opportunity for those writing Trojan horses, viruses, etc?

All: This question generated quite a length discussion, but Sara didn’t seem to know whether anyone at Microsoft had given this serious consideration, whether there is an official corporate position on the problem, or whether there are any specific efforts planned to minimize the impact. The Lotus attendees expressed a strong concern that these were serious problems. It’s ironic that we’ve waited for robust, secure, 32 bit operating systems as the appropriate environment for OLE, and now we’re tooking at running multiple components within the same process space. (Noah’s observation, not expressed at the meeting: this is why the research community is looking at special purpose operating systems and special purpose hardware to support component based architectures, it’s difficult to get good pertormance with good isolation using convention processors and OS’s.) Noah

More information will be posted if any more is found.

‘Buying’ Linux Companies, ‘Buying’ ISO Votes, and ‘Buying’… Countries

Posted in America, Asia, Finance, Formats, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Open XML, Patents, Windows at 1:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

As recent examples show, Microsoft’s deep pockets enable it to manipulate a thing or two. Its ability to orchestrate a patent fear campaign led by Linux companies is one thing. Gross manipulation of ISO voting which protects a franchise and a monopoly is another. Let’s turn our attention to a couple of new stories where such manipulation happens at an even larger scale.

One story, which for some bizarre reason has escaped the media’s attention, comes from Chile. We haven’t a clue how this whole things happened ‘below the radar’, but Microsoft apparently obtains a lock-in that shackles all citizens in Chile. The details, if true, are quite shocking.

Just today, a secret agreement between MS and the Chilean Government came to light. In it, every citizen was sold as a potential user of a Windows Live Spaces model where every SSN is linked to, overbypassing any privacy term and cashing Bill some bucks. It wouldn’t be so awful to all if that agreement wasn’t approved yet (Spanish follows).

SJVN has just published another op-ed piece. In his column he has no mercy. The headline spins story which talks about a “Microsoft win” and calls it what it is: Microsoft merely bought a so-called ‘win’.

When all is said and done, the real reason why Microsoft is “winning” in China and has won elsewhere is that Microsoft is willing to break the law, pay the fines, dump products on the market at far below cost, and continue on in the belief that in the long run the costs of doing business the Microsoft way will win out over the higher quality, security and features of Mac OS X and the Linux desktop.

This discussion could drift further and discuss coordinated sabotage of the not-for-profit OLPC project, among other things. Intel is facing the EU’s wrath at the moment. Antitrust allegations talk about dumping and kickbacks, both of which are crimes.

However, to close this post without being distracted, the take-home message is that Microsoft has a pattern of paying for control, not earning it. It uses its deep pocket to tolerate some short-term deficit and later on benefits from a lock-in and a monopoly, which enables prices to be raised and merely any anti-consumer ‘feature’ to be strapped onto must-have products. Microsoft bought its deals with Linux vendors. None of this vendors was truly interested in the deals if regrets and bank statements are any indication.

OpenSUSE Alpha 7 is Coming Shortly

Posted in GNU/Linux, Novell, OpenSUSE at 1:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The seventh alpha of OpenSUSE should be out any day now.

[opensuse-factory] Next week, next alpha

* From: Stephan Kulow [ coolo@xxxxxxxxxx ]
* Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2007 18:19:45 +0200
* Message-id: [ 200707241819.46202.coolo@xxxxxxxxxx ]

Hi!

As not everyone might follow the recent changes of the wiki, I’d like to tell
you quickly that we’ll release next week’s alpha to the public. I hope we can
sort out all blockers till then.

The factory tree looked ok to me this morning. But I hope to have a new sync
with a fixed syslog-ng soonish – for the impatient ones I suggest

http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/server:/syslog-ng/

Greetings, Stephan


SUSE LINUX Products GmbH, GF: Markus Rex, HRB 16746 (AG Nürnberg)

The previous alpha received some very mixed reviews. To repeat what was said:

All told this release is kinda broken, but it is an alpha. You have to break a few eggs to make a souffl’e, and hopefully it won’t fall next release. This is the first release for which Coolo took responsibility, but he came along late in the game. Let’s hang this one on Andreas. (jk) Actually, Coolo is said to have stated that this is the first alpha to feel like an alpha. Well, I don’t know about that.

A couple of days ago I received a mysterious parcel from someone who do not wish to be identified. It contained a bunch of OpenSUSE DVDs. I’m still not entirely sure what it’s about, let alone who sent it and why.

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