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08.12.07

OOXML Deception and Spin

Posted in Deception, Formats, Microsoft, Open XML, Standard at 10:53 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Say it again and again and people will start to believe it.” (scary thoughts)

In the past month we saw Microsoft issuing a deceiving press release in South Africa, among others similar things. We also saw IBM listed as a CompTIA affiliate in an Australian report about OOXML — a mistake which is severe enough that required strong words of clarification. We also saw Microsoft asking people to change their “no” vote to “yes with comments” using the argument that the two are essentially the same (they are not). The bottom line is that Microsoft uses a great deal of disinformation in its crusade to have OOXML approved. It even turns technical debates into political ones.

The deception does not stop as we have 2 more stories which illustrate the same type of dishonest behaviour. Rob Weir takes a look at Microsoft’s unfair and unjustified use of words to hype up vendor lock-in.

Exponential growth is quite a claim. But what is the evidence? Microsoft provides this chart further down on the page, showing the growth in their “community”:

Have a look at the chart. Does honesty take the dive these days?

Meanwhile, Microsoft commissions some so-called ‘studies’ in Germany. It strives to deceive using biased and self-serving figures.

The study found that although most of the 500,000 learners of “The Google Generation” can play and surf with computers, they don’t know how to use “important business software” like Microsoft’s Word.

[...]

My advice to Microsoft would rather be: put your OpenXML into the attic – this is where it belongs – and get your act together and support interoperability and the use of truly open formats like ODF (the Open Document Format), if you want to continue to make money. The market rules, and old-school thinking is clearly not appropriate for these times anymore.

And please: stop bugging our politicians with your so-called “studies”, even if they are often not as intelligent as our kids are.

OpenSUSE Developers Still Appear to be Microsoft/Novell Victims

Posted in GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft, Novell, OpenSUSE, Red Hat, Windows at 9:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Several months ago we covered and addressed some concerns which surround OpenSUSE. As Groklaw puts it, Microsoft might be exploiting OpenSUSE developers.

When Mundie said that Microsoft wants to build a bridge to Open Source businesses like the bridge it has to academia, then, have I misunderstood or is he saying he wants FOSS to become, instead of a competitor, more like a kind of cheap subsidiary that innovates principally for Microsoft’s benefit? Microsoft gets innovation and code and makes money from it. Maybe some patents you didn’t notice, too. Linux vendors on the bridge make some money. You get nothing.

Last week we apparently saw some OpenSUSE folks ducking GPLv3 questions. The saga continues with some headbutting in Slashdot.

Relevant links: [1, 2]

Emacsuser says:

The OP just took an opportunity to take a swipe out of NovoSOFT. The comments are in the context of a moderator on OpenSuSE forum saying that it’s just the kernel that is valuable.

He has some more of his own opinions to add (permission was given to post the E-mail in public):

I don’t think GPL 3 (or 2) will make the slightest difference to the ‘covenant’, (unless MS wan’t to shake the litigation tree) as the wording is so carefully vague and MS has a get-out-clause. The main effect is to paint non-SuSE code as being unsafe. Novell lawyers must have been aware of this. Given the nature of the ‘Novell license’ and now this it begs the question as to where Novell stands in relation to Open Source and the GPL.

Novell wants it both ways, a fully paid up supporter of Open Source and a company that engages in closed restrictive contracts like the interoperability one. NetWare was all but defunct which is why they moved to SuSE Linux. Their success is built in a large part by fully GPL code.

Strictly speaking, the Novell license is surely a violation. That in combination with the ‘covenant’ makes it doubly unsafe. I think there are also other companies that offers ‘mixed’ media. Is this strictly legal. It just makes the case for going totally GPL. With the added clauses to OpenSUSE it makes it next to useless, for the developers. Why would anyone want to write to OpenSuSE if they can’t get paid for it and don’t own their own code. This is a major issue, what do you think.

So to summarise: `you can only use our code in house and licensed per processor and you can’t sell it on and you might be sued if you use someone else’s code`. Doesn’t sound much like the GPL does it?

You may get an article out of this ‘The lockin and legal implications of using GPL and proprietary code’. It’s obvious why people are so touchy on the subject. ‘please don’t notice while we totally dilute the meaning and the spirit of Open Source’. I mean a large part of the reason to use Red Hat or Novell was to avoid getting screwed over AGAIN, similar to what happened with MS.

Other questions pondered:

The issue I see and not just for Novell is the mix of GPL and proprietary code and what this means to developers working in it.

01. What are the implications for the GPL in Novell type licenses?

02. Who else has such licenses?

03. Does such licenses breach the GPL, in spirit if not in fact?

04. Would it be a good idea for the FSF to go after such companies (NO)?

05. Why the hostility to the FSF on openSuSE forum? (“Funny, but when I first read the FSF rant this morning” — elsewhere KV)

We would love to hear your thoughts, particularly if you are associated with OpenSUSE and therefore can clarify.

Has Microsoft OOXML Jumped Off the ISO Fast Track?

Posted in Action, America, Formats, Interoperability, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 5:53 am by Shane Coyle

It appears that Microsoft may be encountering some delays in their attempts to gain fast-track approval for their Office Open XML file format, in fact it is being reported that they are one vote shy of Fast-Track approval in a recent internal INCITS poll.

The INCITS is the group that represents the United States in ISO deliberations, and according to the article the internal poll vote broke down as such:

Of the organizations that participated in the poll, Apple, the Department of Homeland Security, EIA, EMC, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Sony all voted in favor of OOXML fast-track approval. Votes opposing approval came from Farance, GS1 US, IBM, Lexmark, NIST, Oracle, and the US Department of Defense. IEEE—which is comprised of numerous organizations including the companies that are on the INCITS executive board—abstained, citing internal disagreement.

Of course, even if OOXML is not given Fast-Track approval, it will continue to have the chance to slowly make its way through the ISO approval process and Microsoft will be afforded opportunities to correct or justify the numerous points of concern that have been raised since OOXML’s introduction such as reliance on proprietary formats and binary-only information, impossible (for third parties) to implement cryptic references to undocumented and proprietary information such as AutoSpaceLikeWord95, or their odd preference for reinventing the wheel with departure from accepted standards such as MathML, not to mention plain old bugs that should be addressed.

Then again, this entire exercise has been an example of Microsoft’s predilection for eschewing accepted standards and reinventing the wheel in their own proprietary way, since we already have an International Standard, ISO-approved, Office File Format.

Is Novell Building Microsoft Linux©? (Signs That Your Mono Ain’t So Safe)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, SCO, UNIX, Xandros at 1:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The closer we look into Novell’s affairs with Mono, the more worried we become. Yesterday I received an E-mail which pointed out some important and detailed information.

I read the agreement between Xandros and Microsoft, and one of the excluded products was Mono, so Microsoft promises to not sue Xandros over their distribution but excluding Mono and a few other products, i.e. they reserve the right to sue over Mono. I wonder if this is an interesting preview of on what basis they want to fight the free world.

Interestingly, the Novell deal seems to be different, Mono is not excluded from the Novell deal. So Microsoft seems to be promising not to sue Novell over Mono, but keeps the option open for Xandros. Weird but true.

Let us assume that Microsoft wants to make Novell’s SUSE a distribution that contains some unique features and enjoys special exemptions.

Also yesterday, in a different forum, I half-jokingly posted the following remark:

Maybe they’ll [Microsoft] just acquire Novell, own UNIX, put .NET all over SUSE Linux and threaten everyone else. Maybe. They also shove .NET into GNOME and SUSE.

Even though this wild speculation was intended only to have a dramatic effect, a reply that I received was rather alerting.

SUSE may rapidly turn into “Winix”, certainly if Mono encroaches much further. It already has “exclusive rights” under Microsoft’s protection racket (as far as MS are concerned) for various other forms of Windows interoperability (Exchange/Evolution, OOXML/ODF, Virtualisation etc.), so it’s practically an MS product already.

Why bother developing (“Microsoft don’t develop software, they buy software”), when they can just groom their pet monkey and get it to code the next Windows for them?

“Windows 2020, now based on UNIX technology, just like the Mac.”

How novel(l).

In the reply, this person whose opinion I value enormously, was referring to this recent article (different context).

Asked about these problems, Arno Edelmann, Microsoft’s European business security product manager, told ZDNet UK on Thursday that the code itself has pieces missing. “Usually Microsoft doesn’t develop products, we buy products. It’s not a bad product, but bits and pieces are missing,” said Edelmann.

So, we might as well ask ourselves, what is the probability of Novell getting acquired by Microsoft, which will then sell “Linux on steroids” (boasting Windows compatibility and certain ‘protections’)?

NindowsAs we mentioned just days ago, Dan Lyons, who is close to Microsoft, published an article with the headline “Microsoft Linux” when Novell and Microsoft entered their partnership. On many other occasions we said this too. It is not the first time that we mention “Microsoft Linux”, either. Over time we just have gathered more evidence and puzzle pieces to support this scary thought. Shane once said that Novell is Microsoft’s “Linux department” for the time being.

When Management and Investors Betray Free Software and Corrupt Honest Reporting

Posted in Finance, GNU/Linux, Novell, Oracle, Red Hat, SCO, Ubuntu at 1:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Money corrupts”

Brand name variations can make a lot of difference. I have been a SuSE user, but never a SUSE/SLED/Opensuse user. YaST aside, SuSE was once a truly Free software-oriented project with positive spirit behind the company. With Free software in mind, the company was worth tens of millions. Free software was an asset. The other day, Jeremy Allison revealed that an unnamed company had offered his $40 million for Samba, but he declined. He refused to sell out and give up on his mission. On the contrary, CUPS was sold to Apple. So, is Free software a statement against monetary value? Of course not. Freedom is not associated with cost. When exploited, however, its value can be gamed.

SuSE was all about Free software. Novell, on the other hand, had deep proprietary roots. Its mindset has not evolved sufficiently. On several occasions we said that Novell’s management, which is pressured by investors, gives the project as bad name (unless it is a product, not a project).

This sentiment and this issue is not unique to Novell. In fact, several companies such as Mozilla come under fire for similar reasons.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that community-driven development, maintenance, and support will reduce markets for proprietary software up and down all of the stacks. Perhaps the most successful projects will have the strong support of businesses.

Do you want to rely on their goodwill to allow you to use, study, and redistribute software as you see fit? Are you willing to take the risk that they will encourage a healthy commons which allows you to use your data as you see fit?

There are open source companies, there are mixed source companies, and there are those whose products are truly proprietary, although they might mount them atop an open source stack. Canonical (think Ubuntu) has some proprietary software, Red Hat still thrives in open source and services, and Novell does a little bit of both. And then there are companies like Oracle…

Every now and then, a very large software company will throw a bone at the community, whose mindshare it hopes to buy. Oracle is a good example of this because it has contributed some GPL-licensed code. As announced last week:

Oracle Corp. on Wednesday announced that several of its open-source projects — including a file system and a systems management tool — will be available under the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2).

How far can a company go however? MySQL is making headlines at the moment because of its new treatment of source code. MySQL is not on the verge of running out of business. In fact, MySQL is preparing for a very large IPO. So what can possibly justify walking away from Freedom and goodwill? What is it that gets companies scared of the GPLv3 which, among several other things, forbids Tiviozation? Have a look.

The discussion ends with a look at the GPL v3 and the importance, or not, of the Apple iPhone.

He closes by saying the the lawyers are the winners in this scenario. You can still see a battle between corporate greed for money or control and the needs of the consumer that requires independence, freedom, and low cost. The danger here is that developers might be lured into a financial agenda. This is another interesting discussion about this in the new Web site of Don Parris.

The team at GNU/Linux Matters have clarified their comments about the venerable Linux.org site. Their position is that the site is too commercialized and outdated to be of much use, especially to the newcomers it is supposed to help.

There are very few sites that have not yet been tempted and jumped on the bandwagon of commence, but how long will it last? The media, just like software, still seems to be corrupted by the money. If you don’t believe this, watch how a banned journalist returns to publishing corporate tosh from SCO.

Maureen O’Gara, that intrepid American technology [sic] journalist [sic], took a swipe at Judge Kimball’s ruling in SCO v. Novell. And she did it behind the “.NETDJ News Desk” byline on the cutting edge Sys-Con website, Open Source version. (If you want the entire article, Google for it. I refuse to provide a link.

[...]

And you thought Maureen had been banned from Sys-Con, didn’t you?

More public relations placements in the media is what you might find in Sys-Con then. The “Get the Facts” ads there give it all away, don’t they?

Patent Trolls Watch: Harassment Continues, Wheels Reinvented

Posted in Apple, Courtroom, Intellectual Monopoly, Law, Patents at 12:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Increasingly we find that abuse of the patent system is followed by malicious action. Such action, however, exposes the weaknesses of the system and gives reasons for the system to be mocked until it t is reformed.

Perhaps we should occasionally highlight the issues and remind ourselves that no danger exists until a case is actually proven and defended in court. Last week, Microsoft escaped the wrath involving a $1.5-billion penalty. The takeway is that this case was weak or altogether baseless, as are the claims Microsoft makes against GNU/Linux. Here are some other highlights:

Insanity Awards

The past week introduced some tough choices with many patent trolls and people who seek to bend rules and even own creativity. Here is one amusing story that The Inquirer covered:

Steve Jobs ‘nicked my battery design’

He apparently contacted Apple with a request for the California firm to change its product or else to license the patent.

Here is the law doing a backward routine. Companies are attacked due to their potential, so no longer is it a ‘cold war’. It is a lawyer’s paradise though.

Veoh files pre-emptive copyright lawsuit

Online video sharing site Veoh has pre-emptively sued Universal Music Group, asking a federal judge to prevent the giant music label from filing its own copyright infringement action.

Winner of the week comes from a column rather than an actual news story:

If you thought software patents were bad…

Instead, he’s talking about what amounts to the instructions for making a specific movie: a script.

A script defines the appearance of sets, lines for actors to read, camera angles and lighting to be used during the production, and a specific sequence of scenes that express a story. By any reasonable standard, a script is a description of a process. It seems to meet the requirements of 35 USC 101: it’s new (in the sense of being original or novel), and it’s useful because it tells us how to make a movie.

Are patents on sit-coms coming any time soon? Or is it just copyrights?

More Patent Stories

Week in review: Patent woes

After getting through funding, research and development, marketing strategies, and getting your product to consumers, here comes the hard part: navigating the patent storm.

Vonage “working around” Verizon patents”

Vonage was sued by Verizon on five counts of nicking technology in its Voice-over-IP operations. A jury found the company guilty of breaching three Verizon patents and fined the company $58 million.

Markman Decision Announced

The importance of any Markman decision is twofold. First, it provides the definitions for terms that are in dispute between the parties. The definitions provided by the Court must be used at trial – the parties typcially cannot re-litigate the definitions before trial. Second, it reviews the claims of the patent in light of certain challenges from the opposing party, and the result of that review may be fatal to certain patent claims.

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