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08.18.07

Not Everyone in the OSI Shows “Respect for Microsoft”

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Google, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, OSI, Xandros at 11:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Not so long ago, the Linux Foundation called for “respect for Microsoft”. This led to a stir (and rightly so). Apart from some older rebuttals, there is also this new one from Brian:

This, I believe, is the respect that should be given to Microsoft, and any other proprietary company with a history of antagonism towards Linux: the respect of something always potentially dangerous. Like dynamite. As dangerous as dynamite is, it can still be used productively and safely.

The best thing to do is cast away fear and intimidation. How? By remembering this: because it is free and open source Linux can never by destroyed. It can be slowed down, or sidetracked by our own actions, but the genie is out of the bottle and can never be put back. With this in mind, why worry about what Redmond says?

Respect them… and never forget who they are.

On the face of it, community divide and fracturing is obtained by separating those who never truly cared about Free source (they merely consumed and used it) and those who have a goal in mind — a goal that is not to be reached by exploiting, abusing, and selling out.

Tension has always existed between so-called Web 2.0 (typically Free software consumers) and open source developers, whose values and software are being compromised by others. We saw that in OSCON last month. Usually, there is peace among the community nonetheless.

Microsoft then steps in to muddy the waters and widen the divide. They did it with Novell. They did it with Xandros. They did it with Linspire. This, for example, is precisely what they do by seeking approval from the OSI. Bill Hilf said that he was not pleased to find anti-Microsoft comments in the OSI Web site, so now he wants to be a ‘buddy’ of the OSI. Surely, that would separate those who understand what Microsoft has done in the past and those who chose to forget and/or forgive.

Fortunately, Microsoft is facing new barriers when it comes to admission into the OSI in the form and embodiment of software licences. Mr. DiBona is among those who stepped in.

Things got really interesting when Chris DiBona, longtime OSI member, open source advocate, and open source programs manager for Google, Inc. chimed in:

I would like to ask what might be perceived as a diversion and maybe even a mean spirited one. Does this submission to the OSI mean that Microsoft will:

a) Stop using the market confusing term Shared Source
b) Not place these licenses and the other, clearly non-free , non-osd licenses in the same place thus muddying the market further.
c) Continue its path of spreading misinformation about the nature of open source software, especially that licensed under the GPL?
d) Stop threatening with patents and oem pricing manipulation schemes to deter the use of open source software?

If not, why should the OSI approve of your efforts? That of a company who has called those who use the licenses that OSI purports to defend a communist or a cancer? Why should we see this seeking of approval as anything but yet another attack in the guise of friendliness?

[...]

OSI should not trade on its reputation lightly… this is not a discussion about licenses but whether or not it is wise for OSI to enable its most vicious competitor.

From my correspondences with Chris in the past I know for a fact that he is dedicated not to a proprietary Linux, but to a free (and Free) GNU/Linux. He apparently knows too well what Microsoft is up to. It’s a shame that many people — let alone the Linux Foundation — is being astonishingly blind. Does everyone there agree with Jim Zemlin?

Lobbying for OOXML in Africa, Which Apparently Dislikes Microsoft and Novell

Posted in Africa, Formats, ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, Windows at 10:40 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Humanity for others, now show us your wallet”

The saga apparently continues. It appears like a joyride — a journey across the world where Microsoft lobbyists ensure that a technically inferior set of specifications somehow gets added to (or replaces) an existing international standard set which is elegant, open, free, and fair.

Next stop: Ghana.

If you speak to people from Africa, you may find that they are not too pleased with Microsoft’s ‘humanitarian’ endeavors, unless they completely fail to see or understand the hidden motives and long-term agenda. More on this in a moment…

Let’s have a quick quick look again at Microsoft lobbying. Such lobbying is everywhere, so it is no longer surprising. Only days ago we saw:

There are some older examples such as:

It is well established that Microsoft uses its political muscle to achieve its goal. Let’s turn our attention back to Africa again.

Have a look at this blog item, whose level of credibility seems decent.

In response they have apparently been sending PR teams around to national Standards boards all over the world(Ghana for a fact) to lobby for votes for OOXML under the guise of talking about ‘Open XML Standards’.

We mentioned the process in South Africa in the past and we also spotted some odd things, such as citizens being discouraged when it comes to writing letters that oppose OOXML. Shane also kept a close eye on Microsoft’s software patent maneuvers in South Africa. According to Professor Keats, Microsoft illegally filed software patents in that country. There was a Novell connection as well.

Generally speaking, some of South Africa never seemed receptive when it comes to the Microsoft/Novell deal. Even a Novell quarantine was mentioned at one stage. Last month, Novell lost its head in South Africa.

There are signs that not only Novell, but also Microsoft is unpopular in parts of Africa. Here is an article that was published earlier this year.

Microsoft Corporation’s products have been locked out of the on-going World Social Forum (WSF) in Nairobi Kenya.

With over 300 computers provided for participants and the press, organizers of the WSF have preferred to provide open source software products and blocked all Microsoft related products for the forum’s usage and its related activities.

[...]

Activists at the forum also believe that since Microsoft is a corporate brand from the United States of America, a country they believe has intentions of maintaining the status quo of a unipolar world over which it is above international law and the UN, the brand should be locked out.

[...]

“The open source movement is providing Linux, a robust free software. Everybody owns it and it can be shared. And this is what WSF is all about – a free society, a movement fighting for ownership of free resources” he adds.

There is a lot more to this story because Microsoft’s affairs in Africa are complex. Last week, Free Software Magazine featured an article which compared Nestle’s plot to Microsoft’s.

We have seen how two different corporations use free samples of their products to create a dependence in the most vulnerable areas of the world. Even when the similarities between both marketing strategies are evident, Microsoft has earned the image of a company concerned with social causes, while Nestlé has been the objective of a successful boycott campaign that forced it to change its marketing strategy.

This double standard is maintained by the lack of public awareness on the implications of proprietary software. To make these implications known, and to promote the use of free software in education, is a step towards a world where access to knowledge is not restricted to those who can afford it.

There is actually some extensive background to this practice of getting children addicted to software (or locked in through proprietary formats and habits). Can you recall Microsoft’s recent announcement about a $3 Windows+Office combo in developing nations? CyberSource reminded us all that this strategy is not related to altruism. The two elements — altruism and stretgy — are not even mutually exclusive, they are contradictory. Dependency on formats, protocols, and application is means for seeding future extraction of revenue. It means more exploitation, more abuse, and more poverty.

“Microsoft’s strategy of getting developing nations hooked on its software was clearly outlined by Bill Gates almost a decade ago,” said Con Zymaris, CEO of long-standing open source firm Cybersource.

Specifically, Bill Gates, citing China as an example, said:

“Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don’t pay for the software,” he said. “Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

There is also this one about Adobe. But why go as far as months ago? Only days ago, this veiled marketing press release was unleashed by Microsoft and its ilk, most probably with the intention of getting children dependent on (and locked in to) their expensive software.

GNU AGPLv3 Approaches Release, Skype’s Recent Problems Illustrate Its Need

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GPL, Interview, Law at 9:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The last time we mentioned GPLv3, we noted its astonishing and sudden growth. Its sibling, the GNU Affero General Public License, is approaching finalisation.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today released the second discussion draft of the GNU Affero General Public License (GNU AGPL). This new license is based on version 3 of the GNU GPL. It has a new requirement to ensure that users who interact with the software over a network can receive the source for that program.

An interesting post from Andy Oram came amid some serious downtimes that Skype had been experiencing. Their problems lasted for a long time and they are said to have been a result of software bugs. Andy says that the AGPL would have been a good fit here for a variety of reasons.

If the Skype problem lay not with the server but with client software, the value of open source software would be even more evident. Proprietary software creates a monoculture. The free software movement tends to create multiple tools to do the same thing, which can be confusing for people trying to choose the best audio player, PDF viewer, word processor, etc. But the diversity allows for a quick switch in case a crippling bug turns up in one project.

It would certainly be interesting to see if alternative front ends are created for Second Life, which is now open on both the client and server side. Second Life has also proven that a commercial venture need not be hindered or hurt by openness. In fact, a new interview from Don Parris has a lot more to say about this. While Microsoft tries to portray the GPLv3 as adverse to business, the truth if far from that.

Ada Core Technologies: Free Software Business Model Is Viable

Ada Core is one of a few businesses listed as such by the Free Software Foundation/GNU Project.

[...]

There is a clear trend towards greater use of Free Software licenses (e.g., in the wide adoption of GNU/Linux systems)

The Novell/Microsoft Deal Dissected

Posted in GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, OpenOffice, Patent Covenant, Patents, Protocol, Red Hat, Samba, Ubuntu at 9:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A regular reader of this site, MattD, has taken a look at Novell’s FAQ about the Microsoft deal. His analysis is worth extra attention. The FAQ is by no means new, but knowing what we know 9 months later, the intents are transparent. MattD’s words are highlighted in red.

I found the language of this FAQ quite revealing. Please note how often the word Linux and SuSE are used interchangeably throughout this document. Below are a few quotes that I felt spoke volumes about how they wished to penetrate the market at the cost of Free and Open Source Applications and OSes.

“Microsoft and Novell provide patent coverage for each others customers, giving customers peace of mind regarding patent issues.”

“customers of SUSE Linux Enterprise know they have patent protection from Microsoft in connection with their use of SUSE Linux Enterprise”

“The patent protection offered by Microsoft applies to ALL customers who subscribe to a SUSE Linux Enterprise product. It does not matter if you purchased SLES or SLED, if you bought it directly from Novell, from a reseller, from a distributor, or acquired it via a coupon from Microsoft. If you have a current subscription to SUSE Linux Enterprise, then you are covered by the Microsoft patent protection. Microsoft has provided a covenant not to assert its patent portfolio directly to customers who have purchased SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell.”

“While some future scenarios may not be included, we have established a working relationship and structure to have conversations about those issues as they arise.”

The statement above has additional negative value as more and more Microsoft related technology enters Linux. This site has spoken about GNOME and MONO. I also think that Microsoft’s attempt to penetrate the server market, which Linux controls, is a motivating factor with .Net making headway into Linux.

“Novell believes customers with heterogeneous networks are best served by an **independent** operating systems vendor like Novell”

Above – independent is used incorrectly as they have relied on efforts by too many people over too many years who wanted nothing more than avoid this disaster.

“In terms of a possible Oracle move to offer support for SUSE Linux Enterprise, Novell believes customers with heterogeneous networks are best served by an **independent** operating systems vendor like Novell”

The statement above was in answer to Oracle offering support for Red Hat. If Oracle intends to support Novell, I haven’t heard about it. All I’ve heard is Oracle certifying their apps (DB, etc) on SuSE. If I’m wrong about Oracle, someone please correct me – otherwise it sounds like they are “dropping names”.

“the companies will create a joint research facility and pursue new software solutions for virtualization, management, and document format compatibility.”

Above: This is where OOXML comes into play as well as MS OS virtualization… something Microsoft is making alot of noise about.

“Microsoft will distribute as part of a resale arrangement approximately 70,000 coupons for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server maintenance and support per year so that customers can benefit from the use of the **new** software solutions developed through the collaborative research effort, as well as a version of Linux that is covered with respect to Microsoft’s IP rights.”

Re: Above statement – Proprietary solutions (”new software solutions”), vendor lock-in, IP threats… Typical Microsoft tactics. Coupons are the only area where MS helps Novell by helping it make money in the short-term – their only motivation.

“Novell will also make running royalty payments based on a percentage of its revenues from open source products.”

Above Statement – This is where Microsoft rides the coattails of the efforts of thousands of Open Source developers whose work span an excess of 16 years. They get to make money off Linux without doing a thing. This is a future hedge in case Microsoft OSes fall off the radar in 10-20-30 years. This is also a test to see how effective this plan will be – which is why it’s only 5 years.

“The patent agreement demonstrates that Microsoft is willing to enter into agreements that extend its patent protection to open source customers.”

Above – Incorrect. Protection is for Novell not Open Source Customers in general using competing Linuxes unless they pay unsubstantiated protection money.

“both Novell and Microsoft felt it was appropriate to make this pledge for Microsoft not to assert its patents against the non-commercial community.”

“The terms of the individual, non-commercial developer patent non-assert are on www.microsoft.com/interop. You are covered if you are doing non-commercial open source software development. This includes individual enthusiasts, such as a student or a developer who does work on his own time on a project of personal interest to him.”

The previous two statements above is where they hope to get community support.

“If you are compensated for your development, then your activities are considered “commercial”, and you would not be covered.”

Statement above – This is where Ubuntu, Red Hat and all other commercial efforts (DSL, PuppyLinux, etc) are threatened.

“Under the patent agreement, customers will receive coverage for Mono, Samba, and OpenOffice.org as well as .NET and Windows Server. All of these technologies will be improved upon during the five years of the agreement and there are some limits on the coverage that would be provided for future technologies added to these offerings.”

Above statement – section where OpenOffice is threatened if run on any environment outside of Novell or Microsoft OSes. OpenOffice hits MS directly in their pockets and is considered among their biggest threats.

They go on to discuss their mutual strategy involving Virtualization, Web Services and Document Format Compatibility. This is the lock-out strategy. When the five years are up, I guess it’ll be Linux vs MS… two proprietary OSes. Microsoft FTW.

This protection racket scheme buys Microsoft Five whole years. In this time, Linux can become more fragmented (if Novell is chosen as the distro of choice). Novell has the opportunity to pull into a healthy lead (given MS resources in the press, government, etc) but it can be an Apple type of lead, something Microsoft can battle more effectively especially given Novell’s reliance on MS tech.

Novell, with their newfound reliance on .NET, Office Document “Standards”, Virtualization of MS-OS will make their Linux version an also-ran. Technologies like PHP and Apache are also threatened.

In an article on Information Week, the following point is made:

Novell “posted a $20 million loss in its first quarter and needs to boost revenues. The Microsoft partnership had been doing just that for the company. Novell said that it’s already booked $7.6 million in sales as a result of the alliance and has recorded $338 million in deferred revenue.”

”What’s deferred revenue? It’s money that Novell has already collected for services not yet provided. If its partnership with Microsoft goes poof and it’s unable to provide the services–well, you get the picture.”

Novell was a desperate company and desperate companies (and people) do desperate things… sometimes selling their own souls. The cost… Linux, Open Source, Competition, Choices…

The biggest enemy remains Microsoft. Novell is willingly allowing itself to be used as pawn for short-term monetary gain. Microsoft’s benefits are huge as they continue to infect Novell’s Linux and a number of open source applications with proprietary MS-only softTech. If this continues, Microsoft indeed will have cause to assert copyright claims on some Linux distributions creating a cascade effect.

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