Investor/Community Conflict of Interests: Like Mozilla, (Un)Like Novell

Posted in Finance, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Novell at 9:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hovsepian smilesAs yesterday’s digest concludes, Novell investors might be pleased, but it’s all at the expense of those whom Novell hurt knowingly. To investors, it is sometimes a dog-eat-dog world. It’s predatory and it’s personal goal-driven.

When Mr. Hovsepian shook the hand of Mr. Ballmer and signed a patent agreement for his GNU/Linux products (still in doubt), maybe he thought about his investors, but perhaps some personal payola as well. It remains to be seen what exactly Novell will receive at the end, So far, Microsoft has been the benefactor in this deal and it uses its proxy Novell as a tool in so many fronts. Therein lies the difference between Mozilla and Novell.

Mozilla can be blamed for community abandonment, but by no means betrayal. Mozilla cannot be be labeled a weapon against Free software or a foe in a cloak of ‘interoperability’, either. Let it be emphasised that Mozilla intends to be a part of Software Freedom Day (next week). Its only conflict is situated in the fact that it must raise profit. From its clarification days ago:

Before someone flames me, for-profit corporations are, by definition, run for profit and to enrich the value of the corporation for the share holders.

This must be one among the reasons (if not the only one) why Mozilla disowned Thunderbird. Remember that Novell put an end to its “Exchange killer” shortly after its deal with Microsoft, so it was not just a matter of profit, but also a matter of risk to its rival/partner’s profit. The deal with Microsoft was a nasty one and this is just one among so many reasons and also a reasonable proof.

You can read more about balancing corporate and community interests in this recent essay. It uses the Mozilla example.

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?

Matt Asay Agrees — Novell is a Slave to Microsoft, Carrier of the Moonlight ‘Infection’ (Updated)

Posted in DRM, Interoperability, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents at 9:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Beware Geeks Bearing Gifts

There’s a fair bit of commotion and a divide between those who trust Microsoft’s ‘gift’ to Linux and those who look ahead and see the obvious dangers. Novell is still a common carrier for what could devastate Linux and even Matt Asay, a former Novell employee it must be stressed, can see through the fog of a Microsoft/Novell PR Machine.

Microsoft doesn’t respect Novell. Microsoft uses Novell. Novell has a temporary use for Microsoft as its sycophant to “prove” that Microsoft cares about interoperability. “See! We interoperate with Linux, provided that it’s a Linux we can crush at a moment’s notice the minute too many of you care about it. We’ll even keep tabs on your Linux adoption with our nifty coupon program.”

Novell needs to keep growing its Linux business independent of Microsoft. Then, and only then, will it be able to talk interoperability with Microsoft as an equal and then, and only then, will customers truly benefit. Customers that are locked into the Microsoft + Novell platform are not any more free than they were with just Microsoft. In fact, they may be worse off, because they’ve been duped into believing they actually have freedom.

I’ve had my many disagreements with Asay, but he is right on the money this time. He also understands why Moonlight is bad news to GNU/Linux. It enables Microsoft to trap Linux users. Moonlight is open (with the exclusion of proprietary codecs). But it’s open like a bear trap.

Articles about [Moon|Silver]light:

Update: as mentioned only a couple of days ago, Novell keeps twisting bloggers’ arms. They should really learn from Darl MBride and just stay out.

GNU Catchup: GPLv3 Up, Up, and Never Away

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GPL, Law at 9:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The GNU and FSF unofficial ‘newsletter’ ought to remind us that GPLv3 adoption continues to be very healthy.

Migration to the GPLv3 continues at a steady pace. Palamida’s GPLv3 Information site showed 534 total GPLv3 packages as of August, up from 300 in July.

This should not surprise anyone, knowing what has been known for a while, but there’s plenty of disinformation out there, including predication of gloom and doom for the GPL.

Articles of interest:

When the GPLv3 first arrived, only a handful of programs made the shift. The most significant of these was Samba making good its promise to move its popular Windows-compatible file/print server program to the GPLv3.

Since then, according to data collected by Palamida, an IP (intellectual property) management company, the GPLv3 is picking up steam. By July 31, Palamida found that 277 open-source projects had moved to using the GPLv3. At the beginning of the month, only 82 projects, most of them created by the Free Software Foundation, which created the GPLv3, had made the switch.

In an email to me last month, Linus Torvalds, who has been portrayed in the media as GPLv3′s main opponent, describes the language that he and other use on the Linux kernel mailing list as “blunt, to the point, and not very polite.” When journalists quote pieces of it, he notes, often “the context of that language is then lost entirely” — and he adds that “it’s not just the text of the thread itself that is the context; the context is also how technical people discussing things amongst each other is in itself a very different context than a trade magazine article.”

Linus’s position is clear. He’s repeatedly said that he’d use GPLv3 in certain situations if there was a practical advantage, but he prefers v2 over v3. That’s fine. I prefer v3, but v2 is still a great licence.

Microsoft is extremely keen to avoid “legal debate” over whether its recent partnerships with Linux firms such as Novell, Xandros, and Linspire, mean Redmond must assume any of the new licenses’ legal obligations.

This is Thursday’s IT Blogwatch: in which Microsoft squirms out of GPLv3′s clutches, perhaps.

So, by threatening everything and promising nothing (because would Microsoft really sue anyone for patents, knowing how many competitors in the Linux community have patents of their own?), Microsoft has skillfully managed to get open source players to endorse Open XML. A variant of the classic Badger Game if I ever heard one.

Faced with cons like this, I am beginning to realize that having something like the GPLv3 around is a very good idea. Even though the new GPL could not have prevented this scam, it may help in the future.

Patent Reform Gets the ‘OK’

Posted in America, Open XML, Patents, Standard at 8:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It’s good news and a small step in the right direction

The House has just approved the making of changes to the patent system. Here is the press release and here is one among the many articles with a selective extract below:

A ban on “tax planning” patents: Since a 1998 court ruling that allowed patents on business methods, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded some 50 such patents that relate to tax strategies, including how to minimize or defer one’s tax liability. A narrow provision in this bill attempts to prohibit such inventions from gaining protection.

It is worth mentioning that the White House remained rather hostile towards this bill.

The Bush administration argues that such an approach “would introduce new complications and risks reducing incentives to innovate.”

In other patent news, the dispute between Nokia and the FTC continues.

“For the proper functioning of the standardisation process and continued industry innovation, Nokia believes companies should refrain from seeking injunctions for standards essential patents,” said a Nokia statement, according to Reuters.

Mind the part about “standards essential patents” because the sooner this issue is resolved, the fewer mental barrier Free software will suffer from. Remember that OOXML, for example, while claiming to be “open” and “standardised”, is also a patent bomb. The open source society in New Zealand wrote an entire report (whitepaper) about this.

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