09.16.07

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~~ Interlude ~~ Why Novell Harms GNU/Linux

Posted in Boycott Novell, GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Novell at 4:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Repeating the old arguments

There are many implications to be considered here. Let us begin with the fact that Novell has awoken the sleeping giant which is software patents. The deal gave credibility to an argument that Linux infringes on Microsoft patents and is therefore required to license Microsoft technologies. Another important issue is the exclusionary nature of the deal with Microsoft. Novell gains access to and develops various bits of software that other Linux distributors cannot have. This undermines the principles and spirit of Free software which — among several other things — thrives in collaboration and sharing. The relationship should be reciprocal in order for progress of Linux as a whole to be fast.

Novell’s deal has an impact on a variety of other things, including the European Commission’s antitrust ruling. Novell is also engaged in supporting technology that helps Microsoft stifle the adoption of Linux.

I am pleased to find out that PJ feels the same way. In response to a recent interview which suggests that IBM continues to accept the Microsoft/Novell, PJ said this:

If it’s bad for the community, it will eventually be bad for customers too, because the community will disappear. Then you are back in the Cathedral, and you will have lost the Bazaar, which is what made Linux great in the first place. And Microsoft doesn’t have the goal of interoperability anyway. The MSOOXML story proved that to me. So the patent peace deals will not increase interoperability. They will increase the cost of Linux to Microsoft’s advantage and reduce the value received, because the patent license terms restrict what customers can do with Linux. They also restrict what programmers can do, which will kill Linux in the long term.

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9 Comments

  1. Steve Carroll said,

    September 17, 2007 at 5:37 am

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    Am I missing something? It is Microsoft who paid Novell not the other way around. I know Balmer has said several things that are just contradictory to the deal made. Is that any reason to boycott Novell? I think not.

    It seems to me that the Linux community is turning out like the Republicans..”We eat our young.”

  2. Raymond Koekemoer said,

    September 17, 2007 at 6:33 am

    Gravatar

    Novell’s interoperability solutions are all opnsourced anyway so everyone gains whichever way you look at it.

  3. Eric Gearhart said,

    September 17, 2007 at 6:46 am

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    Sensationalist FUD.

    I have taken a hard look at this site (boycottnovell)… and all I can find are headlines that sell ads.

    Talk about living off the “backs of the community.”

  4. The understander said,

    September 17, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Gravatar

    What you (the previous commenters) probably don’t understand is that software coming from Novell, _looking like_ open (source) and free, really isn’t free. It’s a trojan horse, a virus bomb.

    What you get when you use Novell software is implementations of formats and protocols that are filled with patents. And only if you use Novell’s version of them, you can be assured not to be sued for patent infringement. This means, the source code is there, so it _looks like_ open source, but it’s filled with patented mumbo jumbo which means, you _cannot_ redistribute or modify the code, without risking being sued.

    No one gains from Novell’s programs, everybody loses, except Microsoft and Novell.

    Note, the above is only true for free software licenses that aren’t protected against _this_ kind of trojan horse attacks. GPLv3 is protected, but most free software isn’t GPLv3. And that’s not all, GPLv3 is not enough against _future_ attacks, which may very well come from the coalition which currently attacks free software, namely Novell and Microsoft.
    Until Novell proves to be more of _protectors_ of free software than _attackers_ of it, they should be boycotted, and I strongly feel that for instance Debian should take a stance here, and not have any Novell-infected programs.
    It’s just sad they haven’t done that already. Software infected by Novell _simply isn’t free_ anymore.

    Now, lots of people have absolutely no passion for free software, and accept to be brutally violated intellectually by majors corps with patents and evil intentions.
    But, there are those of us who rejects that, and until our intellectual race is extincted, there is a future for freedom of intellect.

  5. gpl1 said,

    September 17, 2007 at 10:37 am

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    Steve:


    Eben Moglen: Oh, I beg your pardon, certainly, I, the question was so obvious that it needed no repetition: “Could I explain the threat posed to GPL’d software’s freedom by the Microsoft/Novell agreement?”.

    And I’m going to speak in slightly more general terms than that, beginning with: Imagine a party which wants to eliminate Free Software’s freedom or at least hobble its developers in serious ways, so as to inhibit their ability to compete. Imagine that such a party has patents of uncertain validity but in large numbers, which it could conceivably use to scare developers and users. Imagine that such a party then begins to make periodic threats in the form, “Gee, we have a lot of patents. Never mind how many. Never mind what they are. Never mind how good they are. We have a lot of patents, and someday something terrible will happen. Don’t use that software.”

    Imagine that that’s a strategy that the party adverse to freedom engages in because it’s better than suing. Suing is expensive. Suing is irreversible. And suing might actually cause you to have to explain which patents they are and why they’re any good. [Laughter] So threatening is better than suing, OK? Imagine a party who engages in recurrent threats every summer time, for years on end, on a sort of annual “be very afraid” tour, okay? [Laughter]

    I know, it sounds absurd.

    Imagine now that what happens is that the annual “Be very afraid” tour starts creating terrible pushback, because people call up who are the CEOs of major banks and financial institutions, and they say, “Those people you’re threatening are us. We’re the largest, richest, most powerful people in capitalism, and we determine the value of your stock. We think you should be quiet now.” OK?

    That happens if you do this thing of saying “be very afraid” to people who have lots and lots of money and lots and lots of power and who control the value of your stock. They will push back. The business model of threatening to sue people works if the people are 12-year-olds. It does not work real well if they are the pillars of finance capitalism. So as a party engaged in annual “be very afraid” tours, you’re going to start to get pushback by enterprise customers who say, “That’s *us* you’re threatening.”

    Now what if you could reduce their sense of being the people who are made afraid? What if you could find a way to give them quiet and peace — and make a little money on the side — so that the only people who are left quaking when you did your annual “Be Very Afraid” tour were the developers themselves? Now you would have given yourself a major ecological boost in swinging your patents around and threatening to hurt people.

    Deals for patent safety create the possibility of that risk to my clients, the development community. If enterprise thinks that it can go and buy the software my clients make from some party who gives them peace from the adversary in return for purchasing a license from them, then enterprises may think they have made a separate peace, and if they open the business section one morning and it says “Adversary Makes Trouble for Free Software”, they can think, “Not my problem. I bought the such-and-such distribution, and I’m OK.”

    This process of attempting to segregate the enterprise customers, whose insistence on their rights will stop the threatening, from the developers, who are at the end the real object of the threat, is what is wrong with the deals.

    So what you ought to do is to say to parties, Please don’t make separate peace at the community’s expense. Please don’t try to make your customers safe, if that’s going to result in the destruction of the upstream rain forest where your goods come from. We’re an ecological system. If you undermine community defenses, you’re undermining the whole ecology. And doing that for the benefit of your customers at the expense of your suppliers is not a good way to stay in business.

    So that’s the fundamental discussion about the problem created by such deals.

    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20070517083516872

  6. Barney Fife said,

    September 17, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Gravatar

    @Understander:

    Have you ever heard of the GPL? Didn’t think so. Maybe you should read up on it. There’s plenty of info available. Try Google sometime.

    You can’t mix patents in with GPL’d software. End of story. End of discussion. End of senseless, idiotic rambling. Period. No further discussion necessary. Adios. See you later. Couldn’t be clearer. We’re done here. Nothing to talk about further. Please go home and take a nap.

    The ONLY way that Novell could taint GPL’d software is by writing all of it themselves and releasing it under the GPL. That’s not what’s happening here.

    Case closed.

    Stop posting these ignorant comments and stories in an attempt to harm the FOSS world. You guys are worse than Microsoft.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 17, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Gravatar

    Am I missing something? It is Microsoft who paid Novell not the other way around.

    Yes, Microsoft paid, not got paid. This comes to show you that Novell needed money to accept a deal which it knew was a bad one.

  8. Anon said,

    September 21, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Gravatar

    The understander:

    Good luck avoiding software that Novell contributes code to, it’s near impossible to do so.

    They make contributions to at least the following software:

    - Linux kernel
    - gcc
    - CUPS
    - Xorg
    - GNOME
    - KDE
    - Xgl
    - Compiz
    - Mono
    - ALSA
    - OpenOffice

    To get away from Novell “tainted” code, you’d have to switch to BSD and not run X.

    Good luck with that :)

  9. Anon said,

    September 21, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Gravatar

    The understander:

    Good luck avoiding software that Novell contributes code to, it’s near impossible to do so.

    They make contributions to at least the following software:

    - Linux kernel
    - gcc
    - CUPS
    - Xorg
    - GNOME
    - KDE
    - Xgl
    - Compiz
    - Mono
    - ALSA
    - OpenOffice

    To get away from Novell “tainted” code, you’d have to switch to BSD and not run X.

    Until you make the switch, I’ll assume you’re just an ignoramus.

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