Remember Mandriva's message to Microsoft when the so-called racketeering schemes took place and gained steam with Xandros and Linspire caving in? Well, get a load of this open letter to Steve Ballmer:
So we closed the deal [17,000 laptops with Mandriva] , we got the order, we qualified the software, we got the machine shipped. In other word, we did our job. I understand the machine are being delivered right now.
And then, today, we hear from the customer a totally different story: “we shall pay for the Mandriva Software as agreed, but we shall replace it by Windows afterward.”
Wow! I’m impressed, Steve! What have you done for these guys to change their mind like this? It’s pretty clear to me, and it will be clear to everyone. How do you call what you just did Steve, in the place where you live? In my place, they give it various names, I’m sure you know them.
Hey Steve, how do you feel looking at yourself in the mirror in the morning?
Of course, I will keep fighting this one and the next one, and the next one. You have the money, the power, and maybe we have a different sense of ethics you and I, but I believe that hard work, good technology and ethics can win too.
Will Microsoft go this far to choke everyone Linux distributor that does not liaise with the Patent Mafia? We have observed and recorded a pattern here and we shall continue to have it documented. If François made this open accusation, then he probably knows something that many of us do not.
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Lagging behind ODF, OOXML begs for love
Departments which rely on the assumption that OOXML will meet their standard requirements should no longer hold their breath. Judging by the way things are handled in the ISO — no matter how futile its role has become — things could carry on for quote some time.
The final fate of OOXML will not be decided at the  meeting, just the production of a disposition of comments report. After that, and this is where it gets funky, the original voting countries will have 30 days to decide if they want to change their votes from what they cast this last summer. So expect the supporter(s) of OOXML to go all out in March to try to get the many NO votes to become ABSTAINs or YESes.
That said, I really expect this thing to drag out for a long, long time through 2008.
With countries like Malaysia, Japan, South Africa, and the Netherlands choosing ODF, time may be running out for OOXML to snatch a chair. Even Germany is leaning towards ODF, as we pointed out yesterday. Let’s not forget Russia. Wikipedia should have a fairly up-to-date list.
You may still be able to recall the mess that was observed back in September. People were bribed by Microsoft, people were lied to by Microsoft, and Microsoft was swinging votes by phoning top-tier diplomats. At the end, upon a miserable defeat, Microsoft unleashed a very dishonest press release in order to confuse everyone. This wasn’t the first time, either. Mary Jo Foley, a long-time Microsoft watcher, said that Microsoft deserved this defeat.
InformationWeek, whose gross bias we pointed out before, has an article about less-known products that challenge Microsoft Office, along with OOXML [via Bob Sutor].
When Microsoft completely redesigned Office 2007, rendering it completely unfamiliar to even the most experienced users, it opened a door for a number of alternatives — some of them online. And while Google and Zoho are the names that most people are familiar with when it comes to online office applications (check out our review Google Vs. Zoho: Can Either Replace Microsoft Office?), there are other — perhaps better — services out there.
As a side note, never forget why Novell actually implements OOXML translators, which are a form of OOXML endorsement that will never bear fruit for Novell. Novell was paid by Microsoft (very handsomely in fact) to serve Microsoft’s agenda in this fashion.
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Watching the flow of so-called ‘intellectual property’ (software patents)
The Register presents some solid arguments in a new article about .NET’s roots in Java
How ASP.NET began in Java
So why did Microsoft deny it? I’m guessing, but maybe the company felt that “Project Cool” was related to Java in people’s minds, and wanted to emphasise that .NET was 100 per cent Java-free. Any resemblance is purely coincidental, as novelists like to say.
In retrospect, this is interesting. Microsoft seems to have signed a deal with Sun Microsystems because of Java patents. Patents, right? So there’s an inheritance of rights going in the Sun » Microsoft direction. Another key point to make (backed by the assertions above) is that .NET was in some sense “copy Java” project, just as “Indiana” (OpenSolaris) is considered by some observers a “copy Linux” project.
Now, mind what Matt Asay says in response to recent Mono/Miguel de Icaza criticism, e.g. [1, 2].
You [Miguel de Icaza], personally, would convince more by going back to the innovation in GNOME that originally made you one of the most interesting developers on the planet. I want the old Miguel (and Nat – where has Nat Friedman been?) back, the one who demo’d Nat’s Dashboard with Nat at OSCON. The one who led and pushed GNOME forward for so many years.
The one who still has the potential to turn the industry on its head. But not by being Microsoft’s best friend. Nor by being its acrid enemy.
Rather, Miguel de Icaza can turn the industry on its head by putting his knowledge of interoperability and open source to work on developing the next-generation desktop (and not by recreating the “best” of Microsoft on Linux). It’s not worth much to you, Miguel, but I think highly of your talents. That’s why I’d like to ask you to get back to innovation, not the somewhat futile (meaning, few to no real customers will use it) Microsoft clone-ware you’ve been engaged in.
Is Miguel truly copying the .NET framework? Is it Java? Whose concepts are being copied? This is by no means an attempt to defend Mono, but if this ever reaches a point of dispute involving Microsoft and Mono-using distributors/users, shouldn’t Sun get involved? Shouldn’t Sun have the right to call shots and maybe be merciful towards those who were careless enough?
“What happens when Silverlight objects hit/invade/infect the Web? They already do. “As another reminder of reasons to step away from Mono, consider the talksbacks in LinuxToday. They say a lot more about the recent critiques, but they are also less polite and constructive.
I have found in this comment to the Microsoft post something very similar to my thinking:
MS says “Write a web application using Silverlight and you can get desktop integration”. Adobe says “Write a web application using AIR and you can get desktop integration”. Mozilla says “write a website *without* doing anything special, and *we* will take care of desktop integration”.
As Sam pointed out the other day, someone is not telling us the whole story about Mono. Would you not suspect that behind a lot of this agenda, money is also involved?
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Making a change while still you can
There’s a bit bundle of news pertaining to patents. Here is a quick summary.
Many thanks to an anonymous reader for pointing out the following thread: Open Source != GPL
The thread may be very valuable for future reference covering the EC-Microsoft agreement [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. The reader points out: “If you read up to the end, there yet seems to be some hope that the DG would not accept the Microsoft’s conditions.” He then adds that it is important that we continue to stress points which we so regularly repeat. “It is now precisely when we must keep denouncing the monopoly’s maneuvers and spreading the word in order to raise awareness of the issue,” he concludes.
Mind the following text:
Posted Oct 24, 2007 22:58 UTC (Wed) by rahvin (guest, #16953)
In reply to: Open Source != GPL by dmantione
Parent article: FFII: EU tells open source to start paying MS patent tax
The deal was negotiated in a back room with no presence of any of the plantiffs, of which SAMBA is the sole remaining. This was a brokered deal between Balmer and an EU politico. The license that has already been released requires the patent license to get the interoperability info, you can’t disclose source and you around bound to audits and other incomprehensible terms that completely exclude GPL software.
The EU Politico that negotiated the “settlement” bent over and snatched defeat from victory while listening to the soft promises of Steve Balmer. Just like the US anti-trust was destroyed by political involvement so was the EU case. Mark my words, Samba will issue a statement saying the settlement offers them nothing.
There is no “deal” or “settlement” in the sense of a document with a signature of Mrs. Kroes below it. There is a “verdict” from DG Competition, and a “verdict” from the EU Court of First Instance, which
requires Microsoft to publish interoperability information, not patent licenses.
* DG Competition interprets providing the “information” to competitors means any competitors, including open source competitors. Therefore open source compatible terms.
* DG Competition interprets tying patent licenses with the purchase of the “information” as not complying with the verdict, especially as DG Competition considers the Microsoft protocols not innovative, and
therefore has serious doubts on the validity of the patents. However, are outside the scope of the “verdict”.
* As the current situation is Microsoft has agreed with this interpretation. DG Competition has not agreed with Microsofts terms (as of yet).
Elsewhere, in Canada, WIPO seems to be doing its old routine, essentially trying to impose US-style IP laws on the rest of the world. This has not escaped the wrath of the open source community in that area.
The Canadian government’s affirmation for copyright reform in this month’s throne speech could have implications on technological innovation as well as the open source community, according to industry activists.
WIPO seems like a very universal and benign establishment, but recall what we wrote about WIPO couple of days ago. WIPO strives to achieve goal that do not necessarily align with the the consumers’ interests as much as those of funding sources (corporations and governments, which are in turn funded by corporations as well). Free open source software rarely intersects with the agenda of bodies such as WIPO because it’s seen as a threat that makes their role weaker.
Other patent news
The millions of blogs littering the Internet prove that everyone has an opinion. But you won’t often find the general counsel of a major tech company shooting his mouth off about ongoing patent litigation.
America’s computing industry are lining up behind Buffalo Technology to support its appeal against a US import ban of its 802.11a and 802.11g kit.
More than 430 organizations and companies representing over 25 industries have written to Senate leaders criticizing pending legislation to reform the US patent system
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A reader has just pointed out to us that EyeOS had gone GPLv3.
Some of us used to wonder if Sun Microsystems would keep up with its half-promises and commitments. We thought that Simon Phipps would have an ongoing debate about the GNU GPLv3 actually materialise to become a walk (OpenSolaris). Nothing yet however.
EyeOS might therefore be the first so-called operating system that embraces the new licence. Our reader has enthusiastically described the situation as follows.
Another great project goes GPLv3, this time taking the OS out of the PC and building a “cloud OS”, but one that anyone can implement by themselves and that is guaranteed that no big corporation would gain exclusive control over thanks to the GPL.
Isn’t that wonderful? This comes to show the value of the licence, which some people blindly overlook. Well, the blind cannot truly look, can s/he? Therein lies the rub. Some people just blindly dismiss the licence because they got exposed to nothing but FUD. There was a well-orchestrated FUD campaign.
Returning to EyeOS, our reader continues:
Just download the package, unzip/untar it in your LAMP (even WAMP) server’s www directory, chmod 777 to the folder and launch install.php
Voila, you have an operating system 100% accessible from any Web browser (Firefox works great).
Here is the project’s Web site. The GPLv3 family appears to be extending very rapidly. Since GPLv3 addresses some of the issue that we describe in this Web site, the development above is good news indeed.
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Here is what Slated has said about Novell/Mono/GNOME:
They are part of the problem, not the solution. It’s like trying to convince the emperor that he has no clothes.
Gnome’s (and Novell’s) indiscretions are painfully transparent, but they are in denial because of their commitment to their new “tailors” Microsoft. In reality, they’re just being stitched-up. When this is allover, I’m sure everyone involved in this scandal will be humiliated.
Mind the context.
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On issues that were overlooked, but mustn’t
There is some good early scoop over at Heise.de. If you care about document formats, then you’d better check it out.
Mr. Yadava declared ODF to be a way out of the current file format chaos that went hand-in-hand with a high risk of data loss. In other parts of India too there is no longer any way around the Open Document Format. “We no longer accept Word documents,” Yatindra Singh, a judge at the High Court in Allahabad, declared. These were not easy to convert into ODF-compatible files, he stated.
“The reason is the rising tension between myself and some GNOME/Mono people (not just SUSE/Novell anymore).”Many more valuable arguments and facts can be found in this article. They help demonstrate the fact that ODF is the way to go, whereas proprietary formats, such as OOXML (yes, XML does not make anything necessarily open), do not belong in governments. If you look for further information on OOXML and ODF, also consider this collection of good articles from Andy Updegrove. They should hopefully sum up this debate reasonably well.
The main reason for writing this post is not the news from Germany, no matter how encouraging that may seem. The main prorpose of this quick post is the rising tension between myself and some GNOME/Mono people (not just SUSE/Novell anymore). While I’m receiving messages about how much of “an idiot” I am for presenting facts and analysis in this Web site, I thought the following discussion, which also includes minor corrections and opposing views, would be worth sharing. It would also be fair by those who voice opposition.
I’ll refer to good arguments that are made by GNOME in this case, but they can be at times be generalised to overlap with Novell and Mono. I’m omitting most references and links in order to save time.
I’ve been getting some flak from a very senior GNOME developer, Jeff Waugh, so there are a few things which require corrections and clarification. I did this before when he convinced me that we had made accidental mistakes (inaccuracies or misinterpretations).
The first complaint refers to the fact that we put together argument without consulting to more sources and asking further questions to bring balance or definite, objective truth. As an example, Jeff begs to differ on our phrases which say that the GNOME Foundation has a controversial stance on OOXML. He says that Boycott Novell suggests this without reservation although this is not truly the case.
There are two issues at hand here. First, we may have been incorrect when it comes to the stance of GNOME as a whole. The reference I was relying on is the open letter that reached Slashdot shortly after we had cited it. I do always try to cite sources when I make arguments and I still opine that any stance which supports OOXML is controversial. OOXML itself is controversial for a million and one reasons.
Secondly, this is a case of disagreement, not necessarily a case of being right or wrong. I firmly believe and have stubbornly argued that many countries are moving to ODF, so there is no reason to take the tactless route of the OpenDocument Alliance (ODF snobbery) instead of instilling confidence in people’s minds as far as ODF goes. ODF needs momentum. OOXML is its enemy, not its complement. Harmonisation is unlikely here because Microsoft wants to render ODF irrelevant, redundant, and scarcely-used. To be fair, ODF has similar goals that go in the reverse direction, which eliminates vendor lock-in.
Moving on to another point, we made an inaccurate assertion when the following sentence was used: “The GNOME team is, sadly enough, helping the Microsoft agenda. It’s an agenda of lock-in — a digital dark age.” There was a poor generalisation here and I should have typed down something that excludes GNOME as a whole and only addresses those that support OOXML (Miguel de Icaza, for example, loves it) and those that promote the use of Mono at the expense of other (and better) ways.
Referring to a discussion we’ve had before, Jeff compared Mono to other technologies that make use of or mimic Microsoft technologies. As examples he listed Samba’s implementation of SMB/CIFS and Wine’s implementation of Win32. He also referred to “OpenOffice.org, Abiword, Gnumeric, KOffice, and plenty of other Open Source projects implement the binary Microsoft formats.” He wanted to know if that was wrong and whether it was “helping the Microsoft agenda,” as we had argued in a different context. My answer would be “no” because OOXML is not yet approved and it is not mature in terms of market presence. It can be stopped before it reaches a critical mass and the many recent governments’ migration to ODF is proof of this.
With regard to Gnumeric, Jeff wanted to clarify something which is very important.
Jody implemented the beginnings of OOXML support for Gnumeric. You should at least attempt to portray reality, instead of suggesting that “GNOME” in general has OOXML as part of its agenda. That’s simply not the case, and a basic understanding of the operation of Free Software projects would make that pretty obvious.
I apologise if I incorrectly assumed that GNOME/Gnumeric as a whole had given some signs acceptance towards and for OOXML. I saw similar signs in KOffice, for what it’s worth, and Gary Edwards agreed on this issue in my long communications with him. Some other projects, not just GNOME, appear to be testing some waters elsewhere, albeit not defecting (‘changing teams’) completely. In anyevent, the issue which involves OOXML can and should be separated from the risky generalisation that points to GNOME. My bad, Jeff.
The attacks on our reporting style continues, which led to further disagreements. Several days ago I said that some people consider this site controversial. One of our readers responded to say that this was not the case as we do indeed present the truth. This was one among the comments that truly mean a lot to me personally, but I try to keep my character and my feelings off this site entirely. Let’s make this the exception.
I beg to differ on some issues that Jeff has raised with regards to the site’s reputation and presentation. It is important to clarify that we actually do research on various topics and then present our interpretation. We analyse an interesting (yet somewhat complex) situation, so there is room for errors and misinterpretation. A lot of guessing and speculation is involved because there is no other way. None of this is based on press releases that are informative, factual, but sometimes biased and promotional.
The core of this Web site is essentially a cross-linked blog with external sources and comments that fuel further discussions. We are here to explore some issues of interest — issues that are tightly interwined. The level of coverage this site offers cannot be equated to that of articles, which is why I am hereby posting a clarification and offer corrections that reflect on things Jeff has told me. We can correct and annul things that we have made guesses about, some of which are incorrect and some of which miss another crucial point ofview. Some of Jeff’s points are very valid indeed and it was important to bring up his perspective.
Further, according to Jeff, with reference to GNOME:
How is keeping Microsoft on their toes in their own working group in ECMA “supporting OOXML”? The open letter was a knee-jerk reaction based on very little information, and without the benefit of any contact with folks from GNOME. The guy made a bunch of assumptions. I’m participating in the thread on odf-discuss (an “Open Document Fellowship” list) if you want more fodder from someone who is actually involved:
http://lists.opendocumentfellowship.com/pipermail/odf-discuss/2007-October/thread.html (down the bottom)
I couldn’t help but notice other people who take part in the discussions as well, e.g. here.
Some of the arguments tend to be a case of going around in circles. It is truly a case of chicken-and-egg (support and adoption for two competing format, one of which is an international standard).
Jeff insists that OOXML is still going to be implemented for GNOME users to have, despite the growing adoption of ODF. I don’t believe it’s the right route to take. He rightly add, however, that “wrestling better docs out of Microsoft is a great thing to do. Participating on the ECMA working group is not “support for OOXML””.
Consider this a disclosure that presents the other side of the story. You can judge for yourselves what is right and what is wrong. Let’s just carry on presenting some findings and let the readers decide.
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How could Novell, the OSI, the ISO, and the EC be so naive or blind?
In respond to this excellent new analysis it is worth pointing out that Microsoft already has hijacked “open source”. It’s just unfortunate that many developers and CIOs are unable to see this. Here are some fragments of interest (the article as a whole is a highly-recommended reading).
What really worries me is what looks like an emerging pattern in Microsoft’s behaviour. The EU agreement is perhaps the first fruit of this, but I predict it will not be the last. What is happening is that Microsoft is effectively being allowed to define the meaning of “open source” as it wishes, not as everyone else understands the term. For example, in the pledge quoted above, an open source project is “not commercially distributed by its participants” – and this is a distinction also made by Kroes and her FAQ.
In this context, the recent approval of two Microsoft licences as officially “open source” is only going to make things worse. Although I felt this was the right decision – to have ad hoc rules just because it’s Microsoft would damage the open source process – I also believe it’s going to prove a problem. After all, it means that Microsoft can rightfully point to its OSI-approved licences as proof that open source and Microsoft no longer stand in opposition to each other. This alone is likely to perplex people who thought they understood what open source meant.
What we are seeing here are a series of major assaults on different but related fields – open source, open file formats and open standards. All are directed to one goal: the hijacking of the very concept of openness. If we are to stop this inner corrosion, we must point out whenever we see wilful misuse and lazy misunderstandings of the term, and we must strive to make the real state of affairs quite clear. If we don’t, then core concepts like “open source” will be massaged, kneaded and pummelled into uselessness.
Rough reality, but it’s all very true. If you want to see a blunt response (parts with strong language are intentionally omitted), then look here.
Without explicitly saying that Microsoft does hold software patents applicable in the E.U., by allowing (the raison d’être of) and accepting the one-off payment of EUR 10,000 “to be paid by companies that dispute the validity or relevance of Microsoft’s patents”, the European Commission implicitly endorses Microsoft’s claims of having the “interoperability information” covered by software patents!
This is very troubling indeed. We have covered issues associated with these patents in Europe endlessly for the past fortnight [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. Everything that we cover here, from document formats (ISO) to open source (OSI) and Linux (Novell et al), is very interconnected and the issues intersect with one another. They are inseparable. Antitrust litigation and procurement is where they make a lot of impact. Attempts to ‘hijack’ open source companies and Linux companies would be hard to stop, but the GPLv3 helps here. Do read the new analysis if you haven’t because it is very eye opening.
Remind yourself that Microsoft is now in the business of extinguishing Free software and Linux. Do not be misled. By further diluting the meaning of “open source”, Microsoft can kill Free software, as well as the true value of open source software. It is not bound to happen because it is happening already, but some people just cannot see it.
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