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10.28.07

Europe, Intellectual Property, and Software Patent Stories

Posted in America, Antitrust, Europe, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents, SUN at 11:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Europe’s stance on patents is a hot topic at the moment. The EC’s agreement with Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] left room for uncertainty while at the same time giving the agency more power and influence.

The European Union’s antitrust agency is becoming more influential just as its U.S. counterparts have grown more cautious and inactive, experts say.

It was interesting to find the following article in The Register: European Commission asks for new IP protection layer

The European Commission wants to create a new layer of intellectual property protections because it says existing structures such as WIPO are not flexible enough.

[...]

ACTA is designed to create a common approach between member nations in relation to the punishment of counterfeiting and piracy. It may also plan to change the law in some member countries. One of its aims is listed as “creating a strong modern legal framework which reflects the changing nature of intellectual property theft in the global economy”.

This whole proposal refers to the larger IP ‘umbrella’ and not necessarily patents. But there are other noteworthy stories.

(Software) Patent news:

NetApp losing ‘spew dot oh’ blog war to Sun

Then you have Sun playing the open source card against NetApp’s proprietary code stance.

As Hitz rightly argues, there’s no reason to give Sun any credit for citing that ZFS has been open sourced if Sun is in fact stealing NetApps’ intellectual property. But Hitz seems to ignore how virulent and vocal the open source “community” can be.

Gutting of Amazon patent was helped by Amazon-owned company

Amazon’s 1-Click patent became famous in the late 1990s when the company asserted it against competitor book shop Barnes and Noble, which wanted to challenge Amazon’s dominance of online book sales.

Covered last week: Microsoft pays $5m to settle Timeline BI patent dispute

Microsoft has agreed to pay Seattle, Washington-based patent holding firm Timeline $5m to settle an ongoing patent infringement suit related to technology that Microsoft gained last year from its acquisition of ProClarity.

Disinformation on the Rise, Shameless Linux FUD Makes a Comeback

Posted in Apple, Deception, Dell, Europe, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Servers, Vista at 11:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The number of targeted attacks on Linux definitely seem to be rising. The usual suspects, so-called ‘analysts’ who have hidden ties with Microsoft, are constantly taking a hit at Linux. They take turns, so to speak.

“In general, IDC, where Al Gillen takes the lead, does a lot of business with Microsoft.”Days ago, a headline appeared which simply says that Linux is losing to Windows. Losing where? Where is the proof? A closer look revealed that Al Gillen, who is a friend of Microsoft, spread some selective and fairly meaningless statistics (as in “lies, damn lies, and statistics“). His connection with Microsoft is explained in The Register, among other places.

In general, IDC, where Al Gillen takes the lead, does a lot of business with Microsoft. Examples include the story cited above.

Part of the problem stems from the reticence of companies such as IDC and Gartner to reveal their clients. That should make everyone nervous, but it doesn’t. So called objective technology publications keep publishing material bought by vendors without telling you this.

Consider this Microsoft-commissioned study from IDC which implicitly pronounces Linux unimportant to European economy.

A recent IDC white paper on the economic impact of Microsoft’s super soaraway new Vista operating system seems to be lacking one crucial ingredient — other operating systems.

More about this here:

While reviewers debate the merits of Windows Vista and analysts puzzle the over the pace of adoption, IDC and Microsoft are in little doubt over its impact for the economies of America’s 50 states.

To date, IDC has estimated Windows Vista will create 37,000 new jobs and generate $15.5bn in related products and services across just four US states.

We all know how Vista ended up, don’t we? Last week it was reported that Vista sales had even slowed down. More on IDC’s promise and flawed (paid-for) prediction here (page now expired):

The study, conducted by research firm IDC and commissioned by Microsoft, said Windows Vista will be installed on over 30 million personal computers in Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and United Kingdom within the first year of shipment.

I suspect that the following ‘smoking gun’ incident [PDF], which was highlighted by Comes vs Microsoft solicitors in Iowa, actually involved IDC.

[Microsoft manager:] I don’t like the fact that the report show us losing on TCO on webservers. I don’t like the fact that the report show us losing on availability [windows was down more than linux]. And I don’t like the fact that the reports says nothing new is coming with windows .net server.

[...]

I don’t like it to be public on the doc that we sponsored it because I don’t think the outcome is as favorable as we had hoped. I just don’t like competitors using it as ammo against us. It is easier if it doesn’t mention that we sponsored it.

How about Microsoft paying IDC for a ‘study’ on OOXML? There you have it:

Today, Microsoft made available an IDC study about so-called open desktop file formats. It’s yet another Microsoft propaganda effort, as a crucial format standards vote approaches.

More here:

This study is a fact-based analysis of the emerging open document standards, Open XML and ODF.

If only it involved just “facts”.

Remember Dell’s gentle steps into the Linux world? There will always be some entity like IDC around to discourage Dell. Consider this:

Dell’s refusal to sell Ubuntu machines to small businesses makes sense, because those customers typically want PCs that let them get to work right away. “It makes sense because the assumption is they want everything to work right out of the box,” Richard Shim, analyst for IDC, said. “With something like Ubuntu, it’s going to require some tinkering.”

Guess what? Dell began selling Linux to small business only weeks later.

The iPhone was another threat to Microsoft because of Windows Mobile. Neither Steve Ballmer nor IDC could keep their mouth shut. They had to speak out about the iPhone’s impending failure, even before its release.

IDC has poured cold water on Apple’s iPhone just days after a previous survey led M:Metrics to talk up the new entry to the cellphone stakes. But are the new numbers sound?

[...]

The most obvious difference is in the sample size. M:Metrics had 11,060 respondents, IDC just 456. The sample space was also different, with M:Metrics apparently sampling from mobile phone subscribers, while IDC looked at online mobile phone shoppers.

Who had the last laugh? Apple or IDC?

In general, the problem that we face here is explained well in the following article.

It’s often difficult to figure out the motivation behind a particular study – until one finds out who has commissioned and paid for it. The so-called tech consulting companies would love it if the consumer believes that they have conducted an “independent” study. The worrying thing is that not many people blow their cover.

Microsoft Watch adds:

Research firms aren’t in the business of giving away information to the news media, but selling it to clients. The information provided to the press should be incomplete.

I have many references to show similar connections between Gartner and Microsoft. The same goes for NPD and Jupiter (among others) since the evidence is out there for all to see. Analysts are motivated by those who pay for research, so they should be trusted only with a barrel of salt.

In the case of Linux, this is a brainwash/stereotype/FUD/propaganda campaign that has gone on for many years. It’s part of the old tactic which is to use so-called ‘independent’ analysts to spread FUD and/or praise Microsoft.

A shocking antitrust exhibit [PDF], called “Evangelism is War” (from Comes v. Microsoft). It is damning proof of the fact that Microsoft hires analysts that should appear as ‘independent’ as possible and then have them attack the opposition while praising Microsoft.

They tried this with another so-called analyst (Garternberg), who is very senior. What he did not reveal to the press is the fact that he is former Microsoft evangelist. A few weeks ago he used his ‘analyst’ hat to write about “Linux not being ready for the desktop”. It’s preferable not to link directly to a story of those that bait/crave attention to spread FUD, but here is a good rebuttal. Sadly, even reasonable rebuttals could not reach an audience large enough to catch up with the spreading of this ‘article’ in many tubes of the press. It must not be forgotten that Microsoft has many relationships with journalists (that’s a story for another day), so it’s merely an exercise in string-pulling.

More Reasons to Give SUSE the Pass

Posted in GNU/Linux, Novell, OpenSUSE at 10:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Everyone can do Linux without a Novell dependency

It would be hard to ‘punish’ Novell for its managerial sins if the OpenSUSE community is able to grow, expand, and thrive. Despite the Saturday posts we have made it clear that helping OpenSUSE is an implicit way of endorsing what Novell is doing. Since then, we have shown that OpenSUSE isn't as perfect (or most attractive) as the Linux world is sometimes led to believe. Here are a couple more examples that are new.

The first one argues against Open SUSE 10.2, whose looks are claimed to be as lame as Windows Vista’s, to use the author’s own words.

No wonder Ubuntu is winning the Distro Game.

The second one talks about OpenSUSE’s “unimpressive showing”. The reviewer uses the most recent version and he remains more optimistic than that aforementioned chap.

In spite of 10.3’s unimpressive showing, I’m still eagerly looking forward to the next openSUSE release, because this remains one of the strongest overall Linux distributions and its developers are clearly taking a cue from the user-centric Ubuntu camp. The only question is when, not if, openSUSE will live up to the demand for a better desktop Linux.

OpensuseThere is room for improvement, but this can potentially be said about any operating system (perfection is rare). Nevertheless, this should give more reasons for people to choose a Linux distribution other than (Open)SUSE.

Novell’s bottom line is the spot that can pressure it most to change its way. You don’t give your dog a treat for urinating in the pool.

Anti-symbiosis: ODF, OOXML, Mono, GNOME, and OpenOffice.org

Posted in GNOME, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Office Suites, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Patents, SCO at 9:40 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OpenDocument format (ODF) adoption is still rising quite sharply. As evidence of this consider:

In total, there are now more than two dozen ODF-supporting text, spreadsheet, and presentation applications announced in the past three months

Recent additions include a component of Apple's new operating system, which was release on Friday. Where does Novell stand? Well, it’s mildly complex. Novell seems to be having a small conflict of interests although ODF remains its priority. Novell insists on it.

The following news bits brought back memories of the fact that Novell separates OpenOffice.org for Windows and OpenOffice.org for Linux because of its 'special' edition. Ron Hovsepian explained that part of his deal with Microsoft involved such a condition. It was a side effect of restrictions. Novell was allowed to add certain features to OpenOffice.org for Windows, but not for Linux. At the time, it certainly sounded like Microsoft wishes to divide OpenOffice.org and make Windows the more attractive option, even for open source software such as OpenOffice.org. From the short article:

Some of the OpenOffice.org-based variants that you can opt for instead include IBM’s Lotus Symphony Suite http://symphony.lotus.com) and Novell’s OpenOffice Windows edition at www.novell.com.

“Windows edition” is bad news because it means fragmentation. It’s “OpenOffice on steroids” and it’s likely to be bound by poor limitations that are similar to Moonlight's. As part of Novell’s path of getting standards replaced by 'interoperability' Novell has already made OpenOffice.org incompatible with itself. Need the forking issues be mentioned at all? These concerns no longer escape everyone’s attention. Consider the following newly-published open letter.

Having Gnome team members promoting the [OOXML] agenda of its main opponent, however, is not only counter-productive but also reflects negatively on the project and its credibility. GNOME is supporting its main opponent by explicitly participating in the official Ecma / ISO process; by participating informally at the conferences; and, presumably, by participating inside of actual [OOXML] development. It seems that Gnome is becoming Microsoft’s catspaw to damage and slow down open source and open standards.

I exchanged some E-mails with Jeff Waugh and I can confirm that GNOME developers are implementing OOXML. In fact, Microsoft has already used Gnumeric as an illustration that OOXML is allegedly supported by other parties. Rob Weir rebutted this argument very quickly by showing many examples from Gnumeric (we covered this here). He proved that Gnumeric is engaged in the task of achieving the impossible. The GNOME team is, sadly enough, helping the Microsoft agenda. It’s an agenda of lock-in — a digital dark age.

“Novell was paid to earn nothing and lose everything, unless its selfish ego is the only thing that counts.”The open letter moves on to addressing another issue. As you probably know by now, this site is very concerned about Novell’s direction with .NET/Mono and particularly the nature of its deal with Microsoft, which uses Mono as a divider (only Novell receives Mono 'protection', but it it is excluded from other patent deals). See [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33]. Yes, there are many of previous writings on this topic and you can get a taste by hovering over the links with JavaScript enabled. Because of patents and visibility of code (Novell gets to see Microsoft source code), patents and SCO-like claims emerge as a concern in both OpenOffice.org and Mono. The two issues are almost interchangeable in this context and let’s not forget that C# gets introduced where OpenOffice.org converters get implemented and added. Novell was paid to earn nothing and lose everything, unless its selfish ego is the only thing that counts.

OOXML and OpenOffice.org can be used as dividers as well — the dividers that set apart different Linux distributions — those that pay Microsoft and those that do not (or those that are permitted to interact with Windows and those that are forbidden access to protocols).

The open letter addresses this issue.

For example, one high profile team member can cause a lot of trouble for Gnome, especially when promoting proprietary technologies in opposition to open source and open standards. Quotes like, “Time to play with C#, ASP.NET and some nifty toys (you can make almost Windows feel like Linux now)” seem to be promoting themes advanced by bloggers at Gnome’s (and open standards’) main antagonist, Microsoft.

Miguel de Icaza and GNOME are still conceptually inseparable. It is unfortunate to find that we end up this way.

Mono is Novell

Might Europe Reverse Accidental Discrimination Against Samba?

Posted in Europe, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents, Protocol, Samba, Standard, Videos at 2:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In order of relevance, see our previous coverage of reasons why the recent agreement in Europe is bad news for Free software [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. The agreement, of course, may be good as a whole, but given Europe’s win in this case, allowing somewhat of a defeat to be tolerated would be foolish.

Fortunately, it turns out that the European Commission has opened up its eyes to the issue. There is finally a Web page available to indicate this.

The changes mandated by the European Commission in Microsoft’s interoperability licences will continue to block Open Source developers, legal experts on this type of software say.

“The agreement is going to run foul of the GPL,” IT news site VNUNet quotes Mark Webbink, the director of the Software Freedom Law Center. The GNU General Public License is one of the most used Open Source licences.

Mind the source of this page (ec.europa.eu). Mark Webbink is used as a point of authority. As a reminder, the key issue here is patents because Microsoft strives to collect royalties merely for access to its protocols. This type of strategy pressures Samba and its users, who are naturally ‘allergic’ to software patents. Here is what Mark Webbink said about patents very recently.

Slashdot speaks about the deafening silence coming from the direction of those who once demanded a patent reform. They vowed to fight for a reform. Instead, nowadays, one of them in actually abusing the poor system and using it to his advantage.

How Can the Press, the OSI, and the ISO be So Biased and Foolish?

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, ISO, Microsoft, Protocol, Standard at 2:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

One company pretends and the rest simply follow

Let’s remind ourselves that Microsoft has taken several steps to assimilate itself to Linux and open source. We haven’t a doubt that at the end of the day, all of these moves are motivated not by good will, but by pursuit for greater wealth, as well as elimination of competing platforms and applications. Microsoft establishes this by:

  1. Fostering open-source projects development
  2. Wooing OSI, which changes perceptions about Microsoft as an open-source player
  3. Fighting for ISO’s approval, which makes Microsoft seem like an open standards embracer
  4. Expressing plans to acquire open source companies, which makes it seem like a great donation of money and acceptance of change
  5. Making deals with Linux distributors, which makes it seem like collaboration for everyone’s benefit

“Microsoft never proposed really open standards.”In reality, none of the above is quite what it seems because:

  1. Open source projects that Microsoft hosts depend on Microsoft’s proprietary stack, so they only serve Microsoft’s bottom line
  2. Shared-source gets ‘contaminated’ with “Open Source” and vice versa, which leads to further confusion in the market
  3. Microsoft never proposed really open standards. These are patents-encumbered, poorly/not documented specification and they require extreme lobbying and bribery to seem acceptance. Moreover, existing international standards get snubbed and totally ignored, leading to fragmentation and duplication of effort.
  4. Acquisitions of and deals with open source companies are intended to serve the Windows platform and other related products
  5. Deals with Linux distributors achieve nothing but the exclusion most Linux companies and users, depriving them from access to protocols. These deals also fuel patent FUD.

Microsoft’s steps towards the open source community and Linux are a farce, but the company takes pride in them. Some journalists fall for this fairy tale, but some do not. In the following new article, more is said about the struggle which commercial software companies are having in the face of Free software adoption. It is summarised as follows

Microsoft fighting open source even as it embraces it.

“Embrace” should have a very special meaning here. It’s more like the embrace of destruction, molestation, and death. The following new article talks about open source and the levels of openness. It is kind enough to say a little about Microsoft’s rules of open source projects, which are either Windows-tied or contain GPL ‘poison’ (deliberate incompatibilities).

Faking it, or “level 0″ participation, is doing PR blitz around open source but not actually using an open source license. “There isn’t a lot of point to doing this unless you want to destroy trust,” Fitzgerald says.

Have a look at another new article which describes Microsoft and open source as ‘frenemies’ (friends & enemies). I find this to be a poor article that echoes exactly those sentiments which we fear journalists will fall for. Microsoft is still fooling the world, which is not seeing open source devoured to increase lock-in (in the cloak of openness) and extract more profits out of ordinary consumers. The article has more positive bits such as:

“Microsoft appears to have accepted that Linux – on servers and devices at least, if not the desktop – cannot be completely stopped,” said Daniel Egger, CEO of consulting firm Open Source Risk Management.

It is worth mentioning that this article also makes it more apparent that Matt Asay, who supported Microsoft's acceptance by the OSI doormen, thinks of open source mainly in terms of money. Some people still see open source primarily as a monetisation tool and enabler. It is not so much about freedom; it is sometimes more to do with harping about solution to lock-in (control through source code). If Windows, Apple’s Mac OS and some other proprietary shims are involved, Asay does not seem to mind all that much. One has to remain cautious and skeptical when it comes to the OSI’s role in defending freedom. Eric Raymond might be the exception here, but it seems like the OSI has devolved.

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