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12.06.07

Quick Mention: OOXML/GNOME Podcast Finally Online, Text Summary Posted

Posted in Audio/Video, ECMA, Free/Libre Software, GNOME, GNU/Linux, Open XML, OSI at 11:06 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

An article which summarises the recent podcast has just been published along with an IRC log and an MP3 file (no Ogg Vorbis apparently). As Bruce Byfield correctly points out, the session was calm, not hostile. That’s what ODF advocates wanted and gently asked for. ODF ‘civil wars’ harm everyone, as demonstrated by a certain Foundation. Here is the goal that united everyone, including Marbux, Edwards, and Hiser.

Both sides are clearly concerned with what’s best for free software, differing only in how they define their objective. That is a small point, but perhaps this realization can finally start to put the issue in perspective.

People have already expressed doubt or raised some question there. Although I rarely read comments, one of them questioned the credibility of my arguments, so I responded with evidence. Here is the gist of counter arguments, as summarised by reliable sources:

  • FFII: “Microsoft Office 2007 produces a special version of OOXML, not a file format which complies with the OOXML specification”
  • Jody Goldberg: “The binary blobs are in exactly the same format as the old binary formats. Michael [Meeks] and I cracked it a few years back (see libgsf, or OO.o). We can read and write it.”
  • From Sun blogs (about OpenOffice.org): “We are not working on export filters, that is, filters that save OOXML documents. ” No round-trip.

Personal attacks typically replace requests for facts and proof. All one has to do is ask for references, rather than shoot the messenger, which is easier and more convenient sometimes.

Patent Trolling, Patent Complaint, and GPLv3 Myths Busting

Posted in GPL, IBM, Patents at 10:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Remember Ray Niro, an Über-Patent Troll by profession? There’s an update on a situation which involves him harassing an anonymous blogger. Additionally, Mr. Niro apparently keeps very ‘busy’ with patent harassment and lawsuits.

Someone did write me somewhere that Niro has something like 8 Ferraris and 2 houses in Aspen. I am clearly in the wrong part of the IP biz.

If there is anything to be learned from this, it’s the fact that poor patents breed hogging, not innovation that Microsoft raves about. Meanwhile, Big Blue is pushing the limits as well. It’s reaching reaching out for a ban.

International Business Machines Corp is asking the U.S. government to ban imports of some notebook computers made by Taiwan’s Asustek Computer Inc, alleging that the products infringe three IBM patents.

GNU meditatesHaven’t we learned from Qualcomm [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17] that customers will lose the most from an embargo?

While the patents above seem to be hardware-related, there remains the issue of software patentability, which GPLv3 strives to address, at least as far as Free software is concerned. A veteran in legal matters will soon be speaking about the GPL licence and particularly about confusions associated with the new version of it (press release here).

Wacha will speak and answer questions on copyright and copyleft, the process of removing copyright restrictions. Themes include licensing effects on business practices, strategies for determining liabilities and protections, and the differences between GPL v2 and GPL v3.

The poor and abused patent system seems difficult to escape, but there are means of prevention one can make use of. GPLv3 is one of them.

ISO’s Reputation Collapses Under Heavy Weight of Microsoft Abuses

Posted in ECMA, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML at 10:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

To those who have followed the OOXML/ODF debate, this would hardly be surprising. The following bits are various observations, but none of these can be considered news. To some, the figure of authority which finally speaks out (and confirms it) makes all the difference in the world. Here is Martin Bryan spilling the beans.

A November informative report of Martin Bryan, Convenor, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1 highlights the fallout of the ECMA-376 fast-track process for ISO. He says he is ‘glad to be retiring before the situation becomes impossible’

[...]

In what is an astonishingly outspoken report, Martin Bryan, Convenor, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1 has given us insight into the total mess that Microsoft/ECMA have caused during their scandalous, underhand and unremitting attempts to get – what is a very poorly written specification {i.e. DIS 29500 aka OOXML, AR} – approved as an ISO standard. …

Dana’s latest blog item, “Microsoft accused of stacking ISO committee”, covers this latest developments as well.

In a memo sent following his last meeting as head of the working group on WG1, which is handling Microsoft’s application to make the Word format an ISO standard as ECMA 376, outgoing Governor Martin Bryan (above), an expert on SGML and XML, accused the company of stacking his group.

More reflections here and here. Glyn Moody’s blog contains some valuable links.

At the moment Groklaw speaks about Rob Weir’s observation, which is quite separate. It was mentioned yesterday.

He [Rob Weir] writes that ISO is becoming a laughing stock in IT circles and suggests standards that are outstanding be sent over to OASIS.

Finally, OpenISO has truly awoken. For months we have complained that ISO has lost its mojo, courtesy of Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Regardless of the destiny of the ISO(‘s credibility), the big question remains: will Microsoft have bought itself an international standard? A breaking system could be mended before it’s totally broken.

OOXML is fraud

Drinks Under the Moonlight

Posted in ECMA, ISO, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents at 12:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Drinks are on Microsoft

If you watch the arrangements made at the XML 2007 conference, you’ll find that Microsoft hosts, pays for, covers, and sponsors all sorts of things (mind the “Hors d’oeuvres and drinks hosted by Microsoft”). Novell is involved as well, though it appears to have no interest in real standards, but in “interoperability” instead.

Novell has just reiterated its arguments about the role and the plan for a Silverlight clone, which relies on a framework tied to Microsoft patents.

“We don’t know if [Silverlight] becomes successful,” De Icaza said, but if so, Moonlight will offer the same functionality to Linux.

“We didn’t want to be left out. We didn’t want Linux to be a second-class citizen,” he said.

But that is exactly what Moonlight does to GNU/Linux. While encouraging the use of a supposedly cross-platform Silverlight and ensuring it “become[s] successful” (to use his own words), GNU/Linux becomes a second-class citizen.

Silverlight is not needed and it is hard to come by. There is already Flash. The most recent version of Flash was released to Linux at the same time as the Mac and Windows version. That was a couple of days ago and there was feature parity, no patent threats, and no demands. Compare that to Microsoft and Silevrlight, which is a case of ignoring GNU/Linux and leaving the heavy lifting for somebody else to do.

Adobe’s patent promises and standards are easier to trust because there are no prior incidents of so-called 'patent terrorism‘. In fact, PDF too has just received an ISO as well, which gives Adobe plenty to rave about.

Adobe has received word that the Ballot for approval of PDF 1.7 to become the ISO 32000 Standard (DIS) has passed by a vote of 13::1.

Speaking of standards, Jan van den Beld has meanwhile been writing about ECMA, whose credibility seems stagnant.

Related old article: Moonlight and the dupe quiz? Microsoft or Novell?

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.

Watching shadows on the wall….

Quick Mention: Centeris and Novell

Posted in GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Scalix at 12:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We mentioned Centeris earlier , the context being the GPLv3, which was needed due to compatibility issues with Samba. One curious thing about Centeris shows up in this newer IDG article.

Open, which will be licensed under GPL and LGPL, will ship with the next versions of Red Hat and Ubuntu, according to company officials. A deal with Novell is in the works.

Will this deal resemble the Dell deal? Will this involve software patents and royalties by any chance? Sometimes, companies enter the patent liability mess by association, by liaising with a Microsoft partner rather than Microsoft directly. We saw that with Scalix. There’s also the role of GPL proxies. It’s a role that Novell in particular has been happy to fill.

Quick Mention: Will OOXML be Compatible With Anything at All?

Posted in ECMA, Microsoft, Open XML at 12:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This one particular discussion we have been through before, but Rob Weir has just posted a very detailed blog post that explains why getting OOXML implemented is a lost cause.

Promises have been made. Assurances have been given. Commitments have been proffered. But far less has been delivered.

[...]

So what Ecma is offering SC34 is nothing close to what was promised. Ecma is really seeking to transfer to SC34 the responsibility of spending the next 5 years fixing errors in OOXML 1.0, while future versions of OOXML (“technical revisions”) are controlled by Microsoft, in Ecma, in a process without transparency, and as should now be obvious to all, without sufficient quality controls.

The gist: OOXML is a moving target.

Related old article: Microsoft won’t commit to the open document standard it’s pushing so hard

Now consider this from Brian Jones, a Microsoft manager who has worked on OOXML for six years. In July, Jones was asked on his blog whether Microsoft would actually commit to conform to an officially standardised OOXML. His response:

?It?s hard for Microsoft to commit to what comes out of Ecma [the European standards group that has already OK?d OOXML] in the coming years, because we don?t know what direction they will take the formats. We?ll of course stay active and propose changes based on where we want to go with Office 14. At the end of the day, though, the other Ecma members could decide to take the spec in a completely different direction. … Since it?s not guaranteed, it would be hard for us to make any sort of official statement.?

Now that?s cynical. After all this work to make OOXML a formal, independent standard ? a standard created and promoted by Microsoft, remember ? Microsoft won?t agree to follow it.

Novell Investigated by Feds, Financial Report Postponed

Posted in Finance, Novell, Site News at 12:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We’re back from a somewhat unfortunate downtime caused by heavy load (prominent inbound links after a linux.com podcast). We also got told off by the host for “getting that type of traffic”. We’re growing up fast and I’ll need to find a solution. Hang on while the rest of the site returns to normal (some missing graphics).

In the mean time a lot has happened. The most major news about Novell has reached the front page of technology media, but also finance-oriented media.

Shares of Novell Inc. fell Wednesday after the software maker postponed fourth-quarter results amid a federal inquiry into its accounting practices.

Here is some more information. There are literally tens or hundreds of articles about this in the press.

While presenting the move as merely “an abundance of caution,” Novell announced this morning that it is postponing its fourth-quarter earnings release and conference call that had been scheduled for today.

It seems that Novell and federal regulators have been going back and forth for four months now over some unspecified issues.

Also recall what happened in September. This was foreseen and this was even expected by some other Novell watchers. The last thing we wish to do is have fun at Novell’s expense or resort to ridicule. The articles above present the story better.

The 451 Group appears to have connected the same dots as well. They usually get it right and they haven’t any biases that favour anyone. Their blog is highly recommended for informative analysis and it talks about Novell’s situation at the moment.

Groklaw’s message regarding this issue: “[PJ: SCO has received SEC letters too, asking for information, that ended up easily resolved.]

As hard as it may be (because of guilt), the boycott continues.

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