As I stated last week, I’ll reluctantly accept the blame for making no preparations whatsoever. Being as lazy as I tend to be sometimes I rarely proofread), I believed that just picking up the phone would suffice. This seemed to be a safe route to answering questions, some of which were collected in advance to be directed at opposing sides (more information on this will possibly come in a followup post).
”I was merely invited to the podcast and it was Jeff who planned everything and had peers arrange it.“Since it was not necessary, I wasn’t prepared (nor willing) to make any planned and properly-structured statements. I was merely invited to the podcast and it was Jeff who planned everything and had peers arrange it. Rambling was to be expected if awkward silences were to materialise in the podcast (and indeed, Jeff was absent for a very, very long time). The session was plagued with technical difficulties and suffered from poor planning (no concrete and complete agenda).
People have said that I underestimated the impact of the podcast. Personally, I just saw this as an opportunity to reconcile with Jeff Waugh under a consensus that GNOME’s stance in ECMA (on OOXML) is indeed very damaging to Free software. Bruce Byfield misrespresented me by choosing a headline that suggests otherwise. It’s like putting a mouse next to a cat while the cat is asleep only to take a photo, and then claim that those two animals live together in harmony. Buy anyway….. I believed this story was over when Linux.com summarised with a new weekly video, but this debate was sparked up again owing to an article from Sam Varghese. From the article:
Sadly, Schestowitz hardly got a word in edgeways. He found himself up against Waugh, Miller and Bruce Byfield (also from Linux.com – both Byfield and Miller were quite obviously biased towards Waugh’s point of view), and also Miguel de Icaza, the co-founder of the GNOME project, who phoned in and was allowed to stay on and speak whenever he felt so inclined.
I’m pretty sure, though, that Waugh will leave a comment below, questioning why he wasn’t asked for input about this article – before he lets off steam against me (and not the points made in this piece) on a members-only mailing list. Last time it was the Open Source Industry Association mailing list.
GNOME has a great many strengths – but one of its major weaknesses is having a media spokesman who does not know the difference between news and comment. He makes the Foundation look very amateurish.
Sam’s analysis aligns perfectly with E-mails I’ve received since the podcast. There are some interesting (maybe over-the-line) reactions in LinuxToday, including this one, which rubbed some people the wrong way.
It’s sad that the GNOME foundation has turned into a mouthpiece for a company that seeks to inject patent ridden technology into open source software. To modify the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise…
“Ironic. They could save others from death, but not themselves.”
Do they want to alienate most of the open source community? If that’s their goal then I must congratulate them: They really are succeeding.
As an aside, I want to take exception on a paragraph in the article:
> Miller asked Waugh why GNOME and all the other major FOSS
> projects had not joined together and taken a stand that they would
> not support OOXML. Waugh talked around it – and the absence of
> any genuine journalist in that discussion was made plain as nobody
> tried to pin Waugh down and get him to answer the question. He
> was allowed to spin and did so. No genuine journalist would have
> allowed that.
In that case there must be virtually no genuine journalists, because that happens all the bloody time, especially in politics.
Elsewhere on the Web, a Mono skeptic had his say as well:
BTW, Sam Varghese insists that (KDE takes stand on OOXML; GNOME dithers ) the KDE folks “deserve a round of applause” for having expressed their opposition to OOXML, whereas the GNOME guys… uh… the GNOME guys… they have screwed the podcast with Roy Schestowitz!
The show_119922.mp3 (13.7 MB) proves that Robin Miller and Bruce Byfield were obviously on the side of Jeff Waugh, which is obviously defending Miguel de Icaza (who has just finished speaking at the Microsoft-sponsored conference XML2007)!
Have I mentioned that BB is eating that thing?
After Mono, and now OOXML, what’s next? Red Hat should realize that, should they not fork GNOME while they still can, they might be unable to build a “clean” GNOME for RHEL6, as GNOME might get very trickily tied to Microsoft by then!
Some said I was cornered in the podcast (being unprepared and nonchalant didn’t help either). Others said that it was bad crowd and that they were possibly portraying the ‘minority’ as “extremists” who are driven by hate of Microsoft. There were those called it a set-up or an ambush.
I’ve always calmed down desktop environment flamewars until they were quelled. I even advocated GNOME, but the multiple identities in GNOME have become a cause for concern. If GNOME does not stand up soon and joins KDE’s stance, the project will get in serious trouble. In a sense, it is already too cozy with Microsoft because Novell plays a role in this relationship as well.
True separability here is not likely to be approached because Novell is bound by Microsoft’s terms and at the same time it commits changes to various projects. This does not just include Mono. We mentioned and predicted that a year ago in the context of OpenOffice.org.
Proposed legislation that would mandate the use of the Open Document Format (ODF) across the entire Dutch government has infuriated Microsoft.
Microsoft Netherlands has engaged in fierce lobbying in an attempt to derail the plan. The company argues that the current definition is too narrow, specifically by mandating ODF rather than open standards in general
In other, more sidal news, Microsoft tries to disguise its many OOXML crimes by demonising IBM. We wrote about this yesterday. Microsoft believes that by trying to portray IBM as evil, its own sins will be forgotten. Sadly for Brian Jones et al, the Internet never forgets. When all of this is over (maybe even beforehand) Microsoft might be sued for the trail of corruptions it has left in its attempt to derail ODF, the ISO, and even the integrity of world governments.█
Perhaps the time of the season is to blame, but there has been very little news from Novell recently. The same cannot be said about security news however. Here is a report from yesterday:
Novell releases two security updates
Novell has released two security updates, the first of which closes a hole in Novell NetMail which can be exploited to compromise a system running version 3.5.2 of the software. The second update fixes three vulnerabilities in Novell BorderManager 3.8. The most serious of these vulnerabilities involes a flaw in Novell Client Trust.
Enough damage done with OOXML, but what about patents and trademarks?
This item is a short analysis which brings together many previous posts. DisinformationWeek presents an interesting story. It writes about Microsoft’s reluctance to talk about UNIX assets.
For months, I’ve been trying to get Microsoft to answer a few questions about the Unix technologies in its intellectual property portfolio. Microsoft agreed to an interview, then backed out. So the question remains: How much Unix code does Microsoft have its hands on?
We wrote about such issues before, so it’s worth cross-citing rather than repeating.
Earlier today, the No OOXML site echoed this assessment and presented the same type of analysis. It shows that indeed, Novell is a puppet.
Wikipedia: “A puppet is a representational object manipulated by a puppeteer. It is usually but not always a depiction of a human character and is used in (a) play or a presentation. The puppet undergoes a process of transformation through being animated, and is normally manipulated by one, or sometimes more than one, puppeteer. Some puppets can be moved electronically.” Does Novell qualify as an OOXML puppet?
It does indeed. Novell has a good track record of doing things that please Microsoft. It is a Microsoft puppet in more than one way.
When Novell released a redacted version of the SEC filing (just before the holidays), Shane and I analysed it [1, 2, 3, 4] and saw what it meant to office suites, among other things. Here are some relevant bits from the filing:
*** will exercise its *** to *** by no later than *** that (i) the *** OpenOffice (version 2 or later) *** does or will *** Office Open XML format (“Open XML”), and (ii) it will make a *** *** If *** does not *** it will *** within the same time frame that *** in the *** on a*** to *** Open XML. *** will provide its *** to*** at least *** in advance of *** The *** will be *** not to be *** will provide *** in the *** will *** of such *** the Term, including through *** in the *** is defined in the Business Collaboration Agreement.
Novell Product Support for Office Open XML. No later than *** after the Translator Project makes generally available a version of its translator for word processing, and thereafter throughout the Term, Novell will (unless commercially impracticable) make prominently available *** for word processing documents. The *** can be made prominently available to a user of *** via an easily available download or by distributing the *** with each copy of a *** . No later than *** after the Translator Project releases a final version of its translator for spreadsheets, Novell will use commercially reasonable efforts to include in the *** support for spreadsheet documents. No later than *** after the Translator Project releases a final version of its translator for presentations, Novell will use commercially reasonable efforts to include in the *** support for presentation documents. Once released, Novell will continue to make the *** commercially available for the Term. If, during the Term, the Translator Project releases an updated version of its translator to reflect a new version of the relevant ODF or Open XML specification, then no later than *** following such release, Novell will use commercially reasonable efforts to make prominently available a corresponding update to *** .
Spreadsheet Translator Prototype. If the Translator Project announces that it will begin development of an open source Open XML-ODF Translator for spreadsheet documents (“Spreadsheet Translator”), within fifteen (15) days after that announcement Novell will review the terms applicable to contributions and determine at its discretion whether it is appropriate to submit its existing prototype of a Spreadsheet Translator to the Translator Project on the same terms that apply to other contributors to the Translator Project. Novell will also participate in the Translator Project by periodically testing subsequent versions of the Spreadsheet Translator and providing other feedback.
Microsoft-Facilitated Translator Development. Microsoft will use commercially reasonable efforts to encourage development of Open XML-ODF Translators for spreadsheet and presentation documents. Novell will participate with Microsoft in such efforts at a commercially reasonable level. In addition, subject to Novell’s foregoing commitment to participate, Microsoft will manage an open source software project (which may be the Translator Project) to develop each such Translator, similar to the manner in which it currently manages the Translator Project, commencing when and continuing for such period as Microsoft reasonably deems appropriate. The translators resulting from any such project(s) will be made available under an open source license, similar to that currently being used in the Translator Project.
As you can see, Microsoft set the rules for Novell. Microsoft offered Novell a huge cash infusion and it wanted something in return. In essence, Microsoft used money to make Novell its marionette. Novell (and GNOME) could truly take a lesson from KDE, which has truly remained idealogical and pragmatic.
Three cheers for the developers and management of the K Desktop Environment. They have taken a principled stand on the divisive issue of OOXML, the Microsoft Office Open XML document format. And for this the KDE folk deserve a round of applause.
The next post will show why Novell was willing to become such a puppet for OOXML and Microsoft (possibly taking GNOME along with it). Novell is having financial trouble. To make matters worse, Microsoft potentially wishes to own more of UNIX, essentially inheriting SCO’s role as anti-Linux litigator and stealing property from a very weak Novell. █
Analysis: the combination of secrecy and formal complaints should raise red flags
Yesterday we touched on a worrisome subject. Microsoft is secretly developing a new engine for Internet Explorer 8. Microsoft developers are not allowed to give any details about it. Given history’s lesson, it would be naive not to take this as a sign of things to come.
”Given history’s lesson, it would be naive not to take this as a sign of things to come.“The importance of the Web was understood by Bill Gates at a very late stage (the same goes for understanding Google’s power by the way). In 1993 Gates said in an interview that he was not interested in the Internet. Later came some improved realisation of the Web’s inevitability. Then came abuses, whose gory nature and context can be explored and found in the Iowa antitrust exhibits.
We may be at a phase where Microsoft tries to repeat old tricks. This isn’t a case of ‘pulling a Netscape 2.0′, so to speak, because not only bundling might be involved in today’s scenario (mind the fact that Windows Vista already contains some key components for extension).
Recently, as this new post rightly argues, Microsoft has lost some of its grip on the World Wide Web. The adoption of Firefox continues to surpass that of Internet Explorer 7, which ought to alert Microsoft. It ought to tell the company that it has not done enough with IE7 and erosion of its power will possibly continue.
Luckily for us, due to the ongoing success of Apple Safari & Mozilla Firefox, not to mention the growing range of Linux PC’s and laptops sold by giants like Asus and Walmart, Microsoft’s monopoly of the web browser is rather quickly being whittled away. That is great news as the Internet was designed to be useful to everyone, not to be held hostage by a commercial entity seemingly concerned with nothing but their own profits.
The action taken by Microsoft might actually be characterizsd as a somewhat radical transformation that will come with Internet Explorer 8+. It already upsets Web designers/developers who are left out in the cold.
Users of Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) turned a blog post by a Microsoft program manager into a complaint free-for-all that took the company to task for not following through on browser upgrade promises and alienating Web developers.
Here is one Web designer who is upset. He is just one among many who are annoyed because Web developers should ideally collaborate — or at least interact — with application developers that coordinate and ensure compatibility. He posted a video about this just a couple of days ago. It’s only the first minute or so which is relevant to this discussion and here it is for the sake of completeness.
Many people are concerned about technologies like AJAX, but Microsoft might meanwhile be planning to sweep that off the Web and replace that with something Microsoft controls (and gives advantage to its operating platform and Web browser. i.e. a discriminatory play).
”A XAML response is worked on at Novell (Moonlight) and the same goes for OOXML translators, which are written in C#, at least in part.“Do come to consider various new technologies that Microsoft wants to integrate with one another. These include SharePoint, XAML, and even OOXML (through SharePoint in particular). WebShphere from IBM and MainSoft can jointly rely on Mono (it’s a Novell project) and they are said to address the SharePoint threat, to an extent. It’s all done by compliance and assimilation though. A XAML response is worked on at Novell (Moonlight) and the same goes for OOXML translators, which are written in C#, at least in part. This has “software patents” written all over it, so the whole strategy remains suspicious. There is also REST and other types of server-side nuisance.
It is already known that Microsoft intends to ‘pull another ActiveX’, so to speak, in the sense that it will ‘extend’ the World Wide Web using its own technologies. This all comes at a time when people strive to standardise and open up the Web again, just before it become too ‘proprietarised’ and broken (or closed) beyond repair. Here is an article from last week:
Firefox and Opera will support a new HTML tag specifically for embedding video in Web pages. As long as the browsers support a video’s specific codec, or encoding method, the browsers will then be able to play the video without launching third-party enabling software, said Chris Double, a Mozilla engineer. Mozilla and Opera are also working to support the royalty-free video codec Ogg Theora.
For a moment, consider all the issues Microsoft introduced when it added proprietary extensions to isolate and discriminate. What has been the impact, as opposed to the little benefit, of ActiveX? Let’s explore:
It is worth adding — despite the fact that it’s beyond this post’s scope — that DirectX is a similar type of response to OpenGL, which was cross-platform.
With the lost momentum of Internet Explorer, one must wonder: what will be the ActiveX equivalent of future versions of Internet Explorer? it will be some form of a non-standard extension which Microsoft will name “innovation”, as usual (it makes that sound like a necessity rather than a predatory weapon of incompatibility).
With each new version of Internet Explorer, disruption is to be expected. Sadly enough, the press seems to have covered or remembered this poorly, but when IE7 was released there was a great deal of anger due to the fact that new incompatibilities were introduced. Here is a quick refreshers from the past year (mainly blogs). These are exemplary posts from around the release time of IE7.
For the last couple of years, we developers have been struggling with IE incompatibilities while creating and testing our sites. Those include the non-native support for PNG transparencies, the box model bug, and many many more.
IE7 is a night mare for most of the developers that try to comply with standards for crossbrowsing.
I recently needed to rewrite a web site so it works on firefox too… the surprising element was that when testing the new and the old site on IE7 I found out that many things does not function as expected and “not function as expected” isn’t the right word for it, it was more a question of working at all.
Last night Joe and I got in this huge discussion, and I was cursing out Microsoft. It’s been rough the past couple of days and M$ has not been making my life very easy. Every time I turn around I have to ghetto-fy my web sites to make them work in IE…
See… There are these things called Web Standards which were put into place to make web designer’s lives easier. As in, if they script to web standards, then all standards compliant browsers will show the site exactly correct. Well, I always script to web standards. The PROBLEM is that Microsoft decides that they are just going to do things THEIR way…
When I read stuff like this, it confirms my belief that there’s something very broken in the world of Vista. Here’s a very knowledgeable user and talented developer who’s confounded and befuddled by a well-documented and still unaddressed issue affecting Vista users running Internet Explorer 7.
In a video interview with ZDNet Australia last month, Microsoft blogger and group manager of technical community, Frank Arrigo, explained how important it is for the Redmond giant to follow Web standards.
“Standards are important,” said Arrigo, who admitted that Microsoft had been guilty of ignoring them in the past.
Here are a couple of interesting yet separate bits:
Expression is Microsoft’s suite of web development tools slated to replace the wonderful application known as Front Page. A quick visit to the site for this tool yields a fairly typical Microsoft webpage.
WHOA! Did they not even listen to their own marketing garbage? 144 Errors! No DocType? Are you kidding me?
Bravo to our good friends at Microsoft for setting such a great example and leading the masses to a more standards compliant internet! (and for giving web standards geeks something to hate on).
An industry coalition that has represented competitors of Microsoft in European markets before the European Commission stepped up its public relations offensive this morning, this time accusing Microsoft of scheming to upset HTML’s place in the fabric of the Internet with XAML, an XML-based layout lexicon for network applications.
Return to thinking about Novell’s work on Moonlight and OOXML. Don’t let Novell support Microsoft’s latest Web hijack moves. Learn from history[PDF] and don’t empower Novell by accepting those ‘gifts’. █