When tensions rise, there is only one winner…
…and it ain’t Free software
It is regularly argued that desktop environments living in agreement and harmony is the best way to go. In fact, these sentiments are reflected pretty well in this new article from Matt Hartley, who talks about their suitability for business.
As for daily workstation use, examine the applications that your business will be using in Linux. Weigh in how many of them are built for KDE. Customization per workstation aside, most offices will do well with KDE installed, but may fall back on GNOME based personal information managers such as Evolution over Kontact.
Glyn Moody, writing in Linux Magazine for the first time in quite a while, talks about the divisive nature of OOXML and also its effect on desktop environments, KDE and GNOME in particular.
The details of their rivalry are not relevant here; what matters is that in the beginning GNOME was clearly perceived as the saviour of the free software movement, with de Icaza as its knight in shining armour, which is rather at odds with a current widely-held view on his place in the hacker pantheon.
The point here is not to take sides on this question, but to demonstrate the amazing and pernicious effects of Microsoft’s recent engagement with the open source world. The growing tensions between the KDE and GNOME camps are just part of that: another facet is the split of companies into those who believe that intellectual monopoly deals with Microsoft are a good idea (Novell, Xandros, Turbolinux) and those who do not (Red Hat, Ubuntu, etc.).
The result is a growing schism that can only serve Microsoft’s interests. Unfortunately, this is one area where we don’t have a choice: we need to heal the rift. The question is, How?
Over at Linux.com, Bruce Byfield presents the view of the KDE team, which opines that not supporting OOXML is a technical decision, as opposed to one that is affected by sentiments and wariness of Microsoft.
In the recent accusations that the GNOME Foundation has been supporting Microsoft’s OOXML format at the expense of ODF, KDE has been presented as a counter-example. Based on a KDE News article, Richard Stallman suggested that “major KDE developers” had announced “their rejection of OOXML” and urged GNOME to do the same. More recently, a widely linked story on ITWire used the same article to declare that KDE has taken a “principled stand” against OOXML. However, if you go the source, the story is more nuanced than these claims suggest.
The iTWire piece he is referring to was actually quite frank and accurate. Its headline aside, it did not generalise too much and it focused its attention on those who are to blame for GNOME Foundation’s decision to participate in ECMA. As stated here many times before, judging by the Foundation’s mailing list, the authoritative figures remain divided on this issue.
iTWire has just unleashed another piece which gives further details about the previous complaints.
While the GNOME Foundation media spokesman Jeff Waugh claimed recently that Miguel de Icaza has no official role in the GNOME project anymore, it is common to see long posts from De Icaza on the Planet GNOME website. This site is meant for GNOME developers.
The discussion in LinuxToday is fairly interesting because of some snide comments.
We have refrained from embedding personal opinions in this eclectic analysis thus far, but it is my personal opinion that a lot of this OOXML poison comes from Novell, which must obey Microsoft's orders to support OOXML. As such, the issue must be addressed at it its root — Novell et al. █
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“We did this to ourselves”
Matt Asay brings us a very handy update from Sun Microsystems regarding its NetApp case (see references at the bottom for context).
I received this update from Sun Microsystems on Tuesday on the ongoing ZFS patent litigation with NetApp. While colored by its source, the news seems positive for Sun (and, given the importance of ZFS, for the open-source development community). Sun has succeeded in getting the venue changed to California and it appears that its public request for examples of prior art have yielded fruit.
Here we have yet another case where everyone seems like a loser, except for the lawyers. Those patent lawsuits, which are often fruitless, show no signs of abatement. From yesterday’s news:
SILICON GRAPHICS (SGI) has served a subpoena on Dell to force it to testify in its law suit against ATI, which it claims breaches its patents with the Radeon and FireGL graphics chips.
Also in the news, you’ll find that Microsoft is accused of copyrights infringement. (yes, again!)
The website, alleges Grisoft, infringes its copyrights and trademarks.
The lawyers said: “The website’s proponent, with MSN’s facilitation, is taking a ‘free ride’ on our clients rights” and the proponent of the website is distributing AVG software for a fee.
Microsoft was last sued over copyrights only days ago. A different company was a litigator. Later on, Microsoft and its allies explain that antitrust action is not needed because the legal system is "overburdened". █
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The last ODF addition which we spoke about is Wikipedia. That was yesterday. Things are looking reasonably good in Norway as well. Groklaw has a translation:
Norway: ODF Must Be Used on Government Websites’ Forms
Everyone should have equal access to public information: Open standards become compulsory within the government
The government has decided that all information on governmental websites should be available in the open formats HTML, PDF or ODF. With this decision the times when public documents where only available in Microsoft’s Word-format is coming to an end.
- Everybody should have equal access to public information. From 2009 the citizens will be able to chose which software to use in order to gain access to public information. The government’s decision will also improve the competition between suppliers of office applications, says IT-minister Heidi Grande Røys.
This is the decision of the government:
* HTML should be the primary format for publication of public information on the Internet.
* PDF (1.4 or newer, or PDF/A – ISO 19005-1) is compulsory when you wish to preserve the original layout of a document.
* ODF (ISO/IEC 26300) must be used when publishing documents that are meant to be changed after downloading, eg. forms that are to be filled in by the user.
Norway remains one among many countries (e.g. Holland) that won’t give Microsoft an easy time, not even with its ‘new and shiny’ proprietary formats that have a fake, paid-for label. █
Update: Noooxml.org has an excellent collection of references (new and old) on this same important development.
A Norwegian view on the Office Open XML standardization process in ISO. Let us not forget that the Office Open XML standardization process before ISO has a single objective, i.e. to derail the adoption of the existing standard ISO 26300:2006 aka OpenDocument by the public sector.
The next milestone of the Project World Domino is reached. Norway adopts Open Document Format.
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Yesterday we posted a quick update on the Microsoft antitrust case, the context being Microsoft’s sheer abuse of ISO. Things such as Silverlight have truly gotten the States' attention, which passed on these concerns to an apathetic (and probably corrupted) Department of Justice. In any event, here are the latest developments:
As ruling looms, Microsoft drowns in documentation
Microsoft Corp. is fast becoming engulfed in the technical mapping of its own products, even as a judge’s decision looms on whether to extend antitrust restrictions placed on the company for an additional five years.
According to a status report filed by Microsoft on Monday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the number of outstanding technical issues requiring documentation jumped nearly 60% from the end of October to the end of November.
The antitrust action and oversight may be the best route though which the Web, Linux, and ISO hijacks (among others) can be stopped. It’s an integral part of the dangers which GNU/Linux is facing. Novell sometimes stands in the way of arguments that Microsoft does not collaborate. We saw that in Europe [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. █
On the risk of losing the open Web:
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Earlier this month we published an item which illustrates how Microsoft literally buys love. It pays people or at least gives them presents in exchange for better publicity. You are encouraged to read this item if you haven’t. Other recent examples include Microsoft's use of money to buy OOXML support, including from Novell.
As disturbing as it has been, this is not over. We’ve received the following example by E-mail just hours ago and it makes a nice addition to the items above:
“As you see, it’s in French but it is short and sweet. It refers to an article published in the Swiss newspaper Le Temps on Monday (available for a payment of 2.50 Swiss francs.) But I find the Le Monde article sufficient and can offer a translation:”
[Translation:] 1,445: number of students in the world paid by Microsoft to promote favourable speech in their universities
“How Microsoft has infiltrated the Swiss universities” was the title of the Monday Le Temps. The Genevean newspaper pointed to these students charged with “forging links with their peers and the professors” to improve the image of Bill Gates’ firm in the universities. The program “Microsoft Student Partners” is not at all clandestine, it has an official Website at “http://student-partners.com”. It is no longer at all local: the 1,445 students at the service of Microsoft are active in 102 countries. In France, more than 100 students carry the title MSP and correspond with the Microsoft teams during their whole time in school. These French students have actively participated in the launch of the Vista operating system, organising 87 conferences and stands, leading 17 training sessions and moderating 42 blogs.
So, the gist of it is that Microsoft once again got caught astroturfing or at least paying money for pseudo support without disclosure (practically the same thing). The question to ask is: who else is being paid or rewarded (in disguise)?
The article speaks about professors being paid as well. I’m aware of one professor, Bill Weisgerber, who has been promoting Microsoft (and attacking GNU/Linux) on the Web for many years. Here is an E-mail I received about him last year after he had harassed me:
i just happened to notice that you spent some text debunking my old ‘friend’
bill weisgerber last spring.
i went around with bill (& a host of other paid2post shills) on a nytimes
forum for over 3 years. despite being exposed for what/who they were/are,
they just would not quit their mindless pr firm hypenosys. at that time, the
nytimes was quite supportive of their charade. what a blight.
Well, it all makes sense now. Microsoft has gone as far as poisoning academia as well. At one point, it even funded an academic study that mocks GPLv3. █
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I’ve published my interview with Richard Stallman over at Datamation.
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As we recently pointed out, Microsoft controls media outlets and sometimes even search engines. Bill Gates continues to own some of the press and several media companies, so there is gross bias therein. Microsoft’s role as an advertiser has an effect as well, but none of this is news. At the end of the day, public understanding of the Novell deal and OOXML, for instance, will be a case of media projection.
The sad news from yesterday relates to a video that we showed just the day beforehand. The Federal Communications Commission refuses to police control of the media, thus relinquishing control and letting corporations run it for their own benefit.
By the narrowest of margins, the Federal Communications Commission adopted proposals by its chairman to tighten the reins on the cable television industry while loosening 32-year-old restrictions that have prevented a company from owning both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city.
Only last week, Bill Gates wrote an article that was published very generously by the tax payer-funded BBC. The article spoke about a new Microsoft-commissioned study (Microsoft’s Bill Gates invests in analysts too). It was arguably self-praising and The Register was very sarcastic about this:
BBC pinches hot new columnist from Microsoft
In response to the BBC’s move into business leader PR expert opinion, El Reg has decided to up the ante with a special video webinar on the secrets of success from the important leather-bound office of one of America’s A-grade entrepreneurs…
Let’s take a quick step back and consider the BBC’s iPlayer, which we mention quite regularly [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. iPlayer is a product built by Microsoft using Microsoft’s own proprietary stack. It seems like a response to open delivery methods of video content. DirectX, for example, was done as a response to OpenGL because OpenGL facilitates competition (cross-platform)
Microsoft doesn’t like competition, so it made ActiveX, DirectX, OOXML, and lots of other anti-standards weapons. iPlayer is just one of these weapons. It’s also one of the latest. There’s a new Microsoft DRM issue at the BBC and it isn’t resolved yet. As Glyn Moody puts it:
This does matter, because if the catch-up service remains Windows only, it turns the BBC into a vector of Microsoft’s DRM and products – hardly what the public broadcaster should be doing.
Moreover, fine words butter no parsnips: can we trust the BBC Trust to follow through on this? If they don’t, at least we can be sure that the OSC will be there with a sharp stick goading them to do so.
”They are, in essence, agents for monopoly.“This is a nice small step, but the corruption cannot be forgotten (see links at the bottom). The download service is still Windows-only because of Erik Huggers and Ashley Highfield (among a few others who have connections with Microsoft). Until they port this software to other platforms (which they said they would), they treat all platforms except for one like second-class citizens. They are, in essence, agents for monopoly.
Mind you, only public backlash made a difference here. They would not have bother to make any changes otherwise. What’s more, a proprietary stack was never needed, but the BBC is now virtually a Microsoft partner. As we showed above, using an example from last week alone, Bill Gates started writing self-praising columns for the BBC, which is funded by tax payers. The bias remains.
A software lobby group is campaigning to highlight the role of software giant Microsoft Corp. in the British Broadcasting Corp.’s digital media strategy by petitioning Great Britain Prime Minister Gordon Brown to address the issue.
BBC viewers have flooded the corporation with complaints over how it covered the launch of Microsoft Vista earlier this week.
Today the BBC made it official — they have been corrupted by Microsoft.
More about this here. █
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