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01.12.08

What (In)Compatibility Games is Microsoft up to With Exchange 2007?

Posted in Interoperability, Mail, Microsoft, Office Suites, Servers, Standard, Windows at 11:53 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“You should make sure it [DR-DOS] has problems in the future : )”

Jim Allchin, Microsoft (RE: dri/novell/ibm)

Story contributed by an anonymous site reader

Tbout a year ago, we got a new President who came from Brown University, which is an Ivy League institution that has switched to MS Exchange for e-mail. He more or less demanded that we offer Exchange as well. We now offer Exchange for faculty and staff. I had to fight pretty hard to maintain my non-Exchange e-mail account. We also have a CIO who is appropriately skeptical of Microsoft and wants to retain a non-Microsoft e-mail alternative.

“They also don’t know when the functionality broke and there’s no word on when it will be fixed.”That is the background. The crux is that I am now forced to use Exchange calendar if I want to set up a meeting with someone. Since I rarely use the calendar, I just access it via the Web interface using Firefox or Konqueror from my Linux desktop. Until recently, this has worked adequately.

However, they have recently been trying to do an “in-place upgrade” from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007. Now I find that when I try to schedule a meeting, the part which shows the availability of the attendees looks like gibberish. When I switched to using Windows XP and Internet Explorer under a virtual machine, everything suddenly worked fine. Out Windows admins claim that they did know about this problem until I raised it. They also don’t know when the functionality broke and there’s no word on when it will be fixed.

You might be interested in hearing the travails of someone who is trying to keep Windows at least at arm’s length but who find it challenging.

[Editor's note: It is a similar situation over here. An Exchange server is very unstable, based on personal experience, but luckily I never use it. I've also come across stories about IE-only features in Sharepoint.]

My instinct tells me that this little upgrade problem is intentionally created by Microsoft. I also remember from a previous job that one of my colleagues was very keen to “upgrade” our Linux mail server, which I had set up, to Exchange. Somewhere along the way, I found out that Microsoft recommended disabling the POP and IMAP protocols “for security reasons.” (It’s very “deja vu” in light of the recent revelation of a recent Microsoft patch to Office which disables old file formats, again “for security reasons.”)

“There is also the truism that, if it only supports a recent version of Microsoft software, that would tend to produce more fiscal security for Microsoft.”I suppose that would be more secure … for them. There are the truisms that the fewer network ports you open, the less exposure you have or, the simpler the software, the more reliable and secure it should be. There is also the truism that, if it only supports a recent version of Microsoft software, that would tend to produce more fiscal security for Microsoft.

There are some relevant quotes to add here, e.g.:

Joe Wilcox in 14 June 2006:

“When you speak about interoperability do you mean across different platforms, like Windows and Unix, or among different versions of Windows, like XP and 2000.” He meant among different versions of Windows.”

[Editor's note: This isn't a rare situation. Only about a year ago, Microsoft published articles that speak about "cross-platform" where platforms only include Windows, Windows mobile, and XBox. This is yet another case and also an excellent examples where one is creating confusion. It's almost akin to calling software "open source" when it strictly requires Windows, Sharepoint and other proprietary products merely to be runnable.]

Brad Chase (of Microsoft) once wrote:

We will bind the shell to the Internet Explorer, so that running any other browser is a jolting experience.

[Editor's note: Yesterday, Slashdot had an item/article about almost the very same issue. Firefox being pushed out of some companies by Internet Explorer-only Web-based software.]

That’s not surprising at all. Exchange itself has two Web interface modes: basic and enhanced. “basic” mode is available under all browsers, but “enhanced” is only available under Internet Explorer. Our Exchange upgrade broke “basic” mode while “enhanced” mode continued to work.

Fortunately, in our environment, we do care about interoperability with browsers like Firefox. We’re a university, not a corporation, so the attitude here is that “we can’t dictate the software our users prefer to use, so we take pains to support reasonably common software.” So this upgrade problem will cause the Windows guys to spend some more time on the upgrade and recall the consultant they retained until the non-Microsoft browsers work again.

The problem is generic enough with ample supporting material.

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part IV: Active Week for OpenSUSE, KDE 4.0.0 Joins the Party

Posted in GNU/Linux, KDE, OpenSUSE at 7:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Since there seem to some heavy readers from “provo.novell.com“, we might as well carry on with those Saturday postings about OpenSUSE (community as opposed to just Novell itself).

Lukáš Ocilka of the OpenSUSE project gets coverage in OpenSUSE News.

Here you have an interview with Lukáš Ocilka, a Czech YaST developer maintaining many YaST components such as Installation, Firewall, and Backup.

Francis released the fourth weekly news installment.

Another short review of KDE 4.0 (test build) on OpenSUSE was posted in a blog.

I have installed KDE 4.0 RC on OpenSUSE 10.3. I was just checking the installed version and found that we have an updated version (3.97.2-4.4) of kdebase4 and almost all kde4 packages in YAST. A simple YAST update took me to a much better looking KDE desktop.

Just a short while ago, OpenSUSE packages of KDE 4.0 (final) were made available. There is also a Live CD.

The KDE Community has announced the immediate availability of KDE 4.0.0. This significant release marks both the end of the long and intensive development cycle leading up to KDE 4.0 and the beginning of the KDE 4 era. KDE developers, including our openSUSE KDE Team, have been working on getting toward KDE 4.0 for over 2 years.

Screenshots of OpenSuSE 11 Alpha 0 can be found here.

An OpenSUSE shop has just opened. It sells cups, clothing, and all those other items/accessories you would typically find in virtual CafePress shops.

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part III: General Novell News and Novell Partners

Posted in America, Europe, Identity Management, Mail, Novell, Ron Hovsepian at 6:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell got mentioned in a variety of different contexts in the past week. The company received its share of coverage and presence in the following article.

Novell Inc. will work on differentiating its identity-driven systems management architecture, focusing on workstation configuration management and endpoint security from its ZENworks family, said the firm’s Canadian chief technology officer, Ross Chevalier. “We will also continue to create awareness on the importance of provisioning and user self-service as mechanisms to increase simplicity and thereby improve security.” In 2008, Novell’s commitment to the channel will be “greater than it’s been for years,” as dedicated partner execs and inside partner managers will work with partners to ensure they’re equipped to deliver the vendor’s solutions, Chevalier added.

Here is Novell mentioned among the growth factors in Ireland where there has been quite a bit of activity in the past year [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].

The investments in 2007 included VMware opening an EMEA Technical Support Centre in Cork, Microsoft announcing a EUR360 million EMEA Data Centre and Novell established an EMEA TeleWeb Operation in Dublin.

Fomer SUSE executives seem to be inheriting top roles at Open-Xchange.

Two of pre-Novell SUSE’s top executives are taking the open-source groupware company Open-Xchange.

Rafael Laguna, who played a major role in merging SUSE with Novell, is now Open-Xchange’s president and CEO. And former SUSE CEO Richard Seibt is now OX’s chairman of the board. While at SUSE, Laguna and Seibt worked closely together and are widely credited for helping SUSE’s transformation into one of the world’s major Linux distributors.

Here is some news about Novell’s collaboration with Fujitsu on biometric login solutions. This was first introduced around the time of LinuxWorld 2007.

Fujitsu Microelectronics and 123ID, Inc. have developed biometric login solutions to allow database users access to Novell eDirectory applications running on Linux, NetWare and Windows. This biometric solution replaces password authentication with eDirectory logon, which provides uncompromised security, capability and pricing.

Last but not least, Novell’s CEO, Ron Hovsepian, will give a talk at GWAVACon Americas. It comes later this month, so maybe there will be a video too.

Will Address Novell Strategy and Collaboration Offerings at January 2008 Conference

Next up: OpenSUSE news from the past week.

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part II: Dell, Lenovo and Their SUSE Offers

Posted in Asia, Dell, GNU/Linux, IBM, OpenSUSE, SLES/SLED at 6:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

If what’s good for SUSE is also good for GNU/Linux…

A few large OEMs have faced the change of tide. They began preinstalling SUSE Linux (either OpenSUSE or SLED). One of these OEMs is Lenovo, which will finally begin installing SUSE on Thinkpads.

The first thing is by far the most significant, a Lenovo Thinkpad T61 and R61 laptop. They are not new, but the fact that the Linux models, all running Suse 10.1, will be out next week is huge news. Finally, you can get a corporate laptop with no downsides, and it doesn’t have the Vista malware shoved down your throat. Way to go Lenovo.

A more accurate report appears in DesktopLinux.com.

PC vendor Lenovo has promised ThinkPads with pre-installed Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 for some time now. Lenovo will deliver the goods the week of Jan. 14.

Dell is no exception here and it installs SLED 10 over at China. Here is a new report.

Dell has been shipping OptiPlex desktops in China with Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 and now Precision workstations in China are certified to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.

Related in this context, Sam Hiser defends some of Novell’s moves in this new writeup, but he adds some reasonable balance in the sense that opposition is mentioned as well.

Some Free Software developers — perhaps those operating from their garrets — may ask, “Why do we need to commercialize Linux? It’s fine as it is. It solves all my problems!” It’s a fair question, for which we need a fair answer. Even Linus Torvalds has commented about virtualization, for example, ‘I don’t care … I’m just not that interested in it.’ We are glad they are so focused on the problems that are important to them; it has made the software GOOD.

What he describes does not necessarily position Novell at a state with unique advantages, but it sounds reasonable nonetheless.

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part I: Another Look Into Novell’s Past Glory

Posted in Boycott Novell at 6:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ray Noorda’s generous donations were mentioned here in the past. He deserves high praises for his work at Novell (he would never trust Microsoft). Here is another large donation for a good cause in Orem. It comes from Ray’s wife.

Utah Valley State College announced a generous donation Monday that will enable the school to improve theater opportunities for children.

[...]

Tye Noorda, who made the donation in honor of her late husband, former Novell CEO Ray Noorda, also has a vision of an engaged community. She would like those involved at the Theatre Center to work in cooperation with other regional centers for the arts in order to create a place for the community — especially youths — to participate in the performing arts.

“Almost everyone has to get up and speak in front of a group at some point,” Noorda said. “It makes a difference if that person is confident and can stand up and give a speech that’s good enough and organized enough to get their point across. People will listen.”

[...]

“Our students will reap tremendous benefits from the engaged teaching and learning that will be at the heart of the Noorda Theatre Center,” Debenham said.

Nostalgic screenshots of GroupWise appear in this new little article.

GroupWise supports a wide variety of mail systems as well as Novell’s NDS directory. Text-to-speech and speech-to-wave files let mobile users hear and create e-mail by telephone. Although entirely revamped, GroupWise stems back to WordPerfect Office, acquired by Novell in 1994.

Novell’s pride in Schmidt was perhaps short-lived (some would say it never existed), but he is still doing fairly well at Google. His past career and years at Novell are not forgotten. Here is an article from USA Today.

The study’s weakness is that it’s a look in the rearview mirror and may not best reflect today’s leadership factories. The companies that groomed today’s CEOs did so in decades past. Google’s (GOOG) CEO, Eric Schmidt, came from Novell (NOVL) by way of Sun Microsystems (JAVA).

Here is another one.

The study’s weakness is that it’s a look in the rearview mirror and may not best reflect today’s leadership factories. The companies that groomed today’s CEOs did so in decades past. Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, came from Novell by way of Sun Microsystems. But Baxter International in the 1990s was the CEO farm system for today’s biotech industry, so Google could well be grooming the tech CEOs of tomorrow, says Joe Moglia, CEO of TD Ameritrade, who became a Merrill Lynch trainee after 16 years as a football coach.

This is more of a history lesson, as oppose to Novell-related news.

Open as in… “Open to Abuse”

Posted in Apple, Boycott Novell, Formats, ISO, Kyocera Mita, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, OSI, Patents, Samsung, Scalix, Turbolinux, Xandros at 1:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Wired Magazine contains a nice new item in its blog. It talks about attempts to assimilate and become part of the “open everything” movement for personal gains and without any true openness. Microsoft, unsurprisingly, is listed as an excellent example (more information in the links at the bottom).

1. Joining an ‘Openness’ Consortium…

2. Creating an Arbitrarily Open Standard…

3. Rebranding Existing Features…

4. Buying Into (and Locking Up) an Existing Open Standard
Big businesses are great at jumping on bandwagons. But even when they chase a revolutionary idea like openness, it’s only a matter of time before it’s back to business as usual. Take for instance Microsoft’s foray into Linux territory. The software giant wet its beak in the open source movement by partnering with Novell to distribute its own version of the operating system. But after briefly playing nice, Redmond went on a saber rattling campaign claiming that Linux violates 235 of its patents. Guess who Microsoft granted amnesty from its would-be legal assault? That’s right — Linux users who had bought into Microsoft’s version of “openness”.

Novell, Scaled & Xandros, Linspire, Turobolinux, Samsung, Kyocera Mita, Fuji Xerox, LG, the OSI, Corel, ISO, Apache, Zend, XenSource (Citrix), CIsco and Apple ought to pay attention to the text above.

Related posts:

Bad decision

More Good News for OpenDocument Format, OOXML Slides Down the Gutter

Posted in ECMA, Europe, Formats, IBM, KDE, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard, SUN, Vista, Windows at 1:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Monopoly exists when a specific individual or enterprise has sufficient control over a particular product or service to determine significantly the terms on which other individuals shall have access to it.”

Milton Friedman

How times have changed. BECTA’s report shows that even those who are exceptionally close to Microsoft apparently reject Windows Vista, Office 2007 and OOXML. What makes this report mind-blowing is that it’s BECTA we are talking about. It has a long track record of secret affairs with Microsoft. This change of tide at BECTA gets a lot of media attention at the moment. It’s also in the New York Times.

So, why would someone reject the common carriers and hosts of Sharepoint, OOXML and Silverlight? Is BECTA misinformed? Or is it more informed than most of us? Let’s look closer.

Bob Sutor, a Vice President at IBM, responds enthusiastically to the latest statement from BECTA. The headline that he uses gives it all away.

Becta in the UK says “no no” to OOXML

According to an article in PublicTechnology.net, “Becta advises on Microsoft Vista & Office 2007 for schools & colleges”, upgrades to Microsoft Windows Vista and Office 2007.

As pointed out yesterday, it was also BECTA which contributed to Britain’s decision to reject OOXML (as an ISO standard).

Meanwhile, Erwin’s blog over at Sun Microsystems takes a good look at Microsoft’s ODF FUD and shreds it all to small pieces. It’s a long and detailed rebuttal which is effective and convincing.

Recent articles, reports and documents show that there are still a lot of misperceptions regarding ODF in the market. Apparently, many people are still not well informed about ODF even though they choose to write about ODF. Therefore, I thought it can’t hurt trying to dispel a couple of myths around ODF.

We have already covered Sun and IBM. On we move to KDE, which has just unveiled somewhat of a spinoff that is named (inconsistently) “The Open Document Company”.

KOfficeSource GmbH is an international software company with headquarters in Magdeburg, Germany. We are a group of specialists dedicated to mainly KOffice but also other Office Applications in the KDE suite such as the Kontact personal information manager and the Kolab groupware server.

Needless to say, KOffice isn’t associated with any company. It’s more of a public asset. Google’s Summer of Code has supported KOffice developers in the past despite the fact that it compete against Google Apps (with ODF support also).

Looking over at Microsoft’s problems (at risk of crossing the boundary which separates “Microsoft misconduct” and “Microsoft bashing”), have a look at the effect of their latest patches (rated “critical”) for Windows Vista. One of them seriously ruined Microsoft Office, which no longer works. Ironically, the harsh complaints come from a Microsoft blogger too.

Vista Update Craters Microsoft Word

[...]

Keeping your software up to date is very important from a security perspective, but when doing so blows away your productivity because of poor installation or compatibility quality issues, life is very painful.

Microsoft. You get a grade of F for this round of patches.

Watch the comment attached to this post:

You’re lucky!
Submitted by Andy (not verified) on Thu, 01/10/2008 – 3:24am.

The latest updates have stopped my pc from booting into Vista at all!

It won’t even boot in safe mode and because it came with the software preinstalled I don’t have a disc to get to the recovery console.

Worst update ever :(

Okay, enough schadenfreude for now. The important thing to remember is that Microsoft Office, in spite of the problems above, contains and encourages the use OOXML, which is a proprietary decoy. Not even Microsoft will implement it. It never did. It’s a charade. Not even Office 2007 supports OOXML as it’s presented by ECMA.

(Software) Patents Degradation in the American and European Systems

Posted in America, Europe, Law, Patents at 12:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“A patent is an artificial government-imposed monopoly on implementing a certain method or technique.”

Richard Stallman

It is worth stressing the fact that Microsoft used to fear software patents before it became a very large company. Many of us were taught that patents were intended to protect the ‘little guy’ whose inventions can be stolen and then commercialised by far larger companies, right? Now, if you look closely at what USPTO has become, here is what you find: [via digitalmajority.org]

You can patent pretty much anything these days as long as you’re able to pay for it. When I looked into obtaining a US patent several years ago I was told to budget $20k for the patent process (1-2 years), plus another $5k annually for “patent maintenance” if the patent was actually granted. Only then could I have the “privilege” of suing those who infringe on my patent – by paying outrageous attorney and court fees, of course.

Who benefits from this, other than large and wealthy corporations? Patent trolls, of course. To make matters worse, the level of their destruction is on the rise.

We reached the end of 2007. All the other blogs are reporting an overall decrease in IP litigation, a cutback from 2006, or are reporting the slightest of increases in patent filings from 2006 to 2007. That’s simply not true. By the real count — the number of defendants sued for patent infringement — 2007 was a record year. In fact, here’s my headline: “2007 shows a 30% increase in patent litigation over 2006, fueled by a 40% increase in the Eastern District of Texas.” And certainly from the number of patent cases brought by non-practicing entities and so-called patent trolls, it was a year that saw a tremendous increase in both the quantity and diversity of these entities.

It was recently shown that the number of patent applications are rising at the USPTO and there was even increased infusion of money going into it (whilst most other state budgets decline). As it turns out, Europe isn’t doing much better. [via digitalmajority.org]

In the past 25 years, the volume of patent applications at the EPO has quadrupled to reach 208,500 in 2006, and is expected to increase further. Much of this growth is attributable to the enhanced global activity of companies, to emerging economies such as China, India and South Korea buying into the patents system, and the increasing importance of new technologies, such as information and communication technology and biotechnology.

It truly seems like the patent systems around the world are getting worse (lower barriers) more quickly than they improve. Here is a new report suggesting the improvement of the European patent system [PDF].

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