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01.26.08

Quick Mention: Rebuttal to Stereotypes and Name-calling

Posted in BSD, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft at 11:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This is truly a distraction, but it’s worth a quick mention. A few days ago we mentioned the "Microsoft Hater" label and its purpose. There is a good rebuttal that shames such a classification system.

Classifying people is even more dangerous. The best and the worst have tried and failed. Classifying people has been one of the core evils in human history. It has been used as an excuse to murder, deport, mutilate, enslave, exile and torture people throughout time. It’s what I’ve been calling “labeling” all the time.

One of the people who cannot restrain himself to venture in this field is Bruce Byfield, who is an excellent technical writer by the way. And he’d better restrict himself to this field, because his talents on other fields are – let’s say – limited. In one of his most recent articles, he tries to classify the FOSS community and consequently fails. I can easily find myself in several categories, which means the classification itself is of little use.

Yes, I do object to Microsofts business practices, which means that according to Bruce I must “hate Microsoft”. No, I do not hate Microsoft, because that’s an emotion. I merely think that the industry would be better off if its influence would deminish. That’s an opinion based on valid arguments, which is by any measure a significant difference. I do use proprietary software from time to time because there is no other way to fulfill my needs. Which makes me a “mainstream advocate”. And yes, I find $150 for an Operating System an outrageous high price, which makes me a “bargain hunter”. On the other hand, I maintain several FOSS projects, so I’m an “Open Source developer” as well.

We received feedback from a reader who urged us not to carry on with those 'civil wars'. He also shared insights on apparent attempts to fracture the free software world (BSD and GPL) by creating unnecessary hostilities (infighting).

“It’s akin to situation where criticism is dismissed as being “sexist”, “racist” or “prejudiced””It is important to remember that those who expose criminal activities are not “zealots”. They are not “paranoid”, either. If they are “haters”, it’s because they hate crime; they don’t hate companies. It’s easy — and very convenient to accused companies –to confuse the two things and claim that hate is directed at companies rather than companies’ acts. It’s akin to situation where criticism is dismissed as being “sexist”, “racist” or “prejudiced”.

Three levels of an intelligent discussion are said to involve: 1) ideas (ideology); 2) events (actions); and 3) people (ad hominem against a company or an individual). We concentrate on (1) and (2) by showing evidence, as in (2), and then relating it to (1). There is nothing wrong with this.

Novell coupons warning

Software Patents Hinged on Money and Political Influence

Posted in Bill Gates, Europe, Finance, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Videos at 11:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“That weekend Gates and Noorda met in the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge at San Francisco Airport. Gates barely took time to say hello before he reiterated his interest in a corporate marriage. “There was only one stipulation,” says Noorda, “Gates told me, That DRI thing has to go.”‘ Ballmer confirms this, but says the reason was that it was clear to Microsoft that a merger with Novell would never get government approval if it included the purchase of Microsoft’s only MS-DOS competitor. But when Noorda raised the possibility that Washington might block a merger anyway, Gates replied, according to Noorda: “Don’t worry, we know how to handle the Federal Government.”"

Source

Bill Gates was born to a wealthy family of diplomats and lawyers. The fragment above is intended to draw your attention to this fact (or remind you of it). Lobbying has become an incredibly worrisome phenomenon. In the United States alone there is multi-billion-dollar lobbying industry which does a lot of damage to the stability of the system. See this recent video of Larry Lessig who discusses such severe issues which he calls “corruption” [1, 2, 3].

In the past, the lobbying industry worked in the shadows, but newer disclosure rules revealed its extent and impact. As a contextually-related plug, consider the following set of eye-opening quotes:

There are serious dangers in allowing affluent lobbyists and their funding sources to write laws and change rules ‘on behalf’ of everybody else. Even Europe has woken up to realise that this infectious disease has entered Brussels — an issue that was raised by BusinessWeek just a couple of months ago. Based on a new article, here is where software patents come into play:

MEPs on Thursday launched the thorny debate on tightening rules covering the thousands of EU lobbyists in Brussels, with an initial discussion showing deputies in favour of defining the term “lobbyist” as broadly as possible but shying away from the 600-page rulebook that defines and confines lobbyists in the US.

[...]

For his part, Mr Stubb says he is not out to demonise lobbyists, whose activities have come to light recently during the ferocious lobbying on legislation that took place during the development of the chemicals, services and software patent laws.

Some time ago, in the midst of a conversation I was having, I saw the term lobbyist synonymised with “legalised bribery”. The main issue is that prevalence makes this almost acceptable. It’s a case of “everyone else is doing it, so I might as well join in.” Here is an article from Friday:

Tech Group Expands State Lobby Efforts

High-Technology Trade Association Boosts State Lobbying Program With Funding, Personnel

[...]

The group represents about 2,500 companies, including Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and Dell Inc., in the software, telecommunications, computers, semiconductor and other sectors. It announced the plans Thursday.

The leader of this pack isn’t of much interest here. It’s more about the scale of this phenomenon, which probably proves to be more powerful than the Internet, i.e. the ‘public voices’.

A few days ago, in Davos, Bill Gates attempted to rename “predatory capitalism” or “extreme capitalism” (as Richard Stallman calls it) “kinder capitalism”. Having seen Microsoft's handling of a charity, this seems like an awful lot of spin. Matt Asay had more to say about this plea for love:

There are other reasons that open source fits Mr. Gates’ call for a “kinder capitalism.” The point is that the open-source revolution Mr. Gates has long fought is the single-best answer for building global (IT) economies, just as it’s doing in Europe right now according to the European Union.

You should try giving away open source as part of your foundation, Mr. Gates. You could undo much of the wrongs you’ve done the world’s IT economy.

As we mentioned the other day, Gates’ charity is sometimes used to battle free open source software. Dumping techniques are being labeled “charity”. But let us get back the main point.

As Larry Lessig states in the video cited above, he may have been chasing the wrong problem for many years. He had all the right answers. Just as it’s accepted by non-monopolies (including older days Gates) that software patents do not make sense, Lessig explains that copyrights and global warming issues are trivialities. These are not being resolved because of greed and the likes of this characteristic.

The issue goes deeper beneath the surface and it needs to be addressed effectively by identifying those who legislated for the USPTO, for starters. As the articles below show, legislation on software patents around the world is still a political question that is overwhelmed and stomped by money. The same goes for the Novell deal and ISO, apparently. These are not purely-technical questions.

Related articles:

Software Patents and Standards are Inherently Incompatible

Posted in Formats, Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Standard at 10:39 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Digital Majority has just posted a good pointer to this essay which explains why the notion of software patents and industry standards are almost contradictory. This can be concluded from this study that encourages better collaboration that strikes balance between decentralisation (relinquishing control of formats) and a self-centrist approach (lock-in and intellectual monopolies).

The balance between the much wanted law-like standards and IPR is difficult, noted the study, because “the underlying philosophies of standardisation and IPR-protection are seen as opposite. Whereas standardisation intends to put ideas into the public domain, protection of IPR makes them private property.” Furthermore, the legal framework of standardisation is blurred, while recognition of private rights over private creations is clear and patent ambushes (patent claims made late in the development of a standardisation process) are prevailing in court cases. The European Commission so far has tried to alleviate the problem by passing so-called FRAND rules that try to ensure “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” licensing when it comes to standards. A new ETSI IPR policy adopted in 2006 addressed the problem of IPR owners not agreeing to licences, yet the problem still is not really resolved, according to the study. ¶

We last discussed an example of this yesterday. The issue is particularly interesting when considered in Novell’s case. Rather than accepting widely-deployed standards, Novell resorted to this twisted notion of ‘interoperability’, which is a mishmash of patents and bridges. We have just taken a second (and later) look at a page where Novell tries to “state its case”. The couple of new comments which have been added since the last time are very revealing:

# Guy Says:
January 26th, 2008 at 5:19 am

Quote: “ask most IT directors and they’ll tell you the msft/novl relationship is good for their business”

But at what cost. The deal seems to imply that there is truth in the ms allegations about copyright infringment. Novell gains are at the community’s expense.


# W. Anderson Says:
January 26th, 2008 at 8:33 pm

I surely hope Mr. Dragoon of Novell would not try to insult the intelligence of citizenry by implying -through omission – that Novell’s business upturn fortunes without the Microsoft deal moneys have had no effect on companies who deal with Novell solely because they value the Microsoft insurance – some call extortion tax – via Novell.

Unfortunately nothing appears to be changed from the very naive and deceptive approach Novell has taken in regard the whole Microsoft patent tax issue.

I can attest to the fact that a consulting associate client’s hotel property in the Caribbean was willing to switch from RedHat to Novell Suse only because of their concern about reprisals from Microsoft. Such decision had nothing to do with any superiority of products or services form Novell, which they found to be lacking.

Therefore I still consider Novell a leech and parasite not only on GNU/Linux technology but the worldwide community and the Free/Open Source Software spirit as well.

It ought to be apparent that Novell’s part of the deal which is to do with patents is closely tied to so-called “interoperability”, which is a case of patents anyway. If there are fiends out there whose role is to make GNU/Linux liable for software patents, Novell is among them. Since patents are incompatible with open standards, Novell harms standards. It sold out.

Sell Novell

Geneva BRM on OOXML: Technical? Political? None of the Above?

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML at 10:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

What’s to stop a multi-billion-dollar purchase of an ISO standard?

A couple of weeks ago, Russell Ossendryver and I exchanged some E-mails and documents (ODF-formatted of course) which raised some key deficiencies in OOXML. He addressed a comment which was sent to him by one of the “Microsoft zombies” who was about the attend the Geneva BRM only in support of OOXML. As we continue to stress — and we cannot stress strongly enough — what you are about to see in Geneva is most likely an abomination. It is a closed process attended by some of Microsoft's own staff and the rules are (off)set so as to ensure that Microsoft can hardly lose.

Russell has just published an excellent article in Linux.com where you can find a nice bus analogy and a technical dissection.

Features such as the Microsoft Office OOXML file format with DRM, Sharepoint tags, passwords, reliance on Devmode (a method Windows uses for handling information about printer or display settings), GUID (a proprietary Microsoft Windows and .Net implementation of the UUID standard for applications to coordinate and identify resources within an operating system), migration tags, VBA macros, and other hidden system dependencies effectively prevent competing applications and even other operating systems from achieving full interoperability, while at the same time tying OOXML files to a Microsoft environment.

If you can explain to people what OOXML actually is, please do. By all means remember how Microsoft virtually paid Novell for OOXML support, which is the reason such as issue is very relevant to this Web site.

link for gnash users

Signs That USPTO Should RIP: Company/Individual Patents the Mobile Computer

Posted in Intellectual Monopoly, Patents at 9:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Low barriers makes law standards

We kid you not. A patent troll has apparently just been awarded a patent covering something awfully generic. It pretty much describes any ‘smart’ computer that can be moved from one place to another. “Prior art,” you might yell, but go ahead and prove this in court. This results in a lot of wasted time and great distress. As Techdirt puts it, just about everyone is already sued.

This past Tuesday, the US Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent on “a mobile entertainment and communication device.” Reading the patent, you realize it describes the quite common smartphone. It’s a patent for a mobile phone with removable storage, an internet connection, a camera and the ability to download audio or video files.

If a sign was needed to show that the patent system had gone too far and well off the rails, this is it. It’s just one among many more examples. Even trivial things like XML seem to be getting patented nowadays. Almost everything under the sun is owned by someone and this means that strategic lawsuits can be initiated by almost anyone at any given time. Think about SCO and also think about a recent incident involving IBM and possibly Microsoft too. When things get personal, people use their lawyers, just as this new Murdoch versus Branson story shows.

It appears that Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch are still unable to get along together. After last year’s battle over whether or not to broadcast Sky channels on Virgin Media’s UK cable television network, Rupert is now (at least indirectly) bringing out his IP lawyers in an apparent attempt to threaten Virgin in other ways.

This war of ego certainly does not help the engineers. It certainly will not benefit the customer in any way.

The key point to make here is that when barriers to acceptance are so low, you permit people to sue over just about anything. All that is needed is a catalyst, an excuse. This promotes patent Armageddons. With patent trolls abound, there is no public image to be hurt (unlike SCO, whose sales declined), so guilt and hesitation are simply not there. Trigger-happy, consciousness-free lawyers can inherit the earth.

On Beagle’s Increasing Mono-ization and Novell’s Role

Posted in GNOME, GNU/Linux, Mono, Novell at 9:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patent protection expires

Debajyoti Bera made a comment on a recent post that addresses the Mono problem [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].

On the face of it, there is some skirting around the issue with trivialities and what seems like incorrect statements. According to a source that got in touch with us: “Beagle most certainly is a Novell project, and it is hosted and developed by Gnome.” The project’s address, http://ftp.gnome.org/pub/GNOME/sources/beagle/0.3/, seems to pretty much confirm this, but there was an incident in the past where Jeff Waugh begged to differ, the context being OpenOffice.org. Regardless, these Mono complications appear to be getting worse before they get any better. A couple of months ago, in the GNOME Foundation’s mailing list, it was promised that Novell would be notified of the issue and decrease the use of Mono where it is not necessary, at least in order to appease Richard Stallman’s concerns.

Yesterday, however, we found this, which refers to Beagle (in OpenSUSE):

* We would be extremely happy if beagle only used C# for all its operations. Unfortunately, we have to depend on a lot of C libraries for indexing certain files. Sometimes memory leaks (the C type) and segmentation faults happen in them. These are harder to spot since mono does not know about the memory allocated in the C libraries. ¶

This happens to be the observation which got Slated started (I posted this to USENET). As stated in Slated:

I must admit that I grow weary of Gnome and Novell people constantly trying to distance themselves from Mono and OOXML issues, with excuses and trivialities. I also find it quite ironic, since if (as many of them maintain) there is nothing wrong with either Mono or OOXML, then why would they be so keen to deny any involvement.

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part II: OpenSUSE 11.0, 10.3, and 10.1 in German Government

Posted in Europe, Novell, OpenSUSE at 4:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OpenSUSE 11.0

Alpha 1 of OpenSUSE 11.0 has been out for over a week and new screenshot galleries such as this one continue to be produced and brought online. Here is another one with some bits of ‘annotation’ at the top.

I’ve installed openSUSE 11.0 Alpha1. This is an early alpha version, includes: new look of the Installer, KDE 4.0.0, NetworkManager 0.7, CUPS 1.3.5, Pulseaudio, etc. For more information, go here. The following are some screenshots of openSUSE 11.0 Alpha1.

The domain above (Phorolinux) seems like somewhat of a case of brandname-jacking. I informed Michael Larabel about this some months ago. Michael at Phoronix (the ‘original’ one) has some screenshots of openSUSE 11.0 Alpha 1 also.

Last week OpenSuSE 11.0 Alpha 1 was released, and in addition to including KDE 4.0, PulseAudio integration, and various package updates, Alpha 1 features improvements to the OpenSuSE installer. This installer uses Qt4 and is much improved, which warranted us taking a closer look.

Here is the list of key dates.

open SUSE 11 Roadmap overview

* Dec 6 openSUSE 11.0 Alpha 0
* Jan 17 openSUSE 11.0 Alpha 1
* Feb 07 openSUSE 11.0 Alpha 2
* March 18 openSUSE 11.0 Alpha 3
* April 17 openSUSE 11.0 Beta 1
* May 2 openSUSE 11.0 Beta 2
* May 13 openSUSE 11.0 Beta 3
* May 29 openSUSE 11.0 Release Candidate 1
* June 12 openSUSE 11.0 Goldmaster (internal)
* June 19 openSUSE 11.0 Public release

OpenSUSE 10.3, 10.1

Some people are still looking at the stable release and explore package management.

OpenSuSE has yast2 and zypper, so why apt you might ask? Because apt-get is simply superior to zypper and yast2, and apt is far far quicker than zypper on resolving depencies. And apt-cache search is nicer than zypper’s search feature. So for me, apt is a nice tool…

The Federal Employment Office has stated that it had already deployed OpenSUSE 10.1 on thousands of machines.

Shortly after switching all of its 13,000 public internet information workstations from Windows NT to Linux, the Federal Employment Office (BA) issued an interim report.

[...]

The BA is using the OpenSuse 10.1 Remastered distribution and the latest version of the Firefox web browser.

SuSE’s final CEO delivered a talk (and more) at a fairly significant European event in Nurnberg.

This week Richard Seibt, the final CEO of an independent SUSE, held his third Open Source Meets Business Congress in Nurnberg, Germany — birthplace of SUSE. Seibt says the event plays host to 720 people, 60% of whom identify themselves as “c-level decision makers” and 20% of whom say they are “IT professionals.”

OpenSUSE Community

A profile of Katarina Machalkova was published a week ago.

Today’s People of openSUSE features a female YaST developer and the maintainer of ncurses user interface library – Katarina Machalkova!

The OpenSUSE community developers, along with Novell, now support their competitors as well, which is commendable

The openSUSE community initiative sponsored by Novell is expanding. The company’s openSUSE Build Service, an infrastructure framework for software developers, can now build packages for CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Francis Giannaros delivers the OpenSUSE Weekly News, as usual. He always has some items that we miss (it’s never used as a reference anyway).

The sixth issue of openSUSE Weekly News is now out![0]

In this week’s issue:

* openSUSE 11.0 Alpha 1 Released
* Federico unveils the latest community member
* In Status Updates: Qt 4.4 in Factory; FOSDEM draft online; more
work on imaging support for the OBS
* In Tips and Tricks: Kepas – Easy File Sharing Tools
* In the Press: Federal Employment Office switches 13,000
workstations to openSUSE

[0] http://en.opensuse.org/OpenSUSE_Weekly_News/6

Have a lot of fun!

Have lots of fun and there will be more next week.

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part I: Miscellaneous Picks from a Quiet Week

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, SLES/SLED at 3:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In the past week, there has not been a great deal of news about Novell, but here are some isolated stories which cover Novell in one way or another.

As you have probably heard by now, IBM’s s. Tsoftware will come to multiple GNU/Linux distributions. SUSE is among them.

Novell

IBM also announced strong momentum behind its Open Collaboration Client Solution powered by SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell that was announced last August. Novell was the first distributor to integrate with IBM’s Open Collaboration Client Solution by offering a single click install process for SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell and IBM’s Open Collaboration Client Solution, as well as migration and integration services provided by Value Added Distributors (VADs) around the Open Collaboration Client Solution. More than a dozen VADs worldwide have signed up, enabled, and are promoting the solution, including Arrow in the United States, driving demand for their top resellers and Avnet in Italy focused on public sector business and government customers.

Here is the press release.

There are some signs which indicate that SGI is still using SUSE in the clusters.

Hundreds of SGI Customers Contribute to Latest Report From Nobel Prize-Winning Climate Change Panel
SGI, Altix, the SGI cube and the SGI logo are registered trademarks of SGI in the United States and/or other countries worldwide. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in several countries. Novell is a registered trademark, and SUSE is a trademark of Novell, Inc. in the United States and other countries.

ZDNet Asia published an article about the decline of support needs. This article is centered around Novell’s experience and testimony.

Kurc said, in an interview with ZDNet Asia: “It’s great that people are implementing Linux for free. I’m all for gaining mindshare.” The Novell executive was in Singapore to speak at an event on Windows and Linux interoperability to employ server virtualization.

eWeek published an articles which covers the WordPerfect lawsuit. For a change, this one is not very critical of Novell.

Friends in development, enemies in the courtroom, Novell is continuing with its billion dollar-plus suit against Microsoft.

[...]

During the mid-’90s, under the leadership of Ray Noorda, Novell had acquired the WordPerfect word processor by merging with the WordPerfect Corp. and by buying Quattro Pro, a once-popular spreadsheet program, from Borland. The intent was to create a Novell office suite to compete with what would become Microsoft Office 95.

Novell, unable to successfully compete with Office 95, sold WordPerfect to Corel for a fraction of what it had paid for the program. The acquisition had cost Novell $1.2 billion in May 1994, but by 1996 it sold it for a bargain-basement price of $170 million. Today, Corel continues to sell WordPerfect, but it has only a minute fraction of the word processing market.

[...]

Now, despite Novell’s close partnership with Microsoft, Novell has never given up on its WordPerfect lawsuit. With this new decision, and Microsoft’s appeal, the two will continue to fight in the courts, no matter how close they may appear in cross-platform Linux and Windows development.

Here is another type of leech whose business is based on Novell’s problems (no, no hypocrisy here).

Top Layer Networks, a global leader for high performance intrusion prevention solutions, today announced that its IPS 5500 provides customers with Zero-Day protection against known attacks for the critical Novell Groupwise Client IMG Tag Buffer Overflow vulnerability, a critical exploitable vulnerability that could enable attackers to control vulnerable systems. The Top Layer TopResponse research team has assured IPS 5500 customers that they have been proactively protected against known attacks using this vulnerability and require no further action on their part.

Lastly, GWAVACon makes a bunch of headline with a press release.

GWAVA, one of Novell’s largest collaboration partners for Novell GroupWise and Novell Teaming + Conferencing, announced today that Mark Diamond, President and CEO, Contoural, Inc., will speak at GWAVACon in San Diego, Calif.

We previously showed some videos from previous gatherings at GWAVACon.

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