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02.13.08

Links 14/02/2008: Android Makes Headlines; Many New Troubles for Microsoft

Posted in News Roundup at 11:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Behind the Microsoft Losses, Inability to Evolve

Posted in Finance, Microsoft, Novell at 8:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft ZUN

In previous coverage of Microsoft's financial troubles we included plenty of references and new stories that continue to come to light, such as the tax breaks. In case you did not know this, Microsoft is bluffing. The expensive Novell deal, as well as the software patents-oriented strategy, is sign of this also.

Over at ZDNet, Dana Blankenhorn seems to have become aware of this. He writes about Microsoft’s Liddell, who is the man that probably massages the number (see previous references for detailed information). To quote some fragments:

Ironically the $45 billion bet on Yahoo, partly funded by debt, comes just as Microsoft is finally starting to make good on its decade-old promise of earning money beyond Office and Windows.

[...]

In the end (returning to this blog’s ostensible subject) this is a very good deal for open source. It takes Microsoft’s eye off the competitive ball. It tells everyone inside Big Green to forget about intrapreneurship. It eats up the cash Microsoft had to threaten Linux with.

But this is going to end as all tragedies must, with tears. Steve Ballmer is getting taken for the biggest ride of his life, and one day he’s going to find himself dumped out of the limo by the side of the road wondering what happened.

Days ago in Reuters the following article appeared with interesting and somewhat bizarre information about the professional background of Microsoft’s Chief Financial Officer.

Microsoft’s (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) decision in 2005 to hire Chris Liddell, a New Zealander working in the paper industry, to fill the company’s open job of chief financial officer seemed like an odd choice.

It would be interesting to find out what happened to the previous CFO. Did s/he leave? Was s/he sacked? What did s/he see and how does this relate to Bill Gates’ resignation as CEO at times when the company had lost $18 billion dollars. Don’t let the press hypnotise you. Microsoft has serious problems (the recession does not help), but too many people out there still drink Liddell’s Kool-Aid.

Quick Mention: Boycott Endorsement from the FSF

Posted in FSF, GPL, Patents, Security at 7:46 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The Trend Micro boycott was last mentioned here just 2 days ago. It turns out that the Free Software Foundation is now putting its weight behind this action by offering an endorsement of the message.

The proprietary software company Trend Micro has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Barracuda Networks. They claim that Barracuda is violating their patent by distributing the free software antivirus program ClamAV.

We should avoid using any proprietary software, but companies that use software patents for aggression are the lowest of the low.

Also from the FSF, new graphics/logos are made available to promote GPLv3 and its variant.

Have you released some software under one of the new GNU licenses? If so, you might be interested in our license logos. We just published a couple for LGPLv3 and the GNU AGPL, in addition to the classic red GPLv3 logo.

FSF GNU GPLv3As we stated before, we have no affiliations with anybody, not even the FSF. The site is independent and will always stay that way. Based on E-mails from top people, the FSF appreciates what we do, but there is no connection whatsoever. It is a frequent mistake to be avoided because while noooxml.org is a FFII project, this site is truly independent.

Links 14/02/2008: Various Good News for GNU/Linux; Fedora 8 Xfce and Slax 6 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 7:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft’s History Against Standards Must Not Repeat Itself

Posted in Antitrust, Europe, Formats, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard, SUN at 8:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Number two is move Netscape out of the win32 client area.”

Paul Maritz, senior vice president Microsoft

IP-WATCH has a good article that sheds some more light on Microsoft’s tactics against its competition, even once it has fallen under the European Commission’s supervision. [via Glyn Moody]

Microsoft’s rival Sun Microsystems had complained to the Commission that the US software giant would not grant it data needed to ensure that Windows was interoperable.

“Microsoft’s defence was that the information was covered by intellectual property rights,” Hellstrom said. “This argument was never used when Sun asked for the information. It was only used in the eleventh hour. Microsoft showed one patent a day before we adopted our decision [in 2004].”

[...]

Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, a senior researcher with the United Nations University in Maastricht, Netherlands, noted that royalty-free standards are already being used in the computer industry. For example, the World Wide Web Consortium, a body dedicated to greater advancement of the Internet, promotes interoperable software.

Carlo Piana, whom we mentioned before [1, 2], is still very dissatisfied with the fact that Microsoft wants to knock out the existing international standard by replacing it with its own proprietary formats.

I will concentrate on one single, central issue, instead of starting a multi-threaded discussion. There cannot be two International Standards.

[...]

In all examples of partly overlapping International Standard (with maybe one or two exceptions), essentially they have profound differences and serve different purposes. One can think of the duality between TCP and UDP: theoretically, both can be used for most of the applications that the other is used, but they have trade-offs that make one better than others if you choose reliability over light-weight, or the reverse. Sometimes there are multiple standards for a single industry domain, like JPEG and JPEG2000. But these multiple standards reflect the evolution of technology, in this case from DCT coding to Wavelets, allowing for better representation in a specific field.

Microsoft pretends that it wants to accompany ODF, but it’s very clear that the purpose of OOXML is to marginalise ODF to the point where it becomes irrelevant. This is a very aggressive move. There is a good new comment in Slashdot which explains the importance of this and mentions the reason why Microsoft is going this far.

How ‘Firm’ Would You Stand For 20 Billion A Year?

I believe Microsoft made 5 billion in revenue from having customers worldwide locked into their proprietary office document format.

The vendor lockin from Office makes up almost half the company’s yearly revenue.

Microsoft would cease to exist as we know it if the office document lockin revenue went away to an open format.

Fight? LOL! This is the type of sh*t Microsoft execs live for.

Fake grassroots efforts.
Standards body subversion.
Paid for media shills.
Shame studies.
Mysterious compatibility problems with the competition.

All in a days work.

They want to kill an open standard have have it replaced by an application (Microsoft Office). We must not let this happen because without competition there will be digital suppression. Andy Updegrove is not keeping his hopes so high at this stage (the BRM in Geneva has already been pretty much corrupted [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]), but the truth needs to be heard.

Microsoft a  bad ride

Do You Pay Per Call? Click to Call? If So, The Trolls Are On to You!

Posted in Courtroom, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OLPC, Patents at 7:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In order to demonstrate the pathetic state of the patent system in the United States, consider this patent which even earned bragging rights.

The patents protect innovations that enable “Pay-Per-Call” advertising and “Click to Call” technology…

Here is what you find once you dig a little deeper. [Via Digitial Majority]

Convicted felon Steve Ivester was involved with VoIP Inc. during its early days when it was making a transition from tea company to Vonage competitor. Over the past 12 months, VoIP Inc.’s stock has tanked — from over $8 a share to less than a penny.

“Convicted felon,” eh? Shades of LANCOR, which is a patent troll suspected of serving Microsoft’s and Intel’s interests. The guy at the top spent some time in jail, having committed fraud. Perhaps the missing link that connects the likes of Ray Niro [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] is total lack of ethics. It does, after all, take some nerve to resort to such practices, which include lawsuits by proxy. Remember the recent Apple case in Europe? It contained traces of crime as well, with conviction even. Proxy strategies are not so rare after all.

Verizon continues the battle of the telecoms with yet another lawsuit (no exactly news), but the following phrase is worth emphasising.

In the Charter case, Verizon is seeking damages that are “no less than a reasonable royalty,” as well as an injunction blocking Charter from using the technology.

“No less than a reasonable royalty,” insists Verizon. Very innovative… source of income.

Oriskany ship sinks
The USPTO is sinking

Quick Mention: Eric Raymond Tried to Persuade Linus Torvalds to Choose GPLv3

Posted in GNU/Linux, GPL, Kernel, Microsoft, SUN at 7:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Buried somewhere in this new interview there is the following interesting bit from Eric Raymond, who is not exactly a role model for Free software.

Biancuzzi: What about GPL3 then?

Raymond: It’s another reciprocal license. Better written in some ways than GPL2; I had a long email conversation with Linus in which I tried to persude him to adopt it, my goal being to reduce the amount of political crap flying around in the community.

GNU on televisionThis is particularly noteworthy because Torvalds appears to have softened since the issue was first raised. In fact, given Sun’s direction (with yet another acquisition yesterday), the kernel might have to follow suit and upgrade the licence in order to compete. This hypotectical question was brought up in the mailing lists before and it only recently Torvalds showed some envy or fear of OpenSolaris, which is most likely bound to embrace GPLv3 (perhaps with duality in licensing).

Elsewhere, in the 451 Group’s Web site, a new technical report about the GPLv3 is now available.

We’ve just released our latest CAOS report, GPLv3-Liberation or limitation?, which covers the changes and implications of the new version of the GNU General Public License.

It might be worth providing feedback on this report to have it improved or at least augmented with peripheral comments. Nevertheless, the report resides behind a moneywall. How 90s. Don’t people write reports to reach a large audience? The Burton Group, which is a friend of Microsoft, adopted a similar route, perhaps in order to keep all by the wealthy away, thereby reducing criticism of a propaganda piece whitepaper.

Blackboard Gets Aggressive, Junk Patent Dropping Like Flies in Court

Posted in Courtroom, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 7:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Groklaw calls Blackboard “Novell II”

In our past writings that covered Blackboard [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] it could clearly be seen what an aggressive monopolist that company truly is. Unsurprisingly, the company is a chum of Microsoft (see citations below, including “Microsoft has given Blackboard $10-million in venture capital”).

Blackboard protects the educational territory, which it perceives as its own, using all means at hand, including the most ridiculous of software patents. It is not a defensive arsenal, mind you. Here we are talking about a company that is at this very moment attacking in the courts. At the expense of the victim’s (and the juridical system’s) time, Blackboard shows what junk patents it has possessed all along.

Interestingly, Desire2Learn is blogging about the trial. Desire2Learn has already invalidated 35 out of the 44 claims of the ’138 patent. I love how Desire2Learn refers to the inventors in quotes – “inventors.” From Desire2Learn’s blog, we learn that the Software Freedom Law Center filed an ex parte reexamination request, and Desire2Learn filed an inter partes reexamination request. Both were granted, and are continuing in parallel to the trial. We also learn that Judge Clark did not rule on any pending summary judgment motions, and decided to hold them for trial.

More about Blackboard (older articles and press coverage):

Blackboard Patent Goes to Trial

The Blackboard patent infringement case against Desire2Learn goes to trial on February 11, 2008 in Lufkin, Texas. The trial is expected to last two weeks. Both sides will have no more than 18 hours to present their case.

[...]

By all accounts Blackboard’s patent is a stupid one and never should have been issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Drop Patent, Educause Urges Blackboard

The leaders of higher education’s main technology association have written a powerfully worded letter urging Blackboard to relinquish the rights it gained under a controversial patent of online learning technologies in the public domain and to drop a patent infringement lawsuit it filed in August against a Canadian competitor, Desire2Learn.

FAQ on Understanding the Blackboard Patent

For example, claim 1 in the Blackboard patent describes a course based-system with user computers where each user is “capable of having predefined characteristics indicative of multiple predetermined roles in the system.” Consequently, a system must provide for “multiple predetermined roles” for each user according to the claim and, likewise, every other element (or its equivalent) of claim 1 must be embodied in the system in question for claim 1 to be infringed. This detailed element-by-element analysis is necessary to evaluate the scope of the patent. Be wary of any analysis of this or any other patent which does not involve an element-by-element discussion of the claims as each element is a limitation on the scope of a patent.

The Blackboard Patent Pledge – Novell II?

Blackboard hereby commits not to assert any of the U.S. patents listed below, as well as all counterparts of these patents issued in other countries, against the development, use or distribution of Open Source Software or Home-Grown Systems to the extent that such Open Source Software and Home-Grown Systems are not Bundled with proprietary software.

[...]

Microsoft has given Blackboard $10-million in venture capital and has stationed Microsoft employees within Blackboard to help with product development….”Learning could take over from e-commerce as the number-one use of the Internet,” says Mr. East, of Microsoft. That is enticing to Microsoft, says Mr. DeGroot of Directions on Microsoft. “What Microsoft wants is to own the educational-software market,” he says.

Blackboard Problems Leave Vista on Double-Secret Probation

On college campuses, Microsoft’s Vista operating system may be in danger of failing courses that use Blackboard, a key software program for communication between teachers and students.

Blackboard remains one of the notable companies out there to be named and shamed for abusive attempts to protect its dominance.

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