More evidence of rule-bending and misconduct
Write these down as another set of dirty tricks from Microsoft.
It has been no more than a couple of days since we last mentioned the United States and OOXML. This has been outrageous from the very start, going back a long, long way. It is hardly surprising to finally find that Microsoft is ‘stealing the elections’ yet again.
In the latest demonstration of how broken the process is the US V1 technical committee voted on Friday to recommend approval of OOXML in a 17-4 vote, where Microsoft and no fewer than 11 of its business partners voted in favor of the specification. Am I the only one to see a major conflict of interest at play in this?
We last mentioned Australia and New Zealand just several days ago and finally we’re starting to find new complaints. Here is one from Australia:
AUSTRALIA’S stance in the global stoush over Microsoft’s bid to make its XML document file format an international standard will be thrashed out by local experts today.
Open Source Industry Australia spokesman Brendan Scott said he only received Standards Australia’s report late last Friday for discussion by the technical working group today.
“It’s very difficult to work out what’s involved in the final draft,” Mr Scott said. “There isn’t a complete document containing all the changes.
“It’s a big ask to have sensible comment on such a big document in such a short time.”
It’s deja vu all over again. Limit time, limit opportunity to scrutinise.
New Zealand’s story isn’t any better. A month ago we heard about ECMA virtually ignoring Italy's gripes with OOXML and here comes a case where ECMA (Microsoft) disregards over 98% of the comments.
As you can see from the attached document, in the lead up to the BRM Ecma offered improvements to only 13 of the 54 SNZ comments. Out of these 13 “improvements” we found only one that really did address the fundamental issue. That’s right, Ecma “fixed” 1 comment out of 54.
Who are they kidding? OOXML is broken, it cannot be mended as quickly as Microsoft wishes (or needs), so the company withholds information from critics and stacks technical committees (or Working Groups). Is this the way to earn an international standard? █
Rubbish specs belong in the trash can
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It has been no secret that there is an intersection of minds and staff at Novell and Microsoft. Novell’s Justin Steinman, for example, attends both companies in somewhat of a dual role. He does marketing. Miguel de Icaza seems to be spending a lot of time over at Microsoft and there is a link that connects marketing and Mono.
Sam Varghese took a closer look at the roles of the players in this game. He names: Miguel, Mono, Moonlight and Microsoft. Unfortunately, he also linked to a conversation I had started which is filled by many Microsoft Munchkins, who thrive in libel and personal attack.
Nevertheless, this Usenet conversation has some points of interest. It illustrates again the way in which de Icaza, who by all accounts is a man with a very high IQ, refuses to look down the line and draw reasonable conclusions.
When asked “To what degree do you trust Microsoft, either in terms of their promises; their motivations; or their commitment to a competing platform like Linux?” he chooses to trivialise the question by responding “This is a question that is suitable for Teen magazine or Cosmo.”
It’s not just Sam Varghese who criticises de Icaza quite so openly. As usual, Jeff Waugh is there to defend Miguel and slam Sam. It would be nice to see Jeff Waugh proceeding to attack people like Bruce Perens, who are equally pissed off by Miguel’s actions. And it’s far from the first complaint from him by the way. Perens says:
What’s this about pay-grade? It’s a military term, often misappropriated by civilians who are avoiding an ethical decision. It’s a good excuse in the military: politicians are accountable for the decision to enter a war, while the military are oath-bound to follow orders at pain of court-martial and possibly execution, and are only accountable for the conduct of the war. But Miguel is no soldier. He’s the founder of a company previously merged into Novell, and would not be subject to treason charges or capital punishment over this issue. Others, like Jeremy Allison, chose to leave the company while Miguel stayed.
There are some very interesting comments from Bruce in this page, which is worth a read.
Yesterday we mentioned the departure of Martin Buckley from Novell. In the comments we even discussed the possibility of Microsoft employees filling positions at Novell. Well, what happens when (or if) it turns out to be reciprocal, as the following update seems to suggest?
UPDATE: Heard from a credible source that [Novell's] Martin is on his way to Microsoft. I guess the “certain principles” weren’t things like “open source purity” and such. Maybe Martin wasn’t happy that Novell hasn’t fully sold itself to Microsoft.
Speaking of which, we have wondered about Justin Steinman for quite some time. A reader wrote to inform us that he is no past relationships with Microsoft. To quote the message in full:
Justin Steinman joined Novell in late 2003 or early 2004. He previously worked for Tilion. Tilion was headed by Chris Stone, who later was Vice Chairman of Novell. Stone joined Novell in Feb 2002 and departed in November 2004. A quick Google search found some more info on Steinman’s history at http://www.mkpress.com/doedesc.html and http://www.linuxworldexpo.com/live/13/events/13SFO07A/SN980821/bio//CMONYA00BI5Y
Neither of these suggest that he ever worked for Microsoft.
It remains rather curious that the two companies work quite so closely and employees are moving between the companies, serving the interests of both. What this comes to show us is that the new-age Novell and Microsoft are almost like twins separated at birth. It’s hardly surprising that Novell managers refer to Microsoft as a partner. They should be treated as such. █
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People complain about it, then get gagged
When we were all much younger, we took some basic lessons. I was once taught that when one person insists that you’re excessively drunk, you might still be okay. When a second person tell you this, then it’s time to head for bed. It’s a metaphor.
“One of our readers described the problem as “slashvertisements”.”Parables and all aside, too many people are beginning to raise concerns about Slashdot as a portal which revolves around geeks and open source news. I get E-mails about this from several people. The Web talks about this also. The last voice of complaint (just hours ago, as a matter of fact) comes from noooxml.org, which spotted something that other people spotted as well.
Sladshdot is filled with a great deal of ‘fluff’ nowadays (less technology, more of the rest), which is reminiscent of Digg’s steep decline as a technology Web site. It is not easy to find a good explanation for this, but here are some experimental observations, courtesy of ours readers.
In recent week we raised concerns and passed on complaints about Slashdot’s somewhat unhealthy news bias, which was reported by long-time subscribers. One of our readers described the problem as “slashvertisements”. We covered more than a couple of examples fairly recently. You are encouraged to read these if you haven’t because we strive to reduce repetition of arguments and recycle links/text instead.
Nothing seems to have changed since the last time. One reader of ours writes:
I am currently more inclined to suspect abuse rather than bias [in Slashdot].
The abuse can stem from a system vulnerable to gaming, or it can occur as the result of an fifth-columnist on the inside, or a little of both.
The fact that the tags change or disappear is in and of itself a big issue and need not be mingled with other problems. If descriptors are to be relied upon for retrieval of topics, they have to be a little less ephemeral and not subject to radical, arbitrary change.
This comes in response to a lot of positive ‘air time’ which Microsoft appears to be getting at the expense of reports about its abuses or success stories which favour Free software.
It is worth mentioning that Roblimo, the editor of Slashdot, visited Microsoft some time ago. He was invited, like many others whose site is critical of Microsoft.
“That would give you some before / after metrics,” a reader of us says. He continues: “Yeah, he got really upset when I asked about the change in writing when he got back from the Gates compound. Whatever happened there appears to have taken a bit of the starch out of him.”
So, that same reader, noticing a trend which we covered here before, went on and did a bit of experimental investigation. To quote it in full (parts of it go beyond the scope of topic, but are worth a read nonetheless):
Ok, here’s ‘smoking gun’ material:
Look at the caches which, at the time of this search, are from Feb 13:
For some time, I had been planning to go over everything tagged ‘vistafailure’ or ‘vistafailurelog’ before the articles themselves somehow disappear or get ‘misplaced’
There used to be many articles (dozens IIRC) with either tag. Now, March 7, there are none:
“There are few other conclusions other than someone with access to Slashdot has been fiddling the tags.”There are few other conclusions other than someone with access to Slashdot has been fiddling the tags. If more were known about Slashdot’s tagging process, it would be possible to say more precisely how much it’s being gamed from the outside and how much requires help from the inside.
Certainly Slashdot is being spammed lately. Laundering of the tags may be separate or part of it.
PS. I wrote that about at least 10 hours ago and lost focus before sending. During that time I started to cache articles as PDF for printing on Monday. I thought it would be a small number, but after 5 hours, I’ve wearied. There are as many, if not more, articles complaining about how Microsoft Vista sucks, than there were for XP or even XP SP2. As usual, these are coming from various windows oriented magazines.
Irregardless of what the group may call itself, it operates like a political movement or a cult. If you have eyes, you can see it. If you have ears, you can hear it. However, if neither are good enough, then the court provides you with the cult’s own words about how it works: http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20071023002351958
Damage from Windows-only malware runs into the billions of dollars annually, just for the USA. The cult of Microsoft even causes great damage in terms of stifling competition and innovation. Add to that the damage the low quality design and development cause. From Windows you get late trains, delayed planes, power outages, misplaced contracts, the works. It’s so bad in places that many tasks would be more efficient if they dropped not just Windows but computers.
It’s perfectly legal for armed services, under the direction of their national government, to respond to threats to national sovereignty. Bill’s got to be the biggest seen since the British. Though one could make a case that the militias have a stake in things and should respond in kind.
Osama is a problem and has caused damage. He also small potatoes compared to Bill, if one counts in dollars. Though as Windows heads into critical components or infrastructure, you start to be able to tally a body count as well. The east coast US power outage is attributable to Microsoft, so was the 5 hour airspace shutdown in California. California is the world’s 7th largest economy. How much damage is done daily from just the Windows malware? When you start to get into the problems from other design defects, the figures go higher. At some point even a raw dollar value begins to cost lives because resources are then coming from things that increase safety, reduce risk, increase health, etc.
Or take a milder approach. Look at XP SP1 licensing.
Ask executives at 20 random businesses the following:
- Who on their staff is authorized to grant third party access to their electronic records?
- Another question, who is authorized to extend permission to third parties to be authorized themselves to grant access to 4th(?) parties to the company’s electronic records?
- Another question, according to their policy, who outside the company is allowed to access the company’s data and electronic records?
Then ask which systems they have on their desktops and in their server rooms. If they answer XP SP1 or later, or 2000 SP3 or later, then their policy is out of line with their practices.
Most interviewees stop answering after the first question above.
There’s the law. Then there’s the blind spot the world has in regarding Microsoft.
“You’re not the only one being shilled at Slashdot,” says another reader, whose status in the Free software community is very high. “After I posted a comment I’ve had two people moderate me down as a troll for it, when I comment on how in about 24h we see 3 articles unreasonably favourable to Microsoft on Slashdot,” he adds.
The example and links which prove this are omitted here (there was also a screenshot enclosed) in order not to reveal the identity of the person, but the proof seems compelling enough to justify sharing. Also mind the past conversation here (see messages at the bottom) about known Microsoft Munchkins resorting to personal attacks in Slashdot discussions. Same story in USENET and possibly in Digg also, not to mention what is sometimes found in the ODF/OOXML debate.
All in all, it seems like Slashdot has sunk and fallen into similar hands. Maybe its editors are not even aware of this. It’s recurring and recurring. It’s just a pattern which is gradually becoming too hard to ignore. Slashdot’s popularity, overall, seems to be declining quickly if traffic ranks are anything to go by, at least for sufficiently-large sites.
I have been reading Slashdot for as long as I can remember. My stories also reached the front page several times. Tonight, however, I say goodnight to Slashdot. It was nice knowing “news for geeks”, but news for geeks it no longer covers. █
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BSA can never fix the USPTO
It has been a couple of month since we wrote about the BSA. More recently we showed the BSA’s role as a lobbyist and behind-the-scenes manipulator of the patent system. It continues to serve as somewhat of a front [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].
In this latest article from the Washington Post we find that the BSA continues to do its thing, but while it purports to fix the problems at the USPTO what it actually does is ‘mending’ it to suit larger corporations’ goals, not those of Free software projects.
The Patent Reform Actwould overhaul the U.S. patent system. Among other things, it would create a new way to challenge patents after they’ve been granted, and it would allow courts to change the way they assess damages in patent-infringement cases.
They essentially try to water down the effect of patent trolls while maintaining the same control over intellectual monopolies. They fail to address the problem with certain classes of patents and instead focus on holders.
Days ago we mentioned the Blackberry problem, also in the UK. Digital Majority brings some more updates on this case with the following pointers:
1. Research In Motion Wins U.K. Suit Over Visto Patent (Update3)
Research In Motion Ltd., the maker of the BlackBerry e-mail device, won a U.K. patent lawsuit against Visto Corp. over e-mail technology.
Justice Christopher Floyd in London ruled that a Visto patent for a system for synchronizing e-mail was invalid. Research in Motion had filed the lawsuit seeking to overturn the patent.
2. More patent money wasted on fighting over where to sue
The same problem exists for trade marks and designs, but the frequency with which jurisdictional tussles and applications for stays occur seems to the IPKat to be very much lower. Does anyone know why? Merpel is disappointed that the English courts won’t have a chance, at least this time, to rule on whether there had been an abuse of process in bringing the action in Italy. That would have been fun.
3. Technology’s Hottest Product? Patent Litigation
The Wall Street Journal’s Sara Silver takes a look today at Visto Corp., the company that last Friday sued Research in Motion for patent infringement. RIM returned the favor on Monday, suing Visto on the same grounds.
Look back again at the previous post which contains Stallman's talk about software patents. █
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