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03.21.08

Links – Good Friday: Open Source ATI/AMD in 3-D; Vista SP1 Causing Trouble, As Expected

Posted in News Roundup at 10:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patents Roundup: High Court Imposes a USPTO on the UK-IPO, INNOVA~1 Goes Backwards

Posted in America, Europe, Microsoft, Patents, SUN at 10:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME trashCourtesy of the chaps at Digital Majority there are some interesting updates on the patent situation. In short, it remains a load of rubbish.

United Kingdom

Shortly after discussing Microsoft’s possible (although very indirect) role in interfering with UK law on software patents comes this:

U.K. patent office ordered to accept software patent

A U.K. appeals court decision is causing confusion over longstanding European regulations that generally forbid granting a patent for a computer program.

This is covered here as well.

High Court says UK-IPO was wrong to reject software-related patent

The patentability of software is a controversial area of UK intellectual property law. The question seemed to be settled in a decision by the Court of Appeal in 2006 which outlined how courts should determine whether an invention consists purely of software, and therefore should not be awarded a patent.

That ruling took in two cases, one involving a company called Aerotel and another involving inventor Neal Macrossan.

Sun Con-Con-Patent

Remember the thoughts and insights from Scott Mace? It seems like Simon Phipps kept his promise and a clarification has been put in MySQL’s retired page, which used to protest against software patents. It doesn’t look too exciting and it’s hardly even a protest.

The MySQL patent program is in the process of being integrated into the Sun patent program. In general, Sun uses its patent portfolio to defend communities and indemnify customers. Check back here for further updates.

In the meantime, check out the blogs of Sun’s CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, and CTO, Greg Papadapoulos, for Sun’s view on software patents.

It’s a tad disappointing, overall.

The SCOs of the Patents World

SCO did not engage in confrontations over patents, but similar types of patterns cab be seen in this latest patent harassment, which targets the ‘small guy’, the scapegoat and the scarecrow.

I wouldn’t want to be accused of being anti-IBM but the news that online fruit store Harry & David (H & D) was suing IBM is very worrying. The case concerns patents that IBM did not own, which Harry & David bough as part of IBM’s WebSphere/NetCommerce retail software. H & D alleges that it had to buy a licence from EPOS maker NCR to cover these patent. It is also saying it paid Charles E Hill Associates for patent infringements relating to the IBM software. Whatever the outcome of the case, this looks like a patent mess. First, IBM should not have sold software containing patents that it had not already licensed or owned. Second,

Why did NCR and Charles E Hill Associates go after the customer? Surely if it was IBM’s software that had infringed their patents then they would have a legitimate claim against IBM. Ah, but IBM would be a hard target given how SCO’s patent case against IBM/Novell and the Linux community has played out. Like SCO, these companies have gone after the soft target: the end user business that bought IBM’s software, I presume, in good faith.

The Land of No Winners

A state of patents is a state where ‘innovation’ is self limiting. Imagination is restricted by law and this article from Forbes seems to confirm that the system totally lost sight of its goals.

Software patents, in particular, are performing even worse today. People thought that once the [U.S. Patent and Trademark Office] gained experience in these evaluating patents, then the quality would get better … and the amount of [related] litigation would go down. It hasn’t. We have no opinion on whether USP Office is doing better or worse, but we know for sure that the amount of software litigation has grown over time. The odds that a software patent will be litigated in the first four years of its life have gone up too.

Lastly, to paraphrase the guys from Digital Majority, “is this innovation”?

Qualcomm Chip Ban to Stand

Broadcom Corp said on Wednesday a U.S. appeals court let stand a lower court order barring wireless chip maker Qualcomm Inc from selling chips that infringe on three of its patents.

If embargoes are a sign of innovation, then there must also be human life on Mars. Poor Qualcomm [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20].

Freespire: Conquered by Microsoft, Fails to Work

Posted in GNU/Linux, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, Search at 9:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Feels like redeeming the wounded out of its misery

One company which we rarely keep our eyes on is Linspire. Its sins against its supplier, namely volunteer coders, are just as bad as Novell’s, if not worse.

Freespire is not as free as its name wishes to suggest. This was actually covered before. It’s only make belief. In a couple of quick new posts we find out about the ‘joys’ of Freespire. Witness the pleasant sight of ‘Microsoft Linux’.

That’s right, this was the first evidence of the Microsoft deal that I had found. Most distributions have Google as their default search, but this is the first I had come across with Live search. Thankfully, this could be changed to Google, my search engine of choice.

Another result of the Microsoft patent deal was a converter for the Microsoft’s OOXML document format. Really, the format in Office 2007, “.docx” is a partial integration of OOXML, but it is nice to have the format just in case someone sends me a file with the .docx extension, although the chance that I will receive a .docx file is minimal at best. Most people still send .doc files for the purpose of compatibility.

A day afterwards came this rant from the same person.

As I wrote just several hours ago, I have made the move (temporarily) to Freespire.

It looks like that stay will be short-lived.

The CNR client is not working on my computer. I go to CNR, with the CNR client running, click “Install Now”… and I get redirected to a page that says something along the lines of “Upgrade CNR client to install software.”

It’s reassuring to see — albeit with a degree of sadness for innocent developers who pay the price for ignorant managers — that Linspire is unlikely to survive. This comes to show and to teach many others that those who sell out to Microsoft choose the grave, not the advantage. We continue to boycott Linspire, but it’s a shame that developers and users get punished, not just the managers who need to be held accountable (Kevin Carmony ran away).

Why Novell is Bad for Linux: Reason #100 (Virtualisationovell-only)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, Servers, SLES/SLED, Steve Ballmer, Virtualisation, Windows, Xen at 9:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell’s deal with Microsoft may be good for Novell in some senses, but it is also very bad to Novell’s suppliers, which is turn will cost it dearly. Novell alienated itself by sidling with Microsoft against other Linux companies, notable Red Hat. We have already seen Novell helping Microsoft gain some ground in supercomputers, 'advertising' Vista and so on.

“Another good example of Novell’s harmful role involved virtualisation.”Another good example of Novell’s harmful role involved virtualisation. We have seen this coming for a long time and mentioned Hyper-V’s discrimination factor in the past [1, 2]. To an extent, XenSource (Citrix) plays a similar role [1, 2].

Have a look at this new short article/blog post, which says more about how things have developed with the arrival of Hyper-V’s Release Candidate:

Hyper-V Leaves Linux Out In The Cold

[...]

Wednesday, Microsoft said Hyper-V beta for Windows Server 2008 is feature complete. Included in the list of operating systems supported are Windows Server 2003 SP2, Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP1, Windows Vista SP1 (x86), and Windows XP SP3 (x86). See John Fontana’s article for more details about the Hyper-V RC announcement.

Though I’m anxious for Hyper-V to be released, especially the standalone version (which is not what this RC announcement was about), I’m very disappointed in Hyper-V’s lack of support for Linux.

No offense to SUSE Enterprise Server crowd, but only providing SUSE support in Hyper-V is a huge mistake. By not supporting Red Hat, Fedora, CentOS, and BSD, Microsoft is telling us Hyper-V is a Microsoft only technology. More Mt. Redmond, Microsoft center of the universe thinking. That’s disappointing.

Might this be a proper time to complain to the EU? It is abundantly clear, as we foresaw before, that Microsoft will try to pressure rivals into unwanted deals, using exclusion as an extortion card.

Over a similar type of abuse, in the past few weeks we saw Opera and Phoenix complaining, resulting in limited success. In both cases, the EU pushed Microsoft into a complaince route, although it was not entirely reasonable. In Google’s case (almost a year ago), it was far from reasonable because the US Department of Justice is far too close to Microsoft. TrueCrypt might be next to complain.

To get an idea of how close Microsoft and Novell are gradually becoming, read this additional short report.

However, Hyper-V’s Linux support is limited to SUSE. That’s no surprise, given Microsoft’s relationship with Novell, but more users have Red Hat, and other distributions. They won’t be able to use Microsoft’s virtualisation technology – though to be fair, they will probably be more interested in VMWare or Red Hat’s own virtualisation technology.

“We’re pleased with Hyper-V,” says Justin Steinman, director of Linux marketing at Novell. “SUSE Linux is a first class guest on Microsoft Windows Server.” Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has shown SUSE Linux running as a guest, which was “cool”, said Steinman.

Love is in the air. Can you smell it too?

Novell and Microsoft piss on GNU/Linux codebase

In other semi-related news, yet another set of reports about Eclipse reveals a mixed bag. It covers Sam Ramji’s talk. There is skepticism from Eclipse developers who are being wooed by Microsoft. We warned about it before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. On the face of it, Microsoft will continue to stick its fingers in the Eclipse pie.

The Eclipse Foundation looks destined to remain a mistress to Microsoft and Sun Microsystems – while the platform is married to IBM.

Be very careful. And remember the danger: Embrace, extend, and extenguish. People began chattering about Microsoft’s C# in Eclipse.

The Best Inde[Paid]ent Consultant Money Can Buy

Posted in Asia, Deception, ECMA, IBM, Microsoft, Open XML at 8:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Consultants: These guys are your best bets as moderators. Get a well-known consultant on your side early, but don’t let him publish anything blatantly pro-Microsoft. Then, get him to propose himself to the conference organizers as a moderator, whenever a panel opportunity comes up. Since he’s well-known, but apparently independent, he’ll be accepted – one less thing for the constantly-overworked conference organizer to worry about, right?”

Microsoft [PDF]

This issue of Microsoft’s army of lobbyists, consultants, ‘cheerleaders’ and employees must not be left to rest. On the face of it, Microsoft continues to send its well-paid people to all sorts of trips around the world, the aim being to pressure and persuade OOXML “No” voters to change their minds. Here is a good new example from a long report.

[Microsoft's] Doug noted that the guys on the opposite side of the table from Microsoft (and (BANGS hand on table!) Ecma!) did not discuss any of the 23 comments made by Malaysia for the BRM … and he’s right, we didn’t. Again, speaking for myself, prior to the meeting, I was sceptical that the “pro-OOXML” gang would actually just concentrate on that. This was mainly because I didn’t know who would be attending on their side. I certainly did not expect that Microsoft would bring Doug Mahugh, Oliver Bell, Dave Welsh and (BANGS hand on table!) Jan van de Veld, former Sec-Gen of Ecma International. I fully expected Microsoft to apply the Chewbacca Defense strategy, and therefore figured that I must concentrate on my own Wookie-based defense.

When will Microsoft finally leave these people alone? It has already chased those folks from Malaysia all the way to their hotel in Switzerland. Does Microsoft know no boundaries? “No” is no and as YK pointed out in the past this becomes akin to stalking, harassment. He was truly unhappy about it.

Now, now. Have a good look at another report about Microsoft’s bad habits of disclosure, which are known all too well (mind the example where Microsoft explicitly asks analysts to drop disclosure notes). There is a pattern there and we therefore maintain a healthy level of suspicion. The following post seems like somewhat of a rant, but it contains some very valid points, including:

It is currently too easy for people to speak as if they were independent and use this pseudo-independence to influence uninformed people. Groklaw recently posted a story called “How to Get Your Platform Accepted as a Standard – Microsoft Style” with evidence that Microsoft, for one, has made this kind of tactic an integral part of its business development strategy. It is hard to read this and not wonder about Rick Jeliffe’s continuous lobbying and Patrick Durusau’s recent change of heart. Especially when everything they say becomes Microsoft’s new ammunition in a matter of minutes.

Remember the story of Patrick Durusau and others. In general, no self-appointed consultant can ever be trusted. The more iconic these people become, the more valuable their ‘defections’ become (see the quote at the very top again). And as Microsoft says about analysts, "selling out" is their business model.

Related posts and articles: (external)

Dell: Whose Tax is It Anyway?

Posted in Dell, GNU/Linux, HP, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, SLES/SLED, Ubuntu at 8:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Speculations about GNU/Linux ‘tax’ by association

We have recently been discussing various ways in which Microsoft can collect money from the use of GNU/Linux, contracts with educational bodies being just one prime example which comes under considerable scrutiny nowadays. But there are other ways of achieving it.

“Amidst fresh reports about Dell reviving its Windows Mobile business, one has to wonder again about the mysterious Dell/Novell/Microsoft deal.”This includes the deal with Novell, which enables Microsoft to collect royalties at software distributor/vendor level. But what about our continued suspicion that the same goes for collection of royalties at hardware distributor/vendor level, e.g. Dell, H-P? By all means remember how close those companies really are.

Amidst fresh reports about Dell reviving its Windows Mobile business, one has to wonder again about the mysterious Dell/Novell/Microsoft deal. What was it about? What were the implications? And why would Hewlett-Packard sell a Linux PC only with a Microsoft-taxed GNU/Linux (Ballnux) distribution? Despite the downgrade options for a rather horrid Vista, these companies never divorced, so to speak. They have a systematic workflow of money, almost a kickback.

All the above questions and suspicions return to mind due to some very recent reports such as this.

What is Dell doing with Ubuntu?

[..]

But Dell seems to be using Ubuntu to its advantage rather than passing the cost savings to the customers. Today I found this deal in deals2buy.com. A Dell M1330 loaded with Ubuntu (30 day support) is only $10 less than Windows loaded machine with extra fingerprint scanner.

This is not the exception, but it’s the latest apparent example, which is explained politely. It’s not a rant, but the point is very legitimate. Assembly charges for ‘out of sequence’ orders needn’t cost as much as a Windows licence.

For almost a year people have been complaining about the cost of Ubuntu PCs from Dell. Comparably, the PCs are expensive and while some shoppers are encouraged to just buy an operating system they do not want or require, others just find that savings are laughable in case the Linux options are offered. Eventually, they just buy a Windows PC and dual-boot, which helps Microsoft rave about ‘market share’ (never mind install base). Therein lies the issue of Microsoft making Linux non-gratis and rather expensive at times.

Here is another new & frustrating story:

Here’s the scenario, a friend of mine just bought a new laptop. When he was buying it, he indicated that he did not want windows on it (which should make it cheaper). The response from the vendor: “We can’t do that, it comes with Windows”. When he became a bit more aggressive, they indicated they could give him one without Windows (Vista SP1), but it would cost and extra $70!

[...]

In my opinion, the above scenario is nothing more than trying to bully your way into retaining market dominance. And certainly does not do much to improve public relations or save Vista from becoming a bigger flop than it already seems to be, compared to earlier releases of Windows.

Perhaps unbundling would be the best option, never mind Microsoft’s cries about what it conveniently calls “naked PCs”, basically claiming that their buyers are prospective “pirates”.

Consider reading posts about Microsoft’s exclusionary deals with OEM and the unbundling question. The worry here — however baseless it may be — that Microsoft wishes to ensure it gets paid for GNU/Linux deployments no matter where you get it from.

Microsoft Corporation Becomes a Licensing Company, Adopts ‘Leech Strategy’

Posted in Deals, Hardware, Microsoft, Patents at 2:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Who needs products when you can ‘pull an SCO’?

Microsoft has just signed a another cross-licensing deal, this time with Onkyo.

Although the contents of the agreement (including the specific financial terms) are confidential, the parties indicated that Onkyo will provide compensation to Microsoft.

Shades of the deal with JVC, which had DisinformationWeek spread a bit of fear. While the announcement says nothing about Linux, there remains only the suspicion and the possibility. Onkyo does, after all, have at least one Linux-based product. [old article]

Onkyo also sells a line of high-end gear targeted towards custom installations under its Integra brand. Onkyo offers products similar to the NC500 and TX-NR900, but with additional capabilities. What’s most interesting, though, is the Integra NAS-2.3 Net-Tune Server.

[...]

Running on the Integra product is an embedded Linux operating system, which acts as the server software.

It is likely that the deal with Microsoft had nothing whatsoever to do with Linux specifically. But in any event, Microsoft must not be permitted to impose a tax on software through all sorts of deals, such as this latest one which involves Microsoft getting paid for someone else’s work — whatever that work actually is. That’s the sad impact of software patents, which are legal in Japan.

Remember Microsoft’s most recent SEC filing: [thanks to our reader Subsonica for the pointer]

A prominent example of open source software is the Linux operating system….

To the extent open source software gains increasing market acceptance, sales of our products may decline, we may have to reduce the prices we charge for our products, and revenue and operating margins may consequently decline.

Even three weeks ago, Steve Ballmer expressed his fear of Linux.

A couple of years ago you reiterated that IBM was Microsoft’s biggest competitor and you said not just on the business side, but overall. If I ask you who is Microsoft’s biggest competitor now, who would it be?

Ballmer: Open…Linux. I don’t want to say open source. Linux, certainly have to go with that.

It’s important that Microsoft’s attempts to establish more protection rackets through taxoperability agreements are stopped before they become commonplace and lead to a deluge of companies caving.

I want you for money

OSI Says OOXML Needs to Die and Sutor Thinks Microsoft’s Search is Broken by Design

Posted in ECMA, GNU/Linux, IBM, ISO, OSI, Search, Standard, Windows at 2:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“When you control the minds, you control the people…”

Shortly after Bruce's call (or plea) for assistance in getting into OSI comes this fairly strong message at a very strategic time. From OSI’s Web site:

OOXML needs to die. It’s clear that OOXML is a faux standard — not because it’s a vendor standard. There are lots of vendor-created standards which are real standards (e.g. PostScript). No, OOXML is a botch because it’s expressed in terms of an undocumented Microsoft graphics library. OOXML is all “and then a miracle occurs”. You’ve seen that cartoon, right? Where the left and right sides of the blackboard are filled with equations, and the blank space in the middle says “and then a miracle occurs”. Well, when there’s a miracle required, there’s no science even if the miracle is surrounded by scientific-seeming accoutrement. A standard which is expressed in terms of miracles is still a miracle and not a standard.

Any standards body that approves OOXML needs to blush. Any company which submits OOXML as a standard needs to blush.

Bob Sutor has just taken some search engines for a joyride. He is not entirely pleased with what’s Microsoft search engine tries to show him.

I’m not sure there’s a concrete conclusion here though it is clear to me that Microsoft Live Search has the least useful and relevant set of links about ODF in the top ten beyond the Wikipedia entry. I find that odd. Perhaps they just have a really quirky relevance algorithm.

On several occasions in the past, people showed that searches on Windows and Linux in Microsoft’s search engine return very biased results. This is hardly surprising and it’s also the reason Microsoft must never be permitted to dominate search engines and become the gateway for dissemination of information. Yahoo, anyone? Remember Microsoft’s "evangelism is war" (keyword: “Jihad”). Microsoft barely tolerates an alternate point of view.

With regards to ODF/OOXML, you are also encouraged to read the following past posts:

Just to point out some key issues from these posts:

  1. Smears are directed at ODF through advertisements and pointers Microsoft buys (e.g. from Google)
  2. Viral marketing efforts have entered YouTube, with an account called “Open XML” taking the lead
  3. Manual tweaking (intervention) of search results is suspected, but Microsoft claims this to be a bug with the crawler/indexer, which dropped many sites by accident
  4. Microsoft is still getting caught spamming search engines and also spamming Web sites with what’s known as “referrer spam”
  5. Microsoft has a tremendous effect over journalists, some of whom it invites to take free trips
  6. There is the suspicion that former Microsoft employees can affect the flow of information by entering other companies
  7. Payments are made by Microsoft to people who are not working at Microsoft and write information that is favourable to OOXML

Whatever applies, it is rather clear that information on the Web is polluted by Microsoft’s ‘PR Machine’. Be very, very careful.

One must not forget about Munchkins, personal attacks (e.g. against Rob Weir) and even smears campaigns. Feeding the so-called “OOXML trolls” (usually Microsoft employees or business partners) should probably be discouraged. It encourages them to do more of the same. It’s a case of feeding.

Over in USENET, we have a serious Munchkin issue. It’s best to ignore them. The personal libelous attacks there are the worst and the Munchkins, including Microsoft business partners like Jesper Stocholm, poke with bargepoles even folks like Bob Sutor. At times like these, Microsoft would do anything to shoot down and derail ODF. Microsoft is desperate to secure its most important lock-in amid secret financial woes.

OOXML data vacuum

“Microsoft looks at new ideas, they don’t evaluate whether the idea will move the industry forward, they ask, ‘how will it help us sell more copies of Windows?’”

Bill Gates, The Seattle Weekly, (April 30, 1998)

[Substitute "Windows" with "Office"]

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