04.02.08

Links 02/04/2008: Linux Contributors Number Tripled; Open/Free Source Funding at All-time Record Level

Posted in News Roundup at 5:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

USPTO Hall of Shame, Blackboard’s Setback and the Art of Not Sharing

Posted in Courtroom, Intellectual Monopoly, Law, Patents at 3:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

All Your Support Desks Are Belong [sic] to Us

Have a look at this patent pick from The Register. Do you see anything wrong with it?

A US patent granted to SNAPin details a process for spotting when a user is trying to call support, and presenting them with a self-help package rather than connecting the call.

[...]

The patent (US Patent number 7,353,016) isn’t limited to displaying self-help support, and the possibilities are endless. Calls to companies could be redirected to their web pages, and calls to friends could load up their Facebook presence, avoiding that wasteful human interaction users seem so keen on.

When lawsuits over nonesense like this are brought into court, the accused party is likely to settle simply because it’s cheaper than lawyers. So the obligatory question to ask is, what was the USPTO thinking when it approved such an obvious ‘invention’?

Blackboard Again

Another company that possess obvious patents which it also uses is Blackboard, which was funded by Microsoft. The company owns many generic ideas pertaining to education on-line. Heise has the report about their greed backfiring.

In a recently published decision (PDF file), the US patent office has declared US company Blackboard’s e-learning patent invalid. The patent office rejected all 44 claims in the disputed US patent number 6,988,138, (“Alcorn patent”) for a system for teaching in a virtual classroom using the internet, including chat, a virtual blackboard and provision of teaching materials.

Re-examination of the patent was applied for by the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) and Canadian Blackboard competitor Desire2Learn in late 2006. It referred to copious evidence that the technology described by Blackboard was already being widely used elsewhere when the patent claim was submitted. The patent office has now broadly accepted the claim for prior art with some modifications.

We mentioned this story fairly recently and included more pointers for those who are new to the Blackboard nuisance (or leech).

Sharing Versus Restrictions

Creativity is a wonderful thing. Using their skills, many artists wish to share and impress with the fruits of their labour. They realise that good work without exposure goes unnoticed and unrewarded. So what kind of artist would religiously try to keep his/her work from spreading, or make the mistake of thinking only about the short-term gain, failing to realise that worth is a function of exposure? Have we not learned from MySQL’s one-billion-dollar market valuation? Glyn Moody touched on that and the lesson to be taken here is that by sharing ideas we all benefit and offer more value. The same rules apply to algorithms, which are a case of ideas, not copyrights (copyrights are ‘harder’).

One of the interesting side-effects of the increasing number of artists making their work freely available with great success is that it demonstrates a deep and hitherto unappreciated facet of creativity: that the main problem is never “infringement” but simply indifference.

[...]

Oh, of course, it doesn’t matter whether anyone *reads* your poetry, so long as you get paid for it. The idea that a real poet might be more concerned with the latter – and worry about the dosh later – is clearly an outmoded idea.

Right on the money (pun unintended).

ISO Feels OK With Corruption, Officially Approves OOXML (Updated)

Posted in Asia, Europe, GPL, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Patents, Standard at 3:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

I sold out

So, as we already expected and knew yesterday, ISO has just declared Microsoft’s OOXML an international chaos standard, despite the fact that stories about misconduct around the world continue to flow in and numerous antitrust concerns have been raised. Let’s take another quick look.

Philippines Again

Here is a coverage about the Philippines.

The Manila Bulletin Online tells us how the Philippines changed its No vote on OOXML to Yes. Once again there is an indication that when no consensus was reached, the chairman decided to make it Yes. That blatantly happened in Norway, and I can’t help but want more details about the Philippines.

Remember the Philippines? We offered quite an extensive set of links about the Philippines last night. There are too many stories from there which suggest irregularities.

Croatia

For background on OOXML dirty tricks in Croatia, consider the following posts:

Some of the above were highly disturbing for they illustrated just how easily Microsoft had hijacked the entire process. On the bright side of things, Croatian has just accepted ODF as a national standard, perhaps in order to appease the outrage. It all remains to be seen because ISO for OOXML is just a first step in a much larger battle.

Today, after a four hour meeting, Croatian CSI accepted ODF as a national standard.

Poland

Back to Poland now. We covered the situation there on several occasions recently [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. Here is an article about this story, which ought to reach wider circulation.

The events leading up to the ISO’s decision on OOXML can best be described as strange.

Take the case of KT 182, the Polish technical committee responsible for the OOXML standardization process, as described on Groklaw: Chairperson Elzbieta Andrukiewicz was instructed that KT 182 should abstain from voting if a consensus was not achieved. Well, it wasn’t, and she said the members who were absent could vote by e-mail E-Mail Marketing Software – Free Trial. Click Here. — but if they didn’t vote, she’d take their non-response as a yes.

Later, when presenting the results of the ballot resolution, she showed a slide that claimed 98 percent of the OOXML issues had been resolved during the KT 182 meeting.

When reminded this wasn’t true, and told that the author of the PowerPoint file was Paul Pesch, platform strategy manager at Microsoft Netherlands, she threatened to sue anyone who repeated the assertion that Pesch was the author.

That slide had been shown at another meeting, and one of the Brazilian delegates had complained about it.

The list of nations listed here is of course very incomplete and partial. We have seen literally dozens of nations where various levels of abuse were well documented. This includes large and seemingly credible nations such as the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, India and France.

OOXML Not for GNU/Linux Users

The incompatibility with respect to the GNU GPL remains, despite the many repeated lies from Microsoft, which sought to deny this by escaping the question at hand. Even the Microsoft press bothered to mention this problem, albeit ‘second hand’.

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, says Microsoft simply fails to go far enough to indemnify developers who hope to write software based on Microsoft’s opened intellectual property (IP). He complains that protections often exist only for what Microsoft terms “non-commercial developers.”

“Unless it addresses the entire supply chain, it doesn’t make a lot of difference,” Zemlin says, arguing that ill-defined boundaries of legal protection under the Microsoft scheme may expose open source developers to threat of litigation.

“Think of it like ant poison. People who are non-commercial developers think, ‘I’m safe.’ They then integrate a patented protocol into the upstream code they’re working on. Then that code somehow gets into the downstream,” Zemlin explains. “Well, that’s like taking poison back into the [nest]. What happens is, inadvertently, an open source developer brings insecticide with a patent license requirement into an open source project.”

And that’s just how one gets a whole platform approved as an international standard. It’s sad to see ISO entering this vortex of global corruption, which makes it part of the problem rather than the solution it strives to deliver (uniformity, competition).

“Since when has the world of computer software design been about what people want? This is a simple question of evolution. The day is quickly coming when every knee will bow down to a silicon fist, and you will all beg your binary gods for mercy.”

Bill Gates

Update adds more information about the Philippines. Gist below:

The general pattern, like Malaysia, is the same: Government agencies and Academia reject OOXML as an ISO standard. These represent the vast majority of its citizens’ interests. Just what percentage of the population do the “pro-OOXML” Associations represent?

French President Knows Better Than TCs What’s Good for His People (Updated)

Posted in Bill Gates, Europe, Fraud, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, Standard at 2:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML is fraud

From technical debates at the lower level we find ourselves ascending all the way up to the top, sometimes finding political corruption.

Recall the reports about Bill Gates phoning the Mexican president (obviously not to discuss technical details). More phonecalls were made and some sentimental blackmail came from that man too.

And now there is France, whose president is claimed to have intervened with an already-made decision on OOXML.

Confidential sources say that President Sarkozy has intervened himself in the French position on Microsoft OOXML, asking members of the committee to revert their position, and support an abstention. Our sources say he was approached by a lobbyist during his 3-days trip in England. The intervention has been made on Friday.

Speaking of England, another investigation seems to be on its way there.

We have tracked some more of Sarkozy’s moved in [1, 2, 3]. He is often seen pushing Microsoft agenda and he was also caught vacationing for free at the house of a former Microsoft executive. Only yesterday we saw Hewlett-Packard's role in France, as well (urging to change votes on OOXML in favour of Microsoft).

When exports say that OOXML has become a political question, they don’t refer to politics only at a corporate level, e.g. Google versus Microsoft. It’s really the ‘proper’ politics that are equally involved, yet we often fail to see it. Remember this video and another one with Larry Lessig, who strives to change congress at the moment. The government is said to be run by corporations (and for corporation), but that’s not news.

Also recall our latest summary of OSBC and be aware that Matt Asay turns out to be a friend of Jason Matusow of Microsoft and OOXML infamy. Jason Matusow is an habitual liar and dirty tricks harborer [1, 2], just like the company he works for. Why and how did Asay befriend this man?

Update adds the following reference from CIO Today:

In France, unconfirmed reports claim that President Nicolas Sarkozy intervened with the French body to force a change from a no vote to an abstention.

Would Only a Perverted Web Consortium Accept Software Patents in the Specs?

Posted in Apple, DRM, Microsoft, Patents at 12:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“We’re disheartened because Microsoft helped W3C develop the very standards that they’ve failed to implement in their browser. We’re also dismayed to see Microsoft continue adding proprietary extensions to these standards when support for the essentials remains unfinished.”

George Olsen, Web Standards Project

Is this what the world gets for having Microsoft’s Chris Wilson in the W3C? Remember JavaScript? Remember Ogg? This new article about HTML5 contains an eye-opening bit.

Patent problems

Most of the new elements and attributes can be implemented in free Web browser software such as the Gecko engine used by Mozilla products and derivatives and the open source WebKit. The sole possible exception is the authorization scheme incorporated by the copy attribute and the video-specific attributes associated with it: ticket and encoding.

Although the HTML5 specification itself does not dictate HDCP content protection, it is cited as the example case in the published draft, and any site that incorporated HDCP as its authorization method for video content would require an HDCP-compliant Web browser in order to view video content – whether on the PC or via home theater projector. Since HDCP compliance testing requires a per-download license fee, non-profit browser projects are unlikely to ever gain the required certification.

In order to understand why this is unacceptable, one needs to step back and remember how a former Microsoft employee who now works at Nokia, along with the 'friends' from Apple, wanted some more DRM and patents in HTML5. They vehemently objected to having Ogg facilitated.

A few references worth highlighting again:

It’s very important to ensure that W3C does not become the captive of selfish proprietary software companies. We have already seen what happened to ISO, which failed miserably. DRM and software patents render standards rather appalling and pointless.

Zemlin Flirts with Hovsepian: The Best Novell Commercial Money Needn’t Buy

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Interview, Novell, Ron Hovsepian, SLES/SLED at 12:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Three weeks ago we explained why the Linux Foundation must assist, if not even promote, the products from Novell. It does not matter how Novell has sinned because the Linux Foundation is funded by Novell, making it unable to bite the very same hand that feeds it.

“By association, therefore, the Linux Foundation must be civil towards Microsoft (its beneficiary’s partner).”It’s an interesting dilemma of course because Novell is a Microsoft partner. By association, therefore, the Linux Foundation must be civil towards Microsoft (its beneficiary’s partner). Therein you can find the dangers of allowing Novell to become more dominant.

Yesterday we wrote about the interview involving Jim Zemlin (of the Linux Foundation) and Ron Hovsepian (CEO of Novell). It wasn’t as much of an in-depth interview as much as a commercial for Novell. Ron Hovsepian spoke like a salesman, possibly mimicking the CEO of its ally.

In his latest short article, “In Praise of Journalistic Scum”, Glyn Moody harshly criticises this interview.

But there’s also a big downside to this approach, as the latest interview shows. It’s with Ron Hovsepian, the CEO of Novell. Reading the transcript, I found myself constantly wondering when Hovsepian was going to say something new or, well, interesting. Instead, what we got were a series of marketing platitudes.

And then I realised what the problem was. The name “Microsoft” occurs just three times in the whole interview, which runs to many thousands of words. And none of those instances refers to the Microsoft-Novell deal that has proved so divisive in the open source world.

Now, I fully understand why Zemlin moved gingerly around this topic: it’s deeply problematic for Hovsepian, and he is understandably unwilling to explore its deleterious effects on the free software community. Equally, Zemlin is naturally unwilling to put important open source figures like Hovsepian on the spot since this will make his job much harder in the future.

This is where cynical journalists like me come in. We have no compunction in sticking the interrogatory knife in to interviewees and twisting when we find the pain point.

In case you wish to hear this interview for yourself, it’s right here. With so-called ‘interviews’ like these. is it surprising that they generate some positive press? Here are the words of one whose arm was twisted by Novell on several occasions in the past (it’s truly a habit).

To run down again through the facts that we stated yesterday:

How about asking Ron Hovsepian some questions about those points in future interviews?

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