Gratis (protocols) versus Free as in “free samples”
“The world has established complete sets of open standards for a variety of things, but Microsoft has dodged them as a matter of principle…”There are many misinterpretations in the press at the moment. Microsoft has just released some documentation and some reporters foolishly equate that to openness, which certainty it is not. The world has established complete sets of open standards for a variety of things, but Microsoft has dodged them as a matter of principle and created its own separate set of proprietary substitutes or extensions. Just as a quick reminder consider:
“We want to own these standards, so we should not participate in standards groups. Rather, we should call ‘to me’ to the industry and set a standard that works now and is for everyone’s benefit. We are large enough that this can work.”
–Microsoft Corporation, internal memo (source
More examples you can find here, including these bits from the Halloween memos.
By the way, if you are by any chance trying to figure out Microsoft’s policy toward standards, particularly in the context of ODF-EOXML, that same Microsoft page is revelatory, Microsoft’s answer to what the memo meant when it said that Microsoft could extend standard protocols so as to deny Linux “entry into the market”:
Q: The first document talked about extending standard protocols as a way to “deny OSS projects entry into the market.” What does this mean?
A: To better serve customers, Microsoft needs to innovate above standard protocols. By innovating above the base protocol, we are able to deliver advanced functionality to users. An example of this is adding transactional support for DTC over HTTP. This would be a value-add and would in no way break the standard or undermine the concept of standards, of which Microsoft is a significant supporter. Yet it would allow us to solve a class of problems in value chain integration for our Web-based customers that are not solved by any public standard today. Microsoft recognizes that customers are not served by implementations that are different without adding value; we therefore support standards as the foundation on which further innovation can be based.
Just Do It Like Microsoft, They’ll Talk About Patent Tax Later
The foolish articles that you can find on the Web include this one, which luckily enough only refers to this as “interoperability”.
It probably won’t satisfy the company’s critics, but Microsoft has released another 14,000+ pages of interoperability information for its “high-volume products”.
“Interoperability” is pretty much a dead word because Microsoft has had it redefined, just as it redefined many other things. The above disclosure is merely part of the "taxoperability" program, which is about doing things the Microsoft way and paying for the privilege, rather than just using open and free standards. It’s all about software patents, where interoperability is just a weasel word.
Using Poor Security as Excuse for Lock-in
Loosely related to this, watch how Microsoft has turned its security problems into another opportunity to stifle real interoperability. This comes from yesterday’s news:
I showed Bruce Schneier, chief security technology officer for BT, the End to End Trust documents and he said “it feels general and like marketing hype.” The notion that the world needs centralized authentication “is just silly,” he added.
Basically, Microsoft has used its trusted computing efforts, such as inserting identity rights management into Office 2003, to lock people into using its products, Schneier said.
“Microsoft has used this as an anti-competitive tool,” he said.
No surprises here. At least there is reassurance that Microsoft never changed its ways. █
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Did Novell really just do that?
Incidents in the past have taught us that articles are sometimes retracted because they prematurely announce something whose public disclosure is embargoed, not necessarily because their content is incorrect or outdated. Some hours ago, in the news feeds, the following headline showed up:
Novell Slams Microsoft Patent Licensing Agreement – NewsOXY
Leading to broken page now, as you can see for yourself.
A month ago we saw this high-impact article bearing the headline “Novell’s de Icaza criticizes Microsoft patent deal” (with quick commentary here and further commentary here). Memories of Miguel’s criticism immediately returned when stumbling upon the link at the top, whose temporary existence remains a mystery for the time being.
“…Novell is in the process of moving some ‘legacy’ products onto Linux (e.g. OES), so once it does that it can ‘magically’ claim rising Linux sales.”Novell’s financial performance is poor. But the company is fooling quite a lot of people by twisting facts and hiding what they do not want you to see. We mentioned this on at least a couple of separate occasions recently [1, 2]. To give you an example of the sort of financial games Novell plays (Microsoft does that too by the way), consider the fact that Novell is in the process of moving some ‘legacy’ products onto Linux (e.g. OES), so once it does that it can ‘magically’ claim rising Linux sales. As a matter of fact, what you have here is only cannibalisation of old projects and a distraction from Novell’s overall state, which is a steady decline cushioned by decreasing expenses due to axing and offshoring.
Red Hat’s former CEO has just sold some more shares. That company too has been relying on buybacks for a while. Nonetheless, its financial state is separate from that of Novell and the admirable thing about Red Hat’s work for Free software is its current fight against software patents. Unlike Novell, which welcomes software patents and even tries to use them as a competitive advantage, Red Hat has just unlashed
the following press release.
Today, Red Hat took a public stand challenging the standards for patenting software. In the Biliski case that is now before the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, this patent issue is ripe for consideration. In a friend of the court brief submitted to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in the Bilski case today, Red Hat describes the special problems that patents pose for open source and seeks modification of the standards for patentable subject matter that take open source into account. Here is a quick summary of our brief.
Further comments and analysis of this press release you can get from Glyn Moody, who was fast to respond.
Let’s hope this statement on the Bilski case is the first sign of a new, more assertive Red Hat that takes its rightful place as one of the key voices in the open source world – one that can make some much-needed countervailing noise to the high-level, and high-quality FUD being emitted by the Microsoft PR machine. Heaven knows, it’s taken long enough.
So, to summarise, Novell may have reached the conclusion that its patent agreement with Microsoft is bad (yet unconfirmed because the article vanished) while Red Hat, rather than accepting the poor existing state, is actually fighting for change. █
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“‘Human Greed Has No Bounds,’ Says MSFT in Fee Dispute”
–Wall Street Journal
“During one of those last long nights working to deliver DOS 2.0 in early 1983, I am told that Paul Allen heard Gates and Ballmer discussing his health and talking about how to get his Microsoft shares back if Allen were to die. Maybe that’s just the sort of fiduciary discussion board members have to have, but it didn’t go over well with Paul Allen, who never returned to Microsoft, and over the next eight years, made huge efforts to secure his wealth from the fate of Microsoft.”
The quotes above are slightly alarming, but the first one is from 2007, whereas the second is from 2006. For actual information about “the fate of Microsoft”, see this recent roundup. In any event, the purpose of this post is to show you how utterly sick the patent system has become. It doesn’t relate to Microsoft or Novell directly.
Let us begin with this report about an ongoing patent war between ASUS and IBM. This time it’s Asustek’s turn to attack. What a wasteful use of energy.
One of the Asustek patents is for a method for providing remote storage for Internet appliances, while the other relates to servers. Asustek alleges the patents have been infringed by IBM in components, software and hardware related to storage area networking equipment and servers.
Watch people ‘buying’ knowledge. Perfect recipe and setting for patent trolling.
Internet, consumer patents rule at auction
A woman, taking commands from someone at the other end of her cell phone, had bid $750,000 on the patent portfolio he was selling at the Ocean Tomo IP Auction last week in San Francisco. The patents covered an online authentication system for consumers devised by his old company Catavault.
Gone are the days when people bought physical objects. Now they pay for the permission to use an idea. Speaking of which, this one is rather shocking.
Lawsuit Claim: Students’ Lecture Notes Infringe on Professor’s Copyright
But James Sullivan, Faulkner Press’ attorney, says the suit isn’t about money for the professors, it’s about protecting its intellectual property.
Last but not least, our good old ‘friend’ (and Microsoft’s intimate lover) Nicolas Sarkozy sees his plans rejected in Sweden.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to disconnect European file sharers from the Internet. The idea is already in the process of being realized in France, and will according to Sarkozy be a step toward “a civilized Internet” where ISPs watch the information that their customers exchange.
More recently we saw President Nicolas Sarkozy interfering with purely technical matters by batting for Microsoft's OOXML. How truly low. █
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Whatever happened to “never again” and “lest we forget”?
Once an offender, always an offender. The worst one can do is pardon the first time only to see the same crimes repeated. Herein, we shall deal first with Intel and then with Microsoft.
Intel Against AMD, Against OLPC
“Intel is being investigated in several different continents for a very good reason, but whatever the outcome, that won’t save AMD (not heavy fines anyway).”The big headlines yesterday included the massive layoffs at AMD, which had suffered from Intel’s well-documented kickbacks around the whole world. Intel is being investigated in several different continents for a very good reason, but whatever the outcome, that won’t save AMD (not heavy fines anyway).
Another very ugly recent sight was Intel’s damage control in the face of allegations against its sabotage of OLPC, a charitable organisation whose hardware incorporates AMD chipsets. Recent updates on this you will find included in [1, 2] and just before Microsoft hijacks and exploits the project to its own benefit (some time in April) you might wish to view this item from the new BBC interview with Intel’s CEO. It says:
Intel’s Classmate has won contracts in Nigeria, where the OLPC XO computer has struggled to make progress after initial hopes.
What the article does not bother to tell you is the fact that Intel dumped hardware (as in sold at a loss) to crush a non-profit, with which it had signed a convenient (self-serving) non-disparagement agreement. Also from an older article from the BBC you’ll find damning proof of this:
The renovation has been paid for by the government and Intel, with the chip firm covering the majority of the costs of the [Classmate] technology.
Intel might call this “charity”, but it’s nothing but a move that suffocates a real charity, which in turns enables Intel to elevate its prices (the cost of having no competition, a monopoly). If you carefully look at the first article again you’ll find that Intel’s CEO expects to collect considerable revenues from these poor countries — revenues large enough to make up for the US recession. That’s the spirit, isn’t it? At least for the shareholder, who could not care less about children in poor nations of the world.
Intel, just like Microsoft, has tremendous impact on the mainstream press, which it can get to tell its own version of the story to an oblivious readership that takes reports for granted, unchallenged. Essentially, they define truth, turning spin and subjectiveness into the illusion of objectivity. OLPC never got its voice heard properly; instead, it was portrayed as a whiner, despite the heaps of evidence to back the contrary.
Microsoft Against ODF, Against World Wide Web
This brings us to Microsoft again, for it is similar to Intel in many ways, not just immensely close to it. Just consider the following recent quote when reading the above bits about Intel’s dumping techniques.
“They [Microsoft] have the deepest of pockets, unlimited ambition, and they are willing to lose money for years and years just to make sure that you don’t make any money, either.”
In many press outlets Microsoft is already denying all guilt of OOXML misconduct. This includes even a pro-Free software Web site called Tectonic. Elsewhere on the Web, Microsoft is trying to rewrite history, as though nothing at all was amiss and all complaints are just whining.
They have got some nerve on them. Their hundreds of known irregularities and even corruptions are well documented and are here to stay and rebut denials, such as the recent one from Microsoft’s Tom Robertson. They think that time and disinformation can heal the wounds and make a misconduct forgotten. It’s truly disgraceful and appalling. Backed by various types of boosters in forums, there is rarely an opportunity to make the truth heard without being personally attacked.
The Sydney Morning Herald at least made a mention of the aspect most media bothers not to report on.
The move comes amid recriminations and cries of foul play. The ISOs objectivity has been questioned amid allegations of vote-rigging, bullying and downright cheating. There is no doubt there have been some irregularities, and on the evidence it is hard to deny that at least some votes have been compromised
The Financial Times was among those that mentioned this crucial part of the story as well. It was only yesterday.
With regard to future action and the need to repair ISO (or dump ECMA for good), see this new comment which is bound to the storming analysis that we highlighted this morning.
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If not Xandros, then Novell?
Several weeks ago we saw the BrainShare announcement from H-P about preinstallation of Novell’s SLED. This had reporters buzzing for a while and we later mentioned it in more detail here.
H-P did not quite stop there and for quite some time there have been rumours and leaks about H-P’s response to the ASUS Eee PC. One of the key bits in these rumours was the inclusion of GNU/Linux, but the chosen version was unknown — until now.
Sadly enough, despite the company’s history of installing other distributions, it chose SUSE this time around. It’s not OpenSUSE either. It’s the version Microsoft gets paid for. Have a look at this short report from Laptop Magazine.
The HP 2133 Mini-Note PC (starting at $599 for Windows Vista Basic, $499 for SuSE Linux, and $749 as configured) is a bit more expensive and weighs more than the competition, but the system’s unique strengths make it a good investment for students, mobile professionals, and anyone else looking for an affordable, highly portable computer.
There is some more information over at CNET.
Like the three aforementioned machines, the Mini-Note is not aimed at the mass market. It starts on the low end at $499 for the Linux, SSD version, but a fully configured device with Vista can top out at $1,200.
Like in the recent case of SAP (see the post about Intel-SAP-SUSE-Microsoft, aka a "Partners Triangle"), H-P is very close to Microsoft. We last showed this only about a week ago when H-P lobbied for OOXML in France. It is primarily in Microsoft’s best of interests to ensure that its favourite and largest OEMs choose distributions that are financially-tied to Microsoft. But why should customers be careless or naive enough not to see it?
Recall our recent post about what could possibly be described as Dell's "Linux tax". Amid massive layoffs at Dell, one has to wonder about their seemingly rocky relationship with Microsoft, which they try still to sustain, despite vocal disgust and rebellion against Windows Vista.
Given those historical collusion stories, it’s simply hard to get past the idea of secret software patents tax. There are more reports of this kind, one of which we cited here just a couple of days ago. Here is another newer one:
Dell giving the shaft to open source ubuntu customers?
Seems that with FreeDOS I could get a processor with a (relatively) whopping 4MB L2 cache, 2.33GHz clock speed and 1333 front side bus. I could also get a significantly larger hard disk of 500GB. These improvements would cost a mere $170 extra, not bad.
Now, there were some other differences between the setups so we’re not really comparing apples to apples. For example, the ubuntu PC had an option for a firewire port (IEEE adapter) whereas the FreeDOS option did not. But then, the FreeDOS had an option for a dial-up modem which the ubuntu PC did not have. Other than that the systems were almost identical. They have the same capacity for an nVidia GeForce 8600-DDR3 256MB video card which is respectable for a non-gaming PC and consequently one of the more important factors to consider when using ubuntu since ATI graphics cards are notorious for having problems with ubuntu.
Still, the trend is clear, Dell offers FreeDOS PCs better hardware upgrade options. In the end I opted for the FreeDOS computer simply because it comes with beefier hardware. I can install ubuntu by myself; I actually prefer it that way.
More curious, however, have always been the comparisons between Windows- and Linux-loaded PCs, where the customer gets extra for the Windows bundle and for Linux the customer receives nothing, for no apparent reason. This is definitely something to keep an eye on in case Dell’s involvement in the Novell/Microsoft deal includes payments to Microsoft for Ubuntu Linux (more details in the previous post). Based on something I was told last week in private, some of these suspicions may be justified. But they are just unconfirmed (and ‘unconfirmable’) suspicions. █
Image from Wikimedia
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Too hard to tell what is “open source” nowadays
There is a certain misconception which suggests that open source becomes the hostage of companies. It is, to a large degree, a self-serving hypothesis whose purpose is perhaps to demoralise volunteer contributors. Maybe it’s even a Gartner-style self-fulfilling prophecy whose repetition strives to make it a reality. In this new interview with Eric Raymond he too denies this, ascribing it to the “trade press” (possible incentives here).
[Question:] Does widespread adoption and commercialization of open source software create new challenges or pressures for open source projects?
[Raymond:] I don’t think it creates any new problems; it just changes the scale a bit on issues we’ve been coping with (fairly successfully) for at least the last decade. Frankly, all the “will commercialization spoil open source?” worrying that the trade press is so fond of already struck me as old and boring five years ago. Next question?
Dilution, not commercialisation, is the problem, as we last stressed a few days ago. There are also many open source fakers
and the following new article seems like a good example. (See corrections in the comments below)
Open Source Trading Software Firm Marketcetera Raises $4 Million
Wouldn’t big money like that call for expensive, proprietary trading platforms? Ravi Mohan says precisely the opposite is true: “Our investment will help Marketcetera provide trading firms a low cost scalable solution that better meets their needs than the expensive proprietary, trading platforms that they currently have access to.” In other words, the expense of the proprietary trading platforms–including the expense of maintaing code–is the sticking point for many traders and investors, not the reliability of a competing open source platform.
They probably just use “open source” as a marketing ploy based on their Web site, which you can have a look at yourself for personal judgment. There is nothing open source about it. (See corrections in the comments below) Remember Aras and its marketing ploy with Microsoft. Microsoft will remain allergic to Open Source unless it can redefine the term to suit its own agenda. █
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