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04.20.08

Links 21/04/2008: GNU/Linux Raves in Kerala; Portland OSS in the News

Posted in News Roundup at 11:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Microsoft Has a Reasonably Discriminatory Plan to Illegalise FOSS

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GPL, Law, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Open XML, Patents at 8:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“We should dedicate a cross-group team to come up with ways to leverage Windows technically more.”

Jim Allchin, Microsoft

A few days ago we wrote about Microsoft's defense of RAND (and a bit of its latest slime against Groklaw). Do not be mistaken or deliberately misled to the point of believing that this RAND gotcha only applies to OOXML. It also applies to Mono and — by association — to Moonlight, which Microsoft hopes to infect the World Wide Web with. Put differently, Microsoft’s ambition is to create a Web where everyone needs to pay Microsoft some “reasonable” (by Microsoft’s own definition and judgment) patent tax merely to view XAML-built Web pages.

This post’s focus should not, however, be Mono, which Miguel has been happily bragging about and promoting for the past couple of days in his blog. Here we look at RAND in general because Microsoft is likely to repeat its dirty OSP routine over and over again in order to sidelines Free software.

Unable to compete based on technical merits, Microsoft will try to just employ good lawyers and write predatory licences that shrewdly exclude its #1 rival. In addition, Microsoft will rattle sabers, play 'politics', bully its opposers and exposers and, well… you hopefully get the point. Whether it’s about the shareholders or something more than that probably remains a mystery. But it’s time to fight back at attempts to change laws as means of defeating risk.

Here is how Digital Majority puts it. (highlights in red added by us)

Reasonable and non-discriminatory in patent licensing means “we apply a uniform fee”. However with respect to Microsoft’s legacy OOXML format, one party controls the standard and the associated patents. All market players need to license except the patent owner. For dominant standards it is a tax on the market. It seems highly unreasonable that such standards should become international standards, mandatory for government users.

You may find it unreasonable for an ubiquitous standard. But there is a more insidious aspect. RAND patent licensing conditions are a tool to ban Free Software, which is entirely incompatible with RAND licensing conditions. Now one side of the debate blames it on the patent licensing conditions, the other side on the software licensing conditions.

It is safe to say that Microsoft is reasonably dishonest.

“[If I ask you who is Microsoft's biggest competitor now, who would it be?] Open…Linux. I don’t want to say open source. Linux, certainly have to go with that.”

Steve Ballmer (Microsoft’s CEO), February 28th, 2008

Tarnishing a Brand with Corruption to Earn a Marketing Tool

Posted in Deception, Fraud, Marketing, Microsoft, Open XML at 8:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Corruption is bad for marketing but marketing can hide corruption

It is no longer a secret that Microsoft’s brand is has slid down the gutter because various independent (and very recent) surveys were conducted to show this. Microsoft was seemingly the fastest-sinking brand and was also one of the fastest-sinking places to work for. It is a reputation well earned for forcing products and specifications down people’s threats using bribed journalists, corrupted 'analysts', compensated standard 'experts', paralyzed CIOs who replace those who got bullied out of their job and OEMs whose contracts practically forbid them from serving anything but Microsoft Windows on brand-new PCs.

“The OOXML scandals serve as an example of cases where Microsoft goes too far and now risks an embargo in a very major continent.”Being aggressive might lead to ‘success’, but this type of aggression — if not careless violation of the law — by no means makes one popular (nor is it sustainable), no matter how much self-praising publicity money can buy.

The robber baron dilemma [1, 2, 3, 4] means that compensation has its limits and mere donations don’t heal the wounds. It’s just a form of brainwash, but not everyone is as foolish as required by those who orchestrate the propaganda to manufacture consent. The OOXML scandals serve as an example of cases where Microsoft goes too far and now risks an embargo in a very major continent.

Many would ask themselves, “what was it all for?”

According to Tim Bray, whose "ISO fantasy" was mentioned the other day, OOXML is just a marketing tool. We already knew that and Pandu Rao wrote an article about it.

Microsoft is still trying to strike balance between bad behaviour and marketing, hoping that the latter will be sufficiently effective in eclipsing the former. Put simply, Microsoft knows that it can get away with a lot of misconduct as long as the less informed public is not aware of it.

Here is the new article about Bray’s assertion.

The developer of XML and a former International Organization for Standardization committee chair have both claimed that Microsoft was interested in having Office Open XML accredited as an international standard in order to forward the company’s wider interests.

Tim Bray, the writer of XML, wrote in his blog on Thursday that Microsoft pushed for its Office Open XML (OOXML) standard to be accredited by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) so that the software giant could use the accreditation as a “marketing tool”.

It is worth stressing again that Tim Bray, sometimes referred to as father of XML, only days ago acknowledged that the ISO process was “corrupt”, to use his own words. This never stopped Microsoft from becoming a denier with hopeful ambitions to change public perception about OOXML (marketing) and bury the corruption stories. Standards experts will always know what happened, but Microsoft targets only the broad public that believes anything that appears in the press, especially when portrayed as good news. People love good news.

“Let’s face it – the average computer user has the brain of a Spider Monkey.”

Bill Gates

OOXML is fraud

Government Delegate Compares Microsoft Methods to “Scientology Cult”

Posted in Antitrust, Europe, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, Windows at 7:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“I’d be glad to help tilt lotus into into the death spiral. I could do it Friday afternoon but not Saturday. I could do it pretty much any time the following week.”

Brad Silverberg, Microsoft

Scientology, which has become synonymous with the phrase “dangerous cult”, seems to have just been mentioned in an interesting context. Do have a look.

Many participants and speakers referenced to the OOXML standardisation process, in particular were intrigued by the French AFNOR developments. Generally speakers feel concerned about OOXML to become a standard in governmental procurement. In private a government delegate compared Microsoft’s public affairs methods with the scientology cult.

This is interesting for a variety of reasons. To repeat a fragment from an antitrust exhibit (Microsoft’s own internal documents):

5: Jihad

A Jihad is a road trip. in which an evangelist visits a large number of ISVs one-on-one to convince them to take some specific action. The classic Jihad is one focused on getting Tier A ISVs to commit to supporting a given technology by signing the technology’s Letter of Agreement (LOA – see above).

A Jihad focuses on the Travelling Salesman aspect of evangelism. As in sales, the purpose of the exercise is to close – to get the mark the ISV to sign on the dotted line, in pen, irrevocably. Not to get back to us later, not to talk to the wife about it, not to enter a three-day cooling-off period, but to get the ISV to sign, sign, sign.

If the start of the meeting is the first time the ISV has seen the LOA, then he’s not going to sign it at the end of the meeting. Since we’re asking for a very serious commitment, we want the ISV to give their signing serious consideration. If the ISV cannot deliver, then his committing to deliver is worse than useless – the ISV’s participation may occupy one of a limited number of available slots, keeping some other ISV from participating.

To maximize the chance of getting the ISV to sign during the Jihad visit, make sure that

— The ISV has seen the LOA at least a week before the Jihad visit

— The LOA is very clear about what exactly each side is promising to deliver, and when

— An Officer of the ISV’s corporation will be attending the meeting

— Microsoft’s Director of DRG has positioned the LOA with sufficient seriousness, in a cover letter or other communication in advance of the meeting

— You make it clear from the start that the purpose of your visit is to answer any questions that they might have, preparatory to signing the LOA while you’re there

— They understand that those who do not sign the LOA, are frozen out of all further information about the techology until it goes into public beta

— They understand (without being crude about it) that you will be making the same offer to their competitors

— You have T-shirts or other swag to give to those who sign. lt’s amazing what some people will do for a T-shirt.

There are a million tips and tricks to effective road trips, and to being a Road Warrior in general, all of which is beyond the scope of this discussion.

[...]

8: The Slog
Guerilla marketing is often a long, hard slog.

slog (sl^g) v. slogged, slogqing, slogs. –tr, To strike with heavy blows, as in boxing. -intr. 1. To walk with a slow, plodding gait. 2. To work diligently for long hours. –n. . 1. long, hard work. 2. A long, exhausting march or hike. [Orig. unknown.] -slog’ger
–American Heritage Dictionary, 1991

In the Slog, Microsoft dukes it out with the competition. MSDN and Platform marketing are the regular forces, exchanging blows with the enemy mano a mano. Evangelism should avoid formal, frontal assaults, instead focusing its efforts of hit-and-run tactics.

In the Slog, the enemy will counter-attack, trying to subvert your Tier A ISVs to their side, just as you should try to subvert their ISVs to your side. New ISVs should be sought, and directed to MSDN’s one-to- many programs. Evangelism should constantly be on the lookout for killer demos, hot young startups, major ISVs, customer testimonials, enemy-alliance-busting defections and other opportunities to demonstrate momentum for our technology. If bugs are found in our technology, or missing features are found to be critically important, then now is the time to identify and fix them. Stay engaged with the technology development team; ensure that you are a valuable resource for them, not a hectoring pest. Document all of your progress (ideally in regularly updated internal Web pages) and forward it regularly to management. If management is not aware of your progress, your successes, and your stumbling blocks, then they can’t help. (They may not help anyway, but they can’t if they don’t know what you need.)

Keep those Tier A ISVs on track to delivery! They are your strongest weapons and cannot be forgotten.

The elements of the evangelical infrastructure – conference presentations, courses, seminars, books, magazine articles, whitepapers, etc. – should start hitting the street at the start of the Slog. They should be so numerous as to push all other books off the shelf, courses out of catalogs, and presentations off the stage.

Working behind the scenes to orchestrate “independent” praise of our technology, and damnation of the enemy’s, is a key evangelism function during the Slog. “Independent” analyst’s report should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). “Independent” consultants should write columns and articles, give conference presentations and moderate stacked panels, all on our behalf (and setting them up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour). “Independent” academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and research money granted). “Independent” courseware providers should start profiting from their early involvement in our technology. Every possible source of leverage should be sought and turned to our advantage.

I have mentioned before the “stacked panel”. Panel discussions naturally favor alliances of relatively weak partners – our usual opposition. For example, an “unbiased” panel on OLE vs. OpenDoc would contain representatives of the backers of OLE (Microsoft) and the backers of OpenDoc (Apple, IBM, Novell, WordPerfect, OMG, etc.). Thus we find ourselves outnumbered in almost every “naturally occurring” panel debate.

A stacked panel, on the other hand, is like a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select the panel, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. Since you can’t expect representatives of our competitors to speak on your behalf, you have to get the moderator to agree to having only “independent ISVs” on the panel. No one from Microsoft or any other formal backer of the competing technologies would be allowed – just ISVs who have to use this stuff in the “real world.” Sounds marvelously independent doesn’t it? In fact, it allows us to stack the panel with ISVs that back our cause. Thus, the “independent” panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you’ve got a major win on your hands.

Finding a moderator is key to setting up a stacked panel. The best sources of pliable moderators are:

— Analysts: Analysts sell out – that’s their business model. But they are very concerned that they never look like they are selling out, so that makes them very prickly to work with.

— 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?

Gathering intelligence on enemy activities is critical to the success of the Slog. We need to know who their allies are and what differences exist between them and their allies (there are always sources of tension between allies), so that we can find ways to split ‘em apart. Reading the trade press, lurking on newsgroups, attending conferences, and (above all) talking to ISVs is essential to gathering this intelligence.

This is a very tough phase of evangelism. You’ll be pulled in every direction at once, randomized by short-term opportunities and action items, nagged by your Tier A ISVs and pestered by every other ISV that wants to become a Tier A. Management will want to know right now how you’re going to respond to some bogus announcement by some random ISV. Some PM over in Consumer will demand that you drop everything to go talk to an ISV in Outer Mongolia, that’s run by an old college chum of his. Competitors will make surprise announcements, lie through their teeth, and generally try to screw you just as hard as you are trying to screw them.

Of course, if you are very, very lucky, there will be no competition to your technology. But this is almost never the case. ODBC had its IDAPI, OLE had its OpenDoc, COM had its SOM, DCOM has its CORBA, MAPI had its VIM, etc., etc., etc. The existence of a Microsoft technology nearly guarantees that a competitive technology will spring into existence overnight, backed by an impromptu association of Microsoft competitors which have decided to draw yet another Line in the Sand (“If we don’t stop Microsoft here, then they are going to take over the whole world!”).

Without a competing technology to fight, you just hand everything over to MSDN, give your Tier A ISVs to PSS, and find a new technology to evangelize. But that takes most of the fun out of the game :-)

9: Final Release:

Evangelism of a given technology usually ends with the final, shipping release of that technology. One last big press event, with demos, a tradeshow, press releases, etc., is often called for, showcasing the apps that are sim-shipping and the customers that are using them. In the face of strong competition, Evangelism’s

focus may shift immediately to the next version of the same technology, however. Indeed, Phase 1 (Evangelism Starts) for version x+1 may start as soon as this Final Release of version X.

10: Critical Mass

The Slog may continue beyond the Final Release, for many months, until Critical Mass is reached. It is possible that Critical Mass will not be reached at all for Version X of a technology, such that Phases 1-9 will have to be repeated – possibly more than once – before ever reaching Critical Mass.

Critical Mass is reached when the technology starts evangelizing itself. When reviews subtract points if it’s not supported; when analysts say “great product plan, but what about [Technology Name]?”; when VC’s won’t fund a company unless it supports [Technology Name] – that’s Critical Mass. At that point, Evangelism of the technology stops, and Evangelism’s resources are applied to other technologies – or, if you’re lucky, moves into the Mopping Up phase.

11: Mopping Up

Mopping Up can be a lot of fun. In the Mopping Up phase, Evangelism’s goal is to put the final nail into the competing technology’s coffin, and bury it in the burning depths of the earth. Ideally, use of the competing technology becomes associated with mental deficiency, as in, “he believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and OS/2.” Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make the complete failure of the competition’s technology part of the mythology of the computer industry. We want to place selection pressure on those companies and individuals that show a genetic weakness for competitors’ technologies, to make the industry increasingly resistant to such unhealthy strains, over time.

12: Victory

Some technologies continue as competitors long after they are true threats – look at OS/2, the Operating System that Refused to Die. It is always possible – however unlikely – that competitors like OpenDoc, SOM, OS/2, etc, could rise from the dead… so long as there is still development work being done on them. Therefore, final victory is reached only when the competing technology’s development team is disbanded, its offices reassigned, its marketing people promoted, etc. You have truly and finally won, when they come to interview for work at Microsoft.

Victory is sweet. Savor it. Then, find a new technology to evangelize — and get back to work :-)

Looking at the comments section of this plain-text version, you can find familiar names of known Microsoft AstroTurfers who defend the practices above or try to deny them (never mind if their source is Microsoft itself).

It’s possible that the world begins to realise just what type of “ecosystem” it’s dealing with. The problem is aggravating when this orgy of money and power encourages destruction of competitor using what’s referred to as “Jihad”. Some of the tactics listed in Microsoft’s list are of course illegal. Our concern is that Novell becomes part of this Microsoft ecosystem and it therefore cannot be trusted anymore.

Links 20/04/2008: Lots of GNU/Linux Distro Releases This Month, Many Conferences

Posted in News Roundup at 5:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Links 20/04/2008: Solaris Dumped for Better Performance with GNU/Linux; Many New Debian Developers Added

Posted in News Roundup at 2:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

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New Sightings of Microsoft Sucking Up to FOSS Developers, Hiring Them

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Windows at 2:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

I want you for money

The OSA was mentioned yesterday in order to show that Microsoft leaves no stone unturned in its battle against GNU/Linux, the GPL, and Free software (not the same as “Open Source”, especially amidst malicious deformation).

The following post came to our attention yesterday. [via]

Open Source at Microsoft: my stance on Microsoft Open Source Strategy

I want to take the opportunity here to clarify my stance and how I managed to form my analysis of Microsoft Open Source Strategy.

What has ignited this desire of mine to clarify these issues was the publication on my blog of the post entitled “Microsoft and OSS: another battle brewing”, unfortunately published without my editorial approval, and without my ability to review the contents before publication. After reading the article and having personally talked with the contributing editor, Carlo Daffara, I realized he was expressing some concerns about the clarity of my position relative to Microsoft and open source. Let me try to make it clearer.

A little background.

I have been consulting with Microsoft on different subjects over the last two years.

The first time I happened to work with Microsoft was back in June 2006. I took part to the Microsoft’s Linux&Open Source Briefing partner program as open source expert. Techstream, a training firm engaged by Microsoft to deliver worldwide such program, found me over the internet, and eventually hired me after a couple of job interviews.

If you spot other stories about Microsoft’s journeys into open source companies, please let us know. Microsoft appears to be using some other individuals to do its legwork in a more subtle fashion. The monopoly from Redmond has plans. Don’t ever forget how really it views competitors, never mind the perception that independent software developers are "pawns", or "a one-night stand".

Worse Than a Licence to Kill: Licence to Practise Mathematics

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 1:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

‘Soft’[ware] IP = “You didn’t steal my code, but logically our programs
achieve something similar, so you owe me some money.”

Mathematics-related patents in Europe seem to be silently percolating into the EPO’s mind if the following curious page is something to judge by. [via Digital Majority]

Chiariglione’s video codecs evaluate the amount of data that needs to be actually digitised and the amount that can be “predicted” mathematically. Samples of the current frame are compared line-by-line with those of the preceding frame, and only the samples considered “sufficiently different” are being stored. Today, all commercial applications of digital video encoding are based on such predictive coding systems to save storage space.

Manipulation of matrices that involves no physical product or byproduct must never be patentable, or else we might see a comeback of modern-age middle ages (the feudal system) where only those sufficiently wealthy are allowed to practise and to share things such as algorithms, i.e. recipes of logic, thoughts. Why need any system devolve like this by choice? Clues are appended as individual links at the bottom.

Pieter seems to have just launched an aptly-named new site called IPocracy and Digital Majority links to a another new article about the confusing situation in the United Kingdom.

Confusion reigns on software patents

A row is brewing over the lack of consistency surrounding the protection of software rights, and it needs to be resolved if the UK is to stay in step with European law, say experts.

There is a fair deal of corruption here in the UK. We wrote about it previously, even yesterday. Be sure to read it if you haven’t, if only just to realise how corrupt the whole system has become. Groklaw’s comment on the same news from London is: “You may remember Newham, because when they announced they’d go with Microsoft instead of Open Source, they said it was because Microsoft’s software was cheaper and more secure, this at a press conference in 2004, and the room full of journalists spontaneously burst out laughing. I wonder how they feel now about the CapGemini study that told them that was so, which they said persuaded them to choose Microsoft?

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