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04.24.08

Links 25/04/2008: Ubuntu 8.04 Released; PC Recyclers Distribute GNU/Linux

Posted in News Roundup at 10:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Microsoft Only Loves Microsoft-controlled and Microsoft-restricted Offer-Source Software (OSS)

Posted in Bill Gates, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GPL, Microsoft at 10:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“I’m an American, I believe in the American Way. I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don’t think we’ve done enough education of policy makers to understand the threat.”

Jim Allchin, Microsoft

Remember Microsoft’s invasion into the world we once knew as “open source” — a world that thrived before Microsoft decided to hijack and redefine its rules. “Open source” is something altogether different nowadays. We recently showed just what Microsoft intends to do to Ruby, essentially replacing an older Microsoft-independent project with one that embraces Microsoft licences and thus permit Microsoft to dominate and control. For whatever reason, Ruby is mentioned in the context of Microsoft’s .NET quite frequently these days, including in this new article.

The company is not trying to convert people wholesale to .NET, but IronRuby is part of an attempt to regain ground lost among a generation of developers who’ve gone to Mac and open source and frameworks. “We are not fools, and think: ‘Hmm, people are suddenly going to transition.’ We think there are some interesting combinations, where people can use Ruby the language on top of our libraries, which will be appealing and interesting,” he said.

GNU meditatesIf Microsoft is permitted to grab open frameworks that compete against Microsoft’s own tools , then Microsoft can continue to change rules, slanting them to mitigate competition and assemble everything around intellectual monopolies it boasts.

To give another example of Microsoft’s attitude towards open source, watch this one from the news. Gates views it as something that already excludes copyleft licences like the GPL. Is it deliberate or is it ignorance?

As but one more piece of testamentary evidence that the old guard at Microsoft needs to be shown the door, Bill Gates has demonstrated conclusively that he has exactly zero understanding of open source, or at least zero desire to have an intelligent discussion about it.

[...]

Open source insists upon leaving software open to further improvement. And if you were to read the European Union’s report on open source, you’d see that it’s actually a massive opportunity for improved GDP growth.

What open source does is ensure that customers share equally in the economic benefits of software, rather than having profits hoarded by one company (i.e., Microsoft’s model). The GPL does this perhaps best of all. In another age, Mr. Gates would have found the GPL to be a dear friend to his better capitalist instincts. It’s actually a close cousin to a proprietary license in some ways, except that it protects through openness, not closed source.

This was last mentioned a couple of days ago. Microsoft likes open source only as long as it gets to define what it means and what gets excluded from it. It even encourages the separation between “free software” and “open source” and argues that free software should only be seen as gratis, whereas the GPL is something really ‘nasty’ just because Microsoft is unable to compete against it.

Steve Ballmer scared of GPLv3

Big Set of Shakeups for Microsoft O[OXML]ffice, ODF Rises

Posted in Asia, ECMA, Europe, GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 10:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Protests in Norway (OOXML)

There is a lot happening in Europe at the moment, but that’s not the only subject of this post. Herein you’ll find a grouping of more good news for real open standards (like ODF) and Free software. The OLPC debacle may have eclipsed the good news, but it’s actually a wonderful time and another major tipping point for GNU/Linux.

As far as FOSS and ODF go, some weeks ago we saw big success stories in Germany [1, 2, 3]. This wave is not over yet and here is some of the latest.

According to this German article, the City of Munich and the German Federal Foreign Office have started to collaborate on the implementation of their open source and open standards strategies.

Germany intends to gain more independence (practical and financial) with Free software and Microsoft does not sit idly. Microsoft’s OOXML misconduct in Germany was last summarised here, however partially.

Over at the Commission, which already has Microsoft on probation, questions about OOXML as a procurement option arose. We last wrote about procurement and misconduct just a day ago. Here is the latest:

THE EUROPEAN Commission has started investigating Microsoft’s OOXML standard under procurement rules instead of the old competition statute with which they usually bash the software giant.

The Danish Unix User Group (DKUUG) complained to the EC’s competition regulators in February about a Danish government mandate on the use of software standards. But the Competition lot didn’t want to know about it.

The European Commission confirmed today that its Internal Market people had taken up the complaint. They were examining it to see if it constituted an infringement of procurement rules.

[...]

It was based, as originally, on the idea that Ecma International, the standards body that backed OOXML, had specified that the standard was to be implemented “in a way that is fully compatible with the large existing investments in Microsoft Office documents.”

This meant that it was designed to give Microsoft documents an advantage, said, Simonsen, in the same way a television manufacturer might have an advantage over its rivals if had designed a signal that was tuned to operate special features on its own sets.

The EC’s procurement police are now considering whether this puts the Danish government in breach of procurement rules, despite the moves Microsoft has made to make its standard acceptable.

It seems clearer that unless Microsoft considers implementing or officially supporting ODF (and properly so), Microsoft Office could become irrelevant and excluded from government procurement. The Microsoft Spin Machine appears to be well lubricated though. Watch what it emits in the Malaysian press:

It’s not about choosing, but about having a choice.

Yes. Try to understand that fantastic quote from Yasmin Mahmood, Microsoft Malaysia’s (current) Managing Director. This was reported by Tech&U, which is currently leading the pack as the most reliable source of Microsoft propaganda. What’s wonderful is that they quote Yasmin word for word without questioning what she really means. It makes hilarious reading.

This type of spin was seen before. Of course it’s a matter of choice. It’s a matter of choosing applications but without unification inside standards there is hardly an ability to choose between applications. Microsoft is, as always, preying on ignorance.

As shrewdly pointed out by the same blog a few days ago, in reference to South Africa's decision on document formats:

This goes to show that certain Ministries of Science and Technology can stand up for the interests of their citizens, and not have to feel pressured by a single foreign multinational. If only this independence was more prevalent around the world.

Brendan Scott, who has covered some of the OOXML fiasco, wrote a very long essay about it this issue. He explains how governments became agents of monopolisation, anti-Commons.

Misapplication of “value for money” requirements when purchasing software results in poor value for money – Government purchasing policies for software tend to support the creation of monopolies.

Government purchasing has effects on the price paid by citizens for the product purchased. In some cases purchasing produces volume which permits scale discounts and therefore a net benefit to citizens who also purchase the product. However, in the case of lock in software* Government purchasing can create a monopoly in the software which leads to increased costs for citizen purchasers and a net detriment for society as a whole. It is not appropriate for value for money policies to be assessed on a per acquisition basis when software is being acquired. Doing so will almost certainly create net costs for the community when considered in the aggregate.

[...]

Government procurement can both create and reinforce a monopoly in goods and services which it is acquiring. Anecdotal evidence suggests that bureaucrats look at “value for money” type formulae and assess it against the cost to Government on a purchase-by-purchase basis. This approach is fine in respect of goods and services which are easily substitutable (such as hammers, screws, cars etc). In respect of goods which are specifically designed to prevent substitutability – eg devices which are not designed to be interoperable it is an extremely hazardous approach. If those goods also tend to be a natural monopoly (such as software in general, but particularly that which is designed not to be interoperable) this approach is absolutely the wrong one.

Microsoft must be baffled, scared and therefore merciless at the moment. Add all the above to recent news about dropping profits and large-scale GNU/Linux migration. Some lobbyists from Microsoft must already be packing up suitcases to make unplanned visits worldwide. This is a time to watch Microsoft’s behaviour carefully because Microsoft won’t give up easily. The Microsoft Unlimited Potential programme, aka the “anti-Linux dumping budget”, is one to keep an eye on for sure. Deep pockets make room for disruptive intervention.

“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)

Microsoft No Longer Able to Hide Financial Decline, More Losses to GNU/Linux in Russia

Posted in Asia, Finance, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 9:12 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The beginning of the end of an era?

Following the great news from Brazil (reported only yesterday) we have a lot more positive news to share today.

On several occasions in the past we wrote about Microsoft hiding evidence of its real financial health. Well, this old paper-and-ink routine seems to have run out of stamina because Microsoft reported a significant drop in profits and its stock tanked. Here it is from Microsoft’s ‘back yard’ press, whose bias — if any — typically works in Microsoft’s favour.

Microsoft said today its fiscal third-quarter profit fell 11 percent compared with a year ago, when revenue from pre-sales of the new Windows Vista operating system pushed up results.

[...]

Earnings were also depressed by 15 cents per share due to a legal fine from the European Commission.

[...]

Microsoft shares fell $1.25 in after-hours trading, after adding 35 cents to $31.80 during the regular session.

Found moments ago there are also the following links which seem to indicate that the Moscow region government is moving to GNU/Linux. Both stories are in Russian:

http://www.mandriva.ru/novosti/mosk_obl/

http://www.comnews.ru/index.cfm?id=36491

There is some background to this and Microsoft is clearly losing grip in Russia. Recent stories of interest include:

Linux being launched at schools

Besides the operating system the package is to comprise some freely distributed programs, close to MS Office by their functionality, which are to be used on computers with the following characteristics: 233 MHz and 128MB DDR.

Russian Postal Service Wears Red Hat

Russian Post and American company Red Hat signed the Protocol of intentions on IT development based on open freeware earlier this month. Andrey Pogodin, Deputy Director General of FSUE Russian Post and Jim Whitehurst, President of Red Hat signed the document within the framework of meeting. The parties agreed to join efforts to implement operating system Linux and other software products with open code in Russian Post’s IT-structure.

IBM to offer Linux machines

The machines, it was announced, will come with Red Hat’s Linux distro, and will come pre-loaded with software from IBM, including its Lotus Symphony suite.

OpenReferent – a New Open Source Challenge to Microsoft Desktop Software

Mr Pogodin, Deputy General Director of Post of Russia, said: “Post of Russia, which has 42,000 post offices through out the country, can significantly lower the cost of ownership of the Information System.” Post of Russia is one of the first customers that signed up to evaluate themove from Microsoft based desktops to OpenReferent solution.

[...]

Open Referent is based on the recently announced IBM Lotus Open Collaboration Client Solution with Red Hat.

Business partners classified as Red Hat Advanced Business Partners and Lotus-authorized IBM Business Partners may sell the Red Hat and IBM Lotus products globally with a Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription, and may additionally offer a six-month Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop trial.

Open Source Market: FOSS getting hot in Russia

Recent interest towards FOSS from the Russian government has boosted commercial activity in this field. No longer than a year ago there was no single large company that would say it is capable of doing FOSS system integration projects. Now there are three, and the number will probably grow.

Nobody is particularly sure about how to do business with FOSS, but it is already evident that it can be done somehow. That is why the larger ones are jumping on the bandwagon simply not to be late.

A bit older:

2010: Russia’s open software market to grow 4-fold

Analysts note that Linux vendors are traditionally present on the mobile device market. According to forecasts the OS might become the leader in the segment accounting for 40% of it by 2010. “Currently the share of mobile devices with Linux OS is not big in Russia as compared to other countries, such as China, for instance. However, the producer’s policy, Nokia in particular testifies to the fact the situation is changing for the better”, Ms. Karaeva concluded.

Mandriva Linux selected as “Product of the Year 2007″ at the Russian Softool event

Mandriva has been selected as ‘Product of the Year 2007′ in the Linux category at the Softool exhibition in Moscow. The ‘Product of the Year 2007′ competition was held by the department of information technologies and computing systems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Federal Agency of Information Technologies, the publishing house SK Press, and IT-expo.

[...]

Mandriva Linux will also soon be certified by the Federal Service of Export and Technical Control, allowing public sector agencies and organizations dealing with confidential information to use Mandriva Linux.

Russian public agencies choose Mandriva

Mandriva development is carried out jointly by Mandriva’s offices in Russia, France and Brazil. The Mandriva Linux OS is thus considered a national OS for Russia. The decision of FSTEC of the Russian Federation (RF) implied that Russian public agencies will be authorised to use the Mandriva Linux OS on PCs running confidential information.

Russian Government Will Migrate to OpenSource

Russia decided to follow after EU countries, where opensource solutions are more spread then in Russia. Currently, some Russian companies can offer their own Desktop Linux OS (the major companies are ASPLinux, ALTLinux, Linux-Online and LinuxCenter).

Russian schools abandon Windows after piracy scare

Microsoft says that the incident has nothing to do with them, but it appears that Russian schools in the area are so scared about being shipped off to a Siberian Gulag, that they are buying Linux gear instead.

[...]

According to Karpushin, schools would start using freely distributed software like the Linux OS, Russky office and Open office desktop apps, Ekho Moskvi reports.

Linux Education in America: Inspiration from Russia?

The reason that the Russian announcement is funny boils down to the perception over the years that Russia equates to totalitarianism, whilst here in America we’re all about Freedom and innovation. Yet our educational system — the very underpinnings of how we’re growing out future technological talent, is based upon the inversion of what one would expect given the respective reputations of both countries.

Russia is latest country to move towards OpenDocument format and open standards

The stated rationale for this legislation is that “open standards will contribute to an increased number of bidders for government contracts and will increase opportunities for Russian software developers… [and] the problem of interoperability will be addressed as will the ability to access information into the future.”

Russian Linux (ALTLinux) to be installed in every school in Russia

Russian OS is to be installed on every school computer in Russia by 2009. Furthermore, every pupil will get the opportunity to operate the applied software produced in Russia, Leonid Reiman, acting Minister of Communication stated at a press conference. According to Mr. Reiman, that might significantly reduce Russian dependence on foreign software.

Linux being launched at schools

Besides the operating system the package is to comprise some freely distributed programs, close to MS Office by their functionality, which are to be used on computers with the following characteristics: 233 MHz and 128MB DDR.

Here is a story from yesterday:

Linux Ubuntu PCs set for sale in Russia

Linux Ubuntu installation on PCs sold by Excimer and NT Computer is to be launched within the nearest month. Consequently, Ubuntu sales in Russia might reach 300 thousand units. Ubuntu 8.04 released on April 24, 2008 is more likely to be preinstalled.

There are very good times for GNU/Linux, but vigilance is still necessary because Microsoft has plans for Russia. It also tries to sell lock-ins. Spotted a week or so ago:

Microsoft tightens hold in regions

The Leningrad Regional administration and the Microsoft Company have signed an agreement ‘of intent in IT implementation’. Thus, the Leningrad Region confirms its commitment to set up e-government following the suit of St. Petersburg, where a similar Bill Gates Corporation’s project has been used for more than half a year.

Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty.

“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. “

Microsoft (in its latest SEC filing)

What If Red Hat Bought SuSE Instead of a Microsoft Partner?

Posted in Asia, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat at 8:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Gates on SUSE

Novell happily considers itself and even describes itself as a Microsoft partner, which possibly makes it part of that self-serving channel or the Microsoft ecosystem. Just watch the recent story from China for enlightening examples [1, 2, 3, 4].

It’s interesting to have it confirmed that SuSE could have had a better destiny. It was purchased with IBM’s encouragement but by the wrong company. It could have been bought by Red Hat.

First in line to acquire SUSE back in the day was…Red Hat. Matthew Szulik decided to pass on the opportunity and, well, the rest is history. Ironic, isn’t it? With whom would Microsoft have done its patent deal had Novell not been around? Would Ubuntu have started sooner to fill the competitive Linux void?

We’ll never know….

It’s all retrospective.

Links 24/04/2008: Linux Declared the #1 Embedded Operating System, Debian Gets a Boost

Posted in News Roundup at 9:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Quick Mention: Huge Migration to GNU/Linux in Brazil (52,000,000 Students)

Posted in America, GNU/Linux at 7:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNU and Linux

Aaron has the details.

By the end of this year 29,000 labs serving some 32,000,000 students will be fully deployed and in active use.

By the end of next year (2009) those numbers will have swelled to 53,000 labs serving some 52,000,000 students.

Savour it. It doesn’t happen every day. Brazil recently decided to migrate half a million voting machines from Windows CE to GNU/Linux, but this one is two orders of magnitude (100 times) more exciting, assuming all goes as planned. Russian regions go through a similar phase and Japan considered moving all schools to GNU/Linux just over a year ago.

Microsoft Goes Visiting South Africa Shortly After Pro-ODF Policies (Updated)

Posted in Africa, Bill Gates, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Patents, Standard at 6:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A reader has just sent us a little valuable headsup about the recently-reported news of South Africa adopting ODF. His message is in italics below:

I am concerned about the recent wise movement by the South African government favouring truly open standards (ODF) and against software patents being sabotaged by Microsoft Corporation:

1 South Africa choses ODF/ISO26300 (and NOT MSOOXML) as National standards:

http://www.tectonic.co.za/?p=2365

http://www.oss.gov.za/MIOS_V4.1_final.pdf [PDF] (page 19)

By the way, this happens little after the MSOOXML at ISO fiasco battle and after the South African minister of Public Service and Administration slammed software patents and Microsoft for not adopting ODF:

http://www.tectonic.co.za/?p=2304

2 Jason Matusow (Microsoft’s Director of Corporate Standards) [whom we have many reasons not to trust, e.g. [1, 2]] flies to South Africa to do “external outreach”

(maybe “covert-ops” at policy level rather than just “outreach” are in the making? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covert_ops )

….is a reversal of the policy favouring ODF on the horizon? Microsoft no doubt sooner or later will attempt it, as we have witnessed in many other countries before. Let’s keep an eye on this to see if we are wrong or not…

Quick recap for background:

There are many more examples and interesting past incidents from South Africa too, due to some strong pro-FOSS sentiments over there. Microsoft was seen making visits to that country when there was a ‘crisis’ (in the Microsoft sense of the word). Remember Bill Gates’ recent visit to Paris when the police dealt a blow to Microsoft and moved to GNU/Linux? He got some children "addicted", as he himself calls it. That’s just the way it works, but it’s typically hush-hush. Let’s keep an eye open.

flickr:2401893632

Update: someone sort of suggested a couple of days ago that Microsoft’s lobbying arms might step us to do the ‘dirty work’ in South Africa

If Microsoft thinks it can now inject its immature OOXML as an alternative format in South Africa’s MIOS, they certainly are facing an uphill battle. SABS and DST will undoubtedly expect to hear a lot of whinging about “choice” and “market forces” lobbied at certain Ministerial Departments. Will CompTIA and ISC please step up?

This goes to show that certain Ministries of Science and Technology can stand up for the interests of their citizens, and not have to feel pressured by a single foreign multinational. If only this independence was more prevalent around the world.

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