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04.25.08

Killing Open Standards Bodies to Tout ‘Interoperability’ Meme

Posted in Interoperability, ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Standard at 11:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

MicrISOft

The destruction of ISO’s credibility worked to Microsoft's advantage. Microsoft never cared much about standards, which it pretty much mocked as the following fragment of text demonstrates:

“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 [compressed PDF])

The key goal is then to fake compliance using exclusive deals whose terms are favourable to Microsoft and preferably exclude competitors, e.g. using RAND and vaguely-cited software patents. Watch this preparative announcement about a conference whose focus is not standards but something altogether separate. Sponsored by familiar faces (Microsoft and Novell make an appearance) that stress “interoperability” at the expense of “standards”, which are not at all the same thing, this announcement/article also states:

The catch: Critics say OOXML is not truly standards-based and is not fully interoperable, and have accused Microsoft of bullying the ISO into approving the format as an international standard. With that background, it should be a lively session — especially if there are some fans of the rival open source Open Document Format in the audience. Kitterman may need a mouth guard and a good corner man!

Whoever is not a “critic”, as the author puts it, is either misinformed or in Microsoft’s pocket. It should be made very clear rather than described as a divisive scenario (unless it be a division between corrupt/denier and justice seeking). Even Tim Bray strongly denounced this because he saw it more closely.

Over at CNET, Matt Asay too has just ridiculed some of this new “interoperability” pitch. He stresses the important of participation by customers, by users.

With all the talk about interoperability rumbling around, I thought a quick sanity check would be in order. Vendors are fond of talking about interoperability, but myopia-challenged as we are, we tend to forget that most software is not developed by vendors. It’s developed by so-called “customers.”

Bravo to Microsoft for making much of its interoperability with Novell! Unfortunately, this hardly resolves even a rounding error’s worth of the industry’s need to interoperate with enterprise-developed software.

As a practical example from several days ago, consider this story about the way things should be done (openly, not by having Novell and Microsoft swap code with NDAs).

Being OOo available in source code, I started digging into it until I found the code responsible for index generation. Built a patch for myself and solved the index generation problem, at least at my end of the line.

[...]

So the discussion continued until I was suggested to post a comment to the relevant OASIS list to describe the proposed modification to ODF standard.

I did so, and after some discussion my proposed change was integrated in current ODF 1.2 specification draft.

[...]

What’s the moral? A truly public specification can be upgraded by the public at large, provided the suggestion is a sound one.

Rest assured that Microsoft is not only screwing with document formats nowadays. Apart from its quiet fight against PDF, which is already an ISO standard, Microsoft is already combating another well-established medium which is HTML (and XHTML). With Novell's help, Microsoft hopes to replace all that with its patents-encumbered (and potentially DRM-laden) XAML while at the same time, on the face of it, fragmenting and ruining HTML as we know it.

The ever-increasing intricacy of the World Wide Web is evidenced by the character and scope of the HTML 5 draft specification. Microsoft wants to hasten HTML 5’s arrival, but its proposed solution may not sit well with all parties.

In a recent interview, Internet Explorer platform architect Chris Wilson told SD Times that more progress could be made with teams working in parallel, and he recommended that portions of the HTML 5 specification be broken off and assigned to new workgroups.

This is far from the sole incident of this kind. Microsoft has already tried to ruin JavaScript because it competes with Silverlight. The Web standards snub has a long history and it deliberate.

“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

European Municipalities to Study OpenDocument Format Schoten, Belgium

Posted in America, Antitrust, Europe, Fraud, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Law, Microsoft at 11:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Protest against OOXML

There is already some fairly strong momentum for ODF across the European Union and now comes a seminar that several high-level officials seem likely to attend.

Seminar on ODF, targeted at municipalities in Belgium.

Guest speakers include product managers from various vendors and representatives of federal and local governments.

We previously showed just how much trouble Microsoft is in, at least in Europe. In fact, amid sagging profits, caused partly by antitrust fines, Microsoft is unlikely to get much of a break. After so much recent abuse the Commission will carry on breathing down its neck. The following article contains some gory details about past and present abuses and includes this incident of blackmail, just like similar ones that were reported last week.

Microsoft’s troubles in Europe are far from over, as Neelie Kroes, The EU competition commissioner, has warned. We review the past and future options for Microsoft and the European Commission.

[...]

During the US anti-trust trials, Steven McGeady, a vice president of Intel, testified against Microsoft, Intel’s most important trading partner, asserting that Microsoft intended to “embrace, extend and extinguish” competition by substituting open standards with proprietary protocols, and claimed that Intel had been warned to cease development of its Native Signal Processing audio and video technology, which promised to vastly improve user experience of the desktop – or else Microsoft would bypass Intel and develop Windows exclusively for AMD and National Semiconductor chips. “It was clear to us that if this chip did not run Windows it would be useless in the marketplace,” McGeady testified. “The threat was both credible and terrifying.”

As a side note, in case you have not come across this in the news yet, Microsoft has just suffered another blow in Europe. Schools in Geneva are switching to GNU/Linux.

About 70,000 students and their 7,000 teachers in the Geneva school district will gradually be moving to Open Source.

The 52,000,000 students in Brazil belittle this somewhat, but when change arrives, you know it’s here to stay. Microsoft did this to itself by choosing bad behaviour over service to its customers.

“There will always be ignorance, and ignorance leads to fear. But with time, people will come to accept their silicon masters.”

Bill Gates

Quick Mention: Microsoft Intersection with the United States Government

Posted in America, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 10:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We previously pointed out, backed by fairly extensive evidence, that Microsoft has a high level of influence and control over the government, especially the Department of Injustice [sic]. Intel is a similar story that is related to that of Microsoft. Consider the following to be some more evidence of this (staffing overlap) and mind the awe-inspiring [**] headline:

Scott Charney: Microsoft’s Ax Man

Microsoft’s implementation of its secure-development lifecycle process has led the industry, said Andrew Jaquith, an analyst at Yankee Group. “They have really been a pacesetter in this area,” he said.

[...]

Still, Microsoft didn’t create the initiative out of choice, Jaquith said. “It was born out of necessity because customers were threatening to defect,” he said. Microsoft once had an internal list, called the executive hot list, made up of “customers so furious with security that they called [Bill] Gates or [CEO Steve] Ballmer personally,” Jaquith said. “In many respects, that caused the trustworthy computing initiative to be born.” Microsoft’s public-relations firm said that the company would not comment on the matter.

[...]

Microsoft hired Charney, who had worked for the U.S. Department of Justice and served as assistant district attorney in the Bronx, at what he said was a unique time.

Also of interest, mind the fact that Andrew Jaquith of the Yankee Group is quoted very extensively here. We last wrote about the Yankee Group just about a week ago. It’s enormously close to Microsoft and is also responsible for a lot of Microsoft’s anti-Linux disinformation (part of the "Slog").
___

[**] Ax \Ax\ ([a^]ks), v. t. & i. [OE. axien and asken. See Ask.]
   To ask; to inquire or inquire of.
   [1913 Webster]
   Note: This word is from Saxon, and is as old as the English
         language. Formerly it was in good use, but now is
         regarded as a vulgarism. It is still dialectic in
         England, and is sometimes heard among the uneducated in
         the United States. "And Pilate axide him, Art thou king
         of Jewis?" "Or if he axea fish." --Wyclif. 'bdThe king
         axed after your Grace's welfare." --Pegge.
         [1913 Webster]
Ax \Ax\, Axe \Axe\, ([a^]ks), n. [OE. ax, axe, AS. eax, [ae]x,
   acas; akin to D. akse, OS. accus, OHG. acchus, G. axt, Icel.
   ["o]x, ["o]xi, Sw. yxe, Dan. ["o]kse, Goth. aqizi, Gr.
   'axi`nh, L. ascia; not akin to E. acute.]
   A tool or instrument of steel, or of iron with a steel edge
   or blade, for felling trees, chopping and splitting wood,
   hewing timber, etc. It is wielded by a wooden helve or
   handle, so fixed in a socket or eye as to be in the same
   plane with the blade. The broadax, or carpenter's ax, is an
   ax for hewing timber, made heavier than the chopping ax, and
   with a broader and thinner blade and a shorter handle.
   [1913 Webster]
   Note: The ancient battle-ax had sometimes a double edge.
         [1913 Webster]
   Note: The word is used adjectively or in combination; as,
         axhead or ax head; ax helve; ax handle; ax shaft;
         ax-shaped; axlike.
         [1913 Webster]
   Note: This word was originally spelt with e, axe; and so also
         was nearly every corresponding word of one syllable:
         as, flaxe, taxe, waxe, sixe, mixe, pixe, oxe, fluxe,
         etc. This superfluous e is not dropped; so that, in
         more than a hundred words ending in x, no one thinks of
         retaining the e except in axe. Analogy requires its
         exclusion here.
         [1913 Webster]
   Note: "The spelling ax is better on every ground, of
         etymology, phonology, and analogy, than axe, which has
         of late become prevalent." --New English Dict.
         (Murray).
         [1913 Webster]

Microsoft’s Weapon Against Google: A Lot of GNU/Linux, Apparently

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft at 10:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“The number of developers working on improving Linux vastly exceeds the number of Microsoft developers working on Windows NT.”

Paul Maritz, Microsoft

It is no secret that Microsoft uses a lot of GNU/Linux in house and we covered some examples of this in the past. Even just a week ago Microsoft acquired yet another company (Farecast) for over 100 million dollars and that company has merely everything based on Free software, including GNU/Linux. It brags about it in its Web site.

“Is Microsoft unable to find and purchase any successful companies that use its own stack?”It’s interesting to find that a much larger acquisition — the purchase of FAST to be specific — involves UNIX and Linux yet again, not to mention Yahoo possibilities (it’s the same story as far as underlying technologies are concerned). Many of these acquisitions are of services that compete directly with Google (or the likes of Google). Is Microsoft unable to find and purchase any successful companies that use its own stack? If so, what does that tell us about Microsoft’s products? Does that inspire much confidence?

Watch the following couple of news articles and pay particular attention to snippets which talk about FAST becoming a “Microsoft subsidiary”. This is interesting because it’s precisely the same term which is sometimes used to talk about Novell (even Bruce Perens said this). Maybe it’s an unnecessary exaggeration to pay attention to semantics, so judge for yourself and see what it all means.

Microsoft Completes FAST Purchase

“There’s a significant part of the [FAST customer base] that have chosen to run their systems on Unix and Linux,” said Jared Spataro, director, Microsoft Office SharePoint. “Many people thought we would err on the side of cutting those programs.”

Microsoft plans search software for Linux and Unix

According to the press release issued by Microsoft today, Fast will now become a Microsoft subsidiary, presided over by John Markus Lervik, who will move from his current role as Fast’s CEO to new the job of corporate VP of enterprise search at Microsoft. Working at a new “dedicated enterprise research and development center” in Fast’s home base of Oslo, Norway, the new Microsoft arm will also develop “further innovation” across “Windows as well [as] Linux and Unix.”

The new subsidiary will work on development of a “comprehensive portfolio of enterprise search offerings,” to include a new product called Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, and Fast’s existing ESP product, which already runs on Linux and Unix.

This is definitely one to watch because Microsoft hasn’t good history when it comes to co-existing with rivals’ technology, Hotmail being just one example. It often just tries to exploit the situation somehow. as we have witnessed many times inside Novell. Consider work against HTML and ODF, for starters.

For what it’s worth, Apple is hardly any better because Steve Jobs objected to using Linux for the iPhone, despite his engineers’ research into the possibility at earlier stages of development. For future reference:

The most interesting part on Wired magazine’s revelation was during iPhone’s software development. On a very tight deadline to finish the iPhone right on time, Apple software engineers looked carefully at Linux, since it had already been rewritten for use on mobile phones. But, Linux on iPhone was denied by Steve Jobs for the reason that he do not want to utilize someone else’s software. Just imagine the endless possibilities had Steve agreed.

They often try to label Linux users “a seclusive cult”, but as we find when transparency is forced by the courts, it’s not just a case of hypocrisy. It’s a lot more than that.

Mono-free GNOME: “Roughly the Same Functionality”

Posted in ECMA, GNOME, GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, RAND at 9:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Mono strings GNOME

Image contributed by Beranger

Mainly by accident, yesterday I arrived at the following old article. It speaks about GNOME being “written — hopefully — in Mono and C#.” As we pointed out before, a similar article was corrected just recently, several years after it had originally been published. The article stated that GNOME was to be written in C#, but Miguel or somebody else probably felt compelled enough to ‘correct’ that article several years later by contacting editors.

Anyway, here is the opening paragraph from this other long article bearing the headline: The Upcoming GNOME Monarchy of Mono

Unix was originally all about not being… Multics. If Mono is to follow a similar nomenclature (just for the kicks), we have to talk about Mono’s upcoming ‘monopolization’ and ‘monarchy’ in the next generation of the Unix programming land. Your see, if everything goes well, in 2 to 3 years most new Gnome user/desktop applications will be written –hopefully– in Mono and C#. Update: Miguel deIcaza replies.

This update from de Icaza contains a clarification about GNOME and Mono, namely:

On Gnome and Mono

I am sure that there will be multiple editions of the same piece of software (One in C#, one in Python, and one in C ;-), so for those of you who for some reason do not want to run Mono, you will always have some C code you can run with roughly the same functionality.

What does “roughly the same functionality” actually mean? Is there a C implementation of Moonlight, for example? Given that only Novell is claimed to have ‘bought’ Mono ‘protection’ from Microsoft (the filings reveal this), does that mean that only those not using Mono are ‘safe’ and are promised to have roughly — whatever that means — the same functionality in GNOME? This relates to our old writings about second-class citizenships [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. It was only days ago that we spotted C# getting promoted in the GTK Web pages.

The main question asked here is not whether GNOME will be getting inherently dependent on Mono. The question is: how hard will it practically be to avoid Mono in GNOME? Or asked differently, how disconnected will the Free desktop pragmatically remain from Microsoft’s software patents? The excuses pointing to ECMA and the RAND are always somewhat comical because these are of course incompatible with the GPL.

ECMA is Microsoft

Links 25/04/2008: Windows Sales Down 24%, Yahoo Bid Wobbly

Posted in News Roundup at 8:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Viewing Corel as the Lesson That Must Be Learned About OOXML

Posted in America, Antitrust, Corel, Europe, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument at 3:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Why is Novell so blind?

Corel was last mentioned earlier this week along with some background about the company's history when it comes to formats, Linux, and Microsoft. Is Corel collapsing at the moment, based on the news about its CEO resigning?

The CEO of Corel Corp. plans to resign, two weeks after an investment firm that owns a majority stake in the Ottawa-based graphics and desktop applications software vendor offered to acquire all of the remaining shares and take the company private for the second time in five years.

[...]

Ironically, WordPerfect Office X4, a new release that Corel announced last Wednesday, is being touted by the vendor for its strong compatibility with its rivals’ document formats, including Microsoft’s Office Open XML, Adobe’s PDF and the vendor-neutral OpenDocument Format for Office Applications. Corel claimed that X4 is the first office suite to let users import, edit and export PDF documents — including scanned ones — without the need for third-party software.

Whatever happens, this does not look too encouraging, but abuses against WordPerfect have a long history and the case is yet to be resolved in court. Microsoft is trying to ‘pull another WordPerfect’ at the moment using OOXML, which is made deliberately incompatible with everything else in the market (secret extensions and deviations).

A belated reposted Associated Press article about the protest in Norway seems to have just made an appearance in unexpected places.

Roughly 60 data experts staged a rare and noisy street demonstration in downtown Oslo on Wednesday to protest Norway joining adoption of Microsoft Corp.’s document format as the international standard.

[...]

Opponents claimed the move locks out competitors and forces Microsoft customers to keep buying the American software giant’s programs.

The entire world, not just Norwegians, ought to have learned from history and vigorously prevented a repetition of it. Remember what Groklaw wrote about WordPerfect experiences (Microsoft-imposed nightmares). It’s quite a deja vu.

ooxml_demo_4.jpg

In the Land of Microsoft, China-like Search Engine Censorship Now a Standard

Posted in Deception, FUD, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Search at 3:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Can we trust what Microsoft tells us?

“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. “

Internal document, Microsoft (read more)

Some months ago, Mary Jo Foley wrote about Live search being seemingly ‘broken’ and returning results that support Microsoft’s business agenda. This was by no means an isolated observation and we covered many additional examples before. Some of these examples you can find in:

The complaints keep on coming. Here is one of the latest reports.

I was looking to see what search sites might have a particular bug that I (ahem) came across and was trying the search for the number 0 in various places. There is a pretty good Wikipedia page about zero. Zero has a rich and interesting history and there are many other potentially reasonable results.

Microsoft and Yahoo have, for quite some time as a matter of fact, been collaborating with the Chinese government on search engine censorship, disclosure (unmasking), spying and the like. It’s just something to bear in mind. Microsoft’s patents said a little more about this.

Interestingly enough, it was only yesterday that the BBC published the following good article which warns about closed system that restrict information and can be exploited by large corporations to feed minds in a self-serving fashion. It’s an eye-opening example of the need for what the article calls “programmable” systems.

He contrasts generative devices with “sterile appliances”, closed systems which appear to give consumers access to the net.

He argued such devices were damaging innovation and potentially putting easilly-abused powers into the hands of a few companies and governments.

“Consumers are eagerly asking for technologies, which can be used to surveil or control them,” said professor Zittrain.

So, when will Google release some code to the public? This was the rationale behind the birth of Wikia.

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