Novell rolling, rocking, and bridge-building
A reader has sent us a pointer to this new article from Glyn Moody at Linux Journal. The article described just what Microsoft intends to achieve using its deal with Novell and why many software developers get exploited in the process. It’s all self-explanatory really, but here is the ‘meat’ of the argument which speaks about Brad Smith’s explanation of the Novell deal (shades of OSBC again [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]):
…as well as all the respect and appreciation that Brad wanted to express, he also has an interesting explanation of Microsoft’s current world-view:
we believe in the importance of building a bridge that makes it possible for the different parts of our industry to work together. We believe it needs to be a bridge that respects the diversity of different business models. We believe in a bridge that is scalable, that is affordable, that is workable, and that doesn’t try to move people from one island over the bridge to another but let’s everybody do what they love to do and respects that.
Live and let live: what could be more reasonable?
But let’s listen to Brad again as he explains what that means in practical terms:
That is a hard bridge to build, and yet I will say I believe today more than ever that it is a bridge we need to build. And I very much value the work and the conversations we were able to have at Novell when we started to build that bridge in November of 2006.
Ah, Novell. And what lies at the heart of that joint bridge-building with Novell?
we believe that patents are best sorted out by industry leaders so that developers and customers don’t have to deal with these issues themselves. We as industry leaders should take it upon ourselves to sort these things out.
When we worked things out with Novell, we did it with an eye towards succeeding in ensuring that the developers who were creating the software for Novell would not have to worry about this set of things, nor would their customers.
So there we have it. You shouldn’t worry about those silly old software patents because Microsoft and Novell have sorted everything out for you: all you have to do is carry on coding.
Except that it’s not quite that simple. Microsoft’s vision of “live and let live” is predicated on its continuing use of software patents, and of the open source side letting Microsoft and Novell handle all the tiresome implications for open source. In effect, though, this amounts to recognising Microsoft’s patents, and accepting its “solutions” for the open source community. “Live and let live” turns out to be tantamount to accepting Microsoft’s right to file, own and use software patents, which, in its turn, means accepting they apply to the open source world.
This “live and let live” promise surely excludes all those whose wallet hasn’t the Microsoft strings attached to it? Although the author does not say this directly and explicitly, it seems evident that he condemns this deal and suggests that we continue to combat software patents. Here is how it’s summarised and concluded:
Above all, it will send a message to the company that the open source world is not falling for the old “embrace, extend and extinguish” trick, and that if Microsoft really wants collaborate, “live and let live” is simply not enough, because of the asymmetric bargain it implies. As a basic pre-condition of working together with open source, the company needs to accept free software’s absolute foundation – the ability to share all its code in any way and with anyone – and that, by definition, means no software patents whatsoever.
Microsoft will most likely hope to find comfort in precedence (Novell’s blessings), resting in its government-imposed monopolies, to use Richard Stallman's description of software patents.
Interestingly enough, going as much as a decade back, you can find a similar term being used to describe this, namely a “government-granted authority.” Whatever term gets used, it’s always interesting to associate it with the context, antitrust action in this case.
…the federal government of the United States of America has intervened in the free market by granting Microsoft a legal monopoly through the patent and copyright processes. On numerous occasions, agents of the U.S. Department of Justice — the same DOJ that right now is taking shots at Microsoft in the courtroom — has intervened to arrest and penalize businessmen who attempted to ignore the federally-created right known as intellectual property. This right is a federally-mandated fiction, not a process of the free market. Copyrights were not invented by business, but by the government, who grants them and enforces them as a form of federally-sponsored monopoly.
Since Microsoft’s economic and intellectual property derive directly from government-granted authority, it is only reasonable for governments to have the power to review and modify how the beneficiaries of their shared power use that authority. Antitrust is one means by which governments attempt to reel in some of the power they delegated to companies and individuals.
It is rather ironic that the same establishment that grants monopolies is also the only means for undoing and regulating them. It’s like asking a gun shop to enforce the law in a barbaric nation. Something more effective will be needed to encourage fair competition which serves the customer. As things stand, Novell and Microsoft override laws proactively, using deals and deeds. █
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Thanks to exceptional transparency of blogs, the story of Malaysia was told and echoed quite widely ever since the country endorsed ODF. Further progress is being made and validation of the facts arrives according to this little new scoop.
OpenOffice.org and ODF adoption in Malaysia – thumbs up!
Now, you can hold them to their word, as they update a Wiki page, informing you about how many agencies are moving to OpenOffice.org. Big wins, once all of the Malaysian government related agencies are on OpenOffice.org (open source software in general). Again, read OpenOffice.org and ODF Adoption!
This is actually a pretty major blow Microsoft. It could initiate a domino effect, so expect some suitcase-packing, travel and lobbying. We saw this quite recently even in Malaysia, for instance, where Jan "you are well paid, shut up" van den Beld made a surprise visit, joining the likes of Doug "the Elephant in the Room" Mahugh, who break the rules in the most abominable of ways. And that’s besides the bullying and the smears.
Microsoft has abused and corrupted this country like nobody’s business over the past year. Fortunately, the Open Malaysia blog has a lot of the fine details and stories documented.
Let’s just press on and consider some other related news. Here you have a summary of things to come, so by Friday we should expect something to come from ECMA.
As the deadline of the 2nd of May is drawing near, I thought it useful to clarify some of the actual concerns surrounding the standardization of OOXML. Perhaps this piece will help dispelling some myths.
I wanted to point that out because I increasingly get the feeling that some want us to forget this process and to switch to some other topic (XPS for instance?). I know that there are more interesting topics to work on; after all, ODF 1.2 is not that far out in distance, and I expect all the love and kisses to be sent by our friends in Redmond. But I am still sticking to it not clinging, but sticking, not because of a perverse and pathetic hope I would appear to have against OOXML, but because I believe that the bells and whistles have been taken out a bit too fast.
Remember that the OOXML saga is far from over. The several protests, one of which is depicted below, were not organised in vain.
Many people simply could not understand what compelled those folks to take it to the streets. Such sentiments only served Microsoft’s agenda of staged introduction, fueled by the illusion of no choice. As a reminder of how Microsoft harms consumers with OOXML, consider this old and short article which speaks of ignorance or apathy as a barrier to understanding the abuse. You can draw the parallels to compare past and present.
Those who say that Microsoft has only competed in an open market and has not directly harmed the consumer, are very wrong. The consumer is being injured constantly by the behavior of Microsoft and its chairman, Bill Gates.
I was personally and professionally injured. Microsoft and Bill gates had confused and bullied the marketplace. People who were deploying Microsoft products were doing so without looking at superior competing products. I decided to find another job.
There may be another take-home message to pull from this. Novell harms GNU/Linux users (as a whole). Novell and Microsoft are misleading on software patents in order to sign more deals (using fear as a driver). They essentially replace free Linux with their own non-free Linux, which is seen as Microsoft’s property.
To many people, the feeding of this message by the press can soon make it a reality, at least in people’s minds. It become a case of intuition, or a de facto rule. As another reminder of the dangers of blind acceptance or apathy, consider this. Think about OpenSUSE and Mono developers while you read this.
But as Guy Kawasaki, the former Apple software evangelist, said to me in an interview, “ignorance is not only bliss, it’s empowering.” Which I take as another way of saying that experience can be a good teacher, or maybe that lessons learned by dodging the bricks flying over the transom are lessons you are unlikely to forget.
For a case in point, I quote Stuart Alsop. He said, “we want a single platform, because the benefits are so tremendous.” Personally, I think he should speak for himself. But where did Alsop utter these words? Right here in Washington, a year ago, in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In this hearing, he also remarked to the senators: “If Microsoft is a monopoly and we decide that we do not want an unregulated monopoly controlling these important interfaces, what can we do about it within the constraints of our system and our culture of mostly unrestrained competition in entrepreneurship?”
Remember RAND? That’s not openness. The interfaces must become a commodity, or not be embraced at all. Why can’t Novell see this? Why are people still assisting those two companies, sometimes voluntarily? █
“Let’s face it – the average computer user has the brain of a Spider Monkey.”
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Has Novell derailed SuSE?
Hardcore and dedicated users of SuSE Linux were either receptive or cautiously optimistic when Novell snatched SuSE. This whole thing happened with IBM’s assistance and endorsement, but both IBM and Novell are proprietary software companies. As we mentioned the other day, a substantiated rumour came up about Red Hat's past consideration or attempts to buy SuSE and it’s interesting to find out now about Sun’s involvement too (before it entered the open source arena).
Chew on that last one for a bit. Way back in 2002/2003, Sun might have been in the Linux business, while Novell might have kept fiddling with NetWare (but more likely would have gone actively into the open-source applications realm, following on its acquisition of Ximian). We would have been living in a very different open-source industry if things had gone Sun’s way back then.
Better? Worse? I don’t know. But different.
As we pointed out yesterday, Novell is now just harming Sun at the moment, and not just because of its less-than-wanted interventions with OpenOffice.org, OOXML support and OpenSolaris FUD. Might it accept Sun’s offer of Java out of the box? That might be the real test or faith and commitement. From the news:
Sun woos Linux distros with bundle deals
The goal is for distros to come with Sun’s open source Java Enterprise Edition project Glassfish, the NetBeans development framework, and the Java Standard Edition project OpenJDK.
Sun is reaching out to Debian, after parts of Glassfish began showing up in the distro – Sun would, obviously, like to see all of Glassfish ship with Debian.
Sun is also working to build on early work with Ubuntu. As of now, OpenJDK is available in the Hardy Heron release of Ubuntu.
It’s truly confirmed now that, as the following article exclaims, “Java [to be] 100 per cent open source by end of this year.”
Sun is to open source the last closed-source parts of Java, a move that should make it possible to fully integrate the software into Linux distributions.
Will Novell jump on board? Miguel is boasting Google’s investment in Mono projects, which is pretty much a move against Java (the GPL’s new friend), if not Google as well. What is Novell thinking? It is a lot more committed to Microsoft than it is to Sun, let alone Red Hat and Ubuntu. Diplomacy plays a considerable role here, but if Novell increasingly sidles with Microsoft, then it will — by association — become a greater enemy of the GPL. For shame, Novell. █
Before (SuSE 6.0)
After: O SuSE, where Art Thou?
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“The main thing I’m pissed off about right now is that they pulled all the ads, which mean we’re taking a revenue hit.”
–Michael Arrington, Microsoft-paid cheerleader in disguise
Large companies continue to thrive in ignorance and seemingly innocent and independent voices on the Web do not always tell the truth. Clarification is probably needed about a character which was originally known as "eet", but has morphed endlessly over the past several months only to be unmasked again and again. As long as IP addresses can be changed, not even a sign-in (account) can prevent or reduce such bad behaviour.
“As long as IP addresses can be changed, not even a sign-in (account) can prevent or reduce such bad behaviour.”In the past few weeks there was even an observed pattern where a nym-shifting troll changes names and immediately uses proxies to then ‘defend’ those other names. It’s a sock-puppet technique and it’s something that readers are not able to see because additional bits of information about comments are not visible to them. When someone uses fake E-mail addresses with fake domains (like an incorrect domain of an Australian university while posting from Germany using the same ISP as ‘another’ Internet troll called “eet”), then it seems rather clear what is happening, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Some readers demand evidence, having not followed the saga from the early days or seen all the details. What can a person do?
For those who are interested in specifics or have followed the recent incidents, here is the gist of it all. The name “stevetheFLY” emerged immediately after the “cuss” name was caught for very definitely being “eet”. All names come from or share the same ISP and use the same pattern of insults, which were seen in hundreds of comments already. If readers, who are often attacked by this person too, wish to see evidence, it will gladly be provided. But false accusations against that who is attacked rather than the attacker seem a tad over the line and premature.
It’s always interesting to go back and find roots of bad behaviour. Watch this one for example:
As their business practices come under fire on several fronts, we can expect to see the Microsoft PR machine do whatever it can in an effort sway public opinion. One of the tactics we’re likely to see more of is what I call the “pseudo-grass roots” campaign, in which Microsoft instructs companies they have some degree of control over to act as shills on their behalf (not at all unlike the phoney “write-in” campaign uncovered by the Los Angeles Times a few months ago).
The point of this type of campaign is to try to create the perception of wide support for the Microsoft way of conducting business. But make no mistake — their message comes straight from Redmond.
There’s nothing “grass roots” about this group — the companies are either partly owned by Microsoft (Vanstar Corp) or highly dependent on them in some way.
Lots of the same type of stuff was found in OOXML [1, 2], with a well-proven record of AstroTurfing and what was referred to in the press as “pseudo-grassroots” (even in 2006). Speaking of such deception, it reaches the press as well.
Microsoft’s simultaneous press release trumpets, “the [European] Commission’s … decision … upholds Microsoft’s right to receive royalty payments from SCO if software code developed by Microsoft is used in SCO’s Unix products,” and insists, rather oddly, that the old Unix code SCO went to such lengths to be free of, “continues to play an important role in SCO’s OpenServer Unix product.” How could this be, in the face of the fact that SCO expressed such blessed relief at the ability to finally consign this code to the bit bucket?
At no point within this press release does Microsoft directly acknowledge the European Commission’s ruling against them. Instead, they attempt to cloud the issue, stating that “the European Commission rejected SCO’s request for further action and approved our request to close the file on this case,” though it is never clear what further action SCO had requested. We also learn of Microsoft’s 1988 award from UnixWorld Magazine, a highly relevant tidbit.
Recall how Microsoft was pretending to have won back in 2007 September, having actually lost. Press releases from Microsoft tend to be amazingly dishonest. Maybe it’s something in the DNA. █
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Separation between FOSS and
OSS, courtesy of Microsoft
False Marketing of “Open”
Both Microsoft and Novell can be accused of harming perceptions of “Open Source”. Novell seeks justification by clarifying that it really is a mixed-source company, whereas Microsoft shoves the word "open" everywhere it deems possible. Why would they do this? Because the market increasingly demands “open source”. Microsoft and Novell hope to sell their overpriced crown jewels while falling under the same “open” umbrella, whose significance they lessen.
Europe Embraces Open, Microsoft Responds with Closed XML (Calls it “Open”)
Yesterday we wrote about EuroOffice, which is of course an OpenDocument-based product. Just watch what else is happening in Europe at the moment.
The free, open source project management solution OpenProj is now being included in StarOffice boxes available in Europe. OpenProj is a complete replacement of Microsoft Project, offering equivalent functionality, and available on Linux, Unix, Mac or Windows.
In order to suppress this increasing adoption of open source software Microsoft hopes to successfully respond with formats that de-commoditise office suites. At the same type, technical impossibilities aside, it injects an anti-Free software poison pill called "RAND". Ironically, that’s just what Microsoft means by “open”. Free Software Magazine has a nice new cartoon which illustrates just how ‘open’ Microsoft really is.
“In order to suppress this increasing adoption of open source software Microsoft hopes to successfully respond with formats that de-commoditise office suites.”In order to hide the technical and legal issues, Microsoft has turned a lot of this into 'politics'. It’s a tactic which is intended to confuse by diversion of attention to uninteresting or incorrect details. A reader says, in reference to ISO's decision: “Some of the counter arguments being thrown are based on the false premise that the decision is and has been a purely technical one.”
Further, he says: “There are two components. The technical component, which we would all prefer to focus on. And the political component brought into play by Microsoft. Ignoring the politics brought into the debate by Microsoft causes the debate to be lost: politics trump technology. Spending too much time on the politics means the technology languishes. Be sure which one is being discussed. If we could steer the debate back to one purely of technology, Microsoft would be gone.”
It’s particularly interesting when viewed in light of history. Microsoft tried to rush the release of Windows 98 in order to avoid further technical scrutiny (think about “Fast Track”). Watch this:
One wonders, is this the same product Microsoft insisted would irreparably harm the U.S. economy if government lawyers delayed its release? The very same.
Remember the similar use of fear to promote OOXML? Or Bill Gates saying that OOXML will help the families? The fear-mongering or sentimental blackmail techniques must not be forgotten. Further, from the same old article:
Let’s face facts: Windows 98 is less an operating system than an Internet Explorer delivery device, a Netscape killer. To call it anything more complimentary would be to perpetuate a fraud. Windows 98 is the clearest evidence yet of the company’s continuing evolution from Microsoft the Popularizer, into Microsoft the Monopolizer. About us, they couldn’t care less. And if we don’t understand this dirty little secret by now, we never will.
There are similar examples even at present. Windows Vista is a DRM delivery device (media becomes Windows-only, establishing more effective lock-in), among many other things. Office 2007 is also used as a virtual door to be shut at the face of competition, capitalising on OOXML digital handcuffs and thus decreased compatibility.
Microsoft Mesh is Not Open
Once again Microsoft is misusing the word “open”, or at least choosing to define it the way which suits Microsoft marketing routine. Over at Market Watch, Microsoft’s mesh is being called a “mess”, not “open”. However, just minutes ago we wrote about Microsoft's bias in the press and from the obedient CNN comes another example. To quote the slightly more critical part:
Microsoft swears it’s embracing open standards – really!
Open? Microsoft? Let’s be frank here: The two haven’t exactly gone hand in hand – just ask any number of high courts around the globe. But as computing continues to shift more toward the Web and away from the desktop even Microsoft doesn’t have a choice. Live Mesh may be Microsoft’s admission that the future of computing is open, and that even if it had to be dragged kicking and screaming to that conclusion, it has come to it.
Almost nothing is supported at this stage other than Microsoft’s operating system, partners etc. Even a former Microsoft evangelist says the truth about this mesh:
Unfortunately they aren’t even close to being finished. Mac support? Coming in the future. Nokia support? Unclear. iPhone support? Ask Steve Jobs (translation: will be very limited due to Apple’s complete control of that platform). Firefox support? Yes! Linux support? What’s that?
What is so open about this mesh then? The open confessions about exclusion of Microsoft’s #1 rival? █
“[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, February 28th, 2008
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“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.”
–Microsoft, internal document
One pet peeve of ours is gross bias in the media, which is heavily influenced by those who pay the writers and the editorial team through investments, those who advertise, and those whose channel has a general focus on. We shed some light on this in the past using actual examples and also arguing that the mainstream media is likely to praise the Novell/Microsoft deal while ignoring all — or at least most — existing criticisms. In addition, we showed the tremendous influence which Bill Gates (personally) and Microsoft have on the media, by means of funding. This is not something that they brag about publicly, but some disclosures are made obligatory.
Here comes another disclosure of Gates’ holdings. It reveals yet more contact with another media company, which is bound to lead to some bias.
Other bets by Gates’s investment vehicle included the Mexican media company Grupo Televisa, the Mexican brewer Fomento Economico Mexicano and the waste-management company Republic Services.
Gates has invested in several energy ventures, including ethanol producer Pacific Ethanol and PNM Resources, a utility based in Albuquerque, NM. Another investment, Minnesota-based Otter Tail Corporation (NASD: OTTR), provides electric power, as well manufacturing and health services.
The generous investment in energy is worth noting too, for reasons that were mentioned in the past. There is a lot to explore here, including the politics (pet charities in particular) and influence on public opinion.
Getting back to coverage in the media though, the Federal Communications Commission refuses to intervene with corporate control. Microsoft is reportedly keeping dossiers on journalists and inviting some of them for free trips, sometimes resulting daemonisation gigs that warp perceptions of a given situation. Microsoft makes decent use of enormous influence in trade journals. It’s virtually everywhere, but it’s taken for granted.
Looking back at events that were reported a decade ago, here is what you find. Not only praises are encouraged, but damnation of competing technologies, as the quote at the top reveals, is part of this routine. And then there’s gagging, silencing of unflattering coverage.
In three separate legal actions, Microsoft has been using the courts in an attempt to smoke out sources, challenge the first-amendment rights of writers and reporters, and chill press coverage and public disclosure of important information that it prefers remain secret.
Two of these cases have been conducted publicly, and one in secret. In early October, Microsoft subpoenaed the source materials of Dan Goodin, a reporter for the online news organization C/NET, and a hearing on the matter will take place next week. Appealing a lower court decision that denied its demand for source materials, Microsoft is still pursuing access to these materials from the authors of Competing on Internet Time, Harvard professor David Yoffie and MIT professor Michael Cusomano.
Not much has changed since then. At the moment, Microsoft battles the courts in a collusion case to prevent further disclosure of criminal material (internal E-mails) and occasionally we find it censoring or reprimanding the media, to this date. Trust gradually erodes not just because of commercialisation of reporting, but also because outside parties have vested interest; and they have no shame. █
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