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05.02.08

Links 02/05/2008: Inconsistent Yahoo Stories; Data Corruption Bugs in SPs of Windows XP and Vista

Posted in News Roundup at 11:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

An Open, Gentler Microsoft: The Best Illusion Only Novell Can Buy

Posted in Deception, Finance, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Steve Ballmer, Windows at 11:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell blinded by money

Image from Wikimedia

Movell and Nicrosoft
“Novell congratulates itself for snogging Microsoft” –The Register

Enthusiastic involvement and engagement with Microsoft by OpenSUSE’s lead was discussed here critically a couple of days back, especially due to the negative impacts of the Novell/Microsoft deal on OpenSUSE volunteers — the very same people that the community manager is supposed to invite and attract.

LinuxToday has some interesting comments about that too. Novell is not particularly popular among the many readers over there, at least based on the comments that are typically posted. The editors feel similarly. Here is one about Novell’s trust in Microsoft:

They still do/update “Get the Facts” with blatant lies and misinformation. They still play tricks to get their way, ISO-MSOOXML. They still strong arm PC OEMs as in forcing them to take the Vista pill cram it down consumers throats. They still oppose Linux anywhere it gains traction as in the Classmate PC deal where they came in and paid to have Windows installed after the laptops arrived with Linux. They have been going after the OLPC customers and they are purchasing customers for Silverlight because it is a lockin platform. No Jane, Moonlight is a joke and will never be fully compatible.

So why in the world would anyone think that Microsoft would play in the open source game? I’m sorry but only a moron would think they could get Microsoft to play along.

Microlinux Foundation?!?!?

As a timely reminder of the potentially negative impact of Novell inside the Linux Foundation [1, 2] consider this other headsup.

Novell has a seat on the board of the Linux Foundation, the foundation sponsoring Linus so that he’d be free to work on the Linux kernel. Yup, the same Novell from the ominous Microsoft-Nowell agreement related to Linux patenting. Do board seats have any odor?

It would not be impossible for Microsoft to at least attempt to join as well, arguing that it already runs some GNU/Linux servers. Remember Microsoft’s persistent attempts to join the Open Solutions Alliance, despite repeated rejections? Its former head has just jumped ship to another company.

Novell and Microsoft Busy Together While Adobe Battles Moonlight and Silverpatent [sic]

OOXML patent issue prompt

As already discussed in a previous post, Novell and Microsoft could take a little lesson from what Adobe did. Miguel’s blame-throwing does not help, especially if he continues in the same company with the same projects that bring benefit to Microsoft.

Adobe opens up Flash for the mobile world. A lesson for Microsoft

[...]

No side-deals to ensure a dearth of competition [link to Novell-type deal]. Maybe Microsoft could take a page from Adobe’s playbook. That is, if it wants to be relevant on the web.

Elephant in a Room of Gentlemen

In a separate new post it is now shown that either hypocrisy or ignorance leads to Microsoft disrespect for Free software.

Could it be, Mr. Ballmer, that you are classically overlooking a major opportunity for Microsoft because you simply don’t understand the open-source opportunity? Now would be a good time for a touch of humility and a smidgeon of good counsel from those around you.

As I told Matt Asay several times before, Steve Ballmer is a lost cause. But at least there are those mere chances of the man retiring or being pressured out the door. Among some recent articles of interest (starting with the most recent) consider:

1. If Ballmer bolts, who will lead Microsoft?

“Hey! Ho! Time for Ballmer to go,” a Wired.com headline proclaimed on April 29.

My rejoinder: “Hell, no. There are no Softies ready for a promo.”

2. Microsoft Should Fire Steve Ballmer, or Hire SuperNanny. Or Both.

What should happen is this: Ballmer should re-canvass Yahoo’s largest shareholders and ask what firm price in cash would get them on-board, and then offer it. No more futzing through middlemen bankers, just ask and deliver. I doubt this will happen — Ballmer is caught up among internal politics, his own increasing impotence, and childish Yahoo intransigence — so he is stuck and looking more and like someone who keeps threatening to ground his kids, but never does. As we have all learned from watching SuperNanny, the trouble is rarely with the kids; it’s almost always the nitwit parents.

Such is the case here, so my recipe for action? Fire Ballmer. Think how quickly things would change at Microsoft, and in this deal. And then hire SuperNanny and film some Microsoft meetings. I’d watch.

3. Steve Ballmer’s Nine Year Retirement Plan

Bill Gates is retiring from Microsoft this year and the exec he left in charge, Steve Ballmer, is ready to leave in nine years.

4. Does Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer need an intervention?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer may need an intervention before this obsession with Yahoo–which is really about an obsession over Google–spins out of control.

5. Is the Sleeping Giant Finally Waking Up, or Just Rolling Over?

Like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, Ballmer seems to be preoccupied with GOOG while MSFT melts down – or at least while the first embers, which had already been apparent for years, now threaten to turn into something much more serious. Hence the recent ill-advised and fiscally irresponsible YHOO bid.

6. Microsoft FY08Q3 Results

[Microsoft employee:] Mr. Ballmer engaged in some good bluster Wednesday, saying that Microsoft could just walk away from the deal. Please, please, walk on by. I haven’t talked to every employee at Microsoft, of course, but everyone that I’ve talked to believes this is a bad idea. And that’s not hand wringing.

7. Is Microsoft’s Ballmer a bad dealmaker?

The bid for Yahoo that helped sink the market value of Microsoft (MSFT) by more than $20 billion in one day in early February is one of the latest in a string of acquisitions and major investment stakes Microsoft has initiated since CEO Steve Ballmer took over in 2000 that have been punished by the stock market as misjudgments.

“Some learn more quickly than others. It doesn’t look like Mr. Ballmer is learning that quickly,” says UCLA Anderson School of Management professor Richard Roll, lead author of a study that analyzed 11 years of merger and acquisition announcements by 2,589 CEOs at 1,740 U.S. companies.

8. UCLA Professor: Microsoft CEO Ballmer a ‘hubris-infected serial acquirer’ with dismal track record

9. Bear Stearns’s Advice To Microsoft

Co-founder Bill Gates can’t be thrilled with watching Ballmer drain the company’s cash. He didn’t get so rich by buying at the top of the market.

10. Will Deal-Making Chiefs Ever Learn? Maybe.

Mr. Ballmer was considered a “hubris-infected” chief under the study’s definition, because of Microsoft’s value-destroying deal to invest $100 million in Vertical Net in 2000. He followed up with deals for Intertainer and BroadBand Office, which were also followed by below-market returns for shareholders.

In all, Mr. Ballmer made 15 deals between 2000 and 2002, with an average market-adjusted shareholder return of negative 4.59 percent.

11. Mergers of Corporate Giants Not Likely to Benefit Consumers

“There is little if any evidence that increased corporate size in already-large national and international firms produces greater technological innovation,” writes Elizabeth Sanders, Professor of Government at Cornell University. “To the contrary, it probably leads to less, given lower competitive pressures, and the starving of research in debt-burdened companies.”

12. Can Ballmer pilot Microsoft through a changed tech course?

Can Ballmer steer Microsoft out of the roadblocks?

The highly competitive Ballmer, you might say, is the man who cried “nice.” And like the boy who cried wolf, no one believed him. The software giant’s attempt to make nice with much of the developer community by opening up its APIs for key products was greeted with a jaundiced eye by regulators at the powerful European Commission.

However sincere Microsoft’s stated change of heart may be, it is becoming clearer and clearer that Microsoft — which knows it has to change — is still struggling to find a fresher path.

What’s a poor CEO to do?

Now that Bill Gates has effectively left the building, Ballmer is free to transform Microsoft, a job made all the tougher by the enormous reservoir of mistrust the company has engendered over the years.

Case in point: the open APIs. Microsoft will give its competitors free access to the application programming interfaces and protocols it uses to ensure interoperability between its own products, a very significant change in business practices.

13. Microsoft Profit Drops; Forecast May Miss Estimates

The world’s biggest software maker said sales of Windows for PCs sank 24 percent and revenue from its online advertising unit came in at the low end of its projections. Microsoft’s report contrasted with positive comments from chipmaker Intel Corp. and computer company International Business Machines Corp.

[...]

Microsoft declined $1.60 to $30.20 in extended trading after closing at $31.80 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The stock has fallen 11 percent this year.

14. Microsoft says to borrow money for Yahoo deal

Microsoft Corp said on Monday it may borrow money for the first time in its history to fund a portion of its $44.6 billion unsolicited offer for Yahoo Inc.

15. Microsoft’s DreamSpark – What a Giveaway

The rest of the $44.6bn (£22.3bn) deal would be financed with an undisclosed amount of credit.

What that means is that it must squeeze as much money as it can from its operations to fund that debt and still pay dividends to shareholders, who will be looking for some payback from the Yahoo takeover. Giving away software is the last thing it would want to do in these circumstances, and the DreamSpark announcement shows just how worried it is about the future.

This hopefully shed some light on Microsoft’s situation.

Steve Ballmer rides SUSE

Updates on Microsoft OOXML in the UK and South Africa

Posted in Africa, Antitrust, Courtroom, Europe, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 10:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

flickr:2400443777

Reactions to the lawsuit against the secretive BSI are starting to surface.

That the BSI, long the quintessence of standards in this country, should see itself dragged through the courts over something as apparently minor as a document standard, is truly an extraordinary development. But of course it is not a minor issue: at stake is the question of how something as central to technology and business as standards should be decided. Unless people have complete confidence in the process, the end-result will be deemed worthless – truly, little more than a “rubber-stamping”.

A good start along the road of bolstering confidence would be making the standards-setting process completely open, which currently it is not. The practice of voting on an open standard behind closed doors borders is simply not justifiable in the age of the Internet and of increasing openness in general. And as the UK government loves to remind us: if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear….

For Microsoft’s abuses against openness there may already be a series of trials (more information here and here where you can get the latest).

It’s just the beginning and it’s more important than most people realise. The EC won’t be impressed by the situation in South Africa, either. Glyn Moody utters the following words about the latest development:

And which bunch of geniuses put this nonesense together? Why, our old friends CompTIA, which has by now given up any pretense of offering objective comment on the computer market, and is simply a vehicle for crude Microsoft propaganda.

The propaganda in South Africa isn’t just being orchestrated by those "you are well paid, shut up" hires from CompTIA. It’s not exclusive. Here is another new article from South Africa. Words like “genuine”, “protect”, “pirates” and “piracy” are used, despite the fact that Microsoft admitted that it needs people to ‘steal’ its software [1, 2].

The daemonising headline says it all. This almost makes you believe that Microsoft was attacked by an unfriendly nation from the southern seas using large boats, swords, canons and maybe and modern-age aircraft carriers.

Microsoft tackles South African pirates

[...]

“The crackdowns are part of Microsoft’s global Genuine Software Initiative, which aims to help protect legitimate distributors and customers from the effects of software piracy,” said Mark Reynolds, Microsoft South Africa partner executive.

Pirates? Pirates! Maybe if they say it often enough, then people will sympathise with the very same company whose founder speaks of getting people "sort of addicted".

Is Microsoft trying even harder to push South Africa towards GNU/Linux and ODF? Bad timing. Moreover, by its own admission, Microsoft benefits from sharing of its software without a licence. Who is the company kidding?

Speaking of software licenses and their imaginary value, only a couple of days since we last discussed it Microsoft appears to be escaping some taxation again (the typical location being Ireland, as seen before).

The main Irish subsidiary of software giant Microsoft slashed the dividend paid to its US parent to €1.48bn last year despite turnover at the Dublin-based European headquarters climbing 12.5pc to €10.65bn.

The dividend payment is roughly half the almost €3bn the Irish subsidiary remitted to the US headquarters in the financial year ended June 2006.

Who is the “pirate” now?

"Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr... ogance"

Selling a Proprietary GNU/Linux by Spitting in Its Pool of Life

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, Red Hat, Ubuntu, Virtualisation, Xen at 10:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Always remember where you came from

Novell and Microsoft piss on GNU/Linux codebase

The story of Novell is a rather complicated one because the company mocks the very same product which it tries to sell. Novell uses GNU/Linux FUD to market itself, especially by boasting Microsoft’s software patent ‘protection’ as its advantage, added value, distinguisher (the classic decoy being "interoperability"). The same goes for Mono, which it controls even using copyrights.

It was rather disappointing to find industry leaders such as Wind River and MontaVista using similar techniques, only without patents or Microsoft.

Embedded Linux is the most hyped embedded operating system ever. It is promoted as inexpensive, high quality, high productivity, reliable, widely available, and well supported. It is none of these things, as two of its greatest proponents have recently pointed out. Wind River Systems and MontaVista Software, companies that each describe themselves as “the leader” in embedded Linux, have both initiated marketing campaigns touting the horrors of using embedded Linux.

In the January/February 2008 issue of Military Embedded Systems, Jim Ready, the founder and chief technology officer of MontaVista, says “a [develop-it-yourself] embedded Linux distribution [is] a significant investment (read ‘big bucks’) in time and money.” He estimates the three-year cost of a large scale embedded Linux deployment at $19,623,750.

I spoke to Jim Ready on the phone some months ago and I’m surprised he could 'pull a Palamida' or even 'pull a Black Duck' (or whatever company du jour spreads uncertainty about FOSS and GNU/Linux in the same way that anti-virus vendors exaggerate about the dangers of using Windows and overplay the potency of their security add-ons).

The article above continues however; it sheds light on what we might really be seeing here.

It’s more likely that Wind River and MontaVista are telling it as they see it–for marketing purposes. Marketing usually puts forward a problem (bad breath, headaches) that many potential customers will relate to, and then promises a solution. Why would Wind River and MontaVista put forward the problem of embedded Linux nightmares in marketing materials unless they think many potential customers have experienced those nightmares and need a solution?

“In this case, rather proprietary versions of (GNU/)Linux get on their high horses and badmouth their free (libre) equivalents…”In a Free software industry it’s important not to exclude competitors unless they threaten the freedom of the software. In this case, rather proprietary versions of (GNU/)Linux get on their high horses and badmouth their free (libre) equivalents — the very same source owing to which they were made possible in the first place. Neither shame nor sense of guilt?

In other semi-related news, the company which grew and thrived in a community of volunteers continues to get closer to its new and generous paymasters. We told the XenSource story several times before, e.g. here. Imagine the ‘surprise’ accompanying news where this company’s CTO, Simon Crosby, hails the “Citrix-Microsoft alliance as increasing virtualization choice” (versus VMWare). It’s almost as though XenSource is now a tool of Microsoft, Citrix, Novell and the rest of that small alliance which wants Red Hat, Ubuntu, Oracle, Sun and VMWare toppled.

Quick Mention: Microsoft Gets Stung by Software Patents Again

Posted in Courtroom, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 9:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“What goes around comes around”

Here we go. It is happening again, hopefully contributing to Microsoft’s realisation that owning mathematics can harm the company as much as it can help is fight Free software, using those paid-for new laws.

This time it’s RoundTable which strikes first.

Microsoft Hit With Patent Suit Over RoundTable

[...]

According to FullView, Microsoft became aware of the relevant patent or predecessor patents in 2003, before the patent was actually awarded to FullView in March 2004. Microsoft in fact cites the patent, number 6,700,711, in a patent application it filed in 2002.

More such unpleasant incidents will hopefully come in Microsoft’s direction in the future. Only this way the company might learn.

Also of interest, consider this older gem from Richard Stallman about WIPO [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9] and other establishments that essentially act as fronts for their funding sources. [found in FSDaily]

Thorough discussion of enclosure must consider the international institutions that impose it. The International Monetary Fund is a well-known example; its “rescue” agreements attack the intellectual commons through “user fees” for public school, which prevent millions of poor children from attending. A less well-known culprit is the World Intellectual Property Organization, which is dominated by representatives of the businesses that own copyrights, patents, and trademarks. It seeks to impose ever-greater restrictions on a broad range of human knowledge and culture.

It continues to amaze just how much politics and economics intervene (interfere even) with science and technology.

Quick Mention: Novell -> Peerless -> Kyocera-Mita -> Microsoft

Posted in Deals, Kyocera Mita, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 5:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Minor observation relating to corporate relationships

Among the companies which foolishly signed a software patent deal with Microsoft we have Novell and Kyocera-Mita. Both deals involved Linux specifically. We previously highlighted a connection between Kyocera-Mita and Novell and later showed how Sanyo potentially fits into this picture. Another connection between Kyocera-Mita and Novell — or at least some more clues — can be found in this new press release that announces imaginary property being passed from Peerless to Kyocera-Mita, namely:

Peerless also maintains strategic partnerships with Adobe and Novell. For more information, visit Peerless’ web site at www.peerless.com.

[...]

Such risks and uncertainties include, among other things, changing competitive and market conditions, our reliance on certain OEM customers for significant portions of our revenues, the sufficiency of our capital resources, any adverse change in our relationship with Adobe Systems Incorporated and/or Novell, Inc, increased competition both from in-house OEM products and low cost offshore competitors, the impact of Microsoft’s Vista(TM) operating system, reduced demand for our existing monochrome technologies or other products, the rapid changes taking place in the emerging color print devices markets, our ability to realize contract backlog, our ability to identify new customers or place our technology in a broader base of products, our ability to leverage core competencies and find product segments that blend well with our core business, our ability to successfully enter new software application sectors, our ability to maintain our profit objectives and create compelling margins, the tenure of the competitive advantage of our old and new technologies, our reliance on block licensing, our ability to develop and market our advanced devices and software, the validity and protection of our intellectual property rights, risks associated with international business activities, our reliance on key personnel and our board of directors and our ability to execute our business plan and strategic partnering transactions.

This is nothing of great significance, but we have it recorded in case it will come handy in the future.

Links 02/05/2008: GNU/Linux Laptops in India, gNewSense 2.0 Beta, Yahoo and Google Affairs

Posted in News Roundup at 1:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

What Might Be Behind OpenBSD’s Attack Against Peers

Posted in Antitrust, BSD, FSF, FUD, GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft at 1:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.”

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO

Yesterday I attended an inspirational talk from Richard Stallman that contained many familiar bits, a healthy dose of humour and an interesting questions session, which touched on the AGPL, GPLv3 and other currently-debated topics that are more about the present than about the past.

Stallman’s vision is a very scary one to those who have the most to lose. It puts in jeopardy many of those who suppress and exploit the most, but again, this philosophical discussion needn’t be repeated. What’s more concerning are the personal attacks against Stallman, some of which are intended to distract people from his important message and place focus on things like appearance, politics and various forms of disinformation, including deliberate misinterpretation of Stallman’s jokes. We covered some examples of this before and so has Bruce Perens (also see this response from the OSC).

“We all share common goals, but ways of achieving these goals vary somewhat.”In the news digests that we post in this Web site we happen to include announcements and reports about the BSDs because they really ought to be our friends. We all share common goals, but ways of achieving these goals vary somewhat. There is hardly any justification for hostility. So why do we see people fighting?

Theo de Raadt has a good sense of humour and he is very outspoken. He deserves credit for pressuring insidious companies like Intel to open up properly. As you may or may not know, OpenBSD 4.3 has just been released, but Theo is once again taking a shot at Stallman. He did this recently also. Why, Theo, why? Is he once again trying to receive greater publicity by mocking someone whose licence is more widely used?

Several people who are very familiar with BSD seem to suggest that some certain company in north-west America might — just might — be using one rival project against the other. This doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy or that an agreement exists, but such things can be done more gently with subtle moves such as an invitation for a visit or a meeting with Microsoft-sympathetic figures, poisonous messages ‘injected’ into a mailing list, or anything else that incites hostility and encourages division.

Some people would say that all of this is far-fetched and rather silly. Fine. That’s acceptable. This is only a speculation. However, it would be foolish to ignore some things that we are already aware of, such as this ‘smoking gun’ internal document from Microsoft which served as an antitrust exhibit in Comes vs Microsoft (Iowa). The court exhibit [PDF], whose authenticity has already been confirmed, is available from at least 3 sites which hold a mirror. It’s a very large item to explore, so to quote one fragment of relevance (from Microsoft’s own mouth):

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.

Yes, Microsoft wants to “find ways to split ‘em apart.” Microsoft needs to do some intelligence work to identify “sources of tension between allies.” BSD versus GPL, anyone?

For more context see this overview of "The Slog", along the marketing “road trip” Microsoft refers to as “Jihad” (holy war). It has been seen many times before (even by myself, e.g. in USENET) that one common technique used by Mucnhkins is to divide people who share common goals.

Sometimes, in order to disguise or reduce suspicion, fake accounts and names are created whose character and postings are made solely for the purpose of defending one half of the crowd that supports Free software and attacking the other half of the very same crowd. Elevation of tensions is the purpose. Microsoft makes ‘civil wars’ beyond ‘enemy lines’ [1, 2]. Militaries use similar tactics and some nations go as far as providing physical ammunition for one country to devastate another.

Disclaimer: I like BSD and I use some BSD-licensed software. The purpose of this post is to make friends, not accusations.

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