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05.07.08

Alex Brown Again Attacks the ‘Standard of the People’ (Updated)

Posted in Europe, ISO, Standard at 11:29 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“I think ISO/IEC 26300 (ODF 1.0) can be compared to a neat house built on good foundations which is not finished; 29500 (OOXML) is a baroque cliffside castle replete with toppling towers, secret passages and ghosts: it is all too finished.”

Alex Brown

Peter Judge, over at ZDNet UK, continues to publish articles about Alex Brown‘s stubborn battle against ODF, which even Alex himself considers to be analogous to “a neat house built on good foundations”. Rob Weir continues to rebut as he last did yesterday while Bob Sutor highlights the fact that a few wealthy stakeholders get to vote ‘on behalf’ of the population as a whole, which is absurd.

Not everyone can participate or support every standards effort they believe has value. There are thousands of efforts but only so many people, hours, and money that can be applied.

Let’s say that you had some fixed number that you applied to your standards participation. I’m not saying you don’t, but humor me in this experiment. Suppose very simply that you could only participate in X standards organizations, Y technical committees, or spend Z dollars on membership fees, travel, salary, etc., for how you participate.

Remember what happened in Norway?

ISO standards for saleHow about the French president, who insisted on changing his nation's votes because errrrr… not because he's friends with Microsoft's former executives but because he tested OOXML for validation on his portable computer, then checked the 8,000+ pages describing OOXML (including comments and changes) and was immediately bemused. [sarcasm /].

Alex Brown seems to be a similar example because he’s promoting OOXML (e.g. for the British Library) while at the same time getting to make decisions about it in the BSI and ISO. The BSI, by the way, has just been sued. Are standards being decided on? Or are merely being sold, regardless of how poor, discriminatory, proprietary and inadequate the candidate is? After Microsoft’s malicious intervention, ISO deserves no less than a scrape-and-replace treatment.

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“The disparity of rules for PAS, Fast-Track and ISO committee generated standards is fast making ISO a laughing stock in IT circles. The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting “standardization by corporation”, something I have been fighting against for the 20 years I have served on ISO committees. I am glad to be retiring before the situation becomes impossible. I wish my colleagues every success for their future efforts, which I sincerely hope will not prove to be as wasted as I fear they could be.”

Martin Bryan, ISO
Former Convenor of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 (OOXML) WG1

Update: Watch Jelliffe [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9], Stokcolm’s [1, 2, 3, 4] blog, Alex Brown [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14], and Shill hAl [1, 2] all coming together in Rick’s blog (mind the comments). Talk about ‘groupies’. And they refer to us, OOXML critics, very dismissively as just “vocal blogs”. It sure looks like some people have joined a certain club. The dirty dance perhaps, truly an orgy of money and influence. What a sick world we live in.

“I think it’s worse. When people do bad things, they usually try to perfume it, even to themselves. And when they plan to do worse things, they spray and spray and spray to try to get everyone to agree that it isn’t as bad as it is.”

Pamela Joned, a couple of days ago

What Does the LGPLv3-Licensed OpenOffice.org Mean to Novell, Xandros, Linspire and Turbolinux?

Posted in Fork, GNU/Linux, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, OpenOffice, Turbolinux, Xandros at 11:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Stuck in 2007?

FSF GNU GPLv3As stressed many times before, IANAL, but based on the consensus of opinions in Groklaw, the GPLv3 is bound to bite companies that sold out to Microsoft in the rear. Several of these companies knew very well what they were getting into, or maybe they just weren’t concerned. Here is a lovely old quote from the CEO of Xandros: (highlighted in red)

Under the third version of the General Public License, expected to be published in final form this month by the Free Software Foundation, all such deals that were not inked by March 28 are forbidden. As a result, it would appear that Xandros will not be allowed to distribute open source code licensed under GPLv3 because of its relationship with Microsoft. Typaldos said he’s not concerned. “If you are a businessperson, you can’t worry about every eventuality.

Priceless. To quote another old article which was discussing Microsoft’s scam at the time:

Then Microsoft offers the carrot of legal absolution. “Come with us” they say “We will protect you and your customers from our lawsharks” they promise. The poor scared sods believe them and sign a piece of paper that they think will protect themselves from the “Big Brother”. This of course makes Microsoft very happy and fits right in with their divide and conqueror plans.

GNOME CalcSam Varghese was a little more blunt when he advised Andy Typaldos to start selling potatoes rather than selling out. In any event, what does the licence upgrade of OpenOffice.org mean to he likes of Xandros?

It is a good time to raise this question because OpenOffice 3.0, which adopted the third version of the GNU GPL, has just been released as public beta. You can find some more details here.

The OpenOffice.org Community is pleased to announce that the public beta release of OpenOffice.org 3.0 is now available. This beta release is made available to allow a broad user base to test and evaluate the next major version of OpenOffice.org, but is not recommended for production use at this stage.

The LGPLv3, especially in the context of Novell’s OpenOffice.org controversial ‘fork’ for SUSE Ballnux, was discussed before in [1, 2, 3]. Can Novell carry on doing what it does? If so, at what cost?

MySQL’s Mixed-Source Dilemma

Posted in Database, Finance, Free/Libre Software, GPL, Microsoft, Mono at 10:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It was probably a little hasty to say that MySQL remains open source (or Free software, with the GPL). That’s what many headlines state, but not so fast! As Matt Asay quickly pointed out, there is more to this story.

The core will always be 100 percent open source. The periphery…will not. Or might not. It depends.

Novell, which considers itself to be a “mixed -source” company, brings similar questions to mind. It already combines a lot of proprietary software for its clients. Then , consider some of the licensing issues that accompany its Microsoft deal. What about software patents? This possibility of dual-licensing no longer seems so far fetched. Will Novell take a similar route with SUSE Ballnux? Is it not doing this already? Here you have an analysis of dual-licensing as a tool for weakening or revoking the GPL. It’s worth noting because Novell betrayed the GPL more than once before.

Remember, less than 3 months later SUN announced MySQL acquisition.

This paints a summary of what could happen to a DL company even if nobody’s initial commitment is questioned.

* DL Company dies: what happens to the IP/trademarks/licenses?
* DL Company undergoes a change of control: what happens to the community?
* DL company sells/gives its open source interest to a third party…

Shouldn’t we have some sort of open source prenuptial agreement applying to DL companies and their communities?

In this particular context, think about control of projects like Mono or Moonlight and remember the lessons taken from Zimbra [1, 2]. When I corresponded with Marten a couple a weeks ago I was given the impression that they are still exploring possibilities of monetising MySQL a little more effectively.

Novell wants money, but trying to control GNU/Linux as a whole is not the way to go. It’s selfish and it’s harmful. There are other means, except support contracts, for extracting revenue from Free software, as Richard Stallman pointed out a week ago. Here is one new example of this:

Finally, do not expect anyone to do anything for free. Most groups wish to improve on their projects, but having “enough time” is always an issue. Be open to offering money, time, or resources in order to get your problem solved. Realize that for what you offer there may be a down side as well for the project.

Free hardware still has to be installed and properly setup. Money may be an issue because of foreign currency exchanges or because it complicates the individuals taxes. Offering people can be good, but realize that then the project will have to take the burden of training and answering questions.

Having good table manners is the key to working with open source projects.

This is also explained by Savio, who interprets and breaks down Marten’s explanation of the situation:

I’ve been thinking about this statement from Sun/MySQL’s Marten Mickos:

“There’s a difference between organizations that have more time than money and organizations that have more money than time.”

I coming to realize that OSS users split into three, not two, categories:

* A] An organization that has more time than money
* B] An organization that has more money than time but is used to getting what they need for free and is comfortable enough with OSS to rely on their own skills
* C] An organization that has more money than time

Making money from Free (libre) software needn’t involve making some of it proprietary. It totally beats the purpose and cause. It makes it non-Free software. Mindsets must evolve. Consider this good post from Matt Mullenweg for inspiration.

Related articles:

Quick Mention: Richard Stallman’s Latest Talk Available as High-Quality Video

Posted in FSF, GPL, Videos at 10:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNU Richard StallmanThis new talk is warmly recommended to all. As one who attended it, I can say that it was memorable and inspiring. Stallman touched on a lot of points, not just technology. A friend whom I brought, who has no prior experience with Free software, found it to be a very valuable lesson too.

If Even the Drug Industry Collaborates, Why Software Patents?

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 10:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The strongest arguments for patents (R&D in medicine) is further weakened

Back in March we provided a long list of examples where, for the sake of people’s lives and for faster research, companies decided to share their discoveries and collaborate. Withholding information means a/n (competitive) advantage to whom? What about the ethics of patents on surgical procedures? Patents can kill if they are permitted to be used broadly enough to cover stem cells and life-saving operations. In the case of mathematics they can also forbid programming, unless you’re affluent.

Here is some more new evidence of the adoption of open-source philosophy in the drug industry. [via Glyn Moody]

The Johns Hopkins Clinical Compound Screening Initiative is an open-source effort to collect and index more than 10,000 known medications and determine which of them are also effective against hundreds of low-profile, Third World killers, such as Chagas disease, cholera and leprosy. The library will function something like a Wikipedia of drug discovery, where scientists around the world can contribute to the database and even provide samples or screen drugs themselves, thereby saving millions of dollars on R&D.

Speaking of life and death situations, the coming death of software patents is said to be exaggerated. [via Digital Majority]

What with all the paranoia surrounding In re Bilski (on patentable subject matter) and In re Nujiten (on signal claims) and the demands of certain groups for an end to software patents (see http://endsoftpatents.org), one might think we were on the verge of software patent mortality.

[...]

Rather than try to solve these issues en masse, we settled for a good conversation with a friend from across the Atlantic, Paul Cole, a chartered patent agent, patent litigator, and law professor from the UK who has written and spoken widely on issues of software patents.

Here is a good new comment about it.

Software patents are good because they are a cheap weapon to get rid of small players.

As always, denial of this simple fact will rely on spin that contains words like “inventor” and “protection” (Microsoft does this too). This was debunked very nicely in this talk about software patents.

There are some other notable patent confrontations at the moments, but they address patents that are not related to software. Here’s the tiff of Ruckus Wireless and Netgear.

Ruckus Wireless has sued Netgear, alleging the networking vendor infringed its patents on technology for improving Wi-Fi performance and reliability.

[...]

Ruckus has a system for using antenna arrays to form and direct Wi-Fi signals over the best path at any given time. Ruckus said the technology is unique in the industry and the company has more than 70 patents granted or pending worldwide. Wi-Fi, a highly competitive field, has been a particularly litigious area of high-tech.

We will later give some more examples of the push against software patents. It’s a hot topic these days because merely all companies use software (and therefore suffer).

Software patent on rise

Links 07/05/2008: Yahoo-Microsoft Post Mortem, GNU/Linux Ultra-Portables Overview

Posted in News Roundup at 9:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Quick Mention: Novell Potty Calls the Kettle Black

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, SUN, Ubuntu, UNIX at 7:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“I’ve heard from Novell sales representatives that Microsoft sales executives have started calling the Suse Linux Enterprise Server coupons “royalty payments”"

Matt Asay, April 21st, 2008

The headline is just a game of words and nothing personal, but mind the following take on OpenSolaris, courtesy of OpenSUSE’s community manager:

Ultimately, I can’t help but think that the problem that Sun is trying to solve with OpenSolaris is not a technical one, but one of control. Specifically, the company is not ready to cede control over its operating system to the community at large, and so it is instead trying to build a community around OpenSolaris rather than joining the larger Linux effort.

Look who’s talking.

Novell too tries to control GNU/Linux using Mono and copyrights, as well as an exclusionary software patent deal that covers Mono, among other things.

Unless you’re from Novell (or one of Novell’s paying customers), avoid Mono at all costs. We’ve been through many other reasons for this before.

Herein we find yet another reason (among more recent ones [1, 2, 3, 4]) for Sun to keep its distance from Novell/SUSE and hopefully maintain a good relationship with companies like Canonical. Novell is with Microsoft now, working on its digital island to gain greater control over components of GNU/Linux distributions and offer exclusive coupons (Microsoft openly calls these “patent royalties” now) for these crucial components.

MS Novell

Mono Microsoft brain

Verdict: Microsoft’s OOXML is Not a Standard

Posted in ISO, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, Windows at 7:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

So says the definition of a standard

Rob Weir has taken a look at some semantics and considered again what it is that the world calls a “standard”:

So, it is a document, a written description, not an embodiment in the form of a product, that is standardized. Its aims are the “achievement of optimum degree of order” and “promotion of optimum community benefits”, and it is achieved through consensus and consolidation.

Unless this consensus is allowed to be ‘bought’ by a pack of coercing partners (sub-sub-population), that last condition is not met by OOXML.

Unless OOXML does not contain Microsoft-specific (Office- and Windows-specific) elements, that first condition cannot be met, either.

As for that bit in the middle, unless by “community” we refer to an isolated ecosystem (some government delegates might even say a "cult"), OOXML is none of the above.

OOXML is, to summarise it all, the antithesis of standards. It was called “Greatest Scam of Computing History” and the process surrounding it called “Brutal and Corrupt”. OOXML can still be yanked by ISO while the its ‘sibling’, the BSI, is already being sued. This is far from over. ISO should do the right thing.

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