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05.12.08

Links 12/05/2008: GNU/Linux Laptops Introduced and Reviewed; Fedora 9 Leaked, Receives DWW Rave

Posted in News Roundup at 12:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux Laptops

Fedora & Red Hat

Java

Free Software

Mr. Softee Does Them Ol’ Tricks…

Microsoft Failures Du Jour

Microsoft-Yahoo-Google

Leftovers

Note: if you dislike this new format of “Links”, please shout out.

Links 12/05/2008: GNU/Linux in Education, Finnish Award for Ubuntu

Posted in News Roundup at 1:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Education

Information and Access

Success Stories

GNU/Linux Miscellany

Ubuntu

Microsoft: Hero in Its Own Mind

Posted in Asia, Deception, Microsoft, Open XML at 1:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“People everywhere love Windows.”

Bill Gates

“There are people who don’t like capitalism, and people who don’t like PCs. But there’s no-one who likes the PC who doesn’t like Microsoft.”

Bill Gates

A couple of days ago we mentioned concerns in the US about China's development of its own standards in isolation (i.e. Microsoft style, because great connected minds think alike). Andy Updegrove has posted a link to this good article.

The United States warned China Thursday that it risked “technological isolation” for developing unique technical standards of its own that also are shutting out foreign competition.

“…the choice of names like “Open XML” is no coincidence; it’s nothing but a mastery of deception.”Going by the same type of logic but without the geographical discrimination, shouldn’t the United States also warn about Microsoft in the same way that Europe already does, sometimes comparing it (in private) to a “Scientology cult”? The important point to be made here perhaps is that Microsoft projects its own beliefs onto other people, who can no longer see anything wrong. It’s a case of hypocrisy.

As we explained before, the choice of names like “Open XML” is no coincidence; it’s nothing but a mastery of deception [1, 2, 3, 4]. Microsoft employees were tamed to believe their company’s own lies, which transcend doors and penetrate other people’s heads to form false perceptions. And here you have another fine illustration of cases where this deception works.

This is doubtless happening all over the place in science, which means that many simply forget that there are alternatives to Microsoft’s products. Instead – quite understandably – they concentrate on the science. But what this implies is that however open that science may be, however much it pushes forward open access and open data, say, its roots are likely remain in the arid soil of closed source, and that Microsoft’s money has the effect of co-opting supporters of these other kinds of openness in its own battle against the foundational openness of free software.

A lot comes to mind at the sight of blind acceptance, including shameless deniers from Microsoft and ISO. Last night, a reader sent us a somewhat relevant old link that you might find interesting in this context. It’s about Microsoft’s attempts to rewrite history.

On October 1, 2004, at an appearance at the Computer History Museum in northern California, someone asked Bill Gates about a possible threat from Linux and Gates replied: “Microsoft has had competitors in the past. It’s a good thing we have museums to document this stuff.”

But during the frantic days of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. MICROSOFT CORPORATION, Defendant, Mr. Gate’s employees at Microsoft corporation put together an argument for the court that made a tiny group of companies look like a threat – even a competitor.

[...]

Linux advocates believe Microsoft employees and contractors disrupt forums and discussion groups. They believe that Microsoft advocates use fictitious names to post unfavorable comments about Linux. They refer to people who may do that as “astroturfers”.

[...]

Lord Acton, a British historian of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries made an observation that a person’s sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases. He’s quoted as saying, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Is that a true statement for all people or does it tend to generalize? I don’t really know the answer. It somehow feels right.

I have a lack of trust in our current Administration’s ability to regulate Microsoft. In fact, I’m concerned that a lack of motivation and/or interest exists to protect us from Microsoft’s monopolistic grip. I don’t know from where the resources would come to investigate them in the civil sector. Microsoft just doesn’t appear as a priority in the administration’s agenda.

I believe that the US has slipped technologically in the last five years as investment in start-ups has slowed and our technologist have migrated to other professions. I lay the blame on our government’s inability to show the fortitude to stop monopolies from thwarting innovation. Hopefully this article will provide some incentive for someone to take a look at how one company could change the internal landscape of the Internet and distort history.

Will the world remember what a corrupt journey Microsoft’s OOXML has been? Or will corporate media control wipe out all traces of the truth?

flickr:2400443777

Intellectual Monopolies: From Microsoft Back Stabbing to Software Patents from the Back Door

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents at 12:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Have an Orange, What’s in Your Wallet?”

Earlier on we mentioned the Europe-based Blender and recently we also mentioned Microsoft's role in pushing for software patents in Europe, using ‘proxies’ as large as the United States government. You may be interested in the following perspective on the latest Blender story.

The Image below was created a few years ago to raise awareness about the EU software patent laws sponsored by Microsoft that threatened open source projects such as Blender. Fortunately the software patent directive was rejected but the Microsoft continues to aggressively lobby governments abroad and apply for software patents in the European Union…

The image included in the above says it all really. Microsoft is merely trying to sneak into bed with its rivals and then exploit them. It wants a project like Blender to implement the software patents-encumbered OOXML while at the same time pushing for software patents in Europe. It’s like feeding someone a rotten/poisonous orange and then stealing his/her wallet. Has Microsoft no shame or guilt? Does it try to insult the intelligence of its rivals?

Software Patents by Intuition of Greed

Digital Majority has just dug up an interesting and timely old quote.

In 2000 Tauchert spoke open about the commercial benefit of the patent system for patent examiners and the lack of need for economic analysis.

[...]

Harmut Pilch: Is it really appropriate to make software patentable, without conducting a systematic study of the economical effects of such a change first.

Tauchert, DPMA: Absolutely. We don’t need economic studies. The reality speaks for itself. The market already made its judgement. We receive every year thousands of applications for software patents and our patent system is profitable. It feeds without state subsidies 20 000 patent specialists.

Intellectual Monopolies, Part Deux

This is not directly related to the above, but consider the economic impact of licensing, which is bound only to punish and suppress entrants, or those at the bottom. [via Glyn Moody]

It is a damn shame that we no longer think of the public domain as an option that is attractive. It’s a sign of the victory of the content holders that the free licensing movements work against that something without a license – something that is truly free, not just just free “as in” – is somehow thought to be worse. We’ve bought into their games if we allow the public domain to be defined as the BSD. The idea of the public domain has been subjected to continuous erosion thanks to both the big content companies and our own movements, to the point where we think freedom only comes in a contract.

A good parable or at least an explanation of the difference between the GPL and the BSD license(s) revolves around the issue of sustainability. The GPL strives to ensure that Freedom is spread and sustained, whereas the BSD is relatively lenient or indifferent in that regard (it grants the freedom of choice). Each licence has its merit and the “free” probably has different meanings (not just gratis versus libre).

Not particularly software-related is the following article [via FSDaily], which nonetheless speaks of the effects of issues such as the above on society as a whole. This raises the ethical questions around licences and what they are intended to achieve.

As a matter of fact, in virtue of our dependent condition and the profound inequalities that mark Brazil, we experience deeply all the problems related to present day science and technology in a most extreme way; here the private appropriation of the fruits of research by corporations has a devastating impact on the majority of the population, who are marginalized by the market – reinforcing the importance of the defense of science as a public good.

Why can’t companies like Novell and Microsoft ever realise their impact on competition and society as whole? Being well-established names, they probably just don’t care. Occasionally showing us those crocodile tears is the most they bother to do. And they keep hoarding software patents.

“Don’t encourage new, cross-platform Java classes, especially don’t help get great Win 32 implementations written/deployed. (..) Do encourage fragmentation of the Java classlib space.”

Ben Slivka, Microsoft

Microsoft to FOSS Poster Child: Come And Join Hands with Us

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Open XML, Windows at 12:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Some things should only work on Windows, some things work cross-platform…”

Steve Ballmer, 2007

Remember ThinkFree? There are many situations where Microsoft approaches or acquires projects to ensure it can successfully exclude competitors and make third-party software developers (including their end users) more Microsoft-dependent. Watch what Microsoft is up to with Bldender at the moment. Blender is a FOSS poster child.

Microsoft has just approached the Blender guys, and I would assume have or will approach other FOSS projects since we learn that Microsoft has assigned a guy to work with Open Source projects, with a request for information on how to make Blender run better on Windows.

[...]

Get it? They view everything as a battle. “All Open Source innovation” means to him, I gather, that Windows runs the applications so well, the GNU/Linux operating system dies off. Who needs it? That’s how they think, because they don’t grasp any purpose to freedom for the code or for the end user. If you do, please watch out. The OOXML saga stands as a perfect example of how Microsoft plays to win, by hook or by crook. It is a “standard” that only Microsoft can fully use. That’s not openness to me.

Nothing has changed. Microsoft believes it can just buy people’s souls — buying them away from its #1 competitor. Watch out for those who possibly enable Microsoft to achieve this. Watch out, Blender developers.

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