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05.25.08

When Technology Meets Politics

Posted in Asia, Europe, Finance, Microsoft, Open XML at 11:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Because the world isn’t built from separate insular blocks

Incentives that are passed or exchanged with governments in order to promote agenda would be nothing new. In some cases, this is how countries are run. This does not just happen in technology and no particular company is unique. Motives play a great role in this game of money, power, and sometime charity (such as those strategic endowments from the Microsoft Fundation [sic]). Many politicians have what’s referred to as “pet charities”.

We very recently dealt with the situation in Hungary. An egg thrower drew global attention to what actually happened there.

There is also the memorable blackmailing incident in Denmark, which is just one among many similar examples (beyond the scope of this post).

Yesterday we mentioned the Czech Republic, too.

“Many politicians have what’s referred to as “pet charities”.”Then, there are those dumping crusades too — the ones whose purpose is to get young adults ‘addicted’ to Microsoft software [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. And who could ever forget Microsoft offering ‘charity’ to India through tens of thousands of non-profits that were shortly afterwards used as pressure groups, calling for endorsement and/or adoption of OOXML using en masse letter bombardment (something similar happened in Denmark and in Singapore, to name a few countries). Opposition to this be damned (and bullied)!

But hey, let’s just give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt. It has done so much to earn our trust, hasn’t it?

No?

Well, take a look at another interesting pattern that’s seen across Europe at the moment.

Microsoft has just launched a program called OnMyWay, by which Microsoft will offer training and financial help to young people.

[...]

I have a working theory for your consideration. I noticed something striking. While the ads are being run so far only in those four countries, and it’s supposed to be a global branding campaign, if you look at who is on the list of those who have gotten help from the program already, you see groups from the UK, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland and Italy. I took a look at how each country on this list voted on OOXML in March.

The Czech Republic, the UK, Germany, Denmark, Finland and Norway all voted to approve OOXML.

This was a change for each of them. In September, the Czech Republic, the UK, Denmark, and Norway had voted to disapprove, so this was a change in Microsoft’s favor. Finland abstained in September, and it voted to approve in March as well.

It is worth keeping an eye on which direction money flows in. Think along the lines of “reward and punishment,” which Mary Jo Foley told me is a game Microsoft plays. Always ask questions about the award of benefits. When? And why? Bureaucracy and timing are key. Align dates. Discover the relationship between those who are involved.

“Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.”

Richard Stallman

Related posts:

Links 25/05/2008: Free Software Security and Some Distro Reviews

Posted in News Roundup at 12:46 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

  • Practical Linux home security

    Indeed, some banks have even been looking into Linux Live CDs for their customers to use. In this circumstance, Internet banking users would boot their computer from the Linux CD and then perform their online banking within a Linux environment. If you already use Linux then this is not really necessary, but it is a testament to the perception of the security and safety Linux offers end users over Microsoft Windows.

  • A TA Tiny Look at TinyMe 2008.0

    While we’re all waiting for PCLOS 2008 to be released, we were treated to a kissing cousin yesterday with the release of TinyMe 2008.0. It’s a small lightweight distro featuring the LXDE desktop with lots of handy apps. I thought I’d take it for a little test run this evening to see what it might be like.

  • Trying Ubuntu 8.04

    Overall, I am impressed. The system install, adding software, getting things configured, and getting started using the new setup was very quick and easy. I think just about anybody could do it. Having recently struggled through trying to get Windows 2003 servers working properly, Linux definitely beats Windows, and I would not have any trouble at all recommending Ubuntu to anybody.

  • No Windows? Use Linux, Intel Macs for PC Gaming with CrossOver
  • Ubuntu – On The Shoulders of Giants

F/OSS

Pondering Novell Mono and DRM

Posted in DRM, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, SLES/SLED at 12:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell’s chief booster in Linux Magazine appears to be pushing Mono a little further at the moment, either for the sake of Microsoft Linux.NET©, or maybe just innocently enough because he likes it.

Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier takes Banshee’s 1.0 alpha for a spin to see if it can handle the competition. Verdict? Banshee stacks up with the best of them for media playback.

This might bring some old issues back to mind.

With Moonlight striving to be feature-compatible w.r.t. Silverlight, one has to wonder when — not if — Microsoft DRM will enter the Mono universe and maybe intrude programs like Banshee too. We pondered these possibilities before because if it ever materialises, then we may find ourselves handling the toxic combination of DRM and software patents, which Richard Stallman persistently warns about, including in this new interview:

Kichu Mubarak: What according to you are the largest challenges faced by Free software movement?

RMS says: “The biggest threat comes from laws that prohibit distribution of certain free software. Some countries have laws prohibiting software that enables users to overcome Digital Restrictions Management. Some countries allow software techniques and structures to be patented. Both of those laws have the effect of censoring free software.

Remember that Microsoft admits loving DRM. Not only this; it fights for it, along with partners. By association, needn’t Novell learn to love it too? If not sooner, then later. Why is it that everyone seems asleep at the wheel?

“In this business, by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late to save yourself. Unless you’re running scared all the time, you’re gone.”

Bill Gates

Related posts on DRM:

Microsoft ‘Embraces’ ODF: The Danger of an Inside Job Revisited

Posted in Free/Libre Software, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 12:10 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“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

This is not our own assessment, so readers are encouraged to consider the findings separately and then judge for themselves. According to Groklaw, there are signs that ‘Agent’ Alex [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21] and ‘Agent’ Patrick [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] may be involved in increasing Microsoft’s influence inside ODF (and yes, we have lost faith in both individuals, due to a pattern of deeds and not based on prejudice). We do not distance ourselves from this view, but we share what was found because it supports a previous assertion and warning (mind the latter part about ECMA’s intervention).

The Embrace, Extend, Extinguish of ODF Begins?

[...]

If this is who is steering ODF in OASIS, I’m extremely worried. And if there is a secret working group rewriting the directives, while Microsoft and Alex Brown both say they want ODF transferred to ISO for ongoing maintenance, I’d say the Embrace, Extend, Extinguish of ODF has officially begun.

Something that was posted here a few days ago was also sent to GL, so consider the following, which closes another loop:

Oh, by the way. Remember how the Czech Republic supported OOXML with all its might and main, changing from Disapprove in September to Approve after the BRM?

[...]

Guess what just happened according to Dow Jones?

The Czech government and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) signed a cooperation accord Thursday on licensing and supply….

Deputy Interior Minister Zdenek Zajicek said the arrangement would save the government about EUR28 million.

Interesting, indeed. When we posted this here we pointed out very quickly that the government was willfully locking itself in to Microsoft.

Another side of the fence already dismisses criticism of Microsoft’s moves and other such motives. [via Andy Updegrove]

Microsoft’s move to support ODF now leaves very little reasonable ground for such opponents: those who are determined will surely be forced further into extremity. Some residual shrieks that Microsoft is trying to “extend and embrace” may linger, or maybe there will be mutterings that Microsoft are “poisoning the well” – but in the end these will be tired mantras that count for little – whether Microsoft is playing fair with their formats will become a testable fact. Religious arguments will not survive in that arena.

From Microsoft’s paid Wikipedia editor:

While I welcome the move [by Microsoft], my regular readers will know I that I think partisan participation in standards bodies (i.e. where one mob actively blocks the technical requirements of another mob on the grounds “I don’t want to advantage my competitors”) is untenable for a standards body. That there is a significant danger that this attitude will prevail can be seen from the response of (my fanboys) the ODF Alliance Marino Marcich with its talk of “governments will continue to adopt a ‘buyer beware’ attitude” and so on. It will be a challenge for companies who have made “open” a codeword for “anti-Microsoft” to figure out a new marketing position: but where you get “open” people running public conferences on openness under Chatham House secrecy rule and sending emails threatening legal consequences to committee experts if they dare not follow the corporate line, I don’t have high expectations. The word “openness” has become like the “war on terror”: don’t look at the details or what is actually being done too closely!

Actually, Microsoft is among the culprits. We noted this recently. Jason Matusow almost joked about how much the word “open” can be bent (slanted and abused).

Old FUD Pattern Makes Epic Comeback

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, FUD, Microsoft, Office Suites at 11:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A reader has just sent us a gentle warning about what Microsoft appears to be doing at the moment to suppress adoption of Free software. This is separate from the most recent vapourware announcement [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Here is what he writes:

FYI we’re seeing another round of the 1990′s support FUD being disseminated. e.g. [this new one]”

“In our risk assessment, we said we can go open source and the software is free, but how are we going to support it?”

“That is probably one FUD bit that will be used to market MSO2007, in conjunction with vague, unspecified promised, of ODF support without assurance of compliance or of an estimated delivery date.

“There’s also a bit of amnesia about the long established role FOSS has had…”“Time to point out that there are loads of companies, locally, nationally and internationally to provide support for any many of FOSS application, system, network or a combination.

“Time also to point out that in general, FOSS is less complex to use and maintain. Now FOSS is more or less mainstream even on desktops. (Been there for a while on workstations.) You can go to many OEMs and get FOSS systems.

“There’s also a bit of amnesia about the long established role FOSS has had in being the foundation of the The Internet, the WWW, and e-Commerce in general.”

Links 25/05/2008: More Linux Phones and Reviews; O’Reilly Compares MicroHoo Obsession to ‘Penis Envy’

Posted in News Roundup at 4:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Steve Ballmer won’t appreciate this analogy…

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Musix, FreeNAS, VMKnoppix, Big Linux and Ultimate have just had new releases.

F/OSS

Microsoft

  • MicroHoo: corporate penis envy?

    My advice to Microsoft: outsource your search to Google too!

    [...]

    Fighting over search is a bit like the Free Software Foundation re-implementing cat, ls, sort, and all the other Unix utilities that were already available in the Berkeley distributions of Unix. The real problem was solved by someone outside the FSF, when Linux Torvalds wrote a kernel, a missing piece that became the gravitational center of Linux, the center around which all of the other projects could coalesce, which made them more valuable not by competing with them but by completing them.

  • Vista Called as Vulnerable as Predecessors

    It looks as if Vista’s reputation for improved security could be heading for the pages of history. PC Tools has renewed last week’s attack on the platform with new figures that appear to back up its claim that Vista is almost as vulnerable as its predecessors.

  • Zuneral this Saturday!

OOXML Incidents Index: From [D]enmark to [G]reece

Posted in Africa, America, Europe, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, Standard at 4:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Index/Navigation

We continue to list OOXML incidents, nation by nation. See yesterday’s A-C index. We post these as we go along because only about 5 days remain for complaints to be made.

Please phone your national standards body and ask it to join the formal complaint of South Africa. This should not be hard for the standards bodies to do and the items below contain external references to needed evidence. You can make a real difference by opening the eyes of lazy, misinformed or indifferent committees.

D

Denmark (Phone: +45 39 96 61 01):

E

Ecuador (Phone: +593 22 56 56 56):

Egypt (Phone: +20 22 284 55 04):

Ethiopia (Phone: +251 11 646 08 81):

F

Finland (Phone: +358 9 149 93 31):

France (Phone: +33 1 41 62 80 00):

G

Germany (Phone: +49 30 26 01-0):

Ghana (Phone: +233 21 50 14 95):

Greece (Phone: +30 210 21 20 100):

We thank you for your attention.

flickr:2400867976

Then, They Fight You… by Buying Some New Laws

Posted in Courtroom, Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, Patents, RAND, Standard at 3:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“…yesterday we were notified that the Microsoft representative in charge with the education strategy had requested the organizers to pull the Ubuntu presentation because it is ‘unfair competition’ to hold such a presentation at an event sponsored by them. They are indeed co-sponsors but the conference is organized by the Ministry of Education and its local office, and is being held on the premises of a public University.”

“Then, they fight you,” May 2008

The question of Free software adoption (or contrariwise — obstruction) continues to involve some heavy doses of corruption, so herein we study some of the methods which are actively used against GNU/Linux and other disruptive trends, especially in light of news items that cannot escape without comment.

RAND

The ugly nature of RAND was discussed recently in [1, 2]. Microsoft, for instance, embeds its RAND routine in Mono and OOXML. It’s a tool for monopolisation and control of rivals. One recent case, which demonstrated just how nasty a RAND can be, revolved around Rambus [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Let this new blog post remind you what it’s all about.

By the time Rambus announced its patents and began demanding royalties (and filing patent infringement suits against companies that refused to pay royalties), Rambus had achieved a technical “lock-in” that made it difficult for the memory chip industry to move to a different technology. Rambus’s lock-in allowed it to obtain a 90% market-share, and demand supracompetitive royalties from companies that were producing JEDEC-compliant memory devices. Rambus has earned several billion dollars in licensing fees to date, and by some estimates its total royalties are could reach as high as $11 billion.

Think about OOXML, which is RAND-’protected’ in the sense that it ‘protects’ itself from this ‘nasty’ thing called the GNU GPL. Expect more of the same poison to be spread via Microsoft technologies which are queued in the pipeline. For granted, Novell will continue to help Microsoft with this. It’s Novell's new business model (since 2006).

Here is another month-old example of RAND nastiness. [via Digital Majority]

Now, here an example of a RAND (Reasonable And Non Discriminatory) licensing model, this one has been made by Cisco about VRRP :

Cisco is the owner of US patent No. 5 473 599, relating to the subject matter of “Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol for IPv6 <draft-ietf-vrrp-ipv6-spec-04.txt>. If technology in this document is included in a standard adopted by IETF and any claims of this or any other Cisco patent are necessary for practicing the standard, any party will be able to obtain a license from Cisco to use any such patent claims under reasonable, non-discriminatory terms to implement and fully comply with the standard.

First you need to contact Cisco to have a license but the terms are unknown. “Non-discriminatory” is vague and could be an issue for any free software implementation.

That would be convenient to Cisco, but not to any of its rivals. Therein lies the importance of vendor-independent protocols and formats such as ODF.

Media Codecs

In a similar vein, Microsoft lobbyist (dare we say “shill”?) Jonathan Zuck seems engaged in another new mission to ensure Europe’s media formats remain discriminatory and require payments to be made (i.e. make Free software an impossibility). In his latest logical gymnastics he’s trying to pretend to have agreed with FFII while at the same time pushing for Microsoft-esque technologies to be required.

We need to work together on live streaming challenge

Jonathan Zuck’s crusades against ODF, against the GPL(v3), and for software patents in Europe were noted before. We have already expressed an opinion about such lobbying in general.

There is already a response to the latest FUD from Zuck.

To correct the article of EurActiv, the 2 petitions are not about free software adoption, but well about free and open standards, which are not the same as free software. So the article of EurActiv misses the point and has a confusing title.

In addition to this, a clarification was made to make people aware that the European Parliament shuts the door in the face of those who don’t have proprietary “special software”.

In order to find out what your members of European Parliament are doing, you need some special software. Europe by Satellite (EBS) is only for those people who have the right software.

[...]

None of those protocols and file formats are described in specifications, neither they are standardized nor free of patents or other restrictions. Why Europe is choosing technology which is not accessible to everybody, regardless of the platform?

Remember the recent story (possible corruption) from Hungary? Remember the BBC? That’s just how it’s done. Lobbyists and spinmeisters are used as agents of monopolisation, by intruding government authorities and deceiving them on technical decisions that are made. They impose lock-in ‘from the top’, so to speak, by requiring basic things like tax submission and communication with Parliament to be dependent on specific software vendors.

Rocket Docket

Blackboard, the very bothersome patent troll whose portfolio has been harassing FOSS projects [1, 2, 3], is getting stung again [via Digital Majority], having recently suffered defeat. Will it finally learn (pun unintended)?

TechRadium sues Blackboard over patent

[...]

TechRadium develops and sells a mass communication messaging systems that allows a “group administrator to send a single message that will be delivered to the members of [a] group via numerous communication devices such as cell phones, pagers, standard landline telephones and e-mail,” according to TechRadium’s complaint.

Quoted above is the claim, which hopefully illustrates superficiality. Unsurprisingly, TechRadium is a “Texas-based technology company.” In addition, as one can just about guess, it “filed a patent infringement lawsuit Monday against Blackboard in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.” Yes, once again it’s that Rocket Docket, which even Law.com is addressing.

Will the 5th Circuit Ground an Eastern District of Texas Rocket Docket?

In a mandamus case that could significantly alter one of the hottest federal civil dockets in Texas, the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Thursday over whether a trial judge’s discretion should be limited when a party moves to transfer venue.

Digital Majority had dug up some articles from 2006 to show just how often the slack treatment in the Eastern District of Texas is being misused. Will someone, anyone, somewhere, finally take care of this loophole?

Software patents are bad enough as they are, but for these patents to be seen as valid and assure settlement out of court due to one dysfunctional district court seems utterly inexcusable. It encourages programmers to apply for more software patents and it casts a shadow over the legitimacy of Free software. It taken one rotten egg to poison the entire well.

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