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05.27.08

Reader’s Article: Novell, Mono and RAND

Posted in ECMA, Free/Libre Software, GNOME, Microsoft, Mono, Patents, RAND at 11:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Post contributed by Slated

As some people here probably already know, I am no fan of Mono – not for technical reasons (mostly [3]), but simply for political ones. Specifically, I’m talking about so-called Software Patents, and even more importantly, precisely who owns those patents. In this case, that would be Microsoft, a convicted monopolist with a viciously anti-FOSS agenda, that employs business methods remarkably similar to that of the Mafia.

IMO the mere fact that .NET/Mono is Microsoft technology should be enough to dissuade any Free Software advocate from going anywhere near it [1], but there is a large contingent of Mono “fans” out there, lead by people like Jeff Waugh and Miguel de Icaza, who (either through ignorance; naivety; apathy or even malice) don’t seem to give a damn about whether or not Mono (or even OOXML) endangers the future of Free Software.

Trying to convince people, and especially distro maintainers, that they should stay away from Mono, is therefore extraordinarily difficult, and usually goes something like this:

[P]oint | [C]ounterpoint

P: Don’t use Mono
C: Why?
P: Because it is patented
C: So is a lot of other software
P: Yes, but this is patented by Microsoft
C: So?
P: Microsoft is a convicted monopolist
C: You’re just biased against Microsoft
P: I believe I am justified given Microsoft’s history
C: What history?
P: See [1]
C: What has that got to do with Mono?
P: Microsoft has a history of abusing their “IP” as a weapon to destroy others, and maintain a monopoly
C: But how do you know that Microsoft will try to do that to FOSS?
P: Because they have already made patent allegations against FOSS; have repeatedly expressed their contempt and hatred for FOSS; have established a protection racket for commercial Linux vendors; have admitted that Linux (they mean FOSS) is their number one competitor; and have a sociopathic tendency to violently attack anyone (read: competitor) who threatens Microsoft’s monopoly, using the most unethical and underhand methods they think they can get away with

[At this point, some heavyweight like Waugh enters the debate]

C: Rubbish. Mono only implements the ECMA parts of the .NET framework, which are covered by a RAND covenant to not sue, so you’re whining for no good reason
P: I don’t trust RANDs, especially those underwritten by Microsoft
C: Why?
P: Because, define “reasonable” … and then prove that Microsoft will never revoke their promises. In fact, prove that Microsoft has good intentions in this, or any other endeavour

[This is usually the end of the discussion, although sometimes it goes off on one of the following tangents]

[Either]

C: My country doesn’t enforce software patents anyway, so I don’t care
P: Maybe some day it will (see [2]). What then?

[Or]

“How many of those patent holders would risk losing 30 Billion USD just to strike a blow against FOSS (see Microsoft’s recent failed Yahoo takeover bid)? How many of those patent holders are convicted monopolists?”C: Probably every piece of software ever written violates some patent or another. If FOSS developers were to abandon packages based on possible patents, then there wouldn’t be any Free Software at all
P: How many of those patent holders have the immoral and aggressive tendencies that Microsoft has? How many of those patent holders would risk losing 30 Billion USD just to strike a blow against FOSS (see Microsoft’s recent failed Yahoo takeover bid)? How many of those patent holders are convicted monopolists? How many of those patent holders have made actual infringement claims against Free Software? How many of those patent holders have described Linux as a “cancer”? How many of those patent holders have created a Linux protection racket that attempts to stifle Free Software and line Microsoft’s pockets in the process? How many of those patent holders use bribery and corruption as a matter of standard procedure [1]? How many of those patent holders regularly and predictably stab their own customers and partners in the back whenever any given venture results in anything less than market domination (e.g. “PlaysForSure” and others)?

[And here the debate always ends, but without any resolution]

Occasionally I might get a parting “you’re just being paranoid”, from those too blind/naive/brainwashed to understand the truth.

Well I don’t know if it’ll help, but I recently discovered an article that (I believe) exposes RAND for the sham that it really is (quoted in full):

So much quarreling about open standards. Jason Matusow advocates for a
document format with RAND licensing conditions for the patents. What
does he mean when he talks about RAND? RAND stands for “reasonable and
non-discriminatory”. But Jason Matusow’s company Microsoft lacks honesty
when it talks about “reasonable and non-discriminatory” conditions.

We need to be precise about what reasonable and non-discriminatory
actually means. A restaurant in apartheid South Africa said it allowed
both Boers and English, so was “not discriminatory”. It even let some
Jews in. However it banned non-whites.

Reasonable and non-discriminatory in patent licensing means “we apply a
uniform fee”. However with respect to Microsoft’s legacy OOXML format,
one party controls the standard and the associated patents. All market
players need to license except the patent owner. For dominant standards
it is a tax on the market. It seems highly unreasonable that such
standards should become international standards, mandatory for
government users.

You may find it unreasonable for an ubiquitous standard. But there is a
more insidious aspect. RAND patent licensing conditions are a tool to
ban Free Software, which is entirely incompatible with RAND licensing
conditions. Now one side of the debate blames it on the patent licensing
conditions, the other side on the software licensing conditions.

“The reason I agree with the statement about patents and Free
Software not mixing is that there have been terms written into GPL
licenses that explicitly conflict with software patents. Okay, that is
the choice of the authors and users of those licenses.”

It sounds a bit like: well, you chose to marry an African woman, so we
cannot let you into the restaurant. Free choice, right?

Yes, Matusow calls his standards with RAND conditions “open standards”
and contradicts the commonly accepted definition of “open standards”. We
should speak about shared standards. These shared standards appear to
discriminate less, but they still discriminate against the only real
competitor to Microsoft’s hegemony.

It is true that ISO, driven by simple pragmatism, allows shared
standards. From the ISO/IEC directives:

“14.1 If, in exceptional situations, technical reasons justify such
a step, there is no objection in principle to preparing an International
Standard in terms which include the use of items covered by patent
rights – defined as patents, utility models and other statutory rights
based on inventions, including any published applications for any of the
foregoing – even if the terms of the standard are such that there are no
alternative means of compliance.”

Generally international standards and patents are like water and oil,
and RAND conditions are the soap that allow them to mix. But as the move
towards Open Standards evolves, shared standards get more and more
unacceptable. Shared standards do discriminate and do appear to be
unreasonable.

It is time to adapt the legal definition of reasonable and
non-discriminatory to common sense.

I would also add that not only are ECMA/.NET patent terms unreasonable (how can it be an Open Standard if you have to pay a fee?), but the non-discriminatory terms have already been broken with Microsoft’s exclusive agreement with Novell:

I read the agreement between Xandros and Microsoft, and one of the
excluded products was Mono, so Microsoft promises to not sue Xandros
over their distribution but excluding Mono and a few other products,
i.e. they reserve the right to sue over Mono. I wonder if this is an
interesting preview of on what basis they want to fight the free world.

Interestingly, the Novell deal seems to be different, Mono is not
excluded from the Novell deal. So Microsoft seems to be promising not to
sue Novell over Mono, but keeps the option open for Xandros. Weird but
true.

All in all, it is clear that the ECMA/.Net/Mono patent conditions are far from either “reasonable” or “non-discriminatory”.

Meanwhile, I stumbled upon some old articles that reminded me of how much de Icaza is in love with the Redmond gangsters, and how dearly he’d love to mutate Gnome into the bastard son of Windows:

Gnome to be based on .NET – de Icaza

Learn to love The Beast
By Andrew Orlowski in New York

Published Friday 1st February 2002 17:56 GMT

[Interview]
How much do you love Microsoft’s .NET? Enough to trust your Gnome
applications to its APIs in the future?

That’s what Gnome leader Miguel de Icaza, believes should happen. Miguel
calls .NET the “natural upgrade” for the Gnome platform, and enthused
about the technology in an interview with us at LinuxWorld this week.
Basing Gnome on the .NET APIs will cut development time significantly,

He also had praise for the new Microsoft security model, dismissed the
notion that Redmond was employing embrace and extend to its web services
protocols, and put the message that the community should get over its
beef with The Beast.

“I’d like to see Gnome applications written in .NET in version 4.0 – no,
version 3.0. But Gnome 4.0 should be based on .NET,” he told us. “A lot
of people just see .NET as a fantastic upgrade for the development
platform from Microsoft.

Read the whole article, it’s most revealing.

Miguel loves ActiveX too:

At Microsoft I learned the truth about ActiveX and COM and I got very
interested in it inmediately(sic).

He shows extremely poor taste (in many things).

[1] For anyone still not convinced of Microsoft’s ethical depravity, please see the following:

http://www.grokdoc.net/index.php/Dirty_Tricks_history
http://www.groklaw.net/staticpages/index.php?page=2005010107100653
http://boycottnovell.com/microsoft-critique-resources/
http://boycottnovell.com/2008/05/25/eu-crackdown-astroturfing/
http://www.vanwensveen.nl/rants/microsoft/IhateMS.html

[2] Proposed US ACTA multi-lateral intellectual property trade agreement

http://antitrust.slated.org/censorship/acta-proposal-2007.pdf [PDF]

And finally:

[3] Why did Microsoft invent .NET (I’m assuming they invented it, rather than their usual MO of simply assimilating it from another source) when there is already Java? To answer this question, you may also like to consider why they “(re)invented” OOXML, Moonlight, XPS and other “fscking kill <vendor>” technologies.

Any supposedly Free Software advocate who can still defend or support Mono at this point, is clearly either irredeemably corrupt or terminally stupid (or possibly both). They are part of the problem, not part of the solution. And yes, the “problem” is Microsoft.

De Icaza, are you listening?

Mono Microsoft brain

Links 28/05/2008: KDE 4.1 Reaches Beta, Another Large Migration to GNU/Linux

Posted in News Roundup at 11:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

F/OSS

Leftover

Did Microsoft Tell Novell What Software Patents It Supposedly Infringes?

Posted in Bill Gates, Corel, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Windows at 11:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Speak up, Novell

Software patents are insane. How insane? Totally. If you don’t believe this, here are a couple of new examples:

1. Patent-pending spellcheck software?!

Patent-pending spellcheck software, that is?!

First of all, patenting software or any algorithm based on the idiotic claim that it’s actually a “business concept, method and system” (if not even an “apparatus” when they forcefully include the computer in the patent claim) is theft. It’s slavery. It’d dictatorship with the complicity of the USPTO.

2. Patent breach by ‘virtually all websites’? Pay up, firm demands [Hat tip: gggggg]

A SINGAPORE firm has threatened to sue websites that use pictures or graphics to link to another page, claiming it owns the patent for a technology used by millions around the world.

In a move that has come under fire from the online community, VueStar Technologies has sent ‘invoices’ to local website operators asking for thousands of dollars in licensing fees.

The company, which said ‘virtually all websites’ are infringing on its patent, is also planning to take on giants like Mircosoft and Google.

Now that it’s (hopefully) agreed that software patents are insane, let’s consider the stance of a company whose chief once said: “[I]f people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.” Needless to mention, he had said this when he was locked outside a fence, before he engaged in sheer abuse and corruption to enter; then he decided to build imaginary fences (garden walls) for further protection. He soon became obsessed with them.

The following new article contains some bits of interest (highlighted in red) that reflect on Microsoft’s existing policy.

Likewise, Microsoft promotes its efforts to sign cross-licensing deals, such as the one with Novell, as a way to encourage interoperability. But along with those pacts came Microsoft’s threat of legal action against companies that don’t have a deal in place. In 2007, Microsoft said that Linux infringes on 235 of its patents.

Open-source products are subject to patent litigation if they infringe on Microsoft patents, just as proprietary products face legal action for infringement, said Gutierrez. “There’s no reason why the same laws of nature shouldn’t apply to them as they apply to any other proprietary vendor,” he said.

[...]

Curiously, Microsoft declines to specify which of its patents are relevant to Linux. “We do discuss the details of our technologies and patents with companies that are engaged in good-faith licensing dialog,” said Gutierrez. “That’s the proper context in which to have it, that’s the way it’s handled in the industry.”

But others think there’s probably another reason that Microsoft won’t specify which of its patents are relevant. “As soon as you declare patents you believe are infringed, they become the subject of re-examination,” Rosoff noted.

Rosoff doesn’t think that Microsoft actually intends to sue anyone using Linux. “This is part of a campaign to cast uncertainty over the IP heritage of open-source software,” he said.

According to this, Microsoft ought to have discussed details of the said software patents with Novell. Can Novell share the knowledge with the rest of the world? Or was it never discussed at all, in which case Microsoft is being dishonest?

Shouldn’t Novell, as an almost ‘free rider’ in a world of Free software and a confessed betrayer of the GNU GPL, be obliged to turn transparent about this? Whose side is Novell on? It sure seems like Novell sidled with Microsoft, so it keeps silent in order to continue this “part of a campaign to cast uncertainty,” if one was quoting from the article above. Who could blame Novell? It makes money out of "patent terrorism". It ought to be more than obvious that Novell sold out to Microsoft in a way much worse than Corel did.

MS Novell

Speaking of Corel, Rex Ballard had the following to say in response to my message last night (about Asustek’s Linux-loaded motherboards):


“Don’t underestimate Microsoft. They do have tactics, which they have been allowed to continue to use under the Bush administration, which makes it very hard for Linux to establish a strong foothold in the OEM distribution channel.

“…COREL offered a motherboard maker Linux licenses at 50 cents/board, and millions of these motherboards were ordered by OEMs and Kiosk dealers alike. The problem was that Microsoft’s OEM license agreement forbade ANY interference with the Microsoft controlled boot sequence.”“This isn’t the first time a motherboard maker has offered Linux as part of their package. The first time, that I can remember, was back in 1999, when COREL offered a motherboard maker Linux licenses at 50 cents/board, and millions of these motherboards were ordered by OEMs and Kiosk dealers alike. The problem was that Microsoft’s OEM license agreement forbade ANY interference with the Microsoft controlled boot sequence. Furthermore, the OEM licenses were sold in bulk, which meant that selling a machine without Windows didn’t save you any money. In fact, if you didn’t meet your minimum commitment order, you could even LOSE money, since the discounts you received depended on your ability to honor a minimum commitment order, usually calculated to be far more licenses than you could actually sell with the machines.

“Since the licenses were non-transferable, the OEMs couldn’t sell them to other OEMs or retailers. Since Microsoft maintained tight-fisted control over the configuration, the OEMs couldn’t pre-install the Linux OS, and were even forbidden from enclosing the Linux distribution disk provided by the Board maker, as part of their configuration.”


Consider this in light of what we wrote very recently about Microsoft's attack against Linux on motherboards. When Microsoft is unable to use its lawyers to forbid competition, it simply buys that competition. Novell used to be one of the leading players in the Linux world. So was Corel.

Phasing Out Malice to Make Room for Necessary Change

Posted in Europe, Formats, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, ISO, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 10:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Report Fraudulent OOXML Activity

It seems safe to say that the office suites market is at a turning point. Consider this to be just another gentle reminder suggesting that you phone your national standards body to appeal against ISO’s decision. As The Register put it last night:

SABS is so far the only participating or P member of the so-called JTC 1 process to have issued a formal protest ahead of the ISO’s cut-off date of 29 May.

Separate complaints have been made, but the formal appeal could use further backing and endorsement. Only a couple of days remain. ISO, prisoner of Redmond, is already working on moving goalposts.

MicrISOft

ODF in Europe

There are many signs of change at the moment. To give a quick sample from the news, begin by considering this report from the European Commission.

The Danish government last Friday appointed five experts to evaluate the implementation of Open Standards in the country.

The committee is part of a study requested earlier by the Danish Parliament into the impact of Open Standards on competition. An second evaluation is currently undertaken by the Danish Competition Authority.

There’s also this launch of a new OOo portal.

oooPortal.com – The worldwide portal for OpenOffice.org users was launched Prague, the Czech Republic, 26 May 2008 – Today a gate to the virtual city of users of OpenOffice.org from the whole world was opened. The users get their own portal where they can find the fresh information, articles, directions, templates, extensions or discussion forum.

An event in Belgium:

I just learned that the ProFoss event in Brussels on June 10 will have a focus on OpenOffice.org. The list of speakers sounds very interesting!

Another large migration to ODF in government. The original article is in German and it seems like another big victory for Debian GNU/Linux. As we stressed before, ODF is essential for wider adoption of GNU/Linux.

According to this German article, the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) is switching to StarOffice for all 500 desktop PCs. 90% of the BSI employees have already gone through the migration. Another great success story for ODF!

The download pace of OpenOffice.org appears to be increasing very fast, according the the figures that are found here.

OpenOffice.org, which is just one implementation of ODF, is currently being downloaded more than 1.2M times per week and being distributed by popular hardware products like the Asus Eee PC. Government organizations around the world are adopting OpenOffice.org and/or ODF and have started to help each other with their adoption challenges. Thus, ODF has become a “market force” that can’t be ignored anymore. Thus, again, congratulations and thank you to all the people who have contributed to the success of OpenOffice.org and ODF so far! Well done!

Recently it was said that “[R]oughly 1 million copies of OpenOffice.org are downloaded per week, not including distributions through vendors such as Google.” This means that the number of downloads has gone up more than 20% in a matter of months. As we stressed a few days ago, sales of Microsoft Office had gone down, so all these seemingly impactless downloads of OOo truly have a quiet effect on the market. They are not alone.

Trojan Horses in Sight

As in any story of success in the making, there might be villains. We’ve warned before that Microsoft may be scheming to harm ODF ‘from the inside’ and there’s an interesting new find over in Groklaw, which says: “This is from April, but it explains the DIN reference the other day from Microsoft in its announcement it would support ODF. Also note that the blog indicates that Microsoft wants ODF to be put in the hands of Alex Brown, instead of in the control of OASIS, something I consider unlikely at best and unthinkable at worst, given Brown’s public hostility to it.” It’s worth keeping an eye open.

“I’d be glad to help tilt lotus into into the death spiral. I could do it Friday afternoon but not Saturday. I could do it pretty much any time the following week.”

Brad Silverberg, Microsoft

Links 27/05/2008: GNU/Linux-only ASUS Desktops Come Next Week, WAVE SDK Comes to GNU/Linux

Posted in News Roundup at 10:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Video

  • News snippets & Big Buck Bunny aka Peach DVD released!
  • Why Hiro is not my hero

    Hiro’s approach is to prevent fast forwarding or rewinding during ads. Furthermore, the ads are dynamically inserted along with pieces of the show that were omitted from the original file. Once the Hiro software has collected these items, the file will play locally for a few days, after which a new set of ads fetched from the server before it can be played again.

    Because everybody will love a good commercial. You will. You must.

  • Google says Viacom’s suit ‘threatens’ Net

    Viacom’s $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against YouTube “threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information” over the Web, YouTube parent Google said in a legal response to the suit.

  • YouTube law fight ‘threatens net’

Leftovers

Free Software versus Today’s Intellectual Monopolies — Overview

Posted in America, DRM, Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, GPL, Novell, Patents at 10:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNU logoKeeping up to date with laws against digital freedom…

Bruce Perens and the GNU GPL

One of the most prominent defenders of the integrity of “Open Source” seems to be Bruce Perens, whom long-time readers probably know we strongly endorse. Unlike many others with involvement inside or outside the OSI, Perens maintains a healthy relationship with the Free software movement and he wishes to rectify some emerging issues. He has also been protesting against the Novell/Microsoft deal like nobody else did.

In the following new video from Linux Magazin (Germany), Perens talks about limiting the number of licences. This interview seems to strictly require JavaScript to be enabled and Adobe Flash to be installed on your system.

In another item, the validity of the GPL is cautiously defended [via Tux Machines]. Like many other articles which arrive from the legal journals, there seems to be an element of FUD (balance), but overall there are some positive messages also.

Open source licensing suits settle in short order

[...]

Although settled, these lawsuits are thought to reveal a growing assertiveness in the open source community to enforce open source rights and licences. The fact that the defendants each settled the claims in short order (despite – in at least Verizon’s case – having the deep pockets to defend the claim to a judicial resolution) also suggests that the claims had serious merit.

We covered this issue before using some further examples that serve as case studies.

The United States and Software Patents

A big judgment [1, 2, 3, 4] still lies ahead and this new article from ECT [via Digital Majority] covers some of the background, summarised thusly:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington held a rare full-court hearing on May 8 to decide whether to limit “process patents.” The decision in this case — which is expected within a few months — may have a wide-ranging effect on the patenting practices of e-commerce companies.

Europe and Software Patents

The situation in Europe seems a little more complicated (ambiguity and loopholes lead to this), especially in recent days. Digital Majority sums up a subscribers-only article using the following snippet.

However, as illustrated by Kapur, the EPO will generally remain the better forum for obtaining software patents while the “technical contribution” requirement remains good law in the UK. In contrast, current EPO jurisprudence8 allows any claim which involves the use of or is to a piece of hardware however mundane to bypass the Article 52 exclusion and move on to an assessment of inventive step.

DRM Caging in Finland

When Richard Stallman delivered his talk in Manchester earlier this month, he talked about Finland as the land where more laws needed to be bought in order to ensure further limitation/illegalisation of Free software. Slashdot brings an English translation (from Finnish) of an article suggesting a key reversal in Finland.

Due to an appeal court decision from a couple of days back, breaking the not very effective CSS copy protection used on most commercial DVD-Video discs is now a criminal act in Finland (robo translated). The verdict is contrary to what a district court thought of the same case last year when two local electronic rights activists were declared not guilty after having framed themselves by spreading information on how to break CSS. Back then, it was to the activists’ benefit has CSS been badly broken and inneffective ever since DeCSS came out.

Stallman was probably right. It was just a matter of time and there are even more draconian steaming piles trying to force their way through (behind people's backs of course because it stifles opposition).

OOXML and Mono: Not So Different After All

Posted in Africa, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Open XML, Standard at 9:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML

A fairly intriguing analysis which was posted just 4 days ago delves into the tricks Microsoft might be playing at the moment and also makes a comparison to Mono.

I’m sure that Microsoft will try to gain some advantage from OOXML, as broken as it is. They could try to reproduce what they managed to do with .NET and CLR by standardizing and opening only a subset of the .Net API , thus letting Novell create a very limited .Net implementation, Mono. Regardless of what the future options could be, the OOXML standardization will prove to be the single most destructive episode of the standardization history.

Another good analysis of Mono’s goals you will find here.

Please consider contacting your national standards body, asking it to usher the complaint from South Africa. If bodies are not pushed to do so, laziness will defeat true need. As another quick reminder (this time from Linux Journal):

The deadline for countries to file — listen up standards bodies — is Thursday the 29th.

Other than South Africa, according to current reports, no country has yet filed an appeal. Prodding might help.

Hall of Shame

Posted in Site News at 2:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A new resource

An anonymous reader has just contributed a static page which serves as a reference showing Microsoft’s harms. You might wish to take a quick glance.

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