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06.01.08

New IRC Channel: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode

Posted in Site News at 1:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There are three of us over there at the moment. It was suggested by a reader that we open this communication channel, so we did. If anyone wishes to join, you’re more than welcome!

Links 01/06/2008: Lots on GNU/Linux Laptops, New Eye Candy (Compiz-Fusion and KDE4)

Posted in News Roundup at 12:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux Laptops

Distros

More GNU/Linux Stuff

  • Plat’Home : The Palm Size Linux Server
  • [GNU/Linux] Flash Uses The GPU

    A much clamored-for feature (right after native 64-bit, wmode/transparency, and V4L2) is Flash GPU (graphical processing unit) acceleration, sometimes founded in a belief that it’s a magic solution for making things fast without any side effects or ill consequences. I just wanted to make it known that the Adobe Flash Player is GPU accelerated…

  • [KDE] 4.1 times more Prettyness

    Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you the brand new shiny Plasma theme that will be used for KDE 4.1:

    Here you can see the new applet and krunner backgrounds, the new panel, our brand-new carbon fiber clock and some items that once upon a time weren’t themed at all, like the pager and the taskbar.

  • Compiz and Compiz Fusion 0.7.6 out in wild

    In the new features there is now a new “Static Switcher” that shows thumbnails of all the open windows and moves caret instead of thumbnails. Place plugin received a rewrite that enhances it’s multi-display support. Gtk-window-decorator is now accesessibilit(a11y) sensitive and ezoom plugin now has area zoom, helping people with disabilities to work on computer with ease.

    Eye-candy? Full sphere!! I’ll let a picture talk for itself.

F/OSS

Microsoft

Direct link (May 2006)

Bringing Free Software Values Back: Please Welcome Equitable Open Source

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Google, GPL, Microsoft, SUN at 12:10 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The open source validity index

MilkingTheGnu.org (MTG) has just officially announced a new project/initiative. It is called Equitable Open Source (EOS).

EOS comes after a recent suggestion which was brought up and cited very broadly by anxious or curious members of the open source crowd. To give a rough idea of what it might be all about, here is part a comment that I left in MTG’s blog just over a week ago:


Over the past few years I’ve learned, based on very many articles and rants, which companies are open source/FS fakers and which ones are not. That’s one index we/you could set up.

Equitable Open SourceAnother one that comes to mind is vendors (software *and* hardware) that are Linux-hostile/friendly.

That first index [free software credibility index] has become quite a popular one for those who do not know who’s who. In the earlier days I used to just ask PJ, who knew the journalists’ history.

I add not based on single incident[s], but based on recurring patterns (like gauging speed to identify speedy drivers based only on a *sample* of incidents).


MTG, which seems to be looking into a Wiki to sort this out, explains the rationale for this.

…this also resulted in a situation where the balance of power has somewhat shifted from community-centric to commercial-induced interests.

And since commercial interests don’t always correspond (why would they?) to the spirit and the principles of free and open source software, there is a need to balance more equitably commercial and community interests through new initiatives.

There are many examples of the problem that MTG is aiming to address. To give 2 examples which were posted in Tux Machines a few hours ago (both related to Mozilla Firefox):

Are your Firefox extensions proprietary software?

In the last-post, I went through the most popular Firefox extensions and talked about whether they were good ideas or not. However, it seems that not a lot of people think about another side to this, i.e. what are your Firefox extensions licenced under?

It turns out that a lot of the extensions available through Firefox are not free/open source software at all.

One example is the StumbleUpon Extension.

[...]

For example, here are five popular extensions that are free software/open source:

* Firebug: Mozilla Public License 1.1
* Flashblock: Mozilla Triple Licence (MPL 1.1/GPL 2.0/LGPL 2.1)
* AdblockPlus: Mozilla Public License 1.1
* FireGPG: Mozilla Triple Licence (MPL 1.1/GPL 2.0/LGPL 2.1)
* NoScript: GPL

Eventually, after a bit of digging and Googling, I found their Toolbar-License and guess what? Yes you guessed it, it is proprietary software. So if you want to run free software/open source, then get it off your system now!

Firefox 3 RC1 forces you agree to EULA before usage

While Mozilla has had a EULA since Firefox 1.5 or so they have never brazenly shoved it into the end-user’s face until now. It immediately set me on edge because this behavior is indicative of proprietary software and not something you would expect to see when using something that is open source.

It seems likely, based on MTG’s previous and recent admission, that this Equitable Open Source push was inspired by an index that we have in this Web site.

It will be a pleasure to have a reference (and service) such as that which MTG tries to establish. It comes at a good time because only an hour ago one reader reminded us of Sun’s likely motives in entering “open source”.

Another reader has been repeatedly suggesting that we set up the IRC channel, #boycottnovell, now that the site attracts enough people to drive well over a gigabyte in traffic per day.

Related readings:

Is Novell Ignoring Critical Security Problems?

Posted in NetWare, Novell, Security, Videos, Vista, Windows at 9:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Would you trust this company?

Just moments ago, the following video showed up in YouTube. Do have a quick look.

Ogg Theora

We’ve made a copy of it (Ogg Theora-encoded), just in case the video gets pulled. It could take some time and effort to check whether the crack is real, but whatever the truth is, there’s the possibility that we shall find out very soon. If it’s a serious problem, we’ll remove the video.

The only reason to be showing this is not encouragement of cracking. As the chap writes, Novell ignored him. It’s vanity. It’s a dangerous attitude. If you choose to be a client of Novell, then you ought to be warned about this behaviour. The last such warning (about Novell not being responsive) is just 3 days old.

Novell’s Bold Mission to Clean Up ‘Unlicensed’ GNU/Linux

Posted in Asia, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, NetWare, Novell, Open XML, Red Hat, Ron Hovsepian, Virtualisation at 9:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell and Microsoft for intellectual monopoly

By means of exclusion, Novell, which is helped by Microsoft, hopes to eradicate what exists and thrives in freedom. It wants to rip-and-replace what has proven difficult to compete against due to the nature of the GPL. Remind yourself of the fact that GNU/Linux distributions sometimes struggle to offer added value compared to their counterparts because everything is shared. That’s fine and that’s the manifesto.

“Novell is squeezing the GPL goose (Gnus?) for that last golden egg.”Novell continues to hope that features which are only available to Microsoft deal-signers and paying customers (e.g. patent-’protected’ Moonlight, Mono, binary shims, hypervisor compatibility, document translators, etc.) will force change. Novell wants to flip the Free Software table and rake in all the cash, even the soul of Free Software in the process. To use a famous parable, Novell is squeezing the GPL goose (Gnus?) for that last golden egg. It’s an insidious plan to lock down users, putting them at Microsoft's mercy and Novell's direct debit list.

The business plan is easy to see. Novell plans to phase out and conquer existing Linux deployments, some of which are not counted or administered by commercial entities. In essence, Novell fights Microsoft’s battles and thou shalt not criticise Novell for it contributes some GPL-licensed code at the same time. It’s the perfect cover-up from Microsoft’s point-of-view. It’s like spitting in the well while filling it with barrels. Ultimate goal: cleaning up all those 'freebie Linuxes'.

Novell released some financial figures a few days ago [1, 2] and the overall message was telling.

“Our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand,” the CEO told the analysts yesterday. “We [have] announced an incremental investment in the China market to focus on converting unsupported Linux users to SUSE Linux Enterprise…We also expanded our technical collaboration agreement to simplify and standardize the management infrastructure needed for efficient Windows Linux management. To date, we have invoiced $157 million, or 65 percent, of the original five-year, $240 million agreement.”

The CEO also noted that, in a “deepening” relationship with German-based SAP, SAP recently announced the selection of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as the only Linux distribution to run SAP Business All-in-One, a software solution targeted at SMBs.

Steve Ballmer rides SUSEAs you can hopefully see, they work on ‘exclusives’. Microsoft helps Novell achieve this because many of the companies involved are close (and closed-source) Microsoft partners. Microsoft can influence them, financially or otherwise. It essentially turns SUSE into the once-mythical “Microsoft Linux” (that’s Steve Ballmer on the right, brainchild of Steve’s Ballnux). Increasingly we see the ‘Microsoft-approved’ list, not the FSF-approved list. Microsoft’s list is the antithesis of the latter, and it loves this very much.

There are some more tools of manipulation at play. Remember that Microsoft has plans of bundling hypervisor/s with the O/S to fight VMWare along with Novell and others [1, 2, 3, 4]. Ironically enough, as this new article from CIO interprets it, what Microsoft is trying against VMWare at the moment is similar to its former fights against Novell. This time, for a change, Novell is an ‘accomplice’, not a victim. Novell does the homework of the bully who once hit it with a baseball bat for lunch money.

But rather than demonstrate what else a customer could do with network management, groupware and other products that were bundled with the operating system, as Microsoft did, Novell focused on telling everyone how much better NetWare was than NT. Bad move.

[...]

It’s not far down the rathole yet, but VMware is reacting to the promise of direct competition from Microsoft —and existing competition from every vendor that can squeeze a Xen hypervisor into its product bundles—by focusing on the past rather than the future.

Assuming the following new survey is anything to go by, the main competition involving GNU/Linux on the server is between Novell and Red Hat.

One of the main findings from the survey is that, if current trends continue, servers running anything other than Red Hat, Novell Suse or Windows Server will become increasingly rare. A clear majority of those surveyed, 81 percent, ran Windows Server, with Linux (of the Red Hat or Suse flavours) the next most used OS, at 50 percent.

NindowsWhat might the aforementioned exclusions mean for the long term? Need it be mentioned that Novell signed the deal with Microsoft and shortly afterwards acknowledges that it had agreed for SUSE to be the slave on Windows hosts (virtualisation can safely be assumed the way forward)? That was just part of the negotiation. In other words — and also to sum this up in a way — Novell received Microsoft’s endorsement and money in exchange for the crown in the datacentre, higher priority to OOXML as a document format, and .NET as the API of choice. Why again do some people still support Novell?

Say No to Novell

Summary of Latest Intellectual Waste

Posted in America, DRM, Europe, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents at 8:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Europe and Software Patents

Harmonisation… like the merging of portions of slime

Harmonisation, unlike “contamination” or “pollution”, has a positive connotation. But there is nothing too positive about bringing a system that everyone admits is already broken beyond repair (USPTO) and merging it with one that is still more functional (EPO, among others).

Nevertheless, it is in the monopolists’ interest to force and impose dysfunctional aspects of their own system upon all others. This way, others who live across the Atlantic are equally disadvantaged (“disadvantaged” as in Microsoft ‘Genuine’ ‘Advantage’). And that’s just what McCreevy (also see [1, 2, 3, 4]) appears to be striving to achieve. [via Digital Majority]

The May agenda takes up a number of problems. For starters, the E.U. wants to draw a road map for harmonizing patent law. Progress could be slow, however, because U.S. reform has bogged down in Congress and the European Commission may not have the legal right to amend the European Patent Convention.

Later on, the same folks could travel across the pacific to achieve similar things. Australia and Japan have already been defeated as far as software patents are concerned.

Community Patent… against the free software community

Nicolas Sarkozy’s strong sympathy towards intellectual monopolies [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] has not been noted for a while, but have a quick look at this new article. [via Digital Majority]

EU hopes for Community patent under French Presidency

[...]

“If there is enough political will, I am confident of having a solution soon, maybe even under the French Presidency,” Vijzak stated.

Much like “harmonisation”, “community” sounds as though it’s a positive thing. This is seemingly about togetherness and happiness, but in reality it’s something altogether different. “Open XML” is a recent case of naming something for better reception (or blind acceptance). There are many more such examples.

“”Open XML” is a recent case of naming something for better reception (or blind acceptance).”Remember, for instance, that Microsoft ‘advertises’ the DRM features in Windows Vista as ones that apply only to “premium content”, but this hides the fact that all content is intended to fall under this category one day. The misuse of words like “advantage”, “premium”, “trusted”, “secure” and “open” are nothing new and they mustn’t lead to the deception that their repetitive use is supposed to achieve. Conversely, there are words like “criminals”, “thieves”, “pirates”, “terrorists”, “hackers” (meaning already deformed), etc. which are merely serving an agenda of daemonisation; expect them to be foolishly echoed in conferences and the media.

Prior art… when there’s no real ‘art’ at all

The sad news from the UK, regarding software patents to be specific, continues to be followed by reports that demonstrate a degree of sanity. Here is one such example that is new.

UK business method patent struck out

[...]

The patent (number 2,171,877) relates to a method of making pre-paid telephone calls that is available for use from any telephone, and t[he] hardware for doing so.

In a ruling dated May 23, His Honour Judge Fysh (sitting as a High Court judge) found the patent invalid on the grounds of obviousness – based on a study of the prior art – and excluded matter under Article 52 of the European Patent Convention.

Overall, it means that the juridical (legal system) is more rational than the lenient patent office (imaginary property system), which probably accepts applications because it is more profitable. The cost is later paid by those who are hit by frivolous lawsuits. The burden is passed to victims and revenue sunk in lawyers’ bank accounts. It’s quite a funny mechanism.

DRM Everywhere, Possession of Universally-accessible Media a Crime

That ugly thing called ACTA [1, 2] is the antithesis of the Declaration of Independence. The following pattern of criticism possibly explains just why.

Criticism from NGOs

Canadian law expert David Fewer, staff counsel at the University of Ottawa’s Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, told the Ottawa Citizen that the discussion paper was very close to a potential Christmas wish-list by Hollywood companies.

Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), in an earlier statement filed to USTR, warned against a lack in differentiation and clearness of core terms, like counterfeiting, infringement or piracy. “Is Microsoft a “pirate” for insisting on the right to continue to infringe the z4 patents in order to use an infringing DRM technology to protect Microsoft software itself from infringement by unauthorised uses?” KEI asked in its statement.

In this particular context, consider again the old sins of the British Library, which seems like a hostage of Microsoft nowadays, if not just its cheerleader [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. This article is not new, but it is timely and it is excellent.

The British Library – ‘The world’s knowledge’ DRM’d and for a price

[...]

DRM is part of the plan, and I encourage you to read the entire Microsoft document. It would make my grandmother roll over in her grave. Some of the librarians at the British Library are deeply troubled too about what DRM is doing to libraries. How will we access the materials if the DRM company goes out of business someday?

If they duplicate what they have done at the British Library, I think it’s fair to say that it is the death of public libraries as we have known them, and the world’s knowledge will be available only DRM’d and for a price.

P.S. DRM doesn’t work.
It won’t block any serious criminals.
All it does is annoy and degrade the honest
… and give monopolies a way to stay that way.

Troll-Eat-Troll World

The verdict on Alcatel-Lucent and Microsoft is already in. These long legal battles between the two companies [1, 2, 3, 4] have the latest infringement claims detailed.

Microsoft Corp. violated an Alcatel-Lucent patent to produce its Xbox video-game player, a lawyer for Alcatel-Lucent told jurors who are considering a demand for $419 million in damages.

“They’ve taken” the patent “and made millions and millions of dollars,” John Desmarais, a lawyer for Alcatel- Lucent, said to the jury.

[...]

A jury in the same court decided last year that Microsoft’s Windows Media Player infringed patents for the MP3 digital-audio standard and awarded Alcatel-Lucent a record $1.52 billion in damages. Senior U.S. District Judge Rudi Brewster vacated that verdict, now under appeal.

In the second trial, another jury concluded April 4 that Microsoft should pay $368 million to Alcatel-Lucent for infringing two patents.

There is meanwhile a warning that patent trolls may be set to attack PaaS.

If the advent of PaaS stirs up a plague of patent trolls to resurrect long-dead patents and bring suits against providers or users it could become a nightmare for the nascent industry. The providers who suffer most will be those based in countries that enforce business methods patents most rigorously: the United States, Australia, Japan and Singapore, according to Wikipedia’s article on the topic. In contrast, “patent protection for business method patents in Israel, China, India, Mexico, and most of Europe is difficult.”

Deep inside, Microsoft has always known this was a recipe for trouble. That realisation had emerged even before it became a monopoly. What an iintellectual waste.

“If 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.”

Bill Gates

Document Formats Roundup: Why Microsoft Should Worry

Posted in Europe, ISO, Law, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 2:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

flickr:2401273308

Recently we wrote about the gradual demise of Microsoft Office and OOXML. ODF has something to do with it, but there are other factors too and Microsoft hopes to turn back the clock and create new barriers to trade and competition.

Being the cash cow which makes up for divisions that operate at a loss, Office is something that will have Microsoft fight like there is no tomorrow. It will have Microsoft employees fly half-way across the world to stalk those who can be 'persuaded'. It will have them pack up a suitcase for surprise visits, later to be followed by vicious attacks and insults. Lo and behold. It’s the legendary bully every mother should teach her children about.

Premature Defeat

Fortunately, after persistent pressure from many directions, OOXML is suffering some setbacks. Optimistically enough, the following opinion piece from Computer World suggests that “Microsoft lost the office file format battle.” Here is a truthful observation.

There are two main ways to fail at the standards game: You can create software that handles documents in formats for which no true standards exist, or you can create a standard that exists only on paper and in committee, with no reference software implementation. Amazingly, for all its hype and bluster, with OOXML Microsoft has managed to do both.

Departures

Microsoft’s vapourware announcement (regarding ODF support) was intended to secure and extend Microsoft Office contracts, based on just a bunch of promises put on paper. It has some lesser-evident downfalls.

There are news stories suggesting that a defection from Microsoft Office is inevitable, at least in some places. Latvia, for example, appears to be preparing its citizens for OpenOffice.org adoption.

The city council of Ogre is providing free training for OpenOffice, an Open Source suite of office applications, to improve the competitiveness of the local businesses and boost the performance of the local government.

Ogre, a town with some 27,000 inhabitants is about 30 km southeast of Latvia’s capital Riga.

There are stories from individuals too, such as this one. [via Bob Sutor]

My viewpoint is changing now that it’s not part of my job. When it turned out that I hadn’t officially purchased Office, I questioned if I still wanted to.

A former Microsoft evangelist, Robert Scoble, found himself in a similar situation about a month ago. This shows that even the company’s biggest fans no longer see the need to purchase Microsoft Office because surrogate/replacement applications that are better connected (e.g. Web-based) become a commodity.

The sum of all fears does not end here. Irregular or even criminal action has not been forgotten yet.

Complaints

Yesterday we mentioned the latest complaint from Denmark (OSL). Groklaw has the details now, including some translations. In addition to this, Microsoft and ISO are getting very bad publicity at the moment because the press has finally caught up with the news about the formal appeals. Here are some articles of interest:

New York Times: Brazil and India Challenge Microsoft Office Document Standard

IEC’s Buck expects to have more to say about the appeals process next week, but noted that the situation is unusual.

“This is the first such appeal after a BRM process in ISO/IEC JTC 1, although appeals occur regularly in other technical committees,” he said.

Market Watch: Brazil, India join appeal of Microsoft standards push

Organizations from Brazil and India joined the appeal of a controversial vote that made Microsoft Corp.’s Open XML file format an international standard, threatening to delay final certification of the technology for a month or longer.

AFP: Brazil, India, SAfrica appeal standard status for Microsoft Office

Brazil, India and South Africa have lodged an appeal against a decision to grant international standard recognition to Microsoft’s Office software package, a standards agency overseeing the case said Friday.

CRN: Brazil And India Appeal Microsoft’s OOXML Standard

Even before these appeals, Microsoft’s Office Open XML victory in April has not been without opposition.Critics have strongly spoken out against Microsoft’s OOXML format, citing worrisome issues such as the ISO’s fast-track approval process and complicated voting procedure.

Embargo and Antitrust Revisited

For those wondering about the Microsoft embargo proposal in Europe (we’ve received enquires by E-mail), none of it has been dismissed or disregarded. The following new article alludes to it and also reminds us all that the European Commission is likely yet to deliver another blow to Microsoft for its carefless abuse of the entire process.

Even if Microsoft can hold the line and push OOXML through that final hoop, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean success. A member of the European Parliament recently called for a five-year ban on government contracts to Microsoft due to the loss of its antitrust case with the European Commission in September.

Besides that, the EC continues to investigate Microsoft’s alleged misbehavior during the ISO standards process. Finally, browser competitor Opera Software has also filed complaints against Microsoft with the EC.

Whether any of those moves will ultimately result in bringing down the software giant, however, is anybody’s guess at this point.

“There’s enough antipathy toward Microsoft, from competitors, critics, governments, and even some politicians who have grievances with them [that] there’s inevitably going to be that constant clipping away at the company,” Davis said. “But it’s hard to tell which action is going to blossom into a real threat,” he added.

It would be too easy to permit Microsoft to paint itself a victim.

“The government is not trying to destroy Microsoft, it’s simply seeking to compel Microsoft to obey the law. It’s quite revealing that Mr. Gates equates the two.”

Government official

“Driving Microsoft’s ‘Community’ strategy around Open Source Software”

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Novell at 2:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Why fight the #1 rival when you can steal or undermine it?

Just found in Linux.com:

“Join the team leading one of the companies most exciting & dynamic initiatives, driving Microsoft’s overall community strategy around Open Source Software.” But don’t worry: “Familiarity with the Linux & OSS market / products” is “not required”.

Moses, smells the roses?

“Our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand.”

Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO (just days ago)

Novellsoft

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