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06.16.08

The Open Source ‘Census’ Lost Its Credibility

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OSI, Windows at 11:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“We believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability.”

Steve Ballmer

Yesterday we wrote about the Open Source Census accepting Microsoft's money. We criticised this move for being short-sighted yet typical.

You don’t really have to take our own word for it. Just take a look at the Web. Here are some early reactions:

From the CEO of MuleSource;

My guess? I think Microsoft wants access to the results both so it can understand open source but also so it can start to consider legal actions against the most popular products and the companies that develop them.

I’ll apologize in advance if the motives are completely altruistic but if the past is any evidence, we should really avoid giving this kind of information to Microsoft with no benefits attached to open source.

Pamela Jones wrote: “Um. They want to figure out who to sue over their stupid patents they allege are being infringed? You think? Learning from history and past Microsoft paid-for studies, I’d also predict that we will see a headline that Novell is winning in adoption rates, thus “proving” that it was right to sell out and sign a patent deal with Microsoft. A secondary finding could be that enterprise use of Linux otherwise is slowing, compared to a healthy Microsoft, I’ve no doubt. Thanks, Mary Jo, for letting us know Microsoft is funding this “study”, so we can ignore the results. I naturally hope no one joins the study, now that Microsoft is sponsoring it.

Unsurprisingly, OStatic takes a gentler stance.

When we first told you about the Open Source Census back in April, there were already a number of sponsors, “with more expected to sign on in the future.” Well, today, another sponsor was announced and the name may surprise you — or maybe not. Microsoft. As expected, some open source supporters are in a twist over the news, while others are waxing philosophical.

ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley thinks that perhaps the move is motivated by Microsoft’s desire for greater interoperability with open source systems, and also to gain a “better understanding of where/how open-source software is gaining traction in enterprises in order to better fight it.”

There are also some interesting reactions in LinuxToday, such as this one.

This permits MS to find out the truth and to suppress any “bad news”. MS will also be able to “talk to” people that are getting started with FOSS.

All we will hear is how Linux/FOSS is struggling and just not getting deployed to any real extent.

Michael Tiemann (of OSI) says:

I do not see how it is valid to call this a census, unless there is a means to compel every single member of the open source community to surrender their information for the sponsors and executors the census. Is Microsoft promising to provide such muscle for OpenLogic? Or is Microsoft unclear on what the term “census” actually means. (I have my own opinions on whether they understand what “open source” means, at least when they use the term publicly.) Either way I don’t see this producing a valid result, just more confusion.

This concurs with the opinion of Pamela Jones over at Groklaw. Only days ago we wrote about Forrester's acceptance of Microsoft money for anti-Linux 'studies'.

Last among these reactions is one from Matt Asay.

I think Microsoft just wants to be associated with any good-hearted open-source effort, so that it can appear…good hearted, without actually engaging open source in any deep, meaningful way.

Glyn Moody’s assessment, which we cited yesterday, is very similar to this.

To summarise, here is what Microsoft can gain:

  1. Knowledge of who uses which Free software products, potentially for extortion purposes (or 'tax')
  2. Ability to game — to a greater or lesser extent — statistics about open source use
  3. Production of FUD studies, which lead to misleading and misinformed press coverage
  4. Dilution of the “Open Source” value and definition
  5. Further confusion and ruining of the reputation of a census
  6. Claims of goodwill and belonging to the open source ‘movement’ (subversive and self-serving assimilation [1, 2, 3, 4])
  7. Ability to accuse companies of being intolerant towards Microsoft’s participation (daemonisation using the “Microsoft hater” label [1, 2])

Surely enough, we’ll be seeing Microsoft intrude more such initiatives and infiltrate events under the 'interoperability' guise. It does not usually work out so well at the end. In fact, the CEO of SourceForge recently quit his job, but to be fair, there’s no evidence that associates any of this with the FUD Awards controversy.

Links 16/06/2008: GNU/Linux Releases, BECTA Under Heavy Fire

Posted in News Roundup at 12:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

New GNU/Linux Releases

Devices

BECTA Fiasco Revisited

F/OSS

Web Browsers

Windows

ODF Op-Eds from South Africa, Malaysia

Posted in Africa, Asia, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, SUN at 8:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

South Africa holds an important meeting that discusses XML and, in particular, document formats. Some of the latest coverage from Tectonic, which is based in South Africa, indicates that, among several things, closed formats may be dying and change needs to come from citizens whose choice of formats may gradually instruct and drive change in government.

One of the best ways to ensure this happens is for the likes of you and your readers to keep sending ODF documents to government agencies and requiring that they accept them. Most departments have a plan for fuller support in 2008/2009.

A lot of important progress has been made by ODF recently. Over in Malaysia, there’s this good little summary predicting that Microsoft will not sit idly. We shall wait and watch.

Lets see how the Microsoft machinery reacts to this set of interesting news, and see how they spin in. How much has this fiasco cost them? What did they get out of it? A chance to be more open? Can you see a change yet?

In related news, Sun’s commitment to Open Source is applauded by one who is typically a shrewd critic.

In the open source world, many grandiloquent declarations of free and open source commitment have been legitimately questioned by apparently minor details: Microsoft refusing the GNU GPLv3 on their open source repository CodePlex or Google refusing the GNU AGPLv3 (Affero) on open source repository Google Code are good examples of such troubling discrepancies.

Short of a slow start and a few hiccups, SUN has done pretty well so far. The company seems genuinely committed to open source and free software. Here is a story that shows that SUN commitment runs even deeper.

As Linus Torvalds suggested a year ago, Sun’s goal is to attract Linux developers and restore its older golden days somehow. For the time being, Sun is an interesting Free software citizen. It is not fully committed and engaged yet. To some people, ODF is synonymous with Sun and OpenOffice.org, but this is far from true in practice.

“Writing non-free software is not an ethically legitimate activity, so if people who do this run into trouble, that’s good! All businesses based on non-free software ought to fail, and the sooner the better.”

Richard Stallman

Microsoft ‘Buys’ Parts of the Open Source Movement – Part Deux (Updated)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Ubuntu at 8:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Towards Redefining Free Open Source Software in the Darnest of Ways

Here we go again. SourceForge is one recent example of Microsoft's strategy that involves capturing "open source", which it maliciously compared to communism in the past, and thus becoming one of its leaders. There are many other examples like unsuccessful attempts around the OSA and even OLPC. It becomes quite an abomination when Microsoft then redefines open source.

The latest news is about yet another Microsoft sponsorship of a project that so far seems to revolve around champions like Firefox, Ubuntu and other direct competitors of Microsoft.

Microsoft has become a sponsor of The Open Source Census, a project started earlier this year that aims to track and catalog the use of open-source software in enterprises worldwide, the group announced Monday.

[...]

It is important to balance open-mindedness with skepticism when thinking about Microsoft’s open-source strategy, according to one observer.

Here is what Glyn Moody had to say about this.

Call it the “loving to death” strategy: Microsoft entwines its tentacles around more and more of the open source world until it becomes almost – almost – an indispensable part of it. Result: the person on the Clapham omnibus is confused about what is and what isn’t open source….

What Moody calls “loving to death”, Linux Today’s Managing Editor recently called “killing with kindness”.

To exemplify this further, a trollish article that we alluded to the other day is now being dissected by MTG, who shows us how “open source” gets exploited and misused not just by Microsoft.

So apparently the Boy Scouts of America are all Gun Ho about open source. Computer World explains us that they have launch their BSA Open Source Initiative.

[...]

Since a recent experience with Microsoft got me worried about people using terms out of context, I thought I’d browse through the open source BSA site to find out more. Especially worth reading (and source from most of the quotes) are the pages named classroom and history.

Redefinition/spinning is an issue we’ll be seeing more of in the future. Why is Bruce Perens not up there in OSI policing and defending the integrity of this ever-mutating sibling of Free software?

“There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don’t think that those incentives should exist.”

Bill Gates, 2005

Update: Some more analysis of this sponsorship is starting to appear now, including some key observations from Mary Jo.

And note the mention of license compliance here — a hot button for Microsoft, the company which has alleged that open-source software violates more than 200 of Microsoft’s patents. The Census discovery tool doesn’t search for open-source software on Linux boxes only; it also scans for open-source installed specifically on Windows machines.

Microsoft officials are emphasizing that Microsoft wants to know about open-source adoption levels and trends because the company is interested in helping its customers’ Windows systems better interoperate with open-source systems. I’m sure that Microsoft also wants a better understanding of where/how open-source software is gaining traction in enterprises in order to better fight it.

Microsoft Takes Experiments with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 a Little Further

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Servers at 7:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell recently bragged about SUSE's presence in supercomputers, but Novell also offers an adoption ramp for Microsoft Windows in supercomputers. This should hardly be surprising given that the company’s CEO recently said: “our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand.”

The story we refer to here is about dual-booting SUSE with Windows. In the news we now find this.

Windows dual boots its way onto a Linux stage

Windows may never boot Linux from its dominant role in high performance computing, but Microsoft’s dual-boot strategy is making some inroads. IBM says it has built what may be the largest Windows/Linux HPC dual-boot system yet for a university research group in Sweden.

Will Microsoft welcome dual-booting with GNU/Linux on desktops and laptops? Of course not.

“The integration of WCCS [Windows Compute Cluster Server] into the Linux SUSE environment enables users to submit jobs to the Platform LSF scheduler for execution on WCCS.”

Microsoft

Reactions to Nokia’s Latest Mistake

Posted in DRM, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Patents at 3:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

…Because some things should not be said out in public

Nokia can almost be understood. It is struggling to hop from one strand of technology (proprietary software) onto another while obeying and meetings the demands of investors and partners in the media industry, for example. But what Ari Jaaksi did the other day (revealing this dilemma) was rather tactless and in a new blog post he explains just what he meant.

Companies like Nokia need to learn the open source way of working. This means not only fulfilling the letter of GPL, LGPL etc. but also the spirit. In my mind this means integrating the corporate work with the open source community, participating, contributing back the code, building the code in open projects and not only releasing it when mandatory, not forking, etc.

Ryan Paul weighs in on this as well and defends, where possible, what Nokia does.

Another point that is missing from this debate is the part that is played by end users. Regardless of how Nokia and open source software developers view restrictive business practices, it is pressure from the consumer that will eventually make such practices untenable. Regular users are increasingly fighting back as they become aware of the hidden costs built into locks and DRM. These mechanisms are easily circumventable, and they cease to stay relevant when they are repeatedly cracked.

Nokia was seen defending DRM in the past, so there will always be doubt and skepticism. In fact, see some of the reactions to this latest incident. One the more direct responses comes from Balzac:

Oh please, educate me, Nokia.

Nokia: “We want to educate open-source developers.”

Oh please, educate me, Nokia. Actually, never-mind. Kiss my ass instead. BTW, I call it free software, not “open source”.

Nokia: “There are certain business rules [developers] need to obey, such as DRM, IPR [intellectual property rights], SIM locks and subsidised business models.”

You think I need obey? I prefer civil disobedience. DRM? Why would I obey your plan to steal my freedom? “Intellectual property”? What’s that? There is Copyright law and Patent law but to my knowledge, there is no “intellectual property” law.

It’s a good idea to Boycott Nokia. They have an exceedingly imperious and arrogant attitude. Didn’t they just buy Trolltech? Whichever pinhead from Nokia wrote this garbage just did a disservice to Trolltech. It makes Trolltech look like obedient “open source” developers who are in the process of being re-educated by Nokia.

This was posted in response to this gripe.

You better start playing by the rules because else the other companies might do it faster than Nokia and you will lose the opportunity. Oh: And just as a remind: when you go open source, you *must* play by the rules by honoring the license of the software.

Really, it’s sad to listen to things like this from someone controlling the company who owns Trolltech I am sure that the vice-president of companies like Red Hat wouldn’t say nonsense like the above. But it’s no surprise coming from someone in a company that seems to be absolutely in favor of software patents in Europe according to FFII.

Assuming we study the progression of intellectual monopolies and also the subversion by corporations like Novell, Nokia is a large player worth keeping an eye on. It’s discussed in the IRC channel at the moment.

Novell Brings Mono and OpenOffice.org Even Closer

Posted in Mono, Novell, OpenOffice at 2:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A year and a half ago someone warned that Novell would possibly ‘poison’, using patents, some good projects like OpenOffice.org, maybe even the Linux kernel. Anything which Novell is supposedly covered for while others are not makes an advantage for Novell. This happens to include Mono.

Be aware of things that are happening at Novell, as told by Miguel de Icaza a few days ago.

A few years ago, Sun implemented a .NET bridge for UNO. This bridge allowed .NET developers to script, extend and reuse open office as a library from C# or any other .NET language.

A couple of years ago, Michael Meeks and the OpenOffice community ported the bridge to work with Mono which allows developers to create OpenOffice based solutions using any of the Mono programming languages (C#, Boo, IronPython, IronRuby, F#, VB, Nemerle and so on).

But even if the engine existed, it was not properly installed in the system and getting a C#-based OpenOffice solution required lots of Unix skills, the kind of skills that would likely be in short supply by those that interested in OpenOffice automation. We fixed this in this last development cycle, so now a Novell OpenOffice installation will have everything you need.

This is not a new bridge and Mono got in contact with OpenOffice.org before. The so-called OOXML ‘translators’ Novell loves to rave about contain C#, so increasingly, Novell makes it harder to avoid Mono. It serves it well; as for everybody else — not so much.

It’s a similar situation with Novell's Evolution. And speaking of which, a vulnerability in it has just been discovered.

OOXML

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: June 15th, 2008

Posted in IRC Logs at 2:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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