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06.30.08

Links 30/06/2008: GNU/Linux in Acer’s Laptops, IBM’s Supercomputer, and Russia’s Schools

Posted in News Roundup at 5:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Technical

F/OSS

Leftover

Stallmanians and Torvaldsians Will Be Stronger Together

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, ISO, Kernel, Microsoft at 4:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNU and Linux

S

everal days ago, Free Software Daily had shared an old video of Torvalds. The video was from 2001.

A reader who has watched the computing industry for decades wrote to share his opinion and interpretation of this apparent divide between Linus Torvalds and the Free Software movement. It was highlighted by some.

Thank you for the reference to the Linus Torvalds talk about “the origins of Linux.” It was interesting. I’m not sure that I exactly agree with your characterisation of Torvalds’ view of the GPL.

I do not understand why he says that “the GPL is a horrible document.” He does not elaborate, but if I try to read between the lines, I would say that it is because he is apolitical and he sees the GPL as a political document. He truly is a technical person who is just doing something that he finds to be fun and challenging. He is not doing it for political reasons at all.

I don’t necessarily see this as a reason to distrust him. He does also say that he went for the GPL as a licence because he saw that there is a big problem with the BSD licence in that it allows contributors to make changes and keep them as secrets. He is fundamentally on the same side as Richard Stallman, whether he knows it or not. Perhaps one difference between them is that he didn’t quite have Stallman’s experience with proprietary software which upset him enough to start the GNU project and the FSF. In political terms, one would say that they have an uneasy alliance and it’s in the FSF’s best interest to use Linux for their purposes.

As for the future, who knows? Perhaps if locked down hardware which only allows certain “approved” operating systems becomes the norm, it would upset Torvalds enough to take a strong stand.

It is true that he vehemently dislikes DRM because it is a form of restriction that is never effective. He does, on the other hand, defend Tivoization — moreover saying that he likes it. He recently said in an interview that he was glad to see DRM fading away (at least for music distribution).

The introduction/popularisation of Digital ‘Manners’, ‘Trusted’ Computing and other not-so-polite and not-so-trusted technologies might — just might — change his mind.

“It’s truly understandable that, being an engineer, he can ignore the problem and let his colleagues deal with this burden.”When Torvalds set up a PC for his wife, and it was quite recently in fact, he chose Fedora. He reported bugs and some people in OS News spotted and elaborated on this. This might tell that he values Free software (somewhere deep inside).

Based on interviews, he seems fearful of distraction that comes from ‘politics’ and emotional attachment. Software patents opened up his eyes and some months ago he said he was worried about them. It’s truly understandable that, being an engineer, he can ignore the problem and let his colleagues deal with this burden.

Our reader later concluded by saying: “My gut feeling is that Torvalds is honest and that’s the fundamental reason which makes me want to trust him. I have less respect for someone who just goes with the flow and says whatever is convenient at the time. At least, he doesn’t concern himself with being “popular” or “unpopular.”

It was roughly a week ago that you could also found out what Richard Stallman thinks about Microsoft. Some people have argued that he does not pay enough attention to Microsoft but looks at a broader pictures instead.

“Microsoft suborned the One Laptop Per Child project, converting it into a massive Windows training campaign. The project says it is giving the purchasing governments ‘more choice’ by supporting Windows as well as GNU/Linux, but those governments will tend to choose Windows by default. In some countries, people will campaign to prevent that. If these campaigns succeed, the OLPC project may yet make a positive contribution to the world. Otherwise, it will do overall harm.”

Second, talking about the standards fight in which Microsoft succeeded in having its OOXML format accepted as an open standard in rivalry to the ODF format favored by OpenOffice.org and other free office applications, Stallman notes that “Microsoft corrupted many members of ISO in order to win approval for its phony ‘open’ document format, OOXML. This was so governments that keep their documents in a Microsoft-only format can pretend that they are using ‘open standards.’ The government of South Africa has filed an appeal against the decision, citing the irregularities in the process.”

Despite all of this, ISO continues to deny the obvious.

The main post of this post has been to show that Torvalds’ and Stallman’s thinking is not so different after all. They just happen to focus on different areas/angles of the very same thing, trying to resolve the technical and ‘political’ issues, respectively. Both sides ought to respect one another. They’ll both win that way.

“When I do this, some people think that it’s because I want my ego to be fed, right? Of course, I’m not asking you to call it “Stallmanix”!”

Richard Stallman

iPlayer Meets Antitrust, Other Possible Scandals Unraveled

Posted in Antitrust, Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 4:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Shunning your partners’ number-one rival at taxpayers’ expense

I

n our last post about the BBC, some visitors argued that we had taken things out of proportion. Some were convinced and some were not. In any event, should one find legitimacy in the new antitrust barrier that has just met by iPlayer? Should it not be an indication that the problem is recognised at a high level? How about all those complaints that reached the European Commission, which in turn promised to handle this along with similar complaints around Europe (not only the UK is affected by such a scam).

Commercial iPlayer faces anti-trust shakedown

Project Kangaroo, the commercial on-demand web TV service being developed by BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4, will be investigated by the Competition Commission amid concern that it could stifle rival online efforts.

For those who are in a mood for exploration, Glyn Moody identified and shared another little nugget from the UK:

MPs are still not getting it. Instead of embracing the principal of open government and beginning the slow process of re-building their reputation with the public, they want to give themselves more money by stealth.

[...]

However, I should tell those who press and press such issues that, sooner or later, the allowances will be rolled into our salary, handed out without any claim mechanism or dealt with under some other device, because it is intolerable that this intrusion into Members’ private lives should have to be endured or should be permitted, and something will happen to prevent it from going too far. We can see what will happen: local news reporters and local political opponents will start trying to air these issues in public, which will be demeaning, as well as reducing the stature of Parliament and damaging our democracy. It cannot be right that things should reach such lengths.”

More possible new scandals include the following:

U.S. and Europe Near Agreement on Private Data

[...]

But the two sides are still at odds on several other matters, including whether European citizens should be able to sue the United States government over its handling of their personal data, the report said.

We recently wrote about the use of propaganda terms like “harmonisation” and “digital manners” to pass malicious laws. “The war on terror” is another such example and here are Moody’s comments on that latest developments (cited above).

Laws which are apparently being chucked away purely because America wants to disregard them. This is what happens when European government mouth fatuities about the so-called “war on terror”: they then get hoist by their own rhetorical petard.

What’s amazing is that probably 90% of Europeans would be against giving this kind of data to the US if they were ever given any way to choose. Which they won’t be, of course: that’s democracy?

One more issue that we regularly keep an eye on is the effect of lobbying on Free software. Microsoft is the #1 felon in its area and here comes another suspicion that may or may not affect the reception of Free software in healthcare.

Alberto Borges, MD writes in with news that a major Health IT bill is up for approval in Congress and that Cerner spent $180,000 in lobbying the government in the 1st quarter alone. Might the passage of this bill heavily favor the formation of a cartel of proprietary vendors?

“Lobbying” is another propaganda term that could equally well be labeled “legalised bribery”, “political intervention”, or “manufacturing of laws”. Knowing the world we live in is the first step to realisation of its ills. Then we can understand how to find solutions.

“I thanked [Compaq’s John] Rose for all of his trips to Seattle and his willingness to distract a lot of time for the lawsuit.”

Bill Gates

Novell Sleeps with Windows Vista Again

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, Microsoft, Novell, Vista, Windows at 4:11 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This has become a recurrent pattern that we highlighted in this Web site before (most recently here).

What a way to start the Novell newsletter for June. A reader who received it by E-mail has sent us a copy, labeling it “Novell recommends Vista.” Here is a screenshot we took:

Novell and Vista

Novell is hopefully getting its money’s SUSE coupons’ worth for all of that sucking up. What a way to be greeted as a Novell client.

Ironically enough, on the other side of the fence, Microsoft continues its verbal assault against Free/Open Source software. Way to go.

Microsoft starts a FUD war against open-source Symbian

That didn’t take long. Nokia announced just last week that it would be open sourcing Symbian, the world’s top mobile operating system by market share, and a few days later Microsoft has started a FUD war against the move.

The ironic thing in this Microsoft FUD offensive is that it’s using precisely the wrong example from open source to wage the war: Linux. While it could have found some examples of open source that fragments, is more costly than proprietary software, etc.,

[...]

Try competing on the quality of your product. In mobile, Microsoft has always been an also-ran. This will not change until Microsoft stops believing its own FUD and actually invests more heavily in its mobile initiatives, by which I mean in its technology, not in its marketing. Windows Mobile has never been very good, even back in the early days when I competed with them while at Lineo. It’s time for an upgrade, Microsoft.

Novell seems kind and gentle towards Microsoft (it has to), but Microsoft continues to hate and combat a wave which it is unable to defeat. It’s a one-way relationship, for sure.

Skepticism aside, for those who ask themselves why we keep showing such examples, it’s the worry about closeness that could become an acquisition one day. It makes financial sense and the companies seem less separable as the months go by.

“Our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand.”

Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO

Links 30/06/2008: More GNU/Linux Laptops, Windows XP’s End Marks Trouble

Posted in News Roundup at 7:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Releases

  • Myah OS 3.0 Dragon [Released]

    For all current fans of Myah OS and all those soon to be, we give you Myah OS 3.0 Dragon. Dragon is the code name for Myah OS built around the KDE 3 desktop. We chose KDE 3.5.9 since it’s still considered the most stable and best supported version of KDE.

  • Scientific Linux release 5.2 i386 and x86_64 has been released.

    Scientific Linux 5.2 has been released in record time. We want to thank everyone who has contributed, tested, and given us feedback. Without your help this release couldn’t have come out as quickly and smoothly as it has.

  • Parsix GNU/Linux 1.5r0 codename ‘Viola’ has been released

    After a two-week delay, we proudly announce the immediate availability of Parsix GNU/Linux 1.5r0 codename ‘Viola’. Parsix Viola brings several new features, contains a new kernel, updated software packages, updated documentation, improved installer system and several fixes for the reported defects.

  • Finnix 92.0 Released

    Finnix is a small, self-contained, bootable Linux CD distribution for system administrators, based on Debian testing. Today marks the release of version 92.0 for the x86/AMD64, PowerPC, and UML/Xen platforms.

F/OSS

Microsoft

Tackling Intellectual Monopolies the Wrong Way: An OIN for the Wealthy

Posted in Courtroom, Law, OIN, Patents at 6:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

USPTOAs many people are probably aware, OIN is an interesting-but-not-so-effective solution to the plague which is intellectual monopolies on software. In particular, OIN is unable to defend businesses or programmers who use software programs in the face of patent trolls. That being the case, it was odd to find this new initiative which seems like another OIN, plus a very hefty payment that leaves small businesses and free software developers out in the cold. They endorse rather than battle the problem.

Tech giants form group to buy patents

To join the group, each company will pay about $250,000 put about $5 million into escrow for future patent purchases, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the matter

This seems like a very partial solution which is self-serving to some giants, but what about the rest? Are they acquiring the privilege to be exempt from a broken law that they seem unable (or insufficiently willing) to fix? The same short article proceeds:

A sweeping patent law rewrite backed by seemingly every prominent hardware and software maker was part of that effort, but it stalled in the Senate last month. The so-called Patent Reform Act of 2007 would have curbed the ability of patent holders to obtain what the companies consider disproportionate damage awards, spurring the rise of so-called patent trolls who exist only to extort large payments out of deep-pocketed companies.

The giants just seek convenience here, as opposed to a cure.

In other news, another struggling company has just decided to sue all the giants from which it hopes to extract money.

Struggling in-flight entertainment house e.Digital is challenging some of the world’s biggest gadget companies with claims that it owns vital patents for using removable flash memory in portable devices.

It’s targeting brands such as Casio, LG Electronics, Olympus, Samsung and Sanyo in a legal scrap filed last March. But e.Digital says there’s a far larger pool of companies currently infringing its patents, and has “identified annual U.S. revenues of more than $20 billion,” from products using its technology.

This is business? This is development? An upsurge for the market? For lawyers, maybe.

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