With the first half of the year 2008 now behind us, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting events that shaped the past six months.
Probably the most important Linux-related story of this year was the continued success of Linux on ultra-portable laptops. These simple Internet devices, pioneered by ASUS in the form of its Eee PC and latercopied” by just about every major hardware manufacturer, are largely responsible for the growing perception among the general public that Linux is just as effective an operating system as any of the mainstream alternatives – all without the extra costs and limitations present in proprietary products. In fact, such was the success of Linux on the Eee PC that Microsoft was forced to spend a large amount of money on promoting Windows and has reportedly cut the price of its specially built Windows XP to as little as US$26. Despite that, it might still end up on the losing side of the battle.
Bradley M. Kuhn, FLOSS Community Liaison and Technology Director of Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), asks if contributing to FLOSS is becoming a social cause, as he received a phone call from someone involved with a socially responsible investment house.
While I am not convinced it is feasible to measure what he calls the “Free Software Fairness Index”, I see that Jonathan Schwartz in 2007 published the first Sun’s Corporate Social Responsibility report, while corporate/social responsibility advocates asked the Oracle board to issue an Open Source Social Responsibility Report to shareholders.
ACT carries on with its fight for RAND terms that essentially leave FOSS out of the cold. They try to enforce these anti-FOSS laws by ridiculing the EU (e.g. “scoring an own goal”) and by calling Free software a “religion” — i.e. daemonising it in ways. They are also camouflaging themselves and their funding sources. They don’t really represent small businesses.
Both posts now have extensive postings from Mark Blafkin, who is Vice President for Public Affairs at the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT). It bills itself as “protecting small business innovation”, but it also boasts “several Sponsor Members including eBay, Microsoft, Oracle, Orbitz and VeriSign.” Significantly, its offices are located in Washington in the US, and in Brussels in the EU: in other words, it’s a lobbying organisation aimed at swaying the two most powerful political machines.
Watch the comment from Simon Phipps. He understands tis better than most people.
Meanwhile, also in Europe, Microsoft is protesting against old fines. It’s slowing down the process using bureaucracy ahead of more heavy fines.
Microsoft Calls EU Fine ‘Excessive’
The Commission said it issued the fine because Microsoft did not follow an order in 2004 from Brussels to offer information to competitors on reasonable terms.
Hasn’t ACT done enough ‘protesting’ over this already? Watch this old story.
Many people are probably aware by now of the media industry’s Web grab. For those who are new to this, read the press release Kathy Sinnott’s:
Kathy Sinnott MEP for Munster will be voting against a series of amendments to the European Telecommunications Directive designed to give the EU control over citizen’s internet usage. The proposed amendments to the could force internet service providers to turn over information on customers and monitor their internet usage. It could also force software makers to include spyware in their products to allow not only governments but also corporations to monitor citizen’s activities whether or not they are suspected of unlawful behaviour.
Kathy Sinnott MEP said “I am a great proponent of net neutrality. The reason the internet is what it is today, is that no-one owns it and no company or government has as yet taken control over it. These amendments being pressed by some MEP’s seek to move Europe closer to the Chinese internet model where usage is monitored and where an individual goes online can be curtailed. This will give vast control over our lives to governments and in some cases corporations. I believe that law enforcement agencies should be allowed to pursue specific targets (eg. child pornography, terrorism) but monitoring the entire populace is not the way to go about it. These intrusions into our privacy would be unacceptable and I will be urging my colleagues to vote down all such amendments on July 7th.”
Other amendments added to the packet of laws allow governments to decide which software can be used on the web.
How about this from Bill Thompson, who typically writes about (and in favour of) digital freedom and rights?
Another amendment put forward by Mr Kamall allows that “traffic data may be processed… to ensure the security of a public electronic communication service”, which the campaigners read as giving carte blanche to the content providers to monitor and control what happens on the network on the grounds that copying files or breaking digital rights management counts as a “security” breach.
Corruption overflow in the policy-making environment
At the centre of this story of corruption lies one company, but please, don’t think it is a unique case (others will be quoted below): it is just the most impudent and shameless one. This company is Vivendi (formerly Vivendi-Universal).
It was hardly surprising to find some sneaky last-minute amendments also in Brazil. It’s the same type of situation over there. [via Simon Phipps]
Downloading files from the Internet to become a crime in Brazil
Another article from the draft law – article 22 – is also being targeted by ISPs and the law professors. It imposes an obligation to ISPs requiring them to secretly inform authorities of any suspicion of criminal activity of which they acquire knowledge.
According to the professors, the article creates a system of private surveillance and finger-pointing affecting every net user, since ISPs will be obliged to communicate cases in which – according to their own convictions – there would be potentially criminal activity.
In Germany, You Share the PC… with Big Brother
Another reason to avoid proprietary software: Germany now takes further steps to legalise government spyware. Of course, everyone is told that it’s part of the ‘Fight Against Terrorism’.
Terrorism ‘this and that’ (sometimes “paedophiles”) is the perfect excuse for justifying warrentless wiretapping. This one seems like no ordinary measure.
Bavaria has become the first German state to approve laws that allow police to plant spyware on the PCs of terror suspects.
What makes some person a ‘terror suspect’? What is the criterion?
Some laws which were passed to supposedly combat terrorists have already been abused to interrogate an animal activist (by divulging PGP keys). That happened last year.
The “terrorist” term (or “religion”, or “zealot”, or “basement dweller”) is often just an excuse for passing laws or starting something that later expands in terms of scope. You can’t ever say “no” to the “fight against terror” though.
Like any such broad change (for instance, public databases that see data theft due to no encryption, missing laptops and security flaws), it’s only a matter of time before things go out of control, Legalising government spyware? Back doors as standard? What would prevent cybercriminals from entering the very same back door. They already exist by the way. █
Any comment about the reaction to news of Microsoft’s Support of Open Source Census?
From the beginning, we knew that we wanted The Open Source Census to be a collaborative effort – not just specific to OpenLogic. We felt that collaboration was critical to making The Open Source Census successful. Prior to launching The Open Source Census, we began the process of reaching out to a wide variety of participants in the open source community and ecosystem. The list included large platform vendors, commercial open source vendors, open source communities and organizations, law firms and analysts. Because this is an open project, we did not limit or exclude anyone from sponsoring or participating – as long as they agreed with the goals and process for The Open Source Census. We welcome all sponsors who might want to participate and help make The Open Source Census successful.
The existent Stormy Peters-Miguel de Icaza connection should not be a serious issue because she appears to have condemned ‘the’ deal recently — however cautiously (see the link at the top). However, now comes this:
Istanbul, Turkey, July 7, 2008: The GNOME Foundation today announced the hiring of Stormy Peters as Executive Director. Stormy, a well-known industry analyst with extensive experience at Hewlett Packard and OpenLogic, will work on accelerating the adoption of GNOME and strengthening the Foundation by attracting new industry members and community contributors. “Hiring Stormy represents a major step for GNOME”, said Luis Villa, a Director of the GNOME Foundation. “With her unique background and experience, she’ll be a natural at growing industry support for the project and connecting interested parties to our community.”
This post needn’t be misinterpreted. Many large companies have complex agendas. The same goes for IBM, to name just one example. IBM may have married Novell and Microsoft. In general, marrying Microsoft and the FOSS world is just a case of pulling the ‘F’ out of FOSS. That’s the key concern here. █
Microsoft employees and Microsoft-sympathetic bloggers like Alex Brown are hopping on Alan Bryden’s dismissive remarks of denial [1, 2, 3, 4] and use these to clean their own consciousness out in public. They try to pretend that they don’t know what happened. It was a similar story and a case of rewriting history just a fortnight ago when Bill gates was preparing to leave [1, 2, 3] and play politics instead. It’s totally missing the point.
In any event, here is a new video explaining the importance of ODF. OOXML was nothing but an attack on ODF and its goals. It was reactionary. █
Remember Automatix? Yes the nifty little application that made installing additional softwares on the Ubuntu system a breeze. Here comes the same for Fedora 9, FedoMATIX (v0.1Beta). It currently works on the command line only, but supports more than 60 additional softwares/apps already. The next version, which is due release in 2 months, will feature a GUI and many more softwares and hacks.
The badasses over at Unwired View have figured out how to install the Android OS dev image on the Nokia N810 running the Diablo (latest) firmware; effectively replacing the operating system with Android and allowing you to play around with it long before real Android phones and devices will hit the street.
Ok, the last -rc obviously wasn’t the last one after all, since here’s a new one. Enough changes that we needed another -rc, and the regression list isn’t emptying fast enough either (probably because a number of people, including reporters, are vacationing).
When it comes to the GNOME LiveCD, they have switched from using GNOME to Xfce. Switching to this lightweight desktop environment was done to conserve space on the LiveCD image. Once using the LiveCD installer to install to a disk, you will be left with Xfce 4.4.2, but KDE or GNOME can be built from the Portage source. With Gentoo 2008.0 there is no x86 or AMD64 LiveDVD this time around (at least not for now) due to a decision by the release engineering team to avoid delaying the 2008.0 release any further.
And before anyone thinks that’s impossible, look at Sabayon. It’s already doing that. It’s current version 3.5 offers you four major window managers (KDE, Gnome, XFCE and Fluxbox), a specialized EeePC install, and a Gui-less install for server uses. If they can do it, why can’t Ubuntu?
One of the advantages of a UNIX system is the possibility to replace any part of the system with another provided that it has the same interface/functionality. You don’t like BASH? Use tcsh. You don’t like KDE? There is GNOME, Xfce.
These are those basic rules on which UNIX is based that made this system so flexible. From, desktops, servers, mainframes to supercomputers and back to
small mobile devices like smartphones or MIDs…
Like Linux and others, it shares its source code free of charge, giving programmers everywhere permission to debug, add capabilities or otherwise modify the product before redistributing it. (The company makes money by selling commercial licenses and offering support and services.)
Still, dominance alone is not an antitrust problem. The issue is the powerful company’s behavior, says Andrew I. Gavil, a professor at the Howard University School of Law. “You have to be big and bad, not just big,” he said.
I’m simply fed up. I’m fed up with the absolute turd that is Windows Vista. I’ve been using it since beta’s were stable enough for day-to-day use, and I just can’t take another five minute wait of constant disk thrashing, after another reboot forced upon me by yet another security patch from Microsoft.
Explorer used to be simple to use, now I struggle to navigate the mess of the new (but half-implemented) user interface.
None of this is particularly new and this habit of acquiring competitors or influencing them from afar is nothing out of the ordinary. Take SAP for example and consider the information below. That ought to explain why SAP 'approves' Novell Linux (or “endorses” it).
THEIL: How close were you to getting bought by Microsoft?
[SAP's] KAGERMANN: Microsoft approached us about a possible merger late last year [but] after a series of talks called it off because it would have been too complex. There was never a deal on the table.
A few months ago, in the midst of Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo, a suggestion came up urging for a SAP takeover. It’s very clear that these companies are very close and SAP’s Shai Agassi (more here), has even had his enormous share of attacks on Free software over the years. So why would SAP be interesting in replacing UNIX with Linux? And why Novell? Why after its certification for Red Hat? Quite simply, Microsoft plays a role.
For SAP to work with Microsoft and Novell would only be natural. It’s a case of telling them to buy Linux only if they really have to and only to buy it from Novell (‘Microsoft Linux’) so that the money goes to Microsoft and a message is sent t say that “Linux is not free.” Remember that Microsoft cannot extract money from UNIX or Red Hat.
In many ways, Novell is already Microsoft’s Linux subsidiary. It may only be a matter of time before those companies get a lot closer. Need Novell receive the benefit of the doubt until that day? █
“Our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand.”
It seems safe to say that people have come to grips with the fact that, after its deal with Microsoft, Linspire won’t be quite so visible anymore. It put itself in this downward spiral.
The company changed its name from Lindows, pulled out of an IPO, and then did a licensing deal with Microsoft, much like the ones signed by Xandros and Novell – only Linspire’s was even less popular.
Whoever signed this deal at the time either did not speak to a lawyer or was simply too foolish (and greedy). An internal post mortem could reveal who is responsible for the end of Linspire. At the moment, all that’s left is a legal mess and an abandoned plan [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. CNR is a non-asset despite what the following article tells.
So maybe this is the real value of the Xandros/Linspire deal: a humane package manager, a way to install external software in Linux that doesn’t scare off the uninitiated. I still like the idea of everything-in-the-repository for the sake of consistency, but the more possibilities we have on the table, the better.
CNR is already GPL-licensed though. What’s more, other analogous (and very satisfactory) solutions already exists. Even Kevin Carmony came to realise that Ubuntu, for instance, did not require CNR.
All in all, is seems like this so-called acquisition is just lipstick on a pig. It would be just embarrassing had Linspire shut down rather than sold itself.
Interestingly enough, Xandros might not end here. Pay attention to this.
Londini isn’t ruling out more acquisitions of this sort by Xandros in the near future.
Xandros’ CEO, Andreas Typaldos, has acknowledged that the move forms part of the company’s desire to expand into enterprise markets. “This is part of Xandros’ larger plan and vision for being a full product company to service both the consumer/OEM and enterprise markets,” he said.
Companies like Xandros and Novell are a death blow to any FOSS entity they touch. It would be an issue if PlateSpin, for example, was a FOSS company. XenSource, on the oither hand, became a prisoner of Redmond because of Citrix. █
Here it is almost 2 months late, and for good reasons. Readers might recall that Microsoft, ECMA, and those in-between did not obey the rules. OOXML, as buggy as it is, was not made visible to anyone. Until now.
7228 pages of ISO ooxml
Opendocument Format saves our trees. ISO Open XML has been getting more and more fat.
The many problems with OOXML are separate from its considerable length, which may seem a superficial thing to scrutinise. When different versions of Microsoft Office are part of a so-called ‘standard’, then it’s only expected to be badly formed and spurious.
From a legal and less technical point of view, Microsoft continues to fight — albeit usually by proxy — to ensure things like OOXML universally come with software patents. They immediately punish Free software, which Microsoft hates so much. Look what the BSA is doing in Europe at the moment.
Leave it to the Business Software Alliance (BSA) to distort the definition of “open standard” in order to serve the interests of Microsoft and its other members. The BSA doesn’t like the European Commission’s increasing interest in open source and open standards to deliver software interoperability.
Behind its pressure groups, Microsoft pulled a lot of dirty tricks in Europe last week. It’s definitely something to watch out for. █