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07.11.08

Links 11/07/2008: LT’s Brian Stepping Up, Latest Mandriva and Ubuntu @ Alpha 2

Posted in News Roundup at 3:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

F/OSS

Microsoft

Leftovers

Microsoft’s Anti-GNU/Linux/ODF Dump at South Africa

Posted in Africa, Asia, Finance, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OpenDocument at 2:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft sponsors shackles of infinitely-duplicable bits

T

hink about the children! It’s always the children that Microsoft approaches equipped with the excuse for zero-cost non-Free software. As for poor college students, they can receive considerable Office discounts for their data to be locked in without easy remedy. They’ll pay dearly when they grow up.

Today’s development comes from down south. For background on ODF and Free software adoption in South Africa, see [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. The short story is that South Africa is one of the leading countries in that respect. Microsoft has lost sleep over it, so it sent lobbyists there, to no avail.

Now… it boils down to money.

GNOME WMVWe’ve already seen this in many places, including Paris and Dubai [1, 2, 3]. Lobbyist Gates was behind some of these anti-Linux deals with high-level officials. He works quietly behind the scenes (also after that so-called 'retirement'), but the press has it documented.

Whenever a places is on the verge of adopting Free software, Microsoft starts throwing money at the problem, in order to stifle competition. And now it’s South Africa where Microsoft battles its #1 competitor. Here is an article that does not require subscription to view in full:

Microsoft to give software to 26 000 [South African] schools

Microsoft will supply productivity and server software worth about R750-million to public schools.

The software is expected to reach 26 000 government schools across South Africa, bringing modern information and communication technology to more than 11 million pupils.

A surprise it is not. On several occasions in the past, on the record even, officials said that the country would move to GNU/Linux, starting with the government att he least. There are already some very large and successful deployments, which happen to favour Ubuntu, product of local a ‘rock star’, Mark Shuttleworth.

“It’s a case of buying away children’s liberty…”Microsoft is determined to put an end to it. It will probably also give these children Office; You know, in order to stifle ODF and to spur the network effect using lock-in and other dependencies.

It’s a case of buying away children’s liberty and there will always be those welcoming the gift blindly. Let’s wait and see the reactions in coming days (we’ve informed some people already).

The only thing that can stop this wonderful trend of GNU/Linux adoption seems to be dumping, namely Microsoft paying (or at least donating) for schools to choose Windows, which it already offers for as little as US$18.

To Microsoft, it is the ‘dumping phase’ now. It warns about it in its SEC filings and tried this with Intel down in Nigeria (paying them to take Windows). Sales of Windows fell 24% in the last quarter nonetheless, so it’s a matter of urgency.

Another new announcement from Microsoft revolved around work with non-profits. Little do the journalists know what’s in store. It’s being described very blindly as goodwill, but didn’t Microsoft give money to thousands of Indian NGOs for pro-OOXML pressure? There are always expectations or strings attached.

Examples:

1. Microsoft influencing partner NGOs to support OOXML in India

Microsoft is encouraging its business partners to promote its Office Open XML specification (OOXML) to the Indian Bureau of Standards (BIS) and Ministry of IT. This move has incensed supporters of the rival OpenDocument Format (ODF) who fear that the “soft” Indian state may not be able to stand up to Microsoft pressure tactics.

2. Microsoft “persuades” NGOs to support OOXML

Our friends at Linux Delhi have put up a copy of the form letters that Microsoft has been sending NGOs on the OOXML issue. Apparently, these NGOs have been sending copies of these letters to the Ministry of IT and Bureau of Indian standards.

3. Using NGOs to Push Agendas

The extent to which Microsoft can go in its efforts to get OOXML is interesting. Microsoft has “persuaded” several non-profit organizations to bombard the Indian IT Secretary and the Additional Director General of the Bureau of Indian Standards with letters supporting its OOXML proposal. A copy of the form letter they have been circulating to NGOs is given below. Somebody should interview these NGOs to see how much they really know about OOXML and open standards.

The sequence of events leading up to the spamming of GoI? is:

Letter from an NGO thanking Microsoft (name changed to protect their identity)

Guess who left Microsoft India shortly after this scandal had been exposed?

Microsoft offered them lots of money before the first vote on OOXML, which took place in September 2007. AP reported about it. How desperate is Microsoft?

“It’s nice for you to admit your guys are running scared [of Free software]. They should be.”

Dana Blankenhorn, The sum of Microsoft’s fears

ISO Bites Its Tongue

Posted in ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, Standard at 1:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“I have lost my sleep and peace of mind for last two months over these distasteful activities by Microsoft.”

Professor Deepak Phatak

Ever since that leak came out, we have published three cumulative posts [1, 2, 3] that summarise preliminary analyses. As details continue to trickle, ISO is approached not necessarily for its final decision but merely for a confirmation of the legitimacy of the leaks. Here is ISO’s response (remember that ISO is a systematic denier, alongside Microsoft). Nothing has changed, based on the Register.

ISO refuses to discuss the leak.

Our indecision is final

“ISO and IEC prefer not to comment on whether internal documents said to originate from the two organisations and posted on Web blogs as ‘leaked information’ are authentic or not,” ISO communications manager Roger Frost emailed us yesterday.

”No decision on the appeals has been made. The current situation is that the ISO secretary-general and the IEC general secretary have submitted the appeals, with their analysis, to the ISO Technical Management Board and the IEC Standardisation Management Board who will decide by mid August whether the appeals should be further processed or not.”

Serial deniers. To be a tad sarcastic, maybe they just need some more time to prepare the Big Lie and make it sound credible. They hope to escape this with minimal damage to its already-stagnant reputation.

It’s pretty much the same with Market Watch, which chose to quote Andy Updegrove because ISO seems mum.

Representatives for both the ISO and IEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Andrew Updegrove, an attorney with Gesmer Updegrove LLP who has closely followed the Open XML debate, said the executives’ recommendations “demonstrate the very limited degree to which decisions made by ISO/IEC can be appealed, no matter how ill-considered they may be considered to have been by those that have participated in the process.”

ISO knows what it did. People who fled ISO knew far too well what had happened. Some even spoke out about it, but your eyes were not meant to see it.

“This year WG1 have had another major development that has made it almost impossible to continue with our work within ISO. The influx of P members whose only interest is the fast-tracking of ECMA 376 as ISO 29500 has led to the failure of a number of key ballots. Though P members are required to vote, 50% of our current members, and some 66% of our new members, blatantly ignore this rule despite weekly email reminders and reminders on our website. As ISO require at least 50% of P members to vote before they start to count the votes we have had to reballot standards that should have been passed and completed their publication stages at Kyoto. This delay will mean that these standards will appear on the list of WG1 standards that have not been produced within the time limits set by ISO, despite our best efforts.

The disparity of rules for PAS, Fast-Track and ISO committee generated standards is fast making ISO a laughing stock in IT circles. The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting “standardization by corporation”, something I have been fighting against for the 20 years I have served on ISO committees. I am glad to be retiring before the situation becomes impossible. I wish my colleagues every success for their future efforts, which I sincerely hope will not prove to be as wasted as I fear they could be.”

Martin Bryan, ISO ‘Escapee’
Formerly Convenor, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1

I sold out

Links 11/07/2008: Rumour About Elimination of Sun CEO, New GNU/Linux PC in China

Posted in News Roundup at 8:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Sun

GNU/Linux

Web

Gaming

  • Could Linux be a better gaming OS than Windows?

    Consider this: Sim City Societies requires 512MB RAM for XP, and 1GB for Vista! Processor-wise, it needs 1.7 GHZ for XP and 2.4GHz for Vista! That’s a staggering difference, and can easily make the difference between someone being able to run a game on existing hardware, and needing something new.

  • Open Source Shoot-Em-Up

    But lately, I’m also starting to see the appeal of doing without a hyped-up platform like Unreal Tournament 2004 or Battlefield 1942. Fracturing the mod community has sparked creativity, particularly when it comes to open-source games based on free engines.

F/OSS

Microsoft/Yahoo/Google

Security

Ogg Theora

Direct link

A Nicer, Gentler Post-Gates Microsoft

Posted in Antitrust, Microsoft at 5:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hot from the news:

Microsoft anti-malware tool removes Firefox 3

WE’VE RECEIVED a report that suggests Microsoft might be up to its old tricks again.

Windows 95 wouldn’t permit users to run DR-DOS instead of MS-DOS. Back in the day, Caldera sued Microsoft, and the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

[...]

Mozilla’s lawyers should be reaching for their phones and legal pads even as you read this.

“b) put a kind gentle message in setup. like an incompatible tsr message, but not everytime the user starts windows. [...] the most sensible thing from a development standpoint is to continue to build dependencies on msdos into windows.”

Brad Silverberg, Microsoft

ISO and Microsoft: The Corruption Resumes

Posted in Free/Libre Software, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, Standard at 4:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“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.”

Richard Stallman, June 2008

W

e wrote about this yesterday and the day before that. It continues to escalate and blow up in ISO’s face like bubblegum. First of all, get a load of this ISO leak from WikiLeaks (alluded to before).

An internal document of the International Standards Organization (ISO) that found its way late last week on to the Wikileaks whistle-blower platform raises further questions about the choice of a fast-track certification for Microsoft’s OOXML document format. The paper, by Joint Technical Committee No. 1 (JTC 1) of the Geneva standards organization, which dates back to July 2007, says the fast track procedure chosen for certifying Microsoft’s document format is only intended for the acceptance of unaltered standards and that a standard not accepted in its original form, while not to be regarded as “2nd class” or illegitimate, should be put through the normal five-stage standardisation process, should necessary corrections be identified in advance. The fast-track process, it says, is intended for making changes to an original draft.

ISO is likely to just ignore the existence of this serious leak, just as it ignores everything that’s irregular, if not a ‘smoking gun’ too. If you want to see more, look at the leaked letters that are circulating at the moments. Responding to Alex Brown and his dismissive remarks (among others), Groklaw writes:

“Believe it or not, that is his [Alex Brown's] response to the ISO recommendation that the appeals be denied. If he wanted to find nits to pick, perhaps he should start with page 3 of the memo [PDF], where Alan Bryden, Secretary-General and CEO, ISO, and Aharon Amit, General Secretary and CEO, IEC, told the TMB that Brazil is not a P country and therefore has no right to appeal. However, Brazil is a P country, as you can see on ISO’s own list here and click on the link to “Participating Countries” as opposed to “Observing Countries” and the first country on the P list is Brazil.”

It goes on and on. Pay attention to this:

As you can see, Mr Bryden says it is irrelevant, trying to argue that the appeal is about something else. It looks like Mr Bryden don’t want to read the JTC1 directives. Mr Bryden is just lobbying for the honor of its institution, and I really doubt the judges who will decide about the rules are really neutral either.

ISO standards for saleWatch the comments attached to this. This seems like quite a fiasco, but most of the world is apathetic because the press won’t present the situation properly, if at all.

Meanwhile, ISO is also bragging about that Reuters ‘placement’ everyone complained about. It now puts up for display that appalling denials interview. Groklaw writes: “Believe it or not, ISO has this interview by Reuters, which Reuters only published some of, in full on their press release page. This is one of the signatories of the memo to the TMB recommending that the appeals be denied.”

There are some more interesting reactions to ISO’s intent to ignore the formal appeals. From Bob Sutor for example:

I fully support Andy’s conclusions and the opinions of the process that he expresses in his article. While that process is not finished and though many, including the four appealing countries, have pointed how just how deeply flawed it is, the powers at be seem unwilling to admit that anything out the ordinary or inappropriate happened here. That’s a real shame, because it does not demonstrate to the world that these organizations are necessarily the right venues for IT (ICT) standardizations in 2008 and beyond.

[...]

As OOXML continues to move to being no more than a footnote in the history of IT standardization, I hope that ISO and IEC will ultimately stand up, admit that there were clear flaws here, fix the process quickly, and avoid fading into the background for those looking to create and use first class open IT standards in the twenty-first century.

Putting it more bluntly: “ISO chief recommends to throw away the 4 appeals against OOXML”

Alan Bryden, Secretary-General of ISO, has sent a recommendation to all countries members of the TMB (Technical Management Board) asking them to throw away the 4 appeals tabled by South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela and India. He does not however justify its position in regard of the JTC1 directives.

Stephane rips it apart totally, also based on technical grounds.

It’s been 3 months since ISO made that April 1st gag when they declared OOXML a valid candidate for an “open standard”, even though it’s riddled with patents.

Microsoft made the situation even more ridiculous by making available, after April 1st, documents that are absolutely necessary in order to fully implement their file formats. Well, if those documents were not part of the ISO proposal in the first place, then what is the ISO proposal good for? Isn’t an “open standard” meant to be implemented by more than one vendor?

Completely, utterly, shamelessly, ridiculous. Typical Microsoft.

Let’s get on with the ridicule. Remember the days before April 1st? A day could not pass without a number of so-called independent companies claiming support for OOXML in one way or another, and telling how good it was. Well, since April 1st, it’s like not a single freaking person cares about it. Silence. How so? Wasn’t it a fraud to begin with?

[...]

How is this project going on? Let’s see for yourself on this web page. The project is still a 1st revision source code dump, and it’s 4-month old. It’s hard not to laugh.

Who thought Microsoft was serious when they started this project? Everyone worth his salt knows that a project like this involves an almost complete rewrite of both engines, and it could take a decade to do so. It’s ridiculous to think that a company or independent people would spend their lives essentially rewriting Microsoft Office code base (the non UI part). After all, isn’t it what was essentially done already with OpenOffice? Why isn’t Microsoft instead pledging support for the OpenOffice suite by helping implement the undocumented stuff? Alternatively, why don’t they instead open source their compatibility pack, a component that migrates Office documents back and forth?

It gets better.

Earlier this month, Microsoft released another 5000+ pages of documentation. This additional documentation is a direct acknowledgement that what I have been saying on this blog was spot on, which is that the documentation that was made available earlier was just a fraction of what was needed to implement a full run-time of Office documents. At least Microsoft gives way to a so-called anti-Microsoft person.

A report from Beta News states:

The status code for the ISO’s publication of OXML as an international standard has been on hold since four countries appealed the outcome of a ballot resolution meeting. That roadblock may now be lifted as soon as next month.

This short article happens to quote the man who took a trip to Redmond and then became “a new man” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. It is worth just a quick reminder. We recently wrote about Microsoft's mass-invitation. It was an invitation from a cheating "Elephant in the Room" — one among people who lack regard for ethics and rules. It’s about self-serving moves, a case of money mongering through fake affinity and half-hearted promises.

Speaking of which, RedMonk is being paid by Microsoft now, according to this. Consider it a gentle warning. RedMonk an award-winning open source consultancy, which shows that Microsoft continues to stick its nose everywhere, including what it once daemonised and denounced as “communism”. With the 451 Group traveling to Redmond, this is something to watch out for. Don’t forget OpenLogic, Black Duck and other Microsoft-esque sources of influence deep inside the FOSS world (other than funding through advertising and sponsorships).

This new ODF project from South Africa will hopefully steer clear off Microsoft’s attempt to influence everything, even Blender.

This project builds a converter that allows conversion from the Open Document Format (ODF) to translation files (PO and XLIFF).

This is not paranoia. Assuming you have watched this long enough and delved into the depths of this situation, it seems clear that Microsoft wants to affect ODF for the same reasons it wants to influence open source. It’s about Office, Windows and, above all, it is about the shareholders.

“Microsoft looks at new ideas, they don’t evaluate whether the idea will move the industry forward, they ask, ‘how will it help us sell more copies of Windows?’”

Bill Gates, The Seattle Weekly, (April 30, 1998)

Protest against OOXML

Microsoft and Proxies Work on Changing the Laws Again

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft at 3:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

One of the vilest among the Microsoft pressure groups/analysts is IDC. The acronym is very deceiving because it does not reflect on the fact that IDC is just a component in the marketing pipeline. Shall a certain hypothesis require ‘proof’, IDC gets hired by a company that supplies its own data and methods to ensure a biased and self-flattering outcome (for income). To make matters worse, IDC sometimes conceals the sponsorships. Sadly enough, the Linux Foundation too went down this path quite recently. It’s a serious issue that we wrote about many times before.

At the moment, as always, Microsoft is trying to influence lawmakers. How does it go about achieving this? By paying the likes of IDC and using the BSA (another Microsoft lobbying option), which has done a lot of legwork for Microsoft lately. It’s the same old chorus that was seen about 3 months ago (it was also Microsoft+IDC+BSA at the time):

Microsoft has claimed that each dollar it “loses” to software piracy equals $5.50 in “lost opportunities” to the firm’s channel partners.

A Microsoft-sponsored white paper (pdf) released by IT analyst house IDC yesterday highlights the effects of copyright infringement on the software ecosystem across the tech industry.

[...]

The BSA has claimed that the value of just PC software that was counterfeited in 2007 was close to $50bn worldwide.

It’s sponsored by Microsoft. Rest sure that the BSA will carry on trying to pass anti-FOSS laws on behalf of paymasters that including Microsoft Corporation. The BSA is far from a friend of Free software. which renders its job obsolete.

Antagonism to Free software comes not just from Microsoft but from an entire ecosystem that needs to be identified and recognised for its goals.

The same problem that affects Free software also affects indie music. The other day we mentioned G8 playing ball for Hollywood. Behind this you also have alleged corruption from Vivendi and the servitude of the French president.

According to this new article from Heise, the ACTA, which was composed secretly by a few greedy and self-serving elites, is to be integrated into the law with endorsement from G8.

On the second day of the G8 meeting in Hokkaido, Japan, the rising price of food and oil were the focal points, along with climate change. But the heads of the G8 nations also found time to consider the troublesome issue of intellectual property. In their declaration on the global economy published today, they therefore called for an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) to be adopted by the end of the year.

This is not a democracy. One again, it’s the case involving a handful of monopolies hiacjking the system. rewriting laws the way they see fit. and thus securing (or expanding) their influence and wealth.

In part, Free software isn’t just a case against proprietary software but also a case against political corruption, where affluence is equated to control. It’s about breaking the “golden rule”, namely that those who have the gold make the rules. They get to glorify themselves and daemonise the rest. Case of point below (from times when Microsoft ‘warned’ the government about the ‘great threat’ of open source).

“Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer [...] I can’t imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and the intellectual-property business. I’m an American; I believe in the American way, I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don’t think we’ve done enough education of policymakers to understand the threat.”

Jim Allchin, Microsoft

Latest Patent Abuse from Microsoft, Acacia, and Rambus

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents, Standard at 3:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Three villains, three new stories

The next post will show Microsoft’s latest attempt to modify the law. Setting of a precedence is part of such initiatives, so it’s worth emphasising yet again Novell’s role in this, even in light of the following report.

One word of caution: Don’t make patent licensing a hurdle that your open-source (or proprietary) partners have to leap to do business with Microsoft. We won’t. Novell plugged its nose and did it in the name of interoperability, but it has rarely mentioned the patent covenant since then (not exactly a ringing endorsement). Microsoft may have noticed that its partner announcements with leading open-source companies like MySQL dried up after the Novell deal.

Remember Acacia, the company that houses former Microsoft employees [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10] and sued Novell over software patents? Well, they are at it again.

Look at the ‘brilliant’ idea that they ‘own’ and have just made money from.

Acacia Research Corporation announced today that its Disc Link Corporation subsidiary has entered into a license agreement with Smith Micro Software, Inc. covering patents relating to portable storage devices with links. The portable storage devices with links technology generally relates to products sold or distributed on CDs or DVDs that include a link to retrieve additional data via the Internet.

The brain-dead USPTO must be proud to have ‘defended’ patent trolls against the ‘stealing’ of such wonderful ‘innovations’. But wait. There’s more.

The patent-ambushing, patent-in-a-standard Rambus (mentioned before in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]) is still making a mockery out of the industry that surrounds it. It’s essentially looting eveyone. The latest victim is Nvidia.

Rambus on Thursday said it had filed a lawsuit against Nvidia, alleging the graphics chip vendor had infringed on memory architecture patents owned by Rambus.

Rambus is still on a warpath, undeterred and uninterrupted, showing how stupid the USPTO is. More about this here.

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