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07.23.08

Quick Mention: Microsoft’s President of Platforms & Services Quits

Posted in Microsoft at 11:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This is big and the implications quite serious. What did Kevin see that made him leave? Might it be the tough reality?

In a surprise move, Kevin Johnson, the president of Microsoft’s Platforms & Services Division, is leaving the company, Microsoft said this afternoon. Johnson, who reported to Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, headed groups including the Windows team and the company’s consumer online services, where Microsoft has struggled to keep up with Google in the critical Internet search market.

This isn’t an ordinary departure and it’s part of an exodus that includes Allchin, Gates, Poole, Valentine, and other key staff.

Links 23/07/2008: 500+ Russian Schools in GNU/Linux Pilot

Posted in News Roundup at 4:46 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Ubuntu

Sun

Devices

OSS

Europe

Leftover

Off Topic: Getting Worse For Microsoft… Before It Gets Any Better

Posted in Finance, Fraud, Microsoft, Vista, Windows at 4:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Another harsh week so far

T

his was going to be mentioned very briefly in this evening’s digest of links, but the response to a previous short analysis was very positive. It’s worth expanding on it now that Microsoft’s ‘shocker week’ is through.

Things haven’t gotten much better. To give just a quick overview, an analyst quoted in Reuters suggests that Microsoft should go into debt with another round of buybacks.

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) should take on debt to repurchase stock as a way to revive its flagging share price, a financial analyst said in a new report issued on Tuesday.

Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co analyst David Hilal called on the company to take advantage of its predictable cash flow and rock solid balance sheet to execute a leveraged buyback.

As a reminder, Microsoft is estimated to have just $26 billion in the bank. It is far less than it has had for decades. If Microsoft had bought Yahoo!, it would would have borrowed over $20 billion from the bank. Their CFO even headed over to check these option, as reported by Reuters back in March.

This is bad for Microsoft. It had already completed buybacks valued at around $45 billion over the past 3 fiscal years. Will it be more? The frantic investors dropped their shares regardless and the stock nosedived in the past year.

It gets worse. Would you believe that Microsoft has lost $90,000,000,000 in value so far this year? So says Bloomberg.

Microsoft Holders Say Web Spending Masks Idea Drought (Update1)

Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer says he plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fix the company’s unprofitable Internet business. His investors say they want proof he knows what to do with the money.

After walking away from six months of on-again, off-again talks about buying all or part of Yahoo! Inc., owner of the No. 2 Web search engine, Ballmer has left shareholders wondering if he has a plan B.

Microsoft, the biggest software maker, has lost about $90 billion in market value this year as Ballmer vacillated on Yahoo and failed to show how he would crack Google Inc.’s dominance of Internet advertising.

Looking elsewhere in the news, there are too few encouraging signs. Microsoft has apparently just elevated its marketing budget for Windows Vista from $300,000,000 to $500,000,000. That’s a lot of brainwash.

Microsoft is really taking the gloves off this time. ZDNet is reporting that it will spend $500 million to make a powerful statement to its hundreds of millions of customers. I imagine the statement would have to go something like this:

Windows Vista isn’t really as bad as they say. Honest. Please don’t be mad at us. We promise our next operating system will be better. Pinky swear.

After the rejection of Windows Vista by so many large companies, including Intel, for whom a heavy Vista was possibly created, there is not much hope for change in the enterprise. Even Microsoft Watch seems to have given up. Here is a new catch of an opinion on Vista:

“Personally, I can’t stand it,” said Aaron Nettles, president and CEO of Vorsite, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner in Seattle. “It just seems more unstable to me, and I can’t stand not being productive.”

Mind this person’s role and location.

Another important point to make is that other Windows-based products like Server 2008 and Home Server are based on the same code and they are equally problematic on the face is it. We looked at Home Server before. It took about a year to fix a serious data corruption bug (resolved this week). What does that say about trust in the product? It’s all an illusion, a fairy tale wrapped in brand name.

The other day we also mentioned the financial fraud. Here are some more details to ensure this information is never lost (long-term).

There’s a lot more in the distant past and Wired reminisces.

When John Heilemann began working on a book about Silicon Valley in 1998, he discovered that he was hitting up many of the same sources as a group of lawyers from the Department of Justice. The DOJ, of course, was building its antitrust case against Microsoft, and Heilemann wanted in: “I started calling around and got the assistant attorney general to let me inside a lot of the case — as long as I didn’t write anything until the trial was over.”

Those who believe that Microsoft is still in a strong position and gaining further power are easily carried away by corporation-generated hype and glorification attempts that serve as self-fulfilling prophecies. “If Microsoft does great, so are its products,” right? They just need you to believe. It boils down to perception.

What Lies Inside…

Posted in GNOME, GNU/Linux, Google, ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, Virtualisation, Xen at 8:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Because people are sometimes loyal to their former employer and former colleagues

A reader as suggested that we post a summary of previous posts presenting possible Microsoft ‘plants’ — employees put inside its rivals, that is.

It’s an old and classic tactic for battling competition, turning one from a competitor into a partner; at least having it surrender or distracted. Here is a quick and partial list:

XenSource (Citrix). The first example may be XenSource, which moved to Redmond and also accepted a General Manager from Microsoft into its ranks. It later let itself be acquired by Microsoft's Partner of the Year, Citrix.

VMWare. See our interpretation of the appointment of Maritz. It’s a series of posts.

Novell. Miguel and Nat went on the radar before. Then Ron Hovsepian turned up as “suspicious” after a disclosure.

Corel. See this recent summary.

Google. We touched on this in here, as well as in other places.

Nokia. Discussed here. Nokia has deals with Microsoft and it houses the former Microsoft employee who ‘killed’ Ogg in HTML5.

BBC. See this video and the accompanying links.

Vodafone. Covered here.

ISO. Here is just one among a set of incidents.

ODF. Discussed recently. Also see this.

Yahoo. Icahn is inside Yahoo now. Evidence exists to suggest that he was with Microsoft all along. It’s breach of the law, if true.

Apple. Similar to Novell.

As a side note, on the issue of threat watching inside Open Source, Fortify is now spreading FOSS FUD to boost its business, OpenLogic shouts about ‘mixed-source’ in its latest press release on the Microsoft-sponsored ‘Open’ Source ‘Census’ [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] (with friends like these on top of GNOME [1, 2], who needs enemies?) and Black Duck, a proprietary software company headed by a former Microsoft employee, gives some FOSS code (none of which it produces) to Koders, which too is a case of a proprietary company exploiting FOSS as ‘raw data’.

Links 23/07/2008: Debian Almost 15 Years Old, Firefox 3.1 Alpha Out This week

Posted in News Roundup at 7:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Releases

Dragonfly BSD 2.0, BLAG Linux And GNU 90001 and RIPLinuX 6.1 have just been released. Also:

GNU/Linux

  • Linux is easier to install than XP
  • Gaming on Ubuntu (Linux)

    There is also always the opportunity to run a virtual machine to run your windows programs (that will be the topic of my next post). So, next time someone says to you that they don’t want to switch to Linux because they won’t be able to play games, you might want to correct them.

  • Dictators in free and open source software

    Some people seem to challenge the idea that most (if not all) free software projects need a benevolent dictator—that is, somebody who has the last say on every decision. They are quick to point out Linus Torvalds’ past “mistakes” (see the brackets): using BitKeeper to manage the kernel, not allowing “pluggable” schedulers in Linux, etc. As a software developer, I feel that a dictator is absolutely necessary in every free software project. Here is why.

  • Ubuntu Puts Big Emphasis on Small PCs at OSCON
  • Debian celebrates 15-year legacy

    While a respected and widely-used Linux distribution in its own right, Debian has, over the 15 years, also been widely used as the base for numerous other Linux distributions, including the popular Ubuntu distribution created by South African entrepreneur, Mark Shuttleworth.

Firefox

Open

Censorship Through the Back Door

Microsoft

  • Opinion: Microsoft faces a turning point

    Instead, Microsoft’s decisions have been shortsighted: It has turned software antipiracy measures into a strategic initiative; it has delivered Web-based “Live” products that require a program installed on the client; and its CEO, Steve Ballmer, has asserted that Linux infringed on Microsoft’s intellectual property. These are not the hallmarks of a company leading the technology industry with strategic vision.

  • Benchmarking Microsoft Word 95 through Word 2007
  • New studies highlight the potential downsides of SharePoint
  • Microsoft fights back, but does it have enough ammo?
  • What Is the Next Step in the Microsoft-Yahoo ‘Monkey Dance’?

    Perhaps its most surprising decision was to openly ally itself with Carl Icahn. Some M&A lawyers believe that by joining forces with the graying raider, Microsoft may have exposed itself to SEC proxy solicitation rules that require participants in a proxy fight to disclose their involvement.

    While a potential violation on Microsoft’s part may be academic now that the proxy fight is over, the episode underscores the uncomfortable position Microsoft put itself in through its Icahn affiliation.

    [...]

    Such statements could be construed as tacit endorsements of Icahn’s cause or even solicitation material and may have violated the SEC’s rules, legal experts say. The remedy for such violations is greater disclosure, in which a party must typically file lots of paperwork with the SEC. “It’s a clear violation,” says Antony Page, a law professor at Indiana University who specializes in M&A. “The courts interpret solicitation broadly.” The SEC declined to comment on whether it is looking into the matter.

Mono is Too Controversial for Debian

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, Ubuntu at 7:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Linux: Powered by Microsoft?!?!

A

month ago we showed Fedora crossing out Moonlight and moving Tomboy (with Mono) out of the way, at least as far as the Live CD is concerned. So does Debian on the face of it. Watch this:

* tomboy: very nice app, but controversial since it brings the
full Mono stack, so we don’t make it part of
gnome-desktop-environment.

The background of this is that gnome/gnome-desktop-environment metapackages tend to syncronize with upstream GNOME (and this is why they dragged tomboy in when installed). However, tasksel (i.e. Debian Installer) didn’t include tomboy in the default setup.

The necessary harmonisation between GNOME metapackages and tasksel turned out to be in favour of removing tomboy from metapackages instead of adding it to tasksel, because Mono is widely seen as “controversial” (see above).

Nomo

This makes it much less likely that tomboy becomes part of the default install in the future. It’s important because Debian is one of the most influenctial Free software distributions available. Even Ubuntu is based on it and Ubuntu seems to be deep in Mono with the approval of Mark Shuttleworth. Could his mind be changed?

Getting a technical dependency out of the way is different from availability and habitual dependence. There are some other concerns about people getting ‘addicted’ to specific Mono applications because distributors encourage their use through inclusion and/or preinstallation.

Just the other day in Miguel de Icaza’s blog:

My friend Mirco Bauer has been maintaining and coordinating the Mono packaging for Debian for many years.

It now turns out that Tomboy has found its way into Firefox in the form of an addon.

Tomfox is a very cool Firefox extension. With Tomfox, you can directly create Tomboy notes in Firefox.

Whenever the question arise about Mono, Jeff Waugh and others attack the messenger. in fact, Sam Varghese has just complained about these attacks, which may only mean that he was on the right topic all along.

I’ve grown quite used to people from the GNOME Foundation indulging in this kind of attack. I’ve lost count of the number of times the foundation’s media spokesman Jeff Waugh has launched personal attacks on me; GNOME co-founder Miguel de Icaza followed suit a few months back.

What are they so afraid of? The only thing Mono critics are afraid of are the known impact of .NET patents and the gradual move of GNOME/GTK to the #. Watch what Beranger has just had to say:

Let’s revisit the GTK+ 3.0 issue, this time based on what Miguel de Icaza had to say about it. Indeed, «there is no actual plan for which features will be added, and when these features will be added», but I don’t feel de Icaza should be let have a say in the planning of the future GTK+ 3.0 and GNOME 3.0 — or else it will become “Mono Reloaded” within months!

[...]

Looking for some stupid Microsoft patents on a “System and method for activity monitoring and reporting in a computer network”? Here you are: Patent #6519639, Patent #6631412, Patent #7337223, Application #10/629,954.

One of the other dilemmas in the Debian project is also multimedia codecs, so the following new article is worth seeing.

Over 100 million DVD players have shipped in the US, and 100s of millions of mp3 players have shipped, yet Linux distributions like Fedora, Ubuntu and Opensuse don’t include software to create files that these devices can play. The reason is because implementations of the MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (MP3) are considered patented so the Linux Distributors are avoiding a risk of patent infringement lawsuits. I went searching for answers to basic questions like what are all the patents claimed for MP3 and when do the claimed MPEG-2 patents expire and I did not find these on the web, so I decided to create this summary of the patent status of MPEG-1, H.261 and MPEG-2. I’m not a lawyer and I’m not an expert on video or audio compression so there are probably some mistakes in this, but its better than anything I’ve found on the internet. This article is US specific, but the patent databases listed usually have other countries patents listed as well.

As stressed several times before, it’s not the patent(s) itself that needs to be considered in isolation; it’s the holder of the patent too. Other than Microsoft (and SCO maybe), no other company is aggressive enough to attack the work of volunteers with a FUD campaign, let alone legal action (with the possibility of proxies like Intellectual Ventures of Acacia, which host Microsoft employees [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]).

“Pearly Gates and Em-Ballmer
One promises you heaven and the other prepares you for the grave.”

Ray Noorda, Novell

Microsoft Attacks Another Legitimate Critic, Tries to Get Him Fired?

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 6:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

John West, The Microsoft Shill-Employee Du Jour?

O

SCON began a couple of days ago. It’s a lavish — if not a tad crass — display of status… oh, and products. In fact, as a bit of a protest, Professor Eben Moglen gave quite a show there last year. Here is the video and here are some related stories from one year ago:

It is very clear that Tim and his group have made a fortune riding on the backs of Free software volunteers, bypassing the 15-year-old movement (while exploiting its fruits) with the “Open Source/Web 2.0″ fluff.

OReilly Media, perhaps much like the OSI, even made room fotr those that call Open Source a “cancer” and “un-American”. But hey, can you blame them? More guests at the show mean more revenue, right?

Anyway, so Microsoft ‘pulled another OSBC’ [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] and attended yet another open source event. it always does, no matter how unwelcome it is. “Var Guy” noticed their presence. Dana Blankenhorn characterises this event as gathering of the tribes, but he did not attend; neither did Matt Asay, who wrote to say that Microsoft isn't genuinely interested in open source (unless it can destroy its meaning and spirit). Microsoft only studies the phenomenon so that it can derail it and use it to own advantage.

Here is the ugly part. Matt Asay commented quite politely on the reality behind Microsoft’s motives. Look what he’s getting.

Just when I think Matt’s bias against Microsoft can’t become any more evident, he has the audacity to blog on an event * HE DIDN’T EVEN ATTEND *. Congratulations on showing more and more why your opinions and blogs are worthless.

Cnet, are you going to continue to have this guy represent you (of course, officially that’s not the case)? Please, get some editorial standards in place, and remove him. He doesn’t deserve the spot of recognization that’s being given to him.

John

[...]

John, for some reason the system seems to have neglected to register the last comment I made. Basically, I just noted that you’re a blogger for Microsoft (unless it’s a different John West), working in its SharePoint group. So perhaps your bias is an equal and opposing force to mine?

I think you missed the point of this post, and you’ve missed the point of my posts for the past 4-5 years. I’m not a Microsoft hater. I genuinely and generally like its technology – it’s the business practices that I often criticize. I even like your SharePoint quite a bit, despite competing with it. As a product, it’s great. As a way to lock customers into its existing platforms, it’s not so great.

Microsoft will need to open up in order to compete on the web. It’s not a critique – it’s just required.

Once again they strongarm writers. They cannot accept criticism, even criticism which is perfectly reasonable given Microsoft’s consistent attack on Free software.

The only person who needs to be fired or excluded in this case is John West, who is attempting corporate censorship. There are other examples of this. Yes, this is not the first time such a thing happens (and the vandal caught red-handed). A couple of years ago, similar comments from Microsoft employees (under pseudonyms whose IP addresses mapped back to Microsoft’s headquarters) shamelessly attacked. Even Matt was attacked in InfoWorld. If that’s not control of the press through a form of cyber-bullying, what is?

From Open Sources:

Backhanded compliments are always transparent. If you want your blog to have any credibility at all, you might want to consider putting some facts in with your opinion. You might also consider putting more of your own words in a blog post. You seem to have put the other blog’s words in your own little wrapper — hoping to get credit for the ideas.

[MATT'S NOTE: The IP address for this one came from One Microsoft Way in Redmond, WA. Imagine that.]

Posted by: Tobin (Microsoft Employee) at May 29, 2007 08:39 AM

From Rob Weir’s blog:

Anonymous said…

I hope Microsoft sues you for inciting panic.

Carry on, Microsoft. Shut people up. Try to have their publishers throw them out. Let’s see how far it goes and how your public image is affected. Microsoft has already done this to security figures.

“Windows 2000 already contains features such as the human discipline component, where the PC can send an electric shock through the keyboard if the human does something that does not please Windows.”

Bill Gates

One Small Patent Step: “There Needs to Be a Device”

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, IBM, Law, Microsoft, Oracle, Patents at 4:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

MR. OLSON [For Microsoft]: The ’580 patent is a program, as I understand it, that’s married to a computer, has to be married to a computer in order to be patented.

JUSTICE SCALIA: You can’t patent, you know, on-off, on-off code in the abstract, can you?

MR. OLSON [For Microsoft]: That’s correct, Justice Scalia.

JUSTICE SCALIA: There needs to be a device.

MR. OLSON [For Microsoft]: An idea or a principle, two plus two equals four can’t be patented. It has to be put together with a machine and made into a usable device.

I

n what appears like a major development, the USPTO is finally acknowledging that patenting of ideas, such as algorithms alone, is absurd. The following post concentrates on Google and on Bilski [1, 2, 3, 4] but it generalises. Some believe that this may mark the beginning of abortion of software patents, or at least a subset thereof. [via Glyn Moody]

The Patent and Trademark Office has now made clear that its newly developed position on patentable subject matter will invalidate many and perhaps most software patents, including pioneering patent claims to such innovators as Google, Inc.

[...]

The logic of the PTO’s positions in Nuijten, Comiskey and Bilski has always threatened to destabilize whole fields of patenting, most especially in the field of software patents. If the PTO’s test is followed, the crucial question for the vitality of patents on computer implemented inventions is whether a general purpose computer qualifies as a “particular” machine within the meaning of the agency’s test. In two recent decisions announced after the oral arguments in the Bilski case, Ex parte Langemyr (May 28, 2008) and Ex parte Wasynczuk (June 2, 2008), the PTO Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences has now supplied an answer to that question: A general purpose computer is not a particular machine, and thus innovative software processes are unpatentable if they are tied only to a general purpose computer.

Here are some more details about it.

Patent Trolls Return

The lawsuit against IBM, Oracle and SAP (mentioned the other day) sparked an interesting discussion that looks at the patent troll to blame. It almost seems like another Acacia, a shell company potentially motivated by hidden interests [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. McAfee has just suffered a defeat too.

McAfee (MFE) this afternoon disclosed in an SEC filing that a federal jury in Texas last week found the company violated a patent held by venture-backed DeepNines Inc. and ordered McAfee to pay $18 million for past and future damages. The company said it intends to appeal the verdict.

McAfee is far from a friend of Free software [1, 2, 3, 4].

The Root of the Problem

Also of interesting is the following explanation of software patents. [via Digital Majority]

Each industry has its own standards and statistics. The nature of software industry is poles apart from any other industry and for it patents are proving gradually harmful. The idea of software patent is significant as far as it promotes the originality and innovation but contrasts to it, software patents are road blockers for innovation. They harm the creativity and an aspiration to create something naive.

The software products for all applications undergoes the same life cycle. In such cases maintaining originality with concept is a bottleneck. It harms the innovation and mere thought of suing due to patent infringement is yet another big obstacle. But start ups are never sued for patent infringements as a matter of fact. If they come up with something better that can harm the existing company on the same grounds, then they can be pulled to the lawsuits battle zone. For instance the companies like Microsoft has lot of patents signed in their name, but no cases have been heard of Microsoft suing the other company as of mimicking their software or something else.

In many ways, the insidious introduction of patents on concepts in computer programs is similar to unfounded calls for copyright extension Watch this nugget of information which has already been cited.

In setting up the rationalist background of his title, Professor Bently noted that the 2004 EC Staff Working Paper, the Gowers Report, and the EC-commissioned IVIR report had all approached the question rationally, with evidence-based and economic reasoning. Each had come out against extension.

It’s the wealthy who makes laws; it’s not intended to promote a scientific wealth but rather to facilitate the greed of a few powerful players.

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