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07.24.08

Links 24/07/2008: Another Victory for the GPlL, More Ubuntu-based Del in the UK

Posted in News Roundup at 4:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Fedora

UNIX

Applications/Free Software

  • Consonance: A lightweight GTK+ music player
  • SuperTux, the Greatest Linux Game of All Time

    If you ask my 3 year old son what’s his favorite Linux game of all time, he would start hopping and say SuperTux in a loud and superhero-like voice.

    [...]

    SuperTux is a highly addictive game that both young and old can truly enjoy. Kids will love it for its colorful graphics, easy game controls, and super cute penguin. The not-so-old will like SuperTux for its fast-paced action, secret levels, and super cute penguin. So why wait? Fire up that package manager of yours and go get SuperTux now!

  • Introduction to Linux: Desktop Environments

    You undoubtedly notice that, although the functionality seems to overall be similar (with a few minor exceptions), everything seems to use a different name and/or is in a different place. If you’ve explored more than one distribution, this may even seem to be the case between Linux distributions. I’ll be covering the more mainstream desktop environments, as well as suggested programs to replace the ones you’ve come to rely on in Windows.

  • 30 Gnome themes to enhance your Ubuntu experience
  • Giving love to the Previewer

GPL

OSS

Symbian Failures in Wooing FOSS/Linux Developers

OSCON

Microsoft

  • Microsoft’s Online Woes Hint at Larger Vulnerability

    “For the past two years, I’ve been totally confused about [the difference between] Windows Live, MSN and Windows,” said Charlene Li, an independent technology industry analyst. “The messaging and product features don’t pull together.”

  • Ballmer upset by Apple cart

    He added that Microsoft “must continue to compete against Linux in key workloads such as web servers and high performance computing” in the business and enterprise space.

Links 24/07/2008: Red Hat’s Extended Support, Fedora Portables Coming

Posted in News Roundup at 6:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Desktop Environments

Red Hat/Fedora

F/OSS

Cloud Computing/Google

Leftover

  • UK ISPs agree to menace their filesharing users

    According to the BBC this week’s deal takes the form of a Memorandum of Understanding between the ISPs and the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR). Under it, ISPs are reported to have committed to achieving a significant reduction in illegal filesharing, and to educate their customers on copyright. They need only follow the shining examples of the RIAA and the BPI and lo, it will be done.

ODF/OOXML Roundup: A Catastrophe in Detail, Better Days Ahead

Posted in Courtroom, Formats, Fraud, Free/Libre Software, ISO, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 5:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Protest against OOXML

ISO Sold Out to ECMA

Broken ISO

It’s too hard to forget what ISO and Microsoft have done and continue doing. From their high horse they continue to snub developing countries. Here is how Bob Sutor puts it.

I think that ISO and IEC are on the edge of a precipice which, if they fall off, will cause them to rapidly lose relevance to IT (ICT) developments in many parts of the world, especially emerging markets.

What they appear to be saying to India, Brazil, South Africa, and Venezuela is “Go away, our process works. We love our process. You are wrong. Live by our rules and be quiet.”

If the appeals process is cut off without detailed community examination of the charges against what happened in the OOXML experience, I think that the reputations of the ISO and IEC will continue to diminish. It does not seem to me that anyone at the senior levels of these organizations get this. Rather than giving these four nations the cold shoulder, and doing it with what appears to this reader as having arrogant undertones, it makes far more sense for ISO and IEC to allow the process to carry on.

Complaints will surely continue to come. In fact, the process was so obviously broken and abused that Rob Weir has just published this detailed item. It shows what a disaster it has been from beginning to end.

When a new 6,000 page DIS is submitted to JTC1 only one month after the publication of another standard (ODF) in the exact same space (XML document formats for office applications) and 19 NB’s submit contradiction statements, and the JTC1 Secretariat’s “best effort” is to hold no consolations with the NB’s claiming contradictions, to hold no meeting, to make no attempt to resolve the question, then I believe that any NB would has a legitimate grounds for appeal on the inaction of JTC1 with regards to contradictions. There is no evidence that a “best effort” was made here to resolve the contradictions. Doing nothing is clearly incompatible with the required “best effort”.

It starts gently and gets down to more gory details. Just imagine that the BSI was taken to court over the abuses [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10].

A Call for Change

The FSF has just issued a post urging people to join the fight against Microsoft’s OOXML.

The fight against the adoption of OOXML as an ISO standard is continuing in many countries. In the UK the UK Unix & Open Systems User Group (UKUUG) unsuccessfully, sought a judicial review of the British Standards Institute’s decision to vote yes. UKUUG are now seeking to appeal against that rejection of a review and you can help them.

“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

Security

As shown a couple of weeks ago, OOXML may be a security menace. Watch another potentially serious issue that Microsoft has introduced with its ‘moving goalposts’ approach.

I was coming in from Sunday School this past week into the main church service when I was summoned to the audio/visual booth. There was to be a presentation that morning and the PowerPoint file was not compatible with the A/V computer. Why? Because the file was created in Office 2007 & the computer ran Office 2003.

[...]

Now all the A/V people have to do is get the Microsoft update and there will be no other issues. But why should they have to go find it? Why wasn’t it automatically pushed to them. People with Office 2003 will (at some point or another) open Office 2007 files. They don’t want to find out that it doesn’t work. Most times, they won’t even know why it is not working or how to get it to work. All they want it to do is have it work.

So thanks, OpenOffice, for just working.

As this post hopefully demonstrates, not only has Microsoft broken compatibility with rival office suites; it also jeopardised users by breaking compatibility with security software whose filters are not ‘OOXML-fluent’ (and never will be).

A World of Freedom, Choice

Aside from Web-based substitutes to Microsoft Office, the following new article presents one among many options.

Another change has been the spread of the open-source software movement. Desktop competitors to Microsoft Office, such as OpenOffice.org, have begun to get some traction. These suites may not come with all the features of the Office apps, but they don’t come with its price tag, either. They also offer good functionality, good support for Office document formats (as well as truly open formats of their own), and you pay whatever you want to pay — or nothing at all.

As a result, users have become more open to considering alternatives to Microsoft’s ubiquitous suite.

Here is another short article about a lightweight alternative.

Abiword: One Lean, Mean, Word Processing Machine

OpenOffice.org gets a lot of attention these days as a practical, no-cost alternative to Microsoft Office. While OpenOffice.org does a fine job, however, there are times when a smaller, faster, feature-packed word processing program would be useful. There is another open-source application that fits the bill perfectly here — and it deserves far more attention than it gets.

The monolithic nature of Microsoft Office (one size fits all) and the monopolistic data formats typically mean that people’s computers must obey Microsoft’s hardware requirements, which they negotiate with companies like Intel to boost their profit. It’s never about the consumer or developer; the customers are OEMs, hardware manufacturers, the government, and the media industry.

Europe’s Commission intends to bring an end to this abuse. It seems genuinely willing to do the right thing and there’s room for citizens’ feedback until the end of September.

The draft document based on which the final EIF v2.0 will be elaborated is now available online on the IDABC website of the European Commission. External comments from all of those interested are welcome by 22 September 2008.

Even the Commission seems more open than ISO. Long live ISO.

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: July 23rd, 2008

Posted in IRC Logs at 5:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Read the rest of this entry »

Sharing a Bed at OSCON with “the Next SCO Group”

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, SCO at 5:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Microsoft has had clear competitors in the past. It’s a good thing we have museums to document that.”

Bill Gates

A

lot of ambitious people turn soft at the sight of money. That’s just how Microsoft manages to infiltrate so many open source events and share its own (self-serving of course) point of view. The monopoly needs to build and defend the illusion that it’s just a friendly scorpion. While many inside Microsoft might believe this, the top management at Microsoft does not. it’s a publicity stunt, as proven several times in the past.

“It’s means of pressuring them to open up their gates to Gates.”Those who organise an open source event and refuse Microsoft’s attendance will most likely be called names. It’s means of pressuring them to open up their gates to Gates. Just watch Microsoft’s persistence with the OSA. A lot of this was dealt with before, so it needn’t really be repeated or elaborated on. OSCON was already mentioned yesterday. Also see our writings about OSBC 2008 [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] and the issue of personal proximity.

At OSCON, Microsoft presence could not be ignored. In panels comprising only corporate players, Microsoft apparent role was irksome to some. Need it be mentioned that Microsoft paid OSCON (O’Reilly) for this? Mind our highlight in red.

Let’s rewind a bit. My Monday afternoon at OSCON 2008 was taken up by “Participate 08″, a Microsoft-sponsored discussion panel chaired by a whole panopoly of folks — including, yes, an open source liaison from Microsoft. The whole thing was neither a “corporate apologia” (as one wag put it from the audience) nor a pile-on where Microsoft got the worst of it. Their approach was only one of a diversity of perspectives, and sometimes not even the most eyebrow-raising.

Remember that Microsoft is also behind OSBC, which is about ‘commercialising’ “open source” — whatever that actually means. In the last OSBC event, Microsoft stole the show with a talk about software patents. That was Brad Smith and his keynote. It ruined the conference, which was sponsored (and apparently initiated) by Microsoft anyway. Shades of SourceForge (hijack, then instill fear and change principles).

Here is another interesting article.

The biggest sparks flew over the question of motivation — why individual developers choose to participate in open source. Several of the panelists mentioned pragmatic motivations such as self-education, career development, and desire to be associated with what is perceived as a successful and ethical movement. Since those motives apply to corporate participation, this line of discussion prompted audience member Bradley Kuhn of the Software Freedom Law Center to ask the panel whether the session was a cheerleading session for commercial open source.

[...]

Interestingly enough, the topic Lakhani predicted would elicit the most debate — intellectual property — provided well-balanced, reasoned discussion.

All panelists agreed that IP was important in open source software. As Randall pointed out, if the framework of software licensing created to serve the proprietary software industry did not exist, then the GPL would not exist either. O’Mahony added that many nonprofit entities use IP law to accumulate, integrate, and protect information that is vital for future development.

Urlocker described MySQL’s frustration with software patents, including waffling on behalf of hybrid proprietary/open source companies, and fear on the part of pure open source organizations that lacked the resources to wage a legal fight over software patents.

Wilbanks lamented use of the blanket term “intellectual property” to conflate copyright, patent, trademark, and trade secret law — concepts that have little to do with one another. Copyright law is incredibly powerful, written to serve publishers, and hinges on one fundamental: the right to sue someone else. Under these circumstances, he said, “we’re boned.” In the future, he hoped, open source can make better use of trademark concepts like branding — where the fundamental issue is the right to associate your work with something valuable. When the desire to claim association with a brand like “open source” is of bigger concern than the desire to sue, the conditions will be right for open source to thrive.

Lastly, see this blog post from a Sun/MySQL executive. He reminds us of how irrelevant Microsoft becomes to developers (Novell, Miguel de Icaza and their followers aside).

One skeptic remarked to me after the panel session that for Microsoft this is just a “photo op.” That is, it’s more about the appearances than anything else. I’m not sure whether that’s the case or not, but it’s still a question in many people’s minds. And as Brad Kuhn of the Software Freedom Law Center pointed out, many people still remember when Microsoft was trying to kill open source.

The irony of all this is that I think Microsoft is at risk of missing out on the next generation of developers. What’s in use at the hot startups these days? Hint: it’s not about VB, C# and .Net. Even startups by ex-Microsoft folks at companies like iLike are using the LAMP stack. I think for a lot of developers, Microsoft is less and less relevant. Which is a shame.

People deserve to know what Groklaw has to say about all of this Pamela Jones wrote: “I think it’s dangerous to let them anywhere near anything that matters until they pledge not to sue FOSS over patent infringement. All they are doing now is taking notes, I believe, and I am confident it will use what it learns against the community when it feels like it. And I wish everyone would get a bit smarter, so we at Groklaw and the legal contingent of the FOSS community don’t have to fix the mess you make. Yes. Seriously. I would suggest treating Microsoft as if they were already suing you personally. Because I believe they will.” She also believes that Microsoft is the next SCO.

At times like these, when Microsoft is quietly struggling, the worse one can do is throw Microsoft a bone. It’s prepared to bite. In order to understand the severity of the issue and of Microsoft’s fears, read this article from last night:

Top Microsoftie Jumps Ship

[...]

The loss of Johnson comes as a blow–he was widely considered to be in the running to one day succeed CEO Steve Ballmer.

In some people’s eyes, Microsoft has just lost its #2 man only weeks after Bill Gates had stepped down.

If some people out there still believe that Microsoft ‘understands’ (or groks) open source — let alone “open” — this one is a must-read for them.

Redefining Openness (with lawyers)

Ah, there we go! The surprise of the day really comes from -would you have guessed it?- Microsoft.

[...]

Now that’s an open standard of the open kind, open as in “open, but not open”; “open but actually quite closed” “open but get out of here”, open as in “open to the good old boys”, open as in “open to your money and to our profits”, open as in “open deception”. And of course, who thought OOXML could be that open? I’m sure the rest of my colleagues at the Afnor will be left in shock and awe when they learn the news. Everything they ever truly believed in , OOXML, was never thought in those terms. I can’t wait for XPS, guys, we’re going to have tons of fun, really. I am also waiting for Microsoft’s possible, albeit unlikely, explanation to this. I’m laughing so hard I’m about to roll on the floor.

Never forget what Microsoft once said about “openness”.

[More Open Than Open]: “I am constantly amazed at the flexibility of this single word.”

Jason Matusow, arrogant xenophobe from Microsoft (for some background see [1, 2])

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