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08.09.08

Dangerous by Association

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNOME, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Windows at 6:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bad company leads to conflicts of interests and liability. This is why Novell, for instance, cannot be trusted anymore. It lives in an untrusted neighbourhood with foreign goals. People’s innate tendency is to be forgiving and let time heal the wounds, yet the business objectives of a company do not necessarily have this notion of mercy and apologism.

Some recent posts [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] have demonstrated why Microsoft must not be dealt with as though it has changed its way. The same goes for Novell. It is rather unfortunate that only a week ago, Microsoft needed to tell its investors how it really feels about Free software.Thist was revealing. It’s funny that companies like IBM and SAP do not share that sentiment. They can live alongside GNU/Linux (they even use it extensively) and it does not usually harm their cash cows.

For Microsoft to state that open source is a risk to their business is perfectly valid. Heck, as an investor, I’d be weary if Microsoft’s MD&A section didn’t say anything about open source as a risk. It’s perfectly valid for Michael to suggest that Microsoft should include a discussion on how they intend to leverage open source.

“Leverage” is the right word.

Free Software Magazine has just concurred with previous analyses of the Apache/Microsoft situation. Unlike the press, which is sometimes just a corporate tool, the writer addresses the real issues at hand.

That recognition perhaps brings us to the kernel (no pun intended) of Microsoft’s motives. It has a vested interest in improving interoperability between PHP and Windows as this would help it reduce the drift of PHP to GNU/Linux platforms. Coughing up $100,000 would be a minuscule price to pay for stopping that drift but it is also an admission than Apache has beaten Microsoft’s IIS (Internet Information Services). Or perhaps it will only be a Pyrrhic victory of sorts. Microsoft are now free to take Apache source code and proceed to amend, tweak or customise it to the point of what Bruce Perens has called “engineered incompatibility” At that point Microsoft could repeat the successful disaster of bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, only this time it would be Apache and with all the attendant broken web standards that tormented web developers—but this time on the server instead of the desktop.

Regarding this article, which opines that Microsoft may be “trying to kill Apache,” Pamela Jones wrote: “In my view, they are trying to kill Linux, so that everything runs on Windows instead, and some who are not Linux will help them.” This is true. It’s not FOSS projects that Microsoft tries to eliminate. It’s that thing at the bottom of the stack, which is incompatible — (by Microsoft’s own design and choice — with Microsoft’s crown jewels at its middle and top layers.

“Microsoft will try to use Apache to its own advantage.”The monopoly worries a lot more about feeding its cash cows by ensuring that FOSS is tightly dependent on pricey proprietary software. As the patent deal with Novell demonstrates, it has a dual effect: It makes FOSS more expensive and scale of deployment dependent on payments to Microsoft (where would Google be without GNU?). This means that proprietary counterparts then seem more affordable and can compete more easily against FOSS, which also becomes a Microsoft revenue stream.

In the case above, it’s only natural to think about Zend. Microsoft will try to use Apache to its own advantage. It wants something in return for the financial help and that something is not just positive publicity, as in a stunt. Speaking of publicity stunts , this post about CompTIA has developed into quite a long conversations. It was mentioned here yesterday and I’ve since then posted some references to back my arguments. The blog’s moderator is not showing them yet. Is he blocking them because they disagree with his assessment? It’s definitely worth seeing the comments.

Another source of influence that boggles the mind may have some effect on GMOME. There are some valid reasons for concern or at least prudence when it comes to OpenLogic (in addition to H-P/Microsoft links) and its place in GNOME [1, 2]. Carla Schroder has just shared another cause for a brow to be raised.

The Pitfalls of Open Source Litigation ran a couple of days ago. It painted a picture of Open Source software as being a minefield of grumpy litigious geeks who want to cash in with fat lawsuits, and no clear guidance for how to stay out of trouble. Oddly, this all seemed to come from a most unlikely source, the director of the Gnome Foundation, Stormy Peters. Even unlikelier, it was from her talk at LinuxWorld, which hardly seems a good venue for spreading misinformation of any kind, let alone old moldy misinformation.

Peters comes from H-P, which believes in the sound bite which is “intellectual property” (as opposed to trademarks, copyrights and patents separately). She also sells services around these things. It would be a shame if GNOME’s leadership carried such messages. It’s almost as though it’s being taken over by its detractors. It’s an issue that we covered it before and last covered yesterday. Now comes this article about Microsoft employees occupying positions at Google.

Microsoft and Google battled over a noncompete clause in 2005, when Google hired Kai-Fu Lee, an expert in speech recognition technology, even though he had signed a noncompete agreement at Microsoft. Google unsuccessfully worked to move the case from Washington to California, in hopes that the noncompete clause would be ruled invalid. The case was eventually settled outside of court.

The California law has been in existence since 1872, forbidding “noncompete clauses” that restrict management employees’ options in their next job or business

There are quite a few people out there whose membership is dangerous by association, due to affiliation. We shalll continue keeping an eye on them in order to better comprehend ‘underground activity’. it’s typically more complex than it seems in the surface.

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