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08.11.08

Eye on Microsoft: Tough Weekend

Posted in Microsoft, Windows at 5:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Windows Lock-in

Tim Bray is Angry. Here is what he wrote:

So, if I want to watch the Olympics online, I need to install Microsoft Silverlight. And if I’m interested in good-looking new high-end compact cameras, I’m super-interested in the new Nikon P6000; which writes a RAW format that can only be read by Microsoft WIC, available only on Windows.

Open, non-proprietary equivalents to all of these, which do not constrain your customers’ choice of platform, are widely available.

Nikon is a competent camera company. The IOC is a competent sports impresario. The Chinese government is a competent authoritarian dictatorship. Pity they’re all so fucking stupid about technology.

Failures

When will it be time to panic?

Yesterday Bloomberg reported an analyst’s expectation that Microsoft (MSFT) would institute a $20 billion share buyback program.

There hasn’t actually been a formal announcement from Microsoft that I have seen, yet the news has rapidly spread around the Internet as the Bloomberg report was picked up by bloggers, news sites and technology sites.

[...]

For those of you who would like to see a resurgent Microsoft stock trading higher based on organic growth and compelling new product introductions, you may have to wait for quite a while. In the meantime, financial shenanigans appear to be the rule.

Microsoft & Blockbuster: Deal Failure Is the New Success

In Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” the character of Miss Havisham lives a life stopped in time by her canceled wedding. Floating around her house in a tattered wedding dress, with a marital feast decomposing on the table, she pretends life never changed.

Miss Havisham may well be the model for companies that launched quixotic, failed bids to take over rivals. The executives of those companies–-Microsoft Corp. and Blockbuster Inc.-–have, in the wake of their disappointment, painted a picture of their future in which they gained all the advantages of an acquisition without actually doing one.

NDAs to Excuse Bad Security

Just splendid. Don’t you feel more secure now?

Microsoft is to release fixes for a dozen serious vulnerabilities next Tuesday, seven of them ranked critical. But the firm has also announced a three-stage process to reducing the effects of future vulnerabilities.

[...]

To receive the advance notice, firms must have “a significant Microsoft customer base” and sign non-disclosure agreements promising to keep the details secret.

Head of Microsoft at Nigeria Quits

Yes, it’s true, but it happened very quietly. It’s part of a larger such exodus.

Onyeje joins the Microsoft operations in Lagos, replacing Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu who has left the company to pursue personal interests.

Shrink-wrapped Graveyard

Is Microsoft abandoning a dying business/sales model?

Microsoft has decided to halt boxed retail sales of Microsoft Money in favor of online downloads.

Exclusivity

Just watch these. None of them is confirmed yet.

Microsoft on Final Fantasy XIII

Speculations abounded Microsoft had to pay Square Enix in order to breach their exclusivity contract with Sony.

Microsoft Seeking Zune-Exclusive Content

Now, the Hollywood Reporter and other sources report that Microsoft has been hitting production companies and agencies in hopes of securing exclusive digital video content exclusively for the Zune. Although Microsoft execs would love to have hot content that was Zune only, reports indicate they’re also open to deals in which content would debut on the Zune before becoming available in other channels.

Fragmentation in Microsoft Software

Microsoft and Symbian just love attacking Free software, claiming it is fragmented. Well, a leaked document shows a pot calling the kettle “black”.

Microsoft worried over .NET fragmentation

Multiple product groups at Microsoft are contributing functionality to the .NET Framework, but juxtaposed with that growth is the company’s concern that too many cooks might spoil the broth, a Microsoft internal document reveals.

The management too is still fragmented and undecided about the future.

DEFRAG doesn’t spend much time thinking about young people.

Windows Trouble

The possible end of Windows is a big opportunity to Free software. SJVN has the details.

Some very interesting documents have been leaking out of Microsoft. They clearly indicate, believe it or not, that Microsoft is considering shifting its users from Windows to a new operating system: Midori.

And, when I say “new,” I mean new. This isn’t the kind of lip-service change that we saw with David Cutler and NT or Jim Allchin and Vista. Midori, under Eric Rudder, senior vice president for technical strategy, isn’t a cosmetic change; it’s a completely new operating system.

[...]

Now, you may not believe that the Linux desktop or the Mac is really taking market share from Windows, but they are. In the U.K., Linux was preinstalled on 2.9% of all PCs sold in June. Meanwhile, 14% of all PCs sold in the U.S. are Macs. People are no longer mindlessly buying Windows systems, and Microsoft knows that.

New and interesting information here.

Microsoft prepares for end of Windows

[...]

“Breaking with the legacy of a product that first shipped 23 years ago seems wholly necessary in terms of keeping the product manageable and in sync with computing’s state of the art,” Brust says. “If Midori isn’t real, then I imagine something of this nature still must be in the works. It’s absolutely as necessary, if not more so, to Microsoft’s survival as their initiatives around internet advertising, search and cloud computing offerings.”

Java Beats .NET

So much for claims from Mono fans. Java is far from dying.

It is probably no surprise that Paul Jansen and Robert Dewar feel very differently about not only Java, but about programming languages in general.

Paul Jansen, managing director of TIOBE software, maintains the TIOBE index of popular programming languages, which – here’s the key point – ranks Java as the top programming language.

Oracle too joins the fight against .NET.

Countering the .Net initiative that bitter rival Microsoft Corp. announced earlier this year, Oracle Corp. last week released software for use in developing and managing online services.

In a swipe at Microsoft, which doesn’t expect to deliver a full portfolio of its .Net-based technologies for two years or more, Oracle is informally referring to its Oracle9i Dynamic Services software as .Now.

Links 11/08/2008: School Migration to GNU/Linux, Mobile Linux, and So Much More

Posted in News Roundup at 5:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Mobile

GNU/Linux

Releases and Reviews

B2D (GNU/Linux) 20080808 and GNUstep 1.9 have been released.

KDE

  • JOLIE to Bring Service-Oriented Computing to KDE

    Fabrizio Montesi of italianaSoftware showed at Akademy how JOLIE brings new ways of interaction through the network to KDE. One of his examples is the ECOS media controller that organises control of your multimedia player (in our case that’s Amarok of course) through web interfaces, handheld devices and other applications. JOLIE takes care of synchronising and concerting all those different interfaces. Read on for more details.

  • Akademy in Belgium

    We have had a great couple of days talks here at Akademy in Belgium. The energy in the KDE community is brilliantly high as we move from the long KDE 4 development period into having the world beating desktop.

Ubuntu

VMWare

Firefox

Richard Stallman

F/OSS

Abuse of Rights

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Sterling Ball — businessman, guitarstring impressario, and Free Open Source Software advocate

Ogg Theora

Digital Tipping Point is a Free software-like project where the raw videos are code. You can assist by participating.

Richard Stallman Saw Microsoft’s Plans Against GNU/Linux Back in 2004

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Interview, Videos at 10:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The following interview from Digital Tipping Point is a quite fascinating. Towards its end and a couple of minutes after the beginning, Stallman mentions that the Linux kernel, which makes up about 0.25% of the GNU/Linux system according to him, was found to have been covered by 286 different US patents. It is not necessarily news that there was such a study, but watch this video.

Ogg Theora

Non-Ogg versions are here.

According to Richard Stallman (back in 2004), Microsoft wanted to be using software patents and it was filing for (or granted) several patents per week with the aim of destroying competition like GNU/Linux. As he points out, documents showed that they intend to use software patents against GNU/Linux. That was in 2004.

Not too shabby for a company that violates not only patents but copyrights too.

Microsoft Austria has collected the top prize in the Community category of the Austrian Big Brother Awards. The prize, a tacky looking robot thing which can be viewed here, was given for the company’s activities in spamming Austrian Linux users with questionnaires. Microsoft Austria recruited G3 GMBH to handle the mailing. This outfit seems to have helped itself to the email addresses of Austrian users registered with the Linux Counter and then sent them the questionnaire, which asked about their views on the software industry, about Linux, and about their employment. This was in breach of the Linux Counter’s copyright and terms of use, which specifically bar use of the data for mass mailings.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Microsoft is filing for software patents more than ever before. That may be the plan.

Links 11/08/2008: GNU/Linux Accounts for 4% of Desktop Unit Sales, Thrives in Devices

Posted in News Roundup at 8:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

  • Netbooks A Linux Stronghold?

    For years, backers of open-source software have hoped to push Microsoft out of its dominant position in desktops and laptops. Windows-powered personal computers account for more than 90% of unit sales,. Linux 4%, Gartner says.

  • The Right Linux Distribution

    In a previous column, I asserted that Linux is ready to meet the demands of corporate desktops, while it is still some way off from being ready for mass use in the consumer environment. But, with that said, the obvious question that remains is: which distribution is right for your organisation?

    [...]

    Desktop Linux is on the agenda of many organizations, especially government, in the case of South Africa. But, so often the costs of managing and deploying Linux are not factored in. Once these considerations are included, it is surprising which distributions come out on top.

    The recommendation for any company moving to a Linux desktop environment is, therefore, to focus on features that benefit the computing environment, not just individual machines, and to consider both the competency and costs of management and support for any given distribution.

  • Happy Birthday Vector Linux
  • EZGOV EUROPE BECOMES FIRST UK RED HAT SYSTEMS INTEGRATOR IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR
  • Technical videos from conferences [Ottawa Linux Symposium]

Embedded/Devices

Interviews

KDE/Qt

  • Best Application EVAR!

    so the very kind folks who won the Akademy awards last year ( sebastian trueg, matthias kretz, danny allen ) decided to go ahead and award Amarok with the Best Application award! we are obviously very excited and very pleased to win this award, and want to (tearfully) thank all those users who have been with us through the long dark (teatime of the soul) times of Amarok 1.x…. wait, we never had those. nevermind.

  • Video Editing in Linux: Kino v Open Movie v KdenLive

    Out of the 3 programs previewed, I liked Kdenlive the best, but not having the Title show up was a real bummer. Kdenlive could eventually become my editor of choice by the time it gets to 1.0 status. The trick is going to be to keep the development moving and thus keep my interest alive. This type of progression is what has helped Linux reach critical mass as desktop choice.

  • Qt 4.5 to Dramatically Improve QtWebKit and QGraphicsView Through Animations and Speed Ups

    At Akademy 2008 in Belgium, Qt developers Simon Hausmann and Andreas Aardal Hanssen announced dramatic improvements in the web browser engine in Qt and the canvas that is used by, for example, the Plasma desktop shell. Video support, animations and transitions, optimisations to speed up painting and animations, and new graphical effects open up nearly endless new possibilities for developers to present their user interfaces with. Read on for more details.

Ubuntu

  • Ubuntu really is Linux for humans!

    And speaking of speed, Ubuntu gets my notebook running so fast that the processor gives off noticeably more heat, especially when I had Ubuntu running in it’s own partition. For anyone else that may consider Ubuntu on their laptop, I would recommend picking up a cooling pad.

  • Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 103
  • Ubuntu is already more attractive that osx

    What I find really interesting about Mac owners is the lack of customisation they generally add to the desktop and interface. Maybe a change of background picture, quicksilver and thats about it. While on the linux side I’ve seen radical changes, for example Glyn has stuck with the standard Ubuntu theme while Sheila has her ubuntu setup so weird it looks like Xubuntu.

F/OSS

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Richard Stallman Interview (2004)

Ogg Theora

Digital Tipping Point is a Free software-like project where the raw videos are code. You can assist by participating.

Regrets Over USPTO’s Decision to Permit Software Patents

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Law, Patents at 7:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Implicit ‘decisions’ the road loophole to Hell

This new nugget of information is quotable and it will prove invaluable for future reference.

Digital Majority has found a variety of recent articles where regret is expressed by the very same man who can be held ‘responsible’ for opening a door to software patents. That man is a senior judge, S. Jay Plager. Here are some articles that explain this quite clearly: (with selectively highlights in red)

1. CAFC Judge Regrets Decisions That Resulted In Software Patents

As the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) is considering the Bilski case, where it may finally push back on software and business model patents, it’s interesting to hear one of CAFC’s judges admit that he was “troubled by the unintended consequences” of the lawsuits (State Street and AT&T) that resulted in software and business model patents being effectively allowed.

2. Patents as property II: Rethinking SW patents?

Patents as property was also front and center in the thoughts of one judge on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the main appellate court for patent disputes in the US. Senior Judge S. Jay Plager, speaking at a symposium at George Mason University, called for a “rethinking” of several aspects of patent law by returning to its origins in property law.

According to the BNA, Plager “called for a renewed focus on setting recognizable patent ownership boundaries and on strengthening the notice function that patents are intended to serve. Such a reevaluation might require a reassessment of whether software and business methods are patentable subject matter, Plager said.

3. Rethinking patent law

Judge Plager writes that as a former law professor who taught property law for twenty-five years, he found our general thesis about analyzing patent law from a property law perspective “quite comfortable.” The book argues that many of the key institutional features and much of the economic performance (and many of the problems) of the patent system can be analyzed by treating patents as a property system. In his speech, Judge Plager suggested that this approach might require rethinking the patentability of software and business methods, doctrines of claim construction, patent scope and the doctrine of equivalents.

4. FFIP Recommends: Research on Innovation and TIIP

The block quote alone is amazing and extremely important due to the subject matter and the authority of US. Senior Judge S. Jay Plager. This is the type of thing that should be promoted by End Software Patents, rethinking subject matter for software patents and business methods is essential if we are to save the patent system.

5. Judge Plager: Regrets ‘Unintended Consequences’ of State Street

It might lead to limiting a patent’s scope to what was known at the time of the application filing, and to an abandonment the doctrine of equivalents as a basis for patent infringement liability.

This sounds promising, but both sides continue to fight. One typically fights for science and freedom, whereas the other fights to keep its cash machines Ka-chinging! Patents were made to promote science, not to make and protect billionaires. Sanity and freedom need be restored.

“I think that “innovation” is a four-letter word in the industry. It should never be used in polite company. It’s become a PR thing to sell new versions with.”

“It was Edison who said “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”. That may have been true a hundred years ago. These days it’s “0.01% inspiration, 99.99% perspiration”, and the inspiration is the easy part. As a project manager, I have never had trouble finding people with crazy ideas. I have trouble finding people who can execute. IOW, “innovation” is way oversold. And it sure as hell shouldn’t be applied to products like MS Word or Open office.”

Linus Torvalds

It’s Not Innovation, It’s Collusion

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Patents at 7:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Newton's Cradle“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Development thrives in a world without boundaries. Research too can thrive when there is access to a wealth of information. Financial means are another story because people who develop and conduct research require funds, but need any money be earned by robbing peers of the privilege to share information and disseminate simple ideas? What would Newton say? The fathers of the United States too objected the idea of limiting the sharing of ideas.

The notion of an invention typically brings to mind a piece of apparatus. What is an invention if not something physical that the inventor can show? Can someone claim to have invented something, which will only ever exist in one’s mind? Can thought be truly owned and excessive knowledge considered an offense?

In practice, everyone seems to suffer due to artificial (man-made) limitations. Groklaw links to this nice new article that contains an example from the aircraft industry. It’s related to design and physical engineering (there is as much ‘engine’ in software engineering as there is an ‘engine’ in mathematics).

In the second decade of the twentieth century, it was almost impossible to build an airplane in the United States. That was the result of a chaotic legal battle among the dozens of companies—including one owned by Orville Wright—that held patents on the various components that made a plane go. No one could manufacture aircraft without fear of being hauled into court.

While the above relates to components that can actually be visualised, it’s patents like this new one which immediately raise a brow and symbolise ‘ownership’ of very abstract methods. [via Digital Majority]

According to the company, the patent provides customers with a simple technology to communicate with wireless Internet devices via a notification message that orders the device to connect to a server and download specific content and information.

This goes under the heading “Message Delivery System”. It’s about invoking a command remotely. It’s the nature of the command which the company believes has enough complexity (and thus less generality) to merit a patent. But this is insane. At the end of the say, for all those telecom giants, this lenience of the system and its consequent exploitation seems nothing short of collusion. It’s about the giants covering one another and agreeing among themselves that they — and only they — will be permitted to survive in their market.

I find the patent system laughable.

-1- For the small guy it is just a way to publish your technology so it can be used by other bigger fish sans compensation. How many lawyers can you afford to pay full time?

-2- Its a great way for big companies to bully little ones.

By aligning papers under cross-licensing agreements, they establish something which is similar to price-fixing that harms consumers. They can artificially inflate price due to “IPR” and deny new (and more affordable) entrants into a market. Those who want to compete must first obtain heaps of pricey patents. And what for? ‘Innovation’ or just so-called ‘protection’. Where is the benefit to science, as opposed to solicitors?

The system in its current shape seems absurd. This is not competition and this leads to no innovation. It freezes the market, it further empowers a few and it is, in short, a collusion. The patent system serves those who are at the top. They, the ‘elites’, market it as a crucial mechanism for defending ‘the little guy’, using lobbying arms like ACT — all funded by titans, pretending to speak for (of robbing the voice) of small businesses. Such lobbying arms can only be afforded by those at the industry’s pinnacle. They strive to police perception, thereby controlling the law and its enforcement. At times, they take the law into their own hands to fight Free software.

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: August 10th, 2008

Posted in IRC Logs at 6:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Enter the IRC channel now

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