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09.02.08

Links 02/09/2008: Google Makes a Web Browser, GNU is 25

Posted in News Roundup at 9:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Laptops

  • $98 Linux Laptop – The HiVision miniNote

    HiVision CO., LTD makes one of the worlds cheapest Linux laptops at $98 using a new cheaper chipset, WiFi, 1GB flash storage, it runs Linux, 3 USB ports, Ethernet, SDHC card reader, audio in and out. Voice-chat, Skype, multi-tabbed Firefox browser support, Abiword for word processing.

  • CTL vows $149 Atom, Linux-based desktop

    Two additional models are complete but give the buyer a choice of operating system. A $199 model is defined as the mid-range model; though it comes with just 512MB of memory, it ships with Ubuntu Linux and so doesn’t carry the same demands as a Windows system. An 80GB hard drive will also be standard on the PC.

  • VIA births another kneetop

    Unusually for this type of machine, it runs Vista Home Basic out of the box alongside a Linux dual interface.

  • Update On The TechCrunch Tablet: Prototype A
  • Acer Aspire One Review

    The Aspire One comes preinstalled with Linpus Linux, which in turn is based on Fedora Core 8. I’m not really a fan of rpm distributions, but Acer have tuned this installation to the point where it will resume from suspend in around 10 seconds, and cold boot to the desktop in less than 20 seconds, so I’m reluctant to change.

  • Nova media unveils mobile connection manager for Eee PCs running Linux

GNU/Linux

*Ubuntu/Debian

KDE

Free Software

Open Source

Web Browsers

Leftovers

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Davide Dozza, Lead of the OpenOffice.org Italian Language Project, 01 (2004)

Ogg Theora

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

Can ISO Be Still Saved from Microsoft?

Posted in Africa, ECMA, ISO, Microsoft at 8:04 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML protests in India
From the Campaign for Document Freedom

Our previous two posts on this subject were critical of ISO [1, 2]. We did, however, try to emphasise that head changes led to ISO getting captured by Microsoft. Essentially, Microsoft destroyed ISO from the inside over the past year or so (there are similar examples). Those who fought against it seem to have left and those who remained or were appointed (e.g. the Microsoft-friendly Alex Brown [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21]) turned ISO into a ‘Microsoft shop’.

Can the world rescue ISO from Microsoft and attempt to restore order to international standards? Or is the damage done irreparable? Confidence has already been shattered. Some believe it may be possible to change this, at least by elucidating the situation and its severity.

ISO members failed to disapprove the Open XML format. Microsoft has compromised the International Standards Organisation (ISO) during the rush to get a stamp for their Office OpenXML (OOXML), using unfair practices such as committee stuffing in several countries and political interventions of ministers in the standardization process.

[...]

Pieter Hintjens, of the European Software Market Association, says:”Nobody wants standards you can buy. Microsoft bought a standard at ECMA, now they bought ISO. Who wants this?”

“Who wants this,” asks Pieter Hintjens. Well, surely not the people of Brazil, one of the world’s largest populations. From Brazil comes another response and background story about the latest formal complaint (with possible action to ensue).

Thus, managers of the major IT governmental organizations in Brazil, Venezuela and South Africa wrote and co-signed an open letter to ISO, to express their dissatisfaction with the final result of this all.

The letter was also signed by managers of similar entities in Ecuador, Paraguay and Cuba, in a clear signal that this affected more people than I imagined.

Reading the text of the letter, I’ll not summarize anything here because it is worth be read in full, I reminded of Newton’s third law: “For every action there is an equal, but opposite, reaction.”

This news has also just reached IDG.

The OOXML fast-track process and subsequent approval vote in the ISO was riddled with complaints that Microsoft acted unscrupulously, the standards process was not implemented properly and the specification approved was too unwieldy to implement. As a result, the national bodies of Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela filed protests.

The world tried to vote properly. Failing that, given the sheer abuse, complaints began to arrive. But perhaps it’s time to give ISO another chance to clean up its act, or else it might go the way of the dodo, in due time. This would serve Microsoft ever better.

ISO’s reputation has been injured for over a year, based on internal ISO correspondence. The longer it goes on for, the worse it will get. Why is ISO doing this to itself? An admission of failure is damaging indeed, but not quite as damaging as outrageous denials and damage control.

In other news, the South African IEC (not to be confused with another IEC, the Commission Electrotechnique Internationale) has just come under fire. This news may raise a brow coming at this particular time because the 'other' IEC was ISO's partner in crime denials throughout that tiresome OOXML fiasco. The new complaint against IEC is fueled by disregard for standards and strict requirement of Microsoft Internet Explorer.

“37 letters with exactly the same words. Some of the senders didn’t even care to remove the ‘Type company name here’ text.


Simular letters has been circulating in Denmark as an e-mail from the Danish MD Jørgen Bardenfleth to customers and business partners.


I call it fraud, cheating and disgusting. If I wasn’t anti-Microsoft before, I am now. Disgusting !”

Leif Lodahl

OOXML protests in India
From the Campaign for Document Freedom

Microsoft and Novell Grab Open Source Soapboxes

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Servers, Vista, Windows at 7:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft’s influence inside ZDNet was mentioned just a few days ago and so was the apparent confession from a Microsoft employee about the company urging its workers to post comments there. We have already seen examples of this for ourselves, e.g. promotion of Silverlight by a paid Microsoft "evangelist" in ZDNET.

“A restrained attitude towards Microsoft critique would be a gross misrepresentation of the blog’s target audience and population.”Considering the close new relationship between Microsoft and Novell, it’s not too surprising that ZDNet’s addition of a “community” blog will be run by a Novell employee, not — let us say — someone from Red Hat or Mandriva. They give Zonker (of Novell) a prominent blog spot despite the fact that he is already active in several other publications like Linux Magazine and OStatic, in addition to an OpenSUSE blog.

A restrained attitude towards Microsoft critique would be a gross misrepresentation of the blog’s target audience and population. Novell is not a “community” player; it’s a “community” betrayer. This was mentioned the other day, so for Novell to run a ZDNet’s “community” blog is like for a Windows user, Dana Blankenhorn, to run an “open source” blog, writing about software he does not seem to use.

Elsewhere on the Web (no direct link), The Ramji Invader [1, 2, 3, 4] is trying to pull FOSS developers over to Microsoft Windows Vista/Longhorn (WS08). It’s the same old Microsoft PR routine — pretending to be a friend of the very same projects that they plan to sue or just threaten to sue. Rather than link to the original, we might as well highlight this critical response to it.

They take our FOSS nicely ported onto their protocols and platforms and create closed versions where this is feasible: augment their integrated core with features or buy licenses from the projects.

Microsoft wants to get the FOSS world to be towards Microsoft what the prior proprietary world was. In other words, have FOSS apps get close to and depend on Windows instead of on Linux or on any other low level platform. “Where’s the place to be and to find cool apps? Why on Vista of course!”

But these companies and projects cannot win. Microsoft gets easy loueasy code to study, take, or buy rights to. We get no transparency from them. There is nothing but a Rat Race* on Windows. Microsoft needs rats to power their monopolies. They don’t have time to keep up with Linux FOSS. Rather they want you to support them so they have time to integrate and to add features not being developed for Linux.

The other comments sing a similar tune. With people like Zonker & Ramji in the press, what is the impression one might get? That “open source” is a collusion involving two proprietary software companies that engage in software patent deals? It bodes badly for the movement and it needs to be prevented.

A bad penguin -- Novell

Two Novell Directors Quit the Company

Posted in GNU/Linux, Novell, Servers, Virtualisation at 7:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Oriskany ship sinks

Under the radar of much of the press, two Novell directors appear to have walked out. They are likely skilled at virtualisation, which is an important area where Novell hopes to win using software patents and exclusivity with Microsoft.

Anyway, here are the details.

Mark Pileski was most recently director of corporate marketing for Novell, which he joined with the acquisition of PlateSpin. He has spent more than 10 years helping to grow software companies.

[...]

And now one month later, Novell loses another former key PlateSpin employee, Brett Johnson — the company’s Director of Sales for Eastern North America.

Two directors may not seem like much to lose. but recently we considered this part of a pattern and a trend. Previous major departures include Martin Buckley (he moved to Novell’s partner, Microsoft), Novell's Channel Chief, Bruce Lowry, Novell’s PR Director, Joseph LaSala, the General Counsel, and even a Vice President.

“Perhaps the existing staff sees what’s coming (other than the layoffs and offshoring).”A lot of top-level people are also leaving Microsoft. Maybe Novell can fill up its gaps by hiring them as a perfect fit amid the company’s newly-found obsession with .NET, OOXML, ActiveX, Vista, and Silverlight.

Breifing.com describes Novell’s revenue growth as “sluggish”. Perhaps the existing staff sees what’s coming (other than the layoffs and offshoring). Matt Asay, a former Novell employee, suggests that Novell engineers are trying to escape the company.

Financially, Novell is doing badly, especially once those cash infusions from Microsoft are unaccounted for. This won’t last forever because Microsoft is still embracing and extending Novell. It’s not ready to extinguish or take over just yet.

Novell underplays its own potential. In fact, the bland headline of the latest press release, “Novell Reports Financial Results for Third Fiscal Quarter 2008″, showed that Novell has nothing to brag about. Such headlines can be made more enthusiastic. In reality, as Trading Markets put it, Novell Q3 loss widens.

Novell has reported a net loss of $15.12m for the third quarter 2008, against a loss of $3.67m a year ago, on revenue up 4% at $245m. The loss was attributed to an impairment charge related to auction-rate securities.

As pointed out the other day, this is debt write-off. Novell is in bigger trouble than most people realise and it continues to depend on Microsoft heavily. Novell is nowhere in terms of value. Akamai Technologies, whose use of GNU/Linux is well known (even Microsoft is a client), has a market cap which doubles that of Novell. This ought to put things in perspective and show how feeble Novell has become.

IBM Influence in Novell

Posted in Finance, IBM, Novell at 12:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Companies have no friends; they have interests

Several months ago we wrote about the relationship between Novell and IBM. That post contained many pertinent details which will not be repeated here; instead, we shall point out new ones

.

Novell’s current CEO came from IBM after many years over there (even decades). IBM’s investment in a GNU/Linux direction for Novell was last mentioned yesterday and it reportedly — although that cannot be confirmed — came about because IBM wanted to prevent Red Hat from gaining too much power (GNU/Linux servers monopoly). Ray Noorda had already dabbled in GNU/Linux about a decade earlier, but he separated this from Novell.

The following video is an old interview from 2004 where a KDE hacker expresses some cautious concerns about Novell’s acquisition of S.u.S.E. It’s right there towards the end.

Ogg Theora

Jeff Jaffe, Novell’s CTO, is claimed to have approached the OpenSUSE hackers in recent days. It comes amid reappointments for the OpenSUSE Board, where half the members will be paid Novell employees. Pascal Bleser has a word to say about it.

As you have probably already read, the openSUSE Election Committee has taken over and finalized a process and page about the upcoming openSUSE Board Elections. These are drawn on the preliminary work of the current Board and the community itself, through the mailing-list discussions and IRC meetings held in the past months.

[...]

Believe it or not, we’re not “Novell shills”. I’m not employed by Novell, and neither is Francis, so there isn’t even the remote possibility of pressuring us from an employer-employee point of view.

The three other openSUSE Community members on the Board who also happen to be Novell employees (AJ, Coolo and Federico) haven’t been pressured in any way either. Of course, as I wrote above, there hasn’t really been a conflict situation between Novell and the Community, but there is no reason whatsoever to believe that it would have happened. Actually, after talking to Jeff Jaffee (Novell’s CTO) during Hackweek 3, I’m rather under the impression that Novell is expecting a lot more voice, independence and guidance (in both directions) than we’d think.

Looking into Jeff Jaffe’s background, we found that he is a former IBM employee. He worked there for 21 years, which makes him a vetran (“Previous GM and Research VP at IBM,” says his profile). That’s similar to Ron Hovsepian’s duration in IBM and both people joined Novell after S.u.S.E. had been acquired. They rose to prominence fairly quickly.

No Value

Watch this video (requires Adobe Flash, sorry) of Jeff Jaffe about the patent deal with Microsoft. Apart from the fact that it’s sponsored by Microsoft Office, Jaffe showers Microsoft with compliments, including, by name, FUDMesiter Steve Ballmer and FUDMesiter Bill Hilf. He talks about patents too.

One reader of ours wrote this morning: “As suspected, things are going really well with all things Linux, except for Novell which seems to have given up it’s market in exchange for living off of Microsoft vouchers.”

Those vouchers are “patent royalties”, according to Microsoft. That’s just the type of game Novell is playing now. Does this work out? Surely it does not, but Novell is bluffing.

How can a company whose losses are widening claim a revival?

It said, software license revenue rose 19% to $53.4m, maintenance and subscription revenue increased 8% to $154.98m, while services revenue fell 25% to $36.79m. Revenue growth was attributed to an increase in sales of Linux software.

Sadly for Novell, the Linux business is still just a small portion of the overall picture. Novell may be concealing this to deceive investors. Among other forms of deception:

…have heard at least one Novell supporter talk of what a noble deed Novell did, with the suggestion that SCOX had a winning case (against Linux) and Novell kept SCOX “truths” from being certified in court.

Cynically speaking, one might guess that it would make Novell the 'owner' of Linux then. IBM would like it. If only that was true..

Novell pisses on GNU/Linux codebase since 2006

September 24 is ‘World Day Against Software Patents’

Posted in Asia, Europe, Law, Patents at 11:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Brussels, 2nd September 2008 — A global coalition of more than 80 software companies, associations and developers has declared the 24th of September to be the “World Day Against Software Patents”. Five years ago, on 24 September 2003, the European Parliament adopted amendments to limit the scope of patent law and thereby protect small software companies from the harmful effects of broad and trivial software patents. A global petition asking to effectively stop software patents worldwide will be launched on 24 September 2008, together with specific additional requests for certain regions such as Europe, the United States or India.

On 24 September 2008, the World Day Against Software Patents will provide volunteers with the opportunity to express the growing concerns of users, businesses and developers. The granting of software patents by patent offices around the world affects their freedom to innovate. The organisers expect 24h of activities across the globe. Volunteers will gather in front of patent offices to inform the general public of the problems underlying software patenting.

“Volunteers will gather in front of patent offices to inform the general public of the problems underlying software patenting.”A global petition demanding to effectively stop software patents worldwide will be launched on the same day. In some regions of the world such as Europe, the United States, or India, dedicated campaigns are being prepared by local supporters. The organisers intend to celebrate the World Day on an annual basis unless substantive clarifications are adopted in national laws that stop software patenting along with their effects on the digital economy.

Benjamin Henrion, initiator of the StopSoftwarePatents coalition effort, explains “The aim behind StopSoftwarePatents is to gather a worldwide coalition of businesses and civil society in order to get laws which clearly exempt software from patentable subject matter. This is the best solution for getting rid of ‘patent trolls’ and uncontrollable legal risks generated by software patents. The day the software industry forms a clear front against software patents will be the beginning of the end for the ‘patent trolls’.”

The Belgian campaigner was among the persons who persuaded the members of the European Parliament five years ago to adopt amendments that limit the scope of patent law in order to protect small software companies. The European Council of Ministers – where national patent offices exercise significant influence – fiercely insisted on making software patents legal in Europe. Additionally, ‘patent trolls’ and US-based corporations invested large lobby resources to support the position of the Council. After a long struggle, the proposed directive was finally rejected by the European Parliament in its second reading. Since then, European and national patent offices continue to grant these software and business method patents without an approval of the legislator by creative interpretation of the European Patent Convention.

In few other nations, notably the US, the patent offices are even more permissive. However, even in the US, no legislator ever approved the practise. The global coalition calls for a larger representation of business and civil society against software patents. The current lobby gap makes Congress and Senate, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) and the Supreme Court susceptible to lobbying from patent industries, holders and patent professionals. Although companies affected by software patent litigation have been lobbying for a reform, their advocacy for “quality” and “lower damages” targets the symptoms rather than the roots of the problem.    [more information]

Software patents protest in India

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: September 1st, 2008

Posted in IRC Logs at 11:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Enter the IRC channel now

Read the rest of this entry »

ISO Death Watch in the Press

Posted in Action, America, Europe, Interoperability, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, Standard at 11:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This is consensus?

Grave cross

Computer World: The Beginning of the End for the ISO?

I believe that this marks the beginning of the end of ISO’s reign as the primary standards-setting organisation, at least as far as computing is concerned (for other industries, details of the standards-setting process, or even of the standards that result, may not be quite so crucial as they for the current phase of IT.) This is a view that I and others have articulated before, but one that was not really accompanied by any signs that things would actually change.

The Consegi Declaration, by contrast, is a very real statement of intent by some of the most important players in the international computing community. Collectively, they have sufficient power to make a difference to how standards are set globally. Specifically, they could at a stroke help establish some alternative forum as a rival to the ISO by throwing their weight behind it.

Inquirer: ISO OOXML support criticised

As the INQUIRER previously noted, there are now two incompatible, international document standards on which the world can conduct its discourse, manage its business, and record its archives: ODF, which was designed by the people, for the people; and OOXML, which was created by Microsoft, the convicted monopolist.

Heise: Renewed protest against the ISO certification of Microsoft’s OOXML

In a statement of protest adopted by the Congresso Internacional Sociedade e Governo Eletronico (CONSEGI), the countries charge that the international committees bent their own rules. The emerging nations even argue that these proceedings call into question the future use of ISO standards in their administrations.

Groklaw: CONSEGI 2008 Declaration — Open Letter to ISO Reveals More OOXML Issues

There is an unexpected reaction from major government IT agencies in six countries condemning the ISO/IEC refusal to act on the four appeals against OOXML, which they say “reflects poorly” on ISO/IEC. They have signed and sent an open letter to ISO, which I’ll show you in full. The countries represented are South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Cuba.

Tectonic: Southern nations frown on ISO

State IT organisation representatives from Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay have signed a declaration expressing their dissatisfaction with the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

The countries signed the declaration at the CONSEGI conference in Brazil over the weekend in response to news that the ISO/IEC had rejected the appeals from South Africa, Brazil and Venezuela and India to the ISO process to adopt Microsoft’s OOXML format as an international standard.

Reuters: Microsoft decision sparks dissent amid ISO members

“The bending of the rules to facilitate the fast-track processing… remains a significant concern to us,” they said, referring to a process many parties had complained was too fast and not transparent enough for such a complex format.

Consortium Info: The CONSEGI 2008 Declaration: Six Nations “Just Say No” to ISO/IEC

The latest blowback from the OOXML adoption process emerged last Friday in Brasilia, Brazil. This newest challenge to the continued relevance of ISO and IEC was thrown when major IT agencies of six nations – Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, South Africa and Venezuela – signed a declaration that deploring the refusal of ISO and IEC to further review the appeals submitted by the National Bodies of four nations. Those nations were Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela, and the statement is titled the CONSEGI 2008 Declaration, after the conference at which it was delivered.

<No>OOXML: Four governments go ballistic over Open XML

South America and South Africa have been aligned for quite some time on many occasions of international legislation and often vigorously oppose government agendas of the “North”. What makes me as a European feel ashamed is that they take the freedom to speak in plain words while European and Northern American standard bodies fail to express the obvious. A reform of ISO would only be possible when all nations work jointly on that matter. Here it looks like the four nations actually consider to leave ISO and set up their own vendor-neutral standard organisation. I guess many standards consortia will try to gather the fortune and get these nations on board.

Standards and Freedom: Teenage Riot?

But who are we to interfere with the Masters of Scholastics of Geneva?

The most interesting part of that letter is not the protest itself: Those countries are outraged. Actually, the most interesting part of that letter is that it clearly shows that they have run out of options -and will- to appeal the ISO decisions. Which does not mean OOXML is a folded case; in contrary, the letter implicitly shows these countries will evaluate other kind of options. After all, the ISO has failed in its mission with OOXML. It has showed to the world that it could only accommodate the will of the mightiest and not reach consensus. Thus conclusions will be reached, and decisions made, and actions will be taken. And I don’t think it will comply with the ISO directions.

There were a couple more yesterday. In the mean time, since Bryden and ISO act like stubborn "teenagers" (to borrow from Patrick Durusau’s vocabulary [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]) who cannot admit a mistake, it’s time to move on and ask authorities to ignore ISO’s recommendations. ISO has proven to be too corruptible to be taken seriously.

Glyn Moody calls for Europeans to
provide input regarding Interoperability Framework v2. It must not consider OOXML as an option. In fact, several European nations, have rejected it already.

I’ve noted before that writing to MPs/MEPs seems to be remarkably effective in terms of generating a response. The naïve among us might even assume that democracy is almost functional in these cases. I’m not sure whether that applies to something as large and inscrutable as the European Commission, but it’s certainly worth a try, especially in the context of open source and open standards.

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