EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

09.20.08

Links 20/09/2008: Foresight Kid’s Edition and Fermi Linux 4.7 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 7:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

New Releases

GNU/Linux

Ubuntu

F/OSS

Security

Leftovers

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Larry Augustin, GNU Linux business visionary 25

Ogg Theora

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

More Microsoft Patent Trolls, Extortions, and SCO

Posted in Bill Gates, Finance, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Kernel, Microsoft, Patents, SCO at 4:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Software patents protest against EPO

European Patent Office Faces Street Protest, Strike

IAM Magazine wrote about the protests in Europe. The backlash against the system succeeded when it comes generating coverage that raises awareness of the problem.

The Stop Software Patents website carries a copy of a press release put out by SUEPO – the union representing European Patent Office examiners – to coincide with the one day strike of EPO staff and a protest to be held in Brussels, both of which are scheduled for this Thursday, 18th September.

Economy of Patents Amid Financial Meltdown

Groklaw has highlighted this article, which shows how complicated and costly a frivolous patent lawsuit can be.

Boston clean-energy startup Ze-gen is building a pilot plant where waste materials are vaporized in a giant vat of molten iron, producing “syngas” that can then be burned to make electricity. When a federal judge in Texas dismissed a patent-infringement lawsuit against the company last month, Ze-gen had cause to hope that its recent legal hassles had also turned to vapor. But then, last month, its accusers filed a new complaint in federal district court in Boston. And with Ze-gen expected to file documents refuting the allegations soon, the case is likely to get a lot more complicated before it burns out.

This relates to a broader issue and an urgent need for change.

As the world’s attention is taken up with how to address the current financial crisis, the AFP’s Delphine Touitou reports that activists gathered in Malmö for the Europe Social Forum see social change as key to avoiding future financial meltdowns.

Microsoft’s Patent-Trolling Department

Nathan Myhrvold may well be operating at the behest of Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], whose headquarters are located nearby. Articles about this patent troll continue to arrive and Digital Majority keeps track of the finer details. To readers who are new to this, the following comment makes a good introduction.

I’d suggest the business be called Intellectual Vultures’ … because that is exactly what Nathan is bringing to the table – nothing. This business model stifles and prevents creative idea, and is yet another made up securities model that preys on other people’s legitimate hard work.

When he was at Microsoft, he had zero practical ideas and I see he’s still doing the same, only this time, he’s screwing the whole public. This business is living on the backs of other people because they don’t know how to spell the word ‘innovation’. How about coming up with an original and useful idea and earn it the old fashion way?

Nathan should be ashamed of this practice and he should be investigated by the FTC for predatory business practices.

TechCrunch calls it a “Patent Extortion Fund.”

Don’t blame Nathan Myhrvold for taking advantage of the culture of rampant patent litigation in this country. He is only doing what large companies with vast patent portfolios such as IBM and Microsoft do on a daily basis: use the threat of patent infringement litigation to strike lucrative patent licensing deals. Except Myhrvold, who used to be Bill Gates’ right-hand man at Microsoft during the 1990s, does it through his patent-gobbling fund, Intellectual Ventures.

Here is an example of the extortion:

Myhrvold told the WSJ that he acknowledges facing resistance from companies he targets for licenses. But his patent inventory gives him leverage to extract settlements without litigation. “I say, ‘I can’t afford to sue you on all of these, and you can’t afford to defend on all these,’” he said.

Another patent troll, RPX, is already in the making. It’s still in its infancy: the ‘harvesting’ phase.

RPX already purchased $30 million in patents

[...]

Intellectual Ventures (Bellevue, Wash.), launched by former Intel and Microsoft executives in 2000, is said to be among the first and largest of the group of companies formed in part to address the troll issue.

It’s interesting to see Intel’s involvement there given the Microsoft collusions and coordinated sabotage of OLPC (yes, a charity). At one point, Intel and Microsoft were suspected of using a Nigerian patent troll to sting OLPC with a lawsuit. Groklaw received no response when asking LANCOR about it.

IAM Magazine has this new article which suggests RPX is a patent protection umbrella. As pointed out in the IRC channel only a few hours ago, they merely put lipstick on an ugly pig.

On Wednesday, California-based RPX Corporation issued a press release to announce that it has secured funding from both Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Charles River Ventures, and that it will be setting out its USP in October. But we already have a pretty strong clue as to the general thrust of the new business. “Patent assertion and litigation costs US businesses billions of dollars every year. Our goal was to create an affordable service model that reduces the threat of assertion and litigation and provides efficient patent protection to subscribing companies,” says RPX co-founder and former Intellectual Ventures hotshot John Amster in the release.

That last bit says it all. It’s merely another ‘spinoff’ or a huge patent troll (Intellectual Ventures), which is somewhat of a Microsoft spinoff. They justify their trolling as “protection” or “security” and urge companies to join their licensing cartel. There is no one umbrella to rule them all, so it’s a money-collection scheme, or a “massive pyramid scheme,” as Matt Asay called it a couple of days ago.

Philips and Its Pirates

Sisvel, which is Philips’ right-hand ‘pirate’ for extraction of revenue and illegal ‘rape’ of competitors, was previously mentioned in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Law-enforcing departments already have Sisvel and Philips in check for violation of market rules, but those ‘pirates’ never relent.

MPEG LA, LLC and SISVEL S.p.A. announce that as of August 26, 2008 the administration of the DVB-T licensing program, including the administration of all DVB-T Patent Portfolio Licenses previously executed by MPEG LA and licensees, has been transferred from MPEG LA to SISVEL.

Here’s what is happening with those patents.

The 12 verdicts of infringement were issued in all 12 cases on the merits brought by MPEG-2 patent owners who are also Licensors in the MPEG-2 Patent Portfolio License offered by MPEG LA. Those patent owners include CIF Licensing, LLC; GE Technology Development, Inc.; Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV; Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.; Mitsubishi Electric Corporation; Sony Corporation; Thomson Licensing S.A.; The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York; and Victor Company of Japan, Ltd. (JVC).

Apple’s Patent a Day Won’t Keep the Critics Away

Here is another junk patent from Apple.

Apple files notification screen patent, is this really that unique?

[...]

It is a bit strange that a patent would be needed for something like this that even basic feature phones already use in some manner.

As far as Apple goes, there’s no motion to change the system. They blend in with the crowd and harm the Free Desktop in the process.

SCO

It’s hard to tell how deeply Microsoft is involved in this, but SCO claims to have gotten some new business.

FCmobilelife is developed by The SCO Group of Lindon, Utah, under an exclusive licensing agreement with FranklinCovey. Together, the companies have worked with AT&T to ensure certification of FCmobilelife on its mobile network.

This isn’t the only recent deal and Tony Lawrence suggests that there are still some SCO deployments there. But for how long?

I had a call from an old SCO Unix customer this week. There aren’t many of those old systems left now – more than you’d probably think, more than there should be, but far less than there were just a few years back. I think you still have a good chance of finding a few SCO boxes in any city, but it’s getting harder..

SCO is still desperate to buy some time with those Linux lawsuits, which are its main ‘export’. Groklaw has covered this closely over the past few days. Chronologically:

1. SCO’s Reply to Novell’s Objection to 3rd Extension, as text, & a 10Q Reality Check

Guess why SCO says it hasn’t been able to file a workable reorganization plan so far? No. Really. Guess.

In SCO’s just filed Debtors’ Reply to Novell’s Response to Debtors’ Third Motion to Extend Exclusivity [PDF], SCO says one reason is the turmoil in the financial markets. There currently is no deal with Stephen Norris Capital Partners. But SCO needs more time, because there could be someday. “Despite the declining economic climate, Messrs. Norris and Robbins continue to work with the Debtors to pursue a transaction.” So, we just need to be patient. Norris is flying to the Middle East shortly and they’ve had meetings in London and Paris, but investors are nervous, we learn, due to the current turmoil in the markets, and they feel they’d like more legal certainty in this picture first. Like a definite date for SCO to file an appeal.

Ah. Do hold your breath, SCO. Do.

2. SCO Makes Its Move in Utah: Asks to Waive Claims, Get Final Judgment

SCO has filed a notice asking the Utah District Court to dismiss its stayed claims and issue a final judgment with respect to both the August 10, 2007 and the July 16th, 2008 orders, so SCO can appeal right now. It points out that Novell was told to file a final judgment, and it hasn’t done so.

This is what Novell told the court SCO was going to do next, and it indicated that it would be responding with its own “Oh, no you don’t” memorandum in opposition pronto. Novell explained to the court that it believes final judgment is premature, since the arbitration is still pending and was stayed by the bankruptcy, something SUSE asked the court to lift so it could proceed in the arbitration, but which SCO opposed.

3. SCO Gets Almost What It Asked For From Bankruptcy Court: Extension to End of Year & Stock Options

So, the hearing minutes [PDF] from today’s bankruptcy hearing are posted, and it appears (comparing it with the Notice of Agenda) that SCO got an extension to the end of the year to exclusively file a reorganization plan,

SCO seems like history, but Microsoft (or ilk) appears to be moving from copyrights threats to copyrights assaults, then to patent threats. Guess what’s next? It’s just like the Halloween documents showed. According to Pamela Jones, Microsoft is the next SCO Group and she also says that Microsoft should be treated as though it's already suing Free software (with or without Intellectual Ventures and other patent trolls like Acacia, which attacked Free software last year [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]).

“Then when they [Intellectual Ventures] own all the patents, the 99.99% of the rest of us just fix the law.. so let’s hold up a little longer. “

Jose_X

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part III: Another Load of Novell News

Posted in GNU/Linux, Interview, Kernel, Marketing, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, Ron Hovsepian, Videos, Virtualisation at 4:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Legal

Firefox made a lot of headlines over the past week ‘thanks’ to GNU/Linux. An issue came about in Ubuntu sites where people complained about the EULA, but OpenSUSE was not entirely isolated from this debate. In the following article, Zonker had his say.

Read the rest of this entry »

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part II: SUSE and Ron Hovsepian at Interop

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Ron Hovsepian, Security, SLES/SLED, Turbolinux at 2:11 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There is a lot of news to go through today, so the following post is just a quick rundown.
Read the rest of this entry »

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part I: OpenSUSE Calls for Testers and Boarders [sic]

Posted in GNU/Linux, Novell, OpenSUSE, Videos at 1:06 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Penguins in the park

The major story, although it depends on one’s perspective, is one of OpenSUSE adoption through localisation. [via Glyn Moody]

Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post: Why Not Mono – Part II

Posted in GNU/Linux, GPL, Law, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, SCO at 9:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In part I, our reader and guest writer was trying to get the underlying ideas about Mono across. There was a car analogy. Here is a more detailed explanation of the picture (metaphorically speaking).


Microsoft is suing someone for not paying Mono rather than paying for Java makes a big difference in the view of the public eye regarding merit and ultimate success. The public understanding of “which side is morally right” would be accompanied for sure by a slew of Microsoft propaganda, that would say: Mono is an intentional direct rewrite of Microsoft IP and enables free rides based on our IP.

It would be hard to convince why Microsoft should not be entitled to collect royalties for such a big chunk of IP, if Novell does pay Microsoft.

“It would be hard to convince why Microsoft should not be entitled to collect royalties for such a big chunk of IP, if Novell does pay Microsoft.”This makes it so much harder for something like Groklaw to counter the propaganda, which is also something Microsoft learned from the SCO-case.

The idea is basically to show that Mono is something like a specially-designed Trojan horse, that masks itself with free-licensing and therefore makes it seem legit and on the same perceived risk-scale than other technologies.

While the original dotnet is genuine (although it borrows and builds on top of a lot of other ideas – just like cars do built on the same old concepts and evolve), Mono is specifically and superficially created, as to incorporate the very same underlying technology – all the blueprints for copying are purposely thrown on the table, and so letting Mono grow fulfills 2 goals:

Goal No. 1

Keep the other numerous car-makers from advancing their technology (which like Java, Python, etc. are also available for free and libre) and therefore prevent the possibility of building useful stuff with other stuff than Microsoft (these are the apps like navigation, car-radios, etc.) Or short: Draining attention away and diverting the landscape so to prepare conquest (divide and conquer). This is done by the license and cannot be debated on why GPL for Java should be good and GPL for Mono should be bad and therefore perceived with more caution.

Goal No. 2

Lure as many developers into building useful apps (or the entire car) with Microsoft-technology.

In my opinion, Microsoft can’t do that by developing Mono itself, if it wants to sue for licensing afterwards, because it gets harder to release stuff intentionally UNDER GPL (as opposed to their usual proprietary licenses) and later prove you didn’t know what your INTENTION was by pretending to not understood the consequences of the GPL (even v2)…

This is the major point Microsoft learned from the SCO-fiasco, as it was hard to prove that when SCO actively was part of UnitedLinux, it didn’t know exactly what it was doing with their “so-called IP” when releasing it under the terms the GPL…

So Microsoft changes and finds the perfect partner to fulfill its goals: Hurt Red Hat as much as possible, and letting Novell only continue develop “Mono” under its protection-racket as to give this project the perception it is legally save for Novell-users. Otherwise, Microsoft would have been forced to stop Novell from developing Mono or start to sue Novell, while with every day passing by, it would have gotten harder to argue that Microsoft stood there so long seeing what Novell was doing (including Mono in Linux), and not to find a “solution” (=cross-patent-licensing) or litigate right away.

Now as Novell is under Microsoft “guided control”, Microsoft can much more easily claim that Novell started building something that mimics Microsoft-technology as close as possible in the past, then talked with Microsoft about this (and other) technology resulting in “covenants not to sue” and others distributors or users who want to use Mono too (which resembles dotnet not only from the outside (the look of the apps: the car’s shape), but also from the inside (the technology or motor)) should clearly see that Microsoft is entitled to demand royalties from costumers who built their stuff by using a copy of Microsoft-technology to get a “free-ride”…

“Someone has to weigh these arguments in, if s/he choses to defend usage of Mono by claiming it is on the same scale as usage of Java.”It is much, much harder to prove such a case and nurture such a claim for MS with regards to using Java (for example), as MS themselves built dotnet on ideas relating to Java, which could then be proven to be mostly prior art. Java-technology would also get defended by a company like Sun (or Google), and MS had to prove the infringing IP of Java resembling dotnet, which would be easy in case of dotnet vs. mono.

So the litigation-scenario IS a major factor for anyone, who tries to compare the risk of possible litigation on the basis of IP-claims between dotnet and Mono and dotnet and Java. Someone has to weigh these arguments in, if s/he choses to defend usage of Mono by claiming it is on the same scale as usage of Java.

From Microsoft’s perspective and the public viewing of such a case, it is clearly not. Even the possible danger from Sun suing over Java is clearly not comparable, because Sun knew what it did when releasing GPL-Java and would have a hard stand to sue anyone not wanting to pay patent-royalties afterwards. If Microsoft would do the same as sun and release an official “Microsoft-certified” dotnet-variant under GPL, later license demanding through litigation would instantly lose a great deal of appeal.

So Microsoft having set up everything in place in its favor with Novell, now sits back and laughs silently as they have found the ONE weak-spot, with they trying to split FLOSS-land: The GPLv2 only and LGPLv2 only, which are poorly designed to such a clever patent-scam-attack. Microsoft weapon is a GPL-tarnished sword called Mono, developed by Novell.

At least, this is how I perceive this whole Microsoft-Novell-nonsense. Now the hard part is to prove this theory other than to wait and let it prove itself. So all we can and should do is make that threat as transparent as possible by exposing its nature to the fullest by just describing it as precisely as possible without making anything up.

Maybe this analogy helps a little to achieve this goal, and raise the awareness to where the difference (and danger) lies.

Mono, ECMA, Microsoft

Eye on Microsoft: A Rainy Day in Redmond Town

Posted in Apple, Finance, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Security, Windows at 9:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

…Not just because it’s Software Freedom Day

Blackouts

Today is a day of software freedom, so let’s begin with this good post.

Are you a user of Microsoft Windows? Are you a user of a non-licensed copy of Microsoft Windows? Does it happen to be Windows XP Professional? Have you seen “blackouts“?

Apparently, from about the end of last month (August 27 2008, to be precise), users of pirated copies of Microsoft Windows XP Professional that also happen to be connected to the Internet will see their screens go black, and have no icons visible.

[...]

Its a most interesting tactic. Annoy the user by allowing them to change their background, and 60 minutes later, give them grief again. After all, an original copy of Windows XP Professional only costs RM580. That’s about 227 litres of unleaded petrol, at the current rate of RM2.55/L. Or nearly 6 tanks of petrol, in a more fuel efficient car. No wonder, people prefer paying RM5 for pirated media.

[...]

Don’t worry about piracy. Don’t bow down to another corporations silly moves. Think open standards. Think freedom. Just go open source.

This squeeze of existing Windows users may or may not say something about Microsoft’s real financial situation [1, 2, 3, 4].

(In)Security

Here is another case of bad patches (it’s almost a monthly recurrence it would seem), which brought down Microsoft servers. Microsoft has acknowledged it is a universal problem.

However, the package was posted early and one of the bugs is causing major headaches for administrators who installed the update.

Microsoft explained that an issue with the Exchange Web Service component is leading the update to send some servers into a continuous crash cycle.

Future LSE crashes would hardly be surprising.

The Spread Firefox Web site draws a baffling comparison which is perhaps unfair given the age of the two products, but it compares Firefox 3.x and Microsoft IE 7.x.

With regards to security, Internet Explorer 7.x is has about 13 times more vulnerabilities and advisories than Firefox 3, according to security site Secunia.com:

* Vulnerability Report: Mozilla Firefox 3.x
* Vulnerability Report: Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.x

There’s a lot more to this story. Microsoft is hiding known flaws. References of interest include:

We covered this issue before.

Advertising

There are heaps of articles on this topic. The Jerry Seinfeld ads are quickly being buried, but a very tactless new slogan has been picked.

Life without walls is the title of microsoft’s new advertising campaign. It is yet another example of microsoft taking someone else’s idea and trying to claim it as their own. This has put me in rant mode because for a long time there has been a quote floating around in the Linux camp. It goes like this “In a world without walls. Who needs windows and gates?”

SJVN wrote about this advertising failure as well. He ends with a bright outlook:

Speaking as someone who prefers the Linux desktop, and, proprietary software and all, is overly fond of Macs, I have to once again say: “Thanks Microsoft.” Without you the Mac and mini-PCs like the Sylvania G Netbook, the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC, the Acer Aspire and the Asus Eee PC 1000 we recently reviewed, which are Linux powered wouldn’t have had such a great chance to make major big gains in the desktop market.

With how Microsoft is mishandling both its desktop advertising and its actual Windows operating system, I see more and more hope that Windows’ desktop monopoly is finally coming to an end.

According to Roughly Drafted Magazine, Microsoft is actually using UNIX machines (Mac OS X) to create its advertisements. There’s also the following nugget of information:

In 2003, Microsoft fired an employee who posted a photo of new PowerMac G5 systems being delivered to the company onto his blog.

At the same time, the company has no problem showing the vast numbers of Macs it buys to test builds of Office for Mac within the MacBU. Microsoft is apparently still the largest Mac developer outside of Apple.

More on the failure of Microsoft’s advertising blitz can be found in Apple Insider.

Further, as PC companies such as Dell and Acer continue to seek new ways to use Linux in place of Windows, and as the top PC vendor HP begins its own efforts to create a Windows alternative as reported by BusinessWeek, the idea of advertising “the PC” would do even less for Microsoft.

John Gruber writes:

It’s not necessary for effective ads to directly sell anything. An effective ad simply has to make a point. Some of the best ads, rather than establishing facts or planting ideas, instead create a feeling. Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign didn’t tell you to buy sneakers. Apple’s “Think Different” didn’t even mention computers. But those campaigns created feelings about those brands that were so strong that they still feel new.

Microsoft’s panicked reaction to these Seinfeld ads, yanking them from the air and severing ties with Seinfeld, isn’t because the ads were poorly received. And dropping these ads is a panicked reaction. Let’s not pretend it makes any sense that the Seinfeld spots were planned as a two-episode teaser all along. No one signs Jerry Seinfeld for $10 million in a much-heralded deal to make just two spots that only run for a grand total of two weeks.

The current situation does not bode well for the successor of Windows Vista, according to this report from IDG.

Why make the same mistakes all over again, when there are so many new mistakes to make?

That thought came to mind a few weeks ago when Microsoft spent some time talking about Windows 7 (the current name for whatever comes after Vista) at a technology conference. From what I saw, it would seem that the company learned little from the Longhorn/Vista launch and is setting out down the same road.

The Indian press, which is typically blind to legitimate critics and therefore supportive of Microsoft, indicates that Microsoft will hire some other talking points.

Microsoft has axed American comedian Jerry Seinfeld from its 300million-dollar ad campaign to spruce up Windows Vista’s image just two weeks since the first ad aired, and roped in a host of celebrities, including author Deepak Chopra.

Actress Eva Longoria and singer Pharrell Williams are also said to have been hired for the campaign.

This isn’t the first time that Microsoft reaches out to celebrities in India [1, 2].

At the end of the day, not even famous people can save Microsoft’s reputation and brand power, which is declining.

Google leaps, Microsoft drops in brand value

Google’s brand name value jumped from 20th place last year to 10th in 2008, according to the latest version of an annual study that ranks the best brands, with only four technology companies ahead of it on the list.

Recent articles about Microsoft’s brand problems include:

1. Microsoft’s credibility turning to junk while Linux revenue grows

Sweeping changes are needed in Microsoft’s go-to-market approach, and it may find more success by creating products like Live Writer, which found a huge following right away. Continuing on its current path, the company will continue to destroy its credibility and build animosity with users looking for quality products on their terms.

2. Google ‘UK’s top consumer brand’ [up at Microsoft's expense]

Google also topped a poll of “superbrands” as judged by professionals earlier this year.

3. Google reputation hits top spot

Google has finally managed to push Microsoft from its top spot.

The Vole actually fell to tenth place in the annual Harris Interactive Reputation Quotient poll, but overall, the tech sector did outstandingly well this year.

4. Microsoft Plummets, Retail Falls While Beauty Gains in CoreBrand 2007 Brand Power Rankings

The annual “CoreBrand Brand Power 100″ Branding Index(R) of 1,200 US corporations ranks Coca-Cola Company and Johnson & Johnson at #1 and #2 respectively, unchanged since 2004. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s corporate brand declined in stunning fashion over the past four years, falling from 11 in 2004 to 59 in 2007 Microsoft, a decline of 48 places!

5. Some Quick Quips – Yahoo, #86, and MSPoll

Would you believe… that Microsoft has dropped down to #86 within the Fortune Best Places to Work survey? That’s down from #50 in 2007 and #42 in 2006. Like a rock. In a bad way. And who is #1 for two years in a row? Grab that chair and give it a big effen toss in the air to Google! Toot! They get bigger and they’re still #1.

6. Apple has biggest impact on world consumers: survey

Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker was also a winner, but it received the dubious honor of the brand most readers wanted to argue with, and the one they most wanted to revamp. Voted into second place in the category was brand USA.

Bottom of the Ranks

Speaking of brand value, where Google seems to rapidly outpace rivals and almost dominate, Google continues rising in terms of search engine share, whereas Microsoft continues to fall despite heavy investments in datacentres, advertisements, reimbursements, bundling, a recent $100 million acquisition, and so much more.

Google Sites led the U.S. core search market in July with 63 percent of the searches conducted, up from 61.9 percent in July, followed by Yahoo! Sites (19.6 percent), Microsoft Sites (8.3 percent), Ask Network (4.8 percent), and AOL LLC (4.3 percent).

Microsoft is ranked lower not only for brand power; it’s also ranked very poorly by Greenpeace, according to many new reports.

Japan-based games console company Nintendo came last in the rankings, with a score of 0.8, whilst world renowned software-maker Microsoft was placed second last with a score of just 2.2.

For those who think that SharePoint is doing well (Slog tactics can be compellingly-deceiving), here is a wakeup call:

Microsoft losing grip on ECM mid-market

SharePoint not as dominant as was thought, claims research

Mid-sized organisations have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choosing an enterprise content management (ECM) supplier, according to new research from independent ECM analyst CMS Watch.

So, all in all, there’s lots of hype but results are mixed. Alfresco performs well in this space.

Sour Grapes

Several operations of Microsoft were shut down recently. It’s a pattern, so here is another new one for the pile.

Microsoft-backed social network gets walloped

A would-be social network called Wallop has shut its doors, according to a message on the home page.

Other recent examples include:

Earlier in the week, albeit behind closed doors (to the media), there was some more erratic behaviour from Microsoft’s CEO, who is bemoaning success of others in eccentric ways right on stage.

At Microsoft’s company meeting today, CEO Steve Ballmer was in full cheerleader mode, running around the stage, high-fiving Microsoft employees at Safeco Field, breathing hard and yelling into the microphone, said one observer, who asked to remain anonymous while describing an event that was closed to the public.

Is this a celebration of success or an ego trip? Ego trips are typically momentary. The nightmare comes later.

“But this is going to end as all tragedies must, with tears. Steve Ballmer is getting taken for the biggest ride of his life, and one day he’s going to find himself dumped out of the limo by the side of the road wondering what happened.”

Dana Blankenhorn (Liddell destroying Microsoft from within)

Software Freedom Day: A Lesson in Free GNU/Linux Distributions

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, Ubuntu at 6:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Today is Software Freedom Day. It is an excellent opportunity to educate our family, friends. and colleagues about the importance of Free(dom) software. To mark this event, I’m posting an old article of mine, which refers to a distribution that’s now retired. This also coincides with the Ubuntu/Mozilla EULA kerkuffle.


“It has nothing whatsoever to do with Freedom,” argues one of Gobuntu‘s contributors. The contributor, Keith G. Robertson-Turner, is a longtime, passionate advocate of free software advocate. Before joining Gobuntu, he was among the first package maintainers on the Fedora project. Yet recently he opted to leave the Gobuntu project after what he sees as continued disappointment.

“In fact, [Mark] Shuttleworth has just confirmed on-list that his only interest is the kernel (i.e. disable as much of the contentious drivers as possible) … and see what still works,” he continues.

In contrast, Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, disagrees with Robertson-Turner. The developer’s complaints “reflect one person’s recollection of a vigorous discussion on the Gobuntu development mailing lists,” he replied in an email response to Robertson-Turner’s allegations. Indeed, in Shuttleworth’s view, “Gobuntu is about building a platform that expresses freedom in software and in content.” He urges those interested to read key parts of the Gobuntu mailing list (linked to below).

Before examining Robertson-Turner’s experiences and findings, let’s delve into a little background. Later on, internal problems will be explained and ways to improve Gobuntu’s direction will be suggested.

What Makes a Linux Distribution Truly Free

A truly free GNU/Linux distribution is one which honours the idea that full access to and control over program source code is both valuable and necessary. Such a distribution should avoid software and hardware drivers that cannot be controlled by the user. Moreover, all expressions of creativity, including artwork, should permit derivative work. All in all, this ensures that there is no restriction that ties the user to the software and hardware vendors.

“The main goal of projects that follow this route is to reverse a growing trend where hardware and software turn against their users.”

There are several projects that strive to create such a Linux distribution, e.g. Ututo and gNewSense. The projects make their work widely available, not necessarily for profit. The main goal of projects that follow this route is to reverse a growing trend where hardware and software turn against their users. Examples include compromise of privacy, restriction on access, and forced upgrades, which can be expensive.

Gobuntu is a project whose purpose is to deliver a Linux distribution that is free not only in terms of cost, but also free in that it facilitates user freedom. Gobuntu essentially comprises a reduced set of packages that are used in Ubuntu Linux, with possible replacements for “non free” software packages and drivers.

Drivers versus Applications

A complete operating system can be looked at from several levels of abstractions or operation. Two such levels are the applications and the kernel. In a truly free Linux distribution, source code should be openly available at all levels. But what does this mean in practical terms?

At the level of the kernel, things are relatively simple. All code, including that which operates peripheral devices such as printers and keyboards, as well as internal storage media, should be made available for inspection, modification, and even redistribution. The user is in total charge of the way software interacts with the hardware and can therefore tweak the computer’s behaviour to his/her heart’s content.

When it comes to applications, the notion of “free” becomes more complex. Above the level of source code there tends to exist a graphical user interface with images, sounds, and other forms of art. Applications, unlike kernel code, can be very large and complex.

Dedication to both levels – the kernel and applications that sit on top – is needed when producing a truly free Linux distro. Without the conditions of freedom being satisfied, the computer which runs that software is not entirely under its user’s control. The user is forbidden from doing certain things on the computer that he/she actually owns. The user is sometimes forced to do undesirable things, too. Examples include a scenario where the user is not permitted access to vital personal information or a scenario where very sensitive information is sent over the network without the user’s consent.

Is Gobuntu a Free Linux?

According to recent arguments in Gobuntu’s mailing lists, focus has been shifting toward freeing the kernel. This effort comes at the expense of freedom at a higher level, which still includes popular “non free” applications. At present, the applications layer in Gobuntu resembles those which can be already found in Ubuntu (the less free version).

Mark Shuttleworth defends his stance on such issues by highlighting key parts of a long mailing list thread.

“At present, the applications layer in Gobuntu resembles those which can be already found in Ubuntu (the less free version).”

One vision that some Gobuntu developers have in mind is a free laptop. Free, that is, in the sense that the hardware requires no proprietary code in order to be used with Linux. This admirable goal was set by Mark Shuttleworth himself. In an interview with Robertson-Turner we found out that this goal may have been a distraction that led to the project losing sight of its more important goal. The most important goal should involve no actual product like a laptop, but establishing a generic system that is free in every sense. It leaves room for choice when selecting hardware rather than impose restriction on diversity.

Shuttleworth, though, disputes that Gobuntu’s goal is a free laptop. “A key point is that the idea of the free-software-only laptop and Gobuntu are entirely orthogonal and independent of one another,” Shuttleworth wrote in an email response to us. “I’ve had a number of people say they would like to know if such a laptop existed, so I invited people to register their interest in that idea separately from Gobuntu. I’m not sure what would make Keith think the two ideas are connected, except in the obvious way that both are about demonstrating a commitment to free software.”

Who Controls Gobuntu?

There appears to be a certain fear among the Gobuntu development community when it comes to voicing criticism, especially because the project meets the public eye. It thrives in transparency, but concerns about the project’s direction are sometimes raised off-list instead. We are told by Robertson-Turner that discussions among the contributors tend to be philosophical, but only in the sense that there is a ‘political’ power struggle, not in the sense that free software philosophies are encouraged though free and open expression.

Paraphrasing from memory, Robertson-Turner says that Mark Shuttleworth “comes in and says, stop bickering, this is supposed to be a devel[opment] mailing list, so talk about development stuff, and stop wasting time on trivial matters like Freedom.”

But Matthew East, a member of the Ubuntu Community Council, strongly disagrees with this assessment. “With limited exceptions, no one has yet (or at least until recently) stepped up with any concrete work which actually furthers Gobuntu’s aims of developing a completely free derivative of Ubuntu,” he tells us. He does, however, acknowledge the fact that mistakes were made. He believes that the company failed to give the Gobuntu project more substantial guidance about the scope and methods of the project, until recently. However, “This has been recognised and is being addressed,” he assures us.

There appears to be a mild confrontation between those who are volunteers and those who are associated with Canonical, which is the company behind Gobuntu. Robertson-Turner says: Somebody else pointed out that, if we can’t even establish what is or isn’t Free, then how are we supposed to proceed? This is core to the goals of this project. Where is the advisory board? Where are the mentors? Where is the information necessary to actually get involved? It’s all very well telling us to talk devel stuff, but what is it that we’re supposed to be developing … etc., etc.”

He argues that this was never the case when he participated in Fedora, where it was easier than ever to be a contributor. “They’re tripping over themselves to help volunteers,” he said, referring to Red Hat, which took over Fedora.

Robertson-Turner further complains that, “I suggested various non-Free packages be removed, and the reaction was, to put it mildly, aggressive. There seems to be core of contributors who are blind to the dangers of certain software, such as Mono, and argue vigorously in its defense, despite it having a particularly untrustworthy so-called ‘RAND’ clause from Microsoft. It is poison for the well, but certain Gobuntu contributors just don’t seem to care, and embrace this encumbered Microsoft technology with open arms. It’s deeply unsettling to discover this kind of attitude, especially in, of all places, the Gobuntu project.”

As it stands, other than the supposed changes to the kernel, Robertson-Tuner claims that one is hard pressed to find any difference between Gobuntu and Ubuntu at all, likening it to “little more than a new paint job,” adding that “as for changes in the kernel, even that was done without any consultation to the list, and to this day it remains a mystery as to what, if anything, has actually been changed.” A direct request from Robertson-Turner to Shuttleworth, on the mailing list, for information regarding those changes, went unanswered.

Firefox Divides the Development Team

What broke the camel’s back turns out to be a discussion about the inclusion of Mozilla Firefox in Gobuntu. It was only days beforehand that Mark Pilgrim, an influential technology writer, described this as the reason for failure in Gobuntu.

“What broke the camel’s back turns out to be a discussion about the inclusion of Mozilla Firefox in Gobuntu.”

Firefox is widely-known as an open source success story, but it is does not meet the requirements of free software. A few such issues led to the creation of a sibling project called IceWeasel, which is intended to resolve issues pertaining to artwork. A controversy revolves around the Firefox logo and its effect on derivatives (forks). In the developers’ mailing list, Mark Shuttleworth insisted that maintaining two copies of the codebase of the Firefox browser — one for Ubuntu and one for Gobuntu — will have “such little benefit.” Several volunteers immediately begged to differ in off-list coversations that we saw.

Outraged by this apparent disregard for the significance of the issue, Robertson-Turner responded “It’s time that Gobuntu started living up to the ‘very strict’ policy that motivated it’s inception, otherwise it will be nothing more than a different coloured Ubuntu, with a slightly smaller kernel,” and he concluded that “I don’t know about you, but that isn’t quite the vision that got me excited enough to want to get involved in this project.”

The Gobuntu Laptop

Towards the end of his long affair, which ended just recently, the main concern about the project had a lot to do with goals, maybe even a hidden agenda. “I’ve discovered the truth about Gobuntu. Essentially … it’s a hardware experiment,” Robertson-Turner tells us. He then refers to the idea involving a laptop, as mentioned at the beginning of this article. He likens it to a contest where people run a poll out of sheer curiosity.

Shuttleworth, however, begs to differ. “Contrary to the assertion made by Keith, there are no other private agendas or conversations about Gobuntu,” he states in our correspondence with him.

With the vision of pre-installed Ubuntu laptop that was free of proprietary drivers in mind, he calls this idea a response to Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child. Mark Shuttleworth’s blog post, which spoke about working in collaboration with a laptop manufacturer to produce a system favourable to free software drivers, certainly rang a bell here.

“It’s an experiment to produce a laptop independent of proprietary drivers (GPU, Wi-Fi, etc.), presumably so he can then capitalise on the idea,” we are told by Robertson-Turner. This ambitious statement did not escape a solid counter argument from Shuttleworth, who stepped in to clarify:

“A key point, though, is that the idea of the free-software-only laptop and Gobuntu are entirely orthogonal and independent of one another. I’ve had a number of people say they would like to know if such a laptop existed, so I invited people to register their interest in that idea separately from Gobuntu,” says Shuttleworth. He clarifies that the two ideas are not by any means connected “except in the obvious way that both are about demonstrating a commitment to free software.”

Ways Forwards

Gobuntu can hopefully be improved by reminding Canonical that the project should stick to things it was intended to achieve. As promised, it should also be driven by a community, as opposed to becoming a project that — at least in part — absorbs criticism against inclusion of proprietary components in Ubuntu. At worst, this is maybe a case of capitalization. The project can — and probably should — be built to provide what free software enthusiasts sought in the first place. Only then can it make a big impact and draw a community large enough to help it grow and thrive.

Shuttleworth asserts that “Gobuntu is about building a platform that expresses freedom in software and in content. Debating what constitutes freedom is essential to the process of building it.” The latter part — the past which is all about debating freedom — seems to contradict the experience of at least two Gobuntu developers whom we heard from (one prefers to remain unnamed). The project may be suffering from a disconnect, or simply a case of miscommunication. Canonical is already responding to these issues. “I’m personally quite positive that the project will soon be pointed in the right direction,” adds Matthew East, so it is encouraging to know that the problems are already taken into consideration and addressed.

Originally published in Datamation in 2007

Ubuntu modified logo

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channels: Come and chat with us in real time

New to This Site? Here Are Some Introductory Resources

No

Mono

ODF

Samba logo






We support

End software patents

GPLv3

GNU project

BLAG

EFF bloggers

Comcast is Blocktastic? SavetheInternet.com



Recent Posts