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09.22.08

Links 22/09/2008: Free Software in British Education, UK Govt’ Approves ISPyware

Posted in News Roundup at 7:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Ubuntu

Red Hat

Linux Devices

National Adoption

F/OSS

Firefox

UK (Out)Law

Leftovers

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Larry Augustin, GNU Linux business visionary 28

Ogg Theora

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

Links 22/09/2008: Linux Devices, More LiMo Phones

Posted in News Roundup at 1:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Linux Devices

F/OSS

Mobile

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Larry Augustin, GNU Linux business visionary 27

Ogg Theora

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

Patents Roundup: India Fights Software Patents, BSA Intervention, Trolls League

Posted in Action, Asia, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 11:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Software patents protest in India

The good folks from India are said to be “conducting a National Public meeting on software Patents on October 4th.” There is already a draft and an announcement might come tomorrow, Boycott Novell was informed. A lot of organisations are likely to be joining with an initial list here. By name:

1. Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore
2. Free Software Users Group, Bangalore
3. Free Software Foundation of India, Mumbai
4. Society For Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment, Trivandrum
5. IT for Change, Bangalore
6. Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore
7. Delhi Science Forum, Delhi
8. Movingrepublic, Kerala
9. OpenSpace, Bangalore
10. Swathanthra Malayalam Computing, Kerala
11. Servelots – Janastu, Bangalore
12. Mahiti, Bangalore
13. DeepRoot Linux, Bangalore
14. Wiki Ocean, Pune [TBC]
15. Turtle Linux Lab, Bangalore
16. Zyxware Technologies, Trivandrum
17. INSAF(Indian Social Action Forum)
18. Aneka, Bangalore

There is also an article in the Indian press which discusses the problem. It comes from a “Special Correspondent”:

The patenting regime was dominated by a form of lifelong royalty levy in which software was equated with any other artifact—one could patent just about anything: from a single-click buying business method to drop-boxes on a website. “India should avoid the mistakes of the U.S.”

In this coverage of a talk from Richard Stallman, the problem is being acknowledged again.

He [Richard Stallman] pointed out many of the problems with software patents and the difficulties with being able to develop software independently. If you have any sort of success, you might easily run afoul of someone that claims a patent on your idea. He games examples of the gzip/pkzip fiasco and a few others. He showed how hard it is to find a patent, decipher the filings, and even the problems with patents that are under consideration. All pose problems and Mr. Stallman is right, we need to do something.

For those who have not seen Richard Stallman talking about patents, here’s a bundle.

Watch what the BSA, which serves Microsoft’s software patents agenda in Europe [1, 2, 3], is reported to have just done.

I was arguing at the recent Knowright2008 conference in Krakow (Poland) why software authors lost their rights with software patents. I was explaining why the Berne Convention which protects software under a copyright regime (for source code and binary code) does not give space for software patents.

Here is the presentation:
Sorry, no match for the embedded content.

After my presentation, the BSA representative mentioned his disagreement with my argumentation, saying that there is the “idea” and the “implementation”.

Maybe there are Americans in the room to cite the First Amendment?

As pointed out the other day, one key point is that hardware takes money to reproduce. It would be insane to limit development of something which can be produce by anyone very quickly and then spread infinitely. That would be an artificial obstruction of free-flowing trade. In particular, as this new post emphasises, patents harm small businesses (not to be confused with small patent trolls) the most.

This post on software patents and copyrights and everything else in between is a means of letting off steam caused by reading news that Apple is taking ideas from commercial softwares being actively sold and trying to get patents for those ideas posing as concepts of their own. Yes: Ideas and concepts Apple has not conceived themselves but would like to legally call their own and demand, if and whenever they like, a royalty from anyone building on those ideas — or, in the worst case scenario, sever competition. Patents are considered evil and bad, and there are good reasons why.

Apple is not the only company who is doing it. Most big companies do it; have done it in the past. It has almost become a trend: big companies openly filching ideas from commercial softwares not their own, and attempting to patent those ideas as their own. For example, here we see Microsoft finally being granted a patent on “Page Up” and “Page Down” keystrokes. As another example, Microsoft owns a patent on the “Tree-View” mode we have come to love in many file-system applications. These are merely examples, and Microsoft and Apple are not the only big companies indulging in such practices.

Some days ago we mentioned Aruba Networks because it’s a company which makes extensive use of GNU/Linux and Microsoft is rumoured to be seeking a takeover. Well, all that side, Aruba has just resorted to using its patents as well. It’s a cross-fire. [via Digital Majority]

Aruba Networks says that it has filed a patent infringement countersuit against Motorola, Symbol, and Wireless Valley. The countersuit concerns Motorola’s (and its subsidiaries’) claimed infringement of two Aruba patents related to managing wireless computer networks and network security.

A league of patent trolls is being established over in IAM and there is now an overview.

Joff Wild over at the IAM Blog recently chatted with Dan McCurdy, chairman of PatentFreedom and CEO of Allied Security Trust, who is issuing a list of the most litigious non-practicing entities (aka “patent trolls”) for the next issue of IAM Magazine.

Acacia tops the list with several ex-Microsoft executives among its ranks.

As GNU/Linux gains greater acceptance, the last (and someone new) barrier will be software patents, which are worth fighting even at the expense of Free software advocacy. Software patents are an artificial barrier and a case of moving goalposts. Having removed this barrier, advocacy of Free software will be a breeze.

One penguin

Can a person ever obtain a
patent on a Penguin? How about DNA?

Microsoft OOXML and Office is Windows-Only

Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, Windows at 10:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In practical terms, cross-platform is merely an illusion

As the video here shows, owing to regulation, Microsoft needed to give Apple a cushion and a lifeline in return for some favours (Novell’s deal was eerily similar). It was a self-serving deal where Microsoft committed itself to offering Apple some Microsoft Office scraps. Never mind those Windows-only functionalities.

“It was a self-serving deal where Microsoft committed itself to offering Apple some Microsoft Office scraps.”This old development had some victims (dead companies) and the PC/Windows version of Microsoft Office was never comparable/compatible with the Mac version. We pointed this out before (with examples), if only just to show that even Microsoft is unable to make OOXML work. It’s failing to port the very same piece of software to another platform without OOXML coughing out errors.

Microsoft Office for Mac has other issues, such as bugs and lack of integration, according to this very recent CNET Asia blog:

For me, the Mac version of the Office is like another new application. It lacks the functionalities of the PC version, especially with the address book in Entourage. The interface is horrible and I just found out today that all the personal pictures I tagged to each of my contact don’t sync over to the Mac (strange, it works for the iPhone). The other weird thing was how Entourage messed up all my appointments. All my appointments synced over to the Mac were set to a timezone 8 hours earlier than the local time here, resulting in 1,302 duplicate appointments on my Exchange server account…. and that syncs back to my PC, my iPhone and practically every gear I own that syncs with my Exchange account.

Does anyone still believe that a complete implementation of Microsoft OOXML (not the same as ECMA OOXML) can work outside Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office combined? In practice, only Windows users can properly exchange documents encoded as OOXML.

While IBM is no angel (still refusing or failing to address concerns about software patents), at least it supports ODF, which works uniformly across different platforms. To IBM, there’s hardly a conflict of interests at a platform level. User “Mchvany” seems to have just uploaded a bunch of Lotus commercials, but it’s proprietary software and therefore its use is not encouraged.

Eye on Microsoft: Marketing Problems and Dumping

Posted in Boycott Novell, GNU/Linux at 9:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Our friends up north spend over five billion dollars on research and development and all they seem to do is copy Google and Apple.”

Steve Jobs, 2006

The amount of negative publicity generated against Microsoft is exceptionally high at the moment. That sordid advertising campaign takes a great toll with criticism of Apple imitation done poorly… with a Mac.

Microsoft’s ‘Phase 2′ ad campaign – No mention of Vista anywhere

[...]

Has the “Vista” name become so toxic that Microsoft dare not even mention it in any of the ads? Are these ads designed to help Vista or are they being aired to pave the way for Windows 7?

Roughly Drafted argues that Microsoft is actually promoting Macs more than it promotes Windows, which is unfortunate but very true. It also speaks about GNU/Linux and some recent unethical tricks.

Lately, Microsoft has been forced to advertise defensively. It has worked diligently to attack Linux in an effort to portray free server software as more expensive than its own very expensive server software.

Faced with a failing brand value, Microsoft also attempted to create the impression that bloggers were interested in chatting about Microsoft’s nebulous strategies with the “People Ready” campaign, which really said nothing but handed out bloggers money to repeat the “people ready” catch phrase in an attempt to turn it into a valuable brand slogan. After being exposed, Microsoft slinked away from the “pay to say” People Ready campaign..

We mentioned the demise of the Microsoft brand a couple of days ago. Biz Journal indicates that IBM bumped Microsoft off the the ‘consolation prize’ position.

IBM has moved past Microsoft to claim the title of second most valuable brand in the world, according to the annual Global Brand List.

Interbrand, a global brand management firm, reported Thursday that IBM’s brand value has increased 3 percent, to $59.03 billion, in 2008. That was enough to push it above Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), which was assigned a brand value of $59 billion and fell to No. 3.

It’s important to emphasise again that everything is overrated.

Lastly, a news report from the Philippines tells readers that Microsoft is now investing in training people (for Windows) and dumping software that nobody pays for anyway, casting it as “donations”.

Microsoft said it is donating more than $600,000 worth of cash and software to a computer learning program for overseas Filipino workers.

This is part of the program, dubbed Tulay, which is Microsoft’ global Unlimited Potential initiative that involves technology-oriented programs aimed at developing countries.

[...]

Microsoft Philippines said they expect to train 25,000 people in the next 3 years.

Tulay has trained more than 14,000 people since 2004.

The Philippines was seen deploying GNU/Linux in schools recently (some more background information here), so these moves Microsoft are not goodwill. They are their defensive necessity for survival. Once again the “Unlimited Potential” brand comes up. It’s could equally well be called “anti-Linux budget”. We elucidated this very recently.

“Are Linux users lemmings collectively jumping off of the cliff of reliable, well-engineered commercial software?”

Matt Welsh

Quick Mention: Microsoft is Falling Into Debt

Posted in Finance, Microsoft at 9:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Jose_X has just sent us this pointer over in the IRC channel. It’s a very timely one given that post from an hour ago. It showed Microsoft’s aggressive buybacks and reiterated Microsoft’s financial problems. Since the latest report is from Associated press, we cannot quote from it or discuss the content.

Microsoft fraud

Image from “MICROSOFT FINANCIAL PYRAMID”

Microsoft Executives Penetrate Corel, Yahoo; Is Novell Next?

Posted in Corel, Google, Microsoft, Novell, Search at 8:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The problems with inside intervention were mentioned before, along with some examples. Microsoft may be shedding off a lot of senior staff, but these people end up somewhere else where even greater damage to an already-unhealthy market can be caused.

According to the Financial Times, the Icahn-Microsoft-Yahoo saga is not over yet, which is hardly surprising.

Yahoo’s reconstituted board is expected to meet for the first time tomorrow, with activist member Carl Icahn committed to renewing the pressure for a deal with Microsoft.

Mr Icahn, the billionaire investor, and two allies were elected after Yahoo’s annual meeting on August 1 in a deal that ended a proxy fight he had led to unseat the board.

Kara is seeing what we wrote about before, namely the hiring of Microsoft executives who join Yahoo!

Jeff Dossett, a longtime Microsoft exec whose most current job has been as executive producer and general manager of MSN, is leaving the company, sources said, and is likely to land at Yahoo soon.

A longtime and experienced mountain climber, Dossett (pictured here) has been one of the more senior digital execs at Microsoft.

The reason given for Dossett’s departure from Microsoft (MSFT), announced internally this afternoon, was to “pursue other opportunities.”

While the hire is not yet complete, that apparently means that he is likely going to rival and onetime Microsoft quarry Yahoo as a senior exec.

Given that Carl Icahn is already on the board along with at least two ‘partners in crime’, in addition to Microsoft staff joining Yahoo, it seems likely that Microsoft is still hawking Yahoo, circling the company as its value drops. At the same time, it works hard to single-handedly intercept the company’s deal with Google. The New York Times (bias to be noted [1, 2]) reports.

One company has done more than any other to publicly disparage the Yahoo-Google deal: Microsoft, the same company that did not succeed in acquiring Yahoo earlier this year. Hell hath no fury like a suitor scorned.

We previously showed how viciously Microsoft was attacking this deal [1, 2], reaching as far as hiring of AstroTurfers. It’s ugly stuff, no matter one’s opinion on "guerrilla marketing" and "proxy fights".

In other news, Corel is adding a former Microsoft executive to its top ranks.

Corel Corporation (NASDAQ:CREL) (TSX:CRE), a leading developer of graphics, productivity and digital media software, today announced that Kazuo Sakai will join Corel as Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific and Japan Operations and President, Corel Japan effective immediately.

Corel may not survive, having surrendered to Microsoft's agenda, just like Novell. It probably won’t be long before Microsoft executives take positions of power inside Novell. No-one would be even shocked at this stage because the two companies show their affection in public.

Provo

Provo

Steve Ballmer Admitted Microsoft is Absurdly Overvalued

Posted in Finance, Microsoft, Steve Ballmer at 8:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“There is such an overvaluation of technology stocks that it is absurd. I would include our stock in that category. It is bad for the long-term worth of the economy.”

Steve Ballmer

The quote above was extracted from the following new post, which analyses the character of Microsoft’s CEO, at least at a most shallow level.

Yet there would seem to be plenty of reasons to doubt one thing about Steve Ballmer, and that is his sanity.

This is not personal attack (or an egg attack); it’s an innocent observation, which other sites like Gizmodo are making as well. The financial situation of Microsoft was discussed in [1, 2, 3] and also in the IRC channel on Sunday afternoon. Erratic behaviour may be an indication of something in the hiding. Some days ago we wrote some more about it (see the section at the very bottom). Shown below are Microsoft’s buybacks as of August 2008 (courtesy Todd Bishop, who formally quit last week). The stock is being artificially pumped, so there’s only an illusion of sustainability (short term).

Microsoft buybacks

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