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10.08.08

Links 08/10/2008: More GNU/Linux Mini-Laptops, Recession Helping FOSS?

Posted in News Roundup at 10:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Andrew Pitonyak, author and computer scientist 04 (2004)

Ogg Theora

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

Patents Roundup: Bilski, Sun, Telecom, and Apple

Posted in America, Apple, Law, Patents, SUN at 5:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

End of Software Patents Near?

A couple of important court decisions may constitute a change of law, but it’s too early to tell for sure. Bilski is due very soon and the SSP Web site suggests that immense lobbying is likely to ensue.

The outcome of the Bilski case, which should be published in October, might invalidate software patents in the United States:

Plager said he regretted the unintended consequences of the decisions in State Street Bank and AT&T. Those rulings led to a flood of applications for software and business method patents, he noted. If we “rethink the breadth of patentable subject matter,” he said, we should ask whether these categories should be excluded from patent protection.

If the CAFC are clever enough to follow the Supreme Court and kick software patents out, you might see the desperate large corporations and their patent department rushing to Congress. Especially if tomorrow the banks value their patent portfolio as void, and not useful to get any credit.

This month will be a fascinating one not just because of the many major releases of GNU/Linux (Mandriva 2009 is due any day now).

Sun-NetApp

Here is another potential victory for Sun Microsystems, which battles a software patent lawsuit targeted at an open source project.

Sun is crowing that a judicial ruling in the NetApp_Sun IP lawsuit has effectively invalidated another NetApp patent. The US Patent Office also appears to be rejecting NetApp’s key patents in the law suit. NetApp’s position looks like it’s crumbling.

The dispute began with NetApp claiming that Sun’s free distribution of its ZFS technology infringes NetApp’s six patents for its WAFL (Write Anywhere File Layout) technology. WAFL is a core component of NetApp’s SAN and filer products.

Groklaw has some more pertinent details about this case, which it has followed since the very start.

There’s news from the NetApp-Sun patent litigation front, and I think you’ll like it. Sun’s general counsel, Mike Dillon, posts the news that the US Patent Office has now responded to all six of Sun’s reexamination requests, which they filed based on prior art. We’ve been waiting for the order on the reexamination from the USPTO on the claims of ’292. Dillon’s the lawyer, not me, and he says the USPTO has now rejected all the ’292 claims, but I’d describe it from the Order [PDF] from the USPTO more that it found that the prior art “raises a substantial new questions of patentability” as to the claims. This isn’t yet the end of the process, but it’s still very good news for Sun, no matter how you describe it.

Telecom

Why have software patents if they won’t be used offensively, i.e. for profit? Why have software patents if they are only ever bound to a cross-licensing agreement (or a set of them)? Why even ‘defend’ a software patent if, as Comcast and Verizon now show, it’s better to call off the fight and issue a cease-fire? The following report makes one wonder if there was ever a true need for this type of patents in the first place.

Comcast and Verizon Communications have inked a deal under which the two companies have agreed to not sue each other over patent claims for a period of five years, according to company sources and published reports.

Ensuring fair competition using software patents is like ensuring public safety by distributing pistols for citizens to ‘protect’ themselves. Some weapons — whether real, physical, perceived or ‘intellectual’ — are just not worth having; having already got them in the US, they are simply worth burying (disarmament). The United States and the Soviet Union learned this the hard way after the Cold War.

Here is another fruitless patent lawsuit in telecom.

Verizon, which was seeking $404 million in damages against Cox, filed the infringement case against Cox early this year after winning a patent infringement case against VoIP provider Vonage Holdings. Verizon’s original filing against Cox cited patents it had exerted against Vonage, but it isn’t clear from media reports whether the Verizon-Vonage patents figured in the final Verizon-Cox decision.

This is innovation?

Delusions of Innovation

FFII points out that these notorious illusions around patents are likely to be coming from lawyers and it also warns about certain publications that strive to change public perceptions in favour of software patents.

The website LinuxInsider.com, closely associated with Technewsworld.com and Macnewsworld.com, has for a long time been an object of complaints. Writers at Groklaw et al treat it as a “Linux FUD site”. Recently it published lots of pro-software-patent commentaries, alongside with “neutral” news reports in which the anti-swpat-arguments are invented by the writer (no sources given) and of poor quality, whereas the pro arguments consist of extensive quotes from lawyers who usually have the last word.

This one particular Web site, LinuxInsider (its siblings new aside), was once an innocent domain, but it then got acquired by ECT only to be filled with Linux haters like pseudonym ‘Paul Murphy’ and Rob Enderle.

Bad Apple

Regardless of Apple’s products — whether readers of BN like them or not — its record with respect to software patents is pretty bad if not appalling. It keeps getting worse.

Steve Jobs Patents ‘The Dock’

“If you’re a PC, you may be unfamiliar with The Dock, the bar of icons that sits at the bottom or side of a Mac and provides easy access to Apple applications. But don’t count on it becoming a standard on the PC. On Tuesday, the USPTO awarded Apple — and inventor Steve Jobs — a patent for their User Interface for Providing Consolidation and Access, aka ‘The Dock,’ after a rather lengthy nine-year wait.”

Apple did not invent the concept of “The Dock.” It merely extended and enhanced existing ideas. That’s how most so-called ‘inventions’ come about — through inspiration. But Apple doesn’t care. It might as well just ruin Free software projects due to its greed for patents.

Latest Evidence of ‘Novell | Microsoft Axis’

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, SLES/SLED, Virtualisation at 4:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novellsoft

The Pet Distro

The following new article contains a slightly restrained yet informative portion about the Novell/Microsoft deal and its meaning.

Microsoft’s Favorite Linux Distribution

Both of these management systems allow the management of Windows and both SLES and RHEL, but Microsoft appears to favor the former over the latter. Demonstrating this, the company signed a set of agreements with Novell in November 2006 to work towards better interoperability between Windows and SLES in four areas:

* virtualization
* systems management
* directory integration and identity
* office document formats

The deal, which runs at least until 2012, has been treated with a great deal of suspicion by many people, partly because it can easily be construed as a way for Microsoft to get a “pet” Linux distro which it can control and use to get a better understanding of Linux and customers’ reasons for wanting to use it for its own advantage. The deal includes an agreement for Microsoft to refrain from taking legal action against Novell’s customers for using Linux (which Microsoft claims infringes various of its patents,) and also involves Microsoft making payments to Novell (and therefore indirectly subsidizing SLES.) One way this is achieved is by buying support coupons from Novell, which Microsoft then sells on to its customers at a discount.

What is it all about? It’s about offering very low-cost support (maybe tolerating a loss, i.e. dumping) just to ensure SUSE is the only GNU/Linux that enters companies. As we showed recently, it’s intended to harm Red Hat and injure other frailer distributors whose executives refused to sell out to Microsoft.

There are some new revelations about Microsoft’s attempt to do to Red Hat what it did to Novell, but we’ll reserve this for a future post.

Fighting Red Hat

Microsoft is trying to divide and then destroy each GNU/Linux distributor in turn. Its internal memos attest to such a plan [PDF] and Linspire is already dead.

Microsoft does not need to fight Red Hat using just cost or a complex pricing strategy like Novell’s. Along with Novell, it works to make software incompatible with anything but SLES, whose sales Microsoft is paid (‘compensated’) for. Watch this new article (published also here).

The other reason for ESX’s edge here is that Hyper-V — as Microsoft certifies — supports only one version of Linux, Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLES) 10 Service Pack 1 or 2, in x86 and x64 versions. However, only one virtual processor is supported for each virtualized instance of SLES 10 SP 1 or 2. Microsoft’s Connectix acquisition, which brought Microsoft Virtual Server to market, initially supported a vastly wider variety of guests. For Hyper-V support of Linux, Microsoft’s relationship with Novell has Microsoft buying hundreds of thousands of SUSE Linux support kits for Microsoft’s (and their customers’) use.

In the folowing new interview with Red Hat’s CEO, he abstained from commenting on Microsoft’s role and steered away to another related topic — the sharing of code.

A lot of matrimony has been witnessed in the recent past on the aisle of open source. How do you interpret the consolidation action around with deals like MS-Novell, Sun-My SQL, Yahoo-Zimbra?

[James M Whitehurst:] I won’t pooh pooh anything. That said, not many realize the real essence. The power of OS is in maximizing community and collaboration. Sun controls the major part of development realm. I don’t know, in that light, how exactly they make the model work. We are hundred per cent OS that leads to greater strategic clarity.

The idea of economics of abundance again comes to discussion here. We don’t control Linux. But getting the constant changes that happen on the development front, as upstream as possible is the real thing. There was once a need for a real-time kernel by banks and financial services customers. Novell already had it but they never got it upstream, so when we did that upstream, they had to abandon theirs. The whole Linux later moved in that direction.

It’s probably neither coincidence nor mistake that he neglects to mention Microsoft or the “MS-Novell” deal he was actually asked about. He dances around the question, leading into another (more positive) aspect of the Novell-Red Hat relationship. In reality, these two companies are no friends [1, 2] (Novell occasionally throws FUD at Red Hat).

Novell Lonely on Its Own

There are also areas where Novell is neglected. Here is an example from last week.

As for what its customers are actually virtualizing these days using the AppLogic tool: Customers can use any Linux with a 2.6 kernel, but CentOS, Fedora, Ubuntu, and Debian are the most popular Linuxes used by AppLogic users, with a smattering of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. So far, no one has deployed on Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

So, where Microsoft is not calling the shots, Novell’s appeal declines. That’s a territory where some boy in the yard does not have the friendly bully nearby to ‘protect’ him.

Novell’s Case Against Microsoft Could be Annulled

Yesterday we alluded to an article about the possibility that Novell's trial will be buried along with the Caldera lawsuit (and settlement). The Microsoft folks at NetworkWorld (IDG) seem to have taken significant interest in this.

To paraphrase from Groklaw the central issue is that Microsoft thinks these papers could prove that Novell sold all of its antitrust claims to Caldera, including two outstanding claims against Microsoft regarding Wordperfect. If Microsoft can prove that, Microsoft would argue that the outstanding claims are kaput, covered by a settlement agreement with Caldera in 2000.

If that ever happens, Novell will grow even closer to and more dependent on Microsoft. And that’s no good.

“Our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand.”

Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO

‘They are telling HP that they wil NOT be part of this launch and that BillG has said “fxxk HP (all divisions) if they won’t sign a Windows license.”‘

Comes vs. Microsoft exhibit [PDF] (more here)

Novell (NOVL) and Über Analysts

Posted in Finance, Microsoft, Novell, Ron Hovsepian at 3:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Magic 8-balls and karma games

Remember that dodging article about financial panic and Novell? Not much has happened for Novell to have confidence resorted; au contraire — it’s worse now than ever before. Even Novell’s CEO expresses some concern.

High-tech businesses that offer productivity gains or ways to lower costs are hold­ing their own and even pros­pering in the U.S. economic downturn.

But Novell Inc.’s CEO said Thursday that Congress must be aware of fragile consumer and business confidence as it considers a $700 billion rescue package for the nation’s financial sector.

Here is the Microsoft-friendly Motley Fool (it’s right about the “fool” part) commenting on a Novell recommendation that predates yesterday's big collapse. This was said 5 days ago when Novell’s value was much, much higher.

Sure, UBS could be right that those growth rates are over-optimistic. But that doesn’t explain why the analyst still likes Novell, Oracle, or Microsoft — none of which boast growth-rate projections superior to their P/FCF ratios. Furthermore, if UBS is going to go and cut growth expectations across the board, I don’t see how it can keep these three on its buy list while skipping over Symantec. Lower growth at any of Novell, Oracle, or Microsoft will push them

Funnily enough, earlier today Microsoft (MSFT) roughly approached — or sank below — its 10-year low. It just about touched the $22 threshold, despite those massive buybacks. Novell recuperated temporarily.

Overall, it just shows that analysts’ work sometimes amounts to guesswork. They are wrong again and again. Witness the following coverage which mentions Novell, as seen some days ago — a time when hovering above $5 seemed less than decent. Will Novell ever climb above $5 again?

S&P 500 – Risers Symantec Corp. (SYMC) $17.19 +1.42% Cincinnati Financial Corp (NASDAQ: CINF – news) . (CINF) $25.71 +1.06% Novell Inc. (NOVL) $5.05 +1.00%

Had more people listened to the analysts, a lot of personal wealth would have been lost within a day or two. Technology analysts are typically the same.

“Analysts sell out – that’s their business model… But they are very concerned that they never look like they are selling out, so that makes them very prickly to work with.”

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

Alan Greenspan

Microsoft-stuffed SC34 is Open… About Its Plan to Hijack ODF

Posted in IBM, ISO, Open XML, OpenDocument at 2:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

MicrISOft

There is an important and interesting comment in Rob Weir’s blog. The following was said by Weir in relation to the ODF hijack that we showed last night, in reply to a question from WuMingShi:

There are several participants in SC34 who have had the stated goal of taking control of OOXML and ODF and maintaining them both in SC34 WG’s. They’ve been quite open about this plan. The problem is that they are planning a future for standards that they neither own nor control nor have technical expertise.

This was an interesting goal when they first articulated this idea, around two years ago. However, now that we’ve seen that JTC1 is easily corruptible, both at the NB, SC and administrative levels, that JTC1 is incapable of fairly carrying out its own Directives, and that in practice SC34 is now so dominated by Microsoft that we could consider it a fully integrated division of Microsoft Corp., this push toward maintaining ODF in SC34 is both naive and dangerous. It will not happen. Doing so would be a huge step backwards in participation,openness, transparency, in IP rights and in technical quality. Drain the swamp first, and then let’s talk.

Yes. You read that right. SC34 participants are shamelessly open about their plan to hijack ODF. Remember that SC34 comprises mostly Microsoft employees. Alan Lord is so angry about this that he even misspells “Microsoft.”

But OOXML is not quite dead yet. There is a danger. And one we must all be vigilant toward: There is a possibility of Microshaft and it’s Lackeys trying to gain control of the maintenance of the ODF standard. Currently this is handled by the very open and transparent OASIS organisation. This process might end up being transferred to ISO under the guise of a group known as SC34. This committee is loaded full of Microsoft puppets – several of whom are British and have shown a total disregard for due process to this date.

We shall write more about this as soon as new details emerge.

In the mean time, it’s worth noting that the fourth release candidate of OpenOffice.org 3.0 has just been released, with only days remaining before the final release.

These notes contains changes between SRC680_m242 and SRC680_m248 as well as between DEV300_m1 and DEV300_m27 as well as between OOO300_m1 and OOO300_m9.
This release will install as OpenOffice.org 3.0.

The developers of KDE report on their support of ODF in KWord. KOffice uses ODF as its default format.

It’s been a long busy month. With the impending 2.0 release, I have been hacking away polishing up ODF list support for KWord.

How scary it must be for Microsoft to see ODF adopted so rapidly. It realises that it must derail ODF — fast.

Image: stuffing-capable ISO

Microsoft’s Magalhães Laptops Scam and OOXML Scandals in Portugal Associated with Fraud?

Posted in Europe, Fraud, Hardware, Microsoft at 6:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

That OOXML is a fraud is something we have already shown

OOXML is fraud

Earlier in the year we mentioned João Paulo Sá Couto, who seemed quite likely to be involved in a Microsoft scam. It was only a suspicion backed by circumstantial evidence at the time.

This also relates to the Microsoft OOXML fiasco in Portugal because he is an administrator and company owner (JP Sá Couto), as well as the one who injected his presence into the technical committee that served Microsoft. He voted in favour of OOXML without any participation in technical discussions (correction: it’s Ricardo Mendonça who was sent on behalf of JP Sá Couto). Similarly, in France it was Nicolas Sarkozy batting for Microsoft with zero understanding of the technical details.

“In the latest turn of events, a judge assigned to this case has actually confirmed the accusations.”It turns out now that this man, who promoted Microsoft’s agenda, was recently made a suspect (although not yet accused of being a suspect) on the basis of fraud and for not paying his taxes as he should have.

In the latest turn of events, a judge assigned to this case has actually confirmed the accusations. This means that among those who participated in Microsoft’s OOXML scandals is also is suspect of crime and financial fraud. This does not bode too well for Microsoft, which has always been nothing by trouble in Portugal.

A reader brought to our attention this article from the Portuguese press. Not so long ago we wrote about those low-cost Intel Classmate laptops that would arrive at Portugal. João Paulo Sá Couto (and company) are behind this, branding these laptops in Portugal as “Magalhães”. To those who do not read Portuguese, we have a rough translation of relevant bits of this article.

Title: Producers of Magalhães in sight of Justice

Subtitle: Fraud

The company that produces the Magalhães computer is “arguida” in a process of fraud of VAT evasion which might have cost the sate, in total, more than five millions of Euros.

Beyond JP Sá Couto, one of its administrators is also considered an “arguido”: João Paulo Sá Couto. The administrator and the company are accused of the practice of criminal association and fiscal fraud, along with the other 39 “arguidos”.

The accusation is confirmed by the instruction judge dispatching the pronouncement since the “arguidos” weren’t able to produce evidence that dismantle the District Attorney’s facts of accusation, during the trial phase which would still prevent going to trial.

The company responsible for the mini-laptio Magalhães and its administrator also constitute part of a list of 41 “arguidos” accused of associating themselves to practice a mega-evasion of VAT in the field of informatics. A scheme commonly known as the “merry-go-round fraud” which consists on successive transmissions of the same assets, in circle, among several operators sited in, at least, two European Union states and which is characterized by not delivering the due VAT per, at least, one operator in its own country.

The facts occurred between 1998 and 2001. As can be read in the accusation, it was by the initiative of João Paulo Sá Couto that the company which produces the Magalhães computer assumed the position of final link in the “merry-go-round circuit”, having a gain of 4% over the assets which were factored. The buying and selling conditions would be established by the organization. JP Sá Couto would limit itself to receiving and forwarding the assets.

Given what we have witnessed from Intel and Microsoft, for a company like this to be associated with the Microsoft and Intel is not entirely surprising. Microsoft and Intel have both shown a lot of criminal activity, along with some convictions to confirm this.

“The interesting thing is that this company has had some other ‘wins’ associated with Microsoft.”Further in the article, it states that the company denies the allegations, but if they couldn’t provide evidence countering the evidence, this seems futile. However, there is no prosecution yet.

All in all, they are no longer just potential suspects, they could not provide evidence that would bail them out, and they will now go to trial for fraud allegations.

The interesting thing is that this company has had some other ‘wins’ associated with Microsoft. It happened in the recent past.

There is also an association with with ISCTE, which can found be in a Microsoft press release. They too had a well-known member in the technical committee, allegedly representing just himself, but who is also owner of a company partner to Primavera, another ‘puppet’ of Microsoft.

This is getting very interesting. We encourage our Portuguese readers to help us study this further.

Links 07/10/2008: Lots of Laptop Wins for GNU/Linux, Many New Releases

Posted in News Roundup at 12:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Andrew Pitonyak, author and computer scientist 03 (2004)

Ogg Theora

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

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