“Software patents are a huge potential threat to the ability of people to work together on open source.”
IT IS worth re-emphasising that while Novell purports to be an advocate of open source software (not Free software), its mixed-source claims [1, 2, 3, 4] take such ambition to task and Novell’s business is still overwhelmingly reliant on proprietary software. Moreover, Novell is not against software patents. In fact, it’s actively obtaining quite a few.
In recent days we have been writing about Symbian’s destruction of a saner legal system in the UK [1, 2, 3]. It is therefore interesting to find that Novell’s Michael Meeks, despite being based in the UK, is pursuing software patents in the USPTO, for Novell’s benefit and on their very own behalf.
Optimized decompression using annotated back buffer, patent No. 7,439,882, invented by Michael Meeks of Newmarket, U.K., assigned to Novell Inc. of Provo.
It’s a software patent. Bad stuff. Anyway, here is this new patent’s abstract:
A system and method for decompression optimization employing a data input and a dedicated back buffer and data parser. The system and method also relate to accelerating the parsing process during decompression of a block of data by taking advantage of those naturally occurring redundancies within the block of data identified at compression time. The system of the invention includes a parser and an annotated back buffer which operate collectively to optimize the parsing process during decompression.
Meeks is not alone, however. There is also this new patent:
System and method of associating objects in search results, patent No. 7,440,948, invented by Jon Eric Trowbridge of Chicago, Ill., and Nathaniel Dourif Friedman of Boston, Mass., assigned to Novell Inc. of Provo.
As suggested and later reported to us by a reader with inside information, Novell's patent portfolio by all mean matters. Speaking of Meeks, Novell is still trying to grab control of the 'Open Office' from Sun Microsystems (Novell already has its own fork). Thus far, it hasn't worked out too well for Novell, perhaps with the exception of GNU/LInux distributions.
Microsoft’s and Novell’s patents should not be ignored. They do matter because the companies might intend to use them, especially amidst difficult times. In response to apathy from Matt Asay, our own Shane Coyle wrote:
Wow, it’s been a while since anyone has tried to paint Novell as the party of advantage in their MS deal. My question is, if Novell’s patent portfolio is so great, how come there is no ongoing royalty from MS to Novell, as their certainly is on open source software shipped under the agreement by Novell?
The same type of unjustified apathy was noted by wallclimber, a respected lady in the Digg community), who wrote:
This really puzzles me. Matt Asay says he likes and respects Gutierrez and thinks he really does understand the issues. Yet, if that’s true, how can he justify respect for someone that still, apparently willingly (willfully?), grants an interview for the main purpose of spewing Microsoft’s insidious patent and IP FUD to the world?
I think Mr. Asay is being much too kind in assuming that an IP lawyer, employed by Microsoft, actually has a heart to begin with, much less knows where “the right place” is to put it.
Software patents are horrible. Yet it’s impossible to pretend they do not exist. Pretending alone does not make them go away. Protesting is more effective. █
“I’m always happy when I’m protesting.”
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WE HAVE always treated ZDNet with a fair deal of disdain (maybe even contempt) due to questions of ownerships and an army of Microsoft-friendly bloggers who project so-called ‘Wintel’ affinity. We alluded to some of this before (e.g. [1, 2]) and perhaps the gist of it would be that they give room — in the form of actual blogs — to Microsoft employees, Windows book writers, Microsoft analysts, and Linux bashers (sometimes in the form of trolling and provocation). We don’t wish to name names or point any fingers, but here is one example.
Blogs are almost everything that ZDNet has got left after the bankruptcy of Ziff Davis, sometimes known as “Ziff/Gates”. Much of the rest of the content — actual articles that is — gets imported from sister sites like CNET and from Reuters. So again, it’s all about blogs.
Their “open source” blog has been run by a Windows user for years, their front page contains an obscene amount of Wintel articles and whitepapers, as do the advertisements, which makes perfect sense given financial roots (not complete though) in Microsoft. According to a Microsoft employee (unconfirmed and unverified identity), Microsoft also encourages its employees to leave feedback in that site, in the form of TalkBacks (rarely with any disclosure).
Anyway, leaving that old baggage aside, we already wrote about ZDNet's appointment of a Novell employee (Zonker), who is now running their “community” blog. Do not expect this man to criticise Microsoft much. Being a Novell employee, he gets a portion of his wage from Microsoft. He needs to be nice and polite to Mr. Softee, never mind the past.
This issue of Novell in the press was raised here before. It’s part of the ‘campaign’ to paint a nice picture of Novell. Why else would Novell hire a media person like Zonker to become the community leader of OpenSUSE?
Sadly, bringing us to the actual news in this post, Zonker is not just avoiding criticism of Microsoft, which is threatening communities at this very moment. Instead, just a few days ago, he posted a provocative item under the title “Apple knows best? Don’t you believe it!” As we stated earlier today, Microsoft has many reasons to love such coverage. It need to portray Apple as “equally evil” in order to make Microsoft seem reasonable. So to summarise, what we see here is a Novell senior painting Apple — not Microsoft — as the bad guy. Novell employees sound more like Microsoft employees every day.
Also posted by Zonker shortly after the item on Apple was this about Google: “Google: Evil or just overworked?”
We wrote about this before. It’s a bad headline. Should he not leave it to Microsoft to bug Apple and Google, with the potential of legal harassment?
Why does Zonker not write about the ways Microsoft is attacking communities, including the Free software community? Has he forgotten where he came from? Or are those cash infusions which Microsoft gives his new employers affecting his honesty and selection of topics?
Novell is a Microsoft partner in every sense of the word. That, for example, is why Novell even attacks Sun and OpenSolaris while treating Microsoft as though it’s a cuddly parent [1, 2, 3]. We shall write more about this in the next post. █
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Question of Tax
Microsoft’s tax evasion tendencies are more notorious than most, so they were discussed here many times before, e.g. in [1, 2, 3]. There are concrete examples to show this, even at a more personal level and even a criminal level. Over in the IRC channel, a reader has just brought to our attention this article from May. Part of it says:
Accounts for Microsoft Ireland Research, an Irish subsidiary of the global software giant, show that the company paid just €460,000 in tax, on profits of more than €1.2 billion last year, by using provisions in Irish tax law to take its corporation tax bill down from €158m. Much of Microsoft’s international profits are channelled through Ireland, but because the main company for Microsoft’s activities has unlimited liability, it does not have to file detailed accounts.
Microsoft’s handling of tax issues is a discussion that typically revolves around Ireland for very good reasons that we explored before and will revisit in a moment.
More recently, Microsoft came under fire in India for its practices that involve tax exemptions. They lost the case, which we last mentioned a few weeks ago. They keep dodging the law, just as they do in the United States and Europe (unfulfilled promises and feet-dragging).
Question of Cronyism
In previous posts that mentioned Charlie McCreevy [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28], his negative impact on European law was shown. He seemingly favours monopolisation. It’s worth realising where he comes from (Minister for Finance in Ireland). To quote a portion from Wikipedia:
A consistent advocate of cutting taxes and spending, he [Charlie McCreevy] then had an opportunity to implement these policies. In 1999 he announced the biggest give-away Budget in the history of the state. The dramatic cut in interest rates which preceded the joining of the Euro, combined with a tightening labour market and tax reductions led to significant increases in inflation. His 1999 budget also included individualisation measures to reduce the heavy tax wedge faced in particular by married women who choose to work. However, couples on a similar income where one parent worked in the home would not see a similar reduction in their tax bill and following much public debate an extra tax allowance was introduced for stay-at-home spouses. It later emerged that his Tax Strategy group had advised against introducing individualisation due to reasons of cost rather than principle. The change is viewed by some as making a significant contribution to increased female participation in the workforce. However, female workforce participation had been growing even before tax individualisation, due to improved economic conditions.
During his term in Finance, he made many changes to simplify the tax system and presided over Ireland’s entry to Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union and later, the changeover to the Euro. In the early 2000s, when Irish economic growth fell back, he maintained strict control on growth in government spending. This was after he had increased government spending in the previous three years. He maintained a significant primary surplus during his 7 years in Finance, while also implementing the tax-cutting programme, major increases in health, education and pension funding as well as increasing investment in infrastructural development to 5% of GNP.
This ought to explain why Microsoft was attracted to the region. Let’s not forget The Great OOXML Fiasco and the role Ireland played in it (more examples here).
Question of Lobbying
Regarding Microsoft influence inside the British government, we have already accumulated many links in this post, as well as others. Including the references at the bottom, they make up a partial summary of the many examples already presented in this Web site. In the spirit of never repeating facts where it is possible to just reference prior coverage, we leave that as it is. We just need to sort out a better archiving and searching facility.
Regular readers may remember the Carlyle Group and its possible distant connections to Microsoft. Well, John Major, Britain’s former Prime Minister was appointed its chairman several years ago. A reader showed this to us yesterday.
The Carlyle Group is pleased to announce that John Major, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain, will be joining the firm as Chairman of Carlyle Europe.
In that capacity, Mr. Major will serve as Chairman of Carlyle’s European private equity funds and their advisory boards. Mr. Major will also be involved in providing counsel and advice to the senior Carlyle investment professionals, now operating in Barcelona, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan, Munich, and Paris. Carlyle’s European private equity funds pursue and make investments in management buyouts,
On several occasions we also mentioned the Bilderberg Group [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], which lists among its ranks (or participants) the Gates family as well as Labour Party leaders.
It is important to keep track of individuals because companies are, after all, just made out of people, whose preference guides choice and direction of a company (or country). Even the United States Department of Justice is said (and shown) to be in Microsoft’s pocket. █
‘But when Noorda raised the possibility that Washington might block a merger anyway, Gates replied, according to Noorda: “‘Don’t worry, we know how to handle the Federal Government.”‘ (Gates strongly denies this. “Are you kidding?” he snaps. “The Department of Justice makes their own decisions.”)’
More: Going after Microsoft: the FTC didn’t know what Bill Gates did – but they were sure he must have done something wrong – investigation into alleged collusion between Microsoft and IBM to control computer operating software systems; CEO William Gates – Cover Story
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Price of Windows XP suddenly falls, Ballnux dropped, ASUS contradicts MSI cheap shots
Back in May, we saw Microsoft responding predatorily to the popularity of GNU/Linux on sub-notebooks. Suffice to say, GNU/Linux the only thing keeping Windows XP alive (in the sense that it is still being sold). According to this new article from Linux Magazine, sub-notebooks still have GNU/Linux installed on more than 40% of them (rough estimate). It’s the same figure that NComputing reported, although it seems to be in a process of capture by Microsoft.
Several months after Microsoft’s predatory pricing documents had been leaked, it turned out that Microsoft was pressuring ASUS, a company which is often attributed the genesis of GNU/Linux sub-notebooks, mimicking OLPC XO in the more modernised world. We saw evidence of manipulation several times since then [1, 2, 3]. Now comes this post/article from David Meyer, who is no foe of Free software. He writes:
“I have blogged a couple of times about the Apricot netbook. Just to recap, it’s the resurrection of a nostalgic brand by virtue of a guy buying the brand a few months ago and launching a rebadged FIC Via under it.
“A representative told me today that they have decided to dump the Linux version of the device. This was to have been priced at £279, with the XP version costing £329. There is now only an XP option, priced at £299.”
So suddenly it’s £30 cheaper? That sure seems as though Microsoft gave them a considerable discount and knocked SUSE out (yes, its very own partner, Novell). Is Microsoft pressuring vendors using discounts and/or dumping? This was done before and it's part of a trend.
Also worth mentioning is the recent FUD from MSI, which related to Ballnux laptops. One simple answer from an MSI executive absolutely flooded the mainstream media for no good reason, so it was was suspicious. Well, in the following new interview with the CEO of ASUS, this MSI (MS?) FUD is being refuted. Jerry Shen was asked: “We have heard that return rates have been higher for Linux-based netbooks. Can you share information on sales of the Linux Eee PCs versus Windows XP versions? What about return rates overall for Eee PC netbooks?”
Here is his reply (emphasis in red is ours): “I think the return rate for the Eee PCs are low but I believe the Linux and Windows have similar return rates. We really separate the products into different user groups. A lot of users like the Windows XP, but in Europe a lot of people want the Linux option. Actually in Linux we support the Easy Mode and in Q4 of this year we are going to start selling Windows XP with an Easy Mode.” █
Update: The Register turns out to have run a similar story (totally independently). Watch the excuses from Apricot and also the comments.
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Buying friends, fans and influencing people?
Boycott Novell, being an independent Web site, is not sympathetic towards Apple, but when practices that are illegal (at least in the European Union) are used by Microsoft, then we are willing to defend even Apple’s position. When Microsoft is believed to be attacking Apple by proxy, then we wish to intervene too. After all, GNU/Linux suffers from similar types of Microsoft attacks [1, 2], so learning the anatomy of one helps understand another.
Now, will the world’s regulatory bodies please have a look at this? Microsoft is quietly approaching Apple/Mac bloggers, offering them $15,000 to attack Apple. One of the recipients of such a sellout proposition leaked out the request in order to expose Microsoft.
Microsoft to Mac enterprise bloggers: How much to sell out Apple?
One of our customers has asked us write up a technical marketing case for
Windows Vista over Mac OSX in the enterprise. I’m contacting you to see if
you know anyone who would be interested and capable of writing this based on background materials we have.
The candidate should have a good understanding of client systems in the enterprise and the technologies behind issues that are important in the enterprise (deployment, manageability, work group and policy management, security, suitability of developer platforms for line of business applications, tech support, licensing, TCO).
We have some background materials that include a 75 page technical document called “Apple in the Enterprise” and other summaries of technical points, but it all needs to be put together to make the case.
It’s not too hard to figure out who the customer is here. The price to sell out the Mac in the enterprise is $15,000. But my guess is that this fee may be negotiable upwards depending on the brand of the author in question.
Can it be that the Mac and the iPhone are gaining enough traction in the enterprise to start ringing alarm bells in Redmond? It appears so.
Mind the part about “[o]ne of our customers.” As we warned and showed many times before, Microsoft does these jobs by proxy, through marketing agencies that it hires [1, 2, 3, 4]. It gives them a ‘buffer zone’, but it’s clear where the funding is coming from and whose motives are at play.
How many GNU/Linux bloggers out there have already been offered huge sums of money to attack Free software? Given that Microsoft considers GNU/Linux a threat greater than Apple, it’s only natural to assume so. Bruce Perens had interesting inside information to share about this. To quote an older reference that we have in our collection:
Microsoft has announced the “Microsoft BlogStars” contest, to Hunts for Developer Bloggers in India. After feeling the power and increase of the Bloggers community in India, Microsoft tries to trap and hunt Bloggers in India to buildup the blogging community, for writing blog posts supporting towards Microsoft Technologies.
Well, wait. It’s not over yet. Just a few days ago, Microsoft publicly slammed Google Apps on Gartner’s own soapbox that they gave the CEO.
Steve ‘Footnote’ Ballmer in denial over Google Docs
As I write this article using Google Docs, I can’t help wondering whether Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer really believed when he publicly told two Gartner analysts last week on stage that nobody uses it. Is Ballmer in denial or privately sweating bullets?
Steve Ballmer is using as a press platform his well-paid friends at the Gartner Group [1, 2, 3] where he can spew out this FUD. There is nobody to challenge his claims there, despite the fact that Microsoft loses fat contracts due to Google Docs. Several months ago, Gartner and Microsoft jointly confessed that Windows has back doors, having been exposed a little too much. These two parties are joined by the hip.
Previously it was Microsoft’s relationship with the Burton Group [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24] that may have helped disseminate anti-Google material, slamming Google Apps (Office competitor) as well. It’s more credible when it comes from seemingly-independent sources and it’s then being picked up by Microsoft and added to its arsenal in its own domain. █
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