Dinosaur-isation of the ‘old’ Microsoft
It’s no secret that Microsoft has struggled for a while and probably cooked the books. It is by no means a surprise that Microsoft is entering debt, either. But it’s happening faster than most people have imagined, even without an acquisition of Yahoo!. According to this article from Bloomberg, Microsoft may sell debt.
Microsoft Corp. may sell debt in what would be the world’s largest software maker’s inaugural bond offering.
There is a summary here and also an insulting perspective from a Microsoft shareholder.
In these last eight years, I have witnessed an appalling decline in shareholder value of this extraordinary business enterprise. My personal shareholder value has been steadily destroyed both in actual and potential value.
Microsoft is at about $18 today (half its 52-week high). This came after yesterday's dive. As Todd Bishop puts it, Microsoft investors just “hang on to dream.”
For the record, it hasn’t happened yet. Microsoft shares fell with the broader market today, closing at $18.29, down more than 6.7 percent on the day.
Using what was once referred to as hypnosis, Microsoft has for many years delivered the impression of omnipotence. Like investors and their “dreams”, however, hypnosis is bound to end [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. When it’s all over it becomes apparent that scale need not guarantee survival. █
Long live Microsoft 2.0
“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.”
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FFII has recordings of yesterday’s conference. There are over 10 hours of this, which is a lot, but those who care to listen carefully will find Microsoft’s Morasco talking about OOXML in GO-OO, which is Novell’s evil fork of OpenOffice.org [1, 2, 3, 4]. Novell has supported OOXML since 2006 when it signed a harmful patent deal with Microsoft. Novell was a major force in this campaign for vendor lock-in.
There is plenty more among these talks and it would be handy to have the WAV files stored there permanently for future reference. There are nice bits in there, which are worth exploring to realise just how Microsoft mixes specifications like OOXML with patents and Novell. In the afternoon session, Morasco said that even open source software is supporting OOXML. This probably includes former Novell employees.
Elsewhere in the news, Bob Sutor writes about the need for universal standards such as ODF.
For the first time in memory, technology standards have become a discussion topic at legislative hearings, on the U.S. presidential campaign trail and at E.U. regulatory meetings. Why the scrutiny? Shouldn’t we trust that computer companies will always have the public interest at heart? Won’t we always be able to open and read electronic documents?
A committee is already established to manage ODF and enforce conformance.
The Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (Oasis), which fights for open standards for information, has formed a new committee to advance the OpenDocument Format (ODF).
As pointed out very recently, Microsoft’s Web-based office suite is an OOXML and Mono trap and it should therefore be avoided. The following short article is a reminder of the fact that in order to escape Microsoft’s lock-in, ODF or old binary formats are still required. OOXML is no-man’s land, except Microsoft’s.
But the company objective is certainly to retain not only visitor for as long as possible, but also to their market share in Web advertising, and specifically with regards to their new, free online office productivity suite that will compete with Google’s own product, which is currently oriented towards open source document formats such as ODT (Open Document Text), also supported by the OpenOffice.org suite.
It’s best to escape to ODF as soon as possible. Microsoft goes to great lengths to muddy the water with proprietary OOXML, for which it corrupted ISO. █
“Microsoft corrupted many members of ISO in order to win approval for its phony ‘open’ document format, OOXML. This was so governments that keep their documents in a Microsoft-only format can pretend that they are using ‘open standards.’ The government of South Africa has filed an appeal against the decision, citing the irregularities in the process.”
–Richard Stallman, June 2008
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Many people just yell at critics of Mono. But if it’s a non-issue, then not so many people would be concerned about it. Slated.org has contributed the following informative analysis, so without further ado, here it is.
What’s the worst thing a software developer has to worry about?
If you’re a FOSS developer then generally it’s none of the above, but there is one concern that both Windows and FOSS developers have in common … Intellectual “Property”:
In a new lawsuit, Microsoft asks a San Francisco court to declare
invalid several patents assigned to an online transactions company in
hopes of defending customers who have been sued by the patent holder,
WebXchange earlier this year filed lawsuits against Dell, Allstate and
FedEx in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, charging
patent infringement. The suits, filed on the same day in March, say that
the companies violate WebXchange patents in some of their online
services. In the FedEx suit, for example, WebXchange alleges that FedEx
violates three of its patents in an online system that lets people send
print jobs to Kinko’s stores.
Microsoft is not mentioned in any of the three complaints. However, in
the suit that Microsoft filed against WebXchange, it says that the
charges relate to the companies’ use of Microsoft’s Visual Studio software.
How nice of Microsoft to help out their customers, eh? However, they haven’t always been quite so benevolent towards Visual Studio users and developers … but we’ll get to that in a minute.
“However, they haven’t always been quite so benevolent towards Visual Studio users and developers”Of course, FOSS developers can easily circumvent the whole “software patents” issue, by hosting outside the jurisdiction of countries corrupted by Intellectual Monopolists, however that doesn’t help the commercial users/distributors of that software, who then set themselves up as targets for litigation, or even (incredibly) raids by customs officials, as happened in Germany recently:
Quite what C&E has to do with patents, I’m not sure, since this has absolutely nothing to do with either tax or dangerous goods (unless one counts patents as “dangerous”, which now that I think about it, makes sense), but apparently Customs officers are now responsible for “policing” alleged patent violations … by shooting first and asking questions later. Furthermore, it’s not exactly clear why a branch of the government would be engaged in pursuing some private company’s civil claim, but that’s the modern world for you … as corrupted by the Intellectual Monopolists. The dastardly “crime” of Intellectual Monopoly violation is now given the same status as drugs trafficking.
Commercial FOSS users/distributors may not have a free pass to “violate” these Intellectual Monopolies (which is why distros are all rushing to provide the “Fluendo codecs”), but the ordinary users certainly do, and since most of the developers are also non-profit enthusiasts in the software patent “DMZ”, there’s plenty of choice for Free Software users (e.g. MPlayer and ffmpeg). This is helped in no small part by the fact that the whole infrastructure around FOSS development is also Free.
But what if it weren’t?
What if the compiler toolchain itself was encumbered up to the hilt with patents and licence restrictions, like say – Visual Studio.
Microsoft threatens its Most Valuable Professional
Who said you could improve our software?
By Will Watts
Posted in Software, 5th June 2007 10:25 GMT
What’s the best way to attract a pile of threatening lawyers’ letters
from Microsoft? Sell pirate copies of Windows? Write a DRM-busting program?
Londoner Jamie Cansdale has just discovered a new approach. He had the
temerity to make Redmond’s software better.
As a hobby, Cansdale developed an add-on for Microsoft Visual Studio.
TestDriven.NET allows unit test suites to be run directly from within
the Microsoft IDE. Cansdale gave away this gadget on his website, and
initially received the praises of Microsoft.
In fact, Microsoft was so pleased with him, it gave him a Most Valuable
Professionals (MVP) award, which it says it gives to “exceptional
technical community leaders from around the world who voluntarily share
their high quality, real world expertise with others”.
At one point, in a splendid example of the right hand being unaware of
who is getting the left hand’s index finger, Cansdale got a letter
presaging another MVP award only to have it hastily withdrawn the next
day (find this incident the bottom of the second page of emails.)
Finally, Microsoft lost patience, and in the last few days has hit
Cansdale with a flurry of lawyers’ letters, also available on his
website [see here and here]. Cansdale now has until 4pm Wednesday 6 June
to disable the Visual Studio Express features of his product.
We await the deadline with bated breath.
Meanwhile, a quiet word in the ear of any earnest young programmer who
is considering downloading a copy of Visual Studio Express and slaving
deep into the night, striving hard in the Microsofty ways, in the hope
one day of earning the glorious rank of MVP.
Do ya feel lucky, punk? ®
Read the actual Emails too, they’re most illuminating:
Weber repeatedly refers to Cansdale’s work as a “hack”, even though Cansdale proves conclusively that it only uses API’s published by Microsoft, and available for free on their Website.
“It’s only Novell customers who are “indemnified” against whatever threats they may encounter WRT Microsoft’s alleged “IP”.”This set me thinking about Mono, and how this Microsoft-encumbered Intellectual Monopoly was a specific threat to FOSS, not merely because of the patents (RAND or otherwise), but primarily because of the patentor. If Microsoft would pursue one of their own MVPs so viciously and tenaciously, over nothing more than a damned plugin, what do you suppose they’ll start doing once their “IP” has well and truly infested Free Software?
I wonder if Microsoft will be as “benevolent” to the Free Software community as they’ve apparently been to Dell and friends, if some patent troll sues a FOSS developer for patent “infringements” relating to .NET?
But then, that’s where Novell comes in, isn’t it? It’s only Novell customers who are “indemnified” against whatever threats they may encounter WRT Microsoft’s alleged “IP”.
From that perspective alone, it’s sheer insanity for any distro other than SUSE to ship Mono or any of it’s related technologies and dependants, but there’s still the question of the infamous “patentor”
and it’s motives.
It’s not exactly news, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what Microsoft is up to, in fact it’s transparently obvious. The plan goes something like this:
- Find some Microsoft-friendly FOSS developers (e.g. Miguel de Icaza. Heck, judging by Torvald’s latest rant, he may well be next).
- Buy a commercial Linux vendor (they’ve essentially bought Novell).
- Start infecting FOSS with Microsoft “IP”, right down in the foundations of the compiler toolchain (e.g. Mono), so the infection spreads upwards to everything built using that toolchain.
- Provide “indemnity” only for customers of that single (sellout) Linux vendor.
- Wait for the infection to spread, until this “IP” becomes ubiquitous and virtually unavoidable.
- Meanwhile, start making a lot of noise about “undisclosed balance sheet liabilities”, and certain Linux vendors’ customers having an “obligation to compensate us”.
- Keep the pressure on certain Linux vendors, with shell companies acting as patent trolls, such as IP Innovation LLC, and it’s parent shell company Acacia.
- Light the patent-fuse; sit back and enjoy the show, as every commercial Linux vendor finds themselves forced to choose between either paying Microsoft or dropping a large chunk of their repos, thus making their distros unusable (or at least considerably less functional than SUSE).
And as they say on South Park:
Or more importantly from Microsoft’s perspective … monopoly!!! Again.
Now you know why de Icaza named it “Mono®”.
So is this just the ravings of a paranoid Linux loony?
Really; really think about who Microsoft are; what they do; how they do it; and what their motives and principles are. What right-minded Free Software advocate; user or developer would continue to support Mono?
Well … Fedora, for one.
Yes, this community distro that vigilantly strives to purge all that is patent-encumbered or otherwise questionable from its distro, ships one of the most dangerous pieces of software ever to taint the Free Software community … Mono.
And to think that Tom “Spot” Callaway (Fedora Engineering Manager) once vehemently proclaimed:
We will never include Mono, or anything that is obviously patented
without a patent grant in writing that permits unrestricted use and
redistribution, as per the terms of the GPL.
Today it’s an entirely different story:
1. The decision to allow Mono to enter the tree seems to have been made
arbitrarily by Red Hat, with no community consultation, and in spite
of protests (including some by high profile Red Hat personnel -
mostly expressed as a rejection of Mono before the announcement).
2. There has only ever been one public announcement on the subject, and
that was made (with some dismay, it seems) by Tom Callaway:
3. There has only ever been one, extremely reserved, explanation given
for this decision, in a blog post by Greg DeKoenigsberg:
“Business considerations that prevented certain Mono components from
being included in Fedora previously have now been resolved.”
The specific nature of this resolution is not given.
4. There is precious little concrete information about precisely who
made these arbitrary decisions that also affected the Fedora
community distro, but as best as I can deduce, the key players seem
to be Greg DeKoenigsberg (as above) and Christopher Blizzard,
although it may be that these were simply the only people discussing
5. The nearest thing to an actual justification for this acceptance of
Mono, is that the OIN offers a kind of Mexican Stand-Off protection
to those who implement it:
My final conclusion is that Fedora includes encumbered, non-Free
software, that is covered by patents owned by Microsoft, and assured by
a patent covenant that is not worth the (metaphorical) paper it’s
written on, since Moonlight, which is also covered by this same type of
covenant by the same company, has recently been exposed by Groklaw as
undistributable (I’m advised that PJ is currently investigating Mono as
well). The announcement and justification for this inclusion is
extremely sparse, and there has been almost no community consultation on
the subject, either before or after the fact.
Why the secrecy?
“Red Hat not shipping Mono is currently a can’t rather than a won’t.
Making it worse, we are not able to spell out all the facts on why we
can’t.” ~ Havoc Pennington, ex-Red Hat Desktop manager/engineer.
Again, what is the big secret?
And why do these commercial Linux vendors seem to be going to so much trouble to infect Free Software with Microsoft’s Intellectual Monopoly?
Windows software development is an absolute minefield of legal pitfalls, and now thanks to some mysterious conspiracy (or at least grossly misguided decisions) that same minefield is slowly infesting Free Software too, via Mono.
Then to cap it all, we have the creator of the Linux kernel complaining about people who see things in “black and white” terms.
Maybe we should all just give up any hope of autonomy and Freedom, switch to Windows, and pledge 10% of our income to the Cult of RedmondGangsters for life. That’s what certain people within our community seem to want. I’m sure it’s the “pragmatic” thing to do, after all.
“Beware the enemy within.” █
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Microsoft is Killing Another Product: OneCare
Over the past few months we have given many examples of services, divisions, staff and products Microsoft gives up on. In this latest case, a Microsoft product called Live OneCare is being bundled so that it is no longer sold separately in the form of a subscription. One interesting question would be, “What about Forefront, and security products from other vendors?”
Apparently, Microsoft finally reached the conclusion that that selling ‘security’ separately is wrong. Security really needs to be offered as a trait or feature that’s bolted onto the operating system, which ought to be inherently secure. As TechDirt puts it in its informative headline, “Microsoft Realizes No One Wants To Pay Microsoft To Fix Its Own Security Flaws.” It explains further that “[b]ack in 2005, when Microsoft was first mulling the idea of offering security software, we noted that the company was between something of a rock and a hard place. If it decided to charge for the software, people would accuse the company of trying to get people to pay to protect themselves from the security vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s own software.” The Microsoft-friendly BBC [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15], on the other hand, already produces more promotional ‘articles’ which defend Microsoft’s mischiefs, including this one.
Creating more revenue by making deficient software and selling a solution to its ills is an unethical thing to do. There is actually some interesting history related to this announcement. As pointed out by a reader, Bill Gates used “security” as an excuse to reward himself time share on computers a few decades ago. As the page states, “The Computer Center Corporation’s business was beginning to suffer due to the systems weak security and the frequency that it crashed. Impressed with Gates and the other Lakeside computer addicts’ previous assaults on their computer, the Computer Center Corporation decided to hire the students to find bugs and expose weaknesses in the computer system.”
Prior to this it says: “In the fall of 1968 [...] Gates and his friends] caused the system to crash several times and broke the computers security system. They even altered the files that recorded the amount of computer time they were using. [...] the Computer Center Corporation decided to hire the students to find bugs and expose weaknesses in the computer system.”
They later got jobs this way: “…defense contractor TRW was having trouble with a bug infested computer similar to the one at Computer Center Corporation. TRW had learned of the experience the two had working on the Computer Center Corporation’s system and offered Gates and Allen jobs. However thing would be different at TRW they would not be finding the bugs ”
This may seem familiar because of claims like “Microsoft creates jobs,” where the jobs involve something like people cleaning viruses and wrestling with Windows. This also means that Gates et al had engaged in Technical sabotage long before DR-DOS days [1, 2]. In a way, Gates’ company continues to cripple or make deficient a system, which results in more labour and therefore more revenue. This relates to the “Broken Windows” theory, which goes like this:
“Imagine the town baker’s shop window is broken by an errant baseball throw. A unfortunate expense to the baker, one might say. But that is a narrow parochial view. Look instead at the benefit to the whole community. The window will cost $300 to replace. That money will go to the glazier who will then use his profits to buy a new sofa from the furniture store, who will then use his profits to buy a new bicycle for his child from the toy store, and so on. The money will continue to circulate in over-widening circles, bringing joy to all. The original loss of $300 by the baker will more than be made up for by the aggregate increase in the amount of goods and services exchanged in the town. Instead of punishing the little boy who broke the window, he should be raised up and praised as a Universal Benefactor and Economic Sage of the First Order.”
In summary and conclusion, contrast to Bill Gates, Richard Stallman did everything possible to give everyone access to computing resources that were not being used. It is the same problem which is computing scarcity, but the solutions were very different. One was entirely selfish and continues to exploit the position for personal gain. The other continues to help his neighbors. █
Gates: No! There are no significant bugs in our released software that any significant number of users want fixed.
FOCUS: Oh, my God. I always get mad at my computer if MS Word swallows the page numbers of a document which I printed a couple of times with page numbers. If I complain to anybody they say “Well, upgrade from version 5.11 to 6.0″.
Gates: No! If you really think there’s a bug you should report a bug. Maybe you’re not using it properly. Have you ever considered that?
FOCUS: Yeah, I did…”
–Bill Gates, FOCUS Magazine, 1995
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