“On the same day that CA blasted SCO, Open Source evangelist Eric Raymond revealed a leaked email from SCO’s strategic consultant Mike Anderer to their management. The email details how, surprise surprise, Microsoft has arranged virtually all of SCO’s financing, hiding behind intermediaries like Baystar Capital.”
WORTH STARTING OFF WITH is the news most relevant to Free software. There are many signs suggesting that Microsoft gambles on patent trolling as a business strategy [1, 2, 3] and the following is new addition to a chain of evidence we accumulate for studying purposes. The Gates|Myhrvold ambition is secret no more and this ‘axis’ can be intercepted once it’s better understood.
Nathan Myhrvold Now Capitalizing On Failed University Patent [Initiatives]
With so many university technology transfer offices losing money, IV has been going around and signing deals with universities. Basically, IV gives those tech transfer offices some money upfront, allowing IV to effectively add each university’s patent pool to its own portfolio that it uses to go around demanding hundreds of millions of dollars from companies to “protect” them against any future lawsuits.
One is to expose those who can be used by Microsoft, e.g. Acacia [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. Visibility makes them easier to catch and thus more reluctant to take action;
The second option is to fight fire with fire (patents for patents), but it’s complicated when inflicted by patent trolls. It renders OIN somewhat ineffective;
Another option is a push for the end of software patents. Fortunately, progress is made towards this objective.
Roughly reverse-chronologically, the Bilski case was previously mentioned in [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, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33]. There are some new and noteworthy analyses of its impact on software patents, so these are included below for completeness and future references (mostly research in retrospect).
It is important to remember that the Supreme Court’s decision in Gottschalk v. Benson is still controlling law. In that 1972 decision, the Supreme Court held unpatentable a method of converting a signal from “binary coded decimal” into “binary.” The Benson method operates by using a “reentrant shift register” – a particular electronic memory circuit of the day. The rejected claim reads as follows:
Thus under Bilski/Benson, tying a software algorithm to particular computer hardware may well be unpatentable subject matter if the patent would still preclude all practical uses of the otherwise unpatentable algorithm.
The case most often cited for opening the door to business-method patents is State Street Bank & Trust v. Signature Financial Group Inc., decided in 1998 by the same court. That case, however, involved a fairly complex computer program, and all the court really said was that the validity of the patent should not turn on whether the “subject matter does ‘business’ instead of something else.” Even the poster child of business-method patents, the Amazon “one-click” patent, which was in the patent pipeline well before State Street, involved software operating on a specially designed client-server system.
One final note with regards to Specific Description and that is a look at how it would work when applied to various assets. Take a car engine, no matter how much detail we put into describing it we never end up with a car engine. A text only book is a simple case, clearly you can write word for word the contents of the book and so therefore it fails the Specific Description test. Music, even a recording, can be respresented in a form which can be translated to give the recording itself. The same applies for imagery and therefore as a combination of the previous two movies. These are all things which have long been established as the domain of copyright law, not patent law. Suggesting perhaps the Specific Description test is similar to the thought processes of those who created patent and copyright law. There is something else very common in society which fails the Specific Description test. Software.
Let copyrights protect software developers. Mathematical recipes are a step too far in creating fences, which are not necessary.
Another mechanism for defanging patent trolls is the GPLv3 and a new article explains the role it serves and its necessity.
Regardless of opinion on the merits of the new GPL, the fact is it’s here–and likely here to stay.
In essence, copyleft is a complete reversal of traditional copyright values where the law sees software as a literary work under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
The result is a new version of the license that is much clearer in its scope and application. It also takes greater account of software patents. To prevent software owners using patents to impose additional terms on users, the license includes the use of any patents owned by copyright holders that fall within the scope of the software. The termination provisions are also made clearer and are now automatic instead of requiring a notice from a copyright holder.
Conversion from GPL version 2 to version 3 is increasing as existing open source applications seek to benefit from the improved certainty afforded by the new terms. That’s not to say that version 2 is unenforceable, it will continue to exist and be used by those who prefer it, but version 2 and version 3 are incompatible. Thus a decision needs to be made by those organizations ‘going open’ as to how they would prefer their software to be made available–and soon.
OpenMoko Harassed by Philips, Facebook Sued
The OpenMoko situation was brought up in [1, 2] and LWN.net has some further discussion of interest. It illustrates aggressive action which is carried out by proxy (Sisvel in this case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]).
On November 12, the OpenMoko project announced that all of its system images had been removed from the download server.
Facebook too has just been sued… by a patent troll in fact.
Leader Technologies, a provider of web-based enterprise software for groups, is apparently suing Facebook. It claims the popular social network is infringing on a patent it obtained in 2002, that “relates to a method and system for the management and storage of electronic information.” Facebook tells me it hasn’t seen the complaint yet, although Leader issued a press release earlier today saying that it has already filed the suit in Delaware.
This is also covered here and here. Will Facebook join the cause against software patents, despite its Microsoft slice?
USPTO: Shot in the Foot
Those in the mood for entertainment can take a glance at some of the newly-discovered ‘innovations’ this patent office brings to our world (and virtual world too):
For example, U.S. Patent No. 6,935,954, owned by Nintendo of America is directed to a sanity system for a computer game whereby events in the game affect a character’s sanity, which in turn affects the ability of a user to control the character. This sanity system appears suitable for any single or multiplayer game in which characters encounter scary situations.
“They’ll get sort of addicted to Mono applications, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”
Why is Moonlight dangerous whereas Flash is not? The holder of the patents matters a great deal. GNU/Linux is not a threat to Adobe. It does not compete directly (head-to-head) with an Adobe product and Adobe hasn’t a past that’s filled with so much abuse, unlike Microsoft. Behavioral patterns matter a great deal too.
Another crucial question is this: will Moonlight include the necessary base classes, or will people have to use non-free ones from Microsoft? The answer to that is Moonlight requires that the user obtains binary codecs from Microsoft, licensed under their own licence. It’s important to remind ourselves of this popular post:
Matt Asay makes one crucial observation in Microsoft’s dilemma: The importance of the downstream:
To work within the open-source community… Microsoft must stop polluting the downstream with patent encumbrances.
If Microsoft wants to interoperate with free software at the business level, it could start by removing legal roadblocks to interoperability. The fact that the company continues not to do so leads me to believe that Microsoft doesn’t really want to interoperate with free software at a business level.
As long as the company offers only jingoistic pats on the head to us misguided little hackers laboring part time in our basements with no commercial aspirations, there’s little point in considering anything that comes out of Redmond as useful.
In eight months since Nat Torkington asked Bill Hilf What Will Change at Microsoft with Regard to Patents and F/OSS, nothing interesting has happened. OSCON’s four months away. Maybe Bill Hilf will have a big announcement then — maybe he’ll have set up mail filters. Don’t hold your breath for a sane patent strategy.
A curious new article from the Wintel press poses the question, “will Microsoft build native Mac and Linux [development] tools?”
If the future is in Microsoft’s online services why isn’t the company building native tools for Mac and Linux developers?
In reality, as it turns out, Microsoft can rely on other people doing its labour. It then makes it possible for Microsoft to slam them for ‘stealing’ the ideas (Microsoft calls these “innovations”) of Microsoft geniuses. Here is you can see the latest push for inclusion of Mono 2.0 in Ubuntu GNU/Linux, by default.
According to the American magazine ComputerWorld, Microsoft has filed a suit with a San Francisco district court in order to have several patents of the Californian service provider WebXchange declared void. The article reports that WebXchange had previously sued computer manufacturer Dell, courier service FedEx and the Allstate insurance company for alleged patent infringements. Although these actions are not aimed at Microsoft, they can be attributed to the fact that the defending companies used Microsoft’s Visual Studio development environment to create their web offerings.
SOME GOOD NEWS, finally! Readers may remember rPath, which despite its roots in Red Hat (that Novell attacks), decided to line up with SUSE and Novell. This seemed to have come after failures in negotiation with companies like Red Hat and, either way, it seemed unfortunate at the time because of Microsoft 'patent tax' that accompanies SUSE.
Well, despite a cold shoulder from Red Hat, rPath seems to have found open doors in two separate distributions that are distant from Novell. It’s Ubuntu, which is Debian based and CentOS, which is the next best thing to Red Hat (bar the trademarks). Here is the press release.
rPath today announced support for the Ubuntu and CentOS Linux operating systems as part of rBuilder and the rPath Lifecycle Management Platform. rBuilder is the category-defining build and release management system for creating virtual appliances and application images. The rPath Lifecycle Management Platform extends rBuilder with a comprehensive system for controlling the cost, complexity and risk of deploying, managing and maintaining application images in virtualized and cloud-baCentOSsed environments
Ubuntu and CentOS are now in the rPath. The company yesterday began shipping a version of its rBuilder build and release management system for Linux that adds those distros; the tool previously worked only with Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise and its own rPath Linux.
The company was founded in 2006 by former Red Hat VPs Billy Marshall (sales) and Erik Troan (engineering).
The concern that Microsoft and Novell would leverage rPath to their advantage in virtualisation [1, 2] is a tad less likely to materialise now. █
Microsoft, Novell toast anniversary with tools, support coupons
Marking the two-year anniversary of their partnership, Microsoft and Novell said Wednesday they were releasing tools to help users manage and support SUSE Linux.
Pedantic point: Microsoft is now calling the “coupons” just “patent royalties,” says Matt Asay.
This type of out-of-the-blue coverage came after Microsoft and Novell had decided to brag about their ‘special relationship’ in a press release.
Strong customer demand, technical collaboration and commercial success affirms strategy and partner model.
Marking the two-year anniversary of their agreement to build a bridge between SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Windows, Microsoft Corp. and Novell, Inc., today are celebrating strong customer demand for their business model and strategy that provides interoperability and intellectual property (IP) peace of mind. The companies are announcing two significant milestones resulting from the Microsoft and Novell technical collaboration: the coming availability of an Advanced Management Pack for SUSE Linux Enterprise for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 and a free beta download of Novell’s Moonlight rich media application. The companies are also reinforcing the fact that Novell’s new SUSE Linux Enterprise Server Subscription with Expanded Support program will be supported through Microsoft’s sale of certificates for Novell service.
This was followed by a lot of publicity from the Wintel press [1, 2], Microsoft bloggers , some fairly impartial parties [4, 5], and Novell-friendly press .
We feel obliged to warn readers about a site called VirtualizationReview.com. The name sounds very innocent, but it’s part of the network of Microsoft Web magazines and it seems fairly new (much like [Jeff Gould's 2236] “Interop News,” which is not news but Microsoft propaganda, including vicious attacks on Free software). It’s also deceiving readers by echoing Microsoft bloggers and Microsoft 'buddies' like the Yankee Group. For example:
Microsoft and Novell issued an announcement on Tuesday marking the two-year anniversary of their controversial agreement surrounding Linux patents. In addition, the companies described a couple of updates that they plan to make available to their enterprise customers.
One of the benefits of Novell’s expanded support is helping users switch from Red Hat Enterprise Linux to Novell’s solution. A Yankee Group study cited by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley suggested that Red Hat lost some of its Linux server market share following the Microsoft-Novell agreement.
See the link above for a rebuttal. It’s a load of Microsoft-generated or Novell-serving spin. Despite all that self-congratulating smooching, people continue to choose Red Hat, whose business is always growing.
Novell Inc.’s latest pitch to lure Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) customers to migrate to Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise appears to be a tough sell.
Last week, in a deal similar to bank enticements that target new checking account customers, Waltham, Mass.-based Novell offered existing Red Hat customers two years of Red Hat support and updates with every three-year premium SUSE Linux Enterprise subscription, at no extra charge. The total cost is $3,748 per server, compared with $3,507 for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and $6,747 for RHEL’s Advanced Platform including clusters and virtualization.
By supporting both platforms, Novell prevents customers from having to extend their existing Red Hat subscriptions during the transition to Novell and avoids a protection gap during the platform migration, which typically is done over a period of time. Red Hat customers, however, will lose the remaining value of their canceled Red Hat subscriptions.
From RHEL to SUSE Linux? No way!
The number of reasons for mistrust in the mainstream press is increasing as more of the big publications approach bankruptcy and sell out instead of going down while properly reporting the news. The lazier reporters did not even bother contacting Novell customers (we’ll abstain from naming actual reporters). Instead, they went to Microsoft and Novell’s Web site and quoted testimonials from there, verbatim. The writings are therefore likely to be distant from truth and akin to the very same marketing pitch they lazily parrot. Sad but true. █
Two years ago, Microsoft and Novell inked a landmark deal on patents and Linux-to-Windows interoperability. According to Microsoft and Novell, it’s a deal that has shown dramatic momentum in its second year, with a triple digit percentage increase in customers for a total tally of more than 200 customers.
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT: News ) and Novell, Inc. (NOVL: News ) Wednesday announced two significant milestones resulting from the companies’ technical collaboration.
First, the general availability of Novell’s Advanced Management Pack for SUSE Linux Enterprise for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, which will be available in the first half of 2009.
In the first year, the companies touted big customers such as Wal-Mart, BMW and Siemens. In the past year, the customer base has diversified into areas such as China, Spain, Portugal, Singapore and Japan, said Susan Heystee, Novell’s general manager of global alliances.
Microsoft, Novell, and Vista — Two years after making their deal, Microsoft and Novell paint a rosy picture of the results. But some critics say that both companies are putting their interests ahead of the free software community. Meanwhile, as they say, insider emails show that Microsoft had internal wrangling over relaxing the “Vista Capable” program and concern about comparisons between Vista and Apple’s Mac OS X before the new version of Windows came out. Little did they know that the big competition would be XP.
Touting the second anniversary of their contentious partnership, Microsoft and Novell on Tuesday announced that they are all set to launch the beta version of Moonlight, a Firefox supported service that lets Silverlight content to run on Linux PCs.
Marking the two-year anniversary of their agreement to build a bridge between SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Windows, Microsoft Corp. and Novell, Inc., today are celebrating strong customer demand for their business model and strategy that provides interoperability and intellectual property (IP) peace of mind. The companies are announcing two significant milestones resulting from the Microsoft and Novell technical collaboration: the coming availability of an Advanced Management Pack for SUSE Linux Enterprise for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 and a free beta download of Novell’s Moonlight rich media application.
There is a decent new article  over at Server Watch (also here in Datamation) which explains what Novell is to GNU/Linux. It’s essentially what the Mac is to the ‘PC’.
Rodney Gedda  misses this key point and does not agree with us. He claims that Novell’s deal is a positive step. To whom? To Freedom? To Novell shareholders? It’s not about “shield[ing]” customers as he claims. It was maybe the original intention, but Novell is now using “intellectual property peace of mind” [A, B] as a selling point to harm Red Hat and other companies which refused to sign patent deals. It’s doing other nasty things too [A, B, C]. Gedda is not our only critic today.
Paul Thurrott, a Microsoft apologist, takes a cute little shot at us, describing us as a “cute little Web site” . But it is meanwhile made very clear that Microsoft loves Novell and SUSE because it enables the company to change the way GNU/Linux operates, turning it into a lesser-distributable property that’s owned — in the intellectual sense — by Microsoft and is also serving Microsoft using technologies like Mono and OOXML. Microsoft is equipping Novell with the endorsement and technical advantage necessary to fight ‘unlicensed’ GNU/Linux and turn the heat up on Red Hat , in order to, e.g., sign a similar patent deal or be sued. █
It’s not quite as catchy as the PC/Mac “Get A Mac” switcher ads, but it looks like the folks at Novell have decided to take a page out of Steve Jobs’ book and launch a switcher campaign of their own. In an act of breathtaking chutzpah, Novell announced last week a new subscription and support program “designed to aid customers making the transition from their existing third-party Linux distribution to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.”
The new program provides technical support for a customer’s existing Linux deployments — and for that read Red Hat (or possibly CentOS) — for up to two years while transitioning to SUSE Linux Enterprise.
It’s an aggressive move on Novell’s part, and one that will almost certainly provoke a response. But it’s also good news for enterprise customers if it gives them more options for switching, if they want to.
It’s a big “if.” How would you characterize the two Linux distributions to persuade potential customers to move from Red Hat to SUSE? Apple’s commercials work because PCs and Macs each have their own very distinct characters: memorably described in The Guardian as “PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately lovable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers.”
In contrast, there’s not much difference between Red Hat and SUSE servers really. If they were guys you’d have to describe them both as “secure, reliable, popular, with big ambitions.” Novell may well find that getting people to switch from Red Hat to SUSE is much harder than it thinks.
The Microsoft-Novell pact instantaneously alienated much of the open source community. Here was a company that had benefited tremendously from open source software but still decided it was in its right to go ahead and “shield” its own Linux product from any possible Microsoft patent litigation while knowing full well the exact same software was being used by every other Linux distribution and a host of commercial vendors. What Novell did may have been a “legal” workaround of the free software licences but from a technology standpoint it was completely untenable.
The free software world was up in arms. In typical open source, knee-jerk fashion, the community began to label Novell as a pariah and a traitor. Web sites sprung up calling for Novell boycotts, developers ran and cried to Google (Note to all those who think Google manages people’s information more transparently than Microsoft or Novell: go and take a very cold shower), and the CIOs and IT managers who ultimately decide what software to use in their businesses have had FUD blasted at them ever since. All exactly what Microsoft would have wanted to see happen to a viable competitor!
Two Years Later: The Novell/Microsoft DealTwo years ago, Hell froze over and Microsoft and Novell consummated one of the most controversial alliances in tech history, with Microsoft purchasing millions of dollars worth of Novell SuSE Linux and Novell entering into an intellectual property licensing agreement with the software giant. So. How’s it going two years later? Well, the sun continues to rise every day and a plague of locusts hasn’t yet ravaged the planet, so the fears of open source pundits and backers were, apparently, unfounded. And many corporate customers appear to be pretty excited about the interoperability gains that Microsoft and Novell have made. That said, Novell’s standing in the open source community is somewhat dimmed. For example, Roy Schestowitz, who runs a cute little Web site called Boycott Novell, has the following to say: “If Novell and Microsoft get their way, then metaphorically speaking, Linux will increasingly be pressured into a corner of the datacenter, essentially being marketed as a guest machine [running under Windows] as opposed to a host running with or without Windows virtualized.” Exactly. So what’s your problem again?
Microsoft and Novell Inc. said the two-year-old collaboration to better manage Windows and SUSE Linux will produce its first fruit in the first half of 2009.
Novell will make available the Advanced Management Pack for SUSE Linux Enterprise for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 in the first half of 2009 to coincide with the release of Operations Manager 2007 R2. Novell has not yet set a price.
Of course, the first thing Mr Bean will have to do is change the name: we can’t have any of that stinky “openness” around, can we?
As pointed out in the comment, it’s a clash of cultures. The already-not-so-Open University might try to redefine its scope of “open” (a bit like OPLC after Microsoft and Intel had sabotaged it) and choose proprietary things like ‘Open’ XML.
Meanwhile, in what seems like an almost-daily or weekly recurrence, the Microsoft-influenced BBC is advertising Microsoft again, at taxpayers’ expense.
Of course, this move couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that the security of Windows is so poor as to make the operating system unusable without this kind of anti-virus crutch. Well, that’s certainly the impression you get from benign old Auntie.
Cronyism is a horrible thing and the only way to battle it is to make it more visible. █
Microsoft has already used up some of its usual ‘buddies’, namely IDC and 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] (among others), to slam ODF and rival office suites. Now it Gartner’s turn and guess where the report turns up first? That’s right — Microsoft. For those who do not know what the Partner Group is, here are places to start:
Venture a guess as to who wrote the report? People can learn about him here. He is one of Microsoft’s well-known mouthpieces, who has already planted pro-OOXML messages in the press. The guy literally spends his life with Microsoft employees.
DEAR Minister of Education and esteemed Secretary of State and Education and Deputy Secretary of State for Education;
After reading an article  published on the online edition of the newspaper “O Público” on the alleged illegality of the electronic records of the individual objectives of teachers, I was curious about
the platform and decided to visit it, even though I’m not a teacher. Finding the address was relatively easy, but I can’t say the same about the access to it.
When I tried to visit the site, I encountered an error message  due to the browser I was using. However, the browser I use is called Icecat, now in version 3.0.4, and as it is a clone of Firefox 3.0.4; between Icecat and Firefox, besides the name, there is very little difference, and a site that is shown correctly in one is shown correctly on the other. I’m using this browser on distribution of GNU/Linux called gNewSense.
“Finding the address was relatively easy, but I can’t say the same about the access to it.”The error message I mentioned suggested the use of Internet Explorer and said that it is used ‘by more than 90% of the Internet users’. This suggestion leaves me amazed because I can’t understand how a public institution may suggest dictatorware – it should be read, proprietary/harmful software, contrary to all democratic values. The amazement is greater with the lie that follows the suggestion: the use of the browser ‘by over 90% of Internet users’. Please bare in mind that this proprietary browser, according to a report  of Xiti Monitor, is only used by 60% of Europeans – a number that continues to shrink every month that passes.
The same error message is also suggested when using Mozilla, an ‘Internet suite of excellence’. The problem is that this software is now called SeaMonkey and is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Mozilla Foundation (despite they give some support to the legal level of this project) as you can verify when you click the link  of the error page that was created for the Multi Platforma DRGHE. It would be nice if these little details were checked before putting the site online. The fact that something as trivial as this was not done makes me think that other details were also left unchecked in this platform.
Another strange… suggestion is Netscape, a browser that, curiously, had its development discontinued a few months ago. Its use could jeopardize the security of the user, such as using the proprietary browser suggested in the beginning of the error message.
Having that said, I’d like to thank you for treating me like a second class citizen. It is “good” to know that only those who use certain applications can access some sites of the government, and that interoperability, so widely recommended by the European Union, is a concept unknown to the people who develop and/or allow these web applications.