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12.04.08

How Novell and Microsoft Cooperate Behind the Scenes

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Servers, SLES/SLED at 10:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Microsoft is paying companies — in the form of discounts — in order to give the illusion that everyone respects Microsoft’s argument that Linux infringes on Microsoft IPR and that software patents are universally scary. This payment is akin to those OOXML briberies where Microsoft offered money to partners in return for support. Novell was paid as well, for a variety of things, including IPR FUD and OOXML support.

Digging a Little Deeper…

THIS is rather rare and it is very hard to find truly investigative journalism. Yes, investigative journalism, as opposed to those who are just echoing press releases and phonecalls/E-mails from companies’ PR departments (or hired peripheral agencies), whose goal is to force-feed journalists with disinformation and hyped-up ‘infoggerations’.

One fine example of investigative journalism is, sadly enough, also overly restrained. Consider this example of Microsoft machinations. It is one which only reaches the light of day in the blog of a journalist, but not in actual articles that receive wider exposure. This was the story behind a more nominal story.

About Today’s Story…

Today, we wish to present a story that is hidden behind another story, which is equally interesting. It is the story behind Microsoft/Novell coupon deals. It is a story the companies will not tell you about (and neither will journalists, who are deliberately kept in the dark). As some background, consider this item which explains how Novell uses GNU/Linux FUD to market itself.

“The voices behind the scenes need to be heard too and this site seems like a good venue for this.”Let’s look at the anatomy of a Novell/Microsoft coupon deal, shall we? It is a well-coordinated marketing plot, which is described by a leak we have just received from an anonymous concerned witness. The voices behind the scenes need to be heard too and this site seems like a good venue for this.

The source tells us that the events were observed a long time ago, so there is no danger of the company’s identity being known (never mind identifying the source of this leak). In fact, after Novell sealed deals with dozens of companies large and small, it would be impossible to say which is which. Let’s call it $Company from here onwards, as though it’s a parameter.

Here’s How It Works…

SLES/SLED vouchers (yes, that’s essentially GNU/Linux support/patent ‘licences’) were offered to $Company by Microsoft. Mind the fact that it’s Microsoft, not Novell. We have said and seen this before, but it’s worth hearing from a bystander or eyewitness. This confirms the fact that it’s in Microsoft’s interests to have companies ($Company in this case) ‘hooked’ on a GNU/Linux distribution which Microsoft gets paid for. Also, by later announcing this, Microsoft uses $Company’s credentials as some sort of implicit acknowledgment that patent ‘protection’ is needed for GNU/Linux deployments. It’s precedence that builds expectations.

What was interesting and revealing about Microsoft’s approach is how it came about, though. The deal offered sported a massive discount in SLES/SLED support from Novell for every voucher. In other words, to Microsoft, successfully promoting a ‘Microsoft tax’-encumbered GNU/Linux distribution is even worth ‘sponsoring’, probably for the reasons cited above.

The exact figures when it comes to the discount were not known, but they were very significant. We’re talking about high double-digit figures (%-wise). This reduction in support charges per voucher is so significant that it makes one wonder if Novell and Microsoft are interested in getting people ‘addicted’ to (maybe even stuck with) SUSE more than they are interested in actually making money, at least in the short term. Remember those infamous Windows-only, SuSE-only “interoperability” hooks and shims.

“Remember those infamous Windows-only, SuSE-only “interoperability” hooks and shims.”Depending on the size of the company at hand (never mind the size of $Company), significant amounts of money can be seen as savings. If you are a small business looking for a GNU/Linux server, then you’re looking at some nice savings that cannot be ignored. Medium-sized deployments can probably even help create new jobs by saving so much money. For large companies, this is highly significant. If you look at hundreds of thousands of instances (let’s say Google, which has about a million, according to analysts), this type of saving may reach several $billions. Google uses Red Hat and Debian by the way, for all I can tell based on readings and past interviews with them, but they rarely require outside support.

Whatever the number may be, the discounts are very significant. It begins to look very compelling from a straight commercial perspective.

More interesting is another curious fact: Microsoft is apparently offering companies seats on the board of the “interoperability” committee run between Novell and Microsoft. Small customers need not apply, but we have already seen some interesting inclusions in all sorts of “interoperability” labs. This seems like part of the “interoperability” buzzword stunt.

If you thought that was bad enough, then wait. There is more. It is a requirement of the offer that a press release is issued to announce deals. The press release needs to be a joint statement, which means that $Company gets to say what it wanted, but Microsoft would get to say what they wanted, i.e. $Company would have no control over the statement that it is willing to make. It is natural to assume, based on previous press releases, that Microsoft wants to inject its “patent” and “intellectual property” poison (FUD) into the press release.

It has generally been accepted that the “intellectual property” argument from Microsoft is false, but one cannot get the discount without Microsoft getting something back. In other words, Microsoft gives discounts in return for “intellectual property” FUD against GNU/Linux. It’s using SUSE to achieve this.

All the Pieces Come Together

These joint press releases are something that has not escaped my attention (and Shane’s). But now we know how the plot works. The same goes for OEM 'recommendations' of Vista; even obvious things require solid proof.

What remains more of a mystery is how Microsoft approaches GNU/Linux distributors and gets them to surrender. Turobolinux’s fall, for example, was gradual. It first accepted OOXML servitude and later it swallowed a patent pill even though it knew that it would not be grandfathered by GPLv3, unlike Novell. We have heard some stories from Jeremy Allison about how Microsoft fools Linux companies, but each and every situation is probably different and unique.

One must wonder not only why/when/how Turobolinux, Xandros, and Linspire surrendered (and received money to do so as well), but also how Microsoft approaches companies like Red Hat, Canonical, and Mandriva. We have found some stories about this game of mating and wooing, which luckily never materialised, i.e. so-called ‘raping’ efforts have been unfruitful to Microsoft.

In Summary

This is very significant. We have already seen the threats and arm-twisting Microsoft is pulling against large corporations to make them buy “we-won’t-sue” vouchers. What a racket. The tactics needed to get publicised. And now they are, so they can be cross-referenced. This carries the untold element of this branch of stories.

Novell Keeps Losing Money, Revenue Declines

Posted in Finance, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, NetWare, Novell, SCO at 6:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Thumbs down

We wrote about Novell’s steep slides earlier today and yesterday. The results are finally in.

The company reported a loss of $16.3 million, or 5 cents per share in the fourth-quarter ended Oct 31, compared with a loss of $17.9 million, or 5 cents, a year earlier when it had more shares outstanding.

The stock is up after trading hours (having already taken a big tumble, declining by over 6% today), but reasons for optimism are probably a relative thing. Novell’s stock is approximately half the value it used to be not so long ago. The revenue continues to decline because regardless of the Linux business, Netware is a dying technology. Market Watch reports.

The company reported a loss of 5 cents a share from continuing operations. Revenue slid marginally to $244.7 million from $244.9 million, the provider of open source software for businesses said.

Stay tuned for a more detailed analysis. It’s important to remember that Microsoft is propping up Novell because it’s helpful to Microsoft in its fight against Free software and GNU/Linux. It’s just like SCO.

“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.”

Bruce Perens

Microsoft Layoffs Worse Than Initially Reported

Posted in Microsoft at 5:06 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Rejected

For readers who are only joining us now, here are some previous (and very recent) posts:

Todd Bishop did some research and found out that the layoffs were worse than isolated reports had indicated.

Rumors have circulated for months that Microsoft may be looking to sell the Razorfish business, though CEO Clark Kokich told TechFlash last month that there was nothing in the works. However, he didn’t rule out the possibility down the road.

“That doesn’t mean that two to three to four years from now, it might not happen,” Kokich told reporter Eric Engleman.

Tips are always very welcome in the IRC channel.

“Today many people are switching to free software for purely practical reasons. That is good, as far as it goes, but that isn’t all we need to do! Attracting users to free software is not the whole job, just the first step.”

Richard Stallman

Novell Declines Sharply Ahead of the Report

Posted in Finance, Novell at 12:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell is down over 5% for the second day in a row. It’s part of a streak, as the graph below shows.

Novell falls in December

As pointed out by Timothy Prickett Morgan yesterday:

While Novell may be the second largest commercial Linux distributor, it still gets the bulk of its sales off of NetWare and related products.

Novell, like Netware, is dying, but the buybacks let it be less evident [1, 2]. Netware-like cash cows are not easy to replace or revive.

Novell/Microsoft Deceive About Moonlight, Generate Hype

Posted in Deception, DRM, Microsoft, Mono, Novell at 12:40 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell seems to be lying again…

Bad Silverlight

FOR background, see this very recent ISV lie. Novell’s press releases contain lies and the latest example, which is dishonest at best, we shall cover one item at a time and allow readers draw their own conclusions.

Announcement

Novell’s Moonlight is widely known as a second-class ‘Silverlight’ which enables Microsoft to turn GNU/Linux users into second-class citizens of the Web [1, 2, 3]. We have stressed this point so many times before [1, 2, 3].

Watch the headline of Novell’s press release about Moonlight: Moonlight 1.0 Beta Makes Linux Users First Class Citizens For Digital Media (also here)

The Moonlight Project and Novell are proud to announce the 1.0 beta release of Moonlight, an implementation of Silverlight for Linux.

What does that mean (especially the headline)? Is it about digital media? How does that make “Linux Users” first-class citizens? It's a lie.

The blogging from Miguel de Icaza came around the same time. He also did a post about the non-Free component of Moonlight. To say that Moonlight is Free software is like saying that a wolf in sheep’s clothing is a sheep. At the very heart of this complete piece of software there is proprietary and patent-encumbered code. The world does not need any of this. We already have Ogg and <video>, which are supported by one of the most popular Web browser.

No Thanks!

In addition to Ogg, there is also SVG, as pointed out in this comment about the announcement from Novell.

Today almost everybody have flash installed and browsers of tomorrow will run Javascript very fast. In combination with SVG support such browsers will be able to handle most of the things Silverlight can do. Around 25% of the users uses such a non Microsoft browser on their desktop. Then there are mobile phones
where the browser diversity is even bigger.

But Microsoft does not support SVG (not properly anyway) and it was told off for it by the father of the Web. In other comments from LinuxToday, Novell is called “a Microsoft proxy.”

There is a positive side of Microsoft’s push to kill flash using Novell (a Microsoft proxy). And that positive side is that Adobe might be forced to open source flash. Wouldn’t that be neat?

And the following comment says it all really.

The sad thing is that Miguel thinks we are collectively dense and naive enough to believe him and use this stuff. Too many years under the MS yoke have taught those of us with functioning memories otherwise. There are so many things wrong with this I don’t really know where to begin but thats OK; those that have their eyes open don’t need to be told and the ones that are going into this with blinders on are by definition not going to see anything new anyways.
Miguel can do what he wants; he has almost zero credibility left (can be bought and bought cheaply) so for now its apt-get purge libmono*.

Here is the sole reaction from TuxMachines:

I have an uneasy feeling about installing anything that’s been touched by Microsoft.

Novell boosters like “eet” are there to rebut. They scour the Web with their pro-Novell ideology.

Who Covered This Thing Anyway?

Some of those who covered the release of a beta are predictable because they frequently peddle Mono, Moonlight, SUSE and/or Novell. There were some ‘standard’ reports that are just based on the press release and passed around.

The Moonlight Project and Novell, an IT software, systems and technology company, announced on 2 December the released of Moonlight 1.0 Beta.

One author who covers a lot of Mono could of course not resist this opportunity.

The first beta release of Moonlight 1.0, an open source implementation of Microsoft’s Silverlight framework, is now available for download from the project’s official web site. This release is the first step towards bringing robust Silverlight compatibility to the Linux desktop.

The author who covers a lot of OpenSUSE also gave it a go.

Not long ago the Moonlight development team announced that the Linux Silverlight adaptation was drawing ever nearer to the 1.0 release. On December 1st, the Moonlight 1.0 beta version was released.

Softpedia covers a lot of Mono and this time was no exception.

As early as the the celebration of the second anniversary of the Microsoft and Novell partnership inked back in November 2006, the Redmond company announced the delivery of the first Beta of Moonlight. As an integral part of the Linux and Windows interoperability agreement, Novell took it upon itself to extend Silverlight to Linux and Unix. In Microsoft’s quest to deliver a truly cross-browser, cross-platform and cross-device technology, Moonlight complements the Silverlight releases for Windows and Mac OS X.

Heise covers a lot of SUSE (for obvious reasons) and with SUSE come Novell and Mono, so a hideous headline containing “Silverlight for Linux” got published.

The beta version of Moonlight 1.0 is now available to download as a Firefox plug-in. The application, is the Linux version of Microsoft’s rival to Flash, Silverlight. It makes it possible to play files such as WMV files under Linux. Novell has been granted access to Microsoft specifications and to multimedia codecs and test tools for the project. It was originally announced at the second anniversary of its interoperability agreement with Microsoft.

Sean Michael Kerner was a bit of a surprise among the pack, but he at least called it “Linux clone of”, unlike those who wrongly call it “Silverlight for Linux.”

Linux users are getting closer to full Microsoft Silverlight functionality to view rich media applications on the Web. The Novell-sponsored Moonlight project today released its first beta of its Linux implementation of Microsoft’s Silverlight media framework.

It’s rather mystifying that Michael Larabel covered this (only through a quick pointer though) because I’ve explained to him the problems associated with Novell.

For those unfamiliar with Moonlight, it’s a Mono-powered open-source implementation of Microsoft’s Silverlight…

And oh noes! Et tu, Alastair?

Microsoft and the Wintel press will treat Moonlight like the Second Coming when it’s released (as final) to promote Silverlight, XAML, Windows DRM and Microsoft codecs. How does a beta of copycat technology receive so much coverage and hype?

Novell: Powered by Red Hat

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Red Hat, Servers at 11:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME RPM

THIS IS getting interesting. Not only Microsoft chooses Red Hat; It turns out that go-mono.com used to be running Fedora even over a year after Ximian had been acquired. There is no telling what it runs right now, but do have a look:


Savvis 3300 Regency Parkway Cary NC US 27511	64.14.94.188	Linux	Apache/2.0.50 Fedora	29-Nov-2004
Savvis 3300 Regency Parkway Cary NC US 27511	64.14.94.188	unknown	Apache/2.0.50 Fedora	28-Nov-2004

Nice one, Novell. If Novell does not drink its own Kool-Aid, who would?

Patents Roundup: Microsoft Employs Patent Hawks, Google’s Chrome Sued, Ambush Denounced and More

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 11:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hawk

WE OPEN UP with this interesting report about Microsoft employing a “Patent Hawk” and bemoaning “inside jobs”.

Patent consultant Gary Odom, who blogs and does business as “Patent Hawk,” used to help Microsoft defend itself against patent lawsuits. But in August, Odom slapped his former client with a patent lawsuit of his own. On his blog, Odom took a quick break from denouncing patent reform to announce his new project, in an understated post titled “Tool Groups.”

Odom gamely admitted that Microsoft had been his client for years. “They had every opportunity for friendly discussion,” he wrote.

New documents filed in the case reveal much more about Odom’s relationship with his client-turned-target. Not only did Gary Odom work for both Microsoft and one of its outside law firms over a period of several years—he actually signed contracts in which he agreed not to file his own patent or IP lawsuits, and agreed to disclose his own patent activity.

Some older information can be found here.

Today’s bigger news though is Google’s pseudopen-source Web browser having Google sued. Google’s cash reserves probably make it an attractive target for such a lawsuit and there are some initial details surfacing (no news reports we could find).

Google’s “Chrome Browser” violates a patent, Aloft Media claims in Federal Court. Google announced the launch of its Chrome Browser on Sept. 1. Aloft claims it patented its “Network browser window with adjacent identifier selector interface for strong Web content” in March 2007.

There is some more information here and here [hat tip: Digital Majority]

Ambush and Standards

We frequently warn about the use of OOXML and it’s news stories like this one which serve as a reminder of the reasons.

A federal appeals court here ruled Monday that a California trial judge went too far when he stripped chip maker Qualcomm Inc. ( QCOM) of all legal rights to two video patents as a consequence of engaging in misconduct.

[...]

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with the trial judge that Qualcomm should have disclosed its patents to the working group. But the appeals court said the judge should not have stripped Qualcomm of all of its rights to the two patents.

Broadcom proudly uses this as an opportunity to say that Qualcomm engages in misconduct.

Broadcom Corporation (Nasdaq: BRCM), a global leader in semiconductors for wired and wireless communications, announced that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today upheld a decision by a federal judge in San Diego that Qualcomm violated its duty to disclose its patents to a standards body and that, as a result, the patents are unenforceable against products practicing the standard at issue.

There is some similar report about Rambus, whose story we told some days ago.

Under participant agreements, however, disclosure was required to help ensure “a simple royalty free baseline profile.” And, under Rambus, even non-explicit disclosure requirements can create a duty to disclose patent rights during standard setting discussions.

Because the patentee intentionally failed to disclose its patents, the court agreed that the patents were unenforceable under the equitable doctrine of implied waiver. However, the court limited the scope of the waiver only to products that were compliant with the new (H.264) standard.

The FSFE has a good new article that touches on the issue of standards and patents, which ought to be seen as contradictory.

Software patents have been a hugely controversial debate, with lines of battle drawn primarily between large corporations holding large patent portfolios and engaged in multiple cross-licensing deals, and the Have-Nots, entrepeneurs, small and medium enterprises, and software users from the student using GNU/Linux all the way to institutional users in governments.

A new roadmap report for F/OSS (mentioned hours ago in the links) touches on this issue of patents as well.

There’s 78 pages of the report, and it goes into some very sensible public policy recommendations (ban software patents etc) along with ideas for education and corporate governance.

Over at ECT, which tends to deliver some pro-patents articles, the coverage of Bilski agrees with the assessment that software patents have been weakened. It’s being backed only by quoting.

Moreover, the court indicated that “[p]urported transformations or manipulations simply of public or private legal obligations or relationships, business risks, or other such abstractions cannot meet the test, because they are not physical objects or substances, and they are not representative of physical objects or substances.”

Glyn Moody meanwhile reviews some literature and explains how the nation of commons applies to patent, in the form of a cautionary lesson.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not a fan of the term “intellectual property”, and that I prefer the more technically correct term “intellectual monopolies”. Despite that, I strongly recommend a new book from someone who not only approves of the term “intellectual property”, but of its fundamental ideas.

Intellectual monopolies are rarely here to help, unless one is a lawyer. Any patent for that matter carries with it a burden that may involve ethical issues, but that’s a subject that we’ve already explored over the weekend.

“Intellectual property is the next software.”

Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft patent troll

The Latest of ‘Open’ XML is Another Scam

Posted in Deception, Law, Microsoft, Open XML at 10:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It’s not a viewer, it’s a translator

OOXML translation

THIS subject, which we covered very briefly yesterday, attracted a lot of Microsoft apologists, Novell boosters, Mono enthusiasts, and revisionists of sorts. A careful look at some more articles reveals an even uglier picture than we first saw (with greater effects than initially imagined).

Microsoft’s media mole is mentioned in this IDG article, which improperly characterises another push around Microsoft’s proprietary formats, which ruined ISO.

The new tools were outlined in a blog posting by Peter Galli, a Microsoft senior open source community manager.

Open XML Document Viewer translates Open XML documents to an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) Web page, allowing readability of those documents on Web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, he wrote. A Community Technology Preview (CTP) of the tool is available on Microsoft’s Codeplex site.

Got that? Microsoft terms and licences. Moreover, there is lots of deception in the media, e.g.:

Even The Register covers the story:

Microsoft has today released a plug-in for Firefox that allows Open XML documents to be viewed within the popular open source browser. The software giant said that its new Open XML Document Viewer works within Firefox and can be used on Windows and Linux platforms without needing a local installation of MS Office. .. So today’s announcement will be seen – by MS at least – as going some way to placate the firm’s naysayers.

Let’s check the source.

Interoperability solutions announced today translate Open XML documents to a Web page (HTML) allowing readability on Web-friendly browsers such as Firefox,…

Get it? It’s not a viewer? It’s a translator to HTML and there is no word on the quality of this.

OOXML is bad

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