Monkey see, monkey do
Novell has a new announcement about SLERT, which is its real-time operating system. It’s trying to steal Red Hat’s thunder, using Red Hat's own work. It seems likely that Novell is paying for benchmarks that favour it; however, to read the accompanying full report one needs to register (Novell is not listed among sponsors of the benchmarking company).
But anyway, this post is not about Novell as a real-time Linux leech or about its ability to pay for so-called studies (with or without proper disclosure). We have some prior examples of both. This post is about a problem that was highlighted a fortnight ago. It’s about news which is covered only in Novell’s own words.
The gist of it all is that coverage in news sites goes like this: grab a press release, change a word here and there, change layout and voila! Here’s a new ‘article’ (just like the publisher/marketing department desires). This leads to infectious dissemination of disinformation, which if repeated often enough might as well become truth in the minds of people. It drives away ‘dissenters’ who are courageous enough to challenge flawed consensus.
We hereby present the evidence we have and leave it for readers to make personal judgment, mostly based on the opening paragraphs (although the remainder is equally compelling as evidence).
Here is the press release about it. It opens with:
Novell today announced that in independent tests performed by the Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC®), SUSE® Linux Enterprise Real Time delivered the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS), as well as the highest RMDS throughput for a two-socket server. These impressive results for Novell were significantly better than similar benchmark tests performed by STAC on other Linux* and UNIX* operating systems. Novell was able to achieve simultaneously high throughput rates and extremely low latencies because of close collaboration with its technology partners – HP, Intel® and Voltaire. Customers using the solution from Novell and its partners which produced these record-breaking results will be able to compete more effectively in their markets.
Here is some very junk ‘journalism’, which is a slight edit of the press release. It comes from CIOL (India).
Novell announced that in independent tests performed by the Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC), SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time delivered the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS), as well as the highest RMDS throughput for a two-socket server.
These impressive results for Novell were significantly better than similar benchmark tests performed by STAC on other Linux and UNIX operating systems. Novell was able to achieve simultaneously high throughput rates and extremely low latencies because of close collaboration with its technology partners – HP, Intel(R) and Voltaire. Customers using the solution from Novell and its partners which produced these record-breaking results will be able to compete more effectively in their markets.
Compare this to the press release.
Here is another one, this time from Trading Markets.
Novell, a company that delivers the Linux platform and a portfolio of integrated IT management software, announced that in independent tests performed by the Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC), SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time delivered the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS), as well as the highest RMDS throughput for a two-socket server.
Wall Street & Technology published this thing:
Novell said that in independent tests performed by the Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC), SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time delivered the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS), as well as the highest RMDS throughput for a two-socket server.
The author is said to be “Leslie Kramer”, so the reader would think that it’s original. It’s also published here in FinanceTech. Compare it to the press release.
No wonder people just parrot what they see in the press. Maybe they can cite 5 ‘independent’ sources like the ones above to claim that this is corroborated and investigative journalism, as opposed to just the borrowing of Novell’s own mouth. So much blind acceptance and obedience in the press prevails, even when Novell lies in its press releases (the financial department is dishonest as well [1, 2, 3, 4]). It’s very sad, but moreover it’s dangerous.
Another one that’s similar to the press release:
Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC) has benchmarked Novell’s Suse Linux Enterprise Real Time at the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS), as well as the highest RMDS throughput for a two-socket server. Novell says it was able to achieve simultaneously high throughput rates and extremely low latencies because of close collaboration with its technology partners – HP, Intel and Voltaire.
LinuxDevices did a fairly decent job in comparison, but it still reads like the press release.
The Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC) has benchmarked Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time (SLERT) delivering record-breaking performance, says Novell. SLERT results showed “the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS),” claims the company.
The Register was probably the only exception. It takes a broader and insightful view on this subject.
The two key commercial Linux distributors, Red Hat and Novell, have both announced real-time variants of their respective distros: Red Hat Enterprise MRG (pronounced “merge” and short for messaging, real-time, and grid) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time (or SLERT for short). Novell got into the real-time game first of these two companies, with the first SLERT 10 release launched in September 2006 with partner and long-time real-time operating system provider Concurrent Computer.
So, the prize goes to Timothy Prickett Morgan, who actually understands the technical stuff that he writes about. He offers news and analysis in context, not shameless self-promotion from Novell.
Only 1-3 out of 8 ‘articles’ are not an echoing of Novell’s press release. That’s a very bad ratio, so ‘signal’ will be washed away by PR ‘noise’.
Why do people trust ‘the press’ again? Because it’s funded by companies like Microsoft and billionaires like Bill Gates? The example above just happens to be the latest, but this is very typical. Perhaps we should point this out more frequently in the future. █
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THE release of OpenSUSE 11.1 is less than a week away. While the project is marketed as though it’s independent from Novell (it’s not), the company is in poor shape following bad results (the partners at Microsoft are on the same boat). Here is a curious bit from the news:
“There are companies out there that used a huge chunk of their cash to make acquisitions recently, or they bought back their stock at two or three times its current level. Now that the time is finally right, they can’t do a buyback,” said Mark Murphy, a Piper Jaffray Companies analyst who follows Novell Inc. “They’re looking and saying, ‘Is this Armageddon? Is it the Great Depression, Part II?’ What exactly are they sinking into here? So they’re retrenching when ideally they should be doing the opposite.”
Novell’s stock buyback program has been a conservative one so far, designed to maintain value for shareholders as the company disburses stock-based compensation to employees, said CFO Dana Russell. But Russell acknowledged the company is feeling pressure from its shareholders to spend the cash it holds. In today’s interest market, cash earns only 1 to 2 percent, he pointed out. “People don’t invest in companies like Novell to get a 1 or 2 percent return,” he said.
Dana Russell is right. Some people invested in Novell only to see half of their money gone. That’s almost -50% ‘return’ to be precise, not “1 or 2 percent return.”
Then, there’s the series of acquisitions (recent example). That would be Novell trying to buy its way out of persistent losses while at the same time buying back its own stock [1, 2] to prevent shares from dropping into oblivion.
Novell is far too dependent on Netware [1, 2] and on Microsoft's mercy/giveaways. It’s very much like SCO with a dying UNIX business and cash infusions from Microsoft. SCO too used to contribute to Linux. █
“…Microsoft wished to promote SCO and its pending lawsuit against IBM and the Linux operating system. But Microsoft did not want to be seen as attacking IBM or Linux.”
–Larry Goldfarb, Baystar, key investor in SCO
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Because the biggest criminals wear suits, not jumpers
Being a large company is no crime. However, behaviour is a separate factor and it’s unfortunate that regulation has been so utterly poor, which means that those who are corrupt also meet the most ‘success’.
We see the effects of this in the global crisis right now because those who are rich are doing fine, whereas those who are poor are marginalised further and forced to pay big corporations in order to ‘save’ them (from their own fraud).
Has everyone read about the $50 billion Madoff corruption yet? Everyone should. It’s in today’s news.
The Software Felon
Companies like Microsoft grow to become political creatures that laugh at the government [1, 2]. This is something that we covered — using plenty of extensive evidence — so many times before. Here is the news story about Microsoft’s latest fight against European law, which it refuses to obey. It’s not inability. It’s unwillingness, it's vanity and it’s hubris.
Trade groups the Association of Competitive Technology (ACT) and the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) will side with Microsoft, while IBM, Oracle and Red Hat will help the Commission defend itself in the court appeal.
Got that? Microsoft and its fronts are so adamant and vicious that the European Commission needs to be defended by large American companies like Oracle and IBM. Yes, a high legal authority needs to defend itself like a coward, having witnessed the smear campaigns Microsoft et al launched at Neelie Kroes for ‘daring’ to call for (and yet to restore) justice.
The text quoted above would also be useful to few naive people who still stubbornly deny that CompTIA [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] and ACT [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9] are Microsoft mouthpieces. These are people who virtually work for Microsoft, but can pretend not to because they do their trade under titles which sounds more neutral, e.g. BSA [1, 2, 3, 4], being an equivalent of the RIAA or MPAA.
The article continues:
The Free Software Foundation Europe, the Samba Team of open-source software programmers, the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) will also turn up in support of the Commission, the court said in a statement released earlier this week.
Microsoft failed to honor this order for three years after the 2004 ruling, employing delaying tactics despite being threatened with further fines. The Commission imposed an additional €600 million in fines because of the delays.
Yes, that’s the same old Microsoft, whose ways never changed.
The two sides here are not equal per se. Freedom is no “religion” and those who battle against freedom and human rights have all sorts of names, none of which seems appropriate to include here. Sometimes there are no gentle words when approaching a hard issue, but need truth really be a taboo?
Apple vs. Microsoft (or Mac OS versus Windows) is a battle of egos and a battle between vendors, but both are harmful to the users, who are manipulated into not realising this and not even valuing what they have and what they gradually lose.
The Hardware Felon
Intel continues to treat governments like they are some nuisance or a bunch of obnoxious kids. Intel is so full of itself that it believes only ‘responsible adults’ who run the corporations should decide what qualifies as a bribe and what does not. This series of patronisations now extends beyond Europe as Intel takes its ‘beef’ over to Korea where it wishes not to pay heavy fines for crimes it committed (with conviction).
Intel takes legal swing at Korean antitrust decision
The watchdog ordered Intel to cough up $18.6m for violating fair trade rules. The Commission ruled that Intel paid rebates to South Korean computer firms to undercut arch rival AMD.
Intel was charged by the regulator in June last year for violating antitrust laws following a two year investigation into the company’s business dealings in South Korea.
It is disappointing to see what comes out of Intel’s crimes, a recent example of which is the case of collusion (a joint conspiracy with Microsoft). We covered this in:
Speaking of Will Poole and NComputing, the company has just added an executive from Intel, which is the very same company that fought against a charity, OLPC. Yes, one might add the role of OLPC (NComputing, like Intel, fought against it) and the recent example of corruption in the OOXML fiasco. Intel supported Microsoft’s OOXML, of course.
Unless governments are able to regain a grip on corporations, there will be a reversal of roles (or a continuation, if not exacerbation, of this reversal). This means that we, the ‘little people’, are left at the mercy of people in companies who want to “cut off air supplies”, “tilt into death spirals” and “whack” those who are disobedient. And that’s just a sample of Microsoft vocabulary and attitude towards legitimate competitors. It gets worse. █
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Guest post by SubSonica
Microsoft never utters the phrase “Free Software”. Microsoft tries to obliterate the meaning of “Free Software” as in fighting-for-freedom- and-against-monopolisation- of-knowledge-software (remember the distasteful comments of Bill Hilf, one of Microsoft executives, saying “Free Software doesn’t exist in 2007″, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and etc ad nauseam) and instead substitute it by the much-easier-to-tame “Open Source” phrase, which they promote for everyone to embrace, without any ethical implication whatsoever which must represent just a way of developing software and monetizing it.
Yes, they do. When trying to infiltrate and destroy a new market they don’t dominate yet, they always try to invent similar-but-not-quite-the-real-thing marketing words and denominations for their products in order to introduce confusion to the unsuspecting public that will probably confuse them with the original thing or somehow try transmit the impression they were the original ones: “Shared Source” instead “Open Source”, “MPL” instead of “GPL”, “MS-lmpl” instead of “LGPL”, “Open XML” instead of “Open Document”, CodePlex (for GooglePlex), etc… you get the pattern…
For example, I read a story earlier this week about a company named Aras that radically shifted its strategy in the last year, switching from a traditional proprietary model to one involving “open source.” The article called attention to the fact that Aras is only making its software available for Microsoft Windows — an acceptable open source strategy, if an unusual one. But then the article indicated that Aras was releasing its software under a “shared source” license that was written by Microsoft.
Now, to anyone in the world of open source software, the term “shared source” is a red flag. The “shared source” program was and is Microsoft’s way of fighting the open source world, allowing customers to inspect Microsoft source code without giving those customers the right to modify or redistribute the code. In other words, “shared source” is not open source, and shouldn’t be confused with it. So if Aras is distributing its software under a shared-source license, then we can’t consider it to be open source, can we?
Actually, we can: It turns out that “shared source” is now the umbrella term that Microsoft uses for its policy of relatively openness and transparency, and that this program includes several different software licenses. Two of these licenses, the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL) and the Microsoft Reciprocal License (Ms-RL), have indeed been approved by the Open Source Initiative, which means that they are indeed open-source licenses. And in fact, Aras is distributing their software under the Ms-PL, which means that their software does indeed qualify for the “open source” moniker.
The confusion stems from the fact that Microsoft’s “shared source” program includes three proprietary licenses as well, whose names are similar in some ways to the open-source licenses. Thus, while the Microsoft Reciprocal License has been approved by OSI, the Microsoft Limited Reciprocal License (Ms-LRL) is not, because it allows users to modify and redistribute the software only on the Windows platform.
Even Miguel de Icaza was mad at these tactics:
Microsoft is hosting Windows-only projects on its ‘open source project hosting site,’ CodePlex. Miguel de Icaza caught and criticized Microsoft for doing this with its Microsoft Extensibility Framework (MEF), licensing it under the Microsoft Limited Permissive License (Ms-LPL), which restricts use of the code to Windows. Microsoft has changed the license for MEF to an OSI-approved license, the Microsoft Public License, but it continues to host a range of other projects under the Ms-LPL. If CodePlex wasn’t an ‘open source project hosting site,’ this wouldn’t be a problem. But when Microsoft invokes the ‘open source’ label, it has a duty to live up to associated expectations and ensure that the code it releases on CodePlex is actually open source. If it doesn’t want to do this — if it doesn’t want to abide by this most basic principle of open source — then call CodePlex something else and we’ll all move on.
Microsoft-only open source, what a mockery…
About the FSF, it never endorsed any Microsoft licence, it was the OSI that approved it as “Open Source” (not endorsed) and it was much begrudgingly, in fact some of the Microsoft licences it tries marketing as “Open Source” are listed as NON-FREE by the FSF. Of course Microsoft has issued numerous different licences that they try to market as Open Source (remember, never “Free Software”, because for Microsoft the word Free is too dangerous since for them it just means “NO MONEY”) to introduce confusion in the field, so you can never be sure as to whether a Microsoft-licensed product is really open or not… in any case anything coming from Microsoft always will have the “threat” of patents attached…
Just look at what the FSF says about Microsoft Corporation’s allegedly “open” licences:
Microsoft Limited Public License (Ms-LPL)
This license is non-free because of section 3(F), which requires that any modified software you make from the original code must run on Windows. The Microsoft Public License does not have this restriction.
Microsoft Limited Reciprocal License (Ms-LRL)
This license is non-free because of section 3(G), which requires that any modified software you make from the original code must run on Windows. The Microsoft Reciprocal License does not have this restriction.
Microsoft Reference License
This is a non-free license: you are not allowed to modify the software at all, and you are only allowed to share it under very particular circumstances.
Microsoft’s Shared Source CLI, C#, and Jscript License
This license does not permit commercial distribution, and only allows commercial use under certain circumstances.
Microsoft has other licenses which it describes as “Shared Source”, some of which have different restrictions.
Microsoft Windows Embedded CE 6.0 Shared Source License
This license is non-free because it places various limitations on the kinds of modifications you can make. For example, your modified software must run on Wince, and you are required to provide end user support for your software.”
“Patent grant,” say the licences. Surely they must be joking. What use is a patent grant if I cannot pass the rights downstream? Clear and unambiguous you say? C’mon, give me a break! these clauses are just more FUD and fear mongering, and totally useless against a proxy attack (a Microsoft’s specialty) since they do not specify which specific patents they refer to, so it can provide you with rights for anything in the world or nothing at all. Moreover, there is no place for patents in software. Software is not patentable outside the US and should never be. Anyhow, as if there weren’t Free and Open Source licences galore already to choose: who the hell needs Microsoft’s licences except Microsoft itself?
The Patent Poison Pill
What happens if you file a claim regarding a patent implemented in the work? The MSPL section 3B says:
That is, if you initiate legal action against any contributor to the work regarding a patent which the work may infringe, your right to the patents of that contributor (under this agreement) go away.
Set aside that commentary for a moment. The Apache 2.0 license (again section 3) is much more strict:
If you file a claim (even in response to a claim) that the work infringes on one of your patents, against anyone, not just a contributor, you lose this license’s grant of patent usage.
Now neither license offers any protection against patent trolls who don’t use the software at all, but adding such language to any OSI-approved license is difficult. (Such language would likely overreach the scope of the license and offer no protection.) However, it’s interesting to see how anemic the MSPL is.
Suppose I, as an individual, contribute to a work licensed under the MSPL. A company which uses the work decides that my contribution infringes upon one of their patents, and files suit against me. Under the terms of the license, they no longer have an implicit right to any patents I hold on the work.
The problem is that I don’t hold any software patents. As an individual, it’s likely that I never will. Worse, I don’t even have to be a contributor. I could even be a mere user of the work, and a likely target. (It’s even more fun to point out that even if you receive MSPL-licenced code from Microsoft, they can revoke their patent grant immediately and file a claim against you. You might get some traction with estoppel, but the license language isn’t that strong, and a SLAPP that gets thrown out eventually is still painful.)
If I had contributed instead to a work under the Apache 2.0 license, all patents held by all contributors–revealed or not–are on the line. Note also that the target of the legal action does not have to be a contributor to the software. The target can be completely independent of the project. The target doesn’t even have to use the software.
With a patent protection clause as anemic as MSPL 3B, I wonder why even bother adding it to the license. Though I don’t really believe it’s this useless as part of some sinister master plan, I think it demonstrates that Microsoft still doesn’t understand that there’s no distinction, in terms of our licenses, in the FOSS world between users, contributors, and companies.
Microsoft is yet at the “Embrace” stage with respect to Free and Open Source Software. At the “infiltrate” stage. Of course, in order for them to kill Free Software through EEE (embrace, extend, extinguish) they must go beyond standards and protocols. Free Software is very much a different beast as a competing company or product. They need to re-define the very philosophy of Free Software, marginalize the FSF and any related movement (because, oh, the GPL is sooo restrictive!, Free Software advocates are soooo radical and religious zealots, sooo communists, such a big “cancer”…) it and restrict FOSS just to Open Source with legal burdens so they can monetize it. But first they need to disguise themselves as “part of the community”… and we are already seeing the problems: Windows-only software, non-free licences specifically designed to introduce confusion, patent threats, bizarre open-source “redefinitions” i.e. are you open source? No: we are open to collect patent royalties… and in the meanwhile they send some drones to stalk any site that tries to raise awareness and ring the alarm bells about their strategy! █
Picture by SubSonica
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