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Why the OpenSUSE FAQ Misses the Point

Posted in Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Open XML, Patents at 5:10 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

THOSE WHO can spare 5 minutes should probably read the whole thing. It’s a very good and detailed analysis that echoes a lot of what we’ve been showing. Here are some bits of interest:

I consider enthusiatically supporting a company that calls your underlying community a “cancer” to be a “sell out”. I consider promoting Microsoft technologies to the direct detriment of competing Free and Open Source technologies to be a “sell out”. The “clear conditions” and “few specific areas” are irrelevant. The question of “selling out” is very much a subjective one, because it requires one to make a value judgment based on actions. And that’s about as far as you can go with the arguement on whether Novell “sold out” or not – do you think they did? (Hint: the answer is yes.)

And “fierce competitors”? Please. Microsoft has two major development platforms it wants deployed right now: .NET and Silverlight. Novell is doing everything it can to spread both of them wherever it can.


Well, I don’t know what you mean by “pushing”. I do know that:

* Miguel de Icaza thinks OOXML is “superb”, superior to ODF, called criticism of it “FUD”, considers ISO approval was a good thing, and so on [1] [2] [3].
* Novell announced that the “Novell edition of the OpenOffice.org office productivity suite” would support OOXML very early in the game [1]

These could be construed as “pushing” OOXML. Be careful now: the argument that OOXML support – now, after approval – is needed is not relevant. The problem is that when the discussion was started, and OOXML was proposed specificially to counter ODF, Novell stood firmly behing Microsoft.

The reason people think Novell is “pushing” OOXML, even if technically Novell recomments ODF, is because most people judge by actions, not words. Novell has taken a lot of action to support (”push”) OOXML. ODF? Not so much.

It also provides me an opening to touch on my favorite pet peeve: just because someone disagrees with you, does not mean the message is “FUD“. If someone is laying out a reasoned argument – it is not “FUD”, no matter how much you might disagree with the premise or conclusion. It doesn’t mean you agree with someone’s argument, but you don’t just get to dismiss legitimite criticism by calling it “FUD”. Let me help you out:

This is FUD: “Linux infringes on 235 Microsoft patents.” “Linux is a cancer.“
This is not


Here we have the FAQ that caused me to write this entry; I won’t use openSUSE precisely because it is “sponsored” by Novell – and so, according to the FAQ – I am being clearly ignorant and being absurd.

First, the easy pickings: Tomboy/F-Spot/Banshee/Beagle, etc. – no I don’t use any of those because I won’t have mono on any of my machines. I dare say most people that disagree with the Novell/Microsoft deal don’t use mono. (And here’s the thing: I don’t care if someone wants to use them – I just don’t think they should be included by default in some many distros. But the key to gaining mindshare is to have your products on the desktop, and that’s why Novell pushes so hard to get these things included in the default GNOME and so on.)


As I mentioned in another blog post Novell’s relationship with openSUSE is not one of “mere sponsorship”:

* openSUSE is a trademark of Novell
* openSUSE EULA is was a “Novell Software License Agreement” [I see this has changed for the new release.]
* openSUSE is promoted as “openSUSE from Novell” on Novell’s own website
* The openSUSE site is copyrighted by Novell.
* The openSUSE “Community Board” is lead by a Novell-appointed chairman, and must contain a majority of Novell employees.


In a way, this speaks to the heart of the matter: Microsoft has been hell-bent on destroying Open Source for a long, long time – and still Novell gets into bed with them. Limiting the discussion to patent issues attempts to obscure the fact that Novell is enthusiastically pushing Microsoft technology into the Open Source ecosystem as hard as it can. Patents may be one part of the issue, and an important one – but the larger issue to me is embracing an anti-Free Software company like Microsoft.

The comment from Ted Haeger is worth reading too.

Last year we analyzed the Microsoft/Novell FAQ.

No Value

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  1. AlexH said,

    December 16, 2008 at 6:09 pm


    Direct link to Ted’s comment. Worth reading for sure.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 16, 2008 at 6:13 pm


    Here is why he left.

  3. AlexH said,

    December 16, 2008 at 6:19 pm


    I read that before. It’s sad how his position is being misrepresented to attack Novell; Ted has a valid point.

  4. saulgoode said,

    December 16, 2008 at 7:24 pm


    I read that before. It’s sad how his position is being misrepresented to attack Novell; Ted has a valid point.

    It IS something of an attack on Novell, isn’t it? Correct me if I am mistaken, but he is stating that the “way” Novell went about the “deal” had a negative effect on the Free Software community (please correct me if I am mistaken; I do not wish to put words into another’s mouth).

    And isn’t this issue significant? Miguel de Icaza was hired by Novell in February of 2006 specifically because of his supposed ability to provide Novell with insight into behaving “properly” within the Free Software community. Instead what occurred is that eight months later, a decision was made — “above my pay grade” according to Mr de Icaza — that was extremely controversial to the Free Software community (and instigated a rewrite of the subsequent version of the GPL). Whether the fault lay with Miguel de Icaza, or with the Novell hierarchy, there was a severe disconnection between what they perceived as acceptable and how they acted.

    In other words, has Novell really listened to the Free Software community? Are they listening now? No! I don’t see any evidence of that. Since Novell’s exclusive deal with Microsoft, they have continued to pursue the promotion of Windows technology: OOXML, Mono, Moonlight, … even hiring a developing to continue his porting GTK and GIMP to Windows — none of this seems particularly conducive to developing relations with the Free Software community which provides Novell with the bulk of the software upon which they base their “open-source” business.

    I can certainly understand why Mr Haeger resigned his position. I can also understand that it was not particularly over the terms of the Novell/Microsoft. But it seemingly was over a problem endemic to the way that Novell viewed Free Software — and that problem has yet to be rectified.

  5. Diamond Wakizashi said,

    December 16, 2008 at 7:46 pm


    Novell is Microsoft’s bitch.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 16, 2008 at 8:17 pm



    As I remember it, Miguel knew about the deal in advance and had the power to change or stop it (he did try to change it). So did Jeremy Allison, who regretted not doing this. He told me this in our interview. Ted Haeger, on the other hand, was left ‘out of the loop’. The community senior apparently didn’t ‘matter’ enough for the managers, so he was rightly disappointed. I had been corresponding amicably with Ted before the deal was signed (actually, also afterwards).

    How could Novell totally leave OpenSUSE in the dark? And why is the OpenSUSE ‘community’ (many Novell employees) defending Novell so blindly? I was among them, but I left.

  7. Dan O'Brian said,

    December 16, 2008 at 8:29 pm


    And isn’t this issue significant? Miguel de Icaza was hired by Novell in February of 2006 specifically because of his supposed ability to provide Novell with insight into behaving “properly” within the Free Software community.

    I stopped reading after that because it is clear you are poorly informed to the extreme.

    Miguel was a co-founder of Ximian, Inc which was started in 1999. Their main focus was GNOME development (Ximian Desktop) and Evolution (which they did 100% of the development on). All of the developers were previously GNOME developers in their spare time. In 2001, Miguel started the Mono project because it was clear to him (and others) that developing multi-component/multi-million line applications (like Evolution) wasn’t scalable in C.

    In the fall of 2003, Novell bought Ximian and SUSE which were to become Novell’s foundation for their Linux offerings.

    In 2005, Novell made the deal with Microsoft without informing Miguel until around the time it was signed (but before it was announced to the public). If memory serves, Jeremy Allison was informed at the same time as Miguel de Icaza (there was a blog about this, iirc). I have no idea if Ted Haeger found out about it at the same time as Jeremy and Miguel or not, as I don’t recall it being mentioned.

    As far as “hiring a developer to port GIMP to Windows” is concerned, I can only imagine you mean Tor Lilqvist – who, I might note, was employed at Ximian to port Evolution to Windows. Before that, he had ported Gtk+ to Windows on his own time.

  8. Dan O'Brian said,

    December 16, 2008 at 8:34 pm


    Ah, right, Roy’s comment just reminded me that Miguel and Jeremy were informed of the deal (less than?) a week before it was signed (iirc, I’m getting old so my memory may be failing me here) and hence the “above my pay-grade” comment.

    As Roy mentioned, Miguel noted that it was a bad idea and that the community would be offended, but Novell execs pushed it forward anyway.

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 16, 2008 at 8:45 pm


    He slammed it (again) later:

    MIX – Novell’s de Icaza criticizes Microsoft patent deal

    Open-source pioneer and Novell Vice President Miguel de Icaza Thursday for the first time publicly slammed his company’s cross-patent licensing agreement with Microsoft as he defended himself against lack of patent protection for third parties that distribute his company’s Moonlight project, which ports Microsoft’s Silverlight technology to Linux.

    Speaking on a panel at the MIX 08 conference in Las Vegas, de Icaza said that Novell has done the best it could to balance open-source interests with patent indemnification. However, if he had his way, the company would have remained strictly open source and not gotten into bed with Microsoft. Novell entered into a controversial multimillion dollar cross-patent licensing and interoperability deal with Microsoft in November 2006.

    “I’m not happy about the fact that such an agreement was made, but [the decision] was above my pay grade; I think we should have stayed with the open-source community,” de Icaza said. He was speaking on a panel that also included representatives from Microsoft and open-source companies Mozilla and Zend.

  10. saulgoode said,

    December 17, 2008 at 1:40 am


    I stopped reading after that because it is clear you are poorly informed to the extreme.

    I will amend my statement in that Miguel de Icaza’s move to Novell occurred sometime before February 2006. I could not find out when exactly he became a VP at Novell but at a minimum he held the title in May of 2005. The February 2006 date was in my mind from an interview with Jack Messman at that time where he discussed the hiring Jim Allison and M. de Icaza because of their involvement in and understanding of the open source community.

    Regardless of the dates, I still find it strange that their in-house experts on the Linux community were not consulted during the negotiations of that Microsoft deal (which, to correct the date you provided, was announced on November 2, 2006).

  11. Shane Coyle said,

    December 17, 2008 at 3:09 am


    In an early series of postings, I had transcribed what Stafford Masie had said at the CITI conference just after the deal, here is what he had to say regarding how Miguel and Nat came to Novell

    Now, let me take you some… through some history of Novell, because I can really articulate this organically, I came back to the country end of 2003, before that I was actually at Novell headquarters, and I was part of a team that did the due diligence to get Novell into this Linux space.

    So, the reason I like standing up here and talking about open source and Novell, etc because when I was in the US, I was actually part of that team, and I humbly say so, y’know not arrogantly.

    And, its nice to see these things play out, because I understand exaclty what Novell’s commitments are. I know exactly why Novell is in this game, its not because I’ve read some marketing literature or I’ve gone to some orientation course as the new country manager for South Africa, therefore I’m here.

    I was actually part of the team that looked at this. I know exactly why, what our conviction is and why we are in this space. We fundamentally believe that the open source way of building software is a better way of delivering software, that is why we are in the open source world. It is a better way, the way software gets built, the way this crowd becomes.. is wise and is becoming wiser, and the capabilities of this open source crowd, is a phenomena that I think stems… this is just a fruit of a broader phenomena I think things like podcasting, things like blogging, things like social networking… these are things that are moving so fast, and really it is because of Tim O’Reilly’s little phrase, he’s given it that phrase and I use it often now: the architecture of participation is there.

    And, this architecture of participation allows us now to collaborate worldwide and do things that are amazing, and I think that open source software is but one fruit of this architecture of participation, so when Novell looked at this whole thing… we realized it had caught up to Netware, and in certain circumstances was surpassing Netware and… there was other aspects of it that looked very very interesting

    So when we went to the Board, and we discussed with the executives at Novell, we said we have to get into this, for no other reason but the fact we’ve got to adopt this method of building code, we need to look at it very very carefully, this collaborative method of building of a software product is an interesting method, and it seems to be better, and it seems to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before because it gives people the capability to themselves change things and it creates a platform for innovation and for excellence, its an excellence model, not a commercial model.

    So, we’re in open source not for commercial reasons only, we want to be a participant, we want to contribute, and I think we’ve proven that as Novell, and one of the things I didn’t do and now realize I should have done, I should have actually listed all of the open source projects that we participate in… y’know we are very large contributor to OpenOffice, and you’ll see some of the things we are now doing to OpenOffice which now some bloggers are saying we’re forking OpenOffice, which is not true, and I think some sanity is coming back to some of that reasoning…

    There’s alot we do to the kernel, we’ve got alot of kernel developers… we’ve got alot of file system guys, the Samba team- the project team, the Samba project team actually works for Novell. I know the recent press releases about what the Samba team thinks about the Microsoft thing doesn’t depict them working for us, but y’know what? they actually do. They used to work for HP, but now they work within us. And then we’ve got Miguel and Nat and that entire team there.

    Now, Let me take you through the legend of what occured with Novell and this whole Micr… this whole open source thing. The first step that we took was, I remember in the beginning, we looked at Red Hat very very carefully because we thought that maybe we should acquire Red Hat to get into this Linux game. Ok, the first, in fact we thought, let’s open-source Netware, we couldn’t do that.

    Then we looked at Slackware and said maybe we should take Slackware, and do something with Slackware- put a big N on it and call it Novell’s Linux distribution and.. the hardware vendors said no way, so we went back and forth, and we, y’know we threw mud at this wall continuously, and nothing was sticking. and the big problem with us inside of Novell at the time was we didn’t have people who understood the Linux community, and what we are finding out every day, is that you’ve got to understand the people aspect of this community, not just the technological aspects of this community because it is critical.

    Y’know Nat and Miguel, all the project leads, the big contributors within the company that work for us have to read a book and finish a course about that book, and the book is “How to Win Friends and Influence People”… they’ve got to finish that, because it is so critical I mean, when people post code, when they’re replying and providing commentary, whether its silly or not, you have to treat them a certain way, and that’s the success of your project, is collaboration. Ensuring people come there, contribute there and… their contributions are recognized, etc its a big big thing

    So when we went out and looked at this Linux thing, we really thought lets jump in to this open source thing in a big way and create our own distribution. Wrong. We took a big step back.

    Y’know why we bought Ximian? Does anyone know why we bought Ximian? Because they had cool software? No. We didn’t buy Ximian because of their Red Carpet software, we didn’t buy Ximian because of… the collaboration technologies that they had, we didn’t buy them for the desktop technologies that they had, we bought Ximian for one reason: we wanted people that were community heads, people that understood this community organically, that was extremely well respected, people like Nat Friedman and Miguel De Icaza, we wanted them within Novell.

    Why? We needed people that understood, participated in this community, to help and assist our strategy moving forward, because we realized that if we had just bought a Linux distribution, we’d do some silly things and we’d mess up, so we needed people to really give us guidance.

    And, when they came into the company, that is their major role, yes they are brilliant technologists, yes they definitely know how this thing stitches together, but the key reason they are there is to ensure that a proprietary, traditional proprietary vendor like Novell, participates properly in this community that we interact properly with this community, and thats the objective.

    So thats why we bought Ximian, with Ximian came alot of these open source community stalwarts, people that were well respected, people on the Linus Torvalds level, and y’know what attracted us to Ximian, whenever they spoke at LinuxWorld in the United States, I remember seeing them, when Nat and Miguel got on stage- everybody went to their presentations. Everyone. Y’know even the Linux… the vendors that had stands at the event would leave their stands and watch Miguel and Nat, and they are amazing individuals and we wanted those type of individuals.

    Now when you introduce a thing like this into your company, and you’re this proprietary Netware, Groupwise type company, its… its a hard slog, its a culture change, its a big big big culture change. Understanding wait a minute, giving away actually gives you a competitive edge vs keeping closed, its a different mindset.

    y’know its difficult to understand that y’know what, your competitive edge actually lays in collaboration and ensuring people can participate etc, versus keeping things closed and having only a small set of developers innovating around a particular thing. so, its a weird mindset and now we’re in it, we’re in it in a big way, and I’d say we’re probably the 800lb penguin now side by side, with IBM.

    We’re big in this community now, our pockets are deep, we’ve got lots of technology, we’ve got a huge customer base, lots of capabilities worldwide, big footprint, huge ecosystem behind us.

    So what we’re doing with Linux and this is our focus as Novell predominantly, we’re taking linux to the enterprise customer, that’s our participation in this community. We’re taking Linux to the telcoms of the world, the escoms of the world, the… standard banks of the world, the big companies in South Africa, thats our role.

    So when we talk about Linux and we participate in the Linux community. yes, we do it technologically, but realize the angle to everything we are doing is an enterprise angle, we represent alot of the enterprise interests, we interface with alot of the enterprises out there, and what we find sometimes in the Linux community is alot of the developers, participants don’t have that front, and feel, that we have that enterprise customers want to see in Linux or what they want out of Linux or their understanding of Linux, etc

    And, I think the Microsfot thing came from that, it came from that, and I will lead into that in a second, so Ximian- the people, then we bought SUSE, now we bought SUSE because of the direction that was given to us by people within the company that truly understood the Linux community, and I think we’ve demonstrated our willingness, I think we’ve demonstrated our commitment, i think we’ve demonstrated… our investment that we are willing to make into the community and be a responsible member of it.

  12. kowalski said,

    December 17, 2008 at 3:59 am


    woud some people PLEASE stop quoting in ful-length!! i can’t be bothered to read all that; please quote only the points that you think important

  13. Jo Shields said,

    December 17, 2008 at 4:07 am


    woud some people PLEASE stop quoting in ful-length!! i can’t be bothered to read all that


    Point 3: “Quote whole articles of more than a thousand words in their entirety. While in an offline debate, you couldn’t stand up and read fifty pages of material, nothing stops you from doing so online. Thus, if you’re not very good at forming logical arguments, all you have to do is quote others’ good arguments and thus you can bolster your weakness and outmatch your opponent.”

  14. kowalski said,

    December 17, 2008 at 4:08 am


    a-ha. now i see.

  15. kowalski said,

    December 17, 2008 at 4:10 am


    and he’s not even mentioned a point he wants to make. he just quotes and leaves me wondering: “now what the hell does he want to tell us ?”

  16. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 17, 2008 at 4:19 am


    He shows you why Miguel et al were hired, since you brought that up. But you’re regular hecklers, so you scold him.

  17. kowalski said,

    December 17, 2008 at 5:20 am


    no-one asked him ‘hey, tell me the story of your life’. if he cannot tell it in one coherent sentence he should have shut up

  18. Dan O'Brian said,

    December 17, 2008 at 8:29 am


    Presumably, Shane’s point was this paragraph (dunno why he didn’t just paste it alone):

    Y’know why we bought Ximian? Does anyone know why we bought Ximian? Because they had cool software? No. We didn’t buy Ximian because of their Red Carpet software, we didn’t buy Ximian because of… the collaboration technologies that they had, we didn’t buy them for the desktop technologies that they had, we bought Ximian for one reason: we wanted people that were community heads, people that understood this community organically, that was extremely well respected, people like Nat Friedman and Miguel De Icaza, we wanted them within Novell.

  19. bill said,

    December 18, 2008 at 12:43 pm


    I for one would consider your postings more relevant if you didn’t have an agenda that seems to blind you – you see the words Novell or Suse and feel the need to attack. It’s like when you were little someone dressed in a Novell t-shirt stole you g.i.-joe and you can’t forget it.

  20. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 18, 2008 at 12:46 pm


    Agenda? What is my agenda? Freedom? Justice? Rights?

  21. Baby In The Bath Water said,

    December 18, 2008 at 1:03 pm


    It’s pretty clear that your agenda is to badmouth Novell or openSUSE at every opportunity, even when unjustified.

    You see the world in black & white. Microsoft and Novell are pure black while you see yourself as pure white.

    Note: this comment was posted from Novell’s headquarters.

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