Reuse of old trash
Novell or its lackeys might be spreading old posts from months ago at this very moment. Why else would such old ‘news’ reach the front page of Slashdot and Digg despite being a repetition and a duplicate? The modified headline is “Michael Meeks Says OO.o Project is “Profoundly Sick”.” What a nice Christmas gift from Novell to the company which did much of the heavy lifting.
We mentioned this yesterday and we wrote about it at the time when it was first published. A couple of months later, wrote Anivar Aravind: “Novell was mainly promoting their fork of OpenOffice 3.0 (after they implemented notorious OOXML support & forked it after OOO3 moved to to LGPLv3)& SUSE in their stall. Most of the participants in the Conference were newbies and Novell is the only GNU/Linux distro widely promoted in the exhibition. Our protest is not targeted at Organizers or Novell. It was just a way to spread awareness on Novell’s evil trends through the posters to protect new users being misguided.”
One of our readers points out that “Meeks isn’t even an OOo developer. He’s be working on a hostile fork. The fork has been used to inject Microsoft technology and to attack Sun. It’s time to point out publicly again that Meeks is not an OOo developer.”
We’ll write some more about it later. Microsoft hopes to eliminate competition such as Java — via gradual weakening of Sun — because lacking competition means that they can set the rules. Internet Explorer and Netscape are good examples of such battles. It’s worth remembering that Novell promotes Microsoft technologies (it supports ActiveX, Windows Vista, Internet Explorer, .NET, and even XAML).
Novell seems to be spending an awful lot of time attacking Red Hat and Sun/OpenOffice.org rather than Windows and Microsoft Office, respectively. That’s the price to pay for allowing Novell to become a Microsoft ally. █
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“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.”
THERE IS NOTHING joyful about layoffs, but Microsoft caused so many companies to lay people off, usually by committing crimes, for which they paid relatively minuscule fines. Therefore we feel comfortable enough to show that Microsoft will likely sip its own poison of endless greed while it approaches debt (assuming it’s not already in it [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]). From the Financial Express:
New York: The world’s top software firm Microsoft has been asked to cut its workforce by 10 per cent, or about 9,100 employees, to tell the market that profits are more important than revenue growth in difficult times.
Brokerage firm Oppenheimer & Co’s analyst Brad Reback has said in a report on Microsoft that such layoff exercise “would be a healthy move for the company.”
For a company that “savors” the destruction of other companies — to borrow the words of James Plamondon — this might not be sob story. There is always cheaper labour (Abramoff Visas) and government connections to serve as a last resort. █
Older news (chronological):
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IT REALLY ought to be added, further to this previous post which only alluded to political influence, that Microsoft has a nice cycle going on. Microsoft earns money, some of which is passed to personal accounts, such as Gates’ (Foundation), which can then be funneled back into governments, whose representatives in turn feel obliged to excessively pay Microsoft for software (e.g. BECTA and the NHS in the UK). The way this is set up, politicians and Microsoft get rich in a closed cycle of money and/or favours, where the only ‘feeder’ is the taxpayer. GNU/Linux companies are locked out of this cycle because they can’t introduce kickbacks and such.
This is also how Microsoft can ensure that all kids are raised to think that Windows is an integral part of each computer and anything different from it is alien and difficult. In other words, the very same funds or so-called ‘donations’ Microsoft brags about are usually the equivalent of free drugs to schools, which later bring a lot more revenue. Microsoft tried to brag about such donations at the end of 2008, but it neglected to mention what type of donations they were. Many of them do a lot more harm than good. They keep an addictive and harmful cycle alive. █
“Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.”
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Originally published in Datamation in February 2008 and reached the front page of Slashdot
Articles about Microsoft’s bid have probably tired you to death by now, but this article discusses one particular aspect of the potential takeover, namely its effect on GNU/Linux and BSD users. Here is a point-by-point analysis of the impact, which ought to cover several of the key issues.
Funding to the Source
In order to improve its public image, Yahoo recently organized initiatives like workshops which are targeted at open source developers. Think of these as the distant equivalent of Google’s Summer of Code, which provided funding to Free software projects such as KDE, WordPress, Drupal and various independent projects that begin as nothing more than a proposal from an ambitious computer science student with spare time.
Microsoft sells software for the desktop, unlike Yahoo which is more focused on services that are delivered over the Web. Had Microsoft acquired Yahoo, there would either be a conflict of interests or a situation where open source projects receive funding if and only if they build upon (even enrich) the Microsoft stack, including Windows. The Yahoo we once knew would no longer offer the same kind of treatment to Free software.
Duplication Makes Convergence
Yahoo and Microsoft offer many similar services and software. There is plenty of overlap. It would be insane to keep maintaining two competitive products within the same company, so either convergence or deprecation is expected.
Under Microsoft’s ‘regime’, so to speak, Yahoo’s software and services are likely to get worse for GNU/Linux users rather than get any better. Due to the companies’ scale, there are complicated vested interests at play. For starters, think about software compatibility with multiple operating systems. But let’s explore this even further in the sections below.
Open Source Zimbra
Members of the development community of Zimbra, as well as various customers using the software, are rightly worried. Yahoo acquired Zimbra a relatively short while ago and Zimbra competes quite directly against Microsoft Outlook, Exchange, and parts of the “Live”-branded services.
Had Microsoft acquired Yahoo, it is very unlikely that Microsoft would assist businesses that defect away from it by actually fostering Zimbra. Would a plug be pulled? Zimbra typically runs on a Free software stack with GNU/Linux at the very bottom of this stack. Would Microsoft keep Zimbra and make it more Microsoft stack-oriented? Would it change the project’s goals and direction just as it did with Xen after Citrix, arguably a Microsoft ally, had acquired XenSource?
Lights Out for LAMP and FreeBSD?
Yahoo is somewhat popular among BSD advocates because it takes pride in its deployment of FreeBSD-powered servers. Interestingly enough, Hotmail too used to run FreeBSD before it was acquired by Microsoft. Hotmail is believed to have been migrated to Microsoft technologies since the takeover, but more recent rumors tend to deny this. Can Microsoft be using Free software very secretly? Can it actually hide this significant nugget of information from the public eye?
For a definite fact, various Microsoft sites run or depend on GNU/Linux. Networking equipment, including routers at Redmond, has components in it which are built using embedded Linux. Microsoft’s fairly recent $6 billion acquisition of aQuantive was a case of buying a company whose infrastructure is based on Free software too. The same goes for Newsvine, which Microsoft acquired last year. So what would be the destiny of Yahoo’s own servers? It is difficult to tell, but it is possible that a switchover is inevitable.
Web Browser Support
Yahoo has a history of being relatively Linux-hostile and sometimes hostile towards Web browsers other than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. This is a reputation that Yahoo simply earned for itself. Would this ever be improved had an acquisition by Microsoft materialized? Would things be getting even worse? The latter seems more likely.
Silverlight in Yahoo?
Silverlight is a new technology from Microsoft and it competes directly against Adobe’s Flash. Silverlight works on Apple Macs and Windows PCs, but not on other platforms. A project from Novell called Moonlight strives to fill the gap for GNU/Linux users and it sometimes gives the illusion that Silverlight is in fact supported under GNU/Linux. But there are limitations imposed on distribution. Software patent woes play a role as well.
“It is important to remember that Silverlight can be used to discriminate against GNU/Linux users, turn them away from Web sites in a variety of ways, or make them more sensitive to software patent threats.”Using its channel of partners and its own Web properties, Microsoft has slowly begun spreading Silverlight across the Web. Silverlight is even being recommended now among the system updates for Windows users, alongside security patches. Microsoft.com is said to be heading towards a Silverlight-rich redesign whose purpose seems to make this technology more widespread and thus unavoidable. Would Yahoo follow suit had Microsoft acquired it? Yahoo is the most visited Web site in the World Wide Web, based on Alexa’s traffic ranks.
It is important to remember that Silverlight can be used to discriminate against GNU/Linux users, turn them away from Web sites in a variety of ways, or make them more sensitive to software patent threats. Moonlight is, after all, built upon Mono, which is a clone of .NET, for which Novell pays royalties as a form of legal coverage.
On several occasions in the past year, Yahoo was accused of censorship against open source software. Yahoo Answers, for example, rejected and deleted advice advocating the use of GNU/Linux or BSD. Yahoo remained silent for many months before complaints became loud. It then responded to this by saying that it was not a matter of policy. Mischievous moderators are likely to be reprimanded.
One cannot help but think that if Yahoo was staffed by Microsoft employees or if Yahoo’s existing staff served Microsoft, then competitive threats such as Free software would be treated less fairly than ever before. According to Mary Jo Foley, a long-time journalist specialising in Microsoft’s business, the company may have recently been caught altering search results to assist or defend business goals.
Yahoo, unlike Microsoft, has its search engine used by many different people, so corporate censorship, as opposed to political censorship, is an iffy territory to approach. Tolerance and balance is what makes the Web more credible, whereas policing has trust eroding.
Ways Forward and Conclusion
Amid new rumours and unapproved reports that Rupert Murdoch wishes to bid for Yahoo, one ought to think about the dangers of consolidation. When two companies collide or merge, another is often marginalized. This was seen just a week ago when Nokia acquired Trolltech, hurting some of its rivals in the process.
The main sufferer here, just in case Yahoo and Microsoft are combined to gain market share, is Google. Being one of the prominent supporters of Linux, Google deserves defending against this possible acquisition. Moreover, for the reasons listed above, GNU/Linux users ought to realize that there is nothing too encouraging about the big news from last week. █
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Blast from the past, regarding JDK
When Microsoft announced “support” for ODF, people were baffled to find that Microsoft rejected the newer version (1.2) of the standard and chose an older one instead (1.1). Microsoft does not mean well, but it sure pretends and fools a lot of reporters along the way. For a little bit of background on Microsoft’s promised “support” of ODF:
Microsoft must control the formats in order to promote its business. That’s just the way it operates and ethics can be neglected, even obedience of the law. It’s not just a corporate stigma but a well-proven pattern.
Microsoft’s long and brutal fight against Java is nothing new. It started with an embrace, but Microsoft developed its own surrogate, .NET/C#.
Bill Gates’ attitude towards JDK is telling
[PDF]: “I think supporting JDK 1.1 is fine and I am hard core about NOT supporting JDK 1.2. I really needed to understand where we were going to dnaw the line because I am so afraid of the slippery slope.
“If you think we should support JDK 1.2 its ok but you will really have to explain why and where it stops.”
So Gates says OK to 1.1 but not to 1.2 of something related to Sun. Does that sound familiar? Same version numbers, similar companies at play, and a bizarre snub amid antitrust violations.
When Microsoft declared support for ODF 1.1 people were suspicious. Maybe it’s time to take this little voyage back in time and learn from history. When Microsoft says it will “support” something, it often just means it will “[E]mbrace” that something. And we all know what comes after the first “E” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].
One reader said that we “could even mention the negative effect that Microsoft has had on Sun’s Java. First, they tried to “pollute” it with their own Windows-optimised version of Java APIs and then, when Sun’s lawsuit stopped that strategy, Microsoft’s responce was an embrace-and-extend ploy with C# and .NET.” Further, concludes this reader, “It still amazes me that someone who aligns himself with Sun could sneer at Microsoft as if they only fight FOSS and they don’t affect his preferred vendor.” █
A nice cuppa Java that Microsoft tries spilling
Correction from a reader (02/01/2009): there is no ODF 1.2 standard. ODF 1.2 is under active development, but no one knows what it will say when adopted by OASIS. And it won’t be stable before it’s been through the JTC 1 wringer. OASIS ODF 1.1 is the latest adopted version of ODF. It’s ISO/IEC:26300 plus some accessibility extensions.
To suggest that Microsoft should implement a standard that does not yet exist is really taking things over the edge quite a bit. [...] There are far better issues to beat up Microsoft with than accusing it of malfeasance because it did not implement a standard that does not yet exist.
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