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02.16.09

Red Hat-Microsoft Agreement Not Malicious, But Was It Smart?

Posted in Deals, GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat, Servers, Virtualisation, Windows at 4:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

THE epic video shown above is just over one year old and it serves as an important reminder of Microsoft’s motives and attitude towards Red Hat. Nothing exists which suggests that anything has changed since then, except posturing. In fact, Microsoft reiterated the threats against Red Hat some months ago [1, 2]. Microsoft has not changed with regards to FUD and it is actively looking to spread more such fear, to this date.

When the press approached me (just 10 minutes before the embargo got lifted), my initial instinct was that “it could be worse.” At least two readers immediately disagreed, taking into account IRC and comments. They thought it was very bad. Shane rightly suggests that “true interoperability requires no agreement, just adherence to open standards (or at least working documentation).” I strongly agree with that personally. “Microsoft wants a level playing field, as long as they own the patent property rights on grass,” said one reader in IRC.

“This would help marketing of RHEL and Linux in general (with KVM ‘baked in’).”It seems safe to imagine that a lot of this is to do with hypercalls, which bring up questions that we debated before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].

It also appears possible, having not seen the pertinent details, that Red Hat will benefit if its newly-/recently-acquired KVM technology, for example, can virtualise Windows well. This would help marketing of RHEL and Linux in general (with KVM ‘baked in’).

On the other bright side, if Hyper-V becomes not a SLES-only area for decent performance, then companies will be less inclined to purchase vouchers from Microsoft/Novell (Microsoft openly calls these "patent royalties" now). Hasn’t Red Hat distanced itself from Xen somewhat, for obvious reasons [1, 2]? It’s partly because of Microsoft’s malicious, self-serving strategy around hypervisors. They hoard the market using partners and allies, but they cannot swallow the entire ocean.

Novell has admitted that for its 'interoperability' needs* (patent deal) it had received privileges and was granted access to Microsoft source code. Novell’s Justin Steinman said this to Business Review Online in 2007. Does Red Hat get the same privileges that may serve more as a path to SCO-type actions (“you saw our code and copied it”)? Is only one side receiving source code? If so, there is reciprocity really. Can the user run Hyper-V under Red Hat Enterprise Linux?

No?

Well, it’s proprietary, it’s Windows-only, but then again, KVM isn’t suited for Windows, either.

Red Hat realises that a two-way solution may be essential, but it’s not something to be terribly excited about. If someone walks over for a quiet dinner with the mafia don, it may be harmless, but it’s still within the mafia, so it’s hard to be enthusiastic about the idea. This is the same company that repeatedly issues direct accusations and threats against Red Hat and its customers. It has made no promises to end this extortionate affair, even when its own ecosystem asked the vicious ‘emperor’ to put up or shut up.

Looking at the news for a bit, we discovered that Jason Stamper got notified in advance when the scoop was still embargoed. Here is his update which contains this quote from Microsoft:

Asked how this deal compares to Microsoft’s interoperability agreement with Novell, Mike Neil, Gm virtualisation strategy at Microsoft said: “The interoperability announcement we are making today with Red Hat should be seen as more of a one dimensional agreement, whereas our deal with Novell was a multi-dimesnional agreement that covered patent rights, business collaboration and an IP agreement.”

Microsoft’s media mole soon wrote about the announcement on behalf of Fort 25[sic], whose goal is to fight directly against GNU/Linux by coercing open source projects. They have people to assist with The "Schmoozing" for Windows Initiative.

Savio Rodrigues is very easily fooled by Microsoft, so it’s not surprising that he drank the Kool-Aid and asked for more, but one the other hand, Groklaw too expressed cautious optimism.

Congratulations to Red Hat for refusing to buckle on this vital matter, and to Red Hat Legal for working out the details, and a tip of the hat to Microsoft, for facing reality and doing the right thing. And thank you, EU Commission, for creating a reality that makes it possible for the GPL to find a level playing field.

Groklaw had also praised Red Hat for settling the Firestar case in a GPLv3-compatible fashion [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] and since the site is mostly silent these days, the fact that Pamela Jones saw the need to make a statement sure speaks volumes.

Here is the coverage from Matt Asay, who wrongly believes that hatchets are being buried and everyone can sing kumbaya (well, not in these words).

Today both Red Hat and Microsoft lowered their guns long enough for customers to win. They did so without encumbering interoperability with patents, which will be critical to ensuring that Microsoft can lower its guard further to welcoming open-source solutions to the Windows fold as a full partner.

We are pleased to have been cited by ComputerWorld for our take on this subject. Here is an important gem from the article.

Yes, you read that right. Microsoft is saying that they made this deal because of Microsoft customer demand to run Red Hat Linux.

Back in September 2008, Steve Ballmer that “forty percent of servers run Windows, 60 percent run Linux…”

Is it possible that Microsoft has just become so frail that it’s willing to sign patents-free deals with Red Hat just to keep inside the market? Several months ago a source revealed to us that Microsoft had failed badly with Red Hat. They just couldn’t get a patent deal, no matter how hard they tried.
____
* Compatible to Windows, interoperable to Windows, Winteroperability.

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39 Comments

  1. Shane Coyle said,

    February 16, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Gravatar

    To answer the headline, yes, I think so.

    Red Hat gains a P.R. coup – in ‘the community’, and in the Microsoft ecosystem, being blessed by MS without having to cede any of their core position regarding interoperability without IP encumbrance.

    Microsoft actually looks totally reasonable, and a deal such as this could perhaps signal a slight strategy shift from Redmond (let’s see). and garner them some good will. Imagine a Microsoft that competes fairly, it could be fun.

    And, hopefully, their mutual customers will gain as well…

    As you’ve pointed out, the only loser is Novell, having not gained all that much for their period of exclusivity when compared to the backlash they received for the manner in which they secured and leveraged that IP "peace of mind".

  2. Friend said,

    February 17, 2009 at 3:21 am

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    Will Ubuntu follow suit with such deals ?

    Looks like M$ is after destroying the virtualization market and corner it with their own Hyper product. They started with Xen, VMWare and now KVM…

    Never trust M$. Outcome of this will be :

    KVM runs on Windows better than RH Linux.

  3. Ron said,

    February 17, 2009 at 4:14 am

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    Back in September 2008, Steve Ballmer that “forty percent of servers run Windows, 60 percent run Linux…”

    As you probably know very well he was talking about webservers only (probably why you did not link the info)

    Typical for this site.
    When it comes to stories about Microsoft the info is higly unreliable and even up to blatant lies.

  4. Shane Coyle said,

    February 17, 2009 at 5:50 am

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    Never trust M$. Outcome of this will be :
    KVM runs on Windows better than RH Linux.

    I suppose that’s possible, but if they outperform RH and the community on a level playing field, then so be it. Tip your cap, and work to beat them by next version…

    (fair) Competition is good. Yes, I am not so sure I am willing to believe that a new era in Redmond is upon us just yet, but I see nothing subversive about this deal that undermines the spirit nor the ‘laws’ of the FOSS community.

    If details emerge otherwise, y’all know I won’t bite my tongue… but this was, in my recollection, one of the first times that Microsoft has engaged with a GNU⁄Linux company and the announcement was FUD-Free.

    Of course, there’s always Mt. Ballmer, and we’ll have to see if he erupts with any FUD of his own, just like shortly after the Novell deal.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 6:08 am

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    I think it actually shows a Microsoft weakness, but it’s not going down without a fight.

  6. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:12 am

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    Shane, Windows is closed source. Did you mean that you *literally* can’t see what is subversive? [That was funny.]

    Nothing has changed. Microsoft still needs FOSS to fail. It still needs to embrace it. It still won’t show their code.

    It’s pretty simple. Why do people keep pretending that maybe everything is OK?

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Gravatar

    Red Hat made this careful judgment and, unlike Novell, it is not run by former IBMers (who like software patents) and has no reliance on proprietary software.

    Microsoft signed this deal because it helps Windows. You need to find out at whose expense it gains. Is it UNIX, Debian…?

  8. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Gravatar

    >> Red Hat gains a P.R. coup – in ‘the community’, and in the Microsoft ecosystem, being blessed by MS without having to cede any of their core position regarding interoperability without IP encumbrance.

    Not sure what PR coup. To me they either look foolish or having caved to pressure from clients.

    Red Hat should explain to their customers that interop with closed source software, especially the kind of software (monopoly and many stack levels closed integration) from the kind of company we are talking about does not work. Maybe they tried. Who knows.

    >> Microsoft actually looks totally reasonable, and a deal such as this could perhaps signal a slight strategy shift from Redmond (let’s see). and garner them some good will. Imagine a Microsoft that competes fairly, it could be fun.

    Fairly with closed source monopolies? You jest?

    Shane, have you been reading BN? You don’t have to believe every drop to know something is wrong.

    I suppose embracing can be called “totally reasonable” by the python. It’s always “totally reasonable” for someone.

  9. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Gravatar

    >> Microsoft signed this deal because it helps Windows. You need to find out at whose expense it gains. Is it UNIX, Debian…?

    Microsoft can play their interop in various ways. I can almost assure you that the methods they use will be to help remove open Red Hat from the picture (ie, move control and revenues to themselves).

    People have to take a stand and say “no” to hoodlums because if you are half-honest or have half a conscience you will eventually likely lose if you try to play their hardball games using a softball mentality.

    I can see how sometimes you do want to play along in the game. It’s Red Hat’s business, so I am sure they are thinking a lot about this.

    Don’t give up your advantages. Interop with closed source monopolies is garbage. If you play that game, you are either extremely clever/powerful (or think you are), or feel charitable (and likely underestimate Microsoft), or had a lapse (in which case, you should try and recognize the mistake and fix it as quickly as possible).

    There is nothing level about a playing field where they see our cards but we don’t see theirs. Don’t try to be so smart. Instead play it conservatively by sticking to principles.

  10. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:33 am

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    To clarify: I am not a fan of this deal. I never was. It’s better than the Novell deal, but as I stated right from the start, this deal is a “not-as-bad”.

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/159615/microsoft_redhat_partnership.html?tk=rss_news

    This position mollified some critics of Microsoft’s partnering with other Linux companies. Roy S. Schestowitz, editor of Boycott Novell, said, that at first glance, that the deal “would not be as bad as signing a deal involving the licensing of codecs (2007 ish) and definitely not as bad as Novell’s patent deal.”

  11. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Gravatar

    Red Hat can work on a campaign of openness. Show Microsoft for what they are.

    Red Hat may have plans to go closed in some ways. Maybe their execs or shareholders don’t like that game. If so, I can see how they will probably fall into the same trap as many have before them.

  12. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:35 am

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    Red Hat already has “Open client/desktop”, which is not open source at all. It’s a joint IBM thing.

  13. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:36 am

    Gravatar

    I would also add to what you said before that Novell is on a tear to spread Microsoft controlled technologies (helping to save and maximize Microsoft’s existing investments) and markets for Microsoft in a number of ways. They also appear to have a truce with Microsoft to split the market in the short-term.

  14. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:39 am

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    Yes, something like that..

  15. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:45 am

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    >> Red Hat already has “Open client/desktop”, which is not open source at all. It’s a joint IBM thing.

    Many companies have closed source in their stack. I find that acceptable short term if it helps them compete against companies like Microsoft.

    [I find it acceptable in the sense that I don't worry too much about them now.]

    I don’t know if Red Hat has plans to sell out to Microsoft even worse than has Novell.

    What I am saying is that if they don’t have a commitment to openness (or some fairly open model where they can take a firm stance against Microsoft’s closed source), then they will likely play weakly against Microsoft (and lose) because they will neither be able nor willing to play the same style hardball but will also keep themselves from aggressively keeping as much as possible to the “high” road.

  16. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Gravatar

    I don’t know if Red Hat has plans to sell out to Microsoft even worse than has Novell.

    How would that come about? Please explain.

  17. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:49 am

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    >> Yes, something like that..

    LOL.

    Roy, feel free to disagree or modify what I say.

    I hate dealing with opaque things. You have to keep track of so many things (if you want to keep track). It’s a real challenge to come up with clear strategies and understandings.

    OK. Need to take a break from BN. Will be back later.

  18. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Gravatar

    >> How would that come about? Please explain.

    Well, unless it’s against something in their corporate charter or against deals made, they can attempt to make deals in the future along the lines of Novell.

    I hope they don’t. I’ll support them in some way so long as they don’t.

  19. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Gravatar

    Such a deal would not be good for their business. At the moment they have an advantage over SLES, which requires paying ‘Linux tax’ to Microsoft.

  20. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Gravatar

    For those that feel warm about Microsoft’s open talk, “interop” means interop the same way war means peace.

    [the Microsoft perspective:] You have 100 incompatibilities between each other. Great. Now fix 20 of those and pay someone to say how wonderful you are, have your “partner” waste their time fixing another 20. Make another 20 almost impossible to fix but give them hope. Don’t tell them about the next 20 but don’t deny it if they discover them over time. Deny/hide that that last 20 exist (or keep moving these around). ..And then create 100 more incompatibilities. Meanwhile leverage your time working together to learn about their weaknesses (and strengths), etc… Eventually, you move in for the kill.

    Novell was put (fell) into a difficult situation. Red Hat is constantly being pressured. Many others have fallen or been reduced to shadows.

    [We could talk about patent poisons from spreading/embracing their openness, but I'm not in the mood right now.]

  21. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Gravatar

    I’m preparing to do substantiated posts about Microsoft and “interop” and I could use some help organising the evidence.

  22. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Gravatar

    >> Such a deal would not be good for their business. At the moment they have an advantage over SLES, which requires paying ‘Linux tax’ to Microsoft.

    As a principled company (which in many ways they already are), they can rally a lot of support behind themselves. They don’t need to be the only such company or lead by themselves.

    Note that part of the astroturfing campaign against Red Hat (from what I can tell) is about saying how bad Red Hat is and how similar they are to Microsoft. Microsoft knows they have to isolate Red Hat. It’s much worse for Microsoft is Red Hat has developers and users gathered behind and around them. Microsoft is more than willing to fight Red Hat one on one (of course, with Microsoft using their levers).

    Red Hat’s best chance is to embrace openness and other good qualities more each day that Microsoft attacks them. It is a slower road, but it’s also a surer road.

    I won’t cry if Red Hat sells out or caves under pressure, but, until that day comes, I think their best shot is to campaign vigorously against Microsoft’s inherent untrustworthiness. When Microsoft falls, there will be a huge market opened. Old code will get replaced, all the faster if it is with open source (which is free to taste test).

  23. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Gravatar

    >> I’m preparing to do substantiated posts about Microsoft and “interop” and I could use some help organising the evidence.

    Whatever you come up with can be improved in reiterative fashion.

    I wanted to get a pdf done today if possible. Would it help if I tackle one of the ones on that page?

    [I would like at some point to do a coherent posting on interop-ing with closed source monopolies]

  24. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Gravatar

    Have you had a chance to read the followup post? Over in IRC this morning, one person insists that this is a win for Red Hat and a desperate act on Microsoft’s part.

  25. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Gravatar

    I wanted to get a pdf done today if possible. Would it help if I tackle one of the ones on that page?

    Yes, by all means. All those in the page are “pending publication”. We have not covered them yet as they require the full text to be extracted from the PDFs.

  26. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Gravatar

    >> Have you had a chance to read the followup post?

    I was about to read that but got side-tracked into this thread.

    I read it, now. I don’t agree with interop.

    I do think that Red Hat could do almost nothing here (ie, waste few resources and don’t allow the snake too close to your assets), but even in this case, they may come out looking incompetent (for achieving little) depending on how this plays out.

    The best card to play is the high ground card, the openness card. Explain to customers how you can’t divorce untrustworthiness from closed source. The degree may differ from circumstance to circumstance, and in Microsoft’s case, you can expect there will be little to trust.

    Red Hat may not be willing to play this card since it may alienate some partners or upset some of their plans; however, the OS and all low layers are particularly important to have opened. You need a level playing field in the minimum, even before considering whether the other team is pumped with steroids.

    This deal could theoretically turn out to be almost a no deal. I’m only saying that continuing along the “interop” path and implicitly accepting Microsoft’s terms (“interop”) is weakening your hand.

  27. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Gravatar

    I expect Microsoft to sell the idea of ‘interop” hard to customers they have in common with Red Hat.

    You have to market hard to beat Microsoft. Sell on the FOSS values. Show how Microsoft marketing is misleading or incorrect. Repeat, over and over.

    Red Hat can always turn to principles. If they play the interop game at such a disadvantage, they likely will be weakened, and this would be a negative result for their customers. Do their customers want a weakened supplier, which will mean less leverage against closed source monopolies?

  28. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Gravatar

    Yes, it’s PR and selling point to Microsoft as well.

  29. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Gravatar

    Remember who is the honest and strong one. It’s Red Hat that one that shows their hand to the customers. They need to continue to sell to customers the high value that exists in having vendors that deal in open source.

    The only snake hiding in the shadows is Microsoft. Those that are untrustworthy need to hide and fear the light.

    Snakes can be beat, but you have to give them respect. Red Hat can’t embrace the snake. They need to keep their head on straight if they expect to win. A win by Red Hat is a win for all customers.

  30. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Gravatar

    >> Yes, it’s PR and selling point to Microsoft as well.

    Microsoft will work to convince customers that interop is a fair deal and in the best interests of customers. That is far from the truth because interop benefits Microsoft over Red Hat, and a stronger Microsoft hurts customers as it gives them less leverage and options, more so because of how closed, abusive, and monopolizing Microsoft is.

    Red Hat needs to make clear that interop work is a bad use of resources that will lead to them having a less competitive position against Red Hat.

    If Red Hat makes that clear, customers will simultaneously question the “value” proposition being offered by Microsoft.

    No source. No dice.

    [Obviously, you would need source to a build tool chain so that you could effectively do all the building yourself (or have a third party do it) for verification/control/audit purposes.]

    I think it’s terribly irresponsible not to demand source code from major suppliers. Aren’t there laws about this.. about accountability and audit trails? No source code from minor suppliers might be OK, though. It’s a matter of degree (as with most things in life).

  31. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Gravatar

    >> Red Hat needs to make clear that interop work is a bad use of resources that will lead to them having a less competitive position against Red Hat.

    ..against Microsoft.

  32. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Gravatar

    Practice makes it improbable that source code will become a requirement or liability issue.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2008019929_webgatesmemo271.html

    They are the ones who give hobbyists a bad name, and should be kicked out of any club meetings they show up at.

  33. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Gravatar

    Gates is a deception artists of first rank.

    His mosquito stunt and the B&M Foundry are examples. He goes in and, in words (not actions), seizes control of the high ground so that the eventual poisons and deceptions he will deliver are accepted. You usually don’t have to lie (and preferably never will). It’s about controlling the conversation and using incorrect but reasonably sounding logic when necessary or else changing topics, etc. Some people perform this feat very very well.

    You won’t beat Microsoft as long as people buy into their poison. You first have to show the poison for what it is. If you don’t.. good luck.

    The truth is much closer to our side. We may not be perfect, but we show what counts the most. We give up the greatest lock-ins by necessity if not by choice (although many do it by choice, and, unexpectedly perhaps, the GPL has empowered many commercial entities).

    Open source is about leveling the playing field. What brought chunks of the (commercial) industry over to this approach was Microsoft’s ruthlessness and monopolizing.

  34. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 17, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Gravatar

    So you think the mosquitoes were a publicity stunt?

  35. JohnD said,

    March 4, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Gravatar

    So what would be required to have Redhat join Novell on the boycott list?
    Is it just a money matter at this point?

  36. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 4, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Gravatar

    It’s mostly a question of software patents and the GPL.

  37. Dan O'Brian said,

    March 4, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Gravatar

    Novell contribute quite a bit of GPL software and they have contributed a lot of patents to OIN which are all used to protect Linux against patent attacks.

  38. JohnD said,

    March 4, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Gravatar

    You don’t think that you’re splitting hairs?
    RedHat has been working with MS as a part of the Interop vendor alliance and now they have a virtualization agreement. Yet they seem to be wearing teflon coats as far as this website is concerned.
    One of your stated concerns with mono is that MS can change the .net spec and render mono useless – they could do the same thing with KVM.
    You’ve also stated a concern that mono would “addict” people to MS standards how is running Windows on Linux any different or better?
    I think your interests would be better served with a Boycott Microsoft site instead of making Novell your primary focus.
    I also noticed that RedHat made the same statement Novell did when they made the MS deal – “Our customers wanted it”. Are they both lying to the world? Or could it be that both companies have found out that their customers and potential customers want the products to work together and they (the customers) don’t care about the FOSS ideology?

  39. Dan O'Brian said,

    March 5, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Gravatar

    It should also be pointed out that Red Hat has indeed had similar deals. Sometime last year, a patent troll attacked Red Hat over JBOSS patents (iirc). Red Hat struck a deal with them to pay them off to protect themselves and their customers, but not anyone else.

    Just like the Microsoft-Novell deal.

    I’d also like to point out that Novell specifically *bought* a bunch of patents to contribute to OIN. No one else has done that.

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  23. Raw: EPO Comes Under Fire for Lowering Patent Quality Under the Orwellian Guise of “Collaborative Quality Improvements” (CQI)

    Stephen Rowan, the President’s (António Campinos) chosen VP who promotes the notorious “Collaborative Quality Improvements” (CQI) initiative/pilot, faces heat from the CSC, the Central Staff Committee of the EPO



  24. Making The Most of The Fourth Age of Free Software

    "For better or for worse, we can be certain the Free Software Foundation will never be the same."



  25. FSF is Not for Free Speech Anymore

    The FSF gave orders to silence people



  26. Links 16/10/2019: Plasma 5.17.0, Project Trident Moves to GNU/Linux, NuTyX 11.2

    Links for the day



  27. ...So This GNU/Linux User Goes to a Pub With Swapnil and Jim

    It's hard to promote GNU/Linux when you don't even use it



  28. How to THRIVE, in Uncertain Times for Free Software

    "The guidelines are barely about conduct anyway, they are more about process guidelines for "what to do with your autonomy" in the context of a larger group where participation is completely voluntary and each individual consents to participate."



  29. When They Run Out of Things to Patent They'll Patent Nature Itself...

    The absolutely ridiculous patent bar (ridiculously low) at today’s EPO means that legal certainty associated with European Patents is at an all-time low; patents get granted for the sake of granting more patents each year



  30. EPO Boards of Appeal Need Courage and Structural Disruption to Halt Software Patents in Europe

    Forces or lobbyists for software patents try to come up with tricks and lies by which to cheat the EPC and enshrine illegal software patents; sadly, moreover, EPO judges lack the necessary independence by which to shape caselaw against such practices


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