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03.05.09

Two Microsoft Security Setbacks and Two More Failures

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Windows at 11:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Additional signs of an ever-crumbling software giant

WITH A LOT of stuff happening today, we haven’t the time to cover this thoroughly, so here are just the pointers:

The changes Microsoft has made to Windows 7′s UAC render it little more than a pesky annoyance. If this is the path the company wishes to go down, it should stop doing things by halves and kill it off altogether.

A relatively unknown data-stealing Trojan horse program that has claimed more than a quarter-million victims in the span of a few months aptly illustrates the sophistication of modern malware and the importance of a multi-layered approach to security.

When analysts at Sterling, Va., based security intelligence firm iDefense first spotted the trojan they call “Tigger.A” in November 2008, none of the 37 anti-virus products they tested it against recognized it. A month later, only one – AntiVir – detected it.

As for general failures (not in security):

Microsoft is testing its new search product, codenamed “Kumo.” VentureBeat’s MG Siegler hopes the long-awaited upgrade to Live Search “performs better than it looks.” Reviewing the screen shots obtained by Kara Swisher, who broke the story, Siegler says Kumo looks “like a product that fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. Who picked this color scheme? Blue, light orange and gray? This looks like the ugly Cleveland Cavaliers’ basketball uniforms from the 1990s.”

As we’ve all learned by now, Windows 7 is simply a tweaked Vista. The application runtime model and API support mechanisms remain essentially unchanged. In fact, there’s nothing radically new under the hood, which I’m guessing wasn’t the original plan. Rather, integrating application virtualization into the OS and providing at least the option of running a cleaner core software stack was no doubt in the cards for Windows 7. However, expediency ultimately trumped purity, and the resulting Vista successor is now just a shadow of what it might have been (shades of the infamous “Longhorn reset”).

More to come this evening.

“LH [Longhorn] is a pig and I don’t see any solution to this problem. If we are to rise to the challenge of Linux…”

Jim Allchin, Microsoft Vice President

European Action Organised Against “Economic Parasite” (Microsoft) After TomTom Lawsuit

Posted in America, Antitrust, Europe, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 10:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Software patents protest in India

Summary: In the face of heavy Microsoft lobbying against Free software in Europe, in addition to a patent lawsuit against one Linux-based European company, backlash was inevitable

A NEW paper from IPRIA speaks about the strangulation of small players in the market which is saturated with patents. But Microsoft tells different stories using its lobbying guns and pseudo-grassroots campaigns [1, 2, 3]. It has been very busy hijacking papers and voices in Europe recently, but not everyone is willing to tolerate it.

EndSoftwarePatents.org, with backing from the FSF and FSFE, is going to stage protests that rain on Microsoft’s self-serving parade and “schmoozing” of diplomats (Microsoft bamboozled and schmoozed Commissioner Neelie Kroes).

Here are the preliminary details:

Raise awareness of ‘Economic Parasites’, Brussels, Thursday 5th 8am

EndSoftwarePatents.org will be launching the “Economic Parasites” campaign and our first action will be to inform the attendees of Microsoft’s “Growth and Innovation Day”.

Help is needed to hand out leaflets outside the entrance before this event.

Since this is very short notice, if you know someone else who might be happy to help us, please forward them this email.

Microsoft attacked free software and GNU/Linux users with software patent claims against the Tom Tom Navigator and its implementation of the FAT file system. With widespread support for GNU/Linux becoming a reality, are these patent claims an attempt to chill adoption by spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD)? Let’s remind businesses and politicians in Brussels that Microsoft is a parasite.

Microsoft’s patent aggression [1, 2] is already working quite badly against it. In fact, to illustrate the situation, here is a new TomTom cartoon. Think about the impact of Bilski [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14] because software patents may not be really valid anymore, surely not in Europe. But there are barriers nonetheless, such as this disinformation-filled page from the EPO. It’s angering a number of people who spot the propaganda language.

Why are such programs not patentable in Europe?

The EPO does not grant patents for computer programs or computer-implemented business methods that make no technical contribution. Programs for computers as such are excluded from patentability by virtue of Art. 52(2)(c) and (3) EPC. According to this patent law, a program for a computer is not patentable if it does not have the potential to cause a “further technical effect” which must go beyond the inherent technical interactions between hardware and software.

On the other hand, a CII (even in the form of a computer program) that can provide this further technical effect can be patentable, subject to the other patentability requirements, such as novelty and inventive step. In this case, it would be recognised as providing a technical solution to a technical problem.

Richard Stallman has already stated that “staff at the European Patent Office went on strike accusing the organization of corruption: specifically, stretching the standards for patents in order to make more money.” Richard Stallman, on behalf of the Free Software Foundation, has also made a call to address IETF’s monopoly enablement and he explains why.

In an e-mail message sent to various mailing lists, Mr Richard Stallman argued:

“A patented standard for software is worse than no standard, because it functions to augment the patent holder’s stranglehold over society. What everyone ought to do is resist it.

As long as the IETF allows patented standards for software, anyone can argue about any proposed patented standard that it important enough to excuse the patent. Others can argue that it is not, but since that is a question of judgment, the conclusion is never inevitable. So the risk is always broader than it might appear.”

Obviously Mr Stallman and, with him FSF, are launching an attempt to use the particular Draft standard at stake as a vehicle for launching a broader political debate on CII patenting in the wider context of the IETF.

It is important to remember whose interests are served by changing patent law so as to protect monopolies with legal means. Microsoft’s OOXML corruptions, for example, were done for an important reason (patents and control). Charles explains how these things may also relate to Microsoft’s corporate behaviour, which devolved further:

Microsoft defends itself by being Microsoft. I am not naïve and I know there were other monopolies in the recent past: But if we remember well the eighties, Microsoft used to have some charm back then. These days, it’s all about legal actions, and lobbying of international institutions. The last one is particularly shocking given Microsoft’s poor record with standardisation. But it does not stop this company to send in one of its best people, Amy Marasco, to the ITU in order to frame an intellectual property policy designed, among other goals, to hinder the FOSS sector to use standards.

By all means, Microsoft is still a monopoly abuser whose “undocumentation” (Microsoft’s own term) is not satisfactory [1, 2, 3, 4], as matter of design. So it’s disappointing to see the European Commission dropping the ball despite the clear warnings.

The EU executive appointed computer science professor Neil Barrett in 2005 to assess data provided by Microsoft — documents that he later judged as “unusable” as a manual for software engineers.

What is the European Commission thinking here?

The European Commission has relaxed the requirements of the 2004 anti-trust order against Microsoft – the software giant no longer needs its behaviour watched by a full-time “monitoring trustee”.

Could the company's many EU cronies be partly responsible for this? Microsoft’s political muscle is nothing to sneeze at [1, 2].

As the company continues to attack GNU/Linux by proxy, suspicions remain about Red Hat's latest debacle, which Heise is now covering as well.

Red Hat hit by a patent suit

[...]

According to the court filing by Software Tree, the patent has previously been re-examined by the patent office and was granted a re-examination certificate in April 2008. The filing states that Software Tree wishes the court to award unspecified damages to them for infringement and lost profit and to permanently injunct Red Hat from distributing Hibernate, while it infringes the patent.

As David Gerard points out, “this is two competitors for the price of one: Red Hat and Java.”

To summarise with just one thought in the words of Anthony J. D’Angelo, “If you believe that discrimination exists, it will.” Microsoft is always trying to marginalise — if not altogether illegalise — Free software. Whereas Microsoft claims that it’s discriminated against by Free software advocates, it seems unable to acknowledge its own hypocrisy.

The Patent ‘Reform’ Bill is a Farce

Posted in America, Free/Libre Software, Law, Patents, Videos at 9:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Reform Bill for BillG?

Summary: A summary of early coverage about the patent reform bill, which proves useless to Free software

ABOUT A YEAR ago it was suggested that companies which are interested in a patent reform merely want to remove what’s a nuisance to them while resolving none of the issues affecting individuals and small businesses. That is precisely what we’re finding in the bill which has just been introduced [PDF]. It’s hugely disappointing.

From the news:

i. Patent Reform Bill Reintroduced; More Of The Same

Unfortunately, the stuff that I think is good and necessary in the bill, such as limiting damages to the actual contribution of the patented technology, are what’s considered “controversial,” whereas many of the things I think are bad, such as switching from a “first to invent” to a “first to file” system aren’t being considered that controversial at all. On the whole, this bill would solve some problems, while creating plenty of other problems, so I have a lot of trouble supporting it.

ii. Patent Reform Act of 2009

Patent reform legislation has now been introduced in both the House and the Senate. The provisions call for major reforms and mirror much of the proposed legislation from 2008. If anything, this is not a consensus Bill.

iii. Controversial provisions remain in patent reform bill

Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress on Tuesday introduced a patent reform bill (PDF) that aims to pick up where previous patent reform efforts left off.

[...]

The latest version of the bill also strikes the 18-month publication requirement previously included, since labor unions and small inventors expressed concern that patent applicants not seeking protection abroad would see their inventions used overseas without compensation. The new bill also adopts the language from the House version of the 2007 bill that would alter the post-grant review process.

iv. Silicon Valley Raises Voice on IP Reform

The main event of the reform bill this go-round will be the debate over damages for patent infringement, according to IP experts. High-tech companies have been pushing for so-called “damage apportionment” — the idea that inventors shouldn’t get outsized payments if just a small component of a many-featured product, like a computer, is infringing on their patent….”Most of the real problems identified in [the previous] bills have been solved in the courts,” Lemley said.

v. Damages key to patent reform debate

Big computer and communications companies back the bill as a way to limit the number of patent infringement cases and damages they pay on them.

vi. US lawmakers take another shot at patent reform

The legislation, introduced in the U.S. Senate Tuesday, is very similar to the Patent Reform Act of 2007, which died on the Senate floor last year. If passed, the 2009 version would change the way the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office works, bring U.S. patent law in line with global laws, and introduce so-called “reasonable royalty” provisions, which change the way damages are calculated and would reduce the likelihood of massive payouts for some patent holders.

There is also a discussion over at Slashdot. Had the Obama administration not chosen defenders of software patent to advise on these issues [1, 2, 3], then maybe — just maybe — there would be change here. As it stands, no thought is being given to laws that hinder/facilitate freedom and fair competition. What a waste of opportunity. People are not given the choice to decide on issues that really matter.

As long as the government is run in this way, nothing will change. Below we append a new (but reused) talk from Larry Lessig*. It touches on some of the same issues. His professional focus is copyright law, not patent law, but similar/analogous rules apply.

____
* We regret that it’s too long to produce an Ogg from.

Final Analysis of Novell’s Q1 Results and Consequences

Posted in Finance, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Ron Hovsepian at 7:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell cafe

Summary: More evidence that Novell suffers from the Microsoft deal, but the company’s CEO takes bonuses

ACCORDING TO “The Var Guy”, who has been in good touch with Novell for over a year, Novell is heading down.

Check out the one-year stock charts for Novell (NOVL) and Red Hat (RHT). Neither chart is particularly impressive, but the trends are unmistakable. As the economy went from bad to worse in calendar year 2008, Wall Street lost more and more faith in Novell. In stark contrast, sometime in late November 2008 — amid heightened credit crunch concerns — financial pundits started betting heavier and heavier on Red Hat shares.

The comments in Linux Today show that many GNU/Linux users are actually encouraged by Novell’s demise. Here is one response to Novell’s excuses:

Maybe the business world really does not want to do business with Novell. Maybe business customers really do think about the implications of Novell’s deal with Microsoft.

In addition to what we’ve already referenced, here are some more financial analyses:

One issue that we have looked at before is the excessive bonuses that Ron Hovsepian is receiving [1, 2, 3]. The following essay is dedicated to this problem.

What Novell Could Learn From HP About How to Treat Employees

[...]

[C]ontrast this with the recent announcements of layoffs at Massachusetts-based software vendor Novell. Earlier this month, they laid off approximately 100 employees due to a “global economic downturn.” I have to wonder how many of those jobs could have been saved if Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian had declined to accept the sum total of his $6.9 million compensation package last year.

I mean, it’s not as if he didn’t see the potential for layoffs coming. In a December 4, 2008, conference call with analysts he is quoted as saying, “I think we are just evaluating at this point any additional restructures or activities that may take place in 2009, and those would be largely dependent on the overall economic condition and its impact to our revenues, if any.”

In other words, the writing was on the wall late last year but he still grabbed his share of the pie.

Ron Hovsepian will find it hard to dodge criticism, which now comes from IDG as well. Financial News USA covered it also.

Ronald Hovsepian, the president and chief executive of networking software maker Novell Inc., received a compensation package valued at nearly $6.9 million, according to a proxy statement filed Wednesday.
The total was down more than 5 percent from Hovsepian’s 2007 compensation of nearly $7.3 million.Hovsepian, who has served as CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Novell since 2006, received a base salary of $912,214 and $2 million in cash incentive plan compensation, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.His perquisites totaled $137,014 and included $9,200 in 401(k) contributions from the company, $112,244 in deferred compensation matching contributions and $6,263 for financial planning.

What is he being rewarded for?

In other financial news, Novell’s CFO will present at Morgan Stanley’s 2009 Technology Conference.

Novell, Inc. (NASDAQ: NOVL) today announced that Dana Russell, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Novell, will present at the Morgan Stanley 2009 Technology Conference, March 2-4, 2009 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Russell’s presentation will begin at 2:20pm PST on Tuesday, March 3.

There was also a delay.

Company representatives of Novell Inc will be presenting at the 2009 Morgan Stanley Technology Conference today. The Company’s presentation is scheduled to begin at 17:20 ET.

Novell was also mentioned very briefly in the financial press under:

In its conversations last week, Novell confirmed that layoffs are coming, but it used cryptic terminology to ‘dress up’ the statement. Novell cannot operate at a loss forever. It can only delay the inevitable.

Microsoft to Grassley re Abramoff Visas: STFU

Posted in Apple, Deception, Microsoft at 7:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

White house

Summary: Microsoft refuses to treat American workforce appropriately; Apple layoffs rumoured

MICROSOFT’S illegally-obtained H-1B visas have gotten at least one senator angry [1, 2, 3, 4]. Microsoft has just responded to concerns that he raised and in its typical nonchalant fashion it responded arrogantly.

Microsoft Dodges Senator’s Layoff Questions

Microsoft responded Tuesday to queries from a U.S. lawmaker urging the company to retain American workers rather than foreign workers when conducting its layoffs, but the software giant dodged most of Senator Charles Grassley’s questions.

Following Microsoft’s announcement on Jan. 22 that it would lay off 5,000 people, Grassley, an Iowa Republican, sent a letter to CEO Steve Ballmer, expressing his concern that Microsoft would retain foreign guest workers rather than similarly qualified American employees.

Here is Microsoft’s argument in a nutshell:

Some workers employed under H-1B visas will be let go as a natural part of the layoffs, along with other employees, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith wrote in the letter. However, he wrote, Microsoft does “not expect to see a significant change in the proportion of H-1B employees in our workforce following the job reductions.”

More coverage from Seattle can be found right here. So once again, Microsoft is ignoring the complaints from legislators and it’s not surprising. A decade or so ago, a government official said that “the government is not trying to destroy Microsoft, it’s simply seeking to compel Microsoft to obey the law. It’s quite revealing that Mr. Gates equates the two.”

In other news about employment, rumours about Apple layoffs are not going away.

Rumor Check: Apple Layoffs on the Way?

[...]

Bear in mind that a new Apple rumor seems to surface every several days. (Remember last week’s iPhone on Verizon buzz?) Sure, some of them turn out to have truth, but the vast majority end up fizzling away in the Web’s virtual gossip mill. Between the ever-present $99 iPhone idea and the occasional death (or near-death) of Steve Jobs, there’s always some sort of scuttlebutt on the table–and all you can do is treat each one with a healthy dose of skepticism.

If you’re still not convinced, consider the new word just published by The Wall Street Journal : “People familiar with the matter say that no conference rooms have been booked … and that there is no massive layoff Tuesday as has been rumored.”

Apple has been far from supportive of Free software and GNU/Linux. It may have cost it dearly.

Who Are the ‘Zealots’ Anyway?

Posted in America, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 6:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Boy charging

Summary: GNU/Linux advocates face aggression from the Microsoft ecosystem

HOW EASY it is to stick labels and stereotypes [1, 2, 3], continually assigning them to people whose ideas of Freedom do not intersect with the ideas of those who abuse and exploit for profit. To stigmatise is sometimes to daemonise.

Some month ago we saw friendly Boycott Novell protests in India getting dismantled by force [1, 2, 3] and there are other examples where defenders of the Microsoft ecosystem went over the line to suppress dissent.

Ken is a Free software advocate from Texas. He installs GNU/Linux on the computers of many children and families. He soon rose to fame for his success in this area and arguably became a local star after plenty of media exposure, so to hear about people verbally or physically attacking him for harming sales of Microsoft software is not quite so shocking. Here he is telling the story of what he needed to cope with.

In response, writes one person:

It already happened to me a few days ago when I was out wearing my new KPLUG T-shirt. In the parking lot at CV center, I was forced to physically defend my person and the honor of KPLUG from some moron who claimed that FOSS was illegal and had cost him his job, and that he couldn’t find work because he couldn’t do Linux. He likened the money I make teaching and consulting with Linux to blood money and expressed a desire to make me pay. I perhaps made a mistake in saying I taught a class in Linux and would be glad to teach him about it, because he grabbed my shirt in his fist and I responded aggressively. Um, luckily for me, our side won decisively.

Microsoft likes to characterise its opposition as “radicals”, “zealots”, “haters” or “fanatics”. How does it feel to see these perceived roles reversed? And how come the bully claims to be a victim? To merely antagonise crime is not to antagonise Microsoft, unless of course Microsoft and crime are synonymous.

So, to conclude, who are those ‘zealots’ anyway?

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: March 4th, 2009 – Part 2

Posted in IRC Logs at 12:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Enter the IRC channel now

To use your own IRC client, join channel #boycottnovell in FreeNode.

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