Summary: The remainder of Novell’s news for this week
Summary: The remainder of Novell’s news for this week
XANDROS WAS virtually non-existent in the press until a couple of weeks ago when few announcements were made, such as this new press release. There is a flurry of articles which cover Xandros’ participation in the market with its Microsoft-taxed distribution (Ballnux). Here are some articles that we found:
“I don’t understand how IE is going to win. The current path is simply to copy everything that Netscape does packaging and product wise.”
–Jim Allchin, President of Platforms & Services Division at Microsoft
Summary: Synopsis of developments regarding the legal challenges Microsoft unleashes upon Linux
THE principal question about TomTom’s lawsuit has recently been transformed into one which revolves around GPL compliance and ethical traps. This latest angle is already being examined, explained, and summarised. Mary Jo Foley, who is in good terms with Jeremy Allison (she interviewed him before), wrote about this issue which was first raised by him. She summarised the TomTom issue — as it appears at this stage in particular– without provoking:
[I]t’s looking more and more like the open sourcers are right and TomTom is the canary in the Linux-patent coal mine.
One of our readers explained this whole situation in simple terms, as follows: “The lawsuit publicizes a patent trap of Microsoft’s own creation. Microsoft created a de facto industry standard in the FAT (File Allocation Table) format that it made widely available for adoption without letting it be known that it held and would assert the patents behind the standard. What makes the FAT patents valuable is not the technology behind them but the fact that they were promoted and accepted as a standard without word that Microsoft would someday come asking for money. Two of the patents are for converting between long and short file names – a FAT function that is commonly implemented in digital cameras, MP3 players, and other devices, not just in Windows and Linux.
“Some wishful thinkers within the open source community may accept Microsoft’s claim that this is about TomTom rather than Linux, along with the blather that accompanies most patent litigation about how Microsoft would rather license than litigate. But this is in fact a landmark assault into the most troubled and controversial terrain of the patent system. It will reverberate for a long time to come.”
Microsoft’s latest action has already led to public protests. Here is the leaflet distributed in Brussels protests a few days ago
[PDF]. To quote a portion:
When your tech product or website is accused of infringing a software patent, you can:
• Pay the patent holder a licence fee; they decide the amount
• Fight the patents in court – expensive and time consuming
• Take your product off the market
These are the options currently being considered by Tom Tom NV.
Microsoft is claiming that Tom Tom’s car navigation systems violate eight Microsoft patents.
Groklaw has begun taking a closer look at the TomTom case and one person points out (from the comments): “I *also* wonder this: Microsoft is a big company. Has Microsoft *ever* distributed a Linux based device with VFAT support? If so, would the fact that, under the GPL they cannot do so without conveying a patent license to the recipient that is transferable to anybody the recipient sees fit, and the fact that Microsoft as owner of the VFAT patents is able to provide such a license mean that it can be legally assumed they DID provide such a license?”
Asks one informant of ours: “What about Microsoft’s Linux lab and their offerings to Apache and SAMBA? What if Microsoft released something under the GPL (to anyone), doesn’t that mean they relinquish any necessary patent claims?” We already know for a fact that Microsoft uses GNU/Linux-based products, but using is not necessarily selling.
A few days ago, Red Hat got sued by a partner of Microsoft (little more information here), but that’s not the main concern in people’s mind because it symbolises Red Hat’s rise to prominence. An interesting addendum from Open Sources states this:
[UPDATE: 2009-03-05 9.30a ET] I’m told that Oracle is also a defendant, although this filing is from April 2008.
Oracle is a member of OIN, so it is likely to be part of the battle that was initiated against TomTom. Additionally, the last time this case was mentioned it was also shown that Google had grown tired of the patent system (Google too is a relatively recent addition to OIN’s members). The word is still spreading out there and since many people respect (sometimes love) Google, they come to disrespect the patent system. Academics too continue to dispute the viability and value of this system.
Markets outperform patents in promoting intellectual discovery, say economists
When it comes to intellectual curiosity and creativity, a market economy in which inventors can buy and sell shares of the key components of their discoveries actually beats out the winner-takes-all world of patent rights as a motivating force, according to a California Institute of Technology (Caltech)-led team of researchers.
Further discussion at TechDirt:
[O]nce again, the study found that a free market solution greatly outperforms a patent monopoly solution where the “first” provider gets a monopoly. The research was led by economist Peter Bossaerts and a team of others — and it made a point that won’t surprise anyone who’s studied the economics of monopolies. Patents tend to function just like any other monopoly system: it shrinks the overall market, decreases net social benefit, provides monstrously excess rewards to a single provider and harms everyone else. In fact, the research found that the patent system created a massive disincentive for many people to participate in the very process, even if their contributions could have been quite helpful in speeding along the innovation.
Given that software patents may have already died (most of them anyway [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14]), Microsoft’s last resort in the fight against Linux may be dead on arrival. Linux vendors can carry on doing business with confidence that Linux is here to thrive, as is GNU.
Google’s market cap is not far from surpassing that of Microsoft. That’s how deep in trouble Microsoft is, especially now that Google expands from Linux phones to Linux 'desktops' (sub-notebooks), as of yesterday’s reports. █
Summary: OpenSUSE release cycle changed from 6 months to 8 months following layoffs
WITH the departure of some employees and concerns over the future, the OpenSUSE project will be run with less testers available. There are signs of trouble in fact, such as this horrifying experience caused by a bad update to OpenSUSE 11.1. It happened some days ago.
On Monday evening, just before calling it a night, I decided to attend to that little ‘updates available my OpenSUSE 11.1 notebook. There were half a dozen updates, one of them being a kernel update, which doesn’t happen too often. A few minutes later, I rebooted, and got nothing but a text login. Couldn’t start X or even reconfigure it. Then I noticed that there was no networking, and only a small handful of modules loaded — I looked at loaded modules to try to figure out why I wasn’t getting networking, even via my wired Ethernet port. Something had gone wrong with the update, a process that normally causes me no grief at all.
SUSE will be slowing down a bit. It intends to pace its releases differently. But the project’s leader is spinning this as the release cycle being “fixed”, not longer. It’s just a case of putting lipstick on a pig though. Ars Technica reports:
The new schedule was proposed in a message posted to the openSUSE mailing list by release manager Stephan Kulow. In the e-mail, he lists the months when releases are expected to arrive and also provides some insight into the feature plan for 11.2, the next major release.
“To give us something to plan around, we would like to propose a fixed release schedule. As a six-month release schedule is not something we consider feasible to maintain high-quality standards, we are proposing a fixed eight-month schedule,” Kulow wrote.
OStatic, which writes favourably about Novell and OpenSUSE (well, Zonker writes there), also just echoed the story told by Novell.
Yesterday, the openSUSE Project announced that it will move to a fixed release schedule after November’s release of openSUSE 11.2.
It was a similar storyline in Tectonic.
The OpenSuse development team has announced it will now follow a fixed release schedule, much like distributions such as Fedora, Mandriva and Ubuntu. In an emailed announcement yesterday, Stephan Kulow said that the community had decided to adopt an eight-month rotating cycle with the first release being OpenSuse 11.2 in November.
The real news here is not a “fixed” release cycle. The real news is that OpenSUSE will be re-released (version bump) once in 8 months rather than just 6.
Red Hat is looking to employ SUSE developers who were booted by Ron Hovsepian so that he can get bonuses for not-so-outstanding performance [1, 2, 3, 4]. Canonical might still be wooing them too, but we don’t know this for sure. █
National Microsoft Lobby?
Summary: Czech governance plays a role in promoting the back door to software patents in Europe
YESTERDAY we wrote about mysterious moves in the Czech Republic, whose presidency is sponsored by Microsoft. We’ve already shown this presidency peddling Microsoft Office, not to mention its role in helping OOXML. Now it’s promoting a back door to software patents in Europe.
Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, responsible for EU affairs, has pledged to work towards devising an EU-wide Community patent. Describing the existing system as “fragmented and inefficient,” he said Europe’s intellectual property infrastructure is stifling innovation and holding back progress on the Lisbon Agenda.
Is a lobby paid for by Microsoft using the Microsoft-sponsored Czech presidency to ram through software patents into the EU? Microsoft is currently suing a European company (TomTom) over software patents which it claims are infringed on by Linux (or just its FAT part). █
“They [EPO examiners] claim that the organisation is decentralising and focusing on granting as many patents as possible to gain financially from fees generated.” —Expatica, European Patent Office staff on strike
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