03.11.09

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Bruce Perens Calls Novell a “Highly Paid [Microsoft] Mouthpiece”

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, OSI, Patents, TomTom at 1:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ron Hovsepian and Steve Ballmer

Summary: Backlash against Novell; Ubuntu is rumoured to be considering abolishment of Mono

THE man behind the Open Source Definition never liked the Novell-Microsoft deal. After expressions of great concern about Microsoft's involvement inside OSI/"open source" and in direct response to Microsoft's lawsuit against TomTom he wrote:

“They have not turned over a new leaf, and still remain insincere about their involvement in open source,” Perens said.

Making it plain, Perens said:

“I don’t believe Microsoft was ever attempting to be sincere. A perceived involvement in open source by Microsoft, along with highly paid mouthpieces like Novell to chime in for them, is giving Microsoft the ability to speak for open source in government circles, short-circuiting the legislation we need to defend ourselves from software patents or to establish a level playing field on which open source and proprietary software can compete fairly. That’s their true interest.”

The answer is legislation, he said. Perens said legislation is needed to “clean out the software patent system. Developers need to be able to make and sell software without the threat of patent-related extortion. We must unite both proprietary and open-source developers – who are equally at risk – to work for this cause, if we’re to have a hope of being heard by legislators.”

This is similar to what the SFLC had to say, namely that “It’s a good moment for people to take a step back and re-think how friendly Microsoft is to open source.”

Here comes Novell again, characteristically appearing as Microsoft’s beloved role model. Ronald Zink from Microsoft had some interesting words to share, as noted in this article about TomTom. (emphasis is ours)

“We will talk about patents and how they relate to our technologies, but it’s on the basis of private conversations rather than openly broad negotiation,” said [Microsoft's] Zink. “We are willing to license on reasonable terms, and we have covenants not to sue open source developers or for research and development.”

[Microsoft's] Zink added that the covenants, which also extend to those companies such as Novell which agree to cross-license, “give understanding and certainty to people”.

[...]

Allison also spoke out about the TomTom case in February, saying Microsoft’s move would alienate the open source community.

We wrote about Jeremy Allison’s take in [1, 2, 3]. Two years ago he told Boycott Novell why he disliked the deal between Microsoft and Novell (his employer at the time) before he even left the company.

Other groups like the FFII and maybe the FSF have already taken it to the streets in order to protest against Microsoft (post-TomTom lawsuit). The dangers of Mono and Moonlight become ever more clear as well. Microsoft wants to fight GNU/Linux using patents and it’s looking to subvert the GPL along with European law in order to achieve this [1, 2, 3].

Sam Varghese wrote this good new article which reinforces the belief that Microsoft has officially taken a SCO-like route to fighting its #1 competitor.

But if any Microsoft employee went to a free software or open source conference today, I doubt he or she would attract anything other than hostile glares. By suing GPS device maker TomTom over alleged violation of patents connected with an implementation of the Linux kernel any goodwill that Microsoft has built up has gone down the drain.

[...]

Why did Microsoft decide to sue TomTom at this time? Is it the old arrogance asserting itself again as it has many times in the past? Is it a sense that suing at this time gives it more leeway than at others?

[...]

But there is one thing which a corporate entity like Microsoft can never comprehend. And that is the energy of the free software community, the anger and hatred that the lawsuit has generated.

When SCO started its campaign against Linux by suing IBM, it was quite confident that things would go its way. Six years later, the company is just a shell and few people would even bother pissing on it.

Somehow I have the feeling that this time Microsoft may have bitten off more than even it can chew.

It’s probably too late for Microsoft, but it’s not too late for Free software. It is a good time to wake up and realise the dangers of Novell/Microsoft technologies like Moonlight. One must realise that Mono and Moonlight act as legal obstacles which reside at the bottom of many desktop and Web applications, respsectively (thus they create an irreversible, irrevocable dependency, just like FAT).

“Novell spends a lot of time lauding and promoting its work on Mono, MonoDevelop, and Moonlight.”A reader and informant of ours has already embarked on the task involving lots of historical excavation, only to find out that popular distributions accepted Mono because everyone else had (i.e. cattle effect). This means that Mono had become contagious and dangerous at the same time. It’s a lot like FAT because it relies on the ‘network effect’ to spread itself and at the same time it comes with a loose promise not to sue which is not even being honoured (in no case, neither FAT nor Mono). The recent decision regarding Rambus teaches us that this is seen as legitimate in the US.

Novell spends a lot of time lauding and promoting its work on Mono, MonoDevelop, and Moonlight. Novell also praises Microsoft on various occasions and helps it get a ‘free pass’ — usually resulting in entry into Free software/Linux conferences [1, 2, 3]. Microsoft understands that this is a convenient way of 'crashing' competitors' events. This is all happening while Novell sacks 20% of SUSE's staff without a reasonable explanation (SUSE was one of the only growth products). Whose team is Novell playing ball for and is it being pressured to step away from the Free desktop, as some rumours suggest?

“I think the Mac has a part to play here. Mono for OS X *sucks*… no one uses it. Therefore, if programmers want to target Mac as well, they can’t really use Mono,” wrote Balrog a couple of hours ago. Another person, David Gerard, points out that “There was a rumour that, in the wake of the TomTom case, Canonical was seriously considering removing Mono from main and leaving it to multiverse as too dangerous to support (like mp3). I haven’t been able to find any more info either way, asking around.”

That would be quite a change at Ubuntu after overly-prolonged sleeping time at the wheel.

Novell newspaper

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13 Comments

  1. David Gerard said,

    March 11, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Gravatar

    That’s only a rumour, not anything I know for sure! Not even slightly! I asked again on Sounder just now if Canonical considered Mono dangerous like MP3.

    BTW, it looks like it’d go in Universe (community-supported packages, not endorsed by Canonical) along with Moonlight. It’s not hard to get a package into Universe.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm

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    Thanks, we’re still watching that.

    Novell employees are involved in this too.

  3. aeshna23 said,

    March 11, 2009 at 2:09 pm

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    “One must realise that Mono and Moonlight act as legal obstacles which reside at the bottom of many desktop and Web applications, respsectively (thus they create an irreversible, irrevocable dependency, just like FAT).”

    I disagree with you here. Mono and Moonlight aren’t “just like FAT”. Microsoft’s legal case against Mono and Moonlight will be a far stronger case than what Microsoft can argue about FAT. I would like to suggest a reason why Microsoft is pursuing the Tom Tom case. Microsoft, of course, would like to win the TomTom case, but Microsoft figures it might as well start out with the weaker cases. Microsoft figures it can turn defeats on the weaker cases into a long run victory, by lulling the Linux community into complacency and then attack Mono in a couple of years.

  4. Darren said,

    March 11, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Gravatar

    Well, if Novell has signed a Patent agreement, we need to somehow find out what it was for. This may mean that they are going against the GPL.

    One can only hope.

  5. Jose_X said,

    March 11, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Gravatar

    Darren, Novell’s initial deal with Microsoft got a free pass.

    Microsoft and Novell did not violate the GPLv2 by agreeing to a “covenant not to sue customers” rather than a direct patent license as literally forbidden by the GPLv2. The GPLv3 blocks against this new agreement type but isn’t an obstacle either to this initial deal because the GPLv3 set an effective cut-off date that was after the Novell-MS deal (that deal purposely got grandfathered in — in particular, Novell let the FSF gain extra access to details of the deal, perhaps in exchange for an exception for that deal).

    >> [Microsoft’s] Zink added that the covenants, which also extend to those companies such as Novell which agree to cross-license, “give understanding and certainty to people”.

    Ah, but we know Microsoft is not a trustworthy business partner. What protection are they offering against others that might have patents on that technology, patents possibly sold by Microsoft or allowed by Microsoft to be developed by the proxies?

    Microsoft has close relationship with various patent troll companies.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 11, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Gravatar

    Don’t forget that — as both Novell and Microsoft have openly stressed — the deal does not prevent lawsuits. In other words, it establishes almost nothing, but for a payment it turns Novell into a marketing dunce (of Microsoft patents, of OOXML, .NET and you know the rest).

  7. Dan O'Brian said,

    March 11, 2009 at 5:52 pm

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    I disagree with you here. Mono and Moonlight aren’t “just like FAT”. Microsoft’s legal case against Mono and Moonlight will be a far stronger case than what Microsoft can argue about FAT.

    I think you mean far weaker, since Microsoft is helping Novell develop them. It’ll be kinda hard for Microsoft to claim damages (which they have to do) if they were involved in producing it.

    They’ll get laughed out of court.

  8. Jose_X said,

    March 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Gravatar

    Dan, if those two have a patent understanding, then you might expect that those two won’t end up in court.

    Was that your point? That if you deal with Microsoft, they won’t sue you? Is that the message you wanted to bring?

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 11, 2009 at 8:15 pm

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    The Munchkins used to say (for years) that Microsoft only uses patents defensively.

  10. Jose_X said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:21 pm

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    The more their business is threatened, the more likely they are to lash out. I also don’t trust Gates and Myrhvold.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:25 pm

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    Why would you? They express love for software patents now.

    Both have private firms for harvesting patents. IV has already proceeded to “racketeering” phase.

  12. Needs Sunlight said,

    March 12, 2009 at 4:18 am

    Gravatar

    Microsoft’s legal case against Mono and its other crap is far, far stronger than against FAT. FAT appears to have a royalty-free license or at one that is vague enough to argue over for a while.

    Mono doesn’t. Mono has a solid paper trail of payments for royalties going from Novel to Microsoft for years. Any distro allowing packages with dependencies on Mono, Moonlight or any other MS technology is really going out of their way to cause trouble for the distro’s users.

    A half measure is to not have mono in the default:
    http://brainstorm.ubuntu.com/idea/110/

    However, that is only a half-measure. Removal from the repositories is necessary.

  13. David Gerard said,

    March 12, 2009 at 4:23 am

    Gravatar

    Removal is unlikely at this stage. Pretty much anything can be found in Universe (e.g. the stuff that is free software under copyright, but arguably violates MP3 and MPEG-LA patents), and probably should be.

    Removal from Main is another matter.

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