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05.11.09

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: May 11th, 2009

Posted in IRC Logs at 8:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Read the log

Enter the IRC channel now

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

Confirmed: Microsoft Tries to Turn Regulators Against Google (Again)

Posted in Antitrust, Google, Hardware, Law, Microsoft at 7:29 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Girl over there
“It’s him! The fiend! Get him!”

Summary: Antitrust dealings that involve Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Intel

Microsoft is using regulatory bodies against its competitors. There may be some history to this strategy against Google [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9], but this post is not about the Apple/Google grilling which could be invoked by Microsoft; it’s actually about Microsoft’s own defense over in Europe. There are some more reports about the issue we wrote about on Sunday, namely that Microsoft may want to align the EU against Google. In addition we find this, which was sent in by a reader:

Not to be outdone, Microsoft has entered the antitrust game, too. It recently made an investment in T3, a small vendor of mainframe-like computers, which in January lodged a complaint with the European Commission, alleging that IBM kept it from competing by refusing to license mainframe software to T3’s customers. Microsoft has also lobbied American antitrust regulators to tackle Google, encouraging them to look into an online-advertising deal between the search giant and its rival, Yahoo!, which was eventually abandoned.

[...]

IBM, for its part, would appear to have little to fear. It is hard to argue, with so many different computer systems around, that mainframes still constitute a separate market—a necessary condition if IBM’s behaviour is to be judged anticompetitive.

The reader also drew attention to this new report.

Over the past couple weeks, antitrust regulators have launched reviews of online giant Google. The DOJ is investigating a settlement Google made with book publishers and authors. And the FTC is reviewing the board ties between Google and Apple, which some antitrust experts argue are competitors.

And then there’s this.

Microsoft’s Secret Campaign Against Google Includes CEO’s Ex-Girlfriend

[...]

Sounds like The Economist got it wrong on the Google-Apple investigations being abandoned. The Post’s article was published today.

“Looks like an online yellow journalism rag rather than a reliable source,” says the reader, “but it’s interesting if even parts are true.”

It all comes at a very interesting time because antitrust rules in the United States are said to be tightening. [emphasis in red is ours]

The new enforcement policy would reverse the Bush administration’s approach, which strongly favored defendants against antitrust claims. It would restore a policy that led to the landmark antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft and Intel in the 1990s.

Here is some more:

The new rules mark a return to the antitrust policies of the Clinton administration, which brought a major action against Microsoft. These days, similar questions are being asked about the market dominance of Google.

The crimes of Intel is a subject that we last covered properly back in March when Korea had nailed it. Soon it will be Europe’s turn and here is an early glimpse:

European competition authorities are expected to release their verdict on Intel’s allegedly anti-competitive behaviour this week, and it’s not looking good for the chip maker.

The Commission’s decision was sent to national bodies in April and will be presented to the Commission on Wednesday. The court is widely expected to find Intel guilty of anticompetitive behaviour.

It’s said to be about one billion Euro in fines, which would be record-breaking.

Reports from Europe suggest the European Commission (EC) will levy a substantial fine on Intel for breaches of competition rules.

Microsoft may try to pretend that such fines don’t pose a threat to it, but a closer look suggests otherwise. Microsoft has in fact begun selling debt.

This morning came a preliminary prospectus supplemental filing from Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT). In this filing was the intent to sell 5-year, 10-year, and 30-year debt instruments for undisclosed terms and undisclosed amounts.

There is more information about it in Bloomberg.

Eye on Microsoft: Lessons of Windows

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Windows at 6:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Some Windows failures for the day

Tesco tills go titsup

According to PA, about 100 stores are affected, and the problems are being rectified by rebooting the checkouts.

My thoughts on “Virtual XP Mode” nonsense and the future for XP users.

Microsoft has obviously utterly failed to get 63% of Windows users (as of April 2009’s stats) to “upgrade to Windows Vista from XP.

[...]

If Microsoft wasn’t so damned insistent on this DRM nonsense, then they would have just had a library where they exported XP and WIndows 2000 functions and registry entries, and used a compatibility shim to redirect API calls and registry ops. That would have been less than 1% performance penalty, and they have everything they need to do that with WOW64 anyway.

AGGGGGHH!!!!!

ZeusTracker and the Nuclear Option

In early April, Hüssy began tracking a Zeus control server used to receive data stolen from a botnet of more than 100,000 infected systems, mostly located in Poland and Spain. While investigating this newfound Zeus control server, he noticed something unusual: the “kill operating system” had just been issued to all 100,000 infected systems.

A Zeus botnet self-destructs

According to information which only recently came to light, in early April a botnet consisting of an estimated 100,000 PCs apparently destroyed itself – as its control server send out a command that made Windows inoperable. The botnet was based on the Zeus botnet tool kit, which allows criminals to infect and subsequently remotely control users’ PCs. The Zeus tool kit can be purchased for only a few hundred dollars

Microsoft’s ‘ODF Patent’ as Vacuous as Its Promise of Interoperability

Posted in Interoperability, Microsoft, OpenDocument, Patents, Standard at 6:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Microsoft’s playbook of software patents and intraoperability [sic] gets no easy ride

IN PREVIOUS RECENT POSTS about ODF patents and Microsoft, we had brought up some suspects [1, 2, 3] which were then subjected to scrutiny. One of our readers, NZheretic, responded to this by saying that “Prior Art first [came] on XML mailing lists.” He wrote about this so-called invention back in 1999:

So what about giving compound document a wider definition?

a “Compound Document” is a set of Documents and Objects that can refer
and link to each other.

The compound document can then contain any type of data format.
valid xml files, DTDs , Schemes , image files etc.

If you could ‘unpack/unzip’ a compound document you would produce
a directory and files – just as in a normal file system and
a root document that can define the view of the
document as a Whole – index.xml or/and index.html.
You can then relatively reference Xlink/Xpoint documents as
easy as you would a directory of html files.

So why not just store a compound document in zip achieve file format
but with another affix just like java jar ‘files’.

It is easy to ‘peer into’ and ‘grab’ the content of a zip file,
java classes and C libraries that can do this already exist.
So why not just add this functionality to all XML applications,
formatter, browsers etc.

“As far as I know,” writes NZheretic, “it predates all Microsoft XML-related patents.” The significance of this discussion has to do with its origin too. It comes from XML DEV[elopers], whose mailing list was based at Imperial College (London). NZheretic shows us also this old message (same E-mail) and explains that “XML Devel was the primary development mailing list for XML in the 1990s.”

“To Microsoft, “ODF” is mostly about marketing, not practicality…”To quote from an official page, “XML-DEV was created in January 1997 by Prof. Peter Murray-Rust of the University of Nottingham (UK) and Dr. Henry Rzepa of Imperial College (UK) and was managed and operated by them with the help of resources generously donated by Imperial College until February 2000, when operation of the list was transferred to OASIS. The efforts of Prof. Murray-Rust and Dr. Rzepa played a critical role in the evolution of structured information standards. XML-DEV was the key resource for coordinating software development while the XML specification itself was in draft. Over the years, many important resources have resulted from XML-DEV. One of the most significant contributions was the development of the SAX API for XML parsers, constructed by more than 100 members on the list and coordinated by David Megginson. SAX is now universally accepted as a de facto standard.

“See also July October 2000 for the dumped xml-packaging mailing list,” adds NZheretic. This might help.

When asked in what year Microsoft had patented the related ‘invention’, NZheretic replied: “Not sure. Their Embedding binary object in HTML ( Note not XML ) predates my email, but does not mention using zip/archive at all. [...] Also encoding binary objects in text formats ( as per the Microsoft HTML patent ) ignores a decade of prior art in the form of the USENET binary groups.”

If this contribution from NZheretic does not move everyone towards invalidating the patent, it sure makes any claims related to it very weak.

In other news, an event on ODF interoperability is coming next month. Microsoft need not attend because “interoperability” is certainly not on its agenda right now. To Microsoft, “ODF” is mostly about marketing, not practicality, as the following posts showed and explained:

Harish Pillay added last night: “Microsoft forking ODF? They would love to.”

By the looks of it, I cannot but feel that MS has found a way to fork the ODF 1.1 to suite their world view of having their product as the only one out there. I have to agree with IBM’s Rob Weir in this post.

Microsoft has a proven track record of harming interoperability in exactly this way. It is perhaps a good time to include ECIS’s recent paper about it, which we do below.


Original from ECIS [PDF]

HTML version by Groklaw

Microsoft

A History of Anticompetitive Behavior and Consumer Harm

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Windows is Less Secure Than Linux: 404 Error (But Found)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Security, Windows at 5:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Page error

Summary: Richard Stiennon’s missing article is still on the Internet Archive

INTERNET ROT is an unfortunate phenomenon that literature does not really suffer from. “This valuable link is dead again,” argues our reader, who is rightly concerned by the absence of this old, widely-cited article which shows a reasonable explanation/cause for Microsoft’s security mess (here is the copy held by the Internet Archive). Over the past few months we have been in touch with the author, Richard Stiennon, whose article was relocated and eventually vanished again from the new location.

“I’m wondering about the methodology,” says our reader. “If that were known, we could write it up and induce a re-match and thus fresh debate on the insecurity of Windows server surrogates. Systrace is available for Linux and the BSDs, so it might be an option for that group.”

Regarding that missing CNET article from last week, we were eventually informed that the article had been taken down because it came via an external news service. But either way, we still look forward to having the important article from Stiennon restored as he promised.

In conclusion — and in relation to this article — our reader humourously remarks: “Windows users can be summed up in three categories: those who know nothing about computers, those who care nothing about computers, and those who exploit the first two groups.”

Links 11/05/2009: Android Predicted to Rise 900%, OpenOffice.org in Finnish Authorities

Posted in News Roundup at 5:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Cadets Trade the Trenches for Firewalls

    Brian McCord, part of the team that installed the operating system, said he was chosen because his senior project was deeply reliant on Linux. The West Point team used this open-source operating system, freely available on the Internet, instead of relying on proprietary products from big-name companies like Microsoft or Sun Microsystems.

    “It seems weird for the Army with its large contracts to be using Linux, but it’s very cheap and very customizable,” Cadet McCord said. It is also much easier to secure because “you can tweak it for everything you need” and there are not as many known ways to attack it, he said.

  • Linux is not an OS

    One way that it could be claimed that Linux is not an operating system is by asserting that what we call “Linux” is in fact a name of the kernel, a core of the operating system, rather than an OS as a whole. Such assertions would usually come from the Free Software supporters who would quickly point out how the proper way to call this “OS” is as “GNU/Linux” because it is only after combining the Linux as a kernel with GNU as tools that the operating system actually is capable of operating usefully.

    [...]

    I have no faith at all in the Linux unification cause as much as I don’t have faith in command economies such as those in the soviet union. They never work.

    The sooner we stop dreaming about it probably the better. Instead of endlessly pushing for the impossible, each distribution should realize that they are a project of providing a unique operating system, not merely some sort of a “subset” of a larger OS, with all of the implied responsibilities and false obligations that come from that. They should focus on providing their own particular operating system experience, NOT the “Linux experience”.

  • GNU or Linux?

    The GNU/Linux name is possibly the most controversial and most misunderstood issue surrounding Linux. David Chisnall looks at the reasoning for the name and asks whether it’s justified.

    No other system has experienced so much controversy over its name. A great many flame wars have erupted over the Free Software Foundation’s suggestion that distributions such as Ubuntu and Fedora should be called GNU/Linux, rather than Linux. Are they just trying to take credit for other peoples’ work, or is their argument valid?

  • The Linux Media Center Solution! Awesome!

    Browsed through the Internet for the Freedom Fone Project and came over the LinuxMCE. I have been dreaming about a project like this, and was really amazed about the possibilities included already.
    They have done a smart thing dividing it up in two parts;

    * one powerful core server for doing encoding of incoming media
    * one or more clients connected to each screen around in the house.

  • Linux’s position in cloud computing efforts

    Clouds are such big Linux news these days that, in the physical world, it would be raining by now. Or at least heavily overcast.

    [...]

    The Linux Foundation report said cloud computing is growing because data center costs are escalating and improvements in virtualization, distributed computing and IT management make cloud computing a more feasible option. Linux, in turn, was an obvious choice for cloud computing from the get-go because of its open source, modular architecture, its low cost and its scalability, the report said.

  • ABAS ERP Awarded Best ERP 2009

    ABAS Business Solutions (PRC) Ltd. announced today that ABAS ERP was awarded the “Best ERP 2009″ by the Linux Pilot magazine at the awards presentation ceremony of “Linux & OSS Best Solution 2009″ held on 15th April at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center. This is the Fourth Time that ABAS ERP has been awarded with this award in Asia and we are all again deeply honored.

  • Linux Live CDs: Why I love them.

    So what did we learn? Linux is a very versatile operating system that can run on just about any hardware, with any configuration. Most importantly, GO GET THE LIVE CD. It will save your ass someday and you will be glad that you burned that disc.

  • Why I chose GNU/Linux

    The reason GNU/Linux makes sense to me is that I am a big fan of the “Free software” ideal. I like the fact that I can take my software and change it to work for me and that is completely legal. I like that I can freely distribute the code to anyone I want. I also like knowing that there are people who see things the same way are there to protect my rights (FSF). I use GNU/Linux out of a desire to live free and without the threat of someone installing a rootkit or a spy program to make sure I am using it the way the company who made it want me to.

  • Readings

    • How to Follow Linux Developments

      Get your RSS feed readers ready because here is my list of the best sites/feeds to stay in touch with the latest developments in the linux community. This is the short list — there are many personal/professional blogs/sites that should be included in a full list. But, most of them are aggregated in the following sites.

    • 10 Free Linux Ebooks For Beginners

      This is the first part of the series, in the near future we will have a list for “Intermediate and Advanced Linux Users” and “Linux System Administrators”. If you have any suggestions feel free to share them with us in the comments.

  • Events

    • InternetNZ supports Australasian Linux Conference

      InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) is pleased to announce its leading sponsorship of Linux.conf.au 2010 (LCA2010).

      The annual Linux.conf.au conference will be held in January 2010 in Wellington – the second time it has been held in New Zealand. It will bring together local and international open source practitioners who contribute to the Linux operating system and numerous other open source projects. Linux creator Linus Torvalds regularly attends this event.

    • Linux Audio Update

      This conference is a key “meeting of the minds” for Linux audio developers and users. Represented projects included Csound, the Q programming language, Pure Data (Pd), netjack and many others. Former conferences have been characterized by an abundance of fine conversation, music, food and wine, and reports indicate that organizer Fons Adriaensen maintained the tradition in excellent style. Judging from the quality of the papers I’ve read and the videos I’ve watched, LAC2009 appears to have been another successful event. As far as I know, the date and location of LAC2010 have not been formally announced, although Utrecht has been mentioned as a likely candidate.

    • Linux: here before Social Media

      Every distribution of Linux has its own active online community of users and developers, but support for and advocacy of the software takes place both online and offline, and on a regional basis. By reaching out to people at the most local level possible (county level in the UK), support can be found from someone in your close community. What I quickly realised was that whilst LUG’s might advocate Linux in all its shapes and sizes, there is often a tendancy towards favouring one common distribution. There’s a lot to be said for having a commercial backer (Canonical Ltd in this case) to provide marketing, and as proof of this most LUG members seem to favour Ubuntu and its promise of being “Linux for human beings”.

  • Weekly Newsletters

    • Softpedia Linux Weekly, Issue 44

      Summary:

      · Editorial: Ubuntu Muslim Edition Is Now Known as Sabily
      · First Look: Linux Mint 7 RC1
      Distributions announced last week:
      · Linux Mint 7 Release Candidate Is Here
      · Parted Magic 4.1 Brings GParted 0.4.5
      Other News: Transmission for Linux reaches 1.6.0 and KDE 4.2.3 is now available
      Tutorial of the Week: Installing Ubuntu 9.04
      Tutorial of the Week: How to Install OpenOffice.org 3.1 on Ubuntu 9.04
      Video Clip of the Week: Linux Mint 7 Appearance
      New Distributions: Chaox and Lin-X
      Distributions Updated Last Week: KDE 4 Live CD 1.2.3, Bauer-Puntu Linux 9.04, R.I.P. 8.5 and more…
      Development Releases: Caixa Magica 14 RC1, Kongoni 1.12.2 Alpha and more…

    • DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 302, 11 May 2009

      With mobile computing being the next operating system battleground, it’s hardly surprising that many industry players are focusing on these increasingly popular devices. One of the most promising among them, Moblin, has been through some major changes recently, both in terms of ownership and development goals. Read our feature story for the roundup of its recent past and probable future to learn more about the project. In the news section, Debian ditches the GNU C Library in favour of the more flexible Embedded GLIBC, Fedora finalises all features for the upcoming Leonidas release which includes delta support for RPMs, Slackware switches to packages compressed with LZMA compression mechanism, and the Ubuntu community looks to create yet another derivative based on the LXDE. Finally, don’t miss our tips and trick section which provides a step-by-step guide of upgrading a stable Mandriva Linux 2009.1 to the latest Cooker, Mandriva’s bleeding-edge development branch.

    • Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 141

      Welcome to the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter, Issue 141 for the weeks May 3rd – May 9th, 2009. In this issue we cover: Monthly BugSquad Meeting: May 12th, Jaunty Jackalope Release parties, What’s a build score, then?, byobu 2.0 released, In The Press and Blogosphere, Ubuntu Podcast #27, Meeting Summaries of Technical Board and Ubuntu Server Teams, and much, much more!

  • Applications

    • 12 of the Best Free Linux News Aggregators

      A news aggregator is software which collect news, weblog posts, and other information from the web so that they can be read in a single location for easy viewing. With the range of news sources available on the internet, news aggregators play an essential role in helping users to quickly locate breaking news.

    • XBMC 9.04 delivers impressive media center experience

      The XBMC project has released version 9.04 of the popular open source media center application. The new version includes improved Linux support and an enhanced theming system. Ars takes the new version for a test ride to see how it compares to Boxee.

    • 10 Games That Will Turn your Linux into a WarMachine

      My favorite time pass. I’m always out for nifty gaming sessions when I’m bored, posted lots of stuff on it in the past and still going to. Loads of my friends use linux and “some” complain that there aren’t much games for the OS out there.. well they are wrong, I’ve posted about Linux games in the past and going to write / update more on it in this post. Stuff I’ve missed out in the past and games which were released earlier.

  • Desktop Environments

    • 10 Awesome Icon Sets for Ubuntu/GNOME Desktop

      Since our list of cool icon sets for Ubuntu/GNOME desktop was pretty much in demand, I decided to give you some more. This time, we have collected some of the finest and freshest icon sets that will surely enhance the look of your Linux desktop.

    • MacOSX-like Dock Menu for KDE: Fancy Tasks [Linux]

      Fancy Tasks is a KDE 4.x dock applications that looks a lot like Avant Window Navigator but at a first look, it seems to be even nicer.

  • Distributions

    • Sabayon Linux 4.1 Review

      Last week we looked at VirtualBSD, this week we’re moving back to Linux and to a more convential kind of distribution. Sabayon Linux is based on Gentoo. Gentoo as you might already know is somewhat famous for being the “roll your own” kind of distribution. It’s an extremely powerful and customizable version of Linux but installing it in the past has sometimes been difficult for some folks. Gentoo has had the reputation of being one of the “geek’s geek” types of Linux distributions.

    • Ubuntu

      • Research and Markets: Ubuntu Linux Secrets Revealed

        While the Ubuntu Linux distribution makes building a Linux system easy, once readers create a Linux system they’ll need to know how to use and maintain it. There are dozens of Open Source applications installed by default on the Ubuntu system, with hundreds of other applications easily installed from the Internet. The average Linux user can get overwhelmed with the availability and complexity of the new software. Existing books on Ubuntu Linux cover the basics of creating a new system and show what software is installed. This book digs deeper into the underlying applications and features of the Ubuntu Linux system, providing in-depth information on how to get the most out of each application and system feature.

      • Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04 & Asus eee 904 Laptop

        As ‘World + dog’ is rev’d up by the release of Ubuntu 9.04 I thought I’d use up some bandwidth and download several of the available versions. Yet again bittorrent proves its worth for things other than just pirating movies.

        My test machines have been an IBM R40 notebook (tried Jaunty x32, Januty Netbook Remix, Mythbuntu 9.04 & Kubuntu 9.04 on it) and an Asus eee 900 w/ 4GB SSD + 16GB SSD (Jaunty Netbook Remix).

        [...]

        Works like a charm.

      • Ubuntu 9.04: The official review

        I could easily draw a conclusion here. I could say 9.04 is an outstanding release for Ubuntu that offers something very positive for every level of user. That is my experience. From the testing I have done, this release is one finest releases Ubuntu has given us yet. It does have some room for improvement, but it does excite me to think that if this is where Linux is heading, the competition better be aware.

      • A Review of Jaunty Jackalope

        Ubuntu 9.04 rocks. The boot up time excites me every time I feel need the reboot. I actually get excited about a reboot. This is by far the most user friendly installation of a Linux distribution I have ever gone through and I believe that I’ll be giving the disc to my mother and let her have a go at it (the ultimate test).

      • The Freedom Maintainers Rocking Ahead

        How far, then, has gNewSense come? According to Paul’s message, one of the main goals of the project was to prove two points:

        1. That Free software works
        2. That non-free software “can bite you hard and should not be run”

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • PCBSD 7.1

    Overall then, PC-BSD is an excellent Operating System, removing most of the disadvantages of FreeBSD, (and Linux) and putting it into a neat system.

  • Prism – Mozilla minimal browser beta

    A Firefox browser lies behind the program, with its user interface reduced to a minimum. Prism can be downloaded from the revised project page as either a Firefox add-on or standalone application. Installed as a Firefox add-on extension, Prism adds a – Convert website to an application … – option to the Tools menu. This option lets you convert opened web applications or sites into desktop applications.

  • OpenOffice.org

    • OpenOffice package for public administration published in EU open source portal

      The OpenOffice open source package for central and local government agencies published last year by the Ministry of Finance and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities has released a new software version. The software package is distributed in a new way too. It can be downloaded in the EU open source portal at Osor.eu.

    • OpenOffice 3.1 ready to lick Microsoft’s suite?

      The answer for many is OpenOffice.org, which has – after several push-backs – just released version 3.1. And the good news is that OpenOffice 3.1 meets the most important criterion of any software upgrade: It’s considerably snappier than its predecessor.

  • Programming

    • Qt Publishes Roadmap, Opens Up Git Repository

      Back in March we witnessed the release of Qt 4.5 which was also met by an announcement that Qt Extended was to be discontinued and that was just weeks after the announcement came down that Qt Jambi would be discontinued. There have certainly been many changes since Nokia bought out Trolltech and then renamed it to Qt Software. Nokia also allowed these Norwegian programmers to license Qt under the LGPL. Today there are more changes coming out of Qt Software.

      [...]

      Qt’s plans for a 3D portability API sound a bit like the work Intel and others have been putting into Clutter to simplify the development of OpenGL and OpenGL ES programs.

Leftovers

  • DRM Hell

    Now, for those that have not kept up, Microsoft charges for their software and not a small amount either. If you want to charge me to use your software, and I find a value in using your software, I have no problem paying you. What Microsoft and others does to control their licenses is this – they create a unique signature based on the activation key and ten or so hardware component IDs. Change a percentage of the hardware and you invalidate the key. Invalidate the key and…

  • Elsevier Had A Whole Division Publishing Fake Medical Journals

    Remember a week ago when we wrote about pharma giant Merck and publishing giant Elsevier working together to publish a fake journal that talked up various Merck drugs and was used by doctors to show that the drugs were safe and useful?

  • Linux Torvald’s plagiarism revealed!

    I’ve just watched Caprica, the pilot for a prequel series to the recent Battlestar Galactica. In the last episode of BSG, we learn that all of this takes place tens of thousands of years in the past.

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Steve Weber, creator of the phrase “anti-rival goods” 08 (2005)

Ogg Theora

Digital Tipping Point is a Free software-like project where the raw videos are code. You can assist by participating.

On Microsoft’s Software Patents and ODF Fragmentation

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Patents at 5:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“We should design some of our extensions explicitly so that IBM can’t run them under OS/2. We need to put real thinking into this.”

Bill Gates [PDF]

MICROSOFT’S INCURSIONS INTO ODF have made a lot of headlines recently because they cause more harm than good to ODF; they fragment it, as usual. Previous posts on this subject can be read chronologically in the following order:

  1. Microsoft’s ODF ‘Support’ is a Scam
  2. Embrace, Extend, and Microsoft Wants to Toss IBM Out of ODF
  3. Microsoft Fragments ODF While Trying to Paint it as “IBM Thing”
  4. Microsoft ‘Patents’ ODF Whilst Also Harming It
  5. ODF Alliance to Denounce Microsoft This Week?
  6. Reader’s Article: The Microsoft Patent Threat to ODF

As it shows above, the most recent debate revolves around software patents, which Bill Gates planned to use against OpenOffice.org. In relation to Microsoft's Costa Rica patent, one reader tells us:

That “single file” phrase is the clue. Sounds like the same patent that was denied in the U.S. and South Africa. As I recall, it was approved in New Zealand. I don’t know whether that’s been undone or not.

While it’s possible and conformant to create an ODF document as a single flat file, that isn’t the way ODF is implemented in all the major apps. A zip container is used to store a series of separate files that make up the document, each containing a different type of data.

The Microsoft patent application was ridiculous in terms of prior art. In essence, what was claimed is the creation of a compound document in a single flat file. A compound document is a document that combines different markup specifications in a single document. There was nothing novel about doing compound documents in a single flat file. E.g., the world has been embedding CSS in HTML files for many years. And as far as claiming originality because it’s done with XML, we have familiar examples like CSS embedded in HTML.

There are so many markup standards out there combined to create compound documents that the world just laughed when that patent application surfaced. The USPTO found no novelty in the claims.

At this stage it’s proabably worth adding that the Gartner Group, which was corrupted by Microsoft, is still sort of promoting Microsoft’s patents publicly, just as it did before. Here is a Gartner analyst lobbying for software patents pretty much by questioning the stance of Free softwarers on this matter. Free software obviously does not pay Gartner’s wages, so even In Re Bilski did excite Gartner all that much:

For those who thought that Bilski closed the door on business method and software patents I’d suggest that there still some way to go on the issue.

Returning to office suites, Microsoft employees (and their familiar friends) can still be seen publicly chatting about ODF, but their personal attacks on IBM’s Weir get no sympathy, not even from the most moderate among observers.

For those of us who have been following the Great Document Format Wars, Gray is being disingenous. To a large extent, ODF has come as far as it has because of Rob’s (and other ODF TC members) fantastic work on it.

As for personal venom, it takes two to tango. Microsoft is certainly no blooming lily where personal attacks are concerned. After all, it takes two parties to build a healthy working relationship. On this, Gray cannot place the blame solely on Rob’s shoulders.

Given how ODF has flourished under Rob’s leadership, there doesn’t seem to be any meritorious reason for him to vacate the Chair.

This whole confrontation is not over yet. The problems which Microsoft has introduced in the market due to Service Pack 2 have yet to show their full impact.

IBM’s Missed Opportunity to Help Free Software

Posted in IBM, OIN, Patents at 4:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

When silence is consent

IBM Netvista

Summary: It’s high time that people asked IBM to abolish software patents

IBM and its embodiment in other organisations like the Linux Foundation and OIN are no opponents of software patents, so it’s always important to challenge IBM to 'pull a Bilski' on such patents. Without pressure, nothing will ever change.

IBM does not attack Free software using its patents, but it does use these as a marketing tool (indemnification and other perceived protections). This puts IBM in a position of considerable advantage and may not help Free software in the long term. Big Blue wants to keep the cake and eat it too.

“IBM does not attack Free software using its patents, but it does use these as a marketing tool (indemnification and other perceived protections).”IBM likes the Eclipse licence and while it subscribes a lot to Linux, it more of less distances itself from GNU, and particularly its philosophy. While IBM did offer its endorsement to the GPLv3, it did not oppose software patents in Europe and instead opted for some sort of a waffle. See its submission to the EBoA here (direct link requires session ID).

The reason for bringing this up is the possible appointment of an IBM person who might soon become the director of the USPTO. He could make more of farce of the USPTO, whose heads usually come from software patent proponents and/or the large patent holders (embracing maximal monopoly). Perhaps by contrast, the former USPTO Commissioner Bruce Lehman was recently quoted as saying that “The age of IP rights being at the forefront of American trade policy is over.”

The appointment of a person from IBM is far from final because there are other candidates, as IAM Magazine reports:

Three names have been in the frame for the job up to now: Todd Dickinson, David Kappos and James Pooley.

To say more about IBM, here is a new finding that came via Digital Majority.

Patent Thickets and Patent Trolls:

[...]

[T]his new definition would now include many corporations, such as IBM, which collect patents, not for manufacturing purposes, but to use them as a shield against patent infringement lawsuits. (Coincidentally, two commentators to my prior post on incremental invention mentioned IBM’s practice of hoarding patents.) In sum, IBM, which has long been one of the largest owners of patents in the country, uses patents defensively. Its policy has been one of “mutually assured destruction,” i.e., if someone threatens to sue it for patent infringement, then it promises that it can find a patent in its massive patent portfolio with which to countersue for infringement. This policy has worked marvelously well for IBM, which has mostly avoided patent infringement lawsuits and has been left free to devote its time, energy and money to developing new products and services that it offers in the marketplace. But IBM’s policy of hoarding patents is certainly “patent troll”-like behavior — patents are being used solely for litigation purposes and not for development of actual products sold in the marketplace.

If IBM cares about Free(dom) software, then it will put software patents to rest. Limiting their scope is not enough because they are inherently incompatible with software freedom, where code can be redistributed.

“IBM is proud of its patent portfolio, and the fact that they produce patents at a rate of 10 a day. With such an extensive arsenal of patents, backed by unlimited legal funds – what chances are left for the VC backed company? This is like the US going to war against Micronesia.” —Daniel Cohen, Gemini Israel Funds

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