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06.08.09

Patents Roundup: OASIS Takes Stance Against Software Patents, Microsoft Loses Again

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, OpenDocument, Patents, Red Hat, SUN at 2:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novel party

Summary: OASIS takes an important step, Microsoft surrenders to Paltalk, and McCreevy gets a substitute crony

THE PREVIOUS post, which was about ODF, did not reference posts about Microsoft’s patent threat to ODF [1, 2, 3, 4]. There is more to Microsoft’s damage than just harm to interoperability [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. According to the following short report from Simon Phipps (Sun/Oracle), OASIS, which is practically in possession of ODF for the most part, takes new steps against software patents.

Some of you may remember a fuss that was made a few years ago by some open source people over the copyright and patent policy used by OASIS, the computer protocols standards body. OASIS seems to have taken it to heart, because it has today announced what looks to me like the perfect basis for technology standards in an open source world.

Their new rules include a new “mode” which standards projects can opt into using. In this new mode, all contributors promise that they will not assert any patents they may own related to the standard the project is defining.

Microsoft has meanwhile found out (not for the first time) that software patents are a double-ended (or edged) sword. In its case against Paltalk, Microsoft falls on its sword and pays for patents, thus admitting infringement.

GROUP MESSAGING outfit Paltalk says it has settled its patent dispute with Microsoft.

This is also covered in:

The press release from Paltalk resembles familiar templates of patent trolls (including the headline). They rave about litigation — not products — to their investors.

Microsoft’s unofficial PR people (masquerading as journalists) cover the story in:

That second post comes from a new Microsoft booster in the Seattle P-I, Nick Eaton. He replaces Joe, who replaced Todd last year. His new job — evidently enough based on the short history — is to relentlessly praise the monopolising company. There are also Microsoft employees writing for the Seattle P-I now [1, 2]. How convenient a marketing platform.

In other patent news, the president of the FFII says that patent trolls are meeting at CIPForum and he also warns that Charlie McCreevy, who promoted software patents in Europe [1, 2, 3], may get replaced by a potentially much worse person.

Cox is favourite to replace McCreevy in EU Commission

The former President of the European Parliament Pat Cox has emerged as the new favourite to replace Charlie McCreevy as EU Commissioner this autumn.

Mr Cox is probably the only Irish figure that could command an influential portfolio ­ and appointing him would avoid a by-election that the government couldn’t win.

“Pat Cox is a software patent campaigner,” we are told.

Moving on a bit, Groklaw takes a close look at the G3/08 amicus brief from Red Hat, the leader in GNU/Linux. Red Hat clearly opposes software patents, whereas another company that uses Linux — a company whose shady practices had the term “Tivoization” coined — carries on abusing such patents to extort for extra cash. TiVo is a large player in its market and it is suing companies using software patents.

Are patents ever defending small businesses? Not by a long shot, claims the guru behind TechDirt.

How Patents Are Harming Small Companies Too

[...]

One of the more annoying things about the whole debate on patent reform is that some have tried to position it as “small companies” vs. “big companies.” That’s not even close to true. While there have been plenty of high profile fights between patent holders vs. big companies, that’s only a small part of the issue. And, in fact, it’s often smaller, more innovative companies that are the most harmed by patents. Joe Mullin has a great post looking at how small mom-and-pop photo sharing sites are being hit with a bunch of patent infringement lawsuits.

[...]

What about the guy who can put a bunch of different ideas together to make a much better product, but is unable to because multiple patent holders all want a huge % of his earnings? Time and time again we hear stories of small businesses who feel the patent system is holding them back in significant ways — and it’s a true shame.

Even research patents are coming under scrutiny now.

In any case, I’m not buying David’s assertion that “most universities”, or most hospitals or research institutes for that matter, rely heavily on licensing income. And that being so, I am also somewhat skeptical about the number of researchers’ families being supported by patents.

What’s the Open Science connection? Well, if you’re interested in patenting the results of your research, there are a lot of restrictions on how you can disseminate your results. You can’t keep an Open Notebook, or upload unprotected work to a preprint server or publicly-searchable repository, or even in many cases talk about the IP-related parts of your work at conferences. It seems from the data above that most universities would not be losing much if they gave up chasing patents entirely; nor would they be risking much future income, since so few seem to get significant funds from licensing.

What a waste of labour, which could otherwise be used to emphasise further scientific progress, not paperwork. Research is inherently based on the model of sharing ideas and reusing them. That, for example, is what conferences and journals are about.

ODF News and Microsoft’s Acts Against It

Posted in Asia, Europe, Formats, GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Office Suites, Open XML, Standard at 12:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

AbiWord as ODF

Summary: Bits and pieces about the road to document interoperability and those standing in its way

THIS post offers an assorted roundup, which starts with the Dutch government actively supporting ODF, as it has for quite some time. There is a workshop coming:

The workshop is meant for people who write and architect the code to handle the actual ODF in applications – desktop editors and viewers, online apps, mobile, etc.

The event is organised by the Dutch government programme Netherlands in Open Connection and OpenDoc Society under auspices of the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations.

As it turns out, Dutch people also sponsor this project called officereader, which promotes ODF.

For the first time ever, it is now possible to read your OpenDocument files from OpenOffice.org, KOffice, AbiWord and Lotus Symphony on your Symbian Smartphone using Open Source software

We have been writing quite extensively about how Microsoft was harming ODF with MSODF [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. In relation to the news about Fraunhofer promoting Microsoft lock-in, Pamela Jones writes in Groklaw: “I think this may explain why Microsoft deliberately followed the ODF version it did. My weather report: lots of FUD ahead. And Apache is helping them. You likely recall the role the Fraunhofer Fokus group played in the OOXML vote.”

A week ago we also wrote about MSCOSCONF (Malaysia), which is a Microsoft-oriented event going under the “open source” banner. They even use Office 2007 to produce material. Pamela Jones writes about MSCOSCONF in Groklaw: “May I ask why anyone would help Microsoft do this? Why is it “great” that Microsoft is spreading money around FOSS, with such a goal as this as transparent as it is? Think. Road kill. What comes after Embrace, Extend?”

Also in Malaysia we find this new article where Microsoft pretends to be collaborating.

“We are committed to being open when it comes to interoperability,” said Dzahar Mansor, national technology officer at Microsoft Malaysia.

“This includes ensuring open connections, enhancing support for industry standards and fostering a more open engagement with customers and the industry, including open-source communities.”

Microsoft, he said, is taking this path because it will enable its customers to have more choice in software and be able to easily integrate mixed-source infrastructure

This is marketing buzz. If Microsoft is “committed to being open when it comes to interoperability,” then why are its developers breaking format compatibility in ODF? Notice the talk about “mixed-source infrastructure.” Microsoft would love to abolish discussion about software freedom.

The next statement from Microsoft goes like this:

“Data will move seamlessly between applications and systems regardless of platform or vendor,” he added.

Which platform might that be? The one which Microsoft is suing (Linux) using software patents, which are invalid where the defendant is based anyway?

Microsoft continues making void allegations to suppress the use of platforms other than Windows. Bill Gates was scheming to use software patents against OpenOffice.org, which is a viable rival to an increasingly-confusing and bloated Microsoft Office. What can Microsoft offer which OpenOffice.org does not deliver to 80% of the people out there (who only use like 20% of the features)?

Answer: A highly cluttered — and thus baffling — office suite, where change is made for the sake of change (illusion that a sale of the newer version will be worth the price). See what some people mean by “clutter”.

I just need to share this one. Playing around with MS Word 2008 on my Macbook, I made a wonderful discovery. In case you’re familiar with the Ribbon UI of MS Office 2007 and in case you’ve always been wondering how the Mac version of Office 2007 turned out to be a bit, well weird, then here are some news for you.

Had Microsoft had no lock-in, which an interoperable ODF is rightly intended to put an end to, how many people would actually buy this “premium” offer which is Microsoft Office? Lock-in like OOXML yields enormous leverage. Microsoft is not capable of selling software; It is a lot better at forcing people to ‘buy’ its software, e.g. get Windows whenever you buy a computer or be forced to get Office to access personal files and read files from peers/colleagues.

Does Microsoft Hijack the Term “Netbook”?

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, Windows at 10:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“If thought can corrupt language, then language can also corrupt thought.”

George Orwell

Summary: Reasonable suspicion that FUD against ARM (with GNU/Linux only) has already begun

MICROSOFT, WHICH DESCRIBES ITSELF AS A SOFTWARE COMPANY, SEEMS determined to decide what constitutes — in terms of hardware — a netbook. We began a discussion about it a few days ago and now we find the Microsoft press reinforcing the same notion that computers running ARM microchips are not computers and not even netbooks — that they are just smartphones of a new form.

In the mean time, Microsoft imposes spec/cost rules on all sorts of netbooks, the latest example being this one:

Microsoft bans XP on hybrid storage netbooks

Microsoft is barring netbook manufacturers from utilizing hybrid storage solutions. Miniature notebooks housing both SSD and HDDs will not be permitted to use Windows XP, reports bit-tech. Redmond’s latest restriction will join the already enforced rule which limits netbook manufacturers to a maximum of 1GB RAM – that is, if they want to install Windows XP.

Look what Microsoft is doing to sub-notebooks. It’s artificial limitation, just like DRM in Vista or even kill switches (WGA). Maybe that’s why they call it EEE PC. Embrace, extend and extinguish (EEE). It can neither be cheap nor powerful anymore, as Microsoft won’t permit this. Intel allegedly plays a role too.

Microsoft will never be able to stop MIPS netbooks/notebooks. Yes, notebooks. ARM is able to run full-scale computers, but Microsoft would rather badmouth it, making it seem comparable (capacity-wise) to phones where ARM already rules the roost. ARM can hardly ever cope with Vista or Vista 7, but GNU/Linux is not a one-size-fits-all system.

A reader of ours, who is a veteran in this field, contributed some thoughts about MIPS-based netbooks:

This looks like it could be very interesting news. It’s a MIPS-based netbook:

http://www.osnews.com/story/2…
http://broadcast.oreilly.com/2…
http://cinnamonpirate.com/2009/…

Two possible vendors:
http://www.tekmote.n…
https://kd85.com/lemote.html

I’ve been wanting a solid-state, ARM-based netbook since around 2001 but it looks like that’s still over the horizon. I’ve looked into getting a sparc-based notebook, but Tadpole got bought up by GD which seems hell-bent on preventing sales. Not to mention also that the price for the Tadpoles are high, though probably worth it. MIPS is a good archecture.

Wintel has been a problem for years. Before M$ cracked down on Asus and the others, Linux-based netbooks were all over the place.

****ARM and MIPS can run only modern software.***** When they get a foothold in the marketplace, the tipping will be highly visible.

So this is a small tipping point regarding hardware. ARM, because of the recognition by the public and the widespread use in tablets and mobiles, will be the real tipping point.

Let’s wait and watch how Microsoft attempts to fight this disruptive trend. The biggest mistake to make is to assume that Microsoft will not respond. It always does, but only behind the scenes where regulators and consumers can’t watch.

“I’m thinking of hitting the OEMs harder than in the past with anti-Linux. … they should do a delicate dance”

Joachim Kempin, Microsoft OEM Chief

Why Mono (and Moonlight) is Microsoft’s Embrace

Posted in ECMA, Microsoft, Mono, Patents, Ubuntu, Windows at 4:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

[Updated: Quote in post corrected (partly omitted/crossed out) because Banshee does not depend on Windows Forms.]

Microsoft Moonlight

Microsoft mono Embrace extend extinguish

Summary: Boycott Novell contributors explain why Mono and Moonlight are real risks

Microsoft is trying to embrace, extend, and extinguish GNU/Linux, largely with the help of Novell. Moonlight is already called "Microsoft Moonlight" in the Novell/Microsoft Web site and one reader wrote to say: “Here is one more proof than Microsoft is backing Moonlight. Go to http://silverlight.live.com/. If you connect from Linux O/S, it will offer you to install Silverlight, click install, you will be redirected to Moonlight page.”

“Mono fans are meanwhile censoring opposers of Mono over in Ubuntu.”Mono fans are meanwhile censoring opposers of Mono over in Ubuntu. Sometimes it's Novell employees and some of those who are responsible (not Novell employees) are writing about proprietary computer games (yes, Windows) at the moment. Those very same people are also pushing hard to put Novell's own Banshee inside Ubuntu, by default, at the expense of other media players.

DaemonFC writes: “If Ubuntu uses Banshee by default, they’ll have to ship Windows Forms/System Forms, so unless they have a Microsoft deal in the works, I don’t know how they’d pull this off. Up til now Ubuntu only ships the ECMA standard parts of Mono. Windows Forms is not part of the standard, so only Novell has permission to distribute that. [...] Well, like I said, if they signed an agreement with Microsoft like Novell has, it would be legal, otherwise they’re opening themselves up to be sued. Microsoft doesn’t want to sue, they want to keep pointing at things like this and saying “Nyaaaah!” when companies are considering Linux.”

Does Microsoft Break the Law in Search of a Future?

Posted in Antitrust, Law, Microsoft, Search, Windows at 3:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bongs
Bongs

Summary: Microsoft may be breaking competition law by routing users to its Web sites

SEVERAL DAYS ago we showed that Microsoft had allegedly forced IE6 users to embrace its rebranded “search engine” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], which the company vainly and callously calls “decisions engine” (because it lets Microsoft make decisions). The issue is now pretty much confirmed:

Microsoft Tries to Force You to Use Bing

According to reports, a glitch in Internet Explorer 6 forced Bing onto users as the default search engine. Even when users manually altered their preferences, Bing emerged once again.

Search Engine Land contacted Microsoft about the bug. Microsoft acknowledged the problem and responded at 2:45 a.m. that the bug is now fixed. End of story, right?

Perhaps. But when you take Microsoft’s history into consideration, the force-feeding of Bing almost makes sense. I am not suggesting Microsoft intentionally created this bug to get people hooked on Bing. I am saying there’s a correlation between the problem at hand and problems Microsoft have encountered in the past.

Are regulators paying attention?

Microsoft’s desperation is no excuse and if it tries to game the system to falsely claim growth, then punishment is in order. According to this new article, it’s too late for Microsoft.

MICROSOFT has been warned it is haemorrhaging almost £750 million ($1.2bn) a year by failing to secure a tie-up with Yahoo.

The investment bank Credit Suisse used an internet blog website to urge the US software giant to strike a deal and finally bring an end to on-off talks that have lasted well over a year.

It claims Microsoft cannot survive in the global search arena on a standalone basis, despite launching a £61m advertising campaign for “Bing”, its new search engine proposition.

Whether Microsoft gains market share or not is not so important. The company is already using this illusion of a “decisions engine” to deceive a lot of people. The engine is biased by design (in Microsoft’s favour) and we already know that Microsoft is making search results advance OOXML, for example. A few days ago, Pamela Jones wrote in Grokaw, “I suggest you search for ODF on both Bing and Google and see which one is more informative.”

It was the same with Microsoft’s Live (same engine under the hood) just over a year ago, so people complained. “Decisions engine” as a name is an excuse for delivering man-made results. Nowhere is there a claim that there will be no bias. Someone in a USENET newsgroup posted the following yesterday:

Search word: lady

Google: 333 Million
Yahoo: 898 Million
Bing: over 263 Million

Search word: chrysler

Google: over 90 Million
Yahoo: 475 Million
Bing: over 52 Million

Search word: ubuntu

Google: over 90 Million
Yahoo: over 200 Million
Bing: over 100 Thousand?

Does Microsoft has selective sight? It sure does. And its ‘new’ product (more of a predatory new strategy than a product) deserves the ire of regulators. Too little is said about the violations involved so far.

What Microsoft Did to MKV, US Policy

Posted in America, Finance, Microsoft, Steve Ballmer at 2:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Suburban sprawl

Summary: Ill effects of Microsoft in positions of power

ONE OF our readers has suggested that we link to this new article which sheds light on how Microsoft treats developers.

Now we can argue over whether or not Microsoft had an evil intent when they choose to shut down part of the codec industry, but regardless of the motives, competition is hurt by their decision to close media player to third party vendors. When I asked Marlin whether this would hurt his company or whether it was a dam in the river that would fork around the issue, he had conflicting thoughts.

Remember the Firefox debacle from last week?

Well, when people develop for Windows, they become mere guests of Microsoft. Even the term “third-party” is rather demeaning. Read the post above in full and see what it’s all about.

Another reader independently told us about this new article, which explains what he calls “The Irish tax evasion.”

It takes an incredibly powerful company to threaten the U.S. government in hopes of impacting a significant decision, but that’s precisely what Microsoft is doing. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made headlines when he publicly attacked President Barack Obama’s plan to cut tax breaks on U.S. companies’ foreign profits, a plan which is currently awaiting Congressional approval. Mr. Ballmer suggests that if the tax succeeds, Microsoft may begin a significant move out of the U.S., taking with it tax revenue and jobs. He states, “It makes U.S. jobs more expensive. We’re better off taking lots of people and moving them out of the U.S. as opposed to keeping them inside the U.S.”

[...]

Mr. Ballmer, perhaps the most outspoken critic, did acknowledge that the Obama proposal preserved research and experimentation cost tax breaks. He warned, though, that the cuts to foreign exemptions would raise the cost of Microsoft’s 56,552 U.S. employees. He says this could necessitate moving them overseas. Microsoft was previously embroiled in a controversy over whether it should lay off foreign workers before U.S. ones.

In relation to this news, the crude behaviour of Steve Ballmer is something we remarked on last week and tax evasion in general is still an issue that we constantly point out [1, 2, 3]. Are there no enforceable laws anymore? Or do these laws only apply to the ‘little people’ who do not wear suits and acquire private planes?

“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.”

Government official

Perception Management at Microsoft, Using Web Agents

Posted in Microsoft, Site News at 2:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

SWAT
Microsoft’s strategy is also used by the Department
of Defense for political purposes

Summary: Another exploration of how a brand’s value is defended while its opponent’s gets tarnished

A WORD ought to be said about attempts to disrupt this Web site either by derailing the subject of discussion, attacking the server, or insulting people who are involved — both editors and contributors. One such contributor, “The Mad Matter”, wrote about this last night:

You know there are some things that really piss me off. Some goof ball using the name “Yggdrasil” posted a comment to my article Trolls and Linux and the rotten little son of a bitch had the gall to call me sensitive!

Actually I find it quite funny. I write about trolls, and lo and behold, Yggie, a fairly well known troll shows up, and proceeds to write a pro-Microsoft screed which accuses me of being dishonest. Think of the odds. I write something critical of Microsoft, on a blog that almost no one knows exists besides a few friends. It gets one mention on a relatively popular site, and I get a pro-Microsoft troll popping up the next day. A fairly well known troll. What does this tell you?

We’ve had a lot of trolls not only in the comments but also in IRC — trolls whose nature was rather vile, not just rude. They try to spoil it for everyone. They’ve tried the same thing with Groklaw too, especially recently (earlier this year, based what PJ told me).

“The Mad Matter” responded to an issue we’ve seen here for years. Mere comments get discouraged when anonymous trolls start attacking commenters personally for merely daring to comment. From the same thread which led to some of the flames (a comment from Linux Today) we also have this new bit [via Slated]

June 5, 2009 1:11 AM
Ex-Microsoft marketing manager said:

Of course Microsoft has a perception management team and specifically targets Web 2.0 sites like Digg and Reddit. Some of this is outsourced as well. It is felt inside MS that the reason why Vista failed was that on Web 2.0 sites it became fashionable to bad mouth the OS, this turned in to group think and thus the OS failed. Seriously, that is the belief and there is at least some merit to it. Lets be real, Vista is just not as bad as it is painted.

Now contrast that to Windows 7; Microsoft have spent a lot of money manipulating user generated content sites to hype the OS. Let me tell you, it is not so much different from Vista but the perception is that is it much better. Again, lets be real, Windows 7 is just Vista with some UI tweaks and *much* better marketing.

Watch for the talking points used, this is starting now but will be pushed harder after Win7 is released, I would expect “Windows 7 is the death blow to Linux on the desktop” will be a favourite.

I think it is poor form for MS to manipulate sites like Digg, there will be a backlash when the users figure it out.

As Slated points out, “This anonymous comment may be purely anecdotal, but it is nonetheless highly convincing. He certainly seems to know what he’s talking about.”

Waggener Edstrom, which is Microsoft's PR department, explains quite openly this practice of "perception management", so this should surprise nobody. Slated borrows an explanation of this term from Wikipedia.

Perception management is a term originated by the U. S. military. The U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) gives this definition:

    Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.[1]

The phrase “perception management” has often functioned as a “euphemism” for “an aspect of information warfare.”

Adds Slated: “Well now we know how to formally address the shills in comp.os.linux.advocacy … they’re “Perception Management contractors”.

“Is this comparable to Dubya’s “Regime Change” hit-squads, I wonder?”

Also he says, “First there was the “Technology Evangelist” (TE):”

For eight years (1992-2000), I was the driving force behind Microsoft’s effort to make its Technology Evangelism (TE) efforts more efficient, effective, and ruthless, by studying both the practice and the theory of TE. After leaving Microsoft in 2000, I spurned the inquiries of numerous Microsoft competitors to testify on their behalf. As recently as year, I fell on my sword on Microsoft’s behalf.

[...]

My belief that I was one of the Good Guys was similarly flawed. This is now inescapable. I was wrong. Many of the TE practices that I developed, taught, and espoused were wrong. Anyone who continues to practice them is wrong. As a first step towards making amends for my past wrongdoing, I must make this clear, and widely known.

We have already written a lot more about it [1, 2]. Carla from LinuxToday added yesterday (in light of a lot of trolling in the Web site she manages):

Some of the grumpiness comes from the endless torrents of anti-Linux FUD, propaganda, misinformation, astroturfing, and just plain whining that keep pounding on the same theme: that Windows is easy, Linux is hard, and expecting computer users to spend more than eight or fifteen seconds in study is a sin. It has never been true that learning to use a personal computer is easy; that is a plain lie. Conversely, it’s not that hard.

Microsoft AstroTurfing is a reality, not mere speculation. Microsoft admits it, but it contracts those who are responsible through outside entities. Microsoft is not alone by the way, but it is very unique in its field.

Related:

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: June 7th, 2009

Posted in IRC Logs at 1:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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