Summary: A call for joint research on an important subject
Novell’s little helpers have been particularly noisy recently (mostly libel and person attacks), which means that we are getting close to something which they are trying to hide by smears and intimidation. A couple of days ago we wrote about Novell and debt, so the question we ask today is, “how big is Novell’s debt?”
Comments that are personal attacks would be less than welcome. We never censored comments.
For background, here is an article about Novell (published just before the defeatist deal with Microsoft):
Novell Inc has denied that it is in default over the terms of a $600m debt offering following the delay in filing its financial reports for its third quarter, which has also prompted the threat of delisting from the Nasdaq.
For context, see this post from 2007.
According to Wikipedia, “In finance, default occurs when a debtor has not met his or her legal obligations according to the debt contract, e.g. has not made a scheduled payment, or has violated a loan covenant (condition) of the debt contract. A default is the failure to pay back a loan. Default may occur if the debtor is either unwilling or unable to pay their debt. This can occur with all debt obligations including bonds, mortgages, loans, and promissory notes.”
We tried to find out how big Novell’s debt actually is, but we were not able to find an answer. We invite readers to politely help us find out the truth. █
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Summary: Microsoft-tied entities brushing shoulders amongst people in the Free(dom) software world
“Microsoft” is not a company, it is an ecosystem. It is a network of connected businesses that share the same goals and thus help one another. The role of Citrix is clear to see based on the XenSource story. The short story is that Citrix took Xen away from GNU/Linux, which is gradually gravitating towards KVM, probably as a direct result. Unsurprisingly, one of the only remaining supporters of Xen in the enterprise-oriented space is Novell, which is part of Microsoft's linked interests.
As we pointed out several days ago, an investment from Citrix in Vyatta may be cause for concern [1, 2]. On the surface, it sure seems rather innocent and virtualisation guru Dan Kusnetzky opines that this may be a strategic move against Cisco (Cisco and Microsoft don't get along so well anymore).
Dell, HP, IBM are you watching? I believe you would gain some important ground in your emerging competition with Cisco by also becoming buddies with Vyatta.
Dana Blankenhorn believes that “It’s a delicate dance, especially at times like this when growth capital is so scarce. Time will tell whether Vyatta tilts toward, say, Xen in helping craft customer solutions. Or whether it starts pushing Novell’s Suse Linux over, say, Red Hat.”
Considering the fact that Microsoft promotes SUSE and vilifies Red Hat, how likely is it that some gentle pressure might come from Citrix so that Vyatta leans towards Microsoft’s patent ploy? This hopefully will never happen.
Moving on a little, last month we noted that Black Duck (created by a Microsoft employee, who is still on the Board of Directors along with Roger Heinen from Microsoft) had invited Microsoft to FOSS ‘on our behalf’ [1, 2]. It is almost as though they act as a gateway. Gavin Clarke, a Microsoft spinner/PR person for the most part, passes on Black Duck’s latest praise of Microsoft:
A home-cooked Microsoft license has carved out a small but growing following among the open-source community in less than two years.
That’s according to license and code watcher Black Duck Software, who attributed the rise in MS-PL to Microsoft’s efforts to increase the appeal of its CodePlex project-hosting site. MS-PL is one of 1,577 software licenses from 200,000 projects analyzed by Black Duck.
It is important to be reminded that these are licences whose goal is to attack Free software and give Microsoft greater control over a much more confused and diluted 'community' (of Windows developers who give their code away for free).
“It is very dangerous to allow Black Duck to become (or be perceived as) a sort of spokesman for “open source”.”It is also important to remember that Black Duck is a proprietary software company (and marketing puppet at times, for press exposure that leads to shameless self-promotion). Black Duck talks a lot about “open source ” while selling proprietary software and nothing which is Free (libre) software at all, not to mention Black Duck’s ripoff of Palamida’s good *GPLv3 database (but that’s old news).
It is disappointing to see Matt Asay parroting a message of this company which ushers Microsoft into embrace & extend of “open source”. There is more in SD Times, following another Black Duck press release about open source in healthcare last week.
It is very dangerous to allow Black Duck to become (or be perceived as) a sort of spokesman for “open source”. But some people allow this to happen, not just Microsoft proponents with prominent positions in the press. █
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Summary: An interesting real-world example of Microsoft’s influence on the press
Microsoft’s use of Free software is a subject that we covered many times before, e.g. in [1, 2, 3, 4]. Hotmail, for example, was running BSD long after Microsoft had acquired it, but how far did a dishonest Microsoft go to deny it? Well, Slated has picked up some old links which nicely fit and explain a newer incident.
The first link he picked is this one where Microsoft admits being a BSD user.
Despite the company’s bitter campaign against open source software, Microsoft continues to use FreeBSD to power important functions of its Hotmail free e-mail service. Much to the chagrin of the folks at Redmond, FreeBSD and Apache continued to run Hotmail for several years after it was purchased in 1997. Microsoft publicly claimed to have removed all traces of FreeBSD last summer, and even published a case study documenting its experiences. Microsoft told BetaNews that solutions such as FreeBSD are in use throughout its IT infrastructure. A spokesperson also clarified the the software giant’s position on OSS technologies, and views on GPL licensing.
Microsoft maintains however, that it is migrating to its own proprietary software and any delays are meant to ensure a positive experience for its customers.
Contrary to recent claims, the popular Hotmail service does not run entirely on the Windows 2000 platform. First reported by the Wall Street Journal, FreeBSD developer Trevor Johnson determined that Microsoft was still using the open source operating system for DNS hosting and also for tracking advertisements. It has also been reported that FreeBSD software components are utilized in Microsoft products, such as Windows 2000. BSD’s TCP/IP stack, a vital communication protocol, is rumored to have been used in several Windows operating systems, enabling users to connect to the Internet.
Slated does not stop there. “The original WSJ article,” he points out, “has mysteriously disappeared, but fragments remain elsewhere.”
Wall St. Journal: Microsoft Uses Open-Source Code Despite Denying Use of Such Software
Lee Gomes, the reporter who wrote the friendly (and curiously MSNBC-edited) piece last week about “Microsoft’s Uphill Battle Against Linux” is back this week with an amplification on Microsoft’s use of open source software:
“Microsoft Corp., even while mounting a new campaign against open-source software, has quietly been using such free computer code in several major products, as well as on key portions of a popular Web site — despite denying last week that it did so.
Software connected with the FreeBSD open-source operating system is used in several places deep inside several versions of Microsoft’s Windows software, such as in the “TCP/IP” section that arranges all connections to the Internet. The company also uses FreeBSD on numerous “server” computers that manage major functions at its Hotmail free e-mail service, whose registered users exceed 100 million and make it one of the Web’s busiest sites.
Microsoft acknowledged its repeated use of open-source code Friday, in response to questions about the matter. Just two days earlier, it had specifically denied the existence of any such software at Hotmail.”
Also from LinuxToday (as per yesterday):
Why is the NY Times so Dumb About Linux and Windows?
The New York Times seems hard-wired to rarely identify any Windows malware as Windows malware, but rather as “computer malware.” They seem to share this illness with other people too, such as researchers and professors. Can it be that all these educated people who make their livings knowing things and uncovering new knowledge really don’t know that there are other computer operating systems besides Microsoft Windows?
Their latest failure at making this distinction is China Orders Patches to Planned Web Filter, and they also missed the real story: since this censoring software is required to be installed on all computers sold in China, does that mean that Mac, Linux, and Unix computers are banned? Because it’s a Windows program.
Microsoft and the New York Times are very close. Steve Ballmer publishes articles in there sometimes. A year ago we wrote about the New York Times promoting Silverlight and this was hardly surprising given the strong relationship between those two. Just months ago there was a rumour that Microsoft would buy the debt-saddled New York Times.
So, what Carla points out above is that the New York Times, which enjoys a wide daily distribution, consistently defends Microsoft through omission of critical details. The BBC too perpetuates the belief that computers and Windows are synonymous. We previously explained why the BBC and NBC cannot ever be trusted on Microsoft and Novell matters and returning to Slated’s links, he also shows that “The MSNBC even tried to censor the story [about Hotmail running on Free software].”
MSNBC has been caught doctoring copy originating from the Wall Street Journal to make it more favourable to the news channel’s co-owner Microsoft. The changes introduced by MSNBC also had the effect of removing references to Microsoft competitors.
Amongst many fairly harmless edits, designed to improve readability, were some more ominous changes.
The original WSJ report gave a harsh analysis of Microsoft’ offensive against open source software and the GNU General Public License, initiated six weeks ago by Craig Mundie. The WSJ cited Microsoft’s own dependence on open source software, and cited lawyers who were critical of its interpretation of the General Public License.
“Microsoft said that since last summer, Hotmail has been running on both Windows 2000 and the Solaris operating system from Sun Microsystems Inc.,” noted the original copy from the WSJ.
MSNBC amended this to:-
“Microsoft said Hotmail has been running on Windows since last summer.”
By Friday, the original version of the story that appeared in the WSJ had been restored to MSNBC.
“Here’s the best rebuttal I could find,” writes Slated, “although the author still does not actually deny that Microsoft benefited from “freeloading” the BSD code.”
I worked at Microsoft for ten years, most of it on the core Windows NT/2000 (hereafter referred to as NT) networking code. As such I briefly dealt with the Hotmail team, mostly to hear them complain about the lameness of the telnet daemon in NT (a valid point). I do know that when Microsoft bought Hotmail, the email system was entirely running on FreeBSD, and Microsoft immediately set about trying to migrate it to NT, and it took many years to do so. Now it seems that the transition is not complete. Well, what are you gonna do.
Now, some of Spider’s code (possibly all of it) was based on the TCP/IP stack in the BSD flavors of Unix. These are open source, but distributed under the BSD license, not the GPL that Linux is released under. Whereas the GPL states that any software derived from GPL’ed software must also be released under the GPL, the BSD license basically says, “here’s the source, you can do whatever you want, just give credit to the original author.”
Eventually the new, from scratch TCP/IP stack was done and shipped with NT 3.5 (the second version, despite the number) in late 1994. The same stack was also included with Windows 95.
However, it looks like some of those Unix utilities were never rewritten. If you look at the executables, you can still see the copyright notice from the regents of the University of California (BSD is short for Berkeley Software Distrubution, Berkeley being a branch of the University of California, for some reason referred to as “Berkeley” on the East Coast and “California” on the West Coast…and “Berkeley” is one of those words that starts to look real funny if you stare at it too long – but I digress).
Keep in mind there is no reason to rewrite that code. If your ftp client works fine (no comments from the peanut gallery!) then why change it? Microsoft has other fish to fry. And the software was licensed perfectly legally, since the inclusion of the copyright notice satisfied the BSD license.
To conclude, Slated writes:
Did Microsoft satisfy the BSD license?
Are they “freetards”, according to [some] definition?
Microsoft and their anti-Freedom supporters are a bunch of hypocrites. Or, to use the words of the above author, it’s “like the event horizon calling the kettle black”.
So when can we expect Microsoft (or even Spider Systems Ltd.) to compensate The Regents of the University of California for “all their hard work”?
It sure changes one’s perspective. █
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Summary: Batch of new and related stories
• Microsoft kills Visual Studio’s Oracle data connection
Coders have reacted with disappointment and frustration to Microsoft’s decision to cease development of a connector to Oracle in its .NET Framework, a move that looks like another budget cut.
Microsoft has said it will no longer develop OracleClient, or System.Data.OracleClient, with the the up-coming .NET Framework 4.0. It will still be included with the framework but will be “marked as deprecated.”
• Microsoft cries foul over Google Outlookware
If you install Google’s new Redmond-battling Outlook plug-in, it automatically disables Microsoft’s Windows desktop search service. And Microsoft is peeved.
“When a Google Apps user installs the sync plugin for Outlook, the plugin modifies a registry key which disables Windows Desktop Search from indexing and providing search functionality for all Outlook data, not just the Outlook data being synchronized from GMail. Because Outlook search relies upon the indexing performed by Windows Desktop Search, Outlook search functions are broken as a result,” Microsoft’s blog post reads.
• Apple Warns Palm Pre Users: We’re Going To Break Your iTunes Syncing
Apple, however, has responded with a neat little message that never actually mentions Palm, even if it’s entirely transparent who it’s about, warning people that Apple can easily break syncing when it updates its software. Of course, Apple did it in a way that it can claim wasn’t meant nefariously at all. All the company really meant was to make people understand that it has no control over how the Pre syncs with iTunes, and it’s possible that an update could break that syncing. Sure. Right. Except most people assume this means Apple intends to break it.
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Summary: According to a comment, Novell may not be dishonest but just very secretive
WE ARE still trying to make sense of the claim that in Q2 of 2009 Novell managed to turn deep losses into a profit (albeit year-to-year, not quarter-to-quarter), despite signing no major contracts and seeing a higher-than-expected revenue drop. Novell must have cut down about $30 million in quarterly expenses, but where exactly?
One anonymous source suggests (and this cannot be confirmed) that:
There are big job cuts coming and for those of you that didn’t notice the job cuts at Novell have been happening for months but are being executed in such a way that reporting them publicly is not required.
I don’t think they are “cooking the books” as they have always been above board financially.
Two things that Roy has missed though, is that this year Novell’s earning will most likely drop below the $900 million level for the first time in a long time and they are selling of pieces of the business behind the scenes like the news that the New Zealand arm of the business will soon be sold to internal staff.
Can anyone close to Novell respond to these allegations? Namely the ones about layoffs going unannounced and Novell’s “selling of pieces of the business behind the scenes”? █
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Summary: Signs of nervousness as Microsoft resorts to FUD and bribes
A LOT has already been written about the subject, so to keep it short, here is one prior take:
Internet Explorer 8 – Get the Propaganda!
But what really takes the cake, in light of the multitudinous testings that everyone from ZDNet to the bagboy at the neighborhood grocery store has performed, is the effrontery that Microsoft shows with this page.
The short story is that Microsoft essentially bribes users to drop all Web browsers but Internet Explorer and it has also set up a page which is comparable to the “Get the Facts” campaign (against GNU/Linux), which was slammed for deception or outright propaganda.
There are many deficiencies in Microsoft’s arguments for Internet Explorer and many people have done the systematic debunking already. But on the issue of security, there is a lot to be refuted. Well, even Vista 7, whose security problems "cannot be fixed", continues to be shown for the Swiss cheese it is. UAC leads to flaws, and now exploits too.
12th June 2009: Program and Source Code Released
13th June 2009: HTML version of the source and step-by-step guide online now, too
Speaking of security, here is another timely reminder of problems GNU/Linux users need never cope with.
Security firms Symantec and McAfee have both agreed to pay $375,000 to US authorities after they automatically renewed consumers’ subscriptions without their consent.
The firms have agreed to settle the case with the New York Attorney General, who says the companies must be more up front about subscription renewals in the future.
GNU/Linux is inherently more secure than Windows, so even as it continues growing, security firms will stay out of the picture for the most part (placebo effect aside). █
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Solang photo manager requires no Mono
Summary: Mono poll (monopol) and news about the subject
TUX Machines, which is an excellent GNU/Linux news site, has just conducted a little survey and the results — however inaccurate they may be — indicate that the large majority or respondents is not in favour of putting Mono in GNU/Linux. In fact, 72% say “no” to Mono. The latest episode of Linux Outlaws deals with this subject too. Skip to 13mins for a short debate on Mono & Fedora. A lot more starts around 49mins. LinuxToday readers too are quite clearly annoyed by inclusions of Mono by default. Tony Manco points out that Ubuntu even considers leaving the GIMP out due to space constraints while totally ignoring heaps of space which Mono and Mono-based applications consume. See this page for proof:
* rickspencer3 proposes pulling the gimp from the CD:
o It takes up a lot of space that we need for couchdb, etc…
o F-Spot has key features, like crop and red-eye removal
o It’s a power user tool, users shouldn’t stumble into it
* Discussion points brought up that
o The gimp currently uses 26 megs of space, 20 of which are documentation, which could be moved online
o The gimp, though not totally user friendly, is very useful, and does not require “importing” to edit
* The current plan of record is:
o Keep the gimp in the default install
o If we need the room, switch the gimp to online only documentation
o If we still need the room, kick it out altogether
Over in Launchpad, there is an itemised list attached to
mononono and a new entry highlights the fact that the Mono patent covenant is considered discriminatory. It’s only good for Novell.
The patent covenant is probably to be considered discriminatory in reference to other programs.
What follow apparently means that use of covered technologies, such as Mono is to be considered unsafe (for covenant purposes) for developing parts of the software cited below.
read the patent covenant:
Martin Kaba, a Free software advocate, recommends replacing Tomboy with GNote.
Here is where Gnote practically steps in. Gnote is a port of Tomboy to C++. No Mono, No Novell.
Even the press wrote about the subject, reminding readers that Fedora is already distancing itself from Mono and replacing Tomboy with Gnote.
Fedora feels it’s something to worry about, and that’s why there are plans on the table to exclude Mono from Fedora 12 — in part due to the fact that applications that would nominally require Mono are being swapped for others that don’t. A big part of it is unease about the licensing, but no small amount of unease comes from the fact that .NET itself is a Microsoft creation.
Should Fedora exclude Mono from Fedora? Sure, why not? It’s their distribution; they’re free to include or exclude whatever they like from it. There’s nothing stopping anyone from adding it on after the fact, or creating a whole derivative distribution that adds Mono back in.
When Tomboy is no longer part of the default ‘package’ or distribution (people are free to install whatever they wish afterwards), then at least in Ubuntu there is fspot to worry about. Three readers have just recommended a new replacement for fspot as well. Check out Solang, which makes a lot of headlines at the moment.
It currently runs on a up-to-date Fedora 10+ installation and Debian Sid (with Gdl patch applied).
Here is a better introduction and installation guidance for Ubuntu users. There is no lack of powerful libre applications that are independent from Novell’s Mono. █
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