07.29.09

Patents Roundup: Another Attack on Free Software, Blackboard Loses Again, Yellow Beans Patented

Posted in America, Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents at 5:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Assorted patent news of interest to the Free software community

McKool Smith, which looks like a classic patent troll, has just sued a one-man free/open source project — a decision which is backfiring.

Except, it appears that the lawyers for the patent holder (McKool Smith — a favorite among the patent hoarders) didn’t do much research on at least one of those “companies,” named CitiWare. Slashdot alerts us to the fact that CitiWare was basically just a small open source project from one guy, who hoped to turn it into a business, but couldn’t find any customers and shut it down. That guy has now turned the CitiWare.com website into an angry open letter to the patent holder and to its lawyers, demanding that they drop the case against him.

Some months ago we saw something similar happening to a GIMP plug-in.

Moodle, which has been under similar threats from the Microsoft-backed patent aggressor known as Blackboard [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] (never mind Microsoft's new attempt to exploit Moodle) can finally breathe out and sigh in relief. Blackboard’s junk patent is still declared invalid based on the following report.

A federal appeals court has found all 38 of Blackboard Inc.’s contested patent claims to be invalid in ongoing litigation between the D.C.-based education software company and its Canadian competitor, Desire2Learn Inc.

This is the second time in the course of the three-year lawsuit that courts have poked major holes in Blackboard’s patent.

There are echoes of this in Patently-O and also in TechDirt.

Even as the Patent Office realized it needed to rethink the patent, the lawsuit moved forward, with Blackboard scoring a win. Of course, just weeks later, the USPTO gave an initial rejection of the patent. The original court ruling was (of course) appealed (separate from the USPTO ruling), and the good news is that the appeals court has dumped the entire patent.

TechDirt also writes about a most ludicrous patent attempt:

This one’s a bit old, but Boing Boing just pointed us to the incredible story of a guy named Larry Proctor who was able to get the USPTO to patent some yellow beans he picked up in Mexico.

Here it is from BoingBoing and here is the key page about this sham. See the subheadline:

Controversial Court patent case for simple yellow legume has become rallying point for “biopiracy” concerns

This is amazing. “Biopiracy”. The growing of crops is now compared to raping and murdering innocent people. The Wired Magazine Web site has meanwhile published this report about real piracy that still exists and thrives near Somali shores.

All these propaganda terms need to be dropped. They daemonise people who do perfectly ethical things. “Intellectual monopoly” is still being described as “intellectual property” and there are even many Web sites that use this term in their name. The UK-IPO is an example of an entire establishment that bases itself on a name that’s a propaganda term. From “Intellectual Property Watch” now comes this report about hypocrisy in Europe and also TRIPS, which is related to ACTA provisions that we mentioned before [1, 2, 3].

The European Commission on Monday released a report finding fault with a number of United States practices related to intellectual property rights policy, on copyright, geographical indications, trademarks and patents. The report is an answer, one might say, to the annual US Special 301 report that criticises US trading partners it deems unilaterally to be insufficiently protecting its companies’ IP rights.

[...]

And on patents, the US government frequently fails to comply with Article 31 of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which requires governments that use patents to promptly inform the patent right holders, the EU said. This means the right holders are likely to miss the opportunity to initiate an administrative claim process.

These disputes revolve around limitation and inconveniencing of scientists, who are usually far less interested in all this mess than lawyers and managers. As Barracuda’s CEO put it last year, “I would much rather spend my time and money and energy finding ways to make the Internet safer and better than bickering over patents.”

ACTA

Novell Lies About SUSE Appliances

Posted in Astrum, Deception, GNU/Linux, Novell, Virtualisation at 4:40 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Peace of mind
Novell’s “Industry’s First Solution” is a Microsoft-taxed GNU/Linux distribution

Summary: Novell claims “Industry’s First Solution” for something it merely imitated, i.e. created based on the high shoulders of others

Novell has just made a couple of related announcements about SUSE appliances, but it is being dishonest about them. The press release from Novell states in the headline that this is an “Industry’s First Solution”, but just like with Astrum, this is a case of Novell imitating a partner. We shall come back to it in a moment.

In addition to the press release referenced above, there was another one here, which said:

Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) are demonstrating tremendous support for the SUSE(R) Appliance Program from Novell, the industry’s first, complete, end-to-end appliance solution that enables ISVs to rapidly build, update, configure and go to market with fully supported software and virtual appliances. These ISVs are taking advantage of the comprehensive go-to-market support for appliances offered by Novell, including distribution channel, joint marketing, pricing, and redistribution agreements that reduce the time to get an evaluation or production appliance ready for the market.

According to this listing, both press releases came out at the exact same time. One is an announcement of a product which is not truly new and the second is intended to just generate hype about it. Did the hype work? Well, it depends. Novell’s Chief Marketing Officer used his blog to generate some buzz and Novell’s PR people released episode 3 of a series — one about SUSE Studio. From Dragoon:

Novell’s SUSE Appliance Program announcement today promises to deliver the same “set it and forget it” benefits.

There was also a new video.

SUSE member Ben Kevan added his voice and linked to this new review of SUSE Studio (not the same but related), which is summarised as follows:

Linux is well known for being very customizable, but with SUSE Studio, things are taken to an entirely new level. Imagine taking a base template, building on top of it with your personal software choices, then configuring countless other aspects (even a SQL database), and then building it as a bootable ISO or VM. That’s exactly what makes SUSE Studio so great.

Then came a bunch of news sites which covered it.

ZDNet: Novell releases Suse appliance-building kit

Novell has launched a free group of technologies that will allow developers to create and deploy software appliances that can run in any virtual environment.

The Register: Novell punts tools to make software appliances

SUSE Studio went into alpha in February, when Novell announced a partnership to package up SUSE Linux appliances and distribute them inside virtual machines compatible with VMware’s ESX Server hypervisor. SUSE Studio is a homegrown Linux and appliance software spinner that now has an improved user interface, according to Matt Richards, senior program manager for the appliance program at Novell.

Heise: Novell announces SUSE Appliance Program

Novell has announced the launch of the SUSE Appliance Program for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). With the Appliance Program, ISVs can can create software appliances, such as an email server for a small office, using SUSE Linux Enterprise or openSUSE and SUSE Studio, test their appliances and get them to the market.

OStatic: Novell’s SUSE Appliance Program Enables Roll Your Own Linux

Today, Novell announced its SUSE Appliance Program, which encompasses Suse Studio Online, a customizable, lightweight version of Linux called SUSE Linux Enterprise JeOS (Just Enough Operating System), tie-ins with Amazon’s cloud services, and full support for custom software.

Seemingly, all of the above coverage missed the simple fact that Novell stomped on rPath, which is in fact more or less the originator of the idea. rPath writes:

So, it was with both pride and dismay that I read today’s news from our friends at Novell:

“Novell Announces Industry’s First Solution for Creating and Deploying Fully Supported Software Appliances.”

[Cue record needle scratch].

Industry’s first? A stretch, to be sure, but never let the facts get in the way of a good story, I suppose.

rPath has some history with Novell [1, 2, 3], but eventually it moved on and considered a wider set of GNU/Linux distributions. Here we have Novell claiming credit for something they were not trailblazers in. Astrum and Novell are a similar story and there was also a lawsuit. The short story is that Novell allegedly copied the ideas of Astrum and then dumped them. Shades of Microsoft…

SCO Lies About Hans Bayer

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, SCO, UNIX at 4:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Curious

Summary: SCO plays “Where’s Waldo” with its own members of staff

IT has been a few days since we last caught up with SCO [1, 2] and fascinating things are happening now that the court proceeds. The most significant revelation was probably this new one from Groklaw. Watch the way SCO distances itself from its own major folks, the seniors. SCO pretends Hans Bayer is some sort of estranged person.

Groklaw’s reporters who attended the SCO bankruptcy hearing on the 27th reported that SCO portrayed Hans Bayer as not an officer of the company and not authorized to speak for SCO about the unXis deal. As a result, some emails by Bayer about the proposed sale to unXis were stricken from the record. I’ll show you in a minute why SCO was so eager to have the emails stricken. They are very damaging. CEO Darl McBride said he’d even reprimanded Bayer for some emails he was not authorized to send. At one point, Cravath attorney David Marriott, representing IBM, pulled out his Blackberry and showed McBride the SCO website, listing Bayer as VP. But SCO’s portrayal was that the web site was mistaken. When Steve Norris later testified, however, when he was asked who was the lead negotiator for SCO in the unXis deal, he said it was Hans Bayer. Norris had not been in the courtroom during McBride’s testimony.

Heise has just summarised this whole Hans Bayer weirdness as follows.

The court proceedings concerning the bankruptcy of the SCO Group were finalised on Monday with a 12-hour marathon hearing. The judge’s ruling is expected in about a week. A surprising aspect of the hearing was a controversy that developed around the role of SCO’s Vice President Hans Bayer, the former CEO of SCO Germany. This was sparked off by the question of which of SCO’s business divisions possess any economic value that could be salvaged via ordered bankruptcy proceedings.

Groklaw has found another contradiction in Darl McBride’s words and on Monday it assembled some assorted notes (Groklaw members were attending the hearing). Here is one detailed analysis and also the first report from this bankruptcy hearing.

Update 2: I got a quick email that Darl McBride has taken the stand and is painting a rosy picture of SCO’s business hopes:

Darl McBride sworn in. Mr. Spector on direct. Extoling SCO’s bright prospects. Objection over scope of testemony–overruled. More objections–sustained. Mr. McBride may not speculate about the impacts of the results of the appeal. Mr. Mcbride goes over the history of the attempts to reach a deal–York, SNCP, Merchants Bridge, others.

Possible connections between some of these deals and Microsoft were shown before.

Related posts:

“On the same day that CA blasted SCO, Open Source evangelist Eric Raymond revealed a leaked email from SCO’s strategic consultant Mike Anderer to their management. The email details how, surprise surprise, Microsoft has arranged virtually all of SCO’s financing, hiding behind intermediaries like Baystar Capital.”

Bruce Perens

Why is Acer Curtailing Its Linux Efforts?

Posted in Asia, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft at 2:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“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

Summary: Acer suddenly pushes back the Android plan it was so excited about; ASUS temporarily neglects sub-notebooks

AS we noted a couple of days go, there is already a Russian investigation into what Microsoft did to GNU/Linux in sub-notebooks. Reading between the lines, this was the interpretation of the Managing Editor of Linux Today.

Based on evidence that we gathered (see links at the bottom), Microsoft’s anti-competitive tactics worked very effectively against GNU/Linux at ASUS; not only that, but Microsoft tried to eliminate this market of sub-notebooks altogether. Microsoft’s business model just can’t take it [1, 2, 3] and it shows [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

“Asian manufacturers habitually admit that they are afraid of Microsoft, which uses margins to punish them.”Does anyone still remember the bizarre incident where ASUS apologised for removing an amazing Linux product during an expo? Asian manufacturers habitually admit that they are afraid of Microsoft, which uses margins to punish them. It is a tool of extortion.

Now we discover that ASUS, which was ecstatic back in the days about GNU/Linux-powered Eee PCs, has decided to no longer make sub-notebooks this year. What a difference getting "closely tied up with Microsoft" can make. Their profit fell 94% and now there is another generation of products ruined by Microsoft, maybe eternally. At least ARM is coming.

Based on the same report, sources say that Acer might be delaying/canceling its Linux sub-notebooks which its people planned and were hugely enthusiastic about. To quote:

Report: Acer Android Netbook pushed back

[...]

But if the Digitimes report is accurate, it means something has shifted at Acer HQ. At Computex in early June, company executives were very excited about the possibilities of Android on Netbooks, even saying that the majority of Acer Netbooks will come with Android as an alternative operating system to Microsoft’s Windows.

“Netbooks are designed to be compact in size and easy to connect to the Internet wherever you go,” Jim Wong, Acer’s president of IT products, said at the time. “The Android operating system offers incredibly fast wireless connection to the Internet; for this reason, Acer has decided to develop Android Netbooks for added convenience to our customers.”

“[S]omething has shifted at Acer HQ,” writes CNET. Something has shifted, alright. Ask ASUS about Snapdragon. It was about a year ago that Roughly Drafted Magazine hypothesised that Microsoft was pressuring vendors (behind the scenes) to abolish Android.

The Russian investigators will hopefully get to the bottom of this.

Related posts:

“Microsoft Corp is using scare tactics to exert pressure on PC vendors not to explore the potential of desktop Linux”

Ron Hovsepian

Novell Still Serves Microsoft with Mono

Posted in GNOME, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Windows at 1:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Cat burglar
Microsoft sneaks into GNU/Linux from the back door

Summary: Novell’s latest developments around Mono further fulfill Microsoft’s needs

W

ITH talks about an “OpenSUSE Mono 2.4.2.1″ image and that sort of ‘Banshee OS’ vision [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] (the Windows version is coming), one can’t help wondering what might happen to GNOME 3.0. This whole effort eases a migration from Linux/Mono to Windows/.NET, putting GNU/Linux in the inferior position. It is the same on the server side where Novell is helping Microsoft become a host platform [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Miguel de Icaza writes about “Improving Mono’s compatibility with .NET CLR”, which brings to mind the story of companies that move from GNU/Linux to Windows, via Mono.

We are pretty excited about the progress and the increased compatibility of Mono with Microsoft’s .NET.

Who is Mono good for? It is good for Microsoft. What is Mono good for? It is good for Windows, as we have shown before [1, 2, 3]. It’s not even to do with software patents. A year and a half after his explanation of the practical issues with Mono, Beranger still can’t stand it. From one of his latest posts:

openSUSE 11.1 is actually good, but I hate to need to “decustomize” it to get a decent desktop layout and no Mono…

A lot of people reject Mono, so who is Novell serving anyway?

Microsoft’s Extend-and-Extinguish with ActiveX is Blowing Up in Rival Vendors’ Faces

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Standard, Windows at 1:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Proprietary Web rears its ugly head — again

THE most detailed (as in references-filled) post that we have about ActiveX is this one. We also wrote about Novell's support of ActiveX and now we discover that the latest ActiveX flaw affects even Adobe and Cisco.

Microsoft’s ATL problem is spreading. Many other software vendors are affected, among them Adobe and Cisco. The total number of vendors with vulnerable controls is currently unclear. In an interview with heise Security, Microsoft executive Andrew Cushman confirmed that it is not known how many ActiveX controls are affected. Cushman said this is the first time a Microsoft library has been affected by a security problem. According to the executive, Redmond appreciates that this patch not only affects corporate IT teams, but also requires action from software developers.

A highly effective solution would be to ban ActiveX controls, as some companies have been doing for years; ActiveX controls were arguably added for competitive reasons despite the obvious dangers. It helped Microsoft create an Internet Explorer monoculture in the late 90s. A relationship between vulnerability and monoculture was also mentioned in this new E-mail. It is about another proprietary stain on the Web: Flash.

This highlights an unfortunate instance of monoculture — nearly everyone on the internet uses Flash for nearly all the video they watch, so just about everyone in the world is using a binary module from a single vendor day in, day out.

The World Wide Web was built on standards, which were intended to be implemented independently by many capable vendors. Then came Microsoft. This potential departure from standards puts at great risk the entire Internet.

“Another suggestion In this mail was that we can’t make our own unilateral extensions to HTML I was going to say this was wrong and correct this also.”

Bill Gates [PDF]

More Linux and Open Source Infiltrations from Microsoft

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, GPL, Kernel, Microsoft, Novell at 12:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Broken fence

Summary: Microsoft may be exploiting the openness of the community to hop over fences and subvert rivalry from the inside

A few days ago, the SFLC said that Microsoft had violated the GPL when it prepared its self-serving [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] loadable module for Linux along with Novell. The usual suspects supported Microsoft's spin only to see their arguments shredded to pieces. There are people out there who pretend to be speaking for GNU/Linux, but they neither use GNU/Linux (Matt Asay for example) nor do they accept the philosophy of GNU [1, 2].

“Novell is going all the way with Microsoft here.”GNU/Linux must be doing terrifically well if foes of freedom attempt to infiltrate GNU/Linux just as Microsoft infiltrated Yahoo!

Yahoo! is currently being called a “Microsoft zombie”, at least by SJVN. We don’t need to find GNU/Linux becoming anyone’s “zombie” right now.

The latest good episode of Linux Outlaws is aptly titled “it’s a trap”. Skip to the 45th minute and find out just what “trap” Fabian Scherschel is referring to. Although English is not his mother’s tongue (so he can’t make it sound so eloquent), he raises valid points with regards to Microsoft’s intent when submitting code for Linux.

Over at the SFLC’s Web site, Kuhn too has just published a great essay which warns about what Microsoft does to Linux. He does not specifically mention Novell’s role, but it clearly is a major factor. Novell is going all the way with Microsoft here.

Microsoft has received much undeserved press about their recent release of Linux drivers for their virtualization technology under GPLv2. I say “undeserved” because I don’t particularly see why Microsoft should be lauded merely for doing something that is in their own interest that they’ve done before.

[...]

Someday, perhaps, Microsoft will take a proper place among other large companies that actually contribute code that improves the general infrastructure of Free Software. Many companies give generally useful improvements back to Linux, GCC, and various other parts of the GNU/Linux system. Microsoft has never done this: they only contribute code when it improves Free Software interoperability with their proprietary technology. The day that Microsoft actually changes its attitude toward Free Software did not occur last week. Microsoft’s old strategy stays the same: try to kill Free Software with patents, and in the meantime, convince as many Free Software users as possible to begin relying on Microsoft proprietary technology.

As another sign of warning, it is worth becoming aware of this SoftPedia report, which goes under the headline “Free Open Source Silverlight 3 SDK for Bing Available”. It almost seems to infer that Silverlight is “Free Open Source” and this is part of a trend we wrote about before. The same misleading words are also used to insinuate that Silverlight is cross-platform, which it is not. Microsoft is harming the “open source” brand; in this case, there is improper use of the word “Free” as well (probably meaning gratis).

“There’s free software and then there’s open source… there is this thing called the GPL, which we disagree with.”

Bill Gates, April 2008

Microsoft’s Proxy Fight Against Yahoo! Turns it to Puppet State

Posted in Google, Microsoft, Search at 11:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ramses II at Kadesh

Summary: Microsoft overthrew opposition inside Yahoo! and turned it into an anti-Google drone

“Proxy fight” is a technical term which refers to what Microsoft has been doing to Yahoo! since over a year ago.

In response to the most recent development, SJVN calls Yahoo a “Microsoft zombie”, correctly adding that:

Sure, it looks like Yahoo still exists as an independent company, but in reality, Ballmer’s bite has turned it into a Microsoft zombie.

Yahoo has agreed to let its search engine brain, the only thing of value it really had, to be replaced by Bing, Microsoft’s “decision engine.” That’s a fancy, Microsoft marketing phrase, which means it’s a search engine with a built-in bias towards giving pro-Microsoft search results.

Microsoft’s poor illusion of a “decision engine” has gone nowhere (hit a roadblock, as everyone but Microsoft Evangelists knew from the very start), so Microsoft is trying to acquire market share using dirty tricks. This has been evident for over a year. Microsoft spoke to Icahn, who also took a chair in the board of Yahoo! and brought other friends to occupy more chairs (it is called “proxy fight” because Microsoft gets nearer at a personnel level).

“They have already yanked Jerry Yang, who openly accused Microsoft of agitating and destroying his company.”Later on, the cronies brought in (supposedly elected in an already-reorganised company) Bartz, who was a Ballmer partner back in her Autodesk days.

Since Microsoft has had great influence inside the USDOJ since the late nineties*, expect this injustice to carry on without a challenge. They have already yanked Jerry Yang, who openly accused Microsoft of agitating and destroying his company. Where is he now to testify and complain about the very same company that used the USDOJ to derail his planned deal with Google? See the links at the bottom for more details because Microsoft keeps harassing Google from a political and/or legal angle [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

In summary, this has been a form of organised crime, but so much of the mainstream press misses the whole chronology of things; instead, it plays along with the story told by Microsoft and its so-called ‘zombie’.
______
* They are known to to have infiltrated around the time of convictions from Netscape. Today’s examples include the likes of Barnett [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8].

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