Summary: Microsoft’s illegal strategy now in audio
A Boycott Novell regular, Marti van Lin, has created the following track whose lyrics are Microsoft evangelism documents, as he describes in his blog. The track is playable below (requires browser support for the <audio> element). █
In the wake of the financial crisis and its attendant repercussions across the global economy, the U.S. Congress stands poised to address the issue of patent reform. Much debated and long anticipated, patent reform legislation is back under consideration with the bill possibly coming up for vote, prior to the end of 2009. Under the stewardship of a set of legislators well sensitized to the salient issues and with the thoughtful counsel of David Kappos, President Obama’s business savvy head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the stars are aligning to usher in legislation that promises to offer significant advances in an arena that has been overdue for reform.
OIN has created a model that can be replicated across many industries. OIN, a defensive patent pool established by IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony to keep the Linux Community free of patent-related issues and ensure freedom of action, launched Linux Defenders in December 2008. The program and associated website (www.linuxdefenders.org) enables the contribution of prior art through its portal. For already granted patents, Linux Defenders’ Post Issue Peer to Patent program solicits prior art that can be used to support requests for patent reexam. The third element of the Linux Defenders platform highlights the difference between patents and defensive publications and leads inventors through a process that allows inventions to be codified and made accessible to patent examiners as an effective form of prior art.
The foregoing dynamics underscore the need for legislative, regulatory and judicial patent reform coupled with market-led patent reform. Absent a joint market, industry and government effort that is comprehensive and seeks to resolve all of the challenges posed by today’s patent system, the result of legislative reform will be suboptimal.
The above was published around the same time that Bilski hearings commenced [1, 2, 3]. Among the latest coverage (from patent opponent Timothy B. Lee it ought to be said), we have this article at Ars Technica:
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Bilski case on Monday. The wide-ranging discussion included significant discussion about the patentability of software and also touched on the patentability of horse-training and speed-dating methods.
If I had to describe the fairly universal geek reaction to the oral argument at the US Supreme Court on Monday in In Re Bilski, I would have to say it’s a worry that some of the participants didn’t seem to understand computers or the tech behind software very well.
Microsoft’s patent comes as the US Supreme Court wrestles with the issue of business methods, such as those included in software, and whether they qualify for patent protection. Critics contend only physical inventions should be eligible, while a large swath of technology companies maintain that software-driven features such as Amazon’s one-click checkout and Priceline’s reverse auctions are fair game.
A corporate viewpoint is to be provided by allegedly former communist [1, 2] Jan Muehlfeit, who is now the European chairman of Microsoft. He is lobbying in Europe [1, 2, 3, 4] and participating in questionable practices that we covered before.
The panel is to be moderated by a patent maximalist, who makes a living out of an excess of patent news (which usually means legal actions). “But the best are the questions,” says our source, which quotes:
• How to describe the relationships between innovation, IP, and wealth creation?
• Is IP really a remedy against crisis? if so, why? and how?
• How to treat the global “4.2 million unprocessed patent applications” problem. What would solutions to this bring to the economy?
• How far is Europe concerned? Are parts of the issue already addressed? What lies ahead?
• Sharing the Backlog, act 1: what are Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) programmes for? What is the expected benefit?
• Trilateral pilot projects: what expectations for their implementation at the beginning of 2010 ?
• Sharing the Backlog, act 2: would the mutual exploitation of search and examination documents, and/or of patent data, be a major step?
• Global harmonization of patent-granting rules and criteria: dream or possible reality?
• Can translation be entirely automated? What are the other tracks in terms of workflow optimization?
• Does the impressive growth in China call for new co-operation agreements, notably between the EPO and the SIPO? Beyond the implication of EPO though the IPR-2 initiative, what could these cover?
• Financing the European Patent Office: what are the related challenges for member states and the industry?
We have also been told about this new interview with Detlef Eckert, who was hired (and thus silenced) by Microsoft*. According to our source, he might be “back at the Commission, looking for revenge.”
It is important to remember what is happening with Microsoft’s Courtois these days [1, 2]. He forms close relationships with the very same people who are supposed to regulate his behaviour and penalise his company. █
_____ * As we noted back in September, Microsoft loves hiring the very same people who become a threat to Microsoft because this way “they are removed from the “gene pool” of those who can tell the story and provide satisfactory material to support strong claims.”
Summary: ODF news from the past week, mostly positive this time around (no signs of sabotage from the Microsoft ecosystem)
APART from an ODF event and an OpenOffice.org event, not much has happened in this area of interest. Down under near Australia, Matthew Holloway emphasises that Microsoft does not properly support ODF [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] and he recommends the Sun ODF plugin for users of Microsoft Office. Up north in Canada, this new article was published to remind people that Microsoft Office can — and probably should — be substituted. OpenOffice.org is advocated as follows:
OpenOffice.org is currently on version 3.1, with an update expected this December to 3.2, which is expected to offer performance improvements and other technical tweaks, as well as a major update to the interface of Impress.
OOoCon, which is an annual OpenOffice.org conference, ended almost a week ago and attendants tell their stories in the following blog posts:
Spent an intense last week in Orvieto, Italy. First two days had the 2nd odf plugfest; glad to see so many enthusiastic people from the odf universe again, or for the first time in person – and of course witnessing big corporation representatives like Doug and Rob sitting on the table, striving for better odf interop.
some of you might have been at the OpenOffice.org Conference 2009 or already read some of the (few) blog comments. I’d hoped to provide similar insights like I did in my blog comments covering the OOoCon last year (first posting). Time for changing that!
Poole joined NComputing just after he had been leading the EDGI group. From a de facto Microsoft PR outlet:
The [Microsoft] approach is similar to one taken by NComputing, a start-up run by former e-Machines CEO Stephen Dukker. Will Poole, the former Windows executive who also led Microsoft’s emerging markets efforts for a time, serves as NComputing’s co-chairman. NComputing sells Windows and Linux-based systems to both schools and businesses.
The product shares a name–but is separate–from an existing MultiPoint product that allows students to each have their own mouse and work off a single display. (Note that the story I link to has Poole–then at Microsoft–talking about the MultiPoint mouse.)
So, he came to NComputing after he had promoted a similar Windows product inside Microsoft. How suitable. As we stressed before, this cannot be beneficial to GNU/Linux at NComputing. Who can ever forget what Microsoft did to OLPC? They should bury their heads in shame. █
In a new article from SJVN, the history of GNU/Linux on the desktop is outlined with the following portion about Corel: “Alas, after Corel experienced some brief success, its efforts came to little. Facing strong opposition from Microsoft and financially ravished by an ill-timed move into the then-hot application service provider (ASP) market and inadequate profits from its application lines, Corel quickly found itself in hot water. By the end of 2000, Corel had changed management and partnered up with Microsoft.”
“On several occasions, Novell had changed management (Schmidt, Messman, etc.) and eventually partnered up with Microsoft.”This sounds just like Novell, doesn’t it? To rephrase the above, Novell experienced some success with Netware, but its efforts came to little in recent years. Facing strong opposition from Microsoft and financially ravished by an ill-timed move into the then-hot *NIX/groupware market and inadequate profits from its application lines, Novell quickly found itself in hot water. On several occasions, Novell had changed management (Schmidt, Messman, etc.) and eventually partnered up with Microsoft.
I know that various members of the Moonlight team are passionate about Moonlight because it is this next generation API for building GUI applications.
Which applications do you think are needed nad could be built with Moonlight?
I say video editing, and I have some ideas of how it should work.
The Mono-Nono Web site calls it “Moonlight Marching Orders” and explains this as follows:
Look for ever more of this sort of thing as Team Mono attempts to expand Mono and Moonlight. Team Mono is already getting marching orders to start pushing Moonlight harder, the first plan being a video editor.
A video editor is a beautiful infection vector for Moonlight, because:
1. Moonlight itself only safe to use for direct Novell customers,
2. All those nice proprietary video codecs that Novell has licensed from Microsoft are only safe for direct Novell customers as well.
So, Novell sees a great opportunity to spread Moonlight and the fruits of its Microsoft collaboration, while pretending to develop a “Linux” application.
So long as your “Linux” comes directly via Microsoft-approved Novell-only channels, of course – other Linux flavors need not apply – or redistribute.
Moonlight is a mess, based on the following message which was posted this afternoon:
Subject: Silverlight crap: the saga continues From: Richard Rasker <firstname.lastname@example.org> (Linetec) Date: Friday 13 Nov 2009 12:37:13 Groups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
Well, it’s been two weeks already since the last Moonlight update — you know, the one that broke Silverlight playback. How time flies. And sure enough, because this Microsoft crap requires on average one update per week, I got yet another notification: http://www.linetec.nl/linux/mooncrap1.png
OK, so I click “Install”. Oh, drat. Once again, it requires the installation of a codec pack: http://www.linetec.nl/linux/mooncrap2.png . Sheesh, this must be the fourth or fifth time that I installed it. Can’t these incompetent idiots even manage to create a codec pack that remains usable for two whole weeks? And yup, as expected, there’s the license again http://www.linetec.nl/linux/mooncrap3.png — in typical Microsoft fashion: unreadable lingo in a non-resizable window, no doubt meant to discourage more perseverent users. Copy/pasted it to a decent text editor, and read it.
OK, no truly onerous terms, apart perhaps from the patent provisions: http://www.linetec.nl/linux/mooncrap.txt
Then I noticed something: the installed update was Moonlight version 1.99.8, whereas the codec pack distinctly mentions that it’s “ONLY FOR USE WITH NOVELL’S MOONLIGHT 2.0 ALPHA VERSION.” Ah well, 1.99.8 is close enough to 2.0, so I guess it should work.
Except that it doesn’t. Not only that — the situation has even gotten worse: on some Web pages, Firefox now crashes immediately when clicking Silverlight content, and on other pages, nothing happens. So I tried running Firefox from a terminal window, to catch any messages:
Attempting to load libmoonloaderxpi
Moonlight: Forcing client-side rendering because we detected binary drivers which are known to suffer performance problems.
Huh? The official nVidia drivers “suffer performance problems”? And how come this crapware is the *only* software complaining about it? From what I see, accelerated video rendering works absolutely great with my GeForce 8500 GT graphics card.
Moonlight: Installing signal handlers for crash reporting.
Moonlight: Enabling MONO_DEBUG=keep-delegates.
Moonlight: Plugin AppDomain Creation: OK
Moonlight: Plugin AppDomain Creation: OK
URL /includes/wmvplayer.xaml downloaded successfully.
URL /includes/wmvplayer.xaml downloaded successfully.
Hm, OK, so those latter lines suggest that something’s wrong at the server side. But no, that can’t be, because it works under Windows. So two of the biggest software companies in the world combined can’t even pull off a decent media player that works under Linux. Just compare this sorry mess with MPlayer: just a handful of guys (and perhaps gals) created a media player, complete with browser plugin, that has worked great from day one, on each and every Linux, Windows and Mac version.
So I give up on this closed source rubbish. I uninstalled everything having to do with Moonlight and Silverlight (regaining some 50MB of HD space in the process — probably all those useless codec packs), and I’ll tell my users that they’re out of luck when they stumble upon Silverlight content.
Rather than present a rational rebuttal, Miguel de Icaza libels me in Twitter (personal attacks with outright lies). He still has some remaining defenders, who nonetheless acknowledge that “Mono is also seen by many as a potential legal landmine, due to Microsoft patents.”
The “Mono Tools” are based on Mono, a from-scratch open source implementation of .NET. Developed by the Novell-sponsored Mono project, which has also developed the Moonlight open source clone of Microsoft’s Silverlight, Mono has proven to be controversial in the open source community, as are most Novell-sponsored efforts that appear to sidle up to Microsoft. While an impressive piece of software, and imminently useful in a .NET dominated enterprise software world, Mono is also seen by many as a potential legal landmine, due to Microsoft patents.
Microsoft has said that it backs Mono Tools, but then Microsoft would put their stamp of approval on products that integrate with its Visual Studio IDE (integrated development environment) as they “enrich the Visual Studio ecosystem” no less.
Of course Microsoft approves it. It’s beneficial to Microsoft, so it’s not competition. Mono is complementary to Microsoft, just like Novell is to Microsoft. Here is simple visualisation of where Mono fits.
I do wonder sometimes about Microsoft’s quality assurance. No, I tell a lie. I always wonder about Microsoft’s quality assurance. As in, “How can they keep making mistakes like this?” In the latest, a new SMB vulnerability has been found and exploited that can lock-up any Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 system.
As reported in ComputerWorld, Laurent Gaffie posted details of the vulnerabilities, along with proof-of-concept exploit code, to the Full Disclosure security mailing list today, as well as to his personal blog. Gaffie claimed that his exploit crashes the kernel in Windows 7 and its server sibling, Windows Server 2008 R2, triggering an infinite loop. Or, as he puts in so well in the exploit’s code: “‘Most Secure Os Ever’ –> Remote Kernel in 2 mn. #FAIL,#FAIL,#FAIL”
Oh, and Microsoft, hurry up and fix this. OK? This is embarrassingly bad.
This is not just “embarrassingly bad”, it is practically very bad because exploit code is already out there while Microsoft is still “investigating”.
Microsoft has reportedly begun investigating a potentially nasty denial of service vulnerability affecting Windows 7.
Microsoft has been caught hiding vulnerabilities and their fixes (secret fixes which invisibility of proprietary software enables), probably for raves about numbers, i.e. illusion of safety. How long has Microsoft known about this for and why is there no patch yet? █
“High return rates, little market share”: the scare tactic Microsoft used in the spring of 2009 to declare Linux dead in the water in the netbook market. But what might be true for the U.S. doesn’t hold for the European and worldwide market as a whole.
Not only did Dell repeatedly confirm that it found no higher a return rate than Windows for its 30% Ubuntu-installed netbooks, a new independent study by the ABI Research firm forecasts a 32% market share for Linux on netbooks for 2009.
In a new article over at IDG, Microsoft booster Shane O'Neill opines that Microsoft is either giving up on or trying to lessen the appeal of sub-notebooks. He tries to spin this in favour of Microsoft, but it’s really quite pathetic and bad.
The fact that Windows Mobile sales declined may not be a surprise, but the size of the decline is.
Microsoft says that it may withdraw Windows XP from sub-notebooks rather shortly, which leaves just a very crippled and resource-hungry version of Vista 7 to guard against GNU/Linux (Linux is gaining on ARM-type processors anyway). A former Microsoft MVP who regularly participates in our IRC channel wrote a couple of days ago: “I was making fun of a friend with XP [...] “Windows XP loves you, Windows XP wants to be with you, Windows XP wants to stab its tentacles into your brain and merge with you” [...] I am not thrilled with Windows 7 [...] seems like a hillbilly duct tape repair to Vista [...] It seems to have all the problems of Vista and very few actual improvements.”
When it comes to sub-notebooks, Vista 7 Starter Edition has already been mocked by Acer, which claims that Vista 7 has no impact on sales. Acer’s CEO also said ‘on behalf’ of the entire industry (OEMs) that they were disappointed with Vista. How long before the same thing is said about Vista 7, which is not selling well (Microsoft claimed that Vista was selling exceptionally well, but the numbers that truly matter don’t lie)? █
“Acer and Intel, for example, are already complaining that Windows 7 Starter Edition simply won’t sell.”