01.27.10

Microsoft Signs Deal with Acacia and Builds More Patent Walls Against Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 8:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Steve Ballmer FAT

Summary: An accumulation of new information about Microsoft’s i4i fallout and use of software patents against its most potent competition, GNU/Linux

LAST night we reminded readers that Apple's patents are a threat to GNU/Linux. Apple is already using them against Linux. We presented coverage from the past week in order to support this contention. Now we come to Microsoft, which is extremely busy on the patent front.

We will start with an issue that was mentioned here before, but this time we use a variety of new references. Software patents are biting Microsoft’s rear side as Microsoft Office gets pulled from some typical distribution points in the market.

“Microsoft falls on its face,” says The Inquirer, whereas Microsoft Nick tries to justify Microsoft’s abhorrent actions [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12], as usual. When something is called “Microsoft blog” it can usually be assumed that it’s strongly pro-Microsoft (and sometimes paid for by Microsoft). More older coverage:

Microsoft today said that retailers can continue to sell unmodified versions of Word 2007, even though a court order that required the company to remove custom XML technology from the software took effect Monday.

Many clients of Microsoft cannot license its software anyway, due to downtime:

Nearly a month after a software upgrade bumped Microsoft partners and customers off the company’s volume licensing site, the main problem has been fixed but some users are still locked out.

This problem was mentioned here before. The i4i fallout mostly means that for the time being it is harder to acquire Office and OOXML gets even more badly fragmented. It’s all due to software patents.

On we move to the news about Acacia settling with Microsoft. Microsoft and Acacia are to enter a licence agreement.

Acacia Research Corporation announced on Friday its Freyburger LLC subsidiary settled litigation and entered a license agreement with Microsoft Corp.

Acacia is the company which was suing GNU/Linux shortly after it had hired Microsoft staff. Another new press release speaks about Microsoft’s licence agreement with Funai. Microsoft Nick received an additional statement from David Kaefer, Microsoft’s general manager of intellectual property licensing who played a role in the extortion of GNU/Linux distributors (we mentioned him in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]). Here is what he said about the Novell deal back in 2006.

As we noted before, the Funai deal is about exFAT, which is Microsoft’s way of excluding GNU/Linux from the market.

Microsoft said that the agreement covers consumer audio-video products including LCD TVs. Funai also will gain access to Microsoft’s extended file allocation table (exFAT) patents.

We also wrote about this Funai deal in [1, 2]. Microsoft is already suing Linux and using threats to coerce companies like Funai. Last week Microsoft even sued TiVo — a subject that we covered here.

Zune and Windows Mobile Are Going Away

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, Patents, Windows at 7:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Repeated failures of Microsoft in the area of portables are mentioned even by the Microsoft reporters; we bring together the pertinent facts

WITH Zune and Mobile, Microsoft has attempted to enter gadgets (largely dominated by operating systems like GNU/Linux), but Microsoft failed miserably in both ventures and there is no obvious path to recovery. Last week we saw Jeremy Allison warning [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] that Microsoft will use patents against Linux specifically because of Linux domination in these areas where Microsoft is dying. He talked about embedded and devices, where people rarely think about the underlying operating system. It is important to pay attention to this because GNU/Linux has an extremely high market share outside the area that’s desktop (where GNU/Linux is doing only decently).

One of our readers wrote a whole post about this over at OpenBytes. The last sentence quoted is probably most relevant as it addresses patents as a last resort.

Theres been some rather poor press reported by some and I whilst the some reports written about at the time, I have the luxury of being able to look back at them now the dust is settled (a little).

We will start off with the IE exploit that was widely reported by many outlets coming into the new year. Microsoft though in true fashion had this to say:

Customers should also upgrade to the latest version of Internet Explorer, Internet Explorer 8, which provides improved security and privacy protections, as well as sign up for Microsoft Update and enable the Automatic Update functionality. This will enable automatic installation of all applicable updates this month and help to make customer systems more secure.

[...]

A comment said by myself many times last year was that Microsoft is fighting a war on too many fronts and not only failing to conquer those but at the same time loosing its grip on its traditional products which are being challenged by alternatives. Alternatives that have been quietly improving their products while Microsoft tries to take on the planet. We see this with IE. We see the moving away from Windows (whatever figure you want to put on it) and other traditional MS products.

So 2010 will be the year of the alternative? I think its now the mainstream user is realizing that which so many people have already found out, it doesn’t need to be Microsoft. It matters not if you are an Apple user, Linux, BSD or anything else, a more diverse IT world will be better for the end-user as everyone ups their game to compete for your custom/usage.

I wonder though if Microsoft will, instead of challenging with great software, dig into its patent portfolio and challenge with that instead. Its often thought by many that the Microsoft ethos of “do it our way or not at all” is one of the dangers that Microsoft poses to alternatives, be it Linux, be it in the form Mono or anything else.

There are interesting comments in there too. Separately, says the author: ‘So I am now accused of “anger” and regarding an MS employee as the enemy? Where do I say that? I think an article an quotes from polite…..] conversations with MS employee’s is in order. I wonder why this employee thinks they are any different? [...] What I don’t like is being ignored. All they had to do was say “refer your points/q’s to MS directly” [...] As much as I would like to wait and see if I do indeed get an apology or retraction from the MS staff member, I have to go to bed. It’s late’

Well, Microsoft is just a group of people, so there is nothing funny going on here. Companies are not an organism, just the joining of many individuals.

Zune has already suffered long downtimes (and prior to that an embarrassing suspension). Here comes another one. Mary Jo Foley reports:

Microsoft is taking its Zune services down for maintenance Monday night, January 25, at 10 p.m. PT for approximately 24 hours. During that period, no content will be rentable or purchasable.

Why would 24 hours of downtime ever be required? Well, it could be worse given that a one-month Microsoft downtime was reported earlier this month. Things are breaking apart. Mary Jo Foley also writes about the pulling of the Windows Mobile 6.5 SDK. It is a really bad operating system and Microsoft won’t tell how to fix it. There are talks and speculations (from Foley’s colleague at The Register) about Microsoft merging Mobile with another client division (Windows), but Vista 7 is just too bloated and buggy. We have discussed this in IRC, starting here (yesterday’s log).

“Microsoft can hardly fit Office into standard PCs now.”Microsoft does not expect to fit Vista 7 into phones, does it? Microsoft can hardly fit Office into standard PCs now. According to this new report from The Register, next version of Office may require new PCs because it’s heavy and because Microsoft adopts a one-size-fits-all mentality.

In conclusion, Microsoft’s business when it comes to gadgets is in a chaotic state (as the recent departure of Enrique Rodriguez ought to show [1, 2]). Will Microsoft gadgets go in the amnesty bin any time soon? Will Microsoft sue even more Linux gadgets like TomTom, using software patents? Either way, these are signs of a company dying.

Amnesty bin
From fimoculous

Mozilla is Fighting for Us

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, Patents, Videos at 6:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Firefox

Summary: The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) goes to WIPO and Mozilla advocates Ogg

Proprietary codecs are a nasty old barrier to the adoption of Free software because they are subjected to patent law in some countries that bow to software patents. MP3 is a good example of this and it was mentioned in this new opening statement from the FSFE’s President, Karsten Gerloff. He faces a harsh (hostile) crowd which is a patent maximalist, WIPO.

This week, the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents is meeting in Geneva. From FSFE’s perspective, the two most important points on the agenda are the relation between standards and patents, and limitations to patentability.

We’ll go into details in the coming days. On patents and standards, one obvious point is that Free Software runs into all sorts of problems when implementing standards that include patented technology – just think of MP3.

The discussion about limitations to what can be patented is clearly very important for Free Software. Here, the delegates at WIPO will discuss, among other things, whether there should be international rules regarding patents on software.

“FSFE [is] not mentioning software patents in their statement, swpats are absent of the WIPO report on exceptions to patent law,” remarks President of the FFII on the above. Well, how about MPEG-LA?

A few days ago we explained why people should support GNU/Linux-oriented Web browsers and Firefox too (my primary browser), just not Chrome with the ugly EULA or Opera which is proprietary. Mozilla has just given more reasons to favour Firefox. Mozilla is fighting for all of us to make Ogg part of HTML5 (and Web sites that use HTML5), whereas Apple and Nokia did exactly the opposite. The previous post explained how Apple uses patents against Free software, including the GNU/Linux operating system.

Here are some items from the news (we have mentioned more items among the daily links):

Mozilla defends Firefox’s HTML5 support for only Ogg Theora video

But Firefox 3.6 supports only the Ogg Theora video codec and, currently, no other codecs. Mozilla had pushed for the Ogg codec to be the default for the <video> element, but this was not supported by the HTML5 working group who decided to leave the codec unspecified in the developing standard. This means that Firefox is unable to play the YouTube and Vimeo HTML5 videos.

Mozilla buries heels on un-YouTube open video

Mozilla vice president of engineering Mike Shaver has reiterated that the open source outfit has no intention of rolling the H.264 video codec into its Firefox browser, even though the likes of YouTube and Vimeo are using the patented codec with early versions of their plug-in-free HTML5 video players.

[...]

Google is working to purchase On2 Technologies, and it looks like the Mountain View giant is interested in open sourcing the outfit’s video codecs to provide a license-free option offering performance above and beyond Ogg.

HTML5 video and H.264 – what history tells us and why we’re standing with the web

Mozilla defends Firefox’s HTML5 support for only Ogg Theora video

Mozilla takes on YouTube video choice

Mozilla would have to pay $5 million to license the H.264 codec from MPEG-LA, the industry group that oversees the technology, said Mike Shaver, Mozilla’s vice president of engineering in a blog post, and that doing so wouldn’t grant rights of those such as Linux operating system companies who build products employing Mozilla’s browser.

In summary, Mozilla will not let us work for the “MPEG cartel”. It deserves credit for this. Mozilla is also actively working against software patents. In a later post we will show that Ubuntu is doing controversial new things with Firefox.

Let’s Not Forget Apple’s Patent Threat to Linux

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Kernel, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 1:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Many reminders from the past week’s news of Apple’s unhealthy obsession with patents, which are the #1 threat to Free software

THE PREVIOUS post addressed the words of Jeremy Allison, who had warned about Microsoft at last week’s LCA 2010 [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. He also warned about Mono [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Allison’s colleague, Andrew Tridgell, made similar points regarding software patents last week [1, 2]. Here is new coverage of the subject:

Patents biggest threat to free software

Samba developer Andrew Tridgell reckons the open source community is poor at fighting patent attacks, but says things could improve with a change in strategy.

Samba developer and Australian open source legend Andrew Tridgell has had plenty of experience dealing with interesting legal issues while trying to get Linux servers communicating with Windows, but he now sees the exploitation of patents as the biggest threat to the open source movement.

It is rather telling that software patents are probably the #1 barrier to the success of Free software. Linus Torvalds seemingly feels similarly. This is what makes the Novell deal such a considerably dangerous and serious step against Free software. It is also the reason Boycott Novell has been so focused on the subject of software patents over the years.

“We have already given many examples in this Web site where Apple too harmed standards, Free software, and GNU/Linux using patents.”No company other than Microsoft has resorted to Linux extortion using patents (Microsoft later sued, so the threats were not empty). One might argue that Microsoft is therefore the only threat to GNU/Linux, but it’s not. We have already given many examples in this Web site where Apple too harmed standards, Free software, and GNU/Linux using patents.

Apple is a company of branding, marketing, and fake hype. It is like Disney in the sense that it creates fantasies and it is sad to see Apple proponents clamouring for more patents from their beloved hardware (and software) vendor. The very latest examples are mostly hardware based [1, 2, 3, 4], but they restrict the market of mobile/embedded Linux. We have already seen Apple threatening Palm’s Linux phones using patents [1, 2, 3]. With its patents (whether asserted or not), Apple is harming Free software and software in general (including proprietary). Moreover, this new article indicates that Apple has already castrated another Linux-powered phone:

According to sources, Google was forced to remove multitouch functionality from the Nexus One because Apple owns patents covering its use in mobile devices.

With its lamp/genie effect and other ridiculous patents (e.g. [1, 2]), Apple also harms GNU/Linux desktops, not just gadgets. Here is a new post on the subject:

Compiz, Patents, and Ubuntu

No, this isn’t about the stupid max_waves conflict with Apple’s patent that everyone has been ranting (and working around) for the last few years. From what I hear the future 0.9.0 release won’t be hampered by it, but how does Compiz fare with patents? Who made Compiz, and who’s working on it today?

It is time to formally recognise that Apple is a huge nuisance when it comes to software patents (and other classes of patents too). This ought to be brought up when Apple is posturing as an Open Source-friendly company.

“FSF did some anti-Apple campaigns too. Personally I worry more about Apple because they have user loyalty; Microsoft doesn’t.”

Bradley M. Kuhn (SFLC)

Reader’s Article: Sticks and Stones

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 12:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Response to Jeremy Allison’s take on Microsoft

THE following was contributed by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.

Jeremy Allison’s Bad Analogy

Jeremy Allison had the right idea but a bad analogy when he famously stated, “Shouldn’t we leave the [Microsoft] elephant alone and stop poking it with sticks? Well, the problem is they aren’t going to leave us alone.” Comparing Microsoft to an elephant does a disservice to elephants and underestimates both the power and malice of the company. The fact of the matter is that Microsoft is sitting on each and every one of us and we need better than pointy sticks to get rid of them.

I have respect for Microsoft people, really, but see them as a terrible impediment to progress. They work hard at the endless task of bending their clients work flow to Microsoft’s broken tools. Then again, I also have respect for people who were able to hunt mastodons with spears and know that we are all better off with better tools and wildlife conservation efforts. It never ceases to amaze me how brittle Microsoft people are when told about tools that work better than the ones they have. Their indoctrination, anger and lack of self control is encouraged by a company that often acts like a bully. This is a primary barrier to migration to free software. The Neanderthals don’t want to hear about anything new and will tell you that everyone will starve to death if they don’t keep chipping flint as they always have. The result of all of this is that people feel like rebels and fear getting fired for discussing useless baby steps like alternate browsers in Microsoft dominated businesses.

The other barriers are technical sabotage, patent extortion, retail blackmail and OEM manipulation. Boycott Novell has covered ACPI sabotage, the high cost of DRM as well as Microsoft’s attacks on OEMs, retailers, schools and governments. Taken together all of these are suffocating but unsustainable.

Thankfully the company is not doing well. The cost of their efforts is greater than the monopoly rents they are able to charge. Government enforcement of anti-trust law has been laughable, but it should be strongly encouraged if for nothing other than discovery. We would not know half as much about the company’s dirty tricks without their email. I look forward to seeing how poorly they did last quarter.

We have a big backlog of posts that will hopefully add to evidence as noted above. A journey to London next week (for filming of a documentary for national television) requires a lot of preparation.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Albert Einstein

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