04.08.10

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Thumbs up to Ubuntu for Removing a Part of Microsoft; TurboHercules Likely a Psystar-Type Microsoft Shell

Posted in Antitrust, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Patents, Ubuntu at 6:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ubuntu dumps Microsoft and Yahoo

Summary: An analysis combining Ubuntu’s relationship with Microsoft proxies such as Yahoo! search and Mono; more on how TurboHercules may be connected to Microsoft and why IBM’s response was tactless

SEVERAL days ago we argued that Canonical was making a serious mistake by sending Ubuntu users to Microsoft’s datacentres [1, 2]. The good news is that Canonical has just changed its mind, but people keep wondering why.

However, for the final release, we will use Google as the default provider. I have asked the Ubuntu Desktop team to change the default back to Google as soon as reasonably possible, but certainly by final freeze on April 15th.

It was not our intention to “flap” between providers, but the underlying circumstances can change unpredictably. In this case, choosing Google will be familiar to everybody upgrading from 9.10 to 10.04 and the change will only be visible to those who have been part of the development cycle for 10.04.

Several people reckon that Canonical did this because of backlash relating to Microsoft, not habits (why else would habits be ignored when realigning/repositioning buttons, for example?). Others say that Google perhaps offered some money or Mark Shuttleworth had a change of heart (or intervention after someone had made this decision which he did not endorse). Either way, we might never find out the whole story and who was behind the decision, unless someone uploads some videos or internal discussions that reveal the anatomy of these decisions (both the old decision and the new one, which retracts and reverses the former).

Canonical’s important decision has received a fair deal of coverage [1, 2, 3], mostly very encouraging. Ubuntu users are happy with this sudden reversal. The Source writes:

In any case, having Google as the default search engine is the best option, so I welcome the change. Whatever the convoluted dance-stepping offered to un-justify and then re-justify it.

Here is a new response to the removal of the GIMP:

The one other thing I did notice right off the bat was that the GIMP was gone. Why Canonical decided to leave out a very, if not the most important piece of software raises some questions. Canonical needs to spend less time on Google’s Chrome OS and more time on their own OS.

Some users remain dissatisfied with the decision to remove the GIMP [1, 2, 3]. In the news we have this for example:

The next major update of Ubuntu code named Ubuntu Lucid Lynx is scheduled to arrive in April 2010. This is going to be an LTS edition, which means updates will be available for three years in desktop and five years in Servers. Even though Ubuntu 10.04 is going to be an LTS release, a complete overhaul is on the cards. Lets take a peek at what’s coming in Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx.

[...]

In another rather controversial move, Ubuntu is going to ditch GIMP. In Canonical’s observation, most of the users don’t ever use the advanced functionalities of GIMP and all their basic image manipulation needs are met with other applications. Again, you can always install GIMP with a few clicks using Ubuntu Software Centre, and so IMO, this is not going to be a big deal for most of us.

Then there is Ubuntu’s Mono problem that Jeremy Allison warned about [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. There is a new Ubuntu-based distribution without Mono. It addresses general distrust that Canonical turns its back to. More from the news:

[Canonical's] Carr wasn’t hinting, however, about Ubuntu not including Mono, Novell’s Microsoft .NET-compatible set of software tools, applications by default. While some open-source fans really dislike Mono, thanks in no small part to Novell’s Microsoft partnership and Mono’s reliance on .NET, if anything, Ubuntu seems to be incorporating more of Mono in its default distribution.

We remain a little concerned because Canonical’s new COO, Matt Asay, is still defending hypePad (iPad) in another new blog post. As we pointed out yesterday, it’s a disservice to his Ubuntu business. As TechDirt puts it:

As it’s become clear that the iPad is more of a “content delivery vehicle” than an interactive device (and there’s nothing wrong with that), people are quickly discovering how regional licensing issues and copyright may hold the device back in some areas.

We have shared many other explanations of why hypePad is bad [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10], so we won’t be repeating the old arguments. Either way, Asay refers to source code in his blog, but he does not want to talk about Freedom (with a capital F) and what hypePad does to one’s freedom. It’s rather tragic because Ubuntu’s added value ought to be more than just source code which is shared/co-developed with other companies. Ubuntu’s leadership should be thinking about other marketing factors or at least not be represented by the views of Asay. It’s distracting from GNU/Linux. Hostility or apathy towards Free software could put off Ubuntu users, at least a good majority of them.

“Hostility or apathy towards Free software could put off Ubuntu users, at least a good majority of them.”The hypePad is very revolutionary; it introduces the renting of a tablet and merely the renting of some text for it (and paying for the privilege to rent what once could be owned). No wonder Big Media companies give it so much coverage. They love the idea. Xbox is similar to that, but it’s a console.

Fortunately to some people who decided to pay hundreds of dollars to rent an hypePad, there is a way out of Apple’s prison. Within less than a day hypePad got jailbroken.

Apple’s iPad has already been jailbroken, using a variation of the iPhone method and demonstrating just how much the two devices have in common.

The hack was completed in less than 24 hours. In theory it enables the owner to install everything from Wi-Fi scanners to pornography – applications Apple disapproves of – though for the moment it just allows a remote terminal connection.

Another new complaint about Asay comes from The Source, which writes about his response to IBM:

Be careful now – if you want to excuse IBM by pointing out that they can chose to enforce patents outside of the 500 named (let’s assume they listed the 2 by mistake and will retract them), then you must in turn acknowledge that projects like Mono and Moonlight which range far far beyond the standardized core are in explict danger as well.

I do not think IBM is legally out-of-bounds here, no more than I think Microsoft would legally be out-of-bounds to shut down vast portions of Mono and Moonlight now or in the future. (Perhaps after Novell is bought out and agreements are no longer renewed?)

I’m just surprised Mr. Asay finds this an encouraging development for Open Source.

Ubuntu GNU/Linux currently claims 12 million users worldwide and with this privileged position comes responsibility to represent GNU/Linux properly. Ubuntu stands on the shoulders of giants (other people’s labour). According to some recent surveys that are geography dependent, about a third of GNU/Linux users — at least on standard desktops/laptops — use Ubuntu (source: Linux Journal, 2010). Fedora has many users too.

Since the subject of IBM was brought up, here is a quick roundup of what we wrote about TurboHercules so far:

  1. Microsoft Proxy Attack on GNU/Linux Continues With TurboHercules
  2. Eye on Security: Windows Malware, Emergency Patches, and BeyondTrust’s CEO from Microsoft
  3. IBM Uses Software Patents Aggressively
  4. IBM’s Day of Shame
  5. IBM Will Never be the Same After Taking Software Patents Out of Its Holster

Groklaw believes that it’s just another Psystar. We agree to the extent that this quite likely has Microsoft involvement (we wrote this a month ago). It was weeks ago that sources told this to us privately, after we had raised suspicions. Our criticism of IBM is not for threatening (Groklaw suggests suing) TurboHercules, but for using software patents, including some that were part of an “open-source pledge” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. Florian Mueller, who we do not consider to be a friend of Free software (he lobbied against the GPL for example), is having a day trip with this one.

The free and open source software community in Europe is going after IBM for using its patents against an open source project by a French company called TurboHercules. “IBM is using patent warfare in order to protect its highly lucrative mainframe monopoly,” open source advocate Florian Mueller wrote on his blog Tuesday. “The Hercules project is anything but anti-IBM. Hercules just wants to provide customers with an interesting and much-needed choice.”

IBM screwed up very badly by attempting to use software patents and it is trying to undo the damage right now [1, 2]. All in all, IBM is not an enemy of GNU/Linux, but it is not a true friend, either (it’s a selfish interest). It needs to be scrutinised, but not shunned. Here is IBM’s spin:

IBM may be using a further clause from the original pledge which says that they reserve the right to terminate the pledge if any company “files a lawsuit asserting patents or other intellectual property rights against open source software”. TurboHercules filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission last month, and IBM may be considering that as a move that qualifies for revocation of the pledge in this case.

As one person points out:

One thing is for sure, IBM is certainly a friend of the Patent Office.

Indeed. With IBM’s Kappos at the top of the USPTO, there’s almost ‘incest’ in there.

Jim Zemlin, who is working for IBM (indirectly), is not an impartial observer and he helps IBM spin the incident in the two Linux Foundation Web sites.

Jim,

There’s been recent interest in IBM’s “500 patent” pledge made in 2005 and how it applies today. It’s always important to get the facts, and the words of the pledge itself are the facts we need.

“The pledge will benefit any Open Source Software. Open Source Software is any computer software program whose source code is published and available for inspection and use by anyone, and is made available under a license agreement that permits recipients to copy, modify and distribute the program’s source code without payment of fees or royalties. All licenses certified by opensource.org and listed on their website as of 01/11/2005 are Open Source Software licenses for the purpose of this pledge.

“IBM hereby commits not to assert any of the 500 U.S. patents listed below, as well as all counterparts of these patents issued in other countries, against the development, use or distribution of Open Source Software.”

IBM stands by this 2005 Non-Assertion Pledge today as strongly as it did then. IBM will not sue for the infringement of any of those 500 patents by any Open Source Software.

Thanks.

Daniel Frye
VP, Open Systems Development
IBM Linux Technology Center

Given that IBM funds the Linux Foundation (and is among the founding members of OSDL), this is not too shocking at all. Jim Zemlin has always been an IBM stickler. He really ought to at least criticise IBM’s use of software patents, but he can’t. As The H puts it, “Linux Foundation say ‘breathe easy’ on IBM patents”

This is rather funny. It’s like IBM saying, “be easy on IBM.”

In any event, IBM is currently celebrating the 10th anniversary of GNU/Linux for the mainframe. What a timing!

2010 marks the 10th anniversary of Linux for the mainframe. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Bill Claybrook delves into the 10-year history of Linux for the mainframe, discussing its first deployments, advantages and appropriate workloads, as well as its current market outlook, cost of ownership and available applications. He also offers advice on how you can determine if Linux for the mainframe is the right choice for your data center’s server virtualization project.

The year was 1999. It was the beginning of Linux for the mainframe. IBM and SUSE (which was later acquired by Novell in 2004) began working on a version of Linux for the mainframe. By 2000, the first enterprise-ready, fully supported version was available: SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for S/390. The first large, important customer was Telia, a Scandinavian telecommunications company. This year, 2010, is the 10th anniversary of Linux for the mainframe. The value propositions for Linux for the mainframe that were important in 2000 are still important today.

They ought to move to Red Hat.

In other important news, Slashdot has caught IBM patenting optimisation.

jamie(really) writes “IBM appears to want to patent optimizing programs by trial and error, which in the history of programming has, of course, never been done. Certainly, all my optimizations have been the result of good planning. Well done IBM for coming up with this clever idea. What is claimed is: ‘A method for developing a computer program product, the method comprising: evaluating one or more refactoring actions to determine a performance attribute; associating the performance attribute with a refactoring action used in computer code; and undoing the refactoring action of the computer code based on the performance attribute. The method of claim 1 wherein the undoing refactoring is performed when the performance attribute indicates a negative performance effect of the computer code.’”

IBM ought to stop patenting software. Better yet–IBM should use its connections in the USPTO to stop software patents as a whole. As long as IBM refuses to do this, the Big Blue may be a friend of “Linux”, but it is not a friend of Free software; one just cannot be a friend of Free software and software patents at the same time.

IBM logo twist

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5 Comments

  1. Yuhong Bao said,

    April 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Gravatar

    On your description of the iPad: I would not go so far to call it renting, but yes I know about the DRM and lock-in, and I know what you are referring to by calling it renting (I have seen the stories about DRM servers going down, for example).

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Can you put your software of choice on the hardware?

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    To a limited extent only, unless jailbroken. Yes I know it is a closed system.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Jail-breaking is the exception, not the norm.

  2. your_friend said,

    April 11, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Gravatar

    People can break out of real jails too but I would not call them free because of that. Unless the entire user hostile system is removed when the device is liberated, Apple, Microsoft, Tivo and other non free companies can thwart anything the user does. These companies remain the device’s true owners and they retain the right to terminate your use of the device at anytime. Digital Restrictions Management has even stripped users of Software Freedom zero, the right to use the provided software for any purpose. Without great and constant effort, users can only use approved software for approved purposes. They can not use the software for their own purposes, share the software, modify the software to meet their needs or share their modifications with their friends. The removal of all software freedom is enforced with obnoxious, performance robbing technical measures.

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