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04.22.10

Microsoft Losses Online Increase, Business Software Group Down

Posted in Apple, Finance, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Office Suites at 8:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Surprised and confused

Summary: The truth about Microsoft’s financial results, not the PR which the mainstream media is bombarded with

Microsoft’s results are in. As usual, spin is being emitted through Microsoft PR agencies and others who are faithful to Microsoft’s interests (Joseph Tartakoff for example). The reality check shows that losses online have increased (over $2 billion in losses per year and getting worse, not better), despite the typical spin which is being used while everyone’s results ascend following a terrible, post-collapse year.

Associated Press (AP) says that “Revenue in the business software group, which makes Office and other programs, fell 6 percent to $4.2 billion. Microsoft is waiting to report $305 million in Office revenue until after the upcoming Office 2010 launches in the current quarter.”

“Revenue in the business software group, which makes Office and other programs, fell 6 percent to $4.2 billion.”
      –Associated Press
Chips B. Malroy reads that as: “fudging the books again” (they did the same thing with Vista 7 in order to lie in the previous quarter).

Let us be reminded of the fact that in the previous quarter almost everything at Microsoft was down, but Microsoft was spinning it [1, 2, 3, 4]. Microsoft is again comparing a year of Vista to a year of Vista 7 (not comparable really). Signs indicate that there may be more financial malpractice at Microsoft and the SEC is already investigating/probing Microsoft (not for the first time, either [1, 2]).

As Chips B. Malroy puts it, AP “basically says that businesses are buying computers to replace the old ones, and this is the biggest increase for Microsoft.”

We urge people to be extremely careful of ardent Microsoft proponents. They are playing along with Microsoft PR, believing everything they are told without looking beyond the spin (e.g. layoffs, offshoring in several departments, underpaid child labour, potential book-cooking, and even loans).

Some people may say something about “beating expectations”, but this is the oldest trick in the book. They revised estimates so that they can be beaten; Microsoft does this almost every quarter.

The company’s portfolio is “under attack” from several fronts and Apple too is exceeding Microsoft in market value. Microsoft employees have no reason to be optimistic. Perhaps the most prominent cause for Microsoft’s declining margins is the incline in use of Free/libre software, as before.

“Client software felt the slump in PC sales, and was further harmed by the shift to netbooks; many of these run Linux, which helps Microsoft not at all.”

Ars Technica, 2009

Links 22/4/2010: Linux 2.6.34 RC5, Valve’s Steam is Coming To GNU/Linux

Posted in News Roundup at 7:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • The stories we are all sick of hearing

      I find it rather comical how certain stories just get regurgitated up over and over again. For example I typed in Ubuntu new look on Google and I got 1,800,000 results for that topic alone. Sure some of them are irrelevant results but out of that 1,800,000 many if not most of the results are the same information being posted over and over again. Please don’t be the next blogger to write the next Ubuntu has a new look post. It lost it’s interest after 800,000 postings. I also ran a search for Year of the Linux and got 65,500,000 results. Please no more year of the Linux stories, people who read Tech news often just want to stay up to date on the latest happenings in the world of Linux and after 65 million postings on this topic most could probably care less what you think about it.

    • Extreme Desktop Makeover: Josh Edition

      Many people don’t really care about how their desktop is set up. Those people tend to leave things pretty much at the defaults, or maybe just change the wallpaper or color scheme. Some of us, however, consider desktop layout to be vitally important to productivity. Personally, I like to keep maximum information available at all times, with the ability to access my preferred communication tools. Today, I’m going to show you the methods I use to create my own personal Ultimate Desktop.

      [...]

      Desktop Management – Compiz Expo

      I can’t live without virtual desktops, sometimes called workspaces. X has supported them for decades, but until recently there’s been very little innovation. The Expo plugin, part of the Compiz package, provides a fast, beautiful, efficient way to view and manage your virtual desktops.

    • Twenty Computers in Twenty Days…

      A perfect storm of sorts took place at Latitude: HeliOS Longitude: Project this week. Tony Medley, the IT Support guy for CompassLearning emailed us and told me that he has 22 Pentium 4 desktop units ready to donate. These are some pretty decent computers. With a waiting list of kids growing every month, this was indeed great news.

      But oh wait…it gets better…

      Teenya Franklin of Knowbility.org contacted us and wanted to know if we were interested in picking up some components and peripherals that had been donated by Dell.

  • Server

    • Highly Parallel HPC: Ants vs Horses

      The non-obvious nature of parallel computing can invite some incorrect assumptions. For instance, combining fast sequential things does not always mean you will create an optimal parallel thing. If scaling, power usage, or I/O are important, then you may be surprised to learn that there are other factors at play than just fast cores. Like my first experience with resistors, “parallel” always seems to introduce some non-obvious results. And, of course, I have not even mentioned about how surprised I was when I learned about capacitors circuits. You can’t make this stuff up.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 2.6.34-rc5

      Another week, another -rc. This time there wasn’t some big nasty regression I was working on to hold things up, and it felt like a pretty regular -rc release.

    • Linux compatible wireless keyboard

      SiTouch has announced the release of a new wireless keyboard. This is a very cool looking keyboard with back lit keys for low light. For those of us who occasionally work late on our computer this feature is appreciated. The keyboard also contains a touch pad.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Unigine Takes Advantage Of OpenGL 4.0

        It was just shy of a month ago when Unigine Heaven 2.0 was released with Linux support and it showed what Linux gaming can look like while slaughtering your graphics card. Unigine Corp, the company responsible for this multi-platform game engine, though hasn’t been sitting around idly since the Heaven 2.0 release, but they have in fact been moving forward with great improvements their game engine.

  • Applications

  • Distributions

    • Sabayon

      • Sabayon – Sneak Peek at New Installer

        So far so good! I hope people will find the installer better and have lesser issues. I myself never had problems with the old installer, but thanks to Fabio for making something even better. Feel free to throw a few donation dollars his way while he is in-between jobs and still improving on your favorite distro. He really is working hard for everyone and deserves to be shown some appreciation.

      • Build Your Own Sabayon Linux with Sabayon CoreCD 5.2

        In order to run Sabayon Linux CoreCD 5.2 on your personal computer, make sure that you meet the minimum system requirements:

        · Intel Pentium Pro, Celeron, AMD K6-2, Pentium II or Athlon CPU;
        · 512 MB of RAM;
        · 2 GB of free hard disk space;
        · Supported 2D video card;
        · a CD reader or USB flash drive.

    • Mandrake/Mandriva Family

      • PCLinuxOS 2010 review

        I was very excited about this release of PCLOS and have been waiting for it to hit for a while now. PCLinuxOS (PCLOS for short) was my second Linux distro I ever used and I really liked it. The only reason I moved on from it was the fact that I never really got used to the KDE desktop, finding it a bit too remniscent of Windoze for my liking. However, I was willing to overlook that detail and give this version another whirl. So here we go.

      • PCLinuxOS 2010 Screenshots
    • Red Hat Family

      • The First Benchmarks Of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.0

        The first beta release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.0 was made available yesterday morning. RHEL 6.0 is set to offer many virtualization enhancements, power management improvements, new security features, many package updates, and even some reported performance enhancements. With Red Hat mentioning this major upgrade to their enterprise operating system carrying “performance enhancements”, these claims have now been tested using the Phoronix Test Suite within our labs. There are some improvements for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.0 to note, but also some losses.

      • Fedora

        • Fedora 14 Codenames Come About

          So far the potential candidates for the Fedora 14 codename include Guiness, Scofield, Bhanji, Kingsley, Astro, and Bacon. However, there’s still six days left to voice your input on this Fedora Wiki page.

        • Fedora 13 Spotlight Feature: NetworkManager Gets Even More Connected

          As with previous Fedora releases, we’ll once again be highlighting some of the new and improved features in a series of blogs leading up to our latest release, Fedora 13, anticipated in mid-May. First up on our list is NetworkManager.

    • Ubuntu

      • Tomcat improvements coming up in 10.04 !

        Jason Brittain, a software architect at MuleSoft and the author of Tomcat: the Definitive Guide, approached us with some ideas about how to improve the Tomcat package in Debian and Ubuntu. Check out his blog post on working with Debian and Ubuntu here.

        Jason noticed that the Ubuntu and Debian init scripts were starting Tomcat via the JSVC service runner, in order to allow binding the Tomcat JVM to privileged server port numbers (port numbers lower than 1024), while still running as an unprivileged user. However, JSVC was also the source of several long-standing bugs: it shuts down Tomcat abruptly and implements unreliable restarts, so it was possible for the init script to be unable to restart Tomcat. Upstream recommends using Tomcat’s catalina.sh script instead, and that script should in turn run the Java binary, so that the init script can properly handle any issues with starts, stops, or restarts. But that script doesn’t have the support to bind ports as root and then run as an unprivileged user, like JSVC does…

      • Change I Can Believe In
      • Canonical to Roll Out Independent Ubuntu Certified Professional Certification for Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

        Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, today announced that it will provide its own fully-independent certification for junior-level system administrators to help them with Ubuntu deployments in their office environments. The e-learning course version will be available shortly after the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Long Term Support) release on 29 April 2010 with students able to study in the classroom from June 2010 and the new exam available from October 2010.

      • Canonical open sources Launchpad and Ubuntu Single Sign On code

        More details about the Canonical Identity Provider can be found on the project’s Launchpad page (login required). Canonical Identity Provider code is released under version 3 of the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPLv3).

      • Open vs. Closed: Ubuntu Walks the Line

        Canonical’s 330 employees are responsible for maintaining, supporting and selling service for Ubuntu, an open-source version of the Linux operating system for servers, desktops and computer manufacturers. Some 120-150 of the Canonical employees contribute directly to the new releases of the software that come out every six months, and most of the company’s revenue comes from supporting enterprise server customers and makers of computers that want to put Ubuntu on desktops. Consumers also download the software, but few pay Canonical for support. The company is not yet profitable.

      • Announcing the Release Candidate for Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

        The Ubuntu team is pleased to announce the Release Candidate for Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Long-Term Support) Desktop and Server Editions and Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Server for Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) and Amazon’s EC2, as well as Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook Edition. Codenamed “Lucid Lynx”, 10.04 LTS continues Ubuntu’s proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high-quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution.

      • What to Install After Installing Ubuntu Lucid?
      • Canonical CTO Matt Zimmerman Speaks

        We appreciate Matt’s time for the interview and we look forward to speaking with him again prior to the much anticipated 10.10 release.

  • Devices/Embedded

    • wall mounted touch screen linux computer features “green” technology

      This is a wall mounted, touch screen, low power, linux computer. Made from recycled materials, this is a pretty environmental friendly device.

    • Nokia

      • MeeGo mobile Linux will also do laptops and desktops

        Intel has revealed that it is developing a variant of the Linux-based MeeGo operating system that will run on conventional desktop and laptop computers. This move could substantially broaden MeeGo’s scope, transforming it from a mobile platform into a general purpose Linux distro.

    • Android

    • Sub-notebooks

      • Mobile Devices are Long-term Key for Chrome OS and Android

        Google CEO Eric Schmidt shed some light on the company’s plans for Chrome OS in tablets and mobile devices at the Atmosphere Cloud Computing Summit.

        Cloud computing is the cornerstone of Chrome OS, as the platform runs entirely on cloud servers and all user data is automatically backed up to the same remote server network.

      • Chrome OS kernel source code hints at ARM, Tegra 2 hardware

        Google’s browser-centric Chrome OS hasn’t reached the market yet, but development is progressing and the platform is attracting the interest of a growing number of hardware makers. Although the operating system was principally designed for netbooks, Google has also discussed some opportunities for bringing it to other kinds of devices, including ARM-based smartbooks and tablets.

Free Software/Open Source

  • Open source training more attractive to workers

    Schools are heeding the call from organizations seeking IT personnel skilled in open source, but such efforts must involve broader industry participation and greater integration across the curriculum, according to an analyst.

    With regard to open source modules, Patrick Chan, chief technology advisor for IDC Asia-Pacific’s emerging technologies practice group, said a more concerted effort is required on the part of institutions to move universities in the same direction.

  • Vendor ownership doesn’t mean lower open source risk

    Having a big-name vendor backing an open source project does not necessarily translate to lower risk of implementation, and companies looking to rely on open source should be prepared to support the project inhouse, urged a founding member of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF).

  • Open source in a new light
  • This Roman knows how to spot the best open source

    My Italian friend Roberto Galoppini has developed a new open source evaluation tool, SOSOpenSource, and Funambol has passed its tests.

    Most open source evaluation tools use a corporate database of code and its licenses. They also tell you only whether code is open source, and what its license says if it is.

  • Motivation and Open Source
  • Moral obligations of Free Software authors?

    I enjoy writing software. I often write software to solve some sort of problem that I’ve had. Usually virtually any code I write winds up in my git repositories, on the theory that it might be useful to someone else. Some of the code that I think might really be useful to people gets even better treatment. OfflineIMAP, for instance, has a very comprehensive manpage, heavily commented example config file, wiki, mailing list, public bug tracker, etc. Most of these I did the majority of the work to create, but OfflineIMAP does occasionally receive code and documentation contributions from others.

  • Oracle

  • CMS

  • Business

    • Zmanda’s Data Backup: Enterprise Quality, SMB Prices

      For many small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), data is the most important asset. And that makes many SMBs vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters because few small business owners have been able to tackle the cost and complexity of data backup and disaster recovery processes. Zmanda, an open source, cloud-based data backup company, aims to change that.

Leftovers

  • Frontier Communications “Testing” To See How Users Respond To Being Ridiculously Overcharged For Bandwidth

    Time Warner Cable eventually backed off the plan, but not before their brand (which they’re planning to change) took a lot of damage. One small reason they backed off was because one of the company’s few competitors, Frontier Communications, started advertising their DSL service as uncapped in order to gain a competitive advantage. Despite the fact Frontier was previously planning to impose 5GB monthly caps on all speed tiers — said ads lambasted the cable industry as greedy. Of course now that Time Warner Cable has backed off, Frontier is testing an even more ridiculous overcharging system.

  • ACTA Treaty Draft Text Released

    Now, the DMCA also contained a “safe harbor” for ISPs that probably would not pass now (since it gave ISPs an exemption for liability that turned out to be broader than initially realized when the DMCA was enacted in the 1990s). I was concerned that ACTA would contain the anti-circumvention provisions but not the ISP safe-harbor rules–but some version of this does, at least, seem to be contemplated in the ACTA text (see pp. 20-21).

    In any case, this horrible treaty needs to be stopped.

Clip of the Day

Bruce Lee: The Lost Interview (filmed in 1971 –> first aired 1994)


IRC Proceedings: April 22nd, 2010

Posted in IRC Logs at 6:18 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Read the log

Enter the IRC channel now

Apple’s Latest Mischiefs, Ignores Mono’s Pleas

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Hardware, Microsoft, Mono, Novell at 12:39 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Apple and MonoTouch

Summary: Apple is rumoured to be interested in ARM; censorship of applications is publicly defended by Steve Jobs; MonoTouch is still crossed out by Apple

YESTERDAY we wrote about Adobe turning to Linux at Apple's expense. Apple was doing this to itself and if rumours are true, this vain company may eventually injure Linux by taking control of ARM (where Linux is very abundant).

Apple has used ARM chips. There are rumours that Apple wishes to buy ARM.

[...]

ARM is as close as you can get to “openness” in hardware and Apple is about as close as you can get to “closed” in hardware. It is possible for change to happen but Jobs has not shown any inclination. It would be ironic if Apple killed off the only real competition to Wintel and then suffered as a result. So far, Apple has moved under the radar of anti-competition laws but such a purchase might put them above the radar. They would certainly have more than 50% of the gadget-CPU market.

The above rumour seems unlikely to be true for many reasons. We discussed them in the IRC channel and this merits a long post that would encompass hardware rather than software, so we won’t go there.

Apple’s Jobs has been quoted as saying that “folks who want porn can buy an Android phone”. This can be interpreted in all sorts of ways, including the insinuation that Android/Linux is impure or perverse.

Despite yesterday’s iPhone debacle, Jobs was still in a chatty-enough mood to respond to a concerned customer’s e-mail questioning Apple’s role as “moral police” of its App Store. The customer, Matthew Browing, was referring to the App Store’s initial rejection of an app containing Mark Fiore’s Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoon, as well as the company’s recent porn ban.

Apple’s censorship is a subject that we covered around the beginning of the week and it is unfortunate that Norway’s prime minister chooses design over substance. He got himself an hypePad and as one blogger puts it:

This is a bad example of governments using closed source or proprietary technologies over which they do not have any control.

Apple, despite creating some good-looking and innovative products like the iPhone, creates vendor-locked, closed source technologies. Apple has full control very every app running on the iPad. In a situation like this, how secure would it be for the leader of a country to use such a device to run his office, which may have a lot of back-doors?

Addressing the issue of control, SJVN tells Adobe to “Dump Apple, go Linux”:

There are at least a dozen Linux-powered iPad clones on their way to market, and most of the early ones appear to be using Android. In addition, there are already popular Android-powered smartphones like Motorola’s Droid. There’s money to be made in tablets and smartphones that has nothing to with either iPads or iPhones.

True, Google seems to have its own video plans on Android and both the Chrome OS and browser involving HTML 5 and the VP8 video codec. At the same time, Google has shown that it’s willing to integrate Adobe Flash Player into Chrome. Why not work even more closely with Google and Linux?

Think about it. Apple is no friend to Adobe these days. As always, Microsoft has its own agenda, and they’d much rather see Silverlight instead of Flash become the Internet and mobile video codec. Linux vendors and programmers, while they have no love for proprietary formats or programs will work with them, and are more likely to be friendly to Adobe than either Apple or Microsoft.

“Adobe says Bye to Apple, goes for Android,” says another Web site.

With Apple’s banning Adobe Flash based content on all of its mobile devices, Adobe announced that it has now officially given up on Apple. Their Flash Creative Suite 5 will still be available but Mike Chambers, the chief product manager for Developer’s relation for Adobe’s Flash program, confirmed no future work to be done on it for Apple platform in his blog post.

According to the latest update from the Mono team, MonoTouch receives no approval from Apple [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7].

While, we have heard little direct feedback from Apple regarding recently reported changes to the iPhone Developer Program Agreement, we have heard consistent feedback that Apple is concerned about inefficient apps created using abstraction layers that hide native APIs.

The key part is that which says: “we have heard little direct feedback from Apple regarding recently reported changes to the iPhone Developer Program Agreement” (meaning that Apple still intends to block MonoTouch, as per the new terms). Unfortunately, this could end up driving Mono into Android [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9].

Hugo Lueders (CompTIA): Association’s Members Are “Trade Secret”

Posted in Microsoft, Open XML, Patents at 12:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Mono, ECMA, Microsoft

Summary: The CompTIA’s Hugo Lueders fails to inspire confidence in the front group that he helps operate to promote Microsoft interests such as software patents and OOXML

Microsoft’s front group [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], CompTIA, has been lobbying for Microsoft in Europe quite recently (and even 6 years ago when Hugo Lueders opposed EU fines for Microsoft’s violation of the law). Glyn Moody has attempted to find out who is funding CompTIA, to no avail. Hugo Lueders, a Brussels-based CompTIA agent whom we wrote about in [1, 2], claims members of CompTIA to be a “trade secret”. In the words of Moody:

…a cursory glance at the website of CompTIA, which represents the global IT industry, gives no details of the association’s membership. Asked by EurActiv to comment on this, Hugo Lueders of CompTIA’s Brussels office said such details were “trade secrets” that the association’s members did not wish to make known.

The idea that the names of members of a major trade organisation could be “trade secrets” would be pretty amusing at the best of times, but in a context of increasing openness and even nominal political transparency, is simply risible. It means that it is not possible for politicians or members of the public to see who exactly is behind CompTIA’s lobbying efforts, or to understand the real agendas behind its actions. The CompTIA’s reluctance to release even something as basic as its membership list can only be viewed with a certain suspicion: after all, as we are constantly reminded these days, those with nothing to hide, have nothing to fear…

One of our readers described Hugo Lueders as “a political scientist [who] also wrote in the German social democratic newspaper Die Zeit, adding a contribution about a Garaudy book (1972). The neo-Marxist Garaudy is today mostly known for his anti-Semitic writings.” Lueders, despite his affiliation with a front group, has managed to affect EU policy by entering the European Software Strategy process alongside Microsoft lobbyists like Zuck. We covered this in posts such as:

  1. European Open Source Software Workgroup a Total Scam: Hijacked and Subverted by Microsoft et al
  2. Microsoft’s AstroTurfing, Twitter, Waggener Edstrom, and Jonathan Zuck
  3. Does the European Commission Harbour a Destruction of Free/Open Source Software Workgroup?
  4. The Illusion of Transparency at the European Parliament/Commission (on Microsoft)
  5. 2 Months and No Disclosure from the European Parliament
  6. After 3 Months, Europe Lets Microsoft-Influenced EU Panel be Seen
  7. Formal Complaint Against European Commission for Harbouring Microsoft Lobbyists
  8. ‘European’ Software Strategy Published, Written by Lobbyists and Multinationals
  9. Microsoft Uses Inside Influence to Grab Control, Redefine “Open Source”
  10. With Friends Like These, Who Needs Microsoft?

Over in New Zealand, Microsoft seems to be lobbying for software patents using partners and front groups. It’s just like OOXML (when CompTIA shamelessly lied for Microsoft) and a short survey reveals that 81% of those “representing ICT professionals throughout New Zealand” are against software patents.

Following the Commerce Select Committee’s recommendation to the Government to remove software from the Patents Act, the Society polled its members (representing ICT professionals throughout New Zealand), and found that 81% of those that had a view supported the recommendation to remove Software from the Patents Act.

This pretty much seals the deal, right? In a democracy at least. The New Zealand Computer Society, which opposes software patents, has this document [PDF] which argues that software patents are reduced to simply monopoly protection rather than promotion of innovation. Lobbyists too are reduced to simply monopoly protection rather than promotion of innovation.

Facebook Joins Microsoft’s War on ODF

Posted in Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Oracle at 11:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Facebook

Summary: An announcement from Mark Zuckerberg reveals his true colours and long known connections with Microsoft; Oracle’s bizarre decision regarding the ODF plug-in for Office is debated further

A WEEK AGO we wrote about Microsoft dumping "to suppress OpenOffice.org adoption (and thus development)" and yesterday we wrote about Oracle's idiotic move which is likely to harm ODF. On previous occasions we also emphasised that Facebook’s Zuckerberg is in bed with Microsoft (he has been in it for years [1, 2]) and even its extortionate patent trolls . It therefore does not surprise us that Facebook is joining Microsoft’s attack on rival office suites, based on the following news:

Docs.com: Facebook and Microsoft Go After Google Docs

During today’s F8 keynote, Mark Zuckerberg announced a number of new products and features for Facebook, including a new collaboration with Microsoft. With Docs.com, Microsoft’s FUSE labs just launched an online document editor and viewer that connects directly to Facebook and uses all of the new social features for third-party sites that Facebook announced today.

Getting back to Oracle’s apparent neglect of ODF for Office users (it is not too likely that many companies will pay when they already have fake ‘support’ from Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]), Andy Updegrove emphasises that $9,000 — not $90 — is the cost of this package (it comes in larger units).

Moreover, it’s not just $90 you’ll need to fork over – the plug-in is only available in packages of 100.

Before you ask: (a) yes, an Office 2007 service pack released some time back by Microsoft allows users of that version of Office (and also of Office 2000, 2003 and XP) to work with documents using ODF 1.0, but not the most current version of ODF, which is version 1.2; and (2) no, unlike OpenOffice, the plug-in was never made available by Sun as open source software.

For me, this raises three important questions:

1. What is Oracle trying to accomplish?

2. Is it likely to work?

3. Given that Oracle controls OpenOffice.org, developer of the most widely used desktop direct implementation of ODF, what does this indicate for the future of that software?

[...]

Conclusion: While the existence of OpenOffice was essential to ODF in the first few years after Peter Quinn’s quixotic decision to support the rebel standard, ODF is now past the point where it’s future is dependent on it. And in point of fact, Sun was always at best a flawed steward for the poster child implementation of ODF, keeping too close control over it to attract the kind of broad individual and enterprise support that flocked to contribute to Linux and Apache, for example.

Overall, though, I think that Oracle has probably made a reasonable decision insofar as its own self interest is concerned. It does leave open one tantalizing question though, that’s harder to read: does the decision to charge for the plug-in indicate that Oracle is taking its ODF-compliant office suite unit seriously as a money maker, and plans to put serious resources behind it, or that it is simply imposing a bean-counter’s discipline on the unit to make money?

If it’s the former, than that’s good news for the ODF community, because OpenOffice still has the most dedicated users, and the most credibility, of all the alternatives. And if the paid version gets traction, there will be more third party software developers, like those that create crucial software, such as document management tools, that will take the time to integrate with it. This is essential to creating a true proprietary as well as an open source competitor to Office.

One news outlet says that “Oracle Wants to Charge $9,000 for ‘Free’ Download” and Rob Weir is trying to identify the positives, but he is biased because his current career depends on ODF. He writes:

At the risk of pouring oil on the fire, let me say that I think this is an exciting development for ODF. We have three solutions for providing ODF support in MS Office:

1. Oracle’s Plugin
2. CleverAge Add-in
3. Microsoft’s native ODF support

These three solutions have always varied in terms of quality of conversion, versions of MS Office supported, versions of ODF supported, level of integration into MS Office, etc. And now they vary based on price. This is a good thing. It is called “competition”. I like it.

Here is an opinion from someone who commented in Weir’s blog:

It seems entirely likely that this will allow ORCL to say “We gave it a fair shot, but there’s just no demand for it.” With that, Oracle could abandon the ODF-translation field, leaving it to the Microsoft-sponsored Clever Age plugins project and the not-so-interoperable built-in functionality in recent updates to MS Office.

As an aside, is it likely that something like this is coming to MySQL soon?

What does this say for the OpenOffice.org project? Obviously, no one knows yet. At least, no one outside of Oracle knows.

Regardless of Oracle’s plans, there are many other companies which are involved in ODF, so the standard ought to thrive. Here are two new reports, one from Document Freedom Day in Slovenia and another from the ODF Plugfest in Granada.

The first Document Freedom Day in Slovenia has passed and it went pretty good.

I know that for the biggest impact I should have reported about it the very same day or at least the next one, but a) I was too tired b) I had to much other important tasks to do and c) I wanted to gather everything so I can submit a nicely rounded off report. Warning: longer post ahead.

 

Rob Weir of IBM summed up the status of the next version of the standard. ODF 1.2, which is almost done, will be divided in three parts: one for the core schema, one for the container and one for OpenFormula (do you remember that the first generation of ODF compliant spreadsheet suites lacked formula compatibility? This should fix that problem for good). New features will include digital signatures, support for RDF capabilities (see below) and native tables in presentation slides. An Interoperability demonstration of ODF 1.2 will take place at the OOoCon Conference in Budapest next September. Rob also mentioned that everybody can send in suggestions for the next version of the standard, that should include things like modularization, web profiles, enhanced SVG support and Xform integration. You can either answer OASIS calls for public comments, join the OASIS ODF TC or implement ODF 1.2 and send feedback.

OOXML is a one-company format that no company has implemented (Microsoft says it might implement it within several years), whereas ODF is here and it is properly supported by many companies, excluding Microsoft which is conveniently faking support.

The Microsoft Who Cried “Wolf!”

Posted in Antitrust, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Windows at 11:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“We will really behave this time, we promise!”

Alaskan malamute

Summary: Mozilla Firefox and other Free/libre Web browsers are discriminated against in Microsoft’s ballot due to yet another “error”

Yesterday we showed that IBM's Rob Weir had pointed out yet another Microsoft ballot error. This is not the first time that Weir spots and/or reports such an issue; he is not alone, either. Just watch the wealth of previous examples found and accumulated in:

  1. Browser Ballot Critique
  2. Microsoft’s Fake “Choice” Campaign is Back
  3. Microsoft Claimed to be Cheating in Web Browsers Ballot
  4. Microsoft Loses Impact in the Web Despite Unfair Ballot Placements
  5. Given Choice, Customers Reject Microsoft
  6. Microsoft is Still Cheating in Browser Ballot — Claim

The latest ballot error (or ‘error’ with scare quotes) is now being confirmed by Microsoft, which will be “kind” enough to address the problem.

But there’s a glitch in its Polish language page, wrote Rob Weir, an ODF (Open Document Format) architect with IBM, who wrote on his personal blog that he was tipped off to a problem.

[...]

Microsoft acknowledged the error.

Microsoft keeps making errors and “fixing” them. How many times? Like 5 times already? How come so many failed attempts? How hard is it to just make a simple screen with selections. This is the type of JavaScript exercise that can be assigned to a high school student. The headline says “Microsoft agrees to fix error in Polish browser ballot screen”; barring the possibility of inaccuracy in reporting, it’s like saying “Toyota agrees to fix faulty brakes”.

Microsoft keeps talking about “the new Microsoft” or use the above ballot as an example of fairness (it’s not fairness, it’s compliance with the law, which Microsoft is repeatedly failing to comply with). Are any more “oops moments” over Microsoft’s horizon?

“When people understand what Microsoft is up to, they’re outraged.”

Tim O’Reilly

ACTA Versus Software Freedom

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Intellectual Monopoly, Patents at 10:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Forged lion

Summary: Opinions on the emergence of the ACTA text and what it means to Free software, as well as other aspects of decreasingly-free life

YESTERDAY we wrote about the ACTA [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14] only as a reminder that it affects patent policy all around the world [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] in one fell swoop.

The Against Monopoly author compares the ACTA to the DMCA, which now pales in comparison.

ACTA is also similar to another arcane law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which, under the guise of protecting “property rights,” snuck in provisions that criminalize even the mere possession of technology that can be used to circumvent digital protection systems (see, e.g., my post TI Uses Copyright Law to Attack TI Calculator Enthusiasts). Likewise, under the guise or protecting property rights in inventions and artistic works (patent and copyright), it “seeks to provide legal authority for the surveillance of Internet file transfers and searches of personal property”. As one group notes, “ACTA goes way, way beyond the TRIPS (the copyright/patent/trademark stuff in the World Trade Organization agreement), creating an entirely new realm of liability for people who provide services on the net”. More invasion of personal liberty and property rights in the name of false, artificial property rights.

Our reader Ziomatrix said that the ACTA is “a flood of intellectual property law and DRM forced down as many throats as possible” and Hugo from the FSFE explained the threats to Free Software as follows:

Second, ACTA is not a trade agreement. Whatever the EU negotiators claim, the fact is that ACTA goes beyond current legislations and aims at creating internationally harmonized legislations on how “intellectual property rights” should be enforced. This is one of the reason why ACTA is creating its own body (the Committee) with its own executives (the Secretariat), independently from the World Trade Organization within which international trade agreements should be negotiated, and independently from World Intellectual Property Organization within which international treaties dealing with copyright, trademark and patents are usually negotiated (and open to NGOs like FSFE). The threat to Free Software is that there is absolutely no safeguards as to how the principles of freedom and sharing software would be kept intact.

Glyn Moody has tried hard to find some positives:

This is certainly a victory for transparency, if only a partial one. It’s a victory because it would never have happened had not countless organisations and individuals protested loudly and repeatedly against this travesty of democracy whereby we would be presented with a fait accompli once the trade agreement had been signed. It’s a victory because certain of the worst clauses, present in the leaked version of a couple of months ago [.pdf], seem to have disappeared according to a thorough analysis on Ars Technica.

Simon Phipps from the OSI wrote: “They couldn’t keep it secret any longer because too many people – including those inside the process – thought it was a disgrace. I wonder if they had to surrender any principles to the US in order to gain that unanimous agreement? We’ll know on Wednesday, after which the “you’re wrong and I’ll not tell you why” defence for ACTA’s apologists is also off the table.”

The ACTA is very relevant to Free software and to more aspects of life. It is by all means a suppressor of freedom and it gets rammed though under the disguise of “fighting fake medicine” (which has nothing to do with multimedia and digital copyright that it’s being lumped together with).

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