06.28.10

Novell Still a Threat to OpenOffice.org

Posted in Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Oracle, Red Hat at 5:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bad Novell

Summary: How Novell is trying to take charge of OpenOffice.org; reminder of where Red Hat got it right while Novell got it wrong

HYPOCRISY is a real problem and a trap. In the previous post we highlighted Microsoft’s lobbying against the population’s interests, but there is also government lobbying from Free/open source software-supporting companies such as IBM. We have criticised this for years. We also criticised Novell for paying IDC [1, 2] and feeding the same corrupt system which prolonged the agony with proprietary software (software patents too). To fix a broken system, one sometimes needs to break it; rather than play along with the USPTO by putting software patents in the OIN’s arsenal, for example, one ought to just abolish software patents.

Today we take another glance at Novell, which we still target with the “Boycott Novell” campaign. Novell is still a predominantly proprietary software company which has new flaws in its proprietary software (e.g. [1, 2]) and even though Novell makes SUSE and OpenSUSE, this is joint work involving many other companies such as Red Hat, IBM, Nokia, Intel, and HP.

Novell has been trying for over 2 years to seize and gain a better status in the community while at the same time promoting Microsoft’s agenda with projects like Mono and Moonlight. Novell’s latest attempt to take control of OpenOffice.org is described by Tectonic:

Michael Meeks a long-time OOo and Gnome developer and Novell employee argues that among the chief problems are a lack of leadership, a half-hearted open source strategy and copyright assignments that discourage external contributions.

It’s the same old story from Meeks et al [1, 2]. Now that Wipro and Novell (Thorsten Behrens) want to be closer and deeper inside OpenOffice.org, it is worth keeping an eye open. Oracle has no real financial stress [1, 2] and given the huge number of OpenOffice.org users, Novell is unlikely to get its way.

In other news, Matt Asay explains why Novell got it going with Microsoft:

Back in late 2006, Novell and Microsoft inked a broad interoperability agreement, one designed to prop up Novell’s SUSE against Red Hat’s dominant RHEL operating system. Novell painted the agreement as customer-friendly and driven by conversations with customers, Red Hat wasn’t impressed, in large part because Microsoft persisted in clouding interoperability with patents.

[...]

When I was still at Novell in 2005, we spent a year devising a strategy to hold off SharePoint because Microsoft was using it to drive Windows deeper into enterprises, and to push Novell out. When I asked then-Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik about the SharePoint threat to Red Hat, he sanguinely replied, “We never see it.”

The broader Red Hat gets deployed, the more it’s bumping into Windows, both as a replacement OS and as a companion OS. Red Hat’s position, then and now, therefore makes a lot of sense. Back in 2006 it could afford to snub Microsoft; in 2010, it can’t.

Red Hat has already shown that collaboration can be followed through without patent deals and this continues to be shown in the latest press releases. There is nothing wrong with making things work together, as long as control games and patents are left off the table so that open standards can be obeyed instead.

What Microsoft Wants Gregoire Gives

Posted in Bill Gates, Finance, Microsoft, Patents at 4:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Christine Gregoire

Summary: Microsoft celebrates the latest tax breaks from Governor Gregoire, who is surrounded by a crowd of lobbyists like Bill Gates Sr. and even former Microsoft staff

Governor Christine Gregoire is being spineless; rather than work towards paying back the huge debt, she is giving corporations — Microsoft included — massive tax breaks that put all the burden on the local population (some of which already lives in tents). Coverage about this is abundant, especially in Washington which it obviously affects the most:

Gregoire signed a bill giving technology companies a sales tax break on some equipment if they obtain a building permit during the next year. The city and Port of Quincy also are working to build a recycled water project to provide treated water from the area’s food production facilities for use by the data centers for cooling.

Another news headline says that “Data center bill passage celebrated” [...by corporations] (also here)

The state’s data center tax incentive means Washington state has the ability to emerge into the most progressive field of 21st-century jobs.

[...]

Kevin Timmons, Microsoft’s general manager of data centers, said the bill’s passage means the company can continue to invest and bring jobs to its home state of Washington.

Microsoft will not pay tax because it doesn’t feel like it and it has been lobbying hard. This is a serious issue that was covered extensively in the Seattle press, except of course the Seattle Times, which has literally been having dinners with Microsoft (we showed an admission last week) and helping glorify Microsoft, Bill Gates, and other such interests. The Seattle Times continues to cover up Microsoft’s misconduct and a a former Microsoft employee rants about it again. He also mentions former Microsoft staff which helps subvert Christine Gregoire’s agenda from inside the system.

With Washington State facing insolvency and a record $2.8 billion deficit, The Seattle Times never told its readers about Microsoft’s tax dodge despite its considerable impact on the deficit and Rep. Hunter’s efforts and potential conflicts of interest. Senior Microsoft executives like Hunter often leave with tens of millions of dollars of company stock. (Hunter is pictured below-right)

[...]

Frankly, I’m amazed at the quantity and breadth of online coverage this blog generated for Microsoft’s misdeeds this year, but extensive online coverage is not yet a replacement for local ink. Few people in Washington State seem to know about Microsoft’s Nevada tax dodge and how it relates to their own increased taxes this year.

s for why the Department of Revenue ignores legal precedents that seem to indicate Microsoft’s past tax practices were illegal, we still don’t know.

“Wash. governor seeks reforms, budget overhauls,” says another headline. Watch the opening line from AP (The Associated Press):

Ready for the Microsoft Highway? How about the Boeing Bridge?

The Associated Press occasionally starts with such off-putting remarks (like calling Bill Gates the minister of education) and “CNN drops Associated Press,” says RawStory. In any event, there is truth to these statements from AP, but the rest of the coverage is superficial and not sufficiently inquisitive. AP is also a copyright bully — probably the worst of its kind.

When it comes to issues that relate to Bill Gates, the AP never conducts a proper investigation. Here is a new example of Gates Foundation praise from the Seattle Times (it should be called Microsoft Times), which also mirrors this new article from AP. It’s part of the coverage around health and the Gates Foundation, but it never says anything about stake holders in the respective patents on vaccination/drugs that now involve animals too. There is also this report about rabies which helps show the overlap with the WHO (the complex relationship was explained before).

Boyd Cerro, DOH-8 regional sentinel nurse told reporters that his office has recently received the initial tranche of P2.1 million for the anti-rabies campaign donated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the World Health Organization. He added that the amount from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is more than P10 million spread over 5 years which is also the time frame of the campaign for anti-rabies in the region.

This post is intended to remain focused on the tax issue though; later on we’ll return to the subject of profit Gates makes from drug companies he is promoting. It cannot be explained and shown too concisely.

It is worth adding that Bill Gates’ father is one of the main lobbyists (definitely the most prominent lobbyist this year) for tax exemptions [1, 2, 3, 4] (in the sense that the Gates Foundation remains tax-exempt and the super-rich continue to pay almost nothing in tax).

Man Bites Dog and Microsoft Fights ‘Piracy’

Posted in America, Asia, Australia, Microsoft, Windows at 4:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Castro - Battle of Actium

Summary: Microsoft is attacking sellers of Windows in the UAE, the United States, and Australia

IN China, the real ‘pirates’ are Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4], so it’s always interesting when Microsoft claims to fight so-called ‘piracy’ (counterfeiting), which Microsoft also admits benefiting from.

“They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

Bill Gates

Over in the Middle East, Microsoft has decided that it’s time to “collect”. It’s not the first time this year that Microsoft does it in the Middle East, but the example from last week’s news says that “Microsoft intensifies action against sale of illegal software” [in the Middle East specifically]. Here is the latest news from UAE, where Microsoft uses MOUs and actions against shops that don't pay Microsoft:

Authorities in the UAE have conducted three more raids against resellers accused of selling pirated software.

[..]

The raids were part of an ongoing campaign against software piracy in the region, led by Microsoft, which works closely with governments, industry partners and educational organisations on IPR enforcement.

This article almost conceals the role played by Microsoft. It tends to hide itself behind fronts like the BSA (an equivalent of MPAA/RIAA for companies like Sony) and it uses armed policemen and state authority to assist its business strategy and make the billionaires from Washington even richer. A critical analysis of this ought to lead to a reform. Many of those sellers are just doing what other sellers have been doing for decades and Microsoft never had a problem with their practices, as long as they ensured that all computer users in the UAE (even those who are unable to afford the software) used Windows.

Microsoft behaves in this ruthless manner also in the United States. Last week we found a lot of coverage about QuickTEQ Computers:

National software giant Microsoft is suing a Lincoln company, QuickTEQ Computers, alleging that it has been selling reproductions, copies or imitations of Microsoft’s copyrighted materials.

There is more in [1, 2, 3, 4] and in AP [1, 2].

Microsoft Corp. says a Nebraska computer store has been infringing on its copyrights for Windows software.

Quoted for the wording. From Omaha:

Microsoft says in the lawsuit that it sent a letter to QuickTeq in March 2009 warning the company that it was infringing on Microsoft’s copyrights.

At least it says “copyright infringements” and not “piracy” or “theft”. It would be nice if Microsoft was accused of endorsing copyright infringements when it better suited its goals. Microsoft’s Windows profits decline over the years, so Microsoft is killing the goose and starts “collecting” (to use Gates’ word).

There is another new case in Australia:

AN Australian eBay trader who admitted to selling Microsoft software illegally has paid $125,000 in compensation to the computer giant.

Well, usually Microsoft turns a blind eye, satisfied that someone who is unwilling to buy Windows is at least using it. But not anymore. Microsoft is having a hard time.

Microsoft’s American EDGI Comes to Alabama and Project Marshall (MOU) Comes to Jamia Millia Islamia

Posted in America, Asia, GNU/Linux, Marketing, Microsoft at 3:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Civil war soldiers
Battle of Selma – Live Oak
Cemetary – Confederate Memorial Ceremony (Alabama)

Summary: Microsoft is battling for the hearts of minds of Americans using state support; Jamia Millia Islamia sells out to Microsoft

FOR SOMEWHAT of a background/introduction to “American EDGI”, see previous posts such as:

  1. American EDGI Comes to Missouri, Microsoft Crimes in Iowa Produce Coupons
  2. Microsoft Brings ‘American EDGI’ to Illinois, Virginia, and Indiana
  3. Microsoft’s American EDGI Proceeding to State of the Tax Dodge (Nevada), Kentucky, and More
  4. Microsoft’s ‘American EDGI’ Comes to Massachusetts and Nevada After New York Deal

Microsoft’s EDGI tactics are designed to ensure that people of all ages are glued to Microsoft’s monopoly; Microsoft is willing to lose money in the short term in order to ensure this. Last month we wrote about "American EDGI" in Alabama and last week we found yet more coverage about it, also from Alabama:

The state government and Microsoft are offering 15,000 vouchers for free online technology training and certification.

This is a shameful disgrace. What we have here is state-supported Microsoft indoctrination, which is also covered here:

Alabamians who need computer training can update their skills at no charge through a public/private state training program in conjunction with Microsoft’s Elevate America program.

Many other states have been subjected to similar indoctrination. It won’t be the first time that we argue the United States is likely to be last to adopt Free/libre software. Change will typically come from the outside first, notably regions like continental Europe, south America, and giant Asian countries like China and India.

Microsoft has EDGI-like programmes designed to derail migrations to GNU/Linux also outside the United States. Project Marshall (MOU) is one common trick which Microsoft has just used in Jamia Millia Islamia.

Jamia Millia Islamia has signed an MoU with Microsoft Corporation under Microsoft University Education Alliance Programme.

This is a true shame for the students and the staff. Microsoft is the antithesis of education for reasons we covered before.

Speaking of Jamia Millia Islamia, guess who’s going on a “diplomatic mission to Syria”?

Senior executives of five big U.S. technology companies including Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Dell Inc (DELL.O) expressed their concerns to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a five-day trip last week, two members of the delegation told Reuters.

As Microsoft Nick put it:

State Dept. sends Microsoft on diplomatic mission to Syria

In an effort to ease relations with Syria and diffuse its alliance with Iran, the U.S. State Department has sent representatives from a number of U.S. technology giants, including Microsoft, on a diplomatic and trade mission to the Middle Eastern nation.

In the next post we’ll show how Microsoft attacked Middle Eastern nations last week. How schizophrenic.

Microsoft’s Extortion Ventures and Blowback

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 3:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Soldiers

Summary: The latest news about Microsoft and its proactive-aggressive attitude with software patents; A look at Microsoft’s “IP Ventures”

IN RE BILSKI is slated for release today. It may derail Microsoft’s plan with patents — a plan it has been implementing by suing Linux-reliant companies such as Salesforce. Microsoft’s actions are widely denounced [1, 2] and they are a call for trouble. Here is a PDF of the complaint from Salesforce [PDF]. There is a lot of news coverage about it (we gave links to about 15 articles), but it is mostly based on this original filing. From VirnetX there is the new press release which we mentioned several days ago and here is some resultant coverage [1, 2, 3] (biased due to the authors). The short story is that Microsoft too is a serious patent violator. Everyone is. The presence of software patents criminalises programming in the same way that today’s copyright law probably makes any university presentation a copyright infringement (those with images in particular). The solution is to reform the law, not to prepare for counter action, which relies upon one’s own wealth of retaliatory monopolies.

There are quite a few articles right now about Microsoft’s patent/spinoff arm, “IP Ventures”. We wrote about it last year and last week’s coverage says that it’s half a decade old:

Today marks the fifth anniversary of IP Ventures, Microsoft’s program that opens up technologies developed internally at Microsoft to entrepreneurs and new businesses.

The “IP” stands for an umbrella of patents, not “Internet protocol”. It says a lot about Microsoft’s perception of products, unless it also refers to copyrights. Microsoft is excluding competitors, still; if not by technical sabotage then by threats and lawsuits. Microsoft is lunatic company of sorts; it spread the perception that it will act irrationally to retaliate and punish anyone who stands in its way.

Recommendations for OIN, IBM, and Florian Müller

Posted in Antitrust, Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, OIN, Patents, Servers at 2:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Never alone
Peace with IBM and OIN — not hostility — will make Free software safer

Summary: Analysis of the latest motions against OIN and against IBM, courtesy of Müller

AS the conversation with Florian Müller carries on, we are hoping to find out why he supports a Microsoft-backed fight against IBM (which has quite a monopoly on GNU/Linux in the mainframe). We are trying to show both sides of this story rather than be directly involved in the argument.

Müller has written a new post about “four alternative ways to improve the Open Invention Network’s patent license agreement” where he says that “Journalists are also puzzled”; well, actually, if they are baffled, then it’s probably because he puzzled some of them by posting the material which he mass-mails to many journalists. A lot of people may not know this, but it’s only fair to say that Müller sends many mails separately to a lot of people who write about the subject. It would at least be honest to mail one message with a list of recipients who get an identical message.

So anyway, to many journalists there is no controversy at all here (exception among Microsoft boosters like Gavin Clarke and others who are apathetic or hostile towards GNU/Linux). Müller is trying to change that and “In a new blog posting,” he told us, “I explain the biggest problem I have with the OIN’s patent license agreement in a way that programmers and other non-lawyers can understand, and then outline four alternative ways to address the problem identified.” For those who have not seen Müller’s previous rants about the OIN, start around [1, 2, 3, 4].

We too are critics of OIN, but it does not go as far as it does for Müller, to whom IBM is the worst thing since The Plague. Actually, IBM’s practices in IT have so far been rather benign, at least over the past decade. Müller paints a target on the wrong company, unless he can provide more compelling evidence.

Müller has also been writing on the issue of codecs and at times criticising WebM [1, 2, 3]. “Now the FOSS detractor [Müller] is attacking Google’s VP8/WebM,” wrote Pamela Jones in Groklaw some days ago (regarding his new post about WebM). “There’s your “freedom fighter,” boys and girls. Is there anyone or anything FOSS he *doesn’t* find fault with?”

Here is a portion of another new rant from Müller (also about OIN):

It’s easy to see why IBM wouldn’t want the list to include the Hercules open source mainframe emulator. Its patent pledge shows that it likes to redefine its commitments. But if Red Hat and Novell determined that some OIN patents might hurt a competitor of theirs like Mandriva, they could also use the OIN for that purpose.

The OIN’s definition of the “Linux System” changes all the time. Since it’s version-specific, that’s inevitable until they adopt a fair, reasonable, non-discriminatory, reliable and transparent approach instead of the current scheme.

“Maybe this is of interest with a view to future articles on Linux patent issues,” Müller told us. Well, actually this is possible to resolve with an open letter or an E-mail. We covered this subject before and OIN’s scope of coverage is not the principal issue. It is true that OIN needs to be more transparent and communicate better with the public. Instead, OIN guards its image and keeps silent on the topics which matter (so does IBM). Over a year ago the OIN approached me with an offer of an interview to publish with OIN’s CEO. I took the offer and typed up a few hard questions (but mostly easy ones), such as the OIN’s vulnerability in defending against patent trolls. Suddenly, the same OIN which wanted me to interview the CEO lost interest in this idea. They must have wanted just a one-sided story and my sceptical questions did not guarantee it. So here’s just one anecdotal story about an area where the OIN must improve.

“Florian Mueller is busy on Slashdot trying to rally the community against IBM, and getting absolutely nowhere, I notice.”
      –Pamela Jones, Groklaw
Moving on a bit, regarding Müller's support of Microsoft's side in the mainframe case, Jones writes at Groklaw (citing IDG): “I see Maureen O’Gara is writing supportingly of NEON. And Florian Mueller is busy on Slashdot trying to rally the community against IBM, and getting absolutely nowhere, I notice. By the way the headline is wrong. There is no “Open Source” complaint, and the community doesn’t much like being used like this. The FOSS community is made up mostly of geeks. That means brains are not in short supply. And they can recognize phony issues when they see them. And they know how to research and figure out who is really behind all this. And frankly, the FOSS community supports the rights of any programmer or company to license its work and defend it from Psystar-like attacks. That may be news to Hollywood, but the GPL is a copyright license, and it is also defended when required.”

Speaking of IBM, a few days ago we wrote about the software patents situation in New Zealand. The role of IBM was mentioned by us because a lobbying front backed by IBM pushed for software patents to be legal in New Zealand. Here is a recent article about this front, which Microsoft supports too (many American multinationals are listed). From the analysis: [via Groklaw]

What influence does NZICT have on Government Ministers?

When asked whether they thought the Government would go through with the recommendation, he assured me (with a knowing smile) that “they’ll definitely reconsider their position, and reopen the issue for discussion”. When asked how this could be achieved given Simon Power’s strong statement in support of excluding software patents, the board member admitted he was surprised by that as well… and said that it would certainly make their eventual reversal more troublesome (but he didn’t doubt that the Government would reconsider their position and make the “right choice”, i.e. retaining software patents).

Their apparent access to ministers through private channels seems somewhat dubious, as does their (perhaps misguided) sense of their ability to influence government officials. This is disturbing and warrants further exploration.

In summary, recommendations ought to be made that OIN should answer the hard questions, that IBM should make a public statement about its software patents policy (if IBM lobbies for software patents as it does, then it ought to just admit this), and it will also be useful to know the role of Microsoft in the mainframe case. If people like Müller care about software freedom, then they will cease to tease IBM in this area. The criticism is misdirected and exaggerated. IBM does many good things for Free software.

Today We Have Bilski

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 1:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

David Kappos

Summary: SCOTUS is due to release its final judgment and more signs suggest that Justice Stevens is heavily involved (he is hostile towards software patents)

CHANGE is needed. The USPTO is out of control. To give a new example, here is the latest one from Slashdot:

USPTO Grants Bezos Patent On ’60s-Era Chargebacks

theodp writes “Chargebacks on computing resources are certainly nothing new, dating to the ’60s. But five decades later, the USPTO has deemed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ invention — Dynamic Pricing of Web Services Utilization — worthy of a new patent. From the patent: ‘Utilization of a storage resource may be measured in terms of a quantity of data stored (e.g., bytes, megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB), etc.) per unit of time (e.g., second, day, month, etc.). Similarly, communication bandwidth utilization may be measured in terms of a quantity of data transmitted per unit of time (e.g., megabits per second). Processing resource utilization may be measured as an aggregate number of units of processing effort (e.g., central processing unit (CPU) cycles, transactions, etc.) utilized, or as a rate of processing effort utilization per unit of time (e.g., CPU cycles or transactions per second).’ Sound familiar, Greyglers? Another example of why it’s not wise to grant software patents when people don’t know much about computer history.”

It’s time to cut back and annul software patents. Can Justice Stevens deliver? Based on SCOTUS blog:

This is just a reminder that Justice Stevens’ last day on the Court, after decades of service, will be Monday. Members of the bar who are in Washington should consider attending. I will be giving out free bow ties.

As Pogson correctly points out:

Tom Goldstein on SCOTUSBlog has written his best estimate of who will write the decision on Bilski:

* Justice Stevens will write it
* the scope of patents will be narrowed, probably restricting software patents
* the court will be unanimous but possibly split on the scope of the ruling…

He bases this on the history and involvement of Stevens on law of patents. He has a history of narrowing patent rights.

More from SCOTUS blog about Justice Stevens:

At oral argument in Bilski, Justice Stevens was very engaged. He asked counsel for the patentee the following telling question: “But is it correct that there’s none – none of our cases has ever approved a rule such as you advocate?” Justice Stevens also was seemingly doubtful that the involvement of a machine could render a process patentable, and furthermore that software could be patentable, which suggests a very narrow interpretation of business method patents and that the ruling could spell significant trouble for software patents.

Yes, software patents too are at risk. The decision will be out within hours and we’ll be covering it.

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