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Microsoft Office as Tool of Oppression (and OOXML is Dying)

Posted in Apple, Asia, Finance, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument at 9:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In Soviet Russia, Microsoft Office crashes YOU!

Tower of Moscow - Kremlin

Summary: A story of tyranny and monopoly abuse in Russia (courtesy of Microsoft Office lock-in), news about OOXML in Malaysia, and a quick word about Microsoft’s results, which lag behind Apple’s

Vladimir Sorokin, a Russian teacher who stood up for his students’ rights, has just been sacked. His only alleged misdeed is that he did not accept the illegally-obtained monopoly of Microsoft, which nobody has an excuse for being a prisoner to anymore.

Natalya Krainova of the Moscow Times claims:

A battle over whether open-source or proprietary software should be used in Moscow’s public schools spilled into the open Wednesday when a schoolteacher said he was forced to quit for complaining about being forced to use Microsoft programs.

Vladimir Sorokin, deputy director at School No. 572 in southeastern Moscow who teaches computer science, said by telephone that education officials had pressured him into resigning after he complained to President Dmitry Medvedev about an online training system for students that requires Microsoft Office to run properly.

The federal government decreed in 2007 that all schools nationwide have to switch to software based on the free operational system Linux by next year. Sorokin said the training system Moscow schools are forced to use defies this order.

“The education directorate is giving preference to Microsoft,” Sorokin said.

“There has to be freedom of choice,” he added.

The British press has covered this too and this story seems likely to go viral.

A Russian teacher claims he was forced to quit his job after he complained about being made to use Microsoft software.

Computer science teacher Vladimir Sorokin, who was deputy director of School No. 572 in southeastern Moscow, told the Moscow Times that education officials had pressured him into resigning after he complained to president Dmitry Medvedev about an online training system that required students to use Microsoft Office.

“The education directorate is giving preference to Microsoft,” Sorokin complained. “There has to be freedom of choice.”

Sorokin claims the training system forces Moscow schools to defy a government directive originally issued in 2007, which requires schools to use the open source operating system Linux, as part of a drive towards a ‘national OS’.

Recall the very recent Microsoft NGO spin [1, 2, 3]. A few years ago a Russian teacher was sentenced to prison for the same reason those NGOs were. Microsoft provides ammunition and supports actions that put those people in jail. And it actually gets worse in Russia because to name some related posts:

Microsoft and Office are far from benign, but as we pointed out earlier, even the Gates Foundation is pushing if not imposing its use by people who cannot afford it. That’s lock-in and it must not be tolerated in schools whose burden parents are taxpayers are taking. In a private business it’s another story, just not in the public sector. When will Russia abandon Microsoft at the federal level? This might happen soon. The relevant couple of links from yesterday's news are:

  1. Russia developing alternative OS to Windows

    The Russian government has decided it is going to develop its own operating system as an alternative to using Microsoft Windows.

    Rather than opting for an existing Linux distribution instead, Russia will invest $4.9 million creating its own OS based on Linux for use across all government departments.

    A meeting is planned in December where vice-prime minister Sergei Ivanov will discuss the details and plan of action for the development. The key aims are to remove the dependence on Windows and allow for better security, while at the same time not becoming just another Linux distribution.

  2. Russia to create ‘Windows rival’

    The Russian state plans to revamp its computer services with a Windows rival to reduce its dependence on US giant Microsoft and better monitor computer security, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

    Moscow will earmark 150 million rubles (3.5 million euros, 4.9 million dollars) to develop a national software system based on the Linux operating system, Russian deputy Ilia Ponomarev told AFP, confirming an earlier report in the Vedomosti daily.

It is encouraging to see that the state tries to distance itself from proprietary software.

Yoon Kit, who was among those who stood up against OOXML in Malaysia, now says that “the OXML beast is finally dead in Malaysia as a National Standard. Approval by ISC-G to kill the project was agreed today.” For some background about OOXML in Malaysia see posts such as:

The head of Microsoft Malaysia quit the company not so long afterwards and the OOXML corruption index ought to show that Malaysia was not unique when it comes to OOXML-related abuses. It’s a fight against ODF.

Just earlier today ThistleWeb spoke about the importance of standards, not Microsoft’s own way of doing things.

Standards are important, they avoid duplication of effort and increase interactivity between various different devices. Imagine if every TV network broadcast it’s own standard of TV signal, so you’d need a different TV for each network, or cars were made with their own standard of petrol so you had to fill up at a petrol station who sold fuel for your brand of car. This is the retarded world of vendor lock-in, it’s what happens when companies put their own profits above the needs of their customers.


One of the “reasons” Microsoft often give in their attacks / smears on their competition is that they “don’t work right with standard formats”. Of course by “standard formats” they mean “Microsoft created, patented, licensed and undocumented formats”. So of course any office application has to try and reverse engineer .doc and .xls to get them to work. Microsoft were heavily fined for ignoring a court order to release (in this case smb / Samba) documentation to allow others to make their software compatible with Microsoft’s own. Again vendor lock-in in full effect.

Earlier on today we posted the latest ODF newsletter and LWN finally has this summary of the very recent ODF Plugfest, which is available to non-subscribers now.

ODF has hurt Microsoft’s cash cow and it shows. Microsoft’s results are out (shortly within the results of Apple, which easily advanced beyond Microsoft’s), but it reshuffled the chairs on the deck a few weeks ago (divisions merging, bucket games, etc.), so if one looks beyond the expected spin in the corporate press it is evident that Microsoft just beat expectations that simply did not exist after it had been downgraded repeatedly. As Joe Wilcox puts it, “For more than 18 months, Microsoft has provided no guidance to Wall Street analysts, in a move that is highly unusual for so large and so successful a public company. As such, Wall Street analysts had to rely solely on their wits to call the quarter. Average consensus was $15.8 billion revenue and 55 cents earnings per share. Revenue estimates ranged from $15.32 billion to $16.18 billion. So Microsoft topped the Street.” Do not forget that Microsoft has just taken more debt. Why would a profitable company keep borrowing money and pay interest on that?

Crisis of OpenSUSE in Novell/VMB_ware Hands

Posted in Europe, GNU/Linux, Novell, OpenSUSE, Virtualisation, VMware at 8:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Direct link: SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for VMware

Summary: OpenSUSE Conference largely fails to attract press coverage, which may show that Novell no longer cares so much now that it negotiates selling SUSE to VMB_ware

EARLIER TODAY we wrote about the expectation that VMB_ware will take over OpenSUSE, which is currently a Novell product/project. A key member of SUSE who is also a Novell employee did not want to talk about it and shown above is a very recent video we found of VMB_ware and Novell chatting about their relationship. The talk is focused on virtualising SUSE and it ends with Studio, which is also a virtual appliance paradigm. OpenSUSE is not mentioned.

As stated earlier in our audiocast, a lot of people did not know about an OpenSUSE Conference (OSC) which took place this week [1, 2, 3]. Novell hardly advertised this. Brian Proffitt too has realised that something is amiss. As an OpenSUSE user he stated that it’s time for “introspection” at OpenSUSE:

I don’t want to be rude, but could somebody tell me what happened at the openSUSE Conference last week?


I think it’s a confluence of reasons, really. First, Novell, the platinum sponsor of the event, did not seem to put a lot of PR effort into the conference. This might be because Novell is supposed to be the acquistion target of VMware. “Supposed” to be because just because the media reports it doesn’t mean it’s a done deal yet. Presuming this goes forward, though, I can see why folks at Novell might be distracted.

I would also speculate that perhaps the openSUSE community didn’t want a big fuss about this conference.


Even more recently, a survey of the openSUSE community produced a SWOT document that displays two sides still trying to figure out their relationship.

With its new Community Manager Jos Poortvliet and renewed calls for finding a direction for openSUSE, I have a strong feeling that the openSUSE Conference was not about making headlines or generating a big splash within the Linux community. Rather, I believe it was used as a chance for introspection.

Jos Poortvliet, the community manager of OpenSUSE, responded in the comments and also published impressions from the conference. Pascal Bleser too responded to Proffitt. People from OpenSUSE generally took offence in it. Thinq.co.uk was apparently there at OSC for interviews, but more examples of media coverage from OSC is generally scarce. Here is some OSC coverage of KDE:

THINQ cornered Will Stephenson, an OpenSuSE developer working on KDE, at this year’s OpenSuSE Developers Conference to find out what’s in store for the future of the project.

Stephenson, who is employed by principle OpenSuSE sponsor Novell but who works full-time on the KDE project, explained that KDE is a major focus for the OpenSuSE community with around 68 per cent to 72 per cent of all downloads of the platform shipping with the K Desktop Environment.

Another SUSE blogger had these comments to make; it’s a point about making OpenSUSE look different:

So, I just saw how OSX Lion has the new features showing up and I couldn’t help but notice that their idea about launching apps looks a lot like their way of launching apps on an iPhone. The other thing I noticed is that it looks a lot like my idea of switching desktops, especially about the dots at the bottom of the screen. Who would have thought? Are we all in the end making the same resolutions about desktop interoperability?

The problem is not that OpenSUSE lacks ideas. The problem is that Novell appears to be neglecting it and VMB_ware would not be a better steward. OpenSUSE ought to fork and make its escape route from being associated with Microsoft through Novell.

IRC Proceedings: October 28th, 2010

Posted in IRC Logs at 7:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz




#techrights log

#boycottnovell log

#boycottnovell-social log

Enter the IRC channels now

TechBytes Pilot: Microsoft’s Android Tax, Fedora Site Redesign, Unity and Vala, LimeWire Kaput

Posted in TechBytes at 6:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“No episode number, this isn’t a soap opera”


Direct download as Ogg
(1:09:43, 38 MB) | Direct download as MP3

Summary: TechBytes audiocast opens with a pre-launch episode where we mostly explore the terrain

THIS IS OUR test episode, a pilot so to speak. We did it all in one go (over an hour) without any notes or scripts and it is not edited. We hope that it’ll be acceptable and in our next episode (probably in November) we’ll use experience from this first run and also refine by doing some planning, then editing. Please treat it as a beta episode if it helps and we thank you for listening.

As embedded (HTML5):


Ogg Theora

Eye on Patents: The USPTO is Failing

Posted in America, Patents at 3:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Links and news about the USPTO (self explanatory)

Here comes the patentpocolypse

The patentpocalypse is here. Or, to be more accurate, it’s (mostly) in the US.

Take a look at this great little graphic from the WSJ Law blog:

People often forget that patents by their nature are limited to individual jurisdictions. A US patent has no force in the UK, for example, and although companies routinely file patent applications covering the same invention in multiple jurisdictions, because those jurisdictions will all have different processes and rules as to patentability, there is no guarantee that the patent will be issued in all jurisdictions.

Guest Post: Counting Defendants in Patent Litigation (is this how the USPTO determines “success”? When more companies sued over time?)

There are some striking observations here. * The total number of patent litigations filed increased about 300% between 1990 and 2002, but has been nearly constant for the rest of this decade. (Many others have shown this previously. See, e.g. Shrestha, 2010) * The number of cases with more than one defendant followed a similar trend (data not shown). * The number of named defendants increased nearly 600% between 1990 and 2010.

Online Global Week in Review 22 October 2010 from IP Think Tank

TiVo’s change in horses leads to termination of patent re-examination; TiVo shares on the rise after favourable USPTO re-exam decision (Patents Post-Grant) (IAM)

Michel Barnier Still Has an Agenda Hostile Towards European Software Developers

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Patents at 2:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Michel Barnier

Summary: A new report about EU commissioner Michel Barnier clarifies his views on the subject of patents, which have not changed and still favour the so-called ‘Community patent’ (misleading name)

LAST YEAR WE warned that Mr. Michel Barnier was going “to make the Community patent a reality”. For those who do not know yet, the Community patent would be terrible news to the Free software community. It would potentially legalise or further legitimise software patents in Europe.

According to this new report from the Bill Gates-funded [1, 2, 3, 4] Guardian, Barnier is still at it: [via Hugo Roy (FSFE) in France]

The paper being released and obtained by the Guardian, says: “The absence of a single EU-wide patent is striking. Obtaining a patent protection for all 27 EU member states is currently at least 15 times more expensive than obtaining patent protection in the US.”

For those who do not understand why software patents in Europe would harm all Europeans, consider the following new remark from Stefan Wenig who argues:

the irony would be great if EU really had no #swpats. we could f*ck US corps over US patents we own, but be untouchable at home

Dr. Richard Stallman explained this point more politely a few years ago. The corollary is that Barnier’s actions are irresponsible as far as his continents’ software developers are concerned (and not just developers whose program code is free/libre as it’s an issue of scale).

“Small Software companies cannot afford to go to court or pay damages. Who is this software patent system for?” —Marco Schulze, Nightlabs Gmbh

The Source on Rejecting Mono, Which Earns a Room at FOSDEM 2011

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents at 2:11 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

FOSDEM sponsorships
Sponsors of FOSDEM 2009

Summary: A few notes and analysis of Mono news, with increased emphasis on why it is perfectly acceptable to say “no” to Mono

JASON RECENTLY published this good piece titled “Rejecting Mono”. In it, Jason attempts to explain what opposition to Mono is all about because Mono sceptics like ourselves have had our views and our opposition mischaracterised, even distorted. It’s intended to daemonise and thus dismiss valid critics. Jason concludes by stating the obvious and asking this question:

So, are the Linux/Mac gamers here that don’t want to use mono “zealots” and “freetards”? Of course not. In the context of cross-platform capability, developers might like the idea of Mono because of what it promises – but users don’t like Mono because of what it delivers.

You can only get the full “benefits” of .NET if you are on the Microsoft Windows platform. This is by design. We have the memos – court evidence – where Microsoft lays out again and again the strategy of releasing a small sub-set of .NET, but reserving the “good bits” for Windows. We see this all the time in the real world (ala Moonlight being useless on any site that actually matters). This documented strategy absolutely destroys the notion of .NET or Mono being a “cross-platform” framework. It can not and will not be, because Microsoft will not allow it.

And that is granting the rather large assumptions that .NET is well-designed enough to do so and developers want a Microsoft-controlled framework, even if Redmond would allow it!

Despite all that we know about Mono after years of research, some developers insist that Mono is good for GNU/Linux and for software freedom. Well, the main thing Mono is truly good for is promotion and spreading of .NET. Is that a commendable goal? Really?

Well, FOSDEM 2011 is already in the planning and Mono developers/advocates (usually the same group for natural reasons) will have a room allocated to them. Notice how they are very much isolated not based on modularity and separation of a larger system (e.g. kernel versus development environment and bootloaders) but based on the language they use. There is something wrong here, no? Anyway, this room allocation is nothing too shocking anymore; it’s an annual thing and not different from previous years:

For the second year in a row, there will be a Mono Developer Room at FOSDEM. We had a very nice edition last year and we are looking to improve on that.

Mono developers have thankfully lost ground in the Ubuntu distribution of GNU/Linux, especially because f-spot was replaced by shotwell. Some people want to reverse this choice, but they do not take the ramifications of Mono into account. The CTO of Canonical apparently does. Meanwhile, Canonical controversially develops Unity, which is based on Vala (we are not going to start a patent discussion about it because it’s already in today’s IRC logs). The developer of Unity is the man who brought us the Mono-based Gnome-Do, which we view as more of a curse than a blessing although some people in today’s news seem to like it based on purely technical grounds. OMG!Ubuntu is again implicitly promoting Novell’s Banshee, which is a Mono application that we know for sure is a patent problem due to limitations in the MCP.

Our posts about Mono are not attacks on applications, vendors, and developers. They are intended just to remind people what depends on Mono and what substitutes are available (see this list if you haven’t). Refusing to use Mono is no “zealotry”; it is a rational choice not to be ashamed of. If you dislike Mono, you appear to be in the majority.

The High Price of an Apple and the Cost of Name Monopolies (Trademarks)

Posted in Apple, Asia, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft at 1:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Beijing maids

Summary: News about Apple in China and Facebook in the United States


AST WEEK we wrote about Apple's latest Foxconn controversy, which was long coming and nothing especially new. When is it acceptable to criticise a company for overcharging for a computer while paying meager amounts of money to overworked sweat shop prisoners, some of whom are children? “iPhones, MacBooks sicken Chinese women,” The Register reported yesterday. This is apparently something quite unique:

Chinese workers assembling Apple laptops and iPhones are being sickened by a particularly nasty industrial chemical, n-hexane, according to a report.

“I think they knew it was poisonous to human bodies, but if they had used another chemical our output would not have increased,” one woman told a reporter from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “By using n-hexane, it was much more efficient.”

In other news from the name day in China (AFP), “Apple [is] accused of copyright infringement in China” and to quote the opening portions:

US high-tech giant Apple has been accused in China of copyright infringement, with a computer screen maker saying it owns the rights to the iPad name in the country, a report said Wednesday.

Proview Technology Co., Ltd., which is based in the southern city of Shenzhen, registered the iPad trademark in January 2000 and still owns the rights to its use in China, the Beijing News said, citing government archives.

Facebook too has just developed trademark zealotry, but that’s another story:

It’s not the first time Facebook has prevented a social networking site from using a related name. Facebook sued Teachbook in August, saying that the site’s use of the word “book” was in violation of its Trademark. Facebook considers uses of the words “book” and “face” its property. Facebook said Faceporn’s concept is too similar as well.

Facebook said that Faceporn ” blatantly copied the Facebook logo, site, and Wall trademark,” said court documents. In screen shots included with the court filings, Faceporn does have elements that are similar to Facebook such as a Wall and a blue and white design. Although users can’t poke one another, they can “send a flirt.”

Facebook has requested that Faceporn creator Thomas Pederson surrender the domain name and all revenue from it to Facebook.

The nerve they have…

Facebook is somewhat of an extension of Microsoft (which also practically owns part of Facebook). Facebook only/mostly exploits Free software and uses it to advance Microsoft’s agenda a lot of the time, as we’ve demonstrated before.

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