Summary: Groklaw, which helped Novell in its case against SCO, finally calls Novell a “community rat”; the company is being slammed from many different directions
IT IS surprising that Groklaw presents this as news. At “Boycott Novell” we have covered this for years and provided extensive evidence, too. Anyway, here’s a quick roundup of what was up last week. Following the good news from Russia people recall he nastiness which surrounds OOXML. The FFII tells Jan Wildeboer from Red Hat:
@jwildeboer Do you remember how pissed #Microsoft was when KdV referred to #OOXML as an example for a royalty-free licensed std?
Harish Pillay from Red Hat writes:
I think I need to get the SPRING Singapore to deem the OOXML vote invalid in light of these M$-Novell abuses – http://ur1.ca/2n3c7 #fb
Let us remember what Microsoft did for OOXML in Singapore before the manager quit. Microsoft was bribing many organisations and companies to support OOXML. Essentially, Microsoft was buying friends. One of those bought ‘friends’ was Novell, which not only supported OOXML as a result of a large payment. Other examples include Windows and Moonlight, to name just a couple we wrote about. Look at Novell’s new announcement of a security product; the subtext says: “Latest version extends privileged user control, tracking and auditing capabilities to the Windows platform”
Yes, Windows. That’s what they add, eh?
Here is more new Windows software from Novell, which resembles this post from rPath. How about this new release from Novell? Or the new vulnerabilities? Or the press release whose headline says: “Novell Joins Microsoft Windows Azure Technology Adoption Program to Test and Validate Novell Cloud S”?
To quote the opening paragraph:
Today Novell announced it has joined the Microsoft* Windows Azure* Technology Adoption Program to address cloud security challenges through the Novell® Cloud Security Service. Microsoft and Novell will work together on pre-release, non-commercial, internal testing and validation of Novell Cloud Security Service on Windows Azure with a goal to deliver a consistent access, security and compliance management framework for applications hosted on Microsoft’s cloud application platform, Windows Azure.
Over at Groklaw, Pamela Jones wrote in response to it: “Because who doesn’t think of Microsoft when they think about security online? Snort.” We wrote about this earlier today. Jones is right. She also denounced Novell recently [1, 2], having given this company the benefit of the doubt for far too long. For the “Boycott Novell” site this is major progress and IBM’s Rob Weir already uses Groklaw to inform people that Novell is trouble, that it’s essentially a traitor. “I just now saw two updates on Groklaw article,” wrote gnufreex in our IRC channels, “PJ finally calls Novell what it is: Community Rat”
To quote from this update to a post we cited before:
Update 2: Simon Phipps tweets that Miguel is sincere even when wrong, and so we should all lay off him. And he provides a link to Miguel responding on his blog now also.
I provide the links so you can reach your own conclusions. But here’s mine. The damage from Mono is real, regardless of motives. And the community is foolish not to say so and mean it. This isn’t about personalities. What does motive have to do with it? Sincerity can be more dangerous. And this is about danger. It’s about the community trying for code that is safe for everyone to use, unencumbered by Microsoft patents. If anyone is endangering the community with encumbered code, we need to defend against it. I don’t care about sincerity.
And why, pray tell, would it *ever* be all right to offer the community such encumbered code deliberately? If you follow the links in the article linked to above about him saying OOXML was superb, you will find him suggesting that to be safe, everyone download Mono only from Novell, due to the patent situation. Is that acceptable on any possible level? Not to me.
But let’s address the sincerity issue. Can anyone reasonably really think OOXML is superb? Superb how? Because it’s not. As a standard, it’s failed. The way you measure a standard is who can use it, how many do, and whether it works as passed. If it were superb, Microsoft wouldn’t have to hire Novell to make it sorta work, now, would they? No one uses it. Novell was hired to make it look like they do. Lots of folks use ODF, yet here’s Miguel once again complaining about alleged flaws in ODF and saying that OOXML is fine because ISO approved it. Puh lease. We got a window into the kinds of things Microsoft did to make that happen. Many consider that vote tainted.
The unalterable truth is that something awful happened. Something that we can’t ignore now that we know about it. And it cannot be justified. Not to me. As usual when awful things happen, Microsoft money is there in the center of the tableau, and so when we pull back the curtain suddenly, we see folks with their pants down and their hands out. I’m speaking of the company here. And to me, at least, it’s disgusting. Doesn’t it frame the sale of the 882 patents to a Microsoft-organized consortium in a clearer context? How could Novell do that, we asked. Now we know. It was part of a larger picture. We know now what we are dealing with inside the community. So it’s time to face up to it and start to plan on how to deal with it. As usual with problems, the first step is to acknowledge the problem honestly. And the problem is, not to put too fine a point on it, how to deal with Community Rats, corporate or otherwise, taking money from Microsoft and then subtly deflecting the community away from its goals. And now there is a new category: those who are sincerely misguided into thinking that doing deals with Microsoft won’t damage the community in the end. It doesn’t matter at all if they are sincere or not, even if they don’t even comprehend the problem. What matters is the damage that results or can result. I expect Novell would argue that what they did was a good thing. But can anyone argue that the 882 patents are not damage, regardless of Novell sincerity?
Incidentally, there is still time to sign up with OIN and get protection from those patents. The deal doesn’t close until January.
Groklaw’s job is to notice danger, particularly legal issues, and then tell it out. And I certainly will continue to do exactly that.
“Microsoft is funding our OpenOffice team to develop open source code that will improve the OOXML,” gnufreex quotes Miguel de Icaza as saying. Microsoft MVP de Icaza uses the term "Conspiracy Theories" to deny the obvious but mostly fails and Groklaw explains why. In Twitter, Weir writes to Microsoft MVP de Icaza:
Your were a Novell VP. It is hard to excuse yourself claiming ignorance of corporate agreements in this area.
You have your own independent standards arm staffed by NOVL engineers but not party to NOVL agreements with MSFT?
To one delegate who is supportive of ODF Weir writes:
I just don’t understand his argument. “I had bad judgment even before I was paid, so don’t criticize me for taking the money” ??
Rob Weir initially just cited Groklaw’s analysis where he also commented (there are over 500 comments there so far):
Anyone remember Microsoft, OOXML and Sweden? 1st time was a mistake. 2nd time an inter-corporate agreement . http://bit.ly/g8fvgQ
In Groklaw he writes
Back in August 2007 there was an uproar when it was found out that a Microsoft employee had offered “marketing support” and “additional support in the form of Microsoft resources” in return for Microsoft partners joining the Swedish national body, SSI, to influence Sweden’s vote on the OOXML ballot.
When that story broke, Microsoft’s Tom Robertson defused the crisis by saying that this was an unauthorized act of a single rogue employee:
“Microsoft corporate policy expressly forbids financial support, of any kind, to third parties for their participation as a member of a national body voting on the ISO/IEC standardisation of Open XML. This policy is widely communicated throughout the company and will be reiterated going forward”
So what does it say when we find out now that Microsoft signed an agreement with Novell, and as part of that agreement explicitly remunerates them for participating in the standardization of OOXML? And this was not low level employee acting alone. This was a inter-corporate agreement, no doubt reviewed and approved at the highest levels at Microsoft.
Here is Weir explaining his stance to Jason Brooks, whom Microsoft gave an expensive laptop. Speaking of buying votes, eh?
But this agreement explicitly called for Novell to participate in ISO meetings. It even stated how many they had to attend.
Surely there are ways of promoting a standard short of paying someone to participate in ISO?
Further in this discussion:
You would need to ask Microsoft why they articulated their corporate policy that way.
I have not found any ISO participant who says that it is a good thing for a company to pay another to participate in ISO.
Later on he says:
But I’m still pushing. Maybe Gareth will break down and give you a quote on why this is good for ISO?
Remember, ISO is quasi-official, produces standards that via regulations have the force of law in some places.
Here is another reference to the long story of bribery from Microsoft:
I’ll give you a clue. A bribe comes with conditions.
“Novell participating in the standard evolving in a manner that is consistent with the needs…” then lists Microsoft’s priorities.
Participation in ISO is not cheap, especially international meetings A company that subsidizes 3rd parties can bias results.
Then, to another person he points out:
So you see where it calls for Novell to participate in ISO meetings, and gives quotas for how many meetings they must attend?
So are you saying then it is OK for one company to pay another to join and participate in an ISO committee?
Later he writes back to SJVN:
Well, that is the tragedy of ISO, that it is increasingly the collision of standards idealists and large corporations.
Compare to US politics: via bribery laws, disclosure requirements, COI rules we can handle the involvement of corporations in politics
There is a lot more from him. Weir has been very active amid these developments, especially right before Christmas. He is one of the victims of this massive pile of Microsoft corruption which Novell was a part of. Groklaw regrets helping Novell and Jones goes as far as thinking of shutting down Groklaw because she feels betrayed. To quote some portions from a touching Christmas Day post:
I took a few days off from writing any articles, partly to try to make a serious dent in transcribing the Comes v. Microsoft exhibits. We’re in the home stretch, and a quiet weekend, marking on a curve, is perfect. I know there’s lots going on, other than work.
I also needed to take some time to think about the recent discovery about Novell taking money from Microsoft and contractually agreeing to show up at Open XML standards meetings and events. Should Groklaw stop helping people like that, I asked? Is it time to shut Groklaw down? If not, is there a way to carve out helping Linux and FOSS, which is what we are about, from helping self-interested executives and board members so that in essence we end up being used by them so they get larger piles of money because we worked ourselves to the bone and then they repay the community with such a deal as this?
Yes, I’m furious. Or I was. I always tell you the truth. And the truth is I felt used and abused. How could Novell enter into such a deal? Then top it off with selling 882 patents to a Microsoft-organized consortium? Why do I bother, I wondered? More seriously, I asked myself should do I ask you to help? We’re all volunteers here. No one pays us, and I feel a responsibility not to ask you to do anything that isn’t worth doing. So I had to think this through.
Is it intentional? Or does the heart find ways to justify what people want to do because they personally benefit? I leave that part to God. I can’t read hearts. I analyze behavior only. But I see results. It’s depressing to find out that community members are so easy to buy off, which is how I view it.
We’re in the Library of Congress, and we need to finish, I believe. It’s in that spirit that I’m back to working on the Comes exhibits until it’s done. So if there are no articles for a bit, that’s the reason why, but Groklaw will continue. I’m disappointed in Novell, but I didn’t start Groklaw for Novell, so I need to get over it and focus on the issues that matter to Groklaw, which have not changed just because Novell has made it harder to succeed. That’s the bottom line.
Needless to day, the Microsoft boosters came to this debate too (Jesper Lund Stocholm was obviously one of them) and there is a lot to be found in comments and in Twitter (plenty more where that came from). IBM is not happy with this part of Novell that has helped Microsoft and secretly helps OOXML to this date.
The FFII links to Groklaw and says: “Groklaw on why they were right about Novell”
Do not forget that “Boycott Novell” was also right about Novell a long time ago. █