Summary: Signs of unrest, affirmation that Microsoft is breaking the rules, more infuriating stories from the UK, and arson at Microsoft Greece
WE recently wroto about the antitrust case resulting in another ruling that labels Microsoft a violator. Groklaw tracked this case for a long time and it provides this summary of the latest ruling:
Microsoft has lost its appeal before the EU’s General Court, Europe’s second-highest, although gaining a slight reduction in the penalties it has to pay, now fixed at EUR 860 million. So it remains true for all time that Microsoft was found to have abused its dominant position, in a case about its refusal to allow access to interoperability information. It could still appeal to the EU Court of Justice, the highest court. This is the case that FSFE and the Samba Team won. Microsoft had asked that the ruling be annulled and that the court “order the Commission and the interveners supporting it to pay the costs.
The FSFE deserves credit and it issues a statement too. The Samba lawyer, Mr. Piana, wrote the “last take-away points”:
This is it, it’s over. The last remaining pending issue spawning from the 2004 Decision (the so called “Monti decision”), by which the European Union slapped Microsoft with an unprecedented antitrust remedy, has ended, barring an unpredictable appeal. A decision imposing 899 million euro fine, for non compliance with the obligation to provide complete and accurate interoperability information under Reasonable And Non Discriminatory conditions, was by and large upheld by the General Court in case T-167/08, where I represented the FSFE and the Samba Team, intervening in support of the Commission.
I have now read the decision in its all 26 printed pages. Among many details concerning procedural fine points that would bore to death most of the readers, I have found some points that are worth pointing out, since they confirmed my/our positions that we put forward since 2005. That’s when the whole “implementation” phase started, after the President of the Court of First Instance (that was the General Court called back then) refused to suspend the 2004 Decision pending judgement on the merits.
Microsoft cannot claim to be a scapegoat and every well calculated politician should pressure to stop doing business with Microsoft. In reality, however, politics and crimes sometimes attract each other; favours and bribes are part of the game. The press too is corrupt. Watch how a former Microsoft employee acts as a journalist on the subject (conflict of interest). He spuriously quotes Microsoft, even at the end (several paragraphs). CNET and ZDNet prove to have no journalistic integrity because this load of tabloid garbage, masquerading as professionalism, clearly has serious issues with it. One just needs to know the writer’s professional background. So the antitrust ruling in EU covered by former Microsoft UK staff (without disclosure), even in the press. How bad is that?
Over here in the UK, the government keeps dealing with this criminal company, passing public money (without tender) to private hands in another country, despite the appalling record of this company (multiple times of convictions over competition abuses and more). As Pogson puts it, they dare describe this as a bargain, too:
The snake charmers from M$ have done it again. M$’s salesmen have convinced the UK Cabinet that money can be saved by spending more. Of course they are comparing projected prices (vapour-prices) versus 1% more than the previous agreement. What is totally missing is that UK gets no value at all from the money spent. They are paying M$ for permission to use equipment the UK owns. That’s insane.
It’s that infamous discount lie. Locking oneself up to some company is worse than wasteful, it is dangerous. Here is the original report. They are aiding criminals rather than ostracise the criminals. Over in Greece, Microsoft’s headquarters came under fire, literally:
A coordinated arson assault by armed gunmen against Microsoft’s HQ in Athens earlier this morning is another headache for big multi-nationals in Athens. Reportedly, multi-national corporations have already been considered leaving the debt-ridden country because of unpaid bills, falling revenues and the prospect that Greece might be forced to leave the euro.
There were gunmen too:
Three attackers drove a van through the front of Microsoft’s offices just north of Athens on Wednesday, marched out security guards at gunpoint, and tried to burn the building to the ground.
It’s unclear who is behind the attack, but it’s a worrying sign for foreign multinational corporations, coming as Greece struggles under the weight of a collapsing economy.
Let’s not forget Microsoft's abusive behaviour in Greece, even Gates'. This does not justify violence, but when justice gets neglected (Microsoft not prosecuted for its crimes) the population tends to take the law into its own hands. █
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Apple disallows Android imports
Summary: The litigation war of Steve Jobs leads to embargo of Linux-powered tablets and Paul Allen continues patent-trolling
WHEN Apple had its patent assault on Motorola (Android) thrown to the bin a Microsoft booster called it “patent sanity” and Christine Hall called it “Good News On the Patent Front”. The latest news, however, suggests that a US judge let Apple proceed with its outrageous embargo attempts. To quote:
The US patent and legal system is screwed, no doubts about it. There is good news and bad news. The bad news first, Judge Lucy Koh has granted Cupertino’s request to stop the sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the US. According to the order details, Judge ordered the injunction on the grounds of design patents.
What on Earth is a “design patent”?
Remember that Apple faked 'evidence' in an attempt to stop sale of those devices; not surprising for a company with sheer disregard for the truth and no integrity at all (better to boycott it).
Incidentally, Microsoft’s co-founder, who sued over Android, is still going. As Groklaw summarises it:
The Court has lifted the stay in the case of Interval Licensing against AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo, and YouTube. (269 [PDF; Text]) Acknowledging that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has already affirmed all of the asserted claims of the ’652 patent and is all but certain to do so also with respect to the ’314 patent, the Court says it is time to move this case along.
For all of those who have enjoyed the outcome in the Oracle v. Google case, expect this one to be far different. In the Oracle case the Court narrowed the number of claims that Oracle was allowed to assert and Google was able to persuade the USPTO that a number of the remaining asserted claims were invalid. That is not going to be the case here. Interval Licensing has been far more selective in deciding what to assert and has reason to be confident that, at a minimum, an invalidity defense will not work. Interval has also been far more specific in the Interval complaint than Oracle ever was in the Oracle complaint as to the basis for the infringement assertions.
It is also a bit hard to take a shot at Interval as being a troll. While many (most?) of us don’t care for so-called software patents, Interval did not acquire these patents. The patents all come from individuals who were employed by Interval at the time of invention.
Since an invalidity defense is unlikely to be successful, the parties here are going to have to establish that they did not infringe these patents. That is not an impossible task, but given the care that Interval has taken in deciding which patents to assert, the task will be formidable.
The patent mess is far from gone and the loser is everyone but very few. Developers are not the only ones affected by it; the public at large suffers without realising it. Over the weekend I will upload a lot of my code which is most likely infringing on some software patents, but it’s impossible to know how many and which ones. The patent system is a clearly farce when even one-man projects can infringe on many patents, using a keyboard and a mind, or even pen and paper (business methods). Products are actually being blocked, not just taxed, simply because different people have similar ideas. █
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Red Hat’s Pandora’s box is filling up
Summary: Red Hat signs a settlement deal with MOSAID, but nobody knows what it’s about
THERE is no denying that patent troll MOSAID should go under serious investigation for being part of a collusion. Microsoft passed it a thousand Nokia patents. But putting that aside for a moment, several months ago we wrote about MOSAID suing GNU/Linux leader Red Hat. According to this new article from Groklaw, there was a settlement, but we know almost nothing about it. To quote:
While we were busy watching the Oracle – Google case play out, we missed the fact that Red Hat, IBM, Adobe, and Juniper Networks all settled with MOSAID, and the infringement claims against those parties have been dismissed (93 [PDF; Text]). The claims against Alcatel-Lucent and VmWare remain pending. (95 [PDF; Text]) Given that the MOSAID patents do not constitute an open issue with respect to open source software, we will not be following the remainder of this case.
Of course, it remains to be seen (or more likely, we will not see) exactly the terms on which Red Hat settled this case, although where Red Hat has settled patent infringement claims in the past it has done so on terms that do not violate the GPL.
Well, not too long ago Red Hat failed to ask Fedora users about UEFI [1, 2, 3, 4] and prior to that Red Hat signed some other secret deals. Red Hat needs to be transparent, not just preach about openness like it does all the time, especially in its site OpenSource.com. Red Hat betrays trust here.
Over in the US there is this new development which can potentially weaken software patents:
Federal Circuit Upholds Obviousness Rejection
What are the chances of overcoming the obviousness rejection of a patent claim having all of its elements disclosed in the prior art, albeit by multiple references? In the wake of KSR v. Teleflex, the odds of succeeding with such an argument have unquestionably suffered. Certainly one cannot be surprised at the result in In re Mouttet, No. 2011-1451 (June 26, 2012), where the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, which in turn had affirmed a patent examiner’s rejections under 35 U.S.C. § 103.
The case was mentioned here before, both recently and years ago. Unless or until we eliminate software patents, some of the aforementioned deals will continue to be signed. The game is rigged. Red Hat should speak up about it, not participate in it. █
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SUSE mascot now irrelevant to GNU/Linux
Summary: A couple of updates about the ‘open’ version of Microsoft Linux
DESPITE delays and other pressing issues, SUSE will manage to squeeze out another release of the “open” alter-ego of SUSE — that which is being used to openwash Microsoft Linux. Here are some of the expected inclusions:
openSuse 12.2 will be released soon,or atleast we can hope so. Here is a list of upcoming features supposed to be shipped by default with the next version of this operating system.
In the desktop environment front, openSuse will ship KDE 4.8 Plasma Desktop and Plasma Netbook, the latest stable versions of K Desktop Environment. It may also ship Plasma Active, the Plasma UI for tablets and mobile phones. KDE apps and frameworks have also been upgraded to version 4.8 and one can expect better performance and stability in KDE. Talks of shipping a new KDM theme and ksplash theme is on, and kspalsh will use the qml engine, the latest technology in KDE 4.8.
KDE 4,9 is already approaching its final release and those who are comparing Fedora to OpenSUSE can appreciate that Fedora 18 will be ahead (Fedora is also released more often). As for Fedora 17:
I ran fedora 17 for a while on my test machine. I have since replaced that with opensuse 12.2 Beta2. Before my memory fades, here’s a comparison of fedora 17 and opensuse 12.2. When installing fedora from the DVD image, I chose to install KDE, Gnome, LXDE and XFCE. Those are the same choices that I make with opensuse. Of course, I don’t really use all of those. Mostly, I use KDE and experiment with the others. On my test machine, I use XFCE because it is a little lighter in weight for the older slower hardware.
Fedora defaulted to using gdm as the desktop login manager. When I logged into XFCE, I found that there was no gpg-agent available. If I checked to option launch Gnome services on startup, I would then have a gpg-agent available. However, that also caused orca to run, which soaked up a lot of resources. As a result, KDE used less resources than XFCE.
I disabled the “launch Gnome services” so that orca would not start. In looking at running processes, it seemed that gpg-agent was actually running but there was no environment setting to make that available. I was able to put something into shell startup files to locate that agent and set the environment correctly. And, since the shell startup files are run at the beginning of the desktop session, that made gpg-agent available to the desktop.
With opensuse 12.1, I recall that I also had to have XFCE launch Gnome services to have gpg-agent and/or ssh-agent available. But at least that did not start orca in opensuse. I have not tested that with opensuse 12.2, where launching gnome services appears to be the default.
I have not used SUSE in 5 years. Back in the days it was a leading distribution. These days, there is nothing “leading” about it and it relies on funding from Microsoft. Debian GNU/Linux is one people can trust much more. Our trust in Red Hat is eroding not just because of UEFI [1, 2, 3, 4] but for other reasons we’ll mention in the next post. █
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Legal aspects of UEFI
Summary: Some GPL- and UEFI-related news
THE company which emanated from a Microsoft marketing exec to FUD the GPL (amongst other things) claims to have released a new thing, this time less on the propaganda side and more on the products side:
Black Duck Software announced new code analytics services to produce the new Black Duck Code Quality Audit (CQA) report.
Black Duck Software has announced the availability of expanded audit services with the addition of new code analytics that can help organizations acquiring new technology better track the code in their environments.
By tracking code they are able to issue reports with bias against GPL-type licences (they signed a deal with Microsoft before they started doing this). Meanwhile, Microsoft is putting the knife to the GPLv3-licensed GRUB 2, using its predatory UEFI plot [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Just as it arrives Canonical is left with little choice but to drop it (responses to UEFI varied from protest to abandonment of GRUB at Canonical and cowardly acts from Red Hat [1, 2, 3, 4]), due to Microsoft’s anti-competitive behaviour. The UEFI mess spreads further now:
Early support for UEFI SecureBoot is now available via qemu-kvm for messing with this troublesome technology in a virtualized world.
Before running for the hills thinking this is another attempt to thwart Linux by pushing UEFI SecureBoot into virtualized environments, this isn’t the case. This early SecureBoot support in qemu-kvm comes from the Linux kernel community. In fact it’s from James Bottomley, a well known kernel developer working in conjunction with the Linux Foundation.
The Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board has been trying to get UEFI SecureBoot in qemu-kvm since real hardware relying upon this “secure” technology is still difficult to find until Windows 8 begins shipping. Bottomley built an Intel Tianocore boot system with the openSUSE Build System, discovered a gnu-efi bug, and made some other SecureBoot-related accomplishments for the benefit of Linux.
And that, with the demise of particular software, leads to the weakening of GPL along with freedom in computing. Microsoft knows what it’s doing here. Anything that harms copyleft licences is good for Microsoft.
As a side note, the above is part of a trend. Many journalists like to pick on Richard Stallman. Commonly enough they point to the fact that he does not browse the Web directly with a browser; Stallman sets an example and strives to be role model in some sense by drawing attention to the fact that the NSA et al. spy on Web surfers and he responds to this threat to human rights (he is, after all, an activist in this area) by one of the more reasonable actions, as not many options are left when sites do not support encrypted or anonymous routes in. Those who ignore this are either apathetic or pretend to not know this; the former is a case of ignorance and the latter is malicious — a strategy intended to daemonise Stallman and those who seek to highlight a real problem, maybe even address it or at least take it into account. Likewise, we have been seeing a daemonisation of the FSF, GNU. and the GPL, courtesy at times of Microsoft proxies. A lot of the time writers pretend not to understand “freedom” and use all sorts of straw man arguments. That could very well be seen when Stallman agreed to go on the Linux Action Show (we tried to ignore it so as not to give them attention because they are longtime FSF bashers). █
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