Summary: With Microsoft copyrights, patents, and licences in Mono, as well as a CEO who worked for Microsoft and financial backing from Microsoft veterans, it is naive to treat Mono as anything other than an extension of Microsoft
Both Mono and Miguel de Icaza hardly make the news anymore. Perhaps due talk family life, the latter mostly left the public scene and after his new company, Xamarin, received some funding from a Microsoft veterans’ VC, it is safe to assume that Microsoft interests/leadership will inherit more responsibilities over this project. It helps openwash .NET and pretend it is cross-platform. Moonlight did the same for Silverlight. As Richard Hillesley put it earlier this week, Microsoft is now more directly involved. To quote his column: “Microsoft gave a certain level of encouragement to Mono in the knowledge that the project helped to spread the word and bring developers into the Microsoft fold. It is also true that many individuals within Microsoft had a genuine interest in promoting the idea of ‘open source’, usually with strings attached, and Mono gave credibility to Microsoft’s claim that its technologies were multi-platform, accessible to free software developers and a ‘part of the open web’.
“…Mono gave credibility to Microsoft’s claim that its technologies were multi-platform, accessible to free software developers and a ‘part of the open web’.”
–Richard Hillesley“But Microsoft always held back on a full commitment to patent neutrality and the possibility was always open that some aspect of Mono might be patent encumbered. Some elements of Mono were covered by ECMA. Some were not. Even where de Icaza did manage to forge an agreement with Microsoft such as its ‘Covenant to End-Users of Moonlight’, the language was ambivalent and open to reinterpretation.
“As Tom ‘spot’ Callaway, Fedora’s engineering manager noted, the ‘covenant’ was “specifically worded to apply only to end-users, and makes the following noteworthy distinction: ‘an entity or individual cannot qualify both as an End User and a Distributor for use of the same copy of a Moonlight Implementation.’ It grants no patent rights to Distributors, aside from those already granted to Novell in the previous covenant. What it practically means is that once you distribute, you stop being considered an ‘End User’ by Microsoft, and are no longer protected by this ‘covenant’ (unless you’re Novell or Microsoft).” The covenant reserved the right for Microsoft to discontinue the agreement at any time, and didn’t allow the use of “GPLv3 or a similar licence”.
“Most computer users don’t care about the origins of the software they use, but this has never been the case with Linux users and developers. Richard Stallman expressed the opinion of many when he wrote: “I have always supported the development of free platforms for C#, just as I’ve supported the development of free platforms for any language that users use. I also wouldn’t argue that people should not use C# with a free platform for secondary applications… However, making GNOME depend on Mono is running a grave risk, and [is] a grave mistake.””
Recently, FOSS Force asked, “When It Comes To FOSS, Who Don’t You Trust?”
Well, at 38%, Microsoft is a clear leader (123 votes), outpacing Apple and Oracle by a considerable gap. Microsoft is quite unique with its attacks on FOSS and people still recognise this. █
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Summary: Apple is running out of ideas in the long fight against Android — a fight which it is now trying to wage using patent monopolies
More and more Apple ‘fans’ whom I know are turning to Android. I saw another example of it earlier this week. Conversions the other way around must be rare and I never saw any. Apple knew why it was suing HTC in 2010 and now that demand for iStuff decreases, Apple is left with nothing to show but hype and tax evasion. Slashdot put it like this: “Apple traditionally has big product announcements in the early spring, so around February both the mainstream press and the tech blogs began to circulate their favorite rumors (the iWatch, iTV). They also announced the date of the next Apple event, which this year was in March — except it didn’t happen. ‘Reliable sources’ then confirmed it would be in April, then May and then — nothing. In withdrawal and with a notoriously secretive Apple offering no relief the tech journalists started to get cranky. The end result is a rash of petulant stories that insist Apple is desperate for new products, in trouble (with $150 billion dollars in the bank, I should be in such trouble) and in decline. The only ones
desperate seem to be editors addicted to traffic-generating Apple announcements. Good news is on the horizon, though, as the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference starts June 10th.”
“This is a great example of how patents ruin the market and impede competition.”Samsung is complaining about Apple’s ITC complaint, alleging that Apple is lying in a desperate attempt to block Android phones which by far outsell iPhone. This is a great example of how patents ruin the market and impede competition.
Don’t expect lawyers’ sites to point this out though. Instead, they give a platform to career clowns like David Kappos — people who sell the idea that protectionism is a good thing. █
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Summary: Harassment by proxy seems like a possibility now that funds to the FSF are being discouraged
Donations to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) are a dangerous or suspicious activity now (like post-Cablegate Wikileaks), at least based on this account from a reader/contributor of ours. Donations to the FSF are made more difficult now. Microsoft did this type of thing last year [1, 2]. Here is how the latest story goes:
Master Card called me about my FSF Subscription That’s very strange because I’ve been making monthly payments for about a decade. Someone is doing something nasty to the FSF.
At 8AM, I got a call from the fraud prevention department of my credit card asking me to “verify some recent activity”. I saw it in my email when I woke up about an hour after they called.
My Mastercard was robbed once before, so I checked online and called the customer service number printed on my bill. There was nothing suspicious in the online report or the last bill. I was not about to call the number left on my answering machine, which simply identified itself as “TOLL FREE CALL” It took some time to escape the menu, which was uninformative and dangerous because it wanted to change things. The key phrase “human being” did the trick and I was promptly routed to an operator at the fraud department.
The representative told me that my monthly FSF subscription charge had triggered the call and that means hundreds of false charges had been made in the FSF’s name. When she told me the FSF charge was responsible for the call, I said that was strange because I had been making regular automated payments since 2004. She told me that the trigger was probably false charges to other accounts. I asked her how many false charges it would take to make such a trigger. She said that it changes daily but that it would probably take hundreds.
I can think of four explanations for this:
1. The FSF made a mistake in billing. Unlikely.
2. Mastercard wanted to harass the FSF. Unlikely but they have a history of cutting off funds to Wikileaks and can not really be trusted.
3. Someone made fraudulent payments to Mastercard on many accounts. That could be done maliciously or as a misguided help, the result would be the same and no one should do that.
4. Someone wanted to harass the FSF by setting up fake accounts to play games.
Whatever the actual reason, damage is being done to the FSF’s reputation and it should never have happened to me. An algorithm that overlooks my long history of monthly payments is broken. Operators should be given the exact reason that a company has been labeled suspicious. The call was inconvenient and damaging. Further speculation added to that damage. Hopefully, Mastercard itself is not responsible for this and will get to the bottom of it.
I started a FSF Forum thread about this hoping to call the right kind of attention to the problem.
Discouragement through discomfort is an effective strategy. Proving this to be intentional is hard, almost impossible even.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols celebrates a decade of fighting back against SCO, whose funding from Microsoft is evident. Showing the intention or proving it is the hard part. With uncertainty or lack of concrete evidence, these attacks can carry on, little by little, proxy by proxy (one of the latest seems to be Nokia). Groklaw covers another curious attack, namely Oracle (a friend of a friend, Apple). The latest is this: “Google has now responded to Oracle’s appeal in the Oracle v. Google API copyright case. Plus it adds its own cross appeal.”
Copyrights were also used by SCO. In all cases, and wherever FOSS takes over, the intend is to tax GNU/Linux or impose a sort of blockade. █
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Marketing Charlie (CBS)
Credit: Photo by David Shankbone
Summary: A look at some recent articles about the Gates Brand and how it makes billions while pretending to be “charity”
The Gates Foundation continues to show what hypocrisy is all about. The ‘guardian’ (misnomer because The Guardian guards the rich), funded by Bill Gates, has just published a new Bill Gates-funded (with Gates ads) article bemoaning “corporate colonialism”. No, seriously. Gates is trying to portray himself as part of the solution,
“Gates started bribing bloggers for PR several years ago, so he sure is trying to gag critics, still.”Some recent PR with Charlie Rose in CBS achieved more or less the same. It was a one-hour hogwash for Gates, trying to portray him as perpetually good and a changed man with some hip “2.0″ buzz term (pure PR was emanating from it as this had been a “controlled” interview — that being a condition most probably). As Toby put it, ‘Gates 1.0: “Technology is an awesome tool for stealing your money.”‘
Whereas, as he put it, ‘Gates 2.0: “Still stealing your money, but now I can pay media to paint me as a saint.”‘
In IRC, Toby adds that “it’s impossible to criticise him in public places any more” (although this is changing gradually).
Gates started bribing bloggers for PR several years ago, so he sure is trying to gag critics, still. Another strategy is to outnumber criticisms by spending massively on PR and media placements. It’s a fight he can’t win. It’s something Monsanto had to learn the hard way.
Meanwhile, Gates’ feminine alter-ego lobbies for his education takeover. There was a widely-covered (with PR)
lobbying keynote by Melinda at a Duke graduation ceremony, as noted the other day (no-brainers like this one make headlines, along with PR that’s shaped like a personal story).
It is gratifying to see one branch of the corporate press having the guts to publish this slamming of Gates’ agenda in education. It starts as follows: “As the Common Core continues to insinuate its way into public education, its price tag and problems keep mounting. Reasoned opposition among conservatives and liberals, parents, teachers, policymakers, and citizens is also growing.
“Is Gates profiting already? He sure made a lot of money in recent years.”“And with good reason.
“Concocted by the same expert cadre that’s brought us every post-1970 education boondoggle, and resting on the same gross unfamiliarity with actual classrooms and students, the arbitrary, biased, technology-laden, assessment-obsessed Common Core is the creature of the Gates Foundation, with entities like the Pearson conglomerate sitting at Mr. Gates’s right hand. Pearson is the largest textbook and education software publisher in the world, as well as the world’s dominant education assessment contractor. Mr. Gates’s connection to the computer and software business is also a matter of public record.”
Over at a Seattle blog that we like, teachers help show how Gates profits from the lobby. It says the following: “The Community Center for Education Results (CCER) was responsible for creating the proposal to collect an extensive amount of student data on our children. This pertains to Bill Gates’ desire to collect student information for each child in this country that can be accessed by those producing and profiting from products to be sold to school districts.”
Guess who benefits from it? As put here, the surveillance by private companies (privatising the education system for profit) was “started with a hundred million dollar investment from the Gates Foundation” (it’s one among several).
Investment, eh? Is Gates profiting already? He sure made a lot of money in recent years. █
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Biased data, wrong conclusions, erroneous business model
Summary: A look at some spin-doctoring which favours Microsoft, arriving, as always, from Microsoft partners
The Economist is having a field day as it tackles Microsoft spin. Every now and then we see IDG publishing lies (for sale) from Microsoft or its proxy the Business Software Alliance (BSA). It’s part of the business model. IDC is part of IDG after all. Well, as our reader who showed this to us correctly points out, IDC ‘analysts’ (marketers) refrain from saying something negative about Vista 8 in the latest output they put forth. Here is IDG pushing its own lies (from IDC), essentially referring to itself as a third person by stating: “After the steep losses in the disastrous first quarter, IDC now predicts PC shipments to drop a whopping 7.8 percent in 2013—nearly twice the rate of 2012′s 4 percent decline, which already had the industry in a tizzy. Dell’s on the block, Lenovo’s pushing into smartphones despite its computing wins, and HP’s first quarter PC revenues dropped a whopping 20 percent.”
“PC industry bleeding to explode into full-blown hemorrhaging in 2013, says IDC”
–IDG (parent company of IDC)They didn’t state the obvious. It’s probably self-censorship. Microsoft is a prominent business partner and client. As this report from Taiwan says: “Notebook vendors will wait till July before ramping up their orders in preparation for the back-to-school demand, a delay of about 60 days as compared to the usual practice in previous years, probably because the vendors are conservative about market demand or are waiting for sufficient supply of touch panels, according to sources with the Taiwan-based supply chain.” [via]
Here is some blog and tabloid (ZDNet) coverage about the IDC output, which is basically more of the usual spin. Speaking of spin, Fernando Cassia sarcastically says that “Microsoft does no wrong!”
“IDC now predicts PC shipments to drop…”
–IDG (parent company of IDC)He cites Microsoft talking points regarding some company called Soluto manufacturing some ‘surveys’ to promote Vista 8. Typical booster, Ed Bott (ad bot, here is his latest ad), calls me “sack of shit”, showing he is no exception to Microsoft’s foul-mouthed culture. They are basically all trying to use Vista 7 as a brand to embellish Vista 8. It is the latest pattern of spin from Microsoft MVPs like Rod Trent, who used to shill for the company in Digg. Here is an example of this same spin.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, Mark Shuttleworth is sucking up to Microsoft again, trying to defend Vista 8. Is this why he put a Microsoft interface guy in charge of Ubuntu? Does he not see the obvious backlash against Vista 8? I have been hearing from journalists who say they no longer cover Ubuntu because of the direction it has taken. █
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Summary: VP8 is freedom-respecting even after the deal with a patent troll, according to a leading authority in this area
The SFLC, a recognised authority in the area of free (as in freedom) licences, analysed the licence (draft) of VP8 following the MPEG-LA deal, refuting what Simon Phipps had said [1, 2].
“Mr. Phipps is not hostile towards Free software. He even uses this term despite being the head of the “open source” camp.”The announcement says: “SFLC, like its client the Free Software Foundation, believes that software standing alone should not be patentable subject matter. We join skeptics of the VP8 license and the broader FOSS community in rejecting software patents in all forms, and we will continue to oppose them. But until software patents no longer threaten FOSS, we will look for every opportunity to preserve community development from their destructive effects. The VP8 cross-license provides such an opportunity, in an area of particularly active patenting. It’s not perfect, but no other modern web video format provides nearly the same degree of protection for FOSS implementations.”
Pamela Jones notes: “This is important news, because there have been several articles claiming the opposite, and it’s good to be precise and careful. It’s why I waited until the Software Freedom Law Center could tell us whether Google’s VP8 patent cross-license is or is not compatible with FOSS licensing.”
Mr. Phipps is not hostile towards Free software. He even uses this term despite being the head of the “open source” camp. A response from him might therefore be imminent, maybe a “mea culpa“. █
Update: Mr. Phipps has clarified his position by stating: “I just had a long talk with Aaron and we actually agree. I said that if it were part of a license it would render the license non-free. He agrees, but points out that it’s not part of a license and further that the clauses of GPLv3 that deal with patent license have a loophole that makes Google’s patent license technically OK.
“I still maintain that the Google license needs a great big sign over it saying “we don’t think you actually need this, it’s just to stop OEMs and pro-patent lowlife saying there’s a problem”.
Update #2: This new report from The H takes Phipps’ reaction into account. Privately, or rather publicly (available for viewing in Twitter/Identi.ca [1, 2, 3]) in a few exchanges with Phipps, I was told a couple of times that Microsoft Florian was behind some of the smears against him.
Update #3: Phipps has just published “Google’s VP8 codec license is OK after all” over at IDG.
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Summary: How Microsoft and the partly Microsoft-owned Facebook are harming everyone’s privacy far more than Google ever did
FOREIGN/GLOBAL intelligence is a big business and Facebook keeps getting more menacing as a surveillance operation, which is partly owned by Microsoft and ties into spyware such as Skype, relaying calls through the United States with its notorious data-hoarding NSA. A few days ago we explained why Microsoft’s Xbox One should get seriously berated by consumers groups, especially after this “ambiguous claim from Phil Harrison that the Xbox One would have to ‘check in’ to Microsoft’s servers every 24 hours.”
“Microsoft just needs a whipping boy, and it is desperate to stop Google one way of another (Google is crushing Microsoft’s two biggest cash cows).”Other consoles do not have such spyware, but this is hardly the main privacy concern here.
Xbox One has spying capabilities, which Microsoft patents already reveal, as they have for years. Pamela Jones called these “Three things I detest all in one noxious bundle: having my privacy invaded, method patents, and Microsoft. Here’s the patent application, and it includes this creepy sentence: “The computing system 102 may be configured to track the viewing behaviors of one or more viewers. The computing system 102 may then compile one or more user-specific reports of the viewing behaviors, and send the user-specific reports to a remote device to determine whether the user-viewing goal has been met. If the viewing goal has been met, an award may be granted to the viewer.” And Microsoft complains to regulatory bodies about Google privacy issues? This is 1984 on steroids. A device in your house that watches you watching it and judges your conduct.”
Here is some more news of interest about Facebook and Microsoft:
It is stuff like that which helps remind us Google is not worst when it comes to privacy. Fog Computing is privacy-infringing. Google is big in Fog Computing. But it doesn’t mean that Google alone is privacy-infringing. The company behind anti-Google complaints (with help from Facebook) is far ahead of Google when it comes to spying. Even its desktop software is spying on users.
Microsoft members of staff (working as media moles, e.g. Mr. Perlow) and corrupting PR agencies have been chastising only Google for projects like Google Glass (which I can acknowledge raises privacy concerns), but they are doing after small violations of privacy, distracting from Microsoft’s own limitless surveillance. Microsoft just needs a whipping boy, and it is desperate to stop Google one way of another (Google is crushing Microsoft’s two biggest cash cows). █
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Summary: Although the Australian government does not guarantee the use of open standards and/or Free software, it does give way for better facilitation of those
After years of OOXML-related abuses such as bribes, Microsoft might — just might — see some consequences. According to this announcement from Australia, ODF is a winner, but the “proposal does not require that ODF be used as a standard. Rather, it just specifies that productivity suites must support ODF. Recent versions of Microsoft Office, as well as Google Docs, Libre Office and OpenOffice support the file format,” says this post. It is not entirely true that Microsoft supports ODF; it is just its proprietary hybrid which it labels ODF. The news sites, nonetheless, welcome the news. Here is a bunch of reports about it:
Australia’s government may mandate that its agencies use software compatible with OpenDocument Format (ODF), an international file standard.
The country’s government agencies mostly use Microsoft’s Office software, but support for an open standard eliminates the “potential for a vendor ending support for specific format,” wrote John Sheridan, Australia’s chief technology officer.
If the draft proposal is approved, however, government agencies would not be required to work only with ODF documents, Sheridan wrote. The proposal is now open for comments and will eventually be taken up by the Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board for approval.
The office of the Australian Government Chief Technology Officer (AGCTO) is proposing support for the Open Document Format (ODF) in an annual review of computing system policies.
The AGCTO’s office says that requiring support for ODF will not preclude use of other formats and does not mandate use of ODF 1.1. But it will establish ODF 1.1 as the baseline for compatibility within the Australian government. According to Australian tech news site Delimiter, in 2011, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) decided to standardise on Office Open XML, but was pushed to reconsider that choice after receiving complaints. The new proposal has now been published and the AGIMO and AGCTO are seeking public feedback before progressing further.
We previously covered outrage in Australia over choice of OOXML (entryism possibly the cause, i.e. Microsoft moles), so this latest news sure is a positive change and a step in the right direction. Have they just rewritten the policy to conform with a t prior decision of choosing Microsoft Office though? We shall see… █
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