Summary: Attachmate receives very bad ratings and cancels its call for loans (more debt)
THE buyer of Novell had debt and could barely buy Novell. The whole sale smells like some kind of corruption and there is secrecy around it. Novell is being liquidated now, as Glyn Moody alleged. Consider the fact that Attachmate is not new to controversy; its CEO was arrested for mass-murdering animals with a firearm. Attachmate’s purchase of Novell faces a lot of opposition from Novell shareholders, but that was not enough to stop it. Attachmate debt and fragility will most likely mean the death of Novell. Microsoft gets Novell’s patents, Attachmate puts the rest in the graveyard. It’s cheaper than buying the whole lot and it also evades regulators (although CPTN did receive some scrutiny at the end).
Last month we wrote about a major downgrade of Attachmate and later on we showed some desperate moves. Attachmate has since then cancelled the call for loans (which made the company’s evaluation drop):
Credit Suisse AG was arranging the debt, which included a $300 million incremental first-lien term loan due in April 2017 and a $100 million incremental second-lien term loan due October 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said that its rating and outlook on Attachmate Corp. are not affected following the company’s announcement that it has withdrawn its proposed $609 million dividend recapitalization transaction.
This cancellation was too late because Moody’s says Attachmate’s B2 rating and negative outlook not affected by cancelled dividend transaction. The company is still going down the drain and Forbes mentions it in a related context:
Still, dividend activity remains inside the $8.7 billion monthly average of the liquidity-drenched opening half of 2011. And the fact that Attachmate recently pulled its transaction shows that investors have limits and are not willing to go along with the most aggressive dividend proposals.
The planned dividend was large. Attachmate was seeking to pay out $609 million, comprising the entire cash equity position of the owners plus an estimated $40-50 million of additional payout. Although the absolute increase in leverage was not outsized at a one-turn increase, to 3.7x, investors were wary about the business trend line. Indeed, the recent Attachmate-Novell merger represents cost-cutting play as opposed to the equity-friendly growth story pitched by Asurion. Existing lenders were in a power position, having to amend to approve the incremental debt used to fund the dividend, and second-lien investors in particular were concerned about the additional first-lien debt coming in ahead of them. And some investors felt that the corresponding leverage would be uncomfortably close to Attachmate’s total valuation in a downside scenario.
Not to end on too pessimistic a note, Attachmate still has presence in Australia and this is perhaps the only area of expansion based on what we’ve seen in the press this year and last year. Here is a new example:
Lilli’s commercial space also now houses US IT company Attachmate, which has made the building its Melbourne headquarters. The company is occupying half the building’s 2500 sq m of office space.
They are lucky to have some major contracts in Australia; there are some actual products in Attachmate, but announcements about them are rare. Press releases reveal staff that left the company and since it’s a private company it is hard to say whether Attachmate is quietly collapsing. █
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Binary as a standard
Summary: A format which is detrimental to preservation, control and inter-operability is being picked by the Australian government
WHEN Microsoft was corrupting standards bodies all across the world we wrote about it a great deal. There were numerous formal complaints from nations, too, including very large nations. It is sad to see that Microsoft’s atrocious behaviour persists with apparent entryism. Based on the latest from Australia, OOXML, which is proprietary, is being considered as a format for government use:
Just over 12 months ago, we published the first version of the Whole-of-Government Common Operating Environment (COE) Policy on this blog. Unexpectedly, it resulted in the largest number of comments we have ever received on a single post. The surprise was compounded as we had sought comments on the draft policy twice in the preceding months, to little effect.
Most of the discussion was on a small aspect of the policy: the prefered document standards for interoperability within government. This was a little frustrating as only a small number of correspondents identified that the policy neither drove any new expenditure nor affected citizens or business. Readers will see that we have tried to better explain the situation this time.
Clearly, the Australian government, not unlike many others is not high on expertise in IT to even consider taking another step on the Wintel treadmill. They need educating and perhaps this latest round in requests for comments will educate them. We can only hope.
The Australian Government’s peak IT strategy group has issued a cautious updated appraisal of currently available office productivity suite file formats, in what appears to be an attempt to more fully explain its thinking about the merits of open standards such as OpenDocument versus more proprietary file formats promulgated by vendors like Microsoft.
In January 2011, the Australian Government Information Management Office raised eyebrows globally when it published the first draft of its Common Operating Environment Policy. The document contained a number of guidelines restricting how departments and agencies across the Federal Government should set up desktop PCs, including a stipulation that Microsoft’s Office Open XML file format become a standard.
However, most alternative office suites cannot write documents in the standard. The ODF Alliance, which is supporting a rival format, claimed last year the Office Open XML format was riddled with “Windows-platform dependencies” and essentially tied users to Microsoft Office, and some organisations, such as the National Archives of Australia, have picked the ODF standard instead in the long-term. AGIMO subsequently defended its decision, stating it had no vendor bias.
On Friday last week, AGIMO noted in a blog post that its policy was now complete, but it wanted to re-open the debate about the issue, as this might inform future policies. The result was a sea of criticism directed at the agency for its decision to standard on Office Open XML instead of the rival ODF format.
We have had some discussions about this in IRC. In short, this decision should not be permitted because it makes the nation a hostage of one overseas company — one with a very abusive past and deals that are economically unsound. Since at least one of the people deciding ‘on behalf’ of Australians used to work with Microsoft, there’s room for complaints here. We hope that our Australian readers will take action. █
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Summary: Bits of important news from Australia and New Zealand, less so from Europe
IN THIS status quo of “patents as products” we keep hearing about patent-pending hype/bragging rights from incognito companies. They do not always have products, but they sure have pieces of papers with an idea on them. The situation is worse in the States than in most other countries and Australia, for example, still has activism fighting the issue:
When it comes to software patents, Melbourne developer Ben Sturmfels is sure of one thing: his campaign to end them in their entirety will succeed in the long run.
Though he is a free software advocate, Sturmfels campaign against software patents extends to all genres of software. Patents can affect proprietary software as much as they do free and open source software, he pointed out when I met him recently.
In February, Sturmfels’ petition was accepted by the government’s Petitions Committee, in three batches. “Collecting 1000 signatures on paper is a hard task and a huge one in terms of the amount of paper needed,” he said with a grin.
More recently we saw some similar activism in New Zealand, where there is a danger that the “Software patent law in New Zealand [might] be overhidden by the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).” Here is another article about it which says: “A pending international trade treaty could override a recent New Zealand law change that excluded software from patent protection.
“All the political parties supported the controversial change. But the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) could see the US pro-patent view override our local law makers.
“Last month, I met Trade Minister Hon Tim Groser and the government’s chief trade negotiator to get the inside word on what was happening with the TPPA, particularly in relation to technology and intellectual property (IP).
“Mr Groser’s openness and candour was excellent and I can’t speak highly enough about the minister’s willingness to engage and discuss these issues.”
The situation in New Zealand has been eerily similar at times to the situation in Europe — a situation so depressing that we prefer not to write about until after Christmas.
Watch how some people are treating patents like property. To quote a new example:
The Government has published draft legislation for its Finance Bill 2012, which includes draft measures aimed at creating improved conditions for business investment and growth in the UK. The proposals include a new tax scheme intended to reduce corporation tax for profits arising from patents, dubbed the “Patent Box”.
“Law” sites keep promoting software patents in the UK, under seemingly innocent titles. We are going to address software patents in Europe in a later series of posts later in the month. We need to do some activism to defend European software developers from the bureaucrats, paper-pushers, and multinational monopolists. █
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Letting Apple jump the shark
Summary: Latest news about Apple’s embargo wars on Linux/Android and some of the causes for Apple’s panic
APPLE increasingly became a threat to freedom not because it is “successful” but because it is aggressive. It’s Apple that started it.
Apple has been banning Android devices in Australia, but there are those who defy the injunction, notably (from the latest news):
AN AUSTRALIAN RETAILER is continuing to sell the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 despite an injunction obtained by Apple in the land down under.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, retailer Dmavo is restructuring its business in the hope of overcoming Apple’s legal threats.
Apple won a temporary injunction against Samsung last month stopping the company from selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia until a full hearing in the Australian Federal Court that’s scheduled for 25 November.
Apple has made a real mess in Australia where it opted for litigation rather than fair competition. There is generally a lobby there for software patents (led by proprietary software companies) and the Australian Pirate Party spoke about the dangers recently (how revolutionary! A party that speaks out for people’s interests, not corporations), further to amplify its message in an imminent event.
Over at ZDNet, the Pirate Party did not really name the culprits but it addressed the issues. This was mentioned by a pro-Free software journalist, who in his post about it, “Kill software patents, says Pirate Party”, said that “[c]riticising the Australian Government, David Campbell, President-elect of Pirate Party Australia, said in a statement that the current patent system sabotaged local innovation and creation of jobs. “There will come a time when innovation is no longer possible due to innovation itself being patented. Patents are intended to recompense inventors for their efforts in developing products and methods that will benefit society. This is clearly not being achieved when patents for everything and anything are being granted,” Campbell said.”
This is all very important because Apple’s patents are weak and soft. They should be easily abolishable in a sane system and perhaps disregarded altogether. Failing systemic answers, there is also the weakness of Apple’s claims in general. Google’s Schmidt says that Android “started before the iPhone effort” — a point that we saw earlier and elsewhere before. ‘”Our lawsuit is saying, ‘Google you f***ing ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off,” Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, about the lawsuits that Apple is engaged in with Android vendors Samsung, HTC, and others. “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product.’”
What a charming gentleman, eh?
In the EU, unlike in Australia, is it Apple that faces a ban now, not Android. It’s Apple that started it. [via "Apple Banned in Germany!"]
Sales of iPhones and iPads are on the brink of being banned in Germany as a result of a court battle over Apple’s alleged infringement of Motorola patents – but the fruity fondleslab maker reckons it can get the injunction suspended even though it failed to turn up.
The German hearing on Friday was brought about by Motorola Mobility, which is seeking an injunction to ban sales and thus prevent Apple gaining customers while the patent hearings continue. Quite why Apple didn’t attend remains a mystery – suggestions range from a lawyer stuck in traffic to a ploy designed to consolidate cases – but it did result in a German court rendering a default judgement which will see Apple products removed from sale in Germany, unless the company gets it suspended.
For more on the same theme, also see “The UGLY Side of Software Patents and Apple”.
Steve's Job included sheer aggression against Linux/Android. We know this for sure now and a Microsoft booster has published the article “New Yorker on Steve Jobs: More tweaker than inventor”. To quote:
In a column for the magazine’s new issue, the New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell relates several stories from Walter Isaacson’s bio as evidence that Jobs’ real contribution was zeroing in on an existing item, no matter how minute, and refining it until it fit his vision of perfection.
Here is what the LA Times published a few days ago:
Steve Jobs’ legal war on Google, Android rages on
Steve Jobs’ legacy at Apple Inc. goes well beyond cool gadgets, a thriving retail chain and a music empire.
He also launched the company’s all-out legal war on Google Inc.
In the last months of Jobs’ life, Apple unleashed a patent-suit blitzkrieg on its Silicon Valley rival, filing 10 lawsuits in six countries that accuse the Internet search giant of stealing its smartphone and tablet computer technology.
Apple — like Microsoft — pretends to be a victim by using words like “steal” and pointing to cases like this new one. But Apple is not a victim, Apple started the war on Android not because it felt unfairly treated by the patent system.
Apple’s problem is that Google stole its thunder. Google did not steal anything real from Apple and Android development predates iPhone. Watch what goes on with the iPhone now:
Apple’s IOS has suffered from a bug that leaves some Iphone users with devices that do not update their time to take account of daylight savings time changes. Over the weekend, while the US changed back to standard time, some Iphones did not.
Miller announced the news on Twitter this afternoon, saying “OMG, Apple just kicked me out of the iOS Developer program. That’s so rude!”
Earlier today Forbes’ Andy Greenberg published a story featuring Miller, who is a well-known security researcher who targets Apple’s products and services. Miller’s latest discovery was a security hole in iOS that let applications grab unsigned code from third-party servers that could be added to an app even after it has been approved and is live on Apple’s App Store.
FRUIT THEMED TOYMAKER Apple has proposed a settlement in the class-action lawsuit against it over faulty Magsafe power adaptors, offering users a replacement unit.
Apple was presented with a class-action lawsuit claiming that its T-shaped Magsafe connector was faulty. Users complained that parts of the cable would melt or fray exposing the underlying wire and, in typical Apple fashion, it chose to ignore the problem – that is, until now.
Users are furious about other issues:
FLOGGER OF SHINY TOYS Apple’s Iphone 4S has yet another problem, this time with an irritating static sound being heard by users while making calls.
Apple has gone aggressive and angry (with a PR toll), which is just another indication of the real problems it is having. Microsoft is the same and the next post will deal with it in isolation. █
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Summary: The Pirate Party of Australia uses its influence to keep software patents out of Australia (although Australia is already not too resistant to software patenting)
EARLIER THIS year the Pirate Party of New Zealand pointed its finger at Microsoft for pro-software patents lobbying and the famous founder of the original pirate party (who had worked for Microsoft) attacked patents even more broadly a few months ago.
We now find that the Pirate Party of Australia also gets involved:
It seems anger about software patents is really coming to a head.
The Pirate Party published its submission to the government’s Review of the Innovation Patent System.
The system was introduced in 2001 to help innovation in Australian small to medium-sized businesses, enabling them to protect low-level innovation by lowering the threshold of inventiveness required for patent protection.
However, the government decided to hold a review of the system after concerns were raised about it; for example, it was simply being used as a placeholder while companies sought a real patent, or that it was difficult to prove that such patents weren’t original, instead taking advantage of someone else’s work. Software is currently included in the type of products that can be awarded an innovation patent.
These patents currently include software. One of the questions raised by the review was whether software ought to be excluded from being awarded an innovation patent.
The Pirate Party said that an expansion of the patent system such as the innovation patent, which provides easy patentability of incremental innovations, was “no solution to the plague of issues that the patent system causes”.
Indeed, the party did not limit itself to criticism of the innovation patent, but launched into a set of arguments as to why software ought to be left out of the patent system altogether.
It is important to build strong opposition to software patents, especially in nations that have not caught the software patents bug. Companies like Intel and Microsoft keep working hard to turn other countries’ laws into enemies of those countries’ own people, for the benefit of multinationals with massive patent portfolios. █
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Summary: Opportunities remain for blocking or abolishing software patents in some key English-speaking countries
THE STRUGGLE to eliminate software patents before they spread further and become an international norm is perhaps in Obama's hands. Despite corporate sponsorship he will need to listen to the people, who clearly reject software patents and speak out about it [1, 2] after they voted him into office.
The White House still has a petition against software patents, but will it be answered? There are yet more new articles about it. One latest example says:
The petition has more than 12,000 signatures, which puts it among the top 10 petitions on the White House website.
In a separate post we will cover the latest situation in Europe and on Sunday we wrote about the latest situation in Australia, on which the FFII’s president comments as follows:
10 days left to file answers to the Australian Consultation to get rid of software patents over there…
This is even in Slashdot, but not quite receiving the level of attention it deserves.
Then there is the New Zealand situation with regards to software patents.. IDG warns that:
In August HP started the process of acquiring Autonomy for $US10billion; the fourth largest ever software/services acquisition in history. Its interest in the company “says a lot about what our competitive strengths are, as well as our intellectual property”, says Autonomy’s Australia/NZ managing director Dean Maher. The company has 170 patents across advanced knowledge management and search of structured, unstructured and semi-structured data, he says – casting a sidelight on the local debate over the value of software patents.
Not a pleasant thought. In the next few posts we’ll show the relevance to Free software. █
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Summary: The battle against software developers in Australia rages on, most recently with debates over software patents
THERE IS an important new development in the continent of Australia, which has been a key location/battleground involving the patentability of software [1, 2, 3] while trilateral elites seek to take the patent system global, imposing their patent monopoly on every single human on this small planet.
Many patents in the US impede free thought and expression, not creation. The restrictions typically have a 20-year lifespan. According to this new article, “Australia reviews tier-two software patents” and to be more specific:
The Federal Government may consider excluding software from its second-tier patent system to better align Australian patents with those of trading partners like Japan and Korea.
In February, Innovation Minister Kim Carr asked the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP) to review the innovation patent system, which replaced the petty patent system almost eleven years ago.
Innovation patents required a lower degree of inventiveness than standard patents but were granted for a maximum of eight years, instead of the standard 20.
In an issues paper released last month (pdf), ACIP raised concerns that the innovation patent system may be incongruous with the intentions of the Government’s ‘Raising The Bar’ reforms.
We wrote about Korea’s patent situation earlier on and we also showed how Japan pressures China to become a slave of Western (or Japanese) patent monopolies. There is clearly a war of dominance going on and it is waged in the back rooms by people in suits (they are not scientists). We shall write more about Korea in the next post. █
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Summary: Encouraging new signs in Australia (an OpenOffice.org pilot) amid a major blunder for Microsoft, whose dirty OOXML secrets are leaking out years after the acts
THE Cablegate stash has made available key evidence which we have covered a lot since the beginning of this month. The OOXML-related exhibits (cables) have gotten quite far by now, with articles that were written not just in English. The importance is this is that it brings back to international awareness the fact that OOXML relied on corruption at all levels. We most collected evidence to show this in 2007 and in 2008. Cablegate is like a wormhole that takes us back in time and lets us see back room string-pulling this will hopefully affect this AGIMO review of document standards in Australia. “Last month,” claims this new report, “Department of Defence chief technology officer Matt Yannopoulos revealed that 100 corporate staff had been using OpenOffice in a year-old, “semi-formal” trial.”
This is good news. They will hopefully realise that their initial leaning towards OOXML was a mistake also due to public awareness that OOXML correlates with crime, as once shown using a bar chart, just after a vote on OOXML (corrupt countries were more likely to vote “Yes”).
Cablegate posts will resume shortly. It’s just a matter of dedicating free time to the task. There is enough in there to last for a long time and have considerable impact. █
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