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04.27.09

Does Oracle Still Acquire to Injure MySQL?

Posted in Database, Fork, GNU/Linux, GPL, Oracle, SUN at 3:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: If Oracle tried this before, why would anything change?

IN ORDER to keep our stories sufficiently unique, we did not bother writing much about Oracle and Sun. Other publications did this to the point of fatiguing readers.

Having watched this deal closely for a week (and discussed it endlessly in IRC), one issue worth bringing up is Oracle’s path of destruction against MySQL. They bought companies/projects that MySQL depended on. Observers must not forget this. They essentially bought some trouble and disruption for a competitor, proving that ‘free’ (unregulated) markets hardly work. It’s a fantasy that permits (if not invites) corporate abuse and/or harassment.

So what can be concluded with respect to Oracle’s plans for MySQL? They really deserve the benefit of the doubt, but people who are closest to the project (like Monty) should know better than all of us. Unfortunately, they are pessimistic.

No matter if MySQL forked, neglected by Oracle or who knows what, the project is likely to suffer from what Oracle did. Who benefits? Oracle of course, despite being the owner of MySQL.

The matter of fact is that MySQL gets disrupted, but Sun took the first hit at it by losing key staff. As John Dvorak put it:

The elephant in the room is MySQL. Exactly why Sun ever wanted to “own” an open source database manager is beyond me, and apparently beyond the open source community that only tolerated the situation because it had to.

From a perspective in Information Week:

If the MySQL team decides to scatter because Oracle doesn’t look like the kind of place where they want to work, I don’t blame them. And I’ll blame Oracle for wrecking a perfectly good product.

From the community manager of OpenSUSE:

So what’s going to happen to all this R&D? “So far, Oracle has been fairly quiet about their intentions regarding Sun’s open-source projects,” OpenSUSE Community Manager and former Linux Foundation evangelist Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier of Novell wrote eWEEK via e-mail.

And finally, says the SFLC quite dramatically, “fork well: it could be the last, best hope for community.”

I have faced with much trepidation the news of Oracle’s looming purchase of Sun. Oracle has never shown any interest in community development, particularly in the database area. They are the largest proprietary database vendor on the planet, and they probably have very simple plans for MySQL: kill it.

That’s why I read with relief this post by Monty (co-founder of the MySQL project) this week, wherein Monty plans (and encourages others, too) to put their full force behind a MySQL “fork” that will be centered outside of Oracle.

Monty is undoubtedly correct when he says “I don’t think that anyone can own an open source project; the projects are defined by the de-facto project leaders and the developers that are working on the project.” and that “[w]ith Oracle now owning MySQL, I think that the need for an independent true Open Source entity for MySQL is even bigger than ever before.”

Could the company’s core people rebuild MySQL AB under a different banner outside Oracle? The MySQL trademark was sold to Sun and now it’s Oracle’s, but brand recognition can be re-obtained. Most of the code is GPLv2-licensed, but unfortunately not all of it because of extensions. This just comes to show why that business model which a few people call “open core” (or whatever) is utterly pointless and dangerous.

Oracle is not foolish though. If former employees of MySQL (some of whom have considerable capital because of the sale to Sun) regroup as an independent company and steal the engineers from Oracle, then Oracle loses. So Oracle won’t allow this to happen. But how hard will Oracle try to improve MySQL? And why does it constantly avoid bringing up the subject (until very recently)?

04.09.09

Project of the Day: GNote

Posted in Fork, GNOME, GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents at 1:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The best

Summary: The trailblazing route away from Mono seems clearer thanks to GNote

A NEW Free software project called GNote has received a lot of deserved attention recently [1, 2]. It rescues GNOME from some of the unhealthy Mono dependency it has developed (Tomboy) and it comes at a good time because Señor de Icaza is running a series of posts that he calls “Embrace and Extend.NET” (his friends and colleagues at Microsoft sure would be proud). In the German press by the way, an article titled “Novell in coopetition with Microsoft” presents the words of Philippe Desmaison from Novell. It was published a few days ago and it confirms what a reader of ours has just called “the Novell-Microsoft vision.”

“GNote is GPLv3-licensed and nothing in its development involves Microsoft or Novell.”In order to prevent Novell from hijacking (‘embracing’) GNU/Linux using its own software which is ‘licensed’ by Microsoft, namely Mono, more projects like GNote are needed and apparently they are coming. The Mono proponents are unhappy to see their projects ported out of Mono and they miserably cling onto misunderstandings about copyright assignment.

GNote is GPLv3-licensed and nothing in its development involves Microsoft or Novell. Tomboy might not like this competition (or co-opetition, as Ray Noorda would have called it), but if Tomboy is Mono dependent and the licence is unattractive, then the project is bound to be forked. That’s just what Free software is about; it enables the community to take over in case it feels dissatisfied with the direction a project is taking.

If anyone is looking for a fast-growing project to contribute to, this may be it. GNOME is used by tens of millions of people and many are candidate users of GNote. The project just needs more contributors (in case Johan Sørensen welcomes them), promotion and support in order to gain momentum and leapfrog its Mono-based counterpart, Tomboy. It could, as a matter of fact, even replace Tomboy in default GNOME desktops and thus eliminate the heavy and controversial Mono stack.

The initiator of GNote is already working on an f-spot replacement too, so there may be a pattern here — a pattern of rewriting Mono applications in languages that are more appropriate and make use — as well as distribution — considerably safer (especially after the TomTom case). GPLv3 is the icing on the cake because it defangs patent aggressors.

04.03.09

Microsoft and Novell (Almost Merged) versus IBM and Sun (to be Merged)

Posted in Database, Fork, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, IBM, Java, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, SUN, TomTom at 2:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: As IBM’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems inches closer, Novell’s role in harming Java and OpenOffice.org is revisited

According to two independent sources, namely The New York Times and Bloomberg, an IBM takeover is likely to come shortly (SJVN seems to believe in a Monday announcement). This would mean that IBM becomes the benevolent dictator behind GPL-licensed Java and also the owner of OpenOffice.org, which it might as well merge with Lotus Symphony. As for MySQL, IBM has already got some database software, but as a former investor in MySQL, it is likely to find room for more.

“Sun’s products are not at risk.”IBM too has come to the realisation that money is to be made from services and hardware, so digital scarcity where duplication is possible (e.g. software) has had its shelf life expire, much like software patents to an extent. It’s the same when it comes to book publishers, newspapers, and other industries where duplication is possible, so its inhibition is a moot fight that can never be won. One can die trying.

Novell’s War on OpenOffice.org

Sun’s products are not at risk. “If IBM doesn’t invest similarly to Sun, people will likely fork,” says Jose X. The trouble that may arise is that forks are coming from Microsoft or its GPL slave, Novell. Go-OO[XML] is just one such example [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. “That’s just a fork,” says Jose, “to add Microsoft’s embracing into it… [they] can do that to any product out there… will do that to any FOSS product that gains traction.”

Microsoft has already used Novell to harm ODF, which Sun and IBM promote.

Novell’s War on Java

Novell will never admit this, but it harms Java by promoting its direct rival. This is just one type of harm. Another is the patent trap which Mono has become, as Jose explained in this LinuxToday comment that cites private E-mails from Microsoft.

LinuxToday’s Managing Editor wrote a short essay which discusses this endless controversy because it keeps coming up in that Web site. The crowd which opposes Mono by far outweighs that which defends its existence.

Opinions on whether Mono is dangerous, and on whether it should be avoided or accepted fly thick and fast. If you’re bored with the whole deal feel free to go read something else, but I suspect that the controversy is going to grow as more Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, ship with Mono applications by default.

To quote a couple more comments from LinuxToday, one says that “the controversy just won’t quit. Microsoft has a lot of chum and other bait. Their house in the middle of the forest is made up of lots of types of candy. No matter how many times we shun their advances, they keep coming back, each time coming from a different angle.”

“It is worth emphasising that Java is still the leading choice among programmers, as measured in several different terms or criteria.”Microsoft has already tried to 'extend' (or ‘fork’) Java and it failed badly, also for legal reasons. So what it is doing right now is substituting Java with .NET using Mono, which can be thought of as the equivalent of early attempts to derail Java. It is worth emphasising that Java is still the leading choice among programmers, as measured in several different terms or criteria. And as Microsoft’s CEO said, it’s all about “developers, developers, developers, developers.”

To quote one last comment from LinuxToday, “After the TomTom affair, the patent threat hidden in Mono must be considered much more seriously than it has been before. There’s no reason why Microsoft would not try and cash from their .Net patents the same way they have been doing with their FAT patents. At the moment they are probably just waiting for Mono to gain a significant userbase, when more people have been locked in they’ll come. As the TomTom case has shown, it doesn’t really matter whether their patent claims are actually valid or not. Most people will simply bow and pay rather than undertaking a very long and expensive legal journey.”

‘We had some painful experiences with C and C++, and when Microsoft came out with .NET, we said, “Yes! That is what we want.”‘

Miguel de Icaza

Novell spooky

02.06.09

How Novell Helps Microsoft Attack GNU/Linux (Except for SUSE)

Posted in Fork, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Java, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, OpenOffice, SLES/SLED, SUN at 1:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Darth Vader Microsoft
Picture by SubSonica

“Every line of code that is written to our standards is a small victory; every line of code that is written to any other standard, is a small defeat. Total victory [...] is the universal adoption of our standards by developers, as this is an important step towards total victory for Microsoft itself: “A computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software.”"

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

NOVELL IS A LARGE company with many different teams. Only a small portion of Novell (maybe about 10%) is directly associated with free/open source software and there are many who are stuck in between, including those who capitalise on what Novell labels “mixed-source” [1, 2, 3, 4]. Apart from those who build Free software (Greg Kroah-Hartman comes to mind, although there are downsides) and those who build hybrid software at Novell, there are those whose task seems to be to contaminate GNU/Linux with Microsoft’s intellectual monopolies, which only Novell is permitted to share (with paying customers). Miguel de Icaza is a prime suspect because he is helping Microsoft fight Free software while at the same type harming several companies that compete against Microsoft. He advances Microsoft APIs that are a trap.

Neil McAllister, who writes for IDG [1, 2], has defended Mono in a new column that they put in Slashdot’s front page. What gives?

Miguel de Icaza is himself something of a controversial figure these days. He’s a heavyweight among open-source developers, yet he works for Novell, the company that soured the Linux community by signing a patent-licensing agreement with Microsoft. Worst of all, he seems to have all but dedicated himself to projects related to Mono — in other words, to copying Microsoft technologies.

Yes, that is precisely what he is doing with Microsoft assisting his every step. Why would Microsoft help? Because it makes GNU/Linux stronger? Of course not.

Corporations help themselves, they don’t promote or support betterment of their competitors. As Microsoft's internal presentations indicate (required training to staff), “We are here to help MICROSOFT.”

So how does Mono harm Free software? It’s possible classify the issues as follows:

  • Control. Mono is inclined to evolve along the path of .NET, which gives Microsoft great control over its competitor/s (c.f. API wars mythology).
  • Dependency. Whereas many applications that mimic functionality can be interchanged easily, Mono resides beneath multiple applications, so its removal or change would have a cascading effect.
  • Software patents. We have it from the mouths of multiple Microsoft seniors (some public statements and some private which antitrust litigation exposed) that patents are part of the control mechanism.
  • Java/Sun. As hostile as Sun may have been towards GNU/Linux in the past, it is muchly required these days for its good work on projects like Java and OpenOffice.org. By wooing developers away from Java, Microsoft hopes to starve Sun along with its contributions to Free software.
  • Latch. Mono brings with it a raft of other technologies that permit Microsoft to control developers and control the Web (i.e. access to data). Moonlight is one example of this.
  • DRM. The war around de facto DRM standards is no secret because antitrust exhibits exist that shed bright light on it. Mono empowers .NET, which in turn enables and facilitates more widespread Windows DRM (denial of access to media).
  • Security. Mono inherits architectural issues not only from .NET but from Windows as well.
  • Philosophy. We are aware of GNU/Linux developers who are disguised by technological assimilation to a company that committed many crimes (the criticism of Microsoft has nothing to do with scale but mostly with behaviour). This repels and sometimes discourages development, not just casual use.
  • Novell. Copyrights and trademarks are to be owned by Novell; principal Mono-based projects are sponsored by Novell too. It would not have become a serious concern had Novell not expressed its commitment to Microsoft, to "IP peace of mind" (i.e. software patents as a selling point), even to OOXML. Mono gives Novell great control (leverage) over the desktop and its direction.

There are more points and we covered some of them last year.

Mono’s impact can transcend GNU/Linux. It’s an API war, not just a platform war. Novell is a privileged party. To whit:

“There is a substantive effort in open source to bring such an implementation of .Net to market, known as Mono and being driven by Novell, and one of the attributes of the agreement we made with Novell is that the intellectual property associated with that is available to Novell customers.”

Bob Muglia, Microsoft President

Novell employees are doing the same type of thing to OpenOffice.org [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. Rather than going strongly in defense of Sun’s Java, Novell is going against it. It also goes head-to-head against Sun’s OpenOffice.org with its Microsoft-esque fork, Go-OOXML. They are still stirring things up to generate dirt which harms the OpenOffice.org brand.

A second thing is what I think could be called the Too Many Evangelists syndrome. The way Michael [Meeks of Novell] put it, the major stumpers for Linux, like Alan Cox or Linus Tovalds, are themselves programmers. “With OpenOffice, the exact opposite is typically the case. Most the leads have had intangible contributions, and I think that’s a big part of the problem with OpenOffice in terms of attracting developers — that there are so many people who are not developers who are also very eager to tell everyone what to do.” The code base isn’t even the real issue, in his purview: every project has a potentially messy, outsized code base.

This has already been refuted. Novell is good at having its employees turn to their supposedly ‘personal’ blogs where they slam Microsoft’s competitors, including Java.

Star wars Vader
Picture by SubSonica

01.09.09

Interview with Non-Sun OpenOffice.org Contributor, Charles-H. Schulz

Posted in Debian, Fork, Interview, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Patents, Standard at 3:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell’s promotion of Go-OO has earned it a lot of attention recently because Novell ridicules OpenOffice.org and harms the brand [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. There is a lot more to OpenOffice.org than just the software; there are translations, ISVs, support firms and so on.

Quite a few people were unhappy with what Novell had done. And yes, Michael Meeks cannot magically disassociate himself from Novell and use the “I’m just a hacker” defence (ironically enough, Meeks has obtained software patents, which he filed with Novell). As critics of the cannibalistic approach taken by Novell, we decided to approach other people who are affected, merely reaching out for their opinion.

We had the opportunity to do an interview with one of the better-known OpenOffice.org people and — just to clarify in advance — it ought to be stated that:

  1. He does not work for Sun
  2. He’s an independent OpenOffice.org contributor (lead of the native-language confederation of OpenOffice.org: http://projects.openoffice.org/native-lang.html )
  3. His view are solely his

BN: As a bit of introduction, please tell us about yourself and your latest activities.

Charles-H. Schulz: My name is Charles-H. Schulz, I’m French and I live in Paris. I’ve been contributing to OpenOffice.org for over eight years now, and I started doing so around the launch of the 1.0 release. I am presently lead of the Native-Language Confederation of OpenOffice.org, which is the category of worldwide communities localizing and providing support, documentation, QA and marketing in languages other than English. I recently got involved in the ODF-at-WWW project that is a fantastic place in OpenOffice.org where you can really work on bringing OpenOffice.org to the next level and that includes, among other things, the Web.

I’m a founding parter of Ars Aperta (www.arsaperta.com) — a small, independent consultancy in the fields of corporate strategy and management related to FOSS and Open Standards.

I’m also working with FFII, and the Digital Standards Organisation (aka Digistan), of which I’m a founding member.

BN: How receptive has Sun been to contributions from the outside, based on your experience?

CS: I think this deserves both a simple and a complex answer. The simple answer is that Sun has built a fully open source — even Free Software — project though OpenOffice.org. By this I mean that contributions, code contributions among others are tested and integrated in the software we release. The source code is out there, the binaries as well, development process is done by collaboration through mailing lists and wiki, CVS (and now SVN).

“…independent contributors outnumber Sun engineers by 10 to 1 inside the QA project.”Going more into details, Sun has the technical leadership in the OpenOffice.org project. I personally don’t have a problem with that. What this means is that sometimes, patches are refused on purely technical merit. Whether those decisions are technically debatable might perhaps be the case sometimes. But generally speaking there is no problem. It is — I believe — quite easy to find both corporate and independent contributors who submitted patches, code or anything you can find in the way of contributions who were able to do so without any difficulty, provided they were following the guidelines and that their contributions were technically acceptable. That being said, OpenOffice.org has a very, very complex code base. This in turn causes a problem that is often overlooked: you need to study the code and the architecture, and thus devote a significant amount of your time doing so before efficiently contributing to OpenOffice.org. That’s why we always find it hard to recruit engineering resources: you don’t contribute code with your left foot when you’re patching OpenOffice.org. But I agree that everything should be done in order to lower the barriers of participation to our project.

BN: What role does QA play in the lifecycle of OOo development?

CS: Since we’re developing an end-user software suite we cannot tolerate leaving our software at a low level of quality. Of course, there are always bugs and we have ramped up our QA teams and resources significantly over time. QA gets to register the builds, test them at various levels according to the development, localization and QA processes. It also approves and decides whether the builds should be released or not. So to answer your question directly: QA and the QA project play a central role in our development and release process. By the way, it should perhaps be noted that independent contributors outnumber Sun engineers by 10 to 1 inside the QA project.

BN: Would you classify Go-OO as a branch or a fork?

CS: Both. I would have rather liked to answer: a branch, mostly, but some recent developments about Go-OO have obviously changed this situation. What should perhaps be reminded is that Go-OO is a Web site that hosts a concurrent build system to the one existing on the OpenOffice.org web site, called “ooo-build”. This build system has been around for ages. In fact, it’s been used by many Linux distributions that found it more convenient for various reasons (basically, the builds were optimized for Linux).

“That furiously looks like someone is ready to fork by diverting and duplicating development resources from the original project.”At the same time, this build system was also used (even by Sun) to test new patches. The common conception here is that while the OpenOffice.org -Sun- build system (simply called “vanilla” for convenience purposes) is sometimes more conservative in that it does not integrate all the patches that fast. The reason for that is simple: QA. The ooo-build does not really test the patches it integrates, while the vanilla build system does. In short, the ooo-build is faster and easier to use, but produces builds that crash more often and have more bugs. You can experience that if you use any *Suse distribution or Ubuntu. Most of the other distributions have gradually stopped using it, precisely because of a certain lack of reliability that was experienced. The OpenOffice.org project now provides OpenOffice.org packages in .rpm, .deb and .tgz formats. We are also looking to improve our packaging on Linux: While straightforward anywhere else, the OpenOffice.org installation is still complex for an inexperienced end-user on Linux.

But the ooo-build has its own relevance and its own use. In this sense, it was a branch for a long time, and there was a widely-held view among the OpenOffice.org community that its existence was actually helpful.

The way you transition from a Web site with a separate build system to a fork is in fact quite easy. And what is only needed is the will for those Web site owners to decide to create a fork. At this stage, we can still keep a status quo, make sure we work out on any technical issues we can to have the two kinds of builds produced compatibly (that means mostly directly upgradeable from one another) and there, there will not be a fork, mainly a branch. Unfortunately go-oo has turned from an “annex” web site where several specific resources were available to a development platform parallel to what exists on OpenOffice.org: mailing lists, patches, builds, etc. That furiously looks like someone is ready to fork by diverting and duplicating development resources from the original project.

BN: Would you feel more comfortable if it was a project like Debian that deviated and managed a derivative of OOo?

CS: Anyone has the right to fork. It’s Free and Open Source Software anyway. But I don’t think a fork is a solution as it does all but adding up resources. Rather, it divides them, duplicates efforts and confuses users. There is worse stuff: in our case, I don’t think that the forker would have the necessary resources to maintain the development efforts and have a coherent roadmap. At this stage, I would even be curious to know how bug squashing and issue management would be properly handled. As an example, I wonder how some of the large deployments of this particular flavour of OpenOffice.org would react if they were told that their own feedback was going to a fork of OpenOffice.org.

There is another couple of things that are of importance to me. Go-OO, if we are to believe its credentials, belongs to Novell. Now it is worth pointing out that at no point in the history of OpenOffice.org we ever got anything in the way of an official statement about Novell. That means that this is a silent fork. There is, if that is the intent of this company, no word, no declaration, nothing that basically says: “we feel we’re doing a better job than you do” or “ we feel we’re being unfairly treated”. That is something I find odd. The second element of importance is that we should get some sorts of governance structure and charter by Novell. You don’t send your code in the wild and not asking yourself some questions. I know that OpenOffice.org was fiercely criticized by some people employed by Novell for having a copyright assignment, something Novell often demands in its own sponsored projects. But this legal vagueness of sorts is a bit odd: whom does your builds belong to? What happens in case of a legal problem? Is there a code steward? You don’t need to be a consultant to ask those questions. And so far we have no answer.

BN: What role has the Novell-implemented OOXML translator played in allowing Microsoft’s plot against ODF to carry on?

CS: Common work on OOXML and a translator was part of the Novell and MS agreement, as far as we know. Having played a role in the OOXML standardization “adventure”, Novell was being constantly taken as an example of “another open source implementation” of OOXML. Sometimes, as it was the case in Mexico we had Novell employees, such as Miguel de Icaza, sitting on the Mexican standards organization and strongly advocating for OOXML to be standardized. To me it looks like Novell has been vassalized and under the influence of Microsoft to the point where they had to defend the indefensible. Now, I was not born yesterday, and I know that in theory as well as in practice, corporations’ primary role is to generate revenue. Hence you will find several corporations out there who will help FOSS with the right hand and promote the exact opposite with the left. Novell strikes me as different: it blurs the lines, puts a little bit of this in a little bit of that, calls a cat a dog and delivers software that is open source with conditions.

BN: What role, if any, do you believe Novell/Microsoft patents play here? What about Sun?

CS: It’s very hard to tell. My personal view is that Microsoft does not have many patents and that most them are low quality assets. In short, when Microsoft makes claims about owning some significant amount of IP inside Linux for instance, it spreads FUD, and does just this. Anything further directly coming from Redmond would be very unlikely, because they have nothing. In short, it’s “all hat no cattle” as they say in Texas. But they keep on applying pressure and make extravagant claims about their supposed ownership of every bit of open source code out there. I am in favour of full disclosure. Open Source code is, well, open source. It’s out there. Anyone can grab it, freely modify and redistribute it. Proprietary code? I’m sure we would find some code blurbs that could turn out to be funnier than Easter eggs.

I have read, reread, and read again the Novell/Microsoft agreement. I think it’s not clear whether this is an outright violation of the GPL in spirit or a legal flaw that has been exploited in it. But it surely changed the strategy of Novell in a way that poses a certain number of threats to FOSS users. It is also easy to notice that Novell’s behaviour changed inside the OpenOffice.org community right after that agreement.

BN: Going forward, how do you suggest that the projects target their main competitor, Microsoft Office, rather than one another?

CS: First, remember that Novell acquired both Suse and Ximian. The Ximian team is still working inside Novell, and it looks like the Ximian business model got ultimately translated inside Novell’s own strategy. Basically, when it comes to its open source offerings, Novell implements the Ximian strategy of taking the code, branching it, repackaging it and generating revenue from it. The way Ximian was doing it was a bit problematic, as it was not really beneficial to the communities it was deriving the code from and the value proposition to their customers wasn’t clear either. I guess it’s not my business, but such a mindset has partly led us to where we are today.

“We want to take OpenOffice.org to the next level, because we don’t use office suites the same way were using them five years ago.”At this stage, I don’t see any plans -nor any relevance- for the OpenOffice.org project to target go-oo. It just doesn’t make any sense: what would be talking about? Different patches? I don’t think the market even cares about that, I don’t think it’s even an audible message. I know that some people send messages out there, “my build is better than yours, I don’t like your community”, but these same people should think: does it really benefit customers?

In regards to Microsoft Office, which is the true competitor to OpenOffice.org, our value proposition is clear: we are a full-featured office suite that brings its users the benefits of true open standards, quality, stability and Free Software. We want to take OpenOffice.org to the next level, because we don’t use office suites the same way were using them five years ago. So we will increasingly interact with the Internet and on an online level, becoming the hub for creative writing, design and office work for everyone. That’s what we stand for, and we will remain true to our mission and to our soul.

01.08.09

Factual Mistakes in Byfield’s Article on Office Suites

Posted in Deception, Fork, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Patents at 9:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We already wrote about this subject a couple of weeks ago [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Coming a little late to the party is Bruce Byfield, who still has a vendetta against us [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7].

We haven’t the time (nor the desire) to do a full rebuttal right now, but a few points are worth making:

  • Byfield repeatedly uses the term “anti-Novell lobby” to daemonise critics, but he never bothers to name them or to link to these critics. He wants to present his own version (or rendition) of their voice without giving readers the opportunity to interpret or judge for themselves. Over at OStatic, Sam Dean went on and deleted (censored) a polite and informative comment from me, which was about 30-40 lines in length. It explained what Novell was doing with Go-OO[XML].
  • Regarding patents, Byfield writes: “And considering that OOXML is now an ISO standard — no matter what dirty tricks might have made it one — the idea that it, at least, could now be used in patent violation cases seems logically inconsistent.” Byfield may not understand patents and the OSP from Microsoft, which does not elude RAND. Being an ISO standard does not prevent patents from being an issue. As always, there is also disregard for more idealogical considerations, which passively endorses corruption.

There are many more points worth making, but we lack the time to address them.

The author has a long track record of defending Novell and that, by association, means badmouthing “Boycott Novell”. Frustration is probably not a factor here, but let’s remember that Byfield mostly writes for Linux.com, which is no longer publishing articles (for now). That can’t be good news to him because that’s how he makes a living.

“There is nothing more that can be done. Everything we do is now available to licensees as well.”

Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s Imaginary Property Officer

01.01.09

Novell’s OpenOffice.org FUD Rallies Disruptors

Posted in Fork, GNU/Linux, Mono, Novell, OpenOffice, Patents, Ubuntu at 6:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Broken bridge
Novell & Microsoft: building bridges

WHILST one person pushes Novell's Mono into Ubuntu, another lobbies to push Novell’s fork [1, 2, 3, 4] of OpenOffice.org into Ubuntu. Why? We wrote about this phony controversy earlier.

I was considering filing a bug for package request or creating a spec
for Go-Ooo.org for inclusion in Ubuntu, or possibly as a replacement
for OpenOffice.org vanilla. Start-up time is faster and feature set
is expanded.

There seems to be some contention between the world in general and Sun
over OOo; people have forked or threatened to fork the project several
times, and Go-OOo seems to be the most active as far as I can tell.
I’m not sure where this will lead in the future– possibly to a
stagnating OOo from Sun and then to a completely different office
suite, or possibly to a new fork, or possibly to Go-OOo, or possibly
to some improvement in community view and/or management of Sun’s OOo–
but I think the current political atmosphere and the availability of a
more featureful fork warrants some investigation.

Has anyone else tried this thing? I’m curious to know any opinions
(political and technical, but please if you must pick one than go more
technical than political) on the software, as well as any “better” or
“more active” forks out there, or other viable alternatives entirely.

The followup states:

Aaaand some more googling around brings up claims that the version in
Ubuntu’s repositories -is- Go-oo …

https://answers.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/openoffice.org/+question/14965

That threw me, because Go-oo purports to not be Sun branded, and
Ubuntu’s OOo splash screen uses Sun’s branding last I checked…

Ah well. The question still stands.

It’s important not to give Novell control of the office suite in Ubuntu. Novell already has virtual control of many applications in Ubuntu (through Mono, on which they are built) and Mark Shuttleworth does not respond to known risks, despite the fact that Groklaw's editor, for example, says: “What Shuttleworth may not understand is that a patent troll can be a proxy for someone else who does have something to lose.”

To an extent, Mono is a questionable first step because it 'wraps' many vital applications with an underlying layer whose evolution Microsoft pretty much controls (.NET is a model for Mono to follow) and legal terms are volatile.

“What if Novell was acquired? What if it was a hostile takeover?”One must remember that Microsoft need not necessarily sue as it can apply the “it’s too similar” [1, 2] argument (like SCO with UNIX versus Linux) to openly accuse Linux users/vendors of “stealing” Microsoft’s “innovations” without providing appropriate “compensation”. Evidence is less of an issue this way because less work is required to produce some, even if the evidence is largely perceptual.

It must never be forgotten that Microsoft continues paying Novell a lot of money (100 million dollar this year, depending on how one views it). Novell’s Linux business is still just a fragment of its overall picture (less than 20%) and Novell is operating at a considerable loss, so it very much depends on those payments and any strategic lifts it can receive from Microsoft.

Should we trust Novell? Short term? Long term? What if Novell was acquired? What if it was a hostile takeover?

On the other hand we have Sun. It’s no saint, but those who defend Novell typically resort to just exaggerating the issues with Sun simply because they find themselves unable to defend some of Microsoft & Novell’s shameless actions. Let’s remember how Novell marketed itself by offering "IP peace of mind" (for SUSE)?

Microsoft will try to put Novell in (greater) control of GNU/Linux distributions because Novell plays by Microsoft’s rules, namely software patents, Microsoft protocols/APIs and so on and so forth. This is dangerous and Jose_X explained why, independently expressing a similar point of view:

Sun is no angel, but in this particular battle of “evil” corporations (Sun vs Novell rivalry), they are the one offering checks on the biggest threat to FOSS by far (on Monopolysoft), and they aren’t doing too bad of a job with OO.o, either. Keep perspective, people. Let MicroScrooge spend real monopoly money. Give free help to other Office suites if not to OO.o (if you want to contribute to such software/community). If you don’t like Java, OO.o, Sun, etc, there are alternatives less influenced by Monopolysoft than what Novell produces.

Imagine Microsoft losing their huge leverage and huge MSOffice market! Free OO.o is a real threat. Neutralize it? Allow Microsoft to leverage it? Not a chance. Avoid Monopolysoft’s embrace and extensions. Petition Novell to dump their “partner”. They should be competing against Microsoft and not with them. Novell can play the same game Sun is playing by opening up Netware and beefing up their services. [One of evil Sun's saving graces is OO.o and Java to the extent these really do help free Linux/FOSS and/or dent Monopolysoft's levers and revenues.]

It all boils down to trust. A community divided against itself is the best thing Microsoft could hope for. It is the best thing Novell’s ally could hope for. It is the best thing Novell’s big funding source could hope for. It wants infighting and it wants to have a hand on the spigot of patches, even if only an intermediately does this trick. At least one journalist has described Novell as the role player who commits GPL code 'on behalf' of Microsoft, or for their own benefit.

“A community divided against itself is the best thing Microsoft could hope for.”As stated earlier on, we urge everyone to go to the go-oo Web site and read the first sentence. It’s all about OpenXML [sic] (OOXML) and VBA. Microsoft understands that by controlling mindshare and standards — usually de facto ones — it can win the war. Why else have Microsoft bloggers begun promoting Moonlight and — to a lesser extent — Mono too? Everyone ought to know that Robert Scoble, a former Microsoft evangelist, once wrote: “I saw that internally inside Microsoft many times when I was told to stay away from supporting Mono in public. They reserve the right to sue.”

Is OpenOffice.org without flaws? Of course not. But better the small devil whom we know than an ally of the Big Devil, who competes head-to-head with OpenOffice/StarOffice and has billions of dollars at stake. Office is one of the few Microsoft products that are actually profitable and by far the most profitable.

This is just the beginning of Novell & Microsoft, whose relationship gradually grows. Here are a couple of statements made in 2008. Ron Hovsepian, Novell’s CEO, said that their partnership with Microsoft continued to expand and more recently he said that “[the partnership with Microsoft is] going very well insofar as we originally agreed to co-operate on three distinct projects and now we’re working on nine projects and there’s a good list of 19 other projects that we plan to co-operate on.”

One’s trust in Novell must never be seen as totally separable from trust in its partner, which gets closer to it as time goes by.

“I have lost my sleep and peace of mind for last two months over these distasteful activities by Microsoft.”

Professor Deepak Phatak

12.31.08

Could Microsoft Use Novell for Infighting, Forking, and Distraction?

Posted in Fork, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, OpenOffice, SUN at 8:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Keeping developers helpless and divided

SEVERAL Web sites accentuate issues of disagreement which are related to OpenOffice.org. Here is just one new example. They are using old news [1, 2, 3] and sometimes promote Novell’s fork the software [1, 2, 3, 4].

“It’s the same with GNOME and KDE; mutual damage helps nobody but the outsider, in this case Microsoft.”Infighting that’s led by Microsoft is an issue that we covered before, using examples. Those who look at Microsoft's "TE" material will find that causing ‘civil wars’ is one of their key strategies (finding sources of friction, then stirring things up), so by funding Novell and enabling/having them fork and insult OpenOffice.org they distract their competitors, who will fight among themselves rather than against Microsoft Office. It’s the same with GNOME and KDE; mutual damage helps nobody but the outsider, in this case Microsoft.

So where is it all coming from? Well, it mostly comes from Novell and it successfully penetrates and deceives some reporters, who fail to see the full picture:

And about this “we, the media” thing you brought up: Meeks has a conflict of interest that you don’t do a particularly good job of pointing out. If he works for Novell and Novell is in bed with MSFT, why should we simply take him at his word without questioning whether he has any vested interest one way or the other as to the corporate “sponsor(s)” of OpenOffice? Does this relationship have anything to do at all with Sun’s “difficulty”? As a managing editor of a news outlet, this is something I’d take my team to task for failing point out in reporting. By “we, the media” you’d better mean you and the mouse in your hand.

It would be interesting if Novell tried to seize control of other Free software in the future. CUPS, for example, belongs to Apple now, but that’s a wholly separate story.

Red face

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