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07.18.19

A Look Back (and Forward) at Friendly Programming

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Interoperability at 3:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Guest post by figosdev

Java

Summary: Historical perspective on computer languages and how to do better

I have stayed interested in friendly programming languages for decades now. My favourite language, fig, came from another language inspired by the way people talk to the computer on Star Trek. On the Enterprise, people create “programs” used in places such as the holodeck, though most of the lines from the show remind me more of search queries and similar parameters:

“Alexa, please stop spying on us.”

“Unable to comply, authorisation from a CEO or higher is needed.”

“Alexa, initiate self-destruct sequence, authorisation Bezos-Four-Seven-Alpha-Tango.”

This could also be looked at as a command line sequence, with three parts:

1. [ So-called "Wakeup" Command ]
2. [ Initiate command | command parameters ]
3. [ Password syntax | parameter (the password itself) ]

In GNU Bash this might look something like:

# sudo systemctl selfdestruct
Password: Bezos-Four-Seven-Alpha-Tango
systemctl: self-destruct sequence unnecessary, Systemd already running

Most (not all) common and/or friendly programming languages have a simple convention of:

1. a command name
2. command parameters after the name
3. some symbol that goes between commands (or just a newline)

For example, to say “Hello, world” on the screen in Bash, Python, and BASIC:

echo “Hello, world”
print “Hello, world”
PRINT “Hello, world”

First comes the command, then the parameters– the things you want the command to know or work with.

To the computer, this is all translated into instructions that can be expressed as a long numeric sequence. To simplify this a bit, you can think of the command to put text on the screen as a the number 8:

8 “hello, world”

Of course to the computer, there is no such thing as “put text on the screen.” The screen shows the display buffer, the display buffer to the computer is a series of numeric locations, the real job of the computer is to copy certain numeric values to these locations. It doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to music or running an interactive online 3d simulation, the computer is just a glorified calculator moving numeric values around– to and from numeric locations.

The job of a compiler author (especially the first of them) used to be to worry about getting simple instructions like “print” translated to these simpler numeric routines (simpler to the computer, more complicated to many of us.) Someone still has to worry about that, but most people don’t. Thanks to decades of innovation, if you implement or create a conventional programming language, you will probably use another existing computer language to do so.

For example, CoffeeScript is implemented in (and has since influenced development of) JavaScript. JavaScript was originally written (implemented) in the C language. V8 is a JavaScript implementation in C++. These languages are in many ways easier to work with than the native, numeric “machine language” the computer actually uses.

The pioneer of compiled languages, Grace Hopper, taught university level mathematics– yet still decided that computer languages would be more useful to a greater number of people if they were based on words, rather than “symbols.”

This is a great boon to the general understanding of computing, because these “words” can perfectly abstract the computer hardware itself. How well can they do that? Alan Turing mathematically proved they can do so, but in more practical terms, an emulator program like Qemu that lets you run a second operating system in a window from a “host” operating system is better proof for most people. If we can teach more people to code, we will have more people who are happy to say they are computer literate. We must offer greater computer literacy to everyone, if we are going to make informed political decisions about life and liberty in the 21st century.

The history of the GUI is one of creating a clumsier, more vague language for certain tasks. A GUI is very useful for things that require pointing or drawing, and sometimes very useful for other tasks (such as managing term windows.) But just like when you try to use a hammer for every carpentry task, sometimes our workarounds for not using the command line are a cure worse than the disease. Teaching a GUI is closer to application training– next year, Microsoft or Apple or IBM will move things around and you’ll need to retrain again. You probably won’t understand computing by poking at things on a menu. But you can, from learning just the basics of coding.

Believe it or not, the first code written by Linus Torvalds was not in C. His first program went more like this:

10 PRINT “Sara is the best”
20 GOTO 10

This example from the Basic programming language includes the much-maligned GOTO statement. This statement corresponds to the JMP command, one of those numeric instructions mentioned earlier. JMP is a “mnemonic” (useful imaginary association) of the number reserved for that fundamental computing task. Most modern languages avoid use of this command, because it makes it more difficult to maintain larger programs.

Again we see the command name followed by the parameters, and we also see the line numbers that the Dartmouth Time Sharing System (DTSS) used to mark each line of text, or code. Dartmouth is the university where Basic was developed in the early 1960s.

Prior to the existence of Basic for teaching, Grace Hopper influenced the design of COBOL that contained TERSE-ENGLISH-PHRASES that were JOINED-BY-DASHES. Some early computers, even some from Apple, Inc., relied on character sets that did not include lower case letters. Some of the earlier languages (such as Basic) tended towards commands and other text expressed in ALL UPPER CASE.

Around the same time as Basic, the language known as Logo was developed as part of an entire philosophy of teaching. In Massachusetts, the MIT Media Lab continues to explore applications of languages in the same family as Logo, such as AppInventor, Lego Mindstorms and Scratch.

The feature of Logo that is best known, as (like Basic) it was used to introduce many children to coding, is Turtle Graphics. Apart from not requiring graphics initialisation commands like the SCREEN command in Microsoft QuickBasic, Turtle Graphics does not (in many implementations) require much or anything in the way of punctuation in its syntax.

To draw a square is this simple:

UP 5 RIGHT 5 DOWN 5 LEFT 5

There is no symbol required between commands, it simply follows from left to right and continues taking parameters until it finds another keyword. (as with math, statements put in nested parentheses might change this.)

So in Logo, this text:

UP 5 RIGHT 5 DOWN 5 LEFT 5

Translates (conceptually) into English instructions such as:

“Draw upwards 5 points in length, then draw to the right 5 points in length, then draw downwards 5 points in length, then draw to the left 5 points in length.”

Other dialects may offer additional options or simply different commands:

TURN 90 FWD 5 TURN 90 FWD 5 TURN 90 FWD 5 TURN 90 FWD 5

This violates a useful convention in coding known as D-R-Y or “Don’t Repeat Yourself.” A better way to code the same task is:

REPEAT 4 TURN 90 FWD 5

You can change this from a square to a diamond simply by turning 45 degrees first:

TURN 45 REPEAT 4 TURN 90 FWD 5

One of the things that truly limited Basic in the 1980s and early 90s, when the PC revolution was taking place, was not just the lack of processing power but the constraints on RAM and what size a program could be. As the PC moved from 8 and 16-bit platforms to 32-bit, it was more trivial to access large amounts of RAM and have larger programs with larger units of information handling.

For example, a string of characters such as “Hello, world” in the 80s was limited to somewhere between 256 characters and 32,768 characters. You could have string arrays, which are collections of strings with a common name, but loading a large file into an array was costly. Basic traditionally has very rudimentary commands for dealing with strings.

Python deals with strings in a more flexible, modern fashion. A “list” in Python, similar to an array in Basic, can for starters mix types of data– instead of having to initialise an array as being for strings or numeric data, Python lists can contain one or both at once. Basic has a MID$ function to get part of a string, but Python has a syntax that lets you get part of a string a list.

With increases in RAM and ease of addressing it came a greater use for more flexible commands, which were more practical to implement.

This does not mean Python is easier to learn than Basic– one of the nice things about Basic is that you could master a good portion of the entire language, and feel like you definitely knew how to write programs in it. Sure, you wouldn’t actually learn every command. But you probably knew which commands did something you didn’t need for your programs.

Python has in many ways supplanted Basic in education, while Logo continues to provide inspiration for new languages that are easy to learn as a first language. Python can also be taught as a first language, although probably in later school years than Logo-based languages.

Getting back to the earliest languages designed for general education, Basic and Logo both had strengths. Basic was more obviously practical, being used to create video games, accounting programs and even point-of-sale software. There were often better languages (such as C++) for creating commercial software, but Basic enjoyed notoriety from both its success via Dartmouth and its inclusion in chips on board 8-bit computers.

Logo was an easier language, but typically wasn’t used (by most of its users, that is) to do anything very practical. Today, it is a good foundation for creating mobile apps or controlling robots, or animating a cartoon cat– but Logo-based languages (though Logo was originally a general purpose language) are not typically used for a multitude of tasks.

As a teen, I often wondered what a cross between BASIC and Logo would be like, or if such a thing was even possible. To this day, I believe exploring this question and similar questions will make it possible for more people to implement reasonably complex and sophisticated programs, with relative ease. I do not think Python is going to get friendlier, in fact I find it going in a typical direction of expanding until it is much less easy to learn than in the beginning.

Basic too, has grown more complicated than it needs to be. But Python, JavaScript and Logo are all used in education.

For my own efforts added to the pot, I have finally explored the question of combining aspects of Logo and Basic, with fig. Like 1980s versions of Basic, it is case-insensitive. Like Logo, you can avoid most punctuation in syntax. You can also add it optionally.

It goes left to right, demonstrates a variety of tasks such as drawing, array and file handling, getting text from the Internet, and even transitioning to a more feature-rich language such as Python– while allowing you to create native functions that contain inline Python code.

To make an installer less necessary, the fig translator is a single Python script. It takes a program written in fig, translates it into Python, and (as with interpreted languages in general) requires Python to run the output program.

Fig was featured, thanks to much-appreciated help from the late Robert Storey, in the first 2017 issue of DistroWatch Weekly: https://www.distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20170102

But although I enjoy using it (quite often, actually) as a heavily simplified derivative of Python, fig was always an experiment and a prototype. I would be just as happy to see people explore the concepts of fig as an educational language, which I spent many more years thinking about even while I taught myself to code (“You know what would be cool? An array that uses a string index instead of a numeric one!” …Linked lists, hash tables, Python dictionaries) than I would be for them to adopt fig itself.

The core idea of fig is simply this– instead of teaching a programming class, try to sit down everyday people and teach them to code. That’s what fig was designed to make possible– as well as make easier.

I tried doing that with BASIC, it is possible. I tried it with Python, as well as JavaScript. That was harder, though overall I think Python has some advantages over Basic. It has some rough corners too– “SCREEN 9: PSET(10, 10), 5″ draws a dot in early 80s QuickBasic and GW-BASIC. Try doing that in Python, such as you might with Pygame. It’s a bit more to begin with. Of course that particular matter could be solved with a different library– but you still have to learn how to import it.

As you teach more people, and note what it is that gets in the way of them learning, you remove as many unnecessary requirements of coding as possible. I removed Python’s case-sensitivity. Although a fan of indented code (I wasn’t one until I learned Python) I decided to replace Python’s mandatory indentation with Basic-like keywords. It’s easier to implement than you might think– I just use a variable to keep track of the indentation level and increase or decrease it when required.

Before fig, I attempted to create a language with no punctuation at all– so the print command was like this:

todisplay
hello there, world! (you can put any text of any sort on this line)
display

This is tedious, but I was trying my hand at designing a Basic-inspired language to be spoken into a microphone instead of typed on a keyboard.

When I got bored with that effort and focused on fig (then “fig basic”) instead, I still tried to keep punctuation and other syntax minimal. I used “quotes for strings” and # hashes for comments and as I received feedback, I thought it best to allow the option of putting a colon : between commands on the same line.

Ultimately I thought why not do like English, and have several characters available for grouping text together visually? You can teach fig as a way to introduce bash syntax and concepts:

p=5 ; ucase | print

or Basic:

P = 5 : UCASE : PRINT

or Python:

p = 5 ; ucase().print()

I realise these are caricatures, I can write actual code in the syntax of each of these languages.

But “why?” is a question I will answer in three parts:

1. We want more people to understand code, so they can understand computing and help write free software.

2. An educational language didn’t taint Torvalds, and most languages (even Basic) now lack the very problems that caused Dijkstra to moan about them so much. Indeed, many of them took a lot of what he said to heart. We can teach more people, more easily, if we have languages better suited to that task.

3. We can learn more about what makes languages easier to learn if we aren’t afraid to experiment and collaborate more.

This is not a solved problem– like with other tasks related to computing, the solutions are ongoing. Despite its revolutionary contributions to computer education, Basic no longer holds the title for most popular or most useful educational language. That title probably goes to Python now– or perhaps Logo, if you consider it as a language family. Of course I still find great value in Basic as a concept, I would never be happy just switching from existing versions of Basic to existing versions of Logo.

The non-standard, computer language / computer educational philosophy that is Logo may well continue its legacy, but we know the language will continue to change to suit the needs of learners.

Regardless, not everyone is going to learn Python no matter how we try, and some languages are still easier to learn. I think it is trivial to prove (for those who are interested in the idea) that we can make a language that is both easier to teach than Python, and more generally practical than Logo.

I’m very interested in multiple takes on this idea, not just one or two. What kinds of friendly languages with powerful features can we imagine, and perhaps implement? What can we learn from educators in the field (many of whom have their own difficulties with computers and programming.)

This is less about reveling in the past than first learning what we can from historical and contemporary efforts, and hopefully creating greater success in the future.

It is not a requirement, though I really do like the idea of translating to something like Python. You can technically implement a language in almost any other language (provided certain minimal features exist in it) but starting out with a friendly language means the implementation can also be tweaked or inspire a larger number of people. Someone who learns fig can even learn how to implement a similar language. (I have considered, but never gone to the extra trouble, of implementing fig in fig itself. With its inline python feature it is certainly possible.)

License: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

05.21.12

Sun: Interoperability More Important Than Patents

Posted in Interoperability, Oracle, Patents, SUN at 6:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Old chain

Summary: An old position paper from Sun Microsystems helps shows a certain resistance to patents such as those which Oracle uses against Android

GROKLAW has some superb coverage of the Oracle vs. Google case, so as the trial kicks into full gear we mostly refrain from covering it. A lot of bloggers use Groklaw as a source while providing summaries.

One interesting post from Groklaw shows Sun’s position on software patents.

“I can’t find it on Oracle’s website any more,” writes Pamela Jones, “but thanks to Internet Archive, we can find Sun Microsystems writing about software patents in 2006 and explaining its position. This was back when the European Union was for a while considering adopting software patents. You will not believe what Sun’s position was. It’s definitely relevant to the Oracle v. Google litigation.

“Sun’s position paper was titled, “Software Patents: A European Union (EU) Directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions must not Jeopardize Interoperability.” The title says it all, but I’m going to show the entire statement to you in all its glory, so Oracle can’t pretend, as it tried unsuccessfully to do with the Jonathan Schwartz corporate blog, that it wasn’t an official company statement. Sun strongly urged that Europe, if it adopted the Directive, “allow for the creation of products which can interoperate with the protected products to safeguard competition in the sector and to provide greater choice and lower costs for consumers.”

“Imagine that. Sun said publicly that interoperability was more important than IP rights, even patents, because it led to competition and hence greater choice and lower costs for consumers.”

Can this be used to weaken Oracle’s case? We shall see.

08.03.10

Microsoft Laughs at — Then Deceives on — Interoperability

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, UNIX at 8:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Don't cheat

Summary: Microsoft continues to discriminate against rival platforms, office suites, and the monopolist prefers to withhold information required to make technology work across platforms

A WEEK and a half ago we debunked Microsoft's "interoperability" claims, only shortly afterwards to discover that Microsoft’s Jean Paoli carries on with the same talking points. For Microsoft to claim respect for interoperability would be a good stand-up comedy show. Here we have a company which is buying another company that worked with GNU/Linux and demonstrated its software on GNU/Linux; then, Microsoft made it Windows-only. We’re talking about Photosynth here.

Microsoft has a habit of talking other UNIX/Linux-based products and making them Windows-only. Where is the interoperability? Going back to Photosynth, consider this new “sponsored by Microsoft” project which claims to be the world’s largest digital photograph. It’s Silver Lie-only. Wonderful, right? Try this.

Truth be told, Microsoft continues to deliberately decrease interoperability. Even Microsoft’s friends at the Burton Group [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24] (now part of Gartner) admit this:

Microsoft is essentially bolting Office to SharePoint to prevent customers from moving to other office products, Creese said.

That’s nice, isn’t it? Paoli, whom we named for his role in the OOXML corruptions circus, has just received belated coverage from the Microsoft booster at The Register. It says:

While open sourcers, IBM, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems and others lined up to establish the Open Document Format (ODF) as an official standard, Microsoft predictably went its own way.

Rather than open Office to ODF, Microsoft instead proposed Office Open XML (OOXML) in a standards battle that saw accusations flying that Microsoft had loaded the local standards voting processes to force through OOXML so it wouldn’t have to fully open up.

Then there were the real-world battles, as government bodies began to mandate they’d only accept documents using ODF. Things came to a head in the cradle of the American revolution, Massachusetts, which declared for ODF but then also accepted OOXML following intense political lobbying by Microsoft, while the IT exec who’d made the call for ODF resigned his post.

The sour grapes of ODF ratification, followed by the bitter pills of local politics, left people feeling Microsoft had deliberately fragmented data openness to keep a grip through Office.

Paoli was once one of Microsoft’s XML architects who designed the XML capabilities of Office 2003, the first version of Office to implement OOXML. Today he leads a team of around 80 individuals who work with other Microsoft product groups on interoperability from strategy to coding.

What lessons did Microsoft lean from OOXML that it can apply to pushing data portability in the cloud?

“I think collaboration is important in general and communication,” Paoli said

“If MS’s lesson from the OOXML debacle is the need to communicate better then they haven’t really learned,” responded IBM’s Rob Weir. Yes, this is not the first time that Microsoft blames poor communication for blunders. Novell said so too, regarding its 2006 deal with Microsoft. It goes along the lines of, “there is nothing wrong with what we did, people just didn’t understand it.” That’s an insult to people’s intelligence, but the target audience might actually buy it because it’s insufficiently informed.

flickr:2400034217

07.25.10

Microsoft’s Worst Open Source ‘Infiltration’ Ever

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, Interoperability, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument at 1:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“You want to infiltrate those. Again, there’s two categories. There’s those that are controlled by vendors; like MSJ; we control that. And there’s those that are independent. [...] So that’s how you use journals that we control. The ones that third parties control, like the WinTech Journal, you want to infiltrate.”

Microsoft's chief evangelist

Summary: A close look at Microsoft-initiated ‘infiltration’ into a Linux users group (CLUG) and analysis of ZDNet and IDG reports where Microsoft’s “open source” party line is routinely promoted

ONCE IN a while Microsoft insists on making it seem like it’s an “Open Source” (or open source-friendly) company and it tries to push/impose itself upon those who obviously dislike Microsoft, for justifiable reasons. One of Microsoft’s arrogant people from South Africa seems to have gotten marching orders to come to “Linux people” and these people made the mistake of letting him come (probably not inviting him). This is the type of thing Microsoft calls “infiltrate”. It is trying to put people off or making them look bad (intolerant). They target particular events such as Mac and GNU/Linux conferences, shoving/injecting themselves in and inviting themselves to become part of events where they are obviously unwanted. Sam Ramji did this in some US LUGs that turned him away and the following guy is speaking to a Linux group in South Africa for about an hour and a half. We’ll refer to him as “the speaker” rather than name him, which would make it too personal.

We decided to watch this and rebut his nonsense machine. There is so much nonsense there, so we pick just a few points and remark on them. This clip is from last year and it’s titled “Microsoft: Interoperability and Open Source”. Here it is as Ogg:


As one can see almost immediately (but more so towards the later parts), here we have a pretentious speaker from Microsoft, who insists he knows better than everyone else in the room, yet avoids hard questions, or simply lies. First he talks about “interoperability”, mixing this old notion with “intellectual property” and trying to suck up to “open source” developers, luring them to “write into Microsoft applications”. What we put in quotes by the way are actual quotes from the talk. We have no complete transcript.

Soon after the beginning he names Linux patent extortion as “collaborations” (euphemism) and uses the term “open engagement” — a PR term routinely used for either AstroTurfing or “evangelising”. It soon turns out that they are also trying to recruit. The speaker starts talking about a vacancy and invites them to Microsoft online forums. Later on he starts lying about standards and pretending that Microsoft adheres to rather than fights standards (like ODF). Don’t worry, he’ll be challenged over these claims later on (in the questions session), but he’ll keep trying to escape tough questions from the audience by saying things like, “I wasn’t involved in the decision.”

“The speaker starts talking about a vacancy and invites them to Microsoft online forums.”The speaker describes the whole OOXML scam (and fight against ODF) as a good thing which he wants credit for. What a nerve. Rather than apologise he wants credit. He also doesn’t say that Microsoft won’t support ODF properly [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] — an issue that will only come later from the audience. He hardly ever addresses the questions, just dodges them and tries using poor humour to do so.

“I really can’t answer the question,” he says on quite a few occasions, especially when the questions help expose the unethical/criminal nature of his employer. He gets asked about Microsoft’s deviation from standards, for example, or even about “vendor deals” (like Novell’s). The speaker goes something like, “I don’t know what…”

These exclusive patent deals and secrecy helped show that the guy is talking nonsense, but he doesn’t seem to care. When asked about it he gives no answer.

Microsoft clearly makes an attempt to control Free software, under Windows. The speaker does not deny it. The issue of Mono soon comes up and he starts defending the project by talking about “good understanding” and how “the community drives this project” although “we don’t have any interest,” he argues. Well, they co-develop it now. Soon after that part, the issue of Moonlight is raised and the speaker says: “we made specification available” and it’s “up to the community” to implement it. He doesn’t seem to mention Microsoft’s active role (with Novell) to push Moonlight. He praises Miguel (de Icaza, who is now a Microsoft MVP) and when asked critically about it by the audience (which dislikes Mono and Moonlight) he just says things like “I couldn’t answer that question” and something along the lines of “we just make specifications available”; “if anything, Microsoft is actually supporting development of these,” he says. Well, duh. It helps Microsoft and harms GNU/Linux. He just can’t answer questions about the limitations imposed by Microsoft, especially in terms of licensing. Very unsatisfactory.

“The speaker just escapes the hard subjects and uses diversion tactics.”Then he proceeds to pretending Microsoft helped Samba. That’s not the case; They were forced to by the EU Commission, but he carries on pretending that they help (after about a decade in court). Then he gets asked about the corruption caused by Microsoft at ISO (although not in these words). South Africa formally complained about this and it wasn’t alone. The speaker just escapes the hard subjects and uses diversion tactics. For instance, first he seems to be trying to ask the name of the person asking the question (as if that matters) and then switching to other subjects. Once again he lies (probably knowingly) and says “we didn’t oppose ODF”. This is probably a lie, but it’s hard to prove intent. It obviously does not correspond with facts. About OOXML, he says it’s “documented” and he doesn’t say that Microsoft itself never implemented it. He pretends it’s a standard (because of the corruption that put it inside ISO) and when someone raises the point about Microsoft not complying with ODF to encourage interoperability the speaker just lies and tries to contradict the fact with a ‘study’ (probably one that’s sponsored by Microsoft, but he doesn’t actually say which study). All those systematic lies are necessary given the position he is in. He needs to defend the indefensible because he chose to work for a corrupt company.

The speaker then moves on to discussing “Open Source” (the second talk or the second part of his presentation). It’s not about Free software and the term is never brought up. “Let me tell you how I look at Open Source,” he says. Yes, Microsoft wants to define what it is, taking over its own competition’s definition. The speaker’s vanity is really showing here. He tries to pretend it’s a choice of Microsoft to just take someone else’s term, only to disagree and change it. Then he exposes his feelings of superiority over his audience (he must be thinking, “oh! Those Linux zealots!”); he distances himself from them, as though they don’t belong in “Open Source” and Microsoft is the centre of this universe. “We don’t need to agree on this by the way,” he says quite angrily. When told about the formal open source guidelines he just prefers to avoid the subject. He is clearly rushing out of this discussion because he loses this debate. Then, “in interests of time,” he argues, they move on and skip this debate. The speaker is still being asked why they (Microsoft) had to go their own way with licences and repositories. The speaker can’t provide a reasonable answer; the truth is hard to admit.

“The speaker is still being asked why they (Microsoft) had to go their own way with licences and repositories. The speaker can’t provide a reasonable answer; the truth is hard to admit.”Then the speaker discusses repositories like SourceForge. He tries to say that many of the applications there are cross-platform or are for Windows. This is a very familiar talking point, trying to portray “open source” as Windows. We saw that coming also from former Microsoft employees who entered SourceForge as staff (after SourceForge bought Ohloh). This is nasty talking point/spin to watch out for. The notions that include “mixed source” are soon introduced and the speaker is trying to pretend they — the developers — “gain value” from Microsoft’s stack, as though they should all be thankful to Microsoft.

Shamelessly enough, in this Linux-type meeting the speaker starts trying to sell some more Microsoft proprietary software to the developers there. He gets very uncomfortable at this stage, clearly agitated and nervous because the crowd tells him that he promotes proprietary software (while trying to paint it as “open”). He then encourages them to visit Port 25 and other Microsoft sites. “Go read Port 25,” he says, where they “engage with” the public (yes, again with this term; he uses the “engage” word quite a lot and it’s a PR term). Then CodePlex gets promoted and he admits it’s Microsoft’s, not an independent entity like Microsoft now tries very hard to characterise it. He then pretends that they have great relationships with F/OSS companies; he names MySQL and JBoss and brags about OSI-approved licences of Microsoft (never mind if Microsoft shoved them down OSI’s throat under controversial circumstances and backlash). He gets asked by the audience: “why do you need them?”

“I can’t answer” is his reply. Yes, of course.

Then he uses PHP/Zend for self-praise. Typical. This contributes to/promotes their own stack. One person asks: “Why would someone pay money for this WISP platform?”

He struggles to answer. Then he moves on to another subject and mentions KnowledgeTree because of its South African roots. Microsoft worked with them just to put it on Windows.

Silverlight, which is proprietary, is strangely enough being brought up by the speaker. Huh? How come? It’s not clear what it has to do with open source. Then he starts promoting Azure, which has nothing to do with Free software or Open Source.

A few days ago Microsoft was also promoting its proprietary software (Hyper-V) in OSCON, an Open Source convention. From ZDNet:

Microsoft, for its part, announced at OSCON 2010 a new set of Linux Device Drivers to enhance the performance of Linux when virtualized on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V.

Going back to the talk in question, it gets worse towards the end when the speaker is mentally exhausted. He seems to have run out of things to cover at this stage and instead he uses the defunct Open Solutions Alliance (not open source) to promote Microsoft. He wraps up and he obviously fears more questions. “I’ll open myself to some more damage right now,” he says (he refers to questions). Towards the end he invites them to Microsoft.com (yes, in a Linux group) and in response to questions about Visual Studio (like “why do you have to pay for it?” They don’t give away the tools to develop for the platform) he says: “Again, I can’t answer that question.”

Well, that’s pretty useless.

Then he promotes BizSpark, which is anti-Free software dumping. It’s not development tools, it’s more of an anti-competitive tactic for Silverlight saturation and blocking of F/OSS — a tactic which we covered in:

How miserable. The locking in of students (to Microsoft) is then portrayed as something positive. This speaker has been extremely weak at answering questions and his own presentation too has many holes in it, occasional lies/embellishments, and basically it does nothing to change one’s mind about Microsoft’s back-stabbing attitude towards software freedom.

“Microsoft has a strange open source turn,” said the headline of this article a few days ago.

Open source site Xen.org’s community manager Stephen Spector wrote in a Network World op-ed that it “just makes me want to go right out and start working on this project… I am also still searching the site to find out who owns the source code written and what license the software will be placed under, a basic concept in open source projects.”

Spector clearly thinks Microsoft might not really support its own open source project, and he might be right. The Vole clearly hates open source and has been trying to co-opt and subvert it.

The article cites this one from IDG:

There is a Getting Started section on the website that directs users interested to sign up for the Wiki as well as the mailing lists which is pretty standard for most projects. However, the website itself is a Wiki which does not show all the comments and information on the site unless the user registers. I consider this to be a significant issue as a majority of people in the open source community are not in favor of registering for general websites. Hiding information without registration is not what I would consider a friendly open community.

There are a lot of responses in Linux Today. They don’t trust Microsoft for a second.

Speaking of deception and exploitation, watch this site called “IT Expert Voice” which “is a partnership between Dell and Federated Media.”

For those who don’t know, Federated Media works for Microsoft and this site contains falsehoods about the GPL, as pointed out in Free Software Daily. “Misleading information,” says the comment, which quotes from the article: “If you modify the software and redistribute it in binary form, you have to also release the source code for your changes. This prevents the software from being incorporated into a commercial product”

The commenter says, “You mean like Red Hat Enterprise Linux? Selling free software is allowed, it’s explicitly stated in the GNU GPL section 4.”

The Web has become filled with GPL misinformation, possibly inspired or directly connected to misdirection from Microsoft (whose official Web site also tells lies about the GPL, in Word documents). Microsoft apologists are still abound in IDG; just watch the reactions to Dustin Puryear and Eric Gries. These people who now write for IDG have some history of Microsoft apologism and yet they are presented as “open source” people, supposedly writing about or in favour of “open source”.

Dana Blankenhorn from ZDNet now claims to admire Richard Stallman, but we are sceptical given some of Blankenhorn’s recent writings on the subject.

Some ZDNet writers are sick of Richard Stallman, but I’m still an admirer, because he continues to stand for FLOSS purity.

Well, ZDNet writers comprise a lot of people who are hostile towards Free software. Some of them are Microsoft employees and we covered this before. ZDNet is essentially “stacked” to have a particular bias, through selection of writers.

Here is what Blankenhorn says about ‘open’ core, which Microsoft loves. Blankenhorn gives that a lot of attention this month.

If everything in your “secret source” isn’t rock solid and golden, you can also create trouble for yourself, as Eucalyptus recently found out.

Eucalyptus is not open source. We warned about this last year. Perhaps it’s time for “open source” sites/blogs to just stop covering “open core” and treat it for what it is; it is proprietary software marketed as “open source”. Microsoft would love to pass that as “open source” to help the illusion that Microsoft too qualifies as “open”, to echo Monty’s sentiments which he expressed very recently (he serves Microsoft’s CodePlex Foundation).

06.25.10

Red Hat’s Microsoft Collaboration Without Software Patents; Forrester Bribed by Microsoft and Novell to Help Promote Linux Patent Deals

Posted in GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Marketing, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, Servers, Virtualisation at 12:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Analysts sell out – that’s their business model…”

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

Red Hat-Microsoft page

Summary: Red Hat still insists on not paying Microsoft anything for distribution of GNU/Linux; Novell and Microsoft use Forrester as their advertisers in suits

LAST YEAR we wrote about the agreement between Red Hat and Microsoft. It wasn’t as sinister as it may sound and we provided explanations in:

  1. Novell the Biggest Loser in New Red Hat-Microsoft Virtual Agreement
  2. Red Hat-Microsoft Agreement Not Malicious, But Was It Smart?
  3. Red Hat-Microsoft: Take III
  4. Summary of the Red Hat-Microsoft Story

As it’s put in reference to Red Hat’s event this week:

To this day, as far as I know and have been informed, Red Hat still has no intention of engaging in any kind of patent deal with Microsoft. Yet the two can and do work together.

Red Hat did something without discriminating and harming fellow distributions of GNU/Linux, unlike Novell (but Microsoft goes directly to large Red Hat customers like Amazon, which it then extorts). As Matt Asay — a former Novell employee — put it, Novell is still all about software patents now that 'new' Novell is dying.

Either way, I suspect we’ll see some significantly improved bids for Novell. Its patent portfolio, coupled with its maintenance revenue and technology portfolio, offer too much strategic value to pass up.

Novell’s unhealthy obsession with software patents has led it to a bad deal with Microsoft. Now that the Free software community is upset with Novell, the company turns back to proprietary software for identity management [1, 2] and proprietary software for Fog Computing, with new examples like ‘cloud’ manager. These are just 3 examples from the past 2 days.

“The staff at Novell which cares about software freedom sometimes just leaves as a result of that atrocious deal (sometimes to be replaced by ex-Softies).”Novell was never truly focused on software freedom, but before signing the Microsoft patent deal it at least tried. The staff at Novell which cares about software freedom sometimes just leaves as a result of that atrocious deal (sometimes to be replaced by ex-Softies).

What makes it impossible to forgive Novell is the fact that it continues to brag about that deal. It never expresses regrets. Using a joint press release Novell bragged about the Microsoft deal yet again (that was on Monday). It turns out that they apparently also paid for propaganda from Forrester, which is now promoting software patents deals with Microsoft because it was bribed paid to say so. Here is some preliminary coverage:

Two newly published customer studies by independent research firms, Forrester Consulting and Oliver Wyman Group, further quantify and detail benefits of Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc.’s joint business and technical collaboration, and detail the significant return on investment (ROI) customers have realized by investing in the partnership.

It says right there that the “study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Microsoft and Novell” and we are never surprised to see propaganda from Forrester (example from last week), which Microsoft also pays to belittle/smear GNU/Linux.

Watch how this paid-for propaganda is being used in mainstream media and also promoted by Microsoft boosters like Marius Oiaga. On top of this, the ‘Microsoft press’ still promotes this patent extortion because it’s good for Microsoft; this time it’s Lee Pender taking his turn after similar ‘Microsoft press’ coverage from the same company. His colleague did this earlier too (Monday or Tuesday, i.e. a day after the press release, almost as though he had been briefed).

Microsoft is clearly desperate to convince customers and vendors to pay Microsoft for GNU/Linux. The fact that it manufactures some propaganda and then uses its bogus press to push this agenda is what makes it so shameless. Novell is clearly an accomplice here because it stands to benefit from it.

05.28.10

Microsoft is Not an Open Source Company, It’s a Software Patents Company With Lobbyists

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Interoperability, Microsoft, Windows, Xen at 5:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Ask the partner to give you heads up on customer situations – bribe them!”

Steve Winfield, Microsoft

Brian Behlendorf against Microsoft

Summary: How Microsoft’s money and unwatchable influence allow it to subvert laws in foreign jurisdictions while projects like Xen and Apache are paid money to keep quiet on the matter and occasionally defend Microsoft

Earlier this month we explained why Microsoft is the biggest enemy of “Open Source” and warned that IDG has a new spin blog (the “open source” blog in IDG is not pro-”open source”). This blog is currently peddling some hogwash from someone who is working for Citrix, Microsoft’s ally.

The message of appeasement is all too comforting, but Microsoft is not interested in it. Microsoft keeps suing, threatening, and lobbying to make “open source” illegal or impractical to use. A good example of Microsoft’s direct attack on “open source” is currently found in Europe, where Microsoft’s role is described under:

  1. European Interoperability Framework (EIF) Corrupted by Microsoft et al, Its Lobbyists
  2. Orwellian EIF, Fake Open Source, and Security Implications
  3. No Sense of Shame Left at Microsoft
  4. Lobbying Leads to Protest — the FFII and the FSFE Rise in Opposition to Subverted EIF
  5. IBM and Open Forum Europe Address European Interoperability Framework (EIF) Fiasco
  6. EIF Scrutinised, ODF Evolves, and Microsoft’s OOXML “Lies” Lead to Backlash from Danish Standards Committee
  7. Complaints About Perverted EIF Continue to Pile Up
  8. More Complaints About EIFv2 Abuse and Free Software FUD from General Electric (GE)
  9. Patents Roundup: Copyrighted SQL Queries, Microsoft Alliance with Company That Attacks F/OSS with Software Patents, Peer-to-Patent in Australia
  10. Microsoft Under Fire: Open Source Software Thematic Group Complains About EIFv2 Subversion, NHS Software Supplier Under Criminal Investigation
  11. British MEP Responds to Microsoft Lobby Against EIFv2; Microsoft’s Visible Technologies Infiltrates/Derails Forums Too
  12. Patents Roundup: Escalations in Europe, SAP Pretense, CCIA Goes Wrong, and IETF Opens Up
  13. Patents Roundup: Several Defeats for Bad Types of Patents, Apple Risks Embargo, and Microsoft Lobbies Europe Intensely
  14. Europeans Asked to Stop Microsoft’s Subversion of EIFv2 (European Interoperability Framework Version 2)
  15. Former Member of European Parliament Describes Microsoft “Coup in Process” in the European Commission
  16. Microsoft’s Battle to Consume — Not Obliterate — Open Source
  17. Patents Roundup: David Hammerstein on Microsoft Lobbying in Europe; Harrison Targets Lobbying on Software Patents in New Zealand, Justice Stevens Leaves SCOTUS

The EIFv2 is a fine example not only of Microsoft’s lobbying for software patents (almost all of Microsoft's patents are software patents) but also the company’s unethical activities that involve AstroTurfing, cronyism, and intimidation in other countries. This is a company which is not interested in producing technology; rather, it bends laws, overthrows opposition, and bribes with great pride.

The Free Software Foundation Europe has just updated its Web page which shows what Microsoft did to Europe’s digital agenda through its lobbyists, essentially rendering it useless, discriminatory, and unfair.

EIFv2: Tracking the loss of interoperability

[...]

From our analysis, we can conclude that in key places, the European Commission has taken on board only the comments made by the Business Software Alliance, a lobby group working on behalf of proprietary software vendors. At the same time, comments by groups working in favour of Free Software and Open Standards were neglected, e.g. those made by Open Forum Europe.

As we speak, Microsoft lobbies to legalise software patents in Europe. When it does not sue it intimidates in order to earn “protection money” as it so often gets in the far east (where software patents bear some legitimacy, as in the United States).

It is important to say “United States” and not “America” because south America rightly disregards many unjust monopolies, Mexico is fighting against software patents, and Wayne gives a Canadian’s perspective:

Richard Stallman, one of the truly elite software developers has spoken out many times about the dangers of software patents. Curiously those most in favor of software patents appear to be lawyers from the Patent Bar.

Here is the term “Americans” used loosely in the second part of this essay.

One issue is that Americans think that their patent system is the be all and end all, and that everyone else should imitate them. Curiously a lot of Americans even believe that their Constitution requires that a patent system exist, due to a misreading of it.

One famous case where the system in the United States was shown to be corruptible involved the FDA (Microsoft connection noted), which has a close relationship with Monsanto because employees are shared among the regulators and the regulated company. Here are some “corporate takeover videos” from GM Watch:

One of the greatest concerns about genetic engineering is the way in which it facilitates the corporate takeover of the food supply. These videos show how GM crops are removing the ability of farmers to freely use their own seeds or grow food in the way they choose.

Added below is a popular video which shows what happened to Monsanto in Canada (where it didn’t have enough insiders). This might as well teach us about the role Microsoft entryism has played over the years, even in the European Commission (we gave many examples). Things also changed for Xen when Microsoft put its hands on the project, brought it to its back yard, and put Microsoft managers in it. Matt Taibi famously described Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”; perhaps Microsoft’s entryism is evidence that it became a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of IT just as Monsanto became a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of agriculture. Unless people emphasise a message of software freedom, Microsoft will continue its takeover of “open source” and suppress Free software, replacing it with software patents and so-called ‘interoperability’ that depends on them.

05.26.10

Lawyers Try to Marry Free Software and Software Patents in Maastricht University (Brussels)

Posted in America, Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Law, Patents at 5:12 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fishing for money

Summary: Lawyers in Europe strive to net some extra money by promoting “interoperability” (with software patents) rather than making use of open standards

EUROPEAN lawyers are trying to repeat the mistakes of the USPTO, which is permitting the patenting of business methods, software patents, and other insane things that must never become one person’s government-protected monopoly. Look at the latest numbers from the USPTO. There is clearly a gold rush when everything under the sun becomes patentable and examiners mistake that for “increased innovation” or whatever. From Patently-O:

The USPTO issued more patents during the past two weeks than in any fortnight in history. A primary driver of that upswing appears to be a dramatic rise in the allowance rate.

Lawyers who make a living by granting and managing people’s ‘ownership’ of other people’s lives are concerned about the Bilski case, which may axe many patents and limit their scope in the United States.

Betting on Bilski: The Supreme Court and Biotechnology Patents

[...]

Reviewing Bilski and the Biotech Patent Landscape. Recall that Bilski involves a form of method patent (the so-called “business method” patent) that claims a method of hedging commodities prices by setting up a relationship between a regular seller (a coal mine, for example) and regular buyer (a power company). The question is whether such a method constitutes patentable subject matter—that is, is the Bilski method the sort of “new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter” that meets the standards of Section 101 of the Patent Act. In its 2008 en banc decision, the Federal Circuit established—or re-established, since it had been lurking in the case law for years—the so-called “machine or transformation” test for method patents. Under this test, the method must be tied to a particular machine (whatever that means) or transform some article into a different state or thing in order to qualify as patentable subject matter. According to the Federal Circuit, Bilski’s patent failed both branches of the test.

By contrast, in its 2009 decision in Prometheus v. Mayo, the Federal Circuit upheld a patent on “a method of optimizing therapeutic efficiency for treatment of an immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder.” The method comprises “administering” a specified drug to a patient and then “determining” the level of the drug in the patient. The remainder of the claim specifies threshold levels of the drug’s metabolites (the chemical products of metabolism in the body) in the patient’s blood below which the dose should be increased (because of lack of efficacy) and above which it should be decreased (because of potential toxicity). The court found that both administering the drug and determining the metabolite levels (by withdrawing and testing blood) worked a sufficient physical transformation of the body.

Greed, greed, greed.

Those lawyers are always greedy for more and more patents. They don’t care about the consequences as long as they enrich themselves through filing and litigation.

Obviously, lawyers in Europe want software patents. They don’t actually develop any software, but it’s not software they care about. It’s all about money and Free software supporters stand in their way in Europe*. So what do they do? They have just set up yet another event whose overall message is something along the lines of, “why can’t Free software and software patents just get along?”

Read the following new message (it’s always posed as a series of suggestive questions. as in push polling):

From: Cristina Palomares
Subject: REMINDER: Intellectual Property, Open Source, and Standards: Friends or Foes?
To: [redacted]

Intellectual Property, Open Source, and Standards:

Friends or Foes?

Date: Tuesday, 1st June 2010

Time: 9:30-12:30

Venue: Maastricht University Campus Brussels, Avenue de l’Armée / Legerlaan 10, 1040, Brussels

The Institute for Globalisation and International Regulation at Maastricht University Faculty of Law and the Stockholm Network Intellectual Property & Competition Programme are delighted to invite you to a forum and debate on “Intellectual Property, Open Source and Standards: Friends or Foes?

The importance of standards to our societies is growing as technology moves into increasingly complex territories, and competing companies are inclined to establish common ground. This common ground helps to ensure that the assortment of technological possibilities is kept to a necessary minimum, whilst also establishing a widespread level of compatibility and quality. Standards offer a shared language that technologies use to communicate with one another, allowing for greater interaction between products or components. This can mean improved interoperability, interconnectivity, and commoditisation – all buzzwords for a more beneficial market.

“How should we consider the relationship between patents and standards, and what are the implications of not allowing standards to be protected by IPRs?”In the discussion on standards, a distinction (and at times even a dichotomy) is often made between standards based on proprietary efforts – which are to be protected by intellectual property rights – and standards that are based on collaborative or open efforts – such as via an open source. Indeed, there is a heated Europe-wide debate on the nature and characteristics of future technological standards, not least in the context of government procurement and policies in this area (such as the Expert Panel for the Review of the European Standardization System).

This event aims to address some of the burning issues in the standards debate. Key questions to be discussed include: Should standards be based on open-efforts or on proprietary models? Should countries in Europe opt for a more specific model of standardisation? How should we consider the relationship between patents and standards, and what are the implications of not allowing standards to be protected by IPRs? Is the dichotomy between open and proprietary standards at all justified, or are these types of standards in fact complementary?

Speakers include (in alphabetical order):

Ms Helen Disney, Chief Executive, Stockholm Network;
Malcolm Harbour MEP, Chairman of the Internal Market and Consumer
Protection Committee, European Parliament;
Prof Anselm Kamperman Sanders, Director Masters Intellectual Property
Law and Knowledge Management, Maastricht University Faculty of Law;
Dr Meir Perez Pugatch, Director of Research, Stockholm Network & Senior Lecturer, University of Haifa;
Dr Dalindyebo Shabalala, Assistant Professor, Maastricht University Faculty of Law;
Prof Alain Strowel, Universitaires Saint-Louis et Université de Liège;
Prof Damien Geradin, Partner at Howrey LLP and Professor of Competition Law and Economics at Tilburg University.

***************

To RSVP please contact Dr Cristina Palomares, Chief Operating Officer, Stockholm Network on T +44 20 7354 8888, F: +44 20 7359 8888 or via e-mail on: cristina@stockholm-network.org

Speakers who are software developers are conspicuously missing. Whose agenda is being served here? See what we wrote about Europe’s Digital Agenda in recent days [1, 2, 3]. The agenda above jives the same way.

People should boycott this event. It’s apparently just a ploy to push for software patents in Europe, quelling those who oppose. A fair event would not be stacked by its attendees.
____
* Small- and medium-sized businesses generally suffer from software patents, but they can tolerate patent encumbrances if they are proprietary software companies.

05.21.10

Advocates of Free/Open Source Software and Standards Do Not Welcome EU ICT Plan (Digital Agenda)

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Interoperability, Law, Standard at 9:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Flags

Summary: The Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR) mischaracterises the response of Free/Open Source groups to Neelie Kroes and the Digital Agenda; we attempt to set the record straight

OSOR has come up with a misleading article that mistakes politeness for cautious acceptance. Glyn Moody calls it a “misleading headline” too. Readers can just for themselves:

Advocates of open source and standards cautiously welcome ICT plan

Advocacy groups on open standards and open source software cautiously welcome the European Commission’s five year ICT plan.

This page leaves out or forgets the FFII, which is a leading advocate in the said area. As we showed yesterday, the FFII is not too happy about the Digital Agenda. By contrast, Openforum seems fairly pleased.

Openforum Europe (OFE) welcomes the European Commission’s Digital Agenda, and commends Vice President Neelie Kroes for her determined effort to build an open, competitive and innovative ICT market for the benefit of citizens and businesses in Europe.

OSOR mentioned the statement from the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) which was summarised with: “Lack of Open Standards “gaping hole” in EC’s Digital Agenda” (clearly negative)

The European Commission has officially published its long-awaited Digital Agenda, outlining its policy plans for the next five years. “While it includes some important building blocks for Free Software, the omission of Open Standards rips a gaping hole in this agenda,” says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe.

Here are some other ones [1, 2] and there is the ECIS statement, which we haven’t mentioned yet. It goes like this:

ECIS commends European Commission for its Digital Agenda

BRUSSELS, 19 May, 2010 – ECIS is gratified that the European Commission’s “Digital Agenda” released today sets a timetable for making sure that government-purchased software adheres to open standards, so it will work smoothly and easily together, thus ensuring citizens have open access to their governments.

The European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) is also pleased that the Commission frowns on software that is hemmed in by closed, proprietary standards.

“As our name suggests, interoperability is a central tenet of our group,” said Thomas Vinje, counsel and spokesman for ECIS. “We’re pleased the European Commission has given broad support to interoperability, and gratified it believes government acquisition of software should adhere to open standards.”

“That approach assures that governments will avoid granting a monopoly to a proprietary software company, which can then charge citizens for the software they need to access and interact with their governments.”
      –Thomas Vinje, ECIS
The broad-ranging Digital Agenda focuses in part on the importance of making software work together. Among its conclusions are that because all technology is inherently standards-based, “Interoperability between these standards is the only way to make our lives and doing business easier – smoothing the way to a truly digital society.”

The Digital Agenda says member states should by 2013 carry out goals enunciated in April by EU Telecommunication Ministers during their meeting in Spain, whose Granada Declaration calls for the “systematic promotion of open standards and interoperable systems” for governments across the European Union.

“That approach assures that governments will avoid granting a monopoly to a proprietary software company, which can then charge citizens for the software they need to access and interact with their governments,” said Vinje.

Open standards permit inter-operation without the necessity of paying special fees. For example, the common electric plug is designed to an open standard. Anyone may build an electric plug without paying a royalty to design prongs to the right size and shape for a power point. In software, two of the best-known open standards are those that created the Internet and those that created the World Wide Web. Anyone may write software that works on the Internet or the Web, without paying special fees.

“These open standards have transformed the way we do business,” said Vinje of the Web and the Internet. They are clear examples of the way that open standards promote creativity and competition.

“Open standards will help create such things as health records that will be readable anywhere in the European Union, using a variety of software from a number of providers,” said Vinje. “They set the stage for economic growth. We’re gratified that the Commission is backing this approach.”

Open standards are distinct from “open source.” Using the latter, a group or company makes public the underlying source code of its program. Open standards are aimed at allowing pieces of software to work seamlessly together. Proprietary software business models based on open standards and open source business models both allow a high degree of interoperability and consumer choice. ECIS strongly believes that in adopting measures to implement the Digital Agenda, the EU should take care in ensuring that one particular model is not favoured over another, as long as the aims of openness and interoperability are met.

In summary, Free software groups are unhappy with the loophole that facilitates software patents (Germany’s situation with software patents [1, 2] will be discussed shortly), so it would be unfair to say that they “cautiously welcome [the] ICT plan”; they actually criticise it.

The European Commission needs to expose the lobbyists who derailed the “Digital Agenda” and those companies they represented. Some of them pretend to represent small European businesses while actually serving Microsoft. It is a known AstroTurf tactic when one takes over the opposition to misrepresent that opposition. Perhaps the European Commission got bamboozled. It ought to be mended.

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