“If an Open Source Product Gets Good Enough, We’ll Simply Take It.” –Larry Ellison
Summary: A roundup of news about Oracle, which took and ripped apart many valuable Free/Open Source software (FOSS) projects
MATT ASAY, who sells FOSS databases (a disruptive force), points out  that “Oracle Still Hates Open Source Software” because, based on some reports [2,3], The United States’ Department of Defense is being lobbied by Oracle to avoid FOSS. Remember that Oracle has roots and connections with the CIA/NSA. This is an organisational position, not some opinion posted by an employee in some personal blog. Oracle’s current position on patents is also troubling.
As pointed out by some , VirtualBox is oddly enough one of the few FOSS projects which Oracle did not shoot in the back , maybe because it helps run proprietary operating systems. Most famously, Oracle chose to litigate with software patents over Java and pretty much abandoned OpenOffice.org, passing it to Apache at the end. Microsoft Office is widely loathed by technical people , so Oracle missed a real opportunity here. South Tyrol wants to be using ODF/LibreOffice  to avoid layoffs (through savings) while LibreOffice conferences  and workshops  show that despite SUSE stepping out of backing/support for this project (just like Oracle), FOSS is just too hard to kill. Too bad for Larry Ellison, who can’t just buy FOSS out of existence… █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Oracle wants the U.S. Department of Defense to believe open source costs more and is less reliable. Too bad the DOD knows better.
Oracle has never been shy about promoting its products. The Register is reporting today that Oracle is recommending that the military stay away from open source apps.
Oracle has popped out a white paper that may well turn some heads, because it contains robust criticism of open source software.
Titled “The Department of Defense (DoD) and Open Source Software” and available here as a PDF to those with Oracle accounts or here in Dropbox, the document’s premise is that folks in the USA’s Department of Defense (DoD) could think it is possible to save money if they “… avoid buying commercial software products simply by starting with open source software and developing their own applications.”
It’s been interesting to watch which components of Sun Microsystems’ portfolio of products–many of which were open source projects–Oracle has chosen to embrace or abandon since its acquisition of Sun. One project that it hasn’t jettisoned is VirtualBox, which has just arrived in a new version 4.3. The popular hypervisor is now tuned to work with operating systems that have just arrived, including Windows 8.1 and Mac OS X 10.9 ( “Mavericks” ), and it’s also tuned to work smoothly with Linux distros. The new version also supports multi-monitor setups and touch interfaces conventions.
Oracle announced the release of VirtualBox 4.3, this is a major release that comes with important new features, devices support and improvements
I hate Microsoft Word. I want Microsoft Word to die. I hate Microsoft Word with a burning, fiery passion.
This year saw, among other conferences, the second marketing strategy workshop for the LibreOffice project. While a workshop’s slides tend to be rather short and relatively unimportant, I intended to publlish some feedback that’s on the Marketing Pad as well as my own impressions about the state of marketing activities in the project. My slides emphasized what was going wrong more than what was right but it was nonetheless useful to start the workshop on that basis.
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Summary: Oracle/Microsoft domination in databases is eroding as new players that consider themselves to be “open-source” gain traction
Google is phasing out and moving out of MySQL [1,2], dealing a blow to Oracle  after Oracle sued Google (over Android). Oracle has had a lot to fear because of Free software. Oracle essentially shares Microsoft’s pain. PostgreSQL, in the mean time, has a new release  and MongoDB , one of the NoSQL databases [6,7], shows promise. These new trends in the databases market sure work in favour of Free/open source software because the main gainers here are — for the most part — at least partly Free software. Companies like Microsoft and Oracle are poised to lose and Red Hat et al. will gain. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Linux distributors have been moving from Oracle’s MySQL to its popular fork, MariaDB – and now Google is also moving to MariaDB.
‘They’re moving it all,’ says MariaDB Foundation headman
In 2010, when Oracle took control of Sun Microsystems, they became the minders of a host of open source projects that included OpenSolaris, Java, MySQL and OpenOffice. They’ve since quit developing OpenSolaris, although the project lives on as the forked OpenIndiana project; OpenOffice now belongs to Apache; Java, especially on the browser side, has been beset by a long list of security issues and MySQL has been forked by its creator into MariaDB.
MySQL, MariaDB and PostgreSQL are three major open source databases which dominate the market. According to Jelastic PostgreSQL is neck to neck with MySQL fork MariaDB and MongoDB.
Forget about joins and SQL and try NoSQL databases – specifically MongoDB, the leading example
NoSQL isn’t just for big servers anymore, as Couchbase Lite brings open-source database technology to the mobile form factor.
Open-source NoSQL database vendor Couchbase is growing its portfolio from the server to mobile devices with its new Couchbase Lite initiative. Couchbase is also releasing a new server version as well, providing improved security and administration capabilities.
Couchbase develops and sells an open-source NoSQL database that to date has been a server-deployed product. The Couchbase Lite effort changes that, providing developers with a native small footprint database that can run on either Apple iOS or Google Android mobile operating systems.
Database startup Couchbase has developed what it believes is the first NoSQL database for mobile devices, but why would anyone want such a thing?
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Proprietary software giants love to spy
Summary: Proprietary software from the dominant database players (which recently got together) is expected to further violate privacy
After a recent interview with Larry Ellison it is no longer secret or just mere speculation that he is an NSA proponent (Oracle’s founders and the business have a renowned CIA-assisted/subsidised past), but what’s noteworthy is Microsoft’s view, which based on the company’s relationship with the NSA is more than happy and even eager to strengthen the NSA. How would China feel if it knew all those facts*? It is already investigating some US companies like IBM over privacy intrusions and it should know that HP has back doors in its storage servers (caught red handed).
Oracle recently got closer to Microsoft, which helped devour Java and add NSA surveillance to it (on the ‘cloud’). It is being noted by IDG that:
The new Microsoft-Oracle partnership benefits both companies, as Oracle gets access to Azure and Microsoft can finally license Java. Will the deal have any effect on either company’s enterprise customers?
Anyone who runs a program or a GNU/Linux distribution on Microsoft’s ‘cloud’ should expect NSA surveillance. But it’s not like this would bother Larry Ellison. More and more people will, over time, realise that the PATRIOT Act made it risky to host with US companies (or US-made software) anywhere, respective of the datacentre’s location (the Internet is global). █
* Having just spent 2 hours at a Chinese superstore, it seems evident that we in the West increasingly come to depend on China for everything, rather than the other way around. The US and UK governments are openly worried right now about dependence on Chinese hardware which could facilitate back doors.
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The demise of Blackberry is a growing patent-stacking threat to Linux and Free software
Summary: Identification of a looming threat to Android/Linux, especially from a company with history of Microsoft deals and a growing patent portfolio that’s being considered for sale
The United States, whose patent system is run by large corporations like IBM and Microsoft (the USPTO has long been operating outside the public interest), is a very threatening environment to Free/libre software. To distribute computer programs for free might not be legal there, but it only becomes a problem when distribution is of high volume and by a large company like Google. Microsoft even got large companies paying it for Linux, a widely used operating system kernel. This is unjust and the core cause is software patents.
“The first step to fighting patent trolls is to limit software patents to five years,” says this new article, which puts forth a sort of compromise which at least targets the real problem. To quote:
There’s a lot wrong with America’s patent system — it often serves to undercut innovation, limits competition, and rewards trolls. But there’s a relatively easy short-term fix: Cap software patents at five years from issuance, a position adapted from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) Defend Innovation Project. While comprehensive legislation is needed to fix patent law, this first step is critical to reviving and protecting entrepreneurship, R&D, and technological progress in the United States.
20 years if far too long a lifetime for patents that should have never been granted in the first place. Watch how software patents are preventing the spread of voice recognition, motivating this lawsuit over reasonably out-of-date ideas:
As Nuance Communications Inc. and ABBYY Software House — two competitors in optical character recognition — brought their long-running case to a jury in U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White’s courtroom on Monday, their lawyers traded classic barbs of patent warfare.
Representing plaintiff Nuance, partner James Bennett of Morrison & Foerster described ABBYY in his opening statement as “a follower, not a leader.”
Coming to the Russian company’s defense, partner Gerald Ivey of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner suggested that Nuance felt threatened by a more nimble competitor.
This is just protectionism. That’s what patents are about. When some companies cannot rely on technical advantage alone they then resort to patent monopolies.
Android, which is growing rapidly and taking over the world as a de facto platform (on which most Techrights posts are composed by the way), is actually the target of protectionism from the ‘old guard’ — companies it is making less relevant over time.
It is being alleged right now that patents from RIM might get sold. One reader wrote to say: “If BlackBerry sell company… Microsoft will… get QNX which is UNIX like operating system and… patents and QNX technology and Linux?”
“Remember SCO,” he added.
Well, Microsoft could pay BlackBerry to later see RIM/BlackBerry suing Android companies. The Nokia and SCO strategy more or less…
Blackberry is of virtually no practical use to Android backers; when Google bought part of Motorola and grossly overpaid it was intended to prevent Microsoft and Apple from getting the patents (which they had reportedly bid for, just like with Nortel).
What if another CPTN member like Oracle bought this company? A new interview with Oracle’s CEO was rather revealing. He spoke of Microsoft as an enemy of an enemy (Google) and one author thinks that “Oracle (ORCL) [is] The Perfect BlackBerry (BBRY) Buyer” (for patents at least). To quote:
So BlackBerry (BBRY) has put itself up for sale while also considering a private equity move. Some pundits wonder if the Z10 smartphone maker will break itself up into a mobile service provider and mobile device company. But The VAR Guy wonders: Does a more surprising fate await BlackBerry — at the hands of Oracle (ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison? Before you dismiss Oracle potentially buying BlackBerry, consider this history lesson.
Microsoft has been publicly aiding Oracle’s litigation against Android, announcing collaborations other than CPTN (technical ones too) and filing together antitrust complaints. Here is more of what Oracle thinks of Google.
Speaking of Oracle, what about other CPTN members like Apple and Microsoft (to which Oracle is now very close)?
Apple has been fighting Samsung using patent-induced sanctions at the ITC, with support from Obama's government officials. The Against Monopoly Web site says:
ITC Allows Apple Imports That Violate Samsung Patents
The blog, Public Knowledge, argues that the International Trade Commission should consider the public interest in reaching regulatory decisions on patents. The Obama has so decreed when it overruled an ITC case and permitted imports of Apple phones that it had found to violate duly recognized patents of other companies, in this case foreign firms link here.
When I look at the mess in the whole patent system, I see a world of oligopolies and monopolies built on patents, supposedly designed to encourage innovation, but instead creating a self-perpetuating means to paralyze innovation.
Groklaw has been upset about this and the other day it covered Microsoft’s fight against Motorola, which now involves an injunction as well. To quote:
Judge James L. Robart has now ruled [PDF, 38 pages] on Microsoft and Motorola’s summary judgment motions, granting in part and denying in part.
The attacks on Android takes many different forms (also antitrust), but the main players behind this attack remain the same. Next week we will revisit the antitrust angle. █
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Summary: Microsoft’s hostility towards FOSS and Linux persists, based on the company’s actions
A few years ago Microsoft was building attack groups to halt migrations to OpenOffice.org. That was before Oracle messed things up. It is now being demonstrated that Microsoft is censoring results:
In its efforts to take down as much infringing content as it can, Microsoft has started to censor legitimate links to competing software. Hoping to remove pirated versions of Microsoft Office from the Internet, the software company has sent several DMCA takedowns to Google, listing copies of its open source competitor Open Office as copyright infringements. An honest mistake perhaps, but also a terrible one.
And Microsoft trying to accuse Google of doing this. Look who’s talking.
Incidentally, Microsoft hates Google so much that it is leaving out the market leader, Android, which is Linux-based. According to this report about the Microsoft-acquired Yammer:
Android, for now, remains on the outside of the Yammer love circle.
Also see this:
Yammer is opening up its social features to third-party enterprise apps built for iOS phones and tablets and Windows Phone 8 devices — but for Android for now.
And later they tell us that they’re warming up to Linux and playing nice, They just simply rely on moles like Walli to infiltrate FOSS sites and pretend there’s a pro-FOSS angle at Microsoft. Deeds don’t stack up to match the PR.
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Summary: Patent litigation, de-emphasis on freedom etc. now a common trick for dismantling FOSS projects as they emerge
With a licensing fiasco and other scandals abound, MySQL is hardly treated so favourably these days. Oracle‘s megalomaniac CEO (God complex like his best friend Steve Jobs) warned a long time ago that if some FOSS competition gets good enough, then he will just buy it. He bought several such products/projects and also started attacking FOSS in court, using patents of course. Recently he also joined hands with Microsoft. The real contender these days is free/libre software, not any particular brand. Few people will challenge this claim because of Android, Firefox, Apache, the GNU toolchain and so on (Microsoft is already trying to crush or subvert Apache from the inside, making it just another Windows/SQL Server ‘app’). The main point, however, is that one way to challenge FOSS is spurious litigation, potentially SLAPP, and another is buyout. Just look what Microsoft recently did to Barnes and Noble.
“The real contender these days is free/libre software, not any particular brand.”A few days ago we found this article about Microsoft’s friends at the Washington D.C.-based Blackboard, who infiltrated and disrupted the good FOSS project known as Moodle (I installed it on my site and experimented with it earlier this year)
The article asks: “How does one compete against FREE? That’s an interesting question for Blackboard, a company which creates learning management systems (LMS). Blackboard previously engaged in buying up and either dismantling or integrating the competition into its own products–such as Elluminate, Prometheus, or WebCT–but open source alternatives like Moodle and Sakai present a different issue.”
“The main point, however, is that one way to challenge FOSS is spurious litigation, potentially SLAPP, and another is buyout.”This has indeed been disturbing, We wrote about it before.
“In the meantime,” says this article, “officials at Blackboard, Moodlerooms, and NetSpot paint a rosy picture with a “statement of principles” that commit to keeping the OSS development alive. So far, there is no word on what may occur if a value conflict arises between Blackboard and Moodle, and there is no indication if there will ultimately be a split in the development community as happened after Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems forked LibreOffice from OpenOffice. Informed of some pending corporate strategies, Moodle creator Martin Dougiamas shows cautious optimism for positive synergies resulting from more interrelation between Blackboard’s products and the two companies it purchased.”
Blackboard is trying to do here what other proprietary software giants did and it can result in reduced community support for the FOSS side, helping to strengthen a proprietary agenda. █
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Photo credit: Dana Blankenhorn
Summary: The anti-FOSS, pro-patents lobbyist Florian Müller (deceivingly called “FOSS patents”) is at it again and this time his lies are being challenged by one who is better informed about the subject at hand
Grooming an unaccountable liar for agenda-serving by spin is not a novel concept. Microsoft has done that for ages and it also paid Florian Müller to achieve this. Some people sell themselves this way. Perception management is their business model.
Oracle, a CPTN member and a Microsoft partner as of late, employed Florian Müller to help smear Android. This lobbyist is not known for using facts; being a lobbyist, he needs to use spin and lies. The amount of factual errors in what he writes led Pamela Jones to writing a detailed breakdown of his inaccuracies, preceded by:
Oracle is another client of Mueller’s. Oracle hired him to “advise” the company, so I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that he generally mirrors the Oracle point of view in an endless stream of anti-Google articles. And if that is what you want, X marks the spot. Read whatever you enjoy.
But if what you want is an analysis that includes both sides in litigation, not to mention predictions that actually come true, I fear you will not find it there. So let’s take a look at what he wrote about Oracle’s brief, and I’ll try to give you a better understanding of the issues in this appeal by adding some accurate information about Google’s position.
For those who see Florian Müller quoted in the press after mass-mailing journalists (that’s his business method and model), be sure to point out to the author who Florian Müller really is and what his record is. He sells agenda. A lot of reports don’t know this, so they continuously fall into his trap. He exploits their nativity and he misrepresents himself to them. █
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Meanwhile in Taipei…
Summary: Foxconn and other Taiwan-based corporations seem to be grouping against Android, which has mostly benefited the Koreans
Foxconn, which sold Linux down the river (to Microsoft), does not self-brand devices it makes, so adding it to the list of companies to avoid for Linux patent tax would be hard. But there are other issues to consider.
The other day we saw Microsoft seeding some new types of FUD against Android; I heard some of those lies repeated by salesmen at a store when I bought Android devices. The reality is, Google is much more secure than Microsoft and when Google got cracked it was Windows’ fault (thereafter it got banned for internal use). There is still some FUD about everything Google, but Microsoft is always behind it. The Foxconn patent deal may in fact involve nothing but FUD; we don’t know if Microsoft is really being paid and we cannot check due to secrecy. This secrecy should be challenged by government officials; it’s detrimental to everyone but the conspirators, that’s why they insist on it.
Upon the signing of this deal Pamela Jones wrote: “I hope Foxconn loses all that business, then, followed by the FTC and DOJ investigating antitrust issues.” Wishful thinking. Microsoft has got the government in its pocket. It is one of its biggest sponsors (Obama’s top technology funder when he got elected).
Recently it turned out that the home of Foxconn liaised against Android. To quote a pro-Apple site:
Apple is also believed to be playing a key anti-Samsung role for Taiwanese companies over display panels. Last year, device manufacturer Foxconn attempted to buy a 10 percent stake in panel maker Sharp Corp., a move that the AP noted was believed to have been spurred by Apple as the company expressed “eagerness to find an alternative supplier to Samsung.”
“Well, well,” wrote Jones. “This puts the Foxconn-Microsoft patent deal into an interesting context, wouldn’t you say?”
Pamela Jones separately added: “Remember when SCO Group complained to the courts that the GPL, the license on Linux, was UnConstitutional? No one, Darl McBride, told them can compete with free. And Microsoft helped to fund SCO. So did Sun, now belonging to Oracle. And here we go again. How pitiful.
“Evidently the first complaint against Google didn’t go the way they hoped, so they regroup and try a new angle. Here’s the problem: Google isn’t guilty of anything like what they claim. You can just modify you phone any way you want, including removing Android altogether and using Linux, purely, instead. Or you can fork Android, without any consequences, as Amazon has done, without consequences and without having to prominently display a thing for Google. You have freedom of choice. So this new complaint is, frankly, ludicrous. It’s actually offensive, because it’s cynical. Here’s how I read their complaints: they are saying to me, “We can’t compete with Google as far as products are concerned. We are accustomed to gouging our customers on price, and with a free offering in the market, we can’t keep doing that.” Is that really something antitrust agencies like the EU Commission should be helping them with? And how about the EU Commission look into how come the same companies keep suing and complaining about Google? Any antitrust implications if the old guard plots together to kill off the new guy trying to compete with something better than the world has fallen in love with? I do want to commend Apple for apparently not joining in this.”
The European authorities have been too weak for effective action recently. They also helped ligitimise software patents after they had rejected them in 2005. US law keeps spreading. As noted recently in relation to the CFAA, that’s how it goes (and thus we cover a lot of US news):
How can all of us non-US people help with this? Just by mentioning “Your senseless laws will create dangerous precedents and will “inspire” other law-makers around the world!”?
In relation to Android a new petition was set up, stating:
As can be seen in the Oracle v Google lawsuit, legacy vendors are getting together to try to overturn a court ruling that APIs are NOT copyrightable. If successful in their appeal, the ruling would prevent competitive implementations of the same API, resulting in a new kind of lock-in that reduces competition and set a precedent that affects all APIs and programming languages
Oracle is a member of the CPTN conspiracy (as in conspiracy to harm common rivals, using patents), which received Novell’s patents. A “Novell exec plots company’s return,” says this article which states/quotes claims as follows:
“Since the Attachmate acquisition, Novell has been asleep at the wheel in several competitive markets,” said Hyoun Park, principal analyst at IT research firm Nucleus Research
Well, Nokia is the same. Microsoft destroyed it just for its patents. A pattern is emerging here, with Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Nokia, and even some manufacturers in Taiwan seeking to use their patent-stacking tactics to destroy the market leader, Linux/Android. Apathy from the public is the greatest thing the conspirators could hope for. █
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