03.19.08

Microsoft’s Possible Role in Legalising Software Patents in England

Posted in Boycott Novell at 2:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Thanks to the brilliant folks at Digital Majority, the following nugget of information was caught which speaks about Finjan — a firm which was mentioned only yesterday. Finjan, as pointed out earlier, is based in the United Kingdom and it sued over software patents, which remain a so-and-so subject in the country.

Guess who is behind Finjan, at least in part? That’s right. Microsoft.

A U.S. District Court of Delaware jury has found that Secure Computing, and its subsidiaries CyberGuard and Webwasher, infringed three patents that Finjan Software created over the past decade.

[...]

Finjan is partially owned by Microsoft, which purchased a non-exclusive worldwide license for some Finjan patents last year.

Microsoft would love to see software patents legalised everywhere and it’s trying hard to make it so. It uses lobbying arms like Zuck of ACT, among other proxies. At the moment, Brits have nothing to fear regarding the Novell/Microsoft deal, but Microsoft intends to change this, essentially by changing the law overseas.

In other somewhat related news, the software patent question remains unresolved and somewhat fuzzy. Watch the following two reports:

1. Software patents [in the UK] – yet more confusion

The judge drew attention to the split between the attitudes of the UK-IPO and the EPO, since the EPO has already allowed the patent to be granted. However, the UK-IPO has said that it intends to appeal, arguing that the judge failed to use the Aerotel/Macrossan case.

Says the IPKat: and the EPO thinks there’s no divergence of the patentability of computer programs as such…

2. Patentability of computer programs – recent [UK] High Court judgment

A judgment in the case of Symbian’s Patent Application has been issued today by the High Court overturning an earlier decision of the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) to refuse the application because it relates to nothing more than a computer program.

Might Microsoft be trying to set a precedence using companies it owns? We mustn’t forget the likes of Nathan Myhrvold, Acacia and other patent trolls with roots in Microsoft Corporation.

Microsoft’s Excel Fails at Maths Again, New Warnings About OOXML Defects

Posted in ECMA, Formats, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML at 1:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME CalcA couple of nice items, one of which is a blog post and another one an article, have just been published. Together they illustrate both the ‘bugginess’ of OOXML and the office suite around which it’s actually modeled.

Let’s start with Rob Weir’s latest post, It sheds light on the huge amount of defects already found in OOXML. They remain largely unresolved while Microsoft rushes the process, breaking and bending the rules, as usual.

DIS 29500, Office Open XML, was submitted for Fast Track review by Ecma as 6,045 page specification. (After the BRM, it is now longer, maybe 7,500 pages or so. We don’t know for sure, since the post-BRM text is not yet available for inspection.) Based on the original 6,045 page length, a 5-month review by JTC1 NB’s lead to 48 defect reports by NB’s, reporting a total of 3,522 defects. Ecma responded to these defect reports with 1,027 proposals, which the recent BRM, mainly through the actions of one big overnight ballot, approved.

In case you believe that Microsoft’s OOXML is enough provided that you use Microsoft Office, question your beliefs again. For the third time in just months, a bug is find in the calculations done by Microsoft Excel. Watch in disbelief the outcome of poor quality control.

A bug in this week’s MS08-014 patch causes Excel to return zeroes instead of the correct number when certain types of macros are run within the program.

Depending on the domain in which Excel gets used, this could be critical. In some cases, such bugs can lead to death.

It was only days ago that we last identified a similar bug. Below we append several more, some of which may have expired for copyrights reasons for which only/mainly Associated Press is renowned.

Other incidents and reports of interest:

[1] Trouble In Microsoft World Over Calculator

The calculator post seems to be a reaction to a MS KnowledgeBase article titled Incorrect Calculator Results When You Use the Percent Key which implies the percent function screws up your results when you use it along with + or – in any combination. Way to go Microsoft!

[2] Microsoft Excel fails math test

Microsoft Corp.’s Excel 2007 spreadsheet program is going to have to relearn part of its multiplication table.

[3] Microsoft: Excel Bug Doesn’t Add Up

If you’ve been depending on your Microsoft Excel software to do your number crunching for you, you might want to grab a calculator and review your spreadsheets before you send the document out the door. That’s because the latest version of Excel is housing bugs that are dead set on ruining your reports.

[4] Mathematically Incorrect

So when it comes to comparing MSOOXML and ODF v1.0 on the basis of the inclusion of “Formula Definitions”, it becomes clear that the anti-ODF folk have not much to shout about. In fact MSOOXML’s “Formula Definition” is deficient and inaccurate.

[5] The Formula for Failure

As I’ve shown, in the rush to write a 6,000 page standard in less than a year, Ecma dropped the ball. OOXML’s spreadsheet formula is worse than missing. It has incorrect formulas that, if implemented according to the standard may cause loss of life, property and capital. This standard is seriously messed up. And shame on all those who praised and continue to praise the OOXML formula specification without actually reading it.

If you are aware of more such incidents and error, please shout out and share the knowledge.

Support Bruce Perens’ Fight Against ‘Invasion of the Borgs’

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, OSI at 1:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The OSI and Bruce need your signature

Michael TiemannSeveral months ago we wrote very extensively about Microsoft's motives in joining the OSI. By following the links, you can locate old posts that obviate the need to repeat old arguments.

The news today is actually arriving not from Michael Tiemann (shown on the right), who keeps a relatively low profile. Bruce Perens, as you are probably aware, is one of the louder and best-known protesters against the Microsoft/Novell deal. He continues to focus on this issue, which he has not forgotten. He wants to keep Microsoft out of the OSI’s board as well, possibly preventing an effect akin to that of companies like Novell inside the Linux Foundation.

Here is the link to the letter and a selective excerpt.

Unfortunately, running for the OSI board is going to be painful. Some oppose my action against vendor excesses like the Novell-Microsoft agreement. And there’s bad blood from the past – some of it my fault. I’m sure this campaign will inspire ad-hominem material about me on the net, etc. That’s another reason that I’ll need your support.

I’ve signed his letter (also mentioning OSBC 2008 in the process) and I encourage you to do the same if you object to Novell’s perversion of the FOSS ecosystem with the 'mixed source' strategy it takes so much pride in.

Yesterday we posted a link to the Wall Street-Linux event. Guess who will be rubbing shoulders with the attendant over there? Microsoft. Yes indeedy! Microsoft sponsors yet another event that revolves around its #1 competitive threat.

The following comment from my ‘Digg friend’, cday, is worth bringing up:

Microsoft is just one of many sponsors. MS must keep their fingers in all the pies, it also makes them look like they support openness. Plus, FUD doesn’t just happen spontaneously, someone’s gotta be there to generate it and spread it around, and no company on Earth can do that better than Microsoft.

Microsoft is likely to encourage companies in this event to choose only ‘legitimate’ Linuxes (i.e. ones that are Microsoft cash cows) and also warn people about their ‘precious’ intellectual monopolies. Attendants have complained before about Microsoft’s invasions which are intended to just bring brainwash (Microsoft called it “balance”).

Support Bruce. Help stop this abuse of Richard Stallman’s vision.

Richard Stallman and the GPLv3

Bruce Perens at the launch event of GPLv3

BoycottNovell Watches What the Press Says About Service Pack 1 of Windows Vista

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Vista, Windows at 1:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

or: “Why Microsoft felt as though it must quickly become a GNU/Linux ‘taxation leech’”

Service Pack 1 has just been released announced (ish). Hurray! But wait. Whose happiness does it justify? Windows users’? Probably not, based on the following set of reports.

We recently covered the many problems in Windows Home Server in order to show the superiority of GNU/Linux-based solutions. It explains Microsoft’s great fear of what it secretly considers and also openly confesses is its most considerable threat. In the same vein, let us take a quick look at Vista SP1 stories. Find out why Microsoft is so focused on the ability to ‘tax’ tomorrow’s platform by passing software patent laws and intimidating companies, thereby establishing protection rackets.

False Performance Promises

There is this new story in PCWorld which speaks about the release (to be formally announced later today). Unenthusiastically it mentioned some tests which had been run earlier:

PC World’s in-house tests with the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version of Vista SP1 have shown mixed results. In file copying tests, the service pack proved noticeably faster than the original Vista OS. Other tests, on the other hand, showed little improvement (or actually performed worse than Vista without the service pack). For instance, our preliminary file compression tests showed a decrease in performance with SP1 installed.

This concurs with independent and mutually-exclusive tests, including this one:

Vista SP1 a Performance Dud

After extensive testing of both RTM and SP1-patched versions of Windows Vista, it seems clear that the hoped-for performance fixes that Microsoft has been hinting at never materialized. Vista + SP1 is no faster than Vista from the RTM image.

Bottom Line: If you’ve been disappointed with the performance of Windows Vista to date, get used to it. SP1 is simply not the panacea that many predicted. In the end, it’s Vista’s architecture – not a lack of tuning or bug fixes – that makes it perform so poorly on systems that were “barn-burners” under Windows XP.

This fairly early and heavily-cited study suffered something which resembled smears from Microsoft at the time. The subsequent study from PCWorld concurred with it though.

Compatibility Mistakes

Coming back again to the article from PCWorld, here is what it also states:

Third-party software companies will have mixed reactions to SP1. While it will open up access to the built-in search functionality for third-party desktop search apps, it has already raised problems for some third-party security software vendors whose utilities have been disrupted by the update.

There have been several complaints about this in the press. Look again at articles such as the following:

1. Microsoft Says Vista SP1 Blocks Third Party Apps

Microsoft has confirmed that some third party applications are either blocked or lose functionality on machines that have Vista service pack 1 installed, including products from Trend Micro, Zonelabs, BitDefender, and Novell.

2. Microsoft becoming ‘software police,’ say users

Microsoft Corp. last week slammed the door on a free utility out of Australia that outflanked one of the company’s touted security features in Windows Vista, by having the program’s digital certificate revoked….

3. Microsoft publishes list of compatibility problems with Vista Service Pack 1

Microsoft has published a list of programs that may “experience a loss of functionality”, if they run at all, once Service Pack 1 has been installed on Windows Vista.

4. Vista SP1 won’t sacrifice security for compatibility

Vista SP1 will include a significant number of “proactive” security changes, DeVaan said. These do not represent fixes for specific vulnerabilities, instead they represent Microsoft’s efforts to head off potential threats.

There are several more examples, but the 4 reports above ought to suffice.

General Impressions

It was difficult to find satisfaction among early adopters of SP1. Example stories include:

1. A Second Shot: Windows Vista SP1

As far as the Vista user experience is concerned, users shouldn’t expect any significant changes with SP1.

2. Hands off Vista Service Pack

It’s annoying that despite the Service Pack, Vista still doesn’t correctly handle backup archives which were generated with its predecessor Windows XP. Neither is there a noticeable improvement to notebook battery life. When tested, one notebook only worked half as long as with Windows XP. Eight further notebooks didn’t run differently either in the c’t test. There even were some entirely new issues, for example with virus scanners. Norton Antivirus produces error messages, and Bitdefender Antivirus can’t be installed any more at al

3. Vista’s Upgrade: Not Worth the Wait

Although Microsoft has reported solid sales of Vista, a lot of copies went to corporations that tried the program for a few weeks, then downgraded to XP.

Paralysis/Accidental Updates

There was a batch of incidents not so long ago where security patches for Windows Vista rendered the operating system unbootable. In some cases, application was so badly broken that the whole shebang needed to be reinstalled from scratch. In other cases, bad patches (or even a Service Pack) were sent by accident to unsuspecting computers. It meant trouble. To give just one example of an incident that affected very many:

Re: Configurating updates: stage 3 of 3 stuck in endless reboot loop

My install of the SP1 RC Refesh has gone wrong.

Everytime I start the computer it says:

Configurating updates: stage 3 of 3 – 0% complete

And then reboots, and reboots, and reboots … I had it rebooting for over an hour before I stopped the madness. All the safe modes does the same, so how do I uninstall the installer, without being able to log in?

Delays

Perhaps as a result of the bad experiences above, Microsoft was very silent, ambivalent and by no means forthcoming about the availability of a finalised Service Pack. Here are some articles of interest.

1. Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 delayed

Microsoft has admitted that service pack one (SP1) for its Ultimate edition of Windows Vista will not be made available to everyone in mid-March as originally planned, because of a delay with 31 of its language packs.

2. Vista SP1 Released and Delayed Simultaneously

Continuing their apparent efforts to take the steam out of Windows Vista, Microsoft today announced that the long awaited Windows Vista Service Pack 1 is being released, but not to Vista users. That’s right, SP1 is now RTM (Released to Manufacturing), but won’t be released via any means to end users or even system administrators for at least another month and a half.

Even The Fans Walk Away

Windows Vista (RTM) received its fair share of negative reviews, but hereby we wish to present only evidence that the “Service-Pack-will-fix-everything” promise (or vapourware) is nothing but a delaying tactic that results in further disappointed. Expect the same with SP2.

Around the same that Service Pack 1 was finalised, its marketing chief left quite abruptly. This caught Mary Jo Foley’s eyesight.

Michael Sievert, Corporate Vice President for Windows Product Marketing, is moving on, according to multiple sources of mine.

It’s hard to make the case that Sievert, who was responsible for the worldwide introduction of Windows Vista, isn’t being pushed for the less-than-enthusiastic public perception of Microsoft’s latest version of Windows. Even though Microsoft has moved 100-million-plus copies of Vista, many consumers and businesses still consider the new release buggy, sluggish and incompatible with existing software and drivers.

Adding Insult to Injury

Microsoft has tried very hard to encourage adoption of Vista and even offered considerable discounts. In the past, the company openly admitted that it needs copyrights infringement to compete against Linux, but look what it’s doing.

Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista not for pirates

Although, unlike previous Windows versions, Vista is not available as an activation-free version, a number of more or less effective methods were quickly found to run Vista without activation. However, this is soon to end. According to Microsoft, Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista closes two vulnerabilities which previously enabled operation of Vista without a license.

Back in beta days, PCWorld was a little more positive.

Windows lives and dies by its service packs. I can’t recall the last initial release of any Windows product that didn’t have at least some problems.

[...]

Still, given that Vista is essentially a rewrite of XP meant to enhance security (and, of course, media features), I’m not surprised to see Microsoft take this route for the service pack.

Remember that last sentence again. “Vista is essentially a rewrite of XP.” XP was released in 2001 (I was actually a teenager at the time). We explained in the past what led to this disaster, so it’s hardly surprising that amid References Roundup: Microsoft’s Financial Situation financial and workforce readjustment Microsoft finds itself worried.

Microsoft will bully rivals.

It will.

It will bully.

Don’t allow this to happen and remember that alertness is not to be confused with paranoia.

Amiga UNIX

Microsoft Windows: the next UNIX or the next AMIGA?

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