Bonum Certa Men Certa

Will Exclusionary Deals and 'Binary Bridges' Remain a Necessary Evil? EC Says No.

"It's all about Microsoft products and Novell products."For quite a few months, the Indian press has been quoting Novell on Linux matters very extensively. I have observed this because it's quite consistent. It is worrisome because Novell gives its twisted perspective which includes mambo-jumbo about 'interoperability' (binary bridges based on patents). It does not, however, place much emphasis on standards. Instead, it gives the impression that Linux and Microsoft are happy partners because pay one another. Here is the most recent such article.

Cochran said that he was aware that to be successful, Microsoft's role must be to build a bridge to the open source community. "Our relationship with Novell is important for several reasons. Through our TCA (technical collaboration agreement), we are delivering solutions that allow you to deploy Microsoft/Novell solutions that work better together in the areas of virtualisation, systems management, directory federation and document compatibility."

He continued by stating "It's also important to note that Microsoft and Novell have created a new model for sharing valuable intellectual property that respects the diversity of one another's business models and it's this respect that allows our relationship to exist." Customers not only benefit from the tangible results of the TCA, but also from an assurance, secured through a legal covenant, that they are not subject to patent assertion by either company.


Mind the fact that Linux is not even mentioned. It's all about Microsoft products and Novell products. Therein lies the controversy. The companies work in unison and in isolation.

There is hope, however, thanks to the highly-anticipated ruling in Europe, which ended in favour of open source. Microsoft is now being requested -- possibly even forced -- to let go its interoperability secrets.

By this judgment Microsoft is forced to publish protocol definitions for Windows servers under "reasonable" and "non-discriminatory" terms so that fully interoperable software can be developed by other parties. The deadline set by the Court is January 15th 2008. Microsoft accepted this judgment. Now SerNet asks Microsoft to disclose the protocol definitions for use in developing the open source software Samba. SerNet is the leading service company regarding Samba with offerings to customers worldwide. The Samba Team is an international association of software developers, working together on Samba - that is in principle an implementation of the SMB/CIFS protocol for Linux/Unix and some other operating systems.

[...]

"It is of course crucial that Samba can be developed continuously under the GPL in version 3," says Johannes Loxen, author of the letter on behalf of SerNet, "Microsoft's programs MCPP and WSPP are not feasible regarding Samba."


As for these latter issue, we covered it before and it is worth exploring further. Microsoft has tried (and it still does try) to use the Novell deal in order to keep its protocols secret or expensive. Microsoft essentially uses Novell to undermine real interoperability that is based on transparency. Remember that all of this is part of a strategy. As the Halloween Memo teach us, there is also the deliberate attempts to break compatibility and interoperability. Another issue which springs to mind is the possibility that back doors are embedded in these secret protocols.

In relation to the issue of sharing technical API and protocol information used throughout Microsoft products, which the states were seeking, Allchin [of Microsoft] alleged that releasing this information would increase the security risk to consumers.
"It is no exaggeration to say that the national security is also implicated by the efforts of hackers to break into computing networks. Computers, including many running Windows operating systems, are used throughout the United States Department of Defense and by the armed forces of the United States in Afghanistan and elsewhere."


It is known (at least to some sources) that Windows has some convenient back doors and loopholes, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. One has to question the prospects of ever opening up these protocols.

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