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Archive for November, 2006

Yet Another Microsoft Death Knell?

As Shane has just pointed out, to Novell, Hula is no more. Allow me to elaborate. The Hula project, one of the most promising among Novell’s Open Source initiatives, has been axed for a reason. This probably didn’t require much persuasion from Microsoft, either.

The quick synopsis is, Novell no longer has anyone working full-time on Hula. As a team we have spent some time looking at where the Hula project is and the opportunities in the market and in the end we had to conclude that we couldn’t justify investing at the same level in Hula going forward. So those of us who have been developing Hula full-time will be moving on to other roles and to other parts of the company.

This particular death knell reminds me of Microsoft’s recent deal with A9. It brought down services from A9 that competed with Microsoft directly or indirectly. This is not based solely on word of mouth. Reporters have cited competition with Microsoft services as the reason why A9 services had to be halted and their operation/maintenance retracted entirely. That happened just a couple of months ago. The aggressive new strategy appears to involved acquisition of/partnership with competitors, which in turn takes down competing projects (services and products).

Novell has turned its back on commitments to Open Source projects. I advice the OpenOffice team to find a new home because the only projects that I see surviving or flourishing is Mono (.Net). It does not affect the cash cows and it gives Microsoft control over developers in both worlds.

Why Would Microsoft Sell Linux?

Paul Murphy from ZDNet speculates that one mysterious part of the deal, namely distribution of SUSE by Microsoft, will actually work to Microsoft’s advantage.

Strategically this is pre-positioning for a strike at IBM in anticipation of an SCO settlement, but it’s also something else: a case of winning with the right hand, while winning with the left too.

I will let you judge this for yourselves.

Somebody Knew a Novell-type Deal was Coming

Here are the prophetic words of Bruce Perens, as expressed in Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (1st Edition January 1999).

The Open Source Definition

Bruce Perens


Efforts to hurt us from inside are the most dangerous. I think we’ll also see more attempts to dilute the definition of Open Source to include partially-free products, as we saw with the Qt library in KDE before Troll Tech saw the light and released an Open Source license. Microsoft and others could hurt us by releasing a lot of software that’s just free enough to attract users without having the full freedoms of Open Source. It’s conceivable that they could kill off development of some categories of Open Source software by releasing a “good enough,” “almost-free-enough” solution. However, the strong reaction against the KDE project before the Qt library went fully Open Source bodes poorly for similar efforts by MS and its ilk.


How Novell’s Deal Makes Us Stronger

For the past couple of weeks, this blog has been filled with rants and accusations which were backed by proof. I thought that, for a change, we should also refer you to a more positive analysis. And yes, you’ve guessed it, there’s a snag to this so-called ‘positivity’. it’s akin to looking at the bright side of an irreversible disaster.

13 Reasons to Celebrate the New Microsoft-Novell Pact


“Among the reasons that Linux and other free software, as well as their users, could benefit from this agreement are:


(7) The agreement and accompanying threats are already having a beneficial effect on free software licensing. This is by helping to clarify the final wording of the GLPv3

(8) The agreement will serve as another example to developers of Linux and other free software about the dangers of becoming entangled with Microsoft…

(9) The agreement and accompanying threats could put pressure on Microsoft to reveal the specific patent violations that it is claiming ..

Injury-Remedy Marketing

Cowboy hat
Beware of the ‘marketing cowboys’

MARKETING can be a rather sick ‘science’. The story that I present here should hopefully illustrate this. The other day, after I had played my 3rd game of squash in this year’s competition, I got a free running technique (or stride) examination. This was conduced with a laptop (runs Winders, quite sadly) and a video camera.

Needless to mention, the intent was to sell me corrective footware by suggesting there will be horrible consequences without it. It’s the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) method to marketing some medicine or other remedies. Say to someone “there is problem with you”, then offer the cure. Moreover, part of the techniue is put the elixir close to one’s reach using, e.g. some leaflet. Some would argue this explains the separation between a doctor (who can’t/won’t directly sell) and the pharmacy where nothing is being prescribed. It’s like a self-supervising/moderating system; a peer-review framework if you like, and one which involves more than one person or practice.

Insurance companies like to take advantage of this sleazy marketing approach. I can recall a funny robots clip which aired on Saturday Night Live. In the video, robots are said to steal seniors’ pills and terrorise them. In turn, naive citizens are advised to buy insurance that covers no concrete threat. Greedy companies essentially cash in on ignorance.

Returning to my story which demonstates this case, I was advised to change sneakers every x miles (3-4 months). I was offered ‘special’ shoes that would suit me and was even pointed towards a shop that is run by the examiners. Being a computer-oriented person, I could not help thinking of ‘waste culture’ in this context, much like Vista’s steep hardware requirements. There’s also that old advice which says businesses should throw away malware-infected workstation. Go figure… or come to think of Live OneCare, which is a security product which Microsoft sells in order to protect its already-broken product.

I thank the folks who did the test for teaching me a lesson about myself (as useless as it was), as well as the (sort of) self-branded gift and leaflet. However, I am unlikely to fall for that marketing trap. As a child I saw my parent almost falling victim the the highly prevalent vacuum cleaner salesman tactic — reveal a lot of filth, spend many hours working without pay, then offer a pricey electronic appliance. I can’t recall if it was a Hoover or a Dyson.

Proof that Microsoft ‘Pulls a Sun’ on Novell

The folks at Groklaw have just identified a Sun/Microsoft transcript, which used to reside on Microsoft’s Web site back in 2004. Fortunately, the text is still stored in the Web Archive and it’s a real eye opener. Have a look.

STEVE BALLMER: No, there’s a few things. First, we put in place — we deal with all of the antitrust matters. That has to — just so we have a foundation to move forward.

Second, we put in place what I’d best describe as a patent regime between the two companies that serves as a framework to make — to ensure that we don’t run afoul of one another in ways past or forward-looking that would be problematic to the technical collaboration.

Third, we agreed on specific technical collaboration as it relates to how you make servers and clients talk to one another across the network. And each of these is long and detailed and certainly the detail of that is best probably gone through with the key teams on both sides and there are folks here from both Sun and Microsoft who can do that. But there are things that need to get licensed in terms of making these things plug together over the network. There’s a licensing framework that’s put in place for that.

So I’d say that’s the elements and then if you take a look at the payment, some of the money is to resolve our antitrust lawsuit. Some of the payment takes a look back and says let’s make sure we are clean with respect to one another on patents. Some of it is forward-looking in terms of how we work together from a patent perspective. And then some of it is forward-looking, us to Sun and Sun to us, in terms of the licensing of key intellectual property that relates to making these things plug together and interoperate well over the network.

Deja vu anyone? The sheer resemblance between the two deals was mentioned before. Ever since, Sun Microsystems has moved closed to the GPL. They have recently selected the GPL for Java, one of their CPU designs, and they already speak about applying the same type of licencing transformation to Solaris. Meanwhile, on the contray, Novell seems to be going in reverse, back to its proprietary roots. It has escaped in persuit of temptation—short-term gains and egocentric existence.

Novell is SCO 2.0?

Technocrat, which is the Web site where Bruce Perens initially (and correctly) predicted Microsoft’s yet-to-come ‘FUD campaign’, is reporting, through Bruce himself, that the “strong feeling on this issue seems to be very widespread”. Over 2000 people have signed his Open Letter. Meanwhile, ComputerWorld has just published an article titled “Microsoft and Novell pull a SCO”. Below lies a snippet.

The shape of this agreement suggests that Microsoft and Novell have learned from the best, the corporate strategic masterminds at The SCO Group. The scheme there, which you may recall Microsoft championed early and loudly, was to declare that Linux incorporated source code protected by SCO Group copyrights. This declaration gave SCO the power to send out threatening letters to software vendors and customers. The letters said, in essence, that the lucky recipient could pay SCO a license fee now, or risk having its name added to the big list of defendants in its case and pay far more.

As mentioned previously, this type of comparison is intended to stir up strong feelings and reactions. This may be an overstatement that instills fear, if not a case of ‘trolling’ for traffic, so you are advised take it with a grain of salt.

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