basically tech

63 Microsoft - friendly towards Open Source?

Wednesday 14th March, 2007

The title is rhetorical of course; not a chance. It does seem that Microsoft have suckered many people in the industry into believing that they are being friendly towards the Open Source movement.

Microsoft is crafting a multifaceted plan to approach open source from a number of different levels: Linux as an operating system competitor; interoperability with Linux in mixed environments; partnering with open source ISVs; development of Shared Source Licensing; contributions to and support for community development sites.

Ooh, "interoperability with Linux in mixed environments". Jeremy Allison has something to say about Microsoft's attitude to interoperability, from his experiences at the San Francisco 2005 Linuxworld conference:

Microsoft even joined in the fun by turning up as "Darth Vader" and a couple of "Star Wars" stormtroopers... It all gathered a lot of positive press for Microsoft of course, which is why they did it. "Look what good sports they are" everyone said, and of course they were, showing how much things have changed with Microsoft at a Linux show, talking about interoperability

Wow, maybe they are changing ... oh, hold on, there's more:

The week before the LinuxWorld San Francisco conference that Microsoft attended with such a flourish was the much quieter CIFS (Common Internet File System) conference, also in the Bay Area in Santa Clara. You remember CIFS don't you ? It's the file system that all Microsoft clients use to communicate with the Microsoft servers. The conference was started by Microsoft and was attended by all the server vendors who have to make their software actually interoperate with Microsoft clients. It's one of the largest events in the calendar for the Samba Team as we all get together with peer engineers from all CIFS vendor companies to make sure our software actually interoperates and works well together. Except for one major server vendor of course. The biggest one in fact. They didn't even bother to turn up, or send any engineers to work on interoperability. Can you guess who that was ? Maybe they were too busy getting ready for their presentations on "Interoperability" at LinuxWorld to actually do any work on interoperability.

So, what's it all about, all this courting of Open Source? Let back to our first article again, right near the top:

"It does seem to me that Microsoft is trying," says Michael Cherry, lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. "Bill Hilf seems to be trying to figure out how to get the advantages of the open source development methodology. And there's no question that one of the lessons of Vista development is that companies have to evolve their process of engineering. Microsoft needs to look at their processes and borrow best practices from anywhere they can get them."

(Emphasis added.)

So this is what it's all about. Saving money. It seems that the communist cancer is somewhat more efficient than some folks gave it credit for.

Trust Microsoft? Not me.


62 Let free music files ring

Tuesday 13th March, 2007

Richard Stallman has written a short article for the Boston Globe about file sharing.

The record companies, seeking to bully people who share music, have demanded that colleges identify students who share. They use smear terms such as "piracy" and "theft" that imply sharing is wrong. Don't believe it. Sharing is friendship; to attack sharing is to attack the basis of society.

Well, we all know that most musicians get almost nothing from the record companies. In fact, the record companies almost seem like drug pushers, the way they pay just enough to maintain the artists' dependency on them.

"Authors own their books and license them to publishers. When the contract runs out, writers gets their books back. But record companies own our copyrights forever."

Courtney Love

Back to Richard Stallman:

The real solution is to legalize sharing. This won't affect the record companies much, but if they did go out of business, we could rejoice that they can no longer threaten anyone.

They pay zero cents of your CD purchase price to musicians (except for superstars), so the absence of these companies would be no loss to society.

Hear, hear.


61 Becta signed secrecy clause with Microsoft

Friday 9th March, 2007

It seems that Becta (the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency) has signed a secrecy clause with Microsoft which prevents it from revealing the prices schools are paying for software licences.

Figures released by the Department for Education and Skills show that in 2005-06 schools spent £615m on ICT, including Microsoft products. But when Conservative MP Brooks Newmark asked the government for details of purchasing agreements with Microsoft, schools minister Jim Knight said the information is confidential.

"This information is the subject of legally binding non-disclosure arrangements and excludes estimates in relation to Original Equipment Manufacturer licences," Knight said

This is taxpayers' money, which should be fully accounted for. How can there be no transparency?


60 Microsoft: Office Format War Over

Wednesday 7th March, 2007

Microsoft Office program manager Brian Jones says the format war with OpenDocument is officially over ... and the winner, he says, is both ODF and OpenXML.

Well, Microsoft don't play second fiddle to anyone if they can help it, nor is equal footing acceptable to them, not in the long or even medium term. In fact, by saying that both formats are winners, Brian Jones reminds me of my eldest (five years old) son. If he wins (a race, game, or whatever) against his younger (four years old) brother, then he boldly and loudly declares that he was the winner. If he comes a close second, he will still often assert that he was the winner. If he is clearly beaten, then he says: "Both are winners!" 'Til the next race of course.

So, lets just review the real meaning behind these two statements:

  • "The format war is over" means "The format war is not over"
  • "The winner is both" means "The winner at the moment is ODF"

These statements are intended to make you relax, but you can't relax against a competitor like that.

I wonder what the future holds for my two boys ...


59 ODF threat to Microsoft grows

Monday 5th March, 2007

A third US state, California, has joined Minnesota and Texas in requiring that an open, XML-based format be mandatory for state agencies. And why not? Who wants to have to upgrade those expensive proprietary formats every two or three years?

The new bill ... does not name ODF specifically but has stipulated that by 2008 agencies must be equipped to store and exchange documents in an open, XML-based format. Although the name of Microsoft's Office Open XML suggests that it would match the requirement, it is in fact a proprietary format that would fail the open standards test.


58 Microsoft threatens Linux again

Monday 26th February, 2007

Actually, this is the same threat which I discussed last week. It's just that this particular report from The Inquirer has some interesting points to make:

Microsoft and its legal team has decades of experience with IP infringement, it can spot it a cube away, possibly farther. It knows all the ins and outs of IP infringement law, and has spent billions because of it.

When it come to Linux, it should be pretty cut and dried. Either it does or does not infringe on Microsoft patents. If it does, Microsoft can and should sue those who are guilty, the law is plain, simple and clear. It has the resources and personnel to shut down its biggest competitor almost overnight if the threats are true.

So, why isn't it? Basically because there is no IP infringement in Linux. It tried with SCO as a proxy and failed miserably so now it is resorting to veiled threats.


57 Ballmer repeats threats against Linux

Wednesday 21st February, 2007

These threats are all part of a plan by Microsoft to make it uncomfortable for high-profile users of Linux. I have written about this before. You can expect more threats. Eventually, people will get jaded by them, but for a time they'll make people think twice.


56 Microsoft calls IBM hypocritical on document standards

Tuesday 20th February, 2007

Following on from the earlier word processor review post, this article hints at the importance which Microsoft attaches to ODF's ISO standard rating. There are usual laughable quotes from Microsoft execs:

We see a level of hypocrisy in IBM's activities...They have long called on us to standardize formats, make the IP (intellectual property) freely available to the broader community, and we've done it.

(Emphasis added.)

Well, sorry, but in a word ... BULLSH*T.

It's the comments beneath the article which as usual, raise some interesting points:

After transparently attempting to derail HTML standards, javascript standards, java standards and XML standards, Microsoft has absolutely no credibility when it comes to standards and interoperability. Microsoft has pursued a strategy of closed proprietary formats and diversionary tactics with standards organizations for many years
why on Earth did these folks from the Redmond Campus not attend the Open Document Format Standards (ODF) parties which were sponsored by the OASIS GROUP when they were invited to
Most people working in IT know that Microsoft does everything within its powers to make it hard for others to making compatible products, when trying connect to MS-products. There are too many examples.

The same is happening at the so-called Microsoft open xml data format. Everyone concerned about the matter (including Microsoft) know their format is NOT REALLY OPEN. Let me qualify: The actual xml structure they use is open, so much is true, but not the binary information Microsoft places inside the XML, and with that the whole data format is NOT OPEN, useless to the public.

A data format that is NOT REALLY OPEN should not be a standard. The masses of people out there/the world needs ONE standard that is TRULY OPEN AND ACCESSIBLE TO ALL, not just the software of one proprietary vendor.

Etc, etc. There is lots more. My, my, so much distrust.


55 BBC online TV must be platform-agnostic

Wednesday 14th February, 2007

Following on a from an earlier entry, where the BBC announced that its new on-demand services would be limited to Microsoft Windows, it now seems that the BBC Trust, after consultation with the UK media regulator Ofcom, now require the BBC Executive to adopt a platform-agnostic approach.

"As proposed, the TV catch-up service on the internet relies on Microsoft technology for the digital rights management (DRM) framework. The Trust will require the BBC Executive to adopt a platform-agnostic approach within a reasonable timeframe. This requires the BBC to develop an alternative DRM framework to enable users of other technology, for example, Apple and Linux, to access the on-demand services."

Well, that was a quick change of heart.


54 DRM in Windows Vista

Tuesday 13th February, 2007

This is Bruce Schneier's view of DRM in Windows Vista. As usual, he has lots of very interesting points to make.

Windows Vista includes an array of "features" that you don't want. These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure. They'll make your computer less stable and run slower. They will cause technical support problems. They may even require you to upgrade some of your peripheral hardware and existing software. And these features won't do anything useful. In fact, they're working against you. They're digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest of the entertainment industry.

And you don't get to refuse them.

Phew. Well, that's just for starters. I'll try not to spoil the whole thing for you, but here's a tasty tidbit:

... after Vista is firmly entrenched in the marketplace, Sony's Howard Stringer won't be able to dictate pricing or terms to Bill Gates. This is a war for 21st-century movie distribution and, when the dust settles, Hollywood won't know what hit them.

Just how stupid is the MPAA? Read the news, check out how they're alienating their customers.