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Open Source News from FOSDEM 2009 - Day 1

by Sander Marechal

A week ago, the 9th Free & Open Source Developers' Europe Meeting (FOSDEM) took place at the Université Libre Bruxelles (ULB) in Brussels. Your editors Sander Marechal and Hans Kwint attended this meeting to find out for you what's hot, new in the area of the Linux environment and might be coming to you in the near future.

Here is the blow-by-blow of the first day with talks about Mozilla's future, the role of Debian, two OSI talks, Reverse engineering and much, much more.

This article was originally posted on LXer Linux News.

T-DOSE 2008 in review

by Sander Marechal

This year was the third installment of the Technical Dutch Open Source Event (T-DOSE). Just as last year it was held at the Fontys University of Applied Science in Eindhoven. This years speakers included Arnoud Engelfriet (European patent attorney) and Ywein van den Brande on GPLv3 compliance, Roy Scholten (Drupal), Bas de Lange (Syllable), Jean-Paul Saman (VideoLan), Jörn Engel (logfs), Bert Boerland (Drupal), Tim Hemel (TMTTD) and many, many other speakers. Unfortunately your editor was only able to attend on Sunday, but the talks were great. Here are the details.

This article was originally posted on LXer Linux News.

Linux Foundation discusses Microsoft threat after Linspire deal

Another one bites the dust. After Novell and Xandros, Linspire has signed away their future as well for a wad of cash in the short term. The reaction of the Linspire community isn't as negative as the Xandrosians but that should be no surprise. Xandrosians are the type of people with a big dislike for Microsoft and willing to pay to get far away from it. Linspire folk are on average more the kind of people that want a cheap/free Windows replacement.

The effects of these deals and Microsoft's patent protection racket will be discussed this week at the Linux Foundation summit at Google's Mountain view headquarters. The effect should be clear though. Under GPLv3 only the Novell deal is grandfathered in. Linspire (and Xandros) will get no such protection and will likely be barred from distributing GPLv3 code if they want to keep their Microsoft deal. That should end their distributions pretty quickly.

It's a good thing I run Debian. There's no corporate entity there to sell my rights to Microsoft behind my back. Red Hat should be equally safe despite that it's a commercial distro. And if the sky really does fall down one day… Oh well, there's still Solaris.

The Microsoft Xandros Deal

“Microsoft, Xandros Broad Collaboration Agreement Extends Bridge Between Commercial Open Source and Microsoft Software”. And so it begins again… Here are the details from the announcement on Microsoft's press wire:

  • Systems management interoperability
  • Server interoperability
  • Office document compatibility
  • Intellectual property assurance
  • Microsoft sales and marketing support

Stephen Walli has written a pretty good summary of the MS-Xandros deal over at his blog, but I don't quite share his conclusion that in the end it's just hot air and patent FUD anyway, and therefor does not matter much to either party. It will certainly matter to Xandros. If not the deal itself then on what it's customers think. And they don't think much good. Lot's of talk about switching to a different distro. Resellers wanting to return stock. Loyal costomer who have been there since day one crying foul. It's not pretty.

Thing is, Xandors has the worst kind of customers to try to pull this on. Most of them are former Windows users with a big dislike for Microsoft who are willing to pay good money for something that is untouched by Microsoft but still works a bit like it. Bad move Xandors.

Open letter to Novell: Release the patent numbers!

by Sander Marechal

The technology industry has been in a buzz since last Monday's Fortune article in which Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith claims that the GNU/Linux operating system infringes 235 of Microsoft's patents. If GNU/Linux indeed infringes so many patents then it's very curious that Microsoft refuses to tell the community which 235 patents those are.

Gutierrez refuses to identify specific patents or explain how they're being infringed, lest FOSS advocates start filing challenges to them.

Many journalists and editors concluded from this that Microsoft knows it's 235 patents are bogus. But apparently Microsoft is willing to tell someone what those 235 are. They are telling the companies that they sign cross license deals with. Companies such as yourself, Novell.

Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft vice president of intellectual property and licensing, said that while Microsoft won't discuss specific patents publicly, it has discussed them in private with companies such as Novell Inc. that struck deals with the company to exchange patent royalties for indemnification against litigation.

Source: The Washington Post.

Today you, Novell, claim that GNU/Linux infringes none of the 235 patents that Microsoft is talking about. From your own Novell Open PR blog:

While providing numbers is new, the claims that violations exists are not new. In response to similar Microsoft claims back in November, we put out an open letter from our CEO, Ron Hovsepian, that states our position on this issue. That position hasn’t changed.

From that open letter… “We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents. Importantly, our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgement that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property.”

I call on you, Novell, to tell the community which patents Microsoft thinks are infringed by the GNU/Linux operating system. You know the patent numbers. Microsoft gave them to you. Now release them so we all can publicly prove what you claim: That GNU/Linux infringes no Microsoft patents. If you do, then you may gain back some of the credibility in the community that you lost when you signed the cross-license deal with Microsoft last year.


Sander Marechal, GNU/Linux user and developer

The Microsoft-Novell patent deal and the GPL

by Sander Marechal

The news of the Microsoft-Novell deal is hard to miss in the Linux community. The reactions range from very negative to vaguely neutral. The most interesting bit of the agreement for me are the patent clauses. Did Novell sign away it's future by mistake or did it cleverly safeguard the future of Mono, Samba and OpenOffice.org?