CyberTech Rambler

July 28, 2009

Microsoft violates GPL? Microsoft violate GPL not? … (repeat indefinitely)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:32 pm

SFLC throws its hat into the fray, arguing that Microsoft did indeed infringe on GPL.

What do we have? The main parties who (should) know, Microsoft, Greg Kroah-Hartman and Stephen Hemminger won’t say. The latter two had been dropping strong hints. But for some reasons unknown to me, refused to confirm it point blank.

My initial reaction is the latter two did not want the blogosphere to blow up on the news that Microsoft violated GPL. Unfortunately, as discussion on this point started to take a life of its own and develop into a much larger issue, I questions all three’s wisdom on not coming clean.

Why? Someone is bound to use the information they get from the three parties and do an analysis on whether an infringement had taken place. Is that exercise interesting? Yes. Even though practically it has no value coz any infringement is already cured. But someone will want to try out their CSI skills and want the fame of being the first to proof (or disprove0 infringement. At present, this kudo looks like low hanging fruit.

Violation or not depends on one question: Did the binary containing GPL-ed component came out before the source, or later? If it came out first, then there is an infringement. Period.

Will we find out if Microsoft violated GPL in this case if it did? You bet!

But right now, the situation is like one love sick puppy picking a flower, preferably one with a lot of petals and as he peels one away, he alternate between “It violates GPL” and “It violates GPL not”. It is long and tedious, but eventually he will get an answer. And just like the answer he got, if one ask the question is the answer is useful? No.

July 24, 2009

Kang-Karoo Court

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:56 pm

A ISP in Hull did a very stupid thing: Disconnect its user when there is an allegation of  copyright infringement and make them sign a good behaviour pledge to get reconnected. ( TheRegister’s news coverage here) Unfortunately for them, their names lead Open Rights Group to call operating  a “Kang-Karoo Court

The sad thing here is the ISP lose sight of who it is representing. It should be representing its customers, not copyright holders. What to give the company a piece of your mind? Try slashdot.

July 23, 2009

Whether or not Microsoft contributed to Linux Driver because of GPL violation is immaterial [Updated]

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:52 pm

When Microsoft announced that it was contributing codes under GPL v2 to the Linux project, I read a few email from others with respect to the contribution, including the postings referred to by Mary Jo-Foley below.  After reading those, I concluded that there is a very strong hint that Microsoft contributed the code because it itself was in violation of GPL. Unfortunately, it is not conclusive. Obviously a few more people, including Jo-Foley smell a rat and follow up on it. The scoop that Jo-Foley got, i.e., in this post, is probably the closest one can get to fingering Microsoft’s contribution as curing a GPL violation.

To me, I won’t make a fanfair of whether the contribution was a result of violating GPL in the first place. I can see why tech journalists, such as Gavin Clarke (no pun intended) make a story out of it, as it is  their job.

Why? Because they all choose to concentrate on the wrong thing: That there was a violation. Microsoft is a big company, and they are involved in a lot of software projects. Once-in-a-while you will get copyright violation. Did someone in Microsoft realized that they are in violation of GPL when they wrote the code? I think so. Did they know it from day one? Very Likely. So did they adopt an attitude that let’s not worry about GPL until someone pointed it out to us. Probably, but this attitude is no different from another company. Did they think they will get away with it? No. It’s Microsoft we are talking about, so there are a lot people watching it like a hawk.

I strongly believe the period where Microsoft is in violation of GPL probably help in getting Microsoft to release those code by showing that there is demand that they cannot ignore.

What is important here is Microsoft released the code under GPL. Let’s not forget that once a violation of GPL is proven, there are actually two paths the infringer can take to cure the violation: One is to release the associated code under GPL, the second, equally valid and accepted, is to stop distributing the offending code altogether. This choice is given to all infringers of GPL, including Microsoft. Here they are forced to choose between the two. Assuming the preference is always to keep the source code closed, then the decision will be based on a calculation of which is the lesser evil: buries one desire to keep source code closed, or bit the bullet. All calculation from here depends on which decision benefit the company more. Fortunately, most GPL violation case ended with the infringer decided that to release the code is better for the company.  There are a few cases where withdrawing the offending code is not feasible as it will tank the company. However, this is not the case here. Therefore, the key point is that Microsoft itself sees the benefit of releasing the source code. Not that I am surprised they did, coz deep in my heart I believe Microsoft do see the value of GPL, regardless of what it says in public.

Now, let’s not forget that Microsoft could had equally withdraw the violating program code. Given that the people who discovered and work with Microsoft about the violation chosen to keep a low profile, we would not had known if Microsoft had gone down the route of withdrawing the code.

As for Microsoft PR department burying this violation and choose to blow the trumpet on it contributing code? Who will not do that?

Finally, I have to congratulate the people involved in getting Microsoft to cure the violation. They treated the big mammoth just like any other companies. This professional attitude is only to be commended.


More detail on the violation @ CNET News and of course, a reiteration  at The H Open that nobody is pointing finger at Microsoft for infringing GPL]

July 21, 2009

Microsoft finally contributing something under GPL

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:41 pm

Got to give it to TheRegister for saying it best : “Microsoft embraces Linux ‘cancer’ to sell Windows servers

The contribution is a few device driver to allow Linux to be virtualized better in Microsoft’s own hypervisor.  The significant thing is it is done under GPL, the very license Microsoft tried extremely hard to avoid.

In all, it prove that Microsoft is pragmatic. It also shows that Linux has become so big that sidelining it is no longer a possibility. Microsoft realized that it’s own hypervisor will be placed in a disadvantage if it does not support Linux as a first class citizen, and this is vindication that Microsoft realize the cost of not doing is too high to bear.

Technically speaking, the value of the driver is rather limited. If you do not run Microsoft’s hypervisor, then you do not need the driver.

Of course PJ is going to see it as “Microsoft donates code to Linux: Remember, folks, what comes after Embraces” and she is not going to be alone. Of  course we have to keep our guards up, but I think the risk in this case is rather low. I see the risk of Microsoft’s hypervisor becoming very dominant that others will die away, but I cannot see Microsoft’s hypervisor as the only hypervisor remaining, or have dominant share of greater than 70% over its rival. Moreover,  if you install Linux as virtual machine, you are going to play with it. Sooner or later you will start asking yourself the question why am I paying for proprietary operating system when I can get one for free? The risk of people defecting to Linux increased with Linux playing well in the hypervisor, not the other way.

July 9, 2009

Google’s Chrome OS … too much hype before it even started!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:00 am

Google announced that it is doing a operating system known as Chrome OS. It says it is starting small, i.e., with netbooks first. but it has plans to extend it later to larger, more powerful computers.

Google doing an operating system for netbooks? That is not suprising. It does Andriod for smartphone. The next logical step is of course, to play with netbooks. Not that others have not thought about it. We already have netbook manufacturers playing with Andriod on netbooks. If Google has no plan an operating system for netbooks, it would had started one then. May be a supercharged Andriod, but as we now know, an “new” operating system.

I cannot see Google keeping Andriod and Chrome OS separate. If Chrome OS takes off, then the two will have to be merged to achieve the economy of scale and optimize the use of existing resources.

Chrome OS is still vapourware. Even when it materialize, it will take time, perhaps a year or two, and not before Google deliver a scale up of the operating system for box-standard computer before Microsoft is actually threaten. That is a lot of uncertainty yet, so those obligatory obituary for Microsoft, like this one, is permature at best. However, given the schizophrenic nature of Microsoft’s top management, I can imagine them freaking out.

What does this means for Linux? That’s my second thought, after Microsoft. It feels like: here we go again, yet another distribution. Move on…

Current plans put it as a fully web-enabled operating system. I can see that for the extreme low end netbook with no storage capacity whatsoever except for the operating system. This means it has to pull in everything from the internet. The appeal here will be price. The key challenge here will be how much it will cost to hook up to the internet. I cannot see access to internet to be free anytime soon. (Buying a cup of coffee to use the coffee shop’s WiFi means WiFi is not free).

Anything thing costing more will need offline or standalone functionality. This is the bigger challenge for Chrome OS: How it integrate the internet with standalone function that duplicate the on-line functionality. This is the space to watch.

As from the operating system front, expect Microsoft to hit back by injecting more vigour into operating system development. Like what Firefox does for browser, Chrome OS just have to be a viable challenge to Microsoft’s Windows from the view point of low end PC market to make operating system sexy again.

July 7, 2009

The part that Mono tries to imitate is now part of Microsoft Community Promise

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:24 pm

The latest news about Mono tries to imitate, C# and .NET framework, is to be plaa placed under Micrsofot “Community Promise“.

I cannot remember anything like Mono that can divide the open source community so clearly. On one hand we have people that thinks Mono is not a problem like Canonical, and on the other hand people like  RedHat thinks it should be avoided. The two Linux vendors quoted are not those that we normally classify as ideologically pure (SFLC) or the creator of the technology (Novell). I do not think the camp can be reconciled properly, at least not anytime soon.

My problem with Mono is about control over the technology. While the patent threat is real, I think it is remote enough that it will never happens. My concerns for Mono is exactly the same as the concern I have with any technology that appears to be directed by one company. I do not think any technology where there is one player that dictate its evolution is good for open source or free software. It is quite simply, too open to abuse.

Look at Eclipse, IBM had been doing a very good job before it hands it off to an independent foundation. It’s stewardship, however benevolent, proved to be a major hindrance to Eclipse’s adoption. If you do not believe me, simply compare Eclipse’ adoption rate before and after the Eclipse Foundation took the stewardship of the technology.

Microsoft’s decision to put it under the Community Promise banner certainly strengthen the pro-Mono camp, but only a bit. If you go and look into what is covered under that promise, you will find only a few “fringe” projects in Microsoft is covered, and the most valuable one, Visual Basic Application, comes with caveat. That is not very inspiring.

Moreover, it did not address my concerns about stewardship. I cannot accept any technology where one party can change the specification at its wimp, or a technology where one party can put the other implementations into a disadvantage by developing it in secret then spring it onto the market. This means the party will forever dominate the market, as others are forced to play catch up. To me, any open source projects and certainly Free Software should not rely on technology which is developed in such an opaque fashion and does not treat every major participant equally.

I am still reserving my judgement over Mono though. To use a human development anology, Mono left infancy and is no longer a toddler, it is growning up quickly. At this stage, to not give it a say towards the direction C# and .NET is going is still not a problem to me. However, it will be a problem two years down the line when Mono matures into an adult. At that point, I do requires Mono having a say in where C# and .NET is going before I will accept it as a technology suitable for open source project.

The argument over Mono seems to be reflecting the arguement aboug Java when it was in its infancy. It’s all about control. With Java, however flawed you think the Java community process is, at least you can say Sun tried.

July 6, 2009

Right choice for BT to back away from Phorm

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:33 pm

TheRegister is reporting that BT finally back away from deploying Phorm.

Personally, I think Phorm as a technology is too intrusive for my liking, I think if the technology on this line does not violate any law, then the law should be amended so that it will be a violation.

The manner in which BT had chosen to run the Phrom trial, especially with regards to getting consent is extremely troubling for me. It boils down to the trial is too complicated to explain to you and I so they would simply not bother to ask for permission. Besides insulting yours and my intelligent, i.e. BT’s potential customers, I feel that if a technology is too difficult to explain, then it should not be trialed at all. What surprised me is OfCom agreed with BT. Thank god those bureaucrats in EC disagree  and threaten to prosecute it. It is so bad for BT that regardless whether it is right or wrong to not seek prior consent, it left a bad taste and is proof to me that BT only pay lips services to customer privacy.

I can understand why BT had insisted it will go along with Phrom roll out when the technology behinds it blown up on its face in the public domain. It wants to “save face”. It is unlikely that BT thinks that the benefit it gets from installing Phrom malware outweigh the cost of the further PR disaster.

Let’s face it, with all the bad publicity, it does not matter whether what BT did/do is legal or not, or does it matter whether it is ethical or not or for that matter, what moral rights BT might have to implement Phorm. The damage is done. The way to contain the damage is not to deploy the technology at all. All other moves will quit simply, damage the company.

Hence BT make the right decision to back away from Phorm. The only question is, why did it took so long?

If you asked me, I think a decision had been quietly made to ditch the technology when the whole thing blow up on BT’s face. So why didn’t it announce this then to calm down the storm? As I said, it wants to save face. I actually disagree with it on the grounds that abandoning the malware at the time, and apologize instead would greatly smooth the public’s concern. However, this means losing face. Something one’s pride make it very difficult to do.

Therefore, they took the other route available: Let the storm pass, and when the sea is calm, ditch the malware. Hopefully no one’s watching…. except TheRegister who had been watching it like a hawk over the issue. But then again being caught by TheRegister is something that cannot be avoided altogether.

Luckily for them, the economy downturn gives them plenty of excuses to back down.

Is Phrom dead? I think so. Other ISPs is very much less likely to adopt Phorm now that BT, its major backer, backs down.

July 2, 2009

Windows Platform not good enough for London Stock Exchange? Not so fast…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:20 pm

Steven J Vaughan-Nichols believes that the rumour that London Stock Exchange is preparing to dump its Window Platform-based trading system is proof that Windows is not suitable for mission-critical system is probably a bit too far fetch. I do not think even if LSE did indeed dump its current trade platform, it is validation that Windows Platform is not suitable.

First of all, we still do not know whether the new platform will not be Window-based. In fact, if LSE did indeed dump its current system but keep the new platform Window-based, I will say it is an endorsement of Windows for mission-critical system. If it does not, it is bad PR for Windows-based system, but there is so many other variables, e.g. cost, in play that we cannot say Windows is no good for mission-critical system.

Second and perhaps the most important factor, if you look at the objectives  for the trading platform that Vaughan-Nichols listed, you will find them tough to achieve. The skill of the development team is a more critical factor in deciding the failure/success of the platfom than the choice of Windows-based technology that powers it.

If London Stock Exchange indeed dump its current trading platform, all it says is its current trading platform is not up to standard. There will be plenty of eggs on a lot of peoples’ face, but to infer the failure of Windows Platform from this piece of news is a bit too far reaching.

July 1, 2009

Biggest win for MPAA

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:26 pm

And, … they did not have to do a thing at all. Well, they did help it along but they are not directly involved.

So what is it? Pirate Bay sell itselfs in order to go legit. Am I surprised by the news? Not at all. You and I know from day 1 one day Pirate Bay will go legit, but not before it makes its point on P2P issues. In a sense it achieved its aim and now it is time to sell.

So, how about the news that  Pirate Bay users jump ship? That is only to be expected. If you ask me, this fact had been factored into the sales price.

It is a big win for MPAA, bigger than the conviction of the founders itself. In a sense, MPAA deserves this win.

MPAA might had won this round, but you and I know that it is a golden opportunities for Pirate Bay wannabes. The cat wins today, but not the day.

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