CyberTech Rambler

April 28, 2011

Oracle’s OpenOffice tussle with the community

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:11 am

Oracle took over of SUN’s assets put it in great conflict with the open source community. So far, most of it did not end up well. First case in point is Hudson/Jenkin split. Then SunGridEngine staffs are poached by UNIVA and the product  forked into UNIVA Grid Engine. Now we have a new twist of OpenOffice.org/LibreOffice saga.

OpenOffice.org’s relationship with the open source community under SUN is already tense, Oracle acquisition of SUN made matter worse if only because Oracle’s throws it reputation into the volatile mix. When LibreOffice was announced, I thought it is no big deal. When it is mentioned that it had successfully poached staff members from Oracle, I started to pay attention. Now Oracle decided to throw in the towel and turn it into a community project.

If it had done it earlier, one would say Oracle is demonstrating good will. Right now it looks like Oracle decision was forced onto it as it hemorrhage too many staffs to make it viable commercially and it is trying to salvage what it can by turning it into a community software.

Did Oracle managed to achieve its goal of getting others to do the work and then cash in as I always think it is doing with OpenOffice.org? Chances are, it failed this time, miserably and it is all its fault. After all, that argument of mine is predicated on the fact that it can cash in. If it cannot, which is demonstrated by this decision, then it failed. Its strategy is to blame. This failure might in the long run turn out to be a wake up call for Oracle to improve its image in open source community.

Will LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org merge? Not today, nor in a few years time. The split was quite acrimonious and time is needed to heal the wound. In a longer time frame? May be. Turning OpenOffice.org into a community project keep that possibility open. The only question now is how will the two looks like in the longer time frame? If their path diverge, then it makes no sense. However, if there code-base stays very close to each other, then the bottom line is it makes no sense to have two products and two communities and they should and probably will merge.

Oracle RedHat showdown

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:38 am

The newest installment in ongoing Oracle Linux vs RedHat Linux: Oracle might cease support for RedHat…. and for the sake of completeness, lets drag SUSE down as well.

It will not be out of  character for Oracle to do such a thing. Oracle business acuteness and its ability to convert technology into cash flow, sometime in extreme ruthlessness is one thing I like about the company, even if I disagree with what it is doing.

Chances of this happening? In the next five years it is  close to zero. It is just rhetoric. There are too many Oracle deployment on RedHat or SUSE and the blowback for such a move is going to make a dent on Oracle’s bottom line. Its business acuteness mentioned above means it will be out of character if Oracle do it.

So here is my challenge to Oracle: Don’t talk about it, DO IT! Did what RedHat did when it put everything into one big tarball to complicate you rebranding its offering. Just in case you need to know how to do it: Put RedHat and SUSE officially on end-of-line notification.

April 27, 2011

Juicy stuff from Barnes and Noble’s reply to Microsoft Patent Lawsuit

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:39 pm

The internet is buzzing with Barnes and Noble’s reply to Microsoft’s Patent Lawsuit about Nook, B&N’s ebook reader. Groklaw’s coverage and the place where you can get the raw data instead of somebody’s analysis is  here.

It is more and less a confirmation of things we already know or suspected: (1) Microsoft wants an Non-Disclosure Agreement signed before it will reveal which patents B&N is alleged to have infringed, (2) It is not about the ebook reader itself, it is after Android.

Two things, however, which I did not expect: (1) The accusation that Microsoft and Nokia cooperation agreement has a stated/unstated goal of  using the collective patent aggressively against Android and (2) the royalty Microsoft demand for its patent in Android is higher than that for Windows 7.

For people like me, the value of B&N’s reply  is more about what happens behind the scene rather than B&N’s actual accusations. For one thing, the part on Microsoft going after Android, Microsoft and Nokia’s agreement to go aggressively against Android and higher royalty demand for Android-based device than Windows-based device is, at the end of the day, irrelevant if B&N actually infringed on the patents.

Moreover, on the NDA, it is probably standard practice. We also know that Microsoft loves NDA when it comes to throwing patent claims around Linux and Android. While it nonetheless suggests that Microsoft’s claim is not as strong as it would like and it does not want its  claim tested ‘prematurely’, I believe the ultimate purpose for B&N lawyers’ decision not to sign it  is to ‘wrong-foot’ Microsoft’s lawyers and to throw a spanner in their plans for the meeting in question. They achieved what they wanted beautifully. The other time I know  someone managed to beautifully wrong-foot his opponent is Malaysia’s Lingam in his now infamous ‘Looks like me, sounds like me but it is not me in the video clip’

One thing we can be certain, B&N is telling Microsoft what it plans to do if the lawsuit goes into discovery phase. It puts Microsoft on notice that it will want information about Microsoft’s claims over Android on public display and for the public (including me) to chip in its 2 cent. It will also expose Microsoft’s rate on Windows Phone 7 and compare it with what it wants to tax Android device. It also wants to have a look, and if possible, make public aspects of Microsoft-Nokia agreement where the two parties might not like others to see. It is an aggressive stand aimed at exposing Microsoft business strategy against Android.  It is effectively asking Microsoft how much it values its current business strategy and do it want it to be laid out in public?

Just one other question: Why is it B&N that asks these questions? Why not Google? I am sure given the opportunity, Google would love to ask them. What I am not sure, is Microsoft dares to prompt Google to ask the questions. If any, it is tiptoeing around Google.

If you see B&N as a company banking on e-reader success, then one  can see the why B&N is fighting so hard. We live in a real world, it is probably cheaper for B&N to follow the route taken by others to pay a small blackmail fees to Microsoft. May be it is just a ploy to get Microsoft to lower its extortion money. I don’t really see Google is behind B&N right now, but Google will be polishing its shield in case it is needed.

Am I surprised that GPS-enabled phone log your location? Nope [Updated]

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:45 am

Ever since the news broke that Apple IOS devices store its user’s location, there has been a snowball effect where it is revealed that other phones do the same.

Am I surprised? Nope. To tell the truth, I don’t even think we need a GPS-enabled device, although having GPS will help a lot. One function of a standard cellphone is to communicate with several base-station and workout which one to use, which one to switch to (in case you are on the move and is losing contact with your original station). Keep a log of which station your phone is in communication with and  your phone have an approximate location of where you are. Moreover, if your phone does measure the signal strength from different stations, keeping this and you can work out approximately where you are. Your mobile operator will have the data. The first time I have confirmation of this is the Soham murder case where the Police used an active mobile phone to pin point the location of the suspect.  It is not as accurate as GPS because a lot of factor affect signals strength. However, when there is a will and determination, it can be done.

As for the snowball effect, it is only to be expected.

So what is left is which phone suffers the worst publicity. As of today, Microsoft Windows Phone. Microsoft confirm that the firm collects the data. It is a leap from storing the location data on the phone. It is always entirely possible that Andriod and iOS devices does the same, but so far we have no proof of it. Even with the file on the phone (or host computer in the case of iOS), it can be access either by a technician downloading the data from the phone directly, or via host computer’s ethernet connection. If it turn out that Andriods and iOS devices do this, then they would be better following Microsoft example and come clean with it.

It is normally small little thing like location tracking that has the explosive power to bring privacy issues to the attention of the public. I am not saying this is a bad thing. Just musing at the fact that things that bite you always come from the unexpected direction.

My guess is all companies are going to hide being the End User Agreement that informs you that their device do track you. Guess what? They know and I know this is at best a transparent and ultra-thin shield. When the media and public latch on to something, not even having a bullet-proof legal protection is going to help much.

One other thing: Characteristically, Apple’s PR machine is mum when it comes to bad news.

[Updated: same day] Apple’s response here.

April 15, 2011

Does Microsoft Antitrust Complaint against Google have merits?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 5:53 pm

The size of Google means it is catching the attention of antitrust authorities. That part is inevitable. I am sure their legal department is already geared up to answer antitrust concerns.

Not long ago, Microsoft decided to throw a spanner at Google by asking antitrust authorities in Europe to investigate Google. A lot of commentators says that Microsoft decided that it could not compete with Google on the normal battlegrounds and so decided to take the (desperate) attempt at using antitrust as a competitive weapon. I am sure there are some truth in it.

First, the complaint about crawling YouTube. From an outsider’s point of view, it sounds like Microsoft moaning that Google did not let Microsoft crawl YouTube in Microsoft’s preferred way. To that, my response is too bad for Microsoft. Google is not obliged to make it easy for Microsoft to crawl the website. However, because YouTube is a huge and important website and its very close  tie to Google, it must provide reasonable access. One can argue that at some point, what is normal business practice of excluding/hindering the competition’s ability to crawl a website can raise antitrust concerns due to the Google-YouTube relationship. However, from the  description provided by Microsoft’s General Council, I cannot see why they claim we reach the tipping point.

Second, on Android (and iPhone’s) supposed superior ability  to access the site compared to Windows Phone’s. The argument here is Google penalized Windows Phone because Microsoft offers search. This smack like a rerun of Microsoft Windows giving Microsoft Office superior access to ‘hidden’ APIs. Unfortunately, since Microsoft admits that iPhone’s access is also superior to that of Windows Phone, one wonders whether is it because Microsoft refuse to sign an agreement which allows it equal access as Apple. If so, then the wording of the agreement is needed to evaluate whether that agreement is fair or Microsoft has a case.  On the surface, as Android is extremely successful and Microsoft’s Windows Phone has yet to prove that it is a serious challenger, I cannot see why Google wants to disadvantage Windows Phone at this point in  time. I heard about the argument to ‘nip it in the bud’, but I doubt this is the case here.

Third, the Book Search thing. I can see why the US Judge is worried that Google might be too dominant in the book search field. However, let’s not forget that Microsoft thrown in the towel on this issue. I truly believe that Google’s dominant in book search, if it is too strong, is not good for everyone. I’m still a bit puzzle on why it is not Amazon that file the complaint.

Fourth, advertisers’ access to their own data. This complain is over my head.  I cannot evaluate it except to say that it is not unusual to not be able to access all the data one upload to any providers. For example, I often wonder what happens to the data inside a database once you stop your subscription to your database provider. The sad truth is, you might not even be able to get to read the data once your subscription expires. Finally, Google is known to be one of the most open company when it comes to getting access to your data held on Google.

I have an answer to the fifth and final complain, i.e., Google stop websites from distributing other people’s search box via contract. In fact, I got it from Microsoft’s own antitrust problem where Department of Justice claims Microsoft engaged in unfair competition when Microsoft signed agreements with PC vendors to stop them from distributing Netscape browser. The judge says that depriving Netscape of the most easy way to distribute is not unfair. That time, the judgement is for Microsoft, this time, it’s against Microsoft.

April 4, 2011

Love the reply from Opera w.r.t. Browser Speed Test

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 8:32 am

Now, people will tell you don’t trust a vendor’s testing if the vendor has a horse in the race.

Still, one hope there is not a big gigantic problem like the one reported by WWWery: Opera cannot run an web application call Galactic, and it was penalized very severely for that in the browser power consumption test by Microsoft.

For me, here are a few things I do not like about the power consumption test:

First, when someone spent so much time demoing the hardware setup, just like reading a journal paper/conference paper that spent a lot of time on statistics and overall benefit before touching on the actual content of the paper, one begins to get suspicious. But may be that is just me being paranoid.

Second, for each of the test, the scenario is ran for 7 minutes. I question the validity of this methodology as I cannot see how this can work correctly for a few tests. For example: How are you going to run the blank page loading test (about:blank) for seven minutes? Also, I cannot see any news site takes 7 minutes to load and for that matter, is it a news site that the tester can manipulate to favour one browser over another? A much better test would had been to run the scenario X number of time, e.g., 1000 load of about:blank, another 1000 refresh of a news website that Microsoft did not have control on. Finally, for  God sake, name the news website.

Third, one needs to explain how the Galactic test affect the final result calculation. Opera cannot run Galactic, so inclusion of that test makes comparing Opera with other browser awkward. Fully penalizing Opera for it is one strategy, but common sense says it is too extreme.

Finally, how do you translate the results to a 570W battery-powered laptop? My view will be get such a laptop and repeat the test from full charge  till the laptop dies. Extrapolating from the results looks stupid.

 

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