CyberTech Rambler

December 29, 2006

Exchange 2007 package sans Outlook 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:02 pm

Mary Jo Foley pick up on the story that Exchange 2007 is arriving without Outlook 2007. As usual, it is “in response to customer demands” that client software (Outlook) is not bundled with server software (Exchange). However… if you buy Software Assurance, an exception will be made for you. 😉

To me, it sounds rather silly. If the majority of Microsoft’s customers did indeed do not want Outlook (unlikely), why not just give Outlook away to Exchange 2007 customers. If Microsoft is worried that Exchange 2007 customers do not notice it, reflects this in the price.

It is a business decision. It is likely that Microsoft is trying to push people to use Outlook Web Acesss.

May be Microsoft finds Outlook is a security risk and want to try to desuade big customers to use it.

As for financial motives for this move, lets examine it. I believe the Software Assurance waiver suggests that increasing the value of this loathed scheme is part of the consideration. This can constitute financial motive. However, the only way this works is if Outlook 2007 is simply too good for users to ignore (unlikely) or there is no competition. The wide availability of free email programs, including but not limitted to Thunderbird discounted the second possibility.

However, with an email client, you store your email locally and thus, can move away from Exchange 2007 easily if you so inclined. By using the Outlook Web Access function, your email data is locked away inside Exchange 2007, making it more difficult to migrate away from Exchange, thus achieving vendor lock-in. To be fair I have to say that having email data inside Exchange 2007 can actually make it easier to migrate away from Exchange but my bigotted mind says it is unlikely.

One blogger comments that this might drive adoption of OpenOffice. The only problem is there is no email client for OpenOffice.

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Microsoft “bribing” bloggers

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:41 pm

End of year is usually a quiet period for IT news and gossips for obvious reasons. This year, Microsoft successfully spice up this quiet period by sending high-end computers preloaded with Vista and Office 2007 to bloggers. Officially, it is for “product review”. However, as one receipient published on his blog, the original email says “you can hold onto it for as long as you’d like”. Thus, not surprising, some people conclude that it is a bribe.

As a result of this controversy, Microsoft is now asking receipients to either give it away or send it back to them.  Some bloggers are deciding to auction it off for charity instead. I fully support them auctioning it off for charity rather than send it back to Microsoft. In fact, I thought Microsoft could had done better by saying that they will auction returned laptop for charity on behalf of the bloggers. The main bulk of the promotion money is already spent. Auctioning returned laptops will help in damage control.

December 27, 2006

Good middle ground article about Proprietary vs Open Source

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:21 pm

RedOrbit has a good, middle ground review about the fight between open source and proprietary source.

I like the title as it is phrased exactly what operating system do: Operates your company’s computer system.

Phillip Nelson reasons for not converting his company’s computer to Linux, “With a successful Windows system already in place, Nelson couldn’t justify the switch”, is a good one. This, however, shows incumbant advantages enjoyed by anyone who already have a foot-hold.

However, I disagree with the author when he says more due diligence, in the form of researching the internet to see what people are saying about it and the turnaround time for question and and answers, is required for open source. It had to be done for all softwares. If it had not been done for proprietary software, its time to do it. For example, I am still waiting for a definitive answer for my question to Mathwork Inc about whether is it going to be possible to call Matlab from Java and for a good two years now been getting an evasive answer.

Most people will end up with a hybrid system, mixing open source and close source software. That’s life.

Finally, if you have a pro-Microsoft bigot in your company, you will have exactly the same problem as having an anti-Microsoft bigot.

December 21, 2006

Its easy to tell others to increase mail quota

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:18 pm

Microsoft is quoted to say that it recommends corporation to increase mail storage for employees to 2GB in its fight against Gmail in corporate email space, as it does not have spend a single cent nor do a single thing on making this happens. It is not even giving you any incentive to do so.  As this is the recommendation for Exchange 2007 and you guest it, it also recommend that you pay to update to Exchange 2007.

Come on Microsoft, do some work in this fight. May be subsidising the disk storage space?

First real significant protest at MS-Novell deal

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:28 pm

As I had said before, don’t mourn/bash the deal, its just lip service. Everyone has to evaluate the deal for themselves, and decide the actual you want to take. That is in the end whats count.

Microsoft is on the offensive on this front. It just release a press release on how well the
agreement is accepted, getting Deuche Bank, Credit Sussie and AIG to say a few good words about it. Larry Dignan point out that we need more IT meat on the press release to support the claim that patent/interoperability. Me personnally thinks that it is more about cost then these technical issues, especially when it comes to interoperability. Its too early for the agreement to yield fruits on technical side, and I am not really sure why those financial institution are worry about computer patents. To me, it looks like rather than paying Novell direct, they paid less from Microsoft who then forward the money to Novell, or got it free from Microsoft.

Do we have anyone from the open source side that really take some solid action? Yes. And surprise, surprise, it is a Novell employee. Jeremy Allison resigned over the deal. He is the first person that I know who took concrete action. If there are more people following his footstep, Novell will take notice. It need not be resignation coz the prerequisite, i.e., being a Novell employee, is not practical. Withdrawal of cooperation, especially if you are a vendor to Novell Linux business, can be very effective as it raise the cost of Novell’s Linux business, something every CEO understands.

The best thing I like about Allison’s statement is his comments about the deal violating GPLv2’s spirit and not the letter:

For people who will point out to me we don’t “technically” violate the GPLv2 here’s an argument I recently made on the mailing lists.

“Do you think that if we’d have found what we legally considered a clever way around the Microsoft EULA so we didn’t have to pay for Microsoft licenses and had decided to ship, oh let’s say, “Exchange Server” under this “legal hack” that Microsoft would be silent about it – or we should act aggr[i]eved when they change the EULA to stop us doing this?”

So Jeremy Allison, I salute you.

December 20, 2006

Binary kernel module

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:10 pm

Over at the Linux kernel  mailing list, a long going debate over the acceptability of binary kernel modules surface again.  It dies down after Linus Torvalds issues his “decree” (again).

The use of binary kernel modules has always been a “gray” area. This time, it is about a new warning on the line of “Binary modules are not allowed after January 2008” inside the kernel code which was subsequently retracted. The underlying argument is of course limiting binary modules in the kernel. Linus thinks this is about politicking and not technical merits, thus, rejecting the patch.

Brian Profitt of LinuxToday, in his editorial,  quote Kroah-Hartman on the problems he has in maintaining kernel modules. To me, it is good enough to qualify for technical merits. A lot of people might say it is a “management problem”. For me, it is clear that this “management problem” cross the threshold into technical problem when it interferes frequently with day-to-day coding activity. The retracted warning per se is more a “management problem” than “technical”.

A more important concerns highlighted by Profit is Kroah-Hartman feeling that his copyrights are violated by companies that chooses to exploit this “gray” area and use his code without publishing the source code. It is true that Kroach-Hartman has every rights, under copyrights legislation to decide how his code is used, but there are several factors, mostly social factors, where I count against him when expressing my emphaty with him:

  1. Linus started the Linux kernel, and since the program code Kroach-Hartman wrote is indirectly linked to the kernel, by means of social contract, he accepted Linus’ view of how the kernel (and modules) will be used and Linus have the final say on the issue.  (Through his retraction of the warning, demostrated that he accepts that Linus have the final say.) The trouble with giving someone else the final say is that you might not agree with everything the person says, but will have to live with it.
  2. The GPL is equally gray in this issue. That’s why Linus can have his say on the issue. By releasing his program code under GPL, Kroach-Hartman accepted that until this is clarified, people will game the system. Hell, I do not agree with the GPL completely, especially since I believe every modification to my code should be made public, not only if they distribute the modification. On balance, it is good enough for me to use for my software.

John Carroll celebrates the fact that there is a chance that binary kernel modules will not be accepted after 2007, saying that it leaves Linux disadvantaged. He might be right. However, it could be that a year later, manufacturers can no longer ignore Linux and will be forced to accept its term. Nobody, including me, like to be forced to accept terms and conditions I do not like but hey, I am doing that sort of deal daily! For example, don’t like Vista Home Retail restriction of “no running on virtual machine”? Tough luck!

December 12, 2006

RIAA actually asked for lower royalties payment to artists

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:09 pm

RIAA, self-styled champion of American Recording Artists when it comes to defending their rights against internet pirates, actually asked the government to lower royalties to artist for ringtone and digital recording. SHOCKING!

OK, I have not seen the actual request, may be it is about lowering the actual numerical number, i.e., say 10 dollars per song to 1 dollar. Sounds reasonable if ringtones are sold at 11 dollars. I just cannot tell. Neither Hollywood Reporter’s article have details on it.

A much more flexible system would be to define royalties paid to artists as a percentage of actual sales. May be this scheme is not workable.

Let’s take the news on its face value, i.e., regardless of method of computing royalties, artists did get paid less. Then I think, RIAA has a serious hypocrate problem. It cannot have it both ways.

Perhaps, RIAA is the champion of whosoever, as long as it is the interest of music publisher. Its counsel is quoted by Hollywood Reporter to had said:

We hope the judges will restore the proper balance by reducing the rate and moving to a more flexible percentage rate structure so that record companies can continue to create the sound recordings that drive revenues for music publishers.”

Enough said.

December 8, 2006

OpenOffice XML (OOXML) updates

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 9:27 pm

It makes it to ECMA standard, as expected. What I did not expect is IBM voting against it. I hope Bob Sutor can tell us why. Being proponent of a rival format, the gentlemanly thing to do is to declare a conflict of interest by “abstaining”, unless of course one feels strongly that the rival is seriously wrong in some really fundamental way.

(Update 11 Dec 2006: Bob says that the reason for voting “no” is because “[IBM] fundamentally believe that this is doing nothing more than “standardizing” Microsoft’s formats for its own products and that’s not how the industry should be behaving in 2006”. Good enough for me for a “no” vote. If I have to make a stand based on existing information, I have to agree because it fails my crucial test that there should be at least two independent vendors implementing OOXML before standardization can be approved. [Aside: For me, standardization can starts with one vendor implementation, but at the time of voting must have at least two independent full implementations]. On the question of whether there will be independent implementation of OOXML in the future, I have to disagree slightly with Bob. The widespread nature of OOXML means other Office application vendor will support it, at least in a way that is good enough for the majority of users. Corel is going to do it. Most importantly, via the Novell-Microsoft Agreement, Microsoft is paying Novell to do one for OpenOffice.org )

Sutor’s other post outlines the difficulty in implementing OpenOffice XML format. Shebanation and I agrees with the analysis. Shebanation goes further by using Microsoft Mac Business Unit analysis of why it takes time to create OOXML support in Mac Office to support Sutor’s analysis. I don’t think Mac Maven has this in mind when he publish that blog post. My two cents on the topic is that the majority of Mac Maven’s blog post (paragraph 2 to the third last paragraph) is about documenting Microsoft’s internal policy, decisions and problems. Understanding them means we can emphatize with them but that is about it. Microsoft is the main proponent for OpenOffice XML, uses MS Office as its flagship product to champion OOXML and as such we must hold it to a very high standard, i.e., we expects them to provide converters to all Office product it makes simultaneously, if not, at very short time period (one month max), not rolling them out one after another as they please. The sequence of events suggests that Microsoft Mac BU was forced to accelerate the converter development. Worse, according to Mary Jo Foley, Mac Office is not the only one, Mobile devices are also suffering the same faith. In one word: Unacceptable.

December 5, 2006

ODF in Massachusett

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 9:01 pm

If I were to write a short blurb: Interesting and perhaps not looking good

The not-looking-good news is the appointment of an anti-ODF lobbyist to the Technology Advisory Group. Appointment of new person to advisory group is something that is very common in politics and the appointment is part of the reshuffle you will expect with a new governer. However, it is still the case that the enemy got more ammo to shoot at you now.

The interesting part is the account by Silwa of ComputerWorld of the lobbying effort of Microsoft to derail the ODF policy in Massachusett, based on hundred of emails obtained from the State government. If anyone have any doubts that Louis Gutierrez, the CIO of Massachusetts who had recently resigned is serious about ODF, this account will erase your doubt once and for all.

Ms Silwa account of the whole affair, from the adoption of ETRM, to the abandonment of the amendment to pressure Mr Gutierrez is an eye-openner in the working of politics. The most interesting is of course the aforementioned article.There are two sister articles. The one on dropping Microsoft’s format in ETRM is perhaps the best confirmation of what happened during the early days.  The other on the people doing the lobbying shows how partial lobbying effort can be, and the length lobbyist goes to to “support”their arguement. When you read it, please note that although the account is about Microsoft lobbying, the other side do lobbying as well and do it equally good. Otherwise, everyone will buckle under such organized lobbying. I will.

Novell forking OpenOffice.org?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 8:40 pm

Novell said, in a press statement, that its version of OpenOffice.org will have OOXML support and that its OOXML plugin will be contributed back to OpenOffice.org. This lead to PJ concluding that Novell is “forking” OpenOffice.org. While I would not go so far as saying that a “fork” had happened, I did find the statement odd. As a programmer, I would had thought that OOXML support in OpenOffice.org will come in the vanilla version of OpenOffice.org. Thus, this statement could be a result of an unreported struggle in OpenOffice.org itself about OOXML support. Or it could be another corporate FUD. The truth is, for Novell to say that its variant of OpenOffice.org will have OOXML supported and that it will, as required by the license, contribute back to the community the OOXML plugin smack me to be a rerun of Oracle’s Unbreakable Linux. Given PJ’s analysis of Microsoft-Novell’s deal only shows that Microsoft will only give protection to Novell customers if you cross Novell’s palm with silver, one cannot help it but to think this may not be a programming fork for now, but is certainly a “fork” to distinguish between Novell’s OpenOffice.org and the others.

Miguel De Icaza points out that what Novell announced is something everybody does. This is true and it is also my original understanding as well. However, he fails to point out why such a “routine” and “background” work got a “press statement” treatment. Given that Novell is rightly or wronly taking a lot of heat from the open source community as a result of Novell-Microsoft agreement, it sounds stupid for Novell to contribute firewood to this fire.

It might not be a fork right now. I don’t think so, so does Andy Updegrove. however, please do not underestimate the significance of this anouncement. It could be the starting of a fork. Right now Novell is simply adding OOXML support to OpenOffice.org. This is fine, especially if OOXML is delivered as a plugin. OpenOffice.org is actively encouraging people to write plugins for it and if OpenOffice.org do not incorporate OOXML by default, then writing a OOXML plugin is a validation of the plugin strategy and something the OpenOffice.org teams foresees and approved. It is also a validation of the openness of OpenOffice.org. However, it means Novell is at a very small step away to convert this into a “fork”: Novell go the extra nanometer of making OOXML the default in its version of OpenOffice.org. If it does take this step, then ethically Novell will have to “fork” OpenOffice.org because it is not adhering to OpenOffice.org policy on ODF. Novell might also be legally required to “fork” because it might be require to stop using the name OpenOffice.org. This is a bit like the Mozilla in Debian case where Debian package is moving away from calling the browser mozilla because it contains modified code. If this happens, then the significance of this press statement is clear: Novell can later rely on this to argue about that the date “fork”ing occurs is the day of the press release.

So Novell, take stock, WE ARE WATCHING YOU

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