CyberTech Rambler

October 31, 2007

Adding XP will double Eee-PC cost? May be not

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:39 pm

It appears that the WinXP edition of EeePC is on the card. EeePC is essentially a light-weight, small and cheap mobile laptop. It is smaller than a lot of the laptop out there but not as small as the silly UMPC. The news of interest is that the WinXP edition may cost double than the current Xandros-based edition.

Of course there are cavert to the story. First, The price for the WinXP edition is for mature market (Europe/US), while the Xandros-based edition is quoted for emerging market. We all know WinXP cost more in Europe than in emerging market, thus, in a sense, the difference market makes it an unfair comparison. If the WinXP edition appears in emerging market, we know Microsoft is willing to dump WinXP at USD3. Thus I don’t think adding XP will actually double Eee-PC cost, at least in emerging market.

October 30, 2007

Leveraging into adjacent market

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:45 pm

NBC finally details several grief it has with Apple iTune. Some, to me, is within their rights as the content owner, however, one, is not.

The one within their rights is their desire to charge different rate for different show, something Steve Jobs does not allow them to do on iTune. That request is fair and let we should let the market (NBC, Apple, Microsoft and other companies in the market who have to cooperate and compete at the same time) to sort this mess out.

However, when NBC says it wants a cut of iPod sales, I think they are overstepping the limits of their rights as contents owner. They do not have the rights to use their contents right to leverage themselves into adjacent market. If we allow it, that means every video recorder, DVD recorder and TV will have to give NBC or other broadcasters a cut of their sales. That’s ridiculous.

October 26, 2007

There should not be any “winner” in EC-Microsoft settlement

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:25 am

While I think the content of this statement is worth a read, I do not think the title  (asking who is a winner) is one that we should aspire for anti-trust investigation. Anti-trust is not about creating a winner, but about curing a distortion of the market. Restoring the market means no winner. I do not take the view that the winner is the people/company who were victimized by the market distortion. If the cure actually favour anyone, anyone at all and this including the company convicted of distorting the market, then we did not correct the situation the way it is supposed to be.

October 25, 2007

EU should explain why the EU-Microsoft settlement is the way it is, if it unduly exclude a GPL software

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:55 am

Opinions about the EU-Microsoft settlement are starting to trickle in. Microsoft had just released some documents about the meat of the settlement with respect to the licensing deal agreed with EU. Those documents are long and will take time to fully digest. PJ of Groklaw was not a fan of the agreement when it was first announced and she had not changed her mind. FFII clearly did not like the agreement. Me? Although I respect both PJ and FFII a lot, and my preliminary reading of EU’s Press release and Microsoft’s documents show that there are problems which we need EU to tell us why they agreed to, I will still keep an open mind until someone in the front line, say SamBA team, speak out on the agreement before forming my opinion.

A lot of people, PJ, FFII, Tom Sanders and Mark Webbink to name a few, believe that the agreement cut off GPL software as a potential licensee. It appears that the agreement fell foul of GPL’s patent clause(s). I believe and support GPL’s patent clause(s) as I see it as trading short term pain (working around patents etc) for long term gain (freedom to innovate, easier to reuse and better exploration of the field) and is is actually “liberating” rather than “restricting”. However, one must realize that the “patent clause” in GPL is a self-imposed condition. My view is therefore the European Commission need not and should not make availability under GPL a mandatory condition.  If so, it will be favouring GPL disproportionately.

Moreover, EC has no duty to make Microsoft provide anything to its major competitors, GPL or otherwise.

However, the EC must to take into account how the wording of the settlement will impact the effectiveness of remedy against Microsoft abuse of monopoly power. Hence,  if a GPL software is the only effective competition to Microsoft’s offering today and for some not trivial time to come, then it should not permit the settlement to lock out the GPL software in question. Otherwise, the settlement is meaningless, the whole process simply an expensive bureaucratic exercise and most importantly, the distorted situation, as determined by EC, continue. If this is the case, then the agreement had “unduly” exclude  the GPL software. (Please take note that the word ‘the’ is the operative word here.)  If so, it has some explaining to do.

In my opinion, SamBA is one of the few GPL software whose exclusion from the settlement is unduly. Hence, if the SamBA team feels that it has fare no better with the settlement, then EC does have the duty to explain why this is the case.

October 23, 2007

BBC Trust let down

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:52 am

BBC Trust responded to the fact that iPlayer is not working on platform other than Windows.

Conspiracy theory aside,  and the understanding that the feature in question (“Stacking”) is no more than 15% of the total content available, I still feel that this is a let down by BBC Trust. The reason being “stacking” is probably the crown jewel of iPlayer on joe public’s point-of-view.

Most importantly, it is a step downhill for BBC. I still believe this is exactly like the case where one is forced to buy a particular brand of set-top box to receive broadcast.

Not imposing a deadline for this feature to be made available is another mistake. No deadline equals no incentives to do this.

October 22, 2007

Microsoft “settled” with EC

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:35 pm

News just out: EC settled with Microsoft over the current workgroup/media player antitrust case. The commissioner is happy, but it is a bit too early to say that free/open source software will be happy. Information is sketchy on the implication of this settlement w.r.t. Free/Open source software. I will let others who have better understanding of Free/Open source software digest the settlement and voice their viewpoints first. Their opinions matter more than mine.

This is my initial thought: It would appear, from the Press Release, EC and Microsoft is following Microsoft-Novell agreement template by distinguishing between commercial/non-commercial open source development process. Obviously EC find this an acceptable compromise. I do not like it, as it opens a can of worms: What if a commercial company needs to modify 0.001% of the source code it receive from a non-commercial open source development team? Moreover, the press release does not mention anything about users of open source software. What is the point of developing a piece of software if people cannot use this?

Let’s see the agreement in full before jumping into conclusion. So far, based on the Press Release, it appears the solution might be problematic.

October 19, 2007

Compound Document Format and OpenDocument Foundation (Updated 20071109)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:50 am

The first time I heard about OpenDocument Foundation people not happy with ODF is from Stephen McGibbon post about Gary Edwards disagreement with Sun. Then comes Rob Weir’s that OpenDocument Foundation had moved away from OpenDocumentFormat. With Rob Weir post I sense some crack in OpenDocument Foundation over ODF. While Weir’s post continues its tradition of building up evidence to support his argument, he is known to be a very passionate guy about ODF and is not shy about attacking opposition, any opposition to ODF. Hence, in this respect, I believe I have to exercise a certain amount of caution when Weir start attacking someone new. Today, I came across Jason Matusow’s happy rambling about how OpenDocument Foundation is unhappy about ODF and appears to be supporting a single document format. Matusow view it as an argument that the “one document format” theory does not work. More on this later.

Hmmm… Did OpenDocument Foundation change direction away from ODF? and what is this Compound Document Format (CDF) thing that seems to be the new love of OpenDocument Foundation.

First, what is CDF? At CDF HQ:” A Compound Document is the W3C term for a document that combines multiple formats …” and although the title says the ‘F’ in CDF refers to ‘Format’, the rest of page appears to reference ‘F’ as Framework. The description of the initiative, together with it links to IBM’s pages on the same subject and a description of CDF use, suggest that the ‘F’ is indeed Framework. This means it is possible to use CDF as the container for either ODF or OOXML contents. Since it is from W3C, and that one of the article suggest possible unification of content generated from the web, UI display and plain old office documents, it can be describe as a superset in which office documents like ODF and OOXML is a subset. This means its purpose is substantially different from ODF or OOXML. The most important merit is probably this superset ‘feature’ and mentality. One other merit of CDF, picked up by OpenDocument Foundation, is better perception of vendor neutrality especially when compared to ODF or OOXML.

CDF does aim to be a unified document format. The keyword here is ‘a’ unified document format, not ‘the’ unified document format. This ability to be a unified document format can be used by advocate of a single document format to be ‘the’ document format of choice. This is important as it makes the distinction that it is OpenDocument Foundation that wants CDF to be the single document format, not W3C or CDF’s working committee.

Can CDF replace ODF? My cursory review of its core specification says it specify a container, like XML, not the content, e.g. HTML. To use it as a replacement for either ODF or OOXML requires more work, a lot more work since one have to now specify the content. One way is to do so is to put ODF or OOXML as an object in CDF.

Can CDF be the container for the next ODF/OOXML document? Yes. There are merits to see this through, some of which are mentioend earlier. Based ODF/OOXML’s participants current stance on the document issue, ODF is more likely to adopt CDF as the container, although the chances of this happening is remote today.

One practical consequence of advocating “one document” approach is that there will be multiple document formats aiming for this throne. But this does not support multiple document format’s proponents theory, e.g. that of Matusow’s, that multiple document format is good.

Back to the question of whether OpenDocument Foundation is “changing direction”. One can make the argument that it is looking forward to the next generation of document format and is advocating the use of CDF as the foundation for this new generation. Hence, it is too early to say this is a change in direction. To me, this implies they have to choose another existing, working format. They did not.

As a matter of principle, I believe if OpenDocument Foundation is going to advocate a different file format from ODF, it should at least have the changed the name of the foundation to something more neutral.

[Updated 20071109] Andy Updegrove has the scoop that it might be impossible for CDF to replace ODF.  Certainly one influential participant in W3C standardization process does not think so. My feeling is it is going to be an extreme uphill struggle to wrestle CDF into something usable as editable document format, but not impossible. Is it worthwhile, I don’t know. If its advocate wants to try, they are welcome to.

October 17, 2007

Victims of OOXML ISO process

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:37 am

Andy Updegrove is reporting that ISO’s SC34 committee is suffering from its P members not carrying out their duty, resulting in at least three proposed standards being delayed at best because it cannot satisfy get the 50% P members voting rule. Although he presented circumstantial evidence linking this with the influx of P members on the committee seen just before OOXML fast track vote back in September. He cautioned and I will repeat his caution that this in itself is not sufficient to proof that the P members were influenced by Microsoft to join SC34. The proof, if it comes, will be in “sudden” interest in the P members when OOXML come up for voting again in February.

All I can say is this saga is those National Bodies whose behaviour who did not carry out their duty of voting should be named and shamed. After all, they have to choose to be “P” members. They know that the responsibilities they take on to with their decision to upgrade to “P” members, so they should discharge their duty accordingly.

Congratulation Microsoft

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:27 am

Microsoft had their two permissive licenses approved by OSI. Congratulation.

When I first look at these two licenses when it was launched, I cannot see why OSI could not approve it. In fact, I praised the license for its simplicity. What I was wary about is Microsoft bundling of OSI approved and non-OSI approved licenses under its Share Source Initiative. I would like to see more clear water between the two. I voiced this on OSI license discuss mailing list, but OSI replied and say it does not see this as a problem, so case closed.

In all, both parties had came a long long way to meet in the middle. Congratulation.

October 16, 2007

BBC have the responsibility to provide Mac/Linux users the same functionality as Windows users (updated)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:38 pm

One BBC’s director is expressing doubt that it will offer the same functionality for Mac/Linux user for its iPlayer. Let me tell the BBC this: You have the responsibility to ensure that all users, including Mac/Linux users, have equal access. If you hope the the “crippled” flash-based player will suffice, I tell you now it is NOT even close to be acceptable. As a stop-gap measure? yes, permanent? NO.

Why do I pick on the BBC? One, BBC is a “public broadcast service” and should not discriminate between users of different operating systems. To do so is like not providing subtitles/audio description to disabled listeners. At present, I do not use these enhanced services. However, I am willing to pay for it as I can see the public service value.

Furthermore, imagine the uproar if the digital service is only available on one brand of digital set top box. Online services is no different from the set top box issue. Asking license fee player to use only Windows OS is like mandating users to use one brand of set top box.

It is of course, a “cost-per-person” issue. However, rather than penalize license fee payer, BBC should penalize programme maker who refuse to allow their programme to be used without Window-based DRM instead. After all, if BBC cannot, who else can? BBC recently made a deal with YouTube to allow its programme to be stored on YouTube. This, if any, shows that there is a workaround for Digital Restriction Management issue.

Ironically, if BBC had made it a paid-for service, I will not less objection as long as it is a ‘catch-up’ service. After all, having to pay for it turn it into an “add-on” service rather than “public boardcast service”. I still have problems with BBC offering a two tier service but requiring payment somehow reduce the discriminatory nature of the service. And if these payments actually help to improve the enjoyment of physically-challenged people, the less objection I will have.

[Update 20071016 BST 2212] Hopefully, BBC Trust’s will hold their line requiring “platform neutrality”. Their spokeperson’s definition of platform neutrality is more far reaching than I had expected, not only it covers operating system, it also covers set top box etc. A tall order, but one that I expect BBC to deliver.

Sign the petition here. Please note that there is another petition asking BBC to deliver iPlayer now, Mac and Linux later because people using Mac and Linux should not  stop Window people from enjoying iPlayer now. I would support it if BBC will give an acceptable timetable for on-par Linux/Max performance with Windows. Definitely NOT if BBC use this as an excuse to drop Mac and Linux player.

On the subject of DRM, BBC should had known that it is going to be an uphill struggle to get Microsoft to license its DRM technology on Linux (and perhaps Mac). Hence, if it find itself in this mess it is its own making. It is a risk that came back to bite it.  A wrong bet by BBC and it will have to correct now.

What we want is an on-par player. If Digital Restriction Management (DRM) is a problem, then reduce the functionality of the player to streaming only (no storing) is a solution.

The only proper way for DRM implementation for BBC is an open standard DRM which is free, i.e., royalty free for any one to use. BBC’s boffin should know that DRM is just an “emerging technology” with company jockeying for position. We will not see any open standard DRM implementation anytime soon.

Having said all these, if anyone can get Microsoft to license its DRM to Mac and Linux or to turn it into an open standard DRM, BBC can. ]

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