CyberTech Rambler

September 29, 2008

Next step, Microsoft buys Novell?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:30 pm

Why not? Microsoft says it is buying more SUSE subscription. Any reasonable businessman, let alone GOOD businessman like Steve Balmer, will see that being a sale agent for Novell is not a good long term strategy, especially when you are sitting on a pile of cash that you do not know what to do with it.

If Microsoft initial flirting with SuSE Linux is to test the market where Microsoft has to coexists with its arch rival Linux, then this additional purchase will be confirmation that this market exists. Right now it is not big enough for Microsoft to jump in with both feets. Certainly if it is earning money for Novell, having it as a Microsoft subsidiary is better than throwing all these money down the other big holes, also known as non-Operating System, non-MS Office ventures?

If it does, it can shore up its claims that other Linux distributions, especially those that matters, infringe on its Intellectual Proprety. This claim is of course no more true and no less false than it is today. It is, however, a logical step from claiming that buying Novell will cure your potential IP wows with Microsoft. If any, if the agreement is not renewed, the longer SuSE is developed post 2012, i.e., after the pack ended, the more likely SuSE will infringe on Microsoft IP. If Novell is a Microsoft subsidiary, it is always cured from this “curse”.

People had been calling for Microsoft to distribute Linux. This will answer the call.


Troubling view of SC34 meeting in Korea

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:28 pm

Alex Brown is reporting on SC34 meeting in Korea. While it is nice to see more information on the meeting, the first paragraph on that report troubles me.

“..(and no, there were no Microsoft, IBM or Ecma people at the table)..”

No IBM people was not a surprise. No ECMA nor Microsoft? That is strange. Both are proponent of the standard and appears to be putting on the “Mission Accomplished” banner post ractification. People like me will say this behaviour is entirely predictable and do hope that it goes the way the banner did for George Bush Junior.

“One view was that ODF had served its purpose (to get MS formats out into the open) and should now declare victory before fading away gracefully; another was that OOXML would surely become the default format of the suite, and that this would crystallize the real option users had: to use FOSS or commercially-licensed Office packages. I’m not sure I’d go with either of these but still, it was refreshing to get some new perspectives rather than the stale repetitions that have too often characterised the exchanges of the past months.”

I am glad that Brown did not share the views. In my opinion, the war (exchanges in Brown speak) will continue. A lot of participants pariticpate in SC34 because they have a stake in OOXML. Therefore, both views are predictable and self-serving. However, if this was a meeting of ODF,  ODF camp people will say the opposite if given the chance. The first one is insightful. Remember Stuart McKee of Microsoft did the extremely odd declaration that “ODF won”. I thought it is tongue in cheek and if I were to link the these two piece of information together, I can say it is the proof.

Brown last paragraph is going to reignite both ISO Fast Track debate and ODF vs OOXML debate:

“… First because by insisting on timely defect handling SC 34 is compensating for a deficiency of the Fast Track process: the lack of National Body review of the final text.”

I will say this is not an deficiency of Fast Track process. It was intended for text that will not change much. May be one comma here, two sentences here and there where another round of National Body review is not necessary. My view is this is yet another evidence to support the fact that OOXML was not appropriate for fast track.

“Secondly because one of the many problems of the JTC 1 standardisation of ODF in 2006 is the lax maintenance regime, which boils down to OASIS declaring: we’ll fix your reported ODF defects if we want to in our own good time, thank you very much. Partly as a reaction to this SC 34 was determined to hold OOXML’s feet to the fire and make sure the JTC 1 maintenance regime (one of the better processes described by the Directives) was fully applied and that this time, it was got right.”

Rob Weir will probably have a field day from this comment. In ODF’s defense I will say there was not as many issues in ODF adoption as ISO standard. As I understand it, SC34 is a ISO body. Therefore, the problem of ODF slow-to-correct should be levelled at ODF’s corresponding body in ISO. If such a body does not exists, could it be possibly that such a body is not needed? If a comparison is warranted, we need to compare OASIS handling of post ISO ractification issues with that of OOXML in ECMA. In any case, how is SC34 going to correct OOXML without ECMA and Microsoft’s participation? And is there any point in correcting ISO version without correcting ECMA’s? Or is ECMA going to ramp through its OOXML v1.1 through ISO again, completely disregarding anything that SC34 did which does not suit ECMA?

OOXML committee, however, should be congratulated on their keenest to correct defects.

Finally, read the last quoted sentence : “… that this time, it was got right.”. Is this an admission that OOXML process was wrong until now?

September 25, 2008

Laws and the internet age (Updated)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:42 pm

A lot of people will be fuming on the fact that one person sue the other for simply providing a hyperlink and web address to one’s website. In this case, a law firm appears to be unhappy about a negative publicity and tried to use trademark laws to intimidate another who provided a hyperlink to the law firm’s website, and labelled the hyperlink with the name of the law firm.

From what I understand from the report, it is classic intimidation by law suit where one party is hoping that it has a fatter bank account to bend the other to its will. I do not think that law firm thinks it has a case. If it did, avoid the law firm because this will be a symptom of incompetent. The law firm is hoping that the lawsuit will make the article goes away. Unfortunately, like a recently reported case where a police department decided to launch a criminal investigation over someone website linking to their’s, defendent’s lawyer will tell the defendent to keep the article/link on the website to ensure it will not be interpreted as an admission of guilt.

How to deal with these type of nuisance lawsuit? That is for the court to decide. To prove malicious intent will be difficult. However, there are things that can be done. First is to dismiss the lawsuit, after giving the plaintiff a say in the matter. After all, innocent until proven guilty. We need the plaintiff to “commit” the offence first. More importantly, every case is different in some ways, we cannot dismiss any case without first giving the plantiff a say for the fear of dismissing a potentially valid claim. Then, make the plaintiff pays for the lawsuit. Here is where a judge can make a different. If the case is frivolous, make the plaintiff pay “a bit more”.

For this case, the stack against the plaintiff is (1)the article only list public information (according to the article, (2)free speech and, (3) at the risk of teaching the plaintiff on how to mount a successful campaign, privacy. May be (3) cannot apply for a public figure and the community decided that the need for full disclosure triumph privacy concern. I was alarmed by the fact the full address is listed. In the case of a terrace house, this will be a big problem for me if someone listed the address of a person who is not a public official but whose job is only to support a public official. However, I think the address is a unit inside an apartment block. If so, my concerns about the privacy diminished. Even more if there is a door man on duty. (Updated 29 Sept: From Groklaw’s write up, it appears that at least for the defendant, the “public record” argument is going to triumph the privacy argument. In short, it means if the government published it, any one can republish it. Still, as Groklaw’s citation of a Virginia case shows, there are concerns about privacy.)

What will this lawsuit finally achieve? The status quo will be maintained. The only thing that the plaintif will achieve is the unnecessary clarification that trademark law cannot be used this way. We already know that. At least we will now have a case reference for other lawsuit of similar nature.

September 23, 2008

Microsoft’s ‘I’m a PC’ Ad campaign: so far, one word – GOOD

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:15 am

Hot on the cancelled “Seinfeld Ads”, Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” campaign first advert is one of the few rare good advert from Microsoft.

I got the message loud and clear: everyone is a PC and PC is everywhere. As one of the better ads, I got the message barely 15 seconds into the ad. The one minute version is a bit too long however. 30 seconds is about right before the message “I’m a PC” become too repetitive and boring.

While the PC market does not belong exclusively to Microsoft, it successfully capitalized Microsoft’s dominance on PC. Only at the end of the advert did Microsoft logo appears. However, long before that, you know it is a Microsoft Ad.

The upbeat music is a good accompaniment to the advert. You feel good and will give Microsoft a try after being brainwashed by the advert.

The swipe at Apple is delivered in an extremely artful way. It reminds you of the Apple ad but twist it to Microsoft’s favour. With this ad, Apple’s “Mac vs PC” ad is effectively defeated. The next time you see it, you will be reminded of this Microsoft Ad, seriously diminish the value of “Mac vs PC” ad to Apple. Moreover, The Mr Mac will now have to wipe his “smurt” off his face. With this everyman image of the PC, the Mac is now an arrogant man which I no longer aspire to.

I believe I know why the two horrible ads are shown. Quite simply, it is there to lower your expectation of the this advert, so it can psychologically deliver a larger “wow”.

The advert is however short of substance. Hopefully the next installment (if there is one) deliver more substance. Here you see, unlike “Seinfeld”, I want to see more.

September 22, 2008

Things to nibble on on the fall out of Microsoft’s Seinfeld Ads

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:25 am

It is not surprising that nobody, except perhaps Microsoft and the ad agency that run the campaign, do not believe that the Seinfeld Ads were not “pulled” but was a first phase of the campaign which will now “moved on” as it achieved its aim. If the latter was true, both parties had not “communicated” well to the outside world.

Equally unsurprising is the revealation on RoughlyDrafted Magazine that the “second phase” campaign had been processed using a Mac. One of the few places that Mac has a stronghold that Microsoft had failed to penetrate is the so-called “creative industry”, i.e. professional poster, packaging and, dare I say it? advertisement agencies. However, it is a nice thing to nibble on. Although, I must say, this is not done at the expense of Microsoft.

September 18, 2008

Gates-Sienfeld advert pulled. Microsoft : We always planned this

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:44 pm

Ya right.

Sam Diaz does not believe this. Neither can I. I know I read The Economist article about the ad agency is a maverick and boast in its CV about a few good ad campaign. That raise the possibility that it is indeed “planned” (inverted commas deliberate).  For any ad campaign, you shot a few, waited to see the reaction and then decide on the next steps. If the first few does not pass the muster, you can drop the campaign, or revamp the campaign. They obviously chose to revamp. So, is dropping Sienfeld a planned move? In a sense, since they are moving to plan B, it is 😉

As for Sienfeld’s payment, I don’t think he got the full amount, but he would had got a proportion of it. The amount would had been negotiated well in advance.

If you asked me, Microsoft dropped the wrong person. They should had dropped Gates instead. I have no axe to grind with Gates personally. Looking at the adverts so far, he is the wrong person for the job.

September 15, 2008

If those Microsoft Advertisement hit the intended spot, then so be it

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:53 pm

Over at Between The Line, Sam Diaz believes that Microsoft has a point when it says the purpose of the Microsoft advertisement (so far) is to generate buzz. In that, I agree as well. It generated buzz, but one underlying problem: I don’t think it is a POSITIVE buzz. Then again, I suppose any buzz, good or bad, is good from a advertising perspective.

Diaz does not think it works. He says that is because people’s attention span is short. That is true. However, I know from experience my attention span can be lengthen considerably if an advert can create suspend and excitment and make me asking for the more, more and more.

Most ad campaign play it safe. For example, take the “Actimel challenge”. Every ad sent you an clear message: Actimel lower colestrol. It also, over several episodes, spin a “commercial” study showing a few real-life ordinary “people” like you and me taking and succeeding in the challenge. A second example is the long running one-off comedy on Daz branded soap power. Both are not particularly  memorable advertisement campaign. Why? do I care if I miss an episode? No. Psychologically speaking, however, it is successful as it wired more of my memory cells together for the product by spinning a common theme across several episodes then it would had as separate distinct individual ads.

Back to the Microsoft ad. My reaction? Not another episode, please! I will pay if you promise to kill the campaign! We have enough. Did it wired more of my memory cells together? Actually, it wired a lot more then I want it to. So is it a success? NO. It wired the wrong type, the type that tell me I do not want Microsoft or anything related to it.

September 12, 2008

Titbits about Microsoft’s new advertisement

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:44 pm

When I read The Economist writeup about Microsoft’s latest advertisement, two things strike me:

  1. The Economist mentioned that there is no mention of Microsoft in the advertisement except at the end, something others pick up as well. I note that this just confirm, if need be, that Bill Gates is a household name and his association with Microsoft is so strong that, when we see Bill Gates, we automatically think about Microsoft. I thought the advertisement agency was smart in exploiting this.
  2. It says that in the “Mac vs PC” advertisement series it is the PC is the one that become famous and won hearts. This I agree. However, from advertisement point-of-view, the message is clear. Moreover, I still prefer to be the “cool but smug, and would not get invited to anybody’s dinner” Mac.

September 10, 2008

Simply put : bad publicity

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:38 am

London Stock Exchange trading system crashed. The second time in a year. Software to be blamed. Unfortunately for Microsoft, its .NET framework and its SQL server offering was the backbone of the system. Whether or not it is the .NET framework or the SQL server is to blame, the publicity is damaging.

We only know that the software failed. The software could failed anywhere, not just on .NET or SQL server. It could be third party software that weave together and formed the trading platform that failed. All we know is the software stack failed three times (twice in LSE and another time in South African exchange which used the same platform).

It is bad because it is not only because technology magazine reports that the trading platform is built on Microsoft technology (we expected that) nor because the usual suspect (it is not fair to pick on Vaughan-Nichols) but because it is widely reported in main stream media such as The Guardian.

Since normally no news is good news, and that failure in other stock exchange will probably not make big headline news in UK (except NYSE which will make the headline whereever you are), we cannot tell whether this means the LSE’s platform is more prone to failure, let alone Microsoft’s technology is to blame.

At slightly more than one year old, it is also a relatively young platform. Any platform has bugs and we may just be seeing software bugs get exposed, abeit in a specatcular way.

The lesson here is to be very careful when you chalk up a truimph. If you make a fanfare out of it and then it suffer some spectalur problem, people remembers.

September 8, 2008

“create”, “extends” and “extinguish”?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:48 pm

When I read de Icaza’s blog post on not to use Microsoft’s Managed Extension Framework. Two things strike me immediately. One, for which it is essentially me looking through tinted lenses at Novell and Mono by extension, is “Wow, Novell managed to disagree with Microsoft”, and two, here we go again, we are seeing a variant the “embrace, extends and extinguish” strategy Microsoft used very successfully where the word “embrace” is to be replaced with “create” since Microsoft is credited with .NET creation. However, I think the problems is more deeply rooted in the way the Managed Extension Framework is presented.

I am not an open source zealot, so I am not by default allegic to “extends”. I uses Eclipse and I had always viewed Eclipse as big corporation throwing breadcrumbs, i.e., lower tier stuff, to me the small software shop which they find they cannot make money on, and want move competition up the value chain by making it unattractive for others to develope and  charge for the lower tier stuff. Big corporations who are Eclipse members still jeolously guard their software stacks that are making them money. In a sense, we see a base product, with vendors “extending” it in proprietary ways.

If this is fine by me, then the fact that Microsoft has an Windows-only extension called “Managed Extension Framework” by definition is fine by me. In fact, one has to asked why it took Microsoft so long to come out with a extension framework.

The problem is that in Eclipse, the proprietary extensions are made clear from day one. As de Icaza’s post makes clear, is Microsoft did not appear to make a clear distinction between its windows-only extensions, and the rest of the .NET platform that when you take Mono into account, is multi-platform. It put the stuff in CodePlex, which is created by Microsoft to be an “open source” repository. It’s windows-only restriction certainly does not qualify it as open source. I know Microsoft seems to have their own definition of “open source”, it can try to impose its definition on the world but we must resist it. Therefore hopefully, it find itself facing the same furory as when it puts SandCastle on CodePlex.

de Icaza is right. Microsoft is free to create exceptions for itself on CodePlex. CodePlex is relatively new with a few years history and not so much activity. Hence, I will like a clarification from Microsoft on what is acceptable and what is not, including an exception fro Microsoft own extensions if it wants.

de Icaza is also right to say that while there is nothing in the T&C to says that the licenses used on CodePlex must be blessed by OSI, the FAQ certainly indicate that you must do so. This is at best misleading.

Microsoft’s action seems to me to be a rerun of Sun-Microsoft litigation over Java which Microsoft loses, i.e., Microsoft created incompatible virtual machines and windows-only extension as a trap for other developers. Microsoft, like every other organization, is at liberty to choose whatever licensing conditions it wants. It is, however, ethically and morally incorrect to try to trick developers into using Microsoft-only technology. If Microsoft is truely changing its way with open source, as it profess to, then it must build a Great Wall between Windows only open source technology and open to all open source technology. This problem is very well known. Therefore, at the very minimum, I expect ALL Microsoft windows only open source technology on CodePlex to be clearly labelled.

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