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Novell Linux Business Microsoft

Microsoft Gets Novell Docs Before OSS Community 77

Posted by kdawson
from the spirit-of-the-law dept.
flydpnkrtn sends in an InformationWeek article arising out of Novell's SEC filing yesterday, asking: "Is this just more Novell-bashing material? Or is this no big deal? And of course this type of thing runs contrary to the 'spirit of the GPL'..." "Under its controversial alliance with Novell, Microsoft is entitled to receive key technical documentation from the Linux distributor even if that documentation is not generally available to open source software developers, according to a Novell document."
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Microsoft Gets Novell Docs Before OSS Community

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  • by allthingscode (642676) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @05:26PM (#19366379)
    If the documentation belongs to Novell, they can burn it for all I care.
  • by ikekrull (59661) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @05:27PM (#19366393) Homepage
    Novell and MS are perfectly entitled to collaborate in any fashion they like as long as it doesn't violate the licenses of products that are not their own intellectual property e.g. GPL-licensed software they are distributing as part of their product offerings.

    If Novell wants to share documentation athat they themselves have written or compiled with MS in preference to others, then I can't see any reason for outrage or controversy. Please, theres plenty of reasons (mostly, the patent-related reasons), to condemn Novell's actions, but I can't see this is any basis for negative feeling towards Novell at all.

    If youre talking about community-contributed documentation, then wouldn't it already be out there?

    If youre really worried, slap a 'all rights reserved by the copyright holder. Permission is granted to read or redistribute this work except to the companies Novell or Microsoft' disclaimer on everything you publish.

     
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ajanp (1083247)
      Well, apparently it isn't so much if Novell wants to share the documentation with Microsoft, they apparently have to share it with them (regardless of whether or not they decide to share it with the rest of the open source community).

      A copy of Novell's technical collaboration agreement with Microsoft attached to the filing shows that Novell must provide Microsoft with certain documentation related to running SUSE Linux virtually -- on an exclusive basis if necessary. "If any such Novell Management Information is not publicly available, it is provided for Microsoft's internal reference use only," the agreement states.

      Under the deal, Novell must provide to Microsoft documentation relating to the tools used to manage Novell's SUSE Linux operating system on virtual servers "whether or not Novell Management Interface Information is available publicly in the open source community," the document states.

      Seems more like Novell got the short end of the stick on that one considering Microsoft has complete access to all documentation relating to SUSE's virtual servers and the rest of the open source community can get the scraps of whatever Novell decides to give them.

      • by caspper69 (548511)
        Well, apparently it isn't so much if Novell wants to share the documentation with Microsoft, they apparently have to share it with them (regardless of whether or not they decide to share it with the rest of the open source community).

        Well, uh, those are the terms of the contract. It's not like Bill G held a gun to Novell's head and forced them to sign a contract. These are the terms of the deal, which I assume was negotiated in (mostly) good faith, and each side got something they wanted. It's called
        • Well, uh, those are the terms of the contract. It's not like Bill G held a gun to Novell's head and forced them to sign a contract. These are the terms of the deal, which I assume was negotiated in (mostly) good faith, and each side got something they wanted. It's called business. Deal with it.

          Homer: "I reluctantly accept your proposal!"

          Gates: "Well everyone always does. Buy 'em out, boys!"

          Homer: "Hey, what the hell's going on!"

          Gates: "Oh, I didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks!"

        • You haven't been paying attention. There was a squeeze play involving a major creditor and Novell at the exact moment that Chairman Bill showed up with his suspiciously precisely correctly sized truckload of cash. Had Novell declined they may have been insolvent.

          Was Bill holding the gun? After the Baystar thing who can tell?

          • If that's really the case (tin foil hat donned for the sake of argument) why didn't they just appeal to FOSS hero IBM for a bailout? Isn't the idea that IBM is going to swoop in and save everyone from MS the default argument these days?
            • I'll rephrase your question and you can answer it yourself: "Why would it be bad for IBM to be seen handing a truckload of cash to Novell right now?"

              Now to my subject line: what's your motive?

              • I think you're confused about the time-line. The idea would be that IBM would provide the cash before Novell had done anything that FOSS supporters hate it for. Of course, I don't believe that the "devil" (MS) made them do it, nor do I believe that IBM is going to be the hero of any scenario. I wasn't disingenuous, but I was mocking the fan-boy line about IBM.
                • IBM cannot be seen to be paying huge sums to Novell at the moment because it would be seen as a payoff for cooperation in certain ongoing litigation.

                  Your distrust of the IBM fanbois is misplaced. IBM is the real deal. The are not FOSS's only hero, but they are the biggest and they are committed.

                  • "IBM cannot be seen to be paying huge sums to Novell at the moment because it would be seen as a payoff for cooperation in certain ongoing litigation."

                    So money can't be exchanged between Novell and IBM on a matter unrelated to the SCO case? Get real.

                    "IBM is the real deal. The are not FOSS's only hero, but they are the biggest and they are committed."

                    As I've stated here before, not only does IBM continue to profit from proprietary software, but they've killed off at least one software product acquired from a
                  • by Ximogen (1033274)
                    a. IBM have given plenty of handouts to Novell over the years
                    b. anyone who thinks IBM do anything for the benefit of anyone other than IBM haven't read their history books, IBM were shafting customers and competitors before Microsoft existed
            • by Miseph (979059)
              Because Novell isn't stupid enough to believe that tripe.

              Repeat after me Slashdot:

              IBM is a publicly traded company; IBM is not nice or friendly or generous or willing to stick its neck out for others unless there is an extremely good reason, and "because someone needs their help" is an extremely poor reason; the Nazgul are bad people, and only a fool expects bad people to do anything to them that isn't bad; IBM would just as soon sell me and the rest of the F/OSS community down the river if doing so would h
              • I agree with you, I was just repeating the wishful thinking line. I agree that Novell is neither stupid enough to see IBM saving them nor is it stupid enough to follow MS's advice and put patent violations in their code (and it would require MS to be very stupid also).
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hxnwix (652290)
      From the article:

      Under its controversial alliance with Novell, Microsoft is entitled to receive key technical documentation from the Linux distributor even if that documentation is not generally available to open source software developers

      The problem here IS that Microsoft appears to be collaborating with Novel ... against us. One might infer that Microsoft wants to be involved with Novel's design and development efforts so that Novel will unwittingly infringe upon as many Microsoft patents as possible. They could do this, say, in the name of bolstering open source compatibility with Microsoft products.

      But who really knows what objective Microsoft insidiously pursues. Perhaps this situation bizarre but benign. Well, scr

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @07:04PM (#19366925) Journal

        The problem here IS that Microsoft appears to be collaborating with Novel
        Since the quote directly mentioned virtualisation, I would imagine that this related to the work Novell are doing to create a compatibility layer between the Vista hypervisor and Xen, allowing guests from one to run on the other.
      • "One might infer that Microsoft wants to be involved with Novel's design and development efforts so that Novel will unwittingly infringe upon as many Microsoft patents as possible."

        If you really think that Novell is that dumb, than why do you care what they do? Actually MS would have to be incredibly dumb to do this as well. All it would take is one whistle blower to create another round of anti-trust hell for MS; probably on a criminal rather than civil basis this time.
      • After reading the article, this arrangement makes perfect logical sense to me, and it should to anyone who has seen MS operate in the past:
        1) MS is having issues coming up with the next big thing, or getting their version of the next big thing working.
        2) Competitor X is working on the same idea and is making progress.
        3) MS offers to collaborate with (cajoles/forces/steals from) Competitor X on the idea to MS's benifit.
        4) MS forces the competition out of the market, or at the least marginalizes them for
    • by at_slashdot (674436) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @06:05PM (#19366599)
      "Novell and MS are perfectly entitled to collaborate in any fashion they like"

      We are also free to use whatever products we like. We are free to choose against a product only that we don't like the chairman (or should I say "chair man") of the company, or if we don't like what companies they make deals with. I personally don't like Microsoft so much, therefore I won't use Suse and any product that come from Novell as long as they make deals with Microsoft.
    • by zoid.com (311775)
      I agree and even better is the fact that Novell is a non factor in the Linux world now.
  • by segedunum (883035) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @05:28PM (#19366395)
    I don't think this is quite as it looks. The documentation this refers to is probably for Novells proprietary products, such as Zenworks, their virtualisation management stuff etc. That's really what Microsoft is most interested in Novell giving them a leg up on - whereupon Microsoft will spit Novell out and start eating even more of their customers.

    It won't affect the open source community one jot, but it's just further evidence as to how tight a grip Microsoft (Novell's number one competitor who wants to put them out of business remember) has on Novell's very small and inconsequential nads. Novell never ceases to amaze me with their incompetence unfortunately, and if they want to flush themselves down the toilet then that's entirely up to them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mangu (126918)
      I agree, because even if Novell gives them documentation on open source software, well it's also available elsewhere to everybody else. The only point I wonder is this: if Novell took a GPLed software and wrote documentation for it, should the documentation be under the GPL?

      Anyhow, the only sad thing about all this Novell affair is that they abducted what was an excellent Linux distribution. Suse saved my day a few times because it was one of the best distros from the POV of hardware compatibility.

      • if Novell took a GPLed software and wrote documentation for it, should the documentation be under the GPL?
        If that were the case then O'Reilly would be public enemy number one. In other words, no.
      • by Stewie241 (1035724) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @06:46PM (#19366855)
        if Novell took a GPLed software and wrote documentation for it, should the documentation be under the GPL?

        Well, I don't think all the books that have been written about Linux are GPL, are they? It is still illegal to redistribute these... I would consider these books to be documentation.

        Ian
      • The only point I wonder is this: if Novell took a GPLed software and wrote documentation for it, should the documentation be under the GPL?

        It's an interesting point. I've been using a laptop running SLED 10 for a few months now (Disclaimer: I won it in a Novell promotion), and I'm still impressed with it as a very clean, professional Linux distro - anyone wanting to introduce Linux to corporate desktops could use it as a drop-in replacement for XP/Office easily. One of the great things about it though, is

    • by rhizome (115711)
      The documentation this refers to is probably for Novells proprietary products, such as Zenworks, their virtualisation management stuff etc. That's really what Microsoft is most interested in

      Yeah...probably.
      • by segedunum (883035)

        Yeah...probably.
        Well, if you'd read TFA then you'd have read that this refers to Novell's virtualisation software and VMs. So yer, probably, and more likely than anything else. The article is not specific and is just flying off the handle.
  • And the point is? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moraelin (679338) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @05:32PM (#19366427) Journal
    And the point is? Sorry to disappoint some people, but noone really owes you anything just because you're waving an OSS banner.

    Seriously, have a look through the GPL sometime, or read RMS's rhethoric about freedom of speech and such. The idea was that noone can steal _your_ code and put it in a closed source program. Ok, so the GPL 1 and 2 went a bit further and demanded the source and rights to whatever code _they_ contributed to that program too, but I figure it's a fair trade. I show you mine, if I you show me yours. GPL 3 is already treading on grounds some of us consider borderline, but still, ok. But none of them says you have a right to everything _else_ someone wrote or touched.

    If Novell wants to sell some of its own documentation to MS, in exchange for whatever they wish, that's that. It's their docs, they can give it to whoever they want, or to noone whatsoever. Just because Novell also has a linux distro, doesn't mean you suddenly have a sacred right to everything else they have.
    • by MooUK (905450)
      Nothing forcing them, maybe.

      Nothing forcing me to like what they do, either. If I, or you, or anyone else dislikes a company's conduct, ENTIRELY REGARDLESS of legality or not, we can express that dislike. It isn't difficult to understand, people. Legality is irrelevant here - if you do something I don't like I can complain about it.
    • I don't think anybody said it is illegal.
      I read two types of notes:
      1. it is Novell's folly, they will kill themselves by acting silly.
      2. wow, this will be good for BSD and/or Microsoft

      As you can see, the FOSS responses are not as much excited about it and no one said it will be good for Novell.
    • by wrook (134116)
      You're right on with this one. In fact, even if the documentation was under GPL it doesn't matter at all who receives it first (this should be a no-brainer guys...). The only thing the GPL says is that once it is distributed you can't put restrictions on the receiver distributing it further.

      Which leads me to my point. Your characterization of this is a bit unclear. You say, "The idea was that noone can steal _your_ code and put it in a closed source program. Ok, so the GPL 1 and 2 went a bit further and
  • by fishthegeek (943099) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @05:42PM (#19366469) Journal
    The only company that hasn't barfed all over my sugar coated Linux puffs is fscking Dairy Queen. I'm beginning to think it's us - the guys with Tux toys on our desks ... err I heard... WE are the people that just seem to like to find fault and complain. Who cares if Novell shares documentation or toilet paper with Microsoft. I just want to enjoy compiling drivers again for X because of the eleventh kernel update this week. Why do I have to be bombarded with yet another theoretical bad news story about my beloved OS? I'm going to stick my head in the sand now and not worry if Microsoft understands how to run Suse virtually or whatever, hell I hope they learn something about how to run virtual hardware because Virtual PC sucks.
  • by nmoog (701216) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @05:46PM (#19366503) Homepage Journal
    It goes against the "spirit of the GPL" like the TestDriven.NET guy went against the "Ethos of Microsoft's EULA". The software development world sure likes it's intangibles!
    • by One Louder (595430) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @05:57PM (#19366549)
      Whenever somebody invokes the "spirit of the GPL", that's usually because the GPL doesn't actually say what somebody wants it to say, typically over the use of the word "free".
      • by grcumb (781340) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @07:06PM (#19366937) Homepage Journal

        Whenever somebody invokes the "spirit of the GPL", that's usually because the GPL doesn't actually say what somebody wants it to say, typically over the use of the word "free".

        And you've missed the meaning of the word 'spirit'.

        The GPL is not an end in itself. It is the mainstay of an attempt to protect the Four Freedoms [fsf.org]:

        "Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software."

        (Emphasis mine.)

        Collectively, they represent what many people call the spirit of the GPL. Admittedly, that's a bit of a back-asswards expression, but it'll do.

        Novell and Microsoft undoubtedly have undermined the Four Freedoms through their patent indemnification tapdance. Likewise, the agreement to share information preferentially undermines the Four Freedoms as well. The patent agreement subverts the freedom to copy and distribute software, and preferential distribution of documentation subverts the freedom to study the software, which is a necessary precursor to the other three.

        • by Speare (84249)

          Er, I would have to say that GNU Emacs is one of the "flagships" of the whole GNU philosophy, and yet, the core team has been quite insular and private about code until a new public release. Some people whine about how this "undermines" the openness while others point out that "free" doesn't always equate to "open." When they are ready with a release, they release it under the GPL and every user gets the mystical rights. Until the release is readied, they collaborate internally.

          I see little difference

        • by weicco (645927)

          That page was updated 2007-05-28, when was it written in the first place? Before or after current GPL version was written? FSF can't change the meaning of GPL on-the-fly with FAQs and such. If I decide to run, copy, distribute, study, change or improve some GPL software, I comply with the GPL license text which comes with the software, not with some FAQ or article in some website. I mean if I read the license, see it's OK to me and follow it, how the heck I'm supposed to know that there's also some mysterio

          • FSF can't change the meaning of GPL on-the-fly with FAQs and such

            Well, they can can't change the terms and conditions of the licence, certainly. Nor are they trying to do so. On the other hand that's not what's being discussed here.

            This particular sub-thread is debating the "spirit" of the GPL, as opposed to the legal obligations the GPL imposes. As such, it seems reasonable enough to refer to the web site of the GPL's governing body.

        • Then it would be more appropriate to say the "spirit of GNU" or the "spirit of free software".

          I suspect that the reason that the phrase "spirit of the GPL" is used is to try to suggest that by agreeing to the terms of the license you somehow have an obligation to follow other non-GPL rules that the GPL "framers" would prefer you to follow. I find a "bait and switch" quality to this argument.

          I also think that "marketing" concerns have driven the terms of the GPL to not fully embrace the "spirit of free softw
  • ... do people suspect wrong doings of such corporate things? And why do such Corporations continue to commit wrong doings of such things?
  • is getting hackneyed. Anyway, what a for-profit corporation does with its partners can't destroy the 'spirit of GPL.'
  • that's quite common (Score:4, Informative)

    by nanosquid (1074949) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @06:11PM (#19366635)
    It's quite common for people developing FOSS to share documentation and code non-publicly before a public release. There is nothing wrong with that, and it's an important part of FOSS. If the software falls under the (L)GPL, the recipient can, of course, redistribute it, but can choose not to. Under Apache or BSD, the developer can impose additional restrictions and prevent the recipient from redistributing the code.
  • by Eric Damron (553630) on Saturday June 02, 2007 @07:15PM (#19366979)
    Maybe Microsoft can use this documentation as a road map on how to write docs... God knows Microsoft has been "unable" to provide useful docs to the EU despite being told that they must.

    I know, my karma will burn for that one...

    Seriously though if they want to share the documentation that they paid to create with Microsoft and not the Open source community that's their right. They must realize, however, that everything they do or don't do impacts the perception that the Open Source community has of them.

    Personally I hope that Novell comes back to the community. Right now they're playing with the Devil. Microsoft has a reputation for back stabbing their partners. From talking to Novell representatives I can honestly say that they don't appear to realize the seriousness of the Microsoft/Novell deal. Their hoping it will give them a sales advantage over Redhat. That's too bad too. I think Novell was positioning itself to be the dominant Linux provider but they just blew it with the Microsoft deal.

    What they don't seem to get is that one of the things that is so attractive about doing business with Open Source companies is their perceived ethics. They don't try to find reasons to sue you. Well unless their name is SCO and we all see where that pig is headed. This deal seems to send the message "Buy from us or my buddy here will punch you." Not what I would call ethical.

    Oh well wait and see I guess.
    • As an American, I tend to view EU action against American companies with deep suspicion, and Microsoft is an American company.

      But....

      There has to be some interoperability imposed, because, the whole point of capitalism is competition to provide better products, and, no one can compete with Microsoft. Total dominance can be a cancer in its own right, and even General Motors in its heyday was not as powerful as Microsoft is now, and unlike General Motors, Microsoft actually is investing substantial sums of m
      • by pasamio (737659)
        Yes but isn't that amazing. The only thing that could compete with the monopoly is a project primarily run by people who derive no direct profit from it and don't have the resources to throw millions of dollars in what should be in theory a unified effort. Microsoft doesn't have to deal with the fragmentation that is the Linux community: GNOME has its own release schedule, the Kernel has its own release schedule, various other applications have their own release schedule, but yet some how distributions are
        • by tjstork (137384)
          Just imagine if Microsoft bought Apple.

          • I have a Windows shareware site, and I have Linux site, and my Linux site gets 500 times as many hits a month as my Windows site does, and, from all over the world. So, at least my Linux content is more compelling.. but, I have put way more work into my Windows site than my Linux site, and I think I'm going to see what happens with my Linux site if I throw everything I have into it.

            It's funny, figuring to cash in on being a rebel, I used to have a huge pro-Bush site, but I took it down when, after watching
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Most enterprise IT shops have mixed environments. As much as MS would like to push out the other vendors, it has been largely unsuccessful and has encountered pushback.

    This latest revelation seems to paint the MS strategy as, "If you must have linux in your shop, then use SUSE and run it virtually on top of an MS solution. We promise to play nice with SUSE, but only them."

    If customers buy into this approach and help SUSE become the dominant distro in the Enterprise, then MS might take some of that hoard o
    • by lostlyre (774960)
      Agreed. I think the subconcious goal is to NOT ever need interoperability between Windows and Linux - or rather, not need Microsoft at all! It's just like wanting political change. You can devote large amounts of time and energy to it, or you can do it in "baby steps". I think the latter is a cop out in the software world. It's not *that* hard for the whole planet to collectively write free software at least equal in quality. Plenty of evidence for that fact already.

      What's funny is that Linux users secretly
  • Novell, markets and sells SuSE Linux.

    Novell also markets and sells, Netware, GroupWise, ZENWorks, IDM, iChain and a laundry list of other products that are not and never will be open source. With the cross licensing deal, I would think MS has access to documentation on this, and Novell will probably NEVER release any of these documents to the open source community, since none of these products are open source.

    Get over it people. Linux isn't what it used to be. It means big business to Novell and Redhat.
  • ...all this talk about the "spirit" of the GPL. It's so deliciously subjective. It allows the cultic whackjobs who advocate using this type of language to make up just about any kind of arbitrary, unwritten rule that they might want, and then claim that adhering to said rule is necessary to adhere to the "spirit" of the GPL.

    That's the point of such language; to try and claim that the terms specifically set on paper in the license aren't all parties to the license have to comply with, but that there are a
  • This happens all the time and is only a big deal because so many FOSS people are p.o.'d at Novell right now. I'm not sure if Novell got duped or not; but, I do know that their strategy is appealing for managing our data centers. The interoperability and support that Novell can offer is appealing to our senior managers and has the potential to drive more linux adoption across our enterprise. We really NEED the MS/Linux operability promised by Novell - now if they can deliver. BTW, the same SEC filings fr
  • Consider the first to file patten law changes MS is trying to pass. Add that MS patten attorneys get first crack at developments. Add that those developments may not be "publicly available" in time to establish prior art. I could be wrong, but this could cause some problems...

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