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SuSE Businesses Microsoft

OpenSUSE Opens Up to Questions About the Microsoft Deal 288

NewsForge is reporting on the recent IRC meeting that the OpenSUSE team held to answer a few questions about the controversial deal between Novell and Microsoft. The most prominent questions are highlighted and the complete IRC log is available from the article while the questions that didn't make the discussion will be posted on the OpenSUSE wiki.
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OpenSUSE Opens Up To Questions About the Microsoft Deal

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  • by radarsat1 ( 786772 ) on Monday November 27, 2006 @11:57PM (#17011646) Homepage
    A few
    Nov 27 11:43:05 <Nat_> We are collaborating with Microsoft on a few different interop areas
    Nov 27 11:43:27 <Nat_> We'll be adding Open XML support to OpenOffice, building a virtualization shim to run SLES optimized on Veridian and Vista on Xen
    Nov 27 11:43:44 <Nat_> We'll also be working together on WS-Management
    Nov 27 11:43:46 <Nat_> All this code will be released open source
    Nov 27 11:43:47 * cboltz (n=cboltz@ has joined #opensuse-project
    Nov 27 11:43:51 <Nat_> so everyone gets that, and can benefit from it
    Nov 27 11:44:33 <Nat_> (By the way, in that process, we don't plan to add MS-patented code to our contributions)
    Nov 27 11:44:42 <Nat_> (Our policy on that is unchanged -- and MS didn't give us the right to do that anyway!)

    Hm, wow, I'm convinced.
    So what was the point of the deal then?
    Either you'll be contributing code that you couldn't have before, meaning no one else who doesn't have a similar MS deal can use, or you'll be contributing code that you could have easily added previously anyways.
    I don't get it.
  • protection racket (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GeorgeS069 ( 956679 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:00AM (#17011662) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone else think this sounds very illegal?

    If I walked into an office and told them they needed to pay me cause there's a possibility the place might get robbed
    I'd be in jail so fast it would make my head spin.
    Isn't this pretty much what MS has done here?
  • Another Take (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jack Action ( 761544 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:00AM (#17011666)
    On the other hand, Novell may have done Free Software a great service.

    All those who lambasted RMS for the explicitness of GPLv3 may now have to reconsider their opposition. This includes organizations like Red Hat and OSDL, who called the FSF approach "extremist."

    Who's the extremist now?
  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:07AM (#17011728)
    How does a coder know what the specs are?

    #1. They hack them out the way Team Samba does (yay Team Samba!!!)

    #2. They read the specs that are published

    #3. They "clean room" the specs.

    #4. They read the specs that they've just purchased the rights to.

    Anyone have any other ways?

    Now, which way are the Novell coders going to use to get specs ... that does NOT involve a potential software patent issue with Microsoft?

    If you're thinking "Novell just partnered with Microsoft and Microsoft can share their specs with Novell now" ... that's the easiest way for Microsoft to get their software patents into Linux.

    And anyone who thinks that Microsoft wants to play nice with Linux has NOT been reading the history here.
  • Re:What is this? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:16AM (#17011788)

    Nov 27 11:18:07 I think it's a big step that MS is going out there and saying "we're not going to sue individuals"
    Nov 27 11:18:11 and they're saying this in a legally binding way
    Nov 27 11:18:15 * mchroust ( has joined #opensuse-project
    Nov 27 11:18:19 some people have said "MS was never going to sue individuals"
    Nov 27 11:18:22 but just look at the RIAA in the US
    Nov 27 11:18:30 which is suing 15 year olds and 95 year old grandmas on a regular basis these days
    Nov 27 11:18:39 So we're glad MS started from that sentiment

    In addition, what exactly is the correlation between the the RIAA's idiocy and Microsoft's threats? There is a world of difference between distributing copies of someone elses copyrighted work and distrubuting copies OF YOUR OWN WORK!

    I'm still not sure what to think of this Novell/Microsoft deal, but each time Novell representatives open their mouths they seem to add more ammo to the "stinks" conclusion.

  • Re:Novell (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SmokedS ( 973779 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:27AM (#17011858)
    Well, for all intents and purposes, to anyone that really believes in FOSS and is informed about the deal, Novell is now a pariah.
    I've lost count of the number of people calling for a boycott, or reporting that they have switched away from, or are in the process of switching away from Novell products.
    I think that it is essential that this is continued. The community is the strength of FOSS. If we cannot stand together against what in essence is a form of corporate blackmail Microsoft will continue to drive wedges into the community. It's classic divide and conquer tactics.

    We need to continue to spread the truth about this deal so that people have the information they need to see it for what it is, and shun Novell for he traitor in our midst that they have become. Hopefully Novell will come to their senses and abandon the deal. If not, the boycott needs to be as absolute as we can make it. We cannot allow stabbing the entire community in the back to be profitable. Currently, Novell is the new SCO, and should be treated as such. 73628401 [] [] [] / []
  • Re:What is this? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ForumTroll ( 900233 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:53AM (#17012026)
    After reading the IRC logs, what bothers me the most is that Novell doesn't even seem to consider why Microsoft is interested in this deal. They only talk about how they will work on interoperability and that Microsoft is "acknowledging" Linux. Microsoft has never been worried about getting sued by Novell over patent infringement, so what exactly do they think Microsoft's motives are? If Microsoft simply wants better integration with Linux, they have all the means to do so without pursuing any patent deals.

    It seems that Microsoft's true motive was shown only a few days after the deal when Ballmer continued to throw FUD about patent issues regarding Linux. Only now, he can claim that Novell has acknowledged the patent issues in an effort to make the claims appear to be more legitimate.
  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by foreverdisillusioned ( 763799 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:03AM (#17012086) Journal
    Even if Microsoft manages to pull off a spectacular legal coup d'état, I predict that their success in European and Asian courts will be... less than spectacular. Linux isn't going away anytime soon, and when it does go away it will be for technical reasons (i.e. 100+ years from now they finally rewrite the OS from scratch), not legal reasons.
  • Re:What is this? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:14AM (#17012174) Homepage Journal
    Wasn't there initially a patent on the double-click?

    I'm beginning to think that we need to seriously rethink the patent process on the whole.

    There is a world of difference in lifting an entire screenplay, design document, or chunk of source code, and using the same small idea. We shouldn't allow patents on small, trivial concepts. But people have patents on trivial things.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that various distros infringe on some small patents. And I also have no doubt that Microsoft stole countless ideas from innovators before them.
  • My Rant. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:16AM (#17012192)
    " I think people have overreacted to this deal
      I guess because it involves the words "Microsoft" and "patents" "


    I hope that's plain enough.

    Goddamn, they _still_ do not get it.

  • Re:What is this? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:25AM (#17012240) Homepage Journal
    Meh, copyright on source code is pointless too. Here's one of those unspoken ideas: take random open source project that is under a license you don't like. Study it. Once you understand it, think of 20 ways you could improve it. Rewrite it from scratch. How long does it take? Well, ask the OpenBSD team, they've done it half dozen times already. That asshat Darren Reed's ip filter was rewritten in under a week. How the hell can you do that? Well it really aint hard, you just gotta work. Whenever you run into one of those annoying problems that take ages to solve the first time you're writing a piece of software, just look at the original work. So long as you're not copying the text, just the ideas, copyright doesn't apply.

    Does this mean a patent system would be better? Hell no. So what then?
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:26AM (#17012250) Journal
    Everyone here knows what happens to people/companies that do a deal with MS... they very quickly become deceased or owned. This simply means the final end of Suse and Novell. MS will do this one distribution at a time... or have we not learned anything from their past behavior?

    Surely, it is not just me that sees this as the first step in MS owning Linux? I KNOW how paranoid that sounds, but lets get real and deal with past history, real fact, actual behaviors...

    I really don't care how this gets modded, it must be said that a tiger doesn't change it's stripes, so why is MS doing this? out of kindness, or out of a desire to own Linux? While that may be paranoid at this point, look at what they stand to gain if one distribution owns up to IP issues? It will tie up all the other distributions in litigation...

    I have to say, personally, I find all this 'love fest' rather dangerous indeed
  • Re:What is this? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moofie ( 22272 ) <{lee} {at} {}> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:33AM (#17012284) Homepage
    "(though not as closely as many Slashdotters seem to believe)"

    Really? I need you to elucidate that for me. Please explain how Microsoft's overtures are substantially different from "Sure is a nice business you have there. Sure would be a shame if something were to...happen to it. Like, you know, a lawsuit. Funded by Microsoft."

    How is that ANY different from a protection racket?
  • by mythz ( 857024 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:34AM (#17012296)
    The issue is not what Novell intentions were or what they were thinking at the time when entering the deal, it's what the deal now allows MS to achieve. Novell just got pawned as they have now just strengthened MS ability to print FUD about Linux.

    This deal was a trojan from the start. Before the ink was even dry Ballmer was screaming that they were finally getting economic return from the use of their IP in Linux and that anyone not using Suse will have an 'undisclosed balance sheet liability'. There was not a peep about how great this deal is that it now allows MS and Suse operating systems to work better, which was meant to be the *purpose* of the deal anyway.
  • Re:What is this? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:00AM (#17012466) Homepage Journal
    I think there's a crucial difference between copyright and patent, because copyright does not stand in the way of your creating a similar program if you are willing to do the work, while patent does.


  • Re:What is this? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:03AM (#17012486) Homepage Journal
    While that does vaguely resemble mafia "protection" payments ... I really don't see why people are having such a hard time wrapping their heads around the reason for this deal.

    Well, I think most people aren't having problems "wrapping their heads around the deal". They see it as unethical. This is very different from not being able to understand it.


  • "Our Customers" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LuYu ( 519260 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:07AM (#17012504) Homepage Journal

    Q: Novell claims to have not acknowledged any patent infringements by Linux. But Novell is now paying a tax to Microsoft on the Linux distributions it ships. What, exactly, is Novell paying for?

    Nat Friedman: We're paying for the promise that Microsoft made to our customers not to sue them.

    Q: Not to sue them for *what*? For problems you don't acknowledge exist?

    Nat Friedman: We put together an agreement with Microsoft to make Linux and Windows work better together. Now, as everyone knows, Microsoft has spent the last 10 years saying negative things about Linux, including implying that there are IP issues in Linux. It didn't make sense for us to do a partnersihp with Microsoft on interoperability issues and still have this patent cloud hanging around for our customers, so Microsoft asked us to put together a patent agreement as well. And so we promise Microsoft's customers that we won't sue them and they promise the same thing to our customers. They pay us for our promise and we pay them for their promise. It doesn't matter if the allegations from MSFT are true or not. People can sue each other anyway, and a patent lawsuit is very expensive to defend against.

    This "our customers" language is typical of Novell's statements surrounding this issue. They constantly speak of their customers but do not speak of the wider impact on the FOSS community itself. This might sound like a non-customer asking for a handout, but the fact remains that the majority of Linux developers and users are not associated with SUSE or Novell. The fact also remains that Novell relies on the FOSS community for its development. Therefore, a patent lawsuit that caused, say, X or kernel development to be halted or altered would affect Novell as well, even though MS could claim that they have not violated the agreement.

    It goes without saying that Ballmer's statements have caused harm to the FOSS community and that many more people were exposed to Ballmer's statements than Hovespan's.

    I think the reason that RMS and Moglen are so incensed about this agreement is obvious. This agreement to create a de facto ownership of Linux by suing anybody who competes with Novell. If MS sues successfully for patent infringement in Application A, Novell can continue to use it without being sued, but no one else can. In this way, they can become the only non-MS people to be able to use it in consequence of their "get out of jail free" card. It is an end run around the GPL.

    Both MS and Novell benefit from this. Novell destroys its competition in the Linux arena and becomes the only "legitimate" Linux vendor. MS reduces its competitors to one complacent one which it can dispatch at its lesiure or use to prove that MS is not a monopoly.

    In light of this, Novell only has two options if it truly believes in FOSS:

    1. Require MS to agree not to sue any FOSS project for patent infringement.
    2. Back out of the deal and admit Novell did not have the consent of all of its developers when it entered this contract.

    Whether Novell sees this future or not, it is screwing the Linux community. And garbage like this []:

    Ubuntu's open week sounds like a really good idea. I'm just surprised that it is done to get users away from openSUSE as Mark Shuttleworth announced on the opensuse mailing lists.

    Mark, let me reiterate that the openSUSE community and the Ubuntu communities share the same goals. We might put different emphasis on some of them, so let me speak just about one where I see a different focus.

    . . .

    Mark, I'd like to invite you to discuss what possibilities we have to work together against the domination of Microsoft on the desktops and servers - instead of fighting against each other.

    ... is just proof that the Novell develo

  • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:11AM (#17012520)
    You seem to be confusing trade secrets with patents. You can't use the "clean room" approach to avoid a patent issue. Either interoperability can't be acheived without violating MS patents or it can be. Whether Novell coders do or do not get specifications is irrelevent to the patent issue. You don't need to know anything about how Amazon implemented their one-click functionality to violate the one-click patent.
  • Re:Novell (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:15AM (#17012550) Homepage Journal
    The business world is concerned. I have been getting calls from Novell stock analysts, for example. Having the people who write and own the software turn upon Novell is a big deal to them. And they've watched SCO, and the last thing they would have wanted Novell to do would have been to follow in SCO's footsteps.


  • Re:My Rant. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:49AM (#17012758)
    "The deal essentially says that a lawsuit can happen but novell customers or noncommercial devlopers will not be sued."

    Which means that everyone else is left swinging in the wind. It means that members of OSDL are not protected because they are paid. Correct me if I am wrong. It means that every author that accepts a paycheck from his regular programming job is a target if he writes software that Microsoft doesn't like.

    And it doesn't even have to be something that infringes. Just the threat of a lawsuit in a strongly worded letter from a Microsoft lawyer makes many people retract projects, because they simply can't afford to go up against a giant like Microsoft.

    Oy, there is so much wrong with your assumptions that I don't know where to finish up.

    "If you listen to microsoft's fud and take it as truth thats *your* fault."

    I am not worried about _my_ ears. I am worried about the FALSEHOOD AND LIES that Microsoft is spreading around to be picked up by every PHB, Purchasing manager, and uninformed internal corporate lawyer. Novell has just signed a deal that _endorses_ Microsoft's behavior and agrees with their POV.

    Get the facts, indeed.


    BMO - SuSE Linux from versions 6.1 to 10 and no further.
  • very well said (Score:4, Insightful)

    by toby ( 759 ) * on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @02:52AM (#17012770) Homepage Journal
    And IBM is pouring millions upon tens of millions into Linux's side of said vacuous case. While Novell crows about their 30 pieces of silver.
  • by obnoxiousbastard ( 239578 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:02AM (#17012832)
    Microsoft's lawyer goons promise not to bust you up if, and only if, you buy from their bitch Novell.

    The Mob only wishes there were smooth enough to pull off crap like this.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:08AM (#17012866) Homepage Journal
    Ok true, but I don't see how the situation can be improved with GPL v3 and not affect Redhat Et all.

    Oh, it's no problem for Red Hat and HP. It's only a problem for people who own the patents in question or people who have made a deal with the owners of the patents. People who indemnify do so by reimbursing your damages out of their own pockets or through an insurance company, and they do so regardless of whose patents got you in trouble.

    There is a fundamental difference between indemnification and what Novell is doing. And an ethical difference too.

    I don't think patents should be applicable in software,but unfortunately I'm not in charge of writing the laws.

    You don't feel very empowered, do you. Not many of us do. But that's what democracy was supposed to be for. This is a problem we have to solve.


  • Re:What is this? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Arker ( 91948 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:18AM (#17012916) Homepage
    I wouldn't say I see it as unethical, on Novell's part at least. I'd say it was clueless.

    I believe the Novell statement is basically honest, as honest as corporate statements ever are, at least. And I read it like this:

    Novell wanted a deal on interoperability. MS played along, and managed to slip them a poison pill along with it. I don't think anyone at Novell intended to be played like this - but there's obviously some serious hardcore cluelessness at the pay scales where this deal got vetted and the decision made. As evidenced by the fact these people STILL don't see what the big deal is.

  • Re:What is this? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vojtech ( 565680 ) <> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:01AM (#17013142)
    Three points, from a pure bussiness perspective:

    1. Even if Linux is completely clean with regards to Microsoft patents, and I do believe it is so, there is still a threat of a lawsuit. There always is. It would be unsuccessful, but it still would be very inconvenient, annoying and expensive for those that get hit.
    2. Even if Novell doesn't believe that this threat is worth any action, it's enough if its customers, or potential customers (like those presently being Windows-only) do perceive that threat as important. Then, paying millions to Microsoft a reasonable bussiness decision. The extra sales of Linux and displacing Windows at those customers can offset that easily. Novell believes it should be competing with and taking market share from Windows, not RedHat, or which is the current case, old UNIXes, and this helps it.
    3. Even not including any sales of SLES by Microsoft, the payment is still positive by some $108M for Novell. It is positive, because in the deal Novell gives up the option of attacking Microsoft customers, an option it would never execute, believing in srictly defensive usage of its patent portfolio.

    Having said that, I will not argue that the deal is all roses and doesn't have any negative sides. I, working for SuSE, do certainly feel those. But I would like you to understand that there were good reasons for it, and that there is no need to search for dark ulterior motives on Novell's side.

  • Re:What is this? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Phillips ( 238627 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @04:24AM (#17013264)
    copyright on source code is pointless too. Here's one of those unspoken ideas: take random open source project that is under a license you don't like. Study it. Once you understand it, think of 20 ways you could improve it. Rewrite it from scratch... Whenever you run into one of those annoying problems that take ages to solve the first time you're writing a piece of software, just look at the original work. So long as you're not copying the text, just the ideas, copyright doesn't apply.

    There is indeed nothing wrong with this, quite the contrary. However, this process only works for software at a very local scale. As soon as you get into complete systems with massive internal dependencies, copyright becomes a very effective protection. After all...

    That ... ip filter was rewritten in under a week. How the hell can you do that? Well it really aint hard, you just gotta work.

    Exactly. People are allergic to work, that is what makes copyright on source code so effective. Do you feel like rewriting GCC just to skirt the copyright?
  • Re:What is this? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chance2105 ( 678081 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:51AM (#17016204)
    That's a great idea, until it becomes obvious that viewing so many patents makes you an ineffective contributor to open source projects.

    Not knowing the existance of a patent and inventing the same idea on your own is one thing. Knowing a patent exists and writing code that violates it is another.

    The other side of that coin: actually trying to avoid patents would make you code one line of code a year. Your productivity would drop to something pointless.

    Here's one (of many) example of Linus' views on patents on LKML: []
  • Re:What is this? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by oh_my_080980980 ( 773867 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:16AM (#17016590)
    "They want guarantees that either MS' claims are false, or MS will not sue them, even if they are true. This contract provides that guarantee."

    Here's the flaw in your logic. Microsoft never said their claims that Linux violates Microsoft's IP. In fact Steve Balmer AFTER they signed the agreement said Linux violates Microsoft IP. What the agreement says, according to Balmer, is that Novell admits Linux violates Microsoft's IP and agreed to pay Microsoft money for that IP and by paying Microosft for Microsoft's IP, Novell customers will not be sued. The rest of the linux community is fair game for lawsuits.

    Do you understand now.

  • Re:What is this? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:28AM (#17016822)
    Mental Peace? If Novell wanted to pay for their customers peace of mind, they should invest in softpat lobbying [] as Suse did. As a Suse customer the Novell deal would make me pretty nervous as I was irritated when they pushed for premature Ximian technology in Suse, esp. tainted technology such as Mono, the implementation of MS .NET which will likely infringe their patents. We have a look at Novell-MS and think back: Caldera/SCO. Novell, we don't know on what side they are or will be.

    150 Millions for license deals? 15 millions for lobby campaigners and the problem will soon be gone, forever, on a worldwide scale.

    Lobbying is the only way to stop the dangerous legal machinery. And it works pretty well as the European debate has shown.

    And by the way: Novell-MS patent deal is no defense against bad laws []
  • Re:What is this? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:32AM (#17016902)
    Novell wanted a deal on interoperability.

    When has Microsoft EVER worked with GPL'ed products for interoperability? I'll give you a few decades to research that and feel quite confident you won't find an example.

    So if interoperability with GPL'ed products isn't on their agenda, what is? Don't think too hard. Look at Ballmer's comments only a few days with the announcement out of the gates for clarity.

    I'd say [Novell} was clueless.

    I don't think clueless even scratches the surface of the level of ineptitude required on Novell's part to make them innocent in this deal. Egregious incompetence comes close, but even that seems to fall short IMO.
  • Re:What is this? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:48PM (#17022318)
    "That's a great idea, until it becomes obvious that viewing so many patents makes you an ineffective contributor to open source projects."

    Right. So the developers don't read the site. This will be a way for people who do not code to contribute to OSS.

    "Here's one (of many) example of Linus' views on patents on LKML"

    I don't think people respect Linus as much as they used to. He totally messed up the bitkeeper situation, he rejected the GPL3, and he has said nothing about the threats by MS to sue linux developers, distributors and users. You would think that he would at least condemn Ballmers remarks but not a peep.

    It's clear that linus doesn't get IP. He doesn't care and he thinks everybody is like him. Maybe the one good thing to come out of all this will be that linus learns to care about the threats of patents, DRM and licenses but somehow I doubt it. He will remain uncaring I am sure.
  • Re:What is this? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @06:08PM (#17025072) Homepage Journal
    There are a lot of things I'd attribute to ignorance. But taking 1/3 Billion dollars to welsh out on a contract with less-well-off folks, no. Novell had enough money to do the best possible due diligence, if they wanted to.


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