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Novell Software Businesses Microsoft Patents SuSE Linux

openSUSE Hobbled By Microsoft Patents 266

kripkenstein writes "openSUSE 10.2 no longer enables ClearType (which would improve the appearance of fonts). The reason given on the openSUSE mailing list for not enabling it is, 'this feature is covered by several Microsoft patents and should not be activated in any default build of the library.' As reported on and discussed, this matter may be connected to the Microsoft-Novell deal. If so, Novell should have received a license for the Microsoft patents, assuming the deal covered all relevant patents. Does the license therefore extend only to SUSE, but not openSUSE?"
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openSUSE Hobbled By Microsoft Patents

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  • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:49AM (#18673351)
    Steve Gibson pointed out decades-old prior art that would invalidate the Cleartype patent several years ago.

    Indeed he did. Not that the idea itself merits a patent anyways. It is pretty obvious and shopuld not be patentable in the first place.
  • Now it is clear (Score:4, Insightful)

    by javilon ( 99157 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:53AM (#18673373) Homepage
    Novell is the new SCO
  • by DrMindWarp ( 663427 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:54AM (#18673385)
    This is complete nonsense written by someone that is clearly clueless and forwarded by an editor that is equally clueless. This is a FreeType library setting for compiling programs (not ClearType!). It is the same for every Linux distribution as it is the default setting for the development library. It has never been enabled by default.

  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:14AM (#18673509)
    Judas was a goat?

    Anyway. They are very helpfully pointing out the patents which Microsoft says apply to Linux...

  • never so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deternal ( 239896 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:14AM (#18673519) Homepage
    As far as I can read, it has never been enabled. It needs to be enabled at compile time, which the ansvar to the linked bug report clearly states by c&p of the relevant info from the FreeType lib.

    This is a complete non-issue and has been known for a while. It predates the Novell/MS agreement.
  • Re:Exactly (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:15AM (#18673525)
    First of all, nobody said it's ClearType, except for the moron who inserted into the FreeType2 code the following comment: "Uncomment the line below if you want to activate sub-pixel rendering (a.k.a. LCD rendering, or ClearType) in this build of the library. Note that this feature is covered by several Microsoft patents and should not be activated in any default build of the library."

    Secondly, BCI is something not enabled by default. The sub-pixel hinting is (was) always available by default in all the distros, you could use it from the KDE Control Center, from the GNOME Control Center or using font.conf settings.

    Someone is so hasty to comment on Slashdot, that he didn't bother to read it carefully.

    Well, democracy à la Slashdot is usually the power of the mob.
  • by lmb ( 32460 ) * on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:20AM (#18673549) Homepage
    openSUSE does not ship code which is known to infringe patents or IP, so the patents either get invalidated (lengthy and expensive) or the code disabled / removed. This policy is not affected by the NOVL/MSFT deal at all; quite the contrary, it has always been Novell/SUSE's policy to not ship such code.

    Just like openSUSE doesn't ship infringing Linux drivers, or Debian not shipping certain licenses.

    What the heck is the fuzz about?
  • by GFree ( 853379 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:23AM (#18673567)
    I think this makes for a pretty good example of one of the strengths of something like Linux. If you find your distro moving into directions you don't like, you can leave pretty easily and try another distro. They're all Linux, just wrapped up differently, and so if a distro decides to pull some shit like this, they'll only be hurting themselves because there's no real lock-in to any one distribution.

    Microsoft are trying to cripple Linux using traditional methods, but all they can really cripple is openSUSE due to the Novell partnership. It's not like MS can take over EVERY SINGLE DISTRO, particularly the homegrown stuff. A good example of the power of choice I think.
  • by w_albright ( 27497 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:31AM (#18673621)
    IMHO, they did the right thing. One of openSUSE's goals is to be completely open source software (hence the 'open' in 'openSUSE'). Even if they may have the right to use them due to the MS/Novell patent deal, they do not want the distro encumbered with non-OSS software in the default install. Fedora 7 also disables this feature.

    If you want a distro protected (encumbered) by MS patents, buy SUSE Enterprise.
  • by burnttoy ( 754394 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:36AM (#18673667) Homepage Journal
    Windows has had AA text in the following formats.

    Win95,3.1, probably 98 etc - none at all! Just 1bpp

    98SE,ME - these have support for 2 bit per pixel transparency masks as part of the GDI device driver. I can't remember how to turn on this feature but the Win2K method is shown below.

    NT4 - no support - just 1bpp text.

    Win2K - Same as 98/ME, 2 bits per pixel transparency. Try Desktop (Win+D), Right Click (or Right Menu Key), Properties, Settings Tab, Tick "Smooth Edges of Screen Fonts".

    WinXP - ClearType fonts supported (at least on Pro) - get a control panel applet from msdn/ to change settings. HW support via alpha blending.

    WinXP Tablet Edition - Support of 90 degree rotation e.g. aliasing in Y instead of X (screens mounted portrait)... I think I'm right on this.

    Vista - more of the same I guess!

    YMMV - It's been a while since I mucked with Windows GDI Drivers.
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:43AM (#18673729) Homepage

    It really doesn't matter if this is related to the patent deal with Microsoft or not. The damage is done by the mere perception that Novell is aligned with Redmond.

    This whole deal is to IT was Iraq is to foreign policy: A bad idea implemented without a clear exit strategy.

    Unless the goal was to drive users to Ubuntu. In that case it's a brilliant plan.

  • by jimstapleton ( 999106 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:43AM (#18673731) Journal
    I think a lot of it is monitor quality too..

    My old Hitachi was a nice LCD in regards to image quality, and it looked great with clear type.
    However the backlight died (and the response time was a bit low), and now I have a cheap Samsung - The letters have halos on them with clear type.

    So, monitor quality is a big part of it, not just the rendering technology, though both are important.
  • Re:Prior art (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0123456789 ( 467085 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @09:00AM (#18673907)
    There's a difference between being able to find prior art for something, and being able to afford to go to court to defend yourself against a patent infringement lawsuit. Sadly, the gulf between the two positions is pretty wide. Maybe there should be an appeal process for patent awards? If you can show that a patent affects you in some way, and shouldn't have been granted for some reason (eg prior art), you could appeal against the patent award and attempt to get it rescinded in a quicker and cheaper process than a full-on court case?
  • by Aequo ( 923926 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @09:12AM (#18674043)
    Do you have any examples of how openSUSE has been crippled by Microsoft? It has already been pointed out further up that this article was _clearly_ either written by someone trying to spread FUD or by someone who just isn't very knowledgable (subpixel hinting is a freetype setting that the freetype developers themselves suggest disabling for distros). It is quite funny to see so many people jumping on the bandwagon, attempting to find 'omgz evil' in Novell because they made a business deal with Microsoft; obviously a deal that turns out to have done them more bad than good in the eyes of the community.
  • Re:Prior art (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kobaz ( 107760 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @09:14AM (#18674073)
    I couldn't agree more.

    I've never found cleartype to be helpful either, I much rather not have cleartype as on every single display device I've enabled it on it looks like crap. I've tried it on high and low end crts and high and low end lcds, it all looks much better (and more readable) without cleartype.
  • by bwalling ( 195998 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @09:16AM (#18674085) Homepage
    The damage is done by the mere perception that Novell is aligned with Redmond.

    I won't disagree with that statement, but that's no excuse for this ridiculous story posted to Slashdot. For all of the griping around here about other companies' FUD, this is basically pure FUD itself. Alas, it's not an isolated case. It's too bad so many people read this site - it's a very poor source of information if you just scan the front page.
  • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomz16 ( 992375 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @09:49AM (#18674603)
    Any time I've turned on cleartype on a fresh install of windows, my first impression has always been that it just made fonts look "blurrier", for lack of a better word.

    However, after using it for a day or two, turning it off is absolutely painful. IMHO, it really DOES make text MUCH easier to read on an LCD.

  • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @10:31AM (#18675249) Homepage Journal

    openSUSE does not ship code which is known to infringe patents or IP

    Funny, my copy includes Mono.

  • by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @10:49AM (#18675601)
    corporate critters only have an eye for the next quarterly returns... as long as they can make their killing and successfully cash out their stock options, they don't care about the stockholders really... they don't intend to be around when the crap hits the proverbial fan. They'll be off raiding another company
  • Re:Prior art (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tomz16 ( 992375 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @10:51AM (#18675641)
    The text in your screenshot DOES look blurry past the first line or two... Going to the microsoft page ALL of the cleartype RGB text looks crystal clear on my Dell 2001FP
    with cleartype enabled. Same on my IBM x40 laptop.

    My guess is that your OSX computer is scaling the image in some weird way that doesn't quite line up with your physical LCD pixels.

  • Re:Prior art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @11:32AM (#18676355) Journal
    Just by having billions in the bank and flooding the patent office with false patents so they can threaten most OSS projects out of existence.

    Hey, maybe I should file a patent on THAT business model. ;-/

    Sorry, Microsoft can prove prior, invalidate your patent, then reword and patent it themselves.
  • by L'homme de Fromage ( 838405 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @11:40AM (#18676483)
    This [] one seems to cover Microsoft's ADO.NET and parts of ASP.NET, neither of which are covered by the ECMA standard for C#/.NET. There are lots more. The Mono project has admitted [] that ADO.NET, ASP.NET and Windows.Forms are patented extensions by Microsoft, and that they may have to remove those at some time (which would render Mono basically useless for most Windows developers and even some Linux developers).
  • by drdanny_orig ( 585847 ) * on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @12:14PM (#18677031)
    I couldn't have said it better myself. Which is why I didn't.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @06:24PM (#18682971) Journal
    Try changing it though. 90% of stuff works, but very frequently options boxes and such won't properly display anymore because their overall dimensions are hardcoded, pushing the buttons and text off the bottom of the screen.

    This is generally my experience also. Seems nobody tested them well outside of the default settings. This is both within Windows and vendor apps that may have their own rendering conventions/engine.

    This is why we shouldn't give designers pixel-perfect layout. They always end up requiring it.

    Auto-flow layouts have their own tripping points and gotcha's. I am not sure there is any perfect solution. It is very difficult to design non-trivial GUI's that can span a wide range of resolutions.
  • by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @01:19AM (#18698623) Homepage Journal
    It's also a case of "ignorance makes bliss". As a long time Unix user, when I go to Windows or Mac, I feel very constrained by the configuration dialogs. If I want to do something outside of the Redmond/Cupertino boxes, I have to start tweaking obscure registry settings, download buggy and untrustworthy utilities, etc. Windows and OSX users think their dialogs let them do everything, simply because they don't know anything else exists outside of the dialog's border.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal