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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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:51AM (#18673363)
    No more Suse Linux on my servers. I know that subpixel rendering has no impact on server applications, but I now consider that distribution rogue.
  • Re:Prior art? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:56AM (#18673401)
    Not only that, linux/X.org subpixel rendering works in a somewhat different, rather more general way to ClearType. Any geometric object can be subpixel rendered and antialiased, whereas microsoft's method implements separately for each graphics/font object kind. EVEN IF microsoft patents were to hold up in court, there'd be a good case wouldn't cover the technique used in linux/X.org. I think this is indeed an attempt to sow misleading precedent by microsoft - Novell AND openSuse should be considered corrupt and abandoned.

  • Suse vs Open Suse (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:57AM (#18673407)
    I put a store-bought version of Suse on my daughter's machine and everything was good. We upgraded her mobo and downloaded the 64 bit version of Open Suse. There are a myriad of niggling little details that don't quite work the same. The commercial version of Suse was a joy. The other one isn't. We're switching to Ubuntu.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:02AM (#18673425) Journal
    I find that cleartype is easy on my eyes while browsing websites etc with lots of text meant to be read by humans. Code, OTOH, looks horrible in cleartype. When I have to tell, single quote from double, where braces are very important, where I have to tell zero from o, two from zee, ell from one, bah... ClearType makes a mess.
  • Hidden warning (Score:2, Interesting)

    by b1ufox ( 987621 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:08AM (#18673451) Homepage Journal
    This as it seems, is yet another legal puns MS has up its sleeves.MS struck a deal with Novell months back, which obviously created a fury among free software zealots.Now this seems to be a Red signal for Linux users, who uses OpenSuse or any other free Linux distribution, as it implies IMO _you_ being a non SUSE(and means even OpenSUSE i guess) users are infringing on MS's so called intellectual property.

    Is this the start of the hide and seek of infringement legalities?

    Lets hope SUSE understand this can be just the beginning. Novell people should put in some thinking into not getting pawned once again by MS.

    Whatever i am better off without them on my Edgy Ubuntu machine. :)


  • by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:09AM (#18673461)
    There's obviously quite a bit of prior art to Cleartype, but Novell as an open source company does not want to stand up and defend itself and its software from it (as well as Red Hat actually). I rather suspect both Red Hat and especially Novell are using the non-issue of patents to try and give their so called enterprise distributions an actual selling point.

    The question really is, why was it deemed OK to enable it before, and suddenly it has become a big deal where it is disabled?

    Additionally, there seems to be some confusion of the Microsoft/Novell deal. The patent agreement would not be legal with the terms of the GPL, rather Microsoft gave a covenant not to sue to Novell's customers and promised to be nice to OpenSuse's users. Whether that would cover this, I don't know.
  • Same with fedora (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:09AM (#18673465)
    Fedora disables the truetype bytecode interpreter and subpixel hinting features of the freetype library. There is an "autohinting" system used instead, but in my experience it looks much worse, compared to recompiling freetype with the patented features enabled.
  • by marcosdumay ( 620877 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yamudsocram.> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:11AM (#18673481) Homepage Journal

    The GPL is very clear on one point: if you know your software infringes on some patent, you can't distribute it, even if you have a deal with the patent holder enabling you to do that*. Can Novell now be prosecuted? Is that code GPLed (it seems to be KDE, so it probably is)?

    * Unless that deal is extended to everybody that touches the code.

  • by Delkster ( 820935 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:14AM (#18673523)

    Out of curiousity, do other major distributions enable this either? In other words, is this news at all?

    A page on the FreeType project site [freetype.org] says:

    Finally, many Linux distributions seem to distribute a patched version of FreeType 2 with the bytecode interpreter activated, unlike to the sources we distribute.

    However, I've previously been under the impression that most distributions would ship at least without some features covered by patents. On the other hand, it's not only MS who owns patents that concern subpixel rendering, and I don't know who owns what, so that's why I'm left wondering if someone else actually knows.

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

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) * on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:28AM (#18673601) Homepage Journal
    Gibson is exactly right. When I first saw sub-pixel rendering (aka 'ClearType') explained, I remembered programming graphics on an Apple IIe, and you had a difference between even and odd pixels that forced you to draw lines in a way that is exactly the same as how ClearType works.

    I could claim prior art if I could just get those damned 5.25" floppies to read in anything. Of course, this was common practice back in the day, so maybe some old Apple II programmers out there can come up with AppleSoft BASIC code or something.

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

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @09:03AM (#18673947) Journal
    The funny thing is I just installed OpenSUSE 10.2 alpha 3 and the fonts look better than ever; if this is how they look without cleartype, who needs it?
  • by JetScootr ( 319545 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @09:14AM (#18674075) Journal
    I seem to recall about 10 years ago font copyrights, etc, and the ClearType issue came up regarding Linux. The question then was whether it was OK to do *something* like this, or include fonts, etc, in OSS files and/or SW. Anyone remember the details?
  • by mattr ( 78516 ) <.mattr. .at. .telebody.com.> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @09:22AM (#18674179) Homepage Journal
    IIRC different displays may have different order of R,G,B component pixels which may require a reversed antialiasing pattern (as if the screen was flipped upside-down). Though the effect is subtle it also shows a red and/or blue fringe. Though that may not be what you are talking about.
  • Re:Suse vs Open Suse (Score:2, Interesting)

    by beef623 ( 998368 ) * on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @09:39AM (#18674429)

    Heh, I went the other way not too long ago. I started with Ubuntu, but the more familiar I got with linux, the more I hated Ubuntu. I finally switched to openSuse a few months ago(mainly because it was the only distro I could get running on my laptop at the time) and fell in love with it. I finally completely shed myself of Ubuntu when the box I had at home wouldn't let me even log in anymore. I haven't really looked back.

    I will say that I don't like a lot of the defaults in 10.2, especially the main menu it has by default. Hadn't really noticed the font thing though.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @10:05AM (#18674851)
    M$FT is simply using openSUSE here as a tool to prove that Linux violates patents (I don't believe this to be true). The more that Novell disables due to Microsoft patents, the more you can be sure that such disabling will be pointed to in the major legal war coming soon. This is the equivalent of troop movement...small pockets of M$FT troops are being moved into strategic areas near Linux's borders...they're hiding out in farmhouses and covered up with bales of hay, but they are indeed there. It's only a matter of time before they jump up, yell "Righteousness and truth be damned...", and begin the attack.

    Fathers, gather your weapons now. Board up your windows and doors. Make sure your cellars are concealed and livable, so that your wives and daughters will be comfortable. The War to End All Wars is upon us, and it's our obligation to join the cause and fight the dread beast Microsoft. I fear for our ancestors if we do not.

    The first step? Abandon openSUSE. They have been compromised, tainted and brainwashed beyond recovery. Best to put a bullet in their brain and save whatever honor is left in their history. Any among us who refuse to do so should follow the same fate.
  • Re:Prior art (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @10:32AM (#18675281)
    How about the Sinclair ZX80's block graphics?

    http://www.8bit-museum.de/docs/sinclair6r1.htm [8bit-museum.de]

    That's a 1981 German version of a prior UK article. Interestingly it also claims that the PET has a similar graphics mode?
  • Re:Prior art (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mikael ( 484 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @11:42AM (#18676515)
    remember the same technique used on the Atari 8-bit computers, in the monochrome "Graphics Mode 8" level. By offsetting the *placement* of pixels, you could accomplish new colors.

    This method of Artifacting is described in great detail in the Atari Archives [atariarchives.org].

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

    by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:14PM (#18678117) Homepage
    Of course, the answer to that is that everyone ignores Microsoft patents and LETS them try to take EVERYBODY to court - including countries that don't give a rat's ass about US patents.

    Microsoft can try to be SCO and build its business on the backs of lawyers, but it's not going to work, however much Bill G might dream of it.

    People forget that IBM holds more patents on everything than anyone and is making billions off Linux - as well as having the best lawyers on the planet. If Microsoft tries such a thing, IBM will hand Bill his head.

    Threats are threats only. It's only when you submit that you lose.
  • by Assassin_for_Atari ( 691252 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:30PM (#18678391)
    Actually for anyone looking for a "install it and just watch it work" distro, I have been referring people to "Linux Mint" its pretty much ubuntu but with flash and all the media codes installed. They also have a great "start menu" and other utilities that make in a Drop in solution!
  • by Rimbo ( 139781 ) <rimbosity@@@sbcglobal...net> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:46PM (#18679735) Homepage Journal
    There are two things that must exist.

    1. It must be documented.

    I present to you the Beagle Bros Big Tip Book for the Apple ][, by Bert Kersey, ISBN-10: 0553342800, ISBN-13: 9780553342802, Publisher: Bantam Books - 1986. (I forgot the page number, but it's in there, complete with how it works and an example program.)

    As everyone knows, the Apple ][ graphics system was 128 pixels wide -- in color. But in monochrome, one could get 256 pixels wide. What the above book details is a way to get 512 pixels wide on any standard Apple ][ -- no 80-column adapter or 128KB necessary.

    It's the exact same algorithm ClearType uses.

    2. The parties must give a damn.

    Novell just signed their soul away to Microsoft, demonstrating that they don't give a damn. This is just the first step in the suckyzation of Novell's free Linux offal^H^Herings. This sort of thing has been around for decades, so why hasn't anyone challenged the patent? Because nobody gives a crap, that's why. Everybody's using Fedora or Ubuntu if they're going free, anyway.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.