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FOSS Force

Windows HP Tablet Loss

When HP unceremoniously dropped plans to release the Slate tablet computer running Windows 7, we learned much about the changing relationship between Microsoft and the major computer makers. That the product was dropped after being unveiled by Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer at January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas was even more telling.

The project might have been doomed from the start. Despite the fact that the bar for tablets had yet to be raised by the iPad, reporters at CES weren’t very impressed by what they saw. Nick Mediati’s remarks on InfoWorld were typical:

Is This Any Way to Run a Web Site?

By now, both of the regular visitors to this site have doubtlessly discovered we didn’t publish a blog on Friday or yesterday, though neither of them have contacted me about it. Those who know me might be inclined to think the missing blogs are due to my laziness. How I wish that was so. How I wish I’d just said to myself, “To heck with the blog, I’m going to have a mint julep.” Instead, I’ve been done-in by Murphy’s Law.

My first clue that Murphy was going to strike came late Thursday afternoon, just as I was getting ready to close down the office for the evening. I was intending to go home, have a quick dinner and bang out “Friday FOSS Week in Review” and get it scheduled to publish here on Friday morning. As Google was having their big developers’ fest out west, and everybody in tech was continuing to sue everybody else in tech, this was going to be an easy column to write. But just as I was getting ready to turn off the office computer and take the trip home, I received an email with no message, just the subject line: “PLEASE REMOVE ME FROM YOUR MAILING LIST.”

Google Offers New Open Source Video Standard

Yesterday was a great day for open source at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

At the I/O developers’ conference, host Google finally announced they are open sourcing the VP8 video codec they acquired with their purchase of On2 Technologies back in February. Google is packaging VP8 as part of a format they’re calling WebM, which will include Ogg Vorbis for audio playback. WebM is being released royalty free under a BSD-style license.

Linux & Microsoft’s Patents

Unless Linux developers begin purposely infringing on major Microsoft patents, Redmond will not go after Linux regarding the famous 235 patents they claim the penguin already violates. They’ve waited too long; that can no longer happen. To go after Tux now would be something akin to suicide and might possibly relegate the software giant to being simply another consumer software company. Ballmer knows this; Red Hat probably knows it; the rest of us suspect it.

The reason for this centers around the enterprise. No matter how pervasive Windows may be in the consumer market, they can’t live on the money they make from supplying binary for home computers, especially given the fact that most consumers receive all their Microsoft products preinstalled when they purchase their boxes. The Microsoft tax on consumer products is hardly enough to keep the world’s largest software maker afloat, and it’s a tax they can’t raise much without creating a revolt by both consumers and OEMs that would move personal computing to Apple and Linux.

Windows Phone 7 Gets it Wrong

Microsoft’s just released Kin phones will probably sell well enough for Redmond to be able to claim their releases successful. There are plenty of microsofties out there who’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and won’t buy any computing product unless it has either Intel inside or Windows on the screen. And the teen crowd, Kin’s targeted market, will most likely turn the Zune based phone into a fad for fifteen or twenty minutes, until the wrong people get one. Also, there’s the cheap factor. With rebates, the Kin One can be had for fifty bucks.

But the Kin will most likely only be a blip on the sales charts. The real test for whether Redmond will be able to reenter the mobile market successfully will come later this year with the release of Windows Phone 7. Although many tech writers are already boosters of this OS, I’m betting it barely gets out the gate.

Happy Belated Birthday Groklaw!

Was it really seven years ago yesterday that Groklaw came into being? Time flies when you’re having fun (and at my age, it flies even when you’re not).

If you don’t know who or what Groklaw is, you’re either new to the open source world, or you’ve been spending the last seven years trying to find online help for your old install of Caldera Linux. Grocklaw is a legal blog started by paralegal Pamela Jones, who’s affectionately known as “PJ” by her legions of fans. In a prerecorded message at the Free Software Foundation’s 2007 Free Software Awards (Groklaw won for Projects of Social Benefit), Jones explained her vision of Groklaw as:

The Zen of Open Source

There is a spirituality involved with the open source process.

Open source proponents, especially those who earn their living distributing or supporting free products, are more often than not adamant in proclaiming there is nothing spiritual or religious about the FOSS model. They maintain the position that the GPL and other open source licenses are only ways of doing business and getting code written. Open source isn’t a New-Age-feel-good-and-meditate sort of thing. It’s a business model, pure and simple, and everyone knows that businesspeople can’t afford to get embroiled in the murky world of spirituality.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The business world is full of people who refuse to let any sort of spirituality, be it Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or something else, intrude into any area of their lives. They are pragmatists who believe the only divine forces that need concern them are the gods of money and growth. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this viewpoint, and most of us encounter it often since it tends to be held by those at the top of the food chain, even in the open source world. These are the nonbelievers.

Friday FOSS Week in Review: Letterman Disses Linux

I couldn’t help but notice, at the end of our first week at FOSS Force, that two of my first three posts had to do with Apple, a company that’s about as FOSS friendly as Microsoft. In my defense, I’d like to point out that the first story had to do with Zapple threatening Ogg Theora, an open source application, with a patent lawsuit and the second had to do with more Crapple patent threats against open source Android – so there was an open source connection in both instances.

That being said, I’m sure that Steebe Jarbs isn’t too upset about being criticized here, as he’s wise enough to know that it doesn’t matter what I write about him so long as I spell his name right.

On to the news:

An Apple a Day Won’t Keep the Lawyers Away

There are so many legal actions now revolving around the iPhone that I can’t keep track. Maybe sometime soon Apple will have an app for that. In the meantime, I’m grabbing some peanuts and Cracker Jacks before sitting back to enjoy the game. I have no idea how many suits and other legal actions will be filed before its over, but there’s sure to be more to come. Two new actions were filed yesterday alone. I think this game might go into extra innings.

The latest round, call it the second inning, started on March 2nd, with first at bat Apple filing a lawsuit against HTC, the Taiwanese manufacturer of Nexus One (Google’s flagship Android device) and other smartphones running Google’s Linux based mobile operating system. Jobs & Company claims that HTC is infringing on 20 Apple iPhone patents, mostly dealing with the GUI and hardware/software design. Apple is seeking an unspecified amount of damages, but perhaps more importantly they are asking for a permanent injunction that would forbid HTC from importing or offering for sale any of their Android devices in the U.S.

Mandriva Linux Reportedly at Death’s Door

The online rumor mills are spitting out reports that Mandriva, once a rising star in the Linux world, is facing grave financial difficulties. According to rumor, the distro is desperately seeking a buyer and if one isn’t found soon they will close their doors.

As of Monday, the story was being reported on at least a half-dozen sites, all coming from the same source, a short article in French on Mandriva Linux Online, which bills itself as “an unofficial site dedicated to beginners on Mandriva Linux.” The poor quality English translation of the article provided by Google is confusing and somewhat unclear, but it appears that without a cash infusion, Mandriva will not be able to make payroll much longer.

Is Open but Proprietary iFlash Coming?

There are many reason’s to dislike Adobe’s Flash. It’s buggy, it’s a resource hog, and it’s a security risk of Microsoft proportions. But the biggest reason to dislike Flash, the engine behind everything from YouTube videos to distracting online ads, is that it’s proprietary. It’s not free, and most likely never will be.

That’s why, like many, I was happy a few weeks back when Apple announced they were all but forever banning Flash and Flash apps on their mobile devices. I was happier still when Steve Jobs thoroughly trashed the Adobe product in his Thoughts on Flash post on the Apple web site. For once it seemed as if Jobs was on the same wavelength as open source proponents. He recognized that the web needs to be based on open standards and pledged to support standards like HTML5 as Apple attempts to redefine the mobile online experience.

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