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Novell Injects MS Lawsuit Exploit Into Open Office 251

Posted by kdawson
from the danger-will-robinson dept.
F.M. Petain writes, "It looks like Microsoft's first move in the 'Linux owes us' game is to move a Pawn. A few days ago, a Novell programmer, Noel Power, submitted patches to add VBA compatibility to Open Office's spreadsheet module. This is great for people trying to convert the business desktop from closed source to open source, but is this gift really a ticking time bomb? What happens when Microsoft declares that the VBA code was stolen?" The patches may have been submitted only a few days ago, but the code must be considerably older; the article claims that nine distros in adition to SUSE already support the VBA extensions in their versions of Open Office. (Linux.com and Slashdot are both part of OSTG.)
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Novell Injects MS Lawsuit Exploit Into Open Office

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  • Re:Poison pill (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 18, 2006 @02:44PM (#16898230)
    Well, If you think about it:

    1) Novell enters deal with MS to make sure lawsuits don't happen

    2) Novell works with MS to get all other linux distros sued out of existance (or crippled to the point that nobody wants to use them for anything other than high-end servers that Win2k3 can't handle)

    3) Novell has a monopoly (or duopoly with SCO) on linux

    4) There is no ??? stage here, just profit with their buddies Microsoft.

    Doesn't sound like too bad of a plan IMHO.
  • Re:Poison pill (Score:2, Interesting)

    by HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) <lajollahomeless@hotmail.com> on Saturday November 18, 2006 @02:55PM (#16898296) Homepage Journal
    This is definitely an "embrace, extend, extinguish" maneuver.

    FTFA (italics are mine): (quoting Noel Power) "I also got the impression that they (Sun -- with respect to Sun's proprietary VBA support implementation) deemphasizing support for their solution. We hope to increase the pace of our upstreaming efforts and aim to have the initial effort completed in the next couple of months."

    If the goal of OOo is to encourage people to migrate away from MS and towards FOSS then deemphasizing VBA support is in the best interest of the end users in order to encourage them to write their macros in a language and environment free of MS encumberance. Noel's effort seems more to turn OOo into a MS Office clone which can then be made ready for the patent and intellectual property lawsuits that MS has been threatening for the last year. Once Noel has the VBA support to his liking in OOo then he'll have job security in continuing to maintain it and will be playing right into MS' hands and opening OOo up to the same types of arguments that MS has recently been making about Samba.

    Aside: When did FOSS become FLOSS? After reading the wikipedia.org entry on FLOSS I'm suspicious that it was written by a partial fanboi who wants to astroturf some 'net jargon.
  • by belmolis (702863) <billposer&alum,mit,edu> on Saturday November 18, 2006 @02:55PM (#16898302) Homepage

    Presumably the best defense against claims of stolen code is to do what the Linux kernel folks are doing and require contributors to certify that they have the right to provide the code. Here are the current rules [lwn.net] for submitting code for the kernel, and here is the Developer's Certificate of Origin [osdl.org]. Significant contributions should also be well publicized so that anyone claiming infringment is forced to bring it up soon, before people come to rely on it. In this case, it would then be Novell's problem, not the community's, if Microsoft claims that the code is theirs.

  • What happens? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MikeRT (947531) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @03:06PM (#16898390) Homepage
    All hell breaks loose for Novell, not OpenOffice. Presumably this is being done officially by them and so the blame would fall on Novell.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 18, 2006 @03:10PM (#16898426)
    A working solution for the problem:
    boycott Novell.

    Make them understand that we do not accept the deal they've made,
    regardless of whether it complies or not with GPLv2.

    For upstream people:
    reject their patches, regardless of the content.
    Reject their feature requests.
    Create new bug report state in trackers:
    "WAITING for submitter to cancel cancerous deal with Microsoft".

    For Novell management:
    cancel the deal with Microsoft and tell us how much you are sorry.

    For Novell engineers:
    protest with management, and if you are left unheard eventually start
    looking for alternatives.

    For users:
    if you are using Suse, move away. Try other distributions, there are
    better ones btw.
    Let Novell know that you do not want to use Suse anymore because of their deal.

    Novell has put all other distributions in danger, let us not let them get away with it.

    Anonymous Coward.

  • by Crayon Kid (700279) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @03:18PM (#16898522)
    Try as they might, they won't be able to poison all the packages in your regular Linux distro. It makes sense that they're going to concentrate on the high profile ones. And by high profile I mean those that pose the biggest threat to Microsoft. Open Office is one. Mono, Samba are other prime targets. Perhaps Apache as well, Firefox, and so on. Perhaps they'll even go for the kernel, GCC or core parts of GNU.

    These aren't knee-jerk reactions. I fear it is a long and carefully planned strategy.
  • by DarkOx (621550) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @03:40PM (#16898720) Journal
    Certainly Novells actions are bogus and not designed for the good of the OS community at all but we don't need to fear their code any more then code from any place else; Microsoft wants Linux out of the picture and is a fearce competitor in any market it participates in; especially is core markets like PC and micro server operating systems.

    Microsoft business is good sales are up but that is because the market is growing, others like Apple and Linux are takeing a part of the share M$ is used to haveing about 98% the writing on the wall says it won't stay that way unless something is done. Think about it we are rapidly approching the point where everyone has a PC or many and business have about as many as they know what to do with. Thats not to say people and orgainzations won't be always buying computer they will but it will be mostly a retire replace thing rather then a 1 + 1 = 2 like it has been the last 2 decades. Microsoft wants to keep 98% share. They know how to deal with traditional competitors. They can't deal with everyone and their brother producing different but mostly compatable platforms and more then the business modle IBM had around the PC could deal with the clone market. They sure can deal with RH and SUSE though. They are trying to play a patent game and ensure a finite number of traitional large corporate competition so they can do what they have always done; give away enough of their crack to get people hooked and at the same time starve the competition for revenue.

    If M$ can kill the Linux market outside of Novell watch for windows to be suddenly free(as in beer) and come with free as in beer support. M$ can give windows away; after all they have other products to sell for you to run on top of it. Most people will then see windows as cheak as suse not understadning that with suse they'd be getting all the other stuff like web,sql,office apps, to and pick windows because its familiar. That is what M$ wants; they want to be able to kill linux they way they killed Netscape, Netware and countless others. They can't manage that right now because with all sorts of basically not for profit distros, debian and small commecial distros that are selected by very specific people for specific reasons like slackware. There is no clear revenue stream to attack. The mass of people useing and developing the software remains big enough that it continues to improve and inovate to the point where it becomes dangerous to them and they cant stop it.

    Think about GNU/Linux is not quite but almost good enough to push replace windows in just about every desktop and server space it owns save a few without much pain. It does not need to be as good as windows just good enough and cheaper. Now even when those conditions are reached its still not going to be a big Linux title wave; in fact nothing at all will happen because people generally like the status quo. Ahh but what if a KILL APP was found something that you just can't do with windows but you could do easily with GNU/Linux. I don't know what that would be but at that point the war would be won over night. Windows would be a legacy platform like netware. That is what they fear.

    In the mean time though M$ played their cards wrong and so did Novel. Novel was thinking this little patent game with M$ could effectivly make them a Monopoly or part of a Oligopoly in the Linux market which while not huge would be better from their point of view then the current situation. Novel is wrong of couse because if it worked out that the developers would dry up. Nobody wants to write free code for Novel. They want to write code that the whole community can use. They do it because its fun to have your name on something that lots of people depend on. They do it because its a fun challenge and it produces a useful product for them and friends. They do it because they benifited from and OS project and feel they should give something back. They do it to show off their skills and make themsevels more marketable. They do it for all sorts of ot
  • Re:Ads (Score:4, Interesting)

    by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @03:48PM (#16898780)
    That was an open letter to Steve Ballmer.
  • Re:Poison pill (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kimvette (919543) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @04:04PM (#16898918) Homepage Journal
    FWIW, I run SuSE (retail) for most of my office machines and for my home machine. I also run CentOS and Ubuntu. Most of the machines are going to be upgraded to SuSE 10.2. Say what you will, but not everyone is going to dump SuSE until there is a good reason to. We might go OpenSUSE this time around rather than pay for the distribution, depending on what is tainted in SuSE Retail. Given the timing, I doubt SuSE 10.2 is tainted with anything from Microsoft at this point. That might change in SuSE 10.3 or SuSE 11. Given how slowly Microsoft tends to move, it's possible that even next autumn's release won't be tainted at all with their crud.

    If you're running SuSE already (10.1 or earlier) there is little reason to dump what you have, but keep your options open and reevaluate the larger distributions periodically. Given the refinement of KDE in SuSE, I'm reluctant to dump it even for kubuntu.
  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000.yahoo@com> on Saturday November 18, 2006 @04:08PM (#16898952)

    The question is the origin of the patch. Since a Novell employee is involved, this action is suspect.

    That's the key, a Novell employee making the patch. If MS were to go after anyone they'd have to go after Novell for releasing the patch not to a third party who uses the patch. But of course MS can't, er won't as they gave Novell a guaranty not to sue Novell.

    And copyrighted? Why do you suppose that the people running OpenOffice.org have access to Microsoft's source code for comparison?

    Or are you basing your position on the fact that no one could possibly have gone through the patch and deleted all the "this code written by Microsoft employee # 1234567 and is protected by copyrights and patents"?

    Patent not copyright may be applicable in this case, however in both copyrights and patents, there is a record that can be looked up to see if there is an infringment. Both the Copyright and patent offices have databases of them which anyone can lookup. The problem with this is knowing how to search the records.

    Falcon
  • by IgnorantGuru (1026450) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @04:54PM (#16899344)
    I switched to Kubuntu and am very happy with it. I appreciate what SUSE contributed but I simply don't trust them at this point - mainly because I know better than to trust MS. Who are you sleeping with? Answer that and I can tell a bit about you.
  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Saturday November 18, 2006 @05:43PM (#16899760) Journal
    I still cannot run any one OO app without launching the whole suite. You'd think by now they'd learn to make it a shared library, make it start in less than 10 seconds, etc...

    I was considering using OO to convert some Word files to OpenDocument awhile ago. I ended up choosing AbiWord, because AbiWord can be run in a commandline mode to do that translation, whereas OO requires an X server and a VB-like macro to automate the process -- and the macro must be embedded in a file, and installed through the OO GUI.

    So, you're absolutely right, if this was a well-architected, well-run project. It isn't.
  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @07:41PM (#16900686) Journal
    Rejecting all OpenOffice patches by Novell effectively makes OpenOffice a Sun project. Last time I checked, 80% of new contributions came from Sun, 15%ish came from Novell, and the remaining 5% from all the other contributors (I think Red Hat came in at about 1.5%).

    The VBA code in OO.o isn't entirely new either. There was a presentation at Linux '05 by some Novell guys on the VBA code that they had written for OO.o, and they claimed then it was very close to supporting all the functions people actually used.

  • by Epeeist (2682) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @04:05AM (#16902816) Homepage
    I am still running SUSE 10.1, there are some things I need to do before I can think about the change. However, I will be making it sooner than I anticipated.

    While running an update this morning I noticed that the "Mono implementation of ASP.NET" was being updated. Why the fsck should I need this on a desktop machine?

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