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Novell "Forking" OpenOffice.org 370

l2718 writes to mention that In the wake of their recent deal with Microsoft, Novell has announced a new version of OpenOffice.org which will support Microsoft's planned Office formal, Open XML. From the article: "The translators will be made available as plug-ins to Novell's OpenOffice.org product. Novell will release the code to integrate the Open XML format into its product as open source and submit it for inclusion in the OpenOffice.org project. As a result, end users will be able to more easily share files between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org, as documents will better maintain consistent formats, formulas and style templates across the two office productivity suites."
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Novell "Forking" OpenOffice.org

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  • by panaceaa ( 205396 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:56PM (#17106956) Homepage Journal
    I guess Microsoft's "ignore the competitor" strategy has failed, and they're switching to "embrace, extend, extinguish [wikipedia.org]" as Microsoft's claimed to have called their strategy against Java and Netscape. It's interesting that lately Microsoft's been using puppet companies (SCO, Novell) to do their dirty work, rather than adding crappy support for open standards in their own products. I wonder what the legal agreements between Microsoft and Novell/SCO look like?
  • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:17PM (#17107276)
    It doesn't matter if the code is open sourced and hosted on sourceforge. It most likely violated MS patents and MS said they intend to sue anybody who USES any software which violates their patents unless it was bought from novell.

    So once you download and install this plug in you make yourself a target for a lawsuit from MS. Furthermore the developers who may contribute to the plugins will also be sued (according to the CEO of MS).

    Open source doesn't mean jack shit in this case. MS is laying the groundwork for a series of lawsuits.
  • Punctuation Abuse? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kelson ( 129150 ) * on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:22PM (#17107316) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps when it acquired quotation marks? In the ever evolving english language, perhaps "forking" means "releasing plugins for a product" and forking means what it bloody well already does mean.

    Hmm, that reminds me of the trend of tacking on a question mark to a controversial headline in order to avoid claims of inaccuracy. The headline would be something like, "Slashdot Full of Weirdos?" and even if the article concedes that, no, only half of Slashdot posters are weirdos, so it can hardly be construed as "full" of them, the impression has still been made -- especially on the casual viewer who sees the headline, but doesn't read the article.

  • by physicsnick ( 1031656 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:28PM (#17107390)
    The problem is that Novell is extending it with functionality that is likely patented by Microsoft. Since Microsoft is offering them patent protection, it means their extensions to OOo, and any other F/OSS they'll likely fork, are not actually usable by anyone not running a SuSE distro. This is the loophole they have found in the GPLv2 that allows them to add proprietary extensions to OSS software. Their extensions may as well be closed source. Novell should burn for this.
  • by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:30PM (#17107406)
    Finally, thank goodness...

    This actually gives OpenOffice a real chance - not only to be competitive but to offer a document format that has some power in its abilities.

    Like I argued before with the whole OpenDocument controversy, the file formats and standards in play in the OSS world are just not robust enough to handle the current generation of documents, let alone even try to handle future concepts of what document storage could entail.

    Whether OpenOffice takes advantage of it or not, the potential to maintain and use technologies that are standard in the MS world of documents like Ink and extended media content are now possible.

    This is actually a win win for both sides of the fence. MS doesn't have to spend development money on a version of Office for the growing OSS OS world, and the OSS OS world can now freely be just as strong of a competitor in the business world. Basically, companies that can afford MS software will continue to do so, and smaller entities that cannot afford the price to buy into MS technology can go Open Source and not have to worry about document compatibility.

    With Wordperfect also adding the MS Open format, the market once again has a choice in quality and price of the production product and won't have to worry about losing features based on the solution they choose.

    If OpenDocument would have just been more 'open' about robust features that are covered in the MS OpenXML document specifications, we would see it be the standard everyone would be happily using.

    However with OpenDocument it was quite unreasonable to expect MS to move to a document format that would stripe away 30% of the features that their products provide. I don't know why this was so hard for the OpenDocument crowd to understand, especially when MS was already in the process of creating an open standard that DID include more advanced document capabilities.

    If we are lucky, now we might even see OpenOffice and Wordperfect move to add more feature rich concepts into their products to take advantage of the information they now easily read and store in the MS OpenXML format. Imagine everything from Ink to Sound and Video that are all even text searchable(via recognition), as you can already do with Microsoft Office products.

  • Re:MS cant win (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arevos ( 659374 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:35PM (#17107454) Homepage
    MS and Novell try and fix this issue, which will do nothing but benefit the distribution of OO and you bitch and moan.

    This is the same Microsoft that a few weeks ago, claimed:

    [Novell have] appropriately compensated Microsoft for our intellectual property, which is important to us. In a sense you could say anybody who has got Linux in their data center today sort of has an undisclosed balance sheet liability.

    After essentially telling people they've started up a Mafia-style IP protection racket, is it any wonder that people might be just a little bit suspicious of anything that looks like Microsoft IP?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:41PM (#17107538)
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak.yahoo@com> on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:46PM (#17107606) Homepage Journal
    It depends. Dynamic links are generally not covered by the GPL, as they are not "really" modifications of the code. They are merely calls to an external object, and totally external calls are not usually considered within the remit of the GPL. (By totally external, I mean that no sane person could say that the object was in any way embedded - even at runtime - into the original code.) If you add such a link to an external object that handles Open XML, then the object handling Open XML need not be GPLed, whereas the code that is identifiably OpenOffice would remain GPL.

    This would be modular if (and only if) you could remove said link from the code and have it still work. I think the word WinDriver is appropriate here. Microsoft has, in the past, found ways to shift functionality around to break things when not doing things their way, even though "technically" they are not doing so. The hardware in a WinPrinter or WinModem doesn't change when you move it to Linux, it still functions entirely within spec, it's not its fault that Linux lacks the necessary extra code.

    Alternatively, Microsoft could overload one of the Open Office functions in a way that makes Open Office run better (or appear to) with the module than without. Or they could make it flakier to use Open Document. There's a million ways they could coerce users into using their module. And, as with the browser wars, all they need is to make themselves appear needed.

    Now, will this happen? I'm not sure. Novell seem suspicious of Microsoft, but the test of a trap is not whether you are suspicious of it, but whether you are caught. (Kerr Avon, "Bounty", Blake's 7) It also seems odd that - at a time the community is suspicious of the whole relationship - Novell would be doing this. It seems unhelpful for customer relationships (or anything else) to add fuel to the fire, no matter how innocent the whole thing is. There have simply been too many cases of innocent victims (users and businesses) in the past for people to simply relax. One should not be too relaxed around a vampire, even if they claim to have become vegetarian. (Vegetarian vampire ducks excluded.)

    Is this a fork? I don't think it matters what it is - if it's safe, then it's helpful. If it's unsafe, it'll be lethal. The name on the bottle really doesn't count for much.

  • Chasing taillights. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:47PM (#17107610)
    The problem with that is it would just take 1 "high priority" "security update" to break the compatibility. And then all those OpenOffice.org installations are "broken" for their customers. Just stick with MS Office, it's less likely to "break".

    Microsoft would be happy to maintain control of the de facto "standard" in file formats. That way they can keep everyone chasing after their last update.

    Instead, Novell should be looking at making it easier to migrate FROM Microsoft's standards.
  • Not really... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DAtkins ( 768457 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:54PM (#17107700) Homepage
    It doesn't say anything bad about the OSS community. The OOo developers have done a wonderful job working out how to read the old Office binary files. In fact, I use OOo at work to open up legacy lotus docs and convert them to excel for the rest of the office. It's the only way that we can read many of these files, since Office itself doesn't handle it. But, however good the designs were, they didn't have the MS source code for the file formats, and can only make good engineering guesses. I have the utmost confidence that the current OSS effort to display MS new XML based Office formats are wonderful, but having the format designers release the code themselves, it can only help OOo's rendering.

    Not a slight to the OSS community at all. Just a statement of reality.
  • by hendersj ( 720767 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @09:01PM (#17107774)
    If I had mod points to give, you'd get them all for that post (yes, I know you can't do that, but still). +5 Informative at least.

    There was a comment about PJ spreading FUD, to which she replied that she was guessing because the details of the MS-Novell agreement aren't public so she has to guess. That's all fine and dandy, but then an editorial opinion shouldn't be reported as a fact.

    She claims to be a journalist, yet doesn't follow good journalistic practice, IMNSHO.

    Fair disclosure: I do work for Novell.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 04, 2006 @09:39PM (#17108196)
    As a professional developer who's worked with the new format, I can come up with a few good reasons for the change.

    Not only is it immensely more powerful than the old dated .doc's, but being able to turn form-generated XML into a Word document via XSLT without invoking the infernal wrath of the old WordML is always nice.
  • Divide and Conquer? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scdeimos ( 632778 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @09:49PM (#17108264)
    As a result, end users will be able to more easily share files between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org, as documents will better maintain consistent formats, formulas and style templates across the two office productivity suites.

    Maybe it's just the pessimist in me, but this sounds like a Divide and Conquer strategy to me.

    With the OpenDocument format standard becoming a published ISO standard this week, [slashdot.org] who cares about Microsoft's OpenXML format? Forking OO.o just means that bugs and security problems will have to be fixed by two sources, deployed by two sources, and cause interoperability problems between users of vanilla OO.o and Novell's OO.

    All to cause confusion and allow Microsoft to paint themselves in a better light than the FOSS community.

  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @10:17PM (#17108478) Journal
    A covenant is one-sided. A contract requires both parties to sign.
  • Re:That's not a fork (Score:4, Interesting)

    by molnarcs ( 675885 ) <csabamolnarNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday December 04, 2006 @10:49PM (#17108694) Homepage Journal
    This is not necessarily FUD - Bob Sutor has a point [sutor.com] when he warns against the danger of OpenXML. It is extremely difficult to adopt the specifications (thousands of pages) - and Novell (typical) does it right now in a way that they will have a headstart (even if they contribute code back later). Moreover, they can only hope to successfully implement parts of the OpenXML specs, while providing MS with enough ammo to continue to push their specs over ODF.
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:08PM (#17108834) Homepage Journal
    It isn't. Which is why I emailed daddypants and he changed the summary before this article was posted and put those quotes around "forking".. didn't help much though I see.
  • by hendersj ( 720767 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @02:39AM (#17110006)

    Hey now, you work for Novell, disagree with her take on the Novell/MS deal, and now accuse her of bias because of that? I don't think that's very fair at all.
    I disclosed my bias, and have on Groklaw as well in the posts I've made there.

    Make no mistake, I've worked for Novell for almost 4 years; I was a customer for about 15. I grew up in IT on NetWare, and absolutely despise (note present tense) what Windows has done to IT. I've been using Linux for about 10 years now. I'm about as anti-Microsoft as you can get, and I've never made a secret about that. I've had occasion to work very closely with Microsoft consulting services on a deployment project and I've seen up-close and personal how truly awful the technology is, especialy on a large scale, and I had no problem telling the consultants that what they proposed the company I worked for at the time do were not merely bad ideas, but were in fact so monumentally untenable given the network infrastructure in place that to even suggest such a design was a very clear demonstration that, smart though they were, they had no understanding as to what it was they were proposing.

    When I heard the announcement on November 2, I was just as shocked and surprised as anyone. I've read the transcripts from the MS Antitrust Trial for Eric Schmidt's depositions, and I personally know people who had to deal with MS' bad behaviour in the GINA chain and how they mucked around with MUP.SYS to prevent third party requesters from working efficiently.

    You assume a lot in your post here as well; you have to because you don't know what's in the agreement. I don't know what's in the agreement as well, but I do have a little more trust that what they're doing is going to preserve my employment (and perhaps that's biased of me, I admit that).

    Then again, you work for Novell. Care to tell me what private parts of the contract I'm not taking into consideration? Just what clause is in there that makes their agreement something other than a sell-out of the Linux community? What part of it wasn't intended to be used by Microsoft for software patent FUD? Even if it doesn't violate the GPL v2, what about it makes it a good idea?
    Even if I knew, I couldn't disclose what's in the contract - and I suspect you know that.

    What makes it a good idea? Read what IBM had to say about it. Or Goldman Sachs. It's about interoperability - something Novell built a reputation on starting with the very earliest versions of NetWare. I've worked in IT, and without exception, knowing that I had to deal with Microsoft components in the infrastructure at some point, it was absolutely frustrating beyond belief knowing that I *had* to have them (because people decided MS technology was necessary and refused to look at anything else) and to know that Microsoft was going to make it as difficult as possible for me to use anything in addition to their technology. I fought for *years* to get people to look at better technologies than the stuff MS puts out in order to get the job done in a better way.

    I look at the agreement as an opportunity. Is there a possibility of badness? Absolutely, there always is when competitors try to cooperate, especially when one of them is notorious for being a bad partner, and who has burned Novell in the past.

    But what really burns me about PJ's posts is that they make the assumption that all of the developers who work for Novell suddenly gave up their OSS scruples and are going to "inject trojan code" into the projects they work on. What message does *that* send about the OSS community - that their principles are for sale?

    Talk about giving Microsoft fodder to spread more FUD about OSS...
  • by Xenographic ( 557057 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @05:05AM (#17110784) Journal
    > What makes it a good idea? Read what IBM had to say about it. Or Goldman Sachs. It's about interoperability - something Novell built a reputation on starting with the very earliest versions of NetWare.

    I fear, unfortunately, that you'll end up like so many other Microsoft "partners" ... left out to dry after they finish using Novell for FUD. Sure, you didn't admit that they have any patents covering anything (good), but we already know that Novell and the FSF are going to end up in a showdown with the GPL v3 forbidding such agreements in the future. And from what we *do* know, it looks like Microsoft can terminate the agreement pretty easily.

    > But what really burns me about PJ's posts is that they make the assumption that all of the developers who work for Novell suddenly gave up their OSS scruples

    I think that was just one example of how this could spell trouble in theory--legal types need to think about theoretical problems before they become actual ones. Who'd have dreamed up SCO vs. IBM before the fact? I sincerely doubt any of the developers at Novell would do anything like that example, though.

    I'll give you credit that it's more likely the management than you, but understand this: that agreement may very well spell trouble for the rest of us. IBM made a great patent pledge to protect Linux. Their Nazgul can easily fend off lesser patent trolls, and real companies have too much to lose. But in SCO vs. IBM, Novell's ability to waive certain of SCO's purported contractual rights was still a big help. I don't blame Novell from not wanting to get squished in a clash between titans (IBM & Microsoft), but I'm worried here because this pretty much signals that they won't be there to stick up for Linux. They probably can't be, with that agreement in place.

    Anyhow, give PJ some credit--she has a good idea about what will cause legal trouble in the future, and this agreement is pretty high on the list right now, while SCO is basically dead although we still have to listen to its last tormented screams before its obliterated.

    I don't really think you're out to harm Linux. I'm not even convinced your management is. But there are plenty of ways to do that unintentionally, and it's looking like Novell won't go along with GPL v3, they're willing to let Microsoft use them, and I wouldn't doubt that Microsoft was banking on a negative reaction between Novell and the OSS community. Honestly, "trojan code" deliberate or otherwise wouldn't matter any more after this, remember? Novell needs this fork under GPL v2 before GPL v3 arrives and divides us some more... But if there isn't a GPL v3 that's widely used, I'd bet we'll see even more legal trouble in the future.
  • by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @10:41AM (#17112868) Journal
    The summary says it'll be a plug-in. Even if OOo doesn't take the contribution, which I don't think it should given the recent MSNovell debacle, I'd still hardly call distributing a plug-in that the core project doesn't distribute a fork. Now, if they decided to put the code into the main tree of their version, that might be a fork. If they made ClosedXML the default, that'd definitely be a fork.
  • Re:That's not a fork (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @01:12PM (#17115000)
    Hurd was written from the ground up as an OOP kernel using the FSF / GNU philosophy.

    Say what? Out of Order Processing? Object Oriented Programming? Both are silly in this context. It's a message-passing (collection of) microkernel(s), and that's it.

    And how does it use the FSF philosophy? Maybe it performs message-passing against capitalism or proprietary software or the patent system? And if it uses the GNU philosophy, what exactly is that philosophy? "Lots of simple good tools like in an Unix, but definitely not an Unix!"?

    You are being a bit vague there, buddy.

    However, it would be (genuinely!) interesting if you could clearly state how The Hurd is ethically/morally better than Linux.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak.yahoo@com> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @02:00PM (#17115688) Homepage Journal
    That presumably depends on the nature of the link. If something is forcibly linked by the compiler such that symbols from the object/library being linked to are embedded in the code, then you've got contamination. The same would be true if you include header files, and absolutely definitely unquestionably true for any form of static link.

    In the case of readline, that would be an upstream link and I could see potential licensing issues there, as you are essentially including GPL code in a non-GPL object. That would definitely be on the Forbidden List. Downstream is slightly different - you can run GCC under non-GPL'ed OS', even though there must be links GCC must use that are not GPL'ed. (It is possible, I suppose, that Cygwin re-implements the BIOS, has its own screen manager so that X will work, etc, but me thinks not. :)

    In this case, a better example might be a use of dlopen(). If person A wrote some code that installed a file of a specific name and called specific functions within that file, with ALL of that interface under the GPL, then if some such file happened to not be GPL, I don't see that you would be retrospectively violating the license. The program has not been changed - on disk or in memory. Everything is exactly as it was, with the sole difference that the pointers now point to something, where that something is wholly external and wholly black-box.

    (If you were to ask me if I like closed source - whether as a module or in any other form - I'd say no. Corporations HAVE to compile to the lowest common denominator, which means I can always optimize better than them. Corporations CANNOT include capabilities as fast as the total IT market is capable of creating them, which means that I am better equipt to ensure I have the feature set I need. Corporations also have to make assumptions that may - or may not - apply either the typical user or the stereotypically-dumb user, so I am in an infinitely superior position to have code that functions for me, operates the way I think, follows my mental picture of the system in question. Closed-source, by its very nature, has to be a compromise hack. It can't be anything else. Open source often is a compromise hack, but that is entirely by choice, as stupid as I think such a choice is.)

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes