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HTMLfixIT Archive for April, 2005




Friday, April 29th, 2005 by Franki

The GPL license behind most popular free Open Source software like Linux has never been tested in court. The reason for that is pretty simple, every time it looks like getting close to court, the possible offender settles the case. The fact that so many companies have settled rather then face the GPL in court seems to suggest that reports that the GPL is not enforceable are somewhat overstated. Gpl-violations.org managed to get an injunction against Fortinet, a software security company for allegedly using GPL software without complying with the license terms. Fortinet just settled the case, so this one won’t make it to court either. This is the latest of 30 such settlements with some fairly large companies.

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Friday, April 29th, 2005 by Franki

The Firefox web browser has reached it’s 50 million downloads target today (currently at 50,038,954). The download counter apparently doesn’t count the updater system, only legit downloads so it really is an amazing achievement for a free Open Source product without much in the way of an advertising budget. Firefox is possibly the most widely used Open Source desktop product now. And if its success forces Microsoft to make a better Internet Explorer, then even people that don’t use Firefox will benefit.

Congrats to the Mozilla org.

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Thursday, April 28th, 2005 by Franki

Google is currently testing Adsense ads in RSS feeds, initially in Weblogs Inc and Gmail clips but testing will probably expand further quickly. Since RSS has become amazingly popular with bloggers now days, and news services are starting to jump on the bandwagon as well, it is probably safe to expect that Yahoo and the other search and content portals will follow suite. If you have a popular Weblog (Blog) and your traditional advertising isn’t making as much money as it should be, RSS ads might be the way to increase your revenue.

If current trends are anything to go by, where Google goes now, Yahoo will surely follow shortly. Once the technology/methods behind RSS advertising have matured sufficiently, we can expect to see all the big players jump on the bandwagon. Especially when you consider that once IE7 is released, all the mainstream web browsers will have RSS readers as core functionality, and email clients like Thunderbird already have readers too.

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Thursday, April 28th, 2005 by Franki

While doing my daily wander around the net, I came upon this site detailing some research into search results from several companies, (primarily MSN and Google, but Yahoo and Teoma as well.) The conclusions are by no means concrete at this stage, and work is continuing but Ivor Hewitt seems to have found something of potentially significant interest to web developers.

Basically he has been testing the returned results from both Google and MSN (and the others in some cases also.) for 1000 common search terms, (lifted mostly from Google Zeitgeist) and then checking what web server software the top results are using and storing the data from each search. The results thus far show that MSN consistently seems to choose more sites running IIS (Internet Information Services) Microsoft’s web server software compared to the other engines. The difference is up to 10% more IIS servers in the MSN search results. Now we know that both MSN and IIS are Microsoft products, and we know that Microsoft is a twice convicted monopolist and have tied their past products together in similar manners. So the question is: Would they do this, when to be caught out would mean the total loss of their search engines creditability? It is hard to say, and I’ll wait for the expanded 10,000 search term results as well as independent verification before I pronounce MSN bereft of integrity, but I’m certainly prepared to be suspicious based on Microsoft’s history.

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Wednesday, April 27th, 2005 by Franki

The European Union is not happy with Microsoft’s efforts to stop being anti-competitive. After all the discussions, they are still unable to reach a consensus on what the detail of the remedies actually amount to. Serves the EU right for allowing Microsoft the leeway to follow what it thought the remedies meant instead of explicitly spelling it out. You can read more about it at InternetNews and Eweek.

In other news, a big security flaw was found in the Netscape web browser (versions 6 and 7) related to the displaying of Gif images, so if you use either of those, either update to the new beta Netscape, or un-install it and put the latest Firefox in it’s place.

Speaking of Firefox, they are about to hit the 50 million download mark and should have done so by Friday. Also a report by Janco Associates reveals that 10% of business professionals are already using Firefox and that this figure could more then double by the end of June this year. Not too shabby for an 8 month (roughly) old web browser. Onestat also reported that Firefox has now grabbed 8.69% of the worldwide browser market.

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Tuesday, April 26th, 2005 by Franki

Microsoft is starting to release details of what people can expect from Internet Explorer 7. After losing serious market share to the Firefox web browser, Microsoft changed their mind about releasing another IE before the next Windows (Longhorn) is released. Up until recently they didn’t give us much in the way of details, but that is slowly changing. The latest word from the IE blog is that IE7 will be basically IE6 with it’s myriad CSS bugs fixed, proper PNG image support and perhaps some limited CSS2.1/3 support added into the mix. It will also have updated security compared to IE6 SP2, but it seems that it still won’t be available on anything but Windows XP SP2 or above. Oh and they are probably adding tabbed browsing as well.

This is great news, even though I am not a fan of IE, and won’t be using IE7, the fact that I don’t have to use IE CSS hacks to get pages to display properly in IE is very welcome news. My only question is: How will pages that include workarounds for problems like the IE box model hack render in IE7? will we have to update all these pages to keep the pages consistent appearance wise?

However good this news is, I’ll continue to insist my clients use Firefox wherever possible because the new IE will still have ActiveX (the main cause of IE’s abysmal security record), will still be built into the Operating System and does not have anything like Firefox’s extensions available. I’ve become addicted to about 15 of Firefox’s extensions and couldn’t imagine not having them. For web developers, the extras that the extensions provide quickly become indispensable. Mostly though, I’ll continue to insist that my clients use Firefox because since they all have been, I’ve not been called out to fix any Virus or Spyware problems on their PC’s. To me that is the ultimate proof of the best browser. As the saying goes: “Money talks bull$… walks”.

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Sunday, April 24th, 2005 by Kaj Haulrich

By Kaj Haulrich.

April 23 – 2005

It may be located at the perimeter of the European Union, but nevertheless the fairy-tale Kingdom of Denmark has become Bill Gates’ beachhead and stronghold in his ongoing trouble with the EU Commission. Last year The Italian commissioner responsible for competition, Signore Mario Monti, slapped Microsoft for it’s monopolistic conduct and fined the software behemoth a stunning 497m euros ($613m; £331m) for abusing its dominant market position and also insisted Microsoft must reveal secrets of its Windows software [to competing developers]. Furthermore, Microsoft was ordered to release a version of Windows without it’s Media Player. Harsh conditions, don’t you think ? – Well, read on :

Microsoft appealed, but the European Court of First Instance, presided by the Danish judge, Mr. Bo Vesterdorf, rejected the appeal. However, a final sentence isn’t expected until 2010, at best.

Meanwhile Microsoft has deposited the money in it’s own bank account and released a “reduced” Windows that nobody, of course, wants to license [due primarily to the fact that it costs the same as the normal version]. But it hasn’t revealed any useful code to make Windows more cooperative with other types of competing software [and what it has released is under license terms that are unacceptable to it's biggest competitor]. And it probably never will.

So now, Microsoft has plenty of time to further strengthen its monopoly in Europe, and it doesn’t waste it. A few examples :

The EU Commission wants to enforce the patentability of software, US-style. This severely reduces European companies, which typically are small or medium-sized, in their ability to compete with large, multinational corporations, like Microsoft. Naturally, a lot of those companies as well as nation-states like Poland, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands and – lastly – Denmark objected and demanded a complete re-write of the Software Directive to be sent back to the European Parliament for re-consideration.

Denmark objected ? – Well, not really. Although the Danish Parliament obliged it’s Secretary of Trade, Mr. Bendt Bendtsen, to reject the Directive in the
Council of Ministers, he only did so reluctantly, to put it mildly. (A transcript of his pathetic performance is here, and you can hear Mr. Bendtsen humiliate himself and his country here).

Normally, a minister who ignores his parliament would be fired immediately. Not so this time. The Directive on Software Patents stands and so does Mr. Bendtsen. The noble art of corruption is by no means strange to the EU, but so far Denmark has been – well, relatively – free of it. Let’s delve a little deeper to see if there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark :

In order to clean up the public IT-structure – a gargantuan mess of incompatible systems – the Danish government instigated a reform on standards.
The committee in charge recommended a widespread use of open standards to replace closed, proprietary ones. Some agencies, like the Department of Environment actually began to do so. But in January this year that Department suddenly declared that it had chosen to carry on with Microsoft’s Office Suite. In other words : if the citizens want to communicate flawlessly with the government they’ll have to license a copy of that suite from Microsoft. Pay or shut up. Other public administrations like the cities of Munich and Bergen can use open standards, but Denmark can’t….

Maybe that’s no coincidence. Just prior to the decision on software patents, Mr. Bill Gates paid a “friendly” visit to the Danish Prime Minister, Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen. According to the Danish financial newspaper “Borsen” Mr. Gates made it very clear to Mr. Rasmussen, that if Denmark rejected the Directive Microsoft would have to move its Navision branch to the US. That revelation started a public debate where the word “blackmail” wasn’t the least mentioned. Mr. Rasmussen – of course – denied. But you already know how it turned out, don’t you ?

Since then, the Government had other ideas. Although Denmark is haunted by innumerable commissions, committees, councils and “expert” boards, the Prime
Minister nevertheless came up with yet another one : a “super-commission” on the entire scientific, developmental and educational structure of Denmark.
Guess who will represent the IT-sector ? – You guessed it, right ? – Yes, Microsoft. The company that never – ever – invented anything but FUD.

As expected protests were ignored and the Government carries on : last week it donated 40.000 “free” but time-limited copies of Microsoft’s accounting suite C5 to start-ups within the private sector. Well, Denmark has many companies with competing products, but they charge for them. So now, the Government prefers the tax-payers to sustain Microsoft. Just like any other pusher’s product, Microsoft’s first “fix” is free…

If we elaborate a little further on this, it isn’t hard to imagine new, bright ideas : Under cover of fighting terrorism and paedophiles, the Danish Secretary of Justice, Mrs. Lene Espersen, recently authorized the police to “crack” the citizen’s privately owned computers without informing them. As all and everyone knows it isn’t especially hard to insert spyware, key loggers, viruses and Trojans into a Windows PC. If every 14-year old script-kiddie can do it, so can the police. In fact, it is very hard indeed to protect a Windows PC from such intrusion. On the other hand it’s next to impossible to do such nasties to a Linux PC or a Mac, even in its most basic configuration. So, if Danes begin to adopt other operating systems than Windows the government – and Microsoft – would be embarrassed. Not being able to spy on the citizens and control every aspect of their lives is about the worst scenario imaginable to any Danish politician.

The solution is straightforward : Just a small amendment to criminal law, and the use of non-Windows PCs will be a felony. – Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that….the Government might read this…better shut up now before I – typing this on a Linux PC – am considered an Enemy of the State.

References :

http://wiki.ffii.org/SwpatcninoEn

http://www.thankdenmark.info/

http://wiki.ffii.org/Dkparl050304En

http://wiki.ffii.org/Kofod050310En

http://wiki.ffii.org/Cons050307En

http://www.computerworld.dk/default.asp?Mode=2&ArticleID=27908

http://www.computerworld.dk/default.asp?Mode=2&ArticleID=27919

http://www.computerworld.dk/default.asp?Mode=2&ArticleID=27693

http://www.computerworld.dk/default.asp?Mode=2&ArticleID=27060

http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20050308084230867

http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=2005030721574383

http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20050307095336843

http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20050215071109231

http://www.cedi.dk/visNyhed.asp?artikelID=1115

http://www.computerworld.dk/Default.asp?Mode=2&ArticleID=26860

[Afterword: Kaj Haulrich is a resident of Denmark and kindly agreed to write this article for us after hearing about how many of us had mistaken Denmark's involvement in the EU software patent directive. HTMLfixIT wishes to thank Kaj for his contribution.]

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