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Ballmer: Linux users owe Microsoft
ComputerWorld ^ | November 16, 2006 | Eric Lai

Posted on 11/17/2006 8:06:18 AM PST by Seņor Zorro

In a question-and-answer session after his keynote speech at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) conference in Seattle, Ballmer said Microsoft was motivated to sign a deal with SUSE Linux distributor Novell Inc. earlier this month because Linux "uses our intellectual property" and Microsoft wanted to "get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation."

The Nov. 2 deal involves an agreement by Novell and Microsoft to boost the interoperability of their competing software products. It also calls for Microsoft to pay Novell $440 million for coupons entitling users to a year's worth of maintenance and support on SUSE Linux to its customers. In addition, Microsoft agreed to recommend SUSE software for Windows users looking to use Linux as well.

A key element of the agreement now appears to be Novell's $40 million payment to Microsoft in exchange for the latter company's pledge not to sue SUSE Linux users over possible patent violations. Also protected are individuals and noncommercial open-source developers who create code and contribute to the SUSE Linux distribution, as well as developers who are paid to create code that goes into the distribution.

Many open-source advocates criticized the deal, nevertheless. They argued that it was tantamount to an admission of patent violations by a key Linux supporter that bolstered Microsoft's case if it decided press its patent claims.

At the time, Microsoft officials, including Ballmer, were mum on whether the Linux kernel, which is governed by the General Public License and takes contributions from programmers all around the world, violated Microsoft's patents.

Ballmer was more open today.

"Novell pays us some money for the right to tell customers that anybody who uses SUSE Linux is appropriately covered," Ballmer said. This "is important to us, because [otherwise] we believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability."

"My reaction is that so far, what he [Ballmer] said is just more FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt]," said Pamela Jones, editor of the Groklaw.net blog, which tracks legal issues in the open-source community. "Let him sue if he thinks he has a valid claim, and we'll see how well his customers like it."

Officials at Red Hat Inc., the leading Linux distributor, also dismissed Ballmer's comments. "We do not believe there is a need for or basis for the type of relationship defined in the Microsoft/Novell announcement," said Mark Webbink, deputy general counsel.

Red Hat has called Microsoft's legal threat a looming "innovation tax." It also said that it can protect its customers against patent claims.

Jones noted that after the Nov. 2 deal was announced, Novell said on its Web site that "the agreement had nothing to do with any known infringement. So which is true?"

Jones also challenged Ballmer to "put his money where his mouth is" and detail exactly what part of the Linux kernel source code allegedly infringes upon Microsoft patents, so that "folks will strip out the code and work around it or prove his patent invalid."

Ballmer did not provide details during his comments today. But he was adamant that Linux users, apart from those using SUSE, are taking advantage of Microsoft innovation, and that someone -- either Linux vendors or users -- would eventually have to pay up.

"Only customers that use SUSE have paid properly for intellectual property from Microsoft," he said. "We are willing to do a deal with Red Hat and other Linux distributors." The deal with SUSE Linux "is not exclusive," Ballmer added.

Robert McMillan, of the IDG News Service, contributed to this report.





TOPICS: Business/Economy; Computers/Internet
KEYWORDS: ballmer; ballmerkissmy; linux; microsoft
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SCO II?

I wonder what the odds are of Microsoft actually attempting to bring a lawsuit.

1 posted on 11/17/2006 8:06:21 AM PST by Seņor Zorro
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To: Seņor Zorro

Just the threat of such a lawsuit would sent a lot of upper management types I've worked for into a tizzy. It's really fun to hear the non-technical folks proclaim Micro$oft's technical superiority and then watch them back pedal when you show them the cost of switching from Linux/BSD to their faveorite. ;-)


2 posted on 11/17/2006 8:14:07 AM PST by pikachu (For every action there is an equal and opposite government program - Fig Newtons 1st Law)
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To: ShadowAce

Pay up! =)


3 posted on 11/17/2006 8:19:52 AM PST by KoRn
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To: rdb3; chance33_98; Calvinist_Dark_Lord; Bush2000; PenguinWry; GodGunsandGuts; CyberCowboy777; ...

4 posted on 11/17/2006 8:26:23 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: Seņor Zorro
The deal with SUSE Linux "is not exclusive," Ballmer added.

I'm sure that comes as a surprise to Novell.

5 posted on 11/17/2006 8:29:30 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: Seņor Zorro
In Bishop's Microsoft Blog, he quotes Ballmer as saying "We've had an issue, a problem that we've had to confront, which is because of the way the GPL (General Public License) works, and because open-source Linux does not come from a company -- Linux comes from the community -- the fact that that product uses our patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders" (emphasis mine).

This kind of stuff will stay in the news until a Linux distributor takes the offense and tries for a prelimary summary judgement that their Linux distribution does not infringe any issued MS patents.

6 posted on 11/17/2006 8:42:07 AM PST by rit
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To: ShadowAce

The hand behind the SCO lawsuits reveals itself?


7 posted on 11/17/2006 9:05:51 AM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (History is soon Forgotten,)
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To: Seņor Zorro

I would really like to see what this "innovation" is. There's a list out there somewhere that tracks Microsoft innovations. A possible innovation is posted, people look for prior art, and the decision is made. Out of many, I believe only a few were declared innovative -- like Microsoft Bob and Clippy.

Our patent system is so hosed right now. They'll grant a software patent on anything, even stuff that's been in open source for years.


8 posted on 11/17/2006 9:37:32 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: antiRepublicrat

"They'll grant a software patent on anything, even stuff that's been in open source for years."

I remember a Paul Harvey story about two guys who bet each other a case of their favorite beer who could get a patent first. Long-story-short, the guy who won patented the wheel.


9 posted on 11/17/2006 9:41:31 AM PST by L98Fiero (Terrorists, Communists and Liberals. All happy with a Democrat Congress)
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To: ShadowAce

I must admit this stuff confuses the hell out of me.

But it looks like MS agrees to pay Novell $440 mil, Novell pays MS $40 mil (couldn't have MS just agreed to pay Novell an even $400 mil?) all in exchange for MS agreeing not to sue Novell?

In short MS pays Novell money and in return MS agrees not to sue Novell?

Beam me up, Scotty.


10 posted on 11/17/2006 10:11:23 AM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: Seņor Zorro; ShadowAce; antiRepublicrat

Ballmer is probably correct, since the executive director of the Public Patent Foundation and senior counsel to the Free Software Foundation already admitted back in 2004 that Linux appears to violate many software patents, he claimed 283 likely infringements in the Linux kernel alone.

http://www.infoworld.com/article/04/08/02/HNmspatentsthreat_1.html


11 posted on 11/17/2006 10:47:31 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: rit
This kind of stuff will stay in the news until a Linux distributor takes the offense and tries for a prelimary summary judgement that their Linux distribution does not infringe any issued MS patents.

Doubtful that will happen, with one of senior counsels of the FSF already admitting it appears there are hundreds of likely infringements in the kernel of Linux alone.

12 posted on 11/17/2006 10:50:07 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle
already admitted back in 2004 that Linux appears to violate many software patents, he claimed 283 likely infringements in the Linux kernel alone.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know. Also notice he said nothing about the validity of those patents. From the software patents I've seen, probably over 90% of software patents are junk (and that's not counting that software patents shouldn't even exist according to the USPTO).

As I said before, my program, conceived, designed and written by me using no "inspiration" from other sources aside from standard programming techniques I've learned ("here's how you normally save an XML file"), probably violates at least one software patent. I doubt there is even one large piece of software out there that doesn't violate several software patents.

Did you know there's a guy out there who got a patent in '98 based on what others were already doing using free software? Yep, then as they improve their free products he amends the '98 patent to include what they've done. Now he's suing them for patent infringement on things they did recently, saying it violates a patent issued in 1998.

13 posted on 11/17/2006 11:03:38 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten; Golden Eagle
In short MS pays Novell money and in return MS agrees not to sue Novell?

Microsoft is also paying so that Novell won't sue Microsoft over any infringements in Windows. Hear that GE? Even your beloved Windows infringes.

14 posted on 11/17/2006 11:05:12 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: Golden Eagle
FSF already admitting it appears there are hundreds of likely infringements in the kernel of Linux alone.

They didn't say likely, they said possibly covered. You could drive your cat crazy with a laser pointer and it would be covered by a patent (yes, it's true, that patent was issued), and thus that would be included in the list of patents you are infringing on, along with whenever you make a wheel or swing on a swing set (yes, those were issued too). Do you think the patent owners would prevail in court?

15 posted on 11/17/2006 11:10:26 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: antiRepublicrat

Microsoft is also paying .....




So they each pay so they each won't sue. Ohhh-kaaay. To me (and could be I'm slow) I slip on my neigbor's sidewalk and he slips on mine. So we sit down and we each pay each other money so each one won't sue the other one. I think I got it.


16 posted on 11/17/2006 11:19:09 AM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: Golden Eagle
Doubtful that will happen, with one of senior counsels of the FSF already admitting it appears there are hundreds of likely infringements in the kernel of Linux alone.

I was reffering to the commercial linux distro companies, not the FSF. For example, RedHat might have grounds, based on what is being reported, to file.

17 posted on 11/17/2006 12:30:22 PM PST by rit
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To: rit

Sure they can file, but when the existing studies including those from Linux proponents show hundreds of likely violations, and not a lack of violations, what is their chance of winning?


18 posted on 11/17/2006 1:56:14 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
So they each pay so they each won't sue. Ohhh-kaaay.

Yes, referred to as a "patent cross license agreement". I'm pretty sure Microsoft already had one with IBM and Sun, and now have one with Novell. If Red Hat doesn't have enough patents to enter into such an agreement, nor is willing to purchase the right to use Microsoft's patented technology, Microsoft could sue if they thought the reward was worth it, just as IBM is suing Amazon.com now for patent violation. I don't expect it though, at least not anytime soon, Microsoft doesn't have a history of "agressive" patent lawsuits, I expect smaller more agressive companies will eventually start suing Red Hat for patent infringement instead, like Firestar recently did over their Jboss middleware.

19 posted on 11/17/2006 2:07:05 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle
what is their chance of winning?

I would not venture to guess. Some suggest that MS put up or shut up. But the same can be said for the commerical linux distributors... if the code base does not infringe any issued MS patents then go for PSJ..... Otherwise do the later.

20 posted on 11/17/2006 2:19:37 PM PST by rit
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To: Golden Eagle
but when the existing studies including those from Linux proponents show hundreds of likely violations, and not a lack of violations, what is their chance of winning?

LOL! That was your argument for SCO winning their fiasco as well.

21 posted on 11/17/2006 2:31:38 PM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: Golden Eagle
...the right to use Microsoft's patented technology,

Which is what, exactly? Even Ballmer's pulling a McBride. You'd think he would've learned from SCO's mistakes.

22 posted on 11/17/2006 2:33:10 PM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

SCO's claims of infringement weren't ever substantiated by senior counsel at the Free Software Foundation that I recall. Please show they were, or that I ever claimed they were, or retract your bogus claim.


23 posted on 11/17/2006 2:37:00 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: ShadowAce

Ask the senior counsel at the FSF, he enumerated 283 possible violations in the kernel alone. I read somewhere the Microsoft patents included in that were around 2 dozen.


24 posted on 11/17/2006 2:39:13 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle

MS or others can sue until the cows come home but it ain't going to change the reality on the ground. Do you really think it possible to sue linux out of existence? Now it would be like trying to claim that you owned the idea of binary logic or interrupt driven IO. Maybe you do, maybe you don't, but the world is going to go on using it regardless.


25 posted on 11/17/2006 2:43:07 PM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: ShadowAce
Which is what, exactly?

To be fair, all 5,802 issued Microsoft patents are available to the public, as published by the USPTO. Comparing the code base to the issued MS patents would answer the question what, if any, patents are being infringed. But whose job is that?

On one hand, Microsoft could do the comparison. On the other hand, I would think it prudent for a company to conduct an IP landscape survey to understand liabilities (if any) in bringing a product to market.... but hey... that's just me.

26 posted on 11/17/2006 2:50:35 PM PST by rit
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
Do you really think it possible to sue linux out of existence?

Of course not. Patents are simply a form of intellectual property, and Linux doesn't get a free pass.

27 posted on 11/17/2006 2:53:11 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle
retract your bogus claim.

What bogus claim? When the SCO suit started you were howling that "even the FSF admitted that Linux infringed on patents." You've been harping on that point ever since.

No one has ever substantiated it because it's never been proven true. Now you're claiming it all over again--again without any proof. Ballmer's pulling a McBride by throwing a vague reference to Linux infringing on some IP that is never referenced. Think this claim has any more credibility than SCO's? I don't.

28 posted on 11/17/2006 3:08:23 PM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce
What bogus claim? When the SCO suit started you were howling that "even the FSF admitted that Linux infringed on patents."

That's pretty funny, considering the SCO lawsuit started in early 2003, and the patent study wasn't even released till end of summer 2004. Your claims are obviously bogus, as usual.

29 posted on 11/17/2006 3:16:20 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle

OK - you know you and MS sound a bit like John Kerry. He's always going on about how what the Swift Boat Veterans said was untrue, was defamatory blah, blah, blah.

OK so have at it in court.

Someone who's always saying he's going to sue you and then doesn't is either very indecisive or doesn't have much of a case. Usually, of course, it's the latter.


30 posted on 11/17/2006 3:23:05 PM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten

FYI John Kerry runs Linux on his servers just like the DNC and most democrats, and the Linux crowd is who is doing all the denying about these patent infringements. Even the FSF has sudden amnesia about their own study LOL.


31 posted on 11/17/2006 3:29:31 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
Someone who's always saying he's going to sue you and then doesn't

Microsoft is putting the possible infringers on notice, as necessary. Red Hat for example can't say "we had no idea" at some point in the future.

32 posted on 11/17/2006 3:37:20 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle
FYI John Kerry runs Linux on his servers just like the DNC and most democrats

Actually, a huge percentage of hosting services run Linux. This is probably because the Linux systems are more reliable. It's not a Democrat philosophy, but simple fact if you want something hosted reliably and well. Here are the top 10 most reliable hosting services:

Half are Linux, all but three are open source, all are UNIX. The funny part is the only services on this list who are running a proprietary OS (Solaris) are owned by those foreigners you hate so much.

BTW, want to see what Kerry actually himself uses?


33 posted on 11/17/2006 4:19:37 PM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: Golden Eagle
Red Hat for example can't say "we had no idea" at some point in the future.

Yes they can. Microsoft would have to tell them exactly what it's claimed that they're infringing for the clock to start ticking. Again, all large software infringes on something, so you can't expect every software vendor to suddenly shut its doors because they have the knowledge that they may be theoretically infringing on a patent.

Software patents, especially of the poor quality of most of them, are damaging to all small software developers. They serve to make sure only the large development houses can stay in business.

34 posted on 11/17/2006 4:23:48 PM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
This really isn't about Microsoft and Novell reassuring one another that they won't sue one another.

This is about Microsoft and Novell assuring business clients that there will be no lawsuits if the business clients use linux, particularly SUSE linux.

Businesses are FAR more cautious than ordinary consumers when there is a possibility of lawsuits based on intellectual property claims. Linux stands little chance of gaining widespread acceptance in the business community until and unless underlying intellectual property disputes are resolved.

This partnership agreement in a welcome and necessary step in the maturing and mainstreaming of linux in the business world.

35 posted on 11/17/2006 4:33:13 PM PST by JCEccles
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
This really isn't about Microsoft and Novell reassuring one another that they won't sue one another.

This is about Microsoft and Novell assuring business clients that there will be no lawsuits if the business clients use linux, particularly SUSE linux.

Businesses are FAR more cautious than ordinary consumers when there is a possibility of lawsuits based on intellectual property claims. Linux stands little chance of gaining widespread acceptance in the business community until and unless underlying intellectual property disputes are resolved.

This partnership agreement is a welcome and necessary step in the maturing and mainstreaming of linux in the business world.

36 posted on 11/17/2006 4:34:09 PM PST by JCEccles
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To: antiRepublicrat

The official Republican sites RNC.ORG and GOP.COM both use Windows. And no, I don't care what Kerry uses in his office nor do I care to see a picture of him, ever.


37 posted on 11/17/2006 4:38:11 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: JCEccles
This partnership agreement in a welcome and necessary step in the maturing and mainstreaming of linux in the business world.

I agree, too bad the rest of "the linux community" is outraged and wishing the destruction of Novell now.

38 posted on 11/17/2006 4:41:44 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle; antiRepublicrat; MikefromOhio

Truth is that unlike other items, there is absolutely no standards (other than there not being an existing patent) when it comes to software.

In theory, I could copy a piece of code from the Internet that displays "Hello World" and get a patent on it (assuming somebody else hasn't done that yet).

Is it possible that the Linux kernel could have infringements? Possibly. Even antiRepublicrat mentioned that his clean-room program could very well be violating at least one patent--so it's a possibility.

OTOH Iggle, what has MS come up with that's actually innovative besides Microsoft Bob and Clippy?


39 posted on 11/17/2006 4:43:04 PM PST by rzeznikj at stout (Boldly Going Nowhere...)
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To: rzeznikj at stout

According to the patent office alone it's 5,000+ things as another poster mentioned. If you feel you can invalidate those claims I suggest you get started.


40 posted on 11/17/2006 4:56:20 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: JCEccles

I appreciate your point - that may be the underlying reality. But there is a lot of print devoted to the two parties paying each other money and agreeing to hold each other blameless. I read an article somewhere (I think it was Lee Gomes in the WSJ) who said that this was more about MS strengthening the hand of the weak sister (Novell) to the possible detriment of the stronger brother (Red Hat). Of course Oracle is going after Red Hat in a different way.

I confess to having no idea of what the *real* agenda or agendas are. Could be it's all of the above including your points, and then even more besides!


41 posted on 11/17/2006 5:47:36 PM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: Golden Eagle

Microsoft is putting the possible infringers on notice, as necessary.




You could say that Kerry has been "putting the Swift Boat Veterans on notice, as necessary".

Of course I'd say he's pissing in the wind. I guess time will tell.


42 posted on 11/17/2006 5:49:30 PM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: Golden Eagle
The official Republican sites RNC.ORG and GOP.COM both use Windows.

So does Planned Parenthood and communism.org. And your point is?

43 posted on 11/17/2006 6:02:39 PM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
I confess to having no idea of what the *real* agenda or agendas are.

It's pretty straightforward. Novell and Microsoft and SCO represent the original PC server software companies, and they want to be make money from the new "free" PC server operating system if possible. Unfortunately for them, it was mostly created by a bunch of anti-capitalist "free software" fanatics, who want to put them out of business instead. These two opposing forces are now separating, by the announcement of this deal, and the forthcoming GPLv3 license by free software leader "RMS". One side capitalist, one side anti-capitalist. But only the capitalists are the ones with capital, of course, in all its different forms.

44 posted on 11/17/2006 6:23:42 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle
Novell and Microsoft and SCO represent the original PC server software companies,...

SCO does not belong in that group. SCO was originally a Linux company named Caldera and has nothing to do with the original SCO Unix.

45 posted on 11/17/2006 6:31:46 PM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: antiRepublicrat

RNC uses Windows, DNC uses Linux. Howard Dean even coined the phrase "Open Source Politics", and his campaign manager is (was?) a former Linux exec, of which there are few. The DNC also created a site named demzilla.org, in tribute to the "Mozilla" group of open source programmers. None of this is news to you, of course. You're here always defending it.


46 posted on 11/17/2006 6:33:20 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: ShadowAce
has nothing to do with the original SCO Unix.

SCO develops and supports SCO Unix, they are the modern incarnate of the original SCO, certainly the closest thing. And SCO Unix was the original Unix for PC's, it's too bad IBM dropped the ball on making it better, and left everyone with Linux and all these leftists and IP issues instead.

47 posted on 11/17/2006 6:44:22 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle

And Windows is the operating system of choice for Planned Parenthood and communism.org. Of course you make no ideological connection there, since it ruins your argument.


48 posted on 11/17/2006 7:04:07 PM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
The hand behind the SCO lawsuits reveals itself?

Bingo. The SCO FUD didn't work, so Ballmer is taking personal charge of this scam.

Betcha he won't reveal anything with specificity either.

49 posted on 11/17/2006 7:07:27 PM PST by TechJunkYard (sneeze)
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To: Golden Eagle
And SCO Unix was the original Unix for PC's

1987: The year that Xenix (what SCO Unix was at the time) was ported to the x86, and the year that Minix was written for the x86. In other words, it's about a tie. But I'd say Minix is the original x86 UNIX since it was actually written for the x86, not ported to it.

50 posted on 11/17/2006 7:18:04 PM PST by antiRepublicrat
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