Devices Lacking Linux Support Needed

Greg KH recently announced that Novell was letting him work on the Linux Driver Project full time. The response was huge, with over 300 developers answering the call. Lack of Linux drivers is usually pretty high up on the list of Linux shortcomings. But a follow up post by Greg indicates that there’s not enough work to keep all the developers busy:

There was a lot of very good press coverage over my last announcement of the restart of the Linux Driver Project and my involvement in it now full time. It’s been a few weeks since that announcement, and we now have over 300 different developers signed up to help create, and maintain Linux drivers!

I’ve also posted a short status report about the current projects, and what is going on with them. Since then, one more project has started, and there are a handful still in the planning stage.

What we need now is more companies participating in the project, we have the developers, but not enough work to keep them busy.

So how do we change this? I’m thinking that possibly, there really isn’t a large number of different devices out there that need Linux support written for them.

As proof of this, I give you the Linux Foundation’s Vendor Advisory Board. This group of companies publish a list of priorities that they feel need to be worked on in order to help Linux succeed.

Coming in at number 3 is “Device Driver Support”. So, I approached this group and asked them specifically what devices did they see in common use that are not supported by Linux (the obvious 2 video cards being a known exception.) Despite this being such a high priority for this group, they had no examples to provide.

And neither do I. I don’t currently know of any common piece of hardware in use today that is not supported on Linux. And since these vendors do not know, and I don’t, I’m asking the world to help out.

So, please, let me know what specific type of device you know of that is not properly supported on Linux. If you want, please mark up the wiki page at:

http://linuxdriverproject.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/DriversNeeded

Is the lack of Linux device drivers an issue that is a bit overblown by a couple of high profile examples? Is it a stigma held over from previous days when some areas, such as wireless networking, were poor? Visit the Linux Driver Project wiki if you have hardware that doesn’t work in Linux, and let them know.

–jeremy

Acacia's Latest Target: NetFlix

It’s not just Red Hat and Novell. From TechDirt

Acacia has become one of the most hated firms by technology companies that actually do stuff. That’s because Acacia is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) firms out there in the business of buying up patents solely to sue companies. Acacia learned a while ago, though, that it was best to keep its name out of many of these suits, so it apparently tries to set up subsidiaries for many of the patents it buys (sometimes giving them silly names to make people think the companies actually do something). Now, one of those subsidiaries, named Refined Recommendation Corporation is suing Netflix over a patent it holds on optimizing interest potential. It’s a patent on the idea of making recommendations or presenting specific information based on user actions. I can recall both individuals and companies working on similar things well before this patent was applied for in 2000, but that’s a different issue altogether. Does anyone believe that Netflix (and plenty of other companies) wouldn’t be doing content recommendations for people without this particular “breakthrough”?

–jeremy

Patent Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Red Hat & Novell III

(coverage continues)

Via 451 CAOS Theory: It looks like the Acacia lawsuit may indeed have little to do with Open Source and be just another general patent troll case. From the article:

The nation’s first Linux patent suit currently facing Red Hat and Novell isn’t about open source at all. Or so the plaintiff says.

IP Innovation last week filed the patent lawsuit against Linux in Texas, alleging that both Red Hat and Novell infringe on U.S. Patent No. 5,072,412, “User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects.”

Neither IP Innovation nor its parent company Acacia Research responded to request for comment at the time the patent suit first came to light. But today, in a statement sent to InternetNews.com, Acacia Chairman and CEO Paul Ryan defended the firm’s actions and argued that there is no conspiracy against open source coming from his firm.

“IP Innovation is not attempting to inject itself in the ongoing philosophical debate of whether products or services which utilize open source are subject to the same intellectual property laws/behaviors as non-open source offerings,” Ryan said in the statement. “Acacia and its subsidiaries do not philosophically differentiate any company, but rather seek to consistently and fairly monetize patent rights from those companies which incorporate patented technology.”

The company also dismissed allegations that Microsoft somehow is using Acacia as a kind of proxy to fight a patent battle against Linux. A pair of key Acacia employees recently joined the patent-holding firm from Microsoft.

Additionally, Groklaw notes that the patent involved is scheduled to expire on December 10, 2008. That could explain why Microsoft, who could easily afford to ensure that the case lasts longer than that, has not been made a target. It’s strangely reassuring to see that this probably doesn’t have anything to do with Open Source. That’s a sad indication of the state of the current situation.

–jeremy

Patent Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Red Hat & Novell II

(A follow up to previous coverage)

As you may have guessed, this topic is being discussed heavily around the web. Mark Radcliffe points out that Open Source companies are likely becoming a more tempting target to patent trolls due to the stunning growth in the sector (keep in mind that Microsoft, Apple, et al. put up with this kind of thing all the time):

Although I and many attorneys in the open source industry have long been concerned about patent challenges to open source companies, this case appears to be the first by patent trolls against an open source licensor. The open source industry provides a tempting target because of its rapid growth. This morning, Eben Moglen at the Software Freedow Law Center Seminar on FOSS issues noted that Brad Bunnell of Microsoft joined Acacia on October 1 . According to news reports, Brad spent sixteen years at Microsoft at a number of positions which included General Manager, Intellectual Property Licensing. http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/071001/20071001005590.html?.v=1

Eben raises the intriguing question about whether these incidents are related. Given the time that it takes to prepare a patent lawsuit, Brad’s hiring probably did not effect the filing of this lawsuit. However the hiring may indicate the addition of a new business line for Acacia: suits against open source companies. Steve Ballmer’s recent comments about Red Hat’s obligation to pay Microsoft for alleged use of its patents makes this lawsuit and the timing of the move interesting.

Matt Asay points out a list of coincidences:

* One or more former Microsoft licensing execs join Acacia or one or its companies;
* Ballmer makes his most recent statement regarding Red Hat;
* Almost the same day, Red Hat (and presumbably Novell) receive notice of the alleged infringement from IP Innovation (Acacia);
* Before either company has a chance to consider the letter and respond, IP Innovation files its lawsuit in Texas;
* Novell changes all of its IP indemnification the same day (which it has named “Technology Assurance Program” as contrasted with Red Hat’s Open Source Assurance Program Novell apparently isn’t interested in assuring open source, just technology ;-);
* Novell’s new program notes a change in the Microsoft/Novell deal that covers GPLv3 code distributed by Novell for downstream recipients.

Hmm….I forget sometimes who is on which team, but it certainly seems like two sides have been conspiring on this, and I don’t mean IP Innovation and Microsoft (which is almost a given).

Stephen Walli (who was still at Microsoft when the SCO suit was launched) gives some advice that I couldn’t agree with more: Take a deep breath. Be calm. He continues:

The U.S. Supreme Court continues to involve itself in the broken patent system. The Linux Foundation and the Open Invention Network are both geared for this particular fight. I have confidence that the Groklaw community will step into the breach of reporting and investigation again. IBM, Intel, and HP have a vested interest in the outcome, and nobody plays IP games the way IBM does. Over the next few weeks, lawyers will come together behind the scenes from all the interested parties on the defending side. Hopefully egos won’t be too large, and a coherent plan of negotiation will emerge.

Some of the more interesting questions for me will be:

* Why Red Hat AND Novell?
* Why not Microsoft? (Acacia went after Apple who settled. Microsoft would seem to have deeper pockets than Red Hat or Novell. It would seem to be the more interesting business discussion.)
* If Microsoft is not involved, should they be? If Apple settled, and then this suit settles, Microsoft should know they’re next on the list. Or are they trusting IBM et al to win this one for them?

To quote one of my favourite lawyers in this space:

“If the F/OSS community wants to be in commercial space, community members will have to learn to deal calmly with IP litigation. The F/OSS production model will work where it makes sense, and it will not work where it doesn’t. It’s really just that simple. Particular claims in individual suits—even one against a flagship program such as the GNU/Linux OS—will not determine the fate of the community. Such cases present factual issues that will get resolved one way or another; they do not represent a crisis for F/OSS production as a whole. Norm entrepreneurial rhetoric that plays off such cases should be treated as entertainment. Enjoy it if you like it, take inspiration from it if you must, but don’t confuse it with the way things actually get done.”

I’m sure some former colleagues at Microsoft are excited. Mr. Smith and Mr. Ballmer most assuredly. But just as with the SCO Group litigation, there is no reason to celebrate. They shouldn’t confuse this with “the way things actually get done.” Pax.

I do find it interesting that Acacia went from Apple to Red Hat / Novell, when Microsoft surely would have been a much more compelling target from a business perspective. It becomes a simple case of follow the money from there. More information will come out of this in the coming weeks and months, so staying calm and focusing on what’s important is surely the correct course of action.

–jeremy

Patent Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Red Hat & Novell

Earlier this month, Ballmer reiterated his stance on patents and Linux:

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has warned users of Red Hat Linux that they will have to pay Microsoft for its intellectual property.

“People who use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us,” Ballmer said last week at a company event in London discussing online services in the UK.

Red Hat quickly fired back:

Red Hat is assuring its customers that they can continue to deploy its Linux operating system with confidence and without fear of legal retribution from Microsoft, despite the increasingly vocal threats emanating from the Redmond, Wash., company.

In a scathing response to Ballmer’s remarks, Red Hat’s IP team said the reality is that the community development approach of free and open-source code represents a healthy development paradigm, which, when viewed from the perspective of pending lawsuits related to intellectual property, is at least as safe as proprietary software.

“We are also aware of no patent lawsuit against Linux. Ever. Anywhere,” the team said in a blog posting.

The Linux vendor, which is based in Raleigh, N.C., also gives customers open-source intellectual property protections through its Open Source Assurance Program, which includes a promise to replace the software if there is an intellectual property issue.

“This provides customers with assurances of uninterrupted use of the technology solution. Protecting our customers is a top priority, and we take it very seriously. Our confidence in our technology and protections for customers remains strong and has not wavered,” the blog posting said.

While many people thought Ballmer was just continuing his FUD campaign, a scant couple days later an IP infringement lawsuit was actually filed:

Plaintiffs IP Innovation and Technology Licensing Corp. claim to have the rights to U.S. Patent No. 5,072,412 for a User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects issued Dec. 10, 1991 along with two other similar patents.

Defendants Red Hat Inc. and Novell have allegedly committed acts of infringement through products including the Red Hat Linux system, the Novell Suse Linex Enterprise Desktop and the Novell Suse Linex Enterprise Server.

“Red Hat’s and Novell’s infringement, contributory infringement and inducement to infringe has injured plaintiffs and plaintiffs are entitled to recover damages adequate to compensate them for such infringement but in no event less than a reasonable royalty,” the original complaint states.

The plaintiffs also allege that defendants received notice of the patents, therefore the infringing activities have been deliberate and willful.

Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction from the court, increased damages and other relief that the court or a jury may deem just and proper.

T. John Ward Jr. of Ward & Smith Law Firm in Longview is representing the plaintiff.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Leonard E. Davis.

You have to find it ironic that “IP Innovation” is suing based on something seemingly obvious that was patented in a 1991 by Xerox. Things get interesting from there though. It seems IP Innovation LLC is a subsidiary of Acacia. Looking at Acacia closer, you see:

In July 2007, Acacia Research Corporation announced that Jonathan Taub joined its Acacia Technologies group as Vice President. Mr. Taub joins Acacia from Microsoft, where he was Director, Strategic Alliances for the Mobile and Embedded Devices (MED) division since 2004.

and

Acacia Technologies Names Brad Brunell, Former Microsoft General Manager, Intellectual Property Licensing, to Management Team

Monday October 1, 6:01 am ET

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Acacia Research Corporation (NASDAQ:ACTG – News) announced today that its Acacia Technologies group, a leader in technology licensing, has named Brad Brunell as Senior Vice President.

Mr. Brunell joins Acacia from Microsoft, where during his 16 year career he held a number of management positions, including General Manager, Intellectual Property Licensing.

So the SCOX trial isn’t even officially over and we already have a company with large Microsoft ties filing a clear patent troll case against Linux. You think they’d at least hide the connections better this time. It should be noted that IP Innovation appears to have previously gotten some money out of Apple for this, so it’s not simply aimed at FOSS. How much of this are we going to have to go though until the system is actually fixed? Too much. Let the SCO II games begin.

–jeremy

Microsoft kills its 'Get the Facts' anti-Linux site

A little late on this one, but Microsoft has replaced its Get the Facts site with one that is ostensibly less biased.

“The goal of the site is to offer more in-depth information and customer-to-customer opinions about many of the issues IT administrators face,” a company spokeswoman said. “It turns out people wanted 3rd party validation in addition to people’s experiences making OS purchasing decisions so in addition to customer case studies, research reports that compare platforms the site will also offer guidance around best practices, web casts, etc.”

Who would have thought people wouldn’t fully trust what a company said about their own products without “3rd party validation”. I don’t find it too interesting that the site was pulled down. After all, the Get the Facts campaign had been debunked and derided to the point that is was certainly doing more harm than good. I do find it interesting, however, that the new Windows Server “Compare” site doesn’t really compare “Linux” with Windows. What is does is compare “Red Hat Enterprise Linux” with Windows. This could be taken two ways. 1) Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the only real competition in the eyes of Microsoft. 2) Microsoft is specifically targeting Red Hat as a result of it not signing a deal similar to the one Novell signed. I’ll let you be the judge.

While on the topic of the Novell deal, it looks like the Microsoft and Novell Open Interoperability Lab is now open. The Microsoft marketing team really does like to stick the word Open anywhere is can. At 2,500 square feet (or 50 x 50) there doesn’t seem to be much room for engineers, especially when you consider the room also has 80+ servers and a SAN.

–jeremy

Court Rules: Novell owns the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights

It sure has been a long time since the last SCO related post. It looks to finally be the beginning of the end for this whole fiasco. From Groklaw:

Hot off the presses: Judge Dale Kimball has issued a 102-page ruling [PDF] on the numerous summary judgment motions in SCO v. Novell. Here it is as text. Here is what matters most:

[T]he court concludes that Novell is the owner of the UNIX and UnixWare Copyrights.

That’s Aaaaall, Folks! The court also ruled that “SCO is obligated to recognize Novell’s waiver of SCO’s claims against IBM and Sequent”. That’s the ball game. There are a couple of loose ends, but the big picture is, SCO lost. Oh, and it owes Novell a lot of money from the Microsoft and Sun licenses.

Judge Kimball asks the parties, in view of the ruling in Novell, which “significantly impacts the claims and counterclaims asserted” in IBM, to prepare by August 31 “a statement of its view of the status of this case and, more specifically, the effect of the SCO v. Novell decision on each of the pending motions.”

Here’s the conclusion:

For the reasons stated above, the court concludes that Novell is the owner of the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights. Therefore, SCO’s First Claim for Relief for slander of title and Third Claim for specific performance are dismissed, as are the copyright ownership portions of SCO’s Fifth Claim for Relief for unfair competition and Second Claim for Relief for breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court denies SCO’s cross-motion for summary judgment on its own slander of title, breach of contract, and unfair competition claims, and on Novell’s slander of title claim. Accordingly, Novell’s slander of title claim is still at issue.

The court also concludes that, to the extent that SCO has a copyright to enforce, SCO can simultaneously pursue both a copyright infringement claim and a breach of contract claim based on the non-compete restrictions in the license back of the Licensed Technology under APA and the TLA. The court further concludes that there has not been a change of control that released the non-compete restrictions of the license, and the non-compete restrictions of the license are not void under California law. Accordingly, Novell’s motion for summary judgment on SCO’s non-compete claim in its Second Claim for breach of contract and Fifth Claim for unfair competition is granted to the extent that SCO’s claims require ownership of the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights, and denied in all other regards.

Furthermore, the court concludes, as a matter of law, that the only reasonable interpretation of the term “SVRX License” in the APA is all licenses related to the SVRX products listed in Item VI of Schedule 1.1(a) to the APA. Therefore, Novell is entitled to a declaration of rights under its Fourth Claim for Relief that it was and is entitled, at its sole discretion, to direct SCO to waive its claims against IBM and Sequent, and SCO is obligated to recognize Novell’s waiver of SCO’s claims against IBM and Sequent. Accordingly, Novell’s motion for partial summary judgment on its Fourth Claim for Relief for declaratory judgment is granted, and SCO’s cross-motion for summary judgment on Novell’s Fourth Claim for Relief is denied.

Finally, the court concludes, as a matter of law, that the only reasonable interpretation of all SVRX Licenses includes no temporal restriction of SVRX Licenses existing at the time of the APA. The court further concludes that because a portion of SCO’s 2003 Sun and Microsoft Agreements indisputably licenses SVRX products listed under Item VI of Schedule 1.1(a) to the APA, even if only incidental to a license for UnixWare, SCO is obligated under the APA to account for and pass through to Novell the appropriate portion relating to the license of SVRX products. Because SCO failed to do so, it breached its fiduciary duty to Novell under the APA and is liable for conversion.

The court, however, is precluded from granting a constructive trust with respect to the payments SCO received under the 2003 Sun and Microsoft Agreements because there is a question of fact as to the appropriate amount of SVRX Royalties SCO owes to Novell based on the portion of SVRX products contained in each agreement. Furthermore, because Novell has obtained the information that it would otherwise obtain through an accounting during the course of this litigation, the court denies Novell’s Ninth Claim for Relief for an accounting. However, the court also notes that SCO has a continuing contractual obligation to comply with the accounting and reporting requirements set forth in the APA.

What does this all mean? The case against IBM is all but a moot point now, since Novell owns the IP that SCO is suing over. In addition, SCO owes a substantial amount of the previous license money (95% at a worst case for them) to Novell. It’s pretty much game over at this point. Most of us thought this would be the end result, but in my mind there are many open questions that may never be answered. Will there be a criminal case against Yarro and/or McBride? Was this the longest running pump and dump scheme in history? What was the real reason behind Microsoft obtaining one of the original licenses from SCO and will that angle even be pursued now that Novell and Microsoft are pals? Was the recent Microsoft Novell deal structured as it was by Microsoft in anticipation of this and if so did Novell even see it coming? What was Sun’s intention in getting one of the original licenses from SCO? At the time they were fairly anti-Linux, but part of it seemed to be related to them moving toward OpenSolaris. If it’s really Novell IP how is that deal impacted and what legal ground does OpenSolaris stand on? What was the real impact of this case on Linux in general and on companies like Red Hat specifically? I have many more questions, but will be tossing them around a bit and looking for more information that will surely become available in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

–jeremy

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