Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘Technology

The trial of the year—Victory! (Follow up)

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As I wrote in March, a jury ruled in favour of Novell in the fight against SCO, whose widely-considered-faulty claims had caused great costs and uncertainty for a number of other parties (including, obviously, Novell).

There was still some remaining uncertainty in theory (considering the overall situation and previous judgements, a practical problem was unlikely), because there were further “findings of facts” and various motions to be decided by the judge. As Groklaw now reportse:

Judge Ted Stewart has ruled for Novell and against SCO. Novell’s claim for declaratory judgment is granted; SCO’s claims for specific performance and breach of the implied covenant of good fair and fair dealings are denied. Also SCO’s motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial: denied. SCO is entitled to waive, at its sole discretion, claims against IBM, Sequent and other SVRX licensees.

CASE CLOSED!

Maybe I should say cases closed. The door has slammed shut on the SCO litigation machine.

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Written by michaeleriksson

June 11, 2010 at 6:09 pm

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The trial of the year—Victory!

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I recently wrote about the SCO vs. Novell trial, the verdict of which is now, with some delay, in:

A unanimous jury rejected SCO’s copyright claims, which likely means the end to this threat once and for all. Virtual champagne all around!

Of course, looking at the preceding decade, SCO has been harder to get rid of than Jason Voorhees; however, unlike Jason, it is not actually supernatural.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 31, 2010 at 4:01 am

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The trial of the year

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Right now, a trial of great importance is underway: The battle between Novell (the good guys) and SCO (the bad guys) concerning the rights to Unix. Unfortunately, most people seem to be entirely unaware of it.

Why is this battle so important?

In order to understand this, a brief overview is needed, and will be given below. By necessity, it will be an over-simplification: The story is extremely convoluted, involves many parties, and is stretched over a very long time. For those interested in more details, I recommend Wikipediaw; for those truly interested, there are enormous amounts of material present at Groklawe or, in German, Heisee.

Some forty years ago, the operating system Unix takes its first steps at AT&T. This little toddler is to grow into one of the dominating server and workstation operating systems for several decades—and to be the progenitor of both Linux and Mac OS X.

In the early nineties, AT&T sells the rights to Novell (the first of the combatants). In 1995, some of these rights are sold to SCO (confusingly, not the second combatant). Here however, we encounter the point of contention: Which rights, exactly?

Only in 2000 does the second combatant, then called Caldera, enter the arena by buying the Unix business of the original SCO. Not long thereafter, Caldera changes its name to SCO Group, in an effort to capitalize on the strong brand-name of the original SCO, which it has also bought. Meanwhile the original SCO departs from our tale.

Having had a few less than successful years, SCO looks for a solution to its money problems, and in 2002 it begins the dangerous gamble of claiming more extensive rights to Unix than it was acknowledged to have—and that Linux would contain significant portions of unlicensed Unix code. Calls for proof are raised; none is given.

In 2003, all hell breaks lose. A slew of law suits are started: SCO v. IBM, Red Hat v. SCO, SCO v. Novell, SCO v. AutoZone, SCO v. DaimlerChrysler. Claims and counter-claims are made, and litigation that lasts until at least 2010 ensues. SCO’s most noteworthy claim: IBM owns it one billion dollar (yes, billion) relating to its alleged and allegedly illicit use of intellectual property allegedly belonging to SCO. This amount was later increased to five billion… To make matters worse, this has the appearances of pilot case, with more to follow upon success.


Side-note:

The above paragraph has been revised for two errors since the original publishing:

  1. When checking the numbers, I overlooked the increase to five billion dollars.

  2. I claimed that even one billion was far more than SCO was every worth. While I still hold this statement to be true, it is technically wrong, seeing that Caldera had a market capitalization of more than that shortly after its IPO. That number, however and IMO, was severely hyped, did not reflect actual sales and prospects, and dwindled soon afterwards. (See also CNET on the IPOe or historical share-price informatione of SCO.)

Generally, I gathered most facts from a few timelines on the given links, without revisiting the case to a greater depth. (I followed the case with great interest in the early years, but with the passage of time…) Correspondingly, there may be other errors in detail—not, however, in the big picture.


In parallel, SCO tries to leverage its claims in other ways, e.g. by trying to bluff companies merely using Linux into purchasing “anti-dote” licenses as protection against potential law suits for larger amounts.

As time goes by, SCO becomes more and more focused on these lawsuits, seeing the rest of its business disappear. It is now in a do-or-die situation—win the jackpot in court or end up in bankruptcy. It has become a company effectively geared at just one thing—litigation.

Because SCO is never able to produce evidence, it has little success, often see its claims struck down by summary judgments, and only manages to stay above the water-line through injections of additional capital, including from Linux’, Unix’, and Apple’s archenemy—Microsoft. Those claims that are not struck down are often stayed awaiting one of the other cases, either SCO v. IBM or SCO v. Novell.

In the autumn of 2007, the issue seems to be concluded: A summary judgment falls, stating that Novell is the rightful owner of the relevant Unix rights, which pulls out the carpet from all other cases; and SCO is effectively bankrupt.

However, hanging by a thread and protected by Chapter 11, SCO manages to remain to in the fight—and in August 2009, an appeals court finds that parts of the summary judgment were premature and must be treated in a full trial. This trial is now underway, expected to be concluded in the coming week (knock on wood).

As should be clear even from this greatly simplified overview, the situation has been highly chaotic, and great stakes are involved. Those who dig into the sources given above will find more chaos yet, including many other examples of highly disputable behaviour on the part of SCO—and many cases of infighting and internal intrigues.

Now, why is it important that SCO lose this trial? Mainly, were SCO to win, it would set a dangerous precedent with regard to making legal claims bordering on the frivolous, extorting money by means of legal threats, and making grossly misleading accusations against other organisations: The justice system is abused often enough as it is—with a SCO victory, we could see a flood of lawsuits where failing companies try to ensure their survival by suing wealthier companies, possibly causing immense damage to third parties along the way. In addition, it is still conceivable that a SCO victory could do great damage to the companies and communities involved in developing Linux, and similar lawsuits against other members of the extended Unix family would not be inconceivable—and consider if Linux takes a severe hit at the same time as Apple is locked up in ten years of costly litigation: All of Gaul could well be conquered by the Redmonds this time.

Notably, while the probability that SCO will win sufficiently many battles is small, the stakes are sufficiently high that there is still reason to be nervous. In football terms: We may be a few minutes away from the end of the fourth quarter and have a two-touchdown lead—but the game is the Superbowl.

The issue of ObamaCare may be more important, but neither the OJ trial(s) nor the actual Superbowl holds a candle.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm

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Further notes on WordPress

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As hinted at in my last post, I have been fairly active in exploring WordPress recently. In particular, my excursions into the blogosphere have, until recently, mostly consisted of stumbling onto various blogs during researches, often followed by just reading that blog from beginning to end (skipping entries that turned out to be uninteresting, obviously): This way, I have built up a great mass of read blog entries, but without any continuity, little “compare and contrast”, and no view of the writers side (apart from the very different platform of OpenDiary)—and my recent activities here have given me much deeper insights into WordPress, how different blogs come across, how the writers side works, etc.

A few observations (with a tendency towards griping) on the more technical side:

  1. The whole “theme” thing is done the wrong way around: The themes should not be applied by the authors to their own blogs, but by the readers. This would make for greater consistency, make life easier for the readers, and avoid many annoyances. An article on my website on Separation of content and layout can provide a bit more information about what I mean.

    As an aside, OpenDiary has the same problem—and there I usually used Opera’s UserCSS functionality to just override anything the diarists had concocted. (Note that the themes there are not professionally ready made, like here, but entirely the work of the individual diarists. The result is a high frequency of truly abhorrent designs, with extremely bright and contrasting colors, red text on black backgrounds, and other variations that make the readers eyes hurt.)

  2. The administrative area is abysmally slow—a price to be paid for the extensive functionality. In the weighing of costs and benefits, I am the opinion that WordPress should have been content with less. (Reservation: My time here is sufficiently short that this could conceivably be a temporary shortage in band-width or server capacity. If so, I may have to revise this statement. Under no circumstances, however, would I like to deal with WordPress over a cell phone or a dial-up connection.)

  3. For some reason, HTML text entered with line-breaks is distorted by the artificial addition of paragraphs according to these line-breaks. Really unprofessional: The point of HTML (as opposed to Rich-Text or WYSIWYG editors) is that the actual HTML code can be entered (typically pasted from elsewhere) and be interpreted in the same manner as if it had been written in a plain HTML document.

  4. The Snap previews of links are evil. Compare a discussion on another bloge. I urge my fellow bloggers to follow the advice of that post and turn Snap off. Further, I re-iterate my comment on that post that this is a functionality that should be provided and configurable on the browser level, not on the blog/website level (similar to themes above).

    For users, I have not found any foolproof way to counter this. I tried a few alleged solutions using user-side JavaScript/CSS, but they proved ineffectual for some reason; the same was true for the alleged solution in the Snap FAQ. (And, upon inspection the source code was sufficiently convoluted that it would have taken me more time than I intended to waste to reliably find the right counter-measure.) Currently, I simply have JavaScript turned off per default. This fixes the problem, but can have negative side-effects elsewhere. It may, in particular, be necessary to re-activate it when doing something in the administrative area.

  5. I am puzzled as to why the statistics in the administrative area have a piece of Flash were a conventional image would be expected. There may be some additional functionality present that is not possible with an image, but hardly any that would justify the use of Flash (evil!); in particular, when considering that normal links, CSS, and JavaScript can do most (all?) things that could reasonably be wished for in this context. (Because I have Flash turned off in a very categorical manner, I cannot say what this hypothetical additional functionality would be—or if there is any at all: It could well be that the contents are static, and that the developers simply find generation of Flash easier than of an image.)

Written by michaeleriksson

March 6, 2010 at 3:08 pm

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