Open News Episode 29

A Weekly Open Source News Podcast

First, here are some news briefs.

If you’ve been wanting to learn more about Ubuntu, now’s your chance. Ubuntu this week announced Ubuntu Open Week, “a week-long series of online workshops”, where you can chat with developers, attend training sessions, and even talk to Mark Shuttleworth himself. You can find out more at Week.

It appears that Firefox is gaining ground on Internet Explorer, at least if you’re a BitTorrent user. Isohunt, a popular BitTorrent indexing site, reported on their blog this week that Firefox users on edged out IE users for the first time since they have been monitoring.

Apparently officials in Amsterdam have been testing Open Source applications to see if they are ready for prime time. This week the testing committee gave the green light and now over 10,000 PCs can start using Open Source software. Any incremental costs of running the open source software will be offset by savings in license fees that would have been paid to Microsoft.

And now on to the main stories of the week.

It was a big week for patent litigation and it all started with more threatening words from Steve Ballmer of Microsoft. According to Tom Sanders on, 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 has repeatedly stated that it will not engage in a patent licensing deal similar to the Novell-Microsoft partnership, referring to it as an ‘innovation tax’. Microsoft has been the second most aggressive party in pursuing alleged intellectual property claims against Linux and open source in general. The firm ranks behind SCO, which failed in its attempt to prove that it owns the intellectual property to Linux and now faces bankruptcy. Microsoft inked a partnership with Novell last year in which Novell agreed to license Microsoft’s intellectual property in exchange for a patent pledge to users of Novell’s SuSE Linux. Ballmer praised Novell at the UK event for valuing intellectual property, and suggested that open source vendors will be forced to strike similar deals with other patent holders.


Mozilla, the company behind popular open source applications like Firefox and Thunderbird, announced this week that it will develop a mobile browser for cell phones and other devices. According to an article by Cade Metz on, Mozilla is prepping a mobile version of Firefox, the world’s most popular open-source web browser. “People ask us all the time what Mozilla’s going to do about the mobile web,” reads a blog post from Vice-President of engineering Mike Schroepfer, “and I’m very excited to announce that we plan to rock it.” He says the company will introduce a mobile version of Firefox at some unspecified date after December 31, 2007. It will run Firefox extensions, and developers will have the power to build their own apps for the browser via Mozilla’s user interface language, called XUL. As Schroepfer points out, a Mozilla-based browser is already available for Nokia’s N800 wireless handheld. But the company has yet to decide which devices Mobile Firefox will run on.


It was announced yesterday that the OSI has approved two Microsoft licenses as open source licenses. According to, the board of the Open Source Initiative, or OSI, has approved two Microsoft licenses that will allow proprietary source code to be shared, a move that is likely to inspire protest and spur controversy for die-hard open source proponents. The Microsoft Public License, or MPL, and the Microsoft Reciprocal License, or MRL, two of Microsoft’s “shared source” licenses, are now viable OSI licenses for distributing open source code alongside more widely used community licenses such as the GNU General Public License and the Mozilla Public License. “Today’s approval by the OSI concludes a tremendous learning experience for Microsoft, and I look forward to our continuing participation in the open source community,” said Microsoft general manager of Windows Server Marketing and Platform Strategy Bill Hilf in a press statement. Red Hat executive Michael Tiemann, who also serves as president of the OSI, said Tuesday that while some in the com- munity balked at the OSI accepting licenses from a company that historically has not been open source friendly, in the end, the licenses spoke for themselves. “They do have two licenses that went through the community process and did sustain the open source definition,” he said. “I’ve received three e-mails in the last hour from people who say, ‘To heck with the OSI, you guys are just now pawns in Microsoft’s game. You have made a deal with the devil,’” he said. However, Tiemann believes the OSI had a responsibility to be fair and impartial in letting Microsoft submit its li- censes. “What would you think of a club that would say, ‘We won’t take any members that come from the city of Chicago, even if two people in Chicago meet the criteria for entry?’” he posited. “We said from the outset that we would be fair and, to be honest, some people said, ‘No, you don’t’”. Tiemann said it remains to be seen if any companies other than Microsoft will license code under MPL or MRL. “However,” he said, “if Microsoft plans to embed patented technology in software licensed under an OSI-approved license and call it open source - as some open source proponents fear - they had better think twice.”