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Whatever happened to Groklaw?

There was once a time when Groklaw provided a valuable service to the Linux community. All the legal stuff coming out of the SCO case was tricky for people to understand, and so PJ at Groklaw took it upon herself to explain it all - and did a mighty fine job, too. But since the SCO case has quietened down, the site has started to post other "news" from the Linux world, and to be honest, now that it has strayed outside of its core competency of paralegalism, Groklaw is starting to suck.

Exhibit A as is this story, titled "Novell 'forking' OpenOffice.org". The gist of the story is this: Novell is wants to implement support for Microsoft's OpenXML data format in OpenOffice.org, which therefore means they are forking OOo.

To make it quite clear that the site makes only the occasional attempt at being objective and unbiased any more, here are some quotes from the Groklaw story:

  • "Well, if there are any Novell supporters left, here's something else to put in your pipe and smoke it."
  • "I am guessing this will be the only OpenOffice.org covered by the "patent agreement" with Microsoft. You think?"
  • "So, while Novell may call this "Novell OpenOffice.org" I feel free to call it "Sellout Linux OpenOffice.org". Money can do strange things to people."
  • "Novell, Inc. delivers A-Hint-Of-Not-Really-Open-Software for the Not-Much-Interested-in-Leaving-Microsoft Enterprise"
  • "now the only question is when Microsoft will support ODF in earnest in Microsoft Office, if it ever will"

There are a few comments I'd like to make about this nonsense:

  1. If Novell were ever to fork OpenOffice.org, that's its right. That's a right and a privilege that we, as open source developers, grant to all our users, irrespective of who their business partners are. In fact, most people would agree that the ability to fork freely leads to "survival of the fittest" in software, so we generally encourage it.
  2. Novell is not forking OpenOffice.org. A project fork is when you split completely from the parent codebase, and go down a different path. If Novell were to decide that OOo was best running entirely on Java, or if it wanted to bin Impress and use something that forced people to use Compiz, that would be a fork. But adding support for a file format is not a fork. Sorry, folks!
  3. OOo already supports several Microsoft standard file formats, most of which are completely proprietary - Word .doc, Excel .xls, etc, are completely binary formats, and had to be reverse engineered. Some don't work quite right, which is why OOo still issues compatibility warnings when saving documents in Office formats.
  4. Once people start using Office 2007 - and they will, it's basically a dead cert - they will start using OpenXML for saving their files. At this point, people trying to migrate to Linux will say "can it read my Office documents?" and we'll all say "sadly, no." Or, we could encourage OpenXML support in OpenOffice.org, and help people migrate.
  5. OpenXML is a huge leap forward from the old formats, because it is completely open and readable. What's more, OpenXML is being standardised by ECMA, which means the specification is free for everyone to download.
  6. Microsoft has issued two, worldwide promises regarding OpenXML, both saying they will not enforce any patents on people who implement part of are all of the OpenXML standard in their software. You can read them here and here.
  7. Microsoft is funding a BSD-licensed Sourceforge project to create an ODF converter for Microsoft Office.

So, in summary: there is absolutely no patent threat from OpenXML, adding it would be a legitimate feature that people would want, and at this time Microsoft is actually making an effort to support ODF in its own software. Surely this is exactly what we all dreamed about happening years ago?

I still dislike Microsoft, and I still wish Novell had more brains than to ally with the beast of Redmond, but the OpenXML FUD - particularly from Groklaw - is stupid. Give it up.


Your comments

Well said. I think this

Well said.

I think this whole 'I won't touch anything made by Novell' attitude is ridiculous and doesn't help anyone. Novell are still vitally important players in the open source field and they emplot a lot of people that do a lot of good work.

Having said that, I'm undecided on where I stand in regard to this whole Novell-MS business. But it's now a done deal. It's about time we put that behind us and focus on the future of free software.

Office Open XML is good though. It will make third-party access to Office documents a hell of a load easier, and that can only help free software. Novell is right to start implementing it in OOo now - Office 2007 and Vista will be released soon and free software needs to be able to support those formats asap, or we'll drive potential converts away.

Just my £0.02.

I rarely refer to Groklaw,

I rarely refer to Groklaw, is this just a one-off stupid article, or genuinely the start of a trend?

A couple of points: 1. I

A couple of points:
1. I (and a friend of mine) used to be in a *very* small campaign group called 'Keep Music Small'. There were two of us in it. We used to love going to Levellers gigs in pubs and clubs in and around Southampton. As soon as the 'Levs' or any other band became 'big', that was it. Didn't like 'em anymore. Didn't like the big impersonal gigs at the Guildhall. I suspect that this nose/cut/face/spite attitude is the same one that afflicts those against the Novell/M$ partnership. We just don't like the idea that Linux could become big, corporate and mainstream. We like the cuddly little 'midnight coder' view of Linux. OK, so M$ are the 'enemy', but the very fact that they are up for a partnership suggests that they take Linux a little more seriously than before. Maybe bands don't like playing the big gigs, but it's a by-product of being successful and good at what you do.

2. Isn't there a bit of a dodgy bit in the OpenXML format? You can actually hold binary data within XML, so although it 'looks' open, they can still hide their viruses - I mean macros and other proprietary code in there. Or am I talking pants?

Wise words. I completely

Wise words. I completely agree with the article. The unnecessary Microsoft (and now Novell) bashing from everyone is getting a little tedious... Why can't we just accept some healthy competition.

Paul! You have either the

Paul! You have either the ideology nor the empathy to handle this question. Stick to your tutorials!

Yeah, I agree. "Groklaw

Yeah, I agree. "Groklaw sucks" is putting it mildly. Seemingly, it is now doing its best to fracture 'the community' that it professes to defend. As you say, now that the SCO case is winding down, Groklaw, rather Lady Pamela Jones, has been desperately looking
for a cause to defend or attack.

She relates often that she acted on her gut feelings that SCO had nothing to get her blog going. Likewise, she had a hunch with regard to an obscure company called 'vista.com' or such. That went nowhere. She has tried to make a go of software patents. But the matter did no get much traction. Then there were attempts to take a crack at Microsoft patents and legals. Ditto; perhaps this was not sexy enough. Groklaw was rapidly losing its
raison d'etre.

Then she glommed on to GPL3, and became a 'true believer'. She's bashing Mr Linus Torvalds ever since. The Microsoft-Novell
deal. The wet dream come true. An easy, tangible, existing 'Enemy'. And build cases around it; if that means trashing Novell unjustly, it is just too bad.

I think she has convinced herself that she has a 'hunch' again, although it did not come to her, like a vision from a god.
She has surrounded herself with praetorian guards who hunts down 'trolls', who accepts her words on anything including technical matters like 'forking'. There is even a court sycophant to supply Ms Jones with a made-to-order definition of 'fork': forking of the third kind, and some such twaddles.

Groklaw not only sucks but it has become a pernicious influence in the so-called OSS/FLOSS movements, particularly because of
its past contributions. It has sunk to the level of Slashdot, even beneath it with regard to 'forking' -- Slashdot's comments were better than Groklaw's, in my opinion.

The time has come to spread the word that Groklaw is now a fink,
that the emperor is now mal-dressed (the red dress is now a fading-pink rag).

Taki, less of the personal

Taki, less of the personal stuff; when PJ is speaking personally she is entitled to speak even as you are. Post a few photos of yourself in your favourite pants and invite opinions on your dress sense if you want to. Personally I dont give a sh*t.
Novell will in time discover that making agreements with Microsoft will lead to their absoption or elimination, as every other large and small vendor except IMB has found. In terms of the future health of Novell, MS is poison.

I read Groklaw every day,

I read Groklaw every day, and I think it is brilliant. I am confused as to why you are suddenly so concerned about Novell after I read your editorial in the Jan Linux Format encouraging people to move away from Novells versions of Linux. This did not point out the difference between opensuse and SLED, and suggested that the net flow of cash is towards Microsoft rather than Novell. Many of your criticisms could be directed at yourself.

Groklaw is still a very useful resource despite what you say. By suggesting that because you disgree with one article the whole site is now rubbish is going a bit over the top. And you have to admit that other companies that have done deals with Microsoft have ended up getting burned. Whatever you think about PJ she has put a lot of time into explaining things to the rest of us, she has undoubtedly helped the cause of free software in the process and does not deserve this sort of bashing.

I do not necesserily disagree with your points, I disagree with the overly confrontational way you put them across. In case you think that is what sells magazines, I buy LXF for the reviews, What on earth, interviews editorial and tutorials. Not for over the top rants about people in the free software community.

>>I buy LXF for the

>>I buy LXF for the reviews, What on earth, interviews editorial and tutorials. Not for over >>the top rants about people in the free software community.

Well, presumably that's why this is in the Blog, not the magazine. This is the correct place for the writers to talk about other interests and express personal opinions, and we even get to comment on them.

I don't check groklaw a lot

I don't check groklaw a lot but i was always impressed with the way they reported: unbiased/facts etc. This article about the fork took me completely by surprise, this is the FUD we are used to see from microsoft. The open source movement does not have to agree on everything and thank God they don't, but one thing we can expect: honousty, open discussion with arguments for the best way to go, that is what made it big and great in the first place! I see more and more reactions in the open source community like LarsErik Nyström's, and that is scary,because apparently larserik (and people like him) does/do have the knowledge, oh and let's not forget ideology and empathy, to have an opinion on this. Paul, on the other hand, who has been working in open source for a long time can't.........Maybe Larserik could at least give some arguments for his opinion (of agreeing with groklaw i guess), because with just bashing you are not very convincing to take your side.