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More Microsoft Abuses in Italy and Europe

Posted in Europe, Law, Microsoft at 4:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Foreign tyrant back in Italy

IN yesterday’s news we found this article about shyness among European schools about the use of Free software, despite repeated attempts to bring constructive change.

The Italian city of Pontedera has just installed 45 new PCs running open source in computer labs in three schools. Teachers are being instructed how to use the GNU/Linux based systems, according to a report on the website of Radio Nostalgia. It quotes analyst Stefano Tognarelli: “Our goal is to increase the use of open source software by young people and by public administrations.”

The overall message of this article is that there is antagonism though. Microsoft can never let it be easy for people to make decisions and follow them through.

Why all this resistance anyway? We decided to explore and discover whether Italy is subjected to the same Microsoft pressure/influence on education as in France. It typically ascends to a tier of corruptible politicians, as we showed some days ago in reference to Italy (see the Italian government coming under fire following another, much older Microsoft agreement). We have also shared many examples over the past couple of months [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] and they transcend the borders of Europe, by far.

“It typically ascends to a tier of corruptible politicians…”An informant of ours wanted to draw readers’ attention to universities in Italy. “Microsoft helped them with millions,” he said, “[in order] to help [the] Italian government open 2-3 Microsoft research centers in some universities. The most part will be paid by the government by the way [and] the code won’t be open.”

Further to this, we were told that, “apparently, in Piemonte they promised to make code public. In Trento we’re are still waiting for an answer, that won’t come.”

Given that the code is written using taxpayers’ money, i.e. public subsidies, this makes little or no sense.

Moreover, “they don’t only retain the copyright on the code. Patents allow them to annoy you even if you re-write from scratch,” says the informant.

Corporations must not taint public institutions like academia, but they increasingly do. Microsoft is a major culprit in that respect.

The University of Trento is one to be named and possibly shamed for this. Their site does not run Windows, so it’s definitely not a ‘Microsoft shop’ (well, not yet). But there are apparently at least 3 centers in 3 regions apart from the one in Trento. “There are nice links departing from that article,” we are told, but it’s not in English.

Since articles of value and substance are difficult for a non-Italian speaker to understand (even with an automated translation), this one reader of ours provided a translation, as follows:

May 2007 – Brunetta (minister of Public functions and Innovation) signs a deal with Microsoft for the opening of 3 centers in Italy (generic locations: Piemonte, Tuscany and Campania)

Following protests from free software associations, Professor Profumo (director of the university “Politecnico di Torino”) stated publicly that “since the money is be public, so will be the results”

The Microsoft research center in trento, though, is not part of the above deal, it’s just a different thing.

In Trento, the situation is different, even if the results of the research are 50% Microsoft’s property, the costs of “Centro di Ricerca di Trento” will be substained wholly by citizens (see: http://softwarelibero.it/delucidazioni-sul-trasferimento-di-fondi/).

The “Associazione per il Software Libero” points the following:

  • Microsoft’s (financial) involvement not only is less than the public involvment, but is provided in form of “versamenti in conto capitale” which may go back to Microsoft at the end of agreement (note: probably it would happen in the case the Center has not debts at the end of agreement)
  • Even if many people from Microsoft and the government talk (about the agreement as a way to) about avoid “Brains escape from italy” seems like the researchers earning will be a little more than a tenth (1/10) respect their English colleagues.
  • Even worse, the results of the center’s research won’t be freely available. In fact, terms to avoid commercial use are already in place (nothing forbids them to be patented in the time to come, anyway).

We also accumulated many examples of Microsoft OOXML-related misconduct in Italy. As the country increasingly adopts Free software and GNU/Linux [1-20], there will be resistances that knows no ethical boundaries, particularly from Microsoft.

Other News from Europe

Over at Groklaw, one of their readers points out an incident from Holland, titling it “Accused of Illegal Sale of Microsoft Software, Dutch Co. Files EU Commission Complaint.” The report is in Dutch, but the core of the complaint is: “Microsoft abusing its monopoly to artificially inflate prices in the EU as compared to the ones in the US.”

“…Microsoft uses its monopoly to elevate the prices as much as the market can bear”As many people are probably aware, Microsoft’s software products are hugely expensive in Holland and in other part of Europe where Microsoft uses its monopoly to elevate the prices as much as the market can bear. Explanations from Microsoft UK were far from satisfactory. They found excuses, trying to place blame on local GDP, which is not only absurd but also incorrect.

Also in the news at the moment is this latest Portuguese government concession to Microsoft (yes, yet another [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]). According to this article (English), they permit themselves to get locked in without exploring better alternatives which the government has control over. The gist of it (thanks to Tony Manco): “The Institute of Employment and Vocational Training of Portugal will pay, by 2011, more than three million for 3700 licences to Microsoft, according to the authorization published yesterday in the Daily Republic.”

[1] Europe’s schools remain shy about open source

The Italian city of Pontedera has just installed 45 new PCs running open source in computer labs in three schools. Teachers are being instructed how to use the GNU/Linux based systems, according to a report on the website of Radio Nostalgia. It quotes analyst Stefano Tognarelli: “Our goal is to increase the use of open source software by young people and by public administrations.”

[2] Italians Vote: Give Us Linux on System z!

Region Calabria, one of the largest regions in all of Italy with more than 2 million people, today announced that it has gone live with a new IBM information infrastructure of servers and storage as a means to transform its data processing center.

[3] Open Source Events: Linux Day is today!

Linux Day 2008 – ILS, the Italian Linux Association today runs its eighth annual Linux Day all over Italy, in 119 cities. Enjoy!

[4] OpenOffice.org: The Italian Linux Day foster the creation of “MS Office Angels”!

In occasion of the Linux Day 2008, that will take place on Saturday in 119 Italian cities, the Italian Linux Society and the Italian OpenOffice.org Association are launching a campaign for a special endangered specie.

[5] IT: University starts Open Source master course

The University of Perugia is offering a master course on Open Source. “Software developers and IT policy makers need to understand the importance and potential of this type of software and how to combine it with proprietary IT systems.”

The ‘Master di I° Livello in Sistemi e Tecnologie Free Libre Open Source per la Società dell’Informazione e della Comunicazione’ (First level master in Open Source systems and technology for the Information Society) was presented during a seminar on Open Source in the city of Orvieto, on 13 September.

[6] Open source tour of Europe: Italy

In July 2007 the IT department of the Italian Parliament presented plans for the migration of 200 servers and more than 3,500 desktop PCs to Linux and OpenOffice. The migration was due to begin in September and take two years.

Regional government projects include Cremona, Foggia, Rome, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Genoa, Bologna, Balzano, Savona, Umbria, and Tuscany again.

More details are available of Rome’s open source policy, Genova’s OpenOffice trials, Bologna’s open source projects, and Bolzano’s FUSS project.

[7] Just a coincidence?

According to Davide Dozza, Chairman of Associazione PLIO: “The numbers are exactly the same. If it’s just a coincidence, it’s a very strange one. Downloads of the Italian version of OpenOffice.org were 800.000 in 2006 and 1.800.000 in 2007: the difference is exactly in the million of Italians that – according to Microsoft – have downloaded the trial version of Office 2007. We think that these users have decided to switch to OpenOffice.org as soon as they have realized that the effort to get used to the new ribbon interface is higher than the effort to migrate to the open source suite. In 2007, the majority of information requests has been about the compatibility with Windows Vista, and the trend stays unchanged in 2008″.

[8] Italian Ministry of Justice Adopts Red Hat Solutions

Red Hat (NYSE: RHT), the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced that the Italian Ministry of Justice has selected Red Hat Enterprise Linux as the platform for its web-based Civil Justice applications, including those used for general cognizance, for civil execution and for the offices of the Small Claims courts.

[9] Commission to MEP: We are able to accept and generate ODF

An assistent of Italian MEP Marco Cappato (ALDE) contacted us with the news that an answer to a parliament question has arrived.

[10] Italian TV talks about Ubuntu

In this video an Italian TV program, NeaPòlis, talks about ubuntu as a very stable, high performance and easy to install operative system.

[11] Telecom Italia Rejects Microsoft IPTV

For Microsoft, Telecom Italia’s decision is clearly a blow.

[12] Plone: Official launch of PloneGov in Italy

The Chamber of Commerce of Ferrara, the first PloneGov Italian member, invites 100 representatives from the public sector and open source experts to participate to the official launch of PloneGov in Italy on September 16, 2008.

[13] Linux reaches the Italian Parliament

As reported by the Italian newspaper Repubblica on July 10th, 2007, a plan suggested by the left deputies Pietro Folena and Franco Grillini to migrate all the computers of the Parliament from Windows to Linux was approved by the Chamber.

The migration will affect about 3500 boxes of the Chamber, both desktops and servers, and each Deputy/Party may also ask to migrate his/its (private) computers to the Free System.

[14] Linux certification comes to Italy

A non-profit organization devoted to Linux training and certification has established an affiliate organization in Italy.

[15] Free software in free elections

A new initiative promoted by the italian association for free software for the next italian political elections (provided that they will actually take place…). The initiative consists in asking the candidates to sign a letter where they engage themselves, in case they will be elected, to promote the use of free software through their political activity.

[16] Italy adopts OpenDocument as a National Standard

Italy has adopted The OpenDocument Format (ISO/IEC 23600) as a national standard. The decision was made by UNI, the Italian Organization for Standardization, which is responsible, under appointment from the Italian Government and the EU, to develop, approve and publish technical standards in all economic sectors (industry, trade and services) except for electric and electro-technical ones.

[17] 2006 Italian Linux Day: A nationwide success

The 2006 edition of Italian Linux Day on October 28 was the first in the six-year history of the event to be celebrated in more than 100 cities in every corner of the country.

[18] User-friendly Free Software for Senior Citizens

The project has deep roots in open source: it was developed in accordance with a set of rules and with the support of the open source community; Eldy was released freeware in order to guarantee the feasibility of the project, but it will have an open future and a self-installing Linux distribution.

[19] Historic victory of the “Associazione per il Software Libero”! [in Italy]

WE WON. Therefore 4.5 million Euros of public money will not be spent on proprietary software licenses, since the Ministry failed to consider free software options.

[20] Italian Company Debuts Petit ARM9 CPU With Linux

Elpa, based in Italy, has debuted the RD129, an ARM9-based module delivered with Linux kernel

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