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Finishing up the Comes Collection - Please Can You Help? - Updated 2Xs
Saturday, December 26 2009 @ 01:00 PM EST

Please will you help me? Erwan and I are going nuts working on the Comes collection, trying to make it more useful, so people can find what they might be looking for. We have it now in a structure that I think will work well -- although it may not yet be obvious since I haven't done the introduction explaining the new structure (I will! I will!) -- thanks mostly to Erwan's ingeniousness, but now I'd really appreciate your contributions so we can finish it up. The material is essentially a dump of all the data that the plaintiffs in Comes v. Microsoft put on their website, including transcripts of the trial and all the exhibits entered into the case. We're trying to give the data a more meaningful structure so that it will be possible to search by keyword and find particular items in the huge collection.

There are two tasks in particular that we'd really like you to help with.

[ Update: I've been working on the end of the list, working to meet the rest of you who are starting at the beginning, and there are some fascinating exhibits in this group. Don't miss 9695, what I'd like to name "The Truth about TCO", a report on an IDC study in 2002 on TCO, comparing Linux and Microsoft on servers. It showed that Linux beat Microsoft on TCO and was more reliable, with less down time. The Microsoft employees debate whether or not to let customers read the report. My favorite quotation: "Linux is good for business." And you don't want to miss the complete email thread about the famous "by no means lose to Linux" email in Exhibit 9685. Also not to be missed is the email about EDGI and how to spin it that Microsoft budgeted to make sure they didn't lose to Linux by offering services or even rebates, and not only in developing countries, in Exhibit 9687. And for sheer ironic pleasure, you can't beat Exhibit 9709, Microsoft's promises in 2006 not to be bad, called "Microsoft Windows Principles; Twelve Tenets to Promote Competition", including a promise to share APIs.]

[Update 2: Take a look at this document, Exhibit 9683 [PDF], will you? It's beyond belief. If you were wondering, as I was, why the Czech Republic and Hungary went with Microsoft instead of Linux, you will find out why in this breakdown of how EDGI works. Doing this work on the Comes exhibits is so worth doing!]

First, getting back to tasks to be done, and most important is to finish the brief blurbs describing what is in a a particular exhibit in our list of exhibits by number. I've done a couple of hundred of them, and I'll tell you the truth. I can't face doing any more for a bit. Can you please take a few and post in a comment what is in them?

If it's an email, you need to note to whom, from whom, date, and subject, of course. But then it is important to look for what matters in the email. Ask yourself: why did the lawyers in Comes think this was important? So, you want to look for whether it's about DRI or WordPerfect or whatever. It's interesting material, so you'll enjoy that part, I think. After you finish your input, then Erwan will put it all into our list of exhibits by number.

We are particularly interested in any materials that talk about Novell and to drill down even more in any materials about APIs and sharing, or not sharing them, with Novell. To review, this is particularly what Novell and Microsoft, locked in litigation over WordPerfect (next hearing on this in February), can't find:

It has to do with whether or not Microsoft made certain APIs available, like IShellBrowser, iShellView, iPersistFolder, and iCommDlgBrowser. Novell says Microsoft decided to make those APIs private and iShellFolder a "read only public interface", making it impossible for Novell to use the namespace extension mechanism or implement it in a customized fashion, so Novell software couldn't rely on or invoke those APIs. The context is Windows 95 and NT, in the years between 1994 and 1996.

Microsoft claims it did publish them or give them to ISVs. Microsoft witnesses talk about b-list API documentation being provided to companies on request. B-list here means APIs that Microsoft didn't promise to support going forward or that might not work. One witness, Robert Muglia, says that it wasn't just on request, that "they were in the SDK; they were talked about at conferences; they were brought up; they were available, period, not just on request; we didn't say they were internal interfaces only; we never told -- we may have told people they might not work in the next version of Windows or in NT, but clearly people were able to use them". But where is there evidence of that, other than people saying so, Novell asks?

The other topics of dispute are about some studies of Microsoft's logo certification that were allegedly done between 1993 and 1996 (an end user study in 1993 and a "May 1996 Marketing Research, Microsoft Internal Study") and about Microsoft's Windows 95 printing subsystem.

In the Paul Maritz deposition, reference is made to an email "from Belfiore to Shulman attaching the documentation" of the namespace extensions. All of this is found in the Appendix [PDF].

Novell, in one interrogatory, had a definition of Namespace APIs:

"NAMESPACE APIs" refer to IShellFolder, IEnumIDList, IShellBrowser, IShellView, IPersistFolder, and ICommDigBrowswer and any other application programming interfaces that enabled application developers to integrate into the Windows 95 and/or Windows NT shell, including "b-list" namespace APIs.
And in interrogatory 21, Novell asked Microsoft to identify all communications between it and any ISVs between October 1994 and July 1996 concerning namespace APIs. Microsoft told Novell to find it itself, but it can't find anything like that. I wonder if any of you have noticed anything like that in your reading of the Comes trial exhibits? They also asked Microsoft about MAPI changes between 3.1 and 95, and about APIs in Windows 95 communicated to ISVs to enable them to implement a custom print processor, to enable background printing. The APIs for that would be GetJob, SetJob, PrintDocumentOnPrintProcessor, AddPrintProcessor, and DeletePrintProcessor.

Novell found some already, and so did we, as you know, but let's finish it all. You might want to also review Microsoft's latest filing [PDF], to see what they are claiming.

Second, we have all the transcripts from the trial as HTML now. If you click on the link that says HTML, you'll find each day's transcript and at the top a list of the exhibits used that day. Here's an example. Note that there is a link to the exact place in the transcript where each exhibit is mentioned. Thank you Erwan and whoever dreamed up scripts! On each day, certain exhibits were used and entered into the record, and the transcripts will mention the number of the exhibit, and you can see from what is said about each exhibit what it was about and how it was used.

But what we need to do to make it really useful, I think, is to put links to the exhibits listed for each day. So if anyone would like to take a day and do that HTML to put in the link to our exhibits by numbers list, I'd deeply appreciate it. Just leave a comment that you are taking a certain day and either post a plain text comment showing the HTML so I can copy and paste or email me a plain text email with the HTML showing.

Thank you if you can help with this. Let me know if you want credit and if so, how you wish to be identified.

Third, in a perfect world, I'd like to do this too: You will notice that there are four videos mentioned on the main summary page of trial testimony. We have the Gates videos, but if anyone saved the other three way back then, please sing out. That would be Richard Williams, Richard Freedman, and Mark Chestnut. Anyone have the foresight to save those back then? I confess I did not notice them until we worked on this collection with a fine-toothed comb recently, and I regret that failure. And I can't find them online to date, so if you can, please tell us where you found them, and download them quickly.

So. That's the project, and I hope you will help. I think it will matter a lot, not only in the Novell v. Microsoft antitrust litigation but for historians and maybe future litigations. You never know. And this is the kind of thing that Groklaw was born for.

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