Gates interview with ZDNet.
June 25, 2001 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Gates interview with ZDNet. Open source advocates and *nix users will enjoy his comments on publishing source code and the GPL. Anyone care to do a line-by-line accuracy check?
posted by goto11 (19 comments total)

 
Gates is sounding more and more reasonable than his counterpart Ballmer these days.

He seems to have loosened up a little on the free software debate. He's still wrong about the GPL though.
posted by Succa at 6:32 AM on June 25, 2001


Race, ethnicity, religion always trumps all else.
posted by Postroad at 6:38 AM on June 25, 2001


Yep.

There is a part of open source called GPL that breaks that cycle--that is, it makes it impossible for a commercial company to use any of that work or build on any of that work.

Well, that's not true: unless you define "use" as "offer under a proprietory licence".
posted by holgate at 6:41 AM on June 25, 2001


Open source != GPL
Open source != Free software

I thought people knew that by now. They are not at all the same things.

Gates, of all people, should know that.
posted by Succa at 6:43 AM on June 25, 2001


Unfortunately there are far too many people out there who think that the GPL is the Only True Open Source License, and using any other is some kind of a cheap cop-out. Remember all the shrieking over the Mozilla license and the Apple license? It really boiled down to 'This isn't the GPL! It sucks!'
posted by darukaru at 7:36 AM on June 25, 2001


For the non-technical, != means 'not equal to'.

Succa, sure he knows it. But he also knows how much weight his words have. He also knows that Linux is a threat.

You don't see two people in a debate agreeing with each other, you see them trying to tear the other's arguments down while progressing their own. Holding back the truth (or outright lying) is part of the game.
posted by jragon at 9:37 AM on June 25, 2001


jragon: yes, Mr. Gates' posturing is tactical. No question. But at least he's starting to soften on his stance toward Free Software. He's now acknowledging its place in the "software ecosystem" (his words), a nice antithesis to his pal Ballmer's approach, which is to do things like call Linux a "cancer" and dismiss it half-heartedly. Two years ago, Gates wasn't talking like that.

Which isn't to say that he's giving the whole story, as you said...but still, MS is warming up to the ideas. They're giving up a bit of argumentative ground. That's all.

Oh yeah, != means not equal. I was just being, you know, geek chic.
posted by Succa at 10:19 AM on June 25, 2001


Wait, this is a quote from the article:

"

And so people should understand the GPL. When people say open source they often mean the GPL. When someone asks a question, "So what about open source?" do they mean open source or do they mean the GPL?

"

So who is saying that Gates doesn't know the difference or doesn't acknowledge it? He quite clearly explained it right there.
posted by beefula at 10:58 AM on June 25, 2001


> Gates is sounding more and more reasonable than his
> counterpart Ballmer these days.

They're playing good-cop/bad-cop. Bill discovered that money can't buy you love and he's still the head cheese so he gets to be the good cop; Ballmer gets to be the shit-catcher.

Anybody remember how Spiro Agnew almost succeeded in making Nixon look cuddly?
posted by jfuller at 11:14 AM on June 25, 2001


So who is saying that Gates doesn't know the difference or doesn't acknowledge it? He quite clearly explained it right there.

Well, he "clearly explains" that the GPL "breaks that cycle" of free code re-use, which "makes it impossible for a commercial company to use any of that work or build on any of that work." Which is frankly duplicitous. Combine that with the talk of "viral software" in recent EULAs, and the marketing spin is simple: that if you write a line of code using Emacs as your editor, you and all successive generations will be forced to donate the proceeds to the FSF.

As for his talk of commercial firms being the source of "taxes and jobs" to fund software development in the universities: that's so arse-backwards that it's an insult to people like Vint Cerf who put together the networking code and web browsers that Microsoft couldn't code for itself. Freedom to innovate? Yeah, right.

The upshot is simple: the author of the Open Letter To Hobbyists still feels that Windows is as essential to the PC as Altair BASIC was to the Altair. He really can't think himself into a world without Microsoft. So if you're running a PC that doesn't use Microsoft software, you're still stealing from him.
posted by holgate at 11:49 AM on June 25, 2001


'So when someone says to you, "Oh, they added a new feature to Windows," you have to say to yourself, "Are they literally saying Microsoft can't add any new features to Windows?" And how can that be a good thing? What are we supposed to do with our $5 billion-a-year R&D budget?'

Uhhh, maybe spend just a little teensy weensy bit of money to 1) make it slimmer, 2) make it faster, 3) make it use less resources, 4) make it completely crashproof.

With Windows 2000, #2 and #4 are a bit better (especially #4) but #1 and #3 have started going off the deep end...

$5B/year? That's unbelievable...
posted by fooljay at 2:51 PM on June 25, 2001


'Well, he "clearly explains" that the GPL "breaks that cycle" of free code re-use, which "makes it impossible for a commercial company to use any of that work or build on any of that work." Which is frankly duplicitous.

Well, I admit that the part about corporations closing the loop by paying taxes is specious at best (considering the leakage in terms of executive salaries and such), but do you really think that the second part is duplicitous? There is a great deal of hesitancy about incorporating ANY GPL software into a commercial product. It's a midas touch sort of thing (but I suppose in reverse).

As a Product manager looking at a lot of GPL software and drooling, I think I understand the problem fully. Can you tell me where I'm mistaken?

that if you write a line of code using Emacs as your editor, you and all successive generations will be forced to donate the proceeds to the FSF.

Yeah, so that's a bit over the top. You and I both know there's a difference between using a tool and incorporating into your machine.

I can't believe that I'm actually agreeing with Bill on something.
posted by fooljay at 3:10 PM on June 25, 2001


fooljay: you're free to use that GPL software all you like. You can take the code, hack on it, develop your own software based on it, shrink wrap it, market it, sell it, rake in the profits and give nothing more to anybody. The GPL guarantees you those rights. If it were impossible to release commercial software under the GPL (as Gates implies), Red Hat would not exist.

What you're not free to do is rip off the community that created the software by refusing to pass on the source code when you're asked for it. Gates apparently wants to do this, and is pissed off because the GPL won't let him.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:10 PM on June 25, 2001


There's an interesting roundtable discussion, including Microsoft's Mundie, being hosted by siliconvalley.com. Looks like it could get fun; I believe RMS has already stalked off in a huff.
posted by harmful at 9:12 AM on June 26, 2001


But Mars, here's my dilemma. If you take a piece of GPL'd software and incorporate it into a product, not changing the source code one iota, but instead putting a wrapper around it, are you accountable under the GPL to open your entire source?
posted by fooljay at 10:13 PM on June 26, 2001


fooljay: IANAL, but generally speaking yes. There are exceptions having to do with shared libraries, but in the general case if you use GPL'ed code in your project, you have to release the project under the GPL.

It's a simple bargain: you can have my code if I can have yours.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:56 AM on June 27, 2001


My initial understanding of the spirit of the GPL (which I have no doubt is mistaken) was that someone releases code. You're welcome to modify it in any way to suit your own needs. However, if you distribute it you need to release the source code. If no changes to the code are made, then it seems like the spirit of the GPL is preserved.

However, if what you say is true (and again, I'm not doubting you), then that means no closed-source company in their right mind is going to touch/use GPL'd code in any way. If Microsoft XP used a wapped-version of ImageMagick (again, no ImageMagick source code is touched), then they would have to release the entire source code base for XP and potentially all of their products (since everything is so tightly integrated as they said in court).

It's no wonder Gates doesn't like the GPL. For chrissakes, just accept a licensing fee and be done with it.

[Realize, I'm not against the GPL. I like what it makes available to me as a regular joe. I don't like how it affects me as a Product Manager for a software company. Hence the paradox.]
posted by fooljay at 3:45 PM on June 27, 2001


But Jay, are you worse off than you'd be if no one had written the tool in the first place?

No-GPL universe: you have to pay for your tool or make it yourself;
GPL universe: you have to open your source or make your tool yourself.

What's the difference?
posted by rodii at 3:57 PM on June 27, 2001


It's leverage. That's what bothers me. It's like a host of an open party requiring you to leave your pants at the door while everyone else can come in fully-clothed.

(realize, I'm bothered, but I have mixed feelings about it)
posted by fooljay at 10:40 PM on June 27, 2001


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