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Microsoft bans use of Open Source
July 2, 2001 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Microsoft bans use of Open Source with its wireless internet tools. Will this be a huge PR blunder, or will people accept MS' hardline stance against this so-called "potentially viral" software?
posted by moz (25 comments total)

 
i wonder if MS would have the power to ban the assignment of an open source license to any software compiled with any of its compilers. personally i think these moves are more symbolic than anything else, but my wish to jump ship and buy a mac grows by the day.
posted by moz at 1:51 PM on July 2, 2001


I understand your wish, moz...jumped ship m'self yesterday and installed Mandrake 8.0 (okay, I'm still hanging on the edge with my feet dangling above the waves...it's a dual-boot with Windows). Gotta tell ya, in less than 24 hours it's managed to become my primary OS of choice. Quick, easy, stable...whee! This from a person with absolutely no Linux experience whatsoever before yesterday.

It's the MS hoops that bother me. They're getting smaller and harder to jump through, and the more I read about XP, the less I want to do with it.

Jen
posted by NsJen at 2:11 PM on July 2, 2001


Take a look at the whole thing here. (click on download for a pop up with the license)

The paragraph about open source is as follows.


(c) Open Source. Recipient’s license rights to the Software are conditioned upon Recipient (i) not distributing such Software, in whole or in part, in conjunction with Potentially Viral Software (as defined below); and (ii) not using Potentially Viral Software (e.g. tools) to develop Recipient software which includes the Software, in whole or in part. For purposes of the foregoing, “Potentially Viral Software” means software which is licensed pursuant to terms that: (x) create, or purport to create, obligations for Microsoft with respect to the Software or (y) grant, or purport to grant, to any third party any rights to or immunities under Microsoft’s intellectual property or proprietary rights in the Software. By way of example but not limitation of the foregoing, Recipient shall not distribute the Software, in whole or in part, in conjunction with any Publicly Available Software. “Publicly Available Software” means each of (i) any software that contains, or is derived in any manner (in whole or in part) from, any software that is distributed as free software, open source software (e.g. Linux) or similar licensing or distribution models; and (ii) any software that requires as a condition of use, modification and/or distribution of such software that other software distributed with such software (A) be disclosed or distributed in source code form; (B) be licensed for the purpose of making derivative works; or (C) be redistributable at no charge. Publicly Available Software includes, without limitation, software licensed or distributed under any of the following licenses or distribution models, or licenses or distribution models similar to any of the following: (A) GNU’s General Public License (GPL) or Lesser/Library GPL (LGPL), (B) The Artistic License (e.g., PERL), (C) the Mozilla Public License, (D) the Netscape Public License, (E) the Sun Community Source License (SCSL), and (F) the Sun Industry Standards License (SISL).

posted by alan at 2:12 PM on July 2, 2001


I've read over that five times and it still seems incredibly vague. Let's say I had a database package that was distributed under one of the banned licenses. Does this mean I couldn't use it to backend a wireless application made with the Mobile Internet Toolkit?

Maybe if that license had smart tags enabled I'd be able to find out more about this.
posted by alan at 2:20 PM on July 2, 2001


Interesting choices, Moz & NsJen -- those are my two operating systems.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say this will be a PR blunder for Microsoft.
posted by jragon at 2:42 PM on July 2, 2001


Sure they have. Just like they weren't using it on Hotmail before, right?
posted by Spanktacular at 2:44 PM on July 2, 2001


Moz, you're upset that Microsoft is becoming to controlling and tyrannical of its software, so you're switching to Mac?

Apple, in my opinion, is more totalitarian about both its hardware and software than any computer company I can think of.

Steve Jobs rules with an iron fist--but Apple users are proportionally fewer, and so devoted that opening up Apple's inner workings isn't a large issue.
posted by ktheory at 3:07 PM on July 2, 2001


ktheory: with macs at least i get a free development system (rcs, gcc, ...) with a nice looking GUI. and, frankly, if windows XP is not going to be able to run dos/win32 apps natively, i have no reason to stay with ms.
posted by moz at 3:16 PM on July 2, 2001


If I understand this correctly, and I'm not sure I do, Microsoft is prohibiting the co-mingling of it's mobile-internet toolkit with GPL-licensed software, in order to avoid being forced (by proxy) to release its own source code.

It's legal protection from the GPL. Does this make sense and am I right in thinking so?

By the way, moz, I'm making a solemn pledge to completely divest myself of reliance on Microsoft. As Dan Gilmorr basically says 'It ain't gonna be easy'.

The "Why" is reeeeeeal easy. Also, make sure to read Lane's response to Anil's SmartTags commentary.

It's kind of a hoot. Especially coming from Mr Congenial himself (hi Lane, :-)
posted by fooljay at 4:28 PM on July 2, 2001


No, that is not the motivation.

First, let's be clear that this is perfectly legal. Microsoft owns this software and under copyright law they can attach any limits on its distribution that they want. Your only choice is to accept or not accept their terms.

But their purpose in doing this is not to protect Microsoft or its licensees from being forced to distribute this source.

Microsoft is drawing a line in the sand. They are making a full-scale propaganda assault on the managers of software development companies, and using both carrot and stick to convince them to not embrace, use, or develop for Linux and the like. The carrot is to start offering useful packages such as this one.

Microsoft sees Linux as a small threat, which could become a big one at some time in the future. If you have to fight a fire, it's much better to fight it when it is small, so Microsoft is starting now. It's attacking Linux at its biggest weakness: the fact that the GPL is inimical to for-profit software development. (The GPL has virtues, but that is not one of them. There has never been a broadly profitable software package developed and released under the GPL.)

The biggest advantage Microsoft has on the desktop, and traditionally has had for the last fifteen years, is its installed base of software which runs on its operating systems. OS/2 failed because it was never able to make up that deficit, though in terms of its actual features it was definitely competitive. But most users don't select an operating system; they select applications and then pick the OS so as to run those apps.

The big weakness Linux has now is also apps. Yes, there are a lot, but they're very concentrated, leaving large areas unaddressed, and the really big selling software packages for the desktop which help make Windows a success (e.g. AutoCAD, Lightwave, Maya, and dozens of others) have no Linux equivalent (or only pale ones) and are far too complicated to ever be developed by volunteer hobbyist labor. Without those kinds of products, Linux will never break out and become a real threat on the desktop. (Note that none of this has anything whatever to do with servers, a completely different market segment.) The only way Linux can ever get those kinds of packages for the desktop is if ISVs begin to target Linux in addition to the other platforms they support.

That is what Microsoft wants to prevent. If it is successful in doing so, then Linux will remain a niche on the desktop for the forseeable future, irrespective of how cool it may be. (Note: I run Linux on my server. But I run Win2K on my desktop, because Linux won't run Poser.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:17 PM on July 2, 2001


If that's the case, fooljay, they're blowing smoke. Nobody can force them to release their source code under any license they don't choose. If a third party screws up and creates an executable which links together Microsoft code with GPL'ed code, it's the third party who's liable, not Microsoft. But this license goes beyond saying "you must not break license agreements with other people either"; it imposes a bunch of extra paranoid restrictions, as though Microsoft's lawyers are simple and easily confused, can't understand the GPL, and want everyone to stay far away from it just in case it blows up.

It's an outright attack on the GPL and free software in general, and nothing more. This will not protect anything but Microsoft's monopoly.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:23 PM on July 2, 2001


Moz: All the free dev. tools you mentioned (and probably any others you can think of) that run on OS X run on Windows. And XP will run all your DOS and Win32 apps (what made you think otherwise?). Of course, DOS apps aren't run "natively"; they go through the VDM - the Virtual DOS Machine (since they're 16-bit code).
posted by JasonSch at 5:28 PM on July 2, 2001


Thanks for the clarification, Mars and SDB... That makes more sense than my explanation... :-)
posted by fooljay at 5:42 PM on July 2, 2001


the Sun Community Source License (SCSL), and (F) the Sun Industry Standards License (SISL).

Does that mean stopping people from using the Java VM too?
posted by lagado at 6:15 PM on July 2, 2001


jason: all the experiences i've had with ported versions of rcs, gcc, and the like have been negative. those tools were never designed for DOS, and it's always been a pain in the butt trying to use them on my windows computer. i've played around with cygnus and delorie gcc in the past.

for some reason, i remember reading somewhere that XP won't run win32 applications, but i can't find anything that says that when i did a search. i will, however, say that i am not very enthused by this quote:

Gone is the crash-if-you-sneeze instability of the 9x code base and in its place the solid performance of NT.

i use nt at work, and i often see kernel crashes. my win98 computer at homedoesn't crash so much, so from experience i would rate nt/9x's stability as equal, which is decent but not good.
posted by moz at 7:12 PM on July 2, 2001


There's a big difference between DOS apps and console apps. DOS isn't really relevant here. And the Windows ports of these apps are use to develop lots of big projects, so they definitely work. It just takes a little tweaking up front. This is certainly much better on NT than Win '9X, though.

If XP didn't run Win32 apps, what exactly would it run? Removing that support doesn't make any sense (and as someone who uses XP everyday, I can tell you that it's not true).

If your NT machine is crashing frequently, then you probably have an ill-behaved driver. If you take note of the module and address where you're hitting the exception next time you get the BSOD and send me mail I can help you triage the problem, if you want.
posted by JasonSch at 7:48 PM on July 2, 2001


I run Win2K on my desktop, because Linux won't run Poser.)

I think you mean to say that Curious Labs won't port Poser to Linux.

i use nt at work, and i often see kernel crashes. my win98 computer at homedoesn't crash so much, so from experience i would rate nt/9x's stability as equal, which is decent but not good.

I have found Windows reliability to be more related to the application/server software running on the box. Given identical application bases, NT/2000 crashes much less often than 9x. But that's just my experience.

I run 2000 at home and never have to reboot except when I shut the computer down during electrical storms or when I install OS updates.
posted by daveadams at 8:04 PM on July 2, 2001


I run a mix of 2000 (Server), 2000 (Pro), NT4 (SP5) and Windows XP here (soon RC1 I hope). Obviously we have a few older Win98 machines around. We have a few Linux boxen around from when we used them as web servers.

I can say that Win2000 is MUCH more stable than 98/ME, and is as stable as our Linux systems are. Uptimes are typically measured in months.

In fact, we only reboot the servers to apply security updates - and we do that much more often on Windows because it is much easier to do it. There are many, many hole sina functioning Linux system - but it is a pain to track it all down. Though Redhat's automated update does help.

WindowsXP is a nice step forward.

As for this move by Microsoft, why is it a shock? This is EXACTLY what the GPL forces - a choice between controlling your source or mingling it with their source.

So now that they forced this issue, they are upset that Microsoft is taking them at their word?

How very hypocritical.
posted by soulhuntre at 1:57 AM on July 3, 2001


This is EXACTLY what the GPL forces - a choice between controlling your source or mingling it with their source.

Well, yes. And? It's actually an advantage. What choice do I have with Microsoft's source code? Can I redistribute it at all? Nope. Can I even look at it? Nope.

With the GPL, the creator does assert control over his code. He says, "you can use this, expand it, change it, but you have to pay this price." The price is sharing your changes under the same terms.

That MS specifically precluded distributing their software with any GPL (et al) software is a purely PR/political/legal move to try to prevent the spread of free software. It's not legally necessary, but it provides MS with a way to intimidate threatening rivals.
posted by daveadams at 6:52 AM on July 3, 2001


The GPL is a fine thing for those that want it. Great, go use it, enjoy, do as you will. No problem from me.

But don;t cry out in shock and alarm when the viral nature of the GPL causes others to want it far away from their development systems and source code.

Given the somewhat radical nature of the GNU organization, it is no shock that MS is concerned. I doubt seriously the GNU organization would miss any opportunity to try and enforce the viral portion of the GPL to force an MS code opening.

::shrugs:: Fine. But again, don't whine when your virus is kept off others intellectual property.

Why be upset? The GNU folks don't want you using Microsoft stuff anyway :)
posted by soulhuntre at 7:20 AM on July 3, 2001


The issues here are really arcane, so it's susceptible to such generalizations as "gpl'd code infects everything it touches." This is to imply that everything that runs atop a GPL-heavy operating system ot application must be GPL'd. This is not a true statement, after all, there are commercial games for linux, as well as proprietary database software or app servers (such as oracle or cold fusion, yes) which run atop linux systems.

It occurs to me that the the accelerating acceptance of open source into academia, into government use, into international use (I'm thinking of academic supercomputing, or the DoD adoption of StarOffice, and of nations like Mexico) really does concern Microsoft a great deal.

Perhaps MS does have the concerns of their intellectual property at heart, but their spin tars all open source as one thing. Just yell Linux vs BSD or vi vs emacs in a crowded geek theater to see that indeed, open source is not a monolithic entity.l

(Apologies, I'm too lazy to pepper this with links, perhaps if we had smart tags I coul post them to my own smart tag server and do it retroactively! heh heh)
posted by artlung at 8:17 AM on July 3, 2001


It's not that MS is trying to protect its source. Microsoft is trying to foster the creation of a large body of valuable application software which not only doesn't now run on Linux, but which never will because of license restrictions. It's as simple as that.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:57 AM on July 3, 2001


But don;t cry out in shock and alarm when the viral nature of the GPL causes others to want it far away from their development systems and source code.

But that's not what's going on. The "viral nature of the GPL" is well understood, and its effects are easy to avoid if that's what you want. Don't want to release your code under the GPL? Fine, don't rip off GPL'ed code while you're writing it. It's exactly the same situation as with any other license: if you don't want Microsoft to own your code, don't rip off Microsoft's code and use it as your own. If you don't want Sun to own your code, don't rip off Sun's code and use it as your own. That's all there is to it. Don't want someone else to own it or force you to release it under certain licensing terms? WRITE IT YOURSELF. It *is* that simple.

This new license restriction Microsoft has introduced has nothing to do with license contamination. The problem they are defending against simply isn't a problem. Has there ever been any case, ever, where a company was forced to release their code under the GPL? I've never heard of a single one, and I'd be astonished if one had ever occured. The GPL has been around for quite a few years now, and the rules of the game are not exactly vague.

Why be upset? The GNU folks don't want you using Microsoft stuff anyway

Maybe, but they aren't writing clauses into their license agreements that prevent you from doing so.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:12 AM on July 3, 2001


Apple, in my opinion, is more totalitarian about both its hardware and software than any computer company I can think of.

Why, everybody loves to have sympathy for the underdog...

Apple's basically the same thing as M$, only with much less market share.

Still, I do love my Mac... maybe because it doesn't make me feel like an asshole.
posted by betobeto at 11:32 AM on July 3, 2001


This new license restriction Microsoft has introduced has nothing to do with license contamination.

This interesting piece by Eric S. Raymond makes me think otherwise. [via Doc]

Has there ever been any case, ever, where a company was forced to release their code under the GPL? I've never heard of a single one, and I'd be astonished if one had ever occured.

That may be true, but that doesn't mean that it's not Microsoft's motivation. Nothing proves that it is, either, I'll note.

Apple's basically the same thing as M$, only with much less market share.

In a case where a monopoly exists, the underdog represents "choice" and "freedom from control". If the tables were reversed, we'd be rooting for Microsoft. No one's saying that Apple is the angel Gabriel sent down from God or anything...
posted by fooljay at 1:28 PM on July 3, 2001


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