[Linux-aus] Interesting spin

Leon Brooks leon at cyberknights.com.au
Sun Nov 30 13:35:02 UTC 2003

On Sun, 30 Nov 2003 11:55, Anthony Towns wrote:
> On Sun, Nov 30, 2003 at 09:26:12AM +0800, Leon Brooks wrote:
>> On Sat, 29 Nov 2003 05:31, Con Zymaris wrote:
>>>> "Copyright-style open-source licenses such as the BSD license
>>>> are best for research purposes because they provide the most
>>>> options for licensing derivative programs, said Todd Needham,
>>>> manager of Microsoft Corp.s research programs group. "

>> Translation:
>>     "Please use something we can effectively steal and incorporate
>>     with nothing worse than a copyright acknowledgement.

> Fair enough, although that's only one of the results, it's not what
> he's actually saying.

Yes. It's a translation. Either Todd has been drinking from Microsoft's 
own drugged water-trough and not thoroughly investigating the issues 
(most likely IMESHO) or he's deliberately mis-stating the case (less 
likely but still on the cards). The translation points out the exact 
range of "most options" that Microsoft are most likely to intend 
supporting: anything not GPLish.

>>     Anything that we can't co-opt is The Enemy, and if it's our
>> enemy we can probably paint it to be the enemy of truth, freedom,
>> justice, free trade, free enterprise, the great American Way Of
>> Life, business and development in general, plus your mother and her
>> apple pies. Not to mention any opportunities we get to lable them
>> 'pinko Commie terrorist sympathisers'."

> But, uh, if you're really reading all that into the rather staid
> comment from Microsoft above, take a pill. One of the calming ones.

No, there's a lot of other context behind it. For example, audio tracks 
from an MS internal rally where their staff wind up chanting "kill 
them! kill them! kill them!" - not kidding. But kill who? Parallels 
with "football" hooligans spring to mind, using "us and them" as an 
excuse for mindless violent crime.

Heark back to the impassioned pacman-and-cancer statements of 
recent-yore, implications of Communism, statements about your code 
being written by insert-small-Balkan-state-here teenagers, statements 
that opening their own sources would permit terrorism, and so on ad 

I'm surprised that Microsoft's own internal rivalries haven't escaped 
into the public view more prominently.

> Anyway, AIUI, Windows Services for Unix [0] actually does include
> some GPLed stuff, so presumably that comes under "stuff they can
> co-opt".

Only in a very limited fashion. They prefer stuff like a BSD TCP stack, 
so that they can replace the completely broken DOS TCP stack with an 
only slightly broken (partly MS's tinkering, it must be said) old BSD 
TCP stack and not have to give away all of the Windows source code.

They face a painful dilemma, and even a dilemma within that dilemma.

They're philosophically aligned and committed against ceding any control 
of their products to anyone (except as bait, in which case they cede a 
vanishingly small amount of genuine control, just enough to make it 
look attractive), because their whole business revolves around doling 
out slivers of control in exchange for money (they must just about blow 
their collective wads imagining Palladium becoming a widespread 
reality). However, Openness (autonomy, local control) is clearly 
something that many of their customers want, in principle if not in 
their hands today.

They also have the good example of their MVP program (even though they 
actually "fired" all of their MVPs once!) to encourage them to Open. 
Their MVPs have been utterly invaluable support for Microsoft, and if 
anybody could be trusted with complete autonomy against Microsoft's 
code, the MVPs would be that group. Microsoft are even edging their way 
towards doing just that... but at the current rate of progress their 
marketing lunch will be well and truly eaten by FOSS long before they 
get anywhere.

If Microsoft adopted FOSS, even in a very limited manner (e.g. giving 
MVPs moderated CVS-equivalent commit rights), their development rates, 
particularly in areas directly of interest *to*their*customers*, would 
explode. Unfortunately, that would probably also erode their leverage 
for directly extracting money.

If Microsoft could bring themselves to switch from IIS to Apache (plus a 
few appropriate modules to properly interface to their current systems 
like the FrontPage extensions) by the end of 2004, their webserver 
market share would explode - all of the advantages of Apache, many of 
the advantages and few of the disadvantages of IIS. Sadly, even this is 
too far off their philosophical radar, and Apache's licence is BSD!

Another reasonable step would be to frontend Exchange with something 
like PostFix - but PostFix has a vaguely GPLish licence - and rebuild 
the backend around an extended OpenLDAP - which also has a vaguely 
GPLish licence, keeping the SQL basically standard so that customers 
could backend the backend, so to speak, with whatever database suited 
them. Their Oracle customers would *love* it. But again, the politics 
of control would kill it

> Personally, I'm more interested in building good software (and being
> paid for that) without having to try and demonise the alternatives --
> whether they be free software, or owned by Microsoft.

Yes, that's the Open Source Way. Demonising your opponents is the greedy 
corporate way. Responses like my "it's based on copyright" 
one-ish-liner are for when there's no opportunity to sit down and 
patiently explain (otherwise I do, as anyone who knows me well will 
testify). It's kind of like a battle: sometimes you just have to lob a 
grenade and keep running, other times it's possible to negotiate.

> [0] "SFU". Makes me want to have a Peter Russell-Clarke moment: "But,
>     where's the T?"

"Services" is used in the agricultural sense, methinks.


Cheers; Leon

http://cyberknights.com.au/     Modern tools; traditional dedication
http://plug.linux.org.au/       Committee Member, Perth Linux User Group
http://slpwa.asn.au/            Committee Member, Linux Professionals WA
http://linux.org.au/            Committee Member, Linux Australia

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