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Microsoft Litigation vs. Linux NTFS Kernel Support 225

OrenWolf writes: "Microsoft has threatened to sue the current developers of r/w NTFS support in the Linux Kernel. Details can be found in the current Kernel Traffic post." No, your honor, we aren't a monopoly.
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Microsoft Litigation vs Linux NTFS Kernel Support

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  • That's exactly what I thought. All those damn 'mydoc.doc.tmp~$' sort of files....
  • by MrP- ( 45616 ) <> on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:43AM (#754631)
    The article seems slashdotted now, I have mirrored the relevant part: []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:44AM (#754632)
    Aparently the people who run Kernel Traffic don't pay attention to the list: Jeff Merkey is a useless hot-head.

    The great Double-Y Jerkey Merkey was under NDA with MS.

    If he leaked trade secrets.. Then he's gonna get sued. Would serve him right.

    He and his company have contributed NOTHING to Linux development except a lot of useless flame wars on l-k. He's not a NTFS developer, he had just joked about providing NDAed info to the Linux developers on l-k and MS reminded him to sit where he belongs (in their pocket).

    I wouldn't listen to a damn thing that moron says.

    [anonymous to prevent JM from throwing his lawyers my way]

  • Sic Stallman and Maddog on them? Talk about cruel and unusual punishment...
  • There's nothing illegal about having a monopoly, or even going to certain lengths to protect it.

    Taking legal action to prevent people from engaging in legal behavior, in order to keep them from endangering your monopoly through completely legal means, is both abuse of process and anti-competitive behavior, both of which are illegal.

    Suing people for reverse-engineering your code for purposes of compatibility is abuse of process, period.

  • Actually there are free DOS utilities available that give you read access to an NTFS drive. You can purchase the read/write version for $149. It's available over at
  • I thought we were already doing that?
  • You have confused NTFS (a file system) with SMB (a network protocol used for file+print). The Sun product does the same thing as Samba, and does not let you have access to local WinNT disks.

    It's still an intersting story: The Sun product is based on a very old licence AT&T had from Microsoft for "LAN Manager for UNIX", which dates back to the OS/2 days when MS/IBM had no more than 10% of the File+Print marketshare. Now that WinNT is more popular, Microsoft wanted to breach the agreement, and AT&T had to sue them in order to get access to Windows 2000 source code so that they could make their product.
  • "The fact is, most people probably DON'T buy MS software, they swipe it one way or another"

    I have to disagree with you on this. In my LARGE company, every Windows developer has a $1000+ MSDN subscription, plus tons of other Microsoft stuff. I also believe that everyday users run, not walk, to the store to buy the latest MS apps from the local retail chain. "Oh, Windows ME - I NEED to upgrade!"

    My $.02

  • Hmmm, the problem may lie in MS having millions to waste on this... do Linux developers have millions to defend with?
  • it seems that Jeff Merkey had told MS about his work on NTFS, and MS had explicitly OKed this work

    Yet they are now withdrawing that OK for reasons which are not shared with us. In fact; we got to see a (very?) small part of the letter these guys received from MS and in that letter I picked up some parts which I found 'odd'. IMHO you simply can't judge MS by these small parts of information.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, I don't quite have the same opinion of Jeff as you do. It is nice to see that _someone_ got it right though. TRG had access to IP they shouldn't have been distributing. Though I fundamentally disagree with the whole concept of IP, I can't really blaim MS on this one.
  • People are trying to be compatible with us again!

    (e-mail passed about M$)

  • Microsoft has threatened us with litigation due to our support of Linux NTFS development, and we have dissolved our NTFS licensing agreements with Microsoft in response to their demands that cease to support Linux development. Microsoft demanded that we delete any and all NTFS
    tools we had been providing to customers based on their intellectual property. As a result of this, we can
    no longer provide this tool in the United States." Andre Hedrick [*] asked, "Wait they attacked you after the
    request for cross over support?" Jeff replied:

    Yes Andre, they did, they accussed me of knowingly conspiring with Linus to provide full
    NTFS on Linux based on the email you and I sent to them. The agreements they signed with
    us were very liberal, and allowed us to create any tools and NTFS stuff we wanted, there
    were no non-competes, or anything to stop us from providing stuff on Linux. What they
    alleged was a belief that since we were going open source and supporting Linux NTFS users,
    they believed it was impossible for me to keep a "chinese wall" in place in my head between
    their IP and Linux IP. A very valid example of the legal theory of the "doctrine of inevitable

    But I must admit, in fact what's going on here is that by pulling the open source NDS for
    W2K off the table, I renigged on a "faustian" agreement to open source NDS on W2K. This
    was compounded by the fact that we released the MANOS sources with a complete NT/W2K
    PE and DLL loader (which we wrote "clean room", one of their old tricks). They found this
    very irritating. They were quite unconcerned about our NTFS work on Linux until we posted
    MANOS and announced an Open Source NetWare.

    We've started our "clean room" NTFS core and I've spent some late nights working on it, and
    we doubt they will take any action since we dissolved the agreement. The last thing they
    need is for me to take the stand and testify just what kind of deals they offered to get us to
    leave Novell in 1997 and divide the NetWare markets by using the "Linux IP Laundry-Mat" to
    launder Novell's NDS for their consumption (Oh! Look what we found on the internet and
    downloaded today!).

    NDS would be a useless wart on the rump of Linux. It's for managing large numbers of file
    and print servers, not internet/intranet servers like Linux. Linux already has vastly superior
    internet directory capabilities.

    Andre replied to Jeff's first paragraph:
    Wait, this was a proposal of mine to MicroSoft to grant permission development in a clean
    room model that only used white papers or other stuff that could be extracted passively.

    I alos pointed out that this simple act of allowing open development of a public NTFS would
    help them blow holes in the DOJ monopoly issue.

    Jeff replied:

    The way they took this was that we had changed sides in the war, since I was perceived to
    be approaching them with you. Here's what they said about you,
    "... We are concernd about the veracity of your associates. Despite the representations they
    have made to you, we have not been taking GPL code from Linux and using internally at
    Microsoft. This approach by these Linux people is little more than an attempt to [blackmail
    Microsoft] with unsubstanciated rumors. We see no benefit whatsoever to provided NTFS
    R/W capabilities on Linux ..."

    Not very nice to be sure. I know that black and white markings (like a penguin) are in style
    right now, but white and black stripes are not ! :-)

    But he concluded, "I have the ability to litigate against them. They know this and I doubt will go any further
    than to bluster and threaten." End Of Thread (tm).
  • by Koos ( 6812 ) <> on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:44AM (#754648) Homepage
    Since kerneltraffic (a very good site) got a bit slow I mirrored the page from kt for now (minus stylesheet) so it can also be viewed at _86 .html#13 [].

    Yes, all internal links are broken :)

  • It's not a question of using the filesystem under linux as an everyday occurence as much as simply having access if needed. Perfect case in point is a 'rescue' disk. I routinely use tom's rtbt disk around here as a win9x box recovery tool, mirroring/backup tool, etc.. and it has the ntfs module on it as well. Being able to edit the contents of an ntfs volume instead of simply reading it would make it a lot more versatile for me.

    Good God, if anyone plans to use NTFS under Linux as a primary fs they should be shot. But having the option to read/write would be really really cool.

    Also imagine a linux box as a failover machine for that POS NT machine yer phb bought... simply slap them hard disks in it and keep going. Wouldn't that be a nifty way to prove Linux's mettle?

  • by Dacta ( 24628 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:46AM (#754653)

    I'm not really sure of the details (I don't follow the kernel list), but I'm sure someone can expand on this.

    Jeff V. Merkey used to work at Novell on Netware. He then left and went and developed something (a cleanroom NDS?) for a startup that had a fairly close relationship with MS. (I think the idea was MS was going to use this to combat Netware - like I said, I'm hazy on the details.)

    Anyway, as part of that, (I think) he got access to the NT code, which means potentially MS might have a case, if he signed NDAs

    Summary: Jeff V. Merkey had some prior realtionship with MS, which might give them a case. The rest is just hazy memories - I'll dig and try and remember exactly what was going on.

  • why can't companies understand that a protocal or algorithm is free, you cna protect your implimentation of the protocal but someone is always going to figure it out and make their own indpendent implimentation
  • by MrBogus ( 173033 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @06:46AM (#754658)
    Ext2 sucks. I run Linux at home and if I used Ext2 not only would it be unreadable from W2K, it would also be unreadable from my windows95 partition. The thing is, we all have those MS-DOS tools that we would want to run on our Linux drives, but can't if you use ext2!

    See how stupid that sounds? Obviously, you don't have to use non-FAT filesystems if you don't want to, but condemning something because it doesn't fit your particular lowest common denominator Win95 game box situation.

    but at most places I worked, the C: was FAT while the raid drives were NTFS

    Now imagine a Unix admin who installed the operating system on a partition with no file permissions and a file system known to be unstable. Wow, his Unix install would be almost as unstable as his Windows NT install!

    I did NT admin for a long time (94-97), and I never understood why people used FAT OS partitions. You were bound to have a corrupted registry sooner or later. In a recovery situation, 9 times out of 10 DOS isn't going to help you, and you end up creating a parallel NT install so that you can mount the registry and fix whatever really went wrong, which is what you really should have done in the first place instead of messing with DOS.
  • 1) Any name brand name computer came with a Windows License.

    2) If you actually read the license agreement for MS Office (95 and 97) an employee is allowed to install a copy of office on their personal PC for the purpsoses of work.

    While people might think they are actually pirating Office, most are in fact not.

    MS loses most of their money from fake product. I've seen the stuff put out in Singapore and Hong Kong. The CD's and pressed and silk screened. The inserts are on a four color proccess. You can go into any shopping district and pick up what looks like REAL MS product for pennies on the dollar. You'll find tons of shops in asia that don't even pretent to have the real thing. Just tons of CD packs with all sorts of prirate software. 1 CD for $10SG ($5US) 3 for $25SG ($12.50US). This stuff makes its way back to the US and is sold at computer shows, ham fests, and the like.
  • What NTFS provides for Linux is a way to access Windows NT files from Linux on the same computer.
    This means Linux and NT co-exist on one box.
    This configuration is of no good for servers as the user must reboot to switch from Linux to NT.
    Thus it is only for Linux and a workstation and NT as a workstation.. Microsoft dose not seem sereously conserned about Linux compeating with NT in the workstation market.

    This then would be a develupers or "hackers" (hacker as in hobbyest not as in criminal) box.
    To elimiate this Microsoft could be betting that Windows NT would be selected over Linux.

    On a develupers box this is a non-consern. It would make it hard on the develuper but nothing more.
    On a hacker (as in hobbyest) box NT would go.. Linux is simply the os of choice for hobbyest and Microsoft has been none-to-friendly with hobbyests. (Posably still bitter about all that theft of Microsoft Basic back in the 1970s).

    At base of this seems to me to be a general addatude in busness of suing just to sue.
    Basicly busnesses (to spite populare opinion [Ahem: CmdrTaco] you do not need to sue everyone who violates your IP rights it is perfictly ok to overlook some violation.. only trademarks require this and you can issue liccenses instead of suing everyone named "Barbie") sue anyone who violates there IP even if it's violated in a way that benifiets them. With IP law you don't need to prove damages unless someone invokes "fair use" the idea being nobody is going to sue if they aren't damaged. That hasn't been the case in recent years.
    Microsoft isn't the worst in this area. Matel seems to stop short of suing little girls...

    Now it bothers me a great deal that Microsoft even holds IP rights on the NT file system.
    Microsoft did pritty well from letting everyone using the Dos file system. Wordprocessor appliences would use the Dos FS... Atari ST and the Commodore 128 (with the 1571) could read Dos disks...
    For a while it was the universal disk format that EVERYONE used.
    Now Microsoft wants to protect it's Windows NT file system...
    Fine... we can support everyone else under the sun (sparc hehe).. and let Microsoft build a wall around itself.

    Now it seems to me Microsoft is basicly acting in paranoia over the people doing the work.
    Microsoft can play it's little games and have it's little childish tantrum. But in the real world you just don't get along with everyone. It's gona happen. You can not expect everyone to agree with you.

    I mean gezz.. "Oh my god a Linux advocate is accually working on this thing" Well duuu... I mean.. Oh my god.. Microsoft employees work on Windows.. Both Microsoft employees and Linux advocates are nice people some times you can a Linux advocate and a Microsoft employee in one room and not have a fight..

    This whole mess is silly... It's just Microsoft trying to get back at someone becouse they think he "switched sides".
    Hay Microsoft.. It's not a religion.. it's just software... grow up...
    (Linux advocates can be annoying.. some are down right rude... but at times like thies I feel the zellotry in Linux has nothing over Microsoft)
  • People are going to point out that the title is written by the submitter, not the editor.

    Untrue. This was not the article title as I submitted it. it was submitted as:
    'Microsoft threatenes litigation over NTFS in Linux'
    ..which was the title in the kt post. I didn't even include the word 'kernel', and made the distinction in my submission that it was the *developers* being sued. In this case, it is the editors fault. :)

  • If they can physicially get to your servers, you're fucked in so many ways that it doesn't matter.

    Crypto filesystems.

  • There are many ways of bypassing NTFS security if you have physical access to the disk - Linux NTFS is one, but there are commercial tools as well that let you use NTFS on DOS or Win9x.

    Encrypting files or filesystems is the only way to guard against physical access to the disk.
  • I used their NTFSDOS utility some time ago and it definitely didn't appear to use any DLLs at all.

    I used it on a boot disk to exploit the ntfs partitions on my universities NT4 workstations and certainly i never copied any files from them to make it work.
  • by Kickasso ( 210195 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:50AM (#754677)
    NTFS support in Linux kernel replies: "Sue? Me? Wait a minute! I'm not a person or corporation. Wait at least 'til I develop my own Artificial Intelligence. Then you can probably sue me. If I don't take over the world by that time, that is."
  • the slashdot article last night about dd being the winner for software to do an exact disk copy... guess it will no longer be the winner if it cant copy NTFS drivers... maybe MS read the article and are developing their own ver of dd and thats why they are threatening to sue :)
  • If I can get to your box, I can open it. If I can open it, I can fuck off with your drives.

    ... or install a trojan in the system to intercept whatever the decrypt key is ...

    For that matter, there's the old "rubber hose" method of decryption. You beat the user with a rubber hose until they cough up the decrypt key.

    Anyone who thinks encryption is the solution to all problems is being silly.
  • Aside from all the details..
    Microsoft is concerned any time ANYTHING they have that someone else doesn't is about to be released.

    They don't want their file formats 'discovered'. They don't WANT anyone else to have NTFS. Otherwise, it becomes tooe asy to switch.

    They don't WANT an RDP/X translator, even though there would be a HUGE market for it, because it would ease transition away from MS.

    They don't WANT office on other platforms, because it would ease transition away from their OS.

  • Wrong. The bug infested NTFS driver corrupts W2K drives any time someone enables write mode. Who the hell do you think has been helping Anton correct it? I had to write a f_cking tool to repair the damage it does -- the current NTFS in Linux is not a file system driver -- it's a computer virus. Unlike you people, not only have I seen to "real" NTFS code, I know how it works, and the guy who wrote the real NTFS worked for me for over 18 months. The current NTFS driver won't provide a performant implementation on Linux, which is why I am writing a new one that uses the NWFS LRU to provide the Cache Manager sematics of the "true" NTFS. Like it or not, I'm here to stay, so get used to it.


  • I'm replying to two posts, here, who both said 'crypto filesystems'. If I can get to your box, I can open it. If I can open it, I can fuck off with your drives. If I can fuck off with your drives, I can take them home and decrypt them at my leisure. Brute force the hell out of them. And like I said, it's real easy to get users to divulge their passwords, assuming that they're strong passwords in the first place. Also, NTFS can be encrypted, for example. Fine, but how good is the system? Does it, for example, encrypt the page file? Does it encrypt the temp directory? Besides, when you get right down to it, I can pull them out and jump up and down on them vigorously. Hope you have good backups, and I hope they're not sitting on the shelf beside the computer, or I'll jump up and down on them too. Computer Security includes concepts like Availability and Data Consistancy, and your company is equally fucked if I steal a copy of the data, or just deny it to you.
  • OK.. by your logic then MS also has a monopoly on Winmodems, cause if you want to use them you have to use windows. Just because a company creats a propriatary section of code doesn't make them a monopoly. If NTFS was fully reverse engineered then there is no problem with it. BUT, as the artical states, they had an agreement with MS to use thier Dev kit, then BROKE the agreement and coninued developement. That's not truly reverse engineering, thats more like theft.
  • No you can't. Eh eh. That's the thing. You can't. Hell I should know a friend of mine designed such a system for a big company .. that happened to lose their password to the box. They got fucked big time, no way to recover it. Here's how it works. You have to TYPE the key to boot. Once booted the OS takes over the system and there's no way you're going to stick that trojan in here.
  • maybe this is the beginning of plan B: Innovate with lawsuits.

    Microsoft has always employed a shrewd combination of legal intimidation, outright purchasing, and thievery to steamroller the competition. In fact, they have been known to sign NDA's with competing companies, or companies who dominate a market M$FT wants, only to release a nearly identical product about 6-12 months later.
  • There's nothing illegal about having a monopoly, or even going to certain lengths to protect it. Microsoft would probably be well within their rights to sue over IP rights to NTFS.

    - A.P.

    * CmdrTaco is an idiot.

  • I personally get a kick out of all the alchoholism references when he blows a gasket and makes one of those posts at 1:30am about how Linux is trash and how MS is going to destory it.

    I'm not sure where they come from and I honestly hope that it isn't true but he's blown up a few times and the idea that it is alchohol related seems to fit so well it's almost humorous. Kernel traffic always ignores the good stuff on the kernel list.

  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:59AM (#754706) Homepage
    Counterclaim, with evidence:

    Linux Kernel mailing list archive [], with 133 messages from Jeff V. Merkey in the last 26 days, including his posts about Microsoft.

  • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:59AM (#754707) Homepage
    NTFS and Linux aren't really compatible, due to VFS limitations. As the kernel currently stands, there is no way to access streams, extended attributes, or ACLs. Linus wants to provide a coherent way to access streams in Linux, but Cox, Viro, et al think the HFS kludge is a perfect way of doing it (this involves creating fake ".AppleDouble" directories on the fly). It seem to be their position that if it's not Posix, it's crap. It's Linus' position that lots of filesystems that support streams and/or EAs exist (NTFS, XFS, BeFS, HFS) and are in common use, and Linux therefore needs a standard way to access their features.

    So, yeah, good NTFS support would be nice. But don't hold your breath. I doubt the "Core Developers" will allow Linux to fully support NTFS.

  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @03:00AM (#754708)
    I'd love to see Microsoft manage this. OK, so I wouldn't, but I'd love to see them fall on their faces trying. Sadly for them, it's already been very well-established in the courts that interoperability, even if it means reverse-engineering, is fair use.

    Now, the NDA thing is much more interesting, and could be more of a problem. However, Microsoft cannot possibly prove that any NDA's are being violated. To do so, they would have to disclose their source code -at least those parts of it which deal with NTFS- and we all know they'll never do that due to their irrational fear that if someone saw their source they might make something better (never mind that they already do this without having seen the Windows source, so I doubt it would change things much). I suppose it's possible; I've never seen the NT code (sometimes I wonder if Microsoft even lets its programmers see the Windows source), but there could be things in common between them. But how can I be certqain of this unless I can see both sources and compare them? I can't. Neither can a judge. Therefore, there's no way to prove this guy guilty, so Microsoft can't win this case.

    But let them try. Let them waste millions on a case they cannot win. This'll be fun :)
  • by dreamking ( 28787 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @03:00AM (#754710) Homepage
    Wouldn't NTFS compatability in Linux allow anyone with a Linux micro-distribution(on a floppy) access the information on a computer running NT on NTFS? AFAIK the current situation is that even with local access, unless you have a l/p for NT you can't get to the info stored on the NTFS partition, even with a boot floppy.If so I could definately see this as a valid reason for Microsoft's anger, although not for grounds on which to sue.
  • Actually, although thoroughly shitful, not so completely ridiculous.

    If Linux, *BSD, and others acquire r/w/x support for NTFS the Collective has a lot to lose. NTFS support for on-the-fly data compression/decompression would be extremely useful for Linux et al. Additionally, this would make the migration from NT to Linux much easier. I could put all of my data on a secondary NTFS partition and mount Linux right over the top of NT with no loss of anything.

    One of MSs very real concerns has to be a sudden increase in the migration to competing OSs. I think I hear them opening the flood gates now. :)

    Code commentary is like sex.
    If it's good, it's VERY good.

  • I mean, just because they don't want others to use their NTFS filesystem does not have anything to do with them being a monopoly.

    They want to be the only one with an OS that can do NTFS.

    The only company that can do something, enforced at gunpoint (which is the end result of a lawsuit, the courts enforce a ruling under threat of jail), and you don't see how that's a monopoly?

  • The whole NTFS Microsoft battle should be viewed from the simple viewpoint of whether or not reverse engineering a product is a copyright violation.

    If they argue this point they are saying in essence the whole basis of their monolopy (cheap intel hardware for their products to run on) is illegal. They are as one reader put it shooting themselves in the foot. If they don't want to steal ideas from the companies, they don't need to go down this route.

    The funny thing is they will not scare linux developers the same way they would frighten a small corporation. Sic Stallman and Mr. Maddog Hall on them at the same time.

  • You need to re-read the dd man page and learn how it works.

  • Why would I need to boot it? I just install it in my own computer, mount the drive, and start trying to crack it. Oh, it won't boot. Boo hoo.
  • guess what? we already did. it's called e2compr.
    a funny comment: 1 karma
    an insightful comment: 1 karma
    a good old-fashioned flame: priceless
  • The part that bothers me the most, I think, is why slashdot covered the story the way they did. This sensationalist journalism gets old after a while, especially when it concerns something as inflamatory as implying that M$ is somehow using threats of legal action against Linux (the kernel).

    Let's review the title of this article. These are the words that the /. people chose to summarize this issue:

    Microsoft Litigation vs. Linux NTFS Kernel Support

    Can you IMAGINE the /. response to similar hyperbole coming from Redmond directed against Linux?

  • Hmmm ... how exactly do you plan to crack Blowfish or Idea? You might want to contact the NSA, I guess they might want to talk to you.
  • Or, some possible FUD from them:
    • Those childish hackers... they broke DeCSS so they could pirate DVD's, now they're trying trying to be an anthill that's a constant nuisance to us too.
    • If you were a small company, would you want them stealing your IP and destroying any hope of profit? If they can walk all over us, they'll walk all over you.

  • SysInternals [] offers NTFS for DOS and Windows 9x. So you can access NTFS drives without NT currently. This also bypasses security -- but as has been noted before, if you have physical access to the machine, you can do anything you want, pretty much, so no biggie.

  • What next? Sueing companies if their programs can read MSWord or Excel files?

    This has actually happened. When MSWord 97 came out some antivirus code had to be withdrawn initially under a threat of litigation. The reason for this was that none of the naso-anal interfacing agreements between antiVirus vendors and MS covered the new formats. So MS threatened to sue them for being able to read and write (desinfect) files. It's been a while since than, but sure one can find references for it.

    Same has also happened with programs using the Mircosoft "proprietary" domain policy formats. *.POL files. There is no rocket science there, they are just simple windows registry dumps. But MS actually successfully stalled samba's wide usage for MS domains for about a year by targeting anyone documenting the files. In other words theretening to sue you for writing text files and giving them a *.POL extension. You can find some info on this if you take an older samba source, untar it and look in the documentation section.

    And to conclude this is Jeff^WStef W. Merkey speaking.

    • He is a MS licensee and has signed NDAs and his development is not clean house. Microsoft is right to sue him for breach of contract.
    • He has distributed internal MS software for developer's usage only before on linux-kernel. This is more than sufficient to crash and burn legally
    • He does not feel good if he does not cause at least one flamefest a quater so that people hear about his greatest and latest B.S.
    • If he will be sued it will not be a loss to the community, It will a win.
  • by jon_adair ( 142541 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @03:10AM (#754741) Homepage

    So, when are the t-shirts printed with NTFS code coming out?

  • Unfortunately, I can see how MS is willing to do this, despite those points:
    • "Linux is good enough for them to worry about"
      For things like "intellectual property" or whatever Microsoft is calling it this week, it doesn't really matter who's bigger, especially if both parties are competitors.
    • "They publicise the fact the Linux has NTFS support"
      True, but they do it in an "but it shouldn't and our lawyers will make it go away so don't count on it" way. If they think they can get away with it, not something they'll worry overmuch about.
    • "They publicise Linux in general"
      Heh, with all the media attention Linux has been getting (it's getting so the average reporter even knows how to say it), the term "a drop in the bucket" comes to mind. ^_^
    • "They unleash thousands of press articles on how Microsoft is scared and is having to rely on lawsuits to compete."
      Exactly! As has been stated before (though in slightly different context), "See, we're not a monopoly!"
    I'm certainly not defending their actions; I think it's a pretty stupid thing for them to do. But I do see, sort of, why they're trying it.
  • by WzDD ( 23061 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @03:32AM (#754743) Homepage
    When the average person gets significantly fatter.

    NTFS is huge.
  • Sun sell PC Netlink that provides a native Unix "Windows NT Network Services". In particular it provides file and print servers (NTFS) It is based on an AT&T product.

    The story I was told was: AT&T obtained a source license from MS for NTFS. However, the MS land sharks were asleep that day and forgot to include a license clause preventing AT&T from further sub-licensing the source. AT&T promptly turned round and sub-licensed their code to Sun.

    So there are copies of NTFS source floating around at least two major compeditors of MS which must make them a tad touchy on the subject :-)

  • by Dacta ( 24628 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @03:13AM (#754745)

    Okay, Jeff V. Merkey's company, the Timpanogas Research Group [] is a Microsoft ISV []. Now this doesn't mean anything in itself, but some MS ISVs do have access to the NT code.

    Here [] is a (google cached) post about some problems Merkey had with his open source NDS implementation - Novell wanted him to sign a NDA.

    Read this:

    The fact that he is working closely with Microsoft and a contributing to Open Source/Linux make TRG a legitimate threat. We may have NDS for NT and Linux, and are working with Caldera and Red Hat, but how are we going to walk that tight-rope of "seeding" NDS into Linux/Open Source market? Are we just going to wait for TRG to put Novell's NDS and NWFS "crown jewels" out as Open Source?

    and this:
    Jeff and David Gobel (wrote NTFS for MS, now consulting) can create a filter driver for ACL and Trustee management. This will work for NTFS and W2000 (completely new files system and disk structures). That would fill the gap for NDS for NT. Linux would actually be easier to implement. Then NDS would manage data on NT and Linux.

    Now if this David Gobel person really did write "NTFS for MS", and now he has some kind of relationship with Merkey, Merkey's company or Linux, there could be a problem.

    Also, read http://www.zd net .com/eweek/stories/general/0,11011,2426902,00.html [] for some more background (okay, it's ZdNet, so don't take it too seriously!)

    Of course, I still don't know the details - just enough to annoy some people if I've got it all wrong!

  • The company Winternals [] provide (and have done for some time) tools which allow you to read and now write ntfs volumes under Dos and Win9x.

    I recall reading a M$ knowledgebase article about some methods for deploying NT 4 (I think) that actually recommended using these third party tools. (Oh and they provide fat32 support under NT4)

    Now why is it acceptable to make tools that enable microsoft operating systems to read microsoft disk formats, but not make those same tools for other operating systems.

    Surely winternals have set a precedent for acceptance of tools capable of utilising NTFS and the DoJ would have a fit if they weren't attacked when the linux version was :)

    Anyway the last I recall FAT, FAT32 & Jolliet systems have been supported in linux for sometime. Is hacking thier flagship (as if) filesystem more punishable?
  • So, when are the t-shirts printed with NTFS code coming out? When the average person gets significantly fatter.

    So we should be seeing them here in the US pretty soon, then?

    Hey! I resent that! Why, if it weren't for all these empty cheetos bottles and 7-UP bottles that I have to clear away, and the fact that the nurse is off today so getting to an upright position is out of the question, I'd deck you!

  • My favorite line from a not-too-recent seminar with a Samba core team coder:

    We had to make it bug-by-bug compatible with M$.

    I like the basic tenor: If it was built on NT code, then chop it. (It ain't GNU then anyways.) If it was clean room (aka raw GNU code from the ground up) then it is protected.

    Besides, it predates the DMCA. Ha ha ha!
  • ...then again, maybe it can't, since NTFS was originally designed wayyyy back in 1994. However, MS might argue that the Windows 2000 version of it has enough changes to make it valid under DMCA. These Linux NTFS guys could find themselves in a pickle if MS thinks of this, cause, technically, the NTFS mounter is a method of circumvention (unless it does something like ask for the administrator password, but I don't think MS would be that lenient).

    To sum up in Counter-Strike fashion, Microsoft points their AWP at the heads of these coders, while the DOJ, the big kahuna of the server of the software market, is ready to kick them into oblivion.

  • It seems to me that recent court cases and the DMCA being upheld in same have removed the ability to reverse engineer things. Fair-use may be a dead doctrine. Further, to prove that an NDA has been violated - yes you would have to release the code, but not in open court, but rather to a third party for review. That person can serve as a witness in court. See the NEC versus Intel suit about 8086 microcode years ago. That is what happened there.
  • The other day my NT crashed and burned. There was no way to reboot into NT, so I feared data loss. Luckily I had a copy of Linux on CD (designed to run without installation), so I booted up with it. Once booted, I mounted the NT partitions and then 'ftp'ed the data to somewhere safe. Since that day I have got the system support guys hooked on the idea of using a copy of the Linux CD as an NT data rescure solution.

    Oh the irony of it all. The next thing we will hear is that Linux can't be used for rescuing NT ;)
  • by jpl ( 58317 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @03:23AM (#754768)
    Jeff Merkey is the head of a for-profit company, Timpaganos (or some such thing). There was some agreement between his company and M$, the exact nature of which I don't know.

    When Jeff said, "Microsoft has threatened us with litigation due to our support of Linux NTFS development" the <b>us</b> he was referring to was his company, not <i>linux</i> proper.

    Jeff was giving people a binary NTFS tool to help people recover their file systems after they got damaged by some bugs in the linux NTFS drivers. This is probably what Jeff is referring to when he says, "Microsoft demanded that we delete any and all NTFS tools we had been providing to customers..."

    Micro$oft is NOT threatening linux. M$ is NOT trying to have the NTFS driver removed from linux proper. This is not clear in the linuxcare article, but is clear if you followed all of Jeff's (sometimes logic-challenged) posts. One final note, you have to mentally tone down posts from Jeff, he tends to be <understatement> overly dramatic </understatement> and has a strange combative/cooperative cycle of posts.
  • Wouldn't NTFS compatability in Linux allow anyone with a Linux micro-distribution(on a floppy) access the information on a computer running NT on NTFS?

    Yes, it would, and that's exactly what it's been doing for a couple of years now.

  • by Lion-O ( 81320 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @03:25AM (#754770)
    Frankly I don't think MS is at fault here. If you take a closer look at the first paragraph: we have dissolved our NTFS licensing agreements with Microsoft in response to their demands that cease to support Linux development. Microsoft demanded that we delete any and all NTFS tools we had been providing to customers based on their intellectual property.

    The article itself states that they asked MS for a license which allowed them to use the NTFS specs. An fs which was completely stolen^H^Hdeveloped by MS :) But thats not the issue; iirc MS has licensed NTFS and they own the specs. If you want to use it in another way then accessing the available NT routines you'll need a licence. Like it or not; thats MS decision and you can only respect it.

    The way I see it these folks decided to break the agreement (see quote) and therefor also threw away their right to make use of the MS specifications and routines which allowed them to access the NTFS internals. So? Is MS evil just because they are defending their product here? Sure, MS usually takes actions which are highly controversial, their development of NTFS is right among those IMHO (remember hpfs?). But that does not mean that every action taken by MS is evil/monopolistic/unfair/dictating/ by default. Besides, please do not forget that we only see 1 side of the story here. We didn't even get to see the entire letter send by MS.

    Anyway; these people should stop whining IMHO. If they want to develop NTFS based programs and don't want to be restricted by the will of MS they should do what other did before them; buy the appropiate MS development tools which gives them the right to use the NTFS specs in their own software. Whether that software is Linux or Windows based is irrelevant.

  • From the Kernel Traffic summary, it seems that Jeff Merkey had told MS
    about his work on NTFS, and MS had explicitly OKed this work. If this
    is so, then they cannot use this intellectual property argument.
  • ...And have Microsoft's vast hordes of lawyers (which probably outnumber linux kernel developers) get an injunction against the entire 2.4 kernel?
  • by Icebox ( 153775 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:25AM (#754778)
    My favorite line is:

    Yes Andre, they did, they accussed me of knowingly conspiring with Linus...

    That bastard Linus, he has entered a conspiracy to destroy Microsoft!

    I think, in general, that OSS gives Microsoft fits because it is something that they can't make go away by buying it. If your are used to innovating with your pocketbook that would really screw things up, maybe this is the beginning of plan B: Innovate with lawsuits.

  • a. I'm not talking about corporate piracy, that would be pretty damn stupid. Large corporations are easy and juicy targets to sue if they're stupid enough to pirate. I'm strictly talking about individuals in a home environment.

    b. You might have found the one exception to the rule there: low-end MS OS upgrades. For some reasons, these upgrades fly off the shelves. I think a large part of the reason is the price point: they're at or below the $100 magic mark. You'll most likely find the same isn't happening with Win2K or MS Office. Go ask your Electronic Boutique, Best Buys, CompuUSA etc, they'll most likely tell you that those sales completely pale in comparison to Win9x/Me upgrades.

    Speaking of MSDN subscriptions, that's one of the HUGE copy-for-home-use candidates in the developer community. Considering the price point, that's not really surprising.
  • What next? Sueing companies if their programs can read MSWord or Excel files?
  • The article seems slashdotted now, I have mirrored the relevant part:

    It may have been there, but isn't, now. Koos has copied it in time, though, here [].

    It takes a lot of brains to enjoy satire, humor and wit-

  • The name Timpanogos comes from a very prominant mountain sitting at the north end of Utah Valley, where Novell is headquartered. It's actually spelled with a "os" at the end. Curious that Merkey's company spelled it differently.

    I also recall that there was a company called "Wolf Mountain" in Utah Valley -- or at least, it was called Wolf Mountain until it was discovered that this group of ex-novell employees was working on a clustering project remarkably similar to one at Novell, which had been intenally code named "Wolf Mountain". I think these are the same people.

    The faustian Microsoft deal references seem to help explain why they were so blatant about everything at the time.
  • > Wasn't Bill G. quoted once as saying something like, "At least their pirating MY software." ?

    That's exactly right. I think MS is prepared to (and does) tacitly accept a lot of piracy in the home arena for the sake of brainshare. While some people might blindly disagree that home software piracy is rampant, that is one of the principal reasons for MS's desktop dominance. Unfortunately it is also something extremely hard to get concrete figures for, since few people will openly admit to piracy when questioned (even when promised anonymity). You pretty much have to rely on empirical data and on personal observations.
  • by phaze3000 ( 204500 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:28AM (#754786) Homepage
    OK, let's go through some hypotheticals:

    Let us say Microsoft does sue Linux for NTFS support. That means:

    That Linux is good enough for them to worry about.

    They publicise the fact the Linux has NTFS support

    They publicise Linux in general

    They unleash thousands of press articles on how Microsoft is scared and is having to rely on lawsuits to compete.

    By keeping quiet:

    Far less people would know Linux had NTFS support

    They can keep up the pretence that they don't need to worry about those pseudo-Marxist hippie long haired hackers are up to.

    -- Piracy is a vicitmless crime, like punching someone in the dark.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:29AM (#754789) Homepage Journal
    I'm becoming more and more convinced that Microsoft knows that a breakup can't be avoided. MS/OS would not benefit from having the OS be at all interoperable. I predict small changes in the TCP stack and the SMB code that will render NT completely uncommunicative with Linux/Samba. Microsoft will insist that these "enhancements" to the OS were necessary, of course. That's the Microsoft party line.

    I also predict the death of the OS division within 5 years of the breakup.

  • Sadly for them, it's already been very well-established in the courts that interoperability, even if it means reverse-engineering, is fair use.
    While I really, really would like this to be unconditionally true, the reality is that this is still a hazy area. For example, DeCSS is a perfect example of 'reverse engineering for interoperability' -- yet the DVD Mafia's corporate lawyers, along with the judges in their pockets, are currently in the process of turning that program into contraband.

    This whole situation is quite serious. Microsoft could very well be using it as a test flight for future lawsuits in which they attempt to take down huge portions of major open source projects. While the NTFS thing is, by itself, a tempest in a teapot, we have to pay attention to Microsoft's machinations very carefully. They are a huge company with hundreds of well-paid corporate lawyers, and a strong interest in making the Linux movement fail. It's a chess game: just because a particular move doesn't knock something out immediately, it doesn't mean that the same move won't have a significant effect later on.

    Keep your eyes open. Always assume the worst of intentions when Microsoft does anything.
  • by ( 211454 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:30AM (#754791) Homepage
    I thought the DMCA supported reverse-engineering for interoperabillity? Compatability with a file system DEFINATELY is an interoperability issue. I think this "threat" is an attempt to scare these developers, and make companies like Red Hat (who would also be liable for distributing the kernel with this "infringing" work) scared that they will have to spend IPO money on lawyers rather than R&D

    IMO, a classic case of M$ using threats to illegally maintain a monopoly.

    BTW, a THREAT of a lawsuit, when groundless is actionable. If I were these developers, RMS, Linus, or Red Hat, I'd be sending copies of this threat to the Supreme Court and Judge Jackson.

    I suppose this threat means that M$ has given up on making `Doze 2000 a better product than Linux and now have to take to the courts for protection?

  • And it's been out on the website for about 3-4 years...

    The Linux driver is nothing new, and Microsoft didn't sue the sysinternals guys over this.

    Methinks the Linux authors did something else besides reverse engineer a solution.
  • Microsoft would probably be well within their rights to sue over IP rights to NTFS.
    Er, I don't think so. I believe that the NTFS support in Linux was reverse engineered, and Microsoft can do nothing to prevent that.

    However, the Linux Kernel article does give hints that something else was going on. It sounds like Jeff Merkey, one of the kernel developers, used to work for Novell or something and was going to put NDS (Novell Directory Services) into Linux, and had both a license agreement with Microsoft for something else, and an informal understanding with Microsoft about NDS on Linux.

    They talk about the Linux Laundromat - the idea being that Microsoft could get NDS support for Windows by downloading it from the internet - in the Linux code. Since Jeff Merkey has quit working on that, Microsoft is pissed... or something like that. For full understanding of this issue one would probably have to either interview Jeff Merkey and the other developers, or read hundreds of messages of the Linux Kernel Development mailing list. (There's an idea for slashdot - Interview the Linux Kernel Developers as a group.)

    Microsoft has reason to be worried though. NTFS is a good file system - if you installed Linux over NT and it worked, and could read your data, there might not be any reason to wipe the hard drives and convert to ext2fs - a much scarier step that many companies would balk at.

    With NTFS support in the Linux kernel, NT file servers, print servers, and web servers could be converted to Linux in about an hour with the safety of "if anything goes wrong, we'll just boot back to NT."

    Torrey Hoffman (Azog)
  • If you are a monopoly and using copyright to
    protect your monopoly, you may lose the copyright,
  • Can't get to the linux site. Must be evidence of the almightly Linux servers superior web server abilities. Linux is so powerful that servers powered by it cannot even take the curious traffic from slashdot. Took the server right down...
  • I mean, just because they don't want others to use their NTFS filesystem does not have anything to do with them being a monopoly.

    I have to disagree with this. If MSWinNT is the only OS that can read/write NTFS filesystems, then if you want to read/write an NTFS filesystem (whether it be yours or someone elses) you HAVE to use MSWinNT - you can't use anything else. MS prohibits it

    I think this constitutes a monopoly on the NTFS filesystem.

    This is a BAD thing.

    Begin hypothetical situation

    Suddenly, whether you want to or not, you HAVE to MSWinNT if you want to legally run a data-recovery business - because you know that customers will come to you with NTFS partitioned disks. (This ain't a perfect world where everyone who runs a business runs *nix, after all ;P )

    Thus the need to get at and/or change any data on an NTFS partition requires that you purchase a license for MSWinNT.

    Indirectly, MS would effectively own any information on an NTFS partition, as in order to use that data, you (or someone) would have to go pay the "MS Tax" to get at it.

    End hypothetical situation

    Next thing you know, they'll go after the VFAT support... ;P

  • This funny I guess they thinking like AT&T since they are mentally infected they can not use what they know.
  • by SuiteSisterMary ( 123932 ) <> on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:07AM (#754810) Journal
    If they can physicially get to your servers, you're fucked in so many ways that it doesn't matter. Besides, it's so much easier to call pretty much any random phone number in the organization and say "Hi, this is Bob in IT. We're having some problems with the server and need to verify your NT Domain login and password...yes, yes...sounds right. Great, thanks.
  • You have mis-read the article. There was no undertaking to not develop for Linux and none was requested by MS, the licence was for general development. MS's legal dept seems to simply changed its mind about being so liberal. Being as big and rich as MS is, they can rewrite contracts after they're signed and that's what they've done here.


  • by MartinG ( 52587 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:33AM (#754822) Homepage Journal
    Its not that simple.

    Even if the people writing the code have written it from scratch and both they and Microsoft agree on that, they might have signed an NDA. (in this case, IIRC from reading LKML, that is what has happened)

    The problem then comes down to being able to demonstrate that you haven't used any information provided under the NDA in writing the code. That can be tricky.
  • I mean, just because they don't want others to use their NTFS filesystem does not have anything to do with them being a monopoly.

    Many companies do things like this, Micro$oft is not the first (although probably the worst ;)
  • MS win2k has NFS support.
    yes. They claim that you can share "Unix Style" paths or UNC's on a server. It does also support SMB (although Samba is not Recomended, surprise). I quote:
    Server for NFS is an NFS server implemented on a Windows-based server. It allows UNIX-based NFS clients to access files on Windows-based computers the same way files on other UNIX NFS servers may be accessed. For UNIX-based NFS users, this process is completely transparent. File level access is determined by the user's UID or GID as well as by Windows access control lists (ACLs). Server for NFS supports NFS on all Windows-based file systems including FAT, CDFS, and NTFS.
    Take a look at Microsoft's Use Of NFS []
    This may be the easier way to have M$ clients interconnectivity with unicies no?
    This still does not make NTFS clients illegal though...and the MS client still is propritary, but hey its a start.
  • Anyway; these people should stop whining IMHO. If they want to develop NTFS based programs and don't want to be restricted by the will of MS they should do what other did before them; buy the appropiate MS development tools which gives them the right to use the NTFS specs in their own software. Whether that software is Linux or Windows based is irrelevant.

    This is such a twisted troll that it's hard to know where to start. Since when do you need to buy a liscence to reverse engineer? This seems to be the core of this bait. It has little to do with the relavent problems.

    By reading this article you agree to use your computer only as I see fit. If you do not agree, you may stop reading this aticle, remove it from your computer and send it back to us at your expense. The liscence hereby granted to use your computer includes the ability to use myFileSystem which you must install now. You may not read myFileSystem with any tool not sold by me. This includes physical and microscopic examination and reconstuction by abacus or weejee board.

  • the NTFS support in Linux is already good enough for many uses.
    This [] is a lifesaver - It's come in handy for both recovering admin passwords
    (some people where I work have the admin password for their machines)
    as well as recovering data from corrupted filesystems.
  • The first rule in data security is physical security as most boxes assume some level of trust for whomever can get into the same room.

    For instance, one workable (done it) procedure to "fix" a lost root password on SCO, HP/UX, and AIX, is to crash the box, bring it up off different boot media, mount up the / partition, and edit /etc/passwd by hand.

    This is why most serious data centers have locks on the doors.

  • The fact is, most people probably DON'T buy MS software, they swipe it one way or another. If my last few jobs at LARGE companies are any indication of the general state of piracy, most people get their software either from work or friends. Or installed on new machines, but most people refresh their software versions way more frequently than their machines. Considering that the software on many people's machines would amount to over a thousand dollars if purchased legally, there's no way people would actually shell out that kind of money. If people actually had to plonk down the $300 or so for MS Office, there's no doubt in my mind that MS Works or Star Office would be the market leaders.

    So in a perverted sense, while MS fights piracy with all their might, their brainshare and desktop share is due in large part to soft piracy. In that light, it doesn't matter how nasty Microsoft's image gets, since a lot of people don't pay for the software anyway, they don't mind swiping it regardless of MS's bad PR.
  • If they can physicially get to your servers, you're fucked in so many ways that it doesn't matter.

    Unless your filesystem uses encryption, or can run on top of an encrypted device. []

  • by Happy Monkey ( 183927 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:17AM (#754838) Homepage
    So, when are the t-shirts printed with NTFS code coming out?

    When the average person gets significantly fatter.

    So we should be seeing them here in the US pretty soon, then?

  • Indeed. I posted from memory of having read the KT digest last night.

    I think there is reason to doubt Merkey's account of things, but if what he says is true, then MS have no case.

  • um... YY males????

    Missing a bit of genetic information there, aren't we? (A Y chromosome is an X chromosome with a leg missing).

  • obviously bill knows that the surest way for nt to die is for it to lose it's usefulness. once you can completely access/use all m$ file formats why would you run their os? You wouldn't., or at least i wouldn't
  • by WzDD ( 23061 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @02:39AM (#754849) Homepage
    There is misinformation here - the current Linux support for NTFS is nothing to do with Jeff Merkey or his company. AFAIK Microsoft has not sent any such threats to the developers of the Linux driver.

    Reference: Linux NTFS page []
  • So Microsoft is sueing them for what, exactly? Accessing NTFS volumes? Um, wait, you can do that in Windows, can't you. Technically there's no difference - they haven't broken any NDAs, or released trade secrets into the public domain.

    Also, I don't see what MS has to lose by having NTFS support in Linux. The only people who'd need it are possibly those who are dual booting NT and Linux, in which case they are using MS's product anyway so they aren't losing out that way. And it's unlikely that NTFS is going to become "the" standard journalling filesystem and take away more (ha!) of NT's share of the Server market. Isn't it? What with ext3, or ReiserFS or whatever its called this week just around the corner...

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!