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Microsoft and the GPL 400

rleyton wrote in to tell us about yet another Microsoft related GPL story. He says "The Linux Journal has an interesting article analysing why Microsoft is attacking the GPL. It makes for interesting reading, and ends with a comment on the possibility that Microsoft will be seeking to pursuade the U.S. Government to forbid distribution of federally funded software under the GPL."
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Microsoft and the GPL

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I personally don't have a problem with MS making it relatively simple for users of their OS to sign up with their service. Thing is, when the screens are obviously designed to cause a user to believe they are required to do so in order to get core functions to work, that's an entirely different issue. No, a user isn't being forced to use this service, but there is certainly a very high level of deception at work here

    Actually this made me think of something from the anti-trust trial.

    Billy said that getting another browser was as easy as ocnnecting to

    How do you do this without using IE, which is the only installed browser on Windows?

    And if you cannot agree to the terms of the EULA for IE, you are effectively preveted from downloading a competing browser, are you not?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Your post was very well written, unlike most. The problem though is that it brought to mind the history of the Soviet Union as told by Stalin. Either you are a student who did not watch the desktop comuting revolution and instead is relying on MS propoganda or you are a MS marketer. Either way, almost nothing you say in regard to MS is correct. I learned to program when I was 13. I'm now 41. When I was 15 I learned FORTRAN via punchcard job submisions. My first computor was an Apple II that I paid $1000 for in 1978. In 1987, I got into OS/2 at version 1.0. I have been active in computing for a long time. In all this time, not once has MS done anything realy innovative. In fact, especialy since the mid 80s, MS has done more to hinder development then anything else. The misinformation spewing forth from Bills empire via there puppets at places such as PC Mag, has been incredible. I liken some of the reviews that I have read in Ziff Davis pubs to Malus Maleficiorum for all the science contained. The desktop computing revolution had alread gained unstoppible momentum without Bill, when Micrsoft co-opted it and rewrote the history to make it the hero. At almost every moment, there has been superior and more inovative products then anything MS was offering, but for some reason, they never were reviewed or the reviews were biased. At this time, the amount of capitol MS spends for marketing spin docktors ( sons of Satan) and lawyers is at least 10 times that spent on actual software development. The majority of the resorce apllied to software development goes into technologies that are there specificly to promote MS product lockin, and to provide leverage to force developers to yeild to their wishes( the API games). Development of the "user experience" is more involved with controling what the user can do then enabling the user. The selection of what the user is permited to do is determined by deals with entities interested in control for exclusive suport for MS products. An example of this is MSs Windows Media. Containt providers like it because it has built in mechanisms to prevent users doing things that might infringe on their plans for marketing control, like saving to HD for later viewing, or viewing in Canada when the containt has been priced for the US. In this particular case, containt providors were reluctaint to lose non MS OS users so MS promised a UNIX version, then when enough providers were locked in, MS anounced that it would never support UNIX, using a Catch 22 type excuse! Fortunatly MS plans have not played out as far as they would like. Notice the preference for .pdf over .doc on most websites. This is enough ranting for now, my son is asking about dinner, and I'm hungry also.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 28, 2001 @03:57PM (#121157)
    Oil and mining companies fund wars in Africa, funding savage rebel armies who keep the countries in chaos and anarchy. Clothing companies give kids in third world countries stimulants so they can work 20-hour days. Drug companies gouge people, making enormous profits and driving people into bankrupcy with Federal- and charity funded research, while thousands die becuase they just can't afford the medication all over the world. Gun companies make sure the cycle of violence continues throughout the world and in our own inner cities. And, of course, tobacco companies make their profits keeping people addicted to poison.

    These Microsoft issues are just so petty. Even if they aren't beaten on technical merits (which they will, one day, like all technology companies), even if they dominate, their evil is just so minor and petty compared to true abuse in the world. You really have to be living a life of luxury to think that someone who makes computer operating systems in the anti-christ.

    Open your eyes, people... there are just so many things in the world which are far more deserving of your rage. If you want to work on Linux, if you want to beat Microsoft, hey, go ahead, but the way so many Slashdotters obsess about this like Gates is the next Hitler is just sick.
  • Requiring a BSD-style license on any federally funded code that's released to the public seems reasonable to me.
    But what about the already existing GPLed code that came from publicly funded places? The nature of the GPL is such that GPL code cannot be relicensed later under BSDL - once GPL, always GPL. So do the people working on those projects suddenly have to stop their work or quit their public positions? What a travestry that would be. Espicially since it's not easy to draw the line between a government employee working on GPL code "on his own" vs one doing it for his job. If he makes software to finish one simple task at work, and then GPLs it for others to use is that the same as if he spent 100% of his time on it, and it was his major research project?
  • Yeah, what a complete dick. I'd seen the Spectacle article, but it didn't have that update. He *renewed* the fucking domain? That is just unbelievable.

    Slashdot should definitely do an article on this whole issue. Has kuro5hin? Maybe I'll submit something.
  • by root ( 1428 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @04:05PM (#121164) Homepage
    See this Slashdot story [] about the Brazillian gov't REQUIRING that it and its sub governmental agancies be required to use ONLY open sourced software. The reason is security. How can some closed black box ever be trusted? If the US gov't follows this lead, MS will be out billions. Projects like the US's own NSA Linux [] seem to hint that what happened in Brazil is under serious consideration here.

    Live free or DIE!

  • Oracle has their whole database and depending on their mood - most of their product line.

    Word Perfect had their WP on Linux. Many games have come out for Linux. There are other apps that have been released.

    So, how is the GPL the thing (as the article mentioned) stopping MS from releasing stuff on Linux?

    If they wanted to, they could have IE, Word, etc... on Linux - without GPL problems.

    However, that eats directly into their core market - x86 machines. That person no longer need boot to windows for Word/Excel or to view that IE only web page. Sure - some people may be able to get by or around those limitiations, but MS products on Linux means anyone can get around those problems, and there goes the Desktop OS battle.

    Then again, IE on Solaris/HPUX blew.
  • We can probably expect MS to continue writing their EULAs to lock out GPLed and other open-source software. If MS could make it so that managers have to choose between (a) banning all GPLed software from their enterprise or (b) forfeiting the right to use Microsoft software (and access MS file formats and MS services), most would choose (a). This may result in GPLed software being contained in a GNU ghetto, well out of anywhere MS wants to be.
  • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @04:11PM (#121171)
    I do agree with the author's conclusion - I think a serious lobbying effort is now or will soon be underway to bar institutions receiving federal funds (read: universities) from releasing GPL'ed code.

    Significant kernel and userland code has and continues to come from coders under gov't employ or grad students. Most of the Linux network drivers were written by Donald Becker of NASA, and the copyright is in fact assigned to the US Gov't, administered by the NSA (!).

    It's true that currently, most code produced directly by the Federal gov't must be released without copyright. But it's also true that this code can be relicensed and distributed under the GPL (it's public domain, remember?), and it's also true that not all institutions that recieve federal funds are required to release code to the public domain (think universities).

    Now, MSFT doesn't have a prayer of getting a bill blocking the GPL passed on its own, but it might be able to slip in a rider on some other bill.

    My nightmare is MSFT sweet-talking the gov't on the issue with the siren song of licensing revenue. You know, sort of like how universities already do with patents, where they take public cash for research and sell to the highest bidder?

    Watch out.

  • They're following Sun's lead in marketing Java the language and Java the platform independant bytecode interpreter and the Java libraries and Java applets and JavaScript and so on. It clouds the issues to the point of making it an all or nothing proposition for the PHBs ("We're using Java!" or "We're going with .NET") instead of using the best tool for the task.

    Chris Cothrun
    Curator of Chaos
  • by DarkClown ( 7673 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @03:39PM (#121184) Homepage
    just curious...
    does anyone actually believe that microsoft attacking gpl could have any impact whatsoever, besides making them look like a whiney gorilla?
  • > What, anything to discredit someone who isn't on the Open Source team?

    Nope. The original post had an offensively condesending tone, e.g. the title ``Petty petty petty". The original poster was not stating that there was more worthwhile targets for our energies, but that we shouldn't concern ourselves about what Microsoft is doing. My response remains, ``We all rise to fight the evil we think we can defeat."

    If the original poster *truly* felt that we should battle these other -- & I'll concede, more immediately important goals -- why didn't she/he offer ways we can contribute to these struggles? I suspect that the posters intent was to silence criticism of Microsoft whether justified or not.

    > I can see modding down the original post (Offtopic, perhaps?) but modding up that "you sound like you're from a cult" drivel?

    If it makes you feel better, this is the first karma point I've gotten for any of my posts in about a month or two. And I gave up long before that trying to understand how people awarded them; sending email about possible issues to Cowboy Neal doesn't even result in a form letter acknowledging he even reads his email. So I merely look for reponses to whatever I post.

  • by llywrch ( 9023 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @04:20PM (#121188) Homepage Journal
    > These Microsoft issues are just so petty. Even if they aren't beaten on technical merits (which they will, one day, like all
    > technology companies), even if they dominate, their evil is just so minor and petty compared to true abuse in the world.

    We all rise to fight the evil we think we can defeat. Some of us take on an even more powerful evil. (All of you who dream of going deep-sea fishing against Cthulhu raise your hands. ;-)

    > Open your eyes, people... there are just so many things in the world which are far more deserving of your rage. If you want to
    > work on Linux, if you want to beat Microsoft, hey, go ahead, but the way so many Slashdotters obsess about this like Gates is
    > the next Hitler is just sick.

    Your logic sounds suspciously familiar . . . say, weren't you one of the sock puppets that used to defend Hubbard's pathetic little cult on alt.religion.scientology? Or have Microsoft apologists exhausted all of their fresh ideas, & have come to the point that they sound like every other group of cult apologists?

  • Well, when companies have laws passed that restrict the development of free software (by making the authors liable for problems), then maybe you'll start to worry.

    Oh, wait. Read up on the UCTIA. Start worrying now.

  • Occasionally the gov't does release GPL software (e.g., NASA's ethernet card drivers, Beowulf, etc). This happens when the software they are modifying is itself GPL'd. Perhaps this is what MS is afraid of? Maybe what we need is an alternative to the GPL which allows persons to use the code in closed-source programs on the one hand, but requires that changes to the source be distributed freely on the other. Maybe like the modified LGPL of wxWindows. Then apply this license to all non-classified US government written code. Microsoft doesn't have grounds to bitch now, but they'll have even less grounds with this new license.
  • People are stupid. They will not use additional superior software they can download, because they are too dumb or lazy to bother when they have something that does the job already, even if it is a little substandard.

    This is why microsoft has a monopoly, because by including it, you appease the lazy man, who constitutes a large chunk of the software market.
  • by um... Lucas ( 13147 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @07:30PM (#121204) Journal
    Well then, maybe you should start climbing back down the trees and showing the users the leather balls you found up there, rather than taking away the bushes they're playing with down there... or maybe even fashion a rope or ladder in order to help them on their way up...

    Anything but sitting up at the top of your "tree" and looking down at everyone else down on the ground while thinking "if only they knew what was up here...."
  • Easy. They're in the business of making money. Linux has a miniscule desktop marketshare, about 1% at last count, and negligible corporate desktop presence. Now why again are they supposed to spend all this money to try to grab a piece of such a small market? Sounds like a losing proposition, especially since so many Linux users will tell anyone who will listen that they don't want any Microsoft software. They're not a charity, so seriously, why would they produce those products for Linux?


  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @05:00PM (#121222) Homepage
    The likely result of Micrsoft FUD will be that some PHB's in the world will decide to stay away from Linux and other GPL licensed products for fear of getting their IP hijacked. So let's picture the worst case scenario here. Let's assume for the moment that IBM completely bailed on Linux, and Red Hat went out of business. That's not going to happen but let's assume it does for the moment.

    So Microsoft continues to do its thing as it has been, blocking channels of distribution, locking people into their products, and charging outrageous prices. In the mean time, GPL software will still be there because as long as a small band of skilled people want it to exist it will. So it will evolve, it will grow, and companies will end up using it, as they always have, because it works and does so very cheaply. It might not get the headlines but it will be grinding away in the trenches as it always has.

    Maybe Linux fades from the spotlight a bit. Maybe it goes back to being the toy of hackers for while. But fundamentally in the long run it will not die and eventually Microsoft will screw up. Either their monopolistic practices will finally get trimmed by the government, they'll jack their prices up too high, or they'll get behind the 8-ball on development. They aren't infallible, they are just very clever.

    When the PC came, they saw it coming and got in early and rode it until the Internet came. Initially they saw a threat, they stumbled a bit but recovered and are now moving to make it their own. Free software though is so contrary to their way of doing things that I don't know that they can change. They certainly aren't going to keep people from making and using GPL software and eventually it will be their demise.


  • As a Brazilian (hence my username) and a government network admin I gotta tell you that the law ain't got a snowball's chance in hell to being approved - and yeah, it's not law yet. :(

    All browsers' default homepage should read: Don't Panic...
  • by PatientZero ( 25929 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @06:38PM (#121227)
    So sayeth Bill Gates,
    But the GPL "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. So what you saw with TCP/IP or Sendmail or the browser could never happen."

    Yet I'm quite sure that if RMS uttered the following, Microsoft would be crying Communism.

    "But commercial software breaks that cycle--that is, it makes it impossible for free software developers to use any of that work or build on any of that work. So you will never see GnuWindows, Red Hat Explorer, or LookOut Express."

    It's not what Microsoft executives say that surprises me anymore. It's that most media just print it as if it was coherent.

    Peace PatientZero

  • Hey, I'm a flag-waving, apple-pie-eating, baseball playing, gun-toting American just as much as the next guy, but quite frankly, what the US does vis-a-vis Micro-Soft amounts to precisely dick. Let's face it, as a country/government, we are going to roll over and take it in the ass from Bill and friends. It's just the way things are.

    Our saviours come in the form of China, India, France, and Brazil (among others). They get a leg up on development (look at all that tasty source!) without playing BS games or paying BS licensing fees.

    And yes, right now, in 2001, the US is the economic 800 lb. gorilla. But by the time my son (five weeks old this past Tuesday) is old enough to vote, you better belive various brown/slant-eyed/'furrin' speakin' communists are going to be showing their shit. And quite frankly, it doesn't involve paying Bill and the fam squat.

    Let's say that tomorrow, China alone (ignoring India, which would make this more pathetic) had as many PCs per capita that the US did. Furthermore, let's imagine that most of them ran some Open Source OS. All of the sudden, Micro-Soft's 92% domination of the market shrank to what, about %20?? What happened to the monopoly power?

    Quite frankly, if either Linux or Micro-Soft wants to get ahead, it's time to have easy-peazy Mandarin support. Or give the Chinese a few years. They'll take care of it themselves. A billion people with a little motivation and direction can really mess things up (or change them for the better depending on your POV).

    (Better stop. This is starting to sound like that Chinese or communist tide sketch from Python)
  • I've never seen Mozilla advertised on TV or in mainstream newspapers and publicatoins. I've seen Microsoft advertise its products in these places.

    Maybe if Netscape/Mozilla marketed its product to the general public, there would be more awareness among that group?

    Fault for that lack of awareness lies with the organisation.

    If I try to create a car brand to compete with the massive companies, I'd need to do some serious advertising/marketing/PR to get people aware, interested, and buying. If people trust existing brands, and ignore my car brand, then that is hardly their fault - they've worked hard to build up awareness and trust in their name.

  • To her mom, a computer is just a computer. It sends her e-mail, she can put picture from her digital camera on it, but she doesn't even think about things like licensing or freedom

    And that's how it should be. You should use what works best for you. If you don't want to be bothered with anything technical, just send email, write recipies, etc., then use what is easiest, which is probably Windows. I'm quite happy for Linux to stay away from the mass market - it means it will stay oriented toward the areas which are best for me.

    Don't assume that the operating system space should be a monoculture. For all the wierdos harping about Windows, it's a very good product, particularly given the (mostly achieved) objective of maintaining compatibility with code going all the way back to Windows 2.

  • Publicly funded software should be released into thge public domain: we funded it, and we deserve to be able to use it. Not just we the Open Source community, but also corporations (they pay taxes too, after all, and are made up of individuals as well). Now, being in the public domain means that software can be relicensed under the GPL, if that is what is desired. Thus bug fixes to GPLed software can be distributed under the GPL.
  • You could argue, of course, that because Microsoft has been forcing companies to pay over and over just to keep what is basically the same functionality, Microsoft is hurting the economy. That is, they make you buy new office software by making the new product incompatible with the old, although with the new XP stuff, they won't have to bother - they can make you pay over and over without having to come up with new formats.

    When companies operate less efficiently, the overall economy suffers. The extreme example is, you could have 100% employment by having people harvesting food and performing other manual tasks that are currently automated.

    If you have to pay again for something you already bought (i.e. pay for a new Windows license when you replace your old computer), you are operating less efficiently. Unlike other subscription-based schemes, Microsoft isn't adding any additional value for the subscriber (cable companies, satellite providers, etc. must keep their systems going in order for subscribers to use their services). On the other hand, someone could nuke Redmond and the MS software would still keep going - at least until hit hit the artificially imposed deadline.

    I would argue that in the long run, this approach hurts the economy.

    Even if you disregard subscription software, though, you could still argue that heavier reliance on open/free software eventually improves the economy, since companies can operate more efficiently - there is a good solid framework for new development and you don't have a single company trying to place barriers to development in order to maintain their monopoly.

    Never forget that all that money that Microsoft makes eventually comes out of our pockets - either directly or indirectly.

    Then again, you could also argue that I'm full of it. :-)
  • by Khalid ( 31037 ) on Friday June 29, 2001 @02:27AM (#121236) Homepage
    >Solution: Don't buy the thing for fucks sake.
    >Has anyone ever had a gun stuck down their
    >throat by an MS employee and been forced to
    >purchase MS software? No so what the hell is the
    >big deal?

    Well, in corporation alas, it doesn't works like this. Most of time, the easiest and less risky solution is to go with an M$ product. To swim against the tide, you need to be highly motivated and you need really a lot of energy, to convince the upper management. Most of the time people just give up, as they don't want to add the this burden for projects which migh be already difficult.

  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Friday June 29, 2001 @05:19AM (#121241) Homepage Journal
    After consecutive straight weeks of hot-air, nothing gained or accomplished, anti-IBM reverse incestuous FUD, underpaidBBStech goes batshit....

    C'mon people. Ask yourself, and really think about this. Do you really think that most companies are going to switch to PC clones, if IBM continues with it's bullying of corporate clients, strong-arming of minicomputer manufacturers and subscription models?

    I am so sick of all the "DOS will win out in the end" fervour. It's not happening anytime soon, guys. Market penetration and an established userbase are working against you.

    Enough said.

    Aaron Sherman (
  • No Microsoft has a monopoly because of what people choose and what people choose is Microsoft.

    The problem is that people don't (and often can't) choose due to Microsoft having a racket going with supply to OEMs. Which effectivly puts them in the position of "if you want to supply Windows at all you do so on our terms". Microsoft's terms tend to be "Supply the latest version", "only supply our software", "use only the default install", etc.
  • Actually for site license enterprise customers they do have a gun to their head. Pay for Win XP and Office XP by October 1st or pay full price after that.

    Does Microsoft do an actual site licence anyway? Remember that they have years experience in intimidating and FUDding OEMs. Sounds like they are simply extending their tactics.
  • Well, perhaps I WANT to buy an HP Kayak WITH LINUX PRE-LOADED! Isn't it a violation of ME the CUSTOMER that I can't buy an HP Kayak with Linux preloaded?

    And it gets even sillier. Microsoft wants a situation where they can end up being paid twice for Windows per machine.
    Trying to say that an OEM licence dosn't cover putting Windows on the machine using drive imaging software.
  • ah, but what about the reason that HP won't sell you a non-windows pc: because microsoft says that if they do they lose their OEM license.

    If they still want Windows it will cost them considerably more per unit.
    The only suppliers likely to be flexable are those too small to have these special OEM deals in the first place. Indeed they might prefer Linux since they can charge a lower price with higher markup.

    I think(and i'm just stating my opinion), that's a pretty questionable practice.

    The term you are looking for is "racket". Can anyone even find other examples of this kind of thing which do not involve organised crime?
  • If HP could make a profit selling Kayaks with Linux pre-loaded (i.e. the overhead costs of preinstalling it would be made up for by more sales)

    You are missing that the overhead costs of installing Windows are non zero. What makes you think that pre-loading Linux would be more expensive. It's quite possibly less since the process can also perform diagnostics, with Windows you need to put a special image on, rather than a fully working system, so how do you test it?
  • Microsoft is correct in this case: since companies fund the government, the software created with those funds should be as accessible as possible. The GPL certainly doesn't allow that, because companies aren't allowed to use code governed by it in their own projects (unless, of course, they open the source, which you can't force companies to do).

    The GPL isn't "open" enough since it dosn't allow the software to be converted into proprietary software. An interesting kind of "logic". The real reason Microsoft don't like the GPL is that it makes software immune to their normal business practice of "asymilate or kill".
    The only parts of their code it would "force" the opening of would be derived works from CPL software. If they don't like this then maybe they should first think about changing the way US copyright law handles "derived works".
  • This may be forbidden already. It seems to me that allowing Microsoft Word documents to enter or leave a government office is not providing equal protection under the law to all consumers. There's something or other that guarantees everyone equal protection under the law.

    That would be anti-discrimination legislation. In the case of the US Federal government the US consitution explicitally forbids any discrimination.
  • As is i believe that the recent MS liscense which bans "viral" tools from being used with a released API-- which offers a definition of "viral" more extreme than what the GPL is, then gives the GPL as an example of fufilling that definition-- is slander

    Or rather libel, since it is written rather than spoken. (A more serious situation.)
    Another aspect here is "projection", Microsoft is accusing the GPL of being "viral" when if there is a viral licence involved here it's Microsoft's.
  • Of course, I turned off the new XP theme immediately. It looks pretty much like Win2K once you get it to calm down.

    So what advantages does it actually have over Win2K then?
    It dosn't help matters that Microsoft appear to be selling software using the same methods GM invented to sell cars.
  • Then, we look back another 15 years. CP/M is the best OS available. Microsoft buys DOS for $50000, ports BASIC to DOS, and undersells CP/M by a substantial amount, and owns desktops

    The critical issue here isn't how much DOS sold for, so much as Microsoft's contract with IBM for supply of DOS.
  • Then, as in the early 80s, when Microsoft were instrumental in the first truly personal computer - the mass-market computer, Microsoft truly brought computing to the masses.

    The difference here is that the early 80's was a competitive market. Whilst Microsoft were a big player in supply of BASIC they wern't the only player. Indeed the one project to carry the Microsoft name (MSX) fell flat on it's face. MSX machines just couldn't compete with those from Commodore, Acorn, Sinclair, Oric, etc.
  • As you have said, they have been responsible for bringing computers to the mainstream.

    Probably more credit is due Compaq than Microsoft. Who turned the hardware into a commodity product with competition at many levels.

    The reason why I dont like MS is because of their "below the belt" business tactics.

    The top of the list must be their contracts with OEMs...
  • You might be so kind as to credit Apple, Commodore, and other GUI companies with the research work that Microsoft has so kindly expropriated

    See "search for actual Microsoft innovation threads" :)

    You might note that this was the primary reason behind Apple's UI suit of the early 90s - which, if you recall, they lost mostly because they'd written a license for MS with enough loopholes to drive a small carrier group through.

    Did Apple actually write this licence?
  • The main reason for the binary ones (e.g. .DOC) is that it's easier to tweak them to load/save more quickly. This isn't as much of an issue as it used to be, but back when most documents were stored on floppies, things like quicker loading and saving were big selling points.

    How does that explain the long standing bug in Word being able to save to floppy?
  • Open standards allow fair play and use of resources by everbody (a democratic ideal).

    Note that "everybody" in this context also includes business. If anything rather than being "unamerica" something like the GPL at least in agreement with the US constitution. Where the whole point of IP protection is the promotion of "science and useful arts".
    Making a profit from IP wasn't intended as being an end in itself so much a "carrot" to publish.
  • 1. Microsoft invented (or is it Innovated??) the GUI. Right. I've got this bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

    There is one in London available too.

    2. People hate Microsoft Corporation because they are successful. No. Perhaps some people do. People hate Microsoft for the same reason that some people dislike television. It plays to the lowest common denominator. That does not appeal to me.

    People also dislike Microsoft because they find their business practices distasteful, in some cases very similar to those employed in organised crime...

    5.Quality is an issue. I know people who love Windows. They think it is so easy to use, that it's easy to install (they think the 20 questions game Microsoft plays with you to register when booting a new machine is 'installing')

    It's hardly an endorsement to say in effect that it's easy to do something you should never need to do in the first place anyway...

    6.Arcane filesystems. Did I read correctly? Do you have a problem with read/write permissions? I know I love mine. The last thing I need is some script kiddie getting into my machine (with no account even) and having full write access to

    In a corporate environment you want to be able to sit a box on someone's desk and be sure that it isn't easily broken. You just can't do this with Windows, since there is no proper distinction made between "user" and "administrator".

    7.Grandmas. I'll grant you that Linux (and the other *N*X flavors aren't *inherently* the most user-friendly thing out there, but that's improving.

    Nor is Windows that user friendly. e.g. grandma is upset and insulted when the computer says she did something "illegal".

    Also, when set up properly, it's a lot easier for grandma to kill important files in Windows than it is in a non-root account on a *N*X box.

    It's trivial for anyone, being a woman or having grandchildren isn't really a factor here

    Do you know what the best part was? She could copy the songs to her own 'home' folder (Hmm, a concept borrowed in Windows XP? Innovators...bah.)

    XP also "borrows" having a login screen with icons for users from KDM.
  • If you're hoping to eliminate the public-domainness of the original release, it seems very doubtful that that would have any legal force.

    Maybe they were looking at something like making a trivial change, then trying to create uncertainty about which version the corporate actually used...
    Whilst this tactic might work when used by a large corporate its unlikely to be useable against one.
    It's the kindof abuse of the law where you need deep pockets.
  • How? These companies can take all the GPL'ed code they want, make whatever modifications they want, and sell it for whatever price they want. So, how are they being deprived of it?

    They are being deprived of the ability to be a monopoly in supplying the result and to place conditions on what whoever they supply it to can do with it. Further they cannot sell a binary only product and thus have a monoploy in support and modification.

    So what if they have to release the source code for their modified version? They can still sell it, and make a profit.

    But they can't use the same business techniques and methods which they are used to. Attempt to sell GPL software as though it is proprietary and the most likely result is going bankrupt.
  • how are they out billions of dollars. OSS is free(typically). Even if the Gov. pays for development it's going to be a shitload cheaper than having to pay for proprietary software that they have to pay again for when they want to upgrade?

    Whatever it costs this money is likely to stay in the Brizilian economy, rather than winging its way North.
    What is Brazil's current balance of payments situation?
  • When you're the US government you can demand that MS release its source code for analysis as part of a contract (and they do). From what I hear from my military buddies, though, it takes a hell of a long time to analyze it, as you might imagine. Personally, if I were the government I'd be happier with open source, since its analysis is relatively commonplace, and security implications are well-known.

    Also OS code is more likely to be written to be easy for someone to understand. Thus your analysts have less work to do. Let alone if they actually find something they don't like they can do something about it.
    Whilst the US military might be able to see MS source code are they able to build custom versions?

    You don't want any little surprises when state secrets are on the line.

    This applies even more when you are not the US government and have no close diplomatic ties with the US.
  • What would happen if the GPL was struck down by the courts?

    In this case Microsoft would loose, since they would be fighting court battles to protect their own licencing systems.
  • If it wasn't for the fact that it had been under such a free and liberal license as the BSD license, we might never have seen the rise of such quality, albeit proprietary, operatings systems such as Sun's Solaris or Windows 2000. The nature of the GPL would have forced the companies to give away a lot of the rest of their intellectual property

    Complete and utter rubbish. All the GPL would oblige them to distribute under the GPL would be any GPL and GPL derived works they used.
    Since IP is a published specification the only changes which would have been likely would be of the bug fixing kind. What GPL does prevent is "embrace and extend".
    The only situation where GPL would force giving away their IP would be if they had attempted to contaminate GPL code with proprietary additions. Or their code was complete "sphagetti". It structured modular programming is beyond them then probably best the go out of business anyway!

    Forcing the openness of all the software would have been wrong and anti-American.

    Actually the only way you could actually make it "anti-American" would be to ammend the constitution. The sole reason IP laws even exist in the USA is to promote publication.
  • According to you, if the BSD TCP/IP stack had been under the GPL, Solaris and Win2K wouldn't be able to access the internet! Do you not realize that TCP/IP is a published standard? Any company or group of individuals can get a copy of that standard and write their own TCP/IP stack which follows the published standard and interoperates with other systems through it.

    Anyway even lawyers and judges can understand the concept of modular programming.
  • MS keeps arguing "everyone should benefit" from the software the government is paying for, and that since companies can't benefit from GPL software, tge government shouldn't be spending any morney on it. Fine.

    Fine except that the meaning of "everybody" changes mid sentence...
  • Microsoft could *never* challange the legality of the GPL, no matter how much money they throw into it.

    Certainly not in the USA without a consitutional ammendment. For the simple reason that the GPL is about encouraging publication...
  • Why shouldn't the term "organized crime" apply to Microsoft?

    Simply because it isn't Politically Correct to do so.

    I think the definition of "organized crime" needs to be broadened to mean more than just the Mafia... The shoe seems to fit corporations such as Microsoft just as well. Bonus points for RICO action on them (not that that will happen with the current political environment)...

    There was another post recently about RICO being applied to a medical charity, so the definition does appear to be broad anyway.
  • by mpe ( 36238 ) on Friday June 29, 2001 @03:18AM (#121268)
    Market penetration and an established userbase are working against you.

    But you also have an established attitude of "change everything every 18-24 months", which greatly complicates things. It means that Microsoft's desktop monopoly actually has its foundation built in quicksand....

    Look, I firmly believe that any MS server platform is and will continue to be utter SHITE. But, most people that use computers are not even interseted in the damn things.

    They probably do care when they don't work. They might even care when things can work better with less money being spent.

    Until Linux as easy to install,

    Except that end users shouldn't be installing operating systems in the first place, in the main they don't. The issue here is education as to why users shouldn't have the chore of installing software and why it's a bad idea in the first place.

    use and has the applications that we all know and love (or hate),

    Not really so critical as it might appear because of the way things keep changing
    and is no more confusing or intimidating as Windows

    Windows is very confusing and intimidating in one critical area. That is when something goes wrong

    Has anybody used XP yet? It looks like an OS for toddlers. Big, gawdy Fisher-Price/Tonka Truck icons and buttons. Very non-intimidating, and I'm using the professional beta. They really dumbed the OS down. I wonder what the final "server" release will be like?

    Non intimidating to who? Also it could easily end up being just as intimidating to adults.
    The problem is doing this to a "server" is actually part of the problem, not only do you get an interface which does not help system administrators you get a situation where end users think theu know what they are doing...
  • by mpe ( 36238 ) on Friday June 29, 2001 @06:33AM (#121269)
    If microsoft would just stop all this crap with windows being the one and only operating system and get back to the task of developing software NO MATTER WHAT THE PLATFORM OR LICENSE we would all be better off.

    Including Microsoft, as someone said on CNN last night.

    Lets face it Bill Gates is a very corrupt person and no matter how much money he gives away he will still be corrupt.

    He's more someone who is obsessed. Which is not to say the methods used to further the obsession (of Windows everywhere) arn't utterly corrupt.
  • If it's released without any copyright, thus into the public domain, then can't anyone just appropriate it, alter it trivially, and claim copyright on the whole work? And thus GPL their trivially different strain?

    I assume so, but so what? Any corporation that wants to use the code can just grab a public-domain copy and do whatever they want with it. The GPL will only protect the changes made to your own derived strain.

    If you're hoping to eliminate the public-domainness of the original release, it seems very doubtful that that would have any legal force. Otherwise, corporations would circle like vultures waiting for any any public-domain release, and instantly remove the release for the public domain. This doesn't happen. Instead, corporations must rely on tactics like embrace-and-extend, where the legal rights only apply to their derivative works but not to the original.
  • After all its OUR money which funds government projects...

    Corporations have been known to pay taxes too.
  • by csbruce ( 39509 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @05:15PM (#121274)
    Well, not "immortality" in the sense that it is guaranteed that people will continue to use it, but immortality in the sense, as you allude, that people *can* continue to use it, that anyone can resurrect it at any later date, and that anyone can lift useful bits and pieces of code out of the programs for use in a different GPLed project.
  • by brianvan ( 42539 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @03:57PM (#121279)
    You know, when I was in high school, I had an underground newspaper. A lot of kids liked it. A lot of kids didn't care about it. And a few kids were assinine enough to call me names like "fag", "dork", and "ass-kisser" as I handed out my newspapers. Now, there were kids who physically threatened me at times, but I was no pushover... I fought back, and won almost all of the time... but if it didn't come to that, I simply politely ignored them and continued with my business. I figured that I had better things to do than waste my time reacting to every loser who wanted to make me look stupid. In general, my newspaper was a success, and I remember who read it and enjoyed it rather than those who were pricks about it.

    So why can't you guys do that with Linux and Microsoft? Sticks and stones (and lawsuits and anti-competitive measures) may break your bones, but names won't ever hurt you. You can't spent a lot of time worrying about this crap. Just write good programs, put together a good operating system to fit peoples' needs, and you will be a success no matter what. I honestly don't know why you get so worked up over nothing, really...
  • Professors usually have a tenure and are paid to do research work as well as lecturing. It's a step up the food chain from a Post Grad (who is usually earning a PhD and paying for the privilege).
  • Damn good point. Now why can't professors see this sort of thing?

    Of course, it raises the question on whether companys should benefit from University's research. Also, once the research is done once and GPL'd, it doesn't take much effort to research the results and write your own code from it. You may want to use a chinese wall situation but it should still assist.

    Of course, this means University research is highly favoring the Free Software movement, but I've not really formed an opinion on that yet. Someone else want to form one for me?
  • Ooohhh. Rather a class system you chaps have over there! Wow.
  • by throx ( 42621 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @03:51PM (#121284) Homepage
    So Microsoft is attacking the GPL because they can't "embrace and extend" GPL'd programs? I think this is a short sighted view of the whole thing and a conclusion that really doesn't surprise a lot of people or analysts.

    I would have expected more from a professor.

    Microsoft has many reasons for attacking the GPL but by far the biggest reason is to attack Linux. I don't think they are too upset about not being able to embrace and extend Linux - they could do that anyway by simply putting a Linux ABI on NT (which is entirely possible and less work than most people think). What really concerns them is the increase in server sales of Linux. The best way to stop people using and developing for Linux is to attack the GPL. It's simple really - make people afraid of the license and Linux suffers.

    It's naive to think the MS attacks on Linux are somehow special. Look at their site and you'll see plenty of vitriol against Sun/Solaris, Oracle and other systems - just they attack a different way because different systems have different perceived weaknesses. Linux is nothing special in this regard. Microsoft has just started to take notice. Competition is good, but don't complain if the heat gets turned up.

    I did like one bit where he brazenly states that adding instructions to a CPU won't speed it up. I think people will find the 386 faster than the 286, MMX faster than non-MMX and Altivec faster than non-Altivec. The comments are silly - of course new instructions can speed up a CPU. They just have to be useful and well implemented.
  • by throx ( 42621 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @08:05PM (#121285) Homepage
    What is interesting about .NET is that the runtime is actually being ported to FreeBSD by Caldera. I wonder how long it takes to get an MSIL implementation running on Linux? Given that it is going to be an ECMA standard (unlike Java), it shouldn't be too long until someone implements the full runtime and class library, not to mention creates a gcc back end.

    Now the "application services" side of .NET: You have a good point that I didn't consider. I'll remember to factor that in to my future arguments.

    I hate .NET. It means so many different things, some good (MSIL/runtime/C#) some bad (subscription services). I wish they hadn't lumped it all under the same handle.
  • Commercial companies are co-owners of the publically funded software, and these co-owners are deprived of what they paid for.

    If that argument were sufficient, I would be drop in at Andrews Air Force Base and demand a ride on one of the planes of which I am a "co-owner".

  • The real flaw in your logic is that taking a ride in a jet is disruptive to normal ongoing operations. Making source code available is not disruptive to normal ongoing operations.

    The point of the GPL is to prevent someone from modifying GPL code and releasing the modified version as closed-source executables only. I trust that I needn't bore the /. crowd with a detailed explanation of how the release of a similar but not-quite-compatible version of an existing standard can be "disruptive to normal ongoing operations".

  • We will stop caring about FUD when software consumers stop listening to M$ft press releases.
  • It would be more expensive because HP and most other big manufacturers do not build computers to order, they have assembly lines. If you're only installing one OS, that's simple. If you're installing two, then you have to fork the assembly line and keep separate inventories of the same machines with different OSes. Forking the assembly line adds cost because you need extra equipment and extra workers to handle the extra OS. Keeping separate inventories of the same PC with different OSes causes overhead.

    And no, there are no diagnostics done. Why would anyone do that? This is an economy of scale--you set up one PC to have a crisp OS install, and since the hardware in all the others for that model will be identical, you image the drive and duplicate it down to the bit for each and ever PC that has the same hardware. If the hardware is imperfect the store or buyer will send it back--it's cheaper that way than testing each PC, since they churn them out by the thousands and only a tiny fraction will be flawed.

    So the point is, it doesn't benefit most companies anything to add a Linux option. It adds cost to have two OSes instead of just one, even if the second OS is free it still costs an incredible amount of overhead compared to just having to install one, since we're talking about having to fork one assembly process into two. If there were a large enough demand for Linux desktop PCs, then companies like HP would make them. But there is not enough demand to offset their costs, since almost all customers want Windows--as I pointed out, few geeks buy desktop systems from big manufacturers, and geeks and their associates are the only end users who would run Linux in all likelihood. So, there's no profit. Hell, even VA Linux just got out of the hardware business--not enough geeks were buying Linux machines from them for them to make a profit from it, and we're talking VA Linux here, the company whose banners have been right here in the heart of geekdom since before they even bought /. So if enough geeks aren't willing to buy VA Linux hardware for them to stay in the hardware business, then enough geeks definitely wouldn't buy HP Linux desktops to make it worth them even considering maybe possibly doing it sometime in the distant future. Be realistic.
  • which is why Windows XP will come bundled with a browser, media player, fire-wall, email client, and ISP.

    Solution: Don't buy the thing for fucks sake. Has anyone ever had a gun stuck down their throat by an MS employee and been forced to purchase MS software? No so what the hell is the big deal?

    Placing a firewall with all these moronic attacks taking place is a good thing definitely nothing wrong with MS doing so. Bundling a media player, OH MY GOD SAY IT ISN'T SO! Don't you think people would appreciate listening to music on their PC. Again no one is stopping anyone from using alternatives they can download, MS never threatened anyone for creating an alternative MS based media player.

    OH MY GOD STOP IT!! An email client!! NO!!! What will they think of next, heaven knows no one really needs an email client. Nope they need a bare bones OS they can spend hours on end downloading everything from scratch. Evil Microsoft, how dare they.

    All this bashing is making me sick. Shit I don't use MS, way I see it, out of sight out of mind, my opinion is let them be, they can self destruct on their own.
  • I applaud Dr. Pfaffenberger's insight. The focus is on GPL because Linux won't last forever but GPL will. GPL is an exquisite pain in Gates' groin and he can't stand it any longer. In the wake of today's court announcement that Microsoft will not be broken up, we should expect a legal challenge by MS against GPL soon on constitutional grounds. We must be prepared to support the FSF legal team with every penny we have.
  • by guisar ( 69737 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @03:41PM (#121315) Homepage
    As I have pointed out in a paper I wrote a few years ago ( the Government doesn't directly distribute ANY GPL. It must be released by a third party usually an individual since few organizations until the last few years released anything GPL'd. Federally funded software is most generally distributed without a copyright of any kind (Title 17, Section 105).
  • Furthermore, storing or distributing any files in a proprietary file format should be forbidden for all government offices. They should only be allowed to use a given file format if full specs for the format are publically and freely available and are unencumbered in any way by patents or other IP law.
    There is already a legal requirement that most executive branch communications (memos, white papers, etc.) have to be filed with the National Archives. To date that has meant paper or microfilm - the archivists don't trust the long-term stability/readability of new-fangled stuff like CD-ROMs. This has led to absurd stuff like people printing out their email and handing the bales of paper over.

    The situation is compounded by the use of proprietary software with its ever-changing formats (MS Word being the most prominent offender). The National Archives could give proprietary formats a poke in the eye, reduce costs, and improve service if they would choose an archival digital format (CD-ROMs might be acceptable, given appropriate testing), and state that they will accept digital submissions in formats that are published and blessed by standards bodies.
  • They don't have to find that the GPL is illegal, they just have to find that the GPL is unenforcable. That would make it pretty much useless. If would also make it very hard to relicense a lot of software which was written through the combined efforts of different developers. I don't think that this will happen, but IAMAL, so I'm mostly rambling about something I don't know much about.
  • Microsoft spends Millions if not Billions of dollars trying to improve their public image. I can just see it in the press now, "Microsoft violates the license used by Linux!", "Microsoft steals code from starving programmers in latest application!". These topics are becomming mainstream enough to effect Microsoft's core customers' opinion of them. They'll just wait until someone else violates the GPL, and use their lobying and PR efforts as best they can to discredit the GPL.
  • I guess I have a different opinion on subscription based licensing of software than some people here. When I worked in computer support about 5 years ago, we were licensing MS software through Microsoft Enterprise Licensing Program. It worked very well in a large corporate environment, and was very cost effective. You bought licenses at avolume discount, and you could run whichever MS OS you felt was appropriate on the machines you had licensed it for, except server versions. That meant that you could load Win95 or NT4. When Win 98 came out, you could switch to it if you chose to do so. What made it work was that the prices for the subscription were cost effective for us opposed to buying the OS with the computers, and then upgrading the OS on some of them later. Another large benefit was that it greatly simplified keeping trace of software licenses. We were spending 10s of thousands of dollars keeping track of licenses, and we still failed every internal software audit, every time. Once you get to the point where you have hundreds of employees, just keeping track of how many computers you have is a challenge, knowing what OS and software they are running is nearly impossible. There is other software that I've purchased as a subscription, where it worked well. One example is the recently maligned MSDN. You pay around $500 for a professional level license. It includes everything you need to develop device drivers but the compiler. You still purchase Visual C++ seperately. You also get a license to load up to 5 computers with MS OSs in order to test your software. This includes Windows 9X right up to Win XP server beta 2. Advanced server and datacenter versions are not included. The software and documentation you are sent is constantly being updated, and you receive these updates as part of the subscription price.
    I guess my point is that sometimes a subscription is a good way to purchase software. It depends on the software, and the price. As long as MS continues to offer the software on a non-subscription basis as well, and they don't artificially inflate the price, this my work out well for many consumers.
  • I pay taxes too. What if I want to take the code and put it in my software. The code should be released into the public domain because the public paid for it. I can then use that code and release the software under any license I choose. That could be BSD, GPL, or a closed source license.
    If you limit government funded to being released under GPL, then you prohibit that software from being used in software under almost every other license.
  • Microsoft did not pay a penny in federal income tax last year!

    While this is true, it's kind of misleading. Microsoft didn't pay income tax because they were able to count the stock options they gave their employees as an expense. This just shifts the tax burden to their employees. This means that although Microsoft itself didn't pay any taxes directly, Microsoft still generated an enourmous amount of this country's tax base.
  • The government has been moving away from funding development and trying to buy off the shelf products. They are doing this because they can get comercial software cheaper than custom built software. The reason for this is that commercial software is writen for a wider customer base, and therefore the development costs are spread out over a wider number of customers. If you force all the software the government uses to be GPL (which is something Greyfox didn't necessarily propose, but other posters did). How do you pay the developers, or who pays the developers? You can say that people will pay developers to add the features that they need added. Developers are expensive, why would they pay someone to write code, when they know someone else needs the same thing, and when it gets written for them, you'll get it for free. What you end up with is a bunch of hackers writing code for the joy of it, while having to have other jobs, and the government paying for the rest of the development. That's a horrible way to fund software development, and doesn't really encourage investment in innovation. The money has to come from somewhere, and the government can't provide all of it. The govenment can't even provide much of it unless it has a tax base. For them to have a tax base, people have to be making money. Where does the money come from.
    The standard answer I hear to this is that the money will be made through selling hardware and support. The problem with this is that is doesn't spread the costs out among the people who need the software very well. You'll always have those who won't pay for the software to be developed, and then undercut the prices of those who do. It's not a level playing field. It is possible for a few companies to make money selling hardware and services for GPLed software, but it's not something you can base your economy on. The system isn't self limiting. Those who chose to not pay for the innovation have the lowest costs, and can make the most money. This discourages innovation, even though the tools for innovation (the source code itself) are more available.
    If you think I'm wrong then let me know. I will read your posts and listen to your facts and opinions. If you flame me or just repeat some unsupported dogma, then my opinion isn't likely to change.
  • Federally funded software is most generally distributed without a copyright of any kind (Title 17, Section 105).

    If it's released without any copyright, thus into the public domain, then can't anyone just appropriate it, alter it trivially, and claim copyright on the whole work? And thus GPL their trivially different strain?

  • Linux just happened to be the first project that got completed. NSA has been playing with different ideas for secure systems on several different OS's.

  • Well first off, using OSS programmers could be cheaper. Standard government kind of thing is to take bids. If commercial software licensing over a set period of time would be cheaper, I'm all for using it.

    The thing about GPLed code is, as your base increases, you'll have to do less and less development. There's really enough stuff out there now to do a lot of jobs. Though I must admit that one of the things I'm for is forcing Government employees to learn LaTeX. I'm solidly convinced that they'd be able to generate necessary documents much faster after they got over the learning curve and would be much more reluctant to generate unnecessary paperwork. Anyway, as your code base increases, your development costs drop off. This effect would almost certainly snowball as non-government users start using the software. And they would, because if it's suitable for government work, it's suitable for a lot of stuff outside too.

    The other thing about the GPL is it prevents anyone from subverting the code in any way. If you want to play with the code, you have to show your cards. Given past history, it is obvious that such restrictions are necessary to get everyone to play nice in the community.

    Will this put programmers out of work? Probably less than you'd think. Every programming job I've had in the past 13 years has been custom programming -- some company wanted an application written or maintained that was not available outside the company. Everything from dogtrack management to extending inventory systems to developing custom embedded code. You can't go get any of what I did off a shelf. Those jobs would have existed even if Microsoft was giving away every bit of code they ever owned.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @03:53PM (#121334) Homepage Journal
    I'd take his statement on the government one step farther though. The government should be required to justify the cost of licensing any given piece of software they use vs. hiring an application team to develop or extend a suitable GPLed replacement. Unless they can prove that the proprietary piece of software is cheaper, it should be mandatory that they contribute to the GPL pool. If a suitable GPLed product is available, its use should be mandatory.

    Furthermore, storing or distributing any files in a proprietary file format should be forbidden for all government offices. They should only be allowed to use a given file format if full specs for the format are publically and freely available and are unencumbered in any way by patents or other IP law.

  • If it's released without any copyright, thus into the public domain, then can't anyone just appropriate it, alter it trivially, and claim copyright on the whole work? And thus GPL their trivially different strain?

    This would be a derivative work and the copyright would only apply to the changes.

  • Well, here's my personal opinion as to why government-funded code should be GPL and NOT BSD. If the code is released BSD, then anyone may do with it what they wish--including make proprietary changes and not release them, in essence making use of tax dollars directly for their own benefit. If the code is released GPL, then the benefit stays with the public rather than being available for appropriation by a (in theory) corporate entity.

    Now this is a bit simplistic of course, and I'm certainly open to debate :) You might say, for example, "Well there are already lots of forms of corporate welfare, where tax dollars go to directly helping corporations." Well, this is true, but I don't usually think that such expenditures are a good idea, and I certainly don't think that just because it already happens, that it would be a good idea to encourage MORE of it. I am of the opinion (for now, at least) that it is the government's duty to make sure that publicly funded things are available for public use and do not get appropriated for private gain.

    Now on that last point, granted, code can be copied, so (like all other information) it's not like Microsoft using BSD'd gov-funded code means the code is unavailable for use by anyone else... but it DOES mean that Microsoft can now benefit from that *at the expense of the public*. I'm not comfortable with that, particularly.

    Of course, this is all debatable -- as a matter of law, I don't know whether BSD or GPL (or some other scheme entirely) is the legitimate answer... but generally I would tend to think that the GPL is the more "ethical" answer.

  • I call Windows XP "Windows for Dummies". Of course, that's redundant. :)
  • by magi ( 91730 ) on Friday June 29, 2001 @05:56AM (#121338) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft's arguments for the proprietary software business are, in a way, rational and sound. Companies have benefited and will benefit from the proprietary model, possibly more than from the "service business" model of the open source. Attaching Microsoft's leach in your neck may give you profit, in some cases. GPL doesn't fit everywhere, true. It may, in some cases, be harmful also to certain software businesses and forms of innovation generally. Perhaps true.

    What Microsoft doesn't want you to understand is that by playing their rational game, you lose, they win.

    Doing business is much like playing games. No wonder some praise Go or other strategy games for learning business tactics. It's not just business, but all competition, such as evolution, is much based on "games".

    Game theory is a branch of mathematics that deals with identifying winning strategies and situations in games, such as business.

    Drama theory [] is a generalization of the game theory that takes into account irrationality. Irrationality, in this case, means just short-term irrationality. On long term, or on another scale, it's very rational.

    Traditional models of "rational choice", such as those based on Game Theory and Decision Theory tend to work on the assumption that aims/preferences can be specified prior to the decision process, and remain fixed during it. Other approaches, by contrast, stress the dynamics of preference change and problem re-formulation.''

    Drama theory gives explanations to why people get mad, envious, revengeful, bullying, and what not. These are usually considered very negative aspects of life, and I'm not trying to say that they shouldn't be, but their function really is just level the playing field when you get stuck in a losing situation. They are rational at some level.

    Revolutions, violent demonstrations, and wars (''war is just a continuation of politics'') are examples of trying to change the rules. Others more accepted ones are boycotts, work strikes, and so on. Religions are not usually rational - but amazingly they are often helpful to the followers. Even if a certain God of Vows (such as Mithra) doesn't exist, believing in his powers and making business deals or marriages in his name helps in building a strong society. Irrationality pays, big.

    Microsoft wants businesses to play by the traditional rules of the business game. Supporting the proprietary business model may be rational in many cases. But the problem is that Microsoft has attained a game-theoretically sustainable winning position. You can only win by changing the rules, which may require slight "irrationality".

    It's perfectly rational to get red mad at Microsoft, and give up short-term business opportunities, to perhaps be able to compete in a healthy market later.

    Microsoft is also trying to talk generally about the ''best'' business model for software industry, although Linux and Open Source movements are an ad hoc response of the IT world to combat specially against Microsoft's unhealthy monopoly. The rationale for general context is completely irrational and irrelevant for the current specific situation in the operating system industry.

    GPL means changing the rules, especially for this particular situation. It means starting a revolution, which may in some cases mean giving up the proprietary model even where it might have been useful otherwise. The target is Microsoft.

    This is what Microsoft is afraid of.

  • by blakestah ( 91866 ) <> on Thursday June 28, 2001 @07:28PM (#121341) Homepage
    This article really misses the boat.

    If we backstep 3-5 years, we see a different computing environment. Microsoft OWNS the desktop and office. UNIX OWNS servers.

    Then, we look back another 15 years. CP/M is the best OS available. Microsoft buys DOS for $50000, ports BASIC to DOS, and undersells CP/M by a substantial amount, and owns desktops.

    Then, to 1995. OS/2 comes out. Windows 95 comes out. OS/2 is good, Windows 95 is junk. Windows 95 sells for under $100. OS/2 sells for a few hundred. Microsoft owns graphical user interface environments. Mac could have owned it, but they made the same error made by CP/M and IBM - they went after the high end.

    The low end takes over. This pattern has repeated itself over and over.

    Back to the mid to late 1990s. Microsoft was concerned. As networking became more relevant, they needed a network presence. Hence Windows NT. It rapidly looked like NT would take over the low end server market. It didn't matter that it sucked badly compared to UNIX - it cost a third of UNIX. The low end would rule again.

    However, as NT was starting to make ground, enter linux. UNIX admins EVERYWHERE set up linux boxes to do server tasks for free instead of tolerating NT. This ate into Microsoft's market.

    Microsoft would OWN the low end server market today if it were not for open source OSs, primarily linux.

    And now Microsoft is attacking the GPL. They are attacking it because it owns markets that otherwise would rightfully belong to Microsoft, following the age old rule that the cheaper system wins independently of function. They can now see the writing on the wall. Linux (and *BSD) has eaten the low end server market, and Microsoft is not getting it back. You cannot undersell free, and Microsoft has never won by competing on quality of software.

    This is alien to their entire business strategy. They make crappier products, sell them cheaply, provide no support, and own the market. Once they own one market, they leverage into other markets as strongly as possible.

    This strategy today makes them a PROFIT ABOVE TAXES OF A BILLION DOLLARS A MONTH. And Microsoft wants more. If they could merely keep new quality software out of the GPL, they have a chance.

    The GPL, you see, does not prevent a business from using software. But it does assign the IP to the open source community. And that scares Redmond to death. Open source has already eaten markets Microsoft had earmarked. They are now worried about the home base - the main monopoly, the billion dollar a month monopoly.

    Now THAT is something to worry about.
  • Think. Places like NASA and the U.S. Navy already using Open Source systems to base their mission critical apps on, with very little likelihood of them switching back to MS stuff. If the entire government switches to non-MS stuff, they have absolutely no reason to stop the antitrust suite against MS.
  • by MrBlack ( 104657 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @04:19PM (#121347)
    The GPL is based on copyright law. They could change copyright law, couldn't they (hell, the do every time disney asks them to)? I'm sure dubya wouldn't mind helping out if one of his big business buddies asked him to. Something along the lines of "copyright law applies as long as the work in question is purchased, if it is given away free then the owner forefits copyright on the work." Also the GPL has never been tested fully in court and M$ have access to a LOT of lawyers.
  • by jgerman ( 106518 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @07:48PM (#121353)
    Big difference. That stuff isn't part of the operating system, it extra software that a distributor is providing you. In most cases all of that software is free or is open source. So not only do they provide it to you and give you the choice on whether or not you want to use it ( as opposed to Windows which does everything in it's power to force you), you have the source if you want to change or see how something works.

    In addition to that you said yourself that you installed everything, that's uneccessary (I do it too, so if I learn about a new tool I don't have to bother installing it), but you are given complete freedom to install just the OS or the OS plus any extra software you want (that is provided that is).

  • by ctembreull ( 120894 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @04:09PM (#121367)
    Unless I'm mistaken, the whole reason this is happening is that people are, in fact, "kicking microsoft's ass with software."

    Microsoft made the conscious, corporate-level choice to attack Linux and its philosophical and community underpinnings on a legal front. It falls to the Linux / Free Software community to respond in kind. Simply ignoring them and taking the high road here will not work, since Microsoft is adept at changing the rules of whatever game it plays to its own liking. Should Free Software advocates simply play wait-and-see, they will undoubtedly find the political and marketplace climates turning very chilly, very quickly.

    Free software is winning on its own merits; it's Microsoft that recognized its own basic inability to compete fairly and has resorted to bringing out the All-Terrain Assault Lawyers.

    Chris Tembreull
    Web Developer, NEC Systems, Inc.

  • by Frizzled ( 123910 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @03:35PM (#121370) Homepage
    Bill Gates, "The ecosystem where you have free software and commercial software--and customers always get to decide which they use--that's a very important and healthy ecosystem"

    ... which is why Windows XP will come bundled with a browser, media player, fire-wall, email client, and ISP.

  • by fetta ( 141344 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @03:37PM (#121382)
    I thought this quote from the article was interesting:
    * A GPL-licensed application pool is indeed forming around Linux, and Microsoft can't figure out how to attack it. You can't attack the companies, because--as Eazel recently proved--the software's still around, even if the company shuts down or gives up on the product.
    Tha ability of GPL'ed software to outlast companies and organizations that create them is an interesting feature to focus on. Because of this capability, GPL software would seem to have more chances to "get it right" than Microsoft's traditional competitors.
  • by InfoSec ( 208475 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @03:37PM (#121430) Homepage
    They do it for the same reasons that they attacked Sun's Java and IBM Network Computers!! They bash everyone else until the fad passes, then they slap a new name on it and release it as their own. Look at .NET. It is the same idea that IBM and Sun were pushing about two years ago, and MS got it so that people said they would ne ver do it. Now MS come out with the same idea and a new name and expect everyone to buy it. Do they think we're retarded??
    Deven Phillips, CISSP
    Network Architect
    Viata Online, Inc.
  • by srand ( 236743 ) <> on Thursday June 28, 2001 @04:30PM (#121454)
    The thing I don't quite understand is why they haven't done this in the past. I mean - all it would take would be for them to violate the GPL in some little application they release and then get taken to court by some developer.

    Of course if the GPL is upheld and a case like that gets kicked all the way up to the Supreme Court then they really would be up a creek (if the Supreme Court upheld the GPL), so that might be a good reason not to. And maybe that's what they're afraid of.

    I think they've already played out that scenario and looked into the GPL and they have good reason to think they would lose (in spite of all their lawyers).

    So barring that what can they do? They could try and blacklist GPL programmers and call us all socialists or communists or something =) Unfortunately for them, McCarthy already tried that and look where it got him.

    They could go after the developers by persuading Congress that GPL programs are written by hackers and that it is illegal to write software with a compiler which doesn't embed some unique id into the binary which allows the developer to be tracked down.

    I don't know - what's the worst possible thing M$ could do that would cripple Open Source? M$ is trying to discredit and destroy a philosphy, which is historically a lot more difficult to do than going after an individual or a corporation. Even countries that have used much more extreme measures than anything M$ has tried have failed when it comes to that.
  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @07:17PM (#121495)
    Slashdot is the last damn place that should be whining about Microsoft spreading FUD.

    Here's the difference between /. and MS:

    That's enough money to buy a slightly used aircraft carrier, all spent on shiny pastel brochures, magazine ads, etc (with some reserved for campaign contributions), all targeted at clueless PHBs and other decision makers.

    Slashdot legions could scream there heads off for centuries and still not get as much exposure as MS is buying.

  • by underpaidISPtech ( 409395 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @05:54PM (#121497) Homepage
    After consecutive straight weeks of hot-air, nothing gained or accomplished, anti-MS reverse incestuous /. FUD, underpaidISPtech goes batshit....

    ARRRGH. C'mon people. Ask yourself, and really think about this. Do you really think that most people are going to switch to Linux, if MS continues with it's smarttags, self-avoiding cookies, subscription models, and forced registration?

    I am so sick of all the "linux will win out in the end" fervour. It's not happening anytime soon, guys. Market penetration and an established userbase are working against you. Look, I firmly believe that any MS server platform is and will continue to be utter SHITE. But, most people that use computers are not even interseted in the damn things. It's just part of their job. They go home and vegetate in front of the TV. They are office drones and are concentrating on the BBQ this weekend, not contemplating the IPO of Mandrake. Mandrake what? All they know about Linux is the FUD they will hear about from major online news feeds, and sorry to say, but for the majority of computer (L)users, /. is not their source for news that matters.

    They have no idea what the GPL is. Or what a BSD license is. --Now, this next part is crucial-- if they see the words "linux" and "virus" in the same sentence, you can bet that their 6'oclock-news-conditioned brains are going to latch on to that real tight. All the discussion on these MS topics for the last while has been never-ending posts about how wrong MS is and endless justifications about how much better Linux is than windoze. That's nice, but the users DON'T KNOW THAT. Let me state this another way, with extra emphasis -- MOST PEOPLE ARE COMPLETELY IGNORANT ABOUT THEIR COMPUTER. (In fact, 90% of respondants to my fictional survey said they find computers downright uninteresting.) File that away in your brain for future reference please. Because although we are knowledgeable and they are not, they pay our salaries, they make the bulk of the purchases, they run the companies we work for.

    Those bad hackers use Linux, hippies use Linux, RMS never showers, chicks dig Windows, Linux is a virus, GPL kills the U.S. economy, GPL kills market innovation, Linux is bad for the ecology, Linux-distro IPO overvalution burst the .com bubble. You name it, MS will say it, people will eat it up. If not MS, someone else would. Hell, I wouldnt be suprised if MS went to court ( on a pretense just to test the GPL in court) and argued that Linux is leveraging it's "free" ( as in beer) status and bundling everything under the fscking sun into its OS, and is therfore anti-competitive to the software industry as a whole.

    So the ultimate test is this:
    Until Linux as easy to install, use and has the applications that we all know and love (or hate), and is no more confusing or intimidating as Windows, AND have a defensive marketing strategy to fend off whatever crap MS or whoever else is threatened by Linux, OSS, GPL, or whatever, then maybe you have a chance of making MS eat our collective shorts. In short, until the OSS movement IS Microsoft.

    P.S. Has anybody used XP yet? It looks like an OS for toddlers. Big, gawdy Fisher-Price/Tonka Truck icons and buttons. Very non-intimidating, and I'm using the professional beta. They really dumbed the OS down. I wonder what the final "server" release will be like? *shudder*

  • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @05:49PM (#121501) Journal

    which is why Windows XP will come bundled with a browser, media player, fire-wall, email client, and ISP.

    How evil of them.

    This got me to thinking: Whenever I install RedHat I click the "everything" box, because I have the disk space and I'm lazy. This past time (7.1) I got:

    • not one, not two, but at least three browsers (netscape, konqueror, and mozilla);
    • a cornucopia of media players (xmms, mpg123, ... I'm sure there's a video player in there somewhere);
    • two firewall systems (ipchains and iptables); and
    • a cornucopia of email clients (pine, elm, mail, netscape mail, mozilla mail, ...)

    And let's not forget:

    • a compiler suite and complete development tools (gcc);
    • an office suite (koffice);
    • graphics manipulation programs (ee and gimp);
    • editors coming out the ying-yang (vi, pico, emacs, xedit, kedit, ...)
    • A number of cheezy little time-wasting games that put Minesweeper and Solitaire to shame; and
    • scores more that I'm sure I will never use before I install RH7.2.

    It seems the only objection to bundling is that it's done by MS.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes