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MS: Use the Source, Luke! 480

McSpew writes: "The WSJ (via MSNBC) has an article about Microsoft's upcoming push to get universities to use .NET code in programming courses. Their code-sharing initiative is all about winning hearts-and-minds at the university level, where Linux and open-source rule the day. The article does a good job of explaining the issues and why MS may yet fail in spite of their push. I wish the article had discussed the reverse-engineering issues of needing 'virgins' who have never seen the product being reverse-engineered and how MS's newly broad distribution of its code makes finding virgins much more difficult."
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MS: Use the Source, Luke!

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  • by jwriney ( 16598 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:07PM (#3235481) Homepage
    Just pick a name from the roster of any CS course...

  • by splume ( 560873 ) <> on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:08PM (#3235490) Journal
    When these guys came to my campus a couple of weeks ago (CU Boulder) I think the majority of students were more interested in the free XBOX giveaway than the .NET. Although finally having a legit copy of XP Pro was a nice bonus as well :)
  • I saw the push... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by heliocentric ( 74613 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:11PM (#3235513) Homepage Journal
    At the recent SIGCSE conference of the ACM MS was there pushing the .NET handing out full copies of it and XP Pro as well as books on C# and things like that. I must admit I saw the add-on to .NET, the Live Wire product I think it's called, as a decent tool to teach non-cs majors an intro to programming course. Then I got home and talked about the product with some colleages and to my disgust one was using it to develop actual software.

    It's one thing if a school jumps on board with this, but for the love of pudding, please mention there are other things out there, and what is sometimes just a teaching tool isn't always something for use in industry.
    • "Then I got home and talked about the product with some colleages and to my disgust one was using it to develop actual software."

      I guess you won't be using GNOME anytime soon?
    • I don't think Microsoft will have a lot of success. I think you will find that the cookie-cutter colleges that tend to produce Microsoft Programming clones will switch to this, but I doubt a lot of the major colleges will do a complete switch.
    • Re:I saw the push... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fermion ( 181285 )
      The truth is that the structure and integration of MS visual development tools do not encourage good development practices. As an example, I recently had to maintain some code written with VC++. The code was a bad as I have ever seen, being largely hacked together by button commands rather than based on the struture and needs of the problem. I then realized that the structure of the Visual environment encouraged these bad practices, especially if the programmer had not been adequately trained in good basic coding.

      It also seemed to me that MS encourges using the style for C, C++, VB, Access and FoxPro. Which is to say that MS makes some decent tools, but it scares me that people are using them to learn to program. After all, programming is more about logic, structure, and use, rather than which menu puts a button on the screen.

  • ... is that comment after the second paragraph of the article:
    (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)
    • MSNBC has had some articles that have been extremely critical of Microsoft in the past, especially noting Windows bug and during the DOJ trial.

      Say what you will about them, but I've always found MSNBC to be QUITE impartial when it comes to reporting on Microsoft. And believe me... whenever I read Microsoft stories on MSNBC, I always have my eyes wide open for signs of bias. Haven't found it yet though- I must say they've done a damn good job in the articles I've seen.
      • I concur. In fact, MSNBC seems to be one of the most critical news sources of all when it comes to reporting on Microsoft. I think they might feel compelled to be aggressive to avoid any hints of pro-Microsoft bias.
  • Non-compete (Score:3, Funny)

    by Yoda2 ( 522522 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:12PM (#3235532)
    Wonder if the students will have to sign non-compete and non-disclosure agreements?

    Here is your diploma and FYI, M$ owns all of your future work.

  • Uhh... no (Score:4, Informative)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:12PM (#3235536) Homepage Journal
    Their code-sharing initiative is all about winning hearts-and-minds at the university level, where Linux and open-source rule the day

    Yeah, I used Unix (not Linux) in programming courses when I was in college, but most colleges now-a-days use Win2K labs and are phasing out their Unix labs (same programming courses in my college are using Visual Studio's version of C++).

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but lately Linux and open source aren't "ruling" at the university level.
    • Re:Uhh... no (Score:4, Interesting)

      by heliocentric ( 74613 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:15PM (#3235582) Homepage Journal
      That's a shame - at my school we are knocking down a wall to expand our sun cluster and we require all programs submitted by students to compile on the suns as that is where we check the homework. All faculty have a sparc in their office and all students are issues prox cards to access the room with the suns.

      The room we dream of is some sort of lab where the kids would be allowed to play around with OSes and play with hacking tools - something not allowed to touch our unniversity network, so we'd like to go disjoint.
    • Not at my university. For most engineers, they labs they use are Win2K or even Mac. Freshmen CS majors may get stuck with a class that has recitation in one of these labs, but after that, it's all Unix all the time. The lab has a variety of Solaris, BSD and Linux machines, although it is getting to the point where a fesh infusion would be great.
    • You misunderstand (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:30PM (#3235713) Homepage
      Most University's are adding Windows workstations, but not the servers. You know what students are doing on those Win2k lab PCs?
      85%: Microsoft Word (Sure beats tex for the average student)
      15%: Telnet to the *nix server to code.
      5%: Using in VB for their IS course in GUI design.

      They still keep *nix labs for the serious geeks, and they always have SGI labs for the graphics stuff. Occassionally Macs. But the Pcs are there to fill the gap of cheap, nearly disposable clients. The real R&D is still on *nix.
      • Most University's are adding Windows workstations, but not the servers. You know what students are doing on those Win2k lab PCs?
        85%: Microsoft Word (Sure beats tex for the average student)
        15%: Telnet to the *nix server to code.
        5%: Using in VB for their IS course in GUI design.

        University students giving 105%?! Are the seas boiling over?

        • University students giving 105%?!

          I'm surprised it's not higher. I would think that more than 25% of the coders use Word as well.

          I've had courses where I was required to submit papers, having used Word to create them.

          The usefulness of these figures reminds me of a Monty Python skit:

          Presenter: "This graph represents 51% of the population. This graph represents 64% of the population. And this graph represents 78% of the population."
          Reporter (to audience): "Telling figures, indeed."

      • Damn, I thought the labs in my school were crowded, the ones you have here are working at 105%!

        Most of the unix machines at my school were actually PCs running FreeBSD or Linux, which have the advanatage of being very cheap to put in the lab. The other Unix machines were DEC Alphas, but they were old, slow, and crusty.

        Still, this is about using the right tool for the job. TeX isn't a particulary good choice for those CS students writing small papers for the Philosophy course, and VC++ is still pretty expensive in the bookstore, and it's hard to get a VC++ project to compile under GCC (incompatable makefiles for one), which may cost you your grade when the TA can't get your program to compile on his Linux box to grade it.
      • So true. . . (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @03:58PM (#3236387)
        My school is in the process of moving all programming for its CS classes back to Unix. When I asked a professor why, the answer I got was, "Frankly, trying to turn Windows into a decent educational software development platform is about as fun as jumping naked into a pit of rabid wolves."

        Having tried to do some homework for advanced classes on the Win2k workstations in the computer labs, I can only agree. . . with the minimal access student accounts get on the workstations, activities as simple as getting third-party libraries to work sometimes have their difficulty ratings upgraded from "routine task" to "black art."
    • depends on the lab. here at drexel, general purpose labs all have macs and pc's running win2k, but the student can setup an ssh connection to a unix system if they want to. specific labs owned by the depts vary depending on what they need. Art students, for example, have tons of adobe and other graphic software on their lab machines, all macs. Business students have win2k with business software.

      But the CS lab has a bunch of sun workstations. All courses other than the freshman C++ and elemantary Data Structures course require use of those machines. Upper level OS courses require linux on the student's home machine so that they can do their own kernel hacking. The research labs in the CS dept all have Linux (and other open OS's) running somewhere, too.
    • by Satai ( 111172 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:51PM (#3235906)
      I took an intro to CS class last year, and we were programming in C++. I remember being marked down by 50% because, even with the Makefile I supplied, the guy who was grading couldn't get it to compile under Visual C++.

      Mind you, I had no trouble under g++. My prof, an emacs junkie, later reversed the grading decision.
    • Re:Uhh... no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by THEbwana ( 42694 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:52PM (#3235909)
      Some universities (under the pressure from non-cs departments) are deploying more and more win machines with the motivation "the students are going to need to know how to use windows since thats what theyll use when they leave university". This is absolute bull. I sometime receive job applications that proudly list their skills as being microsoft only. We never hire them. A person who only knows one os cant call him/herself a computer professional.
      The "bad guy" in this case is usually non-cs management who think theyre doing the student a favour while actually ruining the possibility for the student to receive a solid academic education.
      One thing that would be valuable to me would be a directory that lists all universities that do windows only training in their computer science classes. This would be efficient for me as I could redirect these applicants to the round filing cabinet under my desk without having to waste my time reading their cvs.
    • Re:Uhh... no (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tibbetts ( 7769 ) < minus herbivore> on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:52PM (#3235910) Homepage Journal
      Sorry to burst your bubble, but lately Linux and open source aren't "ruling" at the university level.

      I'll second that. My university [] was a hodgepodge of technologies, but almost all lab computers were NT boxen and the compiler of choice in the low-level courses was VC++. As an instructor of some of the 100-level courses there, however, I can attest that nobody was learning MS-specific stuff (like MFC) in those courses, but the technology was there.

      You may not want to believe this, but most students are looking for the skills/terminology that will get them the most coin, not necessarily the ones that are the "purest" or "most interesting," from either a theoretical or aesthetic standpoint.

      Note that I'm not condoning any of the above. I couldn't wait to get out of a university that presented such a confused picture to its faculty and students.)

    • In the lab where I work at MIT, we were given 2 high-end Dell boxes with NT on them. We purchased 5 IBM machines, Win98 installed whether we wanted it or not. Only one of these machines now has an MS OS still installed; Linux has nearly wiped out the competition here.

      There's a Solaris cluster in the basement of our building, and an MS NT lab; four out of every five times I walk down that corridor, the NT lab is empty. The Solaris cluster is never empty.
    • Re:Uhh... no (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dachshund ( 300733 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:54PM (#3235933)
      Yeah, I used Unix (not Linux) in programming courses when I was in college, but most colleges now-a-days use Win2K labs and are phasing out their Unix labs (same programming courses in my college are using Visual Studio's version of C++).

      This is a sad, but true phenomenon. And the root cause of it is not anything that Microsoft did-- it's the takeoff of Java. This is particularly ironic, because many of the Unix machines being tossed were made by Sun.

      The strange thing about the Windows migration is that it's not necessary, unnecessarily expensive, and probably counterproductive. Installing Windows partititions in labs provides little benefit to students, whether they're programming in Java or C/C++. What it does allow for is a whole lot more gaming. It costs a lot more to pay for those Windows licenses (or, at least, Windows development tools), and in the end you graduate a class of students who never get comfortable with a shell, with C, or with many Open Source projects (which are a great way to develop programming chops).

      None of thost last things need be required as part of a CS education, but they make a major difference in your skill level by the time you get out of school. Being steeped in Linux/BSD, C and X-Windows added a lot to my education.

  • they may win... (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by bojan ( 103490 )
    Universities need money.

    Microsoft has it.
  • You know... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Tokerat ( 150341 )
    ...Steve Balmer got his start as a sacraficial virgin.


  • by HMC CS Major ( 540987 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:13PM (#3235552) Homepage
    I'm forced to disagree.

    While I can agree that many students (especially comp-sci majors) do use and appreciate open source (specifically linux, but also freebsd) products, the departments themselves typically do not.

    At my college, and three others I have visited, the departments themselves prefer Sun servers running solaris. This is typically for three reasons:

    1. Schools want to know that their expensive purchases are backed by someone. While dell will support hardware problems, and redhat will support software problems, sun will support both. This single location of support makes solaris on sparc a more viable option than linux on intel.
    2. Schools are in the business of teaching a curriculum. Often that curriculum places demands on the hardware. Specifically, while it is possible to teach architecture classes using intel, many choose the sparc/risc instruction set for its features. Thus, the hardware must be in place to support this choice. If the hardware exists, most likely it will run solaris rather than linux/OSS
    3. Schools appreciate a proven track record. While Linux is establishing itself, Sun/sparc/solaris already has a long, proven track record. This, alone, will factor into a school's decision to use solaris on sparc rather than linux.

    True, students may like linux. But a vast majority of their coursework is still being done on solaris.
    • I agree with what you have said, but there is another factor to be considered:

      Sun offers universities very favourable pricing on hardware and software. Sure, Linux is free, but Sun hardware rocks and Solaris is quite stable and robust. Sun has a rock-solid hold on the academic (at least Comp. Sci) environment as a result.
    • True, students may like linux. But a vast majority of their coursework is still being done on solaris.

      But I don't think the "Hearts and Minds" bit is for normal coursework, at least at the underclassmen level. For your beginning "this is how you program" level of work there's no need to look at the source code of a compiler/runtime environment.

      What I think MS are going for is more upstream. Graduate level R&D type stuff. That's where having access to source is much more important. Someone doing research on new P2P schema / compiler theory / networking protocols are much more important *in terms of R&D* than someone with a bachelors in CS who's going to grind out in house apps for some company.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:14PM (#3235568)
    Microsoft trying to talk to students about "the source" is like your dad wanting to "rap" with you about drugs.

  • My two cents... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gregbaker ( 22648 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:15PM (#3235583) Homepage
    I don't know if the article is already /.ed or if my browser's being funky, but I can's read it. I can tell you why I wouldn't use the .NET code in a course.

    First, in what course exactly would an instructor want to say "Well, here's a whole bunch of code from a commercial (or any) project. Study it." I agree it's good to have an example around for some things, but if MS thinks the Universities are going to create a course like "The .NET Code", they're dreaming.

    Second, if I did want a large code example, I'd want a good example. I'd want to be able to point to almost any part of the code and say "That's the right way to do it." I've never seen any MS code, but I'm going to idly speculate that you couldn't do that with it. Probably MS isn't shooting for the .NET code being used as a cautionary tale.

    • It does not apear to load on Netscape 4.x, at least with my Linux version. Probably some <table> tags aren't closed, or it's using some JavaScript my browser chokes on.

    • First, in what course exactly would an instructor want to say "Well, here's a whole bunch of code from a commercial (or any) project. Study it."

      uh, what about courses in Software Maintenance and Reverse Engineering?
  • by Papineau ( 527159 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:16PM (#3235601) Homepage
    This could prevent some students of getting some jobs in the future.

    Suppose I enroll in one of those programs where the exposure to .NET source code is mandatory for some classes. Now, could a student refuse to take a particular class or ask for an equivalence because of that? If not, it's like if they signed a whole lot of people into non-compete clauses, without much benefit for them! I'm not even talking about Free software here. They could probably prevent you from working for a competitor (Sun, Apple, etc.)

    The use of "sponsored" material in classes has always been dangerous, but when it can influence where you can or can't work after you graduate, it's just plain Not a Good Idea (tm).
  • by aridhol ( 112307 ) <> on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:17PM (#3235609) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft hopes professors will use the code in computer-science classes, and students will modify it in the lab and even suggest improvements.

    Translation: Microsoft hopes professors and students will improve their work, so it can be sold back to them at a grossly inflated price.
  • by ari{Dal} ( 68669 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:17PM (#3235611)
    Why not let people with some programming experience already poke and prod at the source code?

    Three reasons:

    1) Control over how the universities use the code. Universities are notoriously underfunded, so any help coming their way from a company like MS is a godsend. I'd love to see the restrictions placed on any code developped in university labs on .NET.

    2) Good PR. MS looks like a saint for helping out the struggling education system.

    3) The student programmer is in just the right stage to be brainwashed into thinking .NET is the only solution for all their web coding activities (I know not all students are like this, but honestly.. i remember what university was like.. 75% sheep). Not to mention bringing in a whole slew of .NET-trained graduates into the workforce.

    • You beat me to the point, by one post.. :)

      But you're reading it just right- the schools want the money. The students just learn what they're taught, they generally don't care what it is, so long as it's something..

      Politics unfortunately run many parts of the world that they shouldn't, and academia is one of them. Like it or not, MS is good at politicking.. they'll do OK at least with this initiative of theirs. Hopefully that's all the better they do, but I can see them getting a lot of people out of this with just a little effort. And their usual pack of lawyers.. :)
  • It seems somewhat plausible that Microsoft is concerned about the general lack of programming experience on their products that college students get. I know at all of the universities I ever went to, (three) and all the ones anyone I can recall asking about it went to, (more than three) the dominant programming infrastructure was Unix. As far as I can tell, this has only become more prevalent in recent years, with almost every CS student I know running a linux box at home to save the effort of having to sit in a lab to code homework assignments.

    It is a shame that it will be harder to find people who have no experience with the .NET stuff in order to RE it for purposes of Linux interoperability, though. Maybe that's another reason MS is pushing to have it's code displayed so broadly. So noone can legitimately RE it.

    -il cylic
  • You can't swing a dead cat around without hitting a few dozen.

    - A.P.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:19PM (#3235627)
    They were called IS students.
    • The MIS students at the (Frank) Perdue School of Business successfully petitioned to have C++ dropped from their curriculum because it was "too hard". This very class, numbered only about 120 or so, serves as the introductory course for the entire CS major.

      Its a difference between people who just want to know how to use something vs the people that want to understand it. A shame they don't realize that if they understand how it works, they won't have any trouble using it, or anything like it, ever again.

      • > Its a difference between people who just want to know how to use something vs the people that want to understand it.

        No, it's worse than that. It's the difference between people who want a certificate to show a prospective employer that *says* they know how to use something versus the people that want to understand it.

        Chris Mattern
  • by interstellar_donkey ( 200782 ) <> on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:20PM (#3235639) Homepage Journal
    This is a bit unsettling.

    A college or university is not, nor should be a place where flavor of the day propritary platform should be taught. The focus of a college should be to give the student a broad enough understanding of the basic workings of programming and computers that the graduate can have enough background to quickly adapt to any platform.

    If you want to focus on something like .net (or something else popular), they have trade schools.

    • flavor of the day propritary platform

      I don't know about anyone else here, but I don't think Microsoft is exactly a flash-in-the-pan, flavor-of-the-day, fad kind of beast. Judging by their actions and perseverance over the past decades, they appear to be as strong as ever, and as strong as anyone could expect to be. Seeing as people going to college are probably planning to apply for a job in the industry corresponding to their major, they should learn the operating system used by the majority of companies. And by majority, I really mean majority, don't get confused and put yourself in that category, before remembering which side of the 95% barrier you are on.
    • I agree with this. I work with three graduates of MIT and they are some of the most talented software engineers I've ever met. At first, I was shocked to learn that the *ONLY* language ever taught to MIT CS students is Scheme (a dialect of LISP for those who don't know what it is). Oh, and thats taught in the _intro_ Computer Science class. Once they know the
      "basics" they are expected to learn all the other necessary languages they'll need by themselves (C, C++, Java etc.).

      At Harvard, where I got my CS degree, we learned C++ (an imperative language) and LISP (a functional language). Everything else was theory.
      MIT just gets straight to the point and only teaches the functional language, because that is *pure* CS. After thinking about it, I realized that this was the way to go. You can teach someone how to use some piece of technology which may be obsolete soon, or you can teach them how to think.

      For people who are really majoring in Computer Science, it shouldn't be about "programming languages" but Computer Science - that is computability, algorithms, data structures, operating systems, electronics, E&M physics, math,
      foundations of networks, graphics, compilers, databases, cryptography etc. Any decent CS major will pick up the rest himself.
      Damn, I should have gone to MIT...
    • by tshak ( 173364 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @07:04PM (#3237411) Homepage
      A college or university is not, nor should be a place where flavor of the day propritary platform should be taught.

      I fully agree. But .NET and C# are not fads. A "Web Service" is a fad. C#, however, is a full blown programming language. I can take the vast majority of what I learned about C# and apply it to Java (actually, I did the reverse). I can also apply it to most any other 4GL's. There's also a lot of CS benefits by studying the CLR (ECMA Standard). It is a perfect platform for teaching language design, abstract machine design, or OOP.
  • From the article:

    Microsoft historically has been extremely protective of its intellectual property and has vehemently opposed some tenets of the open-source movement. It has particularly attacked the "general public license"

    (emphasis added by me)

    I suppose in an article discussing m$ and open source, it was hardly necessary to check the acronyms out first. I assume it passed the proof readers as well. It just goes to show that dilignce is alive and well in the popular press today!
  • by Amazing Quantum Man ( 458715 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:22PM (#3235653) Homepage
    They're setting up to kill Open Source in the future... not by winning hearts and minds, but by "contaminating" all those students...

    MS Lawyer: "What? Product X functions like MS Y.NET? Obviously you had access to our copyrighted source code!"

    Open Source Group: "WTF are you talking about?"

    MS Lawyer: "Programmer Joe Collegekid over there, he saw our source in his college class. He obviously used it. Stop producing your software, or you'll lose everything you own! Oh, and give it to use, because we own all the copyrights on it!"
    • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @04:18PM (#3236523) Homepage Journal
      Let's face it, their goal here is a "secret" shared by *every* CS college graduate. Then those graduates are potentially "polluted" from ever participating in Open Source development. Presumably the mechanism would be one or two high-profile court cases, to make an example and scare everyone else.

      At least this is the conspiracy theory, which may have some merit.

      But look at the flip side... When you start sharing a "secret" that widely, doesn't it start looking like mis-using the work "Kleenex" instead of "Kleenex-brand facial tissue"? The Kleenex trademark was lost that way, and the Windows trademark appears to be lost.

      Unless every CS course begins with a legal session, explaining how, "This stuff is *secret*, and will compromise your capability to work on any project Microsoft doesn't like in the future, and they can sue you @$$es off because you've seen it," this looks like a recipe to lose the license terms.

      I was once involved in a proprietary memory chip design my company purchased for us to base our design on. Very early on, the lawyers brought the whole team into a room and read the riot act to us, explaining what we could and could not do, based on the "pollution" of looking at that design.

      There was also a nifty term called "residual knowledge" that applied then, and applies now.
  • by Otis_INF ( 130595 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:23PM (#3235658) Homepage L=/downloads/sample.asp?url=/msdn-files/027/001/90 1/msdncompositedoc.xml []. Shared source license, but you can use it in classes and courses. So the push is definitely there. The sourcecode is for Windows and FreeBSD
  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:24PM (#3235663) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft has released a shared source implementation of the Common Language Runtime (CLI) [].The Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) is the ECMA standard that describes the core of the .NET Framework world. The Shared Source CLI is a compressed archive of the source code to a working implementation of the ECMA CLI and the ECMA C# language specification. The shared source CLI license is available here [].

    • An implementation of the runtime for the Common Language Infrastructure (ECMA-335) that builds and runs on Windows XP and FreeBSD
    • Compilers that work with the Shared Source CLI for C# (ECMA-334) and JScript
    • Development tools for working with the Shared Source CLI such as assembler/disassemblers (ilasm, ildasm), a debugger (cordbg), metadata introspection (metainfo), and other utilities
    • The Platform Adaptation Layer (PAL) used to port the Shared Source CLI from Windows XP to FreeBSD
    • Build environment tools (nmake, build, and others)
    • Documentation for the implementation
    • Test suites used to verify the implementation
    [This is mostly cut & paste from the MSDN page]

    A few semi-interesting threads have started about this on K5 including this one [] and this one [].
  • In addition, most students are "going to have to learn multiple programming languages" eventually, says Rick Rashid, the head of Microsoft's research department.

    Take one real computer scientist, give them a computer with a compiler, a book on the real programming language they need to use, and a day, and they will be coding up non-trivial programs no problem. C/C++, Java, BASIC, Perl, Cobol, Fortran, APL, LISP, whatever. It shouldn't take a real computer scientist or computers science student too long to adjust and move on.

    The theory of programming computers transends the language used.
    ::End Obvious Statements::
  • We're not here to supplant anybody else's operating systems or tools in the university

    Then why are you giving away source code? Isn't it that you want students to learn, and become hooked on, MS products? Isn't this just another attempt to extend the MS monopoly on operating systems? Do you really expect that college students will believe that Microsoft, the company that has exploited the American consumer and been found guilty of felonies, has suddenly become altruistic?

    What strikes me about Microsoft is that they really have no clue! Giving away source code is not going to curry favor with college students who are given to idealism. They can see through the hype. They would rather contribute to society at large than become pawns of Corporate America.

    Wake up Microsoft! No one with a conscience wants to help you extend your monopoly - we in IT are tired of seeing our ideas and talents used to bully ordinary people into spending inordinate amounts of money for inferior products. We want to work for positive change in society, and you aren't it...

  • The thing Microsoft has always had is great marketing. I teach Java programming and every once in a while someone brings up Microsoft and their latest big thing. I have on my desk at the moment some marketing for .NET versus J2EE. Evidently it takes a quarter of the number of lines of code to implement the same functionality. And the pretty graphs for Performance & Scalability are lovely to look at. But there's no depth to them. From what I can see, they have no information on what systems were used. Were they comparable systems? Or were they pitting an Ultra 5 against the latest Intel hardware? If you go to their website to look up more information, you notice their numbers don't match up: now it's a third of the number of lines of code. I'd download the whitepaper, but it's in Word format, and I won't read it. Strikes me that offereing it in Word format is kinda preaching to the choir.

    In short, it's marketing, and good marketing in that the misdirection is well-concealed. But then, they know that the money guards in most companies respond better to pretty picutres and unsubstantiated graphs rather than real-world tests.

    This newest .NET push is simply more of the same. At last, the people who know technology are being allowed to have some say in purchasing decisions (in my company anyway), and they're not deciding on MS as much. So, MS has to get to the people who know, now. Sadly, their reputation is so tarnished with developers and tech-savvy people, they have to catch them young, before the truth gets out.

    Where is .NET anyway? Anyone using it in a production environment? Last I heard, it was pushed back because of security concerns. Again.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you were going to teach a course around MS stuff, are there any University quality textbooks about MS Operating Systems and Products?

    The main problem I see is that a given MS buzzword (.NET now, was DCOM, COM+, COM, OLE, blah blah blah) tends to have a 12 month or less half-life. Professors aren't going to like to have use modify a course heavily every time they teach it.
  • by Conare ( 442798 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:32PM (#3235740) Journal
    We're not here to supplant anybody else's operating systems or tools in the university, says Microsoft's Rashid.

    This definitely belongs in the Most Outrageous Vendor Lie Ever Told? [] article
  • by mmusn ( 567069 )
    I don't see that much of a difference between C#/.NET and the Java2 platform in terms of how closely they are tied to one company or the other (while several Java2 systems are available, they are all derived from Sun's code). Both .NET and Java2 have incomplete subsets that are available in open source form (Java 1.1, Mono), but, ultimately, both are proprietary platforms.

    In fact, source access to the Java2 platform under the SCSL has onerous "contamination provisions" and I think using it in a computer science course is irresponsible because it may contaminate students for the rest of their professional lives.

    What we really need is better open source, non-proprietary implementations of either language that colleges can use. These then give students access to tools they can use after they graduate wherever they work, and they can work with the full source code without selling their souls. And, besides, colleges shouldn't focus so much on just one language anyway.

  • So what. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Capt_Troy ( 60831 ) <`tfandango' `at' `'> on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:37PM (#3235778) Homepage Journal
    If a school can get some nice tools for free, then hey! alright!

    CS is not about tools, it's about concept and design and problem solving. Any good CS major knows how to develop software independant from any specific language. So if they want to learn about software using MS stuff, then go right ahead.

    Just because students aren't forced to use GCC is not a bad thing.
  • So, the professors/administrators, who cannot be bothered to do the work of maintaining the campus computer network, come in and say "MS has offered us platinum chains and underwater blowjobs if we teach all courses in the .NET environment, so go ye forth and set it up."

    Whereupon the five guys in the basement of the engineering building (all campuses have such a building, with such a basement, with five slashdot readers in it - you know who you are) who actually maintain the campus computers say, depending on the rank of the personage and other political concerns-

    1) "Run it by the chair of the department" (who is a crank with a zany axe to grind, 100% guaranteed.) Surprisingly, this works even if it has been run by the chair of the department three times already.

    2) "Sir, we would start if we could, but these orders haven't been approved yet." (Have him sign some stuff, making the pompous blowhard think things will be "expedited" with his signature, then throw them away.) This is always the response if the prof. or admin. has officious looking documents with him.

    3) "Fuck you, Dan." At a public university.

    Regardless of what these five guys SAY, they DO the following set of things: {}.

    And the students keep working on SPARCs, b/c the faculty don't have the wherewithal to push through an upgrade of the computers actually used for instruction.

    The people that this .NET initiative is going to net (ahyuck, I made a funny) are the people in watered-down sorta-computing pre-business-school majors (Information Management, whatever) who don't actually do any programming or use the campus network. These schmucks, god how I despise them, are going to be all about .NET, and perhaps some poor fool is going to end up working for them. However, this is in-no-way going to alleviate MS' problem where the students who can actually code are using some UNIX derivative.

    Just my $0.02 US ($3.00 Canadian)
  • A Caveat. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DohDamit ( 549317 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:38PM (#3235791) Homepage Journal
    While I posted above saying its great news that Linux made news by being Microsoft's foil on the front page of the marketing section of the WSJ, I can't help but come to the rather pessimistic conclusion that it doesn't matter one fly fuck what a single administrator says he will or won't do. Bullshit, I call. Unless you're willing to lay down your job(yeah right) you are going to do what you're told to do. If Linux is to be brought mainstream, it will NOT be done by the circle jerk of techies here on slashdot. It will be done by the future stuffed suits of the corporate world. So.....

    You want to make a difference while you're in college? Convert two or three business/accounting/marketing majors to Linux. Set them up, provide free support, make them comfortable. Keep up said support. Recruit your geek friends to do the same. Do for the future stuffed shirts what Microsoft does for the present stuffed shirts. If and only if this is possible(no idea if it is) will it be possible for Linux to make REAL progress in infiltrating Microsoft's home world....the working world.
  • by mmusn ( 567069 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:40PM (#3235810)
    While Sun and Microsoft fight it out for the minds of computer science majors, another company has pretty much won the battle when it comes to engineering: MathWorks's Matlab [] has become the de-facto standard for computing in engineering and some areas of science and applied math. You can't exchange code with many others in the field unless you buy their software. Many research results are built on it and only reproducible using it. Oh, sure, it's cheap as long as you are a student or professor, but once you graduate, expect to pay many thousands of dollars even for a basic license, and many students graduating from top engineering and research labs are largely incapable of programming in anything else. The Matlab success story is a monopolist's dream.
  • Would I be correct that any homework that a student would want to publish after being exposed to the MS source code would be a violation of DMCA?

    At the very least I imagine that students would be bound to a non-disclosure agreement.

    The very language of computer science becomes compromised when you let MS in the classroom.
  • At the University [] where I work, MS provides all the major consumer titles for free or on 2 week lend basis including Visual Studio .net, you wouldn't believe how many employee's they have running the MS software desk. My guess would be around 2 fulltime and 15 part-time to distribute MS software. Now these are employees of the University, not Microsoft, but none the less it is a lot of people.

    Everybody loves the idea of free office, but it's amazing how people can be so naive to think that MS is doing this as a public service(well I guess it is a state University). It's also amazing how many people gobble up every thing they can get their hands on, including, probably only 1/4 of those ever end up getting any use.

    As far as student perceptions go, the CSE people tend to favor *NIX and open standards while the MIS & IST people tend to favor MS. There are quite a few exceptions; there is a sizable CSE element that are ardent MS fans. Especially those kids who go to Redmond for an internship and succumb to groupthink and come back ranting like Hitler youth. After talking to few MS interns, it's almost as if the employee's believe the company's PR. My favorite quote was in this week's eweek:

    "Microsoft has always had a focus on security" -- Steve Lipner Director of MS Security Assurance

  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:49PM (#3235880)
    The RIAA has announced a new coursebook for law students "IP theft - a history". The coursebook examines the importance of Intellectual Property and the how the theft of IP threatens the foundations of our society.

    Monsanto have announced a new series of videos for Biology undergraduates. Called "The ethics of genetic engineering", the series examines subjects such as how having patented gene sequences allows companies like Monsanto to help feed starving children in the Third World.

    Disney-trained lecturers will be visiting art faculties all over the country in the coming weeks. The lecturers will be giving fun and thought provoking demonstrations about how to draw Disney-style characters. Before attending the lectures, students will have to sign a contract which stipulates that any Disney-style characters they draw in the future will be automatically copyright of Disney Corporation. They will also be encouraged to send any characters they draw directly to Disney, and not to show them to anyone else.

    Environmental Studies students are all to receive a free study pack from ChevronTexaco Corporation. The study pack includes a text book "The Truth About Global Warming", as well as a t-shirt, stickers, felt pens, a colouring pad and a fridge magnet.

  • NOOOO! (Score:4, Funny)

    by TheFlu ( 213162 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:51PM (#3235903) Homepage
    "...finding virgins much more difficult."

    I have a hard enough time with this as it is. Damn you Microsoft! DAMN YOU!!!!!
  • by MongooseCN ( 139203 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @02:55PM (#3235938) Homepage
    #include "stdio.h"

    int main()
    printf("Hello, Microsoft EULA.\n");
    return 1;
  • At Rice, I'm seeing Microsoft's effort first hand-- they're sponsoring a .NET tutorial all day this Thursday and Friday for some profs and students in the Comp department. The department seems to be interested whether .NET has useful aspects for teaching, but most opinions I've heard are that C# and the like are still too brain-damaged to use (no dynamic inner classes?), though a lot of issues could be fixed trivially in the compiler.

    But not only is both the department and university deeply rooted in Unix (especially for Comp classes), we're already incorporating Open Source directly in the curriculum. In a software engineering course I'm in right now, we're using Sourceforge to develop DrJava [], a GPL'd Java development environment that is particularly useful for teaching beginners. We're seeing that open source and extreme programming (complete unit tests, rapid releases, etc) are a very effective approach towards building software-- and Microsoft isn't about to woo us away from that with money. I expect that any use of .NET here (if there is any) will be strictly complimentary to our existing approaches.

  • Mono (Score:5, Informative)

    by miguel ( 7116 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @03:31PM (#3236205) Homepage
    The Mono implementation ( and yesterday's release (Mono 0.10) does provide pretty much everything that the Shared Source release does.

    Get your bits now!

  • by crisco ( 4669 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @03:56PM (#3236377) Homepage
    I was surprised to find out I didn't have to register with Passport, click through something on their website to download the product or even click through an installer license to get at the 'goods'.

    From my brief review, it appears that they are primarily concerned with someone selling their code and patent problems. No mention of the GPL, although obviously several provisions in here are incompatible with any decent open source license.

    So here it is:


    This License governs use of the accompanying Software, and your use of the Software constitutes acceptance of this license.

    You may use this Software for any non-commercial purpose, subject to the restrictions in this license. Some purposes which can be non-commercial are teaching, academic research, and personal experimentation. You may also distribute this Software with books or other teaching materials, or publish the Software on websites, that are intended to teach the use of the Software.

    You may not use or distribute this Software or any derivative works in any form for commercial purposes. Examples of commercial purposes would be running business operations, licensing, leasing, or selling the Software, or distributing the Software for use with commercial products.

    You may modify this Software and distribute the modified Software for non-commercial purposes, however, you may not grant rights to the Software or derivative works that are broader than those provided by this License. For example, you may not distribute modifications of the Software under terms that would permit commercial use, or under terms that purport to require the Software or derivative works to be sublicensed to others.

    You may use any information in intangible form that you remember after accessing the Software. However, this right does not grant you a license to any of Microsoft's copyrights or patents for anything you might create using such information.

    In return, we simply require that you agree:

    1. Not to remove any copyright or other notices from the Software.

    2. That if you distribute the Software in source or object form, you will include a verbatim copy of this license.

    3. That if you distribute derivative works of the Software in source code form you do so only under a license that includes all of the provisions of this License, and if you distribute derivative works of the Software solely in object form you do so only under a license that complies with this License.

    4. That if you have modified the Software or created derivative works, and distribute such modifications or derivative works, you will cause the modified files to carry prominent notices so that recipients know that they are not receiving the original Software. Such notices must state: (i) that you have changed the Software; and (ii) the date of any changes.



    7. That if you sue anyone over patents that you think may apply to the Software or anyone's use of the Software, your license to the Software ends automatically.

    8. That your rights under the License end automatically if you breach it in any way.

    9. Microsoft reserves all rights not expressly granted to you in this license.

    • This is an interesting clause:

      That if you sue anyone over patents that you think may apply to the Software or anyone's use of the Software, your license to the Software ends automatically.

      What does that mean, exactly? So if I create a modified version, patent the modification, Microsoft infringes my patent, I sue Microsoft, then I lose my right to use the software in the first place, therefore... What? Any lawyers out there can interpret this?
    • by raresilk ( 100418 ) <> on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @04:56PM (#3236778)
      Thanks for posting the full text, Crisco.

      I would focus on the "derivative works" provisions, which share some of the characteristics MS has characterized as "viral" in the GPL. Query what happens if in a few years, MS files a series of lawsuits claiming that various developers improperly created a "derivative work" of the shared source, without giving proper attribution to MS. Although it would be hard to prove that a particular individual had seen the code, given the uncontrolled access, note that it would be equally difficult for the individual to prove s/he had not seen the code. And MS would likely interpret the "derivative" language along the lines of the "one click ordering" and "hyperlinking" patent holders, claiming that anything using a distributed model was derivative of theirs. So in order to fend off the lawsuit, the developer would have to launch legal attacks on the "viral" part of the license: the derivative works definition is too broad and vague, this similar concept isn't really derivative, free public distribution negates the contractual nature of a license, etc. That is, the developer would have to make the very sort of arguments that MS has publicly proposed against the GPL.

      Am I just too too paranoid, or is this rather a clever no-lose situation MS has created? If MS wins one of these lawsuits, it gets to tie up Jane Developer's project for years and then stick its name on it. But if it loses, the loss establishes a legal precedent that will help it launch future attacks on the GPL, the success of which attacks could possibly allow MS to thwart open source projects. And MS accomplishes this with at least superficial protection from accusations that it is wielding improper monopoly power - how can licensing provisions modeled on the GPL be monopolistic? And how can anyone criticize poor MS for lawsuits arising from the open release of their source code, when that's exactly the antitrust punishment the states were seeking?

      I'm sure there are a lot more scenarios to explore here, and I don't purport to be a great legal expert on the GPL so I defer to anyone who is. But in any event, I hope that schools do not widely succumb to this until the implications have been thoroughly considered.

  • by Spencerian ( 465343 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @04:54PM (#3236769) Homepage Journal
    This issue is pretty serious for OSS. Consider: While all the jaw-jacking about MS is typically justified in their stance on OSS, one thing is certain about the MS vs. Linux debate:

    Microsoft could win it.

    Imagine the software world as a big ocean. OSS is like coral. It's cooperative, works for the common good, shares its resources to build a community. As a result, a structure is built for the good of all.

    Microsoft appears as waves in that ocean. None of these waves, paradoxically, are good for MS, the wave generator. Sometimes the waves are small and help to move the OSS coral's spores along to form other colonies (apps). In the case of the tidal wave known as .NET, coral may likely be destroyed if the wave is strong and deep enough.

    A wave is as strong as its organization. Microsoft has succeeded (and unjustly much of the time, but that's another topic) because it is very organized at a corporate level and can utilize resources that other groups, particularly disorganized cooperatives such as OSS groups, find hard to counter.

    OSS is mostly organized at the software level, writing code. But code writing doesn't "sell" the work to the business--marketing does. And that's the front where Microsoft is working. Microsoft thinks, "Why debate the facts where we can just act like the 800-pound gorilla and flood the schools with free stuff to boister interest?"

    Unfortunately, no one group or person appears to speak for OSS. Without a bona fide, consolidated group that fights MS at whatever level it wants to move to, .NET and other MS-unique technologies have a good chance to convince the people who make decisions yet do not code--the school administrators. After all, this is a money argument, not a "mine is better" argument.

    The OSS/MS fight is akin to hand-to-hand combat vs. carpetbombing. OSS can't fight without a general--an organized group that can move to counter MS and use its powers of hacking virtually ANYTHING into compliance or existence for UNIX systems without fee.

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.