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Open Source Windows 206

Kazen sent us a link an an InfoWorld story where Balmer talks about Open Source for Windows 2000. Is he serious? What would it mean? Betcha it would mean YAOSL (yet another Open Source License).
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Open Source Windows

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Obviously, Microsoft is preparing for April Fools Day 2000...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    While opening the source to windows makes some interesitng things possible, I doubt it would change much. Microsoft's obsessivly controlling nature is more a symptom than the real problem.

    The real problem is that they are so effective at maximizing their investments that the needs of their customers are no longer a factor in their decision-making process. They extract the most money from the rest of the world with the least effort. That's why their products are pathologically unstable and otherwise broken. The less effort they can put into their products and still get people to buy them, the better for their bottom line. As long as the product sufficiently gives the illusion of value and gets you to open your wallet, the actual quality doesn't matter to them.

    Unless they can change the nature of the way they operate at a fundamental level, opening the source up won't do anything. They'll still want be the central point of control for the source, so they will have veto power over any bug fixes submitted and almost zero incentive to implement them.

    Ken Schalk ( [mailto])

  • by davie ( 191 ) on Thursday April 08, 1999 @10:48AM (#1944045) Journal

    This article [] at the SJ Mecury site gives a little more insight into Microsoft's thinking on the licensing issue, in short, licensing and royalty payments are being considered. Methinks BP and ESR should fire up their text editors and get busy firing off some preemptive letters warning about the use of the term "Open Source."

    From the article:
    `There would be all kinds of issues that we would need to address first,'' noted David Cole, vice president of Microsoft's Web Client and Consumer Experience Division. ``We would have to find out how willing companies would be to give us the code they developed, how we would incorporate that code into our products, and what the licensing and royalty payments might be.''

  • For the record, since some people still seem to not realize this, The Register is a tabloid. Please don't take anything they say seriously.
  • I think the main reason that not many people have contributed to Mozilla is that the version they released source for was (is) very much unuseable.
    This was also one of the reasons that jwz pointed out recently. I do not think the size of the source is such a big problem; you do not need to understand all of it to dive into a part of it.

    If they had released source for the version 3 that I actually use (due to resource considerations), I definately would have spent some time trying to fix a few of the problems I have with it.

    I do not want to be a major Mozilla contributor and therefore I have no reason to develop a product that I do not use. I want to fix what bothers me and then get on with other stuff, using a version with that problem fixed. Mozilla cannot do that for me, so I do not contribute to Mozilla.

  • Considering microsoft is a a $40 billion international cooperation employing tens of thousands of people, and Red Hat is still basically a small, privatly held startup (although this is certainly changing) employing only a little over 100 people, such a challange does not hold water. Gates has something like $6 billion to his name - if charities were really paramount to him, he could easily give far, far more than he has so far...
  • Posted by JoeyRamone:

    It's like all opposition is vanished within Microsoft. Maybe the borg invaded them (now there's a nice thought).

    Well at least it could offer us a change to see how crappy the programmers at MS really are (I'm thinking spaghetti). I applaud it...

    What could prized operating system mean?? Are they serious?

  • Posted by The Famous Brett Watson:

    "thinking with great interest" about opening up Windows source code means that they are happy to grab some positive publicity by talking about nice friendly concepts without actually putting a time frame on any activity or specifying what that activity will be.

    Ballmer said there were some drawbacks to making Windows code widely available because he wants to make it sound like his main concern is for the customer. Microsoft's main concern, of course, is how to leverage, decommoditise, cut off air supplies, and rake in millions, and going truly open source will undoubtedly cause more substantial problems for these corporate goals than the horrors a typical corporation faces by receiving source code to software it already uses. Microsoft is well aware that for the purposes of PR, one must pretend not to have such introverted concerns, especially if they might not be in perfect harmony with the good of the customer.

    He offered no further elaboration because it might have meant actually committing to a concrete course of action, rather than scoring cheap positive PR points.

    They are looking at opening the Windows NT kernel, which means they aren't so foolish as to make the source to an entire operating system available. They know the value of secrecy, and they aren't going to give away more secrets than they feel will be best for them on the whole. Opening up the entire operating system would merely attract hoards of programmers who wanted to make a free compatible version, a la WINE.

    Valentine characterized Linux as "momentum without a lot of design wins," because (and this information comes from a highly reliable source -- my imagination) it is official Microsoft policy to mention Linux only in the context of FUD, combined with the reassurance that they are making all the possible real advantages of Linux available in Windows, only better because it's Microsoft in control.

    If the company continues to see Linux "popping up everywhere," Valentine said, it will move to keep its competitive edge. This is a shot across the bow to Linux-boosters, of course, but it's real significance is not directed to us. The main reason for it is that the market likes to be reassured that their bazillion dollar investments in Microsoft software (and stocks, for that matter) are in no danger of being marginalised. "Please, Microsoft," says the market, "speak words of hope and reassurance to us," and Microsoft only too happily obliges. "Can't they see that Linux is better for them," you may ask. Have you met some of these people? But I digress...

    There are all different types of ways you can do open source, such as making the source available to people who already have the license for the software, but under strict nondisclosure and with no right to give away "derived works". That isn't "Open Source", of course, but one could call it "open source" in some plain English sense, just like you could call Internet Explorer "free software" in a plain English sense. Didn't IBM used to provide source to their mainframe operating systems? Didn't this cause troubles because local "fixes" weren't necessarily compatible with IBM's future releases? The systems weren't Open Source, of course, which was part of the problem. This, no doubt, is what Mr Ballmer was referring to when he talked about the disadvantages of open source, which may in turn give us some clues as to how he's thinking.

    Executive summary: Linux FUD, and weasel words.

  • Pardon me memory, but I seem to recall that at the trail they claimed that many lines fo source code we lost for good. It is not really possibal for them to open source something they don't have source for is it?

  • The most chilling comment is at the end of
    the article that M$ is "looking to get into
    open source initiatives"...

    ...I interpret that chilling comment as:

    "We're going to see if we can f*ck with the
    Apache group and maybe throw a few wrenches
    into Perl and the Linux kernel..."

    I say let M$ stay the way it is so it can
    die a natural death -- otherwise if we
    encourage them they'll keep pumping crap
    into the market and being the same damn
    nuisance to us all.

  • This is an excellent point. This is Microsoft at its "innovative" best.
  • Well, OK. But as someone who does Windows developement by day, I can tell you that I would love to have the source available...most notably comctrl32 and GDI32 source. Not to compile up, or to fix, but just to see what MS is doing in some strange circumstances that would help me better write my code that uses those DLLs.

    Basicly, I would no longer have to take their documentation (or lack thereof) on faith!
  • What IF Microsoft released the source to their OS under an NPL-like licence?

    That sure is going to tear up a lot of people who claim they're in favour of open source for the "moral aspects" of it.... I think that if Microsoft does this, we're going to see a lot of flaming akin to the KDE vs. GNOME battle - no matter how much one side tries, the other side continues to aimlessly flame away.

    Microsoft is a very competitive company with some questionable businesses practices, and some "less than innovating" what - that doesn't exactly make them evil. I don't like them, nor their products, but I do understand that they (Ballmer especially) are *bright* people. If they see business benefit with open source, they'll use it.

  • by Moredhel ( 1356 ) on Thursday April 08, 1999 @08:15AM (#1944057) Homepage
    Just read over at The Register [] that M$ has announced that they're releasing Universal Plug and Play as Open Source...

    So actually, they're using it as a bludgeon against Sun and more precisely Jini, not just for PR purposes.

    Looks like M$'s getting some good backing for it though.

  • Open Source just does not work

    didn't jamie zawinski say as much?

  • microsoft UL gave a million UKP to a children's charity. billg has personally given millions to build school libraries, immunise against diseases, and suchlike.

    i challenge redhat to match any donations.
  • microsoft UK gave a million UKP to a children's charity. billg has personally given millions to build school libraries, immunise against diseases, and suchlike.

    i challenge redhat to match any donations.
  • This will help developers, and especially accademia. Imagine being able to highlight examples in lectures (be they good or bad) by pointing to the Windows Source code! I know you can do this with Linux, but Windows is still the most popular desktop OS, so makes a better example (IMHO :-)

    Another advantage is if they release the source for somehting like the NT kernal. AFAIK, and I may be wrong, but the NT kernal is pretty well designed (by that I'm refering to the modularity of the thing). As a researcher in a University working on OSs, I'd be very interested in seeing this.

    As for comments that "no one will understand it as it's so large" well, if the day ever happends (and I'm very skeptical) then expect thrid party books on the matter to appear very soon afterward. Imagine having "NT Kernal Internals" next to "Linux Kernal Internals".

    -- Dougal
  • According to, Debian 2.1 is over 70 Million lines of code. And that's managable by a group of volunteeers.

    Please note this in the message you were responding to from Cassius:

    It wold be impossible to comprehend and modify in a useful way unless you had a team of literally thousands [...]

    Debain has over 400 developers which mostly just maintain packages. Each of those packages have upstream developers who do most of the non-debian specific work. Think of the number of upstream developers for the Linux kernel, glibc, gnome, XFree86, KDE, gcc, etc. So, Debian does have litterally thousands of people working on it.

    That being said, Cassius finishes the line with "[ ... ][ working in very close conjunction with you (i.e. in the same building as you 8 hours a day)." which clearly Debian doesn't have. So, I guess in someways you are both right. You would need litterally thousands of people, but they wouldn't have to be in the same building.

  • Fair point. I should have added "in server space" to that. Apps are coming, but I agree - we're not there yet.

  • This can only be seen as a good thing for everyone. (I think) I've looked at all the different possibilities:

    • Microsoft releases Windows under a restrictive licence (they won't allow free binary copies to be given away). MS lose lots of "face" because of this, because it's almost completely pointless. Noone would touch the code.
    • They release it under a similar licence as the VBScript source code - i.e. you can't make any changes to the code without prior consent from Microsoft - i.e. an additional licence to the one that allows you to read the code! This would mean as many people read the code as read the VBScript code. i.e. none
    • People do read the code and find GPL or BSD code in there, as has been suspected all along (e.g. in their DNS code). Although I suspect they would only release the source code for the kernel, not the services.
    • Linux suddenly gains massive amounts of credibility, because people can then say "Well, windows is open source too - so the only difference between windows and Linux is Linux crashes less".

    Of any of the above things - I can't really imagine this doing anything bad for Linux. I can however see it as being very bad for Microsoft - their business model just doesn't fit well around open source, and so they are hoping that it will be a magic wand to make the Justice Department leave them alone. I hope the JD aren't that naive.

  • Actually, it often does.

  • In
    the USA, this burdon is placed on the accusor, not on the accused.

    Only when the accuser has less money.

  • Perhaps all the idiots who cling so tightly to Open Source saying that they won't use windows because "without the source they can't fix something that goes wrong" will finally be able to shut up with that stupid argument.

    All the people that go on and on like that - as if they could even have a clue where to go to fix it. Damn zealots.
  • this coming from an anonymous coward. Face it - you don't know jack.

    Never even used visual Basic, I use visual c++
  • Cause it would be too embarrassing...

    More seriously, there may be code in Windows that is copyrighted by other companies. So that would give like Mozilla where they had to remove Java and others 3rd party thing before releasing it.

    Maybe it's just a PR plot to escape the DoJ or something along the same lines... In any case, I'll believe it when I'll see it...

  • The article suggested that the only part that they're thinking about opening is the NT kernel.

    Which probably wouldn't be useful to may people. It's not even clear that you'd be able to rebuild Windows with the modifications you make.

  • People do read the code and find GPL or BSD code in there, as has been suspected all along (e.g. in their DNS code). Although I suspect they would only release the source code for the kernel, not the services.

    It pretty definitely uses BSD code, but that's allowed by the BSD license. It's not a copyleft. That's why there are commercial BSDs like BSDI and SunOS.

  • Get the facts straight. BSD or X11-licensed software is Free Software. See the GNU website.

    Do not spread false statements.

  • I was thinking about this and knowing MS, and their licensing practice this would propably spell doom for wine. If MS releases a strict license then they can claim the wine group infinged on MS intelectual property and copyrights by copying the code. Now even if the wine developers DON'T copy the code but even look at how the MS stuff looks.. they can still be nailed for this.
    And it's a LOT harder to prove you didn't peak at the code.. then to lie about how you DID look at it.

  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Thursday April 08, 1999 @08:08AM (#1944074) Homepage
    Highly doubtful. Possible, I suppose, since the biggest money-maker MS has is actually Office, not Windows. But even if they did release it, their license would probably make the APSL look like the GPL by comparison.

    Note that I still condiser the APSL to be Open-Source, though no GPL (I don't support the FSF's move to specifically exclude APSL by changing the definition of free software), but since it seems many zealots here don't agree I figured the comparison was still valid.
  • i think this is very excellent news! Windows going open-source would be great for both the windows and linux community. with all these rumors and press releases floating around, the ideas are sure flowing. i think that if we give it some time, we will see the source for windows appearing.
    Scott Miga
  • Any more April fool's jokes and I'm going back on medication!!!!!
  • people can then say "Well, windows is open source too - so the only difference between windows and Linux is Linux crashes less".

    Reality check. People will also talk about how many applications are available for Windows and how easy they are to use. It makes no difference to the end user whether they are unable to use the OS because it keeps crashing (Windows) or because they don't know how (Linux) or because they can't find an application to do what they need (Linux).

    We're on our way, but we're not there yet.

  • To quote a great statesman:

    "The only thing we need fear is fear itself"

    Why do people get into such a frenzy about every statement coming out of Redmond? Should we really care? I think not.

    Scenario 1 (most likely):

    M releases the W2K kernel source code under highly restrictive licensing to major corporations only. PR move only - see, they say, you have the soruce code too so you can feel warm and fuzzy.

    PR Impact on GNU/Linux movement: Positive (hey, Microsoft is confirming the "business model")

    Real Impact: 0. No programming talent will be diverted.

    Scenario 2: (possible but Less likely) Microsoft releases the W2K Kernel source code under YAOSL

    PR Impact on GNU/Linux movement: Ibid, but even more so. Of course, when no one jumps on the bandwagon, M will declare Open Source a failure and that may have some FUD impact. (notice how little permanent FUD impact wassisname's noisy resignation from Mozilla has had).

    Real Impact: -.01 Alot of heat and flames on /., far more than APSL, which will waste time and energy from more productive pursuits for about 72 hours.

    Prediction: ESR embraces Microsoft YAOSL as true Open Source. In which case up this to -.03

    Scenario 3: M releases W2K kernel with an NPL-like license. Likelihood: In this case, I suggest you all stack up on survival kits, 'cause Armagaddon will surely come and the dead will rise from their graves.

    Note I have the only code mentioned at all is the W2K kernel. M might release some other minor, useless stuff (like DOS 2.1) using YAOSL. The impact in this case will be similar to scenario 2 above.
  • by tetlowgm ( 4161 )
    The reason people can violate the EULA and give copies to friends is because there is no fear of repurcussion. However, if you violate an NDA and publish code widely (say in WINE), then I guarentee there will be lawyers as soon as the CVS tree is up. The difference? The scope of people involved. Giving a copy to a friend is illegal, true, but it only involves two people. Publishing source? That could involve, hundreds, nay, thousands of people. Trust me, they would notice and take action.

  • Not ALL kernel code is useless. Just NT's kernel code. I doubt there is anything in the NT kernel which is substantially more interesting or useful than the myriad other Open Source kernels available now.
  • Who knows? Maybe this'll be the straw that breaks ESR's back. The fact that MS can legitimately talk about "open sourcing" any part of their code raises a lot of questions about what open source actually means, and exactly who benefits. It is already a little bit ridiculous to claim that in some way, the APSL benefits the community as a whole. The blatant absurdity of the position will become obvious once MS applies to use the Open Source trademark.
  • They mentioned the NT kernel specifically ... while this would be of interest academically, the way I understand it, it won't hurt micros~1 dominance at all the way opening up the API's would - or am I wrong?

    It seems opening up the API's would be the best since that would let projects like WINE work really well.

  • A small group of developers have brought forth the idea that because the Netscape code for Netscape Navigator was so large and pondersome to comprehend that a minority of programmers wanted to help on the project, much less than Netscape had planned on, and this was because the code was so large and so complex. If the same is true for Microsoft code, who is ever going to want to use it? Besides, who would want to taint Linux by using Microsoft code ..

    Stan "Myconid" Brinkerhoff
  • Didn't Bill give like $3 million to some world fund to vaccinate children in third world countries a while back? :-)

    (By accepting this vaccine you agree to have your brain replaced by Microsoft Brain Explorer 5)

    Stan "Myconid" Brinkerhoff
  • "...they'd also be breaking WfW, DOS clients, OS/2, and everything else that's ever used SMB."

    Microsoft making old MS products which they no longer sell or support unusable? Yeah, you're right, they'd never do that.

  • Hate to say it, but Bruce Perens is looking more and more correct with his hardline "Free Software" only stance.

    Well, duh. RMS has been telling us this from day one. Algor (or is that spelled "All Gore") and Microsoft have, in less than 48 hours, done more dillute Open Source's meaning than years of infighting could have ever managed. If things like this don't convince people that pure Free Software is the best way to protect ideas such as freedom and community, what will?
  • Why the heck should they do anything from abstract
    altruism? They have enough shareholders to care
    And they do their job well (too well in eyes of DOJ). Microsoft is just a company which is
    out for profit, and it satisfies their customers
    better then any other company around.

    They don't play fair with competitors, and this
    is only point to blame them.

    Technically, their programmers do quite a good
    job by making software which works at all,
    given such uglu and self-contradictory specifications (probably written by somebody
    in marketing department, who just compilied
    thousends feature request from lusers).

    It is lusers, which are not inclined to learn, who are responsible for hell which happens now
    in software industry and internet.

    Only thing which Microsoft can be blamed for
    is that they made computers accessible not only
    for people who are willing to learn, but for
    average persons. Would you blame them for this?

    Now they are moving toward people who are able
    to learn, giving them something to learn about there from. While there are about hundred lusers
    per one power user, not mention hacker, they
    wouldn't loose their profit, but may make life
    for us a bit happier, allows us to interoperate
    with their users without resorting to their
    "fool-friendly" and "clever-person-unfriendly"
  • Yes, it's true. The WINE developers would be forced *not* to look at the code. However, I think you have it backwards when you say "it's a LOT harder to prove you didn't peak at the code". In the USA, this burdon is placed on the accusor, not on the accused.

    That said, there's nothing that prevents the Micros~1 layers from filing lawsuit after lawsuit, until the WINE developers finally give up for lack of funds for their defense.

    If you want to develop for WINE, make absolutely sure you never look at the Windows code...
  • It all depends on the license the person agrees to in order to look at the code. US contract law states that, unless a clause specifically violates an existing law, anything that a person signs in a contract is contractually valid. That person can, in turn, be sued if he or she violates the terms in the contract.

    It really has nothing to do with intellectual property law. IP law covers such things as copyrights, trademarks, and patents.
  • This depends on the country. In the US, the loser of a lawsuit does not have to pay the winner's legal fees, unless it is part of punitive damages as part of a frivelous lawsuit.

    In short, in the US, the loser does *not* pay.
  • If you violate a contract that you agree to, you can be sued. A simple check of the CVS tree would indicate which user(s) checked in code in violation of the MS license agreement.

    If you aren't in the US, but you sign the agreement, you are still liable (unless the terms of the agreement violate the laws of your local country). However, pursuing such lawsuits can be extremely difficult.

    You're right to say that it can be hard to surpress code that has been open sourced. However, distribution of such code is also against the law. Microsoft, with its armada of lawyers, would undoubtedly sue any of the larger FTP sites that distribute illegally obtained code (code that violates their copyright and/or their license agreement).

    As long as Microsoft did not *copy* lines from WINE's code, then they can look at WINE's code all day long, without repurcussions. The source code license for WINE, as with most "open source" efforts, is very liberal in this area.

    All I'm saying is, "Be careful". If you want to develop for WINE, don't look at *any* of the MS code. People like Phil Zimmerman, author of PGP, know very well what it is like to live in the wrath of never-ending lawsuits (others, outside the US, allegedly distributed copyrighted code that he used in early versions of PGP).

  • If you violate a contract that you agree to, you can be sued. A simple check of the CVS tree would indicate which user(s) checked in code in violation of the MS license agreement.

    If you aren't in the US, but you sign the agreement, you are still liable (unless the terms of the agreement violate the laws of your local country). However, pursuing such lawsuits can be extremely difficult.

    You're right to say that it can be hard to surpress code that has been open sourced. However, distribution of such code is also against the law. Microsoft, with its armada of lawyers, would undoubtedly sue any of the larger FTP sites that distribute illegally obtained code (code that violates their copyright and/or their license agreement).

    As long as Microsoft did not *copy* lines from WINE's code, then they can look at WINE's code all day long, without repurcussions. The source code license for WINE, as with most "open source" efforts, is very liberal in this area.

    All I'm saying is, "Be careful". If you want to develop for WINE, don't look at *any* of the MS code. People like Phil Zimmerman, author of PGP, know very well what it is like to live in the wrath of never-ending lawsuits (others, outside the US, allegedly distributed copyrighted code that he used in early versions of PGP).
  • That'd be the day.

    Last I heard, MS just buys out a company when it wants to roll their code into Windows. What's this "MS licenses stuff" crap? :)

    What worries me about "Windows 2000 open source" is the idea that Microsoft would try to retain intellectual-property rights to the entire codebase, so you COULD submit changes etc.... you just couldn't use any MS code, even as a reference, in your own projects - which makes it worthless for stuff like WINE (good from the MS perspective).
  • Maybe this is microsofts way of showing how open source fails... they will make a big stink about trying it, set it up so it will fail, and then make a bunch of media anouncements that "Open Source just does not work" probably using netscape as a prime example.

    Federico Grau
  • What i see perhaps happaning is the windows source may one day be included on the CD with the binaries, but covered under the same EULA (i.e. you can't spread it around :)

    Is this a good thing? maybe.......
    Is this an ideal thing? no. however.....
    Is this a better-than-the-current-thing? I think so.
  • For years I have been posting on their web site and sending e-mail to Microsoft suggesting that Open Sourcing is a good idea. Could they actually be listening? :) Hey, if you think it is a good idea, did you bother to let that position be known to Microsoft? Anyway, we'll see how it pans out, but I will continue with my dual-boot system (Linux for Real Work, Windows for Games) for the forseeable future come what may.

    Of course, MS tech support has been more doting over me than ever as of late since I found a real stumper of a bug with their IE 5.0 Japanese Support update (installing it screwed up my video, which now only runs VGA on a 4MB Video Card and a 21" monitor) and pointed out in their response they actually BROKE the licencing agreement (they agree to acknolegde any support request within 24 hours, and it took them over 48 just to tell me it was being transfered to a Tech Support specialist.) Now, if I had the Source Code, sure as hell I'd have fixed it myself by now! C'est la vie -- c'est la Systeme Capitolist.

  • One of the main advantages of open-source is the fact that they can't sue "the wine developers". Who on earth would they sue?

    If I start developing for wine, and I get sued, someone else will start developing.

    If MS put a suit on redhat/slackware/debian to stop the distribution, it will go to other ftp sites.

    And AIUI most of the wine developers aren't in the US. I'd be interested to see the US Justice Dept getting an extradition warrant for MS :)

    Of course what the wine group could do is claim that MS looked at wine's source first.......

  • We all seem to forget that we have the source code already available to us ... albeit in x86 assembly. That's right, use the Microsoft executable DEBUG.EXE on any binary with the (U)nassemble command, you get a dump of all of the neato-bandito asm instructions which make the system work.

    Sure, it's huge, but so is 35 million lines of C++. And from what I hear, most of those 35 million lines become nop instructions anyway =).

    Moreover, Microsoft can't sue you -- assembly instructions are self-evident in the machine code, and any parser to translate asm-to-C (not that any work worth a damn) would make drastically different code in appearance, although similar in functionality.

    Personally, I'd like to run the Windows instructions through gnu as to see what would happen -- but oh wait, I've got better things to do with my time :)
  • One of the most valuable aspects of having the OS source is application and/or driver development. I don't want to modify it--I just want to know how to make my code painlessly interact with it.

    I can't tell you the number of times I didn't bother with the Linux man pages and just dropped straight into the code to see the structures I needed to pass down. Linux driver development is much easier when you don't have to fight the OS along the way.

    There are times with Windows development where you run into crap that's either so badly documented or completely undocumented that you wish you could just peek at the source to see what the @#!$ they expect you to pass as parameters.

    Also check out a similar story on The Register.
    (The Register is on a temporary IP address while moving to a new ISP.)
  • Comment removed based on user account deletion
  • This would be the same thing Sun is doing. Windows pricing and runtime/binary licensing wouldn't change. But at least if you're running into a nasty bug, or need to replace an insecure function with a secure one and so forth, you'll be able to.

    It's not free beer. It's not free speech. It would, however, mean that IT shops would no longer be hostage to Microsoft's development cycle when they need a feature and need it now.

    I do think Released-Source Software is likely to become the norm for most enterprise-scale commercial applications. It makes good sense and makes customers comfortable.
  • Not having bothered to look at an EULA lately, but I know their ilk tend to have admonishments against unauthorized reverse engineering and disassembly, as well as transmission in human readable and yadda yadda format...

    wouldn't the above fall into that territory?
  • So why do I have eyes? I can feel around perfectly well. Nevermind that something is crashing behind me, and maybe I can hear it, and maybe I'll touch chunks of something falling on me before I get buried.

    So why do we use radio telescopes? Visible light shows stars well enough. Or why do we need smell? I would have known that my halogen lamp was starting a fire soon enough, once I saw the flames.

    BLah blah blah. "I'm a tough hacker and don't need no WIMP os." Go away.

    We have multiple senses. Each one is a channel of information. Any intuitive device should effectively leverage each of those senses to convey information about its state and goings on. And a server OS should leverage those senses most of all, since there is so much information there.

    I would have never realized my Linux box was under a successful hack attempt if I didn't have a GUI throwing up dialogs telling me so. And it would have taken me years to discover the config options available to me without a semi-intuitive interface presenting them.

    Yeah, yeah, I know. You're a tough hacker and RTFM reams and reams of man pages, FAQs, yadda yadda...

    Sorry. I have better things to do, and my machinery should assist me in the use of my time, not suck down as much of it as possible with anti-intuitive interfaces.

  • "It will move to keep its competitive edge". Why is it that those words send a chill down my spine? Methinks that would have more to do with evil-doing than actually innovating their way past Linux's current popularity.

    Then I get to thinking that hell, they can do whatever they want, so long as I can continue to use a viable, secure, open operating system, why should I care whether the rest of the world is using it.

    Enough rambling.
  • You've hit it exactly. It's a form of "embrace and extend." Confuse the meaning of open source, and people will give up on it.

    Or so they hope.

  • I don't.

    The most chilling thing in this for me was the idea that if Linux "keeps popping up all over", then Microsoft will act to "keep its competitive edge." In the past, that means taking the good parts of a competitor and buying them or making them useless. They can't buy GNU or Linux.

    Of course, they can't hurt the GPL or code licensed under it, but they can make it useless. We've already seen how conflicting licenses can make code reuse illegal between differently-licensed code. Even differently-licensed Open Source code.

    The worst-case scenario is that Microsoft's army of lawyers comes up with a license that makes code licensed under it ususable in projects using other popular, "competing" licenses (*ahem* GPL *cough*). Then make their code so ubiquitous that the "competing" code becomes useless in practical terms. IOW, it's no longer a mix-and-match "commodity"...sound familiar?

    Anyway, why do all the work cleaning up Windows code when you've already got a clean, maintainable codebase from Linux? Netscape has shown us how badly bloated commercial-quality products can be; why go through the effort when you could just polish up Linux some and be done with it?

    Disclaimer: I'm using an NT box to write this even as we speak, and I'd be useless for digging into Windows source, unless it's in Perl. (Which would surprise me -- it would have to be pretty badly-written Perl. :) But irresponsible licensing practices can "de-commoditize" even Open Source code. Given MS's track record, it will take a lot to convince me anything significant they do with Open Source won't be an attack.


  • They're doing it to gain industry acceptance [...] it seems that in this case there isn't even a pretense of them trying to get feedback about the code from regular developers. This is just PR.

    I couldn't agree more with this sentiment. This is simply a media spin. We've seen them do this a hundred times before. Likewise, I agree completely with the other comments about 'embrace and extend'. This is jut another MS ploy to maintain their control of public mindset.

    They're obviously losing the battle for OS stability. Their credibility in the server market is costing them millions marketing dollars just to stay in the game. This strategy (open sourcing) only makes sense in The MS Way. They didn't want anything to do with the internet until they saw someone else making inroads. Same thing here. They'd never have considered open sourcing anything, if someone else (Linux, et al) weren't already showing a benefit from it.

    Resistance is futile. Your distinctiveness will be added to our own.

    I question the sensibility of anyone who fails to see this.

  • For one, releasing the source will truly put their APIs in the open, so it will mean that the playing field for developers is somewhat more level, since MS have no chance of taking advantage of their knowledge regarding undocumented features and bugs of their APIs
  • I doubt it. The problem with suing open source projects is that the projects are usually international. Also, this kind of thing is very hard to prove in a court. Copyright infringement suits usually tend to target fairly blatant copying.
  • This is almost certainly nothing but a publicity move. And if it's anything more, it's a preemptive strike against the DOJ. But there is one other nightmare scenario, that falls right in sync with the "Embrace and Extend" approach:

    I very much doubt any Linux hackers will want to touch NT's kernel. What they might want to do, however, is add support for the NT API into Linux. At least in theory, this would let you replace the NT kernel with the Linux kernel, and run NT and Linux apps at the same time.

    And maybe then Microsoft completely drops the NT Kernel in favor of Linux's. This gets them a much faster and more stable kernel for free.

    The next version of Windows is then advertised as fast and stable and, oh yes, runs Linux apps also. This would be a huge blow to RedHat and other commercial Linux vendors.

  • by Cassius ( 9481 ) on Thursday April 08, 1999 @07:52AM (#1944111)
    Simply releasing 30 million lines of code out to developers isn't going to be of much use to anyone.

    It wold be impossible to comprehend and modify in a useful way unless you had a team of literally thousands working in very close conjunction with you (i.e. in the same building as you 8 hours a day). In other words, unless you are working at Microsoft, it is unlikely your organization will be able to make sense of the code.

    As for individuals downloading the code, 30 million lines of code might as well be in hex. You'll never comprehend it in your lifetime.

    This is a similar dilemma to Mozilla - developers have very little interest in delving deep into cruft, whether it be documented or not.

    In other words, this is obviously a PR move.
  • This is just part of the normal M$ Embrace and Extend tactic...

    Adopt all the special features of your counterpart so that the enemys product doesn't seem different than yours...

    But they forget that you can't fake stability or sound design, it will be fun to see them fall on their face with this:)
  • Assume, for the sake of argument, that Windows* is released under the GPL in its entirety for everyone to see and use and update as they see fit. Would you want to work on it? Would you want the task of reading millions of lines of legacy code in order to get your two cents in? I wouldn't.

    When projects are open source from the beginning, it gives programmers a little seedling of code to start with, and then they can work together to shape a program into something special and maintainable and often quite portable too!

    Open source code is a lot like manure. A sprinkle here and there can do wonders to make things grow. But dump too much at once and you'll just wind up with a big pile of shit.

  • don't get fixed. If M$ lost the source code, you can't very well fix and improve it! But, you can ADD to it. Hmmm.

    I haven't read through all of the comments here yet, but my impression is that the M$ Windows is stuck in it's own paradigm, that it would be difficult to move in another direction than M$ has been taking it. I feel that Linux so much farther ahead and designed in a better paradigm (IMHO) that there is not much motivation to look into the Windows source (aside from curiousity reasons).

    I'm curious to know how long it would take some other company (already established or startup) to learn the source code and develop a new Windows "distribution". Is that really possible? Will people really buy it if it doesn't look the same as M$-Windows?
    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"
  • If you re-read the recent Mozilla birthday threads, and Jamie Zawinski's resignation letter [] from M$'s perspective, you could see the potential benefits to M$ of publishing NT kernel source. Jamie's lament about being dominated by Netscape, and the fact that outside participants were unable to contribute much code and mostly gave early design guidance,... many of their laments could be seen as benefits to M$. And developers really would be able to cope better with NT bugs while shining more light on those bugs and potential fixes. M$ gets advice and input in the design and early development stages. They get bugfixes later on. But their developers do all the work. They call all the shots. (And I have no doubt that they would assert full control over re-use of their code. The last thing they could tolerate would be a loss of version control over their dll's.)

    OTOH, M$ working methods would have to be drastically altered. It all seems like a very long shot for these reasons alone. Would they continue with daily builds? Would these be posted? Near the end when stabilization is the preeminent concern, would they really want outsiders opinions about the hack vs. fix trade-off decisions? How would they handle the product readiness and release to manufacturing decisions? Openly? That would be rich. The outside tinkerers and perfectionists would certainly be an irritation at the endgame. That's one phenomena the Mozilla crew has yet to face.

  • company CEOs do not want their shops tinkering with the code.

    I have harsh words for any CEO who says this. If you want software manufacturers to withhold technical information about their software because you can't stop your programmers from modifying your production system without authorization, then you have a management problem, and you'd better fix it. Plenty of shops have "no modifications" policies, and they work quite well. The computer crashes, the system programmers read the dump, consult the source code, identify the problem, call the support line, describe the problem exactly, and you get a fix really fast.

    As opposed to an object-code-only system, where you call the support line, describe the problem, maybe FTP a dump in, and sit on the phone while someone who isn't familiar with your particular operating environment tries to fix a problem that may only exist in your particular computer.

    I heard this argument back in the days when IBM was trying to close-source all of their mainframe operating systems.

    "We don't want our programmers tinkering with the code."

    However, things start to seem a little different when the software is crashed, won't restart, and the system programmers, who are perfectly capable of fixing the problem, if they had the source code, are sitting on the phone instead saying things like "Please escalate this problem to the next severity level" and "I'm on hold". At this point, the corporate philosophy quickly changes to:

    I don't care ... You know how these computers work ... we've got the whole company playing solitaire ... do whatever the hell it takes to get our sales and ordering system back on line. ANYTHING.

    Of course, if you HAVE the source code, then you have that option. If you don't, then you don't have that option. It's as simple as that. Do you want the option of having your own people ABLE to understand and repair the basic technology that you trust to form the core of your business?

    This problem will become particularly acute come the beginning of the year, when all of the missed Y2K bugs start to manifest themselves.

    Do you think that any company has REALLY fixed ALL of their Y2K bugs? What do you think that the odds are that you'll even be able to get THROUGH on any software support telephone line for the first week or so of January 2000, much less actually get a bug fix?

    How much computer downtime can YOUR company handle before it goes out of business?

    - jms

  • they could release the win9x source instead of the nt kernel!

    if they actually do release the nt kernel source.. it would be interesting to see what would come of it. this is of course barring that the eula isn't totally restrictive ( of course it will be ) and that its just the straight kernel with no hooks for integration ( ie4, ie5 needed to compile ) and such. to be able to clean it up and create an Open-NT.

    well one could dream, but since this will never happen.. back to recompiling my kernel here.

  • This is a similar dilemma to Mozilla - developers have very little interest in delving deep into cruft, whether it be documented or not.

    This is why closed source open source transitions don't work very well for a while. The code in place just isn't designed for distributed development. It's generally full of get-me-to-market hacks, rather than well-thought stable design.

    Open Source is more than just releasing code -- it requires setting up an infrastructure where that code can be used/modified.

    As an aside, I'd say that Mozilla *was* cruft. Now it's just a really big project. But hopefully it (is | will be) broken down enough that modules can be hacked easily.

  • I'm sure we would all like to see that it's just that we have all lost any hope in something like that ever happening. It's not arrogance, it's total disbelief!

  • According to, Debian 2.1 is over 70 Million lines of code. And that's managable by a group of volunteeers.

    (Not quite an apples-to-apples comparision with Win2000 because Debian's number probably includes all 300 window managers and so on. But Win2000 does include IIS, multi-user, routing, and unix services.)

  • I'm sorry but this one ranks up there with "MS Linux" in the paranoia factor. Microsoft's SMB file sharing backwards compatible with 15 year old networking products from IBM.

    Could Microsoft break Samba in some subtle way? Probably, but they'd also be breaking WfW, DOS clients, OS/2, and everything else that's ever used SMB. Microsoft's customers would form a lynch mob.

    As for hiring lots of genius programmers, MS may not produce the best products, but they produce lots and lots of products. (Compare this to various grand plans from Netscape, Apple, Lotus, etc. that never got out the door.) I doubt there is a computer company in existance that doesn't compete with at least one MS product.
  • by IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Thursday April 08, 1999 @01:42PM (#1944122) Journal

    AT&T's "LanMan for Unix" product (now resold by Sun and SCO) goes back to the Microsoft OS/2 1.x days in the 1980s. Back then MS only had like 10% of the file-and-print market so it was reasonable to licence the SMB protocol and Domain security stuff to anyone who wanted it. Not much has changed protocol-wise since then.

    IBM owns this code too, and could do the same thing in theory. Me wonders why they don't.

  • by IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Thursday April 08, 1999 @02:22PM (#1944123) Journal
    Hmmm - this is from Microsoft's web site:

    Some people might ask, what is the Microsoft DNS and why should I use it? Well let's start out by telling you what it is not. First, the Microsoft DNS server is not a port of the Berkley BIND code (which is currently at revision 10.4 as of the writing of this paper). We made a conscious decision to not port the BIND code, but rather write our own code that was fully RFC compliant and compatible with BIND. mplete/boes/bo/winntas/technote/implemntin tegra/dnswp2.htm
  • by IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Thursday April 08, 1999 @02:28PM (#1944124) Journal

    Gates has given 100s of millions away. The fact that people don't know this only shows that he hasn't been doing it for PR purposes.


  • Right on. The mindset it takes to believe that Microsoft would intentionally break their own server-client "solution" is pretty bizarre.

  • Well, if they're releasing just thje kernel, then it's not going to be 30 million lines of code, is it?

    30 Million appears ot cover _everything_, so if they released just the kernel it would be a lot smaller than that. Also, surely haveing the kernel be open source would make it a lot easier for the people behind WINE and similar things.
  • Remember, those 30 million lines of code are actually an awful lot of smaller programs running together. It almost certianly includes IE, DirectX, COM, Notepad, Minesweeper, Wordpad, Hyperterminal and 5000 other small programs and DLL's.

    That would make it a lot easier to play around with than Mozilla was. You could just modify the TCP/IP stack, or just the Direct3D code, or whatever.
  • Understanding assembly output is hard, but maybe we could break it into small chunks. If 1000 of us each took a couple of hours to look our section over, and comment it, we would have something. Repeat this process until we get to a pretty high level understanding of what was done, without really looking at their source.
  • Yeah, It probably would. I still think it would be fun though.
  • by bog ( 12897 )
    I see a some possible reasons for this:

    1. M$ just want to look god to the US Department of justice, and plan to find some excuse to discard this idea later.

    2. It is a typical M$ fud missile to of the type "no reason to look into porting your apps to linux because we will also go open source, and then what reason do anyone have to run linux/*BSD" or "no reason to chose linux/*BSD for your server, when we soon.....". And they may not have any real plans to do it is just to slow down linux until they get Win 2000 out.

    3. They may actually release the code (or parts of it) in a license some were between NDA and APSL, but they still will want to charge for it just like before, and it would probably be almost impossible to use the code in other projects (like wine) even indirectly.

    4. They may have become good guy's and release the code under GPL, or as has been pointed out by a fellow /.'er the OS is now a commodity and they have a better chance of selling their other applications on a windoz-platform than on linux/*BSD. So rather than lose the desktop and servers to linux/*BSD they release their own code in an attempt to stop linux/*BSD.

    If the company continues to see Linux "popping up everywhere," Valentine said, it will move to keep its competitive edge.

    I think there are some moves they could do, but not with out disappointing their shareholders a LOT!

  • I wanna get my hands on that DNA strand and fix a few bugs.
  • I don't like using Windows because I don't think it's well designed or well implemented.

    Open sourcing it isn't going to fix that. Microsoft isn't going to give up control of the evolution of Windows, so people won't be able to fix some of the more broken aspects of Windows. And the ways in which Windows is broken are so deep that I doubt that an open source effort could fix them. Neither are they likely to cut of their operating system revenue stream, so open source or not, you will probably still have to pay for a license.

    In addition, on of the reasons why I like open source software is because the frugality and limited resources surrounding its creating necessarily keep it lean and simple. But Windows has its roots in a well-funded, corporate development effort, and it shows a lot of complexities and compromises as a result. (Mozilla is in the same boat, and that's probably why I never really got very excited about it.)

    No matter how the Windows OS source code would be released (even if it were released under GPL), it would make things worse because it would mean that more people are going to use it and more people are going to start depending on Windows internals. For this reason, I never understood why the attorneys general considered open sourcing Windows a solution to Microsoft's monopoly position.

    Open sourcing Windows would be a great thing for Microsoft, and a bad thing for anybody who doesn't like their technology. I'm surprised Microsoft hasn't done it already.

  • T H I S J U S T I N ! ! !

    Ford is releasing it's new sedan, the Penguin, as Open Source. The release will abide by the rules of the Ford Open Source Sharing Initiative License (FOSSIL)

    Exxon gasoline (87 octane only, sorry, we have to make a living too) is due to be released Open Source in May. The release will by guided by Source Publicity International License.

    Hood ice cream, vanilla and chocolate flavors, soon to be Open Source. In a move intended to cut off Hagen Daas from equity competition in the US, the flavors will be available under the Digital And Ingestible Redistribution lYcense.
  • Since OSS is supported by people who are interested in it, here's a chance for the community to show M$ how valuable it's software really is.

    Nobody download ANY of it. Let it rot.
  • by jerodd ( 13818 ) on Thursday April 08, 1999 @10:44AM (#1944135) Homepage
    IIRC most of the money he's `given' to Third world nations has been for the dubious prospect of `population management'. One classic quote from Gates I read in the Journal stated that he believes that `overpopulation in the third world is the biggest problem to face America'. While that may sound nice, I think it boilds down to `I-like-my-big-house-and-segregated-neighborhood-a nd-there's-too-many-dark-skinned-people- in-the-world-anyway' mentality. If I were a native of the Third world, I would view mass sterilisation drives (such as armies of nurses to implant IUDs) as a masked form of genocide. Rather than stopping reproduction, introduce the changes to society that give us the American system where people reproduce at a moderate rate.
  • I don't know what the real price is, but what you propose is the literal truth. Anyone willing to pay the asking price has, in plain fact, been able to get access to the NT source code for years. Probably going all the way back to pre-release, I would guess. I remember reading about the flap a year ago when MS decided to revoke the source code license it had granted to AT&T []. Apparently, MS didn't appreciate AT&T using their NT source code to make NT interoperate better with Unix. :-)
  • Possible, I suppose, since the biggest money-maker MS has is actually Office, not Windows.
    Well, yeah, but a lot of people would argue that it's the fact that they control the OS, all the APIs, and the applications that's enabled them to keep the position they're in. But at this point, I've heard so many stores about how dirty MS plays that I can't help but think that there must be something up their collective sleeve.
  • That's spooky, besides, why would MS do this? Well, best guess is that it's a tactic to for the DoJ! Besides, who would wanna see MS sourcecode anyways? I bet the WINE guys couldn't use it... I'd be willing to bet no one will be able to use it...
  • People do read the code and find GPL or BSD code in there

    Don't need to read the source code to prove that. Just take "ftp.exe" from Win95 for example:

    %strings ftp.exe
    @(#) Copyright (c) 1983 The Regents of the University of California.
    All rights reserved.
    script name = %s

    Obviously from BSD code, but there's nothing in the BSD license that prohibits this.

  • The phrasing is usually "Microsoft hires the best talent they can find". The phrase "they can find" carries the implication "that are willing to work for them for what Microsoft is offering".

    Well, doesn't every company do that? ("Best" being a somewhat subjective measure here.) Anyone know of any companies that set out to hire the second best talent they can find, or the worst talent?

    It's just more of MS is best at: marketspeak.
  • by Benjamin Shniper ( 24107 ) on Thursday April 08, 1999 @12:02PM (#1944171) Homepage
    With all the hoopla in the press about Open Source, people outside of Slashdot are beginning to take notice. This includes the opportunists. Even Al Gore is joining in without first considerring the consequences.

    First off, there is nothing inherently good about Open Source unless it is practiced correctly, just like democracy. Haphazardly claiming every project should be open source without basic redesigns is as dangerous as throwing out an incumbant government in favor of a new democracy.
    Without proper treatment, such a farce could lead to anarchy, or worse. Such is the fate of projects (like mozilla) and companies who would attempt to go to open source without changing their business model.

    But, just like China, Russia, and even Nazi Germany claimed they were "democracies" , bad people and misguided people will claim the Open Source movement for their own purposes. Make no mistake about it- these opportunists have come to slay Open Source, not to join in and change themselves.

    Now, enter Microsoft, which has built an empire on "proprietary information", meaning patenting their software, and "licensing agreements" meaning lawyers and legal tactics. How much can we doubt their intentions? Did they help shareware or freeware by making IE free (as they claimed)?
    Did they help the industry in ergonomics by adding that? Do they wish to help anyone but themselves by stealing and deprecating the hard-earned work of others?? No.

    They will seek to destroy Open Source by weakenning the definition. They see Apple and Al Gore (stupid blunderrers in the path of a giant) as test subjects for the subjugation of Open Source, and indeed, of proprietary software with a universal tax to Microsoft.

    Is this for real? Is it even possible? Yes, and yes. This is exactly the business model Bill Gates has laborred to set up. We may even see more of it in our lifetimes, if the government doesn't step in. Truth is, only the government can stop Bill Gates.

  • "There are all different types of ways you can do open source," Valentine said. "We are looking into whether we should get into open source initiatives."

    All different types of ways to do open source? I translate to mean "We plan on creating our own proprietary open source license that only applies to Windows and controls the use of the source code just as we control your desktop, your banks, and your lives."
  • Is it possible that MS would release the source code to the kernel only? For example, the low level stuff such as the HAL, and the code that interfaces with it (Leave out the GUI stuff). This way, they could open source it, it really wouldn't be of much use to anyone, and the DoJ gets off their backs because they wouldn't know the difference anyway...

Scientists will study your brain to learn more about your distant cousin, Man.