Feeds

Ballmer: “Linux is a cancer”

Contaminates all other software with Hippie GPL rubbish

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Microsoft CEO and incontinent over-stater of facts Steve Ballmer said that "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches," during a commercial spot masquerading as a media interview with the Chicago Sun-Times Friday.

Ballmer was trying to articulate his concern, whether real or imagined, that limited recourse to the GNU GPL requires that all software be made open source.

"The way the license is written, if you use any open-source software, you have to make the rest of your software open source," Ballmer explained to an excessively credulous, un-named Sun-Times reporter who, predictably, neglected to question this bold assertion.

Perhaps Ballmer was thinking of this: "If identifiable sections of [a companion] work are not derived from the [open-source] Program, and can be reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves, then this License, and its terms, do not apply to those sections when you distribute them as separate works. But when you distribute the same sections as part of a whole which is a work based on the Program, the distribution of the whole must be on the terms of this License, whose permissions for other licensees extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every part regardless of who wrote it."

The passage is hopelessly ill written. What on earth, we must wonder, can the authors mean by a companion work which can be 'reasonably considered' to be separate? Do they mean it should have been developed independently? Do they mean it should function independently? Do they mean both?

What if a secondary work were developed separately, and function separately, but remain inextricably integrated with the first, the way Internet Explorer is with Windows? Is that 'reasonably considered' to be a separate work?

What's 'reasonable' here, anyway? And 'considered' by whom? The average adult? The average programmer? It's vague, all right; we'll give old Steve that much.

But one thing we can depend on is that it definitely doesn't mean what Ballmer slickly tries to imply: that once you issue anything under the GPL, every other piece of software you have for sale is suddenly affected by it.

And yet this is the shaky basis on which Ballmer dismisses open source as anathema to all commercial software companies. It can't be used at all, he reasons, because even a tiny germ of it, like a metastasizing cancer, contaminates the entire body. Thus Microsoft 'has a problem' with government funding of open-source.

"Government funding should be for work that is available to everybody," he says patriotically. But "open source is not available to commercial companies," and should therefore be regarded as a violation of the public trust.

Ballmer touches on a few other items, including Microsoft's new product activation and licensing schemes, which, it is hoped, will pave the way for a thriving software rental business and its subsequent endless revenue stream.

"Our goal is to try to educate people on what it means to protect intellectual property and pay for it properly" (read 'eternally'), Ballmer says.

If by 'educate' he means punish with higher costs those who fail to appreciate the wisdom of volume software leases, and inconvenience Win-XP users who like to re-format on a regular basis with a limit of two clean installs, then perhaps he might have chosen different wording.

'Train' or 'housebreak' strike us as somewhat more in tune with the subtext. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.