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MS' MIT prof witness gets toasted over KDE, GNOME

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Some reports today suggest that Microsoft witness Stuart E Madnick, a computer science professor at MIT, might have made desperate claims in court that KDE and GNOME were operating systems. This, fortunately for the good prof's career, is not true, but he most certainly had a desperate and unsuccessful struggle with States' attorney Kevin Hodges, and it's worth reporting in some detail.

Hodges opened the skirmish with: "is there any other operating system you're aware of in which the Web browsing functionality is commingled with the operating system?"

A. Yes, I do, if we take the view that the Web browsing functionality is also relied upon in other parts of the operating system.
Q. Which operating systems would those be?
A. Well, some examples, and there may be many others, would be the KDE user interface or GUI that exists on the Linux operating system.

There, he's clearly not claiming KDE is an OS, but he's not answering the question either, so he's in trouble, and Hodges knows his stuff:

Q. Now, KDE is not an operating system; correct?
A. I think I -- every definition in this court it would be middleware, in which case it would be a platform software.

So was that a 'no'?

Q. KDE is the graphic user interface, graphical user interface, for the Linux operating system; is that correct?
A. Yes. It's one of the interfaces available.
Q. It can be removed and replaced; correct?

Trouble coming...

A. Well, it can be -- if it is removed, of course, by -- if it's just removed, then the user will not be able to use the system. You could replace it by others and, in fact, most of the others I'm aware of likewise have, as you would call it, commingled Web browsing with their functionality.
Q. In Windows can you remove the graphical user interface?
THE COURT: Are you talking about now?
MR. HODGES: Today, correct.
A. As I understand -- I believe it's either yes or will soon be. I believe the provision that the Microsoft has agreed to as part of the settlement is that the end user would be able to remove access to the browser, if that was your question.

Er, no it wasn't, but here it is again:

Q. My question is: Can the graphical user interface of Windows be removed?
A. I'm sorry. No, I do not believe so. It would no longer be Windows.

Remember that once upon a time Windows was a GUI and some people (not us, oh no sir) poked fun at Microsoft for claiming it was an OS? Hodges appears to, and now he's going to remind the prof:

Q. Has it ever been the case that the graphical user interface of Windows could be removed?
A. I guess the answer might be yes in the sense, as I said again in this session, at one time operating systems had no graphical interface at all if you go back to essentially the original MS-DOS. So this is the examples of the kinds of functionality that operating systems have increasingly provided to users to enhance their effectiveness. So, yes, there was a point in time where it did not exist and there's a point in time where it was added to the operating system.
Q. If KDE is removed from the Linux operating system, then its Web browsing functionality is also removed; is that correct?
A. Well, the Web browsing that's provided through the interface is removed, yes.
Q. The Web browsing provided through KDE; correct?
A. That is correct.
Q. Now, you say that, in paragraph 24 -- it's actually on page 12, paragraph 24. I'll read this to you. "One cannot delete the Web browser from KDE without losing the ability to manage files on the user's own hard disk." Do you see that language?
A. Yes, I do.

Geek alert...

Q. Now, isn't it the case that files can be managed by using standard UNIX command in the shell even if KDE is not installed?
A. That is correct. The assumption here was we are talking about the user using the system as a modern operating system which requires access to this kind of interface.

Well, that was fun, wasn't it? So Hodges asks the question again:

Q. We've talked about Windows and we've talked about the KDE interface, and my question is: Can you name any operating
system, other than Windows, that commingles a Web browser with the operating system?
A. I have not attempted to identify all the others. As I indicate in this whole section, these are examples of the kinds of innovative features that vendors constantly add to the systems. Some have reached that stage of benefiting from the kinds of interactions possible, some have not. These are the ones I've identified as part of the study so far.

Presumably Madnick is still claiming the KDE/GNOME on Linux configuration counts as this. Hodges asks the question again, with knobs on:

Q. Based on your experience as a computer scientist and as a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are you aware of any operating system, other than Windows, that binds the Web browser into the operating system?

Finally the opposition objects, but only to the use of "binds" rather than commingling. So Hodges asks apologises for the 'slip', and asks again:

Q. If I change the word from "binding" to "commingling," let me ask you, are you aware of any operating system, other than Windows, that commingles a Web browser with the operating system?
MR. LACOVARA: I would object to that. I think it's the third [fourth- Ed] time he's asked the question. Asked and answered.
THE COURT: I'll let him to proceed. But this is the last time.

So the judge doesn't think he answered either, and is going to let Hodges toast him some more.

A. Okay. If I recall the question, I think I answered it in terms of identifying KDE and I believe GNOME, which is another interface on Linux, also has the Web browser functionality integrated. So those are two examples. And, once again, this was not an attempt to exhaustively study all the others or systems that are under development today.

Hodges focuses on GNOME:

Q. And it is also, like KDE, a removable graphical user interface for Linux; correct?
A. It's removable in the sense if you remove it you no longer have access to a graphical user interface.
Q. It's not an operating system; correct?
A. Well, it is part of what we described as middleware under the understanding of the terms being used, and we go from there.

So Madnick hasn't come up with a non-Windows commingled OS, only has KDE and GNOME as examples, and has identified KDE and GNOME as optional pieces of middleware that are removable/interchangeable. Mission accomplished for Hodges, we feel, and he didn't even get onto Linux browsers as such.

He then proceeds to torture the prof over his assertion that Notepad is an is an example of a relatively self-contained block of code that is easily removable (not exactly, it appears), but we'll pass on that one for now. ®

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