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Microsoft has issued a statement designed to stop developers from running one of its development tools on Linux.

The controversy kicked off earlier this month when Microsoft executives warned software developer Whil Hentzen, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, against demonstrating how to run Microsoft's Visual FoxPro (VFP) on Linux during a seminar.

Prior to the demonstration, Hentzen received a call from Ken Levy, Microsoft's Visual FoxPro marketing manager, telling him that he would be in violation of the EULA (End User Licensing Agreement) for VFP if he demonstrated (or ran) the development tool on Linux.

But developers had previously been led to believe from Microsoft that "as long as licenses were in order" running VFP on Linux as a developer environment was permissible, if not exactly encouraged.

"It appears that Microsoft is trying the tie its applications (developer tools) to their operating system," Hentzen told us.

"Given the legal difficulties that Microsoft has encountered over the years, we don't believe that this is legal, and thus we don't believe that this is the intent of the EULA."

Last weekend, Microsoft's Levy posted a message on enthusiast sites essentially saying that Visual FoxPro is a Windows-only tool.

"Visual FoxPro was designed and tested for use in creating applications that run on the Microsoft Windows platform; the same applies to the components that are provided to developers for redistribution with Visual FoxPro-based applications," Levy writes.

"If a developer wishes to distribute the Visual FoxPro runtime with an application, the runtime may only operate in conjunction with a Microsoft Windows platform. As with any contract, you should seek your own legal counsel's advice when interpreting your rights and obligations under the Visual FoxPro End User License Agreement."

Levy said the statement was his last comment on the issue, though it's unlikely that the VFP on Linux camp will drop the subject quite so easily.

Letters we've received on the subject are weighted towards those who oppose Microsoft's stance.

Californian developer Howard Golden believes that the "MS EULA wording is intentionally misleading to suggest tying without actually tying VFP to Windows".

"The EULA does not say you can only operate VFP on MS operating systems. It only says you can't use VFP to design, develop and test your own programs that are not designed to operate on MS products," he emails us.

The distinction is critical: If someone can operate your program on Windows, then it's OK to run VFP on Linux to design, develop and test the product on Linux."

FoxPro is a database and dev language purchased by Microsoft in 1992, and now known as Microsoft Visual FoxPro (VFP).

The technology allows developer to create an executable, which can then be distributed (along with a support library DLL), to an unlimited number of end users.

Within the FoxPro community there's been considerable interest of late in running VFP apps on Linux, instead of Windows. VFP can run on Linux using WINE. ®

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