Feeds

Bill Gates' letter to hobbyists (en Français, 2006)

Plus ça change

Intelligent flash storage arrays

EU vs MS Comment European Court justice Cooke gave Microsoft's lawyers a tonic yesterday, by raising concerns about the transfer of Microsoft's intellectual property.

But one shouldn't read too much into his intervention - the judge was playing devil's advocate. And the trouble for Microsoft is that it needs 12 more Cookes to spoil the European Commission's broth.

Nevertheless, Cooke's elevation of the intellectual property issue will trouble both proprietary rivals and free software advocates alike. Arguing the moral rights of a property holder is comfortable ground for Microsoft - it would rather be staked out here than be trumpeting its bold record of innovation, or its congenial and co-operative reputation in the technology business.

And the wholesale destruction of value caused by "volunteer" projects such as Craigslist, Wikipedia or "open source" software is certainly worthy of discussion, and should not be ducked. Craigslist is a business that poses as a non-profit, and by creaming off newspapers' classified profits, is hurting communities and shifting power to the middle-class and PC-literate by destroying what may be a community's only universally accessible media. Wikipedia is an ersatz "encyclopedia" that's industrialized the process of propagating unreliable information, and its only commercial value seems to be spammers, who scrape its keyword-rich content for junk websites. Free software doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as these ventures. Not only is it a historical continuity of the way much of our software infrastructure has been developed, but it has encouraged commercial value to built through service models, or dual licensing.

It's a pity that open source and free software advocates, many of whom find such comparisons odious, haven't disowned them more strongly. For when an influential judge lumps free software in with hucksters and hooligans, he's only citing what's he's reading in the New York Times, or our best and brightest think-tanks. This is the price we pay for having a witless and inattentive press - and a punditocracy too eager to grasp shiny new shapes or diagrams.

The plot thickens, however.

Especially when one considers the little-known fact that Microsoft has already offered to give away the source code to the protocols free software developers wish to work with, then we can see Microsoft's true intentions rather more clearly. It's an offer too good to refuse. What on the face of it looks like the moral high ground based on a defense of property rights, is really an artful strategy to isolate and punish free software. And on that basis, you can't fault Microsoft for inconsistency - it's a strategy that hasn't changed since Bill Gates' "Letter to hobbyists" in 1976.

We'll explain. Microsoft's source code offer took place through back channels at the end of last year - but at least one document is on the public record - a strong and detailed rebuttal prepared by the Samba team. Samba is the long-running GPL project to create a set of interoperable Microsoft networking protocols. Samba includes proprietary operating systems as well as free and open systems, and forms the basis of embedded products.

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
Torvalds CONFESSES: 'I'm pretty good at alienating devs'
Admits to 'a metric ****load' of mistakes during work with Linux collaborators
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.