14 May 2007

Microsoft Opens Salvo Against Open-Source

I believe knowledge wants to be free, it never thrives when it is being stifled by secrecy. I am an idealist in that regard although I am willing to admit I fail to do enough about it (hopefully I will get around to changing that).

My TortoiseSVN integration into Visual Studio is out there because I wanted people to not go through what I did to get it up and running. Because the project that makes it possible is open-source, there is no reason I should keep something so trivial secret that makes it more useful.

It seems that the war is about to begin. Microsoft have declared that free software violates 235 of their software patents. Microsoft are not specific beyond application areas like office applications or email. The article itself is deliberately inflammatory, especially the choice of pictures and captions.

This article is merely a couple of days after this article in which Microsoft declares that fee software does not exist. In fact Bill Hilf (of Microsoft's Linux Lab) is so wide of the mark it is not funny. He seems to equate people having jobs means that free software does not exist, and goes so far to say that there is no community when Microsoft are masters at astroturfing. For a start it is Open-Source software and free as in libre software, it is about knowledge being free, not about the cost being nothing. Sharing knowledge surely makes a better society.

In fact Microsoft are deliberately framing the debate mainly focussing on trying to term it all "free software" and trying to make it mean what they say it means. Microsoft are trying to create a public awareness of people sharing knowledge to create better software being a bad thing by making it sound like it does not really exist and is a corporate conspiracy.

Microsoft are treading dangerous ground now because they are going to start alienating people. Most importantly they will alienate some areas of the development community, I know I have no interest in contributing to anything Microsoft will do, and I plan to steer clear of things like .NET for philosophical reasons. I started to use VS2005 Express because it is free, but all home development I do from now on will be using non-MS tools (hopefully GCC 4.2 will be out soon).

All of this does prove that the doomsayers from the Novell-Microsoft agreement were right on the money.

Eben Moglen ( former general counsel to the Free Software Foundation) has given an interview here. He has been instrumental in getting GPLv3 together. There is an interesting article about misconceptions about the GPLv3 licence here. Alex Cox, one of the instrumental developers on Linux has also given his backing to GPLv3.

In almost unrelated news Intel have released more open-source graphic drivers. Also AMD/ATi have committed to releasing open-source drivers.