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MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 11:35 AM EST

A leopard can't change its spots. So it is we find Microsoft announcing in a press release cunningly titled "Microsoft Goes Beyond EU Decision by Offering Windows Source Code" that they will license "some" of its code, specifically "all the Windows Server source code for the technologies covered by the European Commission’s Decision of March 2004", instead of complying with the EU Commission's requirement that it provide documentation. The Wall St. Journal [sub req'd] reports:
Under the EU ruling, Mr. Smith said the company wasn't obliged to release the code, but Microsoft determined "that the source code is the ultimate documentation, it is the DNA." In addition, he said the company was offering 500 hours of "free technical support" to help software developers decipher the code.

If Microsoft, in 12,000 pages, couldn't be comprehensible in describing its own code, will 500 hours of tech support and a pile of their code they can't describe themselves be clearer?

The Eu Commission required the documentation for a reason, as pointed out by Reuters:

In Europe, the Commission has ordered Microsoft to license its protocols -- rules of the road -- to help rivals' server software work with other servers and with its Windows operating system, because it competed unfairly in the late 1990s.

In each case, competitors need instruction to use the software.

Let me get this straight. The EU Commission orders Microsoft to hand over clear documentation. They hand over documentation, but it's incomprehensible, so no one can follow it. The EU Commission threatens to fine Microsoft $2.4 million every day until it complies, so instead of complying, Microsoft throws some code on the table and says, figure it out yourself. No documentation. For a fee. Have I got that right?

You'll recall that when the EU Commission announced they had chosen Neil Barrett, from a list provided by Microsoft, to be the Monitoring Trustee, it said this is what Barrett was to monitor, in part:

For example, as regards the interoperability remedy, where Microsoft is required to disclose complete and accurate interface documentation which would allow non-Microsoft work group servers to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers, his expertise might be used in assessing whether Microsoft’s protocol disclosures are complete and accurate, and whether the terms under which Microsoft makes the protocol specifications available are reasonable and non-discriminatory.

Microsoft turned in 12,000 incomprehensible pages instead, and now, when it wasn't acceptable to the EU Commission, they propose offering the code itself and 500 hours of tech support. Nice "plea bargain". It will be interesting to see if the EU Commission accepts the offer. All I can think of is whether there will be SCO-like infringement lawsuits down the road against folks who looked at the code and then write code Microsoft might claim they copied from their licensed code. Please, someone else cover those lawsuits, if they happen. And if you write FOSS, talk to your lawyer before you so much as sniff at this code.

[ UPDATE: The Free Software Foundation Europe is now warning about the code as well, reported by Heise:

Joachim Jacobs, spokesperson for the Free Software Foundation Europe writes in his first reaction that the EUC has demanded that the protocols should be accessible. However, MS wants to license the code. Nobody has asked for that, and if it happens, developers can be vulnerable to infringing copyright because they might have had access to the source code.

Heise also tells us this:

The spokesperson for EU-commisioner Neelie Kroes said that Microsoft until now has insufficiently complied with the requirement to open the technical information for the server protocols and noted that wether Microsoft complies with the EU-requirements is decided by the Commission, not by Microsoft.

Translation by a Groklaw's ruurd. Thank you.]

Here's what Microsoft had to say for itself, in its press release:

Today, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith announced Microsoft’s decision to license all the Windows Server source code for the technologies covered by the European Commission’s Decision of March 2004. The company is making this voluntary move in order to address categorically all of the issues raised by the Commission’s December 22, 2005 Statement of Objections. That document asserted that Microsoft’s prior technical documentation provided insufficient information to enable licensees to implement successfully certain Windows Server communications protocols.

"Today we are putting our most valuable intellectual property on the table so we can put technical compliance issues to rest and move forward with a serious discussion about the substance of this case," said Brad Smith, Microsoft Senior Vice President and General Counsel. "The Windows source code is the ultimate documentation of Windows Server technologies. With this step our goal is to resolve all questions about the sufficiency of our technical documentation."

With today's announcement, Microsoft is going far beyond the European Commission's March 2004 decision and its legal obligations to provide companies with the technical specifications of its proprietary communications protocols. A reference license to the Windows Server source code will provide software developers the most precise and authoritative description possible of the Windows protocol technologies. With it, software developers will be entitled to view the Windows source code in order to better understand how to develop products that interoperate with Windows, but not to copy Microsoft's source code.

"We have now come to the conclusion that the only way to be certain of satisfying the Commission's demands is to go beyond the 2004 Decision and offer a license to the source code of the Windows server operating system," said Smith. "While we are confident that we are presently in full compliance with the Decision we wish to dispel any notion that Microsoft's technical documents are insufficient."

For server software developers who take a license under this program, Microsoft previously had created more than twelve thousand pages of technical documentation covering specifications for the communications protocols covered by the 2004 Decision as well additional technology going beyond those protocols. In addition, Microsoft previously offered voluntarily to provide up to five hundred hours of free technical support from experienced Microsoft professionals who can answer any questions licensees might have. With today's announcement Microsoft has supplemented these resources with a new license for all of the Windows Server source code that implements all of the communications protocols covered by the 2004 Decision.

Microsoft has a similar protocol licensing program that was established in the United States pursuant to a consent decree there, covering certain protocols in the Windows desktop operating system. More than 20 companies have taken licenses to Microsoft's protocols under that program and many are shipping products incorporating such protocols. To continue to foster consistency between both licensing programs, Microsoft has decided to make available for the desktop protocols the same reference license for source code it is offering for server protocols, and the company will provide competition authorities in the United States with information so they can consider the matter.

The merits of the 2004 Decision are being reviewed by the European Court of First Instance. While Microsoft contests the merits of the 2004 Decision through that judicial process, today's announcement underscores the company's resolve to satisfy the Commission's compliance demands. In addition, Microsoft will continue to move forward to prepare its response to the December Statement of Objections, which is now due on 15 February.


  


MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation | 300 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Off topic here please
Authored by: Chris Lingard on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 11:55 AM EST

Please post in HTML, and put in those links; see the stuff in red at the end of the posting page. But post it anyway if you cannot do that.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Nothing to worry for MS
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 11:57 AM EST
Microsoft should be alright, as long as they don't have to turn over the DRM
sourcecode, which in a near future will the the fundament of the OS. All files,
including XML, ODF or even ASCII, on your harddisk will be wrapped anyway with a
DRM layer under the guise of 'Trusted Computing'.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: tuxi on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:01 PM EST
There have been comments to the past on GrokLaw that the code *is* M$'s
documentation. It seems this release is supporting that view.

In other words, it appears that M$ *cannot* comply with the EU without 1)
setting aside significant resources to properly document their interfaces or 2)
releasing their code (which they're loathe to do without compensation).

This may get very interesting :)


---
tuxi

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:01 PM EST
So that means I won't have to write "Documentation" anymore, as we are
a M$ shop, just give them the code.

wb

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:02 PM EST
They'll probably just "license" that code which was leaked to the
world...

In any case I am sure the license terms will be fairly onerous, as usual.

People have to realize that Microsoft will never play well, will never be
"open" with its code. Their corporate culture is to be closed and
monopolistic and corporate culture is a very hard thing to overcome even for
small firms, nevermind a corporation like Microsoft.

My feeling is that all information interchance should be standards based and
moves like Massachusetts' are what should be encouraged. Let any company write
proprietary programs if they want, but let's have the content authors (the
public!) have perpetual rights to access their own works via open and accessible
standards.

If Microsoft wants to compete and provide a "better mousetrap" to work
with these open formats, that is great, more power to them.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Licensing Barriers
Authored by: Sean DALY on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:02 PM EST
I listened carefully to the conference by telephone and it is quite clear to me that this maneuver is designed not only to stave off the EU daily fines, but to continue to make licensing difficult or impossible to obtain for FLOSS coders.

The only reporter's question concerning the licensing price barrier was unambiguously answered by Mr. Smith: Microsoft is prepared to discuss prices with companies only.

I also found rather disgusting the attempt to discredit the Monitoring Trustee, Neil Barrett, who confirmed the sorry state of the MS documentation. Professor Barrett was proposed to the EU by Microsoft. They must be quite disappointed at his honest evaluation of Microsoft's persistent foot-dragging.

Sean DALY.

Brussels.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: stephen_A on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:02 PM EST
So how long is it going to take for the monitoring trustees to actually confirm that the code turned over by Microsoft does actually provide the information that they were supposed to document? Lets face it - would you take Microsofts word for it?

Reading the press release I got the mental image of Microsoft as a bratty teenager being asked several times to explain something and them throwing the paperwork at the other person and screaming "You work it out" before running from the room.

[ Reply to This | # ]

But under what license and terms?
Authored by: dyfet on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:04 PM EST
I think this is the key question. They have in the past offered to license code, but often under contract terms that would claim to then own anything someone created afterward. Such term could potentially cause even greater damage to the software industry as a whole and those that participate in it than what they have done in the past.

Again, to me the key question is not whether offering source is better or worse than offering clear documentation as originally mandated, but rather under what license and terms are they proposing to offer source code. And are they in fact worse than the terms they were being legally required to offer the documentation under?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ah, Microsoft. Don't you just love 'em?
Authored by: billyskank on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:05 PM EST
:D

---
It's not the software that's free; it's you.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What documentation does MS give to its coders?
Authored by: phantom21 on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:11 PM EST
MS hires coders all the time. These people need
documentation to be able to program for MS. Ergo, where
is the documentation THEY use to train their new coders?

Just asking.

[ Reply to This | # ]

New definition of 'Far Beyond'
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:12 PM EST
If I set out from Philadelphia PA to cover the 97 miles to New York City NY, and
48 hours later find myself 2700 miles away in Los Angeles CA, have I gone 'far
beyond' my original destination?

The EU asked for documentation. If Microsoft want to charge admission to some
source code also, that's fine. But they still owe the EU the mandated
documentation.

'Far beyond' the required distance doesn't count if it is in a completely
different direction.

-Wang-Lo.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections here
Authored by: Mick Ohrberg on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:13 PM EST
7th paragraph: "Let me get this straight. The EU Commission orders Microsoft to hand over clear documentation. They hand over documentation, but it's incomprensible..."

Should that be "incomprehensible"?

---
make -j2, not war

[ Reply to This | # ]

Situation Normal...etc
Authored by: Prototrm on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:23 PM EST
Unfortunaely, this is normal in my experience, although I might just have worked
for companies that followed the Microsoft Development Model.

On my first day on the job at this one software company, I asked for the
functional and technical specifications for the programs I'd be working on. I
was directed to the source code. "Everything you need to know is
there". "There" being ten-year old DOS code that had been mangled
to run in Windows, and patched up the wazoo. It was badly in need of a
"Nuke and rewrite", but there was nobody left in the company who knew
what the code was *supposed* to do in the first place.

Now you know why Microsoft Windows and Office is such a bloody mess. Yeah, who
needs documentation when you can just browse the source code?

Hooo boy!

[ Reply to This | # ]

wether Microsoft
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:27 PM EST
(Sorry, could not resist) Now that's what many people would like... Although as
a sheep person that would probably offend these castrated male sheep.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A worthless offer, this does not comply with the order
Authored by: Chris Lingard on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:31 PM EST

I am a programmer, and I would like to compete. Microsoft were supposed to provide protocol and interface documentation, so that we can compete. So let us look at the offer.

First you have to pay Euro50,000, as a nonrefundable royalty payment,

For each separate Work Group Server Protocol Program License Agreement for Development and Product Distribution identified in the table above as requiring a payment, a prepaid royalty payment of Euro50,000 is required. These prepaid royalties are nonrefundable unless your participation in the Work Group Server Protocol Program is terminated because you do not complete other Program Entry Requirements.
That puts a bit of a block on it, I am sure my bank manager will be delighted.

But they are supposed to supply documentation; they were never asked for source code. And it would be a huge job to try and figure out how their programs work.

This offer is worthless, there is nothing here that would allow anyone to compete.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft's remedy for monopoly abuse - extend the monopoly further.
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:33 PM EST
Let me get this straight:

Microsoft has been involved in and has been convicted of serious criminal anti-trust activities which has led to Microsoft's desktop monopoly. Microsoft has been allowed to keep it's ill gotten gains on the basis that it will not be permitted to abuse it's monopoly position further by leveraging it's desktop monopoly to commit anti-trust crimes elsewhere.

By deliberately breaking protocols used by Microsoft's desktop clients, Microsoft prevents other server manufacturers from interoperating with Microsoft desktops and illegally prevents free and fair competition in the server market.

The EU asks for protocol interoperability documentation to be made public so that other software vendors can compete fairly in the server market.

Microsoft refuses to comply and puts forward the proposal that the EU should extend Microsoft's monopoly into the server market, by requiring other vendors to license Microsoft code in order to interoperate. What Microsoft is saying is that interoperability can be achieved by all competing vendors buying Microsoft software licenses - force them all to buy licenses for our software to interoperate with our desktop monopoly. Hence Microsoft's offered solution to it's abuse of desktop monopoly is a generous offer to extend it's monopoly to the server market as well, and have the EU anti-trust authorities enforce it on competing vendors on Microsoft's behalf.

This proposal is of course laughable. However I have little doubt that Microsoft has corrupted EU officials and politicians ready and waiting to back and accept it's proposals - remember Massachusetts.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What about code changes?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 12:47 PM EST
So what happens when M$ "change" the code so the protocols dont quite
work the same as they used to? Do they pass the changes on to everybody who
licenses it? Even if they do pass the changes on all their competitors will
always be that one step behind.

M$ could argue that any code changes are needed due to bugs/security etc and the
fact that it breaks everybody else's code is purely coincidental. On the other
hand, if they change the documented protocol so that it breaks other peoples
code they might have a harder time justifying it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS has already obsoleted the code
Authored by: kawabago on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:00 PM EST
That is why they are offering to provide it. In the time since the judgements
and imposition of penalties Microsoft has been busily rewriting the code around
the penalties so when it finally complies, what it provides will be worthless.
Could anyone expect Microsoft to do anything else?

Don't worry though because by December of this year it will be obvious that
Microsoft's captive market has escaped and found the grass really is greener on
the other side of the fence! That will prompt everyone else to mooooooove over
to FOSS.


---
TTFN

[ Reply to This | # ]

So many problems.
Authored by: cmc on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:03 PM EST
First, why did the EU have to select a monitoring person from a list that Microsoft provided? That's like saying "Here, pick my friend, he'll tell the truth, he won't reveal my dirty little secrets". Or am I missing something there?

As for them choosing to license code instead of documentation... It doesn't surprise me, it really doesn't. I've heard that MS themselves don't have any documentation, but that could just be complete rumor and speculation. But probably not since Brad Smith said “The Windows source code is the ultimate documentation of Windows Server technologies". After all, if the source code is the "ultimate documentation", who would need anythign else? But this does have serious problems. For example:

1. Code is nowhere near as good as documentation. If you are given code, you have to go over it with a fine tooth comb (and sometimes actually run it and step through it) to create your own documentation from it. Not only that, but the code will not tell you everything. For example, will the code tell you when (or even more importantly, why) a bit should be a 1 instead of a 0? Will the code tell you when or why one bit will affect other bits? This is why you need documentation. Creating a product to work with the protocols, using only the original source as a template instead of real documentation, will take orders of magnitude longer than if you had real documentation (if it's even possible to decipher the code at all).

2. License terms. What will the terms of this license be? If it's like their other licenses, there will be a clause against reverse engineering. If such a clause is present, the code is useless. Similarly, if the license has a clause saying that you cannot use the code verbatim, or a derivative of the code, it is useless.

3. Patent issues. How are you supposed to know what is protected by patents and what isn't? Using the "Royalty-Free" agreement, you could inadvertently infringe someone's patent without even knowing it.

4. Copyright issues. The article pointed out that by using the code as a template, you could possibly be infringing Microsoft's copyright (at least that's how I read it). But since Microsoft products contain code from many different companies (I'm assuming some of which they haven't yet acquired), you could be infringing some third party's copyright as well.

In Microsoft's press statement is this line: "For more information on the licensing program, please visit the WSPP (Windows Server Protocol Program) at: http://www.microsoft.co m/mscorp/legal/eudecision/." Here's the thing -- that page (the 'eudecision' page) was last updated on November 23, 2005. So it looks like the "source code" will be licensed under the same license as the rejected documentation. Anyways, that page says that a person/company would have to complete the program entry requirements, and then they could "review the WSPP protocol documentation to help them decide whether they want to take a WSPP Development Agreement license". A three-day evaluation is free, but the evaluation has to be done on Microsoft premises. A thirty-day evaluation can be done on the evaluating party's premises, but requires a non-refundable prepaid royalty payment of 50,000 euros (see the program entry requirement's "Required Payments"). After that evaluation, if you wish to sign an "All IP", a "No Patents", or a "Patents Only" agreement, it will cost you another non-refundable prepaid royalty payment of 50,000 euros (a "Royalty-Free Protocol" agreement is free).

Oh, I almost forgot to mention redistribution. From that 'eudicision' page under the Development and Distribution Agreements section:

"Under the development and distribution license terms, the technical documentation or intellectual property provided under the type of license chosen by the licensee can be used in worldwide development and distribution of work group server operating system products to accomplish licensee's choice of work group server services. All licenses available under the Program require completion of applicable program entry requirements. As mentioned above, the WSPP Development Agreements are subject to revision upon comment by the European Commission; they are also subject to the outcome of appeal proceedings regarding the Decision in European courts."

So for one thing, the agreements are subject to the outcome of their appeal. And you've already paid a non-refunable 50,000 euros. If their appeal is upheld, this agreement is terminated, and you have nothing to show for your money. But my favorite part of that paragraph is the phrase "can be used in worldwide development and distribution of work group server operating system products". So, if I'm reading this correctly, you cannot use the documentation (or, now, the source code) to create whatever kind of products you want. You can only use it to create "work group server operating system products". That's quite limited, isn't it?

Maybe I'm reading this wrong. But if I am, then it's not worded very well. After all, if I'm reading this wrong, so might the lawyers and judges when Microsoft sues someone for breaching this agreement. Nah, that would never happen.

cmc

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: Yossarian on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:06 PM EST
>"that the source code is the ultimate documentation

That was the approach 50 years ago when Fortran was defined
by the output of a specific compiler. The "world" moved
away from this approach and and today computer languages
have mathematical definitions.

Mr. Smith's comment reminds me an old joke:
How many Microsoft engineers does it
take to change a lightbulb?

Zero.
Microsoft just redefines darkness to be the new standard.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Requesting thoughts on the politics of this from Europeans.
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:07 PM EST

I've thought about this and IMHO:

The EU will feel angry about M$ attempt to "bounce" them into accepting this offer.

Politics aren't played in the press in Europe the way they are in the US.

It requires "private" talks and joint announcements.

The media in Europe is much more aggressive in criticising their governments and the EU in particular.

If the Commission accepts this unilateral offer from M$ it will be played in the media as "rolling over to US demands".

I think it's a Microsoft misjudgement.

What do you think?

Brian S.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Value of Precidence
Authored by: tredman on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:12 PM EST
My first impression of this is "Thank God for SCO".

If this were taking place five years ago, the FSF Europe would have gone into
the EU with their complaint of possible liability for developers by even having
looked at the code. Microsoft would have chuckled in front of the powers that
be and dismissed it, saying that the supposition is purely speculative, and
would never get that ridiculous.

Fast forward to today, where SCO has done precisely that. Now, the FSF goes to
the EU with the same complaint, and Microsoft feeds the same retort. Only this
time, the FSF says that it's not speculation, it is actually happening right now
in a federal court in Utah, and it's being done with some of Microsoft's money.

If it weren't really happening, it would be lead story on the Onion, right up
there alongside the story of Microsoft being smacked down by a New England
school district, then making reparations by giving away their software to the
district, thereby increasing it's stranglehold on the education system there.

It's really amazing, not only that Microsoft proposes these things as a
solution, but that the average Joe Citizen gladly swallows it like Pablum on a
gold spoon.

---
Tim
"I drank what?" - Socrates, 399 BCE

[ Reply to This | # ]

Code Projects Often Start OK... Then...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:30 PM EST
I was a suit type for a small tech company in charge of new products. Following
good design practice we met with key customers and came up with a detailed
functional specification of what a new gizmo was intended to do. The overall
spec was then broken down into smaller chunks and then even smaller chunks. In
the end the final spec text would be very close to the user's operating
documentation. Only after this detailed process was completed did the
programmers start coding. Every code module had to have detailed comment headers
plus every line of code had to have a comment line so the programmer could
follow each function and, working from the bottom up, relate it back to the
spec.

Great, except...

Over time the spec was not updated. Hacks in the code were made without proper
comments. Programmers came and went losing the continuity of undocumented
knowledge. While the product changed in little details users found increasing
number of flaws in the documentation. The bean counters considered much of the
code and documentation "maintenance" as overhead and it was cut
accordingly.

In the end a lot of the documentation could not be trusted and programmers were
forced to work from the soucre code comments and do endless tests to determine
undocumented dependancies. Bugs crept in where there were none before.
Eventually whole chunks of code had to be rewritten from scratch to get things
to work properly.

This was a management failure in controlling the work of 20 or so programmers.
Scale that up to MS's level and it fully explains the poor quality of their code
and inability to actually produce accurate specs. It also means that at any
given time there may be nobody who fully understands what the code does and how
it does it.

Welcome to the blue screen of death and ctrl-alt-del....

[ Reply to This | # ]

Source code IS NOT documentation
Authored by: MORB on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:37 PM EST
Regardless of all the licensing traps that this new move reeks of, a bunch of
source code is not a documentation.

While it's true that you can extract all the informations you need from it,
doing this is a reverse engineering job. It's easier with the source code than
with a bunch of binaries, but figuring out something complex from source code
requires work. You have to make sense of the implementation, figure out the
overall concepts and architecture from irrelevant implementation details, etc.

If the EU wasn't satisfied with the quality of the previously submitted
documentation, then there is no reason that they should be satisfied with this.
I think that microsoft actually hopes that they'll be able to convince the EU
people that this is a very good-willed and generous gesture, but "the
source code is the ultimate documentation, it is the DNA." is a lie, plain
and simple.

It doesn't make any more sense than if they said that the binaries are the
ultimate documentation because they contain the entirety of the algorithms,
data-structures, and functional specifications.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Code changes, specifications do not
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:43 PM EST

Others have already pointed this out, but it's worth repeating. Code changes, specifications do not. If you write to the spec today, it will work to the same spec tomorrow. If you write to today's code, well, something otherwise insignificant can break interoperability with tomorrow's code.

Microsoft's offer is like an auto manufacturer who, when asked what sort of oil is required for their engines, says "Here's a car, you figure it out." Well, I may figure out that I can use, say, 15w30 oil in that car. Using that same oil in next year's car may cause the engine to fail because, all along, the designers expected the car to need 5w30. This is not a position I want to be in if I'm running an auto repair shop.

Karl O. Pinc <kop@meme.com>

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to 500 hours worth of spying on developers...
Authored by: Flak Magnet on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:44 PM EST
MS has offered to do all this sharing of the source code along with 500 hours of
"tech support"...

Would YOU trust the MS organization to help your business develop software?

The 500 hours of tech support might as well be 500 hours of spying on what other
developers for MS products are doing. The information they might glean from
such tech support might get a developer targetted for acquisition, erm... I mean
"innovation" or something more insidious like the EEE tactic.

Licensing code from MS under the conditions described in the article seem to me
to be a lot like inviting a wolf to herd your sheep...

No offense to wolves intended.

--Flak

[ Reply to This | # ]

Code vs Specification
Authored by: PolR on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:44 PM EST
If they have to document the interfaces, then the product will have to match the
documentation. They can't change the interface without updating the
documentation. This means their code has to be built to a published
specification.

If they publish code instead, how often will they upate the code? Every patch
Tuesday? How will they keep this "documentation" up to date with the
licensees? Will they send a bunch of CD every patch Tuesday? Will they send the
licensees scrambling to figure the changes every patch Tuesday? What will be the
burden on the licensee to remain compatible when code changes? Can they see the
changes before the patch is issued so they can stay compatible or will they have
to scramble to fix big after the patch are released? Do we really want the
licensees to run behind the train like this?

The goal of the EU is not to get Microsoft Most Holy IP. It is to get a
specification that can be used for interoperability purposes.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:47 PM EST
In order to write code, you would need to have two teams. One who was analyzing
the source and writing up what the specification was. The second who took the
specification and wrote the interfacing software. This is of course assuming
there were no patent problems. This is only to write software that didn't
violate copyright.

Is there any code in this that Microsoft licensed, but did not have ownership
of, and are not free to publish?

The bottom line is it takes a lot of work to properly document a million lines
of code. Probably the reason that there are no accurate up to date
specifications is because they took the "self documenting code"
approach. Lets throw the convicted monopolists a bone, and allow them to finish
the documentation job at their own rate, providing that that rate would be to
hire enough good people, say for a total of a half million dollars a day, to do
the job. That's only a fifth of the rate the EU was thinking of fining them at.

[ Reply to This | # ]

An Analogy
Authored by: Mark Webbink on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 01:55 PM EST
Perhaps an analogy is helpful. I want to build a house and have it tie into all
of the available utility systems - water, sewer, electricity, gas, etc. If I am
handed plans and specifications that tell me clearly how this is to be done, I
can build my house based on my own design and do not need to concern myself with
infringing someone else's copyright on the house design. On the other hand, if
I am simply shown a house that is already built and handed some incomplete
specifications, I have to crawl around the house, tear it apart to see how
connections were made, and speculate on what portion of what I find is actually
necessary to connect to the utilities and what portion is simply a discretionary
part of the house design. In so doing I may inadvertently copy some part of the
existing house's design that is protected by copyright, thus contaminating my
own design and leaving me vulnerable to infringement claims. You can clearly
see that this latter approach is not an adequate substitute for the former.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What do they do internally????
Authored by: dkpatrick on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 02:06 PM EST
If MS can't document their product sufficiently for the EU to understand it,
what the heck do they do for their own staff? Do they ask each developer to
"read the code" and figure out the interface?

In the good old days programmers worked from a technical specification that was
supposed to describe all the APIs that were to be written as well as the APIs
that should be used by the programmer.

MS is disengenuous. This is SCO throwing paper copies of code at IBM and saying
"figure it out". MS is throwing the burden back on the EU and offering
to help if they get stuck.

Arrogance ...

---
"Keep your friends close but your enemies closer!" -- Sun Tzu

[ Reply to This | # ]

They'll probably try the RIM defence next ...
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 02:08 PM EST
Research in Motion have just argued in court, over a copyright dispute, that
their devices have become "critical to the economy and government of the
USA" and if the judge orders them to terminate their service it will be
disastrous for the country.

I can just imagine M$'s lawyers latching onto that one and painting a picture
out of Escape from New York - with crazed gangs of Linux users terrorising the
Windows-less masses!

[ Reply to This | # ]

And what about the tainting problem
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 02:11 PM EST
will programmers that see this code ever be able to work on projects that
Microsoft soes not like the look of.

Will programmers (or the companies they work for) who see this code be liable
for the triple damages involved in patent disputes.

As with the code that was released onto the internet some time back, do not
touch this code with a barge pole.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: micheal on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 02:26 PM EST
Another problem with source code vs documentation is:

If I have clear documentation and only the documentation, my program follows the
documentation, and my program doesn't work then it is Microsofts fault.

On the other hand if I have unclear documentation and the source code and my
program doesn't work then it is my fault - not Microsofts.

If Microsoft can not make clear and accurate documentaion then how can anybody
else make clear and accurate documentation.

---
LeRoy

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: seanlynch on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 02:47 PM EST
The EU should order Microsoft to hire a third party, at Microsoft's expense to
read the code and produce interface documentation that is free for all to read,
with no obligation that the readers cannot implement based on the documentation.


Kind of a reverse engineering, but with a third party licensed to actually
review the code. Only the members of the third party would be 'tainted' by
exposure to MS code. If the third party used groups of retired programmers to do
the review and documentation, the negative effects on future competitors would
be minimized.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Doesn't this sound like SCO ?
Authored by: Latesigner on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 02:56 PM EST
When they sent a tractor-trailer truck of unusable code to IBM ?
Is that where they got the idea from ?

---
The only way to have an "ownership" society is to make slaves of the rest of us.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Programmer's Perspective...
Authored by: dcs on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 03:21 PM EST
People have written software that interoperates with Microsoft products. The thing is, this has always been based on Microsoft code, be it through protocol analysis, which tests what the code does, be it machine code analysis, which looks at what the actual code is.

The source code might not have been available, but while that can make things easier, depending on it's quality, it doesn't change the fundamental natural of what people have been doing.

The things is... then a new version of MS software comes out and the third party software stops working. Since these softwares weren't based on documented interfaces, there is no grounds for complain, nor does Microsoft has any way of warning others that certain things might stop working, as it doesn't know what others are using. It is simply a very common coincidence that the main competitors to Microsoft products happen to be affected by these code changes so often.

So, Microsoft is now making available some of it's source code to others, so they can make interoperable software. How will this change in any way the above scenario? Things will still stop working when a new version the Microsoft product which contains the licensed code comes out.

The point of having a documented interface is the reasonable expectation that this interface will not change without notice.

---
Daniel C. Sobral

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Two Cities
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 03:28 PM EST
There is a marked separation between the EU Commission, and the EU Parliament,
as anyone following the EU software patents issue will know.

The EU Commission is all but bought and paid for by Microsoft, it is the
parliament that they really have to worry about. Likewise, while the EU
Commission would like nothing better than to give MS a free ride, they have to
watch out for the parliamentry oversight from the constituent states.

At this stage, Microsoft is playing for time, the longer they can drag it out,
the better it will be for them in the end... If MS is really the ultimate source
behind SCO, this explains quite cleanly why SCO has no sense of self
preservation but only seeks to continue the FUD and drawn out battle against
Linux as long as possible.

[ Reply to This | # ]

FUD Friendly Fire?
Authored by: geoff lane on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 03:28 PM EST
In the current Linux Reference Centre FUD the lead story is "RadioShack Saves Millions of Dollars by Choosing Windows Over Linux".

Now that rattled a brain cell, and I had a look at the .doc file it linked to (actually the .doc file crashed OOo so I looked at Googles HTML version) and this is what I see...

The company’s IT infrastructure posed a number of key business and technical issues, including the age of the UNIX servers, which were becoming increasingly difficult to support. RadioShack could no longer find server hardware capable of running the six-year-old version of SCO UNIX it used, and software updates were not available for the aging operating system. In addition, the company wanted to consolidate to a single server in each store. Running two technology platforms in each store not only took up precious space, but also required RadioShack to maintain two IT skill sets and created additional work for the company’s IT operations group.

The actual situation is that RadioShack had a SCO Unix server and Windows clients in each shop. So the upgrade could either have been to Linux everywhere in a situation where Linux had never been used before, or Windows everywhere where some Windows had been used before.

The immediate lower risk solution was Windows, especially as I guess Microsoft was happy to use it's slush fund to drop costs to a very low level. I think most of us would argue that RS should have looked further into the future when MS generosity disappeared.

Linux didn't lose in a direct comparison with Windows, it didn't provide a compelling upgrade path for SCO Unix.

Finally, how does this affect the SCO/MS relationship?

---
I'm not a Windows user, consequently I'm not
afraid of receiving email from total strangers.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm pretty sure Microsoft already has the required docs.
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 03:39 PM EST
I program for a living and I don't believe for one second that Microsoft does
not have the required documentation to their interfaces. This seems to me to
just be a way that they hope they don't have to release that information. They
above all else don't want Open Source to be able to interoperate effectively
with their OS.

If they "license" the source code they can be sure that open source
products will be shut out.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Millions of lines of code!
Authored by: argee on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 04:20 PM EST
Look at the bright side: we may find millions of
lines of Linux code in the MS OS! And then......

---
--
argee

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: BosonEngineer on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 04:41 PM EST
In light of the root problem being inadequate documentation of the
"design" of the code, ponder upon this query. What are the minimum
requirements that a person must demonstrate expertise with to be licensed and
registered by any state as a "software engineer"?
Also ponder upon these two queries (-1sp). Can anyone remember all the incorrect
bruhaha about the recent electrical power blackout being made worse because of a
Wintel "pc" being used in a critical function and failing to perform
that function? What Software Quality Assurance Standards are appropriate and
comprehensible for use in critical software, and should the OS be considered as
part and parcel of the critical software?

---
Engineers, the infantry of every industrial revolution, do not spontaneously
generate.
They are trained out of the bad habits developed by the craftsmen that p

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft is lying.
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 04:44 PM EST
Ask Microsoft HQ to hand over to the EU all internal
documentation it has on it's protocols and any related
Microsoft uses internally, and require Microsoft to
provide any further explanation of the protocols raised
by Microsoft' s competitors.

Microsoft is lying - it has all the documentation there
for it's own use - without it, it's programmers wouldn't
be able to write applications to use those protocols. It
just isn't complying with the court order.

[ Reply to This | # ]

EU : "Make me an ofer i can't refuse"
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 05:10 PM EST
Sure is amazing to see this happening. The EU commission
told that the microsoft docs were not suitable enough, so
m$ added some source code.... in order to prevent the EUR
2.4 million fine a day.

There is of course open source code inside windows, but it
seems, its mostly *BSD code. The new features, i bet, are
of course all 'borrowed' from linux and open source. So
wonder if they 'cleaned' it up, for release.

They either did a _real_ cleaning job of their code, or
they commit harakiri, cause the next sploit will be lethal
for sure!

If the EU buys this deal, then M$ did some good business!
The crux is of course this : everything which passes from
the Microsoft One Way Gates to the EU, docs, source code,
will be licensed, and be payed for with a stiff price. In
effect this measure prevents the EUR 2.4 million fine per
day, and everything which is handed over will be payed
for. So this is _pure_ business ship

Robert M. Stockmann

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: billposer on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 06:37 PM EST

What the European Commission should do is tell Microsoft that since they haven't complied with the documentation requirement, the Commission will license one copy of the source code and hire programmers and technical writers to read the code and write the documentation themselves, at Microsoft's expense.

[ Reply to This | # ]

This is very dangerous
Authored by: The Mad Hatter r on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 06:59 PM EST


SO MS licenses the code. Then they decide that the FL/OSS program XYZ has some
of the code, even though it didn't sign up for the code release.

I can see this being a REAL mess if it happens.

And for those who think that MS opening the code this way would let FL/OSS
developers check to see if MS had infringed any Open Source projects, think
about the Non-Disclosure. If they did see a problem they wouldn't be allowed to
say.

And of course a bunch of programmers that we could use will be
"contaminated."

I've disliked MS for a long time, but this is a really low road for even them to
take.


---
Wayne

http://urbanterrorist.blogspot.com/

[ Reply to This | # ]

Honestly who wants to deal with Windos Source Code
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 08:29 PM EST
Nobody whatsoever is interested in getting their Windows sources. Even Microsoft
is trying to convert/reprogram their XP into something even more stable and
reliable than ever before. Everybody needs just the same thing they need to make
Vista compatible to old Windows versions: SPECIFICATIONS.

File format specs, protocol specs etc. and not what they offered to the EU as
their most intimate secret: Windows source code. And as long as nobody has the
chance to recompile the sources there is absolutely no warranty that some
functions will not be (by accident...of course) forgotten.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 08:35 PM EST
When a third party takes the source code, analyses it and documents it properly,
can then these documents be used by developers without any fear?

[ Reply to This | # ]

I was forced to sign an NDA
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 10:04 PM EST
...by my employer, because they thought it necessary to have me review MS's
win2k code. Fortunately I am still blissfully ignorant because I managed to do
what I needed to do without ever logging into the system that had the code.

Now my question would be, what if I write/modify/update/etc GNU software? Am I
screwed already? Yes its on paper in some lawyers office in Redmond, but I never
even touched it, saw it, or even saw the physical machine that it was installed
on.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Let the SAMBA Team Provide the Protocol Detail
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 25 2006 @ 11:06 PM EST
The fine that Microsoft should pay daily should be given to the SAMBA Team to
have them create the protocol specification for the various interfaces involved.
The SAMBA Team should be given 6-8 months to create the necessary documentation.
This would be an appropriate punishment as I believe Microsoft has on occasion
asked SAMBA members for details on File System behaviour under strange
conditions and inputs.

Of course access to this protocol detail should then be free of charge.
Microsoft should not be able to enforce any IP rights beyond trademarks in
relation to these protocols.

jwd

[ Reply to This | # ]

M$ to Commission - Drop Dead!
Authored by: webster on Thursday, January 26 2006 @ 01:16 AM EST
.
1. The Commission ordered M$ to produce documentation of the standards for
interoperability. M$ has not obeyed the commission..

2. The 12,000 pages did not do this. They asked for more time to do this and
were granted it by the Commission. Then after the extra time they offer to
license code and let others do the work. They did this with a press release
that is misleading. M$ has not obeyed the commission.

3. To ask the Commission for more time and then take that time and still not
obey the Commission is spiteful.

4. M$ has no intention of complying. They are not stupid so their failure is
deliberate. M$ own choice for monitor is saying they have not complied.

5. M$ makes a net profit of about $30 million dollars a day. There is nothing
the Commission can do to them. The Commmission's fine will cause M$ to lose
only $2.5 [?] million dollars profit a day. M$ has already figured that
interoperability would ultimately cost them far more per day and would reduce
their market share and increase their competition. Indeed it could threaten
their Heavyweight Title --Monopoly.

6. So it is better for M$ to delay and beat down the Commission. M$ has more
resources to fight with and they will take political scalps in the process
--liQuinnated as it were. This will intimidate any effective opposition.

7. What will the Commission do with M$ millions? Probably deliberate and vote
raises.

8. What if M$ does not pay?

---

webster

[ Reply to This | # ]

Windows impossible to document
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 26 2006 @ 02:11 AM EST
According to a Wall Street Journal article, Microsoft coded themselves into a corner. By creating complex and undebuggable code, they made it impossible to finish the original Longhorn project. If they had had well defined interfaces, they would have been able to locate the bugs and correct the code. Instead they found themselves in a situation where changing a bit of code might make one bug go away, but also create other bugs.

So when Microsoft says they just want to license the code and not produce documentation, its quite possible that they are literally unable to document their interfaces in any other way than source code. Microsoft has never been very concerned with following standards, and I'm fairly certain that they just hack the code until it works with their own systems. After they sell you the hacked up code, they can blame interfacing problems on their competitors.

For an example of a Microsoft defined protocol, look at their network file system CIFS. The Samba team has reverse engineered the protocol and what we find is that the CIFS "protocol" is a big mess. Overly complex, and with difficult to understand interactions, it would be laughed out of any open standards organisation.

Another example of a Microsoft "protocol" is the Microsoft Office doc format. Apparently its various iterations have been too difficult for Microsoft programmers to correctly read.

People tend to look at the pretty outside of Windows and think that the insides are pretty too. But my experience suggests there are big problems inside. Why do people need to run virus scanners on Windows?

Linux may not be perfect, but my Linux systems are now nicer than the Windows systems I sometimes have to use. Open software is developed in the open and if their are bugs they can be seen and corrected, or the software can be rewritten. When software follows published standards, developers can code alternate implementations to correct problems, and we never get into the situation where a mess of code defines an interface.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 26 2006 @ 07:41 AM EST
Imagine, think about working for an employer for which
you will never be able to leave and work for another
without fear of being sued. Talk about slavery!
I'd definately choose to work for someone else.

Perhaps there needs to be a legal document presented
to the prospective employer by prospective employee
that the employer has to sign that states that the
employer will not sue the employee if he leaves to
work for another employer. If all the prospective
employees did this, the employer would have no choice
but to sign.

Better yet - Union of Professional Programmers!



[ Reply to This | # ]

We do not need the source code ....
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 26 2006 @ 09:27 AM EST
... as it doesn't solving interoperability problems. Right now I work a lot with interface descriptions (RADIUS, GTP, LDAP ...). Interfaces define the way applications communicate with each other. They basically contain:

the actions that are supported, e.g. action1, action2, action3 ... actionN, which may be initiated by application1 and the reponses from application2.

the data which is transferred with each action/response and whether it is mandatory or optional

a dataflow. e.g. start with action1 then action2 then action3, in case of failure action4

No knowledge of the source code of the applications is needed. The applications I'm working on are found in the telecom industry, with a lot of companies building equipment/applications which has to interact with each other. Without a proper description of the interfaces interoperability would not be possible, and each vendor who doesn't keep to the interface descriptions would be quickly out of business. So proper descriptios are possible, and they do not harm the business ....

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 26 2006 @ 09:30 AM EST
Could it be that M$ won't comply until the EU gets the patent
protection scheme that M$ wants?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Spiffy New Name.
Authored by: Fogey on Thursday, January 26 2006 @ 09:47 AM EST
The could call this "MicroSoft's Compliance Offer." (MSCO)

Then offer everyone a chance to buy a MSCOsource license. Hmmm...I think this is
where I came into this movie.

---
Old age and treachery ALWAYS
beats Youth and enthusiasm!

[ Reply to This | # ]

How about a compromise?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 26 2006 @ 12:39 PM EST
Court: "We might be able to find a workable middle ground. We'll add the requirement that the documentation on the protocols used must be released to the public domain, and that it must be accurately updated at least every eighteen months. If you want to release standard documentation, that's fine. If you want to provide the source code as the documentation, that's fine. If you want to alternate between them every 18 months, that's fine. If you want to charge for a license to your code, fine.... but whatever is supplied and called documentation, that's all public domain, available for any purpose. Now: cough up documentation."

Microsoft: "Um...."

(In defense of Microsoft, their suggestion is not completely without partial precedent. Far too many minor Linux packages are "RTFS" documented -- "Read The Fine Source".)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Next wave of exploits
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 26 2006 @ 02:16 PM EST
I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned this, but...

My first thought when I read this was that the one group that would be really
interested in this code is the malware community. In other words, it shouldn't
be too long before we see a new wave of zero-day exploits.

I realize that malware vendors will not be purchasing their own licenses;
however, every company that does buy a license increases the number of places
that a malware vendor could potentially get the code. I expect that it wouldn't
take that long before one of those companies would be compromised. After that,
it's only a matter of time before they've parsed the code enough that they can
use it.

(No, I don't feel that source code availability necessarily means security holes
will be discovered, in any product. However, this is Microsoft code. Simply
releasing an incomplete file format spec revealed a security hole...)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Don't ever think there are no standards on how to specify and document software.
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 26 2006 @ 03:10 PM EST
There is a number of standards on this subject.

Just some examples:

In the mid nineties there was MIL-STD-498. All the -498 documents can be found in numerous places on the Internet. They include some twenty template documents on plans, descriptions, specifications, reports, manuals, to cover a software project, its components and internal and external interfaces from the concept phase to maintenance time.

The -498 was first commercialized as EIA/IEEE J-STD-016 (then the military did not have to pay directly for the maintenance of the document and the distribution of the copies).

The -498 was withdrawn in 1998 and replaced by IEEE/EIA 12207, a US adaptation of ISO/IEC 12207.

Google will give lots of links; here are two:
http://sepo.spawar.navy.mil /SW_Standards.html
http://sepo.spawar.navy.mil/1 2207_SPIWG.ppt

And don't tell me that only the military need specifications.

[ Reply to This | # ]

European Commission reaction to Microsoft announcement of 25th January 2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 26 2006 @ 09:01 PM EST
Competition: European Commission reaction to Microsoft announcement of 25th
January 2006

The European Commission will study carefully the announcement made by Microsoft
on 25th January once it has received the full details.

The Commission is looking forward to receiving, no later than 15th February
2006, Microsoft’s reply to the Statement of Objections sent by the Commission on
21st December 2005 (see IP/05/1695). The Commission sent the Statement of
Objections because of Microsoft’s failure to disclose complete and accurate
interface documentation to allow non-Microsoft workgroup servers to achieve full
interoperability with Windows PCs and servers, despite its obligation to do so
under the terms of the Commission’s March 2004 decision that Microsoft was
abusing its dominant market position (see IP/04/382).

The decision concerning full and accurate compliance by Microsoft with the
European Commission’s March 2004 Decision rests with the Commission.

http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/06/49&forma
t=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 27 2006 @ 08:23 AM EST
Beware of scorpions bearing gifts.

It has been said that doing business with Microsoft is like going to bed with a
scorpion, you know you are going to be stung, you just don't know when.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I take exception to this trap...
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 27 2006 @ 09:11 AM EST
I often have to deal with having only source. Yes it is not the same thing as
having a specification, but if there were no OTHER problems I would consider it
adequate, and you could get a team to derive a specification from the source.

The other problems render having the source moot, and actually having it would
be dangerous.

As others have pointed out, you are bait for copyright infringement if you even
look at the source. Although SCO and Co. have rendered an invaluable service
noting there are things like scenes a faire and other things that allow for
identical code not to violate copyright (like errno.h), you won't be laughing if
Microsoft is suing you and you get a midnight ninja raid taking all your
computers for them to investigate copying something like errno.h from their
code.

I BELIEVE MICROSOFT WILL CLAIM ANY COMMONALITY BETWEEN ANY CODE AND THAT THEY
RELEASE WILL BE INFRINGEMENT even if it is an entirely different project and
written BEFORE the Microsoft code. They will be worse than the RIAA.

A second problem is that the code they release will likely claim all kinds of
patents. It is one thing to implement something - you won't intentionally copy
a method you can't see and will probably find some other way which might not be
covered. But when you have source out there (I wonder if microsoft will seed it
as examples in posts by their own personnel and try to contaminate GPL code),
the temptation is to copy what it does, even subconsciously.

What I think they will say is it will allow a clean-room implementation like how
Compaq cloned the PC-AT BIOS. Have one set of engineers read the source code
and write a specification, and in a totally separate isolation chamber, your
"virgin" programmers implement that specification.

This could even be done to create a GPL implementation, but then Microsoft would
start the lawsuits claiming patents and that they just had to see the code since
their protocol.h looks too much like ours.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offers to License Some Code for a Fee in Lieu of Documentation
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 27 2006 @ 02:11 PM EST
I recall this being an issue many years ago when the hotmail team switched
hotmail over to windows servers.

I recall little publicity about the employees blog, but I do remember reading
the blog where the MS employee stated the largest obstacle they ran into was the
mass of undocumented code in Windows 2000 Server.

It would not suprise me if MS can't release the documentation because it simply
does not have satisfactory documentation in it's posession at all.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS probably *can't* comply
Authored by: JohnH on Friday, January 27 2006 @ 02:15 PM EST
If one goes back through MS history, they have never really demonstrated an
ability to "build to spec" or work with NIH (Not Invented Here). That
is why Open Standards and formal interfaces are anathema to MS.

If you can't build to spec, then you don't have the habit of creating strong,
well-defined specs. However, if you have enough revenue to hire a small army of
really smart guys, and work them really hard, then they will eventually figure
something out. IOW, Microsoft uses the "million brilliant monkey"
method of software development. When stuff doesn't work, one beleagured monkey
calls another, and they knock out a "quick fix" in the code. The
amount of dead, legacy code buried within Windows must be staggering. This is
why, eventually, MS gets new stuff out the door, but it is hugely buggy, with
wierd and arcane interactions.

So the US DOJ and EU requirements for MS to provide documentation on their
software are hitting MS where it really hurts. It places MS in a real
"no-win" situation. The world's biggest software company can't admit
that they can't say what, precisely, their software is supposed to do. Nor can
they provide documentation on all of the wierd "features" of their
code, because many of them aren't supposed to be there in the first place!

I'm sure MS would like complete and accurate documentation of their own code.
But documenting and checking several million lines of spaghetti code is a
nightmare for anyone, particularly when it is as tightly coupled and interlinked
as what MS likely has. And if they had it, they likely would release the specs
because it is a lot safer than releasing the actual code.

Thus, MS is forced to license their source code, having no other recourse.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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