Open Ballot: Should we embrace Microsoft's open source work?


Want to contribute your views to our podcast? Sure you do, and here's your chance to have a say: do you think we should embrace Microsoft's new-found open source policies, or should we keep them at arm's length? Recently Microsoft has announced the CodePlex Foundation for supporting its own open source code, it has contributed code to the Linux kernel, it has announced that .NET is available under its community promise, and much more. Should we be afraid, or should be happy to take support and code from anywhere as long as it's open?

Our usual Open Ballot rules apply: please state either "yes" or "no" backed up by some sort of cogent reasoning, and give yourself a name that's a bit more original than Anonymous Penguin otherwise we're quite likely - no, very likely - to ignore your intellectual meanderings.

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Should we embrace Microsoft's open source work


As Microsoft has now admited that Red Hat and Canonical are threats to his business, there has to be a catch. If they gave schools free software and subsidised PC's you could say they are 'just helping out' but with their track record, my personal opinion is there's a hidden adjenda.

I'm with chris B

no shit - if there's not something up this sleeve I'll choke! Anyway I suppose if it's really GPL'd then there's not a lot they can do..

You Just Can't Make Some People Happy


Leave to open source people to complain about proprietary, commercial giants like Microsoft and their "evil business model" and then get all indignant when MS actually does something to help the community of OSS.

I see it as a breakthrough. Commercial software will always exist, but to see the largest proponent of it even make an EFFORT is something that is praiseworthy. Good on them. I hope it's a sign of positive changes from Microsoft in general.


Why not?

Many commercial companies contribute to the Linux kernel. In fact, most coders are paid for their work. As long as Microsoft provides good code, it would be stupid to ignore it.

In my humble opinion we

In my humble opinion we shouldn't.

Let's think about the whole thing about Mono. Microsoft will open .Net enough to let Novell create Mono which is open but not good enough for most of the .Net users. The problem is that several imporant parts of .Net will remain closed. For Mixrosoft the situation is a great help in several ways:

a) Let them to avoid be considered as a monopoly. There is an open alternative.
b) Mono is a good way to introduce .Net technology to students, for example. But,
c) Once those students get a job they are going to need the "real" thing with all the bells a whistles, they will go to use the Microsoft closed products. Because Mono will always be one step behind.

"Trust, but Verify"

As proof that Ronald Reagan can be successfully be brought into any topic, I'll go with "Trust, but Verify."

Microsoft is a pretty tough cookie, but there's no reason to believe they have malevolent intent in their OSS efforts. Their businesses practices are cold-hearted, but discounting outright any code contributions from one of the biggest R&D spenders in software isn't the smartest idea I've ever heard of.

If anyone still has trust problems, then look through the code. After all, that's part of the benefits when when dealing with OSS.

Also, if anyone thinks MS can "poison the well" of OSS, I think they sell short the drive of the die-hards that code for freedom. If we do get punk'd (which could happen though I highly doubt it), then we'll fix it again quick enough.

I would say yes

Though it depends. Will it bring benefit to the community? Will it open new opportunities for developers? Will it improve the integrity with platforms not supported in Linux?

If yes... Then I think Linux community should not neglect this opportunity, just because it is Microsoft. And developers should support MS's OPEN initiatives.

Independent thinker

I have to say no.

I'd really like to trust Microsoft, but they make it hard.

Yes, .net has been released as promissed, but several parts of it remain propietary, so it's either a broken library language or a full library language with legal consequences.

Yes, it did contribute code to the Linux Kernel, but they did it after being told that they HAD to do it to comply with GPL.

Yes, they opened a new site called codeplex, but I think it's kind of useless. We already have Sourceforge, and it works great for me without being controlled or funded by a single company. I've seen no compromise from Microsoft telling they won't close CodePlex down if it doesn't reach the expected success.

Whatever For?

No, we dont need them and we dont need added risk. What, are we losing our confidence in ourselves?

Embrace and extend?

Or doesn't that work with FLOSS ;-)

Microsoft is only helping itself.

Microsoft is not in the business of embracing open source, but in the business of competing with it. May God defend me from my friends; I can defend myself against my enemies...


Yes, but only the things they legally agree to be open. For example, releasing code under the GPL is fine, we should use that if necessary, but the C#.NET "promise" is a load of crap.

Of course, as with code from any individual or company, the code should be thoroughly checked by a few individuals not associated with them, especially if it is mission critical (for example kernel patches).

If you think about it, all big companies have ulterior motives for releasing open-source software. Microsoft just do particularly badly at hiding them, do "evil" more often, and have a particularly nasty monopoly, so they (quite rightly) get most of the angry comments.

Yes! No!

Microsoft have proved time and time again that they're simply not trustworthy. However, with regard to code released under the GPL or similar licenses, I couldn't care less where it comes from. As soon as code is released under a sufficiently open license, that's it - the originator becomes almost completely irrelevant. I'd hit it!

No, we can't really trust

No, we can't really trust Microsoft in any way.

YES! But they can (and

YES! But they can (and should) do more.


If we, the FOSS community, expect others to appreciate our work in setting open standards, than we must remain open. If we close off even one company, no matter who they are, then we stop being open, and our foundation will crumble as a result.


Come on, seriously?! Is the far and recent past not a good indication what MS does to keep on top? Sure, they have 'contributed to open source'. Parts of each one they keep proprietary, so they can yank the rug out later. They aren't joining the open source community, they are trying to undermine it. FUD didn't work so they move to the next plan.

Anyway, why take the risk? For example, what part of .NET/Mono is that great? Is it so good that no trusted OSS program can get the same results? I didnt think so.

We have good tools and brilliant people that we already trust. Why not use what we have and trust those that have already proven themselves. Time will tell. I don't think MS will become trustworthy in my lifetime and I plan on living a long, long time.


personally, for me anyway, the position of ethics come into play. microsoft are activly promoting open source in one hand, and activly opposingit in the other *cough* TomTom *cough*


I think that open source is an open source wherever it comes from as long as they respect the license they released it under (Gpl, Apache ....).
For those who are afraid of Microsoft driving the open source world, I think is very unlikely to happen because of the nature of the community it self. so let say microsoft open source project get successful and we embraced it and then they try to change their policy or something else bad happens (what every body is afraid of) the community will find or create alternative solutions (forks ...) and it has been always like this. sorry for the long useless speech


I see it as them competing against the Unix-like platform to try and get open source coders, hoping a mass migration will kill off development efforts on the OS itself and shut it down.

Almost every singe useful open source program comes from an open source OS community. They are using that old battle stragety of running us out of supplies.

NO !!

let's recall History, Microsoft showed a friendly face to Apple back in the 90's then Apple was screwed !!
Microsoft just want to kill every competitor, and Linux is their worst Enemy !!
just, Never trust greedy corporates like Microsoft !!


To add to my previous comment, also remember that Microsoft is a huge company - different departments can and do have different views on the same subject. People who can code in general like coding, so if they are bored, they will generally do some small projects, whether this is a little proprietary app for their own use, or an open-source kernel patch to help others, it doesn't really matter. Since they are paid to do coding, and their employers want them to code a little driver to make Linux run better in a Windows VM (or something about that), they do it, and try to make a good job of it. Even though any officially-made code will usually have an ulterior motive, it will still usually be trustworthy, and as long as that ulterior motive isn't evil (what's so evil about running Linux in a Windows VM for god's sake?), there's no cause for problems.

With proper licensing

If they were to release code under GPL or BSD licenses - ones I consider fully open with no hangups then the 'philosophy' behind each then I would recommend any code that Microsoft would be willing to give.

However, this is the only way I would embrace them personally as they have made a clear stance that they have two major competitors, Apple and Open Source.

Erm, no.

It's Microsoft. They're up to something. They're always up to something. They're Microsoft.

Why not?

I think code from Microsoft should be accepted - after all, there has to be a rigorous code check done on any patches to the kernel, along with any other open source software.

Let it go through the usual checks and QA process; heck, let people triple check it before it lands up in a release.

The important thing is that we're not seen to be slamming the door in Microsoft's face. That would be the reaction of the zealots, not the open source evangelists. Sure, Microsoft is the original great beast, but surely releasing open source code which can be scrutinised by the community makes them a little less of a beast and more of someone who wants to share their toys?

If by adopting the code Linux can improved, then why not?


I'd say No as in the past Microsoft has only done things to help Microsoft and there is likely to be a catch.

Beware of Geeks bearing Gifts!


No, you don't trust someone who is offering one hand in truce but holding a knife to your back with the other.

If Microsoft were to stop suing over software patents that shouldn't have existed in the first place and start advertising based on something other than FUD, I'd reconsider.

absolutely not.

until they open their whole codebase and patent portfolio to prove they are truly interested in embracing an open source methodology i say absolutely not.

now that steve "linux is a cancer" ballmer is in charge and he sees every angle of his business threated from the mobile OS flop of WinMo 6.5, the impending flop of Win7 (better than vista is the best thing that can be said about it), etc. he will attack anything he can when he starts to see the MS castle crumble around him.

nu uh


Do not trust. Can you blame me?

Besides why should you be accepting and implementing a company who's primary focus is 1. Having a monopoly and 2. Getting a bigger monopoly.

If the company is moving towards these goals (and you know they are) then giving them anything is only helping them reach those goals right? Short term gain, long term pain. Don't give them an inch.

If there are no strings attached.

Yes as long as it is under a license that ensures that MS cannot pull the software at any time. Also, patents *can* exist, but unrestricted licenses for patents should be given out of free of charge and should be irreversible.

Linus accepted the driver for Hyper-V, so why can't we as a community accept some other projects from MS?

It would be against OSS to reject the code.

Let's be frank here: Open Source means ANYONE, not just the folks you get along with, but ANYONE can see the source code, contribute source code, and/or do whatever the hell they want regarding source code. ANYONE includes Microsoft, and while they have had some pretty big anti-OSS policies in the past, a contribution is a contribution.

However, I think we should see this as a sign of give. Apple likes to brag that Parallels can run Windows XP, so even if you don't want to Dual Boot, you can still run Windows on a Mac. I think Microsoft is trying to do the same against Linux. Microsoft is afraid of Linux's growth. This year marked the first time they actually listed Canonical and Red Hat as important competition in the desktop market.

This all points to Microsoft desperation.

Microsoft is sneaky, you know...

Like Mike_IronFist said: "Open Source means ANYONE". Plus, does it harm anyone? Yes, it might generate some additional revenue to Steve Ballmer. But then again, "Open Source means ANYONE"...

I would personally take the code, analyze it 100 times thoroughly (checking for any backdoors, hacks, nitches, exploits etc.) - basically be paranoid on the code they give. After all, as Chris B pointed out, M$ declared that linux is a threat... Exploiting (giving code) this "threat" to it's own benefits is nice, but hey, it's threat! M$ might get sneaky :P.



Yes, Microsoft are not going away and we shouldn't tar the whole company with the same brush we do the Sales and Legal departments. There are a lot of talented coders in the proprietary world and the Codeplex foundation seems to want to bridge the gap between the closed and the open. If even one of these proprietary companies sees how much better the FLOSS way is, we are all the better for it.

Why Help MS with PR

So far, nobody has mentioned this as a cheap PR exercise by MS. As Open Source gains in popularity the reputation of MS becomes more and more tarnished as an enemy of freedom. Why should we help them address that for the cost of a few lines of code? Are we that easy to buy off?
NO NO NO ................

Approach with caution !!!!


I think its important to applaud and encourage Microsoft's Open Source initiative but somehow there involvement in open source seems so much more "evil" than that of Google.

Its important that we acknowledge their efforts but really Microsoft and OpenSource raise so many questions its hard to shush the screaming alarm bells sounding

Do we need it?


I don't think that this PR stunt is worth the potential attacks from Microsoft. What are they giving to the open source community that really justifies the risk?

Check, Check & Check again

Like others I say yes.

Why refuse what could be of benefit to the Open Community.

Check, Check & Check again should be the guide as a company who are so keen to issue product without proper checking need watching. Today M$ are churning out many security patches.

Accept fully open offerings but adopt the watchword CAUTION! Check, Check & Check again


No. We don't need Microsoft, we're fine without them. There's no reason to take the risk.

No. Incompatible goals.

Absolutely no way. It's simple: Microsoft's goals are not the same as (and forgive me for generalizing so much) the Free and Open Source crowd. M$ wants profit, money, market share, control, etc. They're a BUSINESS. Which means if it's not useful, profitable, or not leading to their goals, they'll just pull the plug on it.

Compare with other projects that start by saying that their work shall always be free to use, distribute and modify.

I don't trust M$, because I don't share their goals. I like freedom, transparency, team/community work, and respect toward users, customers, and people who want to learn how things work.

This looks like a wolf in sheep's clothes, or the Horse of Troy to me.

No. And now onto the real


And now onto the real important subject: your podcast.

No, I cannot wait an extra day - you should publish one *every* day so that I can compensate for having no friends.

(Just kidding, keep up the good work. Oh, and how do you format text in comments? HTML? Textile? BBCode!?)


We'll only have a good idea about their real intentions in about 10 years time.

Meanwhile the'll just keep us hanging on with an inferior version of Silverlight etc...

Yes. Code doesn't smell of where it came from.

Linus pointed out that open source is to a great extent based on self-interest: code is often written to scratch a personal itch rather than for more altruistic reasons. MS's patch benefits MS, without doubt; if it also benefits open source users, then use it. If it isn't beneficial, don't use it.

Absolutely Not

This is a variant of Embrace and Extend, encouraging us to embrace and then they'll extend and leave us behind. Encouraging Mono means they'll be less native linux apps, and we'll be in a situation like they are on the apple where the Microsoft apps don't function as well as they do on Windows.

If we want cross platform, there's always Java, which is open now.

Is it any good?


As far as their "open source" efforts are truly open and useful, we should embrace them. The FOSS community is good at fixing things, and Microsoft is good at advertising and distribution, so putting the two together could make the (software) world a much better place.

I stopped used Microsoft software long ago, not because I disapproved of MS or its tactics, but because their software was unreliable and I found better alternatives. Nowadays I do disapprove of MS's business tactics, but if they're willing to try a new approach then I'm willing to listen. If Microsoft can get over its 'we own everything' attitude, open source might be the key to solving both problems.

I'm not suggesting we all jump on the Mono bandwagon just because Microsoft says it's good (as Bill Watterson said, 'if flatulence were all the rage it would still be disgusting'), but if they have do have something to offer and the license is fair, we might as well give it a go.


By the way that "yes" was to the main question, not to my "Is it any good?"

Embrace? No. Shake hands? Maybe

Got to feel sorry for M$.
Think in 10 years time, where will they be?
The most of the internet's users will be mobile.
The OS will not matter because all the punters see is the browser.
Documents, photos, video and all that 'office' stuff will be in the cloud.

What have they got left, other than a coffee table that you can show your home movies on or a new version of an over heating games console?

Steve Bull(mer) knows this too, so they have to start being nice to the people who build 'clouds' and make 'mobiles', so nice in fact that they will give them their money rather than use the free (as in beer) stuff they use now.

M$ will be around in 10 years, but their days of 'my way or the high way' are over. So use Mono if you like, in the end it won't really matter.


Before I give my ( rather long ) response, I thought I would make a brief comment about Mike_IronFist's comment.

Yes everyone including Microsoft has a right to see the code. No one said they didn't.

As for doing whatever you want with the code, no that's not true. Under some licenses you can but under GPL for example, you may not take the code, create some derivative, then sell the application without selling the source code. Not getting to do whatever you want is the point of most licenses.

And getting your code into the project. No one ( aside from the project managers ) has any right to get their code included in the project. It is purely with the discretion of the project managers, whether or not to include your source. They can chose not to include your code because it's bad, because it doesn't follow their indentation style, because it came from Microsoft, because it was written by a woman.

you don't like it that they didn't accept your code, well there is a standard technique for dealing with such an event. Fork the code and create a competing project.

Holy Cow, You Guys Are Clever

Ooohhh, I see what most of you did there. You abbreviated Microsoft as MS, but then replaced the S with a dollar sign! How unbelievably clever! That certainly isn't a trick we haven't seen a million times before on the internets. You certainly don't come off as ignorant and juvenile - if anything, I'm MORE apt to listen to your eloquently phrased, well thought out posts!

Way to stick it to the man!

Ha! M$... I'm still chuckling.


Open Source is Open Source

I would accept any open source software, as long as it is really open source (i.e. nothing tricky like it depends on something proprietary for it to run). With open source software, if the company that initially wrote it wants to do something dodgy the community can fork it and run.

I am not sure if I conveyed my opinion, but open source is open source; it doesn't matter who wrote it, it will get audited by the community whom will end up benefiting form it (if any at all).

Yes Microsoft is such a huge


Microsoft is such a huge company that it stands to reason that not everyone that works there is evil. In fact, it seems slowly but surely there is a growing number of people at MS who get open source and want to embrace it. We should encourage their efforts as it might potentially lead to a company wide change of philosophy.

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