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Why DotGNU is Wrong

Homer's picture

Three OSS Monkeys Ignore Evil

I am a fervent believer in the principles of Free Software, and the principles of Freedom in general, but I don't necessarily support everything Stallman says or does. I am not Richard Stallman, I have my own opinions, and in my opinion Stallman's support of Microsoft technology via DotGNU is profoundly wrong. I understand his reasons: He merely wants to take something which is not entirely Free, and make it as Free as possible (whereas de Icaza's motive is to take something he considers "cool technology", and make it as interoperable as possible), but the use of this technology assists a deeply reprehensible company, and poisons Free Software with that disreputable company's Intellectual Monopoly.

Declaring a piece of software to be Free, simply because it is ostensibly licenced under the GPL, is essentially a lie if there are further restrictions imposed on the use of that software, either by modification of the license or with patents. This is not necessarily a problem if those who impose those restrictions are well-motivated, but that simply isn't the case with Microsoft - a convicted monopolist with an extremely well documented agenda of opposition to Freedom, and that practises business methods of the most debase form.

And this is the substantive point: Microsoft operates like gangsters. Even Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson came to this conclusion in the United States v. Microsoft antitrust case, and the documented evidence of this behaviour is overwhelming, indeed I personally have 3GB of court evidence to that effect on Slated, from the Comes v. Microsoft case, and that figure does not even include the videos of Bill Gates evasive depositions to the DOJ, nor the now infamous Halloween Documents. Microsoft are gangsters. Fact. What part of this is so difficult for some people to believe or understand? And what part of that could not be considered relevant to the issue of Free Software, especially supposedly Free Software that helps these gangsters by spreading their Intellectual Monopoly?

The pragmatists ignore this criminal behaviour, for the sake of convenience, because they are more moved by their own selfishness than by Microsoft's outrageous business practises. I sometimes believe that Microsoft could start a holocaust, and the pragmatists would be entirely unmoved by it, stating the need for practical consideration as justification for their apathy, and then engaging in irrelevant technical arguments about the semantics of licensing, or the practical value of certain functionality, as a means of distracting from what should be the central issue. "We need this software", cry the pragmatists, "and it has a permissive licence, so what's wrong with it?" ... Microsoft is what is "wrong with it", but the pragmatists (and of course the actual Microsoft supporters) can't see that - or refuse to recognise that fact, at least.

Consider this: Gangsters giving away free Lemonade at a street-party are still gangsters. Is it somehow morally right to accept that lemonade simply because it is free? Does the fact that this lemonade is free somehow make the benefactors anything other than gangsters? By accepting this gift, we are essentially endorsing those gangsters, who may capitalise on that endorsement to further their criminal goals. Our endorsement of these gangsters obfuscates their criminal background, and thus improves their image, which they then abuse to perpetrate their crimes with greater impunity, since society then gives those criminals an unwarranted benefit of the doubt, it hinders those who rightly criticise those gangsters, and gives false justification to those who support them. Critics are then lambasted by supporters, who marginalise critics by stigmatising them as "haters" and "zealots", whilst ignoring the fact that this dissent is actually warranted, and is not in fact any form of irrational and unjustifiable hatred, any more than it is irrational and unjustifiable to condemn any other criminal.

But even worse, it's likely, given the criminal nature of these "benefactors", that there is rather more to this free lemonade than meets the eye. It may be that they've poisoned the lemonade, in order to kill the competition, or even more sinisterly, have spiked it with drugs to addict the victims, thus making them dependant on those gangsters' unique "blend" of Lemonade®, and other similar drinks, which the gangsters then profit by, and guarantee future profits, to the detriment of the few remaining competitors.

The parallels between this analogy and Microsoft's business methods are undeniable, indeed patently obvious ... to all who are actually willing to admit the truth.

Stallman chooses to ignore the corporate politics of software, whilst concentrating on its philosophy, and de Icaza (and others, like Torvalds) chooses to ignore the philosophy, for the sake of appeasing corporate interests, whilst concentrating on the technical details. I have very little interest in the technical details, and the philosophy of Free Software (although admirable) is insufficient to defend against the menacing advances of certain corporate interests, therefore my goal is to fight those corporate interests, by exposing their corruption and bringing them to account.

That is my position, my motivation, my agenda.

AFAICT that agenda does not align with either of the other two sides of this triangle. Our respective goals meet at certain points, but then diverge in opposing directions. I am not Miguel de Icaza. I am not Richard Stallman. I am me. Just me. A person of little note, and big ideals. I can't win, of course, there was never any possibility of that. I don't fight to win, I fight because it is the virtuous thing to do, because it is right, because I could not live any other way. It's not the destination, it's the journey.


casedetails's picture

Regarding the Microsoft trade

Regarding the Microsoft trade secret comment above, a friend of mine at a trade secret theft law firm told me that Microsoft announced a set of four interoperability principles in February, including the release of protocol documentation, which it says will lead to a more "open" Microsoft. In separate antitrust cases, the United States and the European Union had long sought for Microsoft to release protocol documents, but trends like Linux and Web 2.0 are increasingly forcing Microsoft's hand.

Homer's picture

Microsoft's reform is a myth

I've heard it all before, that Microsoft are now a supposedly new and improved company, with better ethics and more transparency, but then the next minute they go back to behaving like gangsters. Just look at the recent case with i4i, for example.

Antitrust cases, the emergence of Free Software, and new business standards like SaaS (Web 2.0 is a nonsense term), seem to have very little effect on Microsoft's criminal behaviour, which they continue to commit with wild abandon and almost complete impunity. They are habitual thugs, institutionalised racketeers, and the only thing that will ever change that is their eventual bankruptcy (at the hands of Google and others). May that day come soon.

Anony Mouse's picture

I find your views

I find your views interesting. Your presentation of the situation is a lot clearer than the Boycott Novell's presentations. I would like some clarification about some assertions though.

I am not certain about the assertion that Mono actually modifies the GNU (L)GPL. I tried reading link you provided but I don't understand what Novell did to support your claim that Novell modified the GPL to make Moonlight non-free.

I also need clarification of the term Intellectual Monopoly. Your link to the vendor lock-in Wikipedia article confuses me as it doesn't explain much about Intellectual Monopoly.

You present an analogy of gangsters trying to give away poisoned lemonade in an effort to try to get citizens addicted to their brand of Lemonade. You use this analogy to show that Microsoft is blatently doing the same thing (about trying to get people addicted to their technologies). Could you make it explicit about what Microsoft is doing to get people addicted. I don't know if you have already implied anything about this issue, it is not clear enough for me.

Homer's picture

Why Moonlight is not Free, and how Microsoft "addicts" people

I don't understand what Novell did to support your claim that Novell modified the GPL to make Moonlight non-free.

Moonlight is ostensibly 'licensed under the terms of the GNU LGPL 2 license only (no "later versions")'.

Here's part of LGPLv2.0:

You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.

But Novell have indeed "imposed a further restriction" to the license for Moonlight:

We consider non-LGPL use instances where you use this on an embedded system where the end user is not able to upgrade the Moonlight installation or distribution that is part of you product (Section 6 and 7), you would have to obtain a commercial license from Novell

This "further restriction" is explicitly prohibited under the LGPL, therefore Moonlight is non-Free.

This would, for example, prohibit Moonlight from being distributed on immutable systems such as a LiveCD, since the software on such a medium cannot be updated in place by the recipient. LiveCDs can sometimes be installed of course, but that doesn't alter the fact that "the product" is immutable, and therefore in violation of Moonlight's license if it distributes that software. LiveCD's can also be "remastered", but then that essentially changes "the product" to something else, created by someone else. In any event, the above clause is a "further restriction" which violates the LGPL, and hence the software is not Free, regardless of the semantics of this clause, and regardless of Novell's false claim that immutable systems are inherently in violation of the LGPL.

Of course there are other even more insidious things which make this software non-Free, such as the fact that only direct "Downstream Recipients" of Novell are indemnified against the use of Microsoft's patented technology in this software. Since I am not a Novell customer, I therefore cannot use this software. Again, this is not an attribute of Free Software.

I also need clarification of the term Intellectual Monopoly.

I'm not sure who coined that phrase first, but it is basically a more accurate way of referring to "Intellectual Property", since the premise of "IP" is to monopolise knowledge itself, and I (and others) believe that premise to be profoundly unethical, as I explained at some length here.

Could you make it explicit about what Microsoft is doing to get people addicted.

Let me begin my answer to that question by quoting Bill Gates himself:

Gates shed some light on his own hard-nosed business philosophy. "Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don't pay for the software," he said. "Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."

Microsoft have three main mechanisms by which they "addict" users to their products:

  1. Secret MOUs with OEMs to exclude competitors' software from being preinstalled, thus essentially forcing all PC buyers to pay for Microsoft's software, whether they want it or not. This in itself is a form of pressure to use Windows ("I paid for it, therefore I should have the (perhaps dubious) benefit of using it").

    Examples (updated 16th September 2009):

    1. 'If you have been having trouble finding Linux on a netbook, you can stop wondering why. I suspected it was being monopoly-crushed. Here's the smoking gun, at last, thanks to Dana Blankenhorn of ZDNet, who attended a press conference at Computex and asked the right question:

      Later, at a press conference sponsored by TAITRA, the Taiwan trade authority, I asked executive director Walter Yeh (third from left in this picture) about where the Linux went.

      He passed the question to Li Chang (to the right in the picture), vice president of the Taipei Computer Association.

      Chang mentioned a press conference yesterday where Google announced an Android phone to be made by Acer. But then he put it to me straight.

      “In our association we operate as a consortium, like the open source consortium. They want to promote open source and Linux. But if you begin from the PC you are afraid of Microsoft. They try to go to the smart phone or PDA to start again.”

      Taiwanese OEMs would love an alternative to Windows, but the sale comes first, before production. The chicken comes first. And since the chicken belongs to Microsoft, the penguin is helpless here.

      Mystery solved. Totally blatant. Does this not give legs to Charlie Demerjian's report, MS steps on a Snapdragon? It appears Snapdragon on Asus is just the most recent horse to fall down shot in the starting gate and then get dragged off the track.

      So next time you hear Microsoft bragging that people *prefer* their software to Linux on netbooks, you'll know better. If they really believed that, they'd let the market speak, on a level playing field.

      If I say my horse is faster than yours, and you says yours is faster, and we let our horses race around the track, that establishes the point. But if you shoot my horse, that leaves questions in the air. Is your horse *really* faster? If so, why shoot my horse?' ~ Groklaw

    2. 'The answer lies in the nature of the relationship Microsoft maintains with hardware vendors. More specifically, in the "Windows License" agreed to by hardware vendors who want to include Windows on the computers they sell. This is not the license you pretend to read and click "I Accept" to when installing Windows. This license is not available online. This is a confidential license, seen only by Microsoft and computer vendors. You and I can't read the license because Microsoft classifies it as a "trade secret." The license specifies that any machine which includes a Microsoft operating system must not also offer a non-Microsoft operating system as a boot option. In other words, a computer that offers to boot into Windows upon startup cannot also offer to boot into BeOS or Linux. The hardware vendor does not get to choose which OSes to install on the machines they sell -- Microsoft does.' ~
    3. 'The States' remedy hearing opened in DC yesterday, and States attorney Steven Kuney produced a devastating memo from Kempin, then in charge of Microsoft's OEM business, written after Judge Jackson had ordered his break-up of the company. Kempin raises the possibility of threatening Dell and other PC builders which promote Linux.

      "I'm thinking of hitting the OEMs harder than in the past with anti-Linux. ... they should do a delicate dance," Kempin wrote to Ballmer, in what is sure to be a memorable addition to the phrases ("knife the baby", "cut off the air supply") with which Microsoft enriched the English language in the first trial. Unlike those two, this is not contested.' ~ The Register

  2. Controlling Standards: By supplanting industry standards with their own, and making the use of those standards ubiquitous (with the forced preinstallation of Windows on OEM systems), Microsoft spreads dependence on their proprietary and patent-encumbered standards, and subsequently the software which most effectively implements those standards, which is quite naturally the software created by the company that devised those standards - Microsoft.

    There are two reasons for this: First, only Microsoft and its "partners" have the necessary grant of authority to utilise their patented technology (either fully or at all), and second, Microsoft has the habit of deliberately introducing undocumented features into their software in order to make it work differently to the published standard, and thus make the end results (e.g. documents) non-interoperable with other software which follows those standards properly. This then induces a dependence on Microsoft's proprietary implementation (and thus - their software). A perfect example of this is OOXML, which Microsoft has already admitted they will arbitrarily change to suit their own purposes:

    Microsoft won't commit to the open document standard it's pushing so hard


    Now consider this from Brian Jones, a Microsoft manager who has worked on OOXML for six years. In July, Jones was asked on his blog whether Microsoft would actually commit to conform to an officially standardised OOXML. His response:

    “It’s hard for Microsoft to commit to what comes out of Ecma [the European standards group that has already OK’d OOXML] in the coming years, because we don’t know what direction they will take the formats. We’ll of course stay active and propose changes based on where we want to go with Office 14. At the end of the day, though, the other Ecma members could decide to take the spec in a completely different direction. ... Since it’s not guaranteed, it would be hard for us to make any sort of official statement.”

    Now that’s cynical. After all this work to make OOXML a formal, independent standard — a standard created and promoted by Microsoft, remember — Microsoft won’t agree to follow it.

    There are many, many such examples, indeed it's difficult to find any software technology which Microsoft has not at least tried to pervert to their own ends.

    Why do you suppose Microsoft battled with Netscape so ferociously? Netscape didn't sell a competing OS, and Microsoft didn't sell a browser, so why the need to "cut off Netscape's air supply"? That battle was not about products, it was about standards. Microsoft needs to control those standards, in order to maintain its monopoly. Exactly the same thing goes for OOXML vs ODF, and .Net (Mono/DotGNU) vs Java. This is why DotGNU is wrong, because it only serves to further Microsoft's "standards dominance", and lest we forget, Microsoft operates it's business like gangsters. This is not the kind of company anyone should be supporting, in any way at all, much less supporting them by giving them the very weapon they need to win.

  3. Propaganda and disinformation (i.e. FUD): Microsoft spreads false propaganda about itself and its competitors, both directly and indirectly using shills. This is no conspiracy theory, but a proven, well documented fact.

    Microsoft accomplishes this primarily using bribery, which sometimes takes the form of cash or commodity gifts (e.g. laptops), is sometimes masked as "marketing assistance" (in at least two documented cases), and often takes the form of lobbying (a.k.a. legalised bribery). The most recent example of Microsoft's propaganda is where they indoctrinated sales staff at Best Buy, with an anti-Linux training brief full of lies and misinformation.

    Another means by which Microsoft spreads its propaganda is via "Industry Analysts", which it hires legitimately, although in a clandestine fashion, to produce illegitimate "studies", which are either outright lies or gross misrepresentations of the truth.

    And finally there's Microsoft's chief goon, Steve Ballmer, who claims "Linux violates 235 Microsoft patents", "Linux is a cancer", "Google reads your E-mail", "Red Hat's customer's owe Microsoft money", and many other examples of FUD to dissuade people from using Free Software like Linux, and thus "addict" them to Microsoft's products.

I hope this sufficiently clarifies things for you.

Anony Mouse's picture

MMm. Yet again a company

MMm. Yet again a company paints a picture and yet again it turns out to be an illusion...

So an ethical person or company is a hippocrit if they knowingly support a gangster or ignorant/foolish if they are a oblivious to the fact.

This stance does put pressure on Microsoft supporters, in fact it would require them to stop supporting MS.
Perhaps there is a middle road...Awareness. Instead of getting users to quit all out support for MS, empower supporters to hold Microsoft accountable.
Speak up, be bold and all..

I am going to make the people in the "ethical" company I work for aware of some of the things Microsoft are doing. This will be an interesting experiment.

Homer's picture

Resistance is Futile


"Speaking out" against a company as powerful as Microsoft is utterly pointless, because it basically owns the government, and thus it will do nothing to stop it.

Before we can put a stop to gangsters like Microsoft, we need to fix congress first.