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OneAndOneIs2

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Wed, Jul 25, 2007

[Icon][Icon]A GPL v3 killer?

• Post categories: Omni, FOSS, In The News, Technology, Legality

I see Intel has just released the previously-commercial-only Threading Building Blocks (TBB) template library under GPL v2.

And this has reminded me of the complications Qt has brought up being v2-only, and it suddenly occurred to me that there's a way MS could bring a really sneaky anti-v3 strategy to bear.

MS has a number of proprietary things that the FOSS world would like to get inter-operable. The NTFS file system. The Office formats. Etc. etc. And the EU has been nagging at them to release interoperability information for ages.

Since MS seems to really dislike GPL v3, they could solve a lot of their problems with a simple move: Release all the code necessary to get interoperability under Linux working. Under GPL v2 only.

Take Samba. Samaba is going GPL v3-only. If MS released some significantly-big v2-patches for the last v2 version that resulted in much better Linux-Windows networking compatibility, a lot of people would use the MS-patched version of Samba: Most end users are more concerned with how well software works than with which license it's released under.

That would leave the Samba team with two choices: Stick with GPL v3 and have a less-popular, less-functional fork of their own software. Or cave in and go back to GPL v2 so they can take advantage of the GPL'd code from MS.

And either way, MS would be able to show to concerned parties, such as the EU antitrust people, that they have finally released the code that the FOSS people have been demanding, under the single most popular FOSS license in use.

That being the case, I think we should look with deep cynicism at any sudden code releases from Microsoft over the coming months... Despite it being a real chore to take code and turn it into a specification that can be used for a clean-room implementation, it would probably be worth doing.


6 comments

Hari
Comment from: Hari [Member] · http://harishankar.org/blog/
Let me see.. would you like this to happen? Are you giving microsoft new ideas here? :-p
25/07/07 @ 16:17
oneandoneis2
Comment from: oneandoneis2 [Member] · http://geekblog.oneandoneis2.org/
Meh, I figure if I can think of it, the Evil Geniuses working at Redmond will have worked it out ages ago :o)

Besides, I posted the solution as well, didn't I? :P
25/07/07 @ 16:21
Anonymous
Comment from: Anonymous [Visitor] Email
> That would leave the Samba team with two choices ...
Computer software contains knowledge about how to solve a particular set of problems. If MS licensed their software under GPL2, all the Samba developers have to do is study how MS solved their problems. After learning about the program's knowledge, the Samba team would have all the information they would need to implement their own software that they would license under GPL3.

So therefore, the Samba team would have a third choice, learn the knowledge contained within the GPL2 MS software and implement their own software.
30/07/07 @ 10:42
oneandoneis2
Comment from: oneandoneis2 [Member] · http://geekblog.oneandoneis2.org/
> the Samba team would have all the information they would need to implement their own software that they would license under GPL3.

If only it WERE that easy.

Well-written, well-documented code contains all the necessary information to write a spec, and then write new code from that spec.

However, code can also be written that makes it very hard to work out the spec: Magic numbers, spaghetti logic, lack of commenting... code can be written in such a way as to make it almost impossible to understand without documentation.

At the very least, such "poison pill" code could be released by MS that would take a long enough time to reverse-engineer and recode that the official Samba project would always be months behind.

There's a rumour that the networking coders at MS actually use Samba's documentation because it's the only decent source of information they can find. If the people with full access to the code and the spec. can't easily understand it, how would Samba's coders stand a chance?
30/07/07 @ 10:55
Gergo Szakal
Comment from: Gergo Szakal [Visitor] Email
The ones thinking that MS can be killed with a software license are idiots. First of all, MS is not bound by the GPLv3 in any way according to lawyers [1] (I pity the students of Eben Moglen).
On the other hand, GPLv3 is even undesirable for FOSS programmers like Linus Torvalds and the Linux 'core' team.
I always keep saying: beat MS with better sofware, not with license, black magic or voodoo. Period.

[1] http://tinyurl.com/2oqody
30/07/07 @ 20:41
Anonymous
Comment from: Anonymous [Visitor] Email
>If the people with full access to the code and the spec. can't easily understand it, how would Samba's coders stand a chance?

I know the process of trying to understand spaghetti logic and magic numbers is non-trivial, but seriously, the Samba developers don't need to reimplement the entire SMB protocol from scratch. They can make an effort in understanding the logic of the features that they don't have.

Also, if the programmers of the SMB code do not understand their own code, how does anybody expect them to do any changes to the code? If it is truly that horrible, it would make so much more sense to refactor it than maintain hack after hack.
31/07/07 @ 13:41
 

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