Weekly news wrap-up: Microsoft’s at it again (in more ways than one)


Author: JT Smith

By Grant Gross

Some guys just don’t know when to quit. Just when the reaction finally died down from Microsoft v.p. Craig Mundie’s ripping into Open Source business plans and the GNU General Public License, Microsoft once again attacked the Open Source community.

This time, the attack came from none other than Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who called Linux a “cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” Ballmer was taking about Open-Source licenses in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. More from Ballmer: “Open source is not available to commercial companies. The way the license is written, if you use any open-source software, you have to make the rest of your software open source.”

There’s a lot wrong with both the logic and the truthfulness in those statements, with the “Open source is not available to commercial companies” quote so far-fetched, it’s beyond silly. As long as you’re not telling the truth, you might as well go for the Really Big Lie and hope someone out there believes it. Open Source advocate Eric S. Raymond disputed Ballmer’s statement point by point and did as good a job as we could.

Earlier in the week, Free Software guru Richard M. Stallman answered Mundie’s speech at NYU with one of his own. From Stallman: “They [Microsoft] don’t want people to think about freedom as an issue. They want people to think as consumers … not as citizens or statesmen.”

‘You can’t pass out free software here’

And then there was the skirmish between Microsoft and members of the Suncoast Linux Users’ Group at the Computer and Technology Show in Clearwater, Florida, this week. NewsForge news editor Tina Gasperson reported that Microsoft had SLUG members banned from passing out Linux disks in front of the show’s entrance, on city-owned land, even though SLUG was just as legitimate a show exhibitor as Microsoft. The classic line from the confrontation, muttered by a Microsoft lackey: “You can’t pass out free software here.” What exactly are they scared of?

You can’t use other browsers here

Several news sites have reported that Microsoft has helped the British government put its services online. Unfortunately, the only way you can access all of those services is by using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. And Microsoft has repeatedly argued it does not act like a monopoly. Go figure.

Bad week for security

NewsForge’s sister site SourceForge resurrected its shell server after a week of downtime because it was cracked. It’s worth noting that the security lapse was caused by human error — a staff member logging into the server from a compromised ISP and using the same password at both places — not a flaw in SourceForge’s software. However, another OSDN site, Themes.org, has been down since mid-week, although it’s not clear if the problem is related to the earlier SourceForge woes.

New or improved

The Open Source Development Lab, a development lab sponsored by several Open Source companies, opened a second branch near Tokyo, Japan, this week. The first one, in Portland, Ore., is apparently doing well, and organizers wanted to attract more Asian developers to the Open Source cause.

Also this week, Yellow Dog Linux 2.0, a Linux distro for Macintoshes, was released.

New in NewsForge

Stories unique to NewsForge this week:

  • Business columnist Jack Bryar suggests that MandrakeSoft, which recently went through a management shake-up but still plans to file for a stock offering should consider some creative ways of selling stock.

  • News editor Dan Berkes reviews KGesture, a ground-breaking gesture recognition application for Linux. It’s in its infancy, but shows great potential, Berkes says.

  • Tina Gasperson hangs out at the Computer and Technology Showcase and checks out how Linux is going over with the small business owners there.