12.24.08

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Devaluing the GPL, the Microsoft Way

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GPL, Microsoft, Windows at 3:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

EVERY NOW AND THEN we warn that by paying SourceForge, for example, Microsoft markets Visual Studio as an “open source” development tool [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. By blurring the gap like this, the term “open source” ceases to mean what it once represented and some so-called open source software — never mind the licence — is made so dependent on the Microsoft stack that it permanently becomes Windows-only. MediaPortal is a new example of this and Heise covers its 1.0 release.

MedialPortal 1.0, a GPL licensed Media Centre alternative that has been five years in development, has been released for Windows XP, MCE2005 or Vista.

From the project’s Web site.

Supported operating systems

     * Windows XP 32-bit Edition with service pack 3
     * Windows Media Center Edition 2005 with update rollup 2
     * Windows Vista 32- and 64-bit with service pack 1

[...]

Operating System Components

     * Microsoft .NET Framework 2
     * Microsoft DirectX 9.0c or later
           o Note: Using MP 1.0.0 the installer will automatically install latest DirectX if necessary.
     * Microsoft latest avaiable Windows Media Player Version
           o Note: Using MP 1.0.0 the installer will automatically prompt you for the download of latest WMP.
     * Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 SP1 Redistributable Package (x86)
           o Note: Using MP 1.0.0 the installer will automatically install the Visual C++ Redist. package.

How truly “Free”. So when do DirectX, .NET, Windows and so on and so forth going into GPL realms? Free labour that promotes Windows and its accompanying technologies is exactly what Microsoft wanted and that’s why it deviates from standards like OpenGL and ODF.

Broken lens
Broken promise

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16 Comments

  1. Shane Coyle said,

    December 24, 2008 at 5:13 pm

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    Okay, so I’ll have to play devil’s advocate here… while I wait for level one to load… the GPL is just fine – no devaluation, even when folks develop for the Windows platform and rely on the plumbing that they can reasonably expect a user setting up their own media center to either have installed or access to install.

    GPL software is Free on any platform – is a GPL project that runs on Mac or Amiga less free?

    Like economics, there are many theories on the ‘way’ to spread Free Software – one of which is to introduce Windows users to the juicy goodness of Software Libre in their own comfortable environment – if you can move a Windows user to Firefox/OOO/etc on Windows, it will make a future transition to a Free platform easier because their ‘core’ apps are also available on other platforms, and their data is being saved in an open format already.

    It’s a theory, seems logical, I suppose we’ll see how it pans out. But, doesn’t seem logical to bash these folks for putting their hard work out under Free license because they chose to target Windows – which is what they likely use themselves and were ‘scratching an itch’ so to speak, any more than to bash the devs of a KDE app for not targeting GTK, in my opinion.

  2. jo Shields said,

    December 24, 2008 at 5:20 pm

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    Well put, Shane.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 24, 2008 at 5:20 pm

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    I ought to have clarified that the issue is not the developers, who definitely mean well. The issue is Microsoft steering developers in the direction of its *NIX-hostile, standards-hostile replacements. These are intended to reduce cross-platform capabilities.

    “We should dedicate a cross-group team to come up with ways to leverage Windows technically more.”

    Jim Allchin, Microsoft

  4. jo Shields said,

    December 24, 2008 at 5:48 pm

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    Here’s a plan: make a list of permitted programming languages and platforms, and tar & feather anyone who doesn’t follow your list?

    Oh, wait

  5. seller_liar said,

    December 24, 2008 at 5:51 pm

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    Don’t worry roy, This will be ported for other OSes. Wait and see.

  6. seller_liar said,

    December 24, 2008 at 5:57 pm

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    The problem is the app require a lot of windowz specific apps.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 24, 2008 at 6:04 pm

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    It’s a painful experience that causes similar problems to Google with Picasa.

  8. jo Shields said,

    December 24, 2008 at 6:52 pm

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    The relevant URL for this is probably http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/java-trap.html (yeah, I know the URL & article name are obsolete, but blame Stallman for that, not me)

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 24, 2008 at 7:03 pm

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    MATLAB would be another example, as I know from bitter personal experience.

  10. Shane Coyle said,

    December 24, 2008 at 11:05 pm

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    The issue is Microsoft steering developers in the direction of its *NIX-hostile, standards-hostile replacements. These are intended to reduce cross-platform capabilities.

    Can’t necessarily disagree with anything there, although – like I’ve said before – I’m pretty much pro-choice on everything – so, if you dig Windows and are happy there and it suits your purposes, enjoy!

    I take offense (and action) at some of the predatory and exclusionary practices that the monopolist engages in, but as far as the platform goes – it’s not for me personally, but to each their own.

    Even in my own project, I heavily leverage the availability of Windows ports of the more important packages – OOO, tuxpaint, tuxtype, stellarium, celestia, etc. The cross-platform capabilities of these apps could very well help lead them to a truly Free stack down the line… as opposed to a "Hybrid stack" that some may be content with.

    One of the most features that seems to resonate most with my teachers is the idea that EDU-Nix has the exact same versions of the productivity applications for Windows and the live CD/USB – meaning that students can use the same software at home and at school, or anywhere else – too often students have issues with a Word 2007 file they created at school, but only Word 2000 or MS Works installed at home and cannot use their file interchangeably. Because of OOO’s Freedom and cross-platform capabilities, every student can have the same software that they use and learn on in school at home or nearly anywhere else. Legally.

    If only I could ensure each student had a PC and broadband connection to load the software on…

  11. Needs Sunlight said,

    December 25, 2008 at 3:53 pm

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    Just don’t make the mistake into thinking that Picasa is available on Linux: it’s not. It’s wrapped in a custom version of WINE. Now the thing to be concerned about with Picasa is that it spreads DirectX, which is a direct competitor for the established, far more advanced and far more mature technology, OpenGL. Stick with new versions of OpenGL and you’ll own your graphics. Get suckered into DirectX, and M$ will own your graphics.

  12. Jo Shields said,

    December 25, 2008 at 6:05 pm

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    Just don’t make the mistake into thinking that Picasa is available on Linux: it’s not. It’s wrapped in a custom version of WINE. Now the thing to be concerned about with Picasa is that it spreads DirectX, which is a direct competitor for the established, far more advanced and far more mature technology, OpenGL. Stick with new versions of OpenGL and you’ll own your graphics. Get suckered into DirectX, and M$ will own your graphics.

    For a reasonable length of time, DirectX WAS more advanced (basically the gap between Direct3D getting pixel & vertex shaders in DirectX 8, and GLSL getting wide support)

    And remember that DirectX covers more than just Direct3D (e.g. games like Quake 4 use OpenGL for graphics, but DirectSound and DirectSound and so on)

  13. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 25, 2008 at 6:11 pm

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    …Says the man who goes by the nickname “directhex” and promotes Mono (Jo Shields).

    Didn’t you also bash Java yesterday?

  14. Jo Shields said,

    December 25, 2008 at 6:53 pm

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    …Says the man who goes by the nickname “directhex” and promotes Mono (Jo Shields).

    I’ve gone by “directhex” since the mid 1990s. I feel no inclination towards revisionism (as you might have noticed from my disagreement with yours). It’s part of my identity, and so it remains.

    I’ve heard America just elected a guy with “Hussein” as a middle name. I’m sure all the brightest stars would have used that as a major argument against him.

    Didn’t you also bash Java yesterday?

    Why do you have such trouble imagining that sometimes your favourite technology, whatever it may be, isn’t necessarily the best (or at some point might not have been)?

    If I wanted to write a 3D app would I use GL or D3D? The former, obviously. But I use it IN THE FULL KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT IT IS. I understand where it is stronger, and where it is weaker, than the competition. Equally, I understand where Java is better and where .NET (or Mono) is better.

    Pretending OpenGL is always & has always been 100% better than Direct3D is fantasy land. Ditto for Java. That’s not to say they’re not valid technologies & appropriate choices for some (or many) situations, but picking technology blindly without understanding the ups AND downs is simply stupid.

  15. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 25, 2008 at 7:08 pm

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    This assumes that you trust Microsoft and are willing to choose its APIs.

  16. Hubert said,

    December 25, 2008 at 8:49 pm

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    This is rather ridiculous. Now you’re advocating that Free Software (note the capitalization) is not truly free (as in the GNU freedoms) if it runs on Windows?

    I don’t like Windows. I use it to play games and at work, but my primary desktop is Ubuntu. And yet I am glad that Free/Open Source Software is available on Windows, and any non-open platform. More users = more quality, because of how F/OSS projects work.

    I don’t know how many people you’re trying to convince with this, but I hope not many. People should be allowed to code and release software for any platform they damn well choose. The license they release it under is more important than the underlying bits, proprietary or not. GPL (v2 or 3), BSD or whatever you want as a developer. That’s the more important aspect. Not the OS. Just because some of us consider Linux to be better (or cheaper, whatever) at *some* things doesn’t mean Windows does not have a place. And may I remind you that your OS and kernel of choice exists because some smart people decided to copy a proprietary operating system.

    This desire for Microsoft and its products to die and go away before F/OSS can be successful is just plain stupid, sorry.

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