MS continued attack on OSD #6

Rick Moen rick at
Thu Mar 27 06:15:12 UTC 2008

Quoting B Galliart (bgallia at

> I don't believe there is some grand MS consipiracy.  Instead, there
> seems to be a misconception at MS that non-commerical only licenses
> can be open source and that MS is taking steps to spread that
> misconception.  

That's better than the tone and approach of your earlier mails.  (Your
choice of subject header remains, of course.)

[Snipping a great deal -- where you backslide rather badly, including
some rhetoric about "MS-OSD".]

> There are over 20 projects on Codeplex under non-commercial licenses
> and those are just the ones that I'm aware of.  Is there any projects
> on SourceForge that are under a non-commercial license?

Funny you should ask about SourceForge.  In 2001, I was doing a survey
of all codebases on SourceForge for PalmOS, in order to include them in
my own Web/ftp site's collection of all known open source software for
that OS platform -- and happened to notice that an alarmingly high
percentage of PalmOS-related projects on SourceForge were either
proprietary or, worse, were in likely violation of an upstream author's
copyright -- even though all of them were claimed to be open source.
(Usually, the licence field on the project summary page said either
"Other" or "Public Domain".)

Here's an example of a bogus "public domain" offering, Wabburami, which
is is David M. Archer's variant of the quaint 1970s console game

When I unpacked and examined the Wabburabi source code in 2001, I found 
references to earlier works and research them.  I found that:

1.  Richard Merrill at DEC wrote the earliest implementation[1] in his
    interpreted language FOCAL for PDP-8, calling it "The Sumer Game" 
2.  David H. Ahl recoded that in PDP-8 BASIC, then published 
    an expanded BASIC version as "Hamurabi" (shortening "Hammurabi" 
    to eight letters for filename reasons) in his famous 1973 book 
    _BASIC Computer Games_.
3.  An unnamed coder converted that to C.  That somehow ended up at .
4.  ...where Jim Lesko found it and used it in conjunction with the
    Sun "Rumor" game that Sunsoft handed out under unspecified licence
    terms at the 1999 JavaOne conference -- resulting in a Java version.
5.  ...which David M. Archer then adapted for Waba (a Java VM for
    PalmOS), as "Wabburami".

Archer acknowledges his version to be a derivative work of the earlier
ones, _but_ the earlier works had no known open source licence grants.
When I asked Mr. Archer if he had any knowledge of the upstream works'
licence terms, since none were documented, he said "My motive for
listing the source as public domain on sourceforge is my belief that
Hamurabbi is public domain and that as a result all of its descendants
are public domain."  (This is of course incorrect.)

Anyway:  I notified the SourceForge administrators of the licensing
problems I was finding with Wabburabi and a considerable number of
vastly more significant projects, and their answer (paraphrased) was
that they lacked staff time to verify or inquire into licence status of
hosted projects, and relied on the maintainers' assertions that their
code's legal status was OK.

It's possible that this situation has changed in seven years, but I 
rather doubt it.

> The actions on the part of MS does not seem to indicate that the
> "MS-OSD" is an old corporate position.  Not only has MS kept the claim
> that MSCompBio is "open source" on their website for the last 6 months
> but they continue to refer to it as such in other recent posts.
> Towards the end of February, Bill Hilf referred to the AIDS Vaccine
> Research Tools (MSCompBio) as part of the MS open source
> interoperability initiative[4]. 

See, here you're doing it again.  On the referenced blog page
(, Hilf makes
no such reference.  He mentions the "AIDS Vaccine Research Tools" (four
codebases that include MSCompBio) on an "Architecting for Participation"
slide that he'd presented at OSCon 2007 about (software) "systems
designed for user contribution" at his firm.  The slide also mentions in
passing Windows CE.  Are we supposed to think Hilf was asserting that
Windows CE is open source, too?

If you'd stick to facts and drop the screwball ideological warfare,
you'd probably get taken more seriously.  But I've said that before, and
yet here we are again.

[1] I suppose it would be arch to call this the "ur-version".

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