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Why I Don't Run Windows, 6

mvp.pngYou're treated like a criminal out the door. I won't go into WPA, the patent policies with Novell and Xandros, or the fact that you have to enter a serial number every time you want to install the operating system. In other words, the average Joe and your grandma aren't the subjects of this post. Rather, this post is more concerned about the Windows developer. Yes, that's right, the bread and butter to the Windows community. The brains behind the software that your average Joe and grandma are running, and the fact that Microsoft likes to bite the hand that feeds it.

Techdirt ran an article about a Windows developer who created a software tool for Visual Studio.NET, and Microsoft is threatening litigation, AFTER they initially rewarded him for his work. Here's the article from Techdirt:

Someone who prefers to remain anonymous, pointed us to the story of Jamie Cansdale. Cansdale wrote an add-on for Microsoft Visual Studio that was so useful that Microsoft rewarded him with MVP status. Then they realized that his add-on was designed to work on the free "Express" version of Visual Studio, and they began to threaten him, saying that he had violated the terms of service. This was doubly ridiculous, since Cansdale notes that, as a hobbyist, he only had access to the free Express version when developing his add-on, so it was only natural that his version was designed to work with it. As Cansdale pointed out that he doesn't appear to have done anything wrong (and kept asking Microsoft for evidence of what terms he violated specifically), the legal threats just got stronger and stronger, and apparently, the guy has until tomorrow to make changes to the same software Microsoft gave him an award for writing, even though no one can explain exactly what he did wrong or why he received an award one day and a legal threat afterwards. Update: In the comments, someone points us to a detailed version that gives Microsoft's side of the story and suggests this isn't as clear cut as the Register's article would have you believe.

Here's the lowdown, if you don't read the story in full at the Register. Basically, a hobby developer created a tool for improving .NET development using all versions of Visual Studio. At first, Microsoft was so impressed with his work, that they awarded him the Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award. It was only later upon discovering that the tool also worked with Visual Studio.NET Express (the freeware edition that can be downloaded from Microsoft's site), that they revoked his MVP status, and began threatening him with legal action.

Being told how and where Cansdale can distribute his software, when it is apparently not violating any licenses or terms of service, is draconian. If Microsoft feels that they are in the right, and even if they technically are, once awarding Cansdale with MVP, they should not revoked it. Microsoft should have done a bit more research into his work, before awarding him with MVP status. I look at my work in the Free Software community, and my status as an Ubuntu Member. If that status was initially given for developing a software tool, than later revoked, because the tool that I wrote for the Ubuntu developing community actually violated some license or terms of service for another software application, I probably wouldn't be involved with the project anymore, especially if threatened with legal action. However, I know that as long as I abide by the Ubuntu Code of Conduct, my membership status will never be revoked, other than naturally expiring after 2 years, of which, I'm given the option to renew.

See? This is one of the BIG reasons I don't run Windows, or want anything to do with it. You are treated as a criminal from the start. Cansdale sticks to his guns, and has even sought legal counsel, which advise him to hold his ground, and that he has used publicly available APIs to Visual Studio.NET Express. So, if using a tool that has such APIs, and enhancing the product with another tool using said APIs, means lawsuits and financial ruin, count me out. Funny thing is, there are still Windows developers and users who seem to put blinders over the issues, as if they don't exist. Why support a company, software or not, that is going to treat you as guilty, unless proven innocent? Would you shop at a grocery store if you were arrested for potential theft, even if you haven't started actually shopping?

I guess this would be reason #6 why I don't run Windows, or develop for that platform. I like my Freedoms, but more importantly, I like the parent company of the product I endorse, namely Canonical, because they respect my Freedoms as well.

{ 7 } Comments

  1. bono using Internet Explorer 7.0 on Windows Vista | June 6, 2007 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    Most of the big corporations have disconnections that lead into some middle level manager or such doing very silly decisions on his own. This is just a case of normal corporate idiocy and starts happening as the companies grow unless if the management is expectionally good and understands how to work with the corporate culture, communication of goals, and management grip. You can now take off your tin foil hat.

    Besides, I can't really see any solid logic in behind deriving "don't use Windows" from issue concerning the EULA and licensing issues of the Visual Studio family. Visual Studio is just one text editor for specialized task for the use of code monkeys, and can be made for instance to run on Linux (if you really REALLY want to).

    The US law has in the copyright law too the improper addition clauses and uhh if they want to invoke some stuff like that it's their right. It might even screw up them as well, so it's an obvious mistake even from their point of view as they lose the tool that they found useful for them as well.. But that's still their right.

  2. Jason using Firefox 2.0.0.4 on Ubuntu | June 6, 2007 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Only playing Devil's Advocate. I think you know by now just by seeing my UA/OS in my comments that I use Open Source Software as well (and greatly prefer it), however...

    There's a reason why Iceweasel exists...

  3. Michael Hoskins using Firefox 2.0.0.4 on Windows XP | June 6, 2007 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Setting aside the discussion of whether Microsoft is right to charge for their products, Jason clearly violated the EULA for the Visual Studio Express products. Violating terms of an agreement would be unacceptable for GPL, CC, or any other open source software.

    If you had read the other link in the quote you provided, you would see that his software did, then did not, then did again violate the Express terms of service.

    For the record, I do think that it's incredibly lame and stupid of Microsoft to not allow developers to extend the Express products, but the fact remains that they are freely available when Microsoft clearly is under no obligation to make them so. No, it's not fair, but such is often the case.

  4. Maxo using Internet Explorer 6.0 on Windows XP | June 6, 2007 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    To Michael Hoskins
    Setting aside whether or not Jason is in the right or the wrong, Aaron's point still stands that this would not happen in the FOSS community. In the FOSS community Jamie's code would probably find it's way in the official release.

  5. Aaron using Firefox 2.0.0.4 on Ubuntu | June 6, 2007 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    @bono- I agree on the grounds that large corporations make mistakes in decisions. This is common when communication is corrupted between departments. And, my reasoning for not using Windows is due to the nature of Microsoft's actions to this developer. As it has been made readily apparent, Jason did not intentionally violate the EULA, but rather used open APIs, and Microsoft has yet to point out specifically where Jason made the error.

    @Jason- Yes. Iceweasel exists, because Mozilla will not make patches upstream, and will not release the trademark. AFAIK, however, Mozilla has never threatened a legal course of action to Debian, or other Linux distributions that distribute Firefox binaries without the branding.

    @Michael- Again, I believe, as is my right, that Cansdale did not violate the EULA intentionally, if it was in fact violated. He used open APIs for the Express version that is published on Microsoft's site. And, yes, I read the other link. Microsoft feels they have a case under their belts. I guess only time will tell.

    @Maxo- At least someone understands the point of my post. Thanks for taking the time to figure out what I'm saying in black and white. :)

  6. bono using Firefox 2.0.0.4 on Windows Vista | June 6, 2007 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    9. SCOPE OF LICENSE. The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights to use the software. Microsoft reserves all other rights. Unless applicable law gives you more rights despite this limitation, you may use the software only as expressly permitted in this agreement. In doing so, you must comply with any technical limitations in the software that only allow you to use it in certain ways. For more information, see http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/userights. You may not
    • work around any technical limitations in the software;

    And then:
    http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/vstudio/aa700921.aspx

    As you can see, those features have been on purpose disabled on the express edition, making it technical limitation.

    What that Cansdale did is pretty obvious. He didn't read or care to understand the EULA, just the same broke it. Carelessness is not a pretty good excuse.

  7. Michael Hoskins using Firefox 2.0.0.4 on Windows XP | June 7, 2007 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    @Maxo and Aaron: I do agree that it would likely not happen in the FOSS community, and that Microsoft licenses are draconian in scope ("Thou shalt not work around technical limitations in this software" and the like). What I disagreed with was the idea that Jamie did not intentionally violate the EULA, since it seemed pretty clear from those articles that he fully understood what he was doing.

    I have since read Jamie's blog posts on the subject, and can see that those articles summations of the events don't really tell the whole story. Jamie's posts on the matter clearly show he searched the EULA as well as he could (not being a lawyer). Vague catchall clauses FTW.

    @Aaron: You have every right to believe whatever you want. I wasn't trying to suggest otherwise. I apologize if I came off as hostile.

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