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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
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An Open-Source Challenge to Messrs. Gates & Ballmer
Linux developer challenges Bill & Steve to a software coding bake-out

Messrs William H. Gates III & Steven Ballmer
Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond
Washington, USA

Dear Sirs

I see you have been active again in making interesting - and to some degree highly amusing - statements about Free/Libre Open Source Software and the many and varied people who make up its community.

I in particular would like to thank Mr Ballmer for your entertaining expose of Linux's deepest, darkest secret - that it can seriously worry the senior executive of a convicted predatory monopoly, without that ever having been the intention of its principal software designer and initial developer.

I would also like to thank you for humming and hawing around the question of the release of source code to people who can use it, in the light of the new MVP source code entitlement program. Well, are they deserving members of the Windows development team or not?

In relation to your comments, Mr Ballmer, on Linux's "road map," I will refrain from expounding on Linus Torvalds' comment on the cover of one of Bill Gates' books, showing him standing in the middle of an empty road. It's not nice to make jokes like that, is it, Your Billness? Road kill is no joke, even if some enterprising chef has written a book about it.

No, I have something else on my mind, something much more worthy.

I would like to challenge you to a software coding bake-out, a bet to see which methodology works, and which doesn't. You have made some progress with your NT source tree, anyone can see that - Windows 2k3 is a more serious product than Windows XP, and definitely a more realistic - and much more massive - product than Windows 95. Congratulations.

You have also declared that Windows 95, Windows NT 3.x and NT 4.x are discontinued, end-of-line, unsupported products. And Windows 98 is shortly going to be in the same category, having already been discontinued. And Microsoft is attempting to roll the Win9x features into the NT line. XP is the nearest you have come to success. In the process, Windows users have enjoyed an interesting remote use of RPC and other features that might otherwise bug you. And in the process you have put back Longhorn's release date.

My challenge is this - release the entire range of discontinued, end-of-line and unsupported Operating Systems mentioned above (Win9x, NT 3.x and Win4.x) and their related utilities and Productivity Applications, as Open Source under the BSD/MIT license, since you have stated at sundry times and in diverse manners that that license is one you can live with. You are of course expected to sanitize the source trees - we don't want trouble with absurd IP cases.

Release the sanitized source trees, minus any bits and pieces of third-party encumbered code Microsoft may have in the Win9x and NT 3.x and 4.x source trees, to the ftp servers at the MIT, ibiblio, the U of Calif. at Berkeley, and the U of Cambridge, UK, with prominent notices stating that they are released under the terms of the BSD/MIT licenses placed in slashdot.org, www.linuxworld.com, newsforge.com, computerworld.com, news.com.com, www.theinquirer.net and www.theregister.co.uk and other industry news outlets.

My bet is that in the time it takes Microsoft to come up with a half-way decent Windows product, the Open Source development process starting from an earlier, identical initial source tree without constraints will produce one better. The length of time is going to be the same.

On one side you have the multi-billion dollar transnational corporation, on the other you have an amorphous world-wide community. One has a head start, but the code bases for this challenge are the same.

The only catch - Microsoft is not allowed to use the source code produced by the open source effort until after it has rolled out Longhorn - thus preserving the independence of the challengers, who will not have access to the Longhorn source tree. After the challenge has finished and the bets have been tallied up, then it is a totally different story, because the BSD/MIT license doesn't prohibit incorporation within a closed-source code base, only the denial of attribution. But should Microsoft use the independent effort's code during such a challenge, it would be an admission that the Free/Libre Open Source community is right, and must be met with an appropriate forfeit - the sanitizing and opening of the Longhorn source tree.

I propose in the interim that the challenge in the interim be named something other than Windows or Office - precisely what will have to be decided upon later.

So, there you have it. Are either of you betting men, able to face a challenge?

Yours Sincerely

Wesley Parish

About Wesley Parish
Wesley Parish is a Linux user based in New Zealand.

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Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1

Release the source without 3rd party code? Are you kidding? What will remain then? Icons, cursors and bitmaps? I'm just curious, how much from VMS has Dave Cuttler put into NT?

I look forward to a world without M$, just like I look forward to a world without prejudice and war.

M$ are no better than nazi's.

Luke.

I realized after I had written the challenge and sent it off to be published, that I had missed mentioning what is probably the best reason for Microsoft to take up the challenge:

The fact that their biggest competitor on the desktop is their own installed base. Admittedly they are able to panic a set number into upgrading the instant a new product comes out, but on the other hand, there are heaps of semi-skilled computer people - who I as a volunteer in a community-based Neighbourhood Net organization regularly meet - who are perfectly happy to just get the system they've got, running, and will only change their system if the hardware fails.

Microsoft can't do a thing about that sort of customer. And that is one of the factors driving Microsoft's profitability downwards.

So, if we are to be graced by the presence of Microsoft in the future, Microsoft will have to change, and that is probably the least-intrusive change I can think of - getting Microsoft to work in harness with people developing independently, its vast installed user base. That means giving up that total control over the desktop and allowing independent innovation from outside, a la the BSDs and Unix - which also implies that outsiders would have the right to start businesses maintaining that vast installed and static user base using Microsoft software released under the terms of the BSD/MIT license.

Otherwise I suspect Pan Am will become the Microsoft of the present day - or did I get that the wrong way around? When its vast network will suddenly grind to a halt, and one day we'll have Microsoft and the next we'll have something approaching total chaos on the desktop as the receivers sort through the assets, liabilities, accounts receivable and payable, etc, and Bill Gates'll be consoled by Melinda and everybody else'll wonder how it happened.

M$ will never release their source trees under the BSD or any other license like it unless ordered to do so by a court of law.

They'll say they've got 'trade secrets' in there, but we'll know they mean they've got 'dirty secrets' in there instead, and they know that they can't 'sanitze' the code, because it won't work afterwards (assuming it did before-hand)...

Consider this:

Why is it I can run 10-year-old GNU/Linux programs on my shiny 'new' Mandrake 9.1 box without issues, but I can't even run some 5-year-old Windoze based software on XP?

Why is it that Mandrake 9 runs fine on an old classic Pentium 166 with 96MB RAM, but XP wouldn't even install?

Why is it that my 'creaky old' PIII/500 still does everything I need it to do, at a perfectly acceptable speed, but I have performance problems on my works PIII/1300 laptop, running XP?

Why is it every time I run Windoze Update, I have to reboot about 3 times, but with Linux I've only had to reboot a few times *ever* ?

After using GNU/Linux for nearly a decade, and watching Windoze go through 4 versions in that time, I feel I've got a pretty good handle on 'why'. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions - just suffice it to say that I've recently persuaded the misses to defect, and after a couple of weeks and not too many 'teething problems' she says she's really happy with it.

AHA! TEETHING PROBLEMS? Well, there you go. M$ *did* say GNU/Linux is not for the novice... what sort of problems? Oh, mostly finding apps that would do those 'niggly little things' like Instant Messaging, and learning hassles because it doen't always work the way Windoze users expect. Now that these little hurdles have been overcome (which was mostly easy), I can relax, safe in the knowledge that Windows Update will be a thing of the past (at home anyway)...

-andyj

to Benjamin Smith :
I had more kernel panics than bluescreen by 10:1 :-)

In my view Open Source is not about breaking/challanging corporations. It is about helping science move forward. Putting software knowledge gathered by past generations into the public domain area. Open Source allows us ALL to take advantage of research and discoveries done by previous generations without paying royalties. We use the law of Newton everyday without paying royalties!

Having an Open Source OS or application is about that. We don't need to challange closed-code corporations like Microsoft. They had and still have a role to play. Time will test them. The Open Source community will push them to be creative again if they want to survive.

Time to market is not a criteria for the Open Source community. Quality is a better measure of success.

it goes and falls with ..
....constraints will produce one better..

I just do not know how to define it. Ooooohhh, there may be a way, quite accepted one in capitalist industry, number of users and profit, and there we go :-)...

The challenge is really nice and it was really fun and interesting in reading, however things today are not going in such a "romantic" way and daring microsoft could be misinterpreted or not understood at all.

Good news any way, because Linux is here to stay and we don't need even a byte of their source code - THEY have been stealing code from the start (think about ms-dos or lately about bind)

I am an 8 year veteran with Linux. I have used it for my daily work every day as well as my home PC OS. I have never had a complaint about it. I also run VMWare (since 1.0). Lately VMWare does not even seem to crash.

I have also rolled out several enterprise (1,000s - 10,000s of users) server systems (various purposes from file to database and web) in the last 5-6 years on Linux. I have been very please withe the results and I am sure that many other people can attest to similar satisfaction. At least if there are known problems they are manageable and solutble without reinstalling the OS (even without rebooting the machine it in most cases. Windows in contrast is completely unmanageable.

Linux rocks... Windows sucks.

Try installing VMWare, then running VMWare...

Linux doesn't crash when I try it, VMWare does.
I've also got a computer that has been running for 3.5 years without crashing. It acts as an intranet web, file, email server. That is 'really WORKING' it.

In the almost 4 years I use Linux I did not have a single crash

Then you weren't really WORKING your Linux system. Sorry. If you really do push the limits, really try it out, you will find it will crash.

Try installing VMWare, then running VMWare on an OS inside VMWARE. Not because it's practical, but because you can try it. I've gotten Linux to crash quite a few times, but only when I'm pushing the system way beyond expectations.

Contrast that to my home Win98 box that crashes on the screensaver. (And nothing else!) Linux is stable, yes. But it's not "bulletproof"....

Why do we need proof that the open Source community delivers better products ?
In the almost 4 years I use Linux I did not have a single crash. While my Windows boxes were crashing almost daily, regardless Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP. In addition I had to re-install Windows every 3 months as the system was choked.
For me there is not better proof than my everyday experience that linux is far more stable, more reliable and faster than any Windows flavour I worked with in the past.

I make some other predictions:
1) Before 2010 more than 80% of the desktop PCs in the world run on Linux.
2) Before 2010 there will be more Java programmers than VB programmers

These predictions are very easy to check, while at the same time Open Source programmers can stay focussed on Linux :)

Source code is like the MSFT family jewels. It is far more likely that MSFT will do everything in their power to protect and defend their model *well past* the point where it has been proven its inferiority. Market forces will keep MSFT highly profitable for a number of years after they are clearly in decline -- their OS and Office operations generate that much free cash flow.

Two things will topple MSFT -- time and good OSS projects. All the OSS community can do is accelerate the process by investing wisely in OSS projects and giving OSS advocates that much more amunition.

Paul Nowak

well,
it's nice to see that there is vision among the open source
community. But the one thing you must remember is.
corporations are cowards, and microsoft is the biggest
corporation/coward...
microsoft will with no doubt just dismiss this challenge.
if they are not too much of cowards they may give a
statement saying something like "we have more important
things to do - blah blah blah - - -, it will cost money
blah blah blah, " something along those lines
cowards like to make EXCUSES... but in theory this would be
quite a challenge if gates and his "men" had balls
(we know they have the money to do this, so they cant say
they can't afford it, they could even use R&D money
because this is a form of research, it could potentially
have a very great impact of how dare i say it
corporate software is designed, but like i said corporations
are cowards. As for Apple, the guy (jobs) just got his company
back a few years ago and he has turned it around.
personally i think that Apple has a better chance than microsoft
to actually be a competitor to the open source community
because not only do they make software they make hardware
they are a large business with the little guy in mind
they may not have the money of microsoft
but they do have a different attitude and that is why they are
still in business because people like to see something different
so if Mr. Apple reads any of these posts read this one...


Your Feedback
Nino wrote: Release the source without 3rd party code? Are you kidding? What will remain then? Icons, cursors and bitmaps? I'm just curious, how much from VMS has Dave Cuttler put into NT?
Luke A. Guest wrote: I look forward to a world without M$, just like I look forward to a world without prejudice and war. M$ are no better than nazi's. Luke.
Wesley Parish wrote: I realized after I had written the challenge and sent it off to be published, that I had missed mentioning what is probably the best reason for Microsoft to take up the challenge: The fact that their biggest competitor on the desktop is their own installed base. Admittedly they are able to panic a set number into upgrading the instant a new product comes out, but on the other hand, there are heaps of semi-skilled computer people - who I as a volunteer in a community-based Neighbourhood Net organization regularly meet - who are perfectly happy to just get the system they've got, running, and will only change their system if the hardware fails. Microsoft can't do a thing about that sort of customer. And that is one of the factors driving Microsoft's profitability downwards. So, if we are to be graced by the presence of Microsoft in the future, Microsoft will have to change, and...
andy jewell wrote: M$ will never release their source trees under the BSD or any other license like it unless ordered to do so by a court of law. They'll say they've got 'trade secrets' in there, but we'll know they mean they've got 'dirty secrets' in there instead, and they know that they can't 'sanitze' the code, because it won't work afterwards (assuming it did before-hand)... Consider this: Why is it I can run 10-year-old GNU/Linux programs on my shiny 'new' Mandrake 9.1 box without issues, but I can't even run some 5-year-old Windoze based software on XP? Why is it that Mandrake 9 runs fine on an old classic Pentium 166 with 96MB RAM, but XP wouldn't even install? Why is it that my 'creaky old' PIII/500 still does everything I need it to do, at a perfectly acceptable speed, but I have performance problems on my works PIII/1300 laptop, running XP? Why is it every time I run Windoze Up...
Vaclav Kabat wrote: to Benjamin Smith : I had more kernel panics than bluescreen by 10:1 :-)
Anonymous wrote: In my view Open Source is not about breaking/challanging corporations. It is about helping science move forward. Putting software knowledge gathered by past generations into the public domain area. Open Source allows us ALL to take advantage of research and discoveries done by previous generations without paying royalties. We use the law of Newton everyday without paying royalties! Having an Open Source OS or application is about that. We don't need to challange closed-code corporations like Microsoft. They had and still have a role to play. Time will test them. The Open Source community will push them to be creative again if they want to survive. Time to market is not a criteria for the Open Source community. Quality is a better measure of success.
Vaclav Kabat wrote: it goes and falls with .. ....constraints will produce one better.. I just do not know how to define it. Ooooohhh, there may be a way, quite accepted one in capitalist industry, number of users and profit, and there we go :-)...
Edoardo wrote: The challenge is really nice and it was really fun and interesting in reading, however things today are not going in such a "romantic" way and daring microsoft could be misinterpreted or not understood at all. Good news any way, because Linux is here to stay and we don't need even a byte of their source code - THEY have been stealing code from the start (think about ms-dos or lately about bind)
David wrote: I am an 8 year veteran with Linux. I have used it for my daily work every day as well as my home PC OS. I have never had a complaint about it. I also run VMWare (since 1.0). Lately VMWare does not even seem to crash. I have also rolled out several enterprise (1,000s - 10,000s of users) server systems (various purposes from file to database and web) in the last 5-6 years on Linux. I have been very please withe the results and I am sure that many other people can attest to similar satisfaction. At least if there are known problems they are manageable and solutble without reinstalling the OS (even without rebooting the machine it in most cases. Windows in contrast is completely unmanageable. Linux rocks... Windows sucks.
Ash wrote: Try installing VMWare, then running VMWare... Linux doesn't crash when I try it, VMWare does. I've also got a computer that has been running for 3.5 years without crashing. It acts as an intranet web, file, email server. That is 'really WORKING' it.
Benjamin Smith wrote: In the almost 4 years I use Linux I did not have a single crash Then you weren't really WORKING your Linux system. Sorry. If you really do push the limits, really try it out, you will find it will crash. Try installing VMWare, then running VMWare on an OS inside VMWARE. Not because it's practical, but because you can try it. I've gotten Linux to crash quite a few times, but only when I'm pushing the system way beyond expectations. Contrast that to my home Win98 box that crashes on the screensaver. (And nothing else!) Linux is stable, yes. But it's not "bulletproof"....
John Zoetebier wrote: Why do we need proof that the open Source community delivers better products ? In the almost 4 years I use Linux I did not have a single crash. While my Windows boxes were crashing almost daily, regardless Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP. In addition I had to re-install Windows every 3 months as the system was choked. For me there is not better proof than my everyday experience that linux is far more stable, more reliable and faster than any Windows flavour I worked with in the past. I make some other predictions: 1) Before 2010 more than 80% of the desktop PCs in the world run on Linux. 2) Before 2010 there will be more Java programmers than VB programmers These predictions are very easy to check, while at the same time Open Source programmers can stay focussed on Linux :)
Paul Nowak wrote: Source code is like the MSFT family jewels. It is far more likely that MSFT will do everything in their power to protect and defend their model *well past* the point where it has been proven its inferiority. Market forces will keep MSFT highly profitable for a number of years after they are clearly in decline -- their OS and Office operations generate that much free cash flow. Two things will topple MSFT -- time and good OSS projects. All the OSS community can do is accelerate the process by investing wisely in OSS projects and giving OSS advocates that much more amunition. Paul Nowak
Ronnie Trujillo wrote: well, it's nice to see that there is vision among the open source community. But the one thing you must remember is. corporations are cowards, and microsoft is the biggest corporation/coward... microsoft will with no doubt just dismiss this challenge. if they are not too much of cowards they may give a statement saying something like "we have more important things to do - blah blah blah - - -, it will cost money blah blah blah, " something along those lines cowards like to make EXCUSES... but in theory this would be quite a challenge if gates and his "men" had balls (we know they have the money to do this, so they cant say they can't afford it, they could even use R&D money because this is a form of research, it could potentially have a very great impact of how dare i say it corporate software is designed, but like i said corporations are cowards. As for Apple, the guy (...
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