Microsofts Open Source Trashware

 
 
By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2007-08-23 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Opinion: I recently took a look at Microsoft's most active open-source projects and—there's no polite way to say this—they are all junk.

Quick! Think of some of the most popular open-source programs. Ill bet you thought of at least one of these: Linux, Firefox, Thunderbird and Apache. Now, name some of Microsofts most active open-source projects. Dead silence, except, perhaps the sound of a cricket in the distance? Theres a reason why you were able to quickly think of the real open-source programs and you probably havent got a clue as to what Microsoft is doing. Its because while Microsoft is trying to at least pretend to be a friend to open source and the boys from Redmond are even trying to get the Open Source Initiative for review and approve two new open-source licenses—the Microsoft Permissive and Microsoft Community Licenses—they dont produce any significant open-source software.
Dont believe me? Fine, lets look at the list we made from Microsofts oldest open-source site, CodePlex. Brace yourself, heres the 25 Most Active Open Source Projects at Microsofts CodePlex.
Rather than go through the entire list, Im just going to pick on the top five. At number one, we have what may be the most long-winded software project title ever: VMukti P2P Multipoint Real-time Rich Media Collaboration Platform. This project has "ambitious" written all over it. Its a Multipoint P2P (peer to peer), VOIP (voice over IP), VVOIP (voice and video over IP) video service delivery platform. In short, its an open-source take on Microsofts Office Communications Server 2007. Now you may never have heard of this project, but I admit it does sound cool. That is until I looked closer at it and see that its based on C#, WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation, formerly Avalon), WCF (Windows Communication Foundation, formerly Indigo), and .Net 3.5. In other words, its an "open-source" program built entirely from Vista-oriented proprietary languages and frameworks. Is a project really open-source when all its parts are proprietary? I dont think so.
Number two is the Microsoft SQL Server Product Samples: Engine. This "program" is simple sample code for SQL Server. It was last updated on, get this, December 9, 2005. The primary example is, get this, how to do "Hello World" in SQL Server. Excuse me while I close my eyes and shake my head in complete bemusement. Next up—or should I say down?— at number three, we find the Patterns & Practices: Enterprise Library. This is more sample code "to assist developers with common enterprise development challenges." This isnt an open-source program. Its just a collection of semi-useful Microsoft specific blocks of code. For example, it includes some code to externalize routine exception handling tasks. This kind of stuff is handy, and every programmer worth his or her salt keeps routines like this at hand. It doesnt make it an open-source project though. And, its totally and utterly ordinary. Heck, I had my own collection of code for these situations back in the 1980s that I wrote myself for Unix shell and C programs. Of course, its always been easy to handle patterns in Unix/Linux, so I guess I shouldnt be too hard on Microsoft for taking only 25 years to catch up with me. Number four is BlogEngine.NET. Guess what? Its a simple blog back-end written in .Net. Wow. Let me see, if I do a search on SourceForge, a real open-source site, on blog and engine, I find 5,633 results. Oh yeah, I see a big demand out there for another blogging platform. Finally at number five—and let me tell you folks, five is as many of these things as I could stomach—we find, whats this, more sample code! Patterns & Practices—Smart Client Guidance. Again, its not an open-source project, its sample code and some architecture guidance to help customers build Composite Smart Clients using Microsoft proprietary programs such as WinForms, WPF, etc. OK Microsoft, you want to be taken seriously by open source? I know thats a rhetorical question, I dont believe for one moment that youre ready to really embrace open source. You just want to be able to confuse the market by being able to say that youre "open source friendly." What a crock. Microsoft is open-source friendly in the same way that a butcher is friendly to a cow. But, lets assume that Microsoft really wanted to be open-source friendly. How about instead of flapping your lips, you release some code under your b.s. community licenses thats actually not built from Microsoft proprietary parts, trashy example code, or is just a pointless "me too" project. Show me something real and open-source Microsoft, then maybe Ill listen to your open-source claims. Oh, and dump those idiotic, unfounded patent claims against Linux and other open-source programs. Until then, forget about it.
 
 
 
 
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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