Microsoft has increasingly embraced Linux in recent years, enough for Redmond to run under the mantra, “Microsoft Loves Linux”. Of course, the reason for the sea change from hating open source to embracing it is simply good economic movement.
Despite its new-found love for Linux, one expert believes Microsoft has a long way to go to atone for past problems. Specifically, free-software leader Richard Stallman says Microsoft's top execs previously targeted open source in the past.
Most famous of the Linux attacks was former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who described the platform as a “cancer”. Former Windows chief Jim Allchin said the open source idea was both un-American and a killer of intellectual property.
Stallman has been a long-time critic of Microsoft. He is the founder of the GNU project. So, many were shocked when he gave a speech at Microsoft Research recently. He lived up to his position and said Microsoft has much to do to fully live by its Microsoft Loves Linux idea.
Stallman said Microsoft's code-sharing site GitHub should seek improved “software license hygiene”. Elsewhere, he told employees that the company could force hardware manufacturers to publish their specifications.
Things to Do
It is worth noting Stallman has had some recent controversy that saw him resign from his role at MIT and as the president of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). He wrote an email that suggested one of the victims of billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was “willing”.
In an explanation blog, he detailed what he told Microsoft employees during the event.
- “Help keep computers unlocked (no “secure boot” that restricts what systems we can run). Truly secure boot means YOU specify what system is allowed to run in your computer.
- Help make peripherals safe — no back doors in their embedded software. This applies to keyboards, cameras, disks and memory sticks, since they contain computers and with preinstalled software that can be replaced through a universal back door. Crackers do that, installing malware into them, which becomes an advanced persistent threat. I can explain more if desired.
- Publicly take back Microsoft's attacks on copyleft made in the 2000s. Ballmer called the GPL a “cancer”. Allchin called it “un-American”.
- Encourage copylefting of application and library code, maybe even system and tool code.
- Direct GitHub to promote correct and clear use of licenses and the best use of copyleft (GPL version 3-or-later).
- Help fight against copyright on interfaces.
- Publish the hardware interface of products such as Hololens so we can run them without any nonfree software. Even if our software is years behind, that will be better than not being able to use these devices at all.”
It is worth noting, Ballmer has since changed his stance on the Microsoft Loves Linux idea. At a dinner, hosted by Fortune Magazine, Ballmer added that Microsoft won its fight with Linux long ago.
“The company made a ton of money by fighting that battle very well. It's been incredibly important to the company's revenue stream” to maintain its position with its own Windows operating system.