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Microsoft Open Source Programming

Microsoft .Net Libraries Not Acting "Open Source" 246

Posted by kdawson
from the promises-broken-or-forgotten dept.
figleaf writes "Three years ago, with much fanfare, Microsoft announced it would make some of the .Net libraries open source using the Microsoft Reference License. Since then Microsoft has reneged on its promise. The reference code site is dead, the blog hasn't been updated in a year and a half, and no one from Microsoft responds to questions on the forum."
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Microsoft .Net Libraries Not Acting "Open Source"

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  • by yakatz (1176317) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:14PM (#32088546) Homepage Journal
    As most people who have tried to write a blog can testify, it is hard to maintain a procedure by force; the reason why so many new blogs are abandoned. If the culture at Microsoft is anti open-source, it will take a constant effort to continue this type of project. The power was obviously not there.
    • by Jurily (900488)

      Let me get this straight: nothing happened for a year and a half, and that's news?

    • by ygslash (893445) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @04:01PM (#32090040) Journal

      Three years ago, the FOSS movement looked like one of the biggest potential threats against Microsoft. This move was designed to mitigate that threat, so it was worth investing energy in it. The idea was to dilute the concept of FOSS in the mind of the public, thereby weakening the FOSS "brand" as a competitor.

      Today, it is appears that Apple and Google are far bigger threats to Microsoft than FOSS ever will be. So Microsoft will not be investing significant energy in trying to dilute the concept of FOSS anymore.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by c++0xFF (1758032)

        Today, it is appears that Apple and Google are far bigger threats to Microsoft than FOSS ever will be.

        Both Google and Apple are significant supporters of FOSS. Maybe the enemy hasn't changed all that much? Maybe Google and Apple wouldn't be so threatening had their attacks on FOSS been more successful?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by aztracker1 (702135)
        MS has kept quite a bit of OpenSource available, mainly in support of the Mono project. IMHO the reference license for the portions of .Net they were putting out there were less important as a learning tool, and more important in terms of discovering issues in MS's code, vs. your code while developing. The DLR portions (DLR, IronRuby, IronPython) as well as the MVC and MVC Contrib libraries have been very OpenSource friendly from the beginning.

        The portions mentioned in TFS weren't ever really to combat
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anpheus (908711)

          To expand on what he said, Visual Studio supports downloading and using the .NET source code and stepping through it with the debugger. This lets accomplished users determine where a problem in the code lies if it involves (often-times) complex API calls.

          This would be akin to, I suppose, using GDB with your kernel + library sources plugged in as well.

    • by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @05:57PM (#32091514)

      First, Microsoft did not promise anything open source. They promised a read-only shared source version under the reference license. They delivered that, and are still delivering it, though as of yet no .net 4.0 libraries.. but that's only a couple of weeks old.

      The reason the site hasn't been maintained was the the functionality was moved into visual studio for automatic download. It's just a part of the tools now.

      Basically, the entire story is wrong.

  • Same old, same old (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ls671 (1122017) *

    Same old, same old. Some things will never change.

    I am still glad to hear about this specific topic although, just for my personal information.

  • I'm sure that no one here is surprised.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I bet they expected the OS community to have mirrored the reference code sites, start their own blogs, and master the libraries and dole out advice, if they really wanted the .NET Libraries to be Open Source.

      Not defending Microsoft, it's not exactly cool, but like you said, what were they expecting?

      • Re:Of course (Score:5, Informative)

        by Vahokif (1292866) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:32PM (#32088830)
        You mean like Mono? The submission is (intentionally or out of ignorance) trying to confuse the read-but-don't-touch "open source" reference implementation that no one uses, their legally binding promise not to sue anyone using open source implementations, and the stuff they have licensed under the OSI-approved MS-PL license.
    • Re:Of course (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Millennium (2451) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:23PM (#32088694) Homepage

      The scary part here is that I'm sure plenty of people here are surprised. I wasn't ready to trust Microsoft, and I'm sure many others here weren't either, but an astonishing number of people -including some people in very high places, and yes, Mr. de Icaza, I am looking at you- were. Enough that there were flamewars any time anything remotely .NET-related or Mono-related came up.

      Hopefully, we'll be able to get on with our lives now. This has happened before, and will probably happen again, and the community always survives. Some very interesting tools will either die or need to be ported, but that's always how it goes.

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:17PM (#32088600)
    ... why?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:18PM (#32088608)

    The reference code site is dead, the blog hasn't been updated in a year and a half, and no one from Microsoft responds to questions on the forum.

    How is this different from the majority of "real" FOSS projects on SourceForge?

    • by Americano (920576) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:23PM (#32088700)
      At the Microsoft site, nobody responds to your questions.

      At the SourceForge site, someone responds to your questions with, "You have the code, figure it out yourself, asshole."

      Worlds of difference, you see.
      • by mikael_j (106439) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @03:17PM (#32089488)

        Or they'll upload a javadoc/pydoc dump of their uncommented and undocumented code as well, which is about as useful as simply being told to figure it out yourself.

        Another possibility is of course that the maintainer comes up with some fairly lame excuse for not working on the project ("my dog had puppies a year ago and I've been completely dedicated to playing with them...") complete with promises of getting the project up to date ("...but I've been looking at some of the patches that have been submitted and there's gonna be a big update any day now.") which means most people will hold off on forking the project.

        Then there's the "it's in CVS" projects, you know them, those projects that are required by a whole host of apps yet they haven't had a proper release since 2006, and before that the last release was in 2003, but hey, you can just grab the extremely active development branch from CVS/SVN/Git!

        The last one has a close relative, the "1.x is featureless and out of date (but still gets security patches) and 2.x has been in alpha for three years now" projects. Just like the "it's in CVS" projects the bulk of interesting code for these tends to be in source control or in the 2.x.y.z.alpha23.tar.bz2 releases, and if you dare use the dev/alpha branch and find a problem with it and file a bug report you'd better be prepared to be chastised for not also submitting a patch...

        And last but not least there are the "closed" projects which rarely accept patches from "outsiders", they have a dedicated group of developers who will tell you to write your own patch and submit it when there's a bug that's been around for over a year with all reports closed as "WILLNOTFIX" or "NOTABUG", and when you do it will be rejected only to have one of the "regular" developers submit an almost identical patch a few days or weeks later (yes, this has happened to me a couple of times, can you feel the bitterness?).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica (681592) *

          And last but not least there are the "closed" projects which rarely accept patches from "outsiders", they have a dedicated group of developers who will tell you to write your own patch and submit it when there's a bug that's been around for over a year with all reports closed as "WILLNOTFIX" or "NOTABUG", and when you do it will be rejected only to have one of the "regular" developers submit an almost identical patch a few days or weeks later (yes, this has happened to me a couple of times, can you feel the

    • by sunking2 (521698) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:24PM (#32088712)
      I agree. Sounds to me like they've fully embraced the Open Source mindset. They probably have to get rid of 75% of their documentation though.
    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:27PM (#32088762) Journal

      Microsoft has a forum

      Ziiiiing!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by machwon (12734)

      This one was supposedly run and supported by the biggest software company in the world, not by a high school student in his basement.

  • Summary Misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by SomeJoel (1061138) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:20PM (#32088640)
    I know it's fun to bash Microsoft and all, but the source site here [microsoft.com] is not, in fact, dead. The other points in TFS might be valid, but I have doubts as to the poster's credibility. I believe this "figleaf" character may just be trying to score some free karma or jollies or something by inciting the standard "M$ sux" response.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The other points in TFS might be valid, but I have doubts as to the poster's credibility.

      Even if the statements about the blog and the forum are true, there's no requirement for open source projects to have active blogs and forums.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mpapet (761907)

      I think Microsoft's goal is/was to pollute the term 'open source' to mean things friendly to Microsoft's practices like this read-only license.

      The license cites the code available as "read only."

      "Reference use" means use of the software within your company as a reference, in read only form, for the sole purposes of debugging your products, maintaining your products, or enhancing the interoperability of your products....

      http://referencesource.microsoft.com/referencesourcelicense.aspx [microsoft.com]

      Oh, and yes, Microsoft st

      • by RobDude (1123541) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @03:02PM (#32089272) Homepage

        Maybe I'm missing the point but I'm *glad* there is only one version of the .Net Framework 4.0

        If the source was truly open, I'm sure someone, somewhere, would make something awesome, that I'd want to use, but it would require me using the forked (or whatever they call it) home-brew version that may or may not introduce instability into my application.

        And when I took my problem online and said, 'WTF! I'm just doing System.Console.Writeline()' why doesn't this work!' it would lead to all sorts of confusion.

        But yeah, I'm probably missing the point as my understanding of OpenSource is limited. I just don't see why you'd ever want to a modified version of the .Net Framework.

        • Parent Misleading. There were a few different open-source implementations of the .Net CLI early on, with Mono pretty much at the forefront now. Mono has significant portions of .Net 4 ready for use. As always, Mono is an implementation that contains the core Ecma/ISO bits, and overlaps a lot of MS's extensions, without implementing many of those pieces highly tied to windows, or that don't serve non-windows developers.

          As to why you'd want a modified version. Well, embedded systems, Linux, Mac OSX and
      • open source != Open Source. Look it up. One is a English term, another is a copyrighted term.

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      inciting the standard "M$ sux" response.

      *pfft* Like that would work...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by alfredos (1694270)

      I know it's fun to bash Microsoft

      Actually, "fun" is an overly simplistic definition of it. Actually, it's an art that has some of the features of a sport.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by noidentity (188756)
      I believe

      this "figleaf" character may just be trying to score some free karma or jollies or something by inciting the standard "M$ sux" response.

      I get the idea he's hiding something, not sure why.

    • by Utopia (149375) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @03:18PM (#32089496)

      They fixed it as soon as this story was posted. Tricky Microsoft!
      Look at the forums. It was dead for more than a week.

    • by kimvette (919543)

      It's not open source; it is "shared source."

      What is shared source?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_source [wikipedia.org]

      IIRC a number of products were made "shared source" in this manner, such as Windows Mobile 5 and earlier.

  • Maybe someone can answer this better than me, I've not had the time to read over the Microsoft license.
    Would it be possible to (legally) fork the project from the latest available codebase? Not saying if anyone would want to do it or not, but if the code is out there that might give some possibilities?

    • Re:Forking (Score:5, Informative)

      by Florian Weimer (88405) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:23PM (#32088686) Homepage

      No, it's not an open source license. You get to see the source code, but you have no rights beyond that. Preparing derivative works is not allowed.

      I believe source code access functionality is now integrated into Visual Studio, so it is not surprising that the web site is not updated anymore.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by vbraga (228124)

        I believe source code access functionality is now integrated into Visual Studio, so it is not surprising that the web site is not updated anymore.

        You're right. It's integrated on VS2008.

        Tools -> Options -> Debugging -> Check "Enable .NET framework stepping".

        Wait a while while VS2008 download the debugging symbols and you're done.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Utopia (149375)

          It works only if the reference code site is alive.
          The site was dead for a week. I check it a few hours ago when debugging is Visual Studio.
          Microsoft seems to have restarted the site when this story hit Slashdot!

          • by vbraga (228124)

            I've downloaded the public symbols less than a week ago. Maybe its an intermittent issue with their servers.

      • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:54PM (#32089150) Journal

        No, it's not an open source license. You get to see the source code, but you have no rights beyond that. Preparing derivative works is not allowed.

        Which means that looking at it "contaminates" the developers with knowledge of proprietary code.

        If this article were about the the code itself, rather than the lack of support on Microsoft's end, I'd hang an "itsatrap" tag on it.

        IMHO we're better off if the site DOES go away.

      • Re:Forking (Score:5, Funny)

        by value_added (719364) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:57PM (#32089184)

        No, it's not an open source license. You get to see the source code, but you have no rights beyond that.

        I once knew a girl like that.

  • Bait and switch. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by _the_bascule (740525) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:22PM (#32088678)
    Yup, bait and switch. "We're all warm and fluffy with open source, we're a safe alternative to java, honest, look." *sigh*
    • by Petersko (564140)
      "We're all warm and fluffy with open source, we're a safe alternative to java, honest, look."

      I was getting your point until you hit Java. After watching the litany of trainwrecks that is the expensive java experiment in our company, Microsoft IS a safe alternative. In fact, I'd rather replace all our "successful because they delivered" java projects with a group of elderly asians with abacuses... aba... abacii? That'd be a warm and fluffy alternative to Java.

      In other areas of the company they've been
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        You don't remember the Microsoft version of Java? The one that was 'slightly' incompatible with all other versions of Java?

  • The reference code site is dead, the blog hasn't been updated in a year and a half, and no one from Microsoft responds to questions on the forum.

    This sounds perfectly like most open source projects. I wonder what the exact percentage of dead to alive(and not in the parrot sense) projects there are on SourceForge, Freshmeat, et al. I wouldn't be suprised at least an 80/20 split.

     

    • by just_another_sean (919159) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @03:17PM (#32089486) Homepage Journal

      I wonder what the exact percentage of largest software company in the world hosting an open source project to young, naive programmer thinking he can help by throwing up a sourgeforge page is? Comparing MS doing an open source project to most open source projects hardly seems fair.

      To put it another way, if you compare MS to say Apache, Red Hat, Novell or Gnome then MS looks pretty bad at open source. Which, on the surface at least, is surprising because they do a much better job of hosting their MSDN content which is similar in scope to hosting a large open source project.
      But it's actually not so surprising considering MS's schizophrenic attitude towards open source in general.

      • I wouldn't consider MS's effort as "Open Source" (tm), but it was available (read, but don't touch) source. IIRC the source was mainly for those wanting to look into the MS internals to be able to do so without the need for Reflector and other tools, because there were incidents where it was genuinely insightful, and necessary to do so, not for most people. The lack of support in this isn't really surprising to me. If someone wants an Open-Source implementation to look at, Mono is probably a better place
  • by Fencepost (107992) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:23PM (#32088698) Journal
    How many projects out there become the hot new thing for a week or so, then the primary person working on the project changes jobs / gets married / joins a commune and eventually people start saying "Well, I found this open source project that sounds right, but it looks like it's been dead since 2007."
  • .net reflector (Score:3, Informative)

    by ForexCoder (1208982) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:24PM (#32088704)
    If you need the source for .NET now, your best bet is .NET Reflector Free Edition (http://www.red-gate.com/products/reflector/)
    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      which of course, is also the best way to see the source code for many other companies .net software, even if they didn't expect it to be quite so open :)

  • They meant they wanted somebody else to maintain it.

  • Misleading (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vahokif (1292866) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:28PM (#32088772)
    That's the reference implementation, which is under a read-but-don't-touch-license. .NET itself is an open specification you can read whenever you want, and they recently made a legally binding promise not to sue anyone for using an alternate implementation (like Mono).
  • by Anonymous Coward

    First of all, there is the question of intellectual property. I don't see why Microsoft (or Apple, for that matter) should do *anything* to help open source. How many millions of dollars has the open source community stolen from Microsoft over the years through the violation of their patents? Microsoft has found literally hundreds of examples of Linux violating their patents [cnn.com], and not a SINGLE Linux developer has come forward to apologize and offer recompense. Instead, Microsoft has been forced to seek o

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:35PM (#32088880) Homepage
    Large parts of .NET, namely those that are using in the .NET Micro framework, have been released under the Apache license.
    • by devent (1627873)
      That parts are not "large" parts of .NET. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.NET_Micro_Framework [wikipedia.org]
      >It also features a subset of the .NET base class libraries (about 70 classes with about 420 methods), a GUI framework loosely based on Windows Presentation Foundation, and additional libraries specific to embedded applications.
      The whole .NET micro have just 320KBytes.
    • by spikenerd (642677)

      Large parts of .NET... have been released under the Apache license.

      Wahoo! Now we can get .NET apps working to a large extent without having proprietary dependencies!

  • So.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by shadowrat (1069614) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:37PM (#32088904)
    Just like most open source projects!

    ::ducks::
  • Lousy post ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheFlaker (1684122) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:42PM (#32088986)
    As SomeJoel has pointed ... the sources are there. Even wpf for the 3.5sp1 stuff (fairly new stuff) ... At least try with something more difficult to verify.
  • Microsoft as a corporation is sworn to seek profit for their shareholders. Being entrenched in proprietary software a new business model is hard to push there. Do not expect Microsoft to ever work in the favor of Open Source unless there is a clear a profitable reason for them to do so. Expecting anything else is naive.
  • by larry bagina (561269) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:58PM (#32089208) Journal
    No news in a year and a half, no source code, forum questions unanswered... sounds like the typical sourceforge project to me!
  • Microsoft announced it would make some of the .Net libraries 'open source' ... (now) The reference code site is dead, the blog hasn't been updated in a year and a half, and no one from Microsoft responds to questions on the forum.

    Seems like a logical result to me, given the protagonist and antagonist in this story...

  • by Eirenarch (1099517) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @02:59PM (#32089228)
    So it seems like people here think tha MS wanted or at least promised .NET to become Open Source? How completely wrong. MS never said that and never wanted it. They just released the code so .NET devs could debug it. They still can debug it through Visual Studio integration. Microsoft never wanted to contribute .NET source to the community and to allow forks and I believe that I speak to the majority of the .NET developers when I say that I don't want anyone but Microsoft messing with .NET's code let alone creating forks.
  • i wonder. i wonder what those who jumped on the bandwagon because of their 'os move' back then.
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @07:38PM (#32092418) Journal

    This is wrong on so many counts, I don't even know where to begin here...

    First of all, this:

    Three years ago, with much fanfare, Microsoft announced it would make some of the .Net libraries open source using the Microsoft Reference License

    There has never been an announcement that .NET framework libraries will become Open Source. Indeed, the very name of the license - "reference license" - indicates that it's not Open Source! The source is available for reference, so that developers can see what's going on, debug it, etc. It cannot be modified or redistributed.

    And nowhere in the original announcement, or in any other documentation for the feature, has it been claimed that this somehow constitutes Open Source. Microsoft releases some of its projects under OSI-approved OSS licenses, and labels those OSS, so it is aware of the difference. There is no desire to confuse anyone about the nature of OSS, which is precisely why the term "open source" is not used here, and other terms, such as "shared source" or "reference source", are used instead.

    Since then Microsoft has reneged on its promise.

    Source code for .NET 3.5 was made available under MRL, and it still remains available. Source code for .NET 4 RTM isn't there yet (but one for .NET 4 RC is).

    So, what promise was reneged on?

    The reference code site is dead

    It's not dead, it just takes time to update it with a new code release. It has .NET 4 RC bits, and that RC came out on February 10 this year - that's a far cry from "dead". Yes, it doesn't have .NET 4 RTM yet - but that has been released on April 12, less than a month ago. Give it time.

    No, it's not an open source project where you see the live trunk directly. It was never meant to or claimed to be that, either. If you expected that, then you either misunderstood the original announcement (in which case I hope this clears it up), or you're just trolling...

    Oh, it's a kdawson story. Nevermind.

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