Does Microsoft Have an Open Source Strategy Any More?

Whenever I write about Microsoft here I usually get a few comments asking me, with varying degrees of politeness, why I am wasting electrons on this subject on a site devoted to GNU/Linux. The reason I do this – and why I am about to do it again – is that whether we like it or not, Microsoft remains probably the single most important external factor in the free software world. It's useful, therefore, to try to understand what exactly the company's open source strategy is, in order to head off some of its worst aspects, and to build on any positive elements. The trouble is, I don't think Microsoft has an open source strategy any more.

The last few months have been particularly rich in contradictory signals. For example, we had this:

in a break from the ordinary, Microsoft released 20,000 lines of device driver code to the Linux community. The code, which includes three Linux device drivers, has been submitted to the Linux kernel community for inclusion in the Linux tree. The drivers will be available to the Linux community and customers alike, and will enhance the performance of the Linux operating system when virtualized on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V or Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V.

This was variously analysed as Microsoft seeing the light, Microsoft being forced to bow down before the mighty GNU GPL and Microsoft being its usual cunning self and piggybacking on the open source community for competitive edge.

Then we had the revelation of Microsoft “educating” third-party sales people about “weaknesses” in GNU/Linux. Except, of course, they weren't weaknesses, but misinformation or even outright lies. Now, fair competition is all well and good, but stooping to this kind of underhand behaviour hardly matches the company's recent soothing noises about wanting to work with the open source community.

Another confusing episode in Microsoft-open source relations involved some patents:

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal’s Nick Wingfield broke a story on Microsoft selling a group of patents to a third party. The end result of this story is good for Linux, even though it doesn’t placate fears of ongoing attacks by Microsoft. Open Invention Network, working with its members and the Linux Foundation, pulled off a coup, managing to acquire some of the very patents that seem to have been at the heart of recent Microsoft FUD campaigns against Linux.

What's interesting here is that once more, the narrative is messy. Microsoft was apparently getting rid of patents that could have been used to attack GNU/Linux: that's good, no? But some have suggested somewhat persuasively that it was trying to sell them to patent trolls that could then attack open source without Microsoft being involved, which is plainly bad.

Finally, we have the following announcement:

The CodePlex Foundation, a non-profit foundation formed with the mission of enabling the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities, launched today, September 10, 2009.

Incorporated as a 501.c6 non-profit, the CodePlex Foundation was created as a forum in which open source communities and the software development community can come together with the shared goal of increasing participation in open source community projects. The CodePlex Foundation will complement existing open source foundations and organizations, providing a forum in which best practices and shared understanding can be established by a broad group of participants, both software companies and open source communities. Initial funding for the Foundation comes from Microsoft Corporation.

This is in many ways the hardest to parse. From the FAQ:

We believe that commercial software companies and the developers that work for them under-participate in open source projects. Some of the reasons are cultural, some have to do with differing software development methodologies, and some have to do with differing views about intellectual property. In general, we are going to work to close these gaps. Specifically we aim to work with particular projects that can serve as best practice exemplars of how commercial software companies and open source communities can effectively collaborate.

That sounds laudable enough – increasing participation in open source projects. But then we have this in the same document:

The Foundation has no pre-suppositions about particular projects, platforms, or open source licenses . Particulars about the relationship between the Foundation and projects will be spelled out as the Foundation Charter is drafted, but our expectation is that we can have the greatest impact on projects where the software industry as a whole would benefit from closer collaboration between software companies and open source communities.

That phrase “software industry as a whole” seems to stand in contradistinction to things like “open source community”: in other words, the emphasis will be on commercial concerns, not ones to do with the community (never mind freedom). I also find the following worrying:

Microsoft has an evolving engagement with open source, as demonstrated by its sponsorship of the Apache Software Foundation, contributions to the PHP Community, participation in Apache projects including the Hadoop project and the Qpid project, and participation in various community events such as OSCON, EclipseCon, PyCon, and the Moodle Conference. As an additional proof point of Microsoft's understanding that they needed to be more involved, at OSCON 2009 in July, Microsoft contributed 20,000 lines of device driver code to the Linux kernel. The Codeplex Foundation is another step in this evolution.

It's true that these are all demonstrations of “Microsoft's engagement with open source”, but they are also fine examples of how Microsoft is encouraging the open source community to expend time and energy on projects that benefit Microsoft – for example, by working on Windows versions of code. I can't help feeling that the CodePlex Foundation will similarly focus on bending open source to Microsoft's advantage.

If you read the governance details, it's clear that Microsoft, and Microsoft alone, will be running this new “open source foundation”. As another page explains:

While the Codeplex Foundation is not currently structured as a membership organization, there are a number of ways for individuals, companies and projects to participate in the Foundation. One way is to sponsor, and another way is to become a member of the board, or board of advisors. Over the coming months, the board will also be determining how projects get accepted as they define project governance, which will provide clarity on how individuals or companies can contribute projects.

In other words, people, companies and projects are welcome to add their names in order to boost the Foundation's credibility, but don't expect to wield any real influence.

Now, you might argue that all these confusing signals are a natural consequence of the great size of Microsoft, and of the differing opinions within the company. And that's certainly true. But equally you would expect an organisation as successful as Microsoft at least to have an underlying strategy, even if there were deviations from it.

You could find no better symbol of the increasing rudderlessness of Microsoft in this regard than the following news about Microsoft's Mr. Open Source, Sam Ramji:

I felt it was important to provide some thoughts to the Port25 community on Sam Ramji's impending departure from Microsoft.

After many years helping to carry the open source software banner for the company, Sam is leaving Microsoft at the end of this month. You may have also heard that he has accepted the position of interim President of the CodePlex Foundation as well as a leadership position at a startup in California. (I'll let Sam and his new company share more details there.)

Sam joined my team three years ago to drive open source technical strategy. I have eagerly supported him as he passionately articulated a vision that Microsoft could coexist - and even thrive - in a heterogeneous IT world.

This underlines the pivotal role that Ramji played at Microsoft in determining that “vision”. Here's how the company tries to spin his departure:

The perspectives on OSS at Microsoft have evolved to the point where Microsoft's open source strategy is no longer just locked in a single ‘lab' on campus - now OSS is an important part of many product groups and strategies across the company. We have become increasingly clear on where we work with open source - development methodologies, projects, partners, products and communities - and where our products compete with commercial open source companies or platforms. Today, there are engineering and business leaders across the company, myself included, looking at how to drive interoperability for customers and as a lever for new growth.

Nice try, but that's not how it looks from the outside. Rather, it seems to me that the centrifugal forces within the company have finally overcome that lone centripetal force of Sam Ramji, with all those “engineering and business leaders across the company” adopting widely differing, and at times contradictory, attitudes and actions with regard to open source. Without Ramji, I think the situation is going to get even worse; what about you?

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Cranking toward progress

Andrei Cocker's picture

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The idea that Microsoft was

Anonymous's picture

The idea that Microsoft was trying to sell the patents to patent trolls, but goofed, doesn't stand up to scrutiny. It wasn't an open auction--the only bidders were those that Microsoft invited to bid. If Microsoft wanted the patents to go to patent trolls, they would have only invited patent trolls.

Instead, they also invited an organization that buys patents, and then resells them on terms that they are granted a license. That organization won, and resold to OIN. When Microsoft invited that organization, they knew that the patents could end up pretty much anywhere, and so clearly were OK with that.

If Microsoft wanted to be

Anonymous's picture

If Microsoft wanted to be obvious about selling their patents to patent trolls, they would have only opened the auction to patent trolls. If they were interested in an auction to get the best price for the patents, one would think they would have initially opened the auction to OIN, an organization with deep pockets. The fact that Microsoft was not interested in getting top dollar for those patents....?

The organization which bought the patents is known for a "catch and release" policy likely to bring their purchases to the attention of patent trolls: more info here

Looks like the subsequent resale to OIN was an unanticipated kink in the Microsoft strategy. Note that Novell would likely not have been protected from any suits by patent trolls, regardless of whether those patents had been held by Microsoft when it signed agreements with Novell. But if there were an overt sale by Microsoft to a firm known to be a patent trolling outfit, you can bet the courts would look more closely at Microsoft's maneuvers.

Thanks for the fine analysis here at LinuxJournal.

Great article

Paulo Marques's picture

There are still those who think you can trust Microsoft. I've been hearing that they're a different company for almost 5 years or so, and they still keep on doing business as usual.

What do you expect?

Kerberos's picture

Firstly, Free Software is not Open Source. There is a difference between having the code, and the right to do whatever you want with that code (including redistribution).

Secondly, as a poster above said "Redmond's goal is to see the Open Source movement marginalized to the point of disappearing all together.". Obviously. Free Software is fundamentally incompatible with non-service software companies. It's not possible to be mainly a developer and release under a FOSS license and still make money. Shout at me all you want but it can't happen.

If Microsoft was to 'Free' Windows and Office (and by this I mean GPL) their income would drop 99%. I am guessing the OEM's that count for the bulk of their money would be reluctant to send any money upstream after that. Microsoft couldn't even make money on the fabled 'support' as Dell + co would be getting their money for that too. By going the FOSS route Microsoft would destroy themselves. Sure, great for the moment, but it would mean no new MS software ever - if they had done it a few years ago Vista would still be the peak, and Windows 7 would not have come into existence.

I've honestly tried the whole 'Free Software' route, but keep finding myself coming back to Windows (and I am too cheap to buy a mac). Also as a software developer I am also starting to find the implications of the GPL unpalatable. Despite the FUD and the lies, it is clear that making money developing software is simply impossible under the GPL (unless you dual license). Sure support sometimes works, but not all software can benefit from this income method. You also need a pretty large company to pull it off - it pretty much screws the small developers entirely. Game development as it stands at the moment would also pretty much end for good.

I like the fact I have *choice*. Not between 50 Ubuntu derivatives with identical applications - that isn't choice - but the choice to pay money for something that I want, rather than simply having to put up with whatever the FOSS community puts out and not complain. Case in point take Gimp - it doesn't even compare to Photoshop 4, yet any complaints are deflected with 'f**k off it's free'. But many business are actively courting their users - sure you have to pay, but they are attempting to cater for your needs - rather than simply scratching their own itch.

It's a simple idea - they offer what I want for a price and I have the choice to take it or leave it. It is in their best interest (it's vital) that they offer me what I want. Usually there are even several companies offering options, all frantically trying to offer me things I need and can use. So what is really wrong with supporting the people and companies that make software? Why this insistence that they be unable to make money from their work and give everything away?

If anything Linux has no strategy on users, which is much, much worse:
FOSS Advocate: Use Linux, it's free, better than M$, 10 years ahead, so much choice in apps, etc. Only an idiot uses Windows.
Normal User: It doesn't do X, Y and Z, I need them to be productive
FOSS Advocate: What did you expect, it's free, if you don't like it don't use it.
Normal User: Huh?

But obviously there is no reward for listening to users and catering for their needs in the FOSS world so it doesn't happen, yet they claim victory by ideology and insult, slander and FUD the 'evil closed source' companies and, by association, the users of this software that have *tried* Linux and found it lacking.

The question should be why Linux can't even get a +1% marketshare despite being free for 20 years. Is it a failure to provide what people actually want, or is it all a big evil MS FUD conspiracy. I now turn this argument over to Mr Occam to finish.

Yes, Linux has no strategy...

Glyn Moody's picture

...because it doesn't exist, at least not outside the code. There is no organisation corresponding to Microsoft. So there's no way it would have a strategy. Companies, by and large, *do* have strategies, but I find it hard to discern one with Microsoft. I care, not because I'm worried for Microsoft's shareholders, but because, as I wrote, it's useful in terms of responding to Microsoft's moves that affect free software.


Kerberos's picture

I think it is because they have two strategies, one for 'Open Source', which is viable as a business and one for 'Free Software', which is not. These concepts both seem to be treated (and feared/worshipped) as synonymous on both sides of the fence, which causes confusion.

That's certainly true

Glyn Moody's picture

The way they distinguish between vaguely-friendly open source, and hostile free software is striking.

Typical paid F$F shill FUD.

Anonymous's picture

Typical paid F$F shill FUD.

paid? FUD?

Glyn Moody's picture

I get paid by Linux Journal, not the FSF - and I hardly think the latter has much money for such activities.

As for FUD, well, if so, why don't you refute the points?

Ramji, Milf and other assorted liars

Hickson Gracie's picture

> Without Ramji, I think the situation is going to get even worse;

Seriously, who cares?

He might be a nice person but his job is clear: be the face of the kinder/gentler of Microsoft towards FLOSS.
His bosses can steal, pillage, plunder and threathen and his job is to make you say "their not all that bad here, some of us use open source."

He might not see himself as such but that's all he is.

Its a nice little mythology he has created which leads people who should know better try to make us believe that a group of intrepid FLOSS lovers are working deep inside Redmond, a fifth column readying for the time when they will be in charge.

Its got better storylines than most of Hollywood tripe. (they are making a movie based on the video games Asteroids for petes' sake!) But that narrative creatives this alternate reality where we are supposed to believe that Micrsoft is different based simply on the words of a low level manager whose sole job is to lie for his employer INSTEAD of the words of Steve Ballmer who is in charge, of Horacio, the liar-in-chief and a whole bunch of upper management suits.

In what universe do we take our cues on a company based on some guy in a cubicle over that of the CEO and people on the board?

Has someone EVER tried to gauge Apple's direction by what some quality assurance manager (Apple mice division) over what Steve Jobs says?

It seems like all some people need is someone like Bill Milf or Ramji who by all accounts dont eat live babies and are decent chaps, tell you what you want to hear while their boss/accomplices try to fleece you (Im a RH user and we were warned last year by Ballmer that we USERS owe them money for using Red Hat because they didnt pay the extortion like Novell/Suse and we are using stolen IP) which doesnt make them the guys who rob them bank, just the guys who are the lookouts.

Ramji will continue his work in some other company affiliated with Microsoft telling us how the warm embrace from Redmond shouldnt scare us because "theyre not the same company, pinky swear." and were supposed to believe him and his ilk even though all evidence proves to the contrary.

Choose to believe these people if you must but I will go by Pamela Jones words from this week:
"I never applauded Microsoft's efforts, personally. I have consistently written that there is no new Microsoft. And that they need to be treated in harmony with their actions, not their words. They hate FOSS, and they show it. They will kill it, if you relax and let them. Now they showed it in such bold relief that there can be no further pretense. They are what they are. And hating their methods is not a disease. It's the reality principle. I want to thank AST and OIN, and all their members, including Red Hat, for being realistic about Microsoft, because thinking clearly and acting with skill, factoring in what Microsoft *really* does, is the key to such bold and creatively successful action. Thank you."

I judge people/companies not on their words but their actions. Microsoft has shown in the past 12, 24, 36 months that things havent changed when it comes to their battle against free software, Linux and the GPL. I dont want to open tired old debates but Microsoft has no problem with open source and licenses like BSD, what they cant stand is the copyleft ones like GPL so yes Microsoft could work with open sauce but the communist cancer that is Linux is run by a copyleft one so were going to have to differentiate open source from free software again especially when the term has been coopted.

I want to defend free software, too...

Glyn Moody's picture

...but I think to do that it's useful to understand what Microsoft is doing. This, in its turn, depends a lot on the people it chooses to lead its sections that deal with open source, which is why there is this desire to track and understand people like Sam Ramji. But you're right, scepticism is the order of the day.

Microsoft Sucks

Bob Hope's picture

Can Microsoft make any product that works? Or maybe a product that is backwards compatible with its own software?

Linsux Sucks

Anonymous's picture

Yes they can, applications made for Win 95 still run in Windows 7, fosstards can't even make applications that are compatible with a at least a top few of the distributions not to mention backwards compatibility.

Can the freetards stop making retarded comments everywhere?

They make plenty of products

Anonymous's picture

They make plenty of products that FO$$ tries, in vain, to copy.

Backward Compatibility

Anonymous's picture

You're joking, right? I can run software from 15 years ago on Windows 7 right now. You can't even be sure you won't break your install upgrading the kernel or upgrading to the next Ubuntu version every 6 months.

Oh SNAP! Just to be sure,

Ian's picture


Just to be sure, let's me independently test that:

- Loading Doom...yup, runs, midi and sound both work.
- Loading Duke Nukem 3D...yup, still runs, even the legacy vesa drivers work.
- Loading Unreal...yup, still runs (much much faster than my old Pentium 90 did, might I add)
- Loading Reason 1.0 with a M-Audio Transit USB ASIO audio interface...yup, still plays at less than 5ms of latency on the audio signal, all being controlled by a phantom powered USB keyboard (the piano kind, not the typing kind).
- Loading Photoshop 4...yup, still runs and look, CMYK support!
- Loading Flash 3...yup, still runs and guess what, there's no open source equivalent to the Flash IDE whatsoever, in all these years.
- What about IE3.0 (courtesy of MultipleIEs)? ...yup, still runs. Yes, it sucks, but it still runs.
- etc. etc. etc.

Guess you were right.

At this point I expect to be refuted. Failing that, I'll be insulted. Failing that, the subject will magically shift.


Devyn's picture

Ever heard of it? Yes, an equivalent to Flash IDE. Windows only, unfortunately, but yes, it is open source.


Billy Wright's picture


Steve Ballmer, like all 65-year-olds, is a dumb baby. Just look at him, with his ugly, bald head. He doesn't know it, but he and his generation of "boomers" are on their way to the nursing home and graveyard. He's taking Microsoft down with him. Like the "boomers" tried to destroy America, destroy Freedom, and destroy the Economy. Bill Gates is a smart man, but Steve Ballmer is a dumb baby.

...and they have a plan

G Cooke's picture

I think there is a strategy. You have to read between the lines a bit, but seems to me Microsofts strategy is to 1) marginalize Linux and other free OS's on the desktop through FUD in order to maintain Windows as ubiquitous on the desktop, 2) transition/mobilize the OSS community for Windows based development in order to leverage benefits of open source model, and (to a lesser extent) 3) foster integration with Linux (on the server) in order maintain relevence in the server market.

Any of microsofts actions make sense in terms of such a strategy, which is self serving to Microsoft. (Self serving is not ment as a dig- corporate entities should act in their self interest). Heres some reasoning why I see this as their strategy:

Especally in light of the Vista failure, which alone has created FUD on Windows 7, and the vast improvements in Linux desktop software, MS needs to address this issue. Their key target is every average joe who buys a computer, doesnt know computers, just wants a basic appliance to get on the internet, run a few games, and do some basic office tasks. MS needs to maintain the current model- no one 'chooses' windows, it just comes with the computer and they dont bother to/ dont have the knowledge or skills to change it. With recent netbook releases the marketplace was exposed to Linux (maybe not in the best light but exposure). So now joe consumer has questions given the current Mac campaign and everyones Vista experience.

We often forget it, but I think Microsoft is making an important distinction between Linux (and other OS's) and the Open Source Community. 15-20 years ago some form of programming language came on most computers or was cheap. Freeware and Shareware abounded. As programing tools evolved they got more expensive and propriety dev tools were a barrier for the hobiest programer. So the open source community developed its own tools- from the kernel up. The mass of programmers are going to develop on the sheapest- especially free- tools. No free dev tools -> no code written for your platform by hobiest -> only specialized and high paid programers availabel for software houses to hire -> less development overall for your platform. It was about 5 yrs ago i think, Microsoft shifted and offered Visual Studio for free- first for VB, then opened the whole thing up. MS goal is to get the non corporate programers working on projects compatable with their OS (windows). If 16 year old kid who wants to program has a windows box at home, can download an IDE for free on it, and get working making a cool game, then he will never leave windows. Now they are actively helping certain projects. If the best open source software becomes cross platform and is available for windows working just as well- then the OS becomes irrelevent.

As for the new foundation Microsoft has started to foster relations with OSS community- the "shared understanding" line catches my eye. I think microsoft may be looking at this foundation (guised as an OSS community) as a forum to get out their message about not using what they consider patented software- or more precisly- how to pay for it properly and keep your open source project out of litigation. It also serves as a platform to advocate for open source development in .NET

Microsoft has a very different problem in the server room than on the desktop. Linux has a strong hold here, software decisions are carefully considered (especially with high cost of liscensing), and the customer is not joe ignorant, but IT guru who is well aware of current IT issues. FUD can influence the business manager, but they will leave that as a carryover from their consumer campaign. But Linux is already entrenched in server market. The second issue is that IT hardware developers have to make business decisions about embedded software to make their appliances work. Linux is free and can run on a wider variety of hardware archetectures than windows (which is basically x86 only). These two things lead to a risk that less hardware will even be available running windows, and since the server is linux what does run linux may not be compatable and therefore not an option for purchase. MS has no choice but to partner/ do whatever it can to make sure that linux on the server can happily coexist with windows hardware or else MS could beocme extinct in the server room.

Need WinFOSS to dominate xFOSS

Jose_X's picture

I think Microsoft's goal is as follows [the summary is at the bottom]:

To exert monopoly controls, influence, pricing, leverage to entry into new markets (market share/ volume growth), etc, there can't exist an alternative to their platform (or as few as possible and as deficient as possible). Here perception of commanding market share is what counts, but they can also charge for their particular platform if possible.

This means Linux can have no killer apps, else people would get Windows and then also Linux for those Linux killer apps. This would bring Linux into the desktops and allows third parties to bypass Microsoft's uncompetitive terms and conditions.

This means Microsoft needs to co-opt what people want. In particular, they need to make sure that all who choose Linux as the primary platform to create free stuff users will want will also port these to support Windows.

This doesn't kill Linux. It does make it less attractive to many but not to all. Linux is still free and can be useful for many cases even if you can't run Windows Specialty App X.

So they use many tools to try and make sure that even the FOSS that runs on Linux will be significantly inferior.

They use patents.

They want apps to be written in a platform they control: dotnet. This gives value to their patents, to their extended value-add features from their dotnet investments, and means they will have a head start always. This is why they contracted Novell, in particular, but others as well to spread dotnet.

They try to gain/buy mindshare among developers and entice them with extra interop with Windows. Have them build the better features and performance on Windows.

Remember that they always control the Windows software. The public documentation and NDA interop "insider" access of today becomes worthless tomorrow when they change the code (or as "bugs" sneak in). The code can change in all of their products simultaneously -- old products via updates/patches; new products obviously and more frequently.. and used to force upgrade to new products.

This means Microsoft can manage and beat WinFOSS (but not LinFOSS) through undocumented API and features, integration with the platform, and strategic changes/bugs. The less Linux is used, the more aggressive Microsoft can be against WinFOSS.

They want to win the perception war with devs. They want devs to use FOSS licenses whose versioning they control (their xPL licenses) or at least gives them freedom (BSD).

They want devs to spend most of the time on Windows hooks. This hurts Linux in various ways: Linux gets less attention relative to Windows and Microsoft can keep the devs moving slow since they don't reveal source and can change it at will tomorrow or to give their apps advantage at key points in time, the devs have less time to make the apps competitive if they are wasting time with imperfect closed source interfaces instead of focusing on a smaller number of open interfaces.

They want to win the perception war with clients. They want clients to look towards them for authentic FOSS. They want clients to demand FOSS that works on Windows. They want the Microsoft sanctioned FOSS apps to be the ones people get accustomed to since this is controllable and would give their proprietary apps advantage at strategic moments.

They want demand for jobs to be for Windows jobs. This helps keep Linux as "unimportant" and gives them more revenue streams and control, eg, licensing towards books and certifications, acceptance as de facto standards, focus and assumptions ("what is Linecks").

They want to win the perception war with antitrust authorities. Antitrust actions need to be kept in check. Microsoft's business is based on building and fortifying monopolies and similar levers. The cost they pay to maintain this business model needs to be kept in check.


In short, the goal is to keep pulling in money and control through closed source and platform controls but need to give users everything they want (FOSS at $0) and encourage devs to abandon alternative platforms as the preferred platforms.

thanks for that

Glyn Moody's picture

nicely detailed analysis, but still not quite a one-line strategy, which confirms my suspicions....

Interesting analysis

Glyn Moody's picture

Thanks for your detailed thoughts. I think I'd agree with most of them. Still not convinced that anyone's in control at Microsoft in terms of the overall strategy...

Open Source and Microsoft

David Lane's picture

While Microsoft is talking out of one side of their mouth about Open Source being good for them, SEC filings, Ballmer speeches and quotes in books like Burning the Ships clearly point out that Redmond's goal is to see the Open Source movement marginalized to the point of disappearing all together.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, that is not going to happen. However, as members of the community, we have to do a lot better job of fighting the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that is constantly flowing from the Microsoft.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack


Glyn Moody's picture

In fact, the confused message from Microsoft is probably *harder* to fight than a coherent one...

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