Free Software!

A couple things appeared in my river of news this morning. I like to point out this sort of synchronicity when it happens.

First, Mike Gunderloy (who wrote Coder to Developer, which I liked despite it being somewhat Microsoft-centric), feels compelled to clarify his motivations for turning away from the Microsoft software ecosystem and start looking towards free and open software solutions for himself and his clients. He started a new blog (A Fresh Cup to do just that after years of writing The Daily Grind). I think I just made it sound boring, but honestly, it’s worth a read…

But it basically boils down to this: Microsoft itself is built on open intellectual property from the first three or four decades of computer science. The folks who invented computer programming for the most part didn’t worry about who owned what; algorithms and ideas and languages and interface improvements were freely shared, and everyone built on everyone else’s work. Now, if the Microsofts of the world have their way, we’ll end up with everything in fenced-off gardens: every piece of user interface, every algorithm, every data structure, will belong to someone, and will not be available for use unless you pay for it somehow. It will become literally impossible to legally write software without entering into a web of commercial cross-licensing agreements.

As if to prove his point, Steve Ballmer showed up on Boing Boing this morning to declare (without going into specifics) that Free and Open Software was in violation of some 235 Microsoft patents.

Microsoft depends on developers to, er, embrace and extend their platform. Microsoft may have thousands and thousands of developers working for them, but they can’t do everything. They need the goodwill of the people who are making the killer apps to do so on their platform. And these people aren’t stupid. They can see what’s coming.

But I see Microsoft leading the charge into a world where the independent software developer ceases to exist, because it will not be possible to develop software without an intellectual property lawyer at your elbow. And I don’t want to live in that world. As a result, I choose to cut off what tiny bit I can of the fuel that keeps Microsoft going: the licensing dollars I pay for Microsoft software, and those that my clients pay for deploying the software that I write, as well as my own implied moral support for the company’s policies. It’s not a whole lot, probably not more than a few million bucks over the remaining course of my career, but it’s something. [LINK]