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Samba: EU made Microsoft talk again

Australia's very own "smartest man in ICT", Samba author Andrew "Tridge" Tridgell, talks about the days when Microsoft was run by programmers, not lawyers, and how the software giant has finally started to give open-source developers due credit.
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Written by Chris Duckett and  Marcus Browne on

Australia's very own "smartest man in ICT", Samba author Andrew "Tridge" Tridgell, talks about the days when Microsoft was run by programmers, not lawyers, and how the software giant has finally started to give open-source developers due credit.

Speaking at the University of Melbourne for the 2008 linux.conf.au, Tridgell -- voted Australia's smartest man in ICT by The Bulletin in 2003 -- expressed his satisfaction at finally being able to communicate with Microsoft engineers again after the European Commission decision to enforce an interoperability standard between the company and open-source community.

"In the early days of Samba we had a very good relationship with a number of their engineers," he said. "We talked to them directly about problems with the protocol and shared a lot of stuff."

The Samba author said the genialities between Redmond and the open source community came to an abrupt halt a few years ago after Microsoft's lawyers "got in the way".

"That all stopped a number of years back and they just stopped talking to us," said Tridgell.

He went onto say that the 2004 European Commission decision broke the ice between the company and open-source developers, and that "the channels of communication are now basically open again", despite Microsoft's ongoing disputes with the EU's legislative body.

"Now we're talking to some really good people at Microsoft and starting to cooperate, because the lawyers are out of the picture, they can talk to us directly and it's great," he said.

"We've also seen areas where stuff that we've done has been incorporated by Microsoft into its implementations ... up until now we haven't been able to see exactly how they did it."

Tridgell said a notable example of this was Microsoft's incorporation of his rsync protocol -- designed to synchronise files between computers without having to transfer all of the data between the two -- into its Vista operating system.

"Microsoft used a very similar technique and they credit the work I did on rsync into the remote copying algorithms they incorporated into Vista," he said. "We haven't been able to see how they did it up until now, although they based it on work I did in an open fashion, they kept their version proprietary."

"But now it has been exposed due to this agreement with the protocol freedom of information foundation and with the protocol documentation that we've got so we can now see their implementation of ideas that came from the free software community," said Tridgell.

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