Lightning Strikes Twice, Microsoft Admits Two Mistakes in the Same Year

First we had Mr. Ballmer stand up, at a public gathering, and take the blame for the blight called Vista. Now another mistake is being admitted, in the same year. This is really good news for the users, because next we might be able to look forward to admissions of flaws in software before the fix has been applied for two years.

Mary-Jo Foley from ZDNet tells us that the little faux pas of using open source code and modifying without credit to the original has now been admitted, and that Microsoft will do some recoding on their little Windows 7 utility.

Microsoft officials confirmed on November 13 — a few days after pulling a Windows 7 download tool that allegedly contained improperly-licensed open-souce code — that the company did, indeed violate the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL).

Microsoft pulled the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool from the Microsoft Store on November 10 after a report by “Within Windows” blogger Rafael Rivera that he had found what looked to be open-source code in the tool. Inclusion of open-source code isn’t a no-no, but Microsoft’s decision to put a restrictive, non-open-source license on the tool incorporating that code was. (The USB tool, which Microsoft made available on October 22, is designed to help netbook users upgrade from XP to Windows 7 in a more streamlined way.)

From a November 13 blog posting by Microsoft Open Source Community Manager Peter Galli:

“After looking at the code (within the USB tool) in question, we are now able to confirm this (inclusion of improperly licensed GPL v2 code) was indeed the case, although it was not intentional on our part. While we had contracted with a third party to create the tool, we share responsibility as we did not catch it as part of our code review process. We have furthermore conducted a review of other code provided through the  Microsoft Store and this was the only incident of this sort we could find.”

Galli said Microsoft plans to make the source code and binaries for the Microsoft tool available the week of November 16 under the terms of the General Public License v2 “and are also taking measures to apply what we have learned from this experience for future code reviews we perform.”

It really doesn’t matter to me what they ‘appropriated‘, the great thing is the admission. With the good news of Windows 7, and these two admissions, perhaps Microsoft is ready to ‘straighten out’ and act appropriately. These subtle behavioral changes are really exciting; being able to deal with Microsoft on the up-and-up is going to make things easier for both sides.

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