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Microsoft MLP

By eann in News
Sat May 27, 2000 at 11:30:14 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

The National Association of Attorneys General has the most complete collection of documents relating to the Microsoft anti-trust trial that I've seen anywhere. But, I suppose that makes sense, since a significant number of them are involved in the case. I know many of us have gotten to the "yeah, whatever" stage, but if you've got some time to kill, the response to Microsoft's proposed remedy is a pretty good read.


The DOJ team takes the time to address each of Microsoft's points carefully, often contradicting them with their own testimony. Here's a fun little snippet:
(3) Microsoft asserts that "it would not be a simple task to 'port' Microsoft Office to Linux because Linux does not provide system services analogous to those in Windows on which Microsoft Office relies." ... Of course Linux does not use the same system services as Windows; it is a different operating system from Windows. That is true with the Macintosh as well, yet Microsoft offers a full-featured version of Office for the Macintosh. ... Indeed, Microsoft's unsubstantiated assertions about the inadequacies of Linux stand in sharp contrast to the trial testimony of its own expert, Dean Schmalensee ("One of the things, for instance, with Linux, which is, if you think about it, if the Linux platform doesn't have a feature that a particular applications writer would like, the applications writer can put it in, subject to some constraints."...)

I'm still at a loss why Joel Klein et al. couldn't convince WordPerfect to use an apostrophe instead of an equal sign, but I can get over that (and a few other weird typographical "features").

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Microsoft MLP | 26 comments (26 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Blerg.... (1.00 / 1) (#5)
by Pelorat on Fri May 26, 2000 at 11:01:46 AM EST

Pelorat voted -1 on this story.

Blerg.

I usualy don't care about MS vs DOJ... (none / 0) (#13)
by Anonymous Zero on Fri May 26, 2000 at 11:35:29 AM EST

Anonymous Zero voted 1 on this story.

I usualy don't care about MS vs DOJ stuff but this point in particular about Microsoft asserting that it they are somehow incapable of porting Office to Linux I find interesting. I'm willing to bet that somewhere in the bowels of Microsoft's many research labs there is already Microsoft Linux distro running an almost complete port of Office and if the DOJ were to get evidence of the existence of a Linux version of Office it would make this assertion a bold face lie.

Does anyone else find this as humou... (none / 0) (#2)
by dblslash on Fri May 26, 2000 at 12:20:50 PM EST

dblslash voted 1 on this story.

Does anyone else find this as humourous as I do?

$ telnet www.naag.org 80

Trying 207.127.96.147...
Connected to naag.org.
Escape character is '^]'.
GET / HTTP/1.1

HTTP/1.1 400 Bad Request
Set-Cookie: WEBTRENDS_ID=63.77.1.79-3109591024.29345581; expires=Fri, 31-Dec-2010 00:00:00 GMT; path=/

Server: Microsoft-IIS/4.0

Re: Does anyone else find this as humou... (none / 0) (#16)
by Decklin Foster on Sat May 27, 2000 at 03:10:02 PM EST

I don't think that's a valid HTTP 1.1 request (can't be bothered to read the specs now). try "HTTP/1.0".

[ Parent ]
Re: Does anyone else find this as humou... (none / 0) (#21)
by magney on Sat May 27, 2000 at 11:53:19 PM EST

What you say is true, though
GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: naag.org
will work just fine.

However, the point of the original poster was that naag.org is running Microsoft's web server.

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

Mmmm - they're reaching on a lot of... (4.00 / 2) (#8)
by Ozymandias on Fri May 26, 2000 at 12:28:09 PM EST

Ozymandias voted 1 on this story.

Mmmm - they're reaching on a lot of these. You example, just because it's handy, is REALLY reaching.

The difficulty in porting Office to Linux is that Office uses a certain paradigm that Linux doesn't follow. Windows (and Mac, to a degree) use the "functionality over security" model, where functions and permissions are allowed unless explicitly denied. That paradigm extends to things like application access to the kernel, direct control of system resources, and security changes affected at the application level. Windows 2000 makes some changes to that, but it's still more towards the "functionality" end of the scale, and even that progress took how long?

Unix in general, and Linux in particular, use the "security over functionality" model, where you must have explicit permission to do anything. And nothing has complete access to the system resources except the kernel; meanwhile, nothing has real program access to the kernel. Catch-22. Good security, good model, but a different model. Porting Office to Linux would be more than a port; it would be a new product, and the resources take a major product like Office, with all it contains, and moving it to Linux would be on the same scale as the original Windows 95 and Windows NT projects combined. You've got game development companies refusing to port to Linux because a certain audio or video library isn't supported - but you want Microsoft to completely rewrite one of their major products? Be you age.
- Ozymandias

Re: Mmmm - they're reaching on a lot of... (3.50 / 2) (#17)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat May 27, 2000 at 07:44:14 PM EST

I disagree. They could just do what they did for their IE port to solaris - use a Wine-like layer (effectively adding a userspace port of the win32 pseudokernel - think of it like a virtual machine for win32 code, if it helps.). Thus, they can have all their "functionality" in a box that is surrounded by decent unix security. The Wine architects have spent a lot of time ensuring that brain-dead win32 calls are handled logically by the wine system. Thus, most of the ground work is _already_ done by open-source people for Microsoft, and "all" it would take would be for MS to admit they were wrond, swallow their pride, and recompile Office for a WineLib they could help finish. Major parts of Office 97 already work under Wine - If a post-breakup microsoftlet actually helped out the Wine project, I bet it would be running perfectly in a few months - not that it wouldn't be significantly slower than win32 on x86 linux either, since the code runs natively. BTW, I also disagree with your basic premise - for years, UNIX was sneered at by MULTICS and VMS folk as too open, and for being a "tinkerers" OS.

[ Parent ]
Re: Mmmm - they're reaching on a lot of... (2.00 / 1) (#18)
by Ozymandias on Sat May 27, 2000 at 09:40:14 PM EST

Oh, please. Even with WINE and the full, real WIN32 dlls, the functionality is crippled and the apps are unstable. Most apps don't work at all, and those few that do are things like games or third-party apps that don't involve the OS. A product like Office 2000 ties in so tightly, you'll never get it out. For example, we all know IE is "integrated" with Windows.

Right.

Office, on the other hand, really IS. Office creates web services, integrating with IIS or Personal Web Server to use Office Extensions for Web Sharing functionality - and a lot of the things those extensions do are also used in stand-alone workstations. So you'd need to rewrite those extensions to use Apache, and any other server that might be in use.

The there's the Explorer hooks into the filesystem. Anyone want to rewrite the Windows Explorer system to be able to use EXT2, ReiserFS, NFS, etc? Or run any Office-using system using the FAT or NTFS file systems?

Those two problems alone are enough to present MAJOR problems. Much as we like to bitch, there are a few applications Microsoft makes that no reasonable business is ever going to do without. And as long as they need those applications, they need Windows. You have two choices; complain about it, and be written off as a stupid fool, or relax to it. Let the office workers use the applications they want. Why do you care? You aren't one of them.
- Ozymandias
[ Parent ]

Are you sure??? (none / 0) (#19)
by maynard on Sat May 27, 2000 at 10:00:16 PM EST

I don't think you make a valid argument here. That Microsoft includes hooks into Office which interact with their web server, their filesystems, or even system services doesn't prevent MS from porting office to Linux. That the WINE team and MS (via a purchased product) were able to port other win32 apps over to UNIX is a good example of why a port is possible -- never mind the obvious long term benefit to MS (after a monopoly breakup) of maintaining a platform independant source tree for Office and their other products.

What Office, IE, IIS, SQL Server, et all do at the system level under NT is no different from UNIX or any other protected memory OS; the software calls an OS API for system services. This API can be replicated and run under any other OS just as the WINE team demonstrates. That WINE is non-functional after all these years says more about how often the internal Windows API's change rather than anything about the supposed "impossibility" of such an undertaking. After a broken up MS realizes the money they're losing, watch whatever company gets the Office team port COM and Win32; the rest should be about as difficult as Corel porting their Office suite for Linux.

What do you think NT does that's any different from Linux underneath that HAL? (and no sophistry about message passing kernels please... that's irrelevant).

Cheers,
--Maynard

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]

Re: Are you sure??? (1.00 / 1) (#22)
by Ozymandias on Sun May 28, 2000 at 01:41:33 AM EST

You miss the point.

You COULD, given time and resources, replicate everything that Office does under Windows in Unix. It's an entirely different story to replicate EVERYTHING Office does. The problem is that Unix does not support the operating model Office runs under. StarOffice is the closest Unix app I've seen, and it's miles and miles away from having the functionality Office has. What it boils down to is that Office is an incredible application under Windows because it fits the Windows operating system model. It CAN make changes to the file system. It CAN replicate documents on the fly across multiple users and even multiple systems. Take a look at some of the funtionality in these programs some time; they're incredibly more complex than we give them credit for. Some of it's wastefully obtuse or complex, but overall it's an excellent office productivity suite. I would dearly love to have a Linux port of that suite. But it will not happen.

What Office, IE, IIS, SQL Server, et all do at the system level under NT is no different from UNIX or any other protected memory OS; the software calls an OS API for system services.

Yup. You're right, that's exactly what it does. But the basic assumptions made to CREATE that API are entirely different. Again, NT is designed with the assumption that "if it isn't forbidden, then it's allowed." Your API would have make those same assumptions - and I don't see many Unix admins in a hurry to implement THAT kind of security model. Even if it COULD be done, I don't think very many of us WOULD do it.

Let's forget functionality and talk politics for a moment. Microsoft insisted IE couldn't be removed from Windows. Well, they were wrong, as Windows 98Lite demomstrates.

Now we come to the point where good ol' boy Jackson - stupidly - rules in favor of the DOJ. Do you really think that Microsoft will have, during the appeal process, any desire to port the applications to anything? NO! The OS company (Micro? Or Soft?) will dump the 9x product line (three years too late) and concentrate on Platinum, Millenium and Win2K. (Hear that? That's the sound of 80% of the home computer market screaming in pain as a very large broom rams into their rectum.) The Applications company will immediately turn around and focus on Productivity apps (Exchange2000, SQL2000, Office, Project, and Internet Applications) and their Internet holdings - unless Judge JackOff decides on three companies, in which case the Internet company (We'reFuckedWithoutDeepPockets.Com) goes off on their merry way. The corporate market still uses NT and 2000 for everything, the applications sell as well as ever - and Microsoft trims the fat by throwing away the Home divisions, including games development. They MIGHT keep the Mac developers around, assuming the Applications company retains ownership of the Apple stake.

The home market goes straight to shit. Either everyone starts listening to Jeff Goldblum and the home computer market becomes rainbow colored, or home users start using NT and 2000 - which won't make game manufacturers happy.

Four possibilities.

1. Judge "crazier than Tito" Jackson rules in favor of the DOJ, ruling that Microsoft is split into two companies. Consumer OSs die for about two years (or go Macintosh), business market remains essentially unchanged, Microsoft gets leaner and meaner. Backlash in the general public and consumer software industry (plus consumer IT industry) against government and the assholes that started this - Netscrape, Sun(shine never sees where my head is) and AOhelL. No Microsoft products are ported to Linux other than through pathetic, lameass attempts like WINE.

2. Judge "I'm Not Insane, It's Just PMS" Jackson rules in favor of the DOJ, ruling that Microsoft be split in three. Same as above, save that things are a little rockier for the Applications company without the Internet revenue from Snap.com, MSNBC, and Slate. Still no Linux ports.

3. Judge "Nobody-Owns-Me" Jackson rules in favor of Microsoft. Every Linux zealot and grit-troll on SlashDot proclaims a conspiracy, the lion shall lie down with the lamb, seas will boil, and other signs of the Second Coming. Microsoft continues as usual, possibly suffering a major enough setback to regain their former engineering ability, more likely gradually failing as market forces drive them out of business. Probably best outcome for Linux. Possibly some limited ports of Microsoft apps - mostly in the consumer market, beginning with games.

4. Any of the above happen, and Microsoft does something incredibly stupid due to Bill's massively oversized ego, resulting in a total disaster for Microsoft and possibly for the home market. Chaos ensues for a while. Linux doesn't necessarily succeed, since it isn't ready to take on the home user or business markets.
- Ozymandias
[ Parent ]

I'm still not convinced. (none / 0) (#23)
by maynard on Sun May 28, 2000 at 08:02:04 AM EST

I don't see any specifics or facts to back up your assertions. What I do read is a bunch of anti-DOJ ramblings which don't relate to the issue at hand: that a MS Office port to Linux (or UNIX in general) is perfectly possible. The security model differences between UNIX and NT should in no way prevent a port of Office, nor have you demonstrated this with your two previous posts.

Drop the anti-DOJ stuff and tell us specifically why the security model differences between NT and UNIX prevent a port of MS Office to UNIX.

Cheers,
--Maynard

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]

Re: I'm still not convinced. (none / 0) (#24)
by Ozymandias on Sun May 28, 2000 at 03:22:24 PM EST

Where in the Unix security model is a normal-user application allowed to:
1. Make modifications to whatever web server you have installed. (As with Web Extensions)
2. Change permissions on system folders and partitions. (As during document template changes, web extensions use)
3. Permit files to be accessed by multiple users, including users with no permissions on the hosting server, with full tracking of all changes by any user. (Part of the collaboration tools, among other things)
4. Make modifications not only to itself but to other applications? (Settings modifications to IE and the system shell)
In addition, how do make an API stable enough to do all of this such that the performance is acceptable in a business environment? (And don't start with the BSoD bullshit; this isn't SlashDot.)

As for the anti-DOJ crap; well, the question wasn't just "is this possible," it was also "will this happen." Even if it does turn out to be possible, it won't happen.
- Ozymandias
[ Parent ]

Thank You. (none / 0) (#25)
by maynard on Sun May 28, 2000 at 09:06:05 PM EST

Where in the Unix security model is a normal-user application allowed to:

  1. Make modifications to whatever web server you have installed. (As with Web Extensions)

    • Run the web server above port 1024 as the normal user.
    • Change filesystem permissions such that a normal user in group "web" can edit httpd.conf config files.
    • Make the web daemon switch UID to a dummy user, chroot-jail the daemon and then leave no password so end users can easily su to the account (this is normal -- except the open password. A better idea is to write a small C program which calls setuid() to the web owner and setuid it root. No, that's a bad idea. *cough* But so is what MS is doing with IIS).

  2. Change permissions on system folders and partitions. (As during document template changes, web extensions use)

    • chgrp -R foo / -- effective and thoroughly obnoxious.

  3. Permit files to be accessed by multiple users, including users with permissions on the hosting server, with full tracking of all changes by any user. (Part of the collaboration tools, among other things)

    • I'm assuming you mean through some httpd server extension and not via SMB sharing. Beyond group permissions one would have to invoke capabilities along with a versioned filesystem. Linux ain't there yet, but with a commercial UNIX this is possible.

  4. Make modifications not only to itself but to other applications? (Settings modifications to IE and the system shell)

    • I'm assuming you mean at runtime. By modification do you mean signalling the application to do something else, such as forcing it to re-read it's configuration state? Or do you mean changing a runtime environment for an application without explicit ownership of the app? I suppose if the later capabilities is also an answer.

However, all of these things could be handled through a win32 emulation layer with some root privs -- though I would never want to do such things because I think it's abhorent from a security standpoint. Why the hell do you think MS is having such security troubles to begin with? If I were willing to throw caution to the wind and let these apps call setuid() with root privs -- no problem. Capabilities would allow for more fine grained permissions control for any application or user along with the potential for filesystem ACLs, however, I wouldn't want a daemon like a web server able to write over critical system directories or files under these conditions anyway. It's just a bad idea.

I suspect Microsoft will come to this conclusion on their own after the old Win9x/ME codebase dies and they finally move end users over to Win2k.

Cheers,
--Maynard

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]

Re: Thank You. (none / 0) (#26)
by Ozymandias on Sun May 28, 2000 at 09:55:44 PM EST

No, that's a bad idea. *cough* But so is what MS is doing with IIS).

Microsoft doesn't give a shit about wether it's a "good idea" or a "bad idea" to do these things, and neither do the corporations that are Microsoft's chief market. Don't you get it? You cannot - can not count on workstations for security. Workstation users don't give a shit if they're wide open and swinging in the breeze - all they care about is the ability to get things done. When you balance security vs. useability, security isn't even a consideration. That's what they have IT staffs, firewalls, and server storage for - so they don't have to worry about it. Go in to a corporate shop and try to tell the businessmen running the place that the security on their workstations is terrible and they need to lock them down. First thing they'll say is "how will that affect productivity?" Actually, most of them already know; they'll simply tell you they're aware of it and to get back to work.

chgrp -R foo / -- effective and thoroughly obnoxious.

And how many other applications does this fuck over?

I'm assuming you mean through some httpd server extension and not via SMB sharing. Beyond group permissions one would have to invoke capabilities along with a versioned filesystem. Linux ain't there yet, but with a commercial UNIX this is possible.

Possible. At what cost, in money and administration? That's the beauty of NTFS and FAT; combined with Windows' security model, it's simple. Literally child's play. There's a cost, of course, in security; TANSTAAFL. But again - corporations know that and made a concious choice. One they're actually quite happy with.

I'm assuming you mean at runtime. By modification do you mean signalling the application to do something else, such as forcing it to re-read it's configuration state? Or do you mean changing a runtime environment for an application without explicit ownership of the app? I suppose if the later capabilities is also an answer.

Office does both, all the time, as needed. Not just at runtime. It also has the capability to be changed (patched) and reconfigured, and to do the same to other applications. For example, it is possible (with Office 2000, in NT or Windows 2000) to have Office install parts of itself only as needed, without a shutdown, reboot, or even a restart of the application.

However, all of these things could be handled through a win32 emulation layer with some root privs -- though I would never want to do such things because I think it's abhorent from a security standpoint. Why the hell do you think MS is having such security troubles to begin with? If I were willing to throw caution to the wind and let these apps call setuid() with root privs -- no problem. Capabilities would allow for more fine grained permissions control for any application or user along with the potential for filesystem ACLs, however, I wouldn't want a daemon like a web server able to write over critical system directories or files under these conditions anyway. It's just a bad idea.

See above. The point most people fail to understand is that the Windows security model is not bad - from a certain point of view. Whereas from that point of view, the Unix security model is abhorrent; it makes it impossible for a group of people to work effectively. Unix (and Linux, in particular) still lag well behind Windows in the productivity market for that very reason; the security model gets in the way. That's good for lone workstations connected to the internet. That's wonderful for servers, particularly file and gateway servers. It's fantastic for firewall and intrusion detection systems.

But for an effective, corporate office environment, you must have both. You use the better security of Unix to build a wall around your office, to detect breaches in that wall, and to monitor the gates. But inside the wall, you need the flexibility and the openness of Windows - even at the expense of security and stability.

It isn't going to be the Linux people who solve the problem and bring those together, because they aren't working on it - they're too busy prattling about how wonderfully secure their systems are and accusing Microsoft of being evil. But let's look at the trends; five years ago, with Windows 95 and NT 3.51, Microsoft security and stability was a joke. Two years ago, they were enormously better, though Unix still had the edge - but Unix wasn't really getting any better.

One year ago, a properly administered Windows NT Server could match a Unix system in uptime and stability - but not in security. The Workstations weren't quite as good, but they were close. Today, Windows 2000 is more stable than NT, faster, and more secure. And they haven't even had a service pack yet. Linux and Unix are still using the same security model, and there still aren't any productivity apps available that can match Office.

I love Linux. I use it daily, to guard my systems, to compile applications, to serve my web pages and deliver my mail. But when I need to collaborate with a colleague on something, I fire up Word and Excel and Outlook, and I do it on Windows 2000 boxes. Because I can do things on there that I just can't do on Unix.
- Ozymandias
[ Parent ]

I'd be curious to know *what* featu... (none / 0) (#9)
by pwhysall on Fri May 26, 2000 at 12:41:13 PM EST

pwhysall voted 1 on this story.

I'd be curious to know *what* features of Office MS consider to be "impossible" to implement on Linux, given the existence of the Mac port. (Can anyone tell me if the system interface of MacOS is vastly richer or otherwise compared to Linux?)
--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown

I don't see a contradiction here - ... (none / 0) (#6)
by raph on Fri May 26, 2000 at 12:52:10 PM EST

raph voted 1 on this story.

I don't see a contradiction here - of course it's possible to port to Linux, but there is no real reason to believe that it's a "simple task". Of course, when Winelib reaches 1.0 :-)

Yeah, it's MLP, but useful. At least the minimalistic writeup does put the links in context.

Making Microsoft look bad makes me ... (none / 0) (#10)
by Thanatos on Fri May 26, 2000 at 02:56:29 PM EST

Thanatos voted 1 on this story.

Making Microsoft look bad makes me happy.

Let MS do their own PR. I just don'... (none / 0) (#1)
by Paul Dunne on Fri May 26, 2000 at 03:08:36 PM EST

Paul Dunne voted -1 on this story.

Let MS do their own PR. I just don't care.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/

Nothing really new.. ... (none / 0) (#11)
by DemiGodez on Fri May 26, 2000 at 03:14:37 PM EST

DemiGodez voted -1 on this story.

Nothing really new..

BLEH!... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by Velian on Fri May 26, 2000 at 03:25:24 PM EST

Velian voted -1 on this story.

BLEH!

Clarify what page you're talking ab... (none / 0) (#4)
by mattm on Fri May 26, 2000 at 06:20:36 PM EST

mattm voted 1 on this story.

Clarify what page you're talking about! It isn't obvious, from a skim of the one page you linked to, which of the myriad sections you refer to as " the response to Microsoft's proposed remedy". It is the Plaintiffs' Reply Memorandum in Support of Proposed Final Judgment.

As for good reading ... I think Attorney General Tom Miller's statement is even better. Man, I can practically smell the scorch marks.



Microsoft has good reason (actually... (none / 0) (#14)
by feline on Fri May 26, 2000 at 07:18:22 PM EST

feline voted 1 on this story.

Microsoft has good reason (actually 2...) to not to develop any apps for Linux. First, our Linux has what, nine million users, max. Windows and even MacOS have several times that, and it would probably cost quite a bit in man hours to 'port' MSWord over to Linux.
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'

I don't really care, but the mentio... (none / 0) (#12)
by _cbj on Fri May 26, 2000 at 09:31:01 PM EST

_cbj voted 0 on this story.

I don't really care, but the mention of Linux enlivens it a smidge. Oh, and Schmalensee is a made up name. It can only exist in real life as a passioned riposte to accusations of malensee. You will not make me believe otherwise.

Oh yeah, what a lame excuse for not... (none / 0) (#3)
by bmetzler on Fri May 26, 2000 at 11:22:48 PM EST

bmetzler voted 1 on this story.

Oh yeah, what a lame excuse for not porting Office to Linux. Well, It's not Windows, so obviously we couldn't get the code to compile on it. What? WHAT, YOU MEAN THERE'S A PORT OF OFFICE FOR THE MAC???? I need to check this out...
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.

Nice link. ... (none / 0) (#15)
by maynard on Sat May 27, 2000 at 11:30:14 AM EST

maynard voted 1 on this story.

Nice link.

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.

Hmmm, which port is harder... (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by analog on Sat May 27, 2000 at 11:31:07 PM EST

Read an article a while back (sorry, can't remember where) in which a former MS 'manager' (IIRC, he was one of their six month contract consultants, not a permanent employee) postulated that the real work in porting Office to Linux would be first porting Office from MS' internal API to the public API. He seemed to think that next to this, porting to Linux would be fairly easy.

Don't know how true it is, but it's an interesting thought.

Microsoft MLP | 26 comments (26 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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