Richard Stallman's plans for Microsoft

The free software guru lays out his prescription for punishing Microsoft if it loses its antitrust battle.

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Earlier this week, Salon Technology published the news that, thanks to Bill Gates’ $20 million grant to M.I.T. for a new laboratory for computer science, the Free Software Foundation would soon be housed in the Bill Gates Building. But according to free software guru Richard Stallman, this isn’t quite correct.

In fact, says Stallman, only one tower of the new building will be named after Gates; and, fortuitously, the Free Software Foundation will be housed in the other tower. Still, writes Stallman, “I’m glad to have the opportunity to introduce the custom of fingering Mr. Bill in a place where I can more effectively do so.”

However, Stallman does not limit his anti-Microsoft strategy to this relatively trivial act. In fact, he has a whole master plan, as revealed Friday in Linux Today. In a feature on the Web site, Stallman put forth a three-part program for punishing Microsoft if it loses the antitrust trial.

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His plan, in a nutshell: Force Microsoft to document its software interface specifications, communications protocols and file formats; “require Microsoft not to certify any hardware as working with Microsoft software, unless the hardware’s complete specifications have been published, so that any programmer can implement software to support the same hardware” (which is a big issue for Linux developers); and prevent Microsoft from using patents to stifle competition. Stallman being Stallman, he adds: “If Microsoft does make some important part of Windows free software, it could solve these problems.”

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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