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There’s been a lot written about whether or not Microsoft is doing enough to support Open Source Projects on its platform. In the past, Microsoft’s report card in this area was not one to take home to mom.

Lately though, there’s been a lot of improvement, with initiatives like CodePlex as well as the many projects that Microsoft has opened up and moved over there. Many have expressed that there’s more that Microsoft can do and I for one believe that Microsoft is starting to listen.

If not Microsoft, at least Sam Ramji of Port 25 is. He’s effectively the Director of Open Source at Microsoft, though his official title is Director of Platform Technology Strategy.

Several members of the .NET open source community have been bouncing ideas around with Sam looking for ways for Microsoft to support these communities. I think we’ll see some big things come out of that, but it won’t happen overnight.

Meanwhile, as we wait for Microsoft to hammer out the details for potentially larger initiatives (with the help of the community), how can we as a community start supporting open source projects ourselves? How about an Open Source Incubator?

Like a good agile developer, the first iteration of the idea will start very small as a means to test the waters. Will developers participate? Will companies support this? Who knows? Let’s find out!

What’s In It For Me?

So far, Microsoft, via Sam, has agreed to support this effort (so far) with some MSDN licenses and MaximumASP has agreed to offer hosting (details being hashed out as we speak).

At the moment, this is a relatively informal idea, but if it catches on, we hope that more companies will want to support it (cheap publicity!) and we’ll have a successful model of not only how Microsoft can support the community, but how the community can support itself.

What about existing Open Source projects in need of licenses?

Good question! At the moment, this is a relatively informal experiment. If it works out, we’ll probably want to support both existing and new projects. An incubator doesn’t have to be just for new projects, does it?

If that answer doesn’t work for you, try reading the comments of Rob’s post. Maybe you can smooth talk Sam into giving your worthy project a license.

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I’ve been invited to participate on a couple of panels at the upcoming DotNetNuke OpenForce ‘07 conference, November 5-8 in Las Vegas.

  • .NET Open Source Panel with Scott Guthrie
  • .NET Open Source Architectures Panel

I’m pretty excited to be on the same panel as ScottGu himself, the man who never sleeps. Both of the panels I am on are focused on Open Source on the .NET platform, something I love to talk about. Well that and Subtext.

So what is the DotNetNuke OpenForce conference?

This is a DotNetNuke conference (so DotNetNuke sessions are emphasized), but with a bigger focus than just DotNetNuke. Keeping true to its roots, they want to help expand the visibility of other open source projects on the .NET platform.

Towards that goal, DotNetNuke created the OpenForce concept which will provide a conference venue for some of the largest .NET open source projects. This is a way for open source projects to band together, showcase their technology, and exchange ideas and support.

This conference will be co-located with the ASP.NET Connections conference, so I’ll be able to attend sessions at both. So if you’re going to be at either conference, leave me a comment!

And I’ll do my best to keep the “You Knows” to a minimum. If you’re there, feel free to keep a scorecard.

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NUnit 2.4 introduces a really nice programming model they call Constraint-Based Assert Model. I believe MbUnit 2.4 will also have this. I really like this approach to building asserts because it reads almost like English.

Assert.That( myString, Is.EqualTo("Hello") );

Look at that fine piece of prose!

I’m so enamored of this approach I thought I’d try to bring it to Subsonic. Here is an example of two existing approaches to create a Query in Subsonic.

new Query("Products").WHERE("ProductId < 5");
new Query("Products").WHERE("ProductId", Comparison.LessThan, 5);

Now what don’t I like about these? Well in the first one, there’s no intellisence to guide me on making sure I choose a valid operator. Not only that, if that 5 is a variable instead, I’m doing some string concatenation, which I find to be ugly and harder to read such as this:

new Query("Products").WHERE("ProductId < " + productId);

The second one is much better in that I get the benefit of Intellisense and it is pretty readable and understandable. But can we do better? I mean, who talks like that? “Hand me the nails where the length is comparison greater than five.”

This is where I find the Constraint Based model to be very elegant and readable.

new Query("Products").WHERE("ProductId", Is.LessThan(5));

Now if you’re looking at this and wondering, where is the intellisense for the table name and column name? Don’t worry, it’s there. I used strings here for brevity. But here’s the final query with everything strongly typed.

new Query(Tables.Product, "Northwind")
  .WHERE(Product.Columns.ProductID, Is.LessThan(5))

This is just my first pass at this for Subsonic. I need to get a better understanding of how these queries are being built so I can add the following syntax next:

new Query("Products").WHERE("ProductId", Is.In(1,2,3,4,5);
// AND
new Query("Products").WHERE("ProductId", Is.In(new int[]{1,2,3,4});

This code has been committed to the trunk and is not yet in any release. It is pretty simple so far.

I wonder if I should propose the following syntax helper:

Select.From("Products").WHERE("ProductId", Is.LessThan(5));

//Where Select.From is defined as:

public static class Select
  public static Query From(string tableName)
    return new Query(tableName);

Or is that taking this too far. Thoughts?

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I recently wrote about some 503 Service Unavailable Errors with IIS 7 that had me completely stumped. I tried everything I could think of to no avail.

Fortunately, a few of the members of the IIS 7 team stepped in to help. First, I received an email from Bill Staples, the group program manager of the IIS 7 team, kindly offered his assistance.

Meanwhile, Mike Volodarsky, a Program Manager on the IIS team in charge of the IIS 7 Web Server engine started offering help in my comments. Mike has a great blog with many useful troubleshooting tips for IIS 7. Highly recommended.

Mike brought in Chun Ye, a member of the http.sys team, who helped me get to the bottom of the problem. Here is the command he had me run.

netsh http show urlacl

The result showed that I had reserved http://+:80/ which takes precedence over all other URLs on port 80.

Reserved URL : http://+:80/
    User: METAVERSE\Phil
       Listen: Yes       Delegate: No

The solution was to run this command:

netsh http delete urlacl url=http://+:80/

Which removed the reservation.

To be honest, I have no idea why that reservation exists. Most likely it was something dumb I did a long time ago trying to debug some other long forgotten problem. I probably forgot to revert my change or didn’t even realized I had made a change.

I don’t have a real deep understanding of http.sys reservations. What I do know about it mostly comes from this post by security guru Keith Brown.

In any case, many thanks to the IIS 7 team for your help. You rock in my book.

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This just in. CodePlex is planning to roll out TortoiseSVN support!

A little while ago I wrote a comparison of TFS vs Subversion for Open Source projects. I’ll spare you the suspense by telling you that Subversion wins hands down, primarily because it itself is open source and is designed with open source in mind.

It turned out that there was already a work item for SVN support and it was the highest vote getter. On Friday, Jim Newkirk commented within the work item that they are adding support for TortoiseSVN. You can see in the work Item Details (click to enlarge) that it is set to release on June 5, 2007.

Jim’s comment mentions TortoiseSVN support specifically, but I assumed he meant Subversion support. Unless they are building some sort of Subversion bridge to TFS.

As I wrote in a recent post, there appears to be two camps at Microsoft in regards to Open Source - the old guard who are threatened by it, and the new guard who are embracing it as the opportunity it really is for Microsoft. CodePlex is emblematic of the new guard. They are listening to their users and building something that really will benefit the .NET OSS community. My heartfelt kudos to the CodePlex team!

Now it’s time for me to approach the rest of the Subtext devs to talk about a potential move after June 5. Of course, being pragmatic. I’ll want to test it out first. Kick the tires before making any commitments.

UPDATE: It looks like the CodePlex team has created a Subversion bridge to TFS. In other words, from the outside, it looks just like Subversion so you can connect using TortoiseSVN and SVN.exe, but under the hood, it is TFS. Technologically speaking, that sounds pretty cool. It couldn’t have been trivial. However, I’m a bit skeptical it will have (and maintain) feature parity, but I’m looking forward to trying it out. Not exactly what I hoped for, but I won’t sit around and bitch about it if it works.

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Scott Hanselman writes a thought provoking post that asks the question, Is Microsoft Losing the Alpha Geeks? An interesting question, but troublesome to make sense of, let alone answer.

First of all, how do you define “Alpha Geeks”? Who are they?Paul Graham would lead you to believe that alpha geeks are the influencers who use Macs and lots of parenthesis to write code. By that definition, the alpha geeks were never there or left a long time ago.

But I don’t think this is a fair definition of alpha geeks. Certainly there are still alpha geeks who love writing code for the Microsoft platform. Someone like Jeff Richter has to be considered an alpha geek, no?

So who are we talking about when we use the term Alpha Geek? Perhaps the definition of an ALT.NET developer proposed by David Laribee fits:

  1. You’re the type of developer who uses what works while keeping an eye out for a better way.
  2. You reach outside the mainstream to adopt the best of any community: Open Source, Agile, Java, Ruby, etc.
  3. You’re not content with the status quo. Things can always be better expressed, more elegant and simple, more mutable, higher quality, etc.
  4. You know tools are great, but they only take you so far. It’s the principles (sic) and knowledge that really matter. The best tools are those that embed the knowledge and encourage the principals (e.g. Resharper.)

Remove the .NET specifics and we’re left with ALT. Is the Alpha Geek the ALT developer?Getting warmer.

So who is Scott talking about? Let’s look at his post for some clues:

The one thing I learned about Rails and Rails/Ruby folks at this conferences is that they are enthusiastic and passionate. Not just because many are young (I suspect the mean age to be about 26 at this conference) but because they feel that Ruby and Rails expresses their intent in a clean and aesthetically pleasing why that avoids repetition. The code is DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself.)

Ah! Some more clues! As expected, this discussion is really focused on web development. This is interesting because I would think that software developers such as Linus Torvalds, John Carmack, etc… would be considered Alpha Geeks, and they certainly are not building web applications.

But when you think about it, games and operating system kernels make up a very small percentage of all software being written today. In terms of public interest and buzz, building software for the web appears to be the only software development that really matters.

Alright then, with the understanding that we are not talking about 3-D gaming developers (you guys and girls do matter much to me no matter what anyone says. Thank you for Oblivion!) let’s get back to the original question. Are developers leaving Microsoft in droves for Ruby on Rails?

It’s hard to say. Show me the data. Certainly, Rails has a huge amount of buzz and a passionate fan base, which can create the impression that developers are heading over there in droves. But passion doesn’t account for statistics.

However, the gain in mindshare of the Ruby on Rails way of thinking cannot be dismissed or discounted. It’s why we’re reading about ALT.NET more and more in the first place. It’s why projects like Castle MonoRail and Subsonic have sprung up and gained many admirers.

Not to mention how recent blunders by Microsoft have disenfranchised many developers, it’s no wonder Scott and others are asking this question.

I think, the truth is somewhere in the middle. It’s not so much that alpha geeks are all leaving Microsoft in droves. But I do believe that many more alpha geeks are experimenting with other platforms such as Ruby on Rails.

It’s like the technological equivalent of the 7-year itch. You’ve been with her (Microsoft) for so long and things have been good for so much of that time that you are quite comfortable. But lately, the love just hasn’t been there. She’s constantly nagging you (Confirm or Deny) and it is more and more difficult to get anything accomplished when you’re together. To leave fills you with uncertainty, doubt, and pain. But, what if you could just have a little something something on the side? That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?

Of course where this analogy breaks down is in terms of technology, having a couple of other platforms and languages on the side is absolutely good for you. I wouldn’t recommend trying that with a human relationship.

So in my answer to Scott’s question, I think it may well be that many developers completely leave. But I imagine that many others will take the path that Rob Conery, the creator of Subsonic wrote about. He’s choosing to help try and change the developer culture around Microsoft from the inside, rather than jumping ship completely. Like a good ALT.NET developer, he sees some value in the Microsoft platform and tries to combine what is good from it, along with what is good from other platforms, rather than just giving in to the self-perpetuating cycle of successful programming languages.

One thing that writing .NET code still has for it is that it pays well and there are plenty of jobs doing it. To that end, Microsoft will still retain alpha geeks for a good while. It’s hard to leave the golden goose.

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Jeff Atwood tells me he’s thinking of leaving Twitter for Jaiku. Scoble wrote about how Leo Laporte already left.

Strangely enough, I’m having a sense of deja vu.

logo Twitter would do well to study the lessons learned in the history of Friendster vs MySpace. Building a Twitter clone is not rocket science. There is no huge barrier to entry. The only thing that keeps twitter on top of other services is their large user base.

As danah boyd points out in this essay which compares Friendster vs MySpace, People use the social technologies that all their friends are using. I personally am hesitant to switch, because everyone I know is on Twitter, not on some other platform.

However, too many days of showing users this damn cat (yes, I’m a dog person) instead of their friends and it won’t be long before they leave in droves.

Atwood is convinced that Twitter needs to switch to a platform other than Rails. As danah points out in the essay, it is not about technological perfection. Sticking to Rails because of the beauty of the code doesn’t matter to the masses. Especially when the service is always down.

I am more ambivalent on the question of whether they should leave Rails since I don’t fully understand if Rails is the bottleneck.

My experience with is that most scaling problems are the result of poorly written code, not the platform. More specifically, data access code is where I would look first. Simple mistakes like making a database call per item when loading a collection of hundreds or thousands of items can kill the scaling of a site. We recently fixed a bug like that in Subtext when displaying hundreds of comments. It can happen to anyone.

Twitter’s CEO blogged about yesterday’s outages in a post entitled, The Devil’s in the Details. Indeed. In any case, I’ll stick with Twitter a little while longer. But if they don’t do something soon, I’ll see you on Jaiku.

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Here’s the code

<img src="maintenance.gif" />

And the result

Can working on the

At least this seems to be my experience with Twitter lately.

Look, I can understand the need to save costs with outsourcing, but you get what you pay for. It’s no wonder that Twitter is down so often given they’re using cats for their server maintenance.

At least pay a little extra and hire these guys!

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UPDATE: Problem solved thanks to some members of the IIS 7 team!

I am at my wits end trying to get IIS 7 to work on my Vista Ultimate box and I have tried everything I can think of.

I’ve tried every step in the following tutorial, Where did my IIS7 Server go? Troubleshooting “server not found” errors. I also tried every step in this post on troubleshooting “service unavailable” errors. Trust me when I say I went through every one of these steps twice. Rob Conery can back me up on this because he watched me do so in a when I shared my desktop with him via GoToMeeting.

As far as I can tell, IIS 7 or http.sys must be corrupted somehow and the only thing left for me to try is to repave my machine and reinstall Vista. Unless of course one of my dear readers has an insight that will help me solve this, or knows someone who does.

The Problem

I’m running Vista Ultimate which has IIS 7 installed. When I navigate to http://localhost/ or http://localhost/iisstart.htm, I get an HTTP Error 503 Service Unavailable message.

What I’ve Tried

Confirmed that Skype is not listening to port 80 (Skype tries to listen on port 80 by default).

​1. Confirmed that App Pools were configured correctly and started.

​2. Ran the following command: appcmd list apppools which produced the output:

APPPOOL "DefaultAppPool" (MgdVersion:v2.0,MgdMode:Integrated,state:Started) APPPOOL "Classic .NET AppPool" (MgdVersion:v2.0,MgdMode:Classic,state:Started)

​3. Confirmed that Website was started.

​4. Ran the following command: netstat -a -o -b which produced the output:

TCP [::]:80 METAVERSE:0 LISTENING 4Can not obtain ownership information

The 4 there is the PID which I confirmed to be System as in the NT Kernal & System.

​5. Confirmed bindings were configured in IIS Manager and set for localhost port 80.

​6. No error messages in the event log under System nor Application.

​7. Made sure that my user account and the Network Service account both have access to the c:\inetpub\wwwroot directory.

​8. Tried browsing to http://MYCOMPUTERNAME/, http://localhost:80/,, etc… (I was getting desparate).

​9. Tried changing the default AppPool’s managed pipeline mode to Classic.

​10. Tried changing the default AppPool’s .NET framework version to No Managed Code (recall that I am trying to request a static HTML page).

​11. Able to ping localhost.

​12. Tried to telnet localhost 80 and then issue the command GET / and received the same message.

​13. Double checked that all the Handler Mappings were enabled.

​14. Made sure Anonymous Authentication was enabled. Heck, I tried it with them all enabled and tried it with only Windows Authentication enabled.

​15. Authorization Rules has one rule: Mode=allow, Users=All Users.

​16. Enabled Failed Request Tracking. Nothing showed up in the logs.

​17. Uninstalled and reinstalled IIS 7.

​18. Tried pulling my hair out and rending my garments and sacrificing chickens^1^.

Any ideas?

So there you go. I’ve tried everything I can think of and now I appeal to you for help.

The funny thing is that this works on my Vista box at work and I compared every setting in IIS. This confirms in my mind that something got fubar’d. But I hesitate to repave my machine just yet in the hope that someone out there has some definitive answers for me.

^1^ No actual chickens were harmed in troubleshooting this problem.

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First week on the job and I’ve already got the keys to the company blog. I just posted my first post at koders.com announcing the latest set of site updates.

One thing that I was surprised to learn this week, though it really shouldn’t surprise me, is that Koders uses an open source search engine to create the full-text index. More specifically, it uses Lucene.NET, a port of the Java Lucene project.

I’m familiar with Lucene.NET because the Subtext and RSS Bandit projects both use it for searching (though I was not the one to implement it in either case). As far as I know, it pretty much is the de-facto standard for open source search software on the .NET platform.

Of course Lucene.NET is only part of the Koders code search picture. It provides the full-text indexing, but if you use the Koders search engine, you’ll notice that there is some level of semantic analysis on top of the text index. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to search for method names and class names and such, not to mention the syntax highlighting when viewing code.

I’m still learning about all the layers and extensions Koders built on top of Lucene.NET. As I said in the post, those are probably topics I can’t get write about in too much detail.

Screenshot of project
browserOne thing I should point out is that code search is only part of the picture. Koders also has a pretty sweet code repository browser (click on thumbnail for larger view).

My favorite open source project is now in the index and can be viewed here.

On a side note, I recently talked about Search Driven Development in the theoretical sense, but have been able to put it to good use already at Koders.com. In the great developer tradition of dogfooding, I needed to look at some code from home before I had my VPN setup. It was nice to be able to login to Koders internal Enterprise Edition and find the snippet of code I needed.

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Real quickly, check out our brand spanking new build server. Notice anything different? No? Good! Hopefully everything is working just fine, but faster.

As you know, I’m ever the optimist. What’s that trite phrase, “When the crap hits the fan, make lemonade”? Or something like that.

So in this tragedy becomes triumph story, the bricking of my tiny little home built build server caused me to start thinking of a more permanent solution. In steps Eric Kemp, Rob Conery’s right hand man (in the clean sense of the idiom) on the Subsonic team.

He converted the VMWare image to run on Virtual Server and is hosting our virtual build server on a pretty hefty machine. Finally, I can shut down the virtual machine running on my desktop.

Eric ended up moving the server twice before settling on a final location. Eric, if you have a moment, remind me what the specs are on that baby.

So now it is time for me to step in with my part of the bargain, which is to help the Subsonic team get a continuous integration setup going. Now that their code is hosted in a Subversion repository, this will be a lot easier than it would’ve been before.

Even so, I’ll probably look at using CIFactory and hopefully enlist the help of an Software Configuration Management Ecowarrior, aka Jay Flowers.

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Simone Chiaretta, a member of the Subtext development team (among other open source projects), has been quite busy lately. I recently mentioned the Vista Sidebar Gadget for CruiseControl.NET he published. He also was recently in a video interview by MindBlog. Go Simo!

Loading... The post that caught my eye recently is how to make a Gmail-like loading indicator with ASP.NET Ajax. This is a nice demonstartion of how to use the ASP.NET Ajax library to simulate various styles of user interface.

Personally though, I’m not a fan of this particular loading indicator at the page level. When I have my browser fully expanded, I sometimes don’t notice it. However, it works great when constrained to a box, such as the corner of a login box.

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At the end of an average eight-hour workday, the fingers have walked 16 miles over the keys and have expended energy equal to the lifting of 1 1/4 tons. - DataHand

Diagram And that’s just for a piddly eight hour workday! What about developers who go home and write more code for fun?

Around three years ago I wrote a post titled The Real Pain of Software Development Part 1 in which I talked about my experience with Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). Because of the pain of typing at that time, I never really got around to writing part 2 until now.

So why am I bringing up this subject after all these years? Yesterday, I was reminded again about just how important developers need to take ergonomics in their daily work life.

As I wrote in that post, years ago, I suffered from a lot of pain when writing code. I started going to Physical and Occupational therapy which helped immensely.

During that time I went out and bought the best chair I could find, despite the high cost. (Note that the best chair for me might not be the best chair for you due to differences in body types. Jeff Atwood mentions theSteel Case Leapas his favorite in a post that highlights the importance of a good chair to a developer’s productivity.)

Along with the chair, I bought a good keyboard, a keyboard tray with an articulating arm, and a trackball and made sure it was configured in a way that was comfortable for me and ergonomically sound.

And over time, I got better. In fact, I got much better.

At that point I vowed to never to skimp on the tools I needed as a developer. As Jeff points out in his Programmer’s Bill of Rights,

It’s unbelievable to me that a company would pay a developer $60-$100k in salary, yet cripple him or her with terrible working conditions and crusty hand-me-down hardware. This makes no business sense whatsoever. And yet I see it all the time. It’s shocking how many companies still don’t provide software developers with the essential things they need to succeed.

I realized that not every company will follow through on this reasonable advice, so I took it upon myself to make sure I have what I need personally.

In the past several years, I’ve worked alot more from home due to my open source contributions. In the past two years, I worked full time from home. I made sure that I had the best quality setup for me possible. Better than any other employer ever provided. To the items I mentioned before, I added two very bright and sharp LCD monitors which reduce eye strain. This setup is finely tuned for me and the way I work.

Which brings me back to yesterday. It was my first day of work at my new company and naturally, the workstation has not had the opportunity to be configured by me, through no fault of my employer. My requests for a new keyboard, trackball, and keyboard tray were all approved. I plan to bring in my own chair because I have two Neutral Posture chairs at home. I don’t screw around with my equipment any more.

Unfortunately, after just one day I am having trouble sleeping due to pain in my hand and back.Shoot, I need to get up in three hours!

Yeah, I know what you are thinking. What a freaking wuss!

But no amount of macho posturing changes the fact that some people, for better or worse, are more prone to these type of injuries than others.

I wish I could remember his name, but there’s a very famous software developer world renowned who cannot type for himself. He has others type for him. I’m sure someone will remind me.

What my Occupational therapist taught me is that my recovery is based on a delicate balance. Upsetting that balance can bring back a lot of pain. In my case, I will never fully be free from pain while working. But through therapy, I learned techniques to reduce the pain as well as deal with it better.

As fortune would have it, this was around the time I received a private office, so it was less of a spectacle when I would get on the floor with a foam roller and do my stretches every couple of hours.

The pain had gotten so bad, there were days I could barely type a line of code, instead finding ways to be productive without coding. I started to wonder about my future, or lack thereof, as a software developer.

My recovery allowed me to not only work through a normal day productively, but actually start putting in extra coding effort in the evenings as I started to contribute to RSS Bandit and eventually start the Subtext Project.

I became even more productive than before, working day and night at the computer. A stark contrast to when I could barely type a single method of code. I could never have started Subtext if it weren’t for the therapy. For that, I am eternally grateful to the occupational/physical therapists at UCLA medical center.

So if you experience a lot of pain while developing, don’t be a hero. Be smart about it and seek information and help. The pain could be the thing holding you back from your potential.

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Fortune Magazine published an article in which they describe how Microsoft claims that free software, such as Linux, violates 235 of its patents.

Some key snippets (emphasis mine):

Microsoft is pulling no punches: It wants royalties. If the company gets its way, free software won’t be free anymore.

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith and licensing chief Horacio Gutierrez sat down with Fortune recently to map out their strategy for getting FOSS users to pay royalties. Revealing the precise figure for the first time, they state that FOSS infringes on no fewer than 235 Microsoft patents.

In the meantime, with Microsoft seemingly barred from striking pacts with distributors, only one avenue appears open to it: paying more friendly visits to its Fortune 500 customers, seeking direct licenses.

If push comes to shove, would Microsoft sue its customers for royalties, the way the record industry has?

“That’s not a bridge we’ve crossed,” says CEO Ballmer, “and not a bridge I want to cross today on the phone with you.”

The article points out that Microsoft doesn’t make any specific patent claims. They simply break the number down into categories.

But he does break down the total number allegedly violated - 235 - into categories. He says that the Linux kernel - the deepest layer of the free operating system, which interacts most directly with the computer hardware - violates 42 Microsoft patents. The Linux graphical user interfaces - essentially, the way design elements like menus and toolbars are set up - run afoul of another 65, he claims. The Open Office suite of programs, which is analogous to Microsoft Office, infringes 45 more. E-mail programs infringe 15, while other assorted FOSS programs allegedly transgress 68.

I understand that Microsoft is a business and has a duty to its shareholders and the right to protect its patents. But the question I ask here is whether this is a good idea? Is this really a good strategy to meet its fiduciary duty? Will this keep its shareholders, customers, and developers happy?

At the moment, I don’t think this is a wise move. I’m not a patent expert so there is no point in me arguing on the validity of their patent claims, so I won’t. I will try to reserve judgment concerning the areas I am not well informed about. Instead, I want to focus on the negative perception of such a move for Microsoft and the potential effects of that.

On the face of it, given the recent pact between Novell and Microsoft, this seems like a transparent attempt to scare other Linux distributors into forming their own pacts with Microsoft. This perception of bullying certainly doesn’t help Microsoft’s image, which had been on the mend in the last few years.

Not only that, but by executing such a move, Microsoft will find it hard to avoid the charge of hypocrisy by its critics considering how Microsoft itself has been the victim of patent trolling in various lawsuits such as the EOLAS case and the more recent Vertical Computer Systems lawsuit over .NET.

Given the recent Supreme Court rulings around patent trolling, this announcement seems especially poorly timed. Microsoft appears to be trying to have it both ways, fighting against silly patents on the one hand while threatening enforcement of patents with the other.

Again, I do not know that Microsoft is engaging in hypocrisy or patent trolling. I am merely focused on the perception of their actions. I can’t claim that Microsoft is patent trolling because I don’t know whether these patent claims are legitimate. And that’s part of the problem. Nobody knows yet.

By not addressing specifics, Microsoft is not opening its patents to challenge. So while they might not be patent trolling in this case, they certainly are (whether intentionally or not) creating an environment of fear, uncertainty, and doubt for the ecosystems that have grown around these open source projects.

This at a time when Microsoft seemed to really be warming to Open Source. At the Mix07 conference, I really got the sense that developers and program managers at Microsoft are really starting to embrace the Open Source Software and how it fits into the Microsoft ecosystem.

This may be indicative of a disconnect within the Microsoft ranks. It seems that the new wave of Microsoft employees, especially many of their developers and Program managers, see Open Source as a way to enhance and generate value around the Microsoft .NET development platform. Meanwhile, it appears that the old wave of Microsoft executives and its legal department cannot look beyond the potential threat that OSS might be to Microsoft and smell opportunity.

This points to another potential negative effect of this strategy - potential developer discontent within and outside the company. Microsoft’s recent attempt to stifle Office 2007 ribbon look alikes pushed Mike Gunderloy from the ranks of being a relative proponent of Microsoft to deciding to completely leave the Microsoft universe. Could this announcement have a similar effect on other developers and hurt Microsoft’s ongoing competition with Google in retaining the best and the brightest?It remains to be seen.

As I said in a recent interview, I firmly believe that the .NET platform is a fantastic environment for developing open source software. I also believe that these myriad of open source projects built with .NET benefits Microsoft immensely. So this recent news about Microsoft’s Patent fight just leaves me scratching my head, not because I don’t think they have the right to defend their patents, but because I wonder if it’s really the smart thing to do at this time.

In any case, at the very least, I hope they don’t use the RIAA as a model of strategic brilliance and start suing their own customers. Now that, I can unilaterally claim, would be a bad move.

What are your thoughts on this? Am I off base and uninformed, or do I make a good case here?

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With the announcement of the 1.9.5 release of Subtext, I thought I should talk about the new tagging and tag cloud feature. You can see it in action in the sidebar of my site.

Tag To implement tagging, we followed the model I wrote about before. Tags do not replace categories in Subtext. Instead, we adopted an approach using Microformats.

We see categories as a structural element and navigational aid, whereas we see tags as meta-data. For example, in the future, we might consider implementing sub-categories like WordPress does.

The other reason not to implement tags as categories is that most people create way more tags than categories and blog clients are not well suited to deal with a huge number of categories.

To create a tag, simply use the rel-tag microformat. For example, use the following markup…

<a href="http://technorati.com/tag/ASP.NET" rel="tag">ASP.NET</a>

…to tag a post with ASP.NET.

Please note that according to the microformat, the last section of the URL defines the tag, not the text within the anchor element. For example, the following markup…

<a href="http://technorati.com/tag/Subtext" rel="tag">Blog</a>

…tags the post with Subtext and not Blog.

Also note that the URL does not have to point to technorati.com. It can point to anywhere. We just take the last portion of the URL according to the microformat.

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Subtext Submarine
Logo It is with great pleasure and relief that I announce the release of Subtext 1.9.5. Between you and me, I’m just happy to get this release out before the kid is born.

As with most point releases, this is primarily a bug fix release, but we found time to introduce a few nice new features - most notably support for tagging and Identicons.

New Features

  • Content Tagging and Tag Cloud - for more details, refere to this post
  • Identicon Support - Uses the Identicon Handler project on CodePlex.
  • MyBrand Feedburner Support - Updated our FeedBurner implementation to support custom feedburner URLs
  • Upgrade toLightBox 2.0
    • If you referenced the default lightbox skin in your custom skin, please reference this post by Simone to understand how to update the skin.
  • Author CSS Class - The CSS class of “author” is added to comments left by the owner of a blog (must be logged in when leaving comment for this to work). This allows custom skin authors to highlight comments by authors.
  • Credits Page - In the Admin section, we give credit where credit is due, displaying a list of the open source products we make use of in building Subtext.
  • Implemented ASP.NET AJAX - We replaced MagicAjax panel with ASP.NET Ajax libraries. Keep in mind that this requires a bit of new Web.config configuration sections. So be careful when merging your Web.config changes.

Bug Fixes

Clean Installation

A clean install of Subtext is relatively painless. Essentially copy all the files to your webserver, create a database if you don’t already have one, update web.config to point to your database, and you’re all set. For more details on the setup instructions, read the Clean Installation Instructions


Upgrading from a previous 1.9 version is relatively straightforward. For the safest approach, follow the upgrade instructions here.

I’ve written a command line tool for upgrading Subtext, but it isn’t production ready yet. Our goal is to make the upgrade process as seamless as possible in future versions. If you’d like to help with that, we’d love to have your contributions!


As always, you can download the latest release here. The install file contains just the files you need to deploy to your webserver. The source file contains full source code.


As always, many thanks go out to the many Subtext contributors and community members who helped make this latest release possible. Subtext keeps on getting better because of the community involvement. Just take a look at the improvements to our Continous Integration and Build Server as an example.

If you’d like to contribute, we’re always looking for help. Great positions are open!

What’s Next?

I’m wrapping up a project for a client in which I was able to implement multiple authors per blog. Hopefully, this means that Subtext 2.0 won’t take as long to release as 1.9.5 did.

We are constantly improving our development process and refactoring the code. The big push for 2.0 is to get the Plugin Model and custom MembershipProvider rock solid and to refactor and clean up the code heavily.

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Today is my last day of work as a VelocIT employee, a company I helped start and had (and still have) high hopes for as employee #1.

No, I’m not being fired for blogging too much or embezzling funds. No, there wasn’t a big falling out with partners in the company throwing books at each other and screaming expletives. Unfortunately, nothing dramatic and tabloid-worthy like that happened at all.

I simply lost interest in being a consultant and I blameSubtext. Micah Dylan, the CEO and Founder of VelocIT and my good friend, and I often talked about the idea that there are two general types of developers (I’m sure there are many more).

  1. Developers who are easily bored and love to learn about new businesses and business models. Staying on one project forever would cause these devs to go insane. They love the excitement of jumping from client to client and project to project.
  2. Developers who love to craft and hone a single code-base through multiple versions. These devs are fine sticking with a project for a long time and get enjoyment in watching the application take form over the years.

For a long time, I’ve been more firmly in camp #1 with tendencies towards #2. But over the past couple of years working on Subtext, I’ve never gotten bored with working on the same code and realized I have been in Camp #2 for a good while now.

Sure, I do get excited about learning new technologies all the time, but now it is in the context of how they will help me make Subtext a better blog engine.

Not only that, I found that what I most love about the Subtext project is not just the craft of developing an application over multiple versions, but the joy in building a community around that project.

Maybe this is because with Subtext, my “clients” are other developers. I understand developers better than I do other clients because their pain is often my pain. I just don’t have the same pains that a Director of Marketing does (well actually I kind of do with Subtext, but I don’t have any budget to address those pains so I ignore the pain).

My heart just hasn’t been in consulting for a good while now, but I couldn’t leave while we were struggling along at the brink of going out of business. So I pushed on, helped land a big client, and now it looks like VelocIT is close to having more projects on its hands than employees! So if you love consulting and software development, send Jon Galloway your resume.

I will still be involved with VelocIT in a limited capacity. Discussions are still underway, but I hope to remain on as a Board Member and shareholder. The team we’ve assembled at VelocIT are among the best and brightest I have ever worked with. I love working with them and working from home. I willl certainly miss all of that.

So where am I going next?

I’ll be taking a position with Koders Inc. as the Product Manager of the Koders.com website, an Open Source code search engine. I think this will be a good fit for me due to my passion for open source software.

My goal is to as much as possible help developers become more productive via search driven development and the services that naturally extend from that.

Naturally, the best way to do that is to provide relevant search results. But beyond that, I believe that building an active community around the site via tools, widgets, and APIs that developers can use in their own projects will also be very important in being a useful resource for developers. Koders is for coders and developers.

I’ll be relying on your feedback regarding the site’s usability and how well it helps you to be more productive to help me do my job. In other words, I’m going to take my lazy butt and try and ride your coattails in order to do my job well. Is that genius or what? ;)

One thing I really like about the site so far is the project browser. Check out the browser for the MbUnit project. Wouldn’t it be nice to integrate that into your project homepage, your CruiseControl.NET build, or even replace the the CodePlex code browser with that? (hint hint Codeplex).

In any case, wish me luck. This is probably the most difficult job change ever for me since it’s not just a job that I’m leaving, and not just a job that I’m joining.

One funny part of this I won’t tell you yet. But you’ll laugh when you hear the name we chose for our son, which we chose before all this happened.

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If you downloaded Subtext last night and try to edit keywords in the admin section, you might run into a syntax error. I fixed the download so if the file you download is named


(notice the all caps “INSTALL”) you have nothing to worry about.

If you downloaded


Then you might want to replace the EditKeywords.aspx file in the Admin folder with this one.

My apologies. I thought I had tested every page in the admin before releasing, but it was late and I must have missed this one. I never use that page day to day so my dogfooding attempts surely missed it.