Poisoned Apple: Microsoft’s Visual Code Studio for Linux

Microsoft announced yesterday they were publishing an IDE dubbed Visual Studio Code that works on MacOS X and, surprise, Linux. It would seem Linus Torvald’s “I won” is now past due.

Not so fast.

No, it’s not April 1st, hell has not frozen over, and, no, there are no pigs obscuring the sky. This is business as usual for Microsoft, nothing has changed, nothing to celebrate. Get over it. If you read until the end, you will see how their strategy has not changed significantly from the 90s.

Let’s get the noisy bits out of the way first: Microsoft announced it on their twitter feed and you can download the software from here, if you are so inclined. Most other news outlets, by the way, have the URL wrong. I guess that’s what happens when you trust Microsoft’s marketing team.

First off, note we said “published” a few paragraphs back, because anybody who uses the term “released” is kidding themselves. This IDE may be free (as in beer), but it is as proprietary as they come. Take a look at clause 6 in the license:

6. SCOPE OF LICENSE. The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights to use the software. Microsoft reserves all other rights. Unless applicable law gives you more rights despite this limitation, you may use the software only as expressly permitted in this agreement. In doing so, you must comply with any technical limitations in the software that only allow you to use it in certain ways. You may not
* work around any technical limitations in the software;
* reverse engineer, decompile or disassemble the software, or otherwise attempt to derive the source code for the software except, and solely to the extent: (i) permitted by applicable law, despite this limitation; or (ii) required to debug changes to any libraries licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License which are included with and linked to by the software;
* remove, minimize, block or modify any notices of Microsoft or its suppliers in the software;
* use the software in any way that is against the law; or
* share, publish, or lend the software, or provide it as a hosted solution for others to use, or transfer the software or this agreement to any third party.

So, yeah, “released” is kinda too strong a word. “Leashed“, as in “on a dog collar tied to the wall” would be much more apt.

Also, and just in case there was any doubt, you can’t program any of the Python, Perl, or even PHP commie crap with this. Oh no! This IDE is to get more developers using the wholesome ASP.NET framework, owned exclusively by Microsoft. Have we really forgotten all the “embrace, extend and exterminate” thing already?

Futhermore, it does not help the Free Software movement to have more proprietary gunk piled on top of Linux. Quite the contrary: it distracts users from supporting and developers from helping real, honest-to-god libre projects, depleting their communities and putting their chances of survival into jeopardy. Again, have we forgotten how close some vital libre projects came to extinction over the last couple of years? I you want to see all other development environments wilt and die until there is no alternative left, go ahead, buy into the “Visual Studio is coming to Linux” spiel.

But if you want to do good by Linux, if you believe Open Source is the way to good, and having a choice is a good thing, you’ll support and use Free Software, real Free Software… and use free IDEs and frameworks to develop your programs.

No need to bite into Microsoft’s poisoned apple.