Microsoft confirms open-source code in Windows 7 utility

Microsoft confirmed Nov. 13 that the utility software used to install Windows 7 inadvertently contained open-source GNU code.

Microsoft's Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool facilitates the creation of a Windows 7 ISO image that can be stored on bootable USB or DVD media. It's particularly helpful for installing Windows 7 on netbooks, which typically lack CD or DVD drives.

The tool uses General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2) code, said Peter Galli, open-source community manager at Microsoft's Platform Strategy Group.

"After looking at the code in question, we are now able to confirm this was indeed the case, although it was not intentional on our part," Galli wrote on Microsoft's "Port 25" blog.

Galli said a third party had developed the tool, and Microsoft had failed to detect the GPLv2 code when reviewing the project. The tool appears to have been removed from the Microsoft Store, though at press time, CNet's Web site still offered it as a free download.

Windows blogger Rafael Rivera Jr. was the first to note that the tool's code had been lifted from the ImageMaster project on Microsoft's open-source CodePlex site. The project has since been removed from the site.

However, rather than eliminating the tool's code, Microsoft plans to make it publicly available in accordance the GPLv2 license. Users of GPL code are free to modify it for their purposes but then must share the modified code.

"As a result, we will be making the source code as well as binaries for this tool available next week under the terms of the General Public License v2 as described here and are also taking measures to apply what we have learned from this experience for future code reviews we perform," Galli wrote.

Violations of the license are a daily occurrence, said Bradley Kuhn, policy analyst and technology director at the Software Freedom Law Center. He provided some reporting guidelines in a recent blog post for those who help track GPL violations.

In other software intellectual property news, the Groklaw Web site said Nov. 11 that it appeared that Microsoft had received a patent on sudo, a command-line interface commonly used in open-source Linux operating systems. Groklaw, which tracks free software and legal issues related to open-source technology, pointed to Patent No. 7617530, which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently granted to Microsoft. The patent's description matched that of sudo, according to Groklaw.

However, Seattle-PI reporter Nick Eaton interviewed one of the maintainers of sudo, Todd Miller, about the patent. Miller said Microsoft's technology differed from sudo.

"I really don't think that that patent applies to sudo," Miller told Seattle-PI. "I read through it, and it seems to be something completely different."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.


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