Microsoft dreams

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I won this great big lottery the other day. I rushed around and bought new houses and all the usual stuff, then I had enough left over to get a new sports car. Before I went to look at the latest Porsches and Ferraris, I thought I might have a look at the new MicroKlapt V16 F1 GT Ultimate. They had all these ads with everyone dancing around going, “Wow", so it looked pretty good.

I sauntered into the showroom and there she was. Roof-line about the level of my knee-caps? Yep. Foot-wide tyres? Sure has. Motor right behind the cockpit? I started fooling around to get the engine-cover up so I could check out the motor. A salesman came rushing over, wringing his hands.

“Oh no, sir, you mustn’t try to do that. You’re not allowed to look in there. That’s all secret patented stuff in there."

“But I want to take a look at that glorious 7 litre, quad cam, twin turbo,V16 before I buy it."

“Well, you can’t, because the engine-cover is welded shut."

“Why on earth would you want to do a thing like that?"

“Because, sir, if you could look at the engine you might try to copy the Intellectual Property that’s inside it. Then you could start building your own 7 litre, quad cam, twin turbo, V16 engines and MicroKlapt Corporation could lose a lot of money if someone was to do something like that."

“But what if I need to put oil in it?"

“Ah, sir won’t have to worry about that. The ingenious designers at MicroKlapt Corporation have developed our patented Automatic Oil-Add System to relieve the user from such concerns. As soon as the engine sensors discover that the motor requires additional oil, this little light flashes on the dashboard, and a spoken command tells you, Add oil immediately. Then you press this little red button, a small hatch springs open next to the engine-cover and a little funnel automatically comes out for you to pour oil into it."

“How do I know when to stop pouring?"

“Ah, some clever sensors MicroKlapt have built into the engine tell it when it has had enough, and the spoken command, Stop pouring comes out of this speaker mounted here. Please remember, that to maintain your MicroKlapt Genuine Continued Customer Satisfaction Guarantee Agreement, the MGCCSGA for short, you must only ever use the MicroKlapt Genuine Approved Oil, MGAO 731942865, which has been specially formulated by MicroKlapt for your particular model’s motor. We supply this for a mere $599 per litre."

“Isn’t that a trifle expensive."

“Ah, my dear sir, the peace of mind you get from your continued MGCCSGA can never be too expensive."

We took it for a run, but I was totally underwhelmed with the lacking performance.

“Why does it sound like a four cylinder Corolla motor and not like a V16?"

“Ah, that’s because of all the casing we have had to put around the motor to give you the extra security of knowing that no-one can get in to look at it. But MicroKlapt have added a special switch so you can have the sound piped directly into the cockpit, if you wish."

The roar of a V16, revving wildly, suddenly erupted out of a speaker directly behind my head, and I nearly ran off the road. We pulled up in front of the showroom again.

“But why is it so slow? I mean, that was a 1970s, Russian two-cylinder Trabant that blew us off at the lights and this is supposed to be a V16."

“Yes sir, but please remember the security. MicroKlapt have welded enough armour-plated steel around the engine-bay to build two full-sized SUVs. You’ve got to expect a small performance trade-off if you want secure peace of mind. You just don’t get that with a Trabant. Anyone can get in and look at your motor. Besides, there’s the extra weight of all the radio equipment."

“What flaming radio equipment?"

“Well, as soon as you start your motor, the sensors in the engine bay check to see whether you’ve tried to change anything. Then they radio to MicroKlapt headquarters to see if it’s alright for you to drive off, or not. After that, they tell MicroKlapt everywhere you go in it."

“But I don’t want to be tracked all over the place."

“Look, MicroKlapt only does this for your own security. Just think if someone stole your car, MicroKlapt will know exactly where it is at all times."

“But I will need to get in and put bigger turbos on it to overcome all the extra weight."

“I’m sorry, but your MicroKlapt Agreement strictly forbids you from doing anything like that."

“But I’m buying the blasted thing. I want to be able to get in and change anything I want, just like I do with the Kubuntu on my computer."

“That’s where you are very wrong, sir. MicroKlapt doesn’t actually sell you the car, it only leases it to you, under the strict license that you don’t try to do anything they might disapprove of."

I told him just what he could do with his MicroKlapt and started heading down the street to have another look at a Porsche GT2 that I liked the look of, when the alarm-clock rang, and I turned over in bed.

“What a stupid dream," I thought to myself. “Who would ever try to sell a car with all those ridiculous conditions attached."

It seemed to remind me of something, but the thought faded as the morning wore on.



Crosbie Fitch's picture

10 black garbed soldiers, ominous and armed to the teeth, with neo-FAST logos emblazoned upon their backs, arrive one morning to confront the MD at the head office of KarBuntu Motors (R&D).

Their squad leader, a combat trained, Auto-GPL lawyer, is met by the MD.

MD: Can I help you?

SL: We're here to discover the designs and other IP involved in your enhancement of the Kubuntu automobile framework due to your violation of the Auto-GPL in one key area.

MD: But, we've always been most careful. All purchasers of KarBuntu products are always given full documentation, and Auto-GPL licenses to free use of all our designs and IP, for the unconstrained modification, reproduction and sale of our vechicles.

SL: Did you or did you not allow Gil Bates of 3 Acacia Gardens, to test drive your latest prototype?

MD: Yes...

SL: He is therefore entitled to unobfuscated copies of all the designs involved in the development of the prototype.

MD: But no, surely not. We haven't even been paid yet for the years of research we done, by the KarBuntu Users' Finance Company. He's contracted to test drive them, and thus exempt from obtaining copies of the design.

SL: It seems there was no such contract. You have supplied an Auto-GPL licensed vehicle to an end user, for their domestic use.

MD: Oh dear. So what happens now?

SL: Because of your non-compliance in failing to disclose documentation to him at the time he came into possession of the vehicle, its designs and IP are now forfeit, to be delivered immediately to this discovery envoy, whereafter we will publish them on your behalf for the benefit of all.

MD: But, we'll go bankrupt! All our staff are depending upon the sale of our R&D to pay off our costs.

SL: You should have been more careful.

MD: And what if we resist?

SL: We will take it from you.

MD: And what if you don't find it, or it's encrypted?

SL: You and all your staff will be persuaded to retrieve or decrypt it at leisure in our Cuban IP recovery facility.

MD: Can't you just wait until we get paid for it?

SL: IP is theft. You should know that by now.

Norman Jolley's picture

Is Microsoft afraid to open code to public scrutiny because so much of it has been "borrowed" or otherwise stolen from any source, including Linux? It is no secret that Microsoft paid Apple for the use of the "Windows" GUI and for Apple Talk. Internet Explorer originated as freeware, decades ago. I would like to see an impartial audit of Microsoft software - not likely to happen while Microsoft is so generous with gifts of money (better known as bribes).

Laurie Langham's picture

That's true, but we tended to loosely identify the whole Soviet block as being "Russia" at one time. This is a bit like calling US citizens "Americans" when they actually occupy only a fairly small section of the American land-mass, although in the case of the Soviet States they were all part of the same political entity, like it, or not.

It's interesting to note that the technologically advanced Germans degenerated to the standard of producing the likes of the Trabant, after such a few years as part of the Soviet monopoly, while the free competition that was allowed to continue, just a few miles away in West Germany, was producing highly advanced vehicles like Porsche and Mercedes.

This helps demonstrate the bad effect that the Microsoft monopoly has been having on the development of software. Monopolies will always tend to discourage technical advancement by their very nature.

Mitch Meyran's picture

...and I'm not sure that identifying trabant with USSR was worth it: trabant cars polluted a lot, were far from being fuel efficient, and quite difficult to maintain considering how simple they were. In that sense, a Lada would have been a much, much better comparison: simple yes, but also reliable to the extreme.

Other 'simple' cars such as the VW bug (modular and reliable) or the Citroen 2CV (polyvalent and modular) would have been much better metaphors for Free Software.
A computer is like air conditioning: it becomes useless when you open windows.

Author information

Laurie Langham's picture


A retired, recent Kubuntu fanatic, who has graduated through Microsoft, Mandrake, Debian, Ubuntu,and now to Kubuntu.