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Group Pushes for Windows 7's Second Life as Free Software

An industry group is urging Microsoft to release its proprietary Windows 7 code as free software.

The Free Software Foundation this week announced that it has established a petition asking Microsoft to let Windows 7 live on as free software. The foundation aims to get 7,777 signatures to that effect. At press time, it had 233 signers.

By "free," the organization means that "the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software," according to its definition. The organization claims that free software is different from open source software in terms of "values."

Windows 7 reached its end-of-life stage on Jan. 14, meaning that Microsoft no longer distributes free software patches for it, although a paid Extended Security Updates program is available. The operating system is considered to be "unsupported" software by Microsoft, and it's thought to be potentially insecure to use it, since Microsoft won't patch software vulnerabilities, even if they are publicly known.

While that's a big downside, the Free Software Foundation nevertheless wants to have the use of Windows 7 as free software, even though it described Windows 7 as ushering in 10 years of "poisoning education, invading privacy, and threatening user security." The comment about Windows 7 invading privacy is a clear indication that foundation members haven't yet tried Windows 10, which really ups that game.

Since Microsoft released code for the Windows Calculator, it can do the same for Windows 7, the foundation argued.

"As there is already a precedent for releasing some core Windows utilities as free software, Microsoft has nothing to lose by liberating a version of their operating system that they themselves say has 'reached its end'," the announcement stated.

Microsoft did release MS-DOS five years ago as downloadable code, but its use is tied to a noncommercial-use license agreement. That sort of restriction crimps freedom, so it wouldn't appear to appease the foundation.

Microsoft's CEO has claimed that Microsoft now "loves" open source software, and various examples have emerged in recent years. Much of those details were chronicled by Microsoft Distinguished Engineer John Gossman during a 2018 Open Source Virtual Conference event. Even Windows is up for consideration, as Microsoft's chief technology officer had suggested four years ago that future Windows releases could be open source.

But Microsoft's love of open source software isn't enough, according to the foundation. "Microsoft has taken a few steps in the right direction, such as releasing some small but important components of Windows as free software," it explained. "We want to push them to go further."

In particular, Microsoft should release Windows 7 code under a free software license to prove that its love of open source software isn't just a ruse to "exploit users," the foundation argued.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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