More than 10 years on from its campaign to persuade users to dump Windows 7 for a non-proprietary alternative, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has kicked off a petition to urge Microsoft to open-source the recently snuffed software.
On the face of it, the logic seems pretty simple. On 14 January Windows 7 reached its end of life as Microsoft turned off the free security update taps with a final fix (which seemed to bork desktop wallpapers for some users).
"Its life doesn't have to end," cried the foundation. "We call on Microsoft to upcycle it instead."
Unfortunately, the FSF couldn't resist a final dig, saying the killing of the OS had brought to an end "its updates as well as its 10 years of poisoning education, invading privacy, and threatening user security."
Hey team, way to go on persuading the Redmond gang to do you a solid. Suggesting such a release would go some way to "undo past wrongs" may not be a persuasive argument for the Seattle suits, who probably saw Windows 7 as way of undoing the heinous deeds of Vista.
There is a precedent. Ancient MS-DOS and Word code has been opened up, and the Calculator app found in the current Windows 10 now lurks on GitHub. But an entire, relatively recent OS?
We can see some problems, not least the licensed components lurking in Windows 7 that would need to be either excised or open-sourced as well. Then there are the bits and pieces that the company would consider valuable secrets (large chunks of Windows 7 linger on in Windows 10 after all.)
And then there is the fact that Windows 7 is not actually unsupported. Three more years of updates are available for those who can pay. And with Windows (as well those parts of it licensed to third parties) still accounting for a sizeable chunk of Microsoft's revenues, we can imagine a very functional and highly compatible free version is not really in the company's best fiscal interests.
And let's be honest, who knows what might be lurking in that code. "Take that, Penguin fsckers!" anyone? It was a different time.
The Register contacted Microsoft on the off-chance that Windows 7 might be showing up on GitHub at some point soon, but we were told that the company doesn't comment on rumours and speculation. The Win 7 request from FSF is neither rumour nor speculation.
In any event, if open source is your thing, there are plenty of Linux distributions in a far better state of usefulness than what was around when Windows 7 first launched. And if there is that Windows app you just can't do without, the popular compatibility layer Wine received a bump to version 5 this week, replete with over 7,400 tweaks to allow you to inflict more Windows apps on your Penguin-tinged OS.
Still, never say never. If you told us 10 years ago that Microsoft would be about to ship a version of Windows containing the Linux kernel we might have sprayed precious beer from our nostrils.
So who knows what else might be coming down the line? ®
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