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Petition asking Microsoft to open-source Windows 7 sails past 7,777-signature goal

The Free Software Foundation really set the bar high there

Good news everybody! The Free Software Foundation has blown through its self-imposed target of 7,777 signatories in its efforts to persuade Microsoft to make Windows 7 open source.

We noted last week the GNU-gang's attempt to coax the born-again open-sourcerer formerly known as "The Beast Of Redmond" into making a surprise deposit into GitHub.

The thinking was that since Windows 7 has now come to the end of the road, as far as free security updates are concerned, then perhaps Microsoft might release it as open software?

We put it to the Free Software Foundation that it might be more complicated than that – after all, Windows 7 contains all manner of codecs and the like licensed from third parties, as well as code licensed back to those same customers.

The FSF's Greg Farough told us: "We want all software to be free software." The clue, after all, is in the name. "But Microsoft freeing just the operating system itself would satisfy our demand here."

But what of those enterprises that have already paid for support? Should Microsoft start lobbing out refunds or fork the freshly open-sourced code base?

"Enterprises wouldn't be paying for a licence anymore," explained Farough, "but they would still need support."

With what we imagine is the starry-eyed glint of a true believer, he added: "They could either choose to take that on internally, with other vendors, or stick with Microsoft. That's one of the beauties of free software.

"You may still have to pay for support, but you can shop around without arbitrary restrictions, and you're not paying for just a licence."

Certainly, anyone who has had to explain to a bean counter that Linux is free but those who look after it – internally or externally – still expect to be paid will know that there is always a cost somewhere down the line.

We put it to Farough that other obsolete software in the Office or Server lines might also benefit from the open source wand. He agreed, but said the focus was on Windows 7 due to "headlines we're seeing about users feeling left in the lurch by the EOL".

Farough told us that the FSF usually gives Microsoft stick "for their proprietary software", but since the giant had "been talking so much about how they now support free software (they usually say 'open source' or 'Linux'), we think they should take this opportunity to do the right thing."

Freeing the software, he reckoned, would mean it would stay alive as long as someone could be bothered to maintain the thing. "Intentionally killing Windows [7] off," he said, "is irresponsible and even disrespectful to the many people who have spent so much time using and developing it."

While those who developed it (Microsoft) would dearly like to see the back of it, Farough has a point regarding those used to its familiar Aero desktop. A good portion of users remain on the platform unable or unwilling to upgrade or pay for extended support.

"We do already have our own operating system, GNU/Linux, so we don't *need* Windows 7," Farough said, but added the FSF would be happy to shepherd Microsoft through the wilds of open-source licenceland (and all the monsters within).

"As the FSF is the caretaker of the GPL, we feel confident in our ability to assist them."

We asked Microsoft if it had any more thoughts now that the petition had passed its target but the company declined to comment.

And the target? Far be it from us to suggest it might have been a little on the low side, but more people signed a petition to sort out the roads in the UK county of Surrey. Or ban the sale of fireworks to the clearly untrustworthy British public.

To be frank, Satan is more likely to caught riding a snowplough before that source is made free. Certainly in the near to medium term. In the meantime, if Windows 10 is out of the question and you're reluctant to pay Apple's idiot tax, then perhaps a look a modern Linux distribution will be enough to scratch that free software itch.

The world has, after all, moved on a bit in the decade since Windows 7 was new. ®

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