06 November 2009

Microsoft's Biological Implants

Microsoft's up to its old tricks of offering pretty baubles to the innocent with The Microsoft Biology Foundation:

The bioinformatics community has developed a strong tradition of open development, code sharing, and cross-platform support, and a number of language-specific bioinformatics toolkits are now available. These toolkits serve as valuable nucleation points for the community, promoting the sharing of code and establishing de facto standards.

The Microsoft Biology Foundation (MBF) is a language-neutral bioinformatics toolkit built as an extension to the Microsoft .NET Framework. Currently it implements a range of parsers for common bioinformatics file formats; a range of algorithms for manipulating DNA, RNA, and protein sequences; and a set of connectors to biological Web services such as NCBI BLAST. MBF is available under an open source license, and executables, source code, demo applications, and documentation are freely downloadable from the link below.

Gotta love the segue from "strong tradition of open development, code sharing and cross-platform support" to "here, take these patent-encumbered .NET Framework toys to play with".

The point being, of course, that once you have dutifully installed the .NET framework, with all the patents that Microsoft claims on it, and become locked into it through use and habit, you are part of the Microsoft-controlled ecosystem. And there you are likely to stay, since Microsoft doesn't even pretend any of this stuff will be ported to other platforms.

For, under the misleading heading "Cross-platform and interoperability" it says:

MBF works well on the Windows operating system and with a range of Microsoft technologies.

Yeah? And what about non-Microsoft operating systems and technologies?

We plan to work with the developer community to take advantage of the extensibility of MBF and support an increasing range of Microsoft and non-Microsoft tools as the project develops.

Well, that's a complete irrelevance to being cross-platform: it just says it'll work with other stuff - big deal.

If I were a biologist I'd be insulted at this thinly-disguised attempt to implant such patent-encumbered software into the bioinformatics community, which has a long and glorious tradition of supporting free software that is truly free and truly cross-platform, and thus to enclose one of the most flourishing and vibrant software commons.

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1 comment:

Dreamer said...

I dream about a world without gates and windows.