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Source Code

Why doesn't a company like Microsoft make its source code available? Because the value of the company is based mostly on its intellectual property, and the source code of a program like Microsoft Access contains all the valuable intellectual property that anyone who would want to copy the program would need. Some programs, like MySQL or OpenOffice, are made available as open source software (OSS), but that requires the permission of the programmers who wrote the code. I have chosen a different approach: you can read the source code if you sign a Adobe Acrobat Portable DocumentNon-Disclosure Agreement. This approach allows programmers to write and share code with a small group of peers, without worrying that their efforts are going to become public domain. Not everyone wants that.

Why would you want to read the code? To figure out how it works, remove bugs or errors, or extend it. Alternatively, it would be easy to check for malicious or "hidden codes" described in the lawyer's letter (see below). So you don't make a fool of yourself by making stupid and/or false accusations.

Real programmers like to improve things, or reuse functions or libraries without having to reinvent the wheel. It makes you more productive, and hopefully provides an example of how to do things properly. Many of the facilities in Open Access came from other programmers.

The list goes on.

Napoleon's Rule and Urban Legends

“Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte

There is a well known urban legend about programmers who, when fired, let loose all kinds of malicious schemes to delete data or programs. Unfortunately, it is only a technical muggle who has no idea what he is talking about who would believe this, and only an incompetent manager who would actually accuse someone of doing it without a shred of proof.

Unfortunately I have been forced to remove a copy of their baseless accusations from this web site. I guess they found it to embarrassing. It was made without even verifying the truth or validity of such an accusation. If it wasn't for Napoleon's Rule I would have thought it was a deliberate attempt to undermine my professional reputation. Of course the money-grabbing law firm that sent the letter didn't have a clue what it was talking about either. They haven't acted on any of their threats either, or even bothered to apologise. Why am I not surprised?


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All information copyright © 2006 Black and White Inc. All rights reserved. First published 1st March 2006. Last Updated: 22/06/2006 13:55