Microsoft Contributes to Samba, World Keeps Spinning

Amid all the tempest and turmoil here in the technology world, it can be easy to get lost in the details.

After all, with all the software patent battles, the endless debates over the Linux desktop, and a never-ending array of other topics to quibble over, who can be blamed for missing the proverbial forest with all these distracting “trees” standing in the way?

Events of late have provided an excellent illustration.

A ‘Notable’ Submission

“If you follow the Samba Technical Mailing List, you may have noted a patch submission that came in on October 10th, 2011,” wrote Samba team member Chris Hertel in a blog post recently.

“As often happens, a couple of developers at a company found a way to improve core Samba code,” Hertel went on. “They got permission to submit the patches under their own copyright and the terms of the GPL, and they sent the patches in.

“It happens all the time in Samba, and we are always grateful,” he added. “The only notable thing in this particular case is the company for which those developers work: Microsoft.”

‘That’s How Far Things Have Come’

That’s right, none other than Redmond itself recently contributed code to none other than the Samba project’s open source file, print and authentication services software for Windows clients, which is now a standard piece of most Linux distributions.

Microsoft has contributed code to other projects before, of course. Its relationship with Samba, however, has been tense at best.

“A few years back, a patch submission from coders at Microsoft would have been amazing to the point of unthinkable,” Hertel noted. Today, however, “most people didn’t even notice the source of the contribution. That’s how far things have come in the past four-ish years,” he added.

‘Freak Snowstorm Reported in Hell’

Did Linux bloggers sit up and take notice of this new milestone? You bet your GPL-licensed source code they did.

“Freak snowstorm reported in hell. Tea party agrees Obama is the best candidate for 2012 presidential election,” began Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols’ piece over at ZDNet, for example.

“How do you solve a problem like Microsoft?” was the headline over at ITworld.

Conversations down at the Linux blogosphere’s Broken Windows Lounge, meanwhile, revealed a diversity of opinions.

‘Kicking and Screaming’

“Samba is a fantastic example of what happens when a closed protocol becomes open,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told Linux Girl.

“Before Samba, SMB was only used for sharing files between computers or reading files off of a server, but now that it has become open it has expanded to new possibilities undreamed of by anyone,” Mack explained. “We have home-size NAS backup devices and we have media streaming direct to the TV, to name two examples on opposite ends of the client/server model.

“Now that Microsoft had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Samba world, they see the benefits enough to want to expand on the project,” he added.

‘Another Good Sign’

“It’s good to see someone from Microsoft get the official OK to submit a patch to samba,” agreed Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.

“It’s a far cry from when the European Union was putting the heat to Microsoft to share documentation on protocols so that open source could better interoperate,” Hudson added. “Of course, part of the problem at the time was that a lot of the documentation didn’t exist — which is a telling commentary on Microsoft’s development process. But I digress.

“Is it ironic that it’s a patch to enhance security?” she concluded. “Maybe, but perhaps that’s also another good sign.”

‘It Is a Good Thing’

Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, was also pleased at the news.

“I think it means a recognition on Microsoft’s part that their customers may want Samba to work,” Travers told Linux Girl. “It may also be a recognition on the part of the software giant that helping ensure the software works may reduce their support costs. All in all, it is a good thing.”

Of course, “I wouldn’t expect Microsoft to start endorsing the product anytime soon,” he added.

‘No One Needs to Use Samba’

Indeed, “M$ had to contribute to Samba because customers insist on using GNU/Linux, and if Samba doesn’t work, M$ will lose server market share and possibly clients too,” blogger Robert Pogson asserted.

“Fortunately, no one needs to use Samba if they don’t use that other OS,” Pogson added.

Finally, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet wasn’t surprised by Microsoft’s contribution, but he anticipated a chilly reception from Linux fans.

‘Windows Is a Part of the Landscape’

“It amazes me how many in the community have been infected by what I call the ‘FOSS Club’ mentality,” hairyfeet charged, “where anything that makes your life easier is ‘bad’ and anything that makes Linux harder is ‘good.’

“You watch how many will be spewing hate and wanting this code gone, even though all it does is make it easier to interoperate with Windows shares!” hairyfeet predicted. “Like it or not, folks, Windows is a part of the landscape. Wouldn’t it be nice to have as much as possible seamless between Windows and Linux?”

Ultimately, “anything that makes it easier for users to get their work done in FOSS should be looked upon as a good thing,” he concluded.

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.


  • … they tend to use personal copyright assignments from developers to avoid weakening any of their patents.

    Microsoft is still the self-serving empire, this just goes to show the power of open source. Eventually some things get so big, you just have to play nice in order to be competitive. Lock-in is not longer a huge danger, but keep a lookout on patent issues.

    • But I’ve always prided myself on simply calling it as I see it from my little retail PC shop. I think that is why so many in the community dislike me, because I don’t blow smoke or make believe things are rosy when they are bad. BTW did you notice old nutty Pogson STILL can’t say Microsoft? Its the classic "Voldemort" FOSSie disease, where they can ONLY say "that other OS" or "M$" like there is a sekret MS Ninja wanting to get them. don’t believe me, look at Ms Noyes past postings and you will see he has NEVER said Microsoft or even MSFT which is what i usually write.

      Sadly turkey week will be my last shot at FOSS Oses for a couple of years though, when even someone VERY well versed in Linux says ‘I’m switching to BSD and if I can’t get it to work i’m giving up!" and most likely gonna buy a Mac or go Windows? You KNOW there is trouble in paradise.

      All I have been asking the community for is a clean, easy to use, light resource OS that does NOT break when you update or requires you to spend days in the term when something goes wrong, is that SO much to ask for?

      And before someone pops up with the usual suspects, Ubuntu, PCLOS, etc let me say i have tried ALL of the supposedly user friendly distros and NOT ONE has passed my "is it safe?" test. try it yourself, download the version from 3 years ago (Windows on average gets 7 years worth of updates so it is actually giving an advantage to Linux off the bat) and install it. Make sure ALL of the hardware is working, then upgrade to current. What’s that? Your hardware broke? tada!

      yet I’ve seen FOSSies so committed (perfect term) to "the cause" they have actually told me I need to disable ALL updates and then hand out the PC! Like simply having Linux makes a magical barrier so even security patches are no longer needed!

      So this turkey week I’m trying FreeBSD after wasting over a month on every flavor of distro that was even slightly user friendly. if FreeBSD can’t pass my "Is it safe?" test i’ll have NO choice but search the world for someone that will sell me Win 7 Starter for the refurbs and look for some kind of bulk deal on win 7 HP, because rep is everything in retail. I burn my rep i don’t eat. And as it is now not a SINGLE Linux passes my is it safe test, even with me only giving them 3 years instead of MSFT’s 7 to give them a better head start. that’s just sad people, just sad.

      • Thank You a refreshing viewpoint and a truth for sure.

        Ref: hairyfeet 2011-11-10

        How is it it’s taken so long to say the truth.

        Where is the clean, easy to use, light resource OS that does NOT break when you update or requires you to spend days in the term when something goes wrong, is that SO much to ask for?

        My last update to Kubuntu broke the networking over a year ago. The system is still not working. I need to learn two more languages to fix it: GRUB Speak and Kickstart Speak. Even a partition removal will leave an unclean system.


        • the lies. they say ‘oh its easy enough for granny now!" without mentioning the fine print that says "If granny has a programmer or admin in the family to constantly tweak it for her or she has a CS degree".

          I sell to NORMAL folks, the checkout girl, the guy working on the roadcrew, the girl that cashes your check at the bank and so far i have YET to find a SINGLE Linux that these people can use! there is NO QA, there is NO seeming to care about driver breakage, there is NO thoughts about user friendliness or usability, its all "Just go to the forums, find a fix, and then open up bash and type" 14 pages of mess which if they get a single thing wrong the whole machine is borked!

          That is just unacceptable, either the community needs to fix these things and stop relying on CLI as a magic crutch or just accept they only want to be a hobbyist OS for programmers and call it a day. Because as it is I can’t even find a single distro that can pass my is it safe test, which is half of the support cycle of Windows. it just won’t cut it in retail and THAT is why Linux isn’t gaining ground, not some conspiracy, but because it simply doesn’t work for the masses.

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