Repentant Microsoft re-issues Windows 7 tool as open-source

Revises netbook upgrade tool after admitting it copied code

Microsoft yesterday re-released a Windows 7 installation tool that it admitted included open-source code, and has posted the utility's source code to its own open-source site.

The move came three weeks after Microsoft announced it had delayed the re-release of the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (WUDT) because the software needed additional testing. At the time, Peter Galli, Microsoft's open-source community manager, said that WUDT would be re-issued in the "next few weeks."

Earlier in November, Microsoft pulled WUDT after blogger Rafael Rivera accused the company of lifting code from the GPLv2-licensed "Imagemaster" open-source project. Rivera, who writes the Within Windows blog, said Microsoft compounded the problem by not acknowledging the source of the code embedded in WUDT, and by not sharing the source code for its modifications, or for the tool itself, to the project -- as required by the terms of GPL (GNU General Public License).

WUDT has now been released under the provisions of GPLv2, Galli said yesterday.

However, because Microsoft was forced to split the new WUDT into several components due to licensing requirements, some users must now go through a more complicated installation procedure, Galli acknowledged. Customers running Windows XP must install .Net Framework 2 and the Image Mastering API (application programming interface) before installing WUDT, according to new instructions published by Microsoft.

Microsoft originally released WUDT in October, when it touted the tool as a way for netbook owners to create a bootable flash drive from a downloaded .iso file, or disk image, of Windows 7 purchased from Microsoft's online store. Most netbooks lack an optical drive and so can't install the new OS from a DVD.

After WUDT's release, Rivera accused Microsoft of taking code from the open-source Imagemaster project. Yesterday, Rivera said that Microsoft had pulled the Imagemaster code from WUDT at the request of its maker. "I suspect he freaked out after half the Internet started linking to the project -- understandable -- and pulled the code," Rivera said on his blog Wednesday.

Microsoft took heat from several corners over the GPL license violation. Computerworld blogger Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, for example, blasted Microsoft for the gaffe. "It seems Microsoft still can't resist stealing from open-source software," Vaughan-Nichols said last month.

After Microsoft yanked WUDT and announced it would re-release the tool under GPLv2, however, Vaughan-Nichols changed his tune. "Maybe Microsoft is changing their ways when it comes to open source," he said several days later.

WUDT can be downloaded directly from Microsoft's site (.exe download). The source code for WUDT has been posted to CodePlex, Microsoft's open-source repository.

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