When Keith Curtis dropped out of the University of Michigan at age 20 to work full-time as a programmer at Microsoft, he never imagined that he would one day leave the nest and become one of the company’s biggest critics and a strategic voice of the growing-like-wildfire free software movement.
His book After The Software Wars provides a scathing critique of his former employer’s methods of operation, picks fights with giants like Apple, Sun and Google, and has found its way under the skin of billionaires.
His experiences at Microsoft allowed him to see first-hand the flaw in the proprietary software development model. Teams of programmers were assigned to work on projects with only each other to look to when solving problems or dreaming up new features. Microsoft’s source code is proprietary and, obviously, closely guarded. This means less innovation, less idea sharing and hindered progress—a way of doing things contrary to the spirit of idea sharing that other types of scientists have historically practiced.
Keith argues that the rate of acceleration of key technologies has been so slow that we are actually living in the technological dark ages compared to what we will accomplish when the scientists that make the machines around us smarter are openly working together.
“We need to pool our collective intelligence and get to work on fixing our most serious threats—and in today’s society that begins with having great software,” he explains. “Wikipedia is a fantastic example of our ability to exponentially gather the sum of human knowledge and make it available—and editable—for and by all. It’s a priceless free upgrade from the Encyclopedia Brittanica.”
Keith’s argument is a simple one, “Given currently available technology, we should have cars that drive us around in absolute safety, leaving us to lounge in the back and sip champagne. We have all the hardware to do this — the video cameras, motion sensors and high powered computers — and we’ve had this technology for decades. So, why don’t cars drive themselves? The answer is that we don’t have the software.”
There are more important implications — like the very real ability to develop healthcare technologies faster. The issue, he explains, is that progress is frozen by fact that the scientists that make our devices work—including life saving medical devices are generally not allowed to share their scientific advances with each other.
“We should have been working together all along, but it is absolutely necessary now. Not all software should be free, but it is imperative that we come together on the remaining challenges.” Keith left Microsoft in 2004 and resides in Seattle communicating his sometimes controversial but important message by writing and consulting. After The Software Wars has over 100,000 downloads. He has written articles for or been featured in publications including the New York Times, PC World, Linux Magazine, American Thinker, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
You can download a free copy of Keith’s book at AfterTheSoftwareWars.com or purchase a paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers.
Software Design Engineer, Microsoft corporation (1993 – 2005)
FoxPro (relational database)
Involved in many aspects of the 3.0 re-write (3-D, toolbars, Windows 95, object-oriented forms, build and tools support for the developers, MIPS port)
Quill (internal text component)
Converted Quill to Unicode and helped with the conversion to COM
Development lead overseeing release of Quill ’98 to internal customers, design and implementation of Far East and other core features
Re-wrote line layout code to use internal “Line Services”, and added latin typography features
RichEdit (text component used in Windows, Office many 3rd-party programs)
Involved in the design and implementation of vertical text, tables, eBooks, and Itanium IA-64 support.
Involved in Far East and other complex script work as part of one worldwide executable initiative
Mobile Internet Business Unit
Help lead the performance team to build tools and processes to analyze the rest of the project’s software
Involved in cross-team analysis from SQL schemas to threading models
Redesigned the SMS Gateway web service and the Browse Proxy (ISA filter which provides an HTTP cookie cache for low-end mobile devices)
Microsoft Spot Watch
Joined a team to help release a nationwide FM sub-carrier data network and the supporting web, server, and client code.
New York Times
Discussion with Ray Kurzweil
Paul Thurrott’s Winsupersite (Part 2, Part 3)
Java One, Linux World, Linux Desktop Conference, Human Genomics Conference, Supercomputing Conference, FreedomHEC, OReilly E-Tech, Ignite Seattle, Seattle tech scene, etc.
Faster Linux World Domination, January 2010
This letter to the Linux kernel mailing list describes the big remaining challenges for world domination. It starts with having the hardware companies act in their own self-interest and fully support free software!
Virtual Darpa Grand Challenge slide deck
We should create a virtual Grand Challenge contest doing it all in software.
Going to Lang.Net, April 2009
My talk at Microsoft on the state of languages in the free software movement.
Why Ubuntu begin separate from Debian is inefficient and unnecessary. In fact, doing it within Debian would make things farther along because you wouldn’t have bothered to create bzr, launchpad, etc.
Open Letter to Ubuntu’s Benevolent Dictator
Ubuntu needs to work closely with Debian.
Open Letter to the new Debian Project Leader
How Ubuntu can make Debian irrelevant.
10,000 Bugs away from World Domination, April 2006
Let’s get fixing the bugs! There are no features holding things up. It takes focus.
Tried to fix the Torcs/Speed-Dreams to make it a better simulator for driverless cars. The problem was that I talked to them after they had already forked and made their plans, so they weren’t interested in radical changes, even though I wasn’t asking them to do the heavy lifting of the coding. I have decided to revive this. Contact me if you know Python and want to help.