Jonathon Shapiro Wraps Up BitC

In an email to the BitC developer mailing list Jonathon Shapiro announced that he is wrapping up development on BitC.

Some of you will have noticed that I have been conspicuously silent over the
last three or four weeks. I have spent much of that time airborne, or in
interviews at Google, Microsoft, and DARPA.

After a fair bit of soul-searching, I have decided to accept a fairly senior
position at Microsoft associated with the Midori project. The current plan
has me starting there at the beginning of August.

This means, among other issues, that we will be wrapping up the BitC
project. While I will be trying hard to get all of the planned features for
the initial release completed before I depart, that may not turn out to be
possible. I have asked Microsoft if we can keep the various web sites alive
for archival access and the mailing list, but I should also ask if there is
anyone out there who would be interested to assume more active stewardship
of the BitC project. I emphasize that unless management at Microsoft
concludes otherwise, I will no longer be able to participate actively in
these discussions. Also, in the event that MS does not permit archival
maintainence, would somebody be willing to take over hosting the content?

I have also asked MS for permission to publish papers about BitC on my own
time. They granted this permission to Swaroop, and I see no reason that they
should decline this, but my position there is a bit more sensitive and they
may see issues that I do not.

In the meantime, I need to get back to packing and hacking.

Best regards,


Best of luck shap! And best of luck BitC!

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I don't get it. Why would

I don't get it. Why would working for Microsoft prevent him from working on BitC in his spare time?

The more plausible siutation would be that he would just not have any more time to work on the OSS project. That happened to me :(


Unless I am mistaken Midori is the next step in the Singularity project, so it is a micro-kernel based around a language with formally verifiable properties for programs. So, basically the same thing that the BitC project was shooting for. As such it may be possible for him to work on BitC in his free time, but it may not seem like much fun after working on a similar project all day at work.

Not mistaken

... and that's pretty much all that is known about Midori.

Whether it is actually meant to be a Windows replacement, or whether it's initially targetting embedded devices or some kind of custom NetBook is all open to question right now.

If they are truly trying to build Singularity into a usable consumer-facing OS, that'd be a massively bold move. More likely, they're targetting it as a new kind of server OS, as that's where the awesomely high IO throughput would have the biggest impact.

Creating a competing product

Creating a competing product in one's spare time, or even for a few years after leaving, is often a violation of contract. I turned down a few job offers where the pile of documents signed at the front had clauses that would have either prevented me from working on my own projects, or would have put such work under the ownership of the company for which I was working.

A particularly jarring clause I encountered was something along the lines of: ideas related in any way to the projects upon which you're working belong to the company even if had outside of business hours. I.e. they wanted the ideas related to the project that I had in the shower. It's the "related in any way" aspect that had me refusing to sign that document. I asked it be changed to "related to enhancing or modifying the product", or in general that wouldn't potentially include my non-competing open-source project work.

It turns out it's harder to get the job if you give the HR personnel even a little grief over the wording of the documents they ask you to sign before you've worked on anything...

If shap is working on Midori, he'd probably need to work out a deal with Microsoft if he wished to still work on BitC. It is clear from his statements above that they're unlikely to budge much, and he's not going to push too hard.

It varies a lot

This is off topic, so I'll keep it short:

I've never seen an agreement like this that distinguished between ideas you had at work and ideas you had elsewhere—how would you prove it?

The thing to remember is that most of these agreements go beyond what's actually enforceable. Read up on what's legal in your state (province, department, what-have-you).

I've never seen an agreement

I've never seen an agreement like this that distinguished between ideas you had at work and ideas you had elsewhere—how would you prove it?

Ensuring the contract included off-work period reduces the proof-burden of the company. That is, it means I wouldn't have wriggle-room in civil court for saying that I had the idea off work hours. The prosecution has burden-of-proof even in civil court, and tort law generally favors the defendant in case of loopholes.

The contract included more than ideas; any work or labor that could be directly related to the company project was also included. I suspect that, since they did distinguish between work hours and non-work hours there, it was necessary to do so for ideas as well. Including 'ideas' was probably related to other secrecy clauses in the contracts.

As far as 'provability' goes, there is (due to humans being social creatures) often evidence of when (approximately, in terms of month or year) an idea appears.

The thing to remember is that most of these agreements go beyond what's actually enforceable. Read up on what's legal in your state (province, department, what-have-you).

That much I do know. Now. Back when I was still a fresh young college graduate, on the other hand...

Regardless, the non-competition clauses are something that I suspect have stood up in court to protect trade secrets. This puts a much greater burden on the employee when it comes to projects that could (if viewed in the correct light, potentially be interpreted as possibly able to) compete with company products.

Singularity and Midori

Remember that Singularity is a research OS used for testing ideas that relate to general OS principals and problems and tackles some very new ones...

Midori, on the other hand, is a private incubation project with no timelime for public disclosure (a basic property of private incubation).