Caltech/NASA JPL have a new website: Be a Martian. The aim – a drum up interest in the Mars project. The problem, well read these words:
This site was created under a Memorandum of Understanding between NASA/JPL-Caltech and Microsoft.
Yep Silverlight. Silverblight. Silverlie. Whatever you want to call it. This was mentioned on Groklaw where I heard about it for the second time. I’d actually signed up on the website several weeks ago, and posted a complaint about Silverlight at that time, and got no response. This time I decided on the nuclear option. I called.
After a couple of minutes of talking to a very polite receptionist, who finally understood that I was having a problem with a website, I got transferred to Mark in Public Services. I explained the problem to Mark, pointing out that:
1) Most geeks are fans of the space effort.
2) Most geeks don’t run Windows.
3) Most geeks refuse to have Microsoft software on their systems.
4) Does CalTech/NASA/JPL really want to annoy their biggest fans?
5) Does Microsoft have the right to force us to run Windows?
Mark had never heard of the website, so I pointed him to it, and he spotted the bit about the Memorandum with Microsoft immediately, and pointed out that of course Microsoft would use Silverlight. And he’s correct. Of course Microsoft would use Silverlight. However NASA/JPL is a government institution, with responsibility to the American taxpayers, not Microsoft, and that it could be argued that any memorandum that blocked access to a significant part of NASA/JPL’s core constituency might not be legal. I also mentioned that I’m not an American, and I’m interested, that my fondest early memories was watching the sub-orbital Mercury flights.
Mark is going to check into things after Thanksgiving (a point which blows my mind – why don’t Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in October when it should be celebrated). He also gave me contact information for several other people, and I will be following up on this.
And yes, Mark knows I intended to blog about it.