The debate, at the tactical level, is about the hidden hooks in MS's WINSOCK
stacks that other developers can't replicate. At the global level, it seems
similar to the ISO Win32 spat: non-MS control of Windows APIs, in this case by
the Stadust consortium.
TCP/IP calls causing crashes, says WinSock standards
By Yvonne L. Lee
Posted at 3:35 PM PT, Mar 29, 1996
The Stardust Technologies Inc. consortium has taken Microsoft Corp. to task
over programming calls in its TCP/IP developer's kit that cause applications
Stardust, which Microsoft joined this year, is a group trying to standardize
programming interfaces to WinSock. But problems have arisen, say officials at
both Microsoft and Stardust, because developers have unwittingly accessed
proprietary functions in Microsoft's Software Development Kit that were not
clearly labeled as separate from the standard WinSock API.
These functions add capabilities beyond those found in the existing standard.
"We wanted to be able to enable intranet and workgroup applications," said
Alec Saunders, product manager in Microsoft's desktop and business systems
For example, the Explorer World Wide Web browser can run over TCP/IP, as well
as other protocols, including Novell Inc.'s IPX.
Makers of other TCP/IP stacks say they believe some of these extensions
access OS-level functionality not available to other vendors, said Chris
Hopen, director of network technology at Spry Inc., CompuServe's Internet
Using these extensions can cause problems.
"[Applications] need to fail gracefully," said Karen Milne, president of
Stardust. "If they don't find a function, then do something else."
Programmers did not build ways to work around the calls to proprietary
functions because they did not even know that they were not available in every
WinSock 1.1-compliant stack, Milne said.
Even Microsoft's own developers were not immune. Part of the program designed
to enable PowerPoint 7 users to confer across the network causes the program
to hang when users try to access the tools menu, if a stack other than
Microsoft's is used, Saunders said.
The company has placed a work-around on its Web site that disables the
conferencing feature, and it plans a proper fix in two to four weeks that will
restore conferencing capabilities to all users, Saunders said.
The alpha-test version of Internet Explorer also makes calls to functions
available only in the built-in Windows 95 software, but the company has
already designed the fix into the beta version, officials said.
Third-party developers who have included calls to proprietary functions will
also need to fix their applications, Hopen said.
Stardust plans to provide a list of applications known to have these problems
and is working on a software checker that reports nonstandard code.
Stardust can be reached at _http://www.stardust.com/._