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07.23.07

Patent Alert: Is GNOME Growing a .NET Dependency?

Posted in GNOME, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Patents at 12:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Please allow me to start off by stating that love GNOME. I use KDE most of the time (at work and at home), but I used to be using GNOME more regularly and I love it very much. The choice it offers berings benefit to everybody.

I am only posting this only because certain information needs to reach people’s attention, no matter how inconvenient it may be. Many times in the past we repeated the alarming argument that Novell is turning its Linux desktop into a .NET-rich platform. It appears to be a matter of strategy, based on some recent interviews with Novell executives. Is it a good strategy? Probably not. The main issue is not the fact that Microsoft controls and extends .NET. The main issue is software patents, which bring monetisation (or “taxation”) into the equation.
Say No to Mono
Amid a discussion (and purely by serendipity), something strange was realised. information that I received from someone who wishes to remain anonymous began with the sarcastic statement that “apparently there is considerable effort under way by the Gnome team, to poison Gnome by completely rewriting it in C#!!! Thank you Miguel de Icaza.”

To paraphrase the person, “this turned out to be a tongue-in-cheek remark, but it isn’t far from the truth”. This person is a maintainer of a major Linux distribution. He has sufficient knowledge and credibility to be worth trusting, but please post a correction if we are wrong. I requested some references, which he kindly provided:

Here’s some historical references:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2002/02/01/gnome_to_be_based/

http://linuxplanet.com/linuxplanet/reviews/6232/1/

As a test, install Fedora 7 using the defaults, then (post-install) try to remove the gtk-sharp and mono-core packages. Chaos ensues. It rips out half the system.

And this on a distro where the original maintainers *swore* they would never let mono enter the tree. Now it is poisoned beyond repair.

It’s only a matter of time before the Gnome core libs will be mono dependant, I’d stake my life of that fact. I’m ready to ditch Gnome permanently.

I decided to make the person aware of Novell’s big plans for .NET (Mono). To this, the reply was:

God help them.

I think one can safely assume that Novell are now working almost exclusively to Microsoft’s agenda. If it comes from Novell, it is irreparably tainted.

I wish to believe that GNOME developers will not be persuaded or lured into more Mono dependencies. Other distributions use GNOME. KDE received some Mono bindings a couple of weeks ago, but there has never been any of this at the core, let alone in the build.

Surely, the patent system in the United States has gone completely out of hand. While centralization of .NET control remains an important factor, let the insane court battles teach you a lesson. At the end of last week we saw two important rulings. The first one was a dismissal of an appeal. It is a very serious case that involves a ban.

A U.S. appeals court on Friday dismissed Qualcomm’s appeal of an order by a federal trade agency banning some cellular telephones containing Qualcomm chips.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said it lacked jurisdiction over an order by the U.S. International Trade Commission because Qualcomm has a request pending before the Bush administration asking it to invalidate the decision.

“An ITC determination does not become final for purposes of judicial review until the president has either approved of the determination or failed to disapprove within 60 days,” the court said.

The second case speaks about a defeat where obviousness could not be refuted.

In its third opinion of the day designated precedential, the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences once again affirmed an examiner’s obviousness rejections. Specifically, the Board found that Appellant’s apparatus incorporating bioauthentication and a consumer electronics device was an obvious solution to a known problem, as all elements of the claims other than the bioauthentication device were found in one prior art reference, a second reference disclosed the bioauthentication devices in a related context, and a third disclosed that they could be substituted for each other. The BPAI appears to have fully embraced its new “flexibility” in determining obviousness in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in KSR.

At times when patent madness thrives in the United States, one must keep an eye open. GPLv3 is needed here, or at least eradication of absurdly-patented ideas. Please refrain from contaminating GNOME with Microsoft-patented technology.

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18 Comments

  1. Roy Shitzforwitz said,

    July 23, 2007 at 12:37 am

    Gravatar

    Who’s paying you to FUD Novell?

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 23, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Gravatar

    Nobody pays me. Standing up for users’ right needn’t any monetary encouragement. Are you going to carry on trolling the site?

  3. GNU/Linux user said,

    July 23, 2007 at 2:19 am

    Gravatar

    “As a test, install Fedora 7 using the defaults, then (post-install) try to remove the gtk-sharp and mono-core packages. Chaos ensues. It rips out half the system.”

    I can’t agree. I’ve just tested it few minutes ago and the only problem was that mono-core has Tomboy dependency (but afaik Tomboy is written in Mono). So maybe other distributions are affected (afair openSUSE is) but Fedora 7 isn’t. Mono can be safely removed and it won’t delete half of your system. I’m 100% Mono free (at least I don’t have any Mono and Mono related packages installed). Fedora rocks ;)

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 23, 2007 at 2:37 am

    Gravatar

    Thanks for the information. One thing that leaves room for doubt (to me at least) is an article that talks about Mono in Fedora. It is quite surprising. I was under the impression that Red Hat would never approach Mono.

    New Mono-Based Applications for GNOME in Fedora Core 5–Part 1

    The hardest concern to address is that of patents. This worry is muddied by the fact that C# was handed by Microsoft to the ECMA (European Association for Standardizing Information and Communication Systems), standards organization as a language standard. As a standard, C# is technically out of Microsoft’s hands to control. However, that doesn’t mean that the rest of .NET doesn’t contain patent issues. In 2002, Microsoft applied for just such a patent, causing a ripple of concern throughout the technology community. Many decried the patent as too broad, and potentially even a violation of the ECMA’s rules for the standards it controls.

    Speculation continues to run rampant on whether the patent will be granted, and what this patent will ultimately mean for anyone using .NET technology if Microsoft chooses to enforce the patent in a way that will have it invalidated for ECMA handling. In the meantime, the Mono and DotGNU projects continue on and various groups are throwing their hats into this collective pot.

    We’ve accumulated a lot more material and pointers. The worry here is that complacency might lead to risk (through gradual embrace). Recall what happened with MP3 format after many years of “ignorance is bliss”.

    I am aware that Red Hat does not distribute Mono ‘out of the box’ (the same applies to DVD playback, some fonts technology, among many other things). One issue to be aware of, however, is behind-the-scenes, Microsoft violation claims s. Microsoft ‘collects’ money from Linux users (without even being specific, mind you). That’s where the distributor is irrelevant. These threats are made secretly. It’s a shame that few people are aware of this, so they can’t protest and call “RICO ACT”.

    http://www.ricoact.com/ricoact/nutshell.asp

  5. Slated said,

    July 23, 2007 at 3:48 am

    Gravatar

    “I am aware that Red Hat does not distribute Mono ‘out of the box’”

    I’m afraid it does Roy.

    Here are four packages on the Fedora 7 DVD:

    mono-core-1.2.3-3.fc7.i386.rpm
    gmime-sharp-2.2.3-5.fc7.i386.rpm
    gnome-sharp-2.16.0-1.fc6.i386.rpm
    gtk-sharp2-2.10.0-4.fc7.i386.rpm

    In addition to Tomboy:
    tomboy-0.6.1-1.fc7.i386.rpm
    http://www.gnome.org/projects/tomboy/

    There’s also Beagle:
    libbeagle-0.2.16.2-5.fc7.i386
    http://beagle-project.org/Installing_prerequisites

    Also, I recommend you read this:
    http://duncan.mac-vicar.com/blog/archives/145

    “Then I found dbus-1-mono and I raised an eyebrow. I thought “Mono is coming too.”. Not big deal, only that not only mono-core was there but mono-data and mono-web. Why a framework would depend in mono-web?. I am completely sure an IDE would depend on it, but a network applet?”

    I’m also concerned that a number of Mono-built Gnome Applets might be poisoning the tree, however proving this is a matter of an audit – no simple task.

    I’m currently in the process of examining the spec files of every package on the Fedora 7 DVD, to try to ascertain the full and precise extent of Mono infiltration into Fedora. Stay tuned.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 23, 2007 at 3:59 am

    Gravatar

    I am doing some further reading on Mono at the moment. Last year, I believe the following was brought to Groklaw’s attention with the intent of showing what Miguel really strives to achieve.

    http://port25.technet.com/archive/2006/08/11/Let_2700_s-talk-Mono_3A00_–Sam-interviews-Miguel-de-Icaza.aspx

    This is from Microsoft. It is worrying to see that Microsoft (through Miguel) is apparently now deciding what belongs inside the the core of Linux. Why aren’t people more aware of this?

    http://www.gnome.org/~seth/blog/mono

    http://www.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=02/02/19/1651244

    The patent trap: If Gnome gets Mono

    Thursday February 21, 2002 (09:24 AM GMT)

    A lot has happened in 5+ years.

  7. Stephen said,

    July 23, 2007 at 4:19 am

    Gravatar

    The folks (except the troll) have given some great detail. I would like to add that the hackers producing these Mono applications are very pro-opensource people – just look through the list of authors.

    Personally, I would like to see Mono being an Add-on CD type of deal for those that want it (choice etc). I can understand the rationale for Mono though, it represents much less of a barrier to entry in developing for a core platform such as Gnome and that makes sense.

    My hope with Mono is that it, and its supporters, can wrestle control of the specification from Microsoft by a more open standards process. This will eventually happing with OOXML. I know, I know – it’s Microsoft and nothing can be taken for granted!

  8. Stephen said,

    July 23, 2007 at 4:20 am

    Gravatar

    It’s clear I need a Gtk-grammar module ;-)

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 23, 2007 at 4:27 am

    Gravatar

    > Mono applications are very pro-opensource people

    Definitely! Awareness seems to be the missing piece though. Speaking for myself, I am very well aware of their preference are and I respect that. I talked to/confronted people who came from Windows development to GNU/Linux and wanted to maintain (even thrive) in their previously-acquired skills.

    That said, have a look at this short article which was published last night. It should serve as a lesson to Xandros and Linspire.

    http://blog.wired.com/monkeybites/2007/07/ubuntu-must-pla.html

    Ubuntu Must ‘Play To Its Strengths” to Beat Microsoft Add as My Number One

    “You can’t out-Windows Windows, he says. Defining and playing to Ubuntu’s strengths are what will make free software succeed on the desktop.”

    Remember another thing: Mark Shuttleworth said that he would not put wine on those Dell PCs because Linux has its own strengths.

    While we’re at it, maybe you can help push this into the front page. ;-) 24 Diggs in the past 5 hours…

    http://digg.com/linux_unix/Ubuntu_Must_Play_To_Its_Strengths_to_Beat_Microsoft

  10. akf said,

    July 23, 2007 at 4:31 am

    Gravatar

    I also use GNOME and I have no Mono(pol) software installed.

    GNOME programs that would need Mono are:
    Tomboy, Beagle, F-Spot

    Maybe we should maintain a blacklist…

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 23, 2007 at 4:49 am

    Gravatar

    @akf: See https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Gobuntu/pkg-non-free and http://boycottnovell.com/2007/07/16/mono-cleanup/ .

    Apparently, there are some big announcements on their way. News just in:

    More Big Name PCs With Ubuntu Pre-Installed Coming Soon
    http://blog.wired.com/monkeybites/2007/07/more-big-name-p.html

    “In a recent post on his blog, Shuttleworth encouraged the Ubuntu community to dream up the perfect free software laptop. He also launched a mailing list and a wiki dedicated to the topic that he hopes will help send a “ripple effect” through the PC industry.” [emphasis mine]

    Let’s see how dedication for freedom works out for them. They have been criticised a lot for taking shortcuts (including ‘forbidden’ drivers and components).

  12. Slated said,

    July 24, 2007 at 6:40 am

    Gravatar

    I’ve just completed an audit of Fedora Core 6, and this is the full list of mono dependants and sub-dependants, excluding doc, devel, debug, multi-arch and third-party repo packages:

    avahi-sharp
    banshee
    beagle
    beagle-evolution
    beagle-gui
    boo
    bytefx-data-mysql
    cowbell
    daap-sharp
    db4o
    dbus-sharp
    drapes
    evolution-sharp
    f-spot
    gecko-sharp2
    gmime-sharp
    gnome-sharp
    gsf-sharp
    gtk-sharp
    gtk-sharp2
    gtk-sharp-gapi
    gtksourceview-sharp
    ibm-data-db2
    ikvm
    kerry
    lat
    mod_mono
    mono-data
    mono-data-firebird
    mono-data-oracle
    mono-data-postgresql
    mono-data-sqlite
    mono-data-sybase
    mono-debugger
    monodevelop
    monodoc
    mono-extras
    mono-jscript
    mono-locale-extras
    mono-nunit
    monotone-server
    mono-web
    mono-winforms
    muine
    nant
    njb-sharp
    tomboy
    xsp

    Total: 48 packages.

    Presumably Fedora 7 has the same number, or greater. I’ll do a similar audit on F7 later.

  13. Anuj Seth said,

    August 5, 2007 at 7:09 am

    Gravatar

    Its just sad whats happening, first Novell Linspire etc .. then Ubuntu’s restricted drivers … i new theyd push C# into GNOME when I read this a long time back
    http://lwn.net/2002/0207/a/long-reply.php3
    the Novell Microsoft deal confirmed it … Ubuntus decision to go non alphabetical and put Dell Support as the first topic on their forums (i know its stupid but you know … ) … it seems as every distro gets more successful more corporate power play and manipulation come in … its just really sad (IMHO) … we linux people like to think that we have a lot of big companies backing us its just free server tools for most .. oh and f-spot etc come as default installs on gutsy tribe 3

  14. Rico Giove said,

    August 10, 2007 at 7:38 am

    Gravatar

    What scares me more than the patent issue is that anything that is a ms derivative will leave my system open to viruses and security issues.

  15. Brad Bellomo said,

    October 22, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Gravatar

    What patent issue? Microsoft fully released .NET as open to implementation and encourages it. Neither MS nor anyone else has ever referenced a specific patent of this debate. A desktop platform that truly supports both OS’s is in everyone’s interest. Lots of big companies have contributed to Linux and the open source world, what is wrong with Microsoft doing so?

  16. Alberto Barrionuevo (FFII) said,

    November 5, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Gravatar

    Brad, you are confusing .NET with C# and CLI, that are the only parts of .NET that are standardized by ECMA and ISO. But .NET is much more, and Mono(pol) is using much more than these standardized parts. Just read a little:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.NET_Framework

    @@@@@@@@@
    Standardization and licensing
    In August 2000, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel worked to standardize CLI and the C# programming language. By December 2001, both were ratified ECMA standards (ECMA 335 and ECMA 334). ISO followed in April 2003 (ISO/IEC 23271 and ISO/IEC 23270).
    While Microsoft and their partners hold patents for CLI and C#, ECMA and ISO require that all patents essential to implementation be made available under “reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) terms.” In addition to meeting these terms, the companies have agreed to make the patents available royalty-free.
    However, this does not apply for the part of the .NET Framework which is not covered by the ECMA/ISO standard, which includes Windows Forms, ADO.NET, and ASP.NET. Patents that Microsoft holds in these areas may deter non-Microsoft implementations of the full framework.
    @@@@@@@@@@

    Additionally, you are supposing that ECMA is warranty enough to avoid patent threats. Check the two patent (non)licenses of Microsoft for OOXML and you’ll check that ECMA is far from any warranty regarding patents. Indeed ISO, who many times grants RAND standards instead of open standards.

  17. Dark Phoenix said,

    December 4, 2007 at 1:00 am

    Gravatar

    Well, technically this is necroposting, but I feel it needs to be said.

    From my viewpoint as a long-time Fedora user, it seems that the Fedora guys have gone to GREAT GREAT lengths to minimize how far into the system Mono penetrates, to the point where it could easily be ripped out at a moment’s notice without major loss of functionality.

    Also, a few conversations I’ve had on the Fedora list suggest that the Fedora devs would rather people use Java than Mono for this sort of programming. A good discussion on this is here: https://www.redhat.com/archives/fedora-list/2007-November/msg00772.html

  18. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 4, 2007 at 1:11 am

    Gravatar

    Dark Phoenix,

    Out greater issue, IMHA(ssessment), is that Moonlight and OOXML translators (C#) will force many of us Linux users to embrace Mono regardless of what DE we use. Microsoft will say “yes, we support you, so just pick that Microsoft-patented Mono software, but be aware that we can sue you.” Be alerted as Microsoft has already resorted to extortion, but it does this quietly and businesses that pay Microsoft for ‘protection’ prefer to keep the settlement deals secret. The last thing we need is for them to be dependent on Mono when much better software can be developed differently.

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