09.02.07

Studying Novell’s Plans and Direction with Mono

Posted in GNOME, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents at 10:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The latest developments in a Novell/Microsoft pet project

As Mono continues to evolve, solid convergence with Windows programs (or at least API/SDK) seems like a matter of time. With the release of Mono 1.2.5, there are some new features that help bridge the existing gap.

Mono 1.2.5 reflects the rapid pace at which Mono is evolving. With strong support for C# 3.0 and IronPython, Mono is clearly a robust and versatile platform for open source software development.

This short article from Ars Technica also talks about Novell’s focus on Mono. Novell chooses Mono-based applications for the GNOME desktop which it develops. This is strategic, it’s not a side effect.

Our intention was never to invoke a heated discussion, personal attacks, and flamewars. This has always been a controversial topic (so one is likely to have an “unpopular assessment”), yet speaking about honestly doesn’t make it all wrong. Mono needs to be understood, not disliked. We try to piece together its implications w.r.t. patents, programmers’ direction, and a plethora of other factors. Mono is going to affect Linux a great deal if Novell continues with its current direction. Ranting won’t help. If you wish to see a rant, look no further than Sam, who dislikes many things including Solaris, Ubuntu, the Novell/Micrososft deal and…. GNOME.

Hence, in the midst of the celebrations, it’s good for the promoters of GNOME to stop and think what might have been if they had joined hands with KDE and moved forward in a cooperative manner. It is good to bear in mind that one of the men who started the project claiming that he wanted to provide “free software” is today tailgating APIs from Microsoft.

To re-emphasise what I said before, I like GNOME and I used it for a long time. I also developed with GTK. I am not anti-GNOME and I am not anti-Mono. We try to provide factual information and there is no agenda here. The issue at hand is concern about long-term consequences — consequences that might be too hard to avoid or retract.

How far will Mono go? Mimicking or implementing a P/L is one thing, but an observation worth making is that Mono might — to a greater or lesser extent — adopt Microsoft’s “ribbon” interface (love it or hate it). It seems likely because a Mono developer has just had it implemented.

In a recent blog entry, lead Mono developer Miguel de Icaza expressed interest in using the new Ribbon interface components in a future version of MonoDevelop, an open source IDE for C# programming.

The common understanding is that Microsoft issued a press release where it said would enable third parties to implement the ribbon as long as they follow some guidelines, i.e. they follow Microsoft’s rules. The technology is patented. Software/UI design patents seem to be valid in Canada, the US, Mexico, Australia, and Japan, so the validity of these patents can’t be ignored or their value immediately dismissed (unless you buy SUSE). GNOME is a product that is used internationally.

The previous post on Mono, along with references that commenters added, seem to indicate that Miguel wishes to mimic a lot of patented Microsoft technology and planned to do this from the very start. How can one counter this myth and explain that GNOME is:

  1. immune to ‘Microsoft tax’ (Novell customers get Mono ‘coverage’ for 5 years, Xandros and Linspire customers do not)
  2. intended to build upon open standards that are not controlled by Microsoft (or Ecma, by proxy)

With that in mind, it was rather odd to find that Microsoft has a new codename: Nautilus. Take a guess or read Mary Jo Foley’s analysis for further details.

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3 Comments

  1. akf said,

    September 3, 2007 at 2:43 am

    Gravatar

    Developers should probably have a look at Vala. The syntax is similar to C# but it isn’t C#.

    Most of all ist doesn’t need a runtime environment, but you can compile it to native applications (it uses C as intermediate code).

    (BTW. I haven’t used it yet, I just read about it.)

  2. luke said,

    September 3, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Gravatar

    There are instance of prior art in the ribbon design. In the case of litigation, presenting prior art will void Microsoft’s patent.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 3, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Gravatar

    Yes, someone whom I know (Richard Morgan) says that Blender 3D had it.

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