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05.27.08

Reader’s Article: Novell, Mono and RAND

Posted in ECMA, Free/Libre Software, GNOME, Microsoft, Mono, Patents, RAND at 11:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Post contributed by Slated

As some people here probably already know, I am no fan of Mono – not for technical reasons (mostly [3]), but simply for political ones. Specifically, I’m talking about so-called Software Patents, and even more importantly, precisely who owns those patents. In this case, that would be Microsoft, a convicted monopolist with a viciously anti-FOSS agenda, that employs business methods remarkably similar to that of the Mafia.

IMO the mere fact that .NET/Mono is Microsoft technology should be enough to dissuade any Free Software advocate from going anywhere near it [1], but there is a large contingent of Mono “fans” out there, lead by people like Jeff Waugh and Miguel de Icaza, who (either through ignorance; naivety; apathy or even malice) don’t seem to give a damn about whether or not Mono (or even OOXML) endangers the future of Free Software.

Trying to convince people, and especially distro maintainers, that they should stay away from Mono, is therefore extraordinarily difficult, and usually goes something like this:

[P]oint | [C]ounterpoint

P: Don’t use Mono
C: Why?
P: Because it is patented
C: So is a lot of other software
P: Yes, but this is patented by Microsoft
C: So?
P: Microsoft is a convicted monopolist
C: You’re just biased against Microsoft
P: I believe I am justified given Microsoft’s history
C: What history?
P: See [1]
C: What has that got to do with Mono?
P: Microsoft has a history of abusing their “IP” as a weapon to destroy others, and maintain a monopoly
C: But how do you know that Microsoft will try to do that to FOSS?
P: Because they have already made patent allegations against FOSS; have repeatedly expressed their contempt and hatred for FOSS; have established a protection racket for commercial Linux vendors; have admitted that Linux (they mean FOSS) is their number one competitor; and have a sociopathic tendency to violently attack anyone (read: competitor) who threatens Microsoft’s monopoly, using the most unethical and underhand methods they think they can get away with

[At this point, some heavyweight like Waugh enters the debate]

C: Rubbish. Mono only implements the ECMA parts of the .NET framework, which are covered by a RAND covenant to not sue, so you’re whining for no good reason
P: I don’t trust RANDs, especially those underwritten by Microsoft
C: Why?
P: Because, define “reasonable” … and then prove that Microsoft will never revoke their promises. In fact, prove that Microsoft has good intentions in this, or any other endeavour

[This is usually the end of the discussion, although sometimes it goes off on one of the following tangents]

[Either]

C: My country doesn’t enforce software patents anyway, so I don’t care
P: Maybe some day it will (see [2]). What then?

[Or]

“How many of those patent holders would risk losing 30 Billion USD just to strike a blow against FOSS (see Microsoft’s recent failed Yahoo takeover bid)? How many of those patent holders are convicted monopolists?”C: Probably every piece of software ever written violates some patent or another. If FOSS developers were to abandon packages based on possible patents, then there wouldn’t be any Free Software at all
P: How many of those patent holders have the immoral and aggressive tendencies that Microsoft has? How many of those patent holders would risk losing 30 Billion USD just to strike a blow against FOSS (see Microsoft’s recent failed Yahoo takeover bid)? How many of those patent holders are convicted monopolists? How many of those patent holders have made actual infringement claims against Free Software? How many of those patent holders have described Linux as a “cancer”? How many of those patent holders have created a Linux protection racket that attempts to stifle Free Software and line Microsoft’s pockets in the process? How many of those patent holders use bribery and corruption as a matter of standard procedure [1]? How many of those patent holders regularly and predictably stab their own customers and partners in the back whenever any given venture results in anything less than market domination (e.g. “PlaysForSure” and others)?

[And here the debate always ends, but without any resolution]

Occasionally I might get a parting “you’re just being paranoid”, from those too blind/naive/brainwashed to understand the truth.

Well I don’t know if it’ll help, but I recently discovered an article that (I believe) exposes RAND for the sham that it really is (quoted in full):

So much quarreling about open standards. Jason Matusow advocates for a
document format with RAND licensing conditions for the patents. What
does he mean when he talks about RAND? RAND stands for “reasonable and
non-discriminatory”. But Jason Matusow’s company Microsoft lacks honesty
when it talks about “reasonable and non-discriminatory” conditions.

We need to be precise about what reasonable and non-discriminatory
actually means. A restaurant in apartheid South Africa said it allowed
both Boers and English, so was “not discriminatory”. It even let some
Jews in. However it banned non-whites.

Reasonable and non-discriminatory in patent licensing means “we apply a
uniform fee”. However with respect to Microsoft’s legacy OOXML format,
one party controls the standard and the associated patents. All market
players need to license except the patent owner. For dominant standards
it is a tax on the market. It seems highly unreasonable that such
standards should become international standards, mandatory for
government users.

You may find it unreasonable for an ubiquitous standard. But there is a
more insidious aspect. RAND patent licensing conditions are a tool to
ban Free Software, which is entirely incompatible with RAND licensing
conditions. Now one side of the debate blames it on the patent licensing
conditions, the other side on the software licensing conditions.

“The reason I agree with the statement about patents and Free
Software not mixing is that there have been terms written into GPL
licenses that explicitly conflict with software patents. Okay, that is
the choice of the authors and users of those licenses.”

It sounds a bit like: well, you chose to marry an African woman, so we
cannot let you into the restaurant. Free choice, right?

Yes, Matusow calls his standards with RAND conditions “open standards”
and contradicts the commonly accepted definition of “open standards”. We
should speak about shared standards. These shared standards appear to
discriminate less, but they still discriminate against the only real
competitor to Microsoft’s hegemony.

It is true that ISO, driven by simple pragmatism, allows shared
standards. From the ISO/IEC directives:

“14.1 If, in exceptional situations, technical reasons justify such
a step, there is no objection in principle to preparing an International
Standard in terms which include the use of items covered by patent
rights – defined as patents, utility models and other statutory rights
based on inventions, including any published applications for any of the
foregoing – even if the terms of the standard are such that there are no
alternative means of compliance.”

Generally international standards and patents are like water and oil,
and RAND conditions are the soap that allow them to mix. But as the move
towards Open Standards evolves, shared standards get more and more
unacceptable. Shared standards do discriminate and do appear to be
unreasonable.

It is time to adapt the legal definition of reasonable and
non-discriminatory to common sense.

I would also add that not only are ECMA/.NET patent terms unreasonable (how can it be an Open Standard if you have to pay a fee?), but the non-discriminatory terms have already been broken with Microsoft’s exclusive agreement with Novell:

I read the agreement between Xandros and Microsoft, and one of the
excluded products was Mono, so Microsoft promises to not sue Xandros
over their distribution but excluding Mono and a few other products,
i.e. they reserve the right to sue over Mono. I wonder if this is an
interesting preview of on what basis they want to fight the free world.

Interestingly, the Novell deal seems to be different, Mono is not
excluded from the Novell deal. So Microsoft seems to be promising not to
sue Novell over Mono, but keeps the option open for Xandros. Weird but
true.

All in all, it is clear that the ECMA/.Net/Mono patent conditions are far from either “reasonable” or “non-discriminatory”.

Meanwhile, I stumbled upon some old articles that reminded me of how much de Icaza is in love with the Redmond gangsters, and how dearly he’d love to mutate Gnome into the bastard son of Windows:

Gnome to be based on .NET – de Icaza

Learn to love The Beast
By Andrew Orlowski in New York

Published Friday 1st February 2002 17:56 GMT

[Interview]
How much do you love Microsoft’s .NET? Enough to trust your Gnome
applications to its APIs in the future?

That’s what Gnome leader Miguel de Icaza, believes should happen. Miguel
calls .NET the “natural upgrade” for the Gnome platform, and enthused
about the technology in an interview with us at LinuxWorld this week.
Basing Gnome on the .NET APIs will cut development time significantly,

He also had praise for the new Microsoft security model, dismissed the
notion that Redmond was employing embrace and extend to its web services
protocols, and put the message that the community should get over its
beef with The Beast.

“I’d like to see Gnome applications written in .NET in version 4.0 – no,
version 3.0. But Gnome 4.0 should be based on .NET,” he told us. “A lot
of people just see .NET as a fantastic upgrade for the development
platform from Microsoft.

Read the whole article, it’s most revealing.

Miguel loves ActiveX too:

At Microsoft I learned the truth about ActiveX and COM and I got very
interested in it inmediately(sic).

He shows extremely poor taste (in many things).

[1] For anyone still not convinced of Microsoft’s ethical depravity, please see the following:

http://www.grokdoc.net/index.php/Dirty_Tricks_history
http://www.groklaw.net/staticpages/index.php?page=2005010107100653
http://boycottnovell.com/microsoft-critique-resources/
http://boycottnovell.com/2008/05/25/eu-crackdown-astroturfing/
http://www.vanwensveen.nl/rants/microsoft/IhateMS.html

[2] Proposed US ACTA multi-lateral intellectual property trade agreement

http://antitrust.slated.org/censorship/acta-proposal-2007.pdf [PDF]

And finally:

[3] Why did Microsoft invent .NET (I’m assuming they invented it, rather than their usual MO of simply assimilating it from another source) when there is already Java? To answer this question, you may also like to consider why they “(re)invented” OOXML, Moonlight, XPS and other “fscking kill <vendor>” technologies.

Any supposedly Free Software advocate who can still defend or support Mono at this point, is clearly either irredeemably corrupt or terminally stupid (or possibly both). They are part of the problem, not part of the solution. And yes, the “problem” is Microsoft.

De Icaza, are you listening?

Mono Microsoft brain

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60 Comments

  1. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 2:05 am

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    You don’t have to pay to use Mono. No fees, RAND or otherwise, are required. If they were, Mono would not be in Fedora, Debian, etc.

    Your point/counterpoint misses some important arguments, such as those used by Fedora.

    BTW, “Why did Microsoft invent .NET when there is already Java?” we already answered in a previous story :) If Java had been free software from the start, Microsoft wouldn’t have created .NET.

  2. Woods said,

    May 28, 2008 at 2:14 am

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    A very good summary of the situation so far.

    I have a vague recollection of C# being a reaction to Sun holding the reins of Java-the-language (Microsofts extensions to Java, over which Sun complained and the (friendly) debate between “Mr Method” Heljsberg and “Mr. Class” Gosling)

    So even a free Java (language, VM, platform) from the start would probably still have resulted in some MS-specific extensions/implementations which probably would have resulted in something that resembles modern C#/.NET perhaps?

  3. Michael said,

    May 28, 2008 at 2:47 am

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    Why did the create .net? Simple – because they didn’t own the platform, and the courts stopped them embracing and extending it so they could.

    So they just took java and fiddled with it a bit to make a new platform they control completely. A free java wouldn’t have made any difference – did a free html?

    (If anything Mono probably crosses more sun patents than ms? vm’s are not that new either – lisp?)

    And to AlexH – a protection by mutual destruction doesn’t mean that Mono is actually free. Novell are paying for it, and only their customers are protected by their cost. Just because some knight in shining armour will come and protect you if you get sued for using it elsewhere, it doesn’t change the basic facts.

  4. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 2:48 am

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    @Woods: I think Sun were entirely within their rights to not want “Java the platform” to be split up; and recently they’ve been doing that with their trademark and certification process and that seems reasonable. If you run the test suite and it passes, it’s Java, more or less.

    I think they went too far with Microsoft, though, and that has really damaged Java. They’re still not totally with-it in the community: e.g., the new JavaFX stuff is springing out of nowhere, there will be no community process with that (unless that changed recently). If they had been less controlling, Java would be a dominant language in the free software world. Right now, it’s only really dominant in a few projects (e.g., Apache).

  5. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 2:54 am

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    @Michael: no, indeed “mutually assured destruction” is mad. That’s not quite the point, though.

    It’s more like security: you have many layers which give you protection. In free software projects in general, you take an approach whereby you a. don’t go looking at potentially patented code, b. you ask contributors not to develop code which is potentially patented, c. you remove potentially patented code when it crops up. Particularly, in the US you can’t do much more than that (if you actively look for patents, you become more liable for triple damages, because it’s easier to show you infringed the patent knowingly).

    With OIN, it’s saying that in addition to trying to avoid patents, there is also a counter-measure in place with those free software projects which further protects them, not just from Microsoft, but as you rightly point out anyone who has a VM patent.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 3:18 am

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    @Alex:

    …indeed “mutually assured destruction” is mad. That’s not quite the point, though.

    Why not? Care to elaborate, please?

  7. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 3:55 am

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    @Roy:

    Sorry, I thought I had explained.

    Primarily, Mono avoids patents a couple of ways. Implementing the (royalty-free) ISO standard is one way, and that covers the core of the software. The non-.net sourced libraries, like Gtk#, are also highly unlikely to be covered by patents.

    Even though it’s not likely someone would succeed in court, obviously someone could bring a dodgy claim like SCO vs. IBM. That’s where OIN comes in: it makes it much less likely that anyone involved in the IT industry (obviously it doesn’t protect from trolls) would bring a suit against any free software project protected by it.

    Now, as I’ve said before, that doesn’t cover some outlying parts of Mono, like Moonlight, and some distros like Fedora haven’t picked up Moonlight yet because they are worried about the patent issues in that specific part of Mono. You can potentially make the argument against XAML in general (although I would suspect that any patent on XAML would be a serious problem for Mozilla), too. If those parts turn out not to be free software, I’m not going to support people using them, and I imagine no distribution outside Novell would take those parts. That doesn’t mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater though.

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 4:08 am

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    Let’s go back a little. What makes you confident that the ISO part is “royalty-free” as you put it? Just because it got shoved down (or up) ISO doesn’t make it so. Moreover, by biting the nail (Mono core) you’re leading programmers to biting off a finger (Winforms, Moonlight, etc). Does that not seem factless at best?

  9. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 4:28 am

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    I consider the ISO bit “royalty free” because those are the terms on which the standard was released. Obviously, not everything ISO does is.

    I’m not sure that leading people to Mono leads them to Winforms or Moonlight. Where’s the data that supports that? Winforms, compared to Gtk#, is pretty awful and isn’t even “the way” on Windows. If you were talking about WPF then maybe, but Mono doesn’t support it.

    As for Moonlight: well, the issue here is again the same thing. Not many people are going to develop Moonlight on Mono because it’s a horrible environment to do it in. The only time that will change is when someone comes up with a really good editor, and at that point the output format makes little difference: do it in Moonlight, do it in Flash, whatever.

  10. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 5:04 am

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    From what I could gather, based on Miguel’s blog, some of those things that you mentioned are in the pipeline, in ‘extend’ more so to speak. The mimicking of Windows is likely to just carry on unless someone stop it. As it stands, GNOME is already being delivered with bits of Mono and based on Miguel’s plans, we’re not far from a Mono-based GNOME. The bits are just being built separately (even dbus now has a C# implementation).

    Have you seen presentations about Windows 7apourware? Based on the latest I’ve seen, it’s just a minor update (i.e. Service Pack for Vista), which confirms that Windows is more or less a dead end. Development is done overseas, too.

    Only an insane mind would think that Microsoft is assisting Miguel for the sake of ‘better competition’. They try to kill the Free desktop. Ballmer has already stated this more implicitly than explicitly, but it’s far too clear.

  11. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 5:21 am

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    I think GNOME is a long way from that. For example, DBUS doesn’t have a C# implementation as you said: there is a native C# client library, but DBUS itself is and will remain a C daemon.

    I also don’t see any desire or motivation on anyone’s part to move GNOME toward using framework which isn’t accessible by the multiple languages which it currently supports, which includes C#.

    I have no doubt that Microsoft is helping people to help itself. But the problem is, _every_ corporation thinks that way and indeed is _required_ to think that way by law. By that yardstick, you’d never work with any corporation, because they could always screw your project over, and they do.

    Virtually every major player in IT has harmed free software in some way. Microsoft’s actions are well known. But for example, so have Nokia – they’re purchasing Trolltech, but have arguably done more to promote software patents in Europe than any other company: see, e.g. http://eupat.ffii.org/gasnu/nokia/index.en.html . Do we then take a stand against Qt? My answer is, of course not – it’s free software.

    The problem with taking an “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” point of view is that every major player has done something anti-free software. Usually, not one thing, but a laundry list of things. Certainly much longer lists of bad deeds than Novell have against their name (who this site promotes a boycott against, let’s remember).

  12. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 5:27 am

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    Do you really want to align the abuses of Nokia against GNU/Linux and compare that to Microsoft’s? Let’s make a start. I already know about Nokia and swpatents. Let’s move on with this. What /else/? We have a big list to beat…

    http://boycottnovell.com/microsoft-critique-resources/
    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20041228040645419

  13. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 5:46 am

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    That’s a straw man: I wasn’t comparing Nokia to Microsoft. I was comparing graphic toolkits proffered by patent supporters. I don’t see the logical argument which says you should use one and not the other.

    Obviously Nokia aren’t “as bad” as Microsoft (whatever that means), they’re neither big enough nor powerful enough.

  14. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 6:13 am

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    While Nokia competes against mobile Linux (although it increasingly embraces it nowadays), it’s a different situation. Microsoft defends a platform against Linux more than Nokia ever will. This comparison is still invalid. It relates to the Flash/Adobe question because Adobe is relatively platform-agnostic. It does media and applications, not operating systems.

  15. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 6:24 am

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    The comparison is only invalid if you restate it in different terms as you’ve done. I stated it in terms of consumption, not competition.

    As for Adobe being platform-agnostic: by that definition, everyone except for Microsoft and Apple are platform-agnostic :) In terms of applications, free software gets the barest crumbs from their table, including the patented Flash player and DRM-using PDF reader. They gave us Tamarin, and I applaud that strongly. But they’re no role model by any means.

  16. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 6:26 am

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    We’re also a long way off the topic of why Mono doesn’t require fees, and my explanation of why it was included in free software distributions. ;)

  17. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 6:28 am

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    They gave us Tamarin, and I applaud that strongly. But they’re no role model by any means.

    No role model, for sure. Them and Nokia, on the other hand, are unlikely to sue FOSS companies (for the same reasons as Microsoft might).

  18. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 6:29 am

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    Yes, it’s drifting slightly off topic, but read the seminal bit of this post (not written by me, as it clearly states). It’s the /holder/ of patents that matters the most.

  19. Woods said,

    May 28, 2008 at 6:35 am

    Gravatar

    (just a nitpicking sidenote…)
    D-Bus actually does have a C#-implementation (Ndesk-dbus) altough that is *not* used in GNOME which is probably what AlexH meant.
    (It’s only used by Tomboy and F-Spot, if memory serves me right)

    Then again, these days there’s even a Java-implementation of D-Bus…:-)

  20. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 6:47 am

    Gravatar

    @Woods: perhaps there’s a confusion over terminology here. Ndesk-dbus is what I was referring to, but you can’t say that it replaces DBUS: you can’t pull out the C DBUS daemon and replace it with a C# version, although it’s certainly possible someone could write that.

  21. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 6:49 am

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    Alex,

    We have gone through this before. See this post.

  22. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 7:02 am

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    Because you’ve posted the same misinformation before doesn’t make it correct, particularly since we now know you often don’t read the articles before you post them.

    Saying that the C-based DBUS implementation in GNOME is going to be replaced is just nonsense. It’s not even vaguely true.

    And that’s the problem. You don’t really understand the technology or how it relates to other parts of GNOME; you just see the tag ‘#’ and think “more Mono! that must be bad!”. And it’s sad, because it’s another free software project you’re casting FUD on.

  23. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 7:07 am

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    It’s the discussion I was pointing at. The implementation does exist, as Woods pointed out, but it’s not replacing the existing one. Yet. (How long before Miguel & Colleagues contact The Register to censor this article like they did with Linux Planet?)

  24. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 7:14 am

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    But this is what I mean about “you don’t understand the technology”.

    Ndesk-dbus allows C# apps to talk to a DBUS daemon in managed code. You can’t use it from non-.net apps, it doesn’t run the system bus, there is no daemon.

    There is no “yet”. Ndesk-dbus is only of interest to C# apps, and you still need a system dbus for it to talk to.

  25. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 7:26 am

    Gravatar

    It does not matter. The point I was making is that a lot of the pieces are being put in place, so if some time in the future a switchover was to take place (or be made optional), you’d have Banshee, F-Spot, Tomboy etc. and some of the underlying technology that connects them. It’s like getting a truck over, packing everything in suitcases in boxes but insisting that you don’t move apartments. watch the “The Register” article again.

    It’s not a good analogy (I’m just thinking and typing as I go along), but the matter of fact is that we’re seeing a lot of Mono around with additional functions; might this come at the expense of technologies that exists not in the shadow and at the mercy of Linux’s number one threat, which relentlessly attacks it?

  26. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 7:36 am

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    By that standard, any improvement to .net apps is “bad” because it takes us one step further to some imaginary switch-over.

    Ignoring the fact that the entire GNOME platform from widget set to calendar is all in C code, and that not only is no-one trying to replace those parts, it’s policy that they stay in C.

    Mono doesn’t exist at Microsoft’s mercy. As I’ve already explained, many times, it’s free software. You’ve admitted that in the past as well, I don’t know why you keep changing your mind.

  27. Miles said,

    May 28, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Gravatar

    He’s also admitted that FUD is acceptable as long as it is a means to the end /he/ desires.

    Just to reiterate what AlexH is saying, since it still seems Roy doesn’t grasp the concept, is that NDesk-DBus is the client-side API ONLY. It allows C# apps to talk to the DBus daemon (which is written in C). It is NOT a C# implementation of the daemon.

    NDesk-DBus, afaik, was only written because the auto-generated DBus-client API was not a nice fit in general with the rest of the .NET APIs, so someone (Alp Toker if memory serves correctly) decided to implement “bindings” from scratch in pure managed code.

  28. Miles said,

    May 28, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Gravatar

    (How long before Miguel & Colleagues contact The Register to censor this article like they did with Linux Planet?)

    Do you have any proof of this accusation? How do you know that the article simply wasn’t (re)moved by LinuxPlanet independently?

    I suspect the answer is “no”, but you’ll probably post link or two to a past article you wrote where you make a similar claim with no backing evidence to support it.

  29. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 10:18 am

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    The article was not removed. It was changed 2 years after it had been published and Miguel got flak.

  30. Saul Goode said,

    May 28, 2008 at 10:33 am

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    You don’t have to pay to use Mono. No fees, RAND or otherwise, are required. If they were, Mono would not be in Fedora, Debian, etc.

    I consider the ISO bit “royalty free” because those are the terms on which the standard was released. Obviously, not everything ISO does is.

    Where can I find the terms of this licensing? Thus far, I have tried the following to no avail (quite possibly owing to my own failure, but still the question remains unanswered):

    I have searched on ISO’s website but was unable to find it. It is a requirement of ISO that any submitter reveal known patents[1]. I am skeptical that this requirement means that ISO doesn’t have to actually disclose such information. It would seem much more reasonable that potential implementers be provided a way of perusing those terms. Yet I am unable to locate the actual licensing terms that Microsoft claims apply to even their ISO’s .NET technology.

    I considered that perhaps the licensing terms are made available within MS .NET development tools package. I attempted to pursue this by downloading the 300Mb EXE file (which I assumed was a self-extracting archive) but my Info-ZIP tools were unable to extract any files. I realize that Mono developers should be reluctant to examine the MS code, even for licensing, but perhaps someone not involved in the project might extract the licensing terms (should they exist therein) and post them on the web.

    Nor can I find any specification of these ISO-compliant terms on the Mono project website — other than a reference to a 2003 email from Jim Miller which asserts that royalty-free and otherwise RAND “will be available”[2]. Has this “will be available” happened yet? If so, were can I view the royalty-free and otherwise RAND terms of this license?

    I have made this request many times before on other forums and even on this website[3]; and yet no one has ever provided an answer. It would seem a reasonable starting point for debate that the actual terms being debated are available to all involved. Could someone please help me resolve this?

    [1] http://isotc.iso.org/livelink/livelink/fetch/2000/2122/3770791/Common_Policy.htm
    [2] http://web.archive.org/web/20030424174805/http://mailserver.di.unipi.it/pipermail/dotnet-sscli/msg00218.html
    [3] http://boycottnovell.com/2008/04/27/novell-gnome-against-java/#comments

  31. Slated said,

    May 28, 2008 at 11:00 am

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    @AlexH

    “By that standard, any improvement to .net apps is “bad” because it takes us one step further to some imaginary switch-over.”

    The “bad” here is that the foundations are being laid for Gnome (Free Software) to be completely dependent on Mono (Non-Free Software … yes, despite its GPL status).

    But back to the main point, you seem to have missed the part that the RAND is incompatible with the GPL, whether or not any “fees” are levied:

    “there have been terms written into GPL licenses that explicitly conflict with software patents.”

    As for the OIN (whose efforts I do applaud) this is nonetheless irrelevant. I am talking about the ECMA covered parts of .NET. Those patents are owned by Microsoft, not the OIN. If the OIN (or frankly /anyone/ but Microsoft) /did/ own the patents to /all/ of Mono, then there wouldn’t be a problem.

    Like I summarised at the end of the article; ‘the “problem” is Microsoft’. Please tell me you understand why, since the evidence is profoundly clear. If a Columbian drugs cartel started giving away free lemonade at a summer fair, would you accept it? Hey, it’s “free”, right? Does that act of supposed altruism suddenly make them /not/ gangsters any more? And naturally their intentions are good, and they don’t have a more sinister agenda … right?

    Are you really that naive?

    You also seem to be suggesting Microsoft’s true motive for the creation of .NET, was they wanted Free Software (and at that time, Java wasn’t). Oh, please … gimmie a break. We all know what motivates Microsoft, and it certainly isn’t “Freedom”.

    Again, as I summarised in the article, the motive for everything Microsoft does is to “fscking kill “. And again you attempt to excuse that with the “everybody does it” argument. Does every company use bribery and corruption as freely as Microsoft does? Are you denying that Microsoft is /exceptionally/ unethical. And this has nothing to do with size, Microsoft could be a as small as SCO or IP Innovation LLC, and still behave like gangsters. You recognise those two companies, right?

    I find your circumvention of the ugly truth about Microsoft, to be absolutely amazing.

    But what I find most amazing of all Alex, is that you (a supposedly Free Software developer) seems to be devoting so much of his time to defending one of the world’s most morally reprehensible corporations.

    Why is that?

  32. Miles said,

    May 28, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Gravatar

    The article was not removed. It was changed 2 years after it had been published and Miguel got flak.

    I gather, then, that you have no evidence to support your claim that it was of Miguel’s doing?

    Do you even have any proof that the article was changed at all? Or is this just more of the typical FUD that you like to throw around so much?

    Considering that all of the re-posts of that article on LinuxToday, LXer, RedHat’s news archive, LinuxOnline (aka Linux.Org) and messages on mailing-list archives (dated mid-May 2006) that refer to this article all use the same title (which is what you just claimed was changed) all match the current title… what am I missing?

  33. AlexH said,

    May 28, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Gravatar

    @Slated:

    On the contrary, I’m not defending Microsoft. I’m defending other free software projects.

    If it’s just opinion pieces, frankly, I wouldn’t care.

    What isn’t fair is to misrepresent projects, come up with “facts” which turn out to be wrong, and build up these huge banks of bad articles which propagate this stuff. Just because it’s a blog doesn’t excuse you from basic research, which is one area Roy and I disagree.

    This “information” is presented as being pro-free software, and much of it is. Warnings about software patents in Europe are apropos and on point. But there is material here which is strongly anti-free software, and that’s what I object to. Saying that people won’t have “full peace of mind” because OpenOffice.org can import OOXML, for example, is FUD, no matter what you think of the merits of OOXML.

    I also object to overly-personal attacks on the likes of Patrick Durusau, who is an active participant in the development of OpenDocument but comes under constant bombardment simply because his opinions don’t match the opinions of this site’s primary author. That’s also wrong.

  34. cday said,

    May 28, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Gravatar

    Roy,

    I thought some who have posted comments on this article (especially Alex) might also enjoy this article:
    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20080528133529454

    Okay, maybe Alex won’t enjoy it much, but I hope he reads it anyway.

    cday

  35. Alex H. said,

    May 28, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Gravatar

    @cday:

    Actually, if you’d been keeping up, I did note a number of times that the jury was currently out on Moonlight.

    I think this highlights the difference between my viewpoint and others here. If free software distributions/companies reject Moonlight on the basis of the patent stuff, I’ll quite happily call it non-free. If those same people accept it, I doubt this site will admit that it was wrong.

  36. Miles said,

    May 28, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Gravatar

    The question isn’t really about whether or not Moonlight is free software – it is. Plain and simple.

    The only question (if you can call it that) is whether or not non-Novell distributions can ship Moonlight bundled with the Microsoft codecs. But we already have a pretty good idea that the answer is “no”. That’s pretty much all the article seems to reveal (whoopty-doo, we already knew that).

    As far as I or anyone can tell, distributions should be perfectly able to ship Moonlight sans MS codecs without breaking any laws.

    From Miguel’s blog:

    Moonlight is free software, as its distributed under the terms of a free software license. Moonlight today ships with no codecs, but we plan on using proprietary codecs with it from Microsoft. The Microsoft codecs will be free to use, but they are not “free software” in the spirit of the FSF free software definition. The reason is that codecs are heavily patented. But creative minds can compile Moonlight with ffmpeg (another piece of free software) that happens to implement the decoding components. We are just not in a position to ship it ourselves.

    Our software is free software because we grant you all the rights that you need to use, modify, distribute and redistribute modified copies of it. And since its under the LGPL, you also know that Novell (the shipping entity) will not sue you over the use of patents that Novell might have over any code we ship in Moonlight.

  37. Alex H. said,

    May 28, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Gravatar

    @Miles:

    Actually, to be fair on this, Moonlight does have a special problem with that covenant, even without codecs.

    Of course, the codec stuff is unquestionably non-free, and replacing it with “free” software is basically dubious from a patent point of view (the obvious villains being the MPEG patent holders) too. But in that respect it’s no worse than Flash.

    What is hilarious is how this gets lumped in with Mono on this site, as if this is a Mono problem.

    So, I’m happy to take a wait and see approach with Moonlight: it’s probably not going to take distros long to come to a considered view on this issue, and it’s not like we all need this plug-in right now.

  38. tracyanne said,

    May 28, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Gravatar

    Oh dear, tin hat time is here again.

    We’ve been through this already Roy. Your reprise adds nothing to the argument, except that now you get the last word, because this is your blog.

    BTW: Moonlight (I’ve never tried Silverlight, don’t have a windows computer) runs exceptionally fast across the net, and certainly give adobe’s Flash based technologies a run for their money. So Adobe will have to pick up their game. Adobe will also have to make their development tolls better.

  39. cday said,

    May 28, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Gravatar

    Alex wrote: “…If free software distributions/companies reject Moonlight on the basis of the patent stuff, I’ll quite happily call it non-free. If those same people accept it, I doubt this site will admit that it was wrong.”
    …………..

    @Alex,

    To me, your phrase “free software distributions/companies” seems a little vague. Which ones, exactly? How many distributions/companies declaring Moonlight to be non-free would it take to change your mind?

    Just calling something free or non-free doesn’t solve anything. After all Microsoft loves calling things “open” and “free” and (my favorite) “Live!” but they’re just marketing words and not reality.

    It seems to me that it should all be clearly set out in the license. The GPL3, for instance would be a good place to start, if those who develop Moonlight truly want it to be accepted as Free. But ambiguously worded patent promises that no one can understand only serve to distort things and feed the fires of suspicion.

    Personally, I believe Roy would be gracious enough to apologize if he’s shown to be wrong. In this case though, I doubt if he’ll ever need to.

  40. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Gravatar

    Alex,

    The key word is workaround. Novell and Microsoft worked together (schemed) to betray the spirit of the GPL without breaking the rules, not technically anyway. So saying that it’s “Free software” is like saying that a rotten apple is edible. Sure, it’ll do all sort of things to your body, but at least you satisfy your hunger.

  41. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Gravatar

    cday,

    Thanks for the link. Yes, I sent Groklaw some pointers to show what’s coming from Goldfarb’s mouth. This needs to be discussed and circulated more widely to increase people’s awareness before the Trojan horse gets past the gate.

  42. Nobody Real said,

    May 28, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Gravatar

    Of course the whole patent argument is even sillier, considering that Microsft has never filed a patent lawsuit. Ever. Vague claims aside, there is no evidence, and no history to suggest Microsoft ever will. They have gone out of their way to not file patent lawsuits, even when they were well within their rights to do so.

    The obvious reason is that while Microsoft isn’t above using the threat of patents in it’s arguments, they dislike patents in general. Considering how often they’ve been the victim of them, I can’t blame them for disliking them.

  43. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Gravatar

    It doesn’t need to sue. It’s sometimes more effective to just threaten (how quickly one forgets May 2007). Moreover, companies begin to sue when their business declines. Don’t give Microsoft unnecessary ammunition which can be used in the form of intimidation or action. Ozzie implicitly confirmed yesterday that FOSS is Microsoft’s biggest threat. Ballmer said so a few months back.

  44. cday said,

    May 28, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Gravatar

    Microsoft may never directly sue anyone over patents, but they are certainly not above finding (funding?) others to do their dirty work for them.

  45. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 28, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Gravatar

    I’ve just posted a follow-up (thanks for the tip about GL). Microsoft buddies are one option [+], but another is empty threats.

    “Why make it ugly when you can make a ‘plant’ surrender?”

    Remember Icahn?

    ___
    [+] Former Microsoft employees like Nathan Myhrvold:

    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/05/09/intellectual-monopoly-miscellany/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/05/08/intellectual-abuse-against-foss/

    And others in Acacia too:

    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/10/15/acacia-comparison-sco-connection/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/10/17/oin-bully-troll-proxy/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/10/18/sjvn-on-acacia/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/10/18/patent-troll-intellectual-ventures/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/10/20/acacia-novell-patent-moot/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/10/22/lasuit-evolution-linux/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/10/20/acacia-novell-patent-moot/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/10/29/wipo-patent-threat/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/10/29/patent-front-linux/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/01/25/j-carl-cooper-and-ray-niro/

  46. Jeff Waugh said,

    May 28, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Gravatar

    Ah, Roy is still perpetuating the same old tired, unresearched claims. I wonder where he gets his information about my apparent support of Mono from?

    I suppose it’s easier to suggest — true to his conspiracy theory form — that I support his apparent enemy, rather than to come to the conclusion that I merely choose not to support his distasteful, ignorant, unresearched, misguided and amateurish website and approach.

    Clearly, because Roy isn’t capable of mounting a credible argument for his cause, I must be collaborating with the enemy. That is obviously the only supportable argument for disagreeing with Roy’s point of view!

  47. Dan O'Brian said,

    May 28, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Gravatar

    Jeff:

    <sarcasm>
    And obviously you must also be behind the conspiracy that updated all the google links to the article Roy claims had its headline changed to purposely make Roy look like a lying idiot.
    </sarcasm>

    ;-)

    Roy: You lie so often you’ve started to believe your own bull, but the rest of us are fortunately a bit more intelligent than you.

  48. AlexH said,

    May 29, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Gravatar

    @cday:

    Honestly, all it would take is one organisation who decided on legal advice that it wasn’t free.

    Here’s my reasoning. I agree that the words “free” or “non-free” are easily bandied about. What matters is the practice: do people get the four freedoms or not?

    It’s very easy to blather on about patents as if it were the end of the world. If the people at the coal face – the people who would be the targets for legal action – are happy to distribute Moonlight, then to my mind the problem is basically inconsequential. That’s not to say that there is *no* risk of legal action (there’s always some risk with any software), but that those most at risk have decided for themselves the risk is acceptable.

  49. Miles said,

    May 29, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Gravatar

    I can’t imagine Microsoft has any patents on Moonlight. XAML isn’t exactly anything new and as far as the other 2D graphics API for use in a browser that they offer, nothing new there either – it’s all been done before with at least Flash and Java applets, nevermind the Canvas browser extension and probably many others.

    The only patents to worry about in Moonlight 1.0 are the video/audio codecs, but well, duh. Nothing new there. If you want multimedia support (for the most common codecs) on Linux you either have to put yourself at legal risk or license them.

  50. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 30, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Gravatar

    Once again you dodge the main point. It’s nothing to do with legal action; it’s intimidation, dark clouds.

  51. MonkeeSage said,

    December 21, 2008 at 5:07 am

    Gravatar

    The “main point,” as far as I can see, is that any patent claims over the core mono (and pnet) implementations, are waived via the RAND-Z (or RAND-RF as some call it), promise of MS wrt applicable patents.

    “Oh,” some say, “that was just the statement of a random developer–it’s not binding.” Sorry, but that “random developer” is one of the *holders* of the patents(!); furthermore, he was speaking in his official capacity as a MS spokesperson–his word is gold.

    Yet further, silly quibbles about the tensing of his statement (“will be” vs. “are”) really don’t stand up, since the context indicates that the intent relates to the present (“have agreed”, past tense–”will be”, future tense == now). It’s no different than the GPL using phrases like “shall be deemed”–does that mean the GNU doesn’t really apply *now*? Of course not! Rather, it is using an ingressive nuance to convey the sense of ‘starting now, and including all times future to now’. This is quite obviously how the various legal advisors to different Linux distributions have interpreted the language, as verified by the inclusion of mono / pnet in those distributions.

  52. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 21, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Gravatar

    That inclusion occurred before the exclusionary patent deal with Novell got signed.

  53. MonkeeSage said,

    December 21, 2008 at 5:42 am

    Gravatar

    Roy,

    It is not “exclusionary,” per se, it’s just delimited in scope. In other words, the Novell contract doesn’t *invalidate* (“exclude”) prior grants, it only solidifies certain grants to Novell as a privileged contractor (whether that is a good or bad thing is a separate issue–and I have a feeling I would probably agree with your conclusions on that particular issue). But the point here is that MS has effectively waived all claims (yes, I know they still hold the IP, but we’re talking actionable claims here) to the core technologies behind mono and pnet. So what we have, when it’s all boiled down, is a copy-left license with future-safety. It’s not free-as-in-freedom, but it is free-as-in-beer–and that’s a *huge* point in this whole dialog.

  54. jo Shields said,

    December 21, 2008 at 5:45 am

    Gravatar

    it only solidifies certain grants to Novell as a privileged contractor

    Point of note: Microsoft and Novell do not have any access to each others’ patents – their customers do (as a common tactic in messy patent trolling is to target USERS of an ‘infringing’ technology, not those who put it there; see Trend Micro versus Barracura RE ClamAV)

  55. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 21, 2008 at 5:46 am

    Gravatar

    Bob Muglia (of Microsoft) said that:

    There is a substantive effort in open source to bring such an
    implementation of .Net to market, known as Mono and being driven by
    Novell, and one of the attributes of the agreement we made with Novell
    is that the intellectual property associated with that is available to
    Novell customers.”

    It doesn’t sound like Novell alone merely “solidified’ anything.

  56. MonkeeSage said,

    December 21, 2008 at 5:56 am

    Gravatar

    Jo:

    Noted. Sorry for any confusion.

  57. jo Shields said,

    December 21, 2008 at 5:57 am

    Gravatar

    The question which prompted that answer was “But people are looking at Suns GPL move with Java and asking whether Microsoft might now make the .Net Framework available under an open-source license in addition to your Shared Source license. Any possibility of that?”

    Care to speculate the answer if the question had been, say, “How about releasing the Exchange specs so open-source mail apps can talk to it”?

  58. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 21, 2008 at 6:02 am

    Gravatar

    It’s all very separate from the issues of software patents and intent. Even GPL-ing something does not resolve this,

  59. jo Shields said,

    December 21, 2008 at 6:04 am

    Gravatar

    So what’s the intent? Mono was started in 2002, 4 years before this oft-derided patent deal.

  60. MonkeeSage said,

    December 21, 2008 at 6:15 am

    Gravatar

    Roy,

    It’s not really a separate issue, from a legal perspective. If permissive grants are in effect which render all applicable patent claims non-actionable, then in essence, the patents are worthless (that’s an overstatement–more accurately, they are worthless as a leverage to force adoption of a specific implementation of the technology under threat of legal action).

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