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Reader’s Thoughts on Mark Shuttleworth’s Response (Regarding Microsoft Codecs)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Mono, Patents, Ubuntu at 2:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It was only several hours ago that this mailing list thread came to our attention. Therein, Mark Shuttleworth addresses a post from Boycott Novell. An anonymous reader took it upon himself to respond to it. His response is quoted below in full. Context and background can be found here.

“FOSS distros shouldn’t be a vector for licensing problems…”If Mark Shuttleworth wants to be unambiguous about it, he needs to state “is not and shall not” make a deal for closed codecs. I know that comes close to splitting hairs, but his answer will help prevent unpleasant surprises.

If he’s dealing with proprietary codecs, or general Microsoft technology, he should be wise from the mistakes of others: there’s a trail of out of work CEOs that thought that their company should remain “willing to work with Microsoft, under reasonable and transparent conditions, to further goals that we share” e.g.

“I once preached peaceful coexistence with Windows. You may laugh at my expense — I deserve it.”

Be’s CEO Jean-Louis Gassée

Mark’s not dumb. He shouldn’t try to act dumb. Just how would Canonical survive a deal with Microsoft when no other company to-date has?

However, that’s not as concrete as the mono infection which is listed on the project page:

Subnotebooks, especially those with small HDs or SSDs don’t have 100′s of GB to spare for mono-bloat for just a few packages. Subnotebooks, especially those with low power CPUs don’t have the gigacycles to deal with mono’s bloat spaghetti code. FOSS distros shouldn’t be a vector for licensing problems, like the ones still unresolved after (10?) years of mono.

Note F-Spot:

Note mono infection:

$ apt-cache depends f-spot
  Depends: dbus
  Depends: libart-2.0-2
  Depends: libatk1.0-0
  Depends: libc6
 |Depends: libc6
 |Depends: <libc6.1>
  Depends: <libc0.1>
  Depends: libcairo2
  Depends: libexif12
  Depends: libflickrnet2.1.5-cil
  Depends: libgconf2.0-cil
 |Depends: libgl1-mesa-glx
  Depends: <libgl1>
  Depends: libglade2.0-cil
  Depends: libglib2.0-0
  Depends: libglib2.0-cil
  Depends: libgnome-vfs2.0-cil
  Depends: libgnome2.0-cil
  Depends: libgnomeui-0
  Depends: libgnomevfs2-0
  Depends: libgphoto2-2
  Depends: libgphoto2-port0
  Depends: libgtk2.0-0
  Depends: libgtk2.0-cil
  Depends: libgtkhtml3.16-cil
  Depends: libjpeg62
  Depends: liblcms1
  Depends: libmono-addins-gui0.2-cil
  Depends: libmono-addins0.2-cil
  Depends: libmono-cairo2.0-cil
  Depends: libmono-corlib2.0-cil
  Depends: libmono-sharpzip2.84-cil
  Depends: libmono-sqlite2.0-cil
  Depends: libmono-system-data2.0-cil
  Depends: libmono-system-web2.0-cil
  Depends: libmono-system2.0-cil
  Depends: libmono2.0-cil
  Depends: libndesk-dbus-glib1.0-cil
  Depends: libndesk-dbus1.0-cil
  Depends: libx11-6
  Depends: libxcomposite1
  Depends: mono-runtime
  Depends: sqlite
  Depends: sqlite3
  Recommends: dbus-x11
  Recommends: dcraw

I fought to mention that subnotebooks are often being used in environments/situations where the instability caused by mono causes more harm than in more relaxed situations.

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  1. Rui Miguel Silva Seabra said,

    June 10, 2008 at 6:04 pm


    apt-cache depends fubar will list you all the packages fubar depends on.

    apt-cache rdepends fubar will list you all the packages depending on fubar.

    For f-spot it’s:
    apt-cache rdepends f-spot
    Reverse Depends:

  2. Victor Soliz said,

    June 10, 2008 at 6:42 pm


    Rui Miguel Silva Seabra: So metapackages intended to install f-spot among other things, depend on f-spot, hmnn…

  3. Woods said,

    June 11, 2008 at 12:18 am


    ubuntu-desktop depends on F-Spot?
    Doesn’t that mean that removing F-Spot would also remove ubuntu-desktop package?
    Either rdepends reports that a bit funnily or it’s a new development in Hardy, since in 7.10 I could still rip out mono et al. without a problem (I hit the ubuntu-desktop problem when trying to rip out Evolution, if memory serves me…)

    That is bad news indeed, since it would mean that removing mono et al. would break the desktop pretty badly. If memory serves me, lack of ubuntu-desktop-package will cause problems when upgrading your installation.
    (disclaimer: I haven’t tried out Hardy, so this is just speculation)

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 11, 2008 at 12:47 am


    Would it be worth posting a separate inquiry/mention of this?

  5. Woods said,

    June 11, 2008 at 1:21 am


    >Would it be worth posting a separate inquiry/mention of this?

    Well, apparently rdepends also lists “Recommended” and “Suggests”-fields (http://osdir.com/ml/debian.apt.devel/2003-08/msg00044.html) so this would, fortunately, be a false alarm (this time)

    Only to way to be sure is to boot up Hardy, rip out mono et al. and see what happens (sigh, I guess it’s download-time after all…:-) )

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 11, 2008 at 1:25 am


    Yes, I realise it’s a false alarm a while ago in thew IRC channel where this was brought up.

  7. Chris Lees said,

    June 11, 2008 at 6:56 am


    You know, you can rip out Mono without twisting Apt into circles. Just find out what files are in the Mono package, and then delete them. I must say, I’ve never heard of Mono causing problems with the rest of the system, even on subnotebooks. In short, I’m accusing boycottnovell.com of FUD.

    Remaining willing to work with Microsoft should always be a possibility, should there be a culture shift in the corporation. We’ve seen enough culture shifts in computing to know it can happen. As for the codecs, maybe you should write a rabid article about how terrible Fluendo is, because they sell licenses for the Windows Media codecs (https://shop.fluendo.com), and then advise your readers to remove all Gstreamer packages from their systems?

  8. Roy Bixler said,

    June 11, 2008 at 8:43 am


    : You know, you can rip out Mono without twisting Apt into
    : circles. Just find out what files are in the Mono package,
    : and then delete them.

    That’s a bad idea and could cause you other (technical) problems down the road.

    : I must say, I’ve
    : never heard of Mono causing problems with the rest of the
    : system, even on subnotebooks. In short, I’m accusing
    : boycottnovell.com of FUD.

    Whereas I call it being outspoken and having an opinion. I happen to agree with it and consider it a bad idea to promote Microsoft APIs, always playing catch-up. It’s been tried before and we’ve all seen the results of the defunct competitors who tried this. This is aside from the issue of possible software patents.

    : Remaining willing to work with Microsoft should always be a
    : possibility, should there be a culture shift in the corporation. We’ve seen
    : enough culture shifts in computing to know it can happen.

    That’s unlikely but possible. Trust should be earned over time and I see no change in Microsoft’s culture so far.

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 11, 2008 at 8:47 am


    IBM is one among others who were betrayed by Microsoft. It’s a pattern without any exception I can think of. See http://boycottnovell.com/2007/12/01/antitrust-letters-doj/

  10. Needs Sunlight said,

    June 11, 2008 at 9:09 am


    If rdepends also lists “Recommended” and “Suggests” fields, that’s probably a bug which can and should be fixed upstream.

  11. Miles said,

    June 11, 2008 at 9:52 am


    Whereas I call it being outspoken and having an opinion.

    Exactly, so let’s not confuse opinion with fact ;-)

    Since the opinion is one of fear, uncertainty, and doubt – it is also by definition FUD.

  12. RyanT said,

    June 11, 2008 at 12:26 pm


    I’ve never seen or heard anything about mono making a system more unstable, and in fact myself have uninstalled mono completely, with no problems at all. At the same time, I noticed no performance changes.

    FFS get this through your thick skull – despite what many people have pointed out, you continue to ignore that these are just codecs that the only way to legally acquire are to actually pay for them, and how in the world does this represent a further, larger deal in the leagues of Novells.

    Also, anything involving taking out Evolution isn’t a problem with infection – I myself through experience have found many, completely safe normal packages have ended up taking out important things (including desktop packages) without any intention. It is a dependency problem, not suspicious infection. You just have to make sure to check the changes to ensure anything that’s not needed to take out isn’t.

    Agreed with Miles said, this is FUD. A shame as I quite like this site too.

  13. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 11, 2008 at 12:44 pm



    The intention is not to cause alarm or incite panic. It’s supposed to show dangers where they exist so that they can be addressed or avoided. I guess there’s no gentle way to put this, but we at least try. Sorry if you find this counter productive…

  14. Lovecraft said,

    June 11, 2008 at 6:57 pm


    As I understood it they were taking steps to allow OEM’s to have legally licensed codecs for things that end users would see as critical. What the hell is the big deal. We all dislike Microsoft, but the vitriol this site spews over the most minor concessions, all in the name of principle is crazy. Who exactly is alright? Give this site a few years and they’ll have blacklisted every distro with more than a thousand users.

  15. RyanT said,

    June 11, 2008 at 7:58 pm


    Sorry for me little outburst.

    Roy, you seem like your heart’s in the right place and all, but as I see it, this site has very real danger of falling into the same trap as many other sites with similar campaigns.

    While they rally against bias, and show themselves as the white knights of the land, they get caught up ina trap, and go in circles around their own speculation, do a complete around-the-world and end up out the other side exactly what they were against and trying to avoid – bias.

    I don’t think you’ve gone there yet, but as each day passes, more and more you get too far ahead of yourself in certain things, you take certain bits of logic too far or present it in a way that is alarming or incites panic, even if not intended.

    Please, step out of this little world once in a while as a grounder – read some articles of the opposing side (well written, well thought out ones, not the raving ones that are often pointed out). If you spend too much time in this little world of boycott novell, you could end up in a downward, overly conspiratorial spiral that’ll make people take this site a lot less seriously.

    Sometimes you can be on the mark, but more and more I think you can get ahead of yourself, the recent Ubuntu codecs deal being the one that has been the straw to break the camels back. Not just because it is a well loved distribution, but because the logic takes too big a jump for people to believe, and is also too narrow of a view.

    Be more thorough, both in your research of Novell and of subjects like this where things like mono performance and the like come out of nowhere without seemingly much backup, but also in widening your view. Stop constantly focusing on the MS side of things all the time, or trying to imply the MS influence, because you are heading into a spiral of over selling things and seeing other things that might not be there.

    And, just to make sure it’s seen, I’ll post what I put in the other codecs thread here:

    Adding in proprietary codecs would only be limiting choice if you couldn’t in any way choose any other form of codec, or re-encode the file to another one.

    You are removing choice, because you are not allowing people to view content in formats they already use, amongst many others. You are causing more harm than good – you are putting up flimsy, unnecessary barriers, especially when you consider that without those codecs, then how are people supposed to change their files into new, open formats instead?

    The only way to do it is transition, which is exactly what Netbook Remix is doing. Including the codecs for people that need, and including the open formats too, ready and waiting to be converted to. They wouldn’t be able to do that without the proprietary codecs in the first place so they can read and convert them, meaning no transition, no more FOSS converts,etc etc.

    Why do you think OpenOffice includes support for MS Office foramts? Because people still have documents in taht format, and the only way you’re going to get new people and get them to transfer over completely, you have to be compatible with said formats in the first place, otherwise there’s no way to access or change formats.

    By not having the codecs, they would be blocking themselves from a much larger audience ripe for transition.

  16. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 11, 2008 at 10:07 pm


    @ Lovecraft: No, we don’t blacklist more distributors. Maybe these posts were not comprehended. Mark Fink’s messages deceived a great deal in that regard.

    @ RyanT: Thanks for the insightful thoughts. I largely agree with what you say. I’ll probably post a clarification later on (it requires a long explanation).

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