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10.16.08

Mono Watch: Where Is It All Coming From?

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, KDE, Microsoft, Mono, Novell at 8:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patent protection expires

Mono is still a controversial thing among readers of Linux Today, one of whom has just said:

Mono is a solution looking for a problem where the problem does not exists. If you want Web programming, there are enough Open Source alternatives that work actually better than NET in many cases and equals to it it in most cases.

VM environments include Java, PHP, Ruby, and Python. Frameworks include MVC type packages from Spring, Struts, WebWorks, Ruby on Rails,Ambivalence, WACT, CakePHP, etc. If NET is so wonderful, then why is MS so intent on offering a Ruby and Python for NET?

For whatever reason, while Ars Technica understands the problems with OOXML, it fails to recognise the known issues of Mono. To make matters worse, Mono continues to be promoted there.

Controversy erupted in the standards community this week when key members of Norway’s national standards body resigned in protest over procedural irregularities in the ISO approval process for Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) format.

This week also brought the long-awaited release of Mono 2.0, the latest version of Novell’s open-source implementation of the Microsoft .NET framework. Mono 2.0 includes support for C# 3.0 with Language Integrated Query (LINQ) support and many other compelling features. We also looked at the Mono 2.0 Live CD, which makes it easy for users and developers to try out the new version of Mono.

That Live CD comes from Novell and this type of infectious hype also made its way into EFYTimes.

The Mono project, an open source initiative sponsored by Novell, has announced the availability of Mono 2.0, an open source, cross-platform .NET development framework. Mono 2.0 provides all the necessary software to develop and run .NET client and server applications on Linux, as well as other operating systems. The new Mono 2.0 release is now compatible with the desktop and server components of version 2.0 of the Microsoft .NET framework and features the Mono Migration Analyzer (MoMA), an analytical tool for .NET-to-Linux migrations.

Overall, this level of coverage dedicated to an unimportant piece of software is rather baffling. We mentioned this bafflement before [1, 2]. It’s truly curious that a lot of the coverage actually comes not just from Novell; it also comes from its partners at Microsoft. Here, for instance, is some coverage from Justin James at TechRepublic. James appended a disclosure: “Disclosure of Justin’s industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine.” No wonder he promotes Mono.

For developers who want an alternative to Microsoft Visual Studio, there is Mono Develop. A new version of Mono Develop is slated for release in January 2009; it will deliver improved usability and an enlarged feature set, including support for Visual Studio file formats. This will allow developers on the same team to use both Mono Develop and Visual Studio, with no conversions between the two needed.

From the same site comes coverage of GNOME Do, which depends on Mono. They covered Banshee a few days ago. It’s Mono based and Novell-sponsored as well; same with Kerry Beagle (for KDE), which I came across the other day while looking for desktop search programs. It’s frustrating to see how Mono spreads down the dependency trees, even in KDE-based distributions (this was on Mandriva 2008.1).

For a couple of months now we’ve been tracking the movement of Mono around KDE [1, 2, 3]. It was seemingly gone — at least in terms of progress — well, for about a month. Now it’s back to making progress. From the very latest KDE Commit Digest:

Richard Dale committed changes in /branches/KDE/4.1/kdebindings/csharp:

* Promote the C# bindings from the trunk to the KDE 4.1 release branch
* Regenerate the KDE and Plasma sources from the 4.1 headers

This raises some concern.

What ever happened to forgotten article like this one from Tina Gasperson: “The patent trap: If Gnome gets Mono”

From the “things that could happen if Mono is incorporated into Gnome” department: Intel, having gleefully taken advantage of the MIT licensing on Mono’s class libraries, enforces its patents against every entity making use of its modifications, including the Gnome project, effectively shutting it down.

[...]

We are surprised we heard little complaining when Ximian CTO and Mono project leader de Icaza told The Register, “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. A lot of people just see .NET as a fantastic upgrade for the development platform from Microsoft.” de Icaza took issue with The Register over the headline on the article, but he didn’t deny that he made the statements as quoted. We don’t know what, if anything, will come of the Mono license change, and of course, de Icaza is not the CTO of Gnome, only of Ximian. However, we’re also not sure why Intel insisted on the MIT license instead of the LGPL, but you can be sure it has everything to do with protecting so-called intellectual property.

So, even if they are not part of the Free Software religion, shouldn’t Open Source software developers be doing everything they can to keep software patents out of their projects? If you think Intel. or any other company, would do whatever it takes to protect their profits, then the idea that they would insert patented processes into the Mono libraries, sit back while Gnome makes use of them, and then try to cripple or even shut down Gnome through sky-high royalties or refusal to grant license doesn’t seem implausible. What better reason to use the GPL or the LGPL? What was de Icaza thinking when he adopted the MIT license?

How true certain words can be even 6 years down the line.

“Linux: the operating system with a CLUE… Command Line User Environment”

comp.software.testing

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81 Comments

  1. honkapontas said,

    October 16, 2008 at 8:29 am

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    You’ve summed up nicely the success-story of that particular ‘unimportant piece of software’. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot…

  2. Dan O'Brian said,

    October 16, 2008 at 10:15 am

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    Just an FYI, because it wasn’t clear in your article, Kerry Beagle is a project started and maintained by Debajyoti Bera, who is not a Novell employee afaict.

    Likewise, Beagle is no longer maintained by Novell, it seems to be maintained by Bera as well.

    Also, GNOME-Do is not a Novell project, it is written and maintained by an independent developer who looks to be in college atm with no ties to Novell.

    MonoDevelop was also originally started by independent developers porting SharpDevelop to Linux before Novell got involved and began helping. Since then the original SharpDevelop creator has been hired by Novell to work on MonoDevelop.

    I know you like to paint the picture that no one outside of Novell has any interest in writing Mono apps, but this simply isn’t true as I have shown above.

  3. Dan O'Brian said,

    October 16, 2008 at 10:17 am

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    Oh yea, and the original Banshee project was also started by an independent developer back when it was called Sonance or some such. Novell later began paying him for his work (and later hired him). My point is that again, it was not started by Novell.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 16, 2008 at 10:26 am

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    Thanks for pointing that out. The point about Novell adopting Mono still stands.

  5. Jose_X said,

    October 16, 2008 at 10:37 am

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    Dan, understood. People can and will make their own choices. Those that want to work for Novell or Microsoft should know that doing something that grabs attention using dotnet will help your cause tremendously. Also, for whatever reason, if Novell and Microsoft are among the few or at least most dynamic and supportive companies where you can work on dotnet, then one can understand the aggregation there of those that really want to work on dotnet.

    The Linux Today link is to this piece where Roy is actually mentioned and which gives very brief background on mono and its backers http://www.itwire.com/content/view/21138/1154/

    Two more comments:
    http://www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2008-10-16-001-35-OP-BZ-NV-0005 focus is on RAND and other risks with mono.
    http://www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2008-10-16-001-35-OP-BZ-NV-0006 questions the risk/reward ratio of mono (too risky for what it brings to the table).

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 16, 2008 at 10:48 am

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    I didn’t realise that Novell referenced a Microsoft-sponsored study. Now this is just getting ridiculous.

    Didn’t Novell whine about these ‘studies’ just before the deal and even issued formal letters about these to partners?

  7. Justin James said,

    October 17, 2008 at 12:41 am

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    I find your depiction of my article regarding Mono to be a bit off. Some items that you may find interesting:

    * I have never had any previous history of working with Mono. In fact, mentioning Mono has always been an inside joke to me, because it was so far behind the rest of .Net, I didn’t see the point. I was willing to speak with the folks at Novell because I was interested in learning if Mono was finally caught up with the rest of .Net; having spoken to them, I beleive that to be the case, and that is the story that I tried to present.

    * Yes, I am under contract to write an article for MSDN Magazine. I have also written plenty of articles that were not complimentary to Microsoft, .Net (and other Microsoft products), and so on. I have done so both before and *after* the MSDN Magazine article was greenlighted. I beleive that an impartial review of my past articles will confirm that.

    * I am, primarily, a .Net developer. Not because I think that it is great, but because it does a really decent job of paying the bills. Beleive me, if writing Perl code still paid like it used to, I would prefer it to .Net. Indeed, for a substantial amount of personal development, I still use Perl. I would also like to mention that I have a FreeBSD server in my home. I have also written a number of articles (some favorable to, some not favorable to) a variety of open source projects. In fact, my very first professional article was about MRTG and tiny Luinux distributions. Why do I mention this? To make the point that I am hardly a shill for Microsoft, which was your definite implication.

    * The readers of my space are primarily .Net developers. A few Java developers poke their heads in from time-to-time too. I write articles about .Net because that is what I have found that people wanted to be reading about. I have written a good number of articles regarding non-.Net technologies; a few weeks ago, I did a “hands-on” with Delphi for PHP, and I am currently working on one for 3rd Rail (a Ruby/RoR IDE). I few months ago I interviewed the lead developer of Rubinius, a Ruby VM. And so on and so on. But you know what? Those articles got poor page views, almost zero reader response, and nearly no “thumbs up” votes. The pieces I write on .Net, on the other hand, get excellent reader responses. Writing articles that do well is my bread and butter. While I do not get paid based upon pages views, the reality is that an underread writer is not going to make money for long. If you want to see people writing more about topics that interest you, instead of doing what you seem to think is shilling for Microsoft, I would love it if you could go through my past works, start up some quality commentary on the non-Microsoft items, give them the thumbs up, link to them from your site, and so on. Give me incentive to write them, and I will be glad to.

    * I thought, overall, that Mono 2.0 sounded interesting. I will be checking their claims for myself in the coming weeks, and not just taking them at their word.

    J.Ja

  8. seller_liar said,

    October 17, 2008 at 3:37 am

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    Big problem .

    Justin

    How you consider “paying the bills”?

    Because $100000 or 100000000000000$ both pay the bills.

    The big problem is probably your life cost , your desires can be a lot of cars, big houses and others.

    It’s not good to sacrifice the ethics and society for fulfill your greed.

    There’s a lot of works out there and pays good ,not so good like .net,but pays well .But you prefer sacrifice the society for sustain your rich life.

    Sorry Justin,even is Roy is wrong or not , there’s a lot of reasons to roy to do this.

    Remember ,the actual society is destroyed because the priority in technology over ethics and society.

    You live as a money machine ,machines are discarded some day (The Vole will DIE). The human differential is only one:ethics and society.

    Humanity without ethics is only a money machine.

  9. mafasta said,

    October 17, 2008 at 4:54 am

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    @seller_liar: hypocrite

  10. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 5:22 am

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    Justin, I didn’t mean to make an accusation. I just pointed out that Mono coverage often comes from .NET-oriented people.

  11. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 5:24 am

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    And in other news, the Pope is actually Catholic.

  12. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 5:32 am

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    Not the same thing. The point to be made is that ‘Microsoft people’ tend to promote Microsoft technologies in GNU/Linux. There is something to be deduced from that.

  13. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 5:34 am

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    .NET-oriented people is not the same as “Microsoft people” – that’s the fault underlying your assumption.

  14. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 5:37 am

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    .NET programmers typically develop just for Windows.

  15. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 5:41 am

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    That doesn’t automatically make them “Microsoft people” either.

    Most programmers typically develop just for one platform, even when the software itself is cross-platform. That’s how things work.

  16. mafasta said,

    October 17, 2008 at 5:46 am

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    “.NET programmers typically develop just for Windows. ”

    Whoever is developing for Windows on .NET can be said to be developing for Mono and thus vor Linux, too. Did that idea never occur to you?

    All a .NET developer needs to be a Linux developer is a little nudge in the right direction…

  17. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 6:27 am

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    I see that this is spreading further now:
    http://www.builderau.com.au/program/dotnet/soa/Mono-2-0-NET-goes-non-Windows/0,339028399,339292675,00.htm

    Power to Microsoft, eh? Yes, that’s what the world needs.

  18. mafasta said,

    October 17, 2008 at 6:30 am

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    Nah, .NET-developers to Linux, that’s what the world needs.

  19. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 6:33 am

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    GNU/Linux does not .NET. It has Java. Mono is tainted with so-called IP of a company that calls it “cancer” and says that those users owe Microsoft money.

  20. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 6:38 am

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    Some more ‘news’ has just arrived from the Redmond/Microsoft ‘press’:

    Mono 2.0 Takes Flight
    http://reddevnews.com/news/devnews/article.aspx?editorialsid=1161

    Miguel de Icaza still wants the world to believe that Microsoft is ‘concerned’ about Mono. Same with Moonlight. He’s helping Microsoft against Linux. Shame on Novell.

  21. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 6:59 am

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    Helping Windows developers bring their software to this platform is not “against Linux”.

    They’re not going to develop over here with simple offers of Qt, Gtk+ and cupcakes.

  22. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:02 am

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    Developing for GNU/Linux using MonoDevelop and so-called ‘Microsoft IP’ is a problem, not a solution.

    How would you explain Microsoft’s glee?

  23. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:07 am

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    It’s only you calling it “Microsoft IP”. You beg the question; nothing in (for example) Tomboy or Banshee is “Microsoft IP”.

  24. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:13 am

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    Can they run without Mono?

    The other day I tried to have something installed, only to discover that it depended on Winforms.

    Microsoft has already publicly hinted at Mono and patents.

    Let’s repeat this: Microsoft competes with GNU/Linux. Microsoft hates Linux. It compares it to cancer and really wants it to fail and disappear.

    Why do you think Microsoft helps Mono and Moonlight? It wants to ensure Linux lives in Microsoft’s (Windows) shadow.

  25. mafasta said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:14 am

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    It actually is the solution. It helps us overcome the main reason against mass-adoption of Linux on the desktop: Not enough software!

    You may believe that there is enough software for Linux, living in a purely Linux world but just ask Joe The Plumber…

    He will want his very-special-plumbing-accounting-software and the interactive travel-guide, he lent from the public library, to run on his computer! He doesn’t care much what the operating system underneath this is called but he wants his applications to run – and this shit will be written in .NET in not such a long time. Simply because it is so easy and cheap.

    This gives Linux a chance for mass-market penetration that it never had before.

  26. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:17 am

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    At whose permission and expense? Most necessary is Java, which doesn’t have the same traps.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10009669-16.html

  27. mafasta said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:20 am

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    Roy, you are only claiming what Microsoft allegedly thinks and what Microsoft allegedly wants (oh, didn’t know Microsoft was a person…) and base your whole argument on that.

    This is not a solid base for an argument. You rely on assumptions for your every claim from there. You start out with an assumption and that is why everything you derive from that is even less than an assumption; it’s speculation.

    And the worst mistake in your logic is that you try to disqualify actual fact, like Mono not containing Microsoft IP, by pointing to your assumptions about M$ as an ‘argument’. Problem there: well it isn’t one.

  28. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:21 am

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    Roy: Mono is not “Microsoft IP” in any way, shape or form. Microsoft hold no copyrights to the code, and the Mono project does not use Microsoft-patented algorithms.

  29. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:29 am

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    Mono announcement:

    Windows.Forms: New Controls

    Mono 2.0 contains an API complete implementation of .Net’s System.Windows.Forms (winforms) namespace, allowing winforms applications to run on Linux, MacOX and other Unix systems.

    Thank you to everyone on the winforms team (past and present), everyone who has contributed code to winforms, and everyone who has submitted bug reports, helping to make winforms (and Mono!) what it is today!

    US patent:

    Winforms control hosting in unmanaged applications

    Geoffrey Charles Darst et al

    Abstract
    Systems and methods for hosting managed code controls within unmanged hosts, such as MICROSOFT Word and Excel. There are two components to the hosting architecture, a wrapper control that implements various interfaces and a container control that hosts the managed code control. A design-time implementation allows for a designer to drag and drop managed code controls onto documents that run in a design component process. A runtime component allows managed code controls to run within hosts under security permissions specified by a policy.

    Application number: 11/148,620
    Publication number: US 2006/0282817 A1
    Filing date: Jun 9, 2005
    Inventors: Geoffrey Charles Darst, Eric Hyde Carter, Michael Shneerson, Stephen James Styrchak
    Assignee: Microsoft Corporation

    U.S. Classification
    717106000

    Have fun.

  30. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:41 am

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    “Unmanaged applications” wouldn’t be Mono, for obvious reasons.

  31. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:42 am

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    Note carefully, by the way, that I didn’t claim Microsoft didn’t have patents which may cover parts of their .net.

    What I said was that Mono doesn’t use them.

    Finding the former doesn’t prove the latter by any stretch of the imagination.

  32. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 7:53 am

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    This was just a sample. I added another link at the bottom.

  33. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 8:13 am

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    Sure, but I was pointing out why it’s not relevant and why a generic patent search isn’t any kind of evidence.

    I’m not going to do your Googling for you because it’s not me making the claim; you are, and the burden of proof is on you to defend your FUD.

  34. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 8:24 am

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    Au contraire. It’s a preemptive defence against the FUD. For Microsoft to just point and Mono and say “see? Linux stole our ideas and framework” is all that’s necessary for a SCO-like attack. They don’t even need to be specific.

  35. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 8:58 am

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    No, the FUD is entirely yours, because you’re claiming that Mono infringes Microsoft patents without any specific example of a patent that it might infringe.

    Your Google search for “winforms” is entirely unconvincing because it finds ten patents, and of those ten:

    a. three are related to “electronic ink”
    b. one isn’t held by Microsoft and relates to web applications
    c. the other six refer to winforms in examples, not as part of the patent claim.

    I say again, it’s you making the accusations and throwing the FUD.

  36. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 9:04 am

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    I say again, it’s you making the accusations and throwing the FUD.

    No, these come from Microsoft executives who say (and write) that only Novell is ‘protected’ for the use of Mono… well, at least its paying customers… until 2012.

    I’ve asked Microsoft for a Mono patent licence, but they have not responded yet.

  37. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 9:21 am

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    You take what Microsoft say as 100% fact when it suits you.

    I’ve already told you why your “Mono patent license” game doesn’t work.

  38. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 9:25 am

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    It’s one aspect contained within a broader issue (API control and leadership included), but bear in mind that Microsoft just need ammunition for intimidation, not lawsuits or patent numbers.

  39. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 9:44 am

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    Whenever you run out of evidence you always handwave about “broader issues” and make generic and unsupportable statements.

    The problem is that you keep recycling the same falsehoods in article after article, attacking free software.

    No amount of picking and choosing is ever going to protect you from lawsuits. SCO claimed ownership of the Linux kernel, remember.

    Better to defend yourself and protect yourself than advocate fear, uncertainty, doubt, and tell people to run away.

  40. Dan O'Brian said,

    October 17, 2008 at 9:47 am

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    My guess is that if Roy can’t find patents that actually apply to Mono, then there aren’t any because Roy wants so desperately to prove that Mono is a patent trap ;-)

    Thanks for proving it isn’t a patent trap, Roy. This is something the rest of us already knew!

  41. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 10:02 am

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    The same arguments (re: patents) come from other sites, which are consistent.

    You know how much I hate software patents and FUD; we counter this by explaining. Discussing it is not a provocation but a matter of resolvability.

  42. Jose_X said,

    October 17, 2008 at 10:20 am

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    Alex, do you feel invulnerable relatively speaking to patent attacks?

    A developer might be safe since Microsoft is not going to harass you while you do good work and keep to yourself, but a business does have to deal with this issue. People who want to carry out businesses legally under modest budgets (several people sized say) and don’t want to have to deal with Microsoft (kiss arse as hovsepian has done) are threatened, in particular, to have become top of class foss that depends on sw territory that is so much like what Microsoft is saying they have minefielded/boobytrapped and will defend, and which you have to expect they will defend unless you posed little or no threat.

    Roy, a competing pov would be that Microsoft won’t or can’t effectively use the patents except as FUD and simply wants to slow down those that are competing directly with them on dotnet. Alex?

    [This thread's conversation came up on irc, so you people may want to check the logs later on.. yes, we were talking behind your backs bwahahahaaa]

  43. Jose_X said,

    October 17, 2008 at 10:31 am

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    There is a pov that what Novell is doing is great because it will allow for higher paying foss jobs via a certain amount of limited access and lock-in.

    Naturally, I reject that since that helps none of the people elsewhere and assumes there aren’t alternatives.

    Westerners might be worried that most things they could do could be done by others for a lot less money.

    Can we touch on some of these things if they are relevant? It’s getting boring going back and forth. Everyone here has a reason for continuing along their chosen path, but that isn’t going to find a resolution, if one exists, that works for everyone.

    My “bottom line” is that Microsoft is the problem and given there powerful position, I refuse to lend any sort of helping hand (at least consciously). That is why Novell is in my line of fire.

    As for the jobs fear, that seems short-sighted because less friction will lead to a lot more jobs that will be created and more interesting jobs.. for the most number of people, whether hobby or pay (each person working atop the shoulders of the FOSS giant to add marginal but desired gain).

    More friction will lead to many being left on the sidelines. That won’t happen. It may take years longer for people to realize that, but Microsoft is not going to snuff FOSS and people’s freedom to gather, tinker, and create for each other.

    Eventually, the average citizen too will feel threatened and help put Microsoft and others in their place (or away); however, I don’t want this to take 10 or 50 years if it can be done in fewer.

    Microsoft’s deception is damn annoying and buttwutt ugly btw. No one likes liers when it becomes clear they are lying and trying to take advantage of you.

  44. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 10:32 am

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    Jose_X: you can’t ever be “invulnerable”, not least because if someone wants to sue you, they will find a way. But in terms of free software, I’m pretty confident that developers understand the risks very well now.

    But to say that Mono is somehow more vulnerable is just incorrect. There is no evidence that there are more patents in this area, or more litigious holders, than any other area. In fact, in a way it’s safer – any litigant taking Mono into court is going to have to deal with either OIN or Microsoft, whichever comes first.

  45. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 10:36 am

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    OIN is irrelevant to this. It’s mostly IBM. In fact, if Microsoft paid some patent troll to appease complaints about .NET, this would leave Mono exposed. It’s the same with OOXML.

  46. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 10:39 am

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    Um, nonsense on all counts. OIN isn’t “mostly IBM”.

    If Microsoft paid a patent troll, the worst case scenario is that Novell would fork out some money and the patented code would be removed and replaced. Big deal.

  47. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 10:43 am

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    Um, nonsense on all counts. OIN isn’t “mostly IBM”.

    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/10/03/an-issue-of-patents/

    If Microsoft paid a patent troll, the worst case scenario is that Novell would fork out some money and the patented code would be removed and replaced. Big deal.

    What happens to compatibility?

  48. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 10:49 am

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    We don’t need to read your speculative and hysterical articles to know who is behind OIN; you just need to go to their website. As I said, it’s not “mostly IBM”.

    As for what happens to compatibility: you can implement things in ways which don’t infringe patents and still remain compatible. People do this all the time; e.g., Samba. It’s hypothetical anyway since you’ve been unable to identify a single patent which might be a problem…

  49. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 10:55 am

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    Samba is not a good example and patents correspond to ideas, not implementations (copyrights)

  50. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 11:04 am

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    I’ve pointed out previously why that article isn’t useful; not least because it rules out software patent problems because the EU gave Samba some docs, which is false.

    It doesn’t matter that patents apply to “ideas” (actually, they don’t), that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve the same effect with some other method. This is done all the time, and you know this, because the Freetype example was also examined the other day.

  51. Hondadriver said,

    October 17, 2008 at 11:46 am

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    It does get a bit irritating, Roy’s stubborn not accepting facts that are clearly visible. The stubbornness lets me think he is either fanatic or simply dumb.

  52. Ian said,

    October 17, 2008 at 1:21 pm

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    Samba is not a good example and patents correspond to ideas, not implementations (copyrights)

    Samba, regardless of copyrights or patents, does nothing more than propagate the clunky Microsoft domain/AD scheme. The samba project, to a large degree based on it’s implementation by users, is dependent on Microsoft to set the path for CIFS/SMB protocols. IE, when Microsoft changed the protocol for Vista/2008, Samba followed suit.

  53. Jose_X said,

    October 17, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Gravatar

    >> There is no evidence that there are more patents in this area, or more litigious holders, than any other area.

    I always want to be optimistic about patents as a developer, but I think you are being overly optimistic.

    It seems unlikely to me that dotnet would not be the topic of extra patents in hands friendly to Microsoft, at least when we get specific with dotnet details. Microsoft may not have broken all that much new ground, but they are accumulating patents, this is their turf (where they have invested the most and earliest), and they are threatening and aim to make Linux non free of charge. This condition will be an impediment to businesses relying on dotnet and not wishing to deal under Microsoft’s terms. It will not be good for a Linux business to ignore Microsoft while relying on dotnet. Certainly large companies have ways around this, but the smaller businesses will take a hit. Not to mention extra revenues that will accrue to Microsoft if dotnet takes off and/or comes to dominate.

    I really have to disagree with you in terms of probabilities, but note I won’t do a patent search. [Not that doing one guarantees you will find the bombs at that point in time.]

    >> In fact, in a way it’s safer – any litigant taking Mono into court is going to have to deal with either OIN or Microsoft, whichever comes first.

    >> If Microsoft paid a patent troll, the worst case scenario is that Novell would fork out some money and the patented code would be removed and replaced. Big deal.

    Novell may likely choose not to do so if it would hurt their business. This would be true if they are relying on their special patent deals with Microsoft to differentiate (I believe they are) and if it would mean say hundreds of millions difference in revenue from Microsoft and especially if they really need that sort of cash to stay in business.

    I’m not sure IBM would bail out Novell or care for dotnet to be a competitor to Java where IBM has tons invested.

    The OIN.. don’t know what to say. They may not be there in 5 or 10 years if/when problems happen. They may not want to participate or something else may come up.

    OK, well, I think you are being unrealistic with your position, but I do understand that as a developer, you/I would put on our best faces and keep moving forward.. maybe if we were funded, maybe still if not [wrt mono, count me out, even if there is cash involved].

  54. AlexH said,

    October 17, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Gravatar

    @Jose: as I said, there is no evidence. Some people have _feelings_ about it, but that’s not the same. Thus far, though, the patent lawsuits have been flying at other languages/platforms.

  55. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 17, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Gravatar

    Can you provide examples please? Be very specific. Were any of the P/Ls or frameworks for GNU/Linux affected?

  56. Jose_X said,

    October 17, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Gravatar

    [There are several distinct points in this post supporting my earlier general opinion.]

    Here is a relatively short and unprofessional patent risk analysis unfavorable to mono.

    To address some of Alex’ recent observation:

    I won’t attempt to prove a violation, and the much more difficult (if even possible) task of proving mono is safe at time X is something I don’t expect Novell or anyone to attempt, either.

    I’d expect Microsoft and friends to have most of the potential patents that would be of trouble (if any) and not to bring them forward (directly or indirectly) until dotnet/mono had greater market share and had spread through FOSS.

    Now I admit:

    One thing to keep in mind is that I don’t think (I had to think about this for a second) that Microsoft would stop with dotnet. BN has mentioned Myrvhold(sp?) companies accumulating patents. These could try to fill out the patent coverage missing in Microsoft’s portfolio to try and cover over as much FOSS as possible. Microsoft stands to gain from having all Linux and FOSS be found “lacking” in the safety department.

    However…

    Microsoft is likely to have the most mono/dotnet patents:

    There is a greater chance that Microsoft would have at time T a patent related to dotnet than anyone else. Microsoft has quite a head start. Look at how they handled OOXML before and after ISO “approval” to get a clue about their future head starts. No company has more to protect in the dotnet field. They are also very large and wealthy. In short, we can expect that Microsoft will put more funds to developing dotnet patents than many many other companies combined. Just as they singly dominate dotnet standard creation, it would not be a surprise to find they also singly overshadow all others combined in dotnet patent creation.

    Microsoft is not friendly to Linux+FOSS:

    Microsoft is clearly not friendly, as they have the most to lose from a patent safe Linux+FOSS. They would try and leverage against Linux+FOSS every patent they have as much as possible [reasonable to expect and they have stated similar]. I can hardly imagine a patent holder that would come within a few leagues of being as unfriendly towards Linux+FOSS than Microsoft.

    Microsoft’s patent focus likely lies with dotnet:

    At any time T, Microsoft is more likely to have a patent in dotnet or related than in any other specific area. Why do I think this? It’s a belief that Microsoft’s time, efforts, expertise, and desire for protection most likely lie in the dotnet area. Dotnet forms the foundation of all their software monopolies. So, yes, of the likely huge amount of resources Microsoft likely dedicates to developing patents, much of it likely would be allocated to dotnet.

    But how about umbrella coverage by friends of FOSS?

    This was touched upon in the earlier comment. The main point being that the odds are not as good to find protection for mono as it would be for Linux and various other software that are more crucial to a base Linux system as affect IBM, Red Hat, etc. The one part-FOSS company that should care the most for mono protection among all developers and users appears (I think) to be taking the opposite approach and actually not standing behind the community. And Microsoft clearly is not behind the community.

    What about work-arounds?

    Work-around or court resolution delays after allegations will resonate negatively more and longer with clients and potential users if the allegations comes from a loud mouth and large figure like Ballmer/Microsoft and over “their” dotnet technology than if coming from most other groups over other arbitrary software.

    What else makes mono bad news?

    Now consider an example contrasting mono to some other software. Look at mpeg or anything similar. There are close alternatives to these where conversions are quick and painless. We can see the same video through a different less riskier format, for example. Meanwhile, if we use dotnet, we are dealing with many many software components and ingrained deeply into software everywhere. There exists a simple solution like mpeg2ogg, but the magic bullet mono2java does not exist.

    How about Sun and Java?

    Finally, just to give an example of other companies and other software, consider Sun and Java. Sun gains by working with the community. They stand to grow from the growth of FOSS. OTOH, Microsoft does not want any existing FOSS to rule because they would lose their monopolies. Also, Microsoft is much more powerful a figure (in court and in customer fear) than Sun.

    Conclusion:

    To recap, the greatest damage to FOSS from patents would come from software more in style to mono than to say mpeg and from Microsoft (or a proxy) when they would be protecting some of their software technology and monopolies (ie, with claims against mono) than from other companies with claims on other software. Mono is further made riskier relative to many other FOSS because those with greatest interests in championing mono have abandoned it in terms of providing patent protections for everyone while the other major FOSS software clearly have not been abandoned by interested parties.

    Maybe we need not worry about patents at all, but if we do, mono is more likely to spell trouble if it spreads than many other types of FOSS.

    Wow, we’re done, right?

    Only for this posting. This was a patent argument only. There are other very serious concerns and reasons to avoid mono independent of patents.

  57. Jose_X said,

    October 17, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Gravatar

    A few notes about prior comment.

    – don’t give me a hard time for saying it was a “patent analysis”. I snuck* in there “unprofessional” to show that it really is unprofessional though hopefully still useful.

    – I didn’t attempt to differentiate between “dotnet” patents and “mono” patents. In reality, dotnet might refer to the whole framework as MS has implemented (mistakes, extensions, and all). Mono patents would then refer to patents that cover aspects of mono but this would not be expected to match the dotnet patents one to one.

    I think some dotnet patents would cover mono. Others would be there to protect against attempts to align mono or any other dotnet-ish implementation closer to MS’ dotnet implementation.

    [*] see http://www.google.com/search?q=snuck&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

  58. AlexH said,

    October 18, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Gravatar

    @Roy: I’ve given you many specific examples before. Java has been targetted by others for patent lawsuit – e.g. Kodak (settled) – and Sun has sent its lawyers after people using Java for patent infringement – e.g. Azul (settled). Red Hat/JBoss have been sued, e.g. Firestar / Hibernate 3 (settled), and we’ve also seen free software developers working in Java being sued, e.g. the railroad patent/KAM ’329 (in litigation?).

    @Jose: you also don’t differentiate between “.net” patents and “virtual machine patents”, “method patents”, etc. It’s unlikely in the extreme that any patent which affected Mono did not cover at least one other platform in common use; at a platform level, there are few features which aren’t implemented similarly elsewhere.

  59. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 18, 2008 at 5:24 am

    Gravatar

    @Roy: I’ve given you many specific examples before. Java has been targetted by others for patent lawsuit

    Wait. You’re going in reverse. Who was the aggressor?

    - e.g. Kodak (settled) – and Sun has sent its lawyers after people using Java for patent infringement – e.g. Azul (settled).

    I can see it now @
    http://www.builderau.com.au/news/soa/Java-start-up-sues-Sun-in-patent-row/0,339028227,339242541,00.htm

    Red Hat/JBoss have been sued, e.g. Firestar / Hibernate 3 (settled)

    That’s a separate area.

    , and we’ve also seen free software developers working in Java being sued, e.g. the railroad patent/KAM ‘329 (in litigation?).

    Sued by whom? Sun?

  60. AlexH said,

    October 18, 2008 at 5:32 am

    Gravatar

    @Roy: it doesn’t matter who the “aggressor” is. If you’re on the end of a lawsuit, you’re on the end of a lawsuit.

    My original point was that other platforms have patent lawsuit problems as well. You only look for issues with .net, so that’s all you see, and you seem to think that the problem doesn’t exist on other platforms, when it does – in spades.

    I’ve given you plenty of specific examples of Java developers being sued. Does that mean we should not recommend Java? Of course not, there is nothing wrong with Java – it’s a fine choice.

  61. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 18, 2008 at 5:42 am

    Gravatar

    Your examples are mostly lawsuits against things that are implemented with Java, but not Java itself. Had someone tried to replicate Java, that would be interesting.

  62. AlexH said,

    October 18, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Gravatar

    Someone did try to replicate Java – Microsoft did. And they got sued by Sun :D

    Someone also tried to do a J2EE application server – JBoss – and Sun wanted six figures off them as well as making threatening noises about them reusing their “IP”.

  63. Jose_X said,

    October 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Gravatar

    These links only seem to strengthen the position against dotnet/mono.

    The first is useless at is simply discusses a licensing problem primarily about trademark use (at least the article gave that impression). That has nothing to do with patents.

    The second link mentions that JBOSS uses some Sun software. Again, that is not about patents. Phipps’ comment might be no more harmful than Sun wanting to have acknowledged that JBOSS does not currently work without the help of Sun’s property (the JVM and some of the J2SE core platform I presume).

    Here is the quote:
    >> However, Phipps said he doubts that JBoss software will pass the compliance test. Basing his opinion on public information, Phipps said JBoss software does not appear to implement all of the J2EE specification. Phipps also noted that JBoss appears to be using software written by Sun.
    >> “I predict that now that we’re calling their bluff, they will make up another excuse for not doing the tests,” Phipps said.

    Each of these problems can easily be repeated with Microsoft’s dotnet but at a grander scale because Microsoft is more powerful than Sun (size, $$, influence, etc), and Microsoft has much more to lose than Sun. Sun has always made use of licensing royalties, I think, but Microsoft needs to further protect their much more important monopolies. To Microsoft, licenses are but a means to a much more lucrative end (much as serves the current patent FUD on their part). They will stop where to protect their monopolies?

    It seems that Sun does not threaten FOSS with patents while Microsoft definitely does. That is a big difference, and judges will surely be less sympathetic for those that regardless jumped to use dotnet clones.

    Alex, again, I can’t believe you would think that mono was safer than Java or than most other competing technologies from a patent risk pov. If you simply think patents should not slow anyone’s plans to use software X then state so. Trying to rationalize mono as safer does not help your case.

    I would not make any real investments in mono at least unless I was prepared to play the patent game with Microsoft.

    [I actually wouldn’t make investments in any version of dotnet (even if patents weren’t an issue) in order to limit helping Microsoft out against us, but that is a different argument.. see for example some comments I made here http://www.computerworlduk.com/community/blogs/index.cfm?entryid=1380&blogid=14#tsb ]

  64. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 19, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Gravatar

    I would not make any real investments in mono at least unless I was prepared to play the patent game with Microsoft.

    This is work in progress.

  65. AlexH said,

    October 19, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Gravatar

    @Jose: You seem to misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m not saying Mono or Java is safer than anything else; I’m saying that nothing is “safe” insofar as there is nothing where you are certain not to receive legal problems.

    If you want to argue whether or not Sun or Microsoft might be more likely to sue a free software project; well, that’s a partially interesting discussion. But that’s really a drop in the ocean if we’re honest.

  66. Jose_X said,

    October 19, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Gravatar

    >> If you want to argue whether or not Sun or Microsoft might be more likely to sue a free software project; well, that’s a partially interesting discussion. But that’s really a drop in the ocean if we’re honest.

    The earlier post http://boycottnovell.com/2008/10/16/mono-coming-from-which-devs/#comment-28295 lays out an argument that the threat to FOSS from mono wrt patents are possibly significant on many levels and can be expected to be much worse than for any other piece of FOSS because of the Microsoft factor. Microsoft is not Joe the Patent Plumber. Regular Joe’s basically want money and focus on large companies. Microsoft has billions monthly threatened as Linux+FOSS grows.

    The bottom line wrt patents is this: Microsoft wants to subvert FOSS, and mono gives them a much easier path to do so. We aren’t talking about general or random attacks against rich entities but a focused effort to derail non-MS sanctioned commercial FOSS that is currently mostly out of their control and influence. Joe the Patent Plumber doesn’t have it in for FOSS or nearly the way Microsoft does and with Microsoft’s resources to fight it.

    That patent landscape may or may not change significantly for the better in the near term. Exposing yourself under the current laws to such an extra risk makes little sense unless you really can’t avoid mono very much (eg, Novell).

    And there are other reasons to avoid mono.

  67. Jose_X said,

    October 19, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Gravatar

    >> Someone did try to replicate Java – Microsoft did. And they got sued by Sun

    You should take from this example what companies are capable of doing when they believe their lives to be at stake if they don’t take legal actions. And how much larger and in control over their realm is Microsoft than was Sun?

    Some attacks on others can be detrimental to the company. It all depends on the lesser of two evils I suppose. Who would have thought that Microsoft would have risked so much by raping ISO the way they did? Microsoft truly has a lot riding on their monopolies.

    As Sun did, Microsoft has made some things very clear. That will carry extra weight in court.

  68. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 19, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Gravatar

    >> Someone did try to replicate Java – Microsoft did. And they got sued by Sun

    Well, good. So now we know Mono users/distributors can be sued by Microsoft for replication. Sun, on the other, merely wants GNU/Linux users to harness Java. And why not? Sun won’t attack Free software projects. It’s defending them (e.g. Firestar, NetApp).

    Sun does not make money in the same way as Microsoft does (e.g. free lunch for non-free beer… or hardware/services). Same with IBM. This was recently discussed here.

  69. AlexH said,

    October 20, 2008 at 2:34 am

    Gravatar

    >> Someone did try to replicate Java – Microsoft did. And they got sued by Sun

    Well, good. So now we know Mono users/distributors can be sued by Microsoft for replication.

    Nice piece of illogic, but neither the users nor distributors are “replicating”.

    Potentially they could go to court against Novell, but they’d be a little unlikely to win that particular battle :D

  70. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 20, 2008 at 3:32 am

    Gravatar

    Nice piece of illogic, but neither the users nor distributors are “replicating”.

    They /use/ ‘replicas’ that Microsoft might wish to claim have associated royalties.

  71. AlexH said,

    October 20, 2008 at 3:50 am

    Gravatar

    Then they would get sued for use, not replication.

    Either way, it’s not going to happen, because MS aren’t going to chase individual users for pennies by spending pounds on lawsuits. The maths just doesn’t make sense, even if you believe in the tooth-fairy/patent situation.

  72. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 20, 2008 at 4:09 am

    Gravatar

    Either way, it’s not going to happen, because MS aren’t going to chase individual users for pennies by spending pounds on lawsuits.

    It doesn’t need to, which is why it’s important to keep the code free of what seems like copycats.

  73. AlexH said,

    October 20, 2008 at 4:15 am

    Gravatar

    It doesn’t matter what corporate deals are entered into; the free software community is not party to those deals.

    Either code is free, or it is not free. There is no half-measure, and free code is free code.

  74. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 20, 2008 at 4:21 am

    Gravatar

    It doesn’t matter what corporate deals are entered into; the free software community is not party to those deals.

    That’s like saying that the Iraqi people are not affected by the United States’ beef with Hussein and imaginary WoMD. I guess those 1+ million dead people are evidence of the fact that decisions up at the top can’t be dismissed and ignored.

    To think that Novell’s deal has no effect on Free software is to forget what happened just a couple of days ago.

    Also, don’t forget that Steve Ballmer said the deal with Novell “established that open source is not free” (I could find the exact quote). Later they attacked Free software (May 2007).

  75. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 20, 2008 at 4:27 am

    Gravatar

    By the way, a few minutes ago someone asked for your response to pieces you conveniently ignore.

  76. AlexH said,

    October 20, 2008 at 4:33 am

    Gravatar

    First, I don’t really see how you can compare this to millions of murdered civilians. Frankly, I find that pretty distasteful.

    Second, I’ve said before, I don’t listen to Microsoft’s threats. If you want to take heed of them, do what you please, but I’m not going to stop using free software just because Microsoft says so.

  77. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 20, 2008 at 4:36 am

    Gravatar

    Second, I’ve said before, I don’t listen to Microsoft’s threats.

    So should we permit successful extortion of GNU/Linux users to carry on?

  78. AlexH said,

    October 20, 2008 at 4:43 am

    Gravatar

    “Permit successful extortion”? Well, that depends what you think the “extortion” is. The article you point to offers absolutely no evidence whatsoever that they’re actually managing to do that; just more Microsoft marketing PR puff that you choose to believe.

  79. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 20, 2008 at 4:45 am

    Gravatar

    No, Jeremy Allison heard this from customers just before Microsoft went on the record saying this. I could find you the links.

    I think you’re in denial.

  80. AlexH said,

    October 20, 2008 at 4:50 am

    Gravatar

    And I think you’re trying to scare people.

    What I can’t work out is why, given you claim to be a free software supporter.

  81. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 20, 2008 at 4:54 am

    Gravatar

    No, I merely try to show that there is a hidden problem here which we need to resolve. Microsoft is trying to wound FOSS behind people’s backs. Without knowledge, how can we fight back?

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