EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

11.20.08

Reader’s Post: The Windows Software Development Minefield, and Mono

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, Windows at 6:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A bad penguin -- Novell

Many people just yell at critics of Mono. But if it’s a non-issue, then not so many people would be concerned about it. Slated.org has contributed the following informative analysis, so without further ado, here it is.


What’s the worst thing a software developer has to worry about?

Schedules?

Budgets?

If you’re a FOSS developer then generally it’s none of the above, but there is one concern that both Windows and FOSS developers have in common … Intellectual “Property”:

In a new lawsuit, Microsoft asks a San Francisco court to declare
invalid several patents assigned to an online transactions company in
hopes of defending customers who have been sued by the patent holder,
WebXchange.

WebXchange earlier this year filed lawsuits against Dell, Allstate and
FedEx in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, charging
patent infringement. The suits, filed on the same day in March, say that
the companies violate WebXchange patents in some of their online
services. In the FedEx suit, for example, WebXchange alleges that FedEx
violates three of its patents in an online system that lets people send
print jobs to Kinko’s stores.

Microsoft is not mentioned in any of the three complaints. However, in
the suit that Microsoft filed against WebXchange, it says that the
charges relate to the companies’ use of Microsoft’s Visual Studio software.

How nice of Microsoft to help out their customers, eh? However, they haven’t always been quite so benevolent towards Visual Studio users and developers … but we’ll get to that in a minute.

“However, they haven’t always been quite so benevolent towards Visual Studio users and developers”Of course, FOSS developers can easily circumvent the whole “software patents” issue, by hosting outside the jurisdiction of countries corrupted by Intellectual Monopolists, however that doesn’t help the commercial users/distributors of that software, who then set themselves up as targets for litigation, or even (incredibly) raids by customs officials, as happened in Germany recently:

Quite what C&E has to do with patents, I’m not sure, since this has absolutely nothing to do with either tax or dangerous goods (unless one counts patents as “dangerous”, which now that I think about it, makes sense), but apparently Customs officers are now responsible for “policing” alleged patent violations … by shooting first and asking questions later. Furthermore, it’s not exactly clear why a branch of the government would be engaged in pursuing some private company’s civil claim, but that’s the modern world for you … as corrupted by the Intellectual Monopolists. The dastardly “crime” of Intellectual Monopoly violation is now given the same status as drugs trafficking.

Commercial FOSS users/distributors may not have a free pass to “violate” these Intellectual Monopolies (which is why distros are all rushing to provide the “Fluendo codecs”), but the ordinary users certainly do, and since most of the developers are also non-profit enthusiasts in the software patent “DMZ”, there’s plenty of choice for Free Software users (e.g. MPlayer and ffmpeg). This is helped in no small part by the fact that the whole infrastructure around FOSS development is also Free.

But what if it weren’t?

What if the compiler toolchain itself was encumbered up to the hilt with patents and licence restrictions, like say – Visual Studio.

Microsoft threatens its Most Valuable Professional

Who said you could improve our software?
By Will Watts
Posted in Software, 5th June 2007 10:25 GMT

What’s the best way to attract a pile of threatening lawyers’ letters
from Microsoft? Sell pirate copies of Windows? Write a DRM-busting program?

Londoner Jamie Cansdale has just discovered a new approach. He had the
temerity to make Redmond’s software better.

As a hobby, Cansdale developed an add-on for Microsoft Visual Studio.
TestDriven.NET allows unit test suites to be run directly from within
the Microsoft IDE. Cansdale gave away this gadget on his website, and
initially received the praises of Microsoft.

In fact, Microsoft was so pleased with him, it gave him a Most Valuable
Professionals (MVP) award, which it says it gives to “exceptional
technical community leaders from around the world who voluntarily share
their high quality, real world expertise with others”.

[...]

At one point, in a splendid example of the right hand being unaware of
who is getting the left hand’s index finger, Cansdale got a letter
presaging another MVP award only to have it hastily withdrawn the next
day (find this incident the bottom of the second page of emails.)

Finally, Microsoft lost patience, and in the last few days has hit
Cansdale with a flurry of lawyers’ letters, also available on his
website [see here and here]. Cansdale now has until 4pm Wednesday 6 June
to disable the Visual Studio Express features of his product.

We await the deadline with bated breath.

Meanwhile, a quiet word in the ear of any earnest young programmer who
is considering downloading a copy of Visual Studio Express and slaving
deep into the night, striving hard in the Microsofty ways, in the hope
one day of earning the glorious rank of MVP.

Do ya feel lucky, punk? ®

Read the actual Emails too, they’re most illuminating:

http://www.mutantdesign.co.uk/downloads/ExpressEmails1.html
http://www.mutantdesign.co.uk/downloads/ExpressEmails2.html

Weber repeatedly refers to Cansdale’s work as a “hack”, even though Cansdale proves conclusively that it only uses API’s published by Microsoft, and available for free on their Website.

“It’s only Novell customers who are “indemnified” against whatever threats they may encounter WRT Microsoft’s alleged “IP”.”This set me thinking about Mono, and how this Microsoft-encumbered Intellectual Monopoly was a specific threat to FOSS, not merely because of the patents (RAND or otherwise), but primarily because of the patentor. If Microsoft would pursue one of their own MVPs so viciously and tenaciously, over nothing more than a damned plugin, what do you suppose they’ll start doing once their “IP” has well and truly infested Free Software?

I wonder if Microsoft will be as “benevolent” to the Free Software community as they’ve apparently been to Dell and friends, if some patent troll sues a FOSS developer for patent “infringements” relating to .NET?

But then, that’s where Novell comes in, isn’t it? It’s only Novell customers who are “indemnified” against whatever threats they may encounter WRT Microsoft’s alleged “IP”.

From that perspective alone, it’s sheer insanity for any distro other than SUSE to ship Mono or any of it’s related technologies and dependants, but there’s still the question of the infamous “patentor”
and it’s motives.

It’s not exactly news, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what Microsoft is up to, in fact it’s transparently obvious. The plan goes something like this:

  1. Find some Microsoft-friendly FOSS developers (e.g. Miguel de Icaza. Heck, judging by Torvald’s latest rant, he may well be next).
  2. Buy a commercial Linux vendor (they’ve essentially bought Novell).
  3. Start infecting FOSS with Microsoft “IP”, right down in the foundations of the compiler toolchain (e.g. Mono), so the infection spreads upwards to everything built using that toolchain.
  4. Provide “indemnity” only for customers of that single (sellout) Linux vendor.
  5. Wait for the infection to spread, until this “IP” becomes ubiquitous and virtually unavoidable.
  6. Meanwhile, start making a lot of noise about “undisclosed balance sheet liabilities”, and certain Linux vendors’ customers having an “obligation to compensate us”.
  7. Keep the pressure on certain Linux vendors, with shell companies acting as patent trolls, such as IP Innovation LLC, and it’s parent shell company Acacia.
  8. Light the patent-fuse; sit back and enjoy the show, as every commercial Linux vendor finds themselves forced to choose between either paying Microsoft or dropping a large chunk of their repos, thus making their distros unusable (or at least considerably less functional than SUSE).

And as they say on South Park:

9. ???
10. Profit!!!

Or more importantly from Microsoft’s perspective … monopoly!!! Again.

Now you know why de Icaza named it “Mono®”.

So is this just the ravings of a paranoid Linux loony?

Really; really think about who Microsoft are; what they do; how they do it; and what their motives and principles are. What right-minded Free Software advocate; user or developer would continue to support Mono?

Well … Fedora, for one.

Yes, this community distro that vigilantly strives to purge all that is patent-encumbered or otherwise questionable from its distro, ships one of the most dangerous pieces of software ever to taint the Free Software community … Mono.

And to think that Tom “Spot” Callaway (Fedora Engineering Manager) once vehemently proclaimed:

We will never include Mono, or anything that is obviously patented
without a patent grant in writing that permits unrestricted use and
redistribution, as per the terms of the GPL.

Today it’s an entirely different story:

1. The decision to allow Mono to enter the tree seems to have been made
arbitrarily by Red Hat, with no community consultation, and in spite
of protests (including some by high profile Red Hat personnel -
mostly expressed as a rejection of Mono before the announcement).

2. There has only ever been one public announcement on the subject, and
that was made (with some dismay, it seems) by Tom Callaway:

https://www.redhat.com/archives/fedora-extras-list/2006-January/msg00588.html

3. There has only ever been one, extremely reserved, explanation given
for this decision, in a blog post by Greg DeKoenigsberg:

“Business considerations that prevented certain Mono components from
being included in Fedora previously have now been resolved.”

http://gregdek.livejournal.com/3597.html

The specific nature of this resolution is not given.

4. There is precious little concrete information about precisely who
made these arbitrary decisions that also affected the Fedora
community distro, but as best as I can deduce, the key players seem
to be Greg DeKoenigsberg (as above) and Christopher Blizzard,
although it may be that these were simply the only people discussing
it publicly:

http://www.0xdeadbeef.com/weblog/?p=188

5. The nearest thing to an actual justification for this acceptance of
Mono, is that the OIN offers a kind of Mexican Stand-Off protection
to those who implement it:

http://gregdek.livejournal.com/4008.html

My final conclusion is that Fedora includes encumbered, non-Free
software, that is covered by patents owned by Microsoft, and assured by
a patent covenant that is not worth the (metaphorical) paper it’s
written on, since Moonlight, which is also covered by this same type of
covenant by the same company, has recently been exposed by Groklaw as
undistributable (I’m advised that PJ is currently investigating Mono as
well). The announcement and justification for this inclusion is
extremely sparse, and there has been almost no community consultation on
the subject, either before or after the fact.

Why the secrecy?

More here:

“Red Hat not shipping Mono is currently a can’t rather than a won’t.
Making it worse, we are not able to spell out all the facts on why we
can’t.” ~ Havoc Pennington, ex-Red Hat Desktop manager/engineer.

Again, what is the big secret?

And why do these commercial Linux vendors seem to be going to so much trouble to infect Free Software with Microsoft’s Intellectual Monopoly?

Windows software development is an absolute minefield of legal pitfalls, and now thanks to some mysterious conspiracy (or at least grossly misguided decisions) that same minefield is slowly infesting Free Software too, via Mono.

Then to cap it all, we have the creator of the Linux kernel complaining about people who see things in “black and white” terms.

Maybe we should all just give up any hope of autonomy and Freedom, switch to Windows, and pledge 10% of our income to the Cult of RedmondGangsters for life. That’s what certain people within our community seem to want. I’m sure it’s the “pragmatic” thing to do, after all.

“Beware the enemy within.”

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

3 Comments

  1. mejust me said,

    November 20, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Gravatar

    hey roy, if this is a ‘reader’s post’ then who wrote it?

    thanks!

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    November 21, 2008 at 4:14 am

    Gravatar

    It says so in the post (first paragraph). ;-)

  3. Slated said,

    November 21, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Gravatar

    I did.

What Else is New


  1. Links 24/10/2014: Microsoft Tax Axed in Italy, Google's Linux (ChromeOS/Android) Leader Promoted

    Links for the day



  2. Links 24/10/2014: GNU/Linux History, Fedora Delay

    Links for the day



  3. Links 23/10/2014: New *buntu, Benchmarks

    Links for the day



  4. Links 22/10/2014: Chromebooks Surge, NSA Android Endorsement

    Links for the day



  5. Links 21/10/2014: Debian Fork Debate, New GNU IceCat

    Links for the day



  6. Criminal Microsoft is Censoring the Web and Breaks Laws to Do So; the Web Should Censor (Remove) Microsoft

    Microsoft is still breaking the Internet using completely bogus takedown requests (an abuse of DMCA) and why Microsoft Windows, which contains weaponised back doors (shared with the NSA), should be banned from the Internet, not just from the Web



  7. Microsoft 'Loving' GNU/Linux and Other Corporate Media Fiction

    Microsoft has bullied or cleverly bribed enough technology-centric media sites to have them characterise Microsoft as a friend of Free/Open Source software (FOSS) that also "loves Linux"



  8. India May be Taking Bill Gates to Court for Misusing His So-called 'Charity' to Conduct Clinical Trials Without Consent on Behalf of Companies He Invests in

    Bill Gates may finally be pulled into the courtroom again, having been identified for large-scale abuses that he commits in the name of profit (not "charity")



  9. The Problems With Legal Workarounds, Patent Scope, and Expansion of Patent Trolls to the East

    Patent trolls are in the news again and it's rather important, albeit for various different reasons, more relevant than the ones covered here in the past



  10. Links 20/10/2014: Cloudera and Red Hat, Debian 7.7, and Vivid Vervet

    Links for the day



  11. Links 20/10/2014: 10 Years Since First Ubuntu Release

    Links for the day



  12. How Patent Lawyers Analyze Alice v. CLS Bank

    Breaking down a patent lawyer's analysis of a Supreme Court's decision that seemingly invalidated hundreds of thousands of software patents



  13. Is It Google's Turn to Head the USPTO Corporation?

    The industry-led USPTO continues to be coordinated by some of its biggest clients, despite issues associated with conflicting interests



  14. The EPO's Public Relations Disaster Amid Distrust From Within (and EPO Communications Chief Leaves): Part VII

    Amid unrest and suspicion of misconduct in the EPO's management (ongoing for months if not years), Transparency International steps in, but the EPO's management completely ignores Transparency International, refusing to collaborate; the PR chief of the EPO is apparently being pushed out in the mean time



  15. Links 18/10/2014: Debian Plans for Init Systems, Tails 1.2

    Links for the day



  16. Links 18/10/2014: New ELive, Android Expansion

    Links for the day



  17. Another Fresh Blow to Software Patents (and With Them Patent Trolls)

    Another new development shows that more burden of proof is to be put on the litigant, thus discouraging the most infamous serial patent aggressors and reducing the incentive to settle with a payment out of court



  18. Links 16/10/2014: New Android, SSL 3.0 Flaw

    Links for the day



  19. How the Corporate Press Deceives and Sells Microsoft Agenda

    Various new examples of media propaganda that distorts or makes up the facts (bias/lies by omission/selection) and where this is all coming from



  20. Vista 10 is Still Vapourware, But We Already Know It Will Increase Surveillance on Its Users and Contain Malicious Back Doors

    The villainous company which makes insecure-by-design operating systems will continue to do so, but in the mean time the corporate press covers only bugs in FOSS, not back doors in proprietary software



  21. Links 15/10/2014: KDE Plasma 5.1 is Out, GOG Reaches 100-Title Mark

    Links for the day



  22. With .NET Foundation Affiliation Xamarin is Another Step Closer to Being Absorbed by Microsoft

    Xamarin is not even trying to pretend that separation exists between Microsoft and its work; yet another collaboration is announced



  23. The EPO's Protection Triangle of Battistelli, Kongstad, and Topić: Part VI

    Jesper Kongstad, Benoît Battistelli, and Zeljko Topić are uncomfortably close personally and professionally, so suspicions arise that nepotism and protectionism play a negative role that negatively affects the European public



  24. Corporate Media Confirms the Demise of Software Patents in the United States; Will India and Europe Follow?

    It has become increasingly official that software patents are being weakened in the United States' USPTO as well as the courts; will software leaders such as India and Europe stop trying to imitate the old USPTO?



  25. Links 14/10/2014: CAINE 6, New RHEL, Dronecode

    Links for the day



  26. Microsoft's Disdain for Women Steals the Show at a Women's Event

    Steve Ballmer's successor, Satya Nadella, is still too tactless to lie to the audience, having been given --through subversive means -- a platform at a conference that should have shunned Microsoft, a famously misogynistic company



  27. SCOTUS May Soon Put an End to the 'Copyrights on APIs' Question While Proprietary Giants Continue to Harass Android/Linux in Every Way Conceivable

    Google takes its fight over API freedom to the Supreme Court in the Unites States and it also takes that longstanding patent harassment from the Microsoft- and Apple-backed troll (Rockstar) out of East Texas



  28. Patent Lawsuits Almost Halved After SCOTUS Ruling on 'Abstract' Software Patents

    The barrier for acceptance of software patent applications is raised in the United States and patent lawsuits, many of which involve software these days, are down very sharply, based on new figures from Lex Machina



  29. Links 13/10/2014: ChromeOS and EXT, Debian Resists Systemd Domination

    Links for the day



  30. Links 12/10/2014: Blackphone Tablet, Sony's Firefox OS Port

    Links for the day


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts