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. Microsoft Gradually Embraces, Extends, Extinguishes Linux Foundation as a Foundation of GNU/Linux

    By liaising with (or hijacking) existing members of the Linux Foundation, as well as by paying the Linux Foundation, Microsoft turns the Linux Foundation into somewhat of a Windows advocacy group



  2. Microsoft India Still Lobbies and Lies About Free Software in Order to Knock Down Policy That Favours Free Software

    Microsoft continues to bully Indian politicians who merely 'dare' to prefer software that India can modify, maintain, extend, audit, etc.



  3. Patent Lawyers and Corporate Media Nervous About New Patents Barrier/Reality (Less Patents on Software and Business Methods)

    The rich and the powerful, as well as their lawyers (whose job is to protect their money and power by means of government-enforced monopoly), carry on whining after the Alice case, in which many abstract patents were essentially ruled -- by extension -- invalid



  4. Translation of Pierre-Yves Le Borgn' Speech Against EPO Management and New Parliamentarian Interventions

    More political fire targeting the EPO's management, adding up to over 100 parliamentarians by now



  5. Links 2/7/2015: KDE Plasma 5.3.2, antiX 15

    Links for the day



  6. Links 1/7/2015: OpenDaylight Lithium, OpenMandriva Lx 2014.2

    Links for the day



  7. Munich Press, Münchner Merkur, Slams the Munich-based EPO

    Pressure on Benoît Battistelli to leave (or be fired) grows as the cronies whom he filled his office with have become a huge public embarrassment to the decades-old European Patent Office



  8. The Shameless Campaign to Paint/Portray Free Software as Inherently Insecure, Using Brands, Logos, and Excessive, Selective Press Coverage

    Some more FUD from firms such as Sonatype, which hope to make money by making people scared of Free/libre software



  9. National Insecurity and Blackmail, Courtesy of Microsoft

    British members of parliament (MPs) outsourced their communication to the number one PRISM company and they are paying the price for it; The US Navy's systems continue to be unbelievably insecure (Windows XP), despite access to the world's biggest nuclear arsenal



  10. Microsoft Keeps Shrinking

    As the era of shrink-wrapped software comes to an end so does Microsoft, whose effort to become a 'cloud' company with online operations has been miserable at best



  11. They 'R' Coming: More Microsoft Money for the Linux Foundation

    The problem with having Microsoft in a Linux Foundation initiative, the R Consortium



  12. Speculations About the EPO's Possible Role in DDOS Attacks

    Readers' views on who might be behind the attacks on this site amid confirmation that it's on the 'targets' list of the EPO



  13. Links 30/6/2015: Linux Mint 17.2, OpenMandriva

    Links for the day



  14. Techrights Confirmed as a Target of EPO Surveillance, With Help From Control Risks Group (CRG)

    Unveiling the cloak of secrecy from long-term surveillance by the European Patent Office (EPO) and a London-based mercenary it hired, bypassing the law



  15. Google's Fight to Keep APIs Free is Lost, Let's Hope Google Continues Fighting

    SCOTUS refuses to rule that APIs cannot be considered copyright-'protected', despite common sense and despite Java (which the case is about) being Free/libre software



  16. Patent Trolls in the Post-Alice World

    A round-up of news about patent trolls in the United States, some of whom are are doing well and some of them not as well



  17. DDOS Attacks Against Techrights

    Information about some of the most recent DDOS attacks against this Web site and the steps to be taken next



  18. The Patent System Not What it Used to be, Large Corporations and Patent Lawyers the Principal Beneficiaries

    A look at some recent patent stories and what can be deduced from them, based on statistics and trends



  19. After Intervention by the Council of Europe Comes a Detailed Summary of the Situation in the European Patent Office (EPO)





  20. IRC Proceedings: May 31st - June 27th, 2015

    Many IRC logs



  21. Links 28/6/2015: Manjaro Linux Cinnamon 0.8.13, VectorLinux 7.1

    Links for the day



  22. Williamson v. Citrix Online (at CAFC) Reinforces Alice v. CLS Bank (at SCOTUS) in Crushing Software Patents

    More patent news from the United States, again serving to indicate that software patents over there are getting weak (harder to defend in court or acquire from the patent office)



  23. Proskauer Rose LLP is Cherry-Picking Cases to Make Software Patents Seem Eligible Despite Alice v. CLS Bank

    Naming and shaming those who are trying to reshape the consensus despite a rather consistent pattern of software patents being rejected



  24. IAM Biased: How IAM 'Magazine' Glorifies Patent Stockpiling

    A look at the bias of one of the most overzealous sites for and by patent lawyers



  25. PATENT Act No Longer in the News... and That's Just Fine

    Putting the PATENT Act aside for the time being, for it has little or no impact on the really problematic patents



  26. The Latest Lies From Microsoft's PR Apparatus/Public Face, Mr. Nadella

    Having spread the outrageous lie that “Microsoft loves Linux” (whilst obviously attacking it in many ways), Microsoft's CEO (essentially Bill Gates' right-hand man) says Microsoft is “one of the biggest contributors to Linux kernel” (because of proprietary software it tries to contaminate it with while violating the terms of the GPL)



  27. Microsoft Jack (Schofield) Promotes Microsoft's Proprietary Lock-in and Calls People Who Recommend Free/Libre Software 'Trolls'

    Jack Schofield, writing for a Bill Gates-funded paper despite claiming to have retired, promotes Microsoft Office and insults all those readers who do not agree with him



  28. The Council of Europe Slams the EPO as Political Pressure Grows for EPO Management to Obey the Law

    Battistelli et al. come under yet more fire as politicians -- many of whom from Battistelli's home country -- become better informed of the EPO's management fiasco, abuses, and scandals



  29. Operating Systems Usage Based on Technical Site Statistics

    ome numbers to show what goes on in sites that do not share information about their visitors (unlike Windows-centric sites which target non-technical audiences)



  30. Links 27/6/2015: Wine 1.7.46, SparkyLinux 4.0

    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