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 22/1/2018: Linux 4.15 Delayed Again, Libinput 1.9.901

    Links for the day



  2. Team UPC Calls Critics of the UPC Idiots, Deletes Their Comments, and Blocks Them

    A new low for Team UPC, which is unable to cope with reality and has begun literally mocking and deleting comments of people who speak out truths



  3. How the Opposition to CRISPR Patents at the EPO Sent Shockwaves Through the Industry

    Additional reports/coverage on the EPO (European Patent Office) revoking Broad Institute's CRISPR patent show that the issue at hand isn't just one sole patent but the whole class/family of patents



  4. Unified Patents Says That RPX, Which Might Soon be Owned by Patent Trolls, Paid Patent Trolls Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

    Unified Patents, which helps crush software patents, takes note of RPX’s financial statements, which reveal the great extent to which RPX actually helped trolls rather than stop them



  5. IAM Together With Its Partner, IIPCC, is Lobbying the USPTO to Crush PTAB and Restore Patent Chaos

    Having handled over 8,000 petitions (according to Professor Lemley's Lex Machina), PTAB champions patent quality at the USPTO, so front groups of the litigation 'industry' creep in and attempt to lobby the likely next Director of the USPTO (inciting him against PTAB, as usual)



  6. Software Patents Are Still Dropping Like Flies in 2018, Thanks to Alice v CLS Bank (SCOTUS, 2014) and Section 101 (USPTO)

    Section 101 (§ 101) is thriving in the sense that it belatedly throws thousands of patents -- and frivolous lawsuits that depend on them -- down the chute; the patent trolls and their allies in the patent microcosm are very furious and they blame PTAB for actually doing its job (enforcing Section 101 when petitioned to do so)



  7. Patent Troll Finjan Looks Like It's About to Collapse, But Patent Maximalists Exploit It for Software Patents Promotion

    Patent trolls are struggling in their use of software patents; few (if any) of their patents are upheld as valid and those that miraculously remain in tact become the subject of fascination if not obsession among trolls' advocates



  8. The Attacks on PTAB Are Slowing Down and Attempts to Shield Oneself From Inter Partes Reviews (IPRs) Are Failing

    The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) reapplies patent eligibility tests/guidelines in order to squash likely invalid patents; The litigation 'industry' is not happy about it, but its opposition to PTAB is also losing steam



  9. Links 21/1/2018: Wine 3.0 Coverage, KaOS 2018.01, Red Hat Among 'Admired Companies'

    Links for the day



  10. Blockchain Patents Are a Catastrophe in the Making as Trolls and Aggressors Accumulate Them

    As patents pertaining to blockchains continue to be granted -- even in defiance of Alice/Section 101 -- it seems likely that patent wars will sooner or later erupt, involving some large banks, IBM, and patent trolls associated with the notorious Erich Spangenberg



  11. Qualcomm/Broadcom/NXP Combination Would Become a Disastrous Patent Thicket Which Benefits Nobody

    Worried by the prospect of mega-mergers and takeovers which would put far too much market power (and monopoly through patents) in one place, governments and corporations speak out



  12. Patent Litigation in East Asia: Huawei, Samsung, HTC, Nintendo and COLOPL

    A quick look at some high-profile cases in which large Asian firms are embroiled; it seems clear that litigation activities have shifted eastwards (where actual production is done)



  13. Patent Litigation in the US is Down Sharply and Patent Trolls' Demise Has Much to Do With It

    Docket Navigator and Lex Machina both show a significant decline in litigation -- a trend which is likely to carry on now that TC Heartland is in tact (not for just half a year but a whole year) and PTAB completes another record year



  14. Cheating the US Patent System is a Lot Harder After TC Heartland

    Some new examples of tricks (and sometimes cheats) attempted by patent claimants and their representatives; it does not go as well as they hoped



  15. RPX Might Soon be Owned by Patent Troll Erich Spangenberg

    RPX, whose top executives are leaving and business is gradually dying, might end up as another 'asset' of patent trolls



  16. Patent Quality (Not Numbers) as an Asset: Oppositions, Appeals and Rejections at the EPO

    Benoît Battistelli wants a rubber-stamping operation (like INPI) rather than a functional patent office, but oppositions at the Office prove to be fruitful and many erroneously-granted patents are -- by extrapolation -- already being revoked (affecting, in retrospect, Battistelli's so-called 'results')



  17. Links 19/1/2018: Linux Journalism Fund, Grsecurity is SLAPPing Again

    Links for the day



  18. The EPO Ignores This Week's Decision Which Demonstrates Patent Scope Gone Awry; Software Patents Brought Up Again

    The worrisome growth of European Patents (EPs) — a 40% jump in one year in spite of decline in the number of patent applications — is a symptom of the poor judgment, induced largely by bad policies that impede examiners’ activities for the sake of so-called ‘production’; this week's decision regarding CRISPR is another wake-up call and software patents too need to be abolished (as a whole), in lieu with the European Patent Convention (EPC)



  19. WesternGeco v ION Geophysical (at the US Supreme Court) Won't Affect Patent Scope

    As WesternGeco v ION Geophysical is the main if not sole ‘major’ patent case that the US Supreme Court will deal with, it seems safe to say that nothing substantial will change for patent scope in the United States this year



  20. Links 18/1/2018: MenuLibre 2.1.4, Git 2.16 Released

    Links for the day



  21. Microsoft, Masking/Hiding Itself Behind Patent Trolls, is Still Engaging in Patent Extortion

    A review of Microsoft's ugly tactics, which involve coercion and extortion (for businesses to move to Azure and/or for OEMs to preload Microsoft software) while Microsoft-connected patent trolls help hide the "enforcement" element in this whole racket



  22. Patent Prosecution Highway: Low-Quality Patents for High-Frequency Patent Aggressors

    The EPO's race to the bottom of patent quality, combined with a "need for speed", is a recipe for disaster (except for litigation firms, patent bullies, and patent trolls)



  23. Press Coverage About the EPO Board Revoking Broad's CRISPR Patent

    Even though there's some decent coverage about yesterday's decision (e.g. from The Scientist), the patent microcosm googlebombs the news with stuff that serves to distract from or distort the outcome



  24. Links 17/1/2018: HHVM 3.24, WordPress 4.9.2

    Links for the day



  25. No Patents on Life (CRISPR), Said EPO Boards of Appeal Just a Few Hours Ago

    Broad spectacularly loses its key case, which may soon mean that any other patents on CRISPR too will be considered invalid



  26. Only Two Weeks on the Job, Judge Patrick Corcoran is Already Being Threatened by EPO Management

    The attack on a technical judge who is accused of relaying information many people had already relayed anyway (it was gossip at the whole Organisation for years) carries on as he is again being pushed around, just as many people predicted



  27. EPO Board of Appeal Has an Opportunity to Stop Controversial Patents on Life

    Patent maximalism at the EPO can be pushed aback slightly if the European appeal board decides to curtail CRISPR patents in a matter of days



  28. Links 16/1/2018: More on Barcelona, OSI at 20

    Links for the day



  29. 2018 Will be an Even Worse Year for Software Patents Because the US Supreme Court Shields Alice

    The latest picks (reviewed cases) of the Supreme Court of the United States signal another year with little or no hope for the software patents lobby; PTAB too is expected to endure after a record-breaking year, in which it invalidated a lot of software patents that had been erroneously granted



  30. Patent Trolls (Euphemised as “Public IP Companies”) Are Dying in the United States, But the Trouble Isn't Over

    The demise of various types of patent trolls, including publicly-traded trolls, is good news; but we take stock of the latest developments in order to better assess the remaining threat


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