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12.12.08

Reader’s Take on Microsoft Open Source

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, Microsoft, OSI at 7:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Guest post by SubSonica

Microsoft never utters the phrase “Free Software”. Microsoft tries to obliterate the meaning of “Free Software” as in fighting-for-freedom- and-against-monopolisation- of-knowledge-software (remember the distasteful comments of Bill Hilf, one of Microsoft executives, saying “Free Software doesn’t exist in 2007″, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and etc ad nauseam) and instead substitute it by the much-easier-to-tame “Open Source” phrase, which they promote for everyone to embrace, without any ethical implication whatsoever which must represent just a way of developing software and monetizing it.

Yes, they do. When trying to infiltrate and destroy a new market they don’t dominate yet, they always try to invent similar-but-not-quite-the-real-thing marketing words and denominations for their products in order to introduce confusion to the unsuspecting public that will probably confuse them with the original thing or somehow try transmit the impression they were the original ones: “Shared Source” instead “Open Source”, “MPL” instead of “GPL”, “MS-lmpl” instead of “LGPL”, “Open XML” instead of “Open Document”, CodePlex (for GooglePlex), etc… you get the pattern…

For example, I read a story earlier this week about a company named Aras that radically shifted its strategy in the last year, switching from a traditional proprietary model to one involving “open source.” The article called attention to the fact that Aras is only making its software available for Microsoft Windows — an acceptable open source strategy, if an unusual one. But then the article indicated that Aras was releasing its software under a “shared source” license that was written by Microsoft.

Now, to anyone in the world of open source software, the term “shared source” is a red flag. The “shared source” program was and is Microsoft’s way of fighting the open source world, allowing customers to inspect Microsoft source code without giving those customers the right to modify or redistribute the code. In other words, “shared source” is not open source, and shouldn’t be confused with it. So if Aras is distributing its software under a shared-source license, then we can’t consider it to be open source, can we?

Actually, we can: It turns out that “shared source” is now the umbrella term that Microsoft uses for its policy of relatively openness and transparency, and that this program includes several different software licenses. Two of these licenses, the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL) and the Microsoft Reciprocal License (Ms-RL), have indeed been approved by the Open Source Initiative, which means that they are indeed open-source licenses. And in fact, Aras is distributing their software under the Ms-PL, which means that their software does indeed qualify for the “open source” moniker.

The confusion stems from the fact that Microsoft’s “shared source” program includes three proprietary licenses as well, whose names are similar in some ways to the open-source licenses. Thus, while the Microsoft Reciprocal License has been approved by OSI, the Microsoft Limited Reciprocal License (Ms-LRL) is not, because it allows users to modify and redistribute the software only on the Windows platform.

Even Miguel de Icaza was mad at these tactics:

Microsoft is hosting Windows-only projects on its ‘open source project hosting site,’ CodePlex. Miguel de Icaza caught and criticized Microsoft for doing this with its Microsoft Extensibility Framework (MEF), licensing it under the Microsoft Limited Permissive License (Ms-LPL), which restricts use of the code to Windows. Microsoft has changed the license for MEF to an OSI-approved license, the Microsoft Public License, but it continues to host a range of other projects under the Ms-LPL. If CodePlex wasn’t an ‘open source project hosting site,’ this wouldn’t be a problem. But when Microsoft invokes the ‘open source’ label, it has a duty to live up to associated expectations and ensure that the code it releases on CodePlex is actually open source. If it doesn’t want to do this — if it doesn’t want to abide by this most basic principle of open source — then call CodePlex something else and we’ll all move on.

Microsoft-only open source, what a mockery…

About the FSF, it never endorsed any Microsoft licence, it was the OSI that approved it as “Open Source” (not endorsed) and it was much begrudgingly, in fact some of the Microsoft licences it tries marketing as “Open Source” are listed as NON-FREE by the FSF. Of course Microsoft has issued numerous different licences that they try to market as Open Source (remember, never “Free Software”, because for Microsoft the word Free is too dangerous since for them it just means “NO MONEY”) to introduce confusion in the field, so you can never be sure as to whether a Microsoft-licensed product is really open or not… in any case anything coming from Microsoft always will have the “threat” of patents attached…

Just look at what the FSF says about Microsoft Corporation’s allegedly “open” licences:

Microsoft Limited Public License (Ms-LPL)

This license is non-free because of section 3(F), which requires that any modified software you make from the original code must run on Windows. The Microsoft Public License does not have this restriction.

Microsoft Limited Reciprocal License (Ms-LRL)

This license is non-free because of section 3(G), which requires that any modified software you make from the original code must run on Windows. The Microsoft Reciprocal License does not have this restriction.

Microsoft Reference License

This is a non-free license: you are not allowed to modify the software at all, and you are only allowed to share it under very particular circumstances.

Microsoft’s Shared Source CLI, C#, and Jscript License

This license does not permit commercial distribution, and only allows commercial use under certain circumstances.

Microsoft has other licenses which it describes as “Shared Source”, some of which have different restrictions.

Microsoft Windows Embedded CE 6.0 Shared Source License

This license is non-free because it places various limitations on the kinds of modifications you can make. For example, your modified software must run on Wince, and you are required to provide end user support for your software.”

“Patent grant,” say the licences. Surely they must be joking. What use is a patent grant if I cannot pass the rights downstream? Clear and unambiguous you say? C’mon, give me a break! these clauses are just more FUD and fear mongering, and totally useless against a proxy attack (a Microsoft’s specialty) since they do not specify which specific patents they refer to, so it can provide you with rights for anything in the world or nothing at all. Moreover, there is no place for patents in software. Software is not patentable outside the US and should never be. Anyhow, as if there weren’t Free and Open Source licences galore already to choose: who the hell needs Microsoft’s licences except Microsoft itself?

The Patent Poison Pill

What happens if you file a claim regarding a patent implemented in the work? The MSPL section 3B says:

That is, if you initiate legal action against any contributor to the work regarding a patent which the work may infringe, your right to the patents of that contributor (under this agreement) go away.

Set aside that commentary for a moment. The Apache 2.0 license (again section 3) is much more strict:

If you file a claim (even in response to a claim) that the work infringes on one of your patents, against anyone, not just a contributor, you lose this license’s grant of patent usage.

Now neither license offers any protection against patent trolls who don’t use the software at all, but adding such language to any OSI-approved license is difficult. (Such language would likely overreach the scope of the license and offer no protection.) However, it’s interesting to see how anemic the MSPL is.

Suppose I, as an individual, contribute to a work licensed under the MSPL. A company which uses the work decides that my contribution infringes upon one of their patents, and files suit against me. Under the terms of the license, they no longer have an implicit right to any patents I hold on the work.

The problem is that I don’t hold any software patents. As an individual, it’s likely that I never will. Worse, I don’t even have to be a contributor. I could even be a mere user of the work, and a likely target. (It’s even more fun to point out that even if you receive MSPL-licenced code from Microsoft, they can revoke their patent grant immediately and file a claim against you. You might get some traction with estoppel, but the license language isn’t that strong, and a SLAPP that gets thrown out eventually is still painful.)

If I had contributed instead to a work under the Apache 2.0 license, all patents held by all contributors–revealed or not–are on the line. Note also that the target of the legal action does not have to be a contributor to the software. The target can be completely independent of the project. The target doesn’t even have to use the software.

With a patent protection clause as anemic as MSPL 3B, I wonder why even bother adding it to the license. Though I don’t really believe it’s this useless as part of some sinister master plan, I think it demonstrates that Microsoft still doesn’t understand that there’s no distinction, in terms of our licenses, in the FOSS world between users, contributors, and companies.

Microsoft is yet at the “Embrace” stage with respect to Free and Open Source Software. At the “infiltrate” stage. Of course, in order for them to kill Free Software through EEE (embrace, extend, extinguish) they must go beyond standards and protocols. Free Software is very much a different beast as a competing company or product. They need to re-define the very philosophy of Free Software, marginalize the FSF and any related movement (because, oh, the GPL is sooo restrictive!, Free Software advocates are soooo radical and religious zealots, sooo communists, such a big “cancer”…) it and restrict FOSS just to Open Source with legal burdens so they can monetize it. But first they need to disguise themselves as “part of the community”… and we are already seeing the problems: Windows-only software, non-free licences specifically designed to introduce confusion, patent threats, bizarre open-source “redefinitions” i.e. are you open source? No: we are open to collect patent royalties… and in the meanwhile they send some drones to stalk any site that tries to raise awareness and ring the alarm bells about their strategy!

Darth Vader Microsoft
Picture by SubSonica

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60 Comments

  1. shams said,

    December 12, 2008 at 9:05 am

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    Absolutely Awsome

  2. Zac said,

    December 12, 2008 at 9:11 am

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    Microsoft will do any tactic it can to be for its Windows OS to rule PC’s. It is the foundation of their power, of which they have an obscene amount. Bear this in mind when Microsoft uses words like ‘open-source’. It doesn’t take a genius to know Microsoft’s strategy . But no doubt some gullible sheep will be believe what they say.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 12, 2008 at 9:17 am

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    A couple of hours ago I found this article in Chinese about Boycott Novell and other things. Notice how this article says “Open Office XML”. That’s Microsoft intentional deception… Office Open… Open Office… must be the same, right?

    Earlier today I also found out about Dick Hardt joining Microsoft. He was quick to say “I’m not selling out” and Microsoft uses him to sell the “Microsoft open source” pitch. Microsoft actively fights against Freedom. If Dick Hardt helps them, then he too, by definition, harms Freedom.

    What a shame.

  4. cday said,

    December 12, 2008 at 9:58 am

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    “and in the meanwhile they send some drones to stalk any site that tries to raise awareness and ring the alarm bells about their strategy!”

    Then it’s time for more of us to talk about it where the drones can’t “stalk”. Since “the unsuspecting public” is actually made up of our families, friends and co-workers, we don’t need blogs to spread information, email and general conversations can work too. Even if each of us can only reach ten people with information, it still makes a difference.

    I call it Sneaker-blogging. : )

  5. Needs Sunlight said,

    December 12, 2008 at 10:37 am

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    Ok. If Dick Hardt is still on the Sxipper board, then the product is dead.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 12, 2008 at 10:39 am

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    Not dead… ‘extended’… to IE support?

    http://www.sxipper.com/release-notes

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 12, 2008 at 12:37 pm

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    I’ve just been sent the references of the quotes above, which are definitely needed.

    About the 1st quote mentioning Aras:
    http://syslab.com/blog/weblogentry.2008-05-13.5492362677

    The 2nd quote mentioning the Codeplex MEF fiasco I could not find exactly which, but these two references summarize the episode:
    http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2008/Sep-07.html
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10058421-16.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=TheOpenRoad

    And of course, the reference to MSFT’s licences that the FSF warns are not free (this is easy to find)
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/license-list.html#NonFreeSoftwareLicense

    “The patent posion pill” reference is here:
    http://www.oreillynet.com/linux/blog/2007/05/patents_mspl_and_the_apache_20.html

  8. SubSonica said,

    December 12, 2008 at 2:17 pm

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    This article explains very well the real dangers of letting Microsoft approach the Free and Open Source world:

    http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Linux-and-Open-Source/Microsofts-OpenSource-Trap-for-Mono/
    “Microsoft is claiming that releasing the .NET Framework reference source code under the Microsoft Reference License will give developers the opportunity to understand more about .NET.

    That sounds good for open source, doesnt it? Wrong! Microsofts so-called opening up of .NET Framework is setting a trap for open-source programmers. Open-source developers should avoid this code at all costs.

    You see, as Scott Guthrie, general manager of the Microsoft .Net Framework in Microsofts Developer Division, himself explains, the Microsoft Reference License allows viewing of source code, but not modification or redistribution. The source code will be downloadable and viewable by anyone who accepts the license agreement. This is another step in Microsofts Shared Source Initiative attempt to confuse people on what open source is, and isnt.

    Microsoft had the sheer gall to submit two of its Shared Source Licenses to the OSI (Open Source Initiative) for approval as an open-source license. Fortunately, the OSI shows no signs of agreeing that these are in any way, shape or form open-source licenses. In particular, the Microsoft Permissive License is unlikely to be approved, according to Michael Tiemann, the president of OSI.

    In licensing circles, theyre arguing over Microsofts language. Though with this .NET Framework move, we can see Microsoft poisoning open source in action.

    The key is that Microsoft will let you look at the code but you cant use it in your own programs or modify it and use in your software. Now, theres already a set of open-source programs, Mono, that let you develop and run .NET client and server applications on Linux, Solaris, Mac OS X, Windows and Unix.

    Mono is sponsored by Novell. Its led by noted open-source developer Miguel de Icaza. The Mono code is covered by three different real open-source licenses. The C# Compiler and tools are released under the terms of the GPLv2 (GNU General Public License); the runtime libraries are under the LGPL 2.0 (GNU Library GPL 2); and the class libraries are released under the terms of the MIT 11 license.

    Thanks to Mono, we now have the popular Linux programs such as the Banshee music player, Beagle search tool and F-spot photography program. With Mono, you can also now run Visual Basic programs on Linux. Mono is also working on porting Microsofts Silverlight 1.0, a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering richer Web user experiences in a project called Moonlight.

    All of these programs are now in danger from Microsoft.

    I know, I know, if you just look at the headline, the executive summary, “Microsoft opens up .NET,” it sounds great for Mono open-source developers. Its actually a death trap for Mono.

    Is open source the best way to unlock the value of IT? Click here to read more.

    Lets say a year from now, Microsoft does a SCO. They claim that Mono contains code that was stolen from the .NET Framework reference source code. They point at their code, they point at the license, and sure enough, theres similar code. After all, both projects are implementing .NET; there will almost certainly be lines of code that looks alike.

    Better still, from Microsofts point of view, all they need to do is find one Mono programmer who has signed the license to look at the .NET Framework reference source code. With that “proof,” theyll claim theyve found their smoking gun. SCO failed in its attempts because it never did have any evidence that there was Unix code in Linux.

    Microsoft, however, is baiting its trap for Mono programmers with .NET cheese. Theyll claim, come that day, about how open it was in letting people look, but not touch, their code. With the combination of “proof” that some Mono code has been stolen from Microsoft and its attempt to muddy the waters about what open source really means, it can look forward to having a much better chance of killing off an open-source project than SCO ever had with Linux

    If you ever, and I mean ever, want to write open-source code, I recommend you not come within a mile of Microsofts .NET Framework code or any other similar projects that the boys from Redmond “open” up.

    If you do, youre nibbling on the cheese of a trap that will eventually snap shut on you and kill up your program and quite possibly your job and finances. “

  9. jo Shields said,

    December 12, 2008 at 2:32 pm

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    “Microsoft is claiming that releasing the .NET Framework reference source code under the Microsoft Reference License will give developers the opportunity to understand more about .NET.

    That sounds good for open source, doesnt it? Wrong! Microsofts so-called opening up of .NET Framework is setting a trap for open-source programmers. Open-source developers should avoid this code at all costs.

    You see, as Scott Guthrie, general manager of the Microsoft .Net Framework in Microsofts Developer Division, himself explains, the Microsoft Reference License allows viewing of source code, but not modification or redistribution. The source code will be downloadable and viewable by anyone who accepts the license agreement. This is another step in Microsofts Shared Source Initiative attempt to confuse people on what open source is, and isnt.

    Agreed. Which is why Mono specifically forbids contribution from anyone who has ever looked at Rotor’s source. See http://www.mono-project.com/Contributing#Important_Rules

    Microsoft had the sheer gall to submit two of its Shared Source Licenses to the OSI (Open Source Initiative) for approval as an open-source license. Fortunately, the OSI shows no signs of agreeing that these are in any way, shape or form open-source licenses. In particular, the Microsoft Permissive License is unlikely to be approved, according to Michael Tiemann, the president of OSI.

    Ms-PL was renamed and reworked, following OSI’s concerns. Here’s the OSI-approved final version: http://www.opensource.org/licenses/ms-pl.html

    Here’s their other OSI-approved license of the two you mention: http://www.opensource.org/licenses/ms-rl.html

    If you ever, and I mean ever, want to write open-source code, I recommend you not come within a mile of Microsofts .NET Framework code or any other similar projects that the boys from Redmond “open” up.

    Which is why, as cited, Mono does not permit contributions from anyone who has seen any Microsoft .NET source code.

    Wine has the same concerns following that Win2K source code leak a few years back – which caused a full halt on development of ReactOS so a code audit could be performed

  10. Lisa Lefty said,

    December 12, 2008 at 7:39 pm

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    Your anger is well focused here Roy, but in a bit of the wrong direction… free software is increasingly sidelining itself at the moment, while the open source world creeps closer and closer to the traditional software companies.

    If I were to be extreme, I might suggest that the free software folks are the same as MIcrosoft were in the 90s… “you do it my way, or you don’t do it at all”, “you do it my way, or it is the wrong way and we’ll atatck you for it.

    In many evident and public cases the Open Source world has moved on, the free software folks have yet to evolve.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 12, 2008 at 7:45 pm

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    Lisa,

    This is not something I wrote (see attribution), but it’s something I agree with.

  12. SubSonica said,

    December 12, 2008 at 8:56 pm

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    Agreed. Which is why Mono specifically forbids contribution from anyone who has ever looked at Rotor’s source. See http://www.mono-project.com/Contributing#Important_Rules

    If you can’t look at the code, how can you check that there is no code copied? How can anyone keep insisting in that Microsoft is “open” when it releases code in terms so threatening that you can’t even look at it?.
    Since you can’t even look at the rotor code, how can you be sure it is not Microsoft the one that will copy mono code and put it into rotor in order to sue immediately afterwards?

  13. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 12, 2008 at 9:00 pm

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    As SJVN points out, it’s a SCO-type dilemma. See:

    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/09/20/mono-java-dotnet-analysis/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/09/19/why-not-mono-car-analogy/

  14. Yfrwlf said,

    December 12, 2008 at 9:13 pm

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    They are indeed a nasty business. (Microsoft)

    However, open source is untouchable, so everyone is safe as long as they know the licenses and patent issues and in general the laws surrounding the software they use and/or promote.

    I still think there needs to be a lot more movement toward paid programming business models for open source software though. If a bunch of Linux users want to get together and contribute money to the creation of some Linux program, for instance, I think there should be some good ways of being able to do so that are big enough and have enough momentum to safely deliver that to them.

    Yes, that was off topic, but no one ever talks about it.

  15. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 12, 2008 at 9:26 pm

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    Actually, Linux developers (kernel hackers) were able to do this. Maybe they can teach a lesson about pooling funds from those that benefit.

  16. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 12:01 am

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    Well so far there’s not a friendly ecosystem set up to allow normal users to contribute via funds really. Obviously you can’t tell them “go learn to code”, not everyone is a developer, and that’s not going to change until super easy ways of creating programs arise (will happen, just quite a long ways off, but that’s software’s destiny).

    So that’s my main complaint. There are plenty of micro-transaction systems coming about, but it’s all for close source software, so what I’d like to see are markets for open source.

    I think it’d be cool to have a Linux-based console or PC program or web interface where you could pay for software that is either in development or completed and awaiting funds to pay for it’s development. Ransom models like that have been tried but it just can’t take off without a lot more attention. That’s how open source works. If it doesn’t develop a community following, it won’t be successful. Would have to start off small somehow or it’d have to be pushed by bigger companies.

    Always the little companies that struggle…

    Any way, governments and other organizations getting together would have a much, much easier time at pooling development funds and pulling off something like that for things like educational software for instance.

    But again, off topic, sorry. :P

  17. twitter said,

    December 13, 2008 at 1:07 am

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    The bottom line, Lisa, is that free software is winning. There’s been a continual decline in non free development and non free tools. This is in part due to the systematic destruction of M$’s non free rivals and the merit of free software tools and licenses. Use has gone beyond starving students to enterprise and surviving “traditional” software houses like IBM and Apple. Surprise, surprise, they are learning that you can make money with free software like RMS told everyone 25 years ago. Everything from embedded development to supercomputers is being swept up. Anyone who works with free software learns to see restrictions as wrong and debilitating, so M$’s little traps are doomed to fail. Restrictions chafe when you are used to freedom.

    Pointing out those restrictions, remembering SCO and connecting the dots to Novell is not an “attack” it’s self interested, common sense. I’m glad Boycott Novell is pointing these things out in a well researched and easy to digest form. Mono users should know about the strange restrictions M$ puts on Mono developers and how those restrictions can disrupt everone. They should also be aware of M$’s past and current attempts to screw everone. With the information laid out correctly the intentions are obvious.

  18. AlexH said,

    December 13, 2008 at 4:42 am

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    @twitter: RMS’s point has never been “you can make money with free software”. He has never had anything against selling it, but he has almost studiously avoided the business model argument because it’s not relevant to him whether money is made or not.

    The stuff about “strange restrictions M$ (sic) puts on Mono” is pretty far from reality too, but you likely know that already.

  19. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 4:46 am

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    The tune about Free software dying is sung by Microsoft et al. When people recite it, be suspicious. Microsoft knows too well that Free software spreads because even companies it acquires actually use it.

  20. AlexH said,

    December 13, 2008 at 4:49 am

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    Who’s “reciting it”?

  21. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 5:31 am

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    Somebody in this thread.

  22. AlexH said,

    December 13, 2008 at 6:59 am

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    Where?

  23. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 7:10 am

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    Right there.

  24. Dan O'Brian said,

    December 13, 2008 at 7:53 am

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    If you can’t look at the code, how can you check that there is no code copied?

    The same way WINE audited their code to make sure nothing was lifted from the leaked Microsoft code.

    You have non-code-contributors audit it and check incoming patches from untrusted contributors.

    From what I’ve been told, this is how Mono does it.

  25. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 8:02 am

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    GNU/Linux applications are not made dependent on Wine.

  26. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:14 am

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    What Roy just said is really the reason I’m OK supporting Wine but not OK supporting mono. With Wine, it’s simply a compatibility layer to allow you to run *Windows* apps. Everyone clearly knows that they are apps that are for Windows and wishes they could have replacements eventually but it’s basically used how an emulator is used, allowing you to not have to install Win98 or XP and boot into it just to run one program. Emulators are nice sometimes to play old programs that you miss. But onto the confusing part that I don’t understand…

    Mono is just some libraries, as if Linux needed any more. Aside from patent threats, I don’t really see the danger hear. My gut reaction is that there is of course, because I know MS, but I don’t see what they are possibly doing other than allowing their “development platform” to be extended to Linux. I think their real goal is to tell ISVs: “You don’t need to worry about developing programs for Linux anymore because Linux can run Windows programs.” At first I was like wuuuut, because you’d think they’d only really start *wanting* to play nice with Linux if Linux got much bigger than it is now. I think what they are doing will end up *allowing* an easier move onto Linux.

    Basically, why is Microsoft supporting .NET? What’s the reason for them supporting a programming language? Well, it started out being that of course there are lots of hooks into Windows, it’s a Windows-only development platform. It *locks you into Windows*. Of course the reason for wanting that is so that in the end they can sell more copies of Windows. So then, why would you purposefully break your own lock-in scheme by allowing that to not be the case???

    I just don’t see it. Other than using patent threats, I don’t can’t see what they are doing besides wanting to allow compatibility with Windows, and I think that’s a *good thing for Linux*. Seriously, I think they are shooting themselves by doing that, because that may mean that if there is some critical Windows program that a company needs to function, and it happens to be written with .NET, that means that possibly no porting will be necessary, there may be *less* porting or no porting at all in comparison to programs written in C or C++ and such. Of course one WANTS to say nonono Yfrwlf you’re full of poop because C and C++ are cross-platform, but now .NET is cross-platform! I think it will end up really being bad for MS because I just don’t see the threat of what they are doing.

    So unless there is some weird licensing loopholes or tactics that I don’t know about and can’t fathom yet, I would say that having more cross-platform languages/APIs is a good thing and allowing programs to be made for both Windows and Linux and Mac and others all at the same time will ultimately make the OS irrelevant and that will be a good thing for Linux, because Microsoft relies on Windows *being* relevant. Cross-platform programs means you suddenly give users *choice*, and I think that’s good. So maybe MS is just dumb on this one, dunno.

    My final comment is that developers need to choose a good language/API/etc to program for. wxWidgets seems like a great idea for instance, then you only have to program one GUI and be done with it. I think that trying to make sure your program has the same functionality on both .NET and Mono would be annoying and a dumb choice, but maybe not more annoying than the alternatives out there now. Regardless, I think making the OS less important is great because it makes consumers wonder why they’d want to pay for Windows when they can run all their favorite programs on Linux.

  27. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:17 am

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    BTW, yes I somewhat changed my mind while writing the above post, I rewrote a lot of it, initially slamming Mono because that’s my gut reaction to anything MS does, but now I don’t really see how they could use it to EEE Linux, which is impossible to begin with of course. I think cross-platform efforts depending on how functional they are will end up being good for Linux and will only hurt MS. Maybe they are only doing this (supporting Mono) because Linux has become big enough.

  28. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:21 am

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    He who controls the API

  29. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Gravatar

    I mean, obviously if your software has licenses which says “you can only use it on Windows!” then that’s crap, so unless there’s some legal land mine which can tie a program you create for, say, Mono, to be under MS’s control somehow, I don’t see the danger. You make it dependent on Mono 2.0 or whatever version, and that’s it. Your program == Mono 2.0. You should be safe I think. Will it work on .NET though? That’s a totally different thing, and the fact is it may break in Windows constantly, because with libraries always getting updated and other crap, I’d be less sure that .NET 2.0 lets say will always function the same as .NET 2.0, but maybe it would. But on Linux, I’d expect Mono 2.0 to always function that way.

    I think they just want open source developers making stuff that will run on Windows is what it is…maybe they just want an even bigger software pool for their Windows platform. Maybe in their minds they are wanting to make it seem like *Linux* is less relevant. I just think it will happen the other way though, where Windows will be the one that’s less relevant.

  30. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Gravatar

    Mono continues to catch up with .NET, so it merely follows the footsteps of Microsoft. GNU/Linux distributions tend to include the latest version of Mono, so developers are pressured to follow Microsoft’s footsteps. The same rule goes for its software licences that evolve.

    Remember how EEE works.

  31. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Gravatar

    Yeah but if you make a program for Mono 2.0 lets say, that program supposedly would be safe. Future versions, however, they could make dependent on more Windows libraries, so at the very least, and I’ve made this argument before when fighting against Mono, that Mono will always be playing catchup to it’s .NET leader. So there is that danger in coming to rely on Mono and program for Mono, that future iterations could push it onto Windows, that’s one legitimate argument but at the same time the programs wouldn’t have to follow. But it would make it harder for the programmers whereas they chose a programming system/language that wasn’t biased towards all other OSes.

    But, at the same time, *Mono* is not controlled. It exists as a static library on Linux now. So if .NET 3.0 or whatever rolls around, and Mono 3.0 comes out, but it horribly sucks and you can’t move your 2.0 program to 3.0 or don’t want to or whatnot, you can stay on 2.0.

    I guess what I’m saying is that if you program for Mono, know that the ability for Windows to run your program could break because Windows is controlled (though I guess that’s always true when developing for Windows), and know that it could very will be a very dead-end path, but if a developer makes a Mono 2.0 program that at least for now works on Windows, I say fine but that’s a pretty dumb and dangerous choice.

    Instead, I’d tell them to choose some other language which is much more open and isn’t being steered by such a…well, mean company. :P

  32. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Gravatar

    Yes, but my argument is that you don’t *have* to follow Microsoft to their grave, you can jump ship, Mono developers are of course free to choose to switch languages if Microsoft steers .NET into an anti-Linux situation, but of course they will have wasted time learning the language, among other things.

    So what I’m saying is I agree with you that developing for Mono could very much be dangerous, and I wouldn’t choose it if I were a programmer, so you could argue that companies including it are encouraging programmer to be dangerous and possibly waste their time with it.

    But, what exists now, Mono and the programs it can run, those are “safe”. I guess that’s my main argument for Mono. Even if 3.0 gets ruined, Mono 2.0 is just another library, it simply may not have a future is all. But, anything that is open source can go where ever it wants to, if .NET 3.0 came out and Mono 3.0 couldn’t follow it because it went exclusively onto Windows somehow or whatnot, Mono 3.0 could go off in it’s own direction *if* it had support.

  33. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Gravatar

    But, at the same time, *Mono* is not controlled. It exists as a static library on Linux now. So if .NET 3.0 or whatever rolls around, and Mono 3.0 comes out, but it horribly sucks and you can’t move your 2.0 program to 3.0 or don’t want to or whatnot, you can stay on 2.0.

    It’s not that simple because of:

    1. compatibility;
    2. security;
    3. vendor choice (e.g. the Ubuntu distribution)

    In short, backward compatibility is an issue (technical and legal), security patches are an issue (discontinuation) and you can’t persuade the packagers to pick legacy software. Consider PHP4 vs PHP5 as an example.

  34. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Gravatar

    I dunno, my brain is fried thinking about all this. All I know is that having Microsoft at the helm is scary in any situation, so I totally agree with that fear, but I’m just saying that in the case of Mono for it being what it is *right now*, Microsoft is not at the helm, they are just hoping you will hop to Windows so that they *can* be and they hope you will follow them with *future* versions of .NET, but they don’t control open source because nothing can if it’s actually truly open source.

    I do, however, fully agree that it would be MUCH BETTER having a more open, nicer, and more trustworthy in general group of developers and whoever steering a programming language. Whether that language/system/framework/API/whatever is cross-platform or not, if it’s not M$ at the helm I would feel safer, so as a programmer I wouldn’t want to put my eggs in the Mono basket.

    So for that I complete agree with you, I’m just saying that Mono as it exists now in it’s present form is OK since it’s an open source library, but the future *is* important and one should certainly be scared of it when associating with M$.

  35. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Gravatar

    But, what exists now, Mono and the programs it can run, those are “safe”. I guess that’s my main argument for Mono. Even if 3.0 gets ruined, Mono 2.0 is just another library, it simply may not have a future is all. But, anything that is open source can go where ever it wants to, if .NET 3.0 came out and Mono 3.0 couldn’t follow it because it went exclusively onto Windows somehow or whatnot, Mono 3.0 could go off in it’s own direction *if* it had support.

    See our coverage of the OOXML OSP. If people deviate from this, there’s no ‘protection’, however useless it may be in the first place anyway.

  36. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Gravatar

    So for that I complete agree with you, I’m just saying that Mono as it exists now in it’s present form is OK since it’s an open source library, but the future *is* important and one should certainly be scared of it when associating with M$.

    Mono brings a raft of other things with it, such as Silverlight and OOXML. It’s part of a broader tactic. Microsoft wants to blur the gap between GNU/Linux and its own ‘IP’-protected technology that it controls. It tries to ‘infect’ rivals with the ‘Microsoft bug’.

  37. Abe said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Gravatar

    Microsoft sure mudded the waters around Open Source & Free Software enough. They did that with the help of lackey journalists and naive or ignorant posters on the Internet. It is time to leave these terms behind and move on with a new precise and meaningful name that they won’t be able to muddy or twist around.

    Open Source & free [source code/software] should totally be dropped and never be used to refer to GPLed or Freedom as in speach software any more. The words “open” and “free” were made ambiguous enough they became counter beneficial to GPLed Freedom Software.

    The terms GPLed/Gnu/FREEDOM/FLOSS software should consistently be used instead and an effort on the Internet should be made to make the distinction well understood even by laymen.

  38. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Gravatar

    “In short, backward compatibility is an issue (technical and legal), security patches are an issue (discontinuation) and you can’t persuade the packagers to pick legacy software. Consider PHP4 vs PHP5 as an example.”

    You should have a link to the tags or BB code or whatever someplace, would be cool. ^^

    Any way, I agree that you have to be cautious of the future and certainly future support is an issue. I mean, especially if the primary developer is Novell being paid by M$ and whatnot, then who will be around to keep supporting Mono 2.0 if 3.0 sucks in some way? Yeah I agree…

    It’s just a dangerous situation all around I guess so I wouldn’t ever want to jump on their ship like I said, so I definitely am not…interested…in supporting programs which are based on that unstable infrastructure.

    So yeah, I’d rather have an actual open community at the helm rather than a scary company that I don’t trust with pro-Windows motives behind it…

    OK, you win. :P

  39. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Gravatar

    There’s no end to how uncontrolled something can be though, like in this case here with Mono. It itself is open source software, but it’s *lead* by companies that have Windows’ interests in mind. That’s the problem, there’s so many different levels on which you can mean uncontrolled. You can take it to several different extremes, but you’re right in that ultimately the concept behind open source is empowerment of the user, with no strings attached whatsoever. The reality is though that’s there’s often some kind of strings attached in some way.

  40. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Gravatar

    @Roy: Its just safer choosing something non-Windows-based basically and not under the influence of Microsoft, I agree.

    Hope everyone has a good weekend. ^^

  41. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Gravatar

    Remember that Novell controls Mono (copyrights, developers, strategic direction) and it’s preparing to triple its collaborations with Microsoft. Some people (not in this site) reckon that Microsoft might buy Novell if it becomes more useful as a proper subsidiary. Remember Zimbra under the Microsoft knife?

    Quotes from 2008:

    “Our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand.”

    Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO

    “[The partnership with Microsoft is] going very well insofar as we originally agreed to co-operate on three distinct projects and now we’re working on nine projects and there’s a good list of 19 other projects that we plan to co-operate on.”

    Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO

  42. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Gravatar

    Novell controls Mono’s copyrights? But it’s open source though, so even if under the license they are using somehow switch it to a totally new license, you could simply fork the actual open source version. The only real *bad* threat toward open source are patents IMO, because if some developers start misbehaving, fork it.

    Regardless, I’m much more interested in seeing languages/APIs/etc be developed that aren’t skewed by agendas toward specific operating systems. Many companies can be, including Linux distro companies by, say, wanting to lock users into their repositories and not help cross-distro application efforts, like I always bitch about. ^^

  43. jo Shields said,

    December 13, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Gravatar

    Mono brings a raft of other things with it, such as Silverlight and OOXML.

    The closest thing Mono has to “bringing OOXML” is the ability to open Zip files, and the ability to read XML.

    There are absolutely no libraries or abilities related specifically to OOXML anywhere in Mono’s source tree.

    As for Silverlight, what Mono contains is some XML manifests used by the Mono Linker to create the cut-down 2.1 base library, from the 2.0 library, without the need for any distinct source or additional compilation. This includes a wrapped compiler, smcs, which uses 2.1 instead of 2.0 by default.

    That’s the actual extent of the supposed “raft of other things with it, such as Silverlight and OOXML”

  44. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Gravatar

    BTW, dunno if you know but M$ is also pushing community development of the creation of games using XNA for distribution on Xbox. That’s not too different from Google pushing Android development for software which can only run on Android, or anyone else trying to get communities to help them make their product popular. Of course the efforts of Mono and Moonlight have similar goals even if you aren’t confined to Windows for them at least in the short term, it’s still their API, their “platform” that they are pushing.

    Of course, everyone wants stuff like this, but obviously unrestricted platforms is of more long-term benefit. That’s why the Linux ecosystem having good development tools is extremely important. Linux needs to help it’s developers create, package, and release Linux software as easy and as quickly as it can, so more unification/framework/API efforts are needed in this area.

  45. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Gravatar

    @jo: That may be true but regardless most developers still aren’t going to choose Mono as why would Microsoft care about Linux? They just want you developing for their Windows platform, that’s all they care about. If I knew they cared about both Linux and Windows equally, and that it was going to be a stable, non-biased truly cross-platform solution, they it may be a legitimate alternative, but I don’t think most Linux users will ever believe that, why should they when Linux is M$’s enemy.

  46. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Gravatar

    Jo,

    We discussed this the other day. Look at the OOXML SDK.

  47. jo Shields said,

    December 13, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Gravatar

    Which OOXML SDK is that?

  48. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Gravatar

    We talked about this days ago.

  49. jo Shields said,

    December 13, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Gravatar

    And you talked utter, utter, complete and total shit then too.

    Are you SERIOUSLY claiming that writing a high-level library to an XML format in one language means that language is tainted? How about the g++/Windows connection, given Windows is partly C++?

  50. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Gravatar

    You look at this in reverse. I claim that Novell/Microsoft implementations are being used to poison GNU/Linux with Mono.

  51. jo Shields said,

    December 13, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Gravatar

    So you’d say we were all happy and safe if Microsoft’s OOXML SDK were written in C instead of C#?

    What world do you inhabit, Roy?

  52. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Gravatar

    OOXML is a vector for other Microsoft technologies like .NET and VML. It’s better to avoid them all because they are intertwined.

  53. jo Shields said,

    December 13, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Gravatar

    You DO know you can interface with .zip and XML from things like Python or C, right?

  54. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Gravatar

    @jo: I approach things from a simple angle: Microsoft is in business to make money, and to sell Windows and other software. Why would they want to support a *normal*, open, and completely unbiased programming language? The fact is, C# *is* biased. It’s completely Windows oriented.

    From Wikipedia: “Although the C# language definition and the CLI are standardized under ISO and ECMA standards, the CLI is only a part of Microsoft’s Base Class Library (BCL), which also contains non-standardized classes that are used by many C# programs (some extended IO, User Interface, Web services, …). Furthermore, parts of the BCL have been patented by Microsoft,[24][25] which may deter independent implementations of the full framework, as only the standardized portions have RAND protection from patent claims.”

    Microsoft doesn’t do stuff for everyone, they do stuff for *them* and they expect to collect. The only reason for the *support* of C# and .NET by *Microsoft* is to create dependency on Windows, which is not free as in beer, i.e. they end up collecting.

  55. Matt said,

    December 13, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Gravatar

    Moving to Linux was a learning curve for me. Not necessarily in how to use linux, but more of an understanding of the meaning of ‘free software’ .

    The more I learn, the more I understand and believe in what Richard Stallman and the FSF does.

    Microsoft is the cancer.

  56. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Gravatar

    @Yfrwlf: .NET/Mono is supposed to impose a “second-class citizen” status on GNU/Linux. If you want the ‘real stuff’, then pay for Windows and Visual Studio. That’s a very serious issue because Java is the superior solution that Novell/Microsoft fight against.

  57. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Gravatar

    @Roy: I agree and I’ve said it before here, .NET will always run better on Windows and that’s their intention. While I do think that right now, cross-platform software between Windows and Linux will be better for Linux in several ways (number of developers, makes it easier to switch and makes switching less painful, etc), and like Wine, Mono will allow running more Windows software on Linux, I certainly agree that encouraging that development and promoting that is a dangerous path. Even if you only stick to the parts of .NET that are actually open source and “patent protected”, you’re still as risk due to the main pull of developers are working for Microsoft. So, even if it was forked, a) the fork would no longer have “patent protection” no doubt unless that is explicitly covered by their license and b) I don’t think it’d have enough INTEREST to keep existing, so support would wane and those developers who chose to root themselves in it would suffer.

    So yeah, long story short, pick Java or some other language that isn’t inherently controlled by companies that have an interest in seeing you on Windows.

    Speaking of Sun, I think they should just break down and abandon openSolaris for Linux. It’s just too much of a wasted effort and too far behind at this point I think, might as well just take what is good, port it to Linux, and concentrate on other projects.

  58. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Gravatar

    @Matt: Sure, software for everyone is a nice and sharing idea, software is just information but in the past it has been costly to create, but it’s getting much easier. I think it’s always important though to respect the freedom of others to choose. I buy proprietary software sometimes, like games for consoles for instance. I know full well that it’s a flash in the pan, that it’s a one-time entertainment purchase, but most things are. Most things consumers pay for are one-time things.

    The fact is though, that purchases for things which last are better investments and have better features. Things which are totally controllable by the consumer are even better. Things which can be modified and improved are even better. Freedom is a feature, it’s that simple. I don’t mind paying for paid development of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but of course I’d rather give my money to something which gives me more features. So, in an ideal world, software could be created very easily by anyone and it’d be like art or anything else, but sometimes you could commission and pay for some of it, and the process would be simple and the developer/artist would receive the payment and deliver the product.

    I think it can be done, too, it just takes more communication to get there, but my point is right now things are tough, so you still have to respect those who choose to pay for a dead end solution when there’s no other way, no other solution. You don’t want to discourage looking for one of course, but as long as consumers know what they’re getting into and know the ramifications for doing so, it’s their choice. I’d just like to make it possible for better choices to be presented to them in the future.

  59. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Gravatar

    Of course, that’s looking at it from a purely selfish point of view. The fact that it’d be helping everyone else when you pay for, promote, or help out with open source development is a good feature too. :)

  60. Yfrwlf said,

    December 13, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Gravatar

    BTW, everyone should totally write their various government bodies and tell them to get together among themselves as well as with other countries and develop their own software instead of paying billions for proprietary solutions. :)

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