02.06.09

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How Novell Helps Microsoft Attack GNU/Linux (Except for SUSE)

Posted in Fork, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Java, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, OpenOffice, SLES/SLED, SUN at 1:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Darth Vader Microsoft
Picture by SubSonica

“Every line of code that is written to our standards is a small victory; every line of code that is written to any other standard, is a small defeat. Total victory [...] is the universal adoption of our standards by developers, as this is an important step towards total victory for Microsoft itself: “A computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software.””

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

NOVELL IS A LARGE company with many different teams. Only a small portion of Novell (maybe about 10%) is directly associated with free/open source software and there are many who are stuck in between, including those who capitalise on what Novell labels “mixed-source” [1, 2, 3, 4]. Apart from those who build Free software (Greg Kroah-Hartman comes to mind, although there are downsides) and those who build hybrid software at Novell, there are those whose task seems to be to contaminate GNU/Linux with Microsoft’s intellectual monopolies, which only Novell is permitted to share (with paying customers). Miguel de Icaza is a prime suspect because he is helping Microsoft fight Free software while at the same type harming several companies that compete against Microsoft. He advances Microsoft APIs that are a trap.

Neil McAllister, who writes for IDG [1, 2], has defended Mono in a new column that they put in Slashdot’s front page. What gives?

Miguel de Icaza is himself something of a controversial figure these days. He’s a heavyweight among open-source developers, yet he works for Novell, the company that soured the Linux community by signing a patent-licensing agreement with Microsoft. Worst of all, he seems to have all but dedicated himself to projects related to Mono — in other words, to copying Microsoft technologies.

Yes, that is precisely what he is doing with Microsoft assisting his every step. Why would Microsoft help? Because it makes GNU/Linux stronger? Of course not.

Corporations help themselves, they don’t promote or support betterment of their competitors. As Microsoft's internal presentations indicate (required training to staff), “We are here to help MICROSOFT.”

So how does Mono harm Free software? It’s possible classify the issues as follows:

  • Control. Mono is inclined to evolve along the path of .NET, which gives Microsoft great control over its competitor/s (c.f. API wars mythology).
  • Dependency. Whereas many applications that mimic functionality can be interchanged easily, Mono resides beneath multiple applications, so its removal or change would have a cascading effect.
  • Software patents. We have it from the mouths of multiple Microsoft seniors (some public statements and some private which antitrust litigation exposed) that patents are part of the control mechanism.
  • Java/Sun. As hostile as Sun may have been towards GNU/Linux in the past, it is muchly required these days for its good work on projects like Java and OpenOffice.org. By wooing developers away from Java, Microsoft hopes to starve Sun along with its contributions to Free software.
  • Latch. Mono brings with it a raft of other technologies that permit Microsoft to control developers and control the Web (i.e. access to data). Moonlight is one example of this.
  • DRM. The war around de facto DRM standards is no secret because antitrust exhibits exist that shed bright light on it. Mono empowers .NET, which in turn enables and facilitates more widespread Windows DRM (denial of access to media).
  • Security. Mono inherits architectural issues not only from .NET but from Windows as well.
  • Philosophy. We are aware of GNU/Linux developers who are disguised by technological assimilation to a company that committed many crimes (the criticism of Microsoft has nothing to do with scale but mostly with behaviour). This repels and sometimes discourages development, not just casual use.
  • Novell. Copyrights and trademarks are to be owned by Novell; principal Mono-based projects are sponsored by Novell too. It would not have become a serious concern had Novell not expressed its commitment to Microsoft, to "IP peace of mind" (i.e. software patents as a selling point), even to OOXML. Mono gives Novell great control (leverage) over the desktop and its direction.

There are more points and we covered some of them last year.

Mono’s impact can transcend GNU/Linux. It’s an API war, not just a platform war. Novell is a privileged party. To whit:

“There is a substantive effort in open source to bring such an implementation of .Net to market, known as Mono and being driven by Novell, and one of the attributes of the agreement we made with Novell is that the intellectual property associated with that is available to Novell customers.”

Bob Muglia, Microsoft President

Novell employees are doing the same type of thing to OpenOffice.org [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. Rather than going strongly in defense of Sun’s Java, Novell is going against it. It also goes head-to-head against Sun’s OpenOffice.org with its Microsoft-esque fork, Go-OOXML. They are still stirring things up to generate dirt which harms the OpenOffice.org brand.

A second thing is what I think could be called the Too Many Evangelists syndrome. The way Michael [Meeks of Novell] put it, the major stumpers for Linux, like Alan Cox or Linus Tovalds, are themselves programmers. “With OpenOffice, the exact opposite is typically the case. Most the leads have had intangible contributions, and I think that’s a big part of the problem with OpenOffice in terms of attracting developers — that there are so many people who are not developers who are also very eager to tell everyone what to do.” The code base isn’t even the real issue, in his purview: every project has a potentially messy, outsized code base.

This has already been refuted. Novell is good at having its employees turn to their supposedly ‘personal’ blogs where they slam Microsoft’s competitors, including Java.

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