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06.28.09

Responses to Richard Stallman’s Verdict on Mono

Posted in FSF, Microsoft, Mono, Novell at 5:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Richard Stallman and the GPLv3

Summary: Mono developments to be aware of

Richard Stallman’s advice against Mono (by default) has made the front page of Slashdot where it received over 700 comments, which is exceptional even for Slashdot. The updated summary also links to an overview of Gnote, which concludes with:

To me, this is a huge victory for Anti-Mono supporters. Users get just as much functionality out of their old apps, and are rewarded a freedom from code patents at the very same time! It’s a win-win situation!

One of our readers, Toros, writes:

“!fsf !gnu @rms – http://fsf.org/: Why free software shouldn’t depend on #Mono or C# – http://ur1.ca/6d0x”

Brad Kunn from the SFLC passed on this message:

“c.f. Tomboy C++ rewrite effort as well ♻ @toros: !fsf !gnu @rms: Why free software shouldnt depend on #Mono or C# – http://ur1.ca/6d0x”

John Sullivan (FSF) adds:

“!fsf rms warning about !debian and others depending on Mono: http://www.fsf.org/news/dont-depend-on-mono”

Other core people in Identica remark as follows:

[1]:

“@gnufs He’s talking talking about the risks faced by including mono by default. He never says not to use it. Just don’t depend on it. !fsf”

[2]:

“We know #Microsoft plans to attack free software with patents because they’ve said so. Implementing MS tech carries special risks. !fsf”

[3]:

“Should the !GNU system support #NTFS? Yes. Should the GNU system _depend_ on NTFS? No. Same with #Mono or any other #Microsoft tech. !fsf”

[4]:

“It’s not a matter of “here @rms supports inclusion of patented software, and here he doesn’t”. !fsf”

Over at LinuxToday, Rainer Weikusat correctly points out that the pro-Microsoft/pro-Mono crowd goes to great lengths to characterise Mono opposition as “crackpots”. We wrote about this before. The only thing worse than this is personal abuse from Novell employees.

As an added bonus, it doesn’t even work: Helping
‘dubious comrades’, like LinuxInsider, with
painting all people who are critical of Mono
as crackpots by virtue of drowning any attempt
at a serious discussion of the associated issues,
eg Microsoft-controlled APIs, especially,
bad Microsoft-controlled APIs in, in “Patents!
Patents! Patents!”-shrieks is likely to rather
help than hinder the proliferation of C#/.NET.
.
But this is certainly entirely coincidental …

It has become abundantly clear that Mono advances Windows [1, 2, 3]. We published something about this yesterday and this new post may serve as further evidence.

How to build MonoDevelop with Visual Studio in five easy steps…

The above post is not so innocent. The author says he works as a developer for Novell as part of the Mono team where he leads the MonoDevelop project. They sure spend a lot of time improving the Mono experience for Windows and integrating it with Microsoft’s .NET, which won’t be available for GNU/Linux.

“The patent danger to Mono comes from patents we know Microsoft has, on libraries which are outside the C# spec and thus not covered by any promise not to sue. In effect, Microsoft has designed in boobytraps for us.

“Indeed, every large program implements lots of ideas that are patented. Indeed, there’s no way to avoid this danger. But that’s no reason to put our head inside Microsoft’s jaws.”

Richard Stallman, 2007

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18 Comments

  1. JohnD said,

    June 28, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Gravatar

    I find interesting that most Linux supporters are willing to rewrite any code that’s proven to infringe on patents, but they aren’t willing to do the same for Mono. I followed one of the links on the Slashdot post that leads to a doc that makes some very interesting points about Mono and it’s detractors. I’d suggest giving it a read.
    http://www2.apebox.org/wordpress/rants/124/

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    This only contains slurs against Mono opposition and wrongly characterises BN as a site “Calling for the deaths of Microsoft employees”.

    More cheap smears from an increasingly-miserable group that simply cannot defend what it’s doing to GNU/Linux with Mono, so it daemonises those who disagree, even with lies.

    aeshna23 Reply:

    The pro-Mono article makes arguments that miss the point. It compares Microsoft as the monopolist responsible for .NET with AT&T as the monopolist responsible for C. Of course, no one is concerned about AT&T suing over the use of C. C was developed in the innocent days before crazy notions of software patenting were rife in our political economy.

    The article makes the calumnious insinuation that people such as me who would object to the Microsoftization of Linux–regardless of patent issues–are simple haters of Microsoft. No, it is that we care that the FOSS wins on it own merits. Copying Microsoft or, as Microsoft would have it, ripping off Microsoft would be to say that FOSS is inadequate, that Linux does not deserve to win the OS wars. I strongly believe Linux is able to win on its own.

    I could go on, but it’s rather easy to tear holes in the article’s argument.

    Jose_X Reply:

    The Linux Today news discussion thread corresponding to that posting is this one: http://www.linuxtoday.com/developer/2009061201035OSCYDV . It includes discussion missing from other links.

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    @JohnD: It looks like you are just trolling, but the troll post does bring up a common mistake: In contrast to coyright, patents are about what the code does, not where it comes from. So re-writing the code will *not* help anything in regards to patent problems. Using Java and not Mono will. Java is not encumbered, Java is free software and Sun has granted use of all necessary patents.

    So why the hell should free software use patent encumbered .NET? Screwing up FOSS development might be one reason, it might be fine for Redmond, but it’s not a worthy reason for us end-users who *use* computers.

    That aside, Mono/C#/.NET applications are drag-ass slow. Java’s much faster, C++ much so. Drop the ideology and let the technologies live (or die) according to technical and legal merits. The experiment with M$ is over. Leave it behind.

    G. Michaels Reply:

    Bravo “Needs Sunlight”! Rarely does one encounter a comment that encapsulates all that’s wrong with this operation. Accusation of “trolling”, vague FUD about the danger of patents (applies to Mono only, of course), suggestion that Mono is an Evil Plan To Disrupt Goodness (only 11 years in the making!), will someone think of the users, philosophical and religious arguments expressed as lame technical objections… and the IQ-ravishing “M$” thing.

    Evangelism at its best.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    We probably ought to process some more Java exhibits (Comes trial) to remind people what it is that Microsoft (and Novell) are trying to fight and why.

  2. David "Lefty" Schlesinger said,

    June 28, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Gravatar

    Funny to see you complaining about “cheap smears”, Roy. Ever planning on correcting that article on Jimmi Hugh…?

    aeshna23 Reply:

    Some people just love playing simple-minded accusation games about minor incidents half a year old.

    And I checked and Roy did cross out the claim about Jimmi Hugh. I do think he should make a point of explaining why he crosses out some text. It may confuse some people, and I suppose give ammo to people like Lefty.

    Jose_X Reply:

    This was the last I remember of this Jimmi conversation: http://boycottnovell.com/2009/06/17/steve-ballmer-crimes-vs-os2/comment-page-1/#comment-66982 .

    You had left off at:
    >> We’re clearly not going to agree on much else, and I sense that pursuing this further is a less worthwhile use of my time…

    What specifically are you looking for today beyond what was recounted there?

  3. Nobody Real said,

    June 28, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Gravatar

    Some might think that Roy deliberately used CSS to admit his mistake so that Google (which ignores the CSS) will not see the alteration and continue to publish the slur.

    One has to wonder why Roy chose the method of ‘correction’ he did, but oh well.

    Jose_X Reply:

    I wanted to check up on that and tried googling various things including:
    “jimmi hugh wikipedia censorship vandalism site:boycottnovell.com” and could not get the link to that page to appear.

    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/12/29/jimmi-hugh-wikipedia-censorship-on-ms/

    How do you get this link above to appear on google as an individual search result link?

    G. Michaels Reply:

    Try another search engine perhaps? Yahoo, Ask.com, Live/Bing, AllTheWeb.

    The URL was removed from Google, which is interesting in that according to Roy there was nothing to apologize for and in fact he hadn’t even read the evidence that he was wrong. Fascinating, don’t you think?

    I’m fairly sure that only the owner of a URL can get it removed from Google without a DMCA takedown notice. Of course that didn’t remove all the mirrors and USENET comments that link to the article, which still show up in Google anyway. If I were a potential employer looking for information on Mr. Hugh it would take me three clicks instead of just one to get to Roy’s hit job.

    When you enter your real name into Google, do you see a smear? I thankfully don’t. Hugh isn’t that lucky. But it’s OK, right? It’s all in the name of freedom. Collateral damage is to be expected. The journalists that see smears about them having been “bribed” with a $1,500 laptop should also be sympathetic to that. And so should everyone else that has ever been targeted by BoycottBoy.

  4. monomania said,

    June 28, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Gravatar

    Oh, now look what’s happened. Just as I was warming to Ubuntu. Just when I had moved all my machines over to their warm and cuddly system, I discover the slow encroachment of Mono applications into the default system. Right now, I can remove the items in question, but it seems clear what’s intended for the future.

    It’s not the patents that bother me. It’s the fact that the mono proponents are attempting to transform Linux into a second rate cousin to Microsoft.

    It reminds me of the film Bridge over the river Quai in which the British officer, mortally wounded, as the allies attack a bridge which he and his fellow captives have built – to show their captors just what discipline and organisation can achieve – suddenly realises that they have also contributed to the enemy effort by building the bridge so well and so effectively, The officer stumbles, stares in amazement at his own realisation, and asks rhetorically with his dying breath, “What have I done…” then, rather fortuitously, falls on the plunger that sets off the explosive charge which destroys the bridge.

    I don’t suppose we can trust the Mono developers to do something similar? Probably not.

    I’d go back to Debian, but horror of horrors, even they can’t be trusted. Who would have thought it.

    Thank goodness for Fedora.

  5. contextfree said,

    June 28, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Gravatar

    your statement that it’s not the patents that bother you, but (as far as I can make out) some kind of vague cultural bigotry (Unix is the only Real Operating System? C and various cheesy dynamic languages are the only Real Languages used by Real Programmers?) typifies what bothers me about some of the anti-Mono etc. sentiment out there.

    apropos of patent concerns, though, you guys may find this blog comment from James Plamondon (of “Evangelism is WAR!” fame) of interest:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/somasegar/archive/2007/10/17/f-a-functional-programming-language.aspx (about 1/4 down the page)

    “My brother Peter Plamondon and I started Project 7 at Microsoft, which was the code-name for an effort to (a) get the .NET & Visual Studio.NET products opened up to non-Microsoft languages and (b) get non-Microsoft languages implemented on .NET. [...]

    There was a LOT of resistance. Microsoft had just been burned by a non-Microsoft language — Java — and there were those who felt that Microsoft should be actively suppressing the emergence of new languages, not facilitating it. Fortunately, Paul recignized that the emergence of Java proved that Microsoft could not suppress the emergence of new languages…and that it shouldn’t WANT to do so. Better to encourage their emergence, and to make it super-easy for them to emerge first, best, and only on Windows. This is what’s happening now with languages such as F#.

    One of the main reasons I wanted to open up .NET and VS.NET this way was to facilitate the miscegenation of programming languages — the mixing together of ideas and features that can only happen on top of a platform (the CLR) that provides a simple, open, flexible DNA for programming languages). [...]

    This modular approach to language functionality would (a) allow the more-rapid evolution of programming language functionality, and (b) be available first, best, and perhaps only on Windows, because no other platform has the necessary infrastructure (and presumably Microsoft has patented the holy shit out of the CLR and VS.NET).

    If, at the same time, Microsoft were to aggressively support the use of VS.NET as a cross-platform development tool, implementing redistributable .NET equivalents (“the .NET Platform”) on other operating systems, then this would de-commoditize programming, establishing Windows as the most efficient platform for developing applications for the .NET Platform (and thereby all other OS’), thereby ensuring that the best applications were developed first, best, and perhaps only for Windows. This could make it possible for Microsoft to regain the Cool Factor Cup than Linux et al. have recently captured.

    Of course, this de-commoditization only happens if VS.NET, the CLR, and the novel re-engineering of programming languages allows such a big jump in programmer efficiency that programers who don’t use it are outcompeted in the marketplace. That’s what de-commoditization MEANS.”

    Don Syme (the principal designer of F#) talks about this as well:
    “Right back in 1998, just in fact as our research group in programming languages started at Microsoft and I joined the team and then other 10 of us joined the team, we were approached by a guy called James Plamondon, who started the project called Project 7, which was about getting 7 academic and 7 industrial programming languages on each side to target the .NET common language runtime and really check out if it was good enough, to see if design changes could be made early on in the design process of .NET to make sure it was good enough for a range of programming languages.

    Some of those design changes were made, like tail calls were, for example, were added in the first version of .NET and that was a very interesting project because they gave a lot of way to our group and researchers at Microsoft to make connections between the academic programming world and .NET. We have seen that there are a lot of people working on .NET over the years, and also let our group work directly on .NET with regard to .NET Generics and other proposed extensions to .NET – we got these researchers engaged with the system.”

    aeshna23 Reply:

    your statement that it’s not the patents that bother you, but (as far as I can make out) some kind of vague cultural bigotry (Unix is the only Real Operating System? C and various cheesy dynamic languages are the only Real Languages used by Real Programmers?) typifies what bothers me about some of the anti-Mono etc. sentiment out there.

    If you’re not willing to take the time to understand other people’s arguments and just want to label them “vague cultural bigotry”, don’t expect me to read what you have to say.

    contextfree Reply:

    I’m not sure what I’m not understanding. If it’s not an actual patent/freedom issue (for him), it sounds like a cultural-symbolism thing and indeed he appears (to me at least) to say it is.

  6. Sean Tilley said,

    June 28, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Gravatar

    Hey, thanks for plugging my article, Roy and Twitter! It’s gotten roughly over 900 views on Linux.com!

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