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06.29.09

Mono Proponents Do Not Address the Real Questions

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell at 6:10 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Scarecrows
Defence by beating up straw men

Summary: Supporters of Mono answer questions that are not even asked — a pattern which requires simple clarification

ACCORDING to a recent poll, 73% of GNU/Linux users at Tux Machines say “No” to Mono; the number may be greater after Stallman’s statement on this sensitive subject. But from those who defend Mono (a minority that includes the Microsoft and Novell crowd) we keep receiving the same misguided rebuttals that escape the real issues and typically divert the debate to straw men or false premises.

There are two key issues to discuss when it comes to Mono:

  1. Intimidation and software patents, which are related to one another because the latter enables the former and offers leverage
  2. Control of APIs, which again is a matter of leverage

It is not about performance, level of use, or even portability, which Java and C++, for example, already cater for. These are hardly the aspects being criticised.

“Our hostile critics wrongly insinuate that Mono skeptics want it abolished, but it could not be further from the truth.”Mono sympathisers are frequently Mono developers* and some suggest a compromise: “My personal final verdict? Mono should be treated by distribution makers as something that is “legally sticky” and should be included much in the sense that audio and video codecs, or flash are “included” in the distribution. For example, the mp3 codec is not distributed in large by most distributions, because its a legally sticky inclusion.

Our hostile critics wrongly insinuate that Mono skeptics want it abolished, but it could not be further from the truth. It is not an elimination of choice or freedom, thus no intolerance should be implied; it’s about prudence. The crux of the matter is inclusion by default, not inclusion in the repositories. The downside, however, is that the API issue remains. This was never solely a question of software patents. As this one person puts it, “Linux is being tamed.”

Assuming Mono gets shoved into Linux and gains acceptance, then Linux is “tamed.” Even without the patent threat, even if C# is some sort of “standard,” Microsoft still defines .NET and everything about it. From past behavior it’s quite evident that they know how to walk the fine line of bending “standards” to their will and marketplace benefit. Mono gives Microsoft power over a major Linux Desktop API, and the ability to make sure it’s always the “second platform”, always a day late and a dollar short.

The other interesting thing about Mono is that nobody is asking for it.

In a similar vein, Microsoft used Novell to push OOXML into OpenOffice.org. Mistakes need not be repeated. On the legal side, there is more of Stallman.

Stallman says “Don’t depend on Mono”

[...]

The debate over Mono has simmered ever since the Mono C# implementation was announced. The suspicion has been that Microsoft have patents that are relevant to C# and are just waiting for Linux developers to become comfortable with Mono so they can pull the rug out from under Linux. Mono’s defenders point out that Mono itself is an implementation of the ECMA standard for C# and that the patents that are usually referred to belong to the higher .Net layers which run on C# based systems, but aren’t implemented as a core part of Mono. Microsoft made a statement in 2003 saying the patents which are relevant to the ECMA/ISO standard are “royalty-free and otherwise RAND”; a somewhat confusing statement without saying which technology falls under the royalty free and which is under RAND terms (Reasonable And Non Discriminatory).

In some ways though, the worries about Mono are of the Mono project’s own making. By having the project implement both the ECMA/ISO covered elements and the more obviously patented ASP.NET, ADO.NET and Windows.Forms components, the lines have been blurred for many as to what is or is not patent safe. Stallman’s statement says that all C# implementations are potentially unsafe from a patent attack from Microsoft.

We wrote some more about this in:

This debate is not an easy one, but the sooner it is resolved, the better.
______
* This post is from David Siegel, now a Canonical employee who made GNOME-Do. In his rebuttal he is escaping all the real issues and pretending it’s a matter of supply and demand. To trivialise the issue like this is simply to deceive.

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17 Comments

  1. contextfree said,

    June 29, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Gravatar

    I don’t understand why you’re treating Siegel’s post as a “rebuttal” — it isn’t criticism of your objectives, or your reasons for having those objectives, it’s practical advice on how to achieve them, while improving the FOSS ecosystem. Presumably, if you don’t like the use of Mono (regardless of whether it’s for technical, ideological, strategic/tactical … reasons), you’d like developers to choose other alternatives? And presumably, if you’d like that, you’re interested in courses of action that will most effectively, in practice, lead to that happening?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    No, I think he was addressing Stallman’s statement.

    twitter Reply:

    Roy has done a great job of reporting the dangers of mono, and M$’s motivation in M$’s own words. This is a great service. Mr. Stallman was not interested in anything but software freedom and avoiding M$’s obvious trap. This reason is sufficient to avoid mono and use any of the other free, well established and unencumbered languages out there. Roy raises some of those issues and it’s clear these are on the heated minds of mono developers. I wish they could relax and enjoy software freedom the way normal people do.

    Mr. Siegel should be happy that all five of his steps to vanquish mono have already been taken. This KDE developer thread addresses alternatives, their performance and many other practical issues. At this point, I think we can all agree that ideological and practical issues are aligned – you don’t have to pick one or the other. Perhaps he will find things he likes there. Perhaps not.

    It is crazy how the often foul mouthed mono proponents cry out, “you are trying to destroy our work!” If low user numbers are “destruction” of free software, Gnome itself has never been anything but destroyed. Is my favorite desktop environment E16 destroyed because it’s not Ubuntu’s default? Is GCC destroyed because it’s not installed by default? I don’t think so. These projects are all great successes and can be used by anyone. More than bad tech has rubbed off on mono developers for them to be so angry at people for pointing out legal problems inherent in their software. They have picked up the “world domination or death” attitude of their friends in Redmond. M$ people often equate free choice with their own destruction, and they are correct. Outside of M$’s OEM and retail manipulation, Windows would have been relegated to edge case use a decade ago. Mono proponents should have more confidence in their software. If it is really free it will be around forever like every other free software project.

    contextfree Reply:

    “Mr. Siegel should be happy that all five of his steps to vanquish mono have already been taken. This KDE developer thread addresses alternatives, their performance and many other practical issues.”

    Not in any depth. Python/Ruby etc. are high-level languages but force you to sacrifice performance and static typing. Java has become hidebound and is lacking (and apparently will not be implementing) some important features (closures, local type inference …) that even C++ is coming around to these days.

    There are also other languages — such as Ocaml — that are very appealing on the language level but aren’t popular, possibly due to the tool/library/etc. ecosystem surrounding them not being mature from a mainstream developer perspective.

    So basically you could either enhance Python etc. to support the missing benefits, or work on moving Ocaml (or D or Scala) into the mainstream and bringing them to maturity. I’m sure if people got serious about it the problem could be solved, there’s a huge resource of language and tools people sympathetic to free software etc., in academia and elsewhere.

    But first you have to admit there IS a problem.

    aeshna23 Reply:

    I like what twitter had to say and at the risk of sounding ridiculous, I’d like to share the idea that came to my mind. The idea of “world domination or death” reminded me of invasive plant species like Japanese knotweed which are bad for the ecosystem. And then I started thinking that perhaps a software ecosystem really is an ecosystem and that diversity is valuable. I just can’t get a handle on why the diversity is valuable. Why not just have five plant species? Why not a Microsoft monopoly? Is there a better to the last two questions than just “lack of innovation”?

    G. Michaels Reply:

    I like what twitter had to say

    Do you really? After parsing out the clever third grade creative spelling and the semantic gyrations, here’s what I understand:

    I’m really not going to object to the existence of this evil, inferior technology created by a company that I hate in the repositories of Linux distros. No, really, hatred for this company consumes my life but I won’t really care. I promise I won’t say a word about it once it’s off the default install. Surely all my pet bogus, false arguments and the endless ad hominems I came up with before will cease to be valid once that happens. Even though I really, really hate it and the company that came up with it. Even if people start writing applications with it, and these become popular, like the ones I’ve been slagging for the last year. Really, please trust me. I’m totally trustworthy.

    After some embarrassing fawning, the comment kicks off midway with the idiotic fallacy that GNOME has “low user numbers”. The default desktop environment of the most widely used Linux distributions (Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian) has “low user numbers”. Right? Then GCC is not installed by default? When was the last time you saw a Linux distro ship without a C compiler? Then it’s off to the usual “aw, I don’t know why these stupid people are angry, it’s not like I’ve been calling for them to be drawn and quartered” and “your anger towards me must mean your software sucks”. The “foul mouthed” bit is especially brilliant.

    saulgoode Reply:

    Then GCC is not installed by default? When was the last time you saw a Linux distro ship without a C compiler?

    My understanding is that Ubuntu ships the ‘build-essential’ package on the ISO, but it is indeed not installed.

  2. Charles Oliver said,

    June 29, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Gravatar

    I like the “royalty-free and otherwise RAND” quote in the post. Both seem to have the potential to exclude FOSS. Royalty free doesn’t mean under terms that are FOSS complaint, especially GPL compliant (where no other restrictions may be added). RAND is well known for being highly discriminating towards FOSS (see http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/FOSS_Open_Standards/Annexure).

  3. lalala said,

    June 29, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Gravatar

    Yet again you show what a hypocrite you are Roy. You complain that mono proponents answer questions that aren’t even asked, and you are guilty of the exact same thing. When someone asks you a question, you answer anything but the question asked and you change the subject because you are unable or unwilling to answer the actual question.

  4. David "Lefty" Schlesinger said,

    June 30, 2009 at 1:57 am

    Gravatar

    I’d strongly second that statement: Roy has absolutely no standing to be taking people to task for “failing to answer questions” when he so completely and consistently fails to answer any himself:

    Such as “When are you going to remove the material defaming Jimmi Hugh, which you know to be inaccurate?”

    Or, “When are you going to correct the articles inaccurately accusing various tech writers of ‘accepting bribes’?”

    Or, “Do you suppose you’ll ever admit that saying ‘I don’t know Mark Fink’ was deliberately evasive, misleading and untrue?”

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Perhaps this (/\) (slightly obvious) fake will inspire Roy to post in the thread instead of just voting you down?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Don’t nym-hijack. It serves no purpose.

    The trolls are trying to ruin this site, so I pay no attention to them and using my name is just part of your trolling.

    Dylan McCall Reply:

    So what if I arbitrarily call _you_ a troll? Does that magically mean that this entire post of yours is irrelevant, hypocritical and ugly just because I said so, Mr. Free Speech?

    (Pro tip: An important part of free speech, at least an associated portion in every place it exists, is listening and responding. It may not be plainly obvious by the fact that I only ever comment with arguments to what you say, but I for one do read this site quite often and have some understanding of what you want).

    Chris Reply:

    Dear boy,

    please enlighten me how you can call “David “Lefty” Schlesinger” stating valid questions (even more so since you evading answering inconvenient questions a running gag in itself) trolling?

    Anyone not knowing what I’m talking about, please read http://opensourcetogo.blogspot.com/2009/06/when-zeal-becomes-zealotry-tawdry-tale.html where boy & his zealots once again have been caught spreading lies.

    Also note the way boy “answers” questions (attention, irony ;D)

    lalala Reply:

    What I wrote is true. Why does that make me a troll?

  5. Blah said,

    June 30, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Gravatar

    The two questions that you claimed have not been answered by Mono people have been answered a billion times.

    You just choose to ignore answers that do not reach the same conclusion you already reached.

  6. Dylan McCall said,

    June 30, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Gravatar

    “Mono gives Microsoft power over a major Linux Desktop API, and the ability to make sure it’s always the “second platform”, always a day late and a dollar short.”

    This is not true. Mono, as we have it for Banshee, FSpot, Gnome-Do and Tomboy, is a unique platform with support for .Net. Microsoft could change .Net into a LISP clone and we wouldn’t need to care. The apps we care about would continue to work well because they were built for Mono using free components on Linux.

    On a tangential argument… Roy, do you realize this is as much an opportunity for us as it is for them? It isn’t just Microsoft who can gain control over a standard, and it kind of saddens me when people assume that an idea is doomed as soon as Microsoft steps in.
    Thinking that way won’t get anywhere. Mono is being widely adopted commercially, (for example used by The Sims 3 over MS .Net) because it is actually cross platform. Mono is a completely superior product to Microsoft’s in many ways, so all it needs to do is be strongly adopted (then we just hope Novell actually stands up to the chair throwing) and Mono can call the shots. Heck, I for one think that has already happened to the point that at least Microsoft can’t attack Mono, because in doing that they would be really pissing off EA Games – another very big company.

    You may be interested in the Mono position statement from Ubuntu’s technical board.
    https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/ubuntu-devel/2009-June/028469.html
    It also answers “the real questions,” and connects smoothly with the recent attempts hereabouts to tarnish Ubuntu’s pragmatic ways.

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