Summary: A further look at Mono, those supporting it, and where it is all likely to be heading
It is saddening — albeit hardly surprising — that Microsoft is among the big advocates of Mono right now. The pro-Microsoft spinners hold the very same position; Microsoft’s ally and Mary Jo Foley’s friend Gavin Clarke promotes Mono and the Microsoft blog at the Seattle P-I claims in light of this CP that:
The move was another indication that Microsoft increasingly is embracing open-source technology.
Saying you will not sue something based on some conditions that must be fulfilled is hardly en embrace, it is a patronising insult. As Rene Levesque-Caline puts it (in reference to Sam Ramji and other Microsoft decoys [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]):
Does Carmona not realize that tHese are recyclable guys that Redmond sends out to smile and take guff and make us believe that things have changed?
ANYTHING they say is for PR benefits but in no way woyld they have authority to do what you want.
They are low level managers with no power that are sent for PR (Carmona believes that they arent).
Their job is to distract your attention from what Ballmer, Hector Gutierrez and others with REAL power in Microsoft say about free software and Linux.
Have you EVER listened to some low level serf when you want to know which way the company is going or do you listen to Jobs?
Same goes for every big company I can think off.
But because these guys smile and act nice, were supposed to forget that Linux they claim stole from them over 200 times.”Yeah guys, I dont believe what my bald boss claims. Im one of you. Pinky swear.”
Were supposed to forget that Ballmer said that Red Hat users (U-S-E-R-S) owe them money (he also reminds us that VP de ICaza’s company, Novell, has paid the extortion fee and are the ‘legal’ Linux) because Linux stole from them.
Anything the Rajmi’s of this world say has absolutely no meaning because their boss says this:
I am a Red Hat user and Microsoft says that I owe them money because Linux stole their IP.
Has this changed?
Then Rajmi is meaningless as he ever was.
Comes vs Microsoft shows us well how Microsoft acts towards Linux and NOTHING weve heard from the heads of the company has shown this is to be different.
(I dare anyone to show me one quote from a MS head which says differently. I can wait…..)
Are there people in Microsoft who use/develop FLOSS on their own?
Sure, the odds are pretty good. But in a company of that size Im sure you can find also bedwetters, pedophile, addicts and insomniacs like in any large cross section of society. Heck, Im sure you’ll find a few Windows users working at Apple. This shouldnt be considered exceptional.
None of this matters because those ‘brave groups of Redmond FLOSS lovers’ arent the ones who run the company.
And if Rajmi does make a statement now, how much do you think that will mean when Ballmer comes out with his next statement on Linux?
You think you could win in court by claiming that some meaningless peon made certain claims while no one in charge at MS says a word?
I know that we have clients sometimes claim that such and such employee promised things that they had no power or authority doing which is why we always start every partnership by specifying which empployees here speak for the company. Anyone outside these select few does not represent or have the authority to make such claims.
A Rajmi promise would be equally meaningless except it could make for great PR for Microsoft.
At least his predecessor, Bill Hilf, had a little juice then and lots more now and the only thing I remember him during his lovefest was “”The Free Software movement is dead. Linux doesn’t exist in 2007. ”
Other people whom we consider to be Microsoft sympathisers hold a similar position to that of pro-Microsoft reporters, but they cannot ignore the caveats.
Neither parts of .NET not implemented in Mono, such as ADO.NET, ASP.NET and Windows.Forms, nor libraries developed by Mono specifically for GNU/Linux, have ever been affected by these or any other patents, according to Mono’s Licensing FAQ. However, the affected parts have been more than enough for sections of the free software community to reject Mono, or at least to treat it cautiously.
The same issue gets raised by longtime critics of Mono.
“In the next few months we will be working towards splitting the jumbo Mono source code that includes ECMA + A lot more into two separate source code distributions. One will be ECMA, the other will contain our implementation of ASP.NET, ADO.NET, Winforms and others.”
Watch this reaction from Novell’s PR team and pay attention to the fact that a Novell employee embarks on a joint .NET/Mono event (one among other such new events... like MonoSpace). Novell/Mono people are also in Gran Canaria and one reader at LinuxToday complained about “Mono Infiltration” (that’s the subject line of the message).
I run Kubuntu KDE 4.3 RC1 and I just wanted to install sysinfo to check my system specific hardware. When I tried installing it, I was surprised to see the Mono junk. I just couldn’t stand it and I immediately killed it.
Is it in Canonical’s KDE now?
Polls and reactions consistently suggest that the majority of GNU/Linux users doesn’t want Mono. People do not migrate to GNU/Linux (or escape Microsoft lock-in) just to find themselves immersed in a Microsoft movement that evolves and inflates itself from inside distributions like an illness inside GNU/Linux. And when Doctor Stallman warns about this illness [1, 2], then this doctor just gets vilified not for his expert opinion but for his personal life.
A prominent voice in Debian is meanwhile saying that Debian does not come with Mono because GNOME can be separated from Debian.
So, yes, I have overseen two issues when writing my previous blog. But I still think, that it’s wrong to say “Debian will install mono by default”. If you want to say anything at all, say “Debian might install mono with its GNOME install media, but that can still change”.
Some people are justifiably concerned:
Before You Congratulate Mono
My long held theory is that mono was never to be considered a legal threat, it is a tool to be used in a strategy of erosion … insert a compelling technology, then provide a migration path by adding on proprietary extensions. It erodes Linux and it erodes OSS… and advocacy for it, even in purely legal/ethical ways, using just the free bits, and so forth, help enhance that position and acceptability.
Dana Blankenhorn talks about the negative effect Mono has had on integrity of the Free software movement. According to Blankenhorn, Microsoft is imposing a sort of "mixed source" model on GNU/Linux. Novell, which describes itself as a “mixed source” company [1, 2, 3, 4], would probably like that. It holds the upper hand because it has special ‘protections’ from Microsoft. This includes Moonlight.
So is this just a PR stunt, or is it going to last? I suppose time will tell. If you’re looking for an answer to that question, the existing dependancy Banshee/F-Spot have on System.Data (which is not covered by the ECMA spec) is an interesting place to watch.
This debate is far from over and someone has just created a Web site called “Mono Nono”. But Moonlight is an even more complicated beast that Microsoft — through Novell — spreads in order for it to be slid into GNU/Linux distributions.
Further to this previous discussion about Mono/Moonlight in immutable systems, one person looking for an explanation for “the mischievous wording in their [Moonlight] license” learned that Debian replaces Microsoft codecs with
ffmpeg. Further, it was added that:
1. Debian is not an immutable system (do they ship Moonlight on a LiveCD?)
2. Distributing ffmpeg is a patent risk (MP3 and others)
If we hypothetically assume, for one moment, that the core of Moonlight is not, itself, patent encumbered, but that reliance on these codecs pulls-in patent risks, then that would leave a choice of one of the following, equally unacceptable scenarios:
1. The vendor ships Moonlight prebuilt against ffmpeg, which is a patent risk, since ffmpeg has not licensed any of the patent encumbered codecs it uses (most notably MP3). End users won’t really care about this though … until the vendor goes to court. Fedora bans such software for this very reason: http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/ForbiddenItems
2. The vendor ships Moonlight prebuilt against a sanitised version of ffmpeg (essentially nothing left except vorbis and theora), thus leaving the end users with software that, in practical terms, is nearly useless
3. The vendor complies with patent law (no ffmpeg), but can/will not distribute proprietary software (Microsoft codecs), and therefore chooses to ship Moonlight “naked”. End users must then either accept Microsoft’s proprietary and patent encumbered “codec pack” as a “pushed” download, or somehow figure out how to rebuild Moonlight against ffmpeg themselves, by downloading the source from patent safe-harbours (I tried and failed to rebuild Moonlight, as seen in the link I provided). Note that unlike modular media players, such as Xine, ffmpeg does not utilise loadable plugins, therefore users must either obtain binaries that already support the required codecs, or rebuild it themselves. Rebuilding ffmpeg is not particularly difficult (for someone like me), but rebuilding Moonlight has proved to be rather less easy. Most users (noobs in particular) will just give up at the first hurdle, and default to accepting Microsoft’s proprietary blobs
4. The vendor ships Moonlight with Microsoft’s codec pack under license (e.g. Novell), and thus both the vendor and users are protected by both copyright and patent law (explicit grant). However, the vendor is now distributing proprietary software, and so end users have lost their Freedom as a de facto condition. They also have the technical disadvantages of Microsoft’s blobs (bugs, privacy, security, etc.)
Now consider that Moonlight is in fact patent encumbered, and that Microsoft only provided indemnity for direct “downstream recipients” from Novell to use this software.
Conclusion: The only practical and legal way to obtain and use this software, is to be a Novell customer running SUSE, and use their distribution of Moonlight in conjunction with Microsoft’s proprietary codec pack.
This hurts GNU/Linux, Open Standards, Free Software, developers, and users, whilst greatly benefiting Microsoft’s agenda of software and standards dominance.
Can you see why this might be a problem?
The LGPLv2.1 does not prohibit distribution under immutable systems.
The license for Moonlight does prohibit LGPL distribution under immutable systems.
Therefore Moonlight is not licensed under LGPLv2.1.
At best, it could be described as “LGPLv2.1 with modifications”, but given that the LGPL explicitly prohibits “further restrictions”, and Moonlight’s license stipulates such a “further restriction” (the “immutable” clause), then I don’t really see how it can be truthfully described as LGPL software at all. Novell would be more honest if they described it as a “Microsoft EULA”, since that’s only one small step away from what it really is.
What role (if any) does Moonlight play in Microsoft’s infamous “extend” phase? Thoughts welcome. █