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Reactions to Microsoft’s Novell Software Inside GNU/Linux

Posted in BSD, GNOME, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patent Covenant, Patents, Servers, SLES/SLED, Ubuntu at 6:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: This post brings together a variety of thoughts and insights into the impact of Novell’s actions, which promote Microsoft and demote GNU

Microsoft-esque and Microsoft-funded/inspired software (see Wiki pages on Mono and Moonlight) continues to fragment and separate the community of Free software users. Recently we saw hostility towards GNU in GNOME [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. It came from the same guy who had started a banner meme to protest against Stallman’s stance on Mono.

Now that the Director of GNOME is a Novell Employee, there are those who believe that if Microsoft decided to buy Novell, it would have even more control over GNOME. From ECT (Linux Insider):

“I [imagine] Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is very pleased with this new direction with Gnome,” wrote Stumbles on Slashdot, for example. “I predict in 5 years, perhaps less, Microsoft will have maneuvered these short sighted individuals to accepting Microsoft to buy Gnome.”

Novell is increasing focus on Mono and its vice president has called developers to program for Microsoft's Silverlight (XAML). He once said that they could “refresh the look and feel of the entire desktop with Moonlight.” He seems to be ignoring the conditions under which access to Moonlight is granted.

Simon Phipps argues that “Microsoft desperately needs a clueful open source leader to fix this stuff.” Put in context:

There is still a strong thread of thought at Microsoft that imagines open source is purely the domain of solitary programmers of private means. This is yet another “covenant” from them that gives no assurance whatsoever to the average FOSS developer. Microsoft desperately needs a clueful open source leader to fix this stuff.

These are unacceptable conditions for Free software users. As one person put it:

Moonlight 2 sounds good but they still need the licensed codecs.

Bernard Swiss writes:

“Covenant” appears to be a marketing term that means:

“If you only do what we say we’ll let you do with our stuff, we think we’ll let you use it. For now, anyways. But we can still take it all back if we happen to change our mind.”

This isn’t a “covenant”; it’s an advert for a “free trial offer”.

Steve Stites agrees with Bernard, whose analogy is a valuable one.

derp sarcastically puts it liks this: “thank you for not suing me. MS decided not to persecute #moonlight users.” Later he wrote to me: “best part is that they can break the agreement any time they want. so nothing matters. except for de icaza”

eWEEK spoke to Novell’s de Icaza, who had interesting things to say (also here).

But de Icaza explained to eWEEK that this model was not so “open-source-y.” Yet, he assured readers that “Microsoft’s intention was to expand the reach of Silverlight, but the original covenant was not a good cultural fit.” And, “The new patent covenant ensures that other third-party distributions can distribute Moonlight without their users fearing … getting sued over patent infringement by Microsoft,” he said.

It is possible treat it like freeware, not Free software, but it’s even worse (and there is an expiry date to worry about). Watch this new article bearing the headline “Download New Moonlight For Free!”

They pretend it’s about price. But Microsoft's “promise” to Moonlight has at least 10 holes in it (some are seeing more). We wrote about it just before Christmas kicked in and Slashdot covered one aspect of it shortly afterwards (the part about MonoDevelop licensing).

rysiek writes “A few days ago, Miguel de Icaza wrote on his blog that the whole of MonoDevelop is now ‘free’ of GPL-licensed code. ‘MonoDevelop code is now LGPLv2 and MIT X11 licensed. We have removed all of the GPL code, allowing addins to use Apache, MS-PL code as well as allowing proprietary add-ins to be used with MonoDevelop (like RemObject’s Oxygene).’”

Boycott Novell apparently brought this to light for more people to see. They begin to realise Novell's ambivalent approach when it comes to the GNU GPL. It’s an important wakeup call.

To say that Microsoft and Novell have a muddy history when it comes to open-source projects and the GPL would be an understatement. Things were looking up, with the release of the open-source implementation of Silverlight, Moonlight 2, last week, but today things took a turn for the worse: Novell has just cut all the open source code from MonoDevelop.

Despite warnings from the FSF, Novell continues to promote C# and servers too are being stuffed with it. Not good. From this week’s news:

Novell stacks Linux and Mono for mainframes


Novell doesn’t just want mainframe shops to put SLES 11 on their boxes and run Linux workloads, it wants them to take the commercially supported Mono clone of the .NET runtime environment and use that to move Windows workloads over to mainframe boxes. So Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Consolidation Suite (SLECS) bundles roll Linux and Mono software together and provide a single support package for the stack.

Kicking Novell out of the mainframes would be a case of reducing Microsoft’s ammunition. Fred Williams writes about another area that Mono and Moonlight have reached:

Along with Mono, I see Ubuntu including this on the live CD as well. Microsoft writes such good software and has such excellent standards that we should all embrace whatever Microsoft wants. Besides they have never done anything that would harm any potential competitor.
So, people in charge of what gets included in Ubuntu, bring it on.

On the same subject:

Microsoft just doesn’t change. No matter what they say.

As always the best course is to avoid them. There is no longer any real need to use any of their technology. You may try to convince yourself otherwise, but you are just wasting your time. Rather, look forward and embrace the new world that is before you.

Jose_X adds:

Subject: And let’s not forget the Microsoft trolls..

Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold own companies that buy many patents. They are not bound by any Microsoft covenants. Both of these individuals serve their interests today by working to Microsoft’s benefit.

And note the covenant doesn’t apply to old versions. This pressures existing users to stay on the treadmill investing in Microsoft standards over and over to avoid patent problems from Microsoft.

Charles Hixson writes:

I’ve read the analyses of the most recent promise, and it’s not good enough. I don’t care how “nifty” people think this new software is, because with that license/promise I’m never going to even look at it.

P.S.: Miguel was, apparently, recently so proud of removing “all GPL components” from MonoDevelop. Makes me quite glad I removed the installation as soon as I noticed it…and all other mono components with it.

Neko Nata concludes with:

Maybe I should say “good riddance” to him… but that’s not ok.
What is better is that Miguel does what he wants and Linux folks do whatever they want. If that means parting ways, I see it as a good thing for both parties.
I really should say to Miguel “goodbye”. And “thanks for all the fish”.
What if Novell starts selling some kind of *BSD? Maybe they can start selling something without the Linux kernel?

That would be highly unlikely, but if Microsoft bought Novell, then it would at least become a possibility. Several other people brought this up in 2007.

Microsoft apprenticeship

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  1. Bertrand said,

    December 26, 2009 at 4:58 pm


    About the “Novell stacks Linux and Mono for mainframes” part :

    How is it “not good” that workloads (probably existing custom enterprise apps) are moved from Windows servers to mainframe servers running Linux ?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I’m glad you asked. One of the selling point of Mono is that it will move users/developers from Windows to GNU/Linux, but in reality it often achieves exactly the opposite. Mono ratifies Microsoft’s software patents, Visual Studio, C#, .NET, XAML/Silverlight, and Windows.

    To use an analogy, it’s like the promise that invading Iraq will improve security; in reality, it has exactly the opposite effect.

    Bertrand Reply:

    An hyperbolic analogy is like a global nuclear war, it make a lot of noise but… Oh darn !

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Here is a new explanation of what’s happening here.

  2. NotZed said,

    December 27, 2009 at 7:11 pm


    Although i’m probably more ‘thingy’ than most about it, I can’t be the only one finding GNOME increasingly irrelevant. I don’t use it on my own machines since xfce4 basically works the same but much more efficiently (which is why KDE is out of the question for me). Not that xfce4 is really the bees knees, but it’s certainly better for me in all the ways that count.

    I just setup a machine for my mum, and although I initially considered GNOME because of it’s user simplicity I decided against it – it’s so complex internally and there’s too much that can go wrong. It is simply too high a risk.

    And after installing xfce4 (it’s a fairly old machine) I was surprised at how much faster it really is, and about the only feature I need a `desktop environment’ for – automatically mounting USB drives and CD’s, works even better, since it doesn’t bug you with unnecessary prompts. Also dumped PulseAudio for OSS4, and bob’s your uncle, no more sound skipping either.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I’m assuming these will have on-screen keyboards for text input. The keyboards can be made more flexible (and multi-lingual/personalised) when not limited to a rigid hardware design.

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