07.11.09

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Mono Roundup: Still Dangerous, Still Not Acceptable

Posted in Debian, FUD, GNU/Linux, Java, Law, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, Ubuntu at 7:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Monkey business

Summary: Nothing of practical use has really changed for Mono, but its connection to Microsoft was made a lot clearer

DURING many people’s summer absence, the news came out about Microsoft’s “community promise” (CP), to which we responded only succinctly [1, 2]. Here is a longer analysis, which comprises events preceding this promise as well.

Debian

eWeek (Ziff Davis) adds to the many reports about Debian’s disagreement with Richard Stallman regarding Mono. The Inquirer covered this as well.

As the Debian project releases a second update of its Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 (“Lenny”) distribution, a controversy has broken out over the next version, “Squeeze.” GNU guru Richard Stallman has warned that by including a Mono-based note-taking application called Tomboy, Debian runs the risk of Microsoft litigation over C# patents.

Nothing has changed since Microsoft and Mono came out all jubilant. Stallman does not like Microsoft’s CP, either.

Debian is meanwhile getting Gnote, a replacement for Tomboy.

Well, it seems that since last saturday, Gnote is now the default option in Debian for those platforms where Mono unportability prevents Tomboy from being used, namely: alpha, hppa, m68k, mipsel, mips, hurd-i386 and kopensolaris-i386.

Gnote 0.5.2 is out.

I just released gnote 0.5.2. It is a bug fix release.

Ubuntu

62% of the surveyed people did not trust Microsoft on Mono prior to the CP. We wrote about this over a week ago and also explained where Canonical stood on the subject. Heise later chimed in to say that “Ubuntu [is] to continue using Mono.”

On behalf of the Ubuntu Technical Board, Ubuntu Development Manager and board member Scott James Remnant has clarified that the use of C#, specifically the Mono implementation, is not considered to be a problem and that it, and applications based on it, will continue to be included with the Ubuntu default installation set.

One reader wrote to remind us that “Solang, a photo manager, is now part of Ubuntu.”

Microsoft

It is true that some people are in favour of Mono, but as we shall show in a moment, a lot of Mono proponents are also Microsoft proponents, but Microsoft is no proponent of GNU/Linux.

“Notice the fact that Microsoft and its friends in the IT industry absolutely love Mono and hate GNU/Linux.”First, look at this. Nice attitude there from a Microsoft intern (also noted last week, but this intern regrets his remarks and wanted to remove them from other people’s Web sites too). Notice the fact that Microsoft and its friends in the IT industry absolutely love Mono and hate GNU/Linux. Is it not telling? There is no contradiction here.

The SFLC’s Kuhn replies to these remark from the Microsoft intern with: “we should forgive him for statements (but not for still working at MSFT) Sometimes early-20s == saying stupid stuff.” For those who did not follow this, the intern cursed me, linked to libel about me, and told Richard Stallman to “F*ck off” due to a technical/legal stance on Mono.

One reader suggested that we take a look what what this guy is up to. His profile says:

* Name Nikhil Kothari
* Location Sammamish, WA
* Web http://www.nikhil…
* Bio Software Architect at Microsoft, working on .NET, ASP.NET and Silverlight…

Watch some of the older Tweets in there. He corresponds with C.J. Adams-Collier, who works on Mono and also worked for Microsoft. How about this:

@cjadamscollier Thanks for the pointers – will keep them in mind as I look into things.

According to the Mono Web site, he is a Mono developer or generally a contributor. He was paid by Microsoft too, by his own admission. He tried to discredit Boycott Novell and he lurks in our IRC channel. One suspicion is that Microsoft is spreading (or simply exploiting) “Linux developers” whose role is to spread Moonlight and Mono, making Silver Lie and .NET a lot more prevalent.

Here is Microsoft’s Nikhil Kothari chatting quite a lot with Miguel de Icaza:

What is the recommended IDE/setup to use for Mono development on the mac? @migueldeicaza any suggestions?

Here is another Twit which once again shows Microsoft’s involvement in MonoDevelop, which ultimately strengthens Windows [1, 2, 3]:

@migueldeicaza If things pan out with MonoDevelop and I get a few cycles, I will have something interesting to share … fingers crossed.

It is worth remembering that Miguel de Icaza literally spends time at Microsoft. He goes on campus, too, having gone there for a job interview 10+ years ago. Nat Friedman was working for Microsoft.

Watch how the pro-Microsoft Gavin Clarke is giving de Icaza exposure, as usual. Together they defend the spreading of Mono, using The Register. They are working to spread .NET everywhere (Mary Jo Foley too, as always). Oh, how Microsoft loves Mono! If Microsoft likes it, then it’s usually bad for its #1 competitor, GNU/Linux.

Why Mono is Still Dangerous

One visitor has just raised the following important point:

“By the way, what nobody here seems to be mentioning, I guess because they’re pretty ignorant about .NET in general, is that the ECMA specs only cover versions 1 and 2 of the C# language, and neither version 3 which Mono already implements or version 4 of which MSFT’s implementation is currently in beta have been submitted to any standards body. I think this is a bigger issue than support for some Windows libraries.

More holes/loopholes are identified:

Carlo Daffara, an open-source consultant, rightly notes that Microsoft’s patent promise is not directly on Mono, but rather on these ECMA standards, which leaves “most of Mono…encumbered as before (WinForms, ADO.NET, …).”

What are the CPs good for then? Even the use of language is laughable and reminiscent of surrogate terms. “Community promise” is a case of pretending that Microsoft is pro-”community”. It’s as Orwellian as the “Community” patent, which is a loophole for bringing software patents into Europe and thus harming the Free software community — the real community.

So what it is with CPs then? Were they even tested in any court? It is a rhetorical question.

“Promises, promises,” calls them Alan Lord. They are not legally binding.

The reason I won’t be using Mono is that the .Net framework is already embraced by Microsoft, it is already extended by Microsoft. It was from the beginning and will probably always remain so.

For a detailed analysis of the CP, see this from The Mad Hatter.

So why didn’t Microsoft’s lawyers include this in the main body? Microsoft’s lawyers aren’t stupid (I know one of them, she’s a really smart lady). So why did they write it in this confused way?

I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense.

The Mad Hatter told us that “from ITWire, several people have noticed that pro-mono people tend to duck having an independent evaluation done of Mono for patent issues.”

Last year Groklaw wrote the article “What is Wrong with RAND?”

We now have this article whose headline is “What does RAND mean?” What it means to Free software is that it is a term to avoid, according to the GNU doctrine.

Apparently, it must mean something, because I find it being referenced in (supposedly serious) discussions about .NET licensing.

The acronym literally translates as “Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory”. So far so good. Except I don’t have a clue what it means. What does “reasonable” mean when applied to a patent licensing policy? Well, according to my own interpretation of this word, a licensing policy is reasonable when it prevents the patent from being used to impose a tax on any users of any program. But this is just my point of view on what is reasonable. Can you expect patent holders to agree with your point of view on what “reasonable” means when interpreting their own promises?

All in all, as we have said from the very start, the whole Mono story does not deserve this level of coverage. The editor of Linux Today (Carla) agrees that Mono and Google Chrome OS have been blown out of proportion, as we emphasised a day or so ago.

Just when I was getting thoroughly bored with Mono news, which is the same arguments recycled over and over, and little of anything more definitive from the Mono camp than “Same to you!”, along came a tidal wave of Google Chrome OS news. The Chrome OS story is truly frightening, far more terrifying than Mono gaining a solid foothold in Linux distributions— because the news is simply an announcement that the Chrome OS project has been officially launched. There is no OS yet. What levels of hysteria are going to be reached when the actual code is released? Rioting? Suicides? Looting?

Carla is also the editor of Linux Planet where she has published this article from SJVN about Mono. We too are quoted.

Peter Brown, the Free Software Foundation’s executive director, though still isn’t impressed. Brown said, “It’s my understanding that Microsoft has not yet announced anything officially, but assuming it follows up on this blog post and covers ECMA 334 and 335 under the Community Promise, it will not protect free software from the threats we have been discussing That’s because Mono implements, and Tomboy depends upon, a number of libraries which are ‘standard’ in the sense that they’re under C#’s “System” namespace (indicating that they’re part of the standard library) and provided in Microsoft’s implementation, but somewhat pointedly excluded from the ECMA specifications.”

So, Brown continued, “If the question is, should GNU/Linux distributions include Mono? Then the community promise from Microsoft covering these two specifications clearly isn’t sufficient. That they won’t sue us for infringement of some of their Mono patents is useless if they reserve the right to sue us over other Mono patents. If Microsoft really wants to assure the free software community that it does not intend to attack applications based on Mono in the future, it should issue a patent license to everyone for all the patents that are necessarily infringed by the complete implementation of Mono, that allows users to use, share, and modify the software as they see fit.”

[...]

But, Roy Schestowitz, editor of Boycott Novell thinks that focusing on the patent issue alone is a mistake. Schestowitz said, “Patents were never the sole issue when it comes to Mono.” Microsoft doesn’t allow deviation from the .NET core. “This ensures that Microsoft stays in control. This leads to no independence, which Microsoft may describe as ‘fragmentation.’”

Over a year ago, Beranger explained to us why Mono is more than just a patent trap; it is an habitual problem and he has just given a good theoretical example which concurs with real examples that we know of.

I am already laughing sarcastically when I imagine the faces of those Linux developers who, after having told their boss that they know C# and Mono, will be assigned to an ASP.NET project… on a Microsoft platform that uses the genuine .NET! Because this is what will happen!

And when you think that, after the initial unknown motivation to start developing Mono, the whole thing took exposure after some moron wrote Tomboy!

Therefore, believe me or not, my twisted radar tells me that in the long run, Tomboy and F-Spot are going to boost the sales of Microsoft Dynamics, which is a .NET range of products. Good work, Steve, and good work, Miguel.

Charles opines that Mono does not even matter these days.

Anyway, who should care about this? Gnome developers mostly. The rest of us have gone out of the .Net and Java wars after around 2004 or 2005, and have realized that there other realities such as Qt and Python (to name just a few), and most of all, there is the Internet, and the POSH (Plain Old Simple Html), and that new little Linux distributions launched by Google… And so much more.

Mono and .Net is one of the last schemes from an outdated behemoth; both the scheme and its inventor will soon fade in blissful irrelevance. It does not mean it cannot sting back though….

On the other hand, a journalist whom Microsoft bought lunch about 2 weeks ago (and later hooked up with Laura DiDio) has just bent backwards to find some criteria by which Mono seems better than Java. He published this in SD Times and saw all the Mono proponents citing him immediately. Novell is on the same boat [1, 2, 3, 4].

In addition, one reader warned us about what he calls “Major [Java] FUD campaign against Oracle and Sun via Deborah Gage.”

He explains that “this follows the classic MSFT tactic of a positive headline covering absolutely disparaging content.”

Microsoft still hates Java. It wants to replace it with .NET by all means available.

“Moonlight is usable for anyone on any distribution of Linux (redhat, ubuntu, etc.) — it is not limited just to Novell as Mono is.”

Brian Goldfarb, Microsoft
[note: Moonlight depends on Mono, emphasis is ours]

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A Single Comment

  1. Deborah Gage said,

    July 12, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Gravatar

    Please tell the reader who claimed I am conducting a Java FUD campaign against Oracle and Sun via my recent story in InformationWeek (http://www.informationweek.com/news/software/database_apps/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=218401117) that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    Java is an issue for the DOJ in Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun because it is now vital to enterprise software vendors. Theoretically at least, Java could be abused by Oracle or whoever controls it to gain power over licensees.

    Thank you, Debbie

    The issue has nothing to do with Microsoft and is in no way disparaging of Java.

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