Bonum Certa Men Certa

The Overlooked Issue of Development with .NET in GNU/Linux

Mono Microsoft brain
"I'm in a New York Microsoft Mono State of Mind..."

A few moments ago, someone expressed some thoughts about Mono as an issue that revolves around software patents. He was referring to Mark Shuttleworth's response to our query. We wish to share a bit of correspondence which is only an hour old. It should be attributed to Beranger, who has permitted us to share this in public.


I suppose your fight against Mono has [at least slightly] different motivations than mine; whereas your stance seems to be [strongly enough] related to patents and other risks coming from Microsoft, I am primarily focused on some other concerns.

First, I think that BSD and Linux and generally open-source operating systems & software were invented for providing people with freedom, and freedom means "out of the Microsoft Konzentrationslager".

From this standpoint, it's obvious that people don't want to get "blessed" with Microsoft technology anymore. Sure thing, many Linux users will consider that they need Samba connectivity, some other would require NTFS-3g, but this is not only optional, it's required in some cases because they are "de facto" technologies in some environments, and "interoperability" is at times just that.

Microsoft .NET is however more than a protocol (Samba) or a filesystem format (NTFS): it's a whole new concept that changes almost everything: it invents a new language (C#) midway between C++ and Java; it creates a unified CLR; by introducing the CLR as a runtime, it introduces a new layer of abstractedness between a binary and the operating system, just like Java does.

Note however that the Java hype didn't managed to impose silly small Java programs on everyone's desktop; instead, the best use of Java is for large enterprise applications, and several Java application servers are available for that.

“With .NET, everybody started to write silly small C# desktop gizmos.”With .NET, everybody started to write silly small C# desktop gizmos. And then it came Miguel de Icaza to clone it as Mono, and many people thought it was good this way: "Hey, if I can run this on Linux, I can get rid of Windows!"

It is all wrong. Notice the proliferation of all kind of Gtk# applets and small applications. If Miguel's Mono were created for interoperability, for replacing .NET, and for cross-platform compatibility with regards to serious business approaches (i.e. to replace Windows 2003 Server with a Linux/BSD/Solaris box), then ASP.NET should have been made the #1 priority, not the silly GTK+ bindings for Mono!

Instead of creating freedom by making possible the replacement of a Windows Server with a Linux/BSD box, Miguel's Mono is doing exactly the opposite: it creates an unhealthy dependence of a Microsoft technology!

If there are really people in this world who genuinely believe that the Microsoft .NET technology is so very much revolutionary that we should really be using it, as if Microsoft were the one and only company that would save the IT from the lack of vision and lack of future it might have had, then... why aren't they using the original .NET platform? Is it only for the price? Are they feeling better to use the open-source Mono, whose compatibility with .NET is mediocre at best?

I would very much like to see a big ASP.NET application running on Mono, and without modifications. But no, what I can see is an increasing number of Gtk# applications that are making a lot of GNOME users dependent of the (otherwise unnecessary) Mono framework.

Are we really running Linux on our computers, or are we running a mix of Linux and "Windows under disguise"?Maybe Python (PyGtk) is less effective than C# (Gtk#). Does it mean we should rewrite everything Python in C#? And that we should thank Microsoft for it has had "the vision"?

I know that .EXE and .DLL are simply conventions for naming PE files. Nevertheless, before Mono there wasn't any way to see such files on a Linux/BSD box other than because you wanted to run a genuine Windows applications through an emulator. Nowadays, we're more and more impregnated with those brilliant DOS/Windows concepts that made Microsoft so popular.

Are we really running Linux on our computers, or are we running a mix of Linux and "Windows under disguise"?

Instead of the bravado self-sufficient attitude of "Hey, you can run on Linux the same stuff you can run on Windows, so we win!" (not entirely accurate, as Mono doesn't perfectly match .NET), we should rather be aware that in the long run the winner is Microsoft: its concepts and technologies will be present not only on Windows systems, but on no matter what systems.

Maybe people shouldn't *hate* Microsoft that much. But should they *love* when F/LOSS people are embracing Microsoft technologies and they're also imposing them to a desktop environment like GNOME, who was born for the licensing fears with regards to KDE?

Patents and licenses are completely different matters; but giving credits to Microsoft is a little too much. What will be the next step: will Novell reimplement the whole Vista, supposing it would be covered by a few ECMA standards? And how about NTFS, why isn't Linux adopting it if reimplementing Microsoft's projects is the right thing to do?

I can choose to send DOC files to people who can't open other kind of documents, and I definitely want to be able to read such files when I receive them. But again, this is only a file format for a document; when I will see that my Linux box is using EXE files to give me the information I need (no, I don't use Tomboy), then I will know that Microsoft is never going to die.

Mark Shuttleworth is seeing Mono only from the legal side: non-important patent risks, not more than with the rest of a Linux system, so why worry. He is a business person, and the principles guiding him are not the same that are guiding RMS for instance.

I am so very amazed that open-source people (once again, I'll mention RMS) are not bothered at all by the cloning of a Microsoft platform. UNIX was not supposed to mimic anything. We're living hard times, where common sense is gone.

Best wishes, Radu

My personal response to this is perhaps worth adding as well. From what I can gather (it is somewhat of a speculation, so be warned in advance), Richard Stallman is not too happy about Mono, but he does not make too much noise about it, either. Smears are risky and Microsoft (sometimes the BSDs too) attack him whenever they get a chance. So, be careful what you read and also believe about his stance.


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