Bonum Certa Men Certa

Reader's Article: Novell, Mono and RAND

Post contributed by Slated

As some people here probably already know, I am no fan of Mono - not for technical reasons (mostly [3]), but simply for political ones. Specifically, I'm talking about so-called Software Patents, and even more importantly, precisely who owns those patents. In this case, that would be Microsoft, a convicted monopolist with a viciously anti-FOSS agenda, that employs business methods remarkably similar to that of the Mafia.

IMO the mere fact that .NET/Mono is Microsoft technology should be enough to dissuade any Free Software advocate from going anywhere near it [1], but there is a large contingent of Mono "fans" out there, lead by people like Jeff Waugh and Miguel de Icaza, who (either through ignorance; naivety; apathy or even malice) don't seem to give a damn about whether or not Mono (or even OOXML) endangers the future of Free Software.

Trying to convince people, and especially distro maintainers, that they should stay away from Mono, is therefore extraordinarily difficult, and usually goes something like this:

[P]oint | [C]ounterpoint

P: Don't use Mono C: Why? P: Because it is patented C: So is a lot of other software P: Yes, but this is patented by Microsoft C: So? P: Microsoft is a convicted monopolist C: You're just biased against Microsoft P: I believe I am justified given Microsoft's history C: What history? P: See [1] C: What has that got to do with Mono? P: Microsoft has a history of abusing their "IP" as a weapon to destroy others, and maintain a monopoly C: But how do you know that Microsoft will try to do that to FOSS? P: Because they have already made patent allegations against FOSS; have repeatedly expressed their contempt and hatred for FOSS; have established a protection racket for commercial Linux vendors; have admitted that Linux (they mean FOSS) is their number one competitor; and have a sociopathic tendency to violently attack anyone (read: competitor) who threatens Microsoft's monopoly, using the most unethical and underhand methods they think they can get away with

[At this point, some heavyweight like Waugh enters the debate]

C: Rubbish. Mono only implements the ECMA parts of the .NET framework, which are covered by a RAND covenant to not sue, so you're whining for no good reason P: I don't trust RANDs, especially those underwritten by Microsoft C: Why? P: Because, define "reasonable" ... and then prove that Microsoft will never revoke their promises. In fact, prove that Microsoft has good intentions in this, or any other endeavour

[This is usually the end of the discussion, although sometimes it goes off on one of the following tangents]


C: My country doesn't enforce software patents anyway, so I don't care P: Maybe some day it will (see [2]). What then?


“How many of those patent holders would risk losing 30 Billion USD just to strike a blow against FOSS (see Microsoft's recent failed Yahoo takeover bid)? How many of those patent holders are convicted monopolists?”C: Probably every piece of software ever written violates some patent or another. If FOSS developers were to abandon packages based on possible patents, then there wouldn't be any Free Software at all P: How many of those patent holders have the immoral and aggressive tendencies that Microsoft has? How many of those patent holders would risk losing 30 Billion USD just to strike a blow against FOSS (see Microsoft's recent failed Yahoo takeover bid)? How many of those patent holders are convicted monopolists? How many of those patent holders have made actual infringement claims against Free Software? How many of those patent holders have described Linux as a "cancer"? How many of those patent holders have created a Linux protection racket that attempts to stifle Free Software and line Microsoft's pockets in the process? How many of those patent holders use bribery and corruption as a matter of standard procedure [1]? How many of those patent holders regularly and predictably stab their own customers and partners in the back whenever any given venture results in anything less than market domination (e.g. "PlaysForSure" and others)?

[And here the debate always ends, but without any resolution]

Occasionally I might get a parting "you're just being paranoid", from those too blind/naive/brainwashed to understand the truth.

Well I don't know if it'll help, but I recently discovered an article that (I believe) exposes RAND for the sham that it really is (quoted in full):

So much quarreling about open standards. Jason Matusow advocates for a document format with RAND licensing conditions for the patents. What does he mean when he talks about RAND? RAND stands for "reasonable and non-discriminatory". But Jason Matusow's company Microsoft lacks honesty when it talks about "reasonable and non-discriminatory" conditions.

We need to be precise about what reasonable and non-discriminatory actually means. A restaurant in apartheid South Africa said it allowed both Boers and English, so was "not discriminatory". It even let some Jews in. However it banned non-whites.

Reasonable and non-discriminatory in patent licensing means "we apply a uniform fee". However with respect to Microsoft's legacy OOXML format, one party controls the standard and the associated patents. All market players need to license except the patent owner. For dominant standards it is a tax on the market. It seems highly unreasonable that such standards should become international standards, mandatory for government users.

You may find it unreasonable for an ubiquitous standard. But there is a more insidious aspect. RAND patent licensing conditions are a tool to ban Free Software, which is entirely incompatible with RAND licensing conditions. Now one side of the debate blames it on the patent licensing conditions, the other side on the software licensing conditions.

"The reason I agree with the statement about patents and Free Software not mixing is that there have been terms written into GPL licenses that explicitly conflict with software patents. Okay, that is the choice of the authors and users of those licenses."

It sounds a bit like: well, you chose to marry an African woman, so we cannot let you into the restaurant. Free choice, right?

Yes, Matusow calls his standards with RAND conditions "open standards" and contradicts the commonly accepted definition of "open standards". We should speak about shared standards. These shared standards appear to discriminate less, but they still discriminate against the only real competitor to Microsoft's hegemony.

It is true that ISO, driven by simple pragmatism, allows shared standards. From the ISO/IEC directives:

"14.1 If, in exceptional situations, technical reasons justify such a step, there is no objection in principle to preparing an International Standard in terms which include the use of items covered by patent rights – defined as patents, utility models and other statutory rights based on inventions, including any published applications for any of the foregoing – even if the terms of the standard are such that there are no alternative means of compliance."

Generally international standards and patents are like water and oil, and RAND conditions are the soap that allow them to mix. But as the move towards Open Standards evolves, shared standards get more and more unacceptable. Shared standards do discriminate and do appear to be unreasonable.

It is time to adapt the legal definition of reasonable and non-discriminatory to common sense.

I would also add that not only are ECMA/.NET patent terms unreasonable (how can it be an Open Standard if you have to pay a fee?), but the non-discriminatory terms have already been broken with Microsoft's exclusive agreement with Novell:

I read the agreement between Xandros and Microsoft, and one of the excluded products was Mono, so Microsoft promises to not sue Xandros over their distribution but excluding Mono and a few other products, i.e. they reserve the right to sue over Mono. I wonder if this is an interesting preview of on what basis they want to fight the free world.

Interestingly, the Novell deal seems to be different, Mono is not excluded from the Novell deal. So Microsoft seems to be promising not to sue Novell over Mono, but keeps the option open for Xandros. Weird but true.

All in all, it is clear that the ECMA/.Net/Mono patent conditions are far from either "reasonable" or "non-discriminatory".

Meanwhile, I stumbled upon some old articles that reminded me of how much de Icaza is in love with the Redmond gangsters, and how dearly he'd love to mutate Gnome into the bastard son of Windows:

Gnome to be based on .NET – de Icaza

Learn to love The Beast By Andrew Orlowski in New York

Published Friday 1st February 2002 17:56 GMT

[Interview] How much do you love Microsoft's .NET? Enough to trust your Gnome applications to its APIs in the future?

That's what Gnome leader Miguel de Icaza, believes should happen. Miguel calls .NET the "natural upgrade" for the Gnome platform, and enthused about the technology in an interview with us at LinuxWorld this week. Basing Gnome on the .NET APIs will cut development time significantly,

He also had praise for the new Microsoft security model, dismissed the notion that Redmond was employing embrace and extend to its web services protocols, and put the message that the community should get over its beef with The Beast.

"I'd like to see Gnome applications written in .NET in version 4.0 - no, version 3.0. But Gnome 4.0 should be based on .NET," he told us. "A lot of people just see .NET as a fantastic upgrade for the development platform from Microsoft.

Read the whole article, it's most revealing.

Miguel loves ActiveX too:

At Microsoft I learned the truth about ActiveX and COM and I got very interested in it inmediately(sic).

He shows extremely poor taste (in many things).

[1] For anyone still not convinced of Microsoft's ethical depravity, please see the following:

[2] Proposed US ACTA multi-lateral intellectual property trade agreement [PDF]

And finally:

[3] Why did Microsoft invent .NET (I'm assuming they invented it, rather than their usual MO of simply assimilating it from another source) when there is already Java? To answer this question, you may also like to consider why they "(re)invented" OOXML, Moonlight, XPS and other "fscking kill <vendor>" technologies.

Any supposedly Free Software advocate who can still defend or support Mono at this point, is clearly either irredeemably corrupt or terminally stupid (or possibly both). They are part of the problem, not part of the solution. And yes, the "problem" is Microsoft.

De Icaza, are you listening?

Mono Microsoft brain


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