Bonum Certa Men Certa

BoycottNovell Goes Shopping for Mono Patent 'Protection'

Readers or users who don't trust Mono should ask for a patent licence from Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft does, for a verifiable fact, have a department dedicated specifically to that type of stuff. We made a start by asking for our protection as we might wish to install the GNOME desktop environment in the future and it's already extremely hard to get it preinstalled without Mono these days. Here is the message we sent last night.



From: Roy Schestowitz To: iplg at microsoft.com Date: Wed, Oct 8, 2008 Subject: Request for a written license for ECMA 376 implementation

Dear Microsoft Licensing,

I would be interested to receive a licence for commercial distribution of Mono, in accordance with your terms presented by Bob Muglia: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2060750,00.asp

"There is a substantive effort in open source to bring such an implementation of .Net to market, known as Mono and being driven by Novell, and one of the attributes of the agreement we made with Novell is that the intellectual property associated with that is available to Novell customers."

According to several legal analyses, Mono is not safe for those who are not Novell customers to use. I would therefore like to purchase a licence.

Best regards,

Roy Schestowitz


Microsoft replied to the request very promptly. Here is the reply:

This is the Postfix program at host mail175-wa4-R.bigfish.com.

I'm sorry to have to inform you that your message could not be delivered to one or more recipients. It's attached below.

For further assistance, please send mail to <postmaster>

If you do so, please include this problem report. You can delete your own text from the attached returned message.

The Postfix program

<iplg@microsoft.com>: host winse-6216-mail1.customer.frontbridge.com[205.248.106.64] said: 550 5.7.1 <Your e-mail was rejected by an anti-spam content filter on gateway (205.248.106.64). Reasons for rejection may be: obscene language, graphics, or spam-like characteristics. Removing these may let the e-mail through the filter.> (in reply to end of DATA command)

[...]



That's some great service. Very helpful.

We've resent it from a different PC and a separate account to get past those dodgy filters. It has not bounced this time time around and we shall report back soon.

We have fallbacks too.



Threats are cheap. Microsoft knows this.

Additionally, we have direct access to a Microsoft licensing guy, so we will pursue this as far as necessary.

For those who have missed it, ComputerWorld finally explains why Mono is a patent risk and a potential trap. Specifically, it distinguishes between Mono and a project like Samba -- a favourite example that Mono enthusiasts like to use in their defence.

Samba grew out of a classic hacker's itch. Its creator, Andrew Tridgell, wanted to connect his PC to a departmental Sun machine, and knocked up a bit of server code for the latter to make that possible. It was only later that he discovered – to his amazement – that his program also worked with PCs running Windows.

This meant that Samba, running on GNU/Linux, could function as a file and printer server for Windows users, which was why it became one of the first free software programs to find its way into enterprises, since it was effectively a drop-in replacement for more expensive Windows-based solutions. In other words, Samba is a free implementation of some protocols used by Windows, and was created so that free code could be used instead of Microsoft's.

Now consider Mono. Like Samba, it aims to reproduce functionality available on the Windows platform, so that people can use free software instead: a laudable goal in itself. But the end-result, which depends on Microsoft's work, is something that encourages developers to write *yet more* code that uses Microsoft's approach. In benighted countries where software can be patented, this means that any patents that Microsoft has in the .NET framework are like to apply to any code developed with Mono. Like an infectious disease, the intellectual monopoly is spread wider.

[...]

This is what makes Mono so dangerous: developers that use this framework are, in fact, helping to disperse the poison of Microsoft's intellectual monopolies across the free software ecosystem. I'm sure that's not the aim of the Mono developers, who doubtless have the best of intentions, but sadly it is the inevitable result. And that is why developers and users need to be warned off Mono in a way that is not necessary for Samba.


Mono advocates (who are sometimes Novell employees) just 'perfume' it to themselves that all is well while attacking those who say the truth. We've seen prompt attacks on anyone who 'dares' to question Novell's Mono. Some of these attacks seem to come from Microsoft employees, who are also seen openly lobbying for Mono in the mainstream press. Don't believe the lies about Microsoft feeling concerned about Mono. Miguel de Icaza is singing this fairly tale, but evidence actually contradicts it. It's posturing.

Mono is not a threat to Microsoft. It helps Microsoft. By association, it harms GNU/Linux, which Microsoft calls its #1 rival and actively attacks all the time (usually it's less visible). So, Novell has people still adopt Microsoft technologies? Not bad for a company that openly threatens and says that it wants to claim money from Free software projects for patents it won't disclose. Where does the trust come from?

Only a Microsoft enthusiast can refuse so stubbornly to see the problem with Mono and never admit that it's selfish -- for him, for Novell, and for .NET (Windows) developers who want to go cross-platform. Here is another new interview with Miguel de Icaza.

Q4. After Mono 2.0 was announced on Monday, I saw speculation in several Linux discussion sites that Mono is somehow a 'trojan horse' that, along with Novell's alliance with Microsoft, will somehow give Microsoft patent leverage over the Linux desktop. Would you care to respond?

A4.[Pauses] I'm surprised people were able to figure out our evil plot.

(Attendant Novell press relations rep interjects: "He's kidding! He's kidding!!")

The position of the Mono project has always been that we believe .Net includes a lot of innovation along with a good mix of well-known technology. So, if people found a patent infringement, we would take it out. If there's prior art, though, the patent is invalid. This is the way it is done in the open source world. A good example is Freetype. They discovered that they could not use a byte code interpreter for fonts, so they invented a different approach.


If there is no known in infringement, why is Novell buying a licence ('protection') for its paying customers? They always dance around this question.

In a new interview with another Mono person (Joseph Hill), the following question comes up.

Sean: There is a certain amount of skepticism about Microsoft in the open source community; people are always wondering what they are “really up to.” I would imagine that people must ask you fairly frequently why they would develop under Mono for Linux, instead of using Java or Python or PHP.


It must not be neglected that Joseph Hill is -- you've guessed it -- also a Novell employee, just like Jeff Steadfast and other seemingly-independent fans of Mono [Correction: according to the discussion at the bottom, the affiliations are all obvious and publicly known, so this claim is challenged and we remove it with apologies to Jeff]. It often traces back to Novell. There is also the suspicion that they may be using fake accounts to promote this technology and dissolve resistance to it.

“In due course, we may wish to identify (and preferably also list) some patents that Mono violates and show them to Miguel, advising removal.”It must be mentioned that a lot of Novell's revenue comes from Microsoft, so many Novell employees are essentially funded by Microsoft.

In due course, we may wish to identify (and preferably also list) some patents that Mono violates and show them to Miguel, advising removal. Would that be evil? Well, if he removes his code, then he might as well realise what position he willingly put himself in.

The same goes for Silverlight. Next up we will seek a patent licence also for Moonlight (at least to find out the cost) and all the codecs that goes with it. Let's find out what sort of trap Novell is leading to before, not after, it becomes another bit of ammunition for Microsoft to intimidate with and to successfully use in secret extortions.

There is a timely lesson about this type of thing in today's news about AMD. Companies are forced to pay their abusive, monopolistic and even criminal competitors for patents, simply because the system is pathetic but also because re-engineering of existing architectures of one's rival is a bad idea from the get-go.

Intel's lawyers launch probe into AMD's spinoff plans



Intel's lawyers are evaluating whether a new manufacturing business spun out of Advanced Micro Devices could end a long-standing cross-licensing agreement between the firms.


"Innovate, don't imitate," says an old mantra. What's Mono really about? It begs for trouble from its fiercest rival, which has quite a history.

“At Microsoft I learned the truth about ActiveX and COM and I got very interested in it inmediately [sic].”

--Miguel de Icaza

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