More on mono

Jo Shields posts a reply to

and the old comparison to Wine pops up again.

Now when I install Ubuntu and therefor Gnome, it does not pull in Wine at all.  In fact, I've been running Ubuntu without wine for most of the past 5 years.  So killing wine would only affect people still locked in to certain windows programs and not have any effect of the Free Desktop by itself.

In contrast, removing mono rips out F-Spot and Tomboy and even the Ubuntu-desktop meta-package.  You see, Ubuntu uses a lot of mono-apps by default and even vanilla-Gnome includes Tomboy and as such, depends on mono.  Yes, replacing Tomboy is easy, but what if Evolution also comes to depend on mono, or Nautilus or gnome-panel?  Then ripping out mono means the end of the Gnome Desktop.

Secondly, the pro-mono camp dances arround the patent issue and keeps doing so.  First they pointed to the Ecma standardisation that would prove it was Free to use and iplement, but Sam Varghese proved them wrong on this.  Let's not forget that de Icaza, the mono project-lead himself, pointed to Ecma as the source to answer patent-related inquiries.   Jo Shields just ignores what happened when Sam tried to obtain this elusive license and instead just questions if Microsofts patents actually apply to mono.

In my opinion, all this makes the pro-mono arguments pretty thin.  If even de Icaza and people like Jo Shields can't get the answers right and can't agree on a single answer to the questions, why should we than trust a blanket statement saying this technology is safe to bet the future of the Gnome project or even a distribution like Ubuntu on?

Comments

Good blogpost, +1 insightful.

Given that software patents don't exist in Europe, it's quite surprising to see how scared you are by them :-)

Though, seriously, it would be sad if a decision by a US court would destroy my favorite Free Desktop of my favorite distribution all over MS technology which could have been easily avoided.

I am not sure if you have been on vacation over the last 6 months, but during this time, TomTom, a Dutch company, was sued by Micro-Soft over a software patent which was even expressively nullified here in Germany by our supreme court.

Nevertheless, TomTom surrendered, as we (except you) all know.

On CeBit, our computer trade fair, every year, MP3 players and other devices get confiscated an booths raided because of alleged violation of software patents (MP3 codecs etc.) by the manufacturers.

So please, what is your point?

What point are you making?

Ubuntu excludes MP3 support in default installs because of the patent issues, not copyright issues.  Why should mono be treated differently?  I suggest we put mono apps in a restricted package like we do for MP3 support.

A repost of my comment over at the OpenSourcerer:

Microsoft WILL and HAS TO (no choice, has to pursue its business interests) request royalties for (alleged) patent licenses for .NET technologie included in Mono as soon as they see themselves in a position to do so.

This will be the time when Mono is so widely used in a certain Linux environment that is cheaper to pay the royalties than to get rid off Mono and its dependencies. There is nothing mean in it, that is what a company HAS to do with is IP (otherwise, management can be held liable by the shareholders).

However, knowing this and allowing this to happen to your Linux distribution is plain stupid. And if you don’t believe it, check out the companies that pay royalties for FAT long filename “technology” in Linux based devices or study the recent TomTom case.

You must be blind or very naive to believe that this is not going to happen with Mono, and it has nothing to do with Microsoft being evil or not – every other company would do the same.

For this reason, none of the commercial distros (RH, Moblin, Android) will ever include (unlicensed) Mono technology, even when the patents that MS claims to hold are very weak and IMHO not enforcable. It is enough that they make respective claims.

You will pay for Mono sooner or later, no matter what license it comes with – again, FAT implemetation Linux also is GPL2, but we know what this helped against the patent claims. Nada.

forgive me, i haven't been following the discussion very closely, but as far as i can tell, the primary argument against mono is the patent encumberment.

has patent encumberment ever hurt distributions in the past? the whole patent system is messed up already and it's resulted in a cold war, where patents are just being sat on rather than used against anyone.

has any reverse engineered code _ever_ had to be removed from a linux distribution due to a patent that's been owned by a competing software company?

I don't have any recollection of any, but then again, I'm no authoritative source.

i do worry though that people are getting worked up over the fear of the possibility of something happening, rather than something that's likely to happen. open-source, like nature, is an evolving process, can we not just let the mistake happen, and let people learn from it?

that's pretty much how i've accomplished everything ive ever done :P

Over the FAT patent off all!

This is not Oracle or any other company out there.  This is Microsoft, convicted monopolist and the only company that has set destruction of Linux as one of it's primary goals and will use anything to get there (the recent ODF in Office farce is another proof for this).

a) TomTom is not a distribution, but an embedded device

b) TomTom didn't remove it's FAT implementation, but settled with MS after firing back another suit on any number of patents that MS implements that it owns

The example is moot, since the fear is that the mono apps would be removed thereby crippling gnome.

Next?

TomTom was extored into paying royalties over it's use of GPL'ed Linux code covered by a very weak MS patent.

It shows both Microsoft ability and willingness to use it's patent portfolio againt those who use Linux in their products, essentially artificially augmenting the cost of building on Linux.

They can choose who they go after, the developer of the software, the distributor (in this case TomTom) or even the consumer.  Why would you suspect they won't go after for example toyota if they dump Windows as a desktop OS in favour of Ubuntu with mono-apps in it?

And it shows that Microsoft doesn't need Mono to sue Linux to the ground. Mono is not special.

It does not.  The FAT patent is very weak, and yet they succeeded.  The patents on .NET howerver actually cover something that they created themselves (however surprising that may be).

How do you know that the FAT32 patent is very weak?
Microsoft coded and designed FAT, so it's exactly like .NET in that respect.

The patent in question is not on FAT's core, it's on the use of a table linking short filenames to long filenames to provice long filename support on filesystems that do not include it.

Secondly, FAT support is not a core technology in Linux as it's provided for legacy device support.  We can remove it if we need without breaking linux itself, If Gnome increases it's dependency on mono, we can't simply remove that without breaking Gnome.

If they succeeded on sueing Tomtom over the FAT patent, how come they haven't been sueing everyone else over it? Why Tomtom in specific? And if the Tomtom case proves that they're both willing and able to sue people who use their patents in Linux-based software, then how come they haven't sued us yet?

(A cynic might suggest that they want FOSS developers to be using a platform that they control, rather than a fully-open platform like Python. That might actually explain a lot.)

I think MS has a long-term strategy to try to make money from Linux since destroying it has proven impossible over the last 10 years.  But deals like MS-Novell actually make them money without them having to do anything.

I'm guessing here, but Mono and Moonlight could be used in such a strategy, even pointing people to Novell only for a "safe-from-patents" linux.

And to be frank, I have actually heard Novell using that line in their sales talks when they try to displace Ubuntu and RedHat with my customers...

MONO will just be another useful platform available for Linux, I doubt it will ever become so vital.

It's already a dependency of Gnome by virtue of TomBoy.  The dependency needs to stop there.

MP3 playback and DVD playback are not enabled by default on Ubuntu because of.... patents.  Why should mono be treated differently?

I do not get your argument about wine... what are you saying exactly? That since wine doesn't affect any pre-installed applications it is "OK" to let it exist; in contrast to Mono which if removed would pull some great applications with it in its fall? If this is your point then surely we should remove the kernel too since that relies on implementations for lot's of obscure hard-to-get standards, has a record of patent litigation attempts against it and a large amount of software depending on it.

You keep claiming that people who defend Mono dance around the patent-issue but this is exactly what you yourself do; you keep pointing out that proof should be produced that nothing bad will happen (as if that coudn't happen to any framework or software) as if Mono is guilty until proven innocent.

So how about this instead: you produce the proof that things will go to hell if we rely on Mono. If you can i think everyone will agree that using it is bad. I do however believe that you will find that it is equally hard to prove as to disprove - thus making the argument non-constructive. I for one cannot disprove that bad things will happen to any of the other software depending on standards covered by patents out there.

I'm pretty consistent in my opinion on both Wine and Mono.  I think it's good to have both of them exist, but as both re-implement stuff that MS actually owns (in crontradiction to vague patented mechanisms that were in use 20+ years before Gates was born).

Let's have them in the repositories for those that want them, let's not depend on them.  If Wine dies, a true GNU user looses no functionality and the rest will have to migrate faster.  If Gnome builds more on Mono than with Tomboy today, we loose 1 out of the 2 major Linux desktops.

And again, these patents are owned by MS, the company that claims Linux is viral, that buys reports to prove it's cheaper than Free Software and that has multiple convictions for both stealing IP and being a monoplist.

Marcus: The problem is that these guys don't want to treat Mono like everything else. This crusade is not based on legal grounds, it's about killing off the Mono community. There is nothing constructive in these rants. The only reason Mono is targetted so hard is because it happens to be invented by Microsoft, whereas other, similarly *potentially* dangerous software doesn't get this hard treatment. Like Jo Shields has put it: these guys are anti.

Let's forget about software for a minute and draw the analogy with people: There are quite a lot of people (projects) out there that aren't built with the same genes (platform), some are white, some are black and others are yellow (feel free to map your preferred software platform to your preferred skin tone). All of these people might be good or bad, but we just hate the (white, black, yellow, pick one) guys. So we give them much more of a pounding...

What was the word for that? I believe it starts with an R.

but no dice.  technology is nothing like people and Mono is neither good nor bad by itself.

It is however technology that came from Microsoft and Microsoft has made it very clear that it wants to destroy Linux by whatever means it needs, and getting technology infected with their patents is just one way they could actually do this (if it weren't for the existence of competing desktops which means that KDE can survice a mono-based patent attack).

This is made worse by Novell's involvement, who has proven to be quite willing to stab the free software community in the back to please Microsoft.

Again, I'm not asking for the complete destruction of mono or mono applications, I just don't want them as part of Gnome or Ubuntu-desktop.

I'm sorry, but I highly disagree with you there. Software is people. You as a GNOME fan should know that, GNOME is people: http://tieguy.org/blog/2006/06/29/gnome-is-people/

Go to GUADEC if you don't see that. If you refuse to do that, don't claim to be speaking in the benefit of the GNOME project.

People are investing a lot of time and effort in this, often not paid. Criticizing their projects directly means criticizing these people (which seems to be a favorite hobby of the FSF club, getting on the back of those who are not pure enough).

Software is software, not people.

Free Software is a product that often come from ideals and love of it's developers.   But software in itself is neither good nor bad.  The people behind it are where the ethical issues lie.

Case in point. mono itself has it's benefits, the problem is with both Novell back-stabing the community and Microsoft trying to destroy GNU/Linux.

If this is your point, then please stop pretending you represent the GNOME community (which, given that you're not a foundation member, you don't). You obviously have no clue what drives free software. Software doesn't write itself, people do.

If you don't see that what you are doing here affects people, then you're playing a very dangerous game. Your actions have the potential to cause much more damage than you realize, even if the reasons behind it are good.

If Free Software is about people, than I'm most certainly one of them.  I have linked my entire carreer to the success of Free Software starting 10 years ago when very few people got into it where I live, I develop Free Software and I have more than a shallow interest in the survival of Debian, Gnome and Ubuntu having been a moderator on the forum for quite some time, making my employer Ubuntu partner and speaking at and supporting the release parties locally. 

You are distorting my posts to mean something I did not say to get your point across, which I strongly object too.

The very driver behind Free Software is people, not corporations, not employees, real people.  But People != software.  eLAS is my current pet project, but if I pull in cotaminated code there I too risk the survival of my software in the long run as well as my personal safety.  I do not want that for myself, nor for the rest in the community, be it developers or users.

The Linux kernel is already "infested with their patents", just ask them!
Why's Mono special?

1) Ubuntu disables MP3 and DVD playback because of patent issues, why is mono special?

2) Mono is MS own technology and both MS and Novell have proven to be quite willing to hurt the Linux community for their own benefit.

no, Mono is Free Software

It's only free in a copyright sense, not on the patent level.

This is exactly the kind of non-freedom the GPLv3 is designed to address.

Well, I guess we should just ship without the Linux kernel. I mean, if the Linux Kernel is so riddled with patents, we can find a suitable alternative, right?

DVD and MP3 playback are not included with the release because there are 3rd party, legal alternatives to these. We ship with F-Spot and Tomboy because they are currently the most fully featured, free solutions for their uses. Maybe Tomboy could be replaced with Gnote, but it's debatable which one is more accepted. We cannot ship with Picasa because F-Spot is Open Source and Picasa is not.

You know what, lets just get rid of the ObjC compiler too. That's an Apple technology for which they have patents on. I mean, come on, there are alternatives to ObjC, lets just let the developers learn that new method and get over it. They should just throw in the towel and go use C++.

Now, until I hear Microsoft suing the Mono team, I don't care. Let the lawyers fight it out, I'll continue writing what I know.

>The problem is that these guys don't want to treat Mono like everything else

Yeah. Including wine by default would create no debate whatsoever.

>similarly *potentially* dangerous software doesn't get this hard treatment.

Well yes it does. If rhythmbox would be replaced by some windows-only media-player running on Wine, that would create an ever _bigger_ debate.

The problem is really simple: it is a a legal minefield (like Wine, like MP3 support).
And once we go down that path we will create a situation where we are so dependent on Mono that it won't be easy to drop it.

It's not the legal insecurities, it's not the dependence of default desktop apps, it's the combination of those two factors.
And somehow, I feel like no pro-mono advocate, will even get that. It seems you guys keep pretending like the arguments are different.

First you guys claim there is no legal threat. Now you guys claim it doesn't matter if there is. And Jo has even claimed that if there is, and it does matter, it's not going to be issue resurrecting all the dead non-mono based projects.

Most people are not anti-mono. Banshee, TomBoy, Gnome-DO there are brilliant apps and the mono-toolchain has got something to do with their quality and speed of development. But if we go this route, are we sure it's safe? Are we really sure? Because it's not going to be easy to backtrack and take another path.

So please stop the FUD. Stop the running circles around the arguments.

>Maybe the way to cut past all this FUD is to push Mono to display its written agreement from Microsoft that it has been granted the licence? If they say its easy to get, ask them to get it.

Unlike WINE off cource. That has got nothing to do with Microsoft technology.

>What was the word for that? I believe it starts with an R.

Nice. Being afraid of the legal implications of Mono makes people racists.
I wonder why you didn't just pull a Godwin. "Hitler would ban Mono"

The word you are looking for starts with the T of Troll though.

"First they pointed to the Ecma standardisation that would prove it was Free to use and iplement, but Sam Varghese proved them wrong on this"

I read that article and all I could read from it was that Sam proved that he (as an interested, but uninvolved, bystander) couldn't get an answer from Microsoft. How has that proven that Microsoft won't grant the licence to Mono?

Maybe the way to cut past all this FUD is to push Mono to display its written agreement from Microsoft that it has been granted the licence? If they say its easy to get, ask them to get it.

NB. Im pro-Mono, but I really just want to see an answer to this question either way - so I know if Im wasting time or saving time writing my cross-platform apps in c#...

Stuart: You'll have to decide that for yourself (whatever you do, don't blindly believe what you read from the pundits). As Jo eloquently expressed, when the shit hits the fan, we can find a way out of it. Going through all the hassle because some guys are screaming and kicking won't save you time.

This will always happen, if you switch to python, the C guys will taunt you, if you switch to C, the C++ guys will taunt you, if you switch to Java, well... You get the picture.

Just concentrate on writing software and let the wanna-be lawyers do their thing. Then atleast one of the groups is doing something productive :-)

What it mainly proves is that being an Ecma standard has nothing to do with not being patent-infested (as Jo Shields has claimed in tha past) and secondly that even the lead-developer of mono has no idea how to obtain a license and under which terms.

> Maybe the way to cut past all this FUD is to push Mono to display its written agreement
> from Microsoft that it has been granted the licence? If they say its easy to get, ask them to get it.

LOL, they'd better keep that well hidden !

(and by the way the full agreement is secret AFAIK. Only the IP license is public)

>How has that proven that Microsoft won't grant the licence to Mono?

Well, then we should wait until they do, shouldn't we?

>Maybe the way to cut past all this FUD is to push Mono to display its written agreement from Microsoft that it has been granted the licence? If they say its easy to get, ask them to get it.

There is no such agreement. You really think there would even be a discussion if there was?

You still use the meta-packages? lol
And if you want to remove rhythmbox or openoffice? No, I can not, otherwise i remove the ubuntu-desktop package... lol

quite well what a meta-package is.  But it's important to have them when dist-upgrading if you want the full desktop experience. 

Say I remove Ubuntu-desktop because it pulls in F-Spot, I dist-upgrade to Karmic that will switch from Pidgin to Empathy, I will not get Empathy installed because of the missing meta-package.

I think the free software community is making too much a big deal over Microsoft. I have experience dealing with Microsoft on a business level, and I promise you, the company is composed of 90% morons. Yeah they have a ton of money, but they spend it stupidly. I don't think they are as big a threat as people think.

"Secondly, the pro-mono camp dances around the patent issue and keeps doing so"

The guy wrote like 8 paragraphs about the patent issue, that's not dancing around. Stop worrying about patents, and worry about making great software. If you make software awesome enough that people are willing to sue you for it, you're in a much better boat than if you spent all your time arguing about legal issues and forgot about what's important.

MS already succesfully extorted money from TomTom for using vanilaa-kernel features (FAT), so clearly patents are a threat.

The ultimate solution is to either fix or remove this broken system, but until we do, we will have to live with and work around this threat.  Ignoring it will not make it go away, building a dependency on mono will only make an attack on it more likely as the damage that attack can do increases.

I will never use mono again...

If its good 'nuff for Shuttleworth, who IS, by the way the SBADFL for Ubuntu, the tis' good 'nuff fer me.
The rest is whinging and whining.

I haven't seen any news of US folks getting sued or prosecuted lately for libdvdcss either. lmao.

The anti-mono crowd gets the award for whining the bestest though. sigh.

Now if RMS would speak out and declare mono safe, I would listen.

It's not that I distrust Shuttleworth, I think his motives are honourable as Ubuntu did refuse to sign a Novell-like agreement with Novell.  But I think he is wrong, and apparently, so do the Fedora project that is planning to remove Mono in FC12 and RedHat that has never included Mono.

So it seems not that clear-cut to me.