Summary: Mono-Nono’s opinion on bad treatment of Mono dissenters and Mono resistance from Groklaw
Boycott Novell is far from the only skeptic of Mono. Other skeptics predate Boycott Novell’s existence. Here is a quick look at what other Web sites said about Mono last week (and slightly before that). Will Groklaw be the next victim of smear campaigns? Let’s hope not.
Mono-Nono’s Take on Mono and Personal Attacks
Yesterday we wrote about recyclable smears against Richard Stallman and made a little statement of our own. As Jason puts it, “Many mono apologists like to portray critics as fanatics, aggressively opposed to anything Microsoft-related.”
Jason sets the record straight on Stallman and feminism. Those who regularly read Stallman’s political blog would know very well that he is a promoter of women’s rights (and freedom and equality in general).
So now that we have Stallman painted with the “sexist” brush, I see some people casting glances to the “Death Threat Crazy” and “Nazi” brushes.
Let me clear: I wasn’t at the conference, and I don’t know exactly what Stallman said. It is possible he made an inappropriate remark. Some reasonable people say it was a joke gone bad; stuff like that happens.But, even if it were an honest-to-good malicious sexist remark (unlikely considering Stallman has a long record of supporting women’s rights in his writings and interviews), the character assassination has been totally disproportionate to the event. He may indeed need a word of correction from a trusted friend or even a letter of concern from a respected group. What he doesn’t need or deserve is a pack of snarling jackals lumping him in with lunatics making death threats and freaking Nazis. (Assuming the death threat thing is legit, I haven’t looked it up. I know I got a lot of death threats from owning peeps in Quake, so that junk can be serious business.)
A more polite response to Stallman does exist and it addresses technical issues alone (i.e. no character assassinations, which usually indicate one loses the argument anyway). Mono critics find out very consistently that it’s somewhat of a taboo that evokes backlash. Everyone sees it and nobody is spared; this currently includes Richard Stallman, as we showed earlier.
Jason made many remarks on personal attacks, some of which are being retracted (e.g. the one against me and against Stallman). A Microsoft intern, for example, decided to have not only his own article withdrawn but also those of others. See this from cache: “At the request of the original author, the original post has been removed and replaced with this message (from the original author): Dear FOSS Community, I apologize to Richard Stallman and anyone who may have been offended by my post. It was written in a hurry in a moment of utter frustration and dejection following a day I wouldn’t want to wish upon anyone. I am utterly ignorant about the things I wrote, and I only wish that I can be forgiven and forgotten so I can concentrate on becoming a better programmer and contributing to the community I hurt. I promise to carefully read everything I can about Free Software. I understand that Freedom is more than just the source code, but I don’t understand anything more yet. I will appreciate any advice you can provide to me. I owe so much to the open source community, I’ve gotten advice, feedback, lessons and an overwhelming faith in humanity. It is always my dream to benefit a cause bigger than myself. I want to dedicate myself to my art and give back as much as I can. Thank you”
For those who have not subscribed to Jason’s Web site, maybe it’s time to seriously think about it. He used to contribute to us.
Groklaw’s Take on Mono
Groklaw wrote not a single article about Mono, but it did write a lot about Mono in “News Picks”. Here is a summary of what was brought up.
Regarding Ubuntu’s apathy towards Mono issues (that they were working on an official position), Pamela Jones at Groklaw wrote: “There are contradictory remarks, highlighted in this article. I take it that the above is the key paragraph, however, and the one that indicates that there isn’t yet any official position, and that one is forthcoming. I interpret that to mean that the issue has escalated above the technical folks and reached the legal, or at least that is my hope. They, at least, will recognize what the legal issues are and can evaluate on behalf of Canonical, the entity that would end up sued, the legal risks. However, I note that SCO ended up suing end users, not vendors, so personally, I remove mono from any distro that I use, as my personal risk analysis is based on a belief that Microsoft intends to sue someday. Remember all the folks who told us that Microsoft would never sue over patents? I told you I thought they would. And they did. I believe they will do so again, and it’s wise to anticipate that chess move with a preventive move of my own to block.”
Groklaw also shows this older post, from which it quotes:
Back in 2006, we put our trust in Mono because we refused, or perhaps disliked, to vilify a project solely because it emulated something created at Microsoft. While Open Source backers generally dislike Microsoft technology, with Mono they had another argument that being a clone it could be affected by a number of patents that Microsoft holds related to the .Net framework. This point often comes up in debates about the “safety” of the Mono project, the defense of Mono being that large parts of the .Net specification are an open, published ECMA standard. I sided with the Mono supporters then, downplaying the risk of patents from Microsoft. But then in November, Microsoft and Novell announced their Patent Agreement, which guarantees patent protection exclusively for users of Novell Linux. The Mono project is largely supported by Novell, and such an agreement is disastrous for a community project like Mono. At this point, the fence-sitters in the Open Source community largely crossed over to the anti-Mono camp. Perhaps, they were justified in doing so. I could no longer defend Mono, and my belief in the framework getting wider acceptance has diminished significantly since then.
It is entirely possible that Mono can suddenly gain acceptance if Microsoft decides to relinquish patent claims regarding the .Net framework. If it happens, .Net and Mono could well become an powerful challenger to the dominance of Java. This is very unlikely, Microsoft’s current strategy seems to be relying strongly on patents and IP to ward off the looming threat from Linux.
For now, we decided to look beyond Mono and C#.
In reference to Richard Dale (a KDE developer whom we mentioned in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]) and his take on the subject of Mono, Jones writes: “What I think you are supposed to do is not create legal problems for yourself or others, so your software won’t be easily destroyed by an entity making use of a legal system which is very real.”
Citing an old page from Miguel de Icaza, Groklaw quotes the following:
We very much hope that Mono will become the standard development platform that developers are looking for: a platform that makes strong API/ABI commitments, supports older versions of the libraries and supports their products moving forward (in fact, .NET does provide this very functionality in the GAC). It is useful that the .NET 1.0 and 1.1 APIs are set in stone now, because we have a concrete goal to aim for, and developers will know that those APIs will be supported.
Jones adds: “Until they aren’t [APIs will not be supported], something utterly in Microsoft’s control.”
Jones also points to LinkedIn, suggesting that someone in Ubuntu may be an “elephant in the room” (or one among several) because he suggested removing the GIMP in favour of the Mono-based F-spot. Jones writes: “Hmm. I see Rick Spencer, now Engineering Manager, Desktop, at Canonical (since December of 2008) used to work at Microsoft. He was Lead Program Manager at Microsoft (May 2006 — September 2007), User Experience Manager at Microsoft (May 2005 — May 2006), and Usability Engineer, Usability Manager at Microsoft (March 1998 — May 2005). Given the current debate going on at Canonical over Mono, I thought it was worth at least a mention.”
Jones also quotes Ubuntu’s “Mono Position Statement” (from Scott James Remnant), adding: “Here’s my Mono statement: just because others jump off a cliff, there’s no reason why you have to.”
Jones has been giving Ubuntu a hard time this month, but she recommends this comment from GreyGeek (one we cited earlier). It is not about Ubuntu and it says:
“De Icaza has been trying for EIGHT YEARS to get a distro to become totally dependent on MONO, and since Novell bought De Icaza, both have increased their propaganda efforts, with the assistance of Microsoft TEs, trolls, astroturfers and fanbois.
“IF MONO is what its advocates are saying it is (the best thing since sliced bread and safe to use), it would already be in widespread adoption by now. The fact that you can count dependent programs on the fingers of one hand says VOLUMES about how the Linux community as a whole totally distrusts MONO. They are right to hold that distrust.”
“Shields has meanwhile realised that Banshee may not make it into the next version of Ubuntu after all.”Jones then responds to the frequently-cited article from Jo Shields (which contains smears against us). She shows that Shields is incorrect, stressing that “Mono *is* mentioned in the Microsoft-Novell deal, so this is misinformation. You can read the Microsoft-Novell FAQ that explained the deal at the time.”
In addition, Jones writes to debunk Shields’ shallow analysis: “The patent agreement itself also mentions clone products, which is defined here. You definitely want to read the comments too after the article by Shields, to get the full flavor of the pro-Mono movement, to paraphrase, as well as the comments on Linux Today, which published the article also, as well as a response from Boycott Novell. And here’s a bit more, Shields on the subject of Moonlight. Finally, here’s an article on the API patent trap that will round out the subject. If Ubuntu is being influenced by Shields, it might explain some recent events.”
Shields has meanwhile realised that Banshee may not make it into the next version of Ubuntu after all. He finds that regretful and he adds:
Remember, kids, competition drives innovation!
“…As long as it’s not gnote,” shrewdly adds a reader of ours.
A similar kind of encumbrance would be if MIT (or Xorg) could retroactively re-license the X11 libraries to something proprietary (note: they cannot), thereby removing the platform upon which all Free Software X11 applications are built; it would be a risk, and given the importance of Free Software, a risk where the expected value of a manifestation is huge.
This isn’t to say there’s not other submarines in the water. We don’t know. Maybe we should. The known submarine should be treated with caution. And the side of caution is to treat C# as a non-Free platform to be avoided.
Notice the following part of the Microsoft CP (as highlighted by Groklaw): “Because the General Public License (GPL) is not universally interpreted the same way by everyone, we can’t give anyone a legal opinion about how our language relates to the GPL or other OSS licenses, but based on feedback from the open source community we believe that a broad audience of developers can implement the specifications.”
Sounds reassuring, right?
Groklaw also links to this paper
[PDF]. Jones writes: “Here’s an article from RedMonk’s Steven O’Grady back in 2004, with a description of Mono, a bit of its history, Novell’s commitment to it, and who else has invested in it, namely Intel and HP.” Intel and H-P are both allies of Microsoft, no matter how hard they try to hide it on occasions. We gave heaps of examples to serve as evidence before.
Regarding this article from Bruce Byfield (titled “Open Source Landmark: Mono Freed at Last?”), Jones writes: “Nope. See rms [Richard Stallman] quote.”
Richard Stallman called Microsoft’s CP inadequate, but Microsoft carries on with “extend” mode now that Silverlight 3 is arriving under Scott Guthrie’s illusion that GNU/Linux is supported (it is not and he knows it).
Microsoft supplies Silverlight for Windows and Intel-based Mac, while the open source Moonlight project is responsible for Linux, though supplemented by media codecs that come directly from Microsoft. Moonlight is still a work in progress. Microsoft’s vice president for the .Net developer platform Scott Guthrie says it is “six to nine months behind”, though that seems optimistic. Moonlight 2.0, the first version with .NET support, is still in preview.
No word on whether the CP covers Moonlight 2.0+ at all. Will it cover future versions too? What about proprietary codecs? █