Summary: Jeremy Allison from the Samba team argues that Mono and applications that depend on Mono should be put in “restricted” repositories
Jeremy Allison comes from Novell and so does Mono, which was acquired by the company along with Ximian. But as our interview with Allison shows, this man who worked for Novell (on Samba) was brave enough to make his voice heard and finally move to Google. He protested against the patent deal with Microsoft. Just as a reminder and a little bit of background, Novell issues have not been resolved yet*.
“A few days ago we also wrote about Git#, which is part of the trend of making GNU/Linux building blocks more closely tied to Microsoft APIs and/or programming languages.”Novell’s Banshee has a new release but little is said about the fact that the software uses parts of Mono that Microsoft explicitly excluded from its Community Promise, which means that the software is only “safe” for Novell customers to use.
A few days ago we also wrote about Git#, which is part of the trend of making GNU/Linux building blocks more closely tied to Microsoft APIs and/or programming languages. Here is some newer coverage of Git# from a source that typically promotes a lot of Microsoft tools.
Still aren’t convinced that Mono is a trap which ultimately only benefits Microsoft?
Take a look at this “Highly Confidential” document from Microsoft (from Comes vs Microsoft case) entitled “Effective Evangelism” and decide for yourself. It exposes Microsoft’s game plan for dominating the market with their platforms (which we already know, but some choose to ignore).
To quote a memorable (and not out-of-date) quote from Microsoft President Bob Muglia: “There is a substantive effort in open source to bring such an implementation of .Net to market, known as Mono and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.”
Next, this brings us to Jeremy Allison’s latest good columns where he politely approaches one problem with Mono.
But the problem is that Mono is dangerous for Free Software. The heart of the matter is, as usual, software patents. Microsoft have patents on the technology inside .NET, and since the Tom Tom lawsuit, Microsoft have shown they are not averse to attacking Free Software using patent infringement claims. Microsoft have tried to allay some fears by putting the .NET specification under their “Microsoft Community Promise” which you can read here:
Miguel hailed this a the solution to all the patent problems with Mono. But this promise is simply not good enough to base a language environment implementation upon. After all, if the rug is pulled out from under that implementation by the threat of patent infringement you don’t just lose the implementation itself, you lose all the programs that depend upon it. That’s a really dangerous situation for Free Software programs to be in. The Free Software Foundation wrote a good analysis of the problems with this promise here:
But my basic issue with the Microsoft Community Promise is that Miguel doesn’t have to depend on it like everyone else does. Miguel’s employer, Novell, has a patent agreement with Microsoft that exempts Mono users from Microsoft patent aggression, so long as you get Mono from Novell.
The emphasis above is not ours. Allison knew about the Novell deal and also saw it from the inside ahead of journalists. Allison also proposes a solution:
Microsoft isn’t playing games any more by merely threatening to assert patents. Real lawsuits have now occurred and the gloves are off against Free Software. Moving Mono and its applications to the “restricted” repositories is now just plain common sense.
That would include applications like Tomboy and F-Spot.
“Mono is a problem for many reasons, the main of which is the fact that it promotes Microsoft, the company which attacks Free software more than many other companies combined.”There are many comments on this new article (lots more to come), which include: “Nasty stuff! In the meantime, RedHat keeps a strong leadership in the server, and I am starting to move my desktops to purely Qt/KDE installs (to avoid any Mono contamination).”
Why is Novell doing this to itself? Or is it doing it for Microsoft? Mono is a problem for many reasons, the main of which is the fact that it promotes Microsoft, the company which attacks Free software more than many other companies combined. Mono puts Microsoft in control of developers (as in “developers developers developers developers”) and on top of this there are software patents to tighten the grip.
Imitation is rarely the path to winning (or just winning over developers). In order to recruit new support for Free(dom) software, one needs to offer something unique; experience suggests that Mono failed to attract even Visual Studio people.
In Novell’s headquarters, what’s debated at the moment are issues of marketing, not necessarily freedom. A longtime apologist of the Novell/Microsoft relationship elaborates on this subject. █
*This Web site’s goal remains to put pressure on Novell — using its customers — and to rectify its commitment to its suppliers, the Free software world which includes not just developers but also other companies (development peers), enthusiastic users, and people who spread the software. The main issue with the deal is a combination of software patents and an obligation from Novell to do all sorts of things which advance Microsoft’s own ecosystem. SUSE intervention was attempted as means of alleviating or annulling the deal. Attempts were made in the past to do so through negotiation and many people who were using SUSE got involved, myself included. Novell argued that the deal with Microsoft was “irrevocable”, so there was little left to do but to protest through explanation of the consequences and have Novell regret the path that it chose.