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Microsoft Gave Moonlight “Blessings” in 2007

Posted in FSF, GNOME, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents at 6:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Every line of code that is written to our standards is a small victory; every line of code that is written to any other standard, is a small defeat.”

James Plamondon, Microsoft Technical Evangelist. From Exhibit 3096; Comes v. Microsoft litigation [PDF]

Summary: Analysis and deconstruction of the latest Moonlight PR; more about Mono and the GNU/GNOME kerkuffle

SOME people have begun responding to news regarding Moonlight. The following article uses an amusing headline which says that “Moonlight 2.0 Gets Microsoft’s Blessing”

Considering the fact that it’s a Microsoft project as much as it is a Novell project (the Novell/Microsoft Web site calls it "Microsoft Moonlight"), why would it need any additional “blessings”? Microsoft has blessed the project since its inception.

In 2006, Novell and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) entered into a joint patent and interoperability agreement, giving Novell users the OK to use open source technologies on which the software giant has said it may have intellectual property claims.

As a result of today’s expansion of that deal, Moonlight users will enjoy protection under the patent covenant regardless of whether they’re using Novell’s (NASDAQ: NOVL) Linux distro or another distributor’s.

Here is how Miguel de Icaza put it:

Culturally, we started on two opposite ends of the software licensing spectrum. The covenant not to sue that was issued for Moonlight 1 and 2 covered every user that used Moonlight, but only as long as the user obtained Moonlight from Novell. This is a model similar to how Flash is distributed: there is a well-known location where you get your plugin.

The open source world does not work that way though. In the open source world, the idea is to release source code and have distributions play the role of editors and curators and distribute their own versions of the software.

Microsoft’s intention was to expand the reach of Silverlight, but the original covenant was not a good cultural fit. We worked with the team at Microsoft (Brian Goldfarb and Bob Muglia’s teams) to make sure that the covenant would cover the other Linux distributions.

Microsoft’s intention is still “to expand the reach of Silverlight,” which it totally controls, unlike HTML for example. The biggest issue — as we have argued for years — is one of control. Patents are another issue, but not the main one. Moonlight (like Mono) gives Microsoft the sceptre and crown with which to rule and watch over FOSS developers. If they use Microsoft as their reference, then it not only helps Microsoft’s fight against Web standards but also against LAMP and Java, among a lot of other software. It’s mono-culture.

The Source (same author as Mono-Nono) has responded to the above announcement and made some predictions.

Here are my predictions, based on the last similar situation when Mono fell under the “promise” from Microsoft:

1. The new covenant will not be as comprehensive as Mr. de Icaza states. I do think he isn’t overselling this one near as much as the last one, which I think points to a lesson learned.
2. Team Mono will rail on and on about how this is a win for them and should “silence the critics”, never noting the incovenient fact that they promoted Moonlight just as hard without the “proper” coverage, and there are still remaining issues.
3. There will still be at least 3 obvious problems with the “Covenant” and a half-dozen subtle and complicated problems.

Our reader Oiaohm says that “the Moonlight agreement still sucks. It expires September 1, 2011.”

In other news, one reader told us that Storm OS is adding Mono software that falls outside the Microsoft Community Promise and thus makes it sensitive to Microsoft’s threats and lawsuits (both deterrents).

Here is something I’ve been working on for a little while, getting Mono to work properly. Properly = with dbus so you actually runs some apps with it. Banshee, F-Spot, Gnome-do and Monodevelop appear to be working with very few changes

According to Microsoft’s own words (no speculation), this is trouble. Longtime proponents of Mono (like Ryan Paul and others who still give it coverage) should pay more attention to the issues and bring light to them. The latest episode from Linux Outlaws (recommended show) is titled “Reverse Mono Trojan Horse”

Another proponent of Mono, Thom Holwerda (mentioned a few days ago in the same context), writes a little more about GNOME and GNU [1, 2, 3]. So does Bruce Byfield (whose words we unfortunately misinterpreted the other day, so we sincerely apologise to him). The latest from Byfield is a good writeup which concludes with:

Staying within the GNU Project may have very little practical effect on GNOME. However, making any formal decision under these circumstances might. At the very least, any vote might be delayed six months so that people have a chance to consider the idea on its merits and not on the emotions stored up over the last six months.

Genuine critics of GNU do exist (Lasse Havelund for example), but some of the more proactive and vocal critics appear to be doing this for other reasons. Someone quoting Upton Sinclair says that “It’s hard get a man to understand something, when he’s being paid not to understand it.”

“It’s probably better to keep funding and decision-making separate. Decide who gets to make decisions based on merit, not money.”
He adds: “perfectly nails all these corporate swine trying to defame RMS and ruin Free Software.”

Our reader Brandon says: “some idiot keeps going around saying FSF accepts corporate funding as well, however GNOME is set up in a way where if you fund them via businesses, you get onto the “advisory board” which makes suggestions to the executives. this is exactly like the congress – lobbying connection – whereas, in other projects such as Apache, they will take your funding but won’t let you dictate [anything]. Apache has funding from MSFT, but they’ve publicly said that doesn’t mean crap because they still make all the decisions. GNOME on the other hand, with the advisory board at least has to listen to these suggestions. They don’t have to act upon them, but they gotta listen still.”

“It’s probably better to keep funding and decision-making separate. Decide who gets to make decisions based on merit, not money,” says MinceR in response.

Brandon adds: “I can’t find an equivalent in FSF for a corporately paid subsection which gets to tell board members suggestions based on them paying tens of thousands of dollars. I don’t mind if an organization takes funding, but funding/decisions should be separate. The “advisory board” is just a euphemism for “lobbying board”, I can’t see how its different. They pay tens of thousands of dollars, and get to make suggestions. Lobbyists pay congresspeople tens of thousands of dollars, and get to make suggestions.”

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