Mono Discussion: Stallman Warns, Ubuntu Dismissive

Jun 29, 2009

The introduction of Mono into Linux and the open source environment begs risking patent claims from Microsoft. Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman sees it that way. The Technical board at Ubuntu, on the other hand, doesn't consider it any reason to be disturbed.

The catalyst for Stallman's position was the inclusion of Tomboy note-taking software into an unstable branch of Debian. Many developers feared that Microsoft may lay licensing claims against Mono. These developers have now got some prominent protection in the form of Richard Stallman in an article on the Free Software Foundation (FSF) website. Stallman considers Debian's decision to include Mono to be moving in a "risky direction," with Microsoft possibly using patent claims to "force all free C# implementations underground some day." Thus he warns not only against implementing Mono, but also C#-based software. Should the case arise of "losing the use of C#," all applications based on it (such as Tomboy) will also be lost. "That doesn't make them unethical, but it means that writing them and using them is taking a gratuitous risk."

Ubuntu users have long been discussing this issue, but with a different response from Ubuntu. Colin Watson summarizes the position of its technical board on the issue as, "there appears to be no significant cause for concern." "In the case of Mono," he goes on, "Canonical (who would bear most of the liability for any violation) does not currently believe this to be a major risk, as should be evident from the fact that it has been shipped in Ubuntu main since 5.10 and in the default desktop since 6.10." The selection of Mono applications were introduced, allegedly, based on their merits, but "were there to be an issue, Mono would be easy to extricate... In short, Mono is currently well-maintained in Ubuntu...."

Stallman has a much different view and his appeal is quite clear: "In other words, we should discourage people from writing programs in C#. Therefore, we should not include C# implementations in the default installation of GNU/Linux distributions, and we should distribute and recommend non-C# applications rather than comparable C# applications whenever possible."

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  • Mono - The Future

    The goal is to get MONO so deep into Linux that it would be hard to extricate. Second, Microsoft kill all distributions but the one that went to bed with. Finally they buy Novell and start selling SUSE Microsoft, that's why De Icaza is working so hard to achieve. He doesn't care about the community but his company which is a propietary one and their Redmond Masters.
  • mono

    I don't like seeing mono or applications built on it included. I moved to linux to get away from microsoft so it is frustrating to see mono creeping in. I know there are many people who think it is great and I respect their viewpoint but I would prefer to see not installed by default. An opt-in-by-installing-it-yourself approach seems better to me.
  • Mono dependance

    Apps based on mono don't really bother me too much, as long as they are not the defaults apps in a distro. Mono based apps should be easy to install and remove. The problem arises when many apps are built with C# and included in the distro as defaults. I feel mono based apps should be treated the same way as proprietary drivers. We should be free to use them, but they should not be the defaults in any distro.
  • Freedom to Control

    Freedom to control others is not freedom. Its power. Noone should have power over another
  • For Certain

    @alan

    "The danger is that Microsoft is probably planning to force all free C# implementations underground some day using software patents." Really? Has he a crystal ball and knows this for certain?

    No, he doesn't know that for certain, which can be easily discerned from the use of the word "probably" and not, say, "definitely", for example. Given Microsoft's track record of subterfuge and treachery, I'd say the use of "probably" is justified.

    Jacques
  • @alan

    "Really? Has he a crystal ball and knows this for certain?" Of course he doesn't, that's why he is suggesting we move away from it. If there is a risk, whether it's small or great, let's get rid of that risk from hurting us.

    Microsoft thinks the same thing. Why do you think they all of a sudden stopped using the 'netbook' moniker and moved to the very marketing unfriendly 'low cost small notebook PCs'? Because Psion took to Intel court over the use of that name. Microsoft don't have a "crystal ball" either, but they aren't going to sit and wait around with that risk over their heads, so they got rid of the netbook from their marketing material. It totally makes sense and is a great way of protecting themselves.

    But because free software advocates want to do the same we are called "absurd" and are branded with the very emotive tag of "anti-mono"??

    Wake up.
  • Stallman's statement... meh

    As someone who has tried to make sense out of the mono debate with a somewhat open mind, I was disappointed by Stallman's statement. RMS usually has something insightful to say on these issues, but in this case his statement was weak and borderline absurd to anyone who has seriously followed this issue. I mean: "The danger is that Microsoft is probably planning to force all free C# implementations underground some day using software patents." Really? Has he a crystal ball and knows this for certain?

    I guess basically all this statement really does is establish that RMS is on the anti-mono side. It has, unfortunately, added no substance to the debate.
  • Freedom

    @nobody
    Freedom is never "free" it requires hard work to obtain and diligence to maintain.
  • How free is Freedom?

    @Mono:
    > So Stallman is really saying what so many say that freedom should not be really free.

    Yes, that's the whole point.

    I cannot have total freedom: e.g., I must not be free to do to others whatever I want. I must be prohibited from having the freedom to hurt others. Even if what I do is not wrong from my point of view, it can be from others'... also, It is necessary to consider consequences of what we do. Allowing all freedom to someone who wants to hinder others' freedom is not really wise, is it?

    > How quaint the man who wants freedom only wants his version of freedom.

    Is it better to allow Mono to taint the well? Do you think one should have the freedom to drop poison in our Free/Libre well?

    Well, sorry, but that begs the question: what do YOU really want in the future to happen?
  • Don't trust them.

    That's not true. He hasn't said you can't do it, but is saying be careful and think twice.

    And I agree with him.

    Microsoft may be making these 'license available' claims about Mono, but where is it? Microsoft should put up the license or we should kick them out. Everyone has a real bad gut feeling about this.

    Look at how they took Tom Tom to court, for the use of FAT. That was just a process so that they could get use of Tom Tom's technologies which they were already infringing on. They are more lawyers than an software company now, and the lawyers are waiting for Mono to get so far into the Linux system so that when they do go for us, it'll be so far in it will temporarily stall us, or so they can steal some cool, differentiating technology that we will have come up with.

    If you pass a house everyday and see the same dog barking and madly pulling at it's chain to get at you, would you walk into it's playground??
  • Mono

    Of course they don't see a problem with it. Not until its such a huge part of linux that we can't get rid of it. Then microsoft will strike. Lets start with this. And then start adding other microsoft code and features into Ubuntu. Then after they ream us for everything linux is worth, they can call ubuntu "windows 8" and start charging everybody for it. I say keep the garbage out. Don't let it start. If people want to develop for linux, use true linux languages and development tools, the way its meant to be done. Just like the ubuntu clan to ignore all the traditional basics our software was built on. Thats why I quit running ubuntu, just a fan boy os with no real respect for its linux roots. Might as well be called MS Ubuntu as far as I'm concerned.
  • Mono

    So Stallman is really saying what so many say that freedom should not be really free. How quaint the man who wants freedom only wants his version of freedom
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