30
Jul
09

A Mono proposal

Mono developer Jo Shields has created a couple of Mono-free Ubuntu remixes. Here are the torrent links for i386 and amd64 architectures. There is talk of maintaining a regular Ubuntu edition sans Mono over on the Mono-Nono site. It’s a little unfair to expect Jo to do it all by himself, and it’s a good chance for people suspicious of Mono to do something about it rather than simply grumble about the whole thing. The Ubuntu Technical Board have made it clear that they don’t see inclusion of Mono-stuff in Ubuntu to be that much of a problem, so rather than start another flame war, head on over to Dan Serban’s proposal on the Mono-Nono site and volunteer to help out.

For the uninitiated, Mono is one of those things that people feel… strongly about. People who are ambivalent or even completely apathetic about the whole thing do exist, they just aren’t very vocal about it. Perhaps I should blog about that. Sure, why not?

Diary of someone apathetic about Mono.

As I was making breakfast this morning, I noticed how the scrambled eggs in the pan before me failed to remind me of the great Mono debate. The kettle came to the boil, whistling in that shrill way that’s almost, but not quite, completely unlike the flame wars I hadn’t read the night before. I realised then that I hadn’t thought about Mono for minutes, perhaps even tens of minutes. My girlfriend looked at me in a way that was completely different from the way Miguel de Icaza and Roy Schestowitz would glare at each other if they were thrown to the bottom of a bottomless pit, destined to fight each other to the death for all of eternity.

Err, perhaps not.

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7 Responses to “A Mono proposal”


  1. 1 Olovram
    30 July, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Its great to have you
    back c:

  2. 31 July, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Most people wouldn’t have any problem with Mono if it weren’t for Novell being the parent for the project. And Novell is on more than good terms with MS.

    At the moment, C# provides my bread and butter. So knowing Linux will have .Net app support was initially welcome news since that would effectively double my client base. Then there was the problem of the Microsoft habit of suddenly patenting sources or even claiming freely downloaded code (which was available without hinderance from the main site) was somehow violating their EULA after the fact. Hence the dilemma.

    Of course these claims by MS invariably end up being false, but the vast majority of us mortals don’t have the cash or the man-power to fight it. Now I can choose to stick to my comfort zone and develop in C# or pick some other platform (Java perhaps?) and start the arduous task of porting over all my old apps and even risk loosing my existing client base because they don’t want to switch.

    I doubt MS would really pull a stunt like this with Mono. I think most of us would stick to words as a response, but I can see others reaching for the tar and feathers.

    For some, the risk is too great to allow MS creeping in any guise (Novell et al…) into their codebase. And there you have prime food for conspiracy theories, though I can’t say I blame them.

    • 1 August, 2009 at 1:16 pm

      I’ve never programmed in C#. In fact I’ve only just been learning C for about the last month, after finally deciding that only knowing Python is not enough. One thing I’d like to know is how portable has the C# stuff been, in your experience? Is it relatively painless to get C# applications written for Windows to work on Linux with Mono? From a user’s perspective, this doesn’t seem to be happening at all for desktop software, but it could be happening in business environments. I think most Linux Mono devs would say that’s besides the point, and they may well be right–so what that it’s incomplete, Tomboy already works just fine. Even so, I can well understand the wariness many people have about Mono. I am ambivalent simply because whilst I appreciate these concerns, I have no need of Mono applications, and removing it is trivial.

      The whole thing really tells me that Microsoft really don’t grok free software at a fundamental level, and that they probably never will. But, more than that, I think the whole thing has a more insidious aspect. Mono will never have parity of features with .NET. I’m basing that on prior evidence, of course, but let’s assume it holds out for the time being. That may not matter for the Linux applications that use the stuff that’s already been implemented, but I think it might encourage Windows developers to stay Windows developers. The patent issues certainly don’t help, either, for the reasons you mentioned.

      I had a back-and-forth with Jo on the Ubuntu Forums a while back and he told me that it was his hope that building bridges with proprietary software makers will encourage the developers to see things from a free software point of view. Give people a taste of free and they’ll want to stick around, that sort of thing. I think it’s a somewhat idealistic proposition, but not completely insane. It is, admittedly, the reason I stuck around. The benefits of free software, ideological and practical, are just too persuasive.

      Oooh, it’s all such a boggle. And yet still I sit on the fence.

      • 1 August, 2009 at 1:53 pm

        Even in busines environments, web based software is fairing rather far better in regard to portabilty. This is usually because they need to be bleeding edge to be competitive. Also there’s a market for intranet app deployment which means the software must run on a server.

        And your observations on Mono app features actually has merit.

        Honestly, it’s rather difficult for legacy desktop applications to suddenly be available on any .Net capable platform unless there was a concious decision on the part of the programmers and project planners to have said support in the first place.

        The problem has always been namespaces calls like :

        using Microsoft.something;

        …Which have had no equivalent libraries in other platforms. And many of the commonly found examples on the Net and almost all popular software for the desktop in the language all deal with these Microsoft platform specific libraries.

        Newer applications are more flexible in this regard because developers can choose to avoid platform specific namespace calls and stick to generics. Or even develop custom libraries that provide the same basic functionality. This has the added benefit that the result is usually smaller and more streamlined than the big Microsoft default namespace.

        But again, it’s more expensive to rewrite software to avoid these or write additional functionality when “free” defaults are available (though platform specific). It’s always more tempting to choose existing functionality rather than develop or extend new ones even if it means greater portability. Especially when there’s a deadline and budget involved. And often, when business apps are developed, project managers are only harping about the budget and timeline.

        It may be true that MS doesn’t grok free software. But the fact that they’ve sprinkled these platform specific instances here and there in their own examples, and encouraged the same in most applications developed in .Net, make their intention to keep users and developers on Windows pretty obvious.

  3. 2 August, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Doesn’t the complete lack of response (Jo reports about 10 downloads, Roy won’t even do a story on it) say something here?

    You may be quite right in suggesting that anyone who really cares about getting Mono off their desktop has managed to fire up apt and done so. However, the continuing level of apparent “passion” around this issue—the widespread attempts to divert any discussion of RMS’ remarks at GCDS into a discussion about Mono, disruption of the ubuntu-devel list, the continued whining at “Boycott Novell” and other centers of non-contributing entitlement, etc.—suggest something else to me.

    I see a lot of people more invested in their ability to complain about Mono as opposed to actually doing anything about it. Jo’s remix gives them less cause to complain, and that’s not what they actually want.

    It took Jo an hour to put together that remix. Jason, or Roy, or any of the folks who have been so put out about “Mono in the default Ubuntu install” for the past six months and more could have rolled up their sleeves at any point—in fact, they could roll up their sleeves now and take over Jo’s remix, if they actually cared about “getting their itch scratched”—and learned how to do it themselves in under a week, no matter what they did or didn’t know at the outset.

    And no one’s stepped up to do anything about updating the remix to Karmic over on mono-nono, other than demanding that Jo do it for them (which he’s graciously agreed to do, since it further cements the point down), along with a list of other things they want Jo to do for them while he’s at it.

    We didn’t see anyone doing what Jo did—even though it had to be within their capactities—just demands to the Ubuntu team, to Canonical, to the community at large, that we wise up and do as they insist. Our freedom, their way.

    That seems pathological to me.


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