Jeremy Allison on Mono (and how it differs from Samba)

Jeremy Allison has spoken up about Mono, Novell’s implementation of Microsoft’s heavily patented .NET platform. He recommends that it be put into “restricted” repositories until the licensing issues can be sorted out.

Mono is controversial as it is a re-implementation of Microsoft’s .NET technology, in much the same way as Samba is a re-implementation of Microsoft’s Server Message Block (SMB) file sharing protocol. The genesis of each project and how they have developed over the years is somewhat different however…

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. Miguel takes pains to point this out. This is not a level playing field, or software freedom for all. This is a preferred supplier trying to pretend there is no problem. Sure there isn’t a problem, for them. If it isn’t good enough for Miguel, why is it good enough for other developers?

If .NET is not a risk to free software, then why did Novell get patent cover from Microsoft for their clients?

Had Novell arranged a royalty-free agreement with Microsoft for everyone (and not just their clients) like Andrew Tridgell did for Samba, then Mono would not be a problem.

Of course, once software patents come crumbling down this won’t be an issue at all. Until then it is wise to play safe..

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