posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 1st Jul 2009 20:49 UTC
IconThe Mono discussion may be tiring, but the fact of the matter is that thanks to this discussion, various major Linux distributions are now making official statements detailing their position in the Mono/C# debate. The latest to do this is Ubuntu, which reiterated their position yesterday.


Previously on Mono

Most of you are probably aware of the situation around Mono, but for those of you that haven't been following this soap opera, let me just repeat what I wrote about this late last month, which sums up the situation pretty well:

The way I understand it now is that the Common Language Infrastructure and the C# programming language are ECMA standards - they may or may not be patent-encumbered (this is unclear). If they are patent encumbered, then they must be made available under "reasonable and non-discriminatory terms". Mono is an open source implementation of the CLI and a C# compiler. On top of that, Mono implements several technologies around .Net which are not Ecma standards, and these technologies are certainly covered by patents.

The issue now is that Microsoft has so far failed to produce the license with "reasonable and non-discriminatory terms", meaning that while Novell is free from patent concerns due to their deal with Microsoft, other distributions might be at risk. Microsoft may not have made any patent threats with regards to .Net, but they have made patent threats in other areas, such as the infamous claim that the Linux kernel infringed on a number of patents.

Because of this, several players in the Linux/Free software industry have made their positions known when it comes to Mono. Debian recently decided to include Mono in the GNOME installation (which uses a meta-package, so you are free to not install Mono) via TomBoy, but quickly after the Debian project leader back-pedalled, stating that this decision was still under discussion.

Fedora, on the other hand, was pretty clear in that it will not include Mono in its default installation, even going as far as to say it may be excluded from the repositories altogether. Richard Stallman was a bit vague (or so I thought) but the OSNews community cleared that situation up pretty well: RMS advocates against writing applications for Mono and thinks it's dangerous, but he is happy it's there in case people really need to use it.


Ubuntu on Mono

So, now we have Ubuntu making a very clear statement about what their position is in this entire Mono discussion. With Ubuntu being the most popular desktop Linux distribution, its attitude towards Mono is pretty important. In short, Ubuntu sees no reason to remove Mono or Mono applications from the default installation or its repositories.

The basic argument is that while Ubuntu takes patent claims seriously, the simple fact of the matter is that they have received no patent claim from the rights holder (Microsoft). They add that no other project has received such claims either, and that Ubuntu will only act upon claims from the rights holder, and not from 3rd parties.

"Given the above, the Ubuntu Technical Board sees no reason to exclude Mono or applications based upon it from the archive, or from the default installation set," Scott James Remnant writes on behalf of the Ubuntu Technical Board, "Since the Mono stack is already a dependency of the default installation set for many remixes of Ubuntu, including the Desktop Edition, there is no reason to consider a dependency on Mono as an issue when suggesting applications for the default set."

A clear position, and a very pragmatic one. Some of you might wonder why we hammer on about Mono, but the reason for that is simple: a lot of our readers find this a very important issue. They think Mono is a threat to Free software, and seeing Microsoft's track record when it comes to Linux and open source, they have a very compelling reason to be wary of Mono. As such, I think it is important to keep our reader up to date on this, so that they can make an informed decision as to what distribution they want to use.

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