np237 (np237) wrote,
np237
np237

Mono and GNOME/Debian Q&A

So many wrong statements were made in the insane troll about Mono, I feel that somehow I need to write some explanations about the current situation. So far the closest post to the reality was made by Tolimar but there are still some inaccuracies in it.

Q: Will Debian squeeze include Mono and Tomboy in the default install?

A: Short answer: yes. Long answer: in the current state of affairs, the GNOME installation media (which, remember, are far from being the only ones) will install tomboy if it is available. This might change depending on the feedback of the installer team and the CD team, but currently there isn’t a compelling reason to change this.

Q: Wasn’t it excluded from lenny because of problems with Mono?

A: There were two reasons to exclude Tomboy from lenny: the size, and the lack of support for some of our architectures. It has nothing to do with anything specific to Mono.

Q: What has changed since lenny that makes this situation evolve?

A: First, the size of Mono packages and of Tomboy itself was considerably reduced, thanks to awesome work from the Debian CLI team. Second, the availability of GNote means that architectures without Mono support can have a stripped down version (although this makes the situation far from ideal for these architectures, see next question).

Q: Why not ship GNote instead by default?

A: GNote was written for bad reasons, without even respecting the GPL copyright requirements. But more importantly, its maintenance model is going to make it only follow behind the Tomboy lead, as any code changes in Tomboy will need to be translated to C++. It also supports less languages and less features. Furthermore, it was introduced in Debian for political reasons, by a maintainer who doesn’t use it and isn’t involved in GNOME maintenance.

Q: Isn’t GNote much smaller?

A: Not really. C++ bindings are larger than CLI bindings, so the only real differences are the size of the Mono interpreter, and the size of translations. In the end, Tomboy with all its dependencies is only 10 MiB larger; that includes 3 times as many translations, and some important functionality.

Q: I disagree with this decision. What can I do to change this?

A: Get yourself seriously involved in either of Tomboy development, GNOME development, Debian GNOME packaging, or the Debian installer. Then, maybe your opinion will mean more than a troll on your pet free software news site.

Q: Tomboy should use Python / Vala / Java / Parrot / Lisp / (insert here your favorite pet language).

A: The developers prefer C#. While I’d personally appreciate if they could switch to a less controversial language like Vala (mainly because it would avoid trolls), I have no right to tell them to do so.

Q: Why is there a difference of treatment between Mono and Java?

A: Because there are about 30 applications using Gtk# in Debian, several of which are among the most popular in their category, while there is exactly 0 useful application using java-gnome.

Q: Is Mono free software?

A: Yes, it is 100% free software. Just as everything in Debian, it was scrutinized by FTP masters who found it is free. Most of the code is under the GPL, LGPL or MIT licenses.

Q: Are there patent issues with Mono?

A: Just like any other software, Mono certainly infringes on thousands of stupid software patents. However the Debian policy with patents is to put them in a trash and pee on them, unless they are actively enforced with reasonable chances to win. The situation of Mono is much more comfortable than (for example) that of MP3 decoders, for which patents are actively enforced; it’s just that they are so lame that we choose to ignore them.

Q: Are there specific dangers coming from Microsoft regarding Mono?

A: Microsoft has claimed to possess patents on some Mono compatibility layers with non-standard Microsoft APIs. Not only this is completely irrelevant to GNOME, since nothing in Gtk# and related stuff uses these compatibility layers, but if you know how things work in the patent world, you already understand this is merely FUD. Microsoft has nothing, but claims to have something in order to scare consumers away from Mono. Actually, not enforcing the patents, while knowing they are violated, would make their case very weak in a patent suit. What their behavior shows is that they are very afraid of Mono. It is stealing customers from their best and most advanced product, their lead development framework. There is absolutely zero chance that they are sustaining Mono from behind, since its very existence is going to make them lose a large amount of money.

Q: Would it make Debian uncomfortable if these patents were starting to be enforced?

A: In the very unlikely situation where Mono would be found to infringe on valid Microsoft patents, we would simply have to remove it from the Debian archive. We are not short from alternatives, and it wouldn’t be long before we had drop-in replacements in Vala or Python.

Q: What is the agenda of Roy Schestowitz, Sam Varghese, Robert Millan and their friends?

A: What they are doing is giving credit to the Microsoft FUD in order to also scare consumers and developers away from Mono. They want to scare them away to other free software environments, but what they achieve is scaring people away to buy Microsoft products instead. It is tempting to conclude, because of the result, that they are employed by Microsoft underhand, but applying Hanlon’s razor, I think they are just incredibly incompetent, to the point where they are dangerous. These people are toxic to the community, and we really need them to shut up. If they ever reach their goal and destroy a great piece of free software like Mono, they will go on and find something else to destroy. Remember, their goal is to SDD: scare, disrupt and destroy. You cannot build anything useful or interesting with such goals.

Q: But Richard Stallman says they are right!

A: RMS is also the guy who wants us to ship non-free documentation. I don’t think RMS has enough connection left to the real world for his opinion to be considered relevant.

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