Mono in Ubuntu, Yes or No? 06/16/09

It seems there’s a fair bit of discussion (heated at times), about the current issues with Mono being installed by default in Ubuntu Linux. I’ve seen and read some of the flame wars currently in blog posts and forums. Seems that an ordinary person like myself can be easily mislead if not properly informed. The following post is simply my opinion, I’m not suggesting that it’s fact. I asked one of my blog readers (“ql”):

“What’s the scoop with mono (I don’t use it), I’ve seen a fair bit of flame wars over it. I appreciate that it can be removed. Why aren’t some people happy with that (the ability to remove it)? I guess I’m missing something there? I would think if nobody used it anymore (or the majority stopped using it) that it would go the way of the Dodo – No?”

And received this reply:

“Yes, it’s currently a political hot potato, but, in my view, there is an issue about its use which is significant and should really be an informed choice to use or not to use. The debate is over-heated, with ludicrous statements on both sides of the fence. The fact that mono is largely Novell-backed doesn’t sit comfortably with the community at the moment, and the way that it is being pushed into the default installation of Ubuntu and Debian (Fedora have decided against it) via gnome is a judgment call with which some find inflammatory. It is a working of a current and critical Microsoft technology, whose legal status is, until MS chooses to clarify it, debatable. That’s enough to make me uncomfortable, but, on top of that, for me, I prefer zim and gthumb to the two apps that ship as default which require mono – tomboy and f-spot. The fact that by replacing those two apps, nearly 50MB of disk space is saved is a bonus.”

Needless to say, the answer was astute in that it summarized some issues in a precise and clear manner:

  1. The issue of choice (an informed choice) is raised. “Informed” being the key word here.
  2. Some of the animated issues are exacerbated as a result of excessive posturing (on BOTH sides) of the argument.
  3. Some do not feel comfortable that Mono is largely Novell backed.
  4. Mono being pushed through to default installations upsets some users.
  5. Mono is a Microsoft technology, and perhaps its legal status is unclear.
  6. Other applications can be substituted.
  7. The removal of Mono can save a large amount of disk space.

Do I want Mono? Clearly my “Yes or No” needed to be an informed decision. After all, I use Tomboy Notes (a lot!) and need to migrate them prior to removing Mono, should that be the appropriate thing to do.

While beginning my research, one thing I found particularly annoying is the crying, shrieking and clothes ripping found in some blog posts. Of particular note was Linux Canuck’s post “Ubuntu is Driving Me Away“. In my opinion, statements such as “…Anything that starts with Microsoft and goes via the sellout, Novell, cannot be good…”, “…Mono has infected Gnome. Ubuntu uses Gnome…” and “…Why use anything that is tainted when I can use something that is not? Mono and Novell are tainted and will be forever in my eyes…” only further increase anger, resentment, etc. and (in my opinion) serves to demonstrate to new users that Linux (Ubuntu) is not the happy, cooperative place, that I think it is. Inflammatory statements such as these (and statements on other sites) only make Ubuntu Linux users look bad. Yes, there may be issues with Microsoft. Yes, there may be issues with Novell and evidently there may be issues with Mono – But that is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. If I don’t like something in an OS (and there’s lots I don’t like in various distributions of Linux – Including Ubuntu), I don’t think leaving is the answer. To me at least (for the moment) insinuating the ditching of Ubuntu for another OS (because of Mono) is like having my arm amputated because I have a cut on my finger. In my opinion these excessive emotional outbursts are not helping to inform people. After reading this particular post, I was still no closer to finalizing a choice. However, it did give me insight into the passionate positions of some Ubuntu users. While I did think the blog posters expressions were “over the top”, I did appreciate the sentiments.

On another post Boycott Novell also suggests leaving Ubuntu:

“…What exactly is happening with Mono in Ubuntu? This is not intended to seem like a complaint about Ubuntu, but maybe a constructive way forward would be voting with the feet and rewarding distributions that do listen and do recognise the problems with Moonlight and Mono…”

All this posturing and air blowing makes a user such as myself feel that perhaps there’s a minority of people trying to stamped the heard into removing Mono? One thing I value with Linux, is that we are not sheep and cattle, many of us are a little more informed and sophisticated – And free to make our own choice. Score 1 to the “Yes” camp – Leave Mono in?

Have you seen the Poll “Should Mono be included by default in Ubuntu?

Looking at Ubuntu’s brainstorm site I found “Idea #110: No Mono by default in Ubuntu ” where it said:

“…Remove Mono and dependent applications from default Ubuntu Desktop CD. Mono occupies a significant amount of the valuable space on the live cd that could be used for translations and other things. Applications using mono use much more memory than their non-mono counterparts. Functionality can be provided by other applications that are just as good.

This will NOT remove Mono or any of the applications from the Ubuntu repositories, just the default Desktop CD. (Although removing them from the CD may mean they don’t need to be in Main anymore)

This affects two applications included by default: tomboy and f-spot. Tomboy can be replaced by either sticky notes or zim and f-spot by gthumb…”

Again, the issue of space is raised as well as the issue of memory – In that the writer suggests that non-Mono boxes use less RAM than Mono boxes. To me at least, the memory and disk space issues are relevant points to consider. Ubuntu’s wiki page: No-Mono-by-Default backed this issue up with their statement:

“…An official developer tests to see if Mono is still the best choice for Ubuntu in a clear documented manner, by testing the “expected next version shipping code” of: gThumb F-Spot Tomboy

It is also part of this spec that if gThumb is determined to replace F-Spot, Tomboy should be removed as 50 MB is far to much for one note-taking application on the default CD…”

As such my current thought includes removing it, score 1 for the “Nos” – I can save space and memory usage, I like that!

Mono largely backed by Novell? Well… First of all, What is Mono? and Do I need it? Let’s check their site:

“…Mono is a cross platform, open source .NET development framework…” and “…The Mono Project aims to make developers productive and happy: Mono 2.4 is our gift to the world. Sponsored by Novell (http://www.novell.com), the Mono open source project has an active and enthusiastic contributing community and is positioned to become the leading choice for development of Linux applications…”

A few thoughts came to mind…

I’m not a .net developer, I don’t need this. The second statement I though was very presumptuous (to say the least). Mono is their “gift to the world” and positioned to be the leading choice for Linux application developers? I’m not a developer, and (laughing) I’m not a gift to planet earth (although I like to think I am at times), but I suspect these statements are somewhat boasting in nature? However, personal thought aside. Score 1 for the “Nos”, I’m not a .net developer, nor a Linux developer, so I don’t need this.

Based on the above, I think back to the emotion in Linux Canuck’s blog and wonder if he’s not simply looking at this issue from an emotional end-user perspective? While the statements he made were very inflammatory in my opinion, again, that post gave me pause. I wonder then what Linux application developers have to say about mono? I decided to search Google using Why Mono should be included in Ubuntu by default. Near the top there were a bunch of post’s I already read, then I found the search result “APEBOX.ORG – » Blog Archive » Here we go again – why Mono doesn’t suck“. As I read the post, there were a lot of pros as to the benefits of Mono, in particular is the statement “…Mono provides a well-balanced framework to enable Free Software to be developed quickly, effectively, and efficiently…” However, I’m not a developer, so this (Mono) is not useful to me.

Further down the statements that really caught my attention were:

“…Why Mono should be included in Ubuntu by default

It shouldn’t. Not in the sense that has been publicised on blogs, newsgroups, forums, and so on. We don’t want Mono installed by default on any distribution. Mono is a software platform, and software platforms are boring at a user level. Ubuntu shouldn’t ship with Java, Scheme, Assembly, LISP, etc, frameworks by default either. They are not interesting to users…”

So it seems to me, that even some developers are maintaining and impartial view in the sense that the inclusion or removal of Mono should be solely based upon the user – That is the freedom to choose. I also read several other posts on countless blogs that alluded to Fedora removing it from the default installation. It really begs the question why Ubuntu is not doing this? In fact, I could not find a substantial statement, from Ubuntu, as to the reasoning behind their default inclusion.

On Free Software Daily, I found a disturbing link to Gnome goes Mono and jumps into the Patent Trap, wherein they state:

“…A couple of years back, the Gnome desktop environment developers have taken the decision to reengineer the Gnome desktop around the Mono framework. This decision has mainly been influenced by… a very vocal employee of Novell. Recent developments thus request us to recall the pieces of the puzzle in order to understand what might really be going on.

Reasonable doubt has been rased to whether or not Mono can actually be deployed freely. Mono itself is basically a free and halfway portable implementation of the .NET framework developed by Microsoft. However, the .NET framework itself is subject to a large amount of software patents, which cover the concepts used within the .NET framework. Since these are concepts and not individual implementations (which are covered by Copyright, which is certainly untouched by a reimplementation), they most likely also apply to the Mono framework.

…since Novell has closed a patent deal with Microsoft… which undoubtedly also covers the .NET patents. However, all conventional Linux and Open Source vendors would not be able to distribute Gnome as it would be covered by the .NET patents Microsoft owns.

This amounts to an easy way for Novell to effectively lock in Gnome users to their own products. Gnome would no longer be a real Free Software project, even though the code remains freely available…”

If this is indeed the case, it makes me (and end-user) wonder if I should not drop Gnome and use KDE instead. I don’t want to leave Ubuntu. For me at least this is ahead of the game. Will I remove mono from my system? Probably yes, because:

  1. I’m not an application developer and therefore don’t need it.
  2. I want my system to use less memory and hard drive space.
  3. I personally, do not agree with some of the reasons for including Mono as the default.

Should Mono be included in an Ubuntu install by default? Honestly, I don’t know because I have not seen any information directly from Ubuntu (or Canonical) as to why they are going to continue including it, maybe there is a valid reason of which I’m not aware – I don’t know. If anyone from Ubuntu reads this post, I really hope they can shed some light on the Ubuntu position.

Do you love to share?


You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 Responses to this article

 
Vadim P. June 16, 2009 Reply

I don’t see any apps in default Ubuntu of being worthy at all, so no. The only good one that I know is Gnome-DO, and that’s not shipped by default.

I don’t use Tracker (pretty sure there’s an alternative to that anyway), F-Spot is just lol (stuck with Picasa, the only decent thing), and Tomboy has been replaced by a faster, less resource-hungry Gnote already.

Gnome-DO is still here though. And the argument that Mono breeds better software, as raised by the Mono camp, is absolute bogus as Gnome-DO is not an original thing at all.

 
 
UbuntuLinuxHelp June 16, 2009 Reply

@Vadim P.

Thanks for the suggestions. As mentioned in the post, I’m going to remove Mono, and it’s nice to know there are replacements for one of the apps that depend on it.

 
Rue June 16, 2009 Reply

Wow, what the eff was this crap article about. You didnt even try to be impartial, Im really mad I read that.

You simply discounted everything that was anti-mono. Well, let me put it simply for you.

SCREW MONO. Keep that garbage out of Linux. It has legal issues that have not been addressed by MS and it’s not required. There are many other languages and platforms that can be used to program. No need in supporting MS. Look at MS history, and see how much they have tried to EEE.

The majority of users whether developers or not seem to agree that mono should be kept out of Ubuntu. Dont give a damn about their syntax or if it’s supposedly faster than x language.

Also, next time try to be more partial intstead of a journalist that misleads people with the opening. Soooo biased, one-sided coverage. Digital middle finger.

 
 
UbuntuLinuxHelp June 16, 2009 Reply

@Rue

You obviously did not read the complete article.

At the end I clearly said that I don’t agree with Mono being included by default.
I also said I had no idea why Ubuntu is including it.
I even said that I’m removing it off my system.

Next time, before you start flinging mud my way, please read the post in it’s entirety and don’t assume the conclusion without first reading it – Thanks.

 
DBO June 17, 2009 Reply

Hey UbuntuLinuxHelp,

I really liked your article, if nothing else it does help me see where some people, especially outsiders, are coming from on this issue. First I should mention that I am a core developer of GNOME Do and as such I obviously hold a positive view of Mono. I’d like to share my view on this whole thing, and I will take it piece by piece. Please keep in mind that as you read it, I intend it all with a very even, and calm tone. I hope it comes across well.

anti-Mono camp:
Most of them are fairly level headed and will have a decent talk with you actually. Some however have spammed our bug tracker and mailing list in the past and left defamatory comments about my personal work. It is upsetting that someone would do that to something I do in my free time. I do not push it on anyone after all. I’d really like to see a lot of the emotions put aside so we can have a real nice talk about the serious issues.

pro-Mono camp:
We have made mistakes and been a bit too strong sometimes. I have gotten too upset when my bugtracker gets spammed or someone tells me I am trying to kill Linux. We need to be clearer, and calmer.

Microsoft (patents ignored):
I don’t think it matters that Microsoft comes up with the spec (I will cover the patent thing, please wait). Microsoft is a company like any other and the fact that they invented C# makes it no worse than if AT&T had invented it or if Sun had or Apple. However Microsoft does get a bigger knee jerk reaction.

Microsoft Patents:
I am not a lawyer, but here is my view. There are parts of mono that are covered by patents here and there, but they are the System.Data namespace and the System.Windows.Forms namespace. Neither of these seem to be used by open source apps such as Banshee/Tomboy/F-Spot/GNOME Do. This nicely sidesteps most of the patent issues to start with, after all, we use GTK# and SQlite. If there are other potential violations someone calmly pointing them out so they too can be avoided would be nice. Nobody seems interesting in actually resolving this, they just want to use it as a way to throw out the baby with the bath water.

The rest of the language is available as an EMCA spec and is therefore not covered by any patents (as goes my understanding). Additionally there is supposed to be royalty free license available, however it has been shown to be difficult (maybe impossible?) to obtain. Someone should exhaustively explore this. I read about someone that did try, but they seemed way too content to say its not easy and didn’t really push to hard for it. No lawyers got involved, which they probably should have.

Mono is for Developers:
So are libraries, like libc, but we ship them because applications use them. The reason mono gets shipped is not because you use it, but because an application you use uses it. Additionally Ubuntu only ships the parts of mono that applications are actually using (you dont have to install the whole thing). The parts clearly covered by patents are not shipped by default at all. Again, I am not a lawyer (and neither is the other side) so we need to really get one involved to find out for sure how this all should be handled.

Risk to the User:
The user is not at risk. Who is MS going to sue? You the user, or me the software developer? If I get sued I wont be dropping the project, worse comes to worse I’ll port it but the chances of it going that far are slim to none. Not to mention there is quite a bit of a patent portfolio on both sides. Something of a patent cold war, they sue us, we sue them, everyone loses. Still, no risk to the end user, even if things go nuclear.

Why Ubuntu Ships It:
Ubuntu ships it because the applications that are the best of the best use Mono (some of them). Tomboy is still better than GNote as it has a more vibrant developer community around it and more plugins. F-Spot is better than gThumb as gThumb is not actually a photo manager, its file system based, not tag based. Banshee is probably going to be replacing Rhythmbox for those who paid attention to the Ubuntu Developers Summit. This will mean that the default music player on Ubuntu will also by mono based. In all fairness, banshee is much more actively developed than Rhythmbox (which is hardly maintained these days). As a distro, Ubuntu makes a good choice to ship software that is developed actively over software that is hardly maintained, regardless of language.

HDD Space:
Its a weird argument. Mono in full uses less than a pennies worth of hard drive space. Yeah its 50MB, but so are 10-15 mp3′s. It’s not that much really. I can see the argument made for it making space on the install CD however. That makes sense until they try to push GNote which requires gtkmm which will take up sizable space to get all the C++ bindings for gnome in there. That and somebody would have to write a reasonable replacement for f-spot.

Memory Requirements:
This is a completely bunk argument. I’ve fixed maybe 100 memory leaks in GNOME Do since I started hacking it. 90% of those leaks were from the C libraries we were binding. The truth is, its easier to leak memory in C where you have to do your own memory management. We have sent 3 or 4 patches upstream to fix big ones and they have fixed the rest or provided us a way to get around the leaks. The runtime itself has maybe a 10MB penalty on memory, but that does not grow with time, and is shared between all mono apps running at the time. In fact the more mono apps you run, the more memory they will share which can often result in a net gain of free memory. To be honest however, we are not nearly there yet, thats just a “imagine if” kind of thing.

Anyhow, thats how I feel. I am not a lawyer, just a coder and developer. I would love to hear what other people think, so long as they can express it rationally and simply without getting emotional over the issue. Also if anyone actually is a lawyer, please let us know =)

DBO

 
 
UbuntuLinuxHelp June 17, 2009 Reply

@DBO

VERY nice input, please can you see: Mono – Discussion With a Developer
Perhaps you and others could shed more light on this?

 
Pedro Quaresma June 17, 2009 Reply

Whenever this discussion arises, I always point people to:

“Why Mono is Currently An Unacceptable Risk”
http://www.gnome.org/~seth/blog/mono

 
 
UbuntuLinuxHelp June 17, 2009 Reply

@Pedro Quaresma

Thanks, I used that link you provided in another post (in the post link that replies to DBO’s comment below). Again, I appreciate your valuable input.

 
UserOrdinary June 17, 2009 Reply

Would support the rejection of any patent encumbered software or development tools based on: 1) past history of the corporate body (MS) holding the IP rights is less than stellar, 2) why go with a commercial standard when public domain options exist that seem to in the long run be better alternatives, even if unpolished in the short term. I would be very wary of any patent encumbered software at least until some sanity enters the whole IP process and software patents are declared dead and buried, like they should be, this from someone who is in an IP intensive field.

 
jay June 17, 2009 Reply

to me, the issue isn’t so much whether the user is at risk – i don’t think for a moment that microsoft will come after me as an end user in two years after mono is well and truly entrenched in multiple major distributions.

i don’t even think they will come after canonical or distro:s themselves. they don’t want our money, they don’t want to give us licenses – for a fee or otherwise – they want to be able to say to their customers who are comtemplating going with open source solutions over their own:

“look, novell got patent protections from us – that must mean we have valid patents. we’re not going to point them out so OSS can fix them, we’re just saying. this means you would be under threat if you go with, say, X linux. so how about going with our solutions, dear CIO? or at the very least novell’s? you’d be safe then. just saying.”

it’s not a tool to hurt us, as users, it’s not a weapon to be wielded in battle, it’s a cloud of uncertainty to gain/maintain market share. at the expense of whom? at the expense of the whole OSS community, that’s who. and we’re supplying the very fuel for this, seemingly willingly in the name of… ease-of-development(?) because we say:

“hey, they’re not gonna come after us, don’t be silly – and if they do, we’ll fix it”. (that’s canonical’s stance).

i know we can fix it, or avoid it, or work around it, if it was pointed out to us, if they came after us, but that’s not what it’s for… it’s market share. it’s fud. it’s embrace, extend, extinguish.

what if someone builds something very useful in mono/c# and it’s adopted by corporations who are smart enough to go OSS, but not wise enough to steer clear of mono. perhaps they even say to themselves “hey this mono solution is cool, because c# developers are a dime a dozen, and we can grab windows developers as well as linux if push comes to shove, we can even port it to run it on windows if we wanted to move back – we’re golden.”

well, the day will surely come after the technology is adopted when microsoft will point to this cloud of uncertainty and say to that CIO “look, patent issues – go with us, we might come after you if you don’t, and that’s costly” – the CIO will shiver in his boots, as they do, and go back to MS. huge losses for OSS. it’s gonna be cheaper than potential legal wrangles.

do they need to come after us to get what they want? not at all. do they need to go after canonical, nope. we’re both safe. we’re also both losing users, and we’re losing market share, and developers, and we did it to ourselves.

would microsoft do this? would they really be so rotten? really? surely not. surely i’m crying wolf.

look at their history. please, just look.

(also consider; if the anti-mono-camp, who simply want mono out of default installs, is wrong – what have we lost? if the mono-camp is, horrors, wrong – what have we lost?)

but yeah, the anti-mono-camp just paranoid. just like every other technology/business/standard were “just paranoid” up until very the last moment right before they were usurped by MS.

 
DBO June 17, 2009 Reply

@jay
I cant devote much time to a long answer at the moment but I think you have some valid points. There is however a flip side to this, and thats that the takeover of linux is not really about market share. Linux cant take the desktop from microsoft as things stand now (and I will be happy to expound on this later). Where linux stands a real chance is getting to new territory before MS time and time again. Apple has been doing this not with PC’s but with integrated devices (iPhone, iPod, iFoo) with great success. This is the same success story linux will be trying to grab in the future. More later.

DBO

 
jay June 18, 2009 Reply

@DBO – granted, i don’t think OSS is purely about market share either. that’s actually the beauty of it, and also why we have a chance where so many others have faltered. linux/OSS doesn’t have a business plan, doesn’t have share holders (there are players in it who do, but they’re just that – players). OSS will survive until the last person on earth is using it. it won’t be killed off because it’s not profitable, people wont stop developing for it because they aren’t the dominant force on the desktop or any other measurement – we’re hobbyists at the core, we do it because we love it.

and because we see the benefits. but we also see that the world (the software portion of the world anyway) would be a better place if more people saw this, if more people understood, if, as it were, we had greater market share. and we’re gaining.

it’s be a shame to give that up. emphasis on give, because the way we’re going it’s not somebody taking that away, we’re giving it freely.

 
LinuxCanuck June 18, 2009 Reply

First off, I have an emotional connection to Ubuntu. I have used it as my main distro for a few years and I am active on several help forums. So leaving Ubuntu is a big thing with me. I have been a big defender of Ubuntu and Canonical in the past. Leaving Ubuntu will mean that I will be leaving behind, not just a distro, but something that I have been passionate about.

Secondly, Novell is a sellout. They could have stood tall and not knuckled under like Fedora and Canonical stood up for Linux. I take nothing back in that.

Thirdly, Microsoft is opposed to open source and what it stands for and has said so on numerous occasions and have actively spread FUD against it. Their recent litigation against Tom Tom shows what lengths they will go to protect their IP. By using .NET in the form of Mono then we are playing into their hands. It is not a question of IF, but WHEN they litigate, IMO.

Finally, the intent of my rant was not to educate, but to express my confusion and dismay at the inconsistencies in the way that Ubuntu is handling this.

I have no problem with Mono being available, but see no reason why I should be forced to install it in the same ways that I should not be forced to use proprietary drivers and codecs.

The fact that good applications are being written in Mono is a red herring. Tomboy may be excellent. But until this issue is made clear it is tainted in my eyes and in the eyes of many. If Microsoft came out tomorrow and said that Mono was not an infringement on their IP then I would not have an objection.

Until that time I believe that including Mono is unnecessary and individuals who use it are opening us up to unnecessary risk in the same way that Tom Tom would have been well advised not to include FAT32 file in their devices when there were alternatives.

Mono is not an emotional issue with me. Microsoft does not bother me. I don’t use any of their products and want to keep it that way. Leaving Ubuntu is not something that I would take lightly and that is emotional for me.

Ubuntu is driving me away if they continue to push Mono at me. There is talk of adding Banshee as part of their installation. I don’t like being pushed and being spun and that is why I am venting.

For now I will stick with Kubuntu.

 
lo sauer September 8, 2012 Reply

I personally believe that Mono should be included or the pros and cons weighed fairly, since many developers are keen to move away from the JAVA ecosystem.

Interesting post.

Leave a Reply

close comment popup

Leave A Reply