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:
- The issue of choice (an informed choice) is raised. “Informed” being the key word here.
- Some of the animated issues are exacerbated as a result of excessive posturing (on BOTH sides) of the argument.
- Some do not feel comfortable that Mono is largely Novell backed.
- Mono being pushed through to default installations upsets some users.
- Mono is a Microsoft technology, and perhaps its legal status is unclear.
- Other applications can be substituted.
- 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:
- I’m not an application developer and therefore don’t need it.
- I want my system to use less memory and hard drive space.
- 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.