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RMS says Debian Mono decision 'risky'

The founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Matthew Stallman, has termed Debian's decision to include Mono as part of its default desktop task a move that "leads the community in a risky direction."

In a short statement published on the FSF site, Stallman, who launched the GNU Project in 1984 to develop a complete Unix-like operating system which is free software, slammed Debian's move which was taken "for the sake of Tomboy which is an application written in C#."

He said: "It is dangerous to depend on C#, so we need to discourage its use."

The Debian GNU/Linux project has plans to include Tomboy, a note-taking application in its next release, Squeeze. There has been no discussion about it on any of the regular mailing lists for Debian developers; the decision was made by a lone developer who packages the GNOME desktop for the distribution.

A port of Tomboy known as Gnote was released recently

Stallman said: "The problem is not unique to Mono; any free implementation of C# would raise the same issue. The danger is that Microsoft is probably planning to force all free C# implementations underground some day using software patents.

"This is a serious danger, and only fools would ignore it until the day it actually happens. We need to take precautions now to protect ourselves from this future danger."

He said that implementing C# itself was not objectionable. "Free C# implementations permit users to run their C# programs on free platforms, which is good. (The GNU Project has an implementation of C# also, called Portable.NET.) Ideally we want to provide free implementations for all languages that programmers have used."

Red Hat's community Linux distribution, Fedora, recently decided to throw out Mono altogether from its default install, and replaced Tomboy with Gnote.

While pro-Mono zealots often claim that it is possible to obtain a royalty-free, reasonable and non-discriminatory licence for the use of Microsoft patents which may be part of Mono, in reality, it is extremely difficult to even find out how one can do so.

What one finds is things like this statement from 2004: "Importantly, Miguel (de Icaza, the Novell vice-president who started the Mono project) also said that Ximian had a letter from Microsoft, Intel and HP stating that they would offer *royalty-free* RAND licensing to the ECMA-submitted components of .NET."

Of course, nobody else has ever been shown that letter. One doubts that anybody ever will get to see it, either. One doubts if it even exists.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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