Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Where, oh where, is the ECMA-compliant Mono source code?

Last week, Miguel de Icaza, a vice-president at Novell, announced the release of version 2.8 of Mono, a project he set up to create an open source clone of Microsoft's .NET development environment.


De Icaza is extremely punctual in announcing these Mono releases. However, there is one release which he hasn't spoken about for more than a year - and which, I think, he would like everyone to forget about.

The release that I'm referring to is something De Icaza promised on July 6 last year when Microsoft issued a clarification about the licensing of some portions of .NET - C# and the common language infrastructure, allowing developers to use both under the terms of its community promise.

The promise extends to two sets of .NET specifications, 334 and 335, submitted to ECMA, a standards body that has been in existence for nearly 50 years.

De Icaza, who said he was "overflowing with joy" at the clarification, made a confession at the time: what he and the other Mono developers had cooked up thus far contained much more than was detailed in the ECMA specifications.

There have been fears among free and open source software community members that Mono could prove to be a patent trap and this statement from De Icaza confirmed that people were right to entertain such fears - after all if he had boldly gone beyond the ECMA specs, he could well have incorporated code that violated patents belonging to Microsoft.

De Icaza made the following pledge: "In the next few months we will be working towards splitting the jumbo Mono source code that includes ECMA + A lot more into two separate source code distributions. One will be ECMA, the other will contain our implementation of ASP.NET, ADO.NET, Winforms and others."

The man is yet to deliver on that promise. I haven't seen or heard of anybody who has reminded him of the same promise either.



Blogger Jason Melton, who follows the progress of Mono much more closely than I do, said that at least one vocal Mono supporter "has said that they will not separate the portions and have abandoned plans to do so, because 'people would just complain anyway'."

The Microsoft announcement in July last year was made by Peter Galli who wrote: "ECMA 334 specifies the form and establishes the interpretation of programs written in the C# programming language, while the ECMA 335 standard defines the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) in which applications written in multiple high-level languages can be executed in different system environments without the need to rewrite those applications to take into consideration the unique characteristics of those environments.

"It is important to note that, under the Community Promise, anyone can freely implement these specifications with their technology, code, and solutions. You do not need to sign a license agreement, or otherwise communicate to Microsoft how you will implement the specifications."

However it must be noted that the Community Promise does not provide any kind of assurance that any implementation covered by it would not infringe patents or other intellectual property rights of any third party.

I haven't asked either De Icaza or Novell about the release of the ECMA-compliant Mono source - neither will respond, of that I'm sure. De Icaza only deals with journalists who are willing to swallow his spin. The same applies to Novell.

 

 

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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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