Dousing the Mono Flames

The Free Software community is up in the arms and split into two factions on whether Mono is polluting the ecosystem? The discussions are endless and there is no hope that it will ever subside. I have been following ubuntu-devel-discuss and the topic “shameful censoring of mono opposition” has got the attention of nearly everyone on the list. I think save me, everyone has answered to that discussion. Heck! I am still getting mails now.

I find all these discussions to be getting out of control. Check boycottnovell.com and a tons of other sites. Mono supporters and mono haters are busy discussing whose stand is holier.

Threat

Let me be impartial. There is a threat that Microsoft may one day sue the FOSS companies on the use of it’s IP. Is it true? I don’t find Microsoft can do much as the bigger question is that can they sue each and every single user? They should sue Novell since they are leading the project. Will they sue each and every user out there using Mono?

The threats are more of speculations. Probably Ballmer can tell us what he thinks of Mono exactly, but for that he needs to find time from his busy schedule of dancing and throwing chairs.

Reality

Whatever Mono haters say, the reality is that there is no at par substitute for for GNOME applications like F-Spot, Tomboy and GNOME Do. I would be happy if GNOME is made mono free, but what about these three applications? When it comes to media player, I find Banshee much better than Rhythmbox. Amarok is much better but it is for KDE. I am talking about GNOME apps which don’t need KDE libs to be installed.

I don’t use Tomboy and F-Spot, but GNOME Do is really good. It saves a lot of time. The keybinding saves a lot of time. Everything need not be geek-oriented, but should be such that everyone can be use it. This is in accordance with GNOME Human Interface Guidelines

If anyone wants that GNOME should forget Mono we first need to find good substitutes of the above softwares. An alternative for Tomboy is Gnote. I agree it is lighter, but still it has a long way to go. If Gnote really kicks ass one fine day, that is a day for celebration for anti-mono campaigners.

Middle Ground

Time is money. Let us not waste time by just fighting who is correct and who is wrong. Mono lovers find the other camp stupid and vice-versa. Will the flame ever end? Mailing-lists are too busy these days discussing whether Microsoft can kill Linux by just issuing threats! So what can we do next?

Solution #1

Make it easy to remove Mono stack from GNOME. Probably make it dead easy to do so by including it in Synaptics.

Try issuing this command on the terminal

sudo apt-get remove –purge mono-common

and you get

The following packages will be REMOVED
banshee f-spot libart2.0-cil libavahi1.0-cil libboo2.0-cil libflickrnet2.1.5-cil libgconf2.0-cil libglade2.0-cil
libglib2.0-cil libgmime2.2-cil libgnome-vfs2.0-cil libgnome2.0-cil libgtk2.0-cil libgtkhtml3.16-cil
libmono-addins-gui0.2-cil libmono-addins0.2-cil libmono-cairo1.0-cil libmono-cairo2.0-cil libmono-corlib1.0-cil
libmono-corlib2.0-cil libmono-data-tds1.0-cil libmono-data-tds2.0-cil libmono-security1.0-cil libmono-security2.0-cil
libmono-sharpzip0.84-cil libmono-sharpzip2.84-cil libmono-sqlite2.0-cil libmono-system-data1.0-cil
libmono-system-data2.0-cil libmono-system-web1.0-cil libmono-system-web2.0-cil libmono-system1.0-cil libmono-system2.0-cil
libmono-zeroconf1.0-cil libmono1.0-cil libmono2.0-cil libndesk-dbus-glib1.0-cil libndesk-dbus1.0-cil libtaglib2.0-cil
mono-common mono-gac mono-jit mono-runtime tomboy

Which is enough to scare the shit out of you. Such a long list! Is the system going to break?

To solve the above problem Mark Packages By Task can be a good place to place Mono. Just Uncheck and Voila!

Mono should also find a place here
Mono should also find a place here

Solution #2

Accelerate Gnote development! Gnote is lighter, faster by still behind Tomboy when it comes to features. I personally prefer physical sticky notes at my workplace or at home. I am not here to discuss which one if better, the above is just my persona views and I hope many people agree with me.

I think Tomboy is like a flagbearer of Mono community. Like Linux is for FOSS. Of all my friends who know something about Mono know about Tomboy. Probably it us the other way round – due to Tomboy they came to know that something called mono exists.

Concluding

I have worked on .NET on windows, but prefer Python on Linux. I also think that we can do without mono, but not at this situation when we don’t have better options to Tomboy, F-Spot and GNOME-Do. I always feel that discussing on the cleanliness of mono is required, but it should end somewhere or the other. Why keep it discussing it over ages? Whenever I read a mono v/s anti-mono thread, two thoughts come to my mind which I summarised above.

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Open Source is a Viable Business model

This is probably the most debated and inquired question I have faced till date. Is business model built on top of Open Source softwares viable? Newcomers to this concept find it difficult to digest that a company can survive by opening up the source code of its product. There are also many learned people who still disagree with this fact. This discussion springs up in many forums, IRC channels and mailing list which sometimes turn into a flamewar.

Normally when we say Open Source and Free, the thing we visualize is “free of cost software”. Free always means Free as in sense of Freedom, otherwise stated. None of the FOSS licenses say that you can’t make money out of your software. There are many companies making highly popular Open Source softwares and are always in the forefront like Red Hat, Novell and Mozilla.

Where is the Money?

Now the question comes, where do you make money? One way is to sell the software(intellectual property), other way is to sell the support. A person can download the source code, strip off the Trademark stuffs like name, logos etc and use it without paying a dime. In this scenario, the second way becomes more viable. The reality is that second way is the most famous source of income of these companies(say XYZ). If you have a reputed company(say ABC), you won’t hesitate to pay extra fees for support to keep your business running on the track. You may even consider extending the support if the first support period expires. Sensible companies like ABC care more for support rather than cost of the software they buy. Even if the software is awesome and support turns out to be crap, you are in a quicksand, more you try to come out, more you go in. If the support is excellent, then you would always be assisted by the tech support even if the product is not upto the mark.

People quote that who would anyone give away their hard work for free? I ask, why reinventing the wheel? No body forces you to open the source code, its all upto you to act on their recommendations. If one opens up the source code, people may be able to read the code, find new bugs, performance glitches and even make available the patches. This is how FOSS world works. You can even sell the patches version of your software. It all about sharing and caring.

Real Examples

Let’s have a look how Mozilla makes profit. It gives away its product for free, AFAIK all its products are free. What is its source of income? Check out the search bar of firefox, you would find that the default search engine is set to Google. This is a major traffic source for Google because who cares to change to default search engine? At aleast not me! Google pays a hefty amount for just setting the default search engine, what a trick! Mozilla is all submerged with $$$ these days and its revenue is increasing day by day.

Many companies give away their products for free and charge for support. One of the best example is MySQL AB which was acquired by Sun rcently. MySQL is dual licensed. If anyone wants to use it, they can download the community server and even use it for commercial purposes. No technical support is attached with it. The other is the Enterprise Server which comes with full technical support and even extra propriotery tools if you wish to buy.

Business Prospects

This is the time of global recession. Companies are handing pink slips to many of its regular employees since they don’t have enough money to sustain. A big amount of their budget goes in buying licenses and updates to already highly priced softwares. The money saved by moving to Free (as in Beer and Freedom) softwares can be enormous. The initial cost can be even more due to training the employees, but its the long run which matters the most. Such transition can be taken during merrier times which makes a firm ready for the bad days.

If one wants to start a new business, then highly charged proprietary softwares can be a main hurdle in the beginning itself. Investing a heavy capital can be a deterrent factor for smaller players into the field. If such new firms use Free Software then the initial capital is greatly reduced. More the number of players in market means more competition and its always the customers who benefit from it.

Concluding

I think six paragraphs of explanation is enough to explain this concept, if one still can’t understand, the best place is a flamewar on IRC or mailing lists.