Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Stallman's Anti-Mono

Richard Stallman released a post a few days ago about why the Free Software community shouldn't depend on Mono, or C#, and try their hardest to avoid it. For a simple reason I'll soon get to, I don't buy it. I like Stallman, and I like Free Software and Open Source, but I also like good programs (as do users who could care less whether or not they can modify the source), and should the Free Software alternative not rival or outmatch the proprietary... Well, I'm afraid I'll have to go with the proprietary.

It's also true I dislike Microsoft, and believe their products to be untrustworthy, insecure, and in general bad. I dislike many programs, and as a coder I dislike many languages. I dislike the Java language, I dislike the C# language, and sometimes I dislike the C language. But there are many applications out there, written in these languages, which I do like.

Now I'll admit I'm not the most versed on software patents, but I seem to recall an essay by Paul Graham which claimed that if you are against software patents, you are against patents in general. I've taken that stance for reasons beyond the scope of this post.

Now here's Stallman's reasoning on why we should avoid C#:

"The danger is that Microsoft is probably planning to force all free C# implementations underground some day using software patents."

I don't buy this at all. Microsoft may or may not be planning to undermine free C# with software patents, but even if they are, I don't see why they wouldn't go for bigger prizes like the Linux Kernel which they've been rattling about for years, or why they don't do it right now.

The only strategy I see at all for not doing it right now is that Microsoft has conceded that the Open Source world produces better apps for cheaper. They'll let all these nice C# applications come about, and when there's enough of them, they'll pull the plug so only Microsoft users can run them!

On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons for MS to do it right now, or never do it at all. Do it right now, so the free software folk can't get their tentacles around their baby. Never do it at all, 'cause it'll start a patent war with everything, or the free software community will just resolve the issues of the patents, or loud C# users will cause a big racket, or MS will "win" and C# will become fully locked in with Windows. Don't they remember one of Java's selling points was that it'd run on anything...?

So here's my take on the manner. If the Free Software community should be really concerned about any good C# apps being taken away, then they should focus their efforts into recoding the C# apps into a freer language (like Python :), not into avoiding the apps altogether, or criticising Linux distros who include the apps by default, because the bigger issue here is getting more users on "our" side. Users like good apps, users don't care so much about what they're written in or whether they have a slight chance of disappearing in the future due to legal garbage. The quality of the program comes first, not who wrote it, not what its license is, not what language it was written in.

Posted on 2009-06-28 by Jach

Tags: open source, programming


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