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No Point to Mono, dotGNU? de Icaza and Weatherley beg to differ

No Point to Mono, dotGNU? de Icaza and Weatherley beg to differ

Neil Davidson's commentary, "Mono and dotGNU: what's the point?," posted on The Register's Web site (www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/35481.html), questioned the value of these open source projects and argued that they in fact strengthen Microsoft's position. .NETDJ Editor-in-Chief Derek Ferguson invited Miguel de Icaza and Rhys Weatherley, the forces behind Mono and Portable .NET, to respond to Davidson's comments.

Miguel de Icaza:
We read with interest the piece from Mr. Davidson regarding the purpose of Mono. I want to clarify a few things, because Mr. Davidson does not seem to have looked at the Mono Project Roadmap, nor tried a recent release. Code signing (Authenticode and strongnames) has been implemented; remoting has been completed (SOAP, binary, HTTP, TCP transports), and most of the side-by-side assemblies work is done and will be part of 1.0.

The Mono Project Roadmap (www.go-mono.com/mono-roadmap.html) contains the release time frames for the various features of Mono and will help him and other readers understand exactly what our plans are - no speculation and no half-baked facts.

I am surprised by his lack of motivation to research our project, given that Mr, Davidson is the technical director of a company that sells .NET software; you would think that the use of Mono would help him reach customers using Linux, mainframes, or Mac OS X.

Mono is based on the ECMA 334/355 standards. We like the C# language and its runtime (as does Mr. Davidson's company) because it increases our developer productivity, reducing the time-to-market of our new products - this despite the fact that we do not implement Code Access Security, which will be used only in embedded situations, a segment that we are not ready to address in Mono 1.0.

We want to improve the productivity of Linux, mainframe, and OS X developers by bringing this unique platform to other platforms. Just as Borland, SGI, Sun, and IBM provide compilers, runtimes, and tools for other languages, we provide such a piece for C#/.NET.

Mr. Davidson does not seem to understand why bootstrapping a C# compiler is important, so let me explain this in terms he will understand:

  • Using C# to write a C# compiler improves our development speed.
  • In order to harvest the benefits of C# productivity on Unix, we need a bootstrapping system.
  • It allows us to write software on Unix without it and to be self-sufficient to develop software, as opposed to requiring one Windows machine to develop software and another to run it.
  • It means that we trust our technology enough - and that it is solid enough - that a relatively complex piece of software not only runs, but is binary-compatible with the Microsoft runtime.
Mono's objectives are not "to break Microsoft's monopoly." We do not define ourselves in this way; there are more important social causes to fight. We look at the ECMA 334/335 standards as a solid foundation to improve Linux, to more quickly bring more software to it, and to make the development process more fun.

Rhys Weatherley:
Mr. Davidson's claims that DotGNU and Mono are behind and playing catch-up have already been dealt with elsewhere. Both projects are further along than they might appear. Besides, everyone has to walk before they can run. Complaining that we aren't done - while not actually offering to help - is somewhat curious.

The main thing that I'll take issue with is his confusing "free as in beer" with "free as in speech."

Microsoft already provides the compilers and the .NET Framework for free; you can download them from www.microsoft.com/net. Microsoft's version of the framework is definitely not "free" in the ways that DotGNU cares about:

It offers no source code - except to the heavily subsetted Rotor - and no rights to redistribute modified versions, etc. Just because something is available doesn't mean that it can be used in good conscience.

Just as the GNU project stepped in many years ago to replace Unix with a free alternative, we've stepped up to do the same for .NET. The proprietary Unix diehards scoffed at GNU, right up until GNU/Linux put them out of business.

It is necessary to build our own infrastructure as a first step to extending it to do things that Microsoft never expected. Using nonfree tools to build free software is not a solution because it still leaves you at the mercy of the nonfree vendor; some people don't get this.

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