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Miguel goes Mononuclear

Reasons why Ximian is working on Mono & why Ximian's founder is just like Bill Gates

(LinuxWorld) -- I'm running a survey on www.varlinux.org. The question is as follows: "Mono (.Net) should be..."

  • Fully supported in GNOME
  • Fully supported in KDE, GNOME, and others
  • Stabbed, stomped, shredded, shot, stuffed
  • Burned at the stake
  • Illegal
  • Written entirely by Miguel in Visual Basic
  • Mandatory disease for anyone caught using it
  • Pecked to death by 1,000 crazed chickens
  • Other (please comment)

So far, the vote is overwhelmingly against Mono. The top pick is to force Miguel de Icaza to write all of Mono himself in Visual Basic, but "Pecked to death by 1,000 crazed chickens" was a close second a few minutes ago. "Fully supported in KDE, GNOME, and others" pulled into second place just now. No doubt the various proponents and detractors of Mono who read this column will spam the poll, and the balance will change accordingly.

Someone left a comment saying I was being too kind to suggest Miguel write Mono in Visual Basic. He thought Miguel should be required to use GWBASIC or BASICA or perhaps even DEBUG instead. Not a bad idea, but I was thinking more along the lines of forcing Miguel to write it in LOGO. Sure, he'd have to expand the language a little, first, but it would be cool to watch the turtle shell explode like a grenade when someone hacks Passport.

Nah, LOGO is too easy to master. Maybe dBase III. No, I take that back. I'd go with Prolog. Most people who become proficient in Prolog end up in huge buildings where they've removed the plaques with the title "Insane Asylum" (which were nailed over the plaques that read "Lunatic Hospital") and replaced them with something along the lines of "Somestate State Hospital" with the "for the Insane" being understood but rarely stated. Again, perhaps I'm being too kind. If you know of a language that is likely to land Miguel in a hospital for the criminally insane, drop me a line and I'll send the appropriate compiler to Ximian with a note of advice attached. "Miguel, try this as the basis for the CLR in Mono. Very cool!"

Of course, we could force Miguel to write the program in all of the above languages, but that would present a catch-22. He could only do it easily if he'd already written Mono. You see, Miguel seems to think that the point of Mono (and therefore .Net) is to provide programmers with the joyous experience of being able to write LOGO code that can call a dBase III function, which in turn, calls a GWBASIC function.

I'd have thrown Prolog into that example but I'm not sure it's possible to call functions using the language Prolog. Prolog is a declarative language, which means you can't write Prolog code unless you can precede it with the following phrase said in a southern accent, "Well, big Daddy, I do declare!" I happen to know enough about Prolog to suggest how to load a Prolog program written via Mono:

consult('a_psychiatrist')

An offer he couldn't refuse

Back to Miguel. C#? Not if he thinks he can beat Microsoft in a battle of wits or dollars.

Some suggest Bill Gates is paying Miguel de Icaza to promote .Net. Nothing would surprise me, but I doubt it. I see enough similarities between Bill and Miguel that I believe they would be likely to get along well.

For example, both are male. Both have the letters "i" and "l" in their first name. Bill helped write a version of BASIC, and for that some people herald him as a technical genius. Miguel helped write a file manager modeled after Norton Commander, and for that some regard him as one of the greatest programmers in the open source world.

I'm talking about none other than the character mode program Midnight Commander. You may be more familiar with the graphical version, gmc. It was the original file manager for GNOME, though Nautilus later replaced it. If you haven't used gmc for yourself, then just re-read the phrase "replaced by Nautilus." If that's too subtle for you, gmc rivaled Windows for number of unfixed bugs, instability, inflexibility, and un-usability. The source for gmc included some of the sloppiest code ever spit out the mouth of Emacs. I'd say it was almost as bad as mine, but I don't use Emacs.

To be fair, you can't judge a programmer by one failure (two, if you count Bonobo, which at least Miguel seems to think has failed). Miguel may be an extremely competent programmer. Nevertheless, he's not going to hold on to the title "one of the greatest programmers in the open source community" if he keeps slipping out the community's back door. Miguel recently adopted the X11 license for Mono's class libraries instead of LGPL. (Does this mean someone is going to start an XFreeMono project?)

If Miguel were willing to compromise at this point, it probably wouldn't be hard to convince him to bend a little more when Microsoft starts to enforce its patents. Once that happens, Miguel will have one foot in the world of proprietary source. He's eventually going to have to move the other foot, step back out, or fall flat on his face.

Some have suggested that Miguel is simply being a good businessman by adopting and promoting .Net. Sucking up to Bill can be profitable, they say, and they're right. Ximian needs to focus on making a profit, they say, and they're right about that, too. Nevertheless, if you run into anyone of this opinion, I'd advise you to avoid drinking from the same cup he or she uses. It was profitable to suck up to Al Capone, too. That is, until you began to infringe upon his turf. Anyone who doesn't see the similarity (or sees it but thinks Ximian or any other company can flirt with Bill Capone's empire and live) may have some communicable brain disease. If not, then you can be sure their moral fiber is 100 percent polyester, a condition that may also be contagious.

Astute readers will notice that I haven't even addressed the issue of whether or not Mono becomes the foundation for GNOME. Even more astute readers will notice that my bio is just below, which means I'm not likely to in this particular column. I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm not likely to in a future column, either. If you're still wondering how I feel about Mono and .Net, send me an e-mail and I'll write a more candid essay that says what I really think.

More Stories By Nicholas Petreley

Nicholas Petreley is a computer consultant and author in Asheville, NC.

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