All is not well in Debian land as the venerable free software project has decided to accept Mono-based applications despite a warning issued by GNU guru Richard Stallman.
Debian is just getting ready for the second update of its Linux version 5.0 which goes by the name of Lenny.
What spurred Stallman to speak up is the Mono-based note-taking application Tomboy. He thinks that by sticking the Tomboy package in its distribution, Debian runs a risk of getting sued by Microsoft over its C# and .NET patents.
Mono is the open source implementation of Microsoft's .NET, which is written in its C# language. Mono was bought by Novell in 2003 and supports Linux, Solaris, other Unixes including the BSDs and Mac OS X. It has been used to develop a few Linux desktop programs such as the Evolution email client and Tomboy.
Stallman's concern is that if Debian were to be sued by Microsoft that could threaten downstream desktop and embedded Linux distributions, including Xandros and Ubuntu along with all of their derivatives.
Fortunately everyone still has plenty of time to wave their arms and shout about this problem because the next version of Debian called Squeeze is reportedly still buggier than a tropical swamp.
But if Microsoft was going to bite you'd think its lawyers would have rattled off a few threatening missives after Tomboy was bunged into the GNOME v2.18 desktop two years ago.
Writing in his blog, Stallman argues that making Tomboy a default install package in Debian "leads the [free software] community in a risky direction." He said, "It is dangerous to depend on C#, so we need to discourage its use."
He thinks the problem is not with Tomboy or C# but rather with the danger that Microsoft might someday crack down on its claimed C# patents. If it does, that will "force all free C# implementations underground", he warns.
Microsoft did quite well by pressuring TomTom to settle after suing it over FAT-related patents. Stallman thinks that suing free software developers over C#, and by extension .NET, might be the next logical move in Microsoft's anti-Linux litigation strategy.