I assume those speaking against Mono don't have Java, Flash, Multimedia Codecs, unrar, nvidia/ATI drivers, broadcom wireless firmwares installed... to support such a strong stance against this open project I would expect them to be radically opposed to anything not wholly and fully Free Software. And in this case, I would question their motivation to run a distribution such as Linux Mint or Ubuntu, which aren't 100% Free Software.
In regards to Silverlight, the question isn't whether The World needs yet another Flash-like technology or not, the question is whether to give people another reason not to run Linux when their online banking service, their Ebay account and so on start using this technology. If there's even a shadow of a doubt, if there's the slightest possibility that Silverlight might become popular then we need to work really hard to make it compatible on Linux.
Wanted to chime in to say that this is why I respect Clem and the mint distribution. The vision for the project is very honest and pragmatic, and I feel like it's got the potential to become actually usable for those average users without skill, like my siblings and parents.
I've not bothered considering the mono debate all that much. This is pretty much the first discussion I've read the whole way through. It's largely because the discussions are often filled with Microsoft hatred and "end of Linux" talk. That just doesn't fly in my books.
What does interest me more is the discussion of the ideals that goes on. Ideals, I mean, aside from "anything but Microsoft". As I see it, pretty much every project is a combination of founding ideals and pragmatic compromises. The hope is that the compromises aren't sufficient to undermine the ideals in the long run.
In this debate, a number of ideals come up, and Mint's response will depend on its stance towards them. For example:
. Obviously a staple of any Linux distribution, Mint even keeps the word in its tagline: "From Freedom came Elegance". The anti-Microsoft commentary should be refrained from. But it probably is a valid question whether software freedom is benefiting from the inclusion of mono. In a micro-sense, the answer is clearly "no", since mono is non-free software. But in a macro-sense, it has provided us with a number of excellent free programs, including gnome-do and banshee, presumably both of which will be included as defaults in Mint 8 because of the excellent job they are doing. Also, including compatibility for something like Silverlight is necessary in order to allow an average user to transition with minimal effort. How far does a distribution go in order to attract new users, or to get the best software available now rather than developing new software? That's not a simple answer. Obviously there has to be a point at which a compromise would be too great and would sacrifice freedom entirely. The question that arises: Is mono any less free than the existing compromises we've made? Is it really "too far"?
. Perhaps even more interesting to me is the argument that was mentioned by linuxviolin in his other post. It was brief, but essentially it was "how many dependencies should we add in order to get new software?" If we include support for a whole new coding system for every 3 applications on Linux, the speed and simplicity of the system is going to be compromised, is it not? However, some people emphasize this way too much for my tastes. After all, on modern hardware, Ubuntu is not that
much slower than Debian. If you're really that picky over 5 seconds of boot time, then use the latter. But for myself, and particularly for people who don't have any real computer savvy, the advantages of Mint far outweighs the slight loss of speed and simplicity. Again, to sacrifice this entirely would be terrible... one of the reasons I advocate for Linux is that I truly believe that aside from the bugs, it's a more logical and easy-to-learn system than Windows, even. But it certainly won't seem logical to a new user who has to go through all sorts of loopholes to install MP3 support, a la Fedora. The question that arises: Will adding mono significantly detract from the speed or simplicity of Linux?
. One of the cool things about the free software world is just how much can be accomplished by groups of people who aren't allowing themselves to be bound by the standards. By accepting the standards, the chance at developing something equal or better in a completely community-oriented manner is lost. But clearly one has to accept limited to ingenuity too, since doing the same work as someone else in order to prove you can do it is a silly way to go about life. If Microsoft has provided us with an excellent coding system, then why reinvent the wheel? Then again, why accept the wheel when you can invent a hovercraft? The question that arises: Is there a vision for a mono-but-better? Is it feasible to expect one to arise?
It's a fun debate, anyways. Anything which brings up questions of ideals can really challenge a leadership and a community. I just hope that the people here at Mint can continue offering their logic in a personable, open manner!
...loving life for Christ's glory...