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Microsoft's .NET goes Web 2.0 with Sadville

Open alternative prepares for programming

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Sadville is rolling out the open-source implementation of Microsoft's .NET on its virtual infrastructure in a step towards enabling software development.

Linden Labs is installing the Mono Project's virtual machine on its heavily trafficked Second Life servers - Sadville runs more than 2,500 clustered servers.

The move means Sadville losers will now have the option of running scripts written in the existing Linden Scripting Language (LSL) on the current engine or with a Mono-based engine.

Mono founder Miguel de Icaza said Mono-enabled scripts will be processed by a special LSL compiler that converts them to the ECMA Common Language Implementation (CLI) byte code recognized by Mono. The engine will be deployed as an option in version 1.24 of the Sadville infrastructure due out this week.

Linden claimed it would see a 220-fold speed increase from a new script translation engine for its simulation environment. Linden said the Mono virtual machine technology will improve reliability of scripts.

In addition to more speed and better reliability, Linden said Mono-based scripts will make it easier and more efficient to transport scripts across servers as Sadville addicts move around in the simulated environment. Scripts are used to build virtual "objects" such as buildings or pets. Enterprising Sadvillians can sell or barter objects like real people do in the real world.

So where precisely is this heading? Linden called the integration of Mono with Sadville the "first step in the evolution of Second Life into a true software development platform". Eventually this could enable developers to create scripts in other scripting languages such as Java or Python.

Keeps its distance

Mono was initiated by software developer Ximian before it was acquired by Novell in 2004. Microsoft's relationship with the open-source implementation of its precious .NET development and runtime platform has never been exactly straightforward.

Microsoft has accepted, even encouraged the open-source implementation of .NET and the more recent Moonlight - Mono's implementation of Microsoft's Silverlight media plug in.

Microsoft has promised to protect Novell customers who used Mono from legal action by Microsoft - although the status of non-Novell users of Mono remains unclear. It has also given Moonlight users patent protection, indemnifying users from aggressive patent holders and litigators by providing codecs worth $1m to every user downloading Moonlight from Novell

The company, though, has never gone out of its way to champion Mono.

The threat of Microsoft legal action has, arguably, slowed take up of Mono. Novell's relationship with Microsoft - which deepened this week - could have helped persuade Linden it was safe, though. Linden joins high-profile users such as Wikipedia and Mozilla along with a string of smaller projects in using Mono.®

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