Who you gonna call?
So there was some joking around on IRC about XUL and Ghostbusters... Without any reflection on ZUUL being the ultimate enemy, just that XUL was a cool name. ;-) But it reminded me of a thought I had during the meeting, when the word was being thrown around a lot...
We're crossing the streams. We're crossing the streams!
Egon: I have a radical idea. The door swings both ways. We could reverse the particle flow through the gate.
Egon: We'll cross the streams.
Peter: Excuse me, Egon, you said crossing the streams was bad.
Ray: Cross the streams...
Peter: You're gonna endanger us, you're gonna endanger our client. The nice lady who paid us in advance before she became a dog.
Egon: Not necessarily. There's definitely a very slim chance we'll survive.
Peter: I love this plan! I'm excited to be a part of it. Let's do it!
Winston: This job is definitely not worth eleven-five a year!
Peter: See you on the other side, Ray.
Ray: Nice working with you, Dr. Venkman.
And for the record, I love this plan! I'm excited to be a part of it. Let's do it! #
So, I get the impression that Sun's own human metal grinder, Jonathan Schwartz, has been knocking back the bong water with his new pal Spliffy, the OpenOffice.org in Education project mascot. Sun's new President and Chief Operating Officer has "called Red Hat 'a proprietary Linux distribution [and] enterprise customers will find 'better Linux compatibility by shifting over to Solaris rather than sticking with Red Hat Linux.'" #
The precocious little snitch is right. Pull your finger out and put your code into something modern. Like a safety deposit box in Zurich. At least that'll keep her skanky mitts off it. *click!* #
Quick hack on a cool Planet feature today, letting us 'merge' items from the same source in the html output (though I'm sure there'll be other clever uses). So now on Planet GNOME, adjacent items from the same source will only have one face and header. Yay! Great for bloggers like John Fleck, Alec Muffett (on Planet Sun) and I, who tend to post a bunch of entries at once.
Putting out another call for hackergotchi heads, if anyone's inspired to bring out The GIMP... We're missing heads for: Marco, Rodo, Rodney Dawes, Jordi Mallach, Julien Moutte, Shaun McCance, Matthew Garrett, Mariano, Danilo, Christopher Blizzard, Kristian Reitveld and Bryan Forbes. The standard image size is around 65x85 pixels, usually on the smaller side. #
Work and "Play"
I figured I'd blog about my trip to the UK pretty quickly after coming home, but I had a quadruple-knockout-punch of vicious jetlag, mental exhaustion, seething inspiration and a small dose of niggling fear. Messily intertwined and difficult to resolve, as always. The last few weeks have not been kind to anyone hanging on items in my todo list.
I was in the UK for the first face-to-face meeting of a new company I've agreed to join. As soon as my contract is finalised, I will announce this change of affiliation to the Foundation. Although it's not required, I think this is the right thing for any Board member to do, should they change their employment status mid-term. Foundation members deserve to know, and we have important by-laws regulating affiliations (even though Board members do not represent the companies they work for).
The small dose of fear is due to an intermingling of two previously separate areas of my life: Work and Play. Although this new job will only be tangentially related to GNOME (at least to begin with), it will certainly be active in the greater Free Software community, which is where I spend a fair chunk of my "play" time. Of course, I take my play time quite seriously...
So there's a lot of personal and professional interplay between these roles, and not just in the short term. I want to get it all Just Right, but where I don't, I want to recover gracefully. :-) If nothing else, I'm lapping up the challenge. #
Crazy linkage action!
Bob Metcalfe on The Visionary Thing: "Now, to be sure, there are visionaries who don't end up poor and bitter, or at least haven't yet."
Read some really cool articles on some email feature wishlists for high-volume mail usability. EmailUsabilityWishlist links to a discussion about how "heavy mail users use incoming mail as a to-do list and appointment tracker". Mmmm. Another nice idea would be a "way to concatenate messages conversations with the redundant quoted material stripped out", as suggested in The Perfect Email Program.
With everyone raving on about Longhorn, competing with .NET and XAML and so on, Cringley came out with a very timely pulpit titled, The Only Way to Beat Microsoft is by Ignoring Microsoft: "The central point was that paying too much attention to Microsoft simply allows Microsoft to define the game. And when Microsoft gets to define the game, they ALWAYS win."
Amused by some recent flames of the Ximian dudes, claiming that they should get off their arses and code instead of blogging all the time. But hmm, perhaps it's true? (See jpr's closing statement.)
Finally getting some personal insight into the Columbine protagonists. "Psychopaths follow much stricter behavior patterns than the rest of us because they are unfettered by conscience, living solely for their own aggrandizement."
Colin Walters released his exceptional Grokking GNU Arch presentation, which is an awesome intro to the fundamentals of Arch - a globally distributed revision control system built on neatly layered simplicity. Yum.
Colin also released gnome-gpg, a really sweet passphrase caching agent which integrates with gnome-keyring. Very tasty. Since he has gone to work for Red Hat, I decided to keep it warm until he gets back. :-)
Luis knows what turns me on. He kindly pointed out this fully-working replica of the Back to the Future DeLorean. For sale on eBay. Funnily enough, Pipka recently mentioned something about wanting a new car...
"You agree to take reasonable steps to promote your presentation through means accessible to you. This includes adding your presentation to any public schedule of your teaching engagements that may be published electronically or in print. It also includes adding a link to the O'Reilly conference home page to your public web page if you maintain one."
Fulfilling my contractural agreement (!!!) to co-promote the O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON), which I will be speaking at this year. I'll give an updated version of my To The Teeth: Arming GNOME for Desktop Success talk. I think they've put me on at the same time as a Java Desktop System presentation...
Update: I've just been going through the other bios, and found that they are all stunningly serious and boring. rml likes cheese, though. I am glad we are keeping up the GNOME spirit of partying hard in the face of oppression by the politically correct (who seem to be ably represented by the French, these days). #
Colin is one of my Greatest Debian Heroes, and has joined a number of my other (sometimes historical) Debian Heroes at Red Hat. I don't like the personal walls some people put up or believe in between Red Hat and Debian, whether or not they like the particular bits shipped. Thing is, Red Hat and Debian's political worldviews are much closer than most of the other "pragmatic" distributions.
Don't diss the people, people. :-) #
The Language Question
According to Dave, my release hat is "rigid and boring", but it turns out to be quite useful when approaching The Language Question. Thus far, no one seems to have covered use cases or categorisation. So here goes... From my perspective, we have perhaps four major categories:
This one is super-thorny, because most of us want to keep our language neutral libraries and permit lots of choice on top. This will be the last domino to fall, as any discussion of alternatives down here would involve far-reaching changes up the stack and the "language platform" issues Havoc raised (such as using language-platform-native database APIs and so on).
I think we can safely limit the language discussion to other categories, and not worry about how it affects our platform at the moment.
Lots of people are cottoning on to the fact that I think the Desktop is too important for its own good. But, while that is still true, we have to accept that it's the crown jewel. Everyone ships it and hopefully everyone buys into what we ship (which we can often choose accordingly), so the Desktop is "don't rock the boat" central.
That makes Java and Mono difficult choices in the Desktop for the moment (though they are certainly worth discussing), but there's been very little disagreement with the use of Python as a transient, small-project language. There's been interest in using Python for the Control Center for some time, amongst other places, but it would probably not be appropriate for a large chunk of software such as Nautilus or the Panel. At least for the moment - lots of people are still flinching from the Red Hat Update Agent experience.
To a certain extent - ie. Java and Mono - this leaves the question wide open, and there's no question that we should continue to discuss it. But the Desktop is one area that we must all roughly agree on... Let's not fuck it up by being impatient.
Independent Free Software Hackers
This is Mad Max territory. If bindings exist for any language, hackers will come, and so they should. We shouldn't do anything to discourage this. For one, it's cool, but... it may also open up interesting markets to us in areas such as scientific research. We're not providing solutions or alternatives for this group, we're just helping them along their way.
So we can basically avoid this category with the "use anything!" answer, and it shouldn't harm other messaging.
Custom or Internal Software Developers
These kinds of developers are using C++, Java, VB, Delphi or increasingly, C# and .NET. On one hand, we have to sell platform independence or partial migration, but as more and more internal projects begin on Free Software (OS or development) platforms, there will be greater acceptance of opportunities in our ecosystem.
So it would be hugely advantageous here to have a good story on C++, Java and Mono, along with other alternatives such as Python, Perl and PHP. Will any forward motion here have a detrimental effect on GNOME, via interested stakeholders (the companies)? It doesn't seem so to me, on first inspection. Different companies can support what they will for their own GNOME-based products (Sun, for instance, sells Java as its desktop development answer, and is making sure it integrates into GNOME fairly nicely - it's a bummer they don't support GNOME itself, but hey).
We need to provide (and "sell") great answers to succeed in this market, but there is no harm in having alternatives. The more rigid ISV answer below may help direct some of this morass anyway.
Independent Software Vendors
ISVs will have similar requirements to Custom/Internal developers, but with a more rigid approach, most likely. I'm less familiar with ISV problems than I am with the above categories, so perhaps someone can help fill this in a bit better.
What I do know is that we are probably best off positioning a few select tools for ISVs that we know will integrate well into GNOME. We start with C/C++, add a managed language for rapid development, and toss in a scripting language in for macros and desktop scripting as well as transient apps and prototyping.
This is hard-sell territory, and probably not an area where the community will have much direct impact (or even interest). But can we leave all of this to the major stakeholders, without being sidelined in the process? Not sure, but I'd like to think we can help forge some common answers along the way, and keep our tight crew together.
Is there a conclusion here? Not really. I just want to encourage further thoughts about use cases in this discussion. We don't make these decisions in a vacuum! I certainly don't want to rule Java or Mono out of the equation either, even though we're going to need a lot more discussion to sort those out safely.
But a closing thought on the Java and Mono topic... What I'm seeing out here is a lot of involvement and selling - even carroting - from Novell/Ximian on the Mono front. Supporting f-spot development, the GTK+/GNOME bindings, some plugins for various programs, and the big one - iFolder/Simias. To some, the iFolder/Simias release is a great big Mono-shaped community carrot, giving us a tasty-looking solution to one of our big-interest problems.
Is Sun doing anything to get the community interested in Java? Not that I've seen. Mono may win over the community, not for legal or technical reasons, but simply through lack of attention from the Java camp. I wonder how close the Java and Desktop teams are within Sun...
Found an interesting page about fisheye views, applied to XUL menus. If you've seen the OS X dock, you'll know what a fisheye view is, but you may not have thought about the cunning metrics going on behind the scenes to make it feel natural. Exscade uses distance measurement only (as shown in the diagram), but there's a short paragraph covering velocity sensitive approaches. I couldn't get the demo to work... Bummer.
Fisheye views are a way of getting more Fitt's Law bang-for-your-buck, by artificially creating larger areas to aim at. They're especially useful for cramped or small interfaces - but I'm stretching my head to figure out how to apply this to PDA interfaces. There's no such thing as a hovering cursor on a PDA, you see. ;-)
Love the Debian HK site, added it to the Planetarium. The description field in their blog feed is: "Unite all Debian users in Hong Kong, dominate the Greater China Linux market, conquer all servers in the world!" As long as Pipka can still speak Mandarin on the mainland, that plan sounds mighty fine to me. :-) #
There is a great post by 'rkrishnan' on GNOME Bangalore about why blogging is important. It's a fictional conversation between the protagonist and a skeptic, attempting to explain what a blog is, and why it's useful. Various points are made, but the skeptic doesn't seem to understand until the protagonist enthuses, "It is like meditation that comes thru karma."
"Ah, I understand that now."
And with that, I welcome GNOME Bangalore to the Planetarium. :-) #
It certainly gives me pause for thought about the importance of Asia to the Australian economy, how our current government has systematically fucked our good standing in the region, the scaremongering over foreign outsourcing in the local IT industry, and what we have to lose through the bilateral US Trade Agreement (I like Rusty's strategy of dropping the "Free"). #
The GNOME release parties ought to have a slogan, and I think I found a good one on FootNotes: "Will installing it through the night while I am half-dressed and supposed to be finishing homework count as a party?" #
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
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