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Reponse to "The GNOME wars"

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I saw a posting on Fedora Planet entitled, The GNOME wars and just had to respond. Since I put some effort into my comment, I decided to post it here as well.

Nicu,

Your statements are a gross oversimplification of the situation... specifically with regards to GNOME 3 / Shell and Ubuntu Unity.

To date Canonical still has not learned how to properly collaborate with all of their upstreams. Some they have, some they haven't. GNOME is one that they haven't. It took Novell and Red Hat a while to get it right with GNOME and they made their share of mistakes along the way... or at least that is my understanding. The main problem is that in its dealings with GNOME, Canonical would provide completely done software/libraries without much prior collaboration with the GNOME developers on why the library was needed, what needed to be in it, and if any other already existing libraries could have accommodated some or all of the functionality. Just like with Linux kernel development, the developers prefer to be in the loop on developments and having some input and feedback rather than getting a big code dump out of nowhere.

Did Canonical read into that... that Red Hat, which does employ some of the top tier GNOME developers, was trying to block their code? Maybe they did... who knows. Was Red Hat actually trying to block their code? From the top (Red Hat management), absolutely not. That doesn't mean that one or more developers didn't turn their nose up at Canonical, which is possible... but I strongly doubt it. GNOME is a mature community with a wide range of participation from many companies (including Red Hat) as well as independent developers... and Red Hat does not control GNOME.

What we have here is Canonical wanting to have more control over the things that they care about (usability)... with the GNOME and Canonical developers having clashing differences in design decisions. That's all. While some may have reasons to play it other ways, that doesn't make it true.

I actually WISH there were a "war" between Red Hat and Canonical because that would be mean that Red Hat cared more about the desktop. Fedora cares about the desktop, but Red Hat, not so much. While Ubuntu Server may be becoming more popular on servers, I don't think it has eaten into Red Hat's business too much. Even if it had, and Red Hat was trying to be at "war" with them, I doubt they'd do it through GNOME. Ubuntu Server doesn't even ship with a desktop environment.

Who will win? No idea. I'm not even sure there has to be a winner. I've tried both GNOME 3 Shell (in Fedora 15 Alpha) and Ubuntu Unity (in Ubuntu 11.04 Alpha 3). GNOME 3 Shell seems much more polished and streamlined to me. I still haven't quite figured out Unity. If Unity matures and is liked by enough people, other distros will probably add it as an option. If GNOME 3 Shell does well, perhaps Canonical will change its mind. In any event I don't think we'll be able to tell much from the initial releases of either one. It will take time and a few release iterations for things and users to settle.

Having both, at least for the short term, will be a good thing as each project will work harder to compete with the other. For the long term, I'm not sure.

As always, I appreciate your postings as they make me think... and quite frequently, respond. :)

TYL, Scott Dowdle


Video: FOSDEM 2011 - Liberating Open Office Development

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FOSDEM is the Free and Open source Software Developers' European Meeting that takes place every year in Brussels Belgium. This year it was held on Feb. 5-6. They do a good job of recording and releasing the recordings of their presentatiosn all under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.

Since they released them in Xvid format and they are quite huge, I decided to re-encode them in webm format at a lower resolution, bitrate, and framerate to make them much smaller and more appropriate for streaming... and posted them to archive.org. I've embedded one of Michael Meek's presentation on LibreOffice below but you can find all of the videos here:

http://www.archive.org/details/Fosdem2011Presentations

Liberating Open Office Development by Michael Meeks

If you can't see the video in your browser, it probably doesn't support webm yet so as an alternative, download the desired video(s) and play it with your preferred media player. VLC is recommended.

BozemanLUG: Feb 2011 Meeting Report

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The meeting went pretty well last night although the attendance could have been better... but hey... it was darn cold outside so the weather wasn't co-operating.

In attendance were: Anish Bharata, Scott Dowdle, David Eder, Srinivas Gumdelli, Walter Neary, Jordan Schatz

Srinivas gave a presentation on Web-based Desktops / OSes and briefly demoed EyeOS. He also showed a short (~15 minutes?) video of Richard Stallman talking at a recent conference. I don't recall the name of the conference and I can't seem to find a copy of the speech online so if someone could provide me a link to that, I'd appreciate it. I also loaned out the books Free as in Freedom and Just for Fun to Srinivas and Anish.

I (Scott) showed GNOME 3 Shell on Fedora 15 Alpha, and Unity on Ubuntu 11.04 Alpha 2. Walter helped out showing Unity. We discussed how the upcoming releases of Fedora and Ubuntu will have a radically different user interface replacing GNOME 2.x... and how users might react to the changes. We also talked a about the community response to the KDE project's transition from the KDE 3 series to the 4 series and how that might be some indicator of how the changes in GNOME might go.

I think this was Walter's first meeting but he is very active in the #ubuntu-montana channel on the Freenode IRC channel. It is hard for Walter to attend meetings because he usually works evenings.

Jordan was a first time visitor. He is an independent web developer who specializes in LAMP programming. He mentioned he is looking for an accomplished Java programmer for one or more upcoming projects... so if you know anyone, please speak up. I hope our group interested him enough to attend future meetings. I asked him if he had anything he might be interested in giving a presentation on and he said he would consider doing two if there was interest: 1) NoSQL databases, MongoDB as an example, and 2) The Lisp programming languages. I told him that I was interested in both of those topics so hopefully we can get him to present one or both of those over the next few meetings.

Below are some links to articles or videos that were mentioned during the meeting.

The eyeOS web desktop
First look at Ubuntu "Natty" and the state of Unity
Why is Ubuntu 11.04 switching to Unity?
Shuttleworth: Unity shell will be default desktop in Ubuntu 11.04
Revolution OS documentary (Flash video)

General Discussion - Topics that came up included...

Jordan passed around his current generation Amazon Kindle eBook reader so we could see the eInk display it has. I asked him if he had seen the OLPC's display (because it has a monochrome mode similar to an eInk display) and he had not. I was going to show him an OLPC but all of them were checked out.

We talked about the recent Apple laptop product announcements and the new I/O port technology from Intel that they are the first to introduce named Thunderbolt (formerly Light Peak) While Apple is the first to market, expect to see Thunderbolt from all other PC makers real soon now.

Walter showed us pictures of the computer system he pieced together and talked about his three HD displays.


The coming of GNOME 3

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It seems there is some strife in the Fedora community over the upcoming GNOME 3 / GNOME Shell in Fedora 15. Some people see it as a dumbing down of the user interface and others don't. I wrote a fairly long response recently that I thought I'd share here.

This is the "a lot of KDE 3 users really hate KDE 4" being applied to GNOME. I've been a KDE user since 0.x and remember happily compiling KDE 1.0 from source.

The GNOME developers have decided to go a direction you aren't happy with... and you certainly aren't the only one. Fedora dropped KDE 3.x when 4.0.0 came out... and a significant portion of Fedora KDE users weren't happy. The main problem there though, at least for me was that KDE 4.0.0 was too darn buggy and bordering on unusable for every day work. As a result I switched to GNOME. I wasn't really happy with GNOME but at least it worked. :) Then I watched each release of KDE 4.0.x come out and I tried them. I could tell they were making progress. Then 4.1.0 came out and I found that to be good enough to switch back. Ever since then the KDE developers have been making rapid progress with each release getting better. Now we are at 4.5.5 and 4.6.0 will be in Fedora 15. How many releases? I'm not sure... but I think they came out with 5 or 6 third number releases for each second number release... ie 4.5.0, 4.5.1, 4.5.2, 4.5.3, 4.5.4, and now 4.5.5. One thing I love about Fedora is that they have followed KDE's development and upgraded it several times each Fedora release lifecycle.

So, GNOME 3 is a huge change from GNOME 2. Let's consider how much of a change it is... in contrast to KDE. KDE 4 was different than KDE 3 but it still had many of the same elements... so I'll give it an arbitrary grade of a 5 on the 1-10 change scale. GNOME 2 to GNOME 3 (aka GNOME Shell) is probably a 9.something. While there are still some things that are the same, the number of things that are different is great.

To me, as a result of the vast change... GNOME 3 / GNOME Shell, no matter how good and stable it is (unlike KDE 4.0.0)... has a big chasm of disruption that I think a significant number of users will have trouble crossing over. There are going to be a lot of unhappy people. I'm sure there will also be a lot of happy people as well. Those are the folks who have probably already tried GNOME Shell some in its pre-release state and liked it... those who are better at accepting disruption. And of course completely new users might prefer GNOME 3 over GNOME 2 if they don't have any previous experience with either... or vice versa.

Should Fedora face the challenge and ship GNOME 3? I think so. Fedora is the distro where it is more important to make change happen than it is to keep everyone happy. That's just the way it is and Red Hat Linux was that way before Fedora was even born. After all Fedora dropped KDE 3.x and shipped KDE 4.0.0 as default one release (Fedora 9?) and the world didn't end for Fedora KDE users. Many of us probably switched away until updated releases made us feel comfortable enough to switch back... but switch back I did. I'm sure there are still those who were KDE 3.x users who have refused to go to KDE 4.x even after it became pleasurable to use... but that is to be expected.

There isn't much you can do about GNOME 3. The developers get to decide. If a significant chunk of the GNOME community abandons them because they can't take the vast change... then either they'll have to swing it back some to make those folks happy... or they'll have to just continue on and hope for a new crop of users. We'll just have to see what happens. But it is their decision to make... and we won't really know how it pans out until AFTER. :)

Keep your chin up.

Of course I do want to point out that this is in stark contrast to your belief that Fedora is wanting to pander to newbies and be another Ubuntu... unless of course that is what you think GNOME 3 is?!? I've played with the Gnome Shell pre-releases some and it seems more aimed at advanced users to me.


Video: LCA 2011 - The Kernel Report

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Jonathan Corbet also gave his traditional The Kernel Report presentation at LCA 2011. I've embedded it below in webm format using the HTML 5 video tag.

If you don't see the video embedded, you can download it and play it locally.

Right-click download link: LCA2011-Kernel_Report.webm (50 min, 131 MB)

Video: LCA 2011 - How Kernel Development Goes Wrong

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Jonathan Corbet gave a number of presentations at LCA this year. Below I've embedded his presentation entitled Kernel development: How it goes wrong and why you should be a part of it anyway in webm format using the HTML 5 video tag.

If you don't see the video embedded, you can download it and play it locally.

Right-click download link: LCA2011-Kernel_Development_Goes_Wrong.webm (44 min, 116 MB)

Video: LCA 2011 - History of BSD

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Marshall Kirk McKusick gave a presentation entitled A Narrative History of BSD at LCA 2011. I've embedded it below in webm format using the HTML 5 video tag.

If you don't see the video embedded, you can download it and play it locally.

Right-click download link: LCA2011-BSD_History.webm (49 min, 130 MB)

Video: LCA 2011 - Lessons Learned from 13 Years of LWN

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Jon Corbet gave a presentation about the lessons he has learned running Linux Weekly News for 13 years.

Right-click download link: LCA2011-LWN_13_Years.webm (48 min,128 MB)

Video: LCA 2011 Keynote Vint Cerf

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Here is Vint Cerf's Keynote speech from LCA 2011.

You can right-click download: LCA2011-Vint_Cerf.webm (51 min, 139 MB)

Video: LCA 2011 Keynote Geoff Huston

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At the January 2011 BozemanLUG meeting, David Eder showed us how to get an IPv6 address and then tunnel it through an existing static IPv4 address. During the meeting we discussed Jon Corbet's LWN summary of Geoff Huston's Keynote from linux.conf.au. The video of that talk has become available and is presented below in webm format. If you have any problems watching it in your browser, just right-click on the link below and "Save link target as..." to download. It should play in any newer video player that supports webm.

I subtitle this presentation, The Coming IPocalypse. :)

Right-click download link: LCA2011-Geoff_Huston.webm (54 min, 142 MB)

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