The Gnome fight

Murray Cumming, maintainer of the GTKmm C++ bindings of GTK+, lambasted Jeff Waugh today. Both are prominent members of the Gnome developer community and also high profile. I always felt that Jeff was always very polemic on his replies to me for pretty much anything. Be it I was a real bitch on the d-d-l mailing list, or truly very helpful, his reactions were always one and the same towards me.

I never really understood what Jeff was really doing for Gnome, especially after he stopped maintaining his Python apps. Jeff blames his depression for all that, but if depression is the cause of the problem, maybe he should give Gnome a rest for a while. I know how hard it is to work full time on something when you are depressed — I’ve been there, and I am there.

Murray is not very friendly nut either, and we have a major disagreement about how GTKmm should be maintained (he keeps breaking the API every few months and so GTKmm apps stop compiling and it’s required that either the apps must be updated, or have many parallel versions of GTKmm installed). However, I always had the feeling that he’s a bit more connectable than Jeff.

Now, I know that Jeff passes by my blog every now and then and there’s a good chance that he will read this, but I must be truthful, so I am. Besides, I am pretty sure he feels the same for me anyway, so I guess we are square.

Now, regarding Gnome. It has fallen apart. Nothing gets done in a serious note anymore. Since Havoc Pennington took his team away from full-time core Gnome work a few years ago, and since Novell failed to make their Mono-based utils accepted, Gnome is one big sterile place. It’s sad, because it IS my favorite DE. I like Gnome. But maintaining a DE is not the same as developing for it and innovating every now and then. Oh, well, whatever. I use Windows XP when sitting my ass in my office, and Mac OS X when traveling or in front of the TV. I don’t really need Linux anyway. Not without a usable video editor.

Update: Thom blogged about it too.

7 Comments »

thebluesgnr wrote on November 27th, 2007 at 2:48 AM PST:

How has Novell failed to make their Mono tools accepted? The only C# module ever proposed to the desktop suite was accepted (that’s tomboy), though it wasn’t developed by Novell. The other three big ones aren’t mature yet to be in the official modules list, although one of them is used by pretty much all major distributions (that’s f-spot, installed by default in Fedora and Ubuntu).

Maybe Miguel expected the whole world to jump straight to Mono and dump everything else, but IMO the current situation with Mono as an additional development language choice is a healthy on. Despite the vocal minority of people who ban anything related to Microsoft.

Regardless of Mono, Novell still has several GNOME developers on their payroll. It’s true that many quit and some were laid off, but that’s a problem specific to that company.

Red Hat still actively contributes to GNOME as well. In fact, their list of contributions is quite impressive, and I won’t bore you with a list of all modules, but just the most exciting and recently-developed ones, like cairo, avahi, hal, dbus, NetworkManager, PulseAudio, AIGLX. There’s more at http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/RedHatContributions

It’s true that Havoc took a break from GNOME a few years ago, which was probably a healthy thing for him to do. But where have you been for the past few months or so? You should download a Fedora live cd and give the Online Desktop a spin.

Anyway, I think the GNOME project is in good shape. The problem is that a lot of the work needed on the desktop today is integration between the lower parts of the stack, which is something that was being neglected for a while; stuff like HAL, PulseAudio and NetworkManager. I don’t really think a rewrite of the major components or a new major version of GTK+ are, or should be, the top priorities.

ps It seems to me you’re unfamilar with the GNOME Roadmap. You can check it at http://live.gnome.org/RoadMap. Not sterile at all.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on November 27th, 2007 at 12:11 PM PST:

The Gnome people just don’t want to deal with Mono apps, even if C# itself was added in the bindings package. Look at Beagle and Tracker, or Rhythmbox and that other one from Novell. I can’t even remember its name.

As for Novell working on Gnome, like Red Hat, they do it less and less. SuSE is NOT doing good, not as good as it used to. More over, a LOT of the novell engineers who used to work on Gnome have been either laid off or moved to other companies. Jeff was right about this on his recent mono blog post.

There are not too many people working on Gnome anymore, and it is very disorganized at this point. Sorry, but unless a big company steps up and puts 20 engineers working full time on it again, I don’t see anything rosy about Gnome’s future.


Murray Cumming wrote on November 28th, 2007 at 2:45 AM PST:

> we have a major disagreement about how GTKmm should be
> maintained (he keeps breaking the API every few months and
> so GTKmm apps stop compiling and it’s required that either
> the apps must be updated, or have many parallel versions of
> GTKmm installed)

This is not true. Whatever has made you think this, I don’t recall you ever mentioning it to me, bugzilla or the gtkmm mailing list. Maybe I don’t recall something roughly related that you’ve said sometime, but this is just not true.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on November 28th, 2007 at 10:59 AM PST:

It is true, I don’t lie Murray. We discussed this via email, about 3 years ago (2/23/2005, email subject “Re: gtkmm”). Check your archives.


Murray Cumming wrote on November 29th, 2007 at 2:32 AM PST:

Your email 3 years ago seems to be about the parallel-install when gtkmm 2.4 was release, 3.5 years ago. As I said then, this is similar to what happened between GTK+ 1.2 and 2.0. There’s been no such break since then.

This is not “he keeps breaking the API every few months and so GTKmm apps stop compiling and it’s required that either the apps must be updated, or have many parallel versions of GTKmm installed”. You’re wrong. I won’t bother looking back here to check your reply so feel free to be wrong some more.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on November 29th, 2007 at 11:10 AM PST:

>There’s been no such break since then.

Are you sure? Arch Linux had to install 4 parallel versions just to keep up with the breakings and the applications people needed. I don’t use Arch anymore, but back then gtkmm was a pain in the butt.


thebluesgnr wrote on November 29th, 2007 at 12:13 PM PST:

“The Gnome people just don’t want to deal with Mono apps, even if C# itself was added in the bindings package. Look at Beagle and Tracker, or Rhythmbox and that other one from Novell. I can’t even remember its name.”

Sorry, but who are these GNOME people? And what am I supposed to see by looking at the four different software packages you mentioned (the name is Banshee, btw. Great app).

I’m really sorry but I can’t see your point here. A little help please? 🙂

“SuSE is NOT doing good, not as good as it used to. ”

As far as openSUSE is concerned, their latest release was by far their best one ever from a GNOME perspective. In fact, it was the first release that actually reminded me that the guys behind “Helix GNOME” were now working on openSUSE. JP’s interview on opensuse.org gives a good overview of it.

“More over, a LOT of the novell engineers who used to work on Gnome have been either laid off or moved to other companies.”

Yes, unfortunately. And also, a lot of their engineers that used to work on Samba, Hula, KDE, etc, were laid of as well. This is not a GNOME specific problem at all.

“There are not too many people working on Gnome anymore,”

The problem, really, is the way you see things. 5 years ago, if you were working on a piece of the desktop you would be writing a piece of GNOME (or KDE), as they were far from complete and there was a lot of work to do. Havoc even “had” to write a window manager, for god sakes! 2.0 also didn’t have a movie player, which was written by another Red Hat emploeye.

These days integration with the kernel and underlying system is where the desktop is the most immature. That integration requires work on levels lower than GNOME, with only small parts being actually GNOME related (for instance, NetworkManager has a GNOME applet, but that’s only a small part of it). So people work on these parts and you get the impression that nobody is working on GNOME itself, when most of these developers are also GNOME developers. Some of these features are PolicyKit, ConsoleKit, HAL, D-Bus, PulseAudio, NetworkManager.

You and Thom seem to think that because GNOME isn’t rewriting working code like, for instance, the panel for something with Dashboard-like widgets, then it’s “dead”. On the other hand, if you plug in a USB headset it just works. If you plug in a printer, it’s automatically configured. If you try to copy a file to a system dir, it should prompt for the admin password instead of telling you that you can’t. If you take your laptop somewhere you don’t have to drop to the command line to set up WiFi.

A lot of this work is done by Red Hat engineers, by the way. And there are a lot more companies working on GNOME than before, in addition to Novell, Red Hat and Sun.


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