Category Archives: GNOME

I declare Foresight Linux as dead

I am not any Foresight Linux Official, but I asked if Foresight Linux is dead in December 2009. Og Maciel answered publicly to my blog post and said:

So to answer the original question posted by Thilo, “is Foresight Linux dead?” I can gladly say “Far from it!” I predict that the Foresight community will rally together in 2010 to get back to being the most GNOMEic and bleeding edge distribution out there!

More then six months after his post, there is still no new release. And as I tried to look where Foresight is ranking now, I found out that it is not listed by DistroWatch any more.

And I think it is fair, with all respect to those who invested a lot of time and energy to foresight Linux, that Foresight Linux can be declared dead.  The main reason for this is the wrong marketing in a broader sense. Because the product never fitted the message. Foresight Linux had many options to which path it could go, but it chose to try to do it all – being the “just works” distro and also being the “bleeding edge” distro. So in fact it became the “bleeds while its running” distro. In my opinion in a distro you habe to make tuff choices. You can not have it all. You can not do it all. If you try you will lose all possible users and end up destroying the software project.

Besides the Foresight problems I have also experiences a lot of problems with rPath – the core of Foresight, because it continuously had only old versions of Python per default and no mod-wsgi for Apache and many other problems. There where mich more efforts to gain more customers, than to fix those problems.

But if you, like me, have based your whole server on bleeding edge Python software like MoinMoin wiki and server technology, rPath is just not good enough. MoinMoin needs very modern Python and loves to work with mod-wsgi.  it is not the question of you can fix those stuff by yourself. Thats what you can do on EVERY distro. Its more the question of those base stuff is something you wont have to worry about. But on rPath, you have. And that is just not acceptable for me any more.

It is said to see all this, but I have foreseen this years ago. Everybody who had eyes could see it. It was not impossible to make very good distros out of rPath and Foresight, but  if the managers do make bad choices continuously, then there will soon be no choices. I guess rPath is not yet at the end. Maybe Red Hat will buy the company and technology or some other software company?

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Sick of GNOME community attitudes

Just one day after I have written a blog entry about the failures of the GNOME website. One issue was the lack of a customized 404 page. My guess is, that http://www.gnome.org never had this kind of page configured. So this means this issue existed long before I filed the bug. So this is a bug from 1998 maybe. This means 11 years and nobody cared. People often commented that all problems will be solved with the new CMS. But that did not come the one year and the other year. The last comments I got after somebody added yet another comment of that sort to this bug, which i did not find any constructive have been outrageous:

Andre Klapper questioned the constructiveness of my comment in which I critcized, that Lucas Rocha tried to (again) deny the importance of the bug because it would be solved anyways by the new CMS. Well yes, the new CMS will change everything  -but there has been a patch for two years  not fixing the issue 1998 has not been tolerable, not after I filed the bug, not after I submitted a patch and not 2 years after. Andre Klapper wrote:

Okay, to rephrase it: Please don’t add comments that do not add any additional value to bug reposts and are offtopic. At least Lucas and others ARE working on it instead of just talking about it.Thanks: your friendly bugmaster.

Anybody who has tried to help with GNOME knows that helping is not easy. I think I had given up trying to get more administrative access after my request was not answered 9 months later. Also i did not provide any more patches after most of the bugs that I filed, like the simple 404 issue were neither commented nor taken seriously. Why should one work on patching a system if nobody cares. So I consider it very unfair and coldhearted if a user like me, who reported a bug and even provided a fix is not even ignored but also if he reminds the developers and admins that the bug on the history of this bug and that it would likely not be fixed without being considered seriously he is aggressively attacked.

This I found an attitude absolutely common in GNOME. The most common reaction to critique is often the denial of the problem. Mostly they say the problem is YOU and not the software or the website. Its really funny to be told that others are working on a problem if those are the same guys who consistently denied any help and also often enough denied the necessary attention to important issues.

I now came to the conclusion that GNOME is not worth my attention at all. I have had a long history using and helping GNOME with bug reports, marketing, wiki, … but it has always been a lot of work to only be heard or be able to change only very little things.

What I would have expected is to get at least some respect of all the years and time and work that I have spent on helping GNOME – and not to be told that I have done nothing. This is exactly the kind of arrogance that can be the death of GNOME.

I have requested that my account will be removed from GNOME Bugzilla because I don’t plan to help in any way any more – not with this kind of attacks. I don’t need that and I don’t want that any more. I am talking about the same issues of GNOME years and years – and then you are told GNOME does not need distributed version control and they go with subversion. Only some years laters they do switch to a distrubuted version control – but sure enough nobody will say that you were right.

The fact is that in the real world nobody really knows GNOME (from a marketing point of view) and that the software and the website have many issues that can be fixed very easily IF some issued would be taken more seriously. But you find the attitude of Andre on many developers – and I would say that this is one reason why no GNOME application has become very big, but that others like Thunderbird, Firefox or Openoffice.org who are not part of the GNOME culture have had much more progress and public acceptance.

Like Rythmbox which has Podcast support but a simple patch to remove old podcasts is not adapted because the main developers seem to have a large enough hard disk and so do not se the issue. this has resulted in many users switching to the non-GNOME Miro where this exactly ist the nices feature: that podcast episodes are removed in 3 days if you do not say otherwise. So Podcast with GNOME is a no go for most users.

Or look at Evolution which still forces you to open junk mail befpre you can mark it as junk (other than Thunderbird). yeah we should all close the preview window than we dont have the problem. But what if we dont want to renonounce on that preview? I have filed a bug about that years ago, this solution was also denied, so the only real usable mail application still is Thunderbird where this is possible.

I do not say that there are not great developers, programmers, guys & girls within the GNOME community. But the main spirit is way off what really matters. Most developers are so taken up by the thinking and developing of the latest&greatest that they do ot realize how many things absolutely dont matter for most people and how many little things are not changed who would matter greatly.

So to summarize I do not know who GNOME is targetting as a user base but it sure is not the average computer user. I think its people or better programmers who like to live on the edge and who do not use the GNOME desktop for productive use. People who like the looks of GNOME or some new fancy stuff either hidden or obviously.

The problem is that this is not what they communicate. GNOME says they want more users, but they actually don’t. GNOME could easily have millions of new users with fixing some of the major issues. GNOME is still one of the best desktops because besides KDE it is still true that most other desktops are worse than GNOME or do target evern more remote user groups.

But GNOME 3 could be a game changer – not in the positive for GNOME but as a kind og KDE4 effect. Ad it will look and act differently it will turn away a lot of old users. Many will use XFCE instead as the new GNOME and some might go back to KDE4. Its so sad to see a hopeful desktop drowning.

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GNOME and how NOT to do marketing

How NOT to do it?

A simple example. Lets say you have heard of GNOME or you use it and want to downlaod the latest GNOME live CD. What would you do?

Right, you type in “gnome live cd” in a search engine like Google. Lets see what we get on February 2010:

google search result

search for "gnome live cd"

So we get essentially two top results. The first are in the GNOME Live! Wiki and the first result is the page GnomeLiveCd. If you open the page you do get a page that was last updated by me in 2007 so  about three years ago.

The other link leads to a not any more exiting webpage http://live.gnome.org/GnomeLiveCd

Marketing is no magic. Its more or less often about giving people what they expect.

If you lead people who expect to be able to download a running live cd to three year old information and none existing websites this is a #FAIL.

You can mostly forget thinking about any more marketing if you fail here.

Another failure is that GNOMEs website do not provide custom 404 pages and that just too many websites become 404 (not found). In 2008, so two years ago I reported this as a bug and provided a simple page as a solution. Nobody cared – so it was ok to LOOSE all visitors who do not find a page. Ali Abdullah talked about why this is important.

A website without 404 page cant be taken seriously in 2010 from a marketing perspective. If you take into account that fixing it would have been an one minute job you start wondering about priorities.

GNOME has taken a lot of work and efforts to start the new website with the Plone CMS: I have no idea when it will land. Right now http://www.gnome.org is not accessible. Maybe this means its already there? On the central development page in the GNOME wiki GnomeWeb you are told the new website is coming in September 2009. So so much about updated information if you really try to track down the progress and you care about the website.

Third example was the GNOME Office website, which was outdated for many years and to just resolbe this issue it tool about a year.

I could go on and on, but these are just two examples that show how NOT to do marketing on the internet – even if its “just” free software. No smart person will ever try to test GNOME again if what he finds looks so crappy.

How to do it?

Really, really simple: Provide the information the user needs – and if it is hard to find or  moved either forward to a new place. Keep information update. You do not want to discourage a user from trying out your application, desktop or whatever.

This is just my small view of the whole “marketing in internet” problem which results from my experience and after witnessing what has happened and especially not happened with the GNOME website.

I write this down, so that things change. Things do not change because you get a great new CMS. You might get it someday – but what do you do in the five years between now and then. Sure, nobody wants to see five years of stagnation, but what you can learn is that fixing the small things often still makes sense. Nobody likes to fix small things, especially men dont like it. Men like to think big. And maybe thats part of the problem: They do a lot of heavylifting and much too often find out too late that it is too often. That said I have also seen women falling in love with Plone; no idea why … 😉

Summary

Help people find what they are looking for. Most web users have simple desires on their mind like find some essential information or download a live cd. Even if you can not provide this, you can say that you do not and why. And deal with users that come to your site like something worthful that should not be wasted easily!

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My take on gnome shell

Sorry to say this, but i think the GNOME Shell (short: GS) looks totally senseless to me. There is not much you can do with it, it reminds me a bit on a mix of the Windows Start button and the Exposé from Macos X. Or add Novells “great” idea of a new Windows XP like menu.

It make me a bit angry to see intelligent people put together so much crap – overloaded menus, lists of applications or lists of recent documents. And then add to all this some animated smooth switching, which eats up some working time.

I am not at all impressed of GS. The opposit. i dnt get the point where it helps me. Similar thought as with GNOME DO. I always used Alt+F2 if I wanted to quick start an application without the terminal. I am not against making that kond of starter better – or if you add that somehow also in the panel. But the gnome shell adds a lot of things to the screen which I never used.

Has starting an application ever been a problem to one of you? Or opening a file? Or moving windows between workspaces?

Maybe I am noit the typical user, but when it comes to what I do often I could not comprehend this to one document or one application. I will try to compile what is important from my viewpoint:

  1. Integration of applications. So like lets assume GNOME is a desktop – I dont want to waste my time knowing about applications. I expect the desktop to know which applications to know for what I plan to do. This is also true for actions like attaching files to mails or saving attachments  (which is a real pain)
  2. I do get messages. And I like the desktop to save and sort them from me and allow me to manage them, copy them, add notes to them, move them from one application to the other (add a link from jabber to my bookmarks or to a mail) Messages for me are
    • Emails, Jabber-Messages, forum posts, RSS Feeds
    • System Messages, Application Messages
    • System protocols,…
  3. What is a task? This is like visitting a website or checking my mail, or sending a mail – or working on some documents. There are documents that I do read often and some I only write once – and others I need ot send often. There is no such thing as “Recent Documentes”. What is this? Recently read, recently written or recently sent? Like you have a protocol that you want to send to a bunch of people.
  4. Another problem is finding documents. This is a problem of the place or also the keyword. It would be necessary to be able to tag documents or even categorize them –  making the location secondary. Do I need to know where a document is saved? No – I can leave it to the system where a document resided. What I need is to find it, when I need it. Beagle a s a desktop search also needs some functionality – but sure its as well important to find bookmarks and contents of web pages. Sometimes I need to find a web page where I have read some stuff. Integrating a web based search might help – but my desktop needs to save some search results as I dont want to use Google or Yahoo more than needed.
  5. Essentially there is Reading, Writing/Editing , Receiving, Sending of documents and messages. My take on this is, that with the classical object oriented model put into place into a desktop this would be a great thing. If you ask me why I would not have that much of an idea – I really think we do not start with a new GUI. What we would want is a combined effort to redefine the underlying structure and to work out new models of interaction between applications. And we would also need some serious applications which allow navigation into their functions from outside. I mean it must be possible to start an office application with the exact task that I am planing to do. It cant be the way that you start an appication and then need to find out yourself. The desktop should provide an interface to do what you want – and the applications should be the working horses. Right now applications like Firefox or OpenOffice.org are dominating everything and you need to do everything inside of them.

I dont think we will see such things from classical desktops. The GNOME shell is nothing new – its because people still think in the same categories. If GS is what GNOME 3.0 (Topaz) will be I sure will leave GNOME behind.

I have see that Windows XP now sells a tabbed interface as their own invention. Bravo GNOME – leave it to Microsoft to integrate that. I am sure now GNOME will try to copy – because before nobody at GNOME really cared to make applications ready for tabbed interfaces. I have used some tabbed window managers in the past and found the whole idea great – just that I dod not want to switch to tabbed only – and did not want to configure those managers by hand. Regards to Microsoft who just did, what GNOME thought was too innovative for their users. When MS does it, or Apple GNOME follows, but never leads the way. Just my impression. I still love my current interface because it remindes me still (but less and less) of my old Mac OS 7.x interface. I hat that they removed the application switcher applet at the default place on the right side of the panel (just where it was in the Mac Finder). Now what is dominant is that I need to shut down the computer, switch users or change my status. I really do all those things not more than 1-2 times a day – so I have removed Ubuntus “great” FUSA (fast user switch applet). And I constantly ask myself why all the things I need are removed while at the same time more and ore crap is added.

Sorry for not sounding nice. You see I have not written a lot of stuff in this blog for a while. I have watched things develop and have written more  in german in other blogs about other stuff.

I am in the mood to switch to a distribution with  a clean layout – that does not do experiments (hey, where did they dump the whole default desktop search thing?) other than Ubuntu. I need a work environment right now. Fedora is trying to be innovative too – there is currently no distributions which tries to bring you the best of open source on a stable basis. Maybe there is some Ubuntu clone I havent tried yet? I am ok if a distribution adds some innovative new desktop as an option and allows me to test it. But what I hate is when GNOME and Ubuntu make experiments and use us users as a testbed.

And I would love to have a defauilt mail program based on GNOME which does not such. Currently Evolutions sucks big time. Its absolutely unusable – I am currently using Thunderbird 3 beta4 and its really, really nice. Why does Ubuntu continue to suggest Evolution as the default option? At the same time I currently do not use Epiphany instead of Firefox because I always had some stability issues in the Ubuntu packages – and I was waiting for Epiphany-Webkit becoming ready. Currently that did not work out for me and I also found out that Firefox was not a second slower than Epiphany.

I still think Epi is the cooles browser, but it lacks integration and support from GNOME, same is still true for Gnumeric and Abiword. Some days ago I witnessed how Gnumeric taking just a few seconds opening a 1.5 MB Excel file, while OO.orgs calc took 4 minutes.

There is so much good in GNOME, but thinks do not work out well. Other applications do get more money and attention and now get more ahead of GNOMEs applications. There comes the day where OO.orgs Calc will open that file faster than Gnumeric. And then having GNOME not supporting Gnumeric because of it lacks behind OO.org will become the self fulfilling prophecy.

What I would like to see is a new GNOME initiative outside the old GNOME community but which like to bring money and attention back to all the good GNOME stuff – and not running after some mobile devices and the newest hype.

 

 

 

 

 

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GNOMEs Git

I never understood, why GNOME switched to yet another client/server based revision control (SVN) back then. But who was I to tell them that much more is possible. I aint the coder.

Anyway if I reas this from the new F-Spot:

This is the first release where we all used Git and it has massively paid off. Contributions are flowing in at a massive rate, from lots of people. See for yourself on Gitorious. Now that the release is out, it’s time to go over merge requests. It’s hard to keep up with them.

… I am happy that they did indeed switch to a distributed mechanism. Especially because it has always been hard to get any write access to some archives at GNOME. So it is going to be interesting what other effects this might have in the near future if people get comfortable with the new development style. Thumbs up!

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Ubuntu proxy trouble

I have used the proxy settings once. I used the Ubuntu/GNOME tools and then also made the mark for “set the proxy system wide”.

Now I realized I could not do any bittorent or downloading from FTP. http and https worked. I had already disabled the proxy again.

I then did a grep “proxy /etc/*” and found that Ubuntu had written the proxy into /etc/environment. This was not visible for the general user. I only saw that Transmission told be that the port that I wanted to open was closed. But I knew from testing from external that it was indeed open. So somehow Transmission read /etc/environment and ignores all user settings once you have set the proxy systemwide. Removing the entry in /etc/enviroment and logging in again did the job.

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My take on current GNOMEshell

I have looked at the Screencasts for GnomeShell. I like the idea that seems to drive GNOME shell, but I dont like how it was done. I think the main problem is that it is based on the old concepts of working with the mouse, instead of a more text based approach:

  1. You can create new views. But those do not have names, neither are they somehow optimized for some work.
  2. The whole approach is more application centric than work centric.
  3. You still have desktop icons in the background which are covered by application windows

To revolutionize the desktop much more would have to be done. I dont think GNOME 3 will do this at all. I think if it is a first step it should focus on:

  1. Redesign the desktop background to be more active as a frame for the work. Don’t just put some icons on the desktop which then show files named foo.desktop.
  2. Try to include more concepts from Plan9: Store information in hierarchical directories and files.
  3. Help people to recreate a session like they can do when they send a laptop to hiberantion mode – but with many different options. A desktop session with some window positions and started applications should be saveable. This might depend on applications allowing to save more settings.

The current GNOMEshell seems to make things just more complicated. It has soem nice features but it also reduces the size of a screen a lot and you have to do a lot with the mouse.

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