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March 10 2011

The blame game

In the last few days we’ve seen some good old poo-flinging in the open source world. First Dave Neary pointed out some of the problems he saw with the Canonical/GNOME collaboration and pointed to certain events that he saw as good examples of how things go at the moment, in his impression Canonical develops behind closed doors and then just dumps huge loads of code onto GNOME hoping that GNOME will make them their default.

But you can’t have a good poo-flinging without a real firestarter and Aaron Seigo is just too happy to do that job. Even though he’s a KDE guy he starts commenting on how the GNOME project makes its decisions and points out that the GNOME people don’t seem to adopt the freedesktop.org standards that the KDE project likes.

Finally Mark Shuttleworth drops in and writes a really weirdly worded blog post basically claiming that Canonical oh so wants to help GNOME who just doesn’t wanna be helped and the KDE people are so much nicer and love to get big code drops.

This whole situation has a few really interesting aspects, let’s look at them independently.

THE GNOME SIDE. Dave Neary (as GNOME representative) just refers to the rules: Canonical’s requirement to assign copyright to their projects makes their input rather useless to GNOME as a free software project and their specs don’t really help GNOME in the ways it’s moving to. Now he is right but those things could have been handled a little bit smarter, if you really want Canonical’s input, helping them create better specs and APIs that are future-proof for the direction GNOME develops into. (On the other hand Canonical just took 75% of a big chunk of donations to GNOME and their whole Desktop is more of a GNOME fork than a collaboration).

THE KDE SIDE. KDE is in a bad situation. While their desktop seems to be almost up to its pre-rewrite functionality from what I hear, they still do suffer from the exitus of users their 4.0 version brought with it. Now Nokia as one of their big commercial backers has dumped Qt like a hot potato and things are looking to get tough so you gotta make sure to keep whoever’s left close. Canonical has in the last few months paid for a lot of Qt work and polished the KDE backend stack, now their new Unity-fallback mode is gonna use Qt. Aaron Seigo as one of the KDE project leaders basically saw a window of opportunity and jumped onto the bandwagon: “Yeah GNOME is horrible to work with but we like how Canonical works, please come and adopt us.”

THE CANONICAL SIDE. While they never admitted it, Canonical forked GNOME. The recent developments, especially when they decided to take money away from GNOME’s donations, show how things are going to be: They are working hard to change their GNOME fork (Project Ayatana) so people develop for Ubuntu and no longer for GNOME, they are trying very hard to capitalize on the market dominance that they have established amongst new Linux users (by providing a convenient way to get a useable linux desktop running).

It’s a really weird mix of commercial and funding problems and projects developing in different ways: When KDE and GNOME both were basically MS Windows clones (with more or less Apple influence) it was easy to establish collaboration patterns. Nothing worked really right yet, many things needed testing first and then both projects settled on what seemed to generally work. Now KDE has changed a little bit of how their desktop works and GNOME with its new gnome-shell is trying a very different approach (whether it will be successful or not we’ll have to wait and see): It’s just natural that the needs of both projects are going to diverge up to a point where certain specs will not be easy to create in a collaborative way.

Right now the most interesting development from my point of view is to see who will really get into bed with Canonical: Will GNOME people try to keep Canonical close or where the recent disturbances just the first signs of a clear break between both forks? Will Canonical pick up Aaron Seigo’s implicit offer and make Kubuntu their primary platform? Will they try to drive their own fork forward without the wider FLOSS community just relying on their market dominance in the small group of linux end users? Hard to say.

The only simple things we can take from this are: Jono Bacon is gonna have a hell of a job to sidetrack the community (expect a new Ubuntu “keep the community busy with something” thing coming from their communitizing community manager in the next few days to put some fires out) and I will migrate my work laptop away from Ubuntu just cause I want to stay compatible to GNOME and cause when I buy my music at Amazon I like that my money supports the GNOME project who builds my desktop. What’s your perception of this? Is Canonical “showing their true colors”? Are the GNOME people bad developers that just want to take your precious buttons away?

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September 08 2010

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September 01 2010

Lazyweb: Simple GNOME backup solution

Dear lazyweb, I’m currently looking for a simple GUI-based (GTK) backup solution. A view key requirements:

  • I want to back up to a USB drive and want a graphical reminder in case it’s not plugged in
  • I want to back my $HOME dir into an encrypted archive
  • My /etc and a few other files are to be backed up in a different, non-encrypted archive
  • I’d like to keep around a few iterations
  • Simple restauration of a whole image or single files from the backup.

Suggestions?

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