Arrived at Stuttgart

I collected my KLM boarding pass at Heathrow, and was told that I could wait for my flight in the HOLODECK lounge. There were DIY free snacks, drinks and net terminals so I figured I could chill out for a bit, have a drink, and read something frivolous like the Financial Times. So mid-way through enjoying a couple of Smirnoff Lemon clubby drinks, I noticed there were a bunch of people looking at me strangely in the airport lounge. I gather club drinks at 8am is, at the very least… unconventional. But hey, airport lounge! Fuckers.

Bumped into Roberto, Jono and Paul at Amsterdam airport. Hello hackers! Flew in to Stuttgart, which was not at all what I expected. Everyone said it was a very boring industrial town. Naturally, I thought it would be like Birmingham. But no, Stuttgart is not like Birmingham. It is nice and small, very pretty and green, and even has vineyards in the centre of the town. Wine is important in this region, both commercially and culturally. I will have to do a wine tasting at some stage, when I get a chance to wander around a bit.

Turned up at the hotel I thought I was staying at. Found Nat, Mikael and Anders hanging out in the foyer. Had the first inevitible taste of GUADEC “future of GNOME” discussions, mentioned a bunch of stuff I’ve been thinking about and examples of existing related work, which Nat neatly shit-stirred in his blog. Found out I wasn’t staying at that hotel after all, so racked off to the right one to clean myself up before dinner.

Did not win a Nokia 770 at dinner. But there was a lot of synchronicity in the air, and I slept well. I should get a synchronicity air filter or something, so I always sleep well.

LWN on Nokia + GNOME

Jon’s deadpan style regularly makes me chuckle:

“Let it not be said that free software projects can’t keep secrets: it would seem that quite a few people in the GNOME community knew that Nokia was working on a Linux-powered, GNOME-based gadget, but they sure didn’t let [The 770] the rest of us in on the story. [...] Last week, LWN called for the creation of a truly open media gadget which could be hacked on by its users. We were a little surprised to get a response this quickly.”


Nokia and GNOME

and Maemo!

Congratulations to the Nokia folks and all the tortured GNOME dudes who had to keep quiet about this while they were working on it. :-)

I have a funny story about Nokia. At the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Mataró, I met Jesus Climent, a rip-snortingly funny Debian dude who works for Nokia. We took to calling him Baby Jesus, not just because we have so many other in-jokes about Baby Jesus, but because he is so terminally cute.

Anyway, Jesus had a pre-release Nokia phone which was stunningly different – distinctly bold, even – from any other phone we’d seen before.

A few months later, I was sitting in a crowded cinema, watching the pre-film advertising. Lo and behold, Nokia’s new fashion range was advertised, and I recognised one of them from Mataró: “Oh look, that’s Baby Jesus’ phone!”

There were some… confused… looks from the people around us.


It’s funny, we’ve had exactly the same problem in English. We needed a word to describe “Ubuntu people”, so Mako reckons Ubuntites is the best one, whereas, I’m partial to Ubuntians. Foolishly, we didn’t think about common idioms in other languages… and Ubunteros wins HANDS DOWN. :-)


  • Jeremy Nickurak tells me that the Esperanto version would be Ubuntulo. On reading this, it occured to me that Ubuntuhi sounds just like a sneeze. Ah, Esperanto.
  • Markus Triska suggests the Latin singular Ubuntus and plural Ubunti.
  • Martin Vulprecht notes that if we’re to use Latin terms, they should be non-gender specific! He suggests Ubuntuis or the plural, Ubuntues.

Mike, a potential DIA contributor, has an epiphany: “It wasn’t until today that I finally realized the advantages of the distributed repository approach. [...] I would very much like to be able to use versionning control to track my changes, but I do not have write access to the Dia CVS repository. With an Arch-based system, however, I would be able to create a local [...] branch for my own development which could later be merged back into the main Dia repository. I found this revelation rather stunning. Especially when combined with intelligent merging. [...] It would appear those wonderful folks over at Ubuntu have made things simpler for me as they have an Bazaar mirror of Dia.”

Press Gang

Kurt, this is a very slippery slope, and definitely not a path that the core developers of either project are keen to follow. After a period of deep divide, we’ve worked together to encourage a state of friendly and collaborative competition between our two incredible desktop projects. This is an important strength, one which I encourage you to take very seriously.

You have read an article without applying some necessary critical analysis. Journalists are naturally attracted to conflict and oppositions – the lifeblood of news and current events, whether it involves ideas, people, organisations or countries. In this case, you need to consider the GNOME Foundation’s OSC press release, what you know of GNOME’s interests and motivations, and a journalist’s interpretation and analysis of the events.

Put simply, the GNOME Foundation was invited to participate in a marketing partnership with another organisation. This is not an earth-shaking event, but is worth a press release and some associated press. I’m sure the journalist in question was happy to see an angle in the story that could imply conflict. Do you think this minor point in the journalist’s analysis necessarily represents the GNOME Foundation’s intent? I would hope not, but it seems you have. :-)

Unfortunately, your blog entry about this expresses conflict in an open and unattractive way – precisely the kind of expression that inks a journalist’s pen, and damages everyone’s efforts! If we allow the media to focus on infighting within the FOSS community, they will, and every line devoted to it will be one less line devoted to our successes.

In the meantime, the jury is firmly out when it comes to deciding which desktop has greater market share. KDE certainly does very well in online polls (which tend to have a very narrow, technical audience), but are you comfortable using those? I wouldn’t be. :-) I’m doing my part for KDE by championing Kubuntu, which has all the right ingredients to become the most incredible KDE distribution available, both for users and developers. (And the best bit is that you can actually get deeply involved in its development, just like Ubuntu.)

I did an interview a while back with a journalist who was fiercely courting controversial issues. His aggressively targeted questions were intended, primarily, to harass. My (cunningly?) uncontroversial answers forced him to include an introduction in which he could make his opinion known (“one can’t dictate answers”). I was angry, but it was delightful to watch his journalistic integrity splatter all over the floor! Most journalists won’t go to such an extreme effort to find conflict – but if you give it to them on a silver platter, they’ll gladly take it.

Most important is this: We have a wonderful environment of friendly and collaborative competition, and have avoided unnecessary bitterness for a long time. Please don’t mess with it lightly.

Coming Clean

Dave Neary asked the release team if they had a position on the language stuff, because he was interested to see if that could help move the Foundation Board discussion forward. Here’s his question, and my answer (after attempting to let the release team dodge it).

We’re talking over on the board list about the language thing, and I’ve been saying it’s not really the board’s job to decide anything on this.

It would help, I think, if the release team were to come to some kind of a position on things. We could then work out how to make that position upset the advisory board and the rest of the community as little as possible.

PS. This is me as an individual, asking for ideas, not as a board member. The board’s split on this right now.

So in that spirit, this is me as an individual, offering my thoughts. Though I gladly offer them as a release team member, they do not represent the view of the release team as a whole. I’m sure the rest of the gang will pitch in.

First, let me address the legal speculation and rhetoric surrounding Mono.

In the broader FOSS community, we have a common ground for understanding MP3 related patent issues. The patents are actively enforced, we know precisely who enforces them, we know that the enforcer is not particularly interested in software freedom and we can point to the patents in question (and in some extreme cases, know the patent numbers by heart). If you recall, we had the same common ground with RSA and GIF. We all knew the score. We even partied as the patents expired.

We cannot say the same for Mono. Crucially, no one has come forward to give us substantive evidence regarding any of the issues above. To be sure, Mono has a much broader scope than the examples I’ve used, but the same principle applies: If we face such dangers, corporate and individual stakeholders will sound the air raid sirens again (enlightened self-interest in action). We’ve seen companies such as Intel, Mainsoft, Novell and Medsphere get behind Mono but have yet to see useful, published information damning it — from anyone.

Let’s look at what else is on offer.

  • C++: We are so vastly under-advertising our fantastic *mm bindings, that we’re in danger of creating humanity’s first DIY black hole. Insanity! ISVs have inquiring minds, and want to know.
  • Java: Has microscopic mindshare in the GNOME community. Has brill bindings. Sun isn’t interested in our APIs or fixing the Achille’s Heel of Java (when it comes to GNOME)… the license. Red Hat are madly working on a Free Java. Apache are joining the fray. Massive developer base, but they don’t care about our APIs either. Jeffrey Morgan is kicking arse, while everyone else talking about GNOME and Java are waving their dicks in the wind. Sorry.
  • Python: Probably suits the spirit of GNOME more than any of the others. We have recently come to our senses and encouraged pygtk apps in the Desktop release. We should integrate Python scripting into pretty much everything.
  • Ruby: Big in Japan. So is GNOME. Anyone know why the Ruby bindings aren’t in the release? Wakarimasen.
  • Smalltalk: Bindings are in the tarball, and I hear they rock pretty hard. Go play with them, then cry over old Engelbart videos. I’ll be there for you in the morning.
  • Perl: The bindings live on, with regular releases, even though Perl turned into a pumpkin at the turn of the millennium. Pity.

Here’s how I think we’re going to solve it, whether we consciously intend to or not: First, we depoliticise the official GNOME suites by redefining them in terms of their interfaces. The Developer Platform continues as is, while the Desktop becomes the set of modules that define the interfaces — not the applications — we provide to everything else running on the desktop. Through both, we define what it means to integrate and work with GNOME, rather than our current definition of what it means to *be* GNOME (which is cold, unwelcoming and exclusive).

Second, we franchise the release process so that other suites may track the process, using the same concepts, but their own (or borrowed) standards. GPE and GNOME Office are already looking at doing this, and have been for some time. If we can pull this off, all those great apps out there will *be* GNOME in a way they can’t be today. They will *be* GNOME whatever they’re written in, whoever chooses to ship them. It will enable developers, community or corporate, to target GNOME – the Linux Desktop Defined.

I have more to say about this. I hope I can find the time to write it all down. I haven’t in the past, and I’m pretty impressed I found the time to write just this. :-)