But why the rant?

Thom, you don’t need to rant to contribute your thoughts to the FLOSS process. You did warn that you wouldn’t ‘sugarcoat’ your comments, but why did you feel the need to dip them in venom? Remember that asking FLOSS developers to do something is kind of like asking if you can borrow their car — don’t tell someone their ride is a hunk of junk while asking for the keys!

I’ve answered your points, though, to provide a bit of information about where they’re at, and tips for where to look or how to get something done about them.

  1. Linux boots too slowly: This is true, but I’m happy to report that much work has been going on between the distributions and a number of upstream projects to address this. There is a lot of boot performance analysis going on, and even development of data collection and visualisation tools such as Bootchart.

    Thanks to tools like Bootchart, and developers fixing the issues it highlights, the latest Ubuntu release is significantly faster to boot than 5.10. I’m sure Scott James Remnant will be working on this again for Edgy Eft, cackling with glee as he carves bloody chunks out of our boot process. It’s always a lot of fun to watch.

  2. GNOME needs a better default layout for its panels: It’s good to see Novell experimenting with this, particularly for the purpose of end-user familiarity. As far as I know, they haven’t attempted to integrate this work — either design or code — with the GNOME community’s goals so far, but it will be interesting to see if it makes an impact.

    There is a fair amount of interesting work being done on future panel infrastructure and interfaces, so expect to see some movement on this in upcoming releases. However, keep in mind that a lot of homework — design and code — needs to be done before executing a change like this!

  3. Speaking of panels, please […] fix [the] ‘taskbar’: I’ve removed the wholly unnecessary rantage. Thom linked to a thread in which Vincent Untz (a GNOME developer) pointed out the relevant bug reference. He chose to link to his post on the mailing list instead of linking the bug number, has not commented on the bug, and is not in the Cc list.

    It is certainly asking a lot of a user to participate in GNOME bugzilla discussions, but I don’t think it’s a lot to ask of Thom, who has participated on the mailing list (within a thread that links to the bug number), and ranted about this very particular issue in his online publication.

    Thom, I’ve found that writing really good bug reports in the appropriate venues, and making personal (and kind) contact with developers has been vastly more effective at getting software problems fixed than making a public mockery of the developers. Mostly, ‘obvious’ bugs aren’t fixed because a developer is busy, or hasn’t designed an appropriate solution, or worst of all, has so much to do that he or she is having a hard time prioritising what really matters to users.

    We should totally fix this bug, though!

  4. GNOME has serious [widget drawing performance] issues: Yeah, it’s not great, but the ongoing work with the rendering subsystems (Cairo, X and GL acceleration of both) is looking really good, and will seriously improve the user experience — in more than just pure performance!

  5. Evolution needs some serious love: Yes, indeedy, and you only covered the user interface! I hope that Evolution (and possibly even some alternatives) will be a popular topic of discussion at GUADEC.

  6. GNOME needs better support for Palm PDAs: Yes, it’s been a long time since gnome-pilot has received sustained attention. Interested hackers should probably be looking at OpenSync.

  7. GNOME has too many ‘Preferences’ panels: Weeds have grown over time, and it’s time to cut them out! Unfortunately, this is mass organic growth that we have to get under control, and the only really effective way of doing that now is a top-down redesign of the preference dialogues, taking both gnome-control-center and gnome-system-tools into account. It has languished to a certain extent because it requires buy-in and integration from various parties and projects, not all of whom are running in the same direction. This is another thing that we need to talk about at GUADEC.

  8. Mounting is still a mess in Linux: I think you just found a bug. πŸ™‚ While there is certainly work left to do here, I don’t think it’s as bad as you suggest.

  9. Ubuntu still does not pass my ZipDisk test: Ah, pet bugs! Have you filed this? That would certainly help, as would ensuring that a good hacker has access to the hardware. ZipDisks are not wildly popular anymore, so it’s not surprising that more work has been done on the infrastructure support and user experience with CDs and DVDs. Sometimes, you have to get things done yourself — if you can’t hack, you can probably buy pizza!

I’m a little bit surprised at the points you chose — there are so many other, probably more critical things you could have raised… But then, I’m also surprised you chose to rant — there are so many other, probably more solution-oriented things you could have done… πŸ™‚

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16 Responses to But why the rant?

  1. felipe says:

    unfortunately ranting seems a popular way to draw attention ..this has proved especially true for osnews in the past. thanks for the polite reply πŸ™‚

  2. 1. Linux boots too slowly – There is a project, InitNG(http://www.initng.org/wiki/Documents_Overview), it starts the service at the same time, It will really improve the boot time, I need to try it sometime.

    5. Evolution needs some serious love – I love evolution, I think it should be lighter and faster πŸ˜‰

  3. jpl says:

    You ask… “Why the rant?”

    It’s simple really. His rant caused you to respond and link to his article on osnews.com! Page hits.

  4. Jonathan Turner says:

    Re: 2)… “However, keep in mind that a lot of homework Ò€” design and code Ò€” needs to be done before executing a change like this!”

    That sounds decidedly suspect. How would one experiment without an experiment to experiment with? Not to say that the extreme jumping in every direction a la E17 fits with the Gnome path, but having a few different designs that people can turn on and test out for odd point releases doesn’t sound bad, even if they’re knocked up in python and not meant to last.

    Better that the needs and opinions come from experiments, so that the path for Gnome 3.0 becomes more clear.

    9) Wow, people still use ZipDisk…

  5. !nkubus says:

    Wow, that’s probably the best answer you could have. You demonstrate clearly why Ubuntu is so successful. It’s all about the attitude.

  6. JrezIN says:

    I’m not taking sides… I know this kind of discussion is difficult…

    But is Tom really ‘dropping some venom’ on FLOSS developers or is he asking a company with paid developers about issues related with the quality of the software?

    I’m happy you’re interested enough to reply to this concerns, and hope other developers could do the same. I just think every user/costumer input should be considered. I know there’s some political/publicity questions besides that, and if that’s the case, I hope it doesn’t change the fact that it is very good to see some feedback from the user’s point of view, mostly because for desktop software, the costumer don’t usually care more to what kind of software it is than how many problems he/she can find.

    Anyway… best wishes for all. I hope we can all develop and use together solving all these issues!

  7. Don Marti says:

    See “bug report rule” in the Linux Journal Authors’ Guide.

    Releasing Free Software shouldn’t mean people have to PubSub every damn news site and blog on the planet for their usability bug reports. Basically, free-range usability testing is a good thing, but it works better for the readers if the results get plugged into the system.

  8. Jim says:

    Had I choosen to rant (not that I have), I would have choosen these:

    1. Better hardware support: Ubuntu is doing an excellent job on this so far. The jump between 5 to 6 (Dapper) was astounding. Most of the hardware that was not supported in an older version is now supported. Although not to the best level, most now work moderately better. Improvement can be had and hope to see this same leap with the next version of Ubuntu.

    2. GUI goodness: Ubuntu seems to take care of this pretty well, where most other distributions fall short. One of my major concerns at this point is a file backup/sync solution and a new mouse GUI capable of setting up mice with many buttons (which already seems to be on the bill for Edgy).

    3. Gnome/KDE integration: I would like to run some KDE programs on GNOME, and I am sure some KDE people like to run GNOME apps. This seems to be less of an issue in Dapper, but I have still had a few crashes/bugs when running KDE apps in GNOME.

    4. KDE Sound: For me, installing a fresh KDE desktop has absoulutely NO sound support. Many others seemed to have the same problem. A few tweaks/installs fixes it, but should come with better sound support out-of-the-box. Not that I complain much since I use GNOME mostly. πŸ™‚

    Overall I enjoy Ubuntu much more than Windows, but believe it still needs some upgrades and tweaking before the computer-illiterate could truely step in. I currently have not supported Ubuntu to those who are computer illiterate solely for the fact that I know I would have to become a tech support specialist to them (already am one to them for Windows).

    I love the new features in Dapper, and can’t wait to see what’s in store for Edgy.

    Keep up the great work!

  9. snozzberry says:

    “Thanks to tools like Bootchart, and developers fixing the issues it highlights, the latest Ubuntu release is significantly faster to boot than 5.10.”

    Really. I have a MythTV box I upgraded from Breezy to Dapper this weekend, and it’s a complete LAMP stack in action. Its boot time is no faster than Breezy’s.

  10. nobody says:

    “asking FLOSS developers to do something is kind of like asking if you can borrow their car”

    Gnome is developed by paid developers from what… Canonical? Sun? Red Hat? Novell? Companies are using Gnome as the GUI to sell support plans for their Linux distros? This isn’t some stupid X-Window game or genealogy program and Ubuntu is hardly Debian.

  11. bkor says:


    Last time I checked I wasn’t paid to work on GNOME. I know enough real developers that are not paid to work on GNOME as well. Even if I was, if I am paid for some company to work on GNOME, this does not mean random GNOME users pay me to work on GNOME. Rant to the company, not various developers with different interests. Oh, and even if I was paid by users, I’m not going to allow those users or random people to rant to me. I’ll likely ignore it.

  12. 10. *GNOME starts faster the first times* I’ve seen it, I have created a new account on my laptop (gentoo and GNOME 2.12) and when I log in into this account GNOME starts faster than when starts my usual all-day-user, OK there is some applet less, but it should be beautiful has “always” the same start time. Is this a GConf problem or a problem related to my hidden(config)files into my home? have you seen the same problem?

  13. nobody: “This isnÒ€ℒt some stupid X-Window game or genealogy program and Ubuntu is hardly Debian.”

    You still can’t expect anybody to work on your specific requests unless you sponsor him (or unless you pay a company for support), you can just hope. You are encouraged to help out, though. In fact, FOSS gives you the possibility to do what you couldn’t do with CSS: Improve it yourself, i.e. you don’t even have to depend on others. Of course, every company has its own priorities and projects, and their TODO list might but usually doesn’t match yours.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thom’s confrontational style certainly grates on many users, myself included. However, he does raise some valid points, particularly in regard to screen redraw and the Evolution issues.

    I think perhaps that the GNOME community needs to advertise more to indicate what work is being done to resolve outstanding issues. Davyd does a great job in highlighting the new features when a release is imminent but then we have silence for six months unless we are members of the various mailing lists or go to individual blogs like this one.

    As you note, work is going on in various areas such as resolving redraw issues and rethinking the applets but perhaps this could be publicised a little more to those not in the development community. Even if what is promised is only “vapourware” at this stage, it could add to the hype and interest around future releases. Could also backfire if you don’t manage to deliver in some cases but it is worth considering…

    With regard to the specific comment that “GNOME needs a better default layout for its panels” I do disagree and find the current top and bottom panels eminently usable especially as I run a number of applets. One comment that seems to have come out of the various usability studies is that many users do not know how to right-click to access functions. In my own system administration experience, I have anecdotally found this to be the case as well.

    I am highly concerned about the conclusion of the recent Novell studies mentioned above however as “innovations” such as the start menu and recommendations surrounding the clock applet and task bar seem intent on providing a Windows clone rather than true usability. Just because a majority of current users are more familiar with XP certainly does not make it a more usable system. We need to innovate and learn from Microsoft’s mistakes, not copy them.

  15. Clopy says:

    “Linux boots too slowly:”

    Well, it depends. On my dual core 2GB RAM pc, Ubuntu starts A LOT faster than windows. Usually it’s half the time. Some times windows take like 5 minutes to start. And I’ve only had them for a month. Probably there’s some problem with one of the drivers (cause the first time after the format, windows booted up fast), But still, Dapper is faster than windows even for a few seconds.

    Ok, I admit, Breezy was slower than WinXP at boot time. But Dapper? No way.

  16. Marc says:

    Way to go by not getting too emotional, acknowledging the real issues, and stating (useful) facts.

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