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A though on decadence

2008/10/20

In a age of decadence, it would seem as if developers in GNOME are eager for change. I have seen the debates over it and one thing that seems to come to mind is that the hive is in a panic over the appearance of a new KDE. At the end of the day, there may be many things that need to change in the small world that is GNOME, but as something constructive, the first thing is to establish some sense of calm.

Yes, KDE 4.x is out, yes GNOME seems rather content to continue in a state of maintenance. But I would like the see the fabled “ThreePointZero” more as a logical improvement in the core technologies than a complete different breed of desktop animal. If you look about the KDE camp, you will notice that KDE 4.x is a very viscous thing… Features coming and going at a rapid pace, a lot of back and forth over what is the desktop paradigm, and many changes to the core itself. This will not last forever, but it’s very disturbing from a users point of view, for nothing is seen as stable. As much as we know that any work on GNOME “ThreePointZero” will be inclined to some manner of breakage, what is happening in KDE can make a person down right twitchy. It’s not something that I would like to see happen, if anything “ThreePointZero” should seem to be a more smooth transition in the users point of view than KDE’s has currently been, which could be the definition of disruptive for an observers stand point (and when you add in that developers tend to know more than the mild-mannered user, if the user is twitching… how do you think that developers feels with all that near hourly changes happening around them for something as simple as a small widget, in a word… not good).

In all the talk, there is one thing that seems to be missing in the larger GNOME “ThreePointZero” discussion. We are talking alot about where we want to go and not alot about where we have been. The reason that I have mentioned this is to point out what happens in GNOME currently and where the GNOME stack is failing. Admitting you see a lot of push on GNOME/GTK+ and etc. in places that the original author may have never designed for. Take for example the big push into the mobile space. We have been so concerned with getting there that we have not begun to notice the cracks we see when attempting this… GTK+ seems good, but it’s not made to work within confined spaces, and developing in such confinements takes a while to figure out. Openmoko, for example, has been working on that for 2 years (along with the rest of the Neo 1973/Freeruner)… they have made progress, but it’s taken them a while to squeeze something as large as GTK+ 2.x into there little machine.
As I said, work on a new GNOME will cause things to brake hard… the tools that GNOME uses like GTK+ could use a re-design for things that we are attempting at but have difficulty doing currently, if not some foresight to attempt to design for things that currently seem impossible. At times, GTK+ is to heavy for it’s own good (which is funny when you consider I am user of Xfce at times… a GTK+ based windows manager), at the moment OpenGL composting is hack-happy (some good, some bad, and some VERY dirty), it’s still need work to bind other languages such as Objective-C, D, ruby, Lua, etc. in a smooth manner. It’s a dirty job, but the bull is already in the China store… if this doesn’t happen, if we don’t build GTK+ “better, stronger, faster”; developers on the fringe will leave, and if I have noticed anything in the X-based universe, when fringe developers leave so do alot of users.
I have been liking the talking that has gone in this direction, because in all the screaming about GNOME in a age of decadence, there has been little talk about improving the tools that make GNOME. And to be honest, QT and KDE are near synonymous with each other… when QT moved to 4.X it wasn’t long for KDE to be in lockstep with Qt. The relationship that GTK+ and GNOME have is similar to KDE and Qt, if GNOME is to hit “ThreePointZero”, GTK and other tools as relent as such are coming along from the ride. It’s the tools that will make GNOME change, not the other way a round.

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