Re: GNOME and non-linux platforms (release team please stand up)

On 22 Jul 2009, at 12:50, Christian Fredrik Kalager Schaller wrote:

So I would like to ask the GNOME release team to please come forward
and clearly state that the future of GNOME is to be a linux desktop
system as opposed to a desktop system for any Unix-like system.

This is by no means an "official Sun response" to this proposal, just the thoughts of somebody who's worked on GNOME at Sun for the past 9 years or so...

It goes without saying that I'd be disappointed if GNOME were to take any official Linux-only stance. Sun has contributed a great deal to GNOME both technically and financially over the years, and although there aren't nearly as many familiar Sun faces on the GNOME mailing lists and IRC channels as there used to be (or, indeed, as I'd like), there's still a good-sized team of GNOME development and QA folks working here and contributing upstream as and when we can. (FWIW, in addition to sponsoring the event again this year, a dozen or so of us made the trip to Gran Canaria this month, which, bar a couple of exceptions, is about the same or more as we've sent to every previous GUADEC.)

That said, many of the Sun team do seem to spend more time than they ought to just to keep GNOME running on OpenSolaris on the various Sun platforms these days. They often have to deal with various Linux-isms at a code or conceptual level, or with technologies that are coming late to Linux and are implemented completely differently from the equivalent used by Sun (e.g. RBAC v PolicyKit, Trusted OpenSolaris v SELinux), or with performance or scalability issues that don't affect the average Linux desktop or enterprise user, but that would make GNOME unusable on the hundreds of thousands[1] of Sun Ray thin clients out there.

All that tends to leave us less time to make the larger-scale contributions that we used to make to GNOME and its related projects. Historically, that included things like implementing multi-head support for gtk, designing and implementing the original accessibility framework, writing and reviewing large chunks of user documentation, collaborating on regular HIG updates, performing UI reviews and usability studies, etc. All these things would probably have been gotten around to eventually, but at the very least, I think it's fair to say these sorts of contributions from the non-Linux side of the fence got GNOME to where it is today a good deal quicker than would otherwise have been the case.

Now, there's no denying that until fairly recently, it was hard for most non-Sun contributors to even test their stuff on Solaris, so you could argue we're reaping what we sowed to some extent on that front. Nowadays, though, OpenSolaris comes on a LiveCD and runs in VirtualBox or in a dual-boot scenario pretty much as well as any Linux distro. So it shouldn't be all that hard to at least check once in a while that whatever you're working on is at least going to build, preferably run, and ideally function in an OpenSolaris environment[2].

Anyway, if anything, I guess I'd argue that it's time to actually reinforce the notion that the GNOME desktop is intended for use on any Unix-like system, and to figure out how to better distribute the development and QA workload to make that happen, so that non-Linux contributors have more chance to make significant contributions upstream again instead of spending most of their time treading downstream water.


[1] Okay, I don't actually have any idea how many Sun Ray clients are out there, but I'm guessing the order of magnitude is roughly correct. If anything, it's probably an underestimate.

[2] Or indeed any other non-Linux environments that you might wish to explore to expand your technological horizons in your copious free time :)

CALUM BENSON, Usability Engineer       Sun Microsystems Ireland
mailto:calum benson sun com            OpenSolaris Desktop Team             +353 1 819 9771

Any opinions are personal and not necessarily those of Sun Microsystems

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