Draining the Swamp: A Technical User's Experience

Hi all,

Thought this would be appropriate here, given that it's not on the straight
and narrow of core GNOME development issues. It is, however, crucial to
GNOME's success - we can't fix everything ourselves. :-)

Jim Gettys presented an excellent talk about 'draining the [Free Software]
swamp' at GUADEC, covering the relationships between various Free Software
products and projects, and how we can work better together to improve the
overall system.

Conrad is the previous president of the Sydney Linux User's Group, and he
and Silvia work on audio analysis software for the national science and
research labs here in Australia. They are highly skilled Linux users and
developers (see http://vergenet.net/~conrad/ and the link Conrad supplies in
the email for some fun).

It's a familiar story, and a very full swamp.

- Jeff

----- Forwarded message from Conrad Parker <conrad vergenet net> -----

Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 18:04:52 +1000
From: Conrad Parker <conrad vergenet net>
To: jdub slug org au
Subject: sync rates && linux advocacy

Hi Jeff,

you're the person I'm going to braindump this to, because I figure you'll
appreciate a subtle mix of usability and advocacy rolled up into one

Silvia just did a TV interview about the technology of online music
searching. She demoed our software, including bewdy (a Gnome app for
analysing mp3 files: http://www.cmis.csiro.au/maaate/bewdy/) and
they wanted some footage of that and music search engines.

Unfortunately there was a problem with the scan rate of the monitor; the
camera couldn't lock on to the rate that X was running it at. We screwed
around for a while changing it in XF86Config. The box is running
XFree86 3.x on RedHat 6, and we had to get an IT support guy in for
root access. He stayed in the room while we went through a cycle of
losing keyboard control and running to another room to edit config files
over the network, plus a couple of reboots when everything went to shit.

Meanwhile the camera crew were sitting around twiddling their thumbs ...

Eventually we had wasted enough of their time and had to give up. Silvia
flicked the monitor over to her Windows box, which drove it at a rate
they could sync to, and they shot some footage of music search engines
running in Internet Explorer.

Sure, we were running some "crusty" software (what, two years old?), and
maybe we were too lame to edit HorizSync and VertRefresh rates in
XF86Config properly; we being myself, our IT support guy and a camera

The outcome was, though, that even though we do our core development and
research using Linux, when we get our few magical seconds on TV the
screens will show Windows apps not Gnome apps. You can see that there
are a plethora of contributing factors to this story, involving
usability, driver settings and admin rights. I expect some of these have
been addressed in recent software releases, but I doubt this is a solved
problem. If it is common, it is damaging our ability to gain mindshare.


----- End forwarded message -----

    "Basically my philosophy on release management is that it should be     
                like police brutality." - Maciej Stachowiak                 

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