Re: Draining the Swamp: A Technical User's Experience


On Sat, 2002-05-04 at 04:37, Richard Stallman wrote:
> It would sure be a nice thing to have a convenient GNOME feature to
> change all the X server configuration options--and 200 other things
> that users might want to configure.

No, I don't agree there. What we need is to have XFree/whatever the
programs underneath need less options, and less configuration. All the
software underlying GNOME is going this way:

- Linux started with things like devfs, modules, and hotplug. Then with
2.5 comes this sort of ramfs (don't remember the name on top of my head)
that would, if I understood well, be able to load all the drivers
dynamically (yes, even the ones that need to be added *very* early on in
the boot process). That means that there is less configuration on this

- XFree86: the best example (known to me) is the PowerMac port of
XFree86 that integrates very well with the hardware. The kernel gets
information off the Open Firmware (like a BIOS but much better, ask
Sparc admins), and XFree86 gets the info off the kernel. In the end the
same configuration file works on most hardware, with very few changes
(the obvious being the resolution)

- acme: my personal favourite (I'm biased, I wrote it). A very simple
tool that integrates the hardware (any Apple laptop or a desktop with an
Apple Pro keyboard) with GNOME. The volume keys show a feedback popup
when pressed, the power key gives the GNOME logout screen, the eject
button does what it should.

> The ultimate purpose of a GUI is to make the system convenient for
> users; making the underlying GUI system technically powerful is a
> secondary goal.  To make the GNU system convenient, we need GNOME to
> flesh out its user-level features, to provide a coherent,
> well-organized collection of GUIs for lots of straightforward jobs
> that users want to do with their computers.

"ultimate purpose" ? I thought it was the prime one. Or is "making it
pretty" the prime one ? Anyway, sometimes fleshing out is not always the
right solution. Look at xchat for GNOME 1.4 and xchat for GNOME 2.
What's profiling is a better organisation of the preferences, easier to
use UI altogether, and no loss of features/configurability.

But you're right saying that we need to provide something coherent and
straight-forward. But something it's hard to deal with what's underneath
(try writing a configuration UI for sendmail), and we need help from the
guys below. The guys below would be the people writing the libraries,
people writing everything that drives the hardware, the people writing
essential OS components.

(You should try to focus, Richard, focus on the topic discussed, stop
going sideways, we all know your opinion, no need to add another layer
of it).

As a sidenote, I'd say that GNOME is certainly not solely to be used on
GNU systems, and I think it's very wrong from you Richard to say that
non-GNU systems should be not be treated equally to GNU systems.
Companies such as Sun, HP, Compaq and IBM have interest in GNOME and
most of them committing money and people to the project. Most of them
also want to see GNOME running on their non-GNU systems.

The fact is that most people use GNU systems, and although they are a
driving force, just take a look at who the maintainers for the different
core packages are. Most of them are employed full-time to work on GNOME,
improving it all the time, for money, for GNU and non-GNU systems.

Make the FSF hire a few hackers to work on GNOME, and then you can come
back to tell us that GNU systems should be the primary focus of the
project. Hacking for GNU systems doesn't pay my rent and I wish I was
hacking for a non-GNU one to pay for it.


/Bastien Nocera

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