GNOME development experience

To whom it may concern on the GNOME development team:

I am writing to you to express some of my frustrations, and some of my
suggestions, after attempting to write a GNOME application for inclusion in
the GNOME CVS tree.  I am doing this because I see the GNOME project as a
positive and good thing, and would hate to see opportunities squandered that
could advance the project as a whole.

First, a disclaimer: I have just graduated from high school, and am preparing
to head up to Carnegie Mellon University this fall.  I have never been
involved in a project of this magnitude before, although I have written
programs for Linux/UNIX and X-Windows before.  I have read the mailing list
religiously since I have gotten involved, and I am continually amazed by the
high quality of thought and discussion that is going on in this project.  I
find it reassuring that a project of this scope and ambition is being
approached with systematically and intelligently.

I also recognize, at this moment, that I do not have the technical knowledge
to contribute to things like a CORBA ORB, or a DocBook <-> texinfo program.
It was my hope that I could contribute to this project in the ways that I
could, and my first effort has been to port my Gtk-based xothello program to

I have found information on compiling GNOME from CVS to be available, but
widely scattered.  It _is_ possible, after searching through archived mailing
lists and FAQ's, to find an answer to all of the problems, at least those that
I encountered.  I have found that information on coding GNOME applications is
much harder to come by.  Once again, it is possible to look through the source
to other people's applications and figure out many of the GNOME-specific
programming issues; also, a few people, notably Mark Rae, have been immensely
helpful, and friendly.  However, to a large extent, a new coder is left to
figure out much of this for themselves.

I have managed to figure out much of what I needed to know to write a GNOME
application.  By reading other's code, I was able to grok session management,
and how to generate the menus, etc.  I think I have correctly stolen the
format for a .desktop file, and I'm working on what to do for help
information.  In fact, I have a working program that I would like to
contribute to the project, to get feedback from other programmers, etc.  I
have overcome (I think) most of the programming issues, only to find myself
unable to submit my work.  Everything is sitting in a .tgz on my computer,
unused by anyone but myself, because I don't know how to submit my work.  Nor
has anyone told me how to.  I have been asked for a crypted password at one
point, but I'm not even sure what server to login to (is it the same as the
anonymous CVS server?  This seemed odd to me, as the hostname was anoncvs...).  

I sincerely hope that one day, I will be one of the people developing broad
policy, working out applet specifications, etc.  In the meantime, I was lead
to believe that work on _all_ levels was needed for the GNOME project.  It
makes since that, even when all technical issues are resolved, a desktop
cannot be released without actual programs.  However, I have found that trying
to write those programs is a very frustrating experience (I'm sure you can
tell that from this mail :) ).

I have several suggestions to help alleviate this problem.  First of all, a
separate mailing list for gnome _application_ developers might be of use -
somewhere where questions concerning things which aren't on the bleeding edge
of development, but some people still need to know, could be answered.  The
section on the GNOME web page concerning writing a GNOME application is
woefully bare, with many sections listed as still needs to be written.

Let me say again, I am still interested in being a part of this project, and
if this letter sounds overly critical, it is only because I hate to see an
opportunity wasted.  It is difficult for me to tell people I know that they
should be working on this project, when I can't even say that I've
successfully gotten my first program submitted.

Ian Peters

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