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    Blog has moved to, see May, 2004 on new site

    Blog entries for May, 2004

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    While we're making lists ;-) metacity has a few bugs and some commonly-requested enhancements. Here are some I'd love to see people hack on:

    All of these things would have really noticeable impact.

    2004-05-29 (SATURDAY)
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    Our TV of many years died recently, and we found an "open box" HDTV and discontinued DVD player for good prices. HDTV is pretty fun. Been a while since I bought any electronic gadgets, my stereo equipment still dates to high school and the just-broken TV was around 6 years old I think.

    I wrote some trivial D-BUS code today, haven't written much code recently and it's nice to do something. A bit of a pause in the manager-type stuff this week. Sadly, I don't think it will last, I've already lost track of all the meetings next week.

    Been trying very hard to avoid the command line. CVS and ssh are screwing me up. I've found solutions to most of the rest of it.

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    On another note.

    2004-05-21 (FRIDAY)
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    Nat, slippery slope is a fallacious argument here. Yes XML had Microsoft involved, among many others. I'd say the difference between XML and .NET is pretty clear so I won't belabor the point.

    Anyway. I didn't intend to bring this up this week, Seth posted on it and I thought I'd comment. But I do continue to believe it would be a huge mistake for the Linux desktop to adopt Mono, so I can't do anything but argue against attempts to encourage same. And I think this issue is plainly causing a de facto Linux desktop fork at the moment, however noble the goal.

    Regarding whether there are patents: respectfully disagree.

    2004-05-20 (THURSDAY)
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    Nat says Novell has lawyers and all software infringes, and this simply highlights the point I already made. Patent issues are not black and white. They are risk analysis. And different people and companies face different risks. What Novell finds acceptable risk may not be acceptable for individual hackers, or for other companies.

    The real point is that Novell is asking everyone to take this risk. And not everyone finds it acceptable, either legally (patents) or strategically (Microsoft driving the bus).

    If Novell wants to use Mono that's great. But GNOME should not, and neither should any of the important desktop apps.

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    Seth did a nicer job explaining the Mono issues than I ever did.

    Miguel's response I would summarize as "any software could infringe patents, so we should ignore patents until they become an issue, then work around." However, not all patents are the same. Some of the factors:

    • Whether the patent is on an implementation technique or the functionality (e.g. you could have to break or remove ABI/features to work around)
    • Who owns the patent (some are more problematic than others, for example Microsoft is maximally problematic)
    • How many patents there are in a given area
    • How strong the patent is (how much prior art, etc.)
    • Perception issues: if you precisely copy someone else's technology, it's much easier to convince a jury your stuff is infringing than if you have something vaguely similar but with distinct heritage

    The issue here is risk management. Sure, C/C++/Python could infringe some patents. However, the risk is a heck of a lot lower. Those technologies are not invented by and driven forward by the single most powerful and open-source-hostile company in the tech industry.

    Miguel uses the Gnumeric analogy, of moving forward and ignoring the hard problems for a while rather than letting them slow you down. Great advice for technical problems. For legal and strategic problems, sometimes but not always the best plan. Let's find a course of action where the big hard problem is technical, rather than beyond our control. Otherwise we're rolling the dice. Rolling the dice is a necessary part of life, but to be successful you have to take the good bets, not the bad bets. Ideally the good bets where one's own actions (such as writing code) can affect the outcome.

    One point I like that Seth makes is that Novell potentially gets a lot of advantage vs. competitors in the short term from Mono, but then we risk sinking the whole Linux boat in the long term. That's why people are "whining" as Miguel puts it. Novell is pressuring everyone to take this huge risk, under threat of forking the Linux desktop. We have every right to whine about that.

    Let me be crystal clear about Red Hat: the technical advantages of Mono sound great. But technology is not everything, and in my opinion Mono is not yet a responsible choice all things considered. Maybe Java is an alternative, maybe it isn't; if it isn't, that doesn't make Mono more viable.

    2004-05-13 (THURSDAY)
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    Tom Tromey points to Tom Fitzsimmons's explanation of building gcj with jhbuild.

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    Nice post from James Cape on Nautilus. I've noticed that I suddenly really use the file manager instead of the shell in GNOME 2.6, shamefully I never much did in previous versions. The new Nautilus feels crisp and predictable and efficient.

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    Reading random whine-about-metacity comments on LWN, I noticed someone using KWin with GNOME. And reading the XFCE review on OSNews, the reviewer was using gnome-panel with XFCE's window manager. Encouraging evidence that the Extended Window Manager Hints are widely used and genuinely interoperable.

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    The purpose of the "Planet" sites is to have the blogs of people involved in the projects, rather than to blog about the projects. So John Fleck should continue to post away in my opinion.

    Nick Petreley predicted the success of VA Linux and Caldera.

    Congrats to the Evolution hackers on today's announcement.

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    Olsen twins endorse the Velvet Underground.

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    Large group of Red Hat hackers went to see Van Helsing last night; afterward, argument over whether Dan Williams or I had first suggested it, and which of us should have our ass kicked. Though it was bad, I was impressed by how over the top elaborate the whole thing was. Scratching the surface: multiple kinds of monster, slimy alien pods, VampireVision and WerewolfVision, Rube-Goldberg-meets-Tarzan action scenes, machine-gun crossbow, Batman grappling hook, exploding baby vampire gremlins, evil Oompa-Loompas. Every scene is like the opening stuntfest from a Bond movie, only more so. Nonstop in this vein for over two and a half loud hours of THX, and then even the credits were overkilled. It was a certain kind of awe-inspiring.

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    Red Hat Desktop is here.

    The press is pretty good so far. A few people continue to be confused and think that retail/consumer is the same as desktop, or that Fedora Project vs. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a desktop vs. server split. Hopefully that will be cured in time. Red Hat Desktop is a member of the Enterprise Linux family and only available for purchase "in bulk" to emphasize these points.