Why the free software desktop year is not yet here, and why it doesn’t matter anymore.

Since 2001 or 2002, I remember a press statement each December: "this is going to be the Linux desktop year". Well, every year that happens to be a mistake. That optimism is lead by a visible improvement of the situation, wider hardware support, more standardization etc…

However, I’ve realized that that year is not going to happen, never.

Am I crazy? Maybe, but that doesn’t have anything to do with this article I’m writing.

Does this mean that I’m suggesting that we should just give up and stop developing any free software desktop environments. Hell, no. Its a gap that should be filled, and if we don’t we will fail in showing people what free software platforms are capable to do.

My point is that the model of the desktop is dead itself, and I can’t see any big migration from the current predominat home desktop out there. All the application development is moving towards the web, and virtualization as a solution for the lack of flexibility of the current desktop model, is not far from being a reality in corporate scenarios which means that even the desktop is becoming an online service rather than something you may have installed at home. There are some good highlights of this issue on the Brian Setevens’ talk at the Red Hat Summit ’07.

So, where are we going then? Well, free software platforms are already the strongest option on the most interesting software development market now, the Web. On the desktop side, free software desktop platforms are becoming a serious option on the mobile and embedded landscape, see GMAE, maemoOLPC, OpenMoko, GreenPhone, and the release of Java as free software. This is, is in my opinion, a much more interesting platform, for the long term, to bring freedom to users than the desktop as we know it nowadays. Free software is now the default choice when no previous choice is made by the broad market.

This is a really promising landscape for the free software world, because it means that Microsoft is not relevant anymore, even if they have a huge market, they are not inventing newer ones. Vista? who cares… That’s probably the reason they are talking about IP and patents, Vista is far from being an interesting issue, and it adds 0 or less value over the previous products.

So, as long as the current model gets obsolete, free software and open standards is filling all the new gaps and opening new opportunities. We shouldn’t worry about the current desktop market share anymore, what we should do, is worry about providing a good desktop to fill that gap meanwhile we invent new markets where free software can break through and show all its power.

Now the challenge is to reinvent the meaning of the computer desktop concept by developing something new, that solves problems that are not solved already, this is, real innovation.

QoTD: This is why

From one of the comments of my previous post:

I use Ubuntu in my job, but my boss uses Windows. Without your easy W32
PyGTK installer, I would not have been able to choose PyGTK+Kiwi to
build my latest project.

Next time someone tell me "who cares about Windows users they don’t care about us" I won’t bother anymore .

Call for Gtk+ Win32 contributors!

I’ve done the first release for the win32 binaries that will be at some point an .msi or .msm installer, you can grab it here as .tar.bz2 or .zip.

After discussing with some people about the issue, it looks like .msi is the way to go, it’s the only missing bit to add value over the existing .zip from Tor and the gladewin32 releases. But I’ll need help with this task.

We need contributors!

Right now is really hard for me to run Windows, I can do it with VMware but the lack of ram on my laptop makes it hard to try some things without making the swap play break dance, and I cannot leave the native Linux session for more than a couple of minutes due to other reasons. So I need people familiar with development environments on Windows, and if possible some experience with WiX, the opensource .msi creator.

Another problem is that the .mo message catalogs format on Linux and Win32 is different. So internationalization is broken. I need to try some kind of fix that doesn’t break the jhbuild automation tool chain.

Why .MSI?

Well, let’s say that it’s the DEB/RPM of Windows, it handles version issues and it’s deployable on hundred of machines through Active Directory, it doesn’t solve the dependency issue, but you can bundle .msm, which is like a modular .msi, inside a .msi, which would make the release of third party apps easier. At the same time, it would make integration with Windows RADs easier too.

Why do you work on this if you don’t run Windows?

I want everyone to be able to do what I do, enjoy PyGTK, there are people that cannot choose their operating system, and at the same time, they would like to be able to write GUI apps easily. I want to remove this "Linux/*BSD/Solaris Users Only" advertise on the doors of the GNOME community.

At the same time, I find the current release process of GTK+ on windows obscure, due to lack of time on the people that are doing the releases already, a proper documentation of the process is hard to get and requires self made scripts. My will is to integrate everything in just a .jhbuildrc and a moduleset, so anyone can give it a try with familiar tools.

Re: Building the Community Mojo

Glynn, I agree with all your points, but I think you missed some other important assets of Ubuntu. And the ones that I most admire about it as a project.

The first one, is that everybody is welcome, it is a community of communities, GNOME and KDE people on the same place, server and desktop, enterprise and education, and recently multimedia people with Ubuntu Studio. They have achieved the goal of making everyone feel like they are at home, no matter what you know, no matter what you like, You Are Welcome, your words are going to be listen, there are no second class citizens.

And the second one, is the tools, launchpad, despite of being closed source, is probably the better set of community tools out there in terms of usability. You don’t need to know about gettext or svn to do collaborative translation, you don’t need to know the deep roots of the system and the organization to know how to file a bug, and more other things that make community life easier and more accessible to most people.

Community is growing around ubuntu, in part, because is a comfortable community to work with.

My two cents 🙂

Hello Planet OpenSolaris!

Our beloved Glynn has just added me to Planet OpenSolaris, thank you dude!

I’m Alberto Ruiz, 23yr old Spanish guy, moved to Dublin a month ago to work for Sun Microsystems in the SunRay team to give APOC,  the Sun’s Desktop Profile Manager, some love and bring it to the software freedom for the sake of the Unix desktops! Before that I’ve been working for two years on the Free Software Office, at my Universty, spreading the word of free software among students, teachers and helping the regional government of Canary Islands drive effective free software strategies and deployments.

I’ve been an active community member of the Gnome Desktop project for a couple of years now, mostly doing PyGTK stuff until a couple of months that I started to give love to others parts of the desktop and the platform. I’m also a Python fan. I love to work on free software projects that makes people’s life easier, and I love to make them even more accessible to "normal" people.

My involvement with OpenSolaris started last year on Guadec ’06 (thanks to alo!) when I saw ZFS working and realized that it solved most of my problems with my father’s backups and storage problems under Linux and I’ve been following the project very closely. Righ now I’m running Nexenta on top of a VMware on my laptop and Nevada build60 at my workstation at the office.

If you want to know more about me and my projects take a look at my older posts 🙂

During this month I’ve started to get involved with the Irish OpenSolaris User Group, which has let me to  give a talk on the last meeting about how to migrate from Linux to OpenSolaris, with some tips on networking and ZFS, check the slides. BTW Tim is doing a great job with the UG here.

Hope to be helpful in this community. Let’s make the whole open source world rock even more!

Tango and Gtk+ love

Tango love

Michal Pryc, is one of my co-workers/co-interns at Sun, and one of the first friends that I’ve made here. While Ian and his Indiana project solves the whole issue, Michal is providing a interesting approach to the package problem on OpenSolaris, jPack, a GUI to rule them all. Every package management system in Solaris can be now managed from an usable graphical interface. Great work Michal!

He asked me to create a logo for the project, and here we go, now, Java’s Duke knows how to dance Tango!

Obviously, jPack is written in Java

I had so much fun with it, that I decided to give even more tango love to the free world, every time I go to bugzilla.gnome.org, I found the geebee pet boring, so I’ve came up wit this idea:

Guess why the bug is dead?

Gtk+ on Win32 progress

I’ve done a successful build and it works! although, it is not full binary compatible with the current releases from gladewin32. bkor just gave me ftp access and fixed my svn account, so as soon as I fix a couple of things, I will start to release tarballs with the full tool chain. I’ve also updated the cross compiling Gtk+ page at the wiki.

I’m starting to take the .msi .msm windows installers approach really serious, however, I don’t have a Windows workstation to work with but I’m taking a look at the wix documentation, and they don’t seem to support post install commands exec and enviroment variables, which are mandatory to get Gtk+ working on windows, anyway, I need to look further into it. If anyone has some experience with it already, let me know.

PyGTK’s Gajim and IconView test working with my binaries not-so-out-of-the-box. Yay!

I’ve received lots of positive input on this work, so I think that Gtk+ needs some love on Windows after all, despite some people that think we shouldn’t care about Windows users. The only way to go 10×10, is getting closer to them, and 90% of them are on the dark side, we don’t lose anything trying to bring some freedom for them without the need of setup a Linux installation.

On the other hand, more developers would take Gtk+ as an option if it’s cross platform enough, Imendio guys are also working hard on the Mac world. With some effort Gtk+ and Gnome are very close to be everywhere.

Update: Please, notice that bugs.gnome.org is just an alias and I used it because is the domain that I usually do. The official url for Gnome’s bugzilla is http://bugzilla.gnome.org.