On the Desktop
Linux in the news
All in one big page
See also: last week's On the Desktop page.
While this page strives to approach the Linux desktop from an end-user perspective alone, it's impossible to ignore the more technical (and often less comprehensible) developmental issues since they outnumber general use news items by a large margin. As the Linux desktop evolves, we hope to move development issues back to the Development page and leave this page for issues related to simply making use of the desktop.
-- Senior Editor, Michael J. Hammel
Ximian releases Bonobo 1.0. While not something the average desktop user is likely to use directly, Bonobo 1.0 is a major step forward to the interoperability users are demanding from the Linux desktop. Bonobo is the component object library for GNOME that is to be used by applications to share resources with other applications. This release was announced by Ximian, the commercial group formed by original GNOME author and leader Miguel de Icaza.
So what is Bonobo? As Ximian developer Michael Meeks told me at LinuxWorld at the end of January, a Bonobo is actually a monkey which happens to be "very good at coupling". In software terms it refers to a product which is supposed to be very good at allowing software packages to interoperate more seamlessly. Bonobo provides an interface which applications can use to embed features from other applications in themselves. It also allows a program to offer features to other applications which they can use. Examples of this might include a spreadsheet embedding a postscript graphic or a finance package embedding an HTML browser.
The reason this release is important to end users is that Bonobo is a major piece of the core GNOME facilities - the stability of many applications is dependent on those core facilities. Without a stable core, you have unstable applications. And that's bad. But the 1.0 release is considered stable (not perfect, just stable), and that means the road to a stable GNOME desktop is paved just a bit smoother now.
So while Bonobo in itself isn't something end users will use directly, it is something they should care about. Applications can now begin to integrate on the GNOME desktop in a fashion that is consistent and requires less duplication of development effort - and thus we get those applications sooner.
Despite the promise that Bonobo 1.0 brings, there is still a downside for the Linux desktop as a whole. KDE and GNOME use different methods for embedding features of one application into another. While GNOME's Bonobo is based on the standardized CORBA definition, KDE uses an implementation called KParts which is not compatible with Bonobo. This means KDE applications can integrate with each other and GNOME applications can integrate with each other but KDE applications can't integrate with GNOME applications. And even though both KDE and GNOME are both committed to working towards common goals and an easily integrated desktop, this particular issue will be a sticky one for some time to come.
GUADEC Results. The GNOME User and Developer European Conference was held last week and by all accounts was very productive. A posting to the GNOME Office mailing list gave a summary of the conference, which was held in Copenhagen. There were some interesting items noted in this summary. The first is that a list of applications is being considered for the official GNOME Office distribution. Four applications - the Gnumeric spreadsheet, the AbiWord word processor, Guppi for charting and graphing, and Dia for diagramming - are considered essential. A list of eight other applications are under consideration for inclusion including the Evolution mail system and GIMP. Although each application in this secondary list is a valuable too in its own right we have to ask if they are really necessary for the average office. Software bloat has been a serious problem in the past with applications, and with office packages now including 5, 6 or even 10 applications the problem is only multiplied. Another point raised during the talks was release dates for various packages. The Gnumeric 1.0 spreadsheet release is expected by the end of the year and should include Bonobo support. On a larger scale, the release of GNOME Office 1.0 is expected to come with GNOME 2.0. This means by Dec 31, 2001. Things could get rather interesting for the GNOME desktop user in time the New Years holiday period.
Eazel launches Reef Project. Eazel has announced their next major project, known as Reef, intended to handled live content over the Web. " Our current primary target language is Python, but multi-language support is in the works. For communication back to the server, we will be working with both XML-RPC and SOAP, since they each have their advantages and disadvantages. We will also be watching the nascent XML Protocol working group of the W3C closely."
It appears that the goal here is to provide packaged sets of tools that are easily downloadable by users in order to make use of live content. While a laudable goal, one has to wonder if the pipes to the home will ever be large enough to make live content even worth your time.
Building KDE themes for Linux. IBM developerWorks posted an a tutorial this week that shows the average user how to make use of the new KDE 2.1 environment and themes. "Overall, there's much more functionality in the new Control Center, and some extensive improvements in fine-grained control of the user interface. As the KDE2 beta cycles continued in the late Summer and early Fall of 2000, e-mails and bug requests for a Theme Manager flew fast and furious." (A free registration is required to access this tutorial.)
Minutes of the GNOME Advisory Board Meeting. The GNOME Advisory Board met during GUADEC on Thursday, April 5th and Sunday, April 8th last week in Copenhagen. Minutes from that meeting have been published. High on the todo list are the formation of regional foundations and working on better interoperability with KDE, as well as the determination as to whether an official office suite should be specified for GNOME.
Configuring Outlook to use Linux servers. The folks at Bynari have posted a configuration manual describing how to make the Outlook client work with Linux-based servers. Essentially, it's a recipe for eliminating Exchange.
Review of Konqueror/Embedded. BrowswerWatch took a look at KDE's Konqueror/Embedded version and its impact on embedded browser technology. "'While Konqueror is based on the KDE HTML rendering engine, Hausmann explained, 'It is not a fork of the KDE browser codebase. Part of the build process copied the original browser sources into the new build environment."
Tax software furthers Linux spread (News.com). C|Net says you can buy tax software for Linux now - if you file your taxes in Germany.
GIMP on MacOS X. This isn't a Linux desktop issue, but a desktop issue of interest in general to GIMP users: MacGIMP is reporting that Chris Turkel has GIMP 1.2 running on MacOS X, with screenshots to prove it.
Building, or dropping, the future...
Trolltech Previews Qt 3.0. The preview of QT 3.0, Trolltech's next version of the toolkit used by the KDE Desktop environment, includes support for database access and an updated Qt Designer.
Plug is pulled on Indrema box plans (VideoBusiness Online) . The Linux-based Indrema game console project has apparently died. According to this story, the company was unable to find funding for the product development to continue. "[Indrema president John] Gildred said that although Indrema is dead, he will take the interactive TV portion of his dream to his new employer, a major Japanese consumer electronics company."
Section Editor: Michael J. Hammel
April 12, 2001