went out on the last day of January: members of the GNOME and KDE projects
have gotten together to improve cooperation between the two with regard to
human interface guidelines. For the (many) users who have wanted to see a
higher degree of cooperation between KDE and GNOME, this move can only be
seen as a step in the right direction.
At the beginning, of course, it is a pretty small step. Both desktop
projects maintain a set of usability guidelines which promote consistency
and good human factors in desktop applications. The plan is to merge the
two sets into a single document. Initially, each project's guidelines will
remain in a separate section. Over time, the plan is to find areas which
can be merged into shared sections, common to both desktops. The
possibility exists that a single set of guidelines could eventually
emerge. That is a distant hope, however; for now, the Open-HCI workers are
more concerned with details like what format will be used for the combined
It would be hard to overestimate the value of a high-quality, shared
usability document. Usability work is hard, tedious, and unglorious; it is
also a crucial part of the development of end-user applications that
actually work. It is exactly the sort of work that free software projects
are not supposed to be good at - though much of the work already done
within GNOME and KDE puts the lie to that claim. Making it easier for both
projects to benefit from the usability work that is being done can only
lead to better desktop applications in the future.
Shared usability guidelines should also lead to more consistent behavior
between the two desktops. The competition between KDE and GNOME has been a
good thing for both projects, and for the Linux desktop as a whole. But
there is no need for the two to be separate islands. More consistent
behavior will make it easier for users to pick and choose applications from
both projects, allowing them to take advantage of the best of each. And
that, too, should be good for the Linux desktop.
(See also: usability guidelines for KDE and GNOME; there is
mailing list for the Open-HCI project).
Comments (5 posted)
[This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker'
Sometimes two stories in the media become inextricably linked. When one
story is covered, the other issue is always mentioned -- creating an
impression that there is a connection where the link is sometimes
tenuous or non-existant.
Such is the case
with the Desktop Linux
Summit and the Desktop Linux
The link, however, between the Summit and the DLC is thin at best and
seems to be the victim of bad timing. With better timing, the DLC might
be seen for what its founders want it to be: a meeting of the minds of
companies and organizations who are interested in furthering Linux as a
desktop operating system.
Questions still remain as to exactly what happened with the Desktop
Linux Summit. The event is promoted as a "multi-vendor" event about
Linux on the desktop. However, many vendors have abandoned the summit
after Bruce Perens was replaced as the keynote speaker by Michael
Robertson -- not coincidentally the CEO and founder of Lindows.com.
list of sponsors and exhibitors differs greatly from the current
list. In fact, at least one organization listed as an exhibitor has
asked to be withdrawn. Sam Hiser, of the OpenOffice.org Project confirmed today
that the project has asked to be withdrawn from the list of
exhibitors. However, they are still listed on the Summit website. A
representative for Sun Microsystems also confirmed that they have asked to
be removed as an exhibitor, but explained that it was because Sun's speaker
would be unavailable for the conference -- not because Perens was no longer
We spoke with Jill Ratkevic, who was the original coordinator for the
Desktop Linux Summit. According to Ratkevic, Robertson and Lindows.com
president Kevin Carmony were aware of the decision to have Perens do the
keynote. However, Carmony claims that he "always" thought that Robertson
would be the keynote speaker and that it was a "mix-up."
We'll take 100 percent responsibility for the miscommunication
early on... We haven't come out and told our side of the story, and
we really don't want to. We'd rather have everybody think ill of
Lindows and get on with business. Okay we're slimeballs, okay we
can take that as long as we get on with business. We don't want to
spend time on the debate.
Jeremy White, CEO of CodeWeavers, told us that no one had a problem with
Robertson speaking -- only the manner in which the change was made. "I
think that a lot of folks that were willing to be flexible on the
agenda...what was frustrating was the manner in which it was done."
According to Carmony, the event is still sold out, but it certainly has
a different flavor now that many Linux companies have pulled out.
Attendees listed for the "sold-out" conference now include such
Linux-specific companies as Borders, NovaPCs and the Brobeck law firm.
Shawn Gordon, of The Kompany,
says he plans to remain involved:
I did pull out for a few days, for a different reason however, and
I'm back in it now... My interest is mostly in getting theKompany
as much exposure as possible to the main stream press and potential
users that haven't heard about us before, and this looked like the
best opportunity to do it, regardless of the speakers or program.
The Linux Professional Institute and SuSE will also remain involved. Holger
Dyroff, head of SuSE's
U.S. operations, said that he did not want to disappoint people who had
already made appointments to speak with SuSE.
However, by all accounts, the fuss over the summit is separate from the
decision to form a Linux Desktop Consortium. Perens, who is serving as
the interim executive director for the consortium, says that the LDC:
...is not a response to the summit issue, but I think that having
the Consortium run the next summit will result in some good
things... Lindows won't have to pay for everything, and we'll have
a better shot at a more even program.
White says that the discussions for the consortium began "more than a
month ago." "A few of us got together and said, 'hey, we should do a
Linux Desktop Consortium.' We felt that we could use a more unified
voice, and it's time for a Linux desktop." White says that the
consortium will focus on business users' needs, but "we definitely don't
want to neglect grandma."
The consortium is still in the planning stages right now. White says the
group is "in a waiting period while we're gathering information."
Despite the fact that a number of LDC members pulled out of the Summit,
Lindows.com was still invited to join the LDC. Carmony says that
Lindows.com is taking a wait-and-see attitude about the consortium, but
that Lindows is "absolutely" open to the idea of joining the group if it
turns out to be something they can get behind.
Though the goals of the consortium are still somewhat vague, Perens said
that they definitely plan to put on a vendor-neutral desktop conference.
Group marketing initiatives also seem to be part of the plan. White says
that the group wants to find a way that companies, projects and
end-users can work together -- though the details haven't been ironed
out yet. Member companies are being asked to pony up $1,000 for
membership, but White says that the group doesn't plan to ask free software
and open source projects for money.
Some may wonder how successful the consortium will be, since many
members are competing companies. However, Perens says that the
consortium "won't have to do much to be successful... there are a number
of things that the various players should be taking about. There are
events that should be held that can be held fairly. We don't have to
save the world."
Holger Dyroff, head of SuSE Linux U.S. operations, says that SuSE
doesn't plan to take the most active role in the organization but that
SuSE is behind the idea of pooling marketing efforts and encouraging
companies to see that their products integrate their products with
With any luck, the bad blood over the Summit will fade in time and Linux
vendors will be able to make Linux a real success on the desktop.
Everyone we spoke to for this story indicated a desire to put the issue
behind them and to work on making Linux a success rather than focusing
on the negatives.
Comments (1 posted)
The MS-SQL worm has run its course and been cleared off the net. It is
also, of course, another example of a proprietary software failure that did
not affect Linux users except in indirect ways. Still, the worm is
interesting to look at in a number of ways, and it should give free
software users and developers a few things to think about.
Much has been written about how quickly the worm spread across the net.
Most of the vulnerable systems had been infected within about ten minutes.
With that sort of propagation speed, there really is very little that
system and network administrators can do; by the time they know that there
is a problem, they have already been infected. There is no time to
scramble for patches, or even to pull the plug. Someday networks will have
to be able to react automatically to this sort of attack; automated
response systems, however, are likely to be a source of outages
The worm infected something on the order of 100,000 hosts. Given the size
of the Internet, that is a relatively small number; there just weren't that
many vulnerable systems which were directly reachable on the net. Even
with such a small proportion of vulnerable systems, however, the worm was
able to create a great deal of disruption. It is not necessary to infect
much of the net to create trouble for everybody.
This suggests that the talk of software monocultures that one often
encounters (including on this site) may be a bit misguided. The net,
certainly, is not a monoculture of vulnerable SQL Server systems.
Monocultures still increase the risk of truly devastating, global attacks,
but their elimination will not necessarily make the net a whole lot safer.
There are plenty of free programs which run at least 100,000
network-exposed systems. A widespread vulnerability in any of these
programs could, conceivably, be used to similar effect by a future
attacker. There is a good chance, perhaps almost a certainty, that a
vulnerability in free software will be used someday to trash the
net. It is not an occasion to look forward too.
Still, there are aspects of the free software way of doing things that help
to make this kind of event less likely. They include:
All of the above points, hopefully, indicate that free software offers some
relative security advantages, especially with regard to widespread
infections. We have a long way to go, however, before we can even begin to
think that we are safe. Smugness is the wrong response to this episode;
instead, we need to learn from it and redouble our efforts to keep it from
happening to us.
Comments (3 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: 2002 vulnerabilities and distributor response; new vulnerabilities in bladeenc, kernel, krb5, slocate...
- Kernel: Initramfs; The beginning of a new series on driver porting; morse panics
- Distributions: Linux on iPod
- Development: GNOME 2.2.0 released, Alsa 0.9.0rc7, JACK Rack 1.2.0,
SAP DB 7.4.03.10, Xcircuit 3.1, ZODB 3.1.1 beta, mnoGoSearch 3.2.8,
Lynx version 2.8.5dev14, PythonCAD R3, Open-HCI, GStreamer 0.6.0,
GCC 3.2.2, OProfile 0.5.
- Press: Linux-based voice recognition, Linux in space, the Desktop Linux
Consortium launches, Reuters runs Linux.
- Announcements: MontaVista Doubles Revenues, Sony wireless portable file server,
LPI-News, QuickToots for AlsaModularSynth, OLS 2003 registration,
OSCOM planning, LinuxTag 2003 CFP, UK Python Conference, UKUUG Linux
Developers' Conference, Desktop Linux Consortium.