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Re: GNOME and non-linux platforms (release team please stand up)

From:  Calum Benson <Calum.Benson-AT-Sun.COM>
To:  desktop-devel-list <desktop-devel-list-AT-gnome.org>
Subject:  Re: GNOME and non-linux platforms (release team please stand up)
Date:  Wed, 22 Jul 2009 15:31:07 +0100
Message-ID:  <14D62BC5-6A9E-47D0-BDAD-C6F9CFD11199@sun.com>
Cc:  gnome-hackers-AT-gnome.org
Archive-link:  Article


On 22 Jul 2009, at 12:50, Christian Fredrik Kalager Schaller wrote:

> So I would like to ask the GNOME release team to please come forward
> and clearly state that the future of GNOME is to be a linux desktop
> system as opposed to a desktop system for any Unix-like system.

This is by no means an "official Sun response" to this proposal, just  
the thoughts of somebody who's worked on GNOME at Sun for the past 9  
years or so...

It goes without saying that I'd be disappointed if GNOME were to take  
any official Linux-only stance.  Sun has contributed a great deal to  
GNOME both technically and financially over the years, and although  
there aren't nearly as many familiar Sun faces on the GNOME mailing  
lists and IRC channels as there used to be (or, indeed, as I'd like),  
there's still a good-sized team of GNOME development and QA folks  
working here and contributing upstream as and when we can.  (FWIW, in  
addition to sponsoring the event again this year, a dozen or so of us  
made the trip to Gran Canaria this month, which, bar a couple of  
exceptions, is about the same or more as we've sent to every previous  
GUADEC.)

That said, many of the Sun team do seem to spend more time than they  
ought to just to keep GNOME running on OpenSolaris on the various Sun  
platforms these days.  They often have to deal with various Linux-isms  
at a code or conceptual level, or with technologies that are coming  
late to Linux and are implemented completely differently from the  
equivalent used by Sun (e.g. RBAC v PolicyKit, Trusted OpenSolaris v  
SELinux), or with performance or scalability issues that don't affect  
the average Linux desktop or enterprise user, but that would make  
GNOME unusable on the hundreds of thousands[1] of Sun Ray thin clients  
out there.

All that tends to leave us less time to make the larger-scale  
contributions that we used to make to GNOME and its related projects.   
Historically, that included things like implementing multi-head  
support for gtk, designing and implementing the original accessibility  
framework, writing and reviewing large chunks of user documentation,  
collaborating on regular HIG updates, performing UI reviews and  
usability studies, etc.  All these things would probably have been  
gotten around to eventually, but at the very least, I think it's fair  
to say these sorts of contributions from the non-Linux side of the  
fence got GNOME to where it is today a good deal quicker than would  
otherwise have been the case.

Now, there's no denying that until fairly recently, it was hard for  
most non-Sun contributors to even test their stuff on Solaris, so you  
could argue we're reaping what we sowed to some extent on that front.   
Nowadays, though, OpenSolaris comes on a LiveCD and runs in VirtualBox  
or in a dual-boot scenario pretty much as well as any Linux distro.   
So it shouldn't be all that hard to at least check once in a while  
that whatever you're working on is at least going to build, preferably  
run, and ideally function in an OpenSolaris environment[2].

Anyway, if anything, I guess I'd argue that it's time to actually  
reinforce the notion that the GNOME desktop is intended for use on any  
Unix-like system, and to figure out how to better distribute the  
development and QA workload to make that happen, so that non-Linux  
contributors have more chance to make significant contributions  
upstream again instead of spending most of their time treading  
downstream water.

Cheeri,
Calum.

[1] Okay, I don't actually have any idea how many Sun Ray clients are  
out there, but I'm guessing the order of magnitude is roughly  
correct.  If anything, it's probably an underestimate.

[2]  Or indeed any other non-Linux environments that you might wish to  
explore to expand your technological horizons in your copious free  
time :)

-- 
CALUM BENSON, Usability Engineer       Sun Microsystems Ireland
mailto:calum.benson@sun.com            OpenSolaris Desktop Team
http://blogs.sun.com/calum             +353 1 819 9771

Any opinions are personal and not necessarily those of Sun Microsystems


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