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The GNOME project at 15

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 14, 2012 21:47 UTC (Tue) by me@jasonclinton.com (✭ supporter ✭, #52701)
Parent article: The GNOME project at 15

> third parties can offer proprietary applications to users.

s/proprietary//


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The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 14, 2012 22:07 UTC (Tue) by walters (subscriber, #7396) [Link]

For what it's worth as someone involved in GNOME, I don't see how an *official* GNOME "application store" could work without a sustainable business model for humans to review code in order to ensure we're not shipping malware.

What we can enable though is third parties to distribute applications, whether Free Software or not. Not of course that this hasn't been attempted before...the internet is littered with various ones like Autopackage and such. It's not an easy domain.

However, I think these previous attempts were addressing an actual need, and could be made higher quality if they were integrated into the core of the system rather than an add-on.

Free software in app stores

Posted Aug 15, 2012 5:55 UTC (Wed) by bignose (subscriber, #40) [Link]

> For what it's worth as someone involved in GNOME, I don't see how an *official* GNOME "application store" could work without a sustainable business model for humans to review code in order to ensure we're not shipping malware.

No disagreement with that. There's nothing in there which means you can't sell free software apps.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 15, 2012 12:48 UTC (Wed) by drag (subscriber, #31333) [Link]

> For what it's worth as someone involved in GNOME, I don't see how an *official* GNOME "application store" could work without a sustainable business model for humans to review code in order to ensure we're not shipping malware.

These are the same issues that you run into with current package distribution model.

> However, I think these previous attempts were addressing an actual need, and could be made higher quality if they were integrated into the core of the system rather than an add-on.

Unfortunately the 'merging into the system' means that you are likely to run into the same issues with current package management systems.. Namely distributions suffer from seeming irreconcilable differences and tend to create what ends up functioning like fiefdoms for little significant technical advantage over another distro's approach.

In addition to this the regulation and acceptance policies that distributions have set up for their package repositories are a major barrier of entry and bottle neck for that serves as a significant barrier between users and developers.

What is needed is a system that handles applications in a way that is distributed and offers a lot more freedom to users and developers then current practices for package management allows in Linux distributions. Also we need to have something that addresses applications and their dependencies as complete 'application units' rather then individual components. At least from a application developer and user perspective.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 15, 2012 10:44 UTC (Wed) by njwhite (guest, #51848) [Link]

I do hope they aren't planning a platform to offer proprietary software. That does sound pretty unlike the GNOME I know. Leave that to distributions if they must.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 15, 2012 12:59 UTC (Wed) by drag (subscriber, #31333) [Link]

Everything that makes it easier to write and distribute proprietary software on Linux makes it easier to write and distribute open source software on Linux.

If OSS applications are going to remain a sustainable model for application develop on Linux or any other platform it is ONLY going to happen because OSS is a superior approach.

Making it a much larger PITA to distribute software on Linux just because you are afraid of people using proprietary software just means that Linux will remain a PITA... for everything.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 15, 2012 13:49 UTC (Wed) by njwhite (guest, #51848) [Link]

> Everything that makes it easier to write and distribute proprietary software on Linux makes it easier to write and distribute open source software on Linux.

Probably, fine (though proprietary software does have some different needs.) I'm not against tools which make it easier to write and distribute proprietary software. I just think that 1) GNOME is an odd place to be distributing it, and 2) I have traditionally admired their strong software freedom positions, which would be rather less credible if they sell it as "GNOME 4: Now with Photoshop."

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 15, 2012 14:17 UTC (Wed) by rgmoore (✭ supporter ✭, #75) [Link]

Everything that makes it easier to write and distribute proprietary software on Linux makes it easier to write and distribute open source software on Linux.
For technical stuff, maybe so, but there are obviously licensing issues that can make it easier or harder to write proprietary software. GNOME's choice of LGPL rather than GPL for a lot of important libraries is an example of a licensing decision that makes it easier to write proprietary software without having a substantial effect on the ease of writing open source software.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 15, 2012 17:47 UTC (Wed) by drag (subscriber, #31333) [Link]

It certainly has had a substantial negative effect on open source software.

GPL has been the cause of innumerable compatibility headaches and rewrites and lawyering. All sorts of otherwise useless and counter productive work as well as causing all sorts of headaches for people that want to use it in all sorts of difference scenarios.

What the GPL does though is a allow people to produce and distribute software without some competitor turning around and using copyright law to screw them over.

This is using a lesser evil (GPL) versus greater evil (abuses of the market through copyright law). It is only necessary because of the legal framework the software must exist in. Without the specter of abuse through the use of copyright laws to stifle competition then GPL would be a terrible thing.

Right now it's a very mixed bag. Hopefully the protections it offers against the law offsets the negatives it introduces. I have the view that generally it does.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 15, 2012 13:14 UTC (Wed) by andreasb (subscriber, #80258) [Link]

A store for proprietary software might even come from an entirely different direction yet: Valve said they plan to offer applications instead of only games in Steam. Combined with the announcement that Steam is coming to Linux, it might mean that it will be a complete app store. Though there is no way to tell yet how successful they will be with the not-just-games Steam at all.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 15, 2012 17:51 UTC (Wed) by drag (subscriber, #31333) [Link]

Steam itself uses DRM heavily and is closed source. This means it comes with additional legal baggage in the form of DMCA and other such very negative things as patents.

I like the idea that Steam is bringing gaming to Linux and thus Valve has a financial reason to contribute to the improvement of drivers for Linux (which they have done), but I don't like the idea of Steam itself and don't want to use it.

We need a alternative that isn't DRM encumbered.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 15, 2012 18:03 UTC (Wed) by raven667 (subscriber, #5198) [Link]

gog.com also distributes games and explicitly does not use DRM. They sell many older titles that run in DOSBox, those should all work on Linux with new install packages. If a larger commercial Linux game market develops then game makers can choose which storefronts their games are available on, I don't think Steam generally requires exclusivity.

Also the usage of DRM in Steam is pretty benign as far as DRM goes, games are tied to your account and you can install them as many times on as many machines as you want as long as you log in. You can log in even when offline and you can make offline backups of your purchases. Unless your goal is to redistribute software and artwork that you don't have a valid redistribution license for it doesn't really get in your way. I'm not sure what the valid legal use cases would be that their use of DRM would prevent.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 15, 2012 21:15 UTC (Wed) by k8to (subscriber, #15413) [Link]

Their DRM is known to cause (via bugs) prevention of running your own purchased software when their offline mode flakes out.

This doesn't *seem* to be by design, but given that these bugs have gone unaddressed for upwards of 5 years, it does seem that ensuring your legal rights are fully exerciseable is not at the top of Valve's list.

Meanwhile Valve has some other unpalatable practices, including:
- A policy of no refunds for any reason (such as the software not working at all) Their store was very confusing for mac users on initial release, and I purchased a windows-only program on the mac without warning or explicit notice. At this point their software did not offer any way for me to download the software at all, and yet they refused to refund.
- A historical de-facto policy of trading transgressions == all your software is disabled. The notable examples were people that purchased games in one region (for a low price) and gifted them to people in other regions (where the price is high). People who did this frequently were presumed to be going around the pricing scheme and had their entire account locked (all software disabled). Valve has since changed their stance on this specific issue, but obviously they have and are willing to use a "turn off all your software" button. Does that seem right to you?
- A refusal to engage in a realistic fashion on billing irregularlities. Their common practice is to just point fingers at banks, paypal, etc with no backing provided data, leaving the problems entirely non-actionable for the end user save by reversing charges (if the credit company is willing) or legal action.

I mean, overall Valve has tried to do right for their customers, but in some areas they're just seemingly entirely unmotivated.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 16, 2012 11:31 UTC (Thu) by njwhite (guest, #51848) [Link]

> I mean, overall Valve has tried to do right for their customers, but in some areas they're just seemingly entirely unmotivated.

And the issue with DRM is not that the company may be bad, but that they reserve the right to control your use of something. Amazon may have 'promised' that they won't pull books for copyright reasons from the Kindle, but the really awful thing is that they reserve the technological right, to be (ab)used by governments, crackers, disgruntled employees, or who knows who else after a change of policy / ownership.

I can't imagine allowing that for free, let alone paying for the 'privilege.' Imagine Ikea made me sign a waiver that they had the right to come into my house and remove books from the bookshelf I bought, if they deem it necessary. Or more accurately, they install a camera on the bookcase, and a secret magical door through which their "customer service engineers" may step to remove or change books as necessary.

These same arguments work for proprietary software too, actually, which is I suppose why it makes sense for the FSF to be focusing on the issue.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 16, 2012 12:46 UTC (Thu) by drag (subscriber, #31333) [Link]

I wouldn't have a problem with DRM, per say. I think it's a bit anti-social, but it's not a terrible thing. Sort of acting like having a kid that won't shut up in a restaurant.

The problem with DRM is the legal baggage. Specifically DMCA. What we don't want is ending up with a situation were it becomes illegal to modify the functionality of something on Linux because it breaks somebody's craptastic DRM implementation.

Which is what already has happened with DVDs and Bluerays as well as having a dramatic negative effect on efforts to write open source drivers.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 27, 2012 9:07 UTC (Mon) by kragil (guest, #34373) [Link]

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 15, 2012 13:28 UTC (Wed) by ebassi (subscriber, #54855) [Link]

writing and deploying applications on Linux is a pain in the ass, for everyone. look at all the hoops Firefox has to jump through, or the indie studios that started distributing their games through the Humble Indie Bundle.

no, targeting all distributions is not a viable solution — and neither is "let each distro package your app": it does not scale, and makes the Linux platform look amateurish.

any way we can get reduce the pain of application developers (both closed and open source) is a net win in expanding the user base, increasing the adoption of Linux as a viable platform; and with that we get leverage with hardware and software vendors.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 16, 2012 22:58 UTC (Thu) by jmorris42 (guest, #2203) [Link]

> look at all the hoops Firefox has to jump through

Eh? New Firefox appears and in hours to days the update icon lights up.

Anyone else wants to distribute software they can put up a repo.

If you are expecting all 'Linux distributions' to merge into one unitary OS just to support closed apps, dream on. Go count the attempts to remake a Linux distribution into 'the one' that would be friendly to commercial apps. They are all dead and mostly forgotten.

The worst part of commercial apps isn't their closed nature, it is their stupid nature. The stupidity of their installers. The stupidity of their update mechanisms. The stupidity of their non-integration.

Adobe at least got that right with flash player, just install the repo and 'it just works.' They are about the only commercial vendor to figure that out though. Don't know if I want to call Chrome 'commercial' but Google with their chrome repo does the same thing. And guess what? It just works.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 22, 2012 7:05 UTC (Wed) by rahvin (subscriber, #16953) [Link]

So what format is that repo in? .deb? .rpm? .tar.gz? .ebuild? .apk? There's almost as many package and distribution formats are there are distro's and a lot of them aren't compatible (though yes, the major ones can be converted for the most part).

One of the simplest aspects (the format of the package) isn't even a simple question on Linux. If you want broad public use the distributions need to give up their fiefdoms and standardize on some things the least of which is package managers and library versions (personally I'd prefer RPM go away and DEB be standard but that's my bias). We aren't going to see widespread adoption of Linux until this stuff is sorted out. And that means everyone standardizes and follows each other on things like directories (where things are), packages, libraries, kernel version and certain software (X/Wayland, Audio, init, window manager, etc).

Don't get me wrong, I like the choice (its why I use Linux in the first place), but you aren't going to see someone like Adobe building their software for Linux if they have to target 10 distro's with all different libraries, packages and base software where they can't even predict which glibc will be installed.

I know there is work underway to fix some of these problems (I think wayland will be a game changer, along with systemd and others that have the promise of standardization of key components). But in the meantime you have what Firefox did which is to bundle every library version and piece of underlying software into their package so they ensure they have specific versions they need and that's just not practicable for most software, particularly commercial software. Android is popular because Google did what the community couldn't they created a standard base with a guaranteed foundation to build software on. You are absolutely guaranteed that Android version X on every device has the same libraries and base system and their application store uses version and hardware tables to check comparability and tries very hard to avoid offering software you can't run.

I don't see broad Linux success until the distro's play politics and start compromising and standardizing. Everyone going their own way and doing their own thing only fragments things worse and scares away commercial software. Maybe Google will bring enough of Android into Linux that they basically force standardization but I'm skeptical that the major players would be willing to compromise as they would be giving up some sovereignty in their digital fiefdoms.

Getting back on topic, can Gnome do this? I don't think they can, they're scaring away their own users and shooting for things that don't even appear to be in the scope of the project. But I'll give them props if they succeed, but I'll remain skeptical of their chances.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 22, 2012 9:00 UTC (Wed) by njwhite (guest, #51848) [Link]

I'm not convinced this is a big issue. So long as you have a simple build system which works, and clearly state dependencies, it should be easily packagable by any distro that the users care about your project on.

Targetting one popular distro's library versions and creating a package for that, with an easily buildable and repackagable source, gets you as far as you need. Nowadays distributions are far more standard and regular in things than you may think.

I get the impression from your post that you're really concerned about the difficulty in getting proprietary software packaged for many distributions. Ultimately that's a problem caused by their own restrictive licensing terms, and I don't think trying to enforce exactly the same versions of key software on all distributions is a sane way to fix it.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 23, 2012 8:10 UTC (Thu) by HenrikH (subscriber, #31152) [Link]

At work I do a simple "make_distribution <package>" and it will be built for all current Ubuntu/Debian/CentOS and Red Hat versions automatically. RPMs and DEBs are also created and added to our repos.

Yes initial setup of such a build server took some trail and error but not it's very easy to add new distribution/release. What I do think that we miss in the community is prebuilt building solutions like this.

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 23, 2012 8:16 UTC (Thu) by njwhite (guest, #51848) [Link]

Isn't that what OpenSUSE's Open Build Service does?

The GNOME project at 15

Posted Aug 26, 2012 3:23 UTC (Sun) by HenrikH (subscriber, #31152) [Link]

Sort of I think, I looked at it before building our own solution. But I never really figured out the how/what/when when looking at their project web site.


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