i’m excited about the future of gnome

about half a year ago i was looking around me and seeing stagnation in the gnome community. i was concerned that gnome had lost its momentum and that we were just making boring incremental releases that added very little new functionality.

i think i was very wrong.

i’d like to take this time to list some things that are happening right now in the gnome community that have me very excited. these are the projects that are actively improving the future of the gnome desktop.

many of these things are infrastructure items. i really see this as a fantastic time for the improvement of the inner workings of our desktop. a lot of the things listed below are going to come together with each other very nicely.

it also seems that there is a renewed focus on efficiency and doing things the right way. the past few years have seen a lot of cries of “save memory”, “perform io more intelligently”, “don’t abuse timers”, etc. many of the projects listed below seem to be taking these ideas well into account. many of the projects are replacements for larger and more complicated things.

this is just a list i thought up in a few minutes. i have probably forgotten a thing or two, so please don’t be offended if your project is not listed here.

dconf – hopefully the future of configuration in the gnome desktop.

epiphany+webkit – this is an exciting hack. i look forward to the day where this is stable enough for general consumption. i’d love to see gnome using webkit as its stock ‘embed some html’ widget.

gbus – the future glib/gobject bindings for dbus. currently in the very early stages, these bindings will integrate with gobject introspection and make it hilariously easy to put your application on the bus. we currently have a summer of code student laying some of the initial groundwork required to make this a reality.

gdm rework – jon mccann is currently rewriting gdm to better support multiple users. his efforts include consolekit integration and a more flexible greeter system. it was cool to be able to spend a night hacking alongside him at guadec — it looks like some exciting things are on the way.

gtk+/glib awesome – every new release brings exciting new features and moves us closer to removing our dependency on those crufty old libraries that nobody seems to care to have around anymore.

gvfs – by all estimations, a fantastic piece of work. this is currently being hacked on by the one person who would know better than anyone else what is wrong with gnome-vfs. i’ll be very happy when this work appears in next summer’s glib release.pimlico applications – these very attractive-looking applications are designed for use on mobile devices but are very usable in a normal desktop environment. they make me dream of an evolution-free future.

policykit – will allow us to move away from running our administrative applications with gksudo (or equivalent) and toward using protected methods on bus-activated system services while at the same time providing a sane centralised location for system administrators and distributors to control what users are allowed to do.

telepathy – a project that needs no introduction. this is just a fantastic idea and it will make gnome kick ass in ways that we probably haven’t even realised yet. tubes!!

tinymail and modest – i can’t wait to read my email using this stuff. if it’s half as good as that pvanhoof guy keeps saying it will be then i’ll be quite happy indeed.

tracker – and the fact that it is now enabled by default in ubuntu. i hope jamie can handle all the feedback that he’ll surely be getting. :)

vala – i’m not currently hacking on a project for which it would be appropriate, but this looks like it is becoming a fantastic language. when hacking gobject in c you always have this dilemma between doing everything “the proper way” and not giving yourself carpal tunnel syndrome. vala lets you do it the proper way without the stress injuries and without the overhead that accompanies other high level languages.

xorg – may not technically be part of gnome, but definitely shaping the future of our desktop. it was fantastic to be able to talk to the xorg hackers at guadec about features that gnome wants implemented and to hear them say “ok. we’ll try to do that.”. it’s very nice to have a transparent and open team of people working on such an important piece of software.

there’s lots of talk of “gnome 3.0″. “3.0″ is just a name. if you look around in the next few releases i suspect you’ll see that gnome has added much more functionality since “2.0″ than goes into new “major releases” of almost anything else.

75 thoughts on “i’m excited about the future of gnome”

  1. Good to know that there more people inside community who are excited about our short-term and midterm future. :-)

    dconf wiki page name should be a wikiword dude! Why not DConf?

  2. pitivi would be great too, when it’s stable :-)
    for now, it’s definitely not reliable enough.

  3. Not so sure about tracker. I don’t like its developers’ behaviour (spamming the mailing lists, badmouthing beagle everywhere without proofs), and if I was an Ubuntu developer I would not trust a piece of software which such an unprofessional release schedule (0.6 was delayed for months, bugs weren’t fixed because the release was supposed to happen soon and it never did) and such unprofessional management (feature promised and never really implemented, bad bindings and bad and always changing API). They tried to propose tracker for gnome 2.18 and still the new version can’t do many things that “other indexers” have been doing for years.

  4. Oh, well, I forgot to mention that I don’t trust people who abuse of magniloquent buzzwords: “extensible metadata rich service”, “truly unique, useful and really innovative”, “semantic web RDF-like metadata database”.

    PS. looking for the buzzwords I found this: http://jamiemcc.livejournal.com/4237.html. Well, good luck Ubuntu, if tracker will respect his future roadmap items as it did with the last ones, you’re screwed.

  5. @Giorgi0: Classic propaganda!

    I only ever criticised beagle when their devs criticised tracker first! I have never started the flames wrt beagle.

    I only ever mentioned tracker as a solution for speeding up desktop files on one post on ddl – its totally false to suggest we were spamming anywhere!

    Software is hard – things get delayed and time is needed to make things stable. that is the nature of software development. It would be more unprofessional to release really unstable software

    Bad API – always changing – totally false.

    Pls get you fact rights before badmouthing tracker.

    And if you are a beagle fanboy then you have nothing to worry about as we will support XESAM so you can use your favourite indexer.

  6. I don’t need indexers, I learned how to classify my files in the 90s and in 16 years I never lost anything.

    Jamie, you can say what you want but the facts are out there for those who want to check them, in the Gnome mailing lists, in the blog entries, in the news sites comment.

  7. You forgot to talk about Conduit, which seems a very promising technology. My greatest hopes lie in the combo pimlico/modest/empathy/conduit…

    Big thank you to every developers involved in Gnome !

  8. My experience with the Beagle from Feisty’s repositories is that I actually notice when it is indexing while I am trying to work at the same time. It is irritating. Tracker I have never noticed, it seems to do something better. Perhaps the Beagle just goes haywire on certain files and tracker doesn’t.

    “They tried to propose tracker for gnome 2.18 and still the new version can’t do many things that “other indexers” have been doing for years.”

    Yeah. Tracker needs still at least Exaile/Rhythbox support, and then Epiphany and then Gmail and Google Docs because that’s where everything is nowadays anyways. Oh, it seems they all suck on that area :)

  9. Jamie, what is criticized with your release management is not the fact that you got your software stable before releasing it. But you should have done minor releases meanwhile, in order to correct the most reported bugs.

  10. Nice post desrt. I’m coming to the same conclusion these days. Half a year ago there was indeed some stagnation. I guess all the heroes where working on their cool stuff that they only started talking about half a year ago :)

  11. Jamie, I don’t think I ever badmouthed Tracker. I’ve had issues with it, and I’ve tried to bring them up as objectively and productively as I could. And any mistakes I’ve made on the list I’ve apologized for.

  12. Wait, so the big news in Gnome are…

    - a rewritten configuration system
    - another html renderer that does the same than the previous except it’s different internally
    - gfvs, a rewrite of gnome-vfs
    - vala, a hack to fix the problems of chosing C as the base language for the platform (the description of vala pretty much tells this)
    - tinymail, an implementation of email software
    - rewrite of GDM to add funtionality that is not use by the vast majority of users

    Except for telepathy, tracker and gbus, I’m not seeing any major improvement here…

  13. Diego: Better base libraries means better applications, too. dconf or gvfs may not be as whizz-bang cool as Telepathy or Beagle, but if they manage to fix some of the problems of what they’re replacing (and both gconf and gnome-vfs have a lot of issues) then they’ll benefit every application in more substantial ways than Telepathy probably could.

  14. Diego, webkit can do something the gecko can not: separate plugins such as totem/flashplayer from the main process. It can really improve stability, and gecko is unable to do that because it practically has no architecture at all.. Also, gecko is harder to customize for making a custom browser or widgets that behave in certain ways, forcing the developers to do many silly things.

  15. bluez, gstreamer, pulseaudio, ohm! so many appealing stuffs, yeah!

    @Giorgio:
    I don’t see why you need an indexer then ;)

  16. @Diego: what should they do to make an impression on you, stop releasing software for two years and start publishing only magniloquent press-releases while extending the roadmaps further and further?

    Disclaimer: Any similarity to actual operating systems or desktop environments is purely coincidental.

  17. But what exactly can Vala do that Gtkmm can’t, other than getting you to learn a language that’s completely useless for anything but Gnome apps?

  18. I must say that recent development on Gnome, even if they are rewrite of something that needed one, or just fancy feature nobody use, show that Gnome has a future. It has a future because people innovate, or attempts to (not making a judgment), people develop for it, developer chose it.

  19. #26 No, what they would need to impress me is just to avoid the “we do not need to do major improvements and break the compatibility with a gnome 3.0 because gnome is already good enought” mindset. Except for the “online gnome desktop” thing from havoc, I’ve not seen anything that dares to break the current asumptions (I don’t see people asking ej: “it’s not an usability bug the windows-inherited idea of systray icons+taskbar?”)

  20. Diego: I consider that a good thing, because I think the current paradigm actually works pretty well for what we ask of it. I’ve seen tons of different attempts at reinventing the computer interface, and I haven’t seen any that could be as efficient and worthwhile as what we have now.

  21. Hi, the Vala language for GNOME is interesting, but the Properties Sample looks very obscure to me

  22. “But what exactly can Vala do that Gtkmm can’t, other than getting you to learn a language that’s completely useless for anything but Gnome apps?”

    You mean C#?

    As for what Vala *can* do, it gives you C#-like syntax with C-like performance. And it’s tailored to the GObject model, removing a lot of the overhead of translating from GObject to some other language’s native object model.

    What it isn’t doing is preventing you from using Gtkmm, though.

  23. One of the worst posts I’ve ever read.

    Uninformative to say the least. The links more often than not mean nothing.

    “dconf – hopefully the future of configuration in the gnome desktop.” – Why? Honestly, I don’t know.

    “gtk+/glib awesome – every new release brings exciting new features and moves us closer to removing our dependency on those crufty old libraries that nobody seems to care to have around anymore.” – What features? Which old libraries? What are you talking about? And, oh, will the gtk widgets stop to look utterly cartoonish and to waste screen real estate?

    “tinymail and modest – i can’t wait to read my email using this stuff. if it’s half as good as that pvanhoof guy keeps saying it will be then i’ll be quite happy indeed.” – What’s good about these two mail clients? What do they do that Thunderbird, Kmail etc. can’t do/do worse?

    And Vala? Building an entire new programming language just because building GNOME on C was an horrible decision from the start? What’s wrong in using C# / Python bindings?

  24. @Stoffe: Agreed. The overlap between DConf/GConf and a subset of Tracker’s abilities is substantial. If we’ve got a persistent object store, why implement a separate key store with fewer capabilities?

    In fact, it seems to me that application settings better fit Tracker’s model than the registry model. Just as artist, album, rating and tags are valid audio file metadata, settings and properties are perfectly valid application metadata and could be easily represented as such with a modified application settings namespace in the Tracker ontology.

  25. Gnome lack of a decent graphic toolkit for animation.
    it’s to late to implement one now the best option is to use QT/KDE toolkit for those things.

  26. I can’t believe some of the comments here, truly ridiculous… Ignoring the merit of each named example, I’d say given the amount of work going on improving and rewriting core applications and libraries, as well as the work going into new solutions, it makes it pretty hard to argue against the point of this post; that Gnome has an exciting future ahead of it.

    Particularly disappointing is a certain developer’s encouragement of a clearly facetious comment, just because they’re bitter their own project didn’t make the list…

    I fully agree with the sentiment of this post. While perhaps I don’t agree that everything in this list is going to be a major player in the future of Gnome, they’re all interesting and point to exciting times ahead of us.

    How about some constructive discussion instead of the sniping and baseless arguments that seem to make up the majority of the latest comments?

  27. What features? Which old libraries? What are you talking about? And, oh, will the gtk widgets stop to look utterly cartoonish and to waste screen real estate?

    Cartoonish? Waste screen real estate? Ah-ehm, if you change the subject from GTK to QT make it more evident.

  28. Gnome is working on a bunch of crap the average Gnome user could care less about.

    KDE is coming up with a brand new paradigm – new interactions, new graphics, new widgets, new everything.

    Yeah, Gnome’s future is just shining. Call me when that piece of crap Nautilus is re-written.

  29. Ubuntu User: What is new in KDE 4.0? Off the top of my head, the only actually new application I can think of is Dolphin, which doesn’t exactly reinvent the desktop. What makes KDE 4 so awesome is the new technologies – Phonon, Solid, Plasma, Nepomuk et al. – none of which are individually visible to the end user, but which make writing things that are really great for the end user possible. This is what GNOME is doing, too.

  30. @Ubuntu User: Whee, new graphics! You sure your handle isnt really ‘vista user’ where pretty graphics and frivolous fluff are more important than core system stability, expandability, etc etc?

    @Anonymous: lol, didn’t you know that desrt only has one finger? (I wont say which one! :)

  31. “telepathy – a project that needs no introduction. this is just a fantastic idea and it will make gnome kick ass in ways that we probably haven’t even realised yet. tubes!!”

    Yeah maybe not for you but what about those of us who don’t know WTF this is?

  32. The fact that this blog entry has been linked from OSNews doesn’t make it a press release, you dorks. To get more information follow the damn links or use google.

    And boo-hoo, they are reworking some internals to solve problems like the show-stopper that is gnome-vfs currently instead of adding a ton of visual junk to the screen. How horrible, I wonder how you can survive without masturbating over cluttered translucid UIs while using Gnome.

    Oh right, you don’t, you are just trolling.

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