The Future of GNOME

Having just returned from GUADEC and now having the desktop as my job focus I been thinking about where we are going and what to do next. Benjamin managed to get quite a bit of press for his abysmally negative post, but I think his mis-stated the situation quite badly. As Dave Mason said during the history of GNOME talk, we have more or less always feel threatned and felt at times that we had an insurmountable task competing against systems with a lot more developers available than we do. There are some dark clouds in the skies, no doubt about that, but when hasn’t there been in the 15 years of GNOMEs existence? For instance the current tug of war between the GNOME shell and Unity? We have been there before, with Ximian and Eazel pushing competing visions for the GNOME desktop back in the day. Major corporate backers leaving (Nokia) or being in trouble(Novell)? Eazel and Ximian again. GNOME being perceived as being Red Hat only? That was the exact story that was being pushed before Sun and Ximian came on the scene. GNOME 3 turning away users? Hey, I can tell you that the amount of flames we got for GNOME 2 easily beats the GNOME 3 flames.

But for each of those events in the past we ended up bouncing back stronger afterwards, and I suspect we will come back with a vengance this time too. The thing is a lot of things are actually going very well. First of all the are a lot more shared projects with a healthy amount of resources behind them these days. WebKit is a great example of a project of crucial importance to GNOME, but which we share with a lot of other projects and companies. Take LibreOffice for example, yes LibreOffice do not contribute a lot of git commits to the GNOME git respository statistics, but thanks to LibreOffice we have the best and most full featured Office suite ever available to our users. And thanks to Firefox and Chrome we have browsers available with world known brands. And thanks to GStreamer, which is on freedesktop, we have a world class multimedia framework available. Instead of having our own sound server like we did with ESD, we now share a top notch sound server with all linux systems in the form of Pulse Audio.

Back during the GNOME 2 development cycle the GNOME project took an active decision that we would try to reach out to more of these external projects and try to work with them to integrate them into the GNOME experience. And we have succeeded at that, which of course have the side effect that instead of having all that development happen inside GNOME, we have bigger more active GNOME friendly projects doing these things outside GNOME.

We also made a conscious decision to focus on draining the swamp, which meant that instead of trying to work around issues and come up with funky configuration options on the user interface level to deal with missing features and bugs in the underlaying system, we instead have tried working with and contributing to fixing things in the underlaying levels. This of course moves attention away from ‘GNOME’, because people then commit their new fixes to those underlaying systems instead of implementing 100 000 lines of workaround code to ‘GNOME’, I mean I still consider Lennart Poettering a GNOME hacker even though his current work isn’t on anything in the GNOME git repository. But that does not mean that GNOME does not benefit greatly from these improvements.

So as we have succeeded in all these goals, GNOME should be a leaner setup than it used to be, as we don’t have to do all the heavy lifting inside the GNOME project anymore and that is a good thing.

As for projects such as Unity, well personally I don’t mind them at all. I mean I always saw XFCE as being a strenght and benefit to GNOME as it brought more users and developers to the shared library stack, and there is nothing different with Unity. And yes, there are some unfortunate duplications which seems redundant even in the context of differentiation, like the GNOME Online Accounts and Ubuntu Online accounts split, but hopefully we can work together to resolve such things over time.

And as for taking the desktop to the next level I think the main challenge for GNOME is not inside the GNOME 3 desktop, but instead it is a question of if the open source community can come together around pushing things like the Linux OpenGL support forward and make sure we have a strong foundation for supporting games and improving visual effects in the desktop. I for one really hope that Valve’s decision to support Linux with Steam, and the success of the Humble Bundle games on Linux, will help rally support behind the efforts to get Mesa to support newer iterations of OpenGL and get the open source Nvidia and AMD drivers in shape. Microsoft has long ago abanndoned PC gaming in favour of the Xbox, lets see if we can make Linux fill the gap.

In general I am very optimistic about the future, the strenght of the open source ecosystem is not that we have more developers to assign to a given project at a given time than Windows or Mac, but no matter what they do we keep moving forward on all fronts, so while Apple and Microsoft focus on beating each other in the tablet and phone space, maybe the time is ripe for us to strenghten our positions in the server and desktop markets? I mean tablets and phones might be all the rage atm, and maybe they are bigger markets than the traditional server and desktop market, but the server and desktop markets are still huge and ripe with opportunity if we play our cards right. And if we can deprive Microsoft of things like their Office cash cow, then that levels the playing field all the more when we later take them on again in other areas.

GStreamer Conference 2012 Schedule online!

I am very happy to announce that the schedule for this years GStreamer Conference is available. The schedule includes talks about GStreamer 1.0, the new GStreamer SDK, GStreamer security and quality and hardware enablement with GStreamer. But we also have a great range of talks on related topics like Wayland, ALSA, V4L and the Opus Codec, so there should be something for everyone.

This year the GStreamer Conference is being hosted in the US for the first time, so we hope a lot of you will make your way down to San Diego at the end of August to attend. If you are only attending one conference about Linux Multimedia this year, then this should be it :)

A big thanks goes to the sponsors of this years GStreamer Conference which includes our Gold Sponsor Collabora and our Silver sponsors Entropy wave, Fluendo, Igalia and Google.

Also a special thanks to this years press and media partners. lwn.net, Phoronix.com and UbiCast

GUADEC 2001 : Down memory lane

Came accross a photo album today from GUADEC 2001 in Copenhagen. It was the first GUADEC I attended (the second ever) and it was quite fun to see the photos again. Not to many photos of me in this gallery, closest I found was a group shot of myself and others listening to a gnome-print talk, where I can be spotted wearing a blue shirt, but partly covered by my friend Owen-Frasier Green.

An interesting photo though is this one, showing what was actually the first time the GStreamer team got together in person. In this photo you can see the blue shirted back of Wim Taymans, a head scraching Erik Walthinsen and a red cap wearing Zaheer Merali in addition to Wim’s girlfriend at the time, Michelle and the creator of aRTS, Stefan Westerfeld.

GStreamer team at GUADEC in Copenhagen

That said I think the best GStreamer photo from GUADEC in Copenhagen is still this one:

GStreamer team
Zaheer Merali, Wim Taymans, Owen Frasier-Green, Christian Schaller, Richard Boulton, Erik Walthinsen and Bastien Nocera

Anyway, I hope to see as many of you as possible at this years GUADEC in A Coruna, Spain. And who knows, maybe there will be some fun photos taken to look at 11 years from now :). I am especially looking forward to talks from my fellow Red Hatters here at the Brno office, I think we do a lot of cool stuff here in Brno and it will be good to let the world know about it.

Third week in Brno

Into my third Red Hat and Brno week now, Enjoying it a lot, but of course there is a lot of initial ramping up that needs happening and a lot of new faces and names to remember :)

As for Brno I am getting a bit more settled, got an appartment now that I can sleep in (although no furniture atm :), got myself a local bank account and a local phone sim and this morning internet was connected in the flat. So I guess I got the basics sorted for now :)

Looking forward to going to GUADEC next meet, to meet up with old and new friends and discuss plans for the coming year. It will also be my first chance to talk in person with many people from the Red Hat desktop engineering team since joining the company.

Things will be busy going forward though with a trip to Munich planned just as I return from GUADEC and then the GStreamer Conference at the end of August. Hoping to get the full program online within the next few days to allow people to see the great schedule we put together this year and book their trips to San Diego :)

Arrived in Brno

Felt it was time I updated my blog with a new entry as it has been quite some time since my last entry. A LOT has happened since my last blog post, none the least that my beautiful wife and I are now the proud parents of little Amelie.

Photo of Qurat-ul-Ain and Amelia in front of city of Bath
My two girls

We had quite a sprint before the little one was born, fixing up the house we had bought in Cambridge, preparing to get it ready to be rented out after we have completed the move to Brno.

And that is the last major thing, that I have now started my job in Brno at Red Hat. Been great so far, even if the weather has been somewhat on the hot side. Been meeting and talking with a lot of great people here and I am really looking forward to working closely with my new collegues at Red Hat making sure that RHEL, Fedora and Linux continues to evolve and grow stronger.

I have also been planning and preparing the GStreamer Conference 2012, which will take place in San Diego, USA this year. We have some great presentations lined up and I hope to have the full program up by the end of this week. So I hope to see as many of you as possible there this year too!