Christmas Gifts: Much Joy :)

Christmas yielded For Musicians Only by Dizzie All Star Big G Gillespie and friends, and The Man Without Qualities (Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften) by Robert Musil, as well as a book on public speaking which is an excellent reference for giving talks. The kind of book you need when holding exercises at universities.

I recently found out that I also love popular swing, in particular Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen which has an interesting history. I’ve just heard the Benny Goodman’s Carnegie Hall Performance, and I find the melody amazing :). I’ve never before heard a trumpet that is played like a Clarinet.

It is great to see how large the spectrum of Klezmer-influenced music is, there are so many great performers like Giora Feidman. The Clarinet is really one of my favourite instruments!

Oh, dear lazyweb: Does anybody of you know whether John Philip Souza also made “operatic” music? I love “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, but listening through some CDs was a bit disappointing since most what I heard was very militaristic and not really virtuosic.

The Joy of Hacking

After quite some time without any GNOME code contribution, I invested a few dozen hours again and worked on the following issues:

* Fix stupid GnomeVFS crash due to lack of retval initialization (#381119)
* Cook up (not yet published) patch for having date-based axes (for charting your stocks) in Gnumeric/GOffice graphs, which made me
* Enable GOffice/libgsf XML (de)serialization of object properties whose types are derived from G_TYPE_ENUM, G_TYPE_FLAGS (#380396)
* Enable correct translation of Gnumeric functions (not yet reviewed) (#381564)

Conclusion: Hacking is fun, especially when you have to deal with many layers of a software stack! :)

Rants are great

Jeff: Thanks for bringing up Thom’s rants and going into his criticism. I disagree that this rant was superflous, though. Rants are very important, because they give people a voice who are not heard by the community and by the developers otherwise.

We’re all busy, and we all don’t have enough time to absorb enough feedback and valid criticism when it is scattered among thousands of bug reports, which is why we are perceived as arrogant although this is not the case, and often gain of momentum for specific improvements lacks not because we’re lazy, but because there aren’t enough people who get a significant amount of platform-related work done.

Sometimes we need an ISV or a distributor that sponsors and enforces a particular development to make framework improvments actually happen. Just imagine the current desktop without HAL and hotplugging. It would lack 50% sexiness. Kudos to David Zeuthen and everybody who helped to make this happen, including Red Hat that sponsored most of the recent significant platform improvements!

So we learn: Distributors can enforce development, end users (by definition they are no developers) can either ask nicely or rant, but identifying a tiny workflow problem is often harder than solving is, so this role is still very valuable, no matter how unfriendly the feedback may sound. That said, we were given very valuable and objective feedback as well, cf. the famous 40+ Suggestions for Better Desktop by Peter Chabada.

It’s like with personal relations: Subjective and loud, unfiltered clamor gives the criticized partner an opportunity to put himself in the partner’s place.

I find it personally refreshing to get bug reports presented in a concentrated and terse fashion, and I’ve heard most of the points myself during discussions with end users. Users often can’t distinguish between low-hanging fruit and demanding tasks, but they usually identify shortcomings (or their effects) of computer systems correctly.

At the moment, I’m in the process of upgrading my mother’s computer to Dapper, so that I can investigate and hopefully tackle the ZIP drive issue Thom writes about.

Why Federico is a Hero; GnomeVFS Documentation; Tango Nuevo; Quality Music

Many people whined about the lack of an entry in GtkFileChoosers located inside file chooser dialogs, probably because they were to lazy to press Ctrl-L and loved to flame. Federico did it: He merged code for a GtkEntry in GtkFileChoosers into GTK+ HEAD. This means that even the reactionists among the GNOME/GTK+ users will not cry anymore. Hooray! :)

Meanwhile, I’m improving GnomeVFS documentation and getting used to “Tango Nuevo”. If you also want to learn about that passionate music, I recommend you to grab Tango: Zero Hour, which contains excellent accoustic Tango, Maria de Buenos Aires, which is an excellent record of THE Tango Operita (doesn’t seem to be available on amazon.com, though), and Libertango, which is a real classic of Tango Nuevo, although I find the drums to bold sometimes. All of the above are excellent records, and for the more advanced of you there is also the very brilliant Tangoklezmer by Giora Feidman available.

It amazes me how strong, distinct and spiritual the musical visions by many modern and classical artists are. Unfortunately, popular music lacks this kind of visions, and often creativity. I assume it is not too uncommon that the way music sounds is dictated by producers, who seem to think that people are not interested in quality music. This applies for roughly for 90% of the music that can be found in charts in western countries. I mean, there are excellent modern works available, and there is an unbelievable amount of great classical music from Schönberg, Eisler, Bach, Dvorak and MANY others, and popular music nowadays just seems to be essentially a lifestyle product instead of something both the creators and the audience identify themselves with, which is a pitty.

Update

It was pointed out in the comment section of this blog posting that my claims about some people who complained about the lack of an entry in the file chooser were arrogant. I accused them of being to lazy to use Ctrl-L.

I’m very sorry, I didn’t want to insult anybody (I obviously did), and I appreciate ANY constructive criticism. Having spent hundrets of hours on bug triaging and polishing of GNOME software, I am aware that much feedback out there is very useful, and I’d like to hug everybody who invested time to give the developers feedback, or to help the developers dealing with the huge amount of feedback (i.e. the bugsquad).

I must also admit that while we offer some nice features to advanced users in GTK+, they are not really documented wery well (at least from the user’s POV), so people keep asking the same questions over and over. Unfortunately, to my knowledge we have no publicly available documents explaining why the entry is not in the GtkFileChooser dialog by default, and how quickly it can be accessed as of writing (~, /, Ctrl-L are all shortcuts). A GTK+ manpage and a GTK+ web FAQ might save both our users and our developers much stress :).

studies, USB mounts

Absolved a practical C training within the scope of my studies. It was really trivial, and mostly boiled down to abusing printf/scanf. Scored 100% in roughly 40% of the available time. vim is such a great tool. Let’s see how I work out in the first few real tests, namely circuitry, electrophysics and advanced maths for engineers.

Crispin felt kind enough to provide me with an USB stick to implement a progress dialog for unmount operations in Nautilus. It just cost 60 pence to send it from the UK to Germany by air mail. Tempi Mutantur. The issue is that users won’t know when data is entirely written to the disk (which is done async), and it is safe to remove the drive. Filed a bug report against GnomeVFS, because it doesn’t tell us when the drive is really ready to be removed. I really wonder whether as of writing there is any solution to this problem in the kernel/HAL/GnomeVFS stack.

We want YOU!

You’re a frequent GNOME user, and want to help out? You can help us! If you have problems with your GNOME software, report them if they’ve not yet been reported.
People doing GNOME development suffer from a constant lack of time. They are typically working full-time, and their GNOME commitment is limited to their spare time. Therefore, they need people who do the prelimitary work for them. We have to know about the users’ problems to tackle them. Unfortunately, without managing and sorting all their wishes by priority and category, we can’t deal with those reports. That’s where you can help out! Help us to not loose track of all the interesting and cool ideas our users have! Join the GNOME BugSquad! Just pick a software product you really like and follow the instructions.
We really have to join forces to improve our software, let’s do it!

Regarding Nautilus, I’d like also like to thank in particular some very active users and developers who got more and more involved into Nautilus, by filing bugs, triaging them and writing patches, including Vidar Braut Haarr, Christian Kirbach, Reinout van Schouwen, Jaap A. Haitsma, Fabio Bonelli, Teppo Turtiainen, Nelson Benitez and many many others I forgot.

It’s nice to see that Martin Wehner could also invests some of his very very limited spare time into triaging and fixing some bugs, so a previously inactive maintainer is back on stage again.

Good desktop experience is all about getting the details right :).

C# and GNOME

Looks like the next few weeks will be cruicial to the future of GNOME. We’re arriving at a point where it’s obvious that we have to talk about what role C# should play in a future desktop. I don’t want to blog much yet, since it’s really too early to draw any conclusions. A thread on the foundation list dealing with questions to the board election candidates yielded a discussion that may become interesting. It was initiated by Richard M. Stallman, whose main two theses are:

For GNOME to include C# support as an optional add-on cannot hurt. (…) I think it is clear that C# should not be the main or preferred
language for GNOME, should not play a major or central role. Giving it such a role would be a very bad strategic move, since it would
encourage a large community to move in a direction that serves our declared enemy.

as well as

The hard question is whether to give C# a middle-level role–whether to let it be more than an optional add-on. The issue depends on the legal situation (…).

I’ve tried to elaborate a bit on his first thesis and prove that if deploying C# in FOSS projects doesn’t really help Microsoft in any way. We should really be thankful that Microsoft invented a useful platform like .NET. C# seems to attract many developers and yield many interesting applications that wouldn’t have been developed otherwise:

(T)he most convinicing product wins, not that one promoted by politic(i)ans.

IANAL, but concerning the legal situation, I also made clear that don’t think that nowadays there are any other problems with C#/.NET adoption than those that would have arised with any other bulky/extensive technology when it comes to patents. Patent infridgement almost definitly already happened (as laid out in my email), and definitly will happen in future, no matter what technology we use.

Let’s ignore that unavoidable situation, for now. Lawyers and judges tend to be very incalculable when it comes to lawsuits dealing with ideological questions that have a direct impact on law, instead of with formal arguments. The good news is that with FOSS there is always a way out, as long as there exist countries that don’t have software patents comparable to those in the USA.

Meanwhile, the nautilus-search branch of Nautilus which aims towards Beagle integration is progressing nicely. Will we experience the normative power of the factual. Will the new board deal with this question?

Stay tuned, and join the foundation-list discussion!

Mozilla/GTK+ patch review request

The GTK+ wrapper around Mozilla always overrides the global X11 cursor. It shouldn’t do so if it uses the normal cursor (GDK_LEFT_PTR), though. Maybe a Mozilla/GTK+ developer could give my patch a spin? I know, it looks like a tiny issue, but it is totally weird that when you spwan a startup notification-capable application while browsing, you don’t get any cursor feedback.