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Refuse to devide users!
By wolfgangj, Section Diaries
Posted on Sat Oct 4th, 2003 at 20:06:26 GMT
This article is actually a collection of questions about the origin of the GNU desktop, GNOME. Most likely there is something I just don't know about it (because it has not been explained clearly enough, since I don't consider myself to be ignorant). So please enlighten me if you can.

RMS did not want to spend most of the time of his life building walls to devide people. Thus he started the GNU project instead of joining the proprietary world. A wonderful decision. But I think the goal of the GNU community should not only be to make it theoretically possible for people to help each other; it also needs to be practical. So while the freedom that Free Software always gives you - of course - is the most important aspect and a conditio sine qua non, it is not the only aspect we should care about. If I am using different software than my neighbour, then I cannot help him very effectively.

 

We cannot always avoid such a situation, but we should try to avoid making this problem a bigger one than it is, if there is no need to.

Long ago, when Qt was not yet Free Software, let alone GPL-compatible Free Software, the FSF started two projects to solve the problem caused by the dependency of KDE on Qt: Harmony and GNOME. Harmony was the pro-KDE project, which was supposed to create a free drop-in replacement for Qt. In my opinion, this was the right solution.

Harmony was not overly successfull, but GNOME was (and I could onlvy speculate about whether GNOME prevented harmony from becomming successfull). GNOME was the ant-KDE project, because it was supposed to replace KDE completely. But as there was Harmony, why did the FSF launch GNOME at all - especially as there was GNUstep as the GNU desktop already? Why create another project, effectively deviding users at least to a certain degree?

Now that we have GNOME and it works well and is successfull, I would never advocate stopping it. But why was it needed in the first place? (And why didn't they just turn GNU Emacs into a desktop environment...? :-> )

Another question relates to the best LISP implementation of the world, also known as Guile. As far as I know, one of the reasons for writing Guile was the assumption that a desktop needs a scripting language. So why doesn't GNOME heaviely use Guile as its extension language?

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Refuse to devide users! | 11 comments (11 topical, editorial) | Post A Comment
[new] Miguel has a history... (#1)
by alex (#9) on Sun Oct 5th, 2003 at 11:08:25 GMT
(User Info) http://www.alexhudson.com/

... called The Story of the Gnome Project, it's an interesting read.

The issue of GNUStep is addressed - they did try to work with that project, but found that their efforts didn't seem to integrate well. GNUStep is an odd project - there doesn't really seem to be much point to it, from an external point of view. I suspect that trying to add a number of developers to an existing project all at once is never really going to work well either.

In terms of desktop extension languages, I truly believe Lisp/Guile will never be it. I know a lot of people who use Lisp to some lesser or greater extent, and it seems to be a difficult language to be really productive in. The lack of syntax and features also seems to lead to huge amounts of wheel reinvention, and what simplicity is gained through the simple syntax appears to be more than offset by the increase in programmer complexity in code: idiosyncrasy and non-idiomatic routines make things much harder to deal with. Seeing the hoops people have to jump through to do even simple tasks - like, writing CGI programs - doesn't make it very beginner-friendly.

Of course, another problem is the developer community: it doesn't appear to be an easy group of people to approach. Of course, all languages have this issue, but (as an example) there is no site like Perl Monks, where people can ask questions of any complexity whatsoever - right from how you do Hello World to subtle questions about perlguts. It cannot be an easy language to learn on that basis.

Your point does stand though: although, within the Free Software world, we don't really like monocultures, and the idea of competing implementations is - I think - thought of as something positive, that's not what you're saying. You're asking why, within the GNU Project, there are a number of implementations. I think that's a valid criticism - it does seem wasteful. I would guess a lot of it is politics: with two implementations, how do you decide which to annoint as the 'GNU' project? For example - could KDE ever become part of GNU?

If we were all using exactly the same software, I guess that there would be fewer walls. But, I think overall there would be less software. There's no way I'm ever going to use Lisp as a programming language, I'm a Perl monger - I guess Lispers will feel the same, as will the Pythonistas, etc. However, I think we are beginning to see the beginnings of a new era of interoperability. Having highly interoperable languages, for example: Perl has had Inline:: for a while, but the ability to link to objects written in another language easily (like .GNU, mono, Parrot, etc) is almost here. Language will begin to matter less. freedesktop has set real standards, and now shows signs of building desktop infrastructure. I think using different software will begin to matter less, so long as your software supports these modern standards ;)

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[new] original gnome announcement? (#2)
by brian (#54) () on Tue Oct 7th, 2003 at 11:12:03 GMT
(User Info) http://www.network-theory.co.uk/

is there an original info-gnu announcement for GNOME? I looked for the earliest posting containing the word "GNOME" on the mail.gnu.org web search but could not find it, only later postings referring to GNOME already existing.
--
Brian
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[new] fiberglass (#8)
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[new] google (#9)
by google (#664) on Sun Dec 5th, 2004 at 05:02:32 GMT
(User Info) http://www.18google.com/

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[new] fiberglass (#10)
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[new] fiberglass (#11)
by a member of the hurd (#-1) on Sun Dec 19th, 2004 at 04:09:43 GMT

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