Re: So What are We going to do about it?
Oh I agree with you entirely..my point is not that people should stop writing window managers for example..and thats actually a good example as pwn and ion are nice new-concept window manager innovations that have come about because not everyone wants to use gnome..
My point is that when I pay $40 to RedHat for a distribution, I believe there is a far better use of that money to compensate a small set of developers to develop something kickass than to create 5 CD's of apps, most of which are fairly repetitive..for example most window managers dont do something really different from others, until you get to ion, pwm, etc
So yes the beauty is this: anybody can do their thing. But the commercial viability..and this is important as I would like to be using Linux 10 yrs from now rather than Mac or windows depends upon making certain strategic decisions such as backing one desktop environment, investing in a core set of developers, not raining on Ximian's possible revenue streams, etc. And thats really what I want to draw attention to..there is huge development talent in our community, but rather poor strategic business thinking..
So What are We going to do about it?
Agreed entirely with the author
about the malaise in Linux desktopland. Infact, I wrote a not so well
proposed article about it almost an year back: Whats Wrong in Linux DesktopLand (http://3point0.nareau.com/Articles/fog0000000007.html).
Red Hat has since attempted to do a unifying job, but the question I
ask is this: how many of the applications that Red Hat ships will they
support? As an end user, why ought I have to deal with figuring out how
to install mp3 playing or DVD playing capabilities. Why should I not
have good fonts? This is the value add commercial outfits are supposed
But they cant because they are too busy making too many CD's. Why not,
as the author has suggested, pare down the number of applications, and
pay a royalty to the author/maintainer of the application for each copy
sold? Why must a Linux company follow the same path as a standard
company in not renumerating the author? (To be fair, RedHat employs
many application or subsystem authors, but why not pay the others a
royalty instead. For example, why not pay Ximian for eg a royalty to
maintain Evolution to be consistent with RedHat design guidelines?).
The authors suggestion of one toolkit is important too. I applaud
Lindows and Lycoris for dumping gnome and making KDE based applications
(though I dont applaud everything as root idea..why not use
capabilities and gradually eliminate root from most applications). I
dont agree with KDE as a toolkit choice as the high licensing cost of
Qt screws small developers wishing to develop commercial apps or
shareware. The Mac is a thriving desktop platform precisely because of
these people, and we need to attract such development if we want to
keep the long term viability of Linux..dont forget that windows started
out as a poor desktop implementation, and but for linux+bsd's would
have largely wiped unix out of small and mid-range installations.
LGPL toolkits are good choices...
Here's one possible plan. Create a new distribution, I like to call it
birdbrain because thats all the brain one should need to use it.
Elitists not welcome. The basic subsystems are kernel+device, init,
basic unix utils, binutils, libsystem(libc, curses, etc), directory
services/auth. Thats 6 subsystems..create 6 teams, and assign
royalties. Get basic X. Pay royalties. Get basic languages: perl,
pythonChoose the basic desktop, say gnome. Get Ximian to package it,
and get Ximian redcarpet to distribute it. Pay royalties. Choose no
more than 15 gnome apps as part of the basic package..choose teams for
each, hopefully including original developers, who are willing to fork,
customize to needs of distribution. Needs are for (IMO): browser,
instant messager, email/news, news aggregator, editor, wysiwyg html
editor, rdesktop, file manager, package manager/installer/redcarpet,
media player, pdf reader, terminal. Thats all. Make sure media player
can play both DVD's and mp3's. If this requires factoring licensing
costs into the distrib, so be it. USABILITY comes FIRST. Then choose
personal server apps for fileserving, personal web serving, ssh serving.
Thats it in the basic system. If this sounds like taking a page out of
Apple, well, yes it does, except that the whole commercial idea here is
to get money directly to the developers who maintain the app for the
distribution. Think of it as debian on a much smaller, and thus way
more coherent scale.
Now make add on packages with separate royalty and responsibility
spheres, for development(compilers), science(plotting, etc), office.
Anf of these packages, and also the previous 15 odd apps, ought to
replacable by others provided they provide the same task capabilities.
Nautilus can then be made more task oriented too, where tasks are done
independent of the apps providing them.
Create an experimental distrib in which new things are played with
before being dropped into the stable distrib. Examples would include a
unified way to deal with data in text form like Apple's plists or
RedHat's alchemist to make things move towards miniamal-admin, app-dirs
or package dirs along with apt(say), per process namespaces introduced
in 2.5 for changing the look of /dev, create a radical project and
aggregator oriented desktop shell, etc etc. Present linux distributions
are bound by the FHS which is ok for system parts but stifle innovation
i think for application parts. In general, as Pike of kernighan and
pike put it..unless we think beyond unix and open up the community to
outsiders from windows and mac and plan9, etc, there wont be much
The mac is undergoing such progress due to the arrival of refugees from
linux..take my word for this..i work at a large university and can see
this happening everyday with profs and students: people can do
innovative stuff when they dont have to struggle through the basics by
reading 10 howto's, not otherwise.
Are you interested in an endeavour such as this? Send email to me at email@example.com and maybe we can get something rolling.