Miguel de Icaza: Can't We All Just Get Along? [A Response to Dennis Powell]May 09, 2001, 12:00 (91 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Miguel De Icaza)
By Miguel de Icaza
Like many of my friends and colleagues within the GNOME community, I was disappointed and dismayed to read Dennis Powell's recent piece on GNOME (".comment: Wanna Invest in a Bridge...?"). Unfortunately, he presents a very different picture of what the GNOME community in general, and Ximian in particular, are trying to do. We are working to bring Free Software/open source to people's desktops everywhere. To achieve this, Nat and I created a company that would productize, polish, and support GNOME, all to build a business that would help make it the best desktop environment available.
As with anyone who has questions about what we are trying to achieve or how we are doing things, I'd like to address and bring clarity to some of the issues surrounding GNOME and Ximian in Dennis column, especially as they regard the control of GNOME, the role of my and other companies.
Contribution, Not Control
The more companies and individuals involved in the GNOME effort, the more contributions the GNOME platform will receive.
There are various interests in the GNOME community: some people are interested in the technology, some others in the freedom, some others in the looks, some others in concrete applications. But we all share the desire of making GNOME the best platform for users and developers, because as we increase our user base and our developer base, more software for the platform will exist, which translates into an increase in the joy for those of us using GNOME.
Of course, this is generally true about all free software projects: the more parties involved, the more momentum the project's code base accumulates. At Ximian, we see a major business opportunity in deploying free software onto desktop systems. Therefore it is in our interests to contribute massively to GNOME, which we have done.
To make GNOME succeed we all realize that we have to work together, and we do this by focusing on our areas of expertise or the areas in which we have a direct involvement.
Off the top of my head, here is a list of the various activities conducted by companies that contribute to GNOME:
To illustrate how GNOME works, you need only remember that the GNOME 2 planning session in GUADEC had about 150 people discussing the various steps required to bring the next generation 2.0 platform to people.
As with any growing business, Nat and I added more management resources to our company to enable it to move to the next level. These are things we had planned in advance; just like we hired assistants, support staff, programmers and webmasters, each one contributing with their specific domain of expertise. This has had the added benefit of allowing Nat to spend more of his time crafting our product strategy and managing its development.
We hired David Patrick because he would bring a lot of knowledge that would help us create a profitable company, and because he very clearly understood and believed in the increasingly important role of free software in this industry. This in turn will allow us to continue contributing toward making Free Software (open source) succeed on customer desktops all over the world.
We are very excited that we managed to bring David Patrick on as our new CEO; we see this as a very, very positive thing. The fact that we were able to attract an extremely talented, experienced executive team is a testament to the scope of the opportunity presented in the open source desktop market. Our hope is that, with the help of our expanded team, Ximian will be able to take GNOME further than ever.
Source Code Queries
Any new pieces of code ("modules") that we have written are now available on the GNOME CVS (they were checked shortly after Ximian GNOME shipped) and are also available under the terms of the GNU GPL.
It is of paramount importance to ensure that our patches are incorporated by upstream maintainers as quickly as possible. Of course, making this happen takes work, and we've had to balance that work with fixing the problems that came out of the initial release of Ximian GNOME.
Just about all Linux distributions do their own out-of-band development and ship patched software packages. No one ships a vanilla Linus Torvalds kernel. And so we all work to get our modifications and enhancements upstream; it just takes time.
Building for Everyone
It is important to note that the GNOME 1.4 release was created in large part to bundle Nautilus. If we provide a way to run Nautilus and GMC in Ximian, it is because we realize that the new features in Nautilus consume more memory than the old file manager. Given our interest in having people run GNOME on low-end machines, we wanted to give users an option to choose the new file manager or the old one. At Ximian we are mostly running Nautilus on our desktops.
The reality is, we received requests from people to continue to make GMC. But we were not alone in making this decision: the GNOME release committee chose to make GMC a part of GNOME 1.4 as well as Nautilus.
That's just the way GNOME works. No one unilaterally controls; everyone universally contributes. And that contribution can be code, design expertise, even angst.