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The UserLinux GUI Will Be GNOME - "By Fiat" Says Perens

The UserLinux GUI Will Be GNOME - "By Fiat" Says Perens

On the GUI Selection in UserLinux

By Bruce Perens

[reproduced from the UserLinux site]

Version 0.1, December 15, 2003.

In the original UserLinux white paper, I made it clear that the project would play favorites among the software choices available to it, and that the resulting process would be painful. You can't say that you weren't warned. But it turns out not to be particularly painful, except for one issue: the selection of the GUI used in the system. The selection of GNOME as the GUI of the UserLinux project has raised a good deal of opposition from KDE supporters.

GNOME and KDE are both Free Software. Both are developed by lots of good programmers, with the support of honorable business people. Many people in the Free Software community have a huge emotional (or even financial) investment in KDE or GNOME, because they have put a lot of development into one of those desktops, or they've just spent a lot of time with one of them as a user.

To many of those people, it's simply unbearable for their personal GUI not to be the one chosen for our project.

Why play favorites at all? Debian doesn't, and UserLinux is to be derived from Debian. There are more than 13,000 software packages in Debian's pre-release at this writing, including at least three complete desktop GUIs: KDE, GNOME, and GNUStep. The FreeDesktop.org site hosts efforts to increase inter-operability between GNOME and KDE, and the Red Hat Bluecurve project has created a theme that makes the two GUIs look identical. Applications from KDE and GNOME run reasonably well together today. And most important: non-programmer users don't care what GUI toolkit their application is built upon. The GUI issue is a developer, not user, discussion.

But all of the efforts to unify these two desktops do not change the fact that there are two entirely different GUI SDKs. The two competing GUIs are each of a complexity equal to or greater than that of the Linux kernel. For developers and support staff, maintaining expertise in both of two GUIs is an expensive proposition. Many IT shops, when faced with such choices, have decided to consolidate to fewer options in order to reduce expense.

UserLinux is intended to be a system for business people. Central to its design is a network of competing for-profit service providers, who perform engineering and support services for the system. Because these service providers are basing their business upon a commodity product, there are already economic limits upon how profitable they can be. The difference between one and two GUIs may spell profitability or bankruptcy for some of our service providers. In a similar vein, internal support and engineering staff at businesses that employ UserLinux would like to have only one GUI SDK to develop for and maintain. This is not to say that choice is bad. Rather, it's bad when people aren't allowed to choose.

"GNOME and KDE...are of equal technical merit"

We held about a week of discussion on the GUI issue, on the UserLinux mailing list - about 200 postings. It drowned out all other work. It was clear from the discussion that while GNOME and KDE each exceed the other in some areas, when you weigh them all together they are of equal technical merit. However there is a critical business difference between the two GUIs: GNOME does not require a royalty in connection with proprietary software development based upon their SDK. Qt, the widget set upon which KDE is based, does have a proprietary developer licensing fee connected with it.

It's important for us to get more Free Software into business, so that businesses will be sympathetic with us when we need to ask for legislative changes to support the long-term viability of Free Software. You know the issues: software patents, DRM, etc. Today these are seen as business vs. fringe-party issues, and we're on the losing side. The extent to which our software penetrates the business world will govern our effectiveness in getting the legislative changes we need.

Enterprise users buy solutions, not systems. And it's a fact of life that enterprise customers will want to run a mixed Free + proprietary environment, choosing whatever software is best for a particular application. The overall viability of UserLinux will be based upon the size and quality of the ecosystem of solutions around it, both Free and proprietary. So, in order to get any Free Software into businesses, our Free system must promote the creation of a large collection of proprietary solutions that do not exist today. As we penetrate the enterprise, we will continue to move Free Software higher up the application stack, until these businesses make use of Free Software predominantly. But you need proprietary software to get in the door.

It is possible for us to make our system entirely royalty-free for solution developers, both Free and proprietary. This dictates some software choices: GNOME and PostgreSQL rather than KDE and MySQL, simply because of the way those products license proprietary developers. This will support a large ecosystem of both Free and proprietary solution developers by lowering the financial barriers to entry all the way to zero. This will be especially important in third-world countries, where the expense of an SDK license is much more significant than to a developer in the US or Europe.

Almost all Linux distributions have been quiet about their GUI choice, because it does seem to make a few enemies and might dissuade some customers who have already made their own GUI choice. I felt that attempting to be everything to everyone would be the coward's choice and the worst possible decision, that focus would be appreciated by business users, and that most business users don't have any GUI preference other than wanting to be able to focus development and support on only one GUI. Thus, it would be necessary to select one GUI.

As you can see on our mailing list, most of the software consolidation in UserLinux is going on by consensus. I saw that no consensus would be possible regarding the GUI. So, I made a decision by fiat to get the project moving past the GUI issue. UserLinux will be GNOME-based, will not include Qt or KDE components by default, and we'll make it known that project policy is to develop for, and support GNOME. Obviously, this caused much emotion: while the formal proposal of the KDE group was polite, there has been a large amount of personal abuse on the mailing list. But there is little reason for the emotion. The decision does not prevent anyone from using KDE and Qt components on UserLinux, does not prevent anyone from installing those components from the Debian packages, and does not prevent any of our support providers from formally supporting KDE. It doesn't take any choice away from users, who can get KDE on our platform or elsewhere.

The plan presented by the KDE supporters is a good one, and I would encourage them to go ahead with it, using a Debian base. We'll have no problem sharing work with them, just as they share work through FreeDesktop.org and Debian today. But the decision to base UserLinux on GNOME stands. Further personal abuse will be ignored as cheerfully as it has been for the past week, I've had a decade of practice at that and do it really well now. It would be nice if people would allow the mailing list contributors to continue to work on non-GUI issues, by not spamming the list with GUI partisanship.

"I am not an anti-Qt ogre."

In February, my book series will publish C++ GUI Programming with Qt, the official Trolltech guide to Qt 3.2, by Jasmin Blanchette and Mark Summerfield. I have a minor financial interest in promoting Qt (I don't make much money from my books), but no such interest in the case of GTK/GNOME at this time. Because of a miscommunication with my publisher, there is some non-free software on the CD attached to that book - Windows Qt and some compilers from Borland. Although that is against my policy for the books, and I told my publisher not to allow it to happen again, I chose to allow it to continue this time rather than create hardship for Trolltech at a late stage in their book production. I also recently recommended Qtopia to a consulting customer, for what could be a billion-dollar project. I point this out so that you might have some clue that I am not an anti-Qt ogre.

I am carrying on the UserLinux development, and am currently working on the installer. Others are also pursuing much constructive work, as is visible now on our mailing list.

Many Thanks

Bruce Perens


More Stories By Bruce Perens

Bruce Perens, a leader in the free software and open source community, is a member of the International Advisory Board of Linux.SYS-CON.com. He is the creator of the Open Source Definition, the manifesto of the open source movement. Bruce is founder or cofounder of the Open Source Initiative, the Linux Standard Base, Software in the Public Interest, and No-Code International. He is the creator of Busybox, which has spawned its own development community and is part of most commercial devices using embedded Linux.

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Most Recent Comments
Bob 01/07/04 04:16:08 AM EST

I understand how one could come to a decision like this, but personally, it all seems a power trip to me. I don't use kde or gnome, although I do keep recent installations of both. And the little that I have used them, I can't logically see _any_ reason gnome could be thought of as superior, but in that respect I may just be biased. Also, I don't know _any_ one person from any technical background that prefers gnome, I mean, the consensus just seems to scream kde. On the business side of things, I don't think small royalties *if that is really the case with qt* would stop any business from developing with it. I would think if nothing else that they would be used to it by now with propriety systems, almost everything seems to warrent royalties to someone nowadays on ms platforms. plus seeing how superior qt is to gtk in many aspects, it would be worth it anyway. Sorry gtk, your nice, but qt is more polished. Why attack qt simply because they expect to make SOME income off of their work? But this seems to be the root of all trouble with linux, the concept of ever having to PAY for something useful on linux is just "below" everyone. At first I prefered gtk just because it seemed easier, but once I got in to gui programming a bit I quickly realized qt's worth, especially now that it is gpl or lgpl or whatever the hell it is. Wouldn't business users see this same thing? All in all, my main rant is simply that the decision didn't seem to have any true thought put in to it. No real world merit. It seems like he wanted to make things "easier", by going with what he prefered. But as a corporate client, having gnome as the perception of linux, which is what the gui is in effect, with its instability, its flat out ugliness, its user un-friendliness, I would never adopt linux, it just seems to have no concept of GUI friendliness. As an end note, in all honesty, I think lindows has a much better shot anyway. Not _just_ because they chose kde, but they seem to have a real idea of what normal people want. They limited the choices, but they did it right. And qt's licensing hasn't seemed to be a problem for them...I believe lindows has a shot of going after more than just a desktop market. After all, wont developers want to develope for an operating system that will be used on the desktop? Isn't it safe to assume thats where the money is? Then that of course would build to other markets *as far as lindows goes/could go*, etc, which seems to be the path MS took in a way. anyway, I'm done

LK 01/05/04 09:47:06 AM EST

I supports Mr.Perens decision fully. The objective of supporting one GUI over the other should not be based on liking of the individuals. Instead it should carry forward the 'free' message in the most obvious form 'freedom' rather than creating another digitial divide between developing and developed nations.

If I go by my personal choice, I like GNOME. And it just goes beyond KDE when you use Ximian version of GNOME (XD2). I'm not saying that everybody should use XD2 but it just shows how beautful and userfriendly can be a GNOME desktop. FYI, I once used KDE but found it too cluttered and XP type.

Rainer Lehrig 01/04/04 06:42:24 AM EST

I prefer Qt for GUI programming because I think it's superior to GTK.
Dear Mr. Perens let the users choose what GUI to use.
If only GNOME can be chosen for UserLinux I will not choose UserLinux.

tagline 12/31/03 05:37:02 AM EST

i certainly would hate to see a memory hog like GNOME which,
has a tendancy to crash, selected as the "official" GUI for
any distro. As a Corporate decision maker, my position will
be to deploy KDE as we already have. That also applies to
any others that fall within our sphere of influence.

Business User 12/29/03 08:23:48 AM EST

Well, as a business user, I use KDE because it works better than GNOME. Reading these comments, I have learned that the two have equal technical merit. It appears that reliability is not longer a techical merit. What is it then? Reliability of operation seems to be just Eye Candy to some people, I can assure you it isn't so for business users.

The same thing happened to me with Evolution. The first time it mangled my calendar trying to sync with my Palm, I got rid of it and will not try it again for years because I just do not have the time to play around with this stuff. It is very difficult for me to get excited about GUIs and calendars these days, it's been around for years and you expect it to be really nice and to work.

It's sad that UserLinux folks are opening a new front here, dividing Linux Users on this tired, tired issue. This is not leadership, it is lack of vision.

patrick_darcy 12/28/03 03:00:25 PM EST

practice exclusion and complement yourself
on such a good job.

bla bla bla

Just Wondering 12/24/03 10:08:18 AM EST

What Bruce is really saying is that he is choosing GNOME because proprietary developers can write proprietary programs into GNOME and get away with it. Any addition to KDE has to be GPLed* (see note below). So his thinking is that the business people will prefer to support GNOME for profit in the traditional (closed source) model.

He may be right. But, instead of "UserLinux", he should call it "BussinesLinux".

For us, the users, KDE is just fine, or better than GNOME (at least this far). I say this in spite of the fact that, at the beginning of the "Desktop Wars" I was firmly in the GNOME side (I think they were right on the lincense issue). When trolltech changed the Qt license, I sat at the fence for a long time. Lately, I am slowly leaning to the KDE side. Why? Because the desktop is, in practice, part of the OS. It should be free. It should provide a level playing field the way Linux (the kernel) does. Proprietary applications can be built on top of it, but should not be allowed to become part of it. KDE works that way.

For example, I prefer to code my personal *applications* with GTK+ (mainly because I like wxPython), but my applications run just fine in KDE. I can charge for them and make them proprietary, if I want to, and they will still run (legally) in KDE.

I understand the fear of having Qt being controlled by one company. But, hey, Qt is GPLed. Anyone can allways fork it if he/she wants to, and if he/she does so for a good and valid reason, the rest of us may support the fork.

I think RMS should reconsider what desktop deserves the support of the GNU project. GNOME was a good provisional tool to get a free desktop available. We now have it in KDE.

*Note: I am not 100% sure that any addition to KDE has to be GPLed. Maybe some one can tell us what happens if someone with a closed source version of Qt wants to add a closed source add-on to KDE. I hope they can't.

Scamp 12/23/03 05:05:14 AM EST

I am just Joe User. At this point I need the availability of both KDE and Gnome. I have applications that were written to X11 API's that work great in either UI, but other programs that were written specifically to KDE or to Gnome API's so to run those apps I have no choice which environment that they run in. I suggest ending the GUI wars by allowing users to choose the one they like best, and provide a KDE Runtime library for Gnome Users and Vice Versa. or one GUI Runtime library that includes both, so users don't have to switch back and forth.

If you developers had such a library could you not write apps that take advantage of the strong points of both environments? Just a thought.

JOeD 12/22/03 06:09:58 PM EST

As a mostly Windows user and a part time Linux User, I can tell you that from my experience, moving between a KDE based desktop and Windows on a regular basis is much smoother and less jarring than moving between a Windwos and Gnome based desktop. I spent time early on trying to work in the Gnome Desktop environment and found it a real slow down to have to gearshift between ways of working all the time. When someone clued me into KDE and I finally tried it, the GNOME desktop went into hibernation where it has stayed.

This having been said, the point that should be taken is that if this is a USerLinux, then it better look at who the user community is. If your aiming at the windows desktop, then anything that you can do mimic the environment that you are going after will enhance your point. THe KDE mimnics the windows desktop behavior, the GNOME I saw does not.

XMan 12/22/03 04:13:21 PM EST

Drop off KDE - it's incorrect. Most of users choose this desktop manager. KDE it's a more dinamical project than GNOME. Most of last projects based on X, are based on Qt/KDE also (today i see the news about Konverter - "mencoder" [part of "mplayer"] frontend for KDE)...

The best solution it's an integration GTK/GTK+ and Qt/KDE libraries. And works on this have been started last week.

XMan 12/22/03 04:13:09 PM EST

Drop off KDE - it's incorrect. Most of users choose this desktop manager. KDE it's a more dinamical project than GNOME. Most of last projects based on X, are based on Qt/KDE also (today i see the news about Konverter - "mencoder" [part of "mplayer"] frontend for KDE)...

The best solution it's an integration GTK/GTK+ and Qt/KDE libraries. And works on this have been started last week.

XMan 12/22/03 03:20:29 PM EST

Drop off KDE - it's incorrect. Most of users choose this desktop manager. KDE it's a more dinamical project than GNOME. Most of last projects based on X, are based on Qt/KDE also (today i see the news about Konverter - "mencoder" [part of "mplayer"] frontend for KDE)...

The best solution it's an integration GTK/GTK+ and Qt/KDE libraries. And works on this have been started last week.

Mark 12/22/03 11:03:02 AM EST

Bruce, Don't waste our time with a hamstrung distribution!

Jerry 12/22/03 07:23:40 AM EST

Svyatogor commented on 22 December 2003:

* Amazing! From what i remember this is the first distro doing anything like that!

What about Lindows? I thought they went just with KDE ;)

jimbo 12/22/03 06:20:19 AM EST

Most of the 'anti' comments on here seem to be based on the fact that, unlike most other distros, it will only offer 1 GUI instead of giving users the choice. Maybe I'm missing something but if he just wanted to give people the usual Gnome/KDE choice aren't there loads that offer that already?

Svyatogor 12/22/03 04:21:49 AM EST

Amazing! From what i remember this is the first distro doing anything like that! You know, after this I am not gonna even give a single try to this new pseudo-linux OS. Neither will I pay any attention to news related to it (unless I hear that you are adding KDE...)

P.S. Believe it was hard to me to use only 'appropriate' language...

assaultdyke 12/22/03 01:03:59 AM EST

Sure, take comfort in your delusion that M$ only *pretends* to test their software. When I see threads like this, I can hear the laughing from Redmond.
Dyke Out

badger 12/22/03 12:35:12 AM EST

I can argue all day about Gnome and KDE being technically equal (I've coded for both - one sucks). Of the sample of the 200 posts on the list that I've read, they all seem to be from people ignorant of one desktop or the other or else they come down to "the other desktop is ugly". If this is really *USER*Linux, than it wouldn't seen to presumptuous to think about users, for example:

1. Run some tests (what a concept!) using some kind of typical user setup (don't know what that is? geez, you're in deep shit already then, aren't you?). Which is more reliable? Which is faster? Which loads apps faster? etc, etc. (That's called "collecting data"). Test objectively.

2. Ask some users which one they like better and why. Is this difficult to comprehend?

Without any empirical data to back up choices like this, I'd suggest the name be changed to BruceLinux, 'cause it doesn't appear to have anything to do with users so far. Want to base your business on a product assembled by fiat rather than some rational method? Welcome to Chernobyl.

Don't imply my bias from my statements here - this applies equally, whichever one is chosen. This is stuff any first year engineering student could figure out. And they wonder why I laugh when programmers are called "software engineers". Shit, even Microsoft at least pretends to test stuff - we could do at least that much.

zpok 12/21/03 11:29:17 PM EST

Way to go!

I don't care if it'll be Gnome or KDE, but don't let it be the two. Choice is good, but can be stiffling as well, or the source of extreme confusion.

If you want to get a stable, easy to maintain and support platform, make it as unified as possible. That's as plain as candy for everybody in IT.

And users will benefit as well, not having to switch between mindsets and (sometimes arbitrary) GUI differences. Look at the confusion with the average user if he/she has to work on a mac instead of a PC or vice versa. Those are already very elaborate and simplified environments.

There's still so much polishing to do in Linux that you just can't do with two or more desktops.

And in the end, the expert user can pick the GUI he/she likes.

Michael Jansen 12/21/03 10:31:28 PM EST

I agree that there is a need to focus on one graphical toolkit. It is important to have a consistent set of conventions used across a large range of applications.

However, I am not sure that we should make the
choice on 'technical merit'. The obvious way to choose is
to run some usability experiments. The technical merit,
is lacking, can always be added later.

To make an inroad on Windows, unfortunately one would need
to be sufficiently compatible with windows GUI conventions to allow an easy migration. There should be some room for
doing things better, though.

Several years ago we adopted KDE as our desktop graphical interface simply because GNOME, while it seemed fancier, was unstable and had many features which were neat but of questionable utility to the end user. We liked the fancy windows and decorations, but in the end your desktop needs to help you get work done. I hope that these kinds of features did not contribute to the technical merit.

DW 12/21/03 10:25:40 PM EST

Why does it feel like Perens is taking a "build it with Gnome(-only) and businesses will come" approach? Where is the research to back up this theory? Where is the long list of these businesses ready to chuck whatever they are using for UserLinux only if it ships Gnome, and Gnome only?

If Perens were my employee, and he came to me with this idea of putting together a Gnome-only distro (minus MySQL, for God's sake!!), I would make him prove to me that's truly what the vast majority of businesses want. I would want the names of these businesses, their reasons, tons of focus group data, etc. Not, Well, I had to make a choice, and this was the choice I made. What? Well, look at the license differences, he might say. Well, show me a list of businesses that care one way or another and why. And if he didn't have a (huge) list of businesses concerned about the licensing and didn't have data showing that there is little interest in KDE, I'd give Bruce a kick in the butt and tell him to get out of my office and come back with facts that backs up his choice -- not just theories.

Let me quote Bruce:
"As you can see on our mailing list, most of the software consolidation in UserLinux is going on by consensus. I saw that no consensus would be possible regarding the GUI. So, I made a decision by fiat to get the project moving past the GUI issue."

If you care about businesses, then "just" making a decision isn't going to cut it. Bruce needs to take a timeout and do some market research. End of discussion.

But the beauty of GNU/Linux is Bruce can do what he wants. He certainly can go start his own new GNU/Linux distro. The question is how much support will he have from the community? And theories on what Bruce thinks businesses want and don't want aren't enough to get the full community's support (and why settle for much less if you don't have to).

Let's see a list of these businesses. Let's see what they really want and WHY they want it. If you are going to build a distro for business, then maybe you should start thinking like a businessman. And a businessman would interview CIO after CIO after CIO and then present research information to his boss (or in this case, the community) as justification of the decision to do this or that.

If Bruce shows the community the hard data that he is basing his decision on, maybe it will quiet this debate.

My belief is that a wise leader would have seen this uprising coming and had some hard data on hand to justify their decision upfront.

Anyway, just my opinion. I'm done with the comments. I wish you the best of luck Bruce. Time to code.

DW (@denniswarner dot net)

GH 12/21/03 07:42:56 PM EST

GNOME or KDE should be a choice as all opensource is. This GUI tech war ( if that is what it will be ) I will say keep Qt and KDE an option. Qt is not true opensource IMHO, any development with Qt may prove a problem later in opensource software.

gondolat 12/21/03 07:40:49 PM EST

how about 'which GUI you prefere? KDE (for licensing read _here_) or Gnome (for licensing read _here_)?', then businesses that do not provide programs can choose KDE (most of businesses ive met will choose this) and businesses that wish to provide programs (or are just fans of Gnome such as myself BTW) will choose Gnome.
i feel like by adding this comment im not helping anything or anyone but i just had to write it anyway, just for the sake of KDE, which (for some reason) has caught the eye of about 95% of the people ive known.

Josh 12/21/03 06:18:09 PM EST

apt-get kde

.. so where is the denial of choice .. ?

Chris Hammond 12/21/03 05:52:30 PM EST

I have no problems with focusing on one and even that being Gnome. That is a CHOICE. BUT choice is also having KDE there if you want to use it.

Missing the point?! UserLinux is an attempt to make a package that is easy to use for everyone. Making it easy to use is fine. But your telling me that to make it easy to use means to completely leave out KDE. Don't think so.

Not everyone likes KDE or Gnome or any of the others. But KDE and Gnome are the wo biggest and most well known. Reguardless of which is made default, they should both be available. Make Gnome the default, that's ok. But give the person the choice of which desktop he/she wants. Don't dictate to them.

Uwe Dippel 12/21/03 05:32:03 PM EST

I perceive and understand the need to offer a single desktop. Here I agree with Bruce.

My personal preference is Gnome; and I find it usually broken. The base install gives you two almost useless panels that can be turned into beautiful and useful tools with a lot of config work. The KDE-icons remain the second ugliest set only surpassed by XP, while Gnome icons are designed with taste and craftsmanship.
KDE is bloated and ugly. But it works. Just like XP. It even carries its own advertisement vertically on the Start-menu like XP. The former (works and is configured out of the box) warrent that it be used for this project.
The Gnome Foundation has blown it more than once and surely will over time, again.
For an enterprise version we need professionalism, not the beauty of Gnome; sorry to say.

JM 12/21/03 05:08:04 PM EST

I think many of the 'Linux is about choices' comments are missing the point. Linux _is_ about choices, and there are many alternatives in this discussion. The decision to focus on Gnome in UserLinux in no way reduces your ability to use other, more 'choice-full' distributions, nor even to roll your own KDE version of UserLinux. In my opinion, in the enterprise space, choice is viewed a little differently than among linux-enthusiasts. What enterprise customers want -especially smaller ones - are well integrated, (relatively ) easy to learn, complete solutions to choose from. In this context, I think it is perfectly appropriate to choose just one desktop environment. If you aren't happy with it, make your own. There's a good reason why we have Knoppix AND Gnoppix.

Chris Hammond 12/21/03 04:20:58 PM EST

"non-programmer users don't care what GUI toolkit their application is built upon. The GUI issue is a developer, not user, discussion."

This smells so much of M$'s we know better what you need than you do. So much for choice. This will be one distro that will never see one of my computers or recommedend to any customer.

Take the customers choice away, you become no better than M$.

Sorry, but that is my honest to god opinion. And it is just that, an opinion.

Anonymouse :-) 12/21/03 04:11:55 PM EST

Very interesting, a couple of points.

Point -
"GNOME and KDE...are of equal technical merit"
Comment -
This may be true, technically, but it is not true from a user point of view, are only technical or development people going to be using this distro ?

Point -
"non-programmer users don't care what GUI toolkit their application is built upon. The GUI issue is a developer, not user, discussion."
Comment -
Again, please see my previous post. Has anyone even though about the user ?

Point -
"It is possible for us to make our system entirely royalty-free for solution developers,"
Comment -
Is this really required, does it really matter that much ?, will the whole distribution suffer because of a zealot attitude ?

Sorry Bruce, but i have to disagree, Linux is about choice, make one desktop the default but include KDE.
If you must, make Postgress the default, but include MYSQL as an option.

I know i have not been using Linux as long as some of you Uber Geeks (only 10 years now), and i understand the goals of userlinux, but include what the "users" want as well, remember them ?

Over the past 10 years, i have used almost every desktop environment, and when i am not hacking linux, i prefer KDE, why ? cause it is easy to use and just works. simple.

just some thoughts

ABR 12/21/03 04:03:37 PM EST

What Mr. Perens has demonstrated is called Leadership. Choosing one GUI over the other was a difficult but necessary decision, so he weighed the options and made the choice. Why the choice was necessary can be explained as follows:

To date, the primary users of Linux are and have always been techies. This group of users values choice. Choice of GUI's, text editors, you name it. They are technically literate, so they do not want these choices to be made for them, they want to choose for themselves.

Business users, on the other hand, do not value choice the way techies and enthusiasts do. They don't want 10 different text editors, they just want ONE that works very well (and that goes for GUI's too). They want experts to make all of these tough choices for them, so all they have to do is use the finished results without having to become technically proficient themselves. They have many other things to do.

The selection of MS Windows has been a no-brainer for business users up to now, but Microsoft's greed and mistreatment of their customers has created an opportunity for an alternative OS. Linux could be that alternaive, if it can change and adapt quickly enough to meet business user's needs. In order to do this, Linux needs to become more standardized and focused on the ease-of-use features/capabilities required by this huge market of non-technical users. Standardization in this case means making informed decisions to select one GUI, one text editor, etc, on behalf of the non-technical users that cannot make these decisions themselves.

Windows XP and Mac OS X are the competition against which UserLinux, Red Hat Enterprise and Novell/SUSE et al will be measured for business use. From what I have seen and read, many of those currently supporting the open-source movement do not seem to be very well suited to changing Linux so that it can meet the needs of non-technical users. They seem to prefer that Linux remain a semi-exlcusive club which serves to differentiate those that know it from the technically illiterate masses who do not. If Linux is to ever have a chance to move out of the server room and onto business desktops, first and foremost these people must change their technically-centric attitudes, or ultimately be replaced by other developers willing to move Linux in this new direction. Otherwise, Linux will be doomed to the same fate as Unix before it - an OS for techies only.

df 12/21/03 02:47:44 PM EST

choice will kill you. as soon as you offer choice, you loose half your target.

sometimes you have to make a decision, take a stand. either way you alienate somebody. if you ship both, you split the target developer base. microsoft got it right a long time ago, offer a unified api. dos development houses each had their own api for everything, sound, gfx, input.

give us one api to work with, not two. bespoke developers are not going to write both kde and gnome versions. they will write one version. enterprise support staff wont support two versions, they will support one.

i think going with gnome was the right idea. personally, dont care either way. one is good as the other, but a choice HAD to be made. just give me one, kde or gnome, just one. just one...

David DeTinne 12/21/03 02:41:23 PM EST

I am curious if you are going to leave out the initial installer option to format a hard drive partition with reiserfs in favor of ext3 becouse Hans sells the file system under another license?

DW 12/21/03 02:19:19 PM EST

First, Bruce is not a god. He will make mistakes. Not realizing or acknowledging those mistakes is a problem, though.

Why would a business want to adopt a product that is controversial within the community? Businesses don't want to hear crap about Gnome vs. KDE. So, why give them more noise than they are dealing with already (SCO)?

And why waste all of this time talking about Gnome or KDE when UserLinux could just included KDE? But here we are, talking about it. Opportunity cost! Wouldn't this time be better spent coding?

What was the major problem with including KDE but making Gnome the default? Does JUST installing Gnome not complicate things for some businesses wanting to run a KDE app or develop with KDE? Sometimes trying to simplify something makes it more complicated. This seems to be one of those cases.

Mr. Perens seems to be pulling a President Bush and not listening to the voices of many in the community. Perens is going to go ahead without France, Germany and Russia and then be stuck with an $87 billion price tag.

So, we as programmers now have to vote with our time/code.

Let's hope Mr. Perens doesn't fail to harness the brainpower of those he seems to be dismissing.

DW (@ denniswarner dot net)

PS 12/21/03 01:43:18 PM EST

On the one hand, the rationale is that to have a distribution that is friendly to commercial software, only GPL will do. On the other hand, a commercial package which is successful and eminently usable, and by all accounts, free software, cannot be included for the sole reason that it is commercially developed, and licensed for commercial use. What kind of message are you really trying to send to these mythical builders of commercial software for linux Mr. Perens? How about: "we'll let you develop new packages where there is a need, but if there is really a market there, we'll need to replace that with something of our own." Same words could easily come from Microsoft.

I does not make sense to deny inclusion of software because it is commercial on the one hand, and claim one is being commercial vendor friendly on the other. The optics are terrible.

Tadghe Danu 12/21/03 01:33:45 PM EST

Funny, of all the places I've implemented Linux on, I've yet to have a one prefer Gnome to KDE.... Gotta agree with Bob Curry on this one. Bruce is an amazing guy, but Gnome simply isn't there yet in terms of enterprise usage. Couple that with the decision to dump Mozilla for a browser that's not even half-way done yet, and I'm afraid, that UserLinux is a lot of hype for nothing.

Philip Pinkerton 12/21/03 01:31:19 PM EST

After trying all available Linux suites I found I like using FVWM desktop X and Motif 2.xx. I began with Slackware many years ago then to RedHat. Actually I found that while the updates were somewhat easy, the choice between Gnome and KDE was mixed I liked a little of both. Debian was great thats where I was introduced to apt-get, this I liked better than the RedHat update ( at $30.00/year ) because it was free and easier to use when needing specific downloads. I also have multiple machines so I run RedHat, Conectiva, Mandrake and Debian all at the same time. All in all after playing with Linux since 1991 or so (slackware 1.0) I decided to keep the various flavors on my test machines but I created my own FVWM desktop on the 2.6 kernel for my laptop. I also have a second flavor Conectiva 9 which uses KDE. My personal recommendation for the novice Linux desktop user would be Conectiva Linux. It is easy to install the packages are well balanced. Gnome has it advantages and I think users should have a choice, after all isn't that what Linux is all about alternative choices?

SB 12/21/03 12:43:35 PM EST

Every argument I've seen boils down to this: "Well *I* (or insert any number of random people here) think that KDE is better, therefore Bruce Parens is an idiot."

I think the two development teams would agree that KDE and Gnome are effectively equal. KDE is better at some things, Gnome is better at others. They are both solid foundations to build upon. One is licensed GPL, the other is licensed LGPL. Given that User Linux is meant for business, which one would YOU choose? It's _not_ rocket science folks.

Bob Curry 12/21/03 12:20:38 PM EST

Mr. Perens may not have any users that care about which desktop they use, but I do. Of the 42 of my customers users that have implemented Linux on the desktop, 100% prefer KDE over Gnome. That's a pretty clear message at least to me.

I offer to setup the desktop with whichever GUI the user prefers and after a short test period so far all have chosen KDE.


Good luck, Bob

Manuel L.P. 12/21/03 12:12:12 PM EST

I sent this e-mail last time to Bruce Perens, and I would like to share with anybody here:

"Hello Again.

I was riding about your answer to KDE people about using GNOME, and there is a interesting thing that i found in a paragraph it says "And most important: non-programmer users don't care what GUI toolkit their application is built upon.". I'm actually agree with you but there is a important thing that everybody (specially customers) would think or even ask : "It is easy to use and install like Windows?" anytime. So It is ok that UserLinux use GNOME as the default gui but there would be people that would like to use KDE, so KDE should not be exclude, it should be and option for the users and customers. There is a good example in the past when RedHat decided not to include KDE in their distribution (RedHatLinux), what really happened?, then Mandrake Linux was born (in those years Mandrake Linux was a redhat Linux based distribution with KDE). If UserLinux doesn't include KDE, would be big mistake because there would be people who develop a UserLinux derivate and create something that use KDE. I'm not against GNOME but i'm against to exclude anybody that can be useful in the free software movement and can be include in UserLinux"

Take Care."

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