Really good mail from Bill Nottingham about target markets for Fedora. It is pretty crazy how much software in general is written without thinking about who will be using it, why they’ll want it, and how it will be used.
A current example of the wrong way (in my opinion) to create software is OpenSolaris’ NetworkManager-type program. They call all this work design, but really almost all of it is the engineering implementation design, especially this thread. It has very little to do with how people use the software; there are some sentences to the effect of “oh yeah, there will be GUI popups or something”. The UI page doesn’t exist yet even. To be fair to them, maybe I’m looking in the wrong place, but I didn’t see any non-engineering design.
Having been next to Bryan, Seth and Dan when they were working on NetworkManager, I saw firsthand how a good interaction design and an understanding of the target market is key. For example, in the initial design, they made a decision not to support static IP addresses. That may seem crazy to a programmer, but the target market (Fedora wireless users) basically never uses static addresses. Thus, no need to support them, and the design became much simpler.
Nowadays, I wouldn’t even try to write real software unless I had a good interaction designer on the team. From the start. Not like someone pulled in 70% of the way through to double check the widget spacing on all the incomprehensible popup dialogs I’d created.

Quick (or not so) thoughts

Pyro is the right technology

If you haven’t seen it, Pyro Desktop is a cool project. Alex is spot on about developers and HTML/JavaScript in particular. It’s not that are current desktop APIs are necessarily bad – but they are different. Someone who wants to code something cool that may be coming from a OS X or Windows background will have to drop down for a week while they learn the APIs.

A window manager, or…?

Now, what confused me honestly is that Pyro seems mainly to be focused on being a compositing window manager. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I don’t find the desktop bling that interesting – from any source, Compiz/Pyro/whatever. Sure, it looks pretty, but at the end of the day it feels like there are just a few things (fade-in menus) that are definite improvements, and everything else is just “because we can”. Maybe it’s also because I’m an all-windows-maximized+alt-tab person. I also don’t use workspaces.

The apps

What I thought was missing from the Pyro demo was the apps. To someone who’s not a developer, it looks like a desktop theme. The Flickr feed I see on the website is more interesting to me. Certainly, if I was going to start a project like the Big Board part of the Online Desktop now, it would make a lot of sense to write it using Firefox/Pyro. I had to spend at least a solid week of work on the HTTP library in BigBoard alone. One thought is it may be interesting to embed Firefox iframes inside Big Board.


If you’re like me, you acknowledge JavaScript’s ubiquity, but you still hate its crazy prototype “object system”. Enter Google Web Toolkit. I can definitely imagine the future of application development being HTML+CSS+Java (or another sane language).

Online Desktop

Havoc had a good summary. One thing I think that should have been stressed more strongly is that in a lot of cases, being online is just a matter of changing workflow or defaults for existing regular GNOME apps, not just dropping them. For example, changing F-Spot to make it easier to get your photos online – getting your account info (or pointing you to some samples if you don’t have one), but still having a good local photo tool for picking which photos to upload, fixing redeye, etc. I think there was actually a talk about this which I missed.


Gave a lightning talk on Hotwire and talked to a few people about it. Seemed like people were interested, but it’s really hard to get people to switch. But I think it’s been successful in letting me prototype out some shell ideas. I have been having some different UI ideas lately though, and am also pretty frustrated right now with the Python runtime (not the language) – the GIL is a serious brick wall for improving Hotwire.
Update – Just discovered POSH when googling for the GIL link – this may be exactly what I need.


Haven’t seen many people blog their GUADEC photos (I’m sure it’ll happen en masse after the conference), but I tossed my current photo set online.


Victoria square

Hackers in Etap

The things I change right after installing Fedora

Did a fresh Fedora 7 install on my laptop, and I went through my usual routine of fixing up a few details. We’ve actually gotten pretty good about being “stateless”; I already store almost everything online (GMail, delicious,, Mugshot, Picasa, etc.), so there was little data to copy around manually, basically just reinstall developer tools.

However, I have to spend a bit of time killing passwords:

  • Fix usermode to not prompt for the root passwordThis forum thread describes how to do it.
  • Delete my user password – Run passwd -d walters. That way I just click my username. My laptop is either right next to me, or in a trusted environment, so I don’t need a password. Ideally GDM would auto-login the user if they didn’t have a password, so I wouldn’t even have to click.
  • Install Google Browser Sync – By far my biggest annoyance with the web is remembering all my website passwords. Google Browser Sync is the best solution I’ve found so far.

The next thing I’m going to add to this list is to install pam_keyring, just about to try that. Though honestly I’d like a way to basically disable all prompts from the GNOME keyring – I don’t need my local keyring encrypted (for the same reason I don’t need a local password), and I trust my local apps.

Fixing those little things

A while back I came upon this rant about the focus stealing prevention. Recently I realized just how confusing it is; I had a lot of windows open, and so didn’t even notice the Firefox tab blinking at first and thought my clicks weren’t registering. Ick!
So I decided to sit down and spend a day on backporting the upstream patch for this to Firefox 2. If you are a Firefox user (or more hopefully a distributor) interested in having the links you click on the desktop actually appear on the screen without hunting for a pulsing tab, this patch is for you.