Naturally I didn’t take any notes during my own
talk, so I forgot to mention it when I wrote up the events of Thursday
at OSCON. Oops.
This was not the best talk I’ve given. In fact I would venture to
say it was pretty bad overall. To me it seemed a bit flat and boring
– next time I need a punchier topic and presentation. Most of the
questions were about Harmony, which is interesting but also a bit
depressing in a way. Elyn said that there were about 30 people in the
audience, which is less than I would have liked, although still
Still, it wasn’t a waste of time. Just showing up meant that the
message got out a bit more.
Friday’s first keynote was Asa Dotzler talking
about the Linux desktop. He made four points (that I noted):
- We should preserve as many user settings as possible, for
instance preserve bookmarks when a user switches from Windows to
Linux. That sure would be nice; I’ve had some problems in this area
just upgrading my Linux box.
- He is a proponent of stability. My notes are not really
comprehensible here, but I gather he wants API and UI compatibility
across distros. That seems unlikely to me.
- He likes simplicity. He railed against the Gnome “open terminal” menu
item a little bit. I use that all the time, but I wouldn’t care much
if it went away. But would deleting it violate the stability point?
That is not entirely a dumb question, I’ve felt burnt a bit by other
minor Gnome changes where a feature I liked was removed.
- He argues against violating user expectations. For instance, he
doesn’t like the position of the “ok” button in Gnome, and he hated spatial
Taken together, these represent one fairly coherent point of view,
which is ascendant in the Gnome world. The simplicity point in
particular has a strong argument from engineering realities. However,
I find that in general I don’t sympathize much with this view overall.
Instead I would prefer that the Linux desktop take a more radical view
and stake out some truly new territory in the GUI arena.
For instance, for OSCON I made a presentation. To do this I
grabbed a bunch of other presentations and took little pieces of them
(mostly graphs as it turned out). Then later, Anthony used
part of my presentation. We did all this by emailing and
downloading bits — but sharing in this way seems like such a basic
operation that we ought to be able to do it directly in the
applications (without setting up a cvs repository or anything like
I suppose it is kind of dumb to complain about the desktop on the
basis of a single missing feature. I guess I should give this some
real thought and try to write up something sensible. But the bottom
line is, there are important ways of working that are essentially
unsupported by currently existing tools. I run into this every single
During the Q & A session, Jeff Waugh stood up and
said that Ubuntu is bringing the Gnome ethic to Linux distros: “simple
software, just works”. I didn’t recognize him without his headphones.
Open Source Biology
First, I’d like to note that SlashDot got mentioned a lot at this
conference, mostly as a way of measuring the zeitgeist. (And on the
first day I had the pleasure of meeting SlashDot hacker named Jeremy
– hi Jeremy, if you’re reading this.) I don’t know why this shows up
at this point in my notes, but there it is.
Anyway, this talk was very cool and had some very interesting
slides. The speaker was starting an organization to sponsor open
source biology, see more at their
(unfinished) web site.
Tony Gaughan, Computer Associates on Ingres
I didn’t make many notes. I think I found this talk boring, sorry
about that. He did have a story about how they made money from open
sourcing Ingres that I now wish I had listened to and made notes on.
But anyway I’m told that Ingres can’t do anything that Postgres can’t
do — meaning they did this too late.
Danny O’Brien: “On Evil”
The funniest talk by far. You had to be there.
Saul Griffith on Howtoons
A fun talk about Howtoons.
This is one of the talks (along with the biology talk) that I brought
up later with friends. Worth a look.
This is the last thing I attended — I left a bit early as I was
feeling burnt out and over-socialized. After this Elyn and I went to
lunch with Jim Blandy, the Portland Japanese Gardens
(which I cannot recommend highly enough), and then the Oregon coast
for some needed R&R.
This talk was very neat; Groovy is cooler than I
remember; I was surprised to find out that it has currying, closures,
etc. Naturally, it is basically lisp, just like the other scripting
languages out there.
Inspired by the talk, I gave Groovy another quick try on gcj, but
no joy. I’ll be debugging that soon.
Cope, who gave this talk, actually lives near Boulder, and I had
met him once at the Boulder Linux Users’ Group. He didn’t remember
this, kind of an irritating theme at this conference. I am now
resolved to either develop a flamboyant persona, or extra appendages,
Bruno (re-)introduced me to Rod after his talk. Rod was surprised
to hear how much java code was shipping and working in FC4. He’s
exactly the kind of guy we want to win over…