Gnome Deployment

I was reading about Gnome 3.0 recently (and I’m working on a long post about it), when I ran across a post by Luis Villa about Gnome versus web development. (BTW you should read his blog if you don’t already.)

I found this pretty compelling in general — it is a nice analysis and it is also a list of things that can actually be addressed without going crazy.

I’m interested in the deployment issue, since I’ve done some playing in this area with Java Web Start. And, though I think I don’t agree that this is really a blocker, it is still fun to think about a bit — the technology is fun and cool, I’m just not convinced it solves a pressing problem. (Your response here…)

First, yes, with C or C++ I think deployment is just going to continue to suck.

Java already solved this problem in a pretty nice way. It is no big deal to write a single-click install, with automatic updating, good security (either a sandbox or signatures for apps that need more permissions), etc. This could use a little work for better Gnome integration, and of course we should be shipping this in Fedora, but the amount of needed work here is quite small. (I assume C# has something similar but I really don’t know.)

I looked into this for Python a little this weekend. And, it looks like Python Eggs and the Python cheese shop provide a nice basis to make this work. Finishing this is pretty concrete:

  • Define an XML document describing an application. This would include the same kinds of things that ended up in JNLP: icons, splash screens, the required python version, a list of python egg URLs, etc.
  • Add some kind of signing to python egg downloads. Unfortunately I don’t think sandboxing is an option. One idea would be to restrict eggs to python.org and gnome.org URLs — but that interferes with the idea of easy deployment.
  • Make a new URL type so that Mozilla will know to run appropriate python script to parse the XML, install the eggs, and launch the application.

For best results this would incorporate some things I was looking at for NetX: having the ability to download an application without running it; dbus integration so that a previously cached application won’t try to update itself in a net-less environment; drag-and-drop of entire applications from Mozilla to the panel; and now, integration with mathusalem when downloading eggs.

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