NCLUG

Last week I drove up to Fort Collins to give a talk about gcj at
NCLUG. I thought it went pretty
well… I gave an updated version of my old talk from FOSDEM 2004, but
then deleted the slides by mistake when I was trying to upload them.
The problem with my computer (and me!) assuming that I’m a power user
is that, occasionally and unpredictably, I am not.

Afterward a bunch of us went next door for Chinese food. I talked
to Evelyn from tummy.com a bit.
Apparently Fedora has let them retire KRUD, a local RH-based
distro. From the KRUD page it isn’t clear if this is a plus or a
minus, but in my mind it is a plus — it means Fedora is successfully
addressing needs that were not addressed by the old Red Hat
Linux.

Evelyn also had an experience similar to mine — and everybody’s,
I suppose — when installing linux for desktop use. I can’t just
install Fedora, I must also download flash (mozilla makes this easy,
but of course yum would be nicer), java (I didn’t on my FC5 box, but
partly because I’m keeping up appearances), and various sound and
video things. Evelyn also needed acroread, to my surprise; but
apparently only acroread can handle editing PDF forms.

Add to this the messy situation with proprietary drivers (my
laptop came with the atheros wifi stuff, which I still can’t get to
work on FC5) and the lack of ipod support, and you’d think that Linux
sucked.

I’m still hopeful though. We’ll outgrow this annoying phase.

I also learned about Night Vision for
Java
, a planetarium program written by Brian Simpson (he was
sitting across from me at dinner). Apparently this runs ok if you
enable the java2d stuff in Classpath; he tried it without success
during my talk but I’m told that things are all fixed in cvs (which, I
hope, we’ll be shipping in FC6).

Finally, I got to meet Bob
Proulx
. Bob does a lot of stuff in GNU-land and I had seen his
name before on the automake list, but I embarrassingly failed to
connect all the dots until after I had left. I hate those awkward
social moments. They seem to occur more often to me than to other
people.

I’ll be back in Fort Collins in a couple months to talk about
autoconf and automake. A little weird, since I haven’t worked on
these for so long.

Eclipse Plugins

I was also in Raleigh last week for a speaker training class, and
I caught up with Andrew Overholt there. We talked a bit about Eclipse
packaging, a hell we’ve both had to live in.

Whenever I think about what it was like to try to build that
thing, or its various plugins, I start thinking: why bother with this
at all? It’s just a huge mess!

But then I remember more. Of course we have to build it. We’re
building the OS, which changes. We need a reliable process from start
to finish so we can make and ship bug fixes. These are, btw, the same
reasons that open source java is needed — compatibility is desirable,
even necessary; but it is meaningless if you have no power to fix the
bugs preventing it.

As a user, it is convenient to just use the eclipse update manager
to download things. (Well, sort of convenient. The update manager UI
sucks and it has zero integration with the mozilla or anything else.)
And I do use it for a number of plugins. But installing an OS
reminded me why this approach sucks — it is a lot friendlier to have
a single way to install everything. The Eclipse approach means yet
another step in setting up a machine.

I suppose one answer here is to set up a site that provides a
bridge.

I’ve often thought about making an Eclipse meta-update site, which
would mirror every plugin available. The idea here is, why bother
copying those URLs to the update manager, navigating its brainless UI
once again? Instead, let one person do this and let Eclipse users
just point at this site. (The only problem with actually doing this
is that I couldn’t think of a way to make money off it. No ad revenue
via the update manager 🙂

Anyway, in conjunction with that I suppose you could auto-generate
RPMs from binary plugins, and from there a convenient yum repository.
This would solve the problem on the user end. Distros would still be
screwed, of course. Annoying binary distributions are the Java
standard, and Eclipse would just keep on contributing to the problem.

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