April 23, 2019

gnotebook: GNOME Fans of the World... Relax.

Of o-rings and Cinnabons.

  • April 20, 2001
  • By Michael Hall

There's nothing like being told your plane needs a new o-ring while you sit on the runway. It's with the knowledge that one of these most storied of innocuous parts is defective on the very plane I'm sitting in that I write this.

Worse than the abiding fear that comes from potentially defective o-rings is the sudden charge the air takes when the pilot finally gets around to telling everybody there's gonna be a delay. The air gets warmer, the three-month-old issue of 'SkyMall' loses a little of its luster, and the scent of human desperation wafts up from the seats. I hate flying. I hate sitting in a metal tube that isn't going anywhere while the guy next to me nurses a smelly Cinnabon as if it's a source of precious calories he'll need to survive his ordeal even worse.

GNOME fans are, to a certain extent, trapped on the airplane on the runway, and I'm going to attempt to back away from some ideas attributed to me a few weeks ago in the name of, well, rallying the faithful or something.

There's no more happy madness than the utter insanity that grips us when a new release of anything comes out. Just this morning (as I write this) Mandrake 8.0 was spotted on mirrors, and it was astounding how quickly the servers around the globe buckled. It's an inflexible rule of discussion board culture that for every over-enthusiastic fan rattling off lists of mirrors with fat pipes there will be at least one scold who thinks it's just flat immoral to announce anything before the last mirror in Yakutsk, laboring along on a 9600 baud connection, gets the last bit of data for the release.

Another Linux web site maintainer of my acquaintance once related to me the feeling he got when a really big announcement was made: how light-headed he felt, how much his pulse raced as he prepped the story for posting on his site, how he quietly downloaded the good stuff before the announcement went live so he wouldn't be forced to wait two or three days for the servers to recover.

In a world of staid names for Linux sites: LinuxPlanet, LinuxToday, LinuxNews, and LinuxStart (to name but a few), 'freshmeat' is one of the most colorful and most apt: we really are like ravening animals when it comes to getting the latest stuff. When Nat Friedman of Ximian popped up in LinuxToday's talkbacks recently, in fact, to briefly lay to rest the sense that his recent retirement from the CEO business (he's becoming the VP of Product Management at the company) was some sort of coup, he addressed that very issue by saying Ximian won't be catering to "the freshmeat crowd."

I don't think that means "people who visit freshmeat." I think it means ravening software fanatics who expected Ximian would have everything nicely packaged up for them the day after GNOME 1.4's release.

Is it disappointing that there isn't a set of binaries out there from Ximian, but it's also no big deal. Hard to fathom the threats I read on one forum where a "longstanding GNOME fan" threatened to switch to KDE because Ximian simply wasn't moving fast enough. How useful is any desktop if not being able to get at a dot release where the only big news is a new file manager is key to whether you'll have anything to do with it? I'm guessing 'not very,' and I'm guessing that's not a desktop where a ton of work gets done.

This may apppear to be backpedalling from a few weeks ago when I said the very words "Point: KDE" in reference to the binary distribution practices of each of the desktops. To a certain extent, well, I'm still saying it. The "freshmeat crowd" can be fickle enough to drop a project if its "new stuff" jones isn't fed often enough. On the other hand, GNOME 1.4 isn't such a radical departure that my productivity is going to double once I have it in my hands. I know because I built it from source and checked.

Doesn't matter, though, because people seemed to take it as if I were claiming GNOME sucked because it tells people to get their binaries from a single company, and that company doesn't move fast enough to suit me. That's not the case.

Would I love to get at handy binaries the day the new release hits the servers? Yes. Would I love to see what Ximian's got for us right away? Sure. Is the fact it isn't this way an indictment of GNOME? You get to decide that.

In the mean time, my plane is aloft, the o-ring evidently did matter because I'm on a new plane, and looking back on the violent urge I had to take my neighbor's Cinnabun and feed it to him.... more quickly... when I found out we'd be sitting a while longer in a smelly metal tube, I'm reminded that there are, indeed, worse things than waiting for binaries.

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