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From the Desktop: Blackbox - page 3

No Thanks to the Rebate

  • October 9, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

Unlike some other window managers, Blackbox has not fallen into a state of nebulous development, where updates are few and far between. Hughes and Raven are planning on a new release this very week, based on the development version that has been "solid for a while now," according to Raven.

Raven was asked to become the co-developer of Blackbox in preparation for Hughes' relocation to Oslo, Norway this past May to work for TrollTech. Since that time, the division of labor has been pretty casual.

"I've taken over managing the source tree and packaging up the releases, but other than that we pretty much just work on what moves us," Raven said, "Since coming on board I've mainly been focussed on making Blackbox more efficient and eliminating bugs. Meanwhile, Brad's been kept fairly busy at TrollTech, but even so he's still found the time to speed up a number of points in the code."

Raven is quick to point out that while it is officially he and Hughes working on the project, there have been a lot of people pitching in to help with patches, translations, and that solid documentation mentioned earlier.

"The development version of Blackbox includes support for foreign locales, and when people started submitted translations I was quite amazed at how diverse our user base is, and how eager folks were to help," Raven said, "A number of improvements in the developmental Blackbox owe themselves to outside sources: there's an amazingly detailed man page courtesy of Wilbert Berendsen, as well as cthulhain's bsetbg utility.

"Heck, that's just the tip of the iceberg... there's really just too many of them to mention them all by name," he continued.

I asked Raven what is coming up for Blackbox, and he informed me of their immediate goal to get the new release out the door on October 9.

"...We can get everyone caught up and using the new features that have been available in the development version for some time," Raven explained, "Besides, it's been so long since I've run the old stable version I have a dickens of a time trying to help people with questions about it."

Raven then went on in more detail on the less immediate goals he and Hughes have for Blackbox.

The first big change they have in mind is to merge support for the NET window manager specification into Blackbox. The NET specification something that is pretty close to home, Raven explained.

"Part of Brad's work at Troll has been on the KDE2 implementation of the new NET window manager spec, which has at its core some KDE-independent C++ objects. If things go as planned, these will also be used by Blackbox when it gets support for the spec," Raven said.

"[Merging in the NET specification] will let KDE and Gnome apps rely on a common set of window manager extensions, and hopefully let you replace their default window managers without giving up too much functionality," he continued. Which translates into more of a presence of the Blackbox window manager working in tandem with these two environments.

Following this development, Raven hopes to modify the architecture of the window manager to accommodate the tools that have grown up around it even better.

"Over the course of the last few major releases Blackbox has undergone a series of internal changes so that some of its components could be more easily used by the tools (like bbkeys, bbpager, bbmail, etc.) which have risen up around it," Raven explained. "Even so, the programs still have to copy the code, and in some cases modify it for their purposes.

"I'd like to rework some of the classes and the event loop so that it is a little more generic, and try moving it to a shared library. Ideally this should help reduce the total memory cost of running Blackbox and these apps, but we'll have to see how it works out to see if it's really worthwhile," Raven concluded.

It is clear that Blackbox is not an interface that will fall by the wayside anytime soon, which is good news for fans of fast and simple window managers. If successful, the incorporation of the NET specification will let Gnome and KDE users benefit from Blackbox as well.

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