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Re: These NeXTbuntu guys

From: Andreas Wagner
Subject: Re: These NeXTbuntu guys
Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2006 23:41:07 +0200
User-agent: mutt-ng/devel-r804 (Linux)

Hi list,

possibly I have been the one to first mention the guy/project on this list, so I think maybe it helps a bit if I explain it a bit. Though you will see that I have no more insight than you on the most critical questions at hand...

(I am aware that it's not a good attitude to try and explain people's attitudes and aims while they themselves could easily do so and seem to prefer not to. I am still going to do so.)

I've monitored and participated in the discussions on Rick's forum for as long as they go now, in fact I've just reviewed them a bit, and I think the attitude towards GNUstep isn't so negative as it seems. Rick is a developer who is coding in OS X because he is excited about the NeXTstep/OpenStep development environment, the Unix underbody of OS X and much of the Human Interface, but who is frustrated by all the compromises Apple is continually making to their legacy developers. He despises of AppleScript, Carbon, HFS(+), etc. And it seems that from that point of view Apple is taking up speed in a totally wrong direction. So now he is gathering developers with a similar mindset. That means that he and other project members would be interested in leaving the Apple OS X platform if they had a true alternative. And the problem seems to be that there's no portable linux distribution ready that would provide a Unix underbody, GNUstep development environment and elegant window manager without much tinkering. And even if there was, it would be doubtful whether switching over to it might not put oneself in a niche where developing is fun, but no one can use your programs.

That's how I understand the NeXTbuntu idea was born: It would combine and possibly (help to) improve the mentioned ressources into a distribution that had a backing which would give it some thrust in the market. It would thus be working towards a combination of OS/kernel, (cross-platform) API, development tools, and desktop ;) So I think Gregory's assessment "The goal of NeXTbuntu seems compatible with that of GNUstep" is spot on and in my understanding NeXTbuntu's goals are a superset of to those of GNUstep.

From the blog: "But the fact remains that GNUstep is not mainstream, it is not a total solution, and it’s going to run only with a lot of hassle for ordinary people on a ‘buntu’." I read that as: "GNUstep is fine as far as it goes, but it should be more readily available, easier to install and setup, and it should be coupled with a comparably good OS and UI. And with such a combination, but with nothing less, you can hope that it gets at least a bit more into mainstream."

In addition to that, both communities are open and have even more interests in common than what the immediate goals are. (In other words, while putting together a distribution is probably not the focus of the GNUstep community, such a distribution would surely be welcomed by most of it.)

I suppose that Rick and the other NeXTbuntu developers are, despite the tone and despite a couple of misunderstandings about GNUstep's current status, aware that there is no way to reach their goals without GNUstep. (Note that this is a bit of a conjecture, however.)

What is then needed, however, is a way of communicating project status and needed next steps (no pun intended). Gregory has started by mentioning some work-in-progress items in his blog (and I've been trying to get information about GNUstep across to Rick, too -- provided links to "Portable Programming" and "Portability" wiki pages, to OpenStep compliance webpages, to Etoile screenshots, to the blog entry when nib read access had been accomplished), and maybe this can be kept in mind when the project status, roadmap etc. are eventually overhauled (Nikolaus' mail in the 'really attracting developers' suggested some overhaul, too).

But what is needed, too, is that Rick and whoever else is concerned about NeXTbuntu's goals and associates him- or herself with it, is aware of GNUstep's actual status, its achievements and current development. And then goes on to explain on that basis which missing links internal to GNUstep have an effect on its fitness for NeXTbuntu. (And maybe contribute code there.) So far this has not happened and, not being a developer (nor a distribution maintainer) myself, I can merely hope that it will happen. I have been hoping that Rick would be more responsive to clarifications that do come from /real/ developers, but up to now it's still an open issue.

As far as I understand -- and I don't know if there is more "behind the curtains" -- the NeXTbuntu project people are merely gathering information, volunteers and promoters. So I suppose the GNUstep Live CD as well as the MidnightBSD project should be the next things to examine. (I was hoping to have a GNUstep-svn/Etoile-svn system ready to demonstrate this or that, but I got stuck setting it up. Will do so soon, tho.) And then there should be put up a status/roadmap page, too...

Finally, let me say one more thing as to why I think it would be worthwile to get Rick/NeXTbuntu to collaborate. In my first post in the "really attracting developers" thread, I've mentioned a couple of ressources which should help to give credibility to this. I've known him for more than six years now and Rick is the exact opposite of an Apple Fanboy, he is the type who would put an obituary in his newsletter when Dijkstra had passed away and who would write a windows file manager weighing in 24.5 KB. I can remember how I learnt from him to exchange two registers by three XORs instead of three copy operations and a third temporary register. I am still not a coder, so I can't really tell for sure, but I think he is an extremely good programmer. Probably he forms an opinion very quickly and is then hard to argue with, also because of harsh judgements about people, but at least I personally am a person who has a talent in ignoring/forgetting dissonances. :)

That's it (whew), I hope it still turns to the best way for both projects.

Again, thanks for your patience when you read through all this...


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