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Re: GNUstep theming (was Re: Objective-C 2.0 and other new features in L

From: Renaud Molla
Subject: Re: GNUstep theming (was Re: Objective-C 2.0 and other new features in Leopard)
Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2007 07:55:56 +0100

Dear All,

To begin with, I'd like to say that this mail contains what some might consider being criticism. This is true. Criticism is not welcome but is necessary. This is the base of science, this is the base of marketing.

But all I want is GNUstep (and actually OpenStep) to come back to the place it deserves: being #1. Because OpenStep clearly is what Java was made from, and when you see all the fuss about C#, what does C# offer that OpenStep didn't offer for a long time? So bear in mind that I'm not undermining the project, and I know that this a lot of work, GNUstep is great project, but could be made even greater.

        It all reminds me of the scrollbar position topic of a year ago.
        And we are exactly at the same point.
When you say that people interested about GNUstep won't care about a new UI, this is definitely wrong.

First of all myself. I'm a Cocoa developer and I've been interested in GNUstep even before I turned to Mac OS X. And I completely dropped GNUstep (really sad) because of the look and the feel that is
        in many points different from today UI standards (eg: scroll position).
I know that the UI can be customized with camaelon, still this is something that rather takes some time to do.

Second, a friend of mine (who started the open source OpenFootball project), needed an interface to do motion capture. It turned to wxWidgets although I advocated GNUstep and even considered developping the UI. But why wasn't it retained? Because for him, GNUstep is too hard to install, as a feel he doesn't understand, and it looks terrible.
        And this guy is no newbie.

        And there are loads of them.

So all I wish is that when developers consider a multiplatform environnment, that GNUstep is not phased out for its look & feel, and I wished it was retained.

On Nov 12, 2007, at 11:14 PM, Gregory John Casamento wrote:


I'm not taking it as a criticism at all. But, as project maintainer, I'm sure you can appreciate my position. I can't say unilaterally that I want to appeal to one group over the other.

GNUstep currently most appeals to former NeXT people who are into Mac OS X. However, a lot of these people also say that it's time for GNUstep to move forward with it's GUI look. A friend of mine owns a software company that was once fairly well known in the NeXT world and he's said the same thing.

I don't believe that changing the look will affect the people who are currently interested in GNUstep, especially since many of them currently feel the same way I do: That GNUstep needs a facelift.

Later, GJC
Gregory Casamento -- OLC, Inc
# GNUstep Chief Maintainer

----- Original Message ----
From: Dr Tomaž Slivnik <address@hidden>
To: Gregory John Casamento <address@hidden>
Cc: address@hidden
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2007 2:32:56 PM
Subject: Re: GNUstep theming (was Re: Objective-C 2.0 and other new features in Leopard)

What is the perceived need GnuStep wants to satisfy? What is
GnuStep's goal / target audience/market?

Other than saying "as many users as possible" I'm not sure what
else to say.

No system/API/environment should ever specifically target a group
of people. People should find us useful and decide to use our
stuff, if they want to. But I will not say "we're only for group X
or group Y".

Let me say it as clearly as possible ... GNUstep's goal is to have
as many users as we can. I suppose this means becoming "mainstream"
but I also believe that updating GNUstep's look to be more modern
can't be a bad thing.

Please do not take this note as criticism - I know I am in no
position to criticize, since I have not contributed to GnuStep,
although I wish I had the time to, both technically and financially,
as I think it is a very worthwhile project. However, this is what I

1) The strategy described above is too vague and do not think it will
get you success:

   a) Having as many users as possible seems to be more of a wish
than a strategy.

   b) Having *more* users is a good idea, but having as many as
possible, I think, is not. Do you really want as many users as
possible, even if it means lowering your standards? Does the world
need another OS/GUI/development platform for the masses? Does it have
room for one?

2) You can't be all things to all men.

Forget - to start with - *everyone* wanting to use GnuStep, if they
want to. You need a niche that you cater for - to which you offer
something nobody else can, or, at least, to offer it 10x better than
anyone else.

Here is a key question you need to be able to answer: why would
anyone want develop on GnuStep, rather than Mac OS X? Where is your
competitive advantage?

When NeXT came out, it had a definite target niche: the education
market. Then it refocussed itself to the "mission critical" market -
financial institutions etc.

NeXT may not have been a commercial success overall, but I know for a
fact it was a great success, if nowhere else, among maths academics.

NeXT and NeXTStep were way ahead of their time - their advantages
were numerous; but here are just some of them:

- bullet-proof and extremely reliable - none, and I mean none, of the
other mainstream alternatives came close in terms of reliability,
consistency, simplicity of use and "just working".

- a completely new development paradigm, resulting in faster
development cycle, greater application reliability, code reuse etc.

- an unsurpassed platform for software development and technical

You do not have the same advantages as NeXTStep had - if for no other
reason, because there is Apple.

But GnuStep does have all advantages of Objective C / OpenStep; the
only platform except Apple to offer these; but potentially offering

   a) ability to run on non-Apple hardware;
   b) open source (could be important to users not wanting to be
tied to a proprietary solution);
   c) not burdened with having to support legacy technologies
(Carbon, HFS+, resource forks etc.);
   d) potentially cleaner design and less cluttered, nicer, more
consistent NeXT-style GUI;
   e) potential to develop cleaner design of support for new
   f) not constrained to include marketing hacks with no technical
benefit (like integrated access to the Apple Store in iTunes etc.)

Niches you could potentially appeal to:

1) former NeXT users
2) technical / mathematical users (as NeXTStep)
3) Apple is not terribly solid and reliable. If you can be more solid/
reliable, you could potentially target users from the "mission
critical" market - like financial institutions. Those guys have a lot
of money and don't mind - often prefer - to develop their entire
platform in-house. To them, quality is paramount and money is no
object, so if you can convince them you're the best, you're in.

My guess would be that your core group of users are ex-NeXTStep/
OpenStep developers. What about Cocoa/Mac OS X developers? I'm not so
sure you appeal to them as much - why would one of them want to
switch to/develop for GnuStep? Outside of those two groups of
developers, I believe you will find it hard to get any people to
switch to GnuStep at all. Am I correct - is the current makeup of
this mailing list consistent with this view?

I believe the substance of what you have to offer is much more
important than having a good web site (which, however, is also
important), or your slogan (of no consequence in my opinion), or your
default theme (which I not only think is not important and will not
win you new users; but potentially puts you at risk of losing appeal
to your core NeXT group of supporters).

Here are some suggestions:

#1: you need a simple way of installing GnuStep. I've only ever used
GnuStep off a live CD; not because I am not capable of compiling it
from source, but because I have not (yet) had the time. I make small
steps from time to time, only to have to stop and get back to some
other priority. You have dependency on several libraries which have
to be built - and I, for my own reasons, want those manually built,
not installed by Fink/DarwinPorts. Provide a .dmg containing a .pkg
(for Mac OS X), and an equivalent thing for Linux/FreeBSD/etc., and
overnight your fame will spread.

#2: (i) more development frameworks. (ii) Reliable/bullet-proof/
debugged frameworks. (iii) Faster/optimized frameworks.

#3: applications. How about:
    - to appeal to mathematical/technical market:
      - a GnuStep clone of Mathematica notebook interface / do a
deal with Wolfram to develop one for GnuStep;
      - GnuStepTeX
      - ? etc. ?
    - to appeal to the mission critical / finance market:
      - an Objective C framework for derivatives pricing
      - a Lotus Improv/Quantrix clone
      - ? etc. ?
    - educational software - to target schools

#4: how about producing an install DVD which formats a PC's disk and
automatically installs a GnuStep/Linux distribution?
    Or doing a deal with a PC manufacturer to sell - or for you to
sell - cheap PCs with GnuStep/Linux preinstalled?
    Or doing a package deal to sell PCs with GnuStep/Linux pre-
installed cheaply to schools? Can you get a computer company to
donate equipment to schools and the GnuStep team installs the OS and
the GUI?


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