Second day at the GCDS

Posted in Free Software, GCDS, Gnome, GNU, Igalia, Maemo on July 6th, 2009 by femorandeira – Comments Off on Second day at the GCDS

Here is my account of the things I saw and learn during the second day of the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, a day later than intended thanks to the fine folks at Nokia who invited us to a party  which began at the sensible and European (and therefore quite alien for a Spaniard) time of nine and a half.

I attended many talks yesterday, of which the three that I found more interesting where the ones about Tracker, Zeitgeist and GnomeShell. It is true that the sum is sometimes bigger than the parts alone, and we might well be before one of such occasions.

Tracker indexes your information items (on the filesystem and on the Internet), and records properties and values about them. In the future, such values could be not only basic types but also objects themselves, thus creating graphs of information that represent more accurately the complex ways in which we interact with our data.

Zeitgeist strives to solve a complex problem with an elegant solution. The problem is identifying what the user is really doing at a given time, understanding the activities that are going on even if they involve several different applications, files and whatnot. The solution, at its simplest, is just logging events and then analize them in order to extract the history and the current situation of the user’s interaction with the system. Events can be of two types: activities that the user does (i.e. open a file or URL) and notifications that just happen (i.e. incoming email or changed location).

The most interesting point about Gnome Shell is not its concrete user interface, but the technologies behing it. The actual code is just a few thousand lines long, thanks to the use of JavaScript and several libraries to make it able to access Clutter, the window manager and other GObject-based libraries seamlessly. Its use of the two other projects mentiones above offers an exciting playground for developers to try their crazy ideas about how the interaction with our computers should be.

And now, time to run to the conferences again. If you are in Gran Canaria, don’t miss the Gnome party tonight!

First day at the GCDS

Posted in Free Software, GCDS, Gnome, GNU, Igalia, Maemo, Planet Igalia on July 4th, 2009 by femorandeira – 1 Comment

This is my first post about this year’s Desktop Summit in Gran Canaria, and also the first entry in this blog for a long long time. My intention is to keep a diary of the conferences here, if I can find time between attending the talks and going to the beach.

The first talk of the day was given by Robert Leftkowitz. He made the case for software development as a liberal art, and Free and Open Software as the kind of software “that a gentleman would use”.¬† The concepts he used go back a long, long way. It is extremely uncommon to hear ancient Greek philosophers being quoted in a keynote. It is always reassuring to think that two or three thousand years ago human being just like us encountered the same problems and moral dilemmas that we face today. By the way, I had never before heard someone say that software is rethoric, and it is a suggestive idea.

The second keynote was given by Walter Bender, who gave a overview of the Sugar learning platform and the humane and altruistic motivation behind it, always keeping a “low floor and no ceiling” attitude. I specially remember one simple sentence that has hidden depths:

“Nothing in our children’s future resembles 1970’s office work”.

The third keynote was given by Richard Stallman, and it was weird. I have seen Stallman a few times, but never before had he managed to fit a history lesson, a flamewar about C#, an auction for a gnu and the geekiest song on Earth in the same talk. My life would have been completed if at some point he had drawn a couple of katanas to fight the enemies of freedom.

After lunch, Quim Gil gave the news that Nokia will discard GTK+ and Hildon for the Harmattan release of their Maemo platform, and will be turning to Qt as the main UI toolkit as part of a bigger Nokia movement. He also discussed some of the free technologies that will continue to form the base of the software run by the Internet Tablets.

The lightning talks were quite entertaining, but some of the projects exposed (i.e. Gothenburg, stuff around Nepomuk, etc…) could certainly have deserved a bit more time.

See you tomorrow!