The last Friday 25 of July, National Day of Galicia, started very early because I had to travel to Strasbourg, official seat of the European Parliament, not for any political duty, but for the GNOME Users and Developers European Conference, the GUADEC!

My last GUADEC was in The Hague, in 2010, though in 2012, when it was hosted in Coruña, I attended a couple talks. Nonetheless, it had been a long time since I met the community, and it was a pleasure to me meet them again.

My biggest impression was the number of attendees. I remember the times in Turkey or in Gran Canaria where hundreds packed the auditoriums and halls. Nowadays the audience was smaller, but that is a good thing, since now you get in touch with the core of developers who drive and move the project easily.

We, Igalia, as sponsors, had a banner in the main room and a table in a corridor. Here is a picture of Juan to prove it:

Juan at the Igalia's both.
Juan at the Igalia’s booth.

Also I ran across with Emmanuele Bassi, setting up a booth to show up the Endless Mobile OS, based on GNOME 3. The people at GUADEC welcomed with enthusiasm the user experience provided by it and the purpose of the project. Personally, I love it. If you don’t know the project, you should visit their web site.

The first talk I attended what the classic GStreamer update by Sebastian Dröge and Tim Müller. They talked about the new features in GStreamer 1.4. Neat stuff in there. I like the new pace of GStreamer, rather of the old stagnated evolution of 0.10 version.

Afterwards, Jim Hall gave us a keynote about Usability in GNOME. I really enjoyed that talk. He studied the usability of several GNOME applications such as Nautilus (aka Files), GEdit, Epiphany (aka Web), etc., as part of his Masters’ research. It was a pleasure to hear that Epiphany is regarded as having a good usability.

After lunch I was in the main room hearing Sylvain Le Bon about sustainable business models for free software. He talked about crowd funding, community management and related stuff.

The next talk was Christian Hergert about his project GOM, an object mapper from GObjects to SQLite, which is used in Grilo to prevent SQL injection by some plugins that use SQLite.

Later on, Marina Zhurakhinskaya gave us one of the best talks of the GUADEC: How to be an ally to women in tech. I encourage you to download the slides and read them. There I learned about the unicorn law and the impostor syndrome.

The day closed with the GNOME Foundation’s teams reports.

Sunday came and I arrived to the venue for the second keynote: Should We Teach The Robot To Kill by Nathan Willis. In his particular style, Nathan, presented a general survey of GNU/Linux in the Automotive Industry.

Next, one of main talks from Igalia: Web 3.12: a browser to make us proud, presented by Edu. It was fairly good. Edu showed us the latest development in WebKitGTK+ and Epiphany (aka Web). There were quite a few questions at the end of the talk. Epiphany nowadays is actively used by a lot of people in the community.

After, Zeeshan presented his GNOME boxes, an user interface for running virtual machines. Later on Alberto Ruiz showed us Fleet Commander, a web application to handle large desktop deployments.

And we took our classic group photo:

Group phoo
Group photo

That Sunday closed with the intern’s lighting talks. Cool stuff is being cooked by them.

On Monday I was in the venue when Emmanuele Bassi talked us about GSK, the GTK+ Scene Graph Kit, his new project, using as a starting point the lessons learned in Clutter. Its objective is to have a scene graph library fully integrated in GTK+.

After the lunch and the second part of the Foundation’s Annual General Meeting, Benjamin Otte gave an amusing talk about the CSS implementation in GTK+. Later, Jasper St. Pierre talked about the Wayland support in GNOME.

When the coffee break ended, the almighty Žan Doberšek gave the other talk from Igalia: Wayland support in WebKit2GTK+.

In the last day of the GUADEC, I attended Bastien Nocera’s talk: Hardware integration, the GNOME way, where he reviewed the history of his contributions to GNOME related with hardware integration and the goal of nicely support most of the hardware in GNOME, like compasses, gyroscopes, et cetera.

Afterwards, Owen Taylor talked us about the GNOME’s continuous integration performance testing, in order to know exactly why one release of GNOME is faster or slower than the last.

And the third keynote came: Matthew Garrett talked us about his experiences with the GNOME community and his vision about where it should go: to enhance the privacy and security of the users, something that many GNOMErs are excited about, such as Federico Mena.

Later on, David King talked about his plans for Cheese, the webcam application, turning it into a DBus service, using the current development of kdbus to sandbox the interaction with the hardware.

Afterwards Christian Hergert talked us about his plans for Builder, a new IDE for GNOME. Promising stuff, but we will see how it goes. Christian said that he is going to take a full year working on this project.

The GUADEC ended with the lighting talks, where I enjoyed one about the problems around the current encryption and security tools.

Finally, the next GUADEC host was unveiled: the Sweden Conspiracy: Gothenburg!


Thanks to my employer, Igalia, this GUADEC was my third attendance to the conference in a row. You can see my previous impressions about the first one in Istambul and the next in Canarias. This year the conference took place in Den Haag, Netherlands.

About the GUADEC, I must state this: in my perception, Gnome is going through a crisis. A middle age crisis if you want. In 2008 Gnome was on a peak, attracting the attention of everyone, especially from the mobile industry. Everybody seemed to be a happy Gnome hacker. But then came 2009 and Nokia said farewell to GTK placing all its chips on Qt. The community seemed disenchanted and disappointed. In the air was floating a sense of  disbandment.

And now that the project had lost much of the media’s attention, the community is questioning to herself where to go, which is… great! It means that  the community has retaken the direction of the project, and the responsibility of its success, away from the huge corporations and the PR  propaganda.

And that was the spirit of this GUADEC: hard work, serious proposals, and freedom. Yes, that sense of new freedom which can also be perceived and exposed as fear, uncertainty and doubts 😉 And those feelings were more remarked because of the absence of several of the old and renown hackers of the Gnome scene, such as Miguel, Federico or Behdad.

The main trend shown almost in each talk was the importance of the World Wide Web integrated to the Gnome user experience. That was what Luis Villa talked on his keynote, and was repeated in many other presentations. Xan López and Gustavo Noronha echoed this idea making emphasis on the usage of WebKitGTK+ to achieve it. WebKitGTK+ is a reusable library, with a stable API, in difference with Mozilla, for example, which only focus  on Firefox.

On the other hand, and complementary to the idea of a Web Desktop, the use of Javascript was stressed by John Palmieri: Coding for the Desktop must be just as coding for the Web. And the Gnome Shell project is the flag ship of this concept, and it continues steadily as the window manager for Gnome 3.0

Here we can observe a shift of perspective since Istambul: in those days people were trying to bring the Web information into the Desktop (do you remember the Online Desktop?); nowadays the objective is to turn the Desktop development into the same mind frame as Web development, thus the information integration would be more seamless.

An essential ingredient for this coupling is the introspection. And good achievements were seen along this past year. Must of the Gnome core libraries are making an effort to annotate their API’s, and Python, Vala and the GJS implementation are merging their introspection work.

But what everybody is asking “What’s going on with GTK+?”. Its development seems to be at a very slow pace, with no real innovation to show. In 2008 Mark Shuttleworth suggested to integrate Qt into Gnome, replacing GTK+, and this year another voice repeated the same suggestion at the General Meeting.

In a more technical issue, Benjamin Otte exploded against the so called “Walled Gardens”. Benjamin have been trying to bring video rendering in GStreamer with Cairo, but that effort means modify many different projects, bottom-up almost along all the stack. As a result, he has found many features overlapped among the different projects and also hit against the resistance from the coders of the different projects to collaborate each other, phenomenon that he called the “Walled Gardens”.

And maybe, just maybe, this is what is happening with GTK+, is a fortified garden, where selfless programmers are patiently sealing the castle for a future exposition in the wild. I don’t know, maybe GTK+ should break its X Windows ties. I don’t know. But GTK+ is not gaining any momentum for now among the user interface programmers.

Another voices raised the question about “What is Gnome from the developer perspective?”. Andrew Savory regretted the lack of a SDK for Gnome; meanwhile Alberto Ruiz praised its absence and pushed in favor of better developer documentation and tutorials. I think that Gnome, as a developing framework, is a loose set of (almost) homogeneous libraries, utilities and guide lines, where the idea of an IDE/SDK implies a centralization of all the projects which is practically impossible. And, because of this, more and more projects are integrated into the FreeDesktop community.

Also Dave Neary and German Poo showed their results from their own analysis in the Gnome repositories. Dave tried to answer the question “Who makes GNOME?”, so he extracted gross numbers from all the current data to get the actual great iron committer; meanwhile German tried to be more lean and took in count historical aspects as the different milestones of the project, sadly German only got a lighting talk to show all his results.

Finally, other projects are still floating around, the most important is Clutter, now integrating accessibility thanks to Alejandro Piñeiro. Zeitgeist seems to me a more and more marginal project in Gnome. Telepathy, which is the de facto IM communication library for Gnome applications, and many others.

In conclusion, my over all impression of the GUADEC 2010, is that the Gnome project is in a deep insight of what is it and where is it going. I reckon that during this period of introspection (wink) we will see few innovation, but rather the new foundations of the project are putting down the required roots for the future innovation.

10 blast moments at GCDS

  1. When Edu played Gimme the power in the Gnome party
  2. When we rented a car to pass an afternoon in Maspalomas
  3. When Owen Taylor showed a picture with me and others as if we were the
    authors of GnomeShell 🙂
  4. The Robert Lefkowitz keynote
  5. That actually my talk in GUADEC-ES had public!
  6. The girls taking the sun in the beaches
  7. The hacking sessions at hotel’s lobby
  8. Met Jürg Billeter at Collabora’s party
  9. Gossip with Marius
  10. The weather… (it didn’t rain!)

GCDS ramblings

The last two years the GUADEC has been pushing the geographical limits of Europe: in 2008 in Istambul, more near to Asia, and now, in 2009, in Canarias, more near to Africa. And that’s OK, I like it actually, is better than repeating the old hosts of the conference.

Comparing my impressions with that two last GUADECs, I found something interesting: In Istambul the new ideas were boiling the environment, bold proposals: the seminal concepts for Gnome Shell, Zeitgeist, Gnome 3.0, and so on. And now, in Gran Canaria, the spirit was an evaluation the development of those ideas, a revision of where the project is and what’s missing to achieve the goals.

In Istambul, the hackers takeoff. In Gran Canaria, the hackers landed.

Nokia stepped back from GTK+ in their products and announced their official support to its recently acquired Qt framework. And that announcement staggered the gnome mobile gang, forcing to rethink their objectives.

The online desktop died and from its rotten corpse a new flower appeared: Gnome Shell: The desktop is a canvas driven by javascript applets, just like the Web 2.0. Moblin also adopted that idea, and many other are going in that path.

The Federico’s crazy idea about a chronological desktop evolved into Zeitgeist, which is taking over as the Tracker user interface for Gnome.

The furor unleashed in Istambul with the announce of the efforts for Gtk+-3.0 had been diminished in this time. Nevertheless, Garnacho showed in the GUADEC-ES some of his unfinished branches, some of them quite amazing, but unmerged into mainstream yet.

Almost of the attention was hogged by Clutter, and the Moblin guys are using this to push the rest of their framework. I guess that everybody is waiting a miraculous merge among Gtk+ and Clutter, but that’s really hard to happen.

Vincent is still pushing for Gnome 3.0. And I really wish for that to happen. And Gnome 3 means GnomeShell, Zeitgeist, and possible Gtk+ 3.0 and GStreamer 1.0. Those new versions doesn’t mean necessary new features, but more clean ups in the code.

What excited me the most was the discussion towards GStreamer 1.0. There’s plenty of work to do. Hopefully I’d find a spot to collaborate on it.

Also I went the ConMan talk and a couple about WebKit, DBus, and a couple more.

Guadec 2008

Last week I attended the Guadec 2008 in Turkey. It was my second Guadec. The first one was in Sevilla in 2002, when I was backpacking Europe. The big difference between my previous and this last guadec is that now I have a better understanding of the state of the art, so I could appreciate more the talks and proposals done, which I will try to summarize in this post.

The Gnome community faces new and not so new challenges. The framework is trying to push its limits to new frontiers besides renovate its own core.

First there is the discussion about the strategy for Gtk+. Imendio is pushing for a ABI breakage in order to polish the API, sealing the private data in the components, among other things. Nevertheless, Miguel, being the voice of several ISV, is disagree with proposed path.

In the Gtk+ road map, a great discussion has been raised about the new canvas. Seems that the favorite contender is Clutter, pushed by OpenedHand.

In other front, Mark Shuttleworth came up with the idea to integrate QT in Gnome, replacing Gtk+ in the long term.

Alp Toker presented the advances in WebKit development, and in my perception, a lot of gnomies are webkit enthusiast, because have a tighter integration with the Gtk+ widgets and better performance than Firefox currently (which is always temporal). So I expect more applications using webkit rather than embedded Mozilla.

Following the web area, there’s a big effort, basically from the RedHat guys for the online desktop, integrating the desktop with different and heterogeneous web feeds. I think this is a must for the next desktop environment. More and more applications are web integrated, and give a framework to do this and mix all that information smartly is a huge need.

All the multimedia stack is healthy managed by the guys at Collabora and Fluendo. There’s an important effort in data communication (Telepathy and Farsight) using the GStreamer framework. Meanwhile another project, Ekiga, which doesn’t use GStreamer is steady and currently the better application for VoIP in Gnome.

Finally, Miguel is pushing for a HTTP desktop applications model, using Moonlight as front end machinery, and a custom HTTP server as gluing proxy for the back end systems applications. A bold idea with not too many supporters.

As colophon we must say in the mobile area are great efforts (Nokia as main bidder) to keep sync with the mainstream development and improve the performance in both fronts.

The ideas are in the table, the discussion is on going, and the code being committed. Where do you want to work in?