A Rift Opens Between KDE and GNOME

This is unfortunate indeed. KDE developers are accusing GNOME developers of not conforming to standards and not collaborating, and Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, expressed agreement with this view.

The focus seems to be directly related to something called appindicators – and to a larger degree, over the Ubuntu Unity desktop.

The argument goes like this: Canonical and KDE have in the past both approached the GNOME project with ideas, and have been shot down for poor reasons; GNOME refuses to collaborate on projects; others are working together and GNOME refuses.

You can decide for yourself whether this is valid or not. Blog posts have been erupting everywhere on this topic: Dave Neary of GNOME: Has GNOME rejected Canonical help? and Lessons Learned – Aaron Siego of KDE: collaboration’s demise – Mark Shuttleworth of Canonical: Internal competition is healthy, but depends on strong and mature leadership.

Over at OSNews, Thom Holwerda has two very informative pieces on the conflict – one on 10 March and one on 14 March.

Where this conflict will hurt the user is when the user chooses an application: will it work with GNOME or KDE et al? It will also hurt application development as the applications will have to choose – and many will have to choose one technology or the other (not both). This means that applications may only work on one environment or the other – or will have reduced capabilities in one environment or the other. It’s really too bad that the developers can’t come together and work together instead of conflicts like this.

Attachmate Snaps Up Novell (and SUSE)

Attachemate announced that they would purchase Novell for US$2.2 billion. This is good news – or seems to be, at least.

Attachmate merged with WRQ in 2005. WRQ was the company behind the Reflection for X product, which is an X server for Windows. Despite all the free and commercial competition, I always thought Reflection for X was one of the best available servers for Windows – and full-featured too.

Reflection for X has continued on since the Attachmate/WRQ merger, and the product seems to be healthy and vibrant.

I would expect – and hope – that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) would continue and be invigorated with new life in the new corporation. We’ll see how this goes.

GNOME and Mono are also part of the transition, as I think I’ve said before. Being open source, they will likely continue if the original projects are hamstrung or crippled or shut down; however, my experiences with Attachmate suggest that there is a decent chance things will go well for the new SUSE and the new Novell.

Let’s hope so.

Update: GrokLaw has a fantastic article detailing all the legal maneuvers as well as a list of articles from elsewhere on the web. Turns out there is also two different shareholder lawsuits in progress: one from Kendall Law Group, and one from Brodsky & Smith. It also happens that the previously rejected Novell buyer, Elliot Management, will now be a shareholder in Attachmate as part of the deal.

This is interesting…

Restoring Data for GNOME Evolution

Evolution is the personal information manager (PIM) for GNOME desktops, and includes Palm integration, todos, memos, contacts, email, and calendar.

Recently, I migrated from one desktop to another, and moved my data from my home directory over. Most applications were perfectly happy to find their data from their hidden directories preconfigured for them (VirtualBox was one of these).

Evolution refused to recognize the data as it was copied, and started by asking for all of the relevant information to set up a new mail account. To copy the data, it is necessary to first backup all information using Evolution’s backup process (from the File menu). This backup file can then be transfered to the new machine and restored. However, passwords are not restored as a part of this process; passwords are not included in the backup.

The passwords can just be re-entered again if necessary. If you’ve forgotten them (as I did) you can pull them from the GNOME keyring using the Seahorse application found in every GNOME installation. You can run seahorse from the command line or run it from the menu (inUbuntu Karmic Koala: Applications > Accessories > Passwords and Encryption Keys).

Patrick Ahlbrecht over at onyxbits.de has an excellent article about recovering the passwords from Evolution. Older versions of Evolution stored the passwords using base64 encoding in a plain text file (i.e., not encrypted at all).

Next time one saves passwords in an application, think about that base64 encoded password file…

Virtual Desktops: What Good are They?

I’ve been renewing my interest in virtual desktops – the ability to have multiple “desktops”, switching as you desire from one to the other. For Windows there is a very good implementation (freeware – not open source) called Dexpot. For the Macintosh, there is the program VirtueDesktops. For Linux, there’s the hugely popular Compiz – though I’m no fan of it (it’s purpose is to be pretty and to consume processing time – in my opinion). Default installations of GNOME and KDE both support generic virtual desktops – but Compiz makes them pretty.

With multiple desktops, the theory goes, you can use one desktop for a particular purpose, and another for some different purpose – for example, email on one and the Web on the other. It’s like having multiple monitors without being able to see them.

Note that this capability has existed in UNIX workstations since the 1980s – despite all the excitement over Apple MacOS X Leopard and it’s Spaces capability.

Note, too, that Dexpot handles a workspace with multiple monitors fairly well (no experience on whether Compiz or VirtueDesktops work well – my guess is they probably do).

So with multiple desktops, you can hide your email when you are busy coding (or administering, installing, or debugging…). This can save you from “hovering” over your mailbox instead of getting things done.

Virtual desktops can also provide the capability to separate two different environments – for example, working on a production system and working on a test environment. As administrators, you dare not mix up the test environment with the production environment when you go to shut the system down. Sure, you can color the terminal window – but what if you give your desktop an entirely different backdrop? And you wouldn’t even see the production environment unless you switched to it.

I’m going to try again – I’ve used VirtueDesktop in the past, but it had some annoying bugs – and we’ll see if it can improve productivity. I’ve also put Dexpot on my Windows desktop; we’ll see.

Fedora 9 Announced

Yesterday Fedora 9 was announced. Using Fedora can give you a look at what may be in Red Hat Enterprise Linux down the road – and give you an exciting Linux distribution to boot.

There are a number of new exciting features to be found in Fedora 9. First, everything is updated to the latest versions, including GNOME 2.22, KDE 4.0.3, and Xfce 4.4.2.

Fedora 9 introduces the new filesystem ext4 as an option. While ext4 remains an experimental filesystem, it may be good to try it out. Like ext3, it remains compatible in both directions (an ext4 filesystem can be mounted as ext3, and vice versa).

Fedora 9 also replaces the System V initd process with an event-based replacement, upstart. Upstart was created and developed for Ubuntu Linux, and has spread to Fedora and Debian. Each process is started through a response to an event, and each process may generate another event.

Fedora 9 has several different spins or variations based on different sets of packages. For example, there could be a KDE spin, a GNOME spin, and a Xfce spin for example. The Fedora project has a page tracking spins for those who might be interested in custom spins.

This version of Fedora introduces support for Jigdo, which is a CD distribution mechanism that the Debian project has used for years. I’ve not used Jigdo, but the description given in the release notes suggests a large speedup if you have most of the data already.

It sounds like a very exciting distribution; I’ll be looking around my electronic wasteland to see where to install it.