The site uses cookies that you may not want. Continued use means acceptance. For more information see our privacy policy.

Canonical and GNOME

Canonical Limited (the main driver for Ubuntu Linux) and the GNOME project couldn’t work together so they are each moving forward with their own, reinvented desktop interfaces. GNOME is going for gnome-shell and Canonical/Ubuntu will get Unity.

Removing the minimize button?  Not giving a preference to turn off the display and not suspend when you close your laptop?  Moving the window controls to the other side of the window? Making the tabs square instead of round? Not allowing the editbox to be manually resized? Hiding the RSS icon? Moving the link preview to the URL bar? Removing the status bar?

And those are just the ones I can recall at the moment.

The computer is so central to peoples’ activities, that there is a certain fear that someone will break it for them.  That’s one of the major motivations behind Free Software in the first place: if I can build it myself, then you can’t force me to use the broken one.  If I can’t, then MicrosoftAppleSonyPaypalMastercard can up and decide to force their will upon me, and my recourse is simply to stop using them.  No stabbing big corporations with a fork.

Canonical Limited (the main driver for Ubuntu Linux) and the GNOME project couldn’t work together so they are each moving forward with their own, reinvented desktop interfaces. GNOME is going for gnome-shell and Canonical/Ubuntu will get Unity.

I don’t think this is a bad thing, excepting the bickering.  The larger community of desktop Linux users will get to see two different approaches in the wild for at least a year, which will inform the next iteration of the Linux desktop landscape.  There’s also an open-ended possibility for reunion later.

The dispute is territorial, which is not uncommon in open source.  The uncommon part of this is simply that it’s between two big players rather than between one big player and the users.  Though, the latter has occurred for both reinventions as well (see a few of the questions posed in the first paragraph).

Project governance is hard.  Cooperation is hard.  Finding the best way is hard.

If it weren’t for the bickering, nothing would be wrong.  There’s too much distrust and fear, because that’s what we’ve been taught by the proprietary realm.  When we used proprietary software, we could be stuck with a bug indefinitely.  Or things could change with no warning.

So we’re edgy.  But when the source is open, we shouldn’t be.  And if we weren’t, it would make project governance easier, it would make progress easier.  We should be willing to give the code an honest run.

At the end of the day any shift in any system will require a new equilibrium to be reached.  In open source that means some users will switch, forks might be created, etc.  But it also means that most users will find a slightly better workflow, will be a little (or a lot) happier and more productive.

I just wish that the developers weren’t so quick to assign blame, because they’re both building the foundation for the future, and they should be proud of their efforts even if they fail.

The Insanity of Simplicity

An brief examination of the paradox of regulations and why the insanity of simplicity wins.

My claim is that we would be better off having regulations that do exactly two things:

  1. Require some specific disclosures related to whatever we currently prescribe, rather than prescribing the behaviors themselves.
  2. Have teeth to revoke charters or otherwise blow away any company that fails to meet the disclosures in a timely and truthful manner.

I’ll be writing more about this in the future, but for now I’ll just say that I’d be very happy/curious to hear arguments against my claim or examples that show it’s wrong.  Note that I mean that instead of a law saying, “you cannot sell baby cribs made out of gremlins,” it would say, “you have to tell people exactly what your cribs are made out of.”

Obviously, I’m going with the idea, “if people know the cribs are made out of gremlins, they won’t buy them, and the crib maker will start using marshmallows instead.”  Does this bear out?  More later.


A post about the state of politics and media in the aftermath of the violence of the mentally ill. The actions of the ill bring upheavals, but our choice must be to forgive and grow, not retreat and sharpen our spears even more.

Heavy days that weigh on us all.  Some call it evil, others call out television, video games, or political rhetoric.  Would a rose by any other name shock the conscience as much as random acts of violence do?

Let me be clear: I believe the actions of the mentally ill are only tangentially attributable to outside sources.  The actions of a sick person are the actions of the illness.  Anything could trigger it; George Carlin once did a bit that went something along the lines of, “Have you ever sent anybody a bottle of Scope [mouthwash]?”  The image he followed with was that of a mentally ill, violent person receiving a bottle of said mouthwash, taking it as an attack on his person, and that final straw sends him on a violent rampage.

That’s not as far from the truth as that humorist might have hoped.  For people with severe mental problems, the most benign stimuli can cause severe mental turmoil that does result in major reactions, including violence.  As such, we cannot blame inane rhetoric by the likes of media profiteers (and I’m not limiting that to any side of any aisle, any particular feathered appendage, etc.).  Their rhetoric is deplorable in and of itself, and it should be replaced with something more meaningful, but it is not blameworthy for the actions of the mentally ill.

I also believe that in this case the young man had begun to plan, and at some point in that process he had internalized his plan to the point where only direct intervention in his life would have stopped him.  In that he is no different than our media and politics: the media has committed itself to a particular persona and will only change if it sees no way to salvage its current lifestyle.  Same for our politics.

We desperately need a shift in the media and politics in this country, but not because we might find salvation from violence.  Because we might actually build a country that can handle violence and can treat the mentally ill with the dignity they deserve and give them a chance to pursue happiness with the rest of us.  But if you look at the reactions, you probably fear as I do that we still aren’t headed in that direction. They still don’t get it.

The fact that the media will only even talk about the need for change (but it’s always the other guy that needs the change) in reaction to such an episode is not the problem, but merely a symptom.  There are plenty of symptoms.  The lack of any substantive debate is chief, but the fact that even minor agreement with a point from a colleague is often seen as weakness is also prominent.  Weakness is reviled in our society (which means we stigmatize things like mental illness), when calls to “man up” rule the day.  You might as well say, “show no mercy, take no prisoners, torture the sons of bitches until their last breath if that’s what it takes to win.”

We have fallen from grace, though not in the biblical sense, in the human sense.  Grace, as I learned it, was being happy for your opponent when you lost, and also being happy for your opponent when you won.  It was marching out on the field to tell them you enjoyed the game.  These days our grace is nothing, replaced by bitter sniveling and thoughts of revenge.  We pretend that the other guy is so different that our loss puts us a mere heartbeat from complete collapse.

That in a great nation is unacceptable.  We should have trouble deciding whom to vote for because they would both do a great job.  Instead, the campaign is a game played out in the media, a test that does nothing to prove the ability to actually govern.  And the laws that govern campaigning are then seen as the rules of the road.  If the rules don’t say to try to avoid hitting squirrels, you don’t have to.  They’re worth ten points, fifteen if their heads explode.  For gods’ sakes.

The way out?  Forgiveness.  Cast off your masks and cloaks.  Let the sunlight warm your face and bring gladness to your heart, for this is not the end of the road.  We did not die on 8 January, 2011 or on 11 September 2001.  We still have the choice to make things work, despite the challenges and despite our differences.

The green glow of the exit sign beckons us.  But it requires empathy and understanding.  It requires humility and forgiveness.  There is no magic switch to throw that will preclude Senator Bumble from returning to the gagging speech patterns that have been his bread and butter for two decades, so his colleague will have to forgive him when he does meander.  The talking heads on cable news will be in uncharted waters when they start to speak from the heart and stop trying to dominate their guests.  They won’t always succeed, and will revert to their old patterns.  Forgive them.

It is in forgiveness that we move on.  It allows us to move past the surface and into the meat of the matters at hand.  It allows us to escape playing the same games that got us here.  It disarms their attacks and precludes our own retaliation.  It is an invitation to the former opponent to be a colleague again.  It is the only way we can reclaim our country from the beast of incessant bickering and useless hatred.

Before we were enemies, we joined into a union of states.  Let us forgive ourselves for neglecting that and move forward as colleagues seeking the best for our company, the United States of America.  Play ball.