GNOME Zeitgeist is NOT a file manager

Disclaimer: Due to time constraints, I am not an active Zeitgeist developer right now. Seif Lotfy is the man.

Wikipedia has it wrong:

GNOME Zeitgeist is a file manager application for the GNOME desktop environment. Instead of providing direct access to the hierarchical file system like most file managers, GNOME Zeitgeist mainly classifies files according to metadata. This includes time and date of previous accesses, location of use (using GPS positioning), file type, tagging and more. In addition to local files, GNOME Zeitgeist also organizes web browsing history, email and other data sources.

What’s wrong? Zeitgeist is not a file manager. The GNOME Activity Journal can be used to replace a file manager and do file manager-like things, but Zeitgeist is more than that. Check the official Zeitgeist website for details.

If you are a Linux user, how do you use Zeitgeist?


Snowy Database Schema

Django - The Web framework for perfectionists with deadlines

For GCI (Google Code In) I’m working on Snowy, the Django-based application to view and synchronize Tomboy notes online. My task is to add support for multiple OpenID accounts.

To get started, I used django_extensions to generate a graph of the database schema.

… Continue Reading


Zeitgeist Hackfest- User Experience Team

Here’s a quick mockup from the Zeitgeist Hackfest. The code for this should be online later today.

Mini GNOME Activity Journal


Applet Languages

At the GNOME Summit, Owen suggested the following:

When trying to decide on a language for applets/widgets, just about everyone will suggest their own favorite language along with reasons why that language is appropriate. However, one thing that needs to be considered is choosing nobody’s favorite language- Javascript.

Owen, I see your point but have to disagree. One of the key purposes of an applet/widget framework should be to allow new and inexperienced developers to easily write their first GNOME application with the smallest learning curve possible. Because of all the people familiar with it, Javascript is an appropriate language, but so are Python and C#.

Before I focus on the advantages of using multiple languages for applet development, I’d like to review a few of the key philosophies that drive GNOME Development:

  1. Software should be easy and simple to use for new users.
  2. Software shouldn’t have a large learning curve.
  3. Different pieces of software for the same platform should use consistent interface elements and share design decisions. Users shouldn’t need to learn new skills in order to use new applications.

When these same philosophies are applied to development and placed in a GNOME specific context their implications are:

  1. There should be GNOME frameworks that allow developers to easily write applications, even if they have no prior experience with GNOME.
  2. Developers shouldn’t have to learn many new skills in order to develop their first GNOME application. When possible, they should be able to use their existing knowledge from other platforms.
  3. Different pieces of software for the same platform should use the same technologies. A developer working on one GNOME application should be able to quickly jump in and contribute to a fellow GNOME developer’s application without needing to learn anything new.

The implications of 2 and 3 are problematic and contradictory. If we allow developers to jump into GNOME Development using all of their existing skills (including intimate knowledge of languages and toolkits), how can we still create a united platform that uses one set of standard and familiar GNOME technologies? More importantly, how can we create a platform with an interface that’s consistent for users?

The solution that’s been followed for the past 11 years is a simple one- Wherever giving developers extra freedom will not hurt the user experience, freedom should be given. In other words, development in multiple languages is fine, but using multiple toolkits is not fine.

This strategy has worked amazingly well. There are a wealth of applications that have been written in C, C++, Python, Mono, and a few other languages. If GNOME had begun with an ironset rule that applications may only be developed in C, we would still be in the dark ages of desktop development with all development done by a few hardcore C junkies. Heck, even if applications were allowed to be written in one “high level” language like Perl- or even the fledgling Python of 1997, for that matter- we would still never be where we are today. All of the goodness that has come out of Mono- and most likely everything that uses pygtk, as well- would have been lost in the curves and twists of a what-if history of GNOME.

The reason GNOME is so diverse and powerful today is because of it’s flexibility with regard to languages and even technologies. We’ve always embraced the new and hot, most recently with Clutter. We’ve also always allowed developers to use as many of their existing coding skills as possible. We’ve taken in developers from just about everywhere- Windows, Mac OS X, the Web, etc- and they‘re the reason that GNOME rocks so much today.

Owen, I’d love to support simplified Javascript applets/widgets, but I can’t imagine doing so without still supporting other types of widgets. There are no statistics regarding how many developers come to GNOME from other platforms, and whether most of them come from web development or desktop development. The one fact is that we do have developers from both ends of the spectrum, and our job is to get as many of them as possible involved with GNOME development. A framework that will alienate half- or even a quarter- of them is not the right answer.


Going to Boston

I’ve been invited to the GNOME User Experience Hackfest in Boston, and I’m going! (Thanks to the GNOME foundation who offered to cover the expenses.)

One of the main topics of the hackfest is collaboration throughout the desktop. Universal Applets 0.1 should be out by the time that the hackfest begins, so it’ll be a good opportunity to get some feedback and share ideas with the rest of the community.

Anyway, thank you again to the GNOME foundation for making this possible! I’ll see some of you in Boston!

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