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djohnston

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A Linux Conspiracy Theory - Part 1
« le: 13 mars 2013 à 21:59:14 »
This article was written by ignorantguru, the SpaceFM developer. I think he's right on the money. If you want to see the article's screenshots, click the embedded link. The screenshots are of various online conversations. None are full screen, and most are kinda hard to decipher.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Linux User & Developer magazine or Imagine Publishing Ltd.

As the developer of an independent Linux file and desktop manager, one gains a multifaceted perspective on everything from GUI issues and the general user experience, continuing through UI toolkit APIs and theming, down to low-level kernel APIs for device and file system support, and their incumbent issues. Yet I find I’m not the only one walking these moodily lit, disparate corridors. In tracking down assorted breakages and malfunctions in my own software, I have been surprised to repeatedly encounter the same developer footprints spread across many of these areas. It turns out that these developers, and developer teams, have often been directly responsible not only for the breakage I’m investigating, but for issues affecting a large swathe of Linux users and developers.

This narrative begins not quite at the beginning, but with a recent experience addressing problems in GTK+ version 3. GTK (originally the GIMP Toolkit, as it was written for development of the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is one of the two most popular interface frameworks in Linux (the other being Qt). While GNOME is one of the most well-known users of the (originally community-developed) GTK project, there are many other projects based on GTK, including the LXDE and Xfce desktop environments, Claws Mail, AbiWord, Chrome, Firefox, Midori, Pidgin and many more. Yet GTK’s independence is challenged by the fact that GTK is now developed and maintained by the GNOME Foundation. Red Hat is the biggest corporate contributor to the GNOME project and to its core dependencies – 11 of the top 20 all-time GNOME committers are current or past Red Hat employees. Other influential contributors to GNOME include Google, IBM and Intel.

In its latest releases, intrinsic problems with GTK’s development along with a growing culture of enforced conformity from GNOME developers have presented a challenge in producing stable, flexible software outside of GNOME. Many developers feel that with the advent of GNOME 3, GTK has become deliberately developed as a GNOME-only tool, to the exclusion of its other applications. Clem, a member of the Linux Mint distribution’s development team writes, “GTK 3 isn’t a reliable API. Maybe it should be called libgnome instead… I genuinely get the feeling that GTK 3.4 is developed for GNOME 3.4, that it doesn’t really matter if it breaks things and that we’re not supposed to use it outside of GNOME.”

With GTK 3, the application programming interface (API) for GTK was changed, meaning applications written for GTK 2 need to be ported to continue using it, a time-intensive process. While in some cases API breaks are sometimes necessary, it seems in this case that GTK/GNOME developers made no effort to limit breakage. Further, popular GTK application development tools like Glade were thrown into disarray, with distributions such as Debian abruptly discontinuing support of GTK 2-compatible Glade versions, leaving GTK application developers stuck for support.

Developers who do address the formidable task of upgrading to GTK 3 face the next hurdle: wild breakage of third-party themes with almost every minor GTK release. This has independent theme developers screaming. Spending many hours creating GTK 3 themes, they are horrified to discover that all of their work is rendered obsolete just weeks later with the next GTK 3 release, requiring them to start from scratch rewriting their themes. As GTK 3 theme developer ‘half-left’ comments, “Upstream is impossible to work with and GNOME 3 has become a complete mess in regard to third party theme making.” Another GTK 3 theme developer reflected, “…It’s such a pain to develop a GTK 3 theme. It’s always broken. I have a version of my theme for GTK 3.2, one for GTK 3.4, one for GTK 3.6… For GTK 3.4, it was so broken that I had to code it again from the beginning. Days and days of wasted time and frustration. And almost no documentation.”

No time for compatibility

When I confronted Benjamin Otte, Red Hat’s developer in charge of GTK 3’s theming support, on this issue, he responded with complete disregard. “GTK doesn’t swim in extra developers that are happy to spend their time ensuring compatibility with rarely used themes. I decided the time was better spent implementing new features than caring about other themes,” writes Otte. Theme developers responded that the “rarely used themes” he refers to are hugely popular, representing many hours of volunteers’ time, and have already been downloaded many hundreds of thousands of times.

Benjamin Otte continues, “All the theme authors participating in GTK development (read: not you) agreed that it’s better to keep their themes up to date if in exchange they get new features than keeping with the status quo.” Who are these “theme authors participating in GTK development”? Exclusively Red Hat’s corporate customers. In the same conversation, GTK developer Emmanuele Bassi clarifies: “The GNOME standard theme (Adwaita) is updated each time something changes – and GTK+ is updated each time a new requirement is put forward by the theme authors for GNOME and Windows (and Mac OS).” In other words, these theme authors are dictating changes to GTK development, while independent theme developers are having their work broken wilfully by these same changes, and are receiving virtually no support or documentation. Nonetheless, Benjamin Otte expresses his deep appreciation for compatibility: “After those decisions were made, no time was spent on even thinking about compatibility.”

A threat to the brand

What does this theme breakage amount to? It means that many tens of thousands of Linux users will experience app breakage, memory leaks and other serious issues almost every time they update their systems. Theme and app developers will be (and are being) inundated with inexplicable bug reports and continuous breakage of their work, requiring many hours to isolate the problems and to repair and rewrite themes. To put it in another perspective, hundreds of thousands of man-hours are being wasted by Otte’s approach with almost every update to GTK.

The origin of these surprising positions toward theme stability become more clear when we take a look at the GNOME team’s goal for creating brand presence and identity for their ‘product’ at all costs to usability. In reviewing comments made by GNOME developers in the course of GNOME 3’s design, it’s clear that they view themes and other customisations as a threat to their brand’s visibility. GNOME 3 designer Allan Day wrote, “Facilitating the unrestricted use of extensions and themes by end users seems contrary to the central tenets of the GNOME 3 design. We’ve fought long and hard to give GNOME 3 a consistent visual appearance… The point is that it decreases our brand presence… I really think that every GNOME install should have the same core look and feel.” GNOME developer William Jon McCann concurs, “I agree with Allan. I am really concerned about this effort to encourage and sanction themes and extensions… The issue is not whether extensions may be useful. The issue is whether they will be harmful to our larger goals.”

Can’t fix? Won’t fix

Suddenly, the complete abandonment of a responsible, accessible theming API by GTK developers begins to fit into a larger picture. Yet themes aren’t the only area where GNOME developers are in conflict with users and other developers. They seem to be on a veritable rampage removing popular features, creating breakage and even trying to have features removed from non-GNOME apps. Many believe that Red Hat is aggressively pushing GNOME into the lucrative tablet market, which requires a much simpler interface than a desktop, and are therefore abandoning support of desktop users. Received via my email, a long-time GNOME contributor (who wishes to remain anonymous) writes, “This situation was very common during GNOME 3 updates. Lots of removed features, no dev communication, no consideration for users… with GNOME 3, devs have gone too far and I didn’t want to be treated this way… It was clear to me that I would never use GNOME again.”

Bug reports for GNOME 3 are littered with users requesting restoration of removed options and extensions. These are quickly closed as ‘WONTFIX’ by GNOME developers, with trite replies such as, “we finally decided there’s no use for an editable toolbar in Nautilus,” and “There are currently no plans to reintroduce the location bar… as the cluttered interface has been simplified for 3.0.” GNOME users are dismayed with the latest version of Nautilus (3.6) removing many popular features, including Compact View, Type Ahead Find, New File Templates, Application Menu, Go Menu, F3 Split Screen, Tree View, Bookmarks Menu and the backspace shortcut to return to the parent folder – all now gone. Extensions and applets are on the chopping block too. GNOME developer Bastien Nocera writes, “We’re not designing a desktop for people who like to choose their own terminal emulators”, and William Jon McCann writes, “I think one of the most important cases against applets (as they are currently defined in GNOME) is that they are extremely detrimental to the Identity of the product… So, one of the many very exciting things about GNOME Shell is that for the first time we may have ability to really shape the user experience and form an identity for the GNOME platform.” Exciting for him perhaps, but likely not what excites users.

Beyond just GNOME apps and tools being stripped of options, Red Hat employee and lead GNOME developer William Jon McCann was caught opening a bug report on the independent Transmission BitTorrent client telling the developers that its panel notification feature should be removed. Why? Merely because GNOME 3 no longer supports a panel: “Transmission has an option in the Desktop tab of the preferences to ‘Show Transmission icon in the notification area’. This should probably be removed.” Transmission developer Charles replied, “So now we can have three builds of Transmission that decide at compile time whether to use AppIndicator, GtkStatusIcon or nothing at all… Removing it altogether, as you suggest, will hurt Xfce users.” McCann replied, “I guess you have to decide if you are a GNOME app, an Ubuntu app, or an Xfce app unfortunately… And I have no idea what Xfce is or does, sorry. It is my hope that you are a GNOME app.” Charles’s reply to this: “*speechless*”.

Can we really and seriously believe that William Jon McCann, described as one of the main driving forces behind the concepts of GNOME 3, doesn’t know what Xfce is? What are the consequences of having a large corporation like Red Hat (perhaps with strong influence from the ultra-wealthy Google) in control of widely used open source projects like GNOME and GTK, with its teams of developers routinely altering their APIs in unpredictable, erratic ways and offering no real support to independent projects using their libraries? It’s clear that with the advent of GNOME 3, GNOME has become a corporate product solely created for and controlled by Red Hat.

djohnston

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A Linux Conspiracy Theory - Part 2
« Réponse #1 le: 13 mars 2013 à 22:02:28 »
(story continued due to posting limitations)

Components that break

Seeing these changes, it made me take a second look at breakage I had seen in other Linux components such as udisks and gvfs. Used particularly by file manager developers, these components act as an abstraction layer between the kernel and applications, giving them convenient access to device management and file system functionality. Used in many distributions not involving GNOME at all, development of these components is also controlled by Red Hat developers and, like GTK and GNOME, they have been breaking wildly, creating instability and development dilemmas in many circles. With the introduction of udisks2, its command line was completely changed, simply breaking compatibility with all existing software and scripts which relied upon it. Red Hat developer David Zeuthen further added this bizarre note to the documentation: “This program is not intended to be used by scripts or other programs – options/commands may change in incompatible ways in the future even in maintenance releases.” Further, udisks2 arbitrarily changes the location of critical system files, breaking much software. Replying to my commentary on these problems, Hon Jen Yee, developer of the popular PCManFM file manager comments, “Udisks brings a lot of headaches for us as well. Why people [sic] keep breaking existing things that working [sic] very well? I hate polkit, consolekit and other *kit stuff very much. They never work reliably and the complicated layers just make me want to return to windows. We’re very far from KISS [Keep it simple, stupid] philosophy now. So sad.”

Likewise, many developers of lightweight applications for LXDE and Xfce, such as the PCManFM and Thunar, were fooled into using gvfs’s API for required functionality, only to have it prove to be wildly unstable and ill-maintained, leading their software to be perceived as bug-ridden of late. Yet use of an API involves a great investment of time and effort – these developers have become trapped in the use of libraries which are developed by Red Hat with only GNOME in mind.

Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux and current maintainer of the kernel, has become extremely frustrated with Red Hat developers concerning their development practices in the kernel and core components like udev (which replaced HAL for device services). Writing to Red Hat employee Kay Sievers, Linus says, “I also call bullshit on your ‘it will surely be fixed when we know what’s the right fix’ excuses… You’re refusing to acknowledge your bugs, you refuse to fix them even when a patch is sent to you, and then you make excuses for the fact that we have to work around *your* bugs.” Elsewhere, Linus famously gets right to the point in his reply to Mauro Carvalho Chehab: “Stop this crazy. FIX UDEV ALREADY, DAMMIT. Who maintains udev these days?… The fact is, udev made new – and insane – rules that are simply *invalid*. Modern udev is broken, and needs to be fixed… What kind of insane udev maintainership do we have?”

Enforced usage

Another component introduced recently by Red Hat is systemd, a startup component along the lines of sysvinit. Systemd introduces questionable technologies such as dbus to start up and simply breaks existing init scripts, but even more concerning, it is being pushed aggressively on users and admins who don’t want it. By absorbing udev into the systemd source tree and promising to only support a core component like udev when it is installed with systemd, Red Hat is creating a monolithic stack of system tools which is hard to escape from. This announcement created a veritable explosion on Gentoo’s forums, a distribution devoted to giving users many choices. Unhappy with systemd developer and Red Hat employee Lennart Poettering, who jokes about breaking everyone’s systems with his bug-ridden PulseAudio daemon, Gentoo user SteveL writes, “…it’s because everything he comes out with wants to take over our machines, with a mess of so-called ‘integration’ requiring changes across the board. Till he finally realises what everyone was on about, and drops the project for his next shiny adventure, leaving everyone else to pick up the pieces.” Tech-savvy Arch Linux users, also accustomed to flexibility, were appalled at being forced to use systemd. Long-time Arch Linux user Daniel writes, “As I predicted, the switch to systemd has effectively been forced. Take a good look at the list of packages that require systemd thanks to the project’s takeover of udev and dbus.” Sentiment was so strong against the ill maintenance of udev, and its inclusion in systemd, that a udev fork has begun.

Much of Red Hat’s approach reminds me of chess pieces being strategically placed, limiting movement of the other pieces on the board. Beyond Red Hat, KDE and Canonical’s Unity desktops have also shown these same anti-user, corporate product trends which increasingly cater to closed-source operating systems. The introduction of KDE 4 alienated many long-time KDE users, and Unity has been embroiled in controversy over Canonical adding surveillance tech to its search tools, such that even searches for local files are broadcast to Amazon and other corporate advertisers, as detailed in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s exposé: ‘Privacy in Ubuntu 12.10: Amazon Ads and Data Leaks’.

Linux, which is itself a community-developed project involving thousands of developers globally, has a long tradition of building onto existing work. Such a large development community cannot function without co- operation – honouring others work by not creating breakage, allowing a variety of solutions to coexist (users’ choice) and being careful not to tread on others’ work and efforts. Linux is a global experiment in collaboration, extremely popular with its users. Even small businesses are a part of this community, benefiting from Linux’s infrastructure and giving back to it. Yet when involvement reaches the scale of extremely large and powerful corporations such as Red Hat (now a billion-dollar company), Google and Microsoft, the dynamic tends to change to one of pure exploitation.

Are large corporations, historically never a friend to Linux, using malicious development practices against Linux, deliberately sabotaging it and making it irrelevant, and/or turning it into a traditional, fixed corporate ‘product’? When it comes to large corporations, except for the few stockholders at the top of the pyramid, almost everyone loses – the drive is purely profit. Yet Linux is a great equaliser, providing valuable software free of charge internationally and encouraging the open sharing of technologies. Are large corporations, with their teams of hired guns, now threatening Linux from within?

The spirit of freedom

By contrast, non-commercial, community- developed or independent projects (including the Linux kernel and many core components) tend to be the reverse in these areas. They tend to provide a robust array of power options, and users strongly influence the software rather than merely being influenced by it. They follow a UNIX-like philosophy of working and playing well together. Their use and access is intended to be as free and broad as possible. Active non- commercial projects tend to be much better maintained, with old-world craftsmanship and pride rather than mass-produced junk. When these projects do make changes, they tend to be incremental. Since the roots are better preserved, changes tend to involve real growth and evolution, rather than shallow, mostly broken bells and whistles.

From the corporation’s perspective, how do you control and compete with an open technology like Linux, which includes freedom- to-use-and-change-based licences, worldwide collaboration of thousands of devoted fans, free distribution and no manufacturing requirements? Having failed to stop Linux in other ways, are corporations now attempting to keep Linux fragmented and make it very difficult for individuals and small, diverse groups to easily create and maintain valuable software? Are they creating a field where stable development is almost impossible due to changing interfaces, and where participation in projects is limited to and controlled by corporate insiders?

One of the more disturbing bits of news is that Red Hat is merging with (effectively being purchased by) Duke Energy, a huge energy conglomerate and a maker of nuclear power plants. This is raising flags because the oil and energy sector is one of the most corrupt, and has a very long and dark history of killing socially transformative technologies. These are not firms that are fans of open technologies and free access for all, so why are they now conducting surgeries on some of the most sensitive and critical parts of the Linux infrastructure? I believe Red Hat’s continuing control of key parts of Linux deserves deep suspicion, especially in light of its recent radical behaviour.

Consider how long Linux struggled to ‘take off’ and ‘make it on the desktop’. For years, many of us have discussed this – Linux users develop a tremendous passion for their OS, as well as the community which has grown around it, and saw the potential for it to revolutionise and set free consumer computing environments. Yet large corporations have always pushed Linux away with Payola-style scandals and more, essentially restricting hardware to Windows-only as much as possible. Yet Linux kept creeping forward nonetheless, its global fan base and spirit of collaboration unstoppable. Now, just as this emergence of Linux in consumer products is finally happening, with many Linux-powered devices introducing new users to its charms, radically damaging development practices are being introduced to widespread areas of the Linux ecosystem. It seems powerful influences are pushing Linux development into a Microsoft-like model from the inside. Their approach may serve their purposes well – Microsoft made gobs of money with it, for example. But did its users benefit from this as well, or merely suffer for it? Many Linux users are in fact refugees from such practices, and they’re finding their arrival in Linux rude indeed.

konaexpress

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Re : A Linux Conspiracy Theory - Part 1
« Réponse #2 le: 13 mars 2013 à 22:28:17 »
Yikes!.........

Glad I left Gnome and though  I like GTK, Qt is looking better and better.

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Re : A Linux Conspiracy Theory - Part 1
« Réponse #3 le: 14 mars 2013 à 01:28:24 »
Hi,

Instead of being limited by a post, I will suggest something to you : you can submit a registration to http://linuxvillage.org, where I will hit you with the title of author, or something of the kind, where you will be able to write a full article, and also express your opinions, then you can come back and post just the link to it. ^^

And that will be so elegant!

Now what I know about the topic, very little indeed, just this:
PCManFM file manager is ported to Qt?

PCManFM Qt port is 85% finished now!

 :)

PS: I read it here up to the end of part 3:
http://www.linuxuser.co.uk/opinion/a-linux-conspiracy-theory

if what is reported is true, then I can only say the action taken by the people in charge of the project is unacceptable. And Gnome was a project for impaired users and is probably not usable by them anymore either.

« Modifié: 14 mars 2013 à 01:37:11 par mélodie »
Good leaders being scarce, following yourself is allowed.

konaexpress

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Re : A Linux Conspiracy Theory - Part 1
« Réponse #4 le: 14 mars 2013 à 02:17:37 »
Looks like PCmanFM is going to be really cool looking by the photos of it. This will go really well in Razor QT I think.

djohnston

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Re : Re : A Linux Conspiracy Theory - Part 1
« Réponse #5 le: 14 mars 2013 à 03:29:21 »
Hi,

Instead of being limited by a post, I will suggest something to you : you can submit a registration to http://linuxvillage.org, where I will hit you with the title of author, or something of the kind, where you will be able to write a full article, and also express your opinions, then you can come back and post just the link to it. ^^

And that will be so elegant!
You're going to hit me? Oh, noes!!  :D  Seriously, I know what you mean. If I ever have a similar rant in excess of 1500 characters, I'll take you up on it. But, why does this site have that limitation if the other one doesn't? Inquiring minds want to know.

Now what I know about the topic, very little indeed, just this:
PCManFM file manager is ported to Qt?
You mean this one? PCManFM file manager is ported to Qt?   ;)

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Re : Re : Re : A Linux Conspiracy Theory - Part 1
« Réponse #6 le: 14 mars 2013 à 10:06:18 »
You're going to hit me? Oh, noes!!  :D  Seriously, I know what you mean. If I ever have a similar rant in excess of 1500 characters, I'll take you up on it. But, why does this site have that limitation if the other one doesn't? Inquiring minds want to know.


Unless I hit you if you don't ?  ;)

I don't know why the limit, it's there and that's it. It is possible that it can be reconfigured. Well, why not take the opportunity and go get registered, and later, do your article ? This is good to do, we even have a field for the SEO under the article field, which is a cool feature.   8)

Citer
You mean this one? PCManFM file manager is ported to Qt?   ;)

Don't be sad! You have done well announcing it. On my side, I knew about it as soon as pcman posted it at the lxde mailing list.

« Modifié: 14 mars 2013 à 10:08:28 par mélodie »
Good leaders being scarce, following yourself is allowed.

djohnston

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Re : Re : Re : Re : A Linux Conspiracy Theory - Part 1
« Réponse #7 le: 14 mars 2013 à 17:49:00 »
Well, why not take the opportunity and go get registered, and later, do your article ? This is good to do, we even have a field for the SEO under the article field, which is a cool feature.   8)
What is it I'm signing up for? It's not the Foreign Legion, is it?




Hors ligne melodie

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Re : A Linux Conspiracy Theory - Part 1
« Réponse #8 le: 15 mars 2013 à 00:10:13 »
You register, id, email, a password will be sent to you by mail. Once you will have logged in you will access your to profile and can change your password, set your preferences. Then ring the bell, shout to me : "I'm in!" and I'll come to provide a status allowing you to create articles and publish them.

No legion, there, foreign or otherwise. :)

Good leaders being scarce, following yourself is allowed.

djohnston

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Re : Re : A Linux Conspiracy Theory - Part 1
« Réponse #9 le: 16 mars 2013 à 18:05:35 »
Once you will have logged in you will access your to profile and can change your password, set your preferences. Then ring the bell, shout to me : "I'm in!" and I'll come to provide a status allowing you to create articles and publish them.

Okay, I've signed up.

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Re : Re : Re : A Linux Conspiracy Theory - Part 1
« Réponse #10 le: 16 mars 2013 à 19:49:02 »
Okay, I've signed up.

Thank you!
And now you can start to write articles and publish them. Please also fill the SEO fields which are below the articles editor field, each time you will publish something, this will help us spread the word about LinuxVillage. :)

Good leaders being scarce, following yourself is allowed.