Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 27th Aug 2006 09:25 UTC
Linux "When OSDL announced the first release of its Portland initiative at LinuxWorld Boston in April, heralding it 'a breakthrough in desktop Linux', I muttered my skepticism to a co-worker. He expressed surprise at my reaction, noting that the initiative employs extremely smart people. I don't doubt their intelligence, or their sincerity, but I wouldn't bet a penny on the project living up to its initial claim, because you can't conjure a silver bullet out of intelligence and sincerity." KDE developer Kevin Krammer replies: "There is an article over at linux.com which predicts that the Portland initiative will fail to reach its goal of 'unifying the Linux desktop'. Unfortunately the author somehow missed that 'unifying the Linux desktop' is not the goal of Portland."
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Torsten Rahn
Member since:
2005-08-20

> then another, is because all the pedals, the
> steering wheel, gear stick, handbrake etc. are
> all in the same place - or pretty much the same
> place. You have enough commonality between cars
> to drive them.

One could argue that the same is true for desktop environments: Every one of those has an application menu, application windows, a mouse pointer, a basic set of applications and a small set of common rules that enable you to navigate the whole thing.

> There are a multitude of tasks to perform,

Well, turning left on one road is different from turning left in another. However just like "different" tasks in a desktop environment those two tasks have enough in common to make the user turn left without problems no matter where he is. If there are specific gotchas for some task then maybe it needs some further rethinking in terms of usability.

> and a multitude of different software packages
> to run on them with many, many complex APIs that

I would argue that Portland doesn't deal with every tiny detail of the API but with the most important basic tasks (which are still in the same kind of magnitude as tasks that might have to be managed in a car).

Concerning the unaffected technical complexity behind: I'm quite sure that people who build cars will disagree with you. A car these days _is_ an extremely complex thing as well under the hood.

> The only reason you'd buy one car over another
> is for things which are not related in any way
> your being able to drive it.

Look and feel is an important thing for anything human beings evaluate to make them feel comfortable: both is important for desktops as well as cars. Then there is regional preference for certain products and several other things.

Yes there are things where cars differ from desktops. but I don't think that they have any significant impact on the analogy as a whole.

Proof that I'm probably right is the recent increased success of XFCE as well as the countless flavours of KDE as well as Gnome which you will find in different distributions. Those "flavours" sometimes get so much altered from the original, that it's hard to tell where they are coming from. All of those distributors do have good reasons to make their very own desktops look and feel different (of course "better" from their point of view) and certainly to use different frameworks as their employees have different preferences and different knowledge (insert your favourite C vs. C++ / Gtk vs.Qt flamewar here).

Reply Parent Score: 3

segedunum Member since:
2005-07-06

One could argue that the same is true for desktop environments: Every one of those has an application menu, application windows, a mouse pointer, a basic set of applications and a small set of common rules that enable you to navigate the whole thing.

There are different APIs (and APIs are huge) and ways of doing things that different software would have to take into account to run on all of them. In addition, there are still different, or no, ways of doing things like installing a system service on different distributions and desktops and all the tasks people would want to perform.

Have you seen the multitude and wide range of things people program for on Windows? And you think that throwing in different desktop environments still makes that manageable?

A car these days _is_ an extremely complex thing as well under the hood.

Not to drive. When you're talking about driving a desktop environment you're talking about things being in the same place everywhere for a user, and also the desktop environment and operating system having exactly the same APIs for everything for software and ISVs.

The LSB is a case in point. Yes, distributors can run the test suites and get themselves a nice sticker to put on their boxes. However, did you know that you can fail those tests just by running on different hardware? The complexity of doing that is vast, and its hard enough maintaining binary compatibility even between the same controlled binaries. Just ask Microsoft.

In short, things like the LSB, and beyond that Portland, look good, but in practice are practically useless. The only way you could even attempt to guarantee any sort of compatiblity would be to give all distributions and desktops the same binaries and the same setup. Diversity, even when various desktops and distributions supposedly adhere to standards is just not something any ISV can feasibly support. Inexplicable differences and incompatibilities are always thrown up.

Proof that I'm probably right is the recent increased success of XFCE as well as the countless flavours of KDE as well as Gnome which you will find in different distributions.

There seems to be this wishy-washy notion from various people, and I saw it with the whole RuDI thing as well, that organisations looking at using free desktops are somehow going to be bothered about running KDE, Gnome and XFCE. They aren't, and it's a pretty ludicrous suggestion. I've see the situation of desktop an IT support in many organisations, along with the development and distribution of custom and bought software. It's only barely possible with one desktop, let alone accounting for others.

It's just confirmation, if any were needed, that many people don't understand this. I would advise distributors and developers to concentrate on the multitude of functionality that needs to be added, rather than trying to replicate the current inadequate functionality between desktops and distributions.

Edited 2006-08-27 19:00

Reply Parent Score: 3

twenex Member since:
2006-04-21

1. Microsoft keep changing the interface between OSes, as well as between apps/applications suites.

Take WinXP, Win98, MS Office 2K, MS Office 2K7, Windows Vista, Media Player, Winamp, Windows Firefox, and you have a different interface for each of 8 programs. Worse, you can skin many of these in different ways till the cows come home. Worse, because not everyone upgrades to XP or Office 2007 or Firefox when it is released, you have to hold the details of the interface for each of these programs in your head at the same time. You're probably in the same position re: different versions of Visual Studio. This is an inconvenient fact that MS-loving Linux-bashers choose to ignore, but that doesn't mean it's not an issue.

Say it isn't, and you have an instance of Windows lovers saying that something that is an issue isn't, as Linux users were recently accused of doing on this site.

2. Cars are NOT the same everywhere.

Some countries drive on the left, some on the right, which means the driver's seat can change from left to right, too. Some cars are manual transmission, and some automatic (and manual transmission is much more common in Europe). In Europe all stop signs say "STOP" (i.e. in English), whilst in America and Anglophone Canada they say "STOP" and in Quebec "ARRETE". Signs in America and Mexico might one day say "STOP" and "ALTO" simultaneously. You need different skills/licenses to drive a car/bike/motorbike/tractor/train/bus, but despite the fact they are all road vehicles, they have different uses, and the controls are not the same.

3. The Windows desktop, or desktops, is/are as awkward to get used to if you don't use it/them every day as any of the Linux desktops or window managers, and so is the Mac. On the Mac you drag a little picture of a disk to a little picture of a Trashcan to eject the disk; in Linux you press a button on the drive or type "eject" to eject it. Gee, I wonder which is more "intuitive"?

Reply Parent Score: 1