Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th May 2011 18:59 UTC, submitted by fran
Gnome Something's - once again - brewing within the GNOME project. While a mere suggestion for now, and by no means any form of official policy, influential voices within the GNOME project are arguing that GNOME should become a full-fledged Linux-based operating system, and that the desktop environment should drop support for other operating systems such as Solaris and the BSDs. I have a feeling this isn't going to go down well with many of our readers.
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The times they are a changin....
by karl on Fri 20th May 2011 17:04 UTC
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As a GNOME users since the pre-1.0 inception and a Linux user since 1995 I find talk of GNOME OS most interesting.

Google the proverbial 900lb. gorrila made Linux mainstream with Android. Android does not use X and does not use an X-based toolkit or DM/WM. Any talk about GNOME as GNOME OS is targeted at Android as the most visibile direct competitor.

The X devs are abandonning ship in droves headed towards Wayland. Wayland is 100% pure linux and not portable. Once Wayland is viable the GTK Wayland backend will take precedence and the X backend will wither on the vine. The abandonment of X is the end of an era in which a UX system, which was composed of a combination of kernel+userland+X+wm/dm consituted a whole OS-this interchangeability and code sharing made it possible for a near infinite number of possible permutations ranging from kfreeBSD to Gentoo-Hurd to vie a in vibrant ecosystem of alternate UX-like systems. This is comming to and end, not immediately but foreseeably, for better or worse. Legacy concerns about CDE and Motif are now officially history.

GNOME already attempted the totally modular thing(ie. division between core and desktop, portability and compatibility goals across arch's and systems) and Meego and Nokia were the results and GNOME got burnt really, really bad. Outside of the OLPC and a handful of other smallish project modular GNOME got no traction.

GNOME has gotten big, it's grown up and despite ever recurrent growin pains has reached maturity. The old corporate environment which kept X going as the centerpiece of compatibility (X11) is no longer. Sun, once a long supporter of GNOME/X got swallowed up by Oracle and Oracle has absolutely 0 interest in the broader free software community. HP, IBM love Linux but have no real interest in the user facing side of software development, kernel sure, but graphics/graphical applications, no interest.

All the major players in X drivers land have opened up their docs and code except for nvidia. At least part of the shift towards Wayland can be read as a big FU to nvidia, who by playing users against free software developers have been instrumental in keeping X from becomming what it should have become.

GNOME has gotten big enough to weather an outright fork/split represented by the Fedora-based Gnome-shell and Ubuntu-based Unity. Many criticize Ubuntu for going in on their own with Unity/Upstart/LightDM etc. But the reality is Fedora/Redhat has sponsored a stream of *kit(consolekit, packagekit, devicekit, etc.) over the years, each charachterized initially by terrible documentation, non existant support for other distros and an attitude that says "our way or the high way". So in essence Ubuntu and Fedora are each doing the same thing-just with slightly different rhetoric, fedora basically claiming GNOME for itself(which didn't start with systemd, but with pulseaudio) and Ubuntu claiming the Linux desktop for itself. Hence the talk of GNOME OS. Systemd may actually catch on and be used by many other distros, it certainly has it's merits and advantages.

But mores users use Ubuntu than all of the other distro's combined plus all other non-Linux GNOME desktops(*BSD, Solaris, etc.). Core technologies will still be shared across Gnome-Shell and Unity but GNOME itself is in danger of becomming the lowest common denominator between the shell and Unity. Ie. what is a GNOME developer nowadays ? The answer to this is less clear now than it has been for several years. But it is also less important now. It used to be that there were a number of large commercial distributors who had to each give and take when it came to the free software communities. Now it's Redhat and Ubuntu, Mandriva is out of commission at the moment, and Attachmate is not going to sink the money into SuSE sufficient to really sway things. While I commend the salaries that have been paid by Intel and Nokia to X/GNOME devs over the past few years in hindsight their contribution has been problematic at best-pitting one group against another and playing corporate loyalty games and infusing GNOME/X development with the pervasive propietary influence of secrecy. GNOME has completely gone from causal free software developer greatness to serious corportate gamesmanship, much as the Linux kernel has become IBM and Oracles playground.

Ubuntu has HP on it's side and Redhat has Intel on their side. No it's not quite that clear cut-but close. Intel has strong armed the move from X towards Wayland, which was easy to do because a big chunck of the most influential X devs work for Intel. Intel strong armed the move to a clutter based GNOME desktop, ie. the shell. Sad because E17 was ripe for the picking for that task and all of the problems with proper 3d support in the drivers could have been put on ice. Tungsten Graphics with it's Gallium architecture is still the odd man out-if X has a future beyond Wayland Gallium and the radeon/nouveau dev's are it's best hope because the Intel X devs are no longer playing ball. Perhaps the future is not so bright for Wayland, perhaps clutter isn't the last word on animated scene graphics on the GNOME desktop and perhaps the talk of GNOME OS will vanish in that great big bit bucket in the sky. Who knows. But given the obvious trends it is easy to see why the idea of GNOME OS is becoming palpable and perhaps even necessary, even if it remains unpallatable.

Moreover the talk about a Linux-only GNOME OS reveals a fundamental shift in self-perception. When you are on the outside and want to get inside, you bend over backwards not to alienate anyone, to include everyone and everyone sings kumbayah, holds hands and hugs trees. Once you are on the inside you condescend to those who were once your friends, if you even stoop so low as to acknowledge their existence. I do not like this development, but I can't really begrudge it either, the GNOME guys/gals have made it into the big league. Let's just hope that their egos don't get to big for their britches.

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