Interview with Mikael Hallendal, Founder of Imendio

Imendio, based in Sweden, provides services in application and platform development based for Gnome/GTK+ on Linux, *BSD and UNIX based systems. Today, we interview its founder, Mikael Hallendal (also known in the Gnome developer community as the author of Gossip, Blam! and DevHelp applications) about the business of Imendio, the challenges GTK+ poses and more.

1. Please describe Imendio’s consultancy services to our readers. In what way are you serving Gnome in the commercial space?

Mikael Hallendal Mikael Hallendal: Imendio provides professional GTK+/GNOME support, this ranges from changes and bug fixing on the platform to application development on top of the GNOME stack.

I do believe that we serve a very important part for GNOME in the commercial space since it gives companies a commercial partner when they want to migrate to GNOME.

2. How is the interest for Linux, BSD and Gnome development these days? Over the years of running Imendio, have you seen an increase in that interest?

Mikael Hallendal: Me and Richard Hult started Imendio little over a year ago and we have both been professionally working with GNOME since the beginning of 2001. There has definitely been an increase in commercial interest around Linux and GNOME
during that time.

What I think we see here is only the beginning. Linux gets more and more commercial acceptance everyday and GNOME is a natural choice for companies working in the desktop area.

3. If you encounter Gnome/GTK+ bugs or defeciencies during work, do you actively working on fixing and submit the fixes to the Gnome project, or do you sub-contract Ximian or Red Hat to do so? How does this work exactly?

Jamboree, DrWright and Gossip Mikael Hallendal: Since working on the platform is part of our commercial offer we solve platform issues ourselves. As far as I know neither Ximian or Red Hat offers this kind of services.

In the beginning of September we hired Anders Carlsson. Anders strengthen our offer around GTK+ since he have a long experience in GTK+ hacking.

4. Imendio also develops some freely available GTK+ applications. Are there any big plans for Jamboree, Gossip or Planner, or do they serve as showcases for your clients? Do you have plans to pitch Planner for Gnome Office or add Gossip to the core Gnome desktop?

Mikael Hallendal: Our free applications serves multiple purposes, first they are a great way to serve as showcases as you mention. They are also a great way of trying out new API and staying up to date with what’s happening to the platform.

We also offer commercial support on all our projects, in forms of feature enhancements and intregration into existing solutions. We have only seen any real interest for this with Planner so far, though I think that Gossip might be an interesting application for many companies in the future. I want to focus on more enterprice targeted solutions around Gossip, like adding encryption, better solutions for having meetings over Jabber etc.

Since we use all of our software ourselves, it’s also for personal use.

5. You recently started evaluating C# and Mono while developing Blam!. How did you find Gtk#? Is it mature? Fast to develop? Interesting? Would you recommend it to new Gnome developers or to your clients?

Planner, Blam, DevHelp and Gossip Mikael Hallendal: I found developing with Mono and Gtk# to be a really nice experience. I would say that it’s very mature and a great way to develop applications for GNOME. I developed the first version of Blam in about a week of hacking and have since spent a couple of days updating to Mono 1.0 when it was released and fixed a few issues. So I’d say it’s pretty usable for developing applications fast.

Whether it’s the right tool for the job really depends on what you are developing. From what it looks like some important distributions are not planning on shipping Mono so if you want your application to be included there at some point it’s probably not the best solution.

As for recommending it to customers I would probably not do that at this point due to legal issues that no one seems to be able to give a straight answer to.

6. Which distro do you normall use? Do you standardise on a specific distro when you serve clients and specifically test for it? What kind of tests do you employ to test your engineering work?

Mikael Hallendal: We use both Red Hat 9, Fedora Core and Debian on our machines. I currently run
Debian PPC on my laptop that I use for most developing these days. What distributions we use when developing for clients is based on their requests.

7. What would you like to see change in Gnome and/or GTK+ from a developer’s point of view? And what from a user’s point of view?

Mikael Hallendal: As a developer I would like to see a nice higher level language such as Java or C# being more integrated with the platform. A nice integration to all the desktop with such a language would really improve GNOME as an application development platform. This together with a nice and powerful IDE would make developing applications on GNOME much more efficient.

Most of the parts I’m missing as a user are being worked on or was included in GNOME 2.8. Most noticable HAL and the volume manager, it’s nice to be able to just plug your camera in and have GThumb automatically import your photos,

Another thing that I really miss is syncing with PDAs. I’m terrible at remembering appointments and having good syncing with PDAs would really help. That together with a nice stand alone calendar application, like iCal in Mac OSX. So if anyone has time that might be a nice application to build on top of evolution-data-server.

8. What is your opinion on Qt and KDE? Do you see their platform as a competitor for your business or as a parallel ally to a greater cause?

Mikael Hallendal: I can’t say that Qt and KDE has any direct impact on our business but in a way it’s probably a competitor to us since some potentional customers might choose Qt over GTK+ and go to some other commercial partner.

The fact that GTK+ and GNOME are LGPL makes them great for a lot of companies to build upon and I think that’s a real winner in the long run.

As for Linux on the desktop I think that it is great to see earn so much trust from both GNOME and KDE. This is really necessary for Linux to gain acceptance on the desktop. In the current situation I think KDE and GNOME attracts different people and together we reach a broader market so that’s good. I also believe in competition and that it really pushes both projects to do better.


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