Older blog entries for cactus (starting at number 34)

Free Software: Dead or dormant? My take on it, from an Eastern-Central European country.

I'd like to offer a different perspective on the ongoing discussion on free software's future. In Hungary, Internet access wasn't available to the masses (i.e. to anyone except universities) since 1995-1996, and thus, the development of free software culture has only started then.

I see numerous problems in the current situation. The number of free software users is low, but even worse, the contributor/user ratio is horrible. To even submit a bug report is most of the time an unheard concept. You virtually can't find someone who has deep knowledge in at least one field: just hang out on #linux.hu, and you will see half-truths, rumors, and even malicious answers to user questions. People who call themselves "system administrators" are complaining that they don't understand HOWTOs written in English. Even if you find someone with some technical authority, he won't have any concept of the political issues concerning Free Software, or IP at large.

The low number of free software hackers does have its upside: for example, since I'm the only active GNOME hacker in Hungary [1], I've been contacted several times by complete strangers who have heard via word of mouth that I am "the GNOME guy" or even "the C++ guy". So the point previously raised by someone in this discussion about bigger visibility of individuals when the total number of hackers is low, is definitely true.

But even this small hacker population (note that I didn't say community) is more or less invisible to everyone else. Due to the horrible state of the public, as outlined above, I've seen a lot of us slowly migrate away from the Hungarian free software and Linux communities. I am guilty of this myself too. It doesn't happen because you're pissed off. Most of the time it happens by accident: you turn off mail delivery for some reason, and then you realize that you have no compelling reason to turn it back on after a week or two. I have also seen this happen on #linux.hu.

Another part of this invisibility is the Organization of Hungarian Linux Users, or LME. An organization nearly noone of us wants to be associated with. An organization founded by these so-called "system administrators" as mentioned previously, and populated mostly by clueless newbies who want to be "close to the fire". The story about how things got really ugly when governmental money became involved is an entirely different story.

And now for what I believe is the largest problem. Even from this small number of free software developers, only an even smaller subset seems to get it. The others are leftover coders from the demo scene era, where arrogance and diminishing of peers was more or less the norm. But this doesn't scale well for free software development. Take, for instance, the most visible free software project from Hungary: MPlayer [2]. Oh boy do they not get it: the license is ambigious (including the inclusion of other code with possibly conflicting licenses), and the maintainers' are most of the time arrogant beyond words with their users. They are the Gods who gave these puny earthlings the shiny black obelisk.

So this is the point where I'm supposed to summarize and make intelligent suggestions and predictions. I can think of three scenarios:

  1. Downfall: The ex-demo coders migrate to other, more hip projects as this whole &qout;free software thing" gets passe. The others are segregated even more, and we end up as 20 isolated groups of one or two hackers each.

  2. Stagnation and maturing: Now that coding is mastered, culture begins to creep in as well, and as each project gets more users, the maintainers eventually learn how to deal with them. In five years, we get exactly to the point that others in this discussion have outlined: after achieving great goals, we realize that we have noone to give our heritage to. This is the most likely scenario.

  3. The users of today become the developers of tomorrow: given all the issues I've explained here, I don't think that's likely without something catalyzing a paradigm shift.

[1] Not that that's such a low number: given that Hungary has about ten million residents, this would mean 600 GNOME hackers all over the world, which I believe is much larger than the actual number, if you only take those into account who hack on GNOME proper, as opposed to developing applications that depend on GNOME.

[2] Just for the record, I've never had any personal conflict with the MPlayer developers, in fact, I know one of them from an entirely different and unrelated community. The project is only used as an illustration here, because this is the most visible one.

28 Dec 2001 (updated 30 Dec 2001 at 14:17 UTC) »

Remodelled Guikachu's form preview rendering code, so there is a base class generic enough to be used for both widgets and forms. This enables me to remove a lot of duplicate code.

It's a much better feeling to remove code than it is to write it.

I got spam from a tobacco company. Normally, I don't really care about the spam I recieve since its volume is still in the managable range (one or two per day), but this one has really upset me. Tobacco advertisement shouldn't be sent to noone, for a very obvious reason: you have no way of knowing if the recipient is a minor.

Come to think about it, I shouldn't have deleted the mail, maybe something could have been done about it.

I've recieved the first issue of Anjin-san since I've subscribed in November. It's a free paper mag for Hungarians who learn Japanese.

Can you include UTF-8 characters in your Advogato log?

Could it be that I'm becoming bored of The Pillows? Or maybe I just need some new MP3's.

I've realized that I don't get it what the rating system of Advogato has to do with trust.

It is a rating system. "If I were to rate X, on a scale from 0 to 3, I'd rate him 2" This has nothing to do with trust -- trust is, "Yes, I am positive that the accout X really belongs to the real-life person known as X".

I'd be ready to certify an asshole troll's account in a trust system, if I knew it really belonged to said troll. I would most certainly not be ready to rate him/her for anything but zero.

So what does the two have to do with each other?

Merry Christmas!

Since the release of Guikachu 1.0, the webpage got thousands of hits. I hope that means people out there are actually using it:)

Lately, I've discovered the world of webcomics. RPG World and Adventurers! are a lot of fun if you've ever played computer RPG's, especially on consoles. My current favourite is Exploitation Now, which turned from a slapstick, decidedly un-PC comic strip to a dark, manga-esque webcomic with slapstick humor and a diceded un-PC-ness.

Now's a great time to lend a helping hand to the GTKmm project. Work on the C++ bindings for GNOME 2.0 is also progressing nicely.

Spent most of the last days making all the last-minute changes to various GNOME API's (mostly libbonobo) that should have been made a long time ago. Changes included a complete rework of everything using callbacks to support GClosures -- I decided to do this change three days before the freeze date...

Life/Open source (is there a difference?<grin/>)

  • After sitting in front of the computer all Sunday, I decided going somewhere was much needed, so I joined some friends on Monday and we went swimming. The plan is to enter the traditional Balaton Bay Swimming Contest (which is at August 12th), which is 3.6 kilometers (note to swimmers: please don't laugh:)), so we swam that distance (of course there is a big difference between a swimming pool and a natural lake, but let's hope the best:)
  • Speaking of lakes, after completing all the GClosure stuff for libbonobo (man, this thing needs documentation), I decided to freeze my own little sub-world of GNOME, and thus went to a nearby lake, with the temperature rising above 35 degrees Celsius. Did some swimming again. It's amazing how tiring it can be to lie all day by a large body of water.
  • While writing the above paragraph, Michael just told me about more unresolved issues in libbonobo and libbonobui, but those don't seem to involve API changes, so I just can't be bothered.
  • But it looks like I will be adding GClosure support to gnome-vfs in the next week. I seem to volunteer for the suckiest tasks. I guess the feeling of "someone has to do this so why not me" is too strong in me -- ah, the power of youth...

/lost+found

I was delighted to catch Szilva in the recently joined people list. It's good to finally see people here whom I know from elsewhere. Catch you on #linux.hu, dude!

Telsa, I think you should lighten up a little -- so what if the Retarded-poster was a bit sick, I didn't take it as an attack on the mentally challenged, and I had a good laugh at it. Maybe you had a smile as the first reaction as well, but decided to be embarrased about it instead.

Life
  • Spent the better half of the day on a rowing tour with toma, Mhp and Mw3 (#linux.hu residents). It was a lot of fun so we decided to do this again some time. Afterwards, we had a drink and the bartender girl has something Japanese written on her top but I was not able to read it because my katakana skills are even worse than my hiragana skills, so this bothered me slightly.

Anime

  • Noir continues to kick butt at the second episode, but not as much as the pilot did. Maybe I should finish with the other series I've started watching before jumping to new ones.
  • Someone on #gnome who I've never met before was generious enough to send me the first two episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion in superb quality. In fact, it makes me want to watch the whole series again. I just wish I could get The End of Evangelion in such quality... oh well, better wait until I get a real DVD player.
  • I've come across Waita Uziga's page on the Web. This is some really disturbing content (snuff hentai, basically), even after my two years of medical studies. Some of the non-violent pictures like the bikini girl do have some decadent, sick beauty, but the violent ones are just that -- violent. Don't go to this site.

Open source

  • While waiting for suggestions on fixing my GNOME 2 setup to make monikers work, I decided to just wander around and hack randomly on stuff. This led to a clean-up of BonoboGenericFactory, which was supposed to happen a long time ago but was somehow made worse in the port to GNOME 2.
  • Mailed andersca to ask him to post his GnomeAbout API ASAP.

Nathan Cullen told me a lot about the way the OLE Clipboard works and we had a nice discussion on how that translates to my Moniker-based Bonobo Clipboard design. I've implemented most of the Clipboard Store, but can't really try it out until my OAF setup is fixed. I hope I will either solve it or have someone help me soon.

Looking at my dairy, I am sure you think how I have not had a machine for more than a year now:) This is, thankfully, not the case. I don't know why I stopped writing the diary in summer 2000, but after September I had a very hard year at the University so I had zero time to spend on Advogato (if I had a little spare time I allocated that to coding instead:)

But now, here I am, alive and kicking. So much happened over the last year that I have no idea what to write here -- so I guess I won't write anything for now. Let's try to get back to the habit of at least one entry a week.

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