I moved to Montreal. I'm looking for a job. This may take a little while..
I went (for two out of the three days, anyway). Some encouraging news on the Gnome Office front: promising movement on clipboard integration between apps, thoughts on reading the OpenOffice format, and the transition to a next-generation printing architecture. Meeting martin, cinamod, and others (hi voltron!) was good: I feel more connected to both AbiWord and Gnome now, which was pretty much my reason for going.
I was also extremely impressed by the GStreamer presentation. Definitely some smart people, and smart things being done there. It remains to be seen whether it will come together into something that is widely used: the infrastructure seems to be there (the demo of the pipeline editor was awesome), it just remains to be seen whether they can get the implementation rock solid (there seem to be, alas, latency issues with sound playback). Definitely a project to watch.
Read "Culture Jam" by Kalle Lasn. Overall message: "submit to your rage against the corporate powers at be. Awaken from thy slumber and revolt!". I understand where the rage is coming from (I can't seem to shake those bleeding heart hippie principles, no matter how hard I try) -- but I think he oversimplifies the reasons why we live in the world that we do, and doesn't really offer the most responsible program for change.
You just cannot simply reduce the history behind our current culture to the rise of the American corporation. Yes, that's an important factor: but there are others, equally if not more important. The industrial revolution? The communications revolution? Liberal democracy? These aren't simply forces which were incidental or merely enabling: they are significant factors in their own right, with their own effects, making their own distinctive mark on the world we live in.
However, in this age of ambiguity, I can't fault someone for taking a strong stand on an issue (even if it results in over-simplifications and hasty generalizations). We need more of this sort of thing, especially in Canada, where the level of political debate is unbelievably anemic. But, even so..
Yes, it is true that much of our world-view is mediated through a filter of corporate-manufactured ideas or memes. So what? A few hundred years ago, my ancestors' reality was primarily mediated through a religious doctrine of salvation in the next life. The idea that Lasn presents, that somehow it might be possible to overcome all mediations, and live an authentic life of "pure spontanaeity", is, I think, ridiculous and irresponsible. We will always need myths, idols, and world-views to fall back on: it is only a question of how clearly we see them, and how we choose to deal with them. The track record of blind rage has been rather poor on this account-- something other ingredient, cultural or technological, is needed for these things to change..
But then, I'm just trusting my reason here, when I should be paying attention to my gut instinct and righteous rage. It's the same Antisthenes vs. Socrates argument (instant path to truth vs. careful investigation), all over again. Perhaps someone else has other thoughts on the book?
I have recently been focusing my work on improving the GTK2 frontend to AbiWord (CVS Head). This has been interesting. While the overall class abstraction between cross-platform/platform specific code seems fairly sound, there is definitely some strange stuff going on with regard to particulars. AbiWord draws its statusbar manually, using its own GR_Graphics class, instead of native widgets. The keyboard code is also weird-- instead of using native keyboard accelerators/handling, it makes all keypresses go through a top-level key-trapping method.
I can't quite figure out whether or not the original Sourcegear people thought these were good decisions when they wrote this code. You end up writing about the same amount of XP/PlatformSpecific code, and the result isn't any more robust. Platform specific toolkits have convenience functions that can reduce your workload-- it makes sense to use them. I think it's a much better idea to just set a bare minimum of std. in the XP portion, and then let the native toolkits do what they were designed to do.
I have some assurance from the win32 experts that it should be possible to get this stuff working correctly using a more platform specific approach (leaving the XP to handle the real backend), so I don't feel shy about moving forward and reworking this stuff.
This work isn't particularly glamorous, but I think it's necessary if we want to move forward. There's a lot of weird bugs that have cropped up because of these decisions. Others are doing some fairly exciting new-feature work (tables, a new printing framework), so I don't think there's any danger of the project stagnating..