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Ximian

Interview With Ximian's Nat Friedman 258

Posted by timothy
from the dances-with-monkeys dept.
Sheepish writes "OSNews features a long and interesting interview with Nat Friedman, of Ximian fame. Nat tells all and talks about the upcoming Ximian Desktop 2 and its differences from Gnome 2, the difficulties of developing the MS Exchange Connector, Linux as a desktop, Mono and plans for Gnome integration, the hundrends of OpenOffice.org changes made to make OOo like a Gnome2 app, and how Ximian feels... about Apple's business. Four screenshots of Ximian Desktop 2 are included too."
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Interview With Ximian's Nat Friedman

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  • by twener (603089) on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:07PM (#6109284)
    Quote: "- Uses MSFT file formats by default, reflecting the reality of most of the documents you will receive. No longer tells you you're about to lose all your data when you save in an MSFT format. "
    • Whats scary? The fact that they admit it or the fact that its true?
    • by chetohevia (109956) on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:33PM (#6109547)
      Well, given that you don't actually lose the data, it's reassuring.

      Since .doc ends up being the underlying file format, the dialog is just needlessly alarming, and they just took it out.

    • I dunno, it could go either way. When OO does become more widespread, and MS does change the format substantially, then Ximian could always say that it was microsoft screwing up the format. That would just piss off a lot of customers. But on the other hand, if the OO users see the office users still using them perfectly, it could drive them away.
    • I loved XD1 back in the RHAT 7.3 daze, but since I never seen a supported 8.0 version I gave up on it.
      I loved it but I remember that whenever I wanted to update by version of Redhat I had to format seems the rpms used by Ximian were diffrent than Redhats.
      I'm going to give XD2 a shot, I'm sure it will be great, I'll just put it on a box I don't care about before I put it on my main Linux machine.

      About oo...

      I can't speak for the entire suite but oowriter has been great to me until recently.
      I attent th
    • The OpenOffice format isn't really preferable to MSFT file formats for any practical reason (aside from not including random secret information, which OpenOffice presumably doesn't put into the MSFT files anyway). Any other supported format you're likely to want, you'd use a more suitable program to create. Everyone I know who uses OpenOffice only uses it to deal with MSFT files and writes their books, papers, and web pages in plain text or LaTeX with emacs or vi.

      (In fact, most of the documents you're like
    • I just wish (and I've logged feature requests in both SO and OO) that they'd include a "Save Copy As" menu item so that I could rattle off a .doc format without have to go back and run Save As again to get back to OO format.
  • UI Consistency (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rura Penthe (154319) on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:09PM (#6109304)
    I'm pleased that XD2 is striving for complete UI consistency. This is something I've always felt was lacking in the overall user experience for linux. Having a coherent set of human interface guidelines ala Apple's materials for OS X can do nothing but help.
    • Only works if everyone else follows your guideline, though.
    • The problem is that with such a large percentage of the desktop market, there is a consistent UI, MSWindows (2000, XP, whatever). It's hard to get away from the "it doesn't look like windows" complaints and appeal to larger than niche markets.
  • I'm salivating (Score:5, Interesting)

    by esconsult1 (203878) * on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:13PM (#6109341) Homepage Journal
    The reason why I bought an iBook to admin my Linux servers was because of immature user interfaces.

    I was left salivating after viewing the screenshots and reading about the far reaching changes that were made, especially integrating OpenOffice with the rest of the desktop.

    And they're looking into migrating several hundred thousand desktops, especially in Europe. Damn!

    Goodbye Bluecurve, Hello Ximian Desktop!

    • The reason why I bought an iBook to admin my Linux servers was because of immature user interfaces.

      I am confused. Do you mean immature user interfaces of OSX? That's why you run Gentoo [slashdot.org] on your iBook, right?

    • Re:I'm salivating (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bogie (31020)
      Yea because you really need more then ssh to admin your linux servers.
    • Its not a troll its the truth. Who uses more than ssh (which forwards X11 if you actually have a gui tool on the server you need) to admin a linux server?

      You certainly don't need a "mature interface" to admin a server like the parent mentioned. Drool over your IBook, but not because it does a better job at "admining" linux servers than any linux box would do.

      I guess whoever modded me down doesn't know anything about adming linux boxes.
  • Why is Ximian not supporting Slack?
    • by SLot (82781) on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:29PM (#6109488) Homepage Journal
      From their desktop support general info:

      Slackware Linux is a well-respected Linux distribution, and has a dedicated, fierce following. It is possible that Ximian may support Slack in the future but we have no idea when that might happen. Slackware support is likely to come after BSD support, Debian PPC support, and SuSE PPC support. Right now, we have plenty of work supporting the distributions we already support.

      The things that prevent Ximian from supporting Slackware are partly technical, and partly market based. Technically, Slack has a package management system which has substantial differences from other distribution's package management systems. Dependency checking, for example, is absolutely necessary for certain Ximian services and features (the installer and the updater, in particular), and is not fully supported by Slackware. Slackware's architects have a well-defended disdain for dependency checking, and we can understand their arguments. But without it, Ximian Desktop can't figure out what to install, what to upgrade, and what to leave alone.

      That means, basically, that it's a lot more work for us to add really good support for Slack than it is for us to add good support for, say, Conectiva, which is based closely upon the Red-Hat model. Not only that, but there aren't a lot of distros based upon Slack. From our support for Red Hat, it's a quick jump to other rpm-based distros. If we support Slackware, it's working with an entirely new package system just for one Linux distro.

      Another market force is the profile of the typical Slack user. Slackware users often compile stuff themselves. They know how to install software at the command line. They know their dependency trees themselves, and don't trust or need package management systems. They're hackers in the best sense of the word, and we respect them deeply for that. They don't need things like the Ximian Desktop update service, or the graphical installer. Ximian is about making free software easier to use, and Slackware users don't tend to need any help.

      So, what can you do, elite Slackware user, ignored by market forces and business types, if you want the prettiest, bestest desktop in the Linux land? You can download pre-rolled tgzs from the variety of Slack software mirrors, or get the binary rpms or source rpms from the Red Hat directory at our ftp site, and install by hand with rpm. Or you can convert them to slack packages with rpm2tgz. And, in a brave trick of hackery, you can fool the graphical installer into thinking you're a Red Hat user. The command:

      echo "Red Hat Linux release 7.2 (Enigma)" > /etc/redhat-release

      has been reported to make the installer work, although you're likely to have difficulty with one or another dependency somewhere. Official Ximian support of this method is not available, and we cannot give you any guarantees.
    • Well, slackware has dropline gnome [dropline.net], which is specially optimised for slack.
  • Why would I use outdated Ximian 2

    When KDE [kde.org] is already on version 3

    obviously newer and better.

  • by Chicane-UK (455253) <chicane-uk&ntlworld,com> on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:22PM (#6109427) Homepage
    Well I gotta be honest and say.. from the shots I have seen, and from what I have read, I can't really see what the Ximian Desktop offers Red Hat users over the superb BlueCurve front end on the most recent versions.

    Antialiasing, clean & well organised style, custom icons, and specially developed management tools. I really really rate what Red Hat have done, and I could never see myself paying for something like Ximian Desktop to replace BlueCurve.
    • When the first Ximian Desktop was released it was certainly better than Redhat's Gnome. With XD2, compared to Redhat 9, I think the difference is smaller.

      Nevertheless I still like what Ximian does. Their Open Office and Gnome patches are still good. I will just wait for Redhat to include them. This because running a distro and Ximian Desktop and upgrading packages from different sources gave me a lot of nasty problems in the past (Redhat explicitly tells to uninstall Ximian in their release notes). However
  • Rock on, Ximian... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rainmanjag (455094) <(joshg) (at) (myrealbox.com)> on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:26PM (#6109459) Homepage
    It's kinda strange... OSS with it's release-early-release-often idea almost makes it seem like improvements come so slowly, because they flow in a discrete trickle rather than the major leaps that come much further apart (emphasis on "seem")... Ximian's been working behind a black curtain for so long, it makes XD2 seem like such a gargantuan improvement...

    Though significantly delayed, XD2 was released when Ximian got everything right... and they have... finally I have a desktop environment that I can proud to show to my consulting customers as a viable option...

    -jag
    • Though significantly delayed, XD2 was released when Ximian got everything right... and they have... finally I have a desktop environment that I can proud to show to my consulting customers as a viable option...

      However, the flip-side of this is that they have pulled support for fresh installs of Ximian Gnome (1.4). For home users, waiting a week before being able to install Ximian would not be a problem, however, I have a room full of Linux boxen I'm admining for the university in my spare time, all of wh

  • Sorry, I'm behind on my distros. Is Ximian free-as-in-beer, i.e. downloadable? Do I get all of the features he's talking about, or do I have to sign up for a channel subscription?

    Up to now, the best desktop distro seemed to be RH9.0, but this article impressed me a lot.
    • Re:Ximian and money? (Score:4, Informative)

      by chetohevia (109956) on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:37PM (#6109584)
      Ximian Desktop 2 is not a complete distro. It's software for a variety of operating systems.

      It is (or will be, upon release) available for download free-of-charge. Source is/will be available for all open/free components. Patches are being and will be submitted upstream to maintainers.

      Purchasers ($99) get extras including 3rd party (proprietary) software, PLUS 30 days support, PLUS a year's Red Carpet Express high-speed updates.

      a.
      • Do you know if they make their source code for their modified version of OpenOffice.Org available?

        The relevent directory on their ftp is empty:
        ftp://ftp.ximian.com/pub/openoffice/redhat -70-i386/source

        The Interview does mention a openoffice-1.0-0.ximian.1.src.rpm.

  • by mgpeter (132079) on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:29PM (#6109485) Homepage
    Hopefully the week of the June 9, they will also release the complete source code to everything they use to build XD2.

    I have 1 Gentoo system at home and 2 Built from scratch machines, and it would be soooo cool to have a ebuild for Gentoo, or at least a Garnome type build script. Especially for their OpenOffice.org version.

    After reading this interview I really Can't wait.... Even tried their ftp site, but the XD2 directory is not browseable by an Anonymous Coward!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:30PM (#6109505)
    I think since RedHat has made a concerted effor to make their distro much more "desktop friendly" the whole Ximian desktop loses a bit of it's shine.

    I recall back when Ximian first started to come out with some slick looking stuff they were much nicer, asthetically speaking, than any linux distro out there. With Bluecurve and the maturation of Gnome 2.xx it seems the need for Ximaina is greatly diminished.

    By the looks of things here I see no need to upgrade from RedHat 9.0 with the exception of getting Evolution 1.4. (And actually if it's faster than the butt slow 1.2 version that would be a good upgrade, now that I think about it.)

  • by moreati (119629) <alex@moreati.org.uk> on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:31PM (#6109509) Homepage
    Quote: KDE has way more options (the clock properties dialog has five tabs!),
    Actually it has 6 in KDE version 3.1: General, Timezones, Plain Clock, Analogue Clock, Fuzzy Clock.
    For some reason I find that amusing. If you're going to drop some FUD, at least get your facts straight.
    I'm guessing 3.2 will have 12 or 24 depending on it's mode.
  • Just wondering... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ElGuapoGolf (600734) on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @04:31PM (#6109517) Homepage


    Just wondering, but has Ximian made a KDE version of their new industrial theme?

    Ya see, the beauty of the KDE/Gnome thing is that some KDE apps you can't live without, and some Gnome/GTK apps you can't live without. Gaim and K3b/Kmail spring to mind right off the bat.

    I like KDE themes like QTCurve and Keramik/Geramik because it makes the GTK/Gnome/KDE applications look the same. If using this Ximian desktop means that my KDE apps will look out of place, then it doesn't really seem that appealing.

    A theme like this seems like it'd be simple to do, so I'd be very curious to see if Ximian has really done a complete job of it.
  • by twener (603089)
    ... fonts of undefined quality and quantity, 3rd party plugins freely available (Adobe Acrobat Reader, Real Audio Player, Flash Player, Java run-time-environment), 30 days installation support and 1 year "high-speed" download (you could also use mirrors)? Or will you continue to use StarOffice, if it's still included for this price, if there is an integrated Ximian OOo? And for only 69$ more you could read your exchange mails. Pricy.
  • How it is possible that nobody yet asked if they again include their own file dialog different to Gnome vanilla's?
    • Mod parent up. Fantastic question. The standard Gnome file dialogs are good enough for geeks (tab completion, hell yeah) but are simply dreadful for standard users.
    • Re:File Dialog (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nat Friedman (31798) on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @05:55PM (#6110304) Homepage
      We don't have a fundamentally new file selection dialog, but we added some quickbuttons to the stock Gtk one that jump you to your desktop, documents or home directory. This makes it a bit easier to use.

      Owen Taylor is allegedly developing a new file manager in Gtk 2.4 that should be much easier to use, and that we expect to see adopted across GNOME very quickly.
      • Is Owen working on a new file manager, or file selection dialog?

        Replacing Nautilus will be kind of silly for you guys, won't it?

        -clee
      • My big complaint about the GNOME/Gtk file selection dialog is it looks almost exactly like the Motif file selection dialog, which I hate. I haven't heard a good reason for separating directories from files, and neither does the dialog explain to a new user just what a directory is, anyway. Add in a generic "folder" and "document" icon to each side of the dialog, and it will be a lot easier to use. Then remove the "./" entry, and replace "../" with something like "parent" or "up one folder", or get rid of
        • Re:File Dialog (Score:3, Informative)

          by Des Herriott (6508)
          Then remove the "./" entry

          Actually, the "./" entry isn't entirely useless (though it is very poor UI design... Motif has a lot to answer for!). Double-clicking on it rescans the current directory, which is useful on occasion - if you've dropped some new files in and want to open those with your app.

          Removing it, and replacing it with a "Refresh" button is what's needed.
  • OSX (Score:2, Interesting)

    by minus_273 (174041)
    With all due respect, I strongly disagree with what he says about OSX. I say this because it justy so happens i switched to OSX yesterday. Ive used Linux for years and used gnome, window maker and finallys ettled with kde 3.1. It was so annoying doing all of thw software updates all the time (new GLibc, new libpng, new qt aaagh!) that i swallowed my pride and looked into OSX.
    guess what? I got a G3 266 mhz 256 mb ram 4 gig hdd for $100 off ebay. hook that to my vga monitor with an adapter ($10) and get ja
    • sorry if this reads like flamebait to some. It is not. I am not trolling. I wrote it after reading the article becasue what is said there is false. OSX is not on expensive hardware only and OSX is the same cost as the Ximian connector. (academic) for k-8 schools IIRC it is free.

      My point is Dont dismiss OSX if you havent bothered using it. When you do, you realise what Linux should have been like.
      • Re:OSX (Score:3, Insightful)

        by elbobo (28495)
        Nat was talking about OS X in corporate environments.

        So whilst it sounds like you've managed to get a sweet setup for little cost, it doesn't really have much bearing on what Nat was saying or where Ximian is trying to go.

        And as an aside: Ximian quite neatly solve those software update issues you complain about, with their Red Carpet package manager.
    • I'm not sure if this is related, but I just discovered how easy it is to do X-forwarding with Apple's X11 Beta [apple.com], running all the graphical applications I wanted from my linux system, but using OS X as my desktop. I honestly feel that this is the best of both worlds. I understand that this is not a new technology, but I am so amazingly primitive that I still think it is a pretty neat idea.

      That way I can have an officially supported IM client, iChat. This is the real reason using Gaim was so frustrating fo

    • I couldn't agree more about OS X. After only a few hours of using the G4s in our department I was asking the technicians if the CCTV cameras were actually connected to anything, and if they would mind leaving the keys to the anti-theft locks lying around. For the record, yes they were, and the techs have first dibs on any Apple kit that goes 'missing'. Oh well.

      I think that the main problem is that the average /. reader (and probably OSS developer) has a different view of what a computer is for. They vi

    • Mac hardware is more expensive relative PC hardware. I'm sending this email on the low end iMac (800Mhz G4, 256M Memory), price $1300. My other computer is a P4 2.4Ghz, 768M memory that I paid ~$700 (no monitor) a year ago. The P4 is about a billion times faster and less expensive. If I want to import pictures from my digital camera, hook up my camcorder, or burn a dvd iMac is awesome. Most businesses, goverments, developers, and lots of schools IMO will be switching to the cheaper linux hardware (like
    • Re:OSX (Score:4, Insightful)

      by alienw (585907) <alienw.slashdot@gm a i l . c om> on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @09:42PM (#6111547)
      [rant]

      Sure, trade RPM dependency hell (which is really bullshit if you use a modern distribution) for the apple monopoly / shareware hell. Right. With macs and osx, you are forced to either shell out $30 to $100 to do _ANYTHING_ remotely useful, like encoding video, burning DVDs, or backing up your files, or pirate the abovementioned software. Sure, you can use free software, but then you have to mess with porting it and compiling it for PPC and OSX -- a major pain in the ass. That's pretty much the reason why I dumped Windows -- it's not stability or security. I'd say that XP is about as stable as OSX. Both are less stable than my Linux box.

      Also, the simple solution to your Linux problems would be to either use packages compiled for your distribution (which is rather simple with URPMI) or to download and compile the source or source RPMs. I don't think you've used linux "for years". More like a week. Anyone who used Linux even for a month would know that packages built for Suse won't work well on Mandrake, which is probably what you were trying to do.

      Besides, I would much rather use windows than go for vendor lock-in with apple. I thought people had enough of that with proprietary unix boxes. I have a severe problem with having to buy all my hardware and most of the software from one overpriced company that also actively prosecutes anyone selling compatible hardware. I don't know what planet Apple is living on, but a 1GHz machine with a small hard drive, outdated video card and hardly any RAM should not cost $1500 in this day and age.

      [/rant]
  • My little sister looked at This picture [osnews.com] and commented on how cute he was.

    Now I'm jealous. Nerds aren't supposed to be cute. :)
  • by alext (29323) on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @05:40PM (#6110173)
    Some interesting claims made for Mono:

    1. Mono can be the universal component hub, allowing you to use C objects from Python, C++ objects from Perl, and so on.

    We've certainly been here before. As has been pointed out on /. a number of times, ActiveX, CORBA, DCE etc. have all made claims like this and have met with limited success.

    First there is the inefficiency introduced by constantly translating data (where equivalents exist at all), second the impedance mismatch of languages with quite different call models.

    Yes, there's some capability here for scripting code written in low-level languages, but that's quite a different thing from claiming to provide universal, peer-level interoperability.

    Note that this isn't the same argument that says that bytecode level interworking is doomed - one is still limited to a rather C#-like subset of features, just as one is to a Java-like subset in a JVM.

    Nat goes on to give an example of how Mono is changing things:

    This is possible because C#'s language features make it trivial to automatically bind C# objects into other languages. Check out Python Scripting for .NET: http://www.zope.org/Members/Brian/PythonNet/FAQ.ht ml.

    OK, let's see what Brian thinks this new Python Dotnet is bringing to the table:

    " While a solution like Jython provides "two-way" interoperability, this package only provides "one-way" integration. Meaning, while Python can use types and services implemented in .NET, managed code cannot generally use classes implemented in Python.

    A Jython-like solution for .NET would certainly be doable and useful - but it would also be a lot more work than the current approach."


    Hardly a ringing endorsement of Mono here. Perhaps the last reference will be the proposition that we can't refuse?

    Nat says:

    There's also a Mono-based JavaScript compiler in the works (MS already has one, of course).

    Doesn't the Java world have one of those too? Yes, in fact, it's had one for five years. Rhino [mozilla.org] is a full Javascript compiler, interpreter and debugger, released by Netscape in April 98 and still developed under the Mozilla banner. Not some also-ran knock-off here, but something used in quite significant products such as the Resin web app server.

    So, draw your own conclusions about what real new capabilities Mono will bring to the OSS world.

    And don't forget that there is at least one company that will definitely gain from this all this free marketing and "innovation".
  • by Gyorg_Lavode (520114) on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @05:44PM (#6110209)
    Now will they include baysan filtering in evolution or will I be forced to use tricks to route the mail around in circles? If MSN and netzero can use spam filtering as a mainstay of their advertising and it makes a lot of big press here and is able to be integrated into mozilla, I think it would prove worthwhile to have it integrated in Evolution as well.
    • by bstadil (7110)
      If whatever you have is not good enough maybe do as I. I use POPFile [sourceforge.net] and then use the baysian filter inside Mozilla. PopFile has a feasture where you can hardcode recipient messages ID as Magnets, so you hardly ever have a false positive. I am running at 99+%. Truely excellent. PpFile takes 10 min or so to set-up. Training is a days or so.
    • Baysan filtering would be low on Ximian's priority list. Evolution is designed as an Outlook replacement. It's main features aside from e-mail, like calendaring and contact management and optional Exchange integration, reflect that it isn't targeted toward the home user but rather towards the corporate desktop. It makes more sense to do the spam filtering on the server side in the corporate setting - that way, if the user is roaming or using web access or whatever else the filters and forwarding still wo
    • I believe the plan was to use the 1.4 release as a way to shift to the Gnome 2 framework whilst maintaining feature parity with Evolution 1.2.

      So now that that's done, I guess the Evolution team will go into feature add mode again. Unless of course they're going to let Evolution sit for a while, and shift onto a new project.

      But yea, my vote would go towards baysian filtering too. I've been finding Spamassassin has been fallen behind in the spam war lately. Baysian filtering might be the answer.

      But to take
  • by dieman (4814) * on Tuesday June 03, 2003 @07:20PM (#6110823) Homepage
    Aside from multiple distribution support, is anyone taken aback about how many companies are essentially peddeling what an admin can do with apt-get/cfengine (with updates to cfengine configs via rsync/ssh) with Debian?

    I too support hundreds of machines, and I find my worst experience is making sure i've got a decent, up to date for bleeding edge kernel handy and a discover database to match it. Nevermind X. :) Since I follow woody and roll in some of my own updates alongside other users updates, its quite easy to have a 'modern' gnome2 system that has been updated against major security issues.

    Having a nice automatic installer (autoinstall, heavily hacked, ask for source if you care) and good remote mass administration tools are the two things that make my life easier.

    Be weary of supporting these companies, I just don't think they have many peoples best interests in mind if you have a clue handy. Ximian is supporting propretiary file formats (doc!) now, redhat is selling 2 year development cycles (wasn't that a debian complaint a ways back?), and many of them are only selling their 64-bit installers for nearly $1k a pop.

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