A car short

We’ve been a car short for about a year now. Frank’s been doing his 60 mile roundtrip commute in our F350 diesel truck which is just bad. Bad for the environment, bad for our budget, bad for parking. Just not good. I, on the other hand, am driving my 1998 Pontiac convertible which I love but which really doesn’t fit anyone over 2 years old very well in the back seat. (I still make our 10 year old and 4 year old sit back there though. And every time they think about complaining, I remind them of the cars I used to sit in. Imagine 6,000 miles each summer in a VW bug with 5 people!)

But, eventually, we should buy a new car if only so Frank can get better gas mileage on his commute. (And yes, I know, I could drive the truck and let him take my car but have you ever tried to park an F350 in a crowded parking lot?)

But the main thing that keeps me from buying a new car is I don’t know which car I want. And I have to sit in them to decide. Internet research just isn’t enough. I want to sit in it. And eventually I suppose I’ll want to drive the last couple of contenders. So today we decided to go sit in a couple. So in a couple of months, or 6 to 12, when we finally decide to buy one, we’ll know what we want.

Only today is the last business day of the month for car salesmen. That is a terrible, terrible day to go see a car.

Keep in mind that all I wanted to do was sit in the car. To me the most important thing after gas mileage and price is “how comfortable is the car?” I already knew all the info about the car. And if I didn’t, I had my phone to look it up on.

The guys at the first dealership totally ignored everything I said. We said it was my car – they talked to Frank. I said I didn’t want a 4WD car – they went on and on about the benefits of the 4WD Jeep they’d just gotten that day. I said I wanted something that fit Frank’s shoulders – they took forever to let us try sitting in each car so we could eliminate it quickly. We left.

The guy at the second dealership was Russian who apologized for his accent – which was funny. I actually liked him. But he kept going on and on about each car. And I already knew all the info about each car. I just wanted to sit in it! And he showed us a car that reeked of smoke. And a car that didn’t fit Frank’s shoulders at all. But eventually he seemed to get the hang of what we wanted to do. And he gave our 4 year old a ride in the golf car which made his day.

Car dealers want to sell cars on the last day of the month.

So, moral of the story, if you just want to sit in cars to see what they are like, don’t go on the last day of the month.

Book Review: Food Rules

Food Rules by Michael Pollen is a good summary of many of his other books. It’s a set of 63 rules with a bit of explanation per rule. If you’ve never read any of his books, I’d probably recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but if you’ve already read one or if you are just looking for a shorter read, Food Rules was good.

Some of the rules I liked were:

  • If you aren’t willing to eat an apple, you’re not hungry.
  • Eat no food whose ingredients you wouldn’t have at home.
  • Snacks should be unprocessed plant foods.

(Not that I am currently following any of these rules!)

I also liked these reminders:

  • Eat until not hungry, not until full.
  • Put your fork down between bites.
  • Use smaller plates and glasses.
  • Eat at the table, and only eat when you are eating.
  • Cook your own junk food. (How often would you eat french fries if you had to cook them?)

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual was an entertaining and thoughtful read. It didn’t feel worth buying to me because it was so short so I’d recommend checking it out of the library. I got my copy through Paperbackswap and have already sent it on to somebody else.

What’s next in GNOME’s future?

The thoughts and ideas in this post are mine and not necessarily representative of what the GNOME Foundation thinks or plans to do.

Canonical will be shipping Unity as the default desktop for Ubuntu 11.04. It’ll still be GNOME technologies underneath, GNOME applications will run on it and it’s still optimized for GNOME, but it won’t be the GNOME shell. Not the traditional GNOME shell that we all know and love nor the new GNOME Shell coming out in GNOME 3.0.

Disappointing News

Many developers were really disappointed to hear that Unity will be the default shell on Ubuntu. Some are disappointed because they don’t like Unity. Others are disappointed because they feel like Canonical is doing its own thing instead of working with the greater GNOME community to reach a compromise that works for all.

I understand. We’ve put a lot of work into GNOME Shell, our next big thing, and Canonical is saying that it’s not the best thing for their users. It’s disappointing because we are excited about our new plans and expect lots of users to enjoy them. And we rely on our distribution partners to get GNOME into the hands of users, so we were expecting Canonical to help us in that. We also expected Canonical to push for any different user interfaces they wanted within our community, not to design them and announce them independently. In a sense it feels like a child who’s decided to move out of the house. We thought they were going to stay with us forever and listen to our wisdom and instead they’ve told us they’ve learned from us, they like some of what we are doing and they have grand plans for the future. They plan to use some of what we work on (like kids come home for some holidays) but they plan to do their own thing too. Perhaps they’ll make mistakes that have been made before or perhaps they’ll do something grand.

Trying New Alternatives

The beauty of open source software is that they can decide to try something new, without convincing all of us to do it too. And they aren’t forking the project. They’ll still be using a lot of GNOME technologies – the same ones we are using – with just a different shell on top.

In a way, it’s not all that different from what Moblin and Maemo did. They used GNOME technologies with a different shell. We were ok with that because they were expanding into new markets – netbooks and tablets – and because it didn’t seem like a step away from GNOME but a step forward with GNOME. Canonical’s move with Unity is similar. Except that they aren’t starting from scratch, they are moving from a traditional GNOME desktop to Unity. So we feel the change more.

Changing Open Source Ecosystem

I’d also say we are seeing a change in the open source ecosystem here.

On one hand, we are getting more companies joining us that know very little about open source or who have interacted very little with open source communities – device manufacturers for example. We have been actively working on how best to get them involved in the our community in order to improve our project and in order to ensure that they have a good experience with open source software. We want to be sure that they use it in a way that doesn’t require them to do lots of rework every time we update our product.

On the other hand, we have companies that have been using open source for a long time and are developing their own ideas for what works. We aren’t always going to agree with them. For example, Canonical believes copyright assignments will benefit open source software. The GNOME community feels copyright assignments are potentially detrimental to free software projects. But while we don’t agree, we need to find a way to best work together.

What’s next?

Canonical has a lot of work to do, but I assume they know that and I won’t presume to tell them how to do it other than to encourage them to continue to work with us on the GNOME technologies they use. I do wish them the best of luck. As one of GNOME’s partners and as a company that gets open source software into the hands of users, I hope they succeed.

In GNOME’s case, I think we need to understand what companies are looking for from us and how we want to position and brand ourselves.

What do we call projects that use GNOME technologies but aren’t a GNOME desktop? What if it’s a device that has no screen? Or a small device like a smartphone? Or a full desktop distribution? Do we want them to be GNOME branded? If so, how do we want them to be GNOME branded?

What do we want to focus on? Awesome technologies that can be used and pieced together independently? Or an awesome desktop that solves a particular problem? Or a set of user interfaces that solves a set of problems? Right now I think we are working on one awesome desktop that we hope solves lots of problems. But it’s unlikely that one desktop is going to work for a huge set of diverse people. For example you might have a developer with two 24″ screens or a student with an 8″ netbook or a mom with her smartphone. Either GNOME needs to develop solutions for all of those or they need to enable others to do so. And we need to figure out what that means for the project and how we want to brand ourselves.

We also need to continue to work on better integration between the desktop and the web. While both GNOME Shell and Unity say they are addressing the way people work today with the web, there’s still a huge gap between the applications I run on the web and the ones I run on my desktop. They don’t seemlessly integrate. Email is the best example of how things could work. Most web email services and most desktop email clients integrate very well these days. But calendars, contacts, banking systems, recipe management systems, etc. all have a ways to go.

We are doing the groundwork to enable that integration between the desktop and the web in projects like GNOME Shell and WebKitGTK+ and many other projects. There’s still work to be done to maximize the entire user flow including the 7 applications they have open on their desktop and the 15 tabs the currently have open in their browser. Fortunately we have many smart people working on it.

Over 106 companies have contributed to GNOME and over 3500 individuals have made contributions. While we may have lost a distribution channel for GNOME Shell, Canonical will still be using and building with many GNOME technologies and working with the GNOME Foundation. And we still have all of our substantial technical resources working on GNOME Shell and other GNOME technologies.

Time, and our strategy, will determine what the free and open source software user interfaces of the future look like.

Stormy’s Update: October 4, 2010

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation?

I interviewed the final candidates for the system administration position, we made an offer and … welcomed Christer Edwards as our new system administrator! He’s already done great work in just the past couple of weeks. Thanks to our interviewers Jonathan Blandford, Bradley Kuhn and Brad Taylor and a special thanks to Paul Cutler for putting it all together.

Kicked off some work with InitMarketing to do some of the template presentations for GNOME folks to use when presenting about GNOME.

Attended a few of the GNOME a11y meetings. Had conversations about GNOME a11y with the team, the FSF and others. There’s lots of good stuff happening there and people are working out how best to get things done and collaborate across projects and organizations. I wish I was at the GNOME a11y hackfest at AEGIS this week! (Speaking of which I feel terrible that Bryen Yunashko got robbed in Barcelona before his trip even really started. Terrible because I feel like Barcelona is my home town and crime has been climbing as fast as unemployment and I didn’t warn him. And terrible because his computer and his camera are part of the way Bryen communicates with the world and now he’s on a two week trip without them. If you’d like to help Bryen get set back up again, there’s a Pledgie campaign where you can donate.)

Had a GNOME advisory board meeting where we updated them on all the things going on and asked them for feedback. We had discussions about hackfests and events (including plans for the Desktop Summit 2011), the Outreach Program for Women, 2011 budget planning and GNOME a11y. The advisory board meets once a month; let me know if you have suggestions for meeting topics.

Talked to a CiviCRM contracting company about getting some of the integration and customizations done that we need, like integrating it with Paypal and Friends of GNOME. If there are any CiviCRM experts in the GNOME community, let me know!

Met with Peter Brown from the FSF and Brian Cameron from the GNOME Board of Directors to discuss areas where we might collaborate, like accessibility.

Put together the Free and Open Source Software booth for Grace Hopper with lots of help from these awesome women and all the organizations (Canonical, Red Hat, Novell, FSF, GNOME and Oracle) that sent us goodies to hand out. And thanks to the Grace Hopper folks who gave us the booth space!

Free and Open Source Software Booth at Grace Hopper. Sitting: Leslie Hawthorn, Amber Graner, Deb Nicholson. Standing: Stormy Peters, Selena Decklemann, Cat Allman, Terri Oda, Carol Smith, Corey Latislaw.

We handed out 180 fliers about the GNOME Outreach Program for Women program too. I also helped out with the Open Source Track and that was a great success finishing with a Sahana codeathon. Thanks to Jennifer Redman for making the track and the codeathon happen. Thanks to the NSA for sponsoring it!

Both the attendees and the conference speakers at GHC were all extremely motivating. I got to meet with lots of interesting people including Heidi Ellis whose class is working on Caribou as part of GNOME’s a11y and HFOSS program.

Kept up to date on the Desktop Summit 2011 planning. A big thanks to Andreas Nilsson, Dave Neary, Reinout van Schouwen, Kat Gerasimova and others for representing GNOME at the Desktop Summit 2011 planning meeting.

Sent out the notice about the 2010 Q2 Quarterly Report. (It was published in August.) Thanks to all the teams that are already sending out a call for the Q3 report!

Reviewed the GNOME 2.32 release notes. Thanks to Paul Cutler for keeping the release notes going! He could use help with writing and with screen shots.

Put together email and website for launching the GNOME Ambassador program. Need to launch it now!

Announced that the GNOME Foundation and LWN will be giving an LWN.net subscription to all Friends of GNOME subscribers! Thanks, LWN! Sent out a call for people to help with our end of the year subscriber campaign.

Exchanged a few emails with women who applied to the GNOME Outreach Program for Women that are interested in marketing. Thanks to Marina Zhurakhinskaya for answering all the rest of the mails (even a few difficult ones) and making the whole program happen!

Met with Phil Robb from HP. Talked about Palm, GNOME and Accessibility.

Worked with the marketing team on a GNOME ad for Linux 92. Thanks to Joey Ferwerda and Máirín Duffy.

Funding.

  • Cat Allman gave me the good news at Grace Hopper that Google has some funding for the GNOME Outreach Program for Women!
  • Mozilla is funding the Snowy hackfest! Snowy is the server side of Tomboy Online.
  • Working with several organizations on some funding for a11y. Worked with Joanie on a write-up of goals.

Pinged a lot of people about a lot of things. Extremely grateful to the GNOME community for all the hard work they do!

There are still wild animals out there

The elk in Rocky Mountain National Park have gotten used to people. But they are still wild animals and these people seem to have forgotten that.

In spite of all the signs and warnings not to approach these 400+ pound animals …

Perhaps the tracking collar was confusing?

Maybe she thought all animals are domesticated like cows and horses?

This 400 pound doe kicked right before she took off. If the girl had been any closer she would have gotten kicked.

Maybe she would have respected this guy more. (Not that both aren’t equally dangerous to curious tourists!)

It did give us a chance to discuss wild animals with our 4 year old who wanted to know why he couldn’t go out there too … Unfortunately, he came to the conclusion that the only way you can pet an elk is if you shoot it. I’m not exactly sure that’s the conclusion I wanted him to come to …

The most beautiful place on Earth

In case there’s any doubt we live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth …

(We live about an hour’s drive from this particular spot in Rocky Mountain National Park.)