Why free software shouldn’t depend on Richard M. Stallman’s advice

There’s been a long running rant about how using Mono is um, bad. But I just don’t get it. Now we have Richard M. Stallman coming out against Mono and C# with an argument that sounds kinda like “we shouldn’t use it just because we shouldn’t.” Hmm, Ok. [ok, that is way too much of an over simplification and taking some things out of context. However, I’m still not sure what’s bad: C#, Mono, or both?]

The odd thing about the post if that it focuses on C#, but none of the other languages that the the Mono CLR supports. Second, he goes on to state that “If we lose the use of C#, we will lose them [the applications] too.” Given that C# is an ECMA standard (as is the CLR itself), I think the conerns about not being able use C# are unwarrented. If we have to worry that the ECMA would allow Microsoft to pull rank on C#, then web developers should be rethinking thier use of JavaScript.

But the wierd thing is that Stallman doesn’t make the same point about any other langauage that the Mono CLR supports. For example, if Tomboy were written in the Boo programming language but remain on the Mono CLR, would evertyhing be ok? Why is there such a profound hatred of C# and not other lanagues supported by the CLR? Why not come out against the use CIL? Or is Stallman just not making his point clear enough?

As somone who uses Ubuntu 9.0.4 on a daily basis, I can apprciate what Mono has to offer from an end user perspecitive. I’m a HUGE fan of GnomeDo, which has turned out to be a better implementation of Quicksilver than Quicksilver. Then of course there’s Banshee, which is blosoming into an excellent media player. And also there F-Spot for photo management. I could go on, but the point is here that there are a lot of really great applications for GNOME that happen to be built on Mono.

Overall, I find that the post is weak on sound technical and legal arguments and high as a kite on FUD. Where’s the meat? Specifically, what can Microsoft go after that’s not GNOME if people start rewriting Mono applications in C++? Jo Shields has a lengthy, but excellent, post called Why Mono Doesn’t Suck. Jo’s post makes a lot of really good points about Mono if you don’t have a short attention span.

In the end, i think that a Mono is ultimately a good thing for Linux on the desktop. Anything that gives developers better productivity, and choice is a good. Part of being free is being able to make a choice: we should be free to choose whether or not we actually want to use applications developed with Mono.

Why free software shouldn’t depend on Richard M. Stallman’s advice

MAPI Support in Evolution is Far From Stable

For the past two weeks, I’ve been enjoying 64-bit Ubuntu 9.04 on my HP 8530w. It’s very fast, and ext4 is helps considerably with boot times. Overall, I find this release to be pretty good. But, there’s one item that irks me to no end and that is the much touted “MAPI” support for Evolution.

For starters, the MAPI support is not installed by default, but it’s a post-install add-on. No big deal really, but it is misleading to say that it’s included in the release when it’s actually just in the repos. Next up is that fact that it simply doesn’t work. In fact, the Evolution-MAPI plugin is alpha quality at best. For starters, just setting up an account is busted. Each time I’d go to authenticate, Evolution would simply crash. Then I found this post which suggested using the IP address instead of the host name, which actaully worked.

When Evolution connects to the Exchange server, the initial load is PAINFULLY slow. The other thing is that folder structure is weird as well. In my case, my inbox was buried under 4 other sub-folders. The good news is that I can see email, with caveats. For example, replies or forwards are not prefixed with “re:” or “fw:”, even if they were in Outlook. Second, any meeting request acceptance or decline doesn’t get prefixed with “accepted:” or “decline:”, you just see the subject of the original meeting request. Which brings me to calendar and contacts. While I can see my calendars, they don’t get translated into my local time zone. This is kind of a problem. Contacts kinda work. I can see some of them, but for the most part, Evolution crashes before I can successfully select a contact.

Yeah, I know I should probably file some bugs. But be advised that if you’re upgrading to 9.04 to gain Exchange 2007 support, this isn’t the release you want. Here’s to hoping that things improve significantly in Karmic Koala.

MAPI Support in Evolution is Far From Stable

The GIMPs New UI Overhaul Could Prove Useful

I ran across this post on Digg about how the folks who make GIMP are considering a revamp to the GIMP UI. I for one, think this is a positive direction for the application and it probably help build a stronger user base going forward. The current GIMP UI suffers from the same quirks that the NetBeans 3 series UI suffered from: it tried behave in an application-centric fashion like the Mac, but did this on a window-centric OS like Windows or GNOME.

On the Mac, applications like Photoshop and Quark XPress can have their tool bars floating around the screen along with the active document. If you are running other applications, you can still peek through to see the applications running the background. When an application is in the foreground, it will present it’s menu options in the global menu bar. Now when you try and to the same thing in an OS without a global menu bar, it kind of sucks. In the case of NetBeans, your main menu bar was attached to the code editor while the “pallet” windows would be menu-less. So on OS’s like Windows, each tool pallet was it’s own window, thus making increasing the number of tasks in the task bar, etc. It was also possible to alt-tab to the code editor and lose sight of your tool pallets. It was very annoying and one of the reasons I became an Eclipse fan.

Gimp makes takes NetBeans old problem to another level: the main tool pallet and the active windows both have menubars. And like NetBeans 3, you’re tool pallets are also windows. Have a look at this screen shot on Windows to get a better idea what I am talking about. Under GNOME things are as bad, but it’s still visually confusing. Even slightly more confusing, the tool pallet is actually your main window (you start there) and not the document window. Applications like Photoshop and PhotoPaint handle the tool organization a lot better on Windows.

As of version 4, NetBeans made a decision to to try a single-window interface. The UI has been substantially cleaned up and usability greatly improved. Now it looks like the GIMP team is trying a similar idea and by all appearance, it looks pretty damn good. I am eagerly looking forward to see what develops.

The GIMPs New UI Overhaul Could Prove Useful