There's been a lot of hype in the past few months about new developments within the GNOME community -- most of which saw the light of day this past week at GUADEC, the GNOME Users and Developers European Conference held in Paris, France. GUADEC was a rare opportunity for GNOME's widely scattered group of developers to listen to talks by GNOME's core group of developers, to meet one another in person for the first time and, of course, to hack.
Held at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications (ENST) and organized by Mathieu Lacage, GUADEC was the first time in three years that GNOME's core developers have been in the same place, at the same time.
The conference gave developers an opportunity to talk to the masses about what they've been working on, and about where GNOME is headed this year. GUADEC, as its name implies, just wasn't for developers, though that seemed to be the primary audience during the three-day event. The primary thrust of the conference was how to make GNOME (and for that matter, Linux) more usable -- whether it was the GNOME Desktop in general, or updates or new applications on the horizon, the conference had something for everyone.
Thursday consisted of concurrent talks on:
- Bonobo, GNOME's upcoming component architecture
- Language bindings for GNOME, including Python, Perl, Ada, Scheme, and C++
- Gnumeric, an Excel-compatible spreadsheet application developed by the GNOME Project
- gnome-print, GNOME's print preview widget
Just to name a few.
Since some of these discussions were concurrent, I was only able to choose a couple to sit in on. I did try to get into the room for the Gnumeric talk, but the room was SRO and there was a line out the door trying desperately to listen to what was being said. With any luck, the presentations will be posted on the GUADEC site so we can all see what we missed (take that as a hint).
New Releases Scheduled
Friday morning started out with a four or five hour hacking session, where developers teamed up and worked together on various projects and shared ideas. This was a great opportunity to learn more about what people have been working on in the wings. Following that, most broke for lunch while others prepared for an afternoon of project announcements and update reports for GNOME.
GNOME's founder, Miguel de Icaza (now of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Helix Code), announced three new releases of GNOME this year:
- April GNOME
- August GNOME
- November GNOME
(Miguel doesn't like to issue version numbers; instead, he opts to name them after the month in which they are released, hence last Fall's October GNOME.)
Here's a brief rundown of what we can expect to see in these releases:
- April GNOME
This new core for GNOME includes minor enhancements and bug fixes. This release will also add
gdk-pixbuflibrary as a stable element of the GNOME 1.0 desktop (
imlibas GNOME's image library).
- August GNOME
New applications and improvements to existing applications will hit the desktop. Users can expect to see an improved Control Center and an improved UI, thanks to the developers at Eazel. Eazel has been working on a project called Nautilus, which will replace GMC (GNU Midnight Commander) as the filemanager (read more about Nautilus below). Another addition to August GNOME will be a new groupware suite called Evolution. Other additions or improvements will include:
- GTK--. A C++ interface for GTK+ that also covers the Gnome libs (with Gnome--).
- Bonobo and OAF. Bonobo is a CORBA-based system for object linking and embedding; OAF is GNOME's Object Activation Framework.
- GNOME-VFS. GNOME's virtual filesystem library that provides asynchronous file I/O and transparent support for remote file access.
- GtkHTML. A library set which allows quick formatting and display of text, HTML, images, and other simple data types.
- gnome-print. An update for GNOME's printing architecture/interface.
- November GNOME
The November GNOME release will usher in the next generation of the GNOME 2.0 Desktop. Major components that will be added to November GNOME include GTK 1.4 (which may be released as version 2.0), Pango, as well as new GTK libraries and
gnome-libs. (See below for more about Pango.)
For additional information, or to follow GNOME's evolution, check out the GNOME Roadmap on the GNOME Developers site.
Helix Code also released Preview One of Helix GNOME, a version of the GNOME Desktop. The CD (which was handed out with "beanie" bonobo's bearing T-shirts with the Helix Code logo), includes the most recent version of the GNOME desktop from the CVS source tree, and GNOME-based apps, including the latest version of Gnumeric, a diagram drawing application called Dia, and a beta release of Evolution, think groupware user tools for Linux.
Soon after acquiring an adapter for my laptop (which for me was an entertaining experience as a monolingual, typical American), I sat down to install Helix GNOME. The disc contains over 80 packages including applications, developer tools, and source code, which you can pick and choose from in a graphical install (which of course means your box needs to be running X). The pre-release of Helix GNOME supports the following distributions:
- Red Hat 6.0 and 6.1
- Linux Mandrake 6.1 and 7.0
- SuSE Linux 6.3
- Caldera OpenLinux 2.3
- LinuxPPC 2000
One thing that I noticed while installing Helix GNOME was the option to install the desktop from either the CD or from files on Helix Code's FTP site. This, of course, got the gears turning, so when I rebooted Linux, I tried to see if there was some sort of update feature available from the GNOME Panel, and sure enough, it was there. The Helix GNOME Updater allows you to download and install packages over the Internet. When logged in as root, go to the GNOME Panel and follow the path
System > Helix GNOME Update. You'll see a window to download packages from one of six sites:
- Helix Code, Inc. (Boston, MA USA)
- Eazel, Inc. (Palo Alto, CA USA)
- RPM find (Cambridge, MA USA)
- teichman.org (Durham, NC USA)
- ENEP Iztacala (UNAM) (Mexico City, Mexico; Miguel's old stomping ground)
- SunSITE Denmark (Aalborg, Denmark)
Next, you'll see a window giving you options to download and install "Essential," "Suggested," and "Minor" Updates for GNOME. Just select the packages you want or need and they'll be downloaded and installed from the site you've selected -- it's that easy.
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