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On Natty Narwhal

Posted by Eitan Tue, 03 May 2011 23:26:00 GMT

I don't get it.

Everyone's talking about how Ubuntu 11.04 is a radical departure from Gnome 2.x because of Unity.

I beg to differ.

Before Natty Narwhal, I was using Gnome-do. After having upgraded to Natty, I still am. I was using google-chrome and firefox, and today I still am. Gmail still looks the same. Gnome-terminal is the same old app. Gedit is the same old app. So are nautilus, and evolution. So are eclipse, git, etc..

As far as I can tell, what's different (aside from the usual version upgrades across the board) are:

  • the removal of the disfunctional menus in the gnome panel
  • the addition of that annoying dock on the left hand side.

Docks never worked. They don't work for apple either, where anyone with half a brain switched to quicksilver or a derivative thereof as soon as they were introduced.

Compiz is still there, but you're forced to use the 2d multi-desktop thing instead of the cube, which I liked better. I don't care enough about this to bother to customize compiz back to using the desktop cube effect. Interesting how this feature now much more resembles apple's tack on multiple desktops.

Two more differences:

  • Ubuntu also copied the 'move the menu out of the window' idea from apple, which I personally have always disliked.
  • Scrollbars widget and rendering are unique. I really like what Ubuntu did there. I love them miniscule scrollbar indicators.

My point is there's no significant difference to the way I work. Just minor tweaks to the UI I suppose, though I'm sure the amount of work to achieve these tweaks was monumental, which in my opinion indicates that the way desktops are designed today is overly complex.

Overall, I'm happy to see Ubuntu depart from the Gnome desktop. And I so very much appreciate how they've taken over the stewardship of maintaining and evolving the Linux desktop. Because the Linux desktop needed someone who cares like Ubuntu does. And I so look forward to the changes coming down the line: Wayland. Not that I know or understand much about X to start with. And looking back, I'm grateful to all the folks who worked on evolving the ext file system and gave us ext4. Ditto for grub and evolving the boot loader.

Ubuntu, and open-source community: thank you for everything you've done. I look forward to perhaps some day having a desktop that's designed simply and beautifully, one that's easy to customize and extend with my favorite language bindings.

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Open Your Eyes

Posted by Eitan Tue, 08 Feb 2011 04:06:00 GMT

Read this book.

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Paris Today

Posted by Eitan Mon, 15 Nov 2010 00:19:00 GMT

Recently I came across a very interesting web site about the state of Paris today. Apparently it's very risky for a Frenchman to make such information public. Anyhow, I thought this link merited a post.

Paris Today

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United Free Nations?

Posted by Eitan Mon, 15 Nov 2010 00:06:00 GMT

It occurred to me recently why countries that are not free are even eligible to be members of organizations such as the UN. You'd think there'd be some minimum criteria that a nation would have to meet: i.e. to be a democratic nation, to be a country where its people are free, where free speech is allowed for example.

Just the idea that membership is predicated upon a free society can go a long way. Instead we have this thing called the UN giving equal representation to countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, China, Libya, Sudan, Myanmar, and dozens of other countries ruled with an iron fist.

So here's my proposition: why don't democratic countries:

  1. withdraw from the UN
  2. get together and create a new organization, called UFN (United Free Nations) that promotes the interest of free nations and freedom?

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On Ubuntu without GNOME

Posted by Eitan Fri, 05 Nov 2010 01:55:00 GMT

The news that the next version of ubuntu (11.04) will come without GNOME is perhaps a week old now. I haven't really given it much thought. But an odd thought just occurred to me which I thought worthwhile sharing. So [as the Zohan says:] let's go!

Basically, Ubuntu has prided itself on having a whole variety of distributions, each with its own window manager: Ubuntu, Kubuntu (KDE), Xubuntu (XFCE), and a myriad of other, perhaps lesser known variants.

And so in light of this, it sounds very odd to me that they would make a decision to distribute ubuntu without GNOME. It's like extreme prejudice: "we'll carry every flavor of window manager but GNOME."

Of course it's not. And I'm sure there will be some side-distribution of Ubuntu with GNOME. My guess is that the intention is that the primary, most pushed, most advertised, most well-known distribution will have Unity, or whatever the replacement default window manager will be named.

I haven't seen Unity. I don't really own a netbook, but I digress. I definitely see their point of view. So clearly I know too little about the issues involved to say anymore on the topic.

Over and out.

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"On the advent of new technologies"..or perhaps.."Breaking new ground"

Posted by Eitan Wed, 19 Aug 2009 19:05:00 GMT

I remember around 2001 I was working on the user interface for a project (which I later open-sourced) for browsing javadocs that had been stuffed into a relational database. The UI was very advanced for its time, employing css, javascript and "dhtml" (as it was called in those days). I was quite satisfied with the end result, with one exception. The ui looked great. Most pages (for example a page presenting information about a class) were laid out as a tabbed pane. Most of the tabs were prepopulated with information from a single http query. But the last tab actually required a trip back to the server. It's a problem that bothered me, but that I didn't pursue a solution for. Had I done precisely that, I would have come to the conclusion that I needed an AJAX call, and would have likely started using and exploiting AJAX in user interfaces perhaps as early as 2001-2002. Instead, I just watched the phenomenon happen a few years later.

Separately, I recall when speaking on the NFJS conference circuit, developing a talk on CSS. At the time the state of things was not so rosy. This was before the days of the javascript frameworks. As I developed my materials, I'd created a site that I called the "CSS repertoire," (see http://u2d.com/css/ ) that exposed my thoughts and various UI design patterns that I'd collected. Most of those lessons I'd learned as early as 2001. In some of the essays on that site, I complained that the power of CSS selectors should be accessible from javascript, and should not be strictly the domain of styling; that it had broader applicability, and that it was a focal issue that needed to be addressed. I had little hope that the standards makers and browser makers would react to this need in a timely fashion (they have yet to do so), and believed that this gap should be filled by them. Again, rather than tackle the problem, I sat back and watched how others addressed this problem directly in javascript frameworks such as jquery, which today fill that gap.

What's the moral of the story, perhaps besides the fact that I'm a lazy bastard? Well, I think I can draw a number of related points here:

  1. innovation comes out of tackling the problems one confronts when one comes up against an obstacle, something that the current technology does not address; these may be "last-mile" problems, not essential to the success of the project at hand;
  2. one must be involved actively in projects and building the systems of today. it is out of this work that today's problems are identified, and present a path for building the technologies of tomorrow;
  3. don't leave well-enough alone: one must have that sort of mind that's obsessed with perfection: "Yes, the system works well enough, but observe this flaw here. Why is this solution not satisfactory? What's the root problem? Why don't we have a solution for it? What's the required solution?" and finally.."Let's go for it!"

As a related example, I recall watching the now famous google wave video that came out of the google i/o conference 2009. This innovation precisely came out of this tenet of "don't leave well-enough alone." GMail is great. But they realized that it could be done better. They identified aspects of GMail such as modeling discussion threads, and asked themselves some very important questions, but mainly: "Can it be done better? Is there a simpler or more elegant solution?" etc.. And what they came up with and presented at google i/o did not disappoint.

I believe that there still remain many stones that have not been "turned over," so to speak; many opportunities for improving the state of the art in business applications development. What will I or you do differently this time to not become just a witness to the phenomenon, but to play an active role in making it happen?

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An addition to the ubuntu family..

Posted by Eitan Thu, 15 Mar 2007 03:36:00 GMT

Thought I'd share this adorable picture of my little one..

Ezra Ubuntu

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Desktop Matters: March 8-9!

Posted by Eitan Thu, 01 Feb 2007 15:27:00 GMT

Desktop Matters Conference Banner

I'm excited about the upcoming Desktop Matters conference. The last couple of years have seen many topic-focused conferences, including ones on AJAX, Web2.0, and Rails.

And so it's time we've had a conference focus on Java Swing and related Desktop Client technologies.

I'm grateful to Jay Zimmerman and Ben Galbraith for making this event happen.

And.. I can't wait for the chance to speak on the project that is dearest to my heart: JMatter. I hope to see you there.

/ Eitan

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gwt: initial [raw] thoughts..

Posted by Eitan Thu, 18 May 2006 01:16:00 GMT

so google finally shows its cards. they've recently announced gwt: the google web toolkit.

before i get going let me first say that i think it is wonderfully cool for a company like google to work out and develop a solution for the web stack, and then to turn around and open source it; i.e. to make it freely available for anyone to use.

ok, let's get going.

i find gwt very interesting, to say the least.

[a] it's simple. i was able to read their documentation and understand how to go about building web apps with gwt in very little time. +1.

i really think it's too early for many of us to realize exactly what gwt brings to the table and what implications this is going to have on the way we build web apps.

[b] i'm pleasantly surprised to see this solution leverage java.

i'm also surprised to see a solution that provides a way to build ajax applications without getting one's hands dirty with html and javascript. it's somewhat ominous. what does this say about the future of writing web apps?

implications? here's a quick brainstorm:

  1. the end of markup? is the swing metaphor for putting together an app winning over the markup metaphor?
  2. validates the approach of frameworks such as echo

here's a bigger one:

what does this do to struts and the other umpteen mvc java web frameworks out there? is gwt the death of the mvc java web framework era?

what does this do to spring?


  • it's nice to see that some of the great features introduced by RoR are being used / adopted by other frameworks. i'm referring to gwt's scripts projectCreator and applicationCreator

i think gwt is terribly cool. its introduction is a terrific step forward.

stop for a moment and contrast the approach taken by google vs, for example, yui by yahoo. yui is very good. it doesn't attempt to tackle the whole ball of wax. it does ajax and has really no dependencies on any other parts of the stack.

google's solution is a much much much more involved one. they build a java to javascript compiler (!!!) to make this work. they've got a customized mozilla web browser for testing this thing. yet, the solution remains simple, from the point of view of the developer who has to construct a web app.

what a testament to css: of all the technologies that gwt swallows, css remains intact.

the introduction of gwt is the first step.

here's what i think the next step should be:

  • provide a rich set/variety of widgets
  • ensure that the mechanism for writing widgets for gwt is as simple as it can be, and standard. urge the community to contribute widgets, panels, and more. gwt can quickly grow into an ecosystem; its own platform.

i also have my ideas on subsequent steps but i'll reserve those for another time.

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NFJS Anthology '06

Posted by Eitan Wed, 17 May 2006 23:45:00 GMT

Pre-ordering for The NFJS Anthology has begun!

This title is unique in a number of ways. For one, roughly a dozen of us have contributed to its creation. The various authors have something special in common: we're all speakers on the terrific "No Fluff Just Stuff" series of conferences on Java and related technologies. We're also all coders, practicioners of our trade.

In another respect, this book is unique in that the articles it contains reflect in book form the flavor of the NFJS symposia.

Check it out! >>> no fluff just stuff 2006 anthology

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