The third day of GUADEC was mostly devoted to lower level parts of the GNOME stack. There were talks on GTK+, CSS, Wayland, and WebKitGTK+, but also an annual general meeting of the GNOME Foundation.
The day started with Matthias Clasen’s talk on improvements in GTK+, especially in dialogs. Matthias demoed the changes for the whole time of the talk, switching between the code that was behind the dialogs and dialogs themselves. Matthias also showed how dialogs adapt to the environment they’re running in. GTK+ developers have been accused that they only care about GNOME, but they actually care about how GTK+ 3 apps look in other environments and good news for users of other desktop environments is that a lot has recently been done in this direction.
Benjamin Otte, who is the lead developer of GTK+, spent his talk showing CSS behavior and tricks in GTK+. He is the best person to talk on this topic because he wrote most of the 50,000 lines (his estimation) of CSS renderer in GTK+. The talk was especially interesting to those who make graphical interfaces in GTK+ 3. Benjamin also showcased GTK+ Inspector which helps you inspect GTK+ application and solve problems in the graphical interface. Previously called GTK Parasite, it was an independent project: but the GTK+ developers found it so useful that they decided to include it in the last version of GTK+ and call it GTK+ Inspector.
In the afternoon I attended “GNOME and Wayland” by Jasper St.Pierre. It was a difficult decision because there was a talk by Patrick Uiterwijk, a member of Fedora Infra, that I really wanted to attend, too. But I don’t regret the decision because Jasper’s talk was probably the most interesting talk of the day. He is also the best person to talk on this topic because he’s been working on the Wayland support in GNOME full-time in Red Hat for the last year. Jasper is apparently not a fan of X11 because he spent a significant part of his talk complaining about limitations and issues of X11. To demonstrate security issues of X11 he even wrote a keylogger, which he funnily called “RealPlayer 10.4 Special Deluxe Freemium Edition,” and showed the audience how easy it is to set up such a thing on X11.
He continued by saying that any sandboxing of desktop apps on the file system level is not really effective if the sandboxed app can access resources of someone else via X11. There is an implementation of access control in X11, but according to Jasper it is so complicated that you can’t really work with it.
Another problem he mentioned is that X11 can’t individually scale up windows of legacy apps on HiDPI screens. Window resizing has never been smooth on X11. Wayland solves that and Jasper demoed the difference. However, Jasper mentioned there are no performance benefits right now. Wayland has a lot of potential, but no one has worked on performance yet. But not everything is perfect with Wayland. The app isolation which significantly improves security also prevents apps from using features users are used to. For example you won’t be able to pick a color anywhere on the screen in color-dropper-picker in applications such as GIMP or Inkscape.
There are also problems with window decorations. According to Jasper, there were heated discussions in the community whether the better solution is client-side or server-side decorations. The founder of Wayland Kristian Høgsberg inclines to client-side decorations and that should be the way to go on Wayland. On the other hand, the lead developer of Kwin Martin Gräßlin is a big proponent of server-side decorations, so KDE will probably stick with them. Jasper says that the solution will be some hand-shaking protocol that will ensure that GNOME apps won’t get double decorations in KDE and KDE apps no decorations in GNOME. Server-side decorations will also stay in XWayland.
A nice break from technical talks was “Lessons learned as GNOME’s Executive Director” by Karen Sandler, who left the position a few months ago. She started her career as an attorney in stock and bond trading, but then she got an opportunity to work for Software Freedom Law Center. She decided to take the job in The GNOME Foundation because she was impressed by GNOME 3 and she thought it was the way to go.
She was the executive director for three years which may have been the bumpiest in the history of the project. The most important lessons she learned during the them were: formal community representation works, newcomers/enthusiasts matter a lot, messaging is important, and to keep our eyes on the ideological prize. She also proposed to have technical evangelist that would engage with potential users and find out what is stopping them from switching to GNOME.
In the Q&A part, someone asked what to do about the fact that negative news spread much faster than positive ones. As an example he mentioned that story about Linus Torvalds ditching GNOME which reached pretty much everyone while almost no one know that he returned to GNOME. To fight this, you need to focus on the positive messages.
On the third day, the second part of the annual general meeting (AGM) of The GNOME Foundation took place. First all newly elected directors were introduced: Jeff Fortin, Marina Zhurakhinskaya, Andrea Veri, Ekaterina Gerasimova, Sri Ramkrishna, Tobias Muller. The pants, the traditional prize was awarded to Alexandre Franke, the organizer of this year’s GUADEC.
The rest of the AGM was devoted to the financial situation of The GNOME Foundation. The situation was not very good early this year, but then they focused on the income part and worked on getting money from all sponsors who had promised sponsorship and the situation improved a lot since then although there is still a long way to an ideal financial health. Anyway, the situation wasn’t and isn’t so critical as some media described it. We were also shown a structure of income and expenses. Most of the Foundation’s expenses are on employees and most of the income comes from the advisory board fees.