• February 22, 2006
  • Brian Tarricone

Happy Birthday to the Legend of Zelda video game series, which turns 20 today. This was the first game I played on my NES, probably close to 20 years ago, and it was (at the time) seriously the coolest thing in the entire world. Most of my future Nintendo console purchases since then have been motivated in part by the ability to play future Zelda titles.

My old best friend from NJ, Mike, and I really bonded over Nintendo games back then. We used to play for hours at each other's houses, and went totally nuts when the Super Nintendo came out. Ah, nostalgia.

Awesome games: I salute you.


  • February 16, 2006
  • Brian Tarricone

Awesome. Apparently Xfmedia can break the kernel. Seriously, I consider that a major accomplishment.

Really, though, looks like a kernel bug.


  • February 15, 2006
  • Brian Tarricone

Some (single) people try hard to avoid Valentine's Day. My strategy: fly to Taiwan the afternoon beforehand, thus shrinking it down to only 8 hours long (kinda).

Misinformed Users

  • February 12, 2006
  • Brian Tarricone

A week or so ago I wrote about good users. I suppose it's only natural that now I feel the need to rant about bad users. Well, not even that bad in this case. Just misinformed. There was a post to xfce4-dev today by one of these misinformed users. My first instinct is to reply to this person to the list, but really, it's just noise that people don't need to see unless they want to read it. So I'll "reply" here. I assume that if you're here, you want to read it, or have the intelligence and ability to skip over things you don't want to read without complaining like a baby.

Some background: Xubuntu is an Ubuntu-based project with Xfce as its bundled default desktop environment. As of this writing, it's in a semi-early development stage, and one of the developers is constantly bugging us about when the current 4.4 development tree of Xfce is/will be stable. The email I'm talking about was written by some random user in support of this effort. Here goes.

Yeah but let's face is, (x)ubuntu isn't really exposure you wanna turn down.

Why not? It's not really our choice. If someone wants to do something with Xfce, good for them. That's what it's there for, and one of the many reasons why OSS is great. I dislike the insinuation that we're somehow doing Xfce a disservice by not bending over backwards in the name of some ill-defined "exposure".

This could be a turning point for XFCE.

From what to what? A minority desktop environment with a reasonably-sized, loyal following into... a minority desktop environment with a reasonably-sized, loyal following?

(Actually, this kind of user base increase can only increase the "reasonably-sized" figure, while decreasing the "loyal" figure and not doing much for the "minority" status. Yay?)

Xubuntu is almost as good as Ubuntu at the moment. I myself run a hybrid of GNOME services (keyring, vfs, session manager, all that crap) and XFCE (xfwm, xfdesktop, xfce-panel, iconbox). It has all the "it just works" of Ubuntu/GNOME with power-user features, such as a 21st century window manager.

... which is good to hear. Xfce is designed with this modularity in mind.

But I wouldn't have ever, EVER even thought of trying out XFCE if I hadn't been able to run "sudo aptitude install xubuntu-desktop".

That's a shame, but that's really not my concern. In fact, I worry when I start getting users who don't know anything beyond their package manager. In my experience, these users are more likely to become an annoying support burden and time sink.

I continue to wonder why so many people seem to think that exposure, fame, and a large user base is the only reason (or even the main reason) people write OSS. Personally, I work on Xfce because I enjoy it. Having someone nag me about release dates and constantly asking "is this particular version X stable enough for Y" just reduces that enjoyment. I don't like to be hassled. If people use and like Xfce, that's great. But I'm content to just work on something that I enjoy. I suppose I will really be in the right place when I learn to do what I like and ignore all the extraneous crap I don't like (a huge benefit of working on OSS without getting paid for it, IMHO). I guess I'm too much of a drama queen for that at this point, though.

I don't really mean to pick on this guy specifically. Sometimes a post like this sets me off. And I just woke up and I'm slightly cranky.

Disclaimer: I of course only speak for myself and my own motivations.

Helpful Users Redux

  • February 5, 2006
  • Erik

I want to go into detail about one of Brian’s points. I don’t think that most users understand how much that they can improve Xfce even if they can’t code.

Documentation has to be written, bugzilla has to be managed, user questions have to be answered. I thnk that many people get the impression that by writing documentation they’re not really helping. After all, no one uses the docs, and they’re not taking the load off of anyone.

Totally not the case! If the docs were well written and up to date, then people wouldn’t ask so many silly questions. Devs do write docs, and it eats up time – time better spent fixing that segfault. So if you want Xfce not to crash, and you can’t program, the best bet is to write good docs so that we can do the job.

And people will praise you and love you forever. I certainly will. And if you are good enough, maybe the good docs will become one of the selling points of Xfce. There are projects out there who has the extensive availability of documentation as one of its selling points (Linux distros for example, whose use of man pages blows the mind of many a former Windows user).

Want us to fix your pet bug? Help us keep bugzilla clean! Have a killer feature you’d like to see? Stay active in the mailing lists answering questions! If you are good at your self appointed job, then it doesn’t take much till your part of the team – and isn’t that what you really want?

Good little boys and girls might even get a shiny @xfce.org email address . . .

Good Users

  • February 5, 2006
  • Brian Tarricone

It's just really nice to get an occasional respite from the annoying clueless people in #xfce. Very often I ask myself why I even idle in there at all, given that the majority of the traffic is completely OT, or random people whining about their pet feature not being included, or having problems that many others have had and they could solve themselves by reading the FAQ or clicking the help button in one of the settings dialogs.

But tonight I had the pleasure to talk to someone with a feature idea who was willing to talk it out with me, and was understanding of why it is difficult and maybe not the highest priority. And even more impressive, he was willing to do some of the necessary legwork himself to maybe kickstart the feature. Kudos.

I understand that most people don't do any coding and wouldn't be able to hack their way out of a paper bag. But that's not an excuse to bitch and moan and expect the developers to bow to do your bidding. It's not even an excuse to expect the developers to even consider what you have to say. Sure, it would be nice if I had the kind of time (and patience) for that, but I don't. And until and unless my paycheck comes from someone who hired me to work on Xfce, I probably never will.

People don't even realise sometimes that they don't even need coding skills to help. The documentation could always use people looking at it and improving it. It wouldn't hurt to have a support-type person watching over Bugzilla, answering and closing common bugs that get reported. And in this case, the guy I was talking to was willing to do a little research into how his particular feature ("switch user" functionality piggybacking on GDM or KDM if running) could be implemented. I'm not saying it'll get implemented immediately if the required information is acquired, but it sure as hell isn't going to happen at all if someone's not willing to do the homework.

Anyway, I didn't intend this to turn into a rant; just wanted to express some gratitude that there really are appreciative people out there, and while they may not be as vocal as the complainers, their presence negates the effect of a lot of repetetive, annoying crap I sometimes take from users.


  • February 3, 2006
  • Brian Tarricone

When someone warns you in August about the potential for a trademark dispute, you change the name then and there, and you don't wait until February when you get sent a cease-and-desist letter.