Misconceptions about the Portland Project

There is an article over at which predicts that the Portland initiative will fail to reach its goal of "unifying the Linux desktop".

Unfortunately the author somehow missed that "unifying the Linux desktop" is not the goal of Portland.

Moreover, aside from failing to understand what solutions we are aiming for, the article also claims that other projects like LSB or would also be failing to reach it.

I guess I don't have to point out that neither of the latter two project has "unifying the Linux desktop" as its goal either.

Now the question is, why did the author think that Portland aims at this unreachable goal?

Is it some bad wording on the website? Some ambiguity in a press release?

Obviously any project where contributors of different free desktop teams work together will result in some kind of common good, be it a specification or a shared implementation.
However there is quite some difference between doing common stuff in a compatible way and removing all differences. i.e. "unifying the Linux desktop"


Did you mention that the author missed the only project which tries to unify specififc parts of the desktop, the tango-project?

It takes a sensible attempt (unify the icon naming scheme), and afaik this develops quite well and will be included into GNOME and KDE as a standard.

So the whole article is a joke: he misses the aims of the projects he describes, and also misses the only project which really aims for what he describes.

And last but not least: since the Tango Project develops so well his conclusion is also wrong :D

By liquidat at Sat, 08/26/2006 - 21:40

> since the Tango Project develops so well his conclusion is also wrong

Might be that it develops well, but it needs some artists to replace the ugly icon theme. :)

By carlo at Sat, 08/26/2006 - 23:06

Afaik the tanog icons are just examples - well thought examples, but the main part is the icon name scheming:
That each app uses the same icon for the task "open file", independent from the desktop environment.

And, afaik, Oxygen, the KDE 4 iconset, will use this icon scheme.

By liquidat at Sat, 08/26/2006 - 23:38

Personally, I thought Tango was a bit of a Gnome project, and I really can't see what on Earth it's trying to achieve. A default native look, common icon naming, stock icons and a cross desktop HIG. Big wow. There are bigger differences between applications and desktops than that.

The only way you can unify the two desktops is to have one - it's that simple. Remember that the problem of multiple desktops is a problem of the open source world, not something that anyone else remotely cares about.

By segedunum at Sat, 08/26/2006 - 23:33

Aaron mentioned once that Tango was more driven by KDE people if I remember right.
However, you mentioned what they are trying to achieve, so where is your problem? Sure, they are not solving all problems which exist, and the Tango project does not wash my underwear. However, they are addressing issues, and are solving them. And some of them, especially a common HIG, are important. Others, like the icon name scheming, are nice and improve the feeling of the desktop a bit.

And that's much better than "nothing improved" because there are still issues left.

By liquidat at Sat, 08/26/2006 - 23:45

However, they are addressing issues, and are solving them.

The unfortunate thing is that these issues mean absolutely nothing to people outside of the open source community. They see the end product and that's it, and if there are still differences that are detrimental to them then nothing has changed as far as they are concerned.

And that's much better than "nothing improved" because there are still issues left.

The issues left, down to the logical conclusion, are that there are multiple desktop environments doing things in different ways. You can't then backtrack and cover that up by coming up with 'common ways of doing things'.

By segedunum at Sun, 08/27/2006 - 00:03

if there are still differences that are detrimental to them then nothing has changed as far as they are concerned

I disagree here with you impression that the Tango project will not change this. That is probably due to different experiences with non-geek users: as far as it goes for me the most important thing is that every program reacts in similar ways, and offer similar stuff at similar places in similar ways.
The skin of a program seem to not matter - users sometimes skin each application, leaving a set of completely different looking apps. However, the feel of each app has to be similar: buttons and menus as base structure, the open file dialog is basically the same, and so on. And such things are covered by Tango (and Portland).

The issues left [...] are that there are multiple desktop environments doing things in different ways.

Wrong. These projects are addressing these issues, so that in future the file-open dialog depends on the Desktop environment you've started, and *not* on the graphical toolkit. The same is true for the printing dialog, and so on.
Sure, not everything is covered by Tango, that's one of the reasons we have Portland.

Sure, there is still some way to go to reach this aim, but the development is taking place, and the projects are processing quite well (for example the printing dialog stuff).

But if that (common dialogs, common reacting, common icons for standard actions) is still not what you demand I probably misunderstand you.

By liquidat at Sun, 08/27/2006 - 13:47

the only thing tango is addressing in a generally useful (as opposed to a specifically useful, e.g. "to gnome) way is the icon naming. let's please not confuse the very useful and broadly accepting portland project's aims with those of tango.

if one is completely honest about it, tango has produced a new gnome icon theme they are trying to push out to as many people as possible (it's amazing how often one sees kde icons on the web, btw) and is participating in the icon naming spec. that's really the extent of it, and the icon theme itself is not something that is particularly interesting for kde.

By Aaron J. Seigo at Mon, 08/28/2006 - 01:17

Yes, I know. I should have made the border between Tango tasks and Portland tasks more clear.

And yes, if you are strict about it the naming spec is a fd.o thing and Tango just helps. I wasn't clear about that, too.

But one thing: at least a long term aim of the Tango project is
"A general, cross-desktop human interface guideline." (Point 4)
What's about that?

By liquidat at Mon, 08/28/2006 - 23:26

tango is not driven by kde people at all. it's novell project heavily gnome oriented (the ximian influence), which is fine in and of itself. they did invite one kde related person to get involved near the beginning but this person was not kept in the team (for whatever reasons) and kde was never contacted to participate until far too late in the game. the result is an icon theme that's not particularly suited for kde. in this way they sort of shot themselves in the foot when it came to having their goals met.

the icon naming spec on fd.o authored by rodney dawes who is a tango member is very interesting, however. it seems to be somewhat complete, though certainly not comprehensive yet. it's a good set of steps in the right direction.

By Aaron J. Seigo at Mon, 08/28/2006 - 01:12