Overselling Portland

I have nothing against promotion, but overselling your product becomes a mistake pretty quickly. Statements such as “For the first time, ISVs are able to port their applications to Linux regardless of desktop environment.” will just ruin OSDL’s reputation and kill OSDL’s opportunity to help those ISVs. This isn’t a one-off mistake either.

Let’s make it clear:

  • a) Portland 1.0 is a set of command-line tools to help applications to integrate with the Linux desktop. That is useful.
  • b) When ISVs think of porting their applications to Linux, they think first of GUI toolkits, file handling, networking.

a) is not b). We have lots of great b). For instance, ISVs who have suffered with MFC or win32 love GTK+ (or gtkmm, etc) or Qt. They are a bit annoyed that they can’t really use win32 or MFC on Linux, but they aren’t surprised and they are pleased that the alternative is a good one.

But if you tell them that Portland 1.0 is the alternative platform they are looking for, they will very quickly conclude:
1. “Erm, command-line? So, Linux hasn’t done much in the last 10 years. Bye.”
2. “Platform? No it’s not. How stupid do you think I am? How stupid are you? Bob, don’t forward me any more calls from OSDL.”

And Portland is never meant to be a desktop-agnostic GNOME/KDE-combining GUI toolkit. If you let people think that then it’s your mistake not theirs.

OSDL (and the Portland project) are doing great stuff, making a better Linux desktop, and creating a marketplace for ISVs. Don’t ruin it with this nonsense.

4 thoughts on “Overselling Portland

  1. So true, I see messages like this all over the web.

    On Digg:

    “Portland is a desktop integration layer. It allows programmers to write Portland GUI’s instead of KDE or Gnome GUI’s. A Portland GUI will run using KDE or Gnome, you will not need both.”

    This is what I thought too on the day it’s development was announced, they’re being unclear.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. I think Portland has been pushed too hard without too much buy-in from the desktop developers communities. Starting a standard to allow GNOME/KDE to interoperate the a must, but to claim that Portland 1.0 is there to enable that is probably raising a false expectation. Just check how many distros delivers Portland 1.0 by default?

  3. I can’t speak for my former employer (Alacos,) but I can tell you that Portland would have been a godsend, and we would have started using it immediately. I wouldn’t be surprised if my former employer were wiring it in, today. A little about the work Alacos does: Alacos writes software that automate migration from Windows to Linux by the hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands. You don’t know who they are, they are very low key, but when a company needs to migrate, they need a tool, so that the entirety of IS is busy taking out everybody’s email from Outlook, everybody’s contacts, everybody’s Word .docs, and so on, and then reinserting that stuff when the new system is installed. Not very sexy, no? But very, very, very important.

    Putting icons on the screen, opening web pages in the browser, and so on, was a big headache. We had to make special tables, keep them current, and test them, for every distro and each desktop. Sometimes, we’d cross our fingers, and say: “Let’s just hope the user didn’t uninstall Mozilla.”

    This kind of thing just makes good sense to collect together, and centralize. I’m very excited about it.

    I know that the things that Portland does aren’t very sexy, and a programmer not working with these sort of 3rd party apps might wonder, “Why is this useful? This is just for installing and uninstalling.”

    I think the point missed is that: A lot of apps out there aren’t interactive. They’re more like industrial factories, than nice homes. Clean and nice GUI isn’t one percent as important as: “Can we get it installed, can we make an icon on the desktop that someone can click, can we make it work on our client’s computer.” We thought, so many times, “Let’s just ship the computer to the client.” That way we have total control over the OS environment, yes? Logically, it makes sense, but physically, we didn’t have time to be installing OSes on computers, running diagnostics, even thinking about hardware, and shipping, and tracking computers, and so on. So the ability to install on our client’s computer, — whatever it may be –, was a big deal.

    I’m personally very excited about Portland, in this respect. This is very useful, as it is. I hope that they make more things as well.

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