[ The full blogging experience, this time drunken as a brick layer.. :-]

Today I want to excrete my approach to the tacky problem of what should be done about reaching the limits of limited resources. Please excuse my grammar etc since my IQ has temprorarily been reduced below that of aspell and I am not writing this with Emacs which reduces my degrees of mental freedom even more.

Users of the full Desktop experience that are running Gnome, KDE, Gnustep, or even fvwm on a modern piece of PC hardware don’t really have to worry about running out of resources. They configure their system to be adequate for their needs and generally accept the fact that running out of resources, while painful, is a problem that they have to solve by upgrading their system or by adjusting their choice of software to be more suitable. Thus is the life of the savvy computerer.

Running desktop software on mobile consumer devices, on the other hand, poses the immediate challenge of how to cope with limited resources in the hand of users that shouldn’t care less about the amount of RAM they have. Today, it is accepted that owners of an iPod make an informed decision of how much storage that glorified mp3-decoder-plus-amplifier has, but actually, Apple knows the customer and is marketing the things in t-shirt sizes: hundreds of songs, thousands of songs, millions of songs,

The point being: people understand that devices have a limited amount of resources and that more is most of the time better, but how much they really need in hard MiBs is quitet the mystery. But still, running out of resources is not a surprise. Everybody is used to running out of monay after all.

When it happens, tho, the experience of actually running out of space should be so pleasant that you go and buy the next bigger model instead of giving up on the whole fad of digital entertainment entirely.

In my opinion, Unix has done quite well with coping with limited resources, AS LONG AS there is a knowledgable system administrator available that can migrate home directories to a bigger disk array, etc.

But what about devices like the Nokia N800 that attempt to put half of Gnome in the hands of Joe Couchpotatoe, without a sysadmin to be found?

When Joe runs out of resources, he is not going to check /var/log/messages and order a bigger flash chip from Samsung and solder it in. Unless he is convinced that he just requested something impossible from his device, he is going to catapult his device into a corner and write an angry blog post about it. (Oh, how I miss the days when posting something to the whole world required more skill than piggybacking some memory…)

So, finally, what can be done about running out of resources? The following is what I have written into a bug report about GConf behaving erratically when there is no storage for it it save its database. I would like the maemo architecture to evolve along these ideas…

Read the rest of this entry »

I am trying out this blog thing, so that I can rant in color.

I work for Nokia on the Internet Tablet OS as a hacker, and that’s what I will be blogging about here. Or about whatever seems appropriate.

Our topic for today shall be a short introduction to the new Application Manager features in the next major IT OS release that are of interest to package maintainers. This stuff is documented in more detail here.

More .install file capabilities

A .install file can now instruct the Application Manager to add more than one catalogue.

You might have noticed that I don’t think that having as many repositories as we have now is a good idea, so please don’t take this feature as in invitation to spread your packages over many many repositories.  If at all possible, put your packages into the maemo Extras repository.  This repository will be preconfigured in the next IT OS release, and we will likely pay more attention to packages in the Extras repository when making new IT OS releases (when checking compatibility, for example).

You can now leave the distribution name blank in .install files and the Application Manager will provide the name of the current distribution.  This will work across backup/flash/restore: your catalogue will then automatically start using the new distribution name.

Catalogue names are now localizable.

Pretty names

A package can specify a (localizable) string that will be displayed in the Application Manager UI instead of the package name.

Upgrade descriptions

A package can specify a alternate (and localizable) description that will be used instead of the normal description when showing the package in the “Check for updates” view.  This can be considered as the end-user friendly version of debian/changelog.

Localizable descriptions

The normal description of a package can now be localized.

Support for Conflicts/Replaces

The Application Manager is still a coward when it comes to automatically removing packages to resolve conflicts, but it now will remove a package when another package is to be installed that both “Conflitcs” with that package as well as “Replaces” it.

Miscellaneous Flags

A package can cause the Application Manager to perform some special tricks.  For example, setting the “reboot” flag will cause a reboot after installing or upgrading a package.  Other flags cause the Application Manager to take a backup or close all applications.  These flags are mostly intended for updates to system packages, but you might find them useful.

Checking for free space before installing

A package can declare how much free space must be available in the filesystem before the installation is allowed.  The Application manager doesn’t dare to use Installed-Size for this since doing so is not reliable in general.

Domains

The Application Manager tries to keep track of where a package has been originally installed from, and will not allow updates to a package from a different source.  This means you can no longer replace IT OS packages by providing them with a higher version number in your repository.

Of course, you still can do whatever you want with your package.  Packages don’t get special privileges depending on where they are installed from.  These additional checks are only there to catch some confusing situations that are best avoided.

Alles so schön bunt hier

Wednesday, 15. Aug 2007

Mahlzeit,

time for me to try this ‘blogging’ thing, I guess. I enjoy writing, actually, but I mostly do it as a reaction to other people’s utterances. Let’s see if I can be active as well as reactive. So let’s start by blogging about blogging.

One of the main things that make blogging attractive is that comments appear in a smaller font than the main article.

I see a trend going from netnews to mailing lists to web forums to blogs. Netnews and mailing lists are similar enough that for example Gnus makes them appear almost the same (the main difference being that you need to expire your mailing list articles yourself and that the mailing list archive is not accessible directly in the MUA, which makes netnews appear advantageous for the users).

The reason to prefer a mailing list is likely that they are not centrally maintained and you don’t need to ask anybody to create them. It’s quite easy to become the owner of a mailing list and excersize control over who is and isn’t allowed to submit articles. And while there are stupid discussions about whether or not to automatically add Reply-To headers or whether or not to automatically add “[XXX]” strings to the subject, I am happy using mailing lists.

But what about web forums? I guess web forums are even easier to set up than mailing lists and allow more control. They are also more shiny (but usually ugly), where you can have ugly avatar pictures in addition to your ugly user name. You can gain points and acquire gold-member status or something and everybody sees it whenever you say something. “Behold, I am a senior member with five stars of babbling, listen to what I say.”

For me, web forums are drastically less usable than netnews or email, simply because I have to use a web browser to access them. I treat them as part of the read-only web.

Blogs give even more gratification than forums, since they are not topic-centric, but ego-centric. It’s not “everything about three-wheeled motorcycles from Bulgaria”, it’s “all about me”. You can comment, but only if I allow it and then in a smaller font.

The egofication of online discussion. From chatting in a bar to outdoing your buddies with better jokes to standup comedy. I gues that’s just human.

But then there are feeds and planets. Is that the reversal of the trend? Subscribing to a blog? Subscribing to many blogs? Letting others take care of selecting blogs that cover a common topic? The blog author categorizing his blogs so that they go to selected planets? Sounds familiar. Will planets grow up to handle threads? Will browsers grow up to be editors?

That wouldn’t be bad, don’t get me wrong. Email could use some renovation, and I don’t think that using text/html instead of text/plain automatically reduces the quality of the content.

The good thing about the Internet is that everybody can do whatever they want, and if something good happens, great!

So I am happy to just watch the action, and continue writing emails for the time being, mostly because I don’t have to leave Emacs for that.