Friday, September 01, 2006

GNOME on NetBSD needs YOU!

A few pkgsrc developers and I have been working hard for years to bring the GNOME Desktop to this packaging system and make it work under NetBSD. We are quite happy with the current results because the packages are updated very frequently and everything works. Well, almost. There are still several missing details that really hurt the end user experience and need fixing.

If things continue as have gone until now, we will always be one step (or more!) behind other operating systems such as Linux and FreeBSD. Linux, of course, gets full support from the GNOME developers because they do their daily work on it. FreeBSD, on the other hand, has more people working on the port and therefore have more manpower to resolve all the portability problems; they are doing a nice work.

In our case, it is clear that we do not have enough manpower to keep up with the huge task that porting GNOME is — we are very few people working on it. Just consider that GNOME is composed of around 100 packages and that there are new major releases every 6 months (minor ones coming much faster). This updating task imposes a lot of stress on us that prevents us from working on the remaining pending items.

If we were able to work on all these issues, we could have a fully-functional GNOME Desktop on top of NetBSD. I belive this is a key area to improve NetBSD's visibility: if we had a complete desktop evnrionment, more users could come and use NetBSD for their daily tasks. Eventually, this could attract more developers who would start contributing to the system itself.

So... I've prepared a list of GNOME-related projects that details the major items that need to be addressed to have a complete GNOME Desktop installation on top of NetBSD and pkgsrc. I've tried to detail each project as much as possible, explaining the current problem, why solving it could benefit NetBSD and how to get started.

Should you need more information, I've also written some generic guidelines about GNOME packaging and porting. And, of course, you can contact me to get more details and take one of the projects! I'm willing to mentor you to make them success. You can certainly make a difference to the current status of things.

Let me add that I've have learned a lot about many different areas from my contributions to pkgsrc and NetBSD. You can seize the opportunity to learn new exciting stuff too; don't be shy! Oh... and if GNOME on NetBSD is not of your preference, please see our complete list of proposed projects; I bet you will find something of your interest!