[linux-elitists] Re: Yet another mozilla atrocity

Martin Pool mbp@samba.org
Wed Oct 8 18:02:28 PDT 2003

On  8 Oct 2003, Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org> wrote:

> What I'm getting from you, from gconf, and from Havocs essay to some
> extent as well, is a *lack* of balance.  It's as if fewer preferences
> were a goal in themselves -- even Havocs essay suggests acting as if
> you had a finite list of "preference slots" to fill.  In software that
> is already complex (as, undeniably, gnome is) limiting user control
> makes a bad situation worse.  You need to structure the complexity and
> make it manageable, not pretend it doesn't exist.

You can go two ways:

 - try to reduce complexity

 - give people options so that they can control a complex system

In either approach, in the first release, it is likely that there will
be many unsatisfactory aspects.  No one project follows a single
approach.  Free Unix as a whole certainly mixes it up: there's a
pretty strong push to keep things simple, but also to add many
options.  (See esr's new "The Art of Unix Programming" for a decent

Nevertheless, projects have tendencies or biases.  GNOME's
distinguishing factor is that they're trying hard to reduce
complexity.  If you don't like that, then there are other packages
that revel in complexity (emacs), and make it a strength.

Havoc suggests a couple of reasons to prefer reducing complexity:

 - Complexity causes bugs, and makes them harder to remove.

 - Making a system so complex that most people want to customize it
   may make it hard to use for people who don't care to customize it.

 - Making something optional/configurable can be a cop-out from 
   finding a better design.  e.g. the "don't lose my mail" option.

But, basically, if you don't like it, don't use it.  Why whinge about
Pico when you can have emacs?

> Gconf is incredibly complex and totally unmanageable.  IMHO.

You must lead a very sheltered life.

> It's buggy (by your own admission)

Have you written any perfect software recently?

The few packages such as TeX which people do mention as being
"bug"-free typically have the kind of complexity and quirkiness which
you criticize in gconf.


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