from trac to tracks for GTD

I have been trying to Get Things Done for a while, and using Trac to do it. It has been a pretty nice experience, and has changed some of my thinking about how bug tracking software. But trac clearly wasn’t written for GTD, and it shows from time to time. Today the insufficiency came up again (I don’t remember why) and that prompted me to google more thoroughly, and I found the totally awesome Tracks. I’ve really only been using it for less than an hour, but already it kicks the socks off Trac as a GTD tool. Has nice ical feeds, slick integration of contexts and projects, and some nice ajax-y bits. No offline support, of course, but I guess I can fake that with evo + the ical feed. So, yeah, if you like GTD, and feel comfortable throwing up a webapp on your own server (no hosted tracks yet), definitely try out Tracks ASAP.
[Tangentially: my rough and ready count shows that the whole thing is about 3K LOC. Simply put, no one could write such a tool in GNOME in 3K LOC. I doubt anyone could write it in any desktop GUI framework that I know of in 3K LOC. This is part of why the web is kicking the desktop’s ass.]

GPL v3 new draft released

The FSF has released a new discussion draft of the GPL, with a whole lot of materials around it. I’m flipping through it now, while listening to Eben describe the changes (ogg).

For those who weren’t there, by the way, Ciaran O’Riordan had an excellent introduction to the GPL v3 process at GUADEC. His slides are available here.

If people in the GNOME community have questions/concerns about GPL v3, drop me a note- I’m not the best person to ask, but I at least know who to flip the questions (and particularly concerns!) to, as I’m nominally on one of the GPL committees and will finally be attending one of the committee meetings next week.

Tangentially, I’m finally turning on comments permanently for the blog- I’ve been pleased with wordpress’s spam-resistance so far.

little bits of awesomeness

Some little bits of awesomeness today:

  • I visited the old office on Tuesday (Harvard, not Ximian) and that rocked- smart people.
  • There is now a rockingly awesome cc plugin for epiphany. This helps raise awareness of CC licensing, and that is a great thing.
  • LDTP and jhbuild are happily singing together, it appears. This is great- a huge step towards a more robust GNOME.
  • Bugzilla may get smart about branches. On the one hand, this will be a huge usability nightmare, but on the other hand, in the hands of experts, it could do a lot to improve the user experience in our stable branches.
  • Got the new Lego Mindstorms NXT kit in the mail. This is an awesome piece of gear- every 10-13 year old in the country should have one, to learn about programming and building things. Sadly, since I’ll have no time to play with it myself, I’m planning on shipping mine to my sister. (She’ll likely, in fact, get four Mindstorms kits in the mail next week- two old, two new.)

headshots! (from me, and a few of me)

I put together the gnome is people headshots, finally. I had a lot of fun doing them, though admittedly they are a touch inconsistent. Cut me some slack- I’ve never really tried to take good portraits before, so you can see the progression over time as I get better with encouraging people to laugh, and as I get better framing and using natural light. Of the ones I took, my favorites (artistically) are:

Of course, I’ve still got a ways to go as a portraitist- Ross and particularly David Z. had great shots of me from GUADEC:

Berkman Center seeks another Sr. Hacker

The Berkman Center is a fun place to work, with smart people and great stuff going on. As a bonus, if you have any interest in thinking big thoughts, the hallway conversations are the best you’ll ever have in any tech job, most likely. And they are hiring: they need a Sr. Engineer for a very cool tool to measure users and their behaviors on a global scale. If you’re interested, click through the link and apply.

standards: microsoft, netscape- is there a third way?

Are there any examples where someone created a broadly deployed standard and did not in time become either MS (high, expensive barriers to entry to use/support the standard, hence hated but wealthy) or Netscape (low barriers to entry, hence loved but dead?) I really can’t think of any, but I’d love to know of any examples out there. Not just software; could be hardware, or really any network effect.

I ask because I firmly believe open standards are a net societal good, but it seems to me that traditional capitalist economic incentives may fail to create this particular good, and I’m interested in what kinds of tweaks might be necessary (or not) to see this happen, while maintaining the best of the competitive, entrepreneurial tech industry.

(I’ve actually turned on comments for once; lets see how spammed they get :)

followups on my guadec posts

I got a ton of feedback on my guadec posts. Some thoughts, and related news bits:

  • Scoble posted yesterday on the coming platform wars between Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and eBay. What is free software’s answer to that? Obviously the ‘spend billions on centralized servers’ approach won’t work for us; we likely need something P2P and/or semantic-web based. AllPeers is an example of the P2P approach, we’ll see how it pans out. I suggest semantic web because there is no reason that flickr couldn’t use the same open-garden model as technorati does for blogs, if the right standards were developed and widely deployed. Those are more complex solutions and need people to start on them now, not after Google, Yahoo, and MS have already won.
  • Steven O’Grady has an excellent piece on not caring about platforms in the future. Go read the whole thing, but in a nutshell, he wants his data to float transparently and not have to worry about a lot of the stuff we currently worry about. Great thinking about how improvements to data flow can help users kick ass without worries. Cote also has a similar great post about web v. desktop, and data interop. Punchline, for me: “What most desktop applications lack now-a-days are features that are fully web-enabled, in a bi-directional sense.” Exactly. The desktop framework of the future must have web integration built in in order to win. (Tangentially: all three of the Redmonk blogs should be required reading for everyone serious about the Big Picture in Free Software; they are providing excellent analysis that normally we’d have to pay gazillions for.)
  • Steven also pointed me at, which looks like a great starting point for some services. An order of magnitude more expensive than I’d like (compare their $1.80/Gb/month to S3’s $0.15/Gb/month) but based on open tools (rsync! ssh! webdav!). Someone partner with them and let me point f-spot at it. Quick. :)
  • ‘Who owns the platform’ is a common question about .gnome (or .free, or whatever you want to call it.) I really don’t have a good answer to that one. It seems possible that Novell will not embrace anything that comes from Fedora; Fedora possibly wouldn’t embrace anything coming from Ubuntu, etc., etc. Would a third-party company be embraced by all the players (including and especially the community?) I really don’t know, and it seems like this might be a critical question. The obvious ‘solution’ is for the Foundation to get entrepreneurial, raise the money, and set up everything in a way that makes it obvious that the community is the beneficiary of any profits, but I would worry that that puts all eggs in one basket and excludes real competition, which benefits all of us.
  • The thinking about our platform and .gnome is not ‘gnome v. web apps’, it is ‘any application that is either all desktop or all web is likely to be sub-optimal.’ Every great app needs both. A great dev platform must make it easy to integrate the things that can only be done with the web (trivial cross-platform sharing, for example) and easy to integrate the things that can be done best with a rich client (search cross-tool integration, for example.)
  • Mike Linksvayer responded to one of my posts with a post about ‘Constitutionally Open Services‘. It needs a catchier name, but his thinking is dead on- we almost definitely need a server/service-oriented list of freedoms which complement and extend the traditional FSF Four Freedoms and help us think more clearly about what services are and aren’t good to use. (See also, tangentially, flickr’s potential decision to grant zoomr API access in a GPL-like share-and-share-alike way.)

disintermediating c-span via the praxis of open source

So Metavid looks like a totally rocking project which converts feeds from the House and Senate into Theora, and makes their close-captioning searchable. It appears to have at least some relationship with the cool kids from annodex. It unfortunately is getting legal flak from C-SPAN, and perhaps more unfortunately, uses phrases like “The metavid project returned these media assets to the public domain and through the praxis of open source developed means to democratize the mediation of these media assets.” I’m terrified that I’ll begin talking like that at some point during my legal career. Really need to get to work on ‘Wark in 500 words or less‘ to make sure I stay in the habit of speaking plain English. :)


We have finished constructing a table out of a dozen full boxes of books, where one of our futons used to be. I am about to make crepes and then run out to get more cups, plates, and even a little beer. Throwing a party is fun, it turns out; I should have done it more often while I was here :)