Nat Friedman: "Flamewars are part of the community culture"

  • Novells "Chief Technology and Strategy Officer for Open Source", Nat Friedman
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    Novells "Chief Technology and Strategy Officer for Open Source", Nat Friedman

Novells CTO / Open Source doesn't expect long term problems from the Microsoft deal - an interview about the future of the Linux desktop, legal DVD-support and the mistakes of the Hula project

Nat Friedman has been one of the driving forces behind the development of the Linux desktop for a few year now. First with his own company Ximian, founded together with Mono chief architect Miguel de Icaza, after its acquisition now inside Novell. A few months ago he has been named "Technologist of the Year" by the VarBusiness magazine for his work around the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. Since then he has been promoted to "Chief Technology and Strategy Officer for Open Source", besides the desktop he is also overseeing Novells server business now.

During Novells Brainshare Andreas Proschofsky had the possibility to sit down with Friedman and talk about the Linux desktop, the consequences of the Microsoft agreement and the mistakes of the Hula project.

This interview is also available in a german translation. What are the most important improvements you are going to introduce with Service Pack 1 for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED)?

Nat Friedman: Service Pack 1 really is no big feature release for us. One of the interesting things though, is the work we have done closely with customers - like the Peugeot deal - where they actually deployed SLED in their production environments, we have learned a lot from that. Resulting from that there has been lot's of interoperability work, Active Directory, Printers, cause we've seen that this was a major issue. We also did a lot of work on Microsoft Exchange support, which is significantly more mature than before now. Did you consider to do a MAPI-connector (like Outlook itself does) for Evolution instead of accessing Outlook Web Access?

Nat Friedman: We did, but MAPI is really huge and complicated, and not everything is documented properly, so this would be a lot of work. The way we do it now is using Webdav, which is much easier, cause the interface is documented. it is slower, but we think it works well enough for what people want to do. Seeing that the Groupware-Client Evolution is a major piece of the desktop, it doesn't look like Novell has too many developers left working on it, implementing new stuff.

Nat Friedman: That's not true, Evolution is handled by our Bangalore team. there is nothing at all that changed in that respect for the last 18-24 months now.. But there is a certain lack of external contributors...

Nat Friedman: No, I wouldn't agree to that either. There's a couple of people working in the community and also in other companies, for instance Scalix. Sure, they are mainly doing there own backend, but while they are doing this, they also end up doing work in the core.

And there are also the people in the community who are repurposing the Evolution code for their own stuff, like the Contacts and the Dates applications which make use of the Evolution Data Server (EDS), which is great, as such things are the reason, that we split out the EDS from the Evolution Core in the first place. They might even be drafting the future user interface for Evolution by doing that, cause they are free to experiment, and if that's interesting we might eventually replace the Evolution UI with one of those.

Another example is the Tinymail-work that Philip van Hoof has been doing, as a result of which he has been doing huge performance improvements to our mail access library Camel.

Picture: Contacts, one of the applications utilizing Evolution Data Server But most of that optimization stuff hasn't gotten upstream until now.

Nat Friedman: Well, there is a lot that hasn't cause the guy is incredibly productive, so it's difficult to take that all, but there is also a lot that has.

So all in all we've a huge 300.000-400.000 line application, we have a dozen or so engineers working on it inside Novell, and a bunch of others in the community and in other companies, so I feel pretty good about the work that is going into it.

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