About desktops for GNU

Guillaume Ponce contact at guillaumeponce.org
Tue Aug 6 11:47:33 UTC 2002

Desktop is an important point to bring free software to not-so-advanced users.
One of the recurrent aspects of free software, as it is covered in the press is
the choice you are supposed to make between GNOME/GTK on one side and KDE/QT on
the other side.

The purpose of this thread is not to start another flame war on which one is
technically and/or ethically the best choice.  2 years ago I decided that GNOME
- and not KDE - would be my desktop because:

  * It seemed to be the more "GNU way of life" (as part of the GNU project), and
    I love GNU and FSF stuff (pretty dogmatic position).  At this time there
    were heavy licensing problems with QT.  At this time I was feeling that
    GNOME was the hacker's desktop, and that KDE was compromised with Trolltech.

  * I love the GIMP and GTK GUI rendering.

  * I love the GTK-way to write object oriented code in C rather than C++ (KDE
    and QT are C++).

Well, where am I today?  GNOME is still the officially favored desktop for GNU.
But ironically it is also the favored one for proprietary vendors, as it is
shown by Sun and HP official support.  Why?  Because it is LGPL and it is more
convenient to build proprietary projects on than the QT licensing from
Trolltech.  Trolltech only allows either "all copyright proprietary software" or
"all copyleft free software" with its dual licensing.  GNOME allows a
"proprietary over free" approach.  Now I wonder if KDE is not the more "FSF way
of life" even if GNOME is still part of GNU (despite some facts: they aren't
host on gnu.org, they use Docbook and not Texinfo...).

Irony again.  KDE is built on a library (QT) that comes from the world of big
money and it now claims to be a desktop "from the people for the people"
(wording from Kurt Granroth, KDE Core Team Member on
http://slashdot.org/features/00/08/18/133219.shtml).  GNOME is built on a
library (GTK+) that is a library "from the people for the people" and it is
probably going to have more and more connections with the world of big money.
Will entities such as Sun or HP (or RedHat?) have their word to say to decide
where GNOME will have to go in the future?

Does FSF(E) have an opinion on this?  Do you have?  The more it is and the more
I feel there is a discomfort in the free software community(ies?) on this point.

Guillaume Ponce

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