GNOME OS plans laid out
Allan Day has written a blog post on the concrete plans for "GNOME OS" and provided background on the ideas that have motivated those plans. The post is a summary of planning sessions held at Guadec 2012, the recent GNOME developers conference.
Day starts by emphasising that GNOME OS is not an attempt to replace existing distributions. Although the creation of a standalone GNOME OS is part of the plans, the idea is to make that a testing and development platform, and any improvements that come from GNOME OS should "directly improve what the GNOME project is able to offer distributions". Many of the drivers for GNOME OS are, Day says, old ideas to improve the development experience, such as automated testing and sandboxed applications, and while the developers could have separate initiatives for each feature, the idea is to work on them as a "holistic plan" under the moniker "GNOME OS".
The elements of the GNOME OS plan cover application development and deployment, the creation of a GNOME SDK, automated test frameworks, a refined core user experience (UX), and support for new devices. Starting with application development – to make it easier for developers to create and deploy GNOME software – the developers hope to create stable APIs and propose a new model for applications. This framework would be available to other distributions and would feature sandboxed applications with a longer lifespan. Once that framework is being developed, an SDK with a new version of the GNOME HIG (Human Interface Guidelines) and a number of development tools will be put together to support it.
Day then moves on to GNOME testing, pointing out that currently it has "major limitations" that make it difficult for contributors to build and test current GNOME development code. The GNOME BoF set goals for a testable GNOME; in six months, they aim to have an actively used build bot and in twelve months, an installable image that the contributors can use as a testing and development environment. The GNOME release team is helping the process and a new server is planned which will run the build service. The improved testing should, says Day, benefit other distributions directly.
The Core UX of GNOME 3 is also being refined and the developers are creating a new suite of GNOME applications which will "grow into a new model for accessing content, whether it is stored locally or online". This plan would expand the model of Documents and Photos further to include Music and file Transfers.
The Guadec discussions set an eighteen month goal to get the complete set of components for this incorporated into GNOME. While laptops and desktops – "the primary market for existing GNOME-based distributions" – remain the focus of the GNOME developers, support for new types of devices is an ongoing project and the developers have set their sights on, and will put new efforts into, having a touch-compatible GNOME 3 within 18 months.
According to Day, the OS initiative is an attempt to pull all the dependencies within a complete user and developer experience, which cannot be considered in isolation, together under one design and development umbrella project. He points out that many of the elements discussed are already being worked on and "people are already stepping up to help us complete our plans for the GNOME 3 user experience", and this means that although the goals are ambitious, they are not unrealistic.