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OSDL and the Linux desktop: The road ahead

Find out what John Cherry from Open Source Developer Labs has to say about the successes of the Portland Project's beta release and the future of the Linux desktop.

The Linux desktop has made great strides in just the last few months, and experts at the LinuxWorld Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco see much more to come. Talk about technological issues is finally turning into successful deployments. John Cherry, the Desktop Linux Initiative manager for Open Source Developer Labs, spoke with about the progress of the Portland Project's beta release of its programming interfaces for the GNOME and KDE environments. What are the new developments at the Open Source Developer Labs?

John Cherry: The [Desktop Linux] Working Group has decided to be involved with both desktop organizations -- GNOME and KDE -- to work on the Portland Project cross-desktop issues. We were involved with the [GNOME conference] in June, and we are going to be involved in [the KDE conference] in September in Dublin.

For both of those conferences, the goal is to promote cross-desktop interface cooperation, building bridges in the communities. That's going to happen next month.

Another external activity is the next Desktop Architects meeting in December where we bring together all the .orgs again. The focus there will be following up on our current projects including printing, wireless and power management. We're also going to add multimedia.

What successes has the Portland Project beta release had with ISVs?

Cherry: We have people using a few betas including RealNetworks, CodeWeavers and some that I don't even know about. We've had a number of downloads so we're not exactly sure how many application vendors are really using it.

When I downloaded Google Earth, there it was. That's a big deal.

What feedback have you received regarding the Portland Project beta release?

Cherry: We've had really positive feedback. Most of it has been technically oriented. There's a utility that is supposed to handle screen-saving. It doesn't work exactly like the application vendor thought it would work, so we're tweaking the interfaces and how they actually behave. That says they're using it and, essentially, they're satisfied with what they're doing. They just want to have the interface and capabilities well defined.

Where else does the Open Source Developer Labs, also called OSDL, have its sights set?

Cherry: OSDL is gaining some momentum with various members of the ecosystem. Our focus right now is to pull in distro vendors. We feel that there are a lot of issues that need to be discussed. Sometimes, it's not the components but how you assemble them that's important in a consistent way -- issues like packaging, installation, common font sets and common color schemes -- all of those kinds of things that are delivery-related.

What do you see next for the Linux desktop?

Cherry: It's going to be multimedia and sound -- being able to play your MP3s and your DVDs out of the box, streaming video to use proprietary formats that were only available on Windows before and those types of things.

On Freespire and SUSE, they use the Helix framework, which includes the codecs, but it's not really available across frameworks or across products. It would be good if the community could settle on a framework, framework interface or some consistent delivery mechanism for multimedia.

What barriers do you feel have changed for Linux desktop adoption?

Cherry: The Lenovo introduction with [SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10] running on it wasn't possible until we had reasonable power management on the laptop. That capability has now reached maturity level where Lenovo felt comfortable releasing it.

Wireless is another area that has improved in the last four months. More chipsets are being supported. One of the big changes is that the Broadcom chipset is now being supported in the kernel. We still have a little firmware issue to work around, but the capabilities are being put into the infrastructure so it's going to be much easier to support wireless and new wireless chipsets in the future. These are all good things that have enabled the desktop in the last four months.

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