A step back from the open source

A step back from the open source

One month ago, I created my first Android app.

While the app was a paid one, the reception has been outstanding. I’ve gotten a fair amount of mails from the users, encouraging me and thanking me for improving their daily life.

This is something much different from what we experienced with Rapache. While there have been people speaking about it around, I dare to say it’s very little compared to Clip Ninja.

Rapache has been developed by two people and we experienced every kind of problem. The lack of documentation of Pygtk being the biggest one. At the time, StackOverflow didn’t exist yet, and dedicated IRC rooms were silent.

Packaging was an issue, even for a python application like Rapache, you had to learn how to do it, and that takes time. Packaging on Android is a breeze.

Then, after weeks of work, it finally comes the moment to submit to the Android Market and it immediately becomes available, and gets ranked within two days. Getting included in the Ubuntu (universe) repository, is a totally different beast. You need a MOTU for that, or open a bug and hope to get noticed.

You could, of course own your own repository, but – again – that placed the packaging burden on upstream’s shoulders (you). Right after that, you’d need to have your users add the PPA to their sources.list and was everything but intuitive. There was also a pretty big opposition against the proposal to let the user add PPAs with a click. That was for good reasons, but some of the reasons are symptoms of our OS weaknesses. Shared libraries aren’t good for everyone, aren’t always and guess what, most of the commercial packages for linux just bundle all the libs they need with their application to skip the issue completely.

And you get problems for that, as new versions of the OS may effectively crash your software (as it happened with Rapache).

Back to the Open Source, when you experience an issue, the code is open, and it’s easier for the people to have a look to that, and propose solutions, send patches, etcetera. I dare to say that doesn’t happen that often for most developers. That’s an important point: even if most people (let’s admit it) love open source because of its gratis, the main point of it should be the freedom, the ability to build upon the work of other people and adapt the work of others to your needs. But if that doesn’t happen often, is it really worth the effort ?

Is it worth the effort to develop for 10 million of people instead of 100 millions of people ? How many lives do we want to improve with our work ? With Android doomed to become the next Windows (both in the good and bad way) will you still develop for Ubuntu ?

How much do you think Ubuntu will still last ?

(so much for Gnome vs KDE)

This seems like a great time to subscribe my RSS !

3 responses to “A step back from the open source”

  1. Peter

    As an application author, you shouldn’t be worried about one particular distro including your work. If the program is useful to people, eventually someone will take the time to package your application for Ubuntu (and Redhat, and Debian, and SUSE, and the various BSDs and …).

    Just focus on making a great program. If Ubuntu doesn’t decide to package it, it’s their loss.

  2. z. brisbane


    just bought clip ninja and love it. any chance of a port for linux ;-) ..would totally rock



  3. Stefano Forenza

    Hey Z,

    Clip Ninja comes from my experiments with Linux accessibility. Sadly, the accessibility infrastructure of Linux, at the time, was freezing X very often, so I abandoned the project.

    It could be a mistake on my part, I don’t know, since the documentation was pretty lacking, but my guess is that the infrastructure itself was just bugged.

    I’d say the chances of me doing a port are very few. I’m sorry about that.

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