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Fri, 17 Feb 2006
Marooned on Mac

There's another thing that I've learned (besides make more backups) from the theft of the Powerbooks. I used to think that I could switch to Linux whenever I felt like it. This incident forced me to do it, if only for a few days, and it turns out that I didn't like it much. Thankfully I won't have to do it because Paul and Jenny were so generous with the iBook.

I used Thunderbird before when I was on Windows, so I figured that it wouldn't be any big deal to go back to using it. I was wrong. In Mail.app I used Mail Act-On to fire an Applescript that would take a bunch of selected e-mails and file them in the correct folders. There's no way to do that in Thunderbird. I also had a combination shell and Applescript solution for killing comment spam on my blog. No way to do that either, because Thunderbird isn't scriptable. My workload is e-mail heavy at the moment, and even small hits to e-mail productivity are multiplied

I tried using GAIM for managing my normal IRC load. Once I got sounds working it was sort of okay. I normally put IRC on a separate display, and I use Snak because I can create multiple windows, and inside each window I can split the window into tiles, one IRC channel per tile. I haven't seen any other IRC program on any platform that will let me do this UI. And for watching several IRC channels at once, this can't be beat.

I tried using my Bloglines and Rojo accounts. I found both of these to be too slow, even when loaded with a much older version of my blog subscriptions. I was able to get a newer version of my feeds and upload them, but both aggregators didn't respect the grouping information that NetNewsWire left in the OPML.

I was already doing most of my development work on Linux, so that's not taking much of a hit, but for all the productivity stuff, going to Linux would be a big step backwards. I guess it says something when I'd rather use a G3 iBook versus the 3.5GHz AMD64 box...

[23:10] | [computers/operating_systems/macosx] | # | TB | F | G | 12 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post

About KDE and scripting: I've certainly had some success with DCOP, automation, and some of my brother's PyKDE work, mostly with KHTML and the plug-in mechanisms that it permits. Using Python with DCOP (or even using the dcop command line tool) is fairly straightforward once you know how, and some applications have reasonable enough interfaces for simple things. However, even extending the DCOP interfaces for applications might not get you a rich enough interface comparable to, for example, COM automation interfaces on Windows: I have some experience with Outlook's interface, for instance.

So whilst the usage of DCOP by various KDE applications is welcome, I can't help thinking that the overly restrictive interfaces exported by things like Kontact and KMail are either driven by security considerations (something which Microsoft learned fairly late), or that they are due to limitations in the DCOP technology itself. The one infuriating thing I've discovered is that (at least with PyKDE and DCOP, although I have reason to believe that it's a general DCOP issue) each exported object has to be published under a special name in some DCOP namespace or other; moreover, there are certain restrictions about what can be passed in and out of methods that make DCOP seem less like a true object system and more like an RPC/serialisation mechanism where you have to pretend you're using objects. Thus, in order to automate KHTML documents, I have to manage access to document nodes in my own code, rather than just export them in some wrapped form or other.

If you look at the reasoning behind KDE's usage of DCOP instead of CORBA [1], it's either all about raw performance - "One test of 10,000 synchronous RPC calls between distributed objects took 4.5 seconds in DCOP and over 8 seconds using MICO. The DCOP result shows how efficient it is: the practical limit for IPC/RPC calls between objects is often shown to be about 3000 discrete calls per second." - or the usual myth creation about CORBA [2] - "These functions were never really intended for Corba usage - which is more appropriate for large, dedicated distributed systems." - whereas airing these views in public [3] has resulted in much debunking of the motivations behind DCOP themselves. Certainly, as I've said publicly, systems like ILU worked incredibly well in the era before the KDE people made their choice, and as intra-process mechanisms, too.

Now, intra-process stuff brings me to KParts which, as I understand it, is all about loading dynamic libraries into the same process (thus having you risk an entire application crash when one of the components segfaults, but that's a side issue and only an occasional inconvenience). KParts appear to be orthogonal to DCOP - each KPart may well communicate with others using DCOP, although I have no experience in the matter - and I think DCOP is more relevant for what you want.

Anyway, aside from my rant about KDE's arguably dubious technical decisions, I wouldn't use anything else. Minor issues aside, the desktop experience plus Konqueror and Kontact are really very good, and I was just surprised that anyone pitching an open source PIM project wouldn't be aware of their nearest neighbour, as it were.

[2] http://kdemyths.urbanlizard.com/myth/31
[3] http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/6583
Posted by Paul Boddie at Mon Feb 20 11:20:16 2006

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