July 13, 2003 by Allen George
So on Friday I took a little hike (ok, more like an extended trip) to gnomedesktop.org. Ahh…my favorite source for GNOME information. What do I find there but…the GNOME Summary. I enjoy reading the GNOME summaries – they often give me a whole lot of information I would not have found out otherwise. At any rate, the first item was a little blurb about a neat tool Nat Freidman (of Ximian fame) was developing. I’d seen a screenshot of Dashboard but I remember having absolutely _no clue_ about what it was. Kinda like a “cool…but so what” feeling.
Yeah…well no longer. I now know what it is and it sounds fricken good. What it is, is an association engine. You can patch your frontends (apps like Evolution, Epiphany, Straw, XChat, [your favorite IM client]) to send ‘clues’ to a backend (I’m a little hazy on whether its to or _through_). At any rate, the match engine links together information from different backends and produces a consise listing with whatever you referred to. Pretty awesome stuff! It sounds simple enough (I mean – that’s what we humans do) but I’ve _never_ seen it done on an OS. Example case:
I’m talking to Allister on ICQ. Dashboard could theoretcially query evolution and display all the contact info etc I have on Allister, his address whatever. Perhaps I have a GOATS note on my desktop regarding stuff I have to pick up for him or a project we have to complete. If GOATS has its own backend, that could be used to get all the info I need. Also, maybe I have files referring to joint projects we did – that would go on too. Pretty nice! I’m curious to see where this goes. Although I am not a big fan of Mono (I’m not sure how long MS will tolerate them) I have to admit that this would have taken a whole crapload longer in plain old C. I also have to agree with Nat when he says that this space will soon be occupied by alternate applications. I have a great suspicion that the KDE folks will start work on something like this soon :)
I am however, concerned with Mono/.NET and what it means to Java. Let me be honest – even though I believe .NET has a number of advantages (for example being able to call – no matter in how limited a fashion – elements you’ve designed in other languages) I am still not comfortable in using/endorsing Microsoft technologies. Why? Because no matter what – you have to remember that they have 40 billion dollars and they’re out to preserve the stranglehold on the market. Frankly, the thought of supporting Microsoft is highly disagreeable to me. I hope that Sun can inject some real life into the Java movement and in addition try to get the OSS community under its banner, because without it, I suspect it will start to lose.