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Programming Linux

Ask Slashdot: Attracting Developers To Abandonware? 321

phlawed writes "I've been a Linux user since the previous millennium. I came from OS/2, which I really liked. I quickly felt at home with icewm, using a suitably tweaked config to give me something resembling Presentation Manager. I may have commented on that before. Today, I find myself in a position where my preferred 'environment' is eroding. The only force keeping icewm rolling these days is the distribution package maintainers. I can't code in any meaningful way, nor do I aspire to. I could easily pay for a supported version of icewm, but I can't personally pay someone enough to keep it alive. I'd love it if someone took a personal interest in the code, to ensure that it remains up to date, or to make it run on Wayland or whatever. I want someone to own the code, be proud of it. Is there a general solution for this situation? How do I go about drumming up interest for an old project?"
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Ask Slashdot: Attracting Developers To Abandonware?

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  • There is a way (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rinisari ( 521266 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @07:15PM (#44852349) Homepage Journal

    I could easily pay for a supported version of icewm, but I can't personally pay someone enough to keep it alive.

    Sure you can. Find someone to work on it and get them to sign up for Gittip [], while you do the same. You can "tip" them a few cents to several bucks per week for their efforts and they can get paid by you and other supporters.

    • Re:There is a way (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @07:29PM (#44852433)

      Yes, I'm sure a few dollars a week is going to attract a coder to a project be isn't otherwise interested in.

      The submitter needs to just face reality - if there were enough people interested in keeping icewm going, it would already be happening.

    • Or perhaps better - tips attached to specific bugs and feature requests in projects - and held in escrow - so they go to people who commit specific fixes to the project?

      I'm not too interested in an escrow service, but personally I liked tvtwm [] enough I might join a bounty program to bring it back into the mainstream.

      I'd gladly toss a few bucks to fund a bounty to get it back into a major distro.

  • Sorry but thats just how it is, even in the Linux world. You can't relive the past. You gotta move on to newer things. Just look at my screen handle; I've learned this lesson myself. Don't waste time hoping it will make a comeback because it won't; not as long as there's a surplus of people willing to complain about how old and obsolete it is, and not as long as there's no significant payoff to be made.
    • Right. Vi remains viable because it's still an incredibly useful text editor that has a fairly large user base. When a project gets to the point where it's just a small number of non-coders that want to see it continue, it's finished. The likelihood of attracting developers is slim, unless they're either using the software or being paid for it.

      And being paid for it usually means a substantial number of users as I doubt that the software is worth hundreds of dollars to the submitter. And hundreds on a period

      • I suspect you just proved GP's point by mistake.

        The old, original vi is quite stagant, the most recent release is from 2005. On the other hand, "the new hotness" like Vim is seeing regular releases.

  • What's keeping this layout from being re-implemented on any other window manager?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What's keeping this layout from being re-implemented on any other window manager?

      I. Do. Not. Get. It. Either.

      Here's his linked comment:

      I. Do. Not. Get. It.
      It is beyond me why people want to emulate the clutter they have on their physical desk, on their computer.
      One does not need a "Desktop Environment".

      What I want is a window manager that allows me to set the only sane focus policy (focus follows mouse, click to raise), maintains the user experience and config-file compatibility from release to release and otherwise stays out of the way. Not having to choose between 42 different plugins/extensions/addons and whatnot is also a good thing.

      A couple of years ago (*cough*) when IBM killed OS/2, I made the transition to Linux. I soon landed on icewm as my preferred window manager, as it had a "OS/2 Warp" theme. I believe I at one time played with a Presentation Manager-like desktop, but I soon realized it was more hassle than benefit.
      icewm has a fully configurable "context-menu" on the entire desktop background (right-click mouse for *your* selection of files, programs, folders, etc), ditto menu for windows (left click), configurable hotkeys (I hit F12 for a terminal), a toolbar with the regular stuff, workspaces and so on.

      And for any newbie out there: not running gnome or kde or whatever does not prevent you from launching gnome or kde programs.

      Now, please tell me again about the added benefits of having a zillion garish icons on your desktop background?
      Or, by the way... don't bother,...

      Seriously, let me paraphrase the parent:

      What the fuck is keeping the elements of this layout that you like from being re-implemented on any other window manager?

      Have you even tried? Hint: You don't need to know how to write code to customize a window manager...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Totally agree.

      I used IceWM for a long damn time. I even wrote some patches (never released) to handle multi-monitor better.

      Now I use a combination of openbox/xfce and have it set up with all the behaviours I liked in IceWM (and many that wern't available in IceWM). It's not really that hard.

      When a project gets to a point where no-one wants to work on it any more, or even fork their own version off from it, it's time to let it rest.

  • by reluctantjoiner ( 2486248 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @07:20PM (#44852383) Homepage
    Determine if there's sufficient demand for your preferred environment to grow and be maintained, sufficient to pay the salaries for a small dedicated team. If you can't code, perhaps you can manage the project or handle the marketing. If the demand isn't there, you may have to deal with the situation as is, or transition to another platform.
  • ...and a family-sized bag of Cheetos ought to do the trick.
  • Workplace Shell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @07:27PM (#44852425)

    I'm an OS/2 refugee.

    There are parts of KDE that seem much closer to WPS than the other environments. For example, right clicking in Dolphin and "Create New" to make a new blank object is similar to Workplace Shell's templates.

    The only parts of icewm that are similar to WPS is the coloring and button layout.

    None of the environments on Linux, Windows, or OSX are like the WPS "object oriented user interface." To understand what this is like you have to actually have used OS/2. Everyone else has no idea.


    • The WPS was elegant and very well designed & was light years ahead of anything else. I still miss it. It'll never happen, but I wish the old code could be open sourced and developed for again. Like I said, it'll never happen though.
  • That reminds me of when uwm went away in pref of twm. Window managers have all sorts of abilities and usu have widgets and event traps, and may have to be rewritten from the ground up to incorporate new ideas. But all is not lost, because you can usually tweak the new ones to behave like the predecessor.

    As far as window managers, old is often a subset of new, so my suggestion is to spend a day to adapt some new, maintained software using its config and dotfiles to behave the way you want.

  • I feel the same way about Plan 9 / Inferno.

  • by Statecraftsman ( 718862 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @07:47PM (#44852525) Homepage

    You might want to check into a class of crowdfunding sites that exist to fund features in free and open source software. The two main ones I could find are: [] []

  • The days when desktop environments improved as time went by seem to have gone. Now they just get more and more annoying with every iteration. Unfortunately that's the way of the world and there's nothing to be done but to grit your teeth and put up with it. Hopefully things will change again before too long.

  • Not an eeeevil corporation, not even necessarily a formal one. Post on forums (like you've already done here) with a solid proposal about chipping in (unlike you've done here); start a webpage; whatever. I guess you can even do a Kickstarter, unless it's required for the host to actually do the work. Start negotiating with developers, say that the $ is on its way or in hand.

    Seems like a lot of work? It is, and you probably won't do it. But unlike waiting for someone to be inspired to passionately solve the

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Saturday September 14, 2013 @08:06PM (#44852619)

    It's called marketing. RubyOnRails wasn't the first web framework and it certainly wasn't the best. In fact, it was pretty shitty. But it was the first that had a professionally designed website [] that advertised its benefits and a screencast that explained and demonstraded them. The pratically invented screencasts. Weeks later slashdot was filled with Rails fanatics.

    The first version of the Zope Webapp Server came out roughly a decade before rails and still was notabliy superiour to any other WebFW, Rails included, in all aspects. Yet nobody cared. Why? That's why []. Bland website? Nothing flashy? Can't find what I'm looking for? Backend UI without good looking buttons? Won't adhere to the loudmouths and hippsters and won't get attention, won't get critical mass, will lose eventually. It's that simple, even in the FOSS world nowadays (Rails actually sought to that, btw.)

    If you really want to bring ICEwm (back) into the limelight, join the team, update their 12 year old website, bundle a new version with good looking modern themes and your tweaked setup, give it a new version number and do a little rattling on related online forums. Once everything is in place, tested, up and running that is. If you've done your job well, userbase will rise again and IceWM 2.0 will the the Hip WM of 2014. Fluxbox, a Blackbox fork, gained hippness status some years back the exact same way. Neat website, one or two nice little extras, screenshots, a well kempt miniblog and everybody went "Oh, look, new and shiny."

    That's just about all there is to it. But don't you dare think good marketing isn't work and isn't worth giving as much thought as your projects software architecture. It's more work and - most of the time - even more important than that for the success of a project. Even in FOSS.

    Good luck.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nigels ( 264332 )

      I second this. What IceWM needs most is a project manager and an evangelist.

      Do a refresh of the website, reach out to all the known historical developers, start a blog about IceWM - little tutorials about what is good about IceWM, triage the bugs the best you can without diving into the code. If the debian and/or Fedora packages are missing, create some or work with the packaging folks to make them better. Convert the revision history to git and put it up on github, if possible.

      I think there is a decent

  • You can configure KDE4 pretty well, and even if you can't, you can always get someone to write a plasmoid in QML or python or something. Probably for a bounty you can afford, or even asking nicely, who knows.
    Alternatively, there's Gnome 3, but I haven't tested that one much.
    Even more alternatively, there's can do pretty much anything on it, if you can afford the time.

    I got my KDE using an Unity-like look and using some Unity apis for menus and displays. Didn't need to code at all (and any code I

    • by Arker ( 91948 )

      What's the KDE base system? 500 megs or more these days? I havent looked at it in years. But tell me, why would I download and install all that for a window manager when I can get one that works better in less than a meg? Really?

      Dont get me wrong, KDE is ok. A lot better than GNOME. But I think it's absolutely ludicrous to talk about installing KDE just to get a WM. Which is what we are talking about. ICEWM, it's even in the name.

  • by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @08:12PM (#44852649)

    I use icewm pretty regularly on some machines. It hasn't changed in years, and I like it that way.

    Is there actually anything that needs doing?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I still doesn't have a builtin mail client :)
      On the plus side jwm has seen quite a bit of development recently.

      • Please explain to me in short simple terms why a WINDOW MANAGER needs a "built in" mail tool.

        Do NONE of the dozens of existing mail tools work with icewm?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by phlawed ( 29334 )

      I agree it has been fairly resistant to breakage/bitrot. That may say something about the code quality.
      But do you actually compile from the original tarball? The last tarball is pushing 3 years by now.
      Building it gives an indication it needs an oilchange and a new filter.

      The bugtracker has a fair number of patches which appear to make sense. As do various distributions.

      So the short answer is: maintenance

      The longer answer is really up to whoever takes ownership of the code.

  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @08:30PM (#44852715)

    Lotus died a long time ago. Everyone on the planet uses Acrobat for electronic forms. Yet the US Government requires you to use crappy Lotus-based forms. Not only that, you have to submit them with Internet Explorer on Windows due to a crappy digital signature implementation that only works on IE and Windows. So, if you want keep an obsolete technology around, hire a lobbyist.

  • Like 16-bit DOS applications and Windows XP, all things eventually reach end of life.

    Get over it and move on to something else.

  • Never could figure out why it didn't catch on better than it did. I think it just lacked proper advertising.
  • We use Icewm for a Linux/X thin client environment (IceWM and apps runs on the host, not the desktop machine) and it works really well. It is simple, fast, reliable, low-resource, and controllable. I would hate to see it die or fade away. It does lack a few features that I had hoped would be added, but anything other than bug fixes stopped several years ago.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    First, a short background: I played with OS/2 Warp for a really short time, but had a lot of things to do and then Linux came. So, no cigar here.

    I have a couple computers -- the most powerful run KDE4(Mageia); for the weaker/older I've been experimenting with Xfce and LXDE and since the latter will use Qt, I'll probably use it where KDE is not possible.

    Finally, for really weak machines I've been trying some simpler distros. Porteus is incredible nimble, but I'd rather have a Debian-based distro. Which led m

  • Motive? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ZipXap ( 2773541 ) on Sunday September 15, 2013 @01:33PM (#44856971) Homepage
    I'm sorry I can't give any good advise on how to save icemw. What I can do is give you some reasons why an Open Source developer might be interested in developing a project... You can then try to find a marketing angle that appeals to one of these: 1. At the root of all open source development is the desire to do one of two things: (A) Build a tool of profound use to self and/or others. (B) Build one's skills and/or resume. Unfortunately, desktop management systems are an innovation that we've moved beyond. Today the "wild west" is in HTML5 cloud computing, wearable devices (mobile in general), etc. Sometimes an old technology will get lucky and be used as a building-block to something new and upcoming. What makes icewm so useful? How is it useful in the context of things on the "cutting-edge" today? If you can't answer that in a meaningful way then you may need to face the fact that change is a fundamental (and sometimes sad) part of the computer industry.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein