2005 Edition Free and Open Source Software Developer's European Meeting


2005-02-09 - Olivier Fourdan


An interview conducted by FOSDEM & theLinuxFR readers
FOSDEM - Please present yourself.

Olivier Fourdan - I'm the founder of Xfce, a project I started for my own use in late 1996. The project has evolved over the years thanks to the few amazing developers who joined the project. I work on Xfce only during my spare time as my regular day job has nothing to do with Xfce development. I've worked in many different areas in the past, from web development to embedded Linux, and I'm now working for a sub contracting company doing support for various tools. I am also married and father of two children.

FOSDEM - The development of E17 is going pretty fast these days. What do you think about it?

Olivier Fourdan - I've not followed the development of Enlightenment lately, so I can hardly comment on it.

FOSDEM - What are your relations with the Freedesktop group? How much involved is the XFCE team in elaborating Freedesktop recommendation? To what extent does XFCE follow these recommendations or uses the code hosted by fd.o?

Olivier Fourdan - We are not much involved in the group. In fact, we try to stay compliant with the standards as much as we can but we take no part in the standards themselves. We have very limited resources, and being involved with the would probably mean less involvement with Xfce (well, at least for me).

FOSDEM - Will it be possible in a foreseeable future to integrate gnome panel applets into XFCE panel, and vice versa ? Are XFCE, Gnome, KDE, and others going towards harmonization of their panels in general, and more specifically on means of integrating applets into them (using D-BUS or anything)?

Olivier Fourdan - We have no such "applets" in Xfce panel. Whereas GNOME applets are small programs that show in the GNOME panel, Xfce uses plugins. An Xfce panel plug-in runs in the same space as the panel itself, sharing the same event loop, etc. That design saves memory, but expose the panel to all the bugs that could be found in the applets (in other words, if a plug- in crashes, the panel dies with it). I guess one could write an Xfce panel plugin that could display GNOME panel applets, it should be doable although I did not look very hard into it. That particular plug-in would be linked with GNOME's libpanel- applet library. That would be an interesting tool to write in fact.

FOSDEM - XFCE is always growing and becoming a very complete desktop environment. It now takes some time to load it because of all the features. Paradoxically, the goal of XFCE is to provide a very light desktop. What about the future of XFCE, and how to council improvement and simplicity in a project? How will you keep XFCE light while adding more features?

Olivier Fourdan - It's definitely a big concern, even if the goal of Xfce is not to provide just a "very light desktop", but simply a good and lighter alternative to other desktops.
It means that we are not just looking for the lightest solutions (otherwise, you would find just a simple window manager in Xfce), but a good balance between speed, memory usage and functionalities.
I didn't run any benchmark, but I think Xfce 4.2 might take longer to start for two reasons: The session manager and the standard menus, both being new in Xfce 4.2. It slows down the startup process but there is now easy way to avoid that other than disabling these features, which is perfectly doable (Xfce can operate without the session manager and the user can disable either the menu or just the icons in the menus). All this to say we are bound the the standards, but the choice remains.

FOSDEM - In your opinion, what is the most important feature in a window manager? Lightness, functionnality, speed or design?

Olivier Fourdan - Xfce is not a window manager, but "xfwm4" is. This said, it really depends on the component you are referring to. I think the window manager should be fast since it's a tool that is used constantly, whatever the user do. The whole user experience in a desktop depends a lot of the window manager. Of course, a good design is always nice.
Other components such as the panel or the desktop manager don't share the same requirements as the window manager.
If you look at Xfce as a whole, I think robustness and speed are my main goals. Other developers mileage may vary though.

FOSDEM - If you could not use XFCE anymore, to which WM/DM would you give preference and why?

Olivier Fourdan - I like both GNOME and KDE equally. Xfce is definitely closer to GNOME because of GTK+, but KDE has a very good window manager with kwin.

FOSDEM - What are you expecting from FOSDEM?

Olivier Fourdan - A bit of exposure for the project, meet other people and get in touch with other projects. As I said, we have very limited resources, so it's a great opportunity for us.
Most of Xfce developers will be going to FOSDEM, so it will be great to meet all the people I know just by email and IRC. I'd like to tell everybody to come and visit us, as we'll have a developer room on Sunday afternoon and I hope many people will come and see us there.


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