Thursday, October 27, 2011

Q&A with Enlightenment Lead Developer "Rasterman"

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of the Enlightenment desktop. I recently got into contact with the project's lead developer "Rasterman" and we did a little bit of a question and answer session. If you aren't sure on what all the Enlightenment desktop and the EFLs are exactly please see my post here.

How long have you been working on E for?

I remember when I started writing E. Dinosaurs were roaming the earth and things were much warmer... So that was back in 1996.

You've been the lead developer for Enlightenment for some time, did you work on any other desktop environments/projects prior to it?

Prior to enlightenment I was hacking on fvwm. fvm-xpm was a result of my
hacking and rxvt-xpm too. Beyond this I also wrote some trinkets like xflame (display flames in X in a window or on root even) xripple (create reflection ripples on your desktop background in x). Then I got sucked into the bottomless pit that is Enlightenment and have yet to escape.

What inspired you to create another desktop/window manager?

I had an itch. I scratched it. Frankly I just thought X was too plain and ugly
and needed some spicing up. I knew X could do it and people were just not
using the facilities it had, so I did.

In your opinion what are the EFLs strongest advantages over other libraries such as GTK or QT?

Smaller, leaner and built for a more modern graphics era. They are designed from the ground up as a scene graph. GTK and QT are just beginning to explore that and see the light. EFLs have been there and mature for many years now.

How much of Enlightenment/EFLs do you maintain personally?

Not all of them by any stretch. I mostly stick to ecore, evas, edje, embryo, eet, and elementary. Eina I throw things into now and again, but I don't tend to put a lot of time into that one. Efreet, e_dbus and eeze I mostly leave alone. E17 itself I do a large amount of work on still. Of course many others who work on these too to varying degrees, not just me, so it's a team effort.

How many active developers does Enlightenment currently have working on it?

In terms of fulltime developers spending 8+hours per day cranking out code, we have about 5 on a good day. If you just want to talk about the number of people actively sending in patches, it's about 20. If we had more manpower we could do so much more. Many developers just get distracted off into many other things (real life, their day jobs, other tasks etc.) most of the time.

Are you looking for more help with development?


Do you have any tips for aspiring programmers hoping to get started writing applications using the EFLs?

Start with the libraries that make things simplest - start with elementary.
It's the least code to get the most done. Work your way down. Get your head around the idea of a scene graph instead of immediate-mode rendering as well as a mainloop and callback-driven api's and you'll be golden.

I know Samsung funds Enlightenment development, do any other companies sponsor a sizable amount of development?

Right now, other than Profusion, not a sizable mount. There are smaller
companies involved here and there like ordissimo, calaos,, but I don't even know them all and have probably missed a few in my quick answer here.

Can you give us any hints about how Samsung plans to use the EFLs they are funding?

We are using them as part of a mobile platform that's basically a full Linux OS stack like your regular desktop linux distributions. It is being designed for mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and god knows what else (that's all pretty obvious given that it's the mobile os r&d that is doing the work).

As a developer what is your take on Gnome 3 and Unity?

Unity - I haven't been looking at too closely, but my take is that it's causing
a lot of unhappiness amongst users. 

Gnome 3 - seems to have also created a lot of friction. Gnome 3 is now finally becoming tightly coupled like E17. They are in fact moving towards our model of things now, so I would guess it's a vote in favor for us having had the better model to begin with and being ahead of the curve. My general take on any environment that REMOVEs options from the user or makes them exceedingly hard to find or change, is that it does its userbase a disservice to the extreme. If you want to move options to "advanced" dialogs somewhere or something - fine, but removal is just bad.

Anything else you'd like to add/feel is worth mentioning?

In general I think EFL and E get a lot of things really RIGHT. We normally implement many things quietly without fanfare or blogs that you find other DE's and toolkits implementing with lots of publicity about their great new feature. We are a very behind-the-scenes group and are more conservative than most in actual publicity. This is something we really need to break out of somehow and improve. We don't "toot our own horns" enough. I really wish we had 1 or more people just devoted to doing public relations, blogs, announcements, press releases... the works.

I'd just like to say thanks to Raster for taking some time out of his day to field my questions. Hopefully you learned as much as I did.

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. yay! this is one of the most impressive posting about enlightenment. very good!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Good post.

    We should really be doing lots more PR for e17 and release 1.0. As many as five people from different companies that I spoke to, in Linux Con 2011, have used e16, but then just switched to other options for no apparent reason. They range from folks working for purely embedded (use Linux to run small motots) to big distros.

    And they all have complaints about the alternatives!

    We have to show e17 in better light.

  4. Great post! Seems like a funny guy. Anyways, I really love Bodhi and e17, Bodhi has given me a chance to be able to use e17 with the ease-of-use of Ubuntu and I really like it. Regarding e17, I think it is great but has the potential to become much better. It can even beat the big guns Gnome, KDE, Windows and OS X in terns of DE. The only thing holding it back is the lack of awareness among people and I believe that a public relations guy would be extremely useful, just like Cassidy James is for ElementaryOS.
    Suggestion: why not yourself Jeff, you have an e17 distro under you so you would be in a good position. just a suggstion

  5. Ha! I've already been talking with Raster about taking over said task.

  6. Only 6 comments?
    ppl, you really have to give a try to Bodhi, and you'll see how fantastic E17 is.

  7. After playing with BodhiLinux and Enlightenment, the question I'm left with is "Why?". What does Enlightenment do that makes it better than the alternatives? Why not use XFCE, LXDE, OpenBox, or any of the other lightweight DEs out there? I don't ask this to be a jerk, I just don't see enough of a differentiation. My suggestion would be to come up with a killer app. Something that would make people want to use Enlightenment because they do this one thing better than any other DE out there. For example, KDE's PIM is head and shoulders above anybody else's and I've installed KDE specifically for that reason in the past. What does Enlightenment have that nobody else does?

  8. None of those other desktops you just listed are written in their own tool kit. The EFLs are written from the ground up with speed in mind.

    GTK was not written with speed in mind.

    Oh and calling XFCE "light" is a joke. It is just as bloated as Gnome 2 at this point.

  9. Yup! XFCE is quite as bloated as gnome 2 in my experience as well, although I use it mainly because it is very much like gnome 2 and i really liked gnome 2. But E17 is brilliant. I had given it a try some time back by installing it on a normal ubuntu install but it didn't give the best experience because I could not get extra modules to work and I was a bit unfarmiliar with the way it worked. But thanks to Bodhi I can use it properly and now I love it.

  10. Hey Jeff, thinking about it, I would also like to help out in that PR thing mentioned before. I won't mind spending some time spreading awareness and all the goodies about E17, now my favourite Shell. Please tell me what you think.

  11. Nice one, Jeff! ...and profound respect to Rasterman.
    I'm back in Australia now an will be at in January - be happy to provide a focus for Bodhi &/or Enlightenment there if that would help?

    Ben (aka Flymo on Bodhi Forums)

  12. > Oh and calling XFCE "light" is a joke. It is just as bloated as Gnome 2 at this point.

    Are you talking about Xubuntu distro (where bloat comes from Ubuntu services etc) using XFCE or plain XFCE desktop?

    AFAIK a lot of Gnome 2 (memory usage) bloat comes from out-of-process panel applets, in XFCE many of them are in-process.

    > They are designed from the ground up as a scene graph. GTK and QT are just beginning to explore that and see the light.

    Gnome scenegraph is called Clutter, not Gtk. :-) Clutter was started on 2006, so it's already 5 years old and API-wise quite nice.

    Qt scenegraph is newer than that though and the implementation backing up QML changes in Qt v5.

  13. Fantastic post Jeff :)

    I totally agree with:

    "I really wish we had 1 or more people just devoted to doing public relations, blogs, announcements, press releases... the works ".

    But for this, the bloggers, we need to know the new the works, announcements, etc..

    Is there anything new lately to E17 ?

  14. The question still stands though, what does Enlightenment do that nobody else does? Is it just behind the scenes stuff? Is there anything that I can point my finger to? Written in it's own tool kit doesn't mean a whole lot to me as a user. Also, I've been hearing about how xfce has become too bloated for a couple of years now. However, I have run it on a couple of old boxes and also run Enlightenment and all of the other DEs I mentioned. I must be doing something wrong because xfce runs just as well as the others.

    My point though, was that if Enlightenment's main issue is a PR one then here's your chance. Tell everybody why it's better. Not from a coding perspective, but from a users perspective. I'm open to hearing about all the greatness that is Enlightenment. I've got it installed on my laptop right now. What can it do that other DEs can't?

  15. Two words: Run Everything

    Beyond that the fact that E17 is easily customizable compared to anything else is a plus. And it is extremely theme-able.

  16. I have fond memories of enlightenment from the days when it was the default desktop for Redhat and I try it (16 & 17) every now and then and have for years, in hopes of switching to it full time. But its never quite stable enough or configurable enough for me.

    My main blocks now are replicating Gnome 2 and XFCE style top panel with icons and bottom panel with menu some icons, notifications and a workspace switcher.

    Its sad though that after all these years there's only about 20 devs contributing regularly. They've done amazing things but where is the community? Maybe the lead devs need to look at the organization of the project. Whats keeping more devs from showing up?


  17. Raster's problem is that he prefers to work in secret as he mentioned. Yeah if really nobody knows what happens no other will be able to blog about this than he or other developers. This means extinction and stalling for EFL as it appears to me now. I am power user of linux and yet have not heard about all that E thing for years (with notable exception for vapourware tales).

    Guys do some community work or else projects like your will deserve progressing irrelevance. But you maybe just love this.

    Even if Samsung have been throwing money into the project for many months now as you like to mention, it now backpedals to HTML5!

    And you have funny habit of taking random ${PARADIGM} like scene graph or ${INTEGRATION}, you claim it as your grand idea and claim the whoever does the same usign common knowledge, copies you.

    Come on guys, get a break and do some useful work, e.g. finally release your DE with working file manager or so.

  18. As a long time user - 9 years - I have no complain about "E".

    Of course, there were/are limitations of what "E" is capable of doing, but then, everything has limitations - even KDE/Gnome have their own limitations.

    I have nothing but respect for Rasterman for his persistence and determination to go on coding, no matter what type of silly things others said about him.

  19. E17 needs visual layer between GTK and Enlightenment itself. Due to deficiency of native applications, GTK themes and icons break the solid look of the E17 desktop.

    Is there any work done in this direction?