Removing the Scaffolding

Those of you that are monitoring the Github page have likely noticed that a lot of things has changed during the last few days. The lack of activity on this page in recent months do not correlate to a lack of activity in the project overall, on the contrary.

The upcoming version, 0.5, was planned to be the last version that had anything directly to do with emulators but that plan was scrapped in favour of moving the project to its next intended phase slightly ahead of schedule. The previous emulation / HTPC frontend work was always intended to be an intermediate target for aggressive prototyping when figuring out what features were actually needed in the Lua API — not as a goal in- and by- itself.

At the moment, the contents of the git are unsuitable for emulation and frontend purposes — stick with the latest tagged release for that. The tools and scripts used for emulation are being updated and moved to a separate Git, and the plan is still to make sure those of you that are using gridle/awb/other projects can continue to do so while still taking advantage of advances in the engine.

What is this ‘next phase’ then? Well, some of the details will be left hanging for a while longer, but one of the major end-goals for this project is to find a different approach to how desktop environments should work by taking advantage of some of the good parts from the game development world (API design, performance, minimizing latency), emulation (state management, odd and weird input devices), the X Windows System (data sharing, allowing window managers to provide a choice in interaction schemes) and other areas.

To see this plan in another perspective:

Part of this goal is also to reduce the barrier-to-entry for developing real-time graphics applications, even desktop environments, and especially ones targeting the recent onslaught of low to medium powered ‘all in one board’ devices like the Raspberry Pi.

The other side of this is to act as a counterweight to current development trends towards ‘fixing the desktop’. One such trend is the one of embedding the most overly complex pile of legacy and liability that humanity has produced so far (also known as “the web browser”) everywhere — ultimately ending up in a place where nothing works if you’re behind a malicious DNS server, forcing you to constantly relearn how to interact with it because the interface had yet another lousy morning and decided to rearrang itself by moving the features you used the most to the place where you are the least likely to find them. 

Another one, which is possibly even more damaging, is trying to ‘fix things’ by introducing hordes of PolicyServiceKitManagerSystemInstanceFactoryBusObserver dependent applications that try to automate action on behalf of the user in response to some “complex” dynamic system event like the user plugging in <some device> into a USB port (thinking that means the user wants to mount the filesystem on the device, synch all the contents to a cloud storage service while being given helpful shopping advice based on the pictures stored), a world where every little component is unknowingly responsible for something that is unrelated to its own function and thus unable to take responsibility for malfunction — thus no-one will be pushed to act on the fact that your music player in the background grinds to a halt because the SoundServiceSystemManagerListener live-locked when your network connection dropped because you moved to a different WiFi access point.

The ambition here is, in stark contrast to the two scenarios mentioned above, to provide the user with the tools necessary to easily and clearly convey his or her own actual intent behind the action that the system observed < some device was plugged in >, along with the tools to only grant applications temporary and limited access to selected parts of the user’s data– and to upgrade the UNIX pipes and filters model of ‘do one thing but do it well‘, rather than to try and replace it with a selected mix of all the bad parts associated with Windows and Android.

But that is a longer story — to be continued.

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