I got some new books today. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, purchased on the recommendation of fictional character Seth Cohen from The OC, Oblivion by David Foster Wallace, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, suggested by Roozbeh Pournader, the new McSweeney’s, and something else I can’t remember right now.
A full report will be forthcoming when I have finished these books or given up trying.
OSNews has an article listing a huge diversity of Mono-based applications. I hadn’t heard of a lot of these!
Hula is only a week old and yet has enjoyed tremendous attention already. The activity level is fantastic:
Not content with this, Martijn is pushing ahead to write GroupDAV support for Hula. Good luck Martijn!
One of the important things happening this week is the re-normalization of the URLs that Hula uses for calendars and mails. We want Hula to have simple, memorable URLs. This will get us most of the way toward allowing easy calendar publication, which I am looking forward to in particular.
See, Joe and I have a mailing list that all of our friends, mainly in the Boston area, use for group communication. Most of the time the traffic on the list is of the form, “Hey, Kelly is having a party this weekend; here’s the invitation.” Or, “Anyone want to go to New York to see The Life Aquatic next week?” Or other things of this nature.
Robert and I were talking recently, and we realized that this mailing list is essentially a calendar. A calendar with no way to get a view of what’s happening on what days or who’s coming to what without reading all the mails and constructing a view in your head. A calendar that we are running on mailing list software.
So we want to try to replace, or at least augment, our mailing list with a shared calendar. One of the first steps is to allow calendar publication, so that people can maintain social calendars that their friends subscribe to (“here’s the cool sutff that’s going on in Boston”); later, we can make group calendars with multiple writers.
The new URL scheme will also be an important step to support CalDAV in the future, which we’ll probably start on in earnest next month, and which we’ll need to work with Sunbird and Chandler.
Also I lost my camera about a week ago. I think I left it in a taxi. Oops.
“There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”
“Writing an open source dating system is like opening a vegetarian steakhouse”
— Mike Shaver
Jon released Beagle 0.0.6 today. In this release the memory usage is really getting under control. It isn’t perfect yet, but you can now run Beagle for days at a time without it totally hosing your system. If you haven’t tried it yet, now might be a good time. Also see the Beagle demos if you want to know what Beagle does.
The Hula Project
Today we are thrilled to be launching Hula, a new project to build an open source mail and calendar server.
Hula is a really exciting project already in part because we think that we can fill a hitherto-unclaimed spot in the stack of open source applications and in part because we’ve “primed the pump” by basing it on an existing, functioning codebase: a Novell product called NetMail. NetMail already runs millions of calendars and mailboxes. And so we’re starting off with the mundane work of building a functioning server done, leaving us to focus on creating interesting new functionality.
We know the demand is high for a credible piece of software in this space. Ever since we first released Evolution in 2000, people have been asking us where they can find an open source server. The lack of an implementable open calendar server protocol has crippled calendar-server efforts for years; we think CalDAV is finally going to fix that and are getting behind that as our primary fat-client interface for Evolution and Chandler and Sunbird, and maybe Outlook as well.
Our direction is distinct from other open source collaboration server projects in that we’re not trying to build every conceivable bit of functionality that someone might consider “collaboration” into the server. Instead, we are focused on building great calendar and mail functionality. The dominant collaboration solutions today (Exchange and Notes) are built on a pre-Internet design and are just no fun to use for real people who live on the web, who collaborate across organizational boundaries (or who don’t have organizational boundaries to worry about), who want light-weight tools and URLs for their meetings and their appointments on their cell phone and so on.
So we have a couple of specific ideas we want to focus on.
We will build a real web-based calendar. Every networked calendar I’ve ever used has been exactly the same: create appointment, specify subject, location, start time, duration. Accept/tenatively accept/decline. Private/public. Free/busy search.
The current Hula web interface, by Garrett LeSage
And yet there’s no way to schedule appointments with people for whom I only have an email address, no way to get at my calendar data programmatically, to script it, to view it with an RSS feed, to access it via IM or SMS, etc. Thanks to the webcal URI standard people are starting to publish calendars but there’s no easy way to maintain these other than exporting an ICS file from your client and copying it to a server every so often.
Why has no one rethought this model?
Well, we’re going to try to. Our first ideas are up on the Hula web site. Take a second and check them out. Some of this came out of conversations with Jamie Zawinski, and he deserves credit for focusing us on calendars instead of floating off into, I dunno, voice over IP integration or something.
This announcement has been several months in the making here at Novell, but the real work to build a community and interesting new functionality is just starting. Hula is new. It’s young. If you want enterprise-class groupware functionality on Linux today, your only reasonable option is GroupWise. Hula will grow up over time, and probably go in new and unexpected directions. We’re looking forward to seeing where people take it.
One of the incidental things we are doing with Hula is that the web site is a wiki. I’m really interested to see how well that works out; for today’s launch we’ve locked the pages to prevent opportunistic vandalism, but we’ll probably open them up to world-writeability (literally) in a couple of days. Many thanks to Kate Turner and Brion Vibber for their help with MediaWiki over the last few days.
I’m probably going to be spending a lot of today explaining Hula to journalists, but when I’m not doing that I’ll be in #hula on freenode.
Boring Thoughts about Writers
Each time he writes a new book, I expect Dave Eggers to fall on his face and put out crap. My pessimism, I think, is rooted in those long “metanarrative” sections from A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (and in its title!), which barely worked, verging on showoffy-cutesy-clever. He has always come across as an author on the brink: on the brink of self indulgence, on the brink of a bad joke, of being too young, too ironic, or something. And I think he knows it.
But he’s put out two books since (You Shall Know Our Velocity and How We Are Hungry), and I’ve just finished the latest (Hungry) and I really liked it, though it had the same cringe-factor moments in it as the previous two.
I’m sure his books aren’t for everyone. I don’t think my dad could read them; I think he’d probably seem like a juvenile, crappier version of a serious writer to someone like my dad, who studied literature for decades, taught journalism at a university, etc.
The real point of this entry was to quote a paragraph I really liked but now I can’t find it. The gist of it was that flying is more common today than it was when my parents were growing up, and so it’s fairly normal (for my generation) to have friends whom you see sporadically, in random places around the world throughout the year. I identified.
So, while I’m typing here anyway, I’ll just note that I also read Neal Stephenson’s entire Baroque Cycle sometime last year, which was basically extended light entertainment with an educational twist, sort of like watching 3-2-1 Contact when I was a kid.
And it also had those cringe-inducing passages; so bad, they are difficult to even mention. Among the worst was a reference to a Microsoft marketing campaign, wherein one of the main characters, Jack Shaftoe, is walking along a dock, selecting galley slaves for his boat, and they’re all jeering at him, and one of them shouts out “Where do you want to row today?”
I had to put the book down for a few days after that, but picked it back up in the end because the sunk costs were so high, I couldn’t bear not finishing it. And it was genuinely engrossing to see the world through Stephenson’s eyes; it made me want to visit Amsterdam again, anyway.
And, you know, it’s easy to be a critic.
Other Me-Oriented News
In other me-oriented news, it’s been over 4 months since I’ve had a cigarette, I beat Miguel 3-1 at chess tonight (though he punished me badly two nights ago), this web site is amazing, the BBC plugin for my beloved squeezebox is wonderful, I am in love with wikitravel and last week in two separate incidents people on the street recognized me from this web site.
“Are you nat.org?” they asked.
Boy is that disorienting.