Calling all highdeas

7 min read

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mini-mite's avatar
A little birdy

You might have heard that we (Izobalax, me, and quite a few undisclosed members) are working on a "social desktop" platform. If you've used KDE4 for any considerable amount of time, you'll surely know about the "official" social desktop, that hasn't really materialized all that well, yet - but it's a start.

Now before we go any further into detail about our new pet project, Bongos, let me make a couple disclaimers. First of all, deviantArt is primarily for just that - art. We will have vanilla forums for discussion relating to the specifics about Bongos when the time is appropriate, but for now, please try to stay on topic - art.

The second disclaimer, is that if you've known me for any considerable amount of time, you'll know I'm very, well, opinionated. I like to think of myself as open minded, and I'm heartily open to a rational, logical debate about something I feel strongly about. One of those things is desktop environments, and how a distribution should and should not behave. I think you'll see what I mean in a bit. But bear in mind that I'm completely open to rebuttals, argumentation, and dialogue, as long as it's presented in a sane fashion, and with proper evidence backing up your argument.

Now that we've covered that, let's move on to what Bongos is, or well, will be. Don't worry, we won't write a 20 page writeup about how social networking today sucks, we plan to fix it, and some mega-super-ambitious words about how our platform is so cool and hip. We do, however, think that it would be nice if there was a sane, open source, social network oriented desktop - one without Windows or walls - one not bound by distribution, operating system, hardware, or state of mind. So anyways. Enough cheap talk. If we were to sum up Bongos in a nutshell, it would be:

Bongos is an open source, platform and distribution agnostic social desktop framework that builds on existing desktop environments, application and PIM frameworks rather than reinventing the wheel.

Now you might be curious about the name Bongos. Well when I first conceived the idea, I dubbed it Nimbus, an obviously boring, overused name. A good friend of mine suggested Bongos instead, basically illustrating the core idea of the social desktop: to allow for seamless, instantaneous communication between parties. Bongos were used in Africa for communication between tribes and villages, and with the advent of Ubuntu, a lot of people just instantly think of Africa, Nelson Mandela, and "humanity" when they think of GNU/Linux, so it kind of fits together nicely.

Details plox!
Fine, fine.

"What distribution will Bongos be built on?" Again, Bongos will be cross-distribution, meaning there will be packages for Debian, RPM's for Fedora, openSUSE and friends, PKGBUILDs for Archlinux, and so on. But we plan on putting together a LiveCD based on Archlinux, complete with a branded fbsplash and GRUB splash image, a la the bread and butter "bloatware" distributions. We really believe in Archlinux's philosophy of KISS, which is exactly the philosophy behind Bongos. But yes, if you're one of the poor fellows stuck on some sub-par distribution like Ubuntu, you'll still be able to use Bongos. ;) (we kid, we kid :P in fact, one of our core developers is an Ubuntu/Debian fanatic, so we might end up with 2 LiveCD's, who knows.)

"What about desktop environment?" Oh boy. This will be a hot topic, and has always been, so bear with us. First off, remember that Bongos will be, in the end, mostly cross-desktop, meaning you'll be able to harness most of Bongos' functionality through a web browser. As such, we will likely have "minimal" packages for Bongos, i.e., just the HTTP interface and the full-screen, stick-to-desktop "active desktop" clone for your favorite graphical toolkit - GTK, or Qt. We already have the GTK one done, by the way.

HOWEVER. The "full featured" flavor of Bongos will be, hands down, KDE4 based. Feel free to flame on, but sorry, we have strong feelings about KDE4, and we really think it's just the best platform to build on. Try to remember that we don't aim to reinvent the wheel. By using KDE, we can take advantage of tools like Akonadi and Nepomuk for all our PIM needs (remember, social blurbs are really just PIM blurbs, and there are already existing applications like choqoK that are excellent examples of this), Plasma's new netbook interface, the new Search and Launch interface for plasma, and countless other innovations present in the latest KDE4 releases.

<rant>Sorry, but to us, GNOME is just a stagnant platform. The new GNOME shell is a step in the right direction, but sadly too little, too late, and not exactly original. Of course, those of you who have a lot of misconceptions about KDE4 will immediately take a jab at how it's all bloated, looks ugly, and so on. Well, we don't care, you might just want to stick around for Bongos 1.0 then. But for the record, KDE4 isn't bloated, and you have to consider what dependencies are used for and where, and what packages are grabbed when you do a apt-get install kubuntu-desktop, if you're judging "bloat" merely in terms of disk usage. And to some extent, we're not real fanboys about KDE's default look, but we aren't real fanboys about Ubuntu's default vomit-inducing look either. That's what themes are for, and it takes very little time to change them.</rant>

But to reiterate again, there will be a GNOME flavor of Bongos. In fact, one of our developers would probably abandon ship if there wasn't. But our first incarnation will be KDE4. If because of that you interpret us as being narrow-minded fanboys, well, go ahead. Hard decisions have to be made. But if you're a GNOME developer or themer, show us some of your work and get in touch! We don't want to skimp on the GNOME flavor of Bongos, and it's your big chance to prove the worthiness of your favorite DE.

"When's the first release? Summer 2048?" Who knows. At this point we're still in the planning stage, but between me, the other developer, and a few weekends, it shouldn't take too long. I think sometime after Spring 2010 would be a fair timespan. But no promises. And of course, you'll see previews and even source code along the way.

"What do you need from us?" IDEAS! ARTWORK! Izo's doing a lot of the artwork, including our branding and default themes, but we could use other artists and brainstormers. We do have somewhat a clear idea about how Bongos will function, and how the main UI might look, which we'll go into detail in a future post. But we could use your ideas about features that you're dying to see, and if they're feasible, they might just show up in Bongos 1.0. Of course, if any of you do Python, PHP, C/C++, or know KDE or GNOME API's like the back of your hand, get in touch. :) (bear in mind this is an open source, not-for-profit project)

Thanks for your interest, and check back often. We should have some forums for brainstorming and such open in a few days.
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splatbert's avatar
I would love to do some programming for you :3
mini-mite's avatar
what languages do you do? :)
splatbert's avatar
C, among others. I do know how to do C++, however I generally dislike OOP. It does indeed make things easier, and is good for application-level programming, but I'm kind of a low level guy, so I stick to C.
mini-mite's avatar
Pro, sign up at our forums and have a go at the development section. Most of the backend will be done in Python, with the UI being Qt/C++.
Nokadota's avatar
This sounds like an interesting concept, I look forward to hearing more about it in the upcoming months.