A sincere goodbye to AfterStep (for the nth time)

Ewan Dunbar (northsky@ix.netcom.com)
Tue, 4 Aug 1998 01:33:19 -0400 (EDT)

A message to the developers:

I will be leaving AS now. I've realized that my theory is really, really
true: the fewer the frills, the fewer the hassles. I'll take pixmaps and
sounds as souvenirs, just like I did with KDE, though with KDE I also took
quite a few programs. I've found that AfterStep is to window managers as
RedHat is to Linux distributions, and KDE is to WMs as Caldera is to
AfterStep just causes a lot of hassle. All the configuration files, that
stupid hierarchy that people can turn off, but don't generally care to. I
don't like all that. I _always_ end up running back to fvwm (1) because
IMHO it's the best. While I used AS, I had a lot of fun, and yes, you can
do more with it than FVWM, but FVWM is the old classic. So is Slackware.
They both work well, and after using AfterStep, I must say it's
commendable, as I must say about RedHat.
When AS finds its roots, gets less flashy, and simpler, but maintains its
great customizability -- and I know this is possible, and it can and will
happen -- someone can e-mail me. It _is_ possible to be very, very
customizable and not so disorganized, and more polished, like FVWM. Part
of it lies in getting rid of ~/G/L/A, and /usr/share/afterstep. Forget it.
It's silly. It doesn't make configuration easier. You're always saying,
"Which file is that?", or "Where is that file?".
FVWM. Clean. Simple. Good-looking. Customizable. For the moment, it's the
best. It's the best for me. Maybe you like AfterStep, and hey, I DO TOO.
But guys (developers), my message to you is, KISS. It's tried and true.
Everything I've every used that works well is simple. Not the program --
THE INTERFACE. The great thing about AfterStep's visual interface is that
it can be anything you want. But the fact that the real interface, the
config files, is a mess, is a detractor.
My second problem with AS, which I already touched on, is the fact that,
unlike FVWM, it is not as polished. It has a bunch of frustrating little
quirks that change from release to release. "Well, that's not possible in
this release, but in the next one, it will be, and there'll be a new
problem, too." Contrary to popular brainwashing, that is not how software
is supposed to work. It's close, but not quite. It's just like debugging a
source file or doing a science experiment: you have to fix one problem
before you add a new feature or move on to the next. If you do two at
once, you lose track. The kernel has development releases, then stable,
then devel, then stable, and generally like that. That's because that
method works, like the KISS method, to produce wonderful software. No
software is perfect, but all software should be as wonderful as it can be;
that is, developers should give 110%, and I'm sure you are, but calm down
for a second. That's the real message. Slow down. Just bring development
to a sliding halt if that's what it takes. Make it simpler. Make it
cleaner. Fix all the bugs you can. Come out with a real, stable, release.
A really good one. Whatever you do, don't add any new features. As a
matter of fact, don't make it simpler. Not until you come out with a 100%
perfect release. Well, okay, that's not possible. But try for 150%.
(Okay, that's not technically possible, either. But you know what I mean.)
Then, make it KISS-conformant. Then, TELL THE WORLD. Say, "THIS IS THE
REALLY, REALLY GOOD SOFTWARE!" And say it in all caps.
I don't know if you'll listen to this. I'll stay on the list for a while,
to see your complaints about this document. As for me, I'm saving it to a
local file, so I can look back on it and say, "If I ever get into large
software projects, I will look to this document." And then if I do, I'll
look back. This will be my manifesto. This will be the wordy document that
goes round and round the point, "Quality. Don't rush in. Make it damn,
damn good." And I will be inspired. The rest of you will probably flame me
and send this to /dev/null without finishing reading it.
Well, thank you anyway, for your time.
Thank you for providing a good-looking, customizable window manager.
Writing this saddens me very, very deeply.
Thank you all.

Of course... 5 years from now everyone will be running free GNU on their 
200 MIPS, 64M SPARCstation-5.
		--Andrew Tannenbaum, Jan. 30 1992 in comp.os.minix
ln -s Ewan\ Dunbar northsky@ix.netcom.com

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